The Investment

“My lord duke,” said one of his attendants, “Is your grace not weary of exposing his dear life unneedfully? Why tarry we here?”

“Catesby,” returned the duke, “Here is the battle, not elsewhere. The rest are but feigned onslaughts. Here must we vanquish.”

The burning thighs that moguls create. The incomparable views of unending snow-covered ranges. The smell of chilled mountain air. The ticklish feel of snow flakes as they land on the back of my exposed neck. These memories sustained me while I was deployed in Iraq, now some ten years ago.

I hit the slopes once a year these days. I find more time to answer the Rocky Mountain’s call during the summer months.

“Anything to make sure these MOTHERFUCKERS don’t ruin OUR mountains!” I’d console myself, during the more searching moments of combat.

You civilians will never understand. You won’t. You’ll try and you’ll claim you’ve tried, but you won’t. The best you can do to show you’re listening is get over yourself. You didn’t fight, you didn’t sacrifice, so your words will never be as powerful. Deal with it.

We veterans, we made an investment when we raised our hand. That’s the best way I can try to explain to you why this whole gun control debate has me so fired up; why everything has me so fired up. Third bathroom, women on top, godless churches, only-teleprompter-reading presidents followed by incapable-of-reading presidents, Mohammedanism in the West, and every other thing making headlines these days.

I invested eight years of my life in the Constitution of the United States of America. I didn’t invest in my family. I didn’t invest in my country. I didn’t invest in my friends. I didn’t invest in my government. I certainly didn’t invest in some mortal leader. I invested in the highest principles of law, short of divine law, we occupants of earth have ever created. (To be clear, if you disagree with my lofty assessment of the document, it doesn’t mean your lesser assessment stands a chance of being right–it means you’re not listening. SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LISTEN!)

If you want to picture a crying baby in the midst of selfish temper-tantrum upon discovering someone took his ball, you probably wouldn’t be that far off from how I feel. Except there is no baby. There is no missing ball. And there are no tears.

Instead, there is one man–perhaps standing among millions–and the reality that baby boomers are so tough and so full of righteous indignation that they are backing scared high school students against the Constitution of the United States of America, giving these mourning teenagers the microphone and encouraging them to piss on everything that I fought for, everything–in fact the only thing–for which I invested eight years of my life.

And now you stop, you stop the conversation? When you run into someone who disagrees? Give me a break. You’re on the way out. At least you could admit that you left your trash.

“My lord duke,” said one of his attendants, “Is your grace not weary of exposing his dear life unneedfully? Why tarry we here?”

“Catesby,” returned the duke, “Here is the battle, not elsewhere. The rest are but feigned onslaughts. Here must we vanquish.”

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The Two Sides of the Debate, As I See It

Side A: More gun control in some form or fashion.

Side B: The only gun control they’ll respect is repealing the 2nd Amendment–but then they’ll secede.

Sounds crazy, no?

Whether crazy or not, that Side A must advocate nothing less than ‘repeal’ is so obvious to me that I cannot see any other way. I almost want to lead the charge to repeal just to show them how it is done. Isn’t that what Side A wants? If not, if you’re on Side A, please do explain why you don’t want to repeal. I cannot understand how anything less than a repeal accomplishes what you want.

As a reminder, here is the opening of the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

You Don’t Want To Pull A Hammy

My favorite stretch happens to not involve the lower body, per se, but I think it stretches my lower back. It’s like a standing, twisting thing where I cross one leg over the other, but then turn my torso the opposite way. Usually I pull against the wall or something stable to really work out the rust. Anyhow, for a complete list of stretches and warm-up movements, here is a link to a pre-loaded google search.

As far as good shoes, here is a link to Zappos. They have free shipping and returns. If you have some available credit, the best way I’ve found to use the site is you order six or seven pairs of shoes at once, or different sizes of the same pair if you’re unsure (or say it’s a new brand), and then after they all arrive you just return the ones that don’t fit. No muss, no fuss. Here, I’ll conclude with the reminder that style is at least as important as comfort–let’s not kid ourselves.

Oh, and don’t forget to take some pictures. Like last time, you couldn’t pay me to join you.

I hope this helped. I wouldn’t want you to think you’re the only ones who care.

Review of This Is America, by Childish Gambino (Using One Scene from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Black Arrow)

While I have your attention, do be sure to read Stevenson’s Kidnapped. Alan Breck may just be my favorite character ever.

Okay, here’s how this review works. I describe the opening of the video, then I use a few lines from The Black Arrow to express my critical thoughts.

The video opens with a shirtless man whose immediate sex appeal rivals young Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, and Elvis Presley. Then we see him reach for his gun. And you know the rest.

****

The Good Hope was, at that moment, trembling on the summit of a swell. She subsided, with sickening velocity, upon the farther side. A wave, like a great black bulwark, hove immediately in front of her; and, with a staggering blow, she plunged headforemost through that liquid hill. The green water passed right over her from stem to stern, as high as a man’s knees; the sprays ran higher than the mast; and she rose again upon the other side, with an appalling, tremulous indecision, like a beast that has been deadly wounded… 

“Bootless, my master, bootless,” said the steersman, peering forward through the dark. “We come every moment somewhat clearer of these sandbanks; with every moment, then, the sea packeth upon us heavier, and for all these whimperers they will presently be on their backs. For, my master, ’tis a right mystery, but true, there never yet was a bad man that was a good shipman. None but the honest and the bold can endure me this tossing of a ship.”

HashtagYouToo?

Late last year when actresses began revealing that the situation in Hollywood was exactly as most of Middle America had always known it to be, I made a small non-monetary wager with one male relative of mine who shall remain unnamed. Pride was the only thing worth winning or losing. I said, “This whole thing will blow over by summer. Quit acting like trending hashtags have power.”

Well, you can imagine that he has been quick to point out that summer is here and the #MeToo movement still moves.

My angle has always been H-. What do you want me to tell H-? I believe that the only thing to teach her on this topic is what the Bible teaches. Its words have at least two elements which women need to be raised hearing repeatedly. The first element is that men rape women. As many skeptics point out, this behavior is recorded as occurring more than once and sometimes even by the so-called hero of the story. No argument here. Thousands of years later, however, we should not be shocked to discover we have not evolved or some shit.

The second element is the teaching that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. How many victims believe that about their body? Maybe all, maybe none. No women mention it in their accusations is all I know.

As a divorced man, I can tell you that I will never understand the “stay” aspect of #MeToo. The “safe word” notion seems reasonable if you’re into some kink. If he doesn’t agree to it, well, at least you know where he’s at. But to be frank, well no. Frankly I just “can’t get there from here” as they say. (LEAVE.)

You know what one of you once told me? She said, “On dates I never think about how I am being treated. I think about how mad my dad would be if I let myself be treated bad.” Obviously I haven’t forgotten that. And not so obviously, after three years of ancient language study, I think that is a near perfect word-for-word translation into English of the Apostle Paul’s Greek, “your body is the temple of the holy spirit.”

Lastly, if the I’m-only-sharing-this-now-because-I-want-to-prevent-further-victims sentiment that falls under the #MeToo umbrella, if not is the umbrella, continues past the summer, I cannot see how anyone still associating with #MeToo is not a fool in the sandy biblical sense. Unlike, say, the American Revolution or the Civil Rights movement, in this case, the longer you last, the weaker you become. You set it up that way.

Then again, reading “20 Years Strong: #MeToo Movement Denies Allegations of Impotence As It Considers New Gender-Neutral Logo” on some future day does not seem unlikely.

A Few Notes on Friends, Cultures, and Blogging through the Lens of the Gun Control Debate

I fear I may have driven one good friend away during my week of slandering the marchers. That’s no good. Time will tell. Here I want to happily prove that I miraculously still have one or two remaining friends, address some white/black cultural issues, and comment on the value of blogging as distinct from other forms of writing.

Remember my proposed Amendment XXVIII? Here it is again, “In time of peace, arms shall no longer be secured by the people.”

I still love it, but the sense I get is that most folks think it is quite ridiculous, if not totally immature, willfully ignorant, and completely impractical. While it’s always nice to be encouraged, I don’t find generality particularly beneficial for philosophical debate.

Out of the blue, however, one pal responded with, “What about new citizens? Your amendment doesn’t seem to account for them. Seems like you’d be fine with them securing arms during peace time.”

Two things should be readily apparent by that rejoinder. First, you couldn’t know this, but he responded within, oh, less than a few seconds. To note this is important to me because at the seminary the word “smart” is passed around and desired as if a mantle of holiness. It isn’t. And frankly, I cannot get anyone, professor or student, to coherently describe what they mean by “smart.”

Sidebar: I recognize only two traits of the mind. Speed and retention. Some people think faster, and some people retain more, but I have yet to meet someone who is smart. Consequently, then, my friend demonstrated that he is at least a fast thinker. I like to think I, too, possess a mind which is je ne sais quoi, rapido? and that that’s why we’re friends. Who knows?

Second, his particular reply–unlike general criticisms and/or silent anger–demonstrates that he respects me enough to consider my idea. This feels good.

In addition to this, I think I have just today gained some clarity regarding what drives my posts of late, the ones wherein I cry out for the remnant of living souls who know what we have accomplished in the United States to speak up before it’s too late.

You see, I have purposefully been engaging with other cultures. What can I say? I like to learn. While we’re all Americans, we are definitely not all the same culture. And I now see that my reactionary writing (such as the last joint movie review) is likely the manifestation of my own culture gasping for air.

Here’s the thing. Both cultures which I interact with, while I maintain that I am not fully a member of either (White Evangelicals and the Black Community), both of them believe in the Word of God in the dual senses of “…bread alone but every word that comes out of the mouth of God” and “…and the Word became flesh.” However, I reject the White Evangelicals because they preach that the Bible supports that mathematical truth is God’s truth. (Nowhere in scripture does any writer indicate that the LORD cares if one plus one equals two.) And I struggle with the Black Community because they preach that the Bible supports the notion that extra-biblical knowledge has no value. (These are sweeping generalizations. Rest assured, more are on the way. Rerax! It’s a blog post.)

By my thinking, the only important thing, the thing that the Bible explicitly states over and over again, is that there is a difference between the two. It’s not that man’s knowledge isn’t important, it’s just that it can’t possibly all be the LORD’s knowledge. There must be two types. And, point of fact, the word “holy” itself is just the church-ified version of the word “separate.” Again, the Word of God says that there are two types. Just don’t unify the two and you’re fine. (Seriously, don’t.)

The real question is how to get the White Evangelicals to stop insisting Christianity is the “smart choice,” and how to get the Black Community to care about math. As for me, I’m the smartypants who uses google for algebra problems. Bet the Arabs didn’t see that coming!

This takes me to blogging.

For me, it is holy catharsis. How about for you?

Dangerous Historical Revision vs. Dangerous Bad History, A Joint Review of Black Panther by Ryan Coogler and 12 Strong by Nicolai Fuglsig

I don’t fantasize anymore. When I was younger, I loved the way movies elicited some fantasy or other. After Sandlot I could almost see my foot aligned with the mound’s rubber at Wrigley. After Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves I could think of nothing but splitting an arrow with an arrow. And after Top Gun, well, I went on to become a military officer and pilot.

Fantasy no more.

Over the last two nights I finally watched Black Panther and also gave in to the hope that 12 Strong might get it right. These movies are both fantasy action films. They both include a healthy admixture of current events and fiction. And they both elate and inspire their fans. But, by my thinking, they, the resounding box office success of Black Panther especially, beg the question, “Can inspiration be dangerous?”

Black Panther‘s make-believe portion is what I struggle to understand. I do not identify with, neither am I inspired by, the notion that, “all along my people actually were capable and smart and possessed the technology to change the world for the better.” In fact, I find it troubling. More troubling is I think I’m alone in this because I am afraid to even type it.

Naturally, there are millions of reasons why the idea doesn’t inspire me, but I only want to highlight the one reason why it shouldn’t inspire anyone at all: unlike every other superhero movie, it is entirely based on pernicious historical revision. And given that truth depends on the events of history, we might consider the implications behind using historical revision as inspiration.

This takes us to 12 Strong. With 12 Strong we have a different type of fantasy, a different type of revision. The film begins by unnecessarily reminding the viewer of the, not just one, but many attacks that Bin Laden and friends perpetrated on the United States, the last of which being 9/11. Unlike Black Panther’s bright-color-clothed, ancestor worshiping character’s, this movie’s characters achieve depth only if in a kiddie pool. And while Thor’s men certainly declare that they are inspired by him, his greatest strength seems to be undecided. Is it that he can both speak Russian and ride a horse? Or that he got really–and I mean really, really–mad when he saw the news that fateful morning? (So mad that he kicked over his desk!)

Unlike Black Panther12 Strong does not actually revise history. It’s too cowardly to even attempt that. It surely is bad history, but Wakandan-like revision is nowhere in sight. For example, there is no discovery that the terrorists actually love the United States. Nor does some soldier wander into a mountain cave and discover that the United States’ actual forefathers (you know, the ones secretly sabotaging all the Taliban’s bad seed’s biggest plans) have kept alive an underground resistance within the same cave system wherein the bad tribes hid from shame all these centuries.

Nope. You won’t find any of that. Instead, 12 Strong merely works very hard to make sure that no one can say the military response to 9/11 was unjustified. (There’s even a scene where some Taliban leader shoots a burka-wearing woman who had been teaching little girls how to read–something which he believed Allah forbids. Yeah, that’s it. It was their illiteracy that we were pissed about.) By the way, the fact that any American thinks additional explanation for military response to 9/11 is necessary at all speaks louder than any graphic representation of barbaric beliefs ever could about whose side they’re on.

In the end, I guess I do fantasize. I fantasize about the day that we admit that our way of life is under attack every moment, from every angle. I fantasize about the day when we admit that it’s okay–in fact good–to have power and use it. I fantasize about the day when any one of us defends the Founding Fathers of the United States of America as champions of freedom. Do you hear me? I fantasize about these things.

My Way

Nearly three years ago I applied for and was accepted into a 78-credit hour Masters of Divinity in Theology program. I later attempted to reduce my workload and transferred into the more reasonable 50-credit hour Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies degree. I am now out of quarters, as they say, and have decided to cut my losses. I will leave with the 24-credit hour Graduate Certificate in Biblical and Theological Studies to show for my efforts. I have 56 credit hours total, but stubbornly and, I believe, biblically, I refused to complete the required thesis and thus forego the actual graduate degree.

24 of the other 32 hours I passed were in ancient languages. When it comes to scholarship, I prefer word study to anything else. How precisely do words work? Answering that is endlessly fascinating to me.

Anyhow.

I confess that I would have loved to see future bio’s read, “Pete earned his Master’s of Divinity…” or hear, “…Pete comes to us having earned his Master’s…” But I had to do things my way. The truth is that I think the theological and biblical higher education degrees are the paper equivalent of bullshit. There. I said it.

First of all, any title that can generically cover studies in several religions are misleading from the beginning. Divinity? Who’s soul has divinity saved? You know the answer is, “No one’s,” and you don’t have a degree in Divinity. Amazing!

Secondly, the Bible is full of very intelligible words. Words like mountain, rock, rain, serpent, turn, and blood. Unity is another one. By my thinking, if we are not in unity as Christians, it often means we’re simply off topic. Let’s admit it. For Christians, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only topic. See for yourself if you doubt me. In any case, talk about it. Reconciling evolution with creation is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you enjoy engaging in that type of mental gymnastic and know others who do too, by all means talk about it. If you lose friends over it, don’t talk about it; skip it like you would a difficult crossword puzzle. Keep the unity.

Thirdly, if I ran a seminary today, to accurately communicate to the fallen world what I was doing, I would confer to graduates only one degree: a Masters of Power. And I definitely would not recommend anyone enroll at my school. Can you imagine someone claiming to have earned a degree in power? And how could power be taught by books? What a joke he’d be. My first question to the new man-of-letters would be, “Which power, exactly? The wind? Heat? Speed? Darkness? Light? Forgiveness? Love? Make an actual claim, man!”

As it is, “Masters of Divinity” or “MA in Theology” plays only on a bygone era’s final unbroken string and merely reassures church-goers that they don’t need to read their Bible for themselves. Divinity and Theology are so general that their teaching solely requires that the institution’s curriculum be limited to trending positive ideas. But the Masters of Power degree, my way, would necessarily demand further specification. And instead of reassuring church-goers that they’re not being duped by some hack with a Bible, it would be an excellent metric by which to measure the preacher. Is he preaching that there’s power in some book? Power in some culture? Power in guilt and remorse? Or is he preaching that there is power in the Blood of Jesus? Power in the Word of God? Power in repentance? Power in holiness? Surely we all possess the mental faculties to discern the difference between these things.

Here me clearly: Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He holds all power. The adversary, the great serpent of old is defeated. This is good news. If someone let’s you know they disagree with this, thank them for their honesty and then pray that the Holy Spirit uses you to reveal Christ to them. When answering questions (they will have them) stick to Scripture and the spirit of Scripture. Think of yourself as the translator. You know their vocabulary and you know the Word of God. Be the friend they need. Feed them. In doing so, you’ll help them see the good news that they are already free.

Review of The Great Conversation: Volume One of the Great Books of the Western World, By Robert Maynard Hutchins

No different than the school shootings, we all have opinions on liberal education. Oh, you may disagree in this moment, but watch this: What do you think? Are all entitled to receive a liberal education or only the wealthy and powerful?

See what I mean?

Endearing Backstory: My school’s library had apparently been amassing donations of book sets for a few years and last Monday morning there was a long awaited sale. Each book cost a mere $2, but the catch was you had to purchase the entire set. I had heard rumor (cuz im sooo street) that they had a set of the famed Great Books of the Western World (hereafter GBWW). $126 poorer, and I am the proud owner of that 54 volume set. (They had 53 volumes=$106. I had to track down the missing volume on Amazon for $20. It’s best not to dwell on such things.)

Volume One explains and defends the project. There is no better title for it than The Great Conversation. I would know, because, as you know, I love conversation. According to Hutchins et al. however, what I actually love is the freedom to converse. No argument here. And inherent to our beloved way of life–as presented in GBWW–is the belief in liberal education for all. Put another way, we believe everyone gets a say and no one has the last word.

The one critique I have of the project is that Hutchins writes that the editorial board believes the–now 118 year–lack of teaching great books will be viewed by future historians as an aberration. I am happy to read such clear writing, but where I distinguish myself from Hutchins is that I believe that the lack of teaching the great books, whether someday viewed as an aberration or not, manifests something much worse. It is the evidence that in some very meaningful, though elusive, sense we are no longer the Western World.

Western Civilization, the great conversation it has had, ends with silence.

So speak up, I say! For Christ’s sake, speak up!