Friday, January 25, 2013

What political words would you Taboo?

I tend to watch far more Fox News than I should.  Many of my friends are flabbergasted when I recount watching The O’Reilly Factor or reading a book by Michael Medved.  I do it so as to try to keep an open mind and also to understand the other side’s point of view.   One thing I’ve noticed though is that conservatives tend to say the same thing over and over again using the same vocabulary.

 If you’ve ever played the game Taboo, you know how difficult it can be at times to describe something without using certain words.  Listening to so many people use the same words over and over again, I had a thought that it would be fun to have a buzzer, like in the Taboo game, and every time a certain word is used “buzz” them, forcing them to use different words to describe their thought.

If I could turn all political discourse into a giant game of Taboo, I would disallow the following words from being used, and would gladly hit the buzzer whenever one of these words slipped out.

“Personal Responsibility”

“Hard Work”

“Job Creators”


“Government Handouts”

And of course, any of this “isms” (“Socialism, Communism, Fascism…”)


What words would you liked to see stricken from political communication?

If you’re a conservative reading this, what words do you think liberals/progressives overuse? What words would you like to buzz?

Leave a comment with the five words or phrases you’d like to BUZZ!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Pastor Prayer for MLK Sunday

This morning we pray to you, O God, remembering the words of your minister of the gospel, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who spoke of a divine dissatisfaction. 

'Dr. Martin Luther King' photo (c) 2011, selma best videos - license:
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He said, “Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds. Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort and the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the batters rams of the forces of justice. Let us be dissatisfied until those living on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security. Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heap of history, and every family is living in a decent sanitary home…Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol houses a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy and who will walk humbly with his God (sic).  Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll, down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Let us be dissatisfied until the day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid (sic).  Let us be dissatisfied.”

God, as we reflect on the words of Dr. King, we pause to remember also the injustice and oppression in our world today, and we know that we must also, as Reverend King said so many years ago, be dissatisfied.  We must be dissatisfied that the love and commitment between two men or two women is not allowed to be celebrated in marriage. We must be dissatisfied that our transsexual sisters and brothers are often derided as “freaks” and “wierdos” rather than loved as children of God.  We must be dissatisfied when people value a written sentence and a piece of metal more than the lives of the innocent. We must be dissatisfied that we live in the richest nation on earth, yet among us still remains untold scores of sick, hungry, and needy people. Let us be dissatisfied that despite the fact that we as a nation comprise the largest percentage of Christians in the world, we as a society show scant attention to putting into practice the teachings of Jesus in our nation. Let us be dissatisfied.

Yet as we remember this, we take comfort God that you are on the side of the oppressed, the marginalized, and the outcast. We take comfort as Dr. King said, that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  We remember the victories of the civil rights movement in this country. We remember how in the face of beatings, fire hoses, angry mobs, and attack dogs they were able to stand and sing, “We Shall Overcome.” We remember the courage, the strength, and the love of your servants from so many years ago—and that gives us hope.

God, we must not be discouraged, we must be driven.  May we remember that “truth crushed to earth will rise again.”  May we move forward, being agents of your divine love in this world, a love that pushes for justice, for equality, and for freedom remembering the vision of a different kind of kingdom that Jesus spoke of so many years ago.

Because, God deep in my heart I do believe that we shall overcome. Deep in my heart, I do believe we will walk hand in hand.  Deep in my heart, O God, I do believe some day we shall all be free. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

ALL HAIL KING OBAMA! Sing praises to his 23 tyrannical orders!

If you’ve been paying attention to Facebook or Twitter over the last few days or watching Fox News, no doubt you’ve seen innumerable articles and posts on the “tyranny,” “imperialism,” and  “despotism” regarding Obama’s twenty-three executive orders on gun-control. Call Thomas called Obama our “imperial emperor in chief,” and Fox News is leading the “tyranny” hysteria.  This may be a minor point to those whose only goal is to spread a culture of fear and paranoia, but reading the actual list of what Obama has put into action one discovers there’s really nothing tyrannical about it. The executive orders have to do with background checks, mental health, promoting gun safety, law enforcement training, and studying gun violence. Nowhere in the twenty-three is anything about taking away your guns. Nowhere is there anything about shredding the Constitution.  Nowhere is Obama demanding to be king.

For all this talk about Obama trampling the Constitution, I keep wondering where all these “Constitutionalists” were when President Bush oversaw the enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act, a law which runs roughshod over the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments.  Amendment four regards “unreasonable searches and seizures,” Amendment five guarantees “due process of law,” and Amendment six ensures the “right to a speedy and public trial.”  Slap the word “terrorist” on an individual and those “inalienable rights” go out the window. Thanks to the Patriot Act, I need to prove my identity to get a library card, but somehow requiring someone who wants to by a weapon capable of deadly force  to under go a background check is a breach of our rights as citizens. Huh? Here’s a blog post by conservative hero Sean Hannity defending the Patriot Act and criticizing Democrats for accusing George W. Bush of disregarding the Constitution.  My how the tables have turned.

It’s time to stop the madness. It’s time to stop the insanity. It’s time to stop the paranoia. 

Here are Obama’s twenty-three executive actions:
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.  -Gasp!

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system. 

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system. 

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.  -Jefferson is rolling over in his grave!

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun. 

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers. 

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.  -Oh the humanity!

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission). 

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations. 

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement. 

11. Nominate an ATF director.  -He'll never take our freedom!!!

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations. 

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime. 

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence. 

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies. 

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes. 

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities. 

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.  -He clearly hates liberty!

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education. 

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover. 

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges. 

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations. -It's time to stand and fight!

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

Friday, January 11, 2013

For Sale: #15 NFL Tim Tebow jersey.

For Sale...anyone??
It was only a year ago that Tim Tebow set the NFL world on fire when the Broncos won a dramatic overtime playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on an 80 yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime.  Backing into the playoffs from a three game losing streak, it seemed the Broncos and Tim Tebow were going to get housed by the Steelers.  They had managed just three points the prior week at home against the lowly Chiefs and fourteen the week before in a blow-out loss at Buffalo.  Going into the playoff game, the six game winning streak of crazy come-back wins and the 16-7 early lead against New England in week 15 was long forgotten. 

We all know the rest of the story. The next week New England and their two big tight ends ran over the Denver defense with Tom Brady throwing five first-half touchdowns.  Broncos fans took a deep breath and began to look back fondly on the season that was.  A season that looked lost at 1-4, following a 6-10 record the season before, had unexpectedly turned into one of the most memorable ever.  Tim Tebow was promising to work hard in the off-season to improve his passing skills and fans were cautiously optimistic about the future.  Then, before anyone knew what happened, Peyton Manning flew into town and Tebow was quickly forgotten amidst the Manning euphoria and shipped off to the New York Jets.

Who would have imagined, that when the Jets landed Tebow—and sports commentators were wondering if NYC was big enough for Tebowmania and Linsanity—that neither Tebow or Jeremy Lin would be there a year later. Oh, well technically Tebow is still a member of the New York Jets, but that seems just a formality.  Having officially tanked Tim Tebow’s career, inexplicably Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez seem likely to live to fight another day despite a debacle of a season that will be remembered by Sanchez’s Thanksgiving night “butt-fumble.”   

It seemed for certain that Tim Tebow would end up playing next year for the Jacksonville Jaguars, nearby where he starred in high school and college. After all, the Jags have low attendance and declining popularity, so much so that there’s talk of the franchise being moved to L.A. Surely the team could use the publicity boost that hometown favorite Tim Tebow could provide. Yet, new General Manager David Caldwell has completely slammed the door on that, saying he “can’t imagine a scenario” where Tebow would be playing for them next season.  The Jaguars have won seven games in the last two seasons combined, the same amount Tebow won as a starting quarterback in eleven games last season.

Now Tebow finds himself apparently out of options in the NFL and folks suggesting he take his talents to the Canadian Football League. Frankly I find my head spinning, wondering what the heck just happened?  From taking the league by storm and going 7-4 as a starter, leading his team to a division title, winning a playoff game, and seeing “Tebowing” becoming a national craze he now finds himself on the edge of the unemployment line. Who saw that coming a year ago? I sure didn't. 

Yes, his passing accuracy is horrific at times, but if winning really is the only thing that matters in the NFL, teams should be lining up to hire him.  Yes, he has a limited sample size, but that didn’t stop teams from throwing ungodly sums of money at Matt Flynn.  Yes, he’s a conservative Christian, but in a league full of selfish, immature guys who only care about themselves, a guy who truly cares about others and isn’t “me-first” truly is refreshing.  That’s what I’m hoping Tim Tebow gets another shot in the NFL.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Nick Saban & Success

For the non sports fans out there, the University of Alabama football team just won the national championship, handily dispatching the University of Notre Dame by a score of 42-14 last night.  This is the third national championship won by Alabama in the last four years and for head coach Nick Saban, his fourth national championship.  He’s quickly becoming a living legend, already third
all-time among college football coaches for national championships won. Heck, he’s already immortalized in bronze (see below). Much of Saban’s success is attributed to his work ethic, which is being widely heralded--as a simple Google search of “Nick Saban work ethic” will show.  How stringent is Saban’s work ethic? In an interview given just after the win, he said he’d take a day or two to celebrate this win, and then get back to work trying to build a contender for the next season.  Yep, you read the right, despite reaching the pinnacle of his profession, Saban only plans on taking one day off.
'2009 and 2011 BCS Championship coach Nick Saban' photo (c) 2011, Charles Atkeison - license:
Still living, already immortalized!
Saban probably would fit that characterization of a “Type A” personality, someone who tends to be “very competitive and self-critical.”  According to Simply Psychology, “they strive toward goals without feeling a sense of joy in their efforts or accomplishments.”  Also, “inter-related with this is the presence of a significant life imbalance. This is characterized by a high work involvement.”  I think we might have a match here.

Whether "Type A" or not, my point isn’t to bash on Nick Saban but rather to make broader point.  Folks like Saban are heralded for their success and held up as a model we should all strive for when actually the opposite is true.  There are millions of hard-working people working long hours just to clothe and feed their families yet know nothing of this so-called "sucess," so hard work and success may be associated, but it is not cause and effect.  There’s a story being told in America right now that if we all just worked a little harder and longer we’d do better in life and that our situation is entirely dependent on our effort. That’s just false on so many levels. But besides that, the storyline we are being told is that the “workaholic” patterns of some “Type A” folks should be mirrored by all. Call me crazy, but I don’t envy that lifestyle at all.

I have a very pedestrian life, which might spur some “self-help” guru or rich Republican to say I’ve settled for mediocrity.  Instead of striving for the 7 minute mile pace necessary to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I’m content trying to run a 9-10 minute mile, sadly my GPA is below a 4.0 average, and my wardrobe is lackluster at best. Some might negatively say I’m settling for “second best” when I should be “striving for excellence.”  Here’s the truth, there are only 24 hours in a day and we only have so many hours to commit to something. It’s no wonder The Biggest Loser contestants often regain the weight they had lost on the show, such a lifestyle is unsustainable.  Who has a full-size gym in their back yard, a professional chef, and three hours a day to work-out?

Our society has narrowly defined success as only fame, fortune, or in this case winning.  Success has been too narrowly defined. But, even beyond that, perhaps it’s time to throw out that standard completely.  Perhaps I could be a Boston Marathon qualifier if I dropped out of Seminary.  Maybe I could win a parenting award if I stopped running. I bet I could get academic awards if I stopped spending so much time taking care of my daughter.  Of I could stop blogging and have moretime for all three! I could be any of these things—and I should be at least one of these things—if I truly cared about success. But I don’t want to drop out of seminary, I don’t want to stop running, and I want to spend as much time as possible with my daughter.  I guess you might say I’m settling for mediocrity.  After all, money or status won’t be around when I’m on my deathbed, family and friends will be.  If having a well-rounded, balanced life means settling for second best, then so be it. I'm great at nothing, bad at a few things, but hopefully good in a few things.  I'd like to think that makes me pretty successful. :)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What Sins Matter Most to God? A Hierarchy of Sinfulness—with money being at the bottom???

'Money' photo (c) 2010, 401(K) 2012 - license:
It's all about the Benjamins!
Growing up independent Baptist, I was always taught that all sin was equal in the eyes of God; cursing out my parents was equivalent to committing adultery, a “little white lie” was just as bad murder, and getting knock-down drunk was the same as taking an extra-long look at that attractive female classmate.   To be found guilty by God and therefore deserving of hell, all I needed to do was just have committed one singular sin.  The severity of the sin didn’t matter to God, those things only mattered to humans. Or so I was told.

In reality, there absolutely was a hierarchy of sins. Maybe God didn’t have a hierarchy, but certainly the Baptists did.  There were only a few “sins” that were heinous enough to get someone kicked out of Bible college and truthfully, there was really only one. Premarital sex; the big bugaboo of all conservative college students who despite their piety still have the same raging hormones and sexual tension as their “worldly” cohorts at the state school down the road.  Hence the reason most conservatives get married at a ridiculously young age (I was 21, my wife 20). In regards to college impropriety, I’m a poor example because I walked the “straight and narrow” (I thought that’s what being a good Christian required). In my days of Bible college, one could do some pretty questionable things and get nothing more than a slap on the wrist from the dean of men (after all, it’s the girls and their short skirts and tight blouses that needed all the disciplinary focus, lest they be a “stumbling block” to their brothers in Christ!).  Written out in detail or not (and actually it was in the student life manual), there was a hierarchy of sins.

Certainly in conservative Christianity there is also a hierarchy of sins. I’d say what occupies the top few spots may rotate once in a while, but the same few are always rights at the top.  Right now, I think #1 would be homosexuality, #2 would be abortion, and #3 would be premarital sex.  Back in the 90’s, abortion probably would have taken that top spot (and still might), but those are generally the top three in some order or another.  Funny thing, none of these are talked about much at all in the Bible.

The book of Proverbs lists seven things that the LORD hates: “A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” (6:17-19 KJV).  Fourth century monk Evagrius Ponticus came up with the “seven deadly sins” which are gluttony, fornication, avarice, hubris, envy, wrath, boasting, and sloth.  I’m not seeing the “top three sins” listed much at all.  And remember, biblically, a man was free to have sex with another woman even if he was married, so long as she wasn’t.

For all the passion and energy that is put into fighting gay marriage, roe v. wade, and premarital sex (remember abstinence only education?), God apparently doesn’t seem to have those “sins” listed in the same order.  The pro-life movement has Jeremiah 1:4-5, Psalm 139: 13-14, Job 31:14-15 (  The homophobes (oops, anti-homosexuality crowd) has  Leviticus 20:13, Leviticus 18:22-24, Romans 1:26-27, Jude 7, and Genesis 19:4-5.  The prudish abstinence folks have Mark 7:20-23, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5,  and 1 Corinthians 7 (  That’s about 15 references in the 66 books, 1,189 chapters, and 31,100 or so verses of the Bible.  For the sake and time and space, I won’t look at each verse and examine whether it’s being interpreted correctly. I’ll just cede these for the time being (For an examination of the “pro-life” verses, click here).

''Smallest Bible'' photo (c) 2012, Mike Johnson - license:
What Does the Bible REALLY say??
In just a simple internet search, I found that there are 250 verses in the Bible about money,  45 verses describing proper treatment of “illegal immigrants,” 25 verses on pride, and (gasp!) 168 verses on gluttony! Now, to be fair, I could also go verse by verse and examine the relevancy of each verse cited, but the point is, there’s apparently a ton of biblical weight behind things Christians rarely if ever talk about.  When’s the last time you hear a sermon decrying our immigration laws? How about the last time you heard a sermon speaking out against wealth? Or the last time you heard a sermon about being fat? Conservatives like to criticize liberals for “picking and choosing” which parts of the Bible to emphasize.  Well, based on the information I’ve just presented, at least liberals seem to be “picking and choosing” that which the Bible speaks most about!

To take this a bit farther, Jesus talked about money more than heaven and hell combined!  If there’s ONE thing we should be talking about in our churches, its money.  Jesus talks VERY harshly against the rich. Jesus said that it’s easier for a camel to get down on its knees and crawl then for a rich person to get into heaven (Mark 10:25). He criticized the “rich fool” who built bigger barns (or added to his portfolio) (Luke12:16-21). He also told of a rich man who went to “hell” because he ignored the poor man who sat near his house (Luke 16:19-31).  The Bible is very clear on this topic. Why every pastor in every congregation isn’t preaching against wealth is a disgrace.  Rather than criticizing wealth, far too many Christians are embracing it.

 If Christians are truly about following the way of Jesus and being “people of the book,” I think it’s about time we started following what the Bible actually talks about rather than our own pet projects.  Sure, it’s a lot easier to rant on the evils of gay marriage in most suburban churches than it is to critique wealth, but then again, who said being a true disciple of Jesus was easy? It’s time that Christians as a whole stood up and spoke out against the things Jesus really cared about—wealth and economic inequality being chief among them.