Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson, MO

[Captain's Note: This blog post appears both here and at "The Itinerant Minister". On this both the Captain and the Preacher agree.]

Last night, all eyes were on CNN as St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the Grand Jury decision in the case of an unarmed black teenager being shot to death by a white police officer. In anticipation of this announcement, Ferguson store owners boarded up their shops, and the National Guard was called in. Riots had ensued following the shooting in August; more were feared should the Grand Jury’s decision not please the crowds.

And it didn’t.

Not surprisingly, the findings of the Grand Jury were significantly different from what we’ve been fed through the media these past three months. And while it chaffed some in the news media, I believe the county prosecutor was justified in his scolding of the media for its often inflammatory reporting, unsubstantiated assumptions, and innuendo.

Over the last three months, this case had been tried – and tried badly – in the court of public opinion. The Grand Jury’s decision was different from the public’s perception because the Grand Jury had the opportunity to see actual evidence and to interview actual witnesses.

So last night the media descended on Ferguson, MO, prepped and waiting for a riot. A riot they knew would come. A riot they helped to create.

And they were not disappointed. With cameras rolling and anxious correspondents looking feverishly for the first signs of trouble, it wasn’t long after the decision was read that the angry crowd began vandalizing cars, torching buildings, and looting stores.

But why all the attention on Ferguson?

--In February of this year, a 17-year-old in Euharlee, GA was shot to death by a police officer when he answered the door holding the remote controller for his Wii video game. The nervous officer thought the remote was a gun.

--In May, Las Vegas police detectives shot to death a teenager suspected in a gruesome murder. Swuave Lopez was handcuffed but fleeing when shot.

--In September, an unarmed 20-year-old was shot and killed by police in Salt Lake City following a confrontation at a 7/11. A small group has held protests there, likening the killing to the Ferguson case, but those protests have not gained traction.

--And on Monday, as the world was awaiting the decision in Ferguson, a 12-year-old boy was shot and killed in Cleveland for carrying a pellet gun on a playground.

Oddly, prior to researching and writing this blog, I had only heard of one of these incidents. Where was the continuous media coverage on them? The clips of outraged citizens? The autopsy reports? The rioting?

The truth is, if the issue is simply the shooting of an unarmed teen by police, there would be rioting all across the country. This happens way more often than I am comfortable with.

But the media seems focused on Ferguson. Why?

The answer may be because of the rioters. The violence – and threat of violence – has drawn the media’s attention to Ferguson. Scenes of an overly-militarized police department facing off with angry citizens make for good drama. Video footage of buildings burning at night boosts ratings.

Yes, I believe the rioters have kept this news story in the media. Intentionally.

And here’s why.

The people of Ferguson are angry. They believe an injustice has occurred. One of their children has been killed by a person sworn to protect them. They are making some noise, lest this tragedy be forgotten, and Michael Brown is simply added to the growing list of injustices the black community in Ferguson has had to endure.

And this is the source of the real anger. It’s not simply about last night’s announcement.

As former Missouri Senator Jeff Smith has indicated (writing for New Republic), there is a long history of racial tension in the greater St. Louis area. He reminds us that 100 years ago in nearby Kinloch, black citizens were not allowed to own property. Nonetheless, a white real estate firm bought up the land, marked it up 100%, and sold it to blacks anyway. And those residents turned Kinloch into a bustling little town, with black business owners, black doctors, etc. Despite school segregation, a black man was even elected to the local school board.

But in 1938, when a second black man sought a seat on the board, white residents sought to split the school district. When that failed, the white citizens succeeded in splitting the community, with the northern part becoming the new municipality of Berkeley. But Kinloch continued to thrive as a nearly all-black community.

In the 1980s, Lambert International Airport began buying up property in order to build a now-unnecessary runway. Kinloch was at the epicenter of that project and lost 80% of its residents.

Many of those citizens displaced from Kinloch ended up in Ferguson.

Ferguson. Where over the last 25 years the population has flipped from 74% white to 67% black, but where there is only one black police officer on the force. Where black citizens feel they are singled out and unfairly treated simply because of the color of their skin. Where the court rooms are filled with white judges and white lawyers, but a disproportionate number of black “offenders”.   

And so the black citizens of Ferguson are angry.

In most cases, I would argue that anger is not rational. It is an emotion that builds within a person and ultimately erupts when injustices are not addressed.

But in the case of Ferguson, I believe the anger we are seeing is also strategic. The rioting is not simply about the Michael Brown case. It is about injustices that have been handed out to the black citizens of that community for more than 100 years.

To some onlookers it seems extreme to destroy your own town just to get attention, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

And now the black voices in Ferguson are being heard. The city of Ferguson is on the minds and lips of almost every American man, woman, and child. It is mentioned on every news telecast. It is mentioned all over social media.

But is the right message being heard?

As Rev. Jolinne Balentine-Downey, a colleague in ministry, pointed out this morning: “Can’t help but notice that my African-American friends are praying for justice while my Caucasian friends are praying for peace.” 

Peace. “Don’t make waves.” “Don’t cause trouble.” “Don’t disrupt our quiet little town.” “Don’t interfere with our way of life.” “Accept your situation and make the best of it.” 

Where have we heard that before?

Was justice done in Ferguson, MO this week? In the case of Michael Brown, a Grand Jury has determined that it was; the shooting was lawful and justified.

And as American citizens, we should respect the decisions of our courts. Despite what the media would have us do.

But what about all of the other injustices that black citizens of Kinloch / Ferguson have endured in the past – even the recent past? How will justice ever be done? How will past injustices ever be made right when the people live in fear? How will justice ever prevail when the lives of some citizens are considered to be of less value than that of others?

Take to heart the words of Michael Brown’s family, in a statement released in response to the Grand Jury’s decision on Monday night:

            We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequences of his actions.

            While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.
[Demographic information in this blog has been corrected. We apologize for the error.]

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Saving Christmas?

First, an apology.

The Captain doesn’t normally give a movie review unless he has watched the entire movie. And as a significant point, we have only ever walked out on two movies. In this case, we stayed longer than anyone should have to. No one should have to endure this kind of abuse. Ever.

We do it for you, dear reader.

You’re welcome.

And for those of you into Numerology, here are some interesting facts:

            -I paid $5 for my ticket.
            -The movie was scheduled to start at 5 p.m.
-I paid $5 for a Coke. (Actually $5.25… which is really 5X5 more!)
-There were 5 people in the auditorium. (Okay, there were 5 people minus 2 in the auditorium.)
            -There were 5 previews before the movie started, a couple of which I would rather have been watching.
            -I knew I would hate this movie after the first 5 minutes.
            -I left the movie at 5:55 p.m. (well short of the 1 hour 20 minute run time)
            -I drank 5 glasses of wine afterward in an attempt to forget this movie. (…because, you know, I know it’s a school night!)

Eerie, am I right?

So tonight the Captain went to see the new movie, “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas”.

No, it wasn’t a dare. We were just curious.

The movie begins with Kirk Cameron giving an incredibly boring monologue about how much he loves Christmas – “everything about Christmas!” 

"I love Christmas, I love everything about it," he says, from roasting chestnuts to drinking hot chocolate, and enjoying Christmas stockings, stories, trees, and food.

"I'm a sucker for all of it, and of course the nativity, and there's a lot of people who really want to put a big wet blanket on the celebration. It starts this time of year. You have people who want to pull down nativity scenes, you have lawsuits showing up in schools that can't have Christmas performances ... it has to be winter break or holiday break or sparkle season ... they want to take that out of Christmas so they don't offend people who hate Christmas. And then we have a new group who are telling us, convincingly, that Christmas is actually a celebration of paganism."

[Captain’s note: It is. Really.]

And Cameron’s even ready to take on those who claim that belief in Santa Claus is just “Elf Worship”.

Elf Worship?

"What are they gonna do next?” he declares. “Tell us that hot chocolate is bad, that the Druids invented it?"

Um, no, that would be the Swiss Miss!

So, after setting up a number of straw men to knock down with his smarmy charming Christian sincerity, Cameron explains to us that we’re all living in a story. And in our own story, we can be whatever we want to be.

In this particular story, produced by Liberty University and executive producer and evangelical poster-boy Kirk Cameron, Cameron is a smirking know-it-all who is going to explain everything we didn’t know about Christmas.

As if.

The plot – thin that it is – centers around Cameron’s sister’s Christmas party, and her Grinch-y husband who is just not in the Christmas spirit.

What? He thinks all the money wasted on Christmas trees and decorations and presents could go a long way toward feeding the hungry and digging wells and helping needy people?

How un-Christian!

(Ironically, his name is “Christian”!)

But fortunately, Kirk Cameron comes to the rescue!

Even though his brother-in-law leaves the party and seeks quiet refuge in his SUV parked in the driveway, Cameron just can’t let him be.

Everyone MUST love Christmas just as much as Kirk Cameron loves Christmas!

Even if it doesn’t make sense!

Seriously, this is the review from the Christian Post:

“…the historical references and reenactments featured in "Saving Christmas" lack any evidence of having actually taken place. And worse, Cameron's ideas about how Christmas traditions trace back to the Bible are without substance. In fact, biblical theologian Katie Hoyt McNabb told The Christian Post that nothing in "Saving Christmas" sounds "like a reasonable interpretation of Scripture.”

But obviously the good folks over at the Christian Post have been “drinking the Kool-Aid”!

The brother-in-law vents to Cameron about why he hates Christmas, pointing out all the foolishness and materialism of the current way we celebrate the popular holiday. And in a refrain reminiscent of Linus in “Charlie Brown Christmas”, he declares, “That’s not what Christmas is all about!”

But in the most condescending compassionate way possible, Kirk Cameron assures him, “It’s all about Christmas. All about Jesus. And you’re spoiling it for everyone!”

So, for instance, in response to his gullible brother-in-law’s concerns about the little snow-globe nativity scene his wife sets out each year amidst all the other Christmas crap decorations, Kirk Cameron has the following explanation:

Imagine that it’s a cave, not a barn. And imagine that the manger / feeding trough is just a hewn rock. And imagine that the “swaddling cloths” of the baby Jesus are the burial shroud of the crucified Lord. And suddenly it becomes obvious – the Nativity foreshadows the crucifixion!

So why wouldn’t you want to celebrate Christmas and Santa Claus and decorate your home and give presents to your children?

As for the timing of the Christmas celebration – another concern of the poor, misguided brother-in-law – Cameron has an answer for that too:

"The early church had plenty of good reasons to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25, and it had nothing to do with the winter solstice. [Note: he does not outline these reasons.] By the way, last I checked? It was God who made the winter solstice when he set the planets on their path around the sun. And it's actually quite fitting that we celebrate the birth of Jesus in the bleak midwinter, when the world appears to be sleeping and dying."

For what it’s worth, “In the Bleak Midwinter” is a song in our hymnal, not a passage from scripture.

As for sourcing, apparently good Christians listen to FOX News (I sh*t you not!), and non-believers / “pagans” get their information from Wikipedia!

At this point I was beginning to wonder if the concession stand sold Advil…

I was already itching to leave the theater, but then Kirk Cameron began explaining the Christian message behind the Christmas Tree.

I knew this would be too good to miss.

So, apparently, the Christmas Tree represents the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.

Because it’s an evergreen.

I know. But stay with me here.

And we all decorate our Christmas trees with lights and fake fruit.

We do?

So when the “First Adam” stole fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the “Second Adam” [Jesus] replaced it by hanging himself on a tree [i.e. the cross].

Because, you know, the only way to amend for stealing something is to replace what you have stolen.


So, as Kirk Cameron explains to his increasingly gullible brother-in-law:

"When you walk into a Christmas tree lot, I want you to see hundreds of crosses that will never be used because of Jesus' finished work."

And at that declaration, the Captain got up and left.

If you want to read more about this movie – from someone who actually stayed to the end – go to this review by Kelly Faircloth at Jezebel.

Fortunately “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas” is only slated to be in theaters for two weeks.

Hopefully not enough time to damage too many malleable minds.

And if you want to see a good movie that has a real Christian message, the Captain recommends Angelina Jolie’s movie “Unbroken” or “The Theory about Everything”, the story of Stephen Hawking’s life.

Movies with a message.

And if you want to know the true meaning of Christmas...

...stay tuned!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Captain Dave: Fashion Advisor

[Note: This post is possibly "Not Safe For Work". It contains no nudity, but you might not want the boss / wife / chairperson of your SPR committee walking up behind you while you read this. You’ve been warned!]

About 15 years ago, I encountered a woman wearing one of these in the hallways of the church. We had a large preschool program and a popular aerobics class. This was just a mommy dropping off her child before going on to the gymnasium to exercise.

I encountered her as she was bending over the water fountain.

To be fair, she had reason to be proud of her body.

Hey, I’m a guy, okay?!?

The Captain is not a prude. However, the young Captain-to-be felt this vision was a bit much for a church hallway. I asked the instructor to encourage her class to cover-up a little more on their way to and from class.


I started writing this post last week after a trip to the local mall. I had it all written in my head, and as I searched the web for photos to accompany my snarky comments make my point, I realized the Captain is not the first one to write on this subject.

In fact, we addressed it in a blog a couple years ago. January 3, 2011

But many others have chimed in since, as evidenced by the following flow chart: 

Nonetheless, after a busy weekend, as I was about to sit down to a quiet afternoon of football wine and writing, I came across a blog a friend shared on Facebook about this same subject. And that blog had several links to similar blogs – each from different perspectives – and it completely changed what I had planned to write.

Oh, I am still going to show photos and make snarky comments, but my thinking has shifted a little.

What I noticed at the mall last week was that knee-high boots and leggings are still fashionable.

And we’re okay with that. The Captain can appreciate a nice pair of legs. In fact, the First Mate has just such a pair herself!

But it has become apparent that fashion has changed once again – if by only a degree – and it was enough to catch the Captain’s eye.

His good eye.

When the look first became popular, women were wearing leggings with a skirt / tunic / long-tailed shirt that descended to mid-thigh.


Leggings continued to be fashionable, but the next year there came a subtle change. The skirts / tunics / shirts was worn just a little bit shorter – teasing us a little bit by just barely covering the bum.

Granted, despite the shorter outer wear, the bum was still covered by a thin layer of Cotton-Spandex blend. But less was left to the imagination.

And the Captain has an excellent imagination!

This Fall it seems that coverage is no longer an issue. Leggings have apparently become pants.

Yes, this season it seems women are making no attempt at all to cover the bum.

Or the front side either.

And we’re okay with that too.

I guess.

Actually, no. We’re NOT okay with that! If the Captain had a daughter who dressed like that, she would be locked in the brig!

But there were all these other blogs - written by women - proclaiming the glory and comfort of leggings.

And so, I had to ask myself “Why?” What is wrong with this new fashion trend?

At first, mine was just a knee-jerk reaction: “Girl, where are your pants?!?” It just seemed that something was missing down there.

But the truth is, while it’s kind of sexy, it’s not sexual. No skin is showing.

In most cases…

And as more women wear this look, it will become the norm, not the exception.

In other words, "Boring".

We’re just not looking forward to that future time when everyone wears the white Spandex unitard.

The Captain does not look good in white.

…or Spandex!

If you have read my previous blogs, you know the Captain has always insisted on personal freedom, that a person should be free to wear whatever s/he feels comfortable wearing.

So what’s the problem with leggings?

Actually, when it comes down to it, the Captain confesses he finds the look fetching. On an athletic body, it’s a good look. And the new variety of colors and patterns makes it even more interesting!

But have we mentioned recently that 31.8% of the U.S. population is considered obese?

Butt I digress…

The real problem is that some women don’t seem to have a full-length mirror.

Make that a three-way mirror.

Do you even know what you look like from back here?

Yes, Lululemon blew it last year with their see-thru yoga pants. But still…

Here’s the thing: Even the Captain knows the difference between jodhpurs, leggings, tights, and pantyhose. Each has unique fashion properties. Each serves a unique function.
Some are designed to be worn UNDER not out.

But apparently some women don’t get this.

Seriously, one day at lunch I encountered a woman wearing what she apparently thought was leggings, but her panties were shining through and shouting to the world, “Hello Kitty!”

No, seriously. She was wearing “Hello Kitty” panties. Under her thin black tights.

*I did not take this photo! Which is really scary because that means someone else did it too!*

Not that anyone noticed!


Ladies, wear what you want. No, really. No one has the right to tell you how to dress.

But before you go out into public, just look in the mirror.

…in bright lighting…

[Trust the Captain on this.]

Then ask yourself, is that really the look you are going for?

We'll thank you for it.