ISRAEL: David Teamed Up With Goliath, and Now The Oppressed Has Become The Oppressor

My kids use entirely too much toilet paper. I’m not sure if they just wrap it around their hand about 30 to 40 times, until their hand looks like a boxing glove, or what is going on in there (I’m a folder, myself), but we go through a lot of TP in our house. My kids are actually smart people… But you wouldn’t know it by how terrible they are at replacing the roll when they use the last of it. And so, every so often, someone sits down on the toilet and starts going without noticing that there is nothing for them to wipe with. In these situations, invariably someone will make the appeal to the universe, “WILL SOMEONE PLEASE GET ME SOME TOILET PAPER?!?”

The other day my oldest daughter found herself in this situation while I was still in bed (I got home very late the night/morning before). My youngest HEARD her, but she was refusing to get her another roll. Finally, I yelled from the bedroom, “GET YOUR SISTER SOME TOILET PAPER RIGHT THIS INSTANT!!!???” And yea, it was so…

Within literally the next fifteen minutes, the younger one was taking a shower. After the water stopped, she asked her older sister in she would get her a towel. I couldn’t believe my ears. “No,” was her answer. Not only “No,” but “No” followed by a long sermon about “needing to learn her lesson” and “personal responsibility.” And there is not much that gets me out of bed that early after getting home that late, but that kind of hypocrisy will do it. Next thing you know, I’m standing in the living room. In my underwear. Pissed. And pointing my finger at a child saying things like “You were just in this same situation” and “How DARE you” and “You know BETTER than this” and “So disappointed.”


From the beginning of the Bible to the end, the Spirit of God has spoken to humanity, “You KNOW what it’s like to be oppressed. You KNOW what it’s like to be the alien. You KNOW what it’s like to be mistreated and imprisoned and enslaved. REMEMBER! REMEMBER that feeling, and use that holy empathy to remind yourselves to treat others well.” So many times, the Israelites were reminded of how cruelly THEY were treated in Egypt, and reminded to not treat others the same way. Leviticus 19:34 says, “You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.”

And just in case you thought this idea of us “loving our enemies” suddenly appeared with Jesus, you should know it’s all over the Old Testament. Exodus 23:5 says, “If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.” It is a continuous theme throughout the Bible. And when Jesus depicts God as being angry, it’s almost always when people KNOW what it’s like to receive compassion, but they don’t offer that same compassion to others. He tells a story of a ruler who forgave a man’s huge debt, but then the ruler finds that same man beating up someone who owes him just a little… And the ruler grabs him and says, “How DARE you! You KNOW better! You KNOW what it’s like! REMEMBER!!! (by the way, you’re paying me back every cent you owe me now)”

This week, thousands of Palestinian protestors have been injured and shot by Israeli SNIPERS. On Monday alone, over 50 protestors were killed, along with some members of the press. The protests marked the both the 70th anniversary of the day thousands of Palestinians were displaced by the creation of Israel in 1948, as well as the dedication of the new U.S. Embassy, moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. One of the people killed by Israeli snipers was a man named Fadi Abu Salah. He was misidentified as this man:

katil_israil_fadi_abu_salah_i_sehit_etti_h142905_bd61a

If you can’t see David in this photograph, look a little closer…

But the man’s name who is swinging the sling is actually Saber al-Ashqar. The man who was killed, Fadi Abu Salah, was actually this man below:

I suppose it might be easy to get them confused… They were both about the same age, both had short, dark hair with trim beards, and both protestors were in a wheelchair because they previously had their legs blown off by Israeli mortars.

I don’t want to get into blaming Trump for this. There is way more to it than that. Besides, Trump couldn’t care less about where the Israeli Embassy is… The reason it got moved was because the Evangelicals who helped get Trump elected DEMANDED it. Because they believe it will play some roll in the apocalypse or the second coming of Christ or some garbage. But even the ones who know better are shockingly silent, as soldiers fire from a distance at men, women and children who are throwing stones… Though, the fact that he had his name in the same font size as “United States of America,” and LARGER than “Jerusalem, Israel” is just another example of how he is literally the worst…

Israel is a small nation. They deserve to have a country… But so do the Palestinians. The Jewish People have experienced some of the worst atrocities and oppression the world has ever known. But these are the actions of a People who have forgotten what oppression feels like. They have forgotten their stories. In the Bible, God was not on the side of Israel because of their name. Or their land. Or their DNA… God is on the side of the oppressed. Which is why, all through the Bible, God keeps telling them, “REMEMBER! Remember what it was like!” So now that David has teamed up with the Goliath Force of the United States Military, the voice of God is STILL crying out: “REMEMBER! YOU were once forced off of your land. YOU were once without a place to call home. YOU were once living in occupied territory. REMEMBER!” And there are few things that speak those words as clearly as the picture of a man with no legs, swinging a sling, throwing rocks at wall he could never climb. This week’s massacres are not the action of David… These are the actions of Goliath. And God has never been on Goliath’s side.

This post hit all three: Jesus, Politics, & Bathroom Humor. Well, maybe not “humor,” but at least there was a bathroom story in there. I just wanted to say again how deeply grateful I am to my Patrons. If you’d like to help support me and my writing, YOU TOO can BECOME A PATRON. Or, if you like to leave a tip of boost a post, you can DO THAT ON PAYPAL. Also, you can keep up with me on Twitter and on Facebook. Last but not least, I’ll leave you with this song by David Wilcox. Please listen to it…

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics, 3) Bathroom Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Christians and Torture: Why So Many Don’t Have A Problem With It

Torture has been in the news a lot recently… Though it is usually referred to by it’s more palatable euphemism, “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.” The confirmation hearings for Gina Haspel (President Trump’s pick to head the CIA) have been focusing on the parts she played in waterboarding prisoners, as well as her recommendation that the tapes of those water boarding session be destroyed. Senator John McCain, a man who knows first hand about the inhumanity of torture after being tortured in Vietnam, just came out against her nomination, saying,

“I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense. However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”

McCain is one of very few republicans to come out against Haspel’s nomination on moral grounds. I don’t know why it still surprises me that the party which saw 81% of white evangelicals vote for a man who is so clearly immoral wouldn’t have a problem with torture. During the debates, Trump proudly said, “I would bring back waterboarding… And I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

White evangelicals have warmed CONSIDERABLY to the idea of acts of immorality by their leadership, as shown by a study by the Public Religion Research Institute. In 2011, 30% of white evangelicals said that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties.” By 2016, that number jumped to 72%. They might just be following the lead of hypocrites and charlatans and frauds like Franklin Graham, who in 1998 said, “The God of the Bible says that what one does in private does matter… If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?” This week he is defending Trump, saying that his affair with a porn star and his lying to the American public about paying her off is “Nobody’s business.”

So I’ve been thinking about HOW IT IS that people calling themselves “Christians” — people who follow a man named Jesus… A nonviolent messiah, murdered by a violent instrument of torture — have become so morally bankrupt that they are now okay with something as objectively immoral and inhuman as TORTURE. And I believe it has a lot to do with their concept of God and their ideas about Hell (I say “THEIR” concept of God, instead of “OUR” concept of God… Not because I don’t consider myself a Christian, but because a “christian” who condones torture seems so totally incongruent and hypocritical that we must be believing in different Gods). But here it is: They believe in the God who tortures. And when you have a God who doesn’t mind torture, why in the world would you think the people who worship that God (and call that God “good“) would have a problem with torture?

Trump_Jesus

This might be the worst thing I’ve ever seen.

What a terrifying deity I grew up believing in… The god who hands out a sentence of Eternal Torture for the crime of 16 years of non-belief… The god who sends almost everyone who ever lived to a fiery Hell… The god who gives us the “good news” that YOU might miss out on this horrific fate, if you just believe exactly all the right things… The god who is powerful enough to make the suffering stop, but chooses not to. That god is powerful, yes… Powerful enough to do ANYTHING, they say… Powerful enough to even mercifully make it so that people don’t exist anymore… But doesn’t, right? How could we ever call that god “Good?”  And yet much of Christianity believes in a God who sustains the existence of the majority of people who ever lived in order to keep them in an eternal conscious torment. And they call that god “Good.”

So it makes sense that so many of these misguided, deceived people would have such a skewed understanding of “Goodness” that they would cheer for a man who promises them “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” It makes sense that 81% of these people would vote for a man who lacks even the most basic human compassion. And it makes sense why they would vote to confirm a woman who participated in torturing prisoners, and then ordered the tapes of that abuse to be destroyed. They vote for a powerful monster who wants to be worshipped, because they believe that GOD is a powerful monster who wants to be worshipped… And they’ve been told that god is “good.”

And yeah, I know, I’ve heard it before — Many people will try to make the theological distinction that “it is not GOD who is torturing these people… It is simply the natural result/consequence of the sinner’s actions.” Basically, they’re saying that it’s the fault of the person getting tortured (the sinner/Muslim accused of a crime), and not the fault of the one handing out the torture. Which sounds suspiciously similar to an abusive husband telling his wife, “You brought this on yourself.”

hell-600x450

This is how I feel when I have to listen to the sound of Trump’s voice…

But God is not an abusive husband. God is not some sadistic deity who sends almost everyone to get tortured for the “crime” of not believing that a God who would do such a thing could ever be called “Good.” God is not a monster who sustains the consciousness of “sinners” to non-redemptively punish them forever. We were NEVER going to get it right… The Bible says we were made “a little lower than the angels,” and even THEY messed up. God is not a father who sends his son to get tortured and killed, because of rules the HE WROTE. THAT. IS. NOT. GOOD!

If Jesus knew anything about God, he knew that God is like a good parent… A way better parent than you or I could ever hope to be. Imagine hearing of a parent handing their kids over to get tortured. WHO WOULD EVER CALL THAT PARENT “GOOD?” It’s time we got our theology right. It matters. If you find someone with skewed beliefs about how there are “some very fine people on both sides” of a white supremacist rally, and if you find someone with some monstrous beliefs about the morality of torture, I guarantee you you can trace that back to some skewed, monstrous beliefs about the morality of God. When we call God “Good,” that MEANS something.

That you for reading. I sure love you people. If you value this blog, and you want to help support it, you can join a few other awesome folks and BECOME A PATRON. It means a lot. If you’d like to leave a TIP ON PAYPAL or boost a post, please do. Or, if you want to keep up with me on FACEBOOK or on TWITTER, click the links and like/follow/whatnot. Remind yourself every day what Goodness looks like, and then work for it, and live it out.

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No, Trump Is Not “Withdrawing” From The Iran Nuclear Deal

Stop calling it that. He’s not “withdrawing.” He’s not “dropping out.” He’s not “pulling away from” the deal… He is simply BREAKING A PROMISE that our country made. He is breaking an agreement we made with another nation, and by doing so, he is damaging the credibility of the United States of America.

We made a commitment to Iran, that if they agreed to never “seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons” and to give access to nuclear inspectors, we would lift some of the economic sanctions that have hamstrung the Iran’s economy for so long. We made a deal with them, and with the stroke of a pen, Trump has gone back on that deal.

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Maybe he should have written a book titled “The Art of BREAKING a Deal.”

But this man is no stranger to going back on a deal. There are long lists of people who made “deals” with Donald Trump, who found out that he doesn’t honor his commitments.  He doesn’t honor marriage commitments, he doesn’t honor business commitments, and he doesn’t honor national commitments. I honestly doubt he could tell you what the Iran Nuclear Deal even said. When a reporter asked him the question, “How will this make America safer,” the president responded: “This will make America much safer.” 

Which is a lot like being asked, “How do you explain Michael Cohen paying off a porn star YOU had sex with, with $130,000 of his own money?” and then answering, “Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels out of his OWN POCKET.” Umm… You didn’t answer the question. We already have your statement. The important part of the question is the “HOW.”

And now, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is saying that America “has never adhered to its commitments… We can clearly see which country is not respecting the international commitments.” Iranian leaders are saying, “It would be naive to negotiate with this country again,” and they are hinting at restarting their nuclear program. And what is worse is that this sets a precedent, where foreign powers can’t trust America’s consistency from one administration to the next. But that seems to be what Trump WANTS… He wants to turn the United States from a stabilizing influence in the world, into an unpredictable force that makes everyone else uncertain. Another way to say that is to say he wants to turn the United States into a country that can’t be trusted… like his businesses… and that is a shame.

And the biggest shame of it all is how so many people in positions of power just stay quiet as he ruins what’s left of our reputation around the world. He puts people in Secretary positions who are on record as wanting to dismantle the departments they are being put in charge of. And the press plays along by using euphemisms and passive language to lessen and normalize the offense… Just like he didn’t “reverse his position” about the Stormy Daniels affair… He LIED.

He totally lied. And many people in the press seem more offended that we would call a person a “LIAR” than they are offended at that person’s continued lying. The WHCA seemed to take Sara Huckabee Sanders’ side when Michelle Wolf rightly characterized her as a liar… But this is what happens when a man is elected who obviously puts no value on honoring commitments or on being honest. 

So if this sort of thing makes you angry and energized, use that anger and energy to encourage people to vote. Or help register them. Remind people that this stuff is not normal. And if this sort of thing makes you feel helpless and hopeless, SNAP OUT OF IT. That’s what they WANT you to feel… And you can’t let those assholes win. They WANT you to feel like you are powerless to make a difference, because people who feel hopeless are a lot less likely to vote. You, by yourself, might be powerless. But WE ARE NOT POWERLESS. We can vote these people out.

Thank you SO MUCH to my Patrons. If you value this blog and my writing, you want to help support it, and you want to feel good about yourself, you can BECOME A PATRON. It’s easy and fun. If you’d like to leave a TIP ON PAYPAL or boost a post, you totally can. Or, if you want to keep up with me on FACEBOOK or on TWITTER, click the links and like/follow. I love you people.

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

Yes, I’m Being Condescending.

I have been known to get into the occasional online… well, let’s call them “discussions.” Not necessarily an “argument,” and not quite as civilized a “debate.” Is “brouhaha” the word?  If it’s not, maybe it should be. Anyway, I am not above a good old fashioned frank exchange of ideas on Facebook. A lot of folks have given up. I’m not one of them. My mind has been changed by a Facebook discussion. And I still hold out hope that a well-reasoned argument can change us in some way… Can wake us up… Can open our eyes to a better understanding. Even if I get the sense that the person I am talking to has no hope of ever changing their mind, I am still aware of the people who are watching the argument/debate/brouhaha unfold.

Plus, if I’m being honest, I like it. I like the back and forth. I like looking for powerful metaphors and similes. I like the strategy and the logic and the competition of it. I always have. I am a fairly good arguer. And I am no stranger to being called an ass. It used to happen way more than it does now, but it still happens occasionally. I freely admit I can be an ass. And if you, dear reader, were ever on the receiving end of me being an ass, I’m sorry. But there’s one thing that’s been bothering me, and that’s the overuse of the word “condescending.” I’ve been seeing people throw around this word more and more (not just at me). And I think its growing usage comes from this deep-seated “YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME?!?” that is the beating heart of anti-intellectualism. It is the faulty thinking behind why so many in this country don’t find it strange that people use a word like “elite” as an insult. So here’s the word…

 

con·de·scend·ing
/ˌkändəˈsendiNG/
adjective
  1. 1. having or showing a feeling of patronizing superiority.

(And yes, the irony of providing the definition of “condescending” is not lost on me)

condescending

“I’m not being condescending… I’m too busy thinking about far more important things you wouldn’t understand.” ~ Jimmy Carr

There’s a difference between “patronizing” and “condescending.” Patronizing is more of a “Aww, you sweet ignorant thing… Keep working at it, and maybe you’ll get it someday.” Where Condescending has a sense of kind of looking down your nose at someone who you feel is your inferior. But here’s the thing: Sometimes people know more than me about things. Expertise exists. Sometimes we encounter better, stronger, more logical arguments. And this accusation of people being “condescending” has become a catch-all for people who don’t want to go through the difficult process of changing their mind.

Calling someone “condescending“ and is often the last desperate grasp at winning an argument by those who have been backed into a logical corner. And weirdly enough, the ones who toss this accusation around the most are, ironically, the same ones who like to call people “snowflakes.“ It usually comes out after someone doesn’t have a rational leg to stand on, and then the focus of their criticism is on the WAY another person presented their argument. Calling somebody else “condescending“ as the main beef you have with them is one of the most “snowflakey” things I can think of. It’s like saying, “Yeah, you’re right… But you didn’t have to be so MEAN about being right.” Seriously… Boo Effing Hoo.

Here’s the truth: Some arguments don’t DESERVE a response that validates them in enough of a way for you to avoid the discomfort of being wrong… You big fricking baby. And then people will throw out the “This is why Trump won” BS. 1) That’s not true. And 2) Imagine being the sort of person who — as a response to someone not being “nice” enough while letting them know they are wrong — decides to “get back at them” by voting for a man who is, easily and objectively, one of the worst human beings on the planet. There are these disturbing little acts of extortion, where people who are wrong demand that we put on kid gloves and we stroke their egos… Otherwise they are going to burn it all to the ground by electing the shittiest man they can find. It’s like mini acts of democratic terrorism.

DTA5ZuRU0AAFBz8

I am certain that I have been the man in this comic far too many times in my life…

So yeah, I admit it. I am often condescending. There are times when I feel superior to people… at least I feel like my reasoning and research is superior. Sometimes I literally can’t wrap my mind around how people can be so obtuse. I’m not smart enough to understand how people can call themselves “followers of Jesus” while supporting and objectively awful person like Donald Trump. I don’t have enough patience to endure some people’s willful ignorance. I’m sorry. If that’s you, I don’t know how to say it other than that I am beyond you with some things. There are many, MANY people who are beyond me… You get used to it. Just because you have this deep seeded anti-intellectualism and resentment toward expertise, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t experts out there in the world that might know more than you about some stuff. But fine… I admit I can be a dick about some things. I ADMIT IT!!!

But here is the important part. If you don’t hear anything else I’ve said (because I haven’t been gentle enough saying it), PLEASE HEAR THIS: Just because you feel like someone was being a little too condescending, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change your mind about the things you were wrong about. When you are presented with a better argument, CHANGE YOUR MIND!! I apologize. I apologize for making you feel dumber than me. But what kind of person refuses to acknowledge a valid point because the person making it wasn’t gentle enough with your fragile wrongness? Feel free to call me an ass if I was being an ass. But then please, for the love of God… CHANGE. YOUR. MIND.

Thank you for reading these words. Thank you for the people who help support me and this blog. Thank you for being patient with me while my family goes through a difficult time. Thank you, thank you, thank you! If you value this place, and you want to help support it, you can BECOME A PATRON. It’s easy, and it’s makes you feel good. If you’d like to leave a TIP ON PAYPAL or boost a post, you totally can. Or, if you want to keep up with me on FACEBOOK or on TWITTER, click the links and like/follow. I hope you stay hopeful enough to believe that we can still change each other’s minds…

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What “The Sound of Music” Taught Me About Neighborhood Schools. And Nazis.

Last night I watched our Middle School’s performance of “The Sound of Music.” And today, as I think back on that truly amazing performance (and as I struggle to get the “Lonely Goatherd” song out of my head) I am stuck by a couple things:

First and foremost, this performance made me feel proud. I am SO PROUD of our little community. I am proud of our neighborhood school. I am proud of the diversity and talent of these kids. I am proud that my kids are part of a school that still values the arts as an important part of education and learning and figuring out what it means to be human. I am proud to see a rainbow of colors represented  in the actors on that stage, and of a multi-racial von Trapp family. I am proud of all the adults who gave so much of their time to help create something truly inspiring and beautiful. I am just proud of the good thing that was created, and the good people who worked to make it happen. Proud, proud, proud… I teared up TALKING about it today. It was genuinely beautiful, and it conveyed the heart of the story to me better than the movie. Honestly.

And the second thing I’ve been thinking about since last night’s performance is this: I genuinely can’t understand how so many in this nation have regressed to a place where they can’t understand something as simple and self-evident and “Nazis are bad.” I mean, how hard is THAT to get? Nazis are so bad that during the standing ovation, I even found it difficult to even clap for the kids who had ROLES as nazis. Nazis are the bad guys in EVERY story there is, and the hateful, fearful, bigoted, white supremacist ideology behind the nazis is objectively and RIGHTFULLY characterized as what it is: Evil. And yet we have a growing number of people — ALL OF THEM SUPPORTERS OF THE CURRENT PRESIDENT — who are embracing this evil. This picture (taken by Spencer Platt for Getty Images) is from a Neo-Nazi rally outside of Atlanta, about four hours from where I live… All while police brutalize COUNTER-protestors.

White Nationalists Hold Rally In Georgia

Maybe they’re not Nazis… Maybe they are just all asked, at the same time, how tall their dad is.

There is this adage called “Godwin’s Law,” that goes something like this: “As online discussions grow longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.”  It’s meant to caution people away from making frivolous comparisons to Hitler and the nazis when discussing and debating things. I get that Hitler did horrible things, and no one in this current GOP administration is advocating for gassing and mass murdering whole ethnicities. No one seems to be planning any giant acts of genocide… But as I watched a bunch of wildly talented middle schoolers dance and sing on stage last night during “The Sound of Music,” I couldn’t help ask myself these two very strange questions:

 

How in the WORLD did we get to a place where “Nazis are bad” feels like a political statement? And how, dear God, did we get to a place where a play saying “Nazis are bad” feels like a political statement AGAINST the President of the United States?

So it’s a weird feeling, this one I’m having today — To watch a performance, and to be at the same time inspired by and proud of our local community… While also feeling the shame so many of us carry at being reminded of the continued support (almost all of it coming from white people calling themselves “christians”) of such an objectively immoral, bigoted, and corrupt president. This past week, a substitute teacher (in that same middle school) invoked the name of that objectively immoral, bigoted, and corrupt man to a 6th grade classroom.  They were diverse and energetic and probably a bit disrespectful, but this woman (before leaving the classroom and quitting her sub assignment early) swore at the kids, told them they made her want to “spend her summer volunteering to work on the wall,” and made a comment about “the good old days when there was slavery,” and, of course, brought up Trump. Which makes sense, because he is TOTALLY racist…

Just IMAGINE all that 45 would have to say on Twitter if the shooter had had a Muslim-sounding name. And he knows that this is a criticism of him… But he is silent. He doesn’t even care enough to throw out a half-hearted tweet to appease the critics. And listen — It SAYS SOMETHING that if a person speaks of “the good old days when there was slavery,” you can know FOR SURE who that person voted for.

And all of this backdropped by some right wing nut job killing four people of color with an AR-15 in a Waffle House. This happened in my town. Antioch is where I live. When I started writing this, he wasn’t caught (he is now. And — Surprise, surprise! — they managed to bring him in alive! In fact, the police were more rough with a black woman who wanted plastic utensils at a Waffle House than they were arresting the white man who murdered four people of color), so all after school activities were cancelled because some highly armed murderer calling himself a “Sovereign Citizen” was still at large.

But seriously — What kind of a person watches “The Sound Of Music” and roots for the nazis? What kind of person sees a diverse cast or a diverse classroom, and chants and votes to “Build that wall?” What kind of person sees diversity as a problem instead of a strength?

image

Bless our homeland forever…

Anyway, I am both encouraged and disheartened. I am both proud and ashamed. I am proud of the ideals this diverse country stands for, but I am ashamed that there are so many whose privilege feels so threatened by that diversity that they are willing to vote for a pile of awfulness. I love that this is a nation of immigrants, and I’m so sad for the way that immigrants are being demonized… Especially by people who claim to follow a man who, when asked how to love, told a story about caring for an outsider (that’d be Jesus… Not Trump). I want to tell everybody about our sweet, diverse neighborhood, and I want to apologize for the recent turns America has taken when I meet people from other countries. I am hopeful for what this country can be, and I am afraid of what this country has become. All of this from a Middle School play… Welcome to my brain.

If you value this blog and you’d like to help support it, you can BECOME A PATRON. If you’d like to boost a post or leave a one time tip, you can DO THAT ON PAYPAL. And if you’d like to keep up with me ON TWITTER or ON FACEBOOK, that would be just fine too. Oh yeah… And support the arts! It’s not an accident that when authoritarian regimes take power, they defund and attack the arts. The arts remind us what goodness is… And hallelujah for that.

 

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An Easter Sermon From A Used-To-Be Christian

I almost never do guest posts on my blog, but I really wanted you all to see this. This was written by my friend Lars… A person I’ve never met in real life, but a person I respect and love. It is an Easter sermon for those of us who find ourselves feeling less and less welcome within the walls of traditional Churches. And it is powerful reminder of the distinction between the fake, Americanized, fundamentalist, self-serving, gun-toting, wall-building, poor-people-demonizing, diversity-hating “christianity” that continues to throw its support behind the immoral leader of this nation… And the sacrificial, empowering, liberating, neighbor-loving, badass narrative of Jesus of Nazareth. It fits right in with my usual “Jesus, Politics, & Bathroom Humor.” Enjoy!

Easter is weird, you guys. And this year marks an interesting milestone. I have now been “church-free” for 10 years, as many years as I was actively involved in the Evangelical community. During the first decade, people called me “Pastor Lars.” I forsook grad school and went into full-time ministry out of college because I had a white-savior complex, among many other issues I’ve been working through. Nine years ago I cleared the room and sat alone with my mom, who had taken her last breaths ~2 hours before. Multiple people had “prophesied” over me that I had the “gift of healing” and “would raise people from the dead.” So, I laid my hands on my own mother and begged God to raise her from the dead. Her body only got colder. Meanwhile, Evangelicals across the country, including in my own church, regaled their politicians that the proposed health care law that would eventually be watered down into the Affordable Care Act was a tool of the anti-Christ to establish “death panels” under the banner of “socialized medicine.” As if our broken health system needed any assistance in the former, and as if one’s health wasn’t an intrinsically social phenomenon in the latter. As if my mom’s uninsured life wasn’t worthy of saving.

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And lo, Jesus appeared on the third day with eggs adorned in pastel colors, cleverly-shaped Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, and angelic Peeps for all his angelic peeps.

I have come to hate “Easter.” The stupid bunnies and eggs and “He has risen!” platitudes that are completely divorced from what the world would actually look like if followers of Jesus embodied the power of the resurrection in a world intent on imploding upon itself.

Easter, despite its appropriation of astrology and pagan fertility rituals (seriously, early Christians were either fucking snowflakes or syncretistic buttholes), should actually catalyze the restructuring of society as we know it, should Jesus’ followers give a damn.

You see, Easter, the resurrection, is rooted in the story of the Exodus, which is the controlling narrative of the Hebrew Bible and Christian scriptures. A people enslaved and brutalized by a foreign kingdom are liberated from bondage through a series of miracles that make their survival viable. Yet, rather than catch their breath and return to whoop the ass of the occupying empire, the former slaves are called by God to create communities where everybody has enough and nobody has too much. The post-Exodus followers of God are called to establish a society defined by equality. Organized into 12 distinct groups, this community of communities is called to be a beacon of a new way of life in the face of a brutal empire. When the life-sustaining manna fell from heaven, the greedy bastards who hoarded their culinary currency found their excess rot before their eyes each day. Those who could not gather enough – the poor, the blind, the disabled, widows, etc., miraculously had their portions filled. Every. Single. Day. The God that liberated this community reminded them ad nauseum that “You have been slaves in Egypt, don’t you dare do to anyone the horrors you’ve experienced yourselves.” Of particular emphasis in these messages was caring for the poor, orphan, widow, and immigrant. Everyone, particularly the outcasts, were to be welcomed, if not highlighted by the new society.

But, God’s people fucked it up. As we do. So, God sent her kid to clean up the mess. And amidst the healing, and the miracles, and the radical teachings are these weird occasions where a bunch of people are hungry and won’t leave God’s progeny alone. And so this dude, Jesus, tells his 12 buddies to make everyone sit down in groups (see above), and proceeds to feed the undeserving masses from a ridiculously small amount of food on hand. Nobody “earned” it, none of it was “means tested.” If you were there, you were split off into a group and fed. Period. Until everybody had enough and nobody had too much. We know this because a ridiculous amount of leftovers were gathered, and of all the amazing things that occurred that day, this is one of the few observations that was documented. Think about that.

And then God’s kid gets in trouble with the law through no fault of his own. And yet he actively walks toward the state that wants to kill him for insurrection. He *literally* holds his hands up, and out, as armed agents of this state proceed to torture and execute him. As his mother watches. As his best friends watch. As the community watches. He is mocked by talking heads. He is murdered.

And then this miracle happens where the dude appears again and we don’t believe it, then we do, then we don’t, then we do. And the story of Easter stops here because we operate on linear Western chronology now and don’t have the capacity for hindsight and context that previous societies did, and we’re now “saved” because of this badass defeat of death that Jesus did. Saved. From what? You can’t be saved from something that isn’t oppressing or threatening to oppress you. Meh, most of us will carry on with our lives and tell this cool story over beers, pretending as if we were there and it was amazing…

And yet a few people were there. And they didn’t do that. They followed the guidance of this crazy-ass miracle dude and waited for his command for their next steps. Yet, when they came, these directions weren’t to kick the Empire’s ass. Weren’t to plunder the fuckers who oppressed them and their friends. What was the immediate response after the miracle dude blew through town? The dude’s followers sold all of their possessions and gave to those in need. They established radical communities where everybody had enough and nobody had too much. The dudes who lied about having too much got struck dead (kinda harsh, IMO), while those without were miraculously provided for.

This isn’t an accident. All 3 of these stages confirm the Exodus as the controlling narrative of Scripture. Folks steeped in the Christian tradition should readily recognize these 3 stages as “Father. Son. Holy Spirit.” though they aren’t taught that way. The idea that God’s purpose for society is to liberate those in bondage that they may then become agents of radical communities where everyone has enough and nobody has too much is completely antithetical to American society. We live with mindsets of scarcity. Of “Death panels” and fear of “socialized [insert something that helps others].”

Evangelical Christianity no longer looks anything like the Gospel. Like anything associated with Jesus or the badass narrative above. Which is why I left.

But that doesn’t mean the ideals are worthless. That the radical upending of society isn’t worth pursuing. Liberation from the clutches of empire catalyzing a new way of living where everyone has enough, nobody has too much, and everyone… *everyone* … is welcome is literally the point of Easter. Anyone who tells you differently can go squeeze a goddamn egg from a bunny.

Thank you, Lars, for these honest and challenging words. Thank you for a life spent working toward building the Kingdom of God. And thank you for giving me permission to share this with the people who read the stuff I write. Happy Easter!

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics, 3) Bathroom Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I Just Cried At A Walmart

One of the things which stresses me out the most is the inability to articulate what’s happening inside of me. So tonight — on the eve of my wife’s cancer surgery — I’m going to try to sort that out… And share it with you.

My kids didn’t want to go to bed tonight. Which is completely understandable — We are leaving before they wake up in the morning to head to the hospital so a doctor can slice into their mother’s neck. But as they looked for more and more excuses to not be in their beds, all I wanted to do was run to the store to buy some toilet paper. And deodorant. And some toothpaste. And maybe some yogurt and Eggo Blueberry Waffles… Partially because we needed those things, but also because that is something I can control. I didn’t want to leave her alone with those hyped-up weirdos the night before she goes under the knife, so I just wanted them to go to bed so I could leave.

As I walked around the aisles, I kept getting messages from people who were telling me they were thinking of us. And praying for us. And sending us good vibes. And asking how they can help. And just being the sweetest human beings on the planet. And being our friends. And the next thing you know, I’m looking for a non-populated aisle where I can cry without making the rest of the dip shits at the Walmart feel uncomfortable. I picked the “ethnic food” aisle, but there were still quite a few people around. A man walking past me pointed at me and said the word “Niñita.” Which I assume means “manly.”

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I stood there for a bit, next to the colorful bags of Takis, and tried to figure out what I was feeling. I guess I’m nervous? That’s part of it. There have been multiple people asking if she has a Living Will. Neither of us do. She asked the nurse what it is, and she explained that it basically details who makes decisions if something goes wrong, she’s hooked up to a machine, and someone has to decide when to “pull the plug.” Except that the woman doing our pre-surgery check in referred to it as “turning you off.” I explained that I am “usually only responsible for turning her on.” Anyway, now people are staring at the man walking around in Walmart, voice-to-texting into his phone about “turning her on,” crying in a super manly way… So that’s where I am.

I’m in an IN-BETWEEN PLACE. I’m not at peace. I’m somewhere between being feeling thankful for everyone’s prayers, and feeling a compulsion to want to explain to people the How and Why behind my belief that God is not in control of this. I am at the same time relieved to be free of the God who gives us cancer for a reason, and nostalgic for the time when I believed that if I said the right prayer or believed hard enough, God would work some sort of miracle. I want to hug the people who care enough to tell me that they are “sending good vibes my way,“ and I also want to scream that their “vibes“are every bit as superstitious as the prayers to the old God who sends a drought to punish people for being bad… “The God who can, but doesn’t.” I am equal parts feeling sorry for myself for being poor enough that this toilet paper is so expensive it makes me think about our cell phone bill, but also feeling blessed beyond my wildest imagination. I am angry that the person I love the most in the world is going through something like this, and at the same time so infinitely fortunate to have a woman like this to love. And to love me back. 

I’m a big bald of emotions right now. If you know anything about The Enneagram, you should know that I am an Enneagram 4… The “Individualist.” I feel ALL THE THINGS, and I feel them deeper than you. In fact, I might be the ONLY person to feel things this way. Ever.

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On a manliness scale from Zero to Dawson, I register somewhere between a Joey and a Pacey…

I asked Lillian what needed to happen tonight, and she started talking about needing to finish a “few more things” for the program for the play that our oldest daughter is working on. And I was like, “I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THE FUCKING PROGRAM FOR THE PLAY… I’M TALKING ABOUT WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN BEFORE WE LEAVE FOR YOUR SURGERY IN THE MORNING!” But this is who she is… If you don’t know anything about my wife, that is a small part: She loves helping out, and she enjoys being needed. She still needs to pack, and she has to do some pre-surgery body wash thing, but she’s focused on helping out with our kids’ middle school. Because she’s awesome. Or maybe she TOO just wants something she can control. Probably both.

I’m uncertain. And that’s okay. “Uncertain” is a scary place to be. I think this is why many people find comfort believing that God knows what’s going to happen… Because at least SOMEONE knows how things are going to go. But I don’t. I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. I am HOPEFUL… And within the definition of hopefulness is uncertainty. One thing’s for sure, though… Well, actually TWO things are for sure: The first is that I’m having trouble catching my breath. And the second is this: Even though I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow… Even though I am scared and stressed and uncertain… Even walking the lonely aisles of this depressing place, I’m sure of this: We are surrounded by love.

And maybe that’s enough…

 

Thank you for reading. If you’ve given up on praying for miracles, I feel you. If you’re now a “good vibes” sort of person, send them our way if you’d like.  If you’re a “praying for a miracle” type of person, feel free to pray for us. I happen to be a person who believes that God isn’t somewhere else, waiting to be cajoled into “showing up.” God is here. God is everywhere people are awake enough to open their eyes to see. And I am hopeful. If you want to read more about prayer, you can read THIS (skeptical), and also THIS (embracing the mystery). If you’d like you can LIKE ME ON FACEBOOK, or you can FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER. Or you can SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG by entering your eMail near the top of this page. Either way, THANK YOU!

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Tennessee Legislators Just Refused To Denounce Neo-Nazis

Yesterday, a subcommittee in the Tennessee State Legislature was presented with a resolution denouncing neo-nazi, white supremacist, and white nationalist groups. The resolution was filed on August 17, 2017… just five days after the “Unite The Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that left many people injured and took the life of Heather Heyer. It was introduced by Rep. John Ray Clemmons (Democrat, Nashville), and has been working its way through the legislative process ever since. You can read the resolution in full RIGHT HERE, and you can see its history RIGHT HERE. It died in subcommittee for lack of a “Second” just a few days after a white supremacist group its “national conference” here in Tennessee, and marched through Nashville’s Centennial Park. I know most people don’t click and read through resolutions, with their copious use of the word “Whereas,” so just in case you don’t read it yourself, here are the Cliff’s Notes version of what it said:

  • Charlottesville has shown us that white nationalism and neo-naziism continue to be very real threats to social and racial progress.
  • They promote violence and intimidation against people based on race, ethnicity, and religion, and these forces are attempting to reinvent themselves as the “Alt-Right.”
  • Free speech is important, but it’s also important to state that these harmful ideologies and groups are antithetical and irreconcilable to our nation’s founding principles of “liberty and justice for all.”
  • White nationalism and neo-naziism continue to grow, and their hatred and intolerance has led to senseless acts of violence, which terrorize minority communities.
  • SO, we want to say in the strongest possible terms that Tennessee, as a state, denounces the hatred, violence, bigotry, and xenophobia represented by these groups. We want law enforcement to recognize and pursue criminal elements in these domestic groups in the same way they do with other terrorist organizations.
  • We’d also like to say that we don’t tolerate discrimination and hatred in this state, and we “resolve to promote and ensure equality for all Tennesseans.” Let’s let everyone know this…

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the “controversial” stance that could not manage to get even one “Second” from ANY of the republican members of the House State Government Subcommittee. These hearings are recorded, but they are long and hard to get through. I recorded the 40 seconds it took to kill this common sense resolution basically saying “We think naziism and white supremacy are dangerous and incompatible with our ideals as Tennesseans.” Please notice how they can’t even make eye contact…

In a comment to The Tennessean, Clemmons said, “I would love to try to pass a resolution denouncing white nationalists and neo-Nazis, but if I can’t even get a second in a subcommittee, it evidences this Republican supermajority’s refusal to denounce these hate organizations, for what reason I cannot begin to imagine.” Well… I CAN begin to imagine.

You may have heard about this story already. It was initially reported in THIS ARTICLE by Natalie Allison in the Tennessean. The story was later picked up RIGHT HERE by The Hill, and that post has been shared more than 16,000 times as I write this. It turns out people get a little bit angry and frustrated when their elected representatives refuse to say something as simple and self-evident as “We think nazis are bad.”

The 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville

White supremacists in Charlottesville yelled, “Go the fuck back to Africa!” and “Fuck you, n—–!” and “Dylann Roof was a hero!” But, as Donald said, “You have some very fine people on both sides.”

An important piece of information that was missing from both of the above stories was this: The NAMES of the subcommittee members (all of them republicans) who sat in silence as their colleague looked for a “Second” on this resolution. I contacted Natalie Allison and asked her about the decision to leave out the names of the republican members of the subcommittee, but to include the name of Rep. Darren Jernigan, the only member of the subcommittee to lend his support to the resolution (and also the only democrat on the subcommittee). She told me that the names of the other members were included in the article she submitted (along with her attempts to contact those members), but the names were removed in the editing process. I contacted Duane Gang, the political editor at The Tennessean, to ask why this was done, but as of yet, he has not responded to my requests for clarification on this (Update: Mr. Gang responded and let me know the article was updated with the names of the committee members who stayed silent. The updated article is HERE).

This is something I notice quite a bit: News outlets publish a story that is noteworthy because something that SEEMS like a common sense piece of legislation is stymied by the members of a committee… And they list the names of the people trying to get the piece of common sense legislation through, but they LEAVE OUT the names of the people who are effectively killing the legislation. I think this is bad journalism. They want the buzz (and clicks) of publishing a story that makes people feel outrage, but they don’t provide the names of the legislators causing that outrage. If these people are going to shamefully sit in silence, looking down at their papers, as one of their colleagues asks them to stand up and say, “Naziism and white nationalism are incompatible with the ideals of Tennesseans,” then those people need to feel the sting of the public backlash for their cowardice and complicity. 

So here are the names and contact information of the members of that subcommittee (all of them coincidentally republicans) who refused to back this resolution:

  • Bill Sanderson (Chair), Kenton, TN, District 77 — Bill’s number is (615) 741-0718, and you can email him at rep.bill.sanderson@capitol.tn.gov
  • Bud Hulsey, Kingsport, TN, District 2 — Bud’s number is (615) 741-2886, and you can email him at rep.bud.hulsey@capitol.tn.gov
  • Bob Ramsey, Maryville, TN, District 20 — Bob’s number is (615) 741-3560, and you can email him at rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov

Mary Littleton is the other republican member of the subcommittee, but she was not at the hearing, because she is recovering from surgery. I contacted her office to ask if she would have supported the resolution… I have not heard back from her. I reached out to ALL the people on this list to ask about the reasoning behind their refusal to give a “Second” on this resolution. As of yet, none of them have responded. One staffer seemed to indicate that it might have been the reference in the resolution to these groups as “domestic terrorists,” and that this language seemed a bit strong. He also mentioned something about free speech. And before I finish writing (and you blast the elected leaders who didn’t feel comfortable saying “Nazis are bad”), I’d like to speak to this…

The KKK is America’s original terrorist organization (The O.T., if you will). These new groups — whether they are calling themselves “White Nationalists” or “Neo-Nazis” or “Alt-Right” or any number of other monikers denoting white supremacist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, xenophobic,  bigoted, hyper-nationalist views — are pushing the same hate-filled message. As Shakespeare said, “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as racist.” And they are TOTALLY terrorist organizations. When they march, when they pick up their torches, when they open carry their guns… They are doing this to intimidate and threaten and terrorize. If you are a person of color, or an immigrant, or a Jewish person, and you see a group like this walking through Centennial Park, you are being terrorized. You don’t need to strap a bomb to your chest or have brown skin to be a terrorist. Of the 34 extremist-related murders in 2017, EIGHTEEN of them were committed by white supremacists. Over the last ten years, only 26% of the extremist-related fatalities have been the result of Islamic terrorists… but white supremacists account for 71% of the terrorist deaths in the United States. If you are worried about getting murdered by a terrorist, you are 273% more likely to get killed by a white supremacist than a Muslim. And we’re having this conversation while someone in Austin, TX is killing People of Color with bombs in packages.

But here in Tennessee, it seems the majority of our legislators don’t want to call white supremacists and neo-nazis “domestic terrorists.” And that is shameful. It is cowardly. And it is beneath us… As Tennesseans, as Americans, and as human beings.

Thanks so much to the people who have decided to become Patrons… To those who have been for a while, to those who just started recently, and to those who used to be, but decided to not be Patrons anymore. I realize people can’t support some blog writer indefinitely… I totally understand. If this blog is a thing thing you value, and if you’d like to support it, you too can BECOME A PATRON. If you just want to leave a tip or boost a post, you can do that ON PAYPAL. Or I’d love it if you’d follow me on Twitter or Facebook. The other way you can support my writing is by sharing this post with the people in your lives. Now go get your phone, and call some legislators…

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Fun With Cancer

So it turns out my wife has cancer… We found out this week. She noticed a lump on her neck, and after having it checked out, she got sent her in for a biopsy. They say “biopsy,” but the correct term for what they did was a “Fine Needle Aspiration” on her thyroid… Often shortened to an “FNA.” But not to be confused with the “Effin’ A” below.

Anyone who has ever had to hear a doctor say the word “Cancer” knows that it is a terrifying moment. They tell you you should never Google things like this, but on the other hand, screw that. I immediately did. Actually, I Googled the words “Best types of cancer to have.” The way I figured, if Thyroid Cancer was on the list, that would mean I would be able to take that big breath I couldn’t seem to manage to find. And good news… It was. As far as rates of survival are concerned, Thyroid Cancer is one of the best. Prostate, Breast, and Thyroid were on the list I looked at. There was one other one, but I can’t remember what it was, because I stopped reading after reading the word “Thyroid.” And then I Googled and read a bunch of other stuff about thyroid cancer. And now, I’m basically an expert. Or I’m just a really annoying husband who thinks he knows things because he read a whole Wikipedia page… Either one.

After the initial “Hey, you’ve got cancer” telephone call, they schedule you for a sit down consultation with a surgeon right away. While filling out the intake forms, there was a question something like “How would you like the person calling your name to address you?” My wife said something to the woman checking us in about writing that she would only respond if they pronounced our last name correctly (people very rarely do). A couple minutes later, a women came to the door and said, “Mrs. Bow-School?” to which Lillian shook her head and said, “Nope.” The woman who checked us in laughed in a way that seemed too loud for a doctor”s office… and I remembered how happy and proud it makes me that I am married to someone who can make people laugh so effortlessly. 

When I am in stressful, scary situations, it turns out I cope by trying to say funny things. But for whatever reason, I am often the only one laughing (this was also true for the story of my vasectomy). That feeling of not being able to catch your breath seems momentarily alleviated with laughter. We thought we were going to be in the sort of office with bookshelves, but it was the sort of office with those reclining exam tables with the paper cover. I offered to find stirrups to put her feet in, but she politely declined… Without so much as a smile, which I found rude, because I knew she was laughing on the inside. When our doctor came in, I have never paid such close attention to anything in my life. I tried to dazzle him with my Wikipedia knowledge, but it turns out he already knew all that stuff.

The conversation was punctuated by me answering the occasional exam question as if he were asking me the question instead of her. It was a tough crowd. He assured us that this is one of the best cancers to get. Again, I dropped some of my Google M.D. knowledge on him, and said, “Thyroid and Prostate… Right?” He said that he would be VERY concerned if she had prostate cancer… I felt a little betrayed that she laughed at HIS jokes so easily. I assured myself she was just being polite. He said that if he was going to choose a cancer to have, thyroid cancer was the one. Lillian congratulated herself on “Winning at cancer.” He explained that the thyroid controls hormone stuff, and that she would be taking meds to control her hormones for the rest of her life. I asked if it will make her any nicer… Crickets.

When he asked if we had any questions, I said, “Listen–I got my vasectomy done by a man named ‘Dr. Concepcion.’ Any chance your name has something to do with this surgery? Because I’d kind of like to keep that streak going…” He assured me his name in Spanish meant “The Thyroid Whisperer.” I said, “Fair enough.” After giggling to myself about imagining me asking if anyone wanted to see the scar from my vasectomy, I made a mental note to look up his “Thyroid Whisperer” claim later on Wikipedia.

He went over the risks involved, and I’ve got to be honest… It’s some scary stuff. We have  friends dealing with some pretty aggressive cancers right now, and it’s hard to know how to act. Yes, cancer is scary. Yes, we’re sad that this is happening. Yes, we’re grateful that it isn’t a worse prognosis. It’s a weird thing to deal with… This feeling of “not wanting people to worry about you” and “knowing that others have it so much worse than us” and “feeling scared and sad and grateful all at the same time.” And then someone shared this photo, and I just loved it…

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When we told our kids, my son hugged my wife and cried. She told him, “You don’t need to cry,” and I finished her sentence, “but it’s okay that you do.” One of the best parts of being married is having someone to help you out when you forget to finish your sentences…

And then someone shared this… And again, I just loved it.

And as often happens with me, this made me think of theological issues. A while ago, I wrote about the BS that is “Better than I deserve,” and my last post about Total Depravity. I thought about the LIES we buy into: That we aren’t worthy of good things… And that we don’t get to grieve if someone has it worse than us… And that bravery means not letting people know we’re sad… Oh, how I want to be free from those lies.

Near the end of our meeting with the doctor, he asked what I did for a living. I told him I work as a server, and I write a blog about Jesus, Politics, & Bathroom Humor. He said that one of the cool things about the hospital we were at is that there are plenty of people willing to pray for you and with you… I said this exact sentence: “I’ll take my prayers in the form of competent expertise.”

And that’s the last thing I’ll leave you with: There was a time in my life where finding out that the person I love the most in the world has CANCER would have been met with deep and pleading prayers to God… Prayers for God to intervene in some miraculous way, and heal her cancer. Or to “guide the hands of the surgeons.” Or for us to know what God was teaching us with this trial. I can’t tell you how happy and peaceful it makes me feel to be free from THOSE lies. Since I’ve come to know the God who is with us during our pain… who grieves with us… who knows what it’s like to feel forsaken, I can’t even remember the god who is in control of every little thing… and “never gives us more than we can handle”… The fake god who gives people cancer to teach them some sort of lesson. 

I realize that there are a whole lot of folks out there who get peace by asking God to intervene… It’s just not me anymore. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate the people who offer those prayers — It’s not even that I am convinced the miraculous isn’t sometimes possible — It’s just that when friends and family offer up their love and support and their fervent desire to help, those “prayers” are so much more tangible and precious than any acts of supplication or intersession to a God who may or may not decide to help. There is a god who — every time the volcano erupts or the rains cause a flood — is demonstrating “his” anger and judgement and power… But when we realize that sometimes volcanos erupt, and sometimes it rains really hard, completely separate from any higher power, our minds and hearts are free to feel the pull of Love toward helping those who are feeling one of life’s eruptions… Free to love those in the path of the flood.  I’d much rather believe in the God who CAN’T, than believe in the God who can, but WON’T.

 

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I love you all. When stuff happens — good or bad — it’s not God blessing or cursing us. Stuff happens — both good and bad — and God is here with us, pulling us toward Love… Celebrating with us, grieving with us, and letting us know we don’t need to be afraid. Maybe share this with someone who needs to be reminded that we don’t need to be afraid, but it’s okay when we are.

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“All Sins Are Equal,” and Other Christian Nonsense

“No sin is worse than any other.” You’ve probably heard this little piece of “christian” craziness before. I remember hearing it as a child, growing up in the Calvinist tradition of my family. It is a widely accepted absurdity meant to convince the sheep of their own “Total Depravity,” which is the idea that — in God’s eyes — we are all so utterly disgusting and corrupted that each of us actually DESERVES to be tortured, in a fiery Hell, for eternity. We are all equally guilty — Mother Teresa and Hitler alike — and all equally deserving of the full wrath of God… And I tell you what: GOD IS PISSED.

Total Depravity is the “T” of the Calvinist acronym “TULIP.” Just in case you didn’t grow up in a small, Calvinist community like I did, here is “TULIP” spelled out:

  • Total Depravity (We are all garbage, and incapable of doing something good… Like choosing God or loving the people around us.)
  • Unconditional Election (God picks people God is going to save, like picking names out of a divine hat, NOT based on anything they’ve done. Because, again… Garbage.)
  • Limited Atonement (The idea that Jesus died only for “the elect” — the ones picked out of the hat — and not for any of the rest the the hellbound others.)
  • Irresistible Grace (The ones randomly picked by God, or the “Elect,” cannot resist God calling them into salvation. Because choosing to accept salvation would mean we are able to do something good, and again… We’re total garbage.)
  • Perseverance of the Saints (AKA, “Once Saved, Always Saved. Once you’re in, you’re in, baby! You can’t lose your salvation.)

Anyway, TULIP is an important part of the foundation of much of reformed theology… and as you can see, the entirety of it is based on the idea that we are complete crap, we are totally deserving of being tortured in Hell forever, and we are completely unable to do anything worthwhile or redeeming. And in order for THAT nonsense to be able to be swallowed, people have to be convinced that all sins are equal. Otherwise, we might start thinking that some actions we choose are “better” than others… And to those convinced and committed to preaching our total depravity, that smells suspiciously like we have a “potential for good.” And if THAT happens, we might get the idea that we are worthy of being loved… And we can’t have that, because obviously we all deserve HELL!

So in that messed up world, what this means is that the action of being turned on by someone’s body is basically the same “level” of sin as Larry Nassar molesting hundreds of young girls who came to him for care. Or one of my kids calling someone a “jerk” makes them just as deserving of eternal torture as if they completed an elaborate plan to stab someone in the neck and make it look like someone else did it. And just as an aside, when I speak of “sin,” I’m talking about “missing the mark.” Some think of this “mark” as something concrete and unchanging, known by God, and something for which anything less than 100% perfection is a failing grade (Hell). So if we’re trowing darts, anything less than a perfect bullseye is a death sentence. But this makes NO SENSE. If “missing the mark” is like throwing darts, sometimes we miss the target by a bit… Sometimes we miss the board altogether, leaving little holes in the drywall at our friend’s house… Other times we get drunk and throw the dart in the complete opposite direction, and it ends up stuck in someone’s thigh. Or eyeball. Or jugular.

And listen: This idea does not just appear out of nowhere. People get it from the Bible… But like most of the world’s truly awful things, they get it from a really messed up INTERPRETATION of the Bible. During Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, he is speaking to people who are interested in following the LETTER of the law, and missing the HEART of the law. So when the law says, “Do not murder,” if they are thinking, “I haven’t murdered anyone… I’m good,” Jesus is trying to tell them they are missing the whole point. It’s not about Not Murdering… It’s about Loving. And if you are calling your brother a fool (but not murdering him), you are guilty of breaking the law.

But like so many things, when Jesus tries to get at the heart of things, we immediately take his words and try to turn them into dogma with firm lines of orthodoxy, so we can know who’s in and who’s out. Someone asks about forgiveness, and if we should forgive people seven times… So Jesus says, “More like 70 times 7.” And then some people start an Excel spread sheet to figure out when a person reaches 490 so they can finally stop forgiving them, while other people use his words to tell an abused wife that she has to forgive her husband about 480 more times before she is allowed to leave. Or they’ll say that beating up your wife is not worse than not being totally truthful when you tell your wife you like her blouse… So “We’re all guilty!” And “Who are you to judge?” “ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” “Judge not, lest YE be judged.” Et cetera, et cetera…

This little bit of theological idiocy is used by people in the Church in such messed up ways. However, it’s possible to use this concept in healthy ways. If you’re keeping yourself from being too judgmental by reminding yourself that you ALSO have made mistakes before, that’s a GOOD thing. But if you’re using this to excuse/diminish/justify something harmful you or someone else has done, then you are using this concept in an ABUSIVE way. So if someone loses their patience and snaps at you, and you are more able to forgive them because you remember a time where you did the exact same thing… GREAT! But if you’re using “All sins are equal” or  “Just not, lest YE be judged.” to excuse some priest who abused a bunch of kids, you are doing it wrong. In fact, you are throwing the dart in the complete opposite direction.

Because some actions ARE better than others. When I was a kid, I stole a Star Wars figure from a friend while I was playing at his house. My mom asked me about it, and I lied and said my friend gave it to me. She knew I was full of it, so she threatened to call and ask. I confessed to her that I took it, and I assured her that I would give it back and apologize. When I gave it back, I told him I took it “on accident.” That was another lie. In this short little story, there were ALL KINDS of opportunities for me to make “better” or “worse” decisions than the ones I made. I could have told my friend the truth about stealing it. I could have not stolen it in the first place. I could have told my mom the truth when she first asked. OR, I could have gone over to “give it back,” actually stolen his AT-AT, filled it with Star Wars figures, and then set his house on fire to cover up the evidence. All sins are NOT equal.

And the reason these sorts of theological things are important to discuss is because the concept of Total Depravity has real-life, political implications. A worldview that has a foundation of “Everyone and everything is hopeless garbage” makes it a whole lot easier to not try to fix the things that are broken. And a god who is going to send nearly everyone to be tortured forever makes it a whole lot easier to kill someone you consider your enemy.

nashville-mayor-megan-barry-ht-mem-180306_4x3_992

“Okay — NOW I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth… This time I mean it.”

 

The question for ME right now is this: Can we acknowledge that someone did something wrong while still giving them credit for making a choice that is BETTER than another choice? For example, in Nashville right now (where I live), Megan Barry just resigned as the city’s mayor after pleading guilty to theft in the form of compensation for the man she recently admitted to having an extra-marital affair with (who was also married). She went on TV, answered questions, and took responsibility for the harm she has done. Yes, it would have been better if she had admitted her infidelity before someone tipped off the press. And yes, it would have been better if she hadn’t had the affair in the first place. And yes, it would have been better if she hadn’t used public funds to have her lover (in his job as her head of security) go on multiple trips with her. These moral failings will follow her for the rest of her life…  But also, YES, it would have been far worse if she had continued lying, denied the affair ever happened, called her accuser a liar for coming forward, and called the whole thing “fake news” (as is consistently done by this immoral GOP administration).

So when I see people comparing Megan Barry’s actions to the deplorable actions of the current president, they are missing the whole point. It’s not that liberals are (necessarily) being hypocritical about things like this. We understand right and wrong… It’s just that one of the things which makes people “liberal” is the ability to see things on a SPECTRUM. There is a spectrum on moral issues like this. We see this everywhere — Harvey Weinstein is NOT the same as Louis CK. Harvey Weinstein still denies the harm he has done (causing even more harm). When Louis CK was accused of masturbating in front women whose careers he had the power to destroy, his response was “These stories are true.” It is possible to acknowledge that Louis CK’s actions were completely reprehensible and harmful, while ALSO acknowledging that him admitting to them was the right thing to do. Megan Barry’s actions were wrong. They were selfish and harmful… But the fact that she is talking responsibility for the harm that she has done is LIGHT YEARS better than the sad, broken, corrupt narcissist sitting in the White House. So at least there’s that.

Anyway, to sum up…

  1. We are worthy of being loved.
  2. We are not garbage.
  3. We do not deserve to be tortured in Hell forever.
  4. We know the difference between what is Good or Right or Better, and what is harmful & wrong & worse… And when those things aren’t as clear as we hope, we at least know the general direction of the dartboard.
  5. We are capable of choosing to do the next right thing.
  6. When we screw up (and we all screw up), telling the truth about our screw ups is FAR BETTER — both to others, and to ourselves — than lying about them.
  7. When in doubt, see #1.

 

 

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