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.

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“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.

 

 

SO MANY THANKS to the people who support this blog, my writing, and my family. It is such an encouragement to me. If you value this blog, and you’d like to give a couple bucks a month to help support it, you can BECOME A PATRON. If you’d rather just leave a tip, you can do that HERE ON PAYPAL. Otherwise, this is me ON TWITTER, and this is me ON FACEBOOK.

 

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A Short Play About What It’s Like To Be A Server

(Complete with GIFs, to better tell the story)

I work at a restaurant. It’s open late. Like, REALLY late… Which means that sometimes I am there until the wee hours of the morning. One of the GOOD things about being a server at a restaurant like this is that other service industry people usually come in after their shifts have ended, and those people tend to be very cool and very generous. But in addition to these cool/generous people, there are a whole lot of weirdos: People who have already closed down other bars who are already WAY drunk… People who walk in with little kids at 1 o’clock in the morning, and then order that kid a Coke… People dressed like some sort of weirdly sexual stuffed animal… People who seem unaware that they have a Pigpen-like cloud of skunky weed stink hovering around them in a 20 meter radius like some sort of Peanuts character with the munchies… All kinds (I proposed the idea of adding an automatic gratuity to any table that noticeably smells of pot, and unfortunately it got shot down).

So seeing as how I work late, I see a lot of stuff… A lot of stories (Stories like THIS ONE with a walk-in wedding reception for folks with camouflage cumber buns). But one from this past week was one of my favorites. They say good stories happen to people who can tell them, so I’m going to try to you this one… The story begins with a couple sitting at my table, ordering a pizza. The guy ordered a pizza with 6 toppings… One of them being anchovies. When I repeated his order back to him, I thought he had said “Artichokes.” He stopped me and said, “Not artichokes. ANCHOVIES.” I said, “Anchovies?” And he nodded and said, “Anchovies.” About 10 minutes later, I brought him his pizza. And this is where our story begins…

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Guy [flagging me down, looking a bit disconcerted]: “Hey man… Did you put some tuna on this pizza?”

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Me [laughing just a bit]: “Tuna?”

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Guy: “Or like, some salmon or something?”

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Me: “No, man. That’s just the anchovies you ordered on your pizza.”

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[Guy squints his eyes suspiciously, and gives me a hesitant, confused nod as I walk away]

TWO MINUTES LATER

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Guy’s girlfriend: “Excuse me, sir… SIR??”

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Me: “Yes?”

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Guy’s girlfriend [bringing her hand to her chest in a “clutching her pearls” motion which partially obscures the large tattoo on her breast]: “Those anchovies have RUINED that pizza for him!”

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Me [looking over to the man who just ordered a pizza with anchovies as one of his toppings]: …

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Guy [sulking, clearly grossed out]: “Tastes like FISH, man…”

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Me: “That’s… That’s because anchovies are little fishes.”

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Guy: “I can’t eat it.”

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Me, with any annoyance at having to get this guy a new pizza offset by the pure joy of being able to tell this story for the rest of my life: “So sorry about that. I’ll bring you a new pizza right out, sir.”

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And… SCENE.

PROLOGUE

The guy, still apparently angry at me Jedi-Mind-Tricking him into eating slimy, salty little fish on pizza, leaves me a $5 tip on a $60 tab.

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Me [thinking to myself]: “Still worth it.”

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THE END

Thanks for reading… I hope this story makes you as happy as it makes me. I realized recently that I survive wholly on the generosity of others. If you feel like leaving a tip, you can do that on PAYPAL. If you’d like to become a Patron, you can do that HERE. Otherwise, I’m on TWITTER and I’m on FACEBOOK.

 

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

Forget Guns For Teachers — Surround Our Schools With Land Mines

The president and the GOP administration have suggested arming teachers with guns… But I don’t think this plan goes far enough. Here’s my plan:

It’s clear that we have a problem in this country, but as so many before me have pointed out: We don’t have a GUN problem — We have a HEART problem. Shootings like the one in Florida are what happen when you take God out of schools. This is why the Florida Legislature took drastic action this week… Not to allow even CONSIDERING restrictions on assault rifles (they voted that down, because that would just be silly), but to declare porn “dangerous” and to approve a bill to post “In God We Trust” in all public schools.

But whittling away the line between Church and State is obviously not enough. More MUST be done. So the NRA President of the United States of America (along with many other republicans) is suggesting doing the only logical thing… The only thing that will WORK to put an end to all these massacres in our schools:  They are calling for arming teachers with guns.

Now, many people are skeptical of this plan. But what other option IS there? It’s not like we should be reconsidering the value to our society of having weapons of war, designed to efficiently kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, readily available to anyone who has managed to keep a felony off their record! That’s our GOD-GIVEN RIGHT. Like Jesus always said: “Kill them before they can kill you.” So we need to start putting killing tools into the chalky hands of America’s teachers. And don’t get me wrong –We’re not going to just hand them a gun… We’re going to TRAIN them too.

When teachers are packing heat, that will make those murderous maniacs think twice before coming into schools (as if seeing “In God We Trust” above the doorway didn’t already make him think twice… I’m saying “him” because only males seems to be the ones doing this). And sure, there was an armed officer assigned to the Florida school where 17 people just died… But it turns out he was scared to enter the school, because the shooter was armed with an AR-15 style assault rifle, and all the deputy had was a measly pistol. And listen — Just because the president dodged the draft five times over nonexistent bone spurs, it doesn’t mean he can’t call that officer a coward

This is why I believe we are thinking too small here. There is NO WAY for some 26 year old with a pink handgun holstered beneath her smock to compete with some guy armed with an AR-15 with multiple high capacity clips. But again, we have to do SOMETHING. We can’t have some “knee-jerk” reaction to a mass shooting like Australia and enact strict gun laws in the country. That’ll never work… All THAT did was put an end to mass shootings in Australia for the past 22 years or so. We need to figure out a way to protect our kids RIGHT NOW. And as anyone who has ever had one of their kids hit another kid with a stick can tell you, you DON’T take the stick away from your kid… You obviously hand out sticks to all the other kids so they can protect themselves.

And the bigger the stick, the better. This is why I’m thinking we consider a MILITARY solution to this problem. If officers assigned to schools feel outgunned, let’s give them grenade launchers. And possibly flamethrowers. An SRO with a flamethrower is an intimidating sight for a school shooter to see. Of course, these bigger weapons would be reserved for trained law enforcement officers only… We obviously can’t just be handing out grenade launchers and flamethrowers to teachers in every classroom. That would just be silly. They SHOULD probably have an AR-15 above the chalkboard, though (obviously out of reach of little hands).

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“Do you have a question, Jesse? That gun? That’s an AR-15. It’s designed to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time. I have it there in case I might need to send hot lead tumbling through someone’s internal organs. It’s deadly and efficient. And THAT is vocabulary word for today: ‘Efficient.’ Everyone repeat after me… EFFICIENT.”

But what if we take it a step further? What if we empower schools to set up IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in their hallways? This way, if the school is on lockdown, and some murderer is walking the hallways, the school secretary see him on the security cameras, and she can detonate an IED as he walks past. “Sorry, Bad Guy With A Gun… Good luck shooting up our school with NO LEGS!” And as everybody knows, The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun… or a remotely detonated Hallway IED.”

You know what? I think we’re STILL thinking too small here. What if the school shooter uses his very accurate assault rifle to shoot out the cameras? THEN what? Here’s what I’m thinking: Surround the school with land mines. I mean, don’t put them EVERYWHERE (that would just be silly)… Just put them in enough places to make it probable that a man with an assault rifle might step on one as he walks into the school. You might be thinking, “What if a kid steps on the land mine?” Well, this is just part of the price we have to pay for living in a free country. Anyway, obviously we would let the kids know where the land mines are. If could be part of their practice fire drills… “Here’s where our class goes in case of a fire. Here’s where the underground explosive is buried that helps protect us from people hellbent on killing you and your classmates. We never EVER step there.” And so on…

Speaking of fire drills, the more I think about it, maybe this same strategy would be effective in case of a fire. If there is a fire in the school, maybe we set the other parts of the school on fire as well. I mean, we’ve already go a flamethrower there… Set fire to the other classrooms as well!! Good luck burning up our school, you stupid fire… We beat you to it. We burnt it down before you even got the chance!” “Fight fire with fire,” amiright?

 

sat·ire
ˈsaˌtī(ə)r/
noun
  1. the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Anyway, I’ve also got some interesting ideas about Kevlar SSA (Standard School Attire). It’s a little pricy, a little bulky, and a little hot on the playground… but Lord knows there’s nothing we can do to get make it harder to keep guns out of the hands of anyone who has $500, so there has to be some sacrifices made to keep kids safe. And guess what — even with all these protections, there are still going to be kids who get killed. But that’s the price of freedom, y’all. When you’re making a Freedom Omelette, you’re going to crack a few eggs. These precious kids are those eggs. God bless America…

If you like some of these ideas, I’ve got some other ones you may enjoy: Namely, “Getting Rid Of Windows” in schools, “Why I’ve Decided To Buy A Tiger” for home defense, “Please Stop Acting Like You Care About All These Shootings,” and “Guns For Christians Are Like Condoms For Nuns.” Also, I cannot express how thankful I am for the Patrons of this blog. Your support is one of the ways I take care of my family. Sometimes people who WERE Patrons can’t afford to anymore, and I totally get that. If you value this blog, if you’re able to throw a couple dollars a month this way, and if you’d like to become a Patron, you can do that RIGHT HERE. If you’d like to leave a tip, HERE IS WHERE YOU CAN DO THAT. And if you want to follow me on FACEBOOK or on TWITTER, please do. Love you all!

 

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School Shootings and Fake Christians

I think that Christianity divorced from Reason is one of the most destructive forces on the planet. And the brand of religion that makes people choose between faith and rationality has been on full display since this most recent school shooting that shattered the lives of 17 different families. It is basically this idea that “God’s ways are higher than our ways, “ and “God is in control,” and “Everything happens for a reason,” and countless other pieces of utter BS. I’ve spent too much time today watching fake christians make irrational argument after irrational argument while arguing with people who are calling for reform on America’s gun control laws. They are people calling themselves “christians,” who — when backed into a logical corner — would rather fall back on “His ways are higher than our ways” than actually reexamine their own flawed belief system. And they are dangerous as hell.

I understand that they don’t *think* they’re fake christians… But they are. They are fake christians, worshiping a fake god who — if he was real — could never ever be called “good.” Anyone who looks at pictures of terrified kids hiding under desks and says, “Nothing can be done” is a fake christian. Anyone who sees twenty first graders massacred in Newtown and says, “Guns don’t kill people — People kill people” is a fake christian. Anyone who thinks we can legislate transgender people into the bathrooms of their assigned birth genders, but believes we are powerless to do anything to stop the daily cycle of gun violence is a fake christian.

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James said, “Faith without works is dead.” As dead as those 17 kids in that Florida high school…

We are NOT powerless to change the world, and any religion who tells you we are is garbage. There is one christianity that believes everything is crap and nothing can be done. It the christianity that has been waiting 2000 years for an apocalyptic event which is going to bring an end to the the spiraling shit-storm that has been building and building over centuries. It is a christianity that responds to irrationality by reminding people that “His ways are above our ways.” It is a christianity that encourages people to “turn off their brains,” and it ensures the pews are filled with the dangerous sorts of people who are willing to turn off their brains. It is christianity divorced from Hope and Reason and Love… And I want nothing to do with that garbage religion.

“I prayed for twenty years, but received no answers until I prayed with my legs.” ~ Fredrick Douglass

There is another Christianity which tells us there is Hope beyond some divine post-death retribution. It is a Christianity which can see that — Yes, things are broken… But there are things we can do together to make them better. It is a Christianity which believes that something CAN be done. It is a Christianity which looks at history and sees evidence that things are actually getting BETTER. It is a Christianity which looks at science and rationality as evidence of God, rather than something to be ignored in the name of “faith.” It is a Christianity which is filled with HOPE… A Hope that moves beyond the punishment and destruction of our enemies into the REDEMPTION of our enemies.

One is fake.

One is real.

This is not an “agree to disagree” situation. This isn’t “everyone has a right to their own opinion.” This is just right and wrong. And it’s especially easy to tell the difference between the two by looking at how people respond to tragedies like the one that took place in a Florida high school this week. The fake one says “Nothing can be done” and offers up nothing more than “Thoughts & Prayers,” prayed to a God who COULD, but doesn’t. It is impotent and worthless. But if Christianity is to be worth ANYTHING, it must be based on ACTION. Followers of Jesus don’t just pray for the hungry… We FEED the hungry. We don’t just pray for the sick… We WORK to get sick people healthcare. We don’t just pray for the poor… We work to DISMANTLE the systems which create poverty and inequality. 

One is a christianity based on what you believe… The other is a Christianity based on what we actually DO. One is basically worthless. The other is at least worth something… Even if it ends up being “wrong.” I’d rather have a rational, moral person praying to Boba Fett than someone using the name of Jesus who can’t see the clear evil of continuing to elect leaders who are bought and paid for by a terrorist organization like the NRA… Or people who rationalize a “christian” president who cheated on his third wife with a porn star who he paid $130,000 to not tell about it. Fake, FAKE, FAKE!

The kid who killed seventeen high schoolers in Florida couldn’t buy BEER… But he could buy an AR-15 and as much ammunition as he could afford. Anyone who can’t see the clear irrationality of that situation has no business talking about which interpretation of the Bible “makes more sense.” Any religion that forces people to choose between faith and rational thought isn’t worth a shit. The same goes for any religion that casts its hopes on a deity “setting things right” by destroying everything and making a “new Earth.” “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” If Christianity is to be worth anything, it must be based on rational thought and moral action. Anything less is just fake… 

If you value this blog and my voice, I’m asking if you will consider helping to support it. You can Become A Patron and give a few dollars a month, or you can just Leave A Tip On PayPal. Otherwise, you can keep up with me on Facebook or on Twitter. Either way, know that there are things we can do. It is not hopeless. We CAN change the world… and we are stronger when we stand together.

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It’s Time To Stop Paying Attention To The Stock Market

“The state of our union is strong.” That’s what we were told during the State of the Union Address. To listen to the racist moron who is currently occupying the highest office in the land tell it, in just over one year, he has turned everything around. Everything is now great. This is it, folks! We are in a new Golden Age! Everyone’s taxes are going down (a lie), and finally AMERICA IS GREAT AGAIN! All it took was twelve months of putting people in charge of agencies who desperately want to destroy that agency, lying on a daily basis, attacking any journalist who dares print the truth about him, and retweeting and generally siding with white supremacists.

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“Man of the People,” baby… He’s bringing this kind of winning to Washington, D.C. And he’s putting the “WHITE” back in the White House. #MAGA

It’s a simple plan, really… All’s you have to do is take all of the statistics about economic growth from the Obama presidency, and claim during the campaign that they are all “fake news.” It’s easy to lie to the scared, angry people at your rallies, and tell them all those statistics showing things actually ARE getting better are actually made up figures… Then, when you take office, magically those same agencies reporting economic growth become REAL news. Let’s take unemployment, for example. Here is video of an orange liar, claiming that the “REAL” unemployment rate is actually as high as 42%:

Meanwhile, today he is taking credit for the low unemployment rate that is getting reported… And suddenly those numbers are the gospel truth. As read from the gospel of “Two Corinthians,” I assume. It really is miraculous: When non-partisan groups report numbers while Obama is president, those numbers are fake… When they report the CONTINUING downward trend of unemployment during the first year of his presidency, THEN we can trust them. Just one month into his presidency, they proudly proclaimed that the job numbers went down to 4.9% (declaring that “They may have been phony in the past, but they’re very real now”). To take the unemployment rate from 42% all the way to 4.1% (for white people, that is) in just one year is truly the work of a Stable Genius.

And as further proof of his presidential prowess, we need only look at the stock market — That trusty ‘ol barometer of American success. And as long as the stock market keeps going up, everything is good… right? Well, for now we’ll leave alone the obvious and glaring hypocrisy of dismissing the dramatic increase of the stock market during Obama’s presidency. I realize that many folks have 401ks they are worried about, and it’s always nice when our retirement accounts go up in value. But half — that’s right, HALF — of the American public has almost no money in the stock market. The wealthiest top 1% holds more of America’s wealth than the bottom 90%… COMBINED. So how does that equate to the stock market? Here is an amazing, understandable, and (should be, at least) outrageous video explaining how America’s stock market wealth affects us. Even if you’ve watched it before, please watch it again…

“The top 1% own HALF the country’s stocks, bonds, and mutual funds… The bottom half own only .5% of these investments.” That’s half a percent. The bottom half of the wealthiest people in America only account for ONE HALF OF ONE PERCENT of the stock market’s value. So how does that affect America’s “working class?” You know, the ones who made a narcissistic megalomaniac the president of the United States? Well, here’s one way to look at it:

Let’s say there is a BILLION DOLLAR$ in the market (there’s so very much more than that, but just go with me here). That’s $1,000,000,000. Now, let’s say that market goes up in value by 50%… Making the value of the stocks/bonds/whatnot worth $1.5 billion dollars, and adding $500,000,000 in value. Because of who owns the stocks/bonds/mutual funds, $250 million of that gain is going to the richest one percent. While the bottom 50% of the ENTIRE COUNTRY (other than the MANY folks who are so poor they have no investments) split .5%… which works out to $2.5 million. I mean, congrats on your tiny 401k going up a bit, but every time the stock market increases, the wealthiest 1% of the people in this country get SIGNIFICANTLY wealthier than they were before that rise. Imagine a graph, where one line increases at a 50% rate, while another line increases at a .5% rate… Pretty soon the distance between the “Haves” and the “Have Nots” is so drastic, they are not even living in the same country.

Now, imagine a Supreme Court decision giving that wealthiest 1% UNLIMITED influence over financing the campaigns of candidates… And then you’ll understand why congress just passed a tax cut which will make wealth inequality in this nation So. Much. Worse. It gives those people with all that wealth even more, while drastically cutting the social safety nets for the nation’s poorest folks. It is —  and I don’t use this word lightly — an act of pure EVIL. But is is not only morally repugnant to have a system where “The average worker needs to work more than a month to earn what the CEO makes in ONE HOUR,” but it is dangerous to the very fabric of our democracy. Here’s one more short video to explain this danger:

When we have a natural and appropriate correction in the stock market as a result of unfettered greed and unregulated risk-taking (like we had in 2007-08), the reason the federal government pumps so much money in to correct it is because that money being lost belongs to the super rich… You know, the people who bought those politicians their positions. And after this bailout happens, when the wealthy see that the government is committed to a system which guarantees privatized/individual gains and corporate/community losses, OF COURSE the stock market is going to go up, Up, UP!!! That’s what happens when they have taken away much of the risk of putting money into a market… But they have done it at the expense of the further erosion of a society which is even remotely just or equitable.

It’s time to stop paying attention to the stock market. The stock market going up is NOT a sign of a better life for this nation’s poor and working class — Its a sign of an increasing inequality. When you celebrate the stock market going up, you are celebrating the acceleration of the expanding chasm between the rich and the poor. And just to be clear, if that is something you are celebrating while calling yourself a Christian, you might as well also celebrate the fact that you are completely full of shit… Just like this GOP administration.

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7 Things To Consider Before Considering Oprah For President

After Oprah’s inspiring speech during the Golden Globes, people immediately started in with cries of “Oprah For President!” And that is perfectly understandable. People are STARVED for competent, compassionate leadership… And a speaker whose speeches don’t read like a third grader’s Mad Libs (though, to be fair, the “stable genius” actually speaks at a FOURTH GRADE LEVEL — lower than any of the last 15 presidents). So when Oprah takes the stage while accepting her Cecil B. de Mille Lifetime Achievement Award and drops THIS BRILLIANCE…

… It makes sense that #Oprah2020 starts trending on Twitter (by the way, even if you already watched he speech, you should take a few minutes and watch it again. I watched it for the third time just now, and it still brings tears to my eyes. And hope to my soul). People immediately (and unfairly) started comparing her to Hillary Clinton… A phenomenon which is laid bare with this one amazing tweet:

But before we start trying to figure out what we will call Stedman instead of “First Lady,” and before we toss out the idea altogether, here are a couple things I have been thinking about:

Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 4.23.02 AM

“I want all the girls watching here, now to know that a new day is on the horizon!”

1 — BEING A BETTER OPTION THAN TRUMP DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD BE PRESIDENT. Obviously, nearly ANYONE is better than the demented, lying narcissist who is currently splitting time between the White House and his golf courses. But that would be true for just about anyone or anything. The Rock… Chris Rock… Kidd Rock… An ACTUAL ROCK… Anything. I could carve a life-sized statue of Oprah from a giant waste water treatment center clog of “flushable” wipes, and it would make a better president than the dimwit we are currently stuck with.

2 — ELECTING OPRAH IS TAKING THE EASY WAY OUT. Social change involves more than thinking of a candidate so popular that she is able to win. We do not need a savior — We need to get off our asses. We need to work. We need to march. We need to VOTE… And not just in presidential elections, but in PRIMARIES! When the only people voting in the primaries are extremists, it makes sense that we are ending up with extremist candidates. And people like you — yes, YOU, reading this post — and me need to seriously consider running for office. Like Dahlia Lithwick wrote in THIS AMAZING ARTICLE on Slate, “When someone tells you ‘I alone can fix it,’ you should run screaming for the emergency exits. When someone tells you to get off your ass and fix it yourself, you should think first about running for office yourself.”

3 — STOP ACTING LIKE TRUMP AND OPRAH ARE ANYTHING ALIKE BECAUSE “THEY’RE BOTH CELEBRITIES.” They are nothing alike. It is a false equivalency. Oprah is compassionate and intelligent and kind and wise. Trump is none of those things. Oprah actually built her wealth from nothing… Trump was born on third and thought he hit a triple. Oprah can also put together a coherent sentence, and as we’ve seen time and time again, Trump cannot.  As evidenced here…

In the words of Stephen Colbert, “I offer a note of caution… Do we really want to elect ANOTHER billionaire TV star? Granted, this one is actually a billionaire, and actually a TV star…”


4 — OPRAH IN NOT A FAIRY THAT MAGICALLY FIXES EVERYTHING.
From Reese Witherspoon’s introduction, you might have thought all that is needed for peace in the Middle East was a makeup trailer hug from Ms. Winfrey… Like a faith healer on “The Leftovers” (an allusion which, if you don’t get it, you should find someone’s HBO GO password and binge the entire series immediately. IMMEDIATELY). Obama could give a good speech too… That didn’t stop a dumpster fire from being elected. Still, as inspiring as Oprah’s speech was, hungry people cannot eat a speech for dinner. America is not a studio audience that can look under their chair to find healthcare and a living wage. Here’s a good tweet thread about that… 

5 — THERE ARE MANY GOOD WOMEN TO VOTE FOR WHO HAVE ACTUAL EXPERIENCE IN GOVERNING. This should go without saying. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Tammy Duckworth, Kirstin Gillibrand, and many others have all devoted large portions of their lives to public service. Beyoncé is ALSO a black woman who is super popular and super rich — That doesn’t mean she needs to be president. I mean, she’s already Queen… What more does she want? At least she knows the words to the National Anthem…

6 — IT’S NOT OPRAH’S RESPONSIBILITY TO SAVE THE COUNTRY FROM TRUMP. When Alabama was faced with the possible election of the objectively horrible human being Roy Moore, all of a sudden the democratic party started caring about black women. This is not Oprah’s fight. I mean, if she has ideas for the direction of the country, and she wants to run, that’s her right. But we can’t get all “Help us, Oprah Wan Kenobi… You’re our only hope” on her just because we think she’ll bring in the votes from women and People of Color. We should be voting for women and People of Color because there are all kinds of women and People of Color who DESERVE A CHANCE TO LEAD… Not as some political maneuver.

7 — THAT BEING SAID, I WOULD TOTALLY VOTE FOR HER. Obviously I would if she ends up being the candidate opposite Trump, because as we discussed before, I’d vote for a vat of hot mayonnaise before I’d vote for Trump. But even beyond that, I’d vote for her because I feel like she is a good person. It’s way too early to be deciding things like this, but we could do a hell of a lot worse than a President Oprah Winfrey. Every person who gets to know her comes away feeling like they got the chance to be near a truly special human being. And that is worth something. That is worth A LOT. Experience is important… But it’s not nearly as important as integrity and wisdom.

I’ve missed you. I hope your holidays were peaceful and restful… and I hope you feel rejuvenated for a new year, ready to stay thoughtful and informed and loving and hopeful. I am honored that you allow me to play a small role in that. If you value this blog and you want to support it, you can BECOME A PATRON or LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL. If you’d like to stay in touch, please follow me on FACEBOOK or on TWITTER. Love you, and thanks for reading and for sharing.

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