Archive for April, 2010

25
Apr
10

That Greater “Good”

I’m embarrassed to say it.

I’ve lost touch with some of my white roots.

Honestly.

It’s not that I don’t act sufficiently Caucasian; I do.

But I have, apparently, in my increasing exposure to my wife and two children and various other people of color…well, I’ve nearly lost my ability to view the world through the lens of an angry white person who thinks that diversity and inclusion are dirty words and that any program designed to help people is a sign of impending socialism.

How else to explain how it’s taken me so long to figure out how such people can sleep at night?

It came to me today the reason folks can look at racial profiling, inequitable enforcement of the law, denial of homosexual marriage rights and so many other things and not feel bad.

Because those things affect “minorities.”

And, of course, because the definition of minority is “a significantly smaller portion of the population,” anything bad done to them isn’t significant. Because it doesn’t affect the majority. As long as it serves the desires of the majority or the interests of the majority, it can be as unfair as desired, because it serves the “greater good.” If troubles happen to minorities, those troubles aren’t significant.

Problem is that policies that serve only the majority often aren’t for the greater good but for a selective good to hoard power and/or wealth simply for the sake of avarice and to keep others down and as powerless as possible.

The other problem is that, taken together, “minority” groups will in the fairly near future outnumber whites in the United States. The advantage that whites have, though, is that they will continue to be the largest single ethnic bloc, and minority groups have a poor track record of banding together, even in areas of common interest.

But I can tell you one thing. If ever the various minorities do band together as one, and whites become something more truly approaching a minority, those ass-hats who defend oppression and discrimination now will demand as their God-given right all those things that they denied or tried to deny to those “minorities.”

I’m sure that’s what our Founding Fathers intended anyway…

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22
Apr
10

I Am Deacon, I Am Shorn

A completely useless post, unless you’ve inadvertently swallowed poison and need a visual emetic (three photos of me) to help bring the toxins back up out of your stomach.

I used to wear a goatee (OK, technically, a Van Dyke, since I have a mustache, but most people don’t get that nuance) in the warmer weather months, and reserved the full beard for fall and winter mode. But as my wife began to find my old glasses less and less desirable to look upon, it was decided in a wholly (or at least mostly) democratic fashion that I should retain the full beard until we could afford to get me an eye appointment and new specs. And so it’s been more than a year now, I think, since I’ve seen my cheeks.

I’ve had the new glasses (geek chic look, I like to call it) for months, but only now is the weather truly beginning to make me think warmth is back. So, while I risk losing my blogging strength by cutting off more than half my beard, I will risk the Lord’s wrath. Back to the Van Dyke facial hair for a while, so that Mrs. Blue can have some melanin-challenged cheeks to rub and pinch again.

Little Girl Blue was fascinated with the whole process, and insisted on watching while I removed the beard and stubble. She didn’t even remember that I once had cheeks to show.

20
Apr
10

Taking Care

I’m in the position of having to take on a lot more of the household duties, as well as take care of my wife, as she recovers from her surgery.

It’s a small but notable reminder to me of the awesome responsibility we take on when we choose to form families.

Even when we don’t have kids in our relationships, committing to another human for life (theoretically, at least…Lord knows plenty of people don’t take that as seriously as they should when they trade vows), that commitment extends to caring for that person.

It could be a month after the wedding that one of you gets hit by a bus and you or your beloved might have to be changing the undergarments for a quadriplegic spouse. Or if you live to a ripe old age, one of you might be hale and hearty while the other one suffers chronic illnesses and needs to be taken care of.

Bring in children and it only gets more complicated. In lean times, it’s one thing not to have health insurance for myself, to not visit the dentist, or to eat ramen noodles and rice-and-beans for a week or two. But I can’t do that to my child.

Love is a sweet little word, but I wonder how many of us really consider the responsibilities that go with love. It isn’t just about affection and sex. It’s not just about a theoretically lifetime companion. It isn’t just about making “little versions of us.” It’s about work. Much of that work is just keeping the relationships healthy and always evolving in a mature fashion.

But sometimes it means taking care of that other person, and not asking or expecting praise for it. Not complaining about it. Not feeling put-upon. In fact, it means feeling a sense of pride and compassion and satisfaction at being there and making that person’s life better.

How many of us, though, really do that? How many of us are willing to care for our loved ones as well as we care for ourselves. Or, more appropriately, better?

15
Apr
10

Balance of Power

Certain people are inherently in positions of great power, even if they don’t realize it or have become so accustomed to it that they don’t think about it anymore.

Certainly, physicians are among that crowd, and are on my mind as I sit in a waiting room at the local hospital. They hold, quite literally, our lives in their hands even with the simplest surgical procedures, and so there is often a serious imbalance in power, wherein the patient feels like he or she cannot ask questions or challenge the regular protocols.

But I have been reminded today of how people who seemingly have less power still can make situations uncomfortable for those in vulnerable positions. Because ironically, it was the physicians who were the more empathetic this morning and talked down a bad situation filled with anxiety.

It was the nursing staff, however, that sparked some of the initial flames. Because in having an anxious patient, who wanted many details and wanted to be treated as a human being, they reacted badly to that, and adopted a dismissive and off-putting attitude.

I was, at one point, tempted to shout, “We can hear you clearly, we know you’re talking about us, and your attitude leaves a lot to be desired.”

But I didn’t, and the physicians came in to talk and explain and humanize things, and other, subsequent nursing personnel, apparently having had enough coffee and prior warning, were very cordial and flexible.

I don’t say any of this to slam nursing professionals, but rather to point out that at all levels of an organization or process, we might be in a position of power over someone, even if they aren’t wearing a gown that shows off their ass and reduces them to a an almost childlike level.

Whether we know it or not, people around us are subject to our power, and our moods, and our missteps. They may be a church congregation, they may be children, they may be clients or patients, They may be employees or they may be co-workers. They may be people of differerent cultures or ethnicities.

Regardless, we need to remain aware of those situations in which we have power, and be prepared to use it responsibly. It’s hard sometimes, but necessary, as it can make all the difference in the life of someone near us, whether they are close to us or not; whether we know it will make a difference or not.

13
Apr
10

CoCo Goes to TBS by Miz Pink

Conan O’Brien is gonna be on TBS late night?

Re-runs of Seinfeld, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Saved by the Bell AND Conan all at the same place?

Did the rapture happen and I’m in heaven already and just don’t know it?

Am I being sarcastic or honest…well yer just gonna hafta guess I guess.

But I do love me some Conan especially ever since Dave started gettin long in the tooth…

07
Apr
10

G. vs. E.

I’ve often heard people talk about how, even if there is a God, “I’m not a bad person.”

The notion is that even if they don’t think about God, or so much as consider Jesus, they couldn’t possibly be “bad” enough to be denied salvation.

Now those arguments can go back and forth forever in terms of God’s fairness. But that isn’t my point today. My point today is to address our rather faulty concepts of good and evil.

You see, lots of people think that they’re pretty good. I maintain that people, as a whole (and this includes myself) aren’t really good at all. Oh, I may be fairly nice, and pleasant to be around, but I’m not good.

The problem is, people think that because they aren’t evil, or even just vaguely bad, then they must be good. I see this all the time. It’s kind of like how almost everyone (myself included) thinks they are smart, or at least above average in intelligence.

But not being evil doesn’t make you good.

Just like not being a villain doesn’t make you a hero.

To be honest, most people are somewhere in the middle, and by and large, we tend toward badness. Not overt cruelty usually, but plenty of little things. Not smiling at someone. Moving past a person asking for money. Not listening well enough to someone in distress. Not honoring our loved ones enough. Being too fixated on our own wants and needs.

No, people aren’t good overall, and that’s regardless of religious beliefs.

But having said that, it’s a good exercise for me to look at my actions in light of God’s expectations and Jesus’ teachings. When I look at my actions by worldly standards, I’ll go pretty easy on myself and pat myself on my own back quite readily. When I apply a spiritual filter to that assessment, though, I come up short, and I realize that while I’m not heinous, I have a long, long way to go before I should be using the label “good.”

In fact, I doubt I’ll ever get to that point.

And chances are you won’t either.

06
Apr
10

Eternal Inheritance

So, Tit for Tat invited me over to comment at one of his recent posts (here) and some of the commentary has me putting on my dual hats…one marked “faith” and the other one marked “skepticism.”

I can think on both sides of my brain…I can think on both sides of my spirit, too.

There is a lot of talk about “Why do we need Jesus to save us if the story of Adam and Eve is likely allegorical and thus there is no original sin?”

I’m not going to go there precisely. I’ve already made some comments over there and probably will have the chance to make more. But I did want to put into perspective some related issues, and follow Jesus’ lead by doing it parable style.

“Son, I have a great inheritance for you…a trust that shall be yours…but I need you to do certain things, and act certain ways to take charge of it when you are of age. If you cannot do these things, I cannot let you inherit it.”

“Why, Father?”

“Because I need to know that you are ready for it, and equipped to learn those things you will need to know to use and manage it wisely.”

“All right Father.”

But the son did not do what was required of him, and it was clear to his father, who wa patient, that he would not.

“Son, because I love you, and because I know you have faults and the world is full of distractions, I offer you a way to make right on what you have done, and correct your course, so that you can still show yourself ready to inherit what I offer.”

“Thank you Father.”

But despite his opportunities to do so, the son did not correct his ways, and eventually found himself imprisoned for some of his wayward actions. After he had been in the prison for some time, with every opportunity to examine those things and that had led him to this point, his Father asked, “Do you understand now, and are you ready to change? I love you, and wish to see you do well. But you must choose your path, for you have no more chances.”

That’s it. No big exciting finish. Because the fact is, the end of the story is unknown and isn’t the same for everyone. Some people don’t even have to get to that last step to get the message.

God gives us a path to follow. Christianity is not the only faith, and as much as I fully believe it is the best path, and that it is the culmination of a plan that God put in place to show us the way, the fact is that many faiths touch upon the same basic themes. Many of us talk about those things as if they are natural parts of our morality and as if they are things that exist outside of spiritual teachings. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But isn’t it interesting that we’ve traditionally gotten those lessons, through the ages, in the form of spiritual or religious doctrine.

And yet we still turn away from the path we’ve been shown, and we still refuse to reach out to God and explore our spirituality. We still refuse to acknowledge our very fundamental failings and we show no remorse for having stepped off the right path. We have no shame. No repentance. No desire to change and grow spiritually. Instead, we focus on ourselves, and how great we are, and how flawed everyone else is.

And yet God gives us another chance. He sends his son, who lives the right way and teaches us the core things we need to know. And we kill him because in the end, many of us don’t want to change and don’t want to hear what he has to say.

Now, this is a point at which, as I’ve noted before, people say, “But if the Garden of Eden is allegorical, we don’t need Jesus.”

But we do. That’s just it. We didn’t change on our own. We aren’t willing to. So we have an example, and someone who is able to be a true intermediary between humans and God, and judge fairly. We have someone who paid the price for us. The price isn’t paying for original sin, but for all sins. The sins we continue to commit, the ones we’ve committed before, the ones we are going to commit in the future. Jesus wasn’t a sacrifice for some single original sin but to repair the rift between God and man that has almost always existed. Even if you can’t see his death as making sense in washing away sin, at least see it as yet another example God sets forth for us:

I sent my son, to teach you in peace and love, and show you by example, and heal you, and do miracles, and still you killed him rather than listen.

Jesus is the example of just how far gone we are. And the symbol that even then, after we kill him, he and God are still there for us. That they haven’t given up on us.

And so people ask, “If God goes through all that trouble, then why have Hell? He should be willing and able to give us chances until we get it right.”

Why?

At a certain point, we simply have to choose. We have to show that we are ready to change and grow, just as in my clumsy parable above. Anyone who’s read this blog for a while knows my views on Hell and what its purpose is, and that I think there can be redemption even from that place…up to a point. But eventually, there is a final choice. The question “Have you learned anything yet?”

And many are not going to repent. Or be critical of themselves. Or take the steps necessary to move on and grow.

I find it highly unlikely that our purpose is simply to go to Heaven and be a bunch of lazy bums. I think God has many more destinations and plans for us. He is preparing us to take on responsibilities and powers. If we have the spirit of God inside us when we become born again, then that means power. Power to use constructively and creatively, I believe.

But power requires responsibility to be used well.

Redemption isn’t about kissing God’s ass and behaving because he tells us to or because he’ll punish us if we don’t. Redemption is about seeing what’s wrong with us and wanting to fix it. Asking for the help of God in making us better than we are, and better than we ever thought we could be.

Because we don’t seek improvement, not really. Just look at how we approach life. We look for cures to problems that we wouldn’t have if we lived right in the first place. Why create ways to burn off fat or vacuum it out when we could have stopped heaping on our bodies to begin with, long before? Why do self-help gurus so often tell us to look for the things in our past that shaped our decisions, but so rarely ask us to explore what the fuck is wrong with us that we let those past events dictate future behavior. Humans don’t like accountability. And yet it’s exactly what God is looking for.

That work begins on Earth, ideally with going to God through Jesus. But the process doesn’t stop there. Too many Christians think it does, and too many non-Christians think the Bible tells us that once we’re born again, we can do anything and be forgiven.

Redemption isn’t carte blanche but rather a sincere step in doing the right thing.

The question is, will you take that step early on, or will you wait until you’ve gone through hell and back (perhaps literally) to clue in?

That’s a choice every person makes for themselves. But there is nothing wrong in God expecting us to make that choice for ourselves, and ultimately giving us the kind of inheritance that we have earned.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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Jeff Bouley

To find out more about me professionally, click here. To find out more about me generally, click here.

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