Category Archives: Religion

Haters gonna hate

We’re just a couple of days from Election Day and the rhetoric and vitriol is ramping up to new heights.  Candidates for every office from Governor to Dog Catcher are telling anyone who will listen why votes for the other guy are bad for everybody…while somehow never getting around to saying why votes for themselves would be good for everybody.  It’s all “Vote for me because the other candidate is anti-everything good and wholesome. ”

Decisions, decisions…

The only problem with that approach is that the other candidate is saying the same thing but from the other direction.  How are you supposed to choose?  If either one said something like, “I’ve got X number of years in government at the regional level and I did A, B and C during my tenure.”…or maybe, “I’ve got a Masters in Economics and consulted with the Treasury Department for the last however-many years.” then you’d have something you could check on to help you make up your mind.

But what we have is just finger-pointing.  Well, that and what they say they’re for or against…and how they say it.  It’s really easy to stand up and say “I’m in favor of” or “I’m opposed to” a political hot-button.  But how they say it can be very telling.

Let’s use same-sex marriage as an example.  If a candidate comes out in favor of  or opposed to same-sex marriage but can’t, or won’t, say why…or maybe just sounds kind of meh on the subject, they might be just pandering to a demographic in search of votes.  That’s pretty much standard fare from politicians.  In that case, the only thing a voter can do is look at their voting record – assuming they have one – and decide as best they can.

But there’s a type of candidate commonly found these days that will express their views in more concrete terms.  And, from what I’ve seen, those terms are usually very strongly AGAINST.  Against a whole bunch of things…and that’s fine.  This is a free Country and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  But it hides a problem.

The problem with a lot of these candidates and their supporters is that they are not just against certain things.  They appear to actively hate those things and anyone who disagrees with them about it…which kind of flies in the face of that whole, “It’s a free country” thing.  I mean, you’re free to believe any way you want…as long as you agree with me?    That’s not the freedom I grew up with.

Us vs Them

The thing is,  when you hate like that, you generally aren’t willing to talk about it.  Certainly, I’m not seeing a lot of conversation between people trying to come to a common ground.  Hate is dividing us as a country.  This is a bad thing.

And we’re letting the haters do it to us…and that has to stop.  We need to call out any person, politician or not, who is pushing hate as a doctrine.  If someone posts something on social media espousing hate, call them out on it.  If a political candidate pushes an agenda or law that demonizes a group or a right, call them on it, preferably in public and in front of the press.  If a religious leader preaches hate for…well, for anything, call them on it even if it means interrupting church.  The last time I checked, God is love.  It seems to me that hate doesn’t have a place in any faith.

Hate is insidious.  It can sneak up on you and get hooks into you before you’re aware it’s there.  So calling out someone about their apparent hate will bring that out into the open where they have to address it  and deal with it.  What they do or don’t do at that point will often tell you every thing you need to know about that person.  If they admit to it and try to mend their ways, they may just be someone who got snuck up on.  If they deny it or try to spin it or, even worse, admit it and act proud of it, they are probably not someone you want making decisions for you and yours.

And we can’t just point it out in other people.  Remember the old saw – “Whenever you point at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at yourself.”  There’s truth in that.  You can’t expect people to change their hate if you aren’t willing to change yours.  Stop hating.  Stop using the word “hate”.  I don’t care if you’re talking about politics or brussel sprouts.  Don’t hate.  Think about alternatives.

Maybe they’re not so bad…

I used to not like brussel sprouts.  I can’t really say I hated them but I certainly didn’t like them.  They were bitter, mushy and gross.  Then I found a way of cooking them that I did like…and suddenly, brussel sprouts are on the menu in our house.  Try to face political and religious differences the same way.

Don’t hate someone because they vote or worship or marry or think differently than you do.  Look for alternatives.  Look for common ground.  If you disagree with someone on the subject of same-sex marriage, maybe you agree with them about health care…or the economy.  Find the things you agree on and use that as a foundation to build a dialog about the areas you disagree on.  And when you come up against something that you can NOT agree on, accept that fact, agree to disagree but also, agree to live and let live…which means neither of you gets to tell the other person how to live.

If they don’t think abortion is a good thing, they they are free to not get one.  If they think same-sex marriage is a sin, they are free to not be in a same-sex marriage.  If they think there are only two sexes, fine.  But no one gets to force their views on anyone else.  This country was founded on the principle that everyone is created equal…which means that everyone gets to live how they want to and no one gets to tell anyone else how to live.

This country was founded on freedom.  Freedom of religion.  Freedom from religion if you so choose.  Freedom to act and think however you want as long as you don’t hurt others.  So don’t hate.  Hate hurts.  Hate hurts us all.  If someone chooses to live a way that you don’t approve of, you have every right to not approve.  But you do NOT have the right to dictate that they live in your approved manner.  That is not freedom.  That is tyranny.  That is slavery.  That is hate.  And that is not America.

Here we go again…

Hi!  Remember me?  I know, it’s been a minute.  I was hoping that the next time I got the urge to jot down my thoughts, they wouldn’t be politically oriented but I guess that didn’t happen because…

It’s Election Season…again

Voters guide for the 2022 Election for Berks County PA residents

Yay.  Yippee. Woo-hoo.

If I don’t sound too enthusiastic, it’s for a reason. In a season when I’d like to be walking through piles of bright colored leaves, I’m walking through a cesspool of hate, lies and vitriol. Between the candidate signs everywhere, the political ads all over the internet, the SPAM emails and the veritable forest of dead-tree crap delivered to my door, I’m ready for Fall – this one, anyway – to be DONE!

Politics in this country are less about what each party thinks is best for America and more about garnering and keeping as much power for themselves as they can.  Oh, on the surface, it doesn’t seem that way but anyone who can read a headline knows the truth.

Both sides want to WIN!!! And they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they do. Politics in America has always been something of a free-for-all but, for the last several years, it’s gotten more and more vicious.  This year, I don’t recall seeing a single ad saying why I should vote FOR someone.  All I seem to see are ads telling my to vote AGAINST <insert candidate’s name here> because he/she is a lying bag of shit who wants to <insert dog-whistle slogan here> which will destroy the <country/state/county/city/family/whatever>.

If the sides were evenly matched, it might not be so bad but things are definitely not even. Getting the Democrats/left/liberals to do anything as a single group is like trying to herd cats on acid. The Republicans/right/conservatives are much better at all pulling together. The only problem is that they are all pulling has hard and as fast as they can toward a cliff.

Worse still are the basic issues defining this election. One the left hand, you’ve got a very unorganized bunch of people pushing for what boil down to basic human rights – healthcare, equality, freedom of choice, freedom of self-identity, bodily autonomy. On the right hand, you have a much more focused and organized group pushing hard to impose what amounts to a theocratic state where, if you don’t believe right or worship right or have the right gender identity or the right skin color…or if you have a uterus, you don’t get to have any rights.

The way it seems to me, the left wants everyone to get and give the best they can while the right wants to control who you are, who you can be and what you can do or get. Yes, this is a gross over-simplification…but it gets the point across.

The great divide…

Every Democrat/left/liberal politician I’ve heard wants women to have bodily autonomy, wants people to be able to decide for themselves what gender they do or do not identify as, wants everyone to have healthcare, wants people to be treated the same regardless of what color their skin is.  They want to be/stay in power the same as their opponents but the agenda they are pushing is based on giving people more what they need to live (as opposed to survive), making the corporations and the rich pay their fair share and doing what we can to make sure there’s still a planet to live on a generation or two from now.

By the same token, every Republican/right/conservative politician I’ve heard wants to control women’s bodies and make blanket decisions about their healthcare rights in spite of the fact that every single medical professional and healthcare organization says that’s a bad idea. They want to limit what gender someone can be even though science and history both say that more than two sexes exist in nature. They want to Make America WASP Again, ignoring or rolling back the hard won progress this country has made toward true universal equality. They want the Government to be based on Christian principles even though this country was formed on the fundamental belief in religious freedom, religious tolerance and the separation of Church and State. And by the way, the “Christian” principles they espouse sound more like they came from Mein Kampf than the New Testament.

The ad is mightier than the sword!

The problem is, with the right ad campaign, anything can be made to look good. If you phrase something right, with the right visuals and sound track, you can get people to help you commit mass murder. Don’t believe me? By any chance have you ever heard of the Nazi death camps?

Hitler preyed upon people’s distrust of strangers. He blamed the bad German economy on Jews. He promoted an Us vs. Them feeling in everyday life and then gave the people a convenient scapegoat. In the end, a charismatic madman with a lust for power had talked an entire country into killing six million people.

Make good choices…

Election 2022 - 9 & 10 News

That’s easier said than done.  Who do you believe?  How do you figure out who is lying?  How do you decide who to vote for?  Or against?

“If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for … but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.”

― Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Frankly, I assume that every politician is a liar.  They want to get elected and they’ll say whatever they need to in order to make that happen.  My yardstick to decide where to cast my vote is to look at what they say. (Wait!!!  What?  You just said they’re all liars.)  Yes, I did.  But what a candidate says and how they say it can tell you a lot.

Are they pushing an agenda that includes people or excludes people? Do they want to help people or hurt them? Do they talk about all of us together or us vs them? Do they preach love or hate?  Are they willing to compromise with their opponents or is it “my way or the highway”?  Finally, if they have held office before, what is their voting record.  

There is no way I’ll agree with everything a left/liberal/Democrat – or any –  politician says.  I don’t trust the Democrats any more than I trust the Republicans. But for now anyway, the Democrats are not trying to divide us as a nation. They’re not trying to exclude.  They’re not trying to divide.  Oh, they still want to be large and in charge, just like the right/conservative/Republicans but they’re doing it by pushing programs that help people. I’ll vote FOR inclusion and helping people and love every time.  Just like I’ll vote AGAINST exclusion and hurting people and hate every time.

Sheep or goats?

Oh, and I’m aware that my intention to vote Democrat will undoubtedly get me called a “sheep”.  Here’s a question for all the self-proclaimed Christians out there who don’t want to give people health care or feed the poor or welcome strangers…look in the mirror and answer yourself honestly…are you a sheep?  Or are you a goat?  If you want to call me a sheep, that’s fine.  I’ll thank you for the compliment and try hard to live up to that standard.  Will you do the same?

Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays…and other political flamebait

For the last few years I’ve been hearing people talk/yell/scream about other people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.  Donald Trump, everyone’s favorite Tribble-topped loudmouth, has announced that if he’s elected he’ll bring back Merry Christmas. I wasn’t aware it had gone anywhere.

For the life of me I can’t figure out why it makes any difference…except that saying Merry Christmas wishes someone a good Christian holiday whether they’re Christian or not whereas saying “Happy Holidays” is a little more catholic (small c – i.e. universal).  That’s the part that kinda pisses me off.  It’s perfectly OK for a Christian to wish a Jew a Merry Christmas but it’s not OK for a Jew to say anything but Merry Christmas back.  By the way, for the sake of completeness, repeat that last sentence several times substituting “Muslim”, “Pagan”, “Zoroastrian”, “Hindu”, “Agnostic”, etc for “Jew”.  This, boys and girls, is what we call hypocrisy.  And what do we call a person who practices hypocrisy?  That’s right!  We call that person an ASSHOLE!

Look, if I’m talking to someone and they say, “Happy Holidays” I assume that they’re not sure of my religious beliefs and are trying to hit all the bases.  I do NOT assume that they’re some politically correct fraidy-cat who won’t use a religion oriented greeting for fear of offending my delicate sensibilities.  After all, the word “holiday” is an abbreviation of “Holy Day” so “Happy Holidays” really means “Happy Holy Days”.  Since most religions have some sort of Holy Day around this time of year, “Happy Holidays” pretty much covers everybody.

And while we’re on the subject, “Christmas” is an abbreviation of “Christ’s Mass”.  Do you see how this works?  Christ’s Mass is a Holy Day.  Christmas is a Holiday.  It’s the same thing!  It does make me wonder, though…how do you conservative Protestants feel about celebrating an ancient Roman Catholic Holy Day?  Asking for a friend.

Anyway, if someone comes up to me and says, “Happy Hanukkah”, or “Merry Kwanzaa” or “Blessed Yule” or and other seasonal greeting from not-my-religion I generally answer, “Thank you.  And Merry Christmas to you.”  I don’t do this to force my faith down their throats.  I do this because that person has just wished me well according to the tenets of their faith and I’m trying to do the same.  In other words, I take it in the spirit intended and NOT as an attack on my religion..

Over the years I’ve had friends who believed differently than I do.  They’ve included Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, Atheists, Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Protestants of different denominations than me…and probably more that I just never learned about.  Oddly enough, their respective faiths had nothing to do with whether I liked them or not.  I like people – or dislike them – based on who they are as a person, not what they believe…or if they believe.  If you’re a good person and you and I have reasonably compatible personalities, odds are that we can be friends or at the very least, friendly.  If you’re an asshole I don’t care how devout you claim to be.  We’re probably not going to get along because, well…you’re an asshole.

This whole politically correct, Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays bullshit is exactly that…bullshit.  It’s something invented by politicians to garner votes from conservative Christians who are already afraid because things have changed and the world isn’t like it was when they were kids.  It’s gasoline dumped on a fire that I fear is in danger of burning the Republican house to the ground.  It’s sound and fury signifying that the current Republican leadership has no frickin’ clue how to lead anymore and has had to fall back on the old “if you can’t blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit” strategy.  Speaking as a (former) conservative Republican, I find this very worrying because it’s dragging us down as a Country.  It’s divisive and encourages people to distrust their neighbors.  And it’s the same tactics that Despots and Tyrants have used throughout history to seize power.

So how about we try something different this Holiday (Holy Day) Season?  How about we try to wish people well and give them Season’s Greetings without taking political or religious offense?  How about we try to not be assholes for Christmas?

May God bless and keep you and your family this Holiday season.  And may you have a very Merry Christmas!

Family Values

People have been talking a lot about Family Values the last few years.  Mostly it’s been the the far Right Tea Party.  The only problem with that is what they have decided Family Values are – Mom (female), Dad (male), 2.3 kids and everyone the same color.  Nice enough if you’re homophobic or racist or some other flavor of scared-ass hater.  But for everyone else there are other possibilities.

Maybe your family is Mom and Mom or Dad and Dad plus 2.3 kids.  Maybe your family is non-monochromatic.  Maybe your family is Grandma and Grandpa and 2.3 grandkids.  Think about all the possibilities that Robin Williams gave us in Mrs. Doubtfire…then multiply that by a gazillion.

You see, family isn’t some Polly Purebred, sanitized for your protection definition of a family.  Family is the people who love you and who you love.  As I write this I’m sitting at the kitchen table at a yearly family get-together.  I’m here with people who’s opinions I disagree with, people who I argue with, people who argue and disagree with me. But they’re all people I love and who love me in turn.  They’re all family.

What the far-right Family Values crowd doesn’t understand is that life is proof that they are wrong.  Everywhere they turn there are people who are members of families that don’t fit their view.  So they respond by saying that if you’re not in one of their approved types of families you’re morally bankrupt or anti-Christian or anti-American.  But the truth is that they’re the ones who are morally bankrupt and anti-Christian and anti-American.

Moral people are not threatened by people with other views.  Good Christians are open and accepting.  Good Americans support other people’s freedoms…like the freedom to love whoever you love.

At present, my immediate family is my wife and me and our two sons.  At some point I’m sure the boys will find people to share their lives with.  I’m equally sure that there will be some personality quirk of those people that will irritate me or maybe even totally piss me off.  People being people, it’s totally unreasonable to assume that they won’t.  But that’s OK as long as they meet one condition.

The only thing Tami and I want is for those people to love our boys as much as they deserve to be loved.  Beyond that we don’t care what color they are or what creed they are or what anything else they are.  Because if they love my sons as much as my sons deserve to be loved it just won’t matter.  They’ll be family.

The Gun Control Nuts are Assholes…and the Pro-Gun Nuts are Assholes, too!

Nine people are dead. Nine! Some pathetic, psychotic nutbar decided that he didn’t like something so he started shooting people. The reason doesn’t really matter. What matters is that nine people are dead.

So of course, the Gun-Control Lobby – including President Obama – are calling for tougher gun control laws. To quote the President, “…we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these mass shootings every few months.” This is true. The other countries that have mass shootings like this are vacation spots like Syria, Iraq and Libya. Meanwhile, nine people are dead.

At the same time, the Pro-Gun groups are saying that if we didn’t have Gun Free Zones  and all the restrictions on gun ownership and carry permits then someone else with a gun could have shot the shooter before the shooter shot the victims. So we don’t need more Gun Control, we need more guns. And the nine people are still dead.

At the time I’m writing this there are unconfirmed reports that the nutbar was asking people what religion they were. Non-Christians got shot in the leg, Christians got shot in the head. Conservative Christians, in a country founded upon Freedom of Religion, get upset when people of other faiths use the Constitution to secure equality and religious freedom for their faith.  Someone singling out Christians for a hate crime is terrible, unfathomable, unpardonable…and proof that Christianity is under attack.  I wonder if any of those so-called Christians bothered to pray for the victims or their families.  You remember the victims?  The nine people who are dead?

Everyone is so caught up in pushing their own agenda these days that we’re turning into a nation of Us vs. Them.  We’re losing the willingness to listen…REALLY listen…to other opinions and give them due consideration.  We’re losing our soul.  We’re losing what makes us great because we’re so busy tearing the other guy down that we can’t be bothered to build ALL OF US up.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Now is not the time to talk about Gun Control or Religious Hate (two words that should never be in the same sentence).  Right now is the time to weep.  Right now is the time to mourn.  Right now is the time to embrace, the time to keep silence, the time to heal and most especially, the time to love.  And maybe…just maybe…if we do that then there will be time to listen and time to talk and time to understand and time to come together as a people…as a great nation…and find acceptance of our differences and find solutions to our problems.  But right now is not that time.

May God Bless the families of those that died.  May he heal their hearts and comfort their souls.  And may He guide us all to a better tomorrow…together.