Mike Pence, the “Bible” and Christian Oppression

For the record, I’m not trying to be anti-Christian, nor anti-organized religion. I am trying to point out the irony of a guy, Conservative Republican current VP Mike Pence, whose Christian Privilege helped him rise to the rank in society he has and who uses his interpretation of Christian beliefs to oppress and persecute others including Christians of other denominations talk about the plight of oppressed Christians.

He recently spoke at a Christian international forum and “claimed” that “Christians” were the “most persecuted” “religion.”

While there may be controversial evidence he might be correct in his statement, it is hardly tenable that what he stated in his remarks was a reflection of the international community compared to his at-home words and actions. His sect of so-called Christian beliefs are hardly persecuted here considering the wide berth so-called religious exceptions are even given here in the first place.

Generally, Pence is hardly the spokesperson for Christian morality with his reputation for being an aggressive Bible thumper that comes often at the expense of other’s liberty and freedom. He is more often the oppressor of not only other Christians but American liberty as a whole than he is a defender of anything morally logical or Christian in a Christ-like embracing idea…

But moreso, the conversation ended up devolving into a history lesson yet again. Without exposing too much of the flatlessness of the other side I’m simply copying here my own notes from the debate:

perhaps Christians don’t march here against ISIS and other worldwide (so-called) persecution because they are too busy pretending to be persecuted and oppressed by the fake war on Christmas. They are too busy feinding oppression by minority religions, atheists, scientists, gays, trans, women who want birth control, big city liberals, and whomever else the Fox News oppressor du jour is. If certain Christians weren’t so busy trying to pretend they were being marginalized and hijacking the narrative on what being Christian is here they might realize the plight of real oppression around the world.

Of course many Christians have conveniently forgotten Christians were the oppressors for centuries committing horrible atrocities like the Inquisition, the New England Witch Trials, the KKK, Pogroms, the Crusades, the Council of Toledo (to name a quick few). Many of the underlying premises of those historical wrongs committed by Christianity are being repeated today by non-Christian groups. Because many modern Christians have their heads in the sand about their own morally-void pasts they are unable to recognize what real oppression is and take real action against it.

That’s part of why no one marches here when Christians abroad are oppressed. A few particular denominations of Christianity here in the US have hijacked the conversation and turned the privilege of being the majority here into some twisted version of being marginalized so much so that it trivializes what oppression is. The desensitization that this faux-outrage American Christians create makes it that much more difficult for both they themselves as well as secular society here as a whole to take oppression seriously. If you trivialize so-called Christian oppression to the point that it is in the media here then society has a more difficult time understanding the terrible effects of it overall when it’s actually happening.

Are all US Christians ignoring what’s happening abroad? No. But, the majority are, particularly the ones that hold social and political sway and are using that clout to do other things. Are all US Christians engaging in the reductive thinking that US Christians are marginalized? No. But enough of them are that it is actively diminishing the conversation about real oppression. Is it fair to lump all Christians together then when discussing this problem? Probably not, but since minority Christians have allowed mainstream Christians to hijack the religion for decades now and since a portion of vocal mainstream Christians love to use stereotypes to group others they don’t agree with together, it’s quite understandable in how “all Christians” get lumped together in these discussions.

And, which “Church” exactly did it devolve into bashing because Christians and even “Church” are pretty broad terms? Generally, Christians barely agree on what it means to be Christian which is why the faith has hundreds of denominations and offshoots. These denominations don’t even love one another (forget about loving anyone else). Historically, and still to this day, different denominations say and do pretty horrible things to one another. A point often overlooked when discussing what it means to be Christian and potentially oppressed. Christians are fantastic at marginalizing and oppressing one another over trivial denominational differences.

There’s a long history of Protestants bashing Catholics (and vice versa) and of both bashing ethnic Orthodoxies, of all of them bashing the LDS and Jehovahs witnesses, of conservative denominations bashing liberal and progressive ones, of evangelicals bashing “ceo” christians, of Westboro Baptist and other extremists, and so on and so forth just in the microcosm of the “modern” USA. It’s hard to bash Christianity in general because it means drastically different things to Christians themselves – most of the distaste for Christianity is usually targeted at a few denominations that have hijacked the conversation of Christianity on a mainstream, secular level and turned it into an us-versus-them as in Christian-versus-non-Christian thing.

Generally, historically and now in the microcosm of the modern US, Christians don’t take responsibility for the faith as a whole. Each denomination primarily focuses on propagating their narrow interpretation of what is a “real” Christian. On rare occasion they might temporarily align to which ever branch it was convenient at the moment to align with if there was one politically or militarily to align with. Given the option most denominations would love to convert their fellow Christians to the “right” version of the faith. It’s a big reason why most denominations don’t even bother apologizing for the jackassry of the Westboro Baptists or ATLAH Missionary Church or the likes of the CSA, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., Eric Robert Rudolph, Wade Michael Page, the Army of God & Bruce Hoffman, Dylan Roof, James Harris Jackson, Buford O. Furrow & The Order White Nationalists, James Wenneker von Brunn, Charles Barbee & Robert Berry & Jay Merelle, the Hutaree Christian militia, Robert Doggart, Robert Lewis Dear, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr, Henry Francis Hays, etc while ironically demanding every other possible non-Christian group’s association to take responsibility for their actions from blacks to hispanics to atheists to Muslims to single mothers. God for fucking bid some hollier than thou bible-belter accept that bible thumping Christians are terrorists acting on behalf of all Christians. You’re much more likely to hear the pitifully defensive and tone-deaf “they don’t represent us” than you are to a more empathetic approach requested, ney, demanded by so-called Christians of non-Christians.

Not that other religions haven’t or don’t suffer from similiar factions, but we aren’t talking about how different denominations of Muslims in the middle East and in Africa kill one another over different interpretations of the Koran producing atrocities that go ignored, we are talking about if US Christians care about anyone other than their own denominations.

It could be said, then, another reason Christian don’t march here because there’s a subtle feeling those Christian in the middle East aren’t real Christian because they aren’t evangelical Protestant born agains, or Southern Baptists, or Roman Catholics, and so on, and therefore their problems aren’t “our” problems because they aren’t “real” Christians to begin with. They are just some people over “there.”

Is this a broadly generalized sentiment? Sure. But it’s not untrue, otherwise you would see these major American Christian Groups focusing their energies on it in a more public manner. It’s not like they don’t have the followers, or the resources, or the public’s attention. It’s that they (select, mostly conservative, denominations) actively chose NOT to get involved for Christians over there and put their effort in politics and government and trying to Bible-ize secular society over here in stead.

Following this line of thought, it’s also probably of why (most) Christian here don’t care about the Armenian genocide. It happen to “so-called” Christians in a far away land some time in the past. Armenians are an ethnic minority in the US to begin with, but that’s compounded by being ethnic Orthodox Christian which is a faith that itself is fairly splintered and highly misunderstood by “mainstream” Christians in the US. It’s easier then for the general population secularly as well as within the majority of the Christian population to overlook what happened because “those people” aren’t “like us” anyhow.

Also, not to trivialize it at all, but it occurred during WWI which on the whole receives much different treatment than WWII does. This gets into a whole other conversation but generally speaking WWII has a kind of social cache’ that few other wars have, including it’s predecessor. Combine that the fact that most Westeners know little about the Caucasus, Persian, and the Gallipoli Campaigns because the focus tends to be on (Central) Europe’s experiences and therefore would have had little exposure to the Ottoman aggression other than that of a few select battles which makes learning about or comprehending the scale of the Armenian experience that much more difficult unless one ardently studied the war.

Then again maybe if some modern US Christians were fighting to put it into school curriculum rather than fighting to put Creationism and other Bible things in secular US classrooms they, and everyone else, might know more about WWI and the Armenian genocide in order to preserve it.

And, maybe if some Christians from our grandparents and parents era focused on the genocide decades ago rather than a Bible thumping desire to insert God into the Pledge of Allegiance and everywhere else it was artificially jammed into in the mid last century the geoncide would already be in the history books.

One of the reasons why the Jewish genocide of WWII is more remembered is because a) the Jewish community as a whole, both religiously and ethnically, are more united in remembering and educating; b) the soldiers of all faiths that experienced the atrocity first hand came back to their homelands with stories that were cataloged and retold; and c) the Second War, as I mentioned earlier, is just more of a social (and pop-culture) mainstay than the First War was. Of the former two point, neither of those things exist in the same way for what happened in Armenia. It would take a minor miracle for the diversity of Christianity to come together and bring remembrance and education to the Armenian experience. Until Christians themselves care there will always be a huge void in that knowledge base.

Finally, 45’s Administration did make a ham-fisted attempt at following through on it’s campaign promises to deal with Christian refugees in the first EO regarding international travel. It was just so terribly written and executed that it completely undermined the attempt. Everything since that they’ve proposed continues to run afoul of existing immigration law primarily because 45’s Administration lacks the knowledge, resources and focus to turn around an executable EO or legislative branch document. That’s a whole other conversation.

And, not to minimize the plight of Christians faced with ISIL but that situation is far more complicated than just ISIL attempting Christian genocide. First, and foremost, ISIL claims to adhere to the Wahhabi fundamentalist doctrine of Sunni Islam and that allows it to exploit major rifts in Islamic belief including targeting for oppression and death of Shia, Kharijite and other either philosophical or jurisprudence variations of belief. Furthermore, while not necessarily singled out for death in the same way, it makes more progressive and mainstream Sunni believers targets for oppression and forced conversion. ISIL actively commits ethnic cleansing against any non-Wahhabi Muslim. This is not only at the level of being a War Crime itself but technically not even permitted even in many of the most extreme readings of Muslim literature. And yet, non-ISIL Muslims struggle to counteract these atrocities being committed against them. Partially, this is because not all of them easily get along with one another similar to how Christian sects often fail to unify due to their own denominational infighting.

All the ISIL religious cleansing of Islam is occurring simultaneously to committing genocide against all non-Muslims which includes Christians and Jews as faiths as well as Yazidis and other ethnic Kurds, eithnic Druze and so on from a socio-political view as well as singling out those who are or are perceived to be LGBT, have certain physical or metal disabilities, etc. Christian persecution is one part of the ISIL brutality. Which is why sometimes trying to single it out from all of the other terroristic things ISIL is actively engaged in gets to be thorny. With so many active targets some might question why singling out Christians is more important than any of the other targeted groups.

In conclusion though, first, thanks as always for engaging in an intriguing conversation. I do miss getting to think through all these things with you on a regular basis as I’m always reminded of something I’ve forgetten about, or get to learn something new, or just construct a broader view of what things can be when we do get to chat. Second, I hope you don’t think I’m necessarily coming at you personally (or anyone here is, though, I can’t speak directly for them). You happen to be the one right now really engaging in the intellectual part of things really deeply so i’m putting the effort into responding to you. If I come off as being too strident I apologize, the one-dimensional medium of internet posts sometimes doesn’t do tone and intention justice. I think we probably agree on more than it might appear.

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This is … us

I am told I shouldn’t watch Dan Fogelman’s “This Is Us” on NBC because it turns me into a tearing soppy mess. Granted, to be honest, I am a sap when it comes to a lot of filmed stuff. I cry during LOTR and the Hobbit series, during Harry Potter, during Star Wars, during Wal-e and many of the the Pixar shorts (Piper being the latest), and shitty Meg Ryan/Nora Ephron flicks and so on.

Being a sap is something I am completely ok with. As much as my significant other gives me a hard time about pooling over in my own tears during the show it’s just me being who I am. And, I think they appreciate that show of emotion and vulnerability too.

We’ve only really briefly spoken about why the show touches me the way it does. There’s probably a thousand reasons why the show touches me to be honest. In part, it’s portrayal of the complexities of the family and social dynamics during the late 70s and 80s is striking considering my own recollections of the era growing up myself.

Moreso, what makes me cry is the dad, Jack Pearson. There’s a lot of reasons he stands out to me.

First, he’s portrayed in a way that most dads are not from that era — hell most dads of any era even now. Sure, he’s the breadwinner cliche. Sure, he’s the catalyst for the family’s decisions cliche. Sure, he’s playing the paternal role opposite Rebecca’s sacrifices, expectations, beliefs and matriarchal decisions.

But, he’s also given this much more sensible and softer side.
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An open letter to the United States Coast Guard and opposing the proposed Anchorage Grounds along the lower Hudson River, NY USCG-2016-0132

Dear United States Coast Guard, a subordinate of the United States Department of Homeland Security,

Thank you for your service to the United States, particularly New York state, since The Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Life-Saving Service were merged to become the Coast Guard by 14 U.S.C. § 1 in 1915. Through wartime and in peace your work has proven invaluable to our safety and security and the sacrifices made by your members are an important aspect to the viability of the citizens of the country to this day.

However, at this time I cannot support your current endeavor which appears to serve a limited number of corporate interests over that of the greater good of the citizens of the states of New York and New Jersey. I strongly oppose the proposed Anchorage Grounds along the lower Hudson River, NY known as USCG-2016-0132.

Over the last several decades the US Federal Government through a number of different agencies, the States of New York and New Jersey, the counties of Bergen, Rockland, Putnam, Westchester, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, Dutchess, Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer and the Bronx as well as the many riverside cities and towns, a large number of local, regional and national not-for-profits including Clearwater, NYNJTC, the Dyson, the National Audobaun Society and many, many others spent countless dollars over recent decades in clean up and restoration of the Hudson Valley.

Ecologically speaking, the work has taken portions of the Hudson River from Superfund status to where it is today in the early stages of recovery. It includes $460,000,000 and counting investment in General Electric cleanup, over $100,000,000 so far in Dow Chemicals clean up & at least $100,000,000 in Indian Point ongoing issues, as well as the undisclosed amounts spent on the General Motors and Allied Refining / Steam Refiners Sugar sites to name some of the larger projects outside of the regular restoration necessary to undo damage by industrial & corporate abuse including intentional dumping, accidental spills and general toxic runoff as well as municipal mismanagement of waste and runoff that routinely re-harms the river.

Allowing additional docking on the river reintroduces the potential for these burdens to the still recovering ecosystem again and chances spills and other accidents that would recontaminate the river undoing the vast money spent and years of work to restore the area.

Furthermore, since the majority of the barges are expected to be petroleum products one should apply the industry’s track record with safety, environmental impact and clean-up accountability to the regional expectations of such a project.

In the Hudson River region alone a few examples of industry negligence include: April 2016 Englewood Boat Basin spill; May 2016 the Germantown Boat Launch pipe leak; May 2015 Indian Point Energy Center’s Tomkins Cove fire related spill; as well as larger and more famous issues like the Kill Van Kull spill in 2012; Diamond Reef / New Hamburg in 2005; the Arthur Kill spill in 2003 and the 420,000-gallon 1977 spill at West Point. That’s not even discussing the environmental impact of disasters like the Exxon Valdese in Alaska, the 2014 Baton Rouge incident that closed 65 miles of the Mississippi River, the 2013 Vicksburg, Mississippi spill and so many more. In some cases as little as 30 gallons of crude was recovered from spills of over 30 thousand gallons. And, in all cases the overall cost of cleanup and restoration to the environment was shouldered heavily by the local citizens.

Within the current proposal there appears to be very little study of the environmental impact of what leaks, spills and other toxic runoff from these anchorages. Furthermore there doesn’t appear to be any accident mitigation plan for dealing with potential leaks and spills nor any type of clean up and recovery plan that would hold the docked vessel owner’s liable for the environmental impact costs. Although, even if these were available, it still likely wouldn’t be insurance enough against the likelihood of an environmental problem.

Cost aside, however, the Hudson River valley supports irreplaceable ecosystems. Each stretch of the river provides unique habitats—including 40 state-designated significant wildlife habitats—essential for fish, birds, animals and plants.
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quip: truck jumps shark

How I know food trucks have jumped the shark? the popcorn truck

I’m sure they think they’ve “elevated” the experience and all … but fancy flavored popcorn is that holiday gift basket item that’s only one step removed from fruit cake and hickory farms gift baskets

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WFHWTF: Week Six

Technically, I worked from home to start and end the week, but the middle represented my transition back to being in the office full-time while my wife is home for the summer.

There’s so many things that are strange in all of this.

In all the year’s we’ve been together she’s almost always taught summer school so for her to be home more than a couple of weeks just feels odd to contemplate. It will be far from a vacation since she will be transferring to a new school that will require new lesson plans, departmental prep work, etc. on top of managing the household alone with the Padawan growing as quickly as they are toward mobility.

It’s also weird for me after so much time working from home alone with the Padawan for that routine to change again. In the two days we were apart it was tough to keep focused and work toward a new in-office routine. I found myself constantly checking the clock for our old pattern of doing things and my mind drifting anytime I was away from my desk to what it would be like to take that break instead to do a bottle feeding or a stroll around the block or to sit on the porch and read a book together. It was an adjustment not to have those daily discoveries together, those unique bonding moments only we could have because we were alone getting through the day.

It was strange not having to think through what to do when I had to take a shit or make a cup of coffee and just be able to get up and do it. Continue reading

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The Hab-nots are at it again

When I’m not rooting for the Washington Capitals I am a Montreal Canadiens fan. The storied history of the franchise interests me in a similar way to following the Yankees and Arsenal FC. It didn’t hurt that they won a Cup early on when I was still somewhat new to hockey and had a stacked team that included a flamboyant goalie who would go on to put up ridiculous numbers.

That being said, since then watching the Habs franchise is sometimes like watching a train wreck in slow motion. And, you know you should turn away, but somehow you just can’t bring yourself to it. It’s painful and intriguing at the same time.

Their latest implosion of epic proportions was trading franchise defensiveman PK Subban. PKS is one of my favorite current players and a big reason why I follow Les Habitants as closely as I do these days. He’s dynamic and exciting on the ice with a huge, giving personality off it. Unfortunately, there are some in the Habs world who have a love-hate relationship with PKS, meaning they love to hate him and it’s been that way pretty much since he broke into the NHL.

So, what did the Habs to with their star player? Oh, they traded him, of course. And, not just any trade, but one that makes them markedly worse both immediately and in the medium term. It is a terrible move by the Habs that has next to ZERO redeeming value. Not quite the fleecing that Jersey just did on the Oilers but pretty close. Continue reading

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wfhwtf: week five

This week marks the end of the final full week of working from home with Padawan. It’s bittersweet in many ways. While I will enjoy the routine of being back at the office and the ability to focus on big projects for extended periods of time I will miss all of the little things that made being at home special.

The experience provided me insights about what I could or should feel is a priority at any given moment. Everybody interprets the inputs of the world slightly different and in my days at home there was a definite change in perception about all things. Some as simple as the importance, or at times relative lack thereof, of a well brewed cup of hot coffee or cereal that still had its crunch, while some were more complex like whether to keep email and messenger constantly open or not during the day in case an “urgent” message came in. The infamous work-life balance was put to all kinds of tests throughout and for the most part, I can say, the concept although awkward passed muster for the most part. I am fortunate that both work and life cooperated as much as they did and I not only came away sane, I am a better person for having experience all the time home with Padawan.

Padawan this week taught me about patience first and foremost. They tested mine. I tested theirs. We both threw things that probably resemble tantrums at times and yet, we both seemed to understand that while patience is a virtue it’s intricately tied to many other things like the expression of needs and the expectation when and how they are able to be met and the gratefulness of them being met.

From about maybe the end of last week through most of this week Padawan explored a bunch of different ways to express needs, the most interesting one was the pouty face. Continue reading

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