Thursday, July 26, 2018

We Are The Prophets: Lessons From Amos

They were living lives of material wealth and satisfying all of their carnal desires, yet they were empty on the inside. Their debauchery knew no limits; they had even reduced the sacredness of worship to a ritual that could be memorized.

Piney Grove Baptist Church
Click the play button to start the message.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

There's Never Enough Time

Have you ever felt like your plan isn't working? Think about it; you set a goal, but every time you turn around your attention and resources are being diverted from the task at hand.

Do you feel stuck? Keep reading if this sounds familiar. You just got home from work, but before you can decompress you have a literal laundry list of things to do. Some of these tasks should have been done the other day, but you didn't have time. Have you ever sat down on the couch at 8:30pm and 20 minutes later it was 11 o'clock?

If any of this describes your life, you are not a statistical outlier. You are exactly like the majority of us. Life is pulling you in so many directions that you feel swamped. Sometimes, our biggest accomplishment in a day is just surviving it.

The two questions I started with are rooted in how we feel about our situation. That's great news. We can be our harshest critic. What we feel about our situation and the reality of our situation can be two completely different things. We only have so much time at our disposal, so we shouldn't use it beating ourselves up. You are probably doing better than you give yourself credit for.

Most of us don't have enough time to accomplish everything we want when we want. There will always be something pulling our attention away from our goals. This is what life is. If you can close your eyes knowing you are doing the best you can: sleep easy. A good night's sleep feels better than restlessly doubting yourself. Either way, the laundry will be waiting on you in the morning.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Donald Trump Has No Character

"It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth...arrogance into humility…brutality into patriotism. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character."

Joseph Heller Catch-22

Truth, sometimes, is stranger than fiction. This quote, in some form or another, has been used to describe Donald Trump by a number of people. His performance in Helsinki and the subsequent press conference to clean up that mess is par for this presidency.

Donald Trump had a complete meltdown less than 10 feet from Vladimir Putin. He proved once and for all that he is a Beta male using bravado to hide his insecurities. Watch the video again; his discomfort was visible. I wasn't surprised by his lying and scapegoating: he does that almost every time he's in front of cameras, but the timidity was stunning. He looked like a child with a disappointing report card.

The right-wing response to the Helsinki debacle was predictable. Some of his early GOP detractors pounced in an effort to show some sort of strength. His supporters did what they always do: defend him and his ineptitude at any cost, and when that didn't work they fell back on Hillary Clinton's emails and Barack Obama's existence. Sarah Sanders stood in front of reporters and "Trumpslained" her boss's 45 minute comedy of errors. This whole experiment is absurd.

Donald Trump's cult following gets​ stronger after every one of his catastrophic public appearances. He is the manifestation of Joseph Heller's quote from "Catch-22". His utter lack of character is only surpassed by his most loyal supporter's ability to ignore and defend his almost daily indiscretions. Donald Trump has waged a war on virtues, truth, humility, and patriotism.

1. Donald Trump's vices are his virtues. Donald Trump’s money, lifestyle, and pseudo-machismo are attractive to many of his followers. A lot of Evangelicals subscribe to an overly ascetic interpretation of the Bible that causes them to, publicly, deny having urges of the flesh- much less acting on them. The fact that he is an unapologetic serial liar, adulterer, misogynist, and bigot is seen as a sign of strength. He says out loud what some only say in the comfort of their home. Trump's army of self-professed Christian conservatives always defend him- even when his behavior is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. He turned ignorance, arrogance, and apathy into redeemable qualities.  

2. Donald Trump's slander is his truth. His mantra of "fake news" is a linguistic and rhetorical tool used to handicap factual discussions. The idea that broad swaths of the American media and intelligentsia should be ignored is a genius strategy for someone who can only be hurt by the truth. This sort of Tammy Wynette "gaslighting" has been very effective. Donald Trump's war on the truth and empirical data is the embodiment of the Chico Marx line from the movie Duck Soup, "Who ya gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?" When confronted with incontrovertible facts his base is unswayed. He has convinced millions of people to suspend their commonsense. His lies and personal attacks are equated with facts in the world.

3. Donald Trump's arrogance is his humility. Arrogance is defined as: an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions. Donald Trump loves the use of superlatives. He constantly reminds us of his personal greatness. He is the smartest, best, richest, and my personal favorite: least racist person any of us knows. In Meher Baba’s 1967 book Discourses, he described pride as “the specific feeling through which egoism manifests.” Donald Trump is so much better than us that we should be happy he humbles himself to talk to us- even if it is about himself.

4. Donald Trump’s Patriotism is brutal. There is a dangerous and false pride woven into Donald Trump’s America first ethos. His treatment of Barack Obama, The Kahn Family, and Judge Gonzalo Curiel is tacit proof that being born in America doesn’t mean someone is a “real American”. He has a litmus test for patriotism. In his view, anyone who questions the status quo is un-American. He calls NFL players “sons of bitches” for protesting police brutality while he ignores, equivocates, and even excuses Russia’s attacks on the country he professes to love so much. There are segments of the American populace who feel increasingly vulnerable in the age of Trump. The spike in racial attacks, unwarranted calls to police, and the normalization of bigotry is a form of violence that has been visited upon people who don’t conform to the “Trumpian” view of who is an American. This is a problem many in his camp ignore.

I've written over 30 articles about Donald Trump since the spring of 2015. They all have a similar tenor and tone. I have ceased trying to understand or respect a man who has shown a complete lack of character. Donald Trump's agenda is dangerous to people on the outside of his racial, religious, cultural, and heteronormative conception of who is an American, but it's become obvious that it is just as dangerous to those in his base. Sadly, this won't be the last time he embarrasses America on the world stage.