A Tale of Two Religions

Given what we have looked at in the previous two posts, I feel it necessary today to return to an old Michael Spencer post entitled “The Face of the Gracious God“.  Go ahead and read it; it will set the tone for where I want to go today.

Religion #1 is a version of Christianity in which God is angry on a very fundamental level.  Our disobedience has corrupted us and made us completely loathsome to Him, so much so that he wants to destroy us and then hold us in a state of eternal conscious torment, and would be perfectly righteous in doing so.  Anything less than that is an act of supreme mercy on His part.  Luckily for us, Jesus stepped in on our behalf and calmed God down and He decided (reluctantly) to be gracious to us.  But don’t do anything to mess that up.  Peace is fragile around here.

Religion #2 is a version of Christianity in which God is gracious and loving, more so than anyone could imagine.  He is grieved and saddened that our disobedience has separated us from Him and enslaved us to a whole host of unsavory things, and is determined to repair the breach at all possible cost.  Through Jesus, He shows us what kind of God He is and what His love looks like, and that He will stop at nothing–not even the most violent and horrific death imaginable–to restore the joy and love that should belong to the children of such a Father.  True to His promises, He will bless all people and restore the world through Jesus.  You can’t do anything to mess that up.

There are way too many people out there, especially in evangelicalism, who are attempting to sell you on Religion #1.  John Piper’s prayer that I quoted in the previous post is an example of this par excellence.  It arises out of a religion in which we have grievously offended an all-powerful God and deserve nothing but calamity and distress, that such distress comes directly from Him as His “wise and needed work”, and that the only proper response is one of abject submission before His just and sovereign power.

There are way too few people out there who are overwhelmed at the goodness of a gracious God.  Evangelicals talk a great game about the grace and graciousness of God, but listen to us for any significant length of time and that good news soon gets buried under all the footnotes, codicils, and fine print that we have added to the Good News.  Sure it’s all about grace, but what really moves the needle around here is perfect submission and obedience, believing all the right things and living it out under the direction and watchful eye of those leaders whom God has appointed to instruct you in His truth and who will give an accounting of you before Him.

The Nashville Statement is an example of this par excellence.  It is an attempt to take the blessing which God intends to pour out on all people and say that a certain class of people are excluded until and unless they conform themselves to our standard of belief.  Slacktivist goes so far as to call it an “ugly ingratitude”, and I am with him 100 percent.  It reeks of an ingratitude for the grace which God has so lavishly showered upon us, to the point of attempting to exclude gay Christians and their supporters until and unless they come around to our way of seeing things.  It is just like the servant in Jesus’ parable who was forgiven a massive debt and then went off and imprisoned a fellow servant who owed him a mere pittance.

The reality is that in Jesus we discover just how good and gracious our God really is.  We see him reaching out to all but especially to those who were excluded by the religious and cultural system of the day.  We see him scandalizing all the religious power brokers through his free acceptance of and association with those whom they considered unclean.  We see him repeatedly assuring his followers that when they see him they are looking at the Father.

Would that we could have a faith that begins not with the sovereignty or the power of God but with the love of God.  Would that we could look to Jesus and see him as the true picture of what God is really like.

Confession time:  I find myself drawn way too often to the God of Religion #1.  When things are tough, I find it way too easy to imagine that God has brought these things upon me because He is fundamentally angry and I am disappointing to Him on a fundamental level, that the way I did not take is the way God wanted me to take but I was too stubborn and hellbent on my own way to see it, that I deserve nothing better than this distress, and that my only proper response is to submit and prostrate myself before His just and sovereign power and let it do its wise and needed work in my life.

I need help to believe–to move past the level of knowing and on to actual lived, heartfelt belief–that the Jesus we read about in the Gospels is the truth of who God really is and how He really feels toward us, and that this love is truly for all people, including me.

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How Not to Pray in the Face of a Natural Disaster

Today we are going to talk about how not to pray.  Our teaching exhibit comes to us courtesy of John Piper, and is called “A Prayer in the Path of Hurricanes”.

It is considered monumentally bad form to publicly critique someone else’s prayer.  But this is a public prayer posted by a public figure in a public forum as a model for how to pray in the face of a natural disaster; for these reasons public critique is perfectly appropriate and warranted.  Besides, I am a blogger.  Offering unsolicited opinions when inappropriate and unwarranted is what I do.

Now then, the prayer:

O Lord God, mighty and merciful, we are asking for mercy — mercy amid the manifestations of your great might. We are asking, for Jesus’s sake. Not because we deserve anything better than calamity. We know that we have sinned. We have exchanged the high treasure of your glory for trinkets. We have not loved you with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. We have sown the wind, and reaped the whirlwind. We are pleading for mercy.

We make no demands. You are God, and we are not. We are bent low in submission to your just and sovereign power. Indeed, we are prostrate before the unstoppable wind of your justice and wisdom.

We know that you, O Lord, are great. Whatever you please, you do, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. You make clouds rise at the end of the earth. You bring forth the wind from its storehouses.

You have commanded and raised the mighty wind, and it has lifted up the waves of the sea. The floods have lifted up, O Lord. You have tilted the water-skins of the heavens.

You sweep us away as with a flood. You kill and you make alive; you wound and you heal; and there is none that can deliver out of your hand. You sit enthroned over the flood — enthroned as king forever.

We are like a dream, like dust swept off the street in a torrent.

But you, O God, are mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea. It is our peril and our hope that you can do all things, and no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

O Lord, do not sleep through this storm. O Lord, let not the flood sweep over us, or the deep swallow us up. Rise up! And do what only you can do amid these winds and waves. Rebuke them, as you once did. When they have done your wise and needed work, let them not have one minute more of strength. Command them, O Christ, to cease, we pray. And make a holy calm. For you are God, all things are your servants.

And give us ears, O God. Your voice, O Lord, is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. O God, forbid that we would not give heed.

Open our ears, you who once brought Job to humble silence, announcing from the whirlwind who you are, and that, when all is lost, the story then unfolds that in it all your purpose was compassionate and kind.

Whether we sit waste deep in the water of our Texas homes, or wait, uncertain, with blankets on a church pew, or nail the plywood to our Florida shop, or sit secure and dry a thousand miles from any sea, teach us, in mercy, what we need to learn, and cannot any other way.

And woe to us who, far away from floods, would point our finger at the sufferer and wonder at his greater sin, forgetting how the voice of Jesus rings in every tragedy: “Do you think that they were worse offenders? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” The very word of God to all Americans.

And now, O Lord, unleash the common grace of kindness from a million hearts and bank accounts, and grant as great a mercy in rebuilding as you once gave verdict to destroy. Restrain, O God, the evil hearts of those who would bring sorrow upon sorrow by looting what is left behind, or exploiting loss for private gain.

And in your church awaken this: the truth that you once gave yourself for us that we might be redeemed, not first from floods, but sin and lawlessness. That you once died, not first to put us out of peril, but to make us pure. Not first to spare us misery, but make us zealous for good deeds. And so, O mighty Christ, unleash from us another flood — the blood-bought passion of your people not for ruin, but for rebuilding lives and homes.

O Father, awaken every soul to see where we have built our lives on sand. Show us from every storm the way to build our lives on rock. Oh are you not our rock! Out fortress our deliverer, our God in whom we take refuge, our shield, and the horn of our salvation, our stronghold. How great the fall of every life built on the sand of human skill!

And yet, how great the sure and solid gift held out to everyone in Christ! For you have said more wonderfully than we can ever tell:

Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword — or wind, or waves? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through your great love for us.
For you have made us say with deep assurance: Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor hurricanes nor floods, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And all in Jesus’s name,

Amen.

First of all, it seems incredibly charitable to call this a prayer, as it is actually a sermon very thinly disguised as a prayer.

Here we see the Neo-Calvinist way of looking at things played out before us par excellence.  In this view of things, it all begins and ends with God, His greatness, and His glory.  God is fully and completely responsible for all things, good or evil–there is not a single molecule in the entire universe which moves apart from His direction (as R. C. Sproul puts it, “There are no maverick molecules”)–and there is no standard other than “what God pleases”.  Or to put it another way, whatever brings greater glory to God, whatever magnifies His greatness and glory.  As noted above, it all begins and ends with God’s greatness and glory.  God’s power and might, His greatness and glory, are such that the only proper human response is abject silence and submission.

Such a view of God and His sovereignty is much more at home in Islam than in anything even remotely resembling biblical Christianity.

The view of humanity expressed here is one of complete and utter depravity.  While the idea of total depravity is a theme throughout Christianity, in the Neo-Calvinist world this is ratcheted up several thousand notches.  Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience and its consequences, all of humanity has become so utterly corrupt and loathsome to God as to be deserving of the devastation wrought by Harvey and Irma.  It’s worse than that, actually:  We are all deserving of the worst kind of death imaginable followed by an eternity of conscious torment.  Anything less than this, shown to just one out of the billions of humans who have ever lived, is nothing less than the most extraordinary act of mercy on God’s part.  What can I say of a theological framework which permits one to view this devastation as the “wise and needed work” of God?

Such a view of humanity and of God’s mercy has more in common with Islam than anything remotely resembling biblical Christianity.

Pastoral sensitivity?  Not here, my friend.  All this devastation was wrought by God to teach us lessons and it is our job to learn those lessons, for there are some lessons which cannot be learned any other way.  Not above using Luke 13 to take a cheap evangelistic shot at any who think that something like this can’t possibly happen to them.  It can and it will so you’d better repent before it’s too late.

Of course there is the altar call at the end; no sermon or sermon-disguised-as-a-prayer would be complete without that.  When it comes to evangelism, you should never let a good human tragedy go to waste.  After all, what is human suffering compared to advancing the kingdom of God?  This makes perfect sense in a theological framework where it all begins and ends with God and His greatness and glory.

For the coup de grace, Piper closes the deal by taking us to the closing lines of Romans 8, one of the greatest Scriptural passages of all.  But to revel in the love of Christ at a time when we should be expressing it through silence, humble service, and presence with those impacted by these devastating events–that is simply tone-deaf.

John Piper has not been known to let a natural disaster pass without availing himself of the opportunity to promote his Neo-Calvinistic way of looking at things, in which all such tragedies fit neatly within a theological framework which begins and ends with the glory of God.  Sure enough, he came through like a champion with this prayer.

This is simply not the way to pray in the face of natural disaster and human suffering.  Real people, real loss, real human suffering are reduced to nothing more than bullet points in a theological system:  the expression of God’s power and glory, our deserved lot before an all-powerful and mighty God whom we have offended, a teaching moment to catalyze repentance and drive evangelism.

Think about this through the grid of “What does love require of me?”.  If you can make a case that what love requires of you in this moment is to pray like this…nope.  There is no such case to be made.  This is simply not the way to pray in a moment like this.

Not Signing the Nashville Statement

If there is one thing we evangelicals have down to an art, it is producing definitive statements of belief on some doctrine or another.

ICYMI (and you probably did miss it with all the news about Harvey):  The Nashville Statement dropped last week.  It comes to us courtesy of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an evangelical think tank whose mission is to promote the complementarian way of looking at things and an ultra-conservative view of gender roles and gender issues.  The list of signers reads like a who’s who of all the big names in conservative, complementarian evangelicalism.  (Many of these are big names in the Neo-Calvinist world and no doubt their views are informed and influenced by the Neo-Calvinist perspective.  But I digress.)

My name is not on that list.  Nor will it be at any time in the foreseeable future.  But if you’ve been tracking with me for any significant length of time, you probably suspected as much.

By this point the Nashville Statement has been picked apart by the Christian blogosphere.  I leave the specific, article-by-article analysis to others such as Scot McKnight, Preston Sprinkle, and more, and will limit myself to addressing the global, overarching themes.

The first question:  Why now?  Why at this specific moment in history?  The signers’ decision to release this statement at a time when all the eyes of the nation were on Houston was questionable at best, but I’m not here to nit-pick that aspect of things.  The larger question is this:  Why now, in an age when cultural sensitivity to and acceptance of same-sex and transgender issues is on the rise?  Why now, in an age when it seems that the evangelical message to the culture at large on gender is increasingly falling on deaf ears?  This has the feel of doubling down, screaming ever louder and more defiantly in the face of a culture that we fear is slipping away from us.

For the most part, the Nashville Statement affirms what the Church has always taught with regard to human sexuality, marriage, and gender.  Not all of the differences between male and female are cultural; some are inextricably linked to our biology with the result that male and female are significantly different ways of being human and it takes a great deal of empathetic imagination for one to understand the other.  Christians who deny this are at odds with some basic elements of a Christian worldview.  God’s design for marriage is male and female, whenever the Bible speaks of marriage it always speaks of male and female, whenever it speaks of same-sex relations it does not speak favorably.  The Church has, throughout its history, affirmed this view of things, and the Nashville Statement lines up with this.  I do have concerns with the language in some places, but I leave that to those who have already parsed this thing through and through.  My concerns are the same as theirs.

But why?  Why the need to issue a lengthy, dogmatic pronouncement on an issue which, though the Bible speaks clearly on it, it devotes a very small amount of text in comparison to the whole and to the volume of text devoted to other issues?  This has been my objection all along to the complementarian camp on this issue:  Though the Biblical text is clearly on their side, the volume of text is minuscule compared to the length of the Bible in its entirety, and compared to the volume of text addressing other issues.

Article 10 (I lied when I said I wouldn’t get down into the nitty-gritty of this thing) clearly shows the signers’ intention to raise this issue to which so little Scriptural ink is devoted to the level of essential Christian belief.  It claims that acceptance of homosexuality and/or transgenderism is “an essential departure” from Christian faithfulness.  A departure?  Sure.  An essential departure?  I don’t think so.  No Christian creed, from 1 Corinthians 15 to the Reformers, has ever made one’s view on homosexuality/transgenderism an essential of the Christian faith.  As such, it is nothing less than the Judaizing heresy of Christ-plus-X that Paul battled in Galatia.  In Paul’s day it was circumcision, today it is homosexuality.  Slactivist goes off on this point, going so far as to call it “ugly ingratitude” because all Christians have benefited from Paul’s push against the Judaizing powers-that-be in Galatia to include all believers including uncircumcised Gentiles, yet now we want to turn around and claim that another class of people (LGBT) are unwelcome unless they conform themselves to our way of looking at things.

The statement also represents a massive failure of pastoral sensitivity toward a class of people for whom Christ died and whom Christ commands us to love.  All the way through it speaks of LGBT’s as “they”, a subtle cue indicating that it sees LGBT’s and their Christian sympathizers as a separate class who must be pulled out and addressed separately from all the rest of Christianity.  It reduces complex issues of gender, sexuality, and self-identity which some go through excruciating pain in attempting to sort out, to easy and simple answers which ought to be self-evident to anyone.  It preaches, screams, to LGBT’s and to the culture at large, eschewing the posture of Jesus who washed his disciples’ feet–a slave’s task–and commanded all of us to do the same.

Though the Nashville Statement is consistent with orthodox Christian belief, it reeks of insensitivity in this cultural moment.  It has the feel of doubling down, as if its promoters are desperately lashing out in order to hold on to a cultural power that is slipping away.  It raises an issue on which the Bible wastes precious little ink to the level of essential Christian belief.  It is blind to the complexities of gender, sexuality, and self-identity issues and insensitive to those who have experienced and are experiencing extreme pain in attempting to sort these out.

Evangelicalism has a long record of dehumanizing gays, and in this decade that is costing us tremendous influence in the gay community and in culture at large.  An ever-increasing number of young people are turned off to evangelicalism and to Christianity itself because of evangelicalism’s track record with the gay community.  The Nashville Statement just dumped several truckloads of nitroglycerine on that grease fire.

Not A Good Look for You Liberals

Up until this week I was prepared to accept Antifa as nothing more than just a figment of the imaginations of David Duke, Richard Spencer, and the rest of the alt-right lunatic fringe.

But now, shit just got real.

ICYMI:  This past Sunday, an anti-Marxist rally at Berkeley put on by Trump supporters was crashed by hundreds of black-clad anarchists, who clashed violently with the Trump supporters.  The demonstration had been peaceful until the Antifa showed up.

Liberals:  This is SO not a good look for you.  You are the movement of Voltaire’s “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, but nowadays your movement is the exact opposite of that.  As a movement you are dominated by the loudest and most intolerant voices, the self-appointed guardians of moral purity who are determined to shut down and silence any and all expression of what they deem to be unacceptable viewpoints.  Though you are right to denounce the hatred and violence of white supremacist groups, you also need to speak out against the violence perpetrated by your extreme fringes.

At least we conservatives, the more reasonable among us at any rate, are willing to stand up and denounce the KKK and the Neo-Nazis and the other groups which make up the most radical element of our base.  Everyone up to and including Ted Cruz has publicly denounced the KKK and the Neo-Nazis and the white supremacist fringe responsible for the violence in Charlottesville.

Nancy Pelosi has issued a strongly worded statement condemning Antifa for its role in the protests at Berkeley.  Liberals:  We need more of this from more of your leaders, or else your words condemning the hatred shown by white supremacist groups will start to ring hollow.

 

International Bulldog Tooth of Mystery

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blogging to bring you something that I know a couple of you out there have been waiting for.  Because it’s that time of year again, the time of year when quarterbacks start checking down and going through their progressions, receivers start running routes, running backs start hitting holes, tackles start sealing the corner, and paranoid head coaches start closing off practice so the media can’t get in and leak information to the enemy.  The air is heavy with anticipation as pollsters, pundits, and prognosticators of all stripes are coming out with their projections, prognostications, and in some cases outright prevarications, concerning the upcoming season.

ICYMI:  Angry white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia, with tiki torches.  This is a very sad and very difficult moment in our nation’s history.  We have discussed at length how horrific it is that such a thing can happen, and especially the way in which our president, the toxic-waste-dump-in-a-bod Donald Trump, responded to it.  But I think we can at least have a good laugh over the way these morons went about it.  We can laugh at the irony of using Polynesian tiki torches to assert white supremacy.  We can laugh at the idea of all these guys running down to Lowe’s to get tiki torches and then heading over to the protest.  We can laugh at the color-coordinated polo shirts and the irony of a crowd screaming “We will not be replaced” when you could swap anyone in that crowd with someone else and no one would notice.  We can laugh at just the overall wrongness:  “Guys we need to look tough.  GET THE TIKI TORCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Which brings us to Georgia football.  How do we get there from here?  Don’t know.  Just say that there will be people marching in the streets with tiki torches if this year isn’t better than the last.

History is on Kirby Smart’s side in this regard, as there seems to be a fairly strong trend of new coaches taking a big leap forward in Year 2.  Nick Saban, Smart’s mentor, went from 7-6 in Year 1 at Alabama to 12-2 (8-0 SEC) in Year 2.  While that may be a problematic comparison as Alabama had an experienced quarterback in John Parker Wilson and Saban had already won a national championship at LSU, the trend remains:  Mark Richt went from an 8-4 debut season at Georgia in 2001 to 13-1 and an SEC championship in 2002.  Urban Meyer went from 9-3 in his first year at Florida to 13-1 in his second.  Ohio State’s Jim Tressel went from 7-5 to 14-0.  Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops went from 7-5 to 13-0.

There is reason to believe the same could happen at Georgia.  The defense is expected to be among the best in the country.  With Nick Chubb and Sony Michel returning for one more season, the running game is expected to be great.  Decision-making from quarterback Jacob Eason is expected to be improved.  The offensive line remains a question mark.  (Isn’t it always?)  But the questions surrounding the offensive line have more to do with experience than size or athleticism.

Look around at the rest of the SEC East and the view is equally encouraging.  Once upon a time the road to the SEC championship and even the national championship routinely ran through Knoxville, Tennessee and/or Gainesville, Florida.  Those days are no more.  Instead, the SEC East has been a toxic waste dump for the entirety of this decade and is expected to continue to be so this year.  Tennessee is replacing a lot of key players but still has the same coach, whom they might not have by the end of this season.  Florida is pretty good but not great, in an era in which pretty good is good enough to win the SEC East.  South Carolina under Will Muschamp is pretty good, which is good enough to meet expectations over in Columbia.  Missouri is not that great these days, but still fun to watch.  Vanderbilt and Kentucky are, well, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

So Georgia has a shot this year, at least.  (Don’t they always?)  Yet just because they can win the SEC East or because they should, doesn’t necessarily mean they will.  Recent history is littered with the corpses of Georgia teams that were dead in the SEC East by the end of October after starting the season as prohibitive favorites to win the division.  Kirby Smart was hired to bridge this gap between potential and reality.

Appalachian State:  This team upset Michigan in Ann Arbor back in 2007.  The last time they were in Athens, they were still in the game at halftime, though Georgia picked it up in the second half and ran away with the game.  With Notre Dame coming up next week, look for a similar showing.

Prediction:  Georgia 45, Appalachian State 14.

Notre Dame:  Brian Kelly is coming off one of the worst seasons Notre Dame has had in years, and he is feeling the heat from fans and boosters.  Notre Dame will be better this year, and the game is in South Bend.  They don’t call it the Luck of the Irish for nothing.

Prediction:  Notre Dame 36, Georgia 31.

Samford:  If you liked that Youtube short video of Bambi vs. Godzilla, this is the game for you.

Prediction:  Georgia 51, Samford 14.

Mississippi State:  Dan Mullen has had a pretty good run of success at Mississippi State, in that he has taken them to seven straight bowl games.  He is known for developing quarterbacks and has one this year, Nick Fitzgerald, who is supposed to be pretty good.

Prediction:  Georgia 27, Mississippi State 13.

Tennessee:  As noted earlier, Tennessee has lost several key players but still has the same coach, whom they might not have by the end of this season.  Butch Jones is their version of Jim Donnan; he consistently wins more than he loses and he was an improvement over what they had before, but thus far he has been unable to lift Tennessee into championship contention.  Knoxville has been the site of many a horrific Georgia nightmare over the years, but I don’t see that happening this year.

Prediction:  Georgia 28, Tennessee 20.

Vanderbilt:  Last year Vanderbilt came to Athens and embarrassed Georgia on homecoming.  Hey, it happens.  This year, expect a reversion to form.

Prediction:  Georgia 27, Vanderbilt 10.

Missouri:  With their schedule this year, Missouri could easily win 6 games where the best team they’ve beaten is South Carolina or Vanderbilt.  Their hurry-up offense will be interesting to watch.

Prediction:  Georgia 24, Missouri 12.

Florida:  Like Tennessee, Florida also has its version of Jim Donnan in Jim McElwain.  Florida has been fortunate enough to be pretty good in an era in which pretty good is good enough to beat Georgia and win the SEC East.  Florida has owned Georgia for the last three decades almost, frequently with teams of demonstrably lesser talent.  I refuse to expect anything different until I see it with my own eyes.

Prediction:  Florida 20, Georgia 13.

South Carolina:  South Carolina figures to be another pretty good SEC East team this year.  But unlike Florida, this is a team Georgia can actually beat.

Prediction:  Georgia 24, South Carolina 10.

Auburn:  Gus Malzahn’s spread offense is extremely dependent on having the right quarterback, whom he has struggled to find after Nick Marshall left.  After a horrible 2015 season that left Malzahn on the hot seat, 2016 was a bounceback year for Auburn (sort of).  But Auburn faded at the end of 2016 with losses to Georgia and Alabama, and Malzahn remains on the hot seat.

Prediction:  Georgia 24, Auburn 20.

Kentucky:  This is how much of a toxic waste dump the SEC East is these days:  Kentucky was actually relevant in the SEC East for about a week in November 2016.  Being Kentucky, they pissed it away.  This was the game in which our bespectacled hipster placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship kicked a last-second field goal to win it and became a viral sensation.  This win was one of the highlights of our season, which says a lot about where we were in 2016.

Prediction:  Georgia 24, Kentucky 10.

Georgia Tech:  Georgia Tech’s star running back just got kicked off the team for an unspecified violation of athletic department rules (those will get you every time).  Though this changes the complexion of Georgia Tech’s season, they still have eight winnable games on the schedule.  Unless they are able to pull a miracle with the personnel on hand (could happen), this isn’t one of them.

Prediction:  Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 16.

As a bonus feature, please enjoy this video of Tina Fey, a UVA alum, on Weekend Update satirically suggesting that we respond to this and future alt-right protests in the whitest way possible:  When shit gets real, gorge yourself on sheet cake.

Confessions of a Privileged White Male

I am a white male.  I grew up in the suburbs, went to Catholic school for almost all of my primary/secondary educational career.  As such I eat, sleep, and breathe white privilege.  I walk and talk white privilege.  I ooze white privilege out of every pore of my being.  This should sit me down and shut me up in any discussion of race relations, as I have no possible way of identifying with the struggles faced by other minorities and specifically African-Americans.

But I am a blogger.  As such it is part and parcel of my vocation in life to offer my unsolicited opinion on subjects about which I know nothing and about which I would be well-served to just shut the hell up.

Here is what I would like to say:

Once upon a time the accepted method of argumentation, specifically in the college classroom, was “I believe A, and here are my reasons.”  But things have changed and now the accepted method of argumentation is “I am X, and as such it offends me that you claim B.”  This was starting to happen in many places back when I was in college.  Now it is all over the place.

Ironically, those of different races who use this method of argumentation undercut the very understanding that they seek, or claim to seek at least.  It is as if they are saying “I need you to understand me.  But you can’t understand me.”  Faced with that, many just walk away and abandon the project before they even start.

As stated above, I eat, sleep, and breathe white privilege.  I ooze white privilege out of every pore of my being.  This blinds me to an awful lot.  I get that.

White privilege is real.  For too long the white narrative has been the dominant one in our culture, and it has shaped our culture such that there are many opportunities open to me that are just not open to those who are not white like me.  I get that.

But is it really true that I have nothing whatsoever to say, nothing of value whatsoever to offer a trans woman in Sri Lanka?  Or a black man on the southside of town?  Does the color of our skin really preclude the possibility of speaking to anyone outside of our own race and life circumstances and whatever other categories we have been assigned, or have assigned ourselves?  If that’s all there is then hey, let’s all live atomized and balkanized in our own separate worlds where we can understand others and be understood by them.

This is one of the great lies of modernity, that there can be no understanding outside of whatever racial/social/cultural niche we inhabit.  That our race, our socioeconomic status, our gender, our sexual orientation, our disability or lack thereof, or any other such characteristic that you care to mention, define us so completely and totally that our capacity to understand and be understood is limited to those who are exactly like us and there is no possibility of understanding or being understood by anyone who looks different.

Am I truly defined by the white privilege that oozes out of every pore of my being?  I refuse to accept that, and I think you all know better as well.  The most important things we can possibly know about people, we learn by living in community with them.  By seeing how they respond to adversity, by learning who are the greatest influences and what are the defining experiences in their lives, by seeing how all these things shape their character and form their deepest values.  These are the deepest and most important things we can know about others, and they are not determined by the color of one’s skin.

If You Still Support Donald Trump After This Week

This has been a very sad and very difficult week in our nation’s history.  For those of you who have been living under a rock lately, let me catch you up and then let me try to wrap it up and put a bow on it, to the extent that is possible at this point.  A wound has been ripped open in our nation’s psyche and this will not just go away because the 24-hour news cycle is moving on, so I reserve the right to come back to this if future events warrant or if I feel like it.

ICYMI:  Several white supremacist groups, including the KKK and the Neo-Nazis, descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the proposed removal of Confederate statues.  The protests turned violent when one white supremacist took a muscle car and plowed into a group of people who were counter-protesting the spectacle, killing one and injuring several others.

In the immediate aftermath, Donald Trump made a statement that there was blame to go around “on many sides”.  Faced with mounting pressure from his critics, Donald Trump made a follow-up statement on Monday singling out the white supremacist groups for condemnation.  But this statement felt forced and disingenuous.  Sure enough, Donald Trump reversed field the next day and issued another follow-up statement that laid blame on both sides.

At this point, it is perfectly clear where Donald Trump’s sympathies lie.  By equivocating blame, Donald Trump made an unquestionable statement that he stands with the white supremacists.

Trump supporters:  OK.  I am sure that you had your reasons for voting the way you did this past fall.  This was a very difficult election, and none of the available options was particularly appealing.  Honestly, I wish there was a way that both could have lost.

Perhaps you were concerned about terror attacks in Paris and Brussels and concerned that lax immigration policies typically favored by Democrats could lead to similar occurrences here on American soil.  Perhaps you were concerned about American manufacturing jobs vanishing overseas and the devastation this has wrought in certain parts of the country.  Perhaps you were concerned about Hillary, Benghazi, the emails, and if she really was that bad there was no way in hell you could support her.

Some of you have disabled children who will be at or near the front of the line if the death camps come to America.  Some of you are otherwise decent people who are struggling to make sense of it all.

But at this point, ambiguity has been replaced with clarity.  We all know now that Donald Trump stands with those who murdered six million Jews and others in Europe for no reason other than their race.  If you still stand with Donald Trump after this week…well, that option is not open to you if you are a decent human being.  Or a human being at all.