Dear Nadia Bolz-Weber ( ….and any other Christian Religious Leaders that would like to Chime In)

Nadia,

I grew up in an extremely conservative religious tradition known as the IFB (Independent Fundamental Baptists) and all my life I’ve felt sort of tethered to them in regard to the roots of my faith. I left that tradition, physically, over 15 years ago and never looked back.

Today, as a thirty-eight-year-old man, I’ve been on a quest for God and I am not sure where to turn. I’ve read your books, I’ve read books by Phylis Tickle, I recently bought Rachel Held Evan’s “Searching for Sunday”, and I’ve been looking around for a church to go to after all this time.

My husband is a devout Catholic – oddly enough, and his religious experience with his church I sort of envy.  He loves the saints (We never got any saints), the Eucharist, the ceremony of it all, and he goes to mass very often. I find myself envious of his faith to a point and I find it so hard not to address his conversation about it without snark and without criticism.

Church, for us growing up, was not an option. It was thrust upon us like this yolk that was too heavy for small necks to bear.  The firebrand preaching, the gospel singing (Which I enjoyed, to be honest), and the abusive cults of personality that emerged from all of that make me feel cynical, and cold toward Christianity – universally speaking.

In the world today, there seems to be so much going wrong, and right at the center of it, there’s fundamentalism rearing it’s ugly head once again. It sometimes feels like a tsunami that I can’t quite get far enough away from. Whether we’re talking about a woman’s fundamental right to self-determination, to the demonic practice of snatching babies at the border, to gun control (or the lack thereof), to the sex scandals rocking not only the Catholic Church but evangelical churches as well, it’s so hard not to just shrug my shoulders and say, “You know, by their fruit ye shall know them,” and not have anything to do with any of it. There have been times I’ve spoken publically against these organizations due to the abuse I went through at the hands of charismatic leaders and what their message did to our family.

And yet…

I want to know God. This world sucks without something else out there that I know for sure has his eye on the long game. Yet, the old adages of “God works in mysterious ways,” or “Love the sinner, not the sin,” nonsense makes my skin crawl with utter disdain.  I just see Christians doing things today that even the devil, in my mind, is like, “Dude, don’t you think that perhaps that’s a bit much?”

With so much chaos going on, I can’t help but feel like one of those Christians in the middle ages unsure of what to do because three different Popes were all declaring themselves to be Pope and condemning the other two as heretics. I feel frozen in place.

Am I just dealing with the last vestiges of Fundamentalism that has me scared to go “Christian Light” (all the ceremony, half the guilt) or do I have to come up with what’s important to me regarding faith (social justice, sound doctrine)?

I don’t’ recognize Christianity anymore.

Freddie

 

 

 

 

Grief

On the night before my 18th birthday, in 1999 my cousin Lee, who was my best friend at the time, died of a Heroin overdose. It’s been 20 years but my grief lives on.

Months before, I walked in on his dealer standing over his body pouring water onto his face to get him to wake from a similar event.

I remember the dude running away when I picked up the phone to dial 9-1-1 and the ambulance showing up. I recall his two kids being there wondering why they couldn’t wake him up. I remember the look on his face when he was being taken down the stairs as the Narcan fought with the heroin to take over the system.

His eyes, which were hugely dilated, constricted and his head comes up to stare at me.
I was staring into the face of death itself and it looked back at me.
It was the scariest thing I’ve experienced up until that point. Those men saved his life – for a time.

When he finally passed away at the age of 33, he died so suddenly that he didn’t have time to brace himself from the fall.
Naturally, I was devastated.

It’s been 20 years since he left us.

I can’t help but think of all the heavy shit we carry with us. All the weight that time adds to our shoulders, the things that put lines on our faces, and shadows under our eyes. I spoke with a good friend at length last night over some issues he was having at work and the grief that washed over him when he described what had happened broke my heart.

Now, I’m an emotional basket case under the best of circumstances. I have no poker face what so ever and say immidately what I’m feeling. But it’s not always been that way. I used to bottle that shit up. And when I bottled it up, it took its toll on me.

My friend is the opposite. He’s so smooth. So calm. So grounded that it was a shock what I witnessed. And yet, there it was.

We think what we bury will stay buried. That is NEVER the case.

It always rises to the surface in moments that catch us off guard. It’s always lurking there in the shadows, under the stairs, in the basements of our minds ready for our minds to recognize a familiar pattern – and then – maybe out of some internal drive to preserve the person – it strikes. You get triggered. Something, someone, be they a hurt child, a scared adolescent, someone who’d been physically, mentally, or emotionally abused, comes roaring forward out from underneath those stairs and into the light of day.

I’ve seen things in my life, been a party to things, that I will not ever forget for the rest of my life. It’s there. It informs me now. It makes me laugh, it makes me angry, it makes me cry when my defenses aren’t what they normally are.

I think about those eight kids who got shot today in Colorado, and of course, thank God they’re alive – but then I think, once those wounds close the hidden shit will linger as a millstone around their necks for the rest of their lives. They almost met death today.

Life can get to the point where it is NOT sacred. It’s a bitch. It’s a burden. And then I wonder why people crawl under the bottle, why they take a needle in the vein, overeat, undereat, have sex addictions, gambling addictions and I get it. I totally get it.

I’ve been there. It’s grief.

So what’s the answer? I’m not sure.

I loved Lee. I loved him. I miss him 20 years later. I love my friend and hurt when he hurt because that’s what friendship is for. I’m lucky. I have good healthcare. I’ve got a therapist, I have medication, I’ve got stability in my life. I’ve got a job I love that lets me say what needs sayin’ etc.

I am lucky. That’s it. I’m not better than anyone. I’m not smarter, or more emotionally aware,

I. GOT. LUCKY.

It’s hard to face those demons, don’t get me wrong. It’s terrifying. But once you start to, you realize those scary things are only parts of yourself that for whatever reason, wasn’t allowed to grow naturally – so they became distorted. And over time, I realized the things that I hated, the past and the things I experienced I wished I could run away from, were ways to connect to people in ways I could never have imagined. So, in a weird way, I guess I’m thankful.

Finding a way of channeling that grief, makes the hell I went through, so much easier.

Franklin Graham, Pete Buttigieg isn’t the one who should be repenting

The headline reads thus: 

“Franklin Graham says Pete Buttigieg needs to repent of his homosexuality citing Leviticus.”

Now, I am not going to go on a rant, nor am I going to get into a Biblical/theological argument (mostly because I think most people don’t actually read it, and I am not going to defend homosexuality from anyone. There’s no reason.)
What I am going to do is make a list of things that American Evangelicals (including Graham and his friends) ought to apologize (or repent) for:

Source: Chasten Buttigieg Twitter

 

1: Racism – It wasn’t until 1995 that the Southern Baptist Convention apologized for their support of Slavery, Segregation, and Jim Crow Law which treated blacks as second class citizens throughout the lynching years and beyond. It should also be noted that several Southern Baptist Organizations fought integration and even sued to open White Only Christian Schools in the 1970s using their 501c3 (Bob Jones Sr. Vs The United States). The Supreme Court decided that despite their deeply held Biblical beliefs, they could not use their 501c3 to discriminate against African American people who applied to their University. 

*note: Bob Jones Sr. University apologized for its racist past including the prohibition of interracial dating….in 2000. 

*It’s also worth noting that the attack on public education, the low pay public educators receive, and the focus of charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling is a direct result of racism and the anger of people at the idea of unsegregated schools. 

 

2. The Anti-Abortion Movement/ Anti-Civil Rights movement and the Rise of the Religious Right. Piggybacking off of the first point, The Southern Baptists (along with other conservative evangelical organizations) in the early 1970s supported the right of women to choose to have an abortion. Citing things like women’s health, fetus viability, income, rape, etc. were all reasons why they could support this practice. However, they have since renounced this practice and have become fierce advocates AGAINST a woman’s right to choose. An article written for Politico entitled The Real Origins of the Religious Right by Randall Balmer dated May 27, 2014, cites that “In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools.” The debate over Abortion is still a hotbed of anger and sometimes murderous violence.

https://www.amazon.com/Shameless-Sexual-Reformation-Nadia-Bolz-Weber-ebook/dp/B07CWG1719/ref=sr_1_1

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133

3) The hiding and protection of sexual predators/ violent abusers in their organizations. This is from a Newsweek article dated 2/10/2019, “The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News collected the mug shots and sexual abuse reports of hundreds of Southern Baptist church leaders from the past two decades. More than 220 leaders, including ministers, pastors, and Sunday school teachers from the Southern Baptist Convention’s 47,000 churches have been convicted of sex crimes, which included disturbing and heart-wrenching anecdotes of church affiliates raping young children.” Furthermore, an article I was quoted in had to deal with Fundamental Baptists. In an article written by the Fort Worth Telegram entitled “Hundreds of sex abuse allegations found in fundamental Baptist churches across U.S.” by Sarah Smith, details, again, that the Catholic Church -while often vilified by protestant evangelicals in America for their role in the molestation of women and children, have they themselves been practitioners of this type of inhumane and devastatingly awful deviancy that leaves devastation in its wake. The difference is, unlike the Catholic Church where there is one central figure or Pope, American Protestantism has many central figures or “Popes” if you will.  This makes tracking down all of the victims and therefore assigning blame, that much harder. 

https://www.star-telegram.com/living/religion/article222576310.html

https://www.newsweek.com/southern-baptist-sexual-abuse-rape-predators-scandal-church-christian-leaders-1325750

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/Southern-Baptist-sexual-abuse-spreads-as-leaders-13588038.php

https://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/Investigation-reveals-700-victims-of-Southern-13602419.php

3. The dehumanizing of women and children in theology and practice and the handing over of so said population to predatory men – see above.

4. The support of an Anti-Christ like American President – Donald Trump is vile. A disgusting human being who’s used racism (see above) sex (Grabbing women by their P*ssy, having an affair with a porn star, beating his wife(s), the ripping away of children from their families at the border, the demonic practice of putting these people in concentration camps, and his support of white supremacy and racism. This is where the American Evangelical movement is now – they’ve attached themselves to Trump the way the Lutheran Church abdicated to Hitler’s authority in a quest for Power and Pride of Place in Germany in the late 1930s. (Charles Marsh, Strange Glory: A life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.) This includes Mike Pence. 

https://www.newsweek.com/pete-buttigieg-calls-mike-pence-cheerleader-porn-star-presidency-says-trump-1357930

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/04/05/why-do-white-evangelicals-still-staunchly-support-donald-trump/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c6df1b63a19b

https://www.amazon.com/Strange-Glory-Life-Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-ebook/dp/B00G8EKYX0/ref=sr_1_1

5) The Denial of Climate Change and the rise of Anti-professionalism/ Anti-Intellectualism. God saves our souls, he doesn’t save us from the natural outcomes of our actions. This includes but is not limited to Climate Change, Immunization, etc. Also, the rise of the mistrust in Academics, and the American Media has its roots in certainty addiction that these pastors sell as a part of their snake oil salvation. You can’t be all powerful if your parishioners are receiving an education or their information from other than ‘trusted’ sources.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/06/02/why-so-many-white-evangelicals-in-trumps-base-are-deeply-skeptical-of-climate-change/?utm_term=.88cb45fb862a

American Evangelicals have stolen, wrongfully, words like “Patriotism, Family, and Faith”, They’ve been wrong in ways that have been detrimental to the United States for a couple of hundred years. Why should anyone, Pete Buttigieg, etc. et al, take anything they say with ANY rational level of reason? The American Evangelicals (Franklin included) have abused their spiritual and theological authority, they’ve abused and been a party to the murder, rape, and subjugation of African American people, they’ve abused, raped, molested, and spiritually maligned their own people in a quest to remain in power, they’ve subjected and attempted and continue to try and subjugate women to their masculinity. This has even lead to the murder of Abortion Doctors. The only reason these people haven’t lowered in their pride of place in this country is because of how they vote.

Source: Billy Graham Evangelical Association

***Personal Note. I am a gay married man. I’ve been married to my husband for six years. We’ve been together for almost ten.  Having been raised in a fundamentalist tradition of the Baptist Church known as Independent Baptist, my relationship with evangelicals and evangelicalism is a complicated one. Having suffered at the hands of the philosophical teaching of the late Jack Hyles and his influence over my family, I suffer from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (cPTSD). One of the primary reasons that I left the church, however, was over issues of racism, sexism, and this general disconnect that the church cultivated between their members and the outside world. As these articles I cited above show quite clearly, there is a country inside of this country, a society inside of our society, that has abused their members in every single way imaginable (and some unimaginable).  There are thousands of survivors out there who suffer in silence out of fear of retribution, or out of fear of God himself because they’ve been taught that God said it was okay for their preachers to do to them what they’ve done. 

There is no war on religion in this country unless you count Muslims. There is, however, a war on secularism. A war on intellectualism. A war on professionalism and a war on the cohesiveness of American society as a whole.  As someone who has a political science and history degree, I have watched this erosion of Americanism by the hands of those who swear to be the most faithful and most patriotic. They don’t have the market cornered on these things and should they insist they do, understand this. 

It’s a lie. 

This is no endorsement of Pete Buttigieg for President of the United States (I haven’t decided who I am voting for). This is simply laying out of historical and political facts that have been obfuscated over the years. And while this in no way a total sum of all the sins committed against America and its people in general by the aforementioned, I personally believe we are living in an apocalyptic moment in this country.  A great revealing of what has been festering underneath the surface of J.C. Penny suits, the softer side of Sears, ideology, and public prayer.  We’re in a bad way, as a country, and my sincere hope is that we as Americans can turn to each other and vow to protect each other from all enemies be they foreign or domestic.   Gay marriage has nothing to do with where we are as a country or how we got where we are. 

We can do better. We must do better. It’s going to be hard work, trust me, I have the medical bills, the pharmacy bills, and the therapy bills to prove it. But’s it’s worth it. We’re worth it. America is worth it. God’s worth it. I don’t want there to be a ‘rise of the religious left’, I want there to be a rise of actual Christianity in this country that could heal us as it says in Second Chronicles 7:14

Someone should let Franklin know that the jig is up. 

My first Gay Erotic Romance

Cover Reveal

I’ve been thinking a lot about sex.

Not just the act, but what the act is, what it means for us as a species. How it connects us, literally.

A lot of this thought has been the result of some negative medical information I received in the past year concerning my health. (Nothing major, just some things I have to watch).  What resulted was the fact that there were some things in my life that I needed to change. Some old habits had to go by the wayside. For one, I simply couldn’t eat like I was twenty years old anymore.

I’m not.

I am pushing forty and my body has started twinge here and there. Getting older sucks in some ways and in some it doesn’t.

One way it doesn’t suck is deciding what’s important in my life and what isn’t.

As a kid (in my 20’s) sex was easy come, easy go (pun intended).  I was fit, I had a perfect thirty-two-inch waist, my face was smooth, I was single and ready to mingle. Needless to say at 20-something I was a walking hormone. Sex was a big part of my life and yet, it was this dirty but necessary thing.

Yet, now, not so much.

Being a married man, sex has changed in my life, I’m sure a lot of you can relate, but I revel in it. I enjoy it. It’s intense and meaningful and beautiful and while I am not into an exhibition in any way shape or form, I’m a lot more comfortable with my body and my mind at this age, my desire, my body, and my partner than I ever have been in my life prior. There’s something liberating about that.

As a writer, I’d often focused on horror, or the paranormal, in regard to my stories and in the future I still plan on writing in that genre. However, I am going to be venturing into erotic romance as another form of expression. Mostly, I’m more comfortable to talk about it now.

There’s a lot to think about and I’m sure this isn’t the only path I’ll take in the future. However, this is where my thoughts are as of now.

So, without further ado, I want to introduce you to my first novella out this Friday on Amazon and KU entitled: Into the Gray.

I really like this story, I like the couple, and I think we’ll see more of them in the future.

Blurb:

Life after college is not what Aaron expected. Isn’t he supposed to have what he wants to do figured out by now? David never expected his marriage to be rocky, let alone about to end. How is he supposed to move on from this? December in Detroit is normally unforgiving, but an unexpected blizzard puts David and Aaron on a course toward each other. Despite the frozen ground and battleship gray sky, these men find heat together. It’s intimate and illicit, stretching what was supposed to be a one night stand into something more. Sometimes the touch of a stranger, however forbidden, is just what we need when we enter the gray.

Coming soon to Amazon and KU as well as Audible with Vance Bastian.

A Patreon thing….

Greetings Earthlings,

First I want to say Happy Holidays to all of you that celebrate. This year, I’ve decided to open a Patreon account for my readers.
I do this for a couple of purposes, the first is the desire to create ‘swag’ for those who are interested in it. Secondly, I’d like to pay for professional editing. And thirdly, I would love to hear back from readers about what they think of the story as it’s being created.
Of course, as a result, the readers would receive free ebooks once I am finished, signed copies, and free audiobooks once that’s all taken care of. Think of yourselves as beta readers plus.

This past year, I published Closer which is near and dear to my heart and your reviews and purchases have made me incredibly happy. Also, I’ve worked really hard on making audio a priority for this year and that has been a lovely experience.

For Memoirs of the Human Wraiths series, I hunted down 3 brand new voices to narrate the books. Newbies, if you will. Dreamspinner Press once took a chance on me and me, wanting to pay it forward, took a chance on them. I’m extremely pleased with the result – even though there was a slight mixup on Timber but hopefully, that’s panned out.

For Closer, I had the great Vance Bastian read for me and like always, he did a fantastic job.

Then, I had my poetry book Heaven Underneath the Sound of the World narrated and the gentleman from Oklahoma did splendidly.

I’ve been really lucky to have a network of friends and supporters who’ve done awesome things for me in the past year. I would like to continue that tradition this year and create things myself for you. Cover art for me is a big one, so are book trailers, and as I mentioned earlier – Swag. I have some kick-ass book covers and love the idea of those being on t-shirts, or mousepads, or whatever.

So anyway, without further ado. I am going to post the link to my Patreon Page below. If you would like to become a contributing member and would love to be on the front lines of a novel in progress – please feel free to sign up. I can’t wait to talk to you.

Merry Christmas

F.E>

https://www.patreon.com/posts/23516013

The Prologue is up for free on my newest novel, “Sands of Time”
Chapters 1-3 are also posted for patrons. I would love feedback on this.
Let me know what you think.

🙂

Living the Divine (Poem)

I hear the sound of the windchimes
the first six notes of Amazing Grace
the rush of water from the fountain
and traffic outside my window

Lighted candles burning,
in my dimly lit apartment office
scented wax and a bamboo plant
and a clock from a yard sale
still with it’s selling price

my desk is gorgeous
wooden, polished,
with a lamp in Tiffany’s style
bought from two retired republicans
gone off to live the rest of their wealth
in Arizona

a pair of inexpensive earbuds
that sing rock and roll when I work out
a brown leather wallet filled with credit cards
my favorite a golden American Express
my mother never thought I’d own

I am a homeowner
a dog walker
a bread baker
and a love maker
to a man, I call my husband
while the Virgin Mary watches over us
from her spot on the wall

I have a good life.
Dear God, I have a good life
when did all this happen?
how did all this happen?
what divine accident was I a party to?

From a Veteran on Veterans’ Day

Thank you for the good wishes on Veterans Day.

I was thinking about it last night before I went to bed. With Donald Trump snubbing the WW1 veterans in the centennial of Armistice Day.
He couldn’t go, apparently, because it was misting outside.
Take that for what it’s worth.

Yet, I don’t want to talk about him. He’s everywhere, right now.
He’s sort of like the Spanish Flu that wreaked havoc on the population fo the world during the first World War leading to an unparalleled death toll.
I want to talk about heroes.

I’ve seen this quote passed around on the internet as long as I’ve been a veteran, as long as I’ve been aware of the burden veterans carry post service.
This quote goes like this:

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

I think this has the right intention, but I think it’s wrong-headed.

One of the things that I’ve observed about the veteran, myself included, is that they are everyday people. They are pulled out of the population of this country, or they’ve chosen to serve for various reasons. Sometimes it’s patriotism, sometimes it’s money for school, sometimes it’s just because they have no forward momentum in life and need some stability. Everyone serves for different reasons.

Yet, regardless of why they served, they served. It’s okay to call these people heroes. Most veterans you know today, have served in the middle east in some way or another since September 11, 2001. There have been many battles in both Iraq and Afghanistan that these young people, very young people, fought and died at.
However, again, as I age I realize not all soldiers wore uniforms and not all battles are fought on foreign soil.

Wars come in all shapes and sizes. Ideas are introduced into the mainstream of society and those ideas combat old, established, ways of thinking and have either bolstered the old ways or tore them down.
It’s a success if those ideas that are torn down are so without a shot fired. Without a fist raised. Without violence.
It’s a failure when the opposite happens.

See, war isn’t about success, about victory, war is about failure. As cliche as it is, war is about a failure of people to communicate their ideas in a productive way.
Whether you’re talking about the European theatre of operations in WW1 or the Bridge in Selma Alabama, those were battlegrounds. Those people who participated in those events were soldiers. Those places were where ideas clashed.

And it’s sort of unique, after the rockets red glare finally fades and those that remain to pick up the pieces of their lives and try move on. The love they’re shown and in some instances, the animosity they receive for being brave enough to challenge the old ways of thinking for the hope of something new yanks them out of their humanness.
The effect is the same. Isolation.

When we talk about those people in Selma, or in WW1 we forget or we never really admit that they are human beings. People. Just like us. Depending on who you are and what you believe you either put them up on pedestals as icons of glory or you throw them down into the dirt with pejorative names.
The effect is exactly the same. Isolation.

We extract them from or refuse to accept them into, the whole, into the body, from the tribe.

It’s a burden we veterans recognize, its a burden those in the various civil rights movements recognize, those in the marriage debates recognize, those in the struggle for gender equality recognize, those in the fight for equal wages recognize, those in the struggle for Trans rights, #metoo, all recognize, the journalists, the preachers, the founders, the teachers, nurses, doctors, voting booth watchers, social workers, those people on the bridge in Selma, immigrant organizations recognize, dreamers all recognize.

That heroes walk among us.

So, how do we take care of our heroes including those who fought in foreign theatres?

It’s quite easy, really.

Love one and you can love them by realizing that just like you, they’re human beings.

Happy Veterans Day

Colin Kaepernick shouldn’t be kneeling alone

 

I was ten minutes into browsing the internet when I happened upon the news that Nike is having former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick be their spokesman for their 30th Anniversary of “Just Do it.”

For those of you who’ve been living under a rock for the past however many years – Colin Kaepernick was made famous by kneeling in protest during the National Anthem over the murder of black people in the United States by white cops.

I have two points:

John Rich, of Big and Rich, tweeted a picture of a pair of cut up socks that his sound man, a former Marine,  held in protest of Nike’s choice. Now, that man has the right to cut his socks if he wants to. Although someone should tell him that Nike already has his money (Dixie Chicks anyone?). I am here to say that it shouldn’t only be black football players kneeling at these games or anytime the National Anthem plays.

Why?

Well, we should be kneeling over the fact that young black men are being targeted by white cops. And if you set the race thing aside for just a second, we should at least consider that our fellow citizens are being murdered by cops without due process of law. Moreover, if you can’t let go of the race thing, then maybe you can at least get yourself over it enough to understand that if it can happen to them, it can happen to you.

We should also be kneeling over veteran suicide rates. Veterans represent less than 1 percent of the population of the United States overall. And 99 percent of you all talk so much about how much you love and respect them. Yet we have this terrible phenomenon occurring. From what I understand it’s still at a rate of 22 per day.  We should be kneeling over that. We should be bowing our head, at that. To rid ourselves of the apathy that allows that to happen.

Secondly, black people are heroes. Black people fought and died for this union whether unwillingly (I.E. the moment the first black foot touched American soil to The Vietnam War) or willingly (recent history). There are black veterans. Lots of them. There are black service members. Lots of them.

Yet, not all heroes wear uniforms and not all battles are fought in some foreign country.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Mary McLoud Bethune, George Washington Carver, Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Coretta Scott King, Dr. Maya Angelou, Shirley Chilsom, the list goes on forever…

those involved in the Civil Rights movement, those people who fought domestic battles when The United States government refused to let them have equal rights before the law, when the FBI sent a letter to Dr. King telling him to kill himself,  those people were heroes. That was a battlefield. Those that died during the lynching years between 1865 and 1955 – the last being Emmett Till – he’s a hero.

Colin Kaepernick – is a hero.

The battlefield is the hearts and minds of America for the soul OF America.

As a veteran, I wholeheartedly support Colin and all the other football players drawing attention to the fast and loose rules of our society that says “other” is expendable. I support them kneeling much to the ire of those who dislike it – because there will NEVER be a right time and place for their protest. There was never a ‘right time’ for The Civil Rights Movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, The March on Washington, there wasn’t a ‘right time’ for Brown Vs. Board and the destruction of Jim Crow Law, there was never a ‘right time’ for The Civil Rights Act(s) except for the time and place in which they happened.

“Throw that football black man. Entertain me.”

Are you kidding me?

As a vet. I stood for his right to kneel. As a vet, I stood for the lives of Americans after we were attacked on 9/11. As a human being, I stand for Colin Kaepernick but what I won’t stand for is being used by paper patriots, the 99 percent, to use me or my brothers and sisters in the front line of your social ire when you can’t stand for us when we’re suicidal, or homeless, or hungry, or dealing with drug addiction, white, black or otherwise.

When someone like Colin or like LeBron James does something wonderful, something audacious, something good – the backfire is always “What about the vets?”

Well, what have you done for the vets, 99 percent? What have you done to eradicate poverty, and lift up your fellow citizens of black and brown heritage?

Vote for 45?

We all should be kneeling over that and everything else wrong in this country.

 

P.S. I challenge Nike to scour the internet for the duration of this campaign to pick out words used to protest it. Words such as Veteran, Military, and Flag. For each instance, this is used, and its already started, I challenge Nike to donate 5 cents to the Veterans organization of their choice or any organization that helps African Americans access to health care, education, or clean water for those folks in Flint. You know, issues brought up anytime someone does something nice but is never taken care of by the people who complain.

 

 

 

 

 

The Three Magi (Preacher’s Kids)

I was a child on Easter Sunday,
in the back of the family car in my white Sunday shoes, grey vested, and grey pants
the door opened and your father stood there with a smile on his face
he was so tall, and he blocked out the sun
I thought I was seeing God for the first time…
then I’m a little older and the world is frozen and blue
black branches from sleeping trees reached upward and scraped holes in the clouds and caused the snow to fall quietly
on Belle Isle and we were sliding across the frozen pond
you and your brother and I and mine
we traded ice skates for the soles of our shoes….

Time passes in my mind
images on an old camera reel
and it’s pouring down rain
and we’re shirtless
your brother, you, and me
running and splashing and throwing ourselves on the lawn
pretending we’d been struck by lightning
and we laughed until our sides ached
We were the three kings, three magi, from the Bible
and instead of frankincense, myrrh, and gold
we had hymnals, and pews, and blue carpeted runways
where we’d flee between the adults
around the white painted former bar
and across the street from the party store where the Arab man sold us Faygo and hid his girly mags
when your father asked him to.

I remember…
cracking my head on a telephone box
your appendix surgery
long treks to churches where the people were so much more rich than us
but they didn’t know who was in their midst
three magi, three kings, ready to take flight
anywhere we wanted to go…

…and then, it was one last night together
one last dinner
I think that is when I first became acquainted with the concept of loss
there was laughter, adults talking, there was food around my father’s table
and I silently prayed that time would crawl to a stop
but God didn’t hear me or he denied my request
even for magi such as me
and before the night ended I waved goodbye to you all as you piled into your van to go far away…

I remember the time before time knew who we even were
and the years and the miles we’ve trod across
has stooped our shoulders, and added lines to our eyes
just hearing your voice tonight brought all those memories back hurtling back
from the dusty reel I’d had packed away
in some unkempt corner of my mind
my dear Christopher, Matthew,
there really isn’t much of a point to this other than to say…

I know the way life is
the complicated lives of three kings, so different from who we were
time has had its way with us
and the grape juice has turned to wine

My poem has a purpose, though
there’s a method to my prose as the Witching Hour draws close
and the spirits press themselves against the veil
begging for me to go to sleep
so they can whisper their stories to me
and that is, with the simplicity of the little boy that remains somewhere deep inside this tired man’s soul,
to say, “God, I’ve missed you.”

I’ll see you two in that space where we’ve never aged
after all, the pond is still frozen
in that space where
the rain still falls
and the white-tailed deer on Belle Isle
watch curiously
and the blue carpet runway is lit for three wild boys,
three kings, three magi,
to take flight

Work “Woke” or Perish

When the Supreme Court Decision came down in Obergfell, I thought that I would be jumping for joy, ready to go out and party, ready to fly a rainbow flag in the faces of those who said it, A) shouldn’t happen and B) won’t happen. Gay marriage would never happen inside of the United States.

For over thirty years I, and many in the LGBT community as well as their families and friends that supported them, lived with the pressure of a world where two people who very much loved each other couldn’t take their relationship forward and secure their lives in a meaningful way.

But I didn’t party. I didn’t run around screaming with a rainbow flag. I didn’t even have a drink, a toast, to the Human Rights Campaign and my people who immediately set about getting married by the hundreds.

I took a nap.

The pressure that was on me, that had been on me for years since I came out of the closet, suddenly evaporated in a text from my husband that declared, “WE’RE MARRIED”.

See, we drove 15 hours from deep in the heart of Texas (clap, clap) to Des Moines Iowa a year prior to get married.

I had received a little 500 dollar advance for my book, Objects in the Rearview Mirror, and that Saturday evening, at a gas station, I looked at him and said, “Hey, you want to go?” And we did.

I drove all night through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and finally into Iowa, arriving at a bed and breakfast so tired I was shaking.

My Army training kicked in. I was taking that hill. I was delivering my fiancee to the steps of the courthouse or wherever it was we had to and marrying the crap out of him. 🙂

When, on Monday morning, we stood hand in hand out on the lawn of the Bed and Breakfast and said: “I do.” (The owner had been ordained in that state specifically for the purpose of marrying gay folks) I cried.

After I woke up from my nap, I imagined a world that would soon follow. A world where we wouldn’t call it “Gay Marriage,” it was just plain, ordinary, marriage. The world was moving forward in a positive direction and everything would be fine.

Yet, I had a deep down fear in my gut. Something from our (and by our I mean the World) history that reminded me that one step forward for mankind was often met with a fierce push and a stumble.

Enter Donald Trump.

Since the 2016 Presidential Election a great big, black, shadow has descended over our country. Rumors of Russian involvement in our elections, ongoing Federal Investigations, Vice President Mike Pence and his anti-LGBT record as governor of Indiana, the removal of the thin mask of conservative Evangelical Republicans, and soon thereafter – the deportation of “Illegal Immigrants”, the separation of families, the forced psychopharmacological drugs on children, and according to NBC News reported tonight: Their brief saying that the Civil Rights Law does not ban discrimination over sexual orientation. Of course, the head of the Justice Department is a known racist, sexist, misogynist dinosaur by the name of Jeff Sessions. A relic of Southern Aristocracy, of Slavery, and Jim Crow, and the dehumanizing aspects of a repressive and violent time.

As a writer, as an artist, as a human being, these past two years have been very difficult to say the least. My country doesn’t feel so much like it’s taken a stumble back. It’s more like the shove landed America flat on its ass.

It’s been difficult watching the rise of violence against minorities of all walks of life in our country. From those murdered in Charleston, to those NFL players who being of African American descent kneeling at football games to bring attention to the arbitrary murder of people by rogue policing, to the videos of violence, verbal abuse, and recorded phone calls of white people calling the cops of others because this is their time to shine.

All the things that they wanted to say, do and put out there toward those who are different, whereas in the past the culture of America had kept their mouths shut, now parade boldy into the light of day.

That pressure has returned. Ten fold.

The fear is excruciating.

I am now on benzo’s and Zoloft just to make it through the day without shaking apart, recently diagnosed with a panic disorder, I feel every single minute of every single day.

Yet, I cannot NOT work.

It’s impossible for me.

It’s impossible for me as a queer writer to not do what Nina Simone said we should do and that was to reflect the world around us.

Angela Rye, a CNN commentator, and activist, said something that stuck in my brain since the first time I saw her speak. In this era of ‘wokeness’ the backlash of Donald Trump, you might say, in many different areas in our socio-political culture. She said it wasn’t enough to ‘be woke’ but to ‘work woke’.

She says, “It’s pointless for us to use our talents to understand what’s going on and not apply what we’ve learned to action,”. You can watch her explain it here.

Now, she’s referencing Timesup, Metoo, Black Lives Matter etc. but it makes me think, especially with all this added pressure, that this should be applied everywhere.

It’s not enough to know what the issues are, we have to do something about it.

Recently, I wrote a blog about the way gay men are viewed in a segment of literary fiction called M/M or Male/ Male Romance and received ten kinds of holy hell from people, some of them my friends, most of which aren’t gay – talking about how wrong I was, or how misogynist I was, or whatever they had to use to defend not their writing per se, but the way they depicted gay men in their work.

It amazed me how fast the backlash was. It amazed me, the think pieces people wrote to defend themselves, and either aggressive or passive aggressive messages I received telling me, a gay man, what was up from people who loved to proclaim their ‘wokeness’ and their progressiveness.

It’s also amazing to me that should shit get as bad as it potentially could, “they” aren’t going to care whether those writers are gay, bi, lesbian, trans, straight or otherwise when all hell breaks loose.

They didn’t like the idea that I objected to a subgenre of books that relegates gay people to animals or animal-like behavior such as dogs. Or, that I object to the types of books akin to Holocaust porn, concerning gay people and conversion camps.

I have felt isolated before, I’ve been and have felt cut off before, discriminated against, etc. but after that blog went live – I’ve never really ever felt my minority status that much before. Ever.

I think it’s essential for gay people, black people, any sort of minority to reclaim their power. Artists, it’s essential to use #ownvoices to authenticate the work that you do. I think if there were a time publishers, magazines, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hollywood, to let themselves be flooded by these minorities and their stories – it’s now. It’s time for us artists on the fringes to not just be woke, but to do like Angela said, “…and work woke.”

Tell our stories the way we know they are.