New Definitions of Masculinity

If change is scary, it’s going to be an increasingly scary world out there for us white male cisgender heteronormatives (we did a pretty good job of mucking things up)…

We’ll probably need a new definition of masculinity, too. There are many groups in society who have lost an empire but not yet found a role. Men are the largest of those groups. The traditional masculine ideal isn’t working anymore. It leads to high dropout rates, high incarceration rates, low labor force participation rates. This is an economy that rewards emotional connection and verbal expressiveness. Everywhere you see men imprisoned by the old reticent, stoical ideal.

Source: If Not Trump, What?

Digital Repatriation or Theft?

“I would point to some of the recent trends in 3D scanning as potential new sites for digital colonialism, not just repatriation.  Is prosecution of stolen code related to contested heritage objects a form of digital colonialism?  Is keeping the code private, accessible only to the museum or scholars who obtain access a form of colonialism?  Is publicly releasing the code while holding tight to the physical object reinforcing colonialism?  As this episode tells us, the materiality of these cultural heritage objects holds meaning that cannot be extracted into bits and bytes.”

Source: The Nefertiti Hack: Digital Repatriation or Theft? | Early Christian Monasticism in the Digital Age

Amazing piece of performance art and a very needed conversation…

The Pope Didn’t Say Donald Trump Is Not a Christian

From Dr. Thomas J. Whitley…

“The “only” is a key word in Pope Francis’ response, as is his admission that he is rather uninformed regarding Donald Trump’s immigration policy proposals. The Pope did not say “Donald Trump is not Christian.” Rather, he claimed that if a person only ever thought about building walls and not also about building bridges, that person would not be Christian. Yes, the implication is that Trump is that person and that Trump only thinks about building walls and not bridges, but that is not precisely what Francis said.”

Source: MRBlog | Donald Trump, Pope Francis, and the Death of Nuance – The Marginalia Review of Books

Choosing Clinton is Like Pascal’s Wager

“For a progressive, how you reconcile conflicting truths about Clinton depends, to some extent, on how much you empathize with her. Supporting Clinton means justifying the thousands of concessions she’s made to the world as it is, rather than as we want it to be. Doing this is easier, I think, when you are older, and have made more concessions yourself. Indeed, sometimes it feels like to defend Clinton is to defend middle age itself, with all its attenuated expectations and reminders of the uselessness of hindsight.”

Source: Why one feminist woman is voting for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders

I’ve read so many Facebook posts from progressive friends who are backing Clinton despite their professed reservations.

It reads very much like someone taking Pascal up on his own wager in the PenséesFor sure, a game is being played and you must make a wager (though in this case, it’s not for the existence of an omnipotent deity but the future of the Democratic Party and our country).

  1. God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives.
  2. A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up.
  3. You must wager (it is not optional).
  4. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
  5. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
  6. But some cannot believe. They should then ‘at least learn your inability to believe…’ and ‘Endeavour then to convince’ themselves.

Sanders’ backers tend to the more “idealistic” or “swept up in an idealistic political movement” as the author of the article linked above writes when noting her sadness over young voters that aren’t backing Hillary. I feel caught in between these two, because my gray hair betrays my youthful idealism but I’m not ready to call myself “middle aged” just yet (I’ll wait until I’m 40 for that serious business).

However, age has made me more aware of the necessity of trading one’s ideals for practicalities of getting things done. How far we move up or down that scale determines everything from our politics to our (a)theologies to our choices (or not) in automobiles.

But I’m not ready to take the plunge and wage that Clinton is the more electable candidate and therefore I should vote for her, because if Sanders is nominated he will be “eviscerated in the general election” (again, using the words of the author linked above).

I’m not ready to trade off my own convictions about the need to disrupt the establishment that has led us to this point of polarization and play our citizens like punches in a card:

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

I’d rather not compute that wager.

What Churches Can Learn from Sanders’ Campaign

** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND DEC. 7-10 ** Susan Valadez, left, and her husband, Michael, use one of the "giving kiosks" in the atrium at the Stevens Creek Community Church in Augusta, Ga., Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006. The kiosks allow parishioners to give money using their credit or debit card. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Don’t get me started on “giving kiosks” in churches.

Merianna made an interesting connection between Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and the need for churches to also be aware of the the zeitgeist in the air (particularly among younger Americans):

“Bernie’s average donation is just $27. He hasn’t concentrated his efforts and energies in the megadonor, but has touted the power of every person explaining that every gift and every donation makes a difference. His message against Wall Street and giving power to the average person has made him popular among college-aged people as well as young professionals struggling to make ends meet.

Bernie’s financial message and his young followers is something churches need to pay attention to. For years churches have touted and even catered to the megadonors in their congregations who have formed the foundation of the church’s budget, but megadonors are a dying people group, and unfortunately they are leading churches to death’s door.”

Source: Why Churches Should Pay Attention to Bernie’s Win in NH – Merianna Neely Harrelson

Compare that to the way forward for Hillary’s campaign outlined in a memo today. I work with numerous churches, and I hear this sort of speak quite often (especially when it comes to fundraising and adding more donors to the rolls):

The way to win the nomination is to maximize the number of delegates we secure from each primary and caucus. Thus, the campaign is building the type of modern, data-driven operation that it will take to turn voters out and win the most possible delegates. That strategy includes:

(1) An analytics-based approach to determine which geographic portion within March states are likely to yield the highest number of net delegates for the campaign. Each congressional district will have its own data-driven plan.

(2) Paid organizers on the ground in all of the March states, running large-scale voter contact operations in areas where GOTV efforts will be most impactful towards increasing delegate margins.

(3) Targeted use of the right campaign surrogates in key communities in March states.

(4) An advertising campaign that will use a range of optimization tools to ensure that messages are reaching the right voters in the key media markets in the most cost-efficient way to the campaign.

Source: Hillary Clinton’s no-need-to-panic-everything-is-going-to-be-just-fine campaign memo, annotated – Washington Post

Of course, such marketing speak is not a bad thing in itself (it’s how I pay the bills!). It does feel cold and calculating though, doesn’t it? Perhaps that’s the reason I’m “turned off” by the approach outlined in Clinton’s memo despite it’s practicality.

But Sam, campaigns should be run like businesses. But Sam, churches should be run like businesses. Maybe. I just can’t buy into them if that’s the leading strategy.

I’m not alone in that regard. Churches too often turn their backs on young people who may not be able to write checks with multiple 0’s in favor of one or two mega-donors in areas of leadership, discipleship, and even messaging (sermons on Matthew 19:16-21 are often allegorized as a result of the Pastor recognizing the beauty of having a job).

It’s not a clear equivocation, but Merianna gave me something to think about.

First Political Attack Tweet? (Revisited)

From January 2008:

“Other candidates that have been using Twitter have been posting info about events for local followers or either links to YouTube video of rally’s, etc. It would be a shame if the candidates follow McCain lead and bring the negativity so associated with TV political messages into the Twitter medium.”

Source: First Political Attack Tweet? – Sam Harrelson

Dear 8 Year Younger Sam: Ha. It gets worse. It gets much worse. Enjoy it while you can.

Our next president will be a Republican…


“If any of those three is the nominee then — so long as the Democrats keep Hillary in the race — the Republican will win the presidency. Clinton’s flaws are simply too heavy a lift for a majority of the American people to carry.”

Source: Judd Gregg: The finish line | TheHill

A few months ago, I would have laughed at that thought. “Haha, Sam… of course a Democrat will win in 2016. Trump? Pssh. Cruz? No thanks, Jesus. Rubio who? Jeb! is a flop.”

As much fun as Democrats (and I) have had with the “crazy” Republican debates and shouting matches and outrages-of-the-week, I’m beginning to realize the Republicans have something that the Democrats don’t have in this process… choices and diversity.

For Democrats, it’s over. There was no choice. We got what we deserved by playing the game that was always rigged.

Hillary will win the nomination. No doubt. But that’s great, right? She’s female and it’s about time we had a female nominee and a female president! Sure. Let’s send up Elizabeth Warren or any of the millions of talented female leaders we have in the United States who could be ready to lead our country into the third decade of the 21st Century tomorrow.

And that’s my problem with this year’s Democratic Party candidates (RIP O’Malley Campaign). We are supposed to choose between a non-Democrat socialist long time senator from Vermont (God bless you folks, Stowe and Burlington are cool) and … Clinton.

“But she has the experience to lead, Sam!” Sure. I agree with that in some aspects (definitely not all of her record, but this is politics). But 50.1% of the voting American public won’t, and Clinton will not win in a contest with Rubio or Bush (or Kasich, but … yeah). And nor should she.

It’s time for a change in the Democratic Party. Our bench is weak and the down ballot votes in favor of increasingly conservative Republican local and state candidates will harm our country for decades and do real danger to everything from our public education system (see North Carolina) to our water supply (see Michigan) to our infrastructure (see South Carolina) to our very real issue of food insecurity and poverty we continue to ignore.

Bill, the email scandal, Benghazi, her handling of Libya’s collapse, her flippant regard for the press, her demeaning candor towards new technologies that are transforming our cultures and will continue to do so into the 2020’s (Virtual / Augmented Reality is going to arrive quickly and shake things up), her paid speeches and perceptions that she’s wrapped around Wall St’s finger… $21 million in paid speeches to corporations representing interests she’s now suddenly campaigning against… all of these things and more from her past and present will cost Democrats the White House and the very real Supreme Court nominations that will impact / haunt our Republic for decades (along with the down ballot votes).

I’m not a #BernieBro (anymore than I was an Obama Boy in 2008). I very much welcome female leadership and opportunities to provide decision making whether it’s in our home, in our church, in our family budgets, or my posts on social media. So let’s stop with this repeated rhetoric from 2008 regarding why “my” demographic is uneasy with Clinton:

“That does not mean that all privileged white male Democrats are sexist, anymore than it would be true to suggest that all working-class white Democrats (the segment of the party that is breaking for Clinton) are racist. But a lightly disguised uneasiness with female power, as well as the “we love women, just not that woman” rhetoric will be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to the reception of the feminist movement. It’s the movement of which Clinton has become emblematic -– not because it was her bailiwick, but because she has been exactly the kind of woman that feminism made room for: ambitious, ball-busting, high-earning, untrained in the finer arts of hair care, and unwilling to play dumber (or nicer) than she is.”

I am fortunate enough to be a partner to a female leader. She would make a great President if she weren’t led by a different calling that I am lucky to glimpse. The same is true for millions of females who are fantastic leaders in commerce, business, politics, law etc.

To pretend that Clinton should be upheld as a paragon of female leadership because she “worked her way to the top” sells short the very hard work that my wife and other women have done and continue to do (on a minute-by-minute basis) to help us recover from our national sin of protestant white male heterosexual homogeneous leadership across our churches, government, businesses, and homes. Am I to tell my daughters that if they really want to be strong females like Rey, they need to marry wisely and lie / cheat / steal their way to the top? No, I’ll point them to Merianna. Or Lisa. Or Cassandra. Or Nikki. Or Anna. Or, again, any of the millions of American women who “could make this country great again” if the system wasn’t rigged to favor the elite oligarchy that tries to sell us carefully packaged notions of femininity, female leadership, and feminism so that they can make more money.

The great JJ Abrams style plot twist is that a vote for Clinton isn’t just a vote for “the establishment.” It’s a vote for the privileged white male establishment.

We deserve a Republican President if we think Clinton represents the best and brightest that female leadership can offer our country. If we don’t think that’s the case… why are we in this situation?

Clinton will win the nomination easily. Rubio (or Bush) will win the Republican nomination. This time next year, we’ll have President Rubio in the White House.

unless the Democratic Party elites decide that Clinton is too much of a liability over her law breaking activity and jettisons her just before Super Tuesday in favor of VP Biden who will promise to serve one term and then hand off to his VP Elizabeth Warren or Deval Patrick or Nina Turner.



Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists

“Facebook urgently needs to address the impact that its algorithm changes are having on nonprofits, NGOs, civil society, and political activists—especially those in developing countries, who are never going to be able to “pay to play” and for whom Facebook is one of the few really effective ways to get a message out to a wide audience without government control or censorship.”

Source: Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists

I’d urge nonprofits (like our own Hunger Initiative) and activists to seek out means of distributing and organizing online communications that aren’t reliant on social networking silos.

Of course, it’s easy to point to Facebook with its 2 billion users or Twitter with its ~400 million users and say that’s where people are in 2016. However, nothing is to stop groups from developing their own sites / forums / online presences (even on limited funds in places of civil unrest or poor network connections) and piping content into the silos that are at the behest of corporate interests (as in the case of Twitter’s apparent decision to pursue algorithmic feeds).

Indie is the way to go, especially if you want to authentically share your own gospels:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

Gender pay gap among clergy worse than national average, and why that infuriates me


I won’t lie. It’s difficult to see my wife struggle with her call to ministry in that she has to constantly be juggling her time and serving others while trying to find and clarify her own voice. I struggle against my urge to be a “manly man” and step in and tell her she can be a stay-at-home mom and doesn’t have to deal with all of the daily grind that no one else sees and feels but her. I get glimpses of what she goes through occasionally, and I’m not sure how she balances what are essentially two full time jobs that get labeled as “part-time” (can there ever be a part-time pastor?) along with the demands of our newborn son on top of having to deal with me.

I imagine that’s the same with every pastor and every pastor’s family.

Yes, there is credentialing and educational requirements (undergrad, seminary, internships … and the high rate loans that are associated with them), but it’s no coincidence that pastors are also among the highest professional groups to struggle with depression and high suicide rates.

To compound that with these stats is, well, infuriating and disappointing.

New national data reveals that women clergy earn 76 cents for each dollar earned by male clergy. This is substantially worse than the national pay gap of 83 cents. The clergy pay gap is even more stark when compared to similar occupations…

The gap among clergy is noteworthy because, as an occupation, the clergy has credentialing (ordination) and educational requirements that should encourage similar pay for similar work. Religious organizations often have educational requirements and institutional controls for clergy.

Source: Gender pay gap among clergy worse than national average – A first look at the new national data – Corner of Church and State

As Willie Nelson sang, “these are difficult times” for churches and pastors. We’re seeing cultural and socio-economic shifts that (for better and for worse) are resulting in diminishing church attendance and financial support. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, and it will result in a church that “looks” very different in the coming decades both here in the US and on a global scale as the southern hemisphere begins to assert its growing influence on christendom.

It also means that churches should think about how they “treat” and pay their pastors differently. Whether it’s a 5,000 member congregation or a 50 member country church, the failed policies of the baby boomer generation in regards to running churches-as-a-business have failed. No where is that more apparent than in the relative cultural homogeneity of any particular church (at least here in the American South), and the way we’ve treated female pastors who have unique abilities to salvage their congregations.


Imagine, if you will, that everyone who has bought a “powerball” ticket over the past few weeks had given that $2 to a non-profit, temple, homeless shelter, church, humane society, synagogue, food pantry, school PTA, mosque, hunger relief effort, community garden, or women’s shelter.

“It’s all for fun. Don’t be a buzzkill.”

Greed has been sold to us as a golden ticket out of the lower classes and closer to the life we all subscribe to on the Bravo! channel. If we wish / pray / think hard enough about the right things, it’ll happen to us. Knock, and Uncle Moneybags will answer the door.

Lotteries and Powerballs and Pick 5’s are evil and do damage to our society, culture, and communities.

Like it or not, we vote with our money in the United States. Render unto Caesar what you think belongs to Caesar.

Your chances of winning the Powerball jackpot are one in 292 million. Here’s what that looks like…

Source: How tiny are your chances at winning the Powerball jackpot? This tiny. –

I may be a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

The Human Hope, the Cloud, and why 70% of internet traffic flows through Northern Virginia

Short but fascinating-to-ponder pilgrim’s progress piece…

And maybe my desire to submerge myself in that sediment, to weave The Cloud into the timelines of railroad robber-barons and military R&D, emerges from the same anxiety that makes me go try to find these buildings in the first place: that maybe we have mistaken The Cloud’s fiction of infinite storage capacity for history itself. It is a misunderstanding that hinges on a weird, sad, very human hope that history might actually end, or at least reach some kind of perfect equipoise in which nothing terrible could ever happen again. As though if we could only collate and collect and process and store enough data points, the world’s infinite vaporware of real-time data dashboards would align into some kind of ultimate sand mandala of total world knowledge, a proprietary data nirvana without terror or heartbreak or bankruptcy or death, heretofore only gestured towards in terrifying wall-to-wall Accenture and IBM advertisements at airports.

Source: Up to 70 Percent of Global Internet Traffic Goes Through Northern Virginia –

Gender Equality Reflected in Pantone’s 2016 Color of the Year


This might make Franklin Graham’s head explode, but I think it’s a good move to associate design with “politics” and assert the relevance of seemingly mundane things such as color choices to cultural conversations:

Pantone Color of the Year 2016 – Rose Quartz and Serenity: “Joined together, Rose Quartz and Serenity demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace. The prevalent combination of Rose Quartz and Serenity also challenges traditional perceptions of color association.”

Thoughts in the Presence of Fear

We did not anticipate anything like what has now happened. We did not foresee that all our sequence of innovations might be at once overridden by a greater one: the invention of a new kind of war that would turn our previous innovations against us, discovering and exploiting the debits and the dangers that we had ignored. We never considered the possibility that we might be trapped in the webwork of communication and transport that was supposed to make us free.

Source: Orion Magazine | Thoughts in the Presence of Fear

Wendell Berry is a modern day Amos, speaking to us in a prophetic voice that we are quick to admonish.

Although written shortly after 9/11, this essay still resonates just as the words of Amos and Hosea challenge us today.

Practice Resurrection.

Go Read Ezra and Nehemiah

dura-ezra“This story came out of nowhere and had me looking at other resources for answers. First, I didn’t really know that Ezra and Nehemiah were. And now, Nehemiah — a name I couldn’t spell in my notebook without writing out each letter looking at the Bible — and he was speaking to me. I flew through the pages.”

Source: A Catholic reads the Bible, week 22 –

Whatever your religion, non-religion, perspective, or theology… go read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

People often look at me strangely when I tell them they are two of my favorite things in the Bible, but when I taught Old Testament at the college level we’d always spend way too much time with these books. Both (once the same) are very overlooked yet important for understanding our current situation, the development of Judaism, early Christianity, historical geography, and broader issues of colonialism.

My Sermon from Emmanuel Baptist Today

Here’s my sermon from this morning at Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship in Lexington, SC entitled “You Don’t Know How to Serve.”

Download here.

The basic idea is that Mark 10:35-45 is not about sin or atonement, but about subverting hierarchies.

Why are churches struggling in 2015? Because churches are supporting the systems that Jesus attempted to break down. In that paradigm, churchers aren’t needed, churches are bitter, and churches don’t matter.

More resources on this theological topic from Brothers Kris and Willie:

“Censorship that doesn’t look like censorship”

Remember, “free speech” doesn’t always align with the user policies on Facebook, Twitter etc. Own your content and your books or learn to live with the trade off of letting the algorithm decide how you vote…

“Censorship that doesn’t look like censorship. It deliberately reduces the spread of information that might otherwise go viral. Vicious. “You can say what you like but no one will hear you. And also, you’ll think no one cared, so you’ll give up trying.” Subtle, deniable, and quite ruthless.”

via Paul Dietric: Adventures in Twitter Censorship (PDF for obvious reasons)

Poverty Amongst Prosperity

These are great numbers at the macro level, but this is troubling:

“Corporate profits are at record levels; stock prices have more than doubled.”


“The same Census report showed that the number of people living in poverty went up in 2014 to nearly 46.7 million — which is 6.8 million more than in 2008. The official poverty rate — meaning the percentage of the population living below the official poverty line — was 14.8 percent last year, which is 1.6 percentage points higher than in 2008.”

Source: Obama’s Numbers (October 2015 Update) |

The United States’ Poor Record on LTE

“Conversely some of the earliest adopters of LTE — like the U.S., Japan, Sweden and Germany — are starting to fall behind in terms of data performance. In part, these older networks are suffering from their own success. In the U.S., for instance, LTE’s introduction in 2010 resulted in a huge base of LTE subscribers in the country today. Those subscribers are all competing for the same network resources, slowing down average speeds. In comparison, newer networks in South America and Europe are more lightly loaded. But the U.S. has also failed to keep up with the rest world in both spectrum and technology. All of the four major U.S. operators have been expanding into more frequency bands, but none have been able to match the capacity countries like South Korea and Singapore have plowed into their networks. The U.S. has also been much slower in moving to LTE-Advanced.”

Source: The State of LTE September 2015 – OpenSignal

During my first few weeks at Wofford College in the Fall of 1996, I stumped the campus IT team by asking for the TCP / IP details or a way to get an internet connection in my dorm room. “Why do you want to have the internet in your dorm room?” one of the IT team asked me. Two years later, the whole campus had a high speed fiber connection.

We’re undergoing a transition from laptops to mobile devices as a primary mode of computing for many people, young and old. However, as Thomas Whitley and I talked about on Thinking Religion yesterday, the transition is happening quickly on university campuses.

I’ve talked to young people who said that mobile service was a factor in where they wanted or decided to go to college. It wasn’t a primary factor, but it did make into the equation. I hear the same from businesses and clients I work with today when deciding on where to have meetings (“We can’t meet in that part of town…the Verizon coverage is terrible.”).

I wonder when / if we’ll, as a country, insist on investing in more development of LTE and mobile in both urban and rural parts of our country as the mobile revolution continues? Or has our political mood changed so much in twenty years that the government stepping in and working with an industry to improve what is potentially seen as a necessary service an impossibility?

“We’re here to tell you we believe that in rural North Carolina and in rural America, Internet access ought to be just as likely as telephone access…You ought to be able to use it in the fastest possible way…And if you can, it’ll mean more jobs, more businesses, higher incomes and more opportunity.”

President Bill Clinton
Wednesday, April 26, 2000