Author Archives: Steve

The Missed Opportunity Plague


Eminent theologian Dave Barry says overrunning Egypt with frogs was the type of originality which earned God the title “Supreme Being.” Did this plague ever strike you as odd? As not particularly fearsome?

Frogs was the second plague, when God was just getting warmed up. Maybe he was using frogs as a somewhat harmless demonstration. “Imagine if this was camel spiders–because instead of a bunch of frogs, I could definitely do camel spiders.” I mean, it’s like overrunning the country with Beanie Babies. Unless there was something in Egyptian culture that led to an unusual fear of frogs, just as in modern day America, we have a fear of, well, just about everything, including getting vaccinated against smallpox.

The picture shows a camel spider, one of the major reasons to never ever visit Egypt. Later plagues included swarming the country with lice, flies, and locusts, but not even a wrathful God would cover the land in camel spiders. Although, if #2 had been camel spiders instead of Kermits, there might have been only two plagues and the Israelites would have hit the road a whole lot sooner. Then, instead of the Passover, Jews would annually celebrate the Feast of Camel Spiders.

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The Missed Opportunity in John Kasich

I stumbled across a list of newspaper endorsements from the primaries. Nobody pays muh attention to newspaper endorsements. However, I found it interesting that John Kasich–the guy I voted for–had 52 endorsements, more than any other Republican. Marco Rubio was second with 22. Trump had just four, including the National Enquirer and the paper owned by Ivanka’s husband.

I sure wish Kasich had won the primary. I’m quite certain he would have sailed to the Presidency. From a political resume standpoint, Kasich and Clinton had the two best resumes. It would have been great watching them square off in truly substantive debates about policy. But, Republicans chose Donald Trump, the only candidate more flawed and damaged than Clinton, and it will cost them the election.

I realize (now) that the Republican Party has changed in fundamental ways, becoming an electorate motivated too much by fear and anger. I’m guessing, sadly, that this mindset will become even more entrenched by 2020. Kasich, like me, doesn’t fit in that party anymore.

Several newspapers which have been conservative bastions have endorsed Clinton this year. The Dallas Morning News and Arizona Republic had NEVER endorsed a Democrat for president, and the Cincinnati Enquirer hadn’t endorsed a Democrat in nearly 100 years. During the primaries, all three of those newspapers endorsed John Kasich. For the general election, they very surprisingly chose to endorse Clinton.

Most recently, the Arizona Republic sided with Clinton, or at least against Trump. Their article was excellent.

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I Always Wanted One of These

I always wanted to be on my high school football team. However, I never liked the idea of experiencing pain, of getting hurt. I preferred playing on the tennis team. So four times, I had the chance to go out for the football team, but four times I consciously chose not to. But I was thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if one of my high school classmate who DID serve on the football team just GAVE me his football letter jacket? I always wanted a football letter jacket, but that would be much easier.

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Redemption and the Manson Family


For me, and possibly you, the Manson “family” has been a reoccurring presence. I was 11 when the Tate-LaBianca murders happened, and certain names were indelibly etched into my memory–Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten. Their names have kept popping up over the years, usually in relation to parole hearings. And each time, the gruesome details are recounted.

Except for Manson, who is insane, all developed into model prisoners. And interestingly, after all this time, only one of them has died–Susan Atkins, in 2009, of cancer.

This morning, I read that Leslie Van Houten was denied parole for the umpteenth time. Parole was recommended, but Gov. Jerry Brown denied it, saying she “currently poses an unreasonable danger to society.” I’ll confess, there is a very large part of me that wants to see her released. She’s not the same person she was at age 19. But after reading, again, what she did in 1969…well, it’s shocking.

In Norway, the maximum prison sentence is 20 years, regardless of the crime. A person might remain imprisoned longer than that, but the initial sentence doesn’t go beyond 20 years. There is no “life sentence,” and certainly nothing like our obscenely unjust “three strikes” laws, which are so beloved by law-and-order politicians.

Part of the reasoning, in Norway, is that people change over time. I’m reminded of the scene in “The Shawshank Redemption” where Red says at his parole hearing, “I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone, and this old man is all that’s left.”

Norway apparently believes in redemption and life-change. In America, our focus is punishment and vengeance. You can argue that some of these Manson fanatics did redeem themselves, but must continue paying the consequences. I don’t know. It’s an interesting discussion to have.

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Republican Convention, Night One

I thought the first night of the Republican convention went well. It was a good collection of speakers, and they (from what I could tell) stayed on message and didn’t say anything stupid. I’ll never vote for Trump, because my criteria emphasize biblical values, and Trump doesn’t embody or stand for anything that Jesus values. But for those who like Trump, I’m sure they feel pumped up after tonight, and rightfully so.

It was even upbeat. I’ve gotten used to Republicans continuously dissing America–that we’ve become a broken, second-class, non-great country with a decrepit military and where nothing works. I beg to disagree, as does the rest of the world; we are the Gold Standard. But the Republican honchos decided to refrain from hammering those negative themes tonight, and I thank them.

I watched CSpan, instead of a cable news channel, so I could hear all of the speakers without pundits breaking in with their spin. The two guys who talked about Benghazi were riveting. Flynn and Joni Ernst–especially Ernst–were perfect for this base. Melania: she did commendably. I didn’t learn anything new about her husband–no great, insight-filled stories, like I was expecting (and which Anne Romney delivered). But it was fine. She rose way out of her comfort zone, so kudos.

I was totally astonished that Trump kept brief his introduction of Melania. I thought he’d ramble on for a while, unable to avoid the spotlight, and that tomorrow the pundits would only talk about him. By giving only a cursory introduction, he will allow the spotlight to focus on all of these other speakers (at least for tomorrow).

In 2012, I got tired of delegates repeatedly breaking into the “USA! USA!” chant. I still feel that way. “Oh, here we go again.”

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A Glimpse of a Father’s Rage

I’ve been thinking about a devotional speaker I heard during an Evangelical Press Association convention back in the 1980s. He was a pastor and an award-winning author. in addition, he and his wife, both white, had adopted and raised two black boys.
During one devotional, he mentioned how his sons had been stopped by cops different times, and he KNEW it was because they were black. No other reason. He related this in a calm, objective way, as he used it to illustrate a point. But I distinctly remember something very different about his voice, for just a second. Leaking through that pastoral calm exterior, I saw a father’s rage. It was just a glimpse, and I think he meant to hide it, but it was there. His beloved boys had been treated unjustly, and there’s no way he could disguise his anger.
How many moms and dads in the black community, how many grandparents and siblings and spouses, live with the scars of having been treated unfairly because of their color? Injustice casts a long shadow. It’s not something you get over.
When I see African Americans marching, I remind myself that they are individuals with stories to tell–if not from their own lives, from the lives of people they know and love. It’s not something I know anything about, but as a Christian wanting to reflect Jesus, I’m trying to learn. Or, at the least, I’m trying not to be blindly critical of things beyond my experience.
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Thinking About the Unthinkable

Donald Trump has ramped up his enthusiasm for torturing prisoners, saying we need to do the “unthinkable.” What do you think he means? Pulling out fingernails? Attaching electrodes? Breaking toes? Gouging out eyes? Raping family members in front of prisoners? When you’re talking “unthinkable,” all of this is fair game. So if you’re going to vote for Trump, you might want to learn what exactly “unthinkable” means to him.

This would obviously go way beyond what the Bush administration started, striking at the heart of what we stand for. And it would make it profoundly absurd to then sing, “God Bless America.”

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No Do Overs


Many Brits are wanting a do over of their vote to withdraw from the European Union. But in addition to letting off some nationalistic steam, they are now stuck with their decision. No do overs.

Elizabeth Warren greatly wanted to become head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2011, the agency she designed, but her name was withdrawn because of Republican Senate opposition. Had she been confirmed, she would have disappeared into an obscure government agency, perhaps never to be heard from again. Instead, she became a US Senator and is now continually crawling under Donald Trump’s notoriously thin skin. I’m guessing the Republicans would like a do over.

Republicans also passed on a relatively moderate, and relatively old, Supreme Court nominee in Merrick Garland–somebody Republicans were once somewhat enthusiastic about. In Garland’s place, Hillary Clinton will probably nominate a 40-something liberal firebrand to the Supreme Court. Once again, they’ll wish for a do over.

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Where to Disgruntled Brits Move to?

For the record, regardless of who is elected president, I won’t be moving to Canada. Celebrities often threaten to move to Canada if so-and-so is elected, but they always wimp out. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but I’m staying put, regardless. I believe the American system, despite its flaws, can check-and-balance any president. Listen to all the apocalyptic predictions you want from talk radio and cable news, but we’ll be fine.

What is the counterpart for “moving to Canada” for British folks? Turns out a lot of them, in the wake of Brexit, are looking to get off the island. Their Number One preferred destination is…yep, it’s Canada. But will Canada end up being as jilted by Brits as they are by Americans?

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Mother Knows Best

As diagnoses go, “shingles” would not have been my first choice. But sometimes you don’t get to vote. I, personally, would have preferred “poison ivy” or “Pam’s using too much bleach.” But hey, what can you do?

Several years ago, after Dad got shingles, Mom urged all of us kids to get the shingles shot. She said we DEFINITELY didn’t want to ever get shingles. I checked with my doctor, and he advised waiting until I turned 60. I turn 60 in four months. So that bit of life-planning didn’t exactly work out.

The moral of the story is this. Children of the world: listen to your Mom.

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