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.

Friday, June 10, 2016

On the rancorous TONE of the Bathroom debates

For years, I absolutely could not use a public bathroom. I still hate it. It's such a vulnerable feeling, sitting there doing your business with a bunch of strangers walking in and out and commenting about the miasma created by the odious exudates of your bowels; matched only by the concussive forces generated as the noxious gasses, vented, as it were, through the bodies pressure release valve, bursting forth into the atmosphere, their sounds cruelly amplified by the porcelain echo chamber into which they are released.

For those of you who have followed along this far, what I just said, put another way, is that I'm a 280 lb man who's come out on top in physical contests ranging from pillow fights at camp to football games in school to unpleasant encounters in bars and back-alleys (sadly), and yet I find it a terribly VULNERABLE feeling to use the bathroom in the presence of other men. Other men, incidentally, who's only interest in me is to probably to reach minimum-safe-distance before detonation.

I say all of that to say that I truly cannot imagine what it would be like to be 105 lb women who is now afraid that she is going to be asked to share a public bathroom with the man l just described.

For my left-leaning friends, I get that you're angry because this whole issue manifests as Christians who have been more-or-less defeated on the homosexual front waging a scorched-earth retreat by socking it to trans-genders.

I want to validate that. On some level, I'm sure it's exactly that.

And I'm not saying you shouldn't be angry, or frustrated.

I'm not saying your wrong.

What I AM attempting to do is two-fold.

1) To point out that gender roles are fundamental to everything we do and think, as human beings, and we're tinkering with them. We're asking people leave behind pretty clearly-defined mores to accept, not a clearly defined change to these social codes; but what, to many, feels like a complete blurring or dismantling of these rules. They're not clearly defined and comfortable. They're wibbly-wobbly-potty-wotty. People are uncomfortable. I don't know that they're wrong to be.

2) To ask that we (on the left) be kind to those on the other side.

We're defending the rights of people to live their lives in the way they choose insofar as they're not hurting others. That's what we are all about. That's America, at it's best.

Let's not lose the moral high-ground, or alienate people we're trying to sway, by resorting to name-calling. In all of our interactions with others, let's strive to be kind, and understanding, and patient.

Let's be careful about calling people bigots. Maybe they are. Maybe they've just got a very different world-view. Maybe they're just genuinely frightened. Let's be kind.

Buddhists calls this high-road non-discriminating virtue. The Christians would say do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The atheists would say don't be a d*ck.  ;-)

I've finally made some time to read some of these laws in question, and I actually think that some of their concerns really might be quite legitimate, although clearly related more to predatory heterosexual men than to actual transgenders.

How do we engage them?

Let's try to patiently acknowledge that predatory male sexuality definitely exists, and we get that they're afraid of it, and furthermore they're quite correct to be afraid of it.

Let's talk to them about the trans-genders we know, and what wonderful people they are, and help them to see the "great other" as a person, rather than a concept or a bogeyman.

And, yes: Let's also look at well-intentioned laws that may have been crafted too hastily, that really very well may put women in some sort of vulnerable circumstance, and see if we can shore these laws up in such a way that the rights of trans-genders are protected, but the concerns of women are addressed.

I think it can be done. 

Ultimately: Rather than dividing into us and them, loving us, and hating them, let's be one big us. 

Let's practice the compassion on which we pride ourselves, for all involved.