After Seven Months…

I know we’re just barely into the second-half of 2008…but if I had to do a “top ten records of 2008” list right now, it would include the following (though probably not in this order).

  1. Drive-By Truckers – “Brighter than Creation’s Dark”
  2. Old 97’s – “Blame it on Gravity”
  3. Murray Hammond – “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way”
  4. Black Francis – “Svn Fngrs
  5. Centromatic/South San Gabriel – “Dual Hawks”
  6. Aimee Mann – “@#%&*! Smilers
  7. Hayes Carll – “Trouble in Mind”
  8. Ray Davies – “Working Man’s Cafe”
  9. Gutter Twins – “Saturnalia”
  10. Felice Brothers – self titled.

I feel like I did one of these lists a while ago, but I didn’t recognize it by post title. Sorry if this is re-hashing old ground. πŸ™‚

Current Listening:

  • Murray Hammond’s record, listed above.

A Few Things

My last post was ridiculously long and wordy…so this one will be shorter.

I don’t really have much to post about–or at least nothing that I WANT to post about, even though I could. Mostly, I’m just checking in for the sake of the discipline of writing something regularly. Sure, it may be crap…but at least I’m writing. So, here are some random, bulleted things.

  • Congrats to my friends Nathan and Colleen Pabarcus who just had a baby.
  • The Feldman Group played at Pirate’s Cove again last weekend. Some of you will remember that they’re the ones who screwed us out of money last time. Well, they started to do it again, playing the “I’m not sure how much we made” game–though they probably had TRIPLE the people they had the last time we were there. Fortunately, it was made fairly clear that we weren’t going to do that again–and I think the other two guys now completely understand why I was reluctant to play there after they did that the last time. So bands, please remember…they’ll burn you. Avoid them. (Also, I only had ONE drink, and it cost me $9.50, without a tip…so they rip off their patrons, too.)
  • I bought some new socks the other day–and for some reason that made me happy. It says a lot about your life when you get excited about socks…
  • I’ve ordered a few graphic novels that I need to catch up on to be a good-little-fanboy.
  • Thankfully, I have nothing to do this weekend for the first time in like three weeks. I’ll be able to do some work around the house and on the CD. I’m really looking forward to that. It’s kind of interesting to be at the point in my life that I’m RELIEVED to not have anything to do over a weekend. Many moons ago, I would’ve been bummed out about that. Now, it’s a good thing. I don’t get much rest during the week (as you may know), so having nothing to do on a weekend = GREAT for me. πŸ™‚
  • My thoughts are jumbled between many things this week, and it’s making me ineffective at work. Nothing I can really do to fix that…so I guess I should just stop worrying about it. No use dwelling on what you can’t change.

That should about do it, I guess…

Current Listening:

  • Pink Floyd – “Wish You Were Here”

Lighter Post – Books

Seems like the blog’s been a little heavy lately, so I figured I should write something harmless. Since it’s almost 6 a.m. and I can’t get to sleep, I figured I’d do it now.

This post just provides a few notes on books I’ve bought and/or read in the past year or so–some of which I’ve mentioned here in the past. Being a Librarian, lots of books come into my hands, and I’ve got a love of reading. Like almost everything else I do, this is sort of an addiction for me. I spend a buttload of money on books, and every now and again, I like to look back on what I’ve bought. I tend to prefer novels, since I deal with reality all day, so that’s what weighs down the majority of this list. Sure, my taste may not be the same as yours, but at least I’m not saying anything controversial this time! (Unless you really love or hate some of these books…but if you take it THAT seriously, you really need to get out more.) πŸ™‚

Stuff I’ve finished:

  • “The Secret of Lost Things” by Sheridan Hay [FICTION] – This was one of my recent favorites. I probably read it about a year ago, I don’t recall exactly…but it’s stuck with me. It’s about a girl who moves to New York from Australia and works in a bookshop. It’s kind of a fish-out-of-water story, which I usually like. The author did a great job of painting vivid pictures, but not bogging you down with every little detail. Compelling read and kind of haunting.
  • “Grief” by Andrew Holleran [FICTION] – I was almost halfway through this book (it’s pretty thin, by the way) before I realized that pretty much every main character was gay. That was interesting, and kind of a refreshing change from most gay-literature I’ve read (which, to be fair, isn’t much). Didn’t really HARP on the issue…it was just there as a fact…much like “it’s raining” or something. Kind of an interesting spin on that world. That wasn’t the main plot of the book, though. It’s mainly about a guy whose mom dies and he moves to a different town to kind of try to cope with it. He falls in love with a book that reprints the letters of Mary Todd Lincoln, and goes on an internal journey of healing. Good read.
  • “Watchmen” by Alan Moore [GRAPHIC NOVEL] – I mentioned this one not too long ago in the “Graphic Novels” post, so I won’t go too into detail. It suffers from the typical Alan Moore problems. The ending seems rushed and slightly implausible. Some of the character-actions lack motivation. The “twist” wasn’t as much a twist as it was just a complete switch of direction, abandoning the plot we’d thus-far followed…but nonetheless, I really enjoyed it. The characters were mostly well-developed, and for a book that starts out talking about people/heroes you’ve never heard of, you get really attached to their stories. There’s a depth to the background of this novel that you don’t find in most of the funny-books you pick up. Certainly worth a read if you haven’t done it yet…but set aside plenty of time. It’s long.
  • “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein [FICTION] – Saw this on the shelf at Starbucks and read a brief synopsis. Liked the concept, so I bought it. It’s pretty much the story of a guy’s life and struggles with loss, depression, and hope for success as told through the eyes of his dog. To some, that’s intriguing. For others, it sounds remarkably stupid. I’m in the former group, I guess. I couldn’t put it down and finished it really quickly. It was a fun read, and I was really pulling for the main character by the end of the first major section. It’s an easy read, but it has some weight to it as well. Good coffee-house book, I’d imagine…but I don’t really sit in coffee-houses, as I usually just stop in on my way to something else. πŸ™‚
  • “Love is a Mix Tape” by Rob Sheffield [AUTOBIOGRAPHY] – Some will know Sheffield as a writer for Rolling Stone. This book is about the death of his wife, whom he met through a shared love of music. He both loved and hated music after her death, both relying on it to help him through the darkest part of his life, and also mourning her through her old mix-tapes. I couldn’t put this one down either, and I’ve since re-read it, too (which I rarely do). The first time I read it, when he writes about his wife’s actual death, it was jarring and it felt like I’d read that someone I KNEW died. (This, of course, was before his story was all over the Internet and book reviews and I didn’t really know much about him. His wife’s death is kind of common knowledge now, and in a recent printing, I even saw it mentioned on the jacket-cover…so this isn’t a spoiler!) It’s a great, great read and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves the power of music, especially if you’ve ever lost someone and had to put away their favorite records until you were “ready” to put yourself through listening to them.
  • “Teacher Man” by Frank McCourt [AUTOBIOGRAPHY] – I’ve loved everything McCourt’s published. (He’s most famous for “Angela’s Ashes.”) This book chronicles his life as a teacher. It’s a fun read, perhaps more-so for me since I was born into a family of teachers and now work at a college, myself. (I never saw that coming, by the way…never thought I’d work in the education field.) McCourt mixes tragedy and comedy seamlessly. Some are put off by his slightly quirky writing style. He has lots of run-on sentences with awkward punctuation–a lot like some bloggers you may know, wink wink–and some of his wording is fairly Irish in nature. But if stuff like that doesn’t bug you, his stories are incredible. (Personally, I find his style identifiable if not charming, so I love his work.) If you dig “Angela’s Ashes” and “‘Tis,” you’ve pretty much got to give this one a shot, too.
  • “Man Without a Country” by Kurt Vonnegut [ESSAYS/WRITINGS] – Pretty much, you’re either a Vonnegut fan or your not. I am. This was the last thing he really wrote before he died (though technically the next book in this listing is his “last” book, it’s more or less a compilation, whereas this one is more focused). It expresses his dissatisfaction with American politics in the era of “W.” If you agree with his slant, it’s a pretty good read…if you don’t, you might want to check out some of his fiction.
  • “Armageddon in Retrospect” by Kurt Vonnegut [ESSAYS/FICTION] – Some of this book is stuff Vonnegut wrote as essays or delivered as speeches. Other parts (the majority) contain fictional writings about his thoughts on the futility of war–could be any war, but much of the backdrop is WWII. Really good read, though (again) you kind of have to agree with his politics to like it. I enjoyed it a lot, and it’s a fitting tribute to one of my favorite authors, if nothing else.
  • “Unchristian” by David Kinnaman [CHRISTIAN CULTURE STUDY] – One of the best Christian Books I’ve read. It might be a difficult read if you’ve never been active in ministry or if you didn’t go to Bible College. In fact, I imagine that this is really written FOR ministers to read. When I began it, I was very, very disillusioned with the church–and longtime readers of my blog will know what I’m talking about. It was an interesting read in that mindset. I found myself surprised by how often I was agreeing with the opinions/perceptions of those who basically opposed the church. I don’t think that’s necessarily a BAD thing…I think it just means that I recognise a lot of the same weaknesses and problems that the secular world does. You can only work toward healing a disease if you can diagnose it. This book does an excellent job of describing the biggest symptoms of the church’s illnesses. It’s kind of a downer-but I think that if the lessons in it are taken to heart, it could do some real GOOD.
  • “Albert Camus and the Minister” by Howard Mumma [AUTOBIOGRAPHY] – Written by a guy who regularly met with noted existentialist Albert Camus and discussed Christianity with him. It’s a fascinating read. I don’t really know what to say about it, other than to say that it really changes the way you look at Camus, existentialism, and evangelism. It’s an amazing, captivating read.
  • “The Words of Every Song” by Liz Moore [FICTION] – A bunch of semi-related short stories with a focus on music. Moore has a strong, passionate voice and really knows her stuff. She’s also a songwriter and has a really good CD out. Fun read with lots to grab on to, especially if you’ve ever spent any time in the business…though it’s probably just as enjoyable for those who haven’t.

Stuff I plan on finishing:

  • “The Wounded Minister” by Guy Greenfield [AUTOBIOGRAPHY/CHRISTIAN INSPIRATION] – I’m not quite done with it yet…but I feel that I can comfortably say the following… This book belongs on the shelf of ANY minister (how ever you want to define that word) who has ever been hurt by a member of their congregation. I came out of a situation that I saw ALL OVER this book, and I know I’m not alone. His insight into personal healing is so great that it makes one reconsider not only one’s own feelings about ministry, but also feel pity and forgiveness for those who have been avid attackers of the clergy. His writing almost makes Christ’s action of forgiving His accusers understandable and identifiable. I have a list of people to whom I want to give copies of this book. It’s really helped me see things differently. If nothing else, it’s made me think that maybe I might someday want to go back into active ministry, whereas even a few months ago, I figured I was done with it forever.
  • “Finn” by Jon Clinch [FICTION] – I haven’t finished this one because it’s so disturbing that I have to read it in small chunks, and only when I’m in a certain mindset. It’s really dark. It’s the story of Huckleberry Finn’s father–who is very apparently a sociopath, as painted in this novel. I don’t know how Mr. Twain would feel about it, but I think it’s excellent. At times it’s actually made my skin crawl.
  • “A Star Called Henry” by Roddy Doyle [FICTION] – Just borrowed this one from my brother last week. Good read so far. It’s about an Irish guy growing up poor and his struggles. Kind of a fictional “Angela’s Ashes” so far. Suffers from the “I don’t care what the room looks like, just get back to the plot” syndrome…but the narrative is really good. Doyle’s a gifted writer, and I’m thinking this book is going to make me a BIG fan of his.
  • “Manic”by Terri Chaney [AUTOBIOGRAPHY] – Really great read. Kind of hard to read more than a chapter at a time because of the subject at hand…it’s essentially a recounting of various things Chaney has gone through as a result of her manic depression (bipolar disorder). As someone who sometimes wonders if he’s bipolar, this book is both alarmingly jarring, but also inspiring. She talks about a range of stuff, but to give you a feel for how intense it gets, she’s talked about having been raped and abused by police so far…and I’m only in like the fifth chapter. Kind of have to take this one a little bit at a time…but it’s been really good in the bits I’ve read.
  • “The Mercy of Thin Air” [FICTION] – I keep meaning to get back to this book, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to re-read a lot of it to get anywhere. Chiefly, it’s about a woman who dies and her experiences as a ghost. Sort of a played-out concept, but I like that kind of thing. No idea why I haven’t read more of it. I guess I just have a short attention-span (as proven by having six books with bookmarks in them at the moment).
  • “Macedonia” by Harvey Pekar [GRAPHIC NOVEL] – I’m a big Pekar fan, and I thought I’d be really into this…but it’s not about Harvey, really. It’s about a girl’s desire to help out the people of Macedonia. To be honest, I’m having trouble caring about it. I don’t know if it’s that I know next to nothing about Macedonia, or if it’s that she reminds me of people I went to college with who thought they were going to save the world and who went to other countries only to return to the states to be fry-cooks and baristas. I LOVE Pekar’s work, and I really need to give this another shot. It’s well constructed and I feel like I should really like it more than I do. Guess you can’t be a fan of EVERYTHING, even if you like everything else.

Stuff I’ve bought and never read for some reason:

  • “Slam” by Nick Hornby [FICTION] – Hornby’s my favorite author, and I bought this the week it came out. I haven’t opened it, really. I think it’s that I know that the name “Tony Hawk” is going to pop up in it a lot, and I’m just not interested in skating or skaters. (It’s nothing personal…I just never got into that world.) I hear that you don’t have to like Hawk or skating to get into it…but it just seems like Hornby would be the LAST guy to write a book with a skateboarder as an integral part of the story. I’m sure I’ll GET to it…but it may be a while.
  • “The Alchemist” by Michael Scott [FICTION] – I neither know why I haven’t read this, nor why I bought it. I think I picked it up as part of a “Buy Two Get One Free” deal at Borders or something…like I needed a third book, and this one caught my eye more than the others on the table. I’m assuming it’s about an alchemist of some sort…but I may never find out. Who knows? It may be the best book I’ve never read!
  • “The Bloodstone Papers” by Glen Duncan – I really like some of Duncan’s other work. “The Death of an Ordinary Man” and “I, Lucifer” both made HUGE impacts on me. For some reason, though, I’ve just never gotten past the first sentence of this book. It just seems from the very moment I open it like it’s going to be a really tough read for some reason. I hope that I get to it one day, and that I enjoy it. I just haven’t had the motivation to get into this one yet…even the TITLE sounds like it’ll be heavy reading…and I just haven’t had the energy.
  • “Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff [AUTOBIOGRAPHY] – A father’s story of dealing with his son’s substance addiction. I like the concept, and this is on the list of stuff I hope to read before the Summer’s out. I just haven’t gotten to it yet.
  • “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer [BIOGRAPHY] – Okay…to be fair, I STARTED reading this one. However, I’ve completely abandoned it never to return. I see what people like about it–I really do. However, I just can’t get past thinking the kid was an idiot and made wildly bad decisions that caused a lot of pain to those around him and ended up costing him his life. (I mean…how do you go to Alaska and expect to live on JUST a bag of rice???) I know that comes off harsh, and it’s not my place to speak ill of the dead (whether I knew him or not), but I just don’t get why people are turning this kid into a hero. It’s kind of a chronicle of what NOT to do, but it seems to be having the opposite effect on many who read it. I also think the construction was poor in that the point of the book in made in the first chapter, then just repeated over and over again (at least to the point I read–about 75% of the way through). It has nowhere to build to after you read the first chapter or two, and I’m not sure why the book’s so popular…I would like to see the movie, though. I’d imagine I’d like that version of the story.
  • “Anarchist Propaganda” by Radical Andy [FICTION] – Ahem… I actually KNOW “Radical Andy.” That’s not his real name, and he’s not really that much of an Anarchist…it’s mostly just good title. I’ve wanted to read this for a while. I bought it the day after he told me about it, and it’s been sitting waiting to be read. I’ll get to it. It’s just kind of thin, and I know I can get through it in an evening, so I’m procrastinating. Sorry “Andy.” I promise I’ll read it and tell you what I think soon.

That’s enough for now, I think…it’s actually way longer than I meant for it to be. I hope SOMEONE found it interesting. I enjoyed it, anyway…and let’s face it…blogs are more about entertaining the people writing them than the people reading them! πŸ™‚

Current Listening:

  • Wayne Gratz – “Southlands” (Which is on the cable-music station that plays new-age music. I like to turn that on when I’m reading, writing, or just trying to nod-off.)

Enjoy Life

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way people view themselves. I’m particularly talking about people who are church-folk. There’s been a growing populous in the churches who practice what I call “Feel-Bad Christianity.” You know the types. The people who think everything they do is a sin…who feel the need to tell their life-story every time they open their mouths. How they used to get into all sorts of trouble. How life was a mess and they’re still dealing with the repercussions… Essentially the people who’ve never really accepted God’s forgiveness and still mourn their past misdeeds.

This, of course, does not just apply to the people who have “BIG” sins. (First off, since EVERY sin played a part in the death of Christ, I have difficulty assigning eternal weight to them…but that’s just a side issue.) It seems like the people who feel the WORST about their lives are the people who do very little sinning. I daily encounter people who think they’re not really saved because they still slip up and say a “curse” word now and again. (You can read my thoughts on that elsewhere on the blog, so I won’t get into it.) Or people think they risk losing their salvation every time they walk into a place that serves alcohol.

First off, I’m going to go ahead an bring up the fact that Jesus not only was noted to have had wine to drink at meals, He also freaking MADE wine…so I’m thinking he’s not too mad at people who like to have a drink now and again. Maybe if you’re a hard-and-fast ADDICT, there’s an issue…but alcohol in and of itself is not sinful. Neither is smoking. Neither is sex (in and of itself, anyway). Neither is most of the stuff people do that they would never mention to their pastor–which he also probably does but would never mention to his congregation.

As is common knowledge to those who regularly read my blog (or just noticed my profile over to the right), I’m an ordained minister. I’ve also made no secret of the following things…

I like beer.
I “curse” a little.
I think evolution is a plausible theory.
I have a short temper.
I’m at least a little pretentious, if not downright pompous.
I watch R-rated movies, almost exclusively.
I’m often careless with money.
I’m a slacker.
Etc, etc, etc…fill in your own (though preferably not in the “comments” section. πŸ™‚

None of that is particularly sinful on its own (except possibly for the short temper). I used to hide most of it. I used to think people would think I was a “bad Christian” if they found out my band plays in bars–so I used the word “restaurant” as a pseudonym. I thought I would be universally shunned if people knew I owned every Kevin Smith movie. I used to beat myself up over stuff like that and feel miserable all the time–or nervous that someone might “find me out.”

However, in the past few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to be more honest about who I am and what I do. I’ve evaluated my life and whereas I find some sinful behaviour, I don’t find sin in the things I enjoy (yes, there IS a difference). The Bible says (in Ecclesiastes) that we should eat, drink, and be glad, for this is a gift of God. I don’t know why that’s such a problem for people. I’m not sure why I was one of them. But I’ll tell you this…my life got a LOT better and I’m a LOT happier since I started admitting that I enjoy things that normally wouldn’t be mentioned within 50 feet of a pulpit. If people judge me for it, I don’t really care. That’s their issue and if they have nothing better to do than pick apart someone else’s life, that speaks VOLUMES about them. I don’t think the things I was ashamed of in the past actually are sinful…but I think the hypocrisy I was showing in covering it up WAS.

Folks, it’s psychologically unhealthy to deny who you are. Maybe you’re NOT a great person. Maybe your life IS full of sin. Maybe you DO need to make some changes…fine. Don’t be ashamed of it. If you are living sinfully and recognise the need for change, then own that. If people ask you about it, you can look them in the eye and say, “This is who I am, but by the grace of God, I hope I won’t be someday.” Or, if you’re in the boat (perhaps Ark) of people who aren’t really doing anything wrong, you can own up to that, too. If anyone says anything about it, YOU can look them in the eye and say, “I’m alright with God, I’m committing no sin, and I’m going to Heaven.” Just don’t be too surprised when they say they’re going to pray for you.

In short (too late)… God made it possible for us to get to Heaven. Along the way, He wants us to enjoy our lives. If you have nothing better to do than sit around moping about your past or even your present, you’re squandering God’s gift to you. Enjoy yourself this side of Heaven. Only by embracing the joy God gives you on Earth can you taste Heaven before you get there. Just…y’know…try not to get joy from killing people. πŸ™‚

…sorry about all the babbling. Just felt like saying some of that stuff for a while. Unfortunately, I’m not saying it quite as well as I want to…but whatever. It’s just a blog.

Current Listening:

  • Pink Floyd – “The Wall”

My Breaking Point

I think I get in the most trouble when I am asked to do things that other people think are small things. I can deal with years upon years of being screwed out of getting properly paid for the work that I do. I can cope with not being respected and being dismissed (as long as other people know the one doing the dismissing is the jerk). I can live with constructive criticism…

But when someone asks me to stop listening to music in the office, I get pissed off and crank up some Opeth or Misfits. When someone tells me I need a haircut–even if it’s true–I consider not only not cutting it, but not WASHING it. When someone criticises my wardrobe, I look through it to find the most bizarre, grotesque thing in my collection and go out of my way to wear it in front of them. When I’m asked to start showing up five minutes earlier, you can be guaranteed that I’ll roll in 20 minutes late. When I’m asked to clean something up (with the implication or direct statement that it is to be done THAT DAY), it’ll sit there for a week or longer.

For some reason, it’s that kind of stuff that sets me off on a tear. Especially if it was something I was going to do anyway. Like if my boss were to tell me that when the semester starts, I should probably wear sport-coats and suits around the office, I’d argue with him, even though I plan on doing it anyway. I guess it’s the fact that by telling me to do something–even if it’s completely reasonable–the person has taken away my WILL to do that thing, and made it an ORDER.

I’m not good with being bossed around on arbitrary things. If it’s a work-task, that’s another story. If my boss says, “I need the budget report within the next hour” or “You need to write up a report on the progress of the project you’re working on” I’ll get right on it. No problem. It’s something that NEEDS to be done. If, however, one of the guys in Blue Tattoo were to say to me, “You should really polish your guitar.” I’m going to roll it around in mud. I mean…who cares if a guitar has fingerprints on it? Or I will get into SCREAMING matches about what the end of a movie was trying to say and lose friends over it, whereas if someone tells me they don’t believe in God, I’ll pretty much accept that as just being a part of who they are. (Though in the latter example, I do hope people change their minds over time.)

It’s that kind of thing that makes me resign from jobs, quit bands, give up on projects, disassociate myself from people, and generally just have a bad time…no idea why. For some reason, the big things don’t get to me…just the little ones.

Just seems like people would benefit from knowing that about me, is all…

Current Listening:

  • Gob Iron – “Death Songs for the Living” – I might be slightly off on that title, I’m not sure. Anyway…it’s a side project Jay Farrar of Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt has going. Really earthy and acousticy. I like it a lot. Pretty much anything Farrar’s done, I’ve enjoyed–except for his Son Volt “reunion” where he’s not working with the original members of the band, but is using the name. Point #1, that’s kind of misleading. Point #2, SON VOLT SHOULD NOT USE TRUMPETS. …but Gob Iron’s good.

Humanism and Random Theological Mishmash

So, I’m often criticized for defining myself as a Humanist. It happens mostly because that declaration isn’t too common among ministers–and I’m not entirely sure why, except that humanists tend to shy away from theological discussion. Here’s the basic statement of Humanism, as defined by the International Humanist and Ethical Union:

“Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.”

To clarify the last part of that statement, they elsewhere state (emphasis added):

“Humanism clearly rejects deference to supernatural beliefs in resolving human affairs but not necessarily the beliefs themselves; indeed some strains of Humanism are compatible with some religions.”

(Side note: The word “supernatural” does not necessarily refer to God.)

Essentially, then, Humanists are in the business of being good people and trying to treat people with respect to their inherent value as being human beings. They don’t do it because it’s God-ordained or mandated…they do it because it really sucks when someone treats you badly, so you shouldn’t want to make anyone feel like you do when YOU’RE mistreated. (By the way, I’m often hit-and-miss at ALL of this…that’s the problem with having beliefs–there are always times when you fail them.) They don’t oppose religion, they just embrace people.

…kind of like Jesus…

Jesus was kind to people, no matter who they were. He regularly associated with people who hated Him. He went to wild parties. He abhorred the oppression of the common man. He even forgave those who murdered Him. Sure, He was/is GOD…so there were divine purposes for what He did…but if we truly think Jesus was also HUMAN, then He could have easily been fallible and chosen to do otherwise (though I agree with the assertion that He didn’t).

There are definitely divine reasons for treating people well…but that can’t be your only motivation. If you’re only being kind to someone because you’re afraid that God will stomp on you if you don’t, then you’re a hypocrite at best. That’s not true kindness; it’s fear motivated by selfishness. To truly be kind to someone, you have to see their value. You have to accept them, warts and all…you can’t just trust that GOD sees that…YOU have to as well.

This leads to a slight dilemma…there are some people who seem to have no innate goodness. There are some people who are genuinely sour inside. There are some who wouldn’t be worth your time of day if you were on fire and you needed someone to put you out. What about them? Well, the realist in me–for I have never lied to you–says that you treat people as what they ARE, and if they’re crappy, you’re not responsible for their poor choices. …but the Humanist in me tries to remember that at one point they were babies, and you can’t hate a baby…so there must be something un-hate-able in all of us SOMEWHERE, right?

The further dilemma arises (in Christendom) that if God is good, we should be good. If God loves people, we should love people. If God is our guide, we should be willing to be guided. So, how do we reconcile that to the concept that doing right by people is not dependant on God?

Well…let me put it this way… When’s the last time God spoke to you? I’m not talking about some inner feeling or emotional-swell…I’m not talking about the times where you were “sure” God was right there with you, helping you through a tough situation. I’m not asking about the last religious service you attended where you were “filled with the Spirit” and it caused you to dance. I’m asking when the last time was that God audibly–in Betamax quality or better–said WORDS to you. If you have an occasion in mind, you were either frozen in ice during the time of Moses, or you’re naive, or you’re a liar. God doesn’t do that. I’m sorry. He doesn’t. God doesn’t make things clear on a day to day basis. He hasn’t shared His divine plan with you. He didn’t tell you where to go and when to go there (ahem–pay attention Bible College students). You choose your own path. You can seek God’s counsel, but the CHOICE is yours. (And, by the way, God can bless bad decisions just as richly as good ones.)

He may intervene, should He so choose, to keep you from danger or to celebrate in your success…but He’s not necessarily to be credited with the fact that you made it through the day without a roof caving in on you. He’s God…He has bigger things to worry about. He’s the one you rely on to get you into Heaven when this whole thing’s said and done (through Jesus)…but I’d imagine He gets tired of humanity asking Him to help them with their romantic-lives. You can’t touch Him. You can’t see Him. I believe that He exists and He is concerned with each of us as individuals…I just don’t think He cares too much about our day planners. A lot like how you love your family…but you don’t really need to know about every turn they made on the road as they were driving home, and you couldn’t have protected them from the misbehaving idiots on the road anyway.

Put as simply as I can put it:
There is no predestination. You are not a robot. You are a human just like everyone else. God loves you. He also loved Hitler. You can do whatever you want with the gift of your life–your course is not predetermined. Just try not to be like Hitler.

God sent Jesus to Earth in HUMAN form. In my opinion, that is a pretty high endorsement of humanity and shows that He thinks humans are pretty good at doing good things). Jesus has as His essential message, “Trust in me and be nice to each other.” Jesus in the Bible said more about doing good things than He did about His own divinity. God in the flesh told us to be good people and be kind to one another…and then we killed Him. Seems like religion has never liked it when the Humanist message gets out there.

Current Listening:
Rolling Stones – “Exile on Main Street”

Hattery…

(9/8/08) Decided to edit this post slightly… This is now a post in defense of wearing my cowboy hat, based on evidence that cowboy hats do not always equal “country band.”

I begin with my strongest piece of evidence. We’ll call it “Exhibit Lemmy.”

Lemmy Kilmister from legendary Brit-metal band Motorhead has been wearing that hat since…well, I had trouble finding a time when he didn’t. I dare ANYONE to question his image and live. I could stop here. The rest of this list seems pretty arbitrary next to Lemmy…

Nevertheless…

Cliff Burton, of Metallica, was one of the meanest, most thrashing, headache-inspiring bassists of all time. It was his low-end that made so many of Metallica’s songs what they were. He kicked a lot of ass, and he often did it in that hat. I’d imagine they had to pry it out of his cold, dead hands after lifting the bus off of him.

Ted Nugent, though absolutely insane, has worn that (or a similar) hat on and off stage for decades. True, with him it’s more of a “bow-hunter” thing. But, listen to “Cat Scratch Fever” or “Stranglehold” and tell me they’re country songs.

Billy Sheehan is a great bass-player, and he’s probably best known for his work with wuss-rock mainstay Mr. Big (though he also worked with David Lee Roth and Steve Vai). I was actually kind of surprised at how long it took me to find a picture of him with that hat on. There were a few years there where he wore it in pretty much EVERY photo…but that might have been because he wasn’t happy about his hairline, and he’s grown as a person since then…but nonetheless… His band may have been wussy, but they weren’t country.

Robin Zander, of wuss-rock pioneers Cheap Trick has been wearing a cowboy hat for a few years (when he’s not wearing a weird, fur-covered number that’s genuinely horrible and confusing). As much as they may be remembered for “The Flame” (pretty much bringing adult contemporary to hard-rock radio for some reason) this is also the band that wrote songs like “He’s a Whore,” “Surrender,” “Gonna Raise Hell,” etc…definitely a primarily rock act…and I’m pretty sure Alan Jackson won’t be touring with them as a support act any time soon.

The world’s biggest rockstar, Bono, has been wearing cowboy hats on and off since roughly when “Where the Streets Have No Name” was all over the airwaves. No one has ever accused U-2 of being a country act. But, I guess this one isn’t fair, since Bono has more money than God…when you’re that rich, you can wear what you want.

From the Supersuckers (one of the grittiest, ugliest punk bands going today) we have Eddie Spaghetti. In fairness, Eddie’s been doing a solo project where he does a bunch of country standards…but he looks like that on stage with the Supersuckers, too…hmm…a lot like a certain guy who performs with his band Blue Tattoo, which definitely has a Southern flavor to it, who wears his cowboy hat when he’s not on stage with them…

…not too bad of company to be in, I think…