We Choose

These days we hear many people complaining about negativity in the news. This person acts out, the media pick the story up, we read it, and we complain. The place to break the cycle is in what we choose to read, what we choose to click on to learn more. Is it any surprise that politicians say outrageous things? Of course not. Why do they say outrageous things? They say outrageous things for the same reason that toddlers misbehave – to get attention. Worst of all, it works! Every day on social media people are outraged because of the horrible things someone else has said, but we read the article!

personatlaptopOn the other hand, when people do good things or say good things we find it boring and so we don’t read the article, we don’t click on the link, and then we wonder why we don’t see positive news! If we want to change this, we need to think like a news producer or a webmaster. Clicks sell. If you want to change what you see, change your choices. Do we really need to read another article to learn that the man occupying the white house is a horrible human being? Of course not – so stop reading about his antics. Are those stories about people doing good things boring? If you want to change what you see, it doesn’t really matter – click on them anyway. Nobody can tell whether you read the article at the other end of that link or not, but advertising is sold based on how many people visit the site.

We need to recognize that in a consumer driven society like ours we really do have a voice. Very often, the power of that voice is driven by the choices we make every day. These are choices about what we read, what we watch, what links we click. Those choices have more immediate impact than a boycott ever could, and they are much easier to organize. Just click!

A Small Life

I had a conversation with someone the other day about the fact that they got a snowplow to come plow the driveway after about an inch and a half of light, fluffy snow had fallen, prodigy-snowplow-videoShe said, “we’re lazy, so we had a friend come and plow the driveway.” I responded that I didn’t think that was lazy, and if I found myself in the same position and had the opportunity for someone to plow the driveway I would do the same thing. We might say that such a choice is but a judicious conservation of energy. A few days later it snowed again, this time a bit heavier, and a different plow appeared to banish the snow from the premises. Good for them!

Then still a few days later it snowed again, this time a wet, heavy snow. Nothing was done except a path to the garage. It wouldn’t matter, except the property is a multiple family dwelling. The driveway remained untouched, the front walk a tortfeasor’s wet dream. No plow would arrive this time. Predictably, the driveway partly melted and then froze again, a combination skating rink and lunar landscape of ice. The same people had delivered to them before all of this started three large bags of salt to treat the ice with, but it remained in its bags. This is laziness. If it was a laziness that impacted only them, nobody would care. There is a larger point at work here.

When we commit to do something and honor that commitment, we grow. In a similar small likefashion, when we commit to do something and fail to honor that commitment, we diminish ourselves. There is a segment of the population that seems to believe doing the least you can to get by is somehow an honorable thing, a demonstration of cunning, but our souls know better. Inside of us, every time we skirt our responsibilities, we are diminished and our life becomes smaller. This shrinking can be overcome, but not easily. In our more reflective moments, usually a bit later in life, we will likely come to realize that we could have been better, our lives could have been richer, but we chose to circumvent those opportunities. Life is about engaging opportunity, not running away from it. Many people don’t realize that truth, and that is the true tragedy.

Jesus Said We Should Eat our Wheaties

He did. In the Bible. Wheaties were a big part of his spiritual program. It’s right there in the Bible. He was also big on isometric exercise. He said so in John’s gospel.

lincolninternetThe most frightening part of those statements is that some people will believe them. I am quite honestly surprised no advertising agency has tried to work out a way to claim that Jesus endorsed products. Oh sure, some people would raise a fuss but a lot of other people would swallow that stuff hook, line, and sinker. They would be arguing with their friends that Wheaties are the most godly cereal even invented and that eating Frosted Flakes is satanic. It is as if life was a card game and much of the world runs around trying to collect trump cards (you should pardon the expression) they can whip out at any moment to win arguments or end debates. The result is that far too many people are invested in nonsense.

gotochurchjesusI just finished a book by Ronald Rolheiser that claimed Jesus taught that four things were non-negotiable, and the fourth one was “go to church.” There are several problems with this statement. The first is that Christianity only arose after Jesus was killed. That means there weren’t any churches until long after Jesus was gone, The second is that Jesus never even said “go to the synagogue,” because synagogues were a development that arose after the destruction of the Temple some forty years after Jesus’ death. The third and biggest problem is that Rolheiser is a Roman shadysalespitchCatholic priest and presumably knows what he wrote isn’t true. His assertion is equivalent to saying that Jesus wants you to eat you Wheaties.

I think I can speak for everyone who has walked away from institutional religion when I say we are tired of the lies, we are tired of shady sales pitches that are easily debunked. We expect truth from spiritual teachers and leaders, not self-serving propaganda. We want to hear truth that will help us, not the kind of lies that we get told at the bar when someone is trying to get in our pants – or the pants of our children, in the case of Roman priests. We seek to be educated, not seduced; informed, not coerced. So spare us the nonsense and tell it like it is or else save your breath. We aren’t buying any longer.

Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, and Bigotry

Shakira-J.-Lo-Blow-Minds-at-Super-Bowl-Halftime-ShowOh, the outrage! Jennifer Lopez and Shakira have asses! Son of a bitch! What am I going to tell my teenagers – they don’t know about asses! Not only that, they had the audacity to shake their asses! Jennifer Lopez climbed a stripper pole? How do I explain that to my kids? These women were both dancing as if they were from some sort of Hispanic culture – we can’t have that! Where are Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers when you need them? We can’t have these brown people running around doing the things they do, or the next thing you know our teenagers will be humping like rabbits (n.b., they already are)!

Patriots Rams Super Bowl FootballThis reminds me of last year when Adam Levine made me uncomfortable by taking off his shirt and moving his hips like a male stripper! Jesus Christ! My kids didn’t know that men had hips! My teenage boys weren’t even sure how they walked, but now I am going to have to explain it to them. Then there was the fact that I went through two Hitachi magic wands trying to get over what I saw!

Okay, ladies, let me help you out. First, there was nothing inappropriate about what either Jennifer Lopez or Shakira were doing. They were dancing, expressing themselves, and just because it wasn’t boring doesn’t mean it was wrong. As for the pole, you can take a class at the local gym or dance studio to learn pole dancing. It’s not reserved for strip clubs any longer, and hasn’t been for some time. Furthermore, if your teenagers have been to homecoming or prom, they jlohumpspolehave already been having sexual contact in the backseat of the family SUV – or have you forgotten your youth?

Here’s the real deal. I have a question for you. Why is it you are fine with your teens playing video games in which they kill other people but are upset with them watching two women old enough to be their mothers shake their asses? I will tell you why. It’s not likely because you are a prude, although your reaction proves you are a prude. It’s because somewhere in your past, in a place you don’t want to look at, you have been sexually traumatized and this is triggering you. The problem is neither Shakira nor JLo, nor both or them all lathered up. The problem is that you need to get yourself to a therapist post haste, and no amount of outrage is going to change that truth.

Pet Rabbits?

man yellingFrom the Huffington Post:

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER RESIGNS AFTER GUILTY PLEA  Duncan Hunter has submitted his resignation, about a month after pleading guilty to federal charges. The Californian Republican and his wife, Margaret Hunter, were indicted for misappropriating $250,000 in campaign donations for personal use, including luxurious family vacations, private school tuition, and airfare for pet rabbits. He also used campaign donations to fund his extramarital affairs.

Pet rabbits? As in more than one pet rabbit? I suppose they do breed like, well, rabbits, and the horse you rode in onbut seriously? This isn’t a guy who is a few bucks short and so skims ten bucks off the fund to get McDonald’s. It’s not even a guy who has always scrimped and slips up and decides to finally take the vacation to Disneyland he never could afford. This is a guy screaming at the top of his lungs at every American taxpayer: “Fuck you!”

This is what happens when wealth becomes your god. You will go to any means necessary to look like you have acquired wealth, because wealth means you are a good person. In this belief system, your behavior doesn’t really matter as long as you end up wealthy – or at least appear to be wealthy. It’s the prosperity gospel writ large and secularized. It is the antithesis of any historic understanding of morality, and it rules the day in contemporary western culture.

food bankYou might be wondering, “whom does it hurt?” It hurts everyone. Perhaps most importantly, it hurts the people who run around frantically doing whatever is necessary to grab on to the appearance of wealth and it hurts their family. It hurts the family because they are the ones who really pay the price in terms of the absence of the wealth worshipers. They are also the ones who will pay the biggest price should the family scammer get caught and do time.

Ultimately, it hurts all of us. It hurts economically, it hurts in terms of the price we pay socially for the fallout from this behavior, and it hurts because it asserts a morality that is profoundly immoral. We will be paying generations from now for the human cost of this behavior. That may be the saddest part of all of this.

Higher Education IS Privilege

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and one of the hosts is a woman working toward a PhD in women’s studies. She’s a white woman, though that really doesn’t matter. If you have a collegegradPhD it doesn’t matter if you are white, black, brown, yellow, green, or orange (though if you are orange you might want to get your liver checked). I would also guess she is around thirty-something years old.

Anyway, I was listening to this podcast and the subject of women working in the sex industry came up. With all the zeal of a DKS*, this woman proclaimed that this was bad, bad, bad, always bad and always destructive. The other hosts raised the issue of women who had reported working in the sex industry to pay their tuition at college or because it was the only job they could find to feed their children. Almost predictably, this woman responded that no, no, no; bad, bad, bad, this was a terribly destructive thing. Then it hit me. She doesn’t have the first clue about how privileged she is!

queen-red-dress-sitting-throne-symbol-power-queen-red-dress-sitting-throne-symbol-power-wealth-146335691If you are lucky enough to be skating through college and graduate school in one continuous period of immersion in the academy, good for you. You should recognize that you have had a series of advantages that most people don’t have, including but not limited to financial advantages, class advantages, support of family and friends along your educational path, personal wealth or access to financial aid to pay for your education, and a host of others. You likely don’t know the first thing about worrying where your next meal is coming from, finding a job that will cover your housing expenses, or trying to find a way to feed and care for a child or children as a single parent. You are clueless. Worse yet, you are clueless that you are clueless.

You may ask, “how can she be clueless, she is educated?” The truth is that the academy is full of professors who have never set foot in a working class neighborhood, much less an economically disadvantaged neighborhood. Even if they have studied the lives of the average person, the odds are very good that they have not lived that life. They think that economic distress is having to eat Ramen noodles during college, but in truth there was never any danger of them not having a roof over their heads and they could always call home for a quick $100 to tide them over.

Before we pass judgment on what people do to survive, we should be very sure we understand the challenges they are facing. We should get off our thrones and talk to people who have had these experiences. We should recognize how lucky we are to not have been faced with similar challenges and choices, and we should refrain from offering our “wisdom” until we have lived a bit.

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*DKS is a term I coined for new graduates from seminary – and higher education in general. These folks tend to think they know everything, but in reality their knowledge is only theoretical and hasn’t been tested in the waters of reality. Therefore, they Don’t Know Shit.¬†

When did it Become Acceptable?

pompeoWhen did it become acceptable in America for a man to mistreat a woman? When did it become acceptable in America for an American government official to take a woman in a back room and scream profanities at her? How does it come to pass that an American Secretary of State, a position that traditionally seen a diplomatic, is reduced to profanity laden back room thrashings of not only a woman but an educated woman with a Master’s Degree in the very field he then presumes to demand a pop quiz on, which she of course passes with flying colors – and then the Secretary of State turns around and lies about it? When did integrity become a thing of the past? When did honesty become optional? When did it become 1952 again?

When did guys like the guy pictured at right start to have even a sliver of a chance at getting angrymanelected or appointed to national office? When did guys like him start calling the shots in national elections? When did people who claimed to be people of faith start trading that faith away for a chance to grab temporal power and then still have the audacity to show up at a place of worship on Sunday claiming to be a believer? When did it become acceptable to slap on your snazzy Nazi uniform and stroll down to the park for a festive rally with your Nazi friends? When did the ability to burp slogans in an alcohol induced haze become more persuasive than informed discourse?

When did oaths stop meaning anything? When did it become perfectly acceptable to slander a decorated purple heart recipient, but unacceptable to expect the United States Congress, President, and his cabinet to be true to their oaths to protect and defend the

grab-my-pussy
I will take a pass.

Constitution? When did it become perfectly fine for Congress to decide to deliberately¬†not do its job by taking up legislation? When did it become okay for the President to “grab them by the pussy?”

I am not an old fashioned guy. I’m actually pretty forward thinking about most social issues. I am just wondering where common courtesy and common decency have gone. And before you start saying, “yes, but he did this and she did that,” you should know that you are just proving my point. We do lack self respect and a sense of self worth that we are more than willing to denigrate ourselves at the drop of a hat for a shot at momentary fame or momentary power. I want us all to understand that the bill is going to come due on these self destructive practices, and when it does we all will suffer the consequences of realizing how little regard we have for ourselves and each other.

Life is Cheap

Have you noticed? Life is cheap. Usually when we talk about life being cheap we are talking about life in the hood, where nobody really expects to live past twenty-five anyway so why not just kill whoever crosses our path? It’s much safer to talk about life in the hood being cheap because when we talk about other spaces and places it hits closer to home and calls moral people to take action.

Life is cheap when a President can decide to kill a member of another nation’s military solely because it would make a nice distraction from his own unacceptable behavior. What’s more, he can violate the sovereignty of a third nation to do his murder because, well, he can get away with it. He can worry about manufacturing reasons after the fact. Then when that second nation shoots down a passenger jet from a fourth nation allegedly because it mistook that passenger jet for a drone from the First Nation, it apparently becomes a way too complex moral question to suggest that the blame for that lies squarely on the orange head of the President who started this whole chain of events. The reason that it is too complex is that we have become moral midgets.

How Do I Justify My Presence?

I came across a very interesting thread on Facebook over the weekend, and really feel compelled to respond to it in a longer form than is possible in a Facebook discussion. Here is the product!

To paraphrase the question raised, “how does a transgender man preaching in conservative Indiana justify his presence in the pulpit using the Gospel?” My answer: he shouldn’t try.

You see, to the extent that we continue to try to justify our very existence, no matter the reason anyone might call our existence or presence into question, we legitimize an illegitimate question. Can you see that? If someone says to me, “you have no right to be here,” and I respond to that nonsense then I make the very question of my right to be here seem legitimate. If someone said to you, “I see you have three arms,” and you started arguing that you only had two arms, you would be giving the question of how many arms you have credence. Rather than argue our arm count, most of us would either walk away or call the local mental health crisis line.

The world is full of diversity, and that diversity has threatened people since humans first crawled out of the primordial sludge. We are psychologically programmed to be suspicious of the different, to interpret it as a threat until we learn otherwise, as a basic survival instinct. Those of us who have learned to use more than our reptilian brain have learned to use reasoning to overcome those instincts when they are faulty. Our friend Bob might be profoundly unattractive, but we learn that doesn’t make him a danger. Despite this knowledge, we tend to want to keep crawling back into the sludge in the hopes that the reptilians among us will come to see that we are okay and admit that truth out loud. Guess what? It ain’t gonna happen, so it’s time to move on.

 

Sex Secret

I don’t think women do this, but I could be wrong. Women hardly ever invite me to eavesdrop on their conversations about sex. Dammit. Some men do this, however, and it’s them I would like to discuss today. You women can listen in, I don’t mind.

two men whisperingThere are two versions of this practice that break down along sexual orientation lines. Gay and bisexual men will tend to tell stories about straight, or at least publicly straight, men who tried to have sex with them, but they declined. Straight men will claim that they had sex with a woman known to those present for discussion. Perhaps Dice Clay parodied this nonsense best when he joked, “Mother Goose? I fucked her!”

Whether any of these claims are true, and I suspect most of them are not, doesn’t make adice clay bit of difference. The very fact that the claims are made reveals quite a bit about the claimant, and the revelation is not flattering. There is no healthy, mature motivation for one person to share stories of sexual conquest or continence with another. It’s even worse when the story telling occurs in a group context.

In a day in which American sexual understanding and ethics have never been worse, and it seems there is no shortage of people looking to blow up the reputations of select others on rumor alone (e.g. Rep. Katie Hill), we need to see those who recklessly share self serving accounts of their own sexual behavior for the irresponsible, immature people they are. We also need to steer clear lest we become the subject of their next set of fictions.