What They Mean When They Say “Woke”

Yesterday morning I woke up and — as I often do — opened up Twitter to see what fresh hell has been unleashed on us while I was sleeping. That morning I was greeted by a video of a man in a bowtie on Fox”News” lamenting the “woke-ism” he was subjected to when he took a tour of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. It turns out he was disappointed that — instead of focusing solely on how he was a great scholar, architect, and writer of the words “all men are created equal” — the tour guide “demoralized everyone on his tour” by speaking about actual FACTS about Thomas Jefferson: Facts like he enslaved over 600 people during his life… Or that Monticello was 5000 acre working plantation where 400 Black people were forced to live & work in bondage, building the mansion that graces the back of our nickels, so that the face on the front of our nickels had the time to write about how “all men are created equal” when he wasn’t raping & impregnating the enslaved women on his plantation. Imagine how DEMORALIZING it must have been to hear true things about someone he grew up venerating. Here is the video clip:

“A bow tie announces to the world you can no longer get an erection.” ~ David Sedaris

Poor thing… He “just thought that Monticello would be protected from this disease of wokeism.” All he wanted was to take a tour of a slave plantation, and that mean ‘ol “woke” tour guide had the AUDACITY to talk about slaves. It really is getting hard out there for a white man. Is nothing sacred?? Must we constantly bring “history” into things like this? Can’t we just worship this great white man without submitting our minds to the cognitive dissonance of someone writing “all men are created equal” while enslaving hundreds of men? Can’t we just appreciate the great white mind who designed Monticello without acknowledging the Black hands that were forced to actually build it??

Just in case any of you ladies out there were turned on by the bespectacled, bowtied bigot in the video, his name is Jeffrey Tucker. And in case you couldn’t tell by his outfit, he’s not just any average Joe off the street… He is named as one of the founders of the racist Neo-confederate group “The League of the South,” and he is named as a source in a New York Post article titled “Monticello is going woke — and trashing Thomas Jefferson’s legacy in the process.” Please say a prayer for him as he goes through the often difficult process of finding out that sometimes white people did racism.

“Going woke.” Jesus.

I live in a city where a moron named Todd Pembroke just make it through the School Board election primary by plastering the sides of our roads with these signs:

Imagine being this much of a moron. Now imagine actually voting for this guy.

When pressed about what the “NO WOKE” on his signs means, Todd just deflects by reciting something about “keeping politics out of schools.” But just like Jeffery “Confederate Bowtie” Tucker, it’s not politics “No Woke” Pembroke is interested in keeping out of the classroom… It’s the truth.

The term “woke” came from Black Culture, and it’s been around since the early 1900s. It’s had a fascinating journey that you should really read about. It has traditionally meant to be awake, aware, and “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination.” It was introduced to white culture as the internet widened our access to Black voices — Particularly after the Black Lives Matter movement started. White liberals began appropriating the term as we discovered things like white privilege (and appropriation LOL). After white folks started using it (lo & behold!) the Oxford English Dictionary added it in 2017. Meek Mill has an amazing song called “Stay Woke,” and you probably heard the phrase in Childish Gambino’s “Redbone.” I can still remember the feeling of pride I had when one of my Black friends referred to me as “woke.” You might as well have pinned a medal on my chest. But it came from AAVE, and was about being aware of the dangers of of being Black in a racist country with racist systems… Systems which brought about horrors like “The Scottsboro Boys,” where nine Black teenagers were falsely accused of rape, and spent years of their lives fighting these false allegations, and even fighting a death sentence.

Less than a 100 years ago, an all-white jury in Alabama recommended the death penalty for a Black teenager who was falsely accused of rape and didn’t have legal representation. A judge suspended the death sentence and ordered a new trial. That judge promptly lost his bid for reelection. Today, in some states it’s ILLEGAL to teach about this part of American history.

The political right has very successfully co-opted the term “woke” to be a catch-all for all the things they don’t like… Like equality. Or inclusion. Or telling the truth about history. It’s almost exclusively used pejoratively now, which is a messaging win for republicans. Being anti-woke is really just the next phase of their anger over “political correctness.” Any narrative which paints white people in any sort of negative light is dismissed as “woke.” Any lesson which characterizes diversity as a strength is dismissed as “woke.” Any discussion of the faults of (white) historical figures is dismissed as “woke.” Any acknowledgment of the realities of systemic racism is dismissed as “woke.” Any inclusion of the reality of the existence of people who are LGBTQIA is dismissed as “woke.”

So if a new Star Wars series has more People of Color, or women, or (gasp!) Black women in the cast, the political Right chalks it up to the evils of “wokeism.” If an animated movie dares to portray the reality of a same-sex couple kissing on the cheek, the Right is in an uproar over them forcing their “woke” ideologies on “our kids” (with no consideration of LGBTQIA children or the children of same-sex couples). And if a man who definitely has a pointy, white hood in his closet goes to take a tour of a slave plantation, and the tour guide speaks about the history & horrors of slavery, Fox will give him air time to talk about how “demoralizing” it was for him to encounter the “disease of wokeism.” Think about how crazy it is that — in less than 100 years — white folks took a term that meant “being aware” of injustices like the Scottsboro Boys, and they transformed it into a rallying cry against teaching their white children about the History behind the Scottsboro Boys… lest they feel bad about the truth behind history.

There is SO MUCH racism behind the “anti-woke” movement. It is steeped in it. Think about it… Talking about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s infidelity would never be described as “woke.” It’s just telling the truth about history. But God forbid they mention a “founding father” owned and raped other human beings. Co-opting the term “woke” was the perfect republican response to the dangerous truths white folks were being exposed to during the BLM movement. It took a Black word, put some stank on it, and made it mean anything they wanted it to mean. Equal rights for women? Woke. Queer people existing? Woke. Christopher Columbus was a rapist and a mass murderer? Woke. The fact that what the U.S. did to the Native Americans was genocide? Woke. The realities of systemic racism? Woke, woke, woke.

So genuinely, when you hear a person use the term “woke” to describe something they don’t like, ask them what they mean by “woke.” Watch them squirm as they attempt to avoid making it about the anger white men experience as they feel like they are losing a bit of their privilege. Watch them strain to preserve centralized whiteness. Watch them bend over backwards to explain it without sounding like a white nationalist fascist. When they say that they’re angry about all this “wokeness,” they’re telling on themselves. What they’re really angry about is equality feeling like oppression. They’re angry about the realities of diversity (and the fear of replacement theory). They’re angry about approaching history with a sense of honesty. They say “anti-woke” because it sounds way better than saying “anti-truth.”

I’m trying… I swear. Thank you so much for reading. If you want to support me and my writing, you can on Patreon, on PayPal, or by Venmoing chris-boeskool.

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Bill Lee Is A Terrible Person

I thought about a lot of different titles, but that’s the one I landed on. I feel like it really gets to the heart of what I’m trying to say here…

For those of you who don’t know, Bill Lee is the Governor of Tennessee, and in his “State of the State” address, he revealed that he was partnering with Hillsdale College (a small, conservative christian school in Michigan) to bring 50 charter schools to Tennessee to teach kids what he calls “informed patriotism.” “Partnering” is another way of saying “giving them millions of taxpayer dollars,” and “informed patriotism” is another way of saying “white-washing history so that white men don’t get their feelings hurt when schools are honest about all the ways we have we have historically oppressed women and people of color in this country.”

If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t know much about Hillsdale College. So I looked into it, and it is shady and creepy and white AF. Of the 23 members of their Board of Trustees, 21 are white men and 2 are white women. Turns out the Chairman of the Board is Pat Sajak (yes, that Pat Sajak), who is so white he should count as 3 white people. I tried to look up the racial demographic information for HC, but you can’t find that information anywhere. So I called the school and told them that I had a daughter who was looking at colleges (true), and she wanted to attend a school with a diverse student body (also true), and I was wondering about the racial makeup of the college (again, true). I was told that because they don’t accept government money, they “don’t have to divulge that information” (“Don’t have to divulge that information” is another way of saying “We are like a polar bear in a snowstorm”), which is clearly the case here, as you can see by this photo of Hillsdale’s football team:


You see, back when those pesky democrats started passing all those civil rights laws in the 60s, Hillsdale decided for forgo federal funding rather than comply with civil rights laws. The school even brags about “its resistance to the rebellious spirit of the 1960s” on their Board of Trustees webpage (where you can see the host of Wheel Of Fortune smiling in all his smarmy grossness).

When the Supreme Court was considering the legality of same-sex marriage, Hillsdale sent out a campus-wide email pointing out the disastrous effects marriage equality would have on “on our nation, the church, and families,” and asking for people to pray for the destruction of “evil” same-sex marriage. The school was part of the republican response to Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project, for which she won a MacArthur Fellowship and a Pulitzer Prize. The work was an exercise in de-centering whiteness in our nation’s historical narrative, and led to much of the brouhaha over “Critical Race Theory” (“Critical Race Theory” is another way of saying “being honest about history”). Hillsdale President Larry Arnn signed a letter asking the Pulitzer committee to revoke the award, and he led donald trump’s “1776 Commission” response to NHJ’s work. Hillsdale’s “1776 Curriculum” emphasizes the “meaningful efforts Republicans made to guarantee the rights of African Americans” while pointing out that Progressivism is a “rejection of the principles of the Declaration of Independence.”

This is the school Gov. Lee wants to hand over our state’s tax dollars to so they build charter schools: A republican ideals-indoctrinating, gay-hating, history-rewriting, white-washing, theocratic curriculum to pump out little GOP voters who think that systemic racism ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. In its Mission Statement, it says “The College also considers itself a trustee of our Western philosophical and theological inheritance tracing to Athens and Jerusalem, a heritage finding its clearest expression in the American experiment of self-government under law” (“Western philosophical and theological inheritance” is another way of saying “white”). This is the actual last paragraph of their Mission Statement:

“The College values the merit of each unique individual, rather than succumbing to the dehumanizing, discriminatory trend of so-called “social justice” and “multicultural diversity,” which judges individuals not as individuals, but as members of a group and which pits one group against other competing groups in divisive power struggles.”

And, as I’ve written about before, when there is no such thing as systemic racism, white folks are doing better because they are just… Better (“There’s no such thing as systemic racism” is another way of saying “white supremacy”). But none of this is surprising… It’s part of a nationwide republican effort to combat CRT by banning books and outlawing school discussions about race & gender that paint white Americans in anything but the kindest light. And finding ways to get public funds into the hands of private christian schools has been a pet project of Lee’s. He is for vouchers, and now he’s wanting a private christian college to run public charter schools here in Tennessee. The ACLU is filing a Freedom of Information Act request for all documents regarding his partnership with Hillsdale.

I wrote before about how hateful his legislation was against people who are trans. I don’t like him. A long time (and a different me) ago, I went to church with Bill Lee. When his first wife died, the church was instructed not to mourn her death, because they were believing God was going to bring her back from the dead… Like, not at the end of time or whatever. Like Lazarus. Raise her from the dead (I feel like the the effort crazy charismatic churches put forth in raising someone from the dead is directly proportional to that family’s tax bracket). I can’t imagine how much something like that could screw you up. But his toxic theology is doing real world harm. And now he’s using taxpayer money to “partner” with a christian college that apparently doesn’t see the hypocrisy in preaching the evils of government intervention & flaunting the fact they don’t receive government funding, while [wait for it]… PARTNERING WITH GOVERNMENT AND TAKING GOVERNMENT FUNDS TO SET UP REPUBLICAN INDOCTRINATION CHARTER SCHOOLS. I guess it’s an “end justifies the means” situation (“ends justifies the means” is another way of saying “I’m a hypocrite who’s not buying what I’m selling”).

Perhaps one positive thing might come from all this… If Hillsdale is getting paid to run charter school, maybe they’ll have to report on how utterly, utterly white their student body is.

Thank you so much for reading. I know it’s been a long while since I’ve written… Easily the longest break I’ve even taken. I am no longer married, and I’ve been mired in the first real depression of my life. The trump years really took something out of me. Then to follow that up with the divorce, the pandemic, Covid brain fog, isolation, and deep depression, I’m not sure which direction to face… Other than the direction of my bed. Finding words seemed too difficult. Hope can also be hard to find, and these days it’s damn-near impossible. But it’s there. Somewhere. Thanks to all who have supported me through this very difficult time. If you value my writing and you’d like to support it, you can Become A Patron. Or you can leave a tip on PayPal or buy me a birthday drink (IT’S TOMORROW) on Venmo (chris-boeskool). Follow along on Twitter and on Facebook too. And if you live in Tennessee, for the love of all things good and decent, vote Bill Lee out of office.

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The 2 Different Kinds of CRT, Explained For Angry White People

All over the country, angry white people have been showing up at school board meetings, irate over the idea that CRT (Critical Race Theory) is being taught to their precious fragile children, and being indoctrinated into their malleable little minds.

A photo taken by Evelyn Hockstein from a Loudoun County school board hearing, where parents — many of whom were angry about CRT being taught in their kids’ schools — shut down the meeting with their screaming.

So I thought that now would be as good a time as any to explain the difference between the two different kinds of Critical Race Theories… Namely, the actual Critical Race Theory, and then the OTHER “CRT” — The one republicans want to use as a rallying cry to motivate their “base” (angry white people) to get to the polls. For the purposes of this blog post the real Critical Race Theory will be abbreviated CRT, whereas the other one will appear in quotes as “CRT.” Much in the same way that there is the News, and then there is Fox”News.”

So here’s the deal: If you are a parent, angry that your 12 year old is being taught Critical Race Theory, you shouldn’t be angry — You should be very, very proud. Because that means your 12 year old is in college taking higher level courses… Because that is the only place CRT is being taught.

The ACTUAL Critical Race Theory is very hard to sum up in a neat paragraph. It is a branch of Critical Theory, but one which examines and critiques the many ways that racism (a social construct) is not simply/only the product of people being racist, biased, & prejudiced, but also something which is built into our policies and our laws. It is an academic movement, created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, & Richard Delgado (among others), focused on revealing and challenging power structures — especially as they intersect with race and U.S. law. Michael Harriot (one of my favorite writers in the world) does a very good job of explaining it in this Twitter thread:

Please read this whole amazing thread, and then go follow Michael Harriot on Twitter.

When you get into researching what it actually is, you quickly discover that CRT — an offshoot of a larger area of academic study called Critical Theory — is highly complex, and would never be “taught to our kids” in elementary, middle, or high school. Which leads us to the second, or false & intentionally misrepresented “CRT.” It’s the one which noted liar, theocrat, & traitor Mike Pompeo described here:

This is the “CRT” the GOP wants us to fear. They are afraid of a historical narrative which doesn’t paint white people in the best of light… AKA, ‘the Truth.” This other brand of “CRT” could be defined as any telling of history or explanation of current events which evokes a tinge of guilt in white people — especially white people who feel threatened by a term like “white privilege.”

Quite possibly the pinnacle of this meme’s usage…

Let me see if I can briefly break it down… Over the past couple decades, technology has increased the access to information faster than at any point in human history. The internet makes the printing press look like someone putting a traffic cone to their mouth and yelling. Though there are many benefits to this drastic change, people have had very different reactions to this process. Some people have mistaken “access to information” for ACTUAL EXPERTISE. Some people have used this new technology to widely disseminate lies & fear-mongering, which leads to hatred & violence… As well as a general uncertainty, which allows people to believe whatever fits best with their current narrative.

But Truth exists. Science is still a something. History and facts are real things. So, for example, technology has brought us streaming TV. And when Netflix airs the documentary “13th,” a lot of people are exposed to facts and information which they were not aware of before — many of which come into direct conflict with the narrative they were taught growing up… Like the idea that slavery actually ended with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation… Or that most white people thought highly of Martin Luther King, Jr. while he was alive. So when people want to teach about Juneteenth, or want to discuss how the 13th Amendment allowed for slavery to continue if people broke the law (and then laws were created to imprison/enslave Black Americans), or want to educate kids about most of white America saw MLK as a villain & an instigator, THAT HISTORY and THOSE FACTS make many white folks today feel a little bit guilty. And that makes them feel angry.

I might not have ever known about “redlining” without the internet. And when technology brings us HBO and exposes large numbers of people to the amazing series “The Watchmen” — where people see a heart-wrenching depiction of the Tulsa Race Massacre — people find themselves wondering, “Why wasn’t I ever taught about this in school? You mean to tell me that there was a thriving area of Black wealth known as Black Wall Street, and that whites destroyed and burned 35 blocks of the neighborhood, killing dozens of people, and that is was largely overlooked?!?” And then we research it, and we also learn about what happened in Rosewood. The ones who are angry about “CRT” are the same folks who are angry that it is now known as the Tulsa Race Massacre rather than the “Tulsa Race Riot,” because “massacre” more accurately reflects what went on that day. People who are angry about “CRT” would probably call that “revisionist history.”

But here’s where the REAL anger comes from: If we HONESTLY discuss the history of the United States’ actions in the world (rather than a make-believe narrative which doesn’t gloss over our nation’s many wrongs), the TRUTH butts up against the ideal of American Exceptionalism. In much the same way, if we HONESTLY discuss the reality of the history of Systemic Racism in this country, it is in direct contrast to the Myth of Meritocracy, which tells white America that they have more because they are work harder and they are BETTER…. AKA white supremacy. And that is a string we can’t have our kids pulling on…

“CRT” has become this catch-all for things white people don’t like discussing… And they (we) especially don’t like those things being taught to our kids, because they might “feel bad” about being white (Ironically, the vast majority of the people who are afraid their kids might feel bad about who they are, are the same evangelicals who teach their kids that they are all so totally depraved that they deserve to go to hell forever). So they don’t want to discuss the reality of lynchings all over America, and they CERTAINLY don’t want those same kids making connections to modern-day lynchings like those of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery, or asking questions like why the only objections to the Emmett Till Antilynching Act came from republicans. These are people who think that Anti-Racism & Diversity Trainings are “un-American.” 100% of the people who are angry about “CRT” in our schools are the same people who use the term “woke” pejoratively. Imagine thinking that being awake to the reality of the world is a bad thing…

And now we have state legislatures all over the country passing laws to keep “CRT” from being taught in schools. Again, they are not preventing actual CRT from being taught in schools, as no schools are teaching this other than post graduate collegiate studies. They are passing laws more to prevent things like Nikole Hannah Jones’ “1619 Project” (for which she won a Pulitzer Prize) from being discussed in a school setting. The 1619 Project works to reframe American history by de-centering whiteness — instead centering Black America and enslaved people… And Lord knows we can’t have whiteness de-centered for even a moment, now can we? Ironically, passing laws to keep people from de-centering whiteness is a PERFECT example of the basis behind the need for actual Critical Race Theory.

So I hope this helps. Sometimes the Truth can feel overwhelmed by lies & apathy, and please believe me when I say I know what it’s like to feel hopeless and exhausted by that… But one thing technology affords us is the opportunity to attempt to set the record straight. So if you see someone who is confused, afraid, & angry about “CRT,” please feel free to copy and paste this post for them. When people are angry that teachers might be teaching our kids that America is a racist country, remind them that America does just fine teaching our kids that on its own. Every little bit of sanity helps. I’ll leave you with an eloquent, powerful, sane Facebook post about the 1619 Project, and why it is absolutely necessary:

My taking the time to research & write this is an act of hope… May that hope overflow onto you. If you value the things I write, I also hope you will consider BECOMING A PATRON on Patreon. Every little bit helps. If that’s not your thing, you can also LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL or Venmo your generosity to “chris-boeskool.” For more fun, follow along on FACEBOOK and on TWITTER. Love you all.

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A Man Killed A Man Who Killed A Cop. Then Police Killed Him…

Earlier this week in the middle of the day in Colorado, an armed man (Ronald Troyke) ran up to an Arvada police officer (Officer Gordon Beesley), shooting him twice with a shotgun & killing him. Troyke then ran back to his truck (of course) to get his loaded AR-15 (again, of course). An armed onlooker (John Hurley) saw what had happened, hid behind a car, and shot & killed the shooter with his handgun. Very soon after, police arrived on the scene, saw an armed man, and immediately shot & killed John Hurley… Who had just killed Ronald Troyke… Who had just killed Officer Gordon Beesley… 

I swear I hate that flag.

The Arvada police say that John Hurley had picked up the shooter’s AR-15 and was holding it when they arrived, though they have NOT released the body-cam footage from any of the officers arriving at the scene. They DID RELEASE a video where they hailed John Hurley as a hero while detailing their version of how this tragedy played out. That video includes some edited security camera footage of the day’s events. It is unclear whether the police officer who killed John Hurley interacted (told him to drop the gun or get on the ground) with him at all, but all signs point to that not happening. John Hurley has been photographed in a “We Are Change Colorado” T-shirt, a version of a 9/11 “truther” and anti-vax conspiracy theory group formed by Alt-right conspiracy theorist Luke Rudkowski. The group’s Facebook page has posts opposing gun safety laws

When we decide to live by the sword, we bear responsibility for dying by the sword.
(Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

The NRA and the GOP like to tell this fairytale that “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” They call John Hurley a “Good Samaritan” (a description with which I have some issues. The story of the Good Samaritan should not be used to describe someone who kills someone). They call John Hurley a “hero.” And maybe he is. He almost certainly kept other people from being shot & killed. Police found A NOTE Ronald Troyke had written that said, “Today I will kill as many Arvada officers as I possibly can” and “This is what you get, you are the people who are expendable.” 

What happened this week in Colorado (an open carry state) is obviously tragic… But for more reasons than simply because an officer and an armed bystander trying to do the right thing both lost their lives to gun violence. The real tragedy is that this country is so addicted to killing. We are a nation with more guns than people. And every new mass shooting… every new story of kids being gunned down in schools… every person whose life is cut short by these very killing tools — highly efficient at killing people from a distance — that we call guns… Every death is chalked up to some sort of demented sacrifice to this intangible idea of “freedom.” We have the power — as a community of people attempting to live together — to drastically reduce the number of firearms and deaths from these highly efficient killing tools. This idea that the only thing that can keep us safe from guns is MORE GUNS is a deadly lie told by very rich people who are trying to control us with FEAR.

There is finally an actual story of this etherial “Good Guy With A Gun,” and he was immediately killed because he had a gun. Is this the world we want to live in… One where we value the “right” to kill over the right to live? We are a nation who would rather live with the occasional classroom of twenty 1st graders being murdered than live without our precious guns.

It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m sad. I wish I could offer you some hope right now, but it seems right now I’m fresh out. It helps a little to write about it. Either way, thank you for reading. If you value this blog and my writing, and you’d like to become a patron, you can DO THAT HERE. If you feel like leaving a tip or buying me a drink, you can do that ON PAYPAL or by Venmo-ing to “chris-boeskool.” If you follow me ON FACEBOOK or ON TWITTER, I promise things aren’t always this depressing. Love you all…

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Governor Bill Lee Is A Trans-Hating Villain.

I don’t want to write “transphobic,” because phobia has to do with fear, and the things Bill Lee and Tennessee republicans have done to Trans people in the past few weeks goes WELL beyond fear… His actions are purely hateful, and an overt attempt to let Trans people know that they are NOT WELCOME in the “Volunteer State.” There has to be a suffix that signifies a progression beyond simple fear of something, and moved into an outright enmity, revulsion, and hostility towards someone. I don’t know: “-misia” or “-odium”… Something. Because make no mistake: This is not fear. This is hatred. It is clear contempt and plain prejudice, which many are calling “The cruelest anti-trans law in the nation.” And Bill Lee has signed it into law.

Gov. Bill Lee’s hateful and discriminatory actions toward the Trans community will be remembered in the same shameful way that Gov. George Wallace’s actions toward the Black community are remembered… Both will leave behind a legacy of hatred and bigotry.

The bill that Bill Lee signed into law a couple days ago (House Bill 1182 / SB 1224) is just the latest in a string of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation to come through the Tennessee legislature. He recently signed a bill banning transgender athletes from competing in sports (SB 228), he signed a wildly discriminatory bill requiring Tennessee teachers to inform parents if they are going to be discussing any LGBTQIA characters in their classroom so that parents can opt their child out of that discussion (SB 1229), and another transgender bathroom bill focused on demeaning Trans students in our state (HB 1233). It looks like the Tennessee legislature took all that time they saved by ignoring a worldwide pandemic which killed over 12,000 Tennesseans, and refocused themselves on attempting to indoctrinate hatred and discrimination into our laws. And they were fairly successful.

This latest law bans treatments for Trans youth and requires Tennessee businesses to post a sign alerting people if that business has either a “formal or informal” policy of allowing Trans people to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. Essentially, it’s like saying, “Warning: We don’t check people’s genitalia before they enter our restrooms,” and it’s designed to be as dehumanizing as possible. Think about if a state legislature required businesses to warn patrons if that establishment wasn’t enforcing racial segregation. And someday, our grandkids will look back at this with the same shameful astonishment we look back on pictures of “Whites Only” signs hung on businesses.

I’ve written before about this nonsense controversy surrounding Trans folk using bathrooms. You can READ IT HERE. Please read it… I spent a while on it, and I feel like it makes a pretty good case. There are so many Trans men and women out there who you would NEVER know were Trans… And seeing one of them in the bathroom inconsistent with their identity would — believe me — FULLY freak people out. And beyond that, it would put that Trans man or woman in very real danger. Consider this…

“The cruelty is the point.”

Imagine being such a monster that you focus your energy on making life harder for one of the most vulnerable, discriminated-against groups of people in the world — a group of human beings who are more than TEN TIMES MORE LIKELY to attempt to take their own life. Imagine having the privilege of being elected to serve the people of a state, and being such a villain that this is the kind of thing you prioritize: Codifying discrimination and hatred. These bills are written by “dangerous anti-LGBTQ organizations like the Heritage Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom (designated by Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group), and Eagle Forum among others,” but they are propelled by misguided christians who are attempting to make their bigoted idea of “sin” illegal… And if their attempt at theocracy fails, they are at least trying to make life for Trans folx as dehumanizing as possible. And it honestly breaks my damn heart.

Please read the heading on that tweet. I don’t know David Dark personally, but I have a lot of people I respect who love him. I follow him on Twitter, and one of the things he regularly posts is about how “There are so many ways to hate God.” Likewise, “There are so many ways to love God.” Bill Lee identifies as a christian… As a man who loves God. I can’t imagine looking at signing this bill as anything other than an act of pure hatred. 1 John 4:20 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” Honestly, I don’t see the hatred and bigotry at the heart of these laws changing in my lifetime in a state like Tennessee. Human consciousness changes slowly, and there are simply too many people living here who cannot yet discern between hating God and loving God… Acts which are best distinguished by how we love the people around us. But in the midst of these hateful and discriminatory surge of laws, we can look for ways to LOVE God.

And one of those ways is by loving the Trans people who live around you. Reach out to them. Remind them that they are loved. Publicly and vocally oppose these new laws. Call your representatives. Spend your money at businesses who are openly Trans affirming. As the Human Rights Coalition shows, “States that pass anti-transgender legislation suffer economic, legal, & reputational harm.” For many of the people pushing these laws, it is not effective to attempt to shame them or make a moral case for equality (mostly because of their lack of shame and their very different understanding of morality), but what HAS shown to be somewhat effective is showing them the negative economic effects of these hateful, discriminatory laws. There are so many ways to hate God… And so many of those ways are being displayed right now in states with GOP-controlled legislatures. But until that can be turned around, it’s so important to look for ways to LOVE God. And with the passing of these laws, our Trans brothers and sisters are probably feeling more than a little unloved right now. They are feeling hated. Let that break your heart the same way it breaks God’s. Work to change that culture of hatred. We can’t claim to love God while not loving the Trans brothers and sisters we see around us.

Thank you again for reading. I believe the trajectory of human consciousness is moving in the direction of equality and justice — But there will always be people who fight against that process in order to conserve their own privilege. When we see this for what it is, I believe it’s possible to not let it discourage you to the point of hopelessness. My hope is that this blog reminds you of hope… even when it’s hard for me to see as well. Anyway, if you value my writing, I’d love for you to consider BECOMING A PATRON. Or if you want to leave a tip (or to boost a particular post), you can DO THAT ON PAYPAL or Venmo your generosity to “chris-boeskool”. Please also follow along on Facebook and on Twitter. I love you all.

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Tyler Perry, and “Refusing To Hate” The Police

Last night during the Oscars, Tyler Perry was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. During his speech he said, “I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican or because they are Black or white or LBGTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian.” And the inclusion of “a police officer” in his list of identities left more than a few people scratching their head… And it left me with this song going through mine:

One of these things does not belong…

Including a chosen profession within a list of of ethnicities, nationalities, and races seems like a curious choice… Like if I said, “It’s time we stop discriminating against people on the basis of their race, their gender, their sexual orientation, or their decision earn a living by enforcing racial hierarchies and disproportionately harassing & oppressing People of Color.” And it seems an especially weird choice after a week where — in the wake of the guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd — you couldn’t go 12 hours without new news and body cam footage of YET ANOTHER unarmed Black person getting gunned down by a police officer.

On one side there is anger at injustice & oppression… On the other side there is white supremacy. Calls for “meeting in the middle” are just more injustice & oppression.

Last summer after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I participated in a few different protests here in Nashville. It was my first time seeing the tag “ACAB” spray painted on the wall of some of the downtown buildings. I didn’t want to ask someone what it stood for and out myself as the noob protestor, so I looked it up on my phone: “All Cops Are Bastards.” My initial thought was, “Well that doesn’t seem fair. I am good friends with a couple cops, and I don’t think THEY are bastards. How about MOST Cops Are Bastards… MCAB?” It reminded me of the first time I felt the defensiveness inside me, and felt like saying “Not All Men” or “Not All White People” when hearing criticisms of those groups as a whole.

When people are critical of a problem that is endemically shared by a group of people, it is not particularly helpful to point out that “NOT ALL” of the people within that group share the problem. If statistics show that Black people’s health is more severely affected by COVID-19, it doesn’t really matter that you know a Black person who barely got sick… or that your uncle is white, and COVID ended up putting him on a ventilator. In the same way, when people show evidence that racism & police brutality are a significant problem within law enforcement, it’s not really significant that know a police officer and you think he’s a good person. The truth is that this country has a giant problem with racism in policing. So when Tyler Perry — who I have little doubt is probably about as nice a guy as billionaires get — includes someone’s chosen profession in the same categorical list as a person’s heritage or their orientation in his “reject hate” speech, it smacks of the garbage that is “Blue Lives Matter.” There are Black lives. There are LGBTQIA+ lives. There are Mexican & white & Asian lives… But there are no such thing as “blue lives.” Those other categories do not involve choice. If someone gets a job working for ICE and earns money by separating immigrant families from each other, I think it’s alright to hate that… In the same way it’s alright to hate injustice. And systemic racism. And xenophobia.

I don’t “hate” people because they are police officers. But I do make some assumptions. Just like I make some assumptions when I see someone wearing a MAGA hat: After talking to you, I might find that you are a perfectly kind, reasonable human being… But it’s going to be a BIG surprise. And I’m going to be honest with you about what that hat (and that uniform) has come to represent to me and many of the oppressed people I care about.

So of course “I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer.” Just like I am not going to hate someone just because they are a white evangelical. But you better believe that I hate the force for evil in the world that is “White Evangelicalism.” Just like I hate the force for state-sanctioned violence and systemic racism that policing has become. By and large, I agree with most everything Tyler Perry said in his speech. I think there is too much hate in the world today… But trying to get people to stop hating injustice because “hate is wrong” is the same kind of nonsense that tries to convince people they need to be “tolerant” of the intolerance of white supremacy. And him slipping “police officer” in with his “reject hate” speech is like when people try to equate calling cops “pigs” with using racial or homophobic slurs… It’s just not the same. We can be angry about choices that people make. We can hate those choices… Like the choice to work enforcing state-sanctioned violence & oppression against People of Color. Or like the choice to fire a gun and put four bullets into a Black child named Ma’Khia Bryant. Or the choice to fire seven shots at another unarmed Black man (Isaiah Brown) who called 911 while he held a phone to his ear, still on the call with 911. Or the choice to stay silent when you know that an officer you work with is saying racist things and acting inappropriately. If we’re not hating those things, then we’re doing a terrible job of “rejecting hate.”

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING! If you love this blog and you want to support it, the very best way to do that is to BECOME A PATRON. You probably won’t even notice a couple bucks a month, but it makes such a huge difference to me and my family. If you’d like to leave a tip, you can DO THAT ON PAYPAL or Venmo your generosity to “chris-boeskool.” Otherwise, please follow along for more fun ON FACEBOOK and ON TWITTER.

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4 Things White People Can Learn From Rachel Hollis

You know what? This title might be a little misleading. It’s probably more what we can learn from the BACKLASH against Rachel Hollis. Initially I was going to have the title be “Rachel Hollis and the Myth of Meritocracy,” but then I thought people were going to be like, “What is meritocracy?” And probably a fairly large amount of, “Who the hell is Rachel Hollis?!?” This way, at least people recognize ONE part of the title: White People.

For those who don’t know, Rachel Hollis is a writer, blogger, and “influencer.” She’s the author of a three self-helpy books (“Girl, Wash Your Face,” “Girl, Stop Apologizing,” and “Didn’t See That Coming“) that are filled with Bible verses and motivational tips and quotes. “Girl, Wash Your Face” was the second most popular book on Amazon for 2018. It was part empowerment, part pep-talk for people to “Pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” but since that saying sounds more than a little bit racist now, she used the language & ideology of “Hustle Culture” — Where people reduce success in life to simply trying/working harder than the next guy. Or gal. And many of those gals ate it up… Specifically white women. She’s the sort of person who’s invited to speak at MLM conferences. She peddles toxic positivity, she’s criticized medication, and she’s made some fat-phobic statements. She flirts with Prosperity Gospel BS. I’d describe her as an Instagram mommy blogger meets Dave Ramsey (who, if you don’t already know, is an awful person). Later there were accounts of her plagiarizing things on her Instagram and in her books.

Hustle Culture is very closely related to the Myth of Meritocracy, which is basically the idea that people with more have more for a REASON… and that social mobility is equally available to everyone equally, if they are willing to work hard and make sacrifices. You can imagine why this ideology is so popular among the people who are at the top of the social & financial hierarchies. People LOVE to believe that they EARNED everything that they have through their own hard work (Even when they were born on third base and thought they hit a triple)… Which is why the concept of white privilege is so very disconcerting to so many of us white folks. We’re afraid that if white privilege is real, then that means we didn’t EARN our higher social/financial status.

But when success is as simple as working harder/hustling more than the people around you, this funny thing happens (actually, it’s not that funny). When people reject the idea of privilege and reduce success to “the reason I have more is because I WORK harder, and because I’m SMART,” the insinuation is that those who are not experiencing the same success are in that position because they are lazier and dumber. This happens much in the same way that when people reject the reality of systemic racism, they are actually saying that the social & financial disparities between Blacks & whites in America is due to the group in the lower caste being there because of lack of ability or drive or intelligence (AKA racism). If it’s a level playing field and one group keeps winning, it’s because they are just “better” (which is the reason that the loudest insistence that the playing field is level is most often coming from the people who keep winning).

For whatever reason, the part of Rachel’s video that grossed me out the most was when she said “Sis.”

Anyway, Rachel Hollis… Here’s what happened: She posted a video where she talked about having a woman who cleans her toilets twice a week… Someone called her “privileged AF” and “unrelatable”… And then she made a TicTok where she basically said, “Yeah, I’m privileged… But I also work harder than you. And I’m not interested in being ‘relatable,’ because all the great women weren’t relatable either.” And then she posted the names of a bunch of great women — most of them Women of Color — and wrote “all Unrelatable AF.” You can watch the video (which she has since deleted) below…

After many corners of the internet exploded with reactions to a woman who married a Disney executive bragging about how her wealth comes from “working her ass off” and “waking up at 4am” — a white woman who steals quotes from other people and passes them off as her own while selling books about “doing the work” — many influential people commented on her post, trying to help her understand why what she said was so harmful. The response was to remove any comments that were critical. Many wise Black women took the time to teach her, and rather than learn, the comments were deleted. A few days later, Rachel issued a (sort of) apology, but one where she threw her “team” under the bus. The response to her half apology was enthusiastically negative. Shortly after, the video was deleted, along with the apology.

Which brings me to four (of the many) things we can learn from this…

  1. ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE PRIVILEGED. You are. Accept it. For the love of God, no one is saying you haven’t ever worked hard. No one is saying you haven’t ever struggled. But one of those struggles has NOT been whiteness. If you are the sort of person who hears someone call you out on your white privilege and you rear up in defense, demanding the world acknowledge how you did it with HARD WORK and SMARTS and intangibles like “grit” or “stick-to-itiveness,” you are the wrong sort of person. If you look around America at the HUGE racial disparities, and you are one of the ones insisting that the playing field is level, I’ve got some bad news for you: That’s racism.
  2. STOP TAKING WORDS FROM BLACK CULTURE. When Rachel said “Sis” in the video, it just grated against everything in me. That word was created and popularized by Black women. If you are white, and you find out a term you love has been appropriated from Black Culture, try to stop using it. We’ve taken enough from Black people. We don’t need to take their words (or their heroes either). I used to love the word “woke” before it became a favorite derogatory term of the far-right (meaning awareness that is purely performative). It started off meaning that a person was aware of what was going on… She was “woke.” A lot of people are living like they are asleep, so I loved the term. But as I followed more Black voices, they taught me about the harm of white folks stealing Black language, so I stopped using it. Which brings me to the third point…
  3. FOLLOW MORE BLACK VOICES. There are a lot of crappy things about the internet and social media, but one of the AMAZING things about it is that we white folks have the opportunity to listen to the words and soak in the wisdom of people from all kinds of groups that we aren’t used to being around. Twitter gives us a chance to learn from Black voices and LGBTQIA+ voices and AAPI voices and the voices of People of Color. We need to take advantage of that opportunity. Find people who are different than you, and follow them. Learn.
  4. IF A BLACK PERSON TAKES THE TIME TO TEACH YOU, LISTEN! There are a TON of ignorant, racist white people in this country. Many of them are never going to “get it” in this lifetime. On top of that, there are way more white people than there are black people… If every Black person took the endless amounts of time to try to get us to understand how things work, they would never get anything done. And they, like you, have shit to do. So if — like many Black women did on Rachel Hollis’ video — you are lucky enough to have a Black voice take the time to explain something to you, here’s what you do: You shut up and listen. Maybe ask some questions. Check your defensiveness. And — sweet Jesus — NEVER simply delete your problematic post (and with it, the comments they spent time writing) out of anger or embarrassment (unless the post is doing continued harm, of course, and those same voices ask you to take it down… And if that’s the case, give people a head’s up about when it will be taken down). Think of all the wisdom Rachel Hollis deprived other people of when she deleted those comments. The conversations on social media are not just for the two people talking. Others are following along and trying to learn as well. If you make a mistake — and we all do — Take responsibility for your actions. Apologize. Ask how you can make amends. And then don’t do it again. And please, don’t be this person…

Thank you so much for reading. Thank you for the folks who left tips with my last post about Giving Satan A Lap Dance… I paid your generosity forward to BIPOC content creators whose work helped me understand things better than I used to. If you value this blog, please consider BECOMING A PATRON. It’s super easy, and it really helps. If you’d like to, you can LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL or Venmo me at “chris-boeskool”. Please also follow along on Facebook and on Twitter. Love y’all.

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Some Thoughts On Giving Satan A Lap Dance

I went to a small town Christian school when I was growing up. In middle school (it was the late 80s), we had a two or three week course in music class about “back-masking” and the dangers of devil worship in music. Do people even know about “back-masking” anymore? It was this idea that artists were trying to sneak satanic backwards messages into music that would sneakily turn our young minds into fertile soil for demonic possession — Or worse: Little Metal Heads. I didn’t really understand how education worked back then, but looking back, I’m pretty sure our school purchased the curriculum. It had parts of songs on tape that followed the worksheets… I can still remember them playing a song backwards that clearly said NOTHING but gibberish, but a woman saying, “DID YOU HEAR THAT?!? It said, ‘My Satan,'” when it sounded way more like “My ass Nathan.” They told us to fear the Beatles because George Harrison changed “Hallelujah” to “Hare Krishna” in “My Sweet Lord” (with the woman’s voice saying, “And now we see who his REAL Lord is”). And it explained that The Eagles “Hotel California” was all about being caught up in devil worship… Which freaked me right out, because I’d known every damn word of that song since I was about 6 years old.

Somehow, we all knew it was all nonsense, but it was also effective at the same time. A lot of that stuff stuck with me. Music was a secret pathway Satan would use to GET you. For a very long time, I wouldn’t sing the part of Alice In Chains “Man In The Box” where it said, “Jesus Christ, deny your maker,” even though that song was SO rad (later I justified singing it because the next line says, “He who tries will be wasted”). When my uncle lent me his Audi to drive for my prom date, he put some disks in the 6-Disk Changer — probably stuff he thought I would think was cool — and because I heard Eric Clapton sing about cocaine and later heard The Grateful Dead sing about Casey Jones “driving that train, high on cocaine,” I was like, “Welp that settles it… My uncle is clearly doing cocaine.” Early in college I refused to listen to The Dead because I was convinced they were trying to get me to smoke pot. Which… I mean, who knows? That one might have been real. Either way, I had bought into the whole thing. I read “This Present Darkness” and a bunch of other Frank E. Peretti books. I was officially worried about Satan. And the thing is, if the devil can get you with backwards gibberish that you can’t even perceive, how much more can FORWARD words be used by Satan?!? It made singing The Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” a very risky prospect…

So when Christians found out that Lil Nas X’s gay black ass slid down a pole into hell to give Satan a lap dance (before killing him, it deserves to be noted) in his new music video, I can tell you that much of their fear is very real. It’s not all just performative. I can clearly remember the time in my life where such a thing would have made me clutch my pearls and cry out in Helen Lovejoy-esque fashion: “WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!”

If you are more upset by this than you are by the image of Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes, you have officially missed the point.

If you don’t already know, Lil Nas X — creator of what is arguably the biggest song of all time “Old Town Road,” which stayed at #1 for a record-breaking 19 consecutive weeks — released a video for his song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” which featured (among other things) him pole dancing down into hell and giving Satan a lap dance. In addition, he sold 666 pairs of refurbished Nikes with red ink (and supposedly a drop of blood) in the air pockets. Conservative christians were NOT impressed, and very quickly a whole bunch of conservatives forgot how much they hated “Cancel Culture.”

These sorts of controversies are nothing new. When I was in 8th or 9th grade, releasing videos for songs was a way bigger deal, and that year Pepsi partnered with Madonna to release the video for “Like A Prayer” during prime time. The video had her dancing in front of burning crosses with her cleavage showing, had her hands bleeding & experiencing the stigmata, and had her making out with a Black man who was a religious statue come to life (I thought it was Black Jesus, but it turns out it was a representation of a Black Saint). The words “When you call my name, it’s like a little prayer. I’m down on my knees. I want to take you there” mixed religious and sexual imagery… Which — again — is nothing new. Poets have been doing this for centuries. But the Pope got mad, called for a boycott of Madonna (and Pepsi by association), and Pepsi parted ways with Madonna… While letting her keep the money and all the press that came from the controversy.

This is just more crap like Cardi B and the whole WAP controversy. It’s wringing hands about art while ignoring actual injustice. That Eric Clapton “Cocaine” song that convinced me my uncle was on cocaine? That song was from 1977. Every classic rock channel plays it. Just like they play “Whole Lot Of Love” by Led Zeppelin, which says, “Gonna give you every inch of my love” and “Lord, shake for me girl. I want to be your backdoor man.” Have you ever listened to the lyrics of “Squeeze Box” by The Who? “Pearl Necklace” by ZZ Top? But when BLACK artists sing about sex — especially Black women, and now Gay Black artists — white conservative christians act like 1) this is something new in music, and 2) it’s somehow more dangerous to our poor, pure children who should never learn anything about sex until their junior year of college, like God intended. When Cardi B sings about her pussy, the world is going to hell in a hand basket… But when Britney Spears sings about “Hit Me Baby, One More Time” or “I’m A Slave 4 U,” those same guys are making jokes about her “finally turning 18.”

People of Color will PLEAD to be believed about the fact that racism is a very real problem in America, and white folks will act like they are making things up to “play the victim”… But if Fox”News” tells them they need to be upset about a Lil Nas X video, they take it as gospel truth. When Morgan Wallen gets caught on video using the N-word, people excuse it by saying, “Well, he was drunk” (and it should be noted that the folks who think that alcohol somehow excuses people using the N-word are outing themselves as people ALSO drop the N-word after a few drinks. I’ve been drunk many times. The truth comes out when people start drinking. You know what I DON’T start doing when I’ve had a few too many? I don’t start dropping racial slurs. 100% of people who start using the N-word when they drink are people who also use the N-word when they are sober… If they feel “safe” enough). Eric Clapton is a great guitar player, but he is RACIST AS HELL. And it doesn’t get a whole lot of press. He once stood on stage and railed to his audience about “keeping Britain white.” Here are his words:

“Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. So where are you? Well, wherever you are, I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country. I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country… Listen to me, man! I think we should send them all back… Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white.”

That’s Eric Clapton — One of the most venerated, celebrated artists in music… A man who considers himself a Blues musician, and a white man who has made millions playing music created by black American artists.

A lot of people who call themselves christians are afraid of Satan. We were RAISED to be afraid of him… But we are a lot less afraid when we’re educated. And like with so many things, this christian fascination and focus on Satan is the result of bad theology. When you actually study the history of the Christian beliefs about Satan, you see how different cultures have influenced this idea of a personification of an opposition to God. You learn about the influences of Zoroastrianism (and its idea of Angra Mainyu) on Jewish thought… You learn about how often the word “satan” (which means “accuser”) was used in the Hebrew scriptures without actually referring to an idea of “the devil”… You learn about non-canonical representations and stories about Satan… You learn about how a primitive mind would credit every disability or disease to “demonic” influence and possession… You are forced to struggle with stories like Job, where God bargains with the Devil and lets him kill all of Job’s family, just to prove a point… Sometimes I think the real Satan is a lack of the ability by Christians to understand metaphors. It is all very fascinating, but mostly it’s just frustrating.

Key & Peele made a skit about two Black church women talking about what they’re going to do to Satan (with their prayers) if he doesn’t leave their family members alone. It is hilarious to me now, but the me from 20 years ago would’ve been threatened by it. It would have felt sacrilegious because it didn’t take Satan seriously. Anyway, I want you to see it… It is ridiculous and offensive and wonderful.

Please focus your concern. There actually are things to worry about right now. Imagine worrying about a gay, Black artist (a young man who has been told for years that he’s hell-bound, and abused by the Church’s toxic, hateful position toward our LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters) twerking on Satan in a music video, while not being bothered by a police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck and slow-motion murdering him while he is hand-cuffed on the ground. What an exercise in missing the forest for the trees. It’s like seeing someone murder a bunch of kids in a school, and getting upset about what his T-shirt says. If you’re looking for Satan, here’s where to find him: We have republican state legislatures all around the country working to strip rights from people who are LGBTQIA+… We have a pandemic that has killed over half a million Americans, while morons like Marjorie Taylor Greene act like lifting heavy things will keep people from catching COVID… We have concerted efforts by states to make it harder for People of Color to vote… I live in a state that is trying (AGAIN) to make the Bible the “official state book,” while it is also trying to criminalize homelessness… We just had our third mass shooting in two weeks… We are poisoning our oceans and polluting & warming our planet to the point life on earth is in danger… Meanwhile, you’d think the real threat to Christians is a Lil Nas X video. But there is nothing more “Satanic” in America than hatred, bigotry, racism, ignorance, & indifference in Jesus’ name. And that includes a music video where a gay man gives Satan a lap dance.

Thank you for reading. I was away for a couple of weeks as I recovered from COVID kicking my ass. If you love this blog and you want to support it, the best way to do that is to BECOME A PATRON. You probably won’t even notice a couple bucks a month, but it makes such a huge difference to me and my family. If you’d like to leave a tip, you can DO THAT ON PAYPAL or Venmo your generosity to “chris-boeskool.” Otherwise, please follow along for more fun ON FACEBOOK and ON TWITTER.

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Calvin University, and The Christian Necessity For REAL LGBTQIA+ Inclusion

I graduated from Calvin College — A small, Christian liberal arts school in Grand Rapids, MI. They have since changed their name to Calvin University, but I still have a hard time calling it that. Calvin is named after John Calvin, the Dutch theologian who is the namesake of “Calvinism.” It is the flagship university of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), which is the denomination I grew up in. My grandfather on my father’s side was a Christian Reformed minister, and my grandfather on my mother’s side was an elder in the church. It is a relatively small denomination made up of people who mostly have Dutch-sounding last names, and it is centered in West Michigan, but includes pockets in Iowa, Washington state, Ontario, and peppered around the Great Lakes area. It was the only college I applied to (or “to WHICH I applied,” since I graduated with a degree in Secondary Education / English). It was where most of my friends were going, and I never really gave it a second thought… I was always going to go to Calvin.

I was a little different than many of the students there, because by college, I no longer considered myself part of the CRC. After my mom’s divorce, the Church no longer seemed very welcoming… But I definitely still considered myself a Christian. I walked into that institution about as sheltered as people get… I walked out with the seeds planted of a lifelong questioner and learner. I loved my English Profs. I loved my Education profs. I loved all the Theology and Philosophy and Music courses I took. The teachers were loving and wise and challenging… And they changed my life. I don’t know much at all about the seminary, but my experience of Calvin was of an institution that was way more interested in exploration than any sort of indoctrination. I loved my time there, I love the lifelong friends I made there, and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

I mean, are my old folders that say “Calvin College” worth more now? Can I sell them to help raise money to send my own kids to college?

My spiritual journey post-college has been meandering. I attended Mars Hill from its earliest days with Rob Bell as a pastor. I moved to Nashville and started going to churches where people raised their hands (which was strange to me, because in those days, people in the CRC didn’t raise their hands even if they had a question). I briefly went to a church that was all about “courtship,” where the leadership would “approve” relationships. Super weird. I briefly attended a very multicultural church that ended up putting my wife and my memberships “on hold” because we didn’t speak in tongues. Super weird. We ended up at a very Holy-Spirity church for a while, but right around the time the U.S. elected a black man as president, we figured out that they were more committed to republicanism than they were committed to following Jesus. We ended up at a fantastic church that we LOVED — a safe place for people who were deconstructing or who had gone through deconstruction — but life happened, things split, and now I consider myself “Post-Church.”

There’s probably more to talk about with the term “deconstruction” as it applies to church and religion and spirituality (I suppose you’ll have to buy the book for that deep dive). Nevertheless, one of the things that got “deconstructed” was my ideas about heaven & hell, about salvation, and about the “sinfulness” of LGBTQIA+ people and relationships. I started out very certain of their hell-bound-ness… But I had to go through something close to the horse shit that is “Hate the sin; love the sinner,” and “tolerance,” and “acceptance,” before I finally landed at a place of FULLY AFFIRMING (Which reminds me, Beth Moore recently announced she is leaving the Southern Baptist Church. She spoke out against Trump and the SBC’s treatment of women, and caught hell for it… And although she isn’t affirming of LGBTQIA+ people yet, we can still celebrate when someone heads in the right direction. Trajectory is what it’s about, and it feels like she’s headed in the right direction).

Anyway, Calvin. The CRC’s official position (summarized) is one where BEING a homosexual is not something that will necessarily get you sent to hell, but ACTING on that homosexuality (same-sex relationships, romantic actions, intercourse, etc…) will. Within the members of the denomination, there is far from anything which could be considered uniform thought on the theology behind the inherent sinfulness of LGBTQIA+ relationships. Many are so very disappointed and heartbroken over the continued discrimination by the CRC (and therefore, as an arm of the CRC, Calvin University), and they despair over the VERY REAL HARM it is doing to our friends and family members who are LGBTQIA+… As well as the many LGBTQIA+ students who attend Calvin university. In effect, the policy is “We ‘love’ you, but your orientation is an abomination, and if you act on your love of another human being, it is a sin for which you need to repent, you need to be ‘made whole,’ and if you don’t you’re going to hell.”

Recently, some students from a Bible study at Calvin set up a table that said (in Steven Crowder-esque fashion — a YouTuber well known for his hate speech and homophobia), “LGBTQ IS as sin. THE BIBLE SAYS. Change my mind.” Here is a picture it taking place…

Because of social media response, Calvin sent out an email to students that said (among other things),

“The church teaches that orientation is not a sin and that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people – like all people – are created in God’s image and, as valued members of the human family, should be treated with respect, grace, understanding, and love.The church also teaches and Calvin affirms, that sexual intimacy is a gift from God to be celebrated in marriage between a man and a woman.”

I don’t know… What am I trying to say here? I’ve written about this issue many other times (HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE, to name a few) over the years. I watched with sadness as the United Methodist Church struggled through the issue of LGBTQIA+ inclusion. I feel like I’ve said it all. But watching Calvin struggle with this reminds me of a time not so long ago when my OWN position was “It’s not necessarily a sin to BE gay… It’s just a sin to ACT on it.” And I have learned — painfully — how truly damaging this position is to people who are Queer. It is the furthest thing from love. And it’s all because of a few verses from the Old Testament about “abominations” — verses written right next to many other abominations we no longer pay any attention to — and a couple of New Testament verses where Paul is writing to people 2000 years ago who were abusing children and going to freaky sex cult temples. Paul was never addressing committed, consensual, loving same sex relations.

And even if Paul WOULD have been against homosexuality (a word that didn’t appear in the Bible until 1946), that is NO reason for anyone in modern times to be so dogmatically rigid that we impose a theology with is actively killing LGBTQIA+ people in the church… ESPECIALLY within a denomination which –despite Paul’s writings seemingly to the contrary — has figured out a way for women to have leadership roles in churches. One of the last things Jesus was recorded as saying was, “I have so much more to tell you, but you can’t bear it yet.” Imagine the way people’s heads would have exploded if Jesus had tried to explain that women were every bit as worthy of leading as men. The consciousness of that day wouldn’t have allowed it. But as our consciousness expands and progresses, so does our understanding of the radical inclusion that is illuminated by the words and life of Jesus.

As I write that, it feels weird. I can barely bring myself use the word “Christian” when referring to myself anymore.The baggage associated with that word is nearly unbearable. I’m certainly not anything close to a “Calvinist.” There are so many tenets of the Christian faith which I have abandoned because they turn God into a monster. Why do I care what happens at a Christian College in Michigan? The answer is because I have hope for change — for reformation — within the church of my youth… And I believe it involves Calvin College. When George W. Bush was coming to Calvin to give the commencement address, over 800 staff, students, and alumni signed a letter protesting his invitation, siting that “as Christians, we are called to be peacemakers,” and they were opposed to the war in Iraq. And right now, many Calvin staff are working hard to let the LGBTQIA+ students they teach know that they are loved. I’m hopeful because of anti-racist posts like this one from Joseph Kuilema. I’m encouraged by posts like this one from James K.A. Smith (who also wrote this very interesting article)…

But it has to go further than just saying “You are loved.” “You are loved” is all well and good, but that is the same message that prison ministries bring to rapists and murderers. How can anyone — with a straight face (no pun intended) — tell someone that they are “loved” while also telling them that if they express their love to others, God is going to send them to hell? “You are loved” without affirming the person’s sexuality as GOOD is just more “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” And the fruit of that policy is death and despair for our LGBTQIA+ neighbors and siblings and children. We are all broken in some ways… We all miss the mark… We all fall short… But hear this right now: Expressing your love to another human being — regardless of sex or gender — is NEVER a “sin” to be hated or condemned. The only folks Jesus ever had really harsh words for were the religious people who SHOULD have known better, but they were missing the HEART of what it meant for us to love our neighbor. Whenever the Jesus of the Bible was presented with a question of Law versus Love, he ALWAYS sided with love. If any of us claim to be followers of Jesus, we must do the same.

This video is still the best single Biblical case for inclusion within the church. You should watch it… I’m TOTALLY serious. It’s long, but watch the whole thing. It’s excellent.

Last thing: I am still friends with many Calvin alums and folks who have sent their kids to Calvin University. PLEASE make your voice heard. Make it heard, not just so that the higher ups change their harmful, hateful policy… But make your voice heard so that the LGBTQIA+ people in your life HEAR that their worth goes beyond the garbage that is “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” Let them know there are so many of us who believe that the expression of their love is GOOD, and that even though we are all broken in some ways, their orientation is NOT one of the things about them that needs to be “fixed.” Amen.

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Pepé Le Pew, and People Who Are More Upset About “Cancel Culture” Than They Are About Rape Culture

I’m emerging from my long nap of depression — like some sad groundhog, seeing its shadow predicting six more weeks of pandemic — to comment on what is apparently the new great enemy of those sad souls whose news intake consists wholly of conservative media: Cancel Culture. The same folks who were very upset about confederate monuments being taken down are now very upset about Hasbro deciding to drop the “Mr.” from their Potato Head toy… They’re very upset that the Seuss estate decided to stop publishing six problematic books that almost no one had ever hear of until very recently… And now they’re very upset about the news that Pepé Le Pew is being dropped from the reboot of Space Jam with LeBron James. And they’re blaming it all on one insidious enemy… The dreaded Cancel Culture.

These are the same folks who rushed to iTunes to buy music from country singer Morgan Wallen after he was filmed using the N-word. These are the same folks who suddenly became big Harry Potter fans when JK Rowling caught flack for anti-Trans statements. And amazingly (read: hypocritically), the Venn diagram of people angry about “Cancel Culture” and the people who cheered when donald trump demanded “Get that son of a bitch off the field!” (in response to NFL players using kneeling during the anthem to protest racism & police brutality) is a perfect circle.

Republicans have zero problems with cancelling people… Republicans & conservative christians have been cancelling people for centuries. What they have a problem with is when THEY are the ones being cancelled.

Here’s the thing: Pepé Le Pew was ALWAYS a rapist. I might not have realized it growing up, but it was always right there. I remember watching those cartoons as a kid… That black cat that accidentally painted a stripe on her back by going under a freshly painted white fence was trying like HELL to get away from him. He was kissing her as she struggled to get away. He would block the freaking door and lock the locks as she tried to run from his aggressive affection, creepily bouncing on all fours after a terrified female who spurned his advances. And that crap was part of my childhood, being pumped into my brain every Saturday morning. I mean, Jesus… If any man acted that way toward a woman, he clearly needs to be removed from society until he is rehabilitated. And if you’re listening to republican voices, you’d think a great injustice has been committed by Pepé Le Pew’s scene being cut from Space Jam 2.

And the REALLY F-ed up thing is that the story always ended up with his sexual assault “working” on the girl, and she’d eventually return his rapey advances…

The question is: Why would conservatives be in an uproar over a cartoon — one whose entire character was centered around sexual assault — not being included in a movie for kids? Why get angry about a non-gendered toy potato? Why cling to 80 year old racist caricatures like Speedy Gonzales?

The answer is simple. Fear. Conservatives want to “conserve” the past, and they’re afraid of change. They’re afraid of their eroding privilege. They’re afraid of progress and evolving social norms. They’re afraid of a growing feeling of being “outnumbered” by people who have a more evolved understanding of human decency. And that fear turns to anger… Anger at feeling “bullied” and “shamed” into conforming to these new norms… Anger at being held accountable for their words and actions.

But even more than that, it’s anger at feeling targeted. And this is important: The feeling of being targeted comes from who they are aligning themselves with. Do you align yourself with the people being harmed, or do you align yourself with the ones DOING the harm? If folks are aligning themselves with the ones being told “You don’t get to say the N-word anymore,” they feel targeted… Bullied… Shamed. If they are aligning themselves with the ones who are being harmed and harassed by the use of the N-word, then the N-word being “canceled” feels like standing against injustice. The real tragedy is that most people who align themselves with groups in positions of power don’t KNOW or have conversations with people who are the targets of oppression.

So a lot of people who align themselves with groups in power might think, “What’s the big deal? So Speedy Gonzales was Mexican? It doesn’t mean you have to take him out of the movie.” But until you speak to a hispanic kid who was fast growing up and inevitably got called “Speedy Gonzales,” you might not identify with the group that is the target of oppression. And maybe you didn’t even notice (because you weren’t the group being caricatured) that every other Mexican mouse OTHER than “Speedy” was portrayed as being fat and lazy.

And then comes the inevitable cries of “Don’t be so sensitive.” “Quit being such a snowflake.” This is wildly hilarious coming from people who are outraged over a plastic potato.

Listen… I watched Sixteen Candles when I was a kid. I watched it over and over. I loved that movie. My friends and I quoted it all the time. Like a lot of dumb white kids, we thought the character of Long Duk Dong was funny, and we found many opportunities to say “What’s happenin’ hot stuff” and “Oh sexy girlfriend” with Asian-sounding accents. Every time he entered the scene, a freaking gong went off. I’m sure the one Asian kid at our school probably didn’t think it was quite as funny… But we weren’t identifying with HIM. And “The Donger” wasn’t even the worst part of that movie. Jake Ryan straight up offers his super drunk girlfriend to the “The Geek” for him to have sex with, and says, “Have fun.” She is barely conscious, and entirely too drunk to give anything resembling consent. When the obviously drunk Caroline whispers “I love you,” Anthony Michael Hall breaks the fourth wall and says, “This is getting good,” right before he totally has sex with an unconscious girl, we suppose… And the “hilarity” of date rape ensues. The next morning, when the Geek asks her if she enjoyed herself, Caroline says, “You know, I have this weird feeling I did.” And as Molly Ringwald wrote in The New Yorker, “She had to have a feeling about it, rather than a thought, because thoughts are things we have when we are conscious, and she wasn’t.”

Now, does this mean we have to burn the originals and “cancel” every movie that John Hughes ever made? I don’t think so (and no one is trying to do that, just like no one is trying to remove all the copies of Green Eggs & Ham from elementary school bookshelves… You morons). We can learn about the messed up rape culture of the 80s & 90s, and talk about how it still persists today (and led to trash like Brett Kavanaugh being appointed to the Supreme Court). But it ALSO doesn’t mean we should be playing Sixteen Candles for middle school movie day, just because it’s rated PG and some people have a nostalgic feeling about it.

Think about how much societal norms have changed just since 1984 when Sixteen Candles came out… Now think about the kind of crap that was acceptable in 1945 when Pepé Le Pew debuted and Warner Brothers thought that a cartoon of a rapist male skunk not taking NO for an answer from a female cat sounded like a good idea for a kid’s show.

Republicans talk a lot about the “Invisible Hand of the Market” — this idea that markets are driven by unseen forces, and we should let those forces play out — but now that the markets are reflecting a growing distaste for rape culture and white supremacy and using someone’s culture as the butt of jokes, all of a sudden they want to mess with the Invisible Hand. Norms are changing, and people are calling for a fairer representation on their entertainment. So when we see loving, same-sex couples on a commercial, it’s not “the media” trying to “shove things down our throats.” It’s a reflexion of changing norms. Humanity is progressing. Some things that USED to be acceptable are no longer acceptable. And societies (and markets) work to enforce those new norms. There are consequences for saying things that people in 1945 felt perfectly comfortable saying…

If we figure out that the heroes of our youth were rapists, we don’t defend & diminish the consequences of rape culture… We find new heroes. If we figure out that a beloved cartoon from our youth was actually a racist caricature or a rapist skunk, we don’t demand their inclusion in movies being made today… We move on. People need to ask themselves if the things they are trying to “conserve” are actually worth keeping. Norms change for a reason. The people upset at the “cancelling” of Speedy Gonzales are the same dimwits who are pissed off about female Jedis in the new Star Wars movies. Do you really want to be the person who is angry about making a female rabbit’s boobs smaller so as not to sexualize her? Just because there are some good episodes of Fat Albert, doesn’t mean Bill Cosby gets a cameo in the reboot. You might still have a nostalgic crush on Jake Ryan, but by today’s standards, he’s a total sleaze ball. Guess who else was a rapist… James Bond, that’s who. And just because you have fond memories of a rapist skunk from your youth, it doesn’t mean you are being attacked because popular opinion has him being excluded from a movie made today.

“Cancel Culture” is what conservatives call it when their bigotry & cruelty are recognized for what they are. If you’re more angry that a radio station stopped playing an artist who got caught calling people the N-word than you are about the harm done by that artist’s words, you might not think of yourself as a “racist,” but I guarantee I can tell you who you voted for in the last presidential election. If you are the sort of person who is more upset about “cancel culture” than you are about rape culture, you are not a good person. And if that makes you feel “attacked,” I don’t know what to tell you. Deal with it, snowflake. Start identifying with the victims & survivors of rape, rather than the rapists. Norms change. And as they change, there are consequences for breaking those norms. Just because you fondly remember a time when executives used to be able to slap their secretaries on the fanny, it doesn’t mean that you are the “victim of cancel culture” when your old, sexist ass gets fired for doing it today. Sweet Lord, this is not that hard, people…

What is depression, if not a giant sense of “screw it” persevering? I’m so very thankful to those of you who have continued to support me through this very difficult time in my life. I know I’ve not been writing as often as I usually do. There have been so many times I have thought about writing, and then just been overwhelmed by a deep feeling of “What’s the fuckin’ point?” I don’t know if anything I do makes a difference, but… just in case, you know? This post is especially for my friends who check up on me when I’m hiding from reality. I sure love you all. If you are also in a hard, dark place lately, please reach out… And if you’d like to support my writing, you can DO THAT ON PATREON, or you can LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL or on Venmo at “chris-boeskool.” Otherwise, please follow along on Facebook and on Twitter.

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