And then, in the middle of that, another parent experienced the terror and anguish of a stroke. Hearing your mother, who always captured the essence of life and love, repeat over and over again, “I want to die . . . I want to find John. I want John to find me . . .” That changes you, forever. I am not even sure I can capture how it does. I haven’t cried that much in a decade. I screamed in private.
But finally, methodically, memories have been dispersed, divided, tucked away. Furniture has been sold or stored. Repairs made, the beautiful old plantation shutters meticulously dusted, faucets cleaned to a perfect high shine, new ochre mulch laid around the plants--all those things that took us ten months. And of course, there was the hellish bureaucracy of aging and illness. The paperwork, the insurance, the government administrivia: that alone will kill you, if nothing else does.
And so now, finally our minds turn back to the big wide world outside of this skeletal home--the sweet, dirty earth, with its abundant and heart-wrenching natural disasters: hurricanes with tornados. More hurricanes. Dams bursting because of hurricanes. Earthquakes. Even in Bali, they are evacuating because Mount Agung is waking from a long sleep, like some malevolent dragon. (And then, as we proofread this, the fires. And those penguins. It just never lets up.) It is impossible not to be arrested and saddened by the flood of stories and images that have accompanied all of these events.
I refer, of course, to a tsunami of out-of-control Tweets. But, for something a little different, I am going to pose this blog as an open letter, which I encourage you to cut paste, and email to everybody you can reach. This is not so much for liberals, or Democrats. They don’t need to be told. And by the way. It isn’t about Trump. (Like that needs more commentary.)
This is for Christians and Conservatives. I have called myself both in the past, as I still believe in a Higher Intelligence--much as Einstein did--and I have a fundamental respect for those two aforementioned groups.
AN OPEN LETTER TO CHRISTIANS EVERYWHERE
Christians: It has got to stop. Or, at least, if it can’t be stopped, it must be fought, it must be pushed back against; we must do everything within our Christian power to stamp it out: I am talking about the ubiquity of Tweets (and other forms of social media posting) that are injected into the cybersphere for no other reason than to shock, demean, ridicule, and disgust the world writ large.
And if you are wondering who I am, I am a person who has voted for Republicans, worked pro bono as a staffer on a Republican Congressional Campaign, and worked tirelessly to keep the cross on the seal of the County of Los Angeles.
Allow me to be blunt: this is not a political screed, and I would never bring politics into the church--although I do know that Matt Staver, of Liberty Counsel/Liberty University (think Jerry Falwell) has done extensive YouTubes explaining how you can do just that, and get away with it ...just as I know that there are parishes where the leader of the flock tells his parishioners how to vote. But please note, the quotations contained herein are not about politics. They do not deal at all--much less in any depth, or with any rhetorical sophistication--with matters of the United States electorate: they do not talk about abortion, education, taxes, social programs, infrastructure, Congress, the penal system, or defense spending. All of the Tweets I have amassed here are about nothing but cruel ferocious mocking, vicious bullying, and unconscionable cruelty--the very antithesis of everything that we think about when we ponder the notions of how Christians should behave.
These “Tweets”--these kinds of thoughts, that guttersnipe kind of communicating, ought to have no place in the public forum. And it certainly should have no part in the lives of Christians. They do nothing but lower the morale, esteem, and thought process of everyone who encounters them in any way, shape, or form. That is why I am asking you to rebuke the author of these Tweets. To ban the person who wrote them from your universe. And, perhaps most importantly, to join with me in urging those forums who oddly choose to publish this person, to drop publication of this person’s writing--and to boycott those publications, if necessary.
And again, please understand. I am not advocating censorship, but censureship. And the distinction between the definition of these two words contains the very essence of what we mean when we invoke The First Amendment. Censorship is the stuff of tyranny and dictatorships. But censureship...ah, that is Democracy’s Darling! Nobody is saying that the author of these cruel Tweets doesn’t have the right to tweet them. Nobody is saying that they don’t have the right to publish an article or a book. We are just standing up to the ugliness and saying that “we don’t want any part of this ugly speech”. We categorically reject exposing ourselves to it--and because this person’s thoughts are already widely disseminated, we feel that a boycott is a valid method of protest to let our profound distaste be known.
More on how you can boycott--and more importantly, what organizations you should boycott--later. But now, an example of some of this singularly hateful author’s vile Tweets:
TWEET: “HURRICANE UPDATE FROM MIAMI: LIGHT RAIN; RESIDENTS AT RISK OF DYING FROM BOREDOM.”
No, actually they are dying from an excess of water all around them. It is called drowning. They are dying from electrocution, because some twist of fate caused them to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time, when a power line came down. They are dying from heat, because they are dependent seniors who spent their entire lives parenting, and now depend on others, but those others dropped the ball. So know, Cruel Twitterer, they are not dying from boredom. They are dying, period.
TWEET: “RIGHT NOW, THERE ARE PEOPLE IN FLORIDA WHOSE GROCERIES ARE SPOILING.” Yes, that’s right, Cruel Twitterer. And groceries are food, which means when groceries spoil, people--many of them children--risk starving to death. Here are some quick figures: when evacuating a family, you are going to lose a week, maybe two weeks of work. Maybe longer. (That is, assuming your place of work still exists.) So we are probably already into the four figures. And for those who make minimum wage, they are the ones who can least afford it. Then, a thousand dollars a week roughly, to feed a family three meals a day on the road for a week (at least), with only a dinky cooler, and ice mighty hard to come by. Then, another thousand dollars that same week to keep your family cramped in a hotel. Then, a few hundred for gas for your car--if you car can travel the hundreds of miles you may need to travel, much of it in bumper to bumper traffic. And considering that more than half of all Americans can’t afford an emergency bill of $500 dollars, those are some mighty scary statistics to consider, when facing the reality of evacuating. And considering that we are looking at this from a Christian filter, condemning people for being poor is, oh, about as un-Christlike as you can be. Furthermore, since the author of the above Tweets grew up in a town where the median income is almost five (yes, 5) times larger the average median income, it is unfathomably insensitive of the Tweeter to assume some innate superiority because they have liquid cash, and the evacuee families don’t. It can easily cost thousands of dollars to evacuate a family. And that is before they return home, to discover the (tens of) thousands of dollars worth of damage to their home, and whether or not they still have a job. Even responsible Americans who have home insurance for hurricanes and tornados were gobsmacked when they learned that for this monster wind, they needed flood insurance, not just hurricane insurance, or they were up the infamous creek--a creek that had swelled to deadly levels. And while we are on the subject of insurance, how many well-educated, snobby rich Americans even understand the difference between ACV and RCV? I do, but only because me and my property have been through two fires, two floods, and a 6.6. earthquake. (Is it something I’m doing?) So, Cruel and UNusual Tweeter, shut up about the mocking of the groceries.
TWEET: “I DON'T BELIEVE HURRICANE HARVEY IS GOD'S PUNISHMENT FOR HOUSTON ELECTING A LESBIAN MAYOR. BUT THAT IS MORE CREDIBLE THAN "CLIMATE CHANGE." I don’t even know where to start with this one. Even if you think homosexuals are vile and unforgivable, this, then, is the reason that sixty innocent strangers have to die? If you think this is how Christianity works, you need to spend more time in church.
As some of you may have surmised, these are all the ugly words of Ann Coulter. And at this juncture, allow me to emphasize again that I am not bringing politics in the church, nor suggesting that I am for or against any political stand--although if I were sharing the names of worthy conservative pundits, names like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Ben Stein, David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, and Thomas Sowell all spring to mind--and, if you are in a more whimsical mood (but still a Conservative), you can cackle and take comfort in the likes of P.J. O’Rourke, James Lileks, and Florence King. Fine writers!
But I am not doing that. I am pointing out, with all the urgency I can muster, that Ms. Coulter has perfected the art of writing short, scathing barbs whose only purpose is to diminish, ridicule, and bully. And this vicious activity is not what it means to be a Conservative. They are, if truth be told, the polar opposite of what it means to be a Christian. Just listen to Ann Coulter, who literally claimed to be, and I quote, “an extraordinarily good Christian”, as she comments on her view of God’s world.
And as you read, please remember--spoiler alert--that I am going to end this epistle with a concerned look into why young people are leaving the church in record numbers … as in, please, I beg of your, hear the following through the ears of your children:
“GOD HIMSELF COMMANDED THE ISRAELITES TO GO TO CERTAIN CITIES AND KILL EVERY LIVING THING.”
“TRUMP IS ALREADY HEAD OF STATE. AFTER THAT PRESS CONFERENCE, IN MY EYES, HE’S NOW HEAD OF THE CHURCH.”
“IT'S BECOME INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT TO DISTINGUISH THE PRONOUNCEMENTS OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH FROM THE LATEST MADONNA VIDEO.”
Interviewer: “ARE CHURCHES THAT DON'T AGREE WITH YOUR POLITICS OR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS NOT REALLY CHURCHES?” Ann’s response: “CORRECT.” And when Coulter is asked, “DO YOU PRAY?” SHE RESPONDS. “I PRAY FOR HIM TO SMITE LIBERALS.”
“TO THE EXTENT ONE IS PRACTICING LIBERALISM, ONE IS NOT PRACTICING THE RELIGION OF OUR FATHER.”
“CONSERVATIVES BELIEVE MAN WAS CREATED IN GOD'S IMAGE, WHILE LIBERALS BELIEVE THEY ARE GODS.” (Ms. Coulter refuses to look at repeated polling dating which states that the majority of Democrats clearly and proudly declare themselves as Christians. Apparently, she knows their hearts better than they do.)
“GOD DID NOT ‘CAUSE’ EVOLUTION BECAUSE EVOLUTION DOESN'T EXIST.”
“WE HAVE DOMINION OVER THE PLANTS, THE ANIMALS, THE TREES. GOD SAID, 'EARTH IS YOURS. TAKE IT. RAPE IT. IT'S YOURS.' "
"WE SHOULD INVADE THEIR COUNTRIES, KILL THEIR LEADERS, AND CONVERT THEM TO CHRISTIANITY."
“I’M A CHRISTIAN FIRST, AND A MEAN-SPIRITED, BIGOTED CONSERVATIVE SECOND, AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT.”
Now, gentle reader, take a moment to snap a mental picture of your sweet, mouthy, moody, smart, caring ‘tweens and teens. Imagine their daily struggle, as they are trying to find their way in the world, and trying to find God in the insanity of today’s headlines, and in their cyber universe. Now, imagine your kids reading Coulter. What will be their reaction to Christianity, the Church, and “God”? How will their nascent belief systems react, when they learn that this person, with these ugly thoughts, is a “Christian”? And that she is endorsed--and watched, and read--by you. Caution, danger ahead.
But it gets worse. The above quotations are just Ms. Coulter’s thoughts on Christianity, and herself as a Christian. Remember, the point of this epistle is to suggest we take a firm and boycotting stance and all communication (i.e. books, speeches), and social media communication in particular, whose sole purpose is to wound, shock, mock, disrespect and humiliate--because none of these are Christian values.
Just take a look below at some of Ms. Coulter’s more famous brickbats--intermixed with the actual words and testimony of young people who have felt driven away from the Church because of its pettiness, judgment, and hateful rhetoric--its tolerance of intolerance, if you will:
COULTER ON THE 9/11 WIDOWS: “I have never seen people enjoying their husband's deaths so much ...and by the way, how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they'd better hurry up and appear in Playboy.” “One of the biggest reasons I left the organized church was the fact that we, as a church, were simply maintaining our own club/clubhouse. We tithed to pay the costs to operate the organization. I guess since there were no widows, orphans or hungry people around we were able to justify keeping it all in-house.”
COULTER ON SHAMING: “Shaming is good!” “I am tired of having to hide what I believe in a culture that prides itself on being welcoming, accepting, and real. When the tagline on so many churches is “come as you are” but they don’t really mean it, I’m done.”
ON NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY: “Last thursday was National ‘Coming Out’ day. this Monday is national ‘disown your son day.’ ” “The more I started doubting my faith, the more the Bible made perfect sense to me, and the easier it became to read: Jesus loved the poorest of the poor. He spent time with the prostitutes, the tax collectors, and the people with the worst reputations, and loved them unconditionally, contrary to the culture they were a part of. God wasn't a god of the rich and powerful, but a god of the outcast and enslaved, who freed oppressed people and stood for the rights of the downtrodden. So naturally it would feel like this kind of unconditional love, and this unity and welcomeness should be extended to all people, regardless of gender, race, and class, just as Jesus embodied in his life. Yet I fail to see that in so many churches.”
COULTER ON PUBLIC SCHOOLS: "Most public schools are….criminal training labs, where teachers sexually abuse the children between drinking binges and acts of grand larceny." REDDIT THREAD: Elementary Schools Teachers, how much do you spend in your classroom? Just curious on how much you spend for the year?” “I think so far this year my wife and I have spent a combined $3000.” “Why do you spend so much?” “Because ‘classroom budget’ is the devil’s phrase, and i you want the good stuff for your classroom, often you have to buy it yourself. It’s for the kids. That’s really the only answer.”
COULTER’S IDEA OF HUMOR: TO SAY ‘STOP RAPING ME’ IN ENGLISH, PRESS ONE NOW. “When something bad happens and all we are told by religious people are 'God did that because he's punishing you' really turns us all away. Hurricanes are not disasters natural to our earth, but divine wrath from God because we dared go socialist or some other mesh like that. Right down to tripping against a chair leg and suffering a simple two-second pain is a warning from God to get you back in line. No one likes this anymore. We all prefer to see God as a loving Being.”
COULTER ON NON-CHRISTIANS: "Press passes can't be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the President." “The Bible and God were twisted into something ugly and frightening. Most of the time, people just wanted to step on us, to grind their Christian truth into us with their heel . I was so disgusted by the hate radiating from Christians, from churches. It made me sick . And if that’s what being a Christian was, what God was, I wanted nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with it.”
COULTER ON IMPERIALISM: “Aren’t we the ones who should be arrogantly oppressing countries that unaccountably do not have the death penalty?” “Christianity is still thriving in areas where it is heavily persecuted. It's the regions of the world that have been ruled by pseudo-Christian authorities for any length of time that are shunning the Gospel.”
COULTER ON FOREIGN COUNTRIES WHOSE PEOPLE WERE BORN INTO DIFFERENT RELIGIONS “Invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.” “We went to a church where they were holding a $40,000 fundraiser... for a parking lot. And yes, they already had a completely functional parking lot, but they wanted a nicer parking lot. I was furious at the thought, especially when we had just gotten back from Ghana and had encountered some of the most blatant and unfair forms of poverty I had ever seen in my life.”
COULTER ON OBAMA: “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the Retard.” (Note to reader: and even if you got a guilty giggle from the insult, remember that the reaction was for legions of parents to have to explain to their mentally challenged children why that word was considered so insulting. And what was her response the next day, after the overwhelming public backlash against her cruelty? This: “The only people who will be offended are too retarded to understand it.”
COULTER ON A CANDIDATE SHE DISAGREES WITH: "I was going to have a few comments about John Edwards but you have to go into rehab if you use the word faggot.” “I'm a white 33-year-old voter and I vote based, in large part, on my Christian faith, which is precisely why I am a Democrat ... Many of my former seminary classmates and other religious folks I know also vote based on their faith and are therefore Democrats.”
COULTER ON THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND THE FREE PRESS: "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." “I left [the church] because the pressure to be perfect created an atmosphere of judgment. I don’t know if or when I’ll be able to go back. I miss the familiarity but not the nauseating atmosphere of lies. The hardest part is that I feel like I have to do all this searching and seeking alone. I have questions that I’m terrified to ask because I don’t want to just be slapped over the head with a Bible and have various verses spewed at me. I can’t speak for the rest of my generation, but when it comes to church I just want to feel safe. It’s not always about rebelling, and I wish older generations could recognize and understand that.”
COULTER ON THOSE WHO DISAGREE WITH HER: “Liberals are either traitors or idiots.” “When I started going to a mission-oriented church that gathered in a coffeehouse on campus on Sunday nights, she said it wasn’t a “real” church and I would have to start going somewhere on Sunday mornings.”
COULTER ON HALF OF THE POPULATION OF THE UNITED STATES: There are no good Democrats "It has become too easy, too passive, and expectations have fallen too low. Where is the challenge if I begin to feel like the view towards salvation is that it is assured simply because I fill up a space in a church pew? There is too much brokenness in this weary world, and too great a responsibility, and (by the way...) saving souls should never, ever, ever, be thought of in numerical terms... Don't give me a church with good music and good public speaking. Give me Jesus. Give me the courage that Jesus had to love tax collectors, prostitutes, and to approach the lowest caste, the diseased, dirty, and dying, and love them. Don't give me an altar call and have the nerve to tell me that all I have to do is kneel down, say 'yes,' and that is my way into heaven. Give me the weight of the world, and the responsibility of the impoverished, the dying, and the hungry."
And just some more randomly hateful, un-Christian, and meaningless vitriol from the Cruel and UNusual Twitterer:
COULTER ON WOMEN: “It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact.”
COULTER ON THE SUPREME COURT: "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee.”
COULTER ON THANKSGIVING: “Happy Holocaust on your plate day.”
COULTER ON JUSTICE AND CHILDREN: “I have to say I'm all for public flogging. One type of criminal that a public humiliation might work particularly well with are the juvenile delinquents.”
COULTER’S STATEMENT REGARDING THE TRAGIC DEATH OF THE SON OF A POLITICAL OPPONENT: “If you want points for not using your son's death politically, don't you have to take down all those ‘ASK ME ABOUT MY SON'S DEATH IN A HORRIFIC CAR ACCIDENT’ bumper stickers?”
And, her comment to a Vietnam Veteran in a wheelchair who became paralyzed after being shot in combat: “NO WONDER YOU GUYS LOST (This quote was actually the subject of a big controversy, the quotation being reworded and printed as Ann saying, “YOU’RE THE REASON WE LOST THIS WAR.” Whoa. Back up a minute. That’s her defense for mocking a paralyzed veteran? That we misquoted her original vomit?: “NO WONDER YOU GUYS LOST.”)
She just never lets up. The harpy just never lets up.
“If our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is in us at all.” –David Platt
Finally, I would like to recap precisely why I feel this matter of banning Coulter is so urgent. This is not because of some personal grudge I have with her, nor is it because of her political opinions. For the record, there are opinions she has expressed with which I am in agreement. But that is not enough for Ms. Coulter; it never has been, and it clearly never will be. She must swath it in shock jock words and images, using cruel and vicious attacks, just to sell books and speaking engagements. Deep down, she must not have faith in her own views, just as her faith in God and understanding of his message is perverted and dangerous. This is the truth of the crisis: young people are leaving the church in record numbers, and overwhelmingly, their collective belief that the church is hurtful and intolerant is offered by these young people as the reason why. And Ann Coulter, who crows about what a great Christian she is, and then attacks anybody who does not think precisely as she does, is a flaming example of the kind of person who drives young people away from religion and the church. And just as it was unconscionable that, a hundred years ago, folks would go to church, and then afterwards, flock to the town square to enjoy a good lynching, prefaced by torturing the victim with fiery rods, so it is wrong in this day and age to attend services Sunday morning, then spend the rest of the week cackling at hate speech in the form of Tweets, Facebook posts, and emails. Let me make this clear: there is nothing wrong with poking fun at the opposition, or engaging in good, healthy debate. But when the Tweets and quotes devolve into pure vicious and vile verbal acid attacks, it is time for that communication to be shut down--not by taking away somebody’s First Amendment right to issue such bile. But by refusing to receive it, in any way shape or form.
BAN ANN. BAN ANN. BAN ANN. BAN ANN. BAN ANN. BAN ANN.
I am urging you, begging you to contact those newspapers who syndicate her, and ask that they drop her column. Many newspapers already have, in reaction to what you have just read.
COULTER ON TORTURE: "I THINK THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE ...ENGAGING IN TORTURE AS A TELEVISED SPECTATOR SPORT…”
ONE SEARCHING CHRISTIAN: “I've spent the past two days sobbing...I don't know how to get my friends and family to understand. People don't get that we WANT to believe again, we want to to have relationship....but attending church feels like returning to the scene of a crime.”
Matthew 25:35-40 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
FINAL THOUGHTS: AN OPEN LETTER TO ANN COULTER
Dear Ann Coulter; If you were the great American you purport to be, and the great American that your mother and father wanted you to be--I read your eulogies of them by the way, how classless of you to find a way to get political digs at your opponents in while mourning your dead--but, as I was saying, if you were the great American you purported to be, you would consider (given your vast wealth) making a contribution, and you would also consider spending some time at your Florida mansion, so that you could step out and see what is really happening there. So that you cou’d step out and help, volunteer, feed people in shelters, help people get new homes. Something. Anything.
And where are you, Ann, while all of this is going on? (Update: she is literally emailing the Associated Press, today, as I write this, telling them--and these are her own words--that she is “brilliant”. Sheesh.)
You know who I admire, Ann, when it comes to this hurricane tragedy? Evan Gatscher, a Florida kid who made grilled cheese sandwiches on a metal shutter they laid out to dry, when the power was out and his family was hungry. (That’s how hot it was, as the family struggled to rescue their home and their lives in the blistering Florida sun.) You know who I admire, Ann? Marc and Jennifer Bell, rich people like yourself, but unlike you, they invited 70 kids into their home, gave them a place to sleep for days until the danger passed, serving hundreds of meals and hiring folks to entertain the kids.
Or, here’s a thought, Ann-if you hate people as much as your Tweets would indicate you do, why not help the poor helpless animals? Since funny dog Tweets are the only humanizing part of your twitter feed. After all, those poor Florida dogs and cats--and horses, goat, birds, …. they have no political parties. Just a need to eat and be safe, yet with nothing for food and nowhere to eat.
Well, folks remember that house I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the one we worked on for a year?
It was right outside of Tampa. Right in the path of Irma, that record breaking nightmare that broke records with its 185 mile per hour winds. We are there now. We are getting back to work.
But as is usually the case, there are those who got it far worse. And there is much we can spare, much we can give. We have donated two beds, a dresser, a bureau, numerous blanket and pillows, clothes for boys and girls, food we purchased, dolls and soccer balls and an assortment of other new toys that we bought. And frankly, Ann, we were close to broke before all this, given the year we’ve had.
The questions is, what have you given? Why aren’t you here?
Fret for your soul, Ann. Clearly, it ain’t here in sweltering Florida. But it is still going to be damnably hot, when it arrives at its final destination.
Shame on you.
POST SCRIPT: Readers will note that I have chosen not to include any one of the wicked political cartoons presenting Ann Coulter as the bride of Satan. Frankly, that is her style, not mine. And, more to the point--I believe that her own words ridicule and shame her more than any meme I could ever post.
The high road.