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July 06, 2009

Daily roundup

Exploitative TV

25realitytv.480 I normally wouldn't have much to say about reality television shows because I don't watch them, but the dreary news about a certain couple with eight children, and their decision to divorce, has been everywhere, and I haven't been able to escape it. 

Colleen Caroll Campbell, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, maintains that the repercussion of reality shows are far larger than the individual lives of the people being filmed and the kids being exploited.  

Campbell discusses a new book called The Mirror Effect, which shows that the more time a person spends watching this degrading behavior, the likelier he or she will be to "mimic that behavior."

She offers a curative to this effect, but I'll let you read what it is.

(Image © TLC)

Stop the Tweets!

Twitter A few weeks ago I blogged about the perils of Twitter. Nice to know that there are at least 18 possible arguments against microblogging from moral philosophy.

Take a look and have a laugh. 

July 02, 2009

Daily roundup

July 01, 2009

Daily roundup

June 29, 2009

Why are TV crime dramas so popular?

L-o-15x01 I'm doing a little research for one of our staff members and I'm curious to hear our readers' thoughts and insights. We are wondering why the genre of crime drama is so popular in current American television (think CSI and its many spinoffs, the various versions of Law and Order, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, Bones, Without a Trace, NCIS, etc). What draws viewers to these shows and what does that appeal say about our attitude toward crime and prisoners in general?

I found this study, which offers at least three divergent hypotheses. I'm not sure if I buy them, though.

(Image © NBC)

Amish crime suspense parody

I think Mary DeMuth may have invented a new subgenre.

June 23, 2009

Stuff Christians Hate (Or Should)

Barefoot Roberto alerted me to the Stuff Christians Like site and the spinoff called Stuff Christian Culture Likes, which are very funny. But this picture made me wince. It wasn't the bare feet thing so much as the rock band plus the words-up-on-a-screen thing. I think there's a reason God repeatedly tells his people to sing (as opposed to appointing a Christian version of a Greek Chorus to sing FOR us at church). As T. M. Moore writes in "Whatever Happened to Singing," "It's curious, but Scripture gives us no specific guidance in how to listen to music. Music, according to the Bible, is not the spectator sport we have made it to be." 

Even when congregations are encouraged to sing along to the music of the band, there is, inevitably, too much focus on the (very loud) singers up on the stage at the expense of focusing one's thoughts on God. And I can't help but think that being up in front of worshipers performing puts the entertainers' minds on themselves instead of the Almighty. ("Do I look okay? How do I sound?")

I can't think of a scriptural criticism of big screens with verses on them, but I hate them anyway. Why do we need these things? If you can read the words on a screen, why not read them out of a hymnal? Does anyone think a big screen makes a church sanctuary look more attractive? And--as my husband, a veteran of a number of church choirs, has noted--without the musical instructions in hymn books, congregations no longer know HOW to sing anything but the simplest melodies. Brent once began singing the harmony of a famous hymn whose words were shown on a screen (a hymn he was familiar with through following the harmony line in hymn books). He was shocked to find that he was the only man singing the harmony. Nobody else appeared to realize there even was one. And the new "praise choruses" (inflicted on us by "music teams") and other contemporary abominations NEVER offer anything but simple (and often sappy) melodies.

There's been a huge loss of depth in church music, and I am angry about it. In A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken writes that he and his wife, Davy, while still unbelievers, used to go into churches to listen to the music. Today, I suspect very few churches would draw strangers in with the beauty and complexity of their music.  

Finally--whatever happened to dressing up for church? What we wear reflects our respect for the occasion. When we meet to worship the One who saved us from eternal damnation--shouldn't our clothing reflect it? It occurred to me recently (when confronted with the wrinkled T-shirt and torn jeans of a worshiper in the pew in front of me) that the only thing people dress up for anymore, at church, is weddings and funerals. They do this partly because they know the bride will KILL them if they show up in jeans on her special day, and also because they know a grieving family will never forgive them if they show up in shorts and thongs at a loved one's funeral. In other words, they show respect for the occasion. So who gave them a permission slip to wear, Sunday after Sunday, the grubbiest clothes in their wardrobe when worshiping the King of Kings?

(Image courtesy of Stuff Christian Culture Likes)

June 19, 2009

Daily roundup

June 18, 2009

Daily roundup

Tweet Tweet

Twitter Technology updates at lightning speed and gains eager users in droves. New advances seem like the next best thing, but are they really? Mere newness fails to imply "better."

Such is the deal with Twitter. Until recently, I never thought I would Twitter...or is it "tweet"? Now I do, and I like it...to an extent. When used as a tool to deliver important information, the site is a top-notch tool. But what are we doing to ourselves with the constant use of technology and a rarely-ceasing barrage of updates?

Part of being human is interaction with other...um...human beings, not merely with text on a screen sent from a friend far away (or in the adjacent cubicle) who sent the text from another machine. Maybe our pace is too fast.

Rather than pausing to consider what we are taking in, we are pressured to rush rather than reflect. Can we really function this quickly, or have we simply conditioned ourselves to believe this pace is necessary?

I am not advocating doing away with social networking sites. They have their benefits and have potential to spawn great thought and debate. But before we jump in with both feet, maybe we should consider the pace of our lives and how much information is really necessary. Maybe we should pause to reflect about a practice that touches so many people and consumes so much of our daily lives. 

Yes, pause.

(Image © Twitter)

June 17, 2009

Religion in America: The News Isn’t All That Bad

Naysayers are predicting the end of Christianity in America, and since their pessimism is repeated incessantly, many people have come to believe it. Is their prediction true? World magazine editor Marvin Olasky says the predictions don't match reality. Find out why.

June 15, 2009

Daily roundup

Take Joy in Your Calling

Dirt Reading Wendy Shalit's review of the book Dirt got me thinking again about an ongoing interest of mine. That is, the role of women. 

Rather than making a one-size-fits-all statement, I think it best to consider the underlying problem. Why, specifically, are women sometimes discontented at the thought of having to keep house and home, cook and clean, and worry about how to balance tasks such as vacuuming with a career? We live in a day when there are endless ways to organize and "simplify," yet our lives are often busier than ever. With all of this "help" many women are overwhelmed with the task, or even reject the idea that homemaking should be part of their role.

Rather than assuming homemaking is a demeaning task, let us consider that it is a glorious task to serve. Service does not equate to debasement; rather, serving others in love is a testament of freedom. If you are able to make the choice, is it better to live in a home of chaos or guide your home toward peace and order?

Having a well-rounded education and making an impact in your field are both important callings. Learning to keep order in the home does not contrast with either of those, but rather, it holds its own important place in the whole of life.

(Image © Seal Press)

June 12, 2009

Daily roundup

Journalists should cringe

Newspapers While perusing a review of the crumbling state of our nation's newspaper industry, I crossed paths with these chilling words:

The unsettling possibility looms that some big cities could lose their sole remaining daily newspaper – and that the public won't care. If the dead-tree edition of a newspaper falls in a crowded media forest, will it matter, except to the journalists who work there? Are newer, hipper online news outlets poised to fill the void? What, if anything, will be irrevocably lost?

And the public won't care! That's what scares me the most. Even more, that the public won't care if good storytelling follows these newspapers down the drain. In our soundbite-saturated culture, are we forgetting the treasure that daily newspapers bring to us in good stories?

(Image courtesy of ArtsJournal)

June 10, 2009

Daily roundup

June 08, 2009

Daily roundup

June 05, 2009

Safely amusing

Ride7 With schools out or just about to let out around the country, the summer season at amusement parks is getting underway. Here's a list of helpful tips for keeping your kids safe while keeping them entertained. For more tips, check out the Safer Parks web site.

(Image courtesy of Safer Parks)

June 04, 2009

Daily roundup

June 01, 2009

Daily roundup

May 27, 2009

Daily roundup

May 20, 2009

And They Wanted Him Dead

Armas My daughter, Rebecca, sent me that Gallup survey showing that Americans are becoming more pro-life than pro-death. Hurray for our country! (Here's a little heartwarming story: When Rebecca was a young teen we watched a show featuring a remarkable fetal surgery, and she became pro-life after watching the little guy's hands curl around the physician's fingers.)

Yesterday, I saw this article about that same little boy, whom many would have targeted for termination. I pray we're becoming a country where such advocacy would be unthinkable.

(Image © the Armas family)

May 19, 2009

Daily roundup

May 18, 2009

Daily roundup

Obama, Notre Dame, and the tide of history

Obama Notre Dame An interesting feature of President Obama's commencement speech at Notre Dame yesterday (transcript here, video here):

The president spoke of the need "to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity -- diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief . . . [to] find a way to live together as one human family." On some subjects, he spoke as though this need to cooperate -- to find "common ground," as he said elsewhere in the speech -- were the highest goal:

The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved.

But on other subjects, he spoke as if the highest goal were for right to win and wrong to be defeated:

After all, I stand here today, as President and as an African American, on the 55th anniversary of the day that the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Now, Brown was of course the first major step in dismantling the "separate but equal" doctrine, but it would take a number of years and a nationwide movement to fully realize the dream of civil rights for all of God's children. There were freedom rides and lunch counters and Billy clubs, and there was also a Civil Rights Commission appointed by President Eisenhower. It was the 12 resolutions recommended by this commission that would ultimately become law in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under which category does abortion fall? In the president's mind, it appeared to fall under the first: "When we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe -- that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground. . . . That's when we begin to say, 'Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.'" This isn't how he spoke about the freedom rides and the lunch counters and the Billy clubs.

Considering that, at this moment, the tide of popular opinion -- perhaps even the tide of history -- appears to be shifting against Obama and his view of abortion, he may want to rethink that position.

(Image © Nancy Stone for the Chicago Tribune)

May 15, 2009

Pretty is as pretty does

Carolyn McCulley, on her Radical Womanhood blog, talks about a woman's true beauty and why so many of us, even in the Christian community, struggle with this concept. She tells a young man whose girlfriend has concerns about her body image:

"I wonder if perhaps you could do more than just compliment her on being beautiful. What about complimenting her when she is doing beautiful things? We always hear that inner beauty is supposed to be more important than outer beauty, but it doesn't seem to get praised as often--which tempts women to doubt the veracity of that statement."

Why do we women doubt the appeal of inner beauty? Well, to be candid, it's because we forget that our Creator is the ultimate arbiter of beauty. We are awash in makeover messages and as such His perspective is often silenced. From TV shows to magazines, we are drowning in Before and After images. At any given time during a day, there's a roomful of people on TV gushing and crying over the physical transformation of some reality show participant. Everybody and his neighbor shows up to applaud weight loss, a new hairstyle, or a wardrobe overhaul. 

But where is the applause for inner beauty? Where are the TV cameras for the Big Reveal of a renovated character?

Carolyn goes on to talk about the example Jesus gave us, when he told his fellow dinner guests that the beautiful thing Mary had done--breaking a jar of expensive perfume to anoint her Savior--would be remembered forever. This was a good reminder for me today to cultivate that kind of inner beauty and to praise those around me--both women and men--when they display the beauty of a godly character.

Macabre Eroticism in the Guise of Education: A Symptom of Decay

Gunthervonhagens_wideweb__470x306,0 (Note: This post contains sexual themes, and the first link below contains explicit pictures and descriptions.)

In the name of artistic and scientific freedom, Gunther von Hagens is filleting human dignity to the bone. His newest "Body Worlds" exhibit shows plastinated human bodies in the throes of sexual intercourse. Necrophilia, once deemed sick and a punishable offense, now seems to be more acceptable.  

Despite not believing in original sin, in his book Heart of Man, Eric Fromm clearly formulates the problem of erotic fascination and lust toward dead bodies: "It is the one answer to life which is in complete opposition to life; it is the most morbid and the most dangerous among the orientations to life of which man is capable. It is true perversion: while being alive, not life but death is loved; not growth but destruction."

In the West, there is an increasingly unhealthy fascination with death, as well as devils and the occult. These obsessions have one thing in common--they deny the life-sustaining love of God. Life without God produces an "earth-sickness of saddening and maddening proportions," writes David Naugle in his book Reordered Love, Reordered Lives.

"Earth-sickness" is plainly evident in our cultural artifacts. After watching a fair amount of television of late, I  am seeing a horrifying trend emerge. Scenes once reserved for R-rated or X-Rated films, are now rated PG and the whole family gather to watch them.

Continue reading "Macabre Eroticism in the Guise of Education: A Symptom of Decay" »

May 13, 2009

Daily roundup

May 08, 2009

Daily roundup

A. N. Wilson’s Return

Following up on Kim's post, Dr. Benjamin Wiker has a wonderful article on Wilson's recent re-conversion to Christianity. He quotes Wilson's description of the cultural conditions that first led him away from Christianity, conditions we recognize all around us: 

Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe..., I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti. 

To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.

This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.

It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.

I celebrate Wilson's return to Christ, but I wonder how many of us -- even those who have never turned away from our Savior -- are affected by that same negative culture. How much do I allow this subtle and not-so-subtle prejudice against Christianity to lead me to be less trusting in God, less bold in my witness, and less likely to see the need to think Christianly about all of life? To what degree am I more concerned with what the world thinks of Christians (and me) than I am of what Christ thinks of me? Food for thought...

May 06, 2009

Daily roundup

April 29, 2009

Daily roundup

Europe Syndrome

What's happening? Call it the Europe syndrome. Last April I had occasion to speak in Zurich, where I made some of these same points. After the speech, a few of the twenty-something members of the audience approached and said plainly that the phrase "a life well-lived" did not have meaning for them. They were having a great time with their current sex partner and new BMW and the vacation home in Majorca, and saw no voids in their lives that needed filling.

~ Charles Murray, The 2009 Irving Kristol Lecture, March 12, 2009

Author and political scientist Charles Murray recently delivered the address at the American Enterprise Institute's annual dinner. His talk was entitled "The Happiness of the People" and is posted on AEI's website.

Murray's lecture is a great worldview read. What he calls the "Europe Syndrome" is a way of thinking ... in other words, a worldview. Though Murray admires Europe in some ways, he unpacks some of the core beliefs of the modern worldview that has shaped Western Europe -- a worldview that is spreading like the swine flu among many of America's elites and current leaders. Murray describes a core belief of this worldview in the following way.

Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

If that's the purpose of life, then work is not a vocation, but something that interferes with the higher good of leisure. If that's the purpose of life, why have a child, when children are so much trouble--and, after all, what good are they, really? If that's the purpose of life, why spend it worrying about neighbors? If that's the purpose of life, what could possibly be the attraction of a religion that says otherwise?

Government's job, therefore, is to minimize unpleasantness so that we can while away the intervening time between our activation and deactivation. European-style social democracies are quite successful toward this end. This line of thinking also explains current European trends such as below-replacement birthrates, increased leisure time, fewer hours spent working, and lots of beautiful but empty cathedrals and churches.

Continue reading "Europe Syndrome" »

E-Book Implications

E-books

I'm not sure if I'm ready for the revolution. Here are just a few implications this WSJ piece points out:

  • exacerbating our already short attention spans
  • more book buying, less book finishing
  • chatter in my novel?

(Image © Geoffrey A. Fowler for the Wall Street Journal)

April 28, 2009

Daily roundup

April 22, 2009

Daily roundup

Bound to Happen: Christians Penalized in Workplace

Mouth_gagged

Frankly, I'm surprised we don't hear more about Christians having their jobs threatened for not going along and getting along with every facet of political correctness. This story from Britain tells the tale.

It goes without saying that we live in a highly pluralistic age and that we must be civil and possessed of a Christ-like demeanor towards all those at work. But what hypocrisy abounds when everyone is taught to honor one group's beliefs while Christian perspectives are viewed with grave suspicion. 

The writer here puts the old saying well: "And yes, it’s quite possible to condemn someone’s actions and behaviors, but love the individual as you love yourself."

The truth is that sincere Christians oftentimes care more than the average person for gay people, whom we know to be made in God's image, even if they, like we, engage in behaviors that do not glorify their Creator. There is no hierarchy of sins in Christianity. Only sin. And while many gay people may honestly not know how it is that they arrived at their orientation, Christianity simply and consistently asserts that it is not something God intended for them.

Sincere Christians should not be homophobic, nor should they feel the need to sacrifice their understanding of God and human sexuality just to fit in. Rather, they should try, when possible, to show any gay co-worker that they see in them a fellow human being and rejoice in all the true gifts God has given them. A person is far more than his or her sexual orientation, important though it is, and on that basis there is much common ground to be found.

If only our workplaces would allow such candid, healing conversations to take place. But instead, we all tiptoe around one another, solving little.

(Image courtesy of LaVrai.com)

April 21, 2009

School Girl Told to Choose: Country or Parents

(Adapted from my original post at The Living Rice).

This story from CNN caught my attention. A Filipino family is making news in Japan because of immigration matters that left a 13-year-old girl separated from her parents.

The parents of Noriko Calderon have been deported back to the Philippines for entering and working in Japan illegally. Noriko was asked to choose between her parents and the country she considers her home. Part of me feels bad that this has to end this way. This could be very traumatizing for a 13 year old. However, part of me also feels that somehow, justice has been served for the parents who have broken serious immigration laws in Japan. They should have known that their actions and disobedience to the law have consequences. I somehow know how they feel because a few years back my family faced a similar tight spot with my wife’s U.S. immigration status. It was a tough decision, but we decided abiding by immigration laws is God's best for our family, rather than violating them.

In the U.S., there may be as many as 20 million illegal immigrants today, and many families may be in the same ethical dilemma and threatened with separation. Is there a balance between showing compassion to “aliens and strangers in our midst” and upholding the rule of law in immigration? If you were to propose a solution, what would it be?

April 17, 2009

Daily roundup

A prodigal returns

Wilson The very last thing I ever imagined myself saying to A. N. Wilson was "Welcome home, brother." God is good!

(Image © Sutton-Hibbert/Rex USA)

April 16, 2009

God is apparently not saving ’Kings’

Kings3 I guess we can't use the excuse that we were all at Sunday night services and forgot to set the DVR:

The thing about working in Hollywood is that at some point you really get tired of hearing how godless you are, and how if you and the rest of the heathens in Tinseltown would put more God-centric shows on TV, people wouldn't be abandoning prime time in favor of their Bible study classes.

If that's true, then why isn't NBC's Kings the biggest show in the history of humanity?

Good question. I'll admit I'm not one of the measly 4 million viewers this show nets. Are you watching? Tell me what I'm missing. If, like me, you're not watching, why not? (I'm watching The Amazing Race, for the record.)

(Image © NBC)

April 14, 2009

Daily roundup

April 13, 2009

Daily roundup

April 09, 2009

Daily roundup

Posting will be light tomorrow because of Good Friday. Have a blessed Easter weekend!

April 06, 2009

Daily roundup

April 03, 2009

What would Jesus walk on?

Ecopalm_247 The green movement has hit the second greenest Christian celebration, Palm Sunday, when fronds of green palm branches are waved by children and adults in church services only a few months after all the Christmas (or Chrismon) trees were taken down. This year, in a move that might make the Sleeths happy, a number of churches have gone free-trade with their palm fronds. Spending a few more dollars, they are buying palm fronds through a university project that promises sustainable farming and fair wages.

Gina's post on the Sleeths' book has generated a lot of discussion about the green movement and how (or if) it should intersect with our faith. What do you all think? Is the idea of free trade palms one you'd like to see in your church?

(Image courtesy of UMCOR/Lutheran World Relief)

Consensual Living: A New Fad Harmful to Children

Lord of the Flies There's a new fad being promoted for parents who want to shirk the responsibility of inculcating their children with character. 

The fad is called "Consensual Living," and it's being touted as a "progressive" philosophy. The website says that the program will bring "harmony" to the whole family and even to the community.  

According to this group, "Everyone's wants and needs are valid," and "punishment and rewards are really just tools of manipulation."  

But before you subscribes to this philosophy, I'd recommend reading a classic novel by William Golding, Lord of the Fliesor simply watch the news. Obviously, whoever came up with this hair-brained scheme has never actually taken the time or effort to raise kids. 

Conversation between mother and son at a "Consensual Living" home:

"Bobby, quit hitting your little brother!"
"No, Mommy, I want to hit him, and my wants are as valid as yours!"
(After she gets back from the hospital with bludgeoned little brother...)
"Bobby, clean your room."
"No Mommy, I don't want to...but Mommy, I want a larger allowance to entice Sally to...well you know.  She's 8 years old and has this silly notion about waiting until she's 11..." 

(Image © Perigree Books)

April 02, 2009

Daily roundup

Orwellian Newspeak--to Our Detriment

Napolitano Here's a very scary thought about the corruption of language: Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security, has decided that "terrorism" is too nasty a word. She's decided it should be called--get this--"man-caused disasters." 

Besides being another crass, politically correct, and possibly successful attempt at dumbing down our language, I have a feeling that terrorists are having a good laugh at our expense.

For more Orwellian newspeak, go to Gene Edward Veith's blog. 

(Image © AP)