For the era of album-oriented music (rock, jazz, etc.), understanding the history of a musical artist or group happened at a track-by-track level. Back then we bought albums rather than songs, and the way those tracks were laid out on either vinyl or plastic was part of the artistry.

Different Drummer: Brian Eno

Track By Track at InappropriateConversations.org

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As a writer, I always knew that "dumping the notebook" would create a longer and less focused news story. The time and discipline it takes to match ideas and paraphrase would trade density for brevity, rather than the opposite. This look at how police work is conducted today and the impact that has on local, particularly minority, communities does the opposite. It's more sprawling and anything but brief. On an issue where jumping to quick conclusions is far too common, I felt the need to take more time. The short summary is simple, though: we can do better than we are today.

Different Drummer: Amos of Tekoa

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Whether the prophets of old have been, or need to be, updated by contemporary prophecy?

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Anyone observing what I’ve been posting or reading on social media might conclude that I think our standard of policing (Ferguson, Staten Island, etc.) is the biggest #IC story of 2014. It is not. I am preparing myself for an Inappropriate Conversations recording, but I also believe that this thread of current events isn't one collective story -- no, it is a bunch of only narrowly related stories. The story of the year in 2014 happened in March. 

World Vision's board decided that their hiring and HR practices should be like almost every major employer in our country. Like Wal-Mart, for example, or Home Depot, they saw no advantage in discriminating against their own employees. Granted, as a "religious" non-profit, they limited their approach to legally married couples. Still, they didn't do anything controversial or even unusual.

Sensing a religious right backlash of some sort, I immediately made a financial donation, sizable, bigger than I would normally do for an entire year toward any other charity I support. If hatred turned "financial" -- for want of a better description -- I wanted to fill the gap. I encouraged other like-minded Christians to do the same thing. 

Clearly, it wasn't enough. World Vision either lacks vision or even convictions, or the backlash they faced was truly catastrophic. Perhaps the financial pressure placed on them by numerous leaders in the religious right would have bankrupted the organization in mere weeks or even days. That was the report: they had to backtrack or children were going to starve to death.

I wrestled with whether I should regret the donation I made. I sought the counsel of wise friends and people who have provided spiritual guidance and support in the past. I have made peace with my actions, but I cannot make peace with so-called Christian leaders who placed the lives of thousands of people on a guillotine of sorts to defend their personal prejudice. 

None of the people who withdrew their pledges, largely at the urging of people like Franklin Graham and John Piper, were impacted in any way -- morally or otherwise -- if someone working in the mail room or accounting department of World Vision made a legal marital commitment (in their state) to anyone of any gender. Nothing in your sexual orientation interferes with your ability to deliver mail or pay bills. I have a news flash for "Bible-believing Christians" too: nothing in your sexual orientation stops you from loving and worshiping God. All of us who truly love and worship God do so knowing that we fall far short of God's glory, trusting in the righteousness of Christ rather than our own.

I’m going to share a link to a blog that was posted at the time, March 24th, on this topic. I don’t name a “blog of the year” or anything like that. This would be a candidate, though.

http://www.registeredrunaway.com/2014/03/25/when-evangelicals-turn-against-children-to-spite-me/

From that article by Benjamin Moberg: “I’ve been sitting in a swell of sad for a couple hours, because this is what I’m hearing: No, you aren’t even worthy to serve hungry children. You are so deeply unwanted that I will let a child die if it keeps you away from me. From us. From the body of Christ. I will spare no life if it keeps you far away.”

The bottom line is clear. Christians in 2014 were willing – desperately, aggressively, insistent – to kill as many starving children as necessary for as long a time-span as necessary to ensure that they were only serving the needs of the most desperate people in the world with other heterosexuals. No Gays Allowed. Not even in the background, perhaps not even in the closet. This pungent, publicly prominent version of Christianity would rather watch children die than accept the help of “others.” 

What have I done about it? Nothing. Oh, I’ve kept the issue alive in conversations with friends and family. I’m reminding people about it now. I left my hundreds of dollars in play. Noting how wrong it was to play politics with my money in the hands of a charity, I didn’t “go and do likewise” and follow the lead of politically-active Christians (we shouldn’t be following in the first place).

So, one of these two things is true, and I don’t think I will say which one.
I have either:

a)      Refused to give any resources to World Vision, sitting willfully and idly by to let bigots have their way. That’s right, I said bigots. In the past, I have made an impossibly careful distinction between homophobia and bigotry. I don’t like the notion that anyone who doesn’t understand sexuality or gender identification and fears the unknown is a bigot. That seems too broad to me. On the other hand, if you put the lives of desperately needy people at stake to defend those same fears, then you are a bigot.

b)      Decided to resume some level of support for the work that World Vision does, but making that move as quietly and anonymously as possible – so much so that I won’t acknowledge it here, one way or the other, under any circumstances. Do I fear some left-wing backlash? Of course not. The counsel I received from that side of the political spectrum told me to be proud of giving when I did and for the reasons I gave, and they would not judge me for continuing to try and stop the fatal impact of starvation. No, the backlash I fear would be from the religious right. I would understand if I was perceived as an LGBTQ Ally by groups like Focus On The Family and the American Family Association. I wouldn’t want them deciding to sacrifice children on the altar of their self-righteousness because they couldn’t stand to be associated with me any more than Benjamin Moberg. That is not a chance I’d be willing to take by publicly supporting World Vision, despite their inability to lead Christians to follow the words of Jesus and put “the least of these” ahead of their own prejudice.

Either way, please know that this Christian would never let a child die – or threaten to do so – as a means of maintaining second-class citizenship status for other Christians who are just as interested in feeding the hungry, visiting the hospitalized or imprisoned, and providing for those who have been shunned. In March of 2014, the story of the year for Inappropriate Conversations was how alone I felt within the Body Of Christ for holding such a scriptural viewpoint.

156: Boxing Day

25Dec14

It's both accurate and inaccurate to describe Boxing Day as a time to remember people who are in working class positions or struggling economically. When I was told that December 26th was the day set aside for sharing old and no-longer-wanted toys with others, that actually drifts a bit from the true Commonwealth history of the holiday. All the same, it is a nice and fitting idea.

Different Drummer: Elvis Costello

Songs recorded by Elvis Costello

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Most Americans probably perceive the "12 days of Christmas" to be intense retail shopping days before Christmas. The expression actually refers to the true period of Christmas celebration starting on the selected date of December 25th and counting from there. It makes me wonder why many people are so focused on pulling down decorations and silencing all holiday hymns right in the middle of those 12 days. I understand the argument that we start too soon. I would also understand an argument that we end too soon, too.

Different Drummer: Jean Shepherd

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Whether serving at a food bank or soup kitchen is more worshipful than what we call church?

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