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Saint Patrick’s Day Muse: When Red Messes Up the Green, White, and Orange March 17, 2015

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Today is Saint Patrick’s Day.  It’s the day when people wear green, drink awful green food-coloring beer, and eat green eggs and ham and other green things.  In America, it is, anyway.  And it used to be a day when if you didn’t wear green, the other schoolkids would pinch you.

I’m not wearing green today.  Not a stitch.  I will probably have no green beverages, unless it’s lemon-lime Kool-Aid.  My wife will no doubt see to that one.  I hope there are green beans, and not green eggs and ham, on the table.  Well, at least I hope the ham isn’t green.  I like food coloring in Kool-Aid and cake frosting.  That’s about it. I didn’t even bring Key Lime yogurt today, although that’s a nice thought.  OK, some food coloring is ok with me in my yogurt too, just don’t overdo it.  There are food manufacturers who use thousands of tiny bugs shells and eggs to make food red.  I don’t mind, but tell me I’m eating a bug, don’t hide it.  Generally, if I want a bug I’ll buy it, dry-roasted and covered in chocolate or garlic salt or something, and I’ll eat it.  Trust me.  I’ve had crickets, and even worms.  They were weird.  I did not eat the mealworms.  Ugh.  I wonder what they use to make stuff green, when there’s an abundance of plant material that could be used for both reds AND greens.  Like for instance, strawberries, those are actually red.  I bet there’s a natural way to make beer green, using plants and not animals or “mystery carcinogenic green dye substance # 1138” or “soylent green.”

I wonder if they did the traditional, annual “Pollute the Chicago River” in Chicago, this year, and “Pollute the White River,” in Indianapolis, and “Pollute the City Waterway” in whatever other city they used to do that in that I wasn’t aware of.    It’s OK, add a little bleach and the water looks crystal clear again.  You worry that bleach is poisonous?  That’s actually just a vicious rumor.  It’s only toxic from overexposure, concentration, or in incorrect combination with other compounds, and we would think that a normal American would read the label and follow instructions about things like that..  But we meant to say, add a little “Water Clarifier Compound 2999.”  It’s natural.  We chlorinate our water in almost every city, and some bleach is made of chlorine.  Unless your water filter gets that, you’re probably drinking it now.

I didn’t set out to write about food coloring although that’s a very interesting thing to read up on.  I recommend it after you decide I’m never going to get to the point, and you quit reading my blog.  But I do have a point.

Saint Patrick’s day is a celebration steeped in Irish history.  The legends aside, Saint Patrick is credited with bringing the Bible, and the Christian faith, to Ireland.  So is Sir William of Orange.  Little did they know, while doing the Lord’s work of evangelizing, that Saint Patrick would become a Catholic Icon and Sir William would become a Protestant one.  But they did, and then the factions of Christianity began a history of conflicts that were more about power and money than any religious pursuit.  If you in America were ever pinched as a child for not wearing your green, that’s a Catholic persecuting you for looking like a Protestant.  Or an idiot bullying you for not conforming.  How far we’ve come from Jesus.  Or even Paul and Peter and Apollos.

I don’t know whether William or Patrick would have gotten along.  In Ireland the factions became so …factious, that they fought each other, shot at each other, or blew each other up with explosives.  If I have learned my history and if my vexillology research has paid off, The flag represents history and is a prayer for the country, really.  Vexillology?  Don’t vex me; look it up for yourself.  Green, for Catholicism, which came first, on the left. White in the middle.  Orange for Protestantism which came later.  What’s the white for?  It’s a prayer for peace between the factions of Christianity, who have to coexist or die trying, on their little island paradise.

What I love about America is we’re supposed to be free to practice whatever religion we want, as long as what we do in its’ practice is legal.  Or we can decide religion is irrelevant.  It’s fine.  We can speak our mind as long as we’re not bullying or threatening another person.  I would like there to be a lot less red dye in my food.  I would also like there to be no more red, for bloodshed, in the name of religion, or whatever you want to call the belief system that motivates you.  No more beheadings from the Islamic State.  No more beheadings at all, for any reason.  No more kidnapping and torture and rape, Boko Haram.  No more buying and selling of human beings, anyone.  Other people are not livestock, they’re people, just like you, equal to you.  No more persecution of Jewish people, Neo-Nazis (or anyone else).  I live in America and Israel is supposed to be our ally, for heaven’s sake.  And we’re supposed to get along with the rest of America’s citizens.  No more bashing people for being normal humans, Christ-followers.  You may have discovered something that helps you avoid, and find absolution for, what you now consider to be a “sin,” but normal people don’t have that until you teach them.

If you’re supposed to love, your hatred of people only shows that you have failed.  If you’re supposed to follow a peaceful religion and you’re murdering people because you have some misguided belief, it doesn’t make you a hero, it makes you a murderer.  If your beliefs are based on hatred of a person just because they exist, I’m sorry to inform you that you’re a failure as a human.  Please, let’s have no more bloodshed or criminal activity or oppression in the name of any religion. You can call it your religious practice, but I know it’s just cruelty and power-mongering at the least, and criminal at worst, and there’s nothing religious about it. I know tolerance is supposed to be the new “in” virtue, but I have zero tolerance for any of that.

If you want one, today’s the day:  have a green beer.  Or a plain one.  Or mix it up.  While you’re at it, buy one for the guy who symbolically represents the other color on the flag.  You may think you’re on the right side.  You may think the person on the other side is on the “wrong side.”  But please, respect the white stripe, don’t stain it or spoil it for the rest of us.  If you want a red one, just have a Jamaican beer instead.  And again, buy one for your neighbor.  Make friends.  If you can’t get along and you must stir trouble, please just go home and stay there until you learn how to cooperate with the rest of civilized society.

I would rather have a celebration than fight someone.  It’s Saint Patrick’s Day!  Yet another excuse to have a party.
You don’t have to be Irish, or Catholic, or Protestant, to learn or celebrate the meaning of the white stripe.  I think we should all strive to live out the hope of the symbolism of that flag.  See the white stripe in the middle?  The other two colors are supposed to represent you and whoever else you meet.  Live the white stripe:

Practice peace.

~ MoeJoe

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Media and The Fall (and Rise?) of Man September 12, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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There’s a great writer and singer I used to listen to a lot named Carman Licciardello, who talked about dealing with temptation.  In a hilarious moment he talked about going to the beach and looking “stupid with [his] big old head stuck in the sand,” and admonished the listener to “keep your eyes on the Creator, man, and not on his creations.”  He’s got a bunch of other great songs demonstrating a brilliant sense of humor with solid teaching.  Give a listen if you feel so inclined.  I’m sure you can dig up dirt on Carman if you look hard enough and want that kind of spin.  I’m not in full-time paid ministry or under tight scrutiny from the press, or you might find my dirt, too.  But please don’t.  Suffice it to say that “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) including me, and including you.  I’m not going to pretend I’m perfect.  And that’s why I’m the perfect person to write about temptation and failure.

The press loves this kind of thing.  Drag someone’s name through the mud, throw it up on the TV screens and magazines and newspapers and “news” blogs for all to see.  And they do it so well.  Sex sells, violence sells, and money sells.  The hype feeds itself until the readers and listeners and voyeurs are all whipped into an orgasm frenzy of hating the person they’re told to hate, or disrespecting the person they’re told to disrespect.  Instead of leading to healthy resolution for anyone, including the audience, the press drops the story right after the fall and never shows the grace that leads to restoration.  We drop them while they’re in the mud, and we leave them there to run after the next salacious tidbit, the next story of someone who did something “bad,” the next disaster.

Doctors who study behavior describe some less dangerous, non-addictive drugs as “Gateway drugs.”  The theory was, experimentation with a gateway drug like alcohol or marijuana might lead to more dangerous drugs like cocaine or heroin or LSD.  I think sex and violence have gateways too.  Turn on your TV (or don’t) and you’ll see the gateways.  Makeup commercials.  Underwear commercials.  Hamburger commercials that look like underwear commercials.  TV shows depicting illicit sexual relationships and questionable predilections, downplaying their dangers and proclaiming their “normalcy.”  And then think about the hypocrisy of people who want to proclaim these as normal human social interactions who drag one person’s “normal” life into the spotlight to say how bad they are for doing what the critic would advocate for another person.

If it’s “sin,” then it’s wrong for people who want to avoid sin, they should steer clear.  There are obvious things that everyone who’s not a sociopath would agree are universally wrong.  We have legislation that says stealing is bad, murder is bad, lying is bad, adultery is bad, assault is bad.  The gateways stab at the wrongness of adultery and throw up the possibility that maybe it’s not bad, or maybe you’ll be the special one who’ll get away with it without facing consequences.  And people fall for that, even people who would normally tell everyone that’s bad.  If it’s universally wrong and you want to stay out of jail, you’ll avoid breaking the law.  If it’s situationally bad, even if it’s not against any laws but you know it’ll possibly have natural consequences you want to avoid, you’ll avoid doing that.

People don’t like to think through their actions to their natural logical consequences, to their bad ends, but they should.  Even when I was younger I tried to think through at least some of the stuff I wanted to do, and chose not to do it because it was risky and might not have had all good rewards even if I “succeeded,” or got away with it.  Kids need to think things through, and stuff is being pushed on us at a younger and younger age.  I think of six and eight year old beauty pageant contestants. Is that really something you want little kids fighting over who’s best, or should we just tell them they’re all beautiful and encourage all of their talents to shine?  People need to think about the messages we’re giving to each other, especially what we’re saying to kids.  And people need to be wiser about their choices, including me.  I don’t always want to think about the consequence, just about what I want to do.  And my temptation leads to my failure, just the same as it does for you.  But what are we dwelling on?  What are we thinking about?  What’s put in front of us all the time, even when we’re not making an effort to think through things?  The more we dwell on something, good or bad, the more we’ll want to do that, or the more we’ll think it’s normal even if it’s bad.

If you say in one breath that certain behaviors are “all right” or “normal for everyone,” you have no right to say that for a certain segment, or worse, a certain individual, of the population, that same behavior is “wrong.”  It’s hypocritical.  Leave the preachers alone.  Leave the celebrities alone.  Stop airing their dirty laundry (or more apparently their lack of it) on the TV and news outlets.  I would rather see the news media burying sins and never reporting on them.  I would rather see stories of people striving to raise themselves to higher standards, and the good that comes of someone making restitution to society, and paying something back, or better still paying something forward.  But the rabid audience demands blood, and if it can’t have blood it wants sex, and if it can’t have sex, it wants scandal, theft or some other kind of mayhem or destruction.  I don’t want to know who’s sleeping with whom, and I wish I didn’t have to change the channel or turn off the TV to avoid hearing about it.  The news wants to tell me that he’s sleeping with her but married to her, or that she’s sleeping with her and they’re getting married.  I don’t want to know.  Some things are personal and should be private.  Stop telling me about other people’s private affairs.  Stop.

I used to like Andy Griffith, and I watched other TV shows as well.  I’m almost embarrassed to say I have enjoyed an adult show at night called “Dexter,” about a serial killer who avenges murders and prevents the killers from killing again.  It’s got a lot of adult themes, but I watch it at night after the wife and kids have gone to bed.  During normal daylight hours, I like to watch cooking shows.  Most of them, at least the ones without the rabid, expletive-shouting chefs who are angry for the sake of anger, are safe for me and my kids to watch.  But anything else on TV, I question.  I like family comedy shows, but frankly they’re gateways because the writers want to put new complications on their characters, which are very different than in the days (before my time) of George and Gracie and Mayberry and Father Knows Best.  We like to push the envelope in every area of life.  Society is being groomed for a world where everything is right and nothing is wrong, which is what Rascal Flatts was singing about- they missed living in a world “where everything is black and white,” meaning we knew what was right to do, and we were encouraged to do the right thing.  Now we’ve got crude animated shows replacing the silliness of Bugs Bunny and Popeye, and crass, highly sexualized TV shows replacing Father Knows Best, and ego-maniacal, profane chefs edging out Julia Childs.

I’d like to see the media outlets stop pushing envelopes that glorify or aggrandize the negative behaviors, with the negative consequences.  I’d like to hear about the farmer whose crops are feeding the hungry.  I’d like to hear about the company that’s hiring people and the politician whose work is genuinely stimulating the economy, not the spun report at re-election time that shows the one good thing they do that’s supposed to atone for all the bad.  I’d like to hear about the ex convict whose ministry helps other ex convicts get good jobs and keeps them on the road toward making a positive contribution to society.  I’d like to hear about the company whose CEO and management helps people get trained to advance toward more responsibility and better wages.  I’d like to hear about the charity that helps feed the hungry and provides a safe, warm place for homeless people.  I’d like to hear about the civic organization’s good work, people who pick up the trash left by others, people who work for a cleaner environment.  I’d like to hear about how people organize to help in recovery efforts after a natural disaster.  We could have a hero of the day, and report nothing but good news.  There’s room for a little sensation in my kind of news report:  Tell the citizens if there’s a rash of burglaries in a given area, so we remember to lock up and set the alarms. Tell us if there’s an assault, and where it happened, just so we know to watch out for ourselves and each other. But please, tell us how to encourage our local heroes- sure, the obvious, the firemen, and policemen, but also other civil servants:  Teachers.  Civic group leaders.  Charitable organizations and leaders.  Even good students who are on a good path.  People who are making the world a better place.

If we raise the standard for what we see on the news and on TV shows in general, maybe we’ll be inspired to avoid temptation and the inevitable fall, and start seeing society making positive progress.  I’m just thinking and hoping out loud.

I’ve had an overflowing earful, far more than enough, of hearing about the evil things that people do.  Let’s tell our kids we love them and we hold out the highest expectations and hopes and dreams for them. Let’s tell our neighbors we really care about them.  And let’s make our society-bettering heroes more well known, and better rewarded, than our criminals.