Monthly Archives: March 2014

God damn the gays? Maybe, but you aren’t Him.

John 3:17 says that God sent his son to the world not to judge the world, but to save it.

Later in that very same Gospel, some of the religious leaders brought a dirty whore in front of Jesus to extract the appropriate type of justice–a good stoning (and not the Bob Dylan kind). (Of note, you can’t be a dirty whore if someone doesn’t purchase your services–yet somehow the dirty johns escaped this attempt at justice.)

Anyway, Jesus looked at everyone, then at the dirty whore, and said that they could stone the living crap out of her, but only the person without sin could throw the first stone. No one did. In fact, when they thought about it, they started to leave, until only Jesus and the dirty whore were left.

As crazy as Mel Gibson is, I love the way he portrays this scene in his Jesus movie. After everyone left, Jesus reached down to the woman, who lie prostrate at his feet and helped her to her feet.

It bears repeating. God incarnate–the guy who willingly gave up heaven so he could come down here and be abused by us pinheads–reached down to a woman who was counted among the least in society at the time, and he helped her up. Physically, too.

This scene came to mind this week with the passing of Fred Phelps. Unfortunately, Phelps and his followers cast a bad light on a lot of other people who believe in the same religion but practice it differently.

For some reason, Phelps’s Bible contains pretty much a verse from Leviticus and a couple other from the New Testament and nothing else. It consists of one phrase “God damn the gays.”

And, in fairness, the Bible is pretty clear about homosexuality. It was also clear about adultery, lying about being a virgin, bestiality, screwing your stepmom, incest, worshiping idols, blasphemy, breaking the sabbath, hitting or cursing your parents, being a drunkard, murder, perjury (sometimes), ignoring the priest, and not penning up a bull known to be dangerous. Death awaits for any of these things.

I suppose it’s possible that when God said he so loved the world and that Jesus came to save the world, not judge it, he didn’t mean the gays. But he also said repeatedly though the old and new testaments to love your neighbor as yourself.

In other words, even if God does damn homosexuals, I’m not him (neither are you, by the way). If I were, I would also have to order my own death, as I have been guilty of a couple of the things listed on that list. For instance, I’m writing this on a Sunday. As a child, I’m sure I hit my father when we wrestled on the floor. And, I’m also sure in a moment of anger, I have said less-than-charitable things to my parents, as well as being, from time to time, a drunkard. (Once, a long time ago, I was so loaded that I called an entire frat chicken shits. It wasn’t one of my prouder moments.)

I have also been Fred Phelps. Not that I wanted the gays killed. But I wasn’t in control of my emotions. I condemned people who dared cross me. I did things to people that were selfish and petty, all while self-identifying with Jesus. In doing so, I damaged the work of a lot of people who really believe this stuff and try to be Jesus’s hands–and not to make a fist. But when people saw me, they may have figured I was just another self-righteous hypocrite wrapping myself in Jesus to justify myself.

I should be subject to the same punishment as the woman Jesus raised to standing.

How awesome is it, then, that Jesus will reach down and take my dirty stinking hand and raise my dirty self to standing as well?

That’s the part Fred Phelps missed.

I’m glad it’s not my job to judge, because I would be horrible at it. I am small and my view is narrow and I can see into peoples’ hearts about as well as I can see through a wall.

We’re all in the same boat. And we can all be raised to standing–and it doesn’t require being “sin-free” first.

I don’t like P90X3–while I’m doing it.

Me. At twenty-seven.

I have to be honest…I do not like P90X3. I do not like it with a weight; I do not like it on this date. I do not like it the fancy moves; I cannot find an easy groove. I don’t like yoga nosiree; I do not like Dreya or Tony. I do not like the CVX; I do not like P90X(3).

At least not while I’m doing it.

Then again, I’m doing a lot of things I don’t like these days. I don’t like not going out and have a few beers after a hard week at work. I don’t like finding the one place around me that sells spiced jelly beans and eating the whole bag. I don’t like not having cheesecake and cookies. I don’t like not having a Coke Zero with a sub or the pizza or chips I’m not eating.

I don’t like all of that stuff.

But I do like the prospect of being fit at my age. And I like the idea that people are increasingly amazed when I tell them how old I am. (Twenty-seven…I’m twenty-seven.) I like being able to do things I couldn’t do in high school or college.

I like the fact that I can do what’s called a chaturanga push up so I can look under the car for the newspaper after it rained and not get wet. I like the fact that every day I like what I see in the mirror a little more every day. I like the fact that when I look at my face shot in Facebook, it looks like a happy guy in decent shape. And I like that fitness has been a pivotal step toward adopting a challenge accepted approach to life.

Here are some other things I like:

  • I like knowing a one-legged guy can do P90X Plyometrics, a work out that made me nauseated the first half dozen times I did it.

  • I like watching a woman with prosthetic legs look like a pro on Dancing with the Stars.

  • I like watching Pink do amazing aerial acrobatics while singing on the Grammy Awards.

I like watching and reading this stuff, not because it makes me feel like if they can do that I need to buck up and stop bitching. I like watching them do that because if they can do that, then I can go amazing things, too. Erik Stolhanske has one leg and he can do Plyo. Amy Purdy has no legs and she can dance. Jim Kelly has gone through Biblical struggles and maintains a positive outlook. Pink can sing while doing hardcore yoga while suspended twenty or thirty feet above people from a couple ribbons.

People can do that stuff, so imagine what I can do.

Imagine what you can do.

Tony Horton, the guy behind P90X has a saying about struggling. Never say I can’t, as in I can’t do pull-ups or I can’t find a job or whatever. Say I presently struggle with. And if you keep that mindset over the course of time, then you can do your version of one-legged Plyo or no-legged dancing.

Maybe it’s not running a marathon or pumping out a mess of pull ups. Maybe it’s something deeper and more personal.

I used to weigh almost 300 pounds. I would get winded running across the room. The first several times I did Plyo, I almost threw up. Now it’s not that hard a workout for me. But it took a long time. It took almost throwing up several times. It took jumping around in the dark while everyone else was sleeping and wondering why I was doing this stupid stuff. It took doing what I didn’t like so I could do what I like later.

It’s okay to have doubts. It’s just not okay to settle because of those doubts.

Accept the challenge. Do what you don’t like so you can get what you like.





Accepting challenges

So work’s been kind of high-maintenance for a while, and will likely continue in that vein. No biggie; it’s part of living in a capitalist society. Still, it’s been a little hard from time to time screwing up the old motivating to do what needs to be done.

So, in the spirit of screwing up the old motivation, on Facebook, I posted It’s Monday. Challenge accepted. One of the responses back was Did you have a choice? And the answer is that yeah, you have a choice and how you make that choice affects everything.

First, the inspiration for Challenge accepted, is Barney Stinson, the fictional former womanizer on How I Met Your Mother. Barney’s played to near perfection by Neil Patrick Harris (TV’s Doogie Howser) and while he’s not someone you’d want to date your daughter, he’s definitely the guy you want to hang with to make a Saturday night legendary.

One of his catch phrases is Challenge Accepted! Usually, the challenge involves succeeding with women. (“There’s no way a guy could pick up a girl going around talking like a little boy.”) But sometimes, the challenges were more meaningful, including running a marathon, completing a bucket list, and rekindling a relationship he threw away because he was afraid of commitment (last one in the clip below.)

But there’s more to it than just the words. If you watch the show, Barney’s kind of a vital guy. He’s the guy who’s always figuring out what would be cool and pursuing it, pulling you along with him. Sometimes you hate him for it, but on the whole, your life is richer and more interesting for knowing him.

Which brings me to the choices you have. You can always choose not to accept the challenge, in degrees. You can tune out completely. You can show up in body only. You can go to work with a grudge the size of Montana and make sure everyone knows how much you hate things. You can kind of sort of do what you need to, but only what you need to.

Or you can step up, stare it dead in the eye, stick out your chin and say “Challenge accepted.”

If you don’t like that cliche, there are plenty of others.

Bring it.

Go for the gusto.

Go big or go home.

Challenge accepted means refusing to let the things that happen to you dictate the tone of your response. It means believing in yourself, your team, your God, or whatever it is you believe in to get there. It means that you might go down, but it’s going to be a glorious trip. It means that when you breathe your last breath, it’s with satisfaction and not regret. It means you choose not to allow yourself to be a victim of circumstance, other people, or even your own stupidity.

It means you win, even if you lose.

It’s a choice that means everything.

The problem with assuming Fred Phelps will be very, very warm soon

First things first–for the majority of his adult life, Fred Phelps–the God hates fags guy–has been a despicable human being. From the time he first came to prominence, he has portrayed Christianity in its worst form short of violence, not caring who he hurts and stretching his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly nearly to the breaking point. What Mr. Phelps has done is not humanly defensible.

According to his estranged son Nathan Phelps, Mr. Phelps has been excommunicated from his own church and is living on “the edge of death” in a hospice. When he dies, a good deal of righteous grave-dancing will occur across the land, some of it from people whose loved ones’ funerals were marred by Phelps’s flock’s unconscionable demonstrations.

In short, Phelps’s Westboro Baptist Church is a group hate-filled media whores who don’t care who gets hurt as long as their point gets across. There is no defense for such a thing.

And it’s tempting to celebrate Phelps’s impending one-way trip to hell on the event of his death.

And that’s where it gets hard. Fred Phelps, for most of his life, has been a pee-straw, if I may coin a phrase. It’s a coarse phrase, but it fits. 

Unfortunately, there are problems with assuming–and cheering–his predestined date with Satan, should you believe in that. Phelps believes in a righteous God, and that’s wise and appropriate. God is righteous. But where he falls down is forgetting God’s mercy. If you want to get all Biblical, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God sent Jesus to save the world, not to judge the world.

And that includes Fred Phelps.

Catholics believe in purgatory, a time of cleansing before a soul can enter into God’s presence. Many assume this is like Hell Lite–a little fire and discomfort from a loving and slightly irritated God. My interpretation is different. I know that I’ve messed some stuff up. I’m not in Fred Phelps’s league, but neither am I in Fred Rogers’. I believe in salvation, but I also believe that I cannot enter into God’s presence as I am. I think before that happens, there’s a realization process, where you see what could have been and what was–and then you mourn the difference.

Not in my league.

The cleansing process and our belief in God’s love, as represented through Jesus are, in my opinion, what allows us to enter into God’s presence–which is totally amazing beyond our understanding. It’s so good, it’s better than freshly roasted red peppers, if that’s possible.

Almost heaven.

The problem is, if I assume that Fred Phelps can’t go through that process, that he can’t have his heart broken like almost no other, I have to assume the same things about myself. I have not, at various times of my life, been a good person. I’m working on that really hard–not because I need to justify myself in front of God–I just can’t. I’m working on it because my understanding has evolved and I want to do the right thing, mostly because I’ve seen what a lot of the wrong things can do to people.

Moreover, if you believe that God’s mercy can’t reach to Fred Phelps, then you’re doing the same thing he did. Only it’s not the fags that God hates, it’s the pee straws.

Personally, I don’t think God hates anyone–not even Yankees fans. I think it breaks his heart when one of his children turns away. I know it would break mine if one of mine did, and I’m not God.

Also eligible for heaven.

So if I want to have hope for myself, I have to have hope for Fred Phelps, too.

But I don’t envy him the path he would have to travel to get there.

And once again, the way to fix reality is to control expression

When my daughter was little, she had a doll house. She greatly enjoyed playing with the doll house, so much so that she invited my wife and me, at various times, to play doll house with her. The problem with playing doll house with my daughter in the mid-1990s, was that there was only one way to play doll house–her way.

Okay, I get it. She was just learning about stuff and the doll house was a place where she could find a level of control. But after about 15 minutes of getting scolded for doing it wrong, no matter what I did (not an exaggeration), I had something else I needed to do.

A former member of the Stanley Cup winning New York Islanders who has nothing to do with the content of this post. Really.

In retrospect, there’s a word for my pre-school daughter when it comes to playing doll house. According to Sheryl Sandberg, Beyonce, and a plethora of others, I’m never, ever supposed to use that word again. In fact, the campaign Sandberg has started is not subtle in what it wants to do with that word–ban it.

And of course, you, the white guy…the one who uses the b-word and sees no problem with team names that demean Native American cultures…you have no problem with the word in question.

You’re right, I have no problem with that word, with the word bitch and with the naming of the professional baseball teams from Cleveland and Atlanta. I also have a daughter who is now entering adulthood, with aspirations to leadership. She’s smart, she works hard, and she’s been a successful leader. She’s getting everything out of life a parent can hope for.

A book by the talented and successful Tina Fey, which also has nothing to do with the content of this post.

She runs in an intellectually advanced crowd. And as a young person, sometimes she can rub people the wrong way when she comes down from those lofty heights to rub elbows with the rest of us in the less rarefied air. A few years ago, that was pointed out to me with the suggestion that I do something about it.

I decided not to, because that’s part of the learning process that goes along with being a young adult. Sort of like learning to lead. If you’re a strong leader of either gender, people are going to call you names. I work with women I respect and I’ve heard them called bitches. And I work with guys I’ve heard called bastardsassholes, and worse.

Bruce Springsteen. That guy can rock.

That’s not to say that the women haven’t faced more obstacles than the guys. They have. But eliminating a single word from the vocabulary isn’t going to reduce those obstacles. And having people eliminate that word for strong young women like my daughter isn’t doing them a service.

One key to leadership is being able to take in the criticism aimed at you, parse it for legitimacy, and move forward. Quite honestly, (politics aside) one of Hillary Clinton positive traits is that she can be a bitch when necessary. That’s not an insult, it’s a requirement of the job she aspires to. To serve at that level, she needs to be able to handle all manner of b-words.

The late George Steinbrenner

As a society, we seem to be moving toward a social situation where power is brokered by forcing changes to language. Thug is now code for racial slurs. Bitch is sometimes considered a mini-version of a racial slur. There’s a movement in the NFL to impose unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for racial slurs and even swearing. And when a college basketball player recently attacked a fan, some thought that it wasn’t that bad because the fan might have used a racial slur (he didn’t).

A movie with Jennifer Anniston in it.

I’m not advocating freedom to be a jerk without being called on it. But any behavioral changes gained by strategically banning words comes at a high price. As a writer, sometimes the right word is offensive or profane. Thugs (yeah, I said it) don’t say, I’m gonna very well kick your cutie patootie. And a husband in an angry fight with his wife doesn’t call her an annoying member of the opposite sex.

Sometimes picking the perfect word is important.

For instance, there’s a word that’s perfect for describing someone who feels it’s her duty to eliminate specific words from the language for fear they might injure someone’s future ability to lead. It’s perfect. Short. Pithy. And it captures the very essence of such a person.

What would Bryan Fischer do?

So this Facebook friend of mine, a writer who seems like a decent guy, posts a link to something called Right Wing Watch (Time pieces for Rush Limbaugh fans? Nope.). And Right Wing Watch points out that the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer essentially praised Vladimir Putin for being what Fischer called a lion of Christianity. (Jesus, apparently, loves heads of state with pecs like Ricardo Montalban’s version of Kahn.

Hey, Vlad. They’re real. And they’re magnificent.

Anyhoo, there’s a whole cottage industry that consists of parsing the words of the people on the other side, finding an idiot, then projecting those words as the dominant stance of that side, whether it’s Bryan Fischer and the Christian Right or whichever boogeyman Glenn Beck has come up with who represents all who aren’t right-thinking, Gawd-fearing conservatives.

I suspect that most people to the right of Joe Liebermann have never heard of Bryan Fischer and have never said, “Hmmm, as a dumbass right-winger, I can’t think without someone telling me what to think…so before I decide to think about Putin or the gays or whether to support the DH, what would Bryan Fischer do?”

The great Bryan Fischer, channeling the great Ted Baxter**.

No doubt Bryan Fischer, a guy who probably considers himself a peregrine of virtue*, would like to have such influence. But I doubt that most conservatives are able to stop dragging knuckles long enough to figure out that outlawing “gay propaganda” and crushing opposition in a particularly brutal way might be what Bryan Fischer would do, but it’s probably not what Jesus would do.

The next time your favorite pillar of righteousness cites a guy on the other side–someone you’ve never heard of–wonder whether this guy really stands for the other side or is an outlier. And whether someone trying to position that person as an example of the other side is all that righteous.

* — I know. I did it on purpose. I kind of like peregrine of virtue in this context. Imagine being a falcon for truth, justice, and righteousness.

** — Ted Baxter in action.