What About ‘Those People’? Why Don’t They Fix Their Own Lives?

“Why don’t ‘those people’ fix their own lives and culture instead of rioting all the time?”

I hear this question a lot.

Do you want to know the answer?

  1. First of all, ‘those people’ are exactly like you. People, humans, Americans, who lives lives, like you, largely unrecognized. They are doing what they’re doing without you seeing them.
  2. ‘Those people’ are already doing those things, and have been doing those things, for as many years as everyone else. Living their lives, falling in love, getting married, having kids, getting jobs, caring for their own, healing their sick, burying their dead. Just like anyone else.
  3. ‘Those people’ doing ordinary things, healing things, life-affirming things, doesn’t make the news. The news is about two things:
    1. What bleeds – news reports center around the spectacular and the frightening and the violent. Ordinary people doing ordinary things isn’t news.
    2. What affirms – we watch stories that affirm our viewpoint. If we believe ‘those people’ are cheats and liars, lazy and indolent, takers and grabbers and destroyers, then we will gravitate to news which affirms that viewpoint.

Did you know there is a #PeaceWalk going on, right now, in Houston, as citizens there are vocally and publicly protesting the violence in their community? This is on top of the everyday efforts to raise their families in peace, to send their kids to school, to continue at their jobs?

Did you know that right now #HandsUpUnited in Ferguson is sponsoring (and has been sponsoring) a “Books and Breakfast” on Saturday, where families come for breakfast and get books for their kids? They’re providing nourishment for the body, the mind, and the soul.

Did you know that right now people in Ferguson are trying to build a training center, a food distribution center, a “safe for kids” zone in response to the violence by police against their community — and that their efforts have been repeatedly vandalized and destroyed by residents who don’t want them to succeed?

None of this makes the news because none of this is “interesting” or “newsworthy” and it does not affirm our viewpoint of ‘those people’. We want to believe ‘those people’ are inherently shiftless and violent and not worthy of the blessings of America until they hitch their pants up and get a job.

But your ignorance is what’s wrong here, not what ‘those people’ do. ‘Those people’ are doing just fine without your support or even your acknowledgement.

The Book Is Free

At last (again), the Kindle book download for “Stars in the Texas Sky” is free for four days (18-September – 21 September, 2015)


US    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

CA    http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

MX    http://www.amazon.com.mx/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

BR    http://www.amazon.com.br/gp/product/B008NNSU3U


UK    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

DE    http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

FR    http://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

IT    http://www.amazon.it/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

ES    http://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

NL    http://www.amazon.nl/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

Asia & Pacific

AU    http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

IN    http://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

JP    http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/B008NNSU3U

When We Would Tell Others

There is an awesome story in the Christian New Testament where Peter and Jesus (post-resurrected, not-yet-ascended) have an interaction about John, a pesky disciple who gets all the press and attention, when as we know, Peter is the rock of the church:

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” ~ John 21:20-23, NIV

I love this story so much, because it is yet another example of the fine storytelling of the Gospel of John, a romance written 1800 years before we had the idea of a romance expressed as a novel. (By “romance” of course I do not mean an erotic story, but a story based upon the emotional connection of people as opposed to a story of pure details, a personal letter compared to a stolid biography.)

After all the time John and Peter had spent together with Jesus, and after the astonishing events of the crucifixion and resurrection (let’s remember, Peter and John were there and saw the events, and they are now dealing with a Jesus who is up and walking around, talking with them), Peter comes to his senses, reverts to his old self, and starts asking Jesus why his so-called “friend” isn’t getting the what-for from Jesus.

“What about him?”

“What about my brother? He gonna get a whipping, too?”

“But how come I’m getting spanked if my brother did it, too?”

“Officer, what about all the other people who were speeding when I passed them?”

The list of examples can’t be contained in a book, I imagine.

I think that desire to ask God about what he’s gonna do about those other people who are sinning, too! is a common desire.

“What about those gays over there, God!? They’re sinning!

“What about those heathen?”

“What about those immigrants?”

“What about those wimmin walking around without a man covering them as a father or a husband, making their own decisions!?

It’s common, and a pleasant emotion to feel. God, I thank you that I am not like them, said one person in the New Testament. There’s the story elsewhere in the gospels that the “Sons of Thunder” wanted to call down destruction upon a city that rejected Jesus. God, you destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah¸ the thinking went, so why don’t you destroy this city, too? We’ll just sit here and watch.

We want, as faithful Christians, to be sure that all the work we do, and all the sacrifices we make, and all the unpleasantness we endure in our obedience means something. We should be rewarded for our hard work, our privations, our giving. We give so much up for the kingdom. Surely it’s for good because it is for God.

We don’t get much in the way of reward, to be honest. Being obedient to the gospel isn’t a means of assured success, and we don’t always (or even often!) get a recognizable return, much less even an acknowledgement. Just doing our jobs, just being obedient, just being followers of Jesus simply is no guarantee of success here on Earth, and it’s a long time until our reward in heaven.

Of course we’re patient, and we trust God, so we wait.

But in the meantime—what about those sinners over there!? They’re having a great time, doing things we won’t or can’t or shouldn’t do.

They’re getting away with it! we say.

And so we are tempted to not only ask God what in blazes he’s doing by not responding, by not burning down the cities and calling destruction upon the people, but to take matters in our own hands.

To bring about destruction and ruin and penalty and judgment because God is oddly slow to answer our prayers for the destruction and ruin of sinners.

We are terribly tempted to tell others of their ruin, and to ensure that they feel an early penalty, now, here on earth, as long as we have the power to enact and implement that penalty.

Which brings me to the sad case of Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky.

Kim Davis, bless her heart, is a Christian who struggles with the same kinds of things we all struggle with, the common and ordinary temptations of life. After a long time of not knowing Christ and the gospel, she has come to Jesus.

As a fellow believer, I am glad for her to know the saving power of Christ. Well done, sister, I say.

But what she has done with that salvation and with her official power of office is not praiseworthy. It is not honest, it is not godly, and it is not an example of obedience to Christ.

It is, instead, a despicable set of actions, especially because she is using her office to enforce her own, peculiar interpretation of the gospel on others who are not following Christ and who are also not following her.

She has taken the role of Peter here, in asking God “What are you going to do about all those sinners getting married in my county when you, God, have assured me that there is no such thing as ‘gay marriage’?”

Those people, God, what about them?

I’m afraid that our sister in Christ is horribly mistaken in her actions to obey the gospel. She has turned something that is liberation for her into a tool of oppression for others.

The residents of her county in Kentucky are subject to laws of the United States, which are the highest authority citizens must obey.

The Supreme Court of the United States, on 26-Jun-15, declared that same-sex couples may marry in exactly the same way as opposite-sex couples may marry.

Ms. Davis, as an oath-taking member of the state government, is an agent of the government which must obey the laws and the Constitution.

If she feels that same-sex marriage is wrong, then as a government official she has only a few options:

  • She can do her job as a clerk and issue licenses
  • She can resign her job

Those are the only two options.

There is no third option, that as a “Christian” she can continue her job as a government official and refuse to do her job.

If she feels that she cannot, as a Christian, support same-sex marriage—well, then, fine for her. She doesn’t have to go to a same-sex wedding, she doesn’t have to leave her husband and join with another woman in same-sex marriage, and she does not have to officiate at a religious ceremony for a same-sex wedding.

Those are all her choices.

What she has no choice over is in the performance of her duties as a secular government official.

Kim Davis is not operating as a religious enactor of religious laws for members of her church.

She is a secular clerk who, as part of her tasks that she voluntarily swore by oath to do, must perform certain actions, including granting marriage licenses.

She is not participating in the wedding.

She is not getting married.

She is not officiating.

She is free, as a Christian who is attempting to follow Jesus, to dislike same-sex couples and even to avoid socializing with them.

But in the performance of her duties, she is not “Christian” or “Hindu” or even “atheist”: she is simply hired staff, paid by the citizens of Kentucky to perform the duties of her office according to the laws of her state and the laws and Constitution of the United States.

I am sorry she has taken it upon herself to judge others, and to enforce her ideas on others.

I am sorry she has fallen into the same trap Peter fell into, the trap of wanting to know why God isn’t dealing with those people the way she thinks He should.

Peter was lucky, I suppose, in that Jesus was able to stop him from the next foolish action, which would be to make sure that John had to do the same things Peter had to do.

Kim Davis simply needs to heed that example.

She can continue in her duties, a faithful Christian, or she can resign.

She just can’t be telling others how to live their lives, and she can’t expect God himself to back her up.

Scrivener – Why It’s What You Want to Use

Scrivener is a program to write long-form documents of various types: novels, short stories, blog posts, dissertations, scripts, legal documents, and so on.

A common question that comes up, though, is “Why would I use Scrivener when I have Microsoft Word?”

Here are some reasons why Scrivener works better for you than Word.

Long-form documents

Long-form documents are easy to create and lay out in Scrivener. You create a large project, such as a novel or a script, as a set of individual sections, such as scenes or events. You can create a hierarchical structure, moving pieces around as you need them, and then when done, create the final publication, such as a PDF or Word document, with everything you want in the format you want.


This is a feature of Scrivener which is perhaps the most interesting thing to use when reviewing your documents.

As you create content, you can tag it with keywords, which is something you can do with Word, of course.

But then you can select just the pieces you want and review just them. Want to see just the scenes in the Wizard of Oz where Auntie Em appears? Select her as the keyword, and then only those scenes will appear, so you can check that the Auntie Em in the first part of document has the same character and speech patterns as the last part.

Types of Input

You can bring in lots of types of documents into your project, Word docs, text files, images, PDFs, even videos, and have them around for research as you develop your content.

Types of Output

You can take your document/project and produce output for your needs. If you are creating a book for the Kindle platform, you can create a .mobi file. You can create a .epub file for other e-book readers. You can create a PDF for distribution to your readers, or a Word file if you want to distribute your file for editing and review.

Is Truth Nihilism? A Response to Some Charges about “Between the World and Me”

First off–I’m not a trained philosopher. I don’t have special insight. I just have my opinions.

And I haven’t finished reading the book in question, “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

But while I’ve been reading, I’ve been listening to the reactions to the book and its message. Some have made the charge that the book is nihilistic, that it speaks of a world without meaning, where there are no dreams and no hope, where nothing matters and therefore nothing is worth doing. That because there is no “God” driving the book and its message, there is no meaning or purpose to the story. That Mr. Coates is bitter and reactive to his upbringing and environment, anti-American, and wanting to destroy all that is American.

I’ve read these responses in various places, online in formal reviews, in blog posts, in comments, on Twitter.

And while I agree that people can have their opinions, and opinions do not need to be “right” in order to be held, I also believe that an opinion based upon misunderstanding or upon an animus-based reading of the text is a wrong opinion.

I’ve read, as I’ve said, 2/3 of the book, and am working slowly on the final third.

It is slow going. The language and phrasing is rich and solemn, and it requires careful thought to examine the clauses, the words, the ideas, and to form your own opinion along the way, letting the book carry you along from preliminary reactions to a set of final conclusions.

Coates is doing what he can in the book to describe the life he lives as a black man in America, and to describe being black in America, and to describe the American experience for black people.

He is doing something very careful and deliberate in his work: he is trying very hard to say nothing that is not backed by what actually is, and not what is backed up by hope or promises or assurances that cannot be assured because they would make the future something that already exists based upon current wishes.

He describes what actually is, right now, with no attention to language that would soften the blow for his son (the book is written to his son) or for other men and women in America who find themselves with a station in life dependent upon the accident of proportions of melanin. He describes what is, alluding to the decisions and policies and governments set up by white men in America for the benefit of white men, white women, and white children, and by design to the deliberate detriment of all others in America, most especially the black man, the black woman, the black child, and in his description he makes no attempt to make it nice for white Americans. He is not attempting to give a false promise to black Americans, saying that dreams and good intentions will lead somehow to things being better, and he is not attempting to give false consideration to the tender feelings of white Americans who will not hear his words unless they are covered with treacle and disguised by ambiguities and misdirections.

It can feel like a very bleak book. It is what it is, he says. This is what it is. It is this, and this, and this. Black and white words.

He is not offering the book in order to change things. That will come from people who read the book and decide what to do with it.

He is offering the book in order to describe things. Before any ideas can be formed about what is, we have to know exactly what is. Before any thoughts about solutions to problems can be formed, we must know what the problems are, stripped of all niceties and delicacies and the adumbrations of pleasantries which disguise the base nature of black existence.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up one day and discover you are a black American. Not in some way where one day you go from being white to being black—no transmogrification. Just the realization one day that you don’t belong here, you are not wanted, the promises are not for you, the riches are not for you, safety is not guaranteed for you, dreams are not encouraged for you. One day, if you are a black American, you will be confronted with that by someone who will tell you that and who will make sure you understand your place, a place which is outside whiteness. Nothing you do or are or achieve will matter. If you are black, you will have to deal with that. If you are white, you will likely never, ever have to deal with that, because even if you think you might understand—you will never have this happen to you.

So Coates is telling you and me and everyone what that means, softening no blows. If you are black, your body and mind are of no value unless they are used by another for their profit, he says. If you are white the entire force of policy and society and culture and government are to your comfort and protection. If you are black, they are all out of reach unless by happy accident you are unmolested. For a time.

It might sound nihilistic because Coates does not go on to provide “answers” and “solutions” and “dreams.” He is writing, clearly, that thinking it will get better is magical thinking. Hoping it will get better is magical thinking. Dreams are magic and entertaining and comforting—but they do not change anything.

I find that in his bare telling of how things are, he is stripping away all the clutter that keeps people from making changes on their own.

Rather than a nihilistic approach, his approach is truthful—and with that, completely empowering.

Rather than waiting for dreams to come true, rather than praying and hoping for God to make things change, rather than expecting the long moral arc of history to bend towards justice, Coates is saying this: none of these things will change anything because none of them involve you and me. He is saying that if we think there is injustice and terror and theft and slavery, the power to change all of this lies completely in our hands, so completely that we can’t afford to waste time with dreams, with hopes, with prayers, with the expectation that it will somehow come to right if we wait long enough.

I’ve been a Christian 40+ years. In all that time I’ve seen that God does great things when people pray. I’ve seen dreams lead to wonderfully creative solutions. I’ve seen the moral sense of people become fired up to a white-hot flame, and I’ve seen changes. But in all that, what I focus on is that all these things happened because people saw a problem, found they were powerful to make changes, and they effected changes.

That is what Coates is saying–outside the dreams and hopes and prayers, it comes down to this: recognizing what is, listening to what you yourself feel a moral urgency to do–and then doing it.

This is not nihilism. This is, rather, pure pragmatism. Doing what needs to be done because it needs doing.

Why Pursue Justice?

Why pursue justice for our brothers and sisters? Why not sit back? Let someone else speak out, someone else march, someone else confront, someone else be arrested and beaten and jailed. There is no risk if we do nothing. So why not do that–do nothing?

Two reasons – the first is that we were taught to do the right thing by our parents, our teachers, our priests and rabbis and pastors and imams and all the rest of our spiritual advisors. We are doing the right thing because in us there is something that calls out for justice, and for us to participate in justice.

And the second is that we know these people. They are our friends, our co-workers, our community, our family, our lovers and spouses and children. They are as much a part of us as anyone we count as “friend” or “companion” or “partner.”

We do it because we want justice.

We do it because we love people.

It is the sum of the law and the prophets.

Windows 10 and Me

#Windows10 fail

I have an HP Pavilion D7 laptop. Microsoft advertised to me for a few months (it seems) that my laptop was capable of upgrading to Windows 10.

So on July 29, 2015, when I was prompted, I said “Yes!” to the upgrade.

Downloading took a few hours. It’s about a 2Gb install. Over wireless, it took a while.

Installing it took quite a few hours. I think it was essentially overnight.

When it was done, it rebooted – and I was in Windows 10! Most programs worked.


My second monitor no longer worked. No second monitor worked. I tried different monitors, different cables.


I called tech support on my monitor (Samsung).

Samsung tech support, while free (yay Samsung!) was really useless. They had no idea of what I was talking about. No understanding of Windows 10.

They had me debug the monitor and cable again, and then helpfully suggested it was an incompatibility.

They told me to download the latest driver and install it.

When I did that, and rebooted – no video monitor at all. Not on my second monitor, not on my laptop monitor.

Samsung said that they weren’t aware of the issue. And that was that.

HP could not help me because I could not download their software to debug the problem because – and this is key – they didn’t understand that without any ability to see what was on any of the monitors (internal or external), there really wasn’t any solution available from them other than “That thing you did? Don’t do that thing.”

My laptop would not boot into any of the safe modes offered by the Windows 10 Recovery screen – always a blank screen.

I will say this – the HP laptop recovery did have an option to pave my laptop and put back the original Windows 7 installation, losing all my existing programs.

I did that, and now I have a functional laptop – after another five hours of Windows 7 Updates to install.

Some programs no longer work.

Windows Live Writer, for example, won’t install. It used to work on this laptop. Now it won’t install, and when I click the link for help on the problem, the link takes me to Outlook.com to my mailbox. Which is singularly unhelpful. My problem isn’t that I want to read my email. My problem is that I downloaded a program from Microsoft for Windows 7 that does not install on a Windows 7 laptop that it used to work on just fine the day before. The only thing that’s changed is that the laptop is now a fresh copy of Windows 7 + 196 (Yep, 196!) Windows updates installed.

What Must We Then Do?

I’m a Christian, and I also believe in the power of reason. I don’t think anyone is convinced to switch sides on any of the culture-war issues based on emotional arguments that simply escalate into a battle of “who has the loudest voice.”

I believe that the American Christian church of today has been bamboozled into thinking that it is enough to be against abortion, and that as long as we stop that from happening, the rest of our lives can remain indistinguishable from someone who has no power and no life of their own. An American Christian has a different vocabulary and a different habit for 11:00 on Sunday mornings, but what else is different?

The early church succeeded, I’m told, because of the love the members showed each other, and the love they showed outsiders. I know it’s probably a whitewashed history, and there were probably the same unstable people back then as now, but the history doesn’t show that the unstable, loud, vitriolic people really did anything to advance the cause of Christ or the kingdom of God.

I came to Christ because of one thing: I was told I was accepted and loved. I was embraced. I found a place, for me.

It puzzled me then, and puzzles me now, that the church I read about in the scriptures and in history has been reduced to sitting in a building being told things, and then going out to get more people into the building to be told things.

I think a person who has encountered the living Christ would reflect his love, his power, his forgiveness, his understanding, his healing, that they would be that source to others.

I get it that people are in process on the journey. We all start from there to get to here, and we hope to get beyond.

I do hold my Christian leaders to a higher standard, however. I hold them to the standard of leading me and others into demonstrating that we are members of the kingdom, into participating in our society, leading people to wholeness, showing them what a strong, confident, loving individual and congregation can actually _do_.

I just don’t care any more to hear words in a religious box. The words are fine as a teaching aid. But surely–SURELY–church and religion is more than just sitting in that box on a Sunday morning.

Somehow What Matters Doesn’t Matter

Somehow Christians don’t get upset when tens of millions of children in America go to bed hungry.

Somehow Christians don’t get upset when millions of women in America can’t afford a place for their families to sleep.

Somehow Christians don’t get upset when millions of veterans in America don’t have pensions large enough to keep them off food stamps.

Somehow Christians don’t get upset when millions of men in America are unjustly jailed and removed from their families.

Somehow Christians don’t get upset when the rich in America control church and national policy.

Somehow Christians don’t get upset when pastors in America rob their flocks of millions of dollars to pay for personal indulgences.

But somehow Christians dial their anger up to 11 when some people in America are allowed to marry.

That freedom–which affects no Christian in their worship of God or in their obedience to his commands–somehow has become the most important thing in the world to oppose.

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