You Can’t Repent

You Can’t Repent. You are Irredeemable. Oprah, Queen of Kleenex has declared this. She has sent forth her Amazonian Army to castrate you. You need to get used to being a monster in the eyes of the Queen.  Being castrati won’t be enough. There is another who made a Way. Read on and find out.

Psalm 1:1-4—“1 Blessed is the man[a]
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
   and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

Matthew 5:6—“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

I lost count the number of Sundays my ass stuck to the lacquer paint of a pew as another pastor droned on about the Beatitudes. This Sunday was one more. The pastor’s frame of reference was that these two passages were about us, about each of us and the ways that we should individually hunger for a deeper discipleship hewing closer to the law. Noble idea. And worthy. And for me . . . a bit annoying.

Israel, when Christ was alive, had the law.  They had/have commentary on the law as given by God. Ask a practicing Jew about how to honor the Sabbath. Though, block out some time for this because it will take a while. All of it focused on trying to get a thick-necked people to behave better. None of it much good for its intended purpose.

Get Out There

There is an introspective aspect to hungering for righteousness. We should deepen our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus of Nazareth. Then we ought to maintain our vigilance in living out that understanding. It doesn’t stop there, however. Jesus wasn’t commissioning a bunch of temple living hermits. He commissioned a bunch of troublemakers like himself who were to make all nations disciples of the Way. So, where activism, social justice work and the lot are within the practices of the Way, we ought to be doing that as well.

Jesus asked us to serve prisoners, the sick, the poor, the persecuted, among others. Go back and read the Sermon on the Mount again. It has both an inward, personal growth aspect and an SJW aspect. It’s not enough to grow personally. We have to get out there, afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

A Kleenex Empire

Lately, after a rousing acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey’s name was bandied about as a possible candidate for President. Oprah is the goddess of Kleenex, of the teary, emotional moment. The Kleenex Goddess made her wealth on leering at the miseries of others. She cannot afford to have a baddy repent. Though, people seem to be an infinite fount of bad behavior. She is in no danger of running out of baddies to excoriate on national TV.

You Can't RepentMy name is Alan Webb and I am a wife-beater. It’s been sixteen years since I last hit my ex-wife. I still worry that it is half-time for me and the next relationship will be just as destructive as my first marriage. For all my therapy, classes and introspection the jury is still out on whether my next girlfriend and I can navigate through a relationship that is safe and healthy for both of us.

You Can’t Repent

I have people in my life who will not let me repent. I am a monster. Nothing I say or do can change that. I learned a long time ago that there is no gain in fighting to a victory with someone who believes my nature as a monster is immutable.  It’s better to let them believe I am a monster and go about living an honorable life.

Two things of note regarding repentance. One, in our ADHD 247365 shitstorm propaganda cycles, repentance takes too long. The data stream we get is tuned to keep us amped on OMG. because while amped our reason is swamped by our reptilian brain. Our reptilian brain wants to stay alive and fuck. High minded ideas like repentance just don’t get on our reptilian radar. It makes us putty in the hands of those who lead us.

Stay Asleep

So, for the dear leaders, us holding resentment is part of the stew that keeps us compliant. To be woke is a thing for some. Let me suggest one way to be woke, to be aware of the ways that you are being led by a bull-ring made up of propaganda delivered through social media and more traditional news sources like print, broadcast and cable TV. That ring feeds you emo stories meant to keep your reptile brain afraid that it might die, might not be able to eat or worst of all, be unable to fuck.

One more thing. I saw this in my 1100 hours at the table at Boaz and Ruth. The guys that fell back into ripping and running were also guys who could not answer this question, “what do you want to do?” They were really good at their chaplain speeches. They were very clear that they did not want to do what got them arrested and a spot at the table at Boaz and Ruth. What did they want? That . . . that question was tough.

I don’t want to be a monster anymore” is an easy answer. Kind of. First, you are not allowed to stop being a monster. If you ever collected the ire of someone who believed you behaved in a monstrous way then you are a monster and like me, you cannot remove that moniker. At best you can gain a grudging trust that you haven’t been monstrous today.

Do What?

Second, you won’t last on the street unless you find your purpose. It’s not always some grand thing. Sometimes it’s as simple as line cooking or sewer pipe trenching. Mike Rowe made 169 episodes of dirty, skilled labor jobs. Those can be a purpose as noble as anything white collar that you think your parents would approve of. It can be something absurd like writing almost a half-million words ranting about what’s wrong with everybody. The key secret to life as a monster is finding that purpose. And . . . do us all a favor and pick something other than predatory behavior. Thanks, bunches.

Last, repentance takes time. Obvi, no? You would think so. But the town criers that fill our social media feed don’t want us calm enough to reflect on the time it takes to give life to a promise to repent. We are more malleable if we stay amped on the latest OMG to drop. It’s better for our dear leaders if we keep eating the bitterness they feed us.

Now, let’s talk about Purpose. This is one of the big hairy questions we all stumble into. I’ll let you in on a secret about me. I have no fucking clue. I made it through nearly six decades of life just following my nose. There are minor purposes, reptilian ones. But a big, elegant, life-giving purpose? Nah. Hold my covfefe. I mean, yeah, contribute to making the world more peas and fewer big-eyed, starving TV kids? Sure. Write too many words on a blog that no one reads. Did that, doing that. Bring a son into this world with a Taiwanese Mafia Princess? Check. Just . . . I never answered the question, “what do you want to do”?

No Answer is an Answer

I still don’t have an answer. I’m a bit like the other guys at that table at Boaz and Ruth. I know I don’t want to do monstrous things and collect prison time. I know I want to live a life that keeps me as safe as possible so the chances of doing monstrous things are minimized. But . . . as to what I want . . . I don’t know.

The small purposes I found, keeping my house and my car, seeking small acts of kindness done with great love, and embracing a stable life, these have been enough. One of the absurdities of God is those Egyptian monks who sought to isolate themselves as completely as possible and left behind words that became world famous. Something cliche and something true, that we are not to worry about what God does with our pittance of a life. We are to simply live. My pedestrian life driven by reptilian desires that sometimes rise to slight elegance in the small acts of kindness I have done will have to be enough.

Purpose, when you are young or misfortune has stolen your position and now your rock must be pushed up the hill one more time, is useful. It helps clarify which choices fit and which don’t. You begin to hear the siren call of the Queen of Kleenex as the dangerous clanging gong that it is. Truth is, we are finite. The day does come when we become legend only alive in the stories of those we leave behind. Choices get made that set a direction. So, being intentional about purpose is useful.

The World is Absurd

Lovely, no? I didn’t do that. I did whatever I damned pleased. My life never had a carefully crafted purpose beyond making sure I had a roof over my head and food to eat. I’m not MGTOW by choice. It just sort of worked out that way.

You Can't RepentPut me with those who find this shitshow I was born into to be absurd. Life has no grand purpose. We are pissing, shitting fucking beasts with a remarkable talent for hurting each other. Altruism, when it happens, is great. I’ll grant you that most of the Bell curve is unremarkable and never does anything story worthy. But . . . I am nearer to the monster end of the curve than I am to the untested saint end.

Except . . . this crazy, criminal, ghetto-boy carpenter born to a whore a couple thousand years ago started a revolution that continues to this day. He said we ought to hunger for righteousness. The world is absurd and God sent us an absurd leader of a new kingdom after all else failed. A criminal is crucified by the Romans at the request of his church leadership and three days later is alive? That’s cray-cray right there.

Oprah as president is a leadership rooted in bitter unforgiveness. Remember this? Some who worry that if we truly knew them we’d shun them. To which we in the church reply, if you really knew us you would stop worrying. Jesus offers us a cause to pursue and a purpose for our lives absent from the Kleenex Empire. We meet every Sunday, usually, around 10 am or so. I hope you will join us.


Educating Alan–Absurdism

You don’t matter. The universe, the world is a thing, unthinking, uncaring, available for ill will as well as beauty. The trees don’t care how you feel. The wind blows where it will. Whether you are addicted or some span of time clean and sober–the songbirds don’t care. They have their own problems to worry about.

St-Benedict-Dashboard-Crucifix2. it means nothing. There is no meaning to life. 42 is just a number. Your life doesn’t mean anything. Get used to this. That bunch of paint splotches on a canvas lovingly framed and hung in the modern art gallery of VMFA is . . . a bunch of paint splotches on a canvas. There is no homage to early Cheval. It does not quote Camus in its use of color. Stop saying that it is resonant with Chet Baker’s vocal pieces. The artist got lucky in convincing the VMFA to accept it as a piece worth recognition. Nothing means anything. It is all meaningless. So, enough with the “I taste hints of fair trade peppercorns and artisanal cork.” Need a source? Go read Ecclesiastes again.

Most of us will die unremarkable. After our funeral we become story. Even that story fades over time as those who knew us carry on. Some years hence our epitaph becomes a quant few words written in stone now eroded and illegible from the moss making its home on our grave. Seasons pass, the stone falls, slowly losing the fight with the grasses and wild-flowers to itself be buried. Our immortal story mortal and hence forgotten.

How much do you remember of Thomas R. Marshall? Who is Champ Clark? What were the dominant headlines when these men served our country? Can’t remember? Neither can I. I had to look them up. Even these men, who were notable in their day, are whispers in the minds of our grandparents. They mattered to some in their day. Now? Not so much. The same top-10 evils they got elected to fix still stumble about the halls of government only now these evils are ever more drunk on our tax dollars. “Plus les choses changent, plus elles restent les mêmes.

This is what Wikipedia says about absurdism: “In philosophy, “the Absurd” refers to the conflict between (1) the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and (2) the human inability to find any. In this context absurd does not mean “logically impossible”, but rather “humanly impossible”.[1] The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneous.”

So, what’s the point? Why not just shovel out a six foot hole, eat the earthworms uncovered in the digging, and resume room temperature. If life has no meaning why bother living? Roses. Roses are a reason to live. And chicken soup. The kind of chicken soup you get from making it yourself. Oh, and chocolate.

A man alone is insignificant. We are not alone. God observed Adam living alone and quickly decided he needed a helpmate. We are made better in the natural tensions in relationships. We  matter as one element of a larger whole called community.

We seek value and meaning and fail. The wind still blows where it will. Brer rabbit still becomes dinner for the fox. Wisdom begins in death to that which keeps us from God. We must die to this world to gain life in the resurrection kingdom. Our God, our Christ, is absurd. This popular saying, “god is love”, is nuts. God is love? Ok. Meaning? Does God even exist? Can you prove he exists? If God is love and he does not exist, does love exist? Who even cares?

Ok, enough of that. I got tired of therapy because it started to feel like I was one of those stuffed animals on display in the dioramas you find in Cabela’s. I was a side-show exhibit performing for the benefit of the therapist. I can’t sustain a down-in-the mouth, nihilist rant for long before my urge to start preaching about Jesus being our hope and savior becomes overwhelming. No, you are safe. I’ll check the impulse. Click here if you want that.

I’ve always rested on hope. I have faith in hope. That’s what gets me up in the morning, keeps me going in times like these when my only income is a stipend paid to me by the Virginia Employment Commission. I lean on Christ because it is He that has taught me a way which remains the one thing I can do and stay out of jail.

Everything about being Christian is absurd. I like this quote from the web site Rogue Theologians, “In both cases, the Absurd can be understood as a determined desire to move forward in the face of futility. This, I think, is the core notion of the Absurd. It is defiance of futility and defiance of despair (even while despairing)”. The whole essay is worth a read. More from the same essay: “For Kierkegaard, the Absurd is taking the Truth as it is even when reason, logic, rationality, and all such human things resist Truth. For Kierkegaard, faith is an absurdity that makes a human being capable of being authentically him or herself before God.”

Sorry, I couldn’t resist: this is meaningful to me: that God is love and love is a verb, thus God is also a verb. God isn’t a meaningless thing found in the depths of hell. Heaven is life, God is life, so heaven and god are thrumming, thriving, doing and living the love that is their core identity. I seek to emulate Jesus to the best of my ability. This means my task is to emulate, to embody love as a verb, Jesus as a verb. It doesn’t matter whether my labor means anything. My obligation to embody love as a verb doesn’t change because I’ll die forgotten soon enough. My work is to do what He called me to do and let Him worry about the rest. Absurd? Probably. I’m still on it.



It Will Happen Again

Anger feels good. It’s an adrenaline rush. You can aim it at a news story, get all fired up, tweet your friends, spend a few hours with a couple hundred like minded folk facing down riot police, good times. There are enough stories that reach the headlines about brutality by cops to give you a chance to get your fix of protest on a couple times a year. Truth, justice and the American Way are totally unnecessary here. You just need a good story that will fire up the troops. I’ll watch the YouTube video of y’all for a bit before flipping back to Jeremy Clarkson and yet another impossibly expensive 200 mph car I’ll never own.

agera rA cop shot a young black man. Let’s slow down before y’all run off to the CNN reporter and make him or her tape your statement that another white racist sumbitch cop shot another innocent, harmless fuzzball young black man and that this proves all cops are at war with every African American and thus, we must be at war with the cops. It will happen again. Another cop will shoot another young black man. It serves no one to make an ultimatum that no white cop can ever shoot another young black man.

There are too many of us. We are 321 million people. So, forever after, no white cop can ever shoot one young black man in a nation of 321 million people. That’s worse odds than winning the lottery. It’ll happen again just by the numbers, . If we let the crazies and the journalists rule the day, we’ll be fed a steady diet of young black men taking vengeance on white cops who in turn take vengeance on young black men who iterate and kill another white cop.

Ask any gang member if there has ever been an end to the violence driven by a beef with an opposing gang. Tribes across the world have a running tally of dead members who were killed in yet another bloody battle with a tribe they have a vendetta with. Is this the America we want? An America not ruled by law, but by unrelenting, unforgiving feuds which take the lives of kin and kind?

The premise is messed up. It’s based on a false dichotomy. It’s wrong for a white cop to kill a young black man. Ok. So . . . can a black cop kill a young black man? Can a Latino cop become a serial killer by ruthlessly gunning down every white or black or brown man or woman he encounters until someone shoots back and takes him down? Where does it stop? Of all the pairings of ethnicity involved in murders, are any of them acceptable? Excuse me, but a book I treasure, has in it a prohibition against murder and says nothing about exceptions based on kinship, skin color, gang affiliation or tribal membership. The prohibition is simple, “You shall not murder.” And yes, there is at least a few other blog posts possible around the debate over whether it is shall not kill/shall not murder. Forgive me, but I’m going to run right past that for now.

A young black man will be shot by a white cop some time in the future. The odds work too well in favor of it. There may not be a clear causal link between that man’s death and the deaths of Michael Brown and so on. Still, and this is the connection to Oresteia and Christ, more rioting, more bloodshed just gets us more. Our way out of this is through the rule of law and through the cross. Justice must be sought for the perpetrators and those injured must forgive so that they can live free of the pain of their loss. Every other way just perpetuates the evil of the first death.

Please, it’s the day after Christmas. We just got done celebrating a holiday in which we are encouraged to step up our humility, charity and service to others. Let’s not lose the momentum. As we spend the week greeting the new year and as the new year rolls along, let’s not forget our need for compassion, humility, charity and service to others. Then maybe we can get off the radar and stop feeding the hungry maw of the press its sick diet of murder and vengeance.


Rhetorical Dodge Ball

First Posted 30-Dec-2014

My Dad has become a troll. He does this thing at least once each time I visit him. He’ll throw a macro-aggressive statement out there to trigger me. Sometimes, when I was younger, I flung words back at him. These days, though, I’ve learned to dodge his rhetorical fast balls. I’d rather keep the relationship than be right. The art of it is knowing how to keep my dignity, to disagree with him, without getting caught in a shouting match. This trip there were two balls launched at me, both glittering generalities.
socialist christThe first one was, “Jesus was a communist. So, if you are sincerely following Jesus you’ll also be a communist.” Which is a bit stunning. Jesus, depending on who is counting, lived over two-thousand years ago. Communism, says Wikipedia, became a thing in the late 18th Century. So, Christ had been dead and resurrected well over 1800 times before Communism made its name in the history books. A key difference between the early house churches of pre-Constantine Christendom and our modern church was that before Constantine Rome was the enemy so arbitrating who gets what was done on a small scale by individual churches. Modern socialism envisions a large, unelected civil service governing of the distribution of capital and property. This puts the President’s civil service at the head of the government picking winners and losers. The President assumes the role of Caesar and Congress becomes a feckless Roman Senate. The courts abdicate their power and become tools of the Caesar’s civil service. Maybe that isn’t a future wish. It’s perhaps what we have as a government now. Woo. Jesus was no friend of Rome or of his contemporary church leadership. If Jesus was anything, he was an anarchist.

Christ advocated against needless governance. He performed a miracle, finding a coin in the mouth of a fish to pay Caesar’s taxes. The Communist idea of public or government ownership and management of most everything is the furthest from the sort of service first leadership demonstrated by Christ when he washed the feet of the disciples. Jewish tradition of the day insisted on a tithe of 10%. So, by tradition, the community through the Levites, only held 10% of the assets in common. The rest was held by individuals and their families. I don’t find anything in the Bible to suggest Christ advocated a greater ownership of resources by Rome.

pink triangleHis next one was this, “Anybody who thinks homosexuality is a sin is homophobic. Anybody who is homophobic is hiding something, probably that they are actually gay and just won’t admit it.” So, we who believe that homosexuality is a sin are all gay and just in denial? Really? Wow. Good to know that. Thanks for sharing, Dad. So, I am supposed to be a Communist because I say I am Christian. And, because I believe that homosexuality is a sin I’m actually a closeted gay man in denial. That’s a pretty profound therapy moment right here in public on this blog, for everyone to read. Glad I got that cleared up.

My tinfoil hat is crooked and faded to a mottled, oxidized grey, should I be worried? Maybe a better tinfoil hat would be one with pink triangles and red stars . . . maybe my Dad would like that tinfoil hat better. Maybe for realz, I kinda don’t care.

I’m good. I know he does this. I know he says stuff that is weird. He’s my Dad, though, so I let it all slide. His tendency to throw stuff out there like that doesn’t take away his success within the Presbyterian Church or his role in designing and building early computers that were a step toward today’s SmartPhones. He’s one more odd duck like me who still has attributes worth praising. The world is better for having him in it, wild claims about closeted gay Communists included. Bless your heart, Dad.