Our Sons Deserve Better Than Donald Trump’s Example of “Manhood”

noahmetower

My son is 11 years old; bright and beautiful and fitted with a heart far larger than it has a right to be. He’s that kind of brilliantly alive that only an 11-year old boy can be.

And this year, we let him down.

Donald Trump did.
The GOP did.

The Evangelical Right did.
Much of America did.

I did.

This year, while so many people openly (and rightly) lamented the devastating effect Donald Trump’s disgusting treatment of women (and the inexplicable defending of said treatment) will have upon young girls looking on, we all forgot something: our sons were watching and listening too.

I’m not sure we’ve stopped to think about what kind of young men we’re creating right now.

I don’t know if we’ve considered the collateral damage this is doing within the boys in our collective care. 

I don’t think we can fathom what our sons in a Donald Trump America are likely to grow into:

Men with a dangerous sense of entitlement when it comes to the bodies of women.
Men for whom violent, hateful, objectifying words about women are viewed as normal.
Men who believe that money and power and their penises give them license to do whatever they want with a woman regardless of what she wants.
Men for whom the very idea of consent is unimportant.
Men who believe they will get rewarded for their misogyny and sexism and filth, because they’ve watched it happen.
Men who grow to have no value for the truth.

This week my son asked me what Donald Trump said about women, and I did the best I could to relay it all without using the actual words, because to use the actual words Trump used, would have meant subjecting my son to the kind of explicit, angry vulgarity that isn’t normal and shouldn’t be normal for 11-year old boys—or boys of integrity of any age.

The words about women from a man who is now President, unfit to be repeated by a father to his son. Let that sink in for a minute. 

Trying to find any scenario in which any man talking about grabbing a woman by the genitalia and forcing himself on her physically is at all normal or acceptable, underscores the tragic absurdity of it all. It also illustrates the depths to which we’ve fallen and the sickness which is so pervasive; that our politics now so easily trumps our humanity.

The fact that a man with such a well-documented pattern of misogyny was the GOP representative for the highest office in the country (let alone garnering the support of millions of people who claim faith in Jesus) should be an embarrassment to any self-respecting parent and Christian. We should be sick to our stomachs right now, realizing how poisonous this all is to the hearts and minds of our boys. We should be openly condemning it all, if we had any regard for them and any interest in who they are becoming.

That so many fathers (and mothers) are not doing so, means that maybe Donald Trump is exactly the person to best represent us in the world. Maybe that is how low the bar we’ve set for our young men really is. Maybe the support for Trump is a true measure of the hatred so many men have toward women and the self-loathing too many of those women are afflicted with.

I have better dreams for my son than this.

I want him to know that girls and women are worthy of respect and decency and gentleness.
I want him to know that dehumanizing a woman is never normal; not in a locker room or a frat party or a board room or a bedroom.
I want him to know that another woman’s body is not his jurisdiction.
I want him to know that a woman’s outward no is louder than his internal yes.

I want him to know that there is a huge difference between being a man—and being a gentleman.

I believe my son deserves better than this week. All our sons do.

They deserve far better than a Donald Trump presidency. They deserve a higher definition of what it means to be a man, than an insulting, groping, bragging predator who treats women with complete disregard. 

They deserve a Christianity that isn’t as pliable as the Conservative Right and so many professed believers have made it in order to accommodate their candidate.

They also deserve better than to see adults making excuses for the words Trump has said and the things he’s done. They deserve parents, mentors, and role models who won’t sell their souls to align with a party or retain power.

One day my son will be a man, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to ever worry that he’s not a man who recognizes women as valuable and equal and worthy of respect, and I’m going to shout down all the voices that would speak something different into his ears, even if those voices are of family members, friends, pastors, and Presidential candidates.

Rationalizing sexual assault and violence toward women as just “boys will be boys”, is the best way to ensure that our boys grow-up to become abusive men who have contempt for women and believe that to be what all men do. I refuse to participate in that.

At this point, opposing this kind of language and behavior shouldn’t be seen as a political move—but a human decency move. There shouldn’t be an alternative side to choose here; not if we love our sons and daughters.

Right now my son and millions of other bright and beautiful boys with big hearts and bigger questions are watching and listening to Donald Trump, and to us.

He is failing them.

We can’t afford to.

 

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When Loud Christians Lose Their Voices

silentchristian

I know lots of loud Christians, though these days I am finding too many of them are selectively loud.

They live at a high volume and know no inside voice—but only when it comes to the handful of sins they fancy condemning; those ones that reliably grab the headlines and consistently rally the faithful and generate easy Amens in the pews. Then they commandeer the megaphone and the airwaves with such regularity and relative ease; deftly marshaling their resources of pulpit and platform and political bedfellow, to brandish showy outrage at a failing humanity.

Then their brimstone tirades and finger-wagging crusades become ubiquitous. 

Yet there are times when these perennially loud religious folk suddenly come down with acute moral laryngitis; days when they lose their usual prophetic voices and are rendered conspicuously silent:

When black men die at the hands of police.
When area mosques are vandalized.
When shooters rampage gay clubs.
When Native Americans brave dogs and bulldozers to defend their graves.

When dark-skinned people seek shelter on their shores.
When the Presidential politics of fear come wrapped in stars and stripes and crosses.

In these moments the once ever-present Church suddenly disappears.
The perpetually loud Church says nothing.
The brazenly bold Church goes into hiding.
The freedom-loving Church seems less interested in freedom.
The pro-life Church becomes less passionate about life.
The For God So Loved the world Church shrinks down to the Red States of America Church.

And this silent sermon is preaching loudly to the watching world about what really matters to far too many professed followers of Jesus. It is once again reminding millions of people that there really isn’t that much Good News for them; that the Gospel is a white man’s luxury item.

Where are our timely Sunday sermons? Where is our collective righteous anger? Where is our visible presence on the ground and in the protests? Where are our perpetually zealous pastors and evangelists?

The world hears you, quiet Christians. I hear you. Jesus hears you.  

If you’re pro-life just as long as that life isn’t black or gay or Muslim, you’re not really pro-life, you’re pro straight, white life. You’re pro-babies—as long as those babies grow up to join the NRA and vote Republican.

If your idea of freedom is the kind reserved for only those who look or vote or worship the way you do, it isn’t really freedom you’re burdened with, it’s protecting privileged affinity.

If there is a border of nation or pigmentation or religion around those you feel most called to defend and protect, you’ve made God into your own image and crafted a special-interest Savior who lobbies only for “your kind”.

Because Christian, if as you so rush to proclaim, all lives really do matter to you—then you should be fighting for a whole lot more of them right now. You should be much louder than you are right now. You should be in the streets and at the pulpit and over the airways championing the sanctity of  life; in Tulsa and Charlotte and Aleppo and Pulse. 

You should be so loving the world in a way that more resembles Christ. 

In these moments, organized Christianity will be damned for its silence or redeemed for its volume. It will be proven to either be complicit in the wounds of the world, or it will become the balm that stops the bleeding. It will either look away or it will look into the mirror.

Today we who claim faith will either be a clear resonant voice of equality and justice—or a loud, clanging cymbal of selective, self-serving noise.

But know this, Christian: you are being heard in these days—whether you speak or not.

 

 

Dear Terrorist, You Lose.

holding_hands

I’m really hoping this reaches you.

I’m praying that the global social media network does what it often does so very well: connect people who would otherwise not cross paths.

So if by chance these words happen to be in front of you right now, it will give me great joy to know you’ve received them because I really need to share this news with you.

You can’t win.

Yes, I can imagine at certain times you might begin to believe the lie that you have the upper hand. In the middle of the fresh carnage this is understandable. I confess that in the madness of the moment I sometimes feel that way too. Initially the shock and sadness and loss of life overwhelm me. I briefly allow fear to have the run of my heart and I yield to the chaos—but I always come to my senses and find a peace that once again slows my pulse and steadies my knees.

That’s because almost immediately upon detention of that which you design to destroy, something else kicks in, flying straight in the face of that abject horror —the defiant shared heartbeat of humanity.

It’s that beautiful force that propels people into harm’s way to help strangers, that moves them to the fray to care for others without regard for itself, that finds affinity in another simply because they are hurting—and responds.

This is courage you’ll never know.
It is character you can’t comprehend.
It’s compassion that is counterintuitive to you.
It’s love that is foreign to your heart.

This is why you will always ultimately fail. 

Always.

Every time you seem to succeed, no matter how terrifying the immediate result of your efforts—there is always a coming response from good people which you can’t control or anticipate or destroy. It is not one that meets force with force or hatred with hatred or bloodshed with bloodshed. This would be playing your sickening game.

No, we are a very different army coming against you; a strident show of strength that transcends race or religion or homeland or native tongue.

What we come with is something that cannot be killed or destroyed or chased into the darkness. We come armed with Hope.

And our shared Hope is that glorious Phoenix that will always rise from the toxic, corrosive ashes of the greatest terror you can inflict—and that’s got to really piss you off: to know that the worst you can ever do to us isn’t ever going to be enough to break us.

I’m sorry but this is just that way it is. You are in a losing battle. There isn’t enough ammo and there aren’t enough bombs to change this equation: Our love is greater than your fear.

Yes, we mourn deeply for those who you steal from us, and we grieve the senselessness and the waste and those we love who are taken far too soon. But we refuse to allow this tremendous grief to become kindling for the kind of hatred you wish to ignite in us toward one another. It will only fuel our resolve to be people of peace.

I don’t expect these words to alter your heart, though I wish that could be true. I’m not really sharing them for you at all. I’m sharing them for myself, and for every single member of my global family to remind us all that we are stronger than you.

You see, one of the greatest truths in the history of this planet is that cowards with bombs are never a match for compassionate people with working hearts. 

I’m sorry to break it to you, but these are simply the facts.

Terror never gets the final say.

It may speak first and loudly, but Love always gets the last, beautiful word.

You will never, ever win.

We who love—have already won.

 

White, American, Christian Terrorists Are Still Terrorists… Aren't They?

Bundy

Self-delusion is not an American ideal—or at least it shouldn’t be.

Someone really needs to inform the men hunkered down in a Oregon wildlife preserve that because it seems they missed the memo.

The standoff isn’t about good men being courageous in the face of evil.
It isn’t about righting a wrong.
It isn’t about standing up to a corrupt government.
It isn’t about defending the freedoms our country was built upon or about championing the Constitution.
It’s not an accurate reflection of Jesus either.

This is grown men angry playing dress-up.
This is weekend warrior fantasizing, using live ammo.
It’s a Wild West daydream come to life in a way that only white men could get away with.
It is petulance and tough guy bullying wrapped in nationalism and covered with the flag.

All of the threats and the taunts to the President and the “cold dead hand” posturing of these men reveal the truth. What we have here is little more than a bunch of dudes doing Civil War reenactments on Saturday afternoons, only the war they’re commemorating is the one they’re trying to create. It’s a future hero story they’re dying to write for themselves, and so they stand in the town square now with their hands at their sides amid bouncing tumbleweeds and swinging saloon doors, hoping for a chance to draw their weapons, take out the bad guys, and ride off both virtuous and victorious.

If these gentlemen were truly interested in confronting the Government and in speaking truth to Power and in defending innocent, marginalized people against unmerited violence, they would have already assembled months ago in Ferguson or Baltimore or Cleveland to say that black lives really do matter—but that is not the agenda here.

These men aren’t about justice, they’re about preference. The only thing they’re truly interested in defending is their own fragile sense of comfort and control.

The sad truth is that if a group of black folks or Muslims or gays or Latinos pulled anything like this, these very men would be the ones most loudly, vehemently, and continually calling for bombs and airstrikes and decisive police intervention.

This is about spoiled caucasian guys who believe they are above the law and beyond reproach and that they get to make the rules whenever they want to, simply because that has so often been their American reality.

This is a manufactured battle with Freedom of the highest order and we need to say it. That is the true beauty of this country: that we get to call BS on stuff that stinks, wherever it comes from and whoever doesn’t want to hear it. This does.

The Bundy Militia is what happens when your desired victim narrative doesn’t become reality.

You see, if you keep on screaming that the sky is falling long enough without it actually falling, you take matters into your own hands and try to bring it down yourself. (In this case you threaten to shoot it down from a Federal building bunker).

When all of the oppression you’ve predicted doesn’t come to pass, you need to invite or generate some or you can’t live in that fantasy anymore.

It’s sad that in a time when people of color, when Muslims, when the LGBTQ community still face a daunting, daily battle just to get some semblance of civil equality in this country, their efforts to do so (even peaceful, legal endeavors) are treated as contemptible troublemaking.

But perhaps the saddest thing about Ammon Bundy and his defiant posse of self-appointed patriots, is that some will blindly paint them as the national heroes and would-be martyrs they so desire to be, instead of calling them what they are: home-grown terrorists.

They are ISIS with Levi’s; equally dangerous, just as insidious, but with different costumes and more familiar accents and shorter commutes. They are still a growing danger to the vast majority of decent Americans who live well outside of their volatile extremism and who want no part of it.

Thankfully many good people see through it all for what it is.

We see that there is nothing noble about a group of paranoid, privileged white guys with gunlust and a power jones, trying to force their self-fulfilling prophecy of their own persecution and oppression.

We know that there is nothing worth applauding when already powerful people make a stand for even more power, or when they champion only the most narrow and selective brand of justice; the kind that serves them exclusively.

We recognize that there is nothing Godly or Christlike in aggression that so desires a fight enough to incite one, and that the heart of Christianity isn’t a brazen, armed standoff but a sacrificial lifestyle of humility and compassion.

Friends, there are all kinds of good, decent, courageous hardworking people out there to aspire to and look toward. They are parents and teachers and police officers and social workers and ministers and sales clerks and waiters; ordinary people getting up every day and doing their best to live and love well and to be a productive part of the global community.

There are all sorts of folks to emulate and celebrate and support with your passion and your words and your dollars right now. This may not be a good place to find them.

Any violence assaults all of us.

Don’t glorify terrorists, no matter where they live or what color they are or what language they speak.