Friday, August 30, 2019

What Is An American?

"What then is this American, this new man?"
J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur

Since before the foundation of our country, this has been the existential question of our time - what is an American?  What does it mean?  How is it defined?  Who qualifies as being an American?

With recent events, I fear we need to ask ourselves this question again.  Now more than ever.

It is a harder question to answer in the affirmative than you would imagine.

We can say for certain what it is not.  American is not a singular race, nor is it a particular people group.

There is not a singular American culture.  There is no one American cuisine, no one dialect, no one American experience.

We are not of a single religion, despite some protestations otherwise.  There is no Church of America.

We are not all one color, one size, one shape.

We share no singular origin.

Further, American is not bound by a specific geographic location.  Not bound to a singular language.  Not bound to a single history.

Instead, we are what we have always been - a diverse group of outcasts held together by a collection of ideals.


"The chief ideal of the American people is idealism."
President Calvin Coolidge


We hold tightly to some of the best ideals ever put to paper.  That all men, that all people are created equal.  That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights - by definition, God given rights that cannot be taken away.  Rights to life.  To liberty - to freedom in many senses of the word.  To the pursuit of happiness.

We believe the government is of the people.  That it derives its power and its life from the very people that it governs.  That it is crafted and sustained by the people.  They fill its halls, they make the laws, and they in turn enforce them.  And that ultimately it exists for the people.  Government is for the benefit of the people, not the other way around.

That we have given the government a purpose.  A reason for existing.  To form a more perfect Union.  To establish justice.  To insure domestic tranquility or peace.  To promote a general level of welfare.  To secure the blessings of liberty, not just for ourselves, but for those that will come behind us.

We have not always done a great job in living up to these ideals.  We have struggled with equality for all people.  We have struggled with having the government benefit the governed, not the governors.  We struggle with securing the blessings of liberty for our posterity, and not just being focused on the now, the immediate, the self-centered us.

But, by and large, we as Americans define ourselves by these ideals.  These lofty goals that bind us when we pledge our allegiance to this nation.

The problem with having ideals at the center of a national identity is that they are intangible; they only have the meaning we assign to them.  


"I don't know what you mean by 'glory'," Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously.  "Of course you don't - till I tell you.  I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"

"But 'glory' doesn't mean a 'nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "Whether you can make words mean different things - that's all."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."

Through the Looking Glass


As discussed above, we have struggled in the past because we have tried to change their definitions.  We want to be able to define who qualifies as "men" when we refer to "all men" being created equal, so that we can control exactly who we must acknowledge.  We have excluded based on gender, believing it only referred to men specifically.   We have exclude based on color, believing evil notions of racial superiority.  Even codifying a system in which a darker color would make someone 3/5 of a person.  A contradiction right in our founding documents.

We are at this point again.  We are seeking to control the definitions.

Our president has long been seeking to end birthright citizenship.  The principle of jus soli, or the idea that you are a citizen of the place where you were born.  That you are forever tied to the soil your feet land on.  This week, he ended birthright citizenship for children born overseas to United States service members.  Think through that, we've ended birthright citizenship for the children who for whatever reason are born overseas to the very people defending our country.

We're narrowing our definitions for political gain.  We want to stop "anchor babies."  We want to discourage or outright end most forms of immigration.  We want to pick and choose who can be an American.

As if that were not dangerous enough, it goes even further than that.  When our identity is tied up in our ideals, we can accuse those who do not hold up to our version of those ideals as no longer belonging.  Those on the right can accuse those on the left of being "un-American," and vice versa.  To accuse those who disagree as being disloyal.  To suggest that particular groups should leave.

It's no longer enough to cling to these ideals.  We're requiring an extra claim; a stronger tie.

We're looking to require uniformity where liberty once reigned.


"It has always been cited as an irrepressible symptom of America's vitality that her people, in fair times and foul, believe in themselves and their institutions."
Alistair Cooke


We have to recognize that differences and disagreements are part of our national identity.  That we are meant to wrestle with how to proceed as a nation.  It's meant to be hard.  Because when it's hard, when we push through it and reach compromise and consensus, it's worth it.

We have to recognize that there will be times we have to be pushed into progress when we don't want to face it.  We as a nation had to have racial equality thrust upon us for it to take root.  And we are still having to deal with those consequences.

We have to recognize that it is our differences that define us.  That there is a constant pull in this country between experiences.  Between black and white.  Male and female.  North and South.  East and West.  Coastal and fly-over.  City and country.  1st Generation and 3rd/4th/5th generation.  Naturalized and Immigrant.  Religious and not.   Further, we must recognize that it is these differences that make us greater than the sum of our parts.

We have to recognize how we got here.  Who we are.

We are a nation of outcasts and runaways.  There are too few of us who can claim an uninterrupted direct link to the soil of this nation when we trace our full lineage.  For the vast majority of us, we are the products of immigration to this land, and often, we represented the groups our old countries wanted to get rid of.  Those groups they didn't want.

We were the religious heretics, the undesirables, the lower social classes.

The tired.  The poor.  The huddled masses.  The wretched refuse.  The home-less.  Tempest-tossed.

We are a nation of dreamers.  We came together, we sought this land, because we believed in its ideals.  Because we sought freedom.  Liberty.  Equality.  The American Dream.  The eternal promise.  The huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

We are a nation of borrowers.  We have borrowed pieces from every culture, every race, every nation, every tongue, and every tribe to cobble together this country we call America.  We see this in our language, in our food, in our art, and in our principles of government.

This is how our melting pot is formed, in the best sense of the analogy.  From each group that comes to our shores, they contribute the best of themselves.  They join and impact our culture, and we in turn, impact theirs.

We are the ultimate shared experience.  The ultimate neighborhood.  The ultimate village to raise a person.  To better each other.  To love each other.  To share with each other.

Maybe then, we can truly live up to the ideals that we claim.  Maybe then we will be the western pilgrims.

Maybe then we can call ourselves Americans.

"He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds.  He has become an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater.  Here individuals of all races are melted into a new race of man, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.  Americans are the western pilgrims."
J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur

Thursday, August 29, 2019


We can’t get too deep into the politics. And the characters can take sides, choose sides, turn evil, turn back to good, but they still have to entertain. That’s first and foremost, no matter what real-world events we are going to reflect, they are going to be fictionalized and they’re going to have the classic spin that Stan always brought to them. They will be serious, but they may make you smile.
C.B. Cebulski, Editor in Chief, Marvel Comics, 8/30/18

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.  If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."
Desmond Tutu

There's a growing push, a rallying cry for entertainment to be apolitical*.  To be neutral.  To avoid the controversial or anything that might divide an audience and to just be entertainment.

In other words, to be toothless.

There are definitely times when stories, when entertainment can tell universally applicable stories that carry no overt or implied political meanings.  But to demand that every story be so is to misunderstand the purpose of entertainment in the first place.

Entertainment is meant to entertain yes, but it is also meant to move us.  It is meant to challenge us and our beliefs.  It is meant to spur us on to further action.  It is meant to inspire us.

Marvel Comics decided last year to do a bit of course correcting and move to an apolitical stance.  The quote from Editor in Chief Cebulski followed a particular notorious storyline in which Captain America was revealed to have been manipulated into being a Fascist dictator.  It involved mind control and full timey-wimey shenanigans.  It's comics.

The storyline definitely got a reaction and divided the comics community.  To be fair, many of the people objecting to the storyline were objecting without knowing the full story - they were objecting and protesting following a first act turn that was supposed to shock and unsettle.

The announcement also came in light of the Comicsgate movement; a campaign against perceived "forced diversity" and progressivism in comics hiring and content, with Marvel at the center of the crosshairs.  At the time, many of Marvel's legacy heroes (read white, male characters created in the 1940s and 1960s), had been replaced by heroes of more diverse backgrounds.  It's a common storyline in comics, where the hero is replaced by a substitute, only to come back later.  It just happened to be happening in several books at once.

In order to take the heat off, Marvel made an aggressive course correction, even going so far as to say "what we've heard is that people didn't want more diversity."  Books shifted back to the legacy heroes.  Storylines for the most part stopped being overtly political, with notable exceptions (you don't hire Ta-Nahesi Coates without expecting him to be political).

"All art is propaganda."
W.E.B. Dubois

This apolitical stance has brought Marvel into the recent news.  Two high-profile creators have reported that Marvel asked them to revise their text pieces for books related to Marvel's 80th anniversary celebration.

First, Pulitzer Prize winning Art Spiegelman reported that Marvel asked him to revise his introduction for the Folio Society collection of Golden Age Marvel Comics to remove a pointed but passing reference to President Trump.  Spiegelman declined and pulled the introduction.

Now it is alleged that Marvel requested veteran creator and award winning Mark Waid to revise a text piece designed to accompany Captain America art in their Marvel Comics #1000 celebration issue.  A text piece which discussed the dichotomy of the flaws and virtues of America.

This at a time when it is more important to be political than ever.

At a time when toddlers are still going unrepresented in courts of law and are left to fend for themselves.

At a time when the administration is moving for the indefinite detention of migrant families, seeking to dismantle the Flores Agreement.

At a time when United States Customs and Immigration Services confirms that children born to United States service members outside of the United States will no longer automatically be considered United States citizens.

At a time when our President is confirming his plans to end birthright citizenship for children of non-citizen parents.

At a time when our President ponders nuking a hurricane.

At a time when we may finally see the deep connections our President and his family have to Russian oligarchs through co-signed loans, as a result of his tax returns finally being revealed.

It's past time we were all political.

If you cannot find something in that list above that doesn't make your blood boil, I would suggest checking for a pulse.

It's time for all of us to be involved and it's time for our art to push us onward.  It's time for our art to motivate us to do better.  To make good.

And for comics, it's time for our heroes to inspire us.  To show us the better way, the brighter future.  For them to show us truth, justice, and the American way.  An American way that applies to us all equally.

For the sake of art inspiring us, I'm including Waid's unaltered text piece below.

"I’m asked how it’s possible to love a country that’s deeply flawed.  

It’s hard sometimes.  The system isn’t just.  We’ve treated some of our own abominably.  

Worse, we’ve perpetuated the myth that any American can become anything, can achieve anything, through sheer force of will.  And that’s not always true.  This isn’t the land of opportunity for everyone.  The American ideals aren’t always shared fairly.  

Yet without them, we have nothing.  

With nothing, cynicism becomes reality.  With nothing, for the privileged and the disenfranchised both, our way of life ceases to exist.  We must always remember that America, as imperfect as it is, has something.  It has ideals that give it structure.  

When the structure works, we get schools.  We get roads and hospitals.  We get a social safety net.  More importantly, when we have structure, we have a foundation upon which to rebuild the American Dream — that equal opportunity can be available to absolutely everyone.  

America’s systems are flawed, but they’re our only mechanism with which to remedy inequality on a meaningful scale.  Yes, it’s hard and bloody work.  But history has shown us that we can, bit by bit, right that system when enough of us get angry.  When enough of us take to the streets and force those in power to listen.  When enough of us call for revolution and say, “Injustice will not stand.”  

That’s what you can love about America."


* - I have to point out I think it's a bit disingenuous when people say they want entertainment to be apolitical.  What they are usually saying is that they do not want entertainment that they disagree with politically.  Just as with celebrity opinions, they are fine with those that agree with them, but want those opposed to be silenced.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Fair warning - language in the quotes from Esquire.

It's rare that I would plug a new original movie sight unseen, but from everything I have read and heard, I am anxiously desiring to see The Peanut Butter Falcon.

The film is a modern re-imagining of Huckleberry Finn, which follows a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from his care home to pursue his dream of becoming a professional wrestler.  It is receiving a lot of praise.

Variety called it a "feel-good niche indie with its priorities in the right place."  The Rotten Tomatoes consensus calls it "a feel good adventure brought to life by outstanding performances."  It received the Narrative Spotlight Audience Award at South by Southwest this year.  It has been described as the type of movie that does not get made anymore.

Much of the coverage of the film has centered on newcomer Zack Gottsagen.  Through the filmmaking experience, Gottsagen has emerged as a shining star.  As Relevant Magazine wrote, "Like his character in the movie, Gottsagen has Down syndrome.  Also, like his character in the movie, he's a big personality and exudes optimism and encouragement."

And every article on the subject has written about how this personality, optimism, and encouragement impacted everyone he worked with.  The writer-director duo behind the film, Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, talked about how Gottsagen was very grounding, always in the present.  They described how he would grab the megaphone at the end of the day and give out compliments.  How he would demand a group hug from the team.  And how all eighty to one hundred people on set would do it.

Gottsagen had an even bigger impact on costar, Shia LeBouf.  LeBouf had lobbied to play a part in the film before even seeing the script, pulled in by a clip of Gottsagen's performance.  To say LeBouf was working through issues at the time is an understatement.  His time on the film coincided with a very publicized incident in Savannah that resulted in his arrest.

Gottsagen had been a huge fan of LeBouf, dating back to his Even Steven days.  When Gottsagen learned of LeBouf's arrest, he was angry, frustrated, and soured on the idea of working with him.  Shia would open up about this time in a brutally honest interview with Esquire.

"The morning he got out of jail, LaBeouf attended a small party for the cast and crew, and no one brought up what had happened. 'Everybody was pussyfooting around it,' he says. As soon as Gottsagen arrived, he beelined for LaBeouf and sat on the floor, and there LaBeouf joined him. They talked for twenty minutes. Gottsagen told him, 'You’re already famous. This is my chance. And you’re ruining it.'

'To hear him say that he was disappointed in me probably changed the course of my life,' LaBeouf says. ' 'Cause I was still fighting. I was still on my "Look how fast they released the videos! They don’t release these!" Just on my defense-mechanism-fear garbage. And you can’t do that to him. He keeps it one thousand with you, and that shit doesn’t even make sense to him. Zack can’t not shoot straight, and bless him for it, ’cause in that moment, I needed a straight shooter who I couldn’t argue with.' He says their conversation continued on set: 'We were getting ready to do a scene and Zack said, "Do you believe in God?" And I thought, No fuckin’ way are you about to explain God to me, Zack.' LaBeouf tries to keep it together. His voice jumps an octave. 'Zack said, "Even if He’s not real, what does it hurt?"' He turns his face away. He takes a breath and continues. 

'I don’t believe in God... But did I see God? Did I hear God? Through Zack, yeah. He met me with love, and at the time, love was truth, and he didn’t pull punches. And I’m grateful, not even on some cheeseball shit trying to sell a movie. In real life. That motherfucker is magical.' LaBeouf’s posture is all right angles, as if the memory alone has straightened him. 'Zack allowed me to be open to help when it came.' 

When LaBeouf first checked into rehab, he was asked about the pop—the moment your head gets pulled out of your ass and clarity washes over you. 'For me,' he says, 'it was Zack.' LaBeouf is not broken but on the other side of brokenness, and he’s looked back at the wreckage for long enough. It’s time to go home. He rises, puts his hands in his pockets, and walks out from under the shade of the crab-apple tree."

Both LeBouf and costar Dakota Johnson made a point of telling the directors just how positive, how special Gottsagen made the set.  "Just so you know, it's not always like this.  Sets aren't always like this."

That quote wrecked me, it really did.  It forced me to come to grips with an overwhelming question:

Why not?

Don't get me wrong, I know why sets, why jobs can be horrible.  This person can't get along with this other person.  This person's method acting drives this actor's sensibilities crazy.  Actor in the supporting role feels they should have been cast as the lead and wants to prove it.  This director is controlling and manipulative.  And so on and so on.

But truly, why is having a positive experience at work, especially in the arts, such a rarity?  Why is it a surprise to find a set that is affirming, that is positive, that is joyful?

Are we that vain?  Are our egos that fragile?

Why do place the onus on "special" people to make that happen?  For it to either be the place of the rare saints like Mister Rogers, or of those who we would often treat dismissively in other scenarios?

Why do we shirk our responsibility to love our neighbor?  To show that we serve a better kingdom?  To show that there is a better way?  To be fully present?

"If there is nothing but what we make in this world, let us make good."

Maybe it's time to realize that the onus is on us, each and every singular one of us, to make our environments better.  That our calling is to be the one that makes the set, our job, our classroom, etc. the place that people say "it's not always like this.  This is special."

That it's time to own up to changing our own environments or getting out of those we cannot change.  If we are stuck in a job that we cannot improve and that is only draining and not rewarding in some way, that it's time for a change.  For something different.

It's time for us to make good.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Are You Not Entertained?

Most of you know, I don't really follow sports, but this news item spoke to me.  Andrew Luck, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, announced Saturday night, August 24, that he was retiring from professional football at the age of 29.  “This isn’t how I envisioned this or planned this, but I’m going to retire.  This is the hardest decision of my life, but it’s the right decision for me."

Luck was one of the most highly decorated college quarterbacks in history and was the number one overall draft pick in 2012.  His career in the NFL, though, was plagued with injury after injury.  He missed the entire 2017 seasons for shoulder surgery.  He suffered a lacerated kidney, a partially torn abdomen, and torn rib cartilage.  This year, he was out most of training camp and the preseason because of a lower leg problem.  “I’ve been stuck in this process. I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live.  It’s taken the joy out of this game.  The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football.

Luck walked away to better his health, to be with his wife, who is expecting their first child, to refocus his future, and to find his passion again.  All mature decisions that should be applauded.

After the announcement was made in the stadium on Saturday, fans booed Luck as he walked off the field.  As if he owed them anything.  As if they were entitled to his performance.

At what point does our love of a game, our desire to win supersede the desires of the players?

What entitles us to treat them like things?

Does fantasy football further this detachment from the players as people - instead viewing them as fungible pieces related to their function?

Do the players just exist to show up and play, regardless of the circumstances?  There are a lot of troubling implications if we want to go down this path.

At what point does our entitlement override our concern for the players health and safety?

Do we really think they owe us their physical and mental health?

Are these really just our modern gladiatorial games?

Will we not be satisfied until blood is finally shed?

Are you not entertained?

I’m focusing on Luck and football for now because we know there are very problematic issues in the game of football.   We have report after report regarding the damage that the players are suffering.  Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is much more of an issue than we would like to believe.  It has been found in 99% of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated for researchAnd it’s heartbreaking to read story after story like that of Debra Fellows, wife of Ron Fellows, cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Raiders.  Fellows is suffering from Alzheimer’s brought on by CTE.

But this is entitlement is not limited to the fans of the NFL or even sports in general.  It spills over into all our forms of entertainment.  In response to Luck’s announcement, Yvette Nicole Brown, lead on television’s Community, discussed the “fans” she had to deal with who viewed it as a personal slight that she stepped away from the show to take care of her father.
Or how about the response David Chappelle got when he walked away from his show at the height of its popularity because he couldn't handle the stress anymore and why he headed back to standup.  "It's incredible. Because I was surrounded by so much negativity at some point that it took me going back and doing stand-up to realize, you know, people really like me. There's a lot of people who don't want anything from me but to laugh and have a good time. You see them at the show and they like -- they dress up to come see your show and stuff. And they pack these auditoriums and it's a lot of fun, man. It's like, this is how I started, and it's still fun for me."

I've shared before how we see this entitlement in how we shout down entertainers or athletes when they dare voice a contrary political opinion, as seen in the image below.

You are a marionette to us.  Nothing more.

This was a popular image a couple of years ago following the Academy Awards.  It's the same spirit as booing Luck.  How dare you have opinions!  How dare you have a life!  How dare you act independently!  The outrage!

Here's the thing - this is just as true on a micro level as well.  If nothing else today, I think this is an important truth to share:

You should not have to sacrifice your physical health, your mental health, or the health of your family for your job.  

I'll say it again a little louder.

You do not owe your job your physical well-being, your mental well-being, or the well-being of your family. 

If you are trapped in a job that is damaging your physical health, that is gaslighting you or eroding your mental well-being, or is putting a strain on your marriage or parental relationships, it's time to find a new job.

You are more than a cog in the machine.

I understand the above is complicated.  There are situations in which we do find ourselves trapped . and sometimes the job is needed just to make sure the bills are paid.  We have to do better as a society to make sure for holding businesses to the labor reforms that we have already created and for creating new ones that address the new issues in labor relations.  We have to create a better social structure so that if you work a full time job you can actually have a living wage.  We've got to be better about taking care of each other and supporting each other in every situation we find ourselves in (that's tomorrow's blog) to make our environments better places.  And sometimes we like the job that we have and don't mind the sacrifice because of the fulfillment.  That's ok, that's sacrifice for a purpose.

But if your health is deteriorating, you are miserable, your relationships are at their limits, it's time to find something else.  There is something better out there.

And it's better to end on your terms, like Luck, than to push on and find yourself burned out and used up in a job that would have replaced you in a second.

Take care of yourselves.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Disney's Talespin: The Problem of Influencing Social Media

These were supposed to be good weeks for the Walt Disney Company. D23, their big corporate fan convention, where they get to promote all their good press, is coming up this weekend. The press on Galaxy's Edge should be changing for the better with the blackouts being removed from the Disneyland park and the Disney Hollywood Studios version coming online.

Then everything started going sideways.

First, the Disney rumor mill was stirred with reports of exactly why Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland "underperformed."  Then, an alleged expose of Disney's manipulation of the online community was posted.  On the same day, an ex-accountant blew the whistle on Disney allegedly inflating revenue for years to the tune of billions of dollars.

To understand the significance of many of these events, a little Disney history is needed.

Despite a popular perception of Walt as the man in charge, Disney has always worked best when there are two visionaries at the head of the company.  In the original days, it was the two brothers, Roy O. and Walt.  Walt was the dreamer, envisioning projects no one had dared attempt before.  But Roy was a visionary in his own right.  Roy was the money man, and he had the insight and the experience to trust Walt and to make Walt's dreams happen or rein him in when necessary.  It was Roy who approached the television studios to get financing for Disneyland.  In brokering that deal, Roy secured advertising and financing in one fell swoop.  Their partnership is what allowed Disney to continue to innovate and prosper.

When Walt died, Roy assumed control, but focused on safer bets.  The Florida Project started with a theme park as opposed to the radical new urban design Walt had hoped for.  Even that theme park would be a closer copy to Disneyland that Walt would have done.

To say the company floundered without Walt would be an understatement.  The company would continue in this meandering path until the late 1980s/early 1990s.

The more general population would attribute the Disney Renaissance, as this period became known, to Michael Eisner.  Eisner was the visible creative.  A successful producer at Paramount, Eisner brought a new life and energy to the Disney Company.  Eisner's early success with the Walt Disney company, though, must also be attributed to his President and Chief Operating Officer, Frank Wells.

Wells and Eisner were brought in as a team by Roy O. Disney to replace Ron Miller.  Eisner would be CEO and Chairman, Wells President and COO.  Once again, we had another successful combination - Eisner the big idea man, Wells the practical applicant.   Wells could make Eisner's out of the box ideas happen, or pull him back when they went too far.

The Wells and Eisner team had a lot of hits in the early 90s.  Disney Animation quiet literally roared back into prominence with The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.  Parks and Resorts opened Disneyland Paris, Disney MGM Studios, planned for Disney Animal Kingdom, and announced the Disney Decade.  The company looked unstoppable.

On Easter 1994, Frank Wells was killed in a helicopter crash returning from a ski trip in the Ruby Mountains.  Of the five people aboard the helicopter, only one would survive.

Eisner's tenure following Wells' untimely death was marked by disappointment, frustration, and infighting.  A string of flops in Disney Animation.  The very public breakup with Jeffrey Katzenberg and the PIXAR/Dreamworks feud.  The failure to launch several theme parks (Disney's America, Port Disney, WestCot) and the ultimate failure of Disney California Adventure.  The "Save Disney" campaign and shareholder/board fight.

It's this Save Disney era and background that the recent troubles stem from. Save Disney referred to a campaign by Roy E. Disney, Roy O.’s son and Walt’s nephew, to oust Michael Eisner from the company. Roy felt there was too much micromanagement within the studio, too little success with the ABC acquisition, too much timidity in the theme parks, and an overall transition into a “rapacious, soul-less” company. Roy was able to rally shareholders to withhold their proxies in March 2004 and refuse to re-elect Eisner to the board of directors. From there, it took Eisner a year to step down as CEO.

One of the key tools Roy E. Disney was able to use in the Save Disney campaigns, and one of the chief sources of support came from the early internet.  Enter Al Lutz.

Lutz was a former recording industry executive who gained a following in the pre-internet days, with the alt.disney.disneyland USENET newsgroup, where he edited the Disneyland Information Guide, an unofficial resource for information about Disneyland.  What started as an FAQ quickly became a gossip column, with articles about the perceived decline in value and quality in the Disneyland park.  And during this time, there was a lot to write about, particularly in light of the fatal incidents on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the S.S. Columbia at the time.

Lutz's columns on Mouseplanet and Micechat/Miceage developed a devoted following.  Readers ate up the behind the scenes peek into the tumult of the Disney company.  After Disney California Adventure premiered with a dud, readers followed Lutz in blaming Paul Pressler and Cynthia Harris.  Media even started paying attention with columns that reported on Lindsay Lohan's antics at Disneyland or the changing of the it's a small world boats to accommodate "heavier" guests.

To say Lutz's columns bothered the Disney Company is an understatement.

Lutz's health, though, prevented him from continuing his column as long as everyone may have liked.  Suffering from the effects of Parkinson's disease, he largely retired from regular writing around 2005, coming back from time to time for an April Fools post or the like.

Two weeks ago, Lutz reappeared back online at Disney fan site MiceChat with a rumor column on August 13, 2019.  This time, however, he came back with a post very similar to his early posts - filled with backstage drama and corporate inner workings, very critical of the decisions of the Walt Disney Company.

In the column, Lutz outlined the internal concerns over the performance of Galaxy's Edge, the new Star Wars land, and pointed to the likely causes. In particular, Lutz pointed to the choices made by Parks Chairman Bob Chapek to remove the third ride from the land (a unique C-ticket transportation ride), the large space dinner theater restaurant, and the live action characters and droids from the land. These cuts combined with the bungled preparations and over correcting for crowds put Disneyland at an attendance level down 1.8%. In a year when everything was supposed to be at its peak, the blame seemed to be placed at Chapek's feet.

That column sent shockwaves through the Disney organization.  Just as his columns did in the transition from Eisner to Iger.

Last week, things really hit the fan with the posting of Gary Snyder's article, The [DIS] Influencer, on Medium.  Snyder purported to pull back the curtain completely, revealing Al Lutz to have been largely ghost written by Disney company spokespeople.  According to Snyder, Lutz has not ever written anything for MiceChat and had not been writing since 2002.  Those columns, the columns in the Save Disney time, those heavily influential, critical columns were the product of a ghostwriter planted by the Disney company.  This plant was alleged to be the plan of Zenia Mucha, the Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for the Walt Disney company.  Mucha allegedly used this ghostwriter to orchestrate the transition of Robert Iger into power as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.  Further, the column would be used to direct fan anger into specific areas that the Disney company would like it to go (and presumably distract it away from areas that it would not).

The news sent the Disney online community spinning.  Trying to out other posters as corporate shills.  Trying to track down an answer from TP2000/Troy Porter, the alleged ghostwriter.  Discussion on the topic on the forums on MiceChat was shut down.  But the community came to the realization that everyone should have online - unless you can ask the writer in person, you have no real proof that anyone who writes on the web is who they say they are.

You have no idea of their biases, unless they let them show.  You have no idea of their influences.  You have no idea what is going on behind the scenes.

Plus, Disney has long been known for perusing the online forums for essentially free market research.

The final nail for Disney came from a former accountant.  Sandra Kuba, a former senior financial analyst, reported that she had met with the SEC to report Disney for overstating revenue in the parks and resorts division by billions of dollars by exploiting weaknesses in the company's accounting software.

This again does not come as a surprise to those paying attention.  There were definitely allegations of graft and money laundering in the construction of Shanghai Disney.  Plus the budgets of attractions are getting to the $100 hammer points.

Couple all the above with a tepid D23 expo over the weekend, and Disney is not coming off well.  Throw in a spat with Sony over the rights to Spider-man and even the most die-hard fans are starting to notice.

As a die-hard fan, this is all a bit tough, but not all that surprising.  We are definitely at a point again where Disney is reacting but not really stretching itself.

Maybe it's time for a new pair at the top?  A new Roy and Walt, Eisner and Wells.

This will be something I'm keeping my eye on.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

I Don't Even Know Where To Begin...

On the comments by Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen labeling the idea to buy Greenland as absurd - They were "nasty.  I thought it was an inappropriate statement.  All she had to say, 'No, we wouldn't be interested.'"

"You don't talk to the United States that way, at least under me.  I thought it was not a nice statement, the way she blew me off."

On the Jewish vote - "I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty."

Doubling down - "In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people, and you're being very disloyal to Israel and only weak people would say anything other than that."

Facing criticism for these comments (and the fact that 71% of Jewish voters vote Democrat) -

On the trade war with China - "I am the chosen one."

On the Medal of Honor - "This was a big day, Medal of Honor.  Nothing like the Medal of Honor.  I wanted one, but they told me I don't qualify.  I said, 'Can I give it to myself anyway?'  They said, 'I don't think that's a good idea.'"

On the recession -

I mean, I'm seriously at a loss.  I don't know why I get surprised, but I continually am.

This week seems to be a bit over the top in crazy and ego stroking.  From overstating his victory, to Jewish loyalty to him, to repeating claims that compare him to the King of Israel, the second coming, and the chosen one, to joking about giving himself a medal of honor, to blaming the media for any potential recession.

Is he off his meds?  Is this signs of feared dementia?  Seriously, what's behind this uptick.

Yesterday's post was meant to be thought provoking about how some Christian groups can jump to identification of the Antichrist and the potential blindspots that accompany such identifications.  It was not meant to be proof regarding Trump.  He seems determined though to race to the bottom.

At this point, how can approximately 35% still support him and approve of his presidency?

That kind of blind loyalty benefits no one.  At some point this egomania should concern us.  It should be a red flag.

I mean, is he purposefully trying to tank the job, so that he won't get re-elected?  And there's still a substantial portion of the voting population is determined to make sure he is?

It really does baffle the mind.  It's hard to imagine what the future will say about this time.

Perhaps they will be as much at a loss for words as I am.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Antichrist

Throughout church history, certain Christians have been looking to identify the Antichrist in their lifetime.  They remained so convinced that Christ's return has to come in their lifetime, so the Antichrist has to be among them.  The thinking would go, the world is so terrible, the end must be soon.

To that end, a list of the proposed Antichrist candidates have included Yassar Arafat, the “Beast” super computer of the European Union, Jimmy Carter, Bill Gates, Mikhail Gorbachev, John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Benito Mussolini, Nero, Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, Pat Robertson, David Rockefeller, Anwar Sadat, Saddam Hussein, Willy Brandt, Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, and perhaps, most recently here in America, Barack Obama.

For eight years, we heard of how awful Barack Obama was.  That he was the Antichrist out to take away all Christian freedoms.  The fear of the things he would do.  Particular attention was paid to the near religious fervor that his political rallies had.  The "church" seeing how "those darn atheists" could be deluded by the Antichrist.

And then, nothing really happened.  He was so evil, but now, not so much.  We can still complain about him, but he's not the Antichrist.  We move on.

And that got me to thinking, are we truly going to recognize the Antichrist when he comes?

There's a definite thread here.  Look at the way President Trump has been able to delude parts of the church.  To persuade them into following and supporting him.  

Look at the prophecies:
  • The Antichrist will be the leader of a nation that is a military superpower with the ability to trample and crush the entire earth.  - Daniel 7:23
  • The Antichrist will be a man who is exceptionally arrogant and will be known for giving boastful speeches. - Daniel 7:8; Revelation 13:5
  • The Antichrist will be someone known for making a lot of public threats against people. - Revelation 13:2, Daniel 7:4
  • The Antichrist will come from among 7 tall “hills” that each act as a “head.” - Revelation 13:1, Ch. 17 
  • The Antichrist will cause people all over the globe to be filled with wonder and “follow” him. - Revelation 13:3
  • The Antichrist will be a political outsider with despicable character and a contemptuous personality who wins an election that no one expects him to win. - Daniel 11:21
  • The Antichrist will give speeches where he speaks “great things” and then about things that are even “greater.” - Daniel 7:20
  • The Antichrist comes to power through collusion with a secret alliance who uses disinformation to help him win - even though he has a minority number of supporters. - Daniel 11:23
  • The Antichrist’s rise to power will seem like a miracle that God performed, tricking people into following Satan instead of God without even noticing. - 2 Thessalonians 2:9
  • As president, the Antichrist will immediately find ways to make himself and his friends richer - and he will do it in a way that no president had ever done before. - Daniel 11:24
  • Once in power the Antichrist will reveal that his heart wants to make alterations to the “appointed times” that are in current laws. - Daniel 7:25
  • The Antichrist will make fake news popular and will be a chronic liar.  His followers will believe his delusions because they hate the truth. - Daniel 8:25, 2 Thessalonians 2:10
  • The Antichrist will reward those who are completely loyal with powerful positions and lucrative real estate deals. - Daniel 11:39b
  • The Bible says that we’ll be able to spot the Antichrist because he will give an arrogant public speech in the middle of his first term where he boasts of “great things” but also uses God’s name as a curse in the same speech. - Revelation 13:5-6
  • The Antichrist will draw strong support from many Christians as if they are willfully blind and outright delusional. - Matthew 24:24, 2nd Thessalonians 2:10
  • The Antichrist will spend his first term in office having an ongoing feud with the leadership of the nation on his southern border. - Daniel 11:25
  • The Antichrist will be so angry at the king to his south that he will decide to intentionally inflict harm on that ethnic group in retaliation. - Daniel 11:28, Zechariah 11:16-17
  • The Antichrist will be furious over “rumors and reports” that come from the east and north, and will fly into fits of rage as the reports surface. - Daniel 11:44
  • The Antichrist will appear to receive a wound he can’t recover from, but will survive to put down the first attempts to remove him from office. - Revelation 13:3
  • The Antichrist will have the nation’s most powerful religious leader influencing the country for him.  This leader will try to convince Christians that the Antichrist is “God’s pick” and that we need to support him. - Revelation 13:11-12
  • The Antichrist will see himself as being above everyone else, as if he had no need for God.  He will eventually elevated himself as the God and King of Israel. - 2nd Thessalonians 2:4, Revelation 17
  • The Antichrist will worship the god of board walls.  - Daniel 11:37-38
  • The Antichrist’s most devoted followers will wear a sign of their allegiance to him on their foreheads. - Revelation 13
  • But the people who truly know God and remain faithful, will firmly “resist” him. - Daniel 11:32
With Corey's analysis, there is a definite through line that can be drawn from each of these prophecies to President Trump.  It's fairly convincing and somewhat disconcerting.

You should read the article and see how each of these fall into place.  There are facts in there that 

But ultimately, do I think Trump is the Antichrist?


For one, too many people dislike him.

In reality, the prophecies are like Rorschach tests - we see in them what we want to find.  Corey is able to pull some connections together, but there are some real stretches in there as well.

What we should do is remember that the Antichrist will come to deceive us all.  That he will be able to persuade and to draw to him many that would be considered faithful.  That he's not coming in opposition to the church, at least not initially.  

We should learn from the reasons why we have identified people as the Antichrist in the past.  That they may lead political rallies that look like Billy Graham Crusades.  And that they will be able to seduce men and women of the church with political power, putting aside character and morality for position.

Perhaps then, we can recognize him and resist him when he actually arrives.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Our 51st State?

It seems the idea of a 51st state may not be too far fetched.  President Trump has apparently expressed interest in buying Greenland.  The crazier thing is that the notion has not been completely dismissed within the administration.  While there are scoffers, others have seriously considered and explored the idea.

There are a few features that make Greenland particularly enticing.  It is the site of our northern most military base with Thule Air Base.    It is further at the center of the global climate crisis and frequently mentioned in discussions regarding national security.   An early detection and response location for the east coast.

It is also apparently not the first time we have considered, much less attempted to buy the land.  President Harry Truman apparently offered Denmark $100 million in gold for the island, but Denmark refused to sell.

There too will lie the downfall of this current presidential lark.  Greenland is an autonomous territory of Denmark, who has again refused to consider any offer.  Further, Greenland has made it clear they want no part in this.  Most Americans want no part in it unless the price is shockingly low.  Only a third of those surveyed would pay more than $12.  

This does make me wonder though, how well we are taking care of our 14 territories.   Or more specifically, the five permanently inhabited territories: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.  

In truth, I think most of the country forgets these exist.  Or that they are home to 3.6 million American citizens (and 32,000 non-citizen U.S. nationals thanks to weird laws in American Samoa).

Residents of these territories have local governments, but only get a non-voting member to the United States House of Representatives.  They have no senators, nor can they vote in the presidential elections.  Though Supplemental Security Income, previously only available to the Northern Mariana Islands, may be extended to the other territories thanks to a recent court case, the citizens do not need to pay into federal income taxes.  No representation, no taxation.

We can even look to those who live in the District of Columbia for a closer example of the problem.  Those 702,455 people live in a similar limbo.  They have a mayor and thirteen member council, and can elect a non-voting representative to the House, but have no senator.    Unlike those in the territories, DC residents are subject to all federal taxes, and in fact pay the highest federal taxes per capita.  Taxation without representation, especially given Congress can overrule all the mayor and council decisions governing the district?

It’s clear we have citizens that are not treated equally by our governmental structure.  It seems to also cause our government to forget them in times of crisis.  Just look at how we’ve treated Puerto Rico following the devastation from Hurricane Maria.

I just have the feeling that if this were Florida or California or North Carolina we were talking about, the conversation would be much different and the situation of recovery would be much different.

So, maybe before getting excited about Greenland, we should expect our government to look at how well we are taking care of our current territories and evaluating whether it’s time for an upgrade in status there?  

DC has voted for statehood, though that presents its own unique challenges. 

Puerto Rico has voted for statehood twice.

Perhaps we should start there.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


39 today.

That's hard to believe.  It's the kind of number that can be a bit intimidating.  That can require a bit of reflection and thought.  That keeps you adding "and holding" to your description of the age.

And with some of the other life changes that have happened this year, it could be a bit of a downer.  A what have you done with your life moment.

But not for me.

Instead, I think of Stan Lee.

In 1961, Martin Goodman directed Stan Lee to create a comic book series about a team of superheroes.  Lee who had served editor-in-chief and art director, as well as a dozen other roles in his two decades at Timely Comics and Atlas Comics, was a bit burned out of comics at the time.  Lee was ready to call it quits.

Lee was ready to head to novels, to magazines, something.  But he listened to the advice of his wife, Joan, who suggested that he write at least one comic the way he would want to write it, not the way it had been done before.  Lee was then “determined to carve a real career for myself in the nowhere world of comic books,” noting that “for just this once, I would do the type of story I myself would enjoy reading … And the characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to: they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty, and - most important of all - inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay. 

Now there are the disagreements as to how much input was Lee’s and how much was penciler Jack Kirby’s.  Regardless, the resulting combination proved to be a smash success, though quite unexpected.  Lee had felt ready to leave, but the positive reviews persuaded him to stay on.  It would be his most defining creation, in combination with the Silver Surfer, which launched fromthis comics magazine.   He would go on to maintain a 102 issue collaboration with Kirby, on this the “World’s Greatest Comics Magazine.    Lee’s contribution, treating characters as human as opposed to ideal archetypes, would become the standard for the industry.  

From here, Lee would become a fixture in the comic scene.  His engagement with the readership in letter columns and in his Soapbox column build a great sense of community with fans and creators.  He introduced credits to the comic pages for not just the writer and penciler, but inker and letterer as well. 

Lee would be editor in chief, head writer, and show runner for the majority of the 1960s Marvel line.  He pioneered the pop culture of today.  And his impact extended beyond his tenure at the company.  He remained comics elder statesmen and the self-proclaimed greatest cameo artist of all time.  He was Uncle Stan.  

And the event that launched this career and fame.  The year that started the pop culture phenomenon known as Marvel.

Lee wrote that when he was 39.

The great success of Lee’s career didn’t start until Lee was 39. 

It was that point where he started following where his muse led him.  He didn’t change fields, didn't really even change jobs, he just finally released himself from the trappings of the past, from doing things someone else’s way.  

With all that is going on, I take solace in his life and story.  With the idea that there’s no magic number as to when your life really takes off.  It’s not that things weren’t good before, it’s just that it can always still take off at any point.

With the idea that this career transition, whatever it entails, could be the start of the absolute best part of my life.  The most fulfilling part.

And that’s exciting to me.

Here’s to 39.

Here’s to that kind of life-changing, universe-defining, creatively fulfilling opportunity.  


Wednesday, August 14, 2019


Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2

Sunday’s sermon pointed out that the word “imitators” here is related to the idea of mimicry.  The ability to copy closely.  To imitate.  To do an impression.  More actively, it carries the idea of being a mime.  Someone who is going through the motions, the processes to give the impression of a particular activity.  The mime, the act of mimicry calls to your mind a specific activity, person, etc.

We judge the success of the mime, the success of the impression by its accuracy.  How well does it represent the person or the activity being demonstrated.

I’m currently watching America’s Got Talent while staying with friends for this bridge job.  One of the contestants is a particularly gifted impressionist.  Greg Morton has a love of movies that goes so deep, it’s impressive.  He has combined this love with his natural talent for mimicry to be able to recreate so many great movie lines and catchphrases with dead-on accuracy.  It is amazing and I would encourage you to watch him.  

On the other end of the spectrum, we know that there is nothing worse than a bad impression.  Ones that leave us scratching our head, seeking to identify the source. 

With that in mind, if we are to be imitators of Christ, that leaves us with a heavy particular gut check:

How good is your imitation of Christ?

Is it recognizable?  Or is it too far removed?

In particular:

How are we doing feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, caring for the poor?  Or are we putting conditions on our charity, based on skin color, sexual preference, gender identity, or immigration status?

How are we doing at going the extra mile?  Carrying the pack that much further?  Or are we refusing to even have conversation with those we disagree with?

How are we doing crossing boundaries to speak with the woman at the well?  Or are we uncomfortable venturing into other countries, other cultures, other states, other cities, or even just across the tracks?

How are we doing at showing mercy and being peacekeepers, intervening with the sometimes mob justice of the world and of the church?  Or are we still the pharisees trying to through the stones?

How are we doing with empathy toward those around us?  Do we weep with the people in our lives?  Or are we closed off to them?

How are we doing hanging out with the outsiders?  Visiting the tax collector at his house?  Breaking bread with prostitutes and fishermen?  Or do our social circles look very homogenized?  Are they all exclusively from our church?

How are we doing at turning over the money tables in our churches and our faith?  Or have we become comfortable with the coffee shops, the book and music stores, and the apparel stores in our buildings?  Does reducing our faith to a theme park not bother us on some level?

How are we doing at forgiving those who hurt us?  O do we just ghost them now?

How are we doing with our doubters and our deniers? Are we caring for them, are we pursuing them, and are we forgiving them to help see them return?  Or are we writing them off as apostate?

That’s just a small list.  And I fail miserably at all of it.  Jon Jorgenson has a quote that says, “I’m worse than you think worshipping a God who is greater than you know.  And it’s true.  I’m far worse than you could possibly imagine.  I have the hardest time living up to the imitation that I’m called to.  There are days when my imitation is unrecognizable.  

But, like art, we are called to keep trying to perfect it.  It will never get there this side of glory.  But we keep at it.

And if you are struggling in your imitation, those are the words you need to hear.

Keep at it.

What's The Bald Eagle When There's Money To Be Made?

The Trump Administration announced a major revision to the Endangered Species Act on Monday, August 12, 2019, reducing regulations by ending blanket protections for animals newly deemed threatened and allowing federal authorities to take economic costs of protecting a species into account.  The new rules also impose limitations on how threats are determined. Previously, officials could take into account factors that could harm species in the foreseeable future. Lawmakers now have much more discretion in defining the foreseeable future.

And in designating critical habitats, regulators are to reassess the lands that are currently occupied by threatened or endangered species before adding/looking at unoccupied lands.  To “reduce the potential for additional regulatory burden that results from a designation when species are not present in that area.  Despite the fact that some species are endangered because they’ve been cornered in a small corner of the earth and a larger designated area is needed to help bring them back. 

It’s odd that this is now a target of the Republican Party, when it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1973.  The Act currently protects 1,663 animal and plant species - 388 of which are considered threatened and 1,275 which are endangered.  It is credited with helping bring multiple species back from near extinction including the bald eagle, the humpback whale, the California Condor, and the American alligator.  

So why is it a problem now?

Sure, that's what we need - to continue to prop up and subsidize the oil, gas, coal industries at the expense of the planet.  

Again, as in the title of the blog, why should we care about endangered species when there is money to be made?

We're killing our democracy, why not the animals too?

This should be a no brainer.  This should be bipartisan.  This should offend us all.  And yet, Republicans are united in supporting these changes.  The Republicans in Congress, the White House, and the Department of the Interior all are coordinating in remove as much regulation as possible.
The one million species number comes from a United Nations report released in May.  To quote one of the co-chairs of the report, "The evidence is crystal clear - Nature is in trouble.  Therefore we are in trouble."

Indeed, we are in trouble.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Losing My Religion

“No one talks about it.”

This isn’t something new, but we’ve had a couple of high profile church leaders come out and reveal that they have lost their faith.  First, Joshua Harris revealed through Instagram that he no longer is a Christian.  Now Hillsong Songwriter Marty Sampson followed suit on Instagram in a now removed post to say that he is losing his religion. 

One particular refrain in Sampson’s post is a litany of things he views as going undiscussed in the Christian faith.  The number of preachers that fall.  That there are not many miracles happening.  Why the Bible is full of contradictions.  How God is love but can send four billion people to a place because they do not believe.  The hard questions.  

“No one talks about it.”

In the response to Sampson’s confession, many have latched on to this idea that “no one talks about it.  They are determined to show the falsity in his statement.  They point to the treatises in church history that wrestle with these subjects, they point to the online discussion that is occurring on these topics.  They point to their experience in their church where they are supposedly having these in depth discussions.  

It should be noted that the wealth of material in history and only are wonderful resources.  They are great launching points.  

But these do not negate the truth in Sampson’s confession.  They do not negate the fact that these discussions (with special emphasis on the word discussions) generally are not happening.  That we as Christians are generally afraid to have difficult questions raised about our faith.  That generally in churches, we do not have much room for doubters.

We can write about it.  We can hear a sermon on it.  We can recommend a book on it.  But we really do not want to talk about it.

We will point to old resources, to say read them and all your questions will be answered.  Or we will give pat, rehearsed answers that we were told as if it settles the issue.  How many have you heard?  “Just give it over to the Lord.”  “You just need more faith.”  “Let go and let God.”  “God’s ways are not our own and we’ll never understand them.”  

These are true statements, but you must see how they can also be things that are not helpful to the questioner.

Our response stems from fear.  We’re worried we won’t know the answer.  We’re afraid of having to say those dreaded three words, “I don’t know.”  We’re afraid of disagreement.

Then there is the other side.  The environments that make us scared to ask questions.  To expose our doubts and our struggles. For fear of being labeled a heretic.  For fear of being ostracized from the group.  For fear of not fitting in, because you don’t see what the rest of the group is seeing.

If you haven’t been a part of a church like this, I pray that you never will be.  I pray you continue to find good, rich, honest, raw, difficult conversations.  That you are able to continue to expose your greatest struggles and doubts in an environment that encourages it and pushes everyone to growth.  

But please realize, that you are in a privileged minority in the church going experience. 

More churches come across as closed off to questions.  To new thought, to change, to old questions, to deep questions, to struggles (or should I say to specific struggles).  Even if from the top.

Our pastor revealed a statistic in his most recent sermon that disturbed me.  The average career for a new pastor is 1.5 years.  

That’s it.  

Sadly, there is a lot of additional information regarding the average career of a pastor that should concern any church member.  Half of the ministers starting out will not last five years.  Only one out of very ten ministers will actually retire in ministry of some form. 


From their own words, they felt there were unrealistic expectations on them and their families, they have been hurt and burnt by the church, they are depressed, they are lonely.  At the root, pastors are frustrated by the lack of commitment from the laity, concerned about finances, grappling with effective outreach, struggling in implementing change, overwhelmed in counseling, lacking community, combating a lack of spiritual maturity, fighting for engagement in the laity, at odds with church politics, and finding difficulties in relationships.

In Brandon’s words, too many sheep in the fold trying to hurt the flock, not enough sheep willing to be shepherded.

In that light, it’s amazing how prescient R.E.M. really was.

That’s me in the corner,
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough.

We’re going to see more of these type of announcements coming.  And not just because “they never really believed,” or “it was Hillsong, what do you expect,” or some other variation.  But rather because we often don’t have room for anyone with deep questions.  Anyone who is struggling in their faith.  

We often are the worst at eating our wounded, our struggling.

Our doubters.

And I don’t think it’s appropriate.  After all look at how Jesus treated his “doubter.”  With grace and compassion.  He helped him through it.  Put his hands in His hands to show him how much he cared.

Perhaps we could do the same.

Perhaps we could all admit that we struggle at times with our faith, and sometimes in very deep ways.

I’ll admit, I’m not sure that I can believe that the account in Genesis 1 is literally true or meant to be taken as such.  I struggle with the passages that indicate both predestination and free will are supported in the text and that the answer to Calvinism versus Arminianism might be both.  Reading Kings and Chronicles is a struggle in understanding how some of the kings could have been seen as the ones favorable in God’s eyes.  

I struggle with how Jacob would be chosen over Esau, when Jacob was a liar and a thief.  How Esau would still not be favored with his own redemption arc.  Over the role of women in the Church today.  Whether Hebrews written by a woman and that is why its author is omitted.  

To read the text, to study the text, is to struggle with the text.

That’s a small piece.  That’s just in textual analysis.  I cannot imagine those who struggle with their faith because of the situations that life has brought their way.  Those who have watched their children suffer and die.  Those who can truly feel how capricious this world can be.

We ALL have something about our faith, about our belief that we struggle with.  It’s just time to be far more open about it and to start discussing it.  To let others know, it’s ok to ask.

Jamie and I share a quote that we firmly strive for.  It’s from John Wesley to describe how Christians should live among each other, especially when it comes to beliefs.  In the essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.

We need to admit that there are far less essentials than we would like to believe.  That there is a lot more room in which we need to allow liberty and display charity.

It’s time to see the best in people.  To view them from the most charitable position.  Especially our fellow believers who are struggling.  Who are slipping. 

Because if we don’t help them.  If we don’t open up, and truly, deeply discuss their questions.  To let them know it’s ok when the answer is “I don’t know.  To let them know we struggle as well.  That faith is hard.  That there are times when it can be a challenge.  

Perhaps, most importantly, that you will be there alongside them wherever their doubts, their struggles, their faith lead them.

If we can’t do that - then who else will?

I believe that appreciation is a holy thing - that when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does all the time.  So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something sacred.
Fred Rogers