The Ultimate Facebook User’s Guide

It’s 2013, and I guess everyone on Earth is on Facebook now–maybe not everyone but a lot of people for sure. I first joined Facebook in 2008 as a way to snoop on my kids. That didn’t last long as I became intrigued, then fascinated and then addicted to its wonders.

In 2008, most people were playing games on Facebook.  Mafia Wars dominated as your FB friends asked you to join their “mafia.” I never did. That gave way to Farmville, and Facebookers became virtual Oliver Wendall Douglases. They needed help building fences and barns and rounding up animals. It was like everyone was Amish after they logged on. Then came Words With Friends, CityVille, Poker and many more games. Now, there is a Farmville 2. We’ve come full circle.

A lot of people who know me well are surprised that I like Facebook. I’m not the most social person. In fact, I’m an intensely private person. Why do I like FB? First, I’ve caught up with dozens of people I would never have heard from again nor made any effort to do so. I know about their families and lives now. Second, I would never have contact with most of these folks otherwise. I don’t do a good job of keeping track of folks. FB fixed that. Third, it helps me to hear opinions of others and the good and bad in other folks’ lives. It’s good to be plugged into to the human race, even if it’s just by a PC or smart phone.  Finally, it’s a way to interact with people without really having to fool with them. Perfect for me.

Even people who aren’t on Facebook know about it. They have co-workers, friends and family on FB. They’ll look at others’ pages and secretly pine to belong. Why don’t they? Usually, these folks are men who have deemed themselves either too busy or cool to be bothered with it. They’ll say things like “I’d never do that. I don’t have the time.” Translation: “I’m more important you are. Blah, blah, blah.” These are the same people who will join LinkedIn and make 2,000 connections, because they think it’s important. Look, I know housewives, doctors, lawyers, teachers, kids, CEOs, factory workers, journalists, accountants and unemployed folks on FB. You ain’t that important. Of course, there are the Luddites of the world for whom the whole thing is overwhelming. These are the folks still trying to figure out if they should get into texting. Don’t let any of these killjoys drag you down. If you want to live in the FB world, join us.

If you’ve never been on FB or if you are but you only log on every few weeks or months, there are some basic rules or guidelines which will help you enjoy the experience.

NO ONE LIKES A CREEPER

Imagine if your next door neighbor rarely left his house and, when he did, he didn’t speak to you. Yet, he would read your mail and stare in your windows. Sometimes, he would just stand in your yard. Even if you thought he was harmless, you’d get tired of this behavior. FB works the same way.

Don’t just go on FB to creep on other people. We’re not a shy lot, but we like some interaction. I’m not saying you have to post something every time you log on, but you can “like” a status or even comment on one sometimes. We won’t think less of you. In fact, we might “like” you right back. Even if we don’t, we’re unlikely to say anything. There is no “dislike” button.  You might even get “poked.”

When you creep, I call it going Rondo:

Creepers are scary.  Don't be scary.

Don’t go all Rondo on your friends.

Naturally, you might wonder: “If I post something, what should it be?”

WHAT SHOULD I SAY?

The good news is that there really are no rules beyond a certain unspoken PG-13 standard. Posters fall into several categories:

The Lamenter: This is a person for whom the world is a difficult and troubled place. He or she is ill, has ill family members, job and money woes and usually doesn’t sleep well. We on FB like these folks. They’re part of our virtual family. Plus, they make us feel a little better about ourselves.  Vent all you want. We won’t judge you and, if we do, we’ll probably do it quietly.

The Prayer Warrior: This person is seeking or sending prayers for many things: the country, sick children, sick adults, the dead, the living and the unborn. He or she will post Bible verses and inspirational quotes from a variety of sources. If you have a problem, these folks will step up.  Most people are like I am–we’ll take prayers where we can get them.  It can’t hurt.

The Politico: This man or woman occupies either the far left or right of the political spectrum. He will post a long string of gifs and memes assailing his political opponents. Some of these will even be factually accurate. Many will be libelous. He also likes to quote people like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Ronald Reagan. Oddly enough, these sources are quoted equally by both sides. You, too, can join in. Now, please understand that none of us change our opinions based on your posts, but we will be entertained, at least to some extent. If we’re not, we can always block you. You’ll never know.

Just like at the Thanksgiving dinner table or your local bar, droning on about politics will eventually offend someone.  The good news about FB is that you can just log off and let other vent at you.

Sports Guy: Based on his posts, he lives for sports, not playing them but watching other people play them. If “his” team wins, he will gloat and insult other teams and their fans, not just the one “his” team beat, either. His very worth as a human being is tied to whether a team of people he doesn’t know beats another team of people he doesn’t know. These victories fill him with joy and make him superior to fans of other teams. He won’t post about anything else. The flip side is that when his team loses, his posts become disturbing and deranged. He is a lesser person, and he knows it.

The Worker: This guy uses FB to promote his job, whatever it might be. He’s usually selling something. That’s cool. I might want to buy whatever it is he sells someday. I’d rather buy from a virtual friend than a total stranger.

Music Man: This guys rarely posts, and it’s almost always music videos. Why? I don’t know. I’ll check one out every now and then. It’s harmless.

Animal Farmers: These are folks who like animals. Well, maybe they love animals. Almost all their posts are about animals. There is an endless supply of comical photos of dogs and cats on the Internet. All of them have been posted on FB. If, like me, you don’t find animals particularly entertaining, you can scroll through these posts. Besides, if you don’t love animals these folks probably aren’t targeting you anyway.

Crusaders: These folks are against bad stuff. Oddly, the bad stuff they are against is the kind of stuff everyone is against. They want you to “like” their posts if you’re against such things as child abuse, cancer, child pornography, violence against women and animal abuse. These are good things to be against. Post all you want about them but don’t expect any spirited debates.

Family Affair: These folks post only about their families, usually their kids. Their kids are uniformly wonderful and blessings from God. We all like to hear about kids, so join in. One word of advice–don’t get too real. If your kid caught the basement on fire with his meth lab or got stabbed by a hooker, you probably should keep that to yourself, unless you need prayers.

They also will ask you to “like” or “share” posts that say things like:

If your mother is a saint, your best friend and greatest person who ever lived, share this status.

They never post things like this:

If your mother was a crack whore who brought home a new “daddy” every week and burned down your trailer while smoking, share this status.

So, if, as is the case with too many folks, your parents or siblings were or are vile monsters, you probably shouldn’t post anything about them.

Tin Foil Hatters: They like to post links to various conspiracies, usually involving President Obama. Such things as implanted computer chips, Kenyan birth certificates and Muslim wedding bands are frequent topics. They never check Snopes.com, and if you tell them to do so, they’ll tell you that George Soros owns Snopes. You, then, will become part of the conspiracy. Try to not to become one of these folks. Then again, if you’re so inclined, the fact that I suggest you not do so will only strengthen your resolve to do so. The good news is that FB gives you a platform. If you carry on like that at work, you’ll probably have to see a doctor.   On FB, we just scroll by you like people on the street probably do.

These folks also tend to think Facebook is evil. It’s sharing your profile and personal information and photos. It’s signing you up in Al-Qaeda. It’s garnishing your wages. They never explain why they want to be on Facebook, but they love to warn you about it.

Suckers: Facebook is a hoaxer’s playground. Folks on FB will believe anything. Follow the same rules you follow in real life. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. For example, Bill Gates, despite his vast fortune and philanthropy, is NOT giving away $5000 if you share a picture of him, even this one:

bill-gates-5000-hoax

Also, no one won the PowerBall and wants to give you a million or even a thousand bucks. No beautiful women want to be your FB friends.  If it doesn’t happen in real life, it won’t on FB, either.

Newsies:  These posters assume that none of us watch or read any news, so they post links to news stories.  Some are also Politicos, and their posts only reflect their personal views.  Just like with music videos, it’s all pretty benign.  Who knows? We might even learn something from you.

Posting Tourette’s: This is me–a person who just posts various and sundry things that pop into his head. We can’t control it.  It just happens.  It’s almost like we’ve allowed FB to replace actually thought. Think it–post it is our mantra. We’ll post anything–family photos, videos, gifs, memes, jokes, rants, links. We’ll tell you about last night’s dream, our meals, illnesses and travel plans. We’ll complain about work and our families. We’ll brag and moan about things. In short, we combine all the best and worst of the other posters into one, manic posting monster. We post so often that if you were to read all our posts in sequence you’d be privy to the inner workings of our minds. We’ll wear you out on any given day, but we tend to be entertaining–or annoying. But, we’re never boring.

WHAT SHOULDN’T I SAY?

Facebook is a free speech zone, but all freedoms carry with them responsibilities. There are, of course, things you shouldn’t do:

Keep it clean: This should go without saying, but keep it clean, folks. Foul language, nudity (especially your own) and links to pornography are all beyond the pale. Hey, I’ve got no problem with any of that, but there are plenty of Internet forums out there for that stuff. At least that’s what I’ve heard.

Good taste: I am vehemently against child abuse. Honestly, I don’t anyone who isn’t. But, on the off-chance that you have FB friends who need persuading, photos of beat up or dead children won’t help. And they gross out the rest of us. Same goes for dogs that have been abused and killed. We know that’s bad.

It’s Not All About Politics: If you’re a Politico, that’s fine, but remember: Not everything is about politics. Don’t screw up someone’s post by trying to twist into a political statement. Example:

Post: We just had a great dinner-Steak on the grill, green beans, mashed potatoes and homemade yeast rolls! Thanks to my beautiful wife!

Politico’s Comment: Be thankful that Michelle Obummer isn’t your wife! She’d have you eating sprouts!

The Politico has now invited others of his or her ilk to make similar comments and hijack your wall. Bad form.

No Jesus Jukes: The Prayer Warriors will do the same thing with the infamous “Jesus Juke.” It goes like this:

Post: We had a great time at the game! 23,000 people rocked the place!

Comment: I wonder how many people would show up if Jesus was there and no game.

Your well-meaning friend has just brought you down and made you feel evil for enjoying the game. Don’t do that.

SPELING

You may be like me and be a spellcheck illiterate. Years of word processing have eroded my spelling skills. I am far-removed from the brash young lad who finished second in the Loyall Junior High Spelling Bee in 1976. Facebook won’t help you.

Its and it’s have different meanings. Same with there, they’re and their. To, two and too are not the same. Facebook won’t help with these issues. You have to step up and take responsibility.

THE UNFRIENDLY

There may be occasions when you must unfriend someone or, God forbid, you are unfriended. It’s happened to me. Yes, me. A girl I dated in college unfriended me. I think it’s because it took just a few months for her to remember that she hated me.

Unfriending is a drastic step. It is the Internet equivalent of a slap in the face. You aren’t even worthy of being a pretend friend. Think about that. In real life, of course, we unfriend people all the time. We just quit talking to them. If it required some affirmative act, we’d be less likely to do it.

Now, Facebook won’t tell you that you’ve been unfriended. You have to be paranoid enough to notice. Let’s just say that some of us notice these things. And we don’t like it.

EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY

Post a few pictures of yourself. Maybe we haven’t seen you in years. We’re curious. “But,” you say, “I’m not a handsome person. It shames me.” Relax, my ghoulish friend. Most of us are quite unattractive, especially those of us with a few years on us. We’ve gone bald (mostly men), gained weight, grayed, sagged and generally decayed. It’s okay.

I’m a good example. I was never what you’d call a handsome man. Now, my hair is gray and I have numerous wrinkles. Yet, I’ll post many photos of myself. Why? Well, for one thing, I’m a narcissist. Two, I’m not bald. See? You look better than someone–hopefully.

Perhaps you’ve improved with age, which happens. If so, by all means, post photos. Of course, if you really have improved, I don’t have to tell you to post photos.

One thing to watch is posting pictures of other people. They might not like it. For instance, I posted this photo of my wife:

catwoman

This made her angry because–she claimed–the lighting made her look pale. I should have cleared this with her first.

Please feel free to post as many photos of your kids and grand kids as you wish. God knows I do. They’re yours, and you should be proud of them. Even if they’re as homely as sin, we’ll still “like” them. Same goes for your pets. I have two rabbits and don’t hesitate to post about them, even though they are boring, do-nothing pets.  Yet, people always “like” them.  Go figure.

CONCLUSION

Come join us!  If you’re already on board, get in the deep end of the pool!  Join for real, too. Do not share your Facebook page with your spouse.  This will only show that you have trust issues, and we want to trust you.

It’s out there waiting for you, and there’s no time like the present.  In fact, I’m linking this post to Facebook as soon as it’s published.

You can even send me a friend request, and I’ll probably accept it.  I’m waiting.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

Papal Bull: A Modest Proposal

Pope Benedict XVI recently gave his two weeks’ notice.  He’s resigning.  I didn’t know the Pope could do that, but he can.  After all, he’s the Pope.  His real Pope name is Papa Benedictus Sextus Decimus, which is a bery cool name, indeed–much cooler than his real real name, Joseph Ratzinger.   

Now, there will be a new Pope.  Who will it be?  I know there’s an election and something to do with smoke being released when it’s over.  It’s not like the Dalai Lama where they go find some kid and name him Pope.  It’s also not like royalty–the celibacy thing prevents that from being effective.

My friend, Larry, suggested that I throw my hat in the ring (it’s a regular hat, not a big Pope hat–not yet).  I’m not Catholic which could be problematic.  Larry may or may not be Catholic, but his idea intrigued me.  Having failed in my quest to become football coach at the University of Kentucky, why not shoot for Pope now?

I don’t know what the qualifications are to be Pope.  Catholicism on at least some level may be a prerequisite. Maybe it’s like the U.S. Supreme Court–you don’t have to be a judge or a lawyer, but it helps.  I also don’t know how you get on the ballot.  So, let’s just treat this as my registering to run for office.  So, here we go.

As full disclosure, I’m married and have three children.  I don’t think this disqualifies me.  Some old-time Popes were married and had children before they became Pope, just like me.  My wife would be a fine Popess or Vatican First Lady or whatever.  My kids might be a bit unruly for the Holy See, but–hey–Lucretia Borgia was a murderer and her Dad was the Pope.  Mine aren’t likely to be that bad.

I don’t have time to become Catholic.  I know people who have converted to Catholicism, and it is a long process requiring counseling, classes and study–even prayerful reflection.  It’s harder than becoming a Shriner.  I’m a busy man, and I simply don’t have time for that.  This will be especially true when I win the election and am burdened with Poping duties.

I also want a really cool Pope name.  There has already been a Pope Hilarius (a funny, funny guy, by the way).  Of course, they was Pope Simplicius (also known as The Dim Wit Pope); and Pope Hyginus, the cleanest Pope. Linus, Liberius, Sixtus, Boniface, Innocent, Urban, Felix (huh?), Stephen, Julius, Eugene, Nicholas, Leo, Pius and many other Pope names are available.  There has never been a Pope Todd or Kevin or Earl.  My name is John, possibly the most popular Pope name, but I don’t want all those Roman numerals after my name.  I’m the Pope, not the Super Bowl.  Besides, there have been so many Pope Johns, that they’ve lost track of them.  I don’t want my number all messed up.  Plus, there’s already a Papa John.  I don’t want folks calling the Vatican wanting pizza. If elected, I’ll hold a contest via Twitter and Facebook.  NAME THE NEW POPE!  My personal choice is Sexius Beastus Superius, but I’ll let the people decide.

I’ll rock the Pope Holy garments.  I know the Pope wears an alb, because I have two friends who are Catholic deacons, and they wear albs.  My alb will be more like a bathrobe but encrusted with jewels.  Think Ric Flair but with overtly religious overtones.  I’m not wild about the dress the Pope wears or the red shoes, but I can take those on rare, formal occasions.

riclfair

Nature Boy Ric Flair modeling one of my choices for Popely garb

I will tone down the hat.  Okay, I’m sure the hat has a holy significance, just like the staff or cane he carries.  But, I’m a baseball cap kind of guy.  The hounds-tooth hat, fedora, bowler or derby don’t look right on me.  The Pope Hat would be particular difficult for me.  I also favor wife beater t-shirts and sweat pants.  I’m sure those can be modified to a more dignified look for the papacy.

pope

My Pope Hat

I want the Pope car, the famed Popemobile.  I know that the Vatican doesn’t like it being called that, but I love it. I’ll have a fleet of Popemobiles, Popecycles, Popeboats, Popecoptors, Poperockets, Pope Jet Packs and Pope Hovercrafts.  You’ll know me when I show up–in style.

I’ll have a steep learning curve what with my almost total ignorance of Catholicism.  I assume that the Vatican–like any government–has a staff of long-time civil servants who can show me the ropes.  How hard could it be, really?  Get me an alb and a sensible hat, and I can fake my way through it until I get the hang of it.

Once elected, I will embark on the most ambitious Popely agenda ever.  Among my many reforms will be the following:

  • No more Latin.  We’re going all English all the time.  I’m almost certain that God speaks English.  Why shouldn’t we?
  • The vows of poverty and chastity are going to have to go, at least for the Pope.  As the first Protestant Pope (as far as I know), I can’t be expected to get bogged down in all that minutia.  That’s for Catholics.
  • We’re going to simplify all the kneeling and chanting.  As a non-Catholic, I’ve found myself baffled to the point of delirium attending Catholic church services of any sort.  Kneel, say something, repeat this or that, etc.  It’s exhausting.  We’ll install light-up signs like in TV studios that will tell everyone what to do and when to do it. Problem solved.
  • There’ll be no more indulgences.  You step out of line, and that’s it.  I’m not running a loose ship.
  • I’ll immediately issue a papal bull putting an end to this University of Notre Dame nonsense.  One of my first acts will be to read off a list of all the Catholic universities in the United States and show their overall sub-par performance in athletics.  If that doesn’t work, I will simply display a huge photo of Digger Phelps with the caption:  IF GOD FAVORS YOUR SCHOOL, EXPLAIN THIS!
  • I will officially declare that any comical photos of empty dresses, chairs, etc., describing Manti Te’o’s girlfriend to be mortal sins.  It was funny at first, but it’s grown tiresome.
  • Wilt Chamberlain’s former home in Bel Air will become “Vatican West,” because…well…it’s cool and so was Wilt.  It will also be known as the Wilt House.
wilthouse

Vatican West

  • I’ll re-institute the Crusades.  At first, we’ll start small, terrorizing the Italian countryside.  If that goes well, we’ll branch out.  Perhaps we can go somewhere like New Guinea and give everyone a deadly strain of the flu.

You’re probably wondering why I want to be Pope.  First, have you seen where the Pope lives?

vatican

The Pope’s turf. Not too shabby.

Next, the Pope is just generally well thought of by folks.  Okay, there was that one nut job who shot John Paul II, but think about this:  He was shot 5 or 6 times and lived!  Even Stallone couldn’t do that.  There’s something to this Pope thing.

I also like the idea of papal infallibility.  That would be a big confidence-booster for me.

According to some really sketchy research I’ve done, the official title is cool:  Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.  (Okay, the “Primate” thing isn’t so cool, but I guess it’s accurate.  As far as I know, all the Popes have been primates).

Finally, it would have to boost my standing with God.  Now, the Pope isn’t a god, like the Dalai Lama or the last Emperor of China or Emperor Hirohito of Japan, but he’s pretty important.  Given my many past transgressions, that has to help.  It certainly can’t hurt.

Will I be a good Pope?  It’s doubtful.  But, I certainly won’t be the worst Pope ever.  Come on, there have been so many Popes, at least one or two had to be terrible.  Surely, there was a Franklin Pierce or Andrew Johnson among them.  Now that I know I can resign, that takes some of the pressure away.  Worst case scenario, I’ll be the Richard Nixon of Pontiffs.

If I can’t be Pope, I can be Antipope.  There hasn’t been an Antipope in at least a few hundred years.  As Antipope, I could claim to be Pope but not really be.  I can even appoint Cardinals who will be called Quasi-Cardinals and Cardinal-Nephews or Quasi-Cardinal Nephews.  I have cousins who might like that.

Oh, there will be some rough days ahead for the Church.  I might cause a schism, maybe several.  My tendency to addresses my audience as “You miserable bastards” will take some getting used to.  But, I’ll do the best I know how, which is probably what every Pope does anyway.  Remember:  “No Pope, no hope.”  I’ll be better than nothing.  Or not.  At least I’ll make the next Pope look good.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

Cheerleader God

raylewis

Ray Lewis shows God His Lombardi Trophy

I’m a big sports fan. Huge, actually. I’ve ruined substantial chunks of my life grieving over sporting events in which I had no stake other than as a fan. None of the players or coaches knew me nor did they care one way or the other about how their pitiable performances affected me. Nevertheless, though, I grieved.

You know who else is a big sports fan? God. That’s right. Capital “G” God. The Big Guy. The Alpha and Omega. The Big I AM. How do I know that about the unknowable? Athletes have told me. Repeatedly.

Ray Lewis says so. God glorified him (or vice versa–sometimes it’s hard to follow Ray) with a Super Bowl win. After the Ravens’ win, Ray said “It’s simple: When God is for you, who can be against you?” That is pretty simple. God is all-powerful, all-knowing and omnipotent. If He’s for you, who CAN be against you? Well, a lot of people, really. The other team, for instance. Their fans. Maybe people who just generally hate your team or you personally. Atheists, too.

Ray’s simple observation begs many questions, of course:

  • Was God against Colin Kaepernick?
  • Was God for John, but not Jim, Harbaugh? If so, why?
  • What did God think of Beyonce?
  • How about the guy in the suit that John Harbaugh screamed at? What sin did he commit?
  • What was God’s deal with the Harbaugh parents? For or against?
  • Why didn’t God see that holding call on Crabtree? Or did He see it but smite the officials with blindness, because he was for Ray?
  • Is possible that God was on the side of Michael Oher, the guy from the movie The Blind Side, and Ray just benefited from it?
  • Why did God turn out the lights in the second half?
  • What kind of God would allow Destiny’s Child to reunite?

If it were just Ray, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. Other athletes are just as bad–or maybe it’s good. Boxers praise God–right after they beat the holy crap out of someone. “Thank you, God, for giving me the strength to inflict permanent brain damage on this other child of yours.” Basketball players do it. Baseball players. Everyone who wins has God on his or her side. Some invoke Jesus, which is really the same thing except with a decidedly Christian take.

That’s right. God picks sides. He’s picked the World Series, Super Bowls, NCAA Championships, fights–you name it. There isn’t enough hard drive in the Cloud to list all the athletes that have credited God for their wins. God plays favorites. No doubt. God is definitely a Calvinist when it comes to sports.

The uncomfortable flip side of this is that God clearly dislikes certain teams and athletes, too, not to mention their fans (like me). This is rarely acknowledged, with one notable exception. Former University of Kentucky football player Stevie Johnson is now a star wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills. A couple of years ago, he dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass. Just dropped it. Stevie saw the hand of God in it.

twitter

Stevie Johnson’s ill-tempered tweet reflected a lot of fans’ thoughts.

Predictably, Stevie took a lot of heat for this. But, if you are a sports fan, haven’t you at least thought this before? Sure you have. Of course, I remember Stevie catching a touchdown pass to beat the University of Louisville. An act of God, for sure.

I’ll confess that I’ve prayed to God about sports. “Oh, mighty God, PLEASE let this free throw drop!!!” Of course, this type of prayer is fruitless, but I’ve done it. My life as a sports fan has proven and disproven the existence of God many times:

  • Jim O’Brien hits a last-minute field goal. Colts beat the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. No God.
  • Roger Staubach hits Drew Pearson with the original “Hail Mary” pass in the 1975 NFC Playoffs. God lives!
  • UCLA beats Kentucky for the 1975 NCAA Basketball Championship. No God.
  • Six months later, the Reds rally from 3 down to win the 7th game of the World Series. Big God!
  • Jackie Smith drops a touchdown pass against the Steelers. Cowboys lose the Super Bowl. No God.
  • Kentucky wins the 1978, 1996, 1998 and 2012 NCAA basketball championships. Big, big, big, big GOD!!
  • Christian Laettner hits a three to beat Kentucky at the buzzer in the 1992 NCAA Regional Finals. There is a God, and He hates me.
  • Billy Gillispie is hired as Kentucky’s basketball coach. God hates Kentucky.
  • John Calipari is hired as Kentucky’s basketball coach. God actually loves Kentucky but has a twisted sense humor (see Gillispie, Billy).
  • University of Kentucky Football: No God or at least not one that will let us be great at two sports.
Christian_laettner_1992

I, for one, refuse to blame God for this.

For brevity’s sake, I won’t list the other 200-300 examples. One can readily see that I have struggled to see God’s handiwork in my life as a fan. For others, look no further than this year’s NCAA Football Championship. Notre Dame has Touchdown Jesus, but Alabama whipped them like Samson breaking bad on a bunch of Philistines.

The problem is that for each instance in which I have been crushed by a sporting event, others have felt an equal and opposite reaction. Call it Newton’s Law of God In Sports. He loves one team and hates the other. Okay, maybe He doesn’t hate them. Only if you’re a member of the Westboro Baptist Church do you embrace the hating God. But, at the very least, He’s cruelly indifferent to the other team and its fans.

How does this happen? Do the other fans pray better? Are the players better people? If so, what can I do to help my team? If more of our fans pray will that tip the scales? Or is the quality of the prayers, rather than the quantity, that matters most? It’s hard to say, really.

What about Tim Tebow? By all accounts, he’s a fine young man, sincere in his faith and an all around good guy. He played quarterback for the Denver Broncos in 2011 and won a bunch of games. Now, truth be told, he didn’t play particularly well, completing less than 50% of his passes. Yet, he won or, more accurately, his team won. Many folks attributed this to God. Tebow is a Christian, and God wins games for him. Many of my devoutly Christian friends manically cheered for him, as though he was the first Christian to ever play in the NFL (I don’t think he is, by the way). Then Tebow got traded to the Jets, because the Broncos preferred Peyton Manning at quarterback. Tebow barely played for the Jets and did nothing to help them win–to the extent the Jets did win. Did God turn his back on Tebow? Doubtful. Tebow just ended up on a team that didn’t want to play him. Like Tebow, Danny Wuerffel was also a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from the University of Florida and a devout Christian. He had no success in the NFL. Why? Because that’s sports, not God.

Now, you’re thinking: “What’s your point?” Here it is: God isn’t picking games. If he did, the parochial schools would never lose, and Bob Knight would have never won a game. God is God, which is a good thing, but one can only hope that He is occupied with more important things than Ray Lewis’s retirement and my desire to see a teenaged college student make a free throw.

I won’t even belabor the obvious such as the horrific injuries–and even death–suffered by athletes. If you’re a sports fan, you can think of an almost endless list of vile humans who have excelled in sports. What about cities like Chicago and Cleveland? What are they–the Sodom and Gomorrah of sports? If God is picking sides, surely he could cut them a break.

So, the next time you think God has picked your team or favorite player, remember that just means He’s back handing someone else. Eventually, He’ll show you the hands, too. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with praising God. Some believe that He demands it. It’s just that suggesting He won a game makes as much sense as crediting the military for it. After all, we should be thankful for our soldiers, too, but let’s be reasonable.

Okay, now God, UCLA has 11 NCAA basketball titles, and Kentucky has 8. Do you think you could see your way clear to…..never mind.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

Five Issues I Don’t Care About (Maybe)

We’re less than two weeks from the Presidential Election. Regardless of the outcome, it’s the end of the Republic. At least that’s the consensus on social media. That’s unfortunate.

People on social media have many, many important things to say about the upcoming election.  Some folks post dozens of times a day about it.  I don’t mind. Just because I don’t do something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.  I’ve watched every episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  Last night, I watched a full hour of Call of the Wildman.  I’m sure you wouldn’t do that, but it’s okay for me.

 I can read those political posts or ignore them, just like I do posts about kids or dogs or people with awful diseases.  Social media is the ultimate free speech zone.  The best thing about all of it is that it makes me think about the issues that matter most–or least–to me.

I live in Kentucky, where we have no say in the Presidential election.  By the time we have our primaries, both major parties have chosen their nominees.  In the general election, no one seems to care about our paltry eight (or whatever pitiful number it is) electoral votes.  I don’t think President Obama could find Kentucky on a map.  Mitt Romney has been here, but that was only to raise money.  So, my vote may not count, but I don’t really care.

I’m not a political animal, but I do vote. I’m fairly well-informed on the issues that matter to me. Those, of course, are the important issues of the day.

I’m concerned about the nation’s debt. Personally, I’ve never had debt problems. I live within my means and don’t borrow money. I would be a poor legislator.

I don’t like our country becoming a territory of the Chinese government. We owe them money, and they make all our stuff. Okay, not all of it, but a hell of a lot. They also control the minerals we need to make things like computers. Seems like a bad deal.

I don’t like our dependence on the Middle East for oil. Until we started sucking at their collective petrol teat, these countries were irrelevant. They’ve had us by the short hairs now for 40 years.

I’m also an unabashed supporter of the U.S. coal industry. The hate of coal is so virulent that we even have people who protest the exporting of coal. If you’re anti-coal, you don’t get my vote. Pretty simple.

There are also many, many issues which don’t move the needle for me. Now, understand that doesn’t mean they aren’t important nor does it mean that they shouldn’t be important to YOU. But this post is about ME. If that bothers you, try not to be so self-centered.

So, what DOESN’T matter to me? The list is almost endless. For brevity’s sake, I’ve distilled the list to the five issues which matter the least:

RELIGION:  Specifically, anyone else’s religion.  Mitt Romney is a Mormon.  Some people say the LDS church is a cult, although Billy Graham doesn’t list it as one anymore.  I suppose that’s progress.  My grandparents were Mormons.  So are a lot of my relatives.  I like Mormons.  That said, I’m not a Mormon, and I don’t really care if Romney is one. One caveat to this is if you don’t like him because he’s a Mormon.  Then, it matters but only in a contrarian kind of way.

So, I don’t care about a politician’s religion.  Okay, if someone were an avowed Satanist, I might care about that.  Obama is a Christian.  Good for him.  I don’t care.  Some people say he’s a Muslim.  If he were, it wouldn’t mean anything to me, either.

Now, if you insist that I believe your religion, I probably will care about that.  I wouldn’t vote for anyone who demanded that I believe as he or she does.  As Thomas Jefferson noted, whatever you believe won’t break my leg or pick my pocket.  I would note, however, that you might use it as an excuse to do both.

Now that I think about it, maybe religion does matter, at least to the extent that you try to shove it down my throat. Or break my leg. Hmmm.

PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST:  Here are some sample headlines I intend to trademark:

  • MARKETPLACE BOMB KILLS [fill in number]
  • SUICIDE BOMBER KILLS [fill in number]
  • UNREST REPORTED IN [fill in name of Middle Eastern country]
  • [fill in name of Middle Eastern country] THREATENS ISRAEL
  • ISRAEL VOWS RETALIATION AGAINST [fill in name of Middle Eastern country]
  • FERRY SINKS, KILLING [fill in number]

If I got a nickel every time a variation of these is printed, I’d retire in six months.  Any of these could have been a headline any day in the last 40 years.  Okay, maybe not the ferry thing, but have you ever noticed how many ferries sink in other countries?  I don’t know if it happens in the Middle East, but it seems like it would.

Here’s a pointer for anyone running for office:  THESE PEOPLE DON’T GET ALONG WELL!  They don’t geehaw, as some say.  They aren’t ever going to get along.  Ever.  Anwar Sadat tried to make them get along better.  What did he get?  The Nobel Peace Prize and shot to death.  There’s a lesson in that.

Here is what I want to hear a future president say:

Today, I’m pleased to announce that the U.S. has imported its last barrel of oil.  To our friends in the Middle East, I say, on behalf of all Americans:  You can kiss our red, white and blue ass from now on!

It’s possible that I might care about this if there were a candidate who said that he or she didn’t give a damn about it.  Then, you’d have my attention.  So, I guess I care about it to the extent that I want a candidate who also doesn’t care about it.

IMMIGRATION

Bitching and moaning about immigrants is as American as apple pie.  My German ancestors were despised in Pennsylvania.  The Irish were hated in New York.  Jews were despised for decades.  Italians?  You bet.  Vietnamese?  Bingo. Japanese?  Hell, we put them in concentration camps–and they were U.S. citizens!  We’ve even been prejudiced against Africans, and we FORCED their ancestors to come here.

Now, people piss in their beers about Hispanics.  Quit acting like it’s because of illegal immigration.  Our history shows that we don’t like immigration, period–legal or not.  Hispanic folks have the added disadvantage of looking different.  We don’t like people who don’t look like us, whatever it is “we” think we look like.

We’re all immigrants, except the Indians, who aren’t really Indians at all.  I’ll grant you that our borders shouldn’t be sieves.  That said, I don’t care how many Hispanic or other folks are in our country.  They’re here, and we don’t have any way to deport all the folks here illegally.  Quit pretending like we do.

Wow. I got pretty fired up.  I think I do care about it.  Weird.

JOBS

I need to explain this one.  I do, of course, care about unemployment.  It’s just that no politician can convince me that he or she will create jobs.  How, exactly?  The government has to spend huge amounts of money to actually hire people.  We need to spend less money, not more.

Even the most conservative politicians will call themselves as job creators, usually by pointing to some success in the business world.  What exactly are you planning to do–hire all the unemployed people?

Now, if you have a plan to strengthen our private economy, I’m all ears.  I may not be persuaded, but I might at least listen.

Now, that I think about it, I’ve always had a job.  Maybe I’m not the best person to weigh in on this one.  Of course, I’m not concerned about it.  I better reserve judgment.  Depending on the outcome of the election, I guess it could be an issue for me.

TAXES

Okay, I pay a lot of taxes and don’t want to pay more.  I do, however, understand that there could be times when tax increases are needed.  My problem is that my taxes are increased by a government that never decreases its spending.  It’s like loaning money to your drunk brother-in-law who will pay you back when he gets a job.  Of course, he won’t get a job because he’s drunk and keeps spending your money.  As long as he gets your money, why get a job?

I don’t believe any politician who says that he or she will never raise taxes.  Mitt Romney says that he wouldn’t increase taxes even if it resulted in a tenfold benefit to the government.  That’s hard to believe.  In fact, it’s impossible to believe.

I’m also dubious of politicians who increase spending and then make the case for higher taxes (see Obama, Barack).  If you decreased spending and then needed more revenue, maybe I’d be persuaded.  If you spend more, I would expect you to need more cash.  Try spending less and then check back with me.  Have you ever asked your boss for a raise because you owed a bunch of money to people?  Try it.

The fundamental problem is that the subject of taxes is fertile ground for lying.  No one ever won an election on the platform of “Vote for Me.  I’ll Tax The Hell Out of You.”  Whatever you say about it, you might be lying.  If you say you’re going to raise MY taxes, that’s probably not a lie, but–like any right thinking America–I can’t support that radical agenda.

Now, if you’ll cut my taxes, I’m down with that.  Now that I think about it, I’m against raising my taxes and all for lowering my taxes.  I guess I do care about it, at least in a completely self-absorbed sort of way.

So, there they are.  Things don’t matter to me, but maybe do now, upon further reflection.  I hope this is helpful to you when you vote on November 6.  If not, I don’t care.  I think.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

Why So Serious?

I’m a lawyer. I recently tried a case in which my relationship with the judge was, to put it mildly, contentious. During a break in the proceedings, the judge told me not to be “so grim,” because what we were doing was not “that serious.”  Of course, that was wrong. It was certainly serious for my client who was paying me. In the words of attorney Brendan Sullivan during the Iran-Contra hearings, I am not paid to be a “potted plant.”

Why so serious? It’s a serious world, my friends.

I suppose there are degrees of seriousness. If I lost that case, which I did, my family would still love me, the sun would shine and all God’s children would still be happy. Those things–true as they may be–don’t mean that other things mean nothing. When the judge ruled against me, I shook everyone’s hand, thanked the judge and then retired to the stairwell with my client. We both then spewed a long string of unprintable obscenities.

Was it a serious situation?  Yes.  Was it the end of the world?  Of course not.  Seriousness isn’t an all or nothing proposition.  Things can be serious with being dire.  For example, one can be seriously ill without being terminal.  Likewise, if one is rarely ill, any illness may seem serious at the time.  It’s all matter of perspective.

As I get older, my peers have become more serious.  They huff and puff and pontificate about the state of the world.  They criticize young people.  They criticize old people,  They bemoan the decay of society.  In other words, they are adults, and they act like adults.  That’s what adults do, you know.  They peer over their reading glasses with brows knitted and offer their take on everything.  And all it’s all serious.  Make no mistake; there are serious things afoot in this world.

“Politics is not a game. It is an earnest business.” Winston Churchill

These being the High Holy Days of politics with the Presidential election looming, we spew forth about politics like Mount Vesuvius.  On social media, in particular, the opinions are many and varied, but fall into five broad groups:

  • Those on the left who despise everything and everyone on the right.
  • Those on the right who despise everything and everyone on the left.
  • Those who despise everyone. Period.
  • Those who despise all those who post about politics.
  • Those who despise all those who don’t post anything about politics.

Politics is all serious all the time, of course.  I have been told numerous times that this is the most important presidential election in history.  An astute friend of mine suggested that just maybe the 1860 election was more important, given that we actually owned other human beings at the time.  To most of my peers, that minor historical event pales in comparison to whatever is chapping their rumps right now.

The reason for this, of course, is that we’re all alive now and weren’t around in 1860.  Surely, slavery wasn’t as bad as Barack Obama being a Muslim or Mitt Romney a tax cheat or whatever ever other bizarre theory one might embrace.  Even more rational concerns like the economy, national and endless wars have to be worse than anything any other generation has faced.

It’s not all that grim, of course.  I support Mitt Romney, but I’ve heard a lot of funny jokes about him.  It’s okay to laugh.  If he loses, the republic will survive.  It will.  It also won’t mean that I’m a lesser person.  Plus, I live in a state that has almost no influence on the outcome of the election.  Lighten up.  Life remains good.

“That which doesn’t kill you usually succeeds on the second attempt.”  Mr. Crabs, SpongeBob Squarepants

Want to know about a serious time?  World War I.  It wasn’t a popular war.  You could be arrested for publicly criticizing the war effort.  It was The Great War.  The war to end all wars. Right.

It was also during the time of the Spanish Flu Epidemic.  So many people died of the flu that mass graves were dug in some cities to handle the dead–in the United States.  Stories were told of people starting to cough on trolley cars and bleeding out before they got across town.  Read the excellent book The Great Influenza by John Barry.  Serious stuff. They even had a catchy little poem for the Great Flu: There  was a little bug; It’s name was Enza; I opened the window; And influenza. I’m sure that it would be treated seriously if happened today, except we would waste out time trying to figure out which political party was to blame.  Be glad we don’t to deal with that stuff.

6,000,000 dead in 12 weeks. How would you like to wake up to this headline?

While it may be true that the great issues of the day must be sternly addressed, these aren’t the worst of times. Not by a long shot.  Read a history book.  There were a lot of times that really sucked.

“Old men declare war, but it is the youth who must fight and die.”  Herbert Hoover

Our country has been at war for 11 years now.  That’s some serious stuff, for sure.  It’s funny (not ha-ha funny) how people don’t talk much about that, except when someone wants to take credit for something good (which, by the way, rarely happens).  The United States entered World War II in December of 1941 and was done by August of 1945.  Even the Vietnam War didn’t last this long.

I suspect folks my age (50) don’t talk much about it because we don’t have much to say.  We are the No War Generation.  The draft ended before I turned 18.  Even if there were a draft, you could have avoided it if you were clever enough.  Even I had joined the military, the 1980’s was a decade of saber-rattling, not saber-drawing.

As a result, we don’t have a moral high ground from which to demand that young people go die for us.  We didn’t do it, why should they?  Of course, that ground isn’t so “high” for anyone, is it?  Have you ever noticed that folks who suggest that people go get killed rarely are at the same risk?  There’s also the sticky problem that we want them to die for Afghans or Iraqis.  It’s a messy, sad business.  We’d rather not talk about it.  The best can muster is “Support Our Troops” or “Pray for the Military” or other slogans that makes us feel better.

We take our wars seriously.

It’s good that we take great pains not to criticize our soldiers, even if we criticize our politicians. People dying is serious stuff, no matter the reason.  I suppose that some day we won’t kill each other over real estate, but that time isn’t upon us, yet.

“The sports page records people’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.”  Earl Warren

Our sports are serious business, too.  When our teams win, we crow as though we actually played in the game. We are just slightly superior to those who cheer for the losers.  Wait…who am I kidding?  We’re VASTLY superior to those losers! We’ll post scathing insults on social media about opposing teams and their fans.  If our team loses, we’ll even insult our own team. Their losing has diminished our lives.  We are lesser human beings as a result.  I am as guilty as anyone with this.  I will be crestfallen because a bunch of men (or children) I’ve never met lose a game to a bunch of other strangers.  They’ve let me down, even though they don’t know I exist.  It all makes perfect sense to me.

Of course, there is the flip side of the sports fan coin is the sports-hater.  This person is the one who bemoans how seriously we fans take it.  Ironically, these folks take it just as seriously, but their seriousness is their hate of sports.  Usually, they are pseudo-intellectuals who are “above it all” and unable to understand knuckle-dragging sports nuts.  Here in Kentucky, they denigrate our state university for emphasizing sports, primarily basketball.  In their world, Kentucky–an impoverished state–would be an academic titan if only it would play intramural basketball.  I’ve never understood that argument and don’t care to.

My teams win and lose.  They aren’t my teams, of course.  It just seems that way.  When I feel the veins in my neck throbbing, I take a deep breath and say to myself:  “I have no influence over this.  Relax.”  Someday, that might just work.

“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.
It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”  Thomas Jefferson

I think we can all agree that this Jefferson was some kind of nut.  Nothing is more serious than religion.  We’ve turned much of the world into a graveyard fighting over it.  We will revise history to make religion more important than it ever was.  I know people who will sternly lecture others that our country was founded by a group of Christians, based on Christianity and that the U.S. is a Christian nation.  No amount of historical fact will change that view.

Consider the following:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries

What is your reaction to that?  Who said such craziness?  The Congress of the United States. In a treaty with Tripoli adopted without debate.  In 1799.  Just reading that language will make some people go nuts.  Can you imagine Romney or Obama starting a speech with  “The United States is not–in any sense–founded on the Christian religion….”  Goodbye White House.  Hello, Kevlar jumpsuit.

People believe what they believe.  So do I.  If you’re a missionary, go ahead work on changing minds.  Otherwise, chill.  Life goes on.

My point, if I have one, is that religion is serious business.  Our own nation has been attacked by religious fanatics.  History has had crusades, ethnic cleansing and genocide all in the name of religion.  It’s serious stuff.  Don’t joke about it–unless you have a sense of humor.  Look at around at His creation. God has a sense of humor, too.

“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”
Bertrand Russell
As lawyer, I belong to serious crowd. In fact, there may be no group which takes itself more seriously. Why? Lawyers aren’t the coolest crowd in town. Many–most?–of us reached a level of newfound coolness when we became lawyers. No more having your lunch money stolen or being stuffed in lockers.  It’s Revenge of the Nerds, devoid of all humor.

Typical future lawyers enjoying their undergraduate days.

This isn’t to say that our jobs aren’t important.  Our clients face jail, monetary loss (or gain) and other issues which are of great importance to them.  For those of us who are litigators, any case we have might be the most important legal problem our client will ever have.

Even though the issues we handle are important, we too often translate that to mean that we are important.  Each case is referendum on our skills and worth as humans.  Lawyers also pride themselves on working long, thankless hours.  Ask a lawyer if he or she is busy, and you’ll get a diatribe about it–whether it’s true or not.  It is little wonder that lawyers have high suicide rates.

Sometimes, I want to do this in court. I usually don’t do it. Usually.

We’re not all that important, of course.  If I quit my job today, someone else will represent my clients.  Life will go on.  The same is true of all jobs.  So, lighten up.

I conclude this, as is my wont, without making any particular point.  Life is not, as folks my age would have you believe, a grim trudge to the grave.  Life is good, as they say.  They know more than I do.  The only thing that really matters is what’s going on at the moment.  The rest of it either already happened or may not happen at all.

So, take it easy.  Seriously.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

Losing My Religion–Sort Of

Your author during a fleeting phase of religious fervor.

“That’s me in the corner.  That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion.”                                                      

Losing My Religion, REM

I always liked that song, mainly because of its odd lyrics.  Plus, you can make up almost anything to go with it.  That’s me in the kitchen… That’s me in the bathtub… Anyway, I like it, but it has nothing to do with this post.

My seminal blog post on Radio Preachers, plus several recent events, got me thinking about my religion or-more accurately-lack thereof.  What I call religion is the basis of one’s particular faith:  Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, etc.  Each of these has its own subsets.  Christianity alone gives us Catholicism, Episcopalians, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Mormons, Pentecostals, and many, many others.  There are Calvinists and Arminians. Snake-handlers and faith-healers.  Evangelicals.  The Dutch Calvinists actually reformed their church, although I’m not sure what was wrong with it to start with.  Islam and Judaism, too, give us many different versions.  As with politics, I am sometimes asked:  “What are you?”  Hmmm.

I consider myself Christian.  Pretty weak response, huh?  What if someone asks me if I’m married, and I respond:  “I consider myself married.”  The listener will think:  “Is he married?”  “Is he gay?”  “Is he widowed?”  “Why does he just ‘consider’ himself married?”  It doesn’t sound like I’m very committed, does it?  I’m not, and that’s the problem, if there is one.  Of course, I’m talking about the religion thing, not marriage.  I AM married.  Let’s make that clear.

The 20th Century was the Golden Era of Christian Apologists.  Now, don’t get your back up.  No one was apologizing for being a Christian.  Rather, there was a great deal of writing in defense of Christianity.  C.S. Lewis, known to many for The Chronicles of Narnia, was the heavy hitter of the apologists.  His book Mere Christianity is the best book I’ve ever read on religion and Christianity, in particular.  It’s better than the Bible as far as explaining it.  Okay, all my devoutly Christian friends, I’m sure that raised your hackles.  If you don’t know what hackles are, trust me–yours are raised.  Settle down.  Lewis wrote of the Christian Trilemma, which was a kind of framework which apologists used for a lot of their writing.  It goes like this:

The two other Abrahamic religions, Islam (Lewis called it “Mohammedism”) and Judaism, recognize Jesus only as teacher, all round good guy and prophet.  This can’t be, and here’s why:

  1. If he is what he says he is, he’s the son of the living God and the Messiah. Strong stuff.
  2. If he isn’t what he says he is–but thinks he is–he’s insane.  Thus, all his teachings and prophecy are questionable, at best.
  3. If he isn’t what he says he is–and knows he isn’t–he’s a liar and con man. Why believe anything he says?

I never could buy into options 2 and 3.  So, I stuck with No. 1.  Not very inspiring, huh?  I’ll be the first to admit that I over-think these things.  Thinking too much is the mortal enemy of faith.

This post is only about Christianity, because that’s the only religion I’ve ever had the least bit of interest in.  I tried my hand at church.  Really, I did.  I wasn’t “raised” in church, as some like to say.  We went to Sunday School periodically.  That’s about it.  As an adult, I gave it good shot and attended church fairly regularly for a while.  I even got baptized.  Then, just about at the point of really getting into it, I lost interest.  Strange?  You bet.  Nevertheless, I’ve held on to some of it and discarded the rest.

I don’t know why I’m writing this post.  Maybe to get it off my chest.  Many are likely to be offended, but that doesn’t bother me.  It would, however, be a mistake to believe that I want you to believe my view of things.  I don’t.  If I’m the only one, that’s cool.  Wouldn’t be the only time I was right and the rest of you were wrong.

I learned to read some. I read the Bible quite a bit. I can’t understand all of it, but I reckon I understand a good deal of it.                                                                                                                                                                       

–Karl Childers, Sling Blade

I’ve drawn a lot of wisdom from Karl.  Plus, he’s fun to imitate.  His view of the Bible sums up my take on it.  Surprisingly, I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.  I’ve studied it.  I’ve read books about it. I understand a lot of it, but it still puzzles me.  The Old Testament God was a vengeful force.  He didn’t hesitate to engage in smiting and punishment.  The Old Testament itself is a violent, sexually-charged series of books which touch on almost every vile subject imaginable.  Genocide, slavery, child abuse, rape and murder are all frequent topics.  Bad stuff.

Marcion of Sinope was a bishop of the early Christian Church.  So horrified was he by the Old Testament that he repudiated that God as being anti-Christian.  For this, he was excommunicated.  Oh well.

I identify with Marcion.  He lived in the 1st Century.  There were probably people who knew a lot of about Jesus the man still around.  I also can’t reconcile the New Testament God with the vengeful, smiting God of the Old Testament.  Old Testament God raged until he went silent and left the raging to his prophets.

The Old Testament urges us to kill our children if they are disrespectful, yet it is surprisingly tolerant of slavery.  Killings, beatings and all manner of debauchery were the order of the day.  No one wonder God goes silent toward the end of the Old Testament.  He’s worn out.

We want to believe in the vengeful God when we want vengeance, the kind God when we want forgiveness.  No one wants to do all the burnt offering stuff in the Old Testament, but a lot of folks like the eye-for-an-eye.  Me?  I read the Old Testament for the entertainment value and the New Testament for the Christianity.

Pray to God, but row away from the rocks. 

–Hunter Thompson

That pretty much sums up my prayer life.  Of course, since Hunter Thompson shot himself, maybe I should find a more centered theologian.  Prayer is the one topic where I have heard the most divergent views, even from those I consider devoutly Christian.

I pray.  I do.  Sometimes I’m not sure why or what I’m praying to, but I do it anyway.  I’m not supposed to say that, of course, but it’s the truth.  Why do I do it?  Because, for me, it works.  Now, I’ll admit that I don’t have the ability to call down God to take care of all my woes.  For example, if I’m really behind at work, I can’t ball up in the floor and have God show up and take care of everything.  I have to row away from the rocks.  I also can’t call in God to heal all my relatives and keep them alive forever.  Wish I could.

People tell me that you can pray for money and get it.  You can pray to be healed from otherwise incurable diseases and be cured.  You can pray to protect people, and they’ll be protected.  You can pray to elect someone to political office, and they’ll be elected.  The list is endless.  You can pray these things for yourself or others.  Check out Facebook, there are calls for prayer all the time.  If you’ve had these experiences, I’m happy for you. I won’t argue with you about it.

I’ve made people very angry talking about prayer when I tell them that I  never have change in circumstances.  I can pray until my knees are bloody for God to protect our troops overseas.  Someone of them will die anyway.  Many others will be maimed for life. In the past, I prayed for people’s health and then watched them die.  Well-meaning folks say that it just wasn’t God’s will.  Hard to argue with that.  But, if not God’s will, praying for it to happen won’t do any good, will it? Likewise, if it is God’s will, does he only respond if I ask him or 10 people ask?  That’s all too complicated for me.

What I get is a change in ME.  I come to accept things the way they are and try to do the right thing in all circumstances.  I’ve had folks on the other end of the spectrum tell me that’s just a placebo effect.  Maybe so, but I like it.  In my world (where I alone dwell), being able to call down God to fix all my problems would really make me God.  That would certainly be a dangerous situation for the rest of mankind.

I’ve had many folks bristle at my description of prayer.  They tell me that God healed them and their families.  He saved them from dire circumstances.  That all may be true, but it is not my experience.   Plus, I’m a cynic.  I once saw an interview with Oral Roberts’s brother.  He said something very simple and without any apparent malice toward Oral.  He wondered why, if Oral had the power that he claims, Oral didn’t spend all his days in children’s hospitals.  (Note–please resist the urge to browbeat me over this.  It’s a valid point).  Indeed, why wouldn’t he?

Jesus gave an example of how to pray, the Lord’s Prayer.  It’s pretty simple, basic stuff.  He doesn’t ask for money or health or boundless good luck.  Basically, he says your will be done, give us our basic necessities and forgive us to the extent we forgive others.  The End.

Hey, Mama! Look at me!  I’m on my way to the promised land.  I’m on the highway to Hell…”       

–Highway to Hell, AC/DC

I’m a Hell agnostic.  I just don’t get it.  A loving God sends his son to die for mankind and then tortures a good number of them eternally.  I know, I know.  It’s not God punishing them but Satan.  I get that part.  Still seems pretty harsh.

Jesus didn’t dwell on Hell like a lot of his followers do.  If I had been Him–and I’m not as far you know–I would have added this to the Sermon on the Mount:  “Now, pay attention:  If you don’t follow me and believe in me, you’re going straight to Hell when you die.  Burning, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth–the whole shooting match.  It’s going to be awful.  Trust me on this.  If for no other reason than to avoid this, you should pay close attention to what I said today.  Thanks!”  That would sure have cleared up a bunch of stuff.

Make no mistake about one thing:  When people ask you if you’re “saved” (they ask that a lot in Kentucky, by the way), they mean saved from Hell.  My typical response is “I’m pretty comfortable with my status.”  A piece of advice:   Don’t borrow that.  It never works.  It just leads to more questions and the inescapable conclusion that the yawning mouth of Hell awaits.

Carlton Pearson is an interesting fellow.  He’s a minister, but I guess he calls himself a bishop of something.  He’s a former protegé of Oral Roberts.  He doesn’t believe in Hell.  It’s that simple.  I’m not sure I agree with all he says, of course, since I don’t agree with almost anyone on any subject, but it’s a fascinating ministry.  As you might expect, he’s also considered a heretic in some circles, which likely condemns him to the Hell in which he does not believe.  He operates from a simple premise:  No one really knows what happens when you die.  Wow.  That’s some strong stuff for a preacher to say, but I agree.  I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone else does, either. Now, some folks have great faith in Heaven and the same faith in Hell.  I don’t have faith in Hell.

Here’s where I lose faith in Hell.  I’ve known lots of good, fine people–some in my own family–who either weren’t Christians or were Christians in the loosest sense of the word.  I just don’t see these otherwise fine folks burning for all eternity in misery.  Ghandi?  Hell.  The Dalai Lama?  Hell.  Thomas Jefferson?  Hell.  All the people who never heard of Christianity?  Hell.  Hell’s bells, indeed.  God doesn’t drive that hard a bargain.

Now, there seems to be a consensus (with the likely exception of the Westboro Baptist Church) that small children don’t take the rocket sled to Hell, but I’m not sure why.  Probably because it just wouldn’t be decent.  A Hell crammed full of kids just seems mean.  No kids allowed.

To believe in God is impossible.  To not believe in Him is absurd.

–Voltaire

By now, you’re probably saying:  This guy is some kind of atheist.  Sorry to disappoint, but no, I’m not.  There isn’t “some kind” of atheist.  Atheism is an all or nothing game.  You believe in nothing.  In my youth, I pondered whether I was an atheist at one point, until I realized that atheism requires the utmost, unshakable faith–absolute certitude.  I can never get there.  Christianity–and religion in general–has a lot more wiggle room.  A mustard seed of faith, as Jesus noted, is all one needs.  That won’t cut it with atheism.  You can’t say:  “Hey, I’m willing to believe that there is no God.  Tell me more!” Atheists don’t allow doubt.

I’m told that the Earth was formed like 60 bazillion years ago by a big explosion out of nothingness and that life started and evolved over billions of years.  I can’t really argue with that, because I just don’t know.  I guess I believe that, but it takes a big leap of faith to do so.  For my mind, it’s no easier to believe that than it is to believe in God.

If you ARE an atheist, I don’t care.  It doesn’t offend me, and I’m not going to try to make you believe what I do.  Like Thomas Jefferson said, it doesn’t harm me if you believe in 20 gods or none.  Carry on.
A church is a place in which gentlemen who have never been to heaven brag about it to persons who will never get there

–H.L. Mencken

I’m a back slider, as the Baptists say.  I don’t like going to church.  That’s not a good thing, I don’t suppose.  Just a fact.  I’m not sure why.  I think it’s just boring to me.  Again, I’m not all swelled up with pride over that, either.  I’d like to have the enthusiasm for it that I see in some people.

I don’t care if people at church are hypocrites.  Isn’t the church where they SHOULD be? Seems to me that we should want all the worst sinners to show up every time the doors are open.  It’s probably where I need to be, too.  I’d like to get into it, but it never took. I didn’t lose my religion as much as I just had a tenuous grasp on it.  I’m lucky to have held on to any of it.

Could be that when we die, we meet God.  We might look around and see Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians of all stripes–everyone.  I would say:  “Uh, God, what’s the deal? How’d they get in?”  I imagine God saying:  “Look, since the Tower of Babel, I gave up on you people being able to do much together.  I knew if I gave you only one way to get here, you’d screw it up.  So, I gave you some alternatives.”  But, I’d have to ask:  “Ok, but what about the ones who, you know, didn’t believe anything?”  God would say:  “Oh, them?  They went straight to Hell, of course.  You all weren’t wrong about EVERYTHING!”

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