The Terrorists Are Winning

12107836_10207468604055373_992290273295544282_n-2Excuse me for stating the obvious, but we’ve got a problem in this country. But it’s not really a new problem. The problem isn’t Donald Trump and the rural working class. The problem isn’t Hillary Clinton and the liberal elite. The problem isn’t Washington. The problem isn’t Wall Street. And the problem isn’t Main Street. The problem, to put it one way I guess, is sea to shining sea. It’s from the east to the west. It’s from the Left to the Right. The problem is us. All of us. And what exactly is our problem? It’s uncomfortable to admit. And it sounds a bit like grandstanding. I think the problem is this:

The terrorists are winning. And we’re letting them.

Our nation changed on September 11, 2001. We know that. And it was a truly amazing time. We had just gone through the closest presidential race in American history. It was so close in fact that it took not until the next morning to decide, not even until the next week, but until the next month to decide. Ultimately George W. Bush became our president, and the left was scared. Where would this go? How would he lead? As I recall the usual Democrat vs. Republican arguments took place throughout the first few months of Bush’s presidency. Then terrorists flew commercial airplanes into the Twin Towers (ultimately toppling them) as well as the Pentagon, and attempted to fly one into the White House.

The nation changed in a moment, and we all knew it. President Bush’s approval ratings cvfspjk4hesmzts2bc0brgnearly doubled overnight, going from about 50% to 90+%. Some of my most liberal, Bush-hating friends even said, “we just have to trust that he knows what he’s doing.” It was amazing. The country was coming together like we had never seen it before. We were more the United States of America than I have ever seen. We were like an awakened giant, who was ready to rise and shine like never before.

It didn’t last long. As President Bush led us into war with Iraq less than two years later, the age old divide seemed to be back. Except it wasn’t quite to same “age-old divide”. Something was different. Since about a year into the Iraq war, we have been on, as I’ve experienced, the steepest, fastest, and deepest downward trajectory toward division than we’d been on my whole life, perhaps longer- perhaps going all the way back to the Civil War.

Friends, the terrorists are winning.

Oh sure we got Saddam Hussein, and we got Osama Bin Laden, and we got who knows whoever else. But have we ever been more afraid? We may have felt strong and united for a few months after the attacks on September 11th, but the truth is that since then we have been afraid. Politics has been driven by fear and it is killing us- in many cases literally. We’re afraid, and our whole political realm is operating out of that fear. And when people operate out of fear, generally bad things happen. We go into survival mode. We go into self preservation mode. We fight, we claw, we run, we hide, and, perhaps most tragically, we demonize and vilify anything that looks, sounds, and behaves differently than we do.

The terrorists have done, and are doing, exactly what they intend to do. They’ve made us afraid. That is not to say that there isn’t anything to be afraid of. But it is to say that when we there is something to fear, we have to be very careful. Franklin Roosevelt famously said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, but I don’t know that he was entirely correct.

There are other things to fear. ISIS is something to be afraid of. A president whose first order of action seems to be setting up a battle with the press is something to be afraid of. The increased disappearance of the middle class is something to be afraid of. Jobs fleeing the rust belt for other nations is something to be afraid of. Continued incarceration and execution of black lives is something to be afraid of. On and on it goes. There is a lot to be afraid of.

I think FDR was wrong in that fear isn’t the only thing we have to fear, but he was correct in that fear is the main thing we have to fear. This is how the terrorists are winning. Since September 11th, even with a two term president who ran on the “audacity of hope”, our driving motivator in this country has been fear. The Republicans made us afraid of a Kerry Presidency. Then they made us really afraid of an Obama presidency. This year, they stepped it up a notch creating a sense that United States would crack and fall off the face of the earth with a Hillary Clinton presidency. They tried to make us afraid of these people, as the primary means to convince people to vote on their side.

But before the democrats get too haughty, they did the same thing. They bred incredible fear in us about a second Bush term. They made us afraid of a McCain/Palin white house (“she’s one heartbeat away from the oval!”). They bred incredible social and economic fear in us over a Romney presidency, and look how the last 18 months went. Fear. Be afraid of that one. Be very afraid.

That being said, I do believe that there is more to be afraid of with President Trump than any one in my lifetime. Don’t hear what I’m saying as a “calm down, everybody” moment. The rhetoric in his campaign is not only incited fear but anger and violence (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you are either in total denial or are living under a rock). And, contrary to most presidents, he’s making good on his promises. If you ask me, this man is- to use one of his favorite phrases- a total disaster.

But even though I believe there is reason to fear this Trump presidency, letting that fear guide us is the worst thing we can do. It has gotten us nowhere in the last 16 years. All it has led to is a greater divide, and with that divide only comes increased fear, which only increases the divide. I believe that what led us to a Donald J. Trump presidency (something that was a punch line at best and mostly unimaginable 17 years ago) is fear. And what I fear now is that we will do what we’ve been doing these last two decades. We will continue to swing the wrecking ball of fear between us with increased force and in so doing continue to wreck this nation in which we live and which we call home.

Again, I want to be clear. A Trump Presidency appalls me. This man has made my flesh crawl since the early 2000s when my wife and I used to watch “The Apprentice”. I think he’s a clinical narcissist, and in that is entirely psychologically unfit for the presidency, and I genuinely fear where he’s going with this. So in no way am I saying that we shouldn’t resist, that we shouldn’t march, and that we shouldn’t have our guard up. We must.

But we also need to look at what led us to him. It’s fear. It is letting fear be our guide that has led to the increasing chasm between us, and I think the terrorists are now just sitting back on their barcaloungers with their feet up, sipping a cool drink and relaxing as we tear ourselves apart. Somehow in these trying times we have to rise above our fear and move toward one anther again. I’m not saying we need to accept pu**y-grabbing and whatever it was that Hillary did that was so horrific that no one’s ever done before. But I am saying that we need to move toward one another, get back to real conversation and debate, and in that rise above our fear. Fear is the terrorist’s means of control. It’s all they’ve got. Let’s not give it to them. Yes, we can and should be afraid, but we cannot- cannot- let it drive us anymore.

In this, the terrorists are winning. But it’s not over. The choice is ours, not theirs. There’s still time, but we need to make a radical course correction right now. We need to find a way to talk to each other again- to listen to one another- to, quite simply, not be so afraid of one another. That is not to say that we need to agree nor is it to say that we shouldn’t challenge one another, but we have to do it without letting fear be out pilot.

That’s how the terrorists are winning. They have bred such fear in us, that fear is driving us, and in driving us it has become our guiding value in policy, in action, and in how we relate to another in our day to day lives. The terrorists don’t need to attack us anymore, because we’re attacking one another (and let me be the first to admit that I’ve done this, even as recently as yesterday) . They put a giant chasm of fear between us, and in our fear, we are running away from the chasm’s edge, sheltering ourselves with only with those who think, act, and sound like we do, and in so doing we are continually widening the chasm until there is nothing left and we all fall in.

That woman in the hijab over there? She’s not hiding a bomb in it. That guy in the big truck with a an eagle and American flag in the back window? He’s not in the KKK. That women in the hijab? She just wants to work hard, earn a living wage, provide for her family, and love her neighbor. And the guy in the big truck? Same thing. She’s not your enemy. Nor is he.

Do you know who your enemy is? The voice telling you that she or he is your enemy.

Time.

I wrote this back in 2009. As the world continues to rush around us on its axis, I keep coming back to it. I need to listen to it more than I need to publish it:

We’ve all heard it said that time is money. Well if this is so, then why is that we when we’re doing nothing we say we’re wasting time? If I’m doing nothing with money, if I’m not using it, we would say I’m saving it. So why isn’t it that way with time? When we’re doing nothing with our time we say we’re wasting it. Nooooo. That’s not right. That’s saving time. That’s taking time by the horns and saying “you’re mine”.

Have you ever thought about how much time you waste by doing? No one has an excess of time, you know. It’s not like some people are given more than others. We’re all given 24 hours in a day, and 60 minutes in an hour. No one can change that. So how can we say that some have more time? It’s your time, you know. Just like a financial adviser would tell you that you need to get control of your finances so that they don’t control you, I say get control of your time so that it doesn’t get control of you.

Stop spending it. Save some. Put some in the bank and do nothing with it. It’s okay, you can do it. God even commanded it. Seriously, check it out. So take some time and do nothing with it. If some one says, “hey, what are you doing?”, you can say “nothing”.

1616364974_2ab35d9c541“Nothing, really? Well than come on over and help me do….”

“No, no, I’m sorry. You don’t understand. I’m doing nothing. That’s what I’m doing.”

“So you’re just wasting time?”

“Nope. Saving it.”

So save some time today. Do nothing. Quit spending more than you have, because one day hard times will hit. The Time Market will crash and you’ll wish you had some saved up.

Have a Wonder-Full 2017

It’s been a helluva year. 2016 is one that will certainly go down in US History books for obvious reasons, but even if you remove the election, it was still one helluva year. Every now and then at the end of a year I do a little “looking back” (or as the wise sage Yogi Berra once said, “looking back in retrospect”), and just in case something happens, I usually wait until the year is completely over to do so. Here we are, five days still left in 2016, but I’m feeling compelled to reflect. Maybe because it’s been such a year, that I just can’t stomach another thing in these five days. So here I go:  But where do I start? Not sure where to start, I went back into my Twitter feed to the beginning of 2016 to see what might’ve been stirring in me and in the world at that time. That’s one of the things I love about Twitter… that question it asks: “What’s happening?”

Well, I was launching a sermon series and daily blog on the Gospel of Luke a year ago, so most of my first tweets of 2016 were about that and the fact that the Vikings managed to win the NFC North. What a difference a year makes. But one of my tweets connecting to my blog on the Gospel of Luke looks, in retrospect, to be somewhat prophetic:

I have been saying to my congregation since the Republican and Democratic conventions that I do not recall a time in my life when this nation seemed as anxious as it does right now. There is a tension in our nation right now that is so thick that you can almost feel it in the air we breathe. On January 4, 2016 I had no idea just how anxiety-inducing this year would be. I don’t need to replay it all for us, but let me just scratch the surface on a few things that struck me in particular.

The Election: It is the #1 story of the year, without question. All along Donald Trump was making noise, and if you could look back on conversations with my friends you will hear me saying, “everybody calm down… after the New Year, when there are actual primaries, America will wake up and Trump will disappear in no time.” I could not have been more wrong. I shoulda listened to my friend Joe, a bonafide prophet, who kept saying, “I don’t know, we need to be careful.” In the end, this election bred deep anxiety on both sides of the political aisle. The left was (and is more so now) terrified of Trump (and there are reasons to be so), and the right was terrified of Hillary (decades of loathing doesn’t just go away). The tension is thick.

13010614_10208942482101403_1588018010296067225_nPrince: We had already lost Bowie and Snape and George Martin, as well as some others, but for me, this one hit hard. I didn’t see it coming, but Prince’s death hit me like a tidal wave. And in some ways, you got this sense when he died that something was up with 2016. It was only April, and you just knew that it wouldn’t be the end. Muhammed Ali, Gene Wilder, and Leonard Cohen, were just a few others that struck me after Prince died, and then, just yesterday, George Michael. I don’t know what the Grammies are gonna do with their memorial segment. It could take up the whole show. Sometimes it snows in April. :\

Jacob Wetterling: This is how huge this year was. Locally this was a huge story, and I almost forgot about it. His disappearance gripped the state of Minnesota and was for decades considered our state’s greatest mystery. That mystery came to an end in September as Jacob’s abductor and killer finally came clean (as clean as a “deal” can be), confessed, and revealed the location of Jacob’s remains. My only solace in it was that at least Jacob’s torture was only for a night. I had longed feared that he had endured, or even was enduring, decades of torture. That weekend, it seemed the entire state shone brightly with porch lights of hope for all missing and abducted persons. This was a pic I tweeted of my neighborhood that night. Not a great pic, but a powerful image.

 

The Cubs: This team just can’t buy a break. One of the greatest stories in sports took place this year, as after 108 years of choking, the Cubs finally won it all. And, yet, even when they win, they lose: The win itself was unforgettable, but it also came in one of the best game 7s ever (as a lifelong Twins fan and attendee of the 1991 game 7 I refuse to give this year’s the top spot alone!), and a week later it was gone- lost in one the most gripping presidential elections in US history. Everybody, in a year that was loaded with so much anxiety, let us not forget the joy of the lovable losers finally winning it all! Go, Cubs, Go. Hey Chicago, what d’you say? It’s been a crappy year. So, Chicago, don’t feel guilty about boldly and joyfully flying that W.

 

Standing Rock: I don’t know what it is, but something clicked in me when violence broke out int eh DAPL standoff on late October. Shortly thereafter there was a call for clergy to come, and I knew Just had to go. This important story also got lost in the election, but if you ask me it was one of the most significant stories of the year. I am still frustrated with President Obama’s silence. I wrote a few pieces on the situation there. Here’s one. And I’m sure some dumb pic of Trump or Hillary will win it, but if you ask me, this is the pic of the year:

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And in the context of the image above, this is a close second:

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Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Dallas, and Black Lives Matter: The movement and struggle for black lives continued in 2016, and without getting into the depths of it, I think it’s safe to say that anxieties are high in this nation when it comes to race. Many of us thought Martin Luther King’s dream was realized in January of 2008 when we inaugurated a black president, but 2016 was another reminder that racism is so deeply embedded in the fabric of this nation that not even a black president could neither cure it nor realize its end. I’ve struggled with the movement for black lives, not quite getting exactly where I land on it and what my voice in it is. I transferred seminaries from Luther Sem in St. Paul to the Iliff School of Theology in Denver this fall and I took advantage of a class offered at Iliff called “Black Lives Matter”. It was the hardest class I’ve every taken in my life both academically and emotionally. I learned a ton, but I think the most important lesson I learned was this: Fellow white folk: We need to shut up and listen. Really listen. Just. Listen.

I could go on. From meaningful celebrity deaths, to an anxiety plunging election, to broken sports curses  getting lost to centuries long plights for black, brown and red lives, 2016 was a heavy, heavy year. When I look back on the words I wrote on January 4, 2016, I realize that more often than not, I did not do well in turning to wonder when overwhelmed. I turned to anxiety, to fear, to judgement, to slander, to rage, to despair, and at times to hate. I don’t know that 2017 will be any less anxious for us. We are a divided people. A great socio-political chasm exists between us, and our best hope is- perhaps- not to continue to dig our heels in, but somehow to find a way to bridge it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak- or even shout- hard truths. But it does mean that we should be careful about how we do so. And by we, I mean “we” but maybe mostly “I”.

A good friend of mine does this thing where instead of a New Years Resolution, she picks a New Years theme. One year it was “Look Up”. I’ve adopted this practice, and because I’m a slow learner, I’ve basically had the same theme for the last three years: “Spot the Beauty.” This year, I’m going to heed my own words from January 4, 2016 and head into 2017 with a new theme: “Turn to Wonder.”  With that, I close this quasi-year-in-review with an excerpt from my January 4th, 2016 blog post from “A Look a Luke”:

I love that picture of Mary. She’s a 12-14 year old girl, and she is thinking deeply about what’s happening. In what was probably a confusing  time, she turns to wonder. This has been a hard journey. It’s been long, and it’s been hard, and it’s going to continue to be hard. She was, I’m sure, terrified, uncertain and confused. She had to be wondering what God was doing in all of this. And in her confusion, she turns to wonder. There have been confusing times in my life- times where I have no clue what’s happening, no clue where God is in it, and no clue what might be in store. In those times, I usually turn to fear, anxiety, and even frustration. I pray that I may take a clue here from Mary: When I’m uncertain, afraid, and confused, while there may be fear, can I muster up the strength to turn to wonder? Can I muster up the courage to get outside of myself, step outside into the air, and to look up and into the stars to see just how massive the universe is and how within it, God holds me? Do I trust God enough to turn to wonder? And in so doing to trade anxiety for peace?

Beloved, have a happy, beautiful, peaceful, and indeed wonder-full 2017.

O Little Town of Robbinsdale

In 2004 a beautiful insanity entered our home. Here’s something I wrote a in 2009 about that day. Happy birthday, girls!

It was a cold, dark December night and it was time. Two girls who had been fighting to enter the world for over a month were coming. Ready or not, they were coming. A rattled mother and father gathered up their things, their 19-month old son and headed out on their journey. You could feel the bitter cold fighting its way through the windows. The sky was pure black. Homes and businesses lay deep in a “night before Christmas Eve” slumber. All the while this family was wide awake, hurried, excited and fearful, speeding through the streets of Maple Grove, Plymouth, Crystal and on into Robbinsdale. Not a soul seemed to be stirring but for this five in a humble minivan.

It didn’t take long. Within an hour of leaving home, two girls lay silently in North Memorial hospital cribs while the community slumbered before its Christmas festivities. And there we lay, a new born family of five in a hospital. The slightly premature beauties found their home in the NICU. A strange, but mysteriously beautiful place to spend Christmas Eve. While the world dons its gay apparel, carves its roast beast, and decks its halls, many care for the world’s smallest just trying to make it. Something distinctly Kingdom took place there. Something distinctly Christmas took place there in an NICU in Robbinsdale, MN. No fanfare, no hoopla, little to no gay apparel, roast beasts or decked halls. Just babies born in ways no one expected nor hoped; babies born with less than average chances, but with teams of people willing to fight with everything they have to give them life. That’s Christmas, that’s God in the flesh; people giving everything they have to give those with less than average chances a chance to make it in this scary but beautiful world. Yes, indeed it was, distinctly Christmas. The most strangely wonderful Christmas of my life.

Happy birthday, beloved.

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12 Years of Abby and Natalie (Home for Christmas 2004 below, Ages 1-12 above: upper-left is 12 years old, lower-right is 1 year old)

 

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My Letter to U of MN President Kaler

13615416_10209580625294584_3377453851685514708_nI doubt it will even get read, and I tried to keep short, but I just couldn’t. I’m always calling upon my congregation to do what they can to shine light into a dark world, so this is just my meager effort in doing that. Regardless, it helped my soul to send it.  Here’s my letter to University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler:

Hello President Kaler and Staff,
I am writing to you today as a concerned alumnus and lifelong Gopher sports fan (I wanted to include Athletic Director Mark Coyle as well, but I could not find his contact information). Every now and then something flips a switch in a person and you realize you have to do something about it. That happened to me this weekend when the news broke that the football team had called a boycott in light feeling that due process had been given in the sexual assault case from earlier this year. As I watched those players address the media feeling they had been wronged, a switch flipped in me around sexual violence on campus. I know this is an issue on campuses across the country and I know it’s an issue about which the University of Minnesota cares deeply and on which it has been working hard to quell. I loved my years at the U, and as someone who spent 15 years working with teenagers in churches and is now the pastor of a church in town, my heart swells with pride when on “Grad Sundays” one of my students announces that s/he is going to be a Gopher. They always get a “ski-u-mah” from their pastor.
My heart broke for my alma mater this weekend as I watched these football players citing themselves as the victim. There’s a lot I don’t know when it comes to policies, procedures, due process, etc., but here’s what I do know: All too often we men- especially young men- have no idea how our words, actions, and mere presence impact women. The number of women I know of who have been sexually assaulted on campuses is shocking to me. Men are assaulting women on campuses across the nation without even knowing it sometimes. Furthermore the “machismo” culture in men’s sports makes matter worse. There is probably nothing to say here that you don’t already know, but this it a serious issue and I don’t know that it’s getting any better.
When coach Claeys said on Twitter that he had “never been more proud of our kids”, it hit me how much of this issue starts with him. I’ve been a Gopher sports fan my whole life (I grew up in Minneapolis), and I’ve been hearing about sexual assault by Gopher athletes my whole life. While Coach Claeys has back tracked on his tweet (a little), I think his tweet reveals that he is utterly clueless when it comes to the nature and psychology of sexual violence, yet he has more influence on these young man than anyone. Because of this, I am calling for the immediate dismissal of coach Claeys. We need someone leading these young men who will teach them about more than football. The Gopher Football team is a group of men that could probably have more positive impact on matters of sexual violence on campus than any other group. Other young men will listen to them and they will be heard. We need someone leading them who does not need to be taught about the nature and psychology of sexual violence.
Furthermore, I am also calling for a rigorous, intentional and practical curriculum for men’s sports teams, starting with the football team, to be educated on matters regarding sexual violence in such a way that they not merely learn about it but become the campus leaders in matters of sexual violence. Sexual assault is not a women’s issues. It’s a men’s issue. What if the University of Minnesota became the school where its athletes are known as leaders and advocates on these matters, not the perpetrators? What if instead of being known as people who wonder how far they can go without getting into trouble, they became known as advocates for the health and safety of women on campus? How amazing would that be. We have an opportunity before us to revolutionize men’s athletics, but it’s going to take work. It can’t be mere lip service.
I am a man of little influence when it comes to the University of Minnesota. I cannot afford to support it financially nor can even even afford to attend many athletic events. From a financial standpoint, you will not miss me at all. But I love my alma mater, and I don’t want to stop supporting its athletic teams that I love. But until I see Coach Claeys dismissed and I see some serious plans in place to make our male athletes leaders on campus on these matters, I will not be rooting for the Gopher football team. In next week’s Holiday Bowl, I will cheer for the Washington State Cougars, and until I see those changes, I will be finding another football team in the Big Ten to support, and will be using the limited influence I have to encourage others to do the same. I am just one small voice of many, but I hope you will hear me. I am very concerned about the young women I send off to college campuses across the country, and I would love to send them to my beloved alma mater with a little more confidence. No matter our win/loss record, Big 10 standing, or bowl game presence, being a leader on the issue of sexual violence would make Gopher Football a winner in this alum’s eyes.
Thank you for your time. Ski-U-Mah
pastor paul baudhuin, Aldersgate United Methodist Church

#WeHadEnough of Sportsballs Perpetuating Sexual Assault.

A Quick note: So here’s my rant on the situation with the Gopher football team. It’s not brief, it’s not as coherent as I would like, and if you’re thinking, “nah, I don’t want to read all that”, I get it. But then all I ask- if you are a man- is that you at least watch the embedded video at the bottom. At minimum, take that 18 minutes. 

Once again, sports, celebrity, and money keep us from having the conversation we need to
have. I love sports, and when it comes to sports I put my local teams above all others, and as a born and bred Minneapolis kid and University of Minnesota alumnus, I have always loved and cheered for the Men’s Basketball team and Football from my alma mater. In my lifetime both of them have been mostly bad with glimpses of mediocrity and riddled with scandal, but I have decided that they will remain my teams and I will keep waiting and hoping for the day when one of these programs turns the corner. It’s been a bit like Narnia: Always winter but never Christmas.

 

I say all that to say that I am not simply some sports hater, looking for a reason to tear down athletes. I am an avid sports fan, and I love my Gophers. But here we are again, letting our addiction to sports (and in particular men’s sports) overshadow a crucial conversation that keeps getting buried because we are unwilling to adequately go after the destructive, misogynist, and abhorrent culture of sexual assault in sports. And the display the Gopher football team put on yesterday is exhibit A (or perhaps in Minnesota history exhibit Q or Z) in this abject failure. College football players having their way with an intoxicated women for 90 minutes disappears in these poor “kids” “right” to “due process” to play in a bowl game.

Here’s how this works: A woman drinks way too much alcohol. She then finds herself in an apartment with football players engaging in sexual activity. Unsure of what exactly happened after it’s over, she calls the police. Over time the authorities decide they don’t have enough evidence to charge anybody with any kind of sexual crime.

Later the University does its own investigation and decides there is enough to suspend 10

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how frightening must this image be for the actual victim.

 

players. Because there were no legal charges filed previously, these 10 players are now made the victims because they are denied playing in a bowl game. The team calls a players-only meeting in which they pull off a strategic stunt of boycotting all football activities until their teammates are reinstated. Not only that, the team has the audacity to start a Twitter campaign to support using the hashtag #WeHadEnough. Wow.

The players thought it was over. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am, and they think it’s over. They’re outraged when it resurfaces for them, while it is likely replayed every day of this woman’s life in her mind, and they don’t give a crap about that. Wham. Bam. Thank you. Ma’am.

With this stunt, we are no longer talking about the destructive culture of sexual assault in
sports. We are talking about whether these 10 players were treated fairly. I went out on Twitter to throw my two cents into this conversation to get the conversation back on this disgusting, decades old culture in sports. What happened?

In no way do I have any meaningful presence on Twitter with my paltry 275 followers, but I did receive 19 retweets and 80+ likes, as well as a series of responses of those challenging me on just one of a handful of tweets. The gender divide was staggering. The 80+ likes and 19 retweets were almost entirely female, and the challengers on that and other tweets were all sports-loving males who continually brought the conversation back to the fact that no charges were filed and this woman back tracked a little: “No rape or sexual assault! Only regret”, was the overarching sentiment.

Well, guys, women seem to feel differently. Maybe it’s time we let women be the primary voice into what sexual assault actually is. How about we let them decide. It’s a scary proposition isn’t it? Because it means that a woman who “regrets” may be able to get us into trouble for something we feel we didn’t do. Exactly. Because as men, we have no idea what’s actually happening (with the exception of those men who have also been sexually assaulted by men). And what it might just do is get us to think twice about whether she really “wants it” or not. It might slow us down in our sexual escapades. It might actually force us to stop taking advantage of women’s “yeses”, because if we let women decide when assault has taken place, if we actually empower rather than silence the victim, maybe we’ll start actually getting into trouble for this abhorrent behavior and systematically perpetuated culture.

In this case, the victim has been blamed again. A group of large, strong men take advantage of an intoxicated young woman and the men are now victims and the woman has all but disappeared from the conversation. If she is mentioned, it is merely as a young woman who made an unwise choice. Meanwhile the Gopher Football coach, Tracy Claeys has “never been more proud of his kids.”

The culture of sexual abuse of women in sports is systemically perpetuated, once again.

What it comes down to is this. We know, without a doubt, male athletes take advantage of women. From Mickey Mantle to Magic Johnson to Kirby Puckett to Johnny Manziel, athletes have used their physical prowess, alcohol, and status to take advantage of women for decades, and nobody is willing to do anything meaningful about it. When these actions get exposed, we twist the conversation to merely a legal one wherein we make the perpetrators the victims: “That poor athlete whose name has been smeared because of some money grabbing, attention seeking, slutty woman.” That’s essentially what we’re saying.

We have to remember that what the law does is reduce things down to the lowest common denominator. The law is designed to tell you what the very lowest degree of acceptable behavior is. When we reduce these matters down to merely what the law decides, what is truly right and wrong goes out the window. Tracy Claeys has never been more proud of his kids than when they rise up and defend their teammates who gang banged an intoxicated women because they merely didn’t break the law. Character, a base sense of right and wrong, respect, self control, being a real man of integrity- none of this matters, none of this is something to proud of because… well… football.

It is time for this issue to be the number one issue in sports, all the way from Junior High to the pros. We need a radical shift in how we talk about this. We need to recognize that we men have a problem, a serious problem, and it’s on us to fix. It needs to be dealt with beyond sports-world, but for now I’m focusing there. We need to listen, learn, and change the conversation. We need to put our pathetic egos and machismo aside, we need shut up, and we need to let women lead us here. We need to come to a moment of crisis about what we have been doing, perpetuating, and sustaining for too long. Let’s get the conversation off of these whiny, entitled football players who think they have been so “wronged”, and look at the ways in which they are not wronged but wrong.

It’s time for men to start holding men accountable. I dream of a day when this info gets out and teammates don’t pull whiny stunts to protect their teammates, but they come to the coach and say, “you need to suspend the guys for what they did”. We have a problem, men. And it’s up to us to fix it. It’s our problem. And shame on us for letting the base level of the law and our addiction to sportsballs be the bar by which we judge ourselves on these matters. Shame on us.

 

It’s Time for US to Take the Hit.

img_7456It was just over a month ago that something woke in me and I found myself en route to the small town of Cannon Ball on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. I’m not sure what it was, but as I’ve said before, something simply lit inside of me and had to become active at some level in advocating for the Standing Rock Sioux on the issue of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Over the last month I have found myself utterly disappointed in both the President of the United States (who, contrary to popular understanding is still Barack Obama) and the mainstream media. Both of them have had their heads in the sand on this issue, no matter what they say. They will cite that the election took precedent, but this is utter nonsense. The election has been over for nearly a month, and the mainstream media cannot stop playing into the President-Elect’s hand as it continues to be obsessed with Donald J. Trump. Let’s get real, media: You love him. You can’t get enough of him. You have been salivating over him for over a year.

As for President Obama: Well, it’s pretty clear where his loyalties lie. Yes, Obama’s silence is proof that we are indeed “one nation, under oil…”. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We are one nation under god, and that god’s name is Oil. That is who our source of life and wellbeing is, that is who we serve, that is who we worship.

Over this last frustrating month, I’ve been doing what little I can to get the word out, but that’s pretty limited. Finally the media is starting to pick this up a little bit, and the story is getting out there a little more. I was struck today by a piece from the Washington Post that I thought is definitely worth a good look for everybody. It traces several different perspectives on DAPL. I think those perspectives- all of them- are important for us to listen to.

As I read the piece and watched the videos I heard some of the cries of those on the other side from where I am. I heard about how this pipeline has provided thousands of good jobs for people who need it. I heard about its economic benefits to all of us. I heard about the disruption of everyday work, income, and livelihood the protests have created for many hard working and even sympathetic North Dakotans. I heard about genuine safety issues for pipeline workers, law enforcement officers, and even uninvolved citizens. These are real issues, with real people, real faces, real names, and real lives that people like need me need to hear, see, and value.

But as much as I hear them, I simply cannot see any argument to allow this pipeline through. There is a side to this story that I think (and seriously, no pun intended) trumps everything else. It’s a side of the story that we all know, but we simply seem unwilling to do anything about, and of which we live in abject denial of. It’s this:

No matter the merits of any argument regarding the economy, the environment, or the process, what we now call the United States of America has been oppressing native peoples for 500 years and it’s time- for once- to give them what they want. And furthermore, it’s time to give them what they want at our expense. 

Yes, there may be some violent protestors, and yes that is wrong. Threats and physical attacks by protestors on pipeline workers, law enforcement officers, and government officials is wrong and should be condemned. It is not what the people of Standing Rock stand for, and it should be boldly and clearly condemned, and those people should go home. And, yes, this pipeline has created jobs, and, yes, this pipeline will likely benefit the US economy. All of that may be true.

But when we’re saying things like “these protestors are impacting people’s livelihoods who have nothing to do with the pipeline”, what we’re failing to recognize is the history in which we are still living today that violently took this land from these people and ruined their very way of being. We’ve been disrupting their livelihood and lives for 500 years. It’s our turn. Maybe it’s time that our lifestyle takes a hit so that we can begin to right the 500 years of wrongs we have inflicted on Native American cultures. It’s time for us to perhaps lose the job, see gas prices rise, and even watch our economy weaken so that we can- for once- do right with Native Peoples.

The minute these people said “no”, we should have stopped and said, “you know what: You’re right. We’re sorry. We’ll stop digging.” And we should have done this for no other reason than all we’ve done for 500 years is trample over and dig up Native Peoples’ land, culture, livelihoods, and lives. It’s time for us- the people of the United States of America- to take the hit. Enough is enough.

Two years ago President Barack Obama stood on the Standing Rock reservation pledging to have their back. I believed him. And I believed in him. I’m ashamed today that I ever trusted this man, and, quite honestly, any other soul that will sit in the Oval Office. I’m embarrassed that I believed him. When it comes down to it, we as a nation have never had, and appears will never have, the backs of Native People. President Obama’s silence is, to me, the sign, sealed, and delivered message that we really don’t care about Native American’s Lives. We don’t. Just look at our receipts for the past 500 years.

We will pay them lip service, but when it comes down to it, we will bow down to and serve our god ever faithfully: We will serve whatever it is that benefits us economically at the time, which right now is the god called oil. And we will, as we are doing right now, trample over whomever we have to in order to worship this god. Today, as it hs been for 500 years, it is those who are native to America over which we trample. Enough is enough, America. It’s time for us to take the hit. Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline now.

What I Didn’t Preach: Sacred Land, Prayer, Daniel & a Black Snake

img_7454-3It’s one of those texts and one of those Sundays: There’s too much in the text and there’s too much in the world. So every now and then you get these kind of intersections where you have to discern what sermon to preach. You only get one, and making more than one into one makes a bad one. Today I preached about the “long night” of Advent. It’s a thing. But there was something else deep in my heart around this text that I chose not preach today, because, as I said, you only get one, and you have to trust the Spirit on which one to preach. So here’s what I didn’t preach today, but which is still aggressively trying to climb out of me:

Today we looked at Daniel 6, which is where Daniel gets thrown into the lions’ den for praying to his god. Here’s the scene: Israel is in exile. They have been conquered and sent into exile and are thoroughly in the grips of another regime. But, as can happen, some Israelites find favor with power and are called to serve the regime in prestigious ways. Daniel is one such fellow. The problem is, well, that pesky thing called humanity. His peers get jealous and threatened by his success. So they set a trap for the ever faithful Daniel. They convince King Darius to pass a law that prohibits the worship of anyone or anything but King Darius. We can only speculate as to why Darius passes this law. Perhaps flattery? It doesn’t matter.

So what happens? Well the obvious. Daniel’s peers go to him just at the time when we faces his holy, sacred land- the city of Jerusalem- to pray to God. They catch him, bring him to King Darius and demand that he be thrown into the lions’ den as the law dictates. Darius regrets this law and does not want to do it, but he must. So into the lions’ den Daniel goes. An angel tends to him there all night by shutting the mouths of the lions, Daniel is saved, and Darius passes a new law that all must worship Daniel’s god (why he didn’t do that before putting him in the lion’s den, I don’t know, but that’s not the point). It’s a happy ending (except for that small little detail of the entire nation of Israel still being oppressed and in exile).

What strikes me is this: Daniel’s response to oppression. He is a faithful Jew, living in oppression and says nothing in this whole story until after he is saved from the lions. The only time it’s even mentioned that he says anything at all is when he is in prayer. Daniel’s response to oppression, even in a seat of power, is prayer. It’s among the most famous stories in the Bible, and when we read it we credit Daniel as faithful and wise just as the text does.

Yet at the same time, today, right now, and for months, another people have responded to oppression in prayer. The people of Standing Rock represent just one tribe of many native peoples who had their land stolen and were led into a kind of exile- an exile on their own land. Someone arbitrarily decided where their land would end and where it would begin, and like Darius and his conspirators, they keep changing the rules to work in their favor. As a black snake plows forward through their holy and scared land to threaten their very source of life, the people of Standing Rock face increased oppression. We may not be comfortable with that word but that’s what it is. They live- and have lived for centuries- under the exiling oppressive arm of the United States of America. What has been their response?

They turn toward their holy land to pray. And, like Daniel, the king’s conspirators have them thrown into the modern day lions’ den of hand cuffs, dog kennels, pepper spray, water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and who knows what else may come as they threaten to evict the Oceti Sakowin camp within the week. The “Biblical values” on which the United States were supposedly founded are not found coming from the king’s throne in Washington, but are found on the camps of Standing Rock.

But this time there appears to be no angel shutting the lions’ mouths. The hand of God seems to be absent, mute, and impotent. But what if the hand of God isn’t absent? I would argue that it’s not. But it is mute and impotent. Advent is the season in which we wait for God to come here and dwell with us. It is when we cry out in our desperate moments for God to meet us here in the flesh. And God did. God came in the flesh as a man called Jesus who is also called “Emmanuel”, which means “God with us”.

But where is this Jesus now? Where is this God in the flesh now? It’s a fair and necessary question. As the story goes, Jesus leads a radical revolution of turning the establishment on its head, is crucified for it- that is, has his body was broken for it- is buried, rises from the dead in wholeness, and then ascends to Heaven. And as this “God-in-the-flesh” ascends, he says, among other things, that we are the ones to go and be (in a sense) God in the flesh in the world. This is why we pray whenever we come to the Communion Table, “pour out your Spirit on these gifts of bread and wine that they may become the body and blood of Christ for us that we may be the Body of Christ for the world.

Beloved, the Church- by the power of the Spirit within us- is the hand of God in the world. We are the ones who are to fulfill the prophet Isaiah’s word that Christ took on as his mission in Luke 4 to, “bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18, Isaiah 61:1). We now are the Body of Christ for the world- that charge is ours.

The people of Standing Rock are Daniel in the lions’ den right now, and there is a raging lion manifested as a black snake waiting to devour them. It is our job to do what we can to show up and shut that snake’s mouth. The people of Standing Rock are embodying the faithful, while the Church has largely been mute and impotent, too distracted by what’s happening with the king’s castle and crown.

As we head into Advent, the stakes are high, and we need to remember that when it comes to oppressed people throughout the world, we are to stand up for them. It doesn’t always fit nicely into our shopping, cookie exchanges, and office parties, but it’s what our call is. If we want to put “Christ back into Christmas”, our task is not to say “merry Christmas” at the checkout counter at Target; our task is to embody Christ by standing in solidarity with those on the margins of society. Or in this case, those whose own margins society continually shrinks down until they have none. So, come, let’s stand together as the very presence of God in the world- as emmanuel- to do the hard work of shutting the mouth of the black snake.

Have a Troubled Thanksgiving

tumblr_og7eoxyw5m1qd42iqo1_1280Yes, that’s right, I don’t want you to have a “happy” Thanksgiving. I want you (and me) to have a troubled- disturbed- thanksgiving. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for gratitude and calling to mind the blessings in our lives, and that is something we all should ado. So do that, but as you do, remember that there’s another narrative that surrounds this gluttonous holiday which we need to address, and which we need to condemn. It’s that narrative that tells the outright lie of pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, meeting and shaking hands with Native Americans who all then sit down and have a turkey dinner together. We know this isn’t true. We know that what actually happened is one of the biggest and most long lasting acts of imperial dominion and genocide the world has ever known. That’s what Thanksgiving is, and we need to let that in.

The American story, for which we “give thanks” tomorrow, is one surrounded by the kinds of acts that when another nation engages in them, we fight wars and cry for a regime change. Yet somehow we still live in whispers of this false narrative of pilgrims and natives peacefully sitting down to dinner together. We dress our white preschool kids up in offensive native attire and put on thanksgiving pageants in our schools, we run 5Ks and put head dresses on cartoon turkey characters on the t-shirt, and we thank God for the freedom we have in this great country- a freedom we stole. A freedom that came at the cost of nations which we plundered, raped, and destroyed. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.

When it comes to what we now know as the Standing Rock Sioux, we came in, we took their land, we gave some of it back, then we took some back again. The land we’ve taken, which they hold as sacred, we’ve exploited over and over again. Today a massive black snake known as an oil pipeline is being laid right through that land we took, gave back, and took again, and the Standing Rock Sioux have had enough. And so have I. So should we all. It doesn’t matter what permits they have or don’t have. It doesn’t matter whether the land the pipeline is going through is technically the Standing Rock reservation or not. It doesn’t matter that water protectors may be “trespassing”. Trespassing? Are you kidding me? Our whole nation, this “greatest nation in the world”, was founded on trespassing- and that’s putting it nicely. This is an “enough is enough” moment. It’s time for this US Government to just once- just once- side with Native Peoples in a meaningful way. In a way that costs us something. But it’s not happening. Peaceful water protectors are alone, being attacked by law enforcement, and we don’t care. Why? Because we are “one nation under God” and that god’s name is Oil. That is who we bow to, serve and worship. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.

So, yes, I want you and me to have a troubled Thanksgiving, because while we sit down to turkey, mashed potatoes, “green stuff”, wine, and football, native peoples are still fighting for their (and our) well being. While we pull out the fine china and pretend we like each other, thousands of people, and more nations than have ever gathered before in history, camp out in the cold and snow on the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota trying to do everything they can to stop an oil pipeline from tunneling underneath the river that gives the people of Standing Rock life. And, quite honestly, gives all of us life. So as we fill ourselves on massive amounts of food and drink, have a troubled Thanksgiving.

As the Standing Rock people and their allies do what they can to stop it, law enforcement officers have proven to stop at nothing to stop them. Water cannons in freezing temperatures, concussion grenades, and rubber bullets have been launched on water protectors, severely injury many. Just two years ago President Obama (who, contrary to popular belief is still the President) stood on the Standing Rock reservation and pledged to stand with native peoples. Today, he’s got his head buried in the sand, proving that 500+ years later, this nation- the “land of the free and the home of the brave”- doesn’t care about native peoples. After all that we’ve learned, we still dress up our kids in head dresses on Thanksgiving, and we still move into native land to exploit it for our own economic benefit. We are still, right now, today, this Thanksgiving, taking their land and ignoring their cries as we were 500 years ago. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.

An oil pipeline running through sacred ground that we stole and tunneling underneath sacred and life giving water, combined with a militarized police force, and capped with a liberal president bailing on his promises with his head in the sand exposes that 500 years later this country, the United States of America, the “city on a hill”, is still an imperial oppressor, who views indigenous people as subhuman savages that need to be destroyed so that we can “be free”. This is a reality we need to let in and confess. This should be a national day of repentance, not a celebration. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.

This image (also above) is the most accurate modern day reenactment of the original tumblr_og7eoxyw5m1qd42iqo1_1280Thanksgiving you’ll see… except that it’s not a reenactment. It’s real. It’s happening. It’s now. So as you sit down to dinner tomorrow, as you doze off on the couch watching football, as you argue with your family about the election, remember the people of Standing Rock- that is, “Real America”- and the thousands of water protectors gathered there. Remember that the turkey you’re eating comes in memory of a slaughter and genocide of native peoples that is still happening today. And remember that their plight isn’t even really about “their land”. It’s about our land. Everybody’s land. It’s about protecting this earth for generations to come. The Standing Rock Sioux are our teachers in this, but we are treating them as enemies.

So… have a troubled Thanksgiving. May your soul be in a state of unrest. May your heart cry tears of sorrow with every beat. May your mind be distracted by the truth. May your body be built by a riot in your bones. Have a troubled Thanksgiving, friends.

Since “we the people” are the only help the people of Standing Rock will get, here are a few ways you can help:

Sacred Stone Camp: http://sacredstonecamp.org/supply-list/
Oceti Sakowin Camp: http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org
Sophia’s GoFundMe Page: https://www.gofundme.com/30aezxs

What Now? Stop Beating the Crap Out of Each Other.

what_now1I’ve been trying to find words. Words are how I make sense out of things, and all week I’ve been trying to find the words that will make sense out of the insanity that this presidential election has brought. But I’ve struggled to find them. I’ve been sitting in front of my computer all morning trying to find them, but they don’t seem to come in any coherent way. I guess because there is little sense to be made out of what’s taking place in these “United” States of America. Regardless my soul needs words (even if somewhat raw and unrefined as these), and my soul needs to send those words out somehow, even if it is merely like a message in a bottle doomed to floating on an empty sea for eternity. So here are my words…

We’ve got problems, America. As much as Trump appalls me (and has since I watched “The Apprentice” back when he was mostly just a blowhard reality TV star and real estate huckster), he is right about one thing: America needs to be made great. Now I won’t say “great again”, because I’m not sure of the time when we were great, but I don’t want to get into that history right now. Suffice it to say that whether it’s “great again” or merely “great”, what Trump’s campaign slogan got right is that we as a nation have work to do. A lot of work. And in saying that, don’t give me the “why don’t you go live somewhere else” crap, because all that is is a not-clever way of shutting down hard but necessary conversation. I say that America needs to be made great, not because I hate America, but because I love it. The sooner we come to grips with the fact that we have real problems, the better. I’ll be honest: After an entire morning of several attempts at analyzing those problems, trying to find their causes, and then drawing on some kind of hopeful solution, I’m stuck. That is not to say that there isn’t a solution, but I’m stymied.

But here’s what I do know. The fear, hate, and violence has to stop. I’m just going to throw this out there, because it’s all that I know.

Those of you protesting Trump’s election, don’t stop. It’s your right to publicly assemble 546508-20161111-highschool-protest02and make your voice heard. Especially those like the gathering of Minneapolis High School students yesterday who have no vote. Get out there and make your voice heard. Don’t listen to the “he won fair and square, get over it” rhetoric. I’ll confess that he did win, and won legally. We can argue the merits of some voter laws in some states, but he won. But that doesn’t mean you have to get over it and be quiet. To a certain extent, Congress does. They need to get over it and for the sake of our country get to work, but as a private citizen, you have every right to get out there make your voice heard. But when you do, don’t destroy and burn stuff. Violence is not the answer. It never is. That doesn’t mean you can’t shut down a highway. That may be illegal, and to a certain degree dangerous, but it’s not violent. I have mixed feelings about shutting down highways, but a non-violent protest does not necessarily mean only a legal protest. Just know that if you do choose to do things like non-noviontely shut down a highway, you may get arrested. You have the right to assemble, but if you break the law in doing so, you can get arrested. You’ll need to deal with that, but deal with it peacefully.

So, Trump protestors, stop burning things, destroying property, and above all else, stop attacking Trump supporters. That is happening, whether you want to admit or not (it’s happened and they are so horrific that I don’t even want to link it here. Google it and will have no trouble finding them). Stop doing it, and furthermore start condemning the actions of those who do. You don’t have to like Trump supporters, you don’t have agree with them, you don’t have to be their friend, but you have no right whatsoever to threaten or harm them in any way. Stop it, and stop it now. I know you’re angry, and it’s ok to be angry, but you must not manifest your anger in physical attacks or threats. Stop it and condemn it when you see it.

To you Trump supporters: Climb out of your holes and stop denying that your fellow Trump supporters are engaging in a rash of hate crimes, vandalism, threats, physical and sexual assaults literally in Trump’s name across the nation. Is happening and maple-grove-high-school-graffiti-2collectively, you have not only been silent about it, you’ve been in abject denial of it. Not only that, President-Elect Trump has been silent about it. What you need to understand about those protesting his election, is that they are not protesting the merits of the election as much as they are protesting that these hate crimes, threats, and assaults, which many of us believed would come because of a Trump presidency, are actually coming. Yes, Trump tapped into what we often call “working class” America in a particular way which Hillary Clinton could not, and which got him elected, but that is not what the protests against him are about. They are about the violence he incited in his campaign toward certain people groups in America. You cannot- cannot- deny it. We saw it in his rallies. He made a promise to ban all Muslims from coming into our country. This distinctly un-American. He promised to build a wall, when the Republican hero’s (Ronald Reagan’s) most famous moment was the call to tear one down. Furthermore he encouraged violence towards his protestors by saying things like “I’d like to punch him in the face”, and, “in the gold old days, he’d be carried out on a stretcher” (If you need me to prove to you that he said these things, then you simply have not been paying attention and were an uninformed voter- look it up). The President-Elect incited violence, and that violence is manifesting itself across the nation, and he, along with his supporters are hiding from and denying it. This is not a “well, we’ve all sinned haven’t haven’t we” kind of moment. This is the President-Elect of the united states endorsing hate crimes, threats, and assaults on other Americans, and if he is not going to condemn it, you need to do it, and you need to demand that he does.

All of this is to say this. Post election (any election) there is little that we can do about what happens in Washington. We should never stop making our voices heard, no matter where on the political spectrum we fall, but in the end- that is, post election- there is little we can do. But what we can do, and what we must do, is stop the fear, hatred, and violence toward one another. Our reciprocal fear of the other, our hateful vitriol toward those who think differently than we do, and our physical destroying of one another and property is something over which we do have control. I am not asking anyone to compromise your beliefs. Stand up for what you believe in, but do it peacefully. Do it boldly, but do it peacefully. Death, assault, hate crimes, destruction… these have to stop and stop now.

12107836_10207468604055373_992290273295544282_n-2I don’t know what the answer is for America right now, but I know that we have serious, serious problems. I love this country. I do. But I am ashamed of it right now and have been for some time. Right now, I am not proud to be an American. It is disingenuous to even call us the “United” States of America. Today we are the Untied States of America. I don’t know what the answers are for what will truly tie us together, but I do know that step #1 is stop beating the crap out of each other. You on the right may not like this, but Hillary Clinton preemptively condemned beating the crap out of each other in her concession speech. And I, as one who voted for her, will publicly and boldly condemn the actions of those who have assaulted Trump supporters. I am still waiting for even one Trump supporter and the man himself to do the same about violence, hate crime, and threats in his name. Trump was surprisingly gracious in his victory speech late Tuesday night, but since then his supporters have erupted in violent attacks and hate crimes on Muslims, women, black lives, the LGBT+ community, and so on, and he has been silent (again, look it up. If you can’t find it, you’re trying not to). We have to stop beating the crap out of each other, and that means that President-Elect Trump needs to condemn those actions, and if he will not, his supporters need to do so. If neither of those happen, the future is terrifying.

So, can we build a better country and world together? I believe we can, but it’s going to take work. It’s going to take trust over fear, hope over despair, mercy over condemnation, and love over hate. Let’s do better. We can do better.We can argue, we can have battles for the ages in Congress, and we can boldly support what we believe will be great for America even if it’s different than our friend’s belief, our family member’s belief, or the person next us in the pew’s belief, but for the love of God and one another, can we please stop beating the crap out of each other? I’m sending out an SOS. I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle.