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#sorryboutit

November 25, 2011 2 comments

#BlackFriday. Some of you all have loads of hot ticket items; the merchandise many have drooled over for weeks. Some of you have protested this day based on convictions concerning consumerism. Some of you are reeling from spending a whole 3 hours with family. But all of you—all of us—ought to take notice of one thing: It’s time for Christmas music! I have a rule that because Thanksgiving is overshadowed by and Christmas (as was pointed out by S.M. Acedo), Christmas ought to be held at bay as long as possible; and the best way to do that is by warding off the joyous music until the fourth Friday in November. I know we ought to keep the spirit of Christmas all year long, but the music needs to wait it’s turn!

Sure it sounds like a bit of a joke, but I’m serious. Also, let’s just go ahead and call out the #bigdawgs: The Christmas industry has kidnapped a prize jewel of the Thanksgiving holiday and claimed it as its own (however, I suppose kidnapping and claiming owned goods is the spirit of Thanksgiving). The prize jewel that I am talking about is the song Jingle Bells! That’s right #hashheads, that song was written to commemorate Turkey Day and Rudy the Reindeer and his cronies have hijacked it. It really makes me upset; it almost makes me want to say a naughty word. Which while inappropriate in general would be highly appropriate since this episode of #Hashtagfairytales—and this 3rd edition of the #illallowit series—is about cussing!

Bad words; naughty words; swears; cuss words; blue language; off-color; foul language; dirty words. Call them what you will the point is that they are taboo. Especially as Christians, we are not allowed to say those words. However some very good Christians may have said them at Wal-Mart or Best Buy this morning. But we can’t say them…at least out loud. I mean seriously, who of us can truly say we don’t occasionally—much less never have; whether aloud or under ones breath—let a swear cross the threshold of our lips? My grandmother and I used to used to argue on a regular basis; and when we did, I would usually make my grandmother extremely upset. In those moments, my grandmother would say a small prayer “God, help me not to hurt this child.” She would then follow-up by also asking the Lord to “keep a guard over her mouthgate.” I always thought that was just a saying that they used in Texas in the #oldendays until I thought about what it really meant: my grandmother was praying that she didn’t cuss me out! Let us examine why; shall we?

There are plenty of scriptures that address “corrupt speech:”

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” (Ephesians 4:29)

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil…” (I Peter 3:10)

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:10)

But here’s the rub: each of these verses go on to reference harming of the brethren with words. These scriptures have more to do with the destruction of the spirit than a potty mouth. Does that mean that these scriptures have nothing to say about those dirty words? No, these scriptures have tons to do with those words too; just not those words exclusively. The words—as being described by these passages—have meanings to them; they carry weight; they have a spirit to them. So, if I say, “Geez, that guy is a #dumbass,” I am sinning. I am sinning not because I said the ass word, but because I “cursed my brother” (my brother in this case being a fellow human being).

Let us remember, outside of this context these are all just words. Allow the point to be made: the word #shit is no more or less harmful than poop or crap; only more poignant. The words that we consider to be “swears” have a heavier tone to them; the tone is what separates these words from others. At this point allow me to say, this particular subject is not like the other two (#tobacco and #alcohol). I have partaken in profanity. I have said every #cussword in the proverbial book and have even said most of them in other languages thanks to my time playing on a soccer team. I had a struggle with profanity as well. I mean, I was slick so I never slipped up in front of a teacher, parent, or authority figure, but for a period of time, while around friends I could not stop swearing because I let it take a hold of me. Having said that, when it comes to #cusswords—and I say this with a large caveat—#illallowit.

Before all of you storm out in an uproar (supporting or condemning), hear me out. First I am not arguing that these words ought to be incorporated into everyday life; they shouldn’t. I think a person who uses profanity unattractive. Along the same lines as drunkenness, I believe that overt profanity shows a lack of maturity and intelligence. My argument is simply for not strictly viewing the words as taboo. I think that we as Christians ought to be familiar and comfortable (not necessarily approving, but comfortable) with “foul language” as it is the #linguafranca of the world. However, as I said, there is a bit of a concession here and it is in three parts. I said, that #illallowit, but only on one (three-part) condition.

First, take the power from them. As I said, there was a time when I couldn’t stop. I let those words become ingrained in my personhood. I could not describe something to my friends without using the word #damn. This is wrong and inappropriate. I might say that there was an unhealthy reliance on these words to get me through conversations. I thought the words would make me sound cool and let’s be honest, if I am doing ANYTHING because I think it’ll make me cooler, the motivation is skewed.

Second, take the weight from the words. Some words have weight attached; like the word #fuck (if you’re offended #sorryboutit), it has tons of weight automatically. It has the weight because we let it. Take the song “F**k You” by Cee Lo Green for instance, by use—and overuse—of the word, the song strips the word of its weight and power. It makes a joke of the word, and while I can see the danger in that also, I think if introduced to it responsibly the song will strip the weight as versus exacerbate it. I played the song for my mother—you know, the one who raised me holiness—and she allowed it because I wasn’t using the word, and its use around her was stripped of its weight.

Lastly, I would say use—and refrain from using—them wisely. There are times when these words are obviously inappropriate: at work, at church, in conversation with a stranger, at a formal gathering, when being pulled over by a policeman. But let us not forget the other times when they are even more inappropriate: when arguing with a loved one, when speaking to a child; anytime it has the ability to break a spirit or hurt someone. That is the point of the scriptures; these words ought not to be used to tear down. Remember, Peter had a filthy mouth. Let’s not be under the impression that if he fished for three hours without catching anything he would say the Aramaic version of dagnabit and be done, he’d be #cussingupastorm! Let’s not be under the impression that once he met Jesus he became perfection; let us not deceive ourselves to believe he became an immediate saint. Don’t start cussing on my account. But don’t be afraid if you let one slip. Don’t go and Netflix a George Carlin stand-up routine because of this episode, but don’t act awkward if you hear a bad word in passing.

It has been said that foul language is the last thing to go once one accepts Christ and the first to return when they are falling away. If so, I am #hellbound and I believe that my mode of transportation will be a hand-basket. But remember this: Jesus’ teachings said nothing of the words that are used, but the heart from which the things are spoken. So go ahead friends, censor yourselves, don’t call that guy a dumbass. But remember that Jesus said that you’re in danger for calling him even something as simple as a fool. Be not deceived. The words, mean nothing. Men look at the outer appearance (and listen to the words) but God looks at (and hears) the heart.

(I’m sure that this episode may cause some division amongst the #hashheads. Whoops. Also, Thank you Dustin Silva for the title.)

(30th Episode: Seems a bit unorthodox, but #thatjusthappened)

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#bottomsup

November 18, 2011 2 comments

…or maybe tobacco isn’t your thing. Maybe that isn’t a concern of yours at all; you don’t want it, you don’t care about it, it’s not a moral issue with which you concern yourself. Maybe your issue of choice leans more towards hops and grains. That’s right my friends, today on #Hashtagfairytales we will tackle the second part of the series #illallowit: #alcohol! Tobacco was kind of a tame issue I suppose; not many are super passionate about tobacco use—for or against—any more these days. But when people talk about #alcohol I have sensed a lot of strong feelings. Most people that I have had the opportunity to observe are either head-long one way or butt-strong the other (#sh*tmygrandmasays). This issue is a bit more serious I think and a bit more morally telling.

I have seen this issue rear its head a lot and there has always been tons of debate. As I’ve said before, I was raised Holiness Pentecostal, so drinking #alcohol was completely disallowed. As a matter of fact, when kids in my class—at my Christian school—would try and argue for #alcohol (mind you none of them old enough to imbibe it) the majority of us would look at them as rebels; those bad boys that would be okay with #tobacco and #alcohol and guns and motorcycles; those girls that’d be okay with pants and kissing and makeup and hard drugs (In the Holiness mind in which I was raised it’s a very short jump from makeup to hard drugs).

As a Bible-believing Christian this seems like an open and shut case; Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) specifically says not to “get drunk on wine” (Ephesians 5:18) #boom #done #caseclosed. Who’s to say otherwise? I’ll tell you who: Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus). The very same man who wrote not to get drunk also wrote the words, “a little wine is good for the stomach” (I Timothy 5:23). So I hear you saying not to get drunk, and also to have a little wine; the same guy saying don’t do it is also saying #bottomsup. Let’s put this in context. Timothy (to whom Paul wrote the second statement), was sick of the water in the city where he lived. I mean he was literally sick, he tried to follow the first statement and only drink water, but that was making him ill, so Paul told him to drink a little bit of wine.

The fermenting process ridded the liquid of some of the impurities of the regional water, but he still wasn’t getting drunk. This does not show that drinking is ok, but it certainly does not show that drinking is an absolute sin. Paul himself makes absolutely clear one thing: that the issue of #alcohol is at best an unclear issue. #Hashheads, when it comes to #alcohol, I have to say, #illallowit. Once again, it proves most useful to state: I am not trying to defend myself or justify any of my own actions. Let me make this ever clear: I was raised viewing alcohol as the sinner’s beverage of choice; I have never taken so much as a sip of alcohol; the absolute closest I have come is having food cooked with #alcohol (#beerbattered shrimp; #JackDaniels steak; #tequilalime fettuccine; et al.) and even an occasional drinker will tell you that doesn’t count! The only reason I choose to talk about it is because it is interesting and I think that it can spark meaningful conversation.

Let me say, this has been a difficult road for me; taking my deep instilled moral values and deciding at a later age that I do not hold to them as strictly as I was taught. I myself do not drink and never have, but not because I am morally opposed; I am not. I know that not everyone will agree with my ideas; proponents and opponents alike, but after wrestling and struggling with the ideas I have found these things to be true about my beliefs and ideas about #alcohol:

#cosmopolitanculture– It is a wide-accepted fact that #alcohol can change ones ways of thinking after partaking in it, but I have a problem with the changes in ones thinking that happens before they drink it. This only applies to a fraction of the proponents of #alcohol, but it frustrates me nonetheless. There is a culture that comes with #alcohol nowadays and I can’t say that I like it. #Alcohol has become to certain of these more recent generation as “the first hunt” was to the Native Americans; as the bar mitzvah is to the Jews; as the high school diploma was to our parents. It’s some sort of sign of growth or badge of honor to some people. I blame it on movies like Old School with Will Ferrell or shows like Sex and the City with the long-faced Sarah Jessica Parker. You are a REAL grown up when you can go out and get drunk; you have truly made it if you are drinking a Cosmopolitan cocktail at 1:30 in the afternoon. That is how we know you are mature; that is how we know you are cool. Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha, and Carrie, I’m calling your Bull!

#drunkonlife– That first scripture mentioned above talks about getting “drunk on wine.” In this man’s opinion, not for nothing those words are used. I believe of course, by saying wine, what is meant is all #alcohol or fermented drink, but what is specifically stated is not to get drunk on these things. Alcohol has a tendency to alter ones personality or actions (some say it makes the person more themselves), and I don’t believe that is what we are called to do. I do not believe that any Christian ought to get drunk. #Period. I believe that is more clearly stated in scripture. Besides, drunkenness is hardly attractive—I’m looking at you Snooki. I mean I get that some like it, but eventually we all need to grow up (this extends beyond Christianity), and I think a huge part of growing up is moderation.

Also, along the same lines as the last part of this series, addiction to alcohol is—while a very tough and debilitating sickness—wrong. I think people—Christians and non Christians alike—ought to consider professional help for addictions such as these. This is no easy or light matter many real people are affected by this and I believe as a people of God we must embrace those affected thereby; I 100% endorse 12 step programs. I was honored to once attend an AA meeting (as a guest) and it was phenomenally touching. If you know someone who needs it, out of love, encourage them.

#lessfilling/#tastesgreat– A softly chilled pinot grigio with a garlic infused roasted turkey breast; a cool but room temperature cabernet sauvignon with a fine cut of properly tenderized and fire-grilled steak; Beer with pizza. Whatever one’s preference, some #alcohol simply complements food. When consumed in moderation what is wrong with a bit of #alcohol with an appropriate meal? Mind you, I cannot speak from experience in this area, but cooks and food scientists agree that due to the chemicals and proteins in foods some foods (and beverages) complement each other; that’s just a #fact. Eat, drink, and be merry!

It is my holiness roots that says that Christians ought to conduct themselves in a way separate from those “of the world.” I agree. Christians ought to not get drunk, its unattractive and ungodly—once again, one man’s opinion. In the same way Christians ought to conduct themselves differently than worldly people in that those of the world tend to faction off. There are the Democrats and Republicans; the Asians and the Latinos; the 99% and the 1%; Team Jacob and Team Edward. What if the Holy people of God really were different? What if they stopped pulling away and started unabashedly, unashamedly, caring for and loving people. What if followers of Jesus believed when He said, “Other sheep I have that are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they will hear my voice and there will be one fold and one shepherd” (John 10:16)? What if Christians showed love towards everyone no matter their moral posture? What if we gave a glass of water in the name of a prophet, or said a short prayer for a person who needed it (Christian or non-Christian)? What if Christians lived out that #lovewinsbreh. Never mind, that’s just dumb.

To finalize my thoughts on #alcohol: ultra conservative Bob Jones said this about my best friend C.S. Lewis, “That man smokes a pipe and that man drinks liquor—but I do believe he is a Christian.”

(It’s all about moderation. Also, concerning coming back to the series, sorry for the abrupt re-entry.)

(#thatswhatshesaid)

#gracias

November 11, 2011 3 comments

(Alright #hashheads, we’re taking a break from the #illallowit series to hear from a man amongst men and an original #hashhead. It’s #GuestPost time and today we get to hear from S. M. Acedo of Iglesia Vida Life Church. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!)

So it’s been about two months of Christmas commercials, and we’re not even halfway through November.  It seems like every year we get more and more restless for Christmas to come.  This is getting out of control (excuse me while I turn down Mariah)!

I saw this drawing the other day on #thefacebook (#vintage):

 

and it made me realize: I’m all about Christmas but I haven’t really gotten excited about Thanksgiving. Why is it that Christmas always turns into this great anticipation but Thanksgiving always gets stuffed (#thatjusthappened) away in the vault of obscure holidays, right next to President’s Day and Grandparents Day? (which, by the way, it fell on 9/11 this year; you should seriously give them a call soon—your grandparents that is, not the president, you can’t do things like that anymore…because of 9/11. #fullcircle). Here are four reasons that Thanksgiving gets the short end of the candy cane?

#nogifts

The first obvious answer to why Thanksgiving gets #sandwiched (#thisisfun) between Halloween and Christmas is because of our beautiful capitalism. Other than Safeway, or your favorite grocery store (have you noticed Walgreens is the new Super Wal-Mart? #awesome), people aren’t running to the store to grab treats. The rest of the 1%ers are excited to sell us their wonderful 4G wonderlands for the Christmas season. You get candy on Halloween, chocolate eggs in baskets on Easter, gelt for Hanukkah, and gifts for Christmas, but only a meal on Thanksgiving. 

#getyourelbowsoffthetable

Everyone knows of a fun Christmas party, but when was the last time you heard of a memorable Thanksgiving festivity? You can’t even get excited about dressing up. Instead of a nice Christmas suit and dress, it’s usually a moderate cardigan or your beige Dockers. Thanksgiving is the original #lessismore. Yeah, it is the day we eat the most, especially if you’re a Pentecostal and you think that tobacco use is a sin (scroll down for context #thankyouforsmoking), but once your belt is loosened, there really isn’t much else to do for the rest of the night, other than sleep.  Thank you #tryptophan. This is the holiday you have to behave and make your mom happy, even though you don’t like her stuffing (#sorrymom), and we all become the perfect 1950’s American family. #normanrockwell #shoutout

#bettermarketing

Someone please call Donald Draper #madmen. Christmas has Santa, and Sweet Baby Jesus. Valentine’s Day has a cute stalker in a diaper, better known as Cupid, and Easter has the cute Bunny and The Resurrected Christ (#preachit), but Thanksgiving?  Have you seen a live Turkey? I would run!  Doesn’t matter how you try to draw it and make it cute, a turkey is still scarier than Halloween’s Jack (see image above). I’m glad no one listened to Benjamin Franklin when he suggested making that our national bird and symbol (stick to posing for the hundred dollar bill and #goflyakite). We all remember drawing an outline of our hand and coloring in the fingers as feathers, but it still looks like something that would be worshiped at Tom Cruise’s church.  Thanksgiving must have been late to the mascot-choosing meeting, right before Stanford had to choose a Tree.  Oh, and where’s the “It’s beginning to smell like Thanksgiving” Boyz II Men Album? Seriously, it would work.

#genocide

Where do I even begin? Just go listen to NPR for the rest of the month; you’re bound to find a good interview from a scholar who read a book about a guy who knew a guy that made the diseased blankets. What a downer. Who wants genocide as opposed to wise men? You keep your diseased blankets and I’ll have the swaddling clothes.

But is all this so bad (minus the diseased blankets of course)?

Cue the Full House piano music as Danny, Uncle Jesse, and Joey walk in to the girls’ bedroom to finish another memorable episode. #TGIF #wherearetheynow #truelifeofachildactor #saynotodrugs

I mean sure, even holidays like the 4th of July have fireworks, but we need to learn to pause and instead of making it about all the glitz, it’s about one simple word: #gracias (thank you is two words so it’s not as simple).  All the previously mentioned holidays are about receiving a gift, lover, or a Savior (even though Jesus is all of the above #comeonpreacher!) but Thanksgiving is about giving (#redundant?).  Not about the commercialism, not about the event, not even about the meal; it’s about sitting together with family and friends and pausing to say “thank you” to each other and to the Omnipotent One (#religioussentivity). 

We live in a time where sitting together as a family to eat a meal rarely happens, and it probably will happen less now that #MW3 is out! This past year has been tough for many families, but there is always something to give thanks for. #KimKardashian is giving thanks for the NBA lockout now that her 72 day marriage special was canceled; #occupywallstreet folks are thankful for warm urine during the winter months; and Greece—even with their failing economy—is still thankful for their delicious yogurt and #TinaFey.  #attitudeofgratitude

It seems as if Christmas is all about what we get, if it fits, if it works, and did He really grow up to die for me? Thanksgiving however is all about what we give each other, not just a meal, but a thankful heart. That takes more out of us than #BlackFriday takes out of our wallets. That takes more maturity and stillness in the busy world of 4G and takeovers.

What are you thankful for this November? How will you make this Thanksgiving more special than any other holiday?  Go around the table, read some Scripture together, turn off the phone (after reading the most recent episode of #Hashtagfairytales of course) and be thankful for your #Vida/Life; #blackfriday and the #JustinBieber (thankful he’s not a father) Christmas special can wait!

(JCH: A laugh AND some conviction; hopefully he’s not expecting an offering, I’m saving up for Christmas.)

#thankyouforsmoking

November 4, 2011 2 comments

I don’t know how you got to this land of #Hashtagfairytales. I mean you specifically this specific time. Maybe you found a mysterious black business card, maybe you found a pen, maybe a Google search led you here, or maybe it was Twitter or Facebook. If you did get here via the Tweeters, you’ll notice I usually write the promo based on Episode number. Well, I got to thinking, every good Episodic program has a short series from time to time; a string of to be continued episodes with the same story arc. They may each be stand alone episodes as well, but they fit into a larger series. Dallas had “Who shot JR,” The Simpsons had “Who shot Mr. Burns,” The OJ Trial had “Who stabbed Nicole Brown Simpson,” even Oprah had “Oprah’s Favorite Things.” It’s about time #Hashtagfairytales joined those ranks.

But what could we have a series on? Do I have to shoot someone to secure the success of this a series (I certainly hope not, I’m not one for big messes to clean)? Can I just give away lots of expensive crap? (Hint: Nope. #nonprofitindustryemployee) I know exactly what I’ll do…at least for the first series: My opinion on a few small, but hot button issues. Note that I did not say current events. I grew up in a traditional Holiness Pentecostal Christian household and because of this I have had the opportunity to see a great deal of opinionated discussion (to put it politely) on many issues. There are people who have said that all kinds of things are wrong and sinful, while I haven’t seen much Biblical proof to back up those claims. My friends, In typical Judge Mills Lane fashion, I am going to tackle a few of these issues in a series that I am calling: #illallowit.

Allow me to note a few things first: I do not intend to tackle all issues that are disagreed upon within Christian communities; I’m just not that cocky. I do not claim to cover any issue comprehensively; there are too many points and I’m too forgetful. I do not claim to be faultless in my claims; I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again. This series will have a Christian tilt; I’m a Christian. I do not represent any organization or denomination in my statements; I represent ONLY Jacob C. Howard. I am not married to any of these opinions; they may change one day…they may change soon. They are just my opinions based on my years of Biblical study and living life in the world I inhabit; I’m not a prophet.

Having said that my loyal #hashheads, let’s jump in! I grew up in a world where smoking #tobacco was a sin. Real Christians—the holy people of God do not use #tobacco products; they do not smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes; they do not dip snuff. Black and white. That’s just the way it is. I have/had one main problem with this black and white way of looking at this particular issue: The Bible doesn’t say not to smoke #tobacco. It doesn’t address the issue at all. Does that mean that Christians ought not have an opinion about it? Certainly not. Does this mean that #tobacco does not stand on some level as a moral issue? No, I believe that #tobacco does have some moral implications, but a cut and dry issue it is not.

Let me say this for those who are questioning my salvation already: this episode is not in order to justify myself or anything I have done. I have never directly partaken in any #tobacco use. I cannot assert that I have never smoked second hand as I have been around smokers many different times, but I have never smoked or chewed #tobacco in my life. I have no vested interest in #tobacco use; I do not own stock in Philip Morris, I only wish to start a discussion. Now, on with the show.

Some have fought against #tobacco use because the Bible says that “the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 6:19-20) and as such we ought to not abuse it by using #tobacco. The argument is that we are harming our body and this is a sin because that is where the Holy Spirit must reside, and if we are damaging that we are disallowing the Holy Spirit to take residence. I have two problems with that: the first is that this is a bit of a misrepresentation. Let’s take an example, smoking #tobacco via cigarettes puts people at a high risk for lung cancer—this is a scientific fact—if a person were to get lung cancer, does this mean that the Holy Spirit cannot reside within them because of a cancer? If we use this argument against smoking cigarettes we have to assume that we are ruining a literal residence that someone is living in. I believe that the body IS a temple but not a literal one, I don’t think that lung cancer would force a bodily eviction of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think that a literal spirit is attempting to fly around in my lungs and pancreas and I need to stay away from smoking because if I don’t this Spirit—who is a he for some reason by the way—will have a coughing fit and have to go.

But let us put aside that reason for now. The second problem that I have with that argument is that it’s kind of hypocritical. It says that we are harming our bodies and that is a sin. But I ask you, how many churches will denounce smoking as ruining the temple of the Holy Spirit and then have a fundraising dinner with a main course of fried foods? I mean I have never smoked, but I am fat; why is it that it’s bad to smoke because you are destroying a temple, but you can eat tons of greasy foods and it is of no spiritual consequence? I grew up being told that #tobacco is a bit of a taboo but deep fried catfish is dinner. If one body damaging substance is sinful, all of them have to be; and I am sure that no church—especially no Pentecostal church—is willing to denounce fried chicken, tamales, or potato salad as sinful. To quote the very apropos movie #thankyouforsmoking, “I don’t have an MD or a law degree.” but I think I am safe in this theory.

So where is the moral issue that I promised? Right here. Am I saying that #tobacco is completely ok and ought not be regulated? No. #Tobacco can be the root of one of the biggest sins that I can name: idolatry. It is no secret that #tobacco contains a substance called nicotine which is what causes people to become addicted. Addiction is in itself a moral issue is it not? How can one say that they are putting God first when their focus is on the thing to which they are addicted? Now, I understand that addiction is a struggle and I do not wish to take addiction insensitively or lightly; addiction is difficult and does not feature an on/off switch. But this is yet the dilemma. This is the moral issue.

I do believe that a cigar for celebration is ok; I think a pipe for relaxation is permissible, but I cannot stand for smoking a pack of Marlboros every day. I believe that this is allowing something between oneself and God and is a deterrent to the relationship. Does that mean someone who is addicted to smoking is #hellbound? Not in my opinion, but I think that addiction hinders from “fixing our eyes upon Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

What do you think about #tobacco use?

(Sorry if it got a little preachy, my hope is to be anything but arrogant. I am simply starting the discussion and have nothing to start with but my own opinion; your turn.)