Fools’ Names and Fools’ Faces

Jimmy Kimmel is trending on the interwebs because he cried while talking about the killing of Cecil the Lion. (Take a minute to Google Cecil if you need to catch up. I’ll be here when you get back.)

I read an angry thread on Facebook from someone who was super pissed that Jimmy Kimmel cried about a lion, but didn’t cry for… then proceeded to list all the sad things in the world that Jimmy Kimmel must also now be required to cry about. (Side note, some of the items on the list weren’t sad but just political things the poster finds offensive.) The argument is that if Jimmy Kimmel cries about a lion, he must also be required to cry about everything everyone else finds important.

This sort of thing comes up any time the President does ANYTHING. The White House was lit in rainbow colors after the Obergefell v Hodges (marriage equality) ruling from the Supreme Court on June 25. This was followed several days later by angry posts decrying that the White House wasn’t lit in Red, White and Blue for Independence Day. Really? It’s the White House. It’s very existence is a celebration of our Independence. The President doesn’t need to shoot bottle rockets from the roof for us to know he’s not the Queen of England.

The argument here is that you can’t cry about one thing unless you cry about everything. You can’t celebrate one thing unless you celebrate everything. Unless you believe all the things I believe, you mustn’t share your beliefs at all. No!

The world where 7.3 billion people cry in unison because of an undercover Planned Parenthood video isn’t a world I’d want to live in. The world where 196 capitol buildings are lit in the colors of what we all agree to celebrate (bad news Christians, but Christmas probably wouldn’t make the list if we ALL have to agree) isn’t a world I’d want to be part of. The world where we can only discuss the small list of items we all agree to be inoffensive sounds to me like a most offensive world.

I say be passionate about the things your passionate about, don’t care about the things you don’t care about, and stop pretending to be mad all the time about things that probably don’t really bother you at all. Yes, your trumped up (Trumped?) anger got you noticed. Yes, your stupid rant trended. But in the grand scheme, what of value did you bring into the world? Was your opinion worth sharing or did you simply shine a light on your ignorance in a public place?

I’ve been hesitant to share my opinions via Facebook on a range of topics because the commentary that follows is always such a beating. I’ve concealed my passion to avoid your judgement. But you know what? Screw that! Here’s some stuff I’m thinking about:

  • I drove around with a broken turn signal for three months. I changed lanes without signaling dozens of times a day, more than once in full view of a DPS officer. I never got pulled over. For the same offense, Sandra Bland got threatened with a taser, removed from her car and imprisoned for three days. It’s possible to pissed off about that and also support the police.
  • The Confederate battle flag was kept in storage for 90 years after the end of the Civil War. Southern Governors started flying them again in the late 1950s to late 1960s to show their opposition to the Civil Rights movement that was gaining support in the US government. I’m a son of the Confederacy. I’m a rebel. I would drive an orange charger through a “bridge out” sign without hesitation. And I’m telling you that flag doesn’t represent southern pride or rebel spirit. It symbolizes racism. It needed to go away. Suck it.

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    Yeeeeee-haaaa
  • More good guys with guns does not equal fewer bad guys with guns. Open carry does not make for a more peaceful society. We tried that already, it was called the wild west. Am I willing to test your theory? Yes, let’s test it somewhere I don’t live.
  • Your gender identity is your concern. Who you love is no one else’s business. Be who you are. To hell with what anyone else thinks about it. If your neighbor tries to tell you who you’re allowed to love, burn their house down. That’s probably in the Bible. *citation needed
  • Yes, the rich are getting richer at the expense of everyone else. There’s a 90 percent chance this will result in a bloody rebellion, and I’m cool with that.
  • Yes, the planet is getting warmer and ocean levels are rising due in part to man-made climate change. By the time we realize we don’t have to agree about science, it’ll be too late to do anything about it. I’m not cool with that.
  • Okay Republicans, if you’re still with me, this one is important. Donald Trump is a jack ass. Your best bet, if you want to win is Chris Christie. Jeb Bush is your second choice. Jeb would be first if he wasn’t the 3rd of his name, as they say on Game of Thrones. Here’s what’s actually going to happen; Scott Walker will get the GOP nomination and he’ll lose to Hillary Clinton with a final electoral college count of 303 to 235. Walker won’t carry his home state of Wisconsin. Bookmark this and check back in 16 months. I’m almost always right on this stuff.
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Baby Steps Back to the Dark Ages

Jacob’s band instructor insists on using Christian religious music for competitions and performances. This really rubs me the wrong way. They even lost points at UIL because religious music and iconography aren’t allowed. They marched this season to “O Come O Come, Emmanuel” and “Ode To Joy”, and they had a stained glass prop to reinforce the point for anyone who didn’t recognize the tunes. Monday night is their first formal concert, and they’re performing “Ave Marie”.

We’re talking about a public school, as in tax payer funded, secular place of learning. It’s also a pretty diverse school, with Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Atheist students. Heck, the church closest to the school is a mosque.

I’m not bothered because the band instructor is religious, and I understand why he loves spiritual music. It’s beautiful music that I would love to hear… in a church or a mall or on the street corner, but not in a school or at a school sponsored event. My objection to the music is purely political. I believe religion in every form should be strictly separated from government run institutions. I believe that doubly so when we’re talking about schools. I want my son to go there and get educated, not indoctrinated.

The separation of church and state is one of the great things about the American system. I celebrate our Constitutionally guaranteed freedom to worship or not worship as we please. I’m on the fence on churches not being taxed, but I’m okay with it if it keeps religious leaders from exerting control over our legislatures, courts and schools.

Jacob gets really upset and Lisa gets very quiet when I complain about this. I know this topic makes people uncomfortable. I recognize that there are people who want their children to have their faiths reinforced at school. For those people, there are private schools.

I realize we’re just talking about music. To my knowledge no one is preaching at school. Also, Jacob is a religious kid. He goes to church twice a week, and he’s super involved in his youth group. It’s not Jacob I’m worried for. It’s allowing a specific religion to slip a toe in the door. It’s that it’s only ever a single faith that sneaks in, and the fact that it’s our faith doesn’t make it any more acceptable.

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I am usually the first to object to a “slippery slope” argument. I know it’s unlikely that “Ave Marie” in Band will lead to creationism in Science or the virgin birth in History. But I am comfortable saying that any educator who turns a blind eye to one will be more likely to turn a blind eye to the other. The celebration of a single faith, even through song, in a public school, to me represents the first little baby steps toward acceptance of religion in the public schools, which itself represents the first little baby steps toward acceptance of religion in government. If you wonder how it turns out when churches take on political power, Google Dark Ages or Islamic Revolution in Iran. Science suffers. Art suffers. Progress stops.

Alright, I’ll step off my soap box and wait for the hateful comments from the good shepherd’s sheep. But someday, when your grandchildren tell you to wear a veil before leaving the house, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

My Testimony

Religion. Here’s a topic guaranteed to piss off anyone. If you don’t believe me, take a minute to turn to the person on your right and say, “I’d like to talk to you about Jesus.” Believe me now?
I don’t consider myself to be a religious person. I go to church most Sundays, more for my family than myself. I believe in the organized church and all the good that can be done in a church community. Unfortunately, a lot of bad can also be done by church communities. It’s possible to convince a person to do almost anything if they can be made to believe they are doing it for religious reasons, and groups of people are more suggestable than individuals. It’s my opinion that religious faith is a delicate balance of hope, ignorance, and suppressed disbelief. As long as the latter makes up less than half of your faith triangle, you probably consider yourself a religious person. If a big enough piece of that pie is made up of ignorance, you could probably be incited to blow up yourself or your neighbor if the request was preceded with “God says”. If your triangle is made up only of hope and ignorance, you should probably let someone else hold your wallet.

As a child my religion was built solely on ignorance. I believed because I was told to. The same is true of a child’s belief in Santa Claus. As I matured, hope moved in. My hope was informed by my burgeoning fear of death. I hoped there was a heaven, and I hoped to go there if I died. As my experience grew, I began to find there were many religions that were different from my own, some even disagreed with the most fundamental things I believed in. Some have a hell and a devil to stand in contrast to their god and heaven, and some don’t. Some have a messiah and some don’t. Some don’t have a heaven at all, but instead believe in reincarnation. Some have no heaven and no reincarnation. Some religions once dominated the earth, and are now laughable and quaint. Some have many gods, and some just one. Some have demi-gods and some don’t. Which one is right?

Let’s check the evidence. Uh oh, there is no evidence. None at all. Well, there are a bunch of scientific studies showing that prayer has absolutely no impact on results. There are also a bunch of studies attempting and failing to prove the existence of the human soul. This is where disbelief was born, and immediately suppressed. As Christians, we are taught that the only unforgivable sin is to deny the Holy Spirit, and God knows what we’re thinking. So I had to work hard to suppress the doubt and the denial that would surely follow. Because if we doubt, and then deny we’ll go to Hell (assuming, of course that all the other stuff isn’t bullshit).

Once doubt met logic, the scales began to tip. As hope and ignorance fell away, the triangle of faith became a circle of reason. Now here I am with only my experience to trust and only myself to believe in. I have only myself to blame for my failures and no where existential to look for support in times of crisis. I am the master of my own destiny. And you know what? It’s pretty sweet. There is great relief in rising from the attitude of penitence. There is liberation in knowing the laws of man are sufficient, and that progress, both social and scientific, is a good thing. There is great motivation in knowing I have only one lifetime in which to accomplish and experience everything I desire to.
I am not writing this as a condemnation of anyone else’s faith. It is not an argument for atheism. This is just my testimony. As for who is right and who is wrong, only the dead have seen the ending.

Thanksgiving

If I had a religion, Thanksgiving would be my high holy day. It’s got everything a holiday should have and nothing it shouldn’t.

Thanksgiving is the 4th of July with Turkey. It has history. Think Pilgrims and Indians sharing a feast after a bad harvest and fear of the Winter that was afoot. It’s the ultimate American holiday.

Thanksgiving is Christmas with all the joy and none of the stress. There’s no need to decorate, or spend months stressing about what gifts to buy. It’s a chance for friends and family to come together, enjoy a meal and enjoy each others company. It’s a chance to be thankful for whatever you’ve got, whether it’s a feast and fifty people to share it with or just a hot plate of food and shelter from the cold.

Thanksgiving is New Years Day without the lame-ass plans for the future. It’s a day off work. It’s got a parade, football, and booze if you plan it right.

Thanksgiving is Saint Patrick’s Day without the Irish. Again, parade (show tunes… you know what I’m talking about), football and booze. This might actually apply to few holidays, so you should assume any holiday that has parades, sports, food or alcohol is just a Thanksgiving knock-off.

So, happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the feast.

In Your Hole

There is a hole in your heart. What? There’s an empty space inside of you that needs to be filled. What are you talking about? The empty space that must be filled leads people to religion, drugs, and a litany of other hole filling pursuits.

Here’s the problem. I don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t now have, nor have I ever had, a hole in my life, my heart or my soul needing to be filled. Does that mean I have always lived full life? Doubtful. Does it mean I don’t want for things? No. What does it mean? It means there is something wrong with everyone else. That must be it. How else could you explain a feeling of incompleteness that causes people to go to extraordinary ends to make themselves feel whole.

Oh yeah, here’s the other thing, people with the hole are never able to fill it sufficiently. They go to extremes sometimes. They become zealots or alcoholics or they have themselves physically altered to look like Angelina Jolie and they give birth to eight babies at once, and even then they still feel empty.

I think it’s the job of those of us who feel complete to take advantage of those who don’t. That’s why TV preachers say the empty space inside of you is where Jesus is supposed to be. Advertisers make their living promising to fill the hole with beer, or sex, or family game night. So if you’re feeling incomplete, contact me, and for $99.99 I will give you something to stick in your hole.

Is that felt?

I’m not a very religious person. I was raised in the Baptist church and I’ve read the Bible, even memorized parts of it. As an adult I have waivered between belief and nonbelief for some time. I say that to say this. Years ago I spent months going to a weekly Bible study with a Pentacostal friend of mine. It was held in the home a family from his church. In the end I agreed to go to church with him. I resisted the urge to sit in the very back. I sat in the middle to try and blend in. It wasn’t my first visit to a Pentacostal church. The difference this time was that now most of the people from the church knew me, and they knew I wasn’t one of them.

I have always enjoyed the music in the Pentacostal churches. I was even okay with all the people speaking in tongues. Who am I to judge, right? But at the end of the service they always have a prolonged alter call, where throngs of people go up to the alter and cry and sing and speak in tongues. Well, this time, the alter came to me. I never left my seat in the middle of the church, but I was suddenly surrounded by people touching me and praying for me to be filled with the Holy Ghost.

I have never been more uncomfortable in my life. I couldn’t get past the touching. I am not comfortable with people touching me. I am not even very comfortable with people being really close to me. I started praying like I’d never prayed before, “Lord, I’m not a praying man, but if you get me out of this, I promise I will never come back here again.” So while they were praying for me to get saved, I was praying to get safely back to my car. I weighed the option of just throwing them all off, Hulk style, and hauling ass, but Pentacostals would consider that a challenge. I’d have ended up being exorcised in the parking lot.

I did eventually escape, saved by not getting saved. And true to my pledge, I never went back.