Help A Drowning Man

phil

I am awash in a sea of bad information. How did this happen? I’ve spent too much time in the ocean of social media where information is plentiful, but accuracy is sacrificed for speed and volume. How does this happen? The easy answer, of course, is that people are idiots. This knee jerk response is just as flawed as the flotsam vomited out on social media even as you read this. People love outrage. More precisely, they love to be outraged. This is especially true when politics and religion are involved. This causes otherwise intelligent and thoughtful folks to randomly post thoughts, memes and links which are related to reality only by the thin thread of having originated from someone’s mind.

Another answer might be that I spend too much time on social media and should do something else like a read book.  No thank you, Egg Head.  That ain’t happening.  We need to work together.

Phil Robertson is now the millstone around my neck.  If you don’t know who Phil is, then good for you.  You aren’t into social media and perhaps spend your time writing poetry.  If so, you’re probably not reading this anyway. Phil is a “reality TV” star.  His show, Duck Dynasty, is entertaining.  It certainly seems scripted to me, but what do I know?  Perhaps Phil and his family became multi-millionaires while bumbling about like…well…reality TV stars.

I won’t rehash what Phil did.  There’s no point in doing so.  He said things that pissed people off or made people happy.  Outrage ensued.  Many folks–again, otherwise intelligent–have risen to his defense by citing his right to “free speech.”  One poster on Facebook said “What the hell happened to free speech in this country?” The answer is nothing, because Phil’s opinions have nothing to do with free speech.  “But, but, but…he got FIRED!!”  You are correct.  He did get fired.  Free speech, unfortunately, doesn’t prevent that.  “YES, IT DOES!” you screamLet’s read the First Amendment of the United States Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

[Note how I helpfully highlighted the part about “Congress.”]   Congress has made no law regarding speech which affects Phil at all.  In fact, no government official has done anything to Phil.  Maybe you love what he said about gay people and African-Americans.  If so, you have found some common ground with radical Islam.  Maybe you’re a Libertarian sort who supports everyone’s right to speak his or her mind. I really don’t care.   But, let’s all agree to never invoke the First Amendment again on this issue.  We’ll all feel better.  I know I do.  Thanks.

It’s not only the plain language of our Constitution which cause confusion.  Easily verified claims also drive us to hysteria.  Here’s a favorite example. Occasionally, a meme makes the rounds about Presidential and Congressional pensions. It reads:

WAGES

Salary of retired US Presidents……………………….$450,000 FOR LIFE

Salary of House/Senate members……………………$174,000 FOR LIFE

Salary of Speaker of the House……………………….$223,500 FOR LIFE

Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders………………….$194,400 FOR LIFE

Average salary of a soldier DEPLOYED IN AFGHANISTAN ……$38,000

Average income for Seniors on Social Security …………………$12,000

I think we found where the cuts should be made! If you agree, pass it on!

Aren’t you outraged?  This is patently insane.  Why would these people get paid for life!?!?!  What kind of country do we live in?  That’s a valid question but not because of this.  The above information–while outrageous–is incorrect in almost every way. None of these people–not even the President–gets full salary for life. It simply is not true. Does this stop folks from being outraged about it? Of course not. Variations of this meme have been posted many times on social media.  The comments are fairly frothing with their condemnation.   Here’s my suggestion:  When you see something that is so inane as to make you want to immediately post it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, stop and think.  Since you’re probably on the Internet at the time, do a simple search.  Check the facts.  You’ll be amazed how easy it is to confirm or counter such things.  Again, we’ll all be better for it, and you won’t look like an uninformed ass.

Then there are the half-truths, those items of interest based in reality but twisted into something sort of whole truth.  Here’s a meme making the rounds:

veterans

The House of Representatives passed a budget bill cutting pensions for veterans.  (Not “Veteran’s”).   That much is true.  The reduction is actually a reduction of the cost of living increase for certain pensions.  It’s what I call a “Government Cut.”  A “private cut” is where you make less money next year than you made this year.  It only applies to certain veterans–ones deemed young enough to re-enter the work force.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  This seems like a bad idea.  We’ve worn out our military with endless wars.  The least we could do is leave their pensions alone.  On the other hand, don’t worry about veterans actually getting a cut in their pensions.  The private sector, where there are no pensions anymore, is the only place that happens.

This is a prime example of excellent propaganda. Take a grain of truth, twist into something outrageous and scare everyone. Remember that Hitler got elected by scaring the hell out of people. There’s a reason he had a Ministry of Propaganda.  It works.

Finally, there are those debates that rage over opinions.  Most of these involve politics or religion–two topics which civilized people never discuss.  Bear this in mind:  There are two sides or more to each such debate:

  • Obamacare:  POINT–The program is already failing and far too expensive for the country to afford.  Socialized medicine will lead to reduced services for everyone.  COUNTERPOINT–It’s the law.  Give it time, and the kinks will get worked out.  If socialized medicine is so horrible, why do we provide it to our military veterans.  Wouldn’t they be better off buying their healthcare in the market?
  • Phil Robertson:  POINT–He’s free to speak his mind and express his faith.  Leave him alone.  COUNTERPOINT–People are also free to be offended by his comments.  We don’t have to leave him alone.
  • NSA: POINT–The Government is only gathering data. They have no way to do anything with it. COUNTERPOINT: Yet. There is nothing more un-American than spying on your citizenry.
  • TAXES: POINT–Let’s raise taxes on the highest earners. This would quickly fix all our fiscal problems. COUNTERPOINT–Our government has a history of spending every penny it brings in–and more. Until we fix that, more revenue won’t help.

These few examples show how it works. There are two sides to all theses issues. It just depends on your political prism.

Of course, acknowledging differing opinions isn’t our way. God forbid that we be asked to actually respect another’s views.  We prefer to be right.  In fact, we demand it, even when we are wrong.  I am fortunate to have friends from all walks of life.  Their politics range from Left-leaning Communists to budding Neo-Nazis.  The Right’s take on current events is a combination of moral outrage, moral superiority (always Christian), the U.S. Constitution  (if you don’t like something, it’s unconstitutional) and some nostalgia (such things as whipping children are fondly recalled).  The support Republicans and like all Ayn Rand quotes.  The Left approaches these issues from a different angle, of course.  They are intellectual titans ready to make fun of religion (always Christianity.  They don’t say anything about Islam, Judaism, et al.), cite obscure authors, and engage in relentless name-calling often involving obscene language.  They support Democrats and love to quote Barack Obama, Mahatma Ghandi and hate all Ayn Rand quotes, even though most of them are atheists like Rand.

Here is a typical social media exchange regarding Mr. Robertson, who has eclipsed war, world hunger and random violence as the issue of the day:

  • Original Post:  I stand with Phil!  The Bible says that we will be persecuted for Him! Christians have freedom of speech, too!  Our country is being destroyed!  I will never watch TV again!

[See how our friend has concisely encompassed the significant elements of right-wing rage.  The Bible, persecution, morality, patriotism and broad and incorrect legal principles.]

A response from the Left naturally flows:

  • Comment:  You can stand with that bigoted, homophobic, racist if you like.  I have never seen his show.  In fact, I do not own a television having traded mine for a Navajo Dream Catcher.  Freedom of speech is not an issue here–offensive, racist, homophobic rhetoric is.  The Bible supports all manner of prejudice.  I suggest you read the collected works of Bertrand Russell instead.

[Our Leftist chum has countered with his own salvo.  He engages in name calling that far exceeds anything Mr. Robinson has done but does so from a perch of intellectual superiority. He is above mere TV watching.  He concludes his concise commentary by inferring that atheist mathematician/philosopher Bertrand Russell is a better source for moral guidance than the Holy Bible. Well done.]

This exchange will continue with many additional posts by these and other commentators.  The Right will contend they are right because, well, they are right…or Right.  The Left will froth and name-call, even resorting to the use of vulgarities to make their points.  Ultimately, no one makes any sense and everyone is angry.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I have engaged in this foolishness on occasion, especially when legal principles are misstated.  I forget my advantages in this regard:  1) I have actually read the Constitution; and 2) I graduated from law school.  I, too, have been called names.  One Lefty even called me a racist for correctly noting that the ubiquitous George Zimmerman is Hispanic.  I countered with own my stream of obscenities.  It’s easy to fall into this trap.  I do not judge.

Let’s all commit to work as one to make all this easier for me.  After all, wouldn’t the world be a better place if things suited me?  Don’t be a racist, homophobic, liberal, conservative, Communistic Neo-Nazi, Bible-thumping Atheist.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

How to Be a Prophet

The Amazing Criswell has nothing on me in the prophesizing game.

The Amazing Criswell has nothing on me in the prophesizing game.

I drive quite a bit for my job, often in Eastern Kentucky where the radio choices are limited.  As a result I listen to radio preachers.  Some are quite good and inspiring.  Most aren’t and are downright terrifying.  On a recent road trip, I heard a preacher talking about prophecy and he humbly said:  “Brothers and sisters, some say I have the gift of prophecy! I would never claim to have that gift, but if I do, it’s because the Lord has blessed me to speak  the truth of His word!”  In other words, “Of course, I am a prophet.” He then went on the explain the End of Days in terms only slightly more complex than the Unabomber Manifesto.  Frankly, I couldn’t follow it.

It did, however, get me thinking:  What if this guy is a prophet?  More importantly, what if I am?  If I am, I’ve never really tried to use my skills.  Maybe I should.

All your major religions have prophets.  The Abrahamic faiths have Moses, Isaiah and many others.  Islam throws in Mohammed, too.  Mormons have Joseph Smith.  Scientology gives us Tom Cruise.

I can’t claim to be a theologian or even particularly religious.  I have, however, read the Bible–the entire thing.  In fact, I’ve probably read it all several times.  I don’t think of the Bible as a book.  It’s really a collection of short stories, memoirs and musings by a variety of authors.  These writings are chock full of sex and violence, good news and bad news, rules, laws and, of course, prophecy.

Isaiah is the Babe Ruth of the Biblical prophets, the big hitter of the bunch. Others, like Nahum, are more Dal Maxvill.  They all foretell the future with varying degrees of accuracy.  The wildest, though, is John, and he is saved for the very end.  His book–Revelation–is like something Hunter Thompson might have written after a peyote bender.  This book is the one that almost everyone knows something about, regardless of religious faith or lack thereof.

A good prophet can interpret this mess and make his own predictions.  Those are my aims.

Let’s clarify up front that the book is Revelation, not Revelations.  Technically, it is the Revelation of John.  Who was John?  No one knows for sure.  Some think he was John the Apostle, while others think he was an entirely different cat.  We know he lived on the island of Patmos; thus, we can call him John of Patmos.  Even though my name is John, it damn sure isn’t me.  The wild imagery of his book seems completely out-of-place with the rest of the New Testament, but it made the cut when the books of the Bible were canonized way back when, so it’s part of the playbook.

I offer the preceding paragraph only to make it appear that I am an erudite Biblical scholar.  I am not.  Regardless, I know quite a bit about it and am willing to speculate as to its meaning.  This puts me on par with the vast majority of folks who think they are, in fact, erudite Biblical scholars.  Thus, I can be a prophet, a false one mind you, but a prophet nonetheless.

I won’t debate the literal versus figurative meaning of the Bible.  I know that a lot of folks say that the Bible is to be taken literally.  For example, Adam and Eve is a true story right down to the last detail.  Hey, how do I know? As a prophet, I would only predict the future, not try to interpret the past.

One thing, though, that has to be subject to some consensus is that Revelation cannot be taken literally.  If is literal, the signs of the last days are going to be very easy to identify.  A seven-headed, crown-wearing monster will be hard to miss.  There will be beings that look like animals with eye balls all over them; angels blowing trumpets; an archangel; a whore; and a bunch bad doings.  I’m not the quickest on the uptake, but if this all literal, I’ll catch on fairly quickly.  I’m into symbolism, and I like to think John was, too.

Most of us are concerned about the Beast.  Actually, there are two beasts:  One from the sea and one from the Earth.  The Sea Beast has a seven heads, crowns, etc.  The Earth Beast has a couple of horns and is basically charged with making everyone do the bidding of Sea Beast.  Got it?

If I were a prophet–a real one–I could and would interpret this symbolism.  I think I can do that.  Revelation is the best source for prophecy because you can make into whatever you want with just a little imagination.  For example, Charles Manson made it all about the Beatles.  Read and learn.

Everyone will have to get the mark of the Beast, which we all know is the number 666.  Without that, we can’t buy or sell stuff. To make a long story short, the Beast (or Beasts–I get a little confused here) do battle with the Lord of Lords and, predictably, lose.  They are thrown into the Lake of Fire to be tormented for all eternity.  It goes without saying–even though I now say (or “prophesy”) it–the Lake of Fire is a bad beat.

Here’s what you don’t want to do:  DON’T JOIN UP WITH THE BEAST.  If you encounter a seven-headed anything or a dude with horns, steer clear.  But, what if it IS symbolic?  Then, we’ve got a problem. That’s where a prophet has real value.

I once worked with a Seventh Day Adventist who passed out literature in our office saying that the Papacy is the Beast.  Honestly, it was very hard to follow.  I wasn’t convinced.  A lot of brainy folks think old John was talking about Emperor Nero Caesar, because through some convoluted numerology his name corresponds with 666.  I talked to a lady once who said that the Social Security Administration is the Beast.  While those are enticing theories, take a look at this:

BARACK:  6 letters

HUSSEIN:  7 letters

OBAMA:      5 Letters

Note how his full name totals 18 letters.  What numbers divides into 18 three times?  6, of course.  THREE sixes or 6-6-6.  It couldn’t be any clearer.  That’s my prophetic take on it.

(As an aside, some ancient texts show the number as 616, but we’re not going down that road.  Such reckless speculation would render meaningless Iron Maiden’s classic song The Number of the Beast.)

But, what of the seven heads and whatnot?  Well, first the Beast of the Sea is obviously the United Nations which covers all seven continents.  The ten crowns could well be the 10 non-permanent members of the UN Security Council for all I know.   Maybe Obama is the Beast of the Earth.  His ears are kind of like horns.  Plus, he’s a smoker.  That would explain speaking like a dragon.

It makes perfect sense.  The first beast (the UN) and the second beast (Obama) will gather together to make war against the Lord of Lords.  We can all see that coming, can’t we?  I do.

How about the Whore of Babylon?  Centuries ago, lots of folks said it was the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church said it would be a fake Catholic Church.  No one, apparently, ever thought it would be a real whore, so don’t try to burn Miley Cyrus at the stake.

We know that ancient Babylon is in Iraq, so I say we call Iraq Babylon.  When John spoke of this whore reigning “over the kings of the earth,” could he have been speaking of the United States?  Hmmm.  Starting to make some sense now, huh? No?  Who’s the prophet here–me or you?  Ignore me at your own peril.

There are tons of details in Revelation, but I have neither the time nor interest to become familiar with them. I’ve made my point, whatever it may be.

Through a cursory reading of the Bible and libelous logic, I’ve just turned the President of the United States of America into the Beast (or Beasts).  Someone reading this agrees with me.  (By the way, don’t tell me if you do).  So, I’m now a prophet, false of otherwise.

In truth, I’m not a prophet (at least as far as I know).  I used to bet on football games and displayed no gift for prescience.  The last great prophet was probably The Amazing Criswell, star of several of Ed Wood’s films, including as the narrator of Plan Nine From Outer Space.  While he was wrong about Mae West becoming President and the outbreak of cannibalism in Pennsylvania, he wasn’t far off on predicting all-homosexual cities.  He predicted the end of the world to occur on August 18, 1999.  He was certainly no less of a prophet than the clown who predicted the end for May 21, 2011.

On the off-chance that I’m wrong, and I am a prophet, I need to make some predictions, so I conclude now with ten simple predictions or prophetic musings, if you will:

  1. In 2014, Tim Tebow will get a try out with an NFL team, and it will receive news coverage similar to the Super Bowl.
  2. In late 2013, a minor celebrity will be arrested.  His or her mug shot will be quite embarrassing.
  3. Any day now, a politician will become embroiled in a sex scandal, which he will blame on a troubled childhood or substance abuse.  Or both.
  4. The 2016 Presidential race will be littered with an appalling array of unqualified candidates.
  5. In 2018, the United States Constitution will be amended to replace the Electoral College with an American Idol-style reality show hosted by Eminem and Brent Musberger.
  6. By 2020, the U.S. will return to its conservative values, outlawing all forms of sexual activity, unless it involves use of a firearm.
  7. In 2022, Scientology will cease to exist, as the last member states:  “No one ever believed this nutty shit anyway.”
  8. At 80 years old, O.J. Simpson will die when someone just stabs the living hell out of him.
  9. In 2031, a cure for cancer will be perfected.  Unfortunately, it will so expensive that no one can afford it.
  10. In 2036, Jesus will return to Earth.  He will quickly be branded a dangerous socialist and denied a work visa in the United States.

If none of that happens, then I’ll second John on predicting a multi-headed sea beast.  That should cover all my bases.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

Whither the Cult of Tebow?

Not surprisingly, the Patriots released Tim Tebow. I doubt this diminishes his popularity among his die-hard fans. If anything, it will give them a brief respite until he resurfaces in the Canadian Football League or among the army of TV talking heads.  His release is likely, however, to end the NFL chapter of one of the more bizarre sports stories of my life time.

Tebow’s popularity in the NFL far exceeded his collegiate fame, which was substantial.  At the University of Florida, Tebow played on two national championship teams and won the Heisman Trophy.  He threw and ran for touchdowns like no one before him.  As we have seen in the few years since he left Florida, this may have had more to do with the changing nature of the quarterback position than his unique skills. He was nevertheless an exciting and dynamic presence at Florida.

His Christianity was on full display at Florida, too.  He wore Bible citations instead of eye black, prayed on the field and spoke openly of his faith.  This, of course, caught the attention of Christians (especially those of an evangelical stripe).  Others found this overbearing–even obnoxious.  Regardless, we all wanted someone who played like him at our alma maters.  As a result, he was a polarizing figure, as is usually the case with popular athletes.  Many love them, and many love to hate them.

Despite his college success, Tebow was never viewed as anymore than a borderline NFL prospect.  Prior to the 2010 Draft opinions varied.  Draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. didn’t think Tebow could play quarterback in the NFL.  Former NFL Coach Jon Gruden disagreed.  His best shot, according to many, would be to change positions.  His future was brighter as a tight end or H-back.  After all, many college quarterbacks have made similar transitions in the NFL.  Tebow’s size, strength and athleticism would allow him to do the same.

Tebow had different plans.  So did the Denver Broncos who surprised the NFL by using a 1st round draft pick on Tebow in the 2010 draft.  Denver’s young head coach, Josh McDaniels, planned to play Tebow at quarterback, and Tebow had no intention of changing positions.  He and the Broncos were the perfect match.

I was one of the misguided few who believed Tebow would be an effective, if not star, NFL player. This only proves my inability to assess quarterback play. Several years ago, my alma mater–the University of Kentucky–had an outstanding QB named Andre Woodson. He was big, strong armed and smart. He also had poor footwork and a slow release. I thought some NFL guru would fix that. It didn’t happen. I don’t think he ever took a snap in a regular season game.  Even though Woodson and Tebow had many of the same throwing issues, I thought the Broncos got a steal.  For awhile, it looked like I might be right.

After a rookie season where he played sparingly, Tebow got his shot as a starter in 2011 under new coach John Fox.  With Tebow at the helm the last ten games, the Broncos went 7 and 3.  Tebow was hailed as a hero–perhaps a savior, if that is not too insensitive.  I felt vindicated until I watched him play.  Yes, the Broncos won, but Tebow’s play was wildly up and down.  Big plays were followed by inexplicably bad ones–overthrows, misread defenses and just plain bad throws.  “He just wins” was the defense.  The Broncos opted to sign Peyton Manning, another quarterback who wins, plus makes every throw a quarterback can make.

Tebow then spent one forgettable season with New York Jets where he couldn’t get on the field.  When he did play, he was ineffective.  His fans blamed Coach Rex Ryan.  After his release by the Jets, his old coach Josh McDaniels, now the Patriots’ offensive coordinator gave him another shot.  If anyone could make it work, McDaniels and the Patriots could.  They couldn’t.

There are 5 QB attributes : size; vision; arm strength; accuracy; and footwork. Of these, arm strength is the least important. Joe Montana didn’t have a cannon arm. Jeff George did. An arm needs to be strong enough. That’s it.  The other four attributes can be honed in the NFL but rarely are they ever discovered at that level of play.

Of these qualities, Tebow has one–size. His arm strength is below average as is his accuracy–too many off target throws floated to covered receivers. He also doesn’t see the field well. He holds the ball too long or runs when he should wait for a play to develop. He often throws off the wrong foot and his release is slow and mechanical. By the time he loads up a throw, his receivers are covered.

tebow

See how the ball is upside down? That little hitch can be what separates a college and pro quarterback.

Too harsh? No. Professional sports are perhaps the last meritocracy. If you can help a team win, there is a place for you. The need to win is immediate and construction projects are rarely taken on. Even when they are, the time line is short.

I should note that  I like Tebow or, more accurately, I like what he appears to be. He seems to be a nice, sincere young man. I don’t doubt that he is a devout Christian. None of that matters in the context of the NFL.

I grew up in the 1970’s. With maybe the exception of Muhammad Ali, the most popular American athlete was a running back for the Buffalo Bills. There were action figures of him sold to kids–my brother had one. He made movies. His games were broadcast on national TV. He made commercials. His name was–and is–Orenthal James Simpson. If you said “O.J.” or “the Juice” everyone knew the player to whom you referred. His name still resonates, albeit for entirely different reasons.  NFL teams would line up for the next O.J.  They would certainly hope he was a better human being than the original, but most teams would take their chances.  As a hard-core fan, I can tell you that I would rather have a team full of O.J.s than good people who can’t play.

(It is possible to so rotten a person that no NFL will want you, but it takes some doing.  Just ask Tebow’s former Florida teammate, Aaron Hernandez.)

On the same day Tebow was cut loose,  Vince Young and Matt Leinart were also released the same day.   They were also college stars and “winners.”  NFL quarterbacks? No. They just aren’t good enough.  They faced the same fate as Tebow.  This is where some Tebow fans will disagree with me.

Tebow fans fall into two categories.  One is the run of the mill football fan, those who like players who wear the correct uniform.  If you’re a Jet fan, and he’s a Jet, you like him.  The other group is those who liked, even loved, him because of his religion.  To this latter group, Tebow was more than a football and to be judged on something other than his skills.  This mushroomed Tebow’s popularity above that of the typical NFL player.

Tebow is hardly the first devoutly religious professional athlete.  For example, Sandy Koufax refused to pitch on Yom Kippur.  Since this predated evangelical Christianity’s current embrace of Judaism, he was hardly lauded for this stance.  Akeem Olajuwon drew questions about his observance of Ramadan while starring in the NBA.  Muhammad Ali drew much flak for his conversion to Islam.   Make no mistake, it is Christianity, not religion, which helped elevate Tebow above his peers.  This is where Tebow is different.

There is a strong feeling among many that Tebow should be a good quarterback.  Good people should do well.  One need look no further than another Florida quarterback to see that it doesn’t work like that.  Danny Wuerffel was Tebow before Tebow.  He played at Florida.  He is a devout Christian.  He won the Heisiman Trophy.  He also tried for years to succeed as an NFL quarterback.  Wuerffel was never more than a journeyman back up.  That doesn’t make him a bad person, of course, just a bad quarterback (at least by the exacting standards of the NFL).

Christians, like most religions, embrace persecution.  To be persecuted means that you are sacrificing of yourself for God.  We like that.  It makes us feel better.  It was easy for Christians to view Tebow as being a victim of persecution when he was criticized.  If a TV analyst said Tebow’s release was too slow, that analyst was wrong.  People even suggested that the Broncos won under Tebow because of God’s intervention.  When Vince Young, a star college QB with similar limitations, had the same success early in his NFL career, no one attributed it to God or even Young, for the most part.  Good defense and good luck were Young’s allies.  If anything, Young may have been persecuted.  Why wasn’t God on his side?

Tebow’s Christian fan base is perhaps unique in sports.  This is a group otherwise unconcerned with sports who cheer for him as though he was the first Christian to play pro sports.  Social media exploded with posts about Tebow’s greatness.  “He just wins” was the excuse for any of his poor play, as though the Broncos’ smothering defense drew its strength from Tebow’s mere presence.  I knew folks who didn’t know who John Elway is who became rabid fans of Tebow.  His jersey became the NFL’s best seller.

All of this was unfair to Tebow who has never seemed all that impressed with himself.  He just wants to be a quarterback in a league with no patience.  His best–and probably only–chance of making it in the NFL now is at a different position.  At this point, he is unwilling to do that.  That’s fine, and I can’t say that I blame him.  Football is a hard way to make a living.  One might as well have lofty goals.

So, what now for Tebow?  As football fans know, he faces a tough road.  Once a player is released, he joins the vast sea of players looking for a team.  Young, Leinart and dozens of other borderline players are his competitors but without the media circus that comes to town with Tebow.

Even Tebow’s most zealous fans must accept this:  He wasn’t cut because he’s too good a person or a Christian.  The NFL is chock full of Christians.  In fact, I’ve never heard of a team releasing a star player because he was too nice.  It didn’t happen here, either.

That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize that some take great pleasure in Tebow’s struggles, some because they just don’t like the teams he played on.  Others, in truth, dislike his religion and his display of it.  Even a cursory trip through social media will show people taunting like Edward G. Robinson in The Ten Commandments (“Where’s your God, now, Moses!?!?!?”).  Those are the likely the same folks who take pleasure in the failure of others as though it were actually a success for them.

If you are true Tebower, I suggest you take heart.   If Tebow’s calling is truly a higher one, he will find a better stage.  One can easily envision him on television pontificating about college or NFL football.  I suspect he’ll be fine.  I’m not so sure about his fans, though..

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

Jesus: All-Round Good Guy

I’m not a theologian. I’ve read the Bible, but much like Karl in Sling Blade, I understand parts of it but not all of it. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading the Bible. It is full of sex, violence and scandal–and that’s just the Old Testament. The New Testament is the cornerstone, of course, of Christianity. It’s not nearly as saucy as the Old Testament. It does, however, tell the story of Jesus, the key figure in the Christian world.

Most folks know the story of Jesus. He was born to a virgin in a manger. He is the son of the one, true Living God. He was sent to Earth to die for our sins. He did just that, being crucified, of all things. His sacrifice bore all the sins of mankind. Three days after he died (wink, wink), he arose from the dead, thereby fulfilling the promise that he would not die. That’s pretty close to accurate.

Before reading further, you should know a couple of things. One, you’re not going to see a bunch citations to scripture. This ain’t Sunday School. Plus, I don’t research much for this silly blog. This is no pedantic discourse on historical Jesus. I’m going from memory, which may be inaccurate, but I’m sure you’ve heard just as reckless preaching from the pulpit. Second, I’m not a fan of “oral histories” when it comes to religion. There’s too much room for mistakes and outright lies. I don’t believe the oral history of my own life. So, all you’ll see here is stuff I remember from the Bible and my own rank speculation.

I’m not so much interested in Jesus as God or even a god. That’s a religious thing. If you believe that, you have taken it on faith, like all religions. You don’t need to be sold on it. If you don’t believe, no amount of persuasion on my part will affect you, especially since I would probably make little sense and only end up arguing with myself about it.

My interest is more in Jesus the man. After all, he was a man, in addition to be the son of God and God himself. From this point forward, I shall try to avoid discussion of The Holy Trinity, as it only confuses me. But, what of Jesus the man? What kind of guy was he?

First off, it’s unlikely that he wa  6′ 2″ with flowing sandy blonde hair and a perfectly shaped nose. He was a Jewish man. He probably wasn’t a foot taller than everyone else or look like Barry Gibb.  According to science, he probably looked like this:

jesus

Since the Bible doesn’t describe his appearance, he can look like anything we want, but we should try to be a slightly realistic.

Back then, I guess, people didn’t have last names, but we call him Jesus Christ or, sometimes Jesus H. Christ. I’m pretty sure Christ wasn’t his last name. No one called his step-dad “Joseph Christ.” Of course, Judas was Judas Iscariot. I can’t really reach a conclusion on this one.

Jesus's monogram has caused centuries of debate about what the "H" stands for.

Jesus’s monogram has caused centuries of debate about what the “H” stands for.

REGULAR GUY

We don’t know much about Jesus the child. The sketchy narrative breaks when he’s a preteen and picks up when he’s in his 30’s. What did he do during that time? He could have been a slacker for all I know. If he was, you can be sure he told someone not to write that part down.

He seems like a regular guy. He was a carpenter, which is a regular guy job. There aren’t any details about what kind of carpentry he did, but it was probably the normal stuff for the times–barns, mangers (how ironic), yokes, maybe houses. Who knows? He may have even made crosses for crucifixions.

30 years old was probably pretty old in those days.  Whether it was because of poor health care or more accurate record keeping, we were no longer in the times of people living to be 900 years old.  I’m guessing that Jesus was middle aged.

When the story picks back up, he’s ready for business. The Sermon on the Mount is some of the best preaching you’ll ever hear. I picture it as being quite the scene, with the turnout being mostly the sick and demon-possessed. The sick people probably had leprosy and wore those big leper bells around their necks to warn people when they were approaching. The possessed were just plain insane. Jesus didn’t care. He hung out with them anyway. He even healed them. Good guy.

People were probably leery of Jesus at first. First, the son of God thing was probably off-putting. Imagine if the guy who built your house went around claiming to be the Messiah. Second, even those who believed he was the son of God were probably a little rattled. Up until that point, God was a vengeful cuss who destroyed entire countries, turned people into salt, slew children and even wiped out mankind–all because he had a Byzantine set of rules no one could follow. His son might be a bit edgy. Can’t you just see someone meeting him for the first time?:

Son of God. No foolin’? I’m sure you know about that pork chop I ate last week. I don’t know what I was thinking. Haha. Anyway, could you see your way clear to pass on the smiting just this once?

Imagine the surprise when Jesus said it was no big deal.

TEACHER

It didn’t take him long to collect followers, the so-called Disciples. They were a motley crew and seemed to bitch and moan a lot. Jesus had to be a patient dude to keep from blowing up at them. The first time someone doubted that I could walk on water, he would be walking–right out of the inner circle. “Oh, you can’t feed all these people with a loaf bread and fish.” “Oh, really? Who’s the son of God, you moron?” Jesus did none of that. Nor did he ever rub their noses in it like I would have. I would have been all: “Looks like everyone else is eating, what are you gonna do now, smart ass?” Even after he came back to life, he dealt with this stuff: “Hey, Doubting Thomas, what do these look like–callouses?” Not Jesus. He was a patient man. Good guy.

Even if you don’t believe Jesus was real, he was still a good guy, even as a literary figure. Consider the things he said:

  • Love your enemies. Any tool can love his friends.
  • If someone asks you for something, give it to him. Then, give him more of your stuff.
  • If someone slaps your face, tell him to do it again. This isn’t to prove that you’re a badass. It’s just to let him do it.
  • Don’t worry about the splinter in your friend’s eye when you’ve got a plank in yours. In other words, stay on your side of the street and deal with your own crap.
  • Quit bitching about the government. Give them what they want, and give God what he wants.
  • Don’t judge anyone. Ever. End of discussion.
  • The humble, the meek, the pacifists, the downtrodden–these are my kind of people.

This is just a small sampling of the man’s wisdom. The funny thing is that even though he’s had billions of followers, I’ve never met even one who does any of what he suggests.

Just as impressive as what he said is what he didn’t say. Here is some of that:

  • It’s okay to hate people, especially if they look different from you or don’t believe I’m the son of God.
  • Go forth and kill people in my name.
  • I really hope the folks who preach this gospel all get rich.
  • Give me money to show that you believe in me.
  • Arrogant, self-righteous jackasses are really cool.
  • C’mon boys! Let’s go protest a funeral.
  • Some day there will be a land called America. It will be my favorite place on Earth.
  • You know what I like? War.
  • If people are poor or starving it’s because they deserve it. They’re probably lazy.
  • I hate foreigners.
  • When you pray, be sure to ask for things. Money is always good. Oh, and ball games–I’m a big sports fan.

Jesus was a positive, upbeat guy, even in the face of what he had to know was going to be a bad, bad ending for him. If it had been me, I’d probably have said: “Look. After they crucify me, you dudes kill every last one of those bastards. I’ll be back in three days, and I expect to see some carnage.” Not Jesus. He tried to stay positive. Good guy.

HOLY MAN

Two stories demonstrate that Jesus, Godliness notwithstanding, was a good guy. Remember Lazarus? He was a good friend of Jesus’s. Maybe Lazarus bought a yoke or something from Jesus. Lazarus died, and his family asked Jesus to resurrect him. Now, you could tell Jesus didn’t want to do it, and I can understand. He performed miracles to make a point, not just to do it. He might have thought this would set a bad precedent. Anyway, he got nagged into it. Lazarus had been dead awhile and was pretty rank. I’m sure Jesus thought: “Man, what have I gotten myself into? Damn, he’s funky.” He did it anyway. Boom! Welcome back, Lazarus. Jesus just did it to be nice.

The other was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew that some bad crap was coming down, so–like a lot of us would–he went off to pray. The gist of his prayer was: “Okay. I know I’m supposed to do this. I get it. But, IF by any chance you’d like to get me out of this, I’m cool with that, too. Of course, you’re the boss. If this is what you want, I’m all in. Just think about it.” What could be more human than that? He would do what he was supposed to do but was fine with getting out of it. What else would a good guy do?

Even his crucifixion shows what a good guy he was. He could have unleashed all manner of wrath. Remember–he’s God’s son, the same God that wreaked vengeful havoc throughout the Old Testament. Instead, he forgave his tormentors.

FAMILY MAN

Like any regular guy, Jesus had a family. Yes, he was the son of God, but Joseph was his step-dad. Joseph taught him carpentry. They probably argued about stuff like any family.

His brother James probably had it tough. At this point, some of you will get hair-lipped and scream: “THAT’S A LIE! JESUS DID NOT HAVE A BROTHER!” I say he did. Why? Because the Bible calls him James, brother of Jesus. That’s good enough for me. So, calm down.

My older brother was an excellent student and good kid. That can be tough to follow. Imagine poor James. Even when he was spreading the gospel, he probably heard about it:

MAN: What’s your name, friend?

JAMES: James…uh…James Christ.

MAN: Are you related to….?

JAMES: Yeah, he’s my brother.

MAN: Wow. He was, I mean is, a great guy.

JAMES: Yeah. We’re fond of him.

MAN: Look, we’re having a little get together later. You’re welcome to come by. Do you think….?

JAMES: Thanks. I’ll see what I can do, but He doesn’t just appear. But I’ll check.

No matter what a good job James did preaching, he was never going to measure up.

Mary was a typical mom, except for the virgin birth thing. Why did Jesus turn the water into wine? Because his mom told him to do it. Haven’t we all been there? My son is an excellent, self-taught piano player. His mother always wants him to play for her friends. He rarely does. It’s embarrassing. Jesus reacted the same way. He hadn’t even started performing miracles yet, but she was his mother. So, he did it. “Okay, Mom. Are you satisfied now?” Good guy and a good son, too.

LADIES MAN

Jesus hung out with women, too. I suspect women weren’t treated too well in ancient Judea. Jesus didn’t care. Mary Magdalene was right by his side until the end–and the beginning. He didn’t care. Now, I know a lot of you say Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Maybe so, but the Bible doesn’t say that. If she was, it wasn’t important enough to write down. If you feel better thinking she was a whore, good for you. I know this much: Jesus wouldn’t have cared. He liked the downtrodden. They were his peeps. He made no judgments. Good guy.

I don’t know if Jesus dated or had a wife. If he did, the Bible doesn’t talk about it. Then again, it doesn’t talk about any of the Disciples having wives (Okay, maybe it does, and I just don’t remember). Let’s face it. The Bible isn’t very kind to women, so they probably wouldn’t have included that anyway. It wouldn’t have been weird if he had a girlfriend or wife. In fact, it would have been weird if he hadn’t. I’d like to think he did. He was human, too.

SUMMARY

Even if you are a committed atheist, you must admit that Jesus was a fine fellow. If not atheist, maybe you’re just not a Christian. No one ever turned from Christianity because Jesus was a bad guy.  Hey, the Koran mentions Jesus frequently, maybe even more than it does Mohammed.

Jesus said that he’ll come back one of these days.  Maybe he’s your plumber.  It’s doubtful that he’s preaching on TV.  He’s probably just a regular guy–good guy but regular.  If he does come back, though, I’m pretty sure we’ll all try to kill him again.

So, there you have you it. Jesus the man. Good guy. Now, some of you may be poised over your keyboard ready to set me straight and accuse me of heresy and blasphemy. Before you do, ask yourself this: What would Jesus do? Good guy, that Jesus. He’d just like this post and move on.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

How Evil or Not Is Our President?

I’ve watched a little of the History Channel series on the Bible.  A lot of folks are bothered by the violence in it.  I assume those people haven’t actually read the Bible, the Old Testament in particular.  There is incest, forced slavery, rape, murder of every description and even genocide.  It’s tough stuff.  A lot of folks who want to ban other books because of the Bible would probably want to ban the Bible itself if they ever read it.

Some are upset by the portrayal of Satan.  Why?  He looks like our president. Really, he does (the TV Satan, that is).  It’s supposed to be a coincidence, and maybe it is.  It does, however, raise the question of whether Obama is, in fact, Satan or just really evil.  My conservative friends think so.  My liberal friends think quite the opposite, of course.  The hard right (rock-ribbed Republicans, as my Dad would have said) reject everything Obama says or does as wrong-headed and Socialist.  The Left accepts everything he says or does as being brilliant and enlightened.  In other words, he’s the Democrat version of George W. Bush.

satan

I don’t know much about Satan or Lucifer or Beelzebub or whatever you call him.  The Bible doesn’t talk that much about him, either.  All this stuff about him being the proudest angel and falling from grace, etc., isn’t in the Bible.  Regardless, I know he’s bad news.  He tempts us with all kinds of evil.  I can’t endorse that behavior, although I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed a few of his temptations.  He’s also the overlord of Hell, which is bad in all possible ways with its lakes of fire, weeping and wailing and the obligatory gnashing of teeth.

So, why the Hell does the President look so much like Satan?  There really can’t be a good explanation, UNLESS–you got it–he IS Satan.  Okay, I know that’s a stretch.  What if he’s just the Anti-Christ?  The evidence is disturbing to say the least:

  • The Westboro Baptist Church thinks he’s the Anti-Christ.  That’s a credible source for theological truths.  They also think the U.S. Army is dominated by homosexuals.
  • The Obamacare microchip implants are certainly a bad sign.  The Mark of the Beast.
  • The name “Barack” has 6 letters, as in 6-6-6.  How convenient.
  • He’s black.  The History Channel has proven that Satan is, too.  Plus, Satan is always called things like the “Dark One.”
  • As we all know from the film Jesus Christ Superstar, Judas was black.  Coincidence?
  • Although the Bible says nothing about the age of the Anti-Christ, isn’t there at least a decent chance he would be about Obama’s age?
  • It is well-known that the Anti-Christ will be a charismatic figure, much like–you guessed it!–Obama.
  • Revelation 13:5-8 says the Anti-Christ will rule for 42 months.  That’s fairly close to one term of Obama’s presidency.
  • There’s even a website that questions whether he’s the Anti-Christ.  If he weren’t, why would someone go to all that trouble?
  • Michael Savage says Obama is “the most evil” President ever.  That’s good enough for me.
  • This passage from Revelation 13 succinctly describes Obama:
    • [1] And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
      [2] And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.
      [3] And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
      [4] And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?
      [5] And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
      [6] And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.
      [7] And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
      [8] And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world

    They might as well put a photo of Obama next to this passage.  Sixty or seventy years ago, a lot of churches thought the Papacy was the Anti-Christ.  Don’t they look silly now?

Those of you with a  conservative bent are probably smiling.  Maybe you’re thinking:  “He can’t be serious, but, you know, all that makes sense.”  If you’re over there on the Left, you may be angry, thinking:  “Another right-wing Nazi making fun of the greatest President ever.”  If you’re really far Left, you’re probably an atheist anyway and just generally offended by anything hinting at religion.  You don’t have faith in anything, except the Government, that is (that’s big G Government, just like big G God).  Oddly enough, atheists now worship a man who has been a Christian his entire adult life.

All this naturally leads to my next line of inquiry.  If we dismiss Obama as Satan or even the Anti-Christ, what if my friends on the Left are correct and he is a great man–the greatest man?  Consider:

  • We know nothing of Jesus’s teen or young adult years.  The same can be said of Obama whose formative years remain shrouded in mystery.
  • Some people think Jesus looked like this:
jesus

The resemblance is uncanny.

  • Jesus was black.  Okay, I have no direct or indirect proof of this, but isn’t it at least possible?  The Bible doesn’t say he wasn’t black.  Don’t you find that suspicious?  I do.  Besides, look at his picture!
  • Like Jesus, Obama has fed the multitudes.  In Obama’s case, it’s with food stamps, but the effect is similar.
  • Obama made Chris Matthews’ leg tingle.  That has to be some kind of miracle.
  • Louis Farrakhan once said of Obama “The Messiah is speaking.”  He never says anything nutty.
  • Speaking of miracles, Obama got a black man elected President of the United States–TWICE!
  • Jesus and Obama are both excellent public speakers.
  • Both were carpenters.  I’m little thin on facts to support this one, but it hasn’t been dis-proven to my satisfaction.
  • We all know that Jesus was born of a virgin mother, but what of Obama?  What do we know of his so-called “father?”  Not much.  Did he even exist?  If not, why not?
  • I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t have a birth certificate, either.
  • One can persuasively argue that Jesus, too, was a community organizer.  He organized an entire religion!
  • Jesus’s followers were the meek, the downtrodden, the poor in spirit.  Isn’t this exactly what folks on the Right say of Obama’s supporters?

Before you condemn me to the Lake of Fire, I am not suggesting that Obama is the Messiah or even a Messianic figure.  I only ask the questions that others fear.  Not surprisingly, I have no answers.

As with any serious theological debate, there are countervailing arguments.  If he were God or something similar, it’s hard to understand why Rand Paul wasn’t smited during his recent filibuster. If he were Satan or one of his minions, one would think he would try to woo the religious Right instead of constantly enraging them.  We can’t allow such obvious inconsistencies to derail our reckless speculation.

The Bible is thin on details describing Satan.  I’ll admit that Revelation contains an excellent description of the Anti-Christ what with the two heads and whatnot.   Although the Bible makes it clear that Jesus will return, it is equally explicit that we don’t know when or where.  Using those criteria, it is impossible to eliminate Obama.  Thus, we may never know the answer until it’s too late.

If Obama is Satan, then where does that leave Dick Cheney?  If Obama is the Messiah, then why is he a Muslim?  If he is just a man, why do we have all these questions, none of which are subject to adequate answers?  Have I written this under Satan’s spell or by divine inspiration?  Where does Glenn Beck fit in to all of this?  Why does Rachel Maddow look like a dude? We may never know the answers to these and other questions.

So, where are we?  I don’t know.  Maybe Obama is an Ivy League-educated ideologue who surrounds himself with like-minded people–a decent family man with whom a lot of people (myself included) vehemently disagree on some issues.  The Liberal George W. Bush.  NOW, I’m talking crazy.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013