Pageantry of Moral Outrage–Bullsh!t on Parade: A Criticism of Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld

Garry Bredefeld is a Fresno City Councilmember who often echoes the death rattles of hyper-conservative panic. Almost as a means to stay relevant, he takes to social media to opine the decline of Conservative Christian values, and, by extension, the decline of America. Though the connection between his rhetoric and white Christian nationalism are damningly clear to anyone with some understanding of the tense racial history in America, Bredefeld–and those like him–are quick to deny their roles in perpetuating a system of white supremacy. They claim that “bigot” and “racist” labels are unfair and that such accusations are made by those who are intolerant of their interpretation of Christianity and hate America. To be fair, Bredefeld may not speak so plainly, but his social media interaction clearly indicates where he positions himself ideologically.

“Radical left,” “unconstitutional,” “socialism,” and other conservative dog whistles fill the landscape of his Twitter account. Any current story/accusation intended to paint liberal and left leaning voters as American hating monsters–regardless of source reliability–Bredefeld is quick to seize upon. A brief perusal of his social media portrays the image of an individual easily manipulated by fear and conspiracy. In June of 2022, Bredefeld bemoaned the flying of the Pride Flag and the way a religious group, to which he did not belong, prayed to their God as being an attack on Christianity. Despite data showing child sexual abuse, grooming, and molestation as much more likely to take place at church or by family members, Bredefeld has engaged in the hyper-conservative dialogue that accuses Drag Queens (and, by insinuation, the rest of the non-heteronormative community) of being child predators. He has also engaged in other hot topics such as: CRT, pronouns, and Covid hysteria.

Bredefeld is largely ignorant of the topics he engages. From American freedoms to public education to public health to socialism to Christian theology, Bredefeld is a hot mess of misinformation. It isn’t surprising considering the sources he turns to for information. However, it appears that being morally, ethically, or factually correct isn’t the point of his pageantry. His panic and fearmongering play to a base heavy with the anxiety of weakening control. The power structure benefiting his base is disintegrating, they are being called to repent for the damage they have inflicted on everyone around them, and Bredefeld rises to assuage their seared conscience. The dying white supremacist power structure is choosing blind loyalty over intelligence, compromise, or competence, therefore Bredefeld remains in place–representing the interests of a disconnected affluent constituency.

Regardless, his exhausting outbursts appear to be little more than political pageantry. He waves the right flags, uses the right buzzwords, expresses disgust at the right subjects, but it is all a show. While Bredefeld gathered with faith “leaders” to decry LGBTQIA+ rights and representation and has been quick to voice his opposition to everything celebrity Republicans oppose, he has been silent in other areas which might criticize his own voters.

Recently, an advertisement for a “Fresno Aryan Meet and Greet” has been spotted in the wild. A quick check of the advertised website (and a thorough shower) confirms the event. The advertisement has made its way to Bredefeld’s Twitter account by means of an aggressive Fresno GOP parody account. The silence from Bredefeld seems to track as the real Fresno County GOP–with whom Bredefeld associates–has been known to partner with the Proud Boys and 1776’ers (basically “sanitized” reincarnations of the Ku Klux Klan). Where is the moral outrage we’ve seen from Bredefeld? Where is the righteous indignation?

Not just Bredefeld, but also the religious “leaders” he joined to condemn non-heteronormative individuals ought to be noted for their silence. While arguing from silence is a logical fallacy, identifying patterns has a way to give voice to the telling silence. Bredefeld has displayed indignation for just about every grain of sand in the collective undergarment of the hyper-conservative consciousness, but in the face of this gathering of anti-American fascists under the unifying umbrella of racial superiority in his city, he and his own are damningly silent.

For all of Bredefeld’s appeals to the Christian faith as justification for a number of his outbursts, he may be proving the frustrated colloquial true: “there’s no hate like Christian love.”

Changes: Or The Lack Thereof

Cops give a damn about a negro
Pull the trigger, kill a n——, he’s a hero
Give the crack to the kids, who the hell cares?
One less hungry mouth on the welfare
First ship ’em dope and let ’em deal to brothers
Give ’em guns, step back, watch ’em kill each other

Tupac Shakur, “Changes,” 1998

Twenty-five years after the release of Tupac Shakur’s “Changes” and we find ourselves in the same place. The same story told over and over and over again, and still we miss the lesson. Public school, parental and American religious rhetoric, and political discourse insisted racism died with the abolition of slavery in 1865 and the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The fault of racism had been laid at the feet of very distant relatives—to whom none of us were related because our families would never be involved in such a thing—and yet the truth is it was our parents and grandparents and great grandparents perpetuating an evil ideology.

Many millennials have cut off older family members, including parents, as a result of their toxicity. These cut off family members often refused to change, own their faults, and react violently to culpability and consequence. Is it then a wonder that it is largely their generation and their successfully groomed offspring who rail against the social conversation of bigotry and stand in the way of progress meant to create a more humane and equitable world?

We weren’t the only ones to suffer their toxicity.

My genetic provider used to say that America wasn’t ready for a Black or woman president. As I have learned over the last thirty years, the accusations of these toxic people are usually confessions. Despite his feigned sympathy for such racial disparity, it was he—and those like him—who were not ready for a Black or woman president. The proof of such assessment lies in the formation of the Tea Party, the precursor to the far-right MAGA movement that would ultimately take over the Republican party today.

Tupac called it, we need real changes, and we can no longer wait for our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents to die out. They promised to prepare us the future to which we were heirs. They called us, their children, the future—yet they’ve held that future beyond reach. They took an America at its greatest economic and social potential and destroyed it in the name of neoliberalism.

“Make America Great Again,” what does this mean? The generations leading this war cry were entrenched in segregation, unfettered lynchings, and the reinforcement of systemic bias that now hangs from our necks like millstones.

We cannot move forward if we insist the answer lies in the past. I’m sorry Revolutionary and Confederate cosplayer, the answer isn’t embedded in our whitewashed tombs.

It Hurts to Be, Sometimes…

One time, I had a real moment of honesty with my psychiatrist. I told him about the manic episodes, the physical exhaustion, the pain that comes with every crash. I said, “I just want to give up.”

He asked me what I meant, and I assured him I didn’t mean suicide. Simply, I feel done sometimes. I want to quit. Just not do anything.

When he still didn’t seem to understand I explained to him that at some point long, long, ago my sperm donor had given up. He quit. He just one day parked himself in front of his computer and played Microsoft Flight Simulator for decades. His family, his responsibilities, his obligations didn’t mean dick to him. He took on the role of “absence-interrupted-by-moments-of-violence.” He played it well.

My psychiatrist asked me what it was that kept me going. I told him, “I don’t want to be that man. I have a family that depends on me. So, I just take on everyday as best I can—no matter how much it hurts.”

And that is how I’ve felt for so long. Overwhelmed. Suffering chronic pain most days. My head is chock full of ghosts. I feel alone sometimes. I want to quit, but I force myself to keep going. If I fail, I let everyone down and I become just like my sperm donor.

My psychiatrist has since referred me to a team of specialists. He thinks I need to unravel the rat’s nest of trauma still tangled up on my insides. Maybe he’s right. Still, there are days I want to quit.

Today, I was a Little Extra: An Informal Literary Critique of a Random Facebook Post

The story posted in a community forum.

Recently, in a local forum, there have been a number of posts relating to human trafficking and abduction. This has been a bustling topic of conversation, so a post describing the encounter between a woman with children and a man trying to lure the children away felt a little suspicious. The uncanny valley of story was too unsettling to be real, but many in the community were lapping it up.

I said the quiet part out loud. I challenged the tricky thing and used very informal literary criticism to deconstruct the story and unmask the thing for what it was: a fabrication. In hindsight, I probably should have taken my meds today. And I probably shouldn’t do things during a manic episode, but c’est la vie and all that.

Here’s what that wild ride looked like:

Hold up.

I’m the storyteller around here, and something smells wrong.

The details and orientation of the narrator in this “David versus Goliath” motif is constructed. This is not a story about an attempted kidnapping, but rather a metaphor of God’s power over evil and the power of God wielded by Christians against the Devil by extension.

The narrative begins with the assumption that the speaker is a woman. The inclusion of children and the phrase “potentially scary incident” project a feminine voice.

She is a mother. Her hands are filled with rowdy babies—a vulnerable figure in a world filled with sudden striking evils sent by Satan. She is comparable to the Virgin and Child.

The mother wears a number of mask in this parable. She is the “meek who shall inherit the earth.” She is both a child of God—frail and innocent—and the wielder of God’s wrath.

The male assailant allows for internal biases to construct a caricature villain who embodies the fears of the reader. He is also the Devil. The deceiver of humanity and humanity’s scapegoat.

Like the Devil who roams about as a terrible lion seeking those it can devour, the man seeks to corrupt and destroy (1 Peter 5:8). The candy he wields is a parallel of the forbidden fruit which plunged humanity into sin and death.

The contrast between these figures places the power with the male assailant. He is a representation of the wicked who wield all earthly power in order persecute God’s faithful. The cards appear stacked in his favor.

But for the woman, who is like little David facing insurmountable odds, the divine power of God manifests “on” her person.

The use of “on” is interesting. It allows the woman to fight back against a demonically influenced force. It is not God who steps in and sends the devil fleeing, but the woman who wields God as a supernatural weapon. She puts the devil to flight.

This is an important element because it shifts the power away from God to the woman. The power starts with the man, it is then usurped by God, and then given to the woman (or Christian).

With this power, instead of nodding to St Michael the Archangel’s “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9), the story gives over the wielding of God’s wrath and vengeance to the faithful who are always alert for the devil amidst a “sleeping society.”

The retreat of the man furthers this idea in its function as an illustration of James 4:7–“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

When the devil flees, God is put away and the angels (Kingsburg PD) are called in to secure the area from further threat.

The story’s conclusion is barbed. It is meant to stay with the reader. It professes that while today, this woman was saved, it doesn’t mean the threat is gone. It lingers, and so the reader is encouraged to be on guard because the devil is around every corner and only they can stop him.

NOTE: Slight grammatical revisions added.

Reimagining the Sacred through AI Generated Art

Brewer, Michael. “Jesus of Nazareth.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “Our Lady of Sorrows.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “Mary Magdalene.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “St. Monica.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “Holy Eucharist.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “White Christian Evangelical Nationalist Eschatology.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “Antichrist.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “Contemplating the Mysteries.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.
Brewer, Michael. “False Gods.” Midjourney AI, Digital Medium, 2022.

Doing What I was Told Transformed Me into the Very Thing They Hated.

Verse by verse. Chapter by chapter. Book by book. –Calvary Chapel

I grew up in a church in rural California. What this means is every Sunday we went to church. We participated in a variety of “ministries” to support the church. I attended youth group Bible study and, later, college Bible study. I helped with worship team set up. My parents made copies of the services on audio tapes and sold shirts on behalf of the church (tape ministry and shirt ministry). For a number of years, we hosted home prayer meetings and Bible studies. We rubbed elbows with various church leaders and influencers. The church was an extension of my family to whom I was to go with every issue and question I had.

“Valley of Shadows” by M. Brewer Jr., 2022.

I grew up in the church.

It was very important to our community that we all live in a Christ-centered manner with our ears ever pressed upon the murmurs of the Holy Spirit. We asserted, if not so blatantly, that we were one of few truly Bible centered, Christ focused, and biblically sound churches left in the world. We were the Acts church! The church of the New Testament! Christ was our centerpiece, but Moses was our model.

Who we were in reality–in practice–was (and remains) far from any resemblance of a biblically centered or Christ centered church. It was our boast to proclaim that we studied the Bible “verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book” (Calvary Chapel), and we did go through the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, but to call it studying is only marginally true. For all our high mindedness of Scripture, we never really gave the bible an opportunity to speak. We were eisegetical in our approach. We read into scripture the things we wanted out of it. We threw out the entire literary approach to the Bible and approached it in the vein of Charles Finney–we approached the text as lawyers reading a law book. As a result, we became legalistic and insistent that our understanding of religious law be made the law of the land in order to save the world for Jesus. We walked with some of the earliest evangelicals to initiate the raging culture wars being fought today.

Our leadership, our pastor and his inner circle, asserted that we held the real and true, Holy Spirit inspired, understanding of the Bible, and as a child, I believed them. Right knowledge of the scriptures along with a prerequisite magical prayer inviting Jesus into one’s heart, assured our place in heaven and our superiority as God’s children on the earth.

Over the next few months, I am going to share my story. I am going to name names. I am going to share how divine intervention rescued me from a cult of personality and led me on a path to deconstruct the lies of my pastor and his church, spend over a decade in deep theological study that was both spiritual and scholarly, and how I came to save myself from becoming what they meant for me to be.

This project will not just be a work of essays but will incorporate various forms of art and media to convey my story. This work will be linked together using the “Valley of Shadows” category and tag.

I don’t expect this project to go smoothly, but after nearly twenty years, it is time to tell my story.

Uncanny Valley

It’s made to look right, and at first glance it does, but on closer inspection something seems off. One can’t quite put their finger on what exactly is wrong, but the sense of wrongness only increases and never fades. It’s like the uncanny valley or the verisimilitude of the thing comes too close to replication, but its otherness invites primal fear and revulsion to the surface. Something in the heart and soul plead with the mind not to believe the eyes, and, yet, neither can one look away. To blink is to give opening for the sinister heart of the unsound thing to strike.