Category Archives: 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?

__________________________

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

Christians For Tru…, Aw, F**k It

Christians for Trump
Should probably add “misogynistic predator” to the list

This is the first Monday I’ve sat down to write (here on the blog, at least) since school started back in August. I have this opportunity because it’s Fall break this week and I’m on vacation. As we normally do this time of year, Diana and I are spending a week in the semi-tropical paradise of Baillie’s Bluff on the Gulf Coast of Florida. But, getting here wasn’t exactly easy this time.

 If you live in the southeastern United States, you probably have an inkling why things were so tough. If not, I can sum it up in two words: Hurricane Matthew. Between worrying whether we would even be able to get here (we usually come down I-95), to almost getting trapped by flood waters in at Diana’s house Saturday (roads all around us flooding), to a 14 hour trip with traffic that varied from a virtual standstill to almost clear sailing, it has been an interesting four days. But, we’re here and I’m writing this from one of favorite spots on the planet: the fabulous screen porch at D’s family house in Holiday.
What, you might be thinking, could pressing enough to drag me to a computer when I could be soaking up the last bit of sun and fun for the year? First of all, time on my hands. When we’re vacationing, Diana likes to sleep in, while I couldn’t sleep past 8 o’clock unless I was coming off a 3 day coke bender. When I have time on my hands, I think about things. And, this morning, what I’m thinking about is Donald Trump and the repulsive shit that spewed from his face hole in 2005.
 As awful as those words are, there is something worse: people who call themselves Christians making excuses for them or, in some cases, saying they just don’t care. What the fuck? How can you say that shit? Do you really want a man like this running the country where the women you claim to care about live? Because, if you do, I’m not so sure you care about them all that much.
The first time I heard that shit, my response was, “I’m not sure what to say to that.” It’s taken a few days, but I think I’ve finally come up with an appropriate response.
To pastors and Christian “leaders” who make excuses (it happened before he had “spiritual influences” in his life) or dismissing it altogether (Christians don’t really care about this), you should turn in any credentials you might hold and stop calling yourself a pastor, because you aren’t. The one constant in Jesus’ teachings (remember him? The guy you claim to follow?) is love. Love your neighbor, love one another, love your enemy. I’m just spitballing here, but I’m pretty sure He wouldn’t consider treating women as conquests to be gloated over “love”.
To those of you who say you don’t care, I say “Are you fucking kidding me?” Do me a favor, if your mother is still with us, go look her the eye and say “Mama, Donald Trump’s comments don’t bother me in the least. In fact, I firmly believe that a man who brags about assaulting women is the best person available to lead our country.” Then, come back and tell me how it went.
Let me make this perfectly clear: if you overlook, gloss over, ignore or do anything but condemn Donald Trump’s treatment of women, you should either fall to your knees and ask the Almighty for forgiveness or abandon any pretense of being a Christian. It’s just that fucking simple.

Radical Islam? How About Radical Christianity?

radical islamIt’s been almost two weeks since “He who shall not be named” walked into an Orlando nightclub and perpetrated the worst mass shooting in American history. And, as you might expect, the bullshit is flying hot and heavy. Perhaps the heaviest is the Republican’s refusal to even acknowledge that this was a hate crime. I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it all pretty goddamned tedious.

So, if the shooter wasn’t motivated by hatred for people who are LGBTQ, why did he do it? The Republican answer? “Radical Islam”, of course. And, they are pulling out all the stops to deflect attention from any other option. Unfortunately for them, it’s not really working, what with all the news coverage of the Senate filibuster and House sit-in.

This inability to control the narrative is causing some desperation on the part of the GOP, leading to events like Louie Gohmert jumping up in the middle of the House Democrat’s sit-in and screaming, “Radical Islam killed these people!” The whole thing might be funny if it wasn’t because of 49 dead folks.

But, Republican temper tantrums aside, there is a “radical” element behind what happened in Orlando and it is part of an Abrahamic religion. It is not, however, the one founded by Mohammed. It’s the one that’s responsible for every shitty act committed against people who are LGBTQ: Christianity.

Why would I say such a thing? Well, let’s take a look at this term, “radical Islam”, and see what it means. If you leave out sites that have an obvious axe to grind, there’s not much on the internet concerning its meaning. I could find only one unbiased option, The Free Dictionary, which defines it as, “An Islamic revivalist movement, often characterized by moral conservatism, literalism, and the attempt to implement Islamic values in all spheres of life.” 

So, is there a strain of Christianity in America that could be characterized by “moral conservatism, literalism, and the attempt to implement (its) values in all spheres of life”? Maybe a group that constantly shouts about “religious freedom” because people they’ve spent years demonizing and pushing to the margins is now beginning to be treated as equal citizens? Or, even human beings, for that matter.  The answer is, of course, yes. And, you don’t have to look very far to find it.

Within hours of the news, a number of “Christian pastors” publicly celebrated what happened in that nightclub. In several cases, their message was almost identical, referring to the victims as “predators”, “pedophiles” and “sodomites” and saying that Orlando was safer with these people gone. Yes, beloved, you read that right: men who claim to be ministers of the Gospel praised the deaths of 49 children of God.

By any stretch of the imagination, what these preachers have said is no different from the words of Muslim fundamentalists who say that LGBT people should be put to death. One of these “radical Islamists”, Farrokh Sekaleshfar, said, “We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals, it’s the same. Out of compassion, let’s get rid of them now.” So, if men like Sekaleshfar “radical Islamists”, why aren’t Christians who praise the death of so many people who are LGBTQ “radical Christians”?

Maybe it’s because the phrase “radical Islam” really means “Islam in general”. All too many people in this country have a skewed view of Islam and it’s not good. Mention “peace” and “Islam” in the same breath around some folks and you’ll get an earful. More than likely, they won’t bother with the qualifier “radical”. And, let’s not forget that old stand by, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims.” (hint: they aren’t)

But, I can understand the Republican’s desperation to make Orlando about “radical Islam” even though we can’t find any link to ISIS. Times are changing and this kind of rabid anti-LGBT sentiment is quickly becoming a millstone around the neck of anyone running for office. But, unfortunately for the GOP, what happened in Orlando isn’t about Islam, radical or otherwise. No, it can only be laid squarely at the feet of Christianity. And, if we’re being honest, not just the “radical” kind.

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.

Michele Bachmann: The End Times Are Upon Us…, Again

Heeeere's Michele!!!
Heeeere’s Michele!!!

Just a few days ago, former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann took batshit crazy to new levels, claiming that President Obama would attempt “to extend his presidency, even enhance it and expand it” by taking over the United Nations. Why? Because he’s the Antichrist and wants to bring about the End of Days, that’s why.

Actually, that was just subtext in a larger narrative of insanity about how the Syrian Civil War is paving the way for Armageddon. I’m not making this up, I swear. This woman, who until recently was an elected official of the U. S. government, truly believes that a) the End Times are upon us and b) Barack Obama is Satan’s agent on Earth, doing his part to make all this come to pass.

This isn’t the first time Bachmann has hinted that Obama is the Antichrist. Last April, on Jan Markell’s “Understanding the Times” radio show, she said the Iran nuclear deal had stepped up the timeline for the Rapture™ because the President’s “number one goal” was to make sure that Iran obtained nuclear weapons and thus “cut the legs out of Israel and lift up the agenda of radical Islam”. Oh, and God is punishing America for marriage equality and abortion. Which, of course, has nothing to do with any of this, but what’s that got to do with anything? 

On a side note, the President takes these claims of his demonic status with amazingly good grace. At last year’s White House Correspondence Dinner, he told the crowd that bringing on the End of Days would be one hell of an accomplishment, cementing his legacy as a great leader.

Unfortunately for Bachmann, her concerns rest on an interpretation of scripture that is…, let’s say “sketchy”. And, by “sketchy”, I mean, “something that isn’t even in the Bible”. It’s based on dispensationalism, which can best be summed up as “John Nelson Darby’s fever dream”. As if Revelation isn’t weird enough on its own, dispensationalism pulls in various bits and pieces of other books in the Bible, both apocolyptic (Daniel) and not (I Thessalonians) to “interpret” this odd piece of literature.

The belief is understandable, though. Unless you’ve spent a lot of time studying it, the book of Revelation makes about as much sense as the space opera back story of Scientology. I mean, seriously, is there really that much difference between Lord Xenu loading several billion of his citizens onto Douglas DC-8’s and sending them to Earth, only to be killed by h-bombs exploding inside volcanoes (to steal a line from South Park, “This is what Scientologists actually believe”) and the fifth angel’s trumpet unleashing hordes of scorpion-locusts whose sting inflicts such terrible pain that people try to kill themselves, but can’t die? Or, what about a skanky chick riding on 7-headed beast that’s covered in blasphemous names? They both sound like drug-induced hallucinations, but only one is about “what happened when God got religion.” But, I digress…

Bachmann is unhappy that Americans just aren’t as excited as she is about the “End Times”. I believe there’s a couple of reasons for that: 1) most Americans aren’t psychopaths who become giddy at the thought of billions of people suffering and dying in horrible ways and 2) we just aren’t able to complete the mental gymnastics necessary to keep with Bachmann’s lunatic ideas. Considering what’s going on in this country right now, that is a ray of hope. A small one, sure. But, I’ll take it.

Unintentional Irony + Thinly-veiled Racism = Final Thoughts With Tomi Lahren

Illume_Islamophobia_Ridz_002I’ve stayed away from commenting on the shootings that occurred in San Bernardino the other day. I’ve done so for multiple reasons, including that I don’t know what to say and that I’m sick to death of hearing about these mass shooting atrocities. I also didn’t want to add to the cacophony of voices spewing unfounded bullshit. And, let’s be honest, that bullshit came from both sides. The gunsmoke hadn’t even cleared before progressives started their cries for stricter gun control laws even though there is not a law being considered right now that would have prevented this tragic event. And, after we found out that the alleged shooters were Muslims, the right switched over from their pious “thoughts and prayers” rhetoric to thinly veiled racism. But, TheBlaze’s “Final Thoughts With Tomi Lahren” took that racism to a new level in a video titled “God Bless San Bernardino” (there’s no way to embed it here, so click the link).

In a display of breathtaking ignorance, Lahren begins her video with a litany of evidence she considers damning: Stockpiled weapons, explosives, trips to the Middle East, connections to radical clerics. Is it completely circumstantial and really proves nothing? Sure it is, but why bother with trivialities like that? We’ve got to “protect” ourselves. Who cares if some people’s rights get trampled in the process? As long as they’re not hers, of course.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Lahren’s list is that, with the exception of “Middle East travel”, it could apply to more than a few Christians; including Robert Lewis Dear, the Planned Parenthood shooter. Of course, Lahren makes no mention of that in any of her videos. The silence of right-wing media types on this subject is telling. It’s the kind of inconvenient and uncomfortable truth they are masters at ignoring.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset that people are saying that it looks like Farooq and his wife are terrorists; the more we learn about these two, the more that appears to be true. What upsets me is that people have no problem calling them terrorists before all the facts are in, but refuse to acknowledge the same for Dear, even after evidence pointing to that fact is available. I wonder why that might be?

About a minute into her rant, Lahren says, “Folks, if radical Christians start taking over entire countries and radicalizing others on Twitter and YouTube, I will be the first to say something. But, guess what? That’s not happening!” That may be the most unintentionally ironic statement I’ve ever heard. I mean, did a seemingly intelligent adult seriously say, out loud, that Christians aren’t radicalizing people on social media?!? What, are the Planned Parenthood videos, and the attacks on the LGBTQ community and people in poverty figments of my imagination? Hmm, maybe it’s not “radicalization” if it reinforces what you already believe.

Lahren’s cluelessness continues as she hews to the party line about guns, saying that terrorists avoid places like Texas and South Dakota because those places have guns and “Syed Farooq would probably be on the floor with a cap in his butt before he could murder 14 people.” Unfortunately, for Lahren and her Rambo-fantasizing friends, there is ample evidence to show that, most likely, this wouldn’t be the case. Perhaps the most damning is a report from ABC’s 20/20 about this very thing. They ran multiple scenarios which included civilians with varying degrees of experience with firearms (complete novice to gun enthusiast with 100’s of hours at the range). They gave them more training than most states require for a concealed carry permit, armed them with a training weapon and put them in active shooter situations. Not a single one was able to stop the gunman before being hit themselves. In fact, the majority never even got their weapon out and fired; the novice was the only one who did, and she was hit in the head before getting her shot off. So much for that idea.

Ending her “commentary” in a final blaze of ignorance glory, Lahren tells her viewers that “We can’t walk around paranoid, we can’t stay in our homes scared of the next radical”. That’s interesting condsidering that she spent 2 minutes attempting to scare the shit out of people. But, that’s really the raison d’etre of TheBlaze. Well, that and pissing people off. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty good recipe for…, what was that term she used a little earlier? Oh yeah, “radicalization”.

The Battle Of The Cup

Red cup returns ! #starbucks #holiday #ueno

Apparently, this is what a “war on Christmas” looks like.

I had originally planned to start this piece by telling you that the conservative’s “War on Christmas” has started early this year, thanks to Starbucks’ new minimalist holiday cup design. Unless you live under a rock, however, you already know that because “The Battle Of The Cup” is all but inescapable. If, however, you don’t know what I’m talking about, here it is in a nutshell: the 2015 Starbucks holiday cup is red and unadorned with any Christmas-ey decorations. For some reason, that has sent conservative Christians into a frenzy and declare that Starbucks did so “because they hate Jesus.” I don’t know who started this shit, but Starbucks needs to track them down and thank them because you just can’t buy this kind of publicity.

This brouhaha started over the weekend and, by now, it has been written/discussed/dissected by people much smarter than I and all the decent, intelligent comments about this situation have already been made  so there’s no point in my going there. But, that’s okay because it allows me to play to my strengths: ridicule and sarcasm. And, I have to say, if ever a situation called for ridicule and sarcasm, it’s this one.

Think about it for a minute: Some Christians, members of the dominant culture in this country (78.4% of Americans identify as Christian, a decline from previous studies), are upset because a business decides not to cater to their whim and declare that it’s part of some liberal, PC “War on Christmas”. I swear, some days, this shit writes itself.

Now, most of this freak out is part of the the aforementioned “War on Christmas”, which is really a fabrication perpetrated by a certain television news network to keep conservatives whipped up about bullshit so they don’t realize how badly they’ve been used by the Republican Party. But, that whole “decline in the number of people who identify as Christian” plays a role, too. If only because, without it, said news network wouldn’t have any fear to play on and what would they do then?

Seriously though, have things gotten so bad for Christians that we can no longer afford to share the month of December with folks who believe a little differently? I mean, we’ve only been sharing this month for, well, as long as there’s been this thing called Christmas. In the next month and a half, there are at least 8 non-Christian holidays being celebrated. Granted, the majority of them are either Muslim or Pagan, which don’t really count as far as the folks who have their knickers in a twist over all this are concerned. But, at least one of those holidays is Jewish and I thought we liked Jews. Or, do we only like Jews when we’re separated by an ocean?

But, all the reasons aside, I really don’t get what all the shouting’s about. I mean, it’s not like previous Starbucks holiday cups were an integral part of “putting the Christ back in Christmas”. In years past, the cups have featured snowmen, snowflakes, Christmas ornaments, and other secular symbols of the season. No nativity scenes, no stars, no Madonna’s (Jesus’ mom, not the singer). So, what’s the big deal about a plain red cup? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that most of these people were singing some piece of crap song about red cups? Maybe if they’d put a little of the stuff from their red solo cup into the Starbucks cup, they wouldn’t be so pissed off.

Look, there are plenty of things in this country that are a war on the very spirit of Christmas: violence, poverty, hunger, racism, homelessness, etc. Why is it that those things are bearable, but a fucking paper cup that doesn’t have Christmas crap plastered all over it means secular forces have declared war on the season? A more cynical person would probably say it’s because getting mad at Starbucks doesn’t require people to do actually do anything other than be outraged, while addressing those other things might mean giving up some of our stuff or interacting with “those people”. But, I’m not saying that. I’m not saying that at all.

It’s Not That Easy

lighting candlesI had every intention of writing a humorous post about all the ridiculous shit that happened last week; things like Mike Huckabee getting bent out of shape over rainbow-colored Doritos, people losing their minds at finding out Pope Francis met with Kim Davis, the blood moon/rapture lunacy, etc. Then, Thursday happened and all that went out the window. As much as I would love to, I just can’t be my usual smart-ass self and ignore what happened in Oregon last week. After 54 years on this planet (23 of them spent dealing with the awful shit people inflict on each other), I’m always a little surprised when I turn out not to be a calloused asshole.

We all know what happened last Thursday, so I’m not going to rehash it. I’m also not going to mention the name of the person who perpetrated this heinous act; he was seeking attention and if he gets it, like his predecessors who inspired him, he will in turn inspire others. Granted, me not doing so on my piddly little blog isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to what’s going on in the media. But, at least I’ll be able to go to sleep tonight, secure in the knowledge that I didn’t add to the cacophony.

What I am going to write about here is the clamor in the aftermath of America’s latest mass shooting event. On one side are the liberals/progressives who are of the opinion that the only way to stop mass shootings is more gun control. On the other are the conservatives who believe just the opposite, that the only remedy for the situation is more guns. Let me take a moment here to say that if these two diametrically opposed choices are all you have to offer, then please shut…the…fuck…up.

I am sick to death of people who don’t seem to have a god-damned clue as to how things work in the real world filling the internet with their preferred method for fixing what is obviously a very broken system. Especially when that fix doesn’t require them to make any kind of fucking change of their own. I hate to break it to you, but screaming for Australian style gun legislation on Facebook when you don’t own any guns doesn’t move the conversation forward, it just makes the other side dig in deeper. And, quoting uber-douche Wayne LaPierre about what stops bad people with guns when you have a safe full of weapons is no different; it just gives your opponents a reason to dismiss you as whack job gun nut. There are a lot of things at play here and focusing solely on guns (from either direction) is just fucking stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a lost cause. It’s obvious our society is broken, especially when it comes to violence, and we need to find a way to repair it. Doing that is going to require a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of sacrifice on everyone’s part. Pro-gun people are going to have to accept some new, tougher gun laws. And, anti-gun people will have to deal with the fact that there will always be guns in America. Before we can get to that point, however, we’re going to have deal with that fact that there is no easy fix to this mess. It’s an issue that is fraught with nuance and fixing it is going to be a long, hard process filled with lots of soul-searching; something at which Americans do not excel. That has to change if we want this country to actually be the great nation we claim it is. Or, we can keep arguing over bullshit (and murdering innocent people while we do). Your choice, America.

The Cost Of Empire

star_wars_trading_card_propaganda_poster_01The concept of humanity’s brokenness is a topic of conversation that comes up within Christianity from time to time. And, while the brokenness of people may be open to argument, the brokenness of this world isn’t.  Perhaps the most glaring piece of evidence of that brokenness is violence. We spend a lot of time on what violence does to its victims, but not nearly enough on what it does to those who perpetrate it on our behalf.

Working as police officer or serving in the military isn’t an easy way to make a living. These people encounter a level of violence and ugliness that would break most of us. And, they do so for pay that is mediocre at best. Not only that, you don’t get weekends off and you’re not your own boss. And that’s on top of the fact that it crushes your soul so gradually that you even don’t realize what’s happening until you find yourself wearing a suit of white stormtrooper armor and serving as Darth Vader’s bodyguard.  The benefits, however,  are pretty sweet, so it’s not all bad.

Well, those benefits are sweet as long as they need you. Once you’ve served your purpose, though, you’re pretty much fucked. Ask that man on the corner holding a sign that says “Veteran and homeless. Please help”; he knows what I’m talking about. Or maybe you could chat up the police officer who has spent their career doing their master’s bidding, keeping the masses under control, only to end up in jail when the Empire needs to sacrifice someone to keep those masses from rising up. Sounds like terrible job, doesn’t it? Well, it is. But, it’s the only work some folks can get.

Will Campbell once said “It is doubtful that there has ever been a nation established for bad reasons” and I think you can apply that idea to people, too. While a few bad apples may slip through the hiring process, I doubt that most police officers go into the job with the intent of killing a black man. Or, that the majority of people who  join the military plan on committing atrocities. No, they take these jobs because they offer a way out of a shitty situation. In a military recruiter’s pitch, they’ll point out that, whatever branch of service you choose, they’ll help you attain a usable skill, feed you, house you and even pay for college. If you’re a young person from a working class family who lives in an economically depressed area, the military looks like a pretty good deal. The same goes for a young person with a family to feed. A job as police officer comes with decent pay, insurance, vacation and sick time and, most importantly, job security.

Studies show that economic mobility is inextricably tied to education. But, the Empire has made education so expensive that working class people can’t pursue it without crushing debt. Right now, my daughter (who went to one of the more economical state-sponsored schools in North Carolina) is carrying about $50,000 in debt. And, that’s nothing compared to loans incurred by someone who went to a private or out-of-state school. The Empire takes advantage of this shitty system they’ve set up by offering “assistance” to people who will serve it. And, the price? Only your soul.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to offer absolution to the bad actors of this world; I’m looking some grace offered up to people whose decisions led them places they never expected to be.  Some of us pay the cost of empire with our lives, some with our freedom and some with our souls. But, one way or another, we all pay.

Violence and The Radical Welcome Of The Church

There is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill that goes, “The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative.” While it can’t be verified that he actually said that, it is a pretty good summation of how Americans handle difficult issues. Or, it used to be. These days we seem to be incapable of doing the doing the right thing even after we exhaust every other alternative; Congress’ inaction after the Newtown shooting shows that, if nothing else. Once again, we are confronted with the opportunity to do the right thing in the wake of a horrendous action. Will this be the time we finally do that “right thing” or will this be a repeat of Newtown and we won’t do jackshit?

For the time being, I’m not going to talk about racism, gun control or mental illness, partly because I don’t have enough information to do so intelligently (in other words, the opposite of what our illustirous news media is doing) and partly because I don’t have the fucking words. There are a lot of things flying around in my head right now and I need some time to pull these thoughts together into some coherent whole before I write about them. That probably means I’ll miss the blogging boat yet again, but so be it. I’d rather be a day late than sound like an asshole.

That said, in the wake of Wednesday’s night shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, I read two articles that discussed individual safety in the church. One, from Media Matters, was a clip from Fox and Friends in which many, many stupid things were said. As I told you in the previous paragraph, I’m not going to talk about that bullshit because I’m just not in a place where I can do so with any integrity and responsibility. But, there was one idea put forth that I am going to address: a pastor they were interviewing said that men in the church should arm themselves to protect the women and children. Yes, beloved, you read that right: followers of a man called the Prince of Peace and who preached turning the other cheek should be prepared to do violence in a place dedicated to his worship. That is quite possibly the most fucked up idea I’ve heard in a long, long time.

The second was a blog post from author/editor/speaker/musician and spoken word artist Christian Piatt about reconciling the safety of congregations and the radical welcome of the church. It is one of the more thoughtful pieces I’ve read about this tragedy and I am thankful for Christian’s words. As I read, I began to wonder if individual safety is in the cards for Christians. Think about it for a minute: members of the early church were persecuted for merely practicing their faith and I can’t remember Jesus ever saying that we would, or even should, be safe while following him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t take steps to make churches safe spaces, but after perusing these two very divergent articles, I have to ask if packing heat in church really the way to go?

There are a lot of things we could do, or should do. And, there are things we shouldn’t do (unfortunately, these aren’t things we couldn’t do). But, which of these is the “right” thing? I don’t really know right now. But, whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t involve violence or counter the radical welcome that Christ called his church to extend.