Even Churches Die

Horses know that old hay is no good. Why do we hoard old, moldy hay like it was more precious than gold?

Even Churches Die. One change to my writing is that Yoast SEO likes it if the “slug” the name of the blog post, appears near the start of the post. It makes the software happy. The software also has opinions on what makes my work easy to read. The software and I disagree. It wants a style of writing taught in Freshman English 1A. Yeah, so . . . sorry, no. If I comply I am promised more eyeballs, a good thing. Yes, even churches die. It’s not something that we want to think about. We want our churches to be eternal. We don’t want them to die.

They do die, though. The church dies and is reborn. This cantankerous rebellion started by a martyred carpenter from the ghetto in Nazareth follows the narrative of its founder. It dies and is reborn. If the first death were the end we would not be over 2,000 years into our dispute with Judaism. Over two millennia and we can count billions as followers of that no-account, troublemaking rebel who overturned tables in the temple and chased people with a whip. Although churches die Jesus of Nazareth continues to attract new followers. Crucifying him just made it go viral.

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This story was fact checked by the Journalistic Integrity Committee of the Peoples United Democratic Free Anarchist Republic of Berkeley and rated, “pants on fire”.

There are two services at my church. The early one is a traditional service like I grew up with. The hymnal contains nothing newer than a hundred years ago. It is Catholic Mass denuded of everything the Protestants believed was not Biblical. It is the liturgy of my youth. I have no truck with it. It’s fine.

The other service, the contemporary service, would have my Puritan ancestors declaring us apostate. There is *dancing* and singing and short skirts and boys in tight t-shirts, practically naked by 17th Century standards. At full song the service is hot and sweaty. We have amplified voices, electric guitars, electric pianos and a trap drum set. It is the furthest thing from what my ancestors considered to be pure faith.

There is a stark contrast between the earlier traditional service and the later contemporary service. I went to the 9:30 service two weeks ago. It felt like an unending dirge mourning another moldy scarecrow buried. Weddings among this clique are rare and wakes are frequent. Compare the early service to 11:00am when we raise the roof. There is life. There is noise. People pray loudly. I’ve seen friends fall out full of the spirit. There are new people showing up. New kids trailed by young parents. It is as alive as the earlier service is morbid.

We have an awesome building. Our pastor is everything we wished for when we called him. The associate pastor is awesome. We have great music, do the worship thing well. We do all the things you expect and yet our membership is declining. We are dieing. The traditional service is not gaining new members. Something has to give or we are dead.

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Northminster Baptist Church was a fixture on the Richmond religious scene for over six generations. Old in this country is anything older than a generation. Six generations is positively immortal. Northminster Baptist Church died. It is no more. What killed it? A wealthy, dedicated minority who controlled the leadership and vowed to die before they allowed necessary changes. They kept their vow. They and the church they led is no more.

Every Sunday at 10:30am at 3121 Moss Side Avenue in Richmond, VA there is raucous worship.The Northminster Campus was a sorry mid-century corpse until it was given to Atlee Community Church. Today it is reborn.  The old pipe organ was given away to another church that wanted to appease scarecrows insistent on remaining Orthodox Baptist. Where the pipes were are large flat panel televisions. The pews are gone, donated to still another church that has a majority zombie leadership. In their place are stackable chairs. There is a rock band. There is that revival feeling to the worship service. They do an altar call at every service. It’s a completely different church. It is alive. It is disruptive, seditious, temple table turning crazy for the scarecrows and zombies. I love it.

More crucial to me are the reasons Northminster died. Northminster scarecrows were old money Democrats who built a legal fortress around their church to protect themselves from intrusion by outsiders. The deeds to the houses had red-lining clauses in them preventing the sale to anyone not part of the inner circle. These wealthy Baptists were a fountain of evil against a city that is one corner of the slave triangle and was once one of the largest slave markets in the South. Underneath all that holy ghost stuff was racism of a truly ugly sort. They survived long after Kennedy was shot. For them, nothing would change until they died. Yep, that’s how it went.

Today in the room they protected from outsiders there are colored folk of every stripe learning how to get a job. Most of them are exactly the kind of undesirables that the old guard kept out. Mind you, these are the good Baptists who have done everything right, went to good schools, graduated from good colleges, had the usual upper-middle class professional careers. They ran the PTA and the boy & girl scout troops. In every respect they are the heart of the country. Except . . . their NIMBY created a deeply evil racist attitude toward their neighbors exactly against what Christ taught. I’m glad they died. It was time.

That room is filled with the sort of “go fishing together” local missions deeply resisted by the scarecrows. Missions was a two week trip to Central America to build a chapel and save souls. The rest of the year it was another check written for the special offering that week. Locals needed to get themselves to the altar and beg for a fish. They were a Feedmore.org distribution site. Missions was something done to others so they could signal their virtue. They had the ability and felt obligated to fulfill perceived needs.

St. Giles is at a crossroads. We are Northminster about a decade before it died. We have enough scarecrows in key leadership positions that making necessary changes is hard. Our scarecrows have threatened to leave us and take their money with them. We don’t know how we can pay our bills without them so the threat carries some weight and we still do things to appease them that put us in compromising places.

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We don’t know how this ends. Jesus was such a threat to the church of this day that they had him killed by the Romans. At the start we were an annoying band of dissidents who seemed to be of no-account to Caesar. Four centuries later Constantine was so desperate to win a battle he offered himself and the Empire to God if God would grant him this victory. Constantine got his victory and the Empire was never the same. Everywhere scarecrows try to hold on to last year’s dessicated hay as the only hay they will fill themselves with. Jesus is holding the gates of heaven open and burning the the old hay. Jesus has never stopped being a change agent, a maker of new hay.

I hope the scarecrows die off. We can’t survive as a church with them and we are afraid we won’t survive without them. The one certain thing is that they are old and musty and the hay that stuffs them full is moldy and decaying. They will die. We won’t have them or their estates forever. Nothing is immortal.

St. Giles is younger than Northminster by a half century. We are over 75 years old. We are old enough that our founding members are going home to Jesus at an increasing rate. The memory of why we left Grace Covenant Church and much later, why we joined the split from the Presbyterian Church of USA is so yesterday. We are not yet zombie old. We are close, though, and our scarecrows seem set on having their old ways, old hay even to the death of us.

To be Christian is to agree to let die the aspects of ourselves that are out of kilter from what Jesus taught. Death to this world is a part of life in Christ. This means that the old scarecrows, if they are to have their church, must find ways to recruit new, young members and hand over the reigns. This is never easy. Those rascally youngins want all this change and innovation and there is always tension between tradition and necessary disruption to the old order.

Time will tell. We might still be a church if we are able to let the old scarecrows die, if they will surrender to inevitable change. If not, we will join the many churches that once had a heyday and now are legend and ruins.

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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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You Need Me

First Posted 15-Jan-2015

So, I nicknamed somebody, “SumYung HotTea” to make a point. The character was a collage of folk I’ve known. I thought I was done with her. Not. It’s never good to try and go blow for blow with a writer who owns a domain. This is why: This medium, blogging, thrives on conflict and strife. Being an ass in this space draws attention. Attention draws page views and drives traffic. Traffic makes me money. So, there is no reason for me to be reasonable here. Sending me nominally private communications on Facebook is almost guaranteed to get you written about here. Odds improve greatly if you argue with me. This is my turf. It’s my sandbox. I get to be as much of an asshat as I want.

You Need MeWhat prompted this? A note from SumYung HotTea that I need her. That actually, the things I said I didn’t value in her were things I should like about her. And the thing I thought was good was an attribute she didn’t care about. Right.

I need a dry drunk/addict lesbian with a huge idea that she’s good at things that are supposed to be hot. Good at sex? No. Good at house cleaning? No. I had to clean my house after she cleaned it. Good at . . . art? Music? Writing? Yeah, uhm, let me think . . . No. Can she cook? She cannot. Knows how to make Chinese tea? Not even. Hold a conversation? Sure, if you want to talk about drinking, getting high, lesbian sex, or Tupak and speak in monosyllabic slang punctuated with, “Feel me?” Feel her? Eew.

I’m running out of positives here. I need her for . . . what? I do have core beliefs. Bad or good, I have them. One of them is that for a relationship to work there has to be empathy. There has to be a sense that both parties would do self-sacrificial stuff for the other without hope of return. That it isn’t a barter, where there isn’t some sense of mercantile interest in the transaction. Not, “if you’ll take care of me I’ll do stuff for you.” Do what? Clean my house? Bump uglies? Feel her? Yeah, how about . . . no. Another belief is in humility, in selfless surrender to the relationship. I’ve become as healthy as I am, and I am far from healthy, because of a long string of sacrifices to God of the hurts, habits & hangups which have kept me from Him. Putting someone in my life who does not compromise, does not sacrifice anything to God or anyone else, would be painful. It’s so not hot.

I come from a family who does not compromise Our currency is long, intense, faux psychoanalytical conversations about what’s wrong with so and so. We believe that the world is messed up and we would be better off if it’d just stick to our orthodoxy. This next relates, work with me: my aunt asked my granddad, her father, why he never complimented the performance of my cousin. He replied that our family does not praise each other because it’d give us a swollen head. Maybe so, but a multi-generational diet of words about what’s wrong with us, with our family and the world, and a stipulation that the answer is to adhere to our orthodoxy, doesn’t set a course for healthy relationships.

My grandfather would not listen to any suggestion that you could puff & dry fruit without oil. He argued with us when we told him painting the interior of his contraption with lead paint made it useless for cooking fruit in oil in a vacuum that people would buy to eat. It’s part of our family insanity. More people like that, who have no room for me in their life unless I understand they are right? I’ll pass.

SumYung HotTea sends me a message and blow for blow, debates each of the elements of my message intending to set expectations. She tells me why my expectations, my hopes for the friendship need to be what she tells me they will be. Why? Why would I go back into a relationship where I have to fight for simple basics like empathy? Why be friends with someone who goes quiet when I tell her I only have $4.00 and tries to reschedule for Friday when I get paid? How is that a reason to fantasize about her naked? Maybe a couple decades ago, maybe when I’d rub uglies together with anyone that would rub uglies with me, today? Nope.

It’s the other way. I’m the one with the domain, the running web site, the sandbox in which folk can play. I have a house where so far, the bills are getting paid. I have a car I don’t owe money on. I was born a citizen so the INS is just a far off, faint aspect of my government. Relative to her, I’m rich. It’s what I have that is attractive, not what I am. I had that in with the wife I left. Wife 2.0 will love me for what I am, for who I am, not just for what I have. SumYung HotTea, as I listed above, she’s got nothing for me. Here I am trying to bury the ghost of Webb’s past with the stuff about my grandfather and this, a woman so like us, so like the worst of our craziness, making the case that I should be happy to rejoin the mess I’ve tried so hard to heal because I need her. Yeah, I need her like I need bullet wounds.

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Forgiveness is Work

#johnk. My buddy and I were kicking around the various malfunctions we suffer from/through with our kin. His Dad somehow picked up the “go away/come here” tactic of some women. It is a core belief of his that any relationship that feels like it is in “come here” mode will flip to “go away” mode right ricky-tick. So much so that he almost needs a friendship to swing between moments of closeness and moments of distance. He also talked about the substantial list of “‘spose to’s” that his brother has. His brother, then, spends a fair amount of time being frustrated because the world/people/God doesn’t come correct and do things the way they are supposed to. His family also seems to suffer from “last word” disease. This is where you can’t end any conversation with the other party unless they have the last word.
missouri-black-eyed-susanFor my part I talked about our family believing that we know what’s wrong with you and that we also know what you should do, what you are supposed to do, to fix what ails you. We are quite sure that if you’ll do it our way everything will be fine. Also my Dad’s habit of saying something provocative for his own amusement at the rise he’s able to get out of you. I carried into adulthood a core belief that I was the sacrificial lamb that needed to die so the family’s sins could be atoned for. A sacrificial lamb who became a sheep who liked the color black and has an abiding suspicion of overarching orthodoxy. Tell me the price of friendship is adherence to your orthodoxy and I tend to want to fight about it. Becoming a disciple of Christ took some doing. I had a lot of forgiving to do.

The conversation came around to forgiveness. I’m all about mercy and compassion because it is what has kept me out of jail. If I don’t forgive, don’t remain merciful to my ex-wife, I probably would be in prison and she would be dead. My son would lose his mother and his father, one to the grave and the other to the prison system. My son’s Mom is alive and well and living in Henrico, VA because I made a practice of being compassionate.

My friend was struck by these words: “forgiveness is work.” I said it because as many times as I have forgiven my ex-wife and for all the years we have been apart, I still get triggered and find myself reliving old bitterness. I have to forgive her again, pray again, do the things I’ve done for fourteen years to keep my heart pointed toward Christ again. I’ve gotten better over these years. I can do this in seconds where it used to take me several hours. Still, I am never done with the work of being compassionate, of loving my enemies. Forgiveness is still work for me. I used to believe it was a one & done sort of thing. You said the words and it was over. You said, “I forgive you.” and the power of the egregious event is gone. Then I met my ex-wife, who has a remarkable talent for holding the emotional weight of an egregious event far longer than I thought was possible.

When we separated I found that it wasn’t enough to offer an apology once, to say I forgave her once. I still felt the hurt of our destructive relationship, separation and eventual divorce. I had to do it again, do the work again, so that I could stay spiritually healthy. It wasn’t a one & done sort of thing. I’m still working at it. So far, it doesn’t look like I’m done. I’m better at it than I was fourteen years ago. But stuff happens and the work I’ve done evaporates and I find myself repeating prayers I thought I’d finished with. Still, practice has made things better. Over the years there is less that truly unbalances me and I find it easier to rebalance and refocus on Christ. If there is any message it is that you shouldn’t give up if an ill wind blows apart your life and you have to repeat the work of being/becoming compassionate. Keep at it. Things do get better.

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Not My Happy Place

First Posted 04-Jul-2015

This week, the Supreme Court passed down decisions on ObamaCare and Gay Marriage. A lot of people are celebrating both. I am not. I’ve been waiting to hear from Eugene Lefkowitz, figuring he’d gloat. He did. The e-mail came today: “I”m SOOOO happy right now you just don’t know. I was at the White Horse until it closed and then finished the night at the Steamworks. I’m not the marrying kind, feel me. But for those that want a ball & chain, this is great news. Me? I had a room at the Steamworks and relaxed with a couple friends until sunrise.
patriotic drag queenPredictably, once I hinted that I oppose same sex marriages, the pushback arrived. I said on my Facebook page that I was afraid of what will happen now that the Supreme Court has made same sex marriages legal in all 50 states. My biggest fear was an attack on our First Amendment right to speak out against popular opinion. We are not free if the majority can impose its opinions on the minority. For those that are nodding their heads as they read this, I don’t mean that we Christians can force our opinions and way of life on those who don’t live by our Orthodoxy. I mean we are not free if the majority who believe that same sex relationships should be legal can use that sanction to marginalize those of us who disagree.

This is what I said on Facebook: “SCOTUS care and gay marriage. We are so screwed. Please, no more trying to tell me that this is about being fair, about being free. It’s still true—if you are an African American lesbian woman, you are golden. Everybody else is a hater. And I, WASP, middle aged, born of white privilege, should just gather my last meal of earthworms and start digging my own grave. Land of the free? Right.”

My aunt read my post on Facebook and replied (paraphrasing): “Sure, you’re free to believe that same sex marriage is wrong. Don’t do it. But we’re not free to impose our beliefs on others. I believe that the NRA has perpetrated wrongs on us by encouraging gun ownership. More people in the US have been killed by guns than by being gay, unless they’ve been shot by a gay hater. . . Whatever you’re thinking, I’ve most likely heard it before, age wise. The most enlightening exercise I subjected myself to was a deliberate examination of my own beliefs in relation to those of biologists and Neo-Darwinian theories. Have an argument with God. You’ll be wiser and happier.”

I am not free, as a white, middle-aged man, to have my opinion that same sex relationships are wrong, without incurring the wrath of those who believe these relationships are acceptable. I am accused of using my white-privilege to abuse the oppressed LBGT simply because I oppose their choice of partner. We are not free as a nation if there is only one legal orthodoxy accepted as proper. It does us no good to bless those who say same-sex relationships are acceptable and punish those who disagree. We have become, then, a kingdom where free speech isn’t truly possible.

Our constitution has become worthless. The law becomes what our leadership says it is. Without some sort of moral, spiritual guide to help us sort out in and out-of-bounds behaviors & choices, everything is in-bounds. You can’t arrest anyone for a crime because the law has become a farce. You can’t have a trial because the rule of law has become impotent. A horse can be a senator. We have then instead of anarchy, allowed ourselves to be seduced by liars who claim to want more freedom while simultaneously making into law a set of morals far stricter than what these morals replaced accompanied by punishments far worse.

I said this in another post and repeat it here, “Instead of a martyred Nazarene carpenter born out of wedlock we have a magic brown man from the South-side of Chicago. This is a too oft narrative of so many revolutions. The rebels win, take control, and end up being worse than those they overthrew. That’s one premise. Here is another, within every anarchist is a control freak. It’s not that they don’t want any rules. They want their rules instead of the existing rules. Those that lay claim to openness and freedom are just annoyed at the existing rules and want the game changed so they can have their rules instead.”

This is what I mean when I say the only free people will be African-American lesbians. Everybody else is in trouble. Over 400 years ago my ancestors left Europe seeking to escape persecution by the kings of the day. They came here and slowly built a new home, a new nation where the right to free speech and the freedom to practice one’s religion were established in the constitution. It took 189 years to make this happen. Now, in less than 8 years, all of that has been deemed to be stupid. It’s so yesterday, so not cool anymore. In its place is a President who does not care about the rule of law, an Executive Branch so large it is in effect, a fourth branch of the government, and a Congress and Supreme Court unwilling to defy his will in any substantial way. It is the 16th century again and being Christian is once again a reason to be worried about ones safety. This is progress.

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I Want to be a Redneck

First Posted 18-Feb-2015

I’m not from Richmond, VA. I’m from Turnersville, NJ in Whitman Square. I grew up with a lot of Eastern European and Italian families who didn’t seem to need a day job. There were a lot of Cadillac’s and nice German sedans in the driveways of my neighbors. My Dad was a bit of an oddball, with his job designing power supplies for main-frame computers, his love of Mexican food, and his fondness for the Beach Boys. His beloved Chevy II station wagon was a bit low-brow for our neighborhood. His adopted home didn’t quite get his fashion choices—the turtleneck sweater and pocket protector—very cool for Berkeley, CA in the ‘50’s but out of place in Whitman Square.

redneck-womanI am not an expert on what makes a redneck. Even my Scots/Irish heritage doesn’t help, complicated as it is by marriage to the daughter of a Russian Jew and an old money Yankee. But, lately, certain politicians have taken to battering rednecks as no account, stupid Luddites who cling to their guns & religion. I just posted an anti-racism rant that should bring warm fuzzies to my Peepulz Demokratik Republik of Bezerkeley friends. It is one of those pieces of orthodoxy you have to plant your flag on to be included as one of the good guys in that clique. A laughing mockery of rednecks as backward racist hicks who stupidly stick to outdated tradition is another tick-mark on the checklist. If being a redneck means:

  • Honoring Tradition.
  • Honoring Thy Father & Mother
  • Honoring God and Country
  • Owning, and properly using weapons for self-protection and hunting. Yes, weapon. Any of our soldiers will tell you that your genitalia is your gun. The AR-15 you have in your hands is a weapon, not a gun. Get it straight. Gun control means controlling where you put that genitalia–a good idea.
  • Owning and caring for land that provides for my family
  • Delighting in good music and dance
  • Enjoying arts & crafts as a natural part of daily life
  • Telling great stories, old and new
  • Making Moon-shine
  • Being suspicious of needless government

Here, I’ll say it in French so the folk in Berkeley will think it’s cool: “Si je suis à étiqueter, un redneck racistes stupides pour les attributs ci-dessus alors je veux être un plouc. Si je perds lecteurs et sont rejetés pour les 10 qualités ci-dessus alors je veux être un plouc. Je ne gagne rien en essayant de tenir dans une foule qui prétend être de la diversité et pourtant me fuit parce que je ne rentre pas leur modèle superficielle du prolétariat. Si je fuyais et étiqueté un redneck parce que je ne pas génuflexion devant une statue de Mao cinq fois par jour alors je veux être un plouc..” I read the FoxFire magazines as a kid. I loved them. I loved it that there were folk who didn’t need everything we had in our Whitman Square home to have a good life. I still do. I wasn’t born a redneck. A lot of what characterizes a redneck are qualities I admire and try to embody. I’d like that to mean that I can deemed to be a redneck. Even if it means being shunned (again) by my PDRB friends.

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The Coming Storm

This originally posted on Halloween 31-Oct-2015.

The stream of news is ceaseless. Picking a bit of it to write about feels overwhelming. A few weeks ago it burst forth in a spew about another mass shooting and the requisite call for more gun control. I still have that post sitting in my queue. It hasn’t posted because I don’t want to just fall into line and be another member of the chorus singing my part in the predictable propaganda either side of the issue. I want something to say that is better than, “no more guns” or “MORE GUNS!“. Two weeks ago I thought that meant research. I’m kind of over that idea. Now I’m in prayer trying to decide what I want to say. If you must know, I’m not a fan of increasing gun control.

tyler_tx_rosegardenThis morning I am writing this from Tyler, Texas, where there are flash flood warnings. We are fine. Our hotel is on a hilltop. The worst of it for us is puddled roads that could cause hydroplaning if we drive too fast. I sort of feel like the weather matches my mood.

Two weeks ago I had an amazing time with my son celebrating his birthday (10/14) and mine (10/9). We shopped a bit. I got myself a charcoal grill, an iron and a microwave. October makes a year at the house I rented. I finally feel safe buying things you would buy for a house. If you follow me you’ll know I’ve been down & out as well as on the rise. The fear that I could be down and out hangs around like a drunken alien. He leaves for a few days then comes back hungover and pukes all over my tub for a while until collapsing on my couch. I’ve not been able to get him to leave and stay gone. So it is an act of courage to do small things like buy a grill and a microwave. I left a tract for all the local AA meetings in the pocket of that alien. Maybe this time he’ll keep going to meetings.

The weather outside is miserable, we can’t drive and let the camera photograph rain, I’m inside, in a warm hotel room writing this. Why complain? Well . . . because without good weather we sit in our hotel rooms biding our time and only being paid a piddly stipend. The big paychecks I’ve been getting wash into the storm drains along with alien puke and my good mood. I start to regret buying my microwave two weeks ago. This big money job ends in six weeks. I have until then to get ready for the looming drop in my income. I survive these storms in my life. I have so far. Each time they come it’s no fun at all. My anxiety skyrockets. I behave badly. My drunken alien starts recovering from his binges in the extra bedroom I use as an office. He messes with my TV remote so all I can watch is blocked Playboy TV and TrueTV. It sucks.

With this weather, with perhaps being idle today and tomorrow, two of the six weeks remaining will be small paychecks more like what I usually earn instead of the inflated windfalls I’ve been getting. Grumble. Instead of having to move from my 5th floor walkup in the bad part of Mt. Olympus in a few weeks I may have to move on Monday. Grumble. The alien tells me being roommates would make things better. Cost sharing and all. Right. Cost sharing with an addict. Think about it. Grumble.

I have a hard time writing stuff like this without trying to end positive. Without landing on some sermonizing. With forgetting that what I like about the blues is that it stays there–in the lamentation. With closing the narrative I’ve started about a drunken alien by saying he’s two weeks clean & sober and there is hope. It’s a rainy day in Tyler, Texas. The wives are arguing with their husbands about getting more sandbags. It’s Saturday and the power is off. The kids are bickering out of boredom. I just got a text message from my friend who is watching my house. There is a trail of alien puke from the back door to the toilet. The alien has left the house. My friend is headed to Walmart for Pinesol. I’m warm, dry, well taken care of and anxious about what tomorrow brings. Another day in my little heaven.

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Gun Control

This originally posted 08-Nov-2015.

This morning (07-Jan2016) Whoopie Goldberg made news because she said we should ban automatic weapons that were banned in 1934.
In 1989 California banned assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Gun manufacturers modified their semi-automatic rifles so that they could still be sold in California. The main difference? A California AR-15 has a fixed magazine holding no more than 10 rounds.

The headlines which prompted this post have fallen out of the news cycle. The press is bored with the story and has moved on. Lately, it’s Billary & Sanders who have their attention and whether Billary was derelict in her duty as Secretary of State while our embassy in Benghazi, Libya was being attacked. The spin being espoused has a lot to do whether you believe in the orthodoxy of the Republican establishment or the puritanism of the Democrats.

Back to what this post was about—gun control. Several people were killed in the shooting in Wuerenlingen, northern Switzerland.I have a hard time with any phrase that is xxxxx control. Drug control, crime control, gun control, blah blah control. I distrust the success of any law attempting to impose control on us. Somewhere in me is an abiding suspicion that I and those like me are incorrigible. We outliers are the minority exception to the majority rule. Yes, some of us get caught and spend time in jail. Some get tired of the criminal justice system and quit behaving in ways that cause them to catch more cases and time. Some don’t. Some die unrepentant.

Propaganda that pitches the need for gun control as, “there was a person shot to death with a gun today. That’s one too many deaths by guns. We have to ban/control guns to stop this onslaught of gun violence and death“, just annoys me. It sets of a tough to resist impulse to scream and yell at the TV about the stupidity of that problem and solution statement. The blame is placed with the weapon used to commit the crime. The conclusion pitched is that if we remove the weapon we’ll stop the crime. And the sad truth is that humans intent on murder have been rather darkly ingenious when it comes to the means by which murder is committed. Without guns we’ll invent something else, suicide bombs anybody?

As I type this a woman drover her car into the crowd of the Oklahoma State homecoming parade. 4 people are dead and 50 are injured. This may not equate, but I’ll say it anyway. If removing guns from the hands of people who shouldn’t have them will reduce gun crime then can we also say that removing cars from the hands of those who shouldn’t have them reduce car crime? We don’t know yet the status of this woman’s driver’s license. I doubt she was worried about that as she decided to plow into a crowd of innocent people and kill 5 of them. Also, since this post was first drafted some crazy person found a sword and used it in Switzerland to kill two people and injure two others. The optics were earily similar to our mass shootings at public places which were a favorite story of the press for a while.

We are scarily talented when it comes to conceiving of ways to kill each other. A lack of guns isn’t the impediment to violence we wish it would be. Swords can be just as deadly in the wrong hands. We have the logical fallacy of taking the specific instance and trying to generalize from it. One more crazy person shot up another public place, this time a college in Oregon. And so the propaganda that we have to make sure this never happens again by ensuring that no more crazy people can get a gun. My itch to scream at the TV is getting much worse. Us, the outliers, are not dissuaded by laws saying we can’t do what we do. I don’t wish to see another shooting at another public place. I like the idea that we could do something so that this last shooting remains the last shooting. But I’m an outlier and I have friends. There are too many of us who won’t obey the law for me to be comfortable with another iteration of laws attempting to keep us from getting guns.

The problem isn’t the weapon, be it a gun or a sword, or as C.S. Lewis spoke of, a baseball bat. Gun control laws have not prevented the crimes we were promised they would prevent. Miyamoto Musashi (宮本武蔵) won deadly duels against steel katana and trained solders using a red-oak practice sword. The problem is the collective heart of the country reflected in the leadership we have in office. Our collective heart is in a rather dark place and some of the ways this darkness is manifested is through these mass shootings. The solution is not a legal one but a spiritual one. We need a change of heart, a change toward compassion and leadership to help us with that.

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