Love Thy Neighbor?

I recently wrote about Jesus and Politics and, since these are blog posts and not doctoral dissertations, I didn’t go into a lot of detail on examples of how people twist faith for political gain.  Honestly, you could write a book, and many have, on interpretations of scripture or misinterpretations of scripture.  I do, however, want to cover one topic that I believe gets twisted, and I may do a couple more of these in the future.  

In Matthew 22, Jesus famously says that the second most important commandment is to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  For the most part, all of us are guilty of ignoring this commandment. We make plenty of excuses as to why this person doesn’t deserve it, or that group is unworthy of our love. Those on the one side tend to attempt to justify it, but they don’t really make excuses for it.  They are guilty of it, but they tend to be ashamed of it at the same time.  Those on the other side, combine this sin with another, pride, to take great pleasure in their hatred of certain people or groups.  The justification is that it’s good to hate those who hate (whether or not those people they target truly hate is another conversation for another day).  These people will then throw Jesus back in your face, because they think that holding certain opinions is evidence of love, and they love everyone, everywhere, all the time.  Just ask them, they’ll tell you.  

Before we delve too far into this, we need to answer a few basic questions:

1.     Who is your neighbor?

2.     What does it mean to love them?

3.     How do we show compassion to those who are not our neighbors?

Who is your neighbor?

Is there any Scripture, Old or New Testament, that says, “Thou shalt love every person on Earth?”  If there is, I’ve never even heard of it, let alone read it.  In the context of Scripture and in the context of life, our neighbors are those people in close proximity to us.  Those people in our sphere of influence.  They are the people we might come into contact with today, or this week. While this means that not all seven billion people on Earth are your neighbors, it’s really no less daunting because this means that not only are your actual neighbors, your neighbors, but that person you see in the supermarket is your neighbor.  The guy who works in the gas station is your neighbor.  Your co-workers, the people at the gym, the folks at your church, all of them, and more, are your neighbors.  Just because it doesn’t mean everyone on earth, it’s still a lot of people.  And, as I’ve written before, love is an action verb, this means there are a lot of people you have to do things with or for.  You cannot just think good thoughts, you have to act on this love.  

I think one of the reasons people claim to love everyone on earth is it makes it easier to be a jerk to that person in traffic, or be rude to the waiter at the restaurant.  Perhaps it’s people over-compensating for the “proximity effect”.  By that, I mean, when you hear of a disaster halfway around the world that kills 3,000 people, you feel sad for a moment, but when you heard about 3,000 people dying on September 11th, your heart broke because it hit closer to home.  I am 100% guilty of this myself.  The thought of 3,000 Americans dying in a terrorist attack, all these years later, still brings back the heartache I felt that day.  When I see a story on the news about an earthquake or other natural disaster, or even more distant due to time, the U.S. dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima or Nagasaki, I feel sorrow, say a quick prayer and then move on about my day as if it didn’t even happen.  The victims of those circumstances were no different than the victims of 9/11 in the eyes of God, but, I am not God.  I am human, and I have limitations.  I just don’t have the capacity to love a stranger the way I love my daughter, or to love a person halfway around the world the way I love the folks who live two doors down.  God has that capacity, but I don’t.

What does it mean to love your neighbor?

After establishing who are neighbors are, the question is, how do we show them love?  Well, there’s a thousand different ways depending on the situation, so I won’t go into details here, but just cover the basics.  Be kind to everyone you see.  Don’t judge people, even if they’re not kind to you.  Be patient with people.  Observe the Golden Rule, how would you want to be treated in a given situation? If in doubt, read what Paul had to say about it in Romans 12:9-21.  You can’t beat his words of wisdom.  Again, you must act

How do we show compassion to those outside our sphere of influence?

There are numerous ways to accomplish this as well, but first and foremost, we must remember every human being, from conception, is a child of God no different than we are.  We can condemn actions or ideas, but we must not condemn the people themselves, lest we too be condemned.  Whether the person who we feel ill will towards is a Muslim suicide bomber, an American “white nationalist” (more on that soon), or any other person, we must remember no person is beyond redemption or God’s grace.  

When opportunities arise to help those far away, whether that be sponsor a mission trip to Uganda or donate a few bucks to earthquake relief in India, we should help if we can.  However, we cannot allow these small actions to justify patting ourselves on the back and then ignoring those folks we come into contact with every day.  Our duty is to those closest to us first, then to others, if we’re able.  It’s not about time and money, it’s about love.

In conclusion, WWJD?

WWJD, or What Would Jesus Do? Is a good reminder to wear around your wrist to do the right thing. However, remember to actually ask yourself the question.  Would Jesus sit in judgment of a person, or would Jesus show kindness to that person? Would Jesus treat this guy poorly because the last person he had contact with was a jerk to him?  Let God judge when it’s all said and done, but until then, don’t bogart the grace.  God gives us grace and it’s up to us to share it and there’s no better way to show God’s love and grace than to act it out for others to experience, whether they deserve it or not.  Maybe especially if they don’t deserve it.  

Jesus & Politics

One of my favorite bands as a teenager was Everclear.  I loved their energy and Art Alexakis’ deeply personal and powerful stories.  I still feel like they are one of the most under-rated bands of the 1990’s, although I will concede the criticism that much of their music sounds alike (but so does many of my other favorite bands from that time, i.e. Social Distortion, Bad Religion, etc.).  However, Mr. Alexakis started to lose me when he went political.  Most artists, when they go political, lose me.  I have no issue with an artist’s personal opinions, but I don’t care for it to show up in the music itself, at least overtly.  

In 2008, Everclear released a song called, “Jesus Was a Democrat.”  If you’re an audio masochist, you can follow the link, but I advise against it.  This was in response to the previous twenty years of Republicans claiming to have a monopoly on the politics of faith, which, in reality, didn’t mirror the teachings of Christ any more than the idea that Jesus would have been a lefty using the government to do the charitable works that he commanded us to do in our personal lives.  And we know Jesus wasn’t wearing a “Taxation is Theft” hat when he was walking around performing miracles, so that pretty much rules out the fact he would have been a Libertarian as well.  

So, what were Jesus’ politics?

Well, that’s not an easy question to answer, which makes it one that people want to simplify and mold to their own perceptions.  No doubt Jesus was a political figure, much like being vocal about being a follower of Jesus is a political position in 2019.  However, as Andrew Brietbart apparently once said (I cannot confirm this, I have just heard it), “politics is downstream of culture.”   I believe that Jesus, and the teachings of Jesus, are upstream of culture.  I believe a Christian’s first duty is to be a Christian, and then, a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or whatever else next, as it fits into your faith.   

The world is not black and white.  It’s not that simple.  People want it to be simple so it’s easier to comprehend and easier to assign people to your side or the opposition, but it’s just not that way.  They find it impossible to imagine that you would want to protect our Southern border and still care about the people who are flooding across.  They find it impossible to imagine that you care about unborn children and care about what is best for women.  Contrary to what many people think, right, left and otherwise, the world is not a series of mutually exclusive situations and decisions.  

The issue with faith and politics is really just a manifestation of an issue that pervades all of politics: people will mold authoritative sources to fit their worldview, rather than mold their worldview to those authoritative sources. We see this all the time whether it be memes that misquote, or take out of context, things said by the Founders or other presidents or things like, “the Second Amendment only applies to muskets.” And we all know people will cherry pick statistics and use them out of context to make their point.  Sometimes, even when the truth is the polar opposite of their argument, that argument looks compelling because they’ve twisted the truth to sell the lie.  While we live in a world of rampant moral relativism, it’s not a new thing to the human condition, it’s just on technological steroids now.  

Personally, I have no issue with your faith, or lack thereof, informing your politics.  It’s really impossible, if you think about it, for something that deeply personal to you to not influence your worldview.  Where I have a problem with it, especially when it comes to Christianity, is trying to use Jesus to push your narrative (which the left tries to do every bit as much as the right).  One, if you don’t have the facts and logic on your side, you’re not convincing anyone, even many Christians such as myself.  Many of us will also know if you are quoting Scripture out of context and will not be fooled by it.  And two, as a Christian, Jesus never forced anyone to believe in him or to follow him, he convinced them through his words and actions.  Even when they nailed him to a cross, he didn’t force anyone to do anything.  If you force someone to do something, it’s not real. You’re always worried about those folks you forced rebelling against you.  However, if you convince them to do something, you’ve got yourself a fellow believer who will stand and fight beside you. 

I love Jesus, but please stop telling me how he’d vote or feel about a political issue.  

NOTE: When looking for a photo or meme on Google images to suit this post, over 90% of the memes I saw were left leaning memes using Jesus to attack the right. Some of them had some merit, but most of them were obviously written by people who had never actually read the Gospels or the rest of the New Testament. Some, yet worse, were blatantly putting words into Jesus’ mouth that he never spoke. Again, this is why using the love of Christ to motivate you to take political action is a good thing, but claiming he would endorse you and your statements is something else altogether.

Legal and Moral Are Not Synonyms

I hear hunters all the time say, “You’re a hater, what I’m doing is legal.”  As if legality somehow justifies an immoral action. Many of these same hunters would tell you abortion is immoral, though it is legal in most places still.  Slavery was once legal as well and I think we can all agree that wasn’t moral.

Life can be difficult to navigate sometimes.  This is why we create systems such as religion and the law to guide us – we’re looking for objective truth (at least many of us are).  However, these same systems, created by imperfect men, are imperfect and if we’re lazy, will often lead us astray.  It is of the utmost importance that we dig deeper to find that objective truth and we let that guide us, no matter what the law, the church or society tells us.  

If the law does not give you guidance on a particular issue, that doesn’t mean there is no right and wrong to your actions on that issue.  It means society will not penalize you, no matter the action you take. There’s no law against being rude to everyone you meet, it doesn’t mean that your actions are morally neutral, you are still wrong in your actions.  

If a law is unjust, you have a moral obligation to disobey it.  I recently read about a town in California who is fining a family for hosting a Bible study in their home.  They’re being told they’re a church and need to pay all the necessary fees and get all the necessary permits in order to be a church. They’re not a church, they’re having a few friends over once a week to talk, it just so happens they’re talking about the Bible.  In reality, this is nothing more than anti-Christian discrimination and I pray this family continues doing what they’re doing even if they have to do it in secret. 

Doing the right thing is hard sometimes.  And we’re all going to fail in pursuit of a perfect life.  However, do not be lazy and fall back on someone else’s opinions or laws.  Find truth and follow it to the end.  

Secularism is a Religion… and the State Cannot Endorse It

At least every week I see something in the news where the Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing some government entity for a Christmas tree or, their latest, a Facebook post.  The Constitution clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  So, as long as the government entity pays homage to all religions equally, not endorsing one over the other, it’s well within its rights to do so and the Supreme Court has routinely ruled in ways that support this. Where governments have gotten in trouble is permanent displays of the Ten Commandments in courthouses and things of that nature.  But holiday greetings?  Nothing wrong with that.

As I’ve written in these pages before, everyone is technically agnostic.  None of us know right?  But that means every one of us has faith.  Either faith in something or faith in nothing.  That is your choice and no one, especially the government, should make that choice for you.  That’s why it is so important to note the distinction between freedom of religion and freedom from religion.  

Why is it only atheists get offended at holiday displays?  I never hear Jews complaining about the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Nor do I ever hear Christians complain about a large menorah display on the courthouse lawn during Hanukah.  And I never hear either group complain about Democratic politicians tweeting out love letters to Islam during Ramadan (only that these particular politicians do not show the same love to Judaism or Christianity).  But the evangelical atheists?  Boy, even the Macy’s Christmas sale puts their underwear in a bunch.

I am not speaking about all atheists, I know many who, well, let’s face it, are libertarians.  However, if you are trying to eliminate all public displays of faith because you don’t agree with it, you’re trying to force the state to endorse your religion.  Which is unfortunate, because that same amendment to our Constitution that protected you from having to pray in school, you’re now using as a weapon against those who disagree with you.  

Secularism is a religion.  One whose only moral teachings are that everything is meaningless and to destroy anything that gets in your way by any means necessary.  It is to stand for nothing and to fall for anything. 

If you want me to fight to protect your rights to think, believe and express yourself however you like, I’m going to want you to do the same for me.  That’s the only way it works.  

The Great Compromise: Why I Joined the NRA

Two words: Stephen Willeford.

I joined the NRA on November 6, 2017, the morning after the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas.  When I had learned that the man who stopped the shooter was an NRA firearms instructor, I knew I needed to step up off the sidelines and do something.  For too long I yelled at the NRA from the bleachers about how they were too pro-gun control (I still think that) and refused to join. Other groups, like Gun Owners of America, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the Firearms Policy Institute have far better records on standing up for our 2nd amendment rights, but they have, whether they’d admit it or not, not even a fraction of the lobbying power of the NRA.

I decided I wanted more tactical and defensive gun training and I wanted to support an organization that provided those things.  I decided I wanted to join an organization dedicated to fighting for hunters and providing hunter education and gun safety training for kids.  The NRA does those things.  Sure, I disagree with some things they do still.  A lot of people refuse to compromise on this, I understand, but I ask those people, “Do you disagree with your wife or husband about things?  If so, why not divorce them, after all they’re not perfect and apparently that’s your standard for supporting something.” That maybe an extreme example, but all of us occasionally disagree with our pastor and don’t leave the church. And don’t get me started on political parties – I don’t know anyone who agrees with their party of choice lock-step, but they still vote for that party every two years.

I’m glad I joined the NRA and I plan on remaining a member for a long time. I have taken some tactical training in the last year and plan to take more.  Having firearms in your home is good, having your concealed carry permit is better, but having tactical training in addition to firearm ownership is the best you can do to protect yourself, your family and your community. If you’re a gun owner, I highly recommend joining this organization and having your voice heard – both inside the NRA and in your community.  There’s a lot of silent gun owners out there, especially in places like Boulder, Colorado near me.  It’s time that we’re heard, it’s time we take our training seriously and it’s time we start being pro-active in our communities.  

Bench Pressing for Jesus

I cried at the gym today, but I’ve never felt stronger.

That’s not only a strange thing to say, it’s a strange thing to experience. You see, most of my life, I have lived without feeling the presence of God.  Much like Mother Teresa said that she acted in faith, but that she did not feel the presence of God, I have marched through life trying to do what is right without any spiritual confirmation that what I was doing was right.  But the outdoors changed that for me.

Sometimes, in some places, all the walls come down.  The walls that I put up to protect me from the garbage the world throws at me.  The walls I put up to protect the world from me when I am enraged by the injustices of the world.  Sometimes, usually for me, on the side of a mountain, looking off into the great distance, seeing this impossible world that God created, those walls come down and God runs into me like a linebacker and I am overwhelmed by His presence.  I am often moved to tears in these instances, just overwhelmed by the beauty of it all and knowing that I am created by the same Creator as these mountains, but yet I am loved more than these mountains and I am more special than these mountains.  That is hard to accept sometimes.

I have struggled to have that connection in other places, because when I’m in civilization, I don’t allow myself to be emotionally or spiritually vulnerable.  There’s too many forces trying to attack me spiritually, I am at war constantly, I know God is with me, but I cannot allow myself to feel him.  The one thing that has always broken through in this situation is music.  Some secular music, but Johnny Cash’s gospel music has always done it, as well as bagpipe versions of “Amazing Grace” or “Scotland the Brave”.  

Lately, I have been using music to try and have these experiences more often. Listening to the Louvin Brothers’ or Wade Bowen’s gospel music puts good thoughts into my head and facilitates more conversational prayer.  I find myself just talking to Jesus about all the awful things going through my head. The anger I feel towards certain people or certain situations and, especially at the gym, asking God, “Out of all the places in the gym to do squats, why did she have to do them in front of me and tempt me to look at her and have thoughts I shouldn’t be having?” As our pastor says, don’t try to fix yourself before coming into the Kingdom, but bring yourself and your problems with you into the Kingdom.  You can’t fix them by yourself, you can only fix them with the help of Jesus.  

So, I’ve tried to turn everything I do into an act of worship.  I’m often not successful at that.  However, when I am successful, it changes everything.  Today, while at the gym, I felt Jesus there with me. I bench pressed more than I had in years (not quite to my personal record, but getting close again – though I am probably stronger now than then, but I don’t have a spotter to push myself) and there was a strength in me that was beyond me.  I just felt like I wasn’t the only one pushing and at a certain point His presence was so strong I found myself crying a little bit.  I just couldn’t control the power of it.  

I think until you feel this feeling, it’s hard to believe that it exists or is even possible.  However, once you experience it, you want to work as hard as you can to live in a constant state of it.  If I could live my life like that, there’s nothing I couldn’t accomplish.

2019 - The Year of Indiana Whitetail

Last year, I went all in on Colorado elk.  I spent the better part of the year obsessing over and preparing for the hunt that I went on in November.  As many of you read, I had a litany of problems and it didn’t go as planned, but it was awesome.  When I got back, I wrote about it and with the help of my buddy Mark, I edited the film. When it was all done, I was burnt out. 

I’ve been taking a little break from hunting in general lately.  I’m still reading articles (especially regarding the CWD fear mongering and the possible cure for it) but I’m way behind on podcasts and other things.  I am getting ready to start a new job (a legit one, not some temporary or crap job like I’ve been working for the last year) and I’m getting ready to start my M.B.A. at Colorado State in May.  I’m going to have a lot on my plate this year.  That, and going home for my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary, is why 2019 is going to be the year of the Indiana whitetail.  

I’m looking forward to going home and doing the type of hunting I did when I first started.  And on top of that, my step-dad has the land rights acquired, has the truck, will set up the tree stands and can be there to help me at harvest.  All I have to do is buy a license and show up with my camo, blaze orange and my .30-06.  Winer, winner, venison dinner.  If I’m able, I hope to join my buddy Jeff for some duck hunting as well, something I’ve never done.  

I will buy my Colorado Small Game and Fishing license in 2019 as well as preference points for elk and possibly a pronghorn tag.  Though I highly doubt the big bulls up in the northwest corner of the state are worried about me, I’m giving them a year of reprieve.  But, as Arnold once said, “I’ll be back.”

An Identity of Action and Values vs. Identity Politics

For thousands of years we lived in a Culture of Honor.  Then as society evolved, we developed a Culture of Dignity. But now, in the 21st century, we live in a Culture of Victimhood.  In a Culture of Victimhood, what I call The Oppression Olympics, is staged every day.  The more minority categories you can fit into, the more you can claim to be oppressed, the higher you climb in the social rankings.  If you’re a black, trans, lesbian, midget, vegan Muslim, well, hey, you’re King of the World (the use of a gender designated title is not by mistake).  

Setting aside arguments about “trans” and “gay” for a minute, the only things in that description that a person has any control over whatsoever are “vegan” and “Muslim”.  Every other thing that is descriptive about that person is passive, it requires no action, no morals or values.  It’s something you’re born as.  How do terms that could describe you as you take your first breaths be what defines you when you are thirty years old?  Shouldn’t you be more than your DNA by the time you reach adulthood?

I firmly believe, the only positive way to define yourself, is through your foundational philosophy and your actions.  I am a Christian, libertarian, father, husband, son, brother, friend, conservationist, hunter, philosopher, musician and writer, to name but a few. Every single descriptor I mentioned requires foundational philosophies and action.  My race doesn’t factor into this one bit.  My Scottish and Cherokee ancestry does not factor into this one bit. Even my sex or gender, it alone doesn’t define me, however, God gave me certain roles and responsibilities that are not the same as which are granted to my wife.  However, together, she and I are two halves of the whole that are required to produce life in the image of God.  But I am only a true man if I, through my actions, fulfill the responsibilities of a man that God asks me to.  

Case in point, being a male, biologically, allows you to produce sperm which can, if in contact with a woman’s egg, produce life.  But it is only a man who takes responsibility for that child and raises it to be a good person as God instructed.  The action of reproduction is only the first action, it requires years of work before the complete action is finished.  This would be like putting on a pair of ice skates and calling yourself a hockey player.  Lacing up your skates is only the first thing, after that, you have to get out on the ice and play 60 minutes as a good teammate and fulfilling your role on the team whether that is wing, center, defense or goalie.  

Do not define yourselves by things outside of your control and do not allow others to define you by those terms either.  Who you are is not defined by these things, nor simply by opinions you hold, nor by who the world tells you you are.  Who you are is who God says you are and hopefully, in agreement with God, who you say you are.  

Who You Say I Am

Concealed Carry State of Mind

Recently, over dinner with a not-so-gun-friendly-friend, I was told, “I’m glad people like you have guns, but not everyone is like you.”  While I appreciated the acceptance of my concealed carrying, I explained to him that almost every concealed carrier in America is indeed like me.  I explained that concealed carry permit holders are less likely to commit a crime, statistically, than law enforcement officers. However, it was my explanation of my state of mind about carrying that impressed him the most.

The Stakes Are Higher

It is really easy for most people to get upset at little things.  No matter how small the injustice, as humans, we want the world to be right.  This is why, to give the easiest example, we name call people who cut us off in traffic. As if that somehow fixes the cosmic forces at work.  Even worse, we may honk our horns or flip people the middle finger.  Some of us are naturally better at this than others, but almost everyone is guilty of this in some form.  However, the concealed carrier has to ask themselves two questions:

Is this worth killing or going to jail over?  And, is this worth dying for?

So many times, violent encounters are small incidents, that step by step, get out of control.  We cannot control the actions of others, which is why we carry in the first place, but we have a choice about whether or not to participate in the process.  People are going to be jerks, whether that’s on the road, or in the supermarket, but you have the opportunity to turn the other cheek almost every time before it escalates into something serious.  

Personal Security is Peace of Mind

If you are unprepared for an encounter, you can become scared, which can cause you to act irrationally.  However, if you carry, and are properly trained, you can remain calm because you know you are prepared if things do go sideways.  When things do happen to me, usually on the road because I drive a lot, I remain calm and try to avoid the situation, knowing that if the situation becomes unavoidable at any given time, I am prepared, both mentally and physically, to protect myself and my family.  While there are exceptions to any rule, I know that the odds are in my favor to walk out of any encounter alive and well.

The Cost of Freedom is Responsibility

Our God given, and Constitutionally protected, rights are constantly under attack.  I feel the weight and responsibility of being the best example I can be every day. When people meet me and find out I’m a gun owner, I have the opportunity to either prove that gun owners are responsible and upstanding citizens or I have the opportunity to prove that gun owners are mentally unstable lunatics.  This is even more of an issue for those of us who live in areas that are very unfriendly to gun owners already.  

While the anti-gunners want to paint us all as irresponsible people, leaving loaded “assault” rifles on the table next to our children’s breakfast cereals, the truth is, an overwhelming majority of us are well rounded and peaceful people.  We’re teachers, scout leaders, preachers, parents, and community leaders of all stripes who take our rights and our responsibilities very seriously.  Whether anchored by faith or philosophy, we live lives of integration, we’re not outlaws.  We have what our critics don’t have, that calm, concealed carry state of mind.

I Know I've Slowed Down in Posting...

A couple of things are going on: (1) I’m working on my memoir, (2) I just applied to work on my MBA at Colorado State and that is going to start in May and (3) I am still searching for a permanent job which has been a real difficult struggle since moving to Colorado. I have started some things I hope to finish soon and publish. I’m not going anywhere, just slowed down for a moment.

Hope y’all are well. See you soon.


There's Nothing Like Another Soul Who's Been Cut Up the Same

In all honestly, the last fourteen months since coming to Colorado has been a struggle for me.  I faced all the usual struggles of moving, like making new friends and getting settled in, but I have not been able to find meaningful work and that has come at the expense of my family’s financial security.  I’ve been open about this struggle and I’ve also been open about the blessings in my life such as my family, our adventures, our new friends and our church.  There’s been a lot of good that’s come out of our move and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

However, in the alternate universe of social media, I hope I haven’t given anyone the opinion that (1) I live a perfect life or (2) that my life sucks and I’m lying about living a perfect life.  My life is awesome, that’s true.  Jesus promised us an abundant life, not a perfect one, and that’s the life I live, abundant, but not without problems.  

When I post quotes from Marcus Aurelius or from Scripture, it’s not because I’m preaching, it’s because I read that and it spoke to me.  I needed to hear it that day and if I needed to hear it, then maybe someone else in my life needed to hear it too.  I know that’s true because numerous people have bought Meditations due to my repeated quotations of it. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing a brother or sister strive for that wisdom and try to improve themselves. I’m glad to have played a part, but I think it says something of the caliber of people I choose to surround myself with that they are working hard every day on their own journeys.  

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I love celebrating life’s little moments with all of my loved ones, but my pain, vulnerability and despair are saved for those closest to me.  I know there’s a lot more people out there that love me and would be there for me, but it’s sometimes tough to let some of those things out.  As Brian Fallon wrote in “Handwritten”, “There’s nothing like another soul who’s been cut up the same.”  We reach for those who understand what we’re going through, or we reach for those who understand us completely.  

As a writer, I sometimes bleed onto the page, whether that is the pure written word or one of the many thousands of songs I’ve written over the last twenty-five years.  I give a part of myself away there, or here, but so often it’s cloaked in metaphor or in storytelling so as to not give that pain away directly.  I’m currently working on my memoir and I’m opening my jugular and spilling my pain, heartbreak, joy and sadness all directly to the page. It’s not easy to do, in fact, on more than one occasion I had to stop writing because I couldn’t stop crying long enough to type.  That’ll get released when it’s done, but I can’t let go of that every day to the world via social media.

So, if you see something I post and think thoughts like, “who the hell does he think he is?”, that’s okay, I don’t blame you.  I’m sure it comes off as arrogance or bragging sometimes, but in my heart, I’m just trying to inspire others the way many of you inspire me.  I want everyone to live an abundant life, because it really is magical, even if it’s not without its pain and anguish.  

Selective Absolutism

Every couple of months I will see a friend post something on Facebook that has to do with the healthiness of certain every day products.  This causes cancer, that causes autism, etc.  I catch this most frequently when the product they’re targeting is artificial sweeteners.  I’m a sucker for Splenda in my coffee.  There are really two issues at work here: one, people believing some crap they read on the internet and sharing it without verifying it.  We’re all probably guilty of that to some degree so I won’t throw stones at that one.  But two, many people act like absolutists, when in reality, they’re being very selective about their absolutism.  So, let’s unpack that one.

“You put Splenda in your coffee?  You’re gonna die!”  Okay, so that’s exaggerated, but only slightly.  I’ve had numerous people over the years lecture me about this.  At first, I was genuinely concerned, so I went out to see what the scientific community had written.  There are indeed white papers that say artificial sweeteners cause cancer.  If you look a little deeper though, you’ll see most of these were funded by the sugar industry.  Hmmm, wonder why the sugar industry would do a thing like that?  Every scientific study I could find that was unbiased and looking for the truth had inconclusive results.  So, we don’t know that Splenda won’t give me cancer, but we don’t know that it will either.  

I always start here, with the evidence on the particular claim. However, a lot of people don’t believe me.  Feeling smarter than someone else, whether you’re right or not, is a powerful drug. If I don’t know the person, I then start asking question about their lifestyle.  If I know the person, I start tearing apart their lifestyle.  “So, let me get this straight.  You’re lecturing me about putting a little Splenda in my coffee that we have no strong evidence about, but I know for a fact you have a pack of cigarettes in your car?”

That’s not hyperbolic, I’ve actually said that to at least one person throughout the years.  That guy also lectured me about eating apples because of the pesticides sprayed in orchards. I asked him what he thought they sprayed in tobacco fields.  He switched to American Spirits after that.  

The reality is that we all take risks every single day.  Some of these are known risks; we smoke, we eat fast food, etc.  Most of these are easily avoidable, but eating a Big Mac a few times a year as a treat isn’t going to hurt you.  Eating one every day for lunch is another story.  Some risks are inherent, we don’t know what’s in the air we breathe or the water coming out of the faucet, but we don’t have a choice in the matter.  Most of us also don’t have a choice about being in an automobile and on the roads every day.  If we don’t drive, we’re still susceptible to those who do unless we stay in the house all day.  You can walk, bike, or take the bus, but you’re still out on the roads.  

If you want to have a conversation with a loved one about their smoking, horrible eating habits, texting and driving, etc. please do.  But please don’t act like you’re perfect and high and mighty.  Even those who obsessively read the ingredients to everything and worry about everything, they’re not healthy either.  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a real thing.  

We’re human.  We’re going to be imperfect and we’re going to view the world through a selfish lens. I’m defending my use of Splenda, when in reality, I should drink my coffee black.  The difference is, I know I am doing this, I do not think that I am better or my habits are better than someone else’s.  Before we go around criticizing others’ choices, we need to be aware of our own contradictions and hypocrisy.  

Christianity & Stoicism

DISCLAIMER: This is not meant to be an academic exercise on what Christianity and Stoicism agree or disagree on. If you’re interested in that, you can look here or here for starters.  This is about my love for both, how one lead me to the other and how I am now, starting to look at them from the perspective of defining my value system. I will probably upset other Christians and other Stoics.  While I am okay with discussing the finer points of each, at the end of the day I am only concerned with my own soul and virtue.  I have to answer only to myself every morning in the mirror and my God.  

If you’re a regular reader, you know I usually open with some situation from the news or some other outside source that really sparked an idea in my head that I apply to faith, the outdoors, or both.  In this case, my friend Chas, who you’ve heard mentioned before, sent me an email with a link to a podcast called Stoicism on Fire.  In listening to the first three episodes, I started realizing that I treat my Christian life and my stoic life as mutually exclusive.  If my faith is guiding my actions, I am not thinking about Stoicism, though nothing I am doing is antithetical to Stoicism.  Or if the Stoics are guiding my actions, I’m not thinking about my faith, though nothing I am doing is against God.  Though I have read many Stoic texts, I have never studied Stoicism as a philosophy and have never thought about the possible compromises I make to both in implementing my value system.  And what exactly is my value system?

Right now, I am in the process of studying both and how they fit together in my life.  Both have had an incalculable impact on my life and have made me a better man.  So, for the sake of this post, I am going to give you some background and then state my plans for going forward.  

1.    Stoicism helped lead me back to Christianity.

This one is hard to explain, but I don’t believe there’s any way I end up back at church and practicing my faith with the zeal that I do now had I not read Meditations two years ago.  I had spent most of my life trying to do the right thing, wanting to be a good man, but not having a plan to go about it.  Marcus Aurelius gave me virtue as something to aspire to and something to work towards.  Reconnecting with Jesus was just the next logical step for me after eighteen months of living and breathing Stoicism.  

2.    Jesus is who I depend on to heal my heart, but Stoicism gives me rules to live by.

One area of disconnect between Stoicism and Christianity is in how you find peace.  The Stoics teach that you can create that for yourself through your actions. Christianity teaches that peace is found through Jesus.  In a way, they’re both right.  When I follow Stoic principles and I act with virtue, there is a peace that comes with knowing I did the right thing.  When I am wronged and I make the conscious decision not to be injured by the actions of the other person, there is a peace in letting go of that hurt.  It’s not quite forgiveness, but it allows me to let go of it and move on with my life.  In Jesus, I learn to forgive and I have a peace that is the undercurrent to my day-to-day life.  It makes choosing not to be injured by the person who wronged me that much easier because I have the love of Christ in my heart.  

3.    For me, Stoicism helps me behave properly on a day to day basis, even when I’m struggling with a larger spiritual issue. It leads me to a more peaceful place where I can deal with the root cause because I’m not creating further damage in the meantime.

I always say there is nothing that you need to learn about life that can’t be found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  However, as I’ve realized over the past few months as our pastors have started unpacking this at church, scripture takes some time to decipher for me.  In order for me to understand what Jesus was saying, I have to think of historical context, I have to consider who Jesus was and is, I have to think about what he said just before and what he said just after in order to define just exactly what he was getting at.  I love spending time thinking about this and praying about this, but sometimes, I just need to make a decision.  Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus and others wrote in a way, that although it was also 2,000 years ago, is very easily applicable to everyday life.  It often deals with exactly what I’m going through and I can take that and easily apply it to solve a problem.  Once these things are accomplished, I can let go of my anger or frustration and clear my mind so that when I delve into scripture, I can give it the attention it deserves rather than having my mind wander onto whatever is bothering me at the moment.  

For me, Stoicism and Christianity work in harmony.  I’m still learning exactly how they work in harmony and I’m sure I’ll be faced with some forks in the road going forward, but one supports and emboldens the other.  I don’t know who I’d be without Marcus Aurelius and Jesus in much the same way that I don’t know who I’d be without my parents. I will write in more detail about this topic as I move forward and find little tidbits to explore.  

What Happened to the Awesomeness of Uncertainty?

I recently watched a clip of Mike Rowe being interviewed on Fox and something he said really jumped out at me. Paraphrased, it was, “our generation used to look at what was around the corner and say, ‘man, the future is uncertain, the possibilities are endless.’  And now, this new generation looks at the uncertainty of the future and they say ‘Oh my God, it’s so scary, I can’t deal with this.’”  I listen to that and I see what’s going on at the university in Boulder and I read and watch what’s going on at other colleges around the country and I realize he’s right.  What’s really unfortunate is that if life is anything, it’s uncertain, and we’re not preparing our kids for that reality at all.

The other thing of note from that interview was that it is not really these kids’ fault.  It’s ours. It’s the Boomers and the Gen Xers. We’re the ones that allowed this and raised these kids (well, not me, I’m one of the youngest Gen Xers and I had my child well into my 30s, so she’s still growing).  

The outdoors, and hunting specifically, is one of the best ways to learn how to deal with uncertainty.  It could be as simple as, “What’s the view from the top of this hill?” as you’re hiking or it could be, “Are we going to see a bear?”.  No matter what it is, going into the outdoors for an excursion, especially an extended one, is something you prepare for.  Before you go, you examine what all the possibilities could be and you arm yourself with knowledge and equipment to handle those situations should they come. Most of the time they don’t.  And sometimes you experience something you didn’t expect.  And you learn from that.

In my experience, backpacking trips are pretty simple to prepare for. There are a lot of serious things that can go wrong, I’m not making light of those things, but depending on where you’re going, proper gear, a wilderness first aid class and some basic know-how will take you a long way.  In hunting, every move is exponential.  Starting with the fact you’re carrying a weapon.  But also, you have to factor in the movements of your prey, independent beings that you have no control over.  Then you have your mindset.  You could catch buck fever and follow an animal for two miles before realizing you weren’t paying attention to how you got there.  

Whether in the outdoors or in life, you can’t prepare yourself for everything. Those who try end up being their own worst enemies.  However, you can learn to prepare for things you can predict might happen and then mentally (and however else) prepare yourself to face those things.  Simply taking a kid camping and letting them pack their own gear is a great way for them to learn skills on how to prepare.  Do they forget their pillow?  Well, they’ll have an uncomfortable night that they might remember the next time they pack.  Do they forget an essential item, such as a stocking cap on a chilly night?  There are a couple ways to handle that, but again, it’ll be in the forefront of their mind next trip.  

We owe it to our kids to prepare them for life.  We brought them into this world, they didn’t ask for it.  It’s our responsibility to make sure they are equipped to handle life’s pressures.  If we do a good job, not only will they survive this harsh world, but they’ll make the most of what’s available to them and they’ll thrive.  And as parents, isn’t that what we all want for them?

Define Yourself by Who You Are, Not Who You Aren’t

It’s difficult sometimes for a person to describe themselves.  The labels thrown around in the media often don’t do us justice; maybe we call ourselves conservative but we don’t like the president. Or maybe, as recently happened to me, a person called themselves an anti-hunter, but I know this person eats bacon double cheeseburgers from McDonald’s on a regular basis.  We find ourselves to be incredibly complex creatures and therefore hard to describe.  Though, in one of life’s many contradictions, many of us find it very easy to label others. Throughout all of this, I see one major distinction in people: those who describe themselves by who they are, versus those who describe themselves by who they aren’t or what they aren’t.  Let’s look at a few of these.

Anti-Trump.  God bless the president, for if nothing else, he’s given us so much to talk about outside the realm of politics.  People who call themselves anti-Trump are telling us absolutely nothing about themselves.  You hate one man.  Good. Why?  It usually boils down to “Orange Man bad.”  For eight years I never heard one person describe themselves as “anti-Obama” though I’m sure they existed.  I rarely agreed with Mr. Obama but it was always because I’m a libertarian, not because of some personal vendetta.  You don’t have to like the president, but if that’s how you define yourself, then maybe you should spend a little more time developing your character and personality.  Read a book, join community theater, take up yoga, do something.  

Atheist.  Great, you don’t believe in God.  What do you believe?  Take a cue from Dr. Greg Graffin, who dislikes the term “atheist” and describes himself as a monistic naturalist, meaning he believes in one plane of existence and it came about naturally without the intervention of any deity.  Do you believe in secular humanist principles? Are you a follower of some nontheistic moral philosophy?  Or are you just intellectually lazy?  All but the intellectually lazy and narcissistic hedonists have some sort of moral code, what is yours?  

Anti-Hunter (Meat Eaters).  Returning to the interaction I mentioned previously, I think her logic could be summed up by the fact she said “I’m open-minded” in one sentence and “there’s nothing you can say to change my mind” in the next. She claimed she’d seen animals injured by hunters, and it’s true, it happens, and it’s a tragedy when it does. However, she wanted no part in the conversation about Pittman-Robertson, Dingell-Johnson or the fact hunters and fishermen (and archery and firearms enthusiasts) pay for over 90% of conservation dollars to protect those animals.  It was a half-assed moral argument that conveniently ignored the animals hit by cars, the animals that starve to death mostly due to habitat loss, the animals that die by disease and yes, even the occasional accident in the slaughterhouse that produces the meat for her Big Macs.   And what kind of life did those cows have before becoming ground into frozen patties?  Those are all tragedies on the same plane.  So, you’re anti-animal suffering?  Welcome to 99.99% of humans on the planet.  None of us want that.  You’re not anti-hunting really, you’re “anti-anyone else doing anything differently than you would do it.”

When I meet people, I want to know who you are, where you came from and what you believe.  I don’t want to hear about what you’re not.  I’m a Christian, I don’t go around telling people I’m not Jewish.  I’m a hunter, I don’t tell people, “I’m not a vegan.” Describing yourself is tough for sure, I struggle with it because I’m self-centered enough to think I’m more complex than the Average Joe, even though I know I’m not.  Do the words “libertarian”, “Christian”, “father”, “husband”, “hunter”, “artist” or anything else give you a complete picture of who I am?  No, of course not, but they certainly lead you down the path to who I am a lot better than if I tell you who I’m not.  Then once you know who I am, you can decide whether you like me or not.  Unfortunately, even in this world of technological instant gratification, getting to know someone still takes time and effort.  The good news is, it’s usually worth it.

Wilderness as the Antidote to Social Media Culture

Regrettably, I live in the 21st century.  I have always thought I belonged to another time, but things being as they are, social media is a necessary evil.  I share pictures of my child with my family through Facebook, I promote this very page through GoWild and I promote my photography through Instagram. And like everyone else, it’s a somewhat calculated and contrived persona I have created for myself.  I am not posting photos of my pasty white beer gut or rambling on and on about the difficulties in my life.  For those who don’t know me well, I live a life of joy and adventure with nothing but intellectual and spiritual pursuits.  And I do live that life, but that’s only part of the story. 

Studies show that anxiety and depression are on the rise, especially with the younger generations.  I am not sure if we can diagnose social media as the cause, but there is certainly a correlation.  When you constantly compare yourself to the carefully crafted images of your friends and media personalities, it’s hard not to feel like your life just doesn’t measure up. This is why, as a culture, we take such pleasure in seeing celebrities fall from grace.  When we find out they have drug problems or cheat on their spouse, it brings them back down to earth from the stratosphere.  

Wilderness is the perfect antidote to the virtual rat race.  Not only is it healthy to get away from your devices for a while (please, please, please do not sit on a rock overlooking a beautiful vista and play on your phone, or blare crappy music from a Bluetooth speaker), but the clean air and exercise will make you feel better.  If you do it enough, it’ll make you look better too.  When you’re in the wild, you’re faced with no competition but yourself.  No one knows how fast you hiked up that mountain.  No one knows how labored your breathing was. No one knows what else is going on in your head.  You only have to compare yourself today with yourself of yesterday, with plans to be better tomorrow.  True growth comes in competition with yourself, not with others.

My daughter is growing up in front of a camera lens.  I am partially to blame because I am constantly taking pictures of her and my wife.  This will get worse once she’s older and into the world of phones and tablets.  At least now she’s wise enough to say things like, “Dad why are you always taking pictures?”  She understands there’s more to life than being in front of the lens. This is because we make a concerted effort to get out into the wild and I only take the camera out at certain times. It’s great to document our family adventures, but it’s important to experience them and be present as well.  As the kids say, YOLO, you only live once.  Do you want to spend your time living or do you want to spend all your time manufacturing a life you wished you lived?

Your Actions Are Your Faith

Over the weekend, Ben Shapiro had his Sunday Conversation with a Catholic priest. I will first admit I didn’t watch it, however, one of the highlights in the Facebook post was about how the priest says that good-natured atheists will go to heaven.  Of course, the comments section was filled with angry Protestants quoting scripture about “faith alone.”  Personally, I think both of these folks have it wrong.  The priest is wrong because it is not your acts that will save you and the angry masses are wrong because, while it may be faith that saves you, your actions are a manifestation of your faith.  If you’re not out in the world doing God’s work, then how strong is your faith?

I don’t believe these two points are equally important to us.  Who God does or does not let into heaven is His decision, not mine, therefore I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. However, let us break down these two points of view.


You are saved by faith alone.

This is mostly a point of view given by those who throw scripture verses at people instead of mounting a logical, and theological, argument.  They claim to be Biblical literalists but eat bacon wrapped shrimp and let their wives sleep in the bed with them while they’re menstruating.  In this case, as my pastor said recently, I can say whatever I want to, but if you follow me around for a week or two, you’ll see what I really believe.

Do I believe that, as Paul said, I am saved by faith through grace? Absolutely.  100%.  It is because of that I want to live that life.  Not just go to church on Sunday, not just tell people I love Jesus, but I want to be like Jesus.  As much as I can be anyhow.  I believe that one day I’m going to be asked things like, “Why did you do this?  And why didn’t you do that?”  I want that questioning to be as short as possible (prediction, I’m going to be there for a while).  

I am a firm believer that what you put into yourself is what comes out of you. Whether that is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.  If you eat like crap, you are going to feel like crap.  If you’re inputting hate into your heart, hate is going to come out of you. If you put Jesus into your heart, truly put Him in your heart and not just pay him lip service, something Jesus-like will come out of you.  You will live a life of service to your loved ones, to your community and to Him.  It is my observation that many Christians, too many Christians, like to play the part but they’re afraid to do the work on themselves and therefore, they do very little work to serve others.  

I believe that the folks who are always screaming about “faith alone” are doing so because they’re worried about their own faith.  Let’s be honest here, a judgmental Facebook comment is not going to convert anyone to Christ or change someone’s theology.  They’re posting that to try and alleviate their own fears. The reality is, if you talk the talk, you better walk the walk.

A good-natured atheist will go to Heaven.

I don’t know.  That’s the simple answer.  There is far more to God than what we can find in scripture.  The Bible is for humans, so that we get to know God and what God wants for us.  It’s not a biography of God, nor His memoirs or a list of questions and answers humans will have.  Sure, there’s a lot of that stuff in there, but it’s far from a complete picture.  While I don’t think a priest should be advocating for “saved through works,” I do think there’s a sound theological argument for it, but it has more to do with the eternal spirit than it has to do with works alone.

This idea first came to me from Fr. John Dear, a priest (former Jesuit) I was acquainted with in Chicago.  We had this conversation on my back porch over beers and brats along with my friend Doug. At the time, it blew my mind and caused me, as humans are wont to do, to go extreme in my counter-argument, “I just can’t believe Hitler is in heaven.”  The conversation went something like this:

Fr. John: What is God’s sole desire of us?

Jeremy: For us to love Him as He loves us.

Fr. John: Do you believe the soul and our consciousness is eternal?

Jeremy: Yes, of course.

Fr. John: So, what do you imagine a life-long atheist will say to God when he dies and comes face to face with the awesomeness that is God?

Jeremy: He would immediately realize he was wrong, beg for forgiveness and worship and love God.

Fr. John: And does God forgive, always?

Jeremy: Yes, of course.

Fr. John: So, then, the atheist, now being a believer, would be welcomed into the kingdom?

Jeremy: By that logic, yes.

Now, is that true?  I don’t know. While I studied theology as part of my degree from DePaul and I have wrestled with many of these issues over the years, I am by no means an expert.  I do believe that the theology is sound and I do believe that in heaven there will be none of the things that sew evil into the hearts of man like there is on earth.  There will be no mental illness, no hate, no greed, no lust for power, no abuse and no violence.  None of the things that cause us to harm one another here on earth.  I also want to believe in an inclusive God, who understands His children, what they went through and why they may not have been able to find faith in this lifetime.  As my buddy Rob said recently at our small group, maybe some people, after death, will still deny God and those people will go to hell.  

This second point is a fun and interesting intellectual exercise, but ultimately, it’s something I spend little time thinking about.  Your soul is your responsibility the same as mine is mine. Don’t worry about who goes to heaven and who doesn’t, that’s God’s responsibility, not ours.  

As to the first point, I believe that I have a duty to talk with fellow Christians and try to inspire them to do more, to help more and to live out their faith. Yet, even that, there is a limit to my ability to influence.  Again, your soul is your responsibility and mine is mine.  If I ask you if you are living out your faith, and you tell me yes, then I will believe you, but only you and God know if that’s really true. Though I will say, no matter how good of a person you are, the reality is, the honest answer for all of us is really “no” because there’s always going to be areas where we could be better.  

Ultimately, this all comes down to common sense.  If your desire is to spread the love of God, you just have to stop and ask yourself before you act, “Is this going to further God’s message or not?” If the answer is no, leave it.  No one is going to be converted to Christ through your Facebook comment, but they might be by your actions of love and generosity.  

I Love You and So Does the Lord

I love you and so does the Lord.  

This expression came to me from my best friend, who has been saying it to me for almost thirteen years now.  It started as a light-hearted way to end a phone conversation or to break the tension during a discussion of a serious topic.  It’s also something we both take very seriously because we know that both of these things are true, we love each other and God loves us.

However, this expression has become something more to me over the years. It’s become my verbal weapon of choice. Whenever someone says something mean or hurtful, I try to respond with, “I love you, and so does the Lord.”  Most of the time I even mean it, though I admit, not every time.  Sometimes it is simply a defense mechanism designed to keep me from losing it.  

It doesn’t always diffuse the situation, in fact, it has enraged one or two people through the years.  It does, however, make me feel better every single time.  Knowing that I responded to anger, or worse, hatred, with love, enlarges my heart and gives me peace of mind.  Not only can I not control other people’s actions, but I am not responsible for them.  I am only responsible for my own actions, I am completely in control of my actions, and therefore I have a duty to act in the most honorable way possible.

Do I sometimes fail?  Yes, I often fail.  It’s easy to make excuses for acting inappropriately when you’re angry, but there is nothing to really excuse failing to act in a way that is in alignment with what you know to be true.  

Whether it is hateful comments from animal rights activists, an angry political comment or simply a rude person at Walmart, “I love you and so does the Lord.”

The NRA vs. the World

It’s the age-old argument.  Something isn’t right, do you tear down the whole thing, or do you work within the system? Do you focus on the trees or on the forest?  Maybe, there is no right answer.  Maybe, that’s the problem.  However, it doesn’t stop us from needing a solution.

Ron Paul, who is a libertarian hero, ran as a Republican for most of his life in public service.  His son Rand Paul, who is perhaps more conservative than his father, is a sitting U.S. Senator and also is a Republican.  While these two men are out of step with many Republicans on a number of issues, they feel the ideals of liberty are better served with them in Congress than with them running as Libertarians and gaining somewhere around 3% of the vote.  They know that simply running as a third party means having zero influence on national policy. The Gun Owners of America and the Firearms Policy Coalition, as well as many others, are always criticizing the much, much larger National Rifle Association for being too lenient on gun control, much as Libertarians are constantly criticizing Democrats and Republicans.  

Much like both Dr. Pauls, I have chosen to focus on the forest, rather than every individual tree.  I criticized the NRA for years, and still do when it is warranted, but two years ago, after the Sutherland Springs shooting, I broke down and joined.  When I saw an NRA instructor take down the lunatic shooter, I knew which side I wanted to be on.  I wanted to get more involved and be a part of the solution rather than sit on the sidelines and hurl insults that no one will hear.  

I have written about the need for solidarity amongst outdoors people in spite of our differences, but I think it is equally important that all firearm owners band together as well.  Sure, we can debate our differences, but the in-fighting, insults and division need to be mitigated by our common goal of protecting our God given and Constitutionally protected rights.  We all know the gun grabbers’ agenda is “death by a thousand cuts” and I don’t think posting memes of elephants defecating on social media is going to hold back the tide of the emotional, illogical, fear mongering gun control zealots.  

As much as I respect the work of these smaller, more hardcore, gun rights groups, the reality is the NRA is the only organization that has a voice on a national level.  Furthermore, the NRA does an overwhelming amount of good work from the Eddie Eagle program to free hunter education programs to its legislative work.  For example, do I agree with their support of a bump stock ban?  No, but thinking a libertarian or anarcho-capitalist utopia is possible is just as naïve as the Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez’s idea that socialism would work if we just tried it one more time.  

Much like other parts of life, it’s complicated, nuanced and sometimes contradictory, but would you rather slow the erosion of your rights to a trickle or lose them altogether?  No organization is perfect, especially an organization as large as the NRA. However, gun owners criticizing the NRA for not standing up for every little thing while going to the polls and voting for constantly compromising Republicans every two years is a bit of a contradiction all to its own.  

European Hunting Culture vs. American Hunting Culture in a Nutshell

One of the benefits to large tech companies tracking everything you look at is that they’re able to see what you like and show you other things, things that you may not be aware of but might like as well.  Honestly, this is really the only benefit to tech companies tracking everything you look at.  Since I follow pretty much nothing but hunting pages, Instagram is always showing me other hunting pages and this has led me to follow a few European pages and it has been interesting to say the least.

Brantas Hunting Clothing is a company based in Poland.  I started following them because my wife is from Poland and I wanted to see how folks over there hunt.  Since it is a clothing company, most of their posts involve the clothing, which in and of itself tells us a lot about the differences in culture.  

In order to explain this, let us go back in time.

Before Europeans colonized what is now the United States, only the very rich in Europe were able to hunt.  If you owned the land, you owned the animals on that land, and pretty much all of Europe was owned by someone.  If it didn’t have an owner, then it was owned by the king.  If you were a peasant and you were hungry, or low on meat, too damn bad. The royalty and the landed gentry would go hunting in fine clothing, knowing they wouldn’t get dirty because their servants would do all the dirty work.  

When the lower class came to America, everything changed.  For one, there was far too much land and far too few landed gentry for them to control hunting in the same manner.  Also, many settlers, think Daniel Boone, often pushed deep into Indian country to do their hunting.  Many also chose to go settle new lands far beyond the reach of the European colonizers.  These early settlers lived off the land.  They hunted and they made clothes of what they had available, which was often the furs and skins of animals.  It turns out, they learned from the Indians, that this clothing was also incredibly practical.

As hunting evolved in America, it became a tradition for the rural lower class more so than the urban middle and upper classes.  I believe part of the anger towards hunters was born in the classism that has been rampant in our culture ever since the Industrial Revolution started growing our cities.  Hunters in America have held onto certain traditions and rituals that many urban folks see as “primitive” or “savage.”

Today, not much has changed.  Hunting in Europe is available to the commoner now, but it is incredibly cost prohibitive.  It might be legal to do, but the financial cost and draconian firearm laws keep most folks from being able to hunt.  Thanks to Theodore Roosevelt and his peers, animals in the United States are owned by the people, not the land owner.  Thanks to TR and his peers we have public land to go hunt on.  Any American in good legal standing can go hunt if he or she desires.  

I still find hunting in other parts of the world fascinating and it is interesting to me to see how folks in other places dress when they go hunting. That having been said, I love North America and I love the animals we have here.  While I hope to be able to hunt in other parts of the United States and Canada someday, I have no desire to go elsewhere.  My dreams are still of living like my great uncle Daniel Boone, roaming the woods and mountains for elk.