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8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Gamer Girl

This is something I wrote for Pop Culture Uncovered about sexist gaming culture. Even as a man, it’s disgusting and I think this is an important topic as video games become more and more advanced and popular.

Pop Culture Uncovered

I admit up front that I don’t actually have a teenage daughter. However, I want to, and she and countless other girls will grow up in a culture of video games. So when I heard that a woman was sexually assaulted in a virtual reality game, I knew this world wasn’t ready for my daughter or anybody else’s.
So here are eight steps to making the virtual world safer and friendlier towards our sisters.

1. Just because you’re laughing doesn’t mean she is.
To you, it’s a joke. To her, it may be frightening or just plain repulsive. It’s good to laugh, but it’s far better, more respectable, and a greater measure of your own wit when everyone is laughing, not just you.

2. Talk to her like she’s really there.
Would you make that rape joke to her face? Would you use her in a sexually explicit sentence…

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A Creator’s Journey #11–Ferryman Funded and Other News

Life is full of great surprises. Earlier this week, my novella, Ferryman, was only 35% funded.

Today, the book is 100% funded. At last, I can move forward.

How did this happen?
Well, it still would not have been possible without my wonderful donors. Each will get a free copy of the book and their name in the acknowledgements.

As for the rest of it? Funny story. I had a retirement account at my last job, which I thought had been emptied when I left. It wasn’t much anyway. However, I recently discovered that it still had some money in it and I could still claim it.

It may not seem wise to some to drain a retirement account so early, but three things. One: it wasn’t much. Two: I’m 28. I have time. Three: I have more immediate concerns, like my empty savings account, debts, and a project that will hopefully launch a new source of income in the long run.

So while it wasn’t a ton, it was enough to fill Ferryman’s self-publishing needs.

Better yet, overall costs took a nosedive!
Editing turned out to be cheaper than I thought (here’s to pleasant mistakes!), and the formatting and miscellaneous costs may not be what I thought they were, or possibly even the website!

However, all savings affect the money that came out of my own pocket, not my supporters. Nobody is getting cheated. Cover art was already paid for from donor funds (I’ll show you someday soon) and the amount gained for editing had not yet reached the needed cost even after realizing the cheaper price (we were at about $210 of $600, but it turned out to be $450ish, still above what I had).

So what happens now?
This morning, I sent the book off to an editor for corrections. She told me she could start about November 1st and be done by December 12th.

Unfortunately, this means it will most likely NOT be ready for Christmas. I was hoping to have it available as a gift, but the time it will take to format and such is simply too much to release in such a short time–unless a miracle happens.

I haven’t yet thought of a release date, but I’m thinking January or February to let people spend the Amazon gift cards they got on Christmas, mwahaha!

Until then, I’m going to work on a website, so this site may radically change in the future. I’ll keep you posted.

I’ve taken down the “Countdown” site which was used for funding Ferryman. Thanks again to everyone who helped me get to this point. Even with my surprise money, it could not have happened without you.

In other news, I’ve been writing for 14 years (wow!) but I’ve never done NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). If you haven’t heard of it, it’s where writers try to write 50000 words in the month of November.

This time, I have an idea for a novel, one that I hope will challenge and inspire Christians (generic phrase, but I don’t want to give away spoilers). So, I’m going to try NaNoWriMo for the first time.

Are any other writers doing NaNoWriMo this time around?

Christian Fiction: Where’s the Grace?

Writing Christian fiction is kind of like dating. There’s no book of rules, but you know when you’ve broken one!

One of those unwritten maxims goes something like this: Christian characters cannot have “bad” traits or habits unless they a) repent of these actions at some point or b) are clearly “bad” characters, be they non-Christian or faux Christian.

For example, say a character has a nasty temper. He must either be a bad guy or stop having a temper by the end of the book. If you don’t accomplish this, then your character is deemed “inappropriate.”

Black or white. Clearly saved or clearly not. No ambiguities, no moral grays.

When Christians wrote this rule in invisible ink and hid it in the mountains somewhere, they forgot a key Christian tenant: grace.

Where is the grace in such books?

Grace is the idea that you are not and cannot be perfect, that God must intervene and give you what you need. More importantly, it’s all you need–not works, certainly not perfection.

So why are we subtly told to write like this is not true? Why are Christian fiction characters told to get their act together by the Acknowledgements section or be written off as villains and phonies?

Who are we trying to fool? What message are we sending? Perfection or go home?

I know we call it “fiction,” but the irony of fiction is that it’s so good at telling the truth. Why else would Jesus use parables? No matter how fake a story is, it must resonate some form of reality or the reader won’t buy it. This is called “suspension of disbelief,” when we can put aside our “Yeah right” reaction because the truth pulls us into the lies.

All good fiction tells some kind of truth, and the truth is that Christians aren’t perfect. We don’t get our acts together in 300 pages. And there are Christians with varying levels of freedom. One does something that would make the other gasp, but both have Jesus as their savior. That is the truth.

But Christians aren’t told to write this way. We’re told these are “bad examples” and that they should be snuffed. We’re told to only raise up models of piety and perfection, as though Jesus weren’t enough. We’re told that Christianity is some magic pill that makes everything better.

What about addictions that grapple us all our life? What about the homosexual who finds love in Jesus, but can’t find his gay on/gay off switch? What about the father who prays for his son every night, but can’t seem to to reconcile with him?

What about the people who close the back cover on their life and still don’t have it all together? What about all the cliffhangers and unresolved endings out there?

What about David, who was a man after God’s own heart, but also a lusty paramour? What about Samson, a judge of God and world-class moron? What of Adam and Eve who never saw Eden again?

If these half-baked screw-ups are good enough for the Bible, then why aren’t they good enough for freaking fiction?!

In 2 Corinthians 12, when Paul cried out for God to take away his “thorn in the flesh,” God said no. “My grace is sufficient for you.” As far as we can tell, God never took away this “thorn,” whatever it was. A paragon of faith, yet he never achieved perfection.

Because he didn’t need to. His sins were covered by the grace of God. So are yours, if you’ve put your faith in Him. So are mine. That’s what ultimately matters. Yes, that person may have sinned, no they shouldn’t do x, y, or z, but our job as Christians isn’t to fix all the problems in everyone we see; it’s to love them and show them that God’s grace is good enough for all of it.

Don’t put a timer on God’s work in progress.

We need grace in our fiction. We need grace for our fiction. For one thing, our art will never grow and never speak truly unless we allow it to be as imperfect and realistic as we are.

But more importantly, our faith needs a constant message. If our pulpits say “grace,” but our books say, “good Christians get it all together,” then we are hypocrites. If we can’t love fictional characters who never really sinned, how can we love real people whose mortal flesh drags them through the mud every day?

Grace. Write it down.

A Creator’s Journey #11–Making Book Timelines

Do any other writers out there make timelines to keep track of all that happens in their books? Or am I just so daft that I can’t keep it all together in my head?

Either way, I need a timeline for some of my books–not the shorter ones like Ferryman, just longer series. When you have a bunch of books in the same universe and chronology, you want to make sure you’re consistent.

That’s been my work this week: making a timeline for Locke Hart, what I assume to be my longest series ever. The plan is for it to be a swath of shorter books that take place over several years. How many books? I don’t know yet, but enough to need a friggin’ Excel spreadsheet.


Oh yeah, I get detailed.

I break mine up by character and time so that I can see what’s going on from everybody’s perspective all at once. I also added the “Story Arc” line so I know in which book these events take place. Why is that line blank in the screenshot, then? Because everything on that screen happens before the first book even occurs.

John Eldredge said in Epic that no story starts with us. We’re all born into something already happening. The same is true for any story.

The Lord of the Rings didn’t start with Frodo. It started with centuries of conflict and the lifespan of the One Ring. To Kill a Mockingbird didn’t start with Scout. There was also a long history of racial conflict that led up to this point. A Christmas Carol starts in a counting house, but doesn’t begin there; it took years of pain and misery to get Scrooge to that point.

So I, too, must go back to everything that led up to my book’s beginning. What brought Locke to this point where the story starts? The answer mostly lies in his parents, but how did they get to this point? And what of the villain? Where did he come from and why did he end up here? What were all the other characters doing in the meantime?

In that screenshot, you can see Locke was born 19 years before the first story. At that time, Barry had already met Locke’s parents, members of the Archangels group, which means he would have known Locke as a baby, even distantly. Their interaction 19 years later takes on new meaning now. When Locke’s parents are gone, Barry could remember the boy and his parents and feel a sort of responsibility to their memory, or perhaps bitterness at their loss.

And this is all before detailing every event of every publishable story.

If this sound like hard work, it is. But you know what? IIIIIIIII love it! I love it, love it, loveitloveitloveitloveitloveit! This is the part of writing I live for: weaving all the different stories together into a coherent whole. Worldbuilding via character interaction. Swear by it!

Beyond loving it, it helps me keep the facts together which minimizes the chance for plot holes.

Writing isn’t just slapping a keyboard until words come out. It’s hard, involved work. Don’t even think of becoming a novelist unless you flat-out love creating worlds out of thin air.

What do you think? Do you love plotting out books or reading such detail? 


Christian Smut

Have you ever read smut? If you said yes, you’re a lustful sleazebag and you need Jesus. If you said no, you’re a lying sleazebag and you need Jesus.

It’s a tough religion, I know.

For those who honestly don’t know, smut is any written work that’s only there to titillate. They have titles such as “The Greek Tycoon’s Secret Lover,” or “The Lusty Captain’s Captive,” or “My Boss’s Mistress is Me.” Sometimes, they’re straight up erotica (porn without the pictures), sometimes they’re more softcore naughtiness, but if its sole purpose is to make your thighs tingle, that’s smut.

But Christians know better than to go anywhere near that stuff…right?

Well, not quite. Sure, our book market frowns upon sex scenes, but we have our own versions of smut. Christian Smut. I should copyright that.

Before I go any further, let me put my obligatory disclaimer here that not ALL Christian work falls under the smut categories I’m about to describe. Many are phenomenally written and I could recommend several.

However, the C-Smut (copyright 2016 Michael A Blaylock) is put on a pedestal in Christian Fiction, regarded as purer, holier, better than you. In fact, some would even say that this stuff is the “real” Christian fiction and that if you’re not adhering to this type of fiction, you’re falling short in some way. Again, not all act like this, but an alarming number do, this is the kind of stuff that gets good shelves in Christian book stores.

Unfortunately, the idolized Christian books have the same three fundamentals as those naughty books in the “Romance” aisle.

1. It’s Fantasy

No one in their right mind thinks that smut represents the real world. All the guys have rugged physiques with rock-hard abs and all the ladies have hourglass figures about to burst out of their scanty bodices. Sex is always super hot and perfect (no one accidentally yanks someone’s hair), the locations are often exotic and exciting, and nobody farts.

In the same vein, no one in their right mind thinks that these Christian books are realistic. Characters don’t have flaws, they have “a past.” On the off chance that a character is sexually tempted, they flee the room because they’re a good Christian who would never go down that road. And nobody, NOBODY uses cuss words. You’re more likely to find a gay person in Christian fiction than the a-word.

Look, I write fantasy. I’m working on a story right now with mermaids, magic swords, and fairies that can only speak in rhyme. And even I have to say this stuff is fake. It’s so far removed from reality that you have to turn your brain off to enjoy it properly.

Unfortunately, both readerships eventually idolize this fantasy as some sort of perfection that must be attained to find true happiness. They may not admit it or even realize it, but their actions say as much.

And when they don’t find it, they retreat even more into smut. Why?


2. It’s an Escape

With most fantasy books, the reader is glad it’s fake. We may say we want to visit Middle Earth, but we forget about Sauron and his armies waiting to kill us. We may wish to visit Hogwarts, but we forget that Voldemort would probably blow us into tiny, British pieces. In truth, we’re glad to stay home.

With smut, however, we want to stay in the fantasy. We want perfect bodies, exotic locations, and carnal bliss. We want to stay in a world where the only law is pleasure.

Likewise, many Christians want to flee to a world where we get forgiveness by the end of the book, good and evil are black and white, and “those people” are stereotyped into submission or omitted altogether.

The problem? Reality eventually sets back in.

I personally spoke to a woman who said that she reads to get away from the real world. There’s a word for that: escapism, fleeing the real world because you can’t cope with it.

Art can be used for escape, yes, and it’s fun to read about perfect, righteous characters with perfectly happy endings. But that’s not all art is. Art a means of changing the world as much as a means of escaping it.

Reading escapist fiction isn’t necessarily bad on its own. The problem comes when all we have, all we promote, and all we call “Christian” is escapism.

3. It’s Trash

Smut does not win Pulitzer Prizes. It’s not about good storytelling or relatable characters, far from it! It’s about getting your blood pumping, your mind wandering, and your libido spiking. It’s the junk food of the literary world. Absolutely bad for you, but tastes so good.

C-Smut on the other hand is praised as some sort of literary threshold reached only by the apostles and prophets. I exaggerate, but only a little. Christians pump out the “pure” stuff to fill bookshelves worldwide and sit on coffee tables next to lacy Bibles.

But it’s merely low-calorie junk food. Better, sure, but you can’t live on it.

Christian art should encompass the full spectrum of creativity. Thankfully, we’re getting there. I’m seeing more genres, better characters, even edgy material. However, there’s still this unwritten assumption that all Christian fiction must be chaste, clean, and pure.

What’s wrong with that? Simple: Jesus didn’t live that way.

Yes, he was chaste, clean, and pure, but he walked in an raunchy, dirty, corrupt world and he wasn’t afraid to do so. He associated with loose women, “those people,” and a guy who would betray him. He wasn’t of the world, but he was certainly in it.

Christian Smut will have none of that. It elevates itself above and beyond the world of mortal men and makes itself God because of how perfect it is. When we elevate this kind of fiction above all others, we raise up not Christ, but religion. We raise up a certain type of person, a certain type of Christian, and as a result put down others.

We make Pharisees of ourselves.

So when we write and when we read, let us remember that Christ died to give us freedom, not religion. Yes, it is good to hold up models of faith and holiness in our stories, but in doing so, let us not forget God’s other commandment: no idols.

A Creator’s Journey #10–Just Can’t Stop

Sometimes I wonder why I’m still writing.

It’s not as though I have a hungry readership chomping at the bit, nor do I really understand how to get one despite my research. Oh, sure, I do have a fingerful of people who like and/or comment on a semi-regular basis, and while I’m grateful to them, it’s not much.

Some might say you write to those people, then. The problem is they change. I’ve been blogging for four years and I’ve seen people come and devour everything I read, then fizzle away, apparently bored with my words. Then, new ones come, and then they leave. My hit count remains stagnant.

Beyond that, what I write isn’t what you’d call helpful. I don’t have much advice to give, mostly because I’m still looking for it myself. I’m hardly an expert in anything. The truth is I’m just an ordinary person with thoughts of his own, like everybody else on the planet. That’s not exactly marketable.

The books I write fall between the cracks. Not Christian enough for the Christians and not edgy enough for everybody else. Not enough fantasy, originality, diversity, humor, or smut, depending on whom you ask.

Even my dreams are too eclectic. I want to make books, movies, video games, comics, all kinds of things. I want to be a creator more than just a writer (which is why this is called “A Creator’s Journey,” not “A Writer’s Journey”). Unfortunately, all I know are words, and I can’t seem to find people in other fields, so I’m stuck.

This doesn’t even mention my failures as a writer. Book ideas rejected by publishers and agents alike, crowdfunding campaigns that yielded nothing and left me heartbroken, a mishandled novel published by a scammer that’s left me with more shame than fame, and a blog that after four years still writes to an audience of one.

The worst part is no one really asks how my writing is going. When they do, few really want to know; they’re just paying lip service. So it seems, at least. And what’s the point in creating if you can’t share it?

So why am I here? Why am I still writing?

Well…I just can’t seem to stop.

No matter how low I sink, no matter how frustrated I get, I always return to the keyboard, whether it’s for one more hopeful blog post or another chapter to a novel that sits on the everlasting back-burner.

At this point, I don’t even know if that’s determination or stubbornness. They’re so like. Am I sticking to my guns or burying my head in the sand?

Who knows?

If this post seems a tad melancholic, well, that’s part of the journey. This particular blog series is about the journey of being a creator, the ups and downs and all the weird turns that happen on a week-by-week basis.

This week, I feel down. More than down, like a failure, really. Depressed. Trapped. Helpless and ignorant. In fairness, this is also tied to a lot of other things happening in my life right now–bit of a mess at the moment.

Still, that’s the journey this week. This creator is trudging through a swamp, struggling to pick off the leeches before they suck him dry. Artistry is hard work, emotionally as well as physically.

Perhaps that’s it: perhaps this is just a bad day, or a bad week, rather. Perhaps next week things will turn up and I’ll have some happy news. Perhaps this week’s reflections will spark some changes to my writing.

I don’t know. All I know is where I am right now: frustrated, tired, praying to God for a way out.

Even so, I just can’t stop writing. I love it too much.


5 Sober Predictions for the 2016 Election

Usually, I try to inject a fair amount of irreverent humor into my blogs, but on topics like this, it’s difficult. The 2016 election is a pretty serious matter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a joke, but a very serious one.

I’ll admit up front I am no political watchdog; I have no special insight on Washington D.C., the presidential candidates, or any shady organizations.

However, I have been watching the people quite closely. Seeing their anger and frustration has led me to believe in some likely outcomes, and I’ll do my best to stay unbiased towards any one candidate.

Here are my predictions for the 2016 election:

1. People Will Forget About Everything but the Presidential Race

Yes, it’s a major piece in the American puzzle, but I haven’t met too many people who vote for anything except the president.

Washington keeps chugging along whether there’s an election or not and we can’t forget that. Plus, we can’t forget about whatever local matters need a vote.

When all is said and done, the president is just one person. We must keep our eyes on the whole picture.

2. Smallest Winning Margin Ever

Remarkably few people are happy with their choices. Democrats who wanted Bernie are only voting for Hillary because they’re scared of Trump. Likewise, many Republicans don’t really like Trump, but at least he’s not Hillary, so…

There’s no landslide support on either side. These two candidates (and their campaigns) are so divisive that America is being split right down the middle. And yet, nobody’s happy. Which is why I also predict…

3. More Third-Party Votes than Ever Before

Even just four years ago, finding someone who voted third-party was somewhat rare in my experience. Now, I’m seeing third-party supporters pop up in random places.

I don’t think any third-party candidate has a real chance of winning this year, but I would bet that the total amount of third-party votes will reach an all-time high.

People are getting tired of the two-party system. This election will only exacerbate that frustration.

4. Violence…Maybe Worse

The anger between the parties is too strong. When one candidate loses in November, someone is going to be angry.

I foresee violence, rioting, hate crimes, all those things that happen when people put their faith in one human. I certainly don’t endorse this kind of behavior, but I do think it’s coming.

Worse…I’m predicting a civil war in my lifetime. Once more, the anger in this country is too strong. Everybody is frustrated with the system except those profiting from it. One day, someone will do something crazy. Others will rally around them. And we’ll have a disaster on our hands, one far less clean-cut than the north-south division of the last Civil War.

And I wonder if it won’t start with an election.

5. Ache for Fundamental Change  

This is the one unifying theme of all these predictions: Americans are tired of America as it’s currently defined. Whether they want to go backwards or forwards, no one wants to stay the same.

From what I’ve seen, only a fraction of people really believe in Hillary. Only a fraction really believe in Trump. The others would happily go elsewhere if they had the choice.

So when the election results come in, more people will blame the system itself rather than a candidate. They’ll wish things could be different, then find others who wish the same.

During this election season, I’ve heard more about third parties, alternative voting systems, Washington reforms, anarchism, and the like than ever before. This election has infuriated Americans and made us ask how we ever got these two options for candidates.

You’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” That’s what’s happening. We do hate the game, all of us, because it makes us pawns rather than players.

So we’re talking, thinking, planning, and proposing. We’re looking less at figureheads and more at foundations. We’re discovering that freedom is something no president can promise us, but something we must take for ourselves.

We don’t hate our country. Quite the opposite. We just want to save our nation from itself.

A Creator’s Journey #9–Reuniting With Characters

Consider yourself blessed! I’m about to give you a rare sight: a direct look into a writer’s mind as he creates.

This week, I picked up an on-again-off-again project, “Locke Hart.” At this particular point in the story, the main character, Locke, is troubled by something, and his friend Sam sees it on his face.

Now comes her dialogue. She must inquire as to why he looks so perturbed without sounding as pretentious as this sentence does. The ever-easy, “What’s wrong?” comes to mind, but no, that’s just not Sam.

Sam is a theatrical, irreverent, worldly girl (who is also, paradoxically, a Christian). She never goes simple when she can go over the top. When she didn’t like her brussels sprouts, she set them on fire. Plus, this scene is a sort of introduction to her character. I can’t start out with such a vanilla line as “What’s wrong?”.

Okay, what to say, then? What’s an over-the-top way of asking what’s wrong with somebody? “What’s your major malfunction?” Nah, too mean. “What’s up your bum?” Too gauche, even for Sam.

Let’s think about this from Sam’s point of view. All she has to go on is his face–his troubled look tells her something’s up. Okay, so maybe she speaks directly concerning his face. So, what does Locke look like to her? His jaw is set, brow knit, unease is written all over him.


“What’s with the constipation face?”

As a bonus, Locke then twists his features in confusion, to which Sam replies, “Ew, that makes it worse.”

When I finally had the line that sounded perfect for her particular character, I smiled at the word “Sam” on the screen and said, “I missed you.”

To a writer, characters are not just names on a page. They’re real people who inhabit a world behind the screen that goes on even when you’re not looking at it. A writer is more of a recorder than a creator in some aspects.

So, when a writer sits down to write about characters he hasn’t seen for days, weeks, or perhaps years, it’s not a continuation of a dusty tome.

It’s a reunion.

Why Christians Should Care About Art (Even Just a Little)

What comes to mind when you think of an artist? A sex-obsessed painter with skintight clothes and an attitude? A doped-up rock star shredding a guitar? A short-haired chick who loves film and other women? Stereotypes abound, but there’s a nugget of truth: many artists lie outside Christian circles, especially conventional ones.

So, Christians should be trying to reach unsaved artists, right? Preaching the gospel to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth? However, there doesn’t seem to be much effort in this arena. Poor folk, coworkers, people in other countries, sure, but not artists. No one goes to the poetry reading, the gallery, or the local film release hoping to win someone to Christ. Unfortunately, I think I know why.

In order to win someone to Christ, you have to convince them that God loves them, which means showing them love yourself (you can’t say “Piss off, praise Jesus.”). However, to love an artist, you must love their art.

I didn’t say you have to like it, understand it, or share their sense of style. But you must love that they love it, not expect them to drop it to follow God because they won’t.

This troubles many Christians because they think art is some sort of low-ranking priority, if it’s a priority at all. Christians are more concerned about the poor, downtrodden, and unsaved.

But…wait a second. Artists are usually poor, struggling to make money on their gifts in a world that wants cheap amusement. They’re often downtrodden, prone to heavier emotional swings than the average Joe. And didn’t I just say many of them are unsaved?

So why the Christian stigma against art? I mean, God himself was an artist. He made two genders when an asexual organism might have resolved some headaches. He created genes that split off into countless ethnicities even though a monochromatic race would have stopped some hate crimes. He made animals with hilariously long noses for goodness sake! God valued creativity.

Why don’t we? Why do Christians look at artists and say, “That’s not important.”? Or perhaps, “That’s fine as long as you’re painting Jesus.”? How can we possibly expect the artistic world to come to Christ if this is our gospel?

Memorize these two rules for evangelizing artists:

  1. You can’t tell an artist to give up art to follow God because God won’t let them. He himself inscribed art on their hearts. Artists are not some social defect; they’re a person crafted by the ultimate artist. Art is their air, their milk and honey, their life. Telling them to stop is telling them not to be who God designed them to be. What’s so “Christian” about that?
  2. Artists are not some cow for Christian establishments to milk for their own gain. Art does not exist solely for the sake of mainstream evangelism. Artists have a commitment to their art, not Sunday mornings or their local Lifeway. Christians cannot call themselves loving if they only accept art that is “useful.”

If we want artists to come to Christ (which we should), we need to get into their world, not expect them to get into ours. You show an artist you care by showing them you’re not too busy to experience their craft, nor too cowardly or ashamed to slip into the underbelly of the world artists often inhabit.

Check out their stuff. Hang in their circles. Ask them questions about their craft. Be interested in them, including their artistry.

You don’t have to like everything they put out or follow every style, and let’s be honest, some stuff really does suck (M. Night Shyamalan is an artist, too). I won’t swing to the other legalistic end that says if you aren’t into art then you’re a bad Christian. Some people are wired for sports, business, medicine, children, and more.

But some are wired for art, and we need to love them for being an artist. After all, God is most pleased when we are doing what he made us to do. That in mind, I think some nonChristian artists have a better grasp of God than the Christians who kill their hearts and call it “holiness.”



75 YOF: John Wayne, North Dakota, and Casual Racism (The Searchers-1956)

Sometimes, I feel like I’m living in a western movie. White men in North Dakota are trying to spread west, but run into Indian opposition. Terrified of the “red man,” they paint him as the enemy, the great obstacle of progress.

But at least westerns had the decency to make the Indians murderous villains, not quiet protesters seeking clean water.

If you’re new to this blog, my wife and I are going through film history, one film per year from 1941 to 2016. We heard great things about The Searchers starring John Wayne, and I’m sorry to see that 1956 knew more about racism than 2016.



John Wayne plays Ethan, a cowboy and ex-soldier. When his brother’s family is slaughtered by Indians (and a chief seeking comeuppance for the death of his sons), Ethan goes after the two daughters who were kidnapped. However, we quickly discover that Ethan doesn’t really care whether he gets his nieces back as long as he’s able to kill the Indians who did him wrong.

Not many westerns would draw that line. Usually, this plot would be “good white man vs bad red man.” After all, the Native Americans were a real threat to the white man’s way of life in those days.

But then again…we all know why. Just the tiniest glimpse into history shows Europeans marching into North America and singing “Mine, Mine, Mine” like the bad guy in Pocahontas.


“Look at all this stuff I own now!”

However, The Searchers makes Ethan out to be more of a villain than a hero. He scowls at a young man who’s 1/8th Cherokee, shoots a dead Indian in the eyes, and even draws a gun on his surviving niece when he finds out she’s been “made one of them” to put it nicely.

Even the other settlers, in just as much danger from Indian raids as Ethan, do not share his hatred. They want to rescue captives and stop wrongdoers. Ethan just wants to kill people he doesn’t like.

Naturally, Ethan comes around, but not perfectly. In an awesome final shot, when everyone else goes into the house, Ethan hesitates, then turns and walks out into the dusty desert, knowing he has a lot of soul searching to do before he can join the party.

But that’s just a movie. This is real life.


These aren’t Indian raiders kidnapping, raping, and killing. They’re peaceful protesters who want clean water and respect.

And these aren’t sour-faced gunslingers fearing for their scalps. They’re businessmen armed with guard dogs, mace, and government indifference.

But the hatred is still there. Sixty years since Ethan walked off into the sunset and hundreds of years since setting foot on North America, we’ve still learned nothing.

We still see these people as intruders on our land. We still see them as obstacles to overcome and not partners. We see them as funny people with backwards ways instead of a culture with wisdom to share.

We don’t care about their water. We don’t care about their customs. We don’t care that they’ve been pushed to the fringes of society; they are still in our way.

Just like those black people trying to change how we do police business around here. Just like those Mexicans who want to make a living. Just like those Syrians who want shelter from the storm.

How dare they demand that we share? Don’t they know who we are? Don’t they know how many races and cultures we’ve bullied and belittled to get this far? Don’t they know how many saints and prophets we’ve squashed in the name of God?

If you ask me, they should all just go home…oh, wait..


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