Friday, September 19, 2014


In 1968, while reflecting on the racial plight of African Americans in the South, Paul McCartney penned the words to the Beetles' Blackbird. It's message of freedom from oppression has been an inspiration to me as I think about those remarkable men and women attempting to exit the commercial sex industry. The blackbird has become my symbol and the symbol for our social enterprise, That Grace Restored. Below are some of the lyrics that moved me to tears.

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
take these broken wings and learn to fly,
all your life,
you were only waiting for this moment
to arrive."
- The Beetles

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My Trayvon Martin Challenge

What does it mean to honor someone or to do something in the honor of another? The day of the Zimmerman verdict, many people blacked out their social media avi's in a show of support and solidarity with the Martin family. A common objection was blacking out one's photo will neither bring Trayvon back nor change the verdict. In short, it will accomplish nothing. In one sense, these people were wrong. What it did was allow people to know that they did not stand alone. It allowed the family to see that there were others who stood in support of them and their son. But in another sense, these people were right. Blacked out photos produce very little change in the world.

Now that some of the passion has died from the verdict and people are putting their original avi's back up, I wanted to suggest a way to honor not only Trayvon and his father, but to honor the relationship between the two that has become immortalized in the photo above. Out of all the photos I've seen during the past weeks, this one moves me the most. I'm not sure how your timeline looks, but it is very rare that I see fathers, especially black fathers, embracing and kissing their sons. A public display of affection from a father to son speaks volumes to both the son and to the world. It strengthens the relationship between a father and son. It allows a man to be vulnerable. For some fathers this is extremely risky because you have never displayed emotion to your son. Sons, this can be risky for you because you have never received physical affection from your father. But if we are going to change the world, one place to start is with changing how we love and show our love to our sons and our fathers. These types of photos do produce change in the world. If nothing else, they allow fathers and sons to connect.

So my challenge is this:
1) Fathers, go spend time with your sons. 
2) Sons, go spend time with your fathers.
3) Push past the fear, the risk and the pain and, if possible, embrace your son or father.
4) Take a photo and let the world see it.

Here's me loving on my boys. I can't wait to get a photo with my dad!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Thoughts on the Zimmerman Verdict

For those tracking with me via social media, it should not be surprising that I was not shocked by the jury’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. I've long held that the State did not have the evidence necessary to convict Zimmerman of second degree murder and that a manslaughter conviction, while possible, was going to be very, very difficult to get. Some of the blog entries I'd read questioned whether this case should have even been brought to court. My personal belief was Zimmerman was most likely guilt of manslaughter due to his negligence by exiting his truck and following Trayvon. As many have argued, if Zimmerman had heeded the advice of the dispatcher and not followed Trayvon, then the altercation would not have occurred. Not being a legal expert though, I was not confident in my position. On July 8th, I read this piece by attorney Shane Krauser that made me begin to rethink my position on manslaughter. I knew then that if the State did not have a bombshell witness or a piece incontrovertible evidence that proved that George Zimmerman was not only the aggressor in the confrontation, but also used excess force in defending himself against Trayvon, then he could not be proven guilty of either charge beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution had already rested its case. I knew that no witness or evidence was coming. It was highly like that Zimmerman would be a free man.

Not only was I not shocked, but I was not disappointed in the verdict. If I'm completely honest, I was a bit relieved. This verdict proved to me that the justice system has not been so comprised as to be swayed by mob justice. It's no secret that most African-Americans believed Zimmerman to be guilty and wanted a second degree conviction. It is also no secret that many people feared a repeat of the LA riots. Given America's racial sensitivities and these two well-known facts, it would have been easy to throw Zimmerman to the mob just to pacify them and ensure the safety of our cities and towns. The jury did not do this. They patiently weighed the evidence that had been presented by both the State and the Defense and came to the very reasonable conclusion that George Zimmerman was not guilty. 

How can you say this as a black man living in 2013? Don't you see the huge injustice that has been committed against black people here? Don't you see that this incident proves that America has not fundamentally changed since 1955?

My answer to these types of questions are very simple. First, I think this situation proves that America is very different than it was in 1955. If this same incident had occurred in 1955 and legal theorists like Alan Dershowitz are correct, then this case would have never made it to court in the first place. America would have never heard of George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin. The Martin family would have grieved together with family and close friends. But that did not happen. The whole world has heard of this case. My aunt in Australia can't believe that this "S.O.B." got off! The President of the United States commented that Trayvon would look like his own son. This would have never happened in 1955. Again, because of our racial sensitivities, we are far more likely to look for the racial element in crimes and address them than we were 60 years ago. We might not always get them right, but cases that have a racial element to them cannot be hidden or swept under the rug by racists and bigots.

Second, While I do think this incident as a travesty, I do not see it as a racial travesty because I do not believe there was a racial element to this case at all. I believe that the media and racial profiteers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson made this case into a racial one for pure political and financial gain. (For a great read on why Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are utterly worthless as defenders of civil rights, I highly recommend Enough by Juan Williams.) It was the media who first misidentified Zimmerman as a White man. It was the media and Al Sharpton that created the category "White Hispanic." As others have questioned, if it is fair to label a mixed person by both races, then why have they never referred to President Obama as a White African? It was CNN that incorrectly reported that Zimmerman called Trayvon a "fucking coon." It was later determined that Zimmerman was actually commenting on the weather and CNN retracted their statements. It was NBC that edited the audio of Zimmerman’s non-emergency call to make it sound like Zimmerman just blurted out that Trayvon was black when the unedited audio showed that Zimmerman was merely responding to the dispatcher’s question about the race of the suspect. NBC claims to have fired the person responsible, but the damage had been done. All these small inaccuracies add up. They all placed small doubts in our minds about Zimmerman's racial motives. We were convinced that this man was a racist or at least racially profiled Trayvon Martin that night. But our thoughts about Zimmerman were all based on a fabrication and not fact. 

In fact, there was much evidence to show that Zimmerman was not a racist. Zimmerman's friend, a black man, Joe Oliver went on several shows to defend Zimmerman's integrity. He told Jesse Jackson that he understood the frustration of African-Americans and would have felt the same way if he had not known Zimmerman personally. Zimmerman's father reported that Zimmerman and his wife mentored two African-American children. There's also the story of Zimmerman defending the homeless black man that was beaten by the son of a Sanford police officer. Finally, there was the 254 page FBI report that investigated the Zimmerman shooting and found no evidence of racism in either Zimmerman or the shooting. While it is true that Zimmerman had a pattern of calling the police on young, black males, it is also true that young, black males were overwhelming responsible for the crimes in his community. But it seems that none of this evidence made its was into the minds of many Americans. All they see is a white man who killed an unarmed black child. There is no other possible motive than racism. I find it extremely sad that our passion and fervor is so great that it prevents us from seeing this evidence. 

Does this mean that I think Zimmerman was completely innocent? To be honest, I do not know. I do not have enough information to determine what happened that night. I still think that he was negligent by getting out of his vehicle. I agree with Judge Mathis that Trayvon's parents should try Zimmerman in civil court. But I think this is probably where the trial should have been all along. 

My heart does go out to Trayvon's family. I am sorry that they lost someone very dear to them. I am sorry that we as a nation dragged them and their pain into a trial that never should have been. My heart goes out to George Zimmerman. His name and reputation were ruined by the greedy bastards in the media and the"civil rights movement." While he may not be completely innocent, there is no evidence that he deserves that has happened to him. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

God and Rehab

Yesterday, I had an interesting talk with a friend about God's role in drug rehab and behavior change. Conventional Christian wisdom seems to be that one cannot truly kick a habit without God's help or without becoming a Christian. This is the philosophy of several faith-based rehab and restoration programs with which I am personally acquainted. The theory is that once a behavior devolves to the level of an addiction, it takes God to overcome it. These programs support this claim pointing to the number of addicts that they have seen come to faith, kick the habit and then live productive and meaningful lives. 

But I have two main issues with this philosophy. First, many AA and NA programs have success stories while not requiring their members to become Christians. While they do promote faith as being necessary for successful rehab, they don't specify in which deity one needs to place her faith to be successful. They simply require you to place your faith in something (i.e. a higher power). But this view contradicts the conventional view because on the conventional view, not all deities are capable one producing change. The only deity that can produce actual change in a person is the God of the Bible. It's like trying to get water out of a disconnected water hose. Only water hoses connected to the water supplies produce water. On the AA model it doesn't matter where the hose is connected. It just has to be connected to something.

Second, there is evidence that many people quit drugs and alcohol without attending any programs or without any specific faith commitments at all. Gene Heyman has been providing this research for years. According to Heyman, addiction is not a disease, but is a choice. Though the choice is hard, people can  choose to stop whatever destructive behavior to which they are addicted. Heyman's research shows that the choice to change is usually preceded by a calculation of the pros and cons associated with the addictive behavior. As the addict really begins to realize that a life without this behavior is better than a life with it, she can begin to change her behavior. Behavior change, then comes from within the individual and does not necessarily come from some external source (i.e. God, medicine, etc.) Again, Heyman does not argue that behavior change is easy. He merely says that it's possible.

So what does that mean for faith-based or explicitly Christian programs? Is there no place for them in the world of rehab and restorative programing? I think there is still space. I think the role of a Christian program is not to show the client that God is needed to overcome addiction or to change a destructive behavior. Instead, the role of the program is to show the client that God is needed to have a complete and full life. According to the Christian worldview, just as a seed needs nutrient-rich soil, fresh water and oxygen in order to flourish, human beings need healthy relationships, proper nutrients and a relationship with the God of the Scriptures in order to flourish. Christian programs, especially long-term programs, should aim at helping their clients develop Christian world-views while at the same time helping them walk through the stages of behavior change

This does not mean that God isn't interested in helping the client with behavior change. I would argue that He wants to help and has promised that His Spirit is here to help us change those behaviors that are contrary to the flourishing life.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

How Angry Black People Destroy Everything

Since the birth of my sons, I've been rather distant from all forms of media (mainstream, social, right-wing, etc.) so I wasn't aware of the newest global phenomenon -- planking. It's a rather simple and harmless activity (I'm not sure it's a sport even though people seem to be trying to out plank each other). All one has to do is to lie face down with your fingers and toes pointed. Though I think planking is rather silly, it does seem to be a form of entertainment which virtually everyone can participate. One doesn't have to go to planking school or train hard to be a planker. There are thousands of planking photos out there and very few people seem to be getting hurt from planking.

According to several internet sites, planking began in England by two guys who thought it would be a cool way to jazz up their travel photos. Those crazy Aussies popularized this fad and dubbed it planking. Recently, American celebrities have taken to planking, but the angry black people are warning against it. According to The Black Urban Times, planking is rooted in slavery as slaves were "planked" in the hulls of slave ships. I don't know whether to laugh at this assertion or to cry because I see assertions made like it frequently. Not everything that white people do is connected to some past sin against black people and not every fad black people participate in is a scheme hatched by white people to keep us down. Just because two things are similar does not mean that one is the cause or the root of the other. Arguments like these are just silly. Happy planking...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are the Birthers Racists?

So today President Obama released his long-form birth certificate proving that he is a natural born American citizen and thereby eligible to be the President of the United States of America. Of course, the reaction from many people is that the only reason this was an issue in the first place is because Mr. Obama is the first black president. They didn't do this to any other president. Why have they chosen Mr. Obama? In other words, those brining these charges are racists. First, let me say that I am a conservative and I thought the birther thing was absolutely stupid and should have never been made an issue in the first place. There are far more important issues on the table than this dude's birth certificate. We are fighting multiple wars, we have an economic crisis on our hands and the price of coffee is at a thirty year high. I would rather focus on getting my americano back down to a reasonable price than rummage through documents in the state offices of Hawaii.

With that said, does this mean that I agree that the main motivating factor behind the birther movement is racism? No. I think the main motivation behind the birther movement is political. It is an easy target at which to aim to discredit Obama as a political opponent. Yes, there probably many birthers who are racists. But that doesn't mean that the movement itself is racist. Just a thought.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

One of the things that continues to amaze me about my Uncle Mel is his ability to enjoy the simple things in life. I took him to the dock at the beach house where we were staying during the Thanksgiving holiday and he was on cloud nine. He enjoyed sitting on the dock's bench just taking in the breeze and the view. While I enjoyed both of those, I was thinking about how to buy the property! How can I make this mine forever! I think that cheapened the experience for me. I should have been living in that moment like Uncle Mel was, instead of trying to find ways to have more of those moments.