Sunday, April 21, 2013

Guns don’t kill people, but video games do??

The logic that comes out of gun rights activists continually puzzles me. After the horrific events at Newtown, NRA president Wayne LaPierre infamously blamed everything except the gun which was used to kill 26 innocent children and teachers.  He blamed violence in video games, violence in the movies, and violence in music. The violence in video games has been particularly targeted as of late by Republicans.  I find this curious, since so many “gun rights” activists say that blaming guns for deaths is the same as blaming a spoon for someone getting fat. Guns don’t cause violence, but a bunch of zeroes and ones programmed to appear on a screen do??

Even more strange is that Republicans have recently taken to accusing liberals of overlooking violence in video games and media.  Conservatives accuse President Obama of giving the video game industry a pass.  Lawmakers are assuming liberals don’t care about the violence portrayed in movies and TV.  What liberals are they actually talking to? This must be more of the bulletproof logic (pardon the pun)that Daily Show correspondent John Oliver noticed recently.  Liberals are almost entirely against violence. Who were the ones protesting the war in Vietnam? Liberals. Who were the ones protesting the war in Iraq? Liberals.

I would self-identify as liberal and I detest violence to the point where I would consider myself a pacifist.  I know lots of liberals who are firmly against violence. I listened to a liberal teen perform slam poetry in which she decried the idea that shooting someone on a screen was somehow “okay,” while pointing out that real-life has no “reset” button.  My first semester in seminary, I took a class on theological issues in films in which the professor mentioned he was unsure about including a couple of movies that had significant violence such as The Passion of the Christ and Unforgiven. My ethics class this semester has an entire section devoted to the problem of violence.  Even today at church in “Sunday School” someone mentioned the problem of violence in entertainment.  So when I hear conservatives and Republicans accusing liberals of not caring about violence in media, I have no idea what they are talking about.

It’s not like all the gang-related shooting in Chicago were from kids playing video games then going out an killing each other.  Poor black kids can’t afford video game systems; its upper middle-class white teens and young adults playing these violent games—aka Republicans.  So, conservative lawmakers need to take a look in the mirror, and at their own voting bloc.

The problem with violence in entertainment isn’t necessarily that kids are going out replicating the violence they see on screen.  The problem is that violence in media desensitizes us the horrors of violence in real life.  When I see bloodied, mutilated bodies on TV, bloodied, mutilated bodies of soldiers and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan doesn’t hit me as hard.  When I see torture scenes acted out in movies, the horrors of Auschwitz don’t seem so horrible.  Video of men so starved that they were literally skin and bone, of real people being mowed down by the bullets of Germans is less disturbing than that which I can see just by visiting my local Redbox. So yes, violence is a problem in entertainment, but not because it’s supposedly causing kids to go out and kill each other. But if we’re going to accuse video games of causing our violence, why can’t we also blame guns?

Monday, April 15, 2013

The irony of the tax day Boston tragedy

'' photo (c) 2013, ♫ joyousjoym~ Blessings♥ - license:
It’s a tragic irony that the horrible events in Boston took place on April 15, otherwise known as tax day in the United States of America.

It’s ironic because so many Americans spend so much time and energy complaining about paying the taxes that support the police, firefighters, and other first responders who are so important on days like today.  They complain about paying the taxes that pay for federal investigators to track down and prosecute the perpetrators of this horrific event and help prevent others like it.  The taxes that will help the city of Boston rebuild. The taxes that will help support the recovery of the victims.

It’s ironic because once again, our nation will “unify,” saying we all care about one another in the same manner we have after Columbine, 9/11, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Sandy Hook. Why it takes the death and destruction of innocent lives for the citizens of this nation to truly care for one another is beyond me.

It’s ironic because on a day (tax day) when so many Americans complain about paying taxes which support their fellow Americans, they will turn around and say how much they care for their fellow Americans in light of this tragedy.

It’s ironic because the same people who will tweet out support for their fellow Americans who were victims in Boston, yesterday were sharing status updates accusing recipients of tax-dollar-funded “entitlement” programs like food-stamps, welfare, and other social-welfare programs as “moochers,” “takers,” “lazy,” and worse.

It’s ironic because tax day is perhaps the epitome of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:21 “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Tax day reveals the truth, that for many people, their treasure—their heart—is concerned only for themselves and their own piles of cash.  Jesus had strong words to say against people who stockpiled their own wealth while ignoring the needs of those around them. He called such people fools and hypocrites, saying such people were not welcome in his heaven.

It’s ironic that people can actually claim to care about their fellow human beings on days like today, and then be so totally careless and callous towards their fellow Americans so many other days of the year.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why my church supports gay marriage...

I'm sharing the following response from my church on this issue of gay marriage:

Recently, a local church made headlines by stating their opposition to gay marriage. The story was front page Easter Sunday in the Boulder Daily Camera. As another Christian community of faith in Lafayette, we at Cairn Christian Church, an Open and Affirming congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), formerly First Christian Church of Boulder, openly affirm the right of two people to express their love in marriage, regardless of gender.

We believe this because love was the number one value for Jesus; Love of neighbor, love of self, and love of God.  People who show love are part of the kingdom of God.  If our sexuality, like any other part of our personhood, expresses love and does no harm to another human being, it is far from sinful—it is godly. 
'Gay marriage protester outside the Minnesota Senate chamber' photo (c) 2010, Fibonacci Blue - license:

We remember that Jesus treated the marginalized – the diseased, women, children, the poor—with equal dignity and even invited them to eat at his table. He did not treat them as sinners and ask them to change their health status, gender, age or social status in order to be welcomed. His actions were completely against the norms of his day. As followers of Jesus we must then be on the side of the oppressed which are in this instance gays and lesbians seeking equality.

Though we understand the Bible to be a sacred text that has been normative for Christians for hundreds of years, we also understand it is a text written and compiled in a culture far different than our own, thousands of years ago.  We remember that the same Bible that is used to condemn homosexuals also condones child abuse, genocide, slavery, and rape. The Bible prescribes that disobedient children are to be stoned. The Bible thinks touching a woman in public is a sin. The Bible says divorce is a sin. The Bible says disease is a sin. Further, we understand the Bible has been used to justify slavery, misogyny, racism, and more—all within our own country no less.

Trying to define “Biblical marriage” is very slippery. The Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, allows for multiple wives, allows the man to have a mistress, allows a man to sleep with any other woman without impunity as long as that woman is not herself married. Further, there is no equivalent word in the original language of the Old Testament for marriage.  In New Testament marriage was thought of as unnecessary in expectation of Jesus’ soon return. The Apostle Paul grudgingly conceded marriage but preferred celibacy.  So if we are going to define marriage as “Biblical,” which definition are we going by? Who gets to pick? And why are they right?

'Gay Marriages NYC' photo (c) 2011, Jose Antonio Navas - license:
We recognize that the definition of marriage has changed over time.  Marriage once allowed for multiple wives.  Marriage once was a formal financial contract between families and tribes.  Marriage once had little to do with love.    It was once impossible to marry across classes.  Only a few decades ago it was illegal to marry between races.  Our definition of marriage has changed with our changing ethics and our deeper understanding of the human psyche, the human body, and the human community.

Therefore, we of Cairn Christian Church, an Open and Affirming congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) affirm the right of two consenting adults to express their love in marriage—no matter their gender.

On behalf of the members of Cairn Christian Church,

Senior Minister Rev. Dr. Charisa Hunter-Crump (BD,MDiv, DMin)
Youth Minister Dustin Adkins (BA, Min)
Seminary Intern Loren Richmond Jr. (BS, MDiv student Phillips Theological Seminary)

(Via: )

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I’m tired of thinking...

'Vegetarians' photo (c) 2009, Thomas R. Stegelmann - license:
I decided to give up meat for lent this year. So for 40+ days—carnivore that I am—I ate no meat. Meat is so engrained in our culture—and that was my biggest reason for doing it, I wanted to see if I could break out of the cultural norm of the meat culture.  It wasn’t nearly as bad as a thought it would be, especially after the first few days when I found myself drooling over a half-eaten hot dog at a basketball game. Thankfully, vegetarian hot dogs taste very much like the “real thing” (that’s an oxymoron if there ever was one!).

I stumbled through my time. I found a couple easy recipes that I liked (vegetarian chili is awesome), I substituted garbanzo beans for meat in spaghetti and hamburger helper, and relied on my lunchtime staple of peanut butter sandwiches, ate beans and rice a few times, and hit up Taco Bell when I needed a quick, easy meal.  Yesterday, for Easter, I ended my Lenten fast with a bang, eating Ham for all three meals (not intentionally). Today I didn’t eat any meat, but I’m not sure if I want to keep being vegetarian. For one, the McDonald’s 20 pieces nuggets are calling my name, and I still enjoy a good burger. But, secondly, and most importantly, I’m tired of thinking about it.

I’m tired of trying figure out which restaurant I could possibly eat something at.

I’m tired of getting odd stares when I ask the waiter what the vegetarian options on the menu are.

I’m tired of trying to figure out what to possibly eat while on a road trip.

I’m tired of trying to avoid eating meat.

Basically, I’m tired of thinking about it. I’m tired of thinking about how farming and livestock has become industrialized to the point where beef gets rinsed in bleach and chickens are genetically altered to grow big breasts.  I’m tired of thinking about all the antibiotics I’m taking in when I eat beef because the cows are juiced up on the stuff to keep them healthy.  I’m tired of thinking about the gout my father has and I very well might get if I keep eating red meat all the freakin’ time.

I bet we all know a thing or two about being tired of thinking about things. Those in power don’t want us to think. Advertisers don’t want us to think. Marketers don’t want us to think. The rich and powerful don’t want to think. Why? Because they realize if we think, we might actually start protesting the way things are.

I get it. We’re all busy. We’re all spread thin. We’re all just trying to make it through the day.

But we’ve got to try to start paying more attention, questioning the way things are, asking more questions. I know most of us are don’t have the time, resources, and energy to change the world. But, if we all just thought about things a little more, it could be the start of something big. We’ve got to start thinking about things—and that often requires asking questions.

Why do we live in the richest nation on earth yet still consistently have people living in poverty?

Why do business leaders talk about the logical free market but then sell to our emotions?

Why do we need to keep sending drones to kill “enemy combatants”?

Why is healthcare a privilege and not a right?

Why can’t we end hunger worldwide?

I’m going to try to keep thinking, to keep eating Burger King veggie burgers (even though their fries suck) instead of Wendy’s, to try to keep asking for the vegetarian options on the menu, and I’m going to try to keep thinking. That’s what I ask from you.

Stop listening to FoxNews.

Turn off MSNBC.

Stop and think for your-self.

If you and me, and a few others could start doing that, I bet we could change some things…