Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Prophecy and Public Policy

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Are we willing to do what it takes to be prophetic?

The Doctrine of Fairness

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Why our politicians will never serve us well spiritually:

Sleaze, Slant, and Assassination

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

The New York Times can’t stop reporting on “The News of the World” debacle.  They run two or more “news” articles a day and throw in an editorial — just in case the editorializing isn’t finished.  They devoted only one article to the work of American Bridge and stuck to “just the facts.”

Aaron Fielding quietly stalks his prey — Republicans — with his video camera, patiently waiting for a political moment worthy of YouTube.  At 27, he is a full-time “tracker” for American Bridge 21st Century, a new Democratic organization that aims to record every handshake, every utterance by Republican candidates in 2011 and 2012, looking for gotcha moments that could derail political ambitions or provide fodder for television advertisements by liberal groups next year.…If all works as planned, incriminating moments captured by American Bridge will quickly become part of the political bloodstream.

Together, the Murdoch group, American Bridge, and the Tendenz of reporting in the Times provide a window into the way we get our news.

If you thought (or hoped) that listening to the news would provide you a good faith effort at an objective window into the events of the day — or if you thought that the effort would provide you with a window into information that would equip you to shoulder your responsibility as a voter and citizen — forget it.  Wear a HAZMAT suit, prepare to pick through the garbage, and remember, whatever you are being told, has a slant to it — and not just the slant that comes from the inevitably subjective character of any judgment we humans make, but an unvarnished, conscious effort to tell you what to think.

Most reporting today (especially on any vaguely political subject) is reporting on non-events — a pep rally to get the faithful snarling and snapping at the opposition.  Small wonder, then, that sleaze, slant, and assassination are now the weapons of choice in political and public discourse.

It should to be named for the moral and spiritual failure that it is.

So what can we do?

  • Treat the reporting that we are offered with the suspicion it deserves.
  • Arm and inform yourself in more than one place — the truth is out there.
  • Insist on more than we are offered: Write to the editor.  Note the inaccuracies.
  • Be skeptical of your own views — just because someone agrees with you doesn’t meant that they are objective.
  • Shun sleaze, slant, and assassination.  It almost never has anything to do with the issues and journalists should not be rewarded for trading in it.

And don’t give up.  It is our spiritual and moral obligation to stay engaged, even when the most natural reaction is to shed the HAZMAT suit, take a shower, and grab a good stiff drink.


The Casey Anthony Trial

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Some thoughts on the spiritual implications at:

Bully Culture

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Is a Social Network a Spiritual Network?

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

As Oscar night approaches one of the questions that has kept coming back to me is this: “Is a social network a spiritual network?”

The answer is not a simple one and perhaps it isn’t a question that has an answer that will work for all time.  Like so many other generational changes and shifts in technology it could be argued that we will only understand the implications of social networks over time.  Already, for example, we have seen the implications of the technology for political interaction.  Who would have thought that a system invented on a university campus that traded in BFFs and reported to a small circle of friends that “Suzie just arrived at the coffee shop” could morph into something that overturned governments?

But, I think, for the moment, the answer is yes — and no.

Yes, social networks can function as spiritual networks and they can do so in surprising ways:

They facilitate conversation over time.  A conversation can linger longer than face to face encounters.  They can allow time to process a thought.  And for that reason a social network can produce a deeper conversation.  (I am talking here about one on one encounters, as opposed to more public posts, which are more problematic in that way.)

They can bring people together at a distance.  The thing that always made for spiritual communities, but was also their intrinsic limitation on their formation has been geography.  There may still be real numerical limits to how many spiritual friendships you can form — in fact, I’m convinced that there are real limits — but social networking eliminates the absolute limits imposed by geography and brings people together — potentially around the world.  One of the real delights of networking of this kind is the way in which it restores friendships and fosters spiritual conversations with friends we no longer live close too.  I correspond regularly, for example, with an old friend who lives in Tokyo, has had a home in Hong Kong, and can just as predictably reach me from an airport in Canada.

When you think about social networks in this way they can be described as a powerful tool for building robust spiritual communities and conversations that no previous generation of human beings could dream of crafting.

There are potential limitations as well, however.  Here are the ones that occur to me:

Social networks have a character limit —- on line communication tends to be clipped and abbreviated.  That can limit what we learn about what another and our communication can be superficial, rather than deeply meaningful.

“Friending” can be a filter we use to run from spiritual networks.   Most conversations about the body of Christ rightly include the diverse, God-given nature of spiritual communities.  The fact that I can friend you or unfriend you runs the risk that I will craft a community of my own making that leaves me unchallenged — and “un-enriched” — by a community of God’s making.

Facebook doesn’t need faces.  What social networks lack right now is the reality that is a face to face encounter with others.  Spiritual networks can’t do without them.  The power of the Gospel is the power of the incarnation and I am not convinced that ultimately the technology we have developed can satisfy that need.  In that regard, social networks may prove to be a powerful tool for enhancing spiritual networks, but they will probably never replace them.

Hollywood and digitally enhanced religion

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Some thoughts on Hollywood’s white bread religion: