Love, Acceptance, and Tolerance? Not So Fast…

This one might lose me a few friends.

Since the news broke about Caitlyn Jenner’s magazine cover everyone has opinions on it. And everyone has opinions on the opinions. Even when we pretend that our opinions are actually about stuff in general, we are really talking about Caitlyn Jenner and all that controversy. This is not a bad thing, per se.

One particular stream of thought that I’ve picked up on is Christians taking a stand against hateful remarks and pledging their unwavering love for everyone no matter what. Also a good thing. A command from God, actually. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30). Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). Love your enemy (Matthew 5:44). No greater love than they who lay down their life for another (John 15:13). Love isn’t an option. Yay love.

Occasionally words like “acceptance” and “tolerance” and “not judging” slip in as well. Sometimes from Christians, sometimes from people who aren’t Christians. I’m not terribly interested in addressing non-Christians. We have very different standards and perspectives, after all.

So, brothers and sisters, let’s chat.

What is love? Kind of a dumb question on the surface, but one we really need to know the answer to if we are going to correctly obey God. Despite what songs and movies may tell us, love is not an emotion, nor even a spectrum of emotions. When your heart starts racing and you get butterflies in your stomach and you can’t stop smiling because someone amazing is right across the room, that’s not love. I’ve heard it best explained this way: love is action, specifically one that puts someone’s well-being first. Love is the action you take when your desire for someone is the very best life they can have. Love isn’t gratifying someone’s emotions, or letting them do what they want. After all, good parents love their children, and that means bed times and vegetables and discipline as much as it means play time and treats and cuddles. I think we all understand this on a certain level. After all, we know Christ loved us not just because he said so, but because he died for us, taking our punishment for our sins, giving us his righteousness, restoring our relationship with God, and giving us an eternal home with Him.

So what do we make of these other terms we often think we are supposed to do along with love? Acceptance and tolerance and non-judgement?

Are we to accept the non-Christians, those still dead in their sins? To an extent yes. Just as God accepted us as we were and did not turn us away, and just as Christians before us most likely accepted us before we were one of them, we should accept as they are. We can’t change them, after all (that’s God’s business). Are we to tolerate non-Christians? As best as we can, yes (Romans 12:18). We are bringers of peace, not strife. Obviously if someone is trying to kill you that changes things. Tolerance has its reasonable limits. Are we not to judge non-Christians? Well, hard to say. I don’t think public condemnations and screaming hellfire are terribly loving, but when it comes down to it judging is simply saying what is and what isn’t. It would be foolish, for example, to think we are unable to judge that murderous neighbor of ours from a few sentences ago, and there is no wrong in judging someone a liar when they insist on speaking untruths.

(“But Anthony,” you reply with gusto, “doesn’t Jesus say ‘judge not lest ye be judged’?” Yes he does. Keep reading to he next few verses. Jesus is simply telling us that if we judge people, we will be judged by the same measure. It’s a warning against hypocrisy.)

So inasmuch as you are continuing to act in someone’s overall best interests, you should indeed accept and tolerate and not judge someone.

What of other Christians? Are we go accept, tolerate, and not judge them? Well here is where it gets interesting. For the Bible spells out that we are to hold each other accountable, Unlike the non-Christians, the word of God has been revealed to us, and the Holy Spirit resides in us. While there is little we can do about non-Christians living their lives as they see fit, we are not at luxury to wink at sin when we see it among our brothers and sisters. We are expected to correct them (James 5:19-20). And we aren’t even supposed to associate with Christians who are flagrantly sinful within our church (1 Corinthians 5).

So what do we make of Caitlyn Jenner? According to one of those recent interviews, when he was still Bruce, he said he was a conservative. If he said he was a Christian I can’t find the reference (Google is just showing me think pieces like pieces like this one on the “Christian response” and such). For the purposes of this, it doesn’t matter so much; he certainly doesn’t attend any of our churches. Should we love Caitlyn Jenner? Absolutely. Do we tolerate and accept and not judge Caitlyn Jenner? Well, to go back to my earlier answers, “to an extent”. Caitlyn Jenner wants to be called Caitlyn now. I can go with that, sure. Sometimes people change their name, whatever. Caitlyn says he’s a woman now. No he’s not. The surgeries and implants and makeup and fashion shoot and photoshop don’t turn a man into a woman. I know it is trendy in social justice circles to say that gender and sex are totally different, but I’m going to say no that is wrong.

Am I being judgmental and intolerant of Caitlyn Jenner now? Maybe, but there is nothing loving about lying, nothing loving about calling a man a woman, nothing loving about pretending that a bunch of superficial alterations can turn a man into a woman, nothing loving about treating mental illness like it is the next great civil rights movement, nothing loving about celebrating a vain and self-absorbed advertisement campaign for yet another reality TV show.

None of us are really in a position to tell Caitlyn any of these things, though. We can’t sit him down and explain that we love him and he needs help. Whoever had that responsibility abandoned it, and he was unlovingly left to his own devices. Since none of us actually know Caitlyn or can do anything about this delusion all the people around him are feeding, our only option is to pray for him, that he might yet find the healing he actually needs.

That is always loving.

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In Defense Of Trolling

Once upon a time, the Internet world stayed on the Internet, real life stayed in disgusting meat space, and the two only met in rare and terrifying conjunctions of space/time. The two worlds had their own language, their own customs and practices. There was never any question where you were.  It was a happier time, and I’d go so far as to say a better time.

Things have changed. Words and concepts that once existed within subcultures of subcultures now run rampant. You can discuss memes (or you prefer, may-mays) without anyone batting an eye, even if only a tiny majority knows of memes beyond image macros with impact text superimposed over them.

And that’s kind of the problem. Meat space has appropriated Internet culture and terminology, but doesn’t really get it. This isn’t to say I am against appropriation (I love Thai food and vodka), but you should really get to know what it is you are talking about before you take it as your own.

Take trolling. Once a fishing term, it eventually became the single greatest way to spend time on the Internet, short of making money. I loved it. I did it a lot. And some of you now think I’m a terrible person. Which I am, but not because I’m an unrepentant troll. Allow me to explain, and you may just see the light. However, before I can get into why trolling is so great, we need to take some time to discuss what trolling isn’t. Like so many other words, trolling has been used to describe an array of activities so vast that the word itself has lost basically all meaning. It has become another “something I don’t like” along with words like hipster or inauthentic.

For starters, threats and harassment aren’t trolling. In most jurisdictions I believe these are criminal offenses. Bullying, insulting, and teasing are not trolling either. Having misinformed or unpopular opinions are not trolling. Being factually incorrect isn’t trolling.

Others may quibble, but for the purposes of this post I would describe trolling as follows: a deliberate and insincere statement, gesture, or entire conversation over the Internet meant to inflame or make a fool of a second party, for the purposes of entertainment.

I spent a good part of my teenage years slowly studying this most august craft, learning at the feet of the troll masters of video game forums. It was glorious. And here is why I think it was overall a worthwhile endeavor.

Trolling Is Psychology And Sociology 101

Much like how I assume good fishing happens, to successfully troll you have to know your target. What they like, what they respond to, what drives them absolutely nuts. You can pick up some good rules of thumbs through observation, but ultimately you have to get in and start setting your own traps. And you will fail at first. The ruses will be transparent. You’ll go after the wrong target. It may get messy. But you will learn. Even if you have to make every wrong choice first, eventually you’ll figure out the right answer. And then you’ll do it again, and again. And all the while you’ll learn more about your fellow man-boy or lady-girl than you ever could have by being nice.

Antagonism Is Good For Us And The World

What is the last good story you read without a villain, or even a rival? Some sort of something to overcome? There might be a few, but I’m having trouble thinking of any, and I don’t really need to to make my point so HA! All the good stories have someone or something that challenges the protagonist. No one wants to hear about the time you went to the grocery store and nothing happened. They do want to hear about the time you went to the grocery store and almost got ran over by a Mack truck. Opposition is the spice of life, and by trolling you give that precious gift to another. By the way, this may go without saying, but once you start trolling you will get trolled back, so your giving of yourself will quickly be rewarded with challenges of your own. Meanwhile, there is an entire third party audience who gets to watch you out on the highest form of intellectual entertainment the Internet has to offer.

Trolling Teaches Us Critical Thinking

Once you are successfully trolled, you’re going to want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. How do you do that? By looking for the clues, often hidden in plain sight. See, while a troll must conceal the trap from his prey, he must make it easily apparent to the audience, else they won’t realize what is even going on. Once you learn these telltale signs of a troll at work, it is easy to apply it to any number of other things; biased or misleading news, unraveling logical fallacies, what have you. The Internet becomes your oyster, which segues nicely into my final point.

Trolling Gives Us Real Life Skills

Critical thinking, storytelling tropes, understanding the human mind, what do these things have in common? They are just as useful in the horrid flesh universe as they are in the series of tubes. You’ve already conquered the Internet, you dangly-armed monster; conquering real life isn’t much more difficult, particularly if you are interested in a creative or human-oriented field. Satire to enact cultural change, sales, politics of questionable ethics. You have a educational foundation that most could only wish for. Russia is on line one, President Troll.

Fresh Off The Boat, Or How I Single-Handedly Saved Television For Asian Americans

I haven’t watched a lot of television in the past five years. I haven’t even owned a television in the past four, so what I do see mostly consists of being at other people’s houses, or once in a great while a show comes along that I simply must go out of my way to watch online.

I certainly hear a lot about TV shows, because everyone I know seems to watch them, and from their conversations and the one or two episodes I do see I can generally piece together what they are supposed to be about. How I Met Your Mother is about a guy who took like a decade to answer a simple question, Modern Family is actually about three families (one of them is gay), and Arrested Development is Michael Cera’s autobiography. So on and so forth. The last show I actually watched all the way through was Breaking Bad, which ironically is about creating so much bad that everyone’s life ends up ruined or ended.

When I started seeing ads and buzz for Fresh Off The Boat, I didn’t think much of it. I’ve been very critical of sitcoms ever since The Simpsons started to suck, and I think that was like a decade ago. Asian family sitcom. Woo. Right?

Wrong.

As the premier approached, one of my friends, Rebecca Sun, became very enthusiastic about it. When I commented on it, I got this as a reply.

youre our only hope

It hit me like a beam of Caucasian light: this wasn’t just some TV sitcom. This was a calling. I had to watch this show.

So a little over a week later when it finally came up for viewing on ABC.com. I suffered through repetitive commercials about curly hair, but I would not be deterred.

When I finally got to start watching the show, it was like nothing I expected. I’m not sure what I did expect, actually. I guess I just thought the mom and dad were the main characters, based on that one ad I kept seeing in the subway.

Fresh Off the Boat Key Art embed

That’s the one. You know I didn’t even notice that kid in the window? Turns out the story is really from his perspective. Yay advertising.

Anyways, the show itself is actually really funny, and not just in a “white people lol” way. Or even a “Asian people lol” way. It’s really more of a “people in unfamiliar terroritory lol” kind of funny, and I think anyone who has actually moved to a new place to start a new life can relate to it. If you’ve never really moved maybe you won’t get this show? I don’t know, but if you have never moved I do think you’re kind of a freak.

So I would recommend this show. But even if you don’t watch it, I can rest assured that my work is done. For by watching the first episode, and each subsequent episode as they come available, I know that I am doing what no one else can: I am giving this show the coveted 18-35 white male demographic view.

You’re welcome, Asian America.

Stuff I Learned From 2014

If there is ever an appropriate time to sit down and over think the past, I figure the designated last day of the year is as close as it gets. And away we go!

In no particular order, I learned:

1. just how difficult it is to supervise and train an uncooperative employee.

2. you can deny Jesus 70-something times in a single day and still feel pretty okay about yourself.

3. that New York City hurricanes probably won’t be a regular thing.

4. how to pass a New York State Driving Exam. My ability to drive is up for debate.

5. that ignorance is not bliss. Having the wrong idea about things can mess you up hard.

6. horror movies are still awesome.

7. that roller coasters are still the best thing ever.

8. that sometimes you just have to force someone to pick up a crucifix.

9. like a single Tango move. Or maybe it was Salsa?

10. Twitter is a fun place to visit, but don’t live there.

11. that photography is easy. Good photography, however, is an actual skill.

12. a vacation in summer is really no more weather-proof than a vacation at any other time of the year.

13. what a wonderful thing coffee really is.

14. that soda is not actually my friend, and has been hurting me for a long time.

15. life is bonkers and there is very little we can do about it. No but seriously it is.

16. that isolation will destroy anyone.

17. that sometimes playing dolls just means holding a doll and talking.

18. Salvation Army will let you donate pretty much anything and give you a receipt for it.

19. I have some really amazing friends. More than I thought I did.

20. that I might just have a future worth looking forward to.

Here’s hoping I don’t need to relearn any of the non-fun lessons. Happy* New Years.

*Your mileage may vary.

Practical Ways To Respond To The Eric Garner Case

In the wake of the latest failure to indict a police officer involved in the death of a black male, there has been a lot of think pieces, protests, memes, and backlash. In light of these, a few things come to mind that I think would further propel this momentum into making lasting changes. This list isn’t exhaustive, nor do I necessarily think all of them are equally useful or necessary, but you may want to consider them.

1) Educate Yourself

Following the herd because it is there is the worst idea no matter what the herd is saying. We are human beings, and no matter how social we are naturally we still have the capacity to think for ourselves, and every time we don’t we fail ourselves and those around us. No matter how clear cut these issues may seem, there is always a lot of information that simply won’t be widely reported, either because the media prefers a specific spin on the events or they simply don’t see a particular piece of data as relevant. Knowing as much as possible, both about the pivotal events themselves as well as the various factors that led to them happening is vital if you have any intention of making an intelligent judgement of the events.

2) Protest

A large mass of people yelling about things always gets attention. Make sure you did #1 first, however, or you may find yourself protesting something that really shouldn’t be protested, or you may find yourself advocating for changes that wouldn’t actually address the things you are protesting.

3) Write Your Elected Officials

This is vital. It is also vital that you get as many people to do this as possible. If you don’t like how things are done, you need to let them know in no uncertain terms that you want to see changes. And do not stop there. Threaten their elections. Telling a city counselor or DA you are upset is all well and good, but ten thousand people telling them that they have no intention of voting for someone who is comfortable with the status quo will get their attention. Do you think cops are accountable to no one and accusations against them need to be investigated by an unaffiliated party? Tell them that. Think we have way too many stupid laws and that the police shouldn’t be violent enforcers of cigarette taxes? Let them know. I personally believe that the overwhelming majority of problems we face as a nation can be traced to our lackadaisical approach to our elected officials. We let them do whatever they want, and the simple fact is people with power will tend to do whatever they can get away with. If every American citizen held the government accountable to the people instead of special interest groups or absolutely no one, we’d be living in a much better country.

4) Make Some New Friends

Your perspective changes when things affect people you know. I’ve read articles claiming things like 3/4 of white people don’t have any non-white friends, and while I question some of these statistics, it never hurts to have a more diverse set of friends, with varying viewpoints (even viewpoints you may find disagreeable or abhorrent). But maybe you have a lot of minority friends already. In that case, consider making friends with a police officer or someone who works in a DA’s office.

How To Complain Like A Man

You may read this title and think to yourself whilst stroking your beard thoughtfully “what man worthy of the noun would stoop to complaints?” And you may have a point, good sir (or bearded madam). Yet we live in a world where not all is what it should be. Work is hard, toes get stubbed and eventually one will verbalize their discontent with the immediate situation. Yet even in the negative spaces of our lives there is a right way and a wrong way. Today we explore the right way, at least as far as men are concerned (and perhaps some bearded ladies).

The first thing to keep in mind when complaining like a man is that a man goes beyond the immediate and strikes at the heart of the matter. A man does not complain “it is too loud in here”, he instead states “the music is at an unnecessary volume. Also you are speaking an awful lot for someone with so little to say.” Therefore “the herb garden is full of weeds” becomes “the boy isn’t doing his chores” and “we are out of milk” becomes “the boy isn’t doing his chores”. Here are some other examples.

“I’m cold” – Don’t touched the thermostat.
“My pants are too small” – Wife, you bought the wrong pants.
“There’s a funny smell in here” – Don’t let that damn cat inside.
“I’m too hot” – Don’t touched the thermostat.

The next important consideration when complaining with masculine vigor is that a true man takes action. Passivity is for the cat the boy keeps letting back inside. Therefore, for a complaint to truly become the complaint of a man it should ultimately become statements of intent or, if you are a man of authority, direct orders. For example, “those pants do make you look fat” could become “consider a different pair of pants” but a better option is “I’m eating your dinner for the next week”.

Finally, it is important not to make too big a deal of minor nuisances. A man who cannot tolerate minor annoyances is unfit for burning down a forest to make room for his new buffalo wrestling pit. Here are some every day scenarios you can apply to your life.

“I’m hungry” – The Man can shove it, I’m going hunting.
“I’m thirsty” – Boy, go dig an irrigation ditch.
“I almost tripped on the cat” – Wife, find a dog breeder on the World Wide Web. Something that eats cats.
“It’s too dark in here” – Boy, stop burning the forest, we’re building a new house instead.
“Too many hippies around here” – Hey, you guys ever see a dead cat?
“This dinner doesn’t taste good” – …
“This dinner seems to be made with expired meat and vegetables.” – …
“This dinner is clearly poisoned, there is a bottled labeled ‘poison’ inside my mashed potatoes.” – …
“There is a salesman at the door” – Wife, get my gun.
“There is a telemarketer on the telephone” – Wife, get my telegun.
“There are too many ads on this Internet web site” – Wife, get my gun.com.
“My wife has stolen all of my guns” – Great dinner, Wife.
“I just stubbed my toe” – This wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have a cat.
“I am ill” – I’m fine.
“I am injured” – It’s nothing.
“I am on fire” – Don’t touch the thermostat.
“I am literally bleeding to death” – I’m good.
“Those neighbor kids are too loud” Hey, you kids ever see a dead cat?
“Our barber shop quartet is missing a baritone” – Boy, go find your sister.
“That hurt my feelings” – Wife, invite him to dinner.

If Martin Luther King Jr. Were Alive Today He Would Hate Everyone

In light of recent events, most notably the kerfuffle in Ferguson, MO, the good name of Martin Luther King Jr. is once again being invoked in support or umbrage at this agenda or that. But let’s get real here, you people who think MLK Jr. would stand in solidarity with your economic or political views are fooling yourselves. He would hate you, both in a general sense and in a specific you as an individual sense.

If you were a white man he would punch you in the face, and if you were a black man he would drop kick you. If alive MLK Jr. would be 85 years old, and he wouldn’t even care. He would slap you silly and then laugh in your face for daring to be outraged. If you are rich he would slap you with your own wad of cash, and if you were poor he would slap you with your own bindle. Then he would set them on fire and just walk away.

Maybe you think Dr. King would be on your side because you stand for all the things he stands for. Nope. He thinks you are a stupid hanger-on and has nothing but contempt for you. Maybe you oppose a lot of the things he was trying to accomplish for one reason or another, in which case he thinks you are retarded and should not be allowed outside. And if you haven’t made up your mind, he would think you are a complete wuss and need to stop wearing little baby diapers.

If you are gay or bi or trans or whatever and Martin Luther King Jr. doesn’t beat you up, it isn’t because he approves of you; he just doesn’t want to touch you. If you see him wearing his gloves your only hope is to run. He’d hate you too, and if there weren’t so many straight people whose butts would needed kicking he’d show you how hate crimes are done. Not even the dead are safe from a hypothetically living Dr. King’s indiscriminate wrath, as one of his favorite past times would be dancing on graves and then throwing the headstones into the sea. But first he covers them in poison because he would even hate nature.

So please stop claiming that Martin Luther King Jr. would be outraged at his legacy being tarnished by this group or that group, because while technically accurate it fails to properly convey how he would be in a state of undying rage at everyone and everything.