Category Archives: internet

It’s 6:27 AM. What’s Your President(-Elect) Doing?

So, the Golden Globe awards show happened. As a general rule, I wouldn’t hit a hog in the ass for an awards show. Basically, I think they’re nothing but a bunch of attention whores getting together to shout, “Look how super-cool we are! Don’t you plebes all wish you could be like us?” Every now and then, however, something amusing comes out of these publicly televised circle jerks. Sunday night was one of those times.

Meryl Streep received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement and gave an acceptance speech that people are still talking about. It was a bit long and addressed several issues, but the most interesting part was when she took the tiny-handed toddler who is about to be leader of the free world (aka Donald Trump) to task for making fun of a disabled reporter during his campaign, saying, “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Of course, the Tangerine Nightmare couldn’t let this slide and took to his favorite platform (Twitter) to respond. At 6:27 on Monday morning, he unleashed a brief and, in his mind, devastating, Tweetstorm on Streep:

There are some intriguing aspects this semi-sentient tire fire’s response: Like, it doesn’t make any sense (Streep is “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood”???), it’s bullshit (he did indeed mock Serge Kovaleski and Kovaleski did not change his story), and, yet again, he disparaged the press for reporting what he said. But, perhaps the most intriguing part of it all (and by “intriguing”, I mean “utterly fucking scary”) is that the man(child) that will soon be commander-in-chief of the most potent and powerful military machine the world has ever seen has such a thin skin he can’t let anything go.

Think about it for a minute, Trump is just 12 days out from taking on what is arguably the most difficult job in the world and what’s he doing this close to his first day at work? Tweeting insults at an actress.  This isn’t a one time thing, either. Hell, just a few days ago, he was on Twitter gloating about how he got better ratings on “The Apprentice” than Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, let’s not forget his feuds with Saturday Night Live and the cast of “Hamilton”. How presidential.

But, hey, he’s just telling it like it is, right? I mean, who do these people think they are? Citizens in a country with an fundamental right to criticize the government and the politicians that run it? But, even if they are, doesn’t Trump have a right to defend himself from that criticism? So what if he’s putting up that defense instead of taking intelligence briefings, conducting press conferences, put together a cabinet; you know, the job he was elected to do?

Damn. This is going to be a long, long four years.

I’m Going To Hell

From a biblical perspective, of course.
From a biblical perspective, of course.

I’ve been in the blogging game for a few years now and, if I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that every now and then, the internet gives you a present. Wednesday afternoon, I got just such a gift in the form of a video from Olugbenga Oladejo, a Nigerian preacher (calling this cat a pastor is a stretch as I’m not exactly getting a pastoral vibe here) from the UK about a “vision” he had. In this fever dream “vision”, God showed him “hellfire”. Specifically, he says “The Lord told me (that’s always a good sign), he said ‘Luke, when I asked my children to get married and they’re married’, he said ‘My children on their matrimonial bed, they commit a lot of immorality’. He said I should tell them that they are not going to come to heaven.”

Now, you may be wondering what sort of immorality one could commit “on their matrimonial bed”. Well, let’s start with a little cowgirl action. According Oladejo, God frowns on women riding the baloney pony: “Couples who practice the woman on top… I want to repeat this, because this is the warning he gave me….When you are with your wife, the lord has made man to be the head. Not the woman. So those men who enjoy their wife coming on top of them in the matrimonial bed, the lord says they are not coming to heaven at all...” The only acceptable position is, of course, missionary: The man should lie on top of the woman. The natural style, the one way god has given us as man and wife.” And, once again, it’s sucks to be a girl. In Oladejo’s world, anyway.

Then, there’s doggy-style. According to the good minister, doing the dog is evil because Romans 1 says so. Not only that,  “The lord did not to create you to behave like a dog on your matrimonial bed. Or like a cow. Or like a chicken.” A chicken?!? And, I thought I could dream up some weird shit.

It’s a safe bet that “Pastor” Oladejo won’t be going to see 50 Shades of Grey because he’s definitely not down with kink. Here’s his take on the subject: “If you are practicing hanging with your wife [bondage], you are inventing different styles… Don’t go and be hanging your wife. Don’t go and be hanging your husband. Do not try different styles: they do sex in different styles that are contrary to God.” Hanging? I’m not sure if he put it that way because English isn’t his first language (dude has a heavy accent) or on account of some fucked up ideas about sex. I’m feeling magnanimous (and grateful for this amazing opportunity), so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Lastly, we have masturbation. It seems that rubbing one out (or “in” depending on your plumbing) is also sinful. Especially so, if you’re married. I’m not exactly sure why, though. Whatever. Oladejo says wankers will be set upon by demons who will laugh while the souls of  those who “google themselves” will cry out in pain because the demons will cut them “in the most painful place”. I have no idea where that would be, but it can’t be good.

After all this, Oladejo woke up and realized God wanted him tell people all this because they were “not aware of these things”. I can see that, since they seem to have come from some rather scary and warped places about sex, biology and God knows what else.

In this video, Oladejo talks about “changing the Lord’s ordinances” a lot; like every couple of sentences. And, to be fair, we have thwarted God’s intent in many ways. But, the “ancient covenant” Isaiah referred to was about taking care of one’s neighbors, not what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms.

Now, I’m no Bible scholar, but I do know enough about it to feel pretty safe in saying that it doesn’t specify what positions are good and which are a one-way ticket to H-E-Double-hockeysticks (If I’m wrong, please point me to that passage). And, while the Bible does talk about masturbation (i.e. “the sin of Onan“), the problems were less about the act itself than Onan’s motivation for firing off some knuckle-children.

While Oladejo’s take on sex is certainly…, let’s say “colorful”, it’s far from unique. Not the specifics, of course, (that chicken thing still has me messed up) but the idea behind it. I don’t really get the point. Unless it’s that focusing on how others are fucking up allows you to keep the spotlight off of your own transgressions. It doesn’t really work all that well, but damned if it doesn’t provide some very interesting reading now and then.

The Bookmobile

 

Greensboro Public Library bookmobile circa 1936
Greensboro Public Library Bookmobile circa 1936

Growing up in rural North Carolina during the 60’s and 70’s, reading was a big deal for me. Back then, it was still one of the chief forms of entertainment since cable television was pretty much unheard of in my neck of the woods. And, while the internet existed, it wasn’t available to peons like us. So, books were important. In the earlier days of my childhood, getting books often meant going to the library. That required a trip downtown, as the Greensboro Public Library didn’t have branches until the late 70’s. Considering that my family only had one car until I was 10 years old, trips downtown didn’t happen all that much. Of course, that only made a visit to the library so much better. But, just because we didn’t make it into town all that often doesn’t mean reading material was lacking. There was also the Bookmobile.

For those of you to young to remember, the Bookmobile was basically a library on wheels that brought books to people who might otherwise not be able to get them. The one I remember was a converted city bus fitted with shelves filled with books. It had a route and came to various neighborhoods on a regular schedule. It appears the Bookmobile is a thing of the past in this digital age where anything you might want to read is just a click away. That’s more than a little sad because the Bookmobile was awesome.

Back then, a visit from the Bookmobile was more than just a chance to get something new to read; it was a social event that bought the community together. We would gather at a friend’s home on Old Randleman Road and, while the mothers socialized((i.e. shared the latest gossip)), we kids engaged in our own form of socialization, usually involving a ball of some sort. As a rule, a game was struck up as soon as we had enough people to play and lasted until the Bookmobile arrived. At that point, any and all play came to screaming halt((it did for me, anyway. I’ve always preferred a book to ball since a book didn’t require a level of coordination that still escapes me)) and we all made for the door. I always wanted to be first in line because space was limited and only a few people could browse the shelves at any given time((waiting has never been my forte)). Plus, I wanted first crack at whatever books were available. The thought of someone getting to a Freddy The Pig book I hadn’t read before I did  was almost more than I could bear. But, no matter what I was able to get hold of, I was ecstatic: I had books to read. Whatever else happened was small potatoes compared to that.

For some people, my literary zeal is hard to understand. More than once in my life, people have asked why I love to read so much. I can think of two reasons: first, my parents understood the importance of reading and made it a priority in our household. Before I learned to read, my mom or dad read to me every day. After I learned to read, they always made sure that books were always available and encouraged me to read. Second, reading was an escape. I’ve told you that my childhood wasn’t exactly rosy; between being a certain s.o.b.’s whipping boy and huge nerd, I needed a way to step outside my reality in order to keep sane; books gave me that opportunity. And, not just while I was reading them, either. I spent many an hour inserting myself into the stories I read to further escape the shittier things in my life. It’s something I still do to this day.

I love technology and the idea that I can download books for free from the library or a certain website that shall remain nameless((in deference to some of my author friends who have “issues” with them)) is absolutely amazing. In fact, I think the ready availability of books is the best thing the internet has done for the world. But, at the same time, I can’t help but feel a little sad for the passing of things like the Bookmobile and paper books((face it, e-books are the wave of the future)) because many of my favorite memories involve books (or getting books) and, in my humble opinion, young people are missing out on something special. But, it’s up to them to make their own memories and it’s up to me to understand that their memories are going to different from mine. Is it hell to get old? Maybe, but it beats the hell out of the alternative.

I Hate That F**cking List

I Love And Hate Blogging So Much Until I QuitSo, Listly’s “Christian Blogs You Should Be Reading” 2014 edition is out and, happily, the top 25 reads like a who’s who of progressive/emergent Christian bloggers. Rachel Held Evans is holding down the top spot, followed by Benjamin Corey’s Formerly Fundie, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary and, this one makes me particularly happy, Kimberly Knight in 8th place (I have a friend in the top ten!). While there is much to be happy about this year (like the fact that uber-douche Matt Walsh is nowhere to be found), I hate that fucking list. Why, you ask? Because I’m not on it.

When you’re on them, lists are the greatest thing ever. Conversely, when you’re not, they pretty much suck ass. This is especially true for me. Combined with the dismal numbers I’m seeing on The Progressive Redneck these days, my absence from this list is like the internet is waving a sign in my face that says “YOU SUCK!!! You’ll notice this is a general “You suck” and not “You suck as a blogger”, “You suck as a writer”, etc. That’s because a normal person would most likely be able to separate this message of online suckage from the rest of their life and I believe it’s a well-established fact that I’m anything but normal. Trust me, finding out the internet thinks you suck isn’t fun.

It’s my fault, I suppose. Getting noticed in the blogging world is tough these days, what with all the blogs out there. It’s especially tough if you’re a just a regular person without a hook.

Now, you might be thinking “Why do you need a hook? Why not just write about your thoughts, feelings and beliefs?” Oh, how I wish it was that simple. The thing is, in Christian blogging (and especially the progressive variety), to have credibility, you really need some letters after your name. You know, the kind you get by going to college and seminary? You might think that a regular person blogging about making their way through the maze of Christianity, especially moving from a crazy cult to a more progressive faith, would draw a lot of followers. You could think that, but you’d be oh, so wrong. Therefore, a regular person needs a hook to be a successful blogger.

Unfortunately, most of the hooks available to regular people aren’t my cup of tea. I could, for instance, go the route of Matt Walsh (the uber-douche mentioned above) and be “edgy and controversial” which, in this case, is code for being a massive…, well, douche (I hate over-using that word, but it is so applicable). I tried that when I first started blogging and it worked; partly because I’m good at being “edgy and controversial” (aka, being “a snarky asshole”) But, after a while, I realized I didn’t like being “that guy”. More to the point, I realized being “that guy” didn’t exactly fit in with the progressive Christian message I thought I was promoting. So, I had to let it go.

Since “edgy and controversial” is out, another hook I could use revolves around abuse. In light of recent revelations, church/religious/spiritual abuse is all the rage and, as you might remember from some posts in the last couple of weeks, it’s a topic I am well-qualified to take on. But, here’s the thing: to do so, it feels like I have to wallow in my past and be pissed off about all the crap that happened to me. I mean, let’s face it, the internet doesn’t reward a happy ending nearly as handsomely as it does anger, spite and vindictiveness. Those are things I’m trying to get away from, not embrace.

As you read this, you may be wondering “What’s your point? Why are you dumping all this here?” The truth is, I’m not sure. This could a thinly veiled (and rather shallow) plea for validation of my blogging efforts. Or, maybe it’s just a rant about the general unfairness of the internet (decent guy trying to write with humility and grace can’t get arrested while overtly douchey asshole has massive following). It’s possible I hope someone will read this and add me to the list. (this one I’m not so sure about, as being added out of pity and getting zero votes might actually be worse than not being there at all). All I know for sure is what I’m telling myself: I hate that fucking list and I needed to say so. Out loud.

Is It Possible?

Jerk vs niceI began blogging a little over four years ago, after my first bout with cancer and a heart issue caused by the chemotherapy. I mention that because it’s sort of thing makes you take stock of your life and I did. It was then that I began to realize my long-held conservative values  were at odds with what I was reading in the Gospels. In other words, I became aware of the cognitive dissonance that had plagued me some time. Because, as Flannery O’Connor said once, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say”, I started a blog in an effort to work out some of those issues. Very quickly, however, it dawned on me that I had found a way to realize a long-held dream: to be a published author. And, like most neophytes, I thought getting there would be a neat, linear process. Okay, you can stop laughing any time now.

That mistaken belief was not helped when I read in Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence about how the internet was circumventing the gatekeepers and opening the way for people outside the establishment to step up and change the way we think about things. That’s some heady stuff and I was ready to take my place among these rising stars. Unfortunately, it’s not quite working out the way I thought it would.

There are multiple reasons for that and most of them are my fault. You’d think by now I’d realize that things are never as easy I think they’ll be. And, the internet in general (and the blogosphere in particular) is not quite the open and freewheeling landscape it was a few years ago: it’s a lot more crowded and noisy than it was back then. And, as they always do, the gatekeepers found the holes in the fences people were sneaking through and have thrown up gates there, too. Both of which make getting noticed a lot harder than it used to be. But, for all its problems, the internet is still one of the best things to happen to writers since the invention of the pencil. Although, with my tendency to make mistakes, I should probably go with the eraser.

That’s not to say the internet is without its truly irritating aspects, though. One of the more worrisome is that it doesn’t seem to reward being a decent human being. Take the open letter to pastors post I wrote last week, for example. It was a snarky, shitty cheap shot written by someone who hasn’t occupied a  pulpit for more than 5 minutes in their entire life. And, it was wildly popular (for me; it would barely be blip on the screen for some of the more popular bloggers). After realizing that it had offended some people I care about very deeply, I wrote another piece apologizing for being an ass and saying what I had intended to say in the first place.

In a perfect world, the second post would’ve done at least as well as the first one. But, we don’t live in a perfect world and here’s the proof: that conciliatory post has gotten less than half the views its more offensive sibling did. I wish I could say this an isolated incident, but it’s not. My more incendiary articles consistently get more views than the benevolent ones. For someone trying to build a platform, the message is clear: if you want to get noticed and (more important for an aspiring author) be read, you should be noisy, be hyperbolic, be offensive. In other words, be a jerk.

While I want to build a platform, I don’t want to be that guy. And, I don’t think you guys want to be those readers. And, we shouldn’t be. As Christians, we are people who follow Jesus, a man who taught his disciples to love everyone. For us, being a jerk should be off the table.  But, as much we might wish it was, it isn’t. My question is, what are we going to do about that?

It’s Thanksgiving and You Know What That Means

i_am_thankful_pumpkin_pieYes, it’s time for another installment of the obligatory “What I Am Thankful For” post. If you’re new here, don’t worry; it’s not one of those sappy pieces filled with heartfelt platitudes about family, health or financial well-being, no bs about wonderful friends or any kind of flowery fluff. It won’t be like that “28 days of Thanksgiving” thing that seems to have petered out well before Thanksgiving Day. No, this is a once-a-year treat for you, my friends and it’s filled with all the stupid, shallow, inane crap I’m thankful for this year. Let’s get started.

  • Retirement _ I’m coming up on one year of being a gentleman of leisure and, while I knew it would be nice, I had no idea how absolutely amazing it is to stay home and goof off while still getting paid. Believe me, that is something worth giving thanks for!
  • The internet _ I realize it’s been around for a while, but this internet thing is so freaking cool. It gives me a platform to spout all my ridiculous ideas, a way to socialize without actually coming into contact with people, allows me to shop while sitting around in my pajamas and watch movies with a few clicks of the mouse. If I could buy groceries online, I’d never leave the house. That’s not really a good thing…, is it?
  • Used book stores _ You all know I’m a book nerd and something book-related was bound show up here sooner or later. I mean, it has every other year and this one is no different. Recently, I made myself go down to the local, neighborhood Edward McKay where I got an armload of books for less than $25 bucks. Could I have gotten them from Amazon a lot cheaper? Maybe, but I wouldn’t have been able to start reading a new book that day. Score!
  • Sirius XM Radio _ So, last February, this woman wasn’t paying attention to where she was going and plowed into the back of my truck, totaling it. The new car (okay, new to me) had a free 90 day trial of Sirius XM, which is devious as hell. It’s also very smart marketing because once you have it for a week or two, you’ll think you can’t live without it. With satellite radio, I can listen to music not available on regular radio and there are no commercials or irritating DJ’s. That’s worth a lot more than $15 a month in my book.
  • My new car _ Like I just said, after a small fender-bender, I had to get a new vehicle. It wasn’t easy because I wanted something that was reliable, got good fuel mileage, had all-wheel drive and wasn’t lame. That’s not an easy-to-find combination, especially when fun to drive tops everything else. But, I found it all in a 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan. I’ve always heard people who drive German cars yammer on about the “driving experience”, thinking they were pretentious assholes. Then, I drove one and became a pretentious asshole myself because the driving experience in a German car is amazing! Plus, it’s not a Prius, which is a huge win in itself.
  • I’m going to depart from tradition for just a moment and talk about something I’m not thankful for: enneagrams and your Meyers-Briggs type. In some of the circles I inhabit, these things are all the rage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that you’ve found a tool to help you understand yourself. But, I’ve got to say I really don’t care if you’re an 8 or an INTJ, or any of that. Especially, since I have to look that shit up just to know what you’re talking about. I have a limited amount of memory, so when it comes down to remembering either superfluous stuff like this or essential Dr. Who trivia, guess what’s going to win?

Well, that’s it for this year. If you want to share something you’re thankful for, feel free. Just remember, keep it silly, shallow and trivial because the world has enough serious shit on its plate today.

I… Am… A… Nerd

ich bin ein nerd
And, here’s the proof

The past week, I feel like I’ve been on the edge of burning out on the blogging thing. A couple of days ago, I started 3 different pieces before I finally found one that didn’t bore the hell out of me. That’s not to say I was excited about it, though; only that I was able to finish it. It was beginning to worry me, so I consulted a friend and fellow blogger. At one point in the conversation, he told me I’d lost the personal touch that he enjoyed in my earlier writing. Looking at my recent work, I had to admit he was right; there wasn’t much of me in it. So, in an effort to reclaim the magic, I’m going to get personal and let you in on a secret: I’m a bit of a nerd.

While that may not be a shock to you, it certainly was to me. I never realized I was a nerd until Olivia, my youngest, assured me that, A) yes, I was a nerd and, B) it’s not a bad thing . It all went down like this: a couple of years ago, I had gotten new glasses which were, let’s face it, poindexters (if you’re unfamiliar with that term, here’s a picture):

Poindexter Glasses 9.50 delias

Anyway, a couple of days after getting them, I asked Olivia if they made me look nerdy. She said “Yeah, but that’s okay; you are a nerd.” That revelation caught me off guard and I wondered “Is she was right?”

It really unnerved me. Seriously, how could anyone as cool as I am be a nerd? I mean, nerds are weird people who are obsessed with arcane subjects and technology, they’re fashion-impaired and socially inept. And, I’m none… Oh crap, I realized, I’m all of those things.

Obsessed with arcane knowledge? Do you read this blog? Yeah. On the technology end, I’m a blogger and blogging is the nerd’s diary, so I’ve got that covered. Rachel, my oldest daughter, has pointed out to me on multiple occasions that my fashion sense is severely lacking. And, socially inept? Please, I wrote the book on that. Look up “painfully shy” in the dictionary and you’ll see my picture. Add in the fact that I love sci-fi and off-the-wall TV and movies and it’s plain as the nose on your face: I… am… a… nerd.

But, as Olivia was quick to point out, that’s not a bad thing because, in her words, “Nerds rule”. And, after that initial shock wore off and I accepted my nerdiness, I realized she was right. Being a nerd means you can indulge in your passions without worrying about how cool you look. Hell, you’re not cool anyway, so who cares? Embracing my nerdiness has been amazingly freeing; not worrying about whether I look cool or if I’m in the clique feels really, really good. You should try it.

Face it, we’re all a little nerdy sometimes; even jocks. Honestly, what’s more nerdy that fantasy football? That stuff is nothing but Dungeons and Dragons with sports. And, all that bracket-mania during the NCAA tournament? Filling out a good bracket requires reading and understanding stats, right? And, who was always the team statistician in high school? Exactly, a nerd. Face it, fellows, you’re no different from the kids you used to shove in lockers back then.

We have this idea that nerdiness is somehow the opposite of coolness. But, if you think about it, being a nerd is the height of cool. Because what’s cooler than someone who’s happy with who they are and doesn’t care who knows it? So, let your inner nerd out to play. But, be warned: getting them back inside won’t be easy because it’s so damn much fun.

A New Parable?

SteepekThere’s a story circulating on the internets about a pastor named Jeremiah Steepek. In this tale, Steepek has just been appointed to a new church and his first Sunday isn’t like that of most pastors. He shows up to his new 10,000 member charge dressed as a man who is homeless (see picture at left) and is not well-received. At one point, after he sits down at the front of the church, some ushers escort him to the back row to the stares and glares of the congregation. When the new pastor is introduced, he strides to the pulpit, quotes Matthew 25:34-39 and dismisses service till the following week, saying “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?” It ends with “Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.” Great story, huh? There’s only one problem with it: it may not be true.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen so many lies masquerading as truth on the web that anything sounding to good to be true is automatically suspect. And, this story certainly fit that profile, so I started digging. According to the website Hoax-slayer, the picture isn’t Pastor Steepek, it’s homeless man from Richmond, Surrey (England). And, the only references anyone can find about this mysterious preacher are in the story itself. To top things off, the meat of the story itself suspiciously reflects the experience of Willie Lyle, a Clarksville Tn. pastor who spent a week as someone who lives outside. The more you look into it, the more doubt is cast on the truth of the story.

All of that brings up two questions: 1) how important is factual accuracy and 2) do the facts that there may not be an actual Jeremiah Steepek and things likely didn’t occur the way the story tells mean it isn’t true? Or could this be a parable like the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son?

My opinion is that, yes, it is a parable. That may not have been the intent of whoever started the story’s rounds on the internet, but that’s how it functions. Since it’s a parable, misrepresentation of facts don’t really matter much here because stories don’t have to befactually accurate to be true.

Are there problems with how the story was presented? I suppose some of the wording is a bit heavy-handed (that whole “disciple” thing). And, you could say the storyteller should have let people know this was a parable. But, if they had, it wouldn’t have had nearly as much impact. Jesus never started one of his stories by saying, “Look, it didn’t really happen this way, but…” That would’ve ruined the whole thing.

The real problem here isn’t the veracity of the Steepek story, it’s that we have a hard time identifying new parables. Maybe that’s because there’s enough mileage between the ones Jesus told and the present day that we’re able to say “Well, I don’t do that”. The new parables, however, don’t let us slide that easilyand they sting a lot more. So, instead of learning from the story, we look for ways to negate it.

Stories are so incredibly effective because we become immersed in them and relate to the characters as actual human beings in a way that’s not possible with a dry retelling of facts. I’ve linked to an article that contains the Steepek story and a news article about Willie Lyle. They’re both good, but they serve different purposes. The news article relays facts about Lyle and what he did. The Steepek story takes those facts and uses them to teach us something. That’s a parable if I’ve ever seen one.

Resolved

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions-620x469_mediumA day or two before New Year’s, Diana asked me if I was making any resolutions. I said no, I don’t believe in them. I don’t believe in them because I think they’re either a way to disappoint ourselves or fool us into thinking we’re better people than we really are. Think about it for a minute; how many New Year’s resolution have ever kept in your life? Not a lot, I’m guessing. For some reason, every year this time, people make all sorts of promises to themselves. While, as noted earlier, these choices rarely last the whole year, here are the top ten New Year’s resolutions as found on About.com (it says Pittsburgh, but this is a pretty common list)

  1. Spend more time with family and friends
  2. Get in shape
  3. Lose weight
  4. Quit smoking.
  5. Enjoy life more
  6. Quit drinking
  7. Get out debt
  8. Learn something new
  9. Help others
  10. Get organized

Notice something about these resolutions? The majority are kind of self-centered and even the ones that don’t look like it at first have a selfish component. I don’t think there’s a single altruistic resolution on this list; not even number nine, helping others. I say that because the purpose of every one of them is to make the resolver feel better. It’s as Will Campbell (yeah, I know I’ve quoted him a lot lately. But, it’s such good stuff) once said “We are bastards, but God loves us anyway.”

Resolutions haven’t always been about the person making the resolution, though. They date back to ancient Babylon where people would promise to return borrowed goods and pay back debts during the spring and autumn equinox festivals and the Romans began  each year with a vow to Janus to improve their conduct (not sure how that worked as the Romans weren’t exactly known for their “good conduct”). Not to be outdone, medieval knights took the “peacock vow” each new year to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry. I’m not really sure how we moved from vows involving how we treated others to the current me centered ones. I suppose it’s just human nature to eventually turn everything into a what’s in it for me deal. Which makes me sad.

That’s why I don’t make resolutions anymore. Maybe I’m jaded and cynical, but I just don’t see the sense in making self-serving promises that I know I won’t keep. Diana said that I could consider them goals instead and maybe that way, I wouldn’t feel so bad when I don’t keep them. But, honestly, that’s just more fooling myself. This year, I’m going to make a change, though. I’m going to make some resolutions. But, they’ll be ones I have a shot at keeping. Oh sure, they’ll be just as self-serving as anyone else’s, but there might not be as much risk of failure compared to vows of improvement by doing things that, let’s face it, I suck at. So, here’s what I’m thinking about:

  1. This year, I resolve to continue tweaking the nose of those who take themselves way too seriously. Somebody’s got to do it and it’s something I’m good at.
  2. This year, I resolve to do even more to stick a finger in the eye (figuratively, of course) of oppression, discrimination and general douche baggery. Even if nobody pays much attention.
  3.  On the self-improvement front, this year I resolve to make modest efforts at eating better and exercising more. Not for me, mind you, but so my loving family can be burdened with my smart ass a little longer.
  4. This year, I can easily resolve to do more with my friends and family since I’m retired and plenty of time on time on my hands. Of course, they may not want that. If so, it won’t be my fault if this resolution doesn’t get fulfilled.
  5. And finally, I resolve to dedicate myself to reading and writing more blogs and wasting more time on the internet than ever before. This is probably the most attainable of all my resolutions. Which may be a little sad…, but I can live with it.

 

Shoes for the Homeless Guy

deprimo-homelessI’m sure you all remember the picture to the left, as it went viral.Taken a couple of weeks ago, it shows NYPD officer Larry DePrimo giving a homeless man a pair of boots. Since it was published, more information has come out about DePrimo and the homeless man, Jeffrey Hillman, causing some backlash. People were not thrilled that Hillman was seen a few days after the picture was taken without the shoes. When asked, he said he hid them because they were valuable. It also didn’t sit well when we found out that Hillman is not homeless, having an apartment he got through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and that he had turned down help from both family and social services. Not only that, but that Hillman has a history of run ins with police for drugs, harassment, theft and more. Worst of all, he had the temerity to desire compensation for the use of his image, i.e. “a piece of the pie”. The nerve of some people.

I don’t want to say I’m uniquely qualified to speak on the subject of the poor and the homeless; I’m not. That honor would go to people like Hugh Hollowell, who runs Love Wins in Raleigh NC, and Aaron Reddin, on the board of directors for The One, Inc. What I know about homeless people comes from two sources: working with Hugh at Love Wins and 22 and 3/4 years as a firefighter in the city of Raleigh NC. You may wonder what my firefighting career has to do with anything, but firefighters, EMS workers and police are usually intimately familiar with the homeless community where they serve. Unfortunately, that familiarity all too often breeds contempt. I’m guilty of it, myself. About 6 or 7 years ago, there was a particular fellow on the street in my area named…, well, I won’t use his real name, let’s just call him Richard. And, let me tell you, this guy pissed me off no end. Belligerent, mean and nasty, he was what is known as a “frequent flyer” in EMS circles, meaning he called us a lot. For a while, it seemed barely a shift went by without seeing Richard. One extremely hot summer day, we took him to the hospital 3 times in 6 hours (I tried to have him arrested, but the police wouldn’t do it). Once, he took a swing at a paramedic who was trying to help him. Like I said, a piece of work.

And, there lies the problem. People like Richard and Jeffrey Hillman are irritating, mean, troublesome and a general pain in the ass. In other words, they’ll never be considered a part of what’s known as the “virtuous poor”: single moms who fled abusive relationships with their kids, families who lost everything when the economy went in the toilet, etc. No, guys like Richard and Hillman are addicts, mentally challenged and, sometimes, just broken. Maybe even broken beyond repair. But, whether they’re beyond repair or not isn’t for me to decide. As a follower of Christ, I’m called to live as He lived. And, for Jesus, no one was broken beyond repair; not Samaritans, the sick, the poor, Gentiles, not even lepers. Therefore, it shouldn’t it matter what that Hillman did with the shoes. Or, that Richard wasn’t the nicest fellow on the street. As Aaron Reddin said so eloquently,

Jesus says to “give to anyone who asks.” 

I don’t think He was joking.  And I don’t think He gave us a right to give based on our perception (or prediction) of one’s heart and/or actions.”