That’s Me in the Corner: Prologue

courtesy of

courtesy of

“Look, as sentient meat, however illusory our identities are, we craft those identities by making value judgments: everybody judges, all the time. Now, you got a problem with that… You’re livin’ wrong.” –Detective Rust Cohle form T.V.’s: True Detective

I recently-ish received a text from a friend (I think) that read: “I just can’t figure out why you’d uproot your family and move to Kaua’i”. That was the gist. You know me, I don’t do research and I don’t remember quotes. I remember the general feel. I’m a wordsmith; I don’t need exact quotes. My answer to the text was dismissive as I felt that was the tone of the text-volley. But as I studied on it, I found it to be a good question. Not that the text was a question or even good. But it led me to a good place of introspection. The text would’ve been better if it had read: “Why would a person, of seemingly sound intellect and pure intention, uproot his family and move to a small island under the auspices of helping to start a church community only to return six months later with no allegiance to that church or any church whatsoever?” Now that’s a good fucking question. But that’s just one man’s biased opinion. And there’s a good answer. That may also be one man’s biased opinion. I can sleep with that.

This series is called: “That’s Me in the Corner”. It is in reference to the R.E.M. song titled: “Losing My Religion”.

There are those among you who may have a knee-jerk reaction to the term: “religion”. I get it. I know I’ve said in conversation: “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship”. I hope that is true for you. It turns out it isn’t for me. Were it a relationship, personal to me and my dear savior Jesus Christ, there would be no reason for me to be reprimanded for suggesting that–for example: the story of Noah wasn’t an historical narrative or for positing the idea that maybe Christianity isn’t the exclusive route to reconciliation with God, the God of the Bible. If there are people who feel obligated to hold me to a specific narrative concerning my rapport with one of my friends, in this case Jesus. I have a hard time parsing the distinction between a religion and a relationship. Maybe that’s just my ignorance. I trust you’ll forgive me.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

I’ll never forget my first interaction with the Evangelical Christian Church (I’m sorry if it annoys you, but I am going to err on the side of caution concerning capitalization in this post. I don’t mind offending with my ideas, but I’ll be goddamned if I’m gonna offend with semantics. Whether or not I’m goddamned for my ideas is an issue for another post. I will not be the author of that post.). My mother had involved herself with a para-church (a para-church is sub-set of the church proper which operates under its own rules…but that leash has its limits) organization called: Aglow. She invited one of her friends from this club to our house when I was tweenish. Her friend was a Spanish-Catholic woman named: Dora…I shit you no (which is Spanish for: not). Dora traversed our house in a tambourine-jangling holy-water-sprinkling one-woman parade-boogie. It was a cleansing. She even blessed my ZZ Top El Loco poster which featured no less than 100 pounds of weed in the foreground. My brother Ryan and I found this hilarious. It was a cleansing that I was glad my dad didn’t witness. Who needed that shit-storm?

My dad had his own ideas about how I’d relate to the babe in the manger. There was a stint when we had to go to an Evangelical-Free church (there is no reality where-in I could understand the distinction nor explain what Evangelical Free actually means…my best effort: boring as fuck) on account of the fact that his boss went there, and–I imagine–my dad felt guilty for one reason or another…at any rate: we had to go. The only upside: cinnamon rolls and hot cocoa at the Manchester Inn. Yes, that Manchester Inn. At that church I was forced to go to a Sunday Skool Klass. I remember having a sense of separation anxiety that I cannot, in my present state, justify and which seems laughable at this stage of my life. I can remember not wanting to go because one of the “students” was the first bully that I encountered against whom I gathered the courage to sucker-punch one day at recess. He was a dick to me…then I made him cry in front of our entire class. So that was awkward. One day, out of the clear blue sky (in the interest of full discloser on the ambiance tip, the sky was probably gray and precipitous), my dad decided that my Guns and Roses poster was “satanic” so he tore it down. The poster was a cross with the death’s head depiction of each of the band’s members lined up in crux fashion. You know, the cover art for the album: “Welcome to the Jungle”. This concludes my dad’s influence over me, spiritually speaking.

I’ve had my own forays into the faith. This is a prologue. The dirt is yet to come. I have nothing against anyone who felt it important to introduce me to Jesus, or encourage me into a deeper understanding of the gospel. I have also felt that compulsion. I still do, if I’m being honest. Which I rarely am. Leastwise, not compulsively. We’ll get to that…

Faux Rage

I'm Green with Rage!!!

I’m Green with Rage!!! 

“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” –Aristotle

I don’t have a lot to say this week…or I have too much to say and I’m having trouble figuring out how to say it all…or I don’t have much to say.  At any rate, this will be short.  I’m really not in the mood to say anything important.  It has not been a good week for communication.  Maybe it has been two weeks now.  But two very talented writers whom I admire have been victims of America’s new favorite past-time, celebrated by conservatives and liberals alike: Faux-Outrage.  Faux-Outrage is a side-effect caused by watching news programs where-in puffy white-turned-red faced men yell the things about which you should be concerned at you. 

My first example is Rolling Stone contributor Janet Reitman’s compelling and articulate piece about the Boston Bomber which was chosen for the cover story of  Rolling Stone Magazine (allegedly after a last minute cancellation by Kanye West–Yeezus H. West, who was originally set to grace the cover) which caught the ire of the lead-singer of a band named Disturbed (a man with a similarly forgettable name).  Then all hell broke loose.  There were many angry people…people who claimed that Rolling Stone was trying to glorify this kid turned “terrorist”…people who clearly hadn’t read the article.  When people did finally get around to reading the article, the outrage was hastily aimed at the photo…a photo that was used in the bombing coverage by the New York Times within days of the bombings.  Lastly came the claim that Rolling Stone lacked the journalistic integrity needed to print pictures like the one in question on the cover of their publication without incurring the wrath of roided-out Nu-Metal heads, pundit peddlers of vapidity, and doughy cake-filled bloggers alike.  By then everyone had gotten so bent out of shape they were all ready for a collective rage-baby nap, and this final claim petered out.  Life is hard in America…always having to invent things about which to be angry…thanks a lot, clean water and small-pox vaccinations!

The other example, one I’ve been reading a lot about the last couple of days, is the book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth written by Reza Aslan.  It is a book written by a scholar in which he discusses his educated view on the historical Jesus.  Perfectly reasonable, right?  Not according to Right-Wing Evangelicals who have taken the time out of their busy days to sleuth out this factoid for our shared safety: Reza Aslan is a Muslim…gasp…(says C.S. Lewis: “What a delightful name.”).  How dare an educated Muslim write an historical piece about an historical figure…where does this guy think he lives, America?!?  This book has upset a lot of people.  If you are aware of this book and are wondering why so many people are so angered by it, join the club.  I’ve been scouring the internets and World Webs to find a reasonable opinion or coherent argument against this book…so far, no luck.  If you are aware of this book and you do not wonder why so many people are so angry about it, I suspect you’ve already joined a club…here’s a short video to illustrate the ridiculous dogmatic din…

In other news I went to a barbeque at my full-time friend, and sometime-guest-editor of this blog, Matt’s house and we came up with a book idea that’ll make us rich…or if not rich at least a little more infamous, which is worth its weight in gold if you ask Matt and I…but I wouldn’t if I were you.  We are going to write the cliff-notes for every book about Hitler ever written.  They will be short books; the main contents of which being the simple line, and I really shouldn’t be telling you this before we get our book deal, “Hitler was a dick.”

The Dirt Bag Baller Comes Clean)))Sort Of

trite bullshit

“There’s a fucking fine line between being funny and being a bully” –Marc Maron WTF podcast

My first inclination was to write a piece about nothing more than what the sign in the above picture said and whether or not its claims were apt.  But when I started to write this it became more about my personal experience from a comment that I made about the sign.  This feels more honest to me.  This is obviously my side of the story (meaning: My explanation for my behavior both good and shitty); it’s also important to note that this is an interaction between myself and two of my friends, and we are still friends.

So it’s July 5th (it may have started on the 4th…), and I’m perusing the Facebook, as I am wont to do, when I come across the above image that was posted by one of my friends who has served in the military abroad.  When I first read the sign I thought to myself: “This has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve read in recent memory.”  I did not make that comment…I generally don’t make forward comments like that…they are more aggressive than I fancy myself, and they don’t really add to the discussion in any informed way.  I think I commented with the phrase: “I love irony.”; which is not aggressive but also doesn’t add to the discussion in any informed way, and is probably a misuse of an oft misused literary term…who remembers?  This first comment didn’t land me in any hot water.  How could it?  It committed itself to no world-view and was in no way a coherent statement.  When I identified what in the sign’s text was causing me angst I became more coherent, and sometimes when I become coherent I find trouble…the aforementioned water.  What really bothered me about the sign was its seeming comparison of sacrifices made by Jesus Christ and the American Soldier respectively.  My immediate response (or reaction if you’d like…I’ll call it a response because I think that that’s what it was and, since this is my blog, my version of history wins here) was to bring up ways in which the sacrifices differed.  This second comment was not received well.  I’ll get to the actual comment shortly but first a little blurb in the interest of full-disclosure.

I’m a smart-ass, I’ve been that way for some time and as I get older I try to be a smart-ass who is careful about the feelings of others.  I do this to the best of my abilities taking into account that I am also a passive-aggressive with an emphasis on passive.  Because of that when I say something that offends someone it surprises me…their being offended surprises me.  I don’t want to offend people, but I also don’t care enough about it to carefully guard my words against such a transgression.  This is disingenuous, and I think we can all agree it is shitty behavior.  It is who I am.  I’m working on it.  I’m working on it because I love people and am motivated to do so as way of worshipping God who first loved me.  Some of my smart-assery is taken as being mean-spirited or acting a bully.  Neither of which are intended, but nor are they actively fought against…at least not to any appreciable degree.  When first I was accused of being a bully, I thought it laughable.  I’ve never considered myself a bully because my posture has always been defensive and motivated by fear.  I suppose all bullies tell themselves this lie.

The comment that I made was that only one of the two defining forces mentioned on the sign received a chance at a college education for their efforts.  Again this started as me pointing out a difference in the sacrifices made.  It was meant to be a smart-ass way of busting my friend’s chops…the friend who originally posted the picture of the sign.  My friend’s wife, who is also my friend, and who has also served in the U.S. military abroad, did not like that statement…not even a little–I think.  We have yet to actually talk about it…  I was not trying to call into question the practice of giving service women and men a chance to go to college as part of the compensation for their service…I fully support that policy.  If we as a people have decided that it is important to have a strong military presence in the world, and thus people that presence with folks who are of college age, we should be committed to helping them with education and the buying of a house and anything else that could somehow repay their sacrifice, a sacrifice that I recognize as being profound.  I think the U.S. military is horribly over-funded.  I think the people of the military are horribly under-paid.  Especially when one considers that their efforts almost always result in someone getting very rich.  Also, let it be known that I am against giving Jesus a college education, not because I’m anti-Jesus or anti-education…I guess what I’m trying to say is I wouldn’t want Jesus to be in my college class it would be distracting, Jesus raising his hand over and over again saying: “My Dad told Me it happened differently.”…we get it Jesus, Your Dad is God.

I started to get the impression that my off-handed remark/joke was being taken more seriously than I had intended, so I tried to make it clear that I was kidding.  That was met with a comment about the sacrifice of the military who are charged with doing their duty regardless of their conviction about the specific task at hand.  Which is a true statement.  My friend told me that she was sent off to war while her dad was in the ICU.  I couldn’t imagine what that must have felt like to her.  It made me realize the sacrifice that she made even more deeply.  I had never not valued the sacrifice…I understand that the people of the U.S. military make massive sacrifices, the likes of which I’ve never done (I say that without shame, I’ve never wanted to make said sacrifice, it is not my conviction to do so). 

My intent was not to diminish the sacrifice.  My intent was to diminish the claims of the sign, claims that I found hyperbolic.  I was thinking: “What would a North Vietnamese Christian think if he read that sign? What of the citizens of East Timor? What of the Native Peoples of this continent who have entrusted their lives to Jesus?”  I imagine they would be confused by the sign’s claims on both an historical and theological level.  I also thought the sign was self-serving and wrong-minded; lots of people offer to lay down their lives for us as U.S. citizens: first responders, cops, people working in south-east-Asian sweat-shops, a significant percentage of people who happen upon a burning building…the list could go on, but you get the picture.  On some level I think that I was confused by the use of Jesus Christ in a sign that was meant to promote American Nationalist propaganda.  I could’ve handled it better…hell, I should’ve handled it better.

At the end of the day, I have a love for people not institutions, but here’s where it gets tricky: sometimes when I call-out institutions I hurt people who are involved with those institutions.  I don’t want to be a guy who hurts people (I tried to come up with an interesting way of saying that last sentence…swing and a miss).  I apologized in the same thread because I was sorry for not being careful with my words…I couldn’t ask for forgiveness for my words, I hadn’t said anything wrong and to apologize for that would’ve been insincere.     

One last thing to consider: History is filled with strong-willed leaders who use force as a means to accomplish their ends and dopey smart-asses who are willing to question those ends as well as the means by which they’re accomplished.  History is very clear about what happens to a society when the smart-asses are forced to be silent…