Big Bandaid

[the following is a revisited look at observations and comments I made 2 years ago on the healthcare bill]

I’ll admit that I am not an expert on public health, government operations, or economics.  So I’m not going to talk about what I don’t know.  I’m not qualified to evaluate this bill.  I invite others to do that.  But if the extent of your knowledge about this new bill has come from chain emails or infotainment personalities with an axe to grind, think again before mimicking what you only assume is trustworthy.  And I will say that this here article is in no way a defense of the new H.C. bill.  It’s a treatise on how to better talk about it even though you know very little about it.

So before we begin, let’s consider a few things. The best place for Christians to begin is their Word of God.
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Don’t invade Syria

Says Empire: “Doing something to Syria would be a big blow to Iran.”  Except that Iran hasn’t threatened us.  We are more of a threat to them.

Obama wants to invade Syria.  The reasoning: it will weakin Iraq.  Because killing people in one country to make another country weak when it’s already too weak to even think of attacking us is logical in any playing field.  Ron Paul could talk him out of it, if he would just listen.

What ‘s happening in Syria is none of our business.  What happened in Libya is none of our business.  In fact, what happened in Iraq was none of our business.

I echo the video: this whole invade everybody who we think might get a nuke in the future or something is bad politics, bad policy, bad economy.  Oh, and it’s morally corrupt.

You want to change things for the better in a country?  Send in doctors.  Send in teachers.  Send in carries of gospel.

Missionaries, not missiles.

The prophets of Israel called for quietism abroad.  That means you don’t go invade other places.  Oh, and America’s founders also didn’t want to go “monster hunting” abroad, for those of you who claim to follow Jesus but care more about America.  So, no matter how you cut it, this invasion would be wrong.

over the last 50-80 years America’s history of preemptive war, covert destabilization, foreign occupation, nation building, torture and assassination have accumulated a vast hatred of American presence in the Middle-East and other places in the world.  It’s time for this to end.

Swords into ploughshares.  Ron Paul is the only politician I know who seriously quotes it in his use of policy rhetoric.  Start listening to him.

Ca-Ca-Ca-Courageous Dads

Remember that lion from Wizard of Oz?  He was a big ol’ lion but he was a pansy.  Then the wizard gives him a medal of bravery because he did, after all, face a witch and flying monkeys and the wrath of a fake wizard for Dorothy, even though he was scared.  That time-worn, but true lesson that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but earning a fearless life by overcoming fear.

The first movie I watched after Noah was born was Courageous, the most recent film made by Alex Kendrick and Sherwood Pictures, the church group who made Facing the Giants and Fireproof (and Flywheel, which, if you see it, is really cheezy and low budget, but surprisingly compelling).

In Courageous, a group of police officers come to the realization that they aren’t living fulfilling lives as fathers.  When they become dispirited from the growing rate of crime, they decide that the world needs fathers to step up and be more involved in their childrens’ lives.  They make a pact together to be better fathers themselves.

Christian entertainment these days is full of cheese.  It reeks of Andy Griffith and flannel board renditions of the parables.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Mostly it’s just a matter of taste.  We don’t like to hear messages that are simple, or preachy, or brought to us by “an authority”.  We like complex messages, stories that entertain us more than call us to action, and messages from characters that discover what they want, not come to a realization about what is right or wrong.  Does this movie have cheese?  It has some.  But it’s not preachy, or oversimplified, or depicting Christianity as an authoritative religion.

The dilemma I find myself in is finding movies that are wholesome and artistically interesting and raw with meaning.  We like our Andy Griffith, but it’s a story about a town that never really existed in real life (or at least exited for whites).  It taught us really good lessons, but didn’t touch a lot of issues.  But yet I’ve seen some movies simply because they were critically acclaimed and thought, “man, Clockwork Orange has a lot to say about society and the human psyche but did I really need to see all that?”  I should have just read the book.

I say all this to say that I really enjoy and appreciate Courageous because it’s a wholesome story that doesn’t cut artistic corners or lie about how the world works.  It is very much like the more popular film The Blind Side, only with much more overt Christian themes.  Sure, some of the delivery is bad, but how shallow are we if we reject a message because the actors (who by definition are pretending anyway) aren’t as good at pretending as their more talented counterparts?  Maybe that’s why good Christians aren’t good actors, because they don’t like to play pretend.  Maybe non-fiction is more our thing, releasing documentaries about the good work being done for Christ.  It’s easy to create wholesome entertainment for children, because they love to play pretend. For adults, maybe it’s hard to find wholesome movies because when we see people acting as Christians on the screen we see ourselves only pretending to be Christians.

Sherwood’s films do have their share of issues.  [spoiler alert].  It sometimes seems that they’re trying to tell us that if we pray to God and try to do what’s right, bad things will stop happening to us.  In Giants, the coach says “we win, we pray to God; we lose, we pray to God.”  Well, they pray to God, and you can imagine what happens.  I don’t think the filmmakers are trying to present the prosperity gospel, the great heresy of Joel Olsteen.  After all, the scriptures say, “seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.”  But the question is, does he give us everything we want?  Or need?  We need very little; fasting shows God we know this.  I think the films try to show us that if we pursue faithfulness, things will come together in a meaningful way in our lives, whether for the good or in spite of it.  In Courageous bad things happen, and even after the pact of faith is made bad things continue to happen.

Another critique of the film may be the very idea of these men taking an oath to be exemplary fathers, and having to have an ordained minister there to do this.  I can see why people may be offended by this idea.  Shouldn’t all fathers take up this mantle?  Do you need a clergyman to verify your vow to be a good father?  Since this idea is novel to the film, it’s not like they were trying to enforce some denominational rite.

What I do like about the film is something that could have gone wrong but didn’t: how they deal with crime and the world.  Rather than a propaganda piece telling us that a rise in crime necessitates a rise in law enforcement measures at any cost, the writers propose that being better examples and leaders is the best solution.  Of course, they still do their duty as cops to arrest criminals.  But they also don’t show this simplistic view of crime and criminals.  They prefer to tackle and handcuff than shoot.  Judge Dredd is an anti-Christian figure.

They also avoid getting the racist label.  Several of the criminals depicted are black, but,  in the deep south this is a statistical truth that says more about race relations and poverty than “the black race”.  One of the cops is black, too.  One of the main characters is hispanic.  He and his wife have deep accents, border on poverty, and are unemployed.  This could have easily been a racist caricature, but it isn’t.  They are portrayed as intelligent, hard workers with strong faith.  Their accents are incidental, as is their poverty, and the man’s willingness to take any honest job makes himself  honorable.  In fact, he inspires faith in the white fathers.  Some sensitive viewers might scoff at a comic scene involving the cops making use of his “hispanic-ness”, but that would be a stretch of a critique, and even then, even the heroes of a story aren’t perfect, nor should they be.

Bible belt Christians seem to be depicted as racist and, let’s face it, many are, and the white/black divide in churches shows there is still work to do.  But I caught no signs in the film that the filmmakers were going to irresponsibly let their own viewers validate prejudice.  They wanted to make sure their viewers didn’t walk away saying, “we would just have less crime if we just got rid of all this scum (meaning, certain ‘kinds’ of people).”  The problem of crime isn’t the presence of a certain race or culture, but a certain value of honor and integrity, or lack thereof.

But I’m glad to see the rise in popularity of these films, even among non-Christian audiences.  Hollywood just isn’t making wholesome movies any more, and even people who aren’t pursuing God are interested in wholesome stuff, not just for their kids, but maybe because deep down the know they need something uplifting and morally compelling beyond vague celebrations of “the triumph of the human spirit”.

I don’t think a film has to have an overt moral message to be considered “Christian”.  But one thing I look forward to as a father is watching all this G and PG rated stuff that just doesn’t seem much fun without a kid in the house.  I say that now—I’m sure I’ll sing a different tune after 26 viewings of Disney’s Cars.

The bullies apologize, the town bullies

Here’s an update on the bully bus story. 

The one negative thing I can say is this: The town hasn’t learned their lesson.
The parents are failing still.  Too many people thought the solution would be to call and bully the families of the bullies.  To excuse bullying in one case is to open the door for others.  An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  Shame on you, town of Greece.  Named after the inventors of democracy, as in “people having power”,  clearly you have abused your freedom of speech, and you do not deserve the power given to you, but instead you carelessly extort the power you have to hurt or heal others with speech.  Apology is what breaks the cycle of verbal abuse, not more verbal abuse.

So now we bully the elderly too

Hear about those kids who bullied the bus monitor?  I’ll let you read the full story below, which includes the harrowing video documenting the incident.

So here’s the thing:  These kids have a lack of empathy.  It’s primarily a parenting issue.  Their parents are failing.  That being said, here is what the school needs to do.  We’ll call this the “shame and flame” deterrent:

1. The kids don’t ride the bus next year.  Their parents have to take them to school.  But, if they get a driver’s license, they have to ride the bus until they graduate.

2. Call an assembly in which every child on that bus (all of them, because in the recording none stood up for her) must apologize to directly to her, with their parents or guardians standing behind them, who will then apologize on their behalf as well. If a student refuses to apologize, they must refuse in front of the entire school so everyone knows

3. In that assembly, a letter will be read in praise of this woman and signed by every single other student in the school. Then the students who apologized have to write every word they said to her on a piece of paper and burn it. This last portion may be performed outside the assembly if necessary.

4. The school should beef up their anti-bullying endeavors according to how the PTA and student body see fit.  This is primarily the parents’ jobs, but seeing as how you can’t rely on American parents to teach their kids how to nurture empathic intelligence, the rest of the community can pick up where they miserably left off.

5. And don’t give me any crap about good kids with good parents succumbing to peer pressure.  They continued while the woman cried.  “Kids will be kids” is a profane motto to utter in this scenario.  Peer pressure is not a free pass to unleash evil.

God help us.

Teach your child to speak right

The following is a clip from the documentary “American Tongues”

(beware of the use of a derogatory term, supported neither by myself nor, I imagine, the documentarians)

What’s your language prejudice?

When I was younger I had a lot.  A little bit against ebonics, but most against redneck talk.  I had friends who looked down on rurality and quaintness and so I did the same.

My dad swears up and down I used to correct his grammar a lot.  I don’t remember doing that.  What I did do was critique his pronunciation.  That’s phonetics, not grammar.  It did kill me when I was twelve and he would sit down at a Roanoke restaurant and say “weaww wa wah-er”.  The waitress would ask him to repeat, and he would switch to a slow, punctuated version of the same pronunciation: “We.  aww. wawn.  waher.”  At least, that’s how it sounded to me.

Now I’m much more tolerant of dialectical variation, thought I do recommend pronouncing your words according to your context, Dad.

But one thing I will teach my son is there is no “right English.”  The closest thing to a standard is only standardized because it is used by those in power.  It does not make you smarter.  And even the most notorious “errors”, such as “he be goin’ to the store,” operate based on certain rules.  Double negatives (“don’t have none”) were used by Chaucer, as were consonental metatheses (“Can I axe you a question”).  Is a person dumber or more likely to join a gang because they say “axe”, or are they actually intelligent enough to adapt to the practicality of our English-trained tongues placing the velar stop prior to the post-alveolar sibilant fricative?

So as a teacher I teach my students the same thing I’ll teach my son.  Learn to code switch.  Some people want you to wear a coat and a tie to certain functions.  Oblige them if you want to please them and get what you want from them.  If it insults your sense of self identity, don’t do it.  As a teacher I have to teach students how to writer “proper,” but it’s no more proper than their own tongue.

One of the miraculous gifts given to the apostles was the ability to speak in tongues.  They spoke and everyone understood.  They didn’t demand everyone learn Greek.  or Hebrew.  In fact, the language of the Bible is not the ritzy, “proper” Greek, but street Greek, barnyard Greek, the language of simple merchants and traders.  Then there’s the good book story of the “shibboleth”, where one Palestinian tribe slaughtered the other, using their inability to pronounce a syllable as an excuse.

How do you view people based on how they talk?  Do you judge them by their pronunciations, the grammatical rules to which they adhere, their colloquialisms?  Or do you consider instead the content of their words, whether they be hateful or considerate, wise or foolish, critically incisive or muddling?

What’s your language prejudice, and what does it say about you?  I submit that it tells me more about you than your own dialect does.  Ain’t no buts about it.

Enter the Goober

Behold, a great goober!

Me GravThus has been signaled my new (and more permanent) blog, as well as the welcoming of my new son to the world (for those of you who didn’t know, I had a son a month ago today).

Our first Father’s Day brings a reflection of the first month: Eat, sleep, lose sleep, adore baby, watch baby eat and sleep and poop.  Stay up letting him sleep on me while I play Skyrim so his mother can sleep.  Go to class to learn how to teach grammar—not the Miss Fiddlesnitch way, banging a ruler on the desk and telling the little farmer’s son there’s something wrong with him for saying “ain’t”, but rather teaching kids to code-switch to talk like Miss Fiddlesnitch so prejudiced crackers can give them a job.

So on Father’s Day four generations assembled in one house: Noah, myself, my dad, my granddad.  My mother took a picture.  It was monumental to say the least.  I really am ushering in a new chapter in my life.  Gonna take a few things more seriously.  Gonna take a few things less seriously.  Gonna take time to rethink some things.  Begin some things anew.  And some things gonna keep doing the same, and not cease at.

I’ll talk on some things or others.  The topics will relate mostly to the spiritual, but what I have learned is that all things are spiritual, have a spiritual dimension.  There is no such thing as a “spiritual topic”, but rather topics that we either suck the spirit out of or simply talk on without regards to their spiritual dimension or application.  I’ll ramble some days and tweet the other.  That reminds me, up next is a twitter.  I need to crawl out of this cave.  My grandfather is catching up with me, learning how to use e-mail and whatnot.  Just yesterday he was sending smoke signals.  I can’t imagine what Noah will be using when he’s my age.

So welcome to my new blog.  Read.  Interact.  Share.  And by all means, keep your comments to yourself.  Then, after about fives minutes have passed, return to your computer, review your comment, and post it.  This isn’t YouTube, for crying out loud.  There are consequences.

-Caleb Coy signing out