A temporary holding place for this blog until such a time as a new site is launched.
Welcome to The Asylum. Just as before, Josh is always right.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Obligatory Article #9

I beg your pardon for not having written anything as of late.  As I'm sure most of you are quite well aware, the school year is now in full swing, and that means sports.  Lots of sports.  Football, volleyball, soccer and cross country, to be specific.  And being the public address announcer for the local college and their K-12 school (go Chargers and Colts!), that means that most of my days and evenings are spent A: dealing with music for the junior high and high school events, and B: playing said music at said junior high and high school events as well as operating the scoreboard for soccer and volleyball and doing the announcing for all four sports.

Needless to say it's a fairly time-consuming effort, and my other projects have been placed on the back burner.  This weekend, however -- three days including this one -- is the longest I've gone in two weeks without having a game at least every other day, so I'm taking the time to catch up.

Thankfully, there hasn't been a whole lot on my mind lately that's demanded any extended, eloquent opining upon.  Probably nothing that you can't already discern my position on, anyway.  Ferguson's still a mess despite the media frenzy dying down, Spring Arbor University and Brent Ellis are still wrong and have yet to face up to their mistakes (let alone do anything about correcting them), big wheel keep on turnin', Proud Mary keep on burnin', rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river...

Sorry, got lost for a second there.

Anyway, I'll just give you some short blurbs on a few various subjects that I felt could use my two cents.  Let's start with...

This Week's Collegian, Part I: Go Negative or Go Home, Apparently

It's very interesting to see that the first article I was going to point out in this passage has been replaced with a similar article by a different author on the web site, because the printed story on the subject (check the top of page A2) comes under a headline that says everything you need to know about modern-day journalism.

Here's the formula: you take a nice little positive write-up about how this year's freshman class has the highest ACT average in school history second only to the Class of 2015, as well as the same average GPA as the classes of 2016 and 2017, but to write the headline, you take the negative side of that and come up with "Freshmen not smartest class ever."

It would be the same thing if I wrote an opinion piece about how much I love pie, and I mention in passing that I prefer pumpkin to pecan, but the headline writer decided to title it "Pecan pie blows scores of chimp."  It's not what I wrote -- it wasn't even the intent with which I wrote -- but that's not what the headline tells you.

There was nothing about Sarah Chavey's article that demanded such a negative headline, but you'll find this exact same pattern repeated in the media innumerable times, so often that you can't escape it.  It's the state of modern-day journalism.  Negativity grabs eyes and ears.  It's disappointing that the Collegian failed to rise above it before the paper went to print.  We can only hope that they'll hold themselves to a higher standard as they continue to learn the job they're in school to learn.

This Week's Collegian, Part II: Hello Ignorance, My Old Friend...

We have yet another opinion piece written in opposition to same-sex marriage in the local media, this time written by "student columnist" Garrett West -- who, it should be noted, is not the Collegian sports editor and did not write a social commentary for the paper of which he is sports editor, as if that were somehow appropriate, ethical or even smart (once again, here's lookin' at you, Phil Morgan).

I don't want to go into a whole lot of detail about this one, because it's nothing I (and many others) haven't already fully debunked.  Plus, it's based entirely upon an appeal to nature -- which, as we educated persons well know, is a logical fallacy.  Not to mention the fact that West deliberately refuses to acknowledge anything other than penile-vaginal penetrative sex as the marital act of sex, stating that (and this is a direct quote) "The only way two human persons can unite organically is in the generative act."

In other words, he's making the exact same argument that Phil Morgan made, only he's doing it with a bit less vitriol and a bit wider a vocabulary.

It's still entirely incorrect, both logically and scientifically, and I would refer West to my above-linked take-down of Morgan's blundering idiocy for links to the proof that he's wrong on all counts.

ISIS, Therefore, I Am

This barely even deserves the time I'm giving it here, so if you disagree with what I'm about to say, don't even bother telling me, because you're wrong.

Here's the bottom line: these assholes wouldn't even be a fraction of the "threat" we're making them out to be if we had actually gone into Iraq with a strategy.  Which we didn't.  We went in, we dicked around for a few years, and when the American public got tired of it, we just kinda moseyed off into the sunset and said, "you're welcome, Iraqis!  Good luck!"  The Iraqis, of course, weren't ready for the responsibility -- and how could they be, given that we never fought the war to win to begin with? -- and so everything went to hell in a handbasket, ISIS moved from Syria into Iraq, and now they're rattling their medieval-era scimitars at us.


You know what the solution to all of this is?  It's goddamn simple.  We bomb the living bejeezus out of them, we get our people out, we leave.  End of story.  No more policing the world, no more nation-building, no more "protecting vital interests," no more playing RISK with the Middle East like we've allowed the CIA and the military-industrial complex to do for the past 70 years.

Oh, you didn't get the memo?  We ARMED these assholes.  We TRAINED these assholes.  THESE ARE OUR ASSHOLES.  WE CAUSED ALL OF THIS.  And if you refuse to acknowledge that fact, you have not learned one lick of recent American history.

The moment we stop believing that American exceptionalism means that we're the biggest and the best and the greatest thing ever in the history of everything, that's the moment this all stops.  Oh, sure, there will always be people out to harm us.  But we won't be the ones responsible for their attacks against us.  That's the heart of this issue.

Quackpot Religion (or, "And Speaking of ISIS...")

Celebrity idiot Phil Robertson is making the media rounds again because, let's face it, the media loves nothing more than making fun of backwards hillbillies who say stupid shit.  Especially when they're fake backwards hillbillies who say stupid shit on national television to the tune of millions of dollars in advertising revenue.

Oh, and, of course, he "wrote" a book.  Which is to say he blathered some nonsense to a ghostwriter, who then wrote the book.


Not only is he spewing complete and total lies about how only gay people get sexually-transmitted diseases and that Jesus was a homophobe just like him (insert mandatory reference to the centurion's servant here), oh no!  He has solutions to ALL of the world's problems!  And here's a dandy for ya:

The Great Phil Robertson has spoken, and thus sayeth our beloved Duck Commander:

"In this case, you either have to convert them, which I think would be next to impossible. I'm not giving up on them, but I'm just saying either convert them or kill them; one or the other."

And just who was he talking about?  Why, our old friends, ISIS!

Yes, Phil "It's Okay To Marry 16-Year-Old Girls" Robertson believes that the way to stop people who demand that we all convert to Islam under threat of death... is to demand that they convert to Christianity under threat of death.  There's a great idea, huh?  The way to end religious extremism is... MORE RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM!  IT'S SO STUPID, IT'S BRILLIANT!!!

On a side note, they also happen to have that "it's okay to marry 16-year-old girls" thing in common too, although ISIS tends not to care so much about the "marry" part and focuses more on the "rape" and "enslave" parts.

It's almost sad how Hannity attempts to bail him out, already trying to twist it into somehow being the media's fault for claiming that Robertson said exactly what he'd just said.  Not one shred of credibility between them whatsoever.

Here's an idea, and I don't think I'm getting too crazy here: in order to get rid of Phil Robertson, let's demand that he shut up under threat of turning off the TV when his show's on.  Or, even better yet, let's just turn off his show altogether regardless of what he does.  Most of his former audience already did.  It's time for the rest to follow suit.

Crackpot Religion (or, "And Speaking of Bible-Wielding Jackasses...")

I don't care what you believe, but I have no problem in telling you that I apparently share a gift from the Holy Spirit with my mother.  We both have this sense that tells us when something is wrong in spiritual situations.

The earliest I can remember her expressing that in front of me was at a Michael English concert in early 1994 at the old First Baptist Church of West Hollywood in Florida (a church which, interestingly enough, I would become a member of later on).  She said as we stood in line waiting to enter the building that something didn't feel right, and her sentiments were echoed by the giant blue banners flanking the doorway that flashed a classic early-90's encircled logo comprised of his initials: "M.E."

Believe me, I was skeptical.  They were just his initials.  He couldn't help that his parents named him Michael English.  It didn't mean anything.

Of course, anyone who was around the Christian music scene back then knows what happened that May.  He and Marabeth Jordan of the group First Call, who were touring with him at the time, had been having an affair, and she was pregnant.

I didn't doubt my mother's claims so much anymore.

It wasn't until I first heard the name Mark Driscoll that I realized I could get the same feelings.

I'm not piling on here.  Any accusations by Driscoll or his church's staff that bloggers and the media are blowing things out of proportion have long been proven ridiculous at this point.  There's no reason not to point to him as an example of a false prophet, and I'm not going to take moral cues from a known sleazebag just because he happens to claim the title of "pastor."  His downfall -- which was only a matter of time -- was entirely of his own making.

What I am going to say is this: the name Mars Hill -- which, when I lived in North Carolina, referred to either the town or the college (now university) within it -- quickly became something I reviled as I left for college and, at the same time, the Seattle megachurch came to prominence in the fundamentalist movement.  And for the life of me, as it was happening, I could not explain to you why.

Oh, sure, I could tell you everything wrong with his theology.  I could tell you that I just plain didn't like his style.  I could tell you that I found the insanely rapid growth of his church to be suspect, that religion being the "hip new thing" isn't at all Biblical.  But I couldn't tell you what it was about Driscoll and Mars Hill that pulled at my soul and told me "something about all of this is very, very wrong."

Now we all know what it was.  All of what it was.  Lying, cheating, misappropriating and misusing church funds, building the church around himself instead of God, mistreating women and encouraging the men in his congregation to do the same, forced shunning of those who disagreed with him (for Biblically valid reasons, no less)... all the makings of a cult leader without the walls of a compound to surround him.

Driscoll surely isn't the only pastor who has done (or continues to do) these things, he just happens to be the most recent prominent example.  This is a problem that has plagued the church for as long as it has existed.  You think I'm kidding?  Go read some of Paul's letters.  He took various churches to task over many of these very things.  And yes, Paul even got some things wrong, too.  He wasn't perfect, either.  None of us are.

The lesson to be taken away from all of this is that if the focus of your church is on its leaders and not God, that church is in for a world of hurt, and it's time for you to find a new one.  As I've made clear before here: power does not corrupt. power attracts the corrupt, and just like the world of politics, places of religious leadership can be abused as a means to power.  Mark Driscoll is quite possibly the single most glaring example of that fact to come along in my lifetime, and possibly yours, as well.

Run, Rafael, Run!

Surprise, surprise!  When you bring in a decidedly political figure as a keynote speaker at your event, said political figure is going to politicize the event!

Rafael "Ted" Cruz, ineligible assumptive 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was booed off stage at a gala organized by a group called In Defense of Christians.  Why?  Because he took a night that was supposed to be about supporting Christians against persecution in the Middle East and turned it into a political rallying cry in support of Israel.  Which, understandably, the people in attendance did not take very kindly to.

And -- and this is the hysterically funny part that's horribly embarassing for Cruz -- both he and the event's organizers attempted to spin it by saying that the people in attendance, the paying donors who bought their way in, were the ones who politicized it by booing Cruz! 

See, here's the thing: regardless of your personal feelings on Israel, the event wasn't about Israel.  The event was about Christians throughout the whole of the region.  To come in (dare I use a "firing all rockets" euphemism?) and start right in with "Christians have no greater ally than Israel," Cruz immediately -- immediately -- politicized the event.  He wasn't even trying to be subtle about it, and the crowd were clearly no idiots.  Cruz's point was blatantly obvious: if you want to stop persecution of Christians in the Middle East, you must support Israel's political and military efforts.

Which is dead wrong.  Even if you do support Israel's political and military efforts, you have to admit that it's not necessary to do so in order to condemn the persecution of Christians in the region.  Cruz politicized what was supposed to be, essentially, a humanitarian event.  Not that the left doesn't do the same on any number of occassions, but for someone who has publicly condemned the left for playing politics with issues that shouldn't be politicized, that's a little hypocritical, don't you think?

Just another blunder on the Road to the Road to the Road to the White House 2016.  The sooner he makes himself politically toxic, the better.

Sum Up Already!

That's... really all I've got for you right now.  And these were "short blurbs."  Can you imagine how long this thing would have been if I actually had something to say about these topics?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Talking To Me 101: Lesson #1

This is a first in a new series I'm calling "Life Lessons" which will consist of several different "courses" such as "Talking To Me 101," "Words To the Unwise 207" and "Get It Through Your Thick Skull 116."  These will be memes you might like to share as you see fit.  Which means I'm asking you to share them.  Which means I'm begging you to share them.  Which means I'm so desperate for the hits that I'll literally resort to begging to make these things go viral.  Yes, it's pathetic, but so is most behavior on the Internet.  Deal with it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ferguson Is Our Petra Moment


Also, the people of Ferguson want and need an effective police force.  But perhaps their relationship was best summed up by this photo from earlier this week.  Not just ludicrously aggressive police facing off against an unarmed man, but also the fact that someone has clearly written "fuck the police" on the post box; something that, apparently, CNN did not notice when they were using this photo during all of their coverage!

-- John Oliver


If you're a friend or follower of mine on Facebook, you're familiar with a refrain (or some variation thereof) that I necessarily use more often than I'd like to have to:

Not a police state... not a police state... not a police state...

I call this "The Mantra of the Sheeple," and just in case you couldn't pick up on the intent, it's drenched in sarcasm.

We do live in a police state here in the United States of America.  You can blame any number of factors: the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the "War on Drugs," the giving of surplus military equipment from Iraq and Afghanistan to local police forces... and yes, every one of those factors is partly to blame.

But there's an overall theme here which escapes all too many United States citizens.  See, when it comes to the situation in which this country is currently embroiled, there are three types of people:

  1. The Sheeple
    These are the ones who do not recognize reality whatsoever; those who will deny with every last breath in their body that there is anything even remotely out of place about the ever-increasing use of excessive force and overwhelming intrusion of government -- on all levels; local, state and national -- into our private lives.  They have no problem with illegal searches and seizures taking place in the name of security at airports.  They have no problem with the same violation of inherent human rights via stop-and-frisk on city streets, nor do they see anything wrong with unlawful detainment at so-called "sobriety checkpoints" or "immigration checkpoints" along our nation's highways.  A SWAT team executing a faulty search warrant for $50 worth of meth ends up horribly disfiguring an innocent baby -- over which there is a federal investigation -- and the county in question is refusing to pay the medical bills on the basis of vague legal reasons for which they offered zero explanation?  Perfectly okay with these people.  After all, it's all in the name of protecting the community.

    In other words, Sheeple are like the two-year-old who doesn't want their picture taken, so they put their hands over their eyes, because if they can't see the camera, then obviously, the camera can't see them.  They refuse to acknowledge reality, because if they don't acknowledge what's happening all around them, it won't affect them... right?  Right?
  2. The Rationalizers
    These are the ones who may acknowledge that there are bad things happening and that people are understandably upset.  But in their minds, there is no police state, and the overwhelming majority of police forces -- from the top down -- are made up of good cops who just want to serve their community.  To Rationalizers, every questionable police action must have had some kind of justification, even if the officer in question is at fault, because police officers, to the Rationalizer's way of thinking, don't just beat and kill people for frivolous reasons.  When presented with the evidence that police officers today are woefully unqualified, inadequately trained and that the problem is systemic, intended to result in the outcome we're all seeing play out right in front of our very eyes, they shut down.  They refuse to hear it.  Corruption isn't a matter of concern, because there are those good cops there to balance it all out... even though they're overwhelmingly outnumbered.  And if, in a rare case, a Rationalizer acknowledges that disturbing ratio, they'll argue that the good cops' uncorrupted ways serve as an example to others, and maybe, just maybe, with a little hoping, dreaming and wishing upon a star, that'll fix things.

    What's more, Rationalizers do not accept the fact that those who do not stand against evil are complicit in it.  Now, granted, in reality, there is the very real risk that an officer who attempts to speak out against -- or even refuses to participate in -- the corruption will be targeted, their career put in jeopardy and their family put at risk.  But is it realistic, rational or logical to believe that absolutely zero cops are in a position and are willing to take a stand?  Of course not.  So where are these good cops?  Why do we not hear from them?  Why do we not see change being effected from within by these supposed good cops who feel safe and secure enough in their position to tackle the issue?  If the problem is truly not systemic, as The Rationalizers argue; if the problem really isn't as bad as it's being made out to be, the American law enforcement community should be bursting at the seams with these supposed good cops.  That clearly is not the case.  But don't tell that to The Rationalizers.  The cognitive dissonance it invokes in their brains will make their heads explode.

    Not coincidentally (because coincidence doesn't exist), the Fraternal Order of Police tends to fall under this category, which is evidenced in this case by the fact that one of their lawyers is representing Darren Wilson.
  3. The Aware
    These are the ones who see what's going on and acknowledge it for what it is: a wholesale shift in the task of policing from investigating crime and punishing those who actually commit it... to criminalizing all people in the false name of "protection" under the pretense of preventing crime, a feat which is literally impossible to accomplish, and is exactly what makes this a police state.  It isn't just the militarization of local police, nor is it strictly on a local level.  This includes the FBI, the NSA, the CIA, the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, and many other federal, state, secondary and municipal agencies that have been given free reign to enforce whatever edicts that they pass down -- regardless of legality -- with unconstitutional methods, violence, and even lethal force, with no accountability required whatsoever.  The Aware understand that the old maxim, "absolute power corrupts absolutely," isn't actually the case, but that power attracts the power-hungry and corrupt.  This is true in politics, it's true in social settings, and it's true in law enforcement.

    The Aware also understand that the entire setup is intentional; that there are those with certain political and social agendas who use the power-hungry ambitions of the violent and corrupt -- along with the willful ignorance of the Sheeple and the denial of the Rationatlizers -- to bring about situations in this world which allow them to step in and say, "see?  It's all gone to Hell in a handbasket.  My ideas will fix it all."  Of course, the Aware know that those ideas will only continue the madness (because those ideas originated the madness), but they know just as well as the purveyors of those ideas do that the masses will buy what they're being sold.  It's an emotional sales pitch, one with very few truths, very many lies, and no honest intentions behind it at all.  And through either ignorance -- intentional or otherwise -- or just plain beaten, broken-down spirits and the hope that something, anything, will be better than what's going on now, the majority of people will take the bait, hook, line and sinker.

    Thankfully, this category is the fastest-growing at the moment.  More and more people are waking up.

Now before you jump all over that last bit and scream, "IT'S THOSE DAMN DEMOCRATS!" or "I HATE REPUBLICANS!" or "CONSERVATIVE HYPOCRITES!" or "COMMIE SOCIALIST SCUM!"... YOU'RE WRONG.  BOTH major political parties do it.  Several of the minor political parties do, as well.  Do you know why?

That's right: power attracts the corrupt.  And what is politics if not a forum in which to gain power?

But what does a St. Louis suburb have to do with all of this?  I mean, yeah, things really aren't looking good for the FPD right now.  Autopsy evidence seems to confirm the numerous eyewitness accounts, which themselves directly contradict the "official" police story of what happened with and to Michael Brown.  And that release of the security footage allegedly showing Brown robbing a store?  Classic distraction tactic meant to taint public opinion against Brown, even despite the fact that FPD Chief Thomas Jackson admitted himself that the robbery and the shooting are not at all related.  And sure, "Ferguson's Finest!" don't exactly have a sterling reputation.  But does all of this add up to the focal point for some sort of revolution against the police state?

The answer depends on many factors, none of which I can truthfully say will absolutely play out one way or another.  I can tell you what I'd like to see.  I can tell you what I like and do not like about what I'm seeing now.  But can I definitively state that this is the situation over which the entire country will rise up and put an end to a growing, very real oppression?  No.

What I can tell you is that this is the tipping point.  We can go one of two ways.  We will either take what's going on in Ferguson -- not to mention the recent police killing of Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, the recent police beating and killing of Omar Abrego, also in Los Angeles (in the same neighborhood, at that), the mere probation sentence for a former cop who raped at least two women and possibly a third while on duty, the false arrest and imprisonment of Shannon Renee McNeal, and even such a trivial-seeming thing as the recent arrest of Danielle Wolf on the basis of hearsay for daring to utter the word "fuck" in public -- as causes for serious concern and deeper attention toward the situation, and begin working to remove the people from power who would use it against us and dismantle the institutions that they use to do so.

Or... we will continue to ignore our situation and allow the growing police state to grow even further out of control, into an unstoppable culture of tyranny and oppression which no existing political entity will ever fully put an end to.

At the risk of coming off blithely, there's a highly appropriate quote to apply here from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

You must choose, but choose wisely.  For as the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.

The metaphorical Holy Grail we're seeking today is a solution that will bring peace, safe communities, and an end to the intentional -- and even unintentional -- infringements upon our inherent human rights, especially those enshrined in the Constitution's first ten amendments.  Only one solution will actually work.  All the others will destroy us.

So the question this comes down to is: do we choose the flashy, jewel-encrusted solution, which is certain to damn us for all eternity, or do we look for "the cup of a carpenter?"

Saturday nights just won't be the same

Rest in peace, Don Pardo.  You were incomparable, and can never be replaced; only succeeded.  One can only hope the NBC engineers are up late tonight building the Don Pardo 9000.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Heaven is just a bit more bangarang today

One Saturday morning, maybe about 18 years ago now, my family had breakfast at the Original Pancake House on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. It was a rare treat when we went out for breakfast, so that made it fun to begin with, but when we sat down at our table, the table next to us -- of the same size, mind you -- was occupied only by a very hairy man with a bushy beard, wearing a dull T-shirt, faded jeans, a hat and sunglasses; doing his best not to be recognized. And it kinda worked. What was particularly amusing was that he had ordered a TON of food, and the family on the other side of his table from us kept offering him more, as if he were homeless (he did look the part) and needed to load up. It was funny watching him doing his best to politely refuse their offers while not giving away that he was, in fact, a very famous movie and TV star.

You entertained us even when you weren't trying to, Robin Williams. We'll miss you.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

To: Brent Ellis; Re: You, Sir, Are Lying


Where's the church? Who took the steeple?
Religion's in the hands of some crazy-ass people!
Television preachers with bad hair and dimples;
The God's-honest truth is, it's not that simple...

Jimmy Buffett -- Fruitcakes


Oh, if only we could hear a mea culpa or two from Spring Arbor University's administration.

We're not going to get one.  Not any time soon, anyway.  President Brent Ellis is digging his heels in ever deeper each time he speaks out on the subject of his university's recent Title IX exemptions.

Problem for him is, he doesn't realize that it's horse shit that his heels are digging into.

Ellis recently e-mail blasted SAU alumni with a letter full of, essentially, nothing that hasn't already been said before.  Which is to say, a whole lotta nothing.  He does state that, throughout this upcoming academic year, he will be "engaging in conversations with faculty and students" on the topic, but not only does his phrasing of that particular sentence call homosexuality and transgenderism "life style choices [sic]," it leads anyone with half a brain to understand that these will not be "conversations," they will be more along the lines of the world-famous Spring Arbor University Stern Talking-To™.

Feeling encouraged yet?  Neither am I.

Here are my other problems with what the letter has to say.

"This modification in the Department of Education’s guidelines surrounding Title IX necessitated Spring Arbor University to file for an exemption in regard to several components of Title IX including gender identity and sexual relationships outside of the biblical definition of marriage."

That's a lie.  The only changes made to Title IX -- and they weren't actually changes, it was simply a clarification of the existing statute -- were to include transgender people as a protected class.  The only changes Spring Arbor would have had to deal with would have been to treat transgender people as -- gasp! -- actual people.  God forbid!

"Spring Arbor University affirms the full humanity and dignity of every human being, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

No, they do not.  Not so long as the school continues to operate under the lie that gays, lesbians and transgender people are inherently sinful they don't.  You don't get to deny the biological nature of someone and still claim to "affirm [their] full humanity and dignity."  This sentence, in particular, is a bald-faced lie.

"Our exemption allows us to maintain these guidelines and is in no way a change of practice or policy."

What Ellis fails to explain -- the lie of omission upon which ALL of this is based -- is that none of these legal exemptions were necessary in order to continue enforcing the Student Code of Conduct. NONE of them. You'll notice how he never actually quotes the letter from the DoE to point out what "changes" made these exemptions necessary.  That's because there are no such changes.

"Our desire is for Spring Arbor University to continue to be a redemptive community where we each, in our brokenness and vulnerability, experience the grace of Jesus Christ and mutually encourage each other toward living lives that honor and glorify our God."

Then they should start behaving like it.

Basically, Ellis is simply restating that Spring Arbor will continue to deny the full body of science and psychiatry that proves inborn biological causes for sexual orientation and gender identity, and will continue to demand exemptions from federal law in regard to dealing with those whom they claim to love... all while, of course, continuing to accept federal funding.

Brent Ellis: you, sir, are lying.  You are in denial, you are acting upon hatred and willful ignorance, and you only continue to do more harm -- not just to your own university, but to the very name of Jesus Christ, whom you claim to represent here on Earth.

Now I challenge you, sir: do what your institution supposedly exists to teach others to do.  Learn.  Research the topics at hand and at least make an attempt to understand the people you are very clearly bigoted toward.  Encourage all Spring Arbor University staff, faculty and students to do the same.  If you truly set out to understand these people, at some point, you will necessarily break down and openly weep over how terribly you've acted and how horrendously you and the school have treated them over the years.

Maybe, just maybe, we might get a mea culpa out of you then.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Time To Refrain From Embracing


Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)
A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.


Regular readers of mine are well aware that I in no way tolerate bigotry.  I have spoken out against racism.  I have spoken out against homophobia.  I have spoken out against transphobia.  I have spoken out against opposition to marriage equality.  I have spoken out against sports writers being allowed to editorialize about the evils of homosexuality and same-sex marriage as if they were editor-in-chief of the newspaper in question (here's lookin' at you, Phil Morgan).  The list goes on and on.

As the Bible passage I've quoted above states quite accurately, there is a time for everything, and while the extended present time has been and continues to be that for speaking out against mistreatment of minority groups by society as a whole, the immediate time has come -- for myself and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others -- to speak out against an organization we hold very near and dear to our hearts: Spring Arbor University.

In case the ever-strengthening hurricane of national media coverage has avoided landfall on your patch of informational coastline, SAU requested and was granted exemptions from Title IX on the basis of sex, parenthood as pertaining to marital status, pregnancy as pertaining to marital status, employee leave (for pregnancy, childbirth and abortion) as pertaining to sex or gender identity, housing as pertaining to sex or gender identity, bathrooms and locker rooms as pertaining to sex or gender identity, and athletics participation as pertaining to sex or gender identity.

In other words: if you wish to be an employee or student at Spring Arbor University, you must be a heterosexual, cisgender, single person with no children living with only members of your same sex or as one half of a married opposite-sex couple (in which case kids are okay).  Gay, transgender, single fathers who once had an abortion and now live out of wedlock with their partner  -- or any singular or combined qualifiers in that list -- need not apply.  Because, according to SAU president Brent Ellis and his administration, those people aren't deserving of dignity.

I don't think I have to rehash the scientific or Biblical evidence that proves wrong every last premise in which this abhorrent position of the school's is based.  I've cataloged them all before, here and elsewhere.  If you need to refresh your memory, just read through some of my previous writings and you'll get the message pretty quickly.  No, what I want to talk about here today is specifically the problem as it relates to Spring Arbor University and how it needs to be fixed.

Now, before we go any further, there are three terms you need to know: liberal arts, The Concept, and The Bubble.

Liberal arts is an often misunderstood term.  No, it has nothing to do with politics, nor does it have anything to do with social issues.  To boil it down to its essence, a liberal arts education teaches you how to learn, not what to learn.  Certainly there are plenty of "whats" to learn, as well -- language, history, math, science, psychology, art, music, literature, et cetera -- but at a liberal arts college, you learn how to learn through the practice of learning those subjects.  The end goal is to produce a lifelong student, someone who constantly studies and makes well-informed decisions in all that they do.  Spring Arbor University is -- or, at least, once was -- a liberal arts institution.

The Concept is the short name for The Spring Arbor Concept.  Yes, that is an official, proper name.  Officially, The Concept is as follows:

Spring Arbor University is a community of learners distinguished by our lifelong involvement in the study and application of the liberal arts, total commitment to Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning, and critical participation in the contemporary world.

Sounds like a great basis for a Christian university, doesn't it?  It is!  ...when it's being followed.  The problem is that The Concept is used in two ways that were not at all intended by those who wrote it.

The first, most obvious use of The Concept is by the students as an explanation for why something is not allowed.  "Against The Concept" is the phrase you'll hear repeated all around campus rather frequently.  Visiting an opposite sex's dorm outside of open hours is "against The Concept."  Skipping Chapel is "against the concept."  Reading erotic literature is "against The Concept."  Breathing is "against The Concept."  That last one is said in jest, but I'm far from the first person to say it and even farther from the last.  If you're doing something wrong at Spring Arbor, you're "against The Concept."  It's a great little reminder that you're in serious trouble whenever you so much as put one toe over the line, even by accident.

The other use of The Concept is by the school itself, which wields it as a weapon against the outside world.  "In this world but not of it" was a good enough standard for Jesus, but it's not enough for Spring Arbor University.  The "total commitment to Jesus Christ" has morphed into a "total commitment to the Free Methodist Book of Discipline," a document that is apparently so sacrosanct in the eyes of President Ellis that he even included it as part of the basis for his request "that the University may discriminate on religious grounds."  (I'm not making that up, those are Ellis' exact words.)

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but last time I checked the Christianity: The Forgiving rulebook, it still said that when you play the Jesus card, it renders all powers of the Man card ineffective with no XP given.  The Free Methodist Book of Discipline is a document of religious laws written by man to enforce compliance.  Jesus' words are teachings directly from God Himself, sent to spread and demonstrate His love for His creation.  The Book of Discipline did not come from Jesus' mouth.  Upholding it over Christ's teachings is bound to cause problems... and wouldn't you know it, doing so is causing problems!

Thirdly, we have The Bubble, which, like its counterpart, is shorthand for The Spring Arbor Bubble.  It isn't official, per sé, but it's no less real.  You've seen the show Under The Dome?  It's like that, only it doesn't do all the freaky Stephen King stuff.  In fact, when CBS first began promoting that show, my very first reaction was, "wait, when did Stephen King write about Spring Arbor?"  The Bubble is permeable, and there are those who find ways to escape and return as they please without notice, but by and large, the students find themselves trapped in it by The Concept and a general unwillingness to go out and engage in the surrounding community.  They see Spring Arbor as having everything they need to thrive as a Jesus-committed lifelong learner.  Critical participant in the contemporary world?  Bah... that's for after graduation.  And the mandatory cross-cultural term.  No need to waste time with it now.

So how does this recent move fit into the big picture at Spring Arbor University?

Well, basically, it doesn't.  At least not if you look at "the big picture" as what SAU was intended to be.  Approaching this from the position of what SAU was intended to be, these exemptions go entirely "against The Concept."  Let's look at The Concept again, shall we?  "Spring Arbor University is a community of learners" -- nothing wrong there -- "distinguished in our lifelong involvement in the study and application of the liberal arts"--

Whoa, hold on there just a second!  What did we say "liberal arts" meant?  Learning how to learn, right?  And two of the subjects intended to teach us how to learn were science and psychology, correct?  So when science and psychology have very clearly proven (as I've pointed out many times before) that sexual orientation and gender identity are natural, in-born, biological traits that cannot be changed, it would be a foregone conclusion that those who are "distinguished in [their] lifelong involvement in the study and application of the liberal arts" would seek to fully comprehend and adjust their perspective to account for those facts.  Spring Arbor University has, with these exemptions, effectively disqualified itself as a liberal arts institution.

Let's continue: "[...] total commitment to Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning"--

Whoops!  We've hit another snag!  Already!  Take a moment to think about what that phrase truly means: "Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning."  Jesus was quite obviously a loving man.  So pointedly, so outrageously, so arrogantly contradictory to convention, in fact, that the powers of the establishment, both religious and political, conspired to murder him.  He loved everyone He came across: tax collectors (the lowest scum of the political realm), prostitutes, homosexuals (need I reference Matthew 8 for the bajillionth time?), the poor, the diseased, the cursed, adulterers, and not less than a few promiscuous women.  He welcomed them all.  He showed love to them all.  When others turned someone away, Jesus embraced them.

In other words, if Jesus Christ is supposed to be the perspective for learning at Spring Arbor, they would be welcoming of people they perceive to be sinners. They would be showing Christ's love to those people.  They would be standing up against the modern Pharisees in the Christian fundamentalist establishment and opening their arms as wide as possible to everyone.  Spring Arbor University has, with these exemptions, effectively rejected Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning.

And finally, we come to the last portion: "[...] and critical participation in the contemporary world." 

Not again?!  Yes, I'm afraid so.  Gerald E. Bates -- the university's president for only one academic year after Gayle Beebe left -- gave this brilliant explanation of that phrase in his 2007 convocation address:

And, lastly, we are called to critical participation in the contemporary world. The word CRITICAL is critical to the concept. A chip in the river in some sense “participates” but our aspiration is to be world changers, counter-culturalists in the Jesus sense, Kingdom workers to do all we can to make wrong things right, to heal pain, solve problems, to advance justice, to bring people to God, in short, to do what Jesus showed us to be God’s priorities here on earth. We do not wait passively for the GREAT ESCAPE (the rapture, or whatever); we have work to do in the here and now. We maintain an invigorating tension with our world.

So now we have to ask ourselves: what is counter-cultural, in the Jesus sense, about Spring Arbor's actions in this situation?  Are they making any wrong things right?  Are they healing pain?  Are they solving any problems?  Are they advancing justice?  Are they bringing anyone to God?  Are they putting God's priorities ahead of their own?

Answer Key: Nothing, No, No, No, No, No, Hell No.

And here's the kicker, the coup de grâce in Bates' explanation of The Concept:

All of us have this choice before us—to be chips on the river of history, or swimmers, sometimes cross-current, sometimes upstream to find where the damage is coming from.

OUCH!  God damn it!  And I do mean that in the very literal sense of the phrase!  That is in direct contradiction to SAU's current positions!  That fucking hurts!

This brings me to my own personal experience at the school.  I was a student there as a freshman in the 2003-2004 school year.  I had been heavily recruited by the radio program, and apart from the University of Miami -- to which I was accepted but didn't attend for reasons of appeasing family -- Spring Arbor was my first choice.

I was battling some demons at the time -- both figuratively and probably real -- and I left after it became apparent that A: I was failing, B: I lacked the drive to continue in an academic setting, C: I had no money, and D: the only thing I really cared about was radio, and I was practically giving lessons on broadcasting from the day I set foot on campus because I'd already had eleven years of prior experience in the industry.

Basically, I wound up owing thousands of dollars for the opportunity to earn $7.40 an hour doing something I could have been doing anywhere else.

It was a lousy personal situation that wasn't entirely within my control for various reasons, but the people at SAU helped me make the best of it as much as they possibly could.  They went above and beyond for me, going out of their way to try to pull me out of my problems.  That wouldn't happen at most other schools.  I was (and still am) very grateful to the people there who made that effort, ineffective though it was at the time.

Despite my problems, for the most part, I had a great experience at SAU.  I made lifelong friends, I had new experiences I never thought I would have, I learned more about myself than I think I ever had in a single year up to that point... it had its bad moments, but it was largely rewarding overall.

Now, as far as LGBT issues go, they weren't a very major concern on campus at that time.  That's not to say they weren't a concern -- they were -- but they weren't the focus of attention.  Think back to that time.  The national conversation had more to do with terrorism and war back then.  Spring Arbor was no exception.

The Student Code of Conduct had, even then, prohibited "homosexual behavior."  I personally did not know anyone there who was gay; at least not anyone who was out to me, but I was aware that there were gay students on campus.  Despite that fact, there were no witch hunts.  No one in the staff or faculty, to my knowledge, was going out of their way to condemn gay students.  In fact, the attitude while I was there was one of -- gasp! -- welcoming, opening arms to people from various walks of life who had different experiences to share, so that we all could learn from each other.

Can the same still be said for Spring Arbor today?  Hardly.

Think back to 2007 now; the last time SAU made national headlines.  It was for almost the same reason as this time.  A professor of 17 years -- an associate dean, no less -- came out as transgender and began publicly transitioning.  Today we know her as Julie Nemecek, and she's a prominent speaker on LGBT issues here in Michigan, but that didn't come about without a fight from the university.  The whole thing started in 2005, when she came out to then-president Gayle D. Beebe.  As a result, she was demoted, given a new contract with a 20% pay cut, assigned only online courses, prohibited from appearing on campus as a female, prohibited from "discussing his transgender situation with Spring Arbor University personnel or students," and eventually fired.  She dragged the school in front of the EEOC and, two years later, basically won, agreeing to an undisclosed settlement.

That long, protracted battle didn't come without additional cost to the school, either.  Lansing Community College and several other schools across the state were building their "University Center" in Lansing, where the various schools would offer classes to LCC students who wouldn't otherwise have had access to them.  Spring Arbor was one of those schools.  Prominently one of those schools.  They were going to be one of the more heavily involved institutions in the venture.  But when the Julie Nemecek story broke, all hell broke loose.  The media pounced on it almost instantaneously.  Both schools were hounded by the public -- Spring Arbor for causing the problem, Lansing Community College for planning to associate with Spring Arbor.  The City of Lansing even got involved because they had just passed a non-discrimination ordinance that included LGBT language in it.  The uproar was tremendous, well outdoing what we're seeing and hearing about these Title IX exemptions today... at least to date.

In the end, LCC kicked SAU out of the University Center project, costing Spring Arbor a lot of money that they had already put into it and even more money in lost future revenue.

Did they learn their lesson?  Apparently not.

Now, let me put my own personal feelings on the topic aside.  From a purely political standpoint, Spring Arbor University should have every right in the world to exclude who they wish to exclude.  They could transform themselves into the Ku Klux Klan of higher education, and there shouldn't be a damn thing anyone can do about it.


And yes, that's a "very big 'if.'"  Nobody should be able to tell Spring Arbor that they can't exclude people IF they are not accepting money from the federal government.  Title IX compliance is required to receive funding from federal grants and loans.  There should be no exception to that requirement, religious or otherwise.  Why?  Because the federal government does not exist to give money to anyone, let alone religious institutions of higher learning.  But if Washington is going to insist on giving my money and yours to these schools, they cannot be allowed to violate federal law for any reason.  If you borrow money from the bank, you have to abide by the loan agreement.  This situation should be no different whatsoever.

Take Hillsdale College for example.  They fought Title IX throughout the late 70's and early 80's, and rightly so, because as the first college in the country to include a policy of non-discrimination on the bases of race, religion and sex in their 1844 charter, they found that federal demands to prove compliance were overbearing, intrusive and unnecessary.  Which, frankly, they are.  And, in 1984, after the Supreme Court ruled in Grove City College v. Bell that federally-funded student scholarships could be withheld if colleges refused to sign "assurance of compliance" forms, Hillsdale began rejecting all federal funding, thereby exempting themselves entirely from Title IX.  As a result, all 1,500 students are on privately-funded tuition, many of them on various scholarships made available only to Hillsdale College students by private donors, and the school has an endowment of $295 Million.

Spring Arbor University, by comparison, spreads their mere $9.5 Million endowment among almost 3,000 students... if you'll pardon the expression "spreads their endowment."  And don't get me started on that giant phallic symbol in the middle of campus.

Guess it pays not to discriminate, huh?

Now I'll put my own personal feelings on the topic back into the conversation.

As a former Spring Arbor student who has, in the past, been very proud to make that claim, I can no longer be proud to do so.  Not only have Ellis and company completely erased my pride in the school, I fully anticipate any future business dealings I'm party to requiring a renunciation from me of Spring Arbor's shameful bigotry and incredibly un-Christlike behavior.  And I shouldn't have to defend myself over a school on my résumé which, after I left, became a worldwide symbol of hatred and intolerance.  That's a personal detriment to my life caused by Ellis, the school, and many people whom I once thought better of.  There is no lawsuit that will undo the damage that has already been done.  There is no change of course that will entirely heal the wounds that the school's actions have torn open.  I now have to live with the consequences of their despicable choices, and that infuriates me.  That beyond infuriates me.  That makes me mad.  It makes me mean mad.

But it gets even worse.  I can deal with that aggravation.  That's peanuts compared to the greater issue at hand.  Spring Arbor University purports to be an entity in this world that shines as a beacon of the faith that I adhere to.  They are perverting it into something it is not and claiming that they represent values that all Christians share, and that I will not allow.  They do not speak for me.  They do not speak for anyone but themselves.  I will not sit silently while the school I once loved abuses my Lord's name in their acts of hatred.  I, and many others like me, are now forced to sever ties with Spring Arbor University because the school has become grossly antithetical to everything it was founded to stand for.

As verse five says above, there is "a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing."  This is a time to refrain from embracing.  I no longer embrace Spring Arbor University.  I cannot so long as they continue this bigotry and hatred.

As verse seven says, there is "a time to be silent and a time to speak."  This is no time to be silent.  I will speak out against Spring Arbor University for as long as these deplorable practices continue.  I must to satisfy my obligations as a critical participant in the contemporary world.

Brent Ellis can throw we alumni and former students all the bones he wants by facetiously praising us for enacting what we learned at his school, but we're not settling for that.  These policies will change.  It's only a question of when and how hard the Spring Arbor administration wants to fight their losing battle against reality.

Against Christ's love.

Against The Concept.

Special thanks to SAU Alumni For Equality for sharing this essay on their own blog, which can be found here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dr. Phil Speaks Out?

Let me begin this installment of Uncommon Sense by pointing out that I have two issues with Phil Morgan's February 26th diatribe on "traditional family values" in the Hillsdale Daily News.

The first is as a media-type person, and as a media-type person, I couldn't care less what his opinion is.  What I care about more, as a media-type person, is the fact that Morgan, the sports editor, was allowed to share this opinion in the newspaper as an editorial.

Now, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against sports editors.  I'm a sports-type person myself, as well.  But a responsible news organization does not mix sports and politics.  You don't let the sports guy comment on social issues outside the realm of the sports world.  You don't let the weather guy give his opinion on the latest election.  You don't let an arts writer take potshots at a local bar for no justifiable reason.  The list of no-no's goes on.

The point is that the responsibility for social editorials falls strictly to the editor in chief.  If the sports editor wants to share his opinion on same-sex marriage with the rest of the world, there are other venues for that purpose, and using them instead of his employer as an outlet is necessary to protect not only himself, but his employer, as well.

Make no mistake about it, this piece will only generate negative publicity for the Daily News and anyone who publicly agrees with Phil Morgan's opinion (as some already have).

These are all signs of a severe lack of editorial oversight, and in this particular case, it's a sign of the complete disaster that has befallen the Daily News on account of twenty years of varied ownership which, like most other old media, stubbornly refused to adapt to new technology, so as their bottom line got smaller and smaller, so did the staff.  Each new owner slashed and slashed and slashed away until the sports editor and minimal sales staff are all that's left.

Consequently, I didn't even know this article existed until yesterday when a friend pointed it out to me, because I -- like most other Hillsdale County residents -- don't read the Hillsdale Daily News anymore, and haven't for many years.  It is now an irrelevant publication and has been for quite some time.  This is merely proof of that fact.

The second issue I have with the article is as a person, regardless of whatever type I assign to myself (or anyone else assigns to me, for that matter), and as a person, I find everything in the world wrong with Morgan's opinion.  Roger Corman's movies have fewer plot holes than this masterpiece of illogical reasoning.  So, as is the case from time to time, I find it necessary to respond to the article word-for-word, in responsive format, because it's just that ridiculous.  So let's jump right into it, shall we?

We often hear that the gay rights movement is a continuation of, or at least similar to, the civil rights movement of the early 1960s and that people who insist that traditional lifestyles are best for their communities, businesses, schools and families are akin to the Ku Klux Klan.

First of all, anyone referring to this as the "gay rights movement" has automatically lost.  This is not a movement to bestow any special rights or privileges upon LGBT individuals, it's a demand that government-sanctioned inequal application of the law be put to an end.  This is the ultimate conservative value: no one can tell anyone else what they can and cannot do unless it brings harm to other people.  It's called the Harm Principle, and no one under the LGBT banner is causing anyone else any harm by demanding that the law be equally applied to them, as is their God-given right according to the Fourteenth Amendment.  Advocating anything less is allowing violation of inherent human rights, and if you allow a violation of human rights to occur without at the very least speaking out against it, you're complicit in that violation.

Secondly, what defines "traditional lifestyles" to you, Phil?  I have friends and family who happen to be gay and live more traditional lifestyles than many heterosexual couples and individuals do.  Which says to me that your language is meant to imply that anything other than heterosexuality is a "lifestyle" and a "choice," to which I demand you provide substantial evidence to back up that claim.  While you're doing your research, here's some proof that such an idea is flat-out incorrect.

In 2006, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the National Association of Social Workers jointly filed a brief with the California Supreme Court that stated:

"Currently, there is no scientific consensus about the specific factors that cause an individual to become heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual—including possible biological, psychological, or social effects of the parents' sexual orientation. However, the available evidence indicates that the vast majority of lesbian and gay adults were raised by heterosexual parents and the vast majority of children raised by lesbian and gay parents eventually grow up to be heterosexual."

And in 2007, the Royal College of Psychiatrists contributed to a listening exercise (or request for information) from the Church of England on human sexuality.  Their submission took a much more conclusive tone:

"Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person's fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice."

Care to debate this further, Phil?  I've got more.  You're only going to be wasting your time.

We are told that the future will judge us harshly for promoting the belief that a man, a woman and their children are the foundation of a healthy society.

I don't know what you're afraid of, Phil.  The present judges you harshly for it already.

I am not sure when protecting traditional family values became weird. It could only be recently, for the perpetuity of humankind is enough evidence to suggest man and woman making children is the natural order.

I refer you, once again, to science: female embryonic stem cells, in 2008, were used to create sperm cells, which could one day lead to children born of two women.  And in 2013, scientists were able to use primordial germ cells from a male mouse to create a female egg cell, and the same type of cells from a female mouse to create male sperm cells.

In addition to same-sex families, you're also invalidating single-parent families, divorced and combined families, adoptive families and so forth.  These people are just as capable of raising children as a male-female couple.  How dare you take it upon yourself to dismiss them?

Unfortunately, the discretion necessary for good self-government is not just weird anymore, it is considered by some to be politically incorrect, bigoted and shameful.

What does the natural existence of homosexuality have to do with your self-government, Phil?  You have absolutely no rational justification to tell anyone that they cannot love who they love.  Yet you do so.  Screw political correctness, this has nothing to do with it.  But bigoted and shameful?  Refusing someone their rights on the basis of the way God created them?  Yeah, you bet that's bigoted and shameful.

Fearing how future generations will judge us is misguided, weak-minded and a careless approach to raising children. The problem with caring about what the future thinks is that in modern society the most "up-to-date" people throw the elders into nursing homes, revise history and sneer from their perches at the backwardness of the old ways.

Buried somewhere in that convoluted point is, I think, a commentary on society being ever-obsessed with what's new and flashy, but that has nothing to do with anything being discussed here, Phil.  No one is revising history.  In fact, if you look back into history, you'll find some rather shocking facts about countries and empires which did not collapse due in whole or in part to upholding equal rights for their non-heterosexual citizens.  Despite the fact that homosexuality has existed from damn near the very dawn of time, society -- modern or otherwise -- still somehow seems to march on and function just fine.

And that point about sneering at the backwardness of the old ways?  Have you never found yourself looking back at legalized slavery in this country and thinking, "what viciously horrid people could possibly justify this?"  Don't be a hypocrite, Phil.

Future generations might claim that three middle-aged women and a 15-year-old boy constitute a marriage and are a social unit fit for adopting and raising children.

Oh, here we go with the "slippery slope" argument again.  "Legalizing gay marriage will lead to bigamy, pedophilia and incest!  What's next, a man marrying his dog?!"  No one (except maybe some families in Utah) is arguing that marriage should be anything other than two consenting adults.  Though I would argue that you have no right to tell multiple consenting adults that they have no right to marry.  And given that the age of consent varies from state to state in this country, and that some states make exceptions to age of consent laws in certain circumstances, you also have no right to say that a legally-consenting 15-year-old cannot marry a consenting middle-aged woman.  Do you have to agree with it?  No.  Do you have the right to stop it?  No.

They would be wrong, of course.

According to you, Phil.  According to you.

Rather than fear how our children will judge us, we should fear how our forefathers are judging us. If we understood history, we would want to perpetuate the work of our best ancestors. Only from there can we focus on initiating the young into good traditions and the natural order.

The best work of our ancestors was ensuring that we live free to make our own decisions so that others cannot make them for us.  Good traditions follow organically from that freedom.  And if you say "natural order" one more time, I will be forced to explain to you just what that term means.  Do you understand how patently ignorant you are being, not to mention expressing hatefulness that borders on just this side of latency?

One of the many ironies of comparing the civil rights movement to the gay rights movement is that the civil rights movement was led by very religious people justified by the past. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister who defended his belief in inalienable human rights by studying the Bible, Plato’s Republic, the teachings of Ghandi and the Declaration of Independence.

Have you ever actually talked to a gay person, Phil?  Have you ever actually spent time around anyone involved in the "gay rights movement?"  There are LGBT individuals in churches all over the world.  There are LGBT activists who are profoundly faithful people.  Profoundly faithful people who also are justified by the past, and also find their justification for inalienable human (not gay, human) rights in the Bible, Plato's Republic, the teachings of Ghandi, the Declaration of Independence, and many other historical documents that have helped articulate and spread the ideals of individual liberty and civil rights.  If you think there's any lack of religion or historical context involved here, you obviously have no clue what you're talking about. 

When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence he wrote that nature’s God is the source of human rights. The moral absolutism of natural law became the rock upon which the Founding Fathers broke slavery in eight of 13 states in just 24 years and kept it out of the Northwest Territories.

Less than 100 years later abolitionists, also mostly Christians, led another charge for human rights that ended with the Civil War and emancipation.

Gee, if that moral absolutism based on natural law proved that the owning and withholding of rights from black people -- their pigmentation a natural, biological trait -- was clearly wrong, then that same moral absolutism based on natural law also proves that the withholding of rights from gay people -- their homosexuality a natural, biological trait -- is also clearly wrong.  You're operating strictly on dogma, Phil, and there is a maxim that I share specifically with people such as yourself: if science is one of God's ways of telling us who He is, then when science proves dogma incorrect, the dogma must be changed or eliminated.  Your dogma, Phil, must be changed.

The point is that when we look back and see the march of human rights we see Christian virtue, moral absolutism and people’s fear of a just creator.

All of which, as I pointed out to you above, we're also seeing today.

Dr. King said people should be judged based on choices, not on color. I doubt he would want his work compared to an anti-religious movement that says "whatever works for you."

The demand for equal application of the law is not anti-religious, nor does it say "whatever works for you."  Now you're just being deliberately inflammatory.

Interestingly, everyone’s ancestors through all of time, at least for one night, adhered to this suddenly weird idea that all life springs through the masculine, the feminine and the natural order. Every living person’s parents were, if only once, pro-heterosexuality and pro-life.

Firstly, you said "natural order" again, so here's your lesson: natural order is the relationship of one thing to others without any outside influence.  Since homosexuality exists in nature without outside influence (having been observed in many species, not only humanity, in the wild), it is part of the natural order of things.  Therefore, homosexuality does not violate natural law.  Your entire argument is, thus, invalid.

Secondly, only thanks to a society which has ignorantly demanded adherence to the male-female dichotomy has any LGBT individual been frustrated by their natural sexuality to the point of acting against it.  In fact, studies have shown that homosexuals raised by heterosexual couples who are loving and accepting of their homosexual child grow up to be very comfortable about their sexuality.  "Pro-heterosexuality?"  What the hell does that even mean, Phil?  No one is anti-heterosexuality.  What a ridiculous statement.

The nature of man and the nature of woman is visible in the soul and reflected in culture — the means by which truth passes downward. Moderns attempt to rewrite human nature and condescendingly send it backward, alas arriving in dystopian catastrophes.

And how many homosexuals' souls have you seen the nature of man and woman in, Phil?  The only modern attempt to rewrite human nature and condescendingly send it backward into a dystopian catastrophe is being carried out by people such as yourself.  If you seek to withhold the inherent human rights of anyone, be they gay, straight, transgender, cisgender, black, white, blue, neon green or born on Jupiter, you are creating exactly what you fear: a dystopian society in which one group of people who claim to have the moral authority are the only people granted full, uninhibited access to their God-given rights.

Once upon a time, village elders took the young men into the wilderness to teach them fundamental lessons of their humanity. Today understanding what it means to be a human is trampled by the whims of public education, public outcry and political correctness.

Also once upon a time, people died of the bubonic plague and blamed the alignment of the planets causing "bad air."  There are some old concepts that science has proven incorrect over time, Phil.  No whims of the public are necessary.

C.S Lewis called the old approach the Tao, or the way. People who believe in the Tao are not bigots; they are moral absolutists who believe in preserving the things they cherish most.

This position of yours is not the Tao, Phil.  What you're expressing in this piece is that age-old argument of fools: "that's the way it's always been, so that's the way it always should be."  It has nothing to do with morality, because morality would tell you to allow those with whom you disagree the freedom in which to find their errors and correct them.  That is, after all, the approach in keeping with Jesus' teachings.  Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

But that's just the problem, Phil: you know, deep down inside, that homosexuality is not an error.  You simply dislike it.  You dislike it, and you dislike the idea that non-heterosexual people have the same exact God-given rights as you do.  You're willing to violate the Constitution, natural law, and natural order -- and use them in a blatantly hateful attempt to justify their violation -- simply because that's the way it's always been.  Same-sex families raising children in no way hinders the preservation of the traditions you claim to cherish most.  In fact, your refusal to accept that same-sex couples have the same rights as yourself hinders their ability to preserve those traditions.  You're arguing against your own interest, Phil.

When we take bad episodes and then vilify the general past, we risk losing everything.

Bad episodes would be one thing, but we're not talking about bad episodes, we're talking about systemic and repeated violations of the inherent human rights of a certain group of people.  If you cannot see that, Phil, I have no choice but to refer to you as the fool which you have proven yourself to be.

All in all, what we have here is more of the same old ignorance and bigotry that has perpetuated inequal application of the law to one subset of society or another for far too long.  Pardon me for demanding that people be judged on the content of their character rather than the sex or gender of the people to whom they are naturally attracted.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Final Word on Robert Ramsey's Article

We're now ten days (and a Collegian issue) removed from Hillsdale College student Robert Ramsey's infamous article in the college paper, in which (for the few of you who don't know about it) he both praised Broad Street Downtown Market for its ability to unify the student body and the townspeople of Hillsdale... and vilified Here's To You Pub & Grub for having "become [a] bastion of the lower elements of society."  The piece created a bit of an uproar in the community, especially among those who frequent both establishments, and even moreso after Broad Street's praise of the article on their Facebook page.

And that uproar is wholly justified.  Ramsey proved himself to be an ignorant college kid who believes there to be "a socio-economic chasm in the town of Hillsdale between those who are associated with the college and those who are not."  He looks down upon those who he (wrongly) believes to have less than himself, and by putting his opinion in the public spotlight, he brought this public outrage upon himself.  Nothing wrong with that, and I join most of you in your emotionally-charged backlash.


Let's not forget a couple of things here.  First of all, Ramsey is a college kid.  I don't care whether or not he's past the age of majority and is technically an adult, and if you do, you're wrong.  In addition to that, I don't care what anyone says; no one, regardless of age, occupation or social status, is beyond having a chip on their shoulder and making a serious, public, social mistake (if not more than one).

Secondly, the only difference between this situation and any other is that this is a very small town in which, I would argue (and for various reasons I could point out), more people than would be the norm in other college towns read and pay attention to the college newspaper.  That is the only difference here.  If you don't believe that this attitude exists at other colleges in similar ratios of snobbery-to-humility, you're fooling yourself.  This isn't a problem unique to Hillsdale College, nor is it anything being taught by the college.  It's simply youthful immaturity; nothing more and nothing less.

Fact is, just about anyone who has moved from one area of the country to another has, at least once, come into a new town with an attitude of being above it.  "I lived in City X, so I have more life experience than you little City Y people."  I've fallen victim to it myself -- in high school, having moved from Miami to Greensboro -- and I had even promised myself that I wouldn't go into it with that attitude.  It's all too easy to let happen.  Unfortunately, it's one of those mistakes in life that you can only avoid by making once and learning from it.  I don't care who you are, where you came from or where you're going: at some point in time, you have either already made this mistake or you will make it.  It's simply human nature.  The only difference is in how we each deal with it.

That having been said, it's up to us as a community to help people out of the mentality when they fall prey to it.  That doesn't mean helping them avoid the consequences.  They're going to have to deal with the consequences, and Ramsey is no exception.  He brought a world of hurt upon himself in this town, and he's not going to be able to avoid it.  But what we can and should do is teach him otherwise.  Show him that we're not the backwards hicks he takes us for.  Take him out to the Tip-Up Festival and show him what a coyote hunt really is.  Introduce him around at the Pub & Grub to some of the well-off patrons who probably make more in a month than he's ever made as an employee in his brief adult life.  Prove him wrong, but do so compassionately (even if it is with a little sense of condescension toward the little snot) so that he will learn that we're the kind of people he should be socializing with.

See, the biggest problem I have with this whole controversy is that everyone is pissed off about it, but no one seems willing to do anything about it.  A few people have brought up the idea of an "Adopt-a-Townie" (or, if you prefer, "Adopt-a-Charger") program in which the College would pair students up with locals who could show them around and integrate them into the community.  I, personally, find this to be a fantastic idea... in fact, I wish there had been something like it when I was in school.  But the overwhelming reaction to such an idea has been "why should it be our responsibility?!  It's not my problem, it's theirs!  They're adults!  They should know everything there is to know about media decorum already!"

Never mind the fact that they don't know everything there is to know about media decorum, which is why they're in the journalism program at Hillsdale College.  They're there to learn media decorum.  If they already knew what to do in situations like this, they wouldn't be there.

As for the College's part in all of this, there has been no official response from them, but such an official response shouldn't be necessary.  Let me repeat that: an official response from Hillsdale College to the Robert Ramsey article and the controversy that arose from it should not be necessary.  Why?  Because despite the fact that the Hillsdale Collegian is an administration owned-and-operated entity, they have done what they can over the years to give the paper editorial autonomy, which the paper in turn has exercised quite often in its history.  Sometimes even to the chagrin of the administration.  But that is their choice, and I believe it's a wise one.

That being said, it would behoove the College to step in behind the scenes and use this as a teaching moment for the Collegian staff and journalism students.  But we cannot accuse them of not doing exactly that, because we don't know whether they are or not.  And, frankly, it's not our business to know.

What is our business is how we react, and right now, we're not reacting very well.  We have people in this community taking sides between Broad Street and Pub & Grub.  We have students on The Hill trying to put down the "socio-economic chasm" sentiment on campus, but at the very same time, we have townies stirring up unfounded anti-College sentiment against both the administration and the students.  We have allowed Ramsey's article to highlight an idea worse than what it expressed: that the college students just want to get along, but the city hates them.  And while it's not at all true that the majority of people in this city hate the college and/or its students, that's the perception that's being put on display every time someone says "the college is teaching them this behavior" or "Hillsdale students are just a bunch of rich snobs to begin with."  Neither of those things are true, either.  Deep down, the people saying them know that, but they're letting their outrage get the best of them.

The bottom line is this: it IS our responsibility, as citizens of Hillsdale and Hillsdale County, to help these students learn just who we are and what we do.  It IS our responsibility to help teach them that, even if some of us do make less money than they're accustomed to living on, we're no less intelligent, capable or refined than they are.  It IS our responsibility to help them integrate into this community, because if they can't integrate here, they're only going to get their asses kicked by the real world when they leave; and believe you me, that's going to be a much harder lesson to learn than anything we'd teach them here.  It IS our responsibility, as townies, to show compassion to college students even when they screw up and piss us all off.

Because if we don't, we're only proving Robert Ramsey correct.