April 24, 2016

This isn't faith. This is madness

I don't want to jump on my former state of Oklahoma.  I think it was Anglican who noted that when you aren't living in the state, it is kind of piling on to post stories about Oklahoma's dysfunction.  I agree, but can't help but read these stories and weep for my friends who still live there.  And there have been many stories, of late, unfortunately.  Conservative and often fundamentalist Republicans run Oklahoma with very little oversight.  They passed a bill the other day that will allow open carry without any training--a bill that was opposed by most of the state's economic leaders as well as the state's cops--but that doesn't matter to fundamentalists.  Facts do not matter to fundamentalists.  For a fundamentalist, cutting taxes will make the economy boom, and a crumbling economy and infrastructure will not dissuade them.  Just the other day, I found a story I had posted two years ago--Oklahoma House approves tax cut-- with this assurance from the bill's author:  
State Rep. Leslie Osborn, house author of the bill, predicted it would help bring economic growth to Oklahoma.“Our state has seen economic growth and record revenues due to our competitive income tax policies and pro-business environment,” said Osborn, R-Mustang. “This measure allows Oklahomans greater control over their hard-earned money. They will either spend or invest those dollars and further strengthen our economy.”
Now two years later, and the only thing that has happened is that tax cut.  Those same Republicans will blame all of this on the declining price of oil and gas, but the economy and state revenue were in decline well before that.  None of that matters to fundamentalists.  The crashing state economy will not dissuade them that tax cuts are always good for the economy.  Always.  Facts will not matter.  As we are seeing in Kansas and Louisiana, where Republicans have also sold the idea that lower taxes make the economy soar, and if you think those states are soaring, then you might need some new glasses.  

Then yesterday, I read this story about Oklahoma and abortion policy.  The push for "morality" and their hatred of abortion resulted in a bill that will revoke licenses of abortion doctors.  Because life and liberty.  Note, that this law authorizes the state to revoke doctor's licences for performing a legal procedure.  Set aside the insanity of suggesting that this is pro-life or will actually help women or children in any way (meanwhile, due to Republicans hatred of Obama, some four out of five Oklahoma hospitals will not provide birthing services), let us note that this law will absolutely draw legal challenge, meaning that the state that has been struggling to pay for core services, will have to pay for expensive litigation to defend this indefensible law.   All while poor people will die in rural Oklahoma for a lack of care.  

But never fear, because the fundamentalist knows how this all works.  
"Supporters of the bill said it will help protect the sanctity of life.
"If we take care of morality,” bill supporter David Brumbaugh, a Republican, said during deliberations, "God will take care of the economy."
As one of my friends noted that isn't how any of this works, but never tell that to a fundamentalist, because facts simply do not matter.  By this logic, of course, Donald Trump would be living in a pit of despair with no food or water--if taking care of morality led to economic prosperity.   But for the fundy, being pro-life means killing Oklahomans you don't care about while saying you are protecting life.










April 19, 2016

Moving isn't easy

Leaving Oklahoma has been difficult.  As SOF liked to say, there is a reason we stayed in Norman for 23 years.  It is time for us to change, that is for sure, but it has not been easy.  Yesterday, I really hit a wall when I realized that while I have some relatives in town, and some high school friends (from 30 years ago) who live here, I had no one to call for lunch, or to grab a beer with.

I knew this would happen, and had been prepared for this.  A friend who recently moved to Oregon warned me that my connections in Norman were so built in that I didn't have to work at it.  But now, I find myself without a network of like-minded people.  I know some people, but I don't think we have a ton in common.

It is during these times that I really understand why people go to church.  There is a built-in community there and a built-in way to meet people.  And maybe I will be open to finding a liberal congregation of some kind down the road.  But I can't return to the church of my youth--it is now on the other side of town.  Musing on that yesterday also made me angry.  I was reading about the massive cuts in social services in Oklahoma, and snarkily wondered if this Fort Collins church would organize a mission trip to help children and the mentally ill in Oklahoma survive their attack by other conservative Christians?  Probably not.

So I decided to take some action in ways that I can.  I signed up for a bluegrass jam session tonight, and there is another tomorrow.  I think SOF will bring her fiddle tonight and we will see what it looks and sounds like.

I have to create my Fort Collins network, and that is daunting right now.

March 26, 2016

New Beginnings/old issues

So I have not blogged in a while.  Facebook has taken much of that energy--it simplifies the linking process and I am there anyway connecting with friends and family.  But now we are in a new beginning, so I am exploring whether or not I want to resume blogging.

We moved, for one thing--from Norman, Oklahoma, where we lived for nearly 24 years--to Fort Collins, Colorado where I attended high school and several years of college, as well as where I met SOF.  It is weird being back in Colorado after so many years.  I love it here in many ways, though I so miss our friends from Oklahoma.  Oklahoma is a tough place to be right now.  The people with the absolute worst instincts and interests are in charge of the state, and that is really showing.  The governor had to dip into the rainy day fund to keep schools from closing early, and we just saw this news item:
With budget cuts, thousands of Oklahomans with mental illnesses are expected to lose care | News OK: As a result of state budget cuts, more than 73,000 low-income Oklahomans with mental illnesses and substance use disorders are expected to lose some access, if not all access, to the state-funded services they depend on.
Schools are still getting cuts, mind you.  And this cut to people with mental illness comes on top of a system that was already leaving people behind--and this doesn't even count the people who have been excluded from healthcare due to the Governor's spiteful rejection of the ACA's Medicaid expansion.  Further, the state just voted to cut an additional 100,000 off existing Medicaid rolls.

Colorado is no panacea, and it would be a mistake to think so.  But my initial reading of politics here is that while the same people are a powerful force here, they are not in charge--yet.

These same people in Oklahoma and Colorado are often very vocal about their Christian faith.  I know this is not news to anyone still reading this blog.  Indeed, this is the problem I have been grappling with for years.  It certainly has not gotten easier.  One of my conservative friends used to push back at my anger and frustration with the argument that conservative Christians were not for these bad things (torture, etc), they were for other things and unfortunately were in the same camp as these bad things.  I used to buy that with torture, even as polling showed Christians as one of the biggest supporters of torture--but I can no longer even give them that latitude.  Conservative Christians run Oklahoma right now.  They are spending an unbelievable amount of tax money that could be used to help people--instead using it to change the law and allow the Ten Commandments on state grounds.  These people are gutting social services for the very needy of Oklahoma and at the same time defending tax cuts that benefit the very wealthy.  They are causing incredible harm--and not passively. They are doing this to the poor.

Anyway.  Maybe I will be back for more.

March 25, 2015

My recent hiatus

I haven't written here for a while.  It has been a difficult spring so far.  In February, my father passed away after several tough years.  As my mother said, it was not completely unexpected, but we didn't expect it that day.  My first response was shock, followed by a bit of relief.  He had been so unhappy for so long, and just feeling so bad that I was glad he was no longer in pain.  I was also glad for my mom in that her life had become pretty centered around his daily needs.

There was a part of me that thought that I would not struggle that much as we had gone through so much of that grief well before he died.  I actually said the eulogy and even sang a song I wrote about Dad, and it was not as hard as I feared, partly because of that sense of relief and years of working through the grief and understanding that Dad was not getting better.

But after some reflection that relief has morphed into sadness and even depression.  The finality has sunk in, and with it came missing the man who was, and even mourning the father who, at times, was difficult.  Maybe more accurately, mourning the father that I know he wanted to be, and of whom we saw glimpses.

It has been hard to separate out the grief of losing Dad from the other griefs in life--the death of both of my wife's parents; a disappearing history career, and with it a sense of floundering.  Throw in our diabetic 17 year old cat needing to go to the vet this morning, and you can see how this can all cloud the days.

I am not working through this alone.  Not only is SOF a steady and wise listening board, but my mother and I have been able to share this grief together.  Add to that some amazing and insightful friends, and I certainly don't feel isolated.

Anyway.  I hope to write more, but this will do for now.

January 29, 2015

Everything that is wrong with modern Christianity

Saw this the other day, and while I didn't think it was possible for me to dislike the former Minister from Arkansas any more, I found that I can muster more dislike after he said that women who curse in public are just "trashy."

This isn't about cursing, really. While I really like it, and hang out with a lot of friends who like to curse in humorous ways, I recognize that it isn't for everyone, and it isn't for every setting. When I was teaching in the classroom, I kept the cursing to a minimum, and avoided any of the potentially offensive words. Context matters.


But this isn't about cursing, it is about priorities. Huckabee is shocked that women throw around the f-bomb, but isn't at all offended by massive cuts to food stamps. He isn't offended when Republicans question rape victims. He isn't offended when Ted Nugent calls Obama a "chimpanzee" or Hillary Clinton names that even I won't write here.


And he isn't offended by torture. Why should he be? He is part of the American demographic (white evangelical) with the most support for torture.

But swearing is bad.

January 23, 2015

Gun culture

As one of my friends said, "literally the dumbest thing ever."  I am not sure.  I fully expect the Republicans to do something dumber this next week.  There appears to be no bottom.



Kansas Senate bill would let any legal gun owner secretly carry without permit | The Wichita Eagle The Wichita Eagle

January 17, 2015

Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty

I knew inequality was bad, but didn't realize it was this bad.  For the first time in 50 years, more students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.  When you put this in the context of the modern governing philosophy of the Republicans and far too many Democrats, you see the farce of supply side economics.  You see the inhumanity of tax cuts and growing inequality.  You see the insanity of the people proclaiming "family first" who place more than half the nation's students in poverty, and refuse to address it beyond cutting taxes for the rich.



Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty - The Washington Post

January 2, 2015

Sigh. Evangelicals can push back against some things.

Of course they can. And they do. Evangelicals will mobilize and push back against gay marriage or teaching the scientific facts about climate and evolution. And as we see here, they will absolutely get angry about an article criticizing their view of the Bible.

But those evangelicals look the other way (or worse, cheer) torture, demonizing the poor, depriving people of color the right to vote, and even feeding the poor. Just put Jesus in the role of all of those and seriously tell me those views have any Christian validity? Seriously?

But don't dare question the inerrancy of Scripture. That makes them angry.

December 30, 2014

The GOP now the "Torture Party" and the "Klan Party."

And I am well aware that most Republicans are not racist, or not openly racist.  Most of the people I know would never associate with a Klan member any more than they would openly endorse torture.  But those who vote Republican are supporting both.  They just don't want to acknowledge it.

The most recent example comes with the incoming Majority Whip, who, as it turns out, spoke at a White Nationalist conference back in 2002.  Of course, he "didn't know" they were racists, even though he has always spoken well of David Duke, and the Iowa Cubs knew enough about the conference to move hotels.

But the reality is that since the Dixiecrats left the Democratic party, the Republican party has been growing more and more racist.  After all, it was Ronald Reagan who made his famous "state's rights" speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi--where civil rights workers were murdered.  Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond led the right wing of the GOP for years.  And now, the GOP is the party that has decided that reducing black vote is a good thing, and that prosecuting cops who kill black men is a bad thing.

But they aren't racist. Just ask them. They can't be racist. Racists are bad people and they aren't bad people. And me pointing out that their party has just named a racist to be their majority whip will not change a thing.

If torture is the new GOP horror, the existing original sin is racism. And not one conservative Christian I have asked has addressed this in any meaningful way. I might as well ask for proof that Sarah Palin treats her critics with something approaching Christianity. I might ask to see pictures of a Yeti. Or a Republican to acknowledge climate change.

December 19, 2014

"Torture is the sort of thing we Americans do."


The saddest sentence I have seen of late comes from this Dish post, "America’s Tortured Conscience":
We Americans like to think that we are good people. (“We are awesome!“) Now it seems clear enough that torture is the sort of thing we Americans do.
Let that sink in a second.

And this from Mother Jones. I knew that we prosecuted Japanese for waterboarding (and remember famously John Ashcroft vociferously objecting to the idea that our waterboarding was the same as the Japanese. But I didn't realize that we prosecuted Japanese officials for other treatments--some of them not as bad as what we did to suspected terrorists. Wow.

And this last note, and one I meant to add to yesterday's post. In 2004, the common defense from conservatives was fear; even from my Christian friends. I remember one of SOF's friends reminding me that "9-11 was scary," as if I had somehow not lived through that day.

But even if we excuse the fear from 2004 (and certainly from 2001), what is their excuse today? Why would these same people of faith have not even thought about the fact that they tolerate the evil of torture?

December 17, 2014

So conservative Christians still support torture

I wish I could be shocked by this, and I am very mindful that every other demographic group has far too many people who find torture a reasonable and moral way to confront terrorism. But I am so disheartened that people of faith are leading the charge in the wrong way. Still.

Readers will recall that when we first heard of the torture issue, I told SOF that this might be that wedge between the conservative Christian movement and the modern GOP. I didn't expect them to become Democrats, mind you. I just expected them to stand up to Bush and Cheney and tell them that if they tortured, conservative Christians would stay home. They couldn't support and defend torture. They just couldn't.

But they did. And they did with an edge. Our friend Tony and I ran into a SBC pastor from Oklahoma who suggested that me even raising the issue of torture was helping the enemy. Not that torture was bad, me talking about it was bad. Tony later said that he had to stop talking about it in SBC circles, because other Baptists pushed back so hard. When I posted this story yesterday, I had two friends tell me that they knew long term missionaries who recently returned to the US and were shocked by the torture news. In both cases, they were told by American evangelicals that they were wrong--torture wasn't anti-Christian.

In that same post, I felt so bad for the Christian friends who felt the need to point out they didn't support torture. But I also understood the non-Christians who shook their head in complete disbelief. How could a faith that was premised in overcoming the torture and execution of Christ somehow look at torturing Muslims and think that was ok? How could people who watched Mel Gibson's film on the crucifixion and focused on the issue of torture suddenly reverse themselves to find it acceptable?

Via Slactivist, I found this heartfelt plea to Christians to remind them that the practice is antithetical to the very basis of the faith. You Cannot Be Christian and Support Torture - Brian Zahnd:
I don’t know of a greater indictment against American evangelicalism than the fact that a majority of its adherents actually admit they support the use of illegal torture on suspected terrorists! The release of that survey in 2009 was the point where I stopped self-identifying as an evangelical. Today I’m not quite sure what brand of Christian you should categorize me as, but it’s not that!

Evangelical support of torture is what we might call an “eruption of the real.” It’s a horrifying moment of unintended truth-telling where we discover that allegiance to national self-interest trumps allegiance to Jesus Christ.

I have one conservative friend who, I think, simply thinks I have lost my mind over this and other issues. Perhaps he is right. Yet, I can't stop thinking about the problem of a religious faith based in morality and sacrifice becoming one that more easily defends the powerful and attacks the weak. All of that makes more sense when you see them defending torture.

Anyway. About me continuing to rant on this. There are times when I feel that I should just give up and look the other way. It is useless and meaningless to shout into the darkness about poverty or racism or torture. I was pleased to find this very thoughtful essay by Bill Leonard on the issue of torture, race, and Christian conscience. (A nation confronted by conscience). He raised the hope that we could, as a people, question our assumptions about our own moral authority and the idea of American exceptionalism, as well as to discard the idea of a Christian nation. But his quote from Elie Wiesel spoke to me about perhaps why I continue to speak and write on this issue:
In Words from a Witness (1967), Elie Wiesel told of a rabbi whose conscience compelled him to declare: “‘Please do not be murderers, do not be thieves. Do not be silent and do not be indifferent.’ He went on preaching day after day, maybe even picketing. But no one listened. He was not discouraged. He went on preaching for years. Finally someone asked him, ‘Rabbi, why do you do that? Don’t you see it is no use?’ He said, ‘I know it is of no use, but I must. And I will tell you why: in the beginning I thought I had to protest and to shout in order to change them. I have given up this hope. Now I know I must picket and scream and shout so that they should not change me.’”

November 28, 2014

Do black lives matter?

I have to ask.  It's not just Michael Brown.  Or Trayvon Martin.  Just this past week, cops in Cleveland shot a 12 old kid playing with a toy gun.  Just shot him down.  And then didn't even give him first aid.  Or remember John Crawford, who was shot down in a Walmart when he was playing with a bb gun.  Or Mirriam Carey gunned down in DC after approaching a Secret Service checkpoint.



Facebook has been grim.  I have read so many white people completely dismissing the concerns about race.  A Pew study reinforces that, suggesting that 63% of white people think that Michael Brown's death was not about race.  All while another study shows that black males are 21 times greater than their white counterparts to be killed by police.  



One of SOF's high school friends said, rather dismissively, that he didn't think of race.  Of course, he doesn't have to. He can choose to think about race or not.  He gets that option.  That is almost a perfect example of white privilege.



Others bashed Brown's parents and community for allowing that kind of behavior to continue.  (Should note, the right wing and media are already bashing the parents of the 12 year old.)  And again, in white privilege, you get to focus in on the details of the individual case.  You can choose to ignore the broader context.  You can argue that the cop acted correctly in this tragedy.  And you may be right, though I am not convinced.  But the broader context remains the fact that black people are killed at a much higher rate.  That should bother even conservatives.



But it doesn't.  John Fugelsang noted wryly that the people who boast about not trusting their government suddenly trust it when an unarmed black person is shot and killed.  I think that disconnect is about a lot of things, but including the idea that most well-intentioned whites (not Klan members, by any stretch) believe that racists are bad people--but they are good people--ergo, they cannot be racist.  And ultimately, they have to answer that nagging question of if this level of racism ends up with dead black kids, their own safety and security is because they are white and well-off.



This isn't right.  When cops shoot a kid playing with a bb gun and leave him to die, something is seriously wrong.  When people look at the tragedy of Michael Brown's death and opine that he was a "thug" who "probably would have killed others"--something is seriously wrong.