Sunday, April 23, 2017

13 Reasons Why Not

The Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why has been a big topic for young people. The show is about a high school student who commits suicide, but first recorded cassette tapes as a sort of suicide note for the people she blamed for leading her to take her own life. People have billed this show as something designed to teach students about the horrors of bullying, and if that is the case, it would be an important tool. However, if that is the case, this show has greatly missed the mark. Since the main character Hannah Baker left thirteen reasons why she took her own life, I will offer thirteen reasons why this show should be ejected[1].

1.    This is not What we Want to Teach Kids. If the point of this show is to demonstrate that bullying is unacceptable and can lead to suicide, that would be a good thing. But this program glorified and glamorized everything wrong with society. While trying to teach a moral, it threw morality to the wind.
2.    Language.  I may sound like an old fuddy duddy here, but the language in this show is flat out offensive. The cast is composed of high school students, and they all use the “f” word often and with ease. Additionally, the “s” word and “gd” are also peppered throughout. I am absolutely furious that anyone would use language like this in something peddled to students, and horrified that any parent would ever let their kids watch it. To go back to the first point, if we are trying to teach students a lesson, then why have such salty language? The real lesson that comes through is, “everybody talks like that.”
3.    Drinking/Drugs. The amount of underage drinking and drug usage is astounding. There are numerous parties where houses are filled with drunk kids and no adults, in addition to teens being stoned. Again, the take away here is that these parties and substances are par for the high school course.
4.    Sex. As one can imagine, the show is teeming with sexual activity, from locker room talk among the guys, to ranking girls’ bodies, and the obvious sex scenes. Once again, the audience is made to think this is normal behavior.
5.    Parental Absence. Some characters’ parents are nonexistent, but the parents who are featured are mindboggling. They make almost no effort to discipline or correct their kids, and they seem to be aloof at best. They stand idly by while their kids swear and drink (like the mom who asks her 11th grade son, “Are you drunk? On a school night? You never do that.”). Like much of the garbage on TV that undermines the family unit, this show glorifies the buffoon parent who exists to only cook and chauffer; there is no sound wisdom or advice from mom or dad. I can imagine students watching this show thinking their parents are lame for caring too much, unlike the checked-out “parents” on this trashy show.
6.    Bad Counselors. Like many other shows that subtly belittle authority figures, 13 Reasons makes a mockery of the school’s guidance counselors. The original counselor is a goofy woman who is predictably called the “b” word, and she is replaced by a man who seems top notch, until later episodes reveal he was a part of the problem. When the main character confided her rape by a school jock, he told her the best option was to simply, “forget it,” and, “move on.” If this show is trying to prevent suicide, they should be glorifying, not vilifying, the school counselors who can actually help at risk students.
7.    Where are the Teachers? In the same vein as the bad counselors are the moronic teachers. We see the coach sleeping through history class and playing a John Wayne movie, a rude principal, and an out of touch teacher in some type of social behavior class. Where are the Mr. Feeneys who used to go out of their way to help their students? Kids today need to know they can trust their teachers, and this show doesn’t reinforce that concept. 
8.    Too Graphic. The final episode shows the suicide of Hannah Baker. As she sat in a bathtub and slit both wrists, she began to pant and shiver and slowly, graphically die. It was so realistic I had trouble sleeping, feeling ashamed that I watched someone die without intervening. The scene is disturbing, and when we remember that the target audience is minors, it is even more disturbing.
9.    Suicide Glorified. The violent scene notwithstanding, suicide is glorified throughout the series. As Hannah is able to almost torture her tormentors posthumously, viewers can fantasize about their last revenge. A person on the edge may actually decide to go through with suicide after seeing how Hannah was able to get the last laugh. 
10. Blame Shifting. While bullying in any form is wrong, if a person does choose to commit suicide (and I say this with sensitivity), the choice was made by the one taking his own life, not by classmates or anyone else. While it is important that we teach people not to be factors in the decision (i.e., treat people the right way), this show’s conclusion, in the finale, was that 13 people were at fault for Hannah’ death, and none of them was Hannah herself. She is the victim and the 13 others bear the guilt. This just simply isn’t true.
11. No Positive Elements. Not only are so many vices glamorized, there is also an absence of goodness. With the exception of the show’s protagonist Clay Jensen, there is virtually no one doing anything noble or decent. There is no character that makes you think, “I need to be more like him.”
12. Questionable Motives. Netflix and the shows bosses are standing by their work, using the predictable line of, “starting a conversation” about this topic. It seems, though, that if the motivation was getting out the message, they could have made one movie or a much shorter season. Instead, they put out 13 hour-long shows; the extra airtime resulted in more profanity, more drinking, more sex, etc. They could have gotten to the point much quicker, and it leads me to believe the motivation behind this project was much more financial than it was beneficial. Sex sells, and they sold a lot of it.
13. Incorrect Conclusion. If this show had been done right, teenagers would come to the finale and leave with a positive message: I need to treat others the way I want to be treated. I need to watch what I say, and put others’ needs ahead of my own. However, as stated at the beginning, I’m afraid the conclusion will be far from that. I believe the conclusion will be that in order to be cool, kids need to swear like sailors, sleep around, get wasted at un-chaperoned parties, and get their advice from peers as opposed to parents, teachers, counselors, or other trusted adults.

I decided to give this show a try after hearing some middle school students talking about it. I was absolutely appalled that this garbage is available to kids, and that there are parents who either allow that filth to do the parenting, or else are too uninvolved to know or stop it. Parents, please think twice before you let your kids watch this show.

[1] I watched the first two episodes, then skipped ahead to the final show because I did not want to keep listening to the filthy language.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Freedom Tide by Chad Connelly


Freedom Tide by Chad Connelly is a book that should be found in the homes of every American family. This short book is to the point, well researched and documented, and written is such plain English that anyone can follow along.

This book establishes the Judeo-Christian values that shaped this country, traces how we have moved away from our moral roots, and beautifully defines and contrasts liberalism versus conservatism. Connelly’s belief in the free market system is made clear throughout his book, which ends with a call to action for the reader.

On our Judeo-Christian founding:

“The Pilgrims started something special in America—with their sacrifices they lit a freedom fire that has burned brightly for over 380 years…People come from all over the world to see what makes our country special. The Pilgrims with their faith and courage lit a little flame that people today will still die to reach.”

“Our Founding Fathers relied on the Bible, early text books quoted the Bible, schools used the Bible to teach the alphabet, the Supreme Court ruled that a school must teach religion and the Bible…their faith permeated everything they did, and they knew that to remove it would invite destruction.” 

On the “separation of church and state:”

“Here are some truths for us to ponder: the words, ‘wall,’ ‘separation,’ ‘church,’ or ‘state’ are not found in any of America’s founding documents. In fact, in the months of discussion of the First Amendment in the Constitutional Convention, not one of the ninety founders who participated ever mentioned the phrase, ‘separation of church and state.’ These words ARE found in a document, but the document is Article 124 of the Constitution of the former Soviet Union.”

On the First Amendment:

“Notice there is no reference to what a church or a pastor or a student in school or a school principal shall not do. It refers only to restrictions placed on Congress.”

“I submit that our moral and social decay is linked to our citizens’ indifference and failure to investigate the facts.”

“It sure seems that many people have tried to legislate morality right out of society and those efforts have cost our nation its moral standards.”

On liberalism versus conservatism:

“There is a group of people in America that is concerned with the equality of opportunity. There is another group of people that is concerned with the equality of outcome. I believe that our Founders wanted this to be a land of equal opportunity; they weren’t looking for a handout. Equal opportunity dictates that each person has access to the same tools and the same resources. Each then chooses how hard to work based on how badly they want their goals and dreams. That is fairness. The other group proposes to legislate fairness by identifying people or groups of people who—in its view—don’t have the same opportunity. This group constantly tries to level the playing field so that its outcomes are equal. Traditionally these groups are known as liberal (equality of outcome) and conservative (equality of opportunity).”

On the call to action:

“Each American should look around and remember how blessed we are to live in the greatest country in the world with the greatest form of government in history…Why shouldn’t Americans dream again? Thousands of people have died in the last 225 years for this idea called freedom that gives us the right to pursue our dreams. Why not you? Why not now?”

fReading Freedom Tide will inspire you as a free American to appreciate what you have been given, and to make the most of that opportunity.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Accepting God's Call

In 2015 I wrote Answering God's Call, a 15-part Bible study through the book of Exodus. The book's name came from the famous encounter between God and Moses at the burning bush, where Moses reluctantly answered the call to demand Pharaoh release the Hebrew slaves.

As Moses would discover, saying yes to God was only the beginning. He obeyed by agreeing to do what God required, but he had to daily choose to obey for the final forty years of his life. Having already answered God's call, Moses now had to accept the call by living it out.

Accepting God's Call is another 15-part study, covering the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Each chapter includes five discussion questions that can be used for personal edification or in small group studies.

From a talking donkey and a bronze snake, to celebratory feasts and Nazarite vows, this study will give you a deeper appreciation for the God who has called you to follow Him.

The paperback is available here, and the eBook here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tommy Mann Ministries is Back

In 2009 we created Tommy Mann Ministries with the release of All the Law (which is now available in Spanish, I might add). Six books and a lot of ministry projects later, I had to make a tough decision. On the last day of 2015 I shut down the ministry that I thoroughly enjoyed. In 2016 I officially became a candidate for office, and as I explained on here at the time, it would be impossible for me to run a not-for-profit while fundraising for a campaign. I didn't want to have any conflicts of interest (see: Clinton Foundation), nor did I want to even be accused of any violations.

Now that I am no longer a candidate for office, you know, because I lost the election, we are re-launching the ministry. Tommy Mann Ministries will kick off with the release of the book I wrote during the campaign, Accepting God's Call (more on that book later).

In the spirit of full discloser, a spirit that I am fond of, I want to be clear about what this ministry will be. From 2009-2015 it was a full not-for-profit. For five years I never made a penny off the sale of any books. $1 from each book went straight to Phillipi, the church that employed me and allowed me to write and pursue a passion on the side. The rest of the money was used for ministry expenses and to support other ministry projects.

In 2016, without TMM (and for a while unemployed), book sales were a source of income, modest as they were.

Now the ministry will be a hybrid of both formulas. $1 from every book sold will go to Putman, the church that now employs me and allows me to pursue a passion on the side. We will pick right back up with the ministry projects, although we never stopped the prison ministry or helping in the fight for the unborn. The only difference is this time I will be paid by the ministry, also $1 per book.

Any donations made to the ministry will be used exclusively for ministry projects, just as they always were. I hope that something we do here can be a blessing to you.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Life Begins at Conception Act


To implement equal protection in the State of South Carolina under the 14th article of amendment to the United States Constitution for the right to life of each born and preborn human person.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of South Carolina in the General Assembly assembled,

This Act may be cited as the “Life Begins at Conception Act.”

To implement equal protection for the right to life of each born and preborn human person, and pursuant to the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the General Assembly hereby declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and cannot be denied equal protection. However, nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the prosecution of any woman for the natural death of her unborn child.

For purposes of this Act:

(1)         HUMAN PERSON; HUMAN BEING.—The terms “human person” and “human being” include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Clinton Chronicle Interview 10/19/16

Here are my responses to the Clinton Chronicle in an interview published on October 19th. This interview was available in print but not in the online edition, so the answers are provided here.

Question 1: Why do you want to be a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives?

My reason for entering this race is simple: my heart is in it. Fifteen months ago I was waiting to see how a few factors would play out, but while I was waiting I realized this was my passion, no matter what. I learned a long time ago that when I know something is right, I need to do it. I now know that I am doing the right thing. I have an ever-growing, burning desire for the people of District 42, and I want to be used to help make a difference in any way I can.

Question 2: What is the main issue South Carolina will face over the next 12 months?

There are several critical issues facing our state that require immediate action. Repairing our infrastructure is a priority of mine, as well as seeing laws passed to guarantee First Amendment liberty in the face of the out of control Supreme Court. But the most immediate action may have to be the state retirement benefits promised to our teachers, police officers, and other state employees. We can’t pay them with promises. They deserve their pension and we have to ensure they receive what they worked for. I’m prepared to work with both parties in Columbia to find a satisfactory solution.

Question 3: Are public schools adequately funded? If not, how much more is needed?

The biggest issue with school funding is not the dollar amount, but the fact that current statues are routinely ignored. Three statutes—regarding state money, local money, and school bus funding—are being violated, in part because of the complex system currently in place. We either need to abide by the laws we have or replace them altogether. The problem isn’t just money, but in many cases is management and leadership. Some districts receive far more Base Student Cost than others, and underperform when compared to districts receiving far less BSC. This issue isn’t about dollar amounts, but about management.   

Question 4: What can the General Assembly do to promote job growth in South Carolina?

The General Assembly can help promote job growth by working with Governor Haley to promote our great state around our great country. Governor Rick Scott of Florida and Governors Rick Perry and Greg Abbot of Texas have promoted their states and successfully lured in new out of state companies. Their greatest tool is their states’ low taxes and few regulations. We need to continue to keep taxes low and free up industries to run their businesses without so much government interference. Finally, we need to advertise our state, letting CEOs and presidents know that South Carolina is open for business.  

Question 5: What should be done to fix the state's deteriorating roads and bridges? 

Our infrastructure must be immediately addressed, and we need to start with the more than one billion dollars in surplus money that is just waiting to be used on roads. We need our county councils to submit what I call Priority Plans, ranking their biggest needs first and working their way down. In Congress we have to pass a clean bill, not connected to gas tax hikes or part of any other piece of legislation. We also need to commit to put other projects on hold until this issue is solved. We can do this soon and without raising taxes.  

Question 6: Are you in favor of tax vouchers for parents of private school students? 

I absolutely support tax vouchers for parents whose children are in private school, but only if they are paying their child’s tuition. Children on scholarships or in charter schools should not qualify. The purpose of the tax break is to alleviate the double burden of paying for your own child’s education out of pocket while also paying for the public education of others. My wife and I make sacrifices to keep our daughter in private school, so I understand how this voucher can be a blessing. I also support school choice for parents who are dissatisfied with their child’s school.