Sunday, October 29, 2017

We Should Really Talk!

1. There's nothing wrong engaging controversial subject matter.

2. There's nothing wrong with being uncomfortable. 

3. There's nothing wrong with not knowing.

4. There's nothing wrong with admitting a mistake.

As a nation, we have never been comfortable talking about controversial issues; however, as individuals, we can work on this, but it will take deep dialogue and a lot of self reflection.

I get a few dozen messages every week from decent people hurt by things I write. This is troubling. I don't use profanity and I don't attack people- even when they attack me, but I'm still inflicting wounds on people I care about.

If I wrote an 800 word article condemning sexism it wouldn't offend people who aren't in denial about the role gender plays in society, but the same article about race has the ability to offend people. We have to get past defending ourselves when institutional practices are called into question. This defense mechanism refocuses conversations. It isn't helpful and diverts time and energy.

When the subject of toxic masculinity and rape culture come up men don't have to reflexively defend themselves from the indictments leveled at our society. Indictments against patriarchy are justified. This also applies to racism and white supremacy. Systemic racism is real; pointing this out shouldn't trigger anyone, but if you feel triggered ask yourself why? What is it about this subject that causes feelings of anxiety or annoyance?

I write about the world we inherited. I write about the gap between our beliefs and our practices. I write about things most would rather avoid. I don't lie in my writing, and any claim I make can be grounded by empirical data. You might not like the conclusions I draw, and if that's the case let's talk about it. This isn't about being right; it's about dialogue. If people who know each other can't talk how can we expect a stranger to understand us?

We have to do better. This includes me.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Insanity of Mass Shootings

Every few weeks our lives are interrupted by breaking news about innocent people being gunned down in classrooms, movie theaters, night clubs, churches and most recently an outdoor concert. During these highly stressful times, we stop what we are doing to reflect on the preciousness and fragility of life, we offer our prayers and condolences to the families affected by the tragedy and we tell ourselves this isn’t America. We recite this claim with the convictions people give to their religious mantras. We repeat this lie hoping to convince ourselves that we were somehow different, but this is America. This is who we are and we need to accept it. Insanity isn’t just doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Insanity is also denying the truth right in front of us.

Violence is a constitutive part of our history. America grew out of a violent revolution and hasn’t looked back. In the Gospel of Saint Luke, we are told that we can know a tree by the fruit it produces. In America, we scorn and rebuke our rotten apples, but we refuse to indict the tree that produced them. We have to quit using the same shocked language we apply to these tragedies and come to grips with the fact that this is normal. America is, and always has been, a violent nation.

Our culture has glamourized violence through novels, television, movies and video games. The spike in mass shootings over the last decade is a generational consequence of celebrating death more than life. America’s fascination with violence consciously and unconsciously affects many of us in different ways. It starts out as innocent games of cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers. We send these same kids to schools that have canonized our nation’s most historic battlegrounds and immortalized the soldiers who fought and died on those sacred grounds. We have Civil War reenactments where we simulate the experience of being on some of America’s most deadly killing fields. For every person truly repulsed by depictions of violence there are throngs of people cancelling out their voices.

Contrary to what we tell ourselves, the majority of mass shootings aren’t committed by people with a history of mental illness. These are meticulously calculated events designed to inflict as much pain and terror as possible. Too often we jump to the conclusion that the shooter must have been “crazy.” This is disingenuous. Saying someone is crazy is an easier pill to swallow than accepting the fact that our culture continues producing more and more people capable of committing these crimes.

There are so many Americans invested in the myths associated with America that (as a nation) we can’t look critically at this problem. Too many people are working overtime to systematically disconnect these shootings from each other- and often the motives behind them. America is under siege by the threat of random violence and we won’t accept the fact that our culture is complicit in some of the carnage we have seen.

America is stuck in a perpetual cycle of grief, inaction and denial. Our politicians don’t have the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and we won’t look in the mirror. These stories start with a hail of bullets and end in death and prayers. We keep doing the same thing over and over and have the nerve to question the results.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Why is Pat Robertson Still Relevant?

“The fact that we have disrespect for authority; there is profound disrespect for our president, all across this nation they say terrible things about him. It’s in the news, it’s in other places."

Pat Robertson 

This is a prime example of why so many young people are disenchanted with the church. For 8 years President Barack Obama and his family were ruthlessly disrespected by "Evangelicals" and "compassionate conservatives"; now, we are supposed to pretend like the serial philanderer and self admitted genital grabber has earned our respect? 

Pat Robertson's political and nationalistic theology is pushing more young people away from the church than the evils he drones on about every day. If holier than thou White Anglo Saxon Protestants keep defending the daily garbage produced by the 45th president the average age of parishioners at many of these churches will rise exponentially. Your kids and grand kids are watching you defend behavior you wouldn't tolerate from them. This hypocrisy is another reason for kids to duck church.

Please, miss me with the God sent Trump argument. If God sent him, then ipso facto he also sent the guy before him and that didn't stop y'all from disrespecting him and his family.

10 months into 2017, and none of the things Evangelicals warned us about happened. Barack Obama didn't:

1. Suspend the First Amendment and take your guns.
2. Didn't round up Christians and send them to FEMA camps.
3. He didn't usher in Sharia law and force us all to convert to Islam.
4. He didn't declare Martial Law to stay in power.

Pat Robertson and a host of "Religious" celebrities spread these lies with the same vigor they spread the Gospel. All of these claims were taken very serious and all of them were ridiculous, but not nearly as ridiculous as the church defending behavior that is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. If any of Donald Trump's most loyal defenders in the clergy behaved like him on any given day they would be excommunicated or defrocked. 

Here's some free advice: young people will respect you more if you keep it 100 in the name of Jesus.