Duped by Trump

Any student of history will tell you that the media and the politicians have had a long history of trying to control each other. This has usually led to a public show down with the media criticizing politicians and politicians returning the favor. However, I am wondering if that is all changing with the rise of Donald Trump.

Trump is more than a businessman. He is an integral part of the media system as well. From starring in several realty TV shows to sponsoring beauty pageants to appearing in TV commercials and so on, Trump is squarely on the media side of the equation. And if you really examine what he says, it shows. He can’t even keep his story straight over a 10 minute boardroom session on The Apprentice. Media interviews over time shows that his political alliances have shifted from liberal to conservative and back and forth again (basically following where ever the money was at the time). He knows that people won’t really criticize your words if you say enough of the correct buzz terms for one side. If you really listen to what he says on any given political topic today, he just can’t create a consistent stance beyond the top level, bullet point ideas he repeats over and over.

So, ever wondered why people like him so much? I read someone state that he is just telling it like it is. That’s not really true – most of his statements are truly relative – he is just stating one side’s opinion (and the side has changed over the years). Someone else said it is that he is rich, and people know he can’t be bought. Not true either: you can’t be a successful businessman unless you can be bought. How else will you make money? Trump has a long history of going for the money. Yet another person said its because he is dialing into a deep mistrust of Obama.

A-ha. There we have it. People don’t like Obama, Trump doesn’t like Obama, and so people connect with that. The problem is: people’s hatred of Obama is a state of mind bought and paid for by the same people that are putting Trump at the top of the presidential race.

Who are these people? The (right-wing) media. Trump’s own people.

I didn’t vote for Obama. I think there are many things he could have done better on. But the right wing media hatred spearheaded by Fox News is obviously so far over the line that its beyond belief to those that don’t buy it. Obama hates America? He’s a criminal? He’s trying to enslave us all? That’s just extremist talk, with no real proof. Not even close.

I was raised to give credit where credit is due, even to people that I don’t agree with. Obama deserves more credit than the right-wing media gives him.

But those of us that see through this right wing media smoke screen have always wondered: why so extreme? What is the end goal? Blind hatred without a clear end goal is just a waste of money. And the media is not really one to waste money without an end goal.

I think we have  an understanding of that end goal now: Donald Trump. He has been leading the media hatred of Obama for years. And now he is magically in the lead position in the GOP debates? Is anyone else disturbed that Fox News can determine who is in and out of the running with this debate?

metamodern-faith-avatarWhat I think we are seeing is a very well-planned and coordinated plan by the right-wing media to gain more control over the government. They spend years seeding hatred of Obama, slowly whipping it into a blazing (yes, I use that word intentionally there) inferno of blind rage. They find a few people that will do say and do whatever they want (how else can anyone explain The Celebrity Apprentice?). Then push the one that works out the most (Trump) to run. Trump shoots to the top of the polls – front and center at tonight’s debate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear a bunch of questions tonight tailor-made to make Trump sound good.

I know this all sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory, and I hope that it is. Something isn’t adding up and I can’t just chalk it up to chance. I think America has been duped by the Trump.

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America Has Always Gone Against Global and Historical Definitions of Marriage

Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see people distorting reality to support their narrative. You are free to believe what you want when it comes to any issue, regardless of what the rest of the world or history says about an issue. That is the beauty of living in a metamodernist age: you can believe something even if it is counter-intuitive to the dominant cultural narrative.

But at the same time, if you change the narrative of others to make your narrative seem like it is the one, correct, true narrative, you are doing more harm to your cause than good. With the recent Supreme Court marriage equality decisions, one area that concerns me is how conservative Christians are claiming that SCOTUS is trying to change the historical, global, and religious definitions of marriage. The reality is that the historical, global, and religious definitions of marriage are much more diverse than the revisionist idea of a global historical “one man, one woman” idea.

Global and historical definitions of marriage contain a major element of legal polygamy – especially when you want to bring Biblical definitions of marriage into the mix. Additionally, global and historical religious definitions of marriage typically contain a major stream of banning interracial and/or intercultural marriages. The United States redefined global and historical definitions of marriage when we made polygamy illegal in 1862. We also did so multiple points when we made woman equal to men in various marriage issues. And yet again in 1967 when we made interracial marriage legal across the nation.

What is even more ironic is that many conservative political leaders such as Greg Abbot and Ted Cruz are remaining silent about the 1967 Supreme Court decision that made their interracial marriages legal in their home state of Texas, while decrying the 2015 SCOTUS decision that is basically the same kind of decision.

metamodern-faith-avatarThe historical, global, and religious definition of marriage is a complex, often contradictory and paradoxical ideal. The United States has a long history of creating its own definition of marriage (along with many other concepts) based on the underlying ideal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Additionally, the Evangelical church owes the existence of their entire movement to their leaders disagreeing with the historical and global Protestant interpretations of scriptures (and the Protestant church is based on their leaders disagreeing with the historical and global Catholic interpretations of scriptures, and so on back in time).  The idea that there has been a consistent global, historical, or religious way of doing anything is revisionist at best, and dangerous to the true goal of the Church and the United States at its worst.

A Tale of Two Supreme Court Decisions

I try not to make current issues about myself, because they rarely are. As a heterosexual white male, I recognize my privilege and how making issues that touch on race, gender, or sexuality about me is just an extension of my privilege. However, the reaction to the recent supreme court decision legalizing same sex marriages in a way does touch on something that is close to me: my own marriage.

I am not gay or bisexual. However, my wife is half Asian Indian and half white. To most people today, we are not really that much of an “interracial” marriage, and I would tend to agree. But go back in time to 1965, and that would be a different story in our home state of Texas. My wife’s maiden name is very Indian, and mine is very white. Had we tried to get married in 1965, we would have been denied a license based on our last names alone.

That all changed in 1967 when the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. Texas was one of several states forced to follow these laws after the decision. Opposition to this reaction were often based on religious beliefs. For example, Judge Leon M. Bazile wrote about his decision to send a couple that sought interracial marriage to jail by saying:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races show that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Bazile’s ruling was fought all the way to the Supreme Court in 1967. Equality won, and interracial marriage was formally legal in all 50 states (although some states ignored this until 2000). Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote about the court’s unanimous decision:

“Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Fifty years later, several conservative politicians are now trying to say that these kinds of individual decisions can be infringed upon by the State; that State rights out weighs individual rights in cases of individual conscious.

Even more ironically, Texas political leaders like Ted Cruz and Greg Abbot are protesting yesterday’s supreme court decision, despite being in interracial marriages themselves that would have been illegal in their home state of Texas without Supreme Court intervention. And they aren’t only disagreeing with the decision itself, but going so far as to say that the the the Supreme Court is “lawless” and “playing God” in how they made that decision.

Add that to the chorus of disagreement from evangelical Christians, such as John Piper who Tweeted that the U.S. is “institutionalizing suicidal commitments.” In light of the shockingly high suicide rates of those that are LGBTQ when compared to heterosexuals, this statement is without class and completely inappropriate. Can one claim to love God when they are also mocking “the least of these”?

I could go on and on quoting hateful and inappropriate responses from across the Conservative and Evangelical spectrum. Add to that those that refer to Christians such as myself that support marriage equality as “deceived” or flat out “evil.” It doesn’t matter that we came to this conclusion because we love God, respect His Word, and fear misrepresenting Both so much that we spent decades in Bible study, praying, and following the conviction of the Holy Spirit to come to these conclusions. We know the Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew underlying the pertinent scriptures backwards and forwards, as well as being well versed in ancient Jewish, Greek, and Roman cultural attitudes towards sexual issues. But all of that is not enough. We have a different opinion, so we are heretics (or worse).

metamodern-faith-avatarI realize that all of this is really nothing in comparison to the bullying, discrimination, and life-threatening situations that people with real problems face everyday. I’m not complaining about anything, just bringing to light a different facet of the conversation. Those that need to hear it most won’t listen, but “for those with an ear to hear….”

Why The Logic of “More Guns Decreases Crime” Doesn’t Add Up

Let me start off by saying that this is not an anti-gun post. Even though I say that, many people have already decided to hate it based on the title alone. But this post is a look at bad logic, not gun rights.

We have probably all seen a large number of articles, memes, and rants online about how the best way to curb crime is to increase gun ownership.  Usually this is in the form of a statistic that shows how some city, state, or country saw an increase in gun sales at the same time they saw a decrease in crimes committed with guns.

Of course, we all know that correlation does not equal causation, but we also kind of conveniently ignore that basic foundation of logic if the correlation happens to support our side. I do it all the time, and so do most people I know.

But have you ever really stopped to wonder how an increase in gun sales would lead to a decrease in crime? Basically, you have two real scenarios:

  1. Some criminals hear that more guns are being sold and then decide it is too risky to commit more crime.
  2. Criminals run into more people with guns while committing crime, and are either caught, shot, or scared into leaving a life of crime.

The problem is, reality just doesn’t support either scenario. Let’s look at the first one. The problem with this option is that most stories about gun numbers increasing accompany stories about crime dropping. Criminals can’t become scared about a story that hasn’t aired yet. When was the last time you saw a story that was just about the number of guns increasing? I never had, but I am sure there are some. But even when there are, you have to content with the fact that less than 10 percent of Americans watch the evening news. Cable news, internet news, and physical newspapers have slightly higher numbers, but access to those outlets decreases as poverty increases (which is where most violent criminals come from). So how many criminals are actually going to see a one minute story about gun sales increasing in the first place? The statistics would say very few.

So the chance that a criminal hears about increased gun sales is slim. But if they do, then what? Its not like there were no guns before the increase in sales. Yet criminals still committed crimes. “But a study found that criminals are afraid of armed citizens!” Well, no actually – it found they are concerned about running into an armed citizen and took steps to avoid that. But what you rarely read from these stats is if they stopped committing crime based on hearing there are more guns out there. I mean – think about it. A person wants to avoid getting into a conflict with another person that is armed. No. Way. Next you are going to tell me the sky is blue! “But it said they were more afraid of an armed citizen than the police!” You mean they are more afraid of a person with maybe a couple of days of training (with no guidance on emotional control) and no experience in tense situations than they are of a person with months of training and experience in tense situations? No. Way. If you haven’t figured out by now, most of those “studies” on criminals being more afraid of armed citizens are just poorly designed propaganda pieces that really tell us nothing.

But really, all scenario #1 really comes down to is assuming that criminals will hear about increased gun sales and then decide to stop committing crime because of that. The chances of that are so random and based on uncontrollable factors like popularity of the media outlet carrying that news, attitudes of criminals towards guns (I did go to a prison once and asked criminals about what they thought about armed citizens and none cared… it was actually an eye-opening experience), possible responses to news, etc. Randomness of that level make a correlation very unlikely, statistically speaking.

The second scenario is probably much more likely. It would make much more sense that criminals would run into more guns as they commit crimes and that ends up forcing them to decrease their activities (or they get shot and the actual number of criminals decreases). The problem is, while gun sales are increasing, the actual number of people that buy a gun for the first time is not keeping pace with the population growth.  What that means is that the percentage of people carrying a gun is decreasing overall, and it is less likely that a criminal will run into an armed citizen.

Currently, somewhere around 24-37% of Americans own a gun (depending on if you count people who say they own a gun or say they live with some that owns a gun; a confusing statistic). However, the percentage of gun owners and households with guns is going down. How is that so, when gun sales are increasing so rapidly? The population increase in the U.S. is between 0.74% and 0.97% depending on which index you look at. This translates to rough 3 million people – a mixture of babies and immigrants. So not a good stat to look at. From what I have found, between 4 and 8 million people turn 18 each year. There are around 2.4 million adult deaths in the U.S. each year. So between 1.6 and 5.6 people could become new gun owners each year. But apparently, less than that are, thus leading to the downward trend in gun ownership percentages.

What this basically means is that criminals are less likely to run into an armed citizen despite the soaring gun sales. Therefore, #2 just isn’t possible with the current stats, leading us back to the unlikely scenario #1 as the best bet.

So, basically you are saying that crime statistics are decreasing on the off-chance that a large number of criminals are seeing a news report on TV and getting scared out of committing at least some of the crime they were going to commit… even though they had still planned that crime before they saw the report when there were already guns out there.

So the logic of “increased gun sales equals decreased crime” just doesn’t add up, at least with the current statistics. As one police officer put it: “of course you see decreased crime where there are more legal guns – we have to patrol twice as much to make sure the hotheads don’t shoot each other more often!”

metamodern-faith-avatarCrime statistics are a complex stat to figure out. Sometimes it is a good thing when they go up – meaning more criminals are getting arrested. Sometimes it means that the police are catching fewer criminals due to being understaffed at a given time. All of this really means that we just need to take a more nuanced look at what is really happening, rather than co-opting random correlations for our own political cause.

God Will Not Be Mocked

You have probably heard this statement (or one like it) end many a religious debate on social media, usually spoken by a conservative evangelical fundamentalist to a liberal or progressive Christian they have been disagreeing with: “God will not be mocked, and those who substitute their own felt desires for God’s unchangeable Truth will not be found guiltless before a holy God.”

Other versions of this statement also include people being accused of being everything from a heretic to a false convert.

The biggest problem with this statement is that is true for both conservatives and liberals. Both sides do not want to mock God by misrepresenting His Words with their felt desires. The difference is not is dedication to Truth or honesty, but in what counts as “felt desires” and what counts as “unchangeable Truth.”

Whether the topic is marriage or Science or modesty or guns or abortion or you name it, both sides are intensely concerned with accurately representing Truth on the matter in a way that does not make a mockery of God. However, both sides have reached different conclusions as to what that accurate representation is.

metamodern-faith-avatarAnd that is the crux of the problem. We are not Truth. God is Truth. Our words are not Truth. His words are Truth. And even when we are quoting the red letters of the Bible, we are often still quoting words that are translated imperfectly from older languages that are sometimes difficult to translate into modern languages. So the next time you pick up the stones of “false convert” or “heretic” or “mocking God” or “giving in to felt desires”…. try to remember God’s position on those that pick up stones to use against others that they don’t agree with. And then take a good dose of humbling reality when realizing that Jesus defended the theologically incorrect person in that story.

The Great Free Speech Conspiracy

It seems like any time there is a controversy, those that belong to the far fringe of the political party that is not currently holding the keys to the White House always feels that their free speech is being intentionally taken away by some great conspiracy. When Bush was in the White House I remember some of my liberal friends pointing out every way Bush was destroying free speech, and now that Obama is in power we see the right pointing out every way they think they are losing the right to free speech.

But I sometimes wonder if we as a society are losing sight of the limitations of free speech.

Freedom of Speech does not mean that you can say whatever you want to whenever you want to however you want to where ever you want to and not face any consequences.

Libel and slander are still illegal. Saying “I think…” in front of your character assassination does not exempt you from defaming individuals or groups. Those laws have been in place as long as any of us have been alive – so it is still technically illegal to say certain things and always has been.

If you try to stand on your lawn at 3:00 am and loudly proclaim your views, you can still end up arrested for disturbing the peace. I have witnessed that happen – because I once called the police on some loud neighbors when I wanted to sleep. If you ring someone’s door bell and become a nuisance they can have you removed from their property. So it is also illegal to say things at certain places and has been since before any of use were born.

If you choose to be mean and judgmental and tell others they are unreasonable or lying or destroying society or hating God just because they don’t agree with your side, then those people can ask you to go away or stop posting on their Facebook wall or whatever it may be. They are not denying your right to free speech. They are exercising their right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” There is no law that forces them to listen to you if you are being mean. How you present your point matters.

Private companies have the right to terminate whoever they want to whenever they want to. Individuals can delete you off their Facebook wall if they want to. If either of those two or anything in between happens, you have only lost one avenue out of millions in today’s society for expressing yourself. No law in existence guarantees you the right to express yourself on every single avenue possible. Freedom of speech applies to the government cutting you off. Not individual companies or people on social networks.

And finally, there is no law the forces everyone in the whole world to put our hands over our mouths and say “your point is brilliant” every time you state something. People can disagree with your point. If you decide to swoop into a Facebook discussion with your fists swinging, don’t get all bent out of shape if they put up their dukes and swing back. If you came in accusing someone of being deceived or unreasonable, they are not trying to silence you by saying that you are being hateful and inappropriate. They are technically doing the exact same thing you are. They are not “silencing” you, you are facing consequences for poorly chosen words. If you choose to use insulting words, people are going to get emotional. Humans are emotional creatures and there is technically something wrong with a person that feels nothing when pointed words are exchanged. These are all consequences of using certain words, and if we can’t take responsibility for the effect of the words we choose, we should just shut up until we mature enough to learn to accept consequences.

All of this is to point out that what you say, when you say it, how you say it, where you say it, and the consequences of what you say all matters.

metamodern-faith-avatarWe live in a society where there have been laws and standards governing free speech for as long as we have been a society. Someone that is asking you to adhere to those laws and societal norms is not destroying your right to free speech or propagating a conspiracy to silence you. They are doing this thing called civilization. The real conspiracy that is destroying free speech is the one that is tricking people into believing that they can say whatever they want whenever they want however they want where ever they want and not face consequences.

Why Republicans Make No Sense

gop_elephantSo let me get this straight. We live in a country were almost any loony tune can go out and legally get a gun. They can even amass a small arsenal and start a massacre. Guns are so prevalent that we constantly read in the news about kids accidentally shooting each other. We even hear about spouses shooting each other at restaurants when a handgun in one of their pockets goes off.

Our current gun laws and/or enforcement of these laws are obviously not working, but yet our Republican leaders fight tooth and nail to keep this situation the status quo with such astute logic as “criminals won’t follow new gun laws.”

Duh. Why do you think we can them criminals? By that reasoning, we should have no laws at all.

So what do our Republican leaders spend so much time and energy fighting? The “evil” of people having different religious beliefs that leads them to creating an updated legal definition of marriage.

Of course, the possibility that some of these people might want to redefine God or how to worship God or even not worship God at all is no big deal. They are free to worship God or gods or a supreme force or nothing at all because that is their freedom in this country – and (almost) every Republicans will stand by that. But dare touch the definition of marriage? Thems fightin’ words!

So redefine God and that is okay, but not marriage. Let’s just be honest: “Definition of Marriage” has become a false idol in this land that many so-called Christians are bowing down to.

Because if you actually think that a gay couple living next to you will be so damaging to your marriage or society that your relationship to God will not be able to “overcome” those effects…. that means God is not the most powerful force in your personal paradigm.

So as the GOP lines up to fight the recent Supreme Court rulings and vows to make new constitutional amendments to define marriage, I call hypocrisy and point out that the GOP makes no sense. You are just bitter that you lost the culture war (which was really a term you made up) and instead of accepting the premise that we don’t force people in this country to follow a certain set of religious beliefs (which is what your definition of marriage is), you vow to fight on like a grumpy old man swearing he’s gonna get those young whipper snappers the next time they step on his lawn.

(And Democrats, don’t get me started on how your party is ruining this country)

metamodern-faith-avatarAnd I point out that I say “your” definition of marriage not because I don’t believe the Bible, but because I do believe it 100% and I choose to follow what it teaches. And I can not in all honesty say that it only has one definition of marriage, or that it has a clear statement of morality on the modern-day practice of homosexuality in general. I respect the Bible too much to tell lies about what it contains.