Clinton vs. Trump

There’s a lot of opinions out there right now and a lot of things have been said regarding the results of both the #RNC and #DNC. Our two primary political parties have chosen their candidates: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The very mention of these two names excites emotions in people from both sides of the aisle. Republicans and Democrats alike are in a frenzy trying to garner support for their side, not because they all passionately endorse their party’s candidate, but because the opposing party’s choice evokes fear and loathing from somewhere deep within their hearts and souls. I rarely see die-hard Trump supporters, I see friends who loathe the dishonesty, corruption, untrustworthiness and political inconsistencies of Hillary Clinton. I rarely see sold-out Clinton supporters, I see friends who are fearful of the xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, self-absorbed Donald Trump.
Time and time again, election after election, we have been sold the belief that our duty as voting Americans is to elect the lesser of two evils for the office of the President of the United States. Some, who still believe in the political process, rush to support fringe candidates like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, while others still cling desperately to the people’s champion, Bernie Sanders. #JillnotHill wants to keep the revolution going, #FeeltheJohnson (and no I did not make that hashtag up) scales mountains in both his personal and political life, and #BernieorBust begrudgingly bowed out to the beast amidst the boos of his broken-hearted #FeeltheBern campaign backers. (That alliteration though.)
These voters who invest time and hard work into researching fringe candidates worthy of their vote are ridiculed for not getting behind their party’s elected candidate. Bernie supporters booed and protested throughout the DNC and were scolded for not getting behind Hillary. It’s tough for me to imagine that a massive movement of voters who invested their time, energy and personal finances into an anti-establishment politician would so easily coo at the thought of endorsing a candidate who was chosen based on speculative evidence that corporate dollars and party loyalties still managed to rig the primary results in their favor. It’s also tough for me to imagine that had things gone in Bernie’s favor, the DNC would have unified behind the choice of the people so, Hillary supporters, keep your diminuitive, condescending taunts to yourself. Either way, the conversation has now become to vote for Clinton because… #neverTrump
On the other side of the aisle, many Republicans are now researching socially liberal and fiscally conservative Gary Johnson. This group receives a fair amount of ridicule as well, not because this new option is detestable, but because we must elect Trump at all costs given the fact that… #neverHillary
From the Republican perspective, the entire party must endorse Trump because we must defeat the powerful and poisonous Clinton political machine that so clearly has been able to assert it’s authority over the American people and has been deeply entrenched in political corruption. From the Democratic perspective, the entire party must endorse Hillary because we must defeat the obnoxious and narcissistic Trump train that so clearly spouts hate and division amidst vague and ambiguous empty promises.
The question I ask is this: are we smarter than this? Have we become so dull, disinterested and dumbed down that we cannot fathom uniting our voices in a demand for not only better candidates but a better system?
Do you want to know why Bernie Sanders was the first Presidential candidate since I became an eligible voter to genuinely appeal to me? The answer is simple: this system is not working; it is corrupt, it is broken, and it is outdated. Not only did Bernie know this and bring this to forefront of the discussion, but his campaign focused on answers that would lay the framework for the future. We live in an age of technology where anything is possible and no matter what your interests, hobbies or passion are, there’s an app for it. The only thing stopping our society from giving the power of self governance to the people is our own stupidity and ignorance. We still have representative government because the majority of us are too lazy, too dumb, too ignorant, too stubborn and too jaded to govern ourselves. Bernie’s proposed solutions to our society’s ails were: (1) to provide access to free education so that, regardless of income or social background, our country’s brightest minds would continue to become brighter; (2) to continue to fight for each and every last one of us to have healthcare that treats us like human beings instead of bank accounts.
Am I stupid for wanting the American people to be in a position where we are suited to, by and large, govern ourselves? Am I stupid for buying into the idea that we all deserve equal access to healthcare so that all of us can live our day-to-day lives in good health instead of being distracted by debilitating medical conditions and slaving away at minimum wage jobs to pay for exorbitant, costly healthcare bills? Am I stupid for buying into the idea that the best thing for our country is for all of our citizens to be educated instead of just those privileged enough to afford it or naive enough to take on massive amounts of debt for it? Am I stupid for believing that free education and free healthcare is the most effective way to fight both the war on poverty and the war on drugs?
If you are of the opinion that this is “just the way that it is” and that I ought to “get used to it,” I disagree.
If you are of the opinion that “nothing is going to change” and that we, as a whole, have to “work with the choices we’ve been given,” I disagree.
I heard you Ted Cruz, I will vote with my conscience. My conscience is telling me to vote for myself and for the American people. I do not endorse these candidates and, more importantly, I do not endorse our current political system.
Will we stand together? Will our voices be heard? Will enough of us stand by our belief that we as a nation deserve better?

Good vs. Evil

We have been taught to believe that—in order to stop evil men and women from committing atrocities—we must invade the privacy of every man, woman, and child; that we must search out the evil at all costs so that perhaps we might be able to prevent tragedy before it ever occurs.

The truth is this: evil exists in the hearts of us all. We are all equally capable, in every situation, of either good or evil. The solution is not to cut short the lives of those we perceive to be evil. The solution is not to divide one person from another into separate categories to determine who is most likely to do harm to their fellow man. The solution is that we must invade the hearts of every man, woman, and child with love. We must invade their minds with grace. We must invade their souls with mercy. Those who we perceive to be most evil are the ones in the greatest need of this kind of invasion.

We have the choice to either allow evil to thrive in this broken world by meeting it with more evil or to root it out with the unstoppable power of peace. I have faith in the human race. I have hope for the human race. I have love for the human race.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

A Reason to Reconsider Using the Word “Thug”

Recently, the use of the word “thug” has been gaining both popularity and criticism when used to refer to the recent events in Baltimore; specifically, it has become the default label to identify those who rioted and participated in the looting and destruction of public and private property. By its definition, people are using the word appropriately and justifying their use of it based on that definition.

thug: noun; a violent person, especially a criminal.

synonyms: ruffian, hooligan, vandal, hoodlum, gangster, villain, criminal; informal tough, bruiser, hardman, goon, heavy, enforcer, hired gun, hood. Ex. “one of Capone’s thugs”

Looking at the definition, it would seem to be an appropriate use of the word, given the context of its use, but allow me to give you the reasons why I refuse to use the word myself. First, it’s a broad label used to identify a diverse group of people for one instance. “They burned a building to the ground, so they must all be thugs.” Yes, destruction of someone else’s property is a crime, but you are making quite a leap to assume that all of those who participated are habitual violent criminals. Some of those who participated in the looting may in fact be thugs—people who consistently break the law with little regard for the safety and wellbeing of others—but surely not everyone who rushed into the chaos and made away with some toilet paper and deodorant should be considered a repeat offender of breaking the law in a violent manner.

What about those who participated in the riots? Are they thugs? One would have good reason to believe so, but isn’t it also possible that a Molotov cocktail found its way into the hands of a young boy or girl who lost a friend or a sibling at the hands of police officers because of an excessive use of force? When you are in distress, or in a time that you have lost your temper, have you ever lashed out and done something that you later regretted? I know that I have. Surely you would not label that young man or woman a thug just because of one poor decision made in a moment of chaos, confusion, frustration, or hopelessness… would you?

When you use a word like thug to refer to those who you see rioting on the news, you are labeling a person or a group of people who you most likely know very little about aside from a single instance that fits the proper use of the word. You should know though that labeling groups of people like that is not only lazy, it is also dismissive, and ultimately may be considered as classist or even racist. It is lazy because it exempts you from doing any more work to identify the people you are talking about, and it is dismissive because once you have categorized that person or group of people under that label, you cast them aside as unworthy of any further effort on your part to understand or even perhaps sympathize with.

If you justify yourself by saying that your use of the word is appropriate because the actions and behaviors that you observed reflect what “thug” actually means, then you should know that not only are words used based on their definition, but words actually gain meaning from their use. Here are some examples:

Gay. Today the word is most often used to refer to someone who is a homosexual, but the word originally meant a person who is light-hearted and carefree. It’s no surprise to me then that the word became a synonym for anyone who is homosexual because, let’s face it, gays are some of the happiest people that I know.

Fag. This word is not easy on the eyes or the ears and for good reason. This word was originally used to refer to a bundle of sticks and gained meaning to also refer to homosexuals because of the fact that people used to burn them at the stake. The phrase “throw another fag on the fire” originally meant to add more wood but later gained the meaning to also refer to burning a homosexual alive.

Retarded. The definition of the word is more or less the same as it always has been but it has become offensive because of the fact that it is dismissive and often used out of context as an insult. You would be correct if you referred to someone with a learning disability or mental impairment as retarded, but the word has become stigmatized because of how often it has been used as a synonym for something that is stupid or that is generally disliked.

Insane. Another word that has more or less retained its meaning over the years, it is now no longer a medical diagnosis but strictly a legal term to refer to someone who is “not of sound mind.” The reason I include this word here in this list is because historically it was used to refer to people with organic brain syndromes, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. but has gained the meaning for most people to refer to someone who you simply disagree with. I believe that I am right and because this person disagrees with me and I know that I am of sound mind, they must be insane. You immediately dismiss that person’s opinion and attribute it to the fact that they must have something wrong with them that prevents them from understanding how obviously correct you are.

Nigger. Derived from the word “negro” which simply means “black,” it has become one of the most offensive words in the English language for obvious reasons that I don’t feel I need to go into any more detail about.

Thug. The word historically comes from India and is the Hindi word for “thief;” it was most often used to refer to individuals from a group of robbers and assassins who would strangle their victims. Currently, it is gaining popularity as the word of choice for those who wish to write off what has happened in Baltimore and chalk it up to a simple explanation. They refuse to devote their energy to understanding what led up to recent events; instead of viewing it as the straw that broke the camel’s back, they choose to see the riots as single, isolated, unprovoked incidents. We have seen the word used by the city’s mayor, news outlets, our President, and across all forms of social media and everyday conversation. All of these people who have used it to refer to the rioters and looters in Baltimore have done so within the scope of its definition, but I cringe to think of what I will find in the dictionary 50 years from now when I look the word up then. Remember, the way that you use a word can—and often will—give it new meaning; just because you think that you are using the word properly today does not mean that your cavalier use of it will not give it new meaning tomorrow.

How to Save the US (and Global) Economy in Four Short Months

Right now, most people interested in our nation’s politics are concerned with the next election cycle and are counting on the necessary change to take place when we are able to put a new face in the White House. What most don’t realize, however, is that we might not have the time to wait for the changes that typically come with the election of a new President. It has to happen now.

There is no doubt in my mind that unless drastic steps are taken to prevent the US from suffering a severe economic collapse in or before the month of September 2015, we will find ourselves in a state of financial turmoil unlike anything this country has ever experienced before. The financial collapses experienced in 2001 and again in 2008 pale in comparison to the fate that awaits us in September if we stand by and do nothing. Beyond the US, most of the global economy operates on the US Dollar as the standard of trade; a financial collapse in the US and subsequent devaluing of the USD would cripple the foreseeable future of not only our country’s economy, but that of many other countries as well. Below, I present an outline of drastic measures that need to be taken within the next four months to try to prevent such a tragedy from destroying the lives of everyday average citizens like you and me. This outline is neither my personal bid for election to the Presidency, nor is it a formula for the policies that you should look for in the candidate you should vote for in the coming election; this outline frames what I think are some of our only options in order to prevent national tragedy. This has to happen now. Mr. President? I’m looking at you.

 

Incentivize Alternative Energy Production and Organic Farming

Around the country and around the world, people’s attitudes towards energy and food production are changing. To the untrained eye, the low prices of gasoline might be seen as a sign that oil is still a thriving business and the low prices are simply a sign of prosperity, but the worldwide use of fossil fuels is on its way out the door. The price of oil—and subsequently the price of gas—is directly tied to the value of the USD and those low prices at the pump are merely an attempt to keep inflation rates from spiking (as evidenced by lower gas prices prior to the crash of 2008). This—paired with the Fed’s reckless printing of money—is causing governments around the world to desire a shift away from the USD as the global trade standard. When this happens, the US will no longer be the one who gets to set the price of oil. The other half of this equation is organic farming; the insistence by the US government and global corporations that GMO crops do not have a negative impact on health are being met with strong resistance from other nations. Not only have other countries seen that, over time, organic crops have better yields than GMO crops, they have also become privy to the fact that GMOs have a detrimental effect on both nature and human health. If our government is willing to incentivize those industries to make moves towards alternate forms of production, we might have a chance of remaining on the world stage as an industry leader instead of being left in the dust of other nations who are willing to hear the voices of their people.

 

Stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Contrary to popular belief, this agreement is not the salvation for the US economy as it claims to be. There are two major pitfalls to this agreement: (1) if this agreement takes place, it will force other nations who have taken steps towards the removal of their GMO crops to continue doing business with corporations like DuPont and Monsanto because it will protect those corporations’ rights to personhood on a global scale; (2) it will not ensure more job opportunities for Americans, rather it will do just the opposite. Stopping this agreement will show nations around the world that we do not intend to force their hand when it comes to who they choose to do business with and it will also prevent major US corporations from shipping their jobs overseas prior to an economic collapse causing them minimal financial losses.

 

End Corporate Personhood

This one seems all too obvious to me, but for the sake of argument I will elaborate. Right now, because corporations in our country have been granted the same protections under the law guaranteed to its citizens, we have seen that when corporations and people are treated as equals, money is always the deciding factor. Amending the laws that grant corporations the status of personhood would be in the best interests of the people and start a chain reaction to ultimately reverse the course that our economy is headed, which as of right now is off the edge of a cliff with no view of the bottom. There is too much information regarding this to include here—or to even digest in one sitting—so I recommend visiting the site http://movetoamend.org for more information.

 

Raise the Minimum Wage

This one is almost too simple: raise the minimum wage. To quote our country’s former President and potentially first First Gentleman: “If you raise the minimum wage in a phased way, it always creates jobs. Why? Because people who make the minimum wage or near it are struggling to get by, they spend every penny they make, they turn it over in the economy, they create jobs, they create opportunity, and they take better care of their children. It’s just the right thing to do, but it’s also very good economics.” Thanks Slick Willy.

 

Suspend Loan Repayment and Interest Rates

This point is not necessarily the linchpin in the proverbial economic axle, but it may prove to be one of the key components to help our economy keep its head above water. If, for even a few months (ideally longer), we removed the burden of debt that looms over nearly every American’s head, our economy might be able to continue limping along until long term solutions begin to have their effect. I liken this piece of the puzzle to a tracheotomy—an emergency medical procedure where an incision is made in the neck for a person who unable to breathe through their nose or mouth due to an obstruction in the windpipe—though it is not a long-term solution, it can save someone’s life. As of right now, our economy cannot breathe; maybe, just maybe, if we give the American people that little extra hole to breathe through, we might survive.

 

Legalize Hemp

When most people hear the word hemp, they immediately think of hippies, and the only reason for its legalization would be for all those pot smokers to get their fix (we’re not there yet, that’s the next point). For those who don’t know, no, hemp does not get you high. You can try to smoke it if you so choose, but most likely the only “high” you will get from it is the high five from your buddies when you’ve finished paying them the money you owe for betting that it would get you stoned. Hemp is one of the cheapest and most renewable resources on our planet and legalizing the use of it for industrial use would open up an entire new industry, creating hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of jobs almost overnight. There are no shortage of entrepreneurs who would love to jump right in given the opportunity. Hemp can be used for paper, plastics, textiles, building materials, cordage, and health food products, just to name a few. Additionally, it is a much more renewable resource (growing at a rate ten times faster than trees) with far less environmental impact (compared to the toxic plastics accumulating in our landfills and our oceans). The only thing preventing our government from legalizing its use is outside pressure from corporations who find the more harmful, toxic, and destructive alternatives much more to their liking due to the only advantage that these alternatives have over hemp, higher profit margins (no pun intended).

 

Decriminalize Drug Use

Who really benefits from the criminalization of drug use? Is it us, average citizens, who need protected from the big, bad drug dealers? Or is it the government, who makes more money when it is illegal due to the income generated from costs and fines paid by non-violent offenders, contracts with private prisons, and having control over the flow of drugs into the country? (On that last point, there is evidence that proves the CIA has had a hand in recent history in trafficking drugs into our country and further speculation that they continue to do so as our country has seen a major increase in the availability of heroine at two major points in our history: during and after our wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan.) Decriminalizing drug use is not the same thing as turning a blind eye towards abuse and addiction. If we follow the example of other countries that have stopped treating addiction as a crime and started treating it as a medical affliction, not only would we create job opportunities in the drug addiction and counseling field, we would also be doing a service to a currently unknown number of addicts who keep their struggles private out of fear of consequence instead of facing the music and receiving treatment for their affliction. Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report in favor of decriminalizing personal drug use so, if you can’t take my word for it, you should at least consider the opinion of the organization whose sole purpose is to determine what is best for public health.

 

Cut Military and Police Spending in Half

For too long now, the world has looked at the US military budget and laughed. Our country has historically spent more money on its military-industrial complex than the next 10 nations combined. Such exorbitant spending in that one area of our budget has been detrimental to other equally, if not more, important areas such as education, healthcare, veterans’ benefits, science, etc. The looming threat of an economic collapse appears to have had the opposite effect on the government’s view of how much money should go into the military and police force. Instead of taking that money away from the military to prop up the other areas that are suffering most, the military now has a presence in at least 10 states (at least 40 have seen an increase in military vehicle traffic) under the guise of a drill known as Jade Helm. The information about the exercises can be found on government websites but these drills may just prove to be the Trojan Horse that allows the military to take control in the event of economic collapse and national chaos. In at least 5 states, Wal-Mart closed multiple stores all for the same reason, plumbing. In Canada, their military is running similar exercises known as Maple Resolve that also coincide with the closings of Target stores across the country. Skeptics look at these coincidences and suggest that those facilities could be used as either bases of operation for the military or, the more sinister alternative, temporary detention facilities for those deemed most threatening to the public order. More information is coming out now that suggests every country in Europe as well as a few other nations largely dependent on the USD are doing more or less the same thing. If their motive is to establish order in the event of an economic collapse, I fear that they have put all of their eggs in the wrong basket and perhaps already sealed our fate by not having faith in the American people and our ability to play our respective roles in salvaging a broken economy.

 

Enact the Polluter Pays Principle and the Profiteer Pays Principle

If everything else fails, why should it be the American people (and the rest of the world) who are left holding the bag when the people who are truly responsible for us standing on this precipice are the top 1% who believe that they have made off with “their” money scot-free? The polluter pays principle comes from environmental law and holds the party responsible for the pollution of the natural environment to pay for the damage done. Companies like Monsanto and DuPont, who have left a wake of destruction in third-world countries for pushing their GMO crops on poor farmers who are now left with land that is barren, pay up. Companies like Nestlé, Kellogg’s, and Pepsi, who are main contributors to deforestation in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia in their quest for the cheapest acquisition of palm oil, pay up. In reality, these companies have done more than just destroy our environment, these acts are crimes against the human race. To take it a step further, the profiteer pays principle refers to holding businesses and corporations accountable for their excessive profits from illegal business practices. Companies like Nike and AT&T who have shipped American jobs overseas to save money on labor, pay up. Companies like Apple whose factories have been likened to concentration camps save for the one fact that they charge rent for their dorms (regardless of whether or not you choose to live on or off the campus), pay up. The list of corporations that (or should I say who since they are considered “persons” by our government?) should be held responsible for the destruction of the natural environment, affronts against the human race, and general moral ineptitude is too long to name here. The evidence of their actions is impossible to ignore, so why does our government continue to?
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We have four short months before the ground falls out from beneath our feet completely, but there may still be time to take action. My hope is that by writing this, we find a way to shake our President and other elected officials to their senses. To them I say: Have you given up on the American people? Have you given up on the citizens of the world? Have you resolved to make an enemy of the very same people who trusted you with positions of power? Have you resolved that we are past the point of no return? There is another option. You can fight on behalf of the very people who rely on you to make the right decisions. You can choose to not give up until your energy is completely spent. You can choose to do the right thing. History will judge you for the decisions that you make in the next four months. Your names will either go down in the history books as the people who stood up for what was right, or you will be forever remembered as the infamous leaders who let the world crumble around them. If you choose not to act, there will be no victors. There will be no opportunity to write history in your favor because there will be no one to write it. You have been given a great burden of responsibility and my final words to you are this:

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” – Luke 12: 48

How to Tell If Your Religion Has Failed You: From a Christian’s Perspective

When religion is successful, it brings people into a closer relationship with the people around them and, most importantly, God/Creator/Father/Source/ Universe/etc. (from here on I will use the term God and you can fill in whatever name resonates most with you). Religion, at its core, teaches people what true, unconditional love really looks like. It teaches people to be in awe of the world around them and to appreciate every moment that we have in this life. It teaches people to be kind to others and to serve other people as if they were greater themselves. It teaches love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Mainstream religion, across the board, often devolves into a checklist that people use as their standard of measure on whether or not they will get into heaven or ascend into a higher state of awareness and being. What follows is my best attempt to show you how to determine if your religion has allowed you to be tricked into this flawed way of thinking and what you can do to change it.

When people view religion as their go-to guide on how to live an upright life and view it as a list of rules to follow instead of recommendations on how to best have intimate relationships with God and the people around them, that attitude carries over into their everyday lives. If you think that your religion’s holy texts are a blueprint for the perfect life, you would be partly right; but not a single person on this Earth is capable of living a perfect, holy life. This world is fallen and every one of us is guilty of sin. In both Hebrew and Greek, the words that are translated into English as sin “originate in archery and literally refer to missing the ‘gold’ at the center of a target, but hitting the target, i.e. error” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sin). Even the good deeds of the most holy of saints that have walked this Earth are considered to be nothing more than filthy rags when compared to the ultimate goodness of God. My dad once taught me a great analogy that reflects our relationship to God. We once fed a hungry stray cat that we had seen wandering through our neighborhood, and because we showed it that one act of kindness, the next day we opened our front door to find a dead mouse on our doormat. My dad was almost moved to tears at the sight of it and I wasn’t sure why he was upset, until he explained what he thought was so incredible about the dead mouse on our doorstep. To a cat, a dead mouse is the very best gift that he could possibly give us to thank us for that one act of kindness. To my dad and me, it was a dead rodent. By comparison, our very best gifts that we have to give to God are like us leaving a dead rodent on His doorstep. So, we decided to adopt the stray cat.

With that being said, what then is the point of living the very best possible lives that we can if it doesn’t matter in the end? The point is that it is not for God’s benefit, but for our own. If you tell a 2-year-old never to touch the stove, you’re not doing it because you don’t want the child to experience all of the things in the world around them, you just don’t want them to burn themselves. The stove isn’t always on though and sometimes the child could touch it and not get burned; but a child doesn’t know the difference between when it is on and when it is off and so, eventually, it will get burned. What happens when the child gets burned? Does a good parent yell and scream and scold their child saying, “I told you not to touch the stove!” or do they take the child up in their arms and comfort them? When you look at the tenants of any religion and what sort of life they call its followers to, you should look at any commandment that is prohibitive as a way to prevent yourself from getting burned. God wants this not because He wants to keep us from anything, but because He doesn’t want to see us hurt.

Now, some of you might be nodding along with everything that I’ve been saying thus far, while others of you are getting frustrated and are already planning out your response. For the latter group, you have been tricked. For the former group, whether or not you have been tricked remains to be seen (like I said already, we are all guilty of sin and none of us is immune to the pitfalls of our human nature).

In the New Testament, Jesus taught many valuable lessons, but one of the most valuable lessons has to do with the way that we interact with each other (we are all really just reflections of God’s image, so loving each other is one of the best ways that we can show our love for God). Many of you have heard the phrase “judge not, lest ye be judged” thanks to the King James Version of the Bible but, in that passage of Scripture, Jesus goes on to say this, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7: 3-5 NIV). Too often, because people get caught up in trying to follow the “rules” of their religion themselves, they spend a lot of energy identifying sin in other people’s lives. I am guilty of this just as much as any of you are, which is why I need to share it with you having examined it in my own life first so that I might help you examine it in yours. This leads me to the part that you’ve been waiting for, how to know if you’ve been tricked and your religion has failed you.

If you think that the commandments of your religion should be reflected in public policy, you have been tricked. For every person who thinks that abortion should be illegal, you have been tricked. For every person who thinks same-sex marriage should be illegal, you have been tricked. For every person who thinks that welfare and other government assistance programs should be stopped, you have been tricked. For every person who thinks that they should get a megaphone and tell people not to get tattoos, not to gossip, not to watch porn, not to get drunk, not to do drugs, not to steal, and not eat bacon, you have been tricked. All of these things are laid out, in one way or another, as things that will draw you away from God, but you have turned them into a checklist to get into heaven and with which to judge the people around you. The simple fact is this: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). We are all sinners and when we judge each other for those sins, not only are we heaping judgment upon our own heads, we are depriving ourselves of the relationships that we are called to have with God and with each other. That’s the point of all of this, our relationships with each other. If you believe that something is a sin, how can you impose that on others who do not have the same convictions as you? The answer will never be to vote for the candidate that will make it public policy nor will the answer ever be to get up on a stage with a megaphone and shout at the people at your feet. I understand that some of the things that I mentioned are deeply held beliefs for you and for me to say that you are wrong to want everyone to abide by those beliefs hurts you just as deeply. You are not necessarily wrong to want others to live by the same standards as you, but you have been tricked if you think that the way to do that is by making it public policy or shouting it from the rooftops. The only way to change the behaviors and actions of the people around you is to come alongside them and, after having removed the plank from your own eye, ask if you can help them with the speck that you notice in theirs. We are to be in relationship with one another and with God and when we judge others by the standards that we have adopted for ourselves, we stand in the way of that.

That’s really the point I’m trying to make in all of this that it isn’t about our religion at all, it’s about our relationships. Use your beliefs to guide your own relationship with God, not other people’s relationship to Him, that’s between them. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others. If your idea of following the tenants of your religion is preventing you from loving others, you are missing the mark. If you are truly doing God’s will, then you will love others not based on how perfect they are but you will love them so that they might find for themselves how to become more perfect in God’s eyes (not yours). We are all just stray cats after all, trying to find a home. God wants to adopt us all into His family and bring us into His household but, if you were God, would you want to bring in the cat that attacks all the others?

Take Your Mind Captive

The soul expresses itself through our minds. Our brains, scientifically, process information through infinite series of synapses and neurons firing and chemical reactions, etc. (if I were a scientist I would go into more detail but a reality check suggests I’m probably a better artist than I am an intellect). There is more to our existence than simply our minds though. We are in tune with the physiology of our being and respond to external and internal stimuli: affected by temperature change, driven by hunger, repelled by disgust, drawn in by sensation, frozen by fear, propelled by urgency, confused by anxiety, etc. Science tells us, it is our brains that respond to all of these things, create these things, interpret these things, and send out the messages in the first place. What tells the heart to speed up? The brain. The eyes saw images that the brain interpreted as danger so it sent a message to the heart to speed up the flow of blood to more quickly disperse the adrenalin that it just sent to the body… or something like that.

But we know there’s more to us than that. We think to ourselves, “My thoughts can’t solely be explained by purely biological processes, chemical reactions or bursts of electricity.” Metacognition: “awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes” or, in layman’s terms, thinking about what you’re thinking about. Allow me to indulge you for a brief moment as to what brought me to writing this post.

It’s 3:00 AM. I’m working the third shift, from home. Just me and my computer. No calls, no work to do. This is not uncommon. Most of the time I read articles, watch YouTube videos, or scroll through my Facebook feed to see what articles I should read and what videos I should watch. (If I’m really desperate and my friends aren’t delivering, I use StumbleUpon.) Tonight, however, my Facebook feed brought me to an article about a boy, diagnosed with autism and an IQ higher than Einstein, and within that article was a video of a presentation that he gave at a TEDxTeen event titled, “Forget what you know.” Watch the video here. Read the article here(Source: WakeUp-World.com).

Go ahead and watch the video first, I’ll wait.

[Intermission]

After watching the video myself, I was inspired. Inspired to do as he says: “Stop learning. Start thinking. Create something.” After a lot of thoughts about how to make the world a better place and how unqualified I felt to improve the world in any meaningful way with some innovative invention or profound scientific theory, I put my face in my hands. As I stared at the backs of my eyelids, I imagined I was looking down a hallway. Directly at my feet I saw green carpet stand out against eggshell walls, but as I looked out it was dark. I turned on the lights with a switch on my left. I saw ahead of me an open door to a wild outdoors. The door slammed shut, the lights turned off and Fear lurched forward at me like a monster in the shadows. I tried to press forward but I felt the resistance of darkness pressing against me. Then, I sensed a presence at my side. I looked over and saw a claymation Jesus standing next to me with an arm around my shoulder. Together we lunged forward into the darkness and disappeared into it like a black hole.

Suddenly, as if traveling through time and space, I reappeared with claymation Jesus sitting on top of a blank canvas. I was now a claymation version of myself next to claymation Jesus superimposed on top of a blank canvas, except it wasn’t blank anymore. I noticed, as if an invisible hand were drawing it, a background start to appear. Like a Bob Ross painting, this 2-dimensional world started to take shape. First the mountains were outlined in the background, then “happy little trees” started to appear on the page. Claymation Jesus (C.J.C.) and I started to walk over the canvas, 3-D beings exploring a 2-D world. How different the world looks when looking at it from above, any being in this 2-D world would not see things the way that I was seeing them. But here I was, feeling like I was a part of it. I felt like I was sucked down into the painting and suddenly everything looked different.

I looked up. I looked down. I looked forward. I looked backward. But there was no left and no right. I began exploring my surroundings and everything was just a line. Where from my previous vantage point I would have looked at the sky and seen clouds, from my new vantage point I looked up and saw just a line. Before I saw every billow of the cloud, but now, just a line.

Maybe I am more than what science tells me I am and maybe there’s more to how and what I think than what science tells me thinking is. Maybe I really am a higher dimensional being temporarily having a 3-D experience. Maybe my ideas of God are as ridiculous to God as being escorted on a journey by claymation Jesus. Maybe I spend too much time thinking about the world and how it works and how it could work better and not enough time thinking about how to imagine it from a new perspective. Imagine how it looks from up above and how much more beautiful it must be from that vantage point. Maybe I need to stop taking myself so seriously and laugh more. Laugh at the idea of a claymation Jesus with a big, cheesy smile on his face, painfully misrepresenting what God must be like.

Now, for the moral of the story. I had these thoughts, asked myself some questions and took some direction from them. I stopped my normal routine, minimized my Chrome browser, and stopped learning. I put aside the constant input of information and did some soul searching. I evaluated myself, my strengths, and the areas where I was found wanting. I came to terms with the fact that I am not a scholar of astrophysics, molecular biology, or computer engineering. I have always been interested in the study of people. Psychology, sociology, communication studies and religious studies were my four minors in college. So I write this for you. Study yourself. Take the advice of an autistic teenage boy and stop learning, start thinking, and create something. Take your mind captive. Stop the constant input of information to make time to think. Practice metacognition: think about what you’re thinking about. Take a new perspective. Create a new way of thinking about things instead of recycling the way that you’ve been taught to think. Your new way of thinking about things could offer the world a brilliant new perspective and change the way that people go about thinking in the first place.

Why I won’t be seeing “The Interview”

Am I the only person who wants to see The Interview even less because of all the media hype? Our country could erupt into civil war at any moment due to the rising tensions between citizens and the state, so seeing another Rogen/Franco love child movie is low on my list of priorities.

Militarized police forces are dispatched in riot gear to disperse crowds gathered to demonstrate “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” as laid out in the First Amendment, yet we should go see The Interview because… “Murica?!”

Citigroup lobbyists just snuck a measure into a must-pass spending bill that would benefit five of the nation’s largest banks (who we had to bail out in the not so distant past) by allowing them “to use FDIC-insured money to bet on nearly anything they want,” yet Kim Jong-un is public enemy #1?

An unknown organization, presumably the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, hired people on Craigslist to attend a recent public forum in Washington D.C. concerning the DARK act—a bill that would “preempt states from requiring labeling of G.E. food, prevent the FDA from requiring labeling, codify the current failed voluntary labeling system, allow ‘natural’ foods to contain G.E. ingredients, and create a ‘review’ system based on industry science”—which prevented nearly everyone in attendance who was opposed to the bill from even making it into the room to voice their concerns, yet North Korea can suck it?

It almost seems as if America’s corporations and government are conspiring with one another against the interests of the American people, but let’s watch The Interview so we can increase the profits of another major corporation because our government said we shouldn’t acquiesce to terrorist threats.

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills…

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/spending-bill-992-derivatives-citigroup-lobbyists

https://takeaction.takepart.com/actions/oppose-the-dark-act