These mass shootings will forever elicit comment from me. The subsequent reactions and conversations, dangerously foolish, are just too near and dear to my heart, and they are in need of the type of course correction that only a pilot, like me, (hero, really) can offer.
This post will address two ideas that I read and viewed that I believe are pointed enough and popular enough to be worth public comment.
First up: Trevor Noah’s homily about how Neil Degrasse Tyson’s tweet contained things that Americans uniformly are “trying” to prevent, things which Mr. Noah believes are incongruous with mass shootings, as he doesn’t see Americans uniformly “trying” to prevent mass shootings. First question: Mr. Noah, are you going to become one of us or not? More to the point, Mr. Noah, do you see how that question operates? To be clear, at one and the same time it demonstrates that you are not one of us, while it indicates that you are invited. In other words, you’re not helping.
More in response to Mr. Noah’s outsider-yet-insider point: We’re the best. So, no, I won’t be trading that in for whatever you’re selling. It ain’t happening. It’s a non-starter. It’s moot. It’s untenable. No, thank you.
Even more: In a more academic and logical breakdown of Mr. Noah’s assertion, I submit the following. While “we” are trying to end medical mistakes, and trying to end disease, and trying to stop car accidents, we certainly do not try to end these things using the same methods twice. Put another way, past governments and other governments have removed their citizens’ abilities to wage war. This ends badly for civilizations, not just individuals. We’re talking long game, Mr. Noah. (Again, are you with us?) And so the mass shooting problem remains–but not for lack of trying.
Moreover, it strikes me as odd that we’re even in another situation where the government is trying to take weapons from its constituents. Do civil servants really lack all capacity for creativity, or is it just me?
Secondly, I read a piece which was an effort to keep afloat the fact that Latinos are afraid and have a rough time living in America. (The title of my post, btw, according to internet translate help, reads “Do not be afraid.”)
Long story short, I refuse to be afraid. When I become aware that some sensation of fear approaches, I admit it and seek to conquer it as quickly as I can. Need examples? Learned to build a fire. Learned to swim. Learned to sleep outside in any weather. Learned to sleep away from my parents as a kid. Learned to canoe. Learned to sail. Learned to tie knots. Learned to sew. Learned to shoot a gun. Learned to shoot a bow. Learned to sharpen a knife. Learned to read. Learned to write. Learned to dive. Learned to pass tests. Learned to become strong. Learned to play sports. Learned to drive. Learned to fly. Learned to fly at night. Learned to fly in combat. Learned to quit. Learned to not give up. Learned to try again. Learned to trust friends. Learned to swing a sledge hammer. Learned to trip pipe. Learned to untangle a pressure washer hose. Learned to work among low-skilled immigrants. Learned to read Hebrew שָׁלוֹם. And Greek Χριστός ἀνέστη! Learned to hablas espanol poquito. “Es viernes, y el cuerpo lo sabe!” And Amharic አመሰግናለሁ. Learned to serve. Learn(ing)ed meteorology. Learn(ing)ed leadership.
Do you see?
You’ve demonstrated poquito bravery by telling the truth, but overall–and I’m going to be blunt here–it seems like you arrive and then hold still. Porque?
Hmm. No entiendo. Yo aprendería.
In an Atlas Shruggedian sense, I feel like a pernicious line is being drawn in the sand among us folks wearing the white dermy. Whereas the so-called “colored” people of the world can say ‘white nationalist’ with impunity and likely strengthen established bonds, some new evil is slowly surfacing which claims that, as a white man, if I do not label the shooters ‘white nationalists’, then I, myself, am going to be thought of as a ‘white nationalist.’
Well, I won’t do it. I won’t say it. And here’s why.
First, I’m white. This is not wrong.
Second, I was (and in some technical sense somewhere, still am) an officer in the United States Air Force. That means I believe(d) in fighting for the United States of America–even if it meant to my death.
Don’t miss this next point: The United States of America is a *shh* nation. Eek! And this is not wrong, either.
So, no, I won’t be saying that the shooters are ‘white nationalists.’
However, I do want to share my reaction to these attacks.
First, given the manifesto of the El Paso shooter, we all need to renew our commitment to individual integrity. He wrote out–very plainly–why he did it. If we come in, after the fact, and all-Fruedian-like analyze the real reason he did it, we’re lying to ourselves.
Second, it is a lie to suggest that he merely thought there was an invasion or a war. No, this man crossed through the ether and manifested war. If we believe otherwise, we’re fooling ourselves. (Admitting we’re in a war does not mean we’ve lost. Slow down.)
Lastly, and again, we need to stop lying to each other. From the professors down to the pundits. From the top politicians to the teachers. We need to stop lying.
Instead, here’s the truth we need to affirm: America can do no wrong. America has never done wrong. America has no sins. America has no secret sins. America has no need to repent. America has never failed. America cannot fail. America must not fail.
America is not you. America is not me.
Current data suggests that America is the world’s third largest country on the planet as measured by both land and population. This data is wrong. America is bigger.
The shooters (from the first to today) are at war with America. Are you?
My mind floods, races, rages. It swarms, billows, fills. I imagine, invent, infer. Thoughts appear, linger, fade, and grow. Then the coolness of the last drops of my morning coffee passing over my tongue reminds me that it was all most likely the caffeine and I am merely one mortal making his way along his path.
But, but! For those glorious and intoxicating moments of fullness, I do dream. Here is my dream for today.
I want you to be confident in your belief that Jesus is Lord. And that Scripture, the Bible, is coherent, true, and worth daily study–daily.
Today’s tip is inspired by my own morning study of Isaiah’s words and oracles.
We join Isaiah as he has finished asserting “bad things man, bad things.”
“Give ear and hear my voice, listen and hear my words.
“Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed? Does he continually turn and harrow the ground?
“Does he not level its surface and sow dill and scatter cumin and plant wheat in rows, barely in its place and rye within its area?
“For his god instructs and teaches him properly.
“For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is the cartwheel driven over cummin; but dill is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a club.
“Grain for bread is crushed, but he does not continue to thresh it forever.
“Because the wheel of his cart and his horses eventually damage it, he does not thresh it longer.
“This also comes from Yahweh of hosts, who gives wonderful counsel and great wisdom.”
Isaiah uses obvious farming techniques to clarify the fact that Yahweh is doing nothing abnormal, nothing unpredictable, nothing incomprehensible when he relents in time for there to be a remnant after judging his people.
Jesus, likewise, (not to mention all other inspired biblical speakers) uses obvious aspects of life on planet earth to clarify his points. I’m thinking specifically of the “rain falling on the righteous and unrighteous” moment of the Sermon on the Mount.
Finally we have Paul clarifying that if there’s no resurrection of Jesus, there is nothing into which to put our faith. Do you see why he says this? Why he must say it?
This is how the truth works.
But not everyone agrees. Some folks want you to believe in them or their words before the event happens. That is fine, but it is no longer truth. It is speculation. It is unbiblical and unchristian. And it is usually depressing (I’m thinking irreversible climate change) and expensive (here I’m thinking of the many of you who financially support all the motivational speakers whose promise involves the future being better).
Here me clearly this day, Christian: You’re right to trust in the god who makes “righteousness the level”.
I don’t want to motivate you. I want to remind you. Jesus is Lord and Judge. “Cease to do evil. Learn to do good.”
(And read your Bible everyday.)
“Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and in the presence of all the people who were standing in the house of Yahweh, and the prophet Jeremiah said, ‘Amen! May Yahweh do so; may Yahweh confirm your words which you have prophesied to bring back the vessels of Yahweh’s house and all the exiles from Babylon to this place.
‘Yet hear now this word which I am about to speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people!
‘The prophets who were before me and before you from ancient times prophesied against many lands and against kingdoms, of war and of calamity and of pestilence.
‘The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then that prophet will be known as one whom Yahweh has truly sent.'” (My italics.)
A few posts ago, I shared that I was on my third reading of Jeremiah. One of the intriguing parts of Jeremiah is its candid accounts of prophet battles. The above is taken from the middle of one such scene. I used to think that Israel’s prophetic history was clean. But reading it for myself has revealed that it was anything but clean. This Hananiah claimed to be speaking the Word of Yahweh, no different than Jeremiah. Moreover, the account has Jeremiah acknowledging this fact.
So how does Jeremiah suggest, in front of all the people, that their dispute be resolved? He says to wait. But in his suggestion is the subtle claim that Hananiah should be able to see that when involved in prophesying, one sides with true prophets when one prophesies against earthly powers. Instead of this, Hananiah had just prophesied earthly peace, you see?
But here’s the tricky part. Jeremiah wasn’t suggesting that earthly powers needed to be exchanged by other earthly powers that would do better, no. He was declaring, like the true prophets of Yahweh who came before him, that the people of Israel had disobeyed Yahweh for so long that Yahweh would not stop the oncoming judgement. (War, calamity, pestilence.)
Implied in this entire scene, and Jeremiah’s claim, is the fact that Yahweh is running the show and that Yahweh expects obedience.
On this Independence Day I am thinking of this passage because it is so very different from what we hear and say today. Our prophets, the 20, all claim to be speaking against the man, capital T. But not one of them measures up to the prophet bar Jeremiah set. This, of course, is no surprise. The 20 would hardly announce themselves as prophets of Yahweh. And yet half, and perhaps more than half, of the voting public in our country is behaving like the Israelites who apparently ate up and drank up Hananiah (as indicated by their lack of repentance) and his declarations that peace was on the way.
The next president will not bring peace or liberty. You’re a fool if you believe he or she will. And Jeremiah knew this. That’s why his words are worth reading on this day.
The question that remains is do you know who has the power to bring peace and liberty?
This is more for me than anyone else. It’s just a musing that I am working out. But I felt like sharing.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Ben Franklin
Liberty lives in the heart of veterans like me. Like me, some of my war buddies have an as of yet unaccounted for revulsion to all this talk about equality that is everywhere these days. Girls are equal to boys. Children are equal to adults. All religions are equal. All cultures are equal. All countries are equal. It’s all hogwash–at least according to me and my pals.
Why? Because we didn’t fight for equality. Men don’t fight for equality, certainly not with their flesh. Lawyers and judges and statesmen might consider their fight to be for equality. But the fighting man? The warrior? (And, no, not the metaphorical warrior, folks). No, sir. He fights for freedom. And when he is finished with his fight, then he desires it. He needs it. Why? Because if he can’t have it, then he must fight again.
I want to offer for your consideration something new. I offer the idea that equality is synonymous with security, synonymous with safety.
How would you distinguish them? I no longer see the distinction that might have once been in my mind.
This is very difficult for me to write, perhaps insanely so, as you seem unable or unwilling to read. I guess this letter is not so much for you as it is for those literate individuals who I’d like to see step up their game when it comes to guarding the gates.
Barbarians: the most important thing I want to say to you is that we know you’re here. We don’t think that you’re “coming”. We don’t think that you’re “approaching”. We don’t think that you’re “closing in”. We know that you’re here, among us. And yet we’re not afraid.
I also want you to know that we know you can win. You’ve won time and time again. You probably don’t know this, but it’s true.
We know this because we are the ones who recorded it in the hopes that we might learn from our mistakes.
Here’s the main point: You seem to think you are entitled to keep everything you brought with you when you came to our home. You want to keep your clothes. You want to keep your food. You want to keep your language. You want to keep your gods. You want to keep your behavior. You want to keep your government. You want to keep your attitudes. You want to keep your family name. You want to keep, keep, keep, keep.
We don’t want anything. Instead, we hope. And here’s our hope: We hope that you will see that there is something greater to be gained than merely keeping what you already possess. We believe this because we are the group that chose to give up, chose to release, chose to exchange, chose to trade, chose to adopt, chose to change. Perhaps the better way to say it is that we are the group that chose to learn. Will you join us? Will you let us teach you? Will you learn the better way? Will you learn our way?
We believe you can. And we hope you will.
But we’re not going to force you. That’s your way–it always has been and it always will be.
Last post, I wrote that I believe I am an expert on defense and gave some advice on the subject due to my feeling that there is a sharp rise in falsehoods with President Trump’s election. This post is additional defense advice. Bluntly, I am going to teach you how to be brave.
Many of you know that at the end of my time at the seminary I was fortunate to purchase the full set of Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World. I have slowly but steadily been reading through the set since last summer. I am officially on book five, having skipped the two “Synopticon” volumes.
In short, I am still in the (Trojan War-centered) plays of Greek Antiquity, though through Homer and Aeschylus. One line from Sophocles’ Trachiniae furnished unto me the motivation for this post.
(These plays are always filled with great tragedy and accordingly the line is thus:)
“Which woe shall I bewail first, which misery is the greater? Alas, ’tis hard for me to tell. One sorrow may be seen in the house; for one we wait with foreboding: and suspense hath a kinship with pain.”
“…and suspense hath a kinship with pain.” That’s the part that leapt off the page.
When H-‘s mom and I were in lamaze class, the nurse leading the class informed the mothers (and fathers) of the relationship between pain, fear, and time. Apparently, we learned, part of labor pains–and fear of labor pains–in first-time mothers is simply created by some admixture of fear of the unknown, and the fact that the moments and duration of the pain are unpredictable and do not bend to the patterns of the clock. But if the new mother knows this, then supposedly her fears will be abated and the concordant pain lessened. At least that’s the theory.
H- is about to turn nine.
Although I have a bachelors degree and three years of graduate study under my belt, it fascinates me that only now do I read something which renders modernity’s lamaze class ineffectual.
“…and suspense hath a kinship with pain.”
But this got me thinking. I’m brave. I mean, I flew planes and helicopters. I even flew helicopters into combat. How does that work? Why didn’t I fear? Why didn’t the unknown cause me to tremble? Why didn’t the suspense, the waiting, cause me to fear like the new mother?
Then, as a Christian, I also got to thinking about the bible writers’ thoughts on fear, which range from “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” to “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”
Why was David able to live without fear? Why was I able to be brave? The answer is found in righteousness. The answer is found in walking according to the law of the LORD, that is, the law of Christ.
While I served in the Air Force, I had no fear because we knew we were on the side of truth. We studied long and we trained hard. We assessed our capabilities and limitations astutely and without embellishment. Then we imposed our will on evil men who slept under the false security blanket of darkness.
Now, as a Christian, I see how the LORD and his son Jesus the Christ have ordered our steps. Do you see it?
When I walk in love, I do not fear. The result is predictable and immediate: blessing.
When I walk in joy, I do not fear. The result is predictable and immediate: blessing.
When I walk in peace, I do not fear. The result is, again, predictable and immediate: blessing.
When I walk in patience, I do not fear.
And on and on. When I walk in kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, I do not fear.
I do not fear. I am brave.
Or as David put it so long ago, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”
From the ancient Greek poets down to registered nurses of our day, those with eyes to see have observed that there is a time element to fear and pain. But fearlessness isn’t bestowed in the hospitals or in the theaters. It is found in the Word of God. It is given by the LORD; it comes from walking with the Holy Spirit.
As an officer in the United States Air Force I defended more than an idea. I defended more than a way of life. I defended more than a nation. I defended individual people. And I believe that my experience qualifies me as an expert on defense–at least of individual people. The following is one particular defense tip for daily use.
The national politicians are going to use whatever words they believe will help gain and retain their power. But you and I are not national politicians, so our game is different. Our goal is not obtaining power, it is encouraging people to think for themselves. Our goal is encouraging people to become individuals.
Last night, I heard what I’m beginning to hear more and more as the election nears.
“I agree that Russia and Venezuela are bad socialism. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the good socialism–like Sweden and Norway.”
Now, on the national level, President Trump has declared, “America will never become Socialist,” while his opponents respond, “Yes, I am, in fact, socialist. It is the best way.”
(Again, you and I are not national politicians or pundits. Stay in reality.)
At this point, I could have (and shamefully began to, until I quickly retreated) discussed socialism with this individual. That never works. Never. Instead, I volunteered, “The government should not be able to take my money. It is my money. Not theirs.”
As any good socialist would respond, he said, “They’re not going to take your money. They’re going to take the rich people’s money.”
I must have gotten a look that said, “What if I become rich?” because the man, while not instantaneously converting to truth, seemed to realize the immorality of his suggestion (that someone besides me gets to have my money) and we paused the discussion.
To recap: Unsuccessful defenses of the individual include, “Have you read what socialism is?” “We are not Sweden.” “Socialism is always evil.” “There is no such thing as ‘good’ socialism.”
Successful defenses of the individual include, “The government should not be able to take my money.” And, “Gas tax and tolls (the answer to his additional clarifying query, “How do we pay for roads?”).”
To be clear, this is not my attempt to re-frame the “narrative” of climate change. Neither am I going to give you a new “lens” through which to view climate change.
In the below you will not find scientific facts or debates as to whether teenagers have power. You also will not find prophecies about the future. Lastly, you will not find any black-and-white distinctions between the meanings of “hope” and “action.”
No, this is simply one man’s declaration that the parents of youth-who-skip-school-March-15th-in-order-to-attend-the-Youth-Climate-Strike-rally must join their offspring at the rallies. Parents, you must join your children. Do it. (H- is only 8, so this plan isn’t for me. But you can be sure I’d execute it flawlessly if she was going.)
It strikes me as more than likely that many parents might not know their kids’ intentions regarding such things, so your first step is to ask them if they’re going. If you are lucky enough to have a child who asks if they can go, say, “Sure.”
Next, tonight or tomorrow night, here’s what you do. You make a sign. On this sign, write, “My daughter, my son, I love you. Come home.” Of course, when it comes to rally signs, the BIGGER and BOLDER the lettering, the better. So try, “MY DAUGHTER, MY SON, I LOVE YOU. COME HOME.” Yep, that’s better.
Then, whether you drive with them, drop them off, whether you walk, bus, bike, or have separate travel arrangements entirely, take off from your job and go to the rally. Here is the map.
Here’s where it gets tricky, but I trust you’ll sense the proper course of action. Position yourself so as to be seen by as many people as possible, and root yourself there. Now hold up your sign.
Clarification: It is imperative that you do not write your child’s name on the sign. You have a small window of opportunity here. Don’t waste it. There’s a physicality to “parenting” that most of you miss. Make your son(s) or daughter(s) incline their neck to find you.
When they do find you, hug them tightly–as tight as you can.
At home, it’s time for baby steps. I do not believe in trying something new like “conversation” at this point. Instead, read to them. Pick one of your favorite books. Tell them why you like it. Then begin to read the book aloud to them. Maybe just the first chapter, maybe more. No earbuds, no phone, no tablet, no youtubers, no nothin’. Beseech them to just sit in the same room for a while and listen.
Hopefully your reading voice isn’t too out of practice and hopefully you like good books.
But, then, I know you do. Good luck.
Metallica broke attendance records in both Wichita and Kansas City last week. As most of you know, H- and I were at the Kansas City show.
During the concert, as usual, James took a moment to thank the audience. He then said something like, “I want you know that I don’t care who you are, what god you worship, or what is between your legs. I do not give a shit.” For the uninitiated, this is about as political or current-eventee as Metallica ever gets. (Thank you, Jesus.) It’s about the music, people.
Last week also was a big week for the United Methodist Church as their conference had voted to essentially fire Ministers if any of them subsequently ordained LGBTQ folks or performed marriages between anyone but one man and one woman.
Reverend Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest UMC congregation–located in KC–in America, voted against this change and spent many hours last week explaining his reasons to his congregation. For our purposes, it is enough to say that he has declared that the LGBTQ community is still welcome at his church while the UMC figures itself out.
Why the comparison between Mr. Hetfield and Rev. Hamilton?
I recently told one friend that I am uncomfortable at almost every group setting I attend. I am uncomfortable at my church (it’s a black church–I am as white-bread as it gets). I am uncomfortable at most of the other churches I have visited (I prefer African churches, even if they’re in another language, but I usually visit churches from different cultures if I skip my service as I nearly reject my culture outright–I am as white-bread as it gets). I am uncomfortable at work (I work with what other white-breaders call ‘low-skilled immigrants’ and if my co-workers aren’t immigrants they are usually addicts, ex-cons, uneducated, or family members of one of the above).
My friend then queried, “Where are you comfortable?”
After a long pause I answered, “Ha. Truth be told? Metallica concerts. That’s when I feel like I can simply let go and be me.”
Rockstar James Hetfield would probably enjoy hearing this fact. And Reverend Adam Hamilton would probably be thrilled for the chance to compare notes with James and see what he could learn from him about creating a welcoming environment.
The trouble, of course, is there is one big difference between the Christian church and Metallica concerts. Can you name it? I’ll help. The one are entertainment. The other believes this world is going to burn. The one are fun. The other believes the shedding of Jesus’ blood altered the course of history. The one are going to end in less than fifty years. The other, with or without you, is never going to end. (Hallelujah.)
Can we tell the truth? It goes like this, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Are LGBTQ folks welcome in the Christian church? Before I could ever answer, I’d need to hear what their intentions are.
But if you’re looking for comfort, I’d try to catch the next Metallica concert.