4.13.2015

Kootenai crazy

Do you ever experience days where it feels like the world around you is losing its tenuous grip on sanity? That sense of madness is the best way to describe North Idaho today - particularly in Kootenai County.

Please do not misunderstand me. I living here. I am looking forward to attending another Car d'Lane (and hopefully it isn't raining this year), another year downtown for the fireworks show, returning to Art on the Green and the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo. I consider myself lucky to reside somewhere where I can take the kids hiking or swimming and return home in time for lunch. The sounds of baseball filtered into my apartment from the fields next door is strangely calming, as are the thunderstorms that roll through late in the spring season. The typically snow-filled winters are a fulfillment of all of my childhood dreams.

That being said, today is not the day to display hometown pride. At the very least, it is the kind of day where you want to avoid reading or watching the news.

The day begans with the Department of Health and Welfare reeling from last week's actions in the state legislature that effectively dismantles Idaho's ability to collect child support. But that was last week. Allow me to break down the events from the past 24 hours.

* Police were searching for a suspect after last night's shooting at a Hauser bar, eventually catching him midday.
* Another search stemmed from a home-invasion robbery this morning. Police eventually arrested three suspects in Hayden.
* A large, bald, and suicidal male with multiple warrants is the subject of yet another manhunt, causing lock-downs at a couple of Coeur d'Alene schools.
* A naked woman on LSD was spotted at a busy intersection in Post Falls.

I stopped paying attention after that.

This is North Idaho. A land of beautiful scenery. A wonderful place to live. Filled with more than our fair share of nutters. Consider it job security for municipal and county police forces.

photo courtesy of The Spokesman-Review

4.10.2015

Daredevil

Within the world of comic books Matt Murdock/Daredevil is one of my favorite characters - second behind Nightcrawler. As a fan, I was disappointed in the 2003 movie with Ben Affleck. When film rights reverted back to Marvel a few years ago, the fan boy in me swelled with hope that the character could be given a proper cinematic showing. After the announcement came that Daredevil would be released as a 13 part miniseries through Netflix, my excitement grew.

In anticipation of the series release, I went back to the Marvel archives and mainlined the old stories. With the new year, I began re-reading back issues - starting with Kevin Smith's Guardian Devil arc through the Civil War events. I devoured a little more than 90 issues in an attempt to remember the characters and personas in preparation for the day Daredevil would be streaming on Netflix.

That day was today. The show's producers have rewarded fans for the wait. The first couple episodes have been completely engrossing and I am looking forward to finishing the rest (as well as the other Netflix/Marvel series currently in development). A few thoughts crossed my mind while watching and I thought I would share here before bingewatching the rest.

1. Thank you for not beating us over the head with yet another origin story.

Sure, the opening shots of the first episode follow Battling Jack Murdock as he pushes his way through the crowd to find his son Matt lying on the pavement. We are there long enough to see that toxic chemicals have been spilled and hear an elderly pedestrian explain that the boy pushed him out of the way and saved his life. Then the young Matt begins to panic as he realizes that he can't see. That's it. The next scene features a grown up Matt sitting in a confessional booth asking the priest to forgive him of something he is about to do.

Sequels aside, superhero films tend to linger far too long on the hero's origin. Perhaps this is due to a fear that audiences are not smart enough to follow the plot if they don't know why their hero is a hero. Granted, this exposition is sometimes valid. In last summer's Guardians of the Galaxy, we needed to know how Peter Quill became Star-Lord. We needed to see Tony Stark's transformation from the head of a weapon's manufacturer to a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist dressed in iron armor to help make sense of the first Iron Man movie.

But how many times do we need to see Bruce Wayne's parents get shot in a dark Gotham alley? How many times do we need to see an infant Kal-El sent away from the planet Krypton to crash land near a Smallville farm where he's adopted by the Kents? Reboots are the worst with origins - frequently retelling the same story while the previous iteration is still fresh in viewers' memories. Sometimes even sequels over-do this - like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which added to the origin story as if they didn't explain enough in part one.

Marvel's Daredevil gets this right. The opening scene establishes just enough for us to know that Matt Murdock is blind and has a self sacrificial personality. That's it. The rest of his history is told through flashback sequences in ways that contribute to the story rather than as a distraction.

2. Is that the Dread Pirate Roberts?

The black suit and mask featured in the first episodes for Marvel's Daredevil is not the costume comic fans are used to seeing. It isn't the red spandex bodysuit with the horned cowl. But it isn't a departure from the comic books either. This black outfit is based on Frank Miller's Man Without Fear books. Looking at it, I can't help but think how much he looks like Westley dressed as the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride. To be fair, it is far more intimidating than the more common red devil outfit. If I was a low level mafia thug, seeing the blindfolded man in black jump out of the shadows would be enough to put the fear of God into me.

Photo courtesy Marvel Television

3. It is all connected.

The new Daredevil series does not exist in a bubble. It is connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe just like ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. While the tone of Daredevil is darker and grittier than the typical Marvel outing, there are reminders that Matt Murdock lives in the same world as Captain Rogers, Black Widow, and Agent Phil Coulson.

In the real world, Hell's Kitchen is far safer than the NYC neighborhood represented in the comics. Today, you're more likely to find tourists than mob violence. To remake the dangerous version of Hell's Kitchen, Daredevil's producers and screenwriters tapped into the finale of The Avengers. The fallout of the movie's alien invasion of New York is played out into Daredevil's world and referred to as an "incident" where death and destruction fell from the skies. It is explained that the battle between the Chitauri and Earth's mightiest heroes damaged half of the buildings in Hell's Kitchen and there is a government capital program set up to rebuild.

Due to these events, Matt and his business partner are able to find an office location to open their law practice at a cheap price. But it also opened up the doors for criminal activity to take advantage of federal funds pouring into building projects. One crooked contractor states that having masked vigilantes is actually good for their business because they get more money from the government every time a hero pushes a thug through a wall.

The connections don't stop with ties to The Avengers. In a flashback, Battling Jack is asked to take a dive in a boxing match against Carl "Crusher" Creel. Creel is a young up and coming boxer whose name should be familiar as the older version is the Absorbing Man - a villain from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I hope to see more of these connections as the series continues.

Writers involved with Marvel's movies and TV shows are smart; they know how to weave their stories into a tapestry without ham-fisting characters and plot lines into places they don't belong. They have stated that Murdock could show up in the movies if the Netflix story does well. Considering Daredevil's inclusion in the Civil War comics, the potential for crossover could be beneficial.

4. This is what superheroes would look like if they existed in our world.

Matt Murdock doesn't have superpowers. Sure, his sense of smell and hearing are heightened - but this is a product of training and diligence more than it is through supernatural gifting or technological enhancement.

When looking at the rest of the Marvel universe, an unpowered hero is an abnormality. Tony Stark wears an armored suit that helps him fly and fires a multitude of weapons. Steve Rogers was enhanced by the super-soldier serum. Bruce Banner was blasted with gamma radiation. Thor comes from an alien race that is so technologically advanced that ancient vikings considered them to be gods. Star-Lord's companions are a talking raccoon and a sentient tree. Coulson was revived with alien blood, and his protege Skye is an inhuman.

Even in costume, Matt Murdock is still painfully mortal. His abilities are the same when he is a lawyer as they are when he is the Daredevil. His blindness is apparent, even when fighting off a half dozen armed goons. He is strong and skilled in martial arts, but he is also fully human and as fragile as any other normal person walking this planet. Falling from a second story window causes him to black out and leaves his nose and lips bloody. He needs medical intervention after walking into a trap. His bones can break, bullets and knives can inflict serious wounds, and fist fights sap his endurance.

In a stunning single shot sequence at the end of episode two, Daredevil infiltrates a secure location to save a kidnapped boy. He is injured from an encounter the previous evening but he does not hesitate to fight. Through the scuffle, he is slammed into the walls, punched several times, thrown to the ground, and is bruised and bloodied. As the scene progresses, you can see the character slowly grow more and more winded. He has to stop and catch his breath a couple of times before continuing the brawl. By the time each of his opponents are unconscious, he is limping and barely has any strength left to escort the boy to safety.

We're not the only ones to notice his imperfections. The night nurse tells Matt that he isn't very good at being a superhero. She later confronts him to debunk his claim that he enjoys the pain he inflicts as a vigilante. People frequently reach to shake Matt's hand, forgetting that he can't see them. The priest at the beginning of the first episode tells Matt that he is doing confession wrong. Even Matt's attempt at preemptive confession reveals his intellectual conflict between wanting to do the right thing, but knowing that the methods he uses are morally sketchy.

5. Daredevil fights something real.

Through most of the MCU, the heroes fight off things of fiction: monsters and aliens and robots. These villains make entertaining stories but at the end of the credits, we know that those bad guys don't exist in the real world.

In contrast, the enemies Daredevil faces are just as realistic as the injuries Matt endures while dressed in costume. The main criminal activity that Daredevil disrupts in the first couple of episodes is human trafficking. He rescues women and children who are about to be sold into the sex trade. This is a very real problem in the real world. Organizations all over the globe - even in the United States are fighting against human slavery.

A well told fictional story can have great impacts on actual issues we're facing in real life. We've seen it happen before. This could be the case with Daredevil. It is encouraging to see a TV show intended to entertain step beyond the role of fiction to shine a light into a dark and depraved corner of humanity. I hope that as people watch this show, they realize that the problems in Daredevil's Hell's Kitchen also happen every day in the real world. I hope they understand that this isn't something that only exists in Eastern Europe or China or Thailand - that it also happens in America.

And maybe, just maybe, viewers will respond by supporting organizations that are helping people escape slavery and are fighting against human trafficking.

4.06.2015

Scenes from a movie: Fight Club

Of those who have seen Fight Club, people have either a love or loathe opinion of the film. For me, it falls into my favorite movie genre: mindf@#%s. Those are the movies that mess with your brain. The movie's plots keep you off balance and unsure of what is happening. By the end credits, you are left wondering if you actually saw what you think transpired. It forces you to watch the movie a second (perhaps third or fourth) time to make sure you caught everything.

Not certain of what I'm talking about? Think of movies like Pi , The Game, Donnie Darko, Memento, Inception, or 12 Monkeys. If you step out to get a drink, answer a phone call, or use the bathroom while these movies are playing, you will return more confused than when you stepped away. Sometimes it feels as if you might miss something if you even blink.

That is how I classify movies like Fight Club.

In this 1999 film - directed by David Fincher (who helmed The Game), Edward Norton plays the nameless narrator - a disgruntled insomniac feeling lost and overwhelmed by his dismal white collar job. He seeks therapy, medications, and support groups without relief. After a chance encounter with Brad Pitt’s character - an anarchist named Tyler Durden, the narrator returns home from a business trip to find his apartment has been destroyed. He is invited to live with Durden where the two men start an underground fight club that grows into an anti-capitalist group called Project Mayhem.

Weird things happen. They dumpster dive at a liposuction clinic, they make soap, they secure financing, they fight, they get bloody and bruised. The plot twists like a pretzel and leads into a dazzling climax.

Fincher's Fight Club is endlessly quotable. You would have a difficult time finding a anyone in their 30s that can't tell you the first two rules of Fight Club. It is entirely exciting, hilarious, engrossing, and disturbing - all at once. Its best trait is that it makes you think - a rarity that I love in cinema.

To be honest, the only reason I watched Fight Club when it first came out is because I wanted to see Brad Pitt get the crap beat out of him. Since then, it has become one of my all-time favorite movies. I can watch it over and over again and still get a mystified feeling at the end. For those of you who have been living in a cave for the past 16 years, I won't spoil the ending.

Well, not the climactic moment at least. But what comes after resonates with me more now than it ever has before. After the twist is revealed and the plot is resolved, the Narrator and Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) stand together in a parking garage to watch as buildings explode and crumble around them.

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Surrounded by destruction, the Narrator looks at Marla and tells her, "You met me at a very strange time in my life."

It was a strange time in his life. He first met Marla in various support groups and in the time between their first meeting and the final moments of the film, the Narrator had transformed into a completely different person. His experience as Tyler Durden's roommate was tumultuous and chaotic. Nothing in his life was the same as it had been months earlier. Those words, "You met me at a very strange time in my life" carry a poignant weight.

I feel that closing scene far deeper these days than I did when I was 20 and watching Fight Club for the first time. The past couple of years have been a period of change and growth for me. It has been filled with grief and loss, but also with new adventures and renewed sense of identity.

Over the past couple of years, I have also met a lot of people, forging new relationships and creating a revived network of support. Whether it is the worship team at church, my Monday night small group, the D&B community, or my Friday night late night Google Hangout group, most of the people that I trust and value are relatively new to my life.

The Narrator's words have come to mind upon multiple occasions these past couple of years. I cannot tell you how many times I've wanted to tell someone, "You met me at a very strange time in my life."

So I'll say it now. If you are one of those that have recently become a part of my world, you are my tribe and I am grateful for our friendship.

However, you met me at a very strange time in my life.

Thank you for accepting - and even embracing my strangeness.

4.01.2015

April foolery

Show of hands: who has engaged in some practical jokes today? Any on the receiving end?

Then there's my son. I'm not sure he understands how to do April Fool's pranks. That isn't for a lack of trying. He has embraced this holiday with manic exuberance. His error is more in application. He thinks his jokes are hilarious, and in a way they are. I am just not convinced anyone is falling victim to these pranks other than himself. For example, this is what he looked like when I picked him up this afternoon.


"What is that on your face?" I asked.
He answered, "It's a tattoo."
"I see that, but why?"
"Because it's April Fool's Day."

My son is convinced that applying a temporary tattoo to his forehead is the most eloquent practical joke ever implemented. That was not the only trick up his sleeve. He also spent the day walking around with his shoes untied. His reasoning? If anyone pointed out his untied shoelaces, he would tell them "I know. APRIL FOOLS!" Then at lunch, he told me that he was going to ignore any attention I gave him, unless I was pranking him.

Even now, with him huddled over the dining room table doing homework, I am chuckling as I type these words. As a concept, he gets it. In practice, he is the butt of his own jokes. Perhaps that is the mark of true comedic genius.

3.31.2015

Shake the dust

Welcome to Holy Week. This is the Christian tradition. Beginning earlier this week with Palm Sunday - a day to celebrate Jesus's triumphal entry, riding into Jerusalem upon a donkey. This is the start of Passover, the week we remember a garden betrayal, a mock trial, and the crucifixion of our savior. It culminates this coming Sunday, honoring the resurrection on Easter - the grandest of all Christian holidays.

Some things get missed among the plastic eggs, candy, and bunnies. Even in the pomp and circumstance of church services and big family dinners, we forget a detail of great importance. It is not the last supper with the broken bread and cup of wine. It is not the traitor's kiss. It is not the guards who tortured Jesus and gambled for his clothes. It is not the empty tomb.

The detail that we overlook is not the what but the why. Why, if Jesus was the son of God, why would he willingly endure the suffering and indignity of a Roman execution?

The simple answer is that he did it for us. As is often true, the some answers lead to new questions. If Jesus was a sacrifice for us, then why us?

If anything is clear, we the people - the most dominant species on this planet, we are a messed up population. Prone to mistakes and failure, constantly at war, jealous and power hungry. We are greedy and selfish humanity. But even at our best, our flaws are evident. We are Han frozen in carbonite. We are Marty McFly trying to undo our mistakes in both the past and the future. We are the Goonies looking for one last adventure before being evicted from our homes. We are Jack Shephard leading others yet feeling unfit to do so.

Why us? I am positive that the twelve disciples had similar thoughts when Jesus first approached them and said, "Follow me."

"Are you talking to me?" they must have asked, "Or that smarter, better qualified, and more handsome fellow over there?"

These were fishermen and tax collectors. People that flunked out of religious school and returned to the family business. Minimally skilled, unappreciated, despised, and deemed not good enough to be a disciple of any of the other rabbis. Jesus asked them to follow and somewhere inside their hearts they had to respond, "Uh, OK, but are you sure you have the right guy?"

When Jesus wasn't preaching to the crowds or healing the sick, he was pouring his life into a motley crew of men who never considered themselves to be good enough. He showed them compassion and love beyond comprehension. Even into his final days, Jesus displayed lavish acts of love for people he knew would betray him, deny him, and abandon him.

In every conversation they shared, in every mile they walked, in every meal they ate, Jesus was consistent in the message he had for his followers. "It doesn't matter who you are, where you've been, or what you do - I love you."

Jesus knew their pasts, but he also knew their futures. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus was preparing them for their lives beyond the present moment. He was providing instruction for their ministry but tempering with the warning that they wouldn't always be welcomed or accepted. In those instances where they were mistreated or rejected, Jesus gave the order to shake the dust off of their feet as they left that place. This was a way for them to separate themselves from their bad experience. Shake the dust, shake it off, leave it behind.

Jesus loved these men. He knew they were all tragically flawed. In telling them to shake the dust off of their feet, he was also giving them hope to move on. "You're broken people but I chose you."

It is through these imperfect heroes that the church was born. It is through these imperfect heroes that the gospel was spread across Judea and into Rome. It is through these imperfect heroes that Jesus displayed his perfection.

That is why I celebrate Easter. It did not happen in spite of humanity's failures, but because of it. We needed someone perfect to cover our imperfections. We need that hope to give us the courage to shake the dust, to leave it behind, and carry on the Good News to those who desperately need it.


The above video was filmed at a To Write Love On Her Arms event called Heavy and Light. For more information, you can read about it on the TWLOHA site here.

3.27.2015

Faith & Pop Culture: Wrecked by Pride

Last weekend I watched a pair of movies that do not (at least on the surface) have any thematic similarities. The first was The Judge - an emotional drama about a big shot attorney returning home for his mother's funeral then staying to defend his father against murder charges. The second was Chef - an indie comedy about a popular chef and his culinary journey of food and family.

Admittedly, the second film served as a counter balance to the first upon the suggestion of a friend. The Judge turned me into a puddle and I needed something funny to cheer me up. Chef was the perfect remedy.

Legal battles and Cuban cuisine. A tear-jerker and a witty satire. Nothing in common. Well, maybe something. Both movies show the devastating fallout from pride. Different stories, different methods, same result. Pride wrecks lives.

The two main protagonists in The Judge display divergent faces of pride. Robert Downey Jr. plays the attorney Hank Palmer returning to his home town to mourn his mother's death. Hank's father (Robert Duvall) is a notoriously strict judge and one of the most respected legal figures in Indiana. On the evening following the funeral there is a fatal accident and the judge faces charges of first degree murder while Hank stays in town to help his father in court.

For Judge Palmer, pride manifests itself under noble intentions. He is a man who would rather go to prison than have his case history called into question. He is a man who found the reckless behaviors from his son's past to be an embarrassment. He wishes to see the flags flying at half staff in the event of his death. His desire is to leave a worthy legacy.

This pride prevents him from admitting weakness. The Judge is facing terminal cancer - a secret he's kept by getting chemo treatments at a private lakeside cabin rather than a medical facility. He refuses to admit that the side effects of his cancer treatment have caused him to black out and lose memories. It is because of his pride he seeks out an inexperienced attorney instead of asking his son to represent him.

Hank's pride is more apparent and is displayed through overt arrogance. He flaunts his wealth, success, charisma, and expertise. He doesn't hesitate to humiliate or seduce others depending on his mood. Yet he shows cracks: he has an unforgiving relationship with his father, both of his brothers feel abandoned by him, and his marriage is on the verge of divorce.

In Chef, Jon Favreau is Carl Casper, the talented and famous chef at a popular restaurant in LA. For him, pride is demonstrated with a singular obsession with his craft. He views himself as culinary master, angered by his boss (Dustin Hoffman) the restaurant owner who won't let him try innovative recipes.

Because of the pride in his skills, he resists his ex-wife's suggestion to open a food truck and work for himself. Pride strains his relationship with his 10 year old son and his friendships with his kitchen staff. He pridefully insists that he is happy with his job even when it is obvious to everyone around him that he is miserable.

When studying the bible I have read much about pride, and none of it is positive - especially in Proverbs. Proverbs says that arrogance will be punished. It says that destruction and disgrace follows pride. Even the book of Isaiah says that great people will be brought down and the proud will be humbled, a truth we see in The Judge and Chef. The no-nonsense judge, the flashy lawyer, and the culinary genius. Each of them brought down. Each of them disgraced, punished, or destroyed.

Pictures courtesy of Village Roadshow/Warner Bros. Pictures and Open Road Films

The first humbling moment for Judge Palmer comes in a heartbreaking scene where his disease causes him to collapse in the bathroom. His son comes to help him through nausea, vomiting, and complete loss of bowel control. Despite their contentious relationship, Hank helps his dad through the humiliation and into the shower to clean up. Judge is further humbled as he is forced to admit the truth of his illness and failing memory in court as he’s providing testimony. He is humbled even more as he hears his guilty verdict. His disgrace was an attack on his legacy.

Hank Palmer’s humbling moments were not outright embarrassing, but direct statements from various relationships in his life. His dad’s doctor tells him, “You really aren't a pleasant person.” When his daughter asks why he and his wife are divorcing, she tells him, “Daddy’s don’t get lonely. They only marry younger mommies.” When trying to reconnect with his old high school sweetheart, she tells him the truth, “You’re just a boy from Indiana who’s gonna do whatever he has to do to pretend he’s not.” She also tells Hank that he’s selfish and a bully. In an argument with his older brother, Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio) voices hurt and bitterness that he’s the responsible brother who stayed home and would be the one to provide care to their mentally handicapped younger brother after both parents had passed; he makes the accusation that Hank would run back to his lavish lifestyle and forget about them. And finally, in court, Judge Palmer says that his biggest professional mistake was going easy on a criminal’s sentencing because the criminal reminded Judge of Hank. Each statement punished his arrogance and revealed him to be a smaller man than the image he projects.

In Chef, Carl Casper’s humbling is a downward spiral that begins when his boss won’t allow him to control the restaurant’s menu and they receive a bad review from a famous food blogger. He is humbled again when he accidently posts a public tweet that he thought was a private message to the blogger. It gets worse when his boss still refuses to grant him creative control over the menu; he quits but none of his kitchen staff friends leave with him. He returns to the restaurant later that night to confront the blogger where Casper unleashes a massive rant that is caught on camera and uploaded to Youtube. This video goes viral and Casper finds himself unemployed and unable to find any restaurant willing to hire him. His final humbling moment happens when he has to lower himself to ask his ex-wife’s ex-husband for a favor. Chef Casper found pride in his work, and his work was destroyed.

If pride wrecks lives, then the inverse is true. Humility restores life. Hank Palmer petitions for compassionate parole for his imprisoned father. He returns home and accepts his roots – even to the point of shouting “I’m from here” while standing in the middle of the street. He is not perfect, but he is healing. Chef Casper also finds healing in humility. His new venture turns into a massive success, he reconnects with his son, and his relationship with his ex-wife is restored.

From tears and laughter, these two films reminded me of the advice of Philippians chapter two. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

3.24.2015

A Tale of Two Candidates

It is about to get political in here. However, this is not a post to advocate in favor for or opposed against anyone in particular. I do not wish to argue policy or any hot button issues. This is only to compare two candidates from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.

Ted Cruz and Barack Obama.
Photos courtesy of nbcnews.com

We will start with the President. Obama was born in Hawaii (or Kenya if you believe the birther conspiracy theories) to a Caucasian mother who was an American citizen. His father was a Kenyan citizen in the United States for an education scholarship. His parents divorced when he was a young boy. He graduated with a BA in Political Science from Columbia University and a JD from Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, he was president of the Harvard Law Review. He worked as a civil rights attorney and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. His political career started as a State Senator in Illinois before winning a seat as a US Senator. He served in the US Senate from 2005 until he won his election for US President.

Next the (as of yesterday) Presidential candidate. Cruz was born in Canada (Calgary, Alberta to be specific) to a Caucasian mother who was an American citizen. His father was a Cuban citizen who left Cuba by bribing a Batista official, entered the US with a student visa, later on political asylum, eventually getting a green card. His parents divorced when he was in college. He graduated with a BA in Public Policy from Princeton University and a JD from Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, he was primary editor of the Harvard Law Review. He worked as a private attorney, associate deputy attorney general for the DOJ, Solicitor General for Texas, then returned to private practice. His political career started by representing the NRA and involvement in the Clinton impeachment proceedings. He has been serving in the US Senate since 2013.

So many similarities. Both men are of racially mixed decent. Neither of their fathers were American citizens. Both men earned bachelor's degrees from prestigious schools and both graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. Both of them were editors at the Harvard Law Review. Both worked as attorneys. Neither come from swing states - Obama from the traditionally liberal Illinois and Cruz from the traditionally conservative Texas. Both men served in the US Senate and both were only senators for a short duration before announcing their Presidential candidacy.

Of course, the similarities stop there. Obama's dad returned to Kenya and Cruz's dad eventually become a citizen - 48 years after leaving Cuba. Obama was not only editor but also the President of the Harvard Law Review, Cruz founded Harvard Latino Law Review. 768 days passed from day Obama was sworn in for the US Senate to the day he announced he was running for president. Cruz waited 41 days longer - a month and two weeks. Obama is a Democrat and Cruz is a Republican. Obama was once described as the most liberal candidate to ever run for President. Many sources are calling Cruz the most conservative candidate to ever run for President. When it comes to issues, there is very little on which these two men agree.

Allow me to repeat, I am not campaigning in favor of or opposition to either of these men. I don't care if you approve or disapprove of the job Obama has done as President. It doesn't matter to me if you think he is the best or the worst ever President. The same is true of Cruz. As far as I am concerned (for the purpose of this post) it is irrelevant whether or not he could be a good President.

This is a post about those who do not live by what they say. This is about individuals who hold a certain set of standards for one group of people that they do not hold for another group of people.

This is about people who thought Obama was un-American because of his campaign rhetoric about how America lost it's greatness and he wanted to make it great again, but have no objections to Cruz using the same rhetoric.
This is about people who were afraid of Obama's ethnicity but are not concerned with Cruz's ethnicity.
This is about people who called Obama an elitist for his education at Columbia University and Harvard Law, but do not think that Cruz is an elitist from his education at Princeton and Harvard Law.
This is about people who believed that Obama was born in Kenya and that meant he wasn't a natural born citizen, but have no problems with Cruz's Canadian birth and his maintaining dual citizenship until last summer.
This is about people who alleged that Obama was ineligible for office because of his Kenyan father but do not think that a Cuban father makes Cruz ineligible.
This is about people who claimed that Obama was too inexperienced to be President because he had only served as Senator for two years, but find Cruz to be perfectly experienced despite serving as Senator for only two years.
This is about people who criticized Obama's lack of military service but have no criticism for Cruz who has not served in the military either.
This is about people who did not like Obama because he was a lawyer, but embrace the lawyer Cruz.

There are words for people like this. Cognitive dissonance. Intellectual dishonesty. Double standards.

Another word? What is it called when you verbalize contradictory beliefs? What is it called when you say it's OK for one person to engage in certain behaviors but not OK for another to follow those same behaviors?

Hypocrisy.

Don't be a hypocrite. If you do not approve of Obama - that is fine. It is also acceptable if you support Cruz. There are many valid reasons to support your preference for one over the other. However, there are many similarities between the two candidates. If you are going to criticize Barack Obama for his heritage, or place of birth, or his family background, or his choice in colleges, or his lack of military record, or his minimal tenure in a legislative position, then you better criticize Ted Cruz for the exact same issues. If that is all you have to work with, both candidates are identical.

If you believe that Obama is a foreign born, inexperienced, and un-American elitist yet think that Cruz is a natural born, down to earth, and accomplished patriot, there is only one word that can possibly be used to describe you.

Hypocrite.

3.22.2015

Let us love

Pop quiz: What opinion does the modern American Church hold about the Old Testament?

a) It is the sacred word of God, holy scripture, divinely inspired.
b) Interesting collection of character studies and poetry.
c) That's the old covenant. Now that we have Jesus, all that old stuff is irrelevant.
d) It's an archaic and barbaric text, which is why we prefer the New Testament.
e) Couldn't tell you, I fell asleep somewhere in Deuteronomy.

Let's be honest, depending on which church you enter, you might hear any of the five options above. Mainstream Christianity mostly falls into one of those camps; the passionate lovers of scripture, the culturally complacent, the Jesus people, the new covenant devotees, the blissfully ignorant.

But there is another that (in my experience) is more prevalent than any other. The cherry pickers.

These are the people who preach the message of Jesus. Other than the Psalms and Proverbs, they mostly ignore the Old Testament. Either they can't make sense of it or feel it's not relevant in today's world. Perhaps they read it once and once was enough. That is until it suits their needs. At that point in time, they'll pluck out an obscure verse and wield it like a blunt instrument to pound against someone's thick skull.

For these people, the Bible is their go-to choice of weaponry. It is not a book of good news. It is not the story of God. It is their sword, their gun, their bomb. It is their way of winning a fight or argument. It is their cop-out devise.

They can justify their ham–fisted approach to bruising others with Christianity's holiest book. After all, the book of Hebrews describes the Bible as being sharper than any double-edged sword, and that it divides joints and marrow. Ephesians states that the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit when listing off elements of the armor of God.

In their eyes, weaponizing scripture is scriptural. It is logically mandated.

Funny that this method of cherry picking verses from the bible is most often used in political arguments. Rarely is this a theological strategy used in debate between pastors or in small group bible studies. One other observation about the cherry pickers: the obscure scripture they toss out is almost always from the book of Leviticus.

I have a proposal. If we are going to cling to a Levitical passage as more important than any other, we should all agree on which scripture to cherry pick from the many. My choice is lifted from Leviticus 19. Not familiar with the chapter?


This is the chapter that begins with the command to be holy because God is holy. Titled "Various Laws," this is a loose collection of edicts that governs the way we are supposed to treat other humans. Much of it repeats laws from the ten commandments. Here is a quick
summary.

Respect your parents.
Observe the Sabbath.
Avoid idols.
Leave a portion of your harvest from fields and vineyards for the poor and for the immigrants.
No stealing.
No lying, deception, false accusations, fraudulent claims, or slander.
Do not mistreat the disabled.
Be fair to everyone.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge.
Avoid mediums and fortune tellers.
Respect the elderly
Treat immigrants as if they were natural-born citizens.

It all wraps up with God's command: "Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them."

Key word: ALL.

Which of God's laws are we supposed to follow? ALL OF THEM. Which decrees? ALL OF THEM. Even the inconvenient ones? ALL OF THEM.

That's hard. In fact, it is impossible. Ecclesiastes stated that no one on earth is righteous, does right, and never sins. That sentiment is repeated in Romans when Paul quotes the same words: "There is no one righteous, no one who understands, no one who seeks God."

God tells us to be holy like Him, to obey each and every one of His laws, yet other parts of scripture tells us that no one in all of history has ever accomplished this measure of perfection? This is why I believe that we need God. This is why we needed Jesus and the cross and the resurrection. Because we suck. We cannot do it on our own.

So let's go back to the verse I would like to cherry pick. The one Levitical decree that each of us should cling to above all else.

In the middle of this chapter explaining the fair, just, and kind way in which we should treat others, we come to the end of verse 18. It says "love your neighbor as yourself."

This concept is so radical and so vital that Jesus reiterated it again when all of the religious leaders wanted him to identify the most important commandment from all of the Jewish law. The greatest command, according to Jesus, was to love God. For the second greatest, Jesus quoted Leviticus 19:18 - "love your neighbor as yourself."

Even Paul recognized the value of this lone command. In Galatians, he said that the entirety of law could be fulfilled in these words: "love your neighbor as yourself." And in the second chapter of James, we see the same thing: to do right, "love your neighbor as yourself."

One segment of ancient scripture, quoted in the gospels and in multiple epistles. This. "Love your neighbor as yourself."

I propose if you're going to cherry pick one verse from the Old Testament to brandish as a part of your Godly armor, let it be Leviticus 19:18.

Because love is a far more effective weapon than righteous indignation or fiery condemnation.

3.19.2015

The judgemental shopper

When grocery shopping, do you ever silently judge other shoppers by what they have in their cart? Ever walk by someone and think 'health nut' because their cart is overflowing with greenery? Ever ponder the fate of someone's evening because they're only buying a single bottle of Arbor Mist, a corn dog from the deli, and a quart of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream?

Or, you could be me. As I stood in line to check out, I was appalled by the slop piled onto the conveyor belt by the couple behind me. Granted, my selection of groceries wasn't the healthiest: about 50% fresh produce, the other half canned and frozen veggies, cereal, milk, pasta, general tso chicken.

But the couple behind me? Ugh. I put on my judgy hat and stared at their ever-growing mound of sugar and fat. After they pulled each additional food item out of their cart, my inner voice told me, "Junk. Crap. Garbage." Candy and chips and hot dogs and a whole stack of frozen pizzas and bean burritos and cookies and Cocoa Puffs.


The only fruits and/or vegetables they purchased were pickles, olives, and a single head of lettuce. There was also a sack of potatoes in their cart, but I know some people who don't believe that potatoes count as a vegetable.

The saddest part of it all is that they had a young kid - perhaps four or five years old, sitting in their cart. 'That poor kid,' I thought, 'he's going to grow up unhealthy and it's not his fault.'

Thankfully the friendly cashier distracted me with questions about my day. Even though I am not skilled with small talk, I made the effort. She handed me a receipt and I was on my way home.

Instances like this is why I still consider myself a judgemental jerk. I am not as bad as I used to be. Intentional efforts to give everyone the benefit of doubt have helped, but I'm not perfect. Every now and then, Judgy McJudgerpants sneaks out. I do not enjoy being judgemental. Yet it happens.

What about you? How much judging do you do in grocery stores?

3.17.2015

Bucket List: Item #1

Today is St. Patrick's Day - a holiday to honor the patron saint of Ireland, to celebrate Irish heritage for those of us that have it (or at least pretend to), and a cheap excuse to drink green beer. I am partially Irish. There is a deep part of my being that longs to visit: to see the Giant's Causeway, to eat at Caffe Banba at the northernmost point of the island, attend a Gaelic football game, kiss the Blarney Stone, watch the sun rise over the Irish Sea and set over the North Atlantic.

But the first entry on my bucket list isn't about Ireland. Well, not exactly.

Item number one on my list is to celebrate a holiday in a foreign country. Any holiday. Somewhere other than the USA.

How cool would it be to stay in Tokyo for New years Eve? Or the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong? Or in Munich for Oktoberfest? Valentine's Day in Venice? Easter in Jerusalem? Christmas in Oslo? Carnival in Rio?

Or ...

What about St Patrick's Day in Dublin?

Perhaps that is the Irish in me speaking. Perhaps that is the yearning to make a pilgrimage to my ancestor's homelands. Perhaps it is nothing more than wanderlust.

Today is St. Patrick's Day. And it would be an amazing experience to spend the holiday in the country where it started.

3.12.2015

Conversationally handicapped

Given the choice between story time and small talk, I will always choose stories. I am a skilled raconteur but a horrendous conversationalist. Holding up a conversation is a struggle for me, especially small talk. Most chat-worthy opportunities do not make sense to me and I find myself awkward and confused.

When asked, "How are you?" I will provide an answer but rarely follow up with the socially appropriate response, "and how are you doing?" This is a common symptom of Asperger syndrome which I believe I have despite never being officially diagnosed.

My socially crippling lack of conversational skills isn't always apparent. I have found crutches and coping mechanisms over the years, but given enough time it will become clear. Uneasy exits after prolonged silences. Improper introductions. Dominating discussions on issues or topics about which I am passionate.

At my small group this week, I made that admission - that I am bad at conversation but great at storytelling. One of the other guys was surprised and thought I was kidding. He and I have chatted several times and from that perspective, he thought of me as an eloquent and articulate addition to the group. Some explanation was necessary.

If you and I wanted to swap tales from our younger days, we could talk for hours. If you wanted to debate which Bond movies are the best, grab some coffee and make yourself comfortable because we will be a while. You want to introduce me to a band that you are excited about, both of us will walk away from a long conversation in search of new music.

But ask me how I'm doing? Meh. I'll provide a one word answer then stare out the nearest window. It sure looks windy outside. I wish it would snow.

That makes sustainable friendships difficult without some measure of common interests.

That makes intimacy impossible without arduous effort.

That makes small talk uncomfortably painful because I rarely see the point of idle chit chat.

Then I go to work and speak with dozens of people through out the day.
Then I go to church and talk to pastors and friends.
Then I go to my small group and contribute to the discussion.
Then I get on Google Hangouts with friends from out of state and participate in the conversation.
Then I hang out with my kids and .. well ... they all talk far more than me.


Conversation, if there's no purpose, is exhausting. Yet I love being around people. I find their stories fascinating. Being in the company of good friends is refreshing. I crave camaraderie.

If only we could skip the small talk. If only we could start with something meaningful.

I am not sure I know how to do that.

Maybe ...

Next time you see me, don't ask me "How is your day going?" Instead,
ask me, "Can I tell you about my day?"

I guarantee I'll say, "Yes."

3.09.2015

Finding Disney Magic

Since its inception, Disney has always possessed an element of magic. From the moment Mickey Mouse started whistling at the beginning of the short film 'Steamboat Willie,' audiences knew that they were witnessing something new, whimsical, and magical.

Walt Disney was aware this and he built his empire upon that concept. Mickey embodied this mysticism as the magician's apprentice in Fantasia and the enchanted tradition has since continued into Disney's modern animation. Consider Cinderella's fairy godmother, Tinkerbell's pixie dust, Aladdin's Genie, or Elsa's control over snow and ice. Even off screen, Disney exists in a world where Merlin's wizardry and alchemy is as real the sword Wart pulled from the stone. They even named their Florida theme park Magic Kingdom.

From their stories, to their amusement parks, to their toys and assorted merchandise, Disney boldly declares their faith in magic and insists that you share their belief.


This last weekend, I finally made the effort to see Big Hero 6 – the most recent addition to the cannon of Walt Disney Animation Studios and their first film featuring Marvel Comics source material. The movie is absolutely delightful and deserves the Oscar award it won for best animated feature. Naturally, the nerd in me is excited to see superheroes in the Disney universe. Yet, as I contemplate why Big Hero 6 is such a phenomenal movie, it has little to do with Marvel's intellectual property; it came to life through Disney's tradition of movie magic. Comparing this movie to the rest of Disney's filmography, there are three big avenues through which this magic manifests.

1. The magic of inclusion.

Disney doesn't want to tell you a story, they want to involve you in the stories they tell. They build fantasy worlds in such a way to make you feel as if you are present - or at least wish you were there. Their films have been set on every continent (except Antarctica) and places beyond: underwater (Atlantis), outer space (Treasure Planet), and virtual reality (Wreck-It Ralph). Their characters span such a wide variety of personalities that any viewer should be able to find someone to whom they relate - even if that character is the nervous and panic prone bird (Zazu), the playful but difficult to love alien (Stitch), or a hippy sentient VW Van (Fillmore). Even in the earliest classics, Disney sought to appeal to the widest spectrum possible. In seven dwarfs with distinct and nameable personas, there is someone for anyone to say, "Yeah, that's me."

This art of inclusion is why people are drawn to Disneyland – the happiest place on earth. It has spawned countless works of fan art and creative mashups. Obsessive studies of Disney movies have revealed the psychoses of some of our most popular heroes, heroines, and villains – even assigning them diagnoses from the DSM-IV. If ever you doubt that there is a Disney character like you, there is a handy chart that delegates each personality type from the Meyers-Briggs test to corresponding Disney figures.*

In Big Hero 6, the magic of inclusion is alive and well. Set in the fictional city San Fransokyo (an amalgamation of San Francisco and Tokyo), animators managed to incorporate the best of both cities and create an alluring environment that was not only believable, but the kind of place where I would want to live. The screenwriters developed characters that we care about, to celebrate in their victories and mourn in their grief. And still there were personalities varied enough to relate to different members of the audience. Christian, my oldest, found his doppelganger in Hiro - the 14 year old genius who serves as the central protagonist. Zu had two kindred spirits in the girls: GoGo the athletic engineer and Honey Lemon the quirky and empathetic chemist. JJ's favorite was Wasabi, the cautious neat-freak who specialized in laser and plasma technology. Even I could see a bit of myself in Hiro's older brother Tadashi who wanted nothing more than the best for his family and friends and ultimately sacrificed himself to save someone he admired.

2. The magic of imagination.

The power of the imagination is deeply rooted in Disney's philosophy. Even the employees responsible for designing, creating, and building the theme park attractions, cruise ship features, retail locations, and resorts are not engineering these destinations - they're Imagineering. Walt Disney believed that Disneyland would continue to grow as long as there was someone out there with an imagination and he was quoted saying, "Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever." When a company's founder possesses such boundless and imaginative optimism, that attitude will be absorbed by the whole organization. That unbridled creativity spread like a wildfire from Disney's first cartoons, turning every story he touched into magic, reimagining familiar tales into something grander than anyone could have anticipated.

With the magic of imagination, every girl has slipped into a princess dress for at least a moment to pretend they are Bell or Snow White or Merida or Jasmine. With the magic of imagination, thousands of people from around the world are adding a Disney destination to their bucket lists while thousands others are checking it off from theirs. With the magic of imagination, we are invited into a wonderful world of make-believe. Through the magic of imagination we discover truths about the human condition from talking animals giving lessons in morality and catchy songs that permanently implant themselves in your psyche (I'm talking about you, 'Let It Go').

The plot of Big Hero 6 hinges on the magic of imagination. It follows the complex mind of Hiro as he grows from inventing his own battle robot to building powerful suits that grant his friends superpowers. Even the MacGuffin in Big Hero 6 are millions of microbots that are controlled by the imagination. But rather than tell us that Hiro is just a smart kid, the movie takes us to the drawing table with him. We watch as he drafts out his designs and uses a 3D printer to construct his prototypes. We're included in the testing processes. In a sense, the movie is teaching us how to use our own imagination, cementing one of the biggest lessons of the story: to solve your problems by observing them from a different angle.

3. The magic of inspiration.

In a world where most magicians employ misdirection and sleight of hand, the only real magic that truly remains is the power of a story to shape our culture. Stories that change hearts and move mountains. Stories that inspire us to do great acts and soar to great heights. Disney has harnessed that magic of inspiration and embraced their potential to cause great good in our world.

How many people adopted a dog after watching 101 Dalmatians? How many kids tried to dissemble their gadgets and tinker with the parts after watching The Great Mouse Detective? How many siblings strengthened their bond after watching Brother Bear? How many humans started recycling more after watching WALL-E?

The magic of inspiration shines in Big Hero 6. It was inspiration for my daughter to see that girls are just as smart and inventive as boys. It was inspiration for my oldest son to use his creativity to positively affect the world around him. And JJ? Well, he has always wanted to be a real life hero. Ever since he was old enough to have career aspirations, he has wanted to be a police officer or a fireman. As we walked out of the theater, he told me that he changed his mind; now he wants to build robots to help people. Big Hero 6 opened the possibilities for him. He will probably change his mind at least a dozen times between now and when he goes to college about the kind of work he wants to do, but now he sees that there are endless ways to be a hero. Being a robotics engineer is one of those ways.

* In case you’re wondering, I’m either The Overseer (Woody) or The Inspector (Sebastian), depending on circumstance.

3.03.2015

In my head

During the commute to and from work, there is a void to fill. Some people listen to music. Others have podcasts or audiobooks playing. And talk radio is also an option. A few people use that time to pray (hopefully with their eyes open).

Me? I prefer music. I don't car-dance, but I do like to sing along.

Unfortunately, my car stereo is broken. The silence drives me crazy. These days, more often than not, I find myself praying. I assure you I keep my eyes on the road; I do not have the faith to praise Jesus with my eyes closed down Ramsey and over the freeway at 35 MPH.


I pray. But my brain tends to work better to the beat of a drum so sometimes that prayer comes out as a song that I have stuck in my head. Sometimes I offer those lyrics as my way of talking to God. Sometimes I feel as if that is God's way of speaking to me.

Interestingly, there are a couple of songs that I have playing inside my brain more frequently than others.

During the morning drive, the most common song I have on my mind is Bobby McFerrin's 'Don't Worry Be Happy.' When driving home, it is Tears for Fears' 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World.'

If God is really using these songs to give me some sort of message, I wonder. What is He is trying to tell me?

2.27.2015

To be an Idaho citizen Part 2

Living in Idaho means having access to everything from the city to the farm to the backwoods. But living in Idaho also means that your government is a bit unhinged.

Let us start with the governor, Butch Otter. The man with the comical name that I could not invent even if I tried is lackluster on his best days. Married into a rich family and later divorced. In the 90s he remarried a woman half his age: a 24 year old pageant queen - Idaho's representation in the Miss USA contest. Since winning the 2006 election for governor, he has mostly rested in his popularity from previous positions as Lieutenant Governor and US Representative. When he has made an effort to do something, he acted with the sense of a kindergartner (example: refusing to sign any bills until the legislature passed a roads bill that he wanted).

Otter's second and third terms have been defined by failure and controversy. He backed the awful Luna Laws that voters soundly rejected. He has wasted $80,000 of tax payer money trying to fight the court's rulings on gay marriage. Even worse than all of that, he has been embroiled in scandal and accusations of crony capitalism. His attempt to privatize a state prison earned the nickname "Gladiator School" and is being investigated by the FBI for all sorts of charges; falsifying reports, allowing the gangs to control the prison, and purposefully under-staffing the guards. The Idaho Education Network was formed under his lead with the intent was to connect every high school in Idaho to high speed internet - including remote rural schools. However, contracts given to his out-of-state campaign donors even though a local company pitched a better service at a lower price. His actions resulted in a lawsuit (the state lost) and the courts determined that the previously awarded contracts were done so illegally. Again, this cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.

At best, Governor Otter is incompetent. At worst, he is manipulative and vindictive; possibly criminally corrupt.

This brain trust doesn't stop at the top. It works its way down to lower offices. Remember our Superintendent of Public Instruction? Yes, the one who won her election despite her bout of dishonesty, plagiarism, and lack of experience.

Or the former State Representative (and tax protester) Phil Hart who owed the IRS half a million dollars and tried multiple times to claim legislative privileges to evade his court battles.

Or the toe-tapping former US Senator Larry Craig who was arrested for lewd conduct in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, eventually pleading guilty to disorderly conduct. Despite being charged with misuse of campaign funds in an FEC lawsuit and court ordered to repay over a quarter million dollars in fines, Larry is now employed by the Idaho Republican Party as the financial chair of their executive committee.

Or former State Senator John McGee who got arrested for a DUI and grand theft auto after he stole an SUV with an attached towing a trailer; he went for a joy ride eventually crashing in the front yard of a Boise neighborhood. Despite his criminal charges, the senate took no penalizing actions against him and he was able to retain his position as caucus chairman. He finally resigned seven months later amid charges of sexual harassment.

Granted, those last three are all in the past. The current state leadership however is still filled with dolts of their caliber. Our current legislative session has been filled with disappointment.

Perhaps the most glaring evidence of their inadequacies is the refusal to recognize the Idaho giant salamander as the state amphibian due to paranoia of federal government overreach. Their actions crushed the dreams of the eighth grade student who has spent the last two years lobbying the state on behalf of the giant salamander.

Since the legislature began this current session, they have spent more time giving a proverbial middle finger to the big bad feds than they have attempting to resolve real problems facing our state. Rather than addressing education for our kids or providing support to the disabled in our community, Idaho's lawmakers are attempting to nullify federal law and claim possession of federal lands. They often ignore the advice of our Attorney General. They ignore the voices of the people who come to testify, send them emails, or call their offices. As for the many lawsuits that the state is fighting, our leaders have chosen to seek private lawyers rather than use the attorneys that are employed by the state - which means we're paying for legal representation twice. This GOP dominated government is redefining fiscal conservatism in horrifying ways.

I've become adjusted to the loony nature of our state's governance. After all, there isn't much I can do except wait for the next round of elections and hope my vote against these morons is not the only one.

Then the past few days happened. It must be a slow news week elsewhere in the nation because the idiocy of the Idaho GOP has made headlines from sea to shiny sea.

Both news stories broke on Monday.

First, while a doctor gave testimony, Rep. Vito Barbieri asked her if a gynecological exam could be performed by a woman swallowing a tiny camera. Anyone who has sat through a junior high anatomy class should be able to answer that question. Vito is an odd character. He is often confrontational during session and rude to anyone who provides input contrary to his political leanings. In response to the backlash against him, he claimed the question was rhetorical - which is likely. But it does nothing to further his cause. When you ask a stupid question like that, it undermines your argument. His back up excuse after the "rhetorical question" claim was that he was taken out of context. Of course, it is hard to be taken out of context when you are quoted word for word.

The second story revolved around a proposed resolution for the Kootenai County GOP Central Committee. This resolution asked for Idaho to declare that it is a Christian State - that "The state of Idaho and all its institutions will render full recognition to the Christian basis thereof, not permitting any diminution or rejection of its status nor any restriction on its presence or role in the public arena." Forget that the first amendment of the US Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion. Forget that Article I section 4 of the Idaho Constitution also protects religious liberty stating "No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship, religious sect or denomination ... nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship." But hey, who cares about the law?

Supporters claimed that the resolution was significant because we live in a time where Christians are persecuted in countries like Syria. They forget that the Christian church was founded during a time of persecution, that the first churches often met in secret, that the Roman government often subjected early Christians to torture and executions. They forget that there have always been nations where Christians are a persecuted minority and that the church often thrives in the midst of open persecution. They forget that Jesus told his disciples that they would be insulted, slandered, and assaulted because of their faith, that they would be blessed for the ways they are mistreated. One committee member backing the Christian State resolution had the gall to say that the republican party is a Christian party. It is as if the God they believe in is smaller than politics or belongs to only a single party.

Times like these make it hard to enjoy living in Idaho. Maybe I need to take a evening walk along the Centennial Trail again to watch the sun set over the Spokane River and remember why I love this place that I call home.


Because, if you ignore the troglodytes that govern this state, it really is wonderful here.

2.26.2015

To be an Idaho citizen Part 1

If you are to live in Idaho for any extended duration, you will discover much to enjoy. From the depths of Hells Canyon and Snake River Canyon to the heights of Borah Peak, the Selkirk Mountains, or the Sawtooth Range. From world class ski resorts of Sun Valley, Brundage, or Schweitzer Mountain to the the beauty of Payette, Coeur d'Alene, and Pend Oreille lakes. From Craters of the Moon National Monument to City Of Rocks National Preserve to the Cataldo Mission National Historic Landmark. From deserts to forests. From peaceful valleys to alpine ridges. From farming canals to wild rivers. From the Mormon dominated south to the libertarian north. The hunting and fishing and boating and swimming and hiking and spelunking. The metropolitan entertainment and agricultural fields and state fairs and community festivals and art galleries and distilleries and cheese factories and coffee roasters. The clean air. Most people would be able to find an aspect about the state of Idaho that they could love.

We have been nicknamed the Gem State because of the varieties of gemstones that can be or have been found within our borders. This state is also a figurative gem because of its something-for-everyone setting. The city dweller. The suburbanite. The farmer. The redneck. The thrill seeker. The artist.

Idaho has been home to authors and poets like Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound; actresses Patty Duke and Ellen Travolta; actors Viggo Mortensen, Dennis Franz, and Ben Stein; athletes like Jake Plummer and Don Larsen; even Philo Farnsworth - the guy that invented the television. At some point in time, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Elway, Mark Zuckerberg, Clint Eastwood, and Wayne Gretzky have owned vacation properties in Idaho. This is a state that has inspired adventure as well as offered a quiet retreat for many.

In my little corner of Kootenai County, I have come to appreciate our event-filled tourist season that seems to never end. Car d'Alene, Ironman, the Fourth of July parade and fireworks show, Julyamsh pow wow, Art on the Green, North Idaho Fair. I love our nearness to the rugged wilderness and access to the amenities of Spokane on the other side of the state line. The smell of mint as I drive across the prairie, the roar of water falling over the Post Falls Dam, the feel of wind sweeping inland from the lakes and rivers, and the relieving chill as I dip my toes into the water after a hike around Tubbs Hill. We experience all four seasons in their truest forms: wet but warm springs with cherry blossoms and electrical storms, long hot summers that will compel you to seek either air conditioning or your favorite stretch of beach, cool and crisp autumns with colorful foliage, and frigid snowy winters that make recent Californian transplants regret their decision to move north.

This is my home.

Before I start to sound like I am speaking on behalf of the Department of Commerce and Tourism, before you assume I'm trying to convince all of my out-of-state friends to relocate to my neighborhood, there's more.

Idaho contains unparalleled scenery. It is a golfer's and sportsman's paradise. We have miles and miles of trails to support any fitness advocate. Foodie will find their favorite culinary haunts. If you're looking for good wine or good gin, you'll find it in Idaho. Life here is something that anyone could get used to.

However ...

If you are to live in Idaho, you will have to accept that crazy is the default setting for most of the politicians that run this state. The capitol building in Boise is a stunning and gorgeous work of architecture, but the business that is conducted within its walls borders between insanity and absurdity.


There is more. If you want to know what kind of mindlessness lurks around Idaho's government, you'll have to read part two tomorrow.