Is There a God?

1 Corintios 2:14 “El que no tiene el Espíritu no acepta lo que procede del Espíritu de Dios, pues para él es locura. No puede entenderlo, porque hay que discernirlo espiritualmente.”

Right. An omniscient, omnipotent diety gives a shit about me. That’s not crazy. Nope. This diety won’t interfere with my choice to act out and will keep me from harm even though I am causing harm to myself and maybe others. He (?He? not s/he, s/him, or whatever?) What kind of patricarchical, obtuse, obscene, oppressive, phallic bullshit is this that God has to be a cis-guy? How do we know that this is all an illusion. That I am alone in my world, there are no others, what I percieve is wind, water, smoke, mirrors or all of that? Why would solipsism be false?

We have science. For 800 years the record has been corrected. Truth identified and documented. The farce of the bible exposed. Nietzsche is deep, “God is Dead.” Can we just get on with it and dispense with all this religious folly?

To which I have questions. What of women? Women are emotional, irrational, demanding, frustrating and desirous beyond reason. Some wicked demon made it such that a pleasure equal to eating demands that we deal with women. How sick is that?  Women are trouble. Yet, they are inescapable. More of the shitshow we arrived in. Woo. More questions. Are there exceptions to the law of causality? How does the quantum description of reality give rise to the reality we perceive?

I’m a bard, a bad one at that. I succeeded in my effort to avoid science as much as possible in college. My drunk alien RayRoberta Bob as god is almost plausable to me were it not a lifetime of indoctrination in the Reformed Tradition of the Presbyterian Church. So, I am going to add to my list of literary offenses and fail to answer the questions I posed.

My failure is not without purpose. First, I can’t begin to answer the physics questions I pose. I’m a stupid English major from a California State University in a time frame when degrees were being granted to proud C- students like myself. I graduated, but barely. Second, my world is absurd and mysterious. I’ve given up debating with God over whether the seven creation epochs were 7 Gregorian Calendar days of 24 hours each. The Bible and much more fails when made to survive an examination through Western scientific methods. I surrendered and in that surrender found my life to be better. God made the world in six phases and rested on the seventh. Good enough for me.

I mentioned Inger in a previous post. Inger, along with her self-serving approval of mincome, is annoyed with truth. The world consistently disobeys here desire for a modern, angular exegesis of reality. Absurdity and mystery piss her off. It should make sense. Everything should make sense. That it doesn’t is an affront to her stainless steel and concrete aesthetic.

Inger has not yet given up her fight with the universe. She means to win this one or die trying. So, all the kings men who have tried to put her back together in a less intense and more curved shape have failed. OCD much? Yeah.

I quit fighting my past. I am the dutiful first born son of a Presbyterian mother and Methodist father who became Presbyterian when he began dating my Mom. The older I get the more comfortable my same spot in the pews has become. Presbyterian Orthodoxy is an inescapable part of who I am.

So, my direct answer to the question of the existence of God is a reflexive, “yes.” No, it isn’t well-reasoned any more than my annual itches for an impossibly perfect Christmas that rattle about thanks to my Mom’s life-long fight with her sister for approval from their Mom. My belief in the existence of God is an act of faith, irrational and at odds with the world Inger wishes for. There are very few truly straight lines in my world.

Nothing I say can convince you of the existence of God. Either you agree he exists or you don’t. I’ve also lost my taste for winning the argument on this. I am quite happy in my little shack on a less traveled road in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. My call is to serve regardless of the object of my service’s beliefs regarding God. Sometimes, when you are hungry, a hot meal is the best altar call possible.

Wikipedia has an article on the question here. Allow me to offer a chain of reasoning that is weak but for me, worthy. First, does love exist? If it does and God is love, then since love exists God must also exist. Further. Love is a verb and by inference we witness the existence of God in his actions demonstrating his love for us.

Love is a weak voice shouted down by all the dissonant noise alive in the lives of us who found comfort on the shores of the River Styx. Crazy is our normal. Altruism, true altruism, triggers suspicion for us. There has to be something behind it, some gain or motive, some desire that drives the act of kindness. We find it hard to believe that self-less acts of kindness are possible. That there could be a deity who would want us to experience altruism seems impossible.

Hebreos 4:1-2, “Cuidémonos, por tanto, no sea que, aunque la promesa de entrar en su reposo sigue vigente, alguno de ustedes parezca quedarse atrás.Porque a nosotros, lo mismo que a ellos, se nos ha anunciado la buena noticia; pero el mensaje que escucharon no les sirvió de nada, porque no se unieron en la fe a los que habían prestado atención a ese mensaje.”

Yet, we live insane lives so Inger’s desire for a rational world hits our ears as a dissonant minor chord. The God I know fights being contained in a bakelite trimmed stainless steel and concrete temple. Left alone Chernobyl is overrun by moss and plants that ruin its modern architecture. His world is at least fractal in its complexity. He made a world in which Quantum theory helps make the calculus work. Why not an insane, absurd God for this shitshow?

I believe God exists for completely selfish reasons. I grew up in a house infested with mental illness. I was tormented by anxiety from a very early age. Anger became my binky. I could have what I wanted because I was able to cajole my parents into indulging me. This lasted until 1979 or so and my initial years with my paternal grandmother. I returned to Earl Palmer and the First Presbyterian of Berkeley seeking answers. I wanted something of home, even as fucked up as home was. Earl is brilliant and patient with yungins. It was after many Sundays listening to him preach that my heart was softened and I was ready to let God in. I believe God exists because that belief keeps me sane.

Later in life, as I came to understand that my life was going to collapse again and I’d have to rebuild for the fourth time, I needed a family. I found that in St. Giles, in the Men’s Fellowship. Without them I’d either be dead or in prison. Along the way I’ve experienced miracles of grace and mercy that knit well with my Protestant upbringing.

I believe God exists for irrational reasons. I attribute some of my experiences to him against reasoned deduction. It is a knowledge I have always had and found comfort in. Mine is not the place to win the argument. Mine is to serve you anyway, to share and walk with you as we count down our sunrises until we are rowed to the far shore of the River Styx.

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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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Luna de los Muertos

Christmas isn’t my happy place. The popular press has several narratives. One is a constant, Chihuahua on crack exortation to get out there and spend money on gifts and holiday meals. It’s a choir of info-babes and merchants cajoling us into spending money we don’t really have. It’s a season of giving, they say. We are also told we must help the doe-eyed po’ folk they parade before the camera once a year. This is the time when we show how compassionate and generous we are. 1 month out of 12 we hear about kids who are giving coats & blankets to the homeless, the bare shelves at the local food bank, the poor child with leukemia whose parents can’t pay for medical care and some benevolent one-percenter drops a wad of cash to cover the cost, the anonymous donor who pays off the layaways of strangers, the local charities who do the angel tree thing, you know the drill. All the while the merchants continue their nagging that we haven’t spent enough yet. Easy credit, everybody gets approved, no payments until 2115, come on down, prices will never be lower . . .

The other almost fits how I feel. It’s the “reason for the season” thing. I was raised in the church, spending Sunday mornings for most of my youth in Sunday School. I’ve been up there at the alter giving my life to Christ more than once. I am very aware of the real reason for the season. It’s about Cheeezus, and so we should spend the Advent season flopping about the floor in front of the altar speaking in tongues and confessing what a shit we’ve been then take what we were going to spend at Macy’s and give it to the church. You still end up in the same place January 1st–broke, hung-over and a little desperate.

hello-kitty-christmas-treeThough, dumping your Christmas shopping cash into the offering plate will mean some long faces Christmas morning when the family goes to look at the tree and it’s some sad, pink artificial thing with no gifts under it and a short in the wiring which means the lights don’t work and there is a scary smell of burning plastic. If you go this route I’d be careful about eating the milk & cookies. You never know.

I’ve been that grump that stomps about the mall mumbling about the show of wealth on display, how there are starving children in Africa, the world has no peas, Santa is a creepy drunk, and these people need to get themselves to revival forthwith.

This is the time of year when things feel bleak. It’s warm outside but I feel a chill in my home. I’m not in a very celebratory mood. This is when the harvest has come in, the fields are brown with corn husks and soybean plant stalks covered by manure from the neighbor’s cows. It is when the trees look like they died. The whole world seems to have picked up and moved to Hades. Anybody that can afford to has gone elsewhere, to more pleasant climes where the service staff knows the GFE game. The rest of us schlubs are still getting up at 5am to clean out the stalls, put down fresh hay, and try again to get the old tractor fixed. My yard is covered in leaves and the grass is a sickly brown. When I got back from the road the cold that had been lurking about came on full force. I feel like crap.

Something about us, that whistles in the dark against our fears and nightmares, that wants life to always be immortal sunshine and lollipops, that wishes for the days before we knew what the word, “no” meant and could count on the comforting nursery of our mothers. We don’t like to acknowledge the dead, admit that in the spring as life reawakens there are storms which flood and tear down homes. There is something desperate about us this season, as the world hibernates, that wants our binkie and desirous weather. It’s that something desperate that makes me annoyed.

Life inhales and exhales. There are seasons of the dead, of winter and miserable grey skies, the ground sometimes covered in snow, a time to sit close to a hot wood stove and read post-apocalyptic fiction by candlelight. To be asked to binge on giving, binge on food, to pretend it isn’t winter while everything is in Hades, feels like a lie. I don’t want to exhale yet. My sinuses hurt and I’m low on Kleenex. Merry Texmas, y’all.

Christmas is in 9 days. We start a new year in 16 days. Another year gone by, another few months gripping the kerosene lantern and it’s feeble light not quite beating back the malaise of the season. Typical for me, the cupboard is bare, the wallet too thin, I don’t have a job, the job I had claims that I defied some rules so no bonus for me, bills are due in a couple weeks and the well intentioned wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year don’t make me feel better.

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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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What’s the Point?

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope . . . Jeremiah 29:11, ESV

I am not sure there is a point, or a purpose to this shit-show we are born in to. I’m over late night tossing & turning wondering why I was born. I’m here and it ain’t over yet. I’ve still got time to do and while the sun still traverses the sky I need shit and have ambitions. There is world peas to attend to and those kids on TV who look so hungry. Oh and those deplorable white folk who treat black folk like range targets. I mean, somebody needs to do something, seriously.

Dumpf got elected. They are going to build a pipeline across Indian land and ruin it. I saw that kid on TV and this time the voice-over is asking me to donate to UNESCO. I don’t have a job, my girlfriend kicked me out, and breakfast this morning happened at the Grace Cathedral on California street. I tried begging and got arrested. I had to pawn my guitar to get a room for the night. I’m out of meds and the voices lately are really hard to ignore. Maybe I should just eat worms and die.

The depths of my angst never got that deep. My troubles are trifling compared to those of many. There was an afternoon at my paternal grandmother’s house where the huge problem was a lack of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. There is a kid in my life who is twenty-something and followed a familiar narrative arc for an African American youth living in the inner city. He achieved early success as a drug dealer, gained tremendous wealth and notoriety and now, is living in public housing. The devil gaveth and the devil took it all away.

After two twelve-hour shifts driving a cab recently I arrived at Monday morning, back at my desk, with a feeling of futility. All that work and what I had to show for it was a couple Jacksons. I had magnanimous dreams. I was going to make beaucoup benjamins. I had plans for my hard earned cash. What a waste.

Wikipedia’s article on the meaning of life. You have the Dalai Lama saying that we should seek to be happy. I suspect that the full weight of his words isn’t getting through in English. Tibetan Buddhist happiness is a deep conversation. It’s one of many things that seems simple at the surface but can consume a lifetime trying to know it deeply. So, there is that. Wikipedia tries to provide a broad survey of answers. I need to warn you. This space isn’t good for you if you were looking for comfort and safety. The answers I have here are troubling.

On with it. I’d say that life does not have a purpose. Your reason to be doesn’t exist. All this angst over why you were born is neurotic, narcissistic wind and water. You are alive. ’nuff said. So, average life-span being 70-80 years, or 4 generations or so, you have time on your hands. The first couple decades happen because of your parents. After that, with some exceptions, it’s on you. A reason to be and a purpose to pursue. Well, you are here. There really isn’t a reason why you are here. So, that leaves the next 40 years or so and a purpose to pursue.

Why not 60 years?. Our lives are bookended by childhood and old age. As children we have no choice but to rely on the adults in our lives to care for us. Without them, without their support, we are fucked. Argue all you want about the oppressive tradition of a nuclear family, how it traps women into the oppression of patriarchy. I’ll grant you that embedding that oppression in law and policy is a bad idea. Women should have a voice, have agency and the freedom to pursue their chosen purpose. Please, though, if you are pregnant, or you are a Mom, it’s really important that you put your kids first, even though that limits you. Kids need parents that love and care for them.

Moving on. At the other end, at the phase of my life I am growing in to, is increasing loss. We become more dependent on the people around us for basic needs. Starting at around age 60 things escalate. We become more and more feeble until our time comes and we become epitaph. So, our purpose becomes merely breathing until death kindly stops for us. We come full circle and need to be taken care of.

That leaves the years between 20 or so and age 60 where life happens. That’s the window in which our purpose will be fulfilled. That’s the years in which your story is told. Maybe there isn’t a reason why you were born. I’ll leave the answer to that, to why you were born, to better minds than mine. It is enough that you are alive and beyond the first four levels of Maslow’s hierarchy what you do has an impact, though perhaps small. Your impact matters, thus, you matter.

This space is the house of the odd ones, the trolls, the people who generate regrets. It’d be nice if my readership had a comfortable spot on the fat part of the curve. But . . . I’d have to write about something else if that became the case. From what I know of history I’ll never run out of odd stuff to write about. So, yeah, causes to pursue . . . all that Maslow hierarchy stuff helps a lot. Unfulfilled essential needs can become a consuming purpose leaving you without much bandwidth for anything else.

There is also Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities . . . all is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” Yeah, that’s all warm & fuzzy. Thank you for sharing, Solomon.

Without God, without some sense of identity outside ourselves, life has no meaning. The nihilists are right. Solipsism is epiphany. Death after a meal of earthworms would be mercy. Without God we are supper for Satan and his minions. Things get increasingly morose. Suicide begins to feel like a plan.

God is weird. There is this book that is full of nonsense and ancient myth that some promulgate as the word of God. He leaves behind the words of St. Paul, Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” That’s not crazy, right? Who writes stuff like, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” As if we are twigs. This god that these people believe in is whom I am to find a purpose to my life? I may be crazy but that’s epic.

Does Life Have a Purpose?” Maybe not. But, I am here and the clock has not run down to zero for me yet. If I live to age 90 there are still over 12,000 sunrises to get through. Might as well do something to pass the time. Of suicide, I believe you freeze yourself in the angst that drove you to take your own life. Because you are then frozen in your misery, death offers no relief. In life there is hope. As long as there are more sunrises there are more chances to break out of a solipsistic mood and leave a legacy of light and salt.

My answer to the troubles is a little more village and a little less delicate snowflake. If we allow a more collectivist view of our identity then it’s harder to point a quivering, accusing finger at some boogeyman who has called us a poopy-head. This is a bottom-up thing, not some dictate handed down by a bloated bureaucracy. This is you making a choice to locate your identity in something greater than yourself. When it comes in the form of a dictate from Caesar it’s not the same. With this more collectivist view our purpose isn’t good self-esteem or the markers of success envied by some. It is the well being of our kin and village.

My pastor says in his sermon on this that we need a reason to be and a cause to pursue. There is no reason for me. I exist. For the next 12,000 days or so I am going to rise each morning needing things and wanting to have some purpose to this shit-show I was born into. Now that I am off the ridge and walking into the Valley of the River Styx my legacy, the story I leave behind, is what worries me.

I hope I have served, have touched some and been a point of light that illuminates hope for the hopeless. I am saved. I was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see. It’s been 4,380 days since I last confessed my faith to my Christian brethren at St. Giles Church. The trans-formative moment for me was a phone call from Darlene. I was to go to work for God with no hope of return or desired outcome. It’s my cause to pursue.

While your sun’s rise and fall to greet the moon I have a request. While you cower in your safe spaces at us the grownups who want you to do annoying self-care things like clean your room and wash some dishes, do a little more than that. Rather than litter the South Dakota desert with your detritus from protesting capitalist oil pigs, volunteer locally. There is something you can do, some place that would love your angst and youthful energy. Use your phone, google stuff, an NGO out there is looking for some help. Go help.

Of worm eating . . . it’s a metaphor. Just saying.

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Is the Bible Reliable?

No. That’s why I like it. That’s why I believe it is true. People are unreliable. Truth is fluid. At one time the earth sat at the center of the waters under the waters. Then by observation we come to understand that the earth circles a star. Over the decades we learn more and the truth changes again. A religious text that wasn’t a hot mess is to me a suspicious text. I’d expect a species that is a hot mess to write a hot mess book. What? People are not a hot mess? Seriously?

1cor134Mohamed declared he had recieved a revelation. He wrote the القرآن الكريم. He wanted the Bible to make sense. It does not and neither does the Q’uran. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, annoyed at the flaws in translation that have crept in to the Bible over thousands of years, did the scorched earth thing, and started from scratch. They messed up. But, since, they’ve gotten on their high horses and declared all of us to be apostate. No, they are right and we are going to hell. Some Muslims, impatient with God, have decided that the way to bring about a post-apocalyptic paradise is to force God’s hand and have that final calvary battle in Syria.

Sure, God is going to reward a bunch of zealots a post Revelations paradise on earth, with Mohamed returned, because they charged across a battlefield in Syria waving swords and firing muskets at the enemy while riding horseback. That’s not nuts. That’s rational.

Let’s not forget the numerous Christians who isolated themselves somewhere yelling that the rapture was nigh and they needed to be ready. The moment comes and the less insane of them realize that the buzzer on the dryer has gone off and one of the kids is crying because it’s time to eat. Life. Intrudes. Or the more insane of these sects that loses their damned mind and immolates or drinks poison.

If you brought me a religious text designed by Apple that was all bauhaus and logically (Aristotle’s logic) solid I’d not want it. The meaning of the word “bible” is library. It is a selection of religious texts argued over from the beginning. If there is any feature of Christianity it is our love of debate and apologia. We get it from our Jewish ancestors. Our central religious texts reflect that.

How much more loving, poetic, and accurate is a canon of 66 books which have stood the test of time. And, yes, we can’t even agree on a consensus of which books belong in the bible and which should be left out. So, 66 books is a fungible number. There isn’t even one bible. BibleGateway offers roughly a hundred editions of the Bible in various languages and from different sects. Over these books a grand narrative plays out from the creation story(s) in Genesis through to the Revelation of John. It is us. It is reliable in its depiction of the core values, core beliefs of us, of followers of Christ.

Please, though, stop trying to make it into something it isn’t. The foolishness of some, that want to bend the bible into a modernist, utopian exegisis of orthodox truth, reliable in its facts, historically accurate down to the angel on pinhead count, this is nonsense. The bible is a canon of the heart and stomach. It is absurd when viewed through 20th Century, rational eyes. Let it be what it is and the beauty of its truth exposes itself.

John 1:1-John 1:5 ESV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” One of the oft-quoted mistranslations by the Jehovah’s Witnesses is:  “In the beginning was the Word,+ and the Word was with God,+ and the Word was a god.*+  This one was in the beginning with God.  All things came into existence through him,+ and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.” Much is made of a small change, “Word was a God“.

The whole debate makes my head hurt. You can read one article on it here. It is significant to this piece because in spite of our continued wrangling over what we believe, what should and shouldn’t be part of the canon, the Bible thrives. One answer for many is to dismiss the whole mess out of hand because there has been so much hypocrisy, so much evil done in the name of the Lord. If that is you, fine. If humans have any constant, it is our talent for strife. We know the right thing to do yet we still do things we should not.

To repeat something I said in another post, my world is nuts. It is absurd. Nobody behaves, not even God. Them that throw tantrums because there are too many that don’t behave in amenable way are entertaining idiots. As I write this there is a small group of protesters who have decided to occupy a bridge. The idea is that they can stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Many beloved tropes about evil oil companies are sung as hymns by the press and fellow travelers. Those evil oil companies want to pipe oil across sacred Native American lands, ruining the water table, despoiling Mother Earth and worst of all, make money. This is sacred truth for the protest bunch. We who might disagree are apostate. We are ipso facto fascist.

I’m sure, were I able, opening a conversation with the protesters that challenged their orthodoxy, would not go well. They know their truth is accurate, factual. Me, the WASP, just doesn’t understand. If I understood I’d agree with them. The bible is reliable because it accurately reflects us. We are obstinate, sure of our orthodoxies, intolerant of opposition or differences, quick to speak with two mouths and close one ear.  For some, my drunk alien is more true than some wild-assed fable about a martyred carpenter from Nazareth. An absurd word of God works for me.

The books we keep resonate across time. Of all the greek plays to keep we kept Oresteia. Of all the inspirational books across time there are 66 which persist in spite of everything. They reflect who we are and how we can be better. Their very absurdity is what makes them beloved by me. Last bible quote as I end this, Colossians 3:16, “ Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Ok, actually, a couple more: John 1:9-14, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

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Is Jesus Really God?

First Drafted 03-Nov-2016

Yes, yes he is.

Then this from John Maisel:

I want to start with Hebrews 11: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.” There are plenty that try to apply modern philosophy and reason to a mish-mash canon of books that survived through 5,000 years of history. We want this library of mythology, poetry, song, wisdom, prophesy and history to fit our neat, angular, bauhaus, mid-century and first world utopian ideals. We want that desperately. The Bible fails us and so we spit it out as absurd. It’s central character at the end is an insane Nazarene carpenter born in a stable named Jesus. This Jesus says he is God.

It’s almost axiomatic. A man, mortal in every respect, rises to the throne of the Roman Empire. Very soon he declares he is not mortal but a god. He demands tribute and worship. Those who don’t comply are killed. A bastard son, born in Bethlehem to Nazarene parents who claim an absurdity–a virgin birth, a poor carpenter in trouble with his own church for speaking blasphemy, this is who fulfills the prophesies of Isaiah, who claims to be kin of King David? Nuts.

This space is where the odd ones are. Jesus is one of us. If you don’t want to read all 1500 words of this I’ll spoil the ending: Jesus was either a crackpot or he was telling the truth. You can go back to YouTube now. Which is crazier: a despotic emperor claiming to be a god or a no-account pauper saying he is the King who will restore Solomon’s Temple and once again free the Jews from their oppressors? I’m going with the no-account pauper.

My life is nuts. Less so lately but still nuts. It’s only been three days since I went hunting for a particular kitten and though I found her, I didn’t get to bring her home. She sat in the shadows and waited for my car to leave. I was there a whole half-hour, an eternity in this 247365 intertube world we’ve made. So, a God that resembles Caesar, that went to all the right schools, is of the right bloodline, has been checking off the boxes on the orthodox bucket list his or her whole life, can recite the entire bible in latin, greek, aramaic, spanish and english and has a trophy case from all the apologetics debates he or she won, is married to a beautiful spouse, has property in the Hamptons, Santa Monica, Houston, Connecticut and Arlington, VA, that one? That one can kiss my fat, pimply white ass.

I’ll never worship him or her. A god who was born in a feed-trough for donkeys, to a mother who claimed a virgin birth, was raised up a carpenter, alleged to be a troublemaker his whole life, and at around age 30 or so started teaching blasphemy, that one? Yeah, him I like. He’s nuts. He’s an absurdity. It cannot be that a low-down carpenter could be the God of creation, the King of Israel and the fulfillment of the prophesies. Or could it?

We have a prince and a princess stomping about the country impugning the other as proof that we should not coronate that one and instead coronate him or her. One is accused of being a rich pig, two unpardonable, deplorable sins. The usual tropes about his kind are flung at him like angry birds. He’s racist, he’s misogynist, he’s anti-gay, he’s rich, he’s rich, he’s rich, his hair is fake and worst of all, he’s an old white guy. The other has so much alleged corruption and fraud it’s a bit stunning she hasn’t already been arrested. One of them will be our next king. One of them will evoke the memory of Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus (Caligula) with fondness.

I chose to make my own way. I chose to deal with my shit and the ways it has fucked up my life. I come from people like the demi-god I speak of. My cousin is a prominent attorney in Philadelphia, the city of my birth. Webb’s have been at tipping points in history for many centuries. Then comes me, who accuses his father of high crimes and misdeameanor’s gets on a bus across the country and says he’s going to be a Broadway star. That went well.

I can’t be a disciple of Caesar. The prince and princess we are asked to vote on next week are both so incredibly wrong for the post of the Presidency it is stunning. Were I able, I’d get myself arrested for trying to punch Caesar in the face. I need a pugnacious God, one who says outrageous, blasphemous things and heals the sick on the Sabbath. Is Jesus God? Yes, yes he is.

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F R E E D O M ! ! !

Explore God: Is Christianity Too Narrow?

Christianity has too many rules. If I want to party all night long to loud music while my buddy boffs a hot chick, why not? I mean, it’s my life. Fuck off!

Let’s see . . . creepy fifty-something guy trying to relive his despicable twenties. That’s not a problem. No. It’s fine. Yeah. Totally fine.

Some two-year old’s discover a certain word and find it to the the most powerful spell they can utter. It’s one syllable. It’s total bad-ass magic. What’s the word? “No.” That child utters that word and suddenly the world stops. All the grownups perk up. Some of them freeze. It’s awesome.

Right around puberty we learn a word-storm that boils down to, “the grownups are stupid. I’m old enough. I should be able to do what I want.” Some of us do and get noticed by this space. Those that do make great copy. We love them.

The question for today in church was, “Is Christianity too Narrow?” I had a reflexive, “no” come out of my mouth before I had a chance to stop it. You can click away now because I’m going to say triggering and macro-aggressive things next. Gone yet? Go. Git. Seriously, this is not the blog post you should be reading. Go back to YouTube for more kitten videos.

The ones I want gone are the ones who will not listen to what’s next. According to them I am intolerant, racist, misogynist, lbgt hater, alt-right freak, etc. Because of my adjectives I am innately at odds with the orthodoxy of the day. Because of my history I cannot shed the scarlet letter that binds me to shame. Nothing I can say is sufficient. It is I who has to change, who has to behave in a way amenable to the haters of this blog. It is I that must continue to ask for supplication from my haters and fail to get it. So, I’m not talking to my haters.

I loved the word, “no” so much I kept saying it all the way to my grandma’s house in Albany, CA where I found someone who had me before I could say it. It wasn’t until I was fifty-something that I could sing, “I’m Trading My Sorrows” and feel it deep in my belly.

It was once I began to say, “Yes Lord” that a lifetime of Sunday’s in worship began to make an impact on my life. None of the altar-calls before the last one stuck. I’m alive today because of Jesus.

Tommy Nance gave the message last Sunday. He made a challenge to those present. He asked us if worship could be a sin. He asked us to wonder if all we do is warm a pew on Sunday whether our comfort in that pew could be used to coddle us into a dead reflection of God’s image birthed in us when sperm & egg became zygote. He challenged us to get out of the church and be the church in our communities. He accused us of brilliantly winning debates against unbelievers who challenge our exegesis. He described listening evangelism where we let people tell us about God.

You have met us before. You know us better than we know ourselves. You see us come down the street and go inside your homes to wait us out. We are the traveling sales people of the church. We door-knock, bibles at the ready, locked & loaded to capture more heathens. The only win is one where you give your life to Jesus right then. What we want is to close the sale, win the deal and bring home another buck for the church.

That isn’t me. I wasn’t asked to sell you so you become a Christian. I was asked to shut my pie hole and serve you. I am narrow in my beliefs. I do believe that a lot of the current orthodoxy about inclusion is the very opposite of inclusion. I don’t get what I want most of the time because my way of life as a Christian forces some difficult choices.

I’ve had it good. There is very little I can’t have or do if I set about to accomplish it. I’m almost 15 years into boot-strapping myself to where I am today. The devil’s buffet was a delight for some of my years. Until I pushed away from it and left my dirty plate and half-empty soda-pop at the table. To root myself in a 2,000 year tradition, to know that many have gone before me with similar questions, didn’t become a reason to reject my heritage. It has become a comfort.

When you have privilege, when the world is your oyster, your presence as a citizen of a first world nation gives you access to uncountable wealth. Oh stop. I know. The vast majority of the world lives on a few dollars a day. Our richest 1% controls an obscene percentage of the world’s wealth. I won’t hear a pitch that the answer is to take all that wealth and give it to the 99%. Go away.

Well, not yet. The wealth redistribution project that has been under way for almost a century has cost in the hundreds of trillions. We have sent boatloads of cash to that doe-eyed kid on TV who just wants a few cents a day from us to be able to eat a couple crumbs of leftover UNESCO rice. That kid is still in the late-night TV ads with a tear in his (?her?) cheek. Multi-trillions of dollars later and the claim is that we have not done enough. I’m in my mid-fifties. I first saw that ad as a teenager. That kid is old enough to be a grandparent. Somebody must not think I am very bright.

I need to stop at one paragraph of that. This is what I want to say. My privilege did not fix my major malfunctions. Quite the opposite. My privilege enabled me to have my major malfunctions. I could, to a great extent, use my position to insulate myself from misery. The idea that the answer for that doe-eyed kid is a first world life of privilege is an idea ripe for this space in its absurdity and folly. What I need is structure. It is miserable to choose a life which demands I wake at 4am for chapel and includes a reading schedule that will get me through the Psalms in a week. I count that misery as joy compared to having tasted the Devil’s buffet and pushed away from the table.

All of what the Devil has to offer has a short half-life. Early on it is grand. You want that early experience. Soon enough, though, his appetite for your soul begins to drain the euphoria out of his buffet and the bleed of your joy and spirit begins. Each attempt at recovering that early ecstasy diminishes the pleasure and increases the soul-sucking pain. These should be familiar outcomes: morgue, hospital, rehab and prison or jail. Some or all of those happen more than once except the morgue. If you are there then you have been eaten and there is nothing left to eat.

Jesus offers us an examined, disciplined life of self-sacrificing love. Those aspects of our lives that need to die are offered up to the cross in repentance. Christian life is a constant sacrifice of those aspects of ourselves which hinder a deeper relationship to Christ. It is narrow by design. And their lies the problem for anyone like myself that has a first-world life. We are asked to give up all the perks that come with being who we are in this time and place.

I part company with evangelists because they run right past this truth: this life isn’t for everyone. Christ died to live and to be his disciple we must also die to the world in order to live in Him. It is a high price to pay for a life that does not assure comfort. No, actually, being Christian has been and continues to be a miserable life for many. Saying the prayer and joining us isn’t ipso-facto, life-time warranty, 100% guarantee acquistion in 5 easy payments of a release from strife. Nope. I did both. I supped at the Devil’s buffet and realized he was eating me. Then I knocked on Heaven’s Door and Jesus let me in. That has made all the difference.

 

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Let’s Do the Numbers Again

We are a nation of roughly 324 million people. We are the third most populous country in the world. African Americans are about 13% of the population, or almost 39 million people. One article in the Huffington Post says that at least 136 African American Men were shot by cops this year. We have this down to a script now. Cop shoots Black Man. The drumbeat starts. CNN goes 247365 repeating ceaselessly the headline, which is about 15 seconds long. The usual suspects say the usual things. There is SnapChat video. Riots, protests, and yet again the vigilantes want the cop’s head on a spear and a law demanding that no cop can ever shoot another black man. A black man can shoot a cop, that’s fine. Hell, we need more people shooting cops just so they understand that you can’t shoot black people. Just never the other way.

08shooting5-master315You are more likely to die of a heart attack than you are to be shot by a cop. Cardiovascular disease killed 46,000 black men in 2016. From 2010 to 2011 4,906 black men were murdered by other black men. A measly 0.00035% of African American men are shot by cops based on the Huffington Post story. But, so says the talking heads on the TV, it’s an epidemic and every African American is in danger.

Ways to Die for a Black Man

Death by Cop 1 in 236,000
Death Black Man 1 in 7,950
Death by Heart Attack
1 in 848

It was an epidemic in the 1980’s when the claim was made that you could not drive while black and complete your trip without being pulled over by the cops.

Here we are again taking the narrow specific case and making the claim that it is general. A tiny percent of African American men are shot by cops. The odds that no Black Man will ever be shot by a cop again are very bad for those who insist it cannot ever, ever, ever happen again. Odds are, it will. The script will get pulled out of its filing cabinet and we’ll do the thing again.

I have a friend who is a prominent physician. His daughter has gotten caught up in the hype and so is going to unfriend some of us because she believes we don’t care. Has she read my blog lately? The answer is, “Do it. Delete me from your friends list.” The risk of this daughter impacting my life by unfriending me is even smaller than the risk of another black man being shot by a cop. The daughter, though, has taken to heart the propaganda and by inference, decided that she too is fated to die at the hands of a white cop. It’s just a matter of time.

As I listened to the radio this morning I was reminded that about twenty years ago the talking heads were accusing the cops of profiling, of assuming that a car full of young black men must be up to know good. I can remember driving to pick up a fare near Market & 62nd Street on the Oakland/Berkeley border. It was in the wee hours between bar closing and Saturday morning weed-whacker reveille. Ray Taliaferro was humiliating yet another hapless conservative who had called in to say that we are overstating the case that all cops always arrest every driver who is black.

Then, like now, there was no talk of owning the reasons a cop might stop somebody. No, it was the cops who were unfairly arresting and ticketing black folks. Back then, it was just assumed that a white man could piss on a cop’s shoes and he’d get a laugh and a hearty handshake. A black man would get his dick shot off. Cray cray is old.

As I made my left on to 62nd street to pick up my fare a car flashed by me, music blasting, a passenger half-out of the window laughing and hollering at a woman on the sidewalk. The car accelerated and as I made my turn I heard screeching tires and a couple bangs.

The fare turned out to be an airport run to SFO for a couple headed to New York for the week. That night as I listened to KGO there was a report of an accident on Market Street that triggered a road rage incident in which several people had been shot. One of the victims was in critical condition. The car was being driven by a star football player for a local college. He escaped serious injury but his friend riding shotgun was the one in intensive care. As usual, though there were bullet holes in people, nobody knew nothing.

Don’t go digging through the Internet to find the above story. I wrote it. Don’t forget that truth suffers in service to story in this space. The paragraph is there because several trigger words will set off images of the boys in the car. Ditto the shooting, the road rage and the football players. I haven’t named their ethnicity because I know the phrases I used will build an image in your head of a presumed ethnicity.

Nothing? No back story growing in your mind? Ok, a little more help. On the news that night was a helpful blonde talking head holding a microphone in the face of the football player’s mother. She decried the treatment of her son by the police because they left him there bleeding in the street for a long time. No first aid for the boy. The kicker? The race card. Mom said her boy didn’t get prompt medical attention because he was black and dressed like M.C. Hammer.

The police were asked about this. The Berkeley Fire Department was on-scene within 3 minutes of the first call, which was estimated to be about 20 minutes after the incident occurred. No, kiddies, nobody had smartphones then. Telephones were in houses and had cords. It took a while for the neighbors to call an ambulance. Paramedics got the football player to Alta Bates inside the golden hour. So, he was alive, a good thing.

We can’t help reading a narrative and having images evoked in our imagination by what we read. My craft is joyous because I get to live rent free in your head through the way I tell my stories and write my essays. Our mental picture of the car and its passengers is built out of our own story up to the moment when we read a story. It matters, though, what that picture is and what our own imagination says and how all that influences our behavior. We can change if we change the way we tell the story.

Cops have been accused of high crimes and misdemeanors committed against African Americans since at least the 1980’s. Just on what I’ve found online and posted here it is again a narrative that is resonating for some folks on a deeply emotional level. They feel this to be true so it is. It becomes self-perpetuating. Black folks ‘spose to get shot by cops because, well, they are black folks. It’s what they do. Instead of an examined life and perhaps a different story, the story pushed on black folks is taken on as fate and enough do what they feel they have been told to keep the narrative alive.

I chatted with that doctor’s daughter last night. She’s fully committed to the pop-culture animus toward cops. Her friend list on FB is smaller as a result. It’s sad that she’s heard the drumbeat and started tapping her feet to a rhythm that is a lie. Yes, cops shoot people. Cops shoot black people. Every death is a tragedy. The lie is that cops shoot black people in high enough numbers that the usual tropes are affirmed. I’m surprised the number of deaths of black men by cops isn’t higher. What would the press say if 46,000 black men died at the hands of cops in 2016?

What would Obama say if on his watch more black men died at the hands of cops than died of heart disease? I’ll spare you my usual blather about owning your shit, living an examined life, shedding yourself of the things that keep you from God, loving all, enemies especially. That’s always there to do. This time, before you jump into the street to protest, to punch a cop, to believe the hype, ask yourself, “who wins because I was suckered into believing the propaganda?”

We won’t stop the killing by killing. More riots and violent protest feeds the narrative and makes Charlie Rose get all gushy and happy. There are plenty who have crossed the divide and engaged those they fear. We need more of that instead of more SnapChat video of yet another protest because there is another body.

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You Might Be a Christian

Stealing a prompt from Jeff Foxworthy and David Letterman. Jeff’s, “You Might be a Redneck” is on YouTube and also below:

Ok, without further, you might be a Christian if:

  1. You have lost everything and somehow recovered, transformed.
  2. You do random acts of kindness as a matter of habit.
  3. You have forgiven that asshat (again, again, again) more than 70 times 7.
  4. You have prepared a meal for guests, including some who showed up uninvited, wondered if you had prepared enough and there were leftovers.
  5. You sometimes break out into song in public at really strange times with old school stuff like Aretha Franklin.
  6. Words, the right words, matter.
  7. You care about a person’s deeds while you also are gracious toward them.
  8. You have fasted four meals a week as a spiritual practice.
  9. A friend has reported that they were healed after you touched them. You didn’t tell them that as you touched them you also accidentally prayed for said healing.
  10. You tend to be in trouble with the local parish because your “speaking truth to power” is treated like blasphemy.

Christianity was a “Dao”, a way (道), before it became the religion of the empire. It is a dissident life with origins in what we know of as Israel. Those that call themselves fundamentalist ought to be wearing prayer shawls, growing their beard, eating kosher, singing hymns in Hebrew and listening to 109FM, Tel Aviv. Christianity pervades the culture of every people who were once touched by the Roman empire. You may not like church. I’m with you there. There is still too much of Rome in it. Jesus of Nazareth has had a bigger influence on life than any king in history. You might be a Christian and not know it.

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