Sunday, August 23, 2015

Prosperity, Politics, and Schadenfreude Gold

Hopefully all of you have been keeping up with the current fiasco that is the modern religious right.  As for me, I've been eagerly waking up every morning just to see who's going to be next!  What must it be like for those people that have been lifting these delinquents into prominence within the religious community?  I wonder how hard they cringe when they see, "Breaking now..." scrolling by on their television screens?

I can tell you what it's like for the rest of us - it is outright, no holds barred, unadulterated joy!

Since people tend to have a very short memory these days, I feel it's my responsibility to start out by saying that this kind of thing really isn't all that uncommon.  There's Ted Haggard, John Paulk, Larry Craig, David Vitter, Henry Hyde, Mark Foley, Bob Livingston, George Rekers, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and Bishop Eddie Long; just to name a few.

But since we had so much of it this week, I'm going to do something I normally don't do - I'm going to cover a some of the stories revealed over the last few days so in twenty or thirty years I can look back on these stories and have a good chuckle when I'm an old geezer.

First, I give you Donald Trump.  Here's a guy whose companies have filed for bankruptcy four times, and thus far is the front-runner for the Republican nomination.  The man sounds like an eight year-old when interviewed or participating in political debates.  Admittedly, it is quite possible the reason he sounds like an eight year-old is that we are witnessing the extent of his vocabulary.  Yet he still remains the front-runner.  He makes morally asinine and fiscally impossible claims on very complex issues like immigration, the budget, gun control, and civil rights.  Yet he still remains the front-runner.

As sad as it is, our once grand nation really has become, "Idiocracy".

Want more proof?  I give you John Oliver's Televangelists piece on his HBO show, "Last Week Tonight".  If you have twenty minutes to spare, I beg you to watch it.  It's worth every second!

You see, these pastors charismatically preach something called, "The Prosperity Gospel" where wealth is a sign of God's favor and blessings.  This idea works especially well for them, because all of this prosperity begins with "seed faith", where honest and hard working people are convinced to donate money so that one day they will get to "harvest" the bounty from that seed.  The people in these congregations are even told to charge $1,000 dollars on their credit card in order for God to wipe out their credit card debt...

I realize that it's easy for us to sit back and laugh at the sheer volume of people that these pastors and other religious leaders are able to bilk for millions and millions of dollars, but when we take into account that none of these people or organizations pay any taxes whatsoever, how are we all not enraged by what they're doing?  Instead of insisting the IRS pursue prosecutions for fraud, we shake an accusatory finger at the ones doing the bilking.  And it's not the fault of the IRS either; that agency is forced to ignore most of these religious racketeers out of fear of more budget cuts from their religious cronies in the United States Congress.  It's a vicious cycle of corruption created and maintained by the very people that want to force even MORE of their religion into our society.

And then... there's Josh Duggar.  This guy...  The hits just keep coming and coming.  (Cue rimshot!)

I am not at all surprised that his name showed up TWICE in the Ashley Madison account hack.  To me, this was the very definition of a no-brainer.  What I found the most offensive was his silly statement released after he had been caught.  Sure he's a hypocrite, and sure he admitted that he had multiple affairs.  BUT WHO CARES?!?!?  What bugs me is that he did exactly what other religious people have done and blame it on something outside, something intangible.  Like, you know, pornography.

That is exactly like blaming violence on video games!  Seriously, millions upon millions of people view some form of pornography every hour of every day.  Yet the number of divorces in the United States really hasn't changed over the past 15 to 20 years (as a matter of fact, I believe the divorce rate has gone down a bit.)  Blaming pornography is a distraction, a diversion.  He's doing what any good religious leader would do - find a scapegoat or claim you were deceived by Satan himself.

What a perfect out these guys have.

Then his poor wife, Anna.  She's so brainwashed by her religion that she apparently claims that it was partly her fault that her husband was so horny and lacked so little self-control.  And this is what religion does to women.  It teaches most of them that they are nothing more than property for men - toys for men to satiate their uncontrollable appetite for sex.  For even in the face of scandal caused solely by the transgressions of her husband, she's taught to think that she's partly to blame.  How sad is it that only religion is allowed to do that to another human being?

And finally, the annual bellyaching that the rest of us must endure from those that are the direct cause behind everything I've discussed in this post.  Every single year when the kids are set to go back to school, we get to hear all the whining and whimpering about school prayer from the religious right.  You guys really need a new playbook...

Okay, first of all, which god would you like them to pray to?  My preference would be Thor, because does anyone ever see Ice Giants walking around?  I didn't think so.  Thank you, Thor.

Second, how popular would a set of kids yelling, "Allahu Akbar!" be during this proposed school prayer?  If we allow Christians to pray at schools, then we must allow all the religious to pray as they see fit.  And that scenario would be the one where I know I'd be standing nearby with a big box of popcorn.

I mean, good grief Christians!  As if forcing every kid to go through the motion of bowing their heads will actually make them pray.

Wait a second...  I have a thought.  If you honestly believe that most of those kids are actually praying, even in church, then I'd like you to send me your email address so that we can get your "Prosperity Gospel" account started!

Friday, August 14, 2015

One Plate Less

Over the past few days I have begun one of the hardest moments of my life.  Now I realize that many people have already experienced this, and may not necessarily think this is that difficult a hurdle.

Well...  Deal with it, because it is for me.  I am going to miss grabbing four plates for dinner.  I'm going to miss seeing that beautiful face sitting next to me at the table and hearing all the drama and happiness she experienced throughout her day.  I'm going to miss looking over her head while we watch movies.

You see, I made it point to be as involved in my kid's lives as I could.  Perhaps that's why this is so difficult.  Since Rachel and Zack were born, my life has been filled with those two.  Our homes in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Texas.  Our trips to Alaska, Wyoming, California, Colorado, and of course, to Disney.  These two have been our little traveling troopers - with nothing but eagerness and excitement to join in.

But now the time has come where our troop will be down by one.  It's that damn empty seat again.

And I realize that this is selfish and childish of me, but the closer I get to leaving our baby girl, the more I feel the weight of the emptiness of her chair at our dinner table and the emptiness of her seat in our car.

While parents are raising their children, we all have this understanding that one day these wonderful people will leave our homes to break off on their own.  But that understanding is buried under years of, "Daddy, can you help?" or, "Daddy, come see!" or time after time of your child just being... a child.  The thought is like a spot on your carpet you choose to ignore.  You know it's there, you see it every day, but at the time it seems better to simply wave your hand and deal with it when you have more time.

That's the problem, though.  For me that time passed far, far too quickly.

It came before I was ready.  It came before I had the courage to deal with it.  And it came before I had the strength say goodbye.

We love you and will miss you deeply, Rachel.  Have fun, work hard, and we can't wait to see what you accomplish over the next four years...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Lost That Claim To Be Saved

"For a person that's been saved, he sure seems lost."
That quote came from my brother in just casual conversation, and it made such an impression on me that I absolutely had to write about it. I wish that I could deliver so concise and so powerful a message as he did in just ten words.

Well done, sir!

First, I'll do what I do best and write about my own experiences living life, raising kids, and growing older. I'll begin by saying that I unconditionally love my wife. I'll even go so far as saying that I worship the ground that woman strolls upon. She's the most beautiful and intelligent person I know, and to this day I still cannot even fathom how I convinced her to marry me. (I think it was the alcohol...) I absolutely adore my kids. They're both brilliant, hilarious, kind, and compassionate. I wake up in the morning eager to see their groggy faces and tattered hair. And of course, as my work day wears on I find myself anxious to see them when I get home.

My family has always been my inspiration.

But the thing is, I live my life knowing that each breath I take could very well be my last. And in knowing that, I will make every effort to make even my very last moment worth living. I know that I will never, ever have enough time with these wonderful people, even if I live to a ripe old age. It will never be enough. Ever. I know I'm fortunate to be surrounded by such interesting and entertaining human beings, which is why I will always cherish every single moment with them.

Compare that with what you hear from people that wrap themselves in a blanket of religion. You know the type. The people whose actions and prejudices give us the expression, "holier than thou." These individuals don't think they're living life unless they're singing songs of their own self-loathing. They use words like, "worthless" and, "emptiness" and, "undeserving." They go on and on about their past; how wretched they once were and how they pray ever so hard now for forgiveness.

Now, keeping all of that in mind, let's go back to what my brother said. Does that last paragraph sound like a healthy outlook on life for someone who has supposedly been dipped in the waters of salvation? Does that sound like someone that's been "delivered" from all the sin and debauchery that's supposedly rampant in our society?

Yet that type of thinking is commonplace in religious circles. They are never good enough. They are never worthy enough. They are never faithful enough. And according to their pastors, their religious leaders, and the people they surround themselves with, they are simply not allowed to be happy with themselves and who they've become even after being saved by blood of Jesus Christ.

I know this sounds like I'm building up my own straw man, but I honestly wish I was. I read this type of stuff anywhere from Facebook posts to Christmas cards. You really don't have to search very far to find it. It's just about everywhere, as sad as that is.

And yet I pity these individuals. I pity them to the point where I wish I could convince them to go speak with a therapist. I sincerely worry about many of them, since much of what they say and write reminds me of someone who's suicidal.

But my hope is that anyone that reads this will take a moment and look back on their lives not as a constant downward slide of mistakes and depravity, but instead as a tapestry of learning and experience. Sure, we all fail, we all stumble here and there, and we all wish we had said or done something nicer. But then again, we also succeed, we all achieve here and there, and we all feel good when we help another person in need. All of these experiences - including those that give us pride and those that make us feel terrible - are what make us who we are.

So the person you see in the mirror is not one or the other - that person is both the achiever and the failure. Focusing on your mistakes over your successes doesn't make you a better person, it just makes you vulnerable to someone who's ready to sell you a cure for something you never even had in the first place.