Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

So the contest to review some of my short fiction came to a close this past Friday at midnight, and the winner of the random drawing is Erica Higgins, who left a very kind review of my horror story, Hidden House.

Erica will receive a $25 Amazon gift card, and I’ll make fun of her on Facebook and/or Twitter.

I appreciate everyone who reviewed a story. Whether you left a five-star, four-star, or one-star review, ALL of your feedback was immensely gratifying for me, just because writers don’t craft stories in an echo chamber. Or at least we hope not. Having those stories read by other people is the aim of publishing.

Thus far, a little more than 3,200 people have read my stories on Smashwords, and the stories are generally getting good reviews there. That’s not best-seller range, but I know a lot of writers who, well, they wouldn’t kill for that kind of audience, but they might maim someone.

Now, I’ve got a mean little story about a carload of killers to work on. See you later.

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My Jesus Moment (a manifesto)

Some long-time friends wonder what’s going on with me. Here in my middle age, I’ve become something of the token liberal in their circles. One person literally asked me, “What happened to you?” And another proclaimed that one day I would have a “Jesus moment.” I didn’t know exactly how to reply to either of those thoughts. I care about both of those people, though, and my conservative friends deserve the truth about what really happened to me.

I got tired. And old. I got tired of people thinking Jesus would act like a Reagan Republican. I got tired of seeing people of color, women, LGQTIB, and poor people alike become more and more marginalized by people who ought to know better.  I got tired of seeing “Christian” politicians twist the gospel in order to win an office or stay in it. I got old enough to tell the truth as I see it about greed and sin, whether in the pulpit or policy. I have little use for American church-as-politics or church-as-business. I don’t think (and I’m backed up by Scripture here.) that Jesus cared one damn bit about man’s political machinations.

I think he cared how we treat one another. I think he wanted us to care for the poor, and the sick, and the elderly, and the needy. It makes me tired (and angry) when I see people like Joel Osteen claim that God’s blessing is about money or physical wealth. That’s a lie, designed to line his pockets. But we don’t talk about that. We let him smile at us with his artificially bright teeth while his manicured hands pick our pockets. And we let our politicians treat us the same way. As long as they smile and tell us what we want to hear, we never know when they’re fleecing us.

I think Jesus told us how to live, but we are either too weak to live that way or too damned selfish. And we’ve tied our supposed faith to our politics, and that’s NOT what we’re called to do as Christians. American christians—maybe not all of us, but a whole lot—would make fine Pharisees. Christ told his disciples MULTIPLE TIMES that his kingdom wasn’t of this world. We—meaning mainstream/conservative Christians—don’t listen to that. We think we have a right to bend government of all people to government that suits US. That everyone should live by the faith and principles we share. And that’s wrong.

So maybe I’ve already had what a friend calls my “Jesus moment.” And that moment tells me that we live in a broken country, deeply in need of change. Police are killing black men—and women—with impunity. The middle class is disappearing faster than we can talk about it. People are graduating high school without knowing how to read or write, much less do ‘rithmatic. We advocate for “pro life” and then allow children and parents to live in extreme poverty, because apparently what happens after birth is not our business. We deny the racism that still exists on a primitive level in this country. We’re okay with fomenting hate and calling it heritage. We’re okay defining people by their race or their color or thier social status. Mainstream Democrats AND Republicans put us in this place.

We walk past hurt and needy people. Instead of helping them, we say “Oh, if only they would help themselves.” or “If only they would …” We want to offer hope and help on our terms, and I think we are expressly, grossly, horribly wrong when we think/say that.

That’s my faith. Those are my politics. THAT is my Jesus moment.