My kind of tea party

All it took was a pot of tea.

She meant for it to be a relaxed Saturday morning breakfast. She had bought the blueberries at the farmers market the day before and she had a simple muffin recipe. On the ride home from the market, she had told her three year old daughter about the muffins they would make first thing in the morning tomorrow. A fresh muffin is one of life’s simple joys, one she was excited to share with her little girl.

But little girls have minds of their own. Her daughter woke up at 6 in the morning and wanted cereal for breakfast. Too sleepy to argue for the muffins, she poured the cereal for her daughter then put the kettle on for her morning tea. Over the next hour or two the day crept into existence. Laundry was sorted, bills were paid and cats were petted. Slowly she realized that those blueberries were still on the counter. The mix was made, the oven pre-heated and the fresh blueberries were folded into the sticky beige batter.

Aroma filled the kitchen within 15 minutes, and she decided it was time for a second pot of tea. As she pulled the golden topped muffins out of the oven she called her daughter. Ready for a snack? Would you like a fresh muffin? Wash your hands and join me at the table. Her daughter toddled to the bathroom as she set the muffins on a plate. The kettle whistled her attention and she removed it from the heat and refilled the teapot, putting in fresh bags. Her daughter was settling into her place at the table when she brought the tea to the table.

“Are we having a tea party?” she asked.teaparty

No, she thought, this is a typical Saturday morning. The only thing special about it was the fact that there were blueberry muffins. No fancy dresses. No fine china. No important guests. Just her and her daughter.

But isn’t that enough, she thought? Can’t we celebrate a normal Saturday morning? Isn’t this beautiful girl of hers enough of a special guest, staying only for a few decades before leaving? Isn’t this somnambulant morning worthy of a gentle celebration? A simple pleasure. An easy moment. A gentle loving time to be marked for its commonness.

It is what lifetimes are made of.

“Yes. Yes we are. Would you like me to pour?”

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White Privilege

Can I talk about white privilege?

"I'm not privileged! My parents worked hard to send me to law school!"

“I’m not privileged! My parents worked hard to send me to law school!”


I know, I know. With Mike Brown and Eric Garner and the media circus, most of us are tired of talking about race and even more of us hate the idea of white privilege. There are a lot of people who don’t think that white privilege exists, so talking about it usually stirs up some real delicate emotions. I get that. The idea that there is a system in place that makes things easier for white people can make people think you are demeaning the hard work they have done. “I’m not privileged! I had to bust my ass to get my job and you’re telling me I got it easy?!” The term privileged carries images of millionaires and A-list celebrities. Telling a retail worker that she’s privileged when she’s getting $10/hr seems like a slap in the face.

I’m not saying that being white makes your life easy, it’s just that it makes your life easier than those who are not white.

The next thing that happens when discussing race with white people is the “Not my fault” game. “Well, it’s not MY fault! I didn’t own slaves!” “Not all white people think like that!” It’s true, not all white people are like that, and not all black people are saints either. Not all cops are blood thirsty racists and not all judicial systems are broken.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to fix what is broken.

A while ago, I wrote about how liberal Christian congregations need to be just as loud and boisterous about GLBT rights as some Christian claiming congregations are about GLBT oppression. Looking at the actions of the hateful and prejudiced and shrugging your shoulder while muttering, “I’m not like that” isn’t enough. You need to stand up and shout, “That is not right! I believe that there is a place for GLBT citizens within my house of worship!”

That is what is known as “Straight privilege.” It is the privilege of straights to support GLBT people in their time of crisis. To let them know they have someone who is not part of their demographic that believes in, and respects them.

“Male privilege” is when a guy stands up and says, “I know women are mistreated in the workplace and commodified in the media.” It means that he sees that there is something wrong. It doesn’t affect him directly, but he sees the injustice of it.

You know, with that nice yellow shirt, I wonder if he's part of

You know, with that nice yellow shirt, I wonder if he’s part of

If you see a group of black people yelling and chanting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” You going to think, “There they go again! You don’t see this outrage when a white guy gets shot.” It’s just one group who is offended, they are probably overreacting. But if you see a group of black, brown and white people all together for a single cause, it has more weight. It’s no longer just the blacks who are angry, it’s everybody. That’s your privilege, your power. The power of presence, of showing up and saying, “I see what is wrong and I will add my presence to your voice.”

It is your white privilege to go to the marches and stand with our black citizens. It is you privilege to be seen marching with them. Let you face be seen and let their voices be heard.

It’s your privilege to gently and respectfully point out when a friend or colleague says something that is racist why that can be hurtful. It’s your privilege to educate others, especially those who are willing to listen. Don’t waste your breath on the hateful and ossified.

It’s your privilege to look at your own actions and see where your growing areas are. We all have those horrible thoughts once in a while, examine them and try to see where they come from. Don’t beat yourself up for having them, congratulate yourself for finding them and working to minimize them.

As whites we have a lot of privilege. It’s time to take advantage of a few of them in order to help create that heaven on earth that we all want.

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What I really learned my first year in seminary


Mike Hogue talks with Denny Davidoff about JLA

I had the honor of attending the JLA (James Luther Adams) lecture at Meadville Lombard this March and one of the things that really stood out for me were the stories that were told by people who actually knew the man. Apparently, he was always in teacher mode and willing to talk with anyone in the name of forging young minds in the fires of Unitarianism. He sounded like someone I would love to meet.

Until I heard about his family life.

Now, I can’t remember the details, and they seem to be rather hard to find on the internet, but from what I remember, one of his daughters refused to attend his funeral. One of the older members of my church can’t stand JLA because in his opinion, “he threw his family under the bus!” Here is a man who confronted the Nazi’s in the 1930’s, whose Five Smooth Stones of Liberal Religion are a cornerstone of UU identity and was a renowned teacher and theologian, but he couldn’t keep is family.

I had a small photography business for a while. I would do weddings, bridal portraits and family pictures. Most of the time was either behind a camera or in front of a computer editing photographs. I also had a baby girl at that time and while I had a ton of snapshots of her, I had to be coaxed by my mother to get a formal family portrait of us all. “It’s the cobbler’s kids who walk around with holes in their shoes” she would say, meaning that when it’s your job, you don’t want to do it during your few non-working moments. Is this how JLA felt with his family? Was he so focused on spreading the ideals of Unitarianism that he forgot to live it out at home? Did he just take his family for granted?


Me and “The Dude.” He is almost always referred to as, “The Dude” or “Monkey Boy.”

My first year of seminary has been a challenge for me, in many ways. Yes, the classes are academically rigorous. Yes, I am being spiritually and emotionally pushed to grow into the non-anxious presence needed for ministry, but the hardest challenge has been reconciling my ministerial life with family life.

In my previous life (the last twenty years), I worked in food service, retail or customer service. I never brought my work home and I was present for my family when they needed me. I used to do theatre, but when the schedule started to put stresses on my marriage, I decided that the company of actors and the flash of footlights paled in comparison to the company of my wife. The year before seminary, I was a stay at home dad who packed lunches, made dinners, ran errands, did the grocery shopping, cleaned the house and help with homework. I was present for my family. I loved it. They loved it.

I’m not as present for them anymore.


The yellow side is “please knock.” The other side is red and says, “Do not disturb.” I have told my wife that she may knock IF NEEDED, but I have not told the kids that.

I have a sign that I hang on the bedroom door that lets my family know they are not to knock for any reason. It is used when there is a particularly difficult passage that I have to read or write that demands I not be disturbed. No requests for help with Legos or tales of the day’s exploits at school, not until I get through the work I’m doing. It is a literal sign of my non-presence. I have had to make arrangements for sitters for when I need to attend church functions. Meetings that I know are going to become more and more frequent. I’m lucky that I have neighbors who will take the kids until my wife gets home, but there have been a few times when I have drag them with me. Already I am hearing, “do we have to go to church?” That last thing I wanted was for them to think of church as a punishment.

Or are they seeing church as a competitor? A rival? An enemy?

This is the one lesson I have to pass in order to be the minister I want to be. I need to learn how to manage being a father, a husband and a minister without getting lost in any one role. I know a few adult children of ministers that tell me they felt neglected and put aside. What is worse, it seems the more influential and inspirational the minister, the more likely his or her family feels they get the short end of the stick. It keeps me coming back to the same question:

Can one be a really good minister and a really good parent/spouse?

I have to try. I don’t think I have much choice.

So, what to do about it? Well off the top of my head…

1)    Scheduling

Google calendar has been a life saver for me. If my family is doing something, it goes on the calendar. If the church is doing something, it goes on the calendar. Everything goes on the calendar. This way when someone asks, “Can you volunteer at my event?” I can say, “Let me check my calendar?” While my time is not necessarily divvied out on a first-come first-serve basis, it helps me prioritize.

Scheduling includes things like your spiritual practice, family game night, date night and down time. These things are not to be cancelled lightly! They are vital and important, don’t toss them aside to chair another committee that no one else wants to chair.

2)    Boundries

Does that congregant really need your phone number? Do you really want your spouse to be at every service only to be subject to questions about you? Does the welcoming committee keep eyeing your spouse and asking you, “doesn’t your partner want to help us out?” Are you involved with the youth group while your kids are in it?

Your family and your congregation are going to overlap at certain points, but it is up to you and your family to determine just how much that should be. Does your husband prefer going to another congregation where he is not known as “your husband?” Let him. Your family needs to have space to be their own people and not extensions of you. Conversely, the congregation is not your family. Keep visits to the office, public places or hospitals. Visits to your home should be very carefully vetted.


I try communicating with the cat. She will have none of it.

3)    Communication

As a seminarian in his first year, I have had long talks with my wife about my role in my congregation, my duties as a student and my feelings and anxieties. It took me a bit to understand that my wife had a butt-ton of anxieties as well and that I needed to listen to her and find ways to make our ever changing situation work. I know for a fact that this summer, with my Clinical Pastoral Education things are going to get really intense. Once I’m an intern in a congregation, it is going to change again. This is never really going to settle, so our communication needs to be constant, honest and patient.

This includes my kids. My 6 year old might not articulate it in an adult way, but he wants time with me. I need to make time to be Daddy. My daughter is entering the tween years and I need to both be present and give her space. Those times when I am with her, I have to listen closely and let her know she is being heard.

As ministers (in training) we have a lot of ways to get people to open up in our arsenal of communication techniques. We start to develop that wonderful ministerial presence. Do not use it on your family! You are not their minister, you are their parent/partner. They will spot “ministering” and if they are anything like my partner, will call you out on it immediately (and loudly). If they need a minister, find one for them who isn’t you. If they come to you in a crisis, they need you as a partner or parent, not a minister. Know the difference.

So while I really enjoyed learning about the synoptic gospels, compassionate communication, the reformation and all that, the thing I walked away with this year is to remember that I am not the only one in seminary. My whole family is in with me. If I fail a class, I may have to take an extra semester in order to overcome it, but I cannot fail my family.

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Gardening at Night


That’s me. I am apparently carrying and invisible bundle of firewood.

This is a homily I preached during a vespers service at Meadville-Lombard, so it is geared toward seminarians. However, the busy schedule they keep is not exclusive to them alone. It applies to teachers, doctors, mechanics, vets, retail employees and especially parents (including the “stay-at-home and “working” variety). I encourage you to read it, thinking of yourself as one who struggles to find the time, who wonders how much more you have left to give to others, who just wants to rest at night.

March 20th was the vernal equinox, a time when the days become long and all of those high energy ideas that have been dormant in our brains are suddenly seeming more and more plausible. This is a time ripe with opportunity and potential.

This is also the time of year when my wife lingers at the Gardening section at Lowe’s longer than usual. Not long after I get back from classes I’ll find her sitting at the kitchen table with a chart of our front yard, scratching out landscaping ideas. There will be seed catalogues with post it notes and dog eared pages all over the house. After about two weeks of this she’ll turn to me casually out of the blue and say, “I was thinking of giving the garden another shot this year.” Really?


2012’s garden.

We do this dance every year. We make two or three trips to pick up seedlings, top soil, a new tool or two and a vinyl flag. She’ll spend the next four weekends plotting and digging in the dirt, grinning the whole time. Planting season is the one time of year where my wife allows herself to succumb to joy and I love to watch her play in the dirt (from a safe, clean distance). Everything will be great until the temperatures hit the 90’s by 10 am and suddenly spending all day digging in the dirt isn’t such a good idea. By July the garden has dried up or become overgrown and as she passes through the overgrowth on her way to school in September she’ll promise me next year will be different.

That’s summer’s cruel little trick on us. All that daylight and we feel the need to fill it. The days get longer and we want to do more: family vacations, block parties, barbecues, road trips, yard projects, home repairs, we pack in as much as we can into those 15 hours of daylight and finish the day exhausted with only 9 hours to calm our minds and rest our bodies. Those of you with children know how hard it is to get them into bed when the faintest remnants of sunlight are still coming in through their window. “But Daddy! It’s still light out! Do I have to go to bed?” It’s hard for them to see how important rest is while there is still light outside. So when my son pleads with me, I’ll hand him a book, pull up the covers and tell him, “There will be time to play tomorrow, rest now so you have lots of energy to enjoy it.”

As seminarians, I don’t think we actually rest at night. There is always one more book to read, one more homily to write, one more triad call. Always one more thing. We turn on our reading lights and tablets and laptops and extend those day light hours just a little bit more, squeezing a little more energy out of our tired shells.

But we need the night.


Even when she’s asleep, my daughter has questions.

If I send my kids outside to play without a full night’s sleep, I know for a fact that my daughter will get into a fight with her best friend. Her mind and body need time to process all of the excitement of the day and prepare for the next. If she doesn’t get that, the slightest thing will set her off, laughing one minute and crying the next. With all the excitement in those summer days, she needs the calm of the night more than ever.

The equinox is a time of balance, a reminder that the work of the day and the rest of the night should be given equal weight, for we cannot have one without the other. In the lives that have called us, those precious, sweet dark minutes will be few and far between. You will have to fight tooth and nail for some of them and at other times you may have to create that sacred darkness while the sun is shining. And when the sun is at its hottest is when you need those moments the most. They are not just gaps between events, but important events themselves, something to be honored and cherished.

Nine months out of the year, my wife teaches kindergarteners and puts in 12 hour days. Spring planting is her dark escape, her time to relax and do something just for her. This year I’m going to offer a suggestion. When the summer days get too hot, why not tend your garden at night? Get a lantern and just spend 15 minutes each night. Pull some weeds, get out the watering hose, whatever. Make the time, beat the heat and put your day to rest.

I bet that garden will be beautiful.

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Community Service

It’s nice to have a community around you.

My wife has been calling all of our utilities lately, seeing what we can pare down in order to lower our monthly expenses. In the process of doing this, she managed to not only get our cell phone bill lower, but got them to upgrade her four year old phone to a smartphone for free! (That’s right, a lower monthly bill AND my wife gets a smartphone, that’s how good she is!) She has never had a smartphone before, so she was bouncing off the walls with excitement. However, phone shopping is a time consuming process, one that is far from entertaining for a 9 and 6 year old.

God love our community! A neighbor agreed to watch our two minions at his house. We dropped off the kids and spent about 90 minutes getting everything switched. Afterwards we ran to Target and Kohl’s to return a few things. For those of you who have kids, you know what a luxury shopping without them can be.

As we were walking out of Kohl’s my wife spotted one of her students waiting in the breezeway with her mom, her brother, another girl around her age and an infant sibling. I was surprised to see one of my wife’s students in our neighborhood. We live in a upper-middle class suburb about ten miles from her school. It’s a title one school with a large Hispanic population and mom spoke almost no English. Her kids had to translate for us.

The kids were glad to see their teacher outside of the classroom, but the pleasantries soon turned to talk about their father. Apparently he just drove off with a younger woman, stranding them all there. Mom had no way to get home and no phone to call anyone with. Wendy let her make a few calls with her phone but mom was unable to get anyone to pick her up. They were 10 miles from home, on a dark, cold rainy night.

It was a no brainer for us really. My wife drove them home. We didn’t have a baby seat, so there were a few broken highway safety laws, but she got everyone into the car and drove them home. I stayed behind since there was no room for me too. I walked to a nearby McDonalds and got dinner while I waited for my wife to come get me. It was an extra hour or so to our day and it put our neighbor in a bind for a bit (but he was REALLY understanding) but isn’t that what a community is for?

What struck me the most about the situation was the mom’s attitude. Simple resignation, like this happened all the time. I would be outraged if my spouse stranded me for someone else, let alone me and the kids! I was hoping that she would have time to change the locks when she got home.

But then what?

This man was probably the only source of income she had coming into her home. Could she find work on her own? Who would watch her kids? Who would take care of the house? Could she even find a job that would support her and her children? Was she working already and still trying to make ends meet along with her husband’s income? She is stuck.

It is great to be a part of a community that takes care of its own when things get rough. It’s easy to help out when we think of community as the neighbor that looks like us, but our community is so much bigger than that. We have a responsibility to take care of everyone in it. The ones down the street, the ones ten miles away, and the ones ten time zones away.

God love our community.

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Don’t Look Back In Anger

I don’t do resolutions, at least not at New Year’s, they tend fixate on a negative behavior, speaking in terms of “won’t,” “stop” and “quit.” “I will quit smoking.” “I will stop eating when I am stressed.” “I won’t spend all day on Facebook.” At the end of the year many focus on the behaviors they feel should be changed because of the New Year signals a fresh start.

Okay, just one more cat video and THEN I'll work on my spreadsheets

Okay, just one more cat video and THEN I’ll work on my spreadsheets

First of all, every sunrise is a fresh start. Hell, every second is a fresh start. If you want to change, the best moment to do so is the moment you realize that you want to change. Don’t wait! Trying to make a change because others around you are changing is poor motivation. While friends can provide a great accountability network, the drive to change has to come from within you.

Second, resolutions that focus on our poor decisions we made in the past do little good if we don’t understand the motivations behind those decisions. Calling out bad behavior without understanding why you behaved that way is just kicking yourself, which is the least efficient use of one’s feet. Better to use them to move yourself forward.

This year, instead of look back at your shortcomings, I challenge you to look back on what you did right. What were you proud of? What are your moments of triumph in 2013? What made you feel like you were being your best self? These don’t have to be big moments, they can be small everyday victories:

This has helped me a ton this year.

This has helped me a ton this year.

We ate dinner as a family.
I volunteered at food pantry
I packed my lunch for work one week
I surprised my spouse with a gift for no reason
I journaled
I meditated
I prayed

What felt good this year when you look back on it? Can you recreate that? Can you recreate the motivation behind it to do other good things? The emotion that makes you enjoy family dinners may spur you to start a game night. Turn your journaling into poetry or a story. If volunteering once was good, find a group that goes on monthly volunteer actions.

Don’t throw 2013 away. You can’t ever wipe the slate totally clean, so don’t try. Look at the good your past has to offer, find what worked to make you a better person and amplify it. Build on the good that you already have and you’ll find some of those habits that you aren’t too fond of may start to diminish.

Blessed Be, y’all.

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Dear reader,

I am so sorry. I have been away for so long because I have been working on my studies at Meadville-Lombard Theological School. I don’t want you to think that I haven’t been writing. I have, but most of my writing has been academic and not really fit for blog consumption. 

Part of my class work has been volunteering at a city school with a largely Hispanic. This is a very transient group, many working jobs under the table in less than idea conditions in order to survive. You think their kids would be hollow and bitter, but they are just as joyful and vibrant as any over privileged white kid. This is a meditation piece I wrote for a service about one of those kids. I call him Mario, but that is not his real name.

It’s been a little over a month for me at the school and I have met some pretty amazing kids. One of which is Mario, a fifth grader I was tutoring. Mario is big for his age with broad shoulders and a sturdy frame that do very little to hide his gentle nature. In our first meeting, I was able to get a solid 90 minutes of work out of him. He was a little goofy, with a few sparks of stubbornness and a fondness for lunch, something I can definitely relate to. In other words, your average kid.

Mario is the oldest of three with a sister in third grade and a brother in kindergarten. All three of them are witnesses to domestic violence. I don’t know how long it had been going on, who was being abused and how or when their mother got away from it, but I know they all managed to get away. His sister had retreated into herself and his brother was acting out in class, hitting other kids. Mario, not his real name, saw himself as the protector. According to the social worker at the school, Mario was a quiet and distant child. While all three children were eligible for the free coat and shoes program, Mario refused to take any, being distrustful of strangers and their gifts. He had no problem with his siblings getting what they needed.

Mario was also up for the mentorship program.

While discussing some of the details of Mario’s situation, the social worker was unexpectedly called into the front office. A parent had arrived who didn’t speak English and her translation skills were sorely needed and I was left alone in her office. I felt that Mario had reached out to me a bit, he certainly wasn’t quiet and distant. I already had two students on my slate for mentorship, could I make room for a third? I felt I had to! This is what I’m here for. To listen, to share, to show these kids that there are people in the world who care enough to show up.

I would make time.

“Well, I guess that solves that.” The social worker says as she enters her office.


“That was Mario’s mom. She’s pulling him out of school, today is his last day.”

“What? Why?”

“She can’t afford to stay at Southwood anymore. She’s moving out of the school district. I had to translate the paperwork for mom.”

I was stunned.

Stunned that Mario would be gone. That this tenuous connection was broken before it could be solidified.

Stunned that a family that had been through so much, who had run from one bad situation, was forced to run again.

Stunned by the social worker who looked completely resigned to the fact that a child who was getting to a better emotional place was suddenly ripped away. Like this happened all the time.

Stunned because I realized that it did happen all the time.

But I still have two other students to mentor.

And I will show up for them.

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Reflections on My First Day of Convoation

So it’s official now, I’m a seminary student.

I’m sure Dr. Hicks would argue that the class of his I took this summer at Ferry Beach made me a seminary student, but I will very respectfully disagree. Not because I didn’t learn anything in his class, I most certainly did. Not because I have completed the first day of fall convocation in Chicago. Officially meeting my other classmates and all of the members of my incoming class (which shall hitherto be called “my co-hort”) isn’t what sealed the deal. What made is so very real was a piece of plastic with my name on it.

photoMy student ID.

Until then the concept of seminary was intangible. Sure, I had a letter of acceptance and while that is tangible, it doesn’t make me a student, it is simply an acknowledgement that I can choose to be a student. Taking my class over the summer at Ferry Beach was a rigorous academic exercise, but the fact that the class was off campus, coupled with the fact that I had my family with me at Ferry Beach lessened the gravitas quite a bit.

An ID has gravitas. It’s your face, your name and the name of an institution. It is proof of a commitment, a marriage license complete with official seal and penalties for breaking contract. Like a wedding band it is something you wear that shows others you a serious about that commitment.

In one of our workshops today, we were asked to think about “whose love brought us here?” Who influenced, guided, lifted and inspired you to make that leap into seminary. So many people spoke of spouses, children, parents and beloved community members that influenced them in great and small ways. One student however said something that really made me think. She said that she loved herself and that helped to bring her to this important crossroads. She was the only person who put herself in that place of power. Some may mistake this for arrogance or conceit, but in order to make this choice, to live a life of service, there needs to be a certain level of quiet confidence. It is something that many of us are easy to dismiss, especially in a community that is geared to serve others, but that service cannot begin without a solid faith in oneself.

My teaching pastor suggested putting up pictures of people who have inspired me to be where I am. People who have helped me get this far and whose presence will reassure and inspire when things get a little crazy. I think my Meadville Lombard student badge is going to go up there as well. It is a reminder that I was part of making this commitment happen, that I am a driving force, I made this happen. I think I will put it up with a little mantra I’ve been running in my head.

I have a lot to learn
I have a lot to offer
I have a lot

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Don’t Call Me A Geek

I used to be a geek.

This probably surprises very few of you. Anyone who proudly admits a love for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is bound to have some geeky tendencies, but when I say I used to be a geek, I mean old school geek. In middle school I ran the Dungeons & Dragons campaign in my school. I was on yearbook in high school and theatre in college. I was a geek when “geek” was an insult, when geek meant someone who was socially awkward and an outcast. That is not today’s geek.

Today, geek is chic. With the rise of the internet, staying on a computer all day is not only acceptable, it’s desirable. Most of us work in front a computer 8 hours a day, only to return home and log into Facebook or stream movies on Netflix. Events like Comic-Con and Dragon-Con are block buster attractions. Geeks are the focus of one of the most popular comedies currently on network television. They even have their own rappers! Twenty years ago, this was my vision of Utopia. A world where people would no longer be judged by their love of fantasy! A place where you could be valued no matter what your interest. The geek have finally inherited the Earth!

Geeks, I am disappointed.

This is Sasha Trebane. She made this dress. SHE MADE IT! She wowed a ton of people with this craft. What did the geek-boys do? Make fat jokes!  I can't be a part of that culture.

This is Sasha Trebane. She made this dress. SHE MADE IT! She wowed a ton of people with this craft. What did the geek-boys do? Make fat jokes!
I can’t be a part of that culture.

I don’t get it, you fought for so long to be liked for who you were, to tear down prejudices based on dress, pop-culture or other shallow things. Now, you have become what you most feared. How could you let yourselves turn into the oppressors? Don’t believe me? Ask the lady geeks.

Tony Harris said geek girls who co-play aren’t true geeks, but simple attention whores and many male geeks nodded their heads in agreement. You realize that anyone who puts on a costume at any point in time for any reason is an attention whore. I say this as a theatre major who loves Halloween. If I put on a costume I want you to look at me. But so many males think that if a woman wants you to look at her, it’s for sexual reasons, that she can’t just be a fan.

Cos-play aside, woman are treated like a novelty in geek culture. When guys hear the term “girl gamer” they immediately think Bejeweled, Candy Crush and Farmville, but if a woman tells you that she plays Call Of Duty or TF2 guys automatically think, “Oh, does your boyfriend make you play with him?” Right, because women only play games if a man tells them to. Professionally, it gets worse. I have heard of women who dye their naturally blonde hair to mousy brown in order to be taken seriously (or should I say more seriously). It’s assumed that if women are attractive, they can’t be smart. If she’s successful, it’s only because she’s pretty.

Geeks, you were supposed to change the world, you were the chosen ones! You proselytized to each other about looking beyond the surface. Espousing truth, science and logic, championing looking at the situation non-judgmentally. You were rejected in the halls of high school and swore to never do that to anyone else, but as soon as you get a little power, you turn into the bad guy.

So, like I said, I used to be a geek. Back when it meant something. Back when you knew a geek would give you a fair shot to be who you wanted to be without judging, when a geek followed Wheaton’s Law before it had a name.

Your friend Wil

Your friend Wil

For those not familiar with Wheaton’s Law, it refers to a speech given by Wil Wheaton at the Penny Arcade Expo (A.k.a. PAX). He talked about being a geek in the 80’s, when you had to physically go to an arcade to play multiplayer games. You would often be side by side with your opponent instead of miles away like the majority of multi-player games today. He said that if he spoke to his opponents back then like most people speak to their opponents today, he would have repeatedly had his ass beat. His solution to this problem was simple: Don’t be a dick. This is Wheaton’s Law.

In the 80’s geeks were seldom dicks to each other. Sure, we would get a little braggadocious with each other, but often differences were settled on the chess board, the Atari 2600 or among a pile of Gary Gygax books and some dice. We never used the term “geek cred” or belittled the guy who just started getting into stuff as a “noob”.

I can’t call myself a geek anymore, the title is too rude and divisive. As a candidate for the ministry many self-proclaimed geeks reject me out of hand, thinking that anyone who wanted to be a minister must be anti-science, never allowing me a chance to explain exactly how my beliefs respect and admire science. I don’t want to be associated with a group that demeans the women in their culture so easily. I want my old geeks back. I want my old geeks to reclaim geek acceptance, to fight to reinstate Wheaton’s Law. I’d love to get that campaign together.

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Changing Tunes

Bonnie Tyler's head being skewered by a light saber

Bonnie Tyler’s head being skewered by a light saber

I have a confession to make, I can’t stand “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” by Bonnie Tyler.

Go ahead and revoke my official “Child Of The 80’s” card, I deserve it, but please, please don’t play that song again. It was bad enough in 1983, ruining a perfectly good set of tunes on WJET radio by coming in between “Beat It” and “Who Can It Be Now”, but now it enjoys heavy rotation on the “oldies” station. Without fail, it comes on in the 8 minute drive the grocery store stranding me at one of the two stoplights with a chorus of “turn around bright eyes” and I swear that in every other car around me a woman is belting it out at full volume. I am surrounded. Yet despite my hatred for this song, I end up singing it under my breath at least once a week. Is it because of the hook? The eloquent lyrics? The stunning music video? My bet is the that I heard it at least three times a day for the 29 weeks it charted in 1983.

Everyone has that one song that they can’t stand that somehow makes it to the top of the charts. I’m not talking about the song you liked the first dozen times you heard it that got run into the ground. I’m talking about a song that you never liked from day one that the rest of the world decides you get to hear over and over again for a few months. One day, while you are pumping gas or doing the dishes you hear someone humming that song and realize that someone is you.

How the Hell did that happen?

Simple repetition.

Ever see a commercial get played twice in a row? Or twice in the same commercial break? Ever think “Uh-oh! Someone at the station make a mistake!? Surely they didn’t mean to play the same commercial twice in a row” They did, that’s completely intentional. Advertisers know that if you see it twice it will annoy you to no end, but you’ll remember it. The best jingles aren’t the ones with the greatest tune, they’re the ones that repeat the brand name twenty times in a 15 second spot. You don’t have to like the message, if you hear it enough you’ll remember it and once you remember it, you start to believe it.

Repetition makes it real.

Repetition let George Zimmerman go free.


How was anyone scared of Flava-Flav?

For years we have been told that Black Americans are dangerous, especially young males. Take a look at television in the 80’s, you remember the White Shadow? A tough white coach goes into a black school to whip the disrespectful black boys into shape. We didn’t see black people as cultured or smart until Urkel and The Cosby Show. When Hip-Hop started to become mainstream the media focused on songs like Cop Killer giving White alarmists something to point to, ignoring Public Enemy’s cry that 911 Is A Joke. There are no shortages of crime stories in poor black neighborhoods, places where police are actively looking for any suspicious behavior making it clear that they aren’t there to protect you, they are there to protect others from you.

We see and hear these messages every day in small but clear voices. It has come to a point that most of White America doesn’t even realize they are there and if you try to point it out to someone they will either claim that it’s not racism, it’s just a fact (“If black people commit more crimes, shouldn’t they be watched more heavily?”) or that you have Confirmation Bias, the whole time swearing up and down that they aren’t racist, they are just telling it like it is. They hate racisms song, but somehow they still manage to sing the chorus.

So, how do we stop singing this song?

The first thing we need to do is broaden our understanding of what racism is. Fifty years ago racism was pretty clean cut. People were proud to say that they hated Blacks, Hispanics and Italians. Today we are told that such overt racism is taboo and that we need to rebrand our racism as “The War On Crime” or “The War On Drugs”. New York’s stop-and-frisk policy is directed overwhelmingly at young black males, but isn’t considered racist because it’s supposedly rooted in crime. Ask any black male if they have ever been accosted by the police while they were behaving in a perfectly acceptable way. I’m willing to bet that it has happened to them more than once. Racism is still alive, it’s just gone by a different name now. The problem is, as white people, we don’t want to admit that we still are okay with this. We want to insist that this tune went away years ago and we are no longer humming it under our breath.

Turn around bright eyes

Is she trying to get a song out of her head or is she psychically calling for marine back up?

Is she trying to get a song out of her head or is she psychically calling for marine back up?

I found that the best way to get rid of a song that is running around through your head is to listen to a different song. Usually a song that is completely different from when is going through your mind. After I’m done grocery shopping, I get home and I put on some music to get rid of Bonnie Tylor. It might be Elvis Costello, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Kacey Musgraves, or (if the kids aren’t home) Public Enemy. I might have to try a dozen or so different artists and styles before I’m able to exercise that demon, but it’s nice when the song going through my head is one I don’t mind singing out loud.

We need to be able to listen to something different, but unlike putting on your favorite song, what we hear my not be pleasant. Only recently did I learn that most Black parents have to pull their adolescent boys aside and tell them things like this:

*Son most of the people around you are white people. So there is room for some of them to be bad and good and nobody notices the bad ones because they’re all just people. But son you are part of a small group that everybody is always looking at. You don’t have room to be bad or good because everything one of you does becomes something you all do. You don’t have the room to screw up like your friend does.


*Son, the teachers are scared of you. That’s why when you get in a fight and get detention and the other boy doesn’t even though he started it. Because the teacher is already scared of you before you even did anything. When she walks in and you’re rolling around on the floor she already thinks you did it. That’s the way it will ALWAYS be. I’m not saying you can’ fight white boys if they hit you. But you have to know that the teachers already think you’re bad before you do and you will be blamed. This carries on until you’re as old as I am. This is how it is.

These are things we need to hear. We need to understand that there is an entire population in “the land of the free” that lives in fear of the majority of its citizens. We need to understand that this isn’t because Black Americans are lazy or mean or their culture is one of permissive violence, it is because of the world we have created around them. The only way to make this right is to admit that there is something wrong.

And it starts with us changing our tune.

* from Reddit. 

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