Virtue for the Virtueless

Virtue signaling is self-love. It is narcissism. It is masturbation. 

Virtue signaling is virtue for people who hate virtue. 

It is the realm of the empty. When there is an empty space, the devil slips in. 

I am out of explanations for apologists to this latest round of jihad in London. 

It feels like I wrote about the Manchester bombing yesterday. Close enough. 

I am nearly as angry at the people who allowed these conditions as I am at the jihadists themselves. 

I am nearly as angry as the people who defend the jihadists as I am at the jihadists themselves. 

What compels someone to bend over backwards to defend an evil totalitarian ideology that has as its stated goal the death or conversion of every human being that does not ascribe to it?

Why the virtue signaling?

It’s self-love as a way to assuage self-hate. 

Anything that stands in the way of feeling good about oneself despite the gnawing void in the soil is treated as anathema. 

Even things like the truth. 

I’m out of any other explanations. The metaphysical it is. 

Maybe we’re getting near the end. Maybe humanity is just choosing sides now.  

What happens next? I don’t want to think about it. 

What a time to be alive. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

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Book Review: Sword & Flower by Rawle Nyanzi

Sword & Flower - Rawle Nyanzi

If you ever wanted to know what would happen when a Japanese pop-star who can use magic teams up with a sword-fighting Puritan warrior to fight demons in weird dimension that may or may not be limbo, then Rawyle Nyanzi has answered this question for you in his debut offering, the novella Sword & Flower.

Even if you’ve never had these questions–and if you haven’t, I’m sorry–Sword & Flower is a fun, exciting read, part of the nascent “Pulp Revolution,” looking to bring back the spirit, energy, and free-wheeling nature of sci-fi and fantasy’s golden age.

You know, before politics, social justice, and lots of other stuff that has nothing to do with storytelling got in the way of storytelling.

Think more adventure and less angst.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must state that Rawle is a personal friend. He and I talk writing very often in person or on-line, and have read and critiqued each other’s work. In fact, I had the pleasure of reading early versions of Sword & Flower, and it’s interesting to see what suggestions I had and points Rawle missed made it into the final story.

And if you recall, Rawle and I went to see both Suicide Squad and (ugh) the new Ghostbusters movies so you don’t have to.

I don’t want to give away too many of Sword & Flower‘s plot points since it is short–104 pages–but I have to give some, as it has as unique a premise as you’ll find.

Lesser Heaven is a place where some go when they die, where they are held before achieving either a seat in paradise or eternal damnation. Why this is so, and what they must do to get a full reckoning, however, is still a mystery.

Interestingly, people seem to get sorted on the basis of geography and culture, so that an thirteenth-century Zulu tribesman would be with other thirteenth-century Zulu tribesman while a twenty-fifth century space-faring Chinese astronaut would appear with other twenty-fifth century Chinese, and so on.

That’s right: All cultures and all time periods coexist simultaneously in Lesser Heaven, so you just know that interesting interactions are bound to take place.

One such involves Dimity Red (real name: Chiyo Aragaki), Japanese pop sensation, who meets her end in a grisly manner and finds herself in Lesser Heaven. For some reason, though, she is immediately attacked by a demon, saved by a Valkyrie, and then deposited near a settlement of Puritans. And though she helps these pilgrims stave off demons that menace their settlement, she is soon arrested for being a Satanic witch.

Luckily, she catches the eye of the free-thinking son of the settlement’s pastor, nicknamed Mash, who senses her goodness and questions his own people’s automatic dismissal of what should be considered, perhaps quite literally, as a God-send.

I told you, Sword & Flower has a bit of everything. Continue reading “Book Review: Sword & Flower by Rawle Nyanzi”

Make America Humble Again?

While neighborhood-scouting in the tony areas of Northern Virginia with my family, I saw a house proudly decorated with signs reading the following:

MAKE AMERICA HUMBLE AGAIN

I wasn’t able to get a picture since I was driving, but here’s how they looked: They weren’t homemade, so I know there’s some enterprising company wishing to express this sentiment (which only seems to arise when a Republican is president, but I digress), and there are obviously people who want to pay for this sentiment. 

The text was meant to simulate something, a name-card, maybe, reading “Make America ________ Again,” like a political mad-lob. The word “humble” was written in a cursive script in the blank space, and the whole thing was on a pinkish background. 

Not the sign, but the closest picture I could find.

The signs got me thinking about the concepts “America” and “humility,” which is a persuasion win on both the signmaker and the sign-hanger’s part. 

But given what I know about America specifically and geopolitics at large, was America ever humble?

It’s the same way people wonder if America was ever great (hint: It still is, but mostly in relation to most everywhere else). 

America began life as a gigantic “Eff You!” to the most powerful empire in the world. 

It prevailed against incredible odds, and somehow survived the difficult decades after, to emerge some two centuries later as the world’s only superpower.

It’s kind of hard to be humble with a history like that. 

Look, we all know it’s not going to last. All empires–because that’s what America is, like it or not–have their ups and downs. And they change forms. 

Look at England, for example. It’s not the same country it was in 1066, or even 1966.  And yet it persists. 

America isn’t even that old, and we already don’t exist as founded. We haven’t for a lot time. 

America as founded died a long time ago, and is now firmly in the “smells funny” phase.  Continue reading “Make America Humble Again?”

Being a Church Man

Being a man. Much of it involves standing up for yourself, for your friends and family, and the weak. And a lot of times, “standing up” means fighting back, physically or with words. 

And then there’s being a Christian. Love your enemies and pray for them, even as they revile you. Be meek, because the meek shall inherit the Earth. Turn the other cheek. 

These are in conflict, right?Yet there’s something strange brewing in the realm of Christendom. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

You see, something I’ve noticed, thanks to the Internet, is that there are a lot of young, passionate Christians–far more than I remember growing up. And these Christians fight back.

When the culture punches them, they punch back. Hard.

There is even some armed resistance in regions of the world where Christianity is being stamped out by evil religious fanatics who claim to worship the same God. There’s not enough, but at least it’s there.

I applaud this and am energized by it.

Here in America, things haven’t yet come to blows (though the so-called Antifa thugs are starting to change this).

In a culture hellbent on denigrating your beliefs, sitting idly by gets you nowhere.

And this is important, because culture is far more important than politics in and of themselves.

So three cheers for Christians who actually defend themselves. Using the weapons of Scripture and snark in equal measure, logic and reason coupled with fearlessness and effective rhetoric, we refuse to go quietly into that dark night of decline. In fact, the goal seems to be to increase the numbers of the faithful, and bolster the strength of our various churches.

You see, the prevailing culture has successfully turned Christians into John Lithgow’s character from Footloose (1984). 

I’ve never seen the movie (there’s only so much Kevin Bacon I can take), but I know the stereotype all too well. In Footloose, Lithgow plays the villain, Reverend Shaw Moore, a fiery Christian preacher who hates dancing and bans dancing and music in his community.

Now, it doesn’t matter that Reverend Moore has powerful personal reasons for hating dancing and music, and later has a change of heart when he realizes that dancing and music are not the problems he thinks they are. Christianity in movies gets associated with hating fun. You see this in so many films, TV shows, and books. 

The Jesus freak is always puritanical, bigoted, and violent. And nine times out of ten, a complete and utter hypocrite, who is usually stupid for good measure. 

Why? Because Christ, of course.

I see a lot of this edifice eroding in the face of Christians who prove that you can be a churchgoer and bite back. Have a sense of humor. A sense of mischief, even. 

This is all well and good . . . but is it really Christ-like?

In other words, is fighting back contrary to Christian teachings?

Is being a masculine man incompatible with being a church man? Continue reading “Being a Church Man”

Theater of the Mind

There is no more powerful force than the human imagination. People live their lives according to what they think is true more than what actually is. 

No kidding, right? It’s a pretty good heuristic: “That mean-looking son-of-a-bitch over there with the knives and stuff sure looks dangerous…think I’ll stay away from him.”

But there are also those, shall we say, less-than logical manifestations of this tendency. 

Let me provide some context: I work in DC. The presidential inauguration is in a few days. You can imagine the talk swirling across the country finds itself here. 

And I have to laugh at a lot of it, even though a lot of it scares me. 

Scares me?

It absolutely scares me. Because some people’s actions are guided solely by what they imagine is the case. 

There are people with important, high-stakes jobs like airline pilot, doctor, and lawmaker who think that we are one step away from having things like internment camps and death squads. The one-hundred percent think–no, know–that slavery is this close to being reinstated. 

And how many times do people tell you “All X are Y”? “All Christians are bigots. All Muslims are terrorists. All blacks are criminals.” And so on. 

Again, this goes back to heuristics: One bad experience with a group taints one’s view of them, yet one good experience never changes anybody’s mind for the positive. 

Survival. I get this. But letting our imaginations get the best of us has huge implications 

When somebody thinks they’re Napoleon, we sent them to the loony bin. But act like we are all dead if we don’t pass a certain piece of legislation right now, and you become a national hero. 

And back to Inauguration Day: “All Republican voters are evil and Trump is Hitler reincarnate. Let’s throw bricks at them!”

Which leads me to an important point: If we all live based on what we think is going on, who is right? What is what?

I don’t know.  Continue reading “Theater of the Mind”

There’s Nothing Wrong With “Idols”


Lots of talk against idols. 

Of course, if you’re a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim, there are deeply serious prohibitions against idolatry (and no, neither iconography nor Jesus Christ are “idols,” so knock that argument off).

What about “secular” idols? Celebrities, politicians, atheletes, and other people who inspire is to do great things and whom some of us, gulp, seem to worship. 

Now, things get be “idols” too (Drugs? Money? Bloodlust?), which can obviously be problems. 

But let’s get back to people. Putting faith in human beings is bad, isn’t it? It’s harmful to be so obsessed; it’s common knowledge, after all. 

But you all know how I feel about the conventional wisdom. And I have a confession to make here:

You see, Frank Zappa helped me get through high school. 

Now I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t you a guy who routinely mocks celebrity and celebrity culture? 

Yes. Yes I am. But I’ll tell you what I dislike more than celebrities: A lack of balance. 

Back to Mr. Zappa.  Continue reading “There’s Nothing Wrong With “Idols””

Recalibration

You know, I had another post ready to go. But after I put the finishing touches on it, I decided not to publish it. 

For starters, it was very solipsistic. Nobody wants to read a diary. People read   blogs for interesting stories that teach something or provide some insight, not for dour lamentations and narcissistic howls into the digital wind. 

Let’s just say I’ve been feeling restive lately. Discontented. Or in the common parlance, down

And so the other day, as I’m wont to do when I get like this, I opened my Bible at random and read the first verse that caught my eye. It was so apropos I had to underline and highlight it. 

It might have just been a coincidence. It probably was. I don’t care. I’m running with it. 

It’s precisely because this world is how it is–oh-so “advanced,” you might say–that I need to trust in Him more than ever, desolate as I am. 

And it’s why I still enjoy the ancient rituals and elaborate services of church. 

My church has changed very little in 2,000 years. Orthodoxy is no feel-good sect that glosses over the so-called naughty bits of Scripture to appeal to a modern audience. Our liturgy was written in the 4th century and is performed in a dialect of Greek no one outside of the clergy speaks anymore. 

It’s the definition of old-school. And this is why I love it. In the face of a world that feels unnatural, all of that tradition feels more real. It’s like an escape to a time and place where things were more rooted. 

Many Christian services are attempts to recreate the kingdom of heaven here on Earth. And sometimes during a service in a Sunday, when I smell the incense and I hear the chanting and see the icons, I swear I can almost feel it. 

Regardless of your religion, chances are it’s centuries old, probably millennia. The fact that it’s still around is testament to the truth and purity of its ideas. 

There’s nothing incongruous about performing ancient rites in an era of high technology, fast travel, and instant communications, of unprecedented comfort, leisure, and ease. 

If anything, it reminds you of what being human is, that we don’t have all the answers, and that there is something to aspire to. It provides some recalibration in a society that’s hellbent on consuming you while. 

If I may get a little solipsistic here after all, please indulge me. I have been feeling so unfocused lately. My personal energy is at an all-time low, and I’m having difficulty figuring out what’s the point of anything it is I do, whether it’s my work or my writing or anything else, even having a family. If my offspring is condemned to have these same issues, then what’s the point of it all?

Focusing on the divine can at least provide some kind of purpose beyond the endless cycle of live-work-die. 

Maybe you don’t need that. That’s cool. As for me, I’ll be taking my regularly scheduled detours into the past so I’m better equipped to handle the future. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

And check out my Instagram here

PS I still don’t even really know what the purpose of this blog is, either. Maybe I’ll figure this out one of these days too.