Archive for the 'Articles' Category

On the day I'm posting this, I am also wrapping up the ninth year of Inappropriate Conversations. The tenth year of this podcast and website is about to begin. Reflecting on that, it occurred to me that some of these shows were either planned as doubles or ended up being a multiple of some sort. This retrospective will look at those occasions, typically in back-to-back postings. Most are #IC podcasts, but Walk The Earth plays a role, too. More than a handful of #wte shows are covered in this list.

Politics introduction:
Radical Moderates and the Political Spectrum

Boiling Point fable about politics and science

 

Religion introduction:
"Chapter and Verse"

Permanent Things I Believe

 

Art introduction:
Art and the Strange Bedfellows

"Laws of Motion"

 

Prayer in school:
My Prayer for a Football Game

Establishment of Religion

 

Men and Women:
Sacred Friendship

Macho Weaknesses

 

10 Areas of Agreement about Abortion:
Part 1

Part 2

 

Environment and Consumption:
Disposability (We've become a Bunch of Tossers)

The Erosion of the TV Landscape

 

Growing up and raising kids:
Child's Play and Imagination

Making the World Safe for Kids

 

Inter-sexual Friendship:

A Farewell Address from the Mexican Mountains

Moments of Epiphany

Revelation Weekend

 

Worship:
What It Means to Worship

The Heart of the Matter

 

Maturing and maturity:
The Perspective of Growing Up

Communicating with Kids in an Adult Way

 

Homophobia:
The Violence of Denial

Eulogy for Homophobia

 

Monogamy:
Safeguarding Marriage

Saying No to Myself

 

The existence of God:
Originating Ideas

Where Would I Be Without God?

 

Gender and the church:
Walk The Earth 6

Gender Segregation

 

Church retreats:
Spiritual Stunting and Divine Development

Gathering 'round the Campfire

 

Racial (in)justice:
Walk The Earth 22

Letting Justice Roll

 

Pride:
Walk The Earth 29

Walk The Earth 30

 

Halloween sound collage:
Halloween Treats

Halloween Tricks

Halloween Sabbath

 

In the shoes of Islam:
Walk The Earth 37

Walk The Earth 38

Walk The Earth 39

Walk The Earth 40

 

Times that call for the sound of music:
The Sound of Protest

The Sound of Resistance

The Sound of Opposition

The Sound of Disorder

The Sound of Dissent

The Sound of Sustainability

 

That is 50 podcasts with inter-connections among the 267 released so far in the history of Inappropriate Conversations and Walk The Earth. And maybe, just maybe, more could have been cited.
Thanks for listening!

 

Listening to an episode of The Hustle podcast last week got me thinking about a concept I've long considered: albums with songs that carry the name of an album without actually being a "title track" in the traditional sense. 

I wouldn't be surprised, for example, if people believe that Pink Floyd wrote a song called "The Dark Side of the Moon" but it's actually called "Brain Damage" instead. 
It would be hard to confuse The Roots' song "You Got Me" with any other title, but the album name Things Fall Apart is a central lyric within the rap of that single.
What triggered my memory was a deeper album cut from Spin Doctors, "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" carrying the lyric of the album title, Pocket Full of Kryptonite.

So, some of the 25 songs on the playlist I created as a starting point are obvious. Some, less so. I'm sure there are more. For now, here is my initial list of songs that function within their albums as The DeFacto Title Track.

DeFacto_TitleTrack.jpg

I've just noticed that a year has gone by between blog-only postings under the Articles category at Inappropriate Conversations. Clearly, I should be writing more. 

That said, here is an annual post renewing the call for a proper post-season tournament (or two) in college football. It is still an outrage that a sport with 10 conferences cannot include all conference champions in the so-called FBS playoffs. Using the BCS and other rankings, along with automatic bids for conference champions, that tournament would look like this:

16-team FBS bracket

Or, if this concept of "power 5 conferences" versus other conferences makes any sense, then I renew a call for two tournaments:
one NCAA bracket for the "popular 5" and another NIT bracket for the rest.

NIT and NCAA format

Now that the NCAA has bungled post-season football again, I've taken a second look. Yesterday, I created my annual 16-team tournament we should be watching with representation from all conference champions.

CollegeFootball_playoff2017.jpg

Today, I throw in the proverbial towel.

This notion of "power 5 conferences" -- and, doing the math, the other "non power" conferences -- has revealed the need for two different tournaments. That is clear. Even expanding the current format to 8 teams would leave out an undefeated Central Florida team that has blown most of its opponents away, including more than a half dozen wins against bowl-bound teams.
So, here is my take on 8s.

Rather than trying to shove 5 conferences into a 4-team bracket, move to 8 and include all 5 of those conference champions with 3 at large teams.
Then, establish an NIT of sorts for the other 5 FBS conferences, who will never get a sniff at any playoffs in our current system otherwise.
The National Invitational Tournament in college basketball is the "other tournament" for teams not invited to March Madness proper.

This football version of an NIT would follow the same format: 8 teams including all 5 of the conference champions from the other "non power" conferences, and 3 at large teams from those conferences.
No mixing between the FBS playoff conferences and the FNS (with the "N" meaning NIT or "never getting into our playoffs" division).

Two tournaments played at more or less the same time. It's an almost elegant solution to a problem that, clearly, is never going to be resolved by the college sports powers-that-be.
Brackets:

CollegeFootball_with_NIT_2017a.jpg

I view current FCC plans to dismantle Net Neutrality as a threat to me. No, neither Inappropriate Conversations nor Walk The Earth are significant enough to be a specific target. What I do, though, is exactly the kind of communication that could easily get quashed if huge corporations operating as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have their way. 

I might find it far more difficult, if not impossible, to upload podcasts. I might get "an offer I can't refuse" about paying a premium to restore service to where it has been. More likely, I won't because what I do is far more personal and direct -- aka, not particularly marketable -- meaning no restoration of service standards would ever even be offered. You see, my "personhood" is far less important to current FCC leadership than the "personhood" of companies like Comcast and Verizon. And the money I pay in taxes is completely unimportant to all my elected representatives in Congress compared to the "speech" (money) of lobbyists. 

The only hope is public outcry. And FCC Chairman Ajit Pai seems to be taking steps to quash that as much as legally possible, if not crossing that once-sacred "law and order" line. 
Pai has refused to allow scrutiny over clearly false (mostly anti-Net Neutrality) public posts to determine how many of them are from fake and non-American sources.
Pai has limited commentary this year to a very aggravating FCC website requiring a positively wonky knowledge base to navigate (more on that in a moment).
And he has the support of the current presidential administration which, frankly, would do almost anything to suppress voices of dissent.

So, what do we need to know and do?

First, get informed and do so quickly. The FCC is going to vote on this December 14, 2017, if they are true to their word. (That's an open question, in my opinion.) So get informed and speak up.

Second, visit the FCC.gov website since it is the only way you are permitted to comment.
This website is not user-friendly, so I'll share how I approached this (with help from friends like Rick from Starbase 66).

Proceeding(s): 17-108
Name(s) of Filer(s): Enter your name here -- and you probably have to hit the enter button, especially if you are working on a mobile device.
Primary Contact Email: Careful and proper entry here because it won't count comments if the automated email response (confirmation) doesn't work.
Address / City / State / ZIP: Common entries here.
Brief Comments: I chose to be very brief, like I would if I was talking with someone I didn't trust, who didn't have my interests at heart, and who had a track record of twisting my words for his own political ends. I simply wrote: I support Title 2 oversight of ISPs.

That last part is the crucial point:
I support Title 2 oversight of ISPs.

I then clicked the Email Confirmation checkbox, the "Continue to review screen" button, and proceeded from there. The email confirmation came pretty quickly.

I've been very detailed and specific here because I believe it is both important and necessary. My friend Rick was more succinct and conversational:
" I have done this, and unless you want to start having to pay for websites the same way you pay for cable tv channels you should too! On your computer, not your phone, go to: www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express
Enter Proceeding 17-108 and in comments, say you support Title 2 oversight of ISPs.
Do this now if you support net neutrality!
Fill the form in carefully; they've made it less friendly and impossible to fill in by phone, on purpose, because the new FCC head does not want to hear from you. Fcc him! Spread this message!"

Whatever works. We should always be suspicious when powerful people paid in millions of dollars make efforts to silence the feedback of citizens. A free and open internet is how I communicate with people across the country and around the world, and I do not want to see my freedom to speak pinched or silenced.

I released Walk The Earth 48 earlier this month. I'm planning the next Inappropriate Conversations podcast for the first part of December.
I recorded each as if it might be my last in either format. I am very pleased with #wte48, and I hope to pour as much of my heart and soul into #IC204.

No, I'm not done. I definitely have more to say about the way we "do church" as Christians or the need for open dialog that doesn't dance around delicate not-for-dinner topics like politics, sex, and religion. I've just treated each of these as if ISPs will be empowered by the current FCC to shut down internet traffic that doesn't make them money or challenges notions like whether corporations are really people. 
I'll say it again. I'm too small a fish within this pond we call the world wide web for AT&T to care about. If they did care, though, questions I raise about whether multi-national corporations could ever have American rights would absolutely make me a target. 

I view the current FCC plans to dismantle Net Neutrality as a threat to me. I am right to be concerned. You should be concerned, too. We are all in this together.

I am no longer a child. As I've mentioned recently in Inappropriate Conversations #195, both of my parents are now gone along with their sisters and brother and my grandparents. It is one thing to say I no longer have living parents. Feels quite different to acknowledge that I am nobody's child.

For many reasons, I believe that my faith over the decades is both unchanged in any significant way and very different from my mother's. In other words, in the years (and it was years) leading up to her death, I am not the one who drifted. I'm still the man (a young man back then) who has heard answered prayer and lived accordingly. And I know that, in many ways, many in my extended family do not respect that experience. 

This has left behind a complex experience of grief, beyond the standard mix of love and sorrow. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some smoldering resentment. I tend to feel that way on behalf of marginalized and dismissed people. Some times, like these, I am among "the least of these" too.

On and off for a few months now, I have been reading Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I would not be surprised to name her a Different Drummer in the future. My year has interfered with my reading. Business trip in February. My mother's death in March. Vacation a few weeks later. Another business trip this week. On the trip before my mother died, I was devouring pages in Bolz-Weber's book, and then I just stopped. Weeks before mom died, I just couldn't pick it back up. Accidental Saints was a traveling companion, along with holding the primary perch on my nightstand, but I didn't read a word. 

I am a man who believes he has heard answered prayer, but I didn't connect this reader's block with the Holy Spirit. Until now.

After once again making this book my traveling companion on a business trip, and after weeks of wrestling with conflicting emotions documented elsewhere, I once again let Bolz-Weber's voice into my head at the start of a long flight home. Her writing style seems conversational to me, so I genuinely hear the words through her voice, knowing how Nadia sounds through more than one podcast/radio interview. I drifted back to the end of the last chapter I'd read from the middle of her book, then the next. Nothing striking or odd about the passages I'd missed. No reason to think a wiser force was holding me back.

Then I got to a chapter called Parlors. It stopped me in my tracks. I had to wipe away tears. No mistaking why I somehow couldn't read those words before my mother's funeral, before my wife had read hurtful journal entries about my parenting from the one who raised me, along with other reminders that my parents were never going to recognize some of my friends as anything other than dangerous threats to my marriage -- based on nothing more than gender.

Before the Holy Spirit permitted me to hear from Bolz-Weber earlier this week, no one was really capable of speaking words of comfort to me. I needed to know that it was acceptable, even natural, to feel love simultaneously with resentment, regret, disappointment, and even anger. I needed that, and I needed it specifically now. More than a month needed to pass, for one thing. For another, I needed to be alone, even the "alone" you feel in an airplane packed with people. 

Perhaps I don't need to say that "Parlors" is a brilliant chapter in a wonderful book. Consider this a recommendation. I will share the passage that blessed me with an assurance I've been lacking lately. There is so much more, though. Clearly the author knows this. A year ago she shared the chapter (linked above, when I first called it by name) in a Patheos blog. 

Here's that paragraph or so:
"As sacred as love is, human love is never pure or perfect. We just aren’t that kind of species. There are cracks in everything and even the most shining aspects of our lives—even love, or perhaps especially love—come with imperfection.

"Often, when someone dies, we feel a combination of love and something else, and this, too, is holy. And entirely human. And they don’t cancel each other out. Love and anger. Love and disappointment. Love and emptiness. We always love imperfectly. It is the nature of human love. And it is okay.

"But despite all the love in the world, when it comes down to it, none of us can know the reality of another. We can share circumstances, personality traits, even parents, yet as much as we move through our lives alongside each other, none of us can fully know the internal reality of another."
(Nadia Bolz-Weber)

I'm hopeful that Inappropriate Conversations cannot be limited to a single point and that I have more points and questions to raise in the future. Surely one of those points, though, is that we Christians too often presume that we can know the internal reality of other people, and know it so well to justify abominations like denying them communion or trying to separate them from the people who love them most for reasons that have nothing to do with what Jesus taught and demonstrated. 

The other mistake is believing the very imperfections that make us human either separate us from God or justify an all-too-human tendency to play God ourselves by presuming we can or should separate the sheep from the goats, so to speak. 

That answered prayer I mentioned earlier was God telling me that I shouldn't remain silent. I needed to speak up because, in unexpected ways, the words might be more than just my own. Avoiding the risk of getting it wrong (often, in fact) is itself too risky, too high a price. It's far better to say something that should not be said than not to say something that should be said. The right words at the right time have been, for me, a call to worship this week. 

"Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."
(Leonard Cohen)

 

The current political climate is presenting more threats to individual liberty. A fair amount of threats are disguised as efforts to protect "religious liberty" coming from state legislatures, several court jurisdictions, and perhaps soon the executive branch of the federal government. The "liberty" being sought is the power to refuse service to customers, fire employees, or worse. 

None of the fervently desired permissions to discriminate have anything to do with the behavior of those customers or employees in those roles within our economy and society. It's not about the customers who cost more money to do business with than the business can cover with profit margins. It's not about employees who fail to get the job done because of what otherwise would be described as the way they live their lives outside of work. It is truly about a false piety on the part of so-called Christian citizens seeking to redefine "religious liberty" to give them the power to impose an earthly judgment on people they perceive as living out sins that Jesus wants them to hate.

I've spoken elsewhere about the core theological questions, going all the way back to Inappropriate Conversations #20 (including the poem "Chapter And Verse") if not further back than that. When it comes to personal piety, "love the sinner but hate the sin" is an abomination, not what the Lord requires of us. "Love the Lord and your neighbor" is the sum of the Law, and Jesus reminded us of this repeatedly.

What this trend represents is a betrayal of Christianity by the "religious right" and other politically-active Christians. It represents a betrayal of our free market economy by giving an inappropriate veto power to something other than the laws of supply and demand. And, clearly, it threatens and thereby betrays all LGBTQIA people and anyone else these inept business leaders want to exclude for not being good enough to get into their heaven, and so not being good enough to shop or work in their stores or companies.

The next Inappropriate Conversations will be called "No Pharisee Shopping Spree" and it will explore how the rest of us -- including those who are far more committed to following Christ than this group of Christians -- can respond to protect people who are clearly assessed as "the least of these" by many of today's politicians, legislators, judges, etc.

It won't look like a boycott. This isn't going to be another pointless public proclamation about "not watching the Oscars this year" from people who haven't watched an Academy Awards telecast in years if not decades. We know they haven't paid the award shows any attention because they scream "not this year" on social media every single year. 
No, it is likely to take a different form, perhaps more measured but certainly more Walk than Talk.

For now, I'm calling it a Consumer & Employee Freedom Protection Action, but slogans are unimportant. What matters more is aggressively standing up for people who should not have their livelihood threatened because they aren't willing to lie to the rest of (as, to be fair, was required of them for centuries) about who they are and whom they love. 

I might go so far as to suggest that a day of evil is upon us. When people who publicly proclaim that they are Christians are so far away from Christ that their cherished solutions are little more than a means of bullying marginalized people into telling lies, then we can look to what Jesus said about "the father of all lies" and safely determine that we can know who the new Pharisees are. 

"When the day of evil comes, we must be able to stand our ground; and, after we have done everything, to stand."
(Paul of Tarsus, paraphrased)


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