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How To Be Smarter Than God

Lots of people looking for spiritual reality these days.

Astrology is making a comeback among the enlightened youth of America.

What a relief!

Christians have some help keeping mysticism alive!

The Church has done an admirable job of incorporating star gazing into Christian doctrine.

Covertly, of course!

Church folks know witchcraft is forbidden.

So we’ve created Christian Astrology.

This allows us to give God credit for the pagan magic in our lives.

Christian Astrology says stuff like this:

It’s not every church that – in the weeks following the pastor announcing he’s heading towards divorce – sees an increase in attendance, giving, hundreds sign up for life groups and service opportunities, and 13 people baptized into Jesus. I love when the evil one is made a fool by God’s goodness!!

All these great things happening despite the pastor’s family fragmenting!

Makes me wonder why God hates divorce?

With a slight modification, this phrase could appear in the church horoscope:

“In the weeks following the rise of Taurus we’ve seen increased attendance, giving, and 13 people baptized into Jesus!”

Isn’t Taurus great?

Christian Astrology is extremely flexible.

It turns sinful rebellion into God’s will.

Here’s how.

Imagine an unwed Christian girl who becomes pregnant.

HYPOTHETICALLY!  (Unwed Christian girls don’t get pregnant!!)

The doctrine of American Tolerance allows the church to say stuff like:

She made a mistake. But none of us are perfect!  God uses flawed people!

Can’t argue with any of that.

I’m certainly not perfect.

God certainly uses sinful people…

…that’s the only kind of people there are.

But there are a lot of pesky Bible verses about virtuous living.

So the church can’t ENDORSE unwed motherhood…

…at least not during the pregnancy.

Christian Astrology is useful AFTER the baby is born.

Baby and mother are both healthy! God is good!”

PRESTO!

The sin of fornication disappears in a cloud of talcum powder.

Babies are adorable so God must be cool with single moms!

We can take back all that crap we said about saving yourself for marriage.

Boys can forget all that nonsense about being responsible fathers.

Like the sign of Taurus rising in the night sky…

…a newborn is God’s seal of approval on sin.

I’ve never read a negative horoscope.

That’s why I’m suspicious of astrology.

I’m even more suspect of theology that turns my whims into God’s truth.

A New Idea for Arguing, Defending David P and Thinking Clearly

EPISODE – We discuss our fabulous new idea for future podcast episodes!
I’m at the Peach’s house today so the grandkids are integrated deeply into this episode.  (You should be used to this by now, Pkarlgh.)
We’ve got an idea for something we can do in future episodes to test our ability to articulate arguments.  It sounds like great fun to us…it may be a horrible idea.  The Peaches makes a few suggestions for topics. I make a few suggestions.  But we’re hoping YOU will have some suggestions, Pkarlgh.
If you have an idea for an argument you want me (or Peach) to articulate…let’s hear it!  The goal is to assign us an argument THAT WE DON’T PERSONALLY HOLD.  In other words, make us defend somebody else’s point of view.
Everywhere Emmi goes, she sees Elmo.  We should make this a movie…
Hey!  Maybe we should argue that 3-year olds are worse that 2-year olds!
I think we should make Amanda argue that the Patriarchy is a bad thing.  That would be really fun.
Then we discuss the purpose of this exercise. Why, on Earth, should we argue an opponent’s point of view?
We probably need a studio audience to make this idea work best. Of course, we don’t have a studio audience. And if we ever get a studio audience, somebody is going to have to take the grandkids out of the room.
Then, we lament that we don’t have a way to contact important, recognizable smart people. We’re just not insiders…
Eventually, Calvinism pops up again. Why?  Because Peaches is apparently OBSESSED with Calvinism. Perhaps it’s beyond her control…?
Then, David Pendleton’s exploits are revisited.  The podcast is here if you missed it: http://johnbranyan.com/scandals-forgiveness-foot-washing-and-german-baptists/
What does forgiveness mean?  Is it correct to keep punishment in place after forgiveness is offered?  What do you think?
We need to decide whether or not to forgive Emmi for breaking into the pantry and opening chicken broth packages.
Peaches explains that it’s hard for people to forgive and forget. She suggests that people kind of like hanging onto grudges.  I’m perplexed. I don’t have a good enough memory to hold grudges… Peaches thinks I’m an alien.  I’ll forgive her for saying that eventually.
We segue into clear communication and an unbelievable (in my opinion) criticism I received recently. I never dreamed somebody would be offended because I’m easy to understand.
Do give us your ideas for arguments, Pkarlgh.  Otherwise, we’ll just make up our own!

Check out this episode!

Can You Say That A Little Less Clearly?

Let me be brief.

I love brevity!

Don’t use nine words when eight will do.

Succinct communication indicates clear thinking.

In general, when you need lots of words to express your idea…

…you don’t actually have an idea.

Consider this actual statement from an actual person:

You didn’t read the whole thing, did you?

Be honest!

You dozed off after the phrase, “conducive to constructive, lucid exchanges”.

I understand.

See why brevity is beautiful?

Allow me to articulate the good professor’s point in a single, simple sentence.

It’s impossible to articulate a point in a single simple sentence.

I guess the professor is mistaken.

I defy you to find a communications expert who agrees with Taboo.

Find a speech teacher who tells the class, “Use a whole bunch of words. That’s how civil discourse works.”

What the Professor is actually doing is the OPPOSITE of communication.

He’s doing subterfuge.

Christians: Don’t Do This.

Christians: Make your point, then shut up.

Thinking requires more than shaking a bunch of words together in a bag.

It’s difficult to turn complex thoughts into easy-to-understand sentences.

It’s dead-easy to puke words into cyberspace.

And I can prove it.

I wrote the following reply to the good Professor in under 2 minutes.

It is twice as long as this entire blog post…

I’ll make an effort to be more verbose. I understand now that a volume of words will emphasize not only the validity if my arguments but the weight that should be afforded them by scrutinizing intellectuals. It is easy to be misunderstood when answers are short and uncluttered. Far better to respond with a plethora of thoughts with the hopes that something I say will be inadvertently understood as true rather than risk the rejection of a singular point by virtue of its simplicity. Simple language is the language of playground antics. I see my error clearly.

I need to work harder to be understood. And I need to gently, humbly accept the truth that when I am misunderstood it is likely due to my being wrong. Being wrong is nothing to be ashamed of and claiming that “I don’t know” will testify to my understanding that we are all limited in our ability to comprehend all history, science, philosophy and how these ideas interact with the world and reality in general despite the fact that sometimes it seems different from my point of view. Opinions are not reliable unless they are shared by many others so long as those others are not victims of group think or religious indoctrination or politically motivated. Honesty is the best policy and the truth hurts sometimes but if the shoe fits I’ll wear it.

It does feel good to finally come clean. The Science and faith question has taught me so much and given me so many insights and also provided enlightenment. I’ll make efforts to try and be vigilant to make sure that I stay alert to the ever present possibility that I could let falsehood slip into my worldview if I’m not paying attention or on the lookout for this contingency. Snarkyness serves no purpose. Concise snark is purposeless times two! And sarcasm is snark on steroids (figuratively speaking). Everyone benefits from the truth but sincerity matters more. When the chickens come home to roost, well… you know the rest.

See?

No brain necessary.

I would encourage you to jump into the discussion on the blog here

…but you can’t because…

…the comments have been closed by the author.

I’ll only need one word to express my thoughts about that.

Bulls***.

Scandals, Forgiveness, Foot Washing and German Baptists

EPISODE – Me and a ventriloquist go to war with Cedarville University!
Prepare for battle, Pkarlgh!  David Pendleton is on the podcast again and he has a tale to tell.  (I’m eating pizza during the first few minutes of this broadcast so you might here some mild chewing and swallowing.)
We start with a gentle criticism this beloved podcast. It’s fine. I can take it.  Then we reminisce about the last podcast where Dave and I engaged in mortal combat and tried to kill each other because of Calvinism.
Then, Dave spends waaaay too much time apologizing for being arrogant.  (You know how we feel about arrogance, Pkarlgh.  We LOVE IT!  We embrace it!) But Dave goes on and on about how he doesn’t know as much about the German Baptist Church as German Baptists. Blah…blah…blah…whatever.
I threaten to break a chair over Dave’s head so he moves on to another point.
He insists that he wants to have a conversation with any GB who’s interested. You can reach him at anythingcantalk.com   He is critical of the German Baptist Church and unapologetically so. Let him know it if he’s wrong!
Criticism is a crucial part of growth.  David thinks it’s important to season criticism with kindness.  I say, “Nah.”
As usual, controversy surrounds my pal Dave. There is just no containing this man. His unbridled enthusiasm for the truth takes him to the German Baptist Love Feast (which isn’t as kinky as it sounds). It is there that all hell breaks loose…
Then we get into Dave’s newest story. He sent Cedarville University into upheaval. I’m surprised you haven’t heard about it, Pkarlgh. It was such a spectacular display of sinister shenanigans…sit down and prepare to be SHOCKED!
After his shocking revelation, David admits that he’s remorseful. He attempts to receive absolution for his sins and receives forgiveness…but not really.
So the question of the hour is: “What does it mean to be forgiven?”  Does forgiveness wipe the slate clean?  Or do we still have to pay for sins for which we have been forgiven?
A lady thought about making Dave a sandwich. Then decided not to.
Pendleton thinks it’ll be okay if a GB decides to wash his feet. He doesn’t think the other folks will react negatively. I think he’s wrong.  But what do I know…  I tell him my favorite quote I heard from an elder at my church.
We discuss whether or not it’s appropriate to pray that God changes someone’s mind. Then we get into a fist fight about it and Dave throws me through a window.
Since grade school, I’ve been inspired by George Washington Carver. I’ll tell you why.

Check out this episode!

Open Letter to

Most of what you believe is based on faith.

I attempted to make this point with a delightful young lady recently.

To spare you reading through hundreds of profane, angry screeds, I’ll summarize my point.

I believe the sun will rise tomorrow but I can’t prove it to you.

Believing in sunrise requires faith.

Because if you apply the same relentless skepticism to the sunrise that you do to Jesus…

… Sonrise …see what I did?…

…you’ll deflect every reasonable attempt to convince you.

Me: “The laws of planetary motion suggest the Earth will rotate and…”

You: “If the Earth is rotating, why aren’t we all dizzy?”

Me: “That’s another topic…”

You: “How do you know the Earth rotates? You’ve never been in space!”

Me: “That’s true. But some people have been there and they said…”

You: “Ha! Everyone who claims to have been in space is an Astronaut! They’re bias!”

Me: “I’m not sure how to…”

You: “Astronauts will say anything to make gullible people believe in the space program.”

Me: “The sun came up today…”

You: “Hahaha! So you say! I didn’t see it. I slept until noon!”

Me: “Well, if you look at history…”

You: “The past cannot prove the future.”

Me: “Right. I guess you’ll just need to have faith.”

You: “I don’t need faith! I need evidence! EVIDENCE!!!”

Of course.

It’s always about the evidence.

Problem is, you don’t see evidence when it kicks in your door and sits down for dinner.

Evidence will never erase all possible doubt.

Skilled skeptics such as yourself can doubt anything you choose to disbelieve.

But wisdom isn’t the result of poor reasoning.

When you can’t see the truth, it doesn’t cease to exist.

Evidence serves only to strengthen your faith.

Faith is always the foundation for belief.

Whether you believe it or not…

Christians Should Know This Stuff

Some people are proud of ignorance.

They smugly proclaim their futile thoughts.

They offer,  “I don’t know” as an answer to life’s most important question:

“Why do we exist?”

They’ll even illustrate their uselessness with analogies.

The problem is, this analogy needs to go further.

A more complete (and better) analogy is:

Person #1: What do you think is beyond that wall?

Person #2: I haven’t a clue

Person #3: There’s a monster over there.

Person #1: How do you know that?

Person #3: Because it says so in this book I read.

Person #1: Where did you get that book?

And off they go!

A lively, interesting discussion would develop.

Unless…

Person #3 answered with, “I don’t know.”

That would stop the conversation abruptly.

Fortunately for everyone, I’ve decided that Person #3 is a Christian!

Hooray!

The other two people in the room celebrate!

They know Christians are thoughtful folks who know how to party!

The illustration continues.

Person #3: The book came from somebody on the other side of the wall.

Ta-da!

Now we’ll get some answers!

We can respond to questions about our purpose with more than shucks and shrugs.

The book says:

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

And:

 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

While this may not be the reason we exist…

…it’s a much better answer than “I don’t know”.

Nobody Hates Hollywood More Than Hollywood

Harvey Weinstein is toast.

But fear not, starry-eyed actors!

There are plenty of other power moguls in Tinsel Town.

If you’re willing to ‘do what it takes’, you can still get your shot.

It will take surrendering your dignity.

It will take your soul.

If this revelation shocks you, you’re a dolt.

I figured it out from a cornfield in the Midwest.

I’ve never been to a casting call.

I’ve never met with a Los Angeles executive.

I’ve never been on a conference call with an agent.

But I have watched television.

I’ve seen movies.

I can assess a tree by looking at its fruit.

Hollywood isn’t built on kindness and goodwill.

Hollywood is a soulless machine, fueled by a mixture of greed and selfishness.

Nobody loves you in Hollywood.

They use you.

And you’ll use them too.

You’ll use their power and influence to build your career.

Right?

Of course, that’s right.

Weinstein’s misconduct was excused because he was profitable.

People used his influence to enrich themselves.

And Weinstein, in turn, used those people himself.

It isn’t personal.

You’re in show business, for crying out loud!

Nothing is real in show business.

The props are fake.

The scenery is fake.

The emotions are fake.

Why would you expect to find real decency?

Why do you think real ethics would exist in a world of make-believe?

Weinstein is gone not because Hollywood has a conscience…

…but because Harvey’s not useful anymore.

You’re free to get in on that action.

Go make yourself useful in Hollywood.

Just don’t expect sympathy when you’re abused.

Newlyweds, Boredom, Fridge Ethics and Science

EPISODE – The Brand New Branyans! I sit down with Tim and Marla for some marriage advice.
Tim and Marla have been making their marriage work for almost 14 days. What’s their secret? I get to the nitty-gritty and learn everything.
First, Tim answers my question, “Why did you decide to get married?”
Tim keeps tapping on the table and you can hear it in the podcast. Sorry, Pkarlgh.  I kept forgetting to tell him to cut it out.
One of the startling revelations is that Tim thinks differently than Marla.  I’m almost rendered unconscious by this concept…
We contemplate why wives cheat on their husbands. (Yes. After 13 days of wedded bliss, we talk about infidelity. That’s how we roll in this family.) Boredom is a big problem in relationships. What insight do the Branyan’s have? Answer: “antiques”.
Marla talks about what she misses about being single.
One thing is that she didn’t always breath air that contains a fart.
We talk about the belief that marriage is a Thrill-A-Minute. Two single people who are boring don’t suddenly become a party when they get married.
Marla explains that’s she’s easy going until food is involved. What follows is a story about Tim mindlessly eating things out of the fridge that clearly do not belong to him. It gets intense for a bit!
Tim explains the purpose of food. (It’s not for pleasure…)
I try to get Tim to tell me something weird about Marla. He struggles at first…but then gets into it.
We discuss what constitutes “quality time”. (It isn’t necessary wearing headsets during Call of Duty.)
Marriage isn’t anthing like taking a cruise. This is my awesome analogy.
Marla cuts loose with her perspective on trust and submission. We can end the podcast here. She makes the most important point of the entire episode. I promise I didn’t set her up to say this…
We try to figure out who is the “thinker” and who is the “feeler”. Tim feels we might be mistaken. We think differently.
My phone rings.  It’s Freight!  (I don’t talk to him because we’re podcasting.)
I tell a story about a couple from church who exemplify both the beauty and the horror of marriage.
The conversation meanders into what it means to say “God speaks through me.”  Marla explains what a “love sandwich” is. I’m a little scared at first but it turns out to be okay.
Tim gets wound up talking about existence, gravity, black holes and some other stuff. As he spins off into existentialism and science, I start looking for a good point to end the podcast.
I never actually find one, but the podcast ends anyway.

Check out this episode!

Would You Watch Harvey Weinstein Take A Shower?

Harvey Weinstein is a powerful movie producer.

A star maker.

If you’re a young, ambitious female who dreams of a career in Hollywood, Harvey can help you.

Just come up to his hotel room and massage his nude body.

No big deal.

If you want to be an actress, you should get used to this kind of thing.

You’ll be doing stuff like this on camera all the time.

Don’t get mad at Harvey.

He doesn’t know any better.

I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces
were different. That was the culture then.

See?  The poor guy didn’t know the rules have changed.

It used to be okay to make girls watch you shower during a job interview.

Now it’s not.

You can’t blame Harvey for his ignorance.

The girls share some blame too.

When Weinstein asked Ashley Judd for a massage, she thought:

“How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?”

Right.

Wouldn’t want to make this awkward for Harvey.

Just do what he asks, get the role, build your career…

…then stab Weinstein in the back later on.

Do you think you have the moral high ground here?

Let me offer the perspective of someone whose self-worth isn’t derived from box-office sales.

All you people in the film industry are monsters.

All of you.

Producers, directors, actors, writers…monsters.

You mock me for my backward, Midwestern, sensibilities.

Your disdain for my faith radiates from every project.

I hear you, loud and clear!

You have nothing but contempt for me and everything I hold sacred.

That is your right.

God bless America!

But if you stop laughing at me for a micro-second, you would hear me say:

We backward, religious rubes wouldn’t sell our souls to be in a movie.

It’s true.

We ‘religious wing-nuts’ have standards.

We don’t compromise our values for a ‘big break’.

If you’ve ever given Harvey Weinstein a massage…

…you’ve got nothing to complain about.

Shut up.

One other thing.

I’ll betcha Harvey Weinstein is the teeny-weeny tip of a monolithic, immoral iceberg.

Nobody occupies the moral high ground.

Because the whole lot of you are in the gutter.

Who To Blame When Your Spouse Cheats

Men and women cheat on their spouses for different reasons.

Men cheat because they are selfish pigs.

Women cheat because they are unfulfilled or bored…

…married to selfish pig husbands.

It’s all outlined in this worthless article from CNN.

I’ll summarize the article:

“Men and women are both selfish pigs but women are justified in being so.”

When a husband cheats on a wife, she’s a victim.

When a wife cheats on her husband it’s because she’s a victim.

So much for gender equality.

This has to end.

Somebody needs to stand up and do the brave thing…

…place blame.

Obviously, failed marriages can’t be blamed on married people.

So whose fault is it?

*stands up bravely*

It’s the church’s fault.

Totally.

“Til death do us part,” didn’t come from the pages of Playboy.

The church preaches lifelong monogamy.

A ludicrous idea that runs contrary to human instincts.

Note the puzzled look on a bachelor’s face when you suggest he settle down and raise kids.

Note the furious response when you suggest a woman stay in her loveless marriage.

Yet the church keeps marketing marriage as the pile of gold at the end of the relationship rainbow.

We rave about the joy to be found within marriage…

…then council youngsters not to ‘rush into it’.

We tell married people to find happiness…

…by remembering the pre-marriage relationship.

We publish books…so many books…

…gazillions of books…

…full of tips for making marriage as awesome as dating.

God forbid I suffer a moment of dullness.

Boredom is a sure sign that ‘something is wrong‘ with my marriage…

…I mean, something is wrong with my spouse.

Because marriage is supposed to be endlessly satisfying, right?

This is our fault, church.

We are misrepresenting what marriage actually is.

Put another way, we’re lying to people.

“You kids should quit living in sin and get married!”

Why?

There is nothing magical about signing a marriage certificate.

The church should quit preaching the benefits of marriage apart from the necessity of Christ.

Jesus changes people.

Marriage doesn’t.