I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar . . .

I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar. I’m an atheist nowadays. But here’s what I do claim:

I grew up Blue Collar. We never worried about food or clothes, but we had little discretionary income. So when I was 9 years old, my brother and I each memorized 100 Bible verses to earn our way to summer camp. We did it again the next year. And I did it again at 11 to earn a Christian bookstore gift certificate.

(Please take a moment, imagine yourself at that age, standing in front of a group of church elders, reciting 100 Bible verses from memory.)

There was some overlap, mainly what Evangelicals call “The Romans Road,” centered on “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (6:23); And “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (10:9).

That overlap aside, all told I memorized roughly 250 different verses from ages 9-11. And started reading them in context. By age 18 I’d read the entire Bible, most of the New Testament several times over. In my early 20’s I spent an hour every morning in what Evangelicals call their “prayer closet,” alone with the Bible, a Strong’s Concordance, and God.

I read in Mark 12:28-31, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” And this from 1 Thessalonians 5:22, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

These are examples from a Bible filled with calls to righteousness, love for all people, kindness, and mercy. Especially from what Jesus called “my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.”

These are the guideposts by which I was taught to measure Christianity.

As an atheist, I don’t care whether people are Christian or some other faith. Politically, I can accept the argument that God ordained Donald Trump to be President. For “hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:22, which would also mean God made me to be an atheist Democrat).

But to those who cheer when Donald Trump insults or mocks his opponents, or say “Boys will be boys” to his sexual escapades, or call misogyny “locker room talk,” or ask him to autograph your Bible, please don’t bullshit yourself and others by calling yourself a Christian. RTFM

If we don’t stop squabbling, America, we’re doomed.

Here’s a summary of the US Senate’s 2nd bipartisan report on Russian interference in our society. If we don’t stop squabbling and get our act together, America, we’re doomed.

Takeaway: Russia spent more than $1.25 million per month prior to the 2016 election, and even more ever since, to make you and me argue about gun rights, kneeling at football games, police, and immigration. As a nation, we fell for it, because we’re too lazy/stupid to check our sources and stop shouting talking points.

Note. Senate. Not the House.

Here’s a summary. Don’t assume it’s an attack on Donald Trump, because that is utterly not the point. Set aside your pride, frustration, or rage and realize that if we can’t talk to each other, Russia wins. That’s the point.

Section 1: Introduction.

In 2016, Russia’s Internet Research Agency masqueraded as Americans online to polarize our opinions, and to promote their favored candidate. The Senate took up this topic as part of their mandate to evaluate threats.

Section 2: Findings. (Each sentence summarizes one paragraph by quotation.)

“The IRA sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.

“The Russian government tasked and supported the IRA’ s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

“Russia’s history of using social media as a lever for online influence operations predates the 2016 U.S. presidential election and involves more than the IRA.

“The preponderance of the operational focus . . . was on socially divisive issues — such as race, immigration, and Second Amendment rights — in an attempt to pit Americans against one another and against their government.

“The IRA targeted not only Hillary Clinton, but also Republican candidates during the presidential primaries.

“No single group of Americans was targeted by IRA information operatives more than African-Americans.

“The nearly 3,400 Facebook and Instagram advertisements the IRA purchased are comparably minor in relation to the over 61,500 Facebook posts, 116,000 Instagram posts, and 10.4 million tweets that were the original creations of IRA influence operatives, disseminated under the guise of authentic user activity. [So ad spending was a drop in the bucket.]

“The IRA coopted unwitting Americans to engage in offline activities . . . not just focused on inciting anger and provoking division on the internet . . . targeted African-Americans over social media to influence [them] to sign petitions, share personal information, and teach self-defense training courses; [and] posing as U.S. political activists . . . requested — and in some cases obtained — assistance from the Trump Campaign in procuring materials for rallies and in promoting and organizing the rallies.

“The IRA was not Russia’s only vector for attempting to influence the United States through social media in 2016.

“IRA activity on social media did not cease, but rather increased after Election Day 2016.

“More than 80% of the disinformation accounts in our election maps are still active … [and] continue to publish more than a million tweets in a typical day.”

https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/…/do…/Report_Volume2.pdf

The Death of Dobie


The night before, he staggered to the back of the house, the back bathroom, to lie down on a towel to die. I spent the night on a sleeping bag next to him, dozing, waking to feel if he was still breathing, my hand on his side or in front of his nose.

At daybreak he woke, and I carried him to my recliner, held him in my arms while we slept a few hours. Then he got up, heaved, and staggered back to the towel.

It was Sunday. We tried to keep him going with subcutaneous fluids every two hours, hoping to get him to the vet Monday morning for appetite enhancers to regain his strength. The fluids perked him up each time, but by afternoon I knew it was cruel to bring him back for two hours at a time.

So I held him, weeping, while convincing the family we had to let him go.

The vet had an hour to drive to his office. We were only half that distance away, so we had to wait a half hour before leaving home.

It was a miserable 30 minutes. As his kidneys shut down, he heaved again and again, and I cleaned him up each time. I gave him an injection of muscle relaxer, and then Jennifer drove, while I held him in that towel, and Kate cried in the back seat.

An IV injection. He was gone instantly.

Jen drove back, and I carried him to my study, to prepare for burial. But I could not put him down. The feel of his fur. The softness of his ears. The familiar scent when I buried my nose in the scruff between his shoulders.

Christine brought over a wooden box with hinges, a latch, and bright colors all over. I laid him in, fur wet with tears, on the towel with his favorite stuffed toy, ragged from years of play, and covered him with the tattered Spider-Man blanket he always lay on in my lap. His collar went atop, with one each of the two treats he loved.

Then I went out to dig a hole in the front yard.

I’m 63. The temperature was 89. Christopher allowed me to dig the first foot of hard, dry Nebraska clay, then he let me help him finish it. I lowered the box in, Jen & Kate said their goodbyes and crumbled a clod each, then I shoveled the rest and reset the sod.

Next month we’ll plant a red maple nearby.

Today I went out to sit by the grave with a shot of tequila and tell him thanks for unflaggingly caring for this family, for choosing me as a four-week-old puppy (another story), for having a few annoying habits so I wouldn’t feel like I couldn’t measure up, and for trusting me so utterly.

My grief has shifted a bit, from what I’ve lost, to the grace of letting him go as my final act of love.

That’s the best I can do for now.

Thanks for listening.

A Bit About Dobie

Some of you know my Chihuahua, Dobie. He came to live with us back in 2006. I had just turned 50, with the typical mid-life crisis, bought a big-ass motorcycle and a tiny little dog.

Our family has had dogs ever since our daughters were little: they’re great for companionship, life lessons, and developing allergy resistance when you’re young.

But Dobie was the first dog specifically for me—my responsibility to feed, water, litter train, clean up after, and generally keep happy and healthy. Together, we worked out 21 tricks: sit, stay, come, lie down, back up, crawl, speak, hush, shake hands, wave, spin, roll over, play dead, prairie dog, get it, stand, walk (hind legs), twirl (hind legs), up, down, kisses.

He’s now middle aged. A few weeks ago he developed a luxated patella, so most of those tricks are over with. Lately he’s been off his food. Most of yesterday and last night he spent vomiting. The family and I just got back from the vet, and Dobie has a bit of a heart murmur and a whole lot of renal failure.

I had to ask. The vet said with special diet and care, about a year to a year-and-a-half . . .

Shakespeare wrote: “This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, / To love that well which thou must leave ere long.” Yeah, I get it. Life’s transience is what makes things so precious. That’s still not how I’d make a world.

But it’s what we’ve got. So for the next year or two, or however long, my family and I will take special care to make sure Dobie’s life continues to be good and full of love. He doesn’t know. I wish I didn’t. But for what time remains, under the cloud of that knowledge, I’ll bask in the light of his personality.

And if you’ll forgive just a bit of maudlin sentimentality, of all the tricks we worked out together, I’m especially glad that as his health declines and others go away, “kisses” is the one to remain.