Can you be a Christ-follower and a Republican at the same time?

A personal role-model, of sorts, of mine is Neil Peart, percussionist and writer of the progressive rock band, Rush. In a recent interview, he said:

“A realization I had lately: it is impossible to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and be a Republican. It’s philosophically absolutely opposed—if they could only think about what they were saying for a minute.” ~ Neil Peart on introverts, learning to improvise, and why people should be nicer to one another, Macleans, Monday, August 13, 2012

I disagree. Being a Christ-follower is how I choose to live my personal life… Being a Republican is how I choose to self-associate with like-minded others as we attempt to influence our government’s laws and policies.

Are there those in the GOP that aren’t as liberty-minded as I am? Of course there are! And if the party ever codifies it’s position papers to, say, make simply being a homosexual or living together illegal or seizing the assets of progressives, then I’m outta there! I’d like to see the party move in a more libertarian direction than it has been known to be, but I’m not going to start publicly castigating fellow party members when they start droning on and one when a candidate isn’t pro-life enough for them.

Ideally, I’d like to be part of the Libertarian Party, but that’s just not feasible at the moment. For one thing, many libertarians I know are incredulous at the dedication (or lack thereof) of other libertarians. It’s not a political party, in the traditional sense: Dedicated to getting candidates elected — it’s an idealogical movement: Where persons may be castigated if they are not ideologically pure enough. It becomes like herding cats — Each person taking individualism to the extreme.

Another reason is that they aren’t (at the moment) a large enough force to be reckoned with. Honestly, at the moment Libertarians (big L) are simply spoilers, ensuring that the party in the “two party system” whose ideas more closely match the Libertarian Party (which is the GOP) has votes siphoned off that would have otherwise gone to them, causing the other party (the Democrats) to win.

Who the Libertarian Party might become to the Republicans what the Republicans were to the Whigs is a topic for another discussion. I suppose what I’m saying is, a case could be made for Christians being in nearly any political party. I’d imagine that there are actually even Democrats who consider themselves to be Christian, although I don’t understand how they’d align themselves with the party. In the end, who am I to judge, either way?

Also, Peart is Canadian! Why would I expect him to understand American politics?! ;P

The Stricklin Mindset List

Every Fall, Beloit College produces what they’ve come to call the Beloit College Mindset List, a list of popular culture and historical references that demonstrate the incoming freshmen class’ mindset, having grown up when they did. For example, those born in 1987 and entering college this year have never known a day when the federal budget was less than a trillion dollars, Andy Warhol, Liberace, Jackie Gleason, and Lee Marvin have always been dead, and Iran and Iraq have never been at war with each other.

You get the idea.

So, today, in honor of my 46th birthday, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into what has happened since I was born.

  • I remember when homes only had one television, and it was huge!
  • I remember when televisions only came in black and white.
  • I remember watching the Ed Sullivan and the Red Skelton shows.
  • I remember seeing the Vietnam War every night on the evening news.
  • I remember seeing Neil Armstrong land on the moon.
  • I remember watching the (war) draft on television.
  • I remember the years between the end of the draft and the beginning of the Selective Service.
  • I remember when cable and satellite television for the home was unheard of.
  • I remember when HBO first became available.
  • I remember exactly where I was when President Nixon resigned.
  • I remember the Challenger exploding.
  • I remember voting for Reagan. Twice. Fondly.
  • I remember the fall of Siagon.
  • I remember the Iranian hostage crisis.
  • I remember disco. Not fondly.
  • I remember when John Lennon was shot.
  • I remember when the Beatles were still together.
  • I remember the Banana Splits.
  • I remember Tang.
  • I remember when white men in Shreveport used the slur “nigger” in open conversation. (To be clear, I’m not saying that’s a good thing, I’m saying I remember it happening, and it’s something I hated then and I hate now.)
  • I remember when there were no black children in my class.
  • I remember hearing something about what happened at Chappaquiddick, but being 9 at the time, didn’t care much.
  • Sadly, pretty much the same thing for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
  • I remember being stunned with news of the People’s Temple suicides.
  • I remember begging to watch Batman at the dinner table.
  • For that matter, I remember when everyone in the family ate dinner together, and no television was allowed.
  • I remember when calling someone “gay” meant he was a particularly happy individual.
  • I remember when every guy I knew had a copy of Farrah Fawcett’s poster on his wall. I remember why, too.
  • I remember when porn was shown only in theatres downtown, in the seedy parts of downtown.
  • I remember when Superman, Star Trek and Star Wars all opened.
  • I remember actually being impressed with their special effects.
  • I remember not even knowing who Bill Clinton was, when he was the governor of a state that’s less than 30 minutes North of where I grew up.
  • I remember hearing about how bad our neighbor’s daughter was because she smoked pot!
  • I remember when we could get two gallons of gasoline for under $1.
  • I remember when my first car cost $5,000. New!
  • I remember the lines around the service stations and rationing because gasoline cost $0.94 a gallon (About $3.08 in 2016 dollars.)
  • I remember Jimmy Carter’s pep-talk to the nation.
  • I remember when the Macintosh was first introduced.
  • I remember playing Zork on an Apple IIc.
  • I remember when my hair reached the middle of my shoulder blades.

So you see, I’ve been around for an old man. Here’s hoping I stay around for a few more interesting things.

Paul Taylor (1960-2006)

I mourn the loss of childhood friend, Paul Taylor.

Paul was only a few months older than I, and he lived just over my backyard fence when I was in junior high and high school. He was the proverbial archetype of the “tough guy with a heart made of gold.” Even at 14, he shaved, and smoked, and drank and rode a motorcycle.

We became friends when David, my best friend even today, moved away to Houston. We would spend afternoons in his smoke-filled house, listening to records and playing our own music. Often we’d drive around the neighborhood in his old Fold Fairlane looking for something to do, and nearly without exception he drive in arcs across the local park’s parking lot so fast it’d nearly tip the car over, on my side!

During those years, I progressed from smoking Swisher Sweets to nearly 2 packs of Marlboro a day when he realized the reason I’d taken up smoking was to emulate him. Suddenly, one day when he and I walked around our neighborhood he suddenly stopped, grabbed the pack of cigarettes from my shirt pocket, tore them in half, stood inches away from my face and swore to me that if he found me smoking again, he’d beat the snot out of me. And no, he didn’t use the word ‘snot’, I did.

In the decades since, I’ve lit up a cigarette only twice.

At school, he and I spent a great deal of time and thought concerning the young women in our classes. In high school, he began dating Pam, a girl who’d run afoul of my girlfriend at the time. They married, and started their family right away. Paul dropped out of school to support them. Some time later, because of our mutual love for Paul, Pam and I settled our differences, which it turned out wasn’t that hard because neither of us could remember the root cause in the first place.

When I returned home after serving in the Gulf War in 1991, I visited with Paul and his family, giving t-shirts and trinkets to his children, Rachel and James. They were very young and small then… both of them are fully-grown now.

Paul and I met a few years ago at Murrell’s for a cup of coffee and conversation. I found out that the pinging sound on my home’s rotating exhaust fans that had driven my Dad crazy had been caused by Paul sitting on his back porch, pellet rifle in hand, shooting away and trying not to give away his position with laughter. I also found out that his marriage to Pam seemed to be ending. Shortly, his prediction came true.

Some time later, I received an announcement in the mail that Paul was marrying again, to a woman named Roxanna, and subsequent phone conversations proved to me that he was very, very happy.

I’ve been intending to call and visit, but as with many relationships, if you don’t make the time, the time slips away from you. Tuesday morning, Pam called me, got my answering machine, and because she wasn’t sure of my voice, ended the call. She called again later and told me the news: Paul had laid down along side his van at work and passed away. The speculation was that it was a heart attack.

I’m thankful that Paul didn’t suffer long. I’m thankful he was a friend when I needed one. I’m thankful he stopped me from becoming addicted to cigarettes. I’m thankful he taught me how to play the drums. More that those things, I’m thankful for all the times he made me laugh. He was a good man, and a good friend, and he will be sorely missed.

Paul Taylor (1960-2006)

I mourn the loss of childhood friend, Paul Taylor.

Paul was only a few months older than I, and he lived just over my backyard fence when I was in junior high and high school. He was the proverbial archetype of the “tough guy with a heart made of gold.” Even at 14, he shaved, and smoked, and drank and rode a motorcycle.

We became friends when David, my best friend even today, moved away to Houston. We would spend afternoons in his smoke-filled house, listening to records and playing our own music. Often we’d drive around the neighborhood in his old Fold Fairlane looking for something to do, and nearly without exception he drive in arcs across the local park’s parking lot so fast it’d nearly tip the car over, on my side!

During those years, I progressed from smoking Swisher Sweets to nearly 2 packs of Marlboro a day when he realized the reason I’d taken up smoking was to emulate him. Suddenly, one day when he and I walked around our neighborhood he suddenly stopped, grabbed the pack of cigarettes from my shirt pocket, tore them in half, stood inches away from my face and swore to me that if he found me smoking again, he’d beat the snot out of me. And no, he didn’t use the word ‘snot’, I did.

In the decades since, I’ve lit up a cigarette only twice.

At school, he and I spent a great deal of time and thought concerning the young women in our classes. In high school, he began dating Pam, a girl who’d run afoul of my girlfriend at the time. They married, and started their family right away. Paul dropped out of school to support them. Some time later, because of our mutual love for Paul, Pam and I settled our differences, which it turned out wasn’t that hard because neither of us could remember the root cause in the first place.

When I returned home after serving in the Gulf War in 1991, I visited with Paul and his family, giving t-shirts and trinkets to his children, Rachel and James. They were very young and small then… both of them are fully-grown now.

Paul and I met a few years ago at Murrell’s for a cup of coffee and conversation. I found out that the pinging sound on my home’s rotating exhaust fans that had driven my Dad crazy had been caused by Paul sitting on his back porch, pellet rifle in hand, shooting away and trying not to give away his position with laughter. I also found out that his marriage to Pam seemed to be ending. Shortly, his prediction came true.

Some time later, I received an announcement in the mail that Paul was marrying again, to a woman named Roxanna, and subsequent phone conversations proved to me that he was very, very happy.

I’ve been intending to call and visit, but as with many relationships, if you don’t make the time, the time slips away from you. Tuesday morning, Pam called me, got my answering machine, and because she wasn’t sure of my voice, ended the call. She called again later and told me the news: Paul had laid down along side his van at work and passed away. The speculation was that it was a heart attack.

I’m thankful that Paul didn’t suffer long. I’m thankful he was a friend when I needed one. I’m thankful he stopped me from becoming addicted to cigarettes. I’m thankful he taught me how to play the drums. More that those things, I’m thankful for all the times he made me laugh. He was a good man, and a good friend, and he will be sorely missed.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

Today, for the very first time in my life, I celebrate Father’s Day without a father. My dad passed away last April after a long illness, so it is only fitting that I remember him on this special day.

Walter Harold Stricklin was born August 26th, 1920 on a farm a few miles northeast of Detroit, Texas to Walter Davis and Maude Beatrice Stricklin. He grew up with his older brothers Leo and James, and later his younger sister, Ester Maude, in Northeast Texas during the Great Depression, working on farms and oil fields in the area. On June 3rd, 1941, he graduated with an Associates Degree from North Texas Agricultural College (now the University of Texas at Arlington.)

For a little over a year after graduation, he helped his parents work the farm, hauled cotton to the Gin, and dug stock tanks and oil field slush pits. During a stint as a roustabout for Continental Oil Company he met and later married a slender beauty by the name of Miss Audra Obinelle Graham. Two weeks after the wedding, he was drafted into World War II, serving in the Army Air Corp.

During the war he maintained and repaired aircraft, stationed in England prior to D-Day and following the troops into Europe afterwards. He was on a troop transport heading to the Pacific when word of the Japanese surrender reached him, and the ship continued back to the States instead.

After his military service, he and his bride moved to Shreveport, Louisiana and began working as a purchasing agent for Superior Ironworks and Supply Company. Their first child, Sharon Ann, arrived in 1954 and I was born in 1960.

My earliest memories of my dad were of his evening routine: he would read the paper and watch the evening news until dinner was ready at 6:30 P.M., we would all have dinner with very little conversation and absolutely no television, dad would return to the couch where he would often sleep, paper over his torso, until 10:00 P.M. when he would watch the local news, then the television would again be turned off as everyone went to bed. My dad would be up early in the morning and off to work, even before I’d woken up to get ready for school.

I would later learn that this part of his life was a humiliating, depressing gray period, where he was consistently passed over for promotions and not paid very well. Still, I never went to bed hungry, I always had clothes to wear, I received a good education and I only had one bedroom my entire childhood. My dad did what he had to do because he had a family to provide for.

After being forced to take an early retirement, my dad worked part-time for Enterprise Rent-a-Car as a driver. He would wake up early in the morning, meet several of his also-retired co-workers and drive vehicles all over the southern states. He loved his job and the travel it required, and he was the happiest I’ve ever seen him. He lost much of his excess weight and was full of life and energy.

That all changed the day a nurse called, informing him of his enrollment in a Diabetes management course. Although many diagnosed with Type II Diabetes today go on to lead full, healthy lives, to my dad and many of his generation, the illness seemed like a death sentence.

The remaining six years he shrunk into his “cave” as we came to refer to his bedroom. He would sleep all day and keep my mom awake all night crying out and moaning. The drugs used to treat depression caused nightmares and disorientation, and were generally worse than the symptoms. He broke off contact with family and friends, and he broke my heart when he was too ill to travel to and attend my long-postponed college graduation.

The last time we all gathered as a family was last Thanksgiving. Dad, Mom and I went over to Sharon’s home to have turkey and dressing with she and her husband Frank, and their son Matthew, as well as another family they are friendly with. I recall thinking to myself how sad it seemed, my dad unable to follow or join conversations because of his failing eyesight and hearing, my mom and Sharon having to cut his food for him, and I specifically remember having to point out to Mom to clean his nose. Still, it was good that he was able to be there.

A few days later, while out of town, I learned that he had had several small strokes. Mom, Sharon and myself had Christmas by ourselves, while Dad was in the hospital for observations.

After returning home, he generally worsened, eventually entering hospice care and suffering several more small strokes. His appetite waned, and then he stopped eating altogether. He was winding down.

Sharon recalls having some funny, loony conversations with him where he seemed to be re-living parts of his life in real-time, sending her off to drilling platforms and the like. Then, he stopped talking.

I was working in Pineville, Louisiana the Thursday, April 24th when I got a call from Sharon. We had agreed that I should continue working as normal because it was so difficult to know when the end was near. She was exhausted after dealing with his convulsions earlier that morning. Sharon said she wasn’t sure if it was approaching, but I sensed it was, dropped everything I was doing and raced the two and a half hours back to Shreveport to be at his side.

Over the next several hours, Mom, Sharon, Frank, Matthew and myself moved in and out of his presence, letting him know we were there and saying our goodbyes. In his own home, in his own bedroom, surrounded by the people he loved and who loved him, he quietly passed away.

My dad and I weren’t all that close while I was growing up. How stupidly universal it seems, that all children distance themselves from their parents. When I was a teenager, and knowing everything like all teenagers seem to believe, I began calling him “father” since I didn’t like or respect him enough to call him my “dad”. He would later sign his letters addressed to me as “Father”, a clear indication now of how much it hurt his feelings to be thought of this way. I curse at myself now at my insolence and insensitivity!

Still, we had some good memories; when I was 13, he bought me my first pair of boots, obviously some sort of transplanted-Texas sort of rite-of-passage thing. When I was 27, and in the early morning fog he drove me to the local MEPS where I would begin my enlistment in the Navy. Uncharacteristically, he hugged me, told me he loved me and how proud he was of me. While I returned to college after a decade-long hiatus, I learned that he bragged about his son in college to anyone and everyone who would stand still long enough to tell.

Sometime after my own wartime experiences, I began to reexamine our relationship and realized that I was, in many ways, exactly like my dad. I too, was opinionated. I too, was stubborn. I too, was balding and putting on too much weight. Most of all, I too talked too much.

After I began to look at my father through the filter of age and experience, I saw that, despite our few differences and disagreements, he was a generally decent and honorable man. I began to call him “dad” again, and piece-by-piece, brick-by-brick, I began to disassemble the wall that I had formed between us. I think ultimately, with God’s guidance, I was able to accomplish that.

My dad wasn’t a religious man, but late in his life I learned that he was a man of great faith. I know in my heart that my father is now in the presence of his Heavenly Father.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. I’ll be coming home one day soon.

“…I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord, and from what I know of Him, that must be very good.” — Sara Groves, “What Do I Know?”