Sunday, July 28, 2019


In my addled mind, that's what they look like. And that's basically what I signed up for, way back in the spring of 1975, when me 'n Jesus had a Born Again time.

The guy on the left is, of course, Jimmy Carter, the Evangelical President. The guy on the right is one Larry Norman, former singer/songwriter of the Top 40 hitmakers People (link below), and the self-proclaimed Father of Contemporary Christian Music, which is what happened when Larry 'n Jesus had a Born Again time and he started making rock 'n roll for the Lord, much of it still pretty good.

My addled mind is completely befuddled by what happened in the middle, particularly the years 1980 - 2019. When I graduated from Ohio University in 1977, I moved to the inner-city of Columbus to be a part of a Genuine Jesus Freak Community(TM), a bunch of broken hippies and former hippies who all lived together under the same roofs, married folks and single folks and homeless people and dogs and cats and goats (some good eatin' there) who were united in the modest goal of changing the world for Jesus. Because they were young and idealistic and well-intentioned, they did some good things, including setting up some tutoring programs for the kids in the hood, and cleaning up the alleys and generally loving the neighbors around them, most of whom didn't look like them. Because they were young and somewhat prideful and naive, it didn't really work out, either. A bunch of people, including me, met their spouses and started having kids and moving away to places where they were safer. They moved away for the most logical of reasons. They also moved away because they could.

I look back on those young Evangelicals with great fondness and yes, some bewilderment. Some of them eventually morphed into what is now a 10,000-member megachurch in the suburbs of Columbus, complete with a gigantic church complex and bookstore and coffeehouse and restaurant, and a nifty Community Center that provides childcare to the neighborhood, and legal consultations, and medical and dental care at free or greatly discounted rates, and fixes beat-up cars, and runs athletic leagues for kids who otherwise might have too little to do and too much time on their hands. All of this is praiseworthy. I commend them. That suburban church is home to people from more than 100 nations, and that is not a typo. They strive to be inclusive and welcoming in all the normal Evangelical ways, which, of course, doesn't include significant segments of our society. It is what it is; some good, some bad. Mostly good, with some gaping holes.

Some of them moved on to more established denominational churches. Some of them started churches of their own, which is an Evangelical hallmark. Some of them bagged it and walked away from it all, and now have nothing to do with Christianity or religion in general. All of them grew up, experienced the joy and the messiness and the hurt of life in the Christian Church in America. Some are still there. Some are not.

The pastor of that 10,000-member megachurch, who I used to hang out with during his relative Jesus Freak youth, is retiring soon. I know he remembers Jimmy Carter and Larry Norman. There are vestigial memories of his youth that still make him an anomaly in today's Evangelical world. He sometimes preaches sermons that rile up the congregation because he insists that a core part of the Christian message involves loving and serving the least of these. People don't like that. It doesn't fit in with the Gospel According to Fox News, and more and more that's where people in his congregation are taking their religious cues from. There is a storm a-brewing, one that may hold off until his retirement, but which will surely burst forth once he's gone. There is a struggle underway for the soul of Christian America. I'm not necessarily betting on orthodox or historical Christianity.

Mostly, I miss 1975; the certainty, the assurance that the team was all working toward the same goal. That's all gone now. I'm not even sure what the team is anymore. I miss Larry Norman, too.

Saturday, July 27, 2019


I've lost count of the number of times Donald Trump's words, either spoken or tweeted, would have resulted in immediate dismissal from every workplace in America but one; the White House. You're fired. Do not stop to pack up your desk. Do not bid a fond farewell to others in the cubicle farm. Get out of here. You're a cancer, and we don't want you around.

Day after day, hour after hour, tweet after tweet, he demonstrates his overarching goal; to divide Americans, the people he theoretically serves. He is the President of the United States, and he is incapable of thinking or behaving as anything other than a petulant toddler. I am so saddened for America. We have fallen very, very far.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Tyrant Watch

I’m sure you get tired of the Tyrant Watch posts. I assure you that I get tired of having to write them. But stuff keeps happening that makes it look like a tyrant is in charge. I wish that wasn’t the case.

You can complain about Wednesday’s Mueller hearing all you want. He appeared befuddled. He couldn’t hear questions. His tie clashed with his suit. Whatever. But two messages from the Mueller hearing came through loud and clear. First, the Russians compromised our democracy by directly interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Second, they are interfering again, right now, in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

How did an alarmed Amerikkka respond? On Thursday, the GOP killed two bills designed to make our elections more secure. Nope. Not gonna do anything. 

A bit later in the day, the Little Fuhrer responded on State TV to questions about the Mueller hearing by accusing several people who were critical of him, including Mueller and James Comey, of engaging in "treason," and openly speculated that it might be appropriate to execute them. As in, you know, kill them. Criticize the Little Fuhrer and it's Off With Their Heads. 

This is really happening. In Amerikkka. Believe it.

So I’m sorry to bring this up, really, but it bothers me. It causes me to lose sleep at night. I truly miss my country. I’d like to have it back. And I’m just taking notes. Yes, there will be a quiz at the end.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


The words of my friend Jeffrey Overstreet:

This morning, I heard from a close friend whose heart is breaking because she finds it too painful, too disillusioning, to attend her church anymore. It’s gotten to the point where the language she has shared with them feels meaningless. When those whom you thought of as “the church” embrace a man who has inspired a huge and powerful movement of men and women to rally around slogans that flagrantly contradict the central teachings of Jesus, what does it mean anymore to be part of “the body”? How does one worship in the midst of obvious hypocrisy, or sing praises to a God of love in a chorus with those who will turn around and throw stones at their neighbors minutes later, or who think that God’s love only extends to them?

I think about this every day. And I think about it when I’m at church as well. Sometimes I wonder if it is better not to know. Because no one wears an “I Flagrantly Contradict the Central Teachings of Jesus” (IFCCTOJ) hat in the sanctuary, it is difficult to know who these folks might be. Polls suggest that about 44% of them in my church (down from 70% in evangelical churches) would, in fact, fit the general description. Because they’re not wearing the telltale hats, I pray for them indiscriminately. And I find myself, sometimes in the midst of a particularly long homily, wondering if I would pray for them indiscriminately if they were wearing the hats.

I’m pretty sure I would. I would pray for unity, as Jesus instructed us to do. But that unity would be focused on Jesus, who did, in fact, have some central teachings, and I would pray that the IFCCTOJ bunch would repent and follow Jesus. Take off your hat, take up a cross, love your neighbors; some of whom don’t look like you. That kind of thing. Is there a value judgment implicit in what I’m thinking during those moments during the long homilies? Oh, you bet. There is also a recognition that I’m a sinner, and that I don’t have it together. But yes, you bet, there is also a value judgment. Because, as a Christian, I am also supposed to think, and in the midst of loving my neighbor I am also supposed to be concerned with truth and justice.

This isn’t a case of “Well, it’s always this way: we’re all sinners, and any church is going to be imperfect, so grin and bear it.” This is a severe turn. I feel speechless when my students go out of their way to inform me that, for all my references to Christian faith in the classroom, they want nothing to do with it because they’ve seen just how useless and contradictory Christianity has been in the communities where they grew up. This is happening more and more frequently. “My parents are Christian, but I’m not. I cannot support what the church in this country endorses.” One woman told me that she has never read the Bible, and, in fact, she’s made a promise to herself *not* to read it because she’s horrified at what it turns people into. And I get it. Why would they want to join a church that is embracing, more and more every day, a Nazi playbook?

The IFCCTOJ bunch is destroying the Christian Church in America. That grieves me. I wish that they would follow Jesus instead, and I pray that they do.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Jesus the Music Critic

One in seven, eh? I think Jesus is being generous. But He tends to be that way, which is good.

Lisa reminds me of the time I participated in the reverse purge, throwing away most of my "Christian" music and buying back a bunch of "worldly" music that, to this day, I insist is absolutely great.

This cartoon also raises other issues for me. Why, for instance, is Jesus wearing a suit and tie? Why does he look like Dan Fogelberg? Can He turn water into coffee? What kind of coffee does he drink? Whatever it is, it’s probably Sanka-tified.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The God of Love Had a Really Bad Week

A nice summary of what I've been saying for years.

There are 8,654,219 flavors of Christianity in America,  but there are really only two Christian worldviews in America, and they compete with one another, and they are almost diametrically opposed to one another. The first worldview (which the author calls the God of Love) is about inclusion, common ground, caring for the least of these. It's about bridges, not walls. Critics of the God of Love tend to view the disciples as a bunch of namby-pamby, wishy-washy communist libtards, praise God. The second Master God worldview is focused on rule-keeping, and tends to be punitive and exclusionary. It's about walls, not bridges. Critics of the Master God tend to view the disciples as a bunch of "Send her back" bigots, praise God. Both worldviews share the same Bible, but they are focused on different Gods. You can find echoes of both Gods throughout the Christian scriptures. And here's how it works: figure out how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament, then take a look at Rorschach Jesus and see who you want to see. Can you guess which one is now ascendant in the white American Christian world?

And yes, the God of Love had a really bad week last week. It's not been going well for the past few years, either.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Ways to Move Forward

With apologies and thanks to my friend Josh Hurst, whose words I am appropriating here. Everything below the line is his. Everything above the line is mine, and the views expressed should be attributed to me, not Josh.

To their credit, I HAVE seen a few instances of evangelical pastors and friends repudiating Trump’s hateful, divisive words over the past couple days. And I’m thankful for that. But Josh’s perspective – disbelief, sorrow, betrayal – is very real, and it is very common among the Evangelicals and ex-Evangelicals I encounter. If you’re living in your own little conservative political/theological bubble, you really cannot comprehend the carnage taking place among people who would like to be Christians, who used to consider themselves Christians, but who cannot possibly agree with what they are being asked to support, and who know without a doubt that what they are being asked to support is profoundly out of alignment with God’s will and purpose in the world.

To the rest of the American Christian world that sits back in silence, there IS a way forward, but it involves, as it always does from a Christian perspective, acknowledgement of wrong, and repentance; commitment to doing right. In the face of continued tacit or overt support of blatant racism from some portions of the American Christian church, now might be a good time to move forward. Please do it, I beg of you.

I do not think we will ever have a full accounting of everything we've lost through the marriage of white American evangelicalism and the desperately wicked movement of explicit racism and white nationalism personified by the 45th President.
Last night I watched in horror as he incited violence against a sitting U.S. Congresswoman, inviting real bodily peril on her and her children, and for a moment thought of all the Christian moralists, evangelists, pastor-teachers, and quasi-celebrities who I was raised to admire; men who taught me that character matters and integrity is paramount. I believed it, and still do; it's a shame they didn't. One whiff of real political power was all it took for them to goose-step along with a political agenda that is demonstrably evil; that wishes injury and death upon divine image-bearers; that rejects the teachings of Jesus Christ at every turn.
I am not alone. I hear from others every day who were raised in conservative, white evangelicalism, and who now see all the absolute truths of our childhood going up in smoke. The trauma is real. The betrayal is real. The tears are real. So it was bullshit all along, you say? But I trusted you, and now feel like a fool.
There are not enough Supreme Court seats, not enough chances to embarrass the libtards, not enough courthouses in which to erect the Ten Commandments; there is nothing to justify the erosion of Christian witness and the complete collapse of evangelical moral authority in our country, now left with a paucity of gospel values, all the goodness we espouse smothered under the weight of white nationalism.
It is Antichrist. It is accommodation for sin. It is killing us, just like the Bible said it would.
I think of my own denomination, reformed Presbyterian. We have documented evidence that white nationalists are bred and catechized in our pews, yet still so many of us are fools enough to hem and haw about whether racism and white supremacy are truly "gospel issues"-- as if there's anything that isn't! Still so many of our churches lift up prayers against abortion, as rightly we should, but will never utter a word to protect Congresswoman Omar, nor to call POTUS 45 to repentance.
This is not seriousness about sin. We're letting it devour us. We leave our children with ruins and waste -- a hollow space where authoritative Christian witness used to be. And we leave our Savior still darting from tree to tree, somewhere far from the halls of power-- his invitation the same as ever; but so many of us, I fear, choosing far lesser.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Uncle Mickey

Most of us have one, although his name may or may not be Mickey. But you've seen the guy. He drinks too much beer at the Thanksgiving dinner, or he holds forth, glass in hand, at some niece's or nephew's wedding reception, pontificating about blacks or Jews or Mexicans or Eyetalians, whoever happens to be the minority group du jour, who look nothing like Uncle Mickey. When he starts carrying on about sending them back to where they came from you roll your eyes, and in your finer moments you tell him to be quiet.

You know, and everybody else knows, that Uncle Mickey is an idiot, an embarrassment, someone who cannot and should not be taken seriously. If you weren't related to him you'd build up a fair amount of animosity toward him. But because you are related to him, you lead him off to bed, pat him on the head, and tell him to go to sleep.

Uncle Mickey is now the President of the United States.

It's an incredibly depressing time in America.

Johnny Clegg

RIP to the great Johnny Clegg. To take nothing away from Paul Simon's "Graceland," a great album, Johnny Clegg was the true father of South African rock, hanging out with the Zulu migrant workers of Johannesburg as a teen, loving the music, loving the people he encountered, and putting it all together in ways that Simon later borrowed in the mid-1980s. He was a wondrous musician and a good man, standing against apartheid at a time when such a stance was costly from both a personal and economic standpoint.

It was a cruel, crazy beautiful world when Johnny recorded this song. Sadly, it still is.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Who Is My Neighbor?

It's not exactly shocking that the guy who was fined for refusing to rent to black people and called for a ban on Muslims and called Mexicans rapists and called Puerto Ricans lazy and called for the execution of innocent black teens and equivocated with his "good people on both sides" statement about neo-Nazis might say something racist, as he clearly did yesterday. If only there had been some clear signs to warn us, you know? Still, the bluntness of Trump's "let the brown-skinned uppity women crawl back to the shitholes they came from" Twitter taunt might have been the most brazenly racist statement yet. It's not shocking, nor does his doubling down on the racist rhetoric today strike me as at all out of character. It's who he is, who he has always been. It's just the timing that gets to me.

The timing, in this case, had to do with yesterday's Gospel reading, which was the parable of the Good Samaritan. I heard it again, listened, tried to take it to heart. Who is my neighbor? How do I pass by those in need, excusing my non-action on good, pious, religious grounds? That's what the good, pious priest in the parable did. That's what the good, pious Levite in the parable did. That's precisely what the Samaritan - the hated, despised Samaritan who could check none of the proper religious boxes - did not do. "Which one, do you think, acted like a neighbor?" Jesus asked. Which one indeed.

So I listened to that Gospel reading, thought long and hard about it, and came home to read about Drumpf, the scion of German immigrants, doing his racist thing, which he does incredibly well, better than anybody.

There was plenty of outrage over the blatant racism, as there should have been. Non-religious people were outraged. Mainline Christians were outraged. This is the proper response. You know why? Because racism is a great evil, the antithesis of what Jesus taught. You know who was not outraged? Can you guess?

Maybe they were. I don't know for certain. But they didn't say anything. The most visible public spokespersons didn't say anything. My many Evangelical Christian friends didn't say anything, at least publicly.

Trump's whole schtick is exclusion, division, walls, keeping people out. It's what he bases his life on. If it is proper to speak of Trump's core beliefs, that is what they are.

Who is my neighbor? Who is my neighbor? Who is my neighbor? That's a trinitarian repetition.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Racist Twats and Racist Tweets

Add caption
I know someone who is a racist twat. I haven't seen him in years, but I follow him from a wary distance as he routinely posts photos of Confederate flags, approvingly displays photos of George Soros in a Nazi uniform (note: Soros is Jewish, he was seven years old at the beginning of World War II and 13 when it ended, and his family fled Nazi-occupied Hungary in 1944), and casts derogatory aspersions on women in politics, particularly women who have ethnic names and non-white skin.

I don't want to hang out with the guy, and I have zero desire to spend time with him, but I follow him to stay in touch with a certain virulent strain of American. One could debate endlessly about what it means to be a member of the Trump Cult. I will say that this guy is a self-professed Trump fan. For him, Trump's racism isn't a bug, it's a feature. Trump tells it like it is. He says what everybody thinks, but has been afraid to say up until the past few years. He's a hero, nay, a Savior. And yes, this guy goes to church. A Christian church, or so he claims.

I do NOT believe that everyone who voted for Trump fits this profile. I do believe that some percentage of the Cult thinks in ways similar to the racist twat, and that the rest simply find it acceptable. Maybe not great, but not that big of a deal. Oh well.

Here is a screenshot of Trump's tweets from earlier this morning, which suggest that some brown-skinned American women politicians, American citizens and legally-elected members of Congress, should go back to where they came from, and should leave as soon as possible.

Earlier today, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio described these tweets as part of "a political strategy to keep people divided to the maximum extent possible."

For what it's worth, I absolutely believe that the strategy is working. I, for one, will not excuse these tweets, and I will not give Trump a pass on his racism. This is not the kind of country I want to live in. Consider me divided; divided from Trump, from those who admire him, from those who merely accept him, from those who shrug at blatant bigotry. I could not be more opposed to what you value, and what you blithely accept.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


In the face of Bible thumpers who ignore the clear teachings of the Bible, you still have to believe. At least, I do. Gospel.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Bye, Beetle

The last new VW Beetle rolled off the assembly line today.

Say what you will (and car enthusiasts will say a lot of things), but I love mine. I'm glad I own one, and I will thumb my nose at the naysayers. I've owned a bunch of cars; blue, grey and silver ones from Honda and Toyota, mostly, that got good mileage and stellar reviews from Consumer Reports. They were fine to the extent that I thought about them, which was seldom.

We purchased an orange VW Beetle convertible last summer, and it's the first car I've ever enjoyed. I like its rounded design, which suits me well. I like the fact that it's orange. I like the fact that the dashboard is orange. I like the fact that the top goes down and the wind blows through my thinning hair. I like all of it.

But I liked VW Beetles in the '60s, too. I was just too sensible to buy one before 2018. Thank God for irrationality.

Tiny Changes

Today marks the release of “Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s The Midnight Organ Fight,” which is a song-by-song cover of Frightened Rabbit’s 2008 album “The Midnight Organ Fight” by musical friends/admirers of the great Scots band, among them members of The National, The Hold Steady, Death Cab for Cutie, and Josh Ritter.

It’s a good lineup and a bittersweet cause. Scott Hutchison, the primary singer/songwriter for Frightened Rabbit (trust me; terrible name, fantastic band) committed suicide in May, 2018. He battled depression all his life, wrote movingly about it, and wrote a song on the original “Midnight Organ Fight” album about throwing himself from a bridge into the Firth of Forth, which is in fact how he met his demise last spring. If it sounds dour and horrific, and it does, let it also be noted that Hutchison’s songs exuded a rare hope and a devastating sense of humor. “Make tiny changes to earth” is a line from the song linked below. It not only gives the tribute album its name, but it’s a reasonable and manageable rallying cry for those of us left on the planet, alternately shrugging our shoulders and shaking our fists at the ever-worsening shitshow, and ultimately resolving to do what we can do.

I miss Scott Hutchison. But the tribute album, and all the wondrous Frightened Rabbit albums, reminds me that there will always be a place in my heart for disarming frankness, world-weariness tinged with hope, and a great Scots brogue.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Thank You For Your Service

I grew up during the Vietnam War era. For a little while, I sweated out the prospect of being drafted, and I went down to my local Selective Service office on my eighteenth birthday and dutifully registered, as I was legally required to do. But the war was winding down by that point, and the tragicomic specter of Andy Whitman, PFC, was never a particularly realistic prospect.

Good thing. I’m not sure I would have showed up if the prospect had been more realistic. I knew people who cut out for Canada, and I also knew people who dutifully served in the U.S. armed forces. But I was not a fan of the military. At all.

More than anything else, the Vietnam War taught me to profoundly distrust the U.S. Government. I didn’t believe in the validity of the Vietnam War, and I still don’t to this day. It was a massive mistake that cost 50,000 American lives and physically and psychologically maimed hundreds of thousands more. It was horrific. It turned flesh-and-blood human beings and unique bearers of the image of God into cannon/mortar/machine gun/Agent Orange fodder, all for the sake of upholding a highly suspect ideological vision that Jesus would have rejected. And Jesus was increasingly becoming a focus of my life. I figured that LBJ and Nixon lied at the time, and history has borne out my hunches.

My view of the soldiers who served was deeply conflicted. On one hand, that “unique bearers of the image of God” label meant a lot to me. I hated, and I do mean hated, the useless carnage. It was such a waste of young lives. It wasn’t the fault of those soldiers, almost all of them ridiculously young and ridiculously poor, that they became interchangeable parts that were fed into the Maw of Death. Being turned into broiled hamburger on a battlefield was clearly not much of a bargain, and frankly, the living who came back didn’t get much of a deal, either, and I thought the general treatment of the returning Vietnam soldiers was deplorable. On the other hand, I couldn’t stand what the military represented. I was told to wrap my head around abstract notions such as Freedom and Liberty and instead I watched highly trained fighting machines who were hellbent on keeping people from being governed in the way they wanted to be governed. That didn’t, and still doesn’t, sound much like freedom and liberty to me.

Fast-forward 45 years. That’s another 135 Memorial Days and Veterans Days and Fourth of Julys, a holiday which used to be about independence and freedom from the tyrannical rule of empire, but now apparently means May Day Lite exhibitions of military strutting and imperial prowess. The cultural zeitgeist has obviously changed. And with it has come a corresponding change in the prevailing attitude toward the military. Good ol’ Nationalism (God bless it) has transformed natural ambivalence into full-fledged adoration, and “Thank you for your service” is now a prelude to a sort of uniquely American worship. Meanwhile, I’m still stuck in 1974, which means about the best I can muster is “I’m so sorry, you poor bastard.”

Maybe I should move to Canada. It was probably the right move back in 1974 as well. Love it or leave it, and I surely don’t love the abstract notion of God’s Own U.S. of A. nearly enough.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


"There's a very high cost to our politics for celebrating the Trump style, but what is personally most painful to me as a person of the Christian faith is the cost to the Christian witness. Nonchalantly jettisoning the ethic of Jesus in favor of a political leader who embraces the ethic of Thrasymachus and Nietzsche - might makes right, the strong should rule over the weak, justice has no intrinsic worth, moral values are socially constructed and subjective - is troubling enough.

But there is also the undeniable hypocrisy of people who once made moral character, and especially sexual fidelity, central to their political calculus and who are now embracing a man of boundless corruptions. Don't forget: Trump was essentially named an unindicted co-conspirator (Individual 1) in a scheme to make hush-money payments to a porn star who alleged she'd had an affair with him while he was married to his third wife, who had just given birth to their son."
Look, don’t think too much about it. It's just another hand-wringing article from a so-called “Christian” (an elder at a Presbyterian Church, no less) and a longtime Republican and member of three previous Republican administrations. What would he know about Christianity and conservative values, right?
I don’t expect anyone to change their minds over this kind of thing. I’ve long ago given up hope that anyone is actually listening. So consider this as yet another entry into the archive of Andy Whitman’s personal records; nothing more and nothing less. It won’t make any difference. But I catalogue these things because they remind me that it wasn’t always this way. I stash this away as part of the ongoing historical record, back when “history” still had meaning and people thought it could teach us a thing or two.
Since this article was written there’s been yet another mind-blowing revelation about perversity in high places – no, let’s call it what it is; sex trafficking of underage young women and children – in which two Presidents of the United States, one former and one current, may very well be implicated.

Here’s what the current one said about the sex trafficker in 2005: “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

But don’t sweat it. It doesn’t really matter, does it? Who among us has not sinned? We don’t elect pastors for President, right? As it turns out, we just elect sexual predators. Two out of the last four.

By the way, many people have pointed out that a former President is also in the crosshairs of this latest revelation. His name is Bill Clinton. Just as a social experiment, I would like to suggest the old-fashioned Christian way of viewing this situation. Bear with me, because here it is:

Rape is wrong. Criminal, even. You can go to jail for rape, and the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. And if you do wrong, you should be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

This is how Christians used to view rape. I’m quoting the Bible here because at one time Christians attempted to follow its teachings. And these teachings cut across political affiliations, which meant that they would apply to Bill Clinton AND Donald Trump. Can you imagine such thinking today? But it was true.

In speaking about the widespread, reflexive evangelical support for the president, Coppock—who is theologically orthodox and generally sympathetic to conservatism—lamented the effect this moral freak show is having, especially on the younger generation. With unusual passion, he told me, “We’re losing an entire generation. They’re just gone. It’s one of the worst things to happen to the Church.”

Gone, and they’re not coming back. This is the long-term legacy of the moral freak show. It doesn’t matter. Never mind me. I’m just reminiscing; casting a nostalgic look back at the Christian Church when it used to make at least a half-hearted attempt to follow Christ.

Monday, July 08, 2019

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Well, one of them. I'm a fortunate guy.

This was a short vacation, really just an extended weekend in Philly, hanging out with my daughter, my son-in-law, connecting with long-lost high school friends, searching for a lost hearing aid, and discovering the wonders of Costco for the first time. How was your weekend?

I love my daughter. I love my son-in-law. I wish they weren't so far away. I'm sure many parents have thought these things. Now you know that I think them too. But it was so sweet to hang out, to laugh, to ponder big adult questions, to eat good food, to be a family. I recommend it. Do it if you get the chance.

I hadn't seen my friend Ellen for 46 years, or her husband Tom ever. So, thanks to the wonders of Facebook connections (there are still a few nice aspects of the accursed medium), Ellen thought, "hey, wouldn't it be nice to invite a dude I haven't seen since high school and his wife over for dinner?" And she did. And it was a blast. It was more than a blast. You can get to know a fair amount about human beings from Facebook if they're willing to share who they are, what they value, what they think about. I've done that. My friend Ellen has done that. So I wasn't too worried about it. And I certainly didn't need to be. It was a sweet time, and it was an easy connection. If you have the opportunity to reconnect with people from your past, and you have interest in them and their lives, I highly recommend that you reconnect. Take the risk. Do it if you get the chance. I'm so thankful for that time.

I also lost a hearing aid this weekend. I do not recommend that, but it happened. Roughly $2,500 of tiny electronics fell through a hole in my pocket (I took it out because I was walking in the rain; which is bad for hearing aids, but not as bad as losing them and leaving them in the rain). I searched and searched and searched and searched. That many times. I walked up and down streets with my head down, bumped into people, drew strange stares. I don't recommend that, either. But it's gone. I also discovered that my remaining hearing aid emits a continuous series of shrill beeps because it misses its mate. A low moan I could handle, a slight whimper would be okay, but this is kind of like a fire alarm going off in my ear. So I still have the remaining hearing aid, but I've taken it out because I was ready to murder anyone I encountered.

And so, basically deaf, I entered a Philadelphia Costco (my first time at Costco, ever), gawked at the gigantic packages of good deals, and discovered something called a Hearing Aid Center. Costco, as it turns out, sells my hearing aids at roughly half the price that I paid for them at a fancy medical center in Columbus. So now I'm a Costo member. That happened this weekend as well.

It was a fantastic weekend. I'd do it all over again, lost hearing aids and all.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

4th of July

With apologies to Bruce Springsteen, who wrote a good one, this is my favorite 4th of July song, from Dave Alvin's short tenure in X. True love gone bad. Fireworks. Mexican kids. Those are All-American sentiments. Hey baby, it's the 4th of July.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

The Talbot Brothers

In 1974, when this album was released, contemporary Christian music had not yet coalesced into the monolithic, saccharine, soporific entity that quickly emerged. Case in point: the Talbot Brothers, one Terry and Johnny (later John Michael; he of the upraised hand blocking the sun, and the biggest-selling Catholic musician of all time), who mixed tales of being Born Again with genuinely moving social protest like this song, bluegrass odes to smoking weed, etc. It was a different time. The guitar work is superb, and you can't beat great sibling harmonies. This is a wonderful album, regardless of your theological persuasions, or lack thereof.

Monday, July 01, 2019

The Christian Left

I appreciate the sentiments. I agree with almost all of them.  But I don’t like the label.

I am not a part of the “Christian Left.” I am a Christian. If THAT term offends you, and I can well believe it might in these deeply divided and heretical times, then I’m okay with “Jesus Follower” too. But I’m not a part of the left in terms of adhering to a particular political ideology. I believe that I stand in a long theological tradition that encompasses most mainline Christian Protestant denominations, much of the Catholic Church, and many evangelical Christian churches before, say, 1980 or so. You can look it up if you don’t believe me. “Evangelical” in 2019 looks very little like “Evangelical” in 1979.

The problem with the political label is that it assumes a frame of reference, a worldview, that is wildly inaccurate. That’s not to say that there is not overlap between the American political left and my theology, which is formed by some 45 years of trying to suss out just how all this Jesus stuff, circa AD 30,  is meant to play out in God’s Own U.S. of A, circa 2019. But the sources and inspirations – Jesus and political platforms - are not equal, and the emphases are very different. As a Christian, some of my beliefs are shared with the American political left and some of my beliefs are shared with the American political right. This is axiomatic, as far as I’m concerned, because neither major American party comes close to representing the concerns and issues that were most important to Jesus, and as a Christian I try to take my cues from Jesus.

That is also not to suggest that I think both major American political parties are equally Jesus-y and equally non-Jesus-y. I don’t believe that. Can you guess where I might land on that? But that’s part of the sussing process. I do the best I can. In any event, I am a Christian. Full stop. No other label appendage needed or wanted.