Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Charlottesville NC 2017

I just can't imagine what it's like to be a person of color in America in 2017.

In 2008, you saw Barack Obama get elected president of the United States of America.
I don't know about you, but I thought maybe we'd really turned a corner. Maybe things were truly getting better. Maybe,just maybe, things had actually changed.

Then I watched, mouth agape, utterly dumbfounded as the people I know and love lost their ever-loving minds. The response to that N* in the white house (a phrase I heard more than once) was visceral. White people were terrified. They started believing anything, no matter how outrageous and silly, about him and about blacks in general. Death panels. Kenya. Muslim. Gov't takeover of this and of that. I didn't even know how to argue most of the time, because it was just so completely crazy.

Fast forward to 2016. In a fit of backlash, We The People elect to the highest office in the land a reality TV star who was the first man to put a strip club in a casino and is famous for not paying people the money he owes them, because we wanted a thug to throw out those Mexicans and "restore law and order" to those blacks. 

If it had been a movie plot I would have thought it too unrealistic. I just don't even have words.

And then *they* start crawling out from under their rocks. The "alt-right". They feel empowered. They feel that he is one of them, and that the pendulum of power in America has turned back towards them. They won the election. They have the power.

Every ounce of this is the doing of *MY* people: rural, white, Evangelical Christian people.

I am ashamed.  

Sunday, July 16, 2017


I see many people struggling to forgive an move on.
This, for me, has been the key to forgiving.  It's not easy, and it's not quick.  It's a process.  Your mileage may vary:

Various religions and approaches are not the point.
The point is to spend time in quiet, without effort.
Observe the thoughts that arise on their own (not the hey, my back itches, but the he's incompetent and taking me down, or she really hurt me, or even the fears and fantasies ) and then work to understand those thoughts. 

Those thoughts are YOU.

You won't like what you see, because you're not nearly as good as you imagine.  You've got power issues.  You've got control issues.  You don't follow the standards of purity and love and kindness that you expect of others. 

It's important to place no value judgements - you'll never get through it if you view it as good or bad, for now, it simply IS.

So, how does this help with forgiveness?
In time, you'll come to see yourself for what you really are, in the brutal, honest light of reality, rather than what you want to be, or colored by delusions, intentions, and preconceptions.

Seeing yourself clearly in this way will allow you to see other people for what they are rather than what you want them to be, or think they should be.

When you see others clearly, forgiving them becomes at first easy, and ultimately unnecessary.  They simply ARE.  People are neither fundamentally good, nor fundamentally bad; people are fundamentally people, driven by impulses both benevolent and selfish, using gifts and overcoming challenges, and trying to get through their day.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


I was listening to a sermon, when the preacher talked about a lady-friend who had received a diagnosis of cancer.
She talked about the stunned feeling, and the sense of senselessness. She talked the rage that welled up within her at the utter unfairness of it, and the bottomless despair.
In trying to find her way down this path, she at some point had a sort of WWJD moment. Remembering what the head of her order had said, and what the great spiritual leaders would do.
And it came to her like a bolt of lightning: In all situations, be kind.
She has cancer. She's going to die. Soon. What is she going to do?
She is going to strive at all times to be kind.
She is going to be kind to the people who giver her chemo, and be kind to the people who are uncomfortable around her because of her diagnosis and her mortality. She is going to be kind to the people who love her, and are hurting with her, and already beginning to mourn her even as she lingers with them.
She is going to be kind even in these depths of despair. She is going to be kind through tears and pain, and as she lays in her final moments, as this precious life is taken from her in a way that is unspeakably senseless and bewildering cruel, she is going to be kind.
I can only hope to to be like her, someday.
It's so easy to look at the outrages around us and to despair. I don't know that I think that's avoidable, anymore.
But, as Almighty God gives me strength, in all situations, may I never forget to be kind.


"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My entire life has been a spiritual journey. I've made a lot of mistakes, and taken a lot of dead ends paths along the way. I've been an idiot and looked foolish. But, I've learned.

(As the song says, ♪ ♪ ♪ "I promise you I will learn from my mistakes."♪ ♪ ♪ )

Here's what I think I've learned:
1 - Dogma doesn't matter. Speculation about heaven and hell and nirvana and reincarnation and immortality are born of our animal nature, which wants to categorize, organize, and predict.
2 - Guilt is not useful. Again, it's born of our animal, social nature. Wanna see guilt? Look at a dog that got caught tearing up the trash. Guilt does not bring us to the divine, excepting in those rare conditions where it inspires actual change. (I've seen this almost never)
3 - Judgement, of ourselves or others, is counter-productive. It creates separation where there should be oneness. Someone worse than me? Someone better than me? Separation. I'm not what I should be? Unrealistic and destructive.

The only practical path forward involves a regular practice, patience, and tolerance (for ourselves and others).

Regular Practice:

No one would expect to walk into a gym, pick up a dumb bell, put it back down, and look like Arnold in his prime. And yet the church I grew up in told us that we would kneel at an alter, say a prayer, and walk away *CHANGE-DAH*. No. It's great for making you want-to-want-to, but not for effecting real, internal change.
A regular practice is essential. You hit the gym every day. You grow and change. You learn. Your practice becomes more elaborate and effective, and your body and mind more conditioned to accept it.
The spiritual practice is the same. It must be done every day. It must be focused. If you're a Christian, read your bible and pray. If you're a Buddhist, read Holy Sutra, recite and meditate. If you're Taoist, do your standing meditation, your sitting meditation, your taiji forms, and read each day from the Taoist cannon.
They're all working on the same pathways. They're all working on the same intellect. They're all working on the same emotions and with the same ego. They're all working for the same goals.
What is important is this: DO. YOUR. PRACTICE. TODAY!!!


As stated, you will rarely see great change overnight. The changes come slowly, over time, with regular practice. At some point, you will find that it's not that you want-to-want-to be generous, but you are generous. It's not that you want-to-want-to be kind, but you are kind. It's not that you want-to-want-to avoid harming others, you are just all about not harming others.
To get there, though, requires patience because ...


... it's not going to happen overnight, and you're going to have to put up with a lot of failures along the way.

But, over time, you begin to find that your vision is more clear, your emotions are more in check, your generosity has increased, your genuine sense of affection for your fellows is vastly improved, you're not as growly, you're more at peace with life's difficulties, challenges, and changes, and you're more tolerant of the foibles of others.

This is the spiritual path.

Friday, November 11, 2016

I sometimes forget how extraordinarily fortunate I have been.

Everyday, I get to speak with people of a color different from mine, and people who practice religions that differ from my own.
Even better, over time, I get to know them well. I get to call them friend.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is Muslim, where-in he told me how frightened his children are by the results of the election.

He has WAY more in common with you, my Nazarene or conservative Christian friend, than you seem to know. In every sense that would be evident to the casual observer, his beliefs are identical to yours.
  • Work ethic. (I’ve never seen better).
  • He never touches alcohol.
  • He’s against Homosexuality and abortion. (On this, he has more in common with you than do I.)
  • He is passionate about a strong national defense and a wise foreign policy.
  • He exudes loyalty to our company, devotion to this country, devotion to God and to his family.
If you left the divinity of Christ out of the conversation, there would be nothing to mark the two of you as different in any way, except, in all likelihood, that he puts you to shame on in all of the above things, by comparison.

He related to me, in our conversation, how terribly frightened his children are. He told me how he calmed his children, and reminded them that this country belongs to all of us. He pointed out the shops in the urban area where they live; how > ½ are owned by non-whites. He pointed to their white friends, who love them would surely remain their friends. He reminded them that, while there are surely people who would want them to leave, they are a tiny sliver of bad apples, and that there are far more people who love them and would want them to stay.

He also told me that he is hopeful. He doesn’t think Trump is a racist in any KKK, lynching sort of way. It will be fine.

He told me that every community he's ever lived in is full of really good people. Just a little wary of you at first. It’s just a normal, human way to act. Once you become truly a part of your community, people start to see you as a person rather than a brown person or a Muslim. Your qualities are known.

He told me that he’s hopeful. Now that Republicans have no excuses, maybe they will start to govern, and maybe some things will actually get done that I (Joe) was hoping for under Obama, since much of Trump’s message actually overlaps with what is wanted by progressives like Bernie and Senator Warren.

He agreed with me that Trump is hard to read because he will say pretty much anything, and has said pretty much everything at one time or another. But, our best guess is that he is less conservative in every meaningful way than is Hillary, and that it will be interesting to watch whether he delegates the real work of being president to Pence (in which case our government is very conservative, indeed), or forms a new kind of coalition, and makes deals with congress to get some actual help for working stiffs.

My Muslim friend is a good man, and he is a wise man. I’m fortunate to have discussed this with him.

In a larger way, I'm a far better person for having gotten out of my rural isolation chamber, and for having met so many wonderful people who are so very different from me, and yet who are so very much the same.

I've been extraordinarily fortunate.

Monday, November 7, 2016

But let's play the probabilities, shall we?

Remember the government takeover of the car industry?

The government takeover of healthcare?

Death Panels?

Remember how Barack Obama was a Kenyan? A Muslim? A terrorist? The Anti-Christ (literally, according to several at my former church)?

Remember how he was going to destroy America? Enact Sharia Law? Take your guns? Make you pray to false gods?

Yeah. Good times…

Look. It's quite possible that Hillary Clinton is such a brilliant criminal mastermind that she has successfully evaded prosecution for over 30 years while killing more than 90 people. Stranger things have happened.

It's quite possible that she just left people to die in Benghazi because she's inhuman, hates people, and hates America, and that in spite of being so smart as to do what I just mentioned, she is dumb enough to not realize how much backlash there would be against such an action, or inaction, or whatever. 

It's quite possible that those e-mails that she deleted contain something that matters and aren't just personal emails or others she deleted while being overly-cautious to prevent her political opponents from making hay in a witch-hunt that was obviously designed to take her down politically, like the investigations of Bill that eventually revealed that he was destroying America by being, in fact, a middle-aged heterosexual male who let a 22 year old woman give him a hummer.

Hell. ANYTHING's possible.
But let's play the probabilities, shall we?

Which is more likely:

A) that Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Terrorist who decided he wanted to be President of the USA to take it down from the inside?

B)  that Hillary Clinton is a master criminal / murderer who's been rubbing the collective noses of Republican bloggers and radio shock-jocks in it for decades?


C) that Republicans are really good at what they do and like to throw sh*t against a wall until some of it sticks in an effort to defeat their political rivals?

Let's play the probabilities, shall we?

Which is more likely:

A) that there really ARE death panels in the health care bill and we just haven't noticed yet because we're too busy not noticing how they're invading our houses to take our guns while they make us say Muslim prayers several times a day

B)  that Hillary let Americans die because she's just that malevolent and evil


C) that Republicans are really good at what they do and like to throw sh*t against a wall until some of it sticks in an effort to defeat their political rivals?

Let's play the probabilities, shall we?

Which is more likely:

A) that the government takeover of the auto industry proceeds apace, and we just haven't noticed because we're actually dead because our death panel wouldn't approve our treatment for some horrible disease we caught from the chemicals the government is putting in the air to control our minds?

B) that Hillary's deleted emails contain some real smoking gun about how she's actually the devil, the little horn, bringer of the apocalypse, rather than personal information or political fodder that she didn't want falling into the hands of the people who were able to crucify Bill for getting a BJ?


C) that Republicans are really good at what they do and like to throw sh*t against a wall until some of it sticks in an effort to defeat their political rivals?

Look, you wanna vote for Trump, great. Go for it. I quit caring years ago for reasons that I'm not going to bother to explain unless you care enough to ask.

But can we just stop with the histrionics? Can we seriously just calm the f* down? Can we stop hurling pejoratives at people who think that the sins Hillary has probably committed are probably less egregious than the sins The Donald has certainly committed, and are certainly less egregious than the ones The Donald has probably committed?

You wanna disagree, great! Disagree. Let's stop with the name-calling, though. Fair enough?

Glad we had this talk. Hope we're still friends.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The most important thing that Modern American Christians will ever hear

My responses to this video:

I'm going to address what he says point-by-point. If you want to read less, skip to the summary, where I say what I think is the most important thing that modern American Christians will ever hear.

Took Control of Health Care: 

That' just nutty. Obama implemented the republican rebuttal to Hillarycare that was the landmark achievement for the R candidate for POTUSA. It's market based. It relies on private insurers and does nothing to control costs. Liberals hate it, because it's not good enough at actually delivering true access to health-care. The only thing it really manages to do is create a risk pool for the self-employed or those working for small companies. And you're complaining, somehow in "Jesus' name", that it's a bad thing? Taking care of the sick? What's your great Christian plan? Yeah, that's what I thought. 
Utter nonsense. 

Eliminating Guns: 

Name one thing - ONE - that he has done to even slow down guns? Wanna buy a belt fed magazine of "cop-killers" you strap to your back? Don't even need a background check. And, again, what does this have to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Race Riots: 

Find me one historical reference to "race riots" in pre-ww2 Germany. I dare you. The Wikipedia listing of race riots throughout history doesn't even have an entry for Germany. They had riots, alright, and there were those who scapegoated Jews for their problems, but Jews didn't riot. Gypsies didn't riot. Blacks didn't riot.
Nonsense ...

LGBT Intolerance: 

Which side was it that was trying to pass a constitutional amendment against the other? I remember the conversation as going roughly like this -

We'd like to jointly file our income taxes, share assets and liabilities, have legal considerations relative to our partner, and be able to inherit property In general, we'd like equal treatment under law.

GOD WILL JUDGE US!!!!! ABOMINATION!!!! Let's have a constitutional amendment to make sure that people we don't agree with cannot live their life the way they want to, even if we think it's sin!

In Summary:

But that's not what's really sad about this. What genuinely just sucks about this whole thing is the way in which it's conflating Republican politics, rural social norms  and conservative views with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What did Jesus say about the politics or policies of Rome? Not a thing.
What did he even say about the politics or policies of the Jews? Not a thing, except when he turned a bit violent because the church looked too much like a business. (Ever hear a sermon on that? Yeah - me neither...)

He taught a personal Gospel. A hard Gospel. A devastatingly difficult, frustrating, contrary to human nature Gospel that demands that you walk 2 miles with someone who would force you to go 1. It's a Gospel that commands you to allow someone who hits you to hit you again, to lend money not only without interest, but without ANY REAL EXPECTATION that it would be paid back!!! It's a Gospel that, in summary, tells you to give someone who takes from you your coat the very shirt. off. your. back.

And we've somehow reduced it to something about Obama taking guns.

Guns. Taxes. Race.

It's a terrible, terrible idol right in the center of your sanctuary. Cast it down. Look inward. Take the plank out of your own eye.