Monday, February 19, 2018

Losing My Religion and the 'Mulligan'

Original Photo: Robert Nicholas     

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion

I see myself as an 8 year old on November 22, 1963 the day JFK was assassinated. I remember coming home from school where we had heard the tragic news, going into the bathroom, shutting the door so no one could see me, and then crying my eyes out. That for me is a seminal moment in my youth. I would later reference that moment as the dawning of my political experience that was punctuated five years later as a 13 year old, when both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. These events greatly shaped my thinking growing up in a smaller town, but a town that happened to be between San Francisco and Los Angeles... and rock 'n' roll.

My parents were born again Christian Baptists who took their four children to church EVERY Sunday, both morning and evening services and Wednesday night Bible study as well. Later in my 40's, when my butt started to lose it's round shape and go flat, I'd attribute that not to the aging process, but to the fact that I spent a large part of my youth sitting in a hard wooden church pew. Talk about penance, the Baptists had it built right into the furniture.

Jesus Christ
Do you think you're what they say you are?

A big part of growing up a Baptist, was the concept that all people are born with original sin that is ONLY rectified by "accepting Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior" and thus becoming 'born again' as THE WAY to an eternal life in heaven, and most importantly, the means NOT to burn in hell for eternity. And thus was born the expression learned by all baby boomers, "scary as hell."

As a Baptist Christian, there is the central practice of proselytizing by converting or attempting to convert someone from one religion, belief, or opinion to Christianity. Evangelicalism is the embodiment of this practice where recruitment and fund-raising are essential to their Christianity. It is no surprise that the United States has the largest concentration of Evangelicals in the world.

Jesus freaks out in the street
Handing tickets out for God
Turning back she just laughs
The boulevard is not that bad

So it is in this context, that I was raised born-again with a mission- to believe in God through Jesus Christ as the one savior of mankind by actively spreading this vision, and as I would later learn by Evangelists in the 1980's, by any means necessary.

Growing up in Santa Maria, California in the 1950's-60's, we had a lot of gas stations and churches. Most all my friends went to church. We would identify as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Catholics as teams in the Christian league, although Baptists are particularly bred to feel they are on the real winning team.

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Thank GOD for public schools as the true playground of democracy. At school in Santa Maria, it wasn't the education system that was much to talk about, it was the kids. I met all kinds of kids from all kinds of backgrounds, kids that didn't even go to church and some of their parents even drank alcohol. Kids that had more or less money than my parents, mean kids, nice kids, funny kids, and kids who believed in God differently than me.

In sixth grade, I met my first Jewish person, Rochelle Rosenblatt who was smart and sat right in front of me in our rows of desks. Kind of ironic, I'm learning in Sunday School about the Jews fleeing Egypt, God parting the Red Sea for their escape while not learning a thing about Judaism.

In my reflection of my religious upbringing, public school allowed me to accept other children and their differences with a wider lens, while at church I learned to view people and the world as a peep hole from someone else's front door.

If I told you what it takes
To reach the highest high
You'd laugh and say 'nothing's that simple'
But you've been told many times before
Messiahs pointed to the door
And no one had the guts to leave the temple!
I'm free
I'm free
And freedom tastes of reality

I don't know exactly or cognitively when it happened, but it was in my junior and senior year in high school that I began to question my religious beliefs and started to form opinions, for example, the "meek would in fact NOT inherit the earth." As you mature in living in the real world, the Bible becomes a kind of a Marvel comic book with fantastic stories of the earth being created in seven days, talking snakes, Jonah being swallowed by a whale, trumpets blowing down the walls of Jericho, boys being thrown into a blazing furnace and they are fine... it goes on and on, in the name of miracles of faith. But as one learns in the journey of life, facts and evidence matter and beliefs and faith do not trump facts and evidence. 

After high school and into college, I realized that my biblical and religious upbringing was a farce. Nobody could prove to me that God existed or didn't exist. I made a rational choice- to believe in me.

I also want to make this very clear, my parents are wonderful people, who loved their children very much and I have nothing but gratitude and respect for the life they gave me.

I have many Christians friends who were raised in the teachings of the Bible and culture of church. These friends feel my experience although typical was a rather narrow view of Jesus Christ and how one can live their life as a Christian. I take comfort that many Christians today believe:
  • all people are equal with human rights;
  • women have the right to their own bodies, and the choices they make;
  • gay people are not going to burn in hell.
I also take comfort that people from other faiths believe the same points above, as well as most atheists. It just comes down to dogma - "a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true." (Google)

Whenever any person joins an organization that follows a zealous belief system, WATCH OUT, because the organization could give a crap about you as an individual, it's the DOCTRINE that matters. 

So I had lost my religion, but NOT my spirituality, morality and ethics. My spiritual compass continues to point to the actions of Christians and non-Christians alike and how they live a purposeful life and treat others with respect. It is in this collective humanity that has shaped me as I have tried to shape this humanism with my own children and now grandchildren.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby,
Can you tell me where he's gone?
I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John.

So, that brings me back round to the 8 year old boy in church and the Kennedy assassination. I'll try to do this succinctly, but hopefully you'll see how my political maturation (but I'm not the only one) ran directly head-on into the Evangelical wall of practice.
  1. Lyndon Johnson becomes President and passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  2. Those events, turn the southern states to Republican (Red States) that continues to this day.
  3. Southern and Bible belt evangelicals become more political through the 1968 election of Richard Nixon who campaigns on representing the "Silent Majority."
  4. Jimmy Carter is elected President in 1976 and by all accounts is the most devout Evangelical Christian ever to hold the office, but hated, yes hated by many Evangelicals.
  5. Ronald Reagan defeats Carter in 1980, with great support from Baptist minister Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority" movement.
  6. From the 1980's to the present, Evangelicals are a political force joining an informal coalition of the Christian Right or Religious Right.
  7. "The Christian Right is notable today for advancing socially conservative positions on issues including school prayer, intelligent design, embryonic stem cell research, homosexuality, contraception, abortion and pornography." (Wikipedia)
Don't stop thinking about tomorrow
Don't stop, it'll soon be here
It'll be here better than before
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone

Also, let me quickly bring up, "What about Bill Clinton?" as all conservatives do, before I move into Evangelicals being in bed with Donald Trump. America during Bill Clinton's watch had great prosperity during his Presidency. However, the douchebag had several affairs with women, and WHILE in the office of the Presidency, let an intern give him a blow job several times. That was obviously wrong on many levels, but he got away with it.

In today's political climate of #MeToo, Bill Clinton would have been made to resign by the Democratic Party. Kristen Gillibrand, the Democratic Senator from New York, did this almost alone with Al Franken last year. Anyway, it was my opinion then and now, that Bill Clinton should have resigned his Presidency on this issue alone. (footnote 1- If your playing my version of It's a Wonderful Life, Clinton resigns, Al Gore becomes President, gets re-elected, and NO IRAQ WAR.)

One of my pet peeves over the year is having to listen to Evangelical leaders defend many TV ministers and conservative politicians for their affairs with women, or their sexual assaults against women. Okay, "What about, fill in the blank here." Yes, douchebags come in all political stripes.

My point is that Evangelicals were once the 'draw the line in the sand' hardliners for morality in America. Today, Evangelicals demean themselves when a person from their tribe is exposed for their sexual affairs, but say, "He deserves forgiveness as Jesus would have done." C'mon, I was once on your team, you can't kid a kidder, evangelicals can't have it both ways and all Christians know in their heart of hearts that this is hypocrisy of the highest order.

The word hypocrite is rooted in the Greek word hypokrites, which means “stage actor, pretender, dissembler.” So think of a hypocrite as a person who pretends to be a certain way, but really acts and believes the total opposite. Hypocrites usually talk a big talk but fail to follow their own rules. (

I grew up hearing the word, "hypocrite" as it was sometimes associated with Christians. When I was young and a good 'sheep' for the cause, "hypocrite" was like the worst thing you could call a Christian, probably still is.

In my lifetime, this is no doubt the all-time moral and ethical decay of our nation's leadership with Donald Trump as our President.  So the word 'hypocrite' is probably the best word to describe the Evangelicals who have sold their souls to defend this President to advance their own religious policies over their deep moral convictions.

Like most Americans, I have tried to remain calm throughout the first year of Trump in office. I've recently stopped using and reading Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for political 'tweets' and receiving news, and now only keep those social media accounts for promoting my consulting business and this blog. I try to remain open-minded with the knowledge that a local and national free press will continue to help inform me.

Now when we examine the personal and professional life of Donald Trump, it is a life consistent with tactics for-
  • racism, specifically race baiting;  
  • misogyny through verbal attacks, and actions by reducing women to objects; 
  • creating conspiracy theories about our Government, specifically the FBI and our National Security Departments to deflect his actions and interests;
  • and, promoting the idea that being a bully and asshole is actually a male attribute.
So everyday is a shit show @ The Whitehouse and one tries to remain calm...

Then, of the endless incoming stories, comes the news of the porn star, Stormy Daniels having an affair with Trump who's lawyer pays her off with $130,000 to remain quiet before the election. Evangelical Tony Perkins, President of the conservative Family Research Council comes out with the statement that Trump deserves a 'Mulligan' on this one.

A mulligan is a second chance to perform an action, usually after the first chance went wrong through bad luck or a blunder. Its best-known meaning is in golf, whereby a player is informally allowed to replay a stroke, even though this is against the formal rules of golf. The term has also been applied to other sports and games, and to other fields generally. (Wikipedia)

Now for all the things Trump has done (and is probably doing this moment), I just 'lost my shit' when I hear Tony Perkins as a representative for Christian Evangelicals say that Trump deserves a "pass," and "second chance." C'mon Tony, Trump's whole life is a mulligan. This is the very type of manipulative word play that originally caused me to 'lose my religion' in the first place because of the behavior of these so-called Evangelical leaders.

So it's within this current context that R.E.M.'s 1991 song, Losing My Religion from their album, Out of Time comes to my mind. This song has long been a favorite of mine as I (like with so many songs) have interpreted the lyrics and music into my own experience. Here's the interesting thing from the 'mulligan' comment, I go to do a little web searching about how the band came to write Losing My Religion and discover the song's title is taken from the band's southern roots in Georgia as a regional expression "that means losing one's temper or civility, or 'being at the end of one's rope.'" (Wikipedia)

The title is a Southern expression meaning "At my wit's end," as if things were going so bad you could lose your faith in God. If you were "Losing your religion" over a person, It could also mean losing faith in that person. (Song Facts)

I start laughing out loud when I read this, I've just 'lost my shit' over these stupid Evangelicals defending Trump again, and now I have the perfect double-meaning southern expression, 'losing my religion' to express my frustration toward the tribe whom have lost their WAY, not to mention their minds. In my dream of dreams, I hear my late Grandma Mary, a devout Christian say in her Arkansas/Texas accent, "Y'all a bunch a hypocrites!"

Book by conservative radio host Charlie Sykes

America has simply turned upside down-
  • hater Evangelicals defend situational immorality, time and time again;
  • "thoughts and prayers" is the standard response for mass shootings with semi-automatic guns;
  • conservatives are now the ones who believe conspiracy theories;
  • The FBI and Intelligence community are the enemy, and the Russians are not;
  • mainstream media news is fake;
  • the establishment is corrupt;
  • and to immigrants, America love it, but please leave it.
You would think that conservatives have gone through some twisted 'Manchurian Candidate" brainwashing. 

Well if the Evangelicals with Donald Trump and pious co-pilot Mike Pence are going down this road, maybe it's time for the rest of us to be, The New and Approved 21st Century Moral Majority. A majority of Americans,  Republicans and Democrats who are good people with a moral compass with the ability to listen to different points of view and work together to solve tough problems.

Additional Footnotes
(footnote 2)- I'm searching the web, trying to find a black and white or even color photograph of my old Grace Baptist Church. I can't find anything, like they picked up, moved to a better neighborhood, and scrubbed their past history from the Internet. So, I'm thinking the building must still be there, I heard that it became a Hispanic Christian Church from someone, so I decided to do a Google Map Search...

Ironic isn't it?

(footnote 3)- As a former church goer, I have a "you're a sucker if..." story.

As a young person maybe 13 years old, I used to sit in the church pew looking straight at the pastor, my head slightly tilted with a Mona Lisa smile, for his entire sermon. My father commented to me on several occasions, "Doug, I can't help but admire your attention to the sermon today." Well, that was just a way for a shy kid like me to get a little attention in my environment. I would later call it my, "pious look." Now, think of our Evangelical Vice President and what I call, "The Mike Pensive Look" while he's gazing adoringly at Donald Trump. And if you believe that look... Y'all a bunch of suckers!

Today's playlist is mixed theme of 'losing my religion' songs, news clips and some satirical comedy bits. Enjoy my friends.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Ooh Alexa, you're the winner!

My sister Stephanie calls Amazon Echo's voice, Alexa a "musical savant." I thought this was a perfect description as when you ask Alexa for a specific song and artist, "she/it" comes through most of the time with the correct tune. However, when you ask Alexa a typical search question, "it" typically answers. "sorry I don't know that one." Or, goes off course and even through progressive "dumbed-down" questions doesn't get close to what you want. I've been with groups of friends where we all give a stab at asking Alexa basically a similar version of the same question, but eventually give up and have to do a Google search on one of our phones to get the answer.

So here's some fun videos with Alexa, including in my opinion, the winning commercial from this year's Super Bowl. 

Small Children and Alexa -

Southern Alexa -

 Alexa and old people - 

And finally, the best Super Bowl commercial of 2018 by Amazon itself. The part about country music is laugh out load funny!