Saturday, October 29, 2016

Des Moines, IA: Woman Voted Twice for Trump // Claimed Election is Rigged Against the GOP

Here is the other political story involving Iowa that's all over the news today. A Des Moines woman named Terri Rote was arrested and charged with Election Misconduct, which is a Class D Felony, after evidence was found that she voted twice for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

This is particularly juicy because Trump has been complaining for weeks that the election process has been rigged and that voter fraud is rampant, which it's not.

A quick glance at her Facebook page shows that Rote is a huge Trump fan. She caucused for him. She has bragged about trolling "Clinton/Kaine" FB pages. She called Hillary Clinton "Killary." She has posted several racist anti-BLM posts in the recent past. She posts many anti-Clinton conspiracy posts. And she's posted many pro-Trump posts over the past year. So it's not a stretch to assume that she's a Trump voter.

And she says as much, according to Iowa Public Radio:
Terri Rote says she was afraid her first ballot for Trump would be changed to a vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. 

"I wasn't planning on doing it twice, it was spur of the moment," says Rote. "The polls are rigged."
The Polk County Auditor's office noted the double-voting right away and notified the police. Rote faces $10,000 in fines and up to five years in prison if she is convicted. My hunch is that The Polk County Attorney will come up with a plea deal that results in probation, minimal fine, and the loss of her voting rights.

It's worth noting that Rote's first Trump vote still counts, but not the second vote (obviously).

Waterloo, IA: Home of Political Candidate Spray-Painted with Anti-Gay Graffiti

This is actually a few days old, but thought I might as well write up a few posts about the election cycle here in Iowa. So there's this candidate for the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors named Christopher Schwartz. He's a Democrat in a sea of GOP. Plus he's gay. And he's out about that.

A group called the Cedar Valley Patriots for Christ learned that he's gay last Sunday and posted this, accompanied by a pic of a pair of rough-looking drag performers:
Chris Schwartz who is running for Black Hawk County Supervisor said that his biggest accomplishment was bringing Cedar Valley Pridefest (Celebration of Sin) to Black Hawk County.... 

So, we have a pro-gay socialist who is to the left of Bernie Sanders, who wants to increase regulation, have a county board increase minimum wage, hurt businesses, employees, and continue to bring debauchery to our community... Does anyone else see a major problem here? 

Christians in our community better start stepping up and put a stop to this!
Schwartz became aware of the post, publicly acknowledged it, and essentially shrugged. With a bunch of "this is why you need to vote for me" words in the process. Which garnered a response from CVPFC on 10/26/16:
My Official Response to the Eastern Iowa Atheists and Chris Schwartz: 
Christ Schwartz and the Eastern Iowa Atheists will get no apology from me, or Patriots for Christ for standing up for our beliefs, and standing up for Biblical truth. We have a right just as they do to express their opinions. We believe there are many in the community that do not appreciate Cedar Valley Pridefest and it's debauchery and mockery against God. It is NOT a family friendly environment. 
Despite all their real hatred towards God, I would like to remind them that God loves them and there is way out of their sinful captivity. That way through, is Jesus Christ. We are all sinners in need of a savior and they can still turn from sin, repent, and seek Christ.
And then a subsequent response:
So, I guess Chris Schwartz called our post a "hate" post and is now raising money and accusing Patriots for Christ of "hate" and "bigotry". 
What do you call it when people send you porn pictures of gay sex? What do you call it when people tell you that they want to rid the area of Christians who speak truth? What do you call it when they call you fat, ugly, call you stupid for believing in God, bigot, hateful, etc....etc...etc...? 
How tolerant of him.... Is this what you want in a County Supervisor? 
If you don't want more hostility towards Christians and Biblical truth from your local government.... If you don't want more economic incompetence... 
Please share this with your friends, and tell the people in your churches (PASTORS) that this is what you are up against. I have taken the shots to expose this evil, now do your part and act on it! 
You can vote for 3 Republicans who I know for a fact, are not hostile towards Bible believing Christians.
A few hours later (on the morning of 10/27/16), Chris Schwartz posted this:
This is what we woke-up to at our home this morning. This is a hate crime. The police are on the way. We need your help to combat this hate. Please donate or sign-up to volunteer at
His post was accompanied by several pics. Most of them were political yard signs that had been spray-painted over with words like "FAG." His front door was spray-pained with "Lev 20:13."

So this story went viral. It's been all over the Internet and all over the local news. It went viral enough that CVPFC eventually came out with slimy FB post that offered to help out Chris Schwartz and his partner, but not before insinuating that this is all a huge homo hoax:
CVPFC will help pay for the costs of Chris Schwart's home. 
As we have stated many times. We do not hate anyone or condone violence. Becoming a Christian is a choice. As Christians we are to spread the gospel and let people decide their eternity. 
That being said, we believe this vandalism looks like a hoax. It is a tactic right out of the leftist playbook. 
But nevertheless, we will help cover the costs. We do not condone these activities.
Honestly, their accusation that this was a hoax is part of the reason that I didn't post about it in the first place. Unfortunately, people do this. They claim that someone attacked them or their home with homophobic or racist words (or pro-BLM or whatever) and then we subsequently find out that it was just a plea for attention. I'm hoping that Schwartz wasn't stupid enough to stage a graffiti attack on his home in order to gain voter sympathy. Not only would it be wrong if he did that, but it would blow up in his face politically if he did that. So I'm assuming that his house was actually defaced with anti-gay slurs and Bible verses.

Anyway, CVPFC must be getting lots of push-back from the community. I'll be honest. I haven't dived into the comments. It's been way too busy for me recently to even attempt that, but they CVPFC ended up posting this "we're not haters" post to justify their recent targeting against Chris Schwartz:
I will write this again one more time. It's really not that difficult to understand. 
As Christians, we believe every human life is precious. We believe that we are all sinners in need of a savior. 
On the topic of Homosexuality, we believe that homosexuality is a sin. And like all sin, your sins can be forgiven and hour life can be set free from sin by repenting and accepting Jesus as your savior. 
Anyone can do it. But it requires faith and submission to Christ. 
Christians do not hate anyone. As Christians, we do not want to see anyone go to hell. That is why we tell you there is a way out of your sin! It is not out of hate that so many claim. It is out of love we tell you this. 
The "world" has been telling all of you a lie! That love means acceptance of behavior and poor choices. And those who disagree must "hate" you. 
Christians do not hate you! We believe in a God who can free you from sin and we are compelled to share this awesome news with you. 
Hate is not what you think it is. Love is not what you have been taught it is. As Christians, we would be total hypocrites if we knew your life and salvation was in danger and we said nothing about it. 
It's your choice to accept or reject what the Bible says. However, Sin has eternal consequences and Jesus is the answer. 
This is NOT a hate message. The is a Love message that applies to all sinners. 
If anyone would like to discuss more, or need prayer, We would be happy to tell you more about Jesus and how you can be free from sin and find a new life through him.
As always, I will post more if I learn more.

Chevy the Trouble-Maker

I posted a pic of my new dog Chevy on Facebook earlier today and someone noted that he looks pretty angelic. I noted that he's really a trouble-maker, which resulted in a bunch of push-back from my FB friends.

Which makes sense. They don't live with this little guy. But that's okay, because he's pretty cute so it's easy to move past his moments.

Such as tonight.

I had to break up a fight between Nero and Chevy tonight. Keep in mind that Nero weights 60 pounds. Chevy weighs 10 or 11 pounds. Just wanted to put that out there before I get too far into this story.

I thought that I would be nice today when I went to the grocery store. I purchased two bones. A larger one for Nero and a smaller one for Chevy. They both grabbed their bones and things were great. Right?

Nope. Here's how it went down. Nero happily chewed on his bone. Chevy refused to touch his own bone, choosing to glare at Nero for nearly an hour instead.. Finally, Chevy went over, grabbed Nero's bone mid-chew, and began dragging it away from Nero.

Needless to say, a fight ensued and I had to pull my two poodles apart from each other.

Don't get too concerned. It was a lot of bluster and absolutely no bites or blood. But it was loud and scary to watch.

End result is that both bones got hidden away in the cupboard and nobody got to enjoy their bone.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Des Moines, IA: Conservative Church Files Preemptive Lawsuit Against the Iowa Civil Right Commission Over Trans People & Church Restrooms // Updated on 10/27/16: Fort Des Moines Church of Christ Drops Lawsuit

(Originally written on 07/05/16): Fort Des Moines Church of Christ filed a lawsuit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission yesterday. It's all about trans people and bathrooms:
A conservative church in Des Moines is suing the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in federal court, contending state officials are trying to censor the church's teachings on biblical sexuality and forcing the church to open its restrooms to members of the opposite sex.

The suit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Des Moines by the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, which argues that all events held at a church on its property have a bona fide religious purpose. The petition also says the commission has no authority to violate the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of religion and speech.
Basically, they are concerned that a trans person might use the restroom if they are ever in the church for something related to the daycare or some other non-explicit church activity.

Just in case a trans person, or a non-heterosexual person, or an LGBT ally was confused about whether or not they might be welcome to enter Fort Des Moines Church of Christ.

Updated on 07/08/16: The Iowa Civil Rights Commission responds. Turns out that Fort Des Moines Church is free to discriminate against LGBT people. The only problem might come in if they are opening up their church building for non-religious activities, such as hosting polling locations. Read more here.

Updated on 10/27/16: Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose denied a request by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to dismiss this lawsuit. However, she also declined a request by For Des Moines Church of Christ's attorney to grant a preliminary injunction against state enforcement of Iowa's public accommodation law to protect against sexual orientation and gender identify discrimination.

Yesterday, Fort Des Moines Church of Christ and their attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom voluntarily withdrew their lawsuit against the state:
Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement that the courts opinion makes clear that government bureaucrats have no business deciding whether Iowa church activities are religious or not.
"Judge Rose held that churches are not — and have never been — public accommodations subject to this type of intrusive government overreach and also reaffirmed a robust religious exemption from the act," Holcomb said. "The ruling provides much-needed reassurance and clarity to Iowa churches."
Meanwhile, Kristin Johnson, the executive director of Iowa Civil Rights Commission, responded:
"We are pleased the lawsuit is dismissed," Johnson said. "The judge's opinion speaks for itself. We have the same comments that we had in July, there had been no change to the law, no change in the application of the law and we were never trying to impose any kind of requirements against the preachers and the pulpit."
In other words, nothing has changed. Fort Des Moines Church of Christ and the ADF made a bunch of noise, but changed nothing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Iowa's Culture Warriors Leading Fight to Fire Supreme Court Justices Over 2009 Pro-Gay Ruling

There's an article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen today pointing out that social and religious conservatives are still doing their best to punish Iowa's Supreme Court Justices for striking down the state's DOMA law back in 2009 and making it possible for gay couples to get legally married in Iowa.

Bob Vander Plaats led a successful effort to defeat former Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, former Justice David Baker, and former Justice Michael Streit back in 2010 for their involvement with the "Varnum V. Brien" case. BVP's religious PAC, The FAMiLY Leader, wasn't so successful in 2012 when they targeted Justice David Wiggins.

Now The FAMiLY Leader and another group called Common Sense PAC are waging a retention challenge to Chief Justice Mark Cady, Justice Brent Appel, and Justic Daryl Hecht in next month's election -- they just aren't spending as much this year as they did during the past election cycle.

According to Common Sense PAC
Common Sense Iowa is made up of a growing number of politically active Iowans who believe that our society is made up of only three God ordained institutions: The traditional Family, made of one man joined in Biblical Marriage to one woman for the purpose of procreation and the education of their offspring to love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind and soul and their neighbor as themselves. The Church, whose purpose is to proclaim the sinfulness of man, the judgment of a just God and the grace and mercy of a loving Creator God. Civil Government, whose purpose is to support and enforce the laws of nature and the laws of the Creator God that founded the static laws of nature. 

The Judiciary of Iowa have begun to base their opinions on the evolutionary law of man instead of the static laws of nature and its creator God. As a result, they have decide to create laws which is outside the bounds of their jurisdiction. 

The Legislative and Executive branches of Iowa have failed to interpose for the people of Iowa to bring a rogue Judiciary into check. Therefore it is now the responsibility of the people of Iowa to remove the political leadership of Iowa. Common Sense Iowa is mobilizing their families, friends and neighbors to let the political leadership of Iowa know how we feel about their abuse of power through signs across the state.
And according to The FAMiLY Leader:
The judicial retention vote is a key check and balance the people of Iowa have against judicial overreach. And while The FAMiLY LEADER will not be devoting the extensive staff time and resources required to conduct a judicial vote campaign this year, we encourage Iowans to vote against retaining those judges who have used their office for political activism. In this year’s election, for example, Iowa Supreme Court Justices Brent Appel, Mark Cady, and Daryl Hecht are up for retention – three judges who voted to foist same-sex “marriage” on Iowa and to overrule physicians on the state Board of Medicine to allow “telemed” abortions, which don’t even require a doctor be present. We encourage Iowans to turn the ballot over and vote “no” on Iowa Supreme Court Justices Appel, Cady, and Hecht in November.
In other words, they want to punish these three justices for upholding our constitution and they want to turn back nearly eight years of marriage equality in this state.

VOTE YES to Retain Chief Justice Mark Cady, Justic Brent Appel, and Justice Daryl Hecht.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

British Fest 2017's Main Guest Announced: Actor Terry Molloy!

I've shared my enjoyable experiences at British Fest over that past three years (here, here, and here). I even put together two panels on "Survivors" and "Midsomer Murders" this past summer. The fourth British Fest has been scheduled for the weekend of June 2-4, 2017, and will take place yet again in Omaha, NE. You can learn more about the convention here.

British Fest's organizers announced their celebrity guest for 2017: British actor Terry Molloy!

Molloy appeared several times on "Doctor Who" back in the mid/late 1980s playing Davros, the mad creator of the Daleks. But I've seen him in other programs over the years, including "Tales of Sherwood Forest" and "P.R.O.B.E.: The Devil of Winterborne."

But he's been is much more than those shows. Check out his filmography on IMDb!

Incidentally, what panel do you think I should develop for Summer 2017? I'm toying with doing a panel about the "Morse"/"Inspector Lewis"/"Endeavor" programs, but maybe not. Other thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Cheryl Blossom Makes Her New Riverdale Debut!

I read my copy of ARCHIE #13 and I have to say that I really like the new artist!! It's Joe Eisma and he does a great job of transitioning to this new phase in the book!

Veronica got shipped off to a private boarding school following Hiram Lodge's electoral loss in Riverdale USA. Now she finds herself cut off from Archie, Betty, and the rest of the Riverdale Gang and forced to re-establish her life with a new batch of teens.

ARCHIE #13 also introduces Cheryl Blossom to New Riverdale. Or New Switzerland... You know what I mean...

Cheryl immediately befriends Veronica and manages to pry a confessional out of our favorite Riverdale debutante. Which felt awful good at the time, but I'm sure that Veronica will soon come to regret this bit of bonding time!

After all, this is Cheryl Blossom. She's always been awful. And her reputation as a horrid girl quickly becomes actualized in this story, much to Veronica's dismay. I won't ruin the details, but it's clear that Veronica's time in public school has rubbed off on her for the better.

Incidentally, we gained a bit more insight into Veronica's reality TV past. It seems that the show has moved on without her, and Cheryl joined the cast post-Lodge -- with fiery results!

ARCHIE #13 features story by Mark Waid (with Lori Matsumoto), art by Joe Eisma, lettering by Jack Morelli, and coloring by Andre Szymanowicz.

Iowa City Earns 100 out of 100 on the 2016 Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index!

I have written more than once about Iowa City's Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index scores (90/100 in 2013, 100/100 in 2014, and 100/100 in 2015). This year, the HRC looked at 506 cities from across the nation (up from 408 cities last year) exploring a variety of factors -- including Non-Discrimination Laws, Municipality as an Employer, Municipal Services, Law Enforcement, and Relationship with the LGBT Community -- and established scores for each of these communities.

Turns out that Iowa City's 2016 rating was a perfect score of 100 for the third year in a row:

Iowa City scored perfect scores when it came to Non-Discrimination Laws, Municipal Services, and Law Enforcement. Under Municipal Services. We earned additional points when it comes to the bonus headings of "Municipality is a Welcoming Place to Work," "Enforcement mechanism in Human Right Commission," "City provides services to LGBTQ youth," "City provides services to LGBTQ elderly," "City provides services to people living with HIV/AIDS," and "City provides services to the transgender community,"

Iowa City scored 18 out of 24 when it came to Municipality as Employer because we fall behind under the category of "Transgender-Inclusive Healthcare Benefits." But we earned additional points under the bonus heading when it comes to "Municipality is a Welcoming Place to Work."

Iowa City scored 4 out of 8 when it came to Relationship with the LGBT Community because we fall behind under the category of "Leadership's Pro-Equality Legislative or Policy Efforts." And we lost points this year under the bonus heading of "Openly LGBT elected or appointed municipal leaders" -- one of our bonus achievements last year. Which doesn't make sense since we have at least one lesbian legislator on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors. But I guess they're only looking at the City Council.

In contrast, nearby Cedar Rapids earned a score of 100 (up from 99 last year), Ames earned a score of 68 (down from 70 last year), Davenport earned a score of 100, Des Moines earned a score of 97 (up from 82 last year), Dubuque earned a score of 82, Sioux City earned a score of 81 (down from 83 last year), Waterloo earned a score of 67 (down from 68 last year), and West Des Moines earned a score of 42.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Birth of a BFF! Veronica & Betty Finally Bond in ARCHIE #12!

It's no secret that I'm chronically behind on many of my comics. I just sat down and read ARCHIE #12 from start to finish. The election is over. Hiram Lodge isn't the mayor of Riverdale -- much to his outrage. Last issue ended with Archie and Betty making up over their recent feud with a hug. Unfortunately, Veronica and Sayid both saw this private huge and neither is happy to see the person that they're dating is getting close with the person that they were recently dating!

So this is the issue where Archie tries to get back in Veronica's good graces -- with a little help from his ex!

But it's also the issue where Betty and Veronica finally seem to set aside their animosity is put their cards out on the table -- and plant real seeds for their close friendship for the first time since the New Riverdale continuity got launched.

Betty admits to Veronica in this story that she's still into Archie -- but not really. That they share a long history of friendship that predates their dating relationship and that she really misses her friendship with Betty. And if she's a true friend to Archie and if he really loves Veronica, then Betty would be a horrible friend to Archie if she sabotaged that relationship.

Of course, Veronica ends up getting shipped away from Riverdale at the end of the story. Mr. Lodge is too vain to remain in the small town that just voted against the riches and most powerful man in the state. And ARCHIE #13 -- which is currently on my living room table, waiting for me to pick up -- promises to introduce Cheryl Blossom to New Riverdale.

But it's good to finally see the birth of Betty & Veronica. BFFs 4-Ever!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Anti-Gay Bully Trolls Dan Parent's "Spirit Day" Message

It's Spirit Day today. (Actually, it was yesterday). But I was reminded of it today. Spirit Day is an annual bullying awareness day, with it's emphasis on LGBTQ teens. People are encouraged to wear purple on Spirit Day.

Earlier today, Dan Parent updated his Facebook image with this "Spirit Day" post of Kevin Keller from 2013. The image is accompanied by the following message: "It's SPIRIT DAY! Stand up to and say NO to bullying!"

Then about four hours ago, some guys named Jack Samson posted "I don't believe in bullying gays. I believe in getting them psychiatric help."

Dan Parent pushed back a bit with, "Jack, you're not saying homosexuality is some sort of mental illness are you? Because if you are, there's a storm a comin' your way..."

Undaunted, Jack Samson replied, "Send it. NPR has broadcast that there is a large correlation between gay sex abuse in childhood and adult homosexuality." He then wrote, "Yes they have. It was on Fresh Air about a year ago. It was a black, gay writer who said that he did the research into it and the data was there, and then the read fun started. You should have heard the rationalization that he made to deny it. He claimed that there was some bizarre magical signal that only gays are aware of that he has seen, that allowed the abuser to recognize a gay kid before he abused him. That preposterous argument was a glaring violation of Occam's Razor, and it wouldn't last ten seconds in a science journal."

He went on to repeat the assertion that all gay people adults were sexually abused as children, "The Laws of Science are absolute. They are not open to opinion and feelings. The data resolves the argument. Period. End of story."

Jack Samson began a series of posts to Dan Parent and another commenter that consisted of "Are you gay?" and "How old were you when you were abused?" and "Did you fall in love with your molester?" Repeatedly.

This is the comment that got Jack Samson blocked from Dan Parent's Facebook page: "I'm not obsessed with child molesting. I'm obsessed with psychiatry. And BTW, I appreciate your honesty. I'm asking you questions that I already know the answer to, to gauge your honesty. Victims ALWAYS become attached to their abuser. It's called the Stockholm Syndrome."

I get it that there are people who disagree with homosexuality. But you're not winning any battles by raging against gay people and slandering our life experiences. Anyway, Jack Samson did more in two hours to highlighting anti-gay bullying and harassment than an entire purple wardrobe!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Marvel Comics to Publish New GENERATION X Series in Spring 2017!

Marvel Comics has been announcing several new x-titles for Spring 2017 as part of this new "ResurrXion" label, including ICEMAN, WEAPON-X, and JEAN GREY. I was pretty excited (and a bit curious) about a relaunched GENERATION X comic book title!

Keep in mind that most of the original Generation X team is dead. Or transformed into a stupid vampire. But the images associated with this new GENERATION X #1 includes all sorts of characters and teams who were never associated with the team, including the New Mutants, the Young X-Men, and Generation Hope.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ryan Buell of "Paranormal State" Arrested // Charged with Felony Theft & Receiving Stolen Property // UPDATED ON 10/02/16: Ryan Buell Issues First Official Statement Since His Arrest // More Updates Below!

(Originally written on 09/21/16): It's been a while since I've written anything about Ryan Buell, formerly of "Paranormal State." (Here, here, and here) I follow him on Facebook, but haven't been interested in his gaming activities on Twitch.

He's back in the news today -- but not for good reasons. Ryan was arrested on September 18th and charged with "two felony charges related to theft and stolen property", as well as misdemeanor charges of theft of services. He was arrested and charged in Centre County, PA, and remains in jail at the moment.

I'm assuming that it's connected to ongoing reports of Buell organizing tours and speaking engagements, only to cancel at the last minute and then not refund many who purchased tickets or other services.

There is a lot of discussion on his fan Facebook page about this arrest and the surrounding scuttlebutt. His PRS Bureau supporters posted a response about his arrest:

Meanwhile, Buell's mother has been posting on his public Facebook page a plea to Buell's fans:

In a nutshell, Buell's mother told her fans to stop enabling him by buying tickets to events, buying merchandise, paying to see him on Twitch, etc.

I will post more as I learn more.

Updated on 10/02/16: Ryan Buell posted an official statement on his Facebook fan page via one of his supporters earlier today:
Dear Friends, 

I know there is a lot of speculation concerning my well-being as well as my state of affairs. For the time being, I will not comment or go into specifics, nor will my representatives, staff, family or friends; nor will we respond to any rumors. 

However, I will say that I am safe and I am taking some time to heal and handle some urgent matters. My family and I appreciate your understanding and for respecting our privacy. 

I've been told that I have received an outpouring of letters from supporters, old clients and friends. My mother has personally received numerous messages and she has read some of them to me. I have been moved to tears on more than one occasion. Many have stated they wish to see me return to doing what I have done for so many years – helping people. Many of you have shared your stories with my mom, recounting how PRS personally helped you. These stories impacted me the most. Right now, positive support is welcome. It's been great to hear from old friends and colleagues. 

I hope to return to work soon, but first I need to take care of myself. Members of PRS will resume catching up with Twitch raffles, and other pertinent issues. Please be patient with them and show your support. I can assure you they are doing their best. 

If you would like to write to me please feel free to e-mail me at My staff and family will make sure I get it. Some have asked about sending gifts, cards, etc... I feel now is an inappropriate time for it, but if you feel compelled to send something, please e-mail us first, or wait until some of this storm has come to pass. I also encourage supporters to write to the PRS general mailbox, by sending an e-mail to I will be focusing on sending out personal thank you notes to those who have shown support in these times. I am very grateful. 

I would like to thank everyone for your continued support & concern. I also know I have some wrongs I need to right, and once I am well, I look forward to doing just that. 

Thank you, all of you. God bless - and Further without Fear!
Updated on 10/19/16: Ryan Buell's public Facebook page announced that he is now out of jail, presumably while awaiting trial:
Ryan was released yesterday. He will speak to you all soon, after he is reunited with his family and friends.
Various commenters are curious why he was let out of jail so soon. Others wish he was still in jail so that he could receive treatment. Others think that he needs at least 60 days of intense substance abuse treatment. And many more are still upset because he stole their money.

I don't know the answers to any of those thoughts, but... 1. He probably bonded out while awaiting trial. 2. There aren't many SA treatment options in your average jail. Prison, sometimes. But jail is usually just a holding place for people while they wait for trial. And 3. It's pretty rare that insurance will pay for more than 30 days of treatment. And I doubt that Ryan has the resources to pay for long-term residential treatment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Oelwein, IA: Facebook Post of Off-Duty Cop Mooning a "Clinton/Kaine" Sign While Holding a Gun Goes Viral, Spawning Anti-BLM Debates

There's this debate happening online and in parts of Iowa involving a reserve police officer and a crude Facebook post involving a Hillary Clinton campaign sign, a gun, and a full moon.

Oelwein Reserve Officer Jay Perkins posted a picture of himself online with his pants pulled down while he points a sign at a Clinton / Kaine campaign sign.

Apparently, the people of Oelwein, IA, are split on the subject. For example:
"But I think it's kind of funny," said Oelwein resident Dustin Staley. "But I also think, if I would've done it, I would've been arrested for it. And probably charged as a sex offender because of the guidelines in this town."
"He is a public official," said Vickie Wendel. "He shouldn't be doing stuff like that. And actually a normal person shouldn't be doing stuff like that either."
I learned about this story last night from this article, where various entities weighed in on whether or not this Facebook post was legally protected free expression or if it was a form a misconduct meriting disciplinary action. (Spoiler: Opinions were mixed!!)

I sadly made the mistake of reading the comments section, which quickly became a series of pro-cops/anti-blacks comments.

One guy from Ames, IA, wrote:
The police have to live in the dangerous environment Obama and Hillary have created. Blacks lives matter is killing cops all across the country, behind their absolute lie of a cause.

If anybody should be able to do this it's a cop! Thank you for your service officer! We know the kind of scumbags you have to deal with!
Which brought out my snarky side, as evidenced by this follow-up comment:
... on the mean streets of Oelwein, IA.
Which brought out accusations that I'm clueless. And racist. See?
Jon Trouten wow that is just clueless... police set ups and attacks are happening everywhere.. not just in the neighborhoods your racist mind thought of.
Which prompted this response by me:
"Racist mind." Menawhile, Oelwein hasn't had more than one murder since 2002.
Which is true. It might even be longer than 2002, as google didn't quickly provide me with data for 2001 or before.

Which prompted this response by another guy:
Jon Trouten according to their demo according to wiki, they have a pop of around 6,000 and are 96.1% white. I'm gonna take a leap of faith and say they don't have much of a BLM problem lol.
Which brought me back to this important point. This story isn't about #BlackLivesMatter. See?
This isn't a news story about BLM.
Here's the deal. Oelwein, IA, is a small community about two hours north of here. I don't live there, but I have clients up there and I often drive through when traveling to see family. I challenge anyone to stop in Oelwein for lunch. You might not find many black people (though I personally know of at least one or two), but there is indeed racial and cultural diversity in that community. For example, I recently stopped for lunch at the Pizza Ranch restaurant. I found myself surrounded by typical white folks. But there were Hispanic workers and family. There were Amish laborers. Heck, there was even one gay social worker in the restaurant that day. Diversity exists, even in small-town Iowa. You just have to keep your eyes open.

But this isn't (or shouldn't be) a cops vs. blacks story.

This is a news article about a local cop who wisely or unwisely tweeted a pic of himself exposing parts of his body that shouldn't ordinarily be exposed in public on a sign (that presumably belongs to someone else) while messing around with a weapon while he's off-duty (judging from his outfit). This is also about whether or not that conduct violates the standards of his workplace even if he's off-duty.

In other words, I find it fascinating how people take one story a very quickly run down several other explosive rabbit-holes!

Gay Christian Network Speaks Out Against the InterVarsity USA's Anti-Gay Purge

(Originally written on 10/13/16): I've got one more post in me this week about InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA's purge of staff for having private gay-affirming beliefs. No more this week after this. (I promise!!)

The Gay Christian Network is currently offline while they go through much needed forums upgrades. But that didn't stop Justin Lee and the GCN from issuing a statement condemning IVCF's anti-gay purge.

You can read it here:
The Gay Christian Network has a 15-year history of collaborating with LGBT and Christian communities across areas of theological disagreement. We are not in the habit of telling other Christian organizations how to run their own business, but in this case, we feel compelled to speak out against the wrong and hurtful actions of our friends at InterVarsity. 

InterVarsity’s announcement that all staff must resign if they do not privately agree with its specific theological view on marriage is absolutely unprecedented for an interdenominational organization that has previously prided itself on uniting Christians with widely divergent views on other doctrinal matters. This decision sends a clear message to LGBT students that they are not wanted in InterVarsity—and many will surmise that they are not wanted in the church, either. 

InterVarsity has argued that this large-scale firing should not be seen as anti-LGBT because some LGBT Christians don’t support same-sex marriage themselves. We do not see it that way. Our own membership does, indeed, include LGBT Christians who share InterVarsity’s theological view, but as LGBT Christians, we know firsthand that people like us desperately need the freedom to wrestle with difficult biblical texts on marriage and sexuality without being afraid that such wrestling could cost us our Christian fellowship or even our jobs. InterVarsity already has a poor track record of supporting LGBT students—even those who share its theology of marriage—and this makes matters far worse. 

Current InterVarsity staff members tell us they are confused and afraid. Many have been loyally serving their campuses their entire adult lives, never having publicly disagreed with the organization’s stance, but they are now being told that if they privately have any doubts about this one specific belief, they must resign. Staff members fear that to even question this new policy will instantly out them as dissidents, costing them their livelihood. 

While we sympathize with the need for religious organizations to be able to take theological positions, we do not believe witch hunts based on privately held personal beliefs are the right way to handle a sensitive issue where many Christians are evolving and where those most affected are a minority community with a history of feeling unwanted in the church. 

We call upon InterVarsity to rescind this damaging policy. In addition, as a global organization of LGBT Christians across theological divides, we ask for an opportunity to privately meet with InterVarsity decision-makers on an ongoing basis, and, working together, to improve InterVarsity’s support for LGBT students and staff while respecting the organization’s ability to take its own positions on matters of theological dispute.
Frankly, I'm not sure that IVCF values GCN's thoughts on this matter. I mean, that was the point of their anti-gay purge. To get rid of the gay-affirming perspective, right?

Updated on 10/18/16: GCN founder Justin Lee posted a 20-minute video response to IVCF's anti-gay purge earlier today.

In it, Lee calls out IVCF for being deceptive with their initial response to the TIME Magazine article that broke this article. He reveals that IVCF's hostile response to him as a young adult during his coming out process led to him becoming suicidal. And he wrote why it is wrong that IVCF began this anti-gay purge.

You can watch that video here.

Personally, I think people like Justin Lee and other gay Christians need to stop expecting anything remotely like support or affirmation from groups like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA and actively seek out and support other faith groups and churches.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Marvel Comics to Publish New ICEMAN Series in Spring 2017!

The news broke earlier today that Marvel Comics will be publishing a new ICEMAN series, starting in Spring 2017. We don't know which Iceman. We don't know the creative team. And we don't know the pitch yet.

More to come!

40 Religious Authors Sign Off on Open Letter Challenging InterVarsity's Anti-Gay Purge // Updated Below

(Originally written on 10/12/16)I wrote earlier this week about InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA initiating a purge of staff members who affirm LGBT people. In response, 40 authors have issued an open letter pushing back against the IVCF purge and calling the campus ministry to replace this policy with one that allows for opposing views:
To Tom Lin, the InterVarity Christian Fellowship USA Cabinet and Board of Directors, 

As authors who have published with InterVarsity Press (IVP), we are deeply troubled and concerned about your organization’s recent “involuntary termination” policy. Since our IVP books indirectly tether us to your organization, we feel it is necessary to make our feelings known to you and those with whom we have relationships. We understand that conversations related to marriage, sexuality, and gender are critical for Christians, but we also recognize that Christians of mutual goodwill can have those conversations and arrive at various conclusions. While we do not all share the same theological or political views, we are united in our concern for the dignity and care of our fellow Christians whose jobs are threatened by your policy. 

Therefore, we urge you, for the sake our our collective integrity and the credibility of your organization to revoke the “involuntary termination” policy and replace it with one that allows your staff to conscientiously object. Allowing IVCF staff to remain in community despite not completely agreeing with a particular view of sexuality and marriage will demonstrate the inclusive and open-armed spirit of Christ. The Christian community is in desperate need of healing at this moment, and we believe you can help lead this effort.

For the sake of our friends,

Janell Anema, National Trainer with Sources of Strength, Director/Co-Director of IV’s Global Urban Trek to South Asia, and contributor to Letters to a Future Church: Words of Encouragement and Prophetic Appeals.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Pastor of Little Flowers Community, co-director of YWAM Urban Ministries Winnipeg and author of The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom.

Leroy Barber, Director of The Voices Project, author of Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World and Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World.

Ivy Beckwith, Faith Formation Minister and Team Leader United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio and co-author of Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus.

Brent Bill, Quaker minister and co-author of Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer­ and Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God.

Shane Claiborne, co-founder of Red Letter Christians and The Simple Way and co-author of Becoming the Answer to our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals.

Julie Clawson, author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices.

Dr. Christena Cleveland, Ph.D., Associate Professor of the Practice of Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School and author of Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart.
Rev. Ian Morgan Cron, Episcopal priest and co-author of The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery.

Dr. David Dark, Ph.D., educator at the Tennessee Prison for Women and Belmont University, and author of Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious.

Dr. Megan DeFranza, Ph.D., contributing author to Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations: Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis, and author of Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God (which is listed under recommended reading in InterVarsity’s position paper on Human Sexuality).

Rev. John Flett Ph.D., DTheol.Habil., Associate Professor of Missiology and Intercultural Theology at Pilgrim College/ University of Divinity, and author of Apostolicity: The Ecumenical Question in World Christian Perspective.

Dr. Dwight J. Friesen, D.Min, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, and co-author of The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community.

Sean Gladding, author of The Story of God, The Story of Us and Ten: Words of Life for an Addicted, Compulsive, Cynical, Divided and Worn-out Culture

Dale Hanson Bourke, author of Responding to HIV/AIDS, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Immigration: Tough Questions, Direct Answers.

Rev. Peter Goodwin Heltzel, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology and Director of the Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary and co-author of Faith-rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World.

Christopher L. Heuertz, Founding Partner of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism and author of Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World, co-author of Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission, and contributor to Living Mission: The Vision and Voices of New Friars.

Phileena Heuertz, Founding Partner of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism and author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and contributor to Living Mission: The Vision and Voices of New Friars.

Michael Hidalgo, Lead Pastor, Denver Community Church, Author of Unlost: Being Found by the One We Are Looking For and Changing Faith.

Dr. Daniel White Hodge Ph.D., Director of The Center for Youth Ministry Studies & Associate Professor of Youth Ministry at North Park University and author of The Soul of Hip Hop: Rimbs, Timbs, and a Cultural Theology.

Jon Huckins, Co-Founding Director of Global Immersion and co-author of unnamed, upcoming 2017 IVP book.

Erin Lane, Assistant Program Director for Clergy and People of Faith at the Center for Courage & Renewal and author of Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe.

Andrew Marin, President and Founder of The Marin Foundation and author of the award winning Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.

Dr. Jennifer M. McBride Ph.D., Associate Dean of Doctor of Ministry Programs and Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary and contributor to Christian Political Witness.

Mark Oestreicher, Partner, The Youth Cartel and author of Hopecasting: Finding, Keeping and Sharing the Things Unseen.

Dr. Margaret Kim Peterson Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology and Psychology at Eastern University (St. Davids, PA), co-author of Are You Waiting for “The One?” Cultivating Realistic, Positive Expectations for Christian Marriage, and member of the editorial advisory board for the IVP’s Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology series.

Caryn Rivadeneira, author, Broke: What Financial Desperation Revealed About God’s Abundance.
Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, founder of Faith-rooted Organizing UnNetwork and co-author of Faith-rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World.

Hailey Scandrette, contributor to Belonging and Becoming: Creating a Thriving Family Culture and contributor to Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most.

Lisa Scandrette, Teacher with ReImagine, co author of Belonging and Becoming: Creating a Thriving Family Culture and contributor to Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most.

Mark Scandrette, Founding Director, ReIMAGINE, author of Practicing The Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love, author of Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most, and coauthor of Belonging and Becoming: Creating a Thriving Family Culture.

Christopher Smith, Founding Editor of The Englewood Review of Books, co-author of Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus and author of Reading For The Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish.

Mark Van Steenwyk, Director of the Center for Prophetic Imagination, Co-Founder of the Mennonite Worker and author of The UnKingdom of God: Embracing the Subversive Power of Repentance.

Jer Swigart, Co-Founding Director of Global Immersion, a peacemaking training organization and co-author of unnamed, upcoming 2017 IVP book.

Laura Sumner Truax, Senior Pastor at LaSalle Street Church and author of Undone: When Coming Apart Puts You Back Together

Wendy VanderWal-Gritter Executive Director, New Direction Ministries contributor to Letters to a Future Church: Words of Encouragement and Prophetic Appeals.

Will Vaus, Pastor of Stowe Community Church in Stowe, Vermont and author of Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C.S. Lewis.

Dan White Jr., Co-Planter of Axiom Church Syracuse, New York. Co-author of The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, co-author of Becoming the Answer to our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals and Associate Editor for IVP’s Resources for Reconciliation Series.

Adrianna Wright, former online publicist for InterVarsity Press.

Keri Wyatt Kent, author of God’s Whisper in a Mother’s Chaos: Bringing Peace Home and The Garden of the Soul: Cultivating Your Spiritual Life.

Mark Yaconelli, Executive Director of The Hearth, author of The Gift of Hard Things: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places.
Among the signers is my friend Andrew Marin, formerly of the Marin Foundation. He's been studying for his PhD over in Scotland for the past three or four years and not so much out front when it comes to public conversations about LGBT people and the Church. So it's good to see that he added his name to this list of signers.

Updated on 10/17/16: Jeff Crosby, the publisher at InterVarsity Press (IVP), issued a response to InterVarsity USA's anti-gay purge and the push-back from various writers and authors (listed above).

Here is their statement:
I have spoken with many though not all of the authors who have signed the petition you reference which was sent to Tom Lin, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (not IVP), and have explained there and in a letter to our full author pool that IVP authors are not subject to the theological summary of human sexuality. We recognize that we have authors in our trade and academic lines, writing about subjects other than human sexuality, whose views on that topic vary across a spectrum. I have also communicated to those who added their names to that petition that their inclusion would not impact our desire as a publishing house to work with them on future projects. On both counts, I heard gratitude for that clarity and response.
In other words, IVP will publish a book by someone who affirms LGBT people and relationships, but will fire the editor of that book who privately affirms LGBT people and relationships.

Needless to say, this statement has not placated opponents of the IVCF anti-gay purge.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

R.I.P. Calliope Jane

I've been pretty busy these past couple of weeks with family life transitions. An older gentleman whose cares I'd assisted with over the past three years died after a lengthy illness. Then one of my nephews got married last weekend. And then my father-in-law died last week. I thought that I was finally due to settle back into routine and then life got away from me again.

My cat died tonight. Calliope Jane -- my nearly 18-year-old cat -- slipped once more into illness, leading Husband Mark and I to make the decision to euthanize our beloved cat.

Calliope was a stray kitten, presumably dumped in the country by somebody who didn't want to raise a bunch of kittens. One of my nephews found her stuck in a tree -- trapped by my parents' border collie. They were planning on visiting me that weekend with plans to deliver a deep freeze. My mother called me and told me that they were bringing something else to my home -- a kitten!

I really didn't want a kitten. I'm not a big fan of cats. I warned my mother that I very well might drop this kitten off at the animal shelter. But Calliope quickly won her way into our hearts and into our household.

Calliope was our second pet. She outlasted Moogie and Ms. Lion and she managed to push back against our standard poodle Nero even as she entered her teens and began experiencing poor health. During the past couple of years, Calliope found herself experiencing problems with her kidneys and her tummy. She went on a special diet which actually helped return her spark last year. But this year found her slipping back into decline. 

She struggled with low energy and stamina. She wasn't eating or drinking as much as she needed. Her weight had dropped to five pounds. And her body temperature began dropping about 10 degrees lower than it should be.

So -- fresh off the plane from my father-in-law's funeral -- Mark and I sat in the vet's office, holding her paws and stroking her fur. We whispered loving sentiments and shared favorite memories while Callie's doctor gave her those final shots. Two hours before, we were debating whether or not our plane would make it back to Iowa City in time to pick her up or if we would need to wait until tomorrow morning to bring her home. Within forty minutes of meeting up with her vet, we watched the glow disappear from her eyes.

Rest in peace, Calliope Jane. You are free once again of your aches and pains. Our presence changed our lives for the better. I still can't believe that you're gone.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Like Adult Coloring Books? Tired of This Election? Get Your Copy of DONALD VS HILLARY 2016 COMMEMORATIVE COLORING BOOK!

Speaking of adult coloring books, I recently pledged to a Kickstarter campaign. It was an adult coloring book featuring Paul Kupperberg and Cliff Mott titled DONALD VS HILLARY 2016 COMMEMORATIVE COLORING BOOK:
There has never been a presidential election like this one! Both candidates have higher negatives than any nominee before them! Coverage is non-stop 24/7 on every network and website! Now RELAX and chill out with some humorous, therapeutic coloring books for you to wile away your anxiety! Whether you dislike Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton (or BOTH), you'll get a kick out of these original collectors' edition coloring books created by the comic geniuses Paul Kupperberg and Cliff Mott, creators who had toiled for years at The Weekly World News, Cracked magazine and other humor outlets.
This adult coloring book lampoons both politicians, so don't worry if you prefer one candidate over the other!

Unfortunately, the crowdfunding campaign wasn't successful. Which is sad, because it had some cool incentives! But you can purchase a copy on Amazon or CreateSpace.

So order your copy and get your copy before the Election Day!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Scrappy Goes Vertical in SCOOBY APOCALYPSE #6!

I continue to pick up issues of SCOOBY APOCALYPSE. In case you forgot, this comic book is part of DC Comics' effort to re-imagine the various Hanna-Barbera properties. In this title, Scooby and the Gang are some of the vary few folks not affected by nanites that transformed everyone else into murderous monsters. Oh, and the Scooby Gang all hates each other.

I picked up SCOOBY APOCALYPSE #6 earlier this week, which focuses on Velma -- revealing her origin as an oddball genius who never fit in and emphasizing her role in the creation of the nanites that turned Earth into a Living Hell. Which was interesting.

But I was all about the back-up story in this issue, titled "The Adventures of Scrappy-Doo & the Scrappy Gang." This featured the writing of Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, the artwork of Dale Eaglesham, coloring by Hi-Fi, and lettering by Travis Lanham.

See, in addition to the monster-creating nanites, Velma, the Five, and their shadow organization also experimented on dogs. Scooby was one of these "smartdogs." He's considered a failure because he's not naturally aggressive. But there were other smartdogs and they have managed to escape from the Five's underground lair.

These smartdogs are mostly reverting back to their natural bestial natures at this point in the story, but their leader isn't. I'm talking about Scrappy-Doo! Scrappy may be small, but he's a tough cookie. I've always liked him and haven't quite understood why modern takes on the character insist on making him a rogue villain.

In this short story, Scrappy activates some newly-installed nanotech that was recently installed within him. This nanotech has the ability to morph his bone structure, build up his strength, and enhance his healing factor, among other enhancements. The above image is the end result of this new nanotech!

Which is pretty cool, as his new transformation has made him look much more like his traditional appearances in cartoons and movies.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pat Robertson: I Miss the Days When Christian Students Could Sue Colleges for Coursework Featuring LGBT Content

In light of yesterday's post about InterVarsity USA initiating their purge of staff members who affirm LGBT people, I was frustrated to see this morning's Bring It On segment of "The 700 Club."  The first question had to do with long-term gay couples and Christians' response to them.

Co-Host Terry Meeuwsen shared the following question by a viewer named Charmagne: "My son is a 24-year-old Christian. He just told me that his college art class was shown pictures of gay couples in long-term relationships. My son has to write a report on this. He is shocked, and all he could say it, 'WHAT?!?' I was wondering if he could do something to protect his rights? He shouldn't have to go to school and have to watch that! What do you think his course of action should be?"

Here is Pat's reply:
Pat Robertson: That's tough. You know, in the old day you'd say immediately go to court and say that his rights were being taken away from him. 

Terry Meeuwsen: Yah!

Pat Robertson: Unfortunately, the court has now said that homosexual rights are a constitutionally protected area. So what's he gonna do? I'm afraid that what he's gonna have to do... He could write a report that this wasn't art and expressing why it wasn't good. I think that would be the way to go. But he's in a bind and we're looking in a culture that is just going to pot. It has given itself over to bizarre types of sexuality. And it isn't that people didn't practice these things throughout history. It's just that they didn't get constitutional sanction. I mean, a hundred years ago, this would have been unthinkable.

So what does your son do? I really don't think that he could win a law case. He could drop out of the art class, but he wants to be an artist and that's what they're imposing upon him. You ask me what I would do? I think that's the best way to do it is to see those pictures and criticize why they aren't any good, why they aren't good art and if he's good enough at it, he might get a good grade.

Terry Meeuwsen: You know, he might not be getting an art degree because if you're at a liberal arts college, you have to take an art class anyway. So you know, find another...

Pat Robertson: But you're exposed to these things! Look! That Mapplethorpe, I mean all the awful stuff they were putting it in a museum with taxpayer money. It was just terrible! But that's the way they were doing it!
Keep in mind that this student was upset by a violation of his rights because he was asked to write a report within his art class about a specific art project. And Pat Robertson -- someone who rails against gays and liberals in general using the courts to protect their own rights -- was upset that this student will probably be laughed out of court if he files a lawsuit against his college because of this one paper.

Also, keep in mind that Robertson immediately interpreted a project consisting of "pictures of gay couples in long-term relationships" as "bizarre types of sexuality" and "awful" and associated it with Robert Mapplethorpe's provocative work from the 1980s.

Also, keep in mind that he, Terry, Charmagne, and the student all assume that this is bad art because it consists of "pictures of gay couples in long-term relationships."

Might I suggest that he open his mind to actually analyzing this project and focusing on quality of the technique like he would with any other project? Don't just write a report railing against the project because it features older gay people. Maybe there are problems with these pictures. But at least focus on providing quality critique of this project as opposed to knee-jerk reactions against long-term gay couples.

There are reasons why people believe that there is no place for us within the Church. This is why.

You can watch the entire segment here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

InterVarsity USA Issues Policy that Purges Gay-Affirming Leaders from Its Staff

TIME Magazine broke a story last Thursday about InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA clarifying it's beliefs on human sexuality. Basically, they clarified that their staff will be fired or asked to resign if they personally express an affirming belief on human sexuality, including support for same-sex marriage. The evangelical college organization will begin enforcing this policy effective 11/11/16. People have already begun leaving the organization because of this.

I follow a lot of LGBT Christians who either identify as evangelicals or who come from that heritage. There were a lot of upset people on Twitter that night, concerned that they were being pushed out of the larger Church community by organizations like InterVarsity. Sadly, I've come to accept nothing less. But it doesn't stop me from feeling bad for these folks.

InterVarsity USA issues a series of nonsensical tweets that evening, both denying and defending their beliefs. Basically, they don't have an opinion on civil marriage and they recognize that Christians suck when it comes to LGBT people, but they also believe that LGBT relationships are sinful and some LGBT people agree with them. So they're learning.

Anyway, Greg Jao, the vice president and director of campus engagement for InterVaristy USA, appeared on CBN's "The 700 Club" earlier today to talk about this policy statement. Here is a transcript of most of it:
CBN Woman: Your policy asks InterVarsity staff to self-disclose and leave staff if they disagree with your theological position on sexuality, including opposition to gay marriage. Why is it necessary to ask staff to leave over this particular issue? 

Greg Jao: I think it's important to understand that for us, our position on human sexuality derives from our understanding on the authority of scripture. And that leads us to a particular way to read the scripture and apply it so we're really asking staff to affirm their belief in scripture's authority and how that gets played out in the lives of students and faculty. And obviously if you're doing ministry with university students, talking about sex is important. When we don't have common agreement, it becomes hard for staff to teach with one another. So how do you have a conference about human sexuality when we have disagreeing views on that? You end up asking people to teach what they may not believe. So in the end, it's an issue of inviting all of our staff to reaffirm what we believe on the authority of scripture and how that plays out in human sexuality so that we can engage the university with greater integrity, greater skill, and I hope greater humility. 

CBN Woman: I think some people are confused because in the past the core doctrines when we've thought about them in the faith have surrounded the cross and the person of Jesus. And now are we actually elevating sexuality to a core doctrine? 

Greg Jao: I don't think so. There's two things I want to say there. One, we do think this relates to the authority of scripture and how do we understand scripture so that it is a core doctrine. I think though the unique thing about groups like InterVarsity, our colleagues in other evangelical para-church ministries is that we're constantly engaging students with the issues around human sexuality. They're experiencing it, living it, and struggling with it. And so we want to make sure that, at least from InterVarsity's perspective, that we're providing a clear, consistent message and pointing people to scripture in a clear, consistent way. 

CBN Woman: I know that some people believe that this policy will intimidate and frighten students struggling with their sexuality. How do you go about engaging students in thoughtful conversation about issues around sexuality/gay marriage when a staff person could lose their job over it? 

Greg Jao: First, let's be clear. This has been the expectation we've had for our staff for 75 years. *Chuckles* So I'm hopeful for most people, the InterVarsity they've experienced as a welcoming, challenging, thoughtful place has been true and continues to be true. I think staff actually have told me the more they have studied it, it's made it easier for them to be compassionate, easier for them to confess the sins of the church toward the LGBTQIA community, and more skilled at presenting the gospel in a relevant way. So I remember talking to a student who said it was an InterVarsity that I was first loved and cared for deeply enough that I could finally admit to myself after years of denial that I had same-sex attraction. And it was an InterVarsity that I encountered Jesus and the scripture and gave my life to him. And it's in InterVarsity that I feel I can lay my sexual identity before Jesus and allow him to guide me, which in her case I'm choosing chastity because I believe that's what Jesus calls me to and I'm doing it with joy. So I think when staff are teaching from a clear place they're better able to do the things that we want. And in fact, that's what campus ministers do all the time. We have a clear understanding of the gospel and we clearly invite people to follow Jesus. 

CBN Woman: Wanted to ask you too, many observers believe that Christian organizations like your's must have clearly defined positions on sexuality to protect themselves legally. Has that been part of the thinking for InterVarsity, that you have to protect yourself from future lawsuits by clearly stating your position on sexuality.

Greg Jao: No. Our primary goal been to continually restate the core truths and what scripture teaches to each generation and so because of the confusion in the church and in our culture and because students asked us for clarity, we reiterated what we believe. Worrying about lawsuits is far from the primary thinking at this point. 

CBN Woman: How many staff have left at this point over this issue? 

Greg Jao: As far as I know, at this point very few. Like I said, this has been the position that we've held for over 70 years and it's been our expectation. So I'm not anticipating a lot of people leaving, but we realize that people change over time. So this was a great chance to invite people whose views have changed over time to reassess where they're at. And what we've said to them is we trust your integrity. You're adults. You're people who love Jesus and you know what it means to believe something and then have to teach on it. We hope you'll let us know who you are. Let's work on a way to graciously help you leave staff so you aren't put in a position of teaching something you don't believe and our staff teams aren't conflicted about what we should teach. I hope for most folks it will be a gracious, good way to move forward.

CBN Woman: I know just from following social media that you've taken a lot of flak in the last couple days over all of this. Have you also heard from people who appreciate the stand that you've taken?

Greg Jao: We have. I think what I've appreciated is I've gotten letters and calls from LGBTQ-identifying Christians who said, "This causes me incredible pain and I'm praying for you and have compassion for the flak that you're taking. I'm following Jesus in a life of chastity right now." It's been amazing to hear from them. We've heard from global leaders who said, "Thank you for taking a clear stand in the United States and we stand with you and are praying for you." And we've heard from a number of other ministries and other leaders around the country just saying, "We're holding you in prayer." I don't want to minimize the pain that people are experiencing. It's been real. I actually have been praying for members of the LGBTQI community who've experienced a lot of pain in this moment. But we have received a fair number of people saying, "Praying for you. Holding you up before the Lord." And that's been encouraging.
You can watch the entire segment here.

Let's be clear. I don't care about InterVarsity USA. I have no history with InterVarsity USA. I have no relationship with InterVarsity USA. I have little interest in InterVarsity USA. It doesn't surprise me that they have dug in their toes against gay people, our relationships, our marriages and our families. And I hope that my son never seeks them out when he eventually enrolls in college.

But I do call bull on Greg Jao. I sincerely doubt that Jao has received more than a couple different letters from actually LGBTQ-identifying Christians who don't told him that they are praying for him and oh-by-the-way-I'm-celibate. If he received any such letters, it was likely from adults within the leadership of ex-gay groups who reached out to him with a desire and need to remain relevant in a society that increasingly recognizes that Christianity has little place for or interest in LGBT people.