I know that you find all of this confusing, but the truth is that we come from different worlds.

Folks, I’m glad that you love The Walking Dead and I’m glad that you think that the references in Big Bang Theory are quaint.  Seriously, I am excited that you and all your friends are running to theaters in droves to watch this renaissance of motion pictures based on Marvel Comics characters.  In fact, I want you to call all of your friends and invite them to come along and see the new Captain America movie because your dollars are going to ensure that Marvel is going to be able to keep going deeper and deeper into its vault and I’m going to eventually see some things on the big screen that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a small child.

However, there is one thing that I never want any of you people who had semi-normal childhoods to ever forget: We were here first.

…and by we, I mean the throngs of comic book geeks and fanboys who really, emphatically love all of this source material.

We are the ones who get all of the inside jokes on Big Bang Theory.  We are the ones who get all of the jokes on Comic Book Men.  We are the ones making plans to buy tissue for all of you invested in this new Spider-Man franchise reboot, because we know the destiny which awaits Gwen Stacy (played my Emma Stone).  We are the ones that live in a Walking Dead world where Rick only has one hand, Carl only has one eye, Glen is dead, and there is not, nor has there ever been a Darryl.  We are the ones that have been waiting decades for a dark and brooding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, because that is what Eastman and Laird gave the world, in the beginning.

We know that Spider-Man is always hyphenated and that Batman never is…nor is Superman.  We can tell the difference between all the Green Lanterns and we will always pick Hal Jordan over Kyle Rayner.  We can tell you that Barry Allen stayed dead the longest of any superhero in recent memory.  We can tell you what makes the metal in Captain America’s shield different than the metal in Wolverine’s claws and skeleton.  We simply know more about these characters than you ever will and I will demonstrate with this one, absolutely absurd set of facts:

  1. We know that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story is perhaps the greatest homage in comic book history because the radioactive container which hit Matt Murdock in the head, giving him his powers as Daredevil, is the same one which rolled into the sewers and transformed the turtles.
  2. We know that Daredevil was taught by a Kung-Fu master named Stick and that the turtles were taught by a Kung-Fu rat named Splinter.  Splinter=small Stick
  3. We know that Daredevil fights a ninja organization named The Hand, while the turtles fight a ninja organization named The Foot.  See what they did there?
  4. We also know that all of that was predicated on Frank Miller’s classic run on Daredevil.  Frank Miller=Big  Frickin’ Comic Book Genius

We are the ones who have basements full of long boxes.  We are the ones with the comic character posters on the walls of our homes…into our forties…seriously.   (We might even have a fully restored Millennium Falcon Kenner Toy from 1979 hanging by fishing line over our television in the living room, right next to the shelf with the ceramic R2-D2 cookie jar and the 15-inch Chewbacca that we have kept on display…since childhood…because we love it.)

We are geeks or nerds or whatever you guys chose to call us while you were on your way to sports practice and we were on our way home to read.  When we say that we love this stuff, we are actually referring to our unhealthy, lifelong obsession with the material.

Having said all of that, I would like to welcome all of you normal folks to the party.  You’re a little late, but that’s okay.  Also, I would like to leave you with this one piece of advice:

None of us geeks has a short answer for whether or not we like the new Marvel movies, but we can write a dissertation on whether or not we believe they are accurate and to what extent.  Please expect that.  There is something wrong with us.

This one’s for my Christian friends, college and Crossroads buddies, and people from the greater Charlotte area!

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I have watched over the last several months and most importantly the last week as you have engaged in lively debate and/or spirited defense regarding the actions of Mr. Furtick and Elevation Church.  I don’t want to hurt any feelings, but I want to drop some facts and what you do with them and whether or not you let them hurt your feelings is entirely up to you.  You’ll have to pardon me, but I live in Asheville, in community with lots of these sinners that such a church is supposedly trying to reach and I thought that some of you might like to see the facts as we see them.

Fact One:  If you are a pastor and you refuse to release the details of your salary, especially after building a $1,700,000.00, 16,000 square foot home (I want to you really look at those zeros, folks), in a post Jim Bakker/Robert Tilton world, then you deserve absolutely every bit of scrutiny that you have coming your way.

Fact Two:  If you are a pastor and you build a 16,000 square foot home for a family of five while the average-sized home for your congregation is probably 5 to 8 times smaller than that, you probably need to go look up the term pastor in a dictionary.

Fact Three:  To those of us that have read up on the issue of Elevation’s “spontaneous baptism” protocol, that operation looks a lot more like the work of the Wizard of Oz or a snake oil salesman than it does the work of the Holy Spirit.

These are the facts.  Y’all need to quit arguing about it and let Steven clean up his own mess.  Also, please note that any of you can pass this along to Mr. Furtick.  He knows who I am and we have a lot of common associates.  Please let him know that he can get my cell phone number from any of those folks and give me a call, if he feels the need.

Slowly, but I’m getting there.

I’m implementing a new internet rule for myself.  I’m calling it The 24-72 Hour Sliding Scale and I think that it is going to save me a lot of grief.  It is certainly going to save me from wishing that I had conferred with my friend, Susan, before I took that time to write a big post about an issue.  Anyway, here is the rule in its entirety:  If I am about to write about or respond to a post about an issue that comes to be via the internet or the mainstream media, I must decide how big of an issue that I think it really is; then wait between 24 and 72 hours to actually publish an article about it, with the scale being directly proportional.  The bigger the issue, the longer that I have to wait to publish a post.

You may ask yourself why I might adopt such a policy, but I will give you a very complete, multi-part answer:

  1. I have a fairly significant attention problem and no real filter between what I’m thinking in my head and what comes out of my mouth.  Often, that is quite entertaining to watch, but in reality, it is sometimes hard on my interpersonal relationships.  I should rarely say what I’m thinking out loud, let alone post it on the internet.  (In fact, the only times that I allow myself to “just roll with it” are when I see someone being victimized by a rude and/or hurtful person and I publicly step in to make comment.  I got applause the last time I did that to a table full of people at a restaurant in Boone who were unthinkably rude to their server and I think that at least one of the people at the table may have wet their pants.)
  2. The larger and more complex an issue is; the more time it takes to gather facts and gain the proper perspective.
  3. We are being lied-to and manipulated by the media.  All of it.  All types.  Both sides.  All the time.

For me, the implementation of this rule is quite easy to illustrate with an issue from 2012, the Benghazi attack in Libya.  At first, there was bad information in the media.  Then, there was purposeful misdirection from the White House and the State Department that sought to put the blame for the attack on an anti-Muslim film.  Finally, we learn that this was an orchestrated attack by al-Qaeda which had sent warnings to two other countries, whose missions in Libya were attacked before our embassy.  Anyone commenting on the issue in the first two days had nothing but erroneous information and in that instance, it would take months for all the real facts to start coming out.

I just think that a wait-and-see policy regarding hot-button topics is probably the best for me.  Perhaps we could all adopt this policy.

…and this, folks, is why you should discipline your children and expect others to do the same.

I was thinking about giving up on blogging.  With an infant, a four-year-old, and two parents who need a lot of my assistance around their house, I have found time to be at somewhat of a premium.  I was just going to kill the website, save myself a little money in web hosting, and let this whole thing ride off into the sunset.

That was until I got the following responses to an email that I sent last week:

Screenshot 11:14:13 3:17 PM

I know what you’re thinking.

I used to be a youth minister and this must be from one of my former students who is in college and making some bad decisions.  I must have written an email trying to address some bad behavior or poor choices on the part of someone in their late teens or early twenties and this is their response.

Well, you could think that…and you would be wrong.

These were the responses from a man in his forties who just ran for an elected position in city government for our town.  We had a few personal exchanges in the past, regarding a pertinent local issue and so I had his personal email address.  I could explain further about our interaction or relationship, but that might give away his identity and I honestly believe that the main point is about something much bigger than the specifics that led to the email exchange.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure on my part, I must admit that I was tough on this guy.  He had said and done some things that were generating a lot of hurt and animosity; so much so that some of it ended up on Youtube…and in the local paper…and on the local television news.  He was reflecting badly on part of my community, he was saying very hurtful things to and about peaceful, decent people in the public forum, and I felt that his attitude was detrimental to our whole city.  I had sat back and watched all of his behavior that I could stand and I had the avenue, so I took the opportunity to punch his ticket.  It needed to be done and I was in the position to do it.  Like I said in the subject line of the email, I was trying to create a teachable moment.

Anyway, here is the crux of the issue:  I sent a private email to an adult male which expressed my concerns and the responses that I got were what I would have expected to get from a fourteen or fifteen year-old teenager with a bad attitude.  This guy is old enough to and has run for public office.  He is old enough to buy alcohol and firearms.  He is married and has kids.  He is all these things and he hits me with “whatever” and “I’m not even reading this” as his response?

That is insane.

If he had come back with a reasoned response, explaining his behavior or apologizing, I could have respected him.  If he had blasted me with anger and misinformation (which is his usual tactic in the public forum), I could have at least understood.  Any of that I could have comprehended, but not this.  This is not even truthful, as I was contacted by the head of a community discussion group because his wife was questioning my involvement the very next day.  Oh, he read it, alright.  He just couldn’t maturely address the issues and that is where the trouble lies.

As a nation, we have completely disregarded adequately disciplining our children and it is already coming back to bite us.  Just to be clear, when I say “as a nation”, I mean everyone.  I mean white, black, brown, plaid, liberal, conservative, Christian, Jew, Muslim, gay, straight, vegetarian, omnivore, educated, uneducated, rich, poor…I don’t care, you name it.  We have all dropped the ball.  Admittedly, some of us have botched it more than others, but we are all a long way from the days when I knew that if I got in trouble at someone’s house or at school that I not only had to answer for it there…I had Hell to pay when I got home.

This guy is just another product of a system where not only are we not going to discipline our kids, no one else is going to be allowed to, either.  His attitude can only have developed and survived to his current age in a system where he has been allowed to walk out on every argument or disciplinary action and he is not alone.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I heard the phrase “no one else is going to discipline my child” in the last ten years of youth ministry.  That mindset has become pervasive and it is toxic.

It is essential that all of us learn to respect the rules of not only the greater community, but also those of other individuals and families.  My kids need to learn that the rules at your house are just important as the rules at mine and I definitely expect your kids to live by my rules while they are at my house.  This is what it truly means for a village to raise a child.  It is not some easy platitude, but rather an ethic and a value that forces examination of values and principles.

The problem comes when we try to shirk the responsibility of knowing the parents of the kids with whom our kids associate.  We get nervous that our kids will be subject to some set of rules that we don’t know, approve of, or trust.  The only solution to that is to get to know our fellow parents, to engage in dialogue, to actually be a community.

I strongly believe that how we treat people in our daily lives finds its foundation in how we were raised.  I can’t help but believe that the fact that I got a juvenile response from a forty-something man is firmly rooted in the lack of discipline that this man received from permissive parents.  Maybe if his parents had bothered to teach him to respect the rules of others, then I wouldn’t have had to write my email.  I only know that if I had ever given someone a “whatever” or an “I’m not going to read this” when I was growing up that the consequences would have been firm and lasting.

Discipline breeds respect.  Permissiveness breeds contempt.

Dad was right…

I’ve read just about everything in the world about our current scandals and life-changing government blunders, and I’ve come to these final positions regarding Obamacare, the Federal Shutdown, NSA overreach, and Benghazi (because they are the strongest examples of where our country and its leadership are positioned):

  1. Anyone who lies to you will also steal from you.
  2. Don’t ever argue with an idiot, people may not be able to tell the difference.

Why are these statements so important?  Well, because President Obama, Representative John Boehner, Former Secretary of State Clinton, Jay Carney, and most of our current leadership in Washington are lying sacks of excrement and it should be no surprise that we are finding ourselves robbed and our way of life being destroyed by these people.  This is clearly addressed with statement number one.  It should also come as no surprise that it is fruitless for anyone with half a brain to try to convince their supporters that something is wrong by presenting them with facts.  This is clearly addressed by statement number two.

I just hate that I’ve wasted so much time realizing that I would have just been better off to operate under the parameters my father gave me.  That’s an awful lot of time lost which could have been better spent on other endeavors.

Our country is going to Hell.  How much lying, stealing, and ethical bankruptcy can we stand before we actually do something?  Somebody wake me up when people start burning stuff and heads start to roll.

I hate to admit it, but…

Ashton Kutcher is hardly the first place that I would look for any sort of wisdom.  That being said; I was simply amazed at how “on-point” he was with this speech.  He killed it.  Especially, with his thoughts about opportunity.  It is so nice to see work ethic promoted in such a way.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Lloyd Dobler…

So…that is the monologue that goes through my mind anytime one of my friends starts to pitch me on whatever particular multi-level marketing brand has captured their imagination (or their soul…you decide).  I would personally like to go back to calling these life-sucking, personal-relationship-ruining, predatory marketing schemes what they are: pyramid schemes.

I could write and deftly defend a thesis on why these pyramid schemes fail as a road to financial success, but I will leave that to Penn & Teller, as they have done a stellar job with that, already.  No, I would merely like to make one single point in my plea for a return to sanity.

If you are my friend, it is because I value you as a person and enjoy your company.  That does not, however, give you the right to sell me stuff or to enlist my help in selling your brand of stuff.

Now that we’ve gotten the main point out-of-the-way, I would like to let you know how I feel about said attempts at recruitment (or opportunities for AMAZING financial success for those of you who have been drinking the Kool-Aid).  I know that we all are living in a struggling economy and that good, solid, full-time jobs are hard to find.  I know that many of you have chosen a lifestyle of one working parent or home schooling your kids and want to have some sort of way to work from home.  I respect those types of choices and this is a mostly free country, so you have every right to make those decisions.  There is, however, one fact that I would like you to consider and that is this:

I, like millions of other Americans, work from a workplace.  I always have worked from a workplace and even when it was my job to sell auto parts for my father’s business, I sold them at someone else’s workplace.  I didn’t try to sell to them when they were “off-the-clock” and I surely didn’t try to sell to them while they were at home…that would have been rude.

I understand that you folks have listened to a very convincing sells pitch for your respective brand and that you really believe that your products or services are going to affect positive change in the lives of your clients.  Also, some of you folks are among my best friends, so please believe that I am trying to be as loving as I possibly know how when I tell you this:

You have become the dinnertime telemarketers of our generation.  You are damaging your relationships with people in order to create opportunities to sell your product or services.  Not only will you not get rich, but you will awake one day to find that you have damaged some of your most valuable attachments to people in this life.  Your companies have poisoned the traditional bonding activities of dinners and parties for the pursuit of sales and recruitment and even the expanding realm of social media is quickly becoming just another venue in which you can solicit.

Please.

I beg of all of you multi-level marketers.

Just stop.

Don’t invite me to dinner unless you just want to share a meal.  Don’t invite me to a party unless it is just to hang out and have a good time.  Don’t try to get me excited about an “amazing business opportunity” on Facebook.  I don’t want your products or your services and every second that I spend listening to your sales pitch is time that I’ll never get back.

Keep your supplements, your cell phone plans, and your juices or whatever other snake oil that you happen to be selling.  Before you approach me with anything, please apply what I like to call the Lloyd Dobler Paradigm.  I don’t want to buy, sell or process anything that you are selling.  If you can respect that simple philosophy, then we should be just fine.

I swear, the next one of you that approaches me with a multi-level marketing scheme will become the test subject for my reality therapy solution for those afflicted with involvement in such companies.  I will take your home address, cell phone number, email address, and Facebook account and fill out interest cards and forms with as many of your local door-to-door religious proselytizing sects as I possibly can.