The People v. Donald Trump

In the coffee shop, a fellow asked, "if we stopped giving him so much attention, don't you think he'd go away?" It was an honest question, one made two weeks before Donald Trump picked up Alabama, Arkansas (my home state), Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, and perhaps Missouri. It was the question before the wave of violent clashes at Trump rallies, before the cancellation of his Chicago stop due to escalating fears of riots. (Trump won Illinois despite the cancellation of his rally.) [tweetherder text="He is not going away. Mull this over for a minute."]He's not going away. Mull this over for a minute.[/tweetherder]

The New York billionaire uses words like mallets--heavy, pounding--beats his opponents into submission, encourages his supporters to resort to bare knuckles and cheap shots. And aren't his supporters ready for it? Aren't we all? Aren't we the throbbing mass of mixed martial arts spectators? Don't we love a good brawl? Don't We The People believe that all good things--all things American--come through blood, sweat, and tears? And when's the last time we saw blood in politics? Bring on the blood.

The people--who are they? Media outlets speak of Middle Class Whites, the great throngs of the disenfranchised. The Mexicans take White jobs. The Blacks take White tax dollars. The Muslims take White babies, White airplanes, our gleaming Twin by-god Towers. These people, says the media, are potential energy, spilt gas waiting for a lit match. Donald Trump is the sulfur striking the side of the box. He's the spark.

See him, this strongman who stokes the fire he's lit. And when the fire has done the damage, who then throws the ball toward the surviving hornets' nest just to see what might happen? ("Why did you throw the ball toward the hornets' nest," the responsible adults asks the petulant child. "To see what might happen when the hornets stirred themselves up," he says, beaming.)

But this is what men like Mr. Trump know (men of power, one might say): fear and violence move people to action. Hollow, vague promises of power are actionable. The people stand behind his violent rants, because the people--the violent, MMA, WWE, Jean-Claude Van Damme people--have violence flowing out of their ears. And knowing this, Mr. Trump prods the violence to action. About not becoming the Republican nominee for the World's highest office, he says, "I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen." (Source)

He shrugs his shoulders. "Hey, I'm not telling them to riot, but who can stop the people?"

The people, he says. Invokes. Nudges. Gigs. Directs.

The Trump steamroller barrels across the country, grinds its dissenters into powder. Roll, baby roll; grind the bones of the establishment, the immigrants, the refugees, the minorities, the jobless, the silent protestors, the non-people into chalk. See the winds of change that would blow the chalk away. [tweetherder]This is the political brand of Donald J. Trump; he wants you to believe his people are The People.[/tweetherder]

The People--who are they? They are the Latino man providing for his family, giving his pound of flesh to the United States Government, his blood sweat and tears for baby formula and rubber nipples. They are the Black boy in Ferguson, or Baltimore, or Whereverville, the one hoping for a small business in the hand instead of a bullet to the back. They are the Muslim refugee, the one seeking asylum from otherworld dictators (this refugee, trapped between too many dictators). They are the middle class white man typing on the keyboard, asking The People (yes, The People) to please keep shining the light on the demons of fear, the demons of violence, the demons behind both the symptoms and the causes. Shine the light on the problem of men who might foment fear for personal gain, for power, for the lesser kingdoms of men.

The People--we are better than this. And if we are not, God save The People.

***TINY LETTER***

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Recovery Room: The Path Through Fear (And a Giveaway)

Welcome to the Recovery Room.

On the occasional Thursday, I invite guest writers, pastors, therapists, and practitioners to step in and discuss their process of recovery–recovery from any old thing. Today, welcome Deidra Riggs, writer, speaker, and author of the new book Every Little Thing. Deira is powerful voice, a beautiful soul, and an all-around good person. When she's not skydiving solo, you can find her Jumping Tandem (her blog). Follow her on Twitter. You'll be glad you did.

And if you'd like to win a copy of Every Little Thing, leave a comment below. We'll choose two lucky winners on Friday!

Without any further adieux, welcome Deidra to the Recovery Room.

*****

Finding the Pathway Through Fear

A note before beginning: I still get tripped up by fear. I don’t share these words with you as a fear-conquering expert. I am far from that. In truth, I envision myself sitting right in the trenches with the rest of my brothers and sisters who sometimes get startled when things go bump in the night. Sometimes, fear gets the best of us, doesn’t it? And sometimes, we find our way through it, to the other side.

The best way to get through fear (and I say “through” on purpose, because I suspect many of us will never really get over or even out of it; fear will always rise up to meet us as we make our way on the journey) is to press yourself right up to the very edge of the drop-off and then go one very small step further—right out into what looks like absolute nothingness from your current vantage point.

[tweetherder text="'Trust is the pathway through fear.' @DeidraRiggs"]Trust is the pathway through fear.[/tweetherder]

If trust is the pathway through fear, what is the pathway to trust? Trust is not a passive activity. It is not a spectator sport.

We build up our trust in God over days and weeks and months and years, by following him through one small event after another, after another. We have done this trust-building thing with family members and with friendships and with our spouses and our bosses and employees. Over time, in all of these relationships, the trustworthiness of each of the significant people in our lives has been tested, through different situations and circumstances.

It happens quite naturally. We get sick and we learn that we can trust our spouse to care for us in the darkest hours of the night, without complaint and with hands that offer tender consolation. We are assigned a new project at work, and we learn that we can trust our employer to provide the needed resources and to mentor us through the parts of the project that lead us into uncovered territory. We purchase a new house, and we learn that we can trust our friends to show up with their strong backs and their pickup trucks and their extraordinary packing and organizing skills.

Our friendships and our marriage and the confidence with which we navigate our roles in the workplace are built, over time and through various experiences together, on the trust we find in one another. One small exchange after another helps us know where we can find our footing. We craft a history together, and it tells a tale of faithfulness and love and trustworthiness.

However, in these relationships with other human beings, the reverse is also true. Not every relationship is strong on trust. We learn where we can lean the heaviest, and we learn where to back off or step up to fill in the gap. We figure out exactly where we need to take the lead, and we discover when we need to look for help in other places. Sometimes, we even realize it’s time to walk away.

It’s easy to look at God and navigate your relationship with him in the same way you navigate those relationships where trust is hard to find: bracing against disappointment, keeping track of who did what to whom, or feeling like the only person you can really trust in this relationship is you.

One year, in the midst of a particularly dark season of life, I felt compelled to somehow commemorate each occasion where it was clear to me that God was at work in my life or in the world around me. Through a series of events I no longer remember, a small garden planter filled with stones appeared on our front porch. When I decided to mark the moments where God had come through for me, I thought I would take one of the stones from that planter and place it on a tree stump just outside our back door. I didn’t have high hopes for this particular project. I thought the moments of God’s goodness in my life were nonexistent, so I had no aspirations of any noteworthy results taking place from this particular project. In retrospect, I can tell you I was underestimating things. Indeed, I was underestimating God.

Before the sun went down that day, I’d made two or three trips from the front porch to retrieve a stone and then through the house and out the back door to deposit that stone on the tree stump, marking a specific moment in time where it had been made clear to me that God was at work in the world, and that God is at work in the world, and that God will be at work in the world, and that I can trust him. Over days and weeks and months and seasons, I continued to mark the moments of God’s faithfulness, and before I knew it, I had a growing pile of stones on the tree trunk. Visitors to our home began to ask about the pile of stones because they were clearly there for a reason. And when I washed the dishes or walked out the back door to water the tomato plants, there it was: proof to me that God can be trusted. God is at work, even when all seems lost and hope is hanging on by a thread.

We build trust in God by putting matters back into his hands, one small moment at a time. We build trust in God by taking one small step in his direction and finding out he will always be there to catch us.

One step is all that’s needed, and you can trust God to take it with you. Before you know it, you’ll have your own pile of smooth stones, piled up in remembrance and inviting you to trust that God goes with you into all things, and the waters will not pass over you.*

 

*Don't forget to leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of Deidra's book, Every Little Thing.

 

*****

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 5.36.01 AMDeidra Riggs is the author of Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are (Baker Books). She is managing editor at The High Calling, and a monthly contributor to (in)courage. As founder of JumpingTandem, an online community providing grace for the journey, Deidra inspires individuals to join God in the adventure he has uniquely designed for them. Deidra and her husband live in Lincoln, Nebraska. They are the proud parents of two adult children, and happy inhabitants of an empty nest.

***TINY LETTER***

Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In my most recent edition, I'm discussing the discovery of "The Quiet Sober." Sign up and receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

How to Write Unafraid

I've been in a bit of a back and forth with a couple of friends, and we're asking, [tweetherder text="What would you write if you wrote unafraid? #WriteUnafraid"]"what would you write if you wrote unafraid?”[/tweetherder] Perhaps a more universal way of stating the proposition (so it applies not only to writers) is this: [tweetherder text="What would you say if you could cut the crap? #WriteUnafraid"]what would you say if you could cut the crap?[/tweetherder] It’s crass; I know. But it’s the sort of question that begs honesty--maybe too much honesty. I've been considering the question, really pondering it. I’ve been asking whether I hold back too much, or whether I write what I think folks would rather hear, or whether I’m namby-pamby with my words. If there’s anything I’d rather not be, it’s namby-pamby, so last night I wrote out my truth and posted it on my Facebook page.

My two cents went something like this:

If I were unafraid, I'd write that I'm weary of circumnavigating the revolving door of issues fed to us by the twenty-four hour news cycle. The tyranny of the urgent strikes lightning quick, sparks a flash fire of concern that sweeps across every social channel--CNN, Fox News, Facebook, Twitter. I’m a consumer (and sometimes a producer) in those cultural channels, so I react, spend my social capital on the tragedy du jour, the politics of the day, or the fad of the season. Sometimes I give the appearance of caring without caring much at all. Refugees, minority rights, genocide, terrorism, conservative/liberal politics--they're all subject to my whimsical feigned furiousness. Facebook posts, tweets, perhaps an article or two—I might spin yarns about my concern for the martyred, malnourished, or mistreated though I am functionally ignorant of the circumstances. Hoping to be first out of the blocks, I go to where the people are and shout, "here I am; listen to my opinion," or "check out how informed I am.”

Truth is, I too often care more about the appearance of concern than I do the condition of my capacity to give love or otherwise accept it. Too often my reactions to the news of the day are simply that—reactions. Too often I don’t approach the pressing social issues of our generation with the sobriety of spirit born only in quiet prayer and mediation. And so, I find myself bouncing from one issue to the next, never making an impact in any of them, notwithstanding the occasional fifty spot I might funnel through a donation website.

I'm a tennis ball Christian. Watch me bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce. Watch me entertain, or hope to entertain.

If I were writing unafraid, I'd ask the church this: are we still enough to notice where the Spirit blows? Are we stopping long enough to examine our motives—especially as it relates to social justice issues—to reflect on the whether we're living from the deep well of love or the shallow well of the cool? I'd ask whether we know our neighbors, whether we care to know our new neighbors.

And to those who are living it out good-and-proper, who are paving the way of social concern and justice with genuine spiritual love? I'd beg them to keep showing us how its done. Keep working from the well of contemplation and teach us how to love well, without return. Teach us the Godward path.

And after all of that what would I write? I think I'd write that I want a bowl of Lucky Charms, and I'd call it a night.

 

More On Pimps, Pushers, and Selling Our Souls

Two weeks ago I penned a bit on the game Five Nights at Freddy's, the viral video game phenomenon that's captured the imagination of modern children. It's a simple game, a game which creates artificial stress, triggering the gamer’s survival instincts. It employs fear, misdirection, implied violence, and jump scare tactics to suck the gamer deeper into the Five Nights' world. And the Five Nights' world is a dark world indeed. I won't recap the plot of the game in its entirety (For more on the plot, CLICK HERE), but in general, the game challenges the player to survive the attacks of animatronic puppets during the night-guard shift at a spooky pizzeria. What gives with the animatronic puppets? They're characters in a complex narrative involving a child predator and a series of grizzly murders.

It sounds like good, wholesome, family entertainment that any child-development psychologist would recommend--right?

The Five Nights' characters have become the stuff of urban legend at elementary schools across the country. Though my children have never played the game, the playground stories leave them in sleepless fits on some nights. And it's not just my children. Parent after parent has reached out to me over the last two weeks, and told me their children are terrified of the game. What's more, two child psychologists have sent word that Five Nights is a frequent topic of conversation in their pediatric therapy sessions.

Over the last two weeks, I've been considering the response to that original piece. I've been thanked. I've been accused of fear-mongering and handwringing. The response has been varied and dramatic. Of course it has. This is the internet. But today, I'm writing this piece as a point of clarification. This isn't all about video games and entertainment, see. The video games and entertainment are simply a vehicle for exploring the greater issue--the interaction between the marketplace and the soul.

The Psychology

In "Have We Become Addicted to Violence," an article written for Psychology Today, Dr. Diane Dreher discusses the how violent and fear-driven media has affected our children. She cites studies showing that our children spend 40 hours per week watching violent television and movies, and playing violent video games. It's a steady diet, and as our children consume, consume, consume, their brains normalize the darkness.

Dreher writes:

In a process known as “social modeling,” psychologist Albert Bandura found that we learn our values and behavior from the people around us (2003). Social modeling includes our cultural memes: what we watch and read, even the games we play.

Our technological gadgets are ingenious, ubiquitous--and incredibly addictive, according to neuroscientist Robert Numan (2014). Many of them model behavior on screen that would be diagnosed as pathological. (Citation.)

Dresser concludes that when the evidence is considered, some psychologists are coming to the common-sense conclusion. The entertainment digested by our children has, in fact, "led children to imitate in real life the sadism they see on screen."

Does this sound like fear-mongering and needless handwringing to you? [tweetherder text="For those of you who might be unpersuaded, allow me to remind you, psychology is science."]For those of you who might be unpersuaded, allow me to remind you--psychology is science.[/tweetherder]

The Marketplace of Misdirection and Addiction

These days, it's a forgone conclusion that cigarettes cause cancer. Science has done the work. The evidence is clear. And yet, between the 1930s and 1960s, cigarettes were marketed as harmless, hip, and cool. In fact, in the 1940s a Camel cigarette commercial boasted, "[m]ore doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette."

Eventually, scientific research caught the cigarette marketing-machine by the tail and exposed the truth. Cigarettes were killing us.

The market, see, makes a habit of promising harmless addiction. It conditions us to believe that the vice of the day is normal, fun, and cool. It tells us that there is no scientific evidence proving harm from habit-X to the consumer. The market equates the absence of harmful evidence with a positive affirmation of the behavior. And lest there be any doubt, the market coopts the very specialists who should be opposed to any given addiction--e.g., the doctor to the cigarette--and uses them to affirm the addictive behavior.

"What does this have to do with fear-filled and violent television, movies, and video games?" you ask. I look at the normalization of fear and violence in our present society, and wonder how the "40 hours per week watching violent television and movies, and playing violent video games," is not a contributing factor to the pathological sickness of our day. Perhaps there's not a great deal of evidence suggesting a correlation today, but there's beginning to be more. As a pediatrician informed me last week, "scientific research moves more slowly than we'd like, but it will prove what the pediatricians already anecdotally know--violent entertainment is contributing to the fear-filled and violent behavior of our children."

I think we're in the early stages of studies relating to the effects of entertainment on our children, and I earnestly believe those studies will show what many intuitively know. We'll see how we bought the marketing materials, how we allowed our children to take the option of easy entertainment at the expense of their generation's long-term health. We'll see how we were duped by the slick salesmen and fancy advertisements. We were used.

[tweetherder text="We have made the mistakes of our fathers, only with different addictions."]We've made our father's mistakes, just with a different addiction.[/tweetherder]

This brings me to the broader concern. It's not a so much about the perils of entertainment as it is about the perils of the marketplace. We eat the pills they push, wash them down with the poisoned Kool-Aid. We've asked too few questions, trusted that the market tells us too few lies. We go blithely, consuming the next great addiction pushed by profiteers. And when we discover the market's mendacity, we shift to the next addiction waiting in the wings.

To make matters worse, the market takes great effort to bypass the parent these days. It hopes to get straight into the hands of the children--the easiest of all manipulations. It sneaks into their mobile devices and the advertisers notify them of the coolest, hippest, newest, basest addiction. Market fear and reap a reward--this is the market's motto.

What does it say when we allow the suicide marketing machine to infiltrate our own homes, to so normalize fear and violence that our pre-adolescents are too acquainted with the darkness of the human condition? When we fail to act on our intuition--avoid violence and fear--and instead bend to the will of the market--buy violence and fear--are we forfeiting a necessary part of our humanity? Are we forfeiting a part of our souls?

The pimps of profit-motive are reckless. They are mendacious. They systemically barter blips and bits for your parts of your Godward intuition. It's a racket, see.

See?

*****

Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the May newsletter (coming soon), I'm be giving away the Chapter 1 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial book. Sign up in the box below and follow along!

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Recovery Room: The White Line of Fear

In 2015, I’m hosting various writers, pastors, and counselors as they step into the Recovery Room. Here, we'll discuss the things that supplant inner sobriety and connectedness to an abiding God. Couldn’t we all use a little recovery from something?  Today, welcome Kimberly Coyle, a writer, mother, and gypsy at heart. She tells stories of everyday life while raising a family and her faith at her blog, kimberlyanncoyle.com. She writes from the suburbs of New Jersey, where she is learning how to put down roots that stretch further than the nearest airport. Connect with her on Twitter @KimberlyACoyle

Welcome Kimberly to the Recovery Room!

*****

My mother says it started with three-year-old me crying over imaginary spiders. Years later, it progressed to double-checking the lock on the door more than once before leap-frogging across the empty floor space into bed at night. I pulled the blankets up high and tight, until they rested just under my chin. I kept a pile of them at the foot of my four-poster bed for this exact ritual. I said a prayer, “Please protect me, please protect me, please protect me.” I pulled the covers taut. I laid awake for hours, wondering how long it would take for someone to fight their way through the blankets before they reached my skin and bone. I imagined witches. I dreamt up killers. I conjured up demons.

It still comes to me at night, this Fear that paints itself like a white line down the center of my spine. It is the center line which seeks to guide my every thought and desire—the line that glows in the dark on a road leading nowhere. It is a poor stand-in for faith, it illuminates nothing but itself. Fear turns my eyes from the real light shed by the Holy Spirit as my mind wanders down unfamiliar paths and roads I’ve never driven.

Fear and I are intimately acquainted, so much so, that I can’t imagine going to sleep without this familiar tension rising—without the white line beckoning me to step further into my fears, to abandon faith on the darkened roadside, to give in and follow it.

I no longer have to imagine things that go bump in the night. I have the evening news and twitter and various online news sites who readily step in. I have the local gossip, parenting magazines, and a television filled with “entertainment” in the form of murder and mayhem. These feed the Fear, and I know it, but I find myself returning to the familiar feel of it time and again. I think I’m strong enough to resist the pull, but I always regret the road it leads me down. I regret the way the familiarity of Fear lures me in.

As I try to wind my way back from the well-travelled road to Fear and into the arms of perfect love, I no longer have the childlike comfort of a security blanket. When I feel the familiar creep of Fear, I have a few practices I turn to regularly to keep me working towards recovery. I stop engaging in conversations or topics that feed into Fear. I don’t watch the news when my husband is traveling. I don’t read novels or watch movies with extremely disturbing themes and images. Practical, yes. Helpful, absolutely.

But [tweetherder]real life doesn’t come with a trigger warning.[/tweetherder]

When real life and real loss and the real sin of this world enters in, I begin to think I’m powerless against it. When I attend the funeral of a friend’s son who overdosed, or watch another friend’s marriage and faith unravel, I begin to hear the lies of the enemy, rather than the truth of the Spirit. So I remind myself of it repeatedly. When my mind falters and my heart fears, I stretch my arms out to gather all of my racing thoughts back in. I bring them under captivity, and gather everything that would seek to exalt itself above God and I submit these thoughts to Christ. Once I release them, I’m better able to follow Paul’s words in Phillipians, better able to meditate on all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

I know there is no cure-all for Fear this side of Heaven. I will be tempted to walk its thin, white line my entire life. But I recognize it as a counterfeit, one that would have me believe it speaks the truth. As part of my recovery from Fear, I bury the truth inside and alongside my childish prayers of “Please protect me” I hear another voice whisper,

“Love wins.

Love wins.

Love wins.”

*****

Thanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the May newsletter (coming soon), I'll be giving away the first chapter of a serial book. Sign up and follow along!

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