Is it me?

Sometimes I think that maybe I am jaded, or too serious, or that I have some kind of kill joy perspective that renders me unable to appreciate “good, wholesome church fun.” I guess my notion that organized activities should be age appropriate only applies to the elderly or the infirm and not to adults gathered in the name of their particular (or peculiar) faith tradition. Whatever the reason may be, “good, wholesome church fun” has always left me flat.

Gathering the leaders of an organization together to do childish crap in order to make them seem more accessible seems to me to be both transparently manipulative and counterproductive, but the Church seems to disagree. Instead they trot out their leaders to do things only highly intoxicated people would do, except these people are sober as a church mouse. And while those already on the inside cheer and applaud this foolishness, those on the outside shake their heads and feel like these infants have nothing to offer them – and they are right.

I really believe that people are looking for a community that will understand and support them in the real struggles of adult life. When they see alleged leaders jumping around on pogo sticks, they don’t see people to whom they can relate. Rather, they see what looks like an occupational therapy group at a hospital for the criminally insane.

I’m not saying that we can’t have fun. In fact, I think having age appropriate fun in plain view is vitally important. The Church in all its forms has been reluctant to do that for fear its more tight assed members would object. Apparently it doesn’t want to take on the difficult task of encouraging its members to move into adulthood, and so prefers to act as if they had a role as an extra in a Jerry Lewis movie.

And the decline of the Church is a mystery because…?



The days in which anyone with even a shred of honesty or integrity could say “my religion is the only right one” have been consigned by the advances in human capacity to the waste bin of history. There are no serious or worthwhile conversations to be had from this archaic stance.


Very often, we label ourselves – tall, short, fat, thin, conservative, progressive, smart, dumb, wealthy, middle class, poor, successful, compassionate, empathetic, competitive, magento-product-label-new-labelsand dozens of others. Then we only pay attention to people who carry the same labels we do. Are we that afraid of being challenged, that afraid of having our opinions changed, that sure that we are right and everybody else is wrong?

Apparently, we are. In being so sure, our world shrinks to the size of a grain of rice while we act as if we have achieved something. How silly.

America Prefers its Veterans KIA

memorial dayHappy Memorial Day, everyone! In case you haven’t been besieged by this reminder already, today is the day that America honors her fallen veterans – the only kind of veteran America really likes. As you have probably heard, you shouldn’t have too much fun this weekend. We would much prefer you be somber, but do come to the parade and other celebrations! Just remember, this isn’t about picnics and drinking, no! You must have the proper attitude to honor our fallen veterans, because America honors her fallen veterans!

The living ones, not so much.

Oh, sure, they have their special days as well. We have Armed Forces Day coming up on American as fuck shirtJune 29th, but you probably didn’t know when that day was because we don’t want to make too big a deal about our currently serving military or we might have to face the fact that we don’t pay them a living wage to put their lives on the line for our freedom. New recruits with four months time enlisted make $1681 a month, or $20,171 per year and the privilege of living in base housing free of charge to put their lives on the line for us. That’s roughly $10 per hour, plus housing and health care. Overwhelmed yet? The top of the scale for the highest ranking enlisted person with over sixteen years of service is $69,000 plus a housing allowance and health care. Not exactly a wage that reflects the value one might place in one’s leaders in corporate America, is it.

You might be thinking, we love and take care of our veterans who have completed their service! We honor them on Veterans Day, which gets a little more attention than Armed Forces Day but not quite as much as Memorial Day! What’s more, if they qualify (which they most likely don’t), they can get healthcare free of charge at our completely broken VA system where they will get the privilege of waiting months for substandard care. If you retire after twenty years as an E-6, you’ll even get a pension of $1600 a month. Stick it out thirty and leave as a E-7 and that figure will skyrocket to $2300. Try not to be overwhelmed.

If America really loved her veterans, we would provide them the best healthcare mem day saleavailable – including psychiatric services, free education, low interest loans for housing, and a host of other, much needed services. The problem is that costs money, and the government isn’t really interested in spending money on something so inconsequential as human beings. They have other priorities. They would much rather fund the next war that will create even more veterans we won’t care for or, even better, give corporations tax breaks. If you think that’s too harsh, consider the other highly celebrated memorial day subject – consumer capitalism. Don’t have fun, go to the parade, and then spend money, because if there’s one thing America does love and encourage, it’s spending. So, get out there and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we could get shit on sale.

One last sticky point. Some Americans get all energized over people who kneel or kaepernick kneelingotherwise refuse to stand during the National Anthem. They carry on about how it disgraces the flag and our veterans, sometimes at the very sporting events we ask veterans to stand up at to receive our applause to honor their service and make them forget we really don’t do more than pay them them lip service in return for their service. That Colin Kaepernick and his ilk, kneeling in response to societal injustice and racism, we won’t tolerate that at our Memorial Day celebrations!

Did you know that a veteran commits suicide every sixty-five minutes in America? That our VA system is completely ill-equipped to deal with that, and you want me to get riled up about who kneels during the National Anthem? Maybe those “kneeling bastards” are the only ones who understand!.


The Untimely Passing of Rachel Held Evans

As many if not most of you probably know by now, beloved conservative cum moderately progressive Christian author and speaker Rachel Held Evans passed away on May 4th at only thirty-seven years of age from complications of the flu and a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics. She is survived by, among others, her husband and two young children.

And the moderately progressive Christian world reeled.

How could this be? They were shocked, some even outraged, by the unfairness of it all. Not Rachel! Not her, of all people! Oh, there was weeping and wailing and gnashing of RHE bookteeth across the Twitterverse, the Facebookverse, and every other social mediaverse you might imagine. It seemed to me to go beyond what one might expect, even in light of the passing of such a young, talented, and gracious woman.

And then it dawned on me.

Deep inside, in places we don’t examine very often or very well, many of us believe that if we are good enough, or talented enough, or devout enough, or pretty enough – and most of all if we are all of those things – God will save us from adversity and at least untimely death. There’s only one thing wrong with that belief.

It doesn’t work that way.

Everybody dies. None of us are getting out of here alive. None of us knows when it will happen, although there is some indication that at least some of us will have a sense when death is close beyond looking up to see the grill of a bus as we cross the street. We all have different ways of dealing with it and different ways of explaining it. In fact, trying to explain it may well be at the root of most religion. The important thing is that not dealing with it is no way to deal with it. Denial never solved anything, unless the problem was not having enough problems.

As hard as this may be to accept, Rachel Held Evans died because we all die. Some die sooner, others later, but we all die. She didn’t do anything wrong and her death makes no statement about her life. The best thing we can say to the loved ones she leaves behind is, “I’m sorry.” The best thing we can do for them is simply be present. The best thing we can do for ourselves, after the mourning is over and the morning has come, is to come to a better understanding of the great teaching that is death.

Alyssa Milano’s Sex Strike

In light of the Governor of Georgia signing a bill that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected (which is often before the woman is aware she is pregnant), Alyssa Milano has suggested a sex strike by women until they “have legal control over our own bodies.” In case you don’t know, Alyssa Milano tries to get attention these days by fashioning herself a social and political commentator. Her “strike” is a good example of why it’s a bad idea to let just anyone be a commentator.

Believe it or not, Alyssa, sex is not a reward for men who are good little boys. Nor is it a way to get one of us to bring pressure on others of us who are not doing the things you believe they should. Despite that, women have a history of using their vaginas as if they were some kind of a reward for good behavior and acting as if physical intimacy with their partner is something that really doesn’t matter to them except as a tool of influence and blackmail – a commodity, rather like a chocolate chip cookie, that doesn’t really care whether it is eaten or not.

In a country where one in three women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, there is no shortage of relationships whose physical intimacy is both a major challenge and an area of profound unmet need. Some of us in those relationships persist, doing our best to keep the relationship together despite the challenges. Others are unable to continue through no fault of either party. The last thing that those of us in relationships that are challenged need is nonsensical input from you. As a self-reported survivor of sexual abuse you should know better, but apparently you do not. As a forty-six year old woman, you are likely aware that the odds of you becoming pregnant are not great – so what is really at work here, other than your desire for attention? Nothing good, I’m afraid.


Naked Practice

Calm down. It’s okay, and yes I do sometimes descend to cheap titillation. I can’t help myself. The truth is, though, that we need to ask ourselves a serious question: if Linuslinus and snoopy went on a meditation retreat, would he take his blanket to the meditation room? Since he is an American, the odds are he would. He would also be wearing yoga pants with matching top, be wrapped in a meditation shawl, have at least three wrist malas on as well as at least one full size mala, have his own meditation cushions, and his MP3 player would be loaded with his favorite meditation and yoga music. There’s nothing wrong with all of that, but it does beg another question: If Linus was stranded on a desert island, could he meditate?

For many of us, the answer is and emphatic, “NO!” We are profoundly attached to our spiritual blankets, so much so that they actually get in the way of our practice. If you are the kind of contortionist who can actually sit full lotus, would you be able to practice if you developed a hip problem and could no longer sit that way? For far too many of us have become attached to non-essentials that we carry around with us as symbols of dream-of-nuditylegitimacy that serve only the ego. What’s the point of having a spiritual practice if we can’t spontaneously pull up a piece of beach or a mountain vista and just “do it?” There is no point, because such attachments are anything but practice.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t support the sweat shops that churn out your official gear. I am saying you should learn to go naked on a regular basis. It will do wonders for your practice.

Our Fascination with Foreign Practices

Americans are fascinate with things we perceive to be exotic. I became acutely aware of this truth when I became an Episcopalian and was suddenly exposed to people who had never left the United States but had somehow acquired a British accent. Another british-1600x720example is that people just love to take their shoes off at yoga centers, meditation halls, any place that even seems vaguely Eastern. I don’t think it would take a lot of effort to convince people that going to the bathroom is a deeply spiritual practice if we would just place a mat for them to leave their shoes at the entrance. Almost as popular is contorting our Western bodies into positions that Eastern folks regularly assume but those of us raised with, say, chairs never do.

We assume that doing all of these rather unusual external behaviors by definition make us more spiritual. The problem is that they don’t. There is nothing about sitting in full lotus that would prevent a raging ass hat from assuming the position. In fact, you can see it at just about any spiritual center. The truth is that there isn’t anything about any external behavior that transforms us internally. Those external practices can actually Does-He-Have-Bones-Nigerian-Contortionist-Murphybecome a barrier if they reinforce our ego by supporting the idea that we are better than our fellow practitioners.

In the end, if bending yourself into a pretzel shape helps you with your practice then that is a beautiful thing and you should keep right on doing it. If you can’t manage to turn your body into a piece of origami, you should know that sitting in a chair will neither hinder nor accelerate your practice. Perhaps we need to be asking ourselves whether we could practice if we found ourselves on a deserted island with none of our objects (or positions) of attachment.

Compelled to Organize

You would never guess it to look at some of our closets, but we human beings seem to be Family-Nature-Walk-Patterns-in-Naturecompelled to organize. When someone comes up with a new idea and shares it with a few friends, it might grow in popularity. At that point, someone is bound to step forward and attempt to institutionalize the idea – and that movement spells the beginning of the end of the new idea. It might last for quite a while, but when it dies out it almost certainly will be because the weight of the institution drags the good idea under water. Let’s look at an example.

Suppose that Fred discovers how much he enjoys walking along nature trails. He tells a few friends about his walks, and a couple of them decide to accompany him on a walk. His friends find the walks rewarding, too, and share his desire to spread the word about their walks. The get a website, or go on and form a group. After a while they learn that other people are starting walking groups, too, but they are walking at different times of the day than Fred and his friends do. Not only that, but some of them are wearing hiking boots while Fred and company only wear running or walking shoes. Others aren’t walking on clearly identified trails. Then there is the issue of clothing. Fred and his friends wear shorts or sweatpants and a t-shirt, but these new people are wearing Under Armor clothing only.

Clearly, this will never do. Fred’s colleague Frank decides to write down some rules for Lewis-Black2nature walking. True, orthodox nature walkers walk in the morning on clearly identified trails, wear comfortable clothes suitable for other purposes and athletic shoes. They declare hiking boots, Under Armor, and afternoon walking in random locations heretical and not real, authentic nature walking. The afternoon people respond in kind, declaring hiking boots, brand name apparel, and afternoon walks the only orthodox practice. Soon, both groups learn of a group across town that walks in the evening wearing flip-flops. Son of a bitch! These people have to be stopped! After all, the morning and the afternoon groups have had their disagreements, but flip-flops are simply beyond the pale! How could anyone call the way that you have to shuffle your feet along to keep those things on your feet walking? And that little plastic post between your first and second toes would surely drive any sane person around the bend! These people must be stopped!

imposter_o_6086169Did you notice, in all the fighting, what everybody seemed to forget about? Nature. Presumably they all went out for a walk in nature in order to enjoy nature, but they got all weighed down in secondary concerns that impacted their ability to enjoy nature not one bit. If you think that’s silly, just look around. It’s everywhere. Everybody wants to have the only “official” whatever it is they do. Why? Who really cares? Nobody who truly cares about the purpose of a group would give a rat’s behind what some other group did – unless they were very unsure of their own legitimacy. Unless what they are really concerned about is that they don’t feel that they are legitimate nature walkers and so worry that at any moment someone will find them out – and the misdirection of scrutiny begins.

The solution, of course, is to simply and clearly declare everybody legitimate. If you are walking in nature as you understand nature, you’re a nature walker, period. This will heartily offend the control freaks in the group, which is a good thing because we might encourage them to get some help. More importantly, these principles can be applied to any organization. We can examine our rules, particularly our rules of exclusion, to see if they have a legitimate reason. I suspect we will find most of them do not. As we eliminate these inappropriate rules, we can get back to the original purpose of our group. Imagine the possibilities!