I’ve changed my mind. Bill Maher IS a House Negro.

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The situation, as it stands, is that Bill Maher apparently called himself a “house nigger” on a live broadcast last week with junior Nebraskan senator Ben Sasse. After Sasse remarked that he’d “love to have you [Maher] come in the fields to work with us”, Maher responded, “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house nigger.”

Don’t even think about raising a rabble over whether he said “nigger” or “nigga”, either, because the people that raise that distinction are usually people that ain’t got no business whatsoever touching that word with a 39 1/2 foot pole, anyway.

Now class, how do we imagine that Mr. Maher’s jaunt down racy lane went?

Chance the Rapper called for the show to be cancelled by HBO. Articles are surfacing about how Bill Maher has always trafficked in bigotry and they’re not wrong.

This incident comes fresh off the high where he took credit for the downfall of noted skeev Milo Yiannopolous, saying, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Actually, it was a kabal of conservatives deeply opposed to Milo’s “locker room talk” in the form of advocating pedophilia, but ok, Bill, it was you. (Although, taking credit for someone else’s work after the fact isn’t…a super black move, is it, Mr. House Nigger?)

Maher was warned repeatedly that Milo had nothing to offer but his half-baked and vapid ruminations on how X group is destroying America, and he still booked and aired him on his show, citing himself as a defender of “free speech.” (Remind me again where it says that your free speech rights are abridged if you don’t get free publicity from a popular late-night show?)

However, despite these and other running controversies, we have to give Maher his credit where credit is due. Here, he is right.

Bill Maher is a house nigger.

The House Negro and The Field Negro

On January 23, 1963, Malcolm X gave a speech at Michigan State University entitled, “The House Negro and the Field Negro” and it is one of the most powerful descriptions of the power structures of slavery that remain present today.

So you have two types of Negro. The old type and the new type. Most of you know the old type. When you read about him in history during slavery he was called “Uncle Tom.” He was the house Negro. And during slavery you had two Negroes. You had the house Negro and the field Negro.

He goes on to explain the difference in priorities between a house negro and a field negro.

When the house started burning down, that type of [house] Negro would fight harder to put the master’s house out than the master himself would.

But then you had another Negro out in the field. The house Negro was in the minority. The masses–the field Negroes were the masses. They were in the majority. When the master got sick, they prayed that he’d die. [Laughter] If his house caught on fire, they’d pray for a wind to come along and fan the breeze.

This speech lays out a difference in where the house negro and the field negro see themselves in relation to power. The house negro is power-adjacent, and in the illustrious words of Frank Underwood, “Proximity to power deludes some into thinking they wield it.”

The house negro is less sympathetic to the plight of the field negro, given that the same things that disadvantage one advantage the other. The house negro is willing to be complicit in structures of power because the proximity to that power that gives them creature comforts. And when it comes time to ween themselves from said power, a house negro is willing to choose submission over subversion.

Bill Maher makes a living and a show based on the idea that he’s fighting for the little guy, but the thesis of his response to criticisms about his use of a hotly contested word is, “I’m on your side, so shut up and let me do what I want.”

Wayne Brady has before addressed Maher’s unfortunate tendency to think that he’s “down” with the black experience because he’s had some dark covfefe before:

Maher’s shown multiple times that he resents being told what is the best way to ally himself to those he considers himself an ally to, opting instead for his own personal model of allyship, one that may not adequately represent the needs or desires of the groups he claims to fight for, be it black, LGBT, or women.

Here’s the thing with “woke” white people: They are never required to surrender their passport to WhiteLandia, even while discussing racial issues. Even while being with black women. Even while using black culture to propel your career forward (lookin’ at you, Miley and Katy.)

While it may be good and fun, exciting, or garner ratings for Maher, whenever he’s fighting racist intolerance and bigotry, he’s stepping into it. I wake up into it. Bill Maher has to be black for an hour sometimes – I been black for 26 years straight.

And if he’s not willing to listen to black people, if he’s willing to be complicit in the use of a word with a mangled history, if he’s willing to co-opt the history of people that actually experienced the devastating original sin of America that was slavery for a joke that wasn’t even that good, maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s a house nigger.

Personally, I’m still praying for a stiff breeze.

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Listen to Malcolm X’s speech below:

 

Hillary Clinton’s Crucifixion Is Proof That A Woman’s Debt Is Never Paid

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Hillary Clinton needs to do something. If you’ve been following news coverage, that much is clear. Nobody’s clear on what that something is, though.

Maybe she needs to spend less time in her ivory tower, and mingle with the common folk she’s so dissociated from. But she also needs to not pander. She needs to apologize for the Crime Bill. I think her apology is cynical opportunism. And where was she after the election?? Bernie Sanders was busy defending our freedoms at DAPL, and Hillary just disappeared! I don’t think that has anything to do with one being in politics and one not.

After a recent spate of talks, headlines are buzzing around the name Hillary Clinton, as the left and the right have a perfect receptacle for their misguided vitriol at…the general state of things. And though the far left and far right both agree that absolutely everything that she does is wrong, neither seem to have very clear ideas about what she could be doing differently.

And before you consider this post nakedly partisan garbage that you can safely write off, I would urge you to reconsider. If someone says something like, “Hillary needs to do something” and someone asks, “What?”, it’s a reasonable question.

And if you can’t come up with a reasonable answer, then it might be straight up misogyny.

I would like to remind everyone that no one insists that Newt Gingrich never speak again, even though he has run a failed presidential campaign. No one stops Mike Huckabee from bloviating like a blobfish on any network news show that will have him. The honor of being asked to keep your mouth shut is the pittance of powerful women everywhere.

And no one is telling liberal Messiah and resident grandpa Bernie Sanders that he should “step aside” or “let new blood in because he’s had his chance,” even though he’s 74, has been in Congress for decades, and never made it past the primary in his bid for president. In fact, the Democratic “establishment” is taking him on tours around the country, ostensibly to profusely apologize to the white working class.

If you have a legitimate critique for Clinton, bring them on, but saying that simply because she failed to clinch the presidency that she doesn’t get to speak to the issues is straight up sexist.

Besides, she’s not in politics, which means that you’re spending all of your energy hating someone who already has “stepped aside.” Not to mention that I’m not sure how people think the mere existence of Hillary Clinton as a living, breathing person, stops “new blood” from running for office.

And if you just have a vague feeling that she should be doing something different, but can’t articulate what or how, feel free to step aside.

Thanks for reading this blog, and continue to check back for more!

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The Seven Horcruxes of Donald Trump

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As a lifelong Harry Potter fan, I know Voldemort when I see him. So naturally, when first I laid eyes on Donald Trump as a serious presidential candidate, I knew that I was staring right into the face of that bubbling, squealing, cauldron-baby that killed Cedric the Vampire. The only way to defeat the final boss is to destroy the seven pieces of his being – his Horcruxes. Here they are:

  • Kellyanne Conway

    That woman can pivot faster than any sportsball player I’ve ever seen in my life – with heels on. In the words of the award winning musical Hamilton, “Ask [her] a question, [she] glances off, [she] obfuscates, [she] dances.” When asked about Meryl Streep’s criticism of Trump, Kellyanne Conway went straight to, “Well, there’s a disabled man being tortured by black teenagers right now!” (Literally, this is not a joke.) She might be the most difficult Horcrux, like Voldemort’s Nagini or something (for what it’s worth, also a snake.) Can’t remember what happened to her…

  • Twitter

    No one spends that much time with anything that is not a Horcrux. Donald Trump uses it to perpetuate lies about the popular vote, illegal immigrants, and the contents of his administration’s executive orders. He also uses his Twitter as a weapon – threatening everyone from Hamilton to SNL to Judge Robart to the New York Times to….you get the point. He also did not surrender his Twitter once he won the presidency, so the only logical explanation is that it is a piece of his soul.

  • His Red Tie

    The only thing more iconic about Donald Trump than his hair (which we are definitely getting to) is his red power tie. Accessorized daily with ill-fitting suits, that crimson Horcrux is clearly soaked in the blood of all the dissenters his rally participants stomped out during the campaign.

  • His Hair

    Now, I’m not going to make fun of Donald Trump’s hair for the usual reasons. I believe, with my heart and soul, that just as Harry Potter discovered that He-Who-Must-Not-Named was hiding in the turban wrapped on Professor Quirrell’s head, Steve Bannon can be found underneath Donald’s illustrious hairpiece. This, combined with the fact that Trump’s doctor recently said that he uses a hair growth product perfectly explains why Steve Bannon seems to be getting angrier.

  • Rallies

    This is the only Horcrux that I believe is destroyed, since Trump is no longer a candidate for president, but actually the president. He does seem to have Mike Pence and Sean Spicer present daily with pompoms to be his cheerleaders, but I don’t think the effect is the same for Trump, and I don’t think pull off the outfits as well as Ivanka might.

  • The Media

    This is the hardest one of all, because there is no way we can ask the media not to cover the president. Even if he’s tweeting, we have to cover things because he’s the president. And the media has a duty to truth – if everything he says is false is false, then they have to call it that, looking way more partisan than they really are. On the other hand, the beast THRIVES on media attention. So it would appear that the only way to destroy this Horcrux is to duke it out in the woods, hope it doesn’t kill both of them, and pray the media has an inspiring conversation with Dumbledore before it comes back to life and whoops ass.

  • Trump Tower

    Now, I know what you’re thinking: There’s no way that Donald Trump would be stupid enough to put a Horcrux in plain sight, right? BAM, that’s where you’re wrong. The first benefit is hiding in plain sight. The second (and obviously more important), is that he gets to put his name on something.

    So there you have it. Get to work, America, and maybe, if we’re lucky, John Williams will wrap this up with some cheery music.

    Bonus: Add any Horcruxes you think I missed in the comments!

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13 Things Donald Trump Has Done To Piss Me Off

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It’s only been six days since Donald Trump was elected president. Choruses of “But he hasn’t even done anything yet!” erupt from every corner of the internet, including whatever fetid swamps Milo Yiannopolous resides in. But for those of you at home keeping score, here are 13 things that Donald Trump has done to earn my fiery ire.

1. Jailed Journalists

While covering the Women’s March in D.C., six journalists from various organizations including RT America and Vocativ were jailed. The journalists could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted on felony charges under an anti-rioting D.C. statute.

Though Donald Trump has yet to comment on this specific case, his delegitimization of and “running war” with the media tells us exactly what we should think of these journalists and what he thinks about them, despite the fact that all have denied participating in or urging others to participate in the violence seen on inauguration day.

Shoutout to brave and independent journalists.

2. EPA and Science Agency Gag Order

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Donald Trump ordered a “regulatory freeze pending review” on the EPA , as a larger communication clampdown on the agency. According to the New York Times, “emails sent to EPA staff and reviewed by The Associated Press also detailed specific prohibitions banning press releases, blog updates or posts to the agency’s social media accounts.”

He is directly attacking regulations put in place before Barack Obama ended his presidency, a first step toward killing them. He has also, through this action, kneecapped the ability of science agencies to inform the public about the greatest environmental crisis facing us – climate change.

Shoutout to @RogueNasa and @BadlandsNPS for the clapback.

3. Literally all of his cabinet picks

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Betsy DeVos knows nothing about banking, education, or government. Steve Mnuchin made a fortune on struggling homeowners through legally dubious methods that earned him the nickname “the foreclosure king.”

Ben Carson is a neurosurgeon with no government experience. Rex Tillerson used to be the CEO of Exxon Mobil, creating an unprecedented level of conflict for a position as Secretary of State. And Jeff Sessions doesn’t know whether or not to protect atheists as Attorney General.

Shoutout to Chuck Schumer for a vicious “No” on DeVos. (Keep it up.)

4. Federal Hiring Freeze

Trump has instituted a hiring freeze on any federal government hiring except for those in national security, public safety, and the military. This hurts many veterans who would benefit from jobs in the public sector, and ensures that every other segment of government is weakened except for the ability to attack abroad and at home.

Speaking of federal employees, shoutout to the Secret Service agent who would rather take jail than protect Donald Trump.

5. Justification For Police State

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In a tweet, Donald Trump said that if Chicago couldn’t keep their apparent “carnage” under control, he would “send in the Feds!” Not only does no one know what this really means, but it’s going to be a little difficult to keep a bunch of federal employees on staff after that hiring freeze we talked about.

Donald Trump is laying out the justification for a police state, with the apparent “carnage” as the cited excuse, even though studies show that, largely, crime is currently at its lowest levels ever.

Shoutout to crime for not existing as much.

6. “Immigration Restriction.”

Denying that he would follow-through on his most consistent and wild campaign promise, Donald Trump claims that he is not calling for a muslim ban, but only “immigration restrictions.” However, the executive order shortly restricts travel and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Iran.

He has also vowed to ramp up the deportation and detention forces regarding immigrants, and publicly publishing a daily list of immigrants that commit crime, reinforcing the idea that immigrants commit a lot of crime, and they don’t. It’s not even close.

Shoutout to my hardworking and disenfranchised illegal immigrants. 

7. The Wall

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Even the Homeland Security Secretary has admitted that building a wall alone will not work. Some have noted that the wall is not a particularly effective means of reducing illegal immigration. Others still have noted, citing research by the congressional budget office, that here is no economic justification for it, as the cost for the wall will be astronomical – between $12-15 billion for creation – in the low estimates – far more than any monetary gains made by it. The congressional budget office also estimated that upkeep for the wall would exceed the initial construction costs within seven years.

Further research shows that immigrants are less likely to commit crime than their citizen counterparts, and contribute a great deal to our economy in the form of taxes and work. If they all left, we’d be in trouble.

Lastly, despite Donald Trump’s claims, Mexico has repeatedly and steadfastly refused to pay for that wall, guaranteeing that the money Trump needs for it is going to come from robbing us – the taxpayers – blind, and he has changed his position to say that Mexico will “reimburse” us for the funds we spend on the it.

If “reimbursed” isn’t synonymous with “scam”, I just don’t know what is.

Shoutout to the Mexican president for canceling his visit with Trump. 

8. Lying About Inauguration Size and Popular Vote Slaughter

Many can’t understand why some of the issues of most apparent urgency to the president appear to be trivial, like the size of his inauguration (which was visibly smaller than Barack Obama’s), or his loss of the popular vote (in which he was gutted like a pig by Hillary “NastyWoman” Clinton).

The facts are there, and anyone who says they’re not is lying.

Shoutout to everyone who skipped attending or watching the inauguration.

9. Dakota Access Pipeline

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Trump has issued an executive order to restart construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that Standing Rock, North Dakota had refused, reversing an order by Obama to halt construction on it. Trump has cited the construction jobs that the pipeline will create, but failed to mention the ecological and environmental risks that the residents are rejecting.

Shoutout to Standing Rock and all the protestors. Keep warm.

10. The Affordable Care Act

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Through executive order, Trump has taken aim at the first steps of repealing Obamacare. Particularly foolhardy is House and Senate Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, who desperately want to repeal the law but have no clear plan for a replacement, leaving millions without the healthcare that they need for themselves and their families.

Shoutout to everyone who just turned 26.

11. Abortion gag order

Trump has issued another executive order that no federal funding will be allotted to any organizations that perform abortion services. This fulfills on the promise to defund organizations like Planned Parenthood, which provide a range of healthcare services that actually reduce the amount of abortions and teen pregnancies in the US.

Shoutout to all the doctors that perform abortions, and solidarity for the ones who can’t.

12. Support for anti-LGBTQ legislation

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Trump pledged to sign the First Amendment Defense Act, if passed by Congress. It allows broad discrimination against LGBTQ folks, including by employers, businesses, landlords, and healthcare providers, provided the discriminator claims to be motivated by deeply held religious beliefs.

This overturns an executive order from Obama in 2014, prohibiting discrimination among federal contractors.

Shoutout to my struggling LGBTQ folks, especially youth. You are valued and important.

13. Elimination Of Arts Funding

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Trump’s delegitimization of the arts becomes tangible as he reaches for a budget that would eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts entirely. Donald Trump has routinely criticized art in the form of SNL, Hamilton, Meryl Streep, or anyone that says anything that is critical of him or just an impression he doesn’t like.

Let me tell you something. Art is power, and art has always been to agitate and provoke. Shakespeare spent his time criticizing the folly of nobility, Claude McKay and Langston Hughes wrote eloquently about the plight of black Americans in a supposedly gilded age, and one of Pablo Picasso’s most famous paintings is about the bombing of a Basque Country village during the Spanish Civil War. No wonder Trump wants to silence that. No wonder he will not succeed.

Shoutout to my fellow artists who just won’t stay quiet. 

Silver lining?

Democracy is alive right now. That’s the silver lining. I included those shoutouts for a reason, and it’s that you need to know you are not alone.

Every day, I’m seeing people take up the task that is asked of them, even though it’s more than they’ve ever had to carry before. I see people calling their representatives, helping others find out who that is for them, rallies, marches, funding, donations, journalism, research,  …and it all comes down to one word: Resistance.

What Donald Trump is doing is not by accident. There’s a method in the madness.

If you don’t know that he lost the popular vote, that his inauguration was smaller, that his approval rating is garbage, or that tens of thousands more people showed up to protest than to celebrate him, then you will think he has more support than he really does.

This means that you won’t know that Democrats, Republicans, gay people, celebrities, journalists, black people, white people, Asian people, Mexican people, women, immigrants, and badass National Park Services are united in rejecting this supposed “leader.” You won’t know you’re not alone.

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He doesn’t want you to know, either, because that is what mobilizes you against his agenda. That is what gives you the strength and courage to oppose, because you know that your fellow citizens are with you. He doesn’t have the support, he doesn’t have the numbers, and he doesn’t have the votes.

But you do.

Rise up.

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Liberal America

Blog Suspension

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Unfortunately, I will have to suspend my blog over this summer. While this is a hard decision, it is one made with joy because it means I will get more time to work on my novel! I’ve taken up a job at Appel Farm Arts Camp in New Jersey, and that means I won’t be able to work on it if my attention is divided. As much as I love creating this content every week, I have to put all my attention towards the kids I’m teaching at camp, and any spare energy goes to the creation of my novel. I promise it’ll be worth it. 
If you would like to learn more information about my book, The Lights of the Arno, you can my website here (TimothyHucks.com) and you can expect the finished product in the fall, right around the first week of September.

If you would like to contact me about one of the blogs I’ve written or any questions about my book, they can be directed to mikkile0nj@gmail.com. Thank you very much for everything and I will see you soon! 

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This Election Cycle, Minorities Are Stuck Between Two Idealisms

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“When exactly was America great?” John Green has said it, President Obama has said it (to whatever degree he is allowed to say things) and even I have said it. This attacks the fundamental notion of Trump’s campaign: the idea that there exists in America, a kernel of the past unblemished by inequality or racism or sexism, and seeks to say that his nostalgia constitutes a clear and present danger for the many problems we face today that will be swept under the rug, yearning for a past that never actually existed.

This time around, though, he’s not the only one with a problem.

Right now, minorities are stuck in a chasm between two idealisms.

On the one hand, they’ve already become accustomed to the dog-whistling and even blatant alienation of the right, which has appeared to do everything it can to get less and less people to think, “I want to sign up for that.” The right has also done an excellent job of ascribing to an intensely specific version of the past that does not reflect the totality of it, and actively desires to transport us all back there, which they might not try to do if they fully understood that it’s not a place to which many minorities would like to return.

On the other hand are the liberals.

For liberals, the problem with conservatives, they say, is that they refuse to accept things as they are, blinded by the allure of the past. Their refusal to live in the present represents a stubbornness that liberals can’t wrap their minds around. What goes unnoticed is that liberals’ insistence on living in the future also poses a danger to minority communities.

Right now, minorities are stuck in a chasm between two idealisms.

Liberals often lambaste conservatives for this kind of hyper-nostalgia that comes from thinking that the 1950s were a time of greatness to which we need to return, but are often guilty of the same thing when mistaking the future that they idolize for the realities that are.

The conservatives are stuck in the past. The liberals are stuck in the future. The minorities are stuck in the present.

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This problem spans at least three movies.

Michelangelo Signorile recently made an appearance on the Daily show that highlights the dangers of liberalism. The danger is that, being liberal and progressive people can cause you to think that change has occurred even when it has not, simply because you wish it very much to be the case. Many liberals are unaware of how many laws are on the books regarding hiring and firing processes for LGBT people, or they are unaware that the fight for LGBT rights didn’t end with a Supreme Court decision.

Once again, being stuck in the future and practicing utopic thinking can lead to a severe lack of engagement on social issues that liberals care about. It’s the difference between thinking that Roe. V. Wade was the end of the battle and remaining engaged enough to fight every single conservative legislature and demagogue that makes abortion today technically legal, but impossible to get.

It’s the kind of lack of engagement that can lead to the disastrous midterm elections of 2010, where only 12% of youth and minorities voted, feeling that a victory had been won for them in 2008, while older, whiter voters rushed to the polls, “cranky about how ‘tall’ the president was.”, and instituted a political gridlock that made it vexingly difficult for President Obama to do anything at all.

And engagement is not the only area where the problems of liberal future-pressing are made manifest.

Let The Adults Drive

Often, in their push to create a more just society, liberals are guilty of devising a political revolution to which minorities are essential in supporting, but when it comes to structuring that revolution or being “in the room where it happens,” minorities consistently get the short end of the stick.

It’s the difference between thinking that Roe. V. Wade was the end of the battle and remaining engaged enough to fight every single conservative legislature and demagogue that makes abortion technically legal, but impossible to get.

Consider that blacks and Hispanics have already been told this election cycle that they are voting against their best interests by their strong support of Hillary Clinton. But in the gallons of articles about these issues, is there ever a sense of introspection at the infantilization necessary to tell people that they don’t know what is good for them?

– Is there ever any question of precisely why blacks do not feel that Bernie Sanders would be the best bet for them?

– Is there ever any questioning of Hillary’s decisive win in Puerto Rico, full as it is of people that are routinely disenfranchised from the political system and process?

– Is it always viewed as an insulting statistic to ask the question of why Sanders’s wins did not span a more diverse demographic range?

To me, this suggests a fundamental misconception among liberals: minorities like blacks, who vote reliably Democratic, are needed for support, not input. This again creates a dynamic of blacks sitting in the background while the adults make the decisions. For the conservatives, it’s “We don’t want you.” For the liberals it’s, “We want you…to get on board.” I understand that not breaking into that particular voting bloc was disappointing for Sanders supporters, but you’ve got to come up with an answer that’s less insulting than “They don’t know what’s good for them.”

Where does that really leave minorities?

Identity Politics and Economic Policies


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Another troubling aspect of the Sanders campaign is the outright rejection of the validity of identity politics. I’ve heard many liberals, including Senator Sanders himself, brusquely shove identity politics to the side, saying things to the effect of, “Well, when you fix the economic disadvantages, the racism goes away.” And that is simply not true. Economics are certainly a part of the black struggle, but it’s not as if blacks who aren’t poor don’t experience their fair share of racism. Has Barack Obama not experienced extreme racism, even as a laureate of Harvard, one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation? I’m listening.

The reason Barack Obama still experiences a startling amount of racism is that it is simply not a construct reserved solely for blacks shackled by the manacles of low socioeconomic status. The problems of racism and prejudice are not purely economic, and therefore cannot be mended tangentially. Rejecting identity politics out of hand is probably a good way to not speak to the concerns that many minority groups have, including Hispanics, blacks, and the LGBT community.

Economics are certainly a part of the black struggle, but it’s not as if blacks who aren’t poor don’t experience their fair share of racism.

Simply because they are not affected by economic setbacks, as Barack Obama is not, that simply does not magically solve the particular problems of unity, diversity, and racism, in the same way that 60% support for gay marriage doesn’t mean that 30% of those people don’t still feel uncomfortable with same sex PDA.

However, rather than connecting with the concerns, liberals have gone a different way, and decided, like Bernie Sanders, that the South’s votes don’t matter because “it’s the most conservative part of the country,” or that Planned Parenthood (who does great work in minority communities that desperately need it) and its endorsement of Hillary Clinton constitutes “the establishment.”

Rather than thinking there were legitimate reasons that minority voters didn’t want Sanders to be their president, liberals opted for the insulting fantasy that Hillary must’ve just rigged the election, because “Well, I know what’s good for black voters, and it’s Bernie, so she must’ve cheated or tricked them.”

To me, this suggests a fundamental misconception from liberals: minorities like blacks, who vote reliably Democratic, are needed for support, not input.

Another reason that Bernie’s campaign may have failed to strike a winning chord with the black community is that one of the chief identifiers of the communal black struggle/experience is endurance, not idealism. Mothers resolutely praying for the safety of their children, Negro spirituals that sing about the struggle, the grind, the endurance of cyclical, everyday violence, and the slow, step-by-step march towards freedom that every generation gives its energy to for the next – these features dominate the black story.

How then, do you pitch idealism to these people, and wonder why it doesn’t appeal to them as much as an approach that is billed as thoughtful, pragmatic, and consistent?

Trickle Down Revolution


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The last point I’d like to make is that liberals have much to say about the pure applesauce of trickle-down economics, but not a lot to say about the blind spots necessary to believe in trickle-down revolution. Any kind of theory that puts forth the idea that the specific problems of unity, racial division, and minority communities in this country can just be solved by another problem means that once again, minority interests get trampled by the white people who know what’s really best for them.

It’s just like the problems that communities (the LGBT community, the feminist community, and the atheistic community, for example) faced when they realized that there were persistent problems of race and diversity that were not addressed and did not simply go away with revolutionary change for the whole. So you still have the world’s most famous atheists being 4 white dudes, white feminism, gay white men still getting gobs more representation than anyone else also emblematic of the gay community, bisexual people treated as if they don’t even exist, and Caitlyn Jenner somehow being the “face of the trans community” despite being straight trash as a person.

Liberals have a lot to say about the pure applesauce of trickle-down economics, but not a lot to say about the blind spots necessary to believe in trickle-down revolution.

The minorities in these communities often did not find that revolution trickled all the way down to them, and therefore there was no reason for them to expect that Sanders’s revolution would trickle down to them, either, or that they should prefer his revolution to the slow, steady, and pragmatic grind that Clinton represents that is much more characteristic of the historical and present narrative of how these communities took a seat at the table for themselves in the first place.

Unity


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As we wrap up the primary process, it is apparent who minority voters have chosen as the candidate that would best serve their interests. They are attempting to deftly straddle the dangerous nostalgia of the right as well as the demoralizing naiveté and utopic thinking of the left. Because we have problems to solve today, and a step forward is a step forward.

Perhaps it is up to us to get behind them as we always insist we are, rather than their job to get behind the plan that we’ve devised, if we have any interest in listening to what they have to say, instead of simply getting them in line. We might find that, in doing so, we will gain a better understanding of the biases and prejudices that run rampant throughout our whole country, not simply one particular party, and discover the true power of unity, not the false pretenses of unity that create chasms such as these at crossroads such as this.

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White People, It’s Okay To Feel Bad About Privilege

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Every so often, I hear (probably well-meaning) black people say things like “White people, nobody’s asking you to feel bad about your privilege” when having conversations about race and politics, economic inequality, and how that can affect people’s lives right down the color line.

I know that they mean well when they say it, and I know that it’s probably just a response to memes like the that insist that no living white person was responsible for slavery and no living black person was enslaved, and other things like that.

But I don’t think that they should, and that’s because I think it’s okay to feel bad about privilege.

The next time a white person blusters at you, “Oh, so I’m just supposed to walk around feeling bad about my privilege all the time…?!”, think about what they’re actually saying to you. They’re asking for permission to live without empathy.

Empathy is looking around and realizing that other people do not have all of the things that you have. It’s feeling that uncomfortableness that comes from knowing you have a home to go to when others don’t, that you have an education when others don’t, or that you have cool gizmos and gadgets that others don’t. It’s also a complicated system of managing how we interact with the world, how we help others, and how we balance our desire for justice with competing interests – namely our own.

But as they’ve described it, they don’t WANT to have that feeling. “Feeling bad” for people is icky, and they want to live without icky. Definitely without icky. They don’t wish to be reminded of the inequality that exists in the actual world, and instead, prefer a cloistered reality where they don’t “feel bad” because they’ve noticed something outside of themselves.

All of those things that I mentioned are real levels of privilege that I personally have, by the way.

I once had a friend ask me why black people don’t like to swim. Off the top of my head, my first guess was, “Well, black people do tend to live in more impoverished communities that are in the urban centers without much access to bodies of water like pools or lakes, and often lack the monetary resources to be able to afford things like lake houses, ski doos, tubes, boats, etc., and that probably just creates a habit of not swimming very much.

She looked at me, confused, and said, “Are you saying that black people are poorer than white people?”

I’m not going to lambaste her for ignorant, but clearly she lacked exposure. And what people are saying when they ask to not “feel bad” about their privilege is that they like it that way.

Let’s get one thing straight: “Feeling bad” can be a really good thing. What I’m about to say may be heresy in some atheist/freethinking circles, but there are some problems that logic does not crack.

– Americans weren’t always outraged about Vietnam, and were only more outraged when they could see it. That’s “feeling bad.”

– The Civil Rights Movement made grand use of the media to sensationalize the brutalization of black bodies to the general public. That’s “feeling bad.”

– “Feeling bad” is the kind of thing that makes a person realize their LGBTQ son or daughter is a real person, because that’s what empathy does.

Empathy can overcome miseducation and break through barriers that raw logic is not able to penetrate. It can also be a useful surrogate for exposure, because just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean you’re a bigot. It means you’ve been sheltered from it, and empathy is often a great way to build that bridge to someone about something that you may not know a lot about, whatever it is (racism, sexism, or tapioca.)

But you’ll never learn any of that if you run around insisting that it’s wrong that you have to notice other people’s pain, or that it’s wrong for other people to bring that to your attention.

That’s not empathetic. That’s not human. And if you’re gonna feel that carelessly towards other people, that’s what you really should “feel bad” about.

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In Good Faith – Why It’s Important To Take Opponent’s Arguments Seriously*

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People are wrong on the internet. People are wrong about everything. Culture, LGBT issues, vaccinations, religion, bathrooms, music, and whether or not Kim Kardashian’s nude photos are empowering (I only looked at the photo for science reasons, I swear.)

And it’s our job to set people right, to make sure that they know the truth about whatever we know the truth about.

Suffice it to say, I don’t have a problem with this sense of duty. I mean, I write a blog, and while it’s not expressly for those reasons, it certainly could come off so, and it would seem very hypocritical if I had a problem with other people speaking their minds.

But what we have happening right now is that people are very afraid to understand one another. So today, I’m going to tell you why you should take your opponent’s arguments seriously, and give you some tools for dismantling opponent’s arguments and mounting the best possible ones you can for yourself.

  1. Identify the opponent. Is this a politician? Are they a scientist? What kinds of things do they like to read? What hobbies do they talk about? What race are they? What is their background like? What religion are they? Do they have children? Who is this person?

    I realize that these kinds of questions are usually only used to delegitimize people (as in, “Oh, he’s a Goldman Sachs employee, so OBVIOUSLY he’s biased!”), but these questions can be helpful for establishing a base with someone and knowing the direction that their argument comes from. Only once you identify who a person is can you have a meaningful dialogue with them.

    And I know that the conversations I’m talking about take place online, and there’s no time for that. But if you take the time to skip the outrage and identify the person, you can start arguments better, and therefore end them better.

  2. Identify the argument. You can’t argue with something if you don’t even know what you’re arguing against. (Rephrase: You totally can, but you shouldn’t.)You should seek to gain as much information as you can about someone’s position and then be able to clearly and concisely repeat it to them in a way that makes them say “Yes, I agree with that. That’s a correct summation of my beliefs.”

    The only opponent who will respect you is an opponent who believes that you have fully considered their argument, and you can best demonstrate that you have by knowing what that argument is.

  3. Identify chief/root objections. Next, you must consider the argument. Another person, who is living and breathing and thinking just like you, finds this argument to be very compelling and you don’t. Why? Well, it’s going to take some work, and I can guarantee that you’ll want to make some short-sighted stops or assumptions along the way.

    But don’t.

    Consider the argument. Have you seen it before? Where? In history or literature? In other forms of discourse? Does this argument have similarities to others on which you and your opponent agree? If so, what is the element of disagreement with this one? Is there an objection underneath the asserted one? Are all the objections based in fact, or is the root of one or more a misconception?

    This is a lot of work. But you owe it to yourself to do this work because you will come out as a more enlightened individual AND be able to accomplish your goal of making more compelling arguments.

  4. Identify the solution. The solution includes all of the elements we’ve mentioned so far to create the most charitable vision of your opponent’s argument. I would also throw in here that it is important, insofar as is possible and reasonable, to ascribe the most charitable intentions to your opponent.

    If you approach with a propositional attitude of disbelief, then your ability to follow these steps will be subject from the start. It’s important to take your opponent in good faith, and to not presuppose ill intentions.What I’m suggesting is difficult, but it can help you get to your goal faster, because it makes things just as difficult for your opponent. After showing respect, listening, showing that you understand the full intent and extent of their argument, and creating the most charitable vision of that, it’s powerful to say that it’s that idea that you disagree with.

    It’s the best, most accurately realized picture of what they believe that you disagree with, rather than some half-baked, barely recognizable form of it. In cases like that, your opponent will easily be able to say that you don’t agree with them because you don’t understand their position…and a lot of times, they’ll be right about that.

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    In summation, these steps don’t win you everything, but they win more arguments and they win you respect even in arguments you don’t win.

    Try these out the next time someone on the Internet is wrong about something and see if they work for you. They sure did for me.

    *Many of these ideas are straight up stolen from my good friend Siggy. He’s like a muse that spouts off wisdom from dead smart dudes.

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From Tolerance to Celebration

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Every day, someone derides “Political Correctness” like they’re making an interesting, bold, or original point, and makes sure to make the point that anyone upset about what they’re saying is just too sensitive and simply trying to censor them.

None of this is new.

Enter Steven Crowder, mumbling something unintelligible for about 4 minutes, bemoaning the fact that “the left” is destroying America by making it socially unacceptable to call someone a “faggot”.

Real charming.

But further to the point of his video, he appears to think that the push for tolerance is actually a bad thing, disregarding the fact that the push for inclusion, diversity, and tolerance, while having some negative side effects, comes from many places.

And one of those places is Best Buy.

E-Learnings

When you work at Best Buy, you have to do something called “E-learnings”, informational videos and quizzes to brief you on new products and company policies, so you can deliver the best customer ser–dang it, I sound like an infomercial. But you get the point.

One of my e-learnings recently was about diversity and inclusion, and it laid out the company’s vision for how those are effectively executed. (Hint: It’s a lot different than the Crowder video.)

The e-learning did the usual diversity thing and went through not teasing your boss because they’re old and out of touch, not bristling when a gay co-worker mentions their boyfriend or girlfriend, and refraining from doing mocking impressions of your Muslim co-worker praying toward Mecca in the break room. (Like, seriously, you take five minutes out of your day to suck a cancer stick. Ease up.)

But it went further than that, and then showed a couple of infographics about people. How many billions of dollars a year did Hispanic people spend in Best Buy? What percentage of gay people shop there? What’s the buying power of black America? Deaf? Jewish? College student? Etc.

The point that the video made was that this push for tolerance isn’t simply PC gone wild, or people being nice for the sake of being nice. It’s that being nice is socially AND fiscally responsible, and that you could lose out on huge market demographics by ignoring the necessity of catering to, well, the people that actually come into your store.

From Tolerance to Celebration

Which is why the training video even went further than that, to explain why diversity and inclusion was so important, and why we shouldn’t just tolerate people, we should celebrate them. It gave some examples of using the differences among employees to unite them. which is kinda awesome.

If you live in a place densely populated with Hispanic people, it might be useful to keep  some employees around who speak Spanish. If many deaf people come to your store, maybe the store learns basic sign language. If a new employee has a walking disability, maybe let them work in mobile, where long activations give long periods of time to sit down.

And besides, nobody likes to be “tolerated.” No one wants to think that you only put the bare minimum into accepting that they exist and are a valid person.

Basically, this push for tolerance should actually be the push for celebration, and it’s the process of looking at someone different and instead of saying, “That won’t work” saying, “We have room for you. Let’s figure out how.” That’s an ideology shared by many of history’s greatest leaders, past and present.

What’s wrong with a world like that, Crowder? It’s the kind of world I want to live in.

One final example of this would be my relationship with my sister. She’s a Christian and a pretty firm one, too. But when I was coming to visit her in San Antonio, Texas, she said, “I know you don’t believe in the good Lord, but you betta’ pray yo plane don’t crash.”

And that’s funny. That’s ok. It made me chuckle. Because that’s what it looks like when people acknowledge and accept each other for their differences instead of either hating them for them, or trying desperately to change them.

The kind of world that I look forward to is the same kind that MLK looked forward to in the I Have a Dream speech. With the hope that one day “we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

That’s a kind of dream worth having.

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The Evanescent Categories and the Dirtiest Word

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If you ever want to effectively shut down a conversation about women in politics (as you do in an election year), all you have to do is use the word. You know what the word is. It’s a strong word, and it’s a word that no one wants to talk about, and it will nuke any conversation you’re ever trying to have.

Sexism.

For the love of god, stay with me here.

The Evanescent Categories

Let me tell you a story about race. Race, I believe, has two parts, and one is what I call an evanescent category, or “soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence.”

The current American atmosphere often lends itself to saying that racism exists -acknowledging that reality – however, it is inappropriate, egregious, and even seeking victimhood to identify any particular person as racist, any situation, comment, or circumstance as racist, and we are openly reticent to the enactment of policies meant to eliminate the power of racism. It is also okay to talk about racism in the past, but not in the present. 

So we have this atmosphere where racism in the abstract is acknowledged, but absolutely no practical manifestation (the evanescent category) of said racism is allowed to be. We convince ourselves so thoroughly that it doesn’t affect our perceptions that we rise up (in a rather hostile manner sometimes) biting back at any suggestion of it.

This, I believe, happens with sexism, and it’s worse for influential women like Hillary Rodham Clinton.

HRC and Sexism

As soon as you mention sexism in the context of a women running for president, people flip out.

“I’m not voting for someone just cuz of their anatomy!”

“I don’t vote with my vagina!”

“Women owe Hillary nothing!”

“I’m not sexist just cuz I hate HRC, I hate her cuz…!!!”

“You’re trying to judge her by a different standard.”

That last one is my favorite because I think it sums up the main concern running through all of these. They are concerned that a woman is going to be held to a different standard and that she should be held to the same one as everyone else…which is funny, considering that if you acknowledge and understand sexism, you understand that the whole point is that women are already held to a different standard than everyone else. That’s what sexism is.

So I’d like to point out a couple identifiable cases of sexism as they relate to HRC, “an issue which, frankly, I am surprised to hear that people suddenly care about.“(hats off to the legendary Poehler and Fey.)

Hillary is constantly referred to as “shouting.”

Let’s get one thing straight: I have never even heard Bernie Sanders talk at anything below the absolute top of his register, but for some reason, he is “powerful”, “commanding”, “fierce”, or “passionate” when he does it, whereas Hillary is “shrill” or “yelling.”

Bill’s infidelity reflects on Hillary rather than on Bill

Bill Clinton remains one of the most likeable U.S. presidents,  along with the universally adored Barack Obama. We all know about the scandal. But what you may not know is that many people use Bill’s sexual proclivities as a reason you shouldn’t vote for Hillary. Pretending that Bill’s behavior has anything to do with anyone other than Bill is definitively sexist (also, I’m sorry you’ve only talked to, like, five people in your lifetime, but some couples get over infidelity.)

HRC is blamed for policy blunders of the 1990s – a time when we put another dude in charge.

Bill Clinton was the president of the United States in the 1990s. At no point was that not true. Therefore, you could object to Hillary’s work in other facets of government, but a careful line is not always drawn when blaming Hillary for policy blunders of the 1990s, a time where she didn’t have even close to the final word, because, ahem, she wasn’t the president.

Her unlikeability rises for supporting the 1994 Crime Bill…

…that Bernie Sanders also voted yes for. When he votes yes, it’s seen as a “mistake” or “voting for what’s good in a bill”, like the Violence Against Women Act. When it’s her, it’s the wicked witch coming to decimate the black community.

Her unlikeability rises for having ties to Wall Street and using super PACs…

…both of which are true of President Barack Obama.

She is not allowed to attempt to change the issue of her likeability at all.

When she makes mention of working as the second most powerful member in the Obama Administration, she is seen as “hiding behind Obama.” When Bill stumps for her, she’s “leeching off his reputation.”

And in defense of unlikeable people, what else do you do if you’re unlikeable or you appear to be? You could very well be a great politician and not be “someone someone could get a beer with.” When men for centuries have used women and children solely for the purpose “softening them up”, she gets slammed for the same thing. She’s literally being told, “Hillary, just BE different.”

She is not allowed to want the presidency. 

If we’re being honest, we should admit that the presidency is a top shelf prize for any politician. If that’s your life’s work, and you have even a remote shot (and I do mean even very remote, like “Bobby Jindal remote”), you take it. Actors want Oscars. Writers want Pulitzers. Scientists want Nobels.

But Hillary’s ambition is derided as “naked ambition”, or as the Onion puts it, “She’s just a little too ambitious to do what no woman before her has ever done.” Men are “go-getters” or “tenacious”, but those are qualities admired in men, not in women.

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These and many other examples we can point to show a pattern of sexism that clouds the way that we judge Hillary Clinton, pointing out that the concern that she isn’t held to a different standard has already unfortunately come true, though not in the way that the people who voiced those concerns might expect. In many respects, HRC has just acted as any male politician would, can, does, and has.

In my opinion, it has to do with the fact that we are dedicated to the idea of dismantling things like sexism, but not to the realities of them, because the realities call us out of the apathy of the abstract, into the reality of identifying and acting on particular instances of these double standards.

We want them to be gone so badly that we pretend that they are, but get very hostile when disabused of our fantasies.

And if you don’t believe me, you don’t have to vote with your vagina, but just try nuking a conversation with the “S” bomb sometime.

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Clinton, Stony Seeds, And Why I Lost The Bern

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I couldn’t have foreseen that it would turn out like this.

Today was my voting day. I’m a 25 year old black man, a registered Democrat, and only 2 years out of college. I registered for the first time with a party this year to vote for Bernie Sanders. Right now, I’m looking at buttons with his name on them, and his autobiography on top of my PS4. I called people on his behalf, gleefully posted videos of his impressive track record, and in an unprecedented move, gave money to his campaign, a first for me for any candidate. I registered simply to vote for him in my first primary.

And I just voted for Hillary Clinton.

Why?

Maybe it was going to the Hillary rally that did it. I didn’t make it inside, just stopped by on my lunch break. I went to talk to the protestors screaming to the crowd, “Don’t go see that woman!” and “She’s a criminal!”, and “She belongs in PRISON!” I asked them what their concerns were or why they hated her, and they gave me thoughtful answers. They would be happy to know they made an impact on me, but probably not to know what that impact was.

So I went home with their concerns in mind – The Crime Bill, The Iraq War, Wall Street and speaking fees from Goldman Sachs…and the overarching question: Was Hillary Clinton that bad of a candidate?

Might as well get right into it.

Hot takes 

On the issue of flip-flopping:

Many have faulted Clinton for her changing stances over time, but we have to ask, is it unreasonable that someone change their mind? That, to me, shows strength and depth of mind and quality of leadership, not weakness or duplicity.  (I wrote about this in my piece, How PC Culture Has Inflated The Price of Being Wrong)

Take your pick of controversial issues – Iraq vote (especially), Nancy Reagan comments, “Superpredator” comments, Crime Bill, Gay Marriage, etc. For each of those incidents, you will not only find an apology, but an introspective quality about Clinton, where she is able to articulately discuss what went wrong and why. People who think they’re right, but are forced to apologize, can’t do that.

By contrast, Bernie Sanders couldn’t even muster up an “I’m sorry if that’s how you took it” non-pology-style apology for victims of Sandy Hook for his blocking of legislation on suing gun manufacturers.

At this point in time, we’re showing that we don’t give credit for learning, we give credit for being “on the right side of history.”

On Goldman Sachs Speeches

Here’s an unremarkable headline: “High profile politician gives speech somewhere, gets paid for it.”

On Media Blackout:

Sanders puts forth the idea of a revolution that those in power do not want to reach the people. While I understand the unfortunate influence of money on politics and news and the devastating effect that a 24/7 news cycle has on journalistic ethics and integrity (you know who you are), the question that he’s asking is: “How come a junior senator from Vermont, relatively unknown before literally right now is not getting the same press time as the former First Lady and Secretary of State?”

Is that your question?

On Getting Things Done

Sanders scoffs when Clinton says she’s a Democrat who likes to get things done, but discounts that she actually did pass more legislation than he did, according to The Washington Post. She passed 33 percent more amendments in eight years than he has in nine, and his legislative effectiveness score was “below the House median in seven of the eight Congresses in which he served.”

On Clinton Not Being a Real Progressive

According to OnTheIssues, Clinton ranks as a “hard core liberal”, and according to Voteview, her voting record was more liberal in her final term in the Senate than 70 percent of the Democrats and 82 percent of all members, including President Barack Obama.

On The Crime Bill

Hillary voted for the crime bill that hurt people, Bernie voted against it, so vote Bernie, right? Have you ever read the crime bill? I have.

It’s a mess, as all bills are. It’s around a 10,000 word document, with jagged edges, provisions here, and concessions there. It also included a clause about prisoners of high socioeconomic status being unable to transfer to specially designated prisons.

Does Bernie oppose that? Surely not. So clearly a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote, while not meaning nothing, may not properly articulate all of a person’s given feelings about any particular part of a bill, no? Also, you should probably try not to sanctimoniously beat Clinton over the head with a bill that you voted for, too.

When Sanders votes for it, it’s seen as a misstep or “voting for what is good in the bill”, like the Violence Against Women Act. When Hillary supports the crime bill, it’s because she’s a manipulative and draconian nightmare witch who wants to personally bus young black men to the gates of hell.

On The Iraq Vote

Invading Iraq is the definitive policy blunder of the modern era. But it happened. What interests me about that vote, however, is how the two approached it.

In Clinton’s speech, she’s busy talking about foreign relations, how best to manage them, what would be the next step after an intervention should it even take place, and the delicate interactions and histories of Middle Eastern countries.

Sanders talks about poverty.

This, at least to me, represents a doggish adherence to a particular ideological agenda that will not change, but that’s not consistency. That’s tone deafness. Sanders can slam Clinton all he wants for the ‘yes’ vote, but the fact remains that between 2001 and 2003, the hearts and minds of the American people were focused on one thing and one thing only (Hint: It was NOT poverty. One might expect that 30 years’ time will find Sanders still spewing invective at Wall Street, long after the definitive issues of America have changed.)

The job of President is the take stock of the changing landscape and address the issues most pressing to your people, not to pet your favorite. Poverty is and probably always will be an important issue, however, that was not at all what the nation cared about with two busted buildings and 3,000 dead Americans.

The conclusion I came to and the response to the protestors’s vociferous posturings was no. Hillary wasn’t that bad a candidate, and in fact, was a pretty good one.

___________________________________

All in all, I don’t have any problem with Bernie. I’m not in the habit of “voting against,” and I don’t see a need to start. I think Hillary Clinton is the better candidate, and that’s why I voted for her.

Negotiating a ceasefire on the Gaza Strip isn’t nothing, neither is working to nail Osama Bin Laden, neither is being the second most powerful position in the Obama Administration (sorry if you thought it was Joe Biden.)

Perhaps I lost the Bern for the same reason that some seeds refused to grow in The Parable of the Sower.

Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside…Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.” (Matthew 13:3-6)

Maybe that’s it. Perhaps the Sower let me fall by the wayside and wither in the sun.

However, the aformentioned, Hillary’s law education, and years of experience actually pulling the trigger on large ideas and initiatives with extremely high stakes, all while being able to withstand the white-hot political spotlight and enormous pressure make me confident in her as a presidential candidate.

And while I love the way that Sanders inspires, I think that, when choosing leaders, confidence has deeper roots than inspiration.

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I really would love to know what you guys think!

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Magneto Knows That Diplomacy Has Real Costs, Too.

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Recently I had a conversation with my sister about how villains are almost always right. Iago from Othello, Ra’s al Guhl, Darth Vader, and Scar all come to mind when I think of villains who either had the right idea or who understandably ended up who they were.

I mean, Scar’s parents named him garbage and Anakin’s bro left him ON FIRE thinking his wife and kids were all dead.

But the villain I want to focus on today is Magneto.

Magneto is one of the villains that interests me most because of the obvious parallels that can be drawn between the two opposing characters in the Marvel Universe and the Civil Rights Leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. And some of their key differences surround the issue of diplomacy.

Magneto and Professor X have very different ways of viewing the world, and even though they’re both valid, they both require sacrifice. The reason Magneto paints a picture of Professor X that is of blind naïveté and arrogance is that Professor X refuses to admit that diplomacy has costs. His main contention is that through being diplomatic, he can hold congress with the humans, and get to a solution that doesn’t require bloodshed. War. such as Magneto suggests, he thinks, requires bloodshed, but diplomacy spares lives.

And he’s kinda wrong about that.

As we can see with non-violent movements in India as well as the US, there is a real cost to diplomacy, and the further down you go in the socioeconomic ladder, the more likely you are to be paying that cost. It’s not that Magneto is wanting to provoke a full-out war, but he is seeing humans that have no wish to live with mutants, who fear and hate mutants, who create serums to eradicate mutants, and who will not be reasoned with.

And he’s kind of right about that.

I’ll let Timothy B. Tyson, author of Blood Done Sign My Name (a book about a racial murder in Oxford, NC in 1970) tell you more.

“The Black Power insurgents of the 1960’s, disillusioned by the assassination of Dr. King, and keenly aware of themselves as a new generation, rejected interracial approaches and non-violent direct action.

‘We wanted the whole system to change,’ Eddie McCoy explained. Those civil rights Negroes, the professional people, they was nice, they talked to white people. I didn’t think that would work. Martin Luther King was never my favorite. I admired him, I liked what he stood for,’ McCoy said, ‘but I didn’t think it would work. When nonviolence did work, it was mostly because white people were scared we was gon’ burn the place down.”

“In the years since the freedom movement ended, the memory of what had been required of people faded, McCoy explained to me, and people no longer appreciated the sacrifices that had been made regardless of methods. ‘I was doing stuff back then, sit-ins and marches and all the rest and nowadays nobody even knows what it was like. People right now think the white man opened up his drugstore and said, ‘Y’all come in now, integration done come.’

But every time a door was opened, somebody was kicked in the butt, somebody was knocked down and refused and spit on before you went in them places. It wasn’t no nonviolence in Oxford. Somebody was kicked, and bruised, and knocked around – you better believe it. You didn’t get it for free.’

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been a good thing, McCoy conceded, but it was the determination of local citizens, not the legislation itself, that made the new law meaningful. ‘Law or no law,’ McCoy spat, ‘somebody had to go in there and get kicked in the ass. And by the time they killed Dickie Marrow, nobody was having that shit anymore.'” – (Blood Done Sign My Name, p. 166)

The point is that people died on Professor X’s watch, too. He battled his ideological war of tolerance and non-violence, but didn’t always have to pay the costs of it, which is something we should all be aware of.

In my opinion, it’s more powerful to be able to admit that both approaches have their sacrifices and that you believe that yours is better, and why. You can say you believe it spares more lives. You can say you think it’s more effective. Whatever you say, being honest about gray areas enhances the nuance of the argument, and allows us to avoid harming those we wish to be helping by acknowledging the simple truth:

That blind naïveté as just as dangerous as blind rage.

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Christians Actually Have Terrible Sales Strategies

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I used to work as door-to-door salesman for ADT Home Security. I used to work at AIM Ministries, focused on taking donations for televangelists and ordering their products. For two terrible summers, I worked that front cashier at the Winton Road Wendy’s, I worked at a call center for Sirius XM, and I’ve even sold books door to door for Jesus (if I knocked on your door, just know that I’m sorry, but you are definitely going to hell for not buying Steps to Christ.)

Suffice it to say, I’ve had some sales experience. And while I have never been particularly gifted at sales, I have learned some things along the way.

Demonstrating Value To The Customer

One of the most fundamental aspects of sales is demonstrating value to the customer. You can’t just tell them the features of a product, but you have to communicate what value this product has to their life, how it’s going to change it, and what it’s going to mean to and for them.

I promise you, no matter how great your product, even if it’s eternal life, if you can’t demonstrate its value to the customer, you will not be able to effectively sell to them.

I know some of my atheist brothers and sisters might call Christianity “the greatest lie ever sold” and I might agree with them, except with the amendment that it’s a lie that’s sold terribly.

Part of the reason for that is that Christians think that their product is so great, and it’s enough. They’ll tell you about Jesus, God, the Bible, and eternal life without any further information, when, in actuality, I’d be willing to bet that conversion stories are so much more effective at making more converts.

Conclusion

Now, I don’t believe a word of the Bible except obvious things like “Love your neighbor” and stuff, but if Christians wanted their religion to spread like wildfire, they’d all be kind, caring, loving, let the gay thing go, and invite people in.

You can’t just scream at someone that they’re going to hell if they don’t accept your product and then wonder why it doesn’t work.

That’s what’ll get your selling done. The old model is dead, and if Christians want to remain relevant in culture, they will adapt. Or not.

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Baby Sugar Ain’t No Sin

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Oshkosh, Wisconsin is a Mecca for Adventist Pathfinders. I need to break that down for you. Pathfinders is the Adventist Christian version of the Girls and Boy Scouts mixed into one, and you get all kinds of badges for swimming, tying knots, and SWEARING YOUR ALLEGIANCE TO THE ALMIGHTY CHRIST.

At this Christian moshpit, I heard a story about a women who had come to Jesus after living near Adventists her whole life, but engaging in a life full of debauchery and revelry, which included drinking, smoking, and having the premarital baby sugar slip-and-slide. And I’ve heard more than one pastor take this approach.

The antagonist in the stories always seems to be a person of ill repute, and what constitutes “ill repute” really seems to encompass these and other pastimes people might have. But a problem with the church is the routine failure to distinguish between something that is bad for you and something that is morally wrong.

Failure to Distinguish

Now, I don’t really go in for the whole “sin” word, because as far as I’m concerned, that’s a made-up thing. But we can loosely translate the word sin here to “morally wrong.” Christians think that things that are sins are morally wrong, but they also, unfortunately, teach that things that are bad for you are morally wrong. And this makes it more difficult for people to even identify what the truth is.

Here’s an example: There’s nothing morally wrong with having an orgy. Shocker, I know, but it’s true. You have a room full of people who are all deciding to participate in an activity, consent is requested and received at multiple points throughout, and if it is not, the activity is stopped. That’s fine.

Another would be smoking. There’s nothing morally wrong with smoking (unless you’re pregnant). It has been quite successfully linked to varying types of cancer and you almost surely will suffer as a cause of that activity, but that’s not what we call morally wrong.

This inability to distinguish between the two makes it so someone doesn’t know what the truth is. And that’s dangerous. In this day and age, we need people who can objectively tell the difference between something that legitimately constitutes an unfair or unjust harm to others, and just something that is a choice a human can make.

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To Hell With C.S. Lewis’s Standard

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I wear what I DAMN WELL PLEASE.

I wear what I DAMN WELL PLEASE.

I’ve never liked dressing up. Anyone in my life who has tried to dress me up at any point knows that it requires the same amount of force as wrasslin’ Kerchak from Tarzan to the ground, and putting some goddamn pants on him. And sure, once I’m all decked out, I enjoy feeling cool and confident enough to hit on my sister’s friends at a wedding, but the rest of the time, it’s just not worth it.

I also happened to go to a conservative religious boarding school (or were some of those words unnecessary?) and dressing up on Saturday was kinda their thing. We were told that not only did God want us to worship him on the Sabbath, as defined in his holy book, but he also wanted us to look our best. Church was like a date with God, so to speak, so he wanted us dressed to the nines to show our love for him.

The Thing About Standards

Standards only work if you agree to them. This is a method to control human behavior.

But, for all you Reading Rainbow fans out there, you don’t have to take my word for it. In his book Mere Christianity, children’s author and apologist C.S. Lewis explains the process by which certain standards guide human behavior. Listen to him talk about what happens when we object to someone’s behavior on the grounds of it being unseemly or unfair:

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: ‘To hell with your standard.’

Lewis is droppin’ some real bombs here, but probably not in the way he intended. This is the way that my teachers could get me to dress up, not drink caffeine, not go to the movies, not eat pepper or mustard, not have sex before marriage, not drink, not go out to eat on the Sabbath, the whole shebang.

And they knew it.

They can control your behavior as long as you agree to the standard. There are two problems with this.

  1. The standard is completely arbitrary.There’s no reason that you have to believe in God. There’s certainly a lack of (or if we’re being generous, conflicting) evidence to the fact. And if you do believe, there’s no reason you have to think the Bible is his word. Plenty of people don’t. Just ask a Muslim. You don’t have to believe Jesus was his son. Plenty don’t. Ask a Jew. And even if you do, there’s no reason that that belief somehow translates into why you need to put on a suit.

    This is a cheap way to control your behavior.

  2. The standard is (usually) based on not knowing, prematurely dismissing, or badly contorting other options.When I took World Religions in high school, it was more “Why the others are wrong” class. Kids were told to go on spiritual journeys, but that meant “Come back with the right answer.” Planetarium field trips and science classes were pockmarked with “But we know that’s not true” whenever billions of years or transitional fossils were mentioned.

    What I’m saying is that keeping us thinking that way was based on a heavy curation of what was allowed to enter our minds, which is thought-pruning to the max. And I suppose it was because they know that if you know how old the earth is, and how “not original form” the modern Bible is, or believe evolution, or know how many gods have “existed” throughout time, or just how small the pale blue dot is in comparison with the totality of all the known universe…..you might be less likely to think you have your own personal deity.

    And you’re free to believe what you want to believe, but half the reason that so many are still stuck in a prison of their own minds is that they haven’t yet figured out that they can say the thing they’re not expected to.

    They can say, “To hell with your standard.”

    Example:

    They say: “Oh, but dearie me, you’re not dressed up, and the Bible says…”

    And I say: “Who gives a shit?”

    Try it. You might like it.

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*Just in case there is anyone in a fragile personal or professional state, just know that I always give advice based on the status of the listener. If you are someone who would suffer undue hardship, professional angst, termination, or suffer physical violence from taking any form of this advice, don’t do it, and seek help. This kind of advice is only meant for people who can actually take it freely. Stay safe!

The Opposite Side Literally Thinks We’re Trying To Kill Them

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Take the idea of evolution.

I’m no scientist, but organisms adapt to the environments that they’re in, and that’s why the polar bear is white, and why some animals grow legs, and why some people are funnier than others.

And while we have shared a notoriously short portion of earth’s 13 billion year history here on the pale blue dot as the human species, we’ve acquired and lost certain needs along the way. Back in the days of saber-toothed tigers and life spans of certainly not 80 years, I’m assuming that intelligence wasn’t what kept you alive.

They had no GDP, and didn’t need to structure the nation’s finances. They didn’t have to worry about Benghazi, or tsunamis in places they couldn’t pronounce, and they couldn’t use Skype to know that their friends were covered in snow while they were bathed in sunlight.

As the world changed, we changed.

So, since a completely different set of favorable traits was necessary to not die, those were traits that developed in people. They involved quick thinking, reasoning, and strong bodies, and that was what developed.

But it wasn’t all that we needed forever.

Imagining The Human Species as One Lifetime

If you fast-forward to where we are right now, you’ll see a viciously partisan political environment. Whether it’s senate Republicans who vow that sitting President Barack Obama should not appoint a judge when he’s got a year left in office, or baffling things like a public official holding up a snowball as proof that climate change isn’t real, you see people that are not willing to work with each other.

And I think I know why. It’s because they’re having a biological reaction to intelligent problems.

If you go back to the original scenario, you will remember that quick reaction times and thinking were the cornerstones of not dying or becoming something’s lunch. Malcolm Gladwell even talks about this in his book Outliers, where students at the University of Michigan re-create, in everyday interactions, dynamics of the American frontier based on professions like husbandry or farming, despite the fact that none of them grew up raising livestock.

What this kind of study shows is that traits are both individual and hereditary.

What I suggest we do is take this idea of traits, reactions, and ideas being both individual and hereditary and stretch them out to “the length of human existence.”

Luckily, because I don’t know when we’re all going to die, I don’t know how old the human race is yet. But, because of what we’ve discussed, I know what we have learned. And what I’m suggesting is possible is that we learned things in our infancy as a species that do not serve us in the future, or that the nature of our lessons has changed, as happens to us all with age.

They Really Think You’re Trying To Kill Them.

And here’s the crux of it: I think we can better understand irrational behavior if we understand the other side literally thinks we’re trying to kill them.

If you think of it in this way, it makes much more sense. People are living in bodies that are not 30, 40, 50 years old, but instead millions of years old.

Is it possible that while we no longer live in a situation where our death is consistently imminent, that this adherence to ideas that are more irrational and ill-founded is the product of bodies that DO still live in that time?

Think about this.

When someone says “Well, growing up…” and then explains their behavior, they are admitting that a past action directed at them or a situation they were in is currently affecting their decision making or actions, though the initial conditions are gone. Given what we know, doesn’t it make sense that therefore, we would still be very heavily influenced by the initial conditions from whence we came, whatever the realities of those were?

I think so.

And I’d be interested to see the implications of such an idea and how we treat irrational beliefs or behaviors. What if you understood that when you suggest gun control measures that seem completely reasonable to you, the other side feels actual physical, present danger, and so they react in ways that appear irrational, but are consistent with good behaviors for avoiding physical danger? Immigration, ISIS, police brutality – what would this idea look like translated to other topics?

We might get somewhere interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.

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Let’s Talk About Bill Cosby

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We should start this off right: I don’t know. I don’t know anything. And neither do you. The purpose of this post is to talk about Bill Cosby and rape in America, and we can’t do that unless we go from the ground up, and that’s what we’re doing here.

I would not like to admonish my brothers and sisters in the black community, like Phylicia Rashad or Eddie Griffin, who feel that Cosby’s defamation is undeserved and calculated. They might be right. Their anger might be justified.

I would not like to rein in my darlings like Trevor Noah, Larry Wilmore, Tina Fey, or Amy Poehler for making comedy pursuant to common culture. They could be right, but it is not the majority of their job to be right – it is to be funny and to create content.

But the point is that none of them know.

Here’s what we do know.

What’s True About Rape In America

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1.) We Have a Disastrously Lax Attitude Towards Rape in America.

When reporting rape in America, people often have to answer questions ridiculous in both quantity and scope. Women have it awful because of the sheer amount of assault, with some reports being as high as 20 percent of women experiencing sexual assault in college. That’s one in five. For men, it can be just as bad to be raped, because no one even believes it can happen.

I view this lackadaisical attitude toward rape in common culture to be a powerful motive for us to believe what rape victims tell us. That’s compassion talking. We don’t want to be overtly skeptical or subject rape victims to the same kind of delegitimization they experience on a daily basis. That is a good and honest thing.

However, when it comes to the law, and how we try, prosecute, and convict criminals, we can’t pretend that that initial reaction on our part is enough to sustain a case, and we shouldn’t slip into believing that it justifies not asking much thornier questions later on in the process.

2.) False Reports

Apparently a number is going around that only 2% of women lie about rape cases, and that number is touted by feminists to make it seem drastically low. However, it is not really reliable. Another number, 41%, bandied about by men’s rights activists, is only slightly more reliable, but seeing as it was the result of research conducted by Eugene Kanin with 109 cases in a small city over a period of nine years, twenty years ago, it’s not your best bet.

That coupled with the fact that Kanin seemed okay with accepting data in favor of his position that could actually swing both ways instead (i.e. counting cases withdrawn by the plaintiff as “false”, when that does not necessarily mean that, for instance), and you’ve got yourself a study you should use very sparingly and cautiously.

The truth? We don’t know. How many rape accusations are actually false is kind of a hard number to come by. So the only way we can judge whether or not these women are telling the truth is whether their stories match up to other objective truths.

Another difficult-to-come-by number is how many instances of sexual assault go unreported. According to RAINN, self-billed as “The nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization”, that number is 62%, according to research done by the FBI and the Justice Department. However, they don’t describe what “unreported” means, as it could mean “never reported”, which, in the instance of the Cosby rapes, would be untrue.

What’s True About The Law

1.) What Happens In a Courtroom is Different Than What Happens on TV

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In the article, One of The Most Shameless Episodes in Journalistic History, Huffington Post journalist Charles Thompson recalls an exchange between Fox columnist Roger Friedman and Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report about the 2005 Michael Jackson trial:

In an April 2005 interview with Matt Drudge, Fox columnist Roger Friedman explained, “What’s not reported is that the cross examination of these witnesses is usually fatal to them.” He added that whenever anybody said anything salacious or dramatic about Jackson, the media ‘went running outside to report on it’ and missed the subsequent cross examination.

Drudge agreed, adding, “You’re not hearing how witness after witness is disintegrating on the stand. There is not one witness, at least lately, that hasn’t admitted to perjuring themselves in previous proceedings either in this case or in some other case.

I understand that not everyone has enough time to devote to thinking about cases like a lawyer, and I understand that I’m no lawyer. But it behooves us to either try to think that way, or to be able to legitimately change our minds about how we see a case, because that’s what our justice system depends upon.

2) News and Truth are Not Synonymous

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As noted earlier, the media circus following accusations like these is deafening, but not very reliable. While one might hope that channels and anchors that actually bill themselves as news organizations and professionals would provide more hard hitting journalism, it can seem at times that they are simply starved for the same thing everyone else in entertainment is starved for: content.

As Charles Thompson writes in his article about the Jackson trial:

– “When the prosecution rested, the media seemed to lose interest in the trial. The defense case was given comparatively little newspaper space and air time…”

– “A not guilty verdict was not quite so lucrative. In an interview with NewsweekCNN Boss Jonathan Klein recalled watching the not guilty verdicts come in and then telling his deputies, “We have a less interesting story now.”

– “Almost every single prosecution witness either perjured themselves or wound up helping the defense. There wasn’t a shred of evidence connecting Jackson to any crime and there wasn’t a single credible witness connecting him to a crime either.

But that didn’t stop journalists and pundits from predicting guilty verdicts, CNN‘s Nancy Grace leading the way. Defense attorney Robert Shapiro, who had once represented the Chandler family, stated with certainty on CNN, ‘He’s going to be convicted.'”

– “The story was over. There were no apologies and no retractions. There was no scrutiny no inquiries or investigations. Nobody was held to account for what was done to Michael Jackson. The media was content to let people go on believing their heavily skewed and borderline fictitious account of the trial. That was that.”

It is a disconcerting reality, but a reality nonetheless, that news is not always trustworthy. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated in cases like the one above that news, starved for content, can get out of control in a hurry, but afterwards, there are no retractions, take-backs, or apologies.

The news can say what it will, speculate how it will, and lay down whatever narrative it will, with very little kickback, regardless of whether they are ultimately right or wrong.

3) Yes, Celebrities Can Go To Jail.

One of the latent fears of the populace surrounding cases involving celebrities is that those demigods will be able to leverage their fame, power, and money in order to manipulate the results of the case. There are only a couple of notes that I would like to submit under this point.

A) Oscar Pistorious and Reeva Steenkamp

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On September 12, 2014, Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide and one firearm-related charge, of reckless endangerment related to discharging a firearm in a restaurant. He was found not guilty of two firearm-related charges relating to illegal possession of ammunition and firing a firearm through the sunroof of a car. On October 21, 2014, he received a prison sentence of a maximum of five years for culpable homicide and a concurrent three-year suspended prison sentence for the separate reckless endangerment conviction.

And this was one of our darlings.

All you have to do to be one of our darlings is be an inspirational runner who had his legs amputated when he was 11 but ran anyway – and we still put him in jail. The criminal justice system isn’t perfect, but I only bring up Oscar Pistorius to point out that it’s not impossible for rich, powerful, or extremely likable people to be convicted of a crime, and as much as we are afraid of that, we should know that that doesn’t de facto mean that you’ll get away with something.

B) You’ve Got To Give The Average American a Little More Credit

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In the wake of a “not guilty” verdict following a person of fame, the public finds itself asking, “How much did this person’s celebrity tie into the decision?” But this question is unreasonable on multiple counts.

The first is that in cases like Jackson’s, he was acquitted unanimously by a jury of his peers, not by a mistrial (an error in the proceedings.)

It wasn’t as if Jackson used his giant money to pay people off, or every witness was conspicuously found dead in the Bermuda Triangle the day before they had to testify: He was acquitted by a group of well-selected but average American people. And every one of them, after having reviewed the facts and evidence, submitted a ballot exonerating him.

The second reason this question is unreasonable is that it assumes the amorality of the American people, which is not something I believe in. However liked or respected an individual may be, I find it very difficult to believe that these jurors did not want truth. I also find it very difficult to believe that they would pardon someone they thought was a child rapist simply because they liked his music.

You’ve got to give them more credit than that.

4.) The Defense of Fame

This fear of the rich and powerful using their influence or authority to play by different rules has also become one of the talking points in the case of Bill Cosby. When it is pointed out that some of these alleged incidents were almost 50 years ago (which is not to be construed as “less important because it was long ago”, simply to be construed as “legally outside the statute of limitations for a criminal charge”), people claim that the plaintiffs chose not to come forward before because of Cosby’s mega-fame mixed with his values-driven persona (as Margaret Cho states here.)

However, this doesn’t appear to be the best defense for multiple reasons.

A.) Bill Cosby is not less famous now than he used to be.

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This one bears very little explanation, but it’s just to say that if these women did not report on Cosby at the time of the incident because of his fame, it makes little sense that they would feel more comfortable now as opposed to then, seeing as Bill Cosby is even more famous now than he was in 1965.

However, a charitable way of understanding this would be to say that the women, seeing the courage of others in similar situations, would finally have the courage to speak out, because numbers are safer. That is reasonable.

B.) It was still 1965.

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At least for the first alleged incident of assault, it was still 1965. That’s two years before interracial marriage was legalized, and only one year after The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on protected classes, including race. It was a whopping 15 years before the acquittal of Robert Teel by an all-white jury for the murder of Henry Marrow sparked outrage and a continuing conversation about racial violence and prejudice, and on August 6 of that same year, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson would sign into law the Voting Rights Act, giving Bill Cosby the right to vote.

My point in recounting that history is that it seems strange to me, the argument that these women immediately felt that they were in a situation that would be unsympathetic or hostile to their claims that a black man had raped them.

In keeping with the precedent of history, they would have been able to simply assume that society would have been on their side, and in keeping with the precedent of history, Bill Cosby would’ve been summarily lynched.

So their reticence to report the incident does not seem quite explainable in that way.

C) Racial Hoaxes and Fear of Black Bodies Is a Feature of American Culture

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This is a point I would rather not belabor, because, as I’ve already noted above, nobody really knows how many false reports of rape there are, so we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.  I wouldn’t want to appear to be exaggerating the number or understating it.

Suffice it to say, though, that it does happen. And in the case of the war on black bodies, it  doesn’t even have to happen, only the insinuation does. Timothy B. Tyson, in his book Blood Done Sign My Name, chronicles the murder of Henry Marrow in Oxford, NC in 1970. Marrow was attacked and chased out of the general store by Robert Teel, the racist proprietor, and his sons, and shot in the head while already on the ground, immobilized from a connecting scattershot. The reason was that he had apparently said “ugly words” about Robert Teel’s daughter-in-law.

As Tyson notes:

The force that drove the bullet through Henry Marrow’s brain, if you were looking for something more explosive than gunpowder and more specific than that Cain slew Abel, was white people’s deep, irrational fear of sex between black men and white women, any single instance of which was supposed to abolish the republic, desecrate the Bible, and ring in Planet of the Apes. (p.43)

Similar cases like that of Emmett Till or of Rosewood Florida can be recounted, their crucial elements being that they include violence justified by America’s substantial history of fear when it comes to black men having sex with white women.

This is particularly to ask, “What, despite this solid evidence of a history that has proven to be entirely on their side, convinced these women that Bill Cosby was untouchable?”

This is honestly not at all to suggest that all rape accusations are lies. But as much as I would be the first to not want to admit it, some of them are, and it would be naive to pretend otherwise.

Consider this excerpt from American Thinker, examining Bill Cosby’s accusers:

Former exotic dancer Chloe Goins claimed that Mr. Cosby sexually assaulted her at the Playboy mansion on August 9, 2008.  Her claim was the most serious at the time, because it fell within the statute of limitations.  However, Marty Singer, Mr. Cosby’s attorney, has stated that flight and telephone records clearly place Cosby in New York City, 2,500 miles from the mansion, on the date the alleged assault supposedly took place.

That is not even particularly good or clever work on the part of Cosby’s legal team, that’s just him literally not being anywhere near where the plaintiff claims that he was when she claims he was.

An instance like that could only be described using the colorful words of Wolfgang Pauli, the noted theoretical physicist: “That is not only not right, it is not even wrong.” That is to say, “That is so far outside of the strictures of right and wrong that its truth value is unquantifiable.”

Will the other cases follow suit or prove to be similarly hollow?

If a person is that wrong about the details of a case, what compels them to pursue it, and what competent lawyer doesn’t see a loss coming before taking that case?

Are there factors other than justice that can cause someone to pursue unpursuable cases?

These are meaningful questions to ask, but they don’t have clear answers yet.

Conclusion

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I understand the outrage of some, the support of others, the pushback against victim blaming or shaming, the solidarity with the oppressed, and a certain mistrust for the integrity of both our legal system and our media, that either spins things to its liking, or doesn’t legitimately stand up for or represent the people.

Like Comedian Jerry Seinfeld said of the Cosby case: “…if the allegations have any truth to them, you want the truth to come out. You want justification for all the people.”

And I know that doesn’t always happen. Dick Cheney doesn’t go to jail despite war crimes we know he committed, and no one goes to jail for the 2008 housing market collapse. Despite our best efforts, ill befalls the good and the evil slip away into the night.

However (and I feel that I’ve sufficiently prepared you for this opinion at this point): I don’t think Cosby, in the legal sense, raped these women. (Which should be differentiated from any simply smarmy or skeezy behavior.) As far as what we send people to jail for and how long, I don’t think that Cosby is guilty under the law.

To me, the evidence points more strongly towards a case for defamation and money rather than justice. That combined with previous fraudulent cases of a similar nature makes me believe that it is reasonable that a confluence of factors are responsible for Cosby’s current crucifixion, and that what the American public would like to believe is not the same thing as what is objectively true in this case, or what can actually be ascertained under the law.

To be clear, I could be wrong.

And that is why, thankfully, we do not summarily execute people. That is why we have a legal system. Because, for all its faults, it is possible that in the due course of time, we may discover facts and figures that challenge our notions of what already is, and quite possibly, that change our minds.

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“Maybe Christmas, He Thought, Doesn’t Come From a Store…”

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Christmas has long been the center of a supposed “war”, but I don’t buy it. Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays, and there’s damn good reason for it. In some fictional world, we’ve created this division on the issue of Christmas, and somehow become massive Grinches along the way.

So I don’t really let Bill O’Reilly or Fox News or whoever the soupe du jour is bait me into this War on Christmas. You know why?

  1. Because it’s made up.
  2. Because it doesn’t matter.

On it being made up: I don’t know, neither have I ever met a single Grinch who is offended at hearing Merry Christmas, atheist, Christian, or otherwise.

I don’t know, neither have I ever met a single Grinch who is offended at hearing Happy Holidays, atheist, Christian, or otherwise.

On it not mattering: In my favorite Christmas song, White Wine In The Sun, Tim Minchin digs right into this idea, speaking to his infant daughter about what does matter:

And you won’t understand

But you will learn someday

That wherever you are and whatever you face

These are the people who’ll make you feel safe in this world

Tim’s onto something here. And here’s what no Grinch admits: Christmas doesn’t really have a lot to do with what you believe or don’t believe.

The baby Jesus isn’t really the reason for the season so much as Grandma’s apple pie is, or reliving that time that Uncle Terry danced in his underwear after losing a bet to your brother. Christmas is about fraternity, Christmas is about love, Christmas is about family.

If you’re a Christian family, that’s probably going to mean some focus on religion.

And if you’re non-religious, maybe it means the opposite.

And that’s okay, because it’s really about the people who make you feel safe in this world.

Which brings us to the last Grinch-y lesson, one that I emphasized in my last post:

Christmas is about more.

The Grinch’s final moment of character development is in the moment he finds out that Christmas can’t be bought, sold, or stolen. But what if the Grinch went a little further and realized that a season of fraternity and love couldn’t possibly belong to one people, religion, or belief?

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, he thought, means little bit more.

You are correct, Mr. Grinch, and it probably doesn’t come from a religion, either. Because maybe underneath the “Christ” of “Christmas”, what we’re really celebrating is each other, and how much love there can be, even if only for a day.

Merry Christmas.

P.S. This’ll be my last post of 2015! I’ve immensely enjoyed this year with you guys, thank you for reading and commenting and everything…see you in the New Year!

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Steve Harvey Is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

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Since Steve Harvey is recently in the news, let’s talk about him. He was last seen messing up the winner of the 2015 Miss Universe pageant (and if that kind of thing ever happens to Leonardo DiCaprio, I will burn Kodak theater to the ground), but Harvey has had some gnarly things to say about the non-religious in the past.

Joy Behar: “Do you believe that only people who are religious are ethical and moral?”

Harvey: “No, I just believe that if you don’t believe in God, where’s your moral barometer?”

We’re going to skip over the part where this is really dumb and offensive, because we all know that it is. Let’s instead go to the part where Harvey’s comments highlight one of Christianity’s most sacred tenets:

Goodness comes from God. 

For this illustration, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Grinch.

The Grinch is one of my favorite antiheroes. Throughout the whole book/movie, it is set up that he does not like Christmas. He doesn’t like the music, or the gifts, and especially not the rare Who Roast Beast. He decides that because he hates Christmas soooooo much, he’s going to fix it the only way he knows how: grand larceny.

The Grinch sees all the presents that the Who have built up over the Christmas season, and concocts a dastardly plan to steal them all, and with them, Christmas itself. He does just this, and on Christmas morning, as he listens out over Mount Crumpit to hear the muffled tears of the children and parents devastated by the lack of Christmas, he instead hears singing. This leads him to my favorite line in the whole shebang:

It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

The whole emotional pull of the Grinch is in this moment, where he realizes that there is nothing he could do to stop Christmas, because it wasn’t dependent on material things in the least.

So, Steve Harvey thinks that you have to believe in God to have some kind of moral barometer, but it sounds to me like he needs to learn the same lesson as the Grinch.

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store?

Here’s my idea: How beautiful could life be if you realized that God, Jesus, and the Bible don’t make you good? What if Christians understood that they don’t have to be afraid that they can’t be good without God, because their goodness is not dependent on any book, idea, or philosopher, but on whether or not they decide to be good?

That kind of freedom sounds like a very merry Christmas present.

For more on Harvey’s comments on atheists, check out this link.

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Be Scared When You’re Happy – Is Jesus A Physician or a Drug?

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The unbelievably happy Mickey Mouse, ladies and gentlemen.

As I’ve mentioned in some of my posts, along with Christianity comes the vague or explicit sense of never being able to Jesus hard enough. You always must do more, be better, do greater things in the service of your Lord, which can lead to some pretty fanatical behavior. Not to mention that it’s the exact opposite of what people like Mister Rogers would have you believe, which is, “I like you just the way you are.”

This foundation of Christianity can make it really difficult for people to build up proper self-esteem and confidence about themselves, what with being told that every good thing they do is not them, but God, and every bad thing they do is succumbing to their evil, broken, fallen human nature.

Make no mistake: Having high self-esteem is at direct odds with being constantly told that you are not enough, and the number of people that manage to achieve that are fewer, not greater.

But despite the overarching feeling that you are never being enough of a Christian, or the “right” kind, there is another insidious lie that creeps in, and I’ve heard it multiple times from the pulpit.

Be scared when you’re happy.

From the pulpit, they will tell you that your life is in the most danger when you feel as if you don’t need Jesus, when you feel that your life is going fine, when you feel confident in the person you’ve become – that is the moment to fear because that’s when Satan will finally corrupt you.

I wish I were making this up.

But if Jesus is called The Great Physician, shouldn’t he ideally be viewed as a doctor, not a drug dealer? Meaning that, ideally, you do not always need your doctor. Ideally, when you feel that you do not need your doctor, that is actually a good thing. Only drug dealers insist on you being hooked on their stuff 100% of the time.

When I think of all the emotionally broken people that go to church for a variety of reasons, it seems very sad that they go to a place that will just tell them they will never ever be well, and it’s a shame they don’t know that’s not true.

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The Idea of Salvation Reduces Responsibility

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I believe that humans beings want to do the right thing. Even in a world full of ISIS and Mike Huckabee, I think that, in general, people would like to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, many Christians would not agree with me on this core point.

It’s a strange thought, especially when surrounded by people who seem to prove the contrary every day. But it’s a good thought, and I apply it as broadly as possible, because I think that it’s true.

I remember going to college, where tuition costs rose every single year thousands of dollars, and the bookstore robbed us of all the money we had to sign up at the financial aid office to get. On our conservative Christian campus, gay students had to lay down low in many senses, worship was mandatory, and some of the buildings looked quite a bit nicer than the others.

But I never thought that the administration was evil.

I never thought that President Andreasen fantasized about ways to increase my tuition and bring me to financial ruin. I never thought that his driving purpose was screwing the average Andrews student more today than he had the day before.

It doesn’t work like that. People don’t work like that.

I also feel the same about Presidents. I don’t think Obama wakes up in the morning maniacally evil, and I don’t think George Bush did, either. And it all comes back to one of my core truths.

People want to do the right thing.

The Justification of Salvation

Human beings want to be justified. The story of salvation is that one day, we’ll finally KNOW whether or not what we did was right, and I just don’t think that’s the way it works. I don’t think we get a nice summary of how this went down. I think that rejects the ambiguity that is the truth of the human experience/condition, which is that each of us does our best, based on a number of factors, to do what we think is best, but in the end we don’t know. So often, and by “so often” I mean “basically every time we’re forced to make a choice”, we are forced to make it with all available knowledge, and absent of factors and options we cannot currently see.

It’s a strange thought, especially when surrounded by people who seem to prove the contrary every day.

And we just have to do things anyway. At the end of the day, we have to be comfortable saying, “This is who I am. These are the decisions I’ve made.” And I think that the idea of God telling us we’re right or wrong at the end of time eases that responsibility, takes the weight off of the depth of the choices we have to make in the dark, and lessens the duty that we have to think carefully about whether we’re right now.

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“Why Do You Even Read Harry Potter If You Don’t Even Believe In Him?”

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Christianity is famous for its all-or-nothing kind of mentality. I’ve written posts about the need to “Jesus” a little bit harder, and how that mentality of never really doing it hard enough or never being Christian enough can really eat away at you after a while.

And that all-or-nothing verve can be a great attitude when it comes to sports or getting tickets for The Force Awakens, but when it comes into the realm of beliefs, it can be a bit tricky. In the world that we live in, if you do not adapt, you will die, and ideas are no different. Ideological flexibility allows us to get along with our neighbors, combat cognitive dissonance, and just know what we don’t know in general.

Which is what confuses me about many people who believe in the Bible. One, I’m not even sure what “believe in the Bible” really means. There is an entire set of assumptions in that statement, and given the incredible amount of diversity in Christian belief, I’m never sure which one applies. And two, I’m never sure about what assumptions are tied to the fact that I don’t believe it’s true. Let me give you scenario.

Why do you even read Harry Potter if you don’t believe in him?

Sounds kind of ridiculous, right? Is believing that Harry Potter is a real person or that any of the events that occur inside the series are real a prerequisite for reading or enjoying the book? I sure hope not. Even if I don’t think Harry rose from the dead to save us all or rode a dragon out of Gringotts, I think I can still say I love that guy.

The point is that an atheist is a person who doesn’t think that God is real, but when Jesus says “Love your neighbor”, they’re not muttering under their breath, “*cough* BULLSHIT *cough*”. Who doesn’t believe that you should love your neighbor? Anyone who doesn’t probably isn’t someone I want to hang out with, either.

Christians are the only people that set up this false distinction between themselves and the non-religious – that if someone is an atheist, there is no meaning or value for them in any religious book, song, movie, or church service ever again – and pushing  this narrative along further serves to tear us apart more than it brings us together.

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Dear Christians: Please Start Stripping C-cards

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A Case of Mistaken Identity

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Here’s a disclaimer: One thing that atheists tend to leave out when talking about Christianity is the immense diversity of it, either because they don’t know, or because they are attempting to focus on one aspect of it. You can see Christians out there like Ray Comfort talking about why evolution is false because bananas, and that is ridiculous indeed, or Donald Trump, most recently seen proposing a ban on all Muslims entering the US, but there are also Christians who are openly queer and fight for equality, like my friend Eliel Cruz, or people like my friend Stephen Erich, who works in Cambodia because he uses his faith to mobilize himself to help others.

I believe these are different kinds of people, while some still may overlap. But here’s the problem: They both call themselves, and each other, “Christians”. Let’s take a look at what that means.

If an accurately broad description of the word “Christian” is not, “a person who, insofar as it is possible and reasonable, implements the characteristics or principles of the teachings of the first century philosopher Jesus in their life”, I don’t know what is.

So I guess my question to Christians (the awesome kind) is: Why do you continue to call these people Christian? They clearly haven’t earned that title as nothing in their character is at all similar to Jesus. He was busy giving away free healthcare and getting crucified rather than call down a legion of angels to save him.

Furthermore, many country leaders, including Barack Obama, have said that we should not view something like ISIS as in any way indicative of Islam, and really, not even think of them as Islamic. Well, if ISIS isn’t Islamic, then Donald Trump surely can’t be a Christian. On multiple occasions, he’s tried to remind us that he’s worth 10 billion dollars (he’s worth 4), and I seem to remember Jesus saying something about it being really really really hard for rich people to get to heaven.

Why do you continue to call these people Christian? They clearly haven’t earned that title as nothing in their character is at all similar to Jesus.

One final example would be The Westboro Baptist Church. This would be a job for them. You know why? Because, hate them as much as I do, they would have the strength to strip some C-cards. “Oh, you’re gay? NAH, SON! Gimme dat C-card!” I feel very uncomfortable right now saying that other Christians need to follow the example of The Westboro Baptist Church, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

You don’t get to just have any old values and say that you follow a person that exemplified the exact opposite values, because that’s not how words work, and the longer moderate or progressive Christians keep these people around, the more it makes you look uber bad. Keep in mind, religions are much different than nationalities or races. The religious community gets to decide what being a Christian is, and it can decide when someone is no longer that thing.

So, Christians, I would appreciate it if you thinned the herd a bit and started stripping some C-cards. You will thank me for the suggestion later. Feel free to start with yourself if you happen to be a billionaire douchebag pushing war and preaching hate…don’t see any of those around here.

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Dear Conservatives: Empathy Applies To Bad People, Too. (Part 2)

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Then why is he still alive?” – Under The Red Hood

Since the beginning of time, there have been bad people. And since the beginning of time, good people have had to decide what to do with bad people. And that’s where things get dicey.

In the most recent days, I’ve heard people talking about what we need to do with ISIS, but the ones that have stuck with me are the suggestions that we should just bomb them. Not only is this idea devoid of an understanding of how complex the situation is, it’s devoid of empathy, and here’s why.

ISIS is not the only place where this startling lack of empathy can creep up. It creeps up when people think that those on welfare are just lazy and should stop abusing the system. It’s leveraged when talking about how okay it is that many prisoners receive inadequate or harmful medical treatment. Or, you can check out how easy it was to shift the tide of empathy for unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown when it was found out that he had stolen cigars from a gas station.

Yeah, I get it. We feel that there must be justice. Some form of retribution. Some vengeance. But too often what people in search of vengeance do not stop to consider is what they will not do. After all, if we’re going to call ourselves the good guys and our enemies the bad ones, we should have a reason for that.

What is the distinction between them and us? What exactly is the difference between a member of Al-Qaeda being willing to blow up a plane in pursuit of an ideal he believes in, regardless of the collateral lives lost, and us being unconcerned with the amount of false convictions in our prison system? What is the difference between 9/11 and daily drone strikes?

What’s the difference between a damned killer and a righteous one?

Basically, in order to be a good person, there have to be some things that you are not willing to do, even when dealing with extreme evil. Because that’s the definition of a good person. People being evil doesn’t mean all bets are off on how we decide to treat them.

What’s the difference between a damned killer and a righteous one?

Monsters come in many forms, and you can’t tell me that you’re willing to indiscriminately bomb these countries (as we do), support waterboarding (as Evangelicals do), forced sodomy, rectally infused puree (Abu Ghraib), etc, AND you don’t want me to call you a monster. If you do not carefully construct your worldview to include things that you are not willing to do for justice, if you are truly willing to do anything to defeat ISIS, or to feel safe, you will end up doing despicable things that will corrode your heart.

Because we must be good. And as it turns out, being good is actually the hard thing to do.

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Dear Conservatives: Empathy Applies to Bad People, Too. (Part 1)

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“You can’t just act, you have to think, you have to…listen! There are always wolves…” – Into The Woods

Since the beginning of time, there have been bad and good people. The bad people, unlike Hester Prynne, have rarely walked around with an emblem on their clothing to tell us who they are. They come in the form of teachers, politicians, cripples, priests, students, and little old women who pretend not to shoplift. And since the beginning of time, good people have had to decide what to do with bad people.

The Bible is full of this kind of language and these kinds of ideas, to say that it’s not always easy to tell who’s on what side.

Jesus (AKA that dude nobody listens to), in one of his most famous sermons, said stuff like this in Matthew 5:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

It is abundantly clear that this is not what many Christians actually believe (which makes me wonder why we call them Christians, but I digress.) The points that the philosopher is making here are twofold:

  1. In life, you don’t always know who’s who. You can’t even always be sure you’re on the “right side”.
  2. Even if you can figure that out, you are supposed to be kind and loving towards the people that are not on the right side.

Now, personally, I don’t think that I’ll ever like some people. I’m never gonna want to sit down and have a beer with Donald Trump, and if you try to make me, I will probably physically fight you. But…if he came to my house for safety, if he was bleeding, if he was in a car accident, if a loved one of his died…I’d do the right thing. Because he’s a part of my family, and we’re the only ones here.

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Why Do I Do This? (101st BLOG!!!)*

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I Am Not a Monster

My dear boy, do you ask a fish how it swims? Or a bird how it flies? No, siree, you don’t. They do it because they were born to do it.  – (Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory)

For almost a year now, I’ve blogged about being an atheist. An interesting experience, to say the least. Some of my favorite titles include “biased sophist who spews fatuous nonsense” and “Christ hater”. I will definitely be putting those on my resumé.

I’ve received more pushback writing about atheism than on writing about any other thing. Sometimes it will come directly on my Facebook in the comments, and sometimes on the blog.

That’s to be expected. I’m not writing about fluffy dogs.

I still remember the epic conversation surrounding pretty much my first public outing, and it was, ahem, glorious.

Education and Faith - Ted Kirkby

Or I remember being informed that a friend of a friend of my mother’s found something on my site unpalatable (it was never said what).

Being accused of being on a warpath, being a hateful person, or of being just a shill for Big Atheism, or being told that I was inferior because I didn’t have a degree have all happened this year…

I could be ideologically mistake, misled, whatever, but I am a quote-unquote expert on the Bible, and this conversation is like you were talking to an astrophysicist about string theory, or a mathematician about non-standard calculus. – (Actual comment from actual person on my FB)

Some people that would rather not end up in the thick of things, will privately message me, saying that they enjoy my perspective, or that I’m a total fartbag (no, they’re usually nice.)

Suffice it to say, being an atheist is still rather controversial, and in many cases, deeply misunderstood. Often we come out the other side of the ideological grinder looking a lot more like the featured photo than who we actually are.

But the question still remains.

Why Do I Do This?

I could write in some phony answer about being noble or bringing justice to the world, but that would be a lie. To tell you the truth, I don’t even write this blog because I’m an atheist.

I write because I’m a writer.

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And eventually, I would write about anything and everything under the sun. Writing is one of the singular most effective uses of my talent, and it’s important to know that kind of thing. If you’re a hand, be a hand. Be the best hand. If you’re a gallbladder…reevaluate your life…but then be the BEST gallbladder! (the only one).

And eventually, I want to expand this blog to talking about even more things. Politics, race, gender dynamics, dogs, anything, really. Because writing is what I’m supposed to be doing.

And if there’s any morsel of justice to be brought from this blog, it’s this: I am here to give you a perspective of the outside.

– To call to the minds of devout believers ways in which they may have failed their fellow humans.
– To point out ways in which your god not only does not make sense, but ways in which he clearly does not make you better, as you say he should, or make things better, as you say he does.
– To call you to task for supporting torture, for defending police brutality, for profiting from the sick, for preying on the dying, for lying to advance your faith, for persecuting people based on their sexual orientation, for rejecting science because it does not conform to your reality.

This blog is for believers to be able to see what those on the outside see, instead of the roses picked from the thicket of their pews, and to invite them to a perspective not of fear and hate, but of actual justice. We can make it together.

In summary, I do this to share my world. And I do hope you’ll spend some time with me in it, because I’m not evil, and I’m not a monster. I’m just an atheist.

Thank you so much for everything so far.

Signed,

Timothy “The Danger” Hucks

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*You know this shit was serious if I had to use more than one exclamation point. Good day.

Why Belief (Doesn’t) Matter(s) Special Edition, Part 1

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Recently, I decided to play “I’ll Fly Away” at my weekly open mic night. Open Mic Night is where I go to have a beer, unwind, and relax, and I’ve always loved that song (find a brilliant cover of it by Olivia Millerschin here!)

To me, the song represents what I see most of music as: a frightful meatball on a rock circling a ball of fire, trying to make sense of their brief existence in a universe that seems so averse to that very existence. I view it as the many hopes of people, or as a representation of the pain of loss, or the elation of being connected with loved ones.

It’s quite non-sensical to believe that these corpses will one day rise and fly into the sky, but that doesn’t mean I have a problem singing it.

As comedian Tim Minchin sings in White Wine In The Sun: “Some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords, but the lyrics are dodgy.”

Afterwards, I sat down with a guy in the bar. He was pretty impressed with my song.

He said to me, “You gotta believe that, right?”
I said: “No, I’m an atheist.”

And so we talked.

He was going through a divorce. He said that his kids lived in Washington and he was just visiting, staying at a hotel nearby and getting shit together. He was raised Catholic and kind of realized how crazy it all was. We talked about war, politicians, and of course, beliefs. I explained to him what the song meant to me, and he said, “Well, that doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist, right?”

That kind of misconception was awesome to hear, and i wasn’t offended, because it gave me an opportunity explain what being an atheist really is, or at least, what it is to me.

Why Belief Doesn’t Matter

I spend a lot of time talking about people’s beliefs and why they do matter, why what we think about the nature of reality has a lot to say about us, and has profound consequences for how we interact with and treat one another. Harmful beliefs (innocuous or not), I often argue, eventually lead to actions that are harmful for others, intentional or not.

However, I do believe in unity. I believe in compromise. And I believe that at the end of the day, that feeling that you’re just sitting down with someone, having a beer and shooting the shit, is extremely important.

And seeing as you know just as well as I that there are supremely shitty people who believe both ways on the issue of God, I’d say that feeling is probably much more important than any of the rest.

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99th and 100th BLOGS!

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I never would've made it without this dog...whose name I don't know.

We’re more than a little excited.

In honor of my 99th and 100th blog posts on this channel, I’d like to do a special feature, and I need your help! I usually bounce around with atheist ideas from hither and yon, but I want to know what you think. What should I talk about in my special features? Is there something that you feel that Christians don’t understand about atheists, or the other way around? Is there a topic no one ever really talks about? No matter what it is, send in your responses, via comments below, or on whichever social media platform you prefer, and I’ll get to work.

Just know that I appreciate all your love and support, and it really is people like you guys that make this blog meaningful.

Signed,

Timothy “The Danger” Hucks

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Why Christianity is Popular, but Jesus Isn’t

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Public Service Announcement: Jesus was a pretty chill dude. In what I’ve studied about him, he was. He chased money-changers out of the temple who used belief in God to manipulate people, he condemned public and showy worship, he advocated submission to a tyrannical government…and he was crucified because he refused to enact the Roman ass-whooping that all his disciples thought he was there for.

Here are some of his own words:

But all their [the scribes and Pharisees] works they do for to be seen of men; they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues. (Matt 23:5,6)

OR

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel…Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (Matt 23: 24,27)

Dayum. Jesus serving up that hard shit. That guy must have been killer at parti-…oh, wait

Many of Jesus’s words couldn’t be explaining modern Christianity any better…maybe that’s why they don’t like him too much. And for a further explanation of that, I leave the rest of this in the capable hands of my good friend, Camden “Bear Arms” Bowman! Take it away.

“Jesus’ message was inherently anti-imperial, radically inclusive, and awkwardly incompatible with capitalism.

When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus told him to be a good guy. He was like, “Yeah, I’ve got that down.”

Then Jesus was like, “Oh, and by the way, you have to give all your stuff to the poor.”
 

The guy just went home. He was fine with making Jesus a religious figure (much like American Christians), but he wasn’t really o.k. with doing the stuff that Jesus was about.

Americans have a hard time with Jesus, cause we live in the biggest, baddest empire that ever was. And we benefit (or at least we think we do) from being thuggish.

We are, in many ways, the polar opposite of Jesus. 

Jesus was homeless, opposed all sorts of physical violence, and when faced with the opportunity to lead a violent revolt, instead quieted Peter down and got himself killed because he wouldn’t resort to the Empire’s tactics.

He was very un-American.

In the end, Americans would rather do the crucifying than be crucified.

It’s not just an American thing, though. Europeans in the middle ages made their swords in the shape of the cross. Only the Europeans designed their swords that way, and it’s a pretty awful design.

They did it for religious reasons. They preferred to wield the cross than suffer it. Most of us would, really.

So as popular as Christianity is, Jesus is pretty unpopular.

Jesus is a difficult character to build a religion around. That, I think, is why Christianity is so obsessed with his death, and not so interested in his life.”

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What You Have to Believe I’m Okay With To Believe Your Sunday Law Story

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As far as Adventist fears go, I could confidently say that one of the most prominent was this concocted story of the Sunday Law. Trust me, I have a whole pack of DVDs in my house right now with green covers that are by Pastor Jan Marcussen about the Mark of the Beast, Sunday laws, and the Jesuit invasion into God’s Remnant Church (the Adventist Church). Let me see if I can make this story as concise as possible.

Adventists (many of them, anyway) believe that a time will come when the world will have to decide between the laws of God and the laws of man. The Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church, will play some crucial work in bringing the U.S. around to accepting Sunday (the false Sabbath) as God’s true holy day, and he will work to connect his power to the current POTUS to ensure that this practice becomes enshrined in law.

How do you assume that I have that little regard for your rights?

True Christians (once again, ADVENTISTS) must write God’s word on their hearts because they will be chased from society, their Bibles stolen and outlawed, reviled for keeping God’s commandments, and while the whole world is “lusting after the beast” (which I assume is “worshipping on Sunday”), Adventists will be further persecuted to the point of being hunted down. And at the point of climax, there is a special core of people that will be delivered by the Lord and his second coming and the wicked will be vanquished, blah blah blah.

I assume that I – an atheist- am included in this story somewhere. I’m an American citizen. And my honest question to Adventists is (as respectfully as I can put it) – In what fucking world do you think I’m okay with this? You have this narrative of your freedom of religion being taken away, you being physically persecuted, and worst of all, all of us seemingly waking up of our own volition and going to church on Sunday, and your first reaction is to assume I’m okay with that? That I’m not going to ferociously say, “Fuck you, Francis! You don’t tell us what to do”? How do you assume that I have that little regard for your rights?

Maybe you think that because you’d be okay if it happened to me.

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The Good Version Fallacy

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When I was a child, my father decided to buy his own chickens. In his opinion, it was better than buying them from the grocery store. This way, he could control what they ate, how they lived their lives, and how they ended them.

We bought seed and heat lamps and itty bitty baby eggies that would turn into full grown chickens. We guarded them from the cold, gave them plenty of room to move around, protected the other chickens from ones that were too aggressive, and when it came time to kill them, we made sure that our axes were sharp and our swings sure, to end their lives as quickly as possible.

We made sure that our axes were sharp and our swings sure, to end their lives as quickly as possible.

After my childhood, I carried around this picture of meat production, the rosy one of my youth. There was no needless suffering, no ineffective bolts to the head, no unnecessary growth hormones to keep up with demand, no undocumented workers being taken advantage of in extremely low-paying jobs, nothing. There was just the coop that my father used to supply his family with meat for the winter.

This is what I call The Good Version Fallacy.

That childhood experience actually inoculated me from having to take stock of reality. The reality: Almost none of the meat that I eat is produced that way.

Because of that perfect picture of meat production, I was able to ignore the fact that what was on my pizza, what was in my taco, what was on my plate was not the product of that golden standard of animal husbandry. Unfortunately, any critiques of eating meat that I was confronted with would more easily slide away, because I could simply revert to that perfect picture of what I’d known.

The Good Version of Religion

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Christians suffer from this, too, and that’s why it’s not surprising that Christians and atheists often end up talking past each other. The critiques of religion offered up by so many variations of non-believers throughout the centuries have simply slid off the shoulders of the religious, because they understand only the good.

Listen, I’m an atheist. That means that I don’t believe this stuff is literally true. That doesn’t mean there’s no value whatsoever in lovely passages like, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy…does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil.”

But it also means that I find no reasonable justification for drowning everyone on earth. Or mauling 42 boys with bears. Or testing someone by telling them to sacrifice their son. Or telling African countries ravaged with AIDS not to wear condoms (jeez, Francis.)

The Solution

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(Image provided at https://goo.gl/f7CLk4)

The point is that it is never good to drown everyone. Or burn everyone. Or crucify your Son/Self. And I understand that many Christians are deeply faithful and would not like to give that up. You don’t have to, but the point of this is to say that you need to use these critiques to have a more complicated relationship with this thing that you love, because people get hurt when you don’t.

Listening to the secular community and what it says about the God that you worship can help you have a more rounded and thorough perspective of what your faith is about.

You cannot pretend that God is solely portrayed as good in the Bible when that is objectively not the case. Or that religion is only a force for good. And it’s completely patronizing to answer the critiques offered by non-believers with weak apologetic nonsense, as if we’re just too dense to be able to read the “real” meaning of fairly explicit texts.

Listening to the secular community and what it says about the God that you worship can help you have a more rounded and thorough perspective of what your faith is about and might even help you more adequately answer larger questions about faith that the doubting in your pews already have (they’re there, I promise.)

But if you continue to ignore it, and commit only to the good side of God/Jesus/The Bible/etc, you’re gonna end up thinking that your hamburger came from heaven when it actually came from hell.

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You Wouldn’t Understand God If It Hit You

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After a self-imposed two week hiatus, I’m back. And as saith the modern philosopher Philly D, “I love yo faces.” Let’s get started.

Christians believe that God is great. They believe that he is the author and finisher of our faith, he is the alpha and omega, he is the most powerful being, the source of all wisdom and intelligence, the creative spirit behind the inception of the universe. And apparently God thinks he’s pretty badass, too.

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? (Jer 32:27)

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’ (Rev 1:8)

‘Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7)

Alright, dude. How about you calm the fuck down. We get it.

But if God is so great, then how are Christians so confident in their ability to understand him? If they understand themselves as fallible human beings, how do they think that they so clearly understand and have a connection with the objectively perfect fount of all wisdom, knowledge, and intelligence?

Logically, it does not follow. If God’s thoughts are really not our thoughts, and his ways are really not our ways, then how do Christians believe they can understand God to the point that they know that he doesn’t approve of homosexuality? To know that he wants you to run for president? To know that he wants you to sacrifice your son?

The point here is that I often see Christians leveraging an argument for God’s existence based on these claims that they make about him, while ignoring the fact that if a being so grand did in fact exist, they wouldn’t even be able to understand the slightest thing about it.

Christians don’t seem to put the same strictures on their understanding of God as they do for others who would like to criticize him. In other words, they are certain that he helped them overcome a drug addiction, but when a tsunami kills thousands, his ways are higher than ours and no one can understand them.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to say, “Well, no one can know the mind of God! So real quick, lemme tell you exactly how he works.”

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Confusing Atheists

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I love the Bible. I really do. I read it all the time, and many things in real life remind me of things that I’ve read in there. Like whenever I think of making a good decision under pressure (Solomon in 1 Kings 3:16-28) or when I think about denouncing religious hypocrisy and shameful manipulation (like Jesus and the Pharisees in Matt 23), or when my friend mails me the body parts of a prostitute just to say how much they care (file that under, “Oh yeah, really.” Judges 19:29.)

This fact doesn’t really surprise me, but it sure does surprise others.

When people express surprise that an atheist like me (who takes such grand pleasure in speaking out against the establishment of religion most of the time) actually enjoys reading the Bible, it makes me laugh. I’ll tell you why.

  1. No, you don’t have to torch your identity to be an atheist.

For some reason, it’s like people expect you to stop being a person when you become an atheist. They are all too willing to remind you that you can still be an asshole while being an atheist, but don’t pay attention to the fact that I can like jamming to Kirk Franklin or Josh Groan in my car, too. Like, do you even know what the fuck music is? It’s sounds and beats mixed together in a pleasing way…not that complicated.

2. No, I don’t think and have never stated anything close to “religion is the root of all evil.”

Just because you’re outspoken about the harm religion does and continues to do in the world, it doesn’t mean you think it’s the root of all evil. You can oppose police brutality and still not have a problem with law enforcement. You can say kiddy-fucking isn’t okay, and not have a problem with priests. I apologize that you are seemingly unable to hold two ideas in your brain at one time, but that is a limitation I do not share.

3. You know I don’t actually think it’s real, right?

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with what literature is as well. I like reading the Bible because I like stories. I enjoy seeing other cultures express themselves and their values. I like understanding the feelings and caprices of ancient people from ancient times, I like to see God blow shit up, and I enjoy John’s Revelation rumination on the end of the world while clearly on shrooms.

You already know I’m an atheist, and you know that means that I don’t believe these stories are factually true, but why can’t I enjoy them? Like all of a sudden, Harry Potter is disappointing because I don’t ACTUALLY BELIEVE Harry rode a dragon out of Gringotts (or for starters, ever existed?) I’m writing a fucking novel, meaning I spend plenty good time in the company of those who don’t exist. It’s very fine for me.

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Here’s the point: I didn’t make these rules, you did. Who told you you owned one of our best collections of classical literature, that you could decide who could enjoy it?

The strangest rule that Christians have devised is that the Bible means nothing if you don’t believe it’s true. I call bullshit.

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You’re Not Jesus-ing Hard Enough

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When I was a Christian, I remember enduring multiple sermons that would challenge us to live our lives for Jesus as hard as we could. Even then, it was hard to understand what else Jesus could’ve wanted from our lives. We already went to a Christian college, tried not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, and went to church every Saturday. We adhered to certain dietary restrictions, did community service, prayed before every class, and had worships throughout the week, too. What else could He have possibly wanted?

You’re not Jesus-ing hard enough.

In attempting to encourage us in the paths of righteousness, the (possibly inadvertent) message that we got sounded more like “You’re not Jesus-ing hard enough.” Phrases like “being in the world, not of the world”, being “a peculiar people”, or being more “radical like Jesus” were commonplace. The stakes were high, and souls were being lost while I ate my lunch, and I should’ve ministered to that person over there earlier, instead of ignoring the counsel of the Holy Spirit. They just might be lost because I was the only person that could’ve reached them.

Along with not Jesus-ing hard enough, there was a certain sense of shame or embarrassment for…well, just for being human. Masturbating, going shopping on Saturday, even watching a violent movie. Everything was interpreted as a calculated attempt from a cunning enemy to deceive you, put the blinders on you, and lead you away from Christ.

  • If you enjoyed having sex with your girlfriend and weren’t really thinking about Christ, that was something you needed to do away with, even to the point of breaking up with her.
  • If you didn’t want to go to church, you kinda felt bad, because, “Hey, that guy got crucified for me, the least I could do is sleep in my suit ’till potluck.”
  • Anything from Harry Potter and unclean food or drink (including bacon, alcohol, and sometimes spicy mustard), the theory of evolution (if it was true, they’d call it “The Law of Evolution), and even being gay (or “acting on it”), were simply stumbling blocks in the way of giving Jesus your full attention (as well as your entire fucking soul.)
  • Jesus demands all of you. You cannot half-ass Jesus.

What I think that Christianity skips right over is that this “all or nothing” mentality is insane when anyone else does it. When a cult leader says “no one else is telling you the truth”, it’s manipulative. When super conservative parents attempt to “guide” their child’s every action, it’s controlling. When a boyfriend says that he’s supposed to be “everything you need or you don’t really love him”, it’s abusive.

So why does Jesus get to do it?

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What Jonah Can Teach Us About Finality

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Jonah is one of the best stories in the Bible, in my opinion. Here’s a brief synopsis: 
God: “Yo, Jonah, go tell those people about me.” 

Jonah: “Umm…those people are the fucking WORST.” 

God: “Do it anyway.” 

Jonah: “Lol, nope. #Tarshishbound”

God: “You know what else is funny? Sinking ships and Moby Dicks. That’s the name of my band, actually.” 

Jonah: “Okay, it’s awful in here, get me out?” 

[Fish vomits]

Jonah (to King of Nineveh): Yeah, so…God and stuff, or fire and brimstone. 

King: “We believe!”

Jonah: “FUUUUU—!”

God: “You mad, bro?” 

*The End*

To me, the greatest part about the Jonah story is the ending, because it’s never really clear to us what happens to Jonah. Does he overcome his deep seated need to see the wicked of Nineveh punished, even though they’ve repented of their ways? I think the ending of Jonah taps into something natural about humans, and something, I think, that keeps Christianity running. 

  • We Long For Finality

I like the ending of Jonah because it ends at right the moment where we are. In many ways, Jonah lacks a “and that’s exactly what you should learn from this story, kids” bent, because it stops in the middle of whatever is Jonah’s next move, and you don’t know what that is. That, I feel, is much more representative of what life is really like than the black and white lessons that Christians attempt to foist on children. 

But many, many people reject those kinds of lessons because they are hard. And there aren’t always bad guys. And you don’t always get told that you’re a good boy. 

  • Did I Get It Right?

In short, human beings just want to do the right thing most of the time, and they desperately want to be justified. The story of salvation is that one day, we’ll finally KNOW whether or not what we did was right, and I just don’t think that’s the way it works. I don’t think we get a nice summary of how this went down. I think that rejects the ambiguity that is the truth of the human experience/condition, which is that each of us does our best, based on a number of factors, to do what we think is best, but in the end we don’t know. And we just have to do things anyway.

At the end of the day, we have to be comfortable saying, “This is who I am. These are the decisions I’ve made.” And I think the thought of God telling us we’re right or wrong at the end of time eases that responsibility, it takes the weight off of the depth of the choices we have to make in the dark.

But though it might be comforting, that doesn’t make it true. 

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Forget About Free Will – Power Dynamics Mean You Can’t Love God

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The ceiling of the Baptistery in Florence, Italy. Imagine seeing that shit, and then “voluntarily choosing” to serve and love God.

Once again, we revisit one the hallmarks of the modern Christian – Free Will.

In response to the problem of evil, which begs the question of the presence of evil in a world created by a just god, thousands of Christians will respond to say that their god had to make a shitty world to allow people choice, or that he made a good world, and humans chose to make it shitty.

God wants us to be fully capable of loving him, and to that end, he can’t make us robots, and he can’t make a “good world.” Doing so would strip us of the opportunity to choose, and with it, the opportunity to truly love.

Except that that’s not how we think about other authority figures.

In thinking about power, we generally understand that a subject’s ability to genuinely love, obey, or genuinely do anything is partly a function of the power dynamic between the two parties. Like,

  • A teacher and a student.
  • A master and a slave.
  • Or the difference between parents and children.
  • Or the connection between a prisoner and their guard.
  • Or the hierarchy between a boss and his subservient.
  • Or the power dynamic between a soldier and their commanding officer.

You get the point.

So how is it that we can even claim to be able to truly be choosing to love, serve, and genuinely worship this being who holds such power above us? The keys to life and death, the knowledge of our future, the knowledge of every single moment of our lives, and the power to bend physics, call down fire, split seas – these are some pretty extreme and terrifying powers, and they show a gigantic gap in power between us and God. It seems difficult to claim that a power dynamic that large results in a mutually respecting, egalitarian relationship in the way many Christians describe.

And that’s not all.

I work at Best Buy, and the establishment took great pains to make sure that I knew that I was supposed to do what my boss said as a part of my job, but that they had no right to ask me to do things outside of that purview, and explicitly not allowed to connect those things to a threat of punishment or promise of promotion. For instance, my boss can’t make me pick up his dry cleaning while suggesting I might get bumped up in the company, or ask me to sleep with him suggesting that I might get demoted if I don’t.

That sounds a lot like, “You’re not allowed to offer people eternal life if they love you and do what you say, and promise that Hell is simply a consequence of choosing not to do that.”

And for a god Christians say is all about love and compassion, that sounds much more like manipulation and coercion to me.

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I Don’t Trust The Pope

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So Pope Francis gave a speech.

In the words of one friend:

Holy shit Tim! You have to listen to this speech..! It’s quite possibly one of the best speeches of the 21st century.

Apparently while I was at work, the pope was commending me for “sustaining the life of society.”

How nice of him.

There is something about Pope Francis that is generating more buzz and more respect for him, and just the position of pope, than ever before. My brain is quite divided on this, so try to follow along.

  1. He’s not awful. Okay, so the Catholic Church is not currently burning people at the stake or locking people under house arrest that it doesn’t agree with, and neither is Pope Francis. He likes to do cool shit like take selfies and feed the homeless. That’s pretty rad, but if we’re going to hold him against all the other popes, he’s inevitably going to look good. Does that mean that he’s “progressive”? Does that mean that he shares our values just because he can recite what they are?
  2. I don’t believe in God – but the pope does. Do we not ask any more of a person who claims some kind of supernatural connection with a divine creator? I personally don’t believe that that “Creator” exists, but Pope Francis does. And if you’re going to tell me that you have a connection with that thing, and that that thing is made out of love, don’t you think I should reasonably be able to ask a little more of you? Since when is “not homophobic” a benchmark? That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. Would you like a cookie?
  3. But he is still kind of awful. I don’t like that he goes to AIDS ravaged countries and tells them not to use condoms, even when that belief in the prohibition of contraception has no grounding in objective fact. He has tasty nuggets about the trans community, and in response to the Charlie Hebdo shootings, just kind of said, “You cannot criticize faith.”

Those praising this pope’s liberal and progressive values seem to be praising a wife-beater who beats his wife half as much now. Whoo.

These might make it seem like I’m coming down too hard on the pope, and here’s where the division in my mind takes place. If we want to be fair, there’s something we have to take into account.

Organizational inertia is a thing. Have you ever seen Obama try to get Congress to do…well, anything? It’s a process as slow as watching molasses roll down a sandy dune. And as my friend pointed out to me the other day, it’s the same thing with Pope Francis.

Let’s pretend for a moment that instead of a devout Catholic a closet secular humanist got elected pope…I’ll tell you what they wouldn’t do, they wouldn’t get rid of all of the ideology that they disagreed with overnight. That’s a very quick ticket to losing a lot of your credentials, and probably wouldn’t stick as policy changes.

There is no such thing as magically swooping into an organization as large as the Catholic Church and making the liberal sun shine. At some point, not hanging and burning people did have to be a benchmark of progress. Even though we have different ones now, we often do have to be satisfied with “less”, because “less” is what is sustainable.

Also, in many ways, it’s easier for some of us secularists to judge from the entirely disenfranchised point of view, but it takes more than that when you actually still work within an institution.

How do we tell the difference between a fraud with clever PR, and a sincere individual moving an organization one inch at a time? 

In my opinion, there isn’t really an ironclad way to tell. The practices of someone who cares and someone who wants people to think they care are almost indistinguishable from each other. And you can forgive my reticence, I hope, to believe that he’s on my team, because he and his ilk have not been on Team Humanity for a very long time.

But maybe it doesn’t even matter.

I’m never going to say that someone who tells us to feed and house the poor and the most vulnerable of our society runs counter to my agenda. That’s the whole agenda. (Unless, of course, he’s just doing it to take over the world, as the Adventists of my youth would have me believe.)

So even if he says or does things that are outside of that purview, as long as he keeps doing and promoting enormous amounts of good, we might tentatively call each other friends, if we can, step by measly little step, move into a better world.

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How PC Culture Has Inflated The Price of Being Wrong

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On the first day of this year, I remember a conversation with my friend Ivan about Justine Sacco, director of corporate communications for IAC, best known to the world for this tasty tweet:

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Was it in poor taste? Sure.

Is it the best thing you could write, especially when you’re going to that continent to work? Naw.

Is it the worst? No.

Is it worth losing a job over?

The point is that Justine Sacco did lose her job because of that. Anonymous family members came out of the woodwork to speak to ABC News about how devastated they were, the company talked about how sad they were. Hashtags flew all around the place about how disgraceful it was. And it’s all because in our world, that is now the price of being wrong. Welcome to 2015.

The Price of Being Wrong

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Mark Zuckerberg thinks you’re wrong, too.

Now, I’m not going to decry the rise of political correctness like Donald Trump and his ilk, because generally that’s a way of asking, “Why isn’t it cool for me to be an asshole anymore?” Just because we don’t think it’s cool for you to call a Native American a “spearchucker”, that doesn’t mean that you’ve actually lost anything.

But I’m also not gonna be your liberal Messiah, either. When Louie C.K. says stuff, he’s a comedian. He says things that are counter-intuitive and counter-culture. Whoopdee doo. If someone says they’re not a feminist, it means they’ve chosen not to subscribe to your interpretation of a complex political movement. Suck it up.

The point is that everywhere, the price of being wrong has gone up.

  • Donald Sterling gets the hammer of god thrown on him because of things that he said.
  • Paula Deen can’t shove butter into her face before millions because she allegedly said “nigger”.

And this isn’t a post dedicated to defending these individuals from the consequences of what they say, because, being grown ass men and women, they can defend their own damned selves. But it is to say that we might think about reducing the cost of being wrong if we want anyone to learn anything.

In a recent interview, President Obama remarked on the rise of new political correctness on college campuses, saying, ”

I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view…you shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.’ That’s not the way we learn either.

I could use the recent examples of Richard Dawkins questioning aspects of the Ahmed Mohamed story, or Matt Damon giving a cringeworthy explanation of diversity to a successful black woman.

Like I said, this is not excusing them or even agreeing with them, but to ask, “And what if they’re wrong?” Well, then…I guess they’d be wrong. And as any amateur educator can tell you, you don’t destroy a student when they get something in your class wrong, not if you want them to participate or learn anything. (Especially don’t continue if they’ve both apologized, you twit. They LEARNED something. That’s what it’s all about, right?)

The Future of Atheism + PC Culture

I became an atheist because I was not afraid to be wrong, and that spirit is what drives learning. When we put the price too high, that’s what causes people to double down on the madness, either because they can’t afford it, or they refuse to pay it (I’m looking at you, Ken Ham.)

But if we don’t somehow reduce the cost of being wrong, we risk the possibility that no one will ever challenge us again, that they will always be deathly afraid to question, and therefore, unable to learn.

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Is Creation An Act of Responsibility?

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In response to my last blog post, my friend posted this comment on my Facebook.

Was God Wrong?

It made me think: Is the act of creating something inherently an act of responsibility?

We certainly treat it as such. We all stare at the parent in the grocery store whose kid is having a fit, and when the child breaks the sauce jars, the parent is not quite exempt from picking up the tab. They can’t just say, “Well, I’m letting her exercise her free will at the moment. Don’t worry, she’ll be punished at home.”

Creation as Culpability

People feel comfortable blaming hip hop and rap for a host of problems in urban and impoverished communities.

Consider Eminem’s self-reflective words in “Sing For The Moment”:

They say music can alter moods and talk to you

Well, can it load a gun up for you and cock it to?

Well, if it can, then the next time you assault a dude

Just tell the judge it was my fault, and I’ll get sued…

Or this excerpt from “The Way I Am”:

And all of this controversy circles me

And it seems like the media immediately

Points a finger at me (finger at me)…

When a dude’s getting bullied and shoots up his school

And they blame it on Marilyn (on Marilyn)… and the heroin

Where were the parents at? And look where it’s at…

The way the media reacts to the music that Eminem or Marilyn Manson create suggests that we believe that they’re in some way responsible for their creations and the influence they have, whether or not they’re aware of it, present for the incident, or connected in any way other than the act of having created it.

Intent Matters

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If we’ve learned anything from watching a bucket of Law and Order throughout the centuries (it really has been on TV that long), it’s that intent matters. It’s how we judge a lot of actions, and the consequences/punishments that follow.

Take a gun filled with blanks. Someone brings in your best friend and tells him to shoot you with it. He picks up the gun and pulls the trigger.

Do you know why your friendship changes at that point?

It changes because the fact of the blank cartridges, the inefficacy of the gun, and the result of you not being dead is irrelevant, or at the very least secondary, to what your friend thought the gun was going to do. His intent mattered, and it changed everything about the action.

In Defense of Creators 

There is one thing that all the creators you’ve ever seen have on God, and it’s their fallibility. Every time a movie general decides to covertly “create the perfect soldier” and then it ends up going off the fucking rails and killing thousands, we think that person’s behavior is reckless to the point of criminal.

But they’ve got one solid response:

We made Frankenstein, but that shit went rogue in a hurry.”

“We made Dominus Rex, but we had no idea it was gonna rip its own flesh and then murder everyone.”

“Welp, looks like that robot we made just attacked Will Smith. Oops.”

“I wished Pinocchio would come to life, but had no idea that motherfucker would gamble away all my rent money.

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Just take a look at these out-of-control science experiments.

Undergirding all of these explanations is the making of a reasonable answer: “I didn’t know” or “I lost control.” They can claim that while their actions had devastating consequences, they were not aware of either the extent or the number of those consequences at the time of the decision. Either way, there was something they didn’t know.

What they don’t get to claim is that everything is fucked up, but everything’s under control. Nobody accepts that.

The Grand Conclusion

So to recap:

  • We believe that beings are responsible for the things they create.
  • We believe that intent matters. What an individual believes or understands about an action or the consequences thereof changes the way we view that action.
  • Things being completely fucked up is direct evidence against things being under control. Fallibility on some level must be invoked for a proper explanation.

So the next time somebody says that an infallible, omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving Creator God made the same world in which Friday by Rebecca Black exists and Donald Trump is running for president, and that He’s not responsible for a damn bit of that, give that a second thought.

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What Was The Flood Even For?

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As a side note, there's no way those animals wouldn't have shit enough to kill eight people. But they don't tell you that in Sabbath School.

As a side note, there’s no way those animals wouldn’t have shit enough to kill eight people. But they don’t tell you that in Sabbath School.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth…” (Genesis 6:5,7)

And so begins another installment of, “Didn’t you know how this was going to go?” So there are a few questions I would like to ask about the Noah story.

  1. Given God’s omniscience as explained through the Bible and by other Christians, didn’t God know about all the wickedness that would come up in the land? Was he really surprised about that? And if he knew that it would come up, why didn’t he do anything about it?

    I’ve heard Christians excuse away things like God’s order for the slaughter of Amalekite children in 1 Samuel 15 because perhaps he knew what they would grow to become. If God, in any measure is capable of quelling the greatest evils before they start, and he certainly knew about this one beforehand, why is it that the Gen 6 story picks up at the point where everyone but eight people has thoughts that are “only evil continually?”This suggests that he not only knew from the beginning of Creation that he would drown these people, and that he would regret doing it, and yet it changed none of his actions.

  2. Genesis 6:6 actually says that it grieved or repented the Lord to have made mankind. In other words, he regretted it. A query, if I may: Then why the fuck did you do it? If this is true (and it is not), this means that God, at the point of Creation, knowingly did something that he would regret later. That’s the “getting shitfaced and calling your ex” caliber of decision making we don’t typically associate with a perfect being.
  3. Here’s the biggest question: What did the Flood even do? For starters, it supposedly killed everything on the planet, which it would behoove us to remember, self-interested as we are, includes more than just humans. Beavers, hedgehogs, platypuses, hippopotami, elephants, walking catfish, dolphins, mountain goats, and honey badgers, every single one of them dead.

    “Yo, Hitler, I’mma let you finish in a minute, but I had the most thorough genocide of all time. Of all time!”

    Also, even though I’m no Mark Watney, I happen to know that most plants will die if you put them underwater for a year. So there’s all those dead things. The only good things the flood killed were insects like cockroaches and mosquitoes, but knowing those mufuckas, they lived.

    What was the point of the Flood? So everything is dead except a handful of animals and a fingerful of people, and now what? The people will copulate, and birth more people that you ostensibly also grant the same free will to, and some of them will choose to be evil while some will choose to be good. It was a senseless genocide, because nothing changed, and even you yourself feel like maybe, possibly, you should’ve not done that, and you knew you’d feel that way before you did it.

    Keep up the stellar work.

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We Had It Wrong – God has a Steve Jobs Complex

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As many of you may know, Apple Event was Wednesday. The crowd was bringing their unbridled (and, as some always say, unwarranted) enthusiasm to everything that Tim Cook was laying down. He was the DJ of the universe, even if it was just for the day.

So far as I can tell, Tim Cook has done a good job, as Apple’s CEO, of fostering the same kind of rabid teenage-girl-like response from lovers of the company as Steve Jobs did. He’s apparently able to accomplish that without being an asshole.

And the favorite fact of any Apple detractor is just that: Steve Jobs was an asshole. Plenty of articles and biographies will tell you that. They’ll also tell you about how his stupidity probably killed him. No matter what you like – iPad, IPhone, IFuckingPizza – someone would like to remind you of the myriad faults in Steve Jobs’s character.

To which I gotta say: Who gives a shit?

That doesn’t stop me from loving my Macbook to death. Or my Iphone 6+, which is one of the most goodliest items I own. The reason is because the creation is not necessarily a direct reflection of the creator, and so while the creation is awesome, the creator can be an asshole, and that’s not a problem to me.

Why it matters 

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth…And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Gen 1:1,3)

That, as some Christians churlishly designate it, was the big bang. The star breather created things ex nihilo. The Creator God made light from speaking, something from nothing, and went on to form man specially, with his own two, noodly glowing appendages (I may have my mythology fucked.)

The point is that one of God’s most important designations is that of “Creator”, and it is used quite often. And many Christians use that title as a reason to say that God is good, simply because he made us. That does not follow.

The creation does not necessarily reflect the creator. It’s necessary to disentangle these claims. So, in all fairness, maybe that means there’s really shitty people, but somehow a good God.

But when you start talking to me about how gorgeous and complex and brilliant the human body is designed and how that points to your good God Creator, just remember that Steve Jobs was an asshole.

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The Dogma of Fact

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After surfing the murky waters of internet atheism, one prevalent theme emerges: Atheists love facts. They love to cite Biblical contradictions, and foam at the mouth about how crazy creationists are for not believing in evolution, despite every objective fact being in its favor. And while I’m not here to censure that kind of behavior (on the contrary, I generally encourage it), I do have something to say about it.

One of my chief concerns in becoming an atheist coming from a fundamental Christian denomination, was that I didn’t appreciate the dogma. When I was in high school, I realized “God” was just a convenient way of people saying “You have to do what I say.” Once I really began to think about what they had already told me God was, what they told he was about began to make less sense. So God was the reason I had to dress up for church, or couldn’t go to the movies, or eat pepperoni, or go out to eat on Saturday, or eat shrimp, or, and this is true, swim on Saturday because it was defined as “work.”

Fuck that noise. I wasn’t about people being able to control me and everything I did simply because they told me this magical being in the sky said so. However, I also want to be an educator one day, so I’m much more concerned with teaching others how to think than what to think, and that was what my former religion was all about.

But what does this have to do with atheism? 

I’ve noticed this strong leaning within the atheist community surrounding facts. “We know this for an objective fact!”, someone will say about climate change or secondhand smoking. And while we do have a good body of facts built up around areas like evolution or climate change, we should remember one important fact: Facts change.

Now, I’m not a complete relativist, but we’ve been wrong before. About just about everything. So when someone says something is an objective fact, even things that are discovered using the scientific method, we should always be leaving that possibility that we are batshit wrong and that the truth is the exact opposite of that thing. Because we do that. Kind of a lot.

Do I think I’m wrong about there being no god? Not a snowball’s chance in the hell I don’t believe in. And it’s good to believe things because you have empirical research, or evidence, or observation, or anything that’s not an anonymous person writing on a fucking scroll. But…it doesn’t mean I can’t be wrong, and having a correctly skeptical mind means changing it if or when it is demonstrated to you that you are wrong. Anything else will have you showing off a fucking banana as proof of a living Creator.

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Kim Davis Is Closer To The Bible Than You Think

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Now there's a face that screams, "I enjoy Jesus, apple pie, and sending homos to hell."

Now there’s a face that screams, “I enjoy Jesus, knitting, and sending homos to hell.”

As cool as it might be to hate on Kim Davis at the moment (the thing I read about in R.L. Stine’s The Blob That Ate Everything Including Other People’s Civil Rights), it would behoove Christians to think about why that is. In response to this story, there has not just been outrage from the LGBT community, to whom the rights are being denied, nor solely from the secular community, who would see an appalling lack of separation of church and state, but from the Christian community as well.

Aside from the fact that she is the physical embodiment of an apple pie connoisseur, why is it not just the secular or gay communities that have a problem with what she is doing? Why would progressive Christians have a problem with Kim Davis invoking her god’s authority to deny LGBT people their marriage licenses?

Here’s the good news: It’s because they are moral people. What progressive Christians are responding to is that they hold the core belief that you cannot use your beliefs to override someone else’s rights.

Here’s the bad news: Kim Davis is probably more right than they are about the Bible. Using your personal beliefs to override the rights of others is kind of what the Bible is about.

According to Numbers 14:6-9, Joshua stands up to address the people of Israel to let them know that the land they scoped out was really choice real estate, and I’m sure that had nothing to do with what he said next.

If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.

Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not. (Numbers 14:8,9)

Joshua is saying that his god’s authority trumps the human rights of the people already living on that land. He promises the Israelites that they can take that land because God is with them.

Aaaaannd..here is Kim Davis declaring the source of her authority to deny these marriage licenses.

Might a similar conversation not have happened between Joshua and the members of the lands he pillaged?

Canaanites: “Under what authority do you claim these lands?”

Joshua: “Under God’s authority.”

I hate to be that guy, but unfortunately, Kim Davis didn’t get her ideas from nowhere, and it seems that if Christians worship a tradition in which it’s okay to slaughter people if the Lord is with you, then denying a marriage license probably shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

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Could You Love A Tarnished God?

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Sometimes, your heroes are a little different under the surface.

Sometimes, your heroes are a little different under the surface.

Anyone can love a God. The story that Christians tell themselves is that the biggest, baddest, most important being in the entire universe gives a particular damn about their cause out here in the projects of the universe. The story is one of the most complete abdication of authority, all being for the benefit of humans, of course.

And there’s one thing above the others that makes the story work. Jesus was sinless. Because he was the propitiatory sacrifice for all mankind, he had to be. Perfect. Spotless. Without stain.

I like my Jesus like I like my women: Spotless, stainless, perfect…because much like the way I treat women, Jesus is only the husk of the flimsy structure into which I throw all of my insecurities…

The strange part about this line of thinking is that it’s easy to love something that’s perfect. Take parents, for example. It’s easy to love your parents if they always spent the right amount of time with you, always showed up at every event, were always supportive of every life decision you made. But it doesn’t work that way, does it? The more that we grow up and find out that our parents aren’t the superheroes that we thought they were, the more we realize that we have to love them just as they are, because they are our parents.

There’s also a slightly narcissistic undercurrent that goes along with the fact that Christians believe that God loves us in all of our beautiful brokenness, but that he is perfect. Why should God have to deal with your faults if you aren’t willing to deal with his? This dynamic of expecting someone to love you as a complete person, good and bad, while you get to love only their perfection, has been known to add toxicity to relationships.

So here’s the question to Christians:

Could you love God if He wasn’t perfect?

What if God wasn’t omniscient, so he just really didn’t know how all this shit was gonna go down? Maybe he made the world with a perfect plan in mind, but the snake was a curveball.

What if he wasn’t all-powerful? Maybe he’s just trying his best to get a handle on the wars and rapes, but he can’t do everything at once.

What if he’s not everywhere? Maybe he wants to prevent every catastrophe and heal every cancer patient, but he’s busy and just doing the best that he can?

What do you guys think?

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Facebook Page!

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This is a short but awesome announcement to let all of you know to subscribe to my new Facebook page! I’ve been thinking about adding it for a while now. Twice a week with you guys is fun, but if you want to get other content the other five days of the week, come on over to Facebook.com/NowThatWereHere. You guys have been awesome just for reading and liking my stuff, and we will just add Facebook to the party. Drop comments, things you’d like to see, suggestions, critiques, and some funny memes for me to use, and come on over!

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If You Want To Cross a Bridge, My Sweet, You’ve Got To Pay The Toll

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And Elijah came to the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. (1 Kings 18:21)

Especially compared to Christians of the modern era, the ancient patriarchs who are universally admired, like Abraham, Elijah, and Moses, were pretty badass. I’ve heard sermons where pastors called us to be more like these guys. We were called to truly have faith and believe in the power of the Gospel and to believe like these men believed. But if you want faith like the fathers, there’s a price.

They didn’t just believe in what they were saying, they actually believed it.

One of the things that we know about these guys is that they didn’t just believe in what they believed, they actually believed it. It seems like a meaningless distinction, but it’s important if you consider that the Bible writers didn’t just make up the things in the Bible for no reason, and they didn’t write it because they thought it was a good idea, or beneficial, or any other secondary reason. They wrote it because they believed it was true.

They believed that the sun revolved around the earth, that a bat was a bird, and that the world was created by a deity speaking things into life and making a dust man and a rib woman. These are not oversimplifications of their beliefs, these are the beliefs themselves.

They asked for things proportional to their claims. 

Central to their beliefs was obviously the belief in a deity that was the most powerful, most complex imaginable being in all of the universe who had created everything that existed simply by speaking. They believed that he was the beginning and the end, and that he held the keys to life and death in his hands. And commensurate to that belief were the things that they asked of him.

The paltry miracles that Christians settle for nowadays would probably be appalling to an ancient. Go ahead and tell Elijah that you prayed for an A on your paper and you got it. That dude called fire from the FUCKING SKY when nobody believed him about God. Abraham believed that it was totally cool to get woken up in the middle of the night by a voice that told him to sacrifice his son, and went and tried to do that. Moses stood at the edge of the waters of the Red Sea with literally no other option than to split the sea.

In a similar fashion, you do not see a widespread proliferation of Christians asking ridiculous things of God, even though they claim him to be ridiculous things. They don’t generally accept challenges from atheists to ask God to heal an amputee, and say they’ll renounce their belief in him if he doesn’t. And they weep at funerals instead of just asking God to bring people back.

As Ursula from The Little Mermaid taught me, “If you want to cross a bridge, my sweet, you’ve got to pay the toll.”

In short, Christians rarely put their beliefs into the realm of testable, provable, observable to all. They rarely put God to the test in the way that Elijah did on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal. To me, there is one glaring reason, among others, that they don’t do these things.

It’s because they know they would be wrong.

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Guess Who’s Going to Heaven?

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Last post, we talked about how trepidatious Christians not in the Westboro Baptist Church can be when designating place settings in Hell, even for people like Hitler (Godwin!) They will say what type of people are going there, but they don’t assume the final responsibility of saying, for sure, who gets a seat. This, I think, is a representation of the combat between the progressive values of our current place in history and certain regressive values of the Bible that many would like to pull us back to.

But equally interesting as why people won’t say others are going to Hell, I’ve noticed that it is quite difficult for people to say that they’re going to Heaven. Now, in many evangelical churches, this is not true. Standard rhetoric over there would be “I’m saved”, thereby denoting an understanding that you are part of God’s crew, his gang, his posse.

And yet, though they believe in my former faith that it is God’s Remnant church, a people “set apart”, there is not so much of this certainty, and I have a few suggestions as to why.

They believe in predestination. 

Now, don’t misunderstand me. An Adventist will rarely, if ever, actually tell you that that’s what they believe in, and it’s not one of their fundamental beliefs (they have 28). But there is a fair degree of similarity between predestination and beliefs within the Adventist church.

Check out this Wikipedia explanation of predestination as it relates to Calvinism:

Reformed theologians teach that sin so affects human nature that they are unable even to exercise faith in Christ by their own will. While people are said to retain will, in that they willfully sin, they are unable to not sin because of the corruption of their nature due to original sin. To remedy this, Reformed Christians believe that God predestined some people to be saved. This choice by God to save some is held to be unconditional and not based on any characteristic or action on the part of the person chosen.

That sounds as eerily similar to Adventism as you can get. Adventist people do happen to believe that we do not have the power, in our natural and corrupt sinful selves, to come to God alone, but that it is only through his magnanimity that we are able to even approach him and take advantage of the grace that He has provided.

And as Adventist people will tell you, they believe that our righteousness is as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6) So they believe that nothing you do will actually gain you merit with the big man upstairs, and that it’s all God’s decision anyway. The only thing necessary for you to do is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

So here’s my suggestion: I think that the lack of agency provided in these ideas can be connected to a hypothesis that Adventists do not believe in free will in the way that they say they do, and this lack of agency could be one of the many reasons that they do not feel qualified to tell who is going to heaven or hell.

But here’s the rub. I know that I’m just a godless heathen rebelling against God because I want to keep on sinning, but you might want to rethink following an Almighty God so temperamental that even when you’re on his side, you’re not sure if you’ll win the game.

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Guess Who’s Going To Hell? (Or Coming to Dinner…)

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Recently, I opened up a couple of articles of a one Matt Walsh. Don’t pity me, I knew what I was doing. I knew that I was going to find boycotting college and find misogynistic labeling as well as defamation of people claimed by depression every year (it’s a disease, and he literally says that joy is the only cure, not medicine and treatment, but fucking joy.)

As you’ve probably noticed, the rest of the world sees Christians very differently than they see themselves.

But it got me thinking about something that I’ve seen within Christian circles, and it’s about hell. As you’ve probably noticed, the rest of the world sees Christians very differently than they see themselves. And one of the words most used in association with Christians is…judgmental. And indeed in many cases, Christians seem to be at apparent ease with defining what is and is not right in the world.

Bruce Jenner is sick, but Robin Williams wasn’t sick, that was his choice; abortion is evil, and that’s why we should defund Planned Parenthood, homosexuality is an abomination, premarital sex and masturbation is wrong (and in my former faith, drinking, eating bacon, shopping on Saturday, and reading Harry Potter could also be considered wrong.)

It should be stated here that I’m not being obtuse or hyperbolic, and I’m not being original. These are not my own thoughts, but born out of the conscious minds of thousands of believers and affirmed daily.

And yet, in all of this, there is one line that most Christians will not cross. I have rarely, if ever, heard a Christian say that someone specific was going to hell.

Indeed in many cases, Christians seem to be at apparent ease with defining what is and is not right in the world.

They will preach all day about how the sinful proclivities of the nation are going to bring the wrath of God upon us, or how being gay is a disease and a byproduct of a fallen world, but when asked the question directly, “Is Robin Williams going to hell because he committed suicide?” or “Is my friend going to hell because they’re gay?”, they will blanch.

Why?

The God Complex

There’s a certain thrill to being right. It happens to everyone. When you finally know something the kid in the front of the class doesn’t know, or when a risky business venture pays off. There is a satisfaction in knowing that you were the one that believed the thing that was right all along, and all these paeans just had to catch up.

There is also a certain thrill to being morally right. Because of what we know about cognitive dissonance and how hard it can be for the brain to encompass contradictory modes of thought, it is almost always necessary for people to find justifications for why they live the way that they do, and it is almost always necessary for them to feel that justification reverberated back to them in a real, meaningful way. Positive reinforcement from a social group can do that.

They will preach all day about how…being gay is a disease and a byproduct of a fallen world, but when asked the question directly…”Is my friend going to hell because they’re gay?”, they will blanch.

So, coming from someone who doesn’t believe that God exists, this is my hypothesis (I was gonna say “theory”, but…)

Obviously, Christians are god. They play God, they say what he’d like, what he’d disapprove of, what the punishments are, what an abomination is, etc. In this manner, they are allowed to escape culpability for their actions and judgments, being simply deputies of the divine. But when the responsibility of God is handed to them, they still have that higher being to pass the buck to, and say that they can’t know for sure who’s going to hell and heaven because that’s ultimately God’s judgement.

Either you’re god or you’re not. But you cannot parade around in your mother’s heels to feel tall, and then get mad that someone asks that you pay the mortgage.

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Egypt rocked by terror attacks

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Egypt is still reeling from terrorist attacks carried out by the Islamic State on two Christian churches on Palm Sunday. One of the churches was St. George’s church in the city of Tanta, where attackers succeeded in killing 28 churchgoers, and another was St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, historically the most important place for Christians in Egypt, where they killed 17.

These acts of terrorism were not random, notes the Los Angeles Daily News, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility and named the two attackers. LADN says that, “The extremist group had recently threatened to step up attacks against Egypt’s Coptic minority, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.”

Among those murdered was Beshoy, the son of Reverend Danial Maher of the Tanta church. Beshoy was 23 and served as a deacon in the church.

State of Emergency

The attacks triggered a state of emergency instituted by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, although many Egyptians don’t see this as a good thing. Under the state of emergency, it allows for abuses of the state, among which are arrests without warrants.

Mohammad Arafat, leader of the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic party, says that the state of emergency not only fails to reduce terrorism, but emboldens it. Members of the party are less willing to give el-Sissi the benefit of the doubt, given that he is seen as a warlord.

The Palm Sunday attacks constitute the single deadliest day for Egypt’s Christians in decades, eliciting messages of unity from people around the world, and people changing their Facebook profiles in a show of solidarity for the victims.

Even Pope Francis responded to the attacks, and plans on visiting Egypt in the near future. For his part, President Trump referred to the attacks in Egypt as “heinous.” However, that is juxtaposed with how Trump views Christianity vs. Islam. He remained notably silent in the wake of numerous attacks on Jewish communities of faith, and reiterated after his election that Christian refugees should receive more prioritization than Muslim ones.

Given these instances, it could seem that he is only responding aggressively to threats to Christians domestically and around the world, rather than making it a priority to stand against terror.

Egypt, and the world, can only wait to see what lasting effects the attacks have on the region, though, for the victims and their families, the immediate impact is already known.

Dear America, It’s Your Own Fault You Can’t Read Anymore

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When I was in college, there was a clear hierarchy of majors, and mine was at the bottom. I’ve heard every stereotype imaginable about English majors, and almost none of them were good, except for “bookish” or “nerd, which I will totally own.

If an adult asked what you and another student were studying, you felt infinitely inferior when they said, “Biochemistry.”

Student: Biochemistry.

Adult: Oh, cool! What school do you plan to go to? What do you want to specialize in? Oh, Berkeley?

You: English literature.

Adult: Oh. You sure you’ll be able to make money with that? What, you’re not going to be a teacher? Yeah, that’s a hard road…

Welp, the joke’s on the adults now, because apparently some of y’all have forgotten how to read.

Fake News

So the new wave of terror sweeping across the land appears to be “fake news.” Obama’s said it, Hillary Clinton has said it, and Donald Trump has called almost everyone it. The New York Times has run profiles of the provocateurs behind the most radical “fake news” sites, left and right.

And this all comes at a time when President Trump has said he wants to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts, STEM fields are lauded, and humanities are laughed at.

This delegitimization of art and humanities is also at odds with the fact that it is governmentally-required core curriculum. Why do you think that is? Do you think math is necessary to be a well-rounded student, but not reading? This atmosphere indicates a culture that has lost its critical capacities, but feels free to punch down on those who actually learned them.

So here’s what I learned.

Sources

There are two basic reactions to sources. Either, “If you read X sources, then you’re a raving lunatic,” and “I won’t read or trust ANYTHING without proper sources.” The first seeks to delegitimize an opponent’s argument simply because you know what they read, and the second is the equivalent of a new driver making sure EVERY SINGLE THING is perfect before and during a drive.

Both miss the mark.

For all the emphasis that we put on sources, they don’t matter as much as you might think. The way that we process information from those sources does.

In Areopagitica, John Milton’s defense of unlicensed printing and against unfair censorship, he writes:

To the pure, all things are pure, not only meats and drinks, but all kinde of knowledge whether of good or evill; the knowledge cannot defile, nor consequently the books, if the will and conscience be not defil’d.

Milton is arguing that, given strong enough mental faculties, you can confront information without simply believing it. Learning things like this in school matters in a tangible way, and it means that some headlines simply do not make an impression on me.

Where they come from, the reputation of that website, even the type of website (lots of pop-ups), the writer’s past works – all factor into me making a decision about what type of information I’m reading, how credible it is, and how seriously I need to take it.

Note that I didn’t say that it tells me whether or not to read it. Developing these abilities ensures that you are capable of reading many sources and identifying what in them is true and what in them is false. This can be difficult, even for those with practice, and especially given that the aim of some of these organizations is to trick you.

But this also means your friends won’t laugh at you when you think The Onion or Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker is serious.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle

I’m won’t so far as to say that sources do not matter, but I will say that in the end, what you read is not nearly as important as how you read. Learning what constitutes good and bad information will eventually lead you to certain sources over others, but if your will and conscience is not defiled, you can read a wide range of things to better inform your worldview.

And as author John Green notes, “If you have a worldview that can be undone by a book, let me submit to you that the book is not the problem.”

Bias

Another mistake apparently everyone is making right now is mistaking bias for “agenda” or worse, “fake news.” Here are some important facts about bias.

  1. Nobody has every written an unbiased piece. Ever.
  2. Bias does not mean that what is being conveyed is not true.
  3. Bias has to do with how you process information, not the information itself.

An example of that third point would be the story run in the New York Times about Donald Trump’s bone spurs that supposedly stopped him from being drafted into the Vietnam War.

Bias may be represented in the presentation of that particular collection of facts, the assumption that the absence of proper records denotes a lie on the part of Donald Trump, or assumption that he’s not telling the truth when he says he doesn’t remember which foot the injuries were in, and alternately says left, right, or both.

One could call these measures “biased”, but you certainly can’t jump the gun and call them fake, by any measure. They are not willful fabrications about something that didn’t happen or a gross mischaracterization of what did happen. “Fake” is what happens when you decide that your bias is more important than the truth, either through incompetence or laziness, and an “agenda” is when you do that on purpose.

Objectivity

The last thing that I see others clamoring for in this news atmosphere is objectivity. However, as the late and great journalist Gwen Ifill said, “I don’t believe in objectivity, I believe in fairness.” This is a point that gets lost in the rabble.

If the truth is slanted, reporting “objectively” is a lie. News organizations faced this issue during the campaign. Not wanting to be seen as “biased,” they deliberately pretended that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were anywhere near equal in scandal, in foundation, or in ability for the job.

Furthermore, the kind of objectivity people seem to be arguing for is an objectivity after knowledge, and that’s not how it works. You learn more and more facts until you have enough to make a valid conclusion and move forward.

So, no, B.O.B., the news isn’t “biased” when it says the earth is elliptical. They have amassed enough facts to confidently make that assertion.

Similarly, I don’t know how many times a person has to lie to you before you say, “That person is a pathological liar and it would be wise to take that into account while listening to what they’re saying.”

Let’s take the previous example of Donald Trump’s bone spurs. On the surface, maybe it seem acceptable. Then you learn:

  • Reporters are unable to find proper documentation for the injuries.
  • The condition Trump cites is likely to be extremely painful, rarely not. It seems unlikely that a person wouldn’t remember where it was.
  • During the time he supposedly had the condition, it did not prevent him from playing football or basketball, things that people with that condition typically can’t do.
  • Donald Trump has lied about a range of topics his entire life.

Conclusion? Lie vs. lie:

His foggy memory around the injuries and activity while he supposedly had them would be consistent with a story of them being less severe than average, but if it were less severe than average, that doesn’t explain why he was unfit for the draft.

The records and deferment would be consistent with a story of a condition more severe than average, but if it were more severe, it wouldn’t explain why he can’t remember it clearly or why that didn’t bar him from other vigorous activities, like sports.

This is a perfect example of objectivity at work. You compile the facts you have, you ask fair questions about them, and then you whittle down until you get to the most likely possibility(ies).

Conclusion

Nothing that I just said would jolt or surprise an English student. They spend years learning these critical abilities and learning how to sort, collate, compile, and process information to make themselves more informed citizens of the world.

So maybe, before making fun of people who study the humanities, you would do well to get one of them to read the newspaper to you, America, because it’s your fault you can’t read anymore.

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Weak Allies

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If you, as a white person, would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society, please stand. – Jane Elliot

For a good portion of my life, I believed the problem was knowledge. If growing up black taught me anything, it was that knowledge was power. For people that had been stripped of the right to even read and write for 240 years and denied adequate and equal education since their emancipation to the present day, that’s a completely reasonable belief.

My parents stressed upon me the importance of paying attention in school and reading, so that I could use my education to further my place in the world, and so that I could be more educated than they were. Unfortunately, I thought this also applied to racism.

When I saw misattributed MLK quotes on people’s Facebook walls, I thought of the crumbling school systems in some of America’s rural cities and towns. When I saw authoritarian impulses surrounding every police shooting, I thought they simply weren’t aware of the history I was taught when I was a child. I knew that many didn’t have the opportunities that I did, like college, and I didn’t look down on them, because I thought of times when I had learned things that I previously had not known.

Blood Done Sign My Name

In his memoir/crime drama about a racial murder in 1970 in Oxford, North Carolina, Timothy B. Tyson lays out the foundation of white moderation, and it’s not ignorance.

Tyson recounts that any conversation between white men with one pushing “progressive” agendas like letting black preachers speak in white churches could be brought to a full stop by the question, “How would you feel if your daughter came home with one?”

Weak allyship, when coming from the oppressing class, is based on reaching for the ideals of equality while still desiring to hitch your star to the wagon of privilege.

The point he’s making is that the racism that infected the more flagrant members of the town infected the ones trying to fight it, as well. They were all diseased – it’s just that some were fighting for a cure and others were down with the sickness.

Weak Allies

This is indeed the problem with weak allies. Some examples include:

The women in eras of America who didn’t approve of their husbands’ participation in lynch mobs, but coddled them just the same when they came home.

Members of the Senate speaking about Jeff Sessions’ abhorrent record, but saying they were charmed because of the fact that they’ve worked out together.

Bernie Sanders, standing aside to let black women protest at his own event during the campaign trail, but three days after the election exhorting a grieving America to consider the pain of the white working class.

Weak allyship can also lead to confused op-eds like Trevor Noah’s in the New York Times, in which he says, “We can be unwavering in our commitment to racial equality while still breaking bread with the same racist people who’ve oppressed us.”

I respectfully disagree.

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Protest for refugees in Rochester, NY

Weak allyship, when coming from the oppressing class, is based on reaching for the ideals of equality while still desiring to hitch your star to the wagon of privilege.

And when it is coming from the oppressed class, just like my idea that knowledge could cure racism, it is rooted in giving credit where it has not been earned, and assuaging guilt for actions that are not accidental, but deliberate in every possible sense of the word.

Weak allyship is fundamentally misguided, and will not lead us in the direction that we need to go from here.

It is not a mistake that Martin Luther King,  Jr. talked more about the problems of white moderation and apathy than about the vicious racism of Bull Connor and George Wallace. It is because he knew that the true destruction of minority communities comes from people that pretend to care, but don’t want to be called nigger lovers. From people devoted to racial equality until an Syrian family moves in next door. It comes from friends who abhor sexism, but refuse to admit that it plays a decisive role in any given scenario, situation, or outcome.

…who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. – Martin Luther King, Jr., 16 April 1963

As Dr. King  also said, “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

If the word “resistance” is to mean anything in the age of the Trump, it has to mean white people that are willing to carry the stain of the oppressed with them. It has to mean white people who are willing to fully engage in the struggle for equal rights, not simply when a photo-op presents itself. It has to mean a forceful re-examination of race in America, and a new breed of explicitly anti-racist ideals.

In short, we need white people who are not afraid to be black.

But as long as, nipping at the heels of progress, we have white “allies” willing to undercut every effort made, and we have swaths of minorities willing to cede ground where they should not, justice will remain out of reach.

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The Weightier Matters Of The Law

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If Jesus had a roast, it would be Matthew 23. It is sometimes called “The Seven Woes” because when Jesus roasts you, it clearly has to come in historically relevant numbers. Reading the chapter is like watching everyone get burned by Eminem in the end of 8 Mile.

So Who’s He Roasting?

Jesus has some more than caustic words for the religious leaders of the day, identified in the chapter as the scribes and Pharisees. These were the people most involved with religious ceremonies, and they knew the minutiae of Moses’ law. They knew when to stand and sit in synagogue, they knew the prayers like the back of their hand, and they could quote any portion of the holy books from memory.

What’s He Roasting Them About?

The story of Jesus is, in short, the story of salvation. Man falls from grace (thanks, Adam and Eve), and God has to fix it. He sends his son as a sacrifice for humanity.

To me, this might signal something important about Jesus’ sermon choices. He wouldn’t waste time talking about stuff that doesn’t matter, right? So what does Jesus care about?

“But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.” (Verse 5)

Jesus notes that the works of the pious are often done for the adoration of others, not out of a spirit of true service, and that it shows. Remember, this is a guy who repeatedly healed people (cough, for free, cough) and told them to keep quiet about it (a little unfair, to be honest, because if I was blind and got new eyes, EVERYONE WOULD KNOW ABOUT IT. Dogs in neighboring towns would know about it.) What else does Jesus say?

“They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues…” (Verse 6)

We haven’t even gotten to the woes yet, but this calls to mind Jesus’s musings on the hierarchy of power that will be transformed in heaven, where those clamoring to be first will be last, and those believing themselves undeserving will be given the best seat at the table. (Matthew 20:16)

For context, just a chapter before, he told a story about a guy throwing a wedding, and none of his rich, stuck-up friends would come, so instead he got a bunch of homeless people together and had a BLAST. (Matthew 22)

Remember, this demi-god’s only got 33 years with us, and what is he choosing to talk about? The abdication of power, the sharing of wealth, the defense of the defenseless, piety for its own sake and not in trade for adoration…what’s next? (Not clamoring to hang out with billionaires, probably.)

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It’s all in there, I swear.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” (Verses 13-14)

So Jesus is saying that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the kingdom of heaven is sometimes those with the most knowledge about the kingdom of heaven, but with no interest in serving others.

Not only this, but Jesus is saying that:

Because of their position,

because of what they represent,

because they are the bearers of a religious identity…

…that if they fail morally to serve the people they’re charged to serve, they receive greater condemnation than people who fail to follow them.  

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Verses 27-28)

If you “clean your room” by shoving everything into your closet, it’s still not clean. Just like a tomb isn’t “clean” just because you wash the outside of it. Jesus is arguing that hypocrisy, contradiction, and an insistence that others follow a law that you don’t is wrong, and much more important than shining tombstones. 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith…” (Verse 23)

This is the bottom line. Jesus’ overarching message to the religious people of his day was, “You have no idea what is actually important, and what is not.”

These are the same people who harassed him when he healed people on the Sabbath even though no work is allowed on the holy day, or when his disciples failed to do ritual cleansing before eating, or when he let a prostitute run off with NO STINKIN’ PUNISHMENT, HOW DARE HE.

The phrase “the weightier matters of the law” implies that Jesus believes there are weightier matters of the law, as in, “things that are more important than other things.”

One can only wonder how thousands of desperate families fleeing civil war (incalculable risk to others) would fare against such excuses as, “national security” (almost infinitesimal risk to ourselves) on Jesus’ scales. Which might qualify as a “weightier matter” to someone who began their life as a refugee? (Matthew 2)

What Does This Teach Us?

We could probably guess from the fact that his name is Jesus Christ, and there’s a whole religion about him…that anybody that doesn’t act like what he’s describing isn’t really a Christian, right?

If his own words are any indication, he would have some pretty withering condemnation for the kind of people he was addressing in Matthew 23.

And if the demigod only had 33 years with us here, and we know what he chose to say, we could probably infer that he only spoke about the most earth-shatteringly important stuff to him. And he did. It was serving others.

I think he was an alright guy, but I’m not sure he would think that about us. Feel free to comment, like, share, and follow below!

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The Real Abortion Conversation No One Is Having

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Abortion is one of the most hotly contested political issues in modern politics, as evidenced by the time that this here post sparked an over 100 comment and sub-comment debate on my Facebook:

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Samantha Bee actually does a good job here of describing how it came to be so. The TL:DR version of it is that the religious right specifically chose the issue of abortion and amplified it on the national stage in order to exert political power. Small misconceptions were turned into large ones and over time that gap widened until you could see the Republican nominee for president saying women should receive some sort of punishment for abortions, and this:

I think it’s it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month [on the final day], you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. – Donald Trump

Clinton: Well, that is not what happens in these cases.

Yeah, of course it’s not. People who have actually performed the procedure that Donald Trump is describing with woeful imprecision have said that’s not what happens.

However, I don’t think that’s what this conversation is really about.

The Trolley Problem

Much of the debate surrounding abortion centers on whether or not the fetus is a person or not. Allow me to introduce The Trolley Problem, which you’ve definitely heard before. It goes something like this:

There is a train on a collision course with five people on the tracks. There is another route the train can take, one toward a track with one person. You are standing at a switchboard that allows you to change the train’s destination. You cannot save all six people. Which track do you choose?

The reason this thought experience causes so much turmoil is that it causes us to confront something that we take extreme precautions to avoid confronting: That we all make determinations on the value of human life.

The Trolley Problem gets even more complicated if you ask any questions whatsoever about the identity of the people on the tracks. Is the one person the president? Are the five geriatric patients with unfortunate prognoses? Is the one a child? Did the five just get accepted to Harvard? Are there fathers? Mothers? Did one of the five just get married?

Those…are not easy questions. And after you ask all of them, you probably still won’t know what to do.

The Real Abortion Conversation: Whose Life Matters More?

Support The Troops

Support The Troops

It’s no secret that people who are pro-life tend to lean conservative, and people who are pro-choice the opposite direction. However, keeping this debate at the level of whether or not the fetus is a human being helps both sides ignore the subtext of the issue, and I think that’s why they keep it that way.

For the pro-life crowd, it allows them to pretend that we don’t make these decisions about human life all the time. Because it seems unconscionable to make a determination on whose life weighs more, there’s something of a prohibition against admitting that we do that.

“Support the troops” is met with rallying cries of support from the same people, while not acknowledging that the reason we “support the troops” is that we have collectively deemed their sacrifice as worth the price of freedom. Many more than five people have died for our national security, but we made the decision that their deaths were worth the security we have.

That’s not comfortable, and it’s not as easy as you might think to make a definitive ethical case for why this person’s life matters more than the mother it could be endangering.

For the pro-choice crowd, it seems much too callous and shallow to acknowledge that you value one human’s life as being less than the other, but that’s exactly what we do all the time. It could be tricky and difficult to make a definitive ethical case for why you believe that a human being’s life is worth less than another’s, so it’s probably much more simple to say it’s not a human to begin with.

However, what’s more brutal, doing it or talking about it?

The much more digestible claim for both of these groups to make is:

Pro-life: It’s a person, and that’s all we need to know.

Pro-choice: It’s not a person, and that’s all we need to know.

The only problem is that neither of those are “all we need to know”, because both ignore the hard subtext of the conversation, which is that we choose all the time whose life matters more.

And while we languish in this contentious midway point, the real problems of abortion are happening. Women need them and can’t get them; abortions are legal as per Roe V. Wade, but women may have to go hundreds of miles to get one, and lawmakers want to defund Planned Parenthood, based on doctored videos designed to scare the public.

If both of these groups don’t step up to the plate and start the difficult, brutal work of defining what standards we use to determine who lives and who dies, the conversation will remain in a quagmire, with the real victims unclear and far away.

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