Monday, October 16, 2017

In Each Crevice



The sun was written
in each crevice on each leaf
the universe, implied
between the lines

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Forest, Here, is Alive


 The forest, here, is alive


I find myself in the midst
of a massive murmuration *
surrounded by sacred songs
engulfed by black-winged 
gods and goddesses
awaiting flight



fluttering flailing leaves and feathers
falling down around me

* Murmuration: A flock of starlings

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump



"Ask the experts.

In a new book published this week, "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump," a group of 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts warn that “anyone as mentally unstable as this man should not be entrusted with the life-and-death-powers of the presidency.” Seemingly in defiance of the American Psychiatric Association’s "Goldwater rule," which states “it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion [on a public figure] unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement,” the various and very eminent contributors paint a picture of a president who has “proven himself unfit for duty.”


Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo — of the famous Stanford prison study — suggests the “unbalanced” Trump is a “specific personality type:
an unbridled, or extreme, present hedonist” and
narcissist.”

Psychiatrist Lance Dodes, a former Harvard Medical School professor, says Trump’s
sociopathic characteristics are undeniable
and his speech and behavior show signs of
significant mental derangement.”

Clinical psychologist John Gartner, a 28-year veteran of John Hopkins University Medical School, argues that Trump is a
malignant narcissist” and
evinces the most destructive and dangerous collection of psychiatric symptoms possible for a leader.”

For Gartner, the “catastrophe” of a Trump presidency “might have been avoided if we in the mental health community had told the public the truth, instead of allowing ourselves to be gagged by the Goldwater rule.”"

https://theintercept.com/2017/10/07/worried-about-trumps-mental-stability-the-worst-is-yet-to-come/

Friday, October 6, 2017

Sister Sodom



Then, God came to God's Religious Ones and said,

"On the day you were born
your navel cord wasn't cut
you were left covered in slime
you were not tended nor cared for

No eye took even the slightest pity on you
to have compassion for you
for you were
hated
on the day you were born

When I was walking by, I saw you
squirming in your own blood
and I said to you

'LIVE!'

And I made you grow like weeds
and you grew tall and strong

yet still
you were naked and bare

And so, I covered you
clothing you Myself
in My Love for you

And everyone talked about my
Great Love for you and you were
made famous
because of Me.

but you trusted in your reputation
and played the whore, because of your fame

You made yourself wealthy
as maggots
and powerful
in your Many Things,
using this wealth
to buy more Power
and more and more useless Trinkets
and you were not embarrassed
in the least

No, you just wanted more
Power
more
Wealth
more
More

As I live,
your Sister Sodom
was not as Sick as you are
in your wealth and power

Behold,
This is the sin of your Sister Sodom
She and her family
were arrogant, wealthy, lazy-as-shit
but she did not help
the Poor
the Foreigner
the Oppressed

You are Proud, like hell,
and sick, in your Wealth
gorging until you vomit
and then
gorge some more.

Be ashamed,
for your abominations
for your embrace of ignorance
and indifference.

For My sake,
Be ashamed.

Ezekiel 16, in part... my loose paraphrase

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Irrational Shriek



There is nothing whatsoever in the murky dark of the ancient forest at night that is not there in the daylight hours. Reason assures us that this is true.

I know better.

Having explored the local woods all my life, I am well aware that there are noises at night that can not always be identified. An angry snort from somewhere nearby, the rustle in the leaves of something too large to be a squirrel, the wingbeat of a creature that sounds much too leathery and brittle to be a feathered bird. These are sounds that disturb the conscious mind.
Still, in the day, we know the snort is a startled deer. The rustle, just a raccoon. The beating wings from a fleeing owl. In the daytime, we know this.

But at night... Well...

It was dusk and I had settled myself on a convenient tree stump next to a pond in a forgotten woods. The roar of the interstate and lights of the city were blotted out by the trees stretched out overhead and the rolling hills separating the known world from the unknown.

I came to this spot regularly in the autumn, to enjoy the sounds of the leaves falling, the crickets calling, the night coming to life. I came to listen.

This night, as I sat, quietly listening – intent upon separating out this creak from that groan from the other nearby rustle – I first heard the hideous Shriek. Inhuman. Grotesque. Impossible. What in our local woods would make such a disconcerting scream?

The Shriek came from Not Nearby. If I were to guess, I'd say 100 yards or more away. Curiosity – cursed curiosity! – won out over my fear, and I rose from my seat and quietly made my way in the direction of the Shriek. I didn't want to scare away whatever was making the noise.

Twenty steps closer and I heard it again, that soulless Shriek! Could it actually be a human, wounded and in trouble? The Shriek sounded so pitiable this time, and clearly closer. I moved, still quietly, but more quickly, in the direction of the Scream.

Twenty steps more and I paused to listen.

Nothing.

Then, SHRIEK!!

I nearly fell backwards in my fear. It was significantly closer. The Shriek – although human-sounding – was clearly NOT human, I knew this now. It was the sound of a – of a madwoman, nails turned to claws, abandoned in the woods and seeking food. It was the sound of Anger and Hatred.

In the dark of the night, I knew that it was the sound of Evil.

SHRIEK!!

And close.

And maybe on the other side of me.

Between me and my path out.

I waited. I listened. I barely breathed.

No Shriek returned. No sound at all.

The leaves were not falling, the crickets were not calling, no frogs croaked from the nearby pond. I was alone and surrounded by a maddening silence, frozen in fear, unsure of which way to go.

An hour later – or so it seemed – I breathed again. I took a step. I walked back down the path and exited those Awful Woods, to my car and began heading home, but only after checking the back seat of my car.

It was empty.

The next day, the Google told me that foxes shriek when they are at play with one another. Harmless foxes cavorting in the woods. I listened to field recordings of foxes and there it was, the Shriek. But harmless now. In the light of the day.

#inktober

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Is the GOP Embarrassed, Yet?


Ashamed? Disturbed?

What will it take for the GOP to draw back from the ugly, racist, bigoted, hateful, oppressive, ignorant paths they are sending themselves down?

Roy Moore doesn't know who Dreamers are or what DACA is, in this day and season.

http://www.al.com/news/mobile/index.ssf/2017/09/beyond_embarrassing_why_roy_mo.html

He has advocated criminalizing homosexual behavior. He has called it akin to bestiality.

http://dailycaller.com/2017/09/21/senate-candidate-once-likened-homosexual-conduct-to-bestiality/

He has spewed overtly racist commentary.

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/351194-roy-moore-refers-to-red-and-yellow-americans-in-campaign-speech

He has opposed Muslims being elected.

(Enough with the links, anyone can look them up.)

He holds to anti-American, ugly theocratic ideals.

He is so bigoted, hateful, ignorant and distasteful that even Donald Trump wouldn't endorse him!

Think about that!

Man, what the GOP is tailspinning itself into is an embarrassment to the world and our nation, and frankly, all of humanity.

When will God save those people?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Why Draw the Attention...?


Over at Stan's blog recently, he took on the conservative boob who said the two most important things to him are "the Constitution and Boobs." [Clay Travis, who said to a reporter, who happened to be a woman (not that it really matters), "I believe in only two things completely. The First Amendment, and boobs."] Stan criticized the guy for being in the wrong. Stan said, "She (and I) thought it was rude for him to say it."

Okay, as far as it goes. But, Stan didn't leave it there. He added a BUT. "But," he said, "I do wonder why women who rightly are offended when men are that rude continue to wear outfits clearly intended to accentuate the features men are not supposed to comment on..."

Stan (and his commenters, with him) rightly found Travis in the wrong (although, I'm not sure that merely calling his comment "rude" is the right way to identify his error...), they also shared some blame towards women who dress "wrong..." meaning, of course, wrong, by their measure...

Oh, they assured and reassured us that it was entirely the man who was wrong or, in the case of a rapist "aroused" by women dressing "wrong," the rapist who was wrong... BUT... why would the women dress "that way..."?

Craig put it this way...

"Why would anyone assume that they won't run into one of them [rapists], and be dressed in a way that draws attention?"

Stan clarified it this way (speaking in the voice of those who defend women dressing, you know, how they want)...

"Women should be allowed to ... nay, celebrated for dressing as slutty as they wish..."

So, allow me to try to clarify what seems like it would be obvious...

Craig, consider these questions:

1. Why would anyone assume that they won't run into one of them [rapists], and be dressed in a way that draws attention?

2. Why would anyone assume that they won't run into one of them [robbers], and be dressed in a way that draws attention (i.e., dressing as if you had money)?

3. Why would anyone assume that they won't run into one of them [killer atheists], and be dressed in a way that draws attention (i.e., wearing a cross necklace and carrying a bible, for instance)?

With those extra questions, do you see the problem with your approach?

Let me spell it out for you:

3. Christians wear what they want because it is their choice to do so and they should not be intimidated to wear something else because it might draw the attention of killer atheists.

2. Wealthy people wear what they want because it is their choice to do so and they should not be intimidated to wear something else because it might draw the attention of robbers.

1. Women wear what they want because it is their choice to do so and they should not be intimidated to wear something else because it might draw the attention of rapists.

It's our human liberty to wear what we wish and we are not wrong for wearing that, nor should the reality of bad people who might be "aroused" by what we wear cause people to opt for other clothes. Are you suggesting that Christians should NOT wear things that identify them as Christians to avoid any conflict? Or would you bristle at that suggestion?

You of course don't need to comment here, Craig, but if you choose to reply to this post, please begin with an answer to that question. Thanks.

Stan, I am sure you were truly thinking you were defending women and only attacking this guy, but you sure (and if not you, some of your commenters) didn't sound like you were defending women. You sounded sexist and a bit perverse.

You see, you all are saying, "Yes, it is the MAN who is wrong for saying 'boobs' matter most to him... BUT, why do women..." and "Yes, it is the MAN who is wrong for raping women... BUT, why would women..."

And when pushed on it, you said you "got" it, what the complaint was... you'd encourage women to dress to a degree that you would call "modest," and if they weren't dressed "modestly enough," then they might be sort of asking for it... of course, it's the MAN's fault... BUT...

It's the "BUT" that is getting you off track. The correct answer is, "It's the man's fault for making sexist comments." PERIOD. "It is the MAN's fault for assaulting a woman." PERIOD.

And end it there. Don't pause and then go on to sorta blame the woman just a little bit, too. Because she was "dressed wrong." Or, as you put it, she could be dressed as slutty as she wished. The commenters at this blog kept suggesting that there was a line that is crossed and by crossing that line, women could expect to be abused, maligned and raped. "Not that it's right," you clarify, but still...

I asked you if you agree with the Muslim extremist measure of wearing a burka. You all balked at the comparison. "Well, well, bu... well, NO! No, of course we don't believe in making women wear burkas..." BUT. But they should be dressed modestly, for their own sake, because you're gentlemen, in your minds and you don't want these poor women to be subjected to a possible rapist (which is a crime of power, not sexuality, you should know) or perverse treatment by perverse men.

No, you don't advocate a burka. Not full blown. BUT...

That But is the problem.

It's not that you disagree with Muslim extremists, it's just that you draw the line at some point differently than they do. But you still draw a line, because you know what's best for these women, presumably.

And that's sexist.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Born Anew



From a sermon from my pastor this weekend...

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’
Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.
‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’
Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’
‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked.
~John 3:1-9

I started to do a search on the internet, but after seeing that the first page of googling didn’t reveal my answer, I gave up. I’m not a very patient googler. It doesn’t really matter, anyway. What I was searching for was, “must be born again craze.” I was wondering when that began. Well, it really began with Jesus, of course, because he’s the one who said it. But when was it that it became such a huge thing in American religious culture? I think it had to do with Jimmy Carter, and that was when I was a teenager. I don’t remember exactly when, but what I do remember is that it was very confusing to me. You must be born again, preachers would say, meaning, you must become someone else. You must become someone else. That’s how I remember them preaching it, anyway. And that was hard for me to integrate, as it probably was for some of you. “Are you a Christian?” Yes… “Have you been born again?” Well, not really. I’m still just me.

And I think that’s why my heart sang when I heard John Philip Newell talk about this passage at Lake Junaluska this summer.

Because he said that Jesus wasn’t saying that we need to become someone else. He said that Jesus, in saying that we must be born again, or anew, was saying that we need to be born into our true selves. We need to be born into our true selves.

He pointed out something that we already knew, which is that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. He wasn’t a Christian, and so he didn’t adhere to the Christian doctrine of original sin.

The idea of original sin, for those of us who might not be familiar with the term, is one that, whether we’re familiar with it our not, pervades our lives. When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, after having sinned, all of humanity was put in a state of separation from God, and it’s only through Jesus that we are reconnected. That’s the idea that many of us grew up with. You might remember the little picture that we sometimes used when we were trying to “save” someone. There are two cliffs with a great gulf in-between. God is on one side. Humankind on the other. And then you draw a cross in-between to connect the two? Does anyone remember that? Used to be an evangelical tool that we would use to share the “good news” of Jesus Christ. But Jesus Christ didn’t preach that kind of good news. Jesus didn’t preach about how we are disconnected from God. Jesus preached about how God is within us…

The concept of original sin didn’t come from Jesus. 

Newell said that he was on an interfaith panel with some other religious leaders awhile back, and someone asked them to comment on original sin, and the Jewish rabbi on the panel said that when someone Jewish hears the term “original sin,” they are prone to think, now that was really an original sin! In other words, original sin wasn’t, and isn’t a Jewish concept, but rather came around years after Jesus’ death. It was first alluded to in the second century by Iraneus, Bishop of Lyon, and was later developed by St. Augustine. It retained its popularity through church reformers such as John Calvin and Martin Luther, and is very popular to this day. One of the founders of Celtic Christianity, Pelagius, was kicked out of Rome, first, and later, Italy, largely because he refused to accept the concept of original sin, by the way.


We spend a lot of time as Christians, not in this church, maybe not enough in this church, confessing our sin. We are bad, bad, bad. We were born in sin. But as Newell points out, what would it look like if we acted that way in one of our most important relationships? What if we were constantly apologizing and feeling guilty and less than? It would be totally unhealthy. And yet, that’s so often the way that people view their relationship with God. You must be born again. You must become someone else. Because who you are is never good enough...

You must be born again, Jesus says, calling us back to our true selves. You must be born from above. You must be born anew. Born anew into that of you which is the essence of God, the essence of your true self...

Now, I’m not an artist, and I can’t draw it. But I can tell you that I saw a very clear picture of this on Wednesday when our Diane - our homeless/hospitality minister - told me about what had happened at the Hospitality Program the day before. It was a busy day, she said, and in the middle of all of the busi-ness, a man brought in a woman in a bathrobe. He had found her a few blocks away. She was wandering around, lost and confused. She didn’t know her name, and, said the man, she was (made a motion with his finger to indicate craziness). Diane had the woman sit down with Kari, who talked with her and kept her calm while Diane made some phone calls. It took about an hour for the police to get there, and when they did, they confirmed that the woman was on the missing persons list. Her son had been looking for her. She had parked her car and left her keys and her purse and her i.d. somewhere, and they tried to find it, and they contacted her son, and they eventually took her to the hospital, where we are hoping that she received the care she needed.

It’s a sad story, but a precious one. I hate to think what might have happened had that man not have found her. 

And here’s the thing that touched me most deeply about the story: The man who brought her in, said Diane, was drunker than anyone she’d ever seen. And note: this is our homeless minister talking. He was drunker than anyone she’d ever seen! 

And yet, this man, as drunk as he was, was able to connect with the very essence of God within, with the love-longings of God, to share with this woman that there is a place where you can go where they will help you, and not just to share that with her, but to accompany her, stumbling alongside her until he had delivered into Diane’s care.

And in that experience, I believe that that man was born anew, not in the way we used to talk about, becoming someone else, but in that, even in the midst of his brokenness, he reconnected with the very essence of God. You must be born anew, says Jesus.

I am reminded of the voice that we hear in “The Help,” the voice of Abileen, a family maid, who babysits little Mae Mobley. Mae’s mother usually ignores her, and whenever she pays her any attention, she criticizes her. So Abilene sits her down everyday and says, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

The heart of God is beating within each of us. May we listen for it, may we hear it, may we be renewed in its rhythm. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Rest of the World Statement


I.
We affirm that people are complex and God is not known, completely.

We deny that some humans are the spokesmouths for God, even though they may act as if they are.

II.
We affirm that love is good and that hate is bad.

We deny that those who'd take away rights and choice and liberty from others are acting in the common good.

III.
We affirm that women, gay folk, transgender folk and, well, folk in general are wonderful, strong, kick ass and live well, if imperfectly.

We deny that seeking to disempower and marginalize people for being who they are is a good thing.

IV.
We affirm that those racists and oppressors who, once upon a time and even in the name of God, sought to say "This person should not marry THAT person. God forbids it!..." that such attitudes have been cast upon the dustbin of history and recognized far and wide as wrong-headed and arrogant. Any who would, today, seek to go back to these devalued and antiquated values (i.e., bad values) would be ignored and rightly so.

Similarly, we affirm that most of us have likewise moved past the days of trying to demonize and marginalize women, gay and transgender folk or deny them their basic human liberties. Those who seek to do this will soon, like the "anti-miscegenists" of old, be summarily dismissed as crackpots and holding on to backwards, immoral and irrational ideas.

We deny that those who would promote anti-women, anti-LGBTQ attitudes speak for God, for the good, or for reason.

======

The "Nashville" types have lost this argument. They just have. It's all over but the fighting.

There will be much kicking and ranting on their part as they increasingly realize that they are the ones viewed as immoral and irrational, but this is just the way it is. They have lost and their numbers will increasingly diminish and their "arguments" (which amount to not much more than, "But I'm telling you, GOD doesn't want it! GOD agrees with me!") increasingly be ignored.

Within a generation or two, churches will continue meeting, lives will continue to be lived and LGBTQ folk and women will live empowered lives. The matter won't be broached any more in 99% of churches - at least in the US, any more than the "anti-miscegenationists" have any serious traction any more. Those who oppose gay marriage will simply be ignored until, by the end of the century, they will be, for all practical purposes, gone.

The few who remain will rant and gnash their teeth, insisting that God's Way is narrow and THEY are the few who remain faithful. They will deny even other Christians but no one will care, any more than we care about what the "anti-miscegenationists" say. The reason? No one cares what irrational, immoral cranks say.

I am at least almost a little sorry that these anti-gay folk, anti-women folk will feel so oppressed and ignored, but not really. They've brought it upon themselves and their arrogance does nothing to help build any bridges worth crossing.

They have been eclipsed by a more rational, more moral and, I think, more Godly way, and ultimately, that is a very good thing.

Friday, August 25, 2017

When I was a God



When I was a God
I could do no wrong and my
humility was supreme

but now

I have been cast down
and I walk with all creatures
alongside the stream

in peace

Friday, August 18, 2017

On Antifa...


There's just so much happening, I didn't want to miss the chance to post this so I'm doing it now while I'm thinking about it.

Anyone who knows me, knows I find Trump and his ardent supporters (in contrast, at least a little, to those who reluctantly tolerate him) to be morally and rationally and societally repulsive. I vomit a bit in my mouth anytime I think about him.

And his defense of "some" nazis and racists ("some were nice guys," or whatever) is atrocious, as is his false moral equivalency of Nazis and racists to the counter protestors. The man is a pig.
That being said, I have problems with the antifa movement. And I'm not the only one (amongst progressive and rational types). I'll post an article that goes into it some more, but in brief, here is my problem:

* They are anarchists, not liberals.

* They place themselves above the law, appointing themselves judge, jury and judgment against those THEY think deserve it. If they THINK you are a Nazi or sympathize too much with Nazis (again, in their head, not necessarily in reality), then they have been known to act against you.

* I hear that they even attacked some in the press this last weekend in their anarchic and self-appointed vigilantism against "the enemy."

I certainly sympathize with the notion of being against fascists and racists, but we do that within some boundaries. It's not every man (and mostly, I believe we are talking about men) for himself, everyone deciding who needs to be punched and who doesn't.

For one thing, it is counterproductive. It gives the idiots and racists like Trump some room for doing just what he has done. It undermines our efforts to stop fascism and racism, rather than supporting it.
But also, it is illiberal. It is not progressive to live outside the laws and make yourself the One True Decider for everyone else.

This is not to say that they are in anyway comparable to the actual fascists, but just to note that they are troubling and need to rein themselves in (and we need to help them rein in).

Read the article. Important stuff...

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/what-trump-gets-wrong-about-antifa/537048/

One excerpt:

"for all of antifa’s supposed anti-authoritarianism, there’s something fundamentally authoritarian about its claim that its activists—who no one elected—can decide whose views are too odious to be publicly expressed. That kind of undemocratic, illegitimate power corrupts. "

"We do not feel safe..."


Just because these stories need to be heard... from a Latino family/friend's Facebook page:

"Last night I had to comfort my youngest who has heard enough about recent events to be terrified that someone may target his father for being Latino.....he no longer wants his father to [go to work] for fear that he will be attacked or arrested. He kept asking me what we will do if his papa doesn't come home one night........and I don't know what to say. I don't know what we will do. I don't want to think about it, and yet, we have to.

Many members of our own family voted for, and still openly defend and support, Trump. My son does not feel safe. He stays awake worrying, crying, begging for all of this to stop.

I am at a loss for how to protect my children when even those who love us cannot see how much hatred is being stoked by the president they voted for, and continue to defend him.

I am not calling out people by names, and my anxiety runs high even as I write this. But if you love us, if you love my children and husband, then now is the time to help us feel loved, safe, and supported. Because even if you do not mean for your politics to be personal or include us, it IS very personal when it means that my kids do not know who they can trust, and that they might be hurt for being Latino, or. even for not fitting the traditional "male" stereotype with their long hair and preferences for artsy or sparkly things.

I am not interested in fighting.....I just want folks to know where we stand, how we feel, and how my heart breaks with this reality. If you need to unfollow me or unfriend me, feel free."

And for those who worry about shit like this, this is a "documented" family. This is how team Trump is making regular citizens of these United States feel, how they're terrorizing children and families. Shit like that's got to make you feel like a Big Man, right?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

RESIST.


Let's pretend:

I'm going to start a group: The Neo-Ted Bundians! It will be based upon the wit and wisdom of famous serial killer, child murderer, rapist and corpse molester, Ted Bundy.

But please, understand, I am only talking about the positive parts of what Ted Bundy stood for, not any of the negative stuff...

...What do you think of that notion? Do we offer sympathy and understanding for this person starting this "fan club," or do we recognize the horror involved in the suggestion?

I think the latter. Of course. (Why does it even need to be said?)

Look, these "neo-nazis" and "KKK" people don't need understanding. We understand just fine.

I understand that they are just regular guys (white guys, to be sure). That they have their concerns and reasons.

However, they have made a fatal flaw if they wanted to be treated as just regular guys: They deliberately chose to self-identify with some of the worst killers, rapists, racists and general awful people in history.

If they just wanted to celebrate "southern culture," they could have started a club about Sweet Tea and Cornbread. They could have started a "Friends of Alabama" support group. But no, they deliberately chose to identify with historical monsters. Of course, Nazis and KKK members were just regular guys, too, with some concerns that they no doubt thought were legitimate. I have no problems with legitimate concerns. BUT, there is a line that must be drawn.

That line is harm, oppression, killing, abuse, terrorism, spreading fear. Those embracing these tactics must be opposed.

Why? (Seems to be a stupid question, but okay, I'll play).

Because just as they might have some concerns, the rest of the world has concerns about justice and safety for all, about human rights. Because we value human rights, good people everywhere must stand opposed to those opposed to human rights. We can be inclusive as hell (or heaven, if you prefer), but IF you have a concern for human rights, then yes, that means we will exclude those who are opposed to human rights.

It's like all these conservatives who try to mock those who value tolerance for being intolerant towards some. But who are we being intolerant towards? The intolerant. IF you are supportive of tolerance, then by definition, you will oppose those advocating intolerance. It's nothing to be mocked, it's just rational.

These people are not imbeciles. They are not unaware of history. They know what the Nazis stood for. They know what the KKK stands for. They understand. And so do we.

That's the problem.

They are seeking to trade in on the horror and fear and oppression of these established groups. These are impotent white boys who are seeking some status and some borrowed power, so they're turning to monsters to try to access it. The thing is, IF you're going to choose to start a white boy's social club and you choose to identify with monsters, you can't ask us for "understanding." At that point, it's your time to understand and understand well:

Good and moral people must always stand opposed to oppressors. Those who choose the tools and symbols of oppressors will be lumped in with them and opposed.

You want to be understood in a moral flattering light? Begin by losing the oppressor, killer, rapist, destroyer identification. Abandon the monster, then we can talk.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

De-Criminalize Seeking Safety



Reflections on immigration, in three parts

I.
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God...

You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt..."

~God, in Exodus

Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

~God, in Malachi

Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.

~God, in Deuteronomy

For IF you truly amend your ways and your deeds, 
IF you truly execute justice one with another, 
if you do not oppress the sojourner,
the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place... 

THEN, I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.

~God, in Jeremiah

etc, etc, etc, etc, on and on and on, in the Bible.

https://www.openbible.info/topics/immigration

=======

II.

"What's the "illegal" part of being an illegal immigrant? Is it a crime to simply be an undocumented immigrant residing in the United States? What about sneaking across the border?

The confusion lies in the legal difference between improper entry and unlawful presence. Here's what you need to know:


Improper Entry Is a Crime [a misdemeanor, Dan]

To be clear, the most common crime associated with illegal immigration is likely improper entry.

Under federal criminal law, it is misdemeanor for an alien (i.e., a non-citizen) to:
  • Enter or attempt to enter the United States at any time or place other than designated by immigration officers;
  • Elude examination or inspection by immigration officers; or
  • Attempt to enter or obtain entry to the United States by willfully concealing, falsifying, or misrepresenting material facts."

So, to be clear, crossing the border without proper permission is, in the US, a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor is defined: 

"A misdemeanor is considered a crime of low seriousness, and a felony, one of high seriousness. A principle of the rationale for the degree of punishment meted out is that the punishment should fit the crime."

A crime of low seriousness

The punishment should fit the crime.

What has happened a great deal of the time when someone commits the "crime" of crossing an imaginary line illegally? A good deal of the time, an immigrant and/or his family is...

* In danger
* Being oppressed
* At risk of starving or just barely surviving

...when they leave their usually beloved homes, families and friends to come to the US to stop the threat. That is, they choose to engage in a victimless misdemeanor to avoid starving, death and oppression. Generally speaking, they don't want to leave their homes. They would much rather stay, but sometimes the threat is too great!

How serious is that "crime..."? Is it serious at all? Is it even rationally called a "crime..."?

Or is it only reasonable, moral and prudent?

What would you do if you were being oppressed or your family was starving where you were and there was not a good chance of changing it there... what would you do IF you knew you could escape that threat by committing a minor misdemeanor to save your/your family's life?

Of course, it is a moral and appropriate answer to violate that misdemeanor law to save lives!

Of course it is. If you disagree, then do us a favor: Go to a nation where you will be oppressed, threatened and starved and take the place of someone there, surrender your citizenship to them. THEN, tell us how you'd stay where your life/your children's lives were threatened.

Until then, I don't think anyone who says it is an actual "crime" to cross an imaginary line can be taken seriously.

Also, of course, any law that makes a crime of the victimless action of merely crossing an imaginary line to try to stay alive is an immoral, wrong and irrational (and, if you care about the Biblical examples easily found, unbiblical) law.
=======

III.

Unlawful Presence

"Some may assume that all immigrants who are in the United States without legal status must have committed improper entry. This simply isn't the case. Many foreign nationals legally enter the country on a valid work or travel visa, but fail to exit before their visa expires for a variety of reasons.

But mere unlawful presence in the country is not a crime. It is a violation of federal immigration law to remain in the country without legal authorization, but this violation is punishable by civil penalties, not criminal."

I repeat: MERE UNLAWFUL PRESENCE IN THE COUNTRY IS NOT A CRIME.

Read it and understand.

And how often is it the case that we're talking about unlawful presence, as opposed to the misdemeanor of improper entry?

In fact, a 2006 study showed that roughly 45% of undocumented immigrants originally entered the US legally, but then remained in the country without authorization after their visas had expired.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/24/politics/undocumented-immigrants-not-necessarily-criminal/index.html

Nearly HALF of what are popularly called "illegal immigrants" are NOT "illegal." Overstaying a visa is a civil infraction, like parking in the wrong place, not even a misdemeanor.

And of course, it should not be a crime.

What sort of monsters criminalize people for a victimless crime of crossing an imaginary line in order to stay alive/not be oppressed?

The time has come to recognize that crossing a line to try to stay alive is in no reasonable way a crime. The time has come to stop calling it a crime.

In fact, the only moral crime is in criminalizing people who are merely trying to stay alive. This is something we all should be able to agree with and work towards.

By all means, let's keep it regulated, let's watch out for bad actors and those who would cause harm. I'm not saying let's have an entirely "open" border. BUT, the notion of criminalizing merely trying to stay safe and alive must end.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dishonesty?


Okay, so I'm going to be more removed from my computer for a week or so, but I am interested in questions of honesty. Or, put another way, my honesty has been questioned on a blog post that is older and more difficult to reach, so I'm starting this new blog post to give a chance to address it.

The charge has been made that I've "lied," or, if not lied, presented myself in a "dishonest" manner in my blog posts and interactions with commenters. Now, of course, I am not a perfect man and of course I make mistakes. But I can honestly say that, at least in the blogosphere, I have never intentionally lied. I've never intentionally made a claim that I knew to be false in hopes of, whatever, making my case "stronger..." (Who would do that? I don't get it... I don't think I'm unique in this regards... I suspect that most people who are arguing a point or defending a belief in formats like this are, of course, trying to tell you honestly and without lies what they believe and why. Again, who would do that?)

If not lies, then the charge has been that I've been "dishonest" in presenting myself or answering questions (or something, it's still not clear to me).

Given that it's not clear to me what in the world the charge is and given that I of course, do not wish to even appear dishonest, I've requested these gentlemen to present ONE SPECIFIC charge and defend it as to why they think what I've said MUST be a lie, or MUST be dishonest. Make your case. As a point of fact, I have never intentionally done or said anything on the blogs that was intentionally dishonest or less than factual (short of jokes and rants, of course).

So, fellas, this is your chance to briefly present ONE instance of me lying that you can prove I said something intentionally dishonest, or of me being dishonest somehow in something I've said. Present the words and why it must be the case that I'm intentionally being dishonest or lying, as opposed to simply disagreeing with your hunches or hold another view than you do or another interpretation.

For example, I think that reasonable people across the spectrum can look at Trump's words and see that he has repeatedly made false claims. Abundantly and foolishly made false claims in unprecedented numbers. There are records of these claims on line.

Now, whether or not he is lying or just ignorantly making the false claims or doing so because he simply doesn't care about truth and may not recognize the difference (I fear the latter may be the case), the point is, he has made an unprecedented number of false claims.

Now, this is not a lie. It has been documented. Google it, I won't do your work on something so obvious. It's not a lie that I've pointed to this reality. Now you may disagree with this opinion and say, "Well, it's not documented but Clinton made more lies and bigger lies!" and you are welcome to your opinion, but I'm speaking of what is documented. There is nothing dishonest in my claim. You may ultimately disagree with the opinion, but it is not dishonest.

So, I'm asking you to provide, briefly and clearly, one instance of me actually being dishonest and then prove it.

If you can't do so, then admit it. If you can prove it, then I won't have any choice but to admit that I can see how that at least appears dishonest, but only if you can prove it.

What I suspect is that Bubba, at least, is speaking of me not answering questions in a timely enough (to his feelings) or clear enough (to his tastes) manner and that this is "evidence" of dishonesty. As opposed to a simple misunderstanding/difference of opinion, which is how I would describe such problems/disagreements.

After all, I have routinely experienced people not answering the question I'm asking and instead, taking the conversation off in a different direction or answering a different question... or just not answering it at all. And yet, I would never suggest the many, many (dozens?) of conservatives who have done this are arguing dishonestly or in bad faith. Just that they're either not understanding the question or are unable (for whatever reason) to answer the actual question asked of them. Now, I could certainly start calling all these conservatives dishonest, I just don't think that's a reasonable or fair guess as to their motivations.

Don't abuse this and load up dozens of comments please. I'm asking for brevity and clarity and hard data, not hunches based on wild interpretations of what I've written (as opposed to what I've actually written). I'll answer as I get a chance.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Fall to Grace


Before she crashed to the Earth below
the stars caught her mid-fall
and eased her softly to the ground

Monday, May 29, 2017

Threats?



I've heard some concerns raised by some on the more conservative side of things about the Left "abandoning" its values. By way of example, they offer the rioting and protesting that has happened in places like colleges when conservative figures have arrived to speak.

For instance, those graduates who walked out rather than listen to Mike Pence address a graduation ceremony.

First of all, I would just say that I share some concerns about actions like rioting by those on the left and trying to block conservative speakers. Liberalism is about free speech, amongst other things and we need to be careful to not appear to quash that which we support... even when that speech is used to advocate detestable values or by rather repugnant people.

On the other hand, one can value and hold dear the right to free speech AND at the same time say, "But I have no interest in hearing this person speak and you can't make me listen to them..." especially when that person (Trump, for instance) has committed horrible acts or promoted atrocious policies. It can be an act of resistance to refuse to even listen to what that person has to say.

For instance, until such time as Trump admits his sexual predatory behavior and apologizes for that behavior (indicating recognition of the actual wrong he has done), and repents and turns away from that behavior, I have zero interest in listening to what he says. He is a sexual predator and pervert and that's enough.

[And I say that as someone who, in my real life, does have to deal with sexual predators and can do so with some good grace. But there is a difference between dealing with the marginalized and down and out on their road to recovery and giving a pass to a sexual predator who has ascended to the most powerful office in the land.]

At any rate, all of that is to say that valuing free speech does not mean that we should not resist, at times, listening to what an oppressor has to say. One person's right to free speech is not an indication that others have to listen to their speech. Only an actual snowflake would insist that they must be heard.

Still, there are lines that are being crossed by some very few on the Left that I disagree with. Your right to refuse to listen to someone does not mean that you have the right to deny others the opportunity to listen.

And, on the other hand again, that isn't to say that people don't have the right to protest, for instance, a candidate that shows up to give a speech.

Free speech all around. That IS a liberal value and we should be wary about crossing that line. For the most part, I do not see this as a problem on the left, but there are some few instances where lines have been crossed and, to the degree that it has happened, those few liberals are forsaking the ideal of free speech in seeking to balance resistance and supporting free speech. Be aware.

Now, having said all of that(!) I get to the point of the article linked above.  There is serious concern that conservatives are being way too silent about those on their side who are abandoning basic decent values.

Trump IS a pervert and a sexual predator. By his own repeated admissions and boasting. Not a pervert in the sense of "ew! he does things my religion does not approve of...!" but a pervert in the sense of oppressor, of one who ogles teen aged girls who are half or all naked and then boasts and laughs about it publicly... in the sense of grabbing women by the pussy and boasting and bragging about what he can get away with because of his position of power. That is serious deviant and oppressive behavior. That shit should have been not a slight red flag, but a deal breaker. There should have been a line in the sand that so-called "family values" conservatives should not be willing to cross and, by and large, they did. Not just a few outliers, but in sufficient numbers to score an electoral win.

Beyond that, there is this common cause amongst some conservatives - including Trump and those in power - with those who are amongst our most serious threats. Several studies and reports from law enforcement types say that our greatest threats of violence comes from the Right Wing extremist types discussed in the article above. These are people who have been told (by Trump et al - now "main stream" conservatives), that the media is "the enemy!" that they tell "lies" and that those dark and foreign people - Muslims, Mexicans, black urban folk - are a threat to our way of life. As are "liberals" and the gays.

Mainstream conservatives are forsaking traditional values of humanity and liberty and truth-telling. This is a great concern and I hope to see, at some point, conservatives to start to speak out against it. Thanks to folks like John McCain and, at least temporarily, even Al Mohler, who have done so to some degree. May their tribe increase.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hard Questions... Reasonable Questions


I like reading conservative Christian commentary. Call me crazy, but I do. It helps me to think through positions and invariably raises questions. I sometimes ask Stan at the Winging It blog some questions and, even though he doesn't post my questions and says that he doesn't read my questions any more, nonetheless, he regularly answers them, often in a second blog post. Good for him.

He recently did this in his post, "Hard Sayings, Give to the One Who Asks..."

In an earlier post, he raised questions about taking the Bible's teachings literally. I asked him if he took Jesus' command literally, "Give to EVERYONE who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back." and, if so, I would like to ask him for $500, please and thank you.

In his post and his answer to my question, he gave a very good and correct answer, I think. He said...

You may say you believe that all this stuff is woodenly literally true, but what you believe is always displayed in what you do.

No, this can't be taken that way.

Jesus was making broad statements to provide principles. What we need to do is discover the principles He was trying to provide. That's much easier, much clearer, much more reasonable. We are not to hate. We are not to lust. We are supposed to have integrity. These aren't that hard to figure out.

On the question at hand -- "Give to everyone that asks" -- what is the principle? It is unavoidable that the principle is compassion and generosity.


So, Stan is saying that the rules/commands/teachings in the Bible need not always be taken woodenly literally. Even Jesus' commands to his followers are not to be taken woodenly literally. These are more of guidelines, Stan says, not woodenly literal rules.

Well done, I applaud Stan's answer and thank him for answering the question. I followed up with another question, something along the lines of, "Why then, take so many of the more 'sexual teachings' woodenly literally? There are two lines in the OT that say, "Men shall not lie with men. If they do, kill them." and Stan takes that teaching (the first half, anyway) woodenly literally. THAT, he says, is a hard rule for all times and all people. Why does he think that rule should be taken woodenly literally (and indeed, extrapolate out to clarify that this means gay and lesbian people can't marry those they're attracted to, even though that is not a literal rule anywhere in the Bible), but not Jesus' command about money?

And to Stan's credit, he answered that question, too, saying,

The point is not "Don't take it woodenly literal." The point is "Take it as intended. Historical when historical, poetic when poetic, parable when parable, analogy when analogy, hyperbole when hyperbole, doctrinal when doctrinal." Those who take it in a woodenly literal fashion every time make as much of a mistake as those who never take it at face value.

Fair enough. Thanks again for the answer. But then, this begs another question... and that is the point of my raising the initial question and this question remains unanswered:

So, who decides which lines in the Bible ARE to be taken woodenly literally and which are not? Is it not the case that you, Stan, are using your reasoning and making your best judgement to decide if something is literal? And that is certainly what I'm doing.

So, if we are both using our human judgement to make this call, even if you disagree with me, can you not respect that I, too, am seeking the good and the right and God's way? And can you not agree that you have no rational or biblical basis to say, "MY human opinion (and those who agree with me) are authoritatively, objectively correct and those who disagree with us are objectively wrong..."?

The thing is, humility.

We all have our opinions when we read the Bible (or Koran, or Huck Finn, etc) and reach conclusions on truths and opinions. But they are human opinions, God has not told Stan or me what God intended, or what Matthew or Luke intended, when they wrote what they wrote. Except for things that are demonstrable (Israel was an actual nation is provable, Jonah was an actual man is not provable), we can't prove our opinions. They are human opinions and thus, it is not rational or fair for some to say that they are the ones who speak authoritatively for what God intends.

In all things, humility, this is a reasonable opinion on unprovable matters and, I'd say, consistent with biblical teachings.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

~St Paul. Probably.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Magical Thinking



When I was a young lad in the environmentally conscious 1970s, I was at my cousins' house one day with my younger brother. Looking for something to do, the older cousin (probably a teenager) suggested we have a design contest. Each younger cousin would draw out a plan for helping reduce pollution problems (yeah, a weird game, I know), and then the older cousin would be the judge and announce a winner.

I jumped right on this and started laying out a complex underground fan system that would draw pollution out of the air through a series of fans and vents, blowing the pollution underground through the sewer lines to a completely sealed container of some sort. As a ~eight year old, I was pretty impressed with my engineering problem-solving prowess.

My younger brother, on the other hand, had only managed to do this: He drew a big red button and when you pushed the button, pollution disappeared, he said. Poof! Of course, I scoffed at such a childish answer.

The time came and we presented our plans to the older cousin and... she said that my younger brother won!

"W-what?!" I sputtered. "That isn't a plan! It's a wish! There's nothing to say why it works, it's not a real solution!" There was no convincing the judge of the righteousness of my reasoning.

I have been reminded of this story this year, pretty much every time that Trump or one of his supporters says things like, "No one knew how hard it would be to come up with a great healthcare system" or, "This being president is more difficult than you'd think!" or, "Here's what we're going to do: We're going to SOLVE the problem with a GREAT answer. No one will believe how great the answer is. We'll just cut taxes in half! We'll just make Mexico pay for a wall! The wall will just fix things! We'll just..."

These are like my younger brother's answers. They're examples of magical thinking. "No one knew how hard it would be to find good health care solutions..."?? Of course people did! Anyone who looks at the complex problems associated with paying for health care, who has read up on the research behind the topic, who is familiar with the process of creating big policies, who has READ... anyone who has thought about it and given it some research knows things just don't magically happen.

We don't just magically "fix" the economy by cutting taxes for the wealthiest in half. Someone has to be an adult and pay for our bills. We don't just magically fix environmental issues by creating a big red button that "solves things" and then cutting all the actual regulations that do affect change.
In my brother's defense, he was probably six or seven years old. In Trump's defense... well, there is no defense.

Come on, people, wishful thinking is not a plan. A half page of bullet points is not a tax system. Dreams without plans are just wishful thinking and that is fine for children, but when it comes to national policy, we need adults in charge with adult thinking and adult solutions.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter as Murder Ballad...


A song from my church today. "If It Hadn't Been for Love," which is originally a fantastic murder ballad from Chris Stapleton (check it out). With a little adaptation, we played it as an Easter song, which strikes us as quite appropriate.

Peace.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Jesus Was a Madman



Jesus was a madman
wild-eyed and dangerous
hanging just at the margins
associating with the undesirables
and untouchables 
and unwanteds
'til one day
he just plain snapped

And the clearing of the temple?
That was a horror story,
animals screaming
people running and gunning
money rolling 'round the floor
and flying out the windows
and out the doors
dark and terrifying
hideous and horrible.


Here, there was a mild-mannered preacherman,
teaching,  preaching love and peace
siding with the least of these
til one day, geez Louise!
he just goes
jack-rabbit
insane
in the temple of God
yelling, whipping,
calling down curses
upon the people
which is to say, 
upon the businessmen

They say he was possessed by demons
A secret servant of satan
Beelzebub's bud
Foaming-at-the-mouth mad

Right there in the Big City
Right under their noses
Right in their faces.

They gonna kill that man, for sure.

They gonna kill that man.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Tragedy


I took a stick
and wrote a story
upon a softly rolling creek

And then I laughed and laughed and laughed
like a woodpecker in love


It was a comedy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Season of Lengthening Days



We live in 
a season of lengthening days

We must believe this to be true

Even when the skies whisper gray doubt
and the streams run slow and
ice-covered.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Today, I Looked Up



Today I looked up and, 
to my amazement, 
saw a great blue heron
flying across the sky
with her impossibly long legs and dinosaur wings

I saw a miracle, 
grace in flight
When I looked up today.

Yesterday, I did not look up
And I didn't see anything.
No grace, no miracle, nothing.

And I wonder what I would have seen

if I'd looked up.






Wednesday, February 15, 2017

You Are the Light of the World



“You are the light of the world.”

That's what Jesus said.

He said that I am the light of the world!

The sort of light that makes people 
smile and whistle with delight, that
brightens the very fields of the earth
making the grass sing golden songs.

Jesus said that 
you and I 
are this beautiful
powerful
world-changing light...
 
a light like 
the very sun above us,
a light that can not be hidden or
turned off.

That's what Jesus said about us!

That's some kind of pressure...

but who are we to disagree?