I'm with you till the end of the game, pal. Why can I mash up a Marvel character (Bucky Barnes, the Winter Solider) and The Ohio State Buckeye’s beloved mascot (Brutus Buckeye)  and live to tell the tale?  Because, even though there ARE rabid ...

Brutus Bucky Says Politics Should Be More Like Sports and more...

Brutus Bucky Says Politics Should Be More Like Sports

I’m with you till the end of the game, pal.

Why can I mash up a Marvel character (Bucky Barnes, the Winter Solider) and The Ohio State Buckeye’s beloved mascot (Brutus Buckeye)  and live to tell the tale?  Because, even though there ARE rabid Buckeye fans and equally rabid Marvel fans, most of them know that sports and comics aren’t a matter of life and death.

The same cannot be said about people’s attitudes towards this year’s presidential election.

“But JT, the stakes in politics are much higher!”  That’s true, but it doesn’t change the fact that politics needs to be a lot more like sports, because…

In sports, you don’t really hate the opposing team.

Even in the Ohio State / Michigan game, Brutus Bucky has an appreciation for Michigan because, without them, the game would just be an intramural scrimmage. Similarly in politics, if there wasn’t that Other Party and that Other Candidate we’d just have, I don’t know, totalitarianism!


In sports, you aren’t shocked that the other team wants to win.

“I can’t believe the other guys are trying to score!” said no sports fan, ever.  So, in politics, we need not get riled up that people we disagree with think their ideas are actually better and want their candidate to win.  Really.  Even if the other candidate is, like, a Wolverine, it isn’t shocking that his fans are, in fact, fans, so don’t take offense at it.


In sports done right, there’s sportsmanship.

A friend of mine once got tickets to the Ohio State / Michigan game at Ohio State and decided to be a brave fan and wear his blue U of M jacket.  Even in the sea of scarlet and grey at the stadium, he lived to tell the tale and never had to don his emergency, “Get Out Alive” grey jacket that he carried along just in case.  In fact, he even accidentally bumped up against The Buck-I-Guy who turned around, looked him up and down and said:

The Buck-I-Guy
Thanks for coming out.

That’s the way sports should be, and it’s the way politics should be, too.  People matter more than team affiliations and they also matter more than policy positions.  If you think the US needs stricter borders and immigration laws, that’s ok, but you still need to love immigrants.  They are people.  If you think we need a more open boarder and looser immigration laws, you still need to love your anti-immigration neighbors.  They’re people too.


In sports, cliches abound and some of them are actually true.

The sentiment “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” is a line from a poem written in the 1920’s by Grantland Rice, a sports writer.  The poem, Alumnus Football, is a lengthy metaphor in which a successful college football player sets out to take on life the same way he took on football, only to find himself often assailed and beaten down.

At the end of the poem, the wise old coach Experience tells him,

Keep coming back, and though the world may romp across your spine,
Let every game’s end find you still upon the battling line;
For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the Game.

For Christians, how we played the Game has everything to do with those pesky Beatitudes, loving our neighbors, loving our enemies, things like that, and a lot less to do with winning arguments or elections.  It isn’t that politics don’t matter, it’s just that they don’t matter more than the Gospel.

So go play the Game well.  And go Bucks.


A clash of universes


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Be a Noble Gas

(Or Now That The Election Is Over, What Do We Do With The Rest Of Our Lives?)

We can all agree it was an ugly election cycle. But look!  Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz are getting along! Why can’t we?

The mourning of the Democrats and the celebrating (and mourning) of the Republicans after the election of Donald Trump has not satisfied our nation’s need for an end to vitriol, which I like to call our need for “quitriol.” How do we get there? Let’s gaze deeply into the periodic table of elements and take note of the most regal of elements, the Noble Gases.



Ah, the Noble Gasses, also known as the Inert Gases because they don’t react! These are the elements we could learn a lesson from, a lesson that was illustrated to me in the last 48 hours by a humble post by Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales (and other things).

Phil wrote a blog post called Church, We’ve Got Some Explaining To Do, which is basically a respectful, cautionary tale about the negative message that enthusiastic Christian support of Donald Trump has sent to the rest of the nation.  I hope you’ll take a look at it. I’ll wait right here while you do.

Church, We’ve Got Some Explaining to Do

You back? Did you agree with everything? Did you agree with some of it? Did it make you stop and think? Did it make you mad?

That last question is the one that gets me. It’s not amazing that people might disagree on this topic, but plenty of Phil’s Internet Brothers and Sisters in Christ went off on him because of this blog post, calling him a moron, declaring they would never buy a Veggie Tales product again, etc., etc.  It’s symptomatic of a political reactivity that is affecting our entire nation, Christians included, and it’s insane.

Incidentally, so many people were mad about Phil’s post that he wrote a clarification that should have been unnecessary, if only people weren’t flying off the handle. You can find it here:  Let’s Try This One More Time.

Folks, we need to be non reactive Noble Gasses, not Hindenburgs full of hydrogen ready to explode with the smallest spark. It isn’t Christ like.  It isn’t cool. It isn’t smart.

So how can we be less reactive and maybe learn something from the experiences and people around us, even when we don’t agree?  I’m glad you asked!

Accept That It Was A Strange Election

The choices were poor at best. The campaign was a race to the bottom in many ways. Maybe you made a great choice, maybe you made a rotten one, and maybe you know a few people who you think made even worse choices than you did in the voting booth.  It’s time to stop fighting about an election that’s over.  The North and the South managed to become one nation again after the Civil War, I think we should be able to manage surviving an election.

Accept That This (And All) Elections Didn’t Bring Us A Messiah

Seriously. It would be great if we could elect the perfect Presidential candidate and then take the next four years off while he or she fought the good fight for us and we just spent our time keeping tabs on the next Star Trek / Star Wars / Marvel movies.  But that never happens.  It certainly didn’t happen this time.  It wouldn’t have happened if Hillary had won.

Both major candidates were deeply flawed, both personally and politically. If we want to influence our nation in a way that furthers the kingdom of God and reflects the character of Christ, we aren’t going to do it by declaring that ANY political candidate is The Answer To Our Woes And God’s Perfect Will For America. We need to be vocal. We need to be involved.

We need to stand for truth.

No candidate, no party has the corner on truth. What determines which ideas are good and which are bad is not the (D) or (R) after a candidate’s name. The world needs to hear Christians advocate for good things and stand against bad things.  Period.  Doing this won’t just help mend our political fences as a nation, it’ll enable us to be witnesses for the Gospel more than we are witnesses for flawed people and political organizations.

Accept One Another Just as Christ Accepted You

Yes, I stole that one from the Bible.  (Romans 15:7)  Can Phil Vischer or anybody else inside or outside the Christian community say something you disagree with and you not explode? There are important issues in politics, no doubt. There’s a lot at stake sometimes, but the thing the Bible commanded me to guard isn’t  the Constitution or my rights or the state of the economy.

It’s my heart.

Guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  – Proverbs 4:23

How can I love my enemies, even the ones whose votes are all wrong?

Try being a noble gas. Don’t be reactive, and concern yourself with your character and the character of your nation before you worry about who’s in power.


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Grand Moff Tarkin for President

The other day I tweeted, “Understand this: YOUR presidential candidate is evil & wrong & I can’t believe you support him/her. Hey! Let’s argue!”

Not one person argued with me. Not one!

This could be because there is hope for civility in America or because people recognize a joke when they see one.  The third possibility is, however, that honest people on both sides of the aisle recognize the terrible truth: Grand Moff Tarkin is their only choice for President, and they aren’t happy about it.

Governor Tarkin is a busy man. He isn’t just holding Vader’s leash, he’s running for President for BOTH PARTIES.

How can this be?

I’m glad you asked.  In Star WarsA New Hope, Grand Moff Tarkin announces to his assembled minions that the Emperor will now start ruling the galaxy using one simple principle:

“Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.”  (That would be the Death Star)

Every time I hear Clinton or Trump speak, every time I hear one of their surrogates speak, the bottom line is, “The OTHER candidate is the Death Star! Fear the Death Star! I am not the Death Star, so vote for me because of Fear Of This Battle Station!”

I’m guessing they keep saying these things because it works for them. And if it’s true that the majority of American voters are, on some level, making their choice by way of Fear Of This Battle Station, it’s no surprise that everything seems so messed up.

What ever are we to do about the Death Star?

There’s hope, so let’s launch a proton torpedo into the exhaust port right above the main port and start the chain reaction that will destroy the Battle Station of Fear. In other words, take a breath and…

Don’t be afraid.

Fear is a crappy way to make decisions.  The Other Candidate might really be a scruffy looking nerf herder.  He or she could well be as bad as you think, but if you’re a Democrat, hey, we survived 20 years of Reagan and the Bushes, and if you’re a Republican, we survived 20 years of Carter, Clinton, and Obama! God will still be God, no matter who gets elected.

Don’t be a jerk.

Really. We don’t like it when the candidates are jerks, so don’t be a jerk to those friends and strangers who inexplicably plan to vote Death Star. If I can’t convince you of that, and you think Death Star voters are truly your enemy, then love your enemy.  Jesus didn’t give us a “get out of loving your enemies free” card for election season.

Don’t exaggerate.

Hyperbole ruins EVERYTHING.  (Irony does not.) While there are truly big, terrible problems with both candidates, the political machines and the news media have their hyperbole in hyper-drive. It just might be that this isn’t The Election That Determines Everything Both Now And Forever.

If, when the election is over, the Bad Candidate wins, remember: The Galaxy Far Far Away survived the Death Star. It also survived the  next, bigger, unfinished Death Star. It even survived the third, planet sized Death Star.

Stay calm.

And don’t be Tarkin.

You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.”  – Romans 8:15

See? We can all get along!
See? We CAN all get along!

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An Instrument of Evil

As a bagpiper, I know what it is like to play a much-maligned instrument.  Much maligned.  Believe it or not, violists have this same experience.  If you Google “Bagpipe Jokes” and then try “Viola Jokes,” you find pretty much the same material.

But the piccolo?  I always thought of it as part of what’s cool about Stars and Stripes Forever, almost as cool as the trombone part at the end.  (Yes, I play the trombone too. I am as cool as you can be.) As it turns out, not only is the piccolo not cool, it’s dangerous.


The Piccolo Truth According to Craig’s List

Apparently, there are terrible things that you should know about the piccolo. The indented excerpts below are from the actual Craig’s List listing that I saved from obscurity before it was pulled down.  Honest.

4SP Silver Plated Gemienhardt Piccolo w/ hard case – $300 (Kennewick)

They call the trumpet “God’s Instrument.” The instrument that takes a month to learn and a lifetime to master. Forget that. I’m giving you the chance to own “Satan’s Instrument.” The instrument that takes a second to hate and a lifetime to get used to. If your goal is world domination, getting the ball rolling on the apocalypse, or simply disarming someone, this miniature flute of terror will hold the game down. And how.

Brought to you by Lucifer himself, this 4SP Silver Plated Gemienhardt Piccolo will serve his evil minion well. From its compact arthritis-inducing body this pipe will unleash a sound that can bring entire crowds of people to their knees in pain and surrender. If you’re thinking of starting a bloody coup, leave the AK-47s and sarin gas at home son, this picc is all you need.

Having introduced us to the offending mini-flute, the seller pitches a fit (frequency pun, yes).

This instrument has the ability to sing an A five lines above the staff so crisp and clear that, if you’re not careful, you may actually cleave your conductor’s brain clean in half. Its highest note is one only dogs can hear, that composers have dubbed “X.”

This is the only instrument able to kick a field goal of pain right between the goal posts of your unfortunate target’s neurons, resulting in synaptic misfires, blown mental fuses, and a complete breakdown of all left brain activity, leaving the right brain to writhe in pain and confusion whilst scrambling all bodily motor functions. Any soul unlucky enough to wind up on the business end of Beelzebub’s piccolo will instantly be reduced to the fetal position and revoked of their right to free will.

Aside from violating several Geneva Convention protocols, this wailing weaponry can produce frequencies that wreak havoc upon others by causing:

– sudden unexpected nosebleeds

– aphasia

– heart palpitations

– aneurysms

– loss of sanity

– unexplainable rage

– spontaneous combustion

– abandonment of the will to live

The seller wraps up by the sales job by detailing his or her ability as the former player of this instrument to exercise evil sovereign rule over a kingdom filled with minions who live to do their ruler’s bidding.

This effectively tees up the shrilling confusion. (I pun! I pun!)

Since I’m livin’ the dream, I’m retiring from my reign of terror and am passing the torch. Being evil is an arduous, exhaustive effort, and this musical scepter cannot be played by your average white bread vanilla villain. Only the most cunning, dextrous, morally ambiguous, and questionably sane may apply. Who among you is worthy?

$300 OBO. Willing to throw in a box of gravel and ship.

What about you?  Do you wish to wield a piccolo and rule the world? Do you despise the piccolo, or are you more hostile to the viola or the bagpipes?

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No Random President For You

When I was a teenager I read an Arthur C. Clarke sci-fi novel, Imperial Earth, which was set during the USA’s quincentennial.  The book mentions that in 2276, the US chooses its president for one 6 year term via random computer selection.  After his or her single term, the president has to go back home and face the neighbors.

Back then I thought that was a clever commentary on ambition, ego, and the presidency, but now I’m starting to think its a good idea.

Sadly, though, President Random won’t be appointed this year, so we’re left with the first election in my adult life in which I am currently undecided about what to do.

But maybe (for me at least, if not for our country), this might be a good thing! The parched wasteland that is our presidential options this year is challenging me to think about how I, um, think about presidential elections.

To that end, check out this video that doesn’t pretend to solve the problems of this election, but is thoughtful commentary on how Christians can approach all elections.


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