Helping the last become first…


The last statistic I read showed that there were about 650,000 homeless people in America.

You could build them all tiny homes. Now costs vary, but for our purposes, we could use $15,000 as a good marker. Get you a loft bed, a tiny kitchen, maybe a pullout bed, and a bathroom. Doing the math, construction would cost 9.75 billion dollars. Factor in some land costs, let’s say 25-35 billion dollars as an initial one time investment.

Now we’ve got enough homes to house folks. But we have to keep them there.

For poor families, it’s not a problem. We’ll let them rent to own and not charge them interest. Let them pay 20% of their income a month back to the government to buy their homes in full.

For folks with drug problems and mental health problems, we’re going to need to invest in community centers and clinics to help them manage or overcome their addictions and get them any psychiatric help they need. So we’ll need to spend initial construction costs on those buildings, plus an annual investment in social workers and doctors.

Let’s say 1.5 million to build a community center in our tiny house neighborhood.  Another 1.5 to build our clinics. Now our homeless population is going to be spread out. So we’ll need to account for that. Let’s say we’ll need 500 of each. That would be another 1.5 billion dollars. Throw in land costs and we can probably bump that up to 20 billion, just to be conservative.

So far, we’ve had one major investment in America for the total of 45-55 billion dollars. That’s less than ten percent of the annual Defense budget and it’s only for one year and we will slowly recoup some of that money as poor families pay their rent to own fees monthly.

Now we’ll need to staff them. So we’re probably looking at another 10-20 billion in annual costs to start. There are also maintenance fees, but we can save costs there by hiring able bodies community members to do basic maintenance and earn money and credit towards purchasing your own house too.

We can plan public transportation routes near these tiny home communities to allow folks to travel into other neighborhoods where they can spend some of the money they’ve earned, we can build small parks, provide Wi-Fi to the community, plan spaces for community gardens, and have a farmer’s market. None of this would cost that much.

We can hire local artists to paint murals or decorate houses. Have the community centers hold job training, ESL, and basic financial classes.

Like I said, as a one-time outlay we could probably do all of this and more with 10% of the Pentagon budget for one year and maintain it for 40-60% of that cost annually. I don’t know for sure, I would have to have some professional accountants run the exact numbers. Right now, we’re just guestimating.

But that wouldn’t be that much to pay to end homelessness and bring a better life to those 650,000 people, would it? I don’t think so. We’d still be outspending the rest of the world on “defense” by an obscene amount.

But we won’t do that. Because of people who view poverty as a moral failing. Judgmental people who have never had to skip a meal or delay paying a bill or dig through couches to find loose change to go buy ramen because their job doesn’t pay them enough. Or maybe they have. And instead of letting that experience soften their hearts they get angry and they think, “I had to pull myself up. Why should I give them a hand? Why should I pay to give them a break? No one did that for me.”

Maybe you’re right.  Maybe no one did that for you. Maybe your family couldn’t. Maybe your friends didn’t.

But don’t you wish they had? Wouldn’t you have wanted someone… anyone… to come by in the lowest moment of your life and offer you their hand?

Instead of being the Christian who would scream, “It’s not fair!” maybe we could be the kind of people who rejoice that we’re helping the last become the first and giving people a chance to live better. Maybe not all of them would. But some would. And aren’t they worth it?

We’d be doing the work of the Kingdom of Heaven.

But I don’t think we will. Instead, I think a lot of people… a lot of Christians would be pouting on the sidelines complaining about their tax dollars going to Those people.

We could do nice things. We just don’t want to.

Advertisements

The lessons the church has taught me…


I grew up in a church. I’ve been in one most of my life. I went to a bible college to become a pastor.

In all that time, I was given one message about God, all the while, another message was being taught to me by the actions of Christians in general and Evangelicals in particular. So I’d like to review the lessons I’ve learned.

You’ve taught me that God is more concerned with a fetus that isn’t even an inch long yet and cannot feel or think than he is with a classroom full of children who get murdered by a gun.

You’ve taught me that God thinks I’m a moral monster because if I were given the choice between saving my two children or 1,000 embryos from a fire, I would always choose my children. Always.

You’ve taught me that God thinks that character counts unless you’re a Republican who can give you something you want.

You’ve taught me that God cares more about the reputation of His church and institutions than he does about the victims of rape and sexual abuse.

You’ve taught me that God blames the victim.

Again, you’ve taught me that God cares more for the fetus that cannot think or feel yet, than he does for the rape victim who He wants to carry that fetus to term.

You’ve taught me that trying to provide health care to those without it (i.e. heal the sick) is Satanic and allowing for profit companies to charge people out of health care is God’s will.

You’ve taught me that God doesn’t want us to use the government to care for the poor, but he does want us to use the government to take care of and cater to the needs of the wealthy.

You’ve taught me that God doesn’t care about the refugees and he would just as soon prefer that they go back to their own countries and die out of the sight of the godly.

You’ve taught me that God hates the LGBTQ. I know you don’t like to say it any more. But it is what you taught me when you called AIDS a gay disease and cited Romans 1 to prove that AIDS was the penalty they deserved that they received in their bodies. You continued to teach it to me by telling me that they deserved hell for loving the “wrong” person. That they chose to be gay. That maybe they didn’t, but God was demanding that they live a life of constant struggle and denial of basic humanity. You continued to scream “God hates fags” as you sought to change religious liberty into a license to discriminate whether it was in baking someone a cake or letting them provide a home to foster children or adoptable children.

You taught me that God will judge America for accepting gay people and for abortion, but are remarkably silent about gun violence, our treatment of the poor, refugees, systemic racism, our unjust wars, and our past history of slavery and genocide.

You taught me that God thought slavery was a good thing because it meant that Africans were exposed to the gospel.

You taught me that God approved of the genocide of the Native Americans was a good thing because without it, America would not have come to be.

You taught me that God thinks black lives do not matter and he thinks that unarmed black men should be gunned down because they looked scary or smoked marijuana once.

You’ve taught me that God destroys towns and kills people with natural disasters but saves crosses and bibles.

You’ve taught me that God thinks America is the greatest nation on Earth and is above all other nations and peoples.

You’ve taught me that God elevated Europeans as the preeminent example of man with Christianity and “civilization”.

You’ve taught me that God thinks it’s taking His name in vain when I curse with “Jesus Christ” or “God damn it”, but He wants “In God we Trust” put on the money and the schools of a nation that floods the Earth with guns, engages in unjust wars, supports and gives aid to genocide in Yemen, and funds drug cartels and violent gangs in Central America.

You’ve taught me that God thinks bad words are four letter curses, but God ignores or approves of the things you say about one another outside of church.

You’ve taught me that God is a free market capitalist and any attempt to make the system more equitable or humane is godless socialism.

You’ve taught me that God sees a happily married man who raised two daughters and remained faithful to his wife as a foreigner and apostate, but God approves and chose a serial adulterer who raised children as corrupt, selfish, and greedy as himself.

You’ve taught me that God is okay with denigrating women and using and abusing their bodies for my personal gratification, so long as I’m in a position where I can give you something you want.

You’ve taught me that God created seven billion unique individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses, their own unique genetic code, their own hopes and dreams and aspirations, and then God told them that they have to act in exactly one of two ways based entirely on their genitalia.

You’ve taught me that the church of God is just another corrupt and morally vacant political lobby.

Is it any wonder I despise your god?

“Receiving Jesus…”


What if “receiving Jesus” isn’t some esoteric spiritual event or saying some magic prayer words?

What if it is receiving the homeless guy into your house for dinner?

What if it is helping the sick get care?

What if it means writing a prisoner and listening to them?

What if it means giving a shoulder to someone who needs to cry?

What if it means caring about the stranger in my country who needs my help?

What if it means welcoming the refugee?

What if it means standing against injustice and facing the consequences?

What if it means standing with the “sinners” against the religious?

What if it means standing between the adulteress and the religious mob that wants to stone her?

What if it means receiving the outcasts from your culture and walking them down the aisle at their weddings when their family refuses to do it?

What if it means the giving of hospitality by calling someone the name they’ve chosen or the pronouns they prefer and letting them use the restroom in peace?

What if Jesus isn’t some nebulous unseen Thing out there that you know from a book, but is the person you’re sitting next to on the train? Or the person sleeping in front of a store? Or the addict who hates his addiction, but feels trapped?

I think I’d like the sort of world where we all were taught to receive Jesus like that.

The Book of Mormon – 1 Nephi – And it came to pass edition…


Book of Mormon – 1 Nephi 1

Hello, my name’s Nephi and I come from good parents and I’m as learned as any 6 BCE century Jew could be. I’m writing this account down in a language no one’s heard of, but is totes not made up.

And it came to pass during the reign of King Zedekiah, a bunch of prophets showed up in Jerusalem and said, “Knock off all the idolatry or God’s going to fuck your shit up.”

And it came to pass that my father was walking around praying to God. And it came to pass that he saw a pillar of fire and it talked to him and he was afraid.

And it came to pass that he went home. And it came to pass that he went to bed and saw heaven. An it came to pass that an angel gave him a book and said, “Read it.”

And it came to pass that dad was filled with the Holy Spirit and saw that the book said Jerusalem would be destroyed. Now, I Nephi, am not going to tell you what the book from the angel said. My dad wrote that shit down somewhere. I’m going to write different stories on plates that I made.

And it came to pass that dad tried to warn the Jews about angry God.

And it came to pass that the Jews mocked dad. And it came to pass that the Jews wanted to murder dad.

And it came to pass that God spoke to dad in a dream and said, “Good job relaying my instructions to the people, but they want to kill you now.”

And it came to pass that God told dad to take his entire family and head out into the desert.

And it came to pass that dad listened to God.

And it came to pass that dad and his family left home where all their stuff was.

And it came to pass that after three days, they sound some water, so they made camp there.

And it came to pass that he called this river Laman. Because no one had previously ever found this river in the desert and named it before so that dad would know its name already.

And it came to pass that when dad saw the river emptying into the Red Sea, he told his oldest sons Laman and Lemuel, “Boy, I wish you guys didn’t suck.”

Now it came to pass that he said this because his two eldest sons were bitching about leaving behind their homes, their money, and all their stuff to follow their crazy dad out into the desert.

And it came to pass that when dad had a talk with them, the two eldest sons shut up and obeyed him.

And it came to pass that being a super spiritual kid, I asked God to show himself to me and he did, so I was a good son and obeyed my father, unlike my two elder brothers.

And it came to pass that I told Sam about all this shit and Sam believed me. Who is Sam? Fuck you, you should know already.

And it came to pass that God spoke to me and said, “Dude, you’re awesome, but your brothers suck and I’m totes gonna curse them.”

And it came to pass that I went home to my tent. And it came to pass that my dad said to me, “Hey, God wanted me to tell you and the other sons to go back to Jerusalem and get the brass plates that Laban has in his house that are a record of the Jews and have my family genealogy in them.”

And it came to pass that I said, “Seriously? Why didn’t God tell us to take those before we left?”

And it came to pass that he said, “I don’t know. Joseph Smith is making this up as he goes along.”

And it came to pass that I said, “Sure, I’ll go get the plates.”

And it came to pass that he said, “Dude, you’re a good son.”

And it came to pass that we went to Jerusalem. And it came to pass that went to Laban’s house. And it came to pass that we played dice to decide who would go to Laban and ask for the plates back.

And it came to pass that Laman drew the short straw. And it came to pass that he went to Labam’s house and asked for them.

And it came to pass that Laban was angry for unexplained reasons and called Laman a robber and threatened to kill him. So Laman ran and told his brothers what had happened.

And it came to pass that we were all bummed out about it and my brothers wanted to go home.

And it came to pass that I said, “No, let’s try again to do the thing our dad said God had commanded us to do.

And it came to pass that we went back to our father’s house and gathered up our nice stuff and our money.

And it came to pass that we went back to Laban’s house and made a nice offer on the brass plates.

And it came to pass that Laban had his slaves rob us.

And it came to pass that we hid in a cave.

And it came to pass that my older brothers were pissed off and started beating me with a rod.

And it came to pass that as they beat me with a rod, an angel showed up and said, “Stop hitting your brother.”

And they said, “Lo, seeth how he keeps hitting himself? Stop hitting yourself, Nephi. Stop hitting yourself.”

And it came to pass that the angel said, “ENOUGH! Go back to Jerusalem. This time it’ll work.”

And it came to pass that the angel left.

And it came to pass that my brothers said, “Dude, how are we going to beat Laban? He’s got fifty men.”

And it came to pass that I said, “God can beat up Laban for us! Let’s go!”

So it came to pass that we went back to Jerusalem…

My book


Are you a fan of my writing so far?

Do you find my model of giving away content for free to be oddly charming?

Would you like to pay for that content instead?

Well, here is your chance.

For just the cost of a latte, you could own the license to read a collection of short stories that I’ve already published here for free.

I know, it’s an odd business model, but I’m hoping it will work.

If you’re not up for throwing a few bucks my way, please leave an honest review of my work if you’ve enjoyed it… or I suppose if you haven’t.

Sunny Falls, Part 2


Bill Roach was the next one I noticed.

Old Bill used to run the local theater. His father opened it in 1939.  Saw my first movie there. Had my first kiss with Sally Gordon there watching Sixteen Candles. Bill had recently retired and handed the business off to his son Bruce.

I was out on a morning patrol and found him wandering down the highway in nothing but his boxer shorts. I flashed my lights at him, but he didn’t even look at me. So I pulled up next to him, rolled down my window and tried to talk some sense into him.

“Bill,” I said.

He continued to shuffle forward. Figured maybe he’s sleep walking, I’d wake him up and take him home. So I hit the siren, just enough to shock him awake. But he kept shuffling.

I pulled the car over, got out, and grabbed him by the shoulder.

“Bill!” I said.

He turned around and gave me the most vacant stare I’ve ever seen.

“It ain’t right,” he said.

“Bill? You awake?”

“It ain’t right, Sheriff,” he mumbled.

He tried to turn around again, but I held on to his shoulder.

“No, Bill, it ain’t right for you to be out on the street in your underwear.”

“It ain’t right. Not right at all.”

“Why don’t you come with me? I’ll take you home. Have Sarah make you some eggs. Have you eaten?”

He just stared at me. “Not right. It’s not right!”

He was starting to get agitated, so I let go of him.

“Okay, Bill. You’re right. It ain’t right.”

“You can feel it too?”

“Yeah, I can feel it. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll go to your house and figure it out together?”

He stared at me and then shuffled to my car.

“Why don’t you take the backseat, Bill.”

I helped him into the back and closed the door behind him.

“It ain’t right, Sheriff,” he said.

“No, Bill, I don’t suppose it is.”

I took him home to his wife Sarah. Sweet lady. Baked the best apple pies in the county. She was grateful to see him. She gave him one of his pills and got him back into bed.

“You sure you don’t want me to take him to the hospital, Sarah?”

“No, no. That wouldn’t do. I imagine he just forgot to take his medication.”

“You ever see him do something like this before?”

“No, not like this,” she said. “A few senior moments is all, Martin. We’ve been married 40 years and he never sleepwalked in all that time. But we are getting on in years. Things change.”

“Well, keep an eye on him, Sarah. It’s getting cold out and he’s liable to freeze himself solid if he keeps going out in his skivvies.”

“I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again, Martin. Thank you for bringing him home.”

I noticed her wince a little.

“You okay, Sarah?” I asked.

“Yeah. Just got this headache. Doesn’t seem to be going away. Maybe I need more rest too.”

“Maybe you should get it checked out?”

“Oh, it’s just a headache, dear. I’ve had worse. You want to talk to Bill when he comes around?”

“Yeah. Just call the station and Emma will let me know to come by.”

“I like her, Martin. You two would be good together.”

“Don’t go there, Sarah. I can hear the old ladies chattering in church now.”

“You need someone to look after you, Martin.”

“I do fine alright by myself, thanks,” I said. “You take care. And if you need me to give you or Bill a drive to the hospital, you let me know.”

“Thank you, dear.”

After Mary Murphy, I confess I was more than a little worried about Bill. He was a good guy with a sharp mind and nothing at all like the man walking blankly down the highway in his boxer shorts this morning. But before I could think much more of it, I got a call from Emma.

“Sheriff.”

“Emma. Something happening?”

“Got a call from Matt at the, uh… “Botanical” store. Group of teens getting rowdy after he turned them away. Says now they’re standing outside, screaming at him and hitting the door and windows.”

“Hell. Alright, tell him I’m on my way.”

Yeah, we got one of “those” stores here ever since the government legalized it. Matt moved up from down south and opened up shop here. He’s a good kid. Keeps the teenagers out, as he should. Pays his taxes. Most of us accept his services here. Some like to complain and bitch and moan about it, but then their backs go out and they’re down there hitting him up. Hypocrites.

I drove up and pulled into the parking lot. Andy Schaffer and four other boys from the high school were pressed up against the door and windows. They were screaming obscenities and slapping the glass.

“We will get a fucking brick, you fucking asshole!” Andy screamed.

One of the boys finally noticed my car and signaled the rest. They all turned around and glared at me. I could see why Matt called. I’m armed and I didn’t feel comfortable getting out of my car with the looks they were giving me. Their eyes… there was something there… never seen it before, but I knew what it was.

Pure hatred.

But I got out of my car anyway. I had a job to do.

“Alright, boys, break it up. You are disturbing the peace. And what the hell are you even doing here? Don’t you have class?”

“We’re fucking tired of that fucking school,” Andy said.

“Tired of being told what we can and can’t do!” another boy, Chip, I think, said.

“Now settle down,” I said. “Now, if you boys apologize to Matt and get your asses back to class, I won’t have to bring your parents in.”

“And if we don’t?” Andy snarled. “What if we said, ‘Fuck you, pig!’?”

I let my hand drop to my baton and tried to sound braver than I felt. I could take two… maybe three of them… but not five.

“Then we’re gonna have a problem, Andy? Do you really want your mom to see you acting like this?”

The five kids seethed. I could tell they didn’t really care what their mamas thought of them right now.

“You want your dad to know about this?” I said.

That, at least, seemed to get Andy. He was still glaring at me, but he turned his head to the door and shouted, “Sorry, Matt!” with all the sincerity of a rattlesnake apologizing after it bit ya.

“Good,” I said. “Now get the hell out of here.”

“Whatever,” he said. “Come on.”

He walked toward his van and the others slowly followed him.

“And Andy?”

“What?”

“Son, I’ll know if you don’t go back to class. If you don’t go, I will be very unhappy. If you cause trouble for your teachers, I will be extremely unhappy. And if you ever pull shit like this again, son, there won’t be a second warning.”

“No,” he said. “There won’t.”

The kid slammed his van door shut, waited for the others to get in, and peeled out of the parking lot in the general direction of the school. I watched them until they made their next turn, then headed to check on Matt.

“Matt,” I said. “They’re gone. Open up.”

It was a minute before I saw Matt’s short frame pop up from behind the counter. He was a little fella with a small build, a patch of dark wiry hair on his head, and a hipster beard. He unlocked the door and let me into his shop.

“Oh, thank God, you’re here, Sheriff,” he said.

“Matt. What happened?”

“You saw ‘em. The kids tried to come in here. You know I don’t allow that.”

“I know,” I said.

“I don’t serve kids. You have to be eighteen.”

“Matt, I know. What set ‘em off?”

“I told them that they needed to leave. Then the leader-“

“Andy.”

“Yeah, Andy got mad. He demanded that I give them some product. I told them, “No.” and if they didn’t get out, I’d call the Sheriff. Jesus, Sheriff, I thought he was gonna kill me. He shoved me and that’s when I got my gun out. He didn’t like that, but they all got out of my store. I thought that was gonna be it, but they just kept standing there, staring at me. So I locked the door and called you. And that really set them off. They were banging on the windows, hitting the door. I thought I was gonna have to shoot ‘em.”

“Well, they’re gone now, Matt. Do you want to press charges?”

Matt shook his head. “Just… please, keep them away from here.”

“Alright, I’ll have a talk with them after they’ve calmed down a bit and let ‘em know that they aren’t welcome here.”

“Thank you, Sheriff.”

The rest of the afternoon was unusually busy. Had to stop an altercation between two drivers, ended up arresting one of them for throwing a punch at me. After that, it was a domestic violence call. After that, couple groups of kids screaming and shoving each other at the town’s drive thru. After that… well, it all sort of blurred together.

“Whole damn town seems to have a burr up its butt, Emma.”

“Full moon coming,” she said.

“Well, I hope it’s that simple,” I said. “I can’t recall the last time I’ve ever had both jail cells filled.”

“I’m sure it’ll die down soon, Sheriff,” she said.

“Hope so, because I don’t have any more room to put ‘em, if it don’t.”

I meant to call Bill and Sarah, but I suddenly had a lot of paperwork to fill out and it slipped my mind. Didn’t think of ‘em again until I got a call a couple days later. Neighbors heard a woman shouting and crying. I tried calling, but there was no answer, so I got in the squad car and sped over to the Roaches’ house.

I knocked, but no one answered.

“Blil! Sarah! Everything okay?”

I knocked harder.

Then I heard the scream. A guttural, primal scream that nearly stopped my heart.  I kicked the door open and I almost wish I hadn’t.

Sarah was smashing her face against a wall. Blood was everywhere. There were holes in the walls. Blood splatters on the walls.Blood on the floor. I was in shock. I didn’t even move until she slammed her head one more time into the wall and fell down limp onto the ground.

I ran over to her. I turned her over and… Jesus, her face… I… how was she still alive?

There wasn’t much left to her face. It was more like something you’d find in a butcher’s case than a human face. I almost gagged, but I had the mind to at least call for help on my radio.

“Emma! Get an ambulance to the Roach house! Now!”

What was left of Sarah Roach gasped and wheezed through all of her blood. Her breathing was shallow and I didn’t expect her to last until the ambulance arrived. I was right. She died. But not before she wheezed out some last words to me.

“Make it go away…”

As to Bill Roach, he was sitting in his recliner, rocking back and forth in his own filth, staring straight ahead at the wall. He didn’t even notice what his wife was doing.  Didn’t try to stop her. Didn’t do anything. He just sat there. In his own world. I had him committed. His son eventually agreed. There wasn’t much of a choice to the matter. He couldn’t take care of himself and Bruce didn’t have the money to hire a nurse to watch him.

So they came to take him to an institution. As they hauled him away, his last words to me were, “It ain’t right…”

Old Bill was right. Things weren’t right. They still aren’t.

They’re worse.

The Book of Mormon – Forward and Preface


Well, hell, I guess it’s time to crack open another holy book.

I’ve decided to go with The Book of Mormon. And not just any Book of Mormon, but the first edition which the LDS church has kindly made available online, which was pretty nice of them all things considered.

Okay, let’s start off with the forward, which, hey, this holy book has a forward. That’s new. Almost like Joe was following the conventions of modern literature.

The forward says that this book was written by Mormon who used the plates of Nephi to write this account of the people of Nephi and the Lamanites, who are all totes Jews, and it’s for both Jews and Gentiles and was totally inspired by God, guys. Promise.

This is also a record of the people of Jared who was at the tower of Babel, to show the Jews that God still loves them and Jesus is the Messiah.

Also, if you find any contradictions or mistakes, that was my bad, not God’s. So don’t throw out the entire book just because you find some bullshit.

I do have to admit. I respect Joseph Smith a little more now. The guy knew how to play his mark.

The next page is a copyright page where the clerk working at the office says that Joe dropped off this book and claimed it was the history of the Nephites, the Lamanites, and Jared.

The next page is the Preface.

Here Joseph Smith says that he would like to clear some things up since there are a lot of “liars” out there who think he pulled all of this out of his “ass”.  He totally did not.

You see, he had translated about 116 pages from the book of Lehi, but someone stole the translated pages. In reality, Smith’s patron Martin Harris got skeptical of Smith’s translation and asked to see the plates that Smith was supposedly translating from. Smith refused, but ultimately agreed to let Harris take the translated pages and show it to five family members. Harris took it. He locked it in his wife’s bureau and it went missing.

Obviously, this is a problem. If Smith was really a prophet from God who was translating actual golden plates with an actual ancient language written on them, then it shouldn’t be a problem for him to dictate out the translation to Harris again for the missing 116 plates. If he couldn’t do it or the accounts didn’t match, then that would be proof that Smith was a liar and a fraud.

Of course, Smith, for all of his faults, was not a fool. So he said that he could translate the original again, but God forbade him from doing so because Satan had told wicked men to alter his original translation so that there would be contradictions and people wouldn’t believe him. So Smith said, he went back to translate stuff he hadn’t translated yet, and then God showed him the same events he originally translated, but from a different source account. Thus any contradictions or obvious lies were the result of two different accounts.

Like I said, gotta have a little respect for Joe’s skills here.