This is the first video blog entry. Sorry about the wind factor as only had the time to do this in one take. In the future, I will work on making them better. I have corrected “certainty” in the title several times and the auto spell corrector changes it back to “certainty.”
Like everyone, I am a busy person. I get up early to go to work, work long, hard days and come home to more responsibilities. I would love to write here more often and more deeply, but often cannot. When I do write, most often it is while I am ordering coffee (or sitting and drinking it quickly). As I am typing, friends are often walking up to talk to me. I almost never have time to proof-read what I write. I am on call for patients 24-7 and am almost always interrupted before I have that luxury of reviewing. I do dream of having the time to write carefully. I do visit other blogs and so many are done very professionally.
Why am I telling you this? On more than one occasion, I have written things here and finally get a chance to read it a week later, only to be horrified by typos. Sometimes . . . okay, twice, I have had people send me e-mails to scold me for my typos. They said things like, “Hey Mike, if you are aspiring to be a writer, the it reflects poorly on you to write poorly on your blog. Go back and fix your typos!”
I feel embarrassed about that. However, I do have another problem and that is I have dyslexia. I didn’t know this until I was almost forty. But then things seemed to start making sense.
When I was attending my small elementary school in Tennessee, I greatly excelled in most school topics. It was especially true in science. I was seen by teachers and fellow students as a child prodigy in science. I won the district science fair in physics (first place) and was second in over-all scores. When I was in the seventh grade, I was invited to come up to the high school and do a class lecture to them on earth sciences (and demonstrating my home-made seismograph). But that suddenly changed when spelling tests were introduced. I failed miserably and after thinking I was bright . . . suddenly I knew I was stupid. I failed miserably in spelling bees too. Of course, in those days neither teachers nor myself knew of dyslexia.
As a Navigator, I did horribly at memorizing scripture. I bet I spent three times as much time on it as my roommates, but did worse than the others when our leader asked us to quote the verses we had memorized that week. I remember our staff leader calling me out, in front of the whole group, of not taking scripture memory seriously.
I tried to avoid writing classes in high school (while writing a lot on my own) because of public ridicule. When I started college, I had no choice but to take creative writing. I remember a profession calling me aside as he was assigning grades. He told me, that he had never had a situation where the best writer in his class was also the worst. I was confused. He said the content and creativity was superb, some of the best he had ever seen among his years of teaching. However, I was seriously hamstrung by misspellings and strange subsections such as “two” for “to.” So. he gave me an A and a D for his class, but averaged them as a B (hoping that I would work on the mechanics of typing).
I know that dyslexia is far more common that we thought and some reading this may have it. But when I see words, I see them (in my mind at least) like the scrambled letters that you must type on webpages to prove that you are not a robot.
My book, Butterflies in the Belfry, does not have this problem because I hired three different editors to help me clean it up.
I want to come back to the comment that I am an embarrassment to myself, as a writer, when I write here so poorly. But what they really should mean is that I am a poor typer. I type fast and as I try to read what I type, I don’t see blatant errors. So, to help with this, I may do an experiment where I do video blog posts.
I do have to run or hike almost daily (or at least 5 times a week) or I would need a forklift to get my (would be) fat ass out of the house. I want to try and figure out a way to do a video while I hike. The logistics will be a little hard as I don’t want to create a shaky video that will leave any viewer puking on the floor from motion sickness.
I have heard the comment from many Donald Trump supporters, that the reason they voted for the man, was because he was going to reform Washington. The need to reform Washington is legitimate. It really is astounding, that for the past five years, the disapproval rating for Congress is around 70% (see ). So, looking at our dissatisfaction with the way our government works, wanting a “swamp drainer” is a reasonable and noble cause and I respect them, at least for their motive.
We constantly hear (even before this year) of how partisan the Congress and Senate have become. Where their perspective party’s winning is all that matters anymore. Where each side will distort the other. We have also been exposed to story after story of elected officials being involved with bribes and other acts of financial mischief (see this partial list).
I don’t want to turn my blog into a weekly political cometary—and God knows how disappointment I was in the election this year—but I do think it is relative to culture, and how Christians encounter culture. So, I am writing one more—but not necessarily the last—political post from the angle of what a good “swamp-drainer” would look like.
Let’s imagine that the swamp drainer was President Mary Jones (to borrow the names of two of my—now deceased—aunts). At the center of Mary’s desire for public service was to really help America to be a great country, for all its people. She would want to end partisanship and corruption and create an environment where ONLY what is best for the people of this great country is served.
1) Mary would either run as an independent, or as soon as she is elected (as a Republican or Democrat), declare her political independence and having no party association.
2) She would be extremely transparent and honest. She would put any financial interest of her own, or her family, in a blind trust. She would make all her tax returns public.
3) She would have a review of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to make sure there were no negative political or financial influences. She may even have a group of political ethics experts to do an audit to make sure the OCE was acting independently and above reproach. Then, when we have been assured that they doing good and unbiased work, their budget would be increased and they would be given more legal power to do their work.
4) She would work to pass laws to create greater scrutiny of the role of lobbyists and their access to elected officials. She would work to overturn the court decision on Citizens United ( see )
5) She would work to create a law where there were tight limits on contributions and spending at the primary election level. Once parties had chosen their candidate and the national, presidential election was underway, those campaigns would be tax-payer funded (and much less money than spent now). There would be no outside money spent on the general election. Each party would be given the same amount of money to spend and the emphasis would be placed on the substantive exchange of ideas, such as debates and detailed platform articles rather than TV sound-bite ads. She would also work to make it easier for all legitimate parties to get on the ballots. Legal reforms would be sought to make it much easier to sue opposing parties for libel, for giving out any false information about the other candidates, and to” sue them well.”
7) Efforts would be made, (bills passed), that would make it easier for people to vote. At the same time, safeguards would be kept in place to prevent non-citizens from voting or opportunities for voting fraud.
8) An independent team of legal experts would study the voting districts to make sure they were not created for political purposes.
9)If a candidate suggested there was voter fraud, without supporting grounds, he or she would have committed a federal law against acts of treason and face incrimination and possible incarceration.
9) She would increase the executive press corps and give them greater access to her and her executive branch’s work. She would welcome press scrutiny for all branches of government, knowing that a good press shines the light on mischief. She would hold executive press conferences weekly, if possible.
10) She would work to pass laws that prevent all financial influence of lobbyists (see the campaign rules I’ve mentioned above).
I could go on and on. My point is, with a great desire of truth a good president would seem very different than the one we are getting. I suspect the “drain the swamp” mantra is another part of the conning of the American voter.
A good reporter is doing God’s work. They are the secular prophets of today, shining the light on truth and lies. If they are demonized as liberal or “fake,” then their credibility is shaken and the swamp grows.
Once again, I only had a brief moment to write and without the opportunity to proofread.
After 25 years of study and 10 years of writing, the book is finally here. It can be pre-ordered at a discount here. In a month it will be available at the general bookstores (and they will charge a higher price). Whew, it is done. Mike
This morning I signed the legal document, to start the presses rolling, to print Butterflies in the Belfry, Serpents in the Cellar. I have written books before, taking months. This project has taken over 25 years, including the research. The actual writing has taken almost 10 years. The best way I can describe this moment is, anticlimactic. A simple e-mail came with a “Doc-u-sign” link and I signed it.
Part of my recovery from evangelicalism was to seek candor. I found my old world being made up of smoke and mirrors, of illusions and delusions. But living in candor is very hard. Writing in candor is even more difficult. I am sure there will be days ahead, when I stir up the anger of the protectors of the old evangelical way. On those days I may regret publishing this book.
But I feel that candor is a must, if I want to accomplish my book’s intention. That purpose is to help those, also disillusioned with the brand of Christianity they were raised with, to know that they are not alone. I also want them to know that there is an explanation and a sensible path out. But to reach them, I have to allow them to know . . . that I know them and where they are coming from. The only way to help them see that is to share with great candor—although not so flattering—stories of American evangelicalism.
Finding the right level of truthfulness is hard to do. If someone was to live in total honesty, they would be offensive to others and corrupt the social mores. The best example, (and this is a real-life—although simplest—example), is where someone ask you to do something that you don’t want to do. For example, someone ask, “Would you come to a dinner party at my house?” Then you reply in total honestly, “No. I would rather sit at home, read a book and watch some TV. I’ve been with people all week and just want a break from them.” That host may try to read more into it. They may think, “They don’t like me.” Or “What’s wrong with them that they don’t like people?”
The proper thing that people, including Christians do, is to lie . . . or to go, out of guilt. If they lie, they say, “I would love to. It sounds wonderful. However, I think I have the flu.” Then there are no questions asked.
So, trying to live in total candor is very difficult. Writing in such a way is more difficult because they have your words in front of them, to use against you . . . forever. It is a paper trail.
Now the caveat to this book’s over candor (if that is possible), is that I had to go through a very rigorous legal review. While I am publishing it under my own publishing company logo, the press required lawyers to read it cover to cover and to have me make sever huge revisions. For example, when I spoke of my childhood pastor having a mistress (and it was public knowledge . . . and actually, after all of these years I just ran into him and his mistress at Thanksgiving), that had to be axed. There were many other stories, which I wanted to tell, that had to be edited out as well.
To avoid all of this scrutiny, I could have written under a false pen-name. I could also have “fictionalized” the story, as did Frank Schaeffer did in his Becker trilogy. But even his Becker series caused a lot of heart burn among his family (mostly his sister and her husband). I know because I was around them (at a distance) during this time.
I am not a good self-promoter. Maybe I am and just don’t see my own narcissistic tendencies. I know a lot of people write books, just like a lot of people want to be pop stars. Few succeed at either. I really don’t seek “success,” unless success means that I could quit my day job and write for a living. When I write now, just like I’m doing here, I have to always write in a great rush with people mad at me because I took so long. Already, in writing this short piece I have had several interruptions (I’m at work but am not schedule to start work for another 30 minutes). So, I almost never have time to proof-read. Writing with proof-reading would be a wonderful luxury. I am dyslexic and can make blatant mistakes when I type fast. I’m often taken behind the shed for the errors I’ve made in my haste. But, if I don’t write in haste, I could never write. I digress.
So, the point I was about to make, is that I am not seeking financial success and certainly not recognition. I do, however, have an intense desire to get this book in the hands of the thousands who have given up on Christianity. I wrote this book for those people. I have to concede, that those people are not the ones who will be offended by my candor. It is those who still hold up the facades that Christians are all decent people and to suggest otherwise, is a mortal sin . . . those are the ones I will really piss off.