Does God Play Games?

Is there a secret version of the Bible that I don’t know about? One that’s being covertly circulated among today’s Christians here in America?

I have to wonder, because I went to church every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. I also attended Sunday school. My father was a Deacon in the Catholic Church, having earned a doctorate in theology, and my mom volunteered as a secretary for the local parish.

But many of the words and actions of today’s most vocal Christians seem utterly foreign to me. They profess their faith, but seem to act according to an entirely different doctrine.

So Many False Followers
As one example, I could focus on the Christians who go to church every Sunday in luxury automobiles and designer clothes. I do recall a Bible passage along the lines of, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Does Jesus want you rolling in to Sunday services in luxury vehicles that are designed primarily to flaunt one’s wealth and cost enough to feed a family of four for 10 years (quite literally…I did the math)? Is that how the Bible teaches us to behave? Is that how Jesus rolled? What about the meek inheriting the Earth?

I could also focus on the behavior of certain Christian conservatives, who often object to programs that help the poor and less fortunate, who seem far more eager to strike down their enemies than to turn the other cheek, and who focus on hate and intolerance when so much of their Lord’s message is about love and tolerance. What would Jesus do? Would Jesus oppose taxing the rich to serve the poor? Would Jesus build a wall? Would Jesus own an assault rifle?

Instead, I think I’ll take this in an entirely different and unexpected direction. I’m going to talk about professional athletes. Specifically, those who all too often invoke God in their preparations, performances, and celebrations.

Does Jesus Score…or Save?
I love sports. I’m not a betting man, and neither was Jesus…as far as I can tell. But I do love sports, for the benefits they bring to participants (from physical activity to learning to work together in harmony towards a goal) as well as for the entertainment and joy they provide spectators.

But why is it that some people clearly believe that God actually takes sides in such spectacles? Given all the misery and suffering in the world, why do people think God has any vested interest in who wins or loses something as trivial – in the grand scheme of things – as a game? Yet so many athletes, coaches, and fans invoke the blessings of their chosen God before, during, and after sporting events.

Even as an atheist, I’ve always found this behavior to be somewhat sacrilegious. Because, after all, these are just games. Our team wants to beat their team, to prove that we are more talented than they are, or at least willing to work harder – not that we are somehow “better” children of God then those other “lesser” children of God.

And for those who argue that it’s more than just a game, that modern professional sports are ultimately a business, this only makes such prayers and praise all the more sacrilegious. Instead of asking for God’s blessings to perform better than another group of individuals for the sake of entertainment, you are asking God to help you get rich – at the expense of others. Or, in the case of most professional athletes, even richer – and often filthy rich. Is that a lesson from the Bible? What would Jesus do? Was he all about gettin’ paid?

Let’s overlook the fact that many modern sports, their superstar athletes, and their legions of tribal fans engage in borderline idolatry. And the fact that many sporting events are played on the Sabbath, turning a day that’s supposed to be sacred into a day of frivolous spectacle and shameless profit. Even though, right there, we have evidence that fans, athletes, and owners are already violating 20 percent of God’s commandments.

But let’s put all that aside for a moment and ask whether it jives with the teachings of the Bible, Torah, or Qur’an to ask God to help you beat your rivals for financial gain and personal glory? And do you really believe that God helped you score that goal? Of all the things that God is supposed to be involved in, do you sincerely believe that this omnipotent being is actively favoring you to succeed in a sporting event, to provide you with personal glory and riches at the expense of someone else?

It’s strange that you rarely see a doctor, scientist, or winner of the Nobel Peace Prize thanking God for helping them achieve success or glory, when – if God were willing to intervene to help someone achieve success and glory – those are the kinds of things one would assume God would get involved with, at least if you take the Bible and its lessons to heart.

God-Given Greed?
It’s just as strange to see professional athletes talking about their God-given talent. And some of that talk goes beyond sacrilege and borders on blasphemy.

For example, American football player and infamous press conference pouter Cam Newton appeared in a Super Bowl advertisement entitled Cam’s Prayer. This “prayer” was a paid endorsement to help himself and others achieve even greater wealth (he earned $24 million the previous year, while the company who paid him to endorse their product had earnings in excess of $233 billion).

The voiceover – which the athlete surely approved, as it’s designed to make the viewer think it’s actually him speaking (and it may, in fact, be him speaking) – claims that God has given him these gifts, his talent as an athlete, so that he could be the best, that he could succeed, and gain wealth and glory by triumphing over his fellow man. It proclaims: “You placed purpose on my shoulders so now I come to you. Lord, give me the strength to finish this… my way.” Not God’s way, mind you, but his way. As if to say, damn it, God, give me what I want! You made me great (or so my Mommy says) now give me the glory and riches I deserve!!!

That doesn’t sound like the God I read about in the Bible. Bestowing special gifts on select individuals so that they can achieve riches and glory? No, I don’t think so. According to the Torah and Bible, God is more interested in putting gruesome burdens and obstacles into people’s lives to test their faith – not providing them with advantages that enable them to gain individual wealth, privilege, and glory.

But claims of divine favoritism are prevalent in the world of professional sports. Athletes flash shirts saying “I Belong To Jesus” as they mug for the camera and then thank the Lord for making them a winner before driving off in their Lamborghini to their mega-mansion so they can count their money. Sounds to me like they belong to someone else, perhaps even Satan.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there is some other version of the Bible, some other Christian doctrine that guides these people. For there is nothing in the Bible I’ve read that condones such behavior. In fact, there’s plenty that not only contradicts it, but outright condemns it as well.

What Would Jesus Do?
Which leaves me wondering, what sort of athlete would Jesus be? Would Jesus even take the time to play a sport? Or would he spend what little time he had in this world, what little time any of us have, and help those who are in need? And I’m not talking about making a handful of pro-bono tweets for a charity and a contractual appearance at a benefit dinner, but a full-on commitment to helping those in need.

Sure, you could argue that people are in need of entertainment. But that’s not really true, is it? No, people want entertainment. They need food, shelter, and compassion. There’s a big difference between want and need, just as there is a big difference between the what Cam Newton does and what Mahatma Gandhi did. And Gandhi wasn’t even a Christian.

Thought of the Day: The Virgin Mary

OK, let’s say that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was somehow impregnated by the Holy Spirit (are we talking avian bestiality here?) without “the agency of a human father,” and that she was still a virgin when Jesus was born. I don’t believe that, but apparently a third of the world’s population do. Well, technically a little over half the people on the planet do, because Muslims also believe in Jesus, and that he was born of the Virgin Mary – who, interestingly, is the only woman mentioned by name (Maryam) in the entire Qur’an. Seems you folks have more in common than you realize.

Anyway, the point is that Jesus’ mom is, to this day, still referred to as the Virgin Mary. Immaculate conception aside, are you telling me that she and Joseph never consummated their relationship? They never had sex? Even though Joseph was a carpenter, and therefore “good with his hands,” they never “knocked sandals,” to use the parlance of the day? And considering their son literally worked miracles, they never thought about trying for another miracle worker?

Believe it or not, many Christians – including Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists – believe that Mary died a virgin as well. Frankly, I’d rather be crucified.

But what’s stranger still is that no one ever refers to Joseph as the Virgin Joseph, or the Virgin Father. Does that imply that he got a little action before he was married, or perhaps something on the side? Or should we be calling him Joseph the Celibate? Joseph the Chaste?

Thought of the Day: The Bay of Pigs

pigletinletIs it me, or would The Bay of Pigs be a fantastic name for a bar? Or perhaps for a nightclub. Yes, better for a nightclub. No one goes to a nightclub with noble intent. We all – men as well as women – go there with the basest motivations. No one is looking for a life partner. We’re just looking for meat, to help us get our rocks off. So, in that sense, it really is a Bay of Pigs.

Fear and “Wire Tapping” in Amerika

What’s the worst thing about a pathological liar? No, not the lying; you get used to that, even expect it from them…when they speak, they lie. The worst part is when they get caught in a lie and still insist that it’s true.

A liar has no respect for the truth. And it’s one thing to try to deceive someone to gain an unfair advantage. But when that deceit is exposed and the liar still continues to perpetrate the lie, then it is clear that they have no respect for anyone – including themselves.

Donald Trump is a pathological liar. He has no respect for the truth. And his unrepentant dishonesty, especially in ace of the facts exposing his lies, shows that he has no respect for us, either.

Liar in Chief
When Trump claimed more than a month ago, on March 4th, that President Barack Obama had wiretapped his residence at Trump Tower during last year’s presidential campaign, he failed to provide any evidence to substantiate this public accusation. And it is a huge accusation, claiming that the President of the United States deliberately broke the law – the kind of stuff Nixon was infamously guilty of.

Naturally, Trump doubled-down on his claim, repeatedly insisting it was true yet refusing to offer any proof. And everyone who has looked into this outlandish accusation – from the Director of the FBI to the Department of Justice to fellow Republicans such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes – have gone on record as saying that there’s absolutely no evidence to support it. Which is the polite way of saying that it’s a lie. Yes, the FBI, Department of Justice, and Congress have all confirmed that Trump has lied to the American public…to the entire world.

And that’s when Trump started backpedaling, with both he and his handlers suddenly claiming that when he accused Obama of wiretapping he didn’t really mean wiretapping. Of course, that’s typical of Trump, making a bold lie and then denying that he said it – despite the hard, public evidence that proves he did.

In this case, however, Trump and his lie factory are claiming that the evidence of his “vagueness” was in the punctuation. Namely that since Trump used quotation marks around the words – “wire tapping” – that he didn’t actually mean wiretapping. In other words, it’s not a lie because he didn’t really mean it. Kind of like when I say Donald Trump loves “golden showers.” Or, perhaps more accurately, Donald Trump “loves” golden showers.

And Trump’s lie about what he said – or meant to say – might have covered his original lie, except that he only used quotation marks in two of the four tweets he made accusing Obama of the crime. In the other two tweets, there were no quotation marks – just straight-up accusations that Obama was tapping his phones. So nice try, Donny, but that’s yet another lie. And two lies don’t make a right, or a truth, even if you put one of them in quotation marks.

The Sadness Behind His Madness
In what’s become the typical Trumpian defense, his lie factory is now arguing (the justifications change, but the lie remains the same) that the reason the the FBI, Department of Justice, and Congress are all calling him a liar is because they don’t have all the evidence. So, naturally, they asked the White House to produce this evidence they keep referring to, yet Trump and his handlers refuse to produce any such evidence. It’s like he and his entire team have the intellectual and emotional equivalency of a 4-year-old boy.

The best speculation I can make is that Trump might be thinking of his former National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, who resigned in disgrace after being caught lying to Congress (kind of like Trump, eh?). Flynn, as you’ll recall, lied about discussing the sanctions – which had just been imposed by the United States because Russia had interfered with our election – with the Russian Ambassador during the campaign. That conversation took place the day the sanctions were announced, with the implication being that Flynn was reassuring the Russians that if Trump gets elected he will repeal the sanctions (a promise he’s only made partially good on…seems he lies to everyone).

How do we know this? Not because Trump Tower or anyone in the Trump campaign were being surveilled, wiretapped, or even “wire tapped.”  The guy Flynn was talking to, the most senior representative of what has historically been America’s greatest adversary, was the target of an ongoing FBI counterintelligence investigation. As someone qualified to be appointed National Security Adviser, Flynn should have known that the Russian Ambassador was under surveillance. Idiot.

Trump’s Russian Agent Adviser
No matter what Trump and his lair of liars say, FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers have both testified before Congress that Russia had indeed interfered with the election in an attempt to help Trump and hurt Clinton. That is no longer speculation…it’s now a confirmed fact. The investigation is now looking into whether or not Trump and his team colluded with a foreign power – Russia – in an effort to manipulate the election in his favor. And Flynn, for his part, has asked for immunity in exchange for his testimony, which may indicate that he feels he has violated the law in some way, all of which should be very disturbing news for the Trump administration.

Equally disturbing is the revelation that Flynn, four days after Trump made his baseless accusations, registered with the Department of Justice as “an agent of a foreign government.” And it appears to be a retroactive move, as he was being paid $530,000 to help overthrow the Turkish government (our ally, by the way) while also working for the Trump presidential campaign last year. Which means that he was working for a foreign government while sitting in on classified national security briefings with Donald Trump.

That’s right, Trump’s original National Security Adviser, and one of his senior-most advisers during the campaign, was a foreign agent at the time. And we have since learned that Flynn failed to disclose (in other words, he lied…once again) that he had received an additional $150,000 in overseas payments – some of which came from Russia’s official state propaganda tool, RT, which is the modern equivalent of the Soviet-era Pravda. Making Russia America great again!

Commander in Disbelief
Perhaps more disturbing than Trump’s incessant lying is how comfortable he is telling these lies – to the American public, and the entire world. He said, “So if I tweet two or three or four or five times a day, and if most of them are good, and I really want them all to be good, but if I make one mistake in a month — this one I don’t think is going to prove to be a mistake at all.”

Is that really what we deserve from the President of the United States…one false public statement a month? That doesn’t sound like “winning” to me. Of course, in typical Trump fashion, he is being overly generous about his abilities, as it’s been more like one lie per day. Or, in the case of March 4th, 2017, one lie repeated four times in one day, and then nearly every day for an entire month (perhaps it even be for years, considering how long he refused to admit his lie about Obama’s birth certificate for years after the document in question was produced and verified – unlike Trump’s tax returns). Meanwhile, the world – both friends and foes alike – must now decide for itself which of the public declarations made by the man with the nuke codes are lies and which, if any, we should believe. America has never been “less great” than it is right now.

The Bottom Line
Despite the fact that Trump continues to stick to this blatant lie, President Obama did not wiretap Trump Tower. Obama did not wiretap Donald Trump. Obama did not wiretap anyone in the Trump campaign. Obama did not conduct any type of surveillance on Trump Tower. Obama did not conduct any type of surveillance of Donald Trump. Obama did not conduct any type of surveillance of anyone in the Trump campaign. These are lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, and more lies. You can even put them in quotation marks, but they will still be lies.

The FBI routinely conducts surveillance on foreign nationals it suspects of presenting a threat to America. Always has, and always will, as part of their day-to-day mission of keeping America safe. And at least one senior member of Trump’s transition team, Mike Flynn, was working as a paid agent of a foreign power at the time, met with a foreign national who was under FBI surveillance. And when you meet with someone who is under FBI surveillance, that meeting will be recorded…not because Flynn was being wiretapped, but because the type of people Flynn was doing business with were being wiretapped.

And that’s the real question you should be asking yourself at this point: why was the Trump transition team meeting with people the FBI were already investigating? If these people are suspicious enough to warrant FBI surveillance, then what sort of dealings and discussions were Trump’s people having with them?

Yet despite all of this, the latest Breitbart headline – “Democrats Target Nunes After He Reveals That Trump Transition Team Was Surveilled” – aims to deceive you into thinking that Nunes has somehow debunked Trump’s lies. Why? Probably because they don’t want you wondering why they were meeting with foreign agents under FBI surveillance.

Again, it was the foreign agents who the Trump transition were meeting with that were surveilled. If the FBI are listening to the conversations of Russian spies, as they should be, and several members of the Trump transition team – including, as we have since learned, his own son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner – decide to have clandestine meetings with these suspicious characters, then they are going to be recorded – just as all conversations with these enemy agents are, no matter who is meeting with them. How do you not understand this?

Maybe it’s because you morons love Russia so much that you cannot imagine that anyone from that authoritarian regime would want to do America harm (though the fact that the Russian military are stationed at the same base where their Syrian comrades launched a chemical weapons attack on civilians indicates that they are fine with such behavior; not to mention the fact that Trump gave them a heads up, which is probably why the 59 missiles we fired only managed to destroy six jets), so let me try putting it another way. You know the military is targeting Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations, right? If you – for whatever reason – decide to visit one of those “bad hombres” and we happen to drop a bomb on their house that day, that does not mean the US military was targeting you, numbnuts.

Rather than admit the truth, Trump continues to lie to the American public. But if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. And the Trump administration appears to be infested.

Empty Met, Empty Promise

mtmet1

I recently went on the EmptyMet tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and it was a real disappointment. The tour was a Christmas gift from my nephew, a college student who could hardly afford to part with the $125 the museum charges for this experience.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the Met, live within walking distance of the museum, and visit it frequently. In fact, over the past two years, I’ve literally seen everything they’ve put on display. Plus, being a freelancer, I am often able to visit the museum during off-peak hours, when the galleries are less crowded.

mtmet2The EmptyMet tour gives you access to the Metropolitan Museum before it opens to the public. The draw is the opportunity to wander through empty galleries and view the art as if it were in someone’s private collection. The reality, however, is far from that ideal scenario.

We had 25 people on my “private” tour, along with three staff members. Having taken numerous tours of the museum over the past two years, I know that they are more suited to informing and educating attendees rather than providing a chance to truly appreciate each artwork showcased along the way. Being in a large group like that, you have to wait your turn to get a close-up view and then are quickly shuffled off to the next gallery, so you don’t get much of a chance to examine and enjoy the artwork that was just discussed.

What drew me to the unique experience of an EmptyMet tour (beyond it being a very generous gift) was the opportunity to photograph the museum’s picturesque galleries without the crowds of people that frequent them. I love taking photographs, and the chance to snap some pictures of the interior of such a grand space was one I could not pass up.

As with most great museums, the Met is a fascinating structure. It’s actually a collection of different buildings cobbled together over the years. Plus, it’s filled with treasures. And while I can see those art treasures any time I choose, I cannot photograph most of them, and certainly not an entire gallery, without also likely capturing some slovenly oaf in a Green Bay Packers jersey and backwards baseball cap standing around looking bored shitless because he came all the way to New York to see the rectal spectacle of Times Square and then was dragged off to this giant old museum that doesn’t even have a painting of dogs playing cards.

mtmetquoteThe problem with the EmptyMet tour is that, while the museum is indeed empty, whatever gallery you happen to be in is crowded. Wherever we went, whatever artwork we looked at, I had 25 other people vying to see it – and to photograph it. That’s about as many people as you’ll have in a gallery during regular hours. And when I visit the Met at off-peak hours, rarely will I see that many people in a gallery – let alone huddled around a specific piece of art at any given time.

I tried to make the best of it, trailing behind the crowd in hopes of snatching a photo of an empty gallery when the crowd moved on to the next. It wasn’t easy, though, as our guide had a tendency to ramble, so we were always in a rush (frankly, I’ve been on shorter tours that showed more of the museum).

Fortunately, our “crowd” didn’t have a slovenly oaf in a Green Bay Packers jersey and backwards baseball cap standing around looking bored shitless because he came all the way to New York to see the rectal spectacle of Times Square and then was dragged off to this giant old museum that doesn’t even have a painting of dogs playing cards. But we did have this German guy who kept wandering off, causing much concern among our handlers. And, much to my frustration, he had a tendency to wander off into whatever gallery I was trying to photograph.

So what I’m trying to say is don’t waste your time and money on the EmptyMet tour. You can see more of the museum, and with less crowds, simply by wandering the museum during regular hours (ideally during the week). And if you do want to snap some photos of empty – or nearly empty – galleries, then arrive early, before the museum opens. The Great Hall is open before the museum itself, so you can check your coat and purchase your ticket. That way you can head straight into the galleries the moment they’re open, though it certainly helps to already know your way around and have a plan of which galleries you want to photograph before they fill up. In fact, that is how I took the photos accompanying this piece, by rushing around after my EmptyMet tour, before the galleries became filled with the day’s regular visitors.

mtmet3

Thought of the Day: The Trumping of America

It’s been a little more than a month since Donny “Little Hands” Trump took over the White House. Though I imagine that Sean Spicer, the Official Spewer of Falsehoods, might aggressively insist that he’s actually been in office for a much longer period of time, like 37 years.

And, much to my surprise, I think their way of thinking is starting to rub off on me. For example, just the other day, while listening to the rectal dribble seeping incessantly from Kellyanne Conway’s wretched mouth, I suddenly thought – albeit only for a moment – that the mandatory sterilization of people you deem undesirable might actually be a good policy.

Dirty Reggae

I’ve been listening to some old-school reggae lately: The Ethiopians’ “Reggae Hit the Town,” Dave & Ansel Collins’ “Double Barrel,” Niney the Observer’s “Blood & Fire,” Jacob Miller’s “Tenement Yard,” and Althia & Donna’s “Uptown Top Ranking.” In fact, I fancy myself a bit of a Jamaicophile. I love everything about the country, culture, and people – with the exception, of course, of the corruption, misogyny, and homophobia.

Which brings me to another song I’ve been listening to a lot lately: Max Romeo’s “Wet Dream.” I’ve heard the song countless times, but I guess I never really paid attention to the lyrics:

Every night me go to sleep, me have wet dreams
Every night me go to sleep, me have wet dreams

Lie down girl let me push it up, push it up, lie down
Lie down girl let me push it up, push it up, lie down
Lie down girl let me push it up, push it up, lie down
Lie down girl let me push it up, push it up, lie down

You in your small corner, I stand in mine
Throw all the punch you want to, I can take them all

Lie down girl let me push it up, push it up, lie down
Lie down girl let me push it up, push it up, lie down

Look how you’re big and fat, like a big, big shot
Give the crumpet to Big Foot Joe, give the fanny to me

Lie down girl let me push it up, push it up, lie down
Lie down girl let me push it up, push it up, lie down
Lie down girl let me push it up, push it up, lie down
Lie down girl let me push it up, push it up, lie down

The song, released in 1968, immediately caused controversy and was banned from the radio in England. Years later, Romeo tried to claim it was innocent, that he was only singing about a leaky roof. With an explanation like that, it sounds to me like he’s angling for a job in the Trump administration.

But let’s break it down, shall we? First of all, the title and opening stanza is clearly about involuntary nocturnal emissions, which are commonly referred to as “wet dreams.” Romeo was already 24 at the time, so I’m not sure why he would be singing about an embarrassing moment that most males experience only during adolescence.

But as we skip along into the second stanza, we discover that his solution for the problem is to get a girl to “lie down,” so he can “push it up.” Now don’t get hung up on the directions here. Jamaicans tend to have a different take on these things. For example, if the patio is too hot on a summer afternoon for the children’s bare feet, an American might ask you to wet down the patio whereas a Jamaican would likely ask you to wet up the patio.

So, in asking her to “lie down” so he can “push it up,” I think it’s clear that Romeo is suggesting that this girl engage in sexual intercourse with him, as a cure for his wet dreams. Which technically makes sense, because scratching tends to relieve the itch, so to speak. And, for what it’s worth, if he can leverage his persistent wet dreams as a means of convincing someone to have sex with him, then the man deserves some credit, for that’s a very unorthodox angle of seduction.

But then things get a bit, well, rapey. Romeo sings about how this girl is fighting back, throwing punches. Clearly the seduction did not work. And if a woman is indeed throwing punches as a man tries to engage in intimate relations with her, then his sexual advances constitute rape. And, no, my friend, that ain’t cool.

On top of that, the song goes on to insult and mock this girl, calling her big and fat (though, honestly, now I’m starting to feel guilty for assuming that “big” and “fat” are insults). And then, as if that weren’t enough, he suggest what seems to be a ménage à trois, encouraging the girl to let “Big Foot Joe” have vaginal intercourse with her while he penetrates her “fanny.” And, yes, overlooking the semen-stained sheets, rape, misogyny, and a threesome with Big Foot Joe, the English censors ended up banning the song because it references anal sex.

Still, I gotta say, I really like the song. And yet I’m struggling to come to terms with its lyrics. Is this a case in which, like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the author is merely portraying someone with flaws, or is this more like The Birth of a Nation, in which the author is intentionally celebrating and promoting these flaws?

Only Big Foot Joe may know for sure.