Look to the Battlefield, Gladiator.

FILE – Int his Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif. Reid has resumed his kneeling protest for human rights during the national anthem, after joining then-teammate Kaepernick’s polarizing demonstration last season. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) ORG XMIT: NYHK702

Dear Football Player,

I really wanted my first blog on my new site to be about books. I wanted it to be about reading, and the craft that  I love so much.   Alas, here we are talking about football.

I am not a big sports guy. I used to play baseball when I was a kid but that was the extent of my sports knowledge.

However, the National Football League has decided that the men who play their sport – mostly black men – no longer have their permission to kneel during the playing of The National Anthem.

Colin Kaepernick started a national conversation with his decision to kneel in recognition of the men and women throughout the United States who’ve been killed in the streets because of a lack of Due Process. Crimes committed by white police officers who were either never charged for it or who were charged and simply got away with it.

Many of these incidents including Freddy Gray, Sandra Bland, a little kid with a toy gun named Tamir Rice, and a man who’d been choked to death in New York named Eric Garner,  have left their families without justice.

These football players in the NFL, 80 percent of whom are African American, have drawn a lot of criticism for their stance. Criticism from President Donald Trump and from football fans who expect these men to play a game for their entertainment and say that because they make X amount of dollars they should be quiet.

The NFL, receiving a lot of flak,  has recently ruled that players cannot kneel in the upcoming season or risk fines and other punishments including ones that would impact the game they are playing.

As a United States veteran, someone who joined after 9/11 and because of 9/11, who deployed the middle east in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, who wore the uniform and swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, I’d like to make it clear to these football players that the permission to protest (or not to in this case) is not granted by the Nation Football League.

During the war, it was often said by the Bush Administration et. al that “Freedom isn’t Free,” and that “We have to defend it.” Well, the same rules apply here.

Gladiator, you’re right to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem was granted to you long before you were ever born.  Long before the NFL was actually a thing. You’re ancestors, my ancestors, the founders and the foundation builders of this country paid for your right to kneel in protest.  Every person who has ever worn the uniform of the United States of America, every Civil Rights activist who marched in Selma, or Montgomery, or was assassinated for your right to live is a member of this society – has paid for your right to kneel.

Those hanged by white mobs during the lynching years paid for you. Those who served in the Civil War – paid for you.

Sure, there are going to be people who don’t like it. Mostly, because they know what you’re kneeling for and believe (in one way or another) that the right to harm black bodies and possess black minds, still belongs to them. It’s an ignorance and an anger as old as this country is.

But as rights go – never, ever look to the masses to bestow them on you. That’s never been the way of things here in the United States. Rights are fought for through long and often perilous battles and right now America is at war with itself. Two ideologies are engaged in this uproarus debate for the soul of our country.

If you so feel inclined to kneel. I hope you have the courage to do so. And if you need a little more courage to push you over the edge, when you are standing in the locker room before the game, like Maya Angelou once said, summon the spirits of those who’ve dreamed you into being to escort you onto that field.

Summon those soldiers who died. Summon those Civil Rights Activists who’ve died. Invoke the founders. Invoke the spirit of our country when you take to that field.  Invoke God who granted you inalienable rights and have Jesus meet you on the 50-yard line.

You would then honor them, the flag, the anthem, and your ancestors. Therein lies your permission, Gladiator.

 

P.S. NFL, back off.  This isn’t your lookout.

Shame on you, America

jesse-bowser-6054

 

I hate that children have to beg not to die.
I hate that everytime I turn on television that someone in our country has been blown away.
I hate that mental illness is being made the ‘enemy’ when in fact it’s anger and rage that brought our president into the oval office that is responsible for these deaths of children and concert-goers.
I hate seeing Donald Trump’s notes to say ‘ I hear you’ to the grieving families that stood in his presence.
I can’t stand seeing his face anymore or hearing the talking points from conservative pundits saying, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
Like Eddie Izzard said, “They sure do help.”
That’s the truth. A pistol would have lowered the body count, a knife, a car, a bomb.
I was in the service – I’ve fired weapons like the M-16, the M-203, the M249, a 50 caliber Machine gun.
As cool as those weapons were to fire at targets, like the blogger said, made to look like men – those weapons are designed for one purpose.
To kill people.
Center Mass.
If people want to fire weapons like this – stop dreaming about the civil war of you vs the federal government that will never happen. Go to your local recruiting office and go and defend us from ISIS and The Taliban and Russia. Put your patriotism and love of country where your mouth is.
The possession of an AR-15 will get you killed faster than not owning one.
Are you gonna take on a Seal? A Ranger? A Marine? A SWAT team?
Because if shit’s really that bad, that’s whose showing up to take you on. That means you’re dead already, you just haven’t laid down yet. That’s who those people are once you get past the pomp and circumstance and patriotism. They’re trained killers.
What about the tanks and bombers and F-16s?
I hate that the biggest threat to the United States (outside of Russia’s involvement in our politics) is the American people who passively allow their future to get walked down the lane hand in hand with ghosts of times long passed. Who are greeted by God having to apologize to them for the way they died when their lives were cut short.
Speaking of which, for those of religious inclinations, how long do you think God is going to sit idly by while children, breathing, walking, talking, children get slaughtered in the classroom.
And don’t make it about ‘well, if God was allowed in school…”
God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, God is in public schools and as long as teachers hand out tests – there has been and always will be prayer.
What isn’t in school are the parents whose sole responsibility in this world is to make sure their children are educated and reach adulthood as responsible members of society.
So play the blame game. Keep it going. Keep abdicating your responsibility as adults and watch as these children snatch the future right out of your hands. Someone has to stand up and say something. Someone has to bring hope to the helpless. Someone has to make sure that school-aged children won’t be gunned down because some crank decided that he or she wants to do the most damage in the least amount of time.
And God help us, it’s children.
Shame on you, America.

Before Hitler was Anything – He was a Racist

 

I read an article in the Baptist New Global online magazine.  It was a dressing down by Miguel De La Torre dated Nov, 13 2017. In his scathing remarks, he addresses what has transpired in America concerning the support of the Evangelical Movement and their support for Donald Trump. You can read his article here. 

The article itself was bombastic – but I think De La Torre brought up a few good points. However, being a preacher’s kid a long time ago in the fundamentalist tradition – I am not as surprised to hear about the move of Evangelicals to Trump. I think they were waiting for someone like him to come along.

America’s churches are in a crisis. Some say, including the late, great, Phyliss Tickle, that we are actually at the beginning of what theologians and historians are starting to refer to as The Great Emergence. You can read about it in the books she published later on in life. You can also seek her out on youtube where she talked, at length, about the phenomenon.

Yet, as someone who is now on the outside of fundamentalism, I can’t help but think with their minds. I remember well the indoctrination, the wrath, and the judgment, but most of all I remember the hypocrisy, and the anger, and the bigotry.  Or, the stories about how a preacher took off the with the church’s money, ran off to Vegas with a woman he was having an affair with. Or, the daughter of the preacher getting caught having sex in the nursery with her boyfriend. Or, the woman who was pulled up on stage one night and called a whore because someone drove past her house and saw a man’s car in the driveway.

For those outside these movements, what goes on inside these churches seems almost patently absurd. I mean, it’s like Payton Place, if you know, Payton place had jean floor-length skirts and a cloud of Aquanet hovering above them. It was a political atmosphere to be sure and despite all the railing from the pulpit about morality and judgment, these organizations seemed to suffer terribly from their own lack of both.

It took me years to get away from that worldview. Because that’s what fundamental evangelicalism is.  Christianity is the faith, sure. But fundamental evangelicalism is the lens through which you view everything around you.  If naivete can shade someone’s worldview rose-colored, surely these people wear yellow-colored jaundiced ones.

The world didn’t change my worldview. Not really. I began to backtrack away from fundamentalism when looking into the legacy of the church. It’s not all pretty. Heck, the reformation was a terrible bloody event on both sides. Yet, I do believe there were great moments of triumph and terrible moments of failure.

De La Torre is right in his view of these people who’ve allowed the church to become so ill on its own ager and hatred – it can no longer see clearly. And while history doesn’t repeat itself, as Mark Twain pointed out, it often does rhyme. With people like Trump  and company having won such a big swath of this kind of believer – it’s worth noting that we’ve seen something like this before.

 

In the 1930’s, famed Lutheran Theologian and minister Detriech Bonhoeffer came to study in America. Upon traveling to the deep south during the height of Jim Crow law, Bonhoeffer was stunned at what he saw.

BPK 10.016.073
Now, mind you Hitler is just beginning his ascension to power in Germany and although Jew’s had been treated badly the world over for centuries -the worst was yet to come for them.
Also, mind you, that the last Lynching on record in the United States was 1955 with Emmet Till, a 14-year-old boy, who was accused of winking at a white woman.
In grief and despair, Detrich Bonhoeffer declared that, “…Christianity in America is dead.”
That was until he was invited by a minister to attend another gathering at Abyssinian Baptist Church, a black church, in Harlem, New York.
It was the first time he’d ever hear gospel music. There, he recanted his statement and said, “…these people suffer and they are joyful. God is in Harlem.”
He would take that gospel music back with him to Germany and share it with his friends and fellow believers in what he called, “The Confessing Church.”
Now, Bonhoeffer was a pacifist, and he loved his country desperately, however – before the Allies could rescue him toward the end of the war he would be taken out and assassinated for his plot to kill Adolf Hitler.
My father was an evangelist for a time and I would, of course, ride the small circuit up in Michigan with him to various churches where he would go to preach.
Someone would give an altar call, someone would begin to sing Just as I am, or All to Jesus, or Amazing Grace. And here, these lily white folks would come streaming down the aisles hands raised to heaven to be saved or to ‘get right with God.’ Not knowing for a second – that the song they were singing, “Amazing Grace” was entrenched in Slavery.
The author, John Newton, was a slave ship captain, who would lose his eyesight, become a monk in the Church of England, and in turn would become one of the world’s first abolitionists. As a matter of fact, he along with Wilberforce would end the practice of Slavery in Great Britain years before the United States would.
There are so many people surprised that 85 percent of white evangelicals would side with Donald Trump despite the many flagrant and cavalier ways he stands for almost everything Christianity stands against. Yet, I don’t understand why you’re so shocked. This has gone on for years. This has been their M.O. for as long as I knew them. It’s been their M.O dating back decades since before Brown Vs. Board of Education.
I left the faith tradition over 15 years ago and while I was still there, I left it mentally long before that due in large part to it’s inherent racism. See, I grew up in a predominately African American City, went to a predominately black middle school and high school, and while the preachers preached AGAINST interracial marriage – due to inequality of the races – I wondered at who was actually unequal.
The Principle was Dr. Betty Hines. Exceptionally well dressed, professional, she ruled over that school with an iron fist. There was Dr. Granderson, a Chemistry teacher who could always be spotted walking up and down the hall with his lab coat and pushing a cart. He was also always smartly dressed and professional. They all drove nice cars and were this constant stable presence in my life while at home – my personal life was in shreds.
In the 1930’s, according to Charles Marsh’s ‘Strange Glory’ the biography of Bonhoeffer I highly suggest people read – the author makes it very clear that when Hitler began his ascent to power, the Lutheran Church in that era immediately abdicated to him. They wanted the power that Hilter promised them and he did grant it to them for a time. They even flew the swastika in their churches. Until he found no more use for them and unceremoniously cast them aside.
But by then it was too late.
Understand this: Before Hitler was anything, he was a racist and so is this 85 percent of evangelicals. All you have to do is look at case law after the 1954 Supreme Court Decision of Brown V. Board of Education. Bob Jones Sr. v The United States.
Before Donald Trump is anything – he’s a racist all you need to do is look back at his trying to get men put in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, his having to be sued by the Nixon Administration for not allowing blacks to rent apartment space in his buildings, his statement against Hispanics, Muslims, and the list goes on.
They can call themselves Christians all day long and twice on Sunday. They’re not. They never were. They’re anti-Christians since they do the exact opposite of what was told to them by Christ. That being, take care of the poor, the sick, the weakest among you, and pray in private.
I am a Christain. I don’t believe Christianity is dead in America. I think preachers like John Palvolitz, Bishop Barber, and Nadia Bolz Weber (this Emergent or Emerging Church leaders) are Christianity in America – and they’re struggling. And they’re not the only ones. They’re out there.

Is Christianity dead in Evangelicalism? In 85 percent of them, I’d say yes. Yet, again, I think they’ve been dead for a very long time.

 

 

 

Wickedness put down on me (Poem)

 

mohamed-nohassi-186911

 

 

There was a wickedness
put down on me
when I was but a child
evil serpentine lashes lay about
with cold metal teeth,
smelling of leather
and containing many eyes

It was black
and it’s bite burned me
my young flesh welting
bleeding, forcing me
to do things I didn’t want to do
breaking things I couldn’t
handle
I’d scream

We lived in a wicked place
where God was fat and white and ugly
orgasmic hallelujahs from drunkards
dry and barren and thirsty
who’s habits were evergreen
if unseen buried deep
in their own shame

There was a wickedness
put down on me
drove down deep inside my body
coiling its leathery scent
around my spine and squeezing
me
the smell of musky flesh bound books
that bled me under the sign
of a cross

Oooooh, I was wicked
naughty naughty little boy
yanked around by my hair
punched in the head
diving under a counter
I must have stolen something
but when I opened my palms to
reveal my possessions
all that was there were half moon shaped
impressions

There was a wickedness
put down on me
knowledge of the fruit of good and of ill
and while the scars are still bleeding
wrapped red round my spine like Holly
i can take the pain of it like a champ
wet, naked, shivering
this wicked man can deliver some soul to heaven
because the child he was has been to Hell

Thoughts on the nature of Good vs Evil

oscar-keys-60730

Oscar Keys

The nature of evil is not to be something shrouded in black smoke, having horns, fangs, or some sort of paranormal element to it.
That would be easy.
And evil is never ever easily recognized.
It’s not something slayable on a weekly television series no matter how sweet Jared and Jensen are.
Evil never shows up and sticks out its hand saying, “Hey there. My name is evil and I am here to be be the worst baddie that ever did bad.”
No evil overlord has ever taken the mantle of evil – they all stand for the most truth and for the best justice – and the evil shows up in the execution of their plans.
That is how its possible for politicians to be monsters, cops to be murderers, preachers to be con artists, and populaces to be deceived.
Anything that separates you from God by separating you from your humanity and mutes your ability to recognize the hand of on God in each other – is Grade A certifiable evil.
When it comes to racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, hatred of Jews – any adherence to radicalism, fundamentalism, extreme political ideology – is evil.
Anything that seeks to remove you from the whole, from the main – is evil.
I do believe in angels and demons and spirits – but all I’ve ever seen in my life – all the evil I’ve come across in my time on earth – has been nothing short of human.
Evil is often not a thing but an absence of a thing. No hope.

Yet on the flip side of that – Good is rarely as loud as evil. Good is subversive. It shows up in the unwashed masses, it shows up in the actions of those who refuse to let man made divisions occupy their thoughts. It shows up in protests, it shows up in natural disasters, it shows up in making friends with the ‘other’ as they allow themselves to see a person and not a category. It’s sitting down and breaking bread, it’s working through problems, and it’s a prayer flung upward to heaven.In the midst of impossible, knowing it will probably fail, it still does the right thing. IT’s in the alcoholic struggling to maintain sobriety, it’s in the depressed person pushing on another day, it’s in the slipping of a homeless a couple of bucks knowing that they’re not going to buy food – because their addiction will kill them if no immediate help is made available and not judging them for it. Although the road to hell has been paved with good intentions the good is in the intent. Good exists in the radicalness of equality and the faith that even the most evil can somehow be redeemed. For good to flourish there must be hope – and hope is the thing that evil needs to destroy before it can assert itself.

 

Wisdom is knowing that human beings contain the propensity for both one hundred percent of the time.