Category Archives: Non-violence

Making Jesus Great Again

Now, that’s my kind of savior!

Since we elected Donald Trump to make America great again, I think we need to take some steps to make Christianity great, too. Now, most of you probably believe that Christianity is already great. I mean, God did answer the prayers of hundreds of thousands of Christians in giving the election to Donald Trump and all, but you have to admit, there are areas of Christianity that could use some work. Like all that non-violence talk and the stuff about money that libtards yammer on about. But, the starting point for all this has to be giving Jesus a makeover. And, boy, does he need it.

What, you don’t think we need a new Jesus? Boy, have you got your head in the sand. I mean seriously, turn the other cheek and love your neighbor? What a cuck. No, if we’re going to make this religion (and this country) great again, we need to follow a real manly man, a jacked Jesus, if you will. I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to follow some little pussy who won’t even fight back.

To accomplish this makeover, we’re going to have tip over a few sacred cows. Like, for instance, the Bible. That will probably be the biggest obstacle in branding our new and improved alt-savior. Yes, I know the Bible is the pure, unadulterated Word of God and every syllable is literally true and needs no interpretation. But, seriously, we’ve been furtively working the Good Book to our benefit for centuries, what with all the proof-texting and cherry picking. All I’m saying is we stop sneaking and come out in the open.

Our most common weapon should be to just ignore the verses we don’t like and focus hard on the ones we do. Like, we just omit all those inconvenient calls to non-violence that Jesus issued and concentrate on the one that goes, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Easy peasy, right? Like I said, we’ve been doing this shit for years. And, the ones we can’t ignore just need a little tweaking; you know, sort of like Andy Schlafly did with his Conservative Bible project.

Take that “turn the other cheek” bullshit. In Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” With just a little work, it becomes “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But, I tell you do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, pop that motherfucker in the face.” Now, that’s a guy I can respect!

I’m telling you, this won’t be that difficult. I mean, we already elected a thrice-divorced casino owner who has committed adultery on numerous occasions, made multiple semi-incestuous comments about his daughter and appeared on the cover of Playboy, and cited our faith for doing so. All this new movement will require is selling what’s left of our souls and giving up the few principles we have left. How hard can that be?

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Special thanks to Alaina Cobb for the inspiration and revised Bible verse. I couldn’t have done it without you, friend!

Watching Deadpool is a One-way Ticket to Hell

deadpool-movie-posterThat’s the word on the evangelical street, y’all. You will not pass Go and you will not collect $200. You will, however, spend eternity in the bottomless pit and being tormented at Satan’s pleasure.  Now, you may be wondering why is watching “Deadpool” a one-way ticket to Hell? Because, people are nekkid in it, that’s why. I guess it’s okay to be violent as fuck, but you’re gonna burn if you so much as glance at naked boobies.

I stumbled onto this super-important bit of information last night when I was wasting time on Facebook researching a paper for my English class and found a link on the Stuff Christian Culture Likes page to an article from John Piper’s Desiring God website. While I don’t always agree with Stephanie (as in, “Drury”, the person behind SCCL), she does have a real knack for finding crazy Christian stuff; especially when it comes to “sexual purity”. And, this was no exception.

Apparently, “Christians” are wrestling with whether or not they should see “Deadpool”. I say, “apparently”, because I know a lot of Christians and not one of them has voiced any uncertainty in this matter; they cannot wait to see the movie (some already have and gave it rave reviews). Granted, the majority of my friends are huge nerds and would likely be considered apostates by Piper and his crowd, so they may not the best indicator of what’s going on in the evangelical/fundamentalist world. But, the author didn’t specify a certain group, so I’m rolling with it.

I’m not doing a point-by-point refutation of the article, today. Or ever, really. I mean, why bother? I’m pretty sure no one who reads this blog is all that torn up about a little nudity in a movie or puts much stock in what the nation’s premier Calvinist website has to say about it. So, why am I writing about this? Two reasons: 1) I am fascinated by their obsession with sex and 2) posts about sex and “purity” usually pull in pretty good numbers. Combine that with a topic that has the buzz of “Deadpool” and I’m thinking this post might just land in my top ten list. Yes, I’m a numbers whore. If you didn’t already know that, you obviously haven’t been around here very long. But, I digress.

I don’t get it. There are so many things in this movie that drive hardcore evangafundies over the edge and by focusing on the nudity, they’re missing out on so much outrage. There’s the film’s irreverence, its anti-establishment attitude and the profanity. It’s a trifecta of sin and they’re missing out! (I was going to mention “the lack of upstanding, virtuous plotline”, but that would violate the comedy “Rule of Three“, so…)

To be fair, Desiring God isn’t the only Christian website with a problem about “Deadpool”, they’re just the biggest. A Google search of “Deadpool and Christians” returns pages and pages of results and every one I looked at was…, let’s say, “less than complimentary”. Of the ones I read,  the recurring theme was “DON’T LOOK. NEKKID PEOPLE!!!” A couple did mention violence as a concern; one said there “should be a limit on how many decapitations there are in a movie that’s not called Highlander.” But, another thought the studio should’ve forgone the “raunchy” stuff and focused on the violence. That’s interesting when you consider Christians follow a man who forswore violence in everything he taught.

The most shocking thing of all is that One Million Moms has not yet called for a boycott of this film. How can that be??? It has almost everything they love to hate: sex and cussing and…, well, that’s about it, because the Moms don’t seem to get bent out of shape over gratuitous violence. It seems that frogs without pants, gay superheroes or a likable Satan are imminent dangers to the moral fabric of the country, but blood, gore and guts are cool.

So, as a Christian, do I think it’s okay to watch “Deadpool”? Hell, yes I do. In fact, I plan on seeing it myself as soon as possible. What’s that, aren’t I worried about going to Hell because I saw nude lady bits? According to the folks who believe that way, I’m already going there and I figure, “in for a penny, in for pound”. Might as well get my money’s worth.

Remembering History: The Greensboro Sit-ins

I wrote the first version of this post three years ago. Since this is the anniversary of the Greensboro Sit-ins, I thought this would a good time to dust it off and give you an updated version. Enjoy.

The Greensboro Sit-ins at their height: 63 of 66 seats taken by African-American students waiting to be served. It only took 6 months for them to get a bite to eat.

57 years ago today, four college students walked in and sat down at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N. C. Now, a group of people sitting down at the lunch counter wasn’t a big deal; it happened every day. But, this? This was different.

You see, these four young men, Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair (now Jibreel Khazan) and David Richmond, were African-American and African-Americans were not served at this particular lunch counter. If a black person wanted to eat at Woolworth’s, they went to the counter in the basement. But, under no circumstances did they sit down at the main counter upstairs, a custom that prevailed in Woolworth stores across the south in those days.

But, these four 17-year-old freshmen did just that, politely asking to be served. Eventually, the manager asked them to leave, but they didn’t; they stayed on those stools until closing time. The next morning, the four, later known as the Greensboro Four, were back along with 20 of their peers, including students from Bennett College (a historically black women’s college in Greensboro). On the third day, 60 students showed up. By the fourth day, the crowd had grown to more than 300 people and 63 of the 66 seats at the lunch counter occupied by young African-Americans with final three seats taken by waitresses. That must have been a sight to see.

At first, Woolworth’s stood by their policy, stating they would abide by local custom and keep the counter segregated. But, after 6 months of bad sales and worse publicity, they relented and opened it anyone. The story doesn’t end there, however.

The actions of these four young men started a chain reaction, with sit-ins happening all over the south which led to the desegregation of not just lunch counters, but other places as well. In May of 1960, a group of Nashville students led by John Lewis, the Georgia congressman our president recently accused of all talk and no action, achieved citywide desegregation. The genie was out of the bottle and there was no going back.

The sit-ins also led the SCLC to fund a conference at Shaw University in Raleigh N. C. for delegates from the sit-in centers, 19 northern colleges and groups like CORE, and the SDS . Out of this conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was formed. To say the sit-ins changed the face of the civil rights movement is an understatement. Sometimes, I wonder if it would have nearly as successful if those four young men hadn’t walked into Woolworth’s that day.

I grew up in Greensboro and, for North Carolina, it’s a pretty progressive town. I’m not sure why, Maybe, it’s because this area was originally settled by Quakers, a group known for being progressive. Guilford County was a stop on the Underground Railroad and Levi Coffin, one of the most well-known conductors, grew up here. And, of course, there are the Sit-ins.

But Greensboro has a split personality when it comes to race and civil rights. Yes, it was here that sit-ins brought new attention to the civil rights movement. But, it was also here that, in 1979, a group of Nazis and Klansmen shot and killed 5 protesters in what is known as the Greensboro Massacre. Go figure.

Here in the United States, we’ve come a long way regarding equality. Jim Crow laws are pretty much a thing of the past (the overt ones, at least). Black people are welcome in any establishment in the city and their employment opportunities have increased. Sounds good, huh?

On the surface, maybe. But, according to the latest data, almost 1 in 5 people in this city live below the poverty line and most of them are black. And, in the last few years, North Carolina has enacted new voting laws that purposely make it harder for African-Americans to vote. To top it all off, the President of the United States is a black man and has been subjected to more vitriol than any president in recent memory. The intransigence that seems to be a part of American (especially southern) DNA, can be discouraging. When it is, reading about what happened in 1960 lifts my spirits. If we could make those changes, the ones facing us today aren’t so bad. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.

Really, God?

muddy-riverDuring a recent sermon, I was reminded of the story of Naaman. It’s about a powerful dude, Naaman (duh), who has a skin disease and visits Elisha to get some healing. Things go a little sideways because, not only does Elisha fail to treat him with the respect he so richly deserves, he tells the guy to go wash in the Jordan River seven times and everything would be cool. Then, when this crazy-ass cure actually works, the bald-headed old bastard won’t even take anything for his trouble! What the hell?

You know Naaman had to be thinking, “I go to all the trouble of figuring out how things are going to pan out and now I have to do something different?  Even worse, something I really don’t want to do? That’s fucked up.” Now, before you get to down on Naaman, remember that the Jordan has never been known as the cleanest body of water on the planet. Truth be told, none of us would want to take a dip in the nasty-ass river. Telling someone to “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River” and, afterwards, their “skin will be restored and become clean” is about as counter-intuitive as it gets. But, I can identify with Naaman because his reticence to follow Elisha’s instructions reminds me of myself about midway through either of my two chemotherapy regimens. 

For those of you who don’t know, in 2007 I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I won’t go into the details (you can find them here), but it wasn’t pretty. That’s because the treatment for cancer is either radiation and/or chemotherapy, both of which involve pumping enough poison into your body to kill the cancer, but not enough to kill you and generally results in side effects like extreme nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, nerve damage/pain and other assorted delights. Good times, let me tell you.

Through all that, there were plenty of times I felt like Naaman and wondered why the cure for what ailed me had to be so shitty. It’s bad enough to suffer the indignity of being sick, but why I couldn’t choose how I got well? Because if it was up to me, there’s no way in hell I’d to go through chemotherapy of my own volition. Personally, I think Naaman was a pussy complaining about what Elisha told him to do; after 4 months of chemo, bathing in what amounted to a sewer would’ve looked pretty fucking sweet.

These two stories point out one of the most irritating things about God: the Almighty almost never does things the way we expect. No matter how you think a situation should work out, God will go a different direction. When the Jews spent years longing for a Messiah to deliver them from the oppression of foreign rulers, did God send them a warrior king in the mold of David like they asked for over and over? No, God did not. With the twisted sense of humor that can only come from a supreme being, God sent a poor, working-class rabbi who preached a message of love and inclusion to deliver them from their miserable existence. Evidently, God gets a kick out of fucking with our expectations.

Of course, it could be that our expectations are fucked up and God is sending what we need and not what we ask for. Sometimes, what we need is to practice non-violent revolution and not put ourselves in the way of the oppressor’s fist, to wash in dirty water to cure a skin disease or allow ourselves to be poisoned to kill the mutant cells attacking our body from within. In other words, God doesn’t wipe away the bad things with nothing more than a wave of the hand; God requires action on our part.

We’re Not Popeye, Y’all

violence isn't the answer
The real American Way?

I wish I could say we all agree that violence is bad no matter where it comes from, but everyone knows that’s not true. For many people, violence is not only acceptable, it’s the preferred option. And, I’m not talking about Muslims, either: I’m talking about us. Our foreign policy, our obsession with guns and the prevalence of violent acts in entertainment media all point to the fact that Americans love violence. Well, it’s more accurate to say we love violence that we control. Violence from other quarters? Not so much. That violence is evil and, along with the people who perpetrate it, must be met with derision, disdain and, most importantly, a superior violence of our own. Where has that gotten us? A strategically important region (the Middle East) that is critically destabilized, two wars that helped crash our economy and a reputation as a world bully. If Dr. Phil were to ask us, “How’s that working out for you?” the answer wouldn’t good.

American’s are in love with the idea of “redemptive violence”, of which Rob Bell says, “The myth of redemptive violence – Caesar, peace, and victory – is in people’s bones so deeply, we aren’t even aware of it. You crush the opposition; that’s how we bring peace.” I think this is right on the money except for one thing: the idea that “we aren’t even aware of it.” I believe the only thing we’re not of aware of is the “myth” aspect.

Why is that? Why do people who consistently swear and affirm that they are Christians and the United States is a Christian nation think/act/behave in such an unChrist-like manner? Because, when it comes to violence, we learned our lessons from fucking Popeye cartoons instead of Jesus.

In his essay, “The Myth of Redemptive Violence“, Walter Wink wrote

“Few cartoons have run longer or been more influential than Popeye and Bluto. In a typical segment, Bluto abducts a screaming and kicking Olive Oyl, Popeye’s girlfriend. When Popeye attempts to rescue her, the massive Bluto beats his diminutive opponent to a pulp, while Olive Oyl helplessly wrings her hands. At the last moment, as our hero oozes to the floor, and Bluto is trying, in effect, to rape Olive Oyl, a can of spinach pops from Popeye’s pocket and spills into his mouth. Transformed by this gracious infusion of power, he easily demolishes the villain and rescues his beloved. The format never varies. Neither party ever gains any insight or learns from these encounters. They never sit down and discuss their differences. Repeated defeats do not teach Bluto to honour Olive Oyl’s humanity, and repeated pummelings do not teach Popeye to swallow his spinach before the fight.”

Makes things a lot clearer, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Popeye. As a child of the 60’s, I love cartoons and still watch them every chance I get. But, I don’t think Popeye (which isn’t the most well made or thought out cartoon) should form the basis of our approach to violence. Popeye works because it appeals to our love of the triumphant underdog and seeing the bad guy get what’s coming to him. But, as Wink points out, no one ever learns anything from the violence. Not even Popeye; who you’d think, in addition to learning to eat the god-damned spinach before the fight, would figure out that jumping on someone who’s so much bigger will probably lead to an ass-kicking.

Unfortunately, Americans are just as clueless as any character in a Popeye cartoon. We continue to meet other’s violence with our own, thinking that either it will somehow “fix” things or it’s “the only thing those bastards understand”. Sometimes, both. But, here’s something no one in this country seems to get: in this scenario, we’re not Popeye, we’re Bluto.

I know that might be a little hard to take, especially for people of my generation who’ve had this myth pouned into them from birth.  But, think about it for a minute: Popeye is the smaller, weaker underdog while Bluto is the bigger stronger favorite who takes whatever he wants. A quick look at history will show that we haven’t been the smaller, weaker party in a fight since The War of 1812. And, since the end of World War II, we’ve pretty much been taking whatever we wanted. If the Popeye scenario holds true, one of these days, some little guy we’ve been pushing around is going to eat his spinach and kick the shit out of us.

So, how do we prevent this (admittedly deserved) nightmare from happening? Maybe we could start acting like that Christian nation some people like to claim we are, turning the other cheek and loving our enemies instead of grinding them into the dust. I know that’s a lot to ask, but it’s not like what we’re doing is working all that well.

The Christmas Truce

Christmas eve 1914100 years ago today, something amazing happened. In the midst of the horror that was World War I, men stopped trying to kill each other, came together between the lines and celebrated Christmas.

December of 1914 was still early in that epic struggle and both armies had only recently given up mobile warfare and settled into the trenches that have come characterize The Great War. The previous month had seen the end of the Race to the Sea which had resulted in a series of fortified positions reaching from the Swiss border to the North Sea in Belgium. In the days leading up to Christmas in 1914, there had been some attempts at arranging a truce: one by a group of British suffragettes and another by Pope Benedict XV. Both were unsuccessful. As is usually the case in war, it fell to the ordinary soldier to get things done.

It all started in the Ypres sector, where German troops decorated their trenches with candles, put up Christmas trees and began singing Christmas carols. British troops across the way began singing carols in return and, eventually, a few troops from each side ventured into No Man’s land and exchanged gifts of food, tobacco, alcohol and souvenirs((buttons, caps, badges, etc)). Artillery fire ceased and the truce allowed both sides breathing space to recover their dead. There are even stories of football matches(soccer games to us barbaric Americans) between the combatants.

The truce wasn’t confined to the Ypres region, nor just to the British and Germans. In the Commines sector, a similar truce occurred between French and German troops(no football matches, though) and the soldiers, who only days before had been doing their level best to murder each other, met between the lines, exchanging food, cigarettes and alcohol(the fuel that armies really run on). Some of these truces ended Christmas night, while others lasted until New Year’s Day. But, for a few days, soldiers on both sides were able to recover a little bit of humanity in that hell on earth.

Of course, the generals were not happy with the truces. They knew the dangers inherent in these events: if their troops spent too much time with the enemy, they might begin to see them as human beings and that would ruin everything. It’s a lot easier to kill a Hun or a Boche than it is the fellow with whom you shared a cigarette and compared notes about family. Commanders issued orders forbidding contact with the enemy, but they were mostly ignored(a notable exception was Adolf Hitler). After Christmas, the generals got their wish and things went back to “normal”, with each side attempting to dismantle the other.

Spontaneous truces broke again in 1915, but not on the same scale. Maybe the orders against fraternization issued by commanders had some effect. Or maybe another year of brutality had squashed the desire to put aside differences and celebrate the birth of a man called the Prince of Peace. Who knows. What we do know is that 1915 was the last time that troops met between the trenches, exchanging gifts and greetings. Subsequent Christmases saw soldiers singing carols to each other or throwing gifts across No Man’s Land, but nothing more.

What can be learned from Christmas 1914? Well, if men involved in a conflict as horrific as WWI can put aside their differences for a little while and behave like human beings, should it be so hard for us to do the same today? Maybe if we took a page out the German’s book and extended an olive branch to our enemies (both personal and national), things might turn out okay. Stranger things have happened, you know.

It’s Advent (Sigh) Pt V

My expression whenever one of my friends waxes eloquent about Advent
My expression whenever one of my friends waxes eloquent about Advent

It’s usually around this point that I begin wondering why I chose to do a series of blog posts and this time is no exception. Chalk it up to my ADHD, but maintaining focus on a subject for more than a couple of posts can be difficult, to say the least. But, we’ve come this far, so let’s finish things up with Peace. 

Once again, I’m sure you’re wondering how I can have a problem with the word “peace”. Especially as a progressive Christian. I mean, aren’t all progressives non-violent peacenik Jesus hippies? No, not really. Well, let’s say that I’m not a non-violent peacenik Jesus hippie; I want to be, but I’m not there yet because society isn’t there yet. But, I digress. Once again, my problem is not so much with “peace” as it is the way we talk about it.

Much the same way Christians have trivialized “joy”, they’ve reduced “peace” to a good feeling you get when you’re saved. We’re all way too familiar with this bumper sticker:

Know Jesus Know Peace

I don’t know about anyone else, but whenever I see it, I think “What utter bullshit”. Because, if you really know Jesus, peace shouldn’t be on the agenda.

Even Jesus’ own words back me up on this. In Matthew, he says

Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword. I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. People’s enemies are members of their own households.

Before you get your panties in a wad, understand that I’m not quoting this as a justification for doing violence. I read this passage as Jesus serving notice of his intention to upend a status quo that has no place in the beloved community to come((I have issues with imperial language like “Kingdom of God”)). Like all scripture, this passage needs context to be understood. That context tells us of time when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer; when violence wasn’t the answer, it was the question (the answer was “yes”); when women and children were second-class citizens at best and religion was a servant of power, not the people. Any of that sound familiar?

In case it doesn’t let me break it down for you: today, the gap between rich and poor is greater than at any time since the Great Depression. A study published earlier this year shows that “the wealthiest 160,000 families own as much wealth as the poorest 145 million families((italics mine)), and that wealth is about 10 times as unequal as income”. While violent crime is on the decline in this country, in the last 4-5 months, we have once again been forced to confront the fact that young black men face far greater risk of state-sponsored violence than their white counterparts. There are politicians working overtime to undermine the rights that women have fought so hard to get and seem to be hellbent on removing the social safety net that protects children and ensures that every child, regardless of family wealth or social standing, has adequate nutrition and a good education. And, all too often, the Church is complicit in these acts. So, if you call yourself a Christian and feel at peace, I’m pretty sure you’re doing it wrong.

Of the four words associated with Advent (hope, joy, peace and love), peace is the one I struggle with the most. Really, it was the inspiration for this series. Why is it included here? How are we supposed to feel peace when we live in a world that delights in shitting on people? What do I have to do to feel this peace? ((FYI, if anyone comments that all I have to do is accept Jesus as my personal Lord and savior, I will not react as a nonviolent, peacenik Jesus hippie)) The truth is, like so much of the Christian faith, Advent leaves me with more questions than answers. Which is the real reason I’m not really a fan.

Veteran’s Day 2014

DF-SC-84-11899Yesterday was Veteran’s Day and, just like always, I was inundated with “support the troops” pictures, posts and other such nonsense. Yes, I said “nonsense”. It’s nonsense because the phrase “support the troops” doesn’t mean a damn thing. As Noam Chomsky said

“…the point of public relations slogans like “Support Our Troops” is that they don’t mean anything […] that’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody is going to be against and I suppose everybody will be for, because nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. But its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something, do you support our policy? And that’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about.”

Of course, none of us really wants to hear that. And I’m sure more than one person will discount everything I say here because I’m quoting Chomsky, a man many on the right consider a communist and even a traitor to the United States. That’s bullshit, of course. People have a remarkable ability to minimize someone with temerity to point out uncomfortable truths. And, Chomsky is a master at that. But, no matter how you try to marginalize the man, his message rings clear.

I wish the same could be said of the “support the troops” meme. That tired, old cliché rings hollow, if at all, because spewing it is about all we do to support the troops. I mean, seriously, if we actually supported the men and women who serve in our military, would we continue to elect politicians who have no problem sending these fine folks off to sacrifice life and limb in foreign adventures calculated to enrich a select few?((Don’t get haughty, Democrats. All too many of you have, at best, acquiesced (and, at worst, endorsed) these adventures)) And, after they return from rendering the service we claim to be so thankful for and supportive of, would we sit idly by while those craven politicians use their benefits as a political football, allow the Veteran’s Administration to become the place where hope goes to die and ignore skyrocketing suicide rates, all the while plotting the next adventure that will squander the lives of these dedicated military professionals? I think not.

If we truly supported the troops, we’d acknowledge the fact that the bulk of our armed forces are poor/working class kids with limited options and do everything in our power to give these young people a chance to improve their lot in life without giving up so much. We’d make affordable education a priority, along with decent jobs and living wages, instead of keeping them poor to ensure a ready supply of cannon fodder.

Finally, if we truly supported the troops, sending them off to war would be our last-ditch effort in dealing with our world’s trouble spots. We, the people, would rise up if the government tried to use our sons and daughters as hired muscle for “Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers“. The linked quote comes from Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, who also said “There are only two reasons why you should ever be asked to give your youngsters. One is defense of our homes. The other is the defense of our Bill of Rights and particularly the right to worship God as we see fit. Every other reason advanced for the murder of young men is a racket, pure and simple.” Name one time in the history of this country when either of those two items were the criteria for one of our wars. You can’t, because we haven’t.

Make no mistake as you read this, I am not a pacifist. I want to be, I yearn to be a pacifist. As a follower of Christ, I believe I am called to be a pacifist. At the same time, I am realistic enough to realize the world we live in requires that “rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm” so that we can sleep peacefully. Until we finally eliminate the need for those “rough men” (and women) to stand ready, we should try actually supporting them for a change instead of mouthing meaningless platitudes. At the very least, we could stop actively shitting on them. I think they might appreciate that.

A Fight You Can’t Win

fighting cancerMany people like to talk about someone’s “brave battle with cancer”, like it’s a war; the implication being that if you’re tough enough, you can kick its ass and expel this nasty stuff from your body once and for all. There’s only one problem with that: it’s bullshit. Cancer is like luggage; you have it until you die. And, studies are showing that you can even pass it down to your children like a family heirloom. I hate to break it you, but if you’re “fighting” cancer, you’re fighting a battle you can’t win.

That Americans talk about dealing with cancer (or any illness, really) by using a violent metaphor isn’t really surprising; it’s the way we’re programmed. As I noted in America’s Love Affair, we have been inundated with images of violence almost from the minute we are born. Cartoons, video games, television, movies; all these forms of media bombard us with the idea that life is a struggle against evil and violence is the only tool that works. It’s an idea that has even made it’s way into our religion. Some faith traditions make a big deal of “spiritual warfare”; Onward Christian Soldiers is a very popular hymn; certain “Christian” leaders have called for people who are LGBT to rounded up and put in concentration camps and more than one “pastor” has advocated that they be exterminated. If violence can invade a religion based on a man who consistently rejected it (except once when he was royally pissed), what chance did healing have?

Right about now, you may be wondering “Who the hell is this asshole and what does he know about cancer?” Quite a bit, actually. In 2003, my father was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (he passed away in 2012) and, four years later, I found out I had colon cancer. Saying that I’m familiar with the subject is like saying the Titanic had a little mishap on its maiden voyage; i.e. a bit of an understatement. It’s this experience that tells me the “fight” metaphor is, at best, inapt. And, it could well be much worse than that.

It could be worse because it sets up an unrealistic expectation. As I said in the first paragraph, cancer is like luggage; you have it until you die. It’s not something that can be fought, beaten or subjugated. You’re not going to kick its ass and expel it from your body  once for all, no matter what society says. And, if you come at it that way, you can only lose. I know that sounds very pessimistic, but it’s true. Remember, this is life and no one gets out alive.

Maybe cancer can’t be beaten, but it can be endured, weathered and passed though. In the past, I’ve described the experience of dealing with cancer as a dance. But, that’s not really a good metaphor, if only because people actually like to dance. Believe me, no one in their right mind likes having cancer. “Season” has possibilities, even though it also implies an end to the issue. But, a “season” is something you endure, weather and pass though. And, there is an “end” to things; just not the one everyone wants to talk about.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying cancer is a death sentence. With the treatments that are available today, you can live a long and productive life after being diagnosed. But, a part of living that long and productive life is a realistic outlook about your prospects. Setting yourself up for failure probably isn’t going to help with that. At some point in the process, most survivors come to understand that. And, it’s not a bad thing.

America’s Love Affair

Popeye-vs-Bluto-the-Fights-Where-We-Knew-the-EndNot long ago, Everytown For Gun Safety got some ink by reporting that there have been 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre. While it turns out that number was…, let’s say inflated (there have been 10 documented Sandy Hook/Columbine-type shootings in that time), I think we can all agree there have too many. Of course, whenever we talk about this sort of thing, the subject of gun control comes up. Often, those in favor point to Australia as beacon of what America could be like if only we’d give up our guns. I’m sorry, but the Australian model probably won’t ever happen here. Why? Because Americans are so wedded to the idea that might makes right it is ingrained in our national psyche.

Americans are in love with violence. In the aftermath of a shooting that should have, by any sane measure, awoken us to the fact that violence is off the rails in this country, the response of all too many people could be summed up in the words of Wayne LaPierre, who said “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”. In other words, the only way to combat violence is through more and even harsher violence. As Sean Connery’s Jimmy Malone said in The UntouchablesThey pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.” It’s a sad day when a mediocre movie that plays fast and loose with historical facts epitomizes how we deal with tragedy.

Walter Wink said in his essay “The  Myth of Redemptive Violence” that Americans are we are steeped in the idea that “violence saves” from childhood. The television shows kids watch, the movies they see, the video games they play all reinforce the idea that might makes right. Wink says the violence is the real religion of society today. More and more, it seems he was right.

The American love affair with violence is particularly odd because it exists most strongly in conservatives, many of whom identify as Christians. I say this is odd because Christians follow a man who instructed his followers to love their enemies and turn the other cheek. Christians follow a man who said “All those who use the sword will die by the sword” and then healed one of the men who came to lead him away to a rather gruesome death.The belief that violence is the answer to any of the problems we might encounter suggests that our faith in Christ is of a rather shallow and superficial nature. It’s like saying “Jesus is the answer – but not in the real world.”

In my mind, the problem is not the ready availability of guns or anything else, it is our eagerness to use those readily available guns. In other words, guns aren’t the problem; they are a symptom of the problem. Once we deal with our love of violence, with the idea that anything is solved by murder and destruction, guns will cease to be an issue. If Americans weren’t so ready to do violence to anyone they perceive as a threat, we wouldn’t need gun control because people would control themselves. Who knows, they might even be willing to give up their guns and live a peaceful life.