The Democratic Party is Irrelevant

It looks like Hillary has the Democratic Party nomination all but locked up right now. We’re down to recriminations and sour grapes and I-told-you-sos and calls for party unity. Bernie’s still talking a big game but Hillary’s already gearing up for her victory lap and Trump has started ignoring Cruz and Kasich in favor of taking potshots at Hillary and mocking the media for its notion of what “presidential” looks like while the media tells us that he is, in fact, presidential.[1] All of this is maneuvering and posturing for the big show that will consume all of us between now and November. All of this ignores the one thing no one in America is able to recognize. Whether Hillary wins by 90 points or Trump becomes America’s most wildly unqualified President-elect since Zachary Taylor the Democratic Party is going to lose.

We’ve been hearing tales of the death of the Republican Party for years. In 2008 there were gleeful reports of the end of all things Republican Party. John McCain went from being one of the most respected politicians in America to a has-been joke accompanied by a word-salad shooting moron in a matter of months while the Democratic Party Ascendant had Barack Obama and still had Hillary waiting in the wings. In 2012 when the Republican Clown Car was whittled down to a bafflingly wealthy board with an amazing head of hair with no chance of winning the pundits looked at the vast wasteland of Republican benchwarmers and also-rans and asked yet again if the Republicans would soon go the way of the Whigs, the Anti-Masonic Party, and the American Party.[2]

What all of this ignores is the fact that the Republican Party is far stronger now than it was in 2008. The Republican Party won the most important political race of this generation in 2010 while the Democratic Party was asleep at the switch. Don’t believe me? Let me throw three names at you: John Kasich, Scott Walker, and Rick Snyder.

What do all three of those men have in common? All three were inaugurated as state governors in January of 2011. All three followed a Democratic Governor. All three are currently governors of old, mainline Union states whose men had heroic tales of fighting the Confederates in the Civil War. All three had a long tradition of leading the way on labor rights issues. All three states went to Barack Obama in 2008. The states in question are Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio.

You may recognize all of those names. John Kasich is, of course, the current answer to the question, “Hey, who’s the other guy who’s still in the Republican race for some reason?” Scott Walker is famous for having to run another race for his own job shortly after being elected when it turned out that he mostly wanted to tell teachers to go fuck themselves. Rick Snyder, meanwhile, let the city of Flint, Michigan drink and bathe in delicious lead water for a year or so.[3]

The Republican Party didn’t just grab a few governor’s offices in 2010. They took control of the House and very nearly managed to grab the Senate. The Senate seat grab came at the cost of the Illinois Senate seat that had belonged to Barack Obama, although there was the weird influence selling scheme by Rod Blagojevich and Roland Burris had already vacated the seat by the time Mark Kirk was sworn in. The big loss in 2010 came in — wait for it — Wisconsin, where liberal stalwart Russ Feingold was booted in favor of Ron Johnson, as dingbatty a Tea Party dingbat as any of the other Tea Partiers.[4]

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few other Republicans who won the governorship in formerly Democratic-governed states. Rick Scott took Florida and became the first governor to push for drug testing of welfare recipients. He also refused to say that he knows anything about climate change while governing a state that’s slowly drowning. Paul LePage got the governor’s seat in Maine with just under 39% of the vote and proceeded to just be the worst. Sam Brownback won in Kansas and decided to use it as a laboratory for Republican financial policies of cutting taxes to the rich and services to everyone else and Kansas is suffering heavily from lack of funds. But it’s okay because Kansas is going to pay you $2,500 the state doesn’t have if you check the genitalia of everyone in their public restrooms and find that someone has an outtie where there should be an innie.[5]

So, in short, in 2008 the Democratic Party won the Oval Office and majorities in both houses of Congress. The pundits started asking if that would be the end of the Republican Party. Two years later the Republicans had taken basically everything back but the office of the President. We should all have such a difficult death.

This whole change came about because of the Tea Party, a pseudo grassroots organization that was fueled by equal parts racism, religious bigotry, hatred of the poor, and generalized rage at the Other. Much ado was made about how the Republican Establishment wasn’t a fan of the Tea Party and either the Tea Party would take over the Republican Party or the Republican Party would splinter into a Mainline Conservative faction and a Tea Party faction. This, it was reported, would be the death of the Republican Party as a force in American politics.

We all know that didn’t happen. I’m now convinced that the Republican Party will long outlive the Democratic Party. This, of course, flies in the face of conventional wisdom. The Republican Party is the party of old people, after all. Its supporters will soon die out and its ideologies will soon become irrelevant. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The simple fact of the matter is that it’s the Democratic Party is irrelevant. There is no nationwide plan. They look at the major grassroots, socially-driven, progressive movements in this country and they respond with shrugs at best and lectures at worst. The Democratic Party did nothing to help Occupy or Black Lives Matter. The Democratic Party gave up the high ground on North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill” and let Starbucks and Target and Bruce Springsteen take up the fight.

For all of the gleeful discussion of how 2008 was a sign that the Republican Party was in its death throes the Republicans gained ground. For all of the speculation that Donald Trump will destroy the Republican Party the Republicans keep gaining ground. The Republican Party has a strong coalition because the Republican Party has a coalition based on hate and fear. It doesn’t matter if the voters hate taxes or government or gays or brown people, they all hate something. And Donald Trump hates and fears the same things they do just as strongly as they do.

I do not for a moment believe that the powers that be in the Republican Party actually give a shit about whether or not Trump wins the nomination. The Kochs and the Adelsons and the dark money groups know something that most of America doesn’t: the office of the President doesn’t actually matter. It’s a sideshow. Get a stranglehold on 50 governors and 50 state legislatures and a plurality of Congress and the President could be a magical unicorn that farts jobs programs and shits healthcare vouchers and it won’t matter.

The Republican rank and file will go to the polls in November. They will vote for Trump. Whether or not Trump wins it won’t matter, though, since those very same voters will also vote for Louie Gohmert and Chuck Grassley and David Vitter and they’ll go back to the polls in two years to vote for Louie Gohmert and Rick Snyder and Bruce Rauner while the Democratic Party takes a nap and maybe lectures social progressives on what they need to do to get on the Sunday morning shows and the front page of HuffPo.

If Hillary loses, which is not a bet I’m currently willing to take, the Democratic Party will eat its own tail. It will turn on Bernie’s supporters and wag its finger and tell all of those damn Millennials and misogynistic BernieBros that it was their fault. The thing about it is, though, that those same lazy Millennials and misogynistic BernieBros flock to rallies and march in protests and love Elizabeth Warren. So maybe it’s not that they’re too lazy to vote or hate women but that they’re looking for something authentic and they see it in Bernie and Warren and don’t see it in Hillary and the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party needs to find ways to leverage enthusiasm for Bernie but it won’t. How do I know this? We saw it in 2008 with Howard Dean. Dean, for those who can remember things that happened 12 years ago, was the presumptive frontrunner going into the 2004 election. He lost, badly, but became the DNC Chair and formulated the 50-State-Strategy, which was an attempt to counter the Republican tendency to make sure they had people running for every seat from President on down to County Coroner. Dean’s strategy was crucial for the Democratic Party wins in the 2006 mid-term and 2008’s visit to the woodshed with the Republican Party. How was Dean rewarded after the 2008 election? He was kicked to the curb.

See, it’s conventional wisdom in the Democratic Party that some seats just can’t be won and, as such, no money should be spent on those seats. It was Dean’s belief that you lose 100% of the seats you don’t put a candidate up for. Dean’s primary opponent was Rahm Immanuel, also known as Obama’s first Chief of Staff and the current mayor of the soon-to-be-formerly-great city of Chicago. It doesn’t take too much to figure out how Dean ended up on the outside of the fight.

I can assure you, as someone who has taken the Democratic ballot in several primaries and seen that half of the sheet is blank, that it’s frustrating and demoralizing. This primary season I wanted to vote for Bernie. I was also proud to get a chance to vote for Tammy Duckworth. After that most of the boxes on my ballot were blank. All that does is signal that in November those same boxes will have a name with an R next to it and no name with a D.

So let’s review. The Democratic Party doesn’t care about trying to win seats in districts that are in Chicago’s collar counties. The Democratic Party would rather that the people from Occupy and Black Lives Matter go home and be quiet and speak with their votes. When those people do speak with their votes for Bernie Sanders the Democratic Party scolds them for dragging out Hillary’s coronation.

Meanwhile, the unfettered id of the Republican Party runs amok. “Hey, I hear you hate Muslims. So do we!” say Trump and Cruz. “What’s that? You’re worried that the Mexicans are taking your jobs? We’ll build a wall!” “You don’t like the gays getting married? Here’s a bill that will stop all that from happening!”

And that’s the lesson the Democratic Party needs to take from the death throes of the Republicans in 2008 and 2010.[6] There will always be Tea Partiers. There will always be angry people. The rank and file of the Republican Party isn’t united in their love of low capital gains taxes or Evangelical Christianity. It’s united in the fact that the people who vote Republican are deeply, existentially, afraid of something and are looking for someone to tell them that they’re not alone in their fears. They’re looking for someone to tell them, “Yes, we are standing here on the ramparts and we will defend you from that big, scary monster.”

The Tea Party didn’t destroy the Republican Party because as far as the Republicans were concerned the Tea Party was a giant, angry focus group. Trump’s supporters are much the same. The entire Trump campaign has normalized hate and bigotry to a degree that would make Barry Goldwater blush. No matter what happens in November of 2016 the Republicans will take that information and run with it in 2018 and again in 2020.

The Democratic Party, meanwhile, begs Black Lives Matter to quiet down and told Occupy to go home because they might make it harder to work with the Republicans. Those self-same Republicans who seven years ago said it was their entire job to keep Barack Obama from accomplishing anything while he was President. On one level they failed, since Obama got quite a bit accomplished. But even when Obama pushed through a victory, like the ACA, the Republicans still managed to functionally stop it from working in states like Texas by just refusing the Federal subsidies. They also made sure it was a horribly written law hated by basically everyone from the start.

Occupy should have been a refreshing of the Democratic Party. Black Lives Matter should be the signal of the start of a new Civil Rights Movement. The enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders should be a wake-up call that a huge chunk of the country is clamoring for a real progressive bent to the supposedly liberal Democratic Party. That’s simply not happening. The Democratic Party is pushing away those they should embrace.

It should be said at this point that the Democratic Party has had a pretty good track record with gay rights and women’s health issues these last few years. But even those victories have to be written down with big, fat asterisks. For every step forward at the Federal level there are huge steps backward in the Red States. Gay marriage is now the law of the land but Republican lawmakers down in the states are doubling-down with discriminatory laws. Planned Parenthood and similar organizations have been all but pushed out of the South because legislators have been allowed to write bizarre, specific laws and then change them on a whim.

What it all comes down to is the idea that a big, splashy win is meaningless if it doesn’t bring about real, helpful change. The Democratic Party focuses on big wins while the Republican Party focuses on little victories because the Republicans know that the little victories add up. The Oval Office is a big win but six governors, seventy Congresspeople, and a whole bunch of state legislators are a heap of little victories. We know from American history that the little victories mean more.

In 1876 the Republicans got the White House. The Democrats got the little victory of the end of Reconstruction. This set the stage for Jim Crow and allowed racist policies to rule the South until the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1963. The Civil Rights Act was a big win. In 1964 the Republicans started their string of little victories with the Southern Strategy. That strategy, as I’ve talked about before, is why we are where we are today.

There are real people in America who are hurting. Transgender people in North Carolina are being told they aren’t allowed to use the bathroom because they’re sexually violent. Black kids in Chicago and St Louis are being shot by the police who are supposed to help them. Toddlers in Flint have developmental defects from drinking lead water. The state of Illinois is no longer paying its bills because Bruce Rauner has made sure there isn’t a budget for nearly a year. Kansas appears to be at a breaking point but Brownback keeps doubling down.

Each of these things costs us something. Each of these things is another step down the road to ruin. It’s not inevitable. It’s not irreversible. But as long as the Republicans keep finding a new way to harness hate and anger while the Democrats keep seeing the progressive grassroots as a hindrance we’ll keep walking down that road.

The Democratic Party either needs to wake up or move aside. Anything else is a death spiral of irrelevance and ruin.

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[1]This is one of the subplots of the 2016 Presidential race that just completely boggles my mind. The news media mocked Trump when it looked like he was just running to sell more books last year. As this bizarre farce has gone on the news has started telling us that, no, really, he can totally be President, you guys. Look! He’s learned how to use a teleprompter! And he went three whole sentences without kicking Ted Cruz in the nuts, metaphorically speaking! So President. Much gravitas.

[2]A.K.A. the Know-Nothings. That’s my second favorite political epithet behind the Mugwumps.

[3]The whole thing with Snyder is actually significantly worse than it looks if you do a little digging. One of the reasons it got to that point in the first place was because of the Emergency Financial Manager position in Michigan. It was a law originally created in 1988 to give the state the ability to step in and fix broken financial situations in municipalities. One of Snyder’s first acts as Governor was to drastically expand the scope of the Emergency Financial Manager’s power. The people of Michigan slapped the revision down but then Snyder pushed a similar bill through in 2012. Flint was living under Snyder’s rule when the city’s Emergency Financial Manager switched from Lake Huron water to Flint River water.

So, y’know, fuck Rick Snyder.

[4]2010 also included an off-cycle Senate election that followed the death of Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy. In that election the woefully inadequate Democrat Martha Coakley lost to Republican empty suit and former underwear model Scott Brown. In 2012 Scott Brown got his ass handed to him by Elizabeth Warren because Elizabeth Warren is one of the five or so politicians in America who is actually good at their job. Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, Dick Durbin, and Tammy Duckworth are the other four.

[5]Here in the civilized world we call people who go into public restrooms and force other people to show them their genitals “sex offenders.” I guess things are different in Kansas.

[6]And, for that matter, 1964.

The Dangerous Passivity of Evangelical Christianity

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Christianity over the past week. I’m not even really sure why. It just suddenly seemed like an important thing to mull over.

I think that mostly there’s been a part of me that misses faith. Christianity was not particularly kind to me for long stretches. I referred to god as “The Cosmic Jackass,” after all. There was something comforting in the notion of faith, though. There was something to be said for having the belief that things would work out in the end.

This is where the thought unravels. That notion of everything working out in the end collides with the Cosmic Jackass God and nothing survives the resulting explosion. Everything that was to work out was to work out as god’s will, after all.

As much as I’d like to say this explains every single one of my problems and walk away I cannot. This is a point of departure. It’s a place where Christianity combines with the thing I like least about myself and creates a monster that I still cannot quite seem to shake.

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I’ve always been afraid of the unknown. This, I suppose, is not a unique fear. I’ve always seemed to take my fear to extremes, however. I’ve never made an important life decision without attempting to analyze it from every possible angle a hundred times over and then trying to account for every possible factor that might come up down the road. I’ve never looked at the easy decision and then looked at the hard decision and said, “Yeah, I’ll do the hard one.”

The hard decision is scary. The hard decision is fraught with failure.

The hard decision is every decision I’ve ever wanted to make.

Many years ago my job went down to Texas. I had no urge to move to Texas. It was a guaranteed position and they’d pay my relocation expenses, so to Texas I went. I spent a miserable year and a half living in Dallas before moving back to Chicago to take a job working for the same boss on the same team at the same company as before. I didn’t want to do that, either. I had to leave Texas for my sanity but what I really wanted to do was move to Seattle. The Chicago move was the safe move, however, so I took it.

I was back at that company for three years. I started hating it about 3 months in. I didn’t feel secure at all, as the higher ups kept playing with our budget and we were constantly on the losing end of those awesome, unavoidable corporate turf wars. Eventually I lost out to a good, old-fashioned re-org. Things have not quite gotten back on track since then.

This is where faith would be nice. There’s nothing better than being able to pray and knowing that god will sort it all out in the end. This is where faith is the most dangerous. There’s nothing worse than praying for god to sort it all out in the end and then expecting that to be the case.

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I decided in the first grade that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I am a grown up and I am not a writer in the sense that I meant. Blogs were not exactly a thing back in the mid ’80s. We hadn’t even hit Web 1.0 yet, so Web 2.0 and the blogosphere were impossible to comprehend. Still, if someone had told me, “Hey, you’re totally going to be a writer. In about three decades you’ll be occasionally spitting out three pages of randomness for maybe a dozen people to read,” I would not have been impressed.

The thing that I’ve realized is that being a writer is scary. The writing itself really isn’t. I write a lot and I write all good-like, too. It’s that step from being a guy who writes to being a writer that’s scary. It’s the part that requires putting work into something and then finding out that no one wants to read it that hurts.

So back when the blog thing was first happening I started doing that and in the back of my mind was this idea that someday I’d be discovered and everything would be amazing. There were, of course, about a million other idiots with Blogspot accounts doing the same thing. They probably didn’t get discovered, either.

This is where Christianity comes back in. See, I was taught in church to believe that if you wanted to do anything you needed to pray about it. God, to reduce many a sermon to the simplest possible explanation, had one of three answers to prayer: “Yes,” “No,” and “Wait.” You’ll notice that nowhere in those answers is an option for, “Get off your ass and make it happen, you lazy bum.”

Whenever a Christian is afraid of something or worried about something or not sure of what path to take they’re encouraged to take it to god in prayer. This means many different things in the various Christian traditions so I will only speak to the one I grew up with. I was encouraged to basically go to god and say, “Hey, I want to do this thing. Is that in your will?” It was then proper to engage in a convoluted casting of runes and reading of signs and such for a while afterwards.

This part is always a little weird to explain to people who didn’t grow up in that world. Evangelical Christianity doesn’t really want to be associated with the excesses of the Pentecostal movement and the various other congregations that speak in tongues and dance in the aisles and get slayed in the spirit on TBN. They’re still extremely interested in engaging in the prophetic tradition, however, so there has to be some way that god speaks. Usually what that means is that you pray for guidance in whether or not to become a writer and then the next day someone knocks on your door and says, “Hey, I’m looking for someone who’s interested in writing novels for a living. Do you know anyone like that?” It’s not usually quite so explicit as that, of course, but I’ve heard stories that do basically go that way. More likely it’s about praying for something and then an hour later you hear a song and that song seems to have something to do with that thing you were praying about so god must have given you an answer.

It’s…it’s pretty stupid when you’re standing outside of that world and looking in. It makes all the sense in the world when you’re doing it, though. You’re surrounded by people who believe the same thing, after all. What else are you supposed to do when you genuinely don’t know what to do, so you go ask someone you trust and are told, “Bathe this in prayer. God will show the way.” That, by the way, is the answer to every single question more difficult than, “Should I have Trix or Cocoa Puffs for breakfast?”

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The process of growing up is all about taking steps out of shelter and fear and into the big, bright world. If there’s a scale of timidity from “Scared of your own shadow,” to “Fuck, yeah, where’s the GoPro?” I’d say that I was way more on the scared side. I never wanted to make waves. I never wanted to break rules. I never wanted to get in trouble.

Christianity did not cause this particular personality tic. Christianity did, however, basically destroy my ability to deal with it in any sort of constructive way. Prayer, after all, is the gift that keeps on giving to someone who doesn’t want to make a decision. Expecting god to show up and tell me how to handle that thing that was bugging me meant that I could put everything off. I didn’t have to try. God would tell me what to do. I never learned how to say, “I want this,” and then go after it with everything I had.

That’s another interesting problem that comes with the particular strain of Christianity with which I was raised. You’re not supposed to want anything other than god’s will. For me that meant that I wasn’t allowed to want anything.

It’s taken me years to figure that whole thing out. There I was, desperately praying to my ceiling in the middle of the night because I wanted to hear god’s will for whatever was vexing me. Then there were people who would just kind of show up and announce, “I’m gonna go do this because god said so,”[1] and whatever that thing was just so happened to be exactly what they wanted to do. It always seemed to convenient, so arrogant, so deluded. They were dictating to god, after all. I now realize that it was much healthier, developmentally speaking, than my strategy. It’s also the sort of thing that becomes spectacularly dangerous in the wrong hands.

The people who just somehow meshed god’s will with that thing they wanted to do anyway were bypassing the uncertainty and indecision phase of life and figuring out how to move forward. I wish like hell I’d learned how to do that. It’s super easy. “I hate my job, should I go find a new one?” Shake that Magic 8 Ball and, whaddya know, it always comes up with, “Signs point to yes.”

This whole thing becomes spectacularly dangerous when the questions and attitudes become dangerous. Like, say, you think that black people or women are getting just a little too uppity and want to know if god thinks that it’s time to go shoot up a predominantly black church or set a Curves gym on fire. Most Christians would not go to this extreme, but some obviously have and some will in the future. The strain of Christianity with which I grew up offers cover to that way of thinking.

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In the end I can’t blame Christianity for the fact that I tend to shy away from pursuing the things I want out of life. I can, however, blame Christianity for reinforcing my timidity and offering a way for my fears to dictate my actions while deflecting the focus of those fears onto an external force. These are long-held habits, after all, and they don’t just go away overnight.

The good thing, I suppose, is now that I see this pattern I’ve come to realize I don’t really miss faith all that much. I cannot be saved from my current predicament through faith. It’s going to require work.

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[1]Everyone who pays attention to politics in America is familiar with this phenomenon. The last few Presidential election cycles we’ve had a glut of Republicans who have zero chance of winning and who no one even likes very much who announce that god wants them to run for President and then completely disappear by the time the race really heats up. Or earlier. Everyone outside of, say, Mike Huckabee’s tiny circle of supporters rolls their eyes at the stupidity of the whole thing and asks why god wants Mike Huckabee to run since he’ll poll at -2% for a while until he goes back to doing whatever he was doing before. Then they’ll ask why god wants Huckabee to run if last week god told Rick Perry to run and the week before that it was Bobby Jindal getting the call.

It’s a specific way of communicating to a small percentage of the population. Hopefully it makes more sense now.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Belteshazzar?

So there were these four Jewish dudes. Their names were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were burly, strapping young lads at a time when the Babylonians were in charge over in Israel. Nebuchadnezzar, the king in Babylon, was all about having Jewish captives in Babylon to keep the Jews in line. It was custom at that time.

So Nebuchadnezzar, who’s better known as the hovership in The Matrix, was interested in getting his new subjects to go native and figured the best way to do it was to take their highest quality young folk and, um, Babylonify them. So he gave them names that were more Babylon-y than Jewish-y. So he called Daniel Belteshazzer. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah got names that would be familiar to anyone who grew up in Sunday School: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. For the younger folk they might be better known as Rack, Shack, and Benny.[1]

Our four little buddies then had a series of adventures. There was the one where they ate a bunch of vegetables because the king’s food was too sinny or something. Then there was this other one where they didn’t bow to some idol. Then there was that one time Rack, Shack, and Benny got thrown into a fiery furnace while Daniel was back home visiting his mother and presumably using his Kung Fu skills to clean up his old block that was now infested with a gang of Illyrian toughs or something. I assume there was a romantic subplot involving his old high school girlfriend, too. Daniel also interpreted a few dreams and gave us the phrase “the writing on the wall.” He was an all around cool dude, y’know? Like Idris Elba.

The one that I want to talk about is the last story in the cycle. It’s the famous one about Daniel[2] in the lion’s den. You know the story, right? Daniel got thrown into the lion’s den. The lions didn’t eat Daniel in spite of the fact that they were super hungry. King Darius realized that the god of the Jews was super awesome and bowed his head or whatever. Then everyone lived happily ever after until Alexander the Great showed up and ruined everything.

The part I care about, though, is the why of Daniel being in the lion’s den. See, he was a super popular adviser and seer under the Babylonians, because god told him stuff and all the prophets of the false Babylonian gods didn’t know nothin’ from nothin’. Daniel even prophesied the very night Darius and the Persians would take Babylon from King Belshazzar.[3] Darius was so impressed by him that he made Daniel one of the most powerful men in the Persian Empire and satrap over the former Babylonian territory. So what happened?

The king’s other advisers didn’t much like Daniel, so they tricked the king. They got him to sign a decree under the law of the Medes and the Persians that people could only pray to the king for a certain period of time and violation of the law was punishable by lion. Well, it turned out that Daniel rather famously prayed out on his balcony every morning. To his god. So it became a gotcha game and, sure enough, Daniel got got. The king didn’t actually want to put Daniel in front of the firing lion,[4] but his hands were tied, since the laws of the Medes and Persians just couldn’t be broken,[5] not even by the king. So into the pit Daniel went.

But Yahweh would not take that assault on his favored son lion down. Daniel survived, the king himself got him out of the pit, and for a moment it seemed the only losers were the poor, hungry lions. So the king solved that by throwing those other guys who tricked him down. It’s a win-win!

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There was this one time Jesus was preaching, as he did. He was on a roll, y’know? Pharisees this, faith of a mustard seed that, kingdom of god. Real good stuff. So in the middle of all this he told his followers not to pray as those pagans and hypocrites did, out on the street corners and all braggy-like. He told them to go pray in secret. Hide in the closet if they have to.

Proponents of secular culture in America love this part of Jesus’s wisdom above pretty much anything else. See, we have this real problem in America of people deciding they need to get all Jesus-y in public and rub everyone else’s face in it. It’s tasteless, really. Like having sex on Main Street right there in front of the elementary school and fire station. Nobody wants to see that. Well, I don’t know. Maybe if it was, like, Scarlett Johansson and Charlize Theron we’d all stop and let it happen and then we’d spend the rest of our lives talking in hushed tones about where we were the day an entire town uploaded videos of ScarJoCharThon[6] to YouTube at the same time. But, like, if it was just some random middle-aged couple who have a really specific fetish that they finally worked up the courage to try we’d all be like, “Ew, stop that. Regular people are gross.”

Religion is like fat people having sex is what I’m saying. It’s pasty and kinda floppy and there’s way too much grunting. Wait, where was I going with this?

This particular preaching from Jesus is actually kind of weird. See religion at the time was a public practice. We’re talking about a part of the world under the thumb of the Romans, who appropriated most of their culture from the Greeks. Religion was totally a public spectacle for the Greeks and the Romans. The Greeks were even a step back from some of their neighbors, notably the Egyptians, for whom religion was an all-consuming aspect of everything.

For the Jews the notion of religion as public spectacle was a big deal, too. That’s why the building and rebuilding of the Temple was such a big deal to them. Ezra didn’t head back from Babylon with Cyrus’s blessing so he could supervise the rebuilding of the Temple and then go pray in the root cellar for fear someone would see him.

I don’t think Jesus had any real problems with public religion. His real problem is right there in the beginning of Matthew 6: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your father who is in heaven.” It was an attack, as we so often see in the New Testament, on hypocrisy.

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So here we get to the heart of the problem. Whenever someone does something blatantly religious in public in America people who are against that sort of thing throw Matthew 6 at them. This doesn’t help, though, because those people see themselves as living out Daniel 6. So when we all take to Facebook and Twitter to mock them they see themselves as being thrown to the lions.

Sometimes this sort of behavior needs to be smacked down. Is a judge starting court sessions with prayer? That’s a problem. Is a public high school teacher telling gay kids they’re going to hell in sex ed classes? That’s a problem. That sort of thing needs to be stopped. It’s against the law.

Most of the time I think this behavior should be ignored. Is some jackass trying to start a controversy because of the color of a coffee cup? He can be ignored. Is some has-been celebrity reinventing himself as a warrior for Jesus? Who cares? I tell you, they’ll get their reward in full in the form of page views. Let’s try to make that number as close to zero as possible. Because while we all know they’re just being assholes they think they’re being latter day Daniels. Silence is the best response in that case.

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[1]This has now brought us to the part of the show where Geds goes to YouTube and watches VeggieTales videos. So I watched the Hairbrush Song and Song of the Cebu and, wow, VeggieTales have not aged well. Song of the Cebu used to be hilarious.

It’s kinda weird, too. It’s not like I was only allowed to watch VeggieTales in my youth. I was out of high school by the time they got popular. But I worked in a Christian book store at the time and VeggieTales was huge money, so I was quite familiar with the whole thing. It was enjoyable and silly in a way no Christian children’s entertainment had been before. Most of the previous stuff was just terribly earnest and kinda creepy. I present Bibleman for your viewing…uh, pleasure? VeggieTales was way better than this. Not that it takes much.

Also, yes, that’s Willie Aames, Scott Baio’s sidekick from Charles in Charge as Bibleman. So if you’ve ever asked yourself, “Hey, what happened to that guy from Charles in Charge who wasn’t Scott Baio, now you know.

I’m terrified to find out what tonight does to further fuck up my YouTube recommendations.

[2]One of the things I’ve always found weird about the book of Daniel is that all four got Babylonian names, but Daniel remained Daniel while the others were always Rack, Shack, and Benny. Meanwhile, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego aren’t really Babylonian names. They’re undoubtedly symbolic of something.

Which, actually, gives us a whole different topic of conversation. Daniel is a Jewish name meaning “God is my judge.” The “god” part of that name is right there at the end: El. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are all various ways of saying god is great, but the use of god there is Yahweh. This goes way back to the book of Genesis where god is alternately referred to as El and Yahweh, which is a good indication that the early Jewish texts are actually an attempt to merge two different traditions. I don’t actually know if this has any significance. I just find it interesting. Because I’m a nerd.

Meanwhile, Daniel himself is a semi-legendary figure in Jewish myth. It was traditional in ancient literature to attach stories to legendary figures and people had a hard time telling truth from myth. We haven’t advanced too much from there, honestly, even with all of our advances in literacy and communication. Look no further than President Obama, who is single-handedly traveling the country to convert all of the good little Christians into Muslims and take away the guns while using the Constitution as toilet paper and laughing at us because he’s really from Kenya. Meanwhile, all the stupid liberals think he’s just a centrist who’s helping the economy and bringing America’s respect abroad back up from the abysmal levels to which it descended during Bush’s presidency. Poor, deluded fools.

[3]How do we know that the book of Daniel is pretty much made up whole cloth? Timelines and actual historical fact. Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius were, indeed, real people.

Nebuchadnezzar actually did conquer Judah in 597 BCE. Belshazzar did, in fact, lose Babylon to the Persians. Belshazzar, however, was the son of King Nabonidus and the guy in charge of the army that lost to the Persians. This was in 539 BCE, which is 58 years after Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah. Now it’s certainly possible that Daniel lived through all of this. He would have been somewhere in his 70s or 80s, which isn’t unheard of for someone living high on the hog as the king’s favorite advisor.

This is where we hit the other half of the problem, though. Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon. Darius the Great became king 17 years later. Daniel 9 referred to him as Darius son of Xerxes. Darius was, in fact, the son of Hystaspes, a minor satrap, and managed to take the throne after a minor scuffle when Cyrus’s sons, Cambyses II and Bardiya, had a minor civil war. Darius, meanwhile, had a son who also took the throne: Xerxes I.

The latter half of the book of Daniel, meanwhile, takes the form of Daniel writing his recollections, including being the guy who convinced Darius, son of Xerxes, to allow the Jewish people to return to Judah and rebuild the Temple. The book of Ezra records that it was Cyrus the Great who allowed that to happen. As far as history goes, we have the Cyrus cylinder, which records Cyrus’s good deeds in terms of sending Babylonian slaves back to their homelands and restoring their native religions and places of worship. It does not specifically mention the Jews, but there’s no reason to think it would.

Our big takeaway here, though, is that the book of Daniel is problematic, historically speaking. It seems likely that it was written by someone who knew enough to know some real names, but didn’t know where they belonged. So we’re talking about someone who lived much later. Most scholarship points to the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who was rather famous for being the Hellenistic king at the time of the Maccabean Revolt.

[4]Firing lion. Firing. Lion. I just wrote that. I feel good about it.

[5]I’ve studied the history of this area in some detail and never run into a reference to this unbreakable law outside of he book of Daniel. It seems to me more like a convenient plot device than anything else. The entire first half of Daniel comes across that way, though. The king’s jealous advisers see that the 4 Jewish guys are prospering so they convince the king to do something that will result in their deaths. They don’t die and in a convenient reversal the jealous advisers are hoist on their own petard. Then the king orders everyone to obey the Jewish god. Then the credits roll and, “Next week on the Dukes of Babylon…”

And now I’m seeing four guys on a chariot named the General Zedekiah jumping ramps over the Tigris to escape Boss Neb and Sheriff Rothbus P. Coltrazzar. And I’m not gonna lie. I would watch that.

[6]Pronounced “Scar-Jo-Char-Thon.”

The Unbearable Rightness of Being

I’d been working up a theory about why you don’t want Ben Carson as President because brain surgeons make terrible polymaths when the whole pyramids-as-granaries thing broke.[1] The theory is pretty simple. Becoming an amazing brain surgeon doesn’t reward any activity that isn’t devoted to becoming an amazing brain surgeon. Every waking hour that isn’t dedicated to the singular task of becoming an amazing brain surgeon is, in a way, a wasted hour. As such, you can be an amazingly brilliant brain surgeon and know absolutely nothing about the mechanics of tying your own shoe and that will be fine. Your practice will find someone to tie your shoes for you.

A brain surgeon, then, probably hasn’t spent a lot of time studying the geopolitical realities of a post-Cold War world. A brain surgeon probably hasn’t spent a lot of time studying Russian history from the Bolshevik Revolution forward. A brain surgeon probably hasn’t written a lot of treatises on the effects of gunboat diplomacy on the subjects of European or American colonialism. There’s also a pretty good chance that a brain surgeon hasn’t studied the long-term social effects of slavery or looked at the impact of the Union movement or checked to see if Reaganomics are actually a valid economic theory.

This isn’t to say that every president has done such things. A brain surgeon, however, isn’t required to deal with any of those things outside of possibly taking a few blow-off gen-ed courses during college. A lawyer has to deal with at least some aspects of the Constitution and the history behind case law. A lifetime government civil servant has to have some knowledge of the population they’re working with. Someone who came from the State Department or, theoretically, Senate has had to deal with some aspect of international politics. They might not necessarily be brilliant, single-minded people, but in most situations a broad, shallow pool of knowledge combined with curiosity is far more useful than a single, deep hole combined with drive and focus.

This isn’t something that the general population understands, of course. We shorthand “rocket science” and “brain surgery” as “really, really smart shit done by really, really smart people.” The weird thing is, though, that we’ve largely demystified the idea of the “rocket scientist” as the all-around brainy guy. In movies and whatnot he’s usually the one with glasses slightly askew, a tendency to not pay attention to what other people are saying, and an obvious unfamiliarity with the basics of fashion and comb usage. The “rocket scientist,” then, is smart but not aware. The brain surgeon, however, is a doctor. And we all know that doctors are suave and sexy and smart and sleep with all the nurses and shit. This is because the “rocket scientist” is a nerd and the brain surgeon is not. Nerds aren’t cool.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I said my piece on Carson’s stupidity in re: pyramids and walked away. Something didn’t sit right with me, though. His pyramid thing was stupid, yes, but it’s a particular variety of stupidity that I recognize all too well. Then Fred Clark cleared it all up for me. That was nice of him.

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I cut most of my ties with the Christianity of my youth in the months and years following my departure but a few remain to this day, mostly in the form of the few friends who I still love and respect and who still love and respect me. It makes for some interesting blasts from the past, however. Like, this morning when I was introduced to the thoughts of an old pastor of mine attempting to engage the internet with a bit of the ol’ Socratic Method.

He pointed out that the world thinks Ben Carson is crazy because of the whole pyramid thing, but then asked why we don’t think Hillary Clinton is similarly crazy because of her belief that people came from amoebas by way of bats and monkeys and whatnot. He then linked to an article in the New York Times and I clicked it because I wanted to see what kookiness Hillary applies to evolution.[2]

The article happened to be about what Hillary Clinton would do as President for public policy about science. It was, on the whole, some pretty amazing stuff about how she’d lower the restrictions on the use of stem cells for research and stiffen the government’s defense of the teaching of evolution in schools. It made me like Hillary just a little bit more.[3] And it became quite obvious that the monkeys and bats and amoebas were just poetic license on the part of the pastor.

This, then, is the problem with Ben Carson’s odd belief in the true purpose of the pyramids. I grew up in the church. I grew up with the pastor in question as one of my pastors for at least half a decade. The first time I can recall ever hearing the pyramid theory espoused by Ben Carson was when I was reading an article about what Ben Carson thinks the pyramids are for. This is not something that was ever, to the best of my recollection, taught to me in church. But it’s something that’s being used to call into question a different candidate’s belief in evolution. Because Carson comes from a place of Truth while Clinton doesn’t. It doesn’t actually matter that most Christians also probably believe Carson is completely and totally, provably, wrong.

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I left the church and religion of my youth because of moments like this. I was a bright, inquisitive kid who asked a lot of questions. A lot of the time those questions were answered with cobbled-together answers similar to Carson’s theory of the pyramids. These just-so stories filled to answer the immediate question but created greater and greater problems down the road.

The farther I got down that road the scarier each successive step got. I couldn’t avoid learning. It was just something that I did. I couldn’t avoid using each lesson as a jump to some further point of learning. And, from time to time, those just-so stories came into sharp focus.

In the book of Genesis, for one, we’re told that Adam and Eve had sons named Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel. Cain then lied about it and was marked by god so that others wouldn’t harm him and ended up going somewhere else, getting married, and starting a city. Wait, what? Where did these others who wanted to harm Cain come from? Where did his wife come from? How do two people found a city?

Actually, come to think of it, I never got a good just-so story to explain that one. Inconsistencies and impossibilities like that vexed me. The fact that I couldn’t ever truly explore the end result of such inconsistencies bothered me a lot more.

I learned about evolution in biology class and more-or-less accepted it as a thing. That was the first place where I got myself into trouble. Studying history in college was what split everything open. All of those questions I had avoided asking, all of those just-so stories I had avoided examining too closely all fell apart.

Believing that the pyramids were used to store grain is relatively harmless. I mean, it’s utterly wrong and might cause Peter Weller to cry himself to sleep at night, but in the grand scheme of things it’s no more or less harmful than believing that ancient aliens landed spaceships on the Great Pyramid at Giza.[4]

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One of the great dangers of being bright and inquisitive is that you learn too much about too many topics to allow the bullshit to hold sway for long. For instance, I love history, but I’m not particularly interested in Egyptian history. Still, it’s an important enough subject that while I don’t know enough to argue with a true Egyptologist I do know enough to tell Ben Carson exactly why and how he’s wrong about his theories of pyramids as grain storage and explain to the ancient aliens people exactly why they’re wrong about their theories of pyramids as power plants. I also love science fiction, which has caused me to learn enough about real science to both know why it’s laughable to think that the universe is 6,000 years old and why JJ Abrams is a freaking moron.

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The Christianity in which I grew up offers many rewards to someone like Ben Carson. It pours praise on someone who wants to single-mindedly pursue a path to knowledge that doesn’t challenge Christianity itself. It then praises him as a “man of science” who still manages to believe in that Christianity.

The Christianity in which I grew up also gives people who know nothing of real science a platform to take potshots at people who actually do understand it and its importance in the modern world. It rewards them, too, because there are so many people who are afraid to try to reconcile that Christianity with what they read in textbooks. It doesn’t hurt anyone’s faith to point out that we actually do know what pyramids were used for and we know what Egyptian granaries looked like because they can simply say, “Oh, so there was still a place to save seven years’ worth of surplus? Neat.” They can’t do that with knowledge that the planet is 4.5 billion years old and an occupant of a 13 billion year old universe when their pastor tells them that the planet popped into being some few thousand years ago and all the animals and humans popped up in the space of a week.[5]

The Christianity in which I grew up has no place for people like me. Ben Carson illustrates that bit of truth. My former pastor illustrates it far more effectively.

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[1]For anyone who has managed to avoid the internet for the last few days, here’s a shorthand: someone unearthed a video of a Ben Carson speech back in college where he claimed that the pyramids were built to store grain in Bible times because of the part in the book of Genesis where Joseph predicted seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh then ordered food from the first seven years stored to make it through the second seven years. Hilariously he also used that as a chance to attack the people who thought that pyramids powered alien starships. So Ben Carson was taking potshots at Erich von Danniken before it was cool.

Either way, Carson was asked if he still believed in his theory. He said yes. The internet exploded. So meme. Very fun.

[2]Evolution is a weird thing that a lot of people get really wrong in the details while getting correct in the overall sense, so I am always interested when I see someone explaining evolutionary lineages. The most common one, of course, is that humans evolved from monkeys. This is convenient shorthand, but it’s wrong. The great apes and the various are our closest relatives, but we did not evolve from them.

Think about it like a family tree. I have a niece. After her own parents I am one of her closest relatives. She is younger than me. That does not mean that she descended from me. We do, however, have a common ancestor in my parents. Humans and chimpanzees are like that. Somewhere deep in the dark mists of time there was some lemur-looking thing that had a family that branched off in two directions because of different evolutionary pressures put onto its various descendants.

[3]Politically speaking right now I am full-on feeling the Bern. I voted for Obama back in ’08. I will vote for Hillary and won’t consider it a clothespin vote or anything. She’s a little too war-mongery for my tastes and tends towards that whole political triangulation thing that Bill perfected back in the ’90s, but I think she’s more liberal than we’ve been lead to believe, since she seems to be perfectly comfortable shifting her positions leftward to compensate for Bernie’s popularity. If anything, I think that the two of them have been setting up for Hillary/Bernie ’16 for a while. I can always be proved wrong by this, but I said right after the pair started their campaigns that I would love to see that ticket and couldn’t imagine the Republicans coming close.

The political reality is that Hillary will get the Democratic nomination. Bernie is too much of an outsider and while he definitely has the grassroots that won’t do anything come Convention time. This isn’t 2008 when Obama stole a march by firing up the base, since Obama was already an insider. He brought down the house in 2004, after all, and people were talking about him as a future Democratic Party Presidential candidate. They were just talking about 2016 or 2020 and he accelerated the schedule.

That said, Bernie still has the grassroots support. Hillary is the presumptive candidate, but who is she going to tap for her Veep? Martin O’Malley and that guy who hid under the podium are out. Jim Webb is probably in a shack in Montana right now. There’s always a Julian Castro-type pick for the “let’s appeal to people who can be visually picked out from a freshly primed wall” politicking, of course. Julian Castro is the current Julian Castro-type guy getting all the VP buzz at the moment. I’ve got nothing against Castro. I like him, in fact. San Antonio is a great city and he’s had a lot of experience in local and federal government. But Bernie brings a ground game.

Of course given that Hillary and Bernie have run their respective campaigns with such mutual respect so far it could easily go that Hillary picks Castro, Bernie endorses Hillary, and then goes back to being the Senate’s lovable old Commie curmudgeon. And, yes, I know that Bernie isn’t a Communist. But Socialist doesn’t alliterate well with curmudgeon.

Either way, either scenario might be overpowering enough to force the Republicans to take a Hail Mary with something like Trump/Nugent and just completely blow the whole party to kingdom come.

[4]Or whatever. I’m getting Chariots of the Gods confused with Stargate again. Like, I know that the ancient aliens people believe that pyramids were power sources and connected with the space people, but I don’t know if they actually believe them to be landing pads.

[5]Although one of my favorites came recently with someone arguing that the age of the universe keeps changing according to science. The thing is that ever since the advent of modern telescopes the number has changed, but most of the numbers are somewhere close to 13 billion years and while the numbers “change” it’s not because they’re wildly swinging around from one place to another, but because they’re becoming more precise. This is an important nuance. It’s not like some scientist is going to show up tomorrow and announce they’ve definitively aged the universe to 27 trillion years. It recently moved from 13.73 billion years to 13.82. On one level that’s a 100 billion year swing, which is pretty huge. On the other that’s a tiny fraction of 1% in terms of difference and it’s actually within the margin of error given on the previous best guess.

Also, the math for figuring out this sort of thing is massively, stupidly complicated. Here, I’ll let Phil Plait explain it all to you.

What We’re Talking About When We Talk About Kim Davis

I grew up in a world at war. Signs of that war were everywhere. Evidence of battles won and lost could be found in the daily newspaper and on the nightly television broadcasts. Lives were being lost and the world hung in the balance. Everyone, everywhere was in constant danger.

I grew up in Wheaton, Illinois. Wheaton is a quiet, upper middle class suburb of Chicago and home to one of the most prominent institutions in American Christianity. There were no tanks in the street. There were no gutted homes. There were no running gun battles through downtown.

Still, we knew we were in the middle of a war. Seeing that war required what we called “discernment.” That notion of discernment came from a cobbled together collection of Bible verses that said there were powers and principalities beyond human understanding constantly acting on the world as part of the eternal war between good and evil, between God and Satan.

The funny thing about all of that is I came of age in the 1990s. The ’90s were, for anyone living in the bucolic splendor of American suburbia, a quiet time. The tech boom had brought prosperity to the nation, there were no major wars to be fought, cussing and cleavage weren’t allowed on the television, and things were pretty great for your average white, male Christian.

There’s a reason the Republicans endlessly chased Bill Clinton’s penis throughout the ’90s. The Cold War was over. 9/11 was still in the future. America was an impregnable force, sitting atop the world as its sole superpower. The great social upheavals of the following decade were little more than a murmur in the national conversation.

We needed an enemy. The serial philanderer in the White House seemed like a good choice. To the obvious charges of infidelity we added dark whispers of the Clintons killing Vince Foster and conspiracies to give American military technology to the Chinese. We got Left Behind and the usual dark warnings of the United Nations as a One World Government on its way to take away our freedoms.

Those with the gift of discernment read the signs in the newspapers and saw all the places the followers of Jesus were losing their fight against the world. Everything was either a win for Jesus or for the world. See, Jesus once told his followers that the world hated him, so obviously the world would hate them. Since that comment made it into the Bible we knew that Jesus meant to tell us the same thing. That message was to be taken exactly the same in Wheaton, Illinois in 1996 as it was to be taken by a small sub-sect of Jews living under the thumb of the Roman Empire during a time of unrest that would ultimately lead to the Great Jewish Revolt and the destruction of the Temple. The spiritual gift of discernment, it would seem, did not include the understanding of context.

I say this with the caveat that I graduated from high school in 1999. I was pretty young for most of the events I recall in the 1990s and it was only much, much later that I began to unpack the world as it was during that decade and separate it from the world as I saw it. I was convinced at that time that I was in training to be a soldier on the front line of a spiritual war. I decided in high school that I was going to be a missionary or maybe go to seminary to become a pastor. I saw the wreckage of the world all around me. I wanted to fight against the Devil himself.

Fast forward fifteen years or so. We lived through the horror of 9/11 and found a new enemy to replace the Soviet Union. The economy collapsed. America no longer feels invincible. We are the proud statue with clay feet from Daniel’s prophecies of Babylon.

I left the church a long time ago. I spent years unpacking how I saw the ’90s and re-learning much of the history of the world from my youth, this time not shaded by the proper levels of spiritual discernment. I came to understand the notion of privilege and see how my bucolic, suburban upbringing was a far different experience from so many in America.

The me of 15 years ago would not have been prepared to handle the America of 2015. Social justice movements have swept across the country with breathtaking speed. Gay marriage took far too long to arrive, but when it got here it got here extremely fast.

That’s how we get to Kim Davis and what the fight over Kim Davis actually represents. To those outside of that subculture it should be a non-story. She’s not doing her job, so she should be removed, replaced, or circumvented, marriage licenses should be handed out and we should all go to lunch.

I highly doubt that Kim Davis expected this to go as far as it did. The circus surrounding her should be squarely blamed on the absurdity of the 24 hour news cycle and the grandstanding of assholes like Mike Huckabee. Her decision to retain Mat Staver as her lawyer does not reflect well on her intentions, but I’ve seen the video of her walking out of the police station to “Eye of the Tiger” with a dazed, confused look on her face. I don’t think she intended to become this week’s celebrity news target.

There’s a larger discussion to be had here about the nature of celebrity in America in 2015. We talk endlessly about the Kardashians. We get needlessly worked up over the Duggars and Octomom. Twitter and YouTube are legitimate paths to fame and fortune for those who understand how to use them.

I don’t think that in those first days of her fight against gay marriage Kim Davis realized that she was stepping into the American celebrity machine. I believe that she thought she was standing up to the Devil. To the Christian subculture I grew up in homosexuality was a sin and god would have no part of anyone who engaged in such wicked acts. Legalizing gay marriage, then, means that the state is sanctioning sin and in the metrics of us-v-them Christianity that’s a firm win for them, “them,” in this case being Satan.

The sort of thinking with which I was indoctrinated in my youth has not gone away. If anything I suspect it’s gotten worse, as the Internet has risen as the great equalizer of speech and movements for social justice finally got a platform that allowed them equal time. There used to be signs of the impending apocalypse once or twice a day in the newspaper and the 10 o’clock news. Now every hashtag has the potential to signal Satan’s impending conquest of the world.

Prepare for more Kim Davises in the coming days. The only thing we can do is understand that these issues which are, to most, obvious stops along the universe’s trail to justice are signs of Satan’s victory to those like Kim Davis. Wherever there’s a Kim Davis playing the role of true believer there will be a Mat Staver and Mike Huckabee willing to turn the whole thing into a circus for their own ends.