Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Phil Robertson Does Not Hate You

I'm an atheist. I have views that I firmly believe in. If you asked me questions about religion, history, politicians, hunting, computers, or anything you might decide to ask me questions about, my answers would be beloved by many and yet disparaged by many more.

And yet, as I answer your questions, you will understand a simple truth about me:

I don't care if you don't agree with me. I will still love you and serve you dinner at my table.

Enter Phil Robertson, the poorly-named "patriarch" of the extended family, depicted on A & E's Duck Dynasty. I say "poorly-named" because, as you read the actual article in GQ, you'll see that the family loves this man, and yet he holds no iron grip or sway over them at all. They are all independent-minded individuals, holding similar beliefs, and yet love life like the rest of us do - most of us, anyway.

The problem with the recent hoopla about Phil's words in the GQ article is two-fold:

First, very few people actually read the article, as I have pored over it, and have minimal context to derive their opinions from. Second, in some respects, Phil's words were grossly misinterpreted. 

For example, nowhere did Phil ever equate homosexuality with bestiality or even suggest that the latter was derived from the former. In that quote, he merely listed a bunch of sexual acts that he deems sinful, according to his fundamentalist belief system. Included in that list was promiscuity.

The Religious/Political Right, including the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer DO actually say that homosexuality leads to bestiality and pedophilia. But Phil Robertson is not a card-carrying member of that movement. 

I like the guy. He watches too much Fox News and is obviously misinformed (e.g., he believes Mitt Romney was from Salt Lake City, UT; he thinks cultures that have no Jesus are the only cultures that kill people). He also has fundamentalist beliefs within his religion that dictate his idea of sin. He leaves the cantankerous judgments up to "The Almighty" and prefers to just spout the "Gospel," all the theological doctrines of salvation by Jesus Christ.

If you're gay, Phil does not hate you. If you're black, Phil does not hate you. If you're promiscuous, Phil does not hate you. Hell, if you have sex with animals, Phil does not hate you. He just thinks you need to repent and life will be perfect.

And, in the meantime, while you continue in your sin, he'll take you out into the swamps and hunt the f*ck out of the land with you. He'll serve you dinner and preach at you until you change the subject. His kids will ignore him and play games on their phones.

As much as I may disagree with Phil, I much rather his brand of religion and see a greater worth in winning the war of ideas against the Political/Religious Right. 

Carry on. Phil is not the problem.

Friday, December 20, 2013

M & M's Stops Making Red and Green Candies to Respect All Beliefs

The War on Christmas just reached a new level. Mars Candies, the maker of M & M's has just pulled all red and green candies from their inventory "...in order to respect the deeply held beliefs of all people," CEO Paul Michaels said.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) had recently sent a letter to Mars, Inc., stating that they would sue the company if they did not stop making red and green colored M & M's during the holiday season, being that it was religious discrimination against those that did not celebrate Christmas. Mars, Inc. complied quickly and removed the dyes from the production line.

Paul Michaels again:
Thankfully, as an iconic and well-loved brand, we have begun to insert the colors red and green into the Valentine's Day holiday season. This will help us unload our inventory during that holiday, as we will have a large amount of red and green candies to sell.
When asked about this prospect, the FFRF issued the following statement:
We will be following up with another letter to Mars, Inc, letting them know that we will be suing them for even celebrating Valentine's Day. This is an overtly religious holiday, specifically Catholic, and discriminates against those that would rather not partake in anything religious. Our lawyers are on swift standby.
So, there you have it folks, the War on Christmas (and Valentine's Day) is alive and well. 

If you would like to support Mars Candies, the maker of M & M's, please call them and voice your opposition to their decision, letting them know that you will buy extra red and green M & M's, should they insert them back into their product line. 


I. C.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Had Full Faith and Confidence in the Medical Community, Until...

Ken Hood is the kindest bloke you ever met. I knew him as the song leader at my childhood church. He would stand at the podium, waving his one arm to the stanzas of the hymns the congregation was supposed to sing, his arm and hand looking like the neck, head, and bill of a duck, twitching up and down. His voice would reverberate like those really bad singers on the radio, but his voice sounded soothing and good.

We both moved on in life and lost touch with each other and then, like so many modern stories, reconnected again on social media, Facebook, specifically.

I count Ken among my good friends that I never see and yet know are out there, ready to eat food at my table whenever asked. So, it hurts me deeply when I see his pain and suffering come across my view.

On November 20, 2013, Ken woke up to stabbing pain in his jaw. It radiated to his entire face, right eye and ear. The pain had begun the week before, but had gotten consistently worse, finally culminating to the point where Ken didn't even see a point in existing anymore.

In today's modern medical world, we rush to the dentist, doctor, oral surgeon, periodontist, anyone. Our confidence in the medical community is acute, built up over decades of success stories. We see the stories of Zach Sobeich, who died of incurable osteosarcoma, or the recent setback for HIV/AIDS research and think of them as anomalies.  We think nothing will ever happen to us that a doctor can't figure out.

I imagine Ken felt the same way. As you read through his November 20 - December 14 timeline you see that he was confident in his doctors and dentists, et al, and yet, that confidence was quickly shattered, turning into anxiety and hopelessness, driven by life debilitating pain.

Ken had x-rays. Nothing. He had a tooth pulled to no avail. He had more exams. He had dry sockets, which were packed, came unpacked, then packed again. He was prodded, tapped, cut into, sewed up, bounced around, denied access to care due to a poor state health provider network, was forced to make decisions based on finances, rather than health, etc. He had teams of doctors tell him they could do nothing. He was prescribed pain killers, taken orally, even through IVs. He wept (he's a weeper) with happiness when they worked, then suffered even more when they wore off. People were kind, but clueless. 

Only now, on December 16, does he claim that his pain is about half of what it grew to be. I can see Ken trying hard to smile and stay positive, even though his jaw is stiff.

The doctors are saying that they suspect 'necrosis of the jaw bone' now. I hope they find the true problem because my teeth will hurt until they do. And yes, I do still have full faith and confidence in the medical community. It's just that time is sometimes the worst enemy of the subjects of the research, especially when chronic pain is involved, and yet, time is a necessary component in getting things right.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

James Needs Advice for His Four Daughters

...and I am not the man to give it to him. Sure, I have six kids, four young daughters and two sons, but I rely on my cognitive faculties on a minute by minute basis and have no real grand plan or agenda to 'steer them on the right path'.

Things change so fast these days. One day, it's fun to shoot toy guns off in the living room without a care in the world, then there is a mass shooting and you still shoot the toy guns, but the kids learn about the bad things in life. One day, the kids think mice are cute, then they watch in horror as you stupidly break the skull of one of them with a small hammer.

One day, Renaya (11) is a small baby and giggles while you cuddle her and chew her cheeks, and then, the next day, she's telling you that she's going to camp by herself for two weeks - and is excited about it! You see that you didn't give her the love of horses that so obviously oozes out of her face. SHE did that. You just lived, clothed her, fed her, gave her as much wisdom as you knew how, and now she's only a few years away from flying the nest.

Rearing a child right is not a science. You'll mess up. It's inevitable. But, as long as you let your kids know that you're not perfect, I'm pretty sure it will be okay. Remember, kids can smell disingenuous people and know a hypocrite when one walks past them in their sleep.

But I'm not qualified to answer James' letter to me. I'm just a dad. I'll let my other readers do it in the comments below.

Here is the text of his email:
Hi Joe, 
I stumbled upon your website after googling "Doug Phillips affair." We had a bunch of CDs by that guy but I didn't listen to that many. To be honest he creeped me out. 
Do you know for sure it was underage girl?  Are all the quiverfull pastors bad? I am always leery of fundamentalists but I never can explain why, they just make me mad, thats all. And usually the ones really adamant about something (don't be gay, be the leader of the family) are the ones hiding stuff. Anyone else I should watch out for? 
After growing up in a Christian school with mandatory hair check (yes, they lined us up to make sure our hair didn't touch our collar) I thought I was done with fundamentalism but it keeps creeping up. Tell me what I need to know about some of these guys. 
Also I have four small daughters, I want to make sure I don't steer them in the wrong direction.  
I like James already, but I want everyone else to chime in.


I. C. 

I'm a Taker of Hugs, Not a Receiver

"Analisse, can I have a hug?"

"No, Daddy!"

My three year old giggles and runs up the stairs, preferring to go to bed without hugging me. I should be crushed, but I know why - Analisse is a very independent little girl and when I have, in the past, asked her for a hug, followed by a "NO!" from her, I would walk over, sweep her off her feet, hold her tight and then chew on her cheeks with my lips. Sometimes, I would tip her upside down, holding her by the feet, and rub my whiskers on the bottom of her soles.

"I'm a great dad!," I would think. Sure, half the time, The Freak would giggle and scream with laughter, but the other half, she would squirm and try to get away.  As she grew older, the giggling became less and the squirming more frequent.

A few days ago, I decided that I loved my daughter very much, something I had already known, but I wanted to manifest this love for her in a different way. I wanted to acknowledge that she would rather give me a hug out of her own volition, rather than me taking it when I wanted it. 

You might think I am making a statement for all children, but you would be incorrect. Ani displays a fiery version of independence, ten times stronger than any other of my children, who love me grabbing them if they happen to say no. They'll even join in on the fun, pushing me over and climbing on my back, pulling my hair, or poking their their thumbs into my eyeballs and running away with my glasses, calling on Mommy to give my injured self a wedgie. 

Ani is different. And, as a parent of her, I decided that I wanted to enjoy that difference by asking her for a hug.

So, for the last three days, I have been doing just that.

"Ani! Can I have a hug!?"


She runs away...

"Just a little hug?"


"A teensy weensy little itty bitty hug? Pleeeeease?"

"No. Give Jackie hug!"

Jack is our 4-year-old. He comes running over and gives me a hug. Analisee giggles as she watches over her shoulder. I let Jack go and then turn away.

"Ani, I'll never give you a hug again until you want me to," I said a few times after beginning this.

"No. Not want a hug," she said, giggling.

This dance has continued for three days now. I have received a hug here and there, but she is still very skeptical. She always wants Jackie to go first.

I may never win her back, but I want my daughter to love me for learning to love who she is. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Unbroken White Line, Chapter 3

Read Chapter 1
Read Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Jake woke with a start. He had fallen over in his seat, his head resting on Penny's lap. Her head was dropped forward and a small bit of her drool was pooling on his cheek. He didn't much care. Penny was special to him, being she was his only companion most of the time.

Penny was a few years younger. His mother had told him about her birth so many times, his brain actually tricked him into remembering it. 

He remembered the day they brought her home from the hospital. She was so small. So fragile. So light. So warm and soft. He remembered her beautiful face and the whiteness of her eyes. He had stared at those eyes for hours. When Penny would sleep, he would sit beside her small bed and wait for her to open her eyes. Then he would smile and talk softly to her, keeping her awake. The whites were comforting. Clean. Fresh. Innocent. Undisturbed by life.

He had cried that day. Mother and Father had assumed it was because he was no longer their only child. Far from it. He had prepared for months for this day. As his mom's belly had grown bigger, he looked at it in awe. Sometimes, he would go over to her belly, lift up her shirt, and lay his hand on the area around the belly button. Then, he would wait while his mother held her breath. Sometimes nothing would happen. Other times his hand would jump off the belly as he got kicked from Penny inside. 

Jake found that if he pushed a little so the shininess of his mother's skin would cast shadows toward his hand, he could feel different parts of Penny. Then he would feel her roll, bringing her heels up against his palm and give it a good whack. Sometimes, if he dug his fingers in a bit, he could stop her from rolling and instead, feel her lift her arm up to meet his hand. He imagined she understood he wanted to intertwine his fingers in hers and sit there forever, enjoying the moment.

He wept because he was happy. He had a good life already, but he had felt it was completed with the arrival of his sister, Penny, his soon-to-be best friend and companion. He told his parents this. He was always honest with them, never hiding anything. They gave him hugs that afternoon. Mother cried and Daddy got all misty-eyed, chuckling a little to try and hide the tears that were welling up at the bottom of his eyes.

Jake sat up carefully, being careful not to wake Penny. Then, he took his hand and softly pushed her head back against the seat, shifting her body sideways with his other hand to add some support for her neck. She didn't wake up and her head stayed where it was.

It was then that he noticed they weren't moving. His heart skipped a beat as he looked into the front seats, finding them empty. 

Something bumped the car and his gaze traveled through the front window, resting on the familiar sight of Mother and Father, sitting on the hood, arms wrapped around each other, trying to get as close as they possibly could. He watched as his dad turned his head and breathed in the smell of his mother's hair. Something warm started from his belly and hit his chest. Jake let out a contented sigh. He was happy.

As he sat there, watching his parents, he thought about his friend in school, before the summer started. His name was Frank. Frank was sad. Every day, he would come to school and slap Jake on the back between his shoulder blades.

"Hey Jake. How's life'?"

"Good. Can't complain."

Jake had heard his dad say that on the phone to people he didn't think too highly of. He always loved the way it sounded and decided to say it to everyone who asked how he was. Everyone always did. That was how they started talking in Minnesota. Never, "Hey! Did you see the Vikings lose last night?" Or, "Why on earth is your eye all black and blue and...WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REST OF YOUR FACE!"

No, if your leg fell off and your neck was hanging by a scrap of skin, lolling about, behind your back, the same question would come out of the first person's mouth you passed - "How's life?"

Jake would pause a few seconds after responding to Frank's question, "Did your parents..."

"Yeah....," Frank cut him off. "All night. I couldn't sleep. They yelled. I think Mommy even hit Dad once. Dad might have hit her back, but he's always told me never to hit girls, so I don't think he did. But they..." His voice drifted off and ended in a mumble.

Every day, the same story. Jake, happy, Frank, miserable, no sleep. He began to get bags under his eyes. Slowly, his clothes started to sag on his already thin frame. 

Then one day, Frank didn't show up to school. Jake looked for him all day. Nothing. The next day, the same thing happened. Jake had asked his teacher if she knew anything. She hadn't. Weeks went by. Still nothing. And then he forgot about Frank - until now.

He looked out the window at his parents and began to cry a little, feeling very happy for his perfect life, happy parents, and yet deeply saddened by the memories of Frank's completely opposite existence.

Reaching over to open the door, Jake sniffed, wiped his tears away with his sleeve, and climbed out of the car.