The Christmas War

Yep, it is that time of year again. The time for feelings of peace on earth and good will to men. The time of frenzied last minute materialistic shopping for that trinket that will probably be in the trash can before Easter.

And the time for Christians to get all up in arms over people saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”. Yes, these “Christians” – many of whom claim to be freedom-loving Constitutionalists – want to dictate to both individuals and organizations what they must say at this time of year.

But they face two problems, one governmental and one business, though both truly are the same problem:

Christianity isn’t the only religion in the world, much to many of these would-be dictators’ chagrin.
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“Good” Friday?

Apparently there has been an issue within a town in Iowa – Davenport, to be exact. Now, I’ve never heard of Davenport, IA. I know absolutely nothing about them, and probably would never know anything about them had something not flared up out there over the weekend.
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The Opiate Of The Masses

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. –Karl Marx

Those words were written in the middle of the 19th century, when people turned to religion for their every need. I hold that we could replace “religion” with “government” and thus update the quote to the 21st century.

People today turn to government for their every need and desire. And it isn’t just those “evil” entitlement programs that THOSE people use that are the problem. No, “normal”, every day people also turn to government for their needs and desires too. Sign ordinances are a prime example. Someone doesn’t like the way a particular business’ sign looks, so they go to their local government to have that sign banned. Or they don’t like what a book says, so they have it banned from their local library. Or they are afraid of “radicals”, so they ban a church from buying land to expand. Or they don’t like the smell of cigarettes, so they have them banned from every place imaginable. Or they don’t like a particular group getting married, so they put laws in place preventing it. Or some people can’t afford healthcare, so they put laws in place that make healthcare a “free” government service. They think they find freedom in these actions, yet they are only feeling the illusory affects of the opiate called government.
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New Project: Sons of Thunder

So I announced this on my facebook and twitter streams a month ago, but I want to get it up here too…

After 2 years of political blogging and a lifetime of reading, I’ve decided to turn my pursuits in a slightly different direction, at least personally (I’m still a programmer by day):

I’m going to write my own book. Hopefully y’all will like it. The people who have seen the first chapter seem to think it has promise, and I’m really looking forward to telling the story. Writing it in a month (the initial goal) was a dismal failure, but write it I shall, and hopefully I’ll have it out in time for the Libertarian Party of Georgia’s 2012 Convention on Feb 24, 2012.

The book’s title will be Sons of Thunder, and it tells the tale of how brothers John and James came to acquire some pretty impressive state of the art bionic arms, as well as their relationship with their father Zebediah and the role he plays. Along the way, it will be at times very intimate, with both a courtroom drama and an action/ adventure sharing the space of the same book. I’ve yet to see anyone even attempt this, so it should be an interesting adventure writing it!

I’ll let y’all in on more details as I get it up, but one reason for this post is because I want to go ahead and hopefully find some people who want to advance read this thing and help me edit it and make it better. Right now I am 7K words in on a book that will eventually turn out to be more than likely in the 70K+ range, though we’ll see once I get more written exactly where it is going on that aspect. If you’re interested in helping me out, give me a shout and I’ll get you what I’ve currently got as the first chapter to whet your appetite. 😀

We know I can do pretty decent at political blogging, the question becomes how good am I at writing fiction? Let’s find out, shall we?

Footloose and Christianity

Last Friday on my way to work, I heard the “family friendly” review of the Footloose remake that opened this weekend on my way to work via Augusta’s WAFJ, and the reviewer was adamantly opposed to the movie because of the way he felt it portrayed Christians.

I actually had the chance to see the remake at The Big Mo, a drive in theater out on the rural edge of Aiken County, SC, not far from where I currently live. After looking for the original on Netflix and all the movie because channels I pay for and not finding it, it turned out I already OWNED the original thanks to my wife, so we also watched it Sunday, barely 12 hrs after seeing the remake.

In both movies, Rev Shaw Moore is the local preacher on the City Council of Bomont, and the father of the female lead character Ariel.

But the performances differ fairly dramatically. In John Lithgow’s portrayal in the original version, Rev Moore preaches quite a bit of Hellfire and brimstone regarding dancing, rock music, sex, and drugs, but he is also the voice of reason when his parishioners want to burn Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five at the local library. In the remake, Randy Quaid’s Rev Shaw Moore is the same Hellfire and brimstone preacher, without the reasonableness of the book burning scene, which has been completely removed from the remake.

The reviewer for WAFJ thinks that this is somehow portraying Christianity in a negative light. I posit that the two portrayals of Rev Moore were in line with public perception of Christianity at the time – and we Christians have ourselves to blame for the fairly strictly negative way our Savior is portrayed in the new movie.

So what has changed since the 1984 release of the original movie and the nearly 30 year later release of the new one?

Christians will probably point to less God in our schools or some other perceived assault on Christianity, but I believe that a more objective look at the situation will reveal two major changes in America over the last 30 years that led to this shift in public perception:

1) The rise of the so-called “Moral Majority” and Christian leaders’ involvement in State and National politics and

2) the rise of the Christian counterculture

In the mid and later 80s, after a “successful” purge of “liberals” from the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 70s, SBC leaders such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and some US Senator named Al Gore began rising to prominence in the national political arena pushing for Congress to regulate rap, rock, and other musics and entertainments. In 1994, this rise – and subsequent marriage to the Republican Party – of evangelical Christian leaders became cemented in the public perception with the out-of-the-blue Republican takeover of Congress, led in part by then-Congressman and now Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. The marriage was thus consummated when these religious and political leaders began crucifying sitting President Bill Clinton for having the audacity to cheat on his wife (current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) by getting a blowjob from an intern in the Oval Office – which was and is simply the President’s formal office in the house he currently lives in. And then, of course, you have the entire Presidency of George W Bush and his (not so) “compassionate conservatism”.

What did the public see in these Christian leaders? Not very much Christ, that’s for dang sure. They saw a whole lot of “morality” being crammed down their throats via legislation such as the Federal “Defense of Marriage Act”, a whole lot of end-of-the-world doomsaying any time a judge allowed gays to get married (which at least a few mainstream Protestant denominations, such as the Episcopalians, allow in their churches)… and not very much love.

At the same time that all of this (and much more) was going down politically, a “Christian” counter culture began to rise. I don’t recall which came first, but I do know that by the late 80s, artists such as Michael W Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Jars of Clay, Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, and DC Talk were getting a lot of attention in church circles. These acts have only gone on to sell in the neighborhood of 100 MILLION albums combined. But a true “counter culture” can’t be just music. At the same time these artists were beginning to rise, “family friendly” (code for “Christian plus a few secular songs OCCASSIONALLY”) radio began to rise, as well as “family friendly” movies and Christian books of every possible stripe. Yes, you can even find “Christian” supernatural romances in 2011. In addition to these entertainment options, more and more businesses and (obviously) private schools began advertising themselves as “Christian”, and indeed, some megachurches or prominent members thereof run very successful businesses in virtually every town and industry.

By 2011, it has become entirely possible to raise a child from conception through death at old age and never once leave the comforting cocoon of the “Christian” counter culture – and apparently was getting this way even in the late 90s, when Steven Curtis Chapman penned “The Change”. What should have been a wake up call was simply devoured in the latest consumer entertainment feast.

It is a matter of the chicken and the egg, but with the existence of this counter culture and its many adherents, more and more Christians began to remove themselves more and more from “the world” – even while proclaiming their desire to “reach” it.

And as these Christians began to remove themselves from what they saw as bad influences, the so-called “cycle of failure” began to revolve faster and faster. Christians saw “evil”, fled from it, the evil doesn’t have any light to counteract it, so grows darker. Christians see the increasing darkness, and flee further, and the cycle repeats ad nauseum.

Thus, while Christianity – and much more importantly, Christianity’s Savior – was seen as fairly benign or even a good thing, if not THE good thing, at my birth in the early 80s, before my 30th birthday Christianity has become seen as a joke, at best, and an outright menace to the very people Christ commanded us to love.

Thus, the rise of both the Christian counterculture and its marriage to the GOP has led us from John Lithgow’s Rev Shaw Moore to Randy Quaid’s.

And it is entirely our fault as Christians.

What should we do about this? I have some ideas, but I’d like to hear yours. Sound off in the comments or via one of my social media feeds. Let’s have a dialogue. Maybe later I’ll write a follow up post with some of the better ideas I see and hear.

NaNoWriMo 2011

National Novel Writing Month is something one of my twitter friends has been talking up for quite a while, and I’m leaning towards being a participant this year.

The basic idea is ti write an entire 50K word manuscript in a single 30 day month. MY idea for participating is that it will give me something go distract myself from politics with every November. As a recovering politic-addict, I figure NaNoWriMo could be my equivalent to a smoker’s chewing gum – and who knows, MAYBE I could actually make money at it (unlike politics)?

Because i’m getting into it nearly at the last second, i’m thinking this year’s novel will be eerily similar to people who have known me since Jan 1, 2000 – where the story will open up. Most names will be changed, some places will be, and some situations will be added or enhanced to turn it from ‘autobiography’ to ‘fiction’, and i’m hoping it will be an entertaining read once done.

So a former blogger, who used to write 2k word posts daily fairly easily, is taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge? Should be fairly easy, right? Well, remember: i’ll still have a wife, 3 pets, a full time job, and other factors to consider. But i’m hoping things go smoothly.

I’ll let you know in November. 😀

It Is Official… x2!

So I told work this morning, and therefore I can put it out publicly now: I am leaving my job at the Savannah River Site outside of Augusta Ga in two weeks for a *SENIOR* Software Developer position at a leading anesthesiologist billing firm.

But that’s not all folks!

In addition to a bit of upheaval at work, I’m also continuing to slow down my (at least official) political efforts. Over the weekend, I resigned as the Legislative Director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia. While remaining committed to the cause of Liberty, I simply do not have the time to devote to official activity, at least at the level that said activity needs to be worked.

So I’m choosing instead to spend what time I have with my wife and persuing other interests – such as reading Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer, which I HIGHLY recommend. I’ve also joined a review program from Thomas Nelson Publishers, where they send me free books in exchange for online reviews both here and at I’m currently reading With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani, and I’ll post my review once I’m finished. So far, that book is VERY impressive, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Mr. Jethani – the senior editor of Leadership Journal – has to say.

Requisite Sept 11 Post

Where was I? I was an 18 yo kid living at home while going to college at the end of the summer that began with his HS graduation. To this day, that summer is probably the “iconic” summer of my life – though this past summer, 10 yrs later, certainly rivaled it. I had gone to Cedar Point, seen the very plane JFK’s body was flown to DC in, in which LBJ was sworn in in, went hiking at Amicalola, gone to my first NSCS Leadership Summit, where I had a chance to drive a 2001 yellow Mustang convertible for the weekend (and gone to Universal Islands of Adventure for a few hrs)…

… and on Sept 11 itself, around 8:30 in the morning, I was driving down I-75 from Cartersville to Kennesaw, with a 12 pack of Mello Yello in the passenger seat, intending to get what I then called “pseudo drunk” over a breakup over the weekend from a girl I had been dating for the later part of the summer. (BTW: Drink 12 mello yellos back to back – guarantee the guy standing next to you won’t be able to tell you’re not drunk! ;))

I was listening to 104.7 The Fish Atlanta, as I did every morning in that era, when news reports came on of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. My honest-to-God thought was that it was a little Cessna, that it happens relatively often, and that it wasn’t THAT big of a deal – about the same as any other small plane crash, which were relatively common in North Ga at the time.

I got to school/ work – already one and the same place – and learned the full magnitude of what was transpiring. When I got up to 5th floor of KSU’s Science Building, which then held the offices of the CSIS Dept, we began reading online what was happening – then the websites came down, as the traffic was simply too much for the servers to handle. So we scrambled around to try to find a TV, which we set up in the break room.

At 11:00, I went to class, as they had not been cancelled yet. It was Dr. Meg Murray’s CSIS 3600, Systems Analysis and Design (mostly a DB oriented course), but by then most people knew what had happened. Dr. Murray pretty simply told everyone that there would be no class today, because no one could possibly focus on class. So I went back to CSIS and did the last official thing I did for the day: I put up a post noting that school had been cancelled for the day and explaining why on the bulletin board that we ran at the time for the Programming 1 and 2 courses.

After that, I walked around campus for a bit, where many others were already organizing trips to NYC to help. Then I went home. Late that night, I wrote a piece (on paper, as I hadn’t discovered blogging yet and wouldn’t for nearly a decade) that concluded with the lines “May God have mercy on the souls of those who did this – because I sure as hell don’t.”

I actually found that piece at my parents’ house a year or two ago, and remember reading it and reliving writing it. I’m glad to say I’ve matured a bit in the intervening decade, and while I still have no sympathy for the actual attackers of that day, I’ve come to realize my and our role in producing them, and I’ve begun to actually try to end the cycle, to what degree I can. Granted, I can’t change an entire culture, but I can change my own heart, and maybe I can even appeal to yours. One of the grave problems of that day was that our culture had been demonized in the Muslim culture of the era, and in turn their culture has now been demonized in ours. For some insight into what Amnerican Muslims are REALLY like, check out Heck, instead of relying on Bil OReilly, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Beck to tell you what Muslims believe, how about picking up a copy of the Koran and READING IT FOR YOURSELF? I did, about a month ago, and so far it has been an intriguing read – not at all what I had been taught to think it said. (BTW: Many might want to do the same project with the Bible… #justsaying…)

Finally, I want to leave you with a couple of links that I found genuinely interesting/ profound/ sad today:

Jonathan Merritt’s post in Q


Why They Hate Us

and this quote, which Merritt uses a piece of:

The silence of most Christians and the giddy enthusiasm of a few, as well as the ubiquity of flags and patriotic extravaganzas in allegedly evangelical churches, says to me that American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat. It was shattering to admit that we had lost the theological means to distinguish between the United States and the kingdom of God. The criminals who perpetrated 9/11 and the flag-waving boosters of our almost exclusively martial response were of one mind: that the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid. All of us preachers share the shame; when our people felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross.

September 11 has changed me. I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what’s wrong with the world. I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own Son. -Will Willimon, presiding bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church

I Need Your Help

So two weeks from right now I’ll be on board the Carnival Fascination somewhere in the Atlantic between Jacksonville FL and the Bahamas. It should (and will) be a life of luxurious nothingness for 5 days and 4 nights where my biggest worry will be do I want the lobster or the filet mignon. I’ve been looking forward to this cruise since BEFORE we booked it, and the closer it gets, the more I’m looking forward to it.

But before I leave, I have a slight #firstworlddilemma.

My wife has given me a $30 cap on books to buy for my Kindle for the week.

So I’ve started using my Amazon Wish List as I see things I would like to pick up eventually, and now I pose the question to you, the reader:

Please use the following poll to tell me your Top 5 from this list. If you have any others you think I may enjoy, please feel free to let me know either in the comments here or through the various social media sites you know me from. You can click here to see the wish list directly, with links to the Amazon pages for the books in question.

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Been A Fun Summer

Summer is nearly over, but it has been one of the better ones since my school days – if low key (which, as I get older, is good ;)).

It started out with me finally living with my wife again, after two months of separation. Not that we were “separated” in the marital sense – far from it. But we had been physically separated due to me starting a new job in Aiken and her still finishing her old one in Leesburg. Memorial Weekend, both sets of parents and both of my brothers came out and we moved our chunk of Leesburg to the apartment in Aiken that I had been living spartanly in for two months.

After everyone left, we began what has become an almost weekly occurence: We spent some time at a movie theater. Over the summer, we’ve seen 13 movies, and I’ve seen an additional 2 if you count April. On the first weekend of June, we began going out to the Monetta Drive in Theater, on the far side of Aiken County from us. There, you could see 2 movies for the price of one matinee virtually anywhere else, and typically at least one of the two is brand new that week, with the other usually being only a week or two old.

So far this summer, we’ve seen:

Hangover 2
XMen First Class
Kung Fu Panda 2
Super 8
Green Lantern
Bad Teacher
Transformers 3
Horrible Bosses
Harry Potter 7 Part 2 (twice, for Tonya)
Captain America (twice, for me)
Cowboys and Aliens
Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Yes, we’ve been trying to save the entire movie industry in America all by ourselves this summer. 😉

In the meantime, I’ve been working steadily and Tonya even got a new part time job in Aiken to get herself out of the house for a few hours a week and meet new people.

The official “end of summer” is typically Labor Day Weekend, but with the interns at work leaving last week and this week, and schools in the area starting up either tomorrow (in GA) or next week (in SC), it “feels” like the end of summer already. But I’m still going to have some fun. We’ve still got at least 2, possibly 3 or 4, movies we want to see this summer – Fright Night and Final Destination 5, two scary movies I will actually watch with Tonya. Maybe we’ll even find some really cool new (to us) restaurants in the area, like Takosushi – an area establishment that we REALLY like.

And Labor Day Weekend?

Jacksonville. Possibly as early as that Friday, where we can re-visit the Jacksonville Zoo, which was a pretty fun trip (that part of it at least) for us a couple of years ago, before heading out Saturday on the Carnival Fascination, bound for a week long cruise to the Bahamas and back. This will be our first cruise since April 2009, and as someone who has truly come to enjoy the islands – that is simply too long. 😀

So it has been a fun summer – and it aint over yet!