Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Squad

I provided the lunchtime entertainment at the large corporate headquarters today. I "awoke" (not really the correct word, since I wasn't asleep, and wasn't passed out) to find myself in the atrium, surrounded by EMTs, nurses, a couple security guards, and a few dozen gawkers and onlookers. I have no memory of how I got there or what might have happened. And THAT's an interesting phenomenon, too. I don't particularly recommend it.

Apparently, I was with it enough to communicate that I was a diabetic. They checked my blood sugar, found that it was 31 (translation: next to dead), put in an IV and pumped me full of glucose. Within a few minutes, my blood sugar had spiked in the other direction, but at least I wasn't going to die of hypoglycemia.

Now I'm home, and grateful to be home. This is fairly scary stuff, especially since I have no memory of the half hour before I woke up with a big needle in my arm. Ironically, I DO sort of know why it happened. I'm trying to lose weight. So I ate a very light breakfast, didn't eat a morning snack, and was headed back to my office to eat a regular lunch when all this happened. Moral: you can't take a normal dose of insulin and then semi-starve yourself. I need to make some lifestyle changes, but it's quite obvious that I need to make those changes under the careful supervision of my doctor.

Lesson learned, and thankful to be typing.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Prayers for People of Good Will

My wife routinely has to talk me down from the ledge.

"Pray for people of good will," she tells me. "Pray for people who believe in the image of God as manifested in human beings, who remember kindness and generosity, who will uphold the fundamental value of others who are not like you and me. They're out there. Pray that they act. And pray that they keep acting."

So I try to do that. In the face of despair, in the face of fear, in the face of cynical revulsion, I try to pray. My prayers are halting. My prayers are filled with unbelief. So I pray using a strange but nevertheless long-standing and biblical model: "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."

The latest ICE roundup, where agents of the U.S. government lasso brown-skinned mothers and toddlers and separate them from one another and ship them off to brutal, inhumane concentration camps, has been postponed. For two weeks. Miraculously, and perhaps in some inscrutable ways connected to prayer, it has been postponed.

Here is what is not inscrutable. It's clear as can be. The roundup was postponed because people of good will refused to cooperate with the request. Those people, including the mayors of San Francisco, New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Denver, Houston and Los Angeles, instructed their police and city officials to actively hinder the work of the deportation agents. Big Brother with the orange hair said "Jump." And they said "No."

I am grateful for this. From a Christian theological standpoint, people will tell me that this contradicts Romans 13, where Christians are instructed to obey the governing authorities. From a Christian theological standpoint, I will tell those same people that it is never inappropriate to love and care for the least of these, and sometimes that means doing the right thing instead of the legal thing. There are countless examples throughout history.

The two-week reprieve doesn't really change the (im)moral landscape. Those brutal, inhumane concentration camps still exist. Parents and children are still separated from one another, living in the most squalid conditions, unable to bathe or brush their teeth. And Big Brother says this is just a temporary reprieve, and that in two weeks we'll do it all over again.

So I try to remember my wife's words. "Pray that they act. And pray that they keep acting."

That's what my prayer life looks like these days. Yours?




Thursday, June 20, 2019

Everything We Can't Get Back

This. All of this.

I encounter puzzled Christians with some degree of regularity. They are puzzled because of my reaction to contemporary Christianity in America. Some, I'm sure, believe that I've lost certain necessary Christian distinctive beliefs and teachings. One of the most common reactions to Christians like me (and yes, I'm still a Christian; in the words of a biblical figure that people used to read about in the Bible, where else would I go?) is to affirm that an "anything goes" attitude characterizes my own beliefs. I, on the other hand, tend to believe that many people who call themselves Christians don't take the distinctive beliefs and teachings that ought to come with the territory nearly seriously enough. Things that used to matter don't matter. En masse. To the tune of 81% of white evangelicals and a whole bunch of other people from other American Christian traditions.

That means, of course, that there's a minority of Christians out there who have NOT lost those distinctive beliefs and teachings. What are they? We could start with Jesus and what he taught. We could start with the Ten Commandments, which used to be considered a sort of baseline standard of common morality. And yes, there are Christians, and Christian Churches, that still believe those things. But there are fewer of them than I was led to believe. Far fewer.

John Pavolivitz gets to the heart of the heartsickness here. I don't think it's going to get better for a long, long time. Certainly not in my lifetime. I think most of the Christian Church in America is hopelessly lost, and yes, that includes both Protestant and Catholic branches. And that saddens me and disorients me. It's like falling into a deep abyss instead of standing firm on what you thought was a solid foundation for how to live a life.

When I became a Christian in college, I was drawn to communal living. For an example of what that looked like, I refer you to the second and the fourth chapters of the biblical book of Acts. Here are a couple of wild statements: "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything that they had." Damn socialism. It's everywhere, and sometimes where you least expect it. When I graduated, I promptly moved into a Christian community in the hood. Our naive mission was to care for and love the poor. That's what I signed up for. That's what I thought the Christian Church in America might be, just might be, about. I read books called "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger," which argued that Christians should live with less so that the hungry might have more. I read "Let Justice Roll Down" by an old, wise black dude named John Perkins, who argued that true racial reconciliation was possible only in the radical construct of the Christian Church, with Christians living like Jesus.

I loved that vision. I still love that vision. I signed up for it. Compare and contrast to 2019. Please have pity on me. I've never quite figured out that American Christianity is apparently supposed to mean exactly the opposite of those values.

I know and love Christians. But I do not love them en masse, because en masse they have lost the plot. I don't trust the Christian Church in America. I don't believe the Christian Church in America. You probably have no idea how that grieves me, but it does. John Pavlovitz does a good job of explaining the grief. If you'd actually like to understand, I recommend that you read his essay.

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2019/06/20/everything-we-cant-get-back/

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Good Samaritans and Jail Cells

The headline is "Is it Christian or Illegal to Aid Migrants?" The reality, which is becoming increasingly clear, is that it is both Christian AND illegal.

On one hand, there is nothing new here. Christianity has a long and noble history of people of faith defying the ruling authorities (perhaps they never read Romans 13) in order to uphold a higher law and a higher authority. There have been times throughout history when the notions of higher law and higher authority were, in fact, the backbone, the uncontested truth, of the Christian faith. You might want to examine the lives and testimony of the apostle Peter, Thomas More, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther King, for example.

That was, of course, before 2016; sometimes many years before that, but perhaps we can realistically point to 2016 as the watershed year in which many American people who called themselves Christians, and certainly the vast majority of white evangelical Christians, managed to convince themselves that following Jesus meant doing precisely the opposite of what Jesus taught them to do.

There aren't many places in the New Testament where Jesus unequivocally contrasts the behaviors and attitudes of those who follow him and enter the Kingdom of God vs. those who do not follow him ("I never knew you," he tells them) and who do not enter the Kingdom of God. When he does - and he does in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew - he puts it in terms of feeding people who are hungry, giving drink to those who are thirsty, welcoming strangers (ironically, the same Greek word that can also be translated as "immigrants" and "aliens"), clothing the naked.

You know what happens when you try that these days? They arrest you.

81% of white evangelicals who call themselves Christians voted for these policies. Rorschach Jesus. You can see whatever you want to see and hear whatever you want to hear. Except, apparently, what he clearly taught.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/06/16/scott-warren-tucson-trial-deepens-religious-freedom-divides-column/1435497001/

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fathers

I had a father. I am a father. Everybody I know can claim one of those, and most of the men I know can claim both. And if you live for a while, those statements get complicated.

If you're like me, one of the reasons they get complicated is you. I don't think I've been a bad father. But there are times - days, weeks, months, years - when I've been a selfish father, too caught up in the Kingdom of Me to be of much worth to anyone. There are a thousand reasons and a thousand excuses. The burdens you bear simply by being born to the one you call "father" are not insignificant, either. We all carry the weight of inherited sorrow, incompetence, inadequacy, general fuckedupedness. And we are all carriers. We tend to pass it on.

Here is what is not complicated to me: I am so fortunate to be a father. To be married to the same woman for 37 years, the woman who helped me to become a father, is the best thing that ever happened to me. To see my daughters, now grown women, grow and blossom into the people they are intended to be is a source of incredible joy, two words that dour depressive types like me don't toss around lightly. In Christian terms, I am incredibly blessed.

Yesterday, roughly 500,000 people participated in the Pride parade in Columbus, Ohio. Not all of them were members of the LGBTQ community. I know people, some of them fathers, who have disowned their children because of their sexual orientation. It's not true of all or even most Christians I know who are living those realities. But it's true of some of them. My heart breaks for those children. My heart breaks for those fathers.

The best gift my wife and daughters and now my sons-in-law have ever given me is ongoing. They help me break out of the Kingdom of Me, to see the world through their eyes, to care with their hearts. I am so thankful for that. Everybody has a father. Not everyone is a father. But if you are a father, let me encourage you to be a father. Live who you are. Don't deny that part of your reality. You are complicated. Your children are complicated. They are also precious gifts. Please don't mess this up.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Yard Sale

We are having a yard sale today. It does not look like the one pictured, which looks like something out of Yard Sale Central Casting. Ours looks both more gritty and urban, with homeless guys dropping by and asking, "Can I have that can opener?" (Answer: "Yes") and more suburban, with bros driving by in a Lexus and asking, "Will you take $20 for that bed?" (Thought process: That's solid oak, cost about a grand when new, and you're driving a Lexus; actual words used: "No").

You hear people's life stories during yard sales, which is always a surprising thing to me. Complete strangers tell you about their health and job woes, the nice lawns that were attached to the homes they used to own, but which they no longer own, which explains why they're not interested in buying your weed whacker or leaf shredder, and where their grown-up kids are living now. I like that part of yard sales. Really, I do. I hate haggling over prices, which are ridiculously low to begin with, asshole, so don't ask me to knock off 50% from what is already a steal. I find it all an incredibly stressful way to make a hundred bucks or so.

Kate wants to do it again in the fall. She's on her own, but I may step out if people are sharing their life stories.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Going for the Juggler, and Other Worrying American Trends


I’m paid to write words. I’m thankful for that, and I don’t take it for granted. I’m also aware that I can use words incorrectly at times, and that my (more or less) correct use of words doesn’t preclude wrong thinking stated reasonably well.

But for the love of God, I’m worried. As arrogant as it might sound, I’m worried that people who can’t express themselves very well, which in my mind still means that their thinking might be unformed, illogical, and/or muddled, are in positions of power, making decisions that affect you and me. Every. Damn. Day. Pardon the swearing and the incomplete sentences.

Our president, for example, who is the best at everything, tweeted today about the Prince of Whales. He was referring to a man named Charles, but my mind conjured visions of Shamu. It really bothers me that he doesn’t know the difference between Wales and Whales. And yes, anybody can make a mistake. But these things happen … are you ready? Every. Damn. Day. There I go again.

One Mat Staver, who is founder and chairman of an organization called The Liberty Council, an evangelical non-profit that opposes gay rights, stated last week that he was adamantly opposed to a U.S. Senate bill that explicitly made lynching a federal crime. He was opposed because the anti-lynching bill specifically called out sexual orientation in addition to race, religion, national origin, gender, and disability. 

"This is a way to slip it in under a so-called anti-lynching bill," Staver noted, "and to then to sort of circle the wagon and then go for the juggler at some time in the future."

Words, words, words. Hamlet said that. You recall Hamlet? You can get that wonderful egg and pork dish down at Waffle House. And I will tell you that I’m a little concerned when people who want to exercise power, particularly over people who are not like them, start throwing terms around like “go for the juggler.” It’s just how my mind works, but it makes me think that they might not be the best people to make these kinds of decisions, or to even have any say about making such a decision. Words like “Liberty” (as in The Liberty Council) concern me in this context as well, because the last time I checked “liberty” doesn’t typically include the notion of taking away rights from other people, including the right not to be strung up with a noose and hung from a tree. It’s all very confusing.

It’s probably just prideful, wrong thinking on my part. Pardon me. You’ll have to do your own interpretationing on weather that’s rite.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Big Easy

There's an amazing, funky old amusement park outside of Pittsburgh called Kennywood. It's probably a tenth of the size of the various mouse-affiliated parks. The rides are rusting and rickety. They are not particularly big or tall or fast. But there's a ride there that makes me smile just thinking about it. It's a rollercoaster, and an old wooden one at that, but there's no big hill. It creeps along out of the chute, and you wonder if the old contraption is going to hold together one last time. Then it drops over the side of a cliff. It plunges down toward the Monongahela River, and the first time I encountered that I was scared out of my wits. The second time I smiled. And I haven't stopped smiling since.

Las Vegas is Disneyland; big, shiny, ostentatious. New Orleans is Kennywood; dark, old, ridiculously rickety and funky. I went to the former in January to see Van Morrison, and although I was quite happy to see Van, I was done with the Strip in about four minutes. I couldn't wait to get out of town and hike in the desert. I just booked a trip to New Orleans today. And I bought tickets to see a concert in the place shown above. It's in Treme, Back o' Town, the kind of place where you don't want to hang out after the sun goes down. I will, of course, be there after the sun goes down. The place wouldn't cut it on the Vegas Strip. But I'm willing to bet on which one will provide the more satisfying musical experience. I love New Orleans, in all of its dirtiness and messiness and earthy, soulful reality.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Labels and How to Use Them


Here’s a curious one: “Christian.”

It’s always been notoriously slippery; prone to dispute and contention. Within a few decades of the death and resurrection of Jesus, one bunch was insisting on a close doctrinal and lifestyle relationship with Judaism, while another bunch was insisting on a radical reinvention. The first few centuries of the history of the Christian Church were characterized by doctrinal disagreement, and some seven Church Councils attempted to nail down definitive statements about the nature and substance of God the Father, God the Son (AKA Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit, and their relationship together, complete with mutual anathemas and excommunications, depending on which side one happened to land. Before the official Reformation, courtesy of Martin Luther, the eastern and western Christian Churches headed in very different directions, with very different emphases. Luther’s revolution in the Western Church, in turn, led to several Protestant splits, with at one time Lutherans pitched against Catholics and Reformed (as the Swiss defined it) Presbyterians, with all of them opposed to the poor, peace-loving Anabaptists, of whom Menno Simons (founder of the Mennonites) was a representative scapegoat. We haven’t even made it to the Russian communists or the (Im)Moral Majority/Minority or the televangelists at this point.

So it’s a mess. It’s always been a mess. The word “Christian,” since roughly Day 1, has always been in great dispute.

Currently, the Evangelicals are splitting from the other Evangelicals, and that’s a mess, too. But this is what happens when two groups are using the same label but they mean diametrically different and opposed things. Something has to give. I’m seeing this from a skewed perspective, one made up of people who at one time would have identified themselves as Evangelicals, but who never, ever meant that in the way that the term is now defined in the halls and the (k)naves of power. The people I know have given up the offending and offensive label. “You can have it,” they’ve basically told their MAGA-loving brethren. “But we get to keep Jesus.” This is either arrogance or spiritual clarity and discernment, your pick. Sometimes they don’t call themselves anything at all. Many of them have stopped going to church, but still claim to pray and desire to follow Jesus. Others, continuing more or less as before, continue to hang out and pray and worship together, but call themselves “Jesus Followers.” The concept of “church” is a little iffy for these folks, too, mainly because of how that label has been hijacked as well, but for all intents and purposes these folks still function as a church.

I don’t know how this is going to work out. Some days I find some hope in the notion that Boomers like me, of whom I hope I am a non-representative sample, will be dead in 20 years, and that the kid Jesus Followers, who have overwhelmingly rejected the halls and the (k)naves of power, will be left to carry on for, one hopes, Jesus. The Church – the real one, whether people want to identify with it or not – has faced all manner of shit before and carried on. I suspect it will do so again. If or when that happens, the kid Jesus Followers will need to come up with a label for themselves. Here’s one I like: “Christian.” Take it back and use it well.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Pro-Choice

It's not what you think.

Michael Gerson writes, "In their day of prayer, Graham and other Trump evangelicals have used a sacred spiritual practice for profane purposes. They have subordinated religion to politics. They have elevated Trump as a symbol of divine purposes. And they are using Christian theology as a cover for their partisanship.

So: This is blasphemy, in service to ideology, leading to idolatry, justified by heresy. All in a Sunday's work."

Gerson is not some wild-eyed radical. He is an evangelical Christian, at least as that term was understood before, oh, 2015 or so. He was the head speechwriter during the George W. Bush administration. He is a staunch Republican; again, as that term was understood prior to 2015. And he is a graduate of Wheaton College, whose most famous alumnus is, wait for it, Billy Graham.

And he points out the hard choices that evangelicals - the real ones, not the ones who subscribe to fake theology - have to make. In this case, I am pro-choice. In the past two weeks I've had lunch with three friends, all of them former evangelicals, and all of them currently adrift. "I can't do it," one of them told me yesterday. "Maybe some day, when my son is a little older, I'll tentatively dip my toe back into the church waters. But that's a big Maybe. And I certainly can't do it right now. I can't stand the blatant hypocrisy. It's too much."

These are the fruits of the theological capitulation that has taken place in the Evangelical Christian Church in Amerikkka. Be very assured that people are already making choices. They are walking away in vast numbers. And it's because of the unholy alliance that Gerson articulates in this article. People aren't stupid, at least most of them, and they can detect the whiff of blatant hypocrisy in the air, and in the naves and on the altars of the evangelical churches they've left. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/franklin-graham-has-played-his-ultimate-trump-card/2019/06/03/22a50b18-862b-11e9-98c1-e945ae5db8fb_story.html

Second Line

Chills. Second line for Dr. John, New Orleans, June 7, 2019


Friday, June 07, 2019

Dive Bars and Rock 'n Roll

My favorite musical moments happen in dive bars. That's a strange statement coming from a veteran of 12-step groups, but it's true. I've seen concerts in cavernous hockey arenas. I've been to multi-day outdoor festivals, where bands like the Rolling Stones were up on stage somewhere, the size of ants, and I could watch the antics on a jumbotron screen if I chose to do so. I've been penned in the old Cleveland Stadium with 100,000 people, too crushed to move as stoned/drunk/tripping people staggered around and peed on me (true story). You know what? Give me an unknown band just hitting its stride in a little dive bar.

This video sets the scene perfectly. First, it's set in a dive bar in Columbus, Ohio. I know. I've been there. Second, these are dive bar people. They probably catch bands at dive bars 3 or 4 times per month. They love the music, and actually, they're crazy about this band, but they don't want to be too demonstrative about it. A head bob here and there is as effusive as it gets. Third, this band is terrific. They, and a thousand unknown others, are the reason you go to dive bars. Because sometimes stuff like this happens, and you're ten feet away, and you don't need a jumbotron screen, and it's magical every time.


Thursday, June 06, 2019

The Curse

I believe I've sat in the bleacher seats for some 10 - 12 Columbus Clippers baseball games. As far as I can remember, the Clippers have never won. Tuesday evening they were behind 11 - 1 in the 7th inning when we all decided it was time to bail early. It was one of the most pathetic displays of baseball I've ever witnessed. The Toledo Mud Hens, the Clippers' opponent, were bombing home runs off the scoreboard.

And it's gone this way for every Clippers game I've ever attended. It's puzzling because, in general, they're not a bad team. Only when I show up.

We did stick around long enough to witness the Mustard/Ketchup/Onion race. Mustard won, although (s)he cheated, bopping the other racers over the head with what appeared to be a sledgehammer. So that was gratifying. Still, you probably don't want to take me to cheer on your favorite team. 

Monday, June 03, 2019

Retirement Planning


Retirement planning proceeds apace, hopefully still in advance of the pacemaker. We’ll see.

In the most wondrous, astounding news, my wife Kate has agreed to move with me to Arizona. You may recall that previously Kate was adamantly opposed to living in Arizona, although she did promise to visit me occasionally. This was less than ideal, and in turn led me to consider retirement options in Sarasota, Florida (nice and warm, but I’m not really a beach kind of guy) and Asheville, North Carolina (pretty mountains, cool cultural scene but, alas, WAAAAAY too much ice and snow). Now, miraculously, thanks to a late January trip to Las Vegas, which featured hikes through the mountains on a sunny 70-degree late January day, she has reconsidered, relented, and agreed to live with me. In Arizona!

It’s never too early to remind you that my top three retirement destination priorities remain 1) No ice or snow, 2) No ice or snow, and 3) No ice or snow. Ever. To be fair, my preferred retirement destination DID experience a couple inches of snow this winter, but I’m told that it’s a once-in-five-year occurrence, and that it all melted by the afternoon. You can’t have everything. You have to compromise.

My top retirement destination was, is, and always will be Oro Valley, Arizona, just north of Tucson. It really does look like the photo. It’s gorgeous. Warm, nay hot for four or five months per year. That’s a feature, not a bug. Equivalent cost of living to Columbus, Ohio. Surrounded by five mountain ranges. Two national parks (okay, one is called Saguaro National Park West and the other is called Saguaro National Park East) on either side of town. Far away, but that’s why God invented airplanes.

Speaking of bugs, basically everything in Oro Valley, Arizona wants to kill you. Black widow spiders. Scorpions. Tarantulas. Gila monsters. Rattlesnakes. These nasty wild-boar-like creatures called javelinas that like to hang out in back yards and poolside and charge you with their bristly tusks. It’s all true. Nevertheless, about a million or so people live in the Tucson area, and the great majority of them appear to survive from year to year. I’m willing to take my chances.

This could happen as early as the end of 2020 or as late as the end of 2022. God willing, of course, and these days I take nothing for granted. Y’all come.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Star Trek: The Original Series - Abe Lincoln vs. Genghis Khan

I have been slowly, slowly (we're now up to a year and a half) working my way through Star Trek: The Original Series in its chronological, episodic order. I'm now, mercifully, almost through Season 3.

I have fond memories of this series, not from my youth, where I missed it entirely (it was on past my bedtime), but from my undergraduate years and countless syndicated re-runs, which my dorm mates and I watched faithfully from 5 - 6 p.m Monday through Friday, right before dinner at Nelson Commons at Ohio University. At the time, and due to my impressionable adolescence and post-adolescence, I was mostly smitten. Plus, there were some beautiful alien and alternative Earth women, most notably Joan Collins and Jill Ireland.

But I have to say, many of these episodes have not aged well. Season 3, in particular, cannot end soon enough. That season, which was plagued by budget cuts and eventual series cancellation, leading to dispirited acting, writing, and non-existent special effects, has more than its share of howlers, including the Space Hippies episode ("Do you play, brother?" asks the alien hippie of the suddenly musical, jamming Mr. Spock), and, my own nomination for ST: TOS nadir, the episode entitled "The Savage Curtain," which finds Abraham Lincoln wrestling with Genghis Khan. I am not making this up.

It certainly went where no man had gone before.


Saturday, June 01, 2019

The Norm

Something I wrote seven years ago:

"Look, I realize that there will never be viral videos of normal people going to work, hanging out with their families, maybe serving in food pantries, supporting orphanages, teaching ESL classes to recent U.S. immigrants, taking care of the homeless. But this is my experience of the Christian life. This is what people I know do. In other words, gay-bashing, hateful pastors in North Carolina are not the norm. Are you listening, mainstream media? No, of course you're not."

It turns out, and oh, how it has turned out, that I was wrong. Gay-bashing, hateful pastors in North Carolina are, in fact, the norm. Trump can and obviously will
 engage in cynical propaganda. But there is nothing in this hopeful and almost grammatically correct tweet (let's ignore the strange capitalization of the word "Nation" and the bizarre use of ellipses at the end, shall we?) that will change the record of his first two-and-a-half years in office. To quote someone named Charlotte Clymer, who I do not know:

"➡️ "Before we even get to the worst stuff, Trump and Pence have gone out of their way to avoid acknowledging Pride Month. For the past two years, the White House has not formally recognized it. This year, for the first time, neither will the State Department. https://t.co/wM5VzSOYQU

➡️ Within hours of Trump's swearing-in, pages on LGBTQ rights and recognition were removed from government websites, including the White House.https://t.co/j8Jozr0ii1

➡️ Trump and Pence have sought to remove questions on sexual orientation from the 2020 census in order to erase LGBTQ people from official counts.https://t.co/iGSVIjbHcU

➡️ Despite being included since 2010, Trump and Pence attempted to have the Commerce Department remove sexual orientation and gender identity from their equal employment policy.https://t.co/Y01SXRgzg2

➡️ Against the expert advice of military leadership, medical authorities, budget analysts, the U.S. House, 70% of Americans, and the armed forces of allied countries, Trump and Pence banned transgender people from the military. https://t.co/UbVcnwA4hv

➡️ Trump and Pence ordered Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education to rescind non-discrimination protections for transgender students, against all expert advice of medical, legal, and policy professionals. https://t.co/twj6OH58cI

➡️ Under guidance of Trump and Pence, DeVos and the Department of Education then said it would reject civil rights complaints of transgender students.https://t.co/UnmV26v6sm

➡️ DeVos has also refused to rule out federal funding for schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students and decline to state she would otherwise intervene should discriminate occur. https://t.co/VFH0KG2xa4

➡️ Trump and Pence have announced a proposal that would gut anti-discrimination protections for transgender patients in health care spaces, essentially permitting harm against trans patients, for no apparent reason. https://t.co/t4cxX3ZsDt

➡️ If that somehow weren't enough, Trump and Pence have proposed a regulation that would directly enable medical professionals to deny ALL forms of care to LGBTQ patients solely based on the provider's personal beliefs. No joke. https://t.co/ji8rGUj2NX

➡️ On top of that, Trump and Pence have established a new office within HHS whose sole purpose would be to defend physicians and other medical professionals who refuse care to LGBTQ patients. This is all real. It's happening. https://t.co/yOFE9Kay3L

➡️ Trump and Pence have granted a federally-funded foster program to discriminate against families who are LGBTQ or whom do not identify as Christian. That includes Jews, Muslims, any other family not identifying as Christian. https://t.co/7nWEuRYiCU

➡️ In the fall, it was revealed that Trump and Pence are literally attempting to circulate a federal government-wide regulation that would essentially erase trans people from all existing protections and acknowledgment. Entirely. https://t.co/0fPgiVEjlz

➡️ Going into a dystopian space of parody, Trump and Pence ordered the Centers for Disease Control to stop using the word "transgender" in official reports in an effort to erase data dissemination on trans people:https://t.co/lOCa54lmCc

➡️ Trump and Pence have proposed a rule that would eliminate data collection on LGBTQ foster youth and parents, erasing all official knowledge of the needs of LGBTQ children in these spaces.https://t.co/fjs0eIVDal

➡️ Trump and Pence have specifically ordered questions on sexual orientation to be removed from surveys of programs that cater to the elderly and disabled, directly striking at older LGBTQ Americans and persons with disabilities.https://t.co/d23798THER

➡️ Trump and Pence have ordered HUD and Ben Carson to remove the words "inclusive" and "free from discrimination" in HUD's official mission statement while scaling back enforcement of non-discrimination regulations. Again, this is happening:https://t.co/htwIiE31pl

➡️ Trump and Pence have also ordered HUD and Ben Carson to permit emergency shelters to deny access to transgender persons who are homeless. There is no need for this, but they've specifically made the order:https://t.co/79J8eyS6JS

➡️ This comes two years after Trump and Pence ordered HUD to cancel a survey on LGBTQ homelessness: https://t.co/d23798THER

➡️ Trump and Pence's Justice Department has literally filed a brief In the U.S. Court Of Appeals that argued federal civil rights laws do not protect LGBTQ people from discrimination -- I am not making this up:https://t.co/NU9c7WhFZE

➡️ Many of the policy proposals of the past two years have been built on this announcement from the Trump and Pence Justice Department specifically permitting individuals to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on personal beliefs: https://t.co/ycZLuc4Tog

➡️ And Trump and Pence's Justice Department, in the midst of all this, still found time to specifically announce that the law does not bar discrimination against transgender people. https://t.co/RJWMIjFvfm

➡️ Trump and Pence have intentionally inserted themselves into defending businesses who openly discriminate against LGBTQ people.https://t.co/a1pYwlNCiE

➡️ Rejecting the evolving policy under Obama *and* Bush that sought to provide safe accommodations for transgender inmates, Trump and Pence are aggressively rolling back all protections for trans people in our prison system:https://t.co/N5WTB8zDCy

➡️ Within nine weeks of taking office, Trump and Pence, by executive order, rolled back non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ federal contractors. https://t.co/SddWupw08e

➡️ Trump and Pence have ordered the State Department to deny visas to same-sex partners of foreign diplomats. https://t.co/zWiQczE22S

➡️ Just two weeks ago, Trump and Pence changed the rules specifically so the child of a same-sex couple born abroad via surrogate would be considered "born out of wedlock" and would not be granted U.S. citizenship. https://t.co/kNpw27ci2l

➡️ Trump and Pence, over LGBTQ and other issues, removed the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council. https://t.co/P6YYThvGkz

➡️ Trump and Pence then used this as an excuse to not sign a statement condemning attacks on LGBTQ people in Chechnya, where atrocities against queer people are horrific and ongoing:https://t.co/FCFXVF6Q0w

➡️ Bizarrely, Trump and Pence ordered the USDA to remove a department policy specifically welcoming LGBTQ children in the 4-H program, which led to the firing of an official who protested:https://t.co/oht2hjCh46

➡️ If all this weren't horrific enough, Trump and Pence, with the assistance of McConnell, have worked overtime to pack the federal courts with judicial nominees who are brazenly anti-LGBTQ.https://t.co/8p5Bev7nBL

➡️ Last year, Trump and Pence's second SCOTUS nominee Kavanaugh refused to answer straightforward questions during his confirmation process about LGBTQ case law, including the ruling legalizing same-sex marriage:https://t.co/d3CKW6UipZ

➡️ Under Trump and Pence, ICE has specifically mistreated LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers, including Roxsana Hernandez, a trans woman of color who died in their custody and whose death has not been given clarity: https://t.co/ADWJHBKbDG

➡️ Amid all of this, there is an epidemic of anti-trans violence, specifically against Black trans women, at least six of whom have been murdered this year, four of them in the past two weeks. Trump and Pence have said nothing: https://t.co/gauLhTm6qf

Folks, what's ridiculous here is that I'm sure there are things I'm missing. There's too much this White House has specifically done against LGBTQ people. They are aggressively going after our community with everything they've got.

So, now you have a decent overview of the myriad ways in which Trump and Pence have systematically attempted to harm and erase LGBTQ people. Everything else is noise and propaganda.

These two hate us. And his bullshit tweet is a poor attempt at sleight-of-hand."


The Evangelical Christian Church has responded to this laundry list of despair with silence. Nada. They got nothin'. And silence and non-responsiveness in the face of grave existential threats IS the norm. I wish it was not, but it is. Pro-life? Not if the already living are anything other than white males. Certainly not if the already living are part of the LGBTQ community.

To my LGBTQ friends and relatives, I am sorry. I stand with you. And I am not going to be silent.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Denise, and Other Cries of the Heart

This album is 20 years old, and it remains one of my favorites. I'm a sucker for catchy power pop; simplistic lyrics and guitars blasting out from tinny speakers, and this song has both in abundance. It verges on being too clever for its own good (rhyming "Texas" and "Lexus"), but it redeems itself with the following lyrics: "Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la." I'm telling you, you should pay attention to any song that includes the words "Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la."

I could listen to this all day, over and over again. Some days I've done exactly that. Twenty years of greatness.


Monday, May 27, 2019

Praying for the President

Some people I know wonder why I have such a difficult time with the Evangelical Christian Church.

Here's a good example of why I struggle. For the record, I pray for the President of the United States. I am commanded to do so, and I do so. I pray for his conversion. I pray that he would become a different person than the one he has consistently and routinely shown himself to be for over seven decades on the planet. I believe this conversion, like any conversion, could very well result in significant changes in attitudes and behaviors. It might very well manifest itself in truth-telling instead of lying. I believe that long-demonstrated behaviors such as bullying and mocking might be transformed into kindness and consideration of others. In terms of character, I believe it might manifest itself in terms of marital faithfulness instead of serial adultery and crass one-night stands with porn stars. It might even transform deep-seated racist and authoritarian beliefs and actions.

I live in hope, so I will be joining Franklin Graham and a bunch of other Evangelicals on Sunday, June 2 in praying for the President. These transformations have happened throughout history. I hope and pray they happen again. This is what I've been praying for the last several years.

Otherwise? I have no idea what religion Franklin Graham is following. It's not Christianity as it has been understood for 2,000 years.

https://www.wbtv.com/2019/05/27/franklin-graham-calls-christians-ask-god-embolden-president-trump-against-foes/

Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Patriot for Humanity

"As for myself, I have written for all, with a profound love for my own country, but without being engrossed by France more than by any other nation. In proportion as I advance in life, I grow more simple, and I become more and more patriotic for humanity."
- Victor Hugo, Preface to the Italian translation of "Les Miserables," 1862

And so we come once again to the most ambivalent of holidays, the one that honors the fallen dead and the one that serves as a USA! USA! hockey chant for the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

God bless the fallen dead. God bless all the fallen dead.

Every year - actually several times each year, on the Sundays closest to Memorial Day, The Fourth of July, and Veterans Day - my church breaks out this old chestnut, still a profound antidote to the strangling miasma of nationalism mixed with the so-called Kingdom of God, which will always be a fatal disease of the soul.

And every year - all three times each year, actually - I am thankful for the witness of the old words, and thankful that God so loved the world. That's John 3:16. You used to find those words on posters at football and hockey games. Not so much anymore.

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is,
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Lifestyles and Other Death Traps


I see this quote shared approvingly all the time. It sounds reasonable, balanced, fair-minded. It is not.

In the state of Ohio, where I live, it is still legal to deny housing to LGBTQ people based on their sexual “orientation.” It is still legal to deny employment to LGBTQ people based on their sexual “orientation.” Five black trans women have been murdered in the first four+ months of 2019, two of them after being violently assaulted previously in 2019. LGBTQ individuals are 4.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. More than 1 in 4 gay teens are thrown out of their homes. LGBTQ homeless youths are seven times more likely than their heterosexual peers to be victims of a crime. Eight out of ten HIV diagnoses were among gay and bisexual men in 2018, and between 2000 and 2015 there was a 25% decrease in the number of schools required to provide instruction on HIV prevention.

Can we stop calling this a “lifestyle,” as if it’s something the LGBTQ community opts for like vegetarianism or downtown apartment living? No one in his or her right mind would opt for such a “lifestyle.” It can and will get you killed in Amerikkka.

Our culture, with the evangelical Christian culture leading the way, has accepted the huge lie that standing against these “lifestyle choices” is somehow a righteous response. It is not. It leads to people getting killed while pious people sit on their hands and do nothing. This is not a “lifestyle choice” I feel comfortable with morally, so I would encourage you to at least take baby steps and engage with some LGBTQ people in your life. And they are there. Talk to them. Get to know them. Listen to their stories. And ask yourself if you really, truly agree with Rick Warren. I double dog dare you.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Joshua and Hannah and Their Offspring

I suppose it's theoretically possible that there are people in the world who would identify themselves as "pro-abortion." If they exist, I've never met them, although I know a number of people who have been personally impacted by abortions. And by "impacted" I mean scarred, wounded, emotionally, spiritually, psychically damaged. Men and woman, although, probably not surprisingly, mostly women, because that's how this tends to work in our society. In the wondrous words of John Prine:

From a teenaged lover to an unwed mother
Kept undercover like some bad dream
While unwed fathers, they can't be bothered
They run like water through a mountain stream

Because of who I am, and because of my background, it shouldn't surprise you that these women are Christians, fully indoctrinated in the True Love Waits and purity ring sub-culture of evangelical Christianity. Except, of course, when the time was ripe true love didn't wait because that's a difficult deal. By that point little Joshua or Hannah were a-forming, and big Joshua and Hannah, all of 17 or 18 years old, were freaking out and did the only thing they knew how to do, and which they regret to this day. Some of them still show up in the same evangelical churches, where they are taught that people who have abortions are baby killers. Praise God.

The article linked below lays out a fairly clear, common-sense alternative. You want to reduce the number of abortions? You're not going to do it by outlawing abortion. But there is a way. It is a way that presumes that human beings - men and women, since that's the pairing that inevitably results in unsupportable pregnancies and abortions - are going to have sex. And there is some percentage of the population that will never accept that fact for various philosophical and theological reasons, even though there are few things in life that are more self-evident. That way involves preventing pregnancy through birth control.

Of course, another alternative is to keep on dreamin' the impossible dream, the one that has been dangled over the heads of conservative Christians for 46 years, It is currently championed by a presidential serial adulterer who was diddling porn stars while his third wife was home nursing the new infant. He runs like water through a mountain stream. Nevertheless, this is the vision that causes conservative Christians to salivate in Pavlovian fashion and press the red button.

Meanwhile, the same bunch would never support a sensible measure that would actually prevent pregnancies in the first place. That would be immoral.

https://www.vox.com/2014/7/7/5877505/colorado-contraceptives-teen-pregnancy-birth-control

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Very Stable Genius Robot

How is it that the rest of the world can clearly see what everyone but the 30% of Americans who comprise The Cult cannot see?

"Ahead of Donald Trump's controversial state visit to the UK next month, protesters are wasting no time in preparing the most imaginative means possible of ridiculing the US president.

"Dumping Trump" is an enormous robot rendering of the president astride a golden lavatory, smartphone in hand, trousers down and with his long red tie dangling into the bowl between his thighs.


The 4.9 metre (16 foot) high machine also has an audio function which reproduces some of Mr. Trump's most famous pronouncements, including "No collusion," "a witch-hunt," "you are fake news," and "I'm a very stable genius."

It also makes fart noises."

- The Guardian, May 15, 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019

Soul Searching


I’m thankful for soul-searching, for attempts to dig deep. So I’ll give some credit to Mark Galli, Editor in Chief of Christianity Today, the best-known evangelical magazine, for giving it the ol’ post-Wheaton try. I would encourage you to read the linked article because it’s a mostly good-faith effort to grapple with the profound issues currently facing the evangelical church, written by someone still living within the confines of the evangelical church.
Here’s Galli’s big revelation: those profound issues stem from the notion that much of the evangelical church, and indeed much of the Christian Church in America as a whole, has forgotten God. Evangelicals have forgotten God. People fleeing the evangelical church have forgotten God. It’s one big exercise in abdication and collective amnesia.
Well, not exactly. In many cases, no.
Let me begin with the usual disclaimers. Not all evangelicals are the same. Not all evangelical churches are the same. My comments here pertain to the evangelical movement as a whole, not to individuals or to outposts along the edges of the frontier. They have to do with majorities, with cultural and ecclesiastical trends, with the heart that is deep within the heart of evangelicalism.
I’m not an evangelical. I’m not a post-evangelical. Been there, done that, for forty years. I’m a Catholic, and the reasons for that are many, but the biggest one is because I recognize that there’s a 2,000-year witness there that is remarkably consistent as it pertains to many societal issues that have been largely abandoned by evangelical Christianity. These issues do not constitute “the Social Gospel.” They constitute the Gospel as it has been understood for two millennia. They are not the domain of social justice warriors. They are the domain of Christians and Christianity, and those who have abandoned those emphases have done so in spite of the consistent witness of the Law, the Prophets, Jesus, the Apostle Paul (to name some biblical touchstones) and the 2,000-year-old Christian Church.
So you’ll have to pardon me if I question the basic assumptions of this article. It’s not that what Mark Galli writes might not be true. I’m sure those arguments are true for some people. But they are not the whole story, and there are big pieces that are entirely missing simply because, when seen through evangelical lenses, they simply are not visible. Nevertheless, they are real.
Here’s what’s missing: Many will leave evangelicalism not because they have forgotten God, but because they remember God. Many will leave because they desire to remain faithful to Jesus. Many will leave because they recall that Jesus said that the distinctive mark of His disciples, the evidence of His reality before a watching world, is love, and because they see precious little of it in the evangelical world, which currently supports policies that seek to actively harm people already born.
I do wish those pieces were a part of the soul-searching process. The process might lead to more accurate conclusions if they were.
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/may-web-only/elusive-presence-1-heart-of-evangelical-crisis.html?fbclid=IwAR2OJTiiYqf4XTWo8U_vTq5msgkudZViO0KGHSFr4PwNye3PEV8IJl_QaAM

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Joe Henry

This is sad and sobering news about one of my favorite human beings.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Joe Henry is the finest songwriter working today, and has been for a long time. He's also a wise, kind and compassionate man. If anyone can create a wondrously creative, heartfelt, and true spin on Stage 4 prostate cancer, it is Joe Henry. But oh, those dues break my heart.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-joe-henry-largo-cancer-20190513-story.html

Friday, May 10, 2019

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men


“Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.”
- Ecclesiasticus 44:1

Incredibly, Bruce Springsteen will be 70 years old in a few months, far past the age when rock-star moves are seemly or appropriate. I’ve been hanging with him (virtually, of course), for 45 of those years, which makes me little more than an old fart. Still, I would have to say that I’m a loyal old fart. I’ve hung with him through some of the greatest music of the past half century, and, occasionally, some of the most banal and derivative, particularly when Springsteen could do little more than offer painful Bruce Springsteen imitations.

But here’s the point where I knew he was destined for greatness. Bruce Springsteen was 23 years old when he wrote this song and the others that appeared on his second album “The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle.” By 1973 he had graduated from the bars on the Jersey Shore to places like Max’s Kansas City in Greenwich Village and My Father’s Place on Long Island, and he fancied himself as the quintessential boho poet. The early comparisons to Bob Dylan were surely no accident.

Still, nobody was really buying his records. It would be a couple more years before rock critic Jon Landau pronounced him the future of rock ‘n roll and Time and Newsweek both featured him on their covers during the same October week in 1975. At that point he would be unstoppable.

But here he is; the genius in full flower in 1973. He’s still a Jersey kid and a transplanted New Yorker at this point, but he wants to get out of Jersey and New York because they’re too small for him. And he’s already saying his farewells. “For me, this boardwalk life is through,” he confesses on one of the tunes, and on this one he sums it all up, the glory and the mess, in a wildly eccentric and eclectic elegy. You want blues, jazz, folk, gospel, a little Wagnerian sturm und drang? You get all that in “New York City Serenade.” Oh, the band is pretty great, too, and although Bruce would swap out a few of these folks before he settled on the classic E Street Band lineup, I’m not sure that he ever had a more sympathetic group of players than he had here.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Princes and Principles

"A prince is nothing in the presence of a principle."
- Victor Hugo, "Les Miserables"

Certain Christian traditions are fond of quoting verses from Romans 13, which begins "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." This is an argument that is frequently used to support whatever shite that happens to be dumped upon one's holy head by the powers that be, particularly when the powers that be represent a party or a political position you support. You don't like it? Tough. Be a good Christian and shut yer mouth.

So I was heartened again by today's first reading in church, which came from Chapter 5 of the Book of Acts. The governing authorities called Peter and the disciples to task for preaching about the risen Christ. "Shut up," they told them. "You're going to get in big trouble if you continue to do this." Peter shrugs his burly fisherman's shoulders and says, "Whatever. Who are you, big boss man? We're going to obey God rather than mere human beings."

One of the things I appreciate about the Catholic Church is that there are regular roll calls of the saints. They're listed by name. And if you listen, and you know their histories, it's readily apparent that a whole passel of them didn't shut their mouths and act like good passive Christian boys and girls. The Church tends to call these folks "martyrs," because that's part of the package, too. If you act that way you can lose your life. Peter and his buddies didn't get away with it either. They were flogged in Acts 5. Most of them, including Peter, ended up being killed by the governing authorities.

The contemporary Christian Church is adept at sniffing out persecution, some of it involving holiday greetings and "pagan" coffee cups. That farce shouldn't detract from the fact that there are places in the world where Christian lives are genuinely threatened. It is to detract from such a circumstance occurring in God's own U.S. of A., where some 72% of the population still claims to be Christian, and where the Christianists currently wield power in outsized ways.

Still, it was good to be reminded of some basic truths. Principles over princes. Every time. I hope I have the courage to live that way.


Saturday, May 04, 2019

Rachel Held Evans

Several years ago the Christianity I had known became unrecognizable to me. At the time, I recalled an old inspirational poster that was hanging on more than a few walls back in the day. It said, "If you feel far from God, guess who moved?" Actually, it wasn't that inspirational. It was designed to inspire guilt. But I wasn't buying it then, and I'm not buying it now. I don't think I moved. I think much of the Christian Church in America moved. Me? I was still hanging out right where I had always been.

One of the people who helped keep me sane during a time of great personal and cultural upheaval was a woman named Rachel Held Evans. I never met her, but I frequently read her words. Rachel was a writer, a Christian, and a former evangelical Christian. Although our post-evangelical worlds took slightly different paths, she showed me that it was possible to hold on to one's mind and one's soul and still retain something that looked a lot like historical Christianity.

There were people who hated her. They called her a Progressive and a Liberal, two terms that were curse words in conservative Christian circles. She was vilified in unbelievably hateful ways by, yep, the Christian Church. Through it all, she wrote with wisdom and humor. I didn't agree with everything she wrote. But I agreed with most of it, and I particularly appreciated that she held out for love and inclusion. There were Christians who continually wanted to twist that and redefine it, but she would have none of it. I wanted to be like her when I grew up, which was more than I could say for the very public face of most of the American Christian Church.

Rachel died today; 37 years old. She leaves behind a grieving husband and a couple of young children. This kind of stuff can lead to crises of faith of a different kind, but no less real. It's awful. So I'm going to grieve with them in my small, diminished way, and be very thankful for a life and a witness. She made a difference to me, and to many others.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Avengers


-->
Kate and I are on vacation next week. This one will be primarily a staycation, punctuated by a day-trip to Cleveland for the Art Museum, and a series of dubious activities that are part of the HoneyDo list.

But we do have these movie tickets. We need to use them. They are for a particular theater chain, one that has 16-screen multiplexes sprinkled throughout the Columbus area. This should not be that hard. But I have surveyed the movies on offer, and honestly, there’s nothing I want to see. Some animated stuff, at least half a dozen superhero films, a few horror films, and a film about a middle-aged cricket player attempting to make a comeback. It is a sad state of affairs when the cricket movie looks like it may be the best of the bunch.

But I have read many positive statements about the latest Avengers movie, “Avengers: To the End of Infinity, and Beyond!”  I don’t know these Avengers at all. I know the Avengers pictured above, and will confess to a lifelong crush on Emma Peel.  The Avengers currently featured appear to be superheroes in tight-fitting outfits. One Avenger is a hulking being with a deeply creased forehead. I’m worried, too. I have no idea who these beings are, but I do know that there have been some Avengers movies that have come before. So my question is this: would a person who knows nothing about the neo-Avengers and the universe they inhabit be able to appreciate “Avengers: To the End of Infinity, and Beyond!”? Would I be totally lost? And does Emma Peel sneak in, at least in a cameo role? Thank you for your advice. It’s either the neo-Avengers or the cricket movie. Help me out here.