Christopher Hitchens, author of the recent book God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, has been making the rounds on Slate and CNN weighing in on the death of Jerry Falwell and what it all means, dancing on Falwell’s fresh grave and kicking dirt in the eye of his grieving family. I could weigh in on Hitchens, but I want to read his book first. I will say that, having read some of his Slate articles and half-listening to his debate with Al Sharpton, I find Hitchens to be something of a hypocrite. He claims to be fighting some sort of Good Fight against religion and all of its evils (and I will grant willingly that many, many evils have been done in the name of religion, including things said by Falwell himself). My problem is not that Hitchens is flogging a dead horse, but that he seems to have no problem causing a bit of evil himself. In the debate with Al Sharpton, for instance, he refers to Mother Teresa as an “old bitch” (Hitchens was called by the Vatican to argue against her canonization, an argument which ultimately failed). In his world of subjective morality, such things are allowable; I am allowed to offend you, but you are not allowed to offend me.

Now, on to Falwell. Are the things that he said (particularly after 9/11) awful, horrendous, evil things? Yeah, I think so. His comment that “abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians [...] ACLU, and People for the American Way” were responsible for the attacks is an absolutely awful thing to say, particularly coming as it did the very week of the tragedy. As a fellow Christian, I have often lamented the words and deeds of Jerry Falwell and have been long disgruntled that his face seems to be synonymous with Christianity in America. In other words, I didn’t like Jerry Falwell. Not one bit.

But I acknowledge his humanity and, perhaps more importantly right now, the humanity of his family. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is hard for every family. I can only imagine what the Falwell family has been going through these last two days. Slate (again, Slate; to be fair, they are a very balanced site, I just happen to be citing articles that I disagree with) had a list of “The Most Despicable Things Jerry Falwell Ever Said” before the sun went down on Tuesday.

I would argue, though, that Christopher Hitchens — or anyone who has made sport or become downright pornographic in their glee over Falwell’s death — is no better than Falwell himself. To feel joy at one’s death, and by extension the suffering of one’s family and followers, is just as evil as any of the actions Falwell committed. Yes, Falwell did horrendous things and made life miserable for a great many people; that does not give anyone an excuse to do the exact same thing. It’s an ugly cycle of hate. I have no doubt that there will be Christians who jump for joy when Christopher Hitchens dies, and that too will be a sad day. The fact of the matter is, when you laugh at a dead Jerry Falwell, you become Jerry Falwell.

As a minor aside, I would also like to mention that one of Hitchens’ favorite sayings is that it is remarkable what a person can get away with if they are given the title of “Reverend.” He cites Falwell, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, etc, as examples. But these are men who did not get away with anything. Bakker went to jail and lost any national credibility he once had as a pastor (no grace). Haggard lost his congregation and presumably his family. And Falwell is being eulogized as a charlatan. These men all did wrong things, but by no means did they get away with anything in the eyes of the public nor in the eyes of God. Conversely, Hitchens is being lauded as a wonderful public intellectual for his recent book; he has quickly become a very famous man, and he has used that fame (in this case) to spew a message of utter Hate. In this regard, Hitchens is nothing more than a reversed image of Fred Phelps, albeit a Fred Phelps that is much, much easier to stomach.

Humanity depends on us all caring for one another. Very few — very few — will argue against the inherent goodness of the Golden Rule. We all want to be treated well, after all. The problem is when it comes to our relating to others. We are quick to decry the hypocrisy and hatred of Jerry Falwell, but how often do we miss it in our own dealings?

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The new of Montreal record has a song on it called “Gronlandic Edit,” wherein Kevin Barnes sings “I guess it would be nice / to give my heart to a God / but which one should I choose? / O, the church is filled with losers / psycho and confused…” etc. Naturally, I took umbrage to this when I first heard it. You know, “how dare he i ain’t no kinda loser and i sure as hell ain’t confused.” When oM played at Republic last weekend, Shannon, Corey, and I ended up getting to spend the evening with Kevin in the French Quarter, which was really a novella unto itself. Long story short, at the end of the night, I basically asked him about the line, about why he said it, and, you know, the fact that I don’t feel like a loser, nor am I psycho or confused. (This is actually kinda documented on the of Montreal MySpace, oddly enough.) He responded that he went through this big depression and he wanted to, uh, give his heart to a God, to give himself up to something larger than himself, but when he went to church, he realized that everyone there was, well, psycho and confused. It was a decent little conversation, but I still left thinking that that was untrue.

But I thought about it a bit this week. And I thought about everything that I’ve been going through. Maybe I’m not psycho or confused (well, maybe I’m not psycho), but I certainly don’t have life figured out. Because that’s not what happens when you give your life over to God. Life does not become some cakewalk. Life is still very confusing and very hard. In some ways, it’s harder, because you have to be torn between doing whatever the hell you want to do when you know that God wants you to do something else. Then there’s the whole living by faith thing. We can never know that we are doing God’s will, or doing what He thinks is best for us. We have to put faith in it. And that’s a whole ‘nother can of worried worms to open (lame, lame idiom, that was). Faith is not an easy thing. It’s very, very hard to live the Christian life. I thought that was bullshit the first, oh, hundred times I heard it. But it’s an incredible challenge. I can see why Kevin Barnes thinks that we are all psycho/confused.

But there’s a caveat. The thing is, no matter what, I’ve got hope. I can put my hope in something like Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will see it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ.” When things look incredibly bleak or weird, I can count on what I believe is a promise from God. Now, I’m not saying that the rest of the world is void of hope. I’m just saying that my hope is not based on my own (effing weak) abilities. I guess part of being a Christian is owning up to your psychosis and confusion. It’s saying, “I don’t have a clue what’s going on in my life, but I guess I trust You.” Again, this is not an easy thing to do.

I don’t know why I feel the way that I feel right now, but I am confident that it will pass. I am a fleshy bundle of insecurity, but I have faith (somehow) that everything will be okay. I’m psycho, I’m confused, and, hell, maybe that’s alright.

Here’s hoping my next post is something more along the lines of the Kriss Kross / Shaq music video face off. Until then.

The weather has been absolutely miserable lately, and I don’t know when it’s going to stop. Ahh, I’ll quit beating around the bush.

Things have been strange lately. I feel very out of focus. I’m finding it harder to care about things every day. Important things, non-important things. Whatever. I’ve spent the last few weeks just sort of gliding along with my eyes closed. Pretty much since the Saint / Eagles game.

I don’t really know what’s going on. I tried to blame my inability to care about school on Senioritis, but it’s carrying over into way too many things to be that. My impending graduation has nothing to do with
my relationship with God
my relationships with others
my sick dog
taking care of myself
getting enough rest
etc.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suicidal or anything remotely approaching that. Hell, I’m not even depressed. I just don’t feel like doing…anything. I don’t want to read, I don’t want to pray, I don’t want to talk to people. I just want to stare at the ceiling. This is not a good place to be.

I should be writing more. Maybe that’s it.

I quit drinking caffeine about two weeks ago. The day before the Saints / Eagles game. So, yeah, maybe it’s that. But you know what? If I have to have caffeine in order to function as a normal, bleeding-heart human being, then am I ever really alive? I keep waking up, trying to pray, realizing that I’m not focused at all. I sit in my classrooms, staring at the profs. I go through the motions. I look at my books, I read the words, and they fall straight through my body. This is not a good place to be.

Suggestions are welcome. Sorry for my lack of eloquence.

I was reading 1 Corinthians 13 today (the ever-popular Love Chapter of the Bible; as if it’s the only chapter that talks about love…) and thinking, “yeah, man, love is pretty great, and I’m certain that it’s the foundation of what I believe in.” And it is. John tells us that God is love twice in 1 John 4 alone. (Obviously, these are not the only instances of such a notion in the Bible.) So I’m reading along and I read how Paul says that if he does all of these good deeds and all but doesn’t have love then he’s like a clanging cymbal etc and how if he has not love he gains nothing and I’m thinking how great these things are and how I’ve got it all together, cos, hey, I act out of love, right?

And then I get to verse 4 where Paul describes what exactly love is. And I’m getting really excited, right, cos, hey, it’s good stuff. And right there off the bat, he says “love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way.” And I started to think about the way that I love God and whether my love for God matches up with these things. After fully recognizing that, no, it does not (particularly in the whole “insisting on its own way” thing), I began to think about my friends and the people around me. This is why I have tagged you for this note.

I realized earlier today that I can be, and usually am, pretty rude. I very rarely listen intently; I’m usually waiting for my turn to talk and tell you just how great the things that I’ve been up to are. I am not at all patient, neither in my conversing or in my friendships in general. I lust and murder in my heart, I forget birthdays, I become so absorbed in myself. And I know that you might be thinking that it’s alright, that you accept me (and thank you for that) but you deserve better. Hell, everyone deserves better.

See, the thing about Christ that I love so much (or at least thought I did) is radical love. I think that most people would agree that it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. But I don’t do it. I don’t even come close. I can’t love, I dunno, one person, much less the entire world. But that’s what we’re called to do, and that’s what the Bible tells us we will be full of if we truly love the LORD. Of course there’s grace, and I know that I love the LORD (and my friends), but my love should and could be so much bigger.

So, I thank you for sitting through all of my crap for the tenure of our friendship. I can’t promise that I’m going to change in the next ________ days/weeks/mos/years, but I do have faith that God will continue to break me of my low love. I love you. I just hope I can love you better.

Just watched the video for “Jump” by Kriss Kross. Their clothes are only backwards in one stupid shot. So pathetic.

Nowhere near as amazing as the Fu-Schnickens f/ Shaq doing “What’s Up Doc (Can We Rock).” Excellent footage of Shaq not only dunking over Alabama players while at LSU, but also rapping with his shirt tucked in. Happy New Year, everyone.

Man, I’ve been in New Orleans since the 18th and I may never go back to Baton Rouge.  Every time I come back (back?  come home?  I dunno) it gets harder and harder to leave.  I spent the week leading up to Christmas drinking coffee and tea and espresso at Rue and digging through antique shops looking for *the perfect gift* (for my dad it’s a wrought iron fleur-de-lis from a fence post and for my mom it’s a handmade journal with a gorgeous Spanish cross handpainted on it).  Every moment not spent on Magazine has been in the Quarter.  I’m not sure what home is anymore.

Anyway, this is kinda the first Christmas that I’ve *really* been a follower of Christ, that I’ve actually loved Him and not, you know, been afraid of Him or thought that He hated me or whatever.  So I wanted this Christmas to be about Him, and for me to see that.  I guess it had been a prayer of mine pretty much since the end of finals.  While my time here in NO has been beautiful and I dread heading back to BR (not that I don’t love the people and the University), it’s been pretty tough spiritually.  I hadn’t really been through a spiritual dry spell since I got back from France and I had forgotten how miserable they can feel, how hard it is when God feels so distant, how no matter how much you pray He doesn’t seem to be there.  All of that.  It made it really hard to enjoy anything truly and deeply.  I prayed as hard as I could, I read my Bible, but God felt very far away.  So I spent my time alternating between the French Quarter and the couch, just sorta floating, praying (or trying to, most of the time it was too hard to even pray) that everything would be alright.

So then my mom comes in last nite, and we have Christmas together as a family for the first time since — hell, I don’t know, 1999?  1998?  All three of us in my dad’s double on Jefferson Ave.  We go to the Methodist Church (another new thing; I usually go with my mom to Christmas Mass and my Dad goes to his church) and, man, I’m *trying* so hard to, I dunno, conjure God up or something?  To, you know, satisfy my psyche with the feeling of God, the sensation of Him?  I mean I’m singing my heart out to these hymns (which I generally enjoy anyway) and I keep praying (pleasedon’tletthischristmasbeaboutme/pleaseletmeseeYou/ifI’mdoingsomethingwrong… etc).  And the minister starts giving her message to the children as she does at every service, talking about the difficulty of faith.  I always get much more out of her (Methodist, so it’s a ‘her’) children’s sermons than the actual ones, which I guess says something about the way that things are supposed to be (we’ve complicated it, etc, be as a child, but that’s another blog for another day).  Anyway, she talks about how hard it is to remain faithful when we cannot see God (the kids all pointed “up” when she asked where God was.  Cute.).  She tells them about this little girl who just learned how to read and saw where someone had written “God is nowhere” on a wall.  The girl’s mama read it out loud to her and the girl says “no, mama, it says ‘God is now here’.”

Yeah, I know, it’s a cheesy joke and it’s something that probably everyone has heard before.  But at that moment, everything came flooding back to me.  I felt His true presence for the first time in a week, and not some bogus presence that I’d created in my mind to satiate me.  The honest presence of the LORD lifted me.  And of course, when reflecting upon it, I realized that my Christmas had not been about me, that I had spent all of the time leading up to it considering Him, recognizing my need for Him.  And that’s what Christmas is all about, right?  I guess I empathize now with the way that the world was leading up to that first Christmas, desperately in need of the LORD and unable to get to Him despite their best efforts.  And then, at just the right time, He revealed Himself.  And I know it’s cliché to say “oh, Jesus is the reason for the season, it’s better to give than receive, keep Christ in Christmas etc” but, man, I can’t explain to you how it feels to come out of that spiritual desert back into the light, and to see that the reason He did it was not because I did something to piss Him off or because He’s some heartless deity, but because He wanted me to truly value Christmas, to value His coming into human history.  It’s insane, man.

So my best Christmas present?  The Spirit of the LORD.

And a map of New Orleans.

Har, it’s the time of year when every good nerd writes up his favorite records of the year so everyone can marvel and go “ooh, good taste” or whatever.  Now, I’ve yet to hear every single record that came out this year, so I am not going to say that my choices are THE BEST.

This is probably the first year that I really tried not to let buzz affect the way I listen to music.  I failed miserably at times (Sound Team, wtf?  Why did I ever say I liked that record?   I only listened to it like once…), but I did a decent job, I think.  I suppose my New Year’s Resolution will be to continue being, you know, myself, and liking things that I actually, you know, like.

That said, I am happy to say that I only like four of Pitchfork’s Top 50 Records of the Year this year (Decemberists’ Crane Wife, Danielson’s Ships, Band of Horses’ Everything All the Time, Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House) and there’s only one other one on there that I really wanna hear and haven’t gotten around to yet (Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls in America).  My first two years of college, it was a minor major achievement to have called myself a believer in the Pfork Top 50′s infallibility.  I’m glad that I now consider it far more of an achievement to not really care what they have to say about music and actually like things on my own.

So I don’t have my top however many list yet, but I will soon.

Haven’t written in a while, etc.

I’m damn good at talking. I really am. I can talk and spout my issues all day long. The LORD made me a good arguer, He did, and it’s a muscle that I enjoy flexing. Mostly, I just like to talk.

It’s much harder for me to actually do anything.

I am embarassed to admit that I just took the time to find out what exactly was going on in Darfur. And I don’t know what’s more despicable:
what’s going on over there
my weird sense of self-righteousness for finally finding out about it
the lack of conversation about it
the fact that most people who know about it seem to be pretty apathetic about it
etc.

Now, I’ll freely admit that I should have looked this up earlier. I heard the word “genocide” and chose to ignore it, and that’s my fault. But I know good and well that I am not exactly getting in on the ground floor here. So what are all of the people who know about Darfur doing? I’m genuinely curious here. What is our government doing? What can our government legally do? What is the UN doing? What are our churches doing? Because I’ve yet to hear of anyone (ANYONE) talk about Darfur, save, of course, for the good ole folks at MySpace. And Bono. And it seems to me that talking is the least that we can do.

Am I reacting brashly? Maybe. Wait, no, no I’m not. It’s not brash to assume that people should, you know, care about the fact that people are being murdered *just because* in our lifetime.

But besides that, what are we doing? What is a 22-year old college student supposed to do? Just send money? Because it’s a little bit too easy to send money. See, I PayPal $20 to someone and my mind has been eased. I’ve done my part, right? No. Bullshit. There’s more to caring about people than signing a check over to some organization, I know there is.

And you see, this is where my mouth gets me in trouble. It’s one am, and I have an exam tomorrow. Hell, I have two more and a paper due this week. And I could satiate myself (note: myself) by shooting out a quick blog entry to show that, hey, I care about the people of Darfur. But that’s not right. That’s not right on a) basic human levels and b) on Christian levels. In my “About Me” section, I mention that I struggle with loving people that way that Jesus did. Jesus wouldn’t just write in His holy blog (the thought of Him having one is horrifying, though, I dunno, maybe He would) and send in His 10% or whatever. Jesus loved people with an actual love, with an active love. He didn’t love to fulfill His own — ahem — sense of obligation.  He acted because He loved and He loved because He allowed Himself to. And I think that that’s the problem, at least in my case. When I give, I give out of love. But not love for God or love for others. Love for myself. Because now — to quote Melville — I’ve laid up a sweet morsel for myself. I’ve done my duty as a good, God-fearing Christian man.

No, to be Christ-like — or, if you’re not a believer, to actually love people in the truest and probably only honest sense — requires action. It requires a love that is more than skin deep.

So tell me what to do. Tell me who to talk to, how to say it, where to put up posters, whatever. Because while sending in your money is grand — and don’t even consider stopping payment on that check — it’s not all we can do.

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