Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Trump - San Dimas High School Football Rules!

I have been a teacher for 24 years.  As such, I can't help listening to Donald Trump with a teacher's ear. I get a student or two like Trump every year. Trump is that student who doesn't study or prepare for a presentation, but skims through the material for a few key words.  He then stands in front of the class and BS's his way through, hoping that getting a laugh or two from his fellow students will distract from the fact that he doesn't know his material.

Trump is the alpha bully student who has the admiration of his fellow trouble makers.  When they insult minorities, women, and the disabled, they get in trouble.  But somehow, when he does it, he gets away with it.  This earns him a backwards form of respect from the ne'er-do-well.

Trump is the high school jock at the end of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure... mumbling through an ill prepared history essay.  Having nothing of substance to offer, he throws up his hands at the end in a victory salute and shouts, "San Dimas High School football RULES!" This brings the student body to their feet in applause, while the teachers roll their eyes.


But this isn't high school. We aren't voting for prom king. Popularity and adolescent adulation are not going to get the work of the United States presidency accomplished.

Trump is no more qualified than Biff Tannen for the highest office in our land.




Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Perfect Storm for Trump


Trump literally knows nothing when it comes to the issues he would handle as president. Yet, that does not matter for much of the electorate because he taps into some fear or red meat point that they cannot resist. He :

1. has team support. For many republicans, it simply does not matter how unprepared he is - there is an R next to his name, end of story.

2. has "frat" boy support. Certain personalities love alpha male bluster. His tendency to upgrade his trophy wife every decade or so and bling his name everywhere is seen as a sign of strength.

3. has the racist/bigot crowd. From the blatant David Duke to the person who starts every bigot rant with "I'm not a racist, but..." These folks get all warm and fuzzy every time Trump announces, "I am NOT politically correct!"

4. has the xenophobes. America is a country of immigrants where many fear the latest batch of immigrants.

5. has the bumpkin vote. Trump will get the vote of every moron who resents people who have a high vocabulary. The more ignorance he shows, the more they like him - he speaks their language.

Any of these groups, on their own, do not have a lot of voting power. But for the first time, we have a candidate who can appeal to all of those subgroups. Their combined awfulness may just get him in the White House.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Children and Religion



The video above is an enlightening watch. As I viewed it, I had a number of flashbacks to my own childhood. I traveled in religious circles and attended a school where being "slain in the Spirit", as shown here, was very normal.

The expressions on the faces of the children are so telling - Is this what I am supposed to do? Am I supposed to fall? Is that what you want? Should I be scared?

You can see which children have not yet been brought into the culture and which ones know the game.

And it is a game. It has rules and rewards. You can play it well and you can play it poorly. Acceptance and popularity within the community are determined according to your participation. Whatever one's flavor of religion, you are often instructed from your youngest age how to navigate the culture of your religious community. There are behaviors and rituals which will give you words and looks of affirmation if you partake. There are also ideas and practices which solicit community dismay.

This can sound nefarious, but I don't think that is necessarily so. Impressionable children accept these things because the community encourages it... but likewise, the community received the same directives when they were children... and so on... and so on.

I do think parents can instruct their children without indoctrinating them.  Parents can present information impartially and teach their children to make reasonable judgements. However, it takes a lot of intentionality.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

See You At The Tee Box!

It took until my late 40s, but I finally am into sports. Playing that is, not watching.  Also, it is only one sport.

Disc Golf.

My love of disc golf, like most things in life, happened by chance. I went with some friends one evening to give disc golf a try.  They had played before, years ago, and wanted to give it another run. I did not imagine that I would particularly enjoy the game, but it was something to do.

One game led to another game, and another.  I became interested enough to buy my own discs. I watched some videos to improve my throw.

Before I knew it, I was hooked.

As I thought about it, I realized it grabbed me on a few levels:


1. It is a chatty sport - I enjoy conversation and this was a sport that let me do that.  I grew up playing baseball, and baseball was enjoyable, but not very talkative.  Most sports are all about the game itself.  Disc Golf is another way for me to further conversation.  I have played a few rounds solo, but this sport is best when played with friends.

2. It makes me walk - Most of my pleasures in life are pretty sedentary.  Disc Golf gets me moving. A course it typically 2-3 miles of walking, often at varying elevations.


3. It is FREE - Well, mostly free.  I have invested a few hundred dollars in discs and bags, but to go out and play a round only costs you the gas to take you there.

4. Disc collecting - I have a strand of my personality that likes collecting things.  Discs tap into that. Discs have three distinct purposes -  Driver, mid-range, and putter.  A disc will then vary according to a scale on how far it will throw, and where and when it will turn.  There is quality of plastic. They also differ in weight from 130-180 grams.  Then there is color and print.  I presently have around 40 discs... which is probably 25 more than I actually need.
Disc golf is often compared to traditional ball golf, but I actually find it more analogous to miniature golf.  In disc golf, you spend a lot of time going around, under, and over obstacles.  Big, open power drives exist, but probably on less than a third of the baskets.  Some disc golf courses exist entirely within the woods.

By the way, disc golf goes great with beer.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

It Doesn't Matter. It Just Doesn't Matter.

After Donald Trump hugged the American flag yesterday I created this meme.  My brother questioned why people were offended by his hugging the flag.  I replied that, in my case, there is no offense but plenty of recognition of pandering... on a dark comedy level.

There is this great scene in House of Cards where Kevin Spacey's character, a senator, has to say a few words at a funeral because it is politically expedient. The senator has no particular interest in Jesus or religion... but he took the measure of the crowd and when he spoke to them, he LOVED Jesus and the bible and God above....then he left the podium and turned it right back off again. But the crowd loved it.

Donald Trump loves the spotlight. However, in all of his years seeking the public eye, I don't think anyone would have used the word patriotic when describing him. Patriotism has never been a marker of his public persona. There is nothing in his business practices that shows he would put dedication to country over dedication to profit.

But when he stepped up to the podium, he took the measure of the crowd, realized what would get their juices flowing, and he went and hugged a flag.

Things that would disqualify most folks don't matter to his base.  After every pandering episode or outrageous pronouncement, I hear the chant of Bill Murray at Camp North Star- "It doesn't matter!  It just doesn't matter!" Degrading comments and behaviors toward women? It doesn't matter. Racism? It doesn't matter. Display of thin-skinned pouting? It just doesn't matter.

That is why it will be a long and painful election season. We have many more of these episodes to endure.  Last year if he had hugged a flag, I would have been sure that using Old Glory as part of a political stunt would have ruffled the feathers of a fair amount of his audience - but I know better now. I knew yesterday when I saw that picture that it would have no negative effect. It doesn't matter what Donald Trump does, it just doesn't matter.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Morality Over Obedience

One of the questions I often get as an Atheist is, if I don't have a deity that I worship, where do I get my morality? I contend that receiving a moral code from an authority is always going to be problematic.

People who receive their morality will always be living with contradictions - what they have been told and what they have experienced. In addition, if people have a deity and a holy text like the one I had, they are going to struggle with their authority being inconsistent.

I find that non-belief gives me a much clearer playing field and encourages me to engage my ethical code in ways that I did not when I was a believer.  When I was a theist, I was concerned with whether or not I was obedient.  Now I am concerned with how much help or harm I bring to my world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Love God - Love Your Loved Ones Less

Yesterday, my brother shared an article on Facebook concerning Evangelical pastor Francis Chan's challenge for Christians to stop idolizing their family and put Christ's mission first. He asked for his readers' thoughts. After perusing the article, I wrote:
"A: Chan believes anyone who does not "have a relationship" with his god will be tortured for eternity by said god - so out the gate, I am convinced that his view of god is going to be harmful to humanity. Ergo any thought he has to add about how a believer should go about spiritual pursuits, in my view, is going to be highly suspect.
B. Chan is encouraging you to put the most important relationships of your life on the back burner so you can go out and... well, at this point it gets vague... be radical, and all out, and live over the edge! This too will probably end badly. Not for Chan, Chan will get awesome book deals and speaking engagements out of this. He will get lots of perks.
The followers of Chan? Not so much. They will probably mess up relationships, wax and wane between guilt and euphoria until something gives, and make a lot of financial and life decisions with no more consideration than a role of the dice.
My challenge to Christians... stop idolizing... period."
Then this morning, I read an article by Libby Anne over at Love, Joy, Feminism, where she shared about growing up with that evangelical mindset of near paranoia about making sure everything and everyone in your life was undervalued when compared to God.
"I also remember worrying that I loved my family more than I loved God. I was taught that this was wrong—that it made my family idols. I felt so conflicted over this, and purposed time and again to love God more than I loved my parents or siblings."
Reading both of those articles made me reflect on how real that topic was to me growing up. I regularly saw folks give up various past times and pleasures because they were concerned these things were becoming an "idol" in their life. I many times abandoned enjoyments, passed on opportunities, or sabotaged relationships because I thought these things would "hinder my walk with God". Jesus needed to be ultimate (whatever that meant) and nothing could even be a close second.

One of the musical heroes in my circles growing up was named Keith Green. I lived and worked at Green's ministry for 6 months when I was 18.  He wrote a song where he pointed out that everything in his life took 2nd place to Jesus. Keith speaks of his marriage in this way:
"As I told her when we wed, I'd surely rather be found dead, than to love her more than the one who saved my soul."
There was a time when I heard that song and that line and felt it was a powerful testimony of dedication to Jesus - now I see it as a dysfunctional mess.

Imagine a husband insisting to his wife that she love him more than the children. Contemplate what kind of mother would tell a daughter that, if the daughter loved her brother more, then the daughter was unworthy of her mother's love.

Does any reasonable person consider this jealous, competitive perspective in any way loving?
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