On Being Apostate

You Can Blame Me

It seems that the reason so many are so miserable is me. My adjectives, WASP, cis-hetero male, from parents who busted their ass to give me a better life, makes me bougie and bougie is evil. Being bougie means that my existence is a sin. So I owe a debt to those who are not bougie that I must somehow repay. All because I was born this way. About that . . . about on being apostate.

This debt is evergreen. Whatever I do, no matter how much I genuflect before the proletariat, I am still despicable simply because of my parents. If I had 40 acres and a mule to give it would not be enough. I am born into a debt because somehow I had advantages I owe to someone who isn’t kin to me.  Mao is so wise.

Those who fight White Privilege are racist. I’ll explain. First, they need a narrative that names an oppressed class who are suffering under an oppressor of their choosing. They declare that African-Americans are all Stepin Fetchit enslaved by white plantation owners. Just being a WASP is ipso facto proof of White Privilege.

Rather nicely, two groups are tagged with adjectives they cannot be free of. Both end up being shit on, one because they are prevented from any agency that would challenge their designation as oppressed and the other because they are prevented from being anything other than the enemy of the oppressed.  This is what social justice looks like.

My Apostate, White Privileged, Pimply Ass

White Privilege is a cocked up reason to feel guilty for being born into a WASP family. It makes great virtue signal and excuses a personal obligation to be accountable for our shit. The problem isn’t us, it’s our parents, who stupidly had sex and didn’t get an abortion. Idiots. Wikipedia says this about White Privilege.

White Privilege is rooted in Marxist thinking. It’s a version of the anger against the bourgeoisie. To be bougie is a sin, the thinking goes. So, we grind through all the bougie people and stuff and shit out anything and anyone of any value. For the very reasonable price of only 90% of our income and the surrender of all privately held assets. No problem.

I should be overjoyed at paying 90% of my income to a dear leader because, white privilege. Obviously, I am oppressing black people simply because I had the misfortune to be born to upper-middle-class WASPS. Next is the minister who triggered these 1700 words.

Reverand Katie Mulligan

Allow me to introduce the Reverend Katie Mulligan. Katie gave the sermon last Sunday at my Dad’s church. I grew up in this church. There is so much I didn’t know or understand back then. These days, my beef with my Dad’s church has changed. Katie’s sermon tells me that rather than speak tradition to peer pressure they have decided to be with the cool kids. Katie seems to be someone who has decided that she wants to be one of the cool kids so she’s attached cool kid adjectives to her personal brand.  I was the kid bullied by the cool kids.

Why I Live at St. Giles

Since then I’ve been a member of various churches. I keep coming back to being Presbyterian. In part because I too love to argue. These days I am a member of St Giles.  First Pres Pitman and St. Giles are very different churches.  Keith’s sermon last Sunday:

White People are the Cause of It All

Katie chose to focus on white privilege. Whoa. So my entire major malfunction is my heritage as a WASP? It really is my Mom’s fault? I’m so relieved. And here I thought that it was some Freudian id thing.  It must be that Jung was the real crackpot. Kinda sucks that I wasted all that money and energy on therapy when it really was my parent’s fault.

My problem with Katie’s sermon is that it is anchored in Marxist beliefs. Marx is an enemy of Christ. Marx taught the proletariat to hate the bourgeoisie. Those who follow Marx need two things: a proletariat and a bourgeoisie. Where one of these does not exist they set about creating it. Ergo most of the tropes regarding privilege, disparity, isms, etc. They need peeeple who are oppressed so that they can champion for them. It cannot be that the peeeple are in fact, fine.

Marx’s enemy was the Czar of Russia. His period is the early 20th Century when Capitalist Industrialism was the envy of some and a reason to revolution for others. Things can be made fairer by making everything owned and controlled by the government. Didn’t, doesn’t work.

Zoshul Just This

I don’t want to get too deep into my dislike of all the social justice movements that point to Marx as their philosophical roots. Modern Protestant thinking anchors our faith in a personal relationship with Christ. So the path to social justice begins with each of our hearts. The method is deeply Jewish–a tithe of 10% given to the church who in turn uses it to pay the bills and meet communal needs. It is different from Marxist ideas of government where the tithe becomes a tax and the authority to choose how the tax is spent is given to the party instead of the church.

The religious point I want to make is that we won’t anger our way to an answer for all the bougie sins laid at our feet. There is an evergreen stew of resentment and sins invented to explain why they are so miserable and we are so evil. After a while, though, life as a shunned whore living on El Camino de las Almas Perdidas en el Valle de la Sombra de la Muerte sounds better than the empty promises of an abusive pimp like the social justice movement of the day.

Katie Says

Katie asks us to either feel guilty for an accident of birth caused by a few moments of horizontal bop perpetrated by our parents or angry that the roulette wheel of life spun and we got the black square. Either way, it is evergreen. There is nothing I can do that will ever be sufficient for Katie to accept my restitution or repentance. I will forever be the enemy to her simply because I had the misfortune to be born a WASP with parents who busted their ass so I could have a better life. I owe a bottomless debt to those less fortunate than me on the basis of my race and choice of gender identity.

Thanks, Katie, that makes me feel so much better. Do you know a good supplier of worms I can eat while I dig my own grave because of the White Guilt you accuse me of?

You cannot be a Marxist Christian. The two are antithetical. Marx pointed to the bougie, to the privileged, to explain why the proletariat was so miserable. His answer was to destroy the bougie and redistribute their wealth to the proletariat. Millions died as a result. Katie wants me to be happy about this, to pick up a protest sign and offer my body as a holy sacrifice to atone for my white privilege. I’ll get right on that after I go insult another brown person.

Hail Ceasar

Christ’ enemy was his own church and the Roman Empire. Where Marx offers a replacement God-King who would be fairer than the Czar Christ’ kingdom has each of us as its cornerstone. We are, individually, the resurrected kingdom, the new temple. Instead of anchoring a solution in the God-King and our self-worth defined by our place in the hierarchy Christ turns to us and asks each of us to do our part. Jesus was far more anarchist than imperialist. Marxism is just imperialism with a set of rules preferred by revolutionaries.

Katie, if you want us to fix this the answer is old and simple. Instead of looking to a pseudo-religious ideology that teaches hate for your way and worth, look again to Christ. The Beatitudes are a place to start. I’ll repeat my essentials as a suggested way: love kin, friends, neighbors and enemies alike, when in doubt, give grace and mercy first, surrender everything so that the only thing left is a desire to love Christ, be humble and quiet, as these are presented to you, do small acts of kindness of great love, and last, service and missions first.

I doubt that Katie and I will agree on much. Instead of being a light on a hill PCUSA chooses to placate its abusers in the name of diversity and inclusion. Katie, sorry, you chose to be angry at me and threaten to shun me because I happen to believe that Christ called me to something other than hating myself because I happened to land on the white square of the roulette wheel of life. I’ll pray for you.

Not One of the Cool Kids

My Jesus is absurd. He says stupid shit like, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” He asks me to love people who I’d like to punch in the face. Instead of offering me a free cell phone because I say I need it he wants me to serve the poor, the aged, and prisoners with no hope of return. Katie’s Jesus offers safe spaces featuring coloring books and snacks to insulate her from the trials of absurd living according to the way of a martryed carpenter. It indulges us in every whim. Don’t like dating guys? No problem, date women. Can’t decide what gender identity feels right? No problem, don’t decide. Born something other than white and life sucks? Poor thing, it’s not your fault. It’s those evil white people pissing on your future.

My Jesus told me to stop whining, to shut up and that I would work for Him. I don’t get safe spaces or all that is offered within them. I am not a cool kid. Some say that I am the reason they are so fucked up. It is because I happen to be born to WASP parents that I am obligated to brown people for sins I was born into. Where are those worms and my shovel?

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Nutcracker Ushers

I have to get something off my chest. I met some nutcracker ushers the last time I was in the valley. One particular Baptist Church likes it when I usher while they are here. I’m the token backsliding gringo who is a reason to pray for protection. Ushering for them is a double bonus. They get to signal their hospitality to odd people while trying again to convince me that a blue suit is a better look for me.

That’s one piece. The next bit is that I’m not a nutcracker usher.  These Baptists are a Sunday best sort of church. Their ushers stand at their assigned door like nutcrackers. You approach their door, they open it to let you in, maybe hand you a bulletin and then let it close. Lord almighty if you speak to them. Never do that.

Nutcracker Usher

Though, funny thing. If a friend approaches their door, whole other thing. It’s smiles and chatty and they spend a minute catching up. I’m a damned Yankee. I walk toward a manned door and it’s like I am a leper. They open the door arms stick straight, keeping their distance from me.

  • My first sin is that I had my hands in my pockets just after greeting someone. Really? That’s the thing that makes me a bad usher? Let’s not stop with my hands. Most of the time I am in sandals, beach shorts, and a tank top. I have a closet full of Hawaiian pattern shirts. I am the epitome of boomer gringo on holiday.
  • B) Some more. I tend to have over the ear Bluetooth headphones around my neck. You can hear Jimmy Buffet leaking out of them.
  • I also kept picking up church bulletins from the careful piles for each nutcracker. Instead of sticking to the rules and only handing out from an assigned pile I took them from whichever pile was nearest. For that I am apostate. I am a bad usher needing to be scolded.
  • Still not done. I made the entire foyer of the church my turf. I greeted whoever entered, through whichever door. The nutcracker ushers stood mouths agape. This is not how it is done.

You Are Doing It Wrong

You are right. It is now how it is done. Ushers with some boogie and charm don’t fit the stiff blue suits that guard the doors to the chapel. I mean, I look like I am dancing while I flit from person to person greeting them and ensuring they are welcomed.

Let’s repeat something. Jesus is absurd. Christ chased the money changers with a whip. He broke bread with prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath. He said that the meek and poor in spirit are blessed. That bastard Nazarene carpenter told a wealthy man it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for that man to enter heaven.

Keep that in mind as I say that this country is in an imperialist/legalist mood. The answer to most problems is more and stricter law. Lately, London’s mayor has decided that the answer to a rise in murder by knife is to ban knives. He forgot about acid.

Baptism’s dark side is similarly stiff and authoritarian. Many Baptists cannot hear the loving voice of Christ over the shouting they internalize–they are not good enough, every exhale is a backslide, every inhale another ingestion of worldly decadence. The answer is to insist that people must know Jesus because that would solve it.

Nutcracker Ushers in the Valley

Those nutcracker ushers are not in the Valley to show us the Mercy of Mother Mary. They are here to save us from the depravity they see all around them. They see us and there is too much of the world in us. Yep. We just toast them and tell the band to crank it up.

Jesus came to fulfill the law. The whole miracle is wrapped up in how he fulfilled the law. Hillel’s summary of the Torah, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah.” Christ flipped the script, Mat 7:12So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” All this bickering over things like whether it is proper for an usher to have his hands in his pockets is a trifle needing charity. Yet there are Baptists who can spend hours arguing over this and whether intinction is proper.

Meldenius, “Necessariis unitas, quae necessaria libertatis et caritatis cetera.” I get annoyed at those who would judge my fielty to Christ by my manner of dress, the placement of my hands, and the music leaking out of my headphones. It’s not very far from that to judging someone by bloodline or skin color. I have a hard time believing my stated sin of having my hands in my pockets is a necessary concern requiring unity. But . . . I’m Presbyterian and we decided to punt when challenged on whether fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman is a requirement for our clergy, so there you go.

Let’s Eat Hummus and Revolution

We are a Middle Eastern religion born out of a rebellion against the church and Rome. Our truest nature is that of malcontents. We are odd. Once we stop being outliers we dim the lamp of the Holy Spirit. Ours is a traditional way of life with rules that are essential and thus, require unity. I wonder, though, if the man who praised a woman for pouring nard on him and turned water into wine would obsess over the position of the hands on an usher.

As to fundementalism, I like what Shane Claiborne said. Since we are dissident Jews our fundamentals ought to be Arab and Israeli. I am amused at the thought of a rabbi giving a homily in a ‘merican church. It would be an uncomfortable few hours for the nutcracker ushers.

Here are some of my essentials: I find myself hungering for service to everyone regardless of their rung on Jacob’s Ladder. I am alive because of God’s Amazing Grace. It is out of gratitude for His grace that I keep saying we should lead with grace. Jesus said a lot in the short time he was here. Some of my favorites are the Beatitudes, Acts Chapter 2 and Romans 12.

I repeated the Meldenius quote above. Asked to boil my essentials down to a paragraph I would say we are to love our enemies and neighbors as ourselves, treat others as we wish to be treated, diligently seek to perform small acts of kindness with great love, pray, worship, tithe, and read scripture.

The Good Fight

If there is anything that is characteristic of us it is this: we never stopped arguing about what we believe.  It is why I love Meldenius’ words. We all have to pick our essentials that are not up for debate. After that the rest is fungible.

I know the nutcracker usher who chided me for having my hands in my pockets. His faith is fluid. He fights that first step, admitting we have a problem we are powerless against. Like many, when sober he is brilliant. His inner child became an overachiever because that way his parents would be safer. There is safety in law for him. If there were a law and we would comply it would be so much better.

So he comes to the valley to tilt at our absurdities. We need to come correct so he can be ok. If we knew Jesus and all that. I suppose Fr. Thomas doesn’t know Jesus. The nutcracker usher has been to confession. He found it troubling and attractive.

I’ve crossed paths with him at the cathedral. He’s been at the club when I walk through to my flat upstairs. I think I get where the thing about my hands comes from. It’s easier to fight for kings and law to solve our problems. Christ is tough. His way is absurd. Rather than lift a sword he died and lived. Bickering over hands buried in pockets is a lot safer.

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Forecast is Cloudy

Deep South Hot

The forecast is cloudy. It is the summer of 2017 in Mount Pleasant, SC. Jolana, her daughter and her husband are at the KOA with my Pappa and his dog, Dexter. It is hot, deep South hot. This is hours before the solar-eclipse began its traverse of the USofA. It’s not gone well.

So . . . see if this sounds like a plan. Pull a pop-up tent trailer behind a Toyota Hi-Lux 650 miles to a campground in Mount Pleasant, SC. This is Plan B. Plan A was to fly to Portland, Oregon, then hitchhike and walk to Lincoln Beach . . . with the little dog Dexter and my 86 year old Pappa. No problem.

About the tent trailer. Jolana bought it from someone on Craig’s List. It has a toilet, a sink, a two-burner propane stove and a refrigerator. Good, good, right? No. None of that works. The ceiling leaks. The tent has holes. South Carolina mosquitoes, just saying.

The Second Time is Never the Same

I feel for anyone who lives wanting the world to be the way they believe it should be. Jolana’s more perfect world was a two week road trip to see the eclipse on Prince Edward Island in the 1970’s. In the summer of 2017 a total eclipse traversed the continental United States of America. This was a chance for a do-over of a rose-tinted memory of the eclipse of her youth. Jolana wanted to get the signal right. Spoiler alert: she got it wrong.

Last Winter I booked a room in Mount Pleasant just in case I decided to make a road trip to see the eclipse. Richmond saw about 85% totality and I was good with that. What I wanted out of a weekend in Mt. Pleasant was some beer drinking, maybe eating somewhere nice, and rest. The eclipse was a side benefit. Jolana had other plans. It was a Prince Edward Island Redo.

Jolana’s fond memory is tinted by the fog of time. It was not so blissful. There was the fight  where Mamma took the station wagon and left us stranded at the campground. This is of no consequence to Jolana. She is a brilliant author of her fictional world that she inhabits as naturally as most of us breathe. In this world it was bollywood perfect utopia of family and storm free auspicious solar eclipse.

☀ ☀ ☀

It was a stormy drive to Prince Edward Island that only settled down after Pappa found a lobsterman who was offloading and had lobsters to sell. Mamma was soothed by a lobster dinner prepared by Pappa and Uncle Louie. My happiest moment was discovering easily caught flounder just offshore in knee deep water. That the god’s were grumbly was of small concern.

The event itself was magical. Jolana’s memory is of that moment when the sun slipped behind the moon and day became night. That’s do she wanted to redo.

Forecast is Cloudy Then Clear

Jolana and her crew arrived on Thursday to muggy, cloudy and afternoon stormy Mount Pleasant, SC. The KOA was 95% Class A motorhomes and one miserable tent-trailer and Toyota Hi-Lux that spewed out a gout of brown, spanish speaking people. Someone forgot to tell the gardeners that the employee sites were on the other side of the creek. That Jolana had a reservation . . . meant nothing until it did.

I took my time leaving Richmond on Friday and making my way to Mount Pleasant. The leg from Richmond to Kinston, NC was uneventful. I got to the Boiler Room after lunch. I had my butter-bean burger. It’s good. A bit too much like a grilled refried bean patty, but otherwise good. The second leg from Kinston, NC to Mount Pleasant took the rest of the day.

I made a visit to the campground Friday night. The hotel’s policy on pets was that they had to be in a smoking room and there was a nightly $25.00 charge. I told Jolana that it was a “apologize rather than ask permission” thing. For Jolana this was as good as permission granted. My mistake.

Pappy’s Gonna Die

It is Saturday morning. I’m comfortable under the blankets. It’s 6:00am. My phone rings. It’s Jolana, “Alan, escucha! Ésto es una emergencia. ¡Tenemos que venir ahora mismo! Pappa y Dexter se sobrecalientan.” She has a big speech prepared to explain why her crowd *has* to come over, “Estamos ardiendo. Son 93 ° F. Tenemos que tener aire acondicionado para Dexter y Pappa. No quiero poner a Pappa en el hospital. Él no puede hacerlo en este calor. Dexter también está sobrecalentado. No querrá dejar morir a Dexter, ¿lo haría?” Somehow my lazy Saturday has become an IRL telenovela.

Gotta love bipolar people. Everything is full-throttle. The move is to do a little tough love and let them steep in mosquitoes and Mount Pleasant heat. I invited them over. Punchline? Not even. It gets better.Forecast is Cloudy with a chance of cable tvMy Saturday now features a hotel room with Jolana, her husband and daughter and Pappa and the little dog Dexter. No worries, right? If the hotel doesn’t find out then no problem. They found out.

10:00am. Time for maid service. She knocked, spotted Dexter, and walked away. Then the phone in the room rang. It was the desk clerk, “please come to the front desk.” Busted. First of all, I was in a non-smoking room and there is a fine for having a pet in a non-smoking room. Second, it was Saturday and the clerk wanted to charge us for two days of pet presence.

Jolana’s move was obvious. She became coquettish and asked Pappa to pay the fine for Dexter with his card. He did. She promised to pay him back. She’s been promising to pay him back since I left in 1978. If Pappa could collect he’d be a rich man. He is not a rich man.

Punished Good Deed

Pappa and I talk to the desk clerk. It’s $150.00 for the dog. $100.00 fine for having the dog in a non-smoking room and $25.00/day extra for each day the dog is there, “Señor ten piedad. ¿Por qué mi hija es tan difícil? Jesús, ¿qué he hecho para merecerla?” Pappa pays and I hope we are done. We are not.

Jolana stopped at McDonald’s on the way down and got a 20 piece chicken nuggets meal. That was her food budget for a week on the road. Four people, three meals a day, five days, 20 chicken nuggets, a large order of french fries and a big diet Coke. The math doesn’t work for me either. Add me and it’s five people . . .

My plan was to find an open grocery store and buy a bunch of those salad kits. The ones that come in their own mixing bowl and even have a napkin and a fork. And a can of Bustelo coffee, a quart of orange juice, a box of Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches, some lunch meat, sliced cheese, a loaf of bread, and whatever cheap beer the store had. Done and done, about $40.00 to eat for three days. Until Jolana and her crew.

Add One Hungry Maw

My brother-in-law went with me to the store. He only drinks Modelo. Woo. My niece ate all 20 chicken nuggets on the drive down. Jolana asked , “¿Cómo se supone que debemos comer si no tenemos comida?” My brother-in-law made me like him even more, “Nadie te garantizo comida Si te lo comiste todo, tendrás que rezar y ayunar hasta que lleguemos a casa.” We were in the store parking lot. He showed me the stash of beef jerky and corn tortillas in his bookbag. Smart man.

Final total at the checkout stand was almost a benjamin. Pushing triple what I budgeted for food. Between Dexter and a failure to plan I’m down over $200.00 on my budget for this event. I’ve gotten uncomfortable.

We got back to the room, unloaded and I left again to go drive around Charleston and take pictures (and calm down). When I got back Jolana and her family had eaten their fill. I had one breakfast sandwich left. The beer was gone.

One more thing. It was 7 miles or so between my hotel and the KOA. I got to Mount Pleasant with enough gas to make a good start on the drive home. I forgot to mention that Jolana’s HiLux was a sputtering embarrassment to the reputation for dependability of that truck. She didn’t want to drive it until it was time to hook the trailer to it and make the crawl north to home. Add 10 legs driving between hotel, KOA and grocery store and my gas didn’t look like it did when I got in on Saturday.

Precipice

I am fond of saying that I live balanced at a precipice. A lot of my life looks like it will tip into disaster and then ends up working out ok. I’ve had my flights over the cliff to land in a patch of thistle. This leg is 15 years long climbing from the street to a few of the trappings of socially approved living. Along the way many have feared that I’ve hit a peak and am headed back to the street. It hasn’t happened yet.

So, trips like this one are done my way. I have what I need to make it happen. If nothing goes wrong. Add Jolana and my resourcefulness is tested to its limits. I’m the big brother so I’m the junior cash bull and shield from her foolish choices. This does not make me feel very fraternal.

1500 words, the bottom of most of my posts. Quickly, the eclipse was covered by clouds and not the event I had hoped. The cap on all this is Tuesday when I planned on driving back I was out of gas. Jolana hustled the campground to get up some gas money. I think she had to work under the table for a day cleaning latrines. I plead my case to Pappa who made Jolana reach into her bra for my gas money. Jolana had been telling everyone she had nothing left.

Home Safe

Tuesday Google Maps kept me on local roads until the Virginia border. I came home to a full-fridge and enough gas to get me to payday. One of the things I struggle with is the way Jolana seems to be ignorant of boundaries. She authors her truth with a willful defiance of objective fact or the truth of others. In that truth Pappa and I have what she needs. Because she needs it she feels she has a right to it. So, we don’t have a say in whether to provide. From our ability to her need.

I’m ok. It’s the weekend following Thanksgiving as I finish writing this piece. God provided. The hole Jolana dug in my life got filled by Christ’ providence. I’m used to scrambling when things are looking tough. But . . . by way of a conclusion, the above is an answer to why I live in Richmond.

Jolana is my opportunity to minister to my family. She tests my resolve to remain a faithful disciple of Christ. She stretches me in ways I complain about. Still, the “y luego las cosas terminan en armonía con Jesús” remains true.

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Never Forget

Never Forget is not what we are told. We are to forgive and forget. That lives alongside, “Aquellos que no pueden recordar el pasado están condenados a repetirlo.” Third, to understand Christ, to grock this 2,000 year old movement of dissident Jews, you have to understand two things. The first is our history. The Bible makes no sense at all without knowing the history of it. The second is that the Way of Jesus of Nazareth is a deeply political movement. The bible is a political document.

Our commissioning narrative is of three political dissidents martyred by Rome for crimes against Caesar and Judaism. To denude Christians of politics is to willfully deny the reason our movement started. The Jews wanted a revolution to overthrow Caesar. Jesus and his followers fomented a revolution within Judaism that continues today. Our collected canon of foundational literature is absurd without understanding church history. A no-account carpenter from Nazareth wagged the biggest dog of his day–the Roman Empire.

Some tails wishing to wag big dogs want to us to forget particular narratives in favor of their own. These tails stomp and shout in circles around memorials to the Confederate Army and insist that all symbols of the Civil War be removed from public view. History must be purified of the bloody stains left on it by White People.

✠ ✠ ✠

So, by that premise, Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery is a stain on the national narrative that ought to be erased. Exhume the confederate soldiers buried there and burn their bones. Grind every gravestone into gravel for concrete to build housing and factories of the peepul. Make Collective farms on the recovered land after the cemetery is destroyed. Replace the symbols of hate with symbols of collective progress.

Once the memorials and monuments are gone it becomes possible to pretend that the dark days didn’t happen. We will have a pure history correct in its details. There never was a Civil War. A peepul’s paradise can exist where the bitter memory of the War for States Rights once stood. The story can be killed because the tangible symbols get replaced by utopian land redistribution schemes. Things will be better once the story is dead.

Ovid was hated by Augustus. Augustus exiled him. Augustus became marble statues in a number of museums. Ovid’s poetry became children’s literature. There is not space to argue whether Rome was better without Ovid. Regardless, Ovid’s stories survived.

✠ ✠ ✠

New Orleans Robert E Lee statue never forget

Further, these same tails foment a zealous nationalism that justifies violence and discrimination against their enemies. White People are innately racist and evil. White People stole land from brown people. Steal the land back and give it to designated brown people based on need. Every WASP oppresses somebody simply by being alive. The country will be better after we cleanse ourselves of WASPs. So, rinse repeat the genocide and turn the world deep brown.

The City of New Orleans recently removed the statues of General Robert E Lee and others. Charlottesville is considering similar measures to remove the statues of Civil War luminaries. As of this edit the city of Richmond, VA has a proposal before the City Council to remove all of the Civil War monuments. If we don’t have to look at the symbols of slavery then somehow that will accomplish the goals of those who still carry angst because their ancestors suffered evil at the hands of White People.

Next, I know I am repeating myself. I am not the first to say this either. Those who nourish their angst for the sins of others keep themselves in pain. There is freedom in forgiveness. There is power in compassion. This is some old blah, blah, blah. You know this. And yet we still have those who claim it isn’t over, that they are owed their pound of flesh.

Auschwitz never forget

Never Forget

We must forgive. We must also never forget. Auschwitz-Berkenau must remain standing. Here in the South I want us to build memorials and monuments to our history. Richmond’s Lumpkins Jail is a parking lot today. We should rebuild it as a memorial so we don’t forget.

There have been purges throughout history. 秦始皇 through genocide and massive destruction of extant books, attempted to have history begin with him. Though he was successful some knowledge of Chinese history predating his dynasty survived. Words and story have an immortality difficult to suppress. The monuments may be gone but the memories and stories survive.

Mao’s Cultural Revolution was an attempt to purify China. Mao sought to bleed out capitalism so that nothing remained save for the revolution. It was a decade of brutal persecution that crippled China. As I listen to the Black Lives Matter folk and other nationalist movements among brown people I can’t help but hear an ache for an American Cultural Revolution to purify us of our WASP oppressors. We can begin in the South with the monuments remembering the War for States Rights.

In Praise of the Lowly

My Jesus was a no-account carpenter born in Bethlehem and hailed from Nazareth. He was the bastard child of Joseph and Mary. Everything we tell of his life is a farce of the Holy Roman Emperor. There were many before him and many since who died at the hands of genocidal kings. Their stories are forgotten. Jesus of Nazareth is remembered. His martyrdom is a cornerstone of our Reformed faith.

If we did as many suggest, and set about removing all traces of art remembering Christ we may make some headway at erasing him from history. Christians were a dissident Jewish rebellion against the Hebrew church and Rome for over 400 years. The mightiest empire in the world at that time tried to destroy us, to wipe the memory of Christ clean. He is remembered. Rome fell, the church remains.

The crazy thing happened. The lowly became mighty. The mighty became lowly. The story of Jesus of Nazareth survives in spite of over two-thousand years of persecution. Our greatest recruiting tool is a bloody dictator who tries to eliminate us and our story.

Immortal Story

Killing words is much harder than killing people. Story outlives genocide. 秦始 failed to destroy the words so we have 道德經 from the memories of those who followed it and survived. Mao’s genocidal attempt at making a purely Communist China lasted a decade. Mao died, communism became sullied by capitalism. Where the virulent weed of capitalism has taken seed it has exploded the wealth of those infected by it. After all that there are Jews in Germany. That went well.

Never Forget

Finally, I want us to remember. I want the ache of what was done to stay so we remember why we must continue to forgive. Lucas 6:27, “Pero a ustedes que me escuchan les digo: Amen a sus enemigos, hagan bien a quienes los odian” means nothing if we have erased the memory of why someone is an enemy to us. Restore Lumpkins Jail and other sites so the whole story is remembered instead of taking the Confederate Monuments down.

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Fear

I wrote a post I titled, “Anxiety“. I wanted to be done with it. I am not done with it. I am not over it. Fear touches me in two ways lately. My son, who I don’t usually write about, suffers from anxiety that causes depression for him. This is actual for him. There isn’t a “just get over it” for him. When he gets knocked by life it takes him out. Recovery is never sure and can take months. It hurts and no amount of tough love will move the ball for him. Yeah, he is a millennial, something of a snowflake. The angst is no less powerful for him.

That’s one. The other is the intense tantrum the press is having now that HRH Pimp Daddy US has left the building. Their king, their god, their bhodisatva, did the horrible thing and let Cheeto Satan move in. It’s the end of the world as we know it. A bajillion women worldwide marched and carried protest signs and sang and spoke of wanting to burn down the White House. The *White* House. Shouldn’t it be something else, maybe the 1600 House or something. I mean, seriously, “white” House. Isn’t that racist somehow? All that strom and drang and what of it? Not so much.

I have a question for all those who are trying to learn to contort themselves so that ass and lips can meet. Who is your lord and king? Who is your Daddy? You knew this would end. Pimp Daddy US said so. Is that it? Is that who you worship? A dear leader who committed a venial sin and simply walked away from being the most powerful man on earth? You are that simple, that empty, that you worship a pimp? No wonder you are a mess.

This was going to end. It has to. It’s been a century of diddling about with socialism, either more or less of it. Every election cycle the offers of mo money came and went. Every election cycle we found out that the offered mo money was more money for our pimp, not for us. Instead of less tricks it was more. When we tried to object we got hurt.

The Soviet Union collapsed. Spain’s flirtation with anarchy fell into authoritarian socialism and after some bloodshed, came around to democracy as the least evil way to run a society. China is a mix of places. Where the party still dominates it is a shithole. Where capitalism has infested places like Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Shanghai these places have exploded in wealth and disparity. We are at a generational turning point where the old guard of the last century is dying and losing elections. Sorry to say it, baby-girl, but this is the beginning of something impossible to avoid.

It’s one of the freakish things about abusive relationships. The victim keeps going back and the abuse keeps escalating. The cycle is well known. Obama was an abuser. Sorry, that’s what his term in office felt like to me. He spoke sweet words, said a lot, but his outcomes hurt us. Each time he would promise to treat us better, do some therapy, be a better pimp, and beat our ass back into the hospital. All the while making sure that we were out in public looking fine as fuck.

After all that, and now that he is gone, we somehow forgot the abuse and want him back. If we can’t have him then we want his bitch-in-chief, Billary. None of what we said in the hospital to the social worker means shit now. Jimmy Choo’s y’know. He took our Jimmy Choo’s with him. We want our pimp back.

The press is doubling down on the propaganda of Pimp Daddy US. They insist that Pimp Daddy US’ story was accurate. It was one of fear, of an unspoken fist in our stomach if we got out of line. Pimp Daddy never hit us in the face or above the neckline. Nobody ever saw the scars. We had to bring him his money, after all. The scars are there. Our John’s saw them.

Now that we don’t have Pimp Daddy we don’t know how to live. Self reliance? What is that? We haven’t shopped for ourselves in Walmart in 8 years. The people who shop at Walmart are missing teeth and can’t speak proper English. You want that for us? We always went to Nordstrom to the personal shopper desk with Pimp Daddy’s card. He always ordered in from a stack of takeout menus. We got thick but he said he liked it.

He’s gone. We went to the doctor and doc says we are diabetic, have high blood, are ?!obese!? and could die if we don’t quit living this way. The HIV test was negative but doc wants to test us again in 6 months. Our pimp daddy god-king left us to go on vacation in Palm Springs. How could he?

Yes, self-reliance. change the things you can, let go of the things you can’t, and pray for the wisdom to know the difference. Nothing changes if nothing changes. We who spent time in meetings have a bunch of these. Change who you worship. Get a new god-king because the one in Washington D.C. dates “models” who turn up on porn sites. Melania is just a high-class mail order bride. Think what you will of the last 2,000 years of idiot followers of that martyred Nazarene carpenter. I’ll put my martyred carpenter up against Cheeto Satan Melanic Dumpf all day. We try to use foundation to cover the bruises but we are not so different from you.

Who would you give your fealty to? A magic brown man who didn’t care enough to shoot Cheeto Satan? Cheeto Satan himself? How about . . . that dead guy the Romans killed whose followers claim is still alive and conduct a cannibalistic ritual meal of his blood and flesh? Is fealty to him, to the Nazarene carpenter any less insane, less absurd than fealty to a rich John with a taste for expensive whores?

In an insane age, in an age where the dominant language is imagery and video, the image of the crucified Christ remains powerful and good. The cross makes sense in this bonkers shit show we were born into. Cheeto Satan will do whatever. The teeth knashing over his latest crime against socialism will continue until he leaves office.

For eight years I deepened my marriage to the cross. I prayerfully sought ways to serve my neighbor, my kin, and my enemies. I have been blessed to be granted chances to do small acts of kindness, sometimes with love, sometimes not. That doesn’t change because Pimp Daddy US is out of office and playing golf until winter break is over and his daughters have to come back to school. Cheeto Satan is just a side show as it concerns the practice of my faith.

Last year some protesters stood across the freeway and stopped traffic for half an hour. They wanted us to care about black people, to understand that black lives matter. Not more than a mile from their protest is public housing where numerous churches and NGO’s are working to get the residents out of there and into stable lives. It is hard, frustrating work that goes largely unnoticed. It is stunning to me that a dozen people would block traffic and claim that black lives don’t matter in complete ignorance of the work under way in Richmond’s public housing. This says a lot about the protest community.

Cheeto Satan? Whatever. Some of what he’s doing was going to happen either by intent or by disaster. Pimp Daddy built a house of cards that was going to collapse anyway. At least Cheeto Satan wants to take it down card by card rather than just let it collapse.


I’ll end here. If fear is a powerful force in your life then you have surrendered to a false-god. You worship a lie. God made you fearfully to love him more dearly. He loves you and wants you to thrive. There is no such thing as courage. Courage is what we say about someone who was terrified and did the needful. To conquer fear get a new god, a real god, who is love. The threat to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was not myth or an empty one. The miracle would be less amazing if it were not as the bible tells it. Yet these three men were willing to die for their faith. They risked death and found freedom. That’s an awesome god, way better than Pimp Daddy or Cheeto Satan.

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Felina Novella

#felinaramos. Felina Ramos is my own personal, IRL soap opera. She is my guilty pleasure. I unfollow her on Facebook and then lurk. Everything about she and I is trouble. Yet I still vacillate  between following her, ignoring her, lurking her and going back to following her.

Yeah, what now? Right. She puts a message out on her wall that after she has had some sleep she wants a ride to a fast food place. Her offer is to buy from the dollar menu and also pay for a meal for her driver. I said I could do better than that. All normal and not blog post worthy. This is Felina, though. I get there and unlike previous excursions she comes out the door shaking. There is a tempest alive in her house between her cousin, her auntie, and her. Cops have been called. Contraband hidden. 3 latina women in full battle mode doing their level best to tempt the other into a fight. Entertaining for me and sad to see.

The cousin is learning a hard lesson. Once you escalate to fists there isn’t much else you can escalate to and have the same effect. The next level up is bloodshed and either a combination of jail and hospital or the morgue. The cousin’s attempts at psychological warfare are falling flat. She’s already used the nuclear option so another nuclear option is greeted with, “meh.”

I spent a few minutes with Felina on the front lawn teaching her some basics of sword fighting that enable a warrior to be cold in the middle of a fight. Hollywood has orgasms telling pornographic depictions of war as passionate. Actors get to display great emotion, to *ACTING* on camera. It’s all bullshit. A good soldier is no more excited by battle than he is by his morning shit, shower and shave. This is achieved through training and some simple techniques. I showed Felina some of those techniques so she could sooth herself and be effective.

A little more about the technique. You have seen Bruce Lee and others go through dramatic motions and vocalizations to focus their energy. That’s for camera. The real technique isn’t obvious to those uninitiated. It also doesn’t stand out because a swordsman should live this way so that there is no shift between battle mode and life mode. It is the way he is. He is never not practicing bushido.

Back to Felina. After the cops came, after the cousin lost the momentum, we went to the bodega to make groceries. Felina is a hot mess. She is also a good catholic girl who can’t escape her confession of faith nor her anger at the church. Felina, when she begins to be attracted to a guy or a girl, has expectations of the prospective partner. One of them is that when she complains of being hungry said partner should offer to feed her. Whelp . . . the current bae is a very fashy boy. He is tall & skinny, olive toned, of non-obvious lineage, with sharp green eyes and fiercely blond, nappy hair. He favors androgenous fashion, mixing thick cowboy belts with leggings, ripped jeans and wildfang sweaters. He is also a rather fine snowflake, expert at the approved fashy signals.

So, we’ve all been there. You go to the kitchen, hung over, dreaming of a favorite cure, and upon a search of the cupboards, find that the cunt cousin has scarfed down what you had hoped to eat. Through the fog of the hangover you remember that you ended last night having to get the bae to pay for your Uber home because this week’s check got smoked on a bar tab. There was a fight with the bae because he was not being very copacetic and you were drunk. So, the refuge of a millennial, social media, becomes a place to shout out your annoyance and desperation. What’s the reply of all those fashy friends to your plight? “Wow, that sucks. Wish I could help but . . .” Bae isn’t returning your texts or replying to voice mail. A quick trod around the tubes turns up a thread on gab.ai where the bae is flirting with some yup bitch. Asshole.

Yeah, so . . . all that virtue signalling about the plight of the downtrodden and when one of ours is ass-out the sincerity is smoke on the water. This isn’t just a thing with the fashy protest crowd. My brethren, confessed Christians, do this. Actuality is scary. It threatens our bubble and we react by trying to push it away. Guys like my Uncle Gary and people like Felina, who are an affront to a few orthodoxies, at first generate an itch to shun.

My Jesus was a badass. He was a carpenter who ate with thieves. He did scandalous things that insulted the establishment of his day. I don’t hear him saying to me, “Wow, Felina is a handful, stay away from that mess.” No, he says to me, “learn to love her as I would love her. Serve her as I would serve her.” Ruh roh. That’s not inside my comfort zone. Watching three women go at it is not my idea of a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Listening to Felina hope that her cousin is arrested isn’t the sort of Gauloise fueled conversation I imagine I could have with a girl like Felina. Yet, here I am, leaning on the fender of my Impala, waiting for the storm to subside.

She had me on her front lawn and bae on the phone. Fashy boy was begging off. He had to work overnight at Denny’s and didn’t have any clean uniforms. The circle of friends she engaged with on social media evaporated as she posted about the fire fight under way between cousin and auntie. Everybody was broke, out of town, had to work, car trouble . . .

I did my small act of kindness with some love. I dunno about great love. Felina is on my list of folk who are a challenge to love. She is this big storm of hot mess that seems untamable. At the bodega she lit up buying Haitian items. I had a whole different list in my head when I offered to make groceries. No matter. Part of my task is to do these acts of kindness agenda free. It was illuminating to see what she bought.

On the way back she was negotiating a night away from the house. Bae wasn’t pleased. He didn’t get that a standard piece of advice is to stay away for a bit until things calm down. She was just going to drop the groceries and get a ride to the friend’s house. Cousin’s parting shot was a post on social media that Felina was trading nekkid favors for what I spent at the bodega. As if. But, in the hour since we left the cops had calmed things down and the auntie had started some red rice and stewed chicken. So, from my passenger window she said her goodbyes and went back inside.

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Money

1 Timotheum 6:10, “Radix enim omnium malorum est cupiditas quam quidam appetentes erraverunt a fide et inseruerunt se doloribus multis.”

Money is neither the answer nor the problem. It is not, by itself, the root of all evil. Money is how we have chosen to conduct our barter to acquire the things we want and need.

Deep in my genealogy is British landed gentry. When times were good and we hadn’t decided to tell the crown to piss off, we didn’t need a job. We had our estates and the staff that ran them. Life was good. Wealth wasn’t defined in terms of the fatness of our wallet. Wealth was defined in terms of your position and the health of your land. We had money but it wasn’t a primary occupation for us.

Then we sided with the more obstreperous minorities within the Reformation and began to insist that the king was apostate. Kings. Kings can kill you because they are the law. We would not shut up. So, out of mercy, the Dutch let us move to Holland. What of our land? Gone. Everything that gave us status was lost. But . . . we were fighting heresy, so we were good with it.

Much happens and we end up in two places, Plymouth, Maine and Jamestown, VA., where many of us die trying to farm strange land using seed and methods from our manner homes. It didn’t help that the staff we had back before our departure to Holland were the subject matter experts. Still, there were heathens to evangelize and a utopia to make. Plus, the King of England wanted us dead. The heathens only wanted us to leave them alone.

This falls to me as a presumption that I am entitled to a certain degree of deference and station. Which, I worked hard at shedding. I was successful enough that I’ve been broke most of my last 36 years with times when I’ve called a shelter home.

I hear this a bunch from some, “If I had money I’d be straight.” To which I want to start talking about the lottery winners and other windfall recipients who blow through the money only to find themselves worse off. Just having money isn’t the answer.

In Christian history are many who read Luke 9:3 and abandon everything for faith that God will provide. Todd White is part of a long tradition of ascetic Christians. Todd is one of the few who succeed at living on 5% of their income. He’s not as extreme as some of the Egyptian Desert Fathers who chose completely inhospitable land to locate their hermitages. It can be done. It is done. Could I do this? No. I’m too soft, too attached to my heritage.

Todd and other ascetics could not survive if there were not a much larger majority of dutiful working stiffs who faithfully tithe, do their annual two weeks of vacationary, serve on church committees and so on. For a time, it was a grudge I held against God that I wasn’t more like Todd. Why didn’t status fall from the sky? Why didn’t someone recognize how awesome I was? Why was I yet again elbow deep in a commercial pot-wash sink cleaning pots after a church supper? Don’t they know who I am?

Yes, they do. Which explains why I end up pot washing. An old aphorism, “Live on 80% of what you earn before taxes. 10% goes to charitable giving and the other 10% goes to savings.” Right. If I did that it would ruin my current financial habits. I could not live as I do on 20% less of what I make.

It is almost the end of 2016. My troubled relationship to money goes way, way back. Money for me, is for spending. A highlight of my week is the Saturday afternoon grocery run where I shop for what my heart desires. Within a few hours I have lots of stuff and less money. Like an old heroin addict I know I have a problem but keep being addicted because it is how I feed the monkey and avoid feeling sick.

I keep having the same conversation with a parade of kin and friends. They ask how much I make and how much my bills are. I answer and the stark truth is there is a wide gap of unaccounted money between what I make and what I say my bills are. My claims at being unable to tithe or save because I can’t afford it don’t ring true. With each conversation the kin or friend walks away suspicious that I am not being completely honest. I’ve been asked many times where the money goes.

You can ask me. I use Quicken diligently. I balance all my accounts to the penny. I make an effort at tracking how I spend my cash. I can almost answer the repeated question with some accuracy. Quicken in its own way embarrasses me because it too can’t figure why I finish each month scrambling to make the rent. It too, though inanimate, wonders where the money goes.

This is the time of the year when I feel the ache of my spendthrift ways rather acutely. I am scratching the itch to once again promise that next year will be different, again again times 36. Rather than iterate the same old tropes about Dave Ramsey‘s Baby Steps, Rockefeller’s 10/10/80, and others I’m spending these 1500 words confessing my failed habits with money.

And talking about some goals which will demand that I do what I have promised for almost 40 years—treat money as something to be saved. My rented house is valued at $33,000.00. Realtor.com pegged it’s sale price at $41,000.00 or so. That works out to around $370.00/month. I pay $600.00/month in rent. There is a lot of room for cost reduction if I am able to buy my house on a 15 year fixed rate mortgage.

All well and good. How much money do I have saved for this? You guessed it. 0 Zero Nada Nothing. Typical me. Great ideas, terrible follow through. And another thing. I like travel. I like the trips to Boston I’ve done for Chinese New Year. This year I am pulling this feat off in a last minute binge of cab driving on the weekends. Why haven’t I saved for this? You don’t know me well enough. I said it above, for me, money is for spending. One more. I ain’t so young anymore. It’s not that long before I am expected to quit my day job and live on my savings. My non-existent savings.

Ok, one trope, forgive me. Us who have hurts, habits or hangups have a high tolerance for pain. We continue our malfunction way past when most people would have sought help changing. It has to hurt bad enough that we are moved to not just initiate change, but stick with it. 36 years living this way is a lot of stubborn loyalty to being a spendthrift. So . . . saying here that 2017 will be different doesn’t mean much.

Rehab, hospital, jail, or all three repeatedly until something changes or the something that changes is a move to the morgue. There may not be as severe a risk with money that there is with other hurts, habits or hangups. Still, I’ve been homeless more than once living as I have. You would think I’d have ached bad enough to keep behaving better. You would think.

This week the press will exult in all the promises we make for 2017 that we made for 2016 and kept up for a month or so. Gym memberships will spike and then collapse by March. Some of us devote hours to lovely looking spreadsheets projecting great progress on our debt and spending habits which become so much bullshit almost as fast as we upload them to the cloud.

The end of this story can be told in two years. If, by then I have changed my ways and spent 24 months using money as something to be saved it will be a trend worth noting. It’s been almost 40 years like this. Two years of fiscal responsibility will be something radical for me. If I am only my past then in two years I’ll have yet more stories to tell of FUB‘s and near disasters as I keep doing the painful things I’ve done so far with my money. Mark your calendars. My history isn’t encouraging.

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Mincome

Salmos 84:3, “Señor Todopoderoso, rey mío y Dios mío,
    aun el gorrión halla casa cerca de tus altares;
también la golondrina hace allí su nido,
    para poner sus polluelos.

Sweet! I can live on the dole and pretend I am a writer who makes enough to support his addiction to useless work! Stellar. I love my fellow red-diaper babies. Especially the anarchist ones. We’ll tear down the government and make one of our own. The community will own everything. Everybody will be guaranteed a base salary regardless of whether they work or not. We’ll make education free. We’ll make health care free. We’ll eliminate income taxes. We’ll legalize all drugs, opioids, marijuana, all of it. Let’s make sex workers a protected class. LGBTQ Forever! We can set up houses all across the land where you can get your freak on and be stoned! Awesome!

Never heard of this? Think this is a pipe dream of a hippie wanna be millennial? News Flash, we did this. We hated it. What happens when you guarantee income to us, the dysfunctional end of the Bell Curve? Good things? No. We become more fucked up than we were before you made it possible us to expand our man-caves in our parent’s basements and buy better pajamas. If you haven’t noticed, dysfunctional people do dysfunctional shit. Giving us a monthly check just means we can do more dysfunctional shit. It’s awesome.

Mincome is a solution looking for a problem. It is an overly simple framing of the problem as lack of income. It ignores much about us, about people, especially my us, the dysfunctional at the scary end of the Bell curve. The potential for unintended consequences is stunning.

But, we have some who pitch ideas like mincome as the reasonable thing to do. These folk desperately cling to their pumpkin spice latte’s and Nordstrom credit cards (badly over their credit limit) and other social signals to prove that they are the good folk. Mincome is another way to signal that they care. And, after all, it is the strength of the caring signal that is the important thing.

One of Felina’s friends is like this. Felina met her at Stanford. She’s picture perfect NoCal grunge with a bit of goth added. Felina liked her because the girl had the best weed she’d ever smoked. Oh, oh, OH! you are horrified that a hot mess like Felina gets high? Just . . . go away. I’m not going to get dragged into a 1500 word rant that boils down to Nancy Reagan, “Just Say No.” I’m busy with another axe I want to grind. Y e e e s I am a Dad and I inhaled and now I don’t and as-far-as-I-am-concerned addiction is a deadly short game. B u u u t . . . this isn’t an anti-addiction rant.

Where was I? Oh. Felina’s friend, Inger (pronounced anger). No, I am not going to describe Inger’s age, hair, her figure, all that. There is enough free porn on the Intertubes that you can rub your sausage or clam without my help. Is she hot? Are you stupid? Inger is all about protests and grunge guys who claim they are musicians because they can crush Dragonforce’s, “Through the Fire and the Flames” in Guitar Hero. Inger is also, lately, off the radar doing another stint of rehab. Don’t get your hopes up. She drifts about various soup kitchens somewhat volunteering but mostly eating and live tweeting.

Inger is all about mincome. She totally cares about poverty and world peas. She’s punched a Planned Parenthood protester in the face more than once. After graduating from the county’s Anger Management class, twice. She also, before rehab, was depressed because she wasn’t able to get this year’s Nordstrom BP Cotton Anorak. Inger wants mincome for herself. And free mental health care, especially free mental health care. Legal weed, maybe also. Actually . . . legal weed first. Until rehab happened.

One of the many things that mincome ignores is something we Reformed Tradition Christians have heard all our lives, men are made for work. We don’t need more money or a guaranteed minimum income that means we don’t have to work. We need a cause to pursue, we need work. Not so we have access to necessary resources. It goes deeper than that. Idle men, especially idle young men, are fertile ground for trouble. Mincome takes away a key component of our reason for existence–our work.

Women are different. Women are made to help men love God more dearly. They are also the bulk of the work of birthing and raising the next generation. That secondary purpose, kids, is preoccupying for women. Women should and do work, but their two responsibilities mean that they are not first made for work in the same way that men are. I’ll grant you that for a woman, mincome can feel like a solid plan. Inger agrees.

These childish platitudes keep being pushed by left-wing media. Poor people? Give them money with no strings attached. Done. Hungry? Feed the hungry. Homeless? House the homeless. If we do enough of this we’ll accomplish an end to poverty, hunger, and homelessness. New Deal? New Frontier anybody? How about the Great Society? The War on Poverty? How is that working out? An unacknowledged elephant in your safe space is that simplistic solutions like this surface disastrous unintended consequences.

2 Tesalonicenses 3: “Porque incluso cuando estábamos con ustedes, les ordenamos: «El que no quiera trabajar, que tampoco coma.»”

Todo 2 Thessalonians 3 vale la pena leer. One of those unintended consequences is a non-verbal insult to men. Through mincome you are telling us that we can’t provide enough to our kin, that we are not enough. This is demeaning. So much so that our answer is to take your mincome and use it to run black market businesses where we can feel pride of ownership and the satisfaction of being providers to our kin.

We have dumped trillions in foreign aid into third world countries. These trillions have spawned countless acts of evil and corruption. Our trillions we intend for the poor and suffering enrich government bureaucrats and corrupt NGO’s. Yet we continue to be told that we are not doing enough, that we have to dump more cash into the life of that big eyed kid on TV because he or she is still miserable. And that the problem is that we are not trying hard enough. These Utopian fantasies of an end to misery will work if we just apply ourselves with enough due diligence. Did you fill your UNICEF box this Halloween? It’s not our fault that after 73 years these endeavors have entrapped those we sought to help. You really want Grandma to live on cat food? What’s your answer to a single mom with a dickface baby daddy? Grow a garden? Raise chickens? Seriously?

Yah, yah. All this government funded mercy does some good. Cities that have done, “Housing First” have had some success with it. You can listen to the Freakanomics story here: Most of the time when a story of this sort is aired it is presented as the most original, best idea ever. No one has ever thought of this. Why not just pay a guaranteed income to everybody? Poverty solved. I mean, what reasonable person would oppose that? Grandma could afford wet cat food.

But . . . whatever. Do it. Pay a guaranteed minimum annual salary of at least $40,000.00 with benefits. Give women free child care, free maternity leave, and 320 hours a year of paid time off. Ignore Cuba, the USSR, China, North Korea, Venezuela and others where such nonsense is the rule. Ignore the half-century of experience we have in this country with presidential initiatives like Roosevelt’s New Deal and Grandma Billary’s proffered Fair Deal. Us deplorables will happily use your benevolence as we have for most of a century. We’ll cash your checks and take that cash to the black market where we can get all our gluttonous heart desires. We’ll occupy ourselves with grey and black market businesses to give ourselves the work we can’t get because we accepted mincome. Thank you and please, may I have another?

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We Elected the Wrong Guy

It’s an itch we keep wanting to scratch. Dig Caesar out of his tomb and venerate his bones. It doesn’t matter whether you choose one of the two proffered candidates. Both of them are either greater or lesser minions of Rome.

This was our choice: a woman who is deeply connected to the establishment and operates an NGO which launders money or a billionaire pitching himself as an outsider because he’s never been a politician. We elected the billionaire. I voted for Dumpf. Why would I vote for the evilist of evil, evil, evil people, a rich capitalist pig whose ill gotten wealth comes from going bankrupt on other people’s money? I am supposed to understand that Dumpf is devil incarnate. Billary is a lovable fuzzball grandmother who just wants to make sure everyone gets their fair share. What’s crazy about that?

Dumpf won. There have been a string of narratives pitched regarding our new fearless leader since the election. The first was that he was a fascist bastard who was going to inter all the illegal aliens, make our gardeners and pool boys even poorer, steal food from the mouths of Appalachian babies and make Grandma survive on powdered milk and USDA bologna. Dumpf hates brown people so all brown people are even more deeply fucked than they were before the election. Brown people can help out by self-interring at the old camps from WWII. He is a real estate barron so obviously he hates the environment and we’ll all be dead from toxic waste before his term is up. Another one was that the Russians, those evil bastards, stole the election from Grandma Clinton. They hacked the voting system, they stole e-mails from her server and spread craptastic stories about influence peddling, an overly cozy relationship with Wall Street, and was secretly sex-trafficking in children sought by pedophile Oil Sheikhs.

This election taught me a couple things. First, we are nuts when it comes to choosing our leaders. We want childish, impossible things in our leaders. He has to be a man of the peeeeepul comfortable in a dive bar drinking light beer, plain spoken, wiser than Solomon, pious as St. Paul, mighty as Caesar Augustus, generous with free Cadillac’s and cell phones. He should be deeply steeped in the secular orthodoxies of the puritan left but not so wonky or stiff that he will enforce said ethics for everyone, just the enemies of the state. We want our leader to provide for us like a good pimp Daddy but not interfere when we decide to behave in transgressive ways. We want s/him to protect us from those who would perpetrate aggression, micro and otherwise, from those who behave in triggering ways while comforting us when our behavior has undesired consequences.

Second, we got played. It was a masterful checkmate. We could have voted for RayRoberta Bob. The establishment had a plan to co-opt s/him and stay firmly in control. It did not matter who we voted for. They had us at P-Q4. The massive civil service bureaucracy housed in the Executive Branch was going to ensure continuity of power regardless of whether Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Cruz, Dumpf, Sanders, Billary or my favorite drunk alien, RayRoberta Bob won. Us who voted for Dumpf did so because we hoped it would communicate to congress and the bureaucracy that we were tired of the last century of rinse repeat.

I’ve been shut up. My usual narratives that align to some degree with the orthodoxy of conservative talk radio have been shook up. It’s a depressing thought, that hope & change by way of Washington D.C. is a non-starter. I hate the idea that we are not so different from Russia. You can elect anyone you want to be Prime Minister of Russia. He or she will still be a dictatorial bitch unsympathetic to your anxieties about the fate of Monarch Butterflies and Appalachian children. Dumpf turns out to be a kinder, gentler grandpa who wants to fiddle with the edges of our government but otherwise leave it be. Checkmate.

There is such a love-fest afoot with the press and the Obummers. It’s the sort of adoration I associate with socialist dictators in places like Asia or South & Central America. The fear and loathing seems to be a reaction to Grandma Billary’s failure to continue the dynasty attempted by the Obummers. The populist grandma telling us that she is the reasonable one who will fight for the little guy, protect the snowflakes from their own bad behavior and make those evil capitalist pigs pay their damned fair share.

It feels to me like a freed slave who stands in the middle of the road across from his former home on the plantation and realizes freedom is disruptive. He wasn’t free a moment ago before he was handed his papers. A moment ago his life was clear. He knew his fate, knew how he’d get his needs met. It was a familiar devil. Now, papers in hand, nothing is assured. He has to fend for himself. He has no income, nothing to assure his reason for existence or a purpose to pursue. Rick Warren’s book was 140 years in the future.

For some, this was exciting. It was a victory. For others it was disaster. Say what you want about the oppression contained in tenant farming in the south. Not everyone alive in the 19th century antebellum south was happy to be free. Ditto the Obummers. We have folk who are getting attention because what they wanted was a coronation of Obummer and if they couldn’t have that, an election victory that continued the Clinton Dynasty.

We have had authoritarian and socialist government since at least 1913. My ancestors were subjects of the British Empire. They were not all fervent supporters of throwing over King George. The argument over liberty vs. safety is as old as our republic. We started out hating any hint of imperialism. Our distaste for kings has diminished in the centuries since . The trend has been toward increasingly large, ineffective and authoritarian government for at least a century. Caesar is going to rise out of his tomb and be restored to the new empire soon enough. It seems to be what we want.

I voted to prevent what I didn’t want. The Supreme Court is short one justice. The choice of replacement was going to go to either Grandma Billary or Dumpf. Dumpf won. Obamacare is a growing nightmare being exploited to increase the intrusion of government into our lives. The snowflakes are winning the propaganda war and so the expectation is that we will comply. We want energy independence but it can’t come at the price of harming the butterflies or Native Americans. All perfectly reasonable and fair.

Jesus was not reasonable or fair. His message threatened the status quo within the Middle East and Jewish people. Authority came from God directly to the disciples of Christ. We didn’t need intercessors or interpreters of the Torah to facilitate our relationship to God. Caesar was cut out of the picture. The Levites were superfluous. Our rights, our laws, came directly from God the Father through his son, Jesus of Nazareth. These are troublesome words for the establishment of Christ’s day. Troublesome enough that he was crucified.

Empires fall. All of them. Ours is an empire made of a revolution 227 years old. We are fabulously successful. There is no empire in history with greater wealth and military might than ours.

Empires fall and tomorrow happens. Empires fall and there are survivors. Those that remain have to do the needful because their count of sunrises has not run out.

So . . . what? Anarchy? Anarchy is a foolish lie. Anarchy as currently promulgated means the anarchist can dictate the rules on his or her whims while being insulated from the consequences. It is how we self-governed before we had to deal with other kids and out of the purview of our parents. Though we are losing our distaste for imperialism it isn’t gone. Some of us hunger for god and express our appetite through electing authoritarian figures like Grandma Billary and Dumpf. Socialism? Hitler was a socialist before he took a hard turn into genocidal dictatorship, remember? Still, the reflexive answer remains, “certainly not! We don’t want a god-king, king or anything like that. We are a democracy!

Might I suggest something? When our desires for a leader are crazy/absurd an absurd leader becomes the reasonable choice. Who do I think an absurd leader is? Dumpf, perhaps. We shall see. Grandma lost, so that’s not going anywhere. What about that guy, the Nazarene Carpenter of two thousand years ago, who was martyred by the Romans? What about him? I mean, he’s been dead for a while so there is no danger of him getting caught diddling kids or accepting bribes from Wall Street Bankers. He and his followers are pretty crazy, so perhaps hungering after a resurrected dead guy as a leader isn’t any less crazy than having a hard on for Grandma.

Hope and change cannot be found in the temples worshiping our secular gods of democracy. Hope and change is where it has been for a couple thousand years. The Nazarene carpenter’s disciples still follow him. They named themselves Christians. You know them. They are your neighbors. Rather than pray to the false god kings of Washington D.C. go visit one of those churches in your town. Don’t pray. Not yet. Talk to the people at the church. Share your story. Volunteer a bit–something small that can be completed in an hour or two. This is a long game that won’t pay off right away. It does pay off. The anecdotal proofs of how it pays off are numerous and reach back millennia. Ask one of those Cheezus Freak people you see at that church.

King Jesus is an absurd and wonderful monarch. The beauty of naming Jesus as king is that he is dead. It ends up at not having a king or queen, a good thing. Ditto saying that the resurrected kingdom and temple lives in our hearts. I’m counting down my remaining 12,000 sunrises. Hopefully this house of cards we have will stand. Merry Christmas!

 

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Knowing You


The last question in the Explore God series was, “Can I know God personally?” There is no reasoned answer to this question. That said, nearly 500 years of Calvinist tradition says, yes, yes you can. With something like this, though, tradition and reason are not enough. You either feel it as a yes or you don’t.

First, our pastor Sarah Marsh, said this in her sermon. Next, my first reflex was to say, no you can’t know God personally. The God I know is a jealous god. He is uncompromising in his demand for surrender and devotion. If you want to know Jesus a lot of the life you have now is going to die. Remember, this is a god who launched a new kingdom by being martyred.

Another reason you can’t know God personally is modern science. Jesus is booga-booga-booga weird. We tell people that they have to die to live, to give to get, serve to be served, be a servant to lead. Being Christianity is living in a topsy-turvy world where Carol’s Wonderland is not strange. A lot of the Bible is starkly bonkers. Knowing God is the realm of the heart. If you try to bring empirical reasoning to understanding God your head will hurt. God isn’t reasonable. He is reliable. To know God you have to surrender some of that itch for utopia we get from my Puritan ancestors and some of that surety that through science we can understand how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

Next, I was raised in the church. I’ve been saved longer than I’ve not been. I’m not perfect, far from it. Dig far enough back in this blog and you’ll find plenty that I have had to apologize for. I spent some of my youth accusing my Dad and the church of various high crimes and misdemeanors. For a time I knew God as a stern taskmaster who disapproved of me and my behavior. It hasn’t been that long since I surrendered deeply to God.

img_jesusWhich, sort of makes me the worst one to write about this. I already believe. I know God, know Jesus. It took me a while to come around to this. I was/am a fan of apologia, of criticism of the church. Damned hypocrites, look at them.

You are going to hear all the standard answers from ordained graduates of seminary. They studied hard and I applaud them for their hard work and consequent knowledge. Their answers are worthy. Mine is not. Mine is the answer of a cantankerous man who wasn’t always this devoted to God. Mine is a lifelong relationship that has swelled and faded. God never stopped knowing me nor loving me. It is I that have shunned him at times then come home like a repentant prodigal son.

When, for the first time in my twenties I quieted down and started to listen, God had some stuff for me to do. First, shut up. No, really, be quiet. Next, all my bluster about how no one is doing anything for that little kid I saw on TV growing up, the one staring up at the camera with big eyes, God said this, “You do it.” Me? Help? When I am a wretch? When I am the one entitled to being protected from my own hot mess, coddled and spoon fed. Yep, I am to do it. I and all the other hot messes that came to Jesus.

The creator of the Universe talks to me, to this hot mess. I hear voices, hear His voice. Crazy, right? Yep. I’ve heard him since the age of 14 when he appeared to me in a vision I had while praying at summer camp. Though, his voice isn’t the lovable, round Pappa I want him to be. He’s a carpenter. He’s short, brown-skinned, curly haired and a bit thick by modern standards. His language is rough. He knows me so when I try to game him it doesn’t take him long to checkmate me. He’s the one that was in my head cussing me out when I complained yet again that I was out of gas, out of money, out of cell-phone minutes, without even change for the parking meter. He was the one laughing at me when lately I tried to catch a kitten and failed in entertaining ways.

I can’t make you agree that you can know God personally. I can only tell you that I have come to count him as an intimate friend. Know this, I tried other ways of living. I tried to keep God out of my head. All those years of Sunday School, my baptism, catechism class and the many books I’ve read and still, there is no place like my usual spot on the left side of the sanctuary, toward the front, singing hymns badly and listening to Keith and Sarah and others talk about Jesus.

The third thing God asked of me is to work for change within the church. This means I had to sign up for the full program. I am responsible for my own worship, prayer, tithe, study and service. I have to show up. Beyond that, I have to participate. Beyond that I have to contribute. Beyond that I have to serve, to serve without hope of return or desired outcome. Out of these five responsibilities I have built my relationship to God, to Jesus, to know Him. And out of *that* I can become a voice for change within the church.

Husbands know this. Many times the sexiest thing a man can do for his wife is dishes. Families are hot beds of chaos and strife. The kids are taxing, the workload withering, the ways it fails constant and numerous. Into that a guy tries to hug her and ask for a little affection. One more demand of her, one more too much. But, he’s entitled, right? It’s all over the Bible, that guys come first, get served, helped by their wives. Uhm, actually . . . no. Knowing God is a kind of death to all that came before, all that binds us to the worries of the world. Dishes are the least of it. And . . . if you remember, it is Adam that is cleaved to Eve and her family, not the other way around.

God is in some ways, a jealous husband and we are his bride. He demands that we give and give and give and it just doesn’t seem to be fair. He is demanding, his people are hotbeds of chaos and strife. Church people are taxing, the commitment withering, the ways that sin intrudes are constant and numerous. Into that arrives you, full of anguish and hope that this Jesus thing could work out for you, with your one more demand too much. Yet these Jesus people seem to be crazy in love with an absurd God. Either they are nuts (we are) or there is something to this God who does a reset by dying.

The central narrative, metaphor for life in Reformed faith is the cross. It is in death and resurrection that we find our knowledge of God and a life as a disciple of Christ. Our greatest heroes are those who made deep sacrifices, even unto death. So, I almost don’t want you to know God. You have to be ready for this. You have to risk your life to gain it. The prayer itself is trivial. Altar calls are ecstatic experiences for some. I worry about the commitment, the days after, the work of being in a relationship with God. All five of my responsibilities involve sacrifice of some sort. Are you ready for this? Are you ready to die on the cross to be reborn stripped naked and having to start over?

I’m really good at words. I’ve been in enough therapy, sat through enough Sunday School classes, that I can confess like the best. It’s all a front, though. My slings and arrows flown against the church accusing it of hypocrisy said a lot about my own life. God took me all the way to the street and to jail. He met me in my truck, out of gas, out of money, out of cell phone minutes, homeless, a convicted wife beater, in a phone call with a cocaine addict who wanted a ride to the grocery story. Boom.

If you are ready, cool. There are plenty who will welcome you and become your family in Christ as you live this new life. It doesn’t have to be me. Most Sundays you can find me in my usual spot, singing praise songs badly at St. Giles church. If you do choose me, beauty. We can walk together as we live out our promise to be a disciple of Christ.

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