Regarding Perishable Immortality (Or Summer: An Essay)

‘Memory, prophecy, and fantasy— The past, the future, and The dreaming moment between— Are all in one country, Living one immortal day. To know that is Wisdom. To use it is the Art.’ – Clive Barker

It was a whopping forty degrees outside today, which is positively unheard-of for this region in February. A discernible amount of our piled snow actually melted a little. Not much, mind you, but still a little.

Looking forward to spring, for some reason, often makes me look back on summer… or summers past, as the case may be.

I had only one mantra during my childhood: Escape! My home life was about as controlled as it could possibly get, and off-kilter, inconsistent parenting was usually the order of the day. (The off-kilter parenting was often served up with a side dish of verbal abuse.) Summertime gave me the opportunity to wander even further afield than usual, and thus I eternally relished the season.

There are some summertime memories, I think, that vary wildly from person to person; others are almost universal to our respective cultures. If you’re an American… remember Slip-n’-Slides?

A Slip-n’-Slide is this long rubber thingie, kind of like a bowling-alley lane for your backyard. You hook it up to a garden hose, and that makes it mist water along its length so that it stays slippery. See, the idea of a Slip-n’-Slide is to run at it as fast as you can, and then belly-flop so you can slide down it. (I told you it was kind of like a bowling alley!)

Slip-n’-Slides came in three colors: Yellow, yellow, and yellow. They were also available in three lengths: Five feet too short, ten feet too short, and fifteen feet too short. So the finale of one’s ride usually ended in the sodden grass, leaving the hapless human bowling-ball looking like ‘My Favorite Martian’. (I remember one time when I was at a backyard party, and a pretty girl from the neighborhood was there. I wanted to impress her, so of course I hit the Slip-n’-Slide as fast as I could. I hit the wooden privacy fence as fast as I could, too, which certainly made me look oh-so-debonair!)

I grew up in a vast urban center, kind of the ‘New York City’ of the South. But running right through my neighborhood was something we called ‘The Ditch’. It was a huge drainage trench, flanked on either side by ten or twenty feet of trees and corralled by fencing. To a kid, it was like having one’s own ‘Hundred-Acre Wood’ smack in the middle of a city.

One could walk for miles through the wooded easement, and cross the water at will since it was usually shallow and full of rocks. The Ditch bordered miles of backyard, too, so we could hide in the shrubs and spy on people. Over the years I witnessed a laundry-list of secretive, private acts: People hanging out their wet clothes, people mowing their lawns, people working in the garden, people washing their dogs…

Yeah. I know. Shameless voyeur, me!

I loved summer evenings the best, I think. In the South, that’s when it cools down and everyone comes outside to hang out (or at least, they did before PlayStation and NetFlix). I loved the dawning of dusk the best; that was the prime time for catching fireflies. You could fill up a Mason jar in short order, and read by its light. All the while, the cicada calls – one of the most bewitching sounds I’ve ever heard – would reverberate in the humid air.

I, like most kids my age, had a bicycle. (It was a BMX, which was the preferred brand in those days.) I loved to take it to the local park, which had a bike trail.

Okay, so maybe ‘trail’ is a bit of a misnomer. It was a suicide track, was what it was; I think Planned Parenthood set it up to get around the law banning fortieth-trimester abortions. See, first you dropped down this twenty-foot hill. Then you hit this ten-foot hill doing about mach-3, at which point you flew about twenty feet before you landed. (If you happened to biff the landing, there was this nice, hard embankment with pricker bushes for you to land in.)

And that was just the beginning of the ‘bike trail’. It got a lot worse from there, trust me. Knee pads? Nah. Elbow pads? What? Helmet? Sheeeee-yut, man… we don’t use those!

I grew up in ‘the Bible Belt’, which was pretty fun because there were churchyards on nearly every block. The churches with paved parking lots were a prime place in which to ride one’s skateboard, and the grassy ones were where you played football.

I was always the running-back when we played football, mainly because I could run like the wind and I was too skinny to be a lineman. Us all being from a neighborhood of humble means, no one had uniforms… so ‘shirts and skins’ it was! Lemme tell ya what, there ain’t nothing like being ‘slimed’ by some sweaty galoot who’s been running around in 100-plus degree heat all day. Builds character.

Summer still comes and goes every year, as predictable as human stupidity and infinitely more pleasant. But the summers of adulthood will never rival the summers of youth; how many adults, after all, does one ever see running around chasing fireflies? And if I ever catch some dude hiding in the shrubs spying on my wife, he’s getting hurt. So I suppose that’s all as it should be; the summers of youth end, as they were meant to, with Youth itself.

Still, when I think about summers – and the indelible stamp they leave upon our respective memories – the immortal words of Stephen King come back to haunt me: He awakens from this dream unable to remember exactly what it was, or much at all beyond the simple fact that he has dreamed about being a child again. He touches his wife’s smooth back as she sleeps her warm sleep and dreams her own dreams; he thinks that it is good to be a child, but it is also good to be grownup and able to consider the mystery of childhood… its beliefs and desires. I will write about all of this one day, he thinks, and knows it’s just a dawn thought, an after-dreaming thought. But it’s nice to think so for awhile in the morning’s clean silence, to think that childhood has its own sweet secrets and confirms mortality, and that mortality defines all courage and love. To think that what has looked forward must also look back, and that each life makes its own imitation of immortality: a wheel.

Regarding… Well, Nothing. A Very DANGEROUS Nothing!

This sermon was delivered to the local Church of Christ over the summer of 2013

Good morning!

I’ve been in construction all my life, and a few years ago I spent most of my summer working in Bismarck. Which means that I spent three nights a week in a hotel room. When you’re pulling twelve-hour days out in the heat, when you get in you don’t have the strength to do anything except ‘veg out’.

As I would flip through the TV stations, I noticed how many televangelists are still on the air. Most, if not all, of the time I disagreed with the salvation teachings that these ministers were espousing, but once in a while I’d watch one anyway.

Sin is still a popular topic among televangelists, apparently, as it ought to be for any preacher. But if you watch these guys, most of their sermons go something like this: America is doing this, or the Liberals are doing that … And I remember thinking to myself, well buddy, what are you doing? I’m beginning to think that maybe we preachers ought to preach about sin first within the context of what we’re doing wrong, instead of what everybody else is doing wrong. From there you can go on and lovingly point out the sin you see in others, but I’m thinking that we ought to start with ourselves. If other now-infamous preachers had taken that approach, people might not have treated them so harshly when they messed up.

So this morning I want to talk about sin, about what it is and what it isn’t, and to ponder some of the effects that it has on our lives. But before we dive into the topic, let’s have a word of prayer, shall we?

(prayer)

‘Sin’ is a word that the religious world has bandied about since the beginning. At least Western religion has bandied it about, because Western religion has always believed in absolute right and wrong. Eastern religions rely more on moral relativism rather than moral absolutes, and they lean more toward and ‘enlightenment and ignorance’ viewpoint rather than a ‘righteousness and sin’ viewpoint. Moral relativism may or may not work in the eastern world depending on what checks and balances it has, but it has been a spectacular failure in the western world. We should have seen that coming; Jesus did say, in Matthew 12:33, that a tree is known by its fruit.

So what is a sin? The Catholic Church has attempted over the years to quantify and label sin so the idea is easier to understand. While I applaud their need to understand and avoid evil, I think it’s difficult to define something that is very often fluid in nature.

My assertion, as many have heard me say before, that sin is a nothing. It’s a non-entity, a ‘no-see-um’. The epistle of 1 John uses the analogy of darkness and light to define good and evil, and I think that’s probably the best way to define it. Darkness isn’t anything. It can’t be measured and it has no characteristics of its own. Darkness just exists by default wherever there doesn’t happen to be any light. Light, on the other hand, does exist in its own right. It has a wavelength that can be measured, it moves at discernible speeds, and it can be broken into a prism. Every time it rains and you see a rainbow, you see proof positive of personality and character of light.

Light IS. Darkness is NOT. Darkness is just the absence of light; we give darkness a name because we need a way to describe it, but our need to describe it doesn’t change the fact that there’s nothing there to describe.

I think that way about sin. Sin is just the absence of righteousness. Sin exists wherever righteousness is not. You don’t have to work at being sinful; you just will be whenever you’re not working at being righteous.

I think this is really the only way to look at it. We have to think of sin as a void, as a non-entity. Because if we think of it as an entity in its own right, then we forsake our own religion and we become Eastern philosophers. Eastern philosophy believes that good and evil are two halves of the same coin, and that the universe maintains a balance between them. Problem with that is, we’ve all to some degree had to live out the consequences of compromising with evil. It stinks. It ain’t fun.

If you don’t think of sin as a state of nothingness, then you have to ask yourself a pesky question: Did God create sin? Scripture says God created everything, in Colossians 1:16. Satan may have been the first sinner, but did God create the IDEA of sin? Wouldn’t that make God more than a little malignant?

I think the simple answer to that is that nobody made sin any more than anyone made darkness. You don’t have to create a nothing. God made light and righteousness, and darkness and sin live live wherever light and righteousness are not.

Righteousness has identifiable characteristics. Turn with me to Galatians 5, starting in verse 22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Righteousness loves. Righteousness is joyful. Righteousness promotes peace and is endlessly patient. It’s kind, good, loyal, gentle, and is capable of controlling its own responses.

Sin has no qualities of its own. CS Lewis once referred to Satan as ‘the ape of God’. His point was that Satan cannot create anything new; he can only mimic and blaspheme that which God has created. I agree with Lewis on that point. If you know anything about Anton LaVey’s orthodox church of Satan, NONE of their rituals or ceremonies are original. They’re just blasphemies and perversions of Christian ceremonies.

While evil has no personality of its own, it does take on anti-characteristics that twist and distort the manifestations of righteousness. Turn again to Galatians 5, but we’ll be starting a bit earlier this time, in verse 19: Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, and lewdness are just the absence of self-control. Idolatry, sorcery, dissension, contentions, and heresy are the absence of faithfulness. Hatred, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfishness, envy and murder are the absence of kindness.

What we’ve discussed thus far is the philosophy behind sin. Philosophy’s easy. When I was growing up, my friends and I loved nothing better than to crack open a bottle of whisky and debate philosophy for hours. Philosophy is a pastime for eggheads; it has its place, but it’s no good if you can’t move beyond philosophy to practicality.

I think we ought to all look at sin in our lives, but not because we like to dwell on sin. Rather, our sins tell us what righteous attributes we haven’t perfected in our lives.  Admittedly, this is a hard thing to do. When I look in the mirror and examine my faults, I always end up feeling like I’m going straight to hell. I just have to remind myself that this is what Christ came for: Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God’s grace is sufficient to cover our weakness.

The flip side of that, though, is that if we don’t work at moving past our faults then God’s grace becomes dead to us. James flat-out says this in James 2:17. The irony of Christianity is that God readily covers all of our sins, but we are nevertheless commanded to put them to death.

So how do we identify sin in our lives?

Admittedly, a lot of what I’m about to say is subject to debate. Someone’s probably gonna disagree with me. That’s fine. When I’m being dogmatic about scripture, I’ll say so. The rest of the time, I’m just trying to spur thought. I don’t often see scriptural wisdom as a carved-in-stone, black-and-white thing. Rather, I see it as an evolution … and that evolution begins with debate, not by being handed trite altruisms.

That disclaimer having been given, I think the most glaringly obvious trait of sinful behavior is the refusal to take responsibility for its actions. Turn with me, if you would, to Genesis 3, beginning in verse 1: Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

2        And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ “

4        Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6        So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

8        And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

9        Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10     So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

11     And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

12     Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13     And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

            The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

And there you have it. The WOMAN made me do it. The SERPENT made me do it. God’s question was ‘did YOU eat from the tree?” and yet both Adam and Eve began by talking about what someone else made them do. I think this is fairly instinctive for human beings. When you shirk the blame, you avoid taking responsibility for your destructive behavior. Problem is, those consequences are yours whether you accept them or not.

I remember years ago, when I was living in upstate New York, not far from Lake Placid. I was project manager for a fairly high-end construction firm. In retrospect, that was a horrible job for me. I like to work with my hands; I like building buildings, not planning them. Paperwork drives me completely insane, and most of all I’m a terrible politician; I have no brain-mouth disconnect at all, and when you’re the guy jockeying hundreds of thousands of dollars around every single day … that’s bad.

But I forced myself to fit into that mold anyway, and doing so made me miserable beyond miserable. And in my youthful stupidity, all I really did about it was drink. By 2007 I was going through nearly a bottle of whisky every night. Didn’t even bother with a glass or ice; just set the bottle on the desk and sucked on it like my life depended on it.

Over the years, I spent tens of thousands of dollars partying my time away. I ruined a number of friendships and family relationships, and I spent countless days being either incoherent or sick. You hear me now? I DID THAT. That’s Christ in me talking. THEN it was, hey man, I got a rough job. You gotta do something to stay sane, dontcha?

During that lost decade or so, I never stood in the mirror and went ‘what on earth are you doing?’ I should have looked at myself and said ‘hey man, that’s YOU clutching that fifth of Wild Turkey like it’s a baby bottle. You, you alone, and no one else. Not your job, not your boss … you.

Funny thing is, when someone does take responsibility for their actions, sin usually ends up taking a backseat. One morning in 2007 I woke up after whisky and cocaine bender, and sat up in bed and said hey, I am sicker than I‘ve ever been. I have to cut this mess out. The simple use of that word ‘I’ instead of ‘they’ made all the difference in the world.

Funny thing is, I wasn’t even a Christian then. Sin is sin, whether one is in Christ or not. Benjamin Franklin wrote that ‘sin is not hurtful because it’s forbidden, it’s forbidden because it’s hurtful.’ Everything that God condemns as sin, He condemns because it’s bad for us. God is loving, as it says in 1 John 4:7, and He only wants the best for us.

Another characteristic of sin is that it keeps doing the same dumb thing over and over again, hoping that something different will happen this time. I remember when I was younger, I had this very post-modern, secular humanist view of romantic relationships. Immorality wasn’t something that particularly bothered me. And over the years, I wondered why every attachment I formed would fall to shreds in very short order.

I know now why I couldn’t find a stable relationship; immorality breeds heartache, and nothing more. (You young people, you teenagers… you’re hearing me now, right? I’ve made all the mistakes you’re tempted to make now, and lemme tell ya… you DON’T wanna do it!) Relationships only succeed if they are selfless. Your point of view should be ‘I am going to serve this person’s emotional needs as their boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancée, or spouse.’ It should be about what you give, not what you take. And when you introduce sex before you say ‘I do’… you’re taking something that doesn’t belong to you. You’re eating your dessert before your dinner, and guess what? It’s gonna spoil your dinner.

When you introduce immorality into a non-marital relationship, you poison the relationship. Immorality is not selfless, it’s selfish; it’s not about what you’re willing to give, it’s about what you think you can take. There’s an old saying: As the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined. A relationship, even a marriage, that began in sin is going to be crippled. There’s no way around it. Can God heal those marital wounds that were caused by sin? Sure He can. But God only promises to HEAL THE WOUND. The SCAR you carry is your own burden. God cannot and will not violate our free will, and with free will comes the curse of living out the result of our choices. I am haunted every single day by the choices I made. I live with the guilt, and a lot of my negative behavior is born of emotional issues that I caused by my choices. Fortunately, the cycle’s been broken; I met and married my wife now in accordance with God’s standards, and it’s been amazing. Sinful foundations leads to bad marriages, but righteous ones lead to healthy marriages.

I just wish I hadn’t learned the hard way.

The last identifying mark of sin that I wanted to mention is this: Sin lives in perpetual self-denial. People whose lives are defined by sin cannot help but trivialize their behavior.  Someone once said that an evil man doesn’t think he is ‘that bad’, but a good man knows that he is evil. There’s a lot of truth to that, I think. I remember when I was baptized back in 2007. I had a friend who kind of turned on me, to the point that I really stopped thinking of him as a friend. He eventually came around and apologized, and we were able to patch things up. I know now why it went like that; evil hates the presence of goodness, because where goodness is, evil looks even worse by comparison. John 3:19 says ‘And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’

What I’ve never forgotten was an email that this friend sent me shortly after I became a Christian. “Why the major change?” he wrote. “The person you were before wasn’t that bad.” I was so tempted to respond ‘Are you completely INSANE?! You were with me when we got thrown out of bars and busted by the cops. You were there when we chugged gallons of booze and snorted piles of coke. You were there when we got into fights for hitting on other men’s wives and girlfriends. You were there when we passed out, threw up, drove drunk, and did God knows what else. What part of ANY of this is ‘not that bad?’

But his question to me betrayed our difference in paradigm. He was using the sliding scale by which the world judges wrongdoing. I had been led toward the absolute standard of God’s Word.

The terrifying this is that I still look in the mirror and accuse myself. My batting average for being able to rein my sins of attitude is about seventy-five percent. About one in four slanderous, coarse, or complaining thoughts that I think I’m going to spit out. James 3:10 says that ‘Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.’ Ephesians 5:4 says that ‘neither coarse talk, foolish jesting, or filthiness ought never to be named among Christians’. The letter to the Philippians is all about being content, not fretful and fussy.

Over the years I’ve occasionally gone and drank a bit more than I should. My days of hard partying are long over, thank God, but if I don’t carefully monitor myself I can wander into debauchery without even realizing it.

Sins aren’t just actions or words, they’re also attitudes. I have struggled since the beginning of my walk with God to adopt a purely Christian perspective on people. My ability to look at others through God’s eyes wars constantly with my temptation to view everything through a cultural lens. What does God say about that? Romans 3:9 says ‘What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.’ God does promote or honor any culture except his own; I have a devil of a time looking at the concept His way.

I am not what I should be. I never will be. The question we should ask ourselves, though, is this: It’s not ‘am I what I should be?” It’s am I better than I was?’ Moving past sin isn’t a light switch, it’s a journey.

Back to this idea of sin being an empty void: The only way to fix a void is to put something in it. Turn with me to Matthew 12, starting in verse 43: “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”Jesus knew that you can’t just push away evil and then remain in a state of neutrality. You have to take that emptiness and fill it with righteousness. You have to take the evil that is you and replace it with Godliness. What did Peter say in Acts 2:38? He said ‘Reform and be immersed, each and every one of you, under the authority of Jesus the Savior to accomplish the removal of your sinful state, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ I realize that’s probably not the wording you’re used to, but that’s exactly what the original Greek says. The wording we generally use is based on the King James Tradition.

Peter, like Jesus, understood that sin can’t be beaten just by resolving not to sin. It has to pushed away with active righteousness. When God washes away our sins in baptism, he puts in Himself. One of my pet peeves is our habit of referring to the Holy Spirit as an ‘it’. The Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’, He is a ‘He’. The Spirit, like The Father and Christ, is God and can be prayed to, worshipped, approached, and interacted with just the rest of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is not a vague cosmic influence like ‘The Force’ from Star Wars; He is God Inside Us. And He is what pushes away our sinful emptiness. I very often explicitly address prayers to the Spirit, because He is the closet facet of God to me. The Father is in Heaven, Jesus is at His right hand… but the Spirit is IN me!

If you don’t want to be lewd and impure, focus on practicing self-control. If you don’t want to deal in hatred and outbursts of wrath, instead focus on being kind. If you don’t want to fall for heresies, be faithful to God by diligently study His Word. In the end, if you don’t want your soul destroyed by hellfire then quit focusing on hell and think about actively getting to heaven. Don’t focus on an evil Nothing; work on creating a good Something. If you’re not going forward the only other direction go is backwards; there’s no sideways, and there’s no state of stasis.

I think a good way to accomplish this is by being more honest with one another. The Churches of Christ in particular – and I mean the church at large, not necessarily this congregation – is exasperatingly tight-lipped about sin. We’ll preach about it, but we won’t admit to it. What did James say? ‘Confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another so you can be healed’. That’s James 5:16. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins we will be healed. It’s not ‘hey let’s debate scripture so I don’t have to talk about who I really am.’ It’s about applying scripture by saying ‘hey man, I need to talk about what I’m struggling with.’ This is why I really appreciate the men’s morning class, and I’m betting the ladies’ prayer group is just as cathartic. They’re good places to heal from sin, because they consist of open, uncensored discussion. We say in men’s class, ‘what’s said in men’s class STAYS in men’s class’… and thus my lips are sealed. Scripture never said you had to tell EVERYBODY, it just says to tell SOMEBODY. I’m not sharing any details, but lemme tell ya… the details I’ve heard are pretty raw, and that’s how it’s meant to be.

Confession is good for the soul. Both the Christian and the Secular man know this.

So let’s think about that as we leave today. We all have sin in our lives. Can’t help that. Even the best of us sins in every other thought, every other word, and every other action. But we also have God, and God has given us one another option. Don’t focus on what’s wrong; fix what’s wrong by focusing on what’s right.

It’s that simple.

What the Founders Had to Say…

My home Commonwealth – Virginia, the Old Dominion – is in a state of conflict right now.

Legislative re- districting has handed power to a party that, in Virginia, has been the minority up until now. Their first order of business? Leaving you and yours disarmed and helpless.

As the Virginian Citizen’s Defense League continues to fight the good fight, I figured I’d leave y’all with some quotes going all the way back to beginning:

“An armed man is a citizen. A disarmed man is a subject.”
-Anon


“To disarm the people is the most effectual way to enslave them.”
-George Mason


“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.”
-Thomas Paine


“The best we can help for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
-Alexander Hamilton


“The great object is that every man be armed.” and “Everyone who is able may have a gun.”
-Patrick Henry


“Those who hammer their guns into plowshares will plow for those who do not.”
-Thomas Jefferson


“A free people ought to be armed.”
-George Washington


“Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them.”
-Thomas Paine


“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve and will have neither liberty nor safety.”
-Benjamin Franklin


“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”
-Thomas Jefferson


“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every country in Europe.”
-Noah Webster


“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the people of other countries, whose leaders are afraid to trust them with arms.”
-James Madison


“The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them.”-Zachariah Johnson


“The constitution shall never be construed…to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
-Alexander Hamilton


“To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”
-Richard Henry Lee


“The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.”
-Thomas Jefferson


“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.”
-Thomas Jefferson


“The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that … it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; … ”
-Thomas Jefferson

Petey Meets AOC!!!

After nearly being turned into Korean barbecue by the Oscar-winning director Bong Joon Ho, Petey the Pissed-Off Possum steadfastly refused to appear for his scheduled appointment with Tom Cruise. He said Cruise’s house was too close to Hollywood for his taste.

So shaunmoser.com deployed him to back to Washington, D.C. instead. While it’s a safe bet that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still ‘has it in’ for our star reporter, Petey is confident that he can easily outrun her. (He also says he can smell her coming from a mile away; she smells, he says, like mothballs and formaldehyde.)

We were able to line up an interview with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)….

Okay, we’re lying. We couldn’t score an interview with AOC.

It took some doing, but Petey came up with the idea of bribing AOC’s office courier into taking a day off. So Petey – in place of the turncoat courier – brought AOC her daily delivery of pink lipstick and gold hoop earrings.

Here… is Petey’s interview!

Petey: Here’s your package, Ma’am. Sign here, please.

AOC: Like, I actually have to spell my name?

Petey: No Ma’am. Just a simple scrawl will do.

AOC: But I don’t have one of those! Aren’t they made of like, crusty old paper or something?

Petey: That’s a ‘scroll’, Ma’am. A ‘scrawl’ is just a squiggly line.

AOC (making a scrawl across the delivery ticket): Oh, thanks!

Petey (pulling out his microphone): Miss Oca… AOC, might I ask you a few questions?

AOC: About what? I paid for my lipstick and earrings last month!

Petey: Oh, I’m not a bill collector. I’m a reporter for shaunmoser.com, and my boss would like it if I got an interview with you.

AOC: Who’s Shaun Moser?

Petey (sighing): That question’s getting really old! Look, if you give me an interview, I’ll tell Bernie Sanders that he has to back you for president in 2024.

AOC: You have that kind of pull with Bernie?!

Petey: Uh… sure. May we begin?

AOC (un-wrapping a Tide Pellet, and taking a bite out of it): Sure!

Petey: At President Trump’s last speech, you had a rather sour expression. May I ask why?

AOC: What?! I wasn’t sour! I didn’t even eat any lemons!

Petey (rolling his eyes): I mean, you didn’t look very happy. May I ask why?

AOC: Oh! Well, I think the president is a total racist! He doesn’t even want to give undocumented immigrants visas.

Petey: Do you?

AOC: Oh, yes! In fact, I think we need to go even further. I mean, every American has a Visa…

Petey: What do you mean?

AOC: I mean, we should also give them MasterCards! Then they’ll have more purchasing power, see? And the economy will do better.

Petey (holding his head in his hands): Speaking of the economy, how do you plan on explaining to your constituents in the Bronx that you cost the area 25,000 jobs by chasing Amazon.com away?

AOC: HEY! That’s not fair! I brought in the Amazon corporate office! That’s 5,000 jobs, thank you!

Petey: Yes, but 5,000 out of 25,000 is still a net loss of twenty thousand jobs…

AOC (rolling her eyes): Oh, math! I don’t do that. I have an app on my phone for that.

Petey: Do you have any idea how to use it?

AOC: What?

Petey: Nothing, let’s move on. Is there anything interesting happening in your personal life?

AOC: You bet! I’m hitting the campaign trail with Bernie Sanders!

Petey: That’s ‘professional’. I said ‘personal’…

AOC: What?

Petey: IS ANYTHING INTERESTING HAPPENING AMONG YOUR FRIENDS OR FAMILY?!

AOC: Oh, sure. My boyfriend is having plastic surgery soon.

Petey: Riley Roberts? Good for him. It’s about time, too; he’s plug-freakin’ ugly.

AOC: What?! He’s getting my name tattooed on his shoulder. He’ll still look the same!

Petey: Uh… Miss Oca… Ma’am, that’s not plastic surgery. It’s just a tattoo.

AOC: What? But the gun that holds the needle is plastic, isn’t it?

Petey: Miss Oca… Ma’am, have you considered a possible career change?

AOC: Like what?

Petey: Well, you’re pretty. And busty. And you’re a really good dancer! Plus you have this ditzy ‘little-girl’ voice… Have you ever considered a career as a stripper?

AOC: Actually, I have! How did you know?

Petey: Really?!

AOC: Yeah… but I don’t know how to draw.

Petey: What?

AOC (laughing): Well, you can’t make comic strips if you don’t know how to draw, silly!

Petey (groaning): Miss Oca… Ma’am, is there some message you’d like me to convey to America? A ‘mission statement’ of some kind?

AOC: Yes! President Trump is bad.

Petey: Um… Okay… Why?

AOC: He’s a racist.

Petey: You do realize that you might actually be descended from the Spanish conquistador Cortez, right? The man who ended the Aztec Empire, and may have caused the death of thousands of South Americans?

AOC: Oh, that’s not true. I’m from Puerto Rico! So I can’t be related to any Spanish people.

Petey (rolling his eyes): Miss Oca… Ma’am, may I say just one more thing?

AOC: Sure, as long as it doesn’t involve math.

Petey: I HATE YOUR CHEESY LIPSTICK AND YOUR EARRINGS, YOU %$^#ing TWIT!!!

At this point in the interview, our intrepid reporter ducked behind Miss Oca… AOC’s office door; after interviewing California Governor Gavin Newsom, he knew exactly what to expect.

Petey phoned our gara… office as AOC’s head exploded, assuring us that he was okay. We expect him home soon, at which point we will send him somewhere else where he might be killed.

‘Til NEXT time!!!

shaunmoser.com's Belated Oscars Coverage (Uncensored)

On Sunday, February 9th, shaunmoser.com dispatched our reporter – Petey the Pissed-Off Possum – to cover the 92nd Academy Awards, commonly known ‘The Oscars’. We should have released Petey’s coverage way before tonight, but alas Petey lost his tape recorder. (shaunmoser.com can’t AFFORD a digital recorder, okay?!)

We did eventually recover it…

We were initially worried that Petey might have some difficulty accessing the red carpet, but it turned out to be no trouble at all. Ever since Bjork showed up wearing that stuffed swan, it turns out that they’ll let ANYONE in! (The fact that Petey was mistaken multiple times for Steve Buscemi made everything just that much easier.)

Petey was regrettably only able to score one interview, but here… is that interview!

Petey: Okay, people… here they come! All the big stars! Hello? Natalie Portman? A word, please? Mr. Pitt? Ms. Johanssen? Joaquin…?! Hello? Anyone…?!

After a few minutes

Petey:!@#$%!^@

(An unknown attendee) Herro? I talk’a you!

Petey (sighing with relief): Bong Joon Ho, tonight’s big winner! Congratulations on scoring multiple Oscars for directing the South Korean film Parasite! How do you feel?

Bong Joon Ho: Herro! Who’a you?

Petey: I’m a reporter for shaunmoser.com. Do you have time for an interview?

Bong Joon Ho: So solly, I haffa reave. I’a come back. You wait?

Petey: Um… sure…

Bong Joon Ho: I’a come back. You wait, prease!

Petey: Um… okay.

Petey: He must be fetching a translator, folks. I’m told Mr. Bong actually does speak English, but he doesn’t like doing it in public. I just gotta be patient. In the meantime, let’s see if we can catch someone else… MR. DICAPRIO!!! MR. DICAPRIO?!

Leonardo DiCaprio: F*** OFF, YOU TRUMP-LOVING A**HOLE!!!

Petey: What makes you think I love America’s President Trump?!

Leonardo DiCaprio: POSSUMS ARE FROM THE AMERICAN SOUTH, IDIOT! EVERYONE KNOWS YOU SOUTHERN PRICKS LOVE THE ORANGE BAD MAN!!!

Petey: Well SCREW YOU!!! Who cares about an actor named after a damn Ninja Turtle?! And by the way, The Basketball Diaries SUCKED, you @#%!!!

Petey: *pant pant*

Petey: Oh, HERE comes Bong Joon Ho! MR. BONG! MR. BONG…?

Bong Joon Ho: Herro! You come here, prease… Herro?

Petey: Mr. Bong? Uh… Mr. Bong, what’s that? Mr. Bong…?

Bong Joon Ho (advancing): You ho’d stirr, prease…

Petey: Mr. Bong, what are you…?

Bong Joon Ho: You no move, prease…

Petey: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?! AAAAUUUUGGGGH!!!!

This interview concluded with Petey running terrified down Hollywood Boulevard. Witnesses reported that Bong Joon Ho was seen chasing after him, waving a meat cleaver and a bottle of Kimchi sauce.

Petey accidentally dropped his tape recorder in front of a strip club, but it was later returned to us by a wonderfully sweet hooker named ‘Tow-Truck Towanda’.

shaunmoser.com would like to extend our deepest thanks to Towanda for her kindness. We would also like to apologize to our faithful reporter, who is now in hiding… and is, apparently, still pretty pissed off.

A shaunmoser.com Exclusive: Petey the Pissed-Off Possum Interviews American House Speaker Nancy Pelosi!

In the wake of American President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, shaunmoser.com dispatched our long-suffering reporter – Petey the Pissed-Off Possum – to Washington, D.C.

Shaunmoser.com is, unfortunately, barred from both the White House and the Capitol Building for… stuff. But our reporter Petey happens to know about a certain trash can behind the Capitol Building; apparently House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sneaks back there to inject herself with her daily dose of embalming fluid.

All our intrepid reporter had to do… was wait.

Petey: Hello, Speaker Pelosi? Hello? Madam Speaker….?

Nancy Pelosi: AAAAAAUUUUGH!!! I TOOK TOO MUCH AGAIN!!!!

Petey: Madam Speaker? Are you okay?

Nancy Pelosi (dropping her hypodermic syringe in a blind panic): They SAID hallucinations were a possible side effect!!! I think I’m talking to a RAT!!!

Petey: I’m not a rat, Madam Speaker; I’m a possum. And also a reporter.

Nancy Pelosi (looking around): I’m not talking to you!

Petey (lowering his phone and turning off the ‘camera’ application): That’s fine. I can always release this photo, and tell everyone you were shooting up heroin

Nancy Pelosi: WHAT?! I’LL KILL YOU, YOU LITTLE…

Petey: I’m pretty sure I can outrun you, Madam Speaker, and I can probably do it without breaking my hip. You can either give me this interview, or shaunmoser.com’s next headline will read thus: ‘Nancy Pelosi: Public Servant or Incorrigible Smack-Head?’

Nancy Pelosi: You WOULDN’T!!!

Petey: Madam Speaker, I survived California Governor Newsom’s head exploding right in front of me… so I’m pretty sure I can take you! So… may we talk? Or do all five of my readers get to watch you shooting yourself up? Your call, Madam Speaker!

Nancy Pelosi (reluctantly hiding the hypodermic syringe behind her colostomy bag): What do you want to know?

Petey: Well, the readers of shaunmoser.com would like to know…

Nancy Pelosi: Who the hell is Shaun Moser…?

Petey: My boss. Now, Madam Speaker…

Nancy Pelosi: What the hell kinda news network hires a rat?!

Petey (sighing): A bankrupt network, Madam Speaker. And I’m a possum, not a rat.

Nancy Pelosi: So why exactly am I talking to you?!

Petey: Because I have a photo of you shooting what might be heroin, and you can’t catch me with it because you’re older’n Methuselah and you should have retired like, forever ago. May we go on, please?

Nancy Pelosi: Of course. What’s your next question, then?

Petey: Why did you authorize impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump?

Nancy Pelosi: Because I like impeachments! Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been slicing them up and putting them on my cereal. They’re way better than blueberries!

Petey: Uh… Madam Speaker, you do realize than an ‘impeachment’ isn’t a type of fruit. Right?

Nancy Pelosi: What? You’re wrong!!!

Petey: Madam Speaker, an ‘impeachment’ is a solemn political proceeding, one intended to remove a sitting American president from office. It is not a fruit!!!

Nancy Pelosi: But Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said it was…

Petey: Speaking of the freshman congress-woman from New York, Madam Speaker… how would you address the accusation that you are letting the radicals run your party? That you’re even letting them dictate your actions?

Nancy Pelosi: That’s RIDICUlOUS!!! How could you even…

At this point in the interview, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stuck her head through the back door of the Capitol Building. Our reporter recorded the following exchange as he cowered beneath the trash-can lid:

AOC: Nancy? Nancy? Did you pick my laundry up yet?

Nancy Pelosi: No, I didn’t. I’m terribly sorry! Please don’t write any more ‘tweets’ about me!

AOC: Well, hurry up! I need my new skirt for dinner with Bernie Sanders tonight, and I’m all out of clean panties. You’d better leave work early so you’ll get back from the dry cleaners in time…

Nancy Pelosi: I will, I promise! I’m so sorry! Forgive me?

AOC: Only if you get my laundry back well before dinner. If you don’t, I won’t give you any more Tide Pellets to snack on. Got it?

Nancy Pelosi: I understand… Thank you…

At this point our reporter popped out of the trash can.

Petey: Why do you let her treat you like that?

Nancy Pelosi: What? She’s a rising star! The youngest woman ever elected to congress!

Petey: She won with like, eleven percent of the vote in an election that no one cared about. You may want to consider, Madam Speaker, the distinct possibility that AOC is a complete idiot. May we move on, please?

Nancy Pelosi: Mmph, plth yth deo

Petey: Madam Speaker…?

Nancy Pelosi: thdondd…?

Petey: You dropped your teeth, Madam Speaker.

Nancy Pelosi (picking up her teeth and putting them back into her mouth): Of course we can move on! What was your next question?

Petey: Why would you push for impeachment proceedings when you knew there weren’t enough votes in the American Senate to successfully remove President Trump from office?

Nancy Pelosi: What?! But… but Adam Schiff said there were enough votes!

Petey: Uh… no… Everyone knew from the beginning that this was a political stunt. Why’d you actually go through with it?

Nancy Pelosi: Go through with what?

Petey: THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS, you moron!!!

Nancy Pelosi: Oh, that. Because I like those in my cereal. They’re way better than blueberries…

At this point our reporter wandered off in disgust.

When he looked back, Nancy Pelosi was un-wrapping a Tide Pellet and singing ‘THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND…’

Tune in next time, when Petey covers the 2020 Oscars!

Uuhh…

We will release Petey’s Academy Award interviews as soon as we find his tape recorder, which he thinks he may have dropped somewhere between the Hard Rock Café and the Hollywood sign…

Apparently the evening didn’t go well.

Regarding the Coolest Comic-Book Story Ever…

The Goblin tried to destroy my mind… but what did his evil really do? Open a door to the good… to the two of you. All those years I tried to shut you out. So afraid to even think of you. Feeling so GUILTY… so responsible for your deaths. But now, MOTHERFATHER… I can let myself remember. Now I can love you. Now I can grieve.’ And in his grief he finds new freedom, and that freedom lifts him up and carries him off… into the DAWN.

J. Marc DeMatteis (from The Spectacular Spider-Man #183)

Have you ever read a story that just blew your mind from its very first line?

Let me back up a bit…

I… have read a BOATLOAD of comic books in my day! From Neil Gaiman’s seventy-issue run on The Sandman to the epic Batman: Knightfall, I’ve been around the newsprint block more than a few times. I’ve read thousands of books, including series that date back to the nineteen-forties. When it comes to ‘sequential artwork’, there ain’t a whole lot that I don’t know.

But there is one story that will always remain my favorite: The Child Within, by writer J. Marc DeMatteis and artist Sal Buscema.

Now, I have Sal Buscema’s entire run on The Spectacular Spider-Man. I re-read through the run once a year (along with Sam Keith’s epic series The Maxx, and Gaiman’s The Sandman.) The entire run is amazing, but it kicked into overdrive when writer Peter David handed the baton to J. Marc DeMatteis. And within that run lies The Child Within, my favorite six-issue tale of all time.

The trick with writing comics, I think, is that a writer must take them seriously. One cannot focus over-much on the costumes and the super-powers, lest one’s tale de-evolve into a cheesy Power Rangers rip-off. This truth DeMatteis understands in spades: The Child Within is possibly the most harrowing, disturbing tale ever to grace the four-color page. It sucks you in like a Hitchcock film, pulling you deep into the dark recesses of each character’s mind.

Buscema – easily one of my favorite artists – was the perfect illustrator for DeMatteis’ nightmarish tale. His style is sharp, clean, almost bare-bones, and yet remains extremely vibrant and expressive. His work really stood out in the nineties, when more ‘sketchy’ styles were trendy due to artists like Todd McFarlane.

Most Spider-Man fans would tell you that Spidey’s best stories were Kraven’s Last Hunt (by DeMatteis and Bob McLeod) and Torment (by Todd McFarlane). The Child Within smokes them both, in my opinion; it was a true stroke of genius.

The Child Within ran in The Spectacular Spider-Man #178-183, in late 1991. All six issues can be readily purchased for a couple of bucks apiece; in fact, you’ll probably pay more for shipping than you will the actual magazines. For some odd reason, The Child Within was never collected into a trade paperback.

It should have been!

So go hunt it down and read it. Seriously.

You’ll be glad you did…