Justice

Let’s Read the Bible: An Atheist’s Journey Through the Good Book

The_Holy_Bible

“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” John F. Kennedy

I feel it is important for me to come out of the proverbial closet. I am an unbeliever. I have never been religious even though I grew up in West Texas. I have felt out of place for most of my life. Regardless of my lack of faith, however, I try to be the best person I can be. I am honest to a fault, I try to never judge others, and I believe in standing up to injustice. I have been asked if I worship the devil (no, I don’t believe in him either). I have been asked how I know what is right and wrong–I think I have my parents to thank for that.

Every day I am surprised for the total lack of respect we show each other. From hateful Facebook posts, to conservative “news” articles, and the incessant invocation of God by the GOP Presidential candidates. Last week I read an article entitled, “No, Christianity Should Not ‘Welcome’ or ‘Include’ Your Sinful Lifestyle.” It is completely predictable in its premise—being gay is a sin and you need to mold yourself to our faith or get used to being discriminated against. I can only imagine having that much hate in your heart causes indigestion. This is just one example of weaponizing the Bible. Even though articles like this one are prevalent on the internet, the venomous tone of this piece, urged me to act. I decided that silence is essentially acquiescence to these types of assaults. Although the LGBTQ community seems to be the latest target getting the most heat from Christians, they not the first group to be targeted and they will not be the last.

As a woman, I feel the brunt of the Bible in my everyday life. I have been called a bitch, I have been told not to speak out of turn, and my uterus, along with millions of others, is being held hostage by a group of mostly old, white men. I have experienced pay inequality, misogyny, and sexual harassment. How does this relate to the Bible? I think you will see. Stay tuned.

As a liberal, I see a deluge of the personal religious beliefs of a few being imposed on the rest of us. I see presidents who claim they actually talk to God. I see protesters outside of soldiers’ funerals chanting “God Hates Fags!” And I see rich white men working tirelessly to block any legislation that would provide employment protections for the LGBTQ community, equal pay for women and parental leave.

I’ve had enough. Words are weapons and the words in the Bible have become weapons of mass destruction. They have been twisted to justify (and spread) discrimination, intolerance and subjugation. Thus, I am going to read the Bible. Cover to cover.

I am reading the “Holy Bible: English Standard Version” which you can download for free from Amazon. I am going to give a brief summary of what I read and my general thoughts. If you are offended by satire, this will not be the thread for you. I will be addressing gender issues, cultural issues, and political issues I believe are relevant right now. Finally, I will not do any outside research. I am only discussing the text.

The rules for commenting on this thread will be that no other parts of the Bible that have not been read yet, can be referenced in this discussion. Once we get further into the reading, we can refer back, but we will not refer forward. I plan to post on this topic at least two days per week.

This is my personal journey to understand. I have never read the Bible and I hope you’ll join me.

The first section I will discuss will be Genesis 1-10.

Josh Mitchell of the Wall Street Journal Responds to Open Letter

Much like his reporting, Josh Mitchell’s response to my critique of his lackluster and misleading article is completely underwhelming. As most of you know, last week I wrote an open letter to Josh Mitchell of the Wall Street Journal following the release of his article entitled, “Grad-School Loan Binge Fans Debt Worries.” As a graduate student borrower, I felt compelled to respond.

After relentless tweeting, I finally received a response from him. Check it out:
J Mitchell Response 1

You can check out all of my tweets to him here.

I, for one, am disappointed in his response. The smugness is palpable. I am not surprised by his dismissive response, or the lack of response from the editor at the Wall Street Journal (even though I courteously emailed my article to him). My lack of surprise, however, does not mean this is an acceptable practice for the media.

We deserve better reporters.

I do not want to leave any doubt in Mr. Mitchell’s mind. I was not providing him feedback. I was providing him with the truth and the facts. This is what some would call the proverbial b*tch slap. He failed to do his job.

As an attorney, I am held to a very high professional standard. If I lied to my clients or misled my clients–even at the direction of a senior partner–I could lose my license. I acknowledge that a lawyer’s job is not exactly like a reporter, but both jobs are essential to our democracy.

Why do we not hold our media to a higher standard? Why do we allow them to shape the conversation about problems that they know nothing about? Should they go unanswered when they fail to do their job with integrity, or at the very least, accurate citations, attributions, and facts?

No.

It is time for student borrowers, and the people who love them, to change the conversation and correct the misinformation. If you would like to contact Josh Mitchell at the Wall Street Journal, you can find him on twitter by clicking HERE and via email at this address: joshua.mitchell@wsj.com. Additionally, if you find misleading articles regarding the student loan crisis, or you want to share your student loan story, please send them to me via my Facebook page. I look forward to hearing from you.

I leave you with this:

john lennon meme 2

I promise to keep screaming. Who’s with me?

It’s Time We Judge Our Judges: Lubbock Judge Ceases to Perform all Marriages After SCOTUS Decision

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the work ethic and general professional disposition of millennials. In 2014, a Gallup Poll revealed that approximately three out of 10 workers age 18-34 fear losing their job. As a millennial, but more a member of the Oregon Trail generation, I have felt real fear in the workplace. Tip toeing over my boss’s hair-trigger emotions, reading and revising every email to make sure I did not sound too assertive, and doing things that I was not morally comfortable with because it was my job.

And just in case you are thinking, “This sounds like a millennial problem,” the same study found that approximately 20% of all workers in the United States fear losing their job. So why is it that we should be the only ones to bear this burden? The regular working people of America do not have to be alone. We can share the misery and I propose we start with our elected officials; more specifically, let us begin with local judges who refuse to do their jobs and uphold citizens’ rights under the United States Constitution.

For those of you who do not know, I was a toxic tort lawyer before I opened my own estate planning firm. In case you are not familiar with toxic torts, this area of practice encompasses a wide variety of personal injury suits related to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) or harmful chemicals that people have been exposed to and have suffered injury as a result of that exposure. I specialized in asbestos defense–this means that I defended companies accused of exposing employees to asbestos. For the most part, I believed in what I was doing. This is because asbestos litigation had been going on for so long by the time I got into the industry that most of the big players–the really bad guys–had been sued into bankruptcy. Although, I will admit that some cases were tougher than others.

There were days that I felt guilty sitting across the table from a plaintiff that had recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer with a 0% survival rate. Morally and emotionally, some days were very difficult. When you see a grown man break down and cry, it leaves a little mark on your soul that you cannot rub off. But I still did my job. You see, when I became a member of the Texas bar, I swore an oath to defend the laws of the United States and the State of Texas. I also am bound by the ABA and Texas Rules of Professional Responsibility to represent my client as effectively as possible within the bounds of the law.

There comes a time in some lawyers’ lives where they rise into positions of power, namely by becoming judges. Sometimes, people become judges who are not even lawyers. In some places, like Texas, it is not required that you are a licensed attorney in order to become a justice of the peace. But regardless of how they get there, the judiciary branch of our government is supposed to be the objective arbiter of legal questions and interpretation of laws. The founders intended it to be independent of all political affiliations. This was supposed to ensure that the legislative and executive branches are kept in check and did not run afoul of state or federal constitutions.

Unfortunately, some judges are deciding to shirk portions of their judicial duties in the name of their religious convictions. In Lubbock, Texas, for example, Judge Jim Hansen has announced that he will stop performing all marriage ceremonies now that the Supreme Court has deemed same-sex marriage to be a civil right. As a justice of the peace, this is part of his job description. And it is not an issue of Texas judges not being held to the same standard as other judges. Even though they are elected, and some of them are not lawyers, they are all required to sign the following form:

Texas Oath of Office

There is no indication that Judge Hansen attended law school. But does this excuse his blatant disregard for the duties that his office requires or the oath he signed when he took office? NO. Maybe it is time that the voters in Lubbock, Texas let Judge Hansen know that if he is not willing to do his job, we want him fired.

If you stopped doing part of your job, would you expect to continue reaping same the benefits of your employment? Would you expect to continue showing up day in and day out, taking a pay check, and being secure in your position? Or, would you expect to arrive at work to find a banker’s box poised neatly on your desk? And how about the fact that most employees in Texas are “at will”? You can be fired for any reason (or no reason) in Texas.

I believe that a civil servant who has sworn an oath to uphold the law should not be secure in his position when he refuses to perform the duties of his office. It is time to tell our public officials that we are not the only ones who should fear being fired. And we will not tolerate our tax dollars paying the salaries of people who refuse to do their job.

Guns, guns the magical fruit, the more we have the more we shoot.

I wonder when mass shootings will stop affecting me so much. I think, “Am I the crazy one?” It seems like our country is numb to the collateral damage that our gun laws (or lack thereof) have on innocent lives. My thoughts are with Charleston, S.C. as I write this. When is enough going to be enough? How much more collateral damage will America tolerate? How many more lives will be lost because of an unwillingness to admit that our gun laws are outdated and are endangering all of us? To see a complete list of all mass shootings in the United States from 1982 to the present click here to go to Mother Jones.

The first time I ever shot a gun was with my friend and her dad. He was in law enforcement and very careful and thorough. He taught us gun safety and we had an awesome afternoon. My favorite gun of the day was a .22 rifle, many call this gun a frog killer. I did not fire another gun until 2011 when I got my CHL in Florida. Why did I get it you ask? Because, why not? But let’s be clear, I’ve never been disillusioned that I will never be able (or willing) to put in the time and training necessary to adequately defend myself in a hostile situation. And in my opinion, anyone without advanced firearm training–basically anyone other than police officers and military personnel–does not have the necessary skills to defend themselves either. Anyone who says they do, is a bald-faced liar or simply delusional. Unfortunately for the deniers out there, empirical evidence shows that this is not just my opinion, it’s a fact.

I submit the following to you from 2010:

Study after study has confirmed that more guns does not equal less crime. In fact, as you probably guessed, the opposite is true. If you want to really learn about this, you can download a free paper here published in the Stanford Law and Economics Journal Research Paper Series (you can download for free to an iPad or in pdf). It is too complex to discuss in detail on a blog post.

Additionally, studies repeatedly show that guns are rarely used in self defense in the United States. The Harvard Injury Control Center recently published findings gleaned from an in-depth analysis and review of numerous reputable sources on the topic of gun use and gun violence. They found: (1) “Guns are not used millions of times a year in self defense;” (2) in a vast majority of self defense cases in the United States are deemed illegal and improper; (3) virtually no criminals report being shot by a “law abiding citizen;” rather, most criminals that suffer gun shot wounds are injured while they themselves are victims of unrelated crimes.

Another study from the Violence Policy Center confirms these theories finding:

In 2012, across the nation there were only 259 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program as detailed in its Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR). That same year, there were 8,342 criminal gun homicides tallied in the SHR. In 2012, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 32 criminal homicides. And this ratio, of course, does not take into account the tens of thousands of lives ended in gun suicides or unintentional shootings that year.

That means out of all homicides, justifiable and criminal gun homicides combined (8,601), only 3% of those reported were justifiable, a.k.a. found to be legal after the defendant claimed self defense.

If your Viagra only worked 3% of the time, would you consider that to be an effective drug? NO! 

So why on earth do we continue to continue to suggest the same ideas to solve the same problem? Let’s arm church goers! Let’s arm state university employees and students!

IT’S NOT WORKING.

How many lives have to be lost before we wake up? Remember, it could be you or a member of your family that is affected next. Nowhere feels safe anymore. But I guess I do not have a right to feel safe in public if it infringes on your right to play cowboy in my neighborhood grocery store, theater, church and public parks. We have lost the right to not be around guns. ‘Merica!

**Side bar** One flaw in the Violence Policy Center’s study I found is that it does not disclose how many of the defendants involved in the 8,342 criminal gun homicide convictions actually claimed self defense. Thus, take that portion of the study with a grain of salt. As usual, question everything wise readers.

Peace and love.