Safety

Sen. Marco Rubio, in 2014, in a bid to raise his NRA rating from a B+ to an A:

The safety of our families is not something people should hope government can provide.

Martin Luther and the Reformers, in 1530, in the Augsburg Confession:

[Government defends] not minds, but bodies and bodily things against manifest injuries, and restrain[s] men with the sword and bodily punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace.

I’d wager more Americans would agree with the 500 year old statement than with Sen. Rubio’s.

Explicit Bias

If your skin is white, like mine, I urge you to take the online Implicit Bias test conducted by Harvard University. They have several, but I’m specifically talking about the White-Black bias test.

You won’t like the results. Most of us white folk put a lot of energy into appearing to be unbiased based on race. Most of us get very defensive if called a racist. I admit to having a certain amount of ill-founded pride in being ‘very tolerant’ towards race — so I was very disappointed to find the test revealed that I had a certain amount of implicit bias. In other words, I automatically have a stronger positive feeling towards people of lighter skin than darker skin.

My first response (which is typical for people taking the test) was to blame the test. After all, I think racism is evil, and all prejudice based on skin color is wrong, and even dumb. But what the test measures is our ‘gut response,’ formed before the thinking part of the brain kicks in. Just take it and you’ll see what I mean.

Now that I’ve calmed down, I know it’s true. My experiences, conversations, media, and curricula have taught me to see dark skin in a more negative way. Think of a Disney villain…I’ll bet they have darker skin than the Hero. How many Bad Guys can you think of that have dark skin? How many mugshots have you seen on the news of folks with dark skin? I didn’t ask for this. But I am responsible for my response. These experiences form my automatic bias, and if I pass them on uncritically…well, I’m not one of the Good Guys.

I’m not a Bad Guy for having implicit bias, but my responsibility is to stop uncritically accepting the ways that my bias gets passed on or tolerated. I have to start with myself, so I’ve developed a list of ‘explicit biases’ that I want to train myself in. Just as our negative implicit biases take a while to learn, so will my correction to them.

When I encounter a person that is culturally, socially, economically distant from me, I run through a list. I affirm in my head that this person:

  • is different from anyone else on the planet
  • has a rich inner life that I may or may not see
  • has an education that I don’t
  • is embedded in family relationships, some of which may be complicated
  • is embedded in social relationships, some of which may be complicated
  • is a Child of God

It might seem clumsy, but I already make those assumptions about people I find very similar to me. Either way, I am convinced that my moral responsibility to change racism does not stop at passively deciding something is wrong, but includes actively changing the way it works through me. In this case, it starts with rewiring my brain.

Doors and Walls

I’ve been finding myself feeling frazzled pretty regularly which is something that happens when I haven’t taken time to review everything going on in my life from a ‘big picture’ perspective. Tasks are essential, but without a larger sense of goals and priorities they just become turns around the hamster wheel.

The problem for me is that I cannot get the big picture perspective without slowing down, stepping back, and doing honest-to-god thinking. And because I’m an introvert, I cannot do that in the midst of other people. I really have to take some time by myself to do that.

My office has a door and walls. The walls are permanent and meant to keep the environment out, and me in. The door, however, opens and closes – alternatively allowing things going in and out and then stopping things going in and out.

I’ve not been treating the door that way. I see the open door as symbolic of my openness to people. I like people and God knows I want them to like me. So I leave it open almost all the time. As if the door were a wall and of course I don’t want to put up walls between me and people.

But the alternative is not between walls and unrestricted access: I have a door. My door is here to selectively enforce boundaries that I – and I imagine, everyone else – need. There are times when I need to temporarily close off open access to me so that I can do some deep, reflective work. I may only need this a couple hours all week. But I do need it, and the door helps me take that time.

I need to be able to close my door without feeling like I’m putting up a wall. I’m just closing the door now, so I can better welcome others through it later.

How This Site is Built

Here’s how I post blog posts to www.netfull.org and microblog posts to www.netfull.org/microblog as well as Micro.blog

My blog, this blog, which is trying to tie together the various threads I’m interested in, is now hosted on Github Pages. It’s a static site built by Jekyll which means that Github builds it automatically every time I update the files.

The nice thing about building the site this way is it’s always under version control so there’s always a trail of bread crumbs back to any previous version of the site. I can revert back in time to fix the mistakes I regularly make while coding it. Also, the source is public so you can see the mistakes yourself.

I’ve been intrigued by Manton Reese’s Micro.blog project as an independent way to publish little thoughts and to have a little dialogue back and forth. Like the way I once thought Twitter should work, but without all the baggage. Twitter’s annoying attempts at monetization are understandable; Twitter’s enabling of White Supremacy, misogyny, and genocidal nuclear threats are unconscionable.

I really recommend you give it a try. I also recommend you pay a few dollars a month and get Micro.blog’s hosted service unless you really want to sink some hours into a painful, substandard, DIY system like mine.

For now ‘microblog’ posts, which you can think of like Tweets, don’t show up in the main JSON/RSS feed or on the homepage. Instead, they live on the Microblog part of my site. To get that set up, I relied heavily on excellent posts by Tim Smith, Ross Kimes, and Kirby Turner. You make fewer mistakes when you stand on the shoulders of others.

Health

I spent way too much of 2017 sick.

My goal for 2018 is to be much healthier. Some causes of illness are out of my control (like having small children in the house) but many are in my control. Here are some things I should do to be healthier:

  • sleep at least 7.5 hours a night
  • make a smoothie for breakfast daily
  • wash hands every scene change
  • keep hands off face
  • go to the gym weekly
  • do yoga a couple times a week
  • do meditation daily

Comfort in Beliefs

I think there’s a difference between taking comfort in my beliefs and taking comfort in my own understanding of my beliefs.

For example, if it comforts you that God is in control of the world – that’s fine. If it comforts you that you understand exactly who God is condemning – that’s troubling.

Hungry, boy?

Back in my freshman year of college, my roommate Jon had gotten involved with an on-campus Christian group that was also associated with – I think – Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Jon invited me to an event they organized and I was game. It wasn’t the kind of thing we often did, but I seem to remember a potential romantic relationship for one of us was at play.

The event was an old fashioned BBQ with hay rides and everything on a farm outside of Gainesville. Really outside: I can remember how bright the stars were out there. The most notable part, however, was that this BBQ was hosted at the personal home of Sonny Tillman, the founder of Sonny’s BBQ. He is something of a legend in those parts. Guess he had a soft spot for FCA and provided his farm and all the Sonny’s food we could eat. And I was ready for it. Doing a lot of cycling in those days, I could put away some calories. As I went through the line, I loaded up my plate with everything I could: pulled pork, beans, garlic bread – oh and ribs! I have to have ribs! My plate was full and then some, and I had to walk carefully back to a table.

By chance, I happened to cross paths with Sonny himself as I was delicately navigating the crowded barn. He looked down at my overloaded plate and then at the 150 pound awkward 18-year-old holding it and said, in at least six syllables of deep southern drawl, “Hungry, boy?”

I grinned sheepishly and said, “Yeah.”

He said, “You better finish that plate, you hear?”

And in one of the proud moments of my life up to that point, I did.

Stress

When I fall apart under stress it looks like this:

  • I become disillusioned with everything: with myself, with others, faith, etc. My cynicism which is often held at bay takes over. It’s hard to remain motivated.
  • I get tired.
  • I do not look for help; in fact, I probably avoid it. I tell myself it’s not good for me to show signs of weakness due to stress. Because then, I say, others will have to be inconvenienced.
  • I do not think clearly or do my best work.
  • I do not have courageous compassion for others.

Jolene

Despite its sexist premise (it’s the other woman’s fault this man can’t honor his commitment?) and its dubious backstory (is he really the ‘only man’ for you if he would dump you for a soft-spoken ginger?), Jolene really is the best song ever written.

It’s a masterclass in leaving you wanting more. The simple and elegant chord progression moves so pleasingly under the clever but natural rhymes of the verses, but just enough to give you a taste for more. I wish there were twelve more verses.

But ultimately, it’s the naked pathos of one woman pleading with another to have pity. She has no other resources left; she’s arrived at her last resort: begging. Her happiness depends on Jolene and what she decides to do…and we never find out.

The Greater Evil

I have a feeling that many Americans will be going to the polls without a lot of passion for their candidate. You know, the whole ‘lesser of two evils’ idea. I have to confess that I am not exactly passionate about the candidate I’ll be voting for.

But let me offer another motivation for voting: survival. No, not mine – as a white man, the American system already has a lot of momentum towards protecting my interests. I’ll be using my vote to help preserve others.

We have a candidate who has consistently – in his life, in his campaign, and in his suggested policies – discriminated against, diminished, and endangered the lives of people of color, women, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, people with disabilities, and those he simply considers ‘losers.’ He has been endorsed by numerous white supremacist, nativist, and anti-Semitic groups that have never before endorsed a major candidate. Behind him are people who believe we would be ‘great again’ by controlling and diminishing the lives of certain classes of humans.

For the sake of those fellow humans, cast your vote accordingly. No, we aren’t there yet, but despite his bleak, autocratic vision of the country, we could actually live up to the unfulfilled promise we started with that we are stronger when we not only tolerate but embrace the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. That we will be a better nation because of the free contributions of those who have been previously enslaved and destroyed because of fear. That real ‘greatness’ will come not from looking back toward a time of greater domination, but forward to a time of greater love.

Even if you aren’t completely smitten with your candidate, be passionate about that when you go to the polls. And vote accordingly.

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