Wild Fires and School Shootings

Nearly six years ago, I read an article on Wired.com that dramatically changed the way I think. It was regarding wildfires and how we fight them, and this particular passage struck me:

“Then, when you look at the last century, you see the climate getting warmer and drier, but until the last couple decades the amount of fire was really low. We’ve pushed fire in the opposite direction you’d expect from climate,” [Yale University pyrogeographer Jennifer] Marlon said.

In other words, nature was already adapting to keep fires minimal, but then we in our all-knowing wisdom intervened, thinking we had to prevent fires to save ourselves.

Instead, through our very actions, we caused what we sought to eliminate.

Reading the beginning of the article, specifically about wildfires, allows an easy segue into where this article applies now:

THE VAST WILDFIRES of this summer and last represent a new normal for the western United States. They may signal a radical landscape transformation, one that will make the 21st century West an ecological frontier.

Unlike fires that have occurred regularly for thousands of years, these fires are so big and so intense as to create discontinuities in natural cycles. In the aftermath, existing forests may not return. New ecosystems will take their place.

“These transitions could be massive. They represent the convergence of several different forces,” said Donald Falk, a fire ecologist at the University of Arizona. “There is a tremendous amount of energy on the landscape that historically would not have been there. These are nuclear amounts of energy.”

We could reword this in the following manner, and it would be equally true:

THE LARGE AMOUNT OF GUN VIOLENCE IN THE US of the last 25 years represent a new normal for the United States. They may signal a radical landscape transformation, one that will make the 21st century a sociological frontier.

Unlike violence that has occurred regularly for thousands of years, this violence is so big and so intense as to create discontinuities in natural cycles. In the aftermath, existing institutions may not be able to cope. New cultures will take their place.

“These transitions could be massive. They represent the convergence of several different forces. There is a tremendous amount of energy on the landscape that historically would not have been there. These are nuclear amounts of energy.”

Just as Dr. Marlon said above in relation to wildfires in the west, 25 years ago in particular the US undertook a mission to make our society safer – but we have achieved exactly the opposite results of what we expected.

There are many people with many theories as to why this is, and there are certainly, as Dr. Falk says, “several different forces” at play. But I have arrived at one that I think lies at the root of it, and I think that be correcting our course on this one issue, we may be able to correct our course overall and arrive at our desired, safer, destination.

What is that one issue?

Zero tolerance policies in schools.

I remember as an elementary school kid in the late 80s and early 90s – just before Zero Tolerance kicked in during my 6th grade year – that getting in fights was settled with either the teacher or the Principal, and usually resulted in nothing more than a stern lecture and maybe after school detention. But it also, critically, allowed the small fire to flash over and dissipate.

With the advent of Zero Tolerance in particular, all of a sudden even looking at another person wrong could result in expulsion from school or at minimum a stay at in school suspension for a few days. Fighting became guaranteed expulsion and likely criminal charges, no matter how young the kids in question were and no matter who the actual aggressor was. Now, we have actively and aggressively suppressed the small fires.

But this allows the weeds and brushes of small angers and resentments to build. Angers and resentments that even a few years prior were allowed to flash over as a small fire all of a sudden became… Jonesboro. Paducah. Columbine. And more and more others. School shootings where kids were bringing guns to schools specifically to inflict as much damage as possible, in an attempt to handle their own anger and pain.

This has only continued to build over the last 25 years, as people who were in school then and since have continued to have these grievances actively, aggressively suppressed and are taught to hold them in no matter what. And now we are to the point where these shootings are barely even news unless more than a handful are killed. Where once any attack was national level news, even ones where hardly anyone was hurt – much less killed -, we now have attacks barely make waves in the local media when similar numbers are attacked.

At the time Zero Tolerance was implemented, the 24/7 news cycle was in its infancy. The Internet – the very platform you are reading this very article on – was just beginning to come online in a big way for the average consumer. We had no way of knowing what the 24/7 news cycle, political punditry, and in particular the rise of social media and other instant communications would allow. We had no idea that allowing those small fires to flash over quickly was about to become paramount, instead seeing them as something that needed to be suppressed at all costs.

Well, now we know more exactly what those costs are – and I for one do not believe them worth it. Return us to the era where fist fighting was not encouraged, but was understood. Return us to an era where the small fires were allowed to flash over in order to prevent the widespread devastation of the wildland fire.

Will repealing Zero Tolerance restore all that we have lost over the last 25 years? Not in the short term. But maybe, just maybe, 25 years from now we will see that it did indeed patch the dam long enough for our other institutions to repair themselves and solve that problem for good.

Jesus and the American Golden Calf

Many years ago, I heard the full story of exactly what was happening at a somewhat routine passage in John 7, and it blew my mind – and altered my life forever.

The passage in question is this:

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38, New King James Version

Like I said, a fairly routine passage in a chapter that is a bunch of “quick hit” scenes. Nothing at all remarkable about the text, on its face.

But here’s where things get interesting: You see, that first verse (until it says 38 above) is actually FULL of details that have direct impact into at least one controversy swirling America as I write this. Because the “feast” in question was one of the holiest moments of the Jewish calendar of that era, the Feast of Tabernacles.

On the very holiest of days of one of the holiest religious observances of their year, Jesus protested. He claimed they were dead wrong, that their celebrations meant nothing. That he and he alone was what they were looking for. In Modern American Christian parlance, this would be similar to some travelling pastor walking into CNN on Christmas morning and proclaiming himself the Second Coming of Christ. It was *that* big.

And here’s the pivot to the American Golden Calf. You see, the Jews of Christ’s era were familiar with the story of the Golden Calf – as are many American Christians. Long story short (and it can be found in Exodus 32), Moses was up on the Mount of Sinai for a LONG time getting the 10 Commandments. While he’s gone, his brother commissions a golden calf to be made that the people of Israel begin worshipping – and then one of the 10 Commandments Moses comes down with turns out to be “thou shalt have no other gods before me”. Oops.

Now, what is the American Golden Calf? The United States Government. And specifically, its symbols – its flag and anthem. American Christians are no different than those Israelites of long ago, so tired of waiting and so bored and so sure of their own significance that they will worship almost literally anything that seems to give them an iota of purpose. In our case, they have eschewed “thou shalt have no other gods before me” for placing their entire faith in the American Flag. Sure, they’ll say they don’t. And they will and do make a big stink about how much they don’t. But their big stink shows just how much they do. Because in their every action, they continually reiterate their absolute devotion to that flag. They think that that flag and the cross Jesus died on are the very same thing, when in fact the two are polar opposites.

That flag in modern times does not in any way stand for freedom. The cross never has. That flag in modern times stands for tyranny, oppression, and force – in every detail of life, all over the globe. The cross stands for absolute supplication to the Living God – by each man’s choice. That flag in modern times demands “you will worship me or else”. The cross has always been about personal sacrifice to show the path to God. That flag in modern times says “If my agents are even the least bit intimidated by you, they can kill you any time they want”. The cross says “I would rather die to show you the path to God than let you die without knowing it.”. That flag in modern times says “I will judge you according to my arbitrary rules.” The cross says “I don’t judge you at all.”. That flag in modern times says “I have the right to kill you.” The cross says “If a man strikes me, I will turn the other cheek and allow him to strike it too.” That flag in modern times says “I will scream in your face about anything I want, and you have to stand there and take it because I’m the most powerful force on the planet.” The cross says “I serve a God who created literally everything, and I humbly present my case for his glory.”

When Colin Kaepernick or the literally hundreds of other sports players protest that flag at the height of the modern American religious festival that is the National Football League, they are doing exactly what Christ did all those years ago. They are being, by the very definition of the word, Christian.

When you rabidly adhere to the American flag, you are by the very definition of the term worshipping a falce idol.

Choose this day whom you will serve, Christian. Will it be the God that gave the Ten Commandments and later proclaimed himself to be the living water to the desert population? Or will it be the golden calf and the religious leaders who thought they had killed some madman claiming to be God?

American Cops Have Achieved This Dubious Honor In Less Than 4 Years

9/11. Oklahoma City. Pulse Nightclub. San Bernadino. Fort Hood. DC Snipers. Charleston. Original World Trade Center bombing. Chattanooga. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Columbine. University of Texas. Washington Navy Yard.

Many Americans know what these events have in common – they are a listing of some of the most infamous terrorist and mass shooting attacks in the history of the United States of America. All told, these events and many other far less well known events combine to form the 50 deadliest such attacks in US history, killing a grand total of 3944 people.

3944. Let that number sink in. 3944 dead in the top 50 deadliest terrorist or mass shooting attacks in US history, over a span of 130 years.

Now let me list another series of numbers:

776^. 1111. 1208. 1152. 7*. Add them up.

I’ll save you the math, though feel free to verify it. The total is 4254, and it is from less than 4 years.

What is this 4254 number? It is the number of people killed by US police in less than 4 years, from May 1 2013 until the moment I write this on Jan 4 2017.

That’s right – in less than 4 years, US cops have killed more people than the 50 worst terrorist attacks and mass shootings in the US over the last 130 years. Put another way, US cops have killed 7.9% more people in just 3.1% of the time frame of all the 50 worst US terrorist and mass shooting attacks.

I’ll spare my normal talking points. The numbers here speak for themselves.
Continue reading “American Cops Have Achieved This Dubious Honor In Less Than 4 Years”

Lexington County Primary Elections Runoffs June 28, 2016 – My Picks

So basically every election with more than two people two weeks ago went into runoff mode, and that election is TODAY, June 28, 2016. Indeed, polls open less than 3 hrs from when I write this, and as with the election 2 weeks ago, I will likely be one of the first people there. (Indeed, I was Republican #1 on the signature list 2 weeks ago.)

HOWEVER, the runoff has shown some particularly nasty sides to some candidates, and my thoughts have changed at least in part on 3 of the 4 races – even though of the 4 races, 3 include people I supported in the last election.

So here goes, straight down the ballot:

SOLICITOR:
The (remaining) Candidates: Rick Hubbard, Candice Lively.
My Pick: Rick Hubbard
Reason: In the last election, I supported Lively as the outsider who could get shit done. I pointed out that Hubbard had allowed the prior Solicitor to be as bad as he was, as well as allowing former Sheriff James Metts to be as corrupt as he has been convicted of being. Both those and more still hold true. So why am I supporting him now? Because – and you will find this theme with 3 of my 4 picks – his opponent outed herself as discriminatory. Now this particular discrimination is so prevalent that we don’t even have a word for it, yet I experience it somewhat often and am somewhat vocal in speaking out against it. This particular discrimination is against childless adults. We see this quite often when such an adult runs, that at least one candidate will bring up “I can protect kids better because I actually have them.”, which is SOOOOOOOOOO offensive and equally blatantly wrong. (Famously, we also saw this line of thought used in Georgia against Karen Handel in both the 2010 Governor race and the 2014 Senate race.) This time, Lively was the one that made that comment – on the eve of Father’s Day, speaking against her male opponent no less! This would be equivalent to someone cheering the display of the piss crucifix on Good Friday for many, yet she is cheered for this behavior! I put up with a lot of crap from Lively in the election two weeks ago because I thought her opponents’ background made them worse, but this particular incident showed just how bad Lively was and lost this voter’s support because of it.

CLERK OF COURT:
The (remaining) Candidates: Lisa Comer, Emily Hinson
My Pick: Lisa Comer.
Reason: I picked her last time, and I have seen nothing in the last two weeks to change that. Indeed, in the last two weeks it seems that the people I trust the least – elected officials – have been lining up behind her opponent. Good enough for me to stay Comer.

COUNTY COUNCIL:
The (remaining) Candidates: Erin Long Bergeson, Dino Teppara
My Pick: Erin Long Bergeson
Reason: My fights against natives seeking public office are epic and very nearly the stuff of legend. And Bergeson seems to think that anti-tax groups count as “special interests” and “lobbying” and seems open to raising my taxes. So why the hell am I going with her? Because Teppara is a racist, plain and simple. His opposition to more housing for more people to come to Chapin can only be because he doesn’t want “those people” living in his “perfect” town. Dude, Chapin has a LOT of problems, and the VAST bulk of them are caused by the white people here. Giving some people I know personally a chance to live much closer to work is NOT a bad thing, and the quality of the people I speak of is better than the quality of you. So I go with Bergeson not because I like her, but because Teppara is such a blatant racist.

REGISTER OF DEEDS:
The (remaining) Candidates: Rich Bolen, Tina Guerry
My Pick: NOTA? Unfortunately not an option, so Tina Guerry
Reason: Guerry is a friend, and at this point that is one of only two reasons she is getting my vote. (The other being her opponent is a blatant sexist.) That so many elected officials are lining up to support her is beyond troubling, and if she were not a friend would disqualify her immediately (other than her opponent being a sexist).

Lexington County Primary Elections June 14, 2016 – My Picks

Unlike POTUS nominees (and even Statewide), I try to pick what I genuinely feel is the *best* candidate for the office for local races. Why? Because when the Feds and State fail, local is still community, and even in complete and total anarchy – my avowed desire – voluntary community is needed. (Even though Lexington County needs to be divided into at least 4 separate Counties, but that is another post for another day… someday.)

I’ll go straight down the Republican Sample Ballot, since the Democratic race only has a single race – US Congress vs Joe Wilson, and Wilson will win that race in November anyway.

State House of Representatives, District 85:
The Challengers: Chip Huggins (I) vs Bryan Clifton
My Vote: Bryan Clifton. 1) I DO NOT vote for Incumbents. Period. 2) Clifton has been genuinely working for the last couple of years or so to build his support throughout the district. I’ve never met the guy personally, but I’ve seen a LOT of his signs and I’ve seen on Facebook where he has been out at least a couple of times a month campaigning for the last year and a half at least. He’s put in the work and he does not have an (I) beside his name, so there you go.

Solicitor Circuit 11:
The Challengers: Rick Hubbard vs Candice Lively vs Larry Wedekind.
My Vote: Candice Lively. I’m not *overly* thrilled with any of them, but both Hubbard and Wedekind worked under the current (retiring) Solicitor and allowed former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts to be as corrupt as he was. Initially I wasn’t going to vote for Candice, as her signs were working against her – she absolutely had a case of resting bitch face going on with her face on her larger signs. I think she realized this and corrected later though, as newer signs had a better pic. But ultimately it was learning about Hubbard and Wedekind’s history in Lexington County, along with Wedekind’s outright politicalization of the office via pandering for votes using issues that are in NO WAY connected to this job, that sealed the deal. That, and Lively isn’t afraid to respond to antagonistic comments and leave them up. That too spoke volumes.

Clerk of Court:
The Challengers: Lisa Comer, Emily Hinson, Mollie Taylor
My Vote: Lisa Comer. Mollie Taylor royally screwed over a friend during some legal issue they had, so that was a no-go. Emily Henson just doesn’t seem to know what the hell she is talking about. Comer seems fairly competent, and I know from previous work in a District Attorney’s office that it really doesn’t take much in this job.

Coroner:
The Challengers: Margaret Fisher (I), Glenn Ross
My Vote: Glenn Ross. NOTA would be preferable, but Fisher has an (I) beside her name, meaning Ross gets my vote. I don’t actually like this guy, but I absolutely refuse to vote for any Incumbent, ever, and NOTA isn’t an option.

County Council District 6:
The Challengers: Ronald Derrick, Erin Long Bergeson, Benjamin Stitely, Dino Teppara
My Vote: Ben Stitely. Berenson making it a major point that her family is a native to Lexington County for a few generations (at least) lost me – anyone who knows my history with City Council races knows that I am the one guy that stands up to legacy families/ candidates, because fresh ideas are needed in these modern times and those guys run on nothing more than maintaining the status quo. Similarly, Derrick makes it a proud point that he is a “lifelong” resident of Chapin. Seriously? As many issues as this City has, that you apparently haven’t tried to stop? Wouldn’t be advertising that fact… Teppara is a NIMBY, actively opposing new people coming into Chapin. Stitely is very vague on his FB, but at least he didn’t say anything that disqualified him from my vote.

Register of Deeds:
The Challengers: Rich Bolen, Mike Green, Dan Gregory, Tina Guerry, Joy Munsch.
My Vote: Tina Guerry. I’m not overly thrilled that the retiring Incumbent endorsed her yesterday, but I know Tina personally – the only one of any candidate listed on this page that I can say that about. I’ve known her for 3 years, and some of my closest friends have known her much longer. She’s very competent at her current job, and she has some solid ideas for what she wants to do in this new potential job. And then there are her challengers. Gregory simply is too quiet – his brother blatantly runs his FB page. Munsch doesn’t even *have* a FB page – despite running in a race with nearly 300K population in the district. Green thinks the biggest qualification needed is to be the most extremely conservative Christian – with a degree from Bob Jones University no less and actively censors comments on his FB page. Bolen is an outright sexist who floated the idea of putting his face on his new signs with the slogan “not just a pretty face” – and then actually *did* put his face on his new signs, though at least he was smart enough to not *actually* put the proposed slogan with it. (For those unaware, Guerry has had her face on her most prominent signs since she began putting them out.)

Christians’ Cain Conundrum

Last December, 5 days before the second most holy day of the year for Christians, now Presidential Candidate Herman Cain wrote a piece for Erick Erickson’s Red State where he states this (emphasis mine):

For 30 years, He learned the ways of the world without becoming of the world. He then changed the world for the better.

He led without a mandate. He taught without a script. His common sense parables filled people with promise and compassion, His words forever inspiring.

He never condemned what others believed – just sin, evil and corruption.

He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He feed the hungry without food stamps. And everywhere He went, it turned into a rally, attracting large crowds, and giving them hope, encouragement and inspiration.

For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check. Nevertheless, he completed all the work He needed to get done. He didn’t travel by private jet. He walked and sailed, and sometimes traveled on a donkey.

But they made Him walk when He was arrested and taken to jail, and no, He was not read any Miranda Rights. He was arrested for just being who He was and doing nothing wrong. And when they tried Him in court, He never said a mumbling word.

He didn’t have a lawyer, nor did He care about who judged Him.
His judge was a higher power.

The liberal court found Him guilty of false offences and sentenced Him to death, all because He changed the hearts and minds of men with an army of 12.

Herman was trying to paint Christ as the “Perfect Conservative” (the title of the post, in fact). But here’s the problem:

At least a couple of Herman’s points are DIRECTLY contradicted by the Biblical record, specifically the points I emphasized above.

The first is perhaps the most obvious, as even many non-Christians have heard the phrase “turn the other cheek” associated with Christ. Indeed, in that particularly famous passage, what is Christ doing? He is directly condemning the beliefs of the Pharisees, REPEATEDLY.

The passage comes just after the Beatitudes, during the famous Sermon on the Mount, and is found in Matthew 5:21-47 (King James Version presented here, though the linked site will let you read it in dang near any version you want):

21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

That is SIX TIMES in that one passage that Christ “condemns what others believe”, yet Herman is saying it never happened? The old-timers have a word for this: heresy.

And that isn’t even the only easily proven heresy Cain has in this article that he penned. Let’s look at the “liberal court” line.

In fact, it wasn’t a “liberal” court, CERTAINLY not by contemporary American standards. Instead, as we see in Matthew 26:57-65:

57 And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.58 But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.59 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;60 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,61 And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.62 And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?63 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.65 Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.

Indeed, it was the “high priest” and the “council”, ie, what was then known as the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Supreme Court, essentially. This group of extremely conservative religious leaders, whose beliefs Christ had been condemning quite frequently over the last three years or so, brought in “false witnesses” (verse 60) and convicted Christ of blasphemy, which was (and is, depending on the level of orthodox) a capital offense.

Now, I’m not quite enough of a Biblical scholar to know the exact nuances of the definition of “blasphemy” the Sanhedrin ascribed to then, but I CAN link to the current Webster definition of: blasphemy

Do Cain’s false teachings meet the definition of that word? I’ll leave that to the reader.

Now, here is where Cain truly becomes a conundrum for Christians who might otherwise want to support him over others due to differences in religious belief with say, Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman’s Mormonism or even Gary Johnson’s Lutheranism or whatever any of the other candidates claim: Is it right to claim you support the “infallible, inerrant word of God” and yet also support a preacher who actively promotes false teachings? After all, does not the Apostle Paul condemn false teaching and those who spread it at least a few times?

Indeed, check out Titus 1:10-11:

10 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group.11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain

and Romans 16:17:

17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

I don’t know about y’all, but I consider the Christian education I received as a kid to be pretty good. My parents and church stressed learning as much about the Bible as possible. I learned all kinds of facts and figures, could quote quite a few memory verses, could put all the books in order no matter how jumbled they were, could easily find my way quickly to any passage in a print Bible (the net didn’t exist/ wasn’t widely used back then), and quite a few other things that were fairly routine for the environment I was in.

I was taught as I have discussed here, that Christ condemned the religious leaders of his day repeatedly and was eventually executed because of it. Herman Cain’s heretical teaching is contrary to that, and more precisely contrary to what the Bible explicitly teaches.

Thus, the Christians’ Cain Conundrum is easily solved, according to Paul: We should keep away from him.

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.

Herman Cain and Ron Paul on the Housing Bubble

Last night, an image quickly surfaced on Facebook of two quotes on the housing bubble, one from Herman Cain in 2005 and one from Ron Paul said to have been in 2001.

I asked my friend John Jay Myers, one of the first people I saw to post the pic, to provide evidence of Cain’s quote, and he got it to me today.

First, here’s the image in question:

And here is the relevant passage from Herman Cain in 2005. The full piece can be seen here. The passage is the 7th-9th paragraphs (the emphasized bits are in the image):

While none of the newscasters said the sky was falling, they did their best to pretend. When Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan came out and said the economy was strong, CBS did man on the street interviews to pretend the opposite was true. On May 3, ABCs Betsy Stark predicted the new job numbers would be out soon and the only question was how bad a hit the economy would take. When those numbers came in higher than predicted, nobody at ABC seemed to recall the networks cloudy crystal ball.

I wish that was all. Its not. You could write a book just on how poor the coverage has been of the alleged housing bubble. The media have been foretelling a massive bust in housing prices for months now. On May 19, ABCs Elizabeth Vargas said: The run up in housing prices is now beginning to look something like the boom in Internet stocks, and we know what happened there. That kind of ignorance makes homeowners fear that their most expensive possession could turn worthless overnight.

That wont happen. No matter how much the media compared Bush to Herbert Hoover last year, this is not the Great Depression. Now theyve given up on that failed comparison, but their coverage of the president has gotten worse.

Wouldn’t want to be accused of using “misleading or inaccurate” statements about Herman, now would we?

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 30Mosques.com. 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

and

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

Bachmann: “People are worried about… the rise of the Soviet Union”

Apparently Michelle Bachmann thinks it is currently 1947 or so, rather than 2011, as she outright said the quote in the title in an interview with the American Center for Law and Justice’s Jay Sekulow yesterday.

Here is the relevant 40 second or so clip from the 30 minute show, with Jay’s question and Bachmann’s response:

Michelle Bachmann: People are worried about… the rise of the Soviet Union

What I find interesting about this is that a) the Soviet Union died roughly 2 decades ago, before I was even out of elementary school. Bachmann was an adult by then and probably celebrated this event along with pretty much every other American of the era. In other words, it isn’t exactly unknown – nor should it be, for someone vying for the number 1 foreign policy job in the entire Nation.

But even more interesting is the absolute, utter SILENCE from “conservatives”. You know, the same people who gave one Barack Obama such hell about 4 years ago or so when he said that the US had 57 states.

Call me crazy, but I think knowing who our enemies are – or even could be – is a bit more important than ANY other issue. You cannot successfully defend our nation from “all enemies, foreign and domestic” if you have no clue that some of them only exists in your (clearly vivid) imagination these days.