Mister Rogers Is The New Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris.  Remember him?

Guns carried him for protection.  Cars looked both ways to make sure he wasn’t crossing the street.  Sasquatch claimed he once saw him.  The monsters under your bed would always check under their beds to make sure he wasn’t hiding there.

When Chuck Norris was born he drove his mom to the hospital.  He was once bitten by a cobra and after five days of excruciating pain the cobra died.  He could strangle you with a cordless phone.  He could play Russian Roulette with a fully loaded revolver and win every time.  When the zombie apocalypse came it would be the zombies trying to survive.

Chuck Norris, erstwhile star of “Walker Texas Ranger”, exploded into our collective consciousness a little over a decade ago.  Thanks to a running gag on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and a joke website looking for a replacement Vin Diesel, the Chuck Norris legend was born.  “Chuck Norris Facts” were all over the place on social media, which back then was in its infancy.

In those days, we as a nation were reeling from 9/11, the Great Recession, and the unexpected aftermath of the Iraq War.  We desperately needed a hero who was invincible and who never made a mistake, to be both our savior and our representative.  Chuck Norris fit the bill perfectly.

But times changed, as they are wont to do.  The Recession passed (sort of), and we have now put 9/11 and the Iraq War behind us (for the most part).  And so, like every internet meme, Chuck Norris dropped off the radar screen of our collective consciousness after he had run his course.

Now here we are in 2017 and we find ourselves facing a completely different set of challenges.  Donald Trump has ascended to the presidency on the strength of a message of unmitigated anger and hatred for all who are not privileged straight Christian white males, with the backing of his jacked-up Neo-Nazi thug supporters and an evangelicalism that has sold itself out to join them.  Liberals are now perfectly OK with shooting up Republican congressmen.  (So not a good look for the tradition of Voltaire’s “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.)  Police shootings, racially-motivated terror attacks, and protests dominate the news.  Social media is now a shitshow of outrage and rancorousness.  Hatred, prejudice, and misunderstanding seem to be reaching epidemic levels.

In this day and age, we need a different kind of hero.  Into the void steps Mister Rogers, paragon of undeniable goodness in a world gone batshit crazy.

Who is Mister Rogers?  you ask.  Some things should never have to be said yet here we are.  If you grew up watching PBS at any point during the last half century or longer, you know who Mister Rogers is.  Chill dude who always wore cardigans and went on for a half-hour or thereabouts about wanting to be your neighbor.

Recently a story from last year of how Mister Rogers challenged racist assumptions by asking Officer Clemmons, a black police officer, to share a wading pool with him to cool off their feet, has been making the rounds of the internet.  After last month’s attacks in Manchester, writer Anthony Breznican tweeted his story of meeting Mister Rogers in the flesh and it went viral.

Now it’s come to making up facts about Mister Rogers:

Mjolnir was Thor’s hammer in the Marvel comics and films, and it could only be lifted by one who was worthy.  In this day and age, that person is Mister Rogers.

A decade ago we were reeling from 9/11 and the Great Recession, and we needed Chuck Norris to singlehandedly take down all the bad guys with his bare hands and inspire us to keep fighting no matter how bad it got.  But now we live in an age where everything is politicized and polarized and if you won’t shut up and get in line and support our Donald Trump then get over there with Hillary and Bernie and all the devils of hell.  We don’t need a hero who is unstoppable in his strength, we need a hero who is undeniable in his goodness.  We don’t need someone who will take out all the bad guys and never make a mistake, we need someone who will bring comfort and challenge misconceptions.  We don’t need someone to inspire us to keep fighting, we need someone to inspire us to believe that love is worth fighting for and that love will win in the end.

Dave Daubenmire Calls For “A More Violent Christianity”

Dave Daubenmire, a Religious Right webcaster known to his fans/followers as “Coach”, did a webcast this past week in which he said that the only thing that can save Western civilization is a “more violent” brand of Christianity.  He showed a video clip of Donald Trump at a recent NATO summit shoving other world leaders out of the way so he could stand at the front of the gathering and praised him to the sky for showing himself as “large and in charge”.  He then cited congressional candidate Greg Gianforte from Montana, who won a special election just two days after being charged with assault for pushing a reporter to the ground.  I give this to you courtesy of the good people over at Right Wing Watch, where you can even watch the webcast at issue in all its sordid glory.

Translation:  The only thing that can save Western civilization is a Christianity that wipes its ass with the very people for whom Jesus Christ came to earth and died on a Roman cross.

If you want to know why Christianity, and evangelicalism in particular, are now on America’s shit list, this is it right here.

People:  Think about this through the lens of “What does love require of me?”  To think that what love requires of me is to embrace a Christianity that wipes its ass with the very people for whom Christ died because this is supposedly the authority that God has called us to walk in…there is a disconnect here and I will just let you sit with it.

Franklin Graham and Donald Trump

Today I direct your attention to this thinkpiece over at The Atlantic on Franklin Graham and Donald Trump.

ICYMI:  We had a presidential election last fall.  Donald Trump won, thanks to the support of over 80 percent of American evangelicals.  Franklin Graham, son of noted evangelist Billy Graham and chief executive of the charity Samaritan’s Purse, is one of Donald Trump’s most vociferous supporters and he played no small part in helping get this vote out.

A money quote:

As for those Christians who worry about Trump, those of color, those who wish their leaders would be more welcoming toward Muslims and LGBT people even if they disagree with the way they live: “I don’t think there’s a divide,” Graham said. If they have problems with Trump, and with role white evangelicals are playing in this era of politics, “talk to God about it,” Graham advised. “If they’re hurt, sorry. … I believe Donald Trump’s there because God put him there.”

In other words:  If you’re a Christian and you’re concerned about Donald Trump:  Fuck you.  Donald Trump is God’s man.  Talk to God about it.

In watching over 80 percent of my fellow evangelicals put Donald Trump in the White House, I watched my faith sell its very soul out from under my feet.  Seven months removed, and I still don’t know what I am going to do with that.  Seven months removed, and the view is almost as unrelentingly bleak as it was the morning after the election.  A piece like this is all I need to see.

The Culture of Resentment: Building Hell in Heaven’s Despite

In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, there is a scene where Dagny Taggart, the story’s heroine, is attempting to learn what happened to the Twentieth Century Motor Company, whose long-abandoned factory contains a secret with the potential to revolutionize the world’s economy.  Once the leading automobile manufacturer in all of America, the Twentieth Century Motor Company went down in flames when the children of Jed Starnes who built the company up, took it over.  After several false restarts, the Twentieth Century Motor Company was finally shuttered for good while the Starnes heirs hid out and wasted their lives away in drunken dissipation in a small town out in the middle of nowhere.  Eric Starnes, the youngest of the Starnes heirs, had committed suicide four years earlier.  He had started running after a young woman who wanted nothing to do with him, and when she married the man she was engaged to, he broke into their house on their wedding day and killed himself in their bedroom.  The town’s police chief, in explaining this to Dagny, said:

Now I say there might be forgiveness for a man who kills himself quietly.  Who can pass judgment on another man’s suffering and on the limit of what he can bear?  But the man who kills himself, making a show of his death in order to hurt somebody, the man who gives his life for malice–there’s no forgiveness for him, no excuse, he’s rotten clear through, and what he deserves is that people spit at his memory, instead of feeling sorry for him and hurt, as he wanted them to be….

And that is where we are today.  Fox News and talk radio have made a living out of perpetuating a culture of resentment directed against an ever-widening circle of welfare queens, illegal aliens, and other such undesirables.  In the eyes of those who are steeped in this culture of resentment, any benefit directed toward the undesirables comes at their expense.  It is easy to imagine that like Eric Starnes, they would give their lives for malice to ensure that the undesirables have no joy or good in life.

This post from Slacktivist looks at the culture of resentment as a reaction to a heartwarming story about poor children in a community receiving needed school supplies.  Most people would respond properly to this bit of good news, but there are more than a few who would see it as cause for resentment (i. e. their hard-earned tax dollars are being taken from them and given to entitled poor people).

This angry resentment is periodically a major force in American politics. It is a destructive force — destructive of self and destructive of the whole (self-destructive people always have bad aim). The Resenters rejoice when others mourn and mourn when others rejoice, and their politics of resentment has the crabs-in-a-bucket effect of making things worse for everyone, themselves included — making sure that nothing ever improves, that no problem is ever solved. The politics of resentment can never be for anything. That which benefits others will provoke resentment, even if it benefits all, including the Resenters themselves. They will still manage to resent the benefit to others — mourning at their rejoicing — convincing themselves that they might have benefited more if those others hadn’t also been unjustly included in the common good.

…The Resenters have learned to be unhappy. They have been taught to respond unhappily to happiness, taught by a steady toxic diet of Fox News and resentment radio and the demagogues of the politics of resentment. Part of our job, then, must be to help them learn again how to be capable of happiness. We must teach them, remind them, show them how to again look at a smiling child with a new backpack and to take delight instead of taking offense.

Read:  The Resenters: Building Hell in Heaven’s despite by Slacktivist

Stop Saying “God Is In Control”

protestIf you’re looking for the reason (well, one of the biggest reasons) why evangelical Christianity is now on America’s shit list, here it is, in living color.

With the election of Donald Trump, the resulting dumpster fire in DC, and the ever-mounting unrest in our nation, anyone who expresses concern over these developments will, at some point, receive some version of “Take a chill pill.  God is in control.”

True enough–in an ultimate sense, I guess.  In the ultimate sense, God works all things for good.  There is not a thing in the world that he cannot and/or will not use to advance his redemptive purposes for humanity.

But those words, spoken into this particular context, at this particular time–well, here’s what that sounds like:

It sounds as if God meddles in election outcomes.  (Of course there are a few evangelical leaders running around out there who say that the outcome of this election was a God thing.  But that’s beside the point here.)  It sounds as if evangelicals are now free from any and all culpability for a vote which they may now be regretting.  (Of course there are more than a few evangelicals who are not regretting this at all or who just don’t care.  But that’s beside the point here.)  It sounds as if we are excused from any responsibility to be the hands and feet of Christ to people who feel shunned, devalued, and degraded as a result of this election outcome and who are now concerned and fearful of what the future holds for them.

Essentially it passes the buck to God for human injustice and human suffering.

This is unacceptable, people.

God is in control–in an ultimate sense.  But he has called us to work with him in bringing his kingdom to pass, on earth as it is in heaven.  He has called us to be his hands and feet to a hurting world that is desperately in need of his healing touch.  When you say “God is in control” as a means to justify your inaction in these troubled times, you have essentially abdicated your calling and responsibility as an agent of God’s kingdom.

God is in control–in an ultimate sense.  But God is not magical or forceful.  God works to bring his peace and his healing touch into this world through people who aspire to those qualities in themselves and who choose to exercise such power as they may possess right where they are standing.  Jesus is not beamed down from heaven–he is made real in our world through the actions and lives of those who believe that others for whom he died are worth sacrificing and caring for, that mercy is the greatest gift, and that love is revolutionary.

God is in control–in an ultimate sense.  But there is one thing God is NOT in control of (John Piper be damned).  It is you, people.  You are in control of you and God is asking you to be love and mercy and compassion in a way that changes the narrative of the story in which we all find ourselves living.  What are you willing to do to be love and mercy and compassion to a world that is desperately in need of these things–or at least that part of the world in which you happen to find yourself?