Sometimes a Flag is Just a Flag

Photo: Joshua Nathanson

The recent furor over NFL players kneeling for the National Anthem has become increasingly distressing. I’d fully expect Trump to go the fascist route and show hostility towards dissent, but I can’t believe that so many of the American people would go along with him. Fully half of Americans believe NFL players are in the wrong by engaging in peaceful protests, and half also believe that the league should force its players to stand.

What’s the problem? Do you not want to get politics mixed up in your sports? Perhaps you shouldn’t let four minutes of kneeling overshadow the several hours of football you’re about to enjoy!

Do you feel the flag is being disrespected? The flag is an inanimate object – it will be fine. No one fights and dies for a flag. A flag is a symbol, and our soldiers have fought for the freedoms the flag represents. Do you really want to make the case that NFL players should simultaneously be thankful to live in a country with freedom of expression and not exercise that freedom? Are you more concerned with the mistreatment of a piece of cloth than the mistreatment of American citizens?

Do you think the protesters are disrespecting America? It’s possible to be glad to be American and grateful to be American without being proud to be American. You can love America and recognize its imperfections – in fact, that’s the only way to truly make America great again!

As usual, it’s a good rule of thumb that Trump is on the wrong side of an issue. Part of being president is recognizing that individuals are free to disagree with you, and to use more dignified language that “son of a bitch” to talk about them. Part of being president is realizing that America is not a “love it or leave it” arrangement; someone like Colin Kaepernick can work to change the country he has, rather than “find a country that works better for him“.

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Protect Yer Johnson! Why Churches Should Support the Johnson Amendment

The Republican party’s hegemony in American Christianity never ceases to astound and befuddle me. Jesus had tons to say about eschewing wealth and providing for the poor, yet the GOP, the de facto Christian party, consistently rewards the rich while turning its back on the needy and destitute. Conversely, Jesus never broaches the subjects of abortion or homosexuality, yet somehow these are among the most pressing issues in Christian political circles.

The fact is, neither of our two major political parties is 100% representative of Christ’s teachings. Politics is a nasty, sinful business, and the church cannot ally itself with one or the other without getting blood on its hands. That said, the GOP is so cartoonishly opposed to Christian values that the church would do well to speak out against them, rather than support them unthinkingly.

You can’t “Love thy neighbor” when your party’s president emboldens white supremacists. You can’t really support “the least of these brothers” when your party consistently cuts programs that benefit the poor and destitute. You can’t preach that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” when your party of choice is entirely in the service of their wealthy benefactors.

This is why I think churches should support the Johnson Amendment, even though recent legislation proposes an exemption for churches. I see no reason why the church shouldn’t elucidate the Christian view on issues of the day (even though I question which issues they emphasize), but when you enter the realm of specific candidates and parties, you are now inextricably associated with their actions, Biblical or not. The church is losing enough members these days without formalizing their involvement in our political quagmire.

A Confederacy of Dunces, or Robert E. Leave Me Alone

Photo: Flickr user jypsygen

I’ll just say this out front as a disclaimer: I live in Texas, but I was born and raised a dirty Yankee. It’s entirely possible that there are fundamental aspects to Southern culture that I don’t fully understand since I wasn’t brought up here.

That said, I can’t imagine why there would ever be statues of Confederate figures still up in The Year of Our Lord 2017. The city of Dallas recently removed a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park that bears his name, and the resulting backlash was full of more knee-jerk ignorance and hypocrisy than I’ve seen in quite some time. Let’s see what the people have to say about it!

Snowflakes,want to change history😡😡Dallas ,wake up!Spend$$ on education, hurricane victims…Something that matters…This is stupid😡😡😡

It’s not the Dallas that is changing history. Glorifying a traitor to America as if he were a war hero would be changing history!

What’s happened to standing up and defending and preserving history. The statues represent a time in this country of war, independence, rights yo freedom, where some received their Sir names from the slave owners yes.

We have surpassed that time in this country. We should all stand together not apart. That dream that MLK talked about was coming together were all are equal, standing together as brothers and sisters.

Sad, sad, state of affairs.

Can’t link the profile picture, but this is a white lady invoking Martin Luther King to defend a man who fought to keep slaves.

It’s a travesty. Ask people why it wasn’t offensive until recently! It’s merely a political tool by the Dallas mayor to garner more votes!

Of course, the mayor of Dallas thinks this massively unpopular endeavor will somehow gain him votes (for an election that is two years away).

Now tomorrow I expect the City of Dallas to be cured of all racist beings and Love, Love Love. I think it is pure insanity. 81+ years and now it bothers some folks whom were not even alive then. . How a statue is going to make the races get along is beyond me.I suppose a statue of Hitler in it’s place would be acceptable. Tomorrow it will be Obama and MLK statues under fire. 🤔

This may looking like a run-of-the-mill Godwinning, but Bob actually brings up a pretty good point. I’m German, so what if I wanted to put up a statue of Hitler in honor of my German culture? Would Bob have my back?

 I also think that this wouldn’t even be happening if the media didn’t put BLM, AntiFa and the statues in the spotlight. America has never been more divided in my lifetime, and much of that division is caused by the media for advertising money and ratings.

Oh yes, it’s anti-fascists who put the spotlight on Confederate statues, not the Nazis who rallied around one and ended up killing a lady.

And now I have heartburn. I’d be willing to bet that, on any other issue, many of these people would be stereotypical flag-fellating, military-worshipping über-patriots, and yet they remain fixated on a traitor who oversaw the killing of American soldiers. Maybe I’m better off not understanding.

God Doesn’t Just Hate Gays Anymore!

Photo: Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council and signatory to the Nashville Statement (credit: Gage Skidmore)

Recently, a group of Christian leaders put forward what they call the Nashville Statement, a document which seeks to counteract the “secular spirit of our age” regarding LGBT acceptance and reinforce “God’s good design for his creatures.” It appears that, in an era where transgender issues are joining gay rights as a topic of public and political debate, the signatories felt it necessary to clarify that “Yes, the church hates exactly who you think it hates.” However, starting from the very preamble, the statement is a mish-mash of weasel words and faulty logic.

Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female.

If God is the architect of sex, I’m sure he could have come up with a way to make sexual activity or pleasure only possible between a man and a woman. That would be indicative of some “grand design.” Otherwise, we’d have to question why God would make the prostate a pleasure center when it certainly doesn’t need to be.

The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God.

Unsurprisingly, this statement will not elucidate how the LGBT community “ruins” human life. Maybe it’s the hurricanes? The statement will, however, be full of “It makes baby Jesus cry!”-style nonsense. It’s probably for the best, as otherwise someone will have to tell the happy gay couples I know that they’re actually evil masterminds!

We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good. God’s good plan provides us with the greatest freedom.

Freedom, in this case meaning self-denial, destructive repression, and rigid conformity to exactly two roles. This will be a theme.

Article 1

WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.

Christians consistently forget that infertility and menopause are things.

We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made
before God.

But it can be both! You can have marriage as a civil contract and marriage as a sparkly magical God-contract, and the sparkly one can be whatever the hell you want.

Article 2

WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.

Once again, freedom is following a very specific set of rules. I wonder what the overlap is between abstinence-only Christians and libertarians?

WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality.

Once again, if marriage is sparkly God-magic, he could have designed it such that sexual urges didn’t kick in until you put a ring on it.

Article 3

WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female.
WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.

Men and women are equal, but we still won’t let broads preach.

Article 4

WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.
WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome.

In all my churchgoing years, I’ve never heard anyone claim the second point. Is that a thing now? I’m so out of the loop.

Articles 5 & 6

WE AFFIRM that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female.
WE DENY that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female.

WE AFFIRM that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers. They are acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful followers of Jesus Christ and should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.
WE DENY that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ.

Here’s where we start getting into skeevy pee-pee/hoo-ha talk. If you’re going to posit some integral relationship between one’s physical genitals and one’s gender identity, you need to put up or shut up, not just twist some Jesus quote to fit your ideas.

What is so sacred about the way someone was born? When presented with a man blind from birth, did Jesus tell him, “I won’t fix your eyes, but that shouldn’t keep you from following me anyway”? How far should we run with this logic? If your were born with brown hair, is it a sin to dye it blond? Have any of the signatories ever had braces, or had a cleft palate fixed? I’m sure all the men have been circumcised, at the very least.

Article 7

WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.
WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.

This is just cartoonishly self-contradictory. “You can be whoever you are, as long as it’s heterosexual and cisgendered.”

Article 8

WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.
WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel.

And again, “It’s cool if you’re gay, as long as you don’t do any of that gay stuff.”

Article 10

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.
WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

The Bible only speaks of gender in binary terms, but this is not by itself indicate that these are the only two options. In Galatians 3:28, Paul notes that, in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek…there is neither male nor female…” By comparing Jew and Greek, is Paul saying that there are no Chinese? No Native Americans?

The creation account of Genesis says God created mankind “male and female.” It also posits a firmament and a self-illuminating moon, both of which we now know to be outdated models of reality. If the gender issue is in reality non-binary, all this means is that the Bible is not a science textbook!

The last few articles are basically an altar call, which is ironic since statements like this push more and more people away from the church every year. I do slightly appreciate that these leaders are not ignoring what little the Bible does say about homosexuality (as liberal, LGBT-friendly churches must). However, given that Jesus himself has nothing at all to say about gays or trans people and a ton to say about money, hypocrisy, and so on, I wish they would be half as outspoken on these issues.

White Man’s “Burden”

Photo credit: Brian Stansberry

I spent some time this week trying to figure out what white supremacists actually want. I still don’t know. Their “problems” seem to be the illusory specters of paranoid schizophrenics, and their “solutions” are naïve and untenable at best, genocidal at worst. As best I can tell, the “war on whites” is analogous to the “war on Christmas”: members of a historical majority can’t abide the notion that members of the minority are acknowledged as existing and treated as equals.

The prejudice against whites must be really fucking subtle. Maybe that’s how insidious it is, that you can go an entire lifetime without knowing how oppressed you are. Okay, I guess if your idea of prejudice is “Non-white people live here, and we pay them for work now,” then sure, you’re going to see that everywhere. However, you may want to get some perspective from someone who’s idea of prejudice is “I don’t know if I can talk to that cop without getting shot.”

The alt-right crows about “white heritage” and “white culture,” but speaking in my official capacity as a white man, I don’t know what “white culture” is! At most, I thought it was brunch and Friends reruns, but apparently there’s more to it than that? The challenge for the alt-right is trying to define white culture in ways that are not simply opposition to other cultures. If you describe yourself as “pro-white” and you hold up Robert E. Lee as your prototypical example, it sure as hell looks like you’re fighting for a white culture defined by enslaving black culture.

Alt-right demagogue/punch target Richard Spencer presents the movement’s ideas in a more palatable fashion, at the cost of being maudlin and childishly idealistic. He describes America as “a country of frontiersman… a country of the cowboy” as if policy decisions should be driven by mythos. He’s oddly concerned about James Bond as some sort of Caucasian ideal, to the point where he can’t bear the notion of Bond being portrayed by a black man. However, he doesn’t support the violent expulsion of non-whites, oh no! He merely wants to convince them that maybe we should see other people:

He hopes America’s nonwhites can be made to agree that returning to the lands of their ancestors would be best for everyone: “It’s like presenting to an African that this hasn’t worked out,” he says. “We haven’t made each other happier. We are going to have to take part in this paradigmatic shift together.”

I want to take Spencer at his word here, but I can’t believe he sincerely believes this is a plausible solution. Does he expect a fourth-generation African-American to relocate to a whole other continent just so white Americans can breathe easier? If Spencer loves European culture so much, why doesn’t he move to Europe? Oh wait, they won’t have him.

This is the danger of a world where education is not valued and facts take a back seat to feelings. Spencer’s ideas are explicitly not based on data, and while there may be token fringe scientists that he can trot out for credibility, his movement is based more on appeals to emotion than to logic.

Spencer believes that Hispanics and African Americans have lower average IQs than whites and are more genetically predisposed to commit crimes, ideas that are not accepted by the vast majority of scientists. When pressed about what really sets whites apart, he waxes decidedly unscientific: “I think there is something within the European soul that we haven’t been able to measure yet and maybe we never will,” he says, “and that is a Faustian drive or spirit—a drive to explore, a drive to dominate, a drive to live one’s life dangerously…a drive to explore outer space and the universe. I think there is something within us that we possess and that only we possess.”

In other words, “I don’t have data or empirical evidence to support my claims, but what I do have is a strong gut feeling that I’m right!” As if the Polynesians never sailed the Pacific, as if the Mongol Empire never spanned the whole of Asia, as if no other culture has ever taken a damn risk!

Spencer also misapplies the term “Faustian”, which more appropriately applies to a deal with the devil. This is a sign that Spencer desperately wants to sound smart but can’t back it up, and it also points to Spencer’s emphasis on appearance over substance. It’s the same as his obsession with suits and James Bond. Maybe this is why he values what’s on the outside of a person, why he’d rather have a country of Justin Biebers than Neil DeGrasse Tysons.

Oddly, the alt-right’s alignment with President Trump is the very definition of Faustian. That orange-haired devil has brought the movement to the forefront of the American consciousness, and their fame has already cost them jobs, education, web hosting, payment accounts, meeting venues — and the same sort of statues the Charlottesville protest was ostensibly meant to protect. Keep up the good work, team!

Trump: Leading From His Behind

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

I could never, ever claim to be an expert on politics or social issues. I would never describe myself as “woke,” mostly because I hate the term “woke.” However, the recent tragedy in Charlottesville provided a new opportunity for our president and his followers to fail on even the most basic levels of competency and human empathy.

This should not have been a hard week for the Trump administration. Any decent president, regardless of their true feelings or original narrative, would have stepped up immediately after this tragedy and said, “Fuck Nazis.” Nothing brings people together like a common enemy! Even the younger Bush, whose presidency now I yearn for in moments of weakness, bumbled into high approval ratings after 9/11. Yet our current president found it necessary to prevaricate, then double down, acting like a previously-unknown “alt-left” was equally responsible for the murderous rampage in Charlottesville.

Who’s the “alt-left” in Trump’s mind? As far as I can tell, the “alt-left” are the guys who attack Nazis, who have historically been known as the good guys! To put it in terms Trump would understand: Was Indiana Jones “alt-left”? Was Captain America “alt-left”? Was even Daffy Duck “alt-left”?

What would Trump have said during World War II? “What about the ‘Allies’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘Nazis,’ do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact they came charging with guns in hands, shooting guns, do they have any problem? I think they do.”

This isn’t even hard! Just say “Nazis are bad!” and don’t hedge on it. What are they going to do, vote Democrat? They’d sooner let their daughter date a Jew! Hell, you don’t even need the Nazis in your party! You’ve still got all the racists, all the fascists, all the xenophobes – really, anyone who’s looking at this mess and thinking, “I may hate Hispanics and think all blacks are criminals, but at least I’m not a god-damn Nazi!