Culture

Election Results, Evangelicals, and the Missing Link

Let me just say from the outset that I’m nobody to be trusted when it comes to politics. I watch almost no television news, I read very little political analysis on news websites, and my voting record is out of step with just about everybody I know. However, I, like most people, watched closely as the presidential election results came in on Tuesday, and I have my own set of opinions and emotions about the results. Having been bombarded with other peoples’ opinions and emotions on Facebook like many of you, I’ll leave mine out of this. (You’re welcome). As I watched the tallies pop up on the state-by-state boards, I was very interested that in nearly all of the closely contested “battleground/swing states,” the county maps were predominantly tipping to Mitt Romney, but President Obama ended up winning almost all of the states anyway . . . because he […]



Gerhard Richter at the Tate Modern

About a week ago, on a Sunday afternoon, Sarah and I took about a three-mile walk from our flat in London. We walked along the Thames toward central London to the west. We passed the Tower Bridge along the way, and our journey ended at the Tate Modern art museum. It’s a wonderful, overwhelming place. My previous visits there have left me emotionally exhausted after only an hour or two of taking in the work of artists like Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, David Smith, and Ai Wei Wei. I told Sarah that one of the great things about living here now is that I can make regular visits to the Tate Modern, and just focus on one artist or one room at a time, so I don’t get so wrecked. There’s a special collection going on through the end of the year, showcasing the work of […]



Christians and Mosque Protests

Perhaps against my better judgment, I’m going to wade into some political waters briefly. That’s dangerous business, but to add stupidity to danger, I’m going to offer a perspective on a political debate I haven’t spent very much time researching or trying to get a grip on. It goes a little something like this: there’s a major debate roaring on and on about the building of a mosque near the site where the 9/11 tragedy took place. Lots of politicians and sensationalist talk show hosts have been talking on all sides of the debate, stirring up a frenzy. And the USAmerican viewing audience appears to be convinced of the critical importance of either definitely not building it, or definitely building it. From the number of Facebook links I’ve seen in my News Feed, many Christians are pretty fired up about this issue, too. I’ve talked to several friends who lament […]



How to Watch TV (and other media), part 3

In what has become a series of posts, I’ve been trying to introduce some thought processes when it comes to consuming interacting with media in our lives. If you haven’t seen how I’m approaching this, and the questions I’m using, you can check out my first post here, and my second post here. I’m basically suggesting some ways of approaching media that don’t give our attention away in a passive, cavalier manner. In my second post, I discussed narratives that are advanced through media – some on the surface, but many below the surface. Today’s question builds on that concept. Question 3: What systems of power are at work? It may sound a little conspiracy theory-ish for me to presuppose that systems of power are present when I sit down to watch Wipeout or House or Deadliest Catch, but in most cases they are. I’m pleased with how the internet […]



How to Watch TV (and other media), part 2

Yesterday, I began to frame up an approach to interacting with media in our lives . . . notice that I said “interacting with” and not “consuming.” There’s a big difference. I’ll admit that there are definitely times when I consume media – I sit down in front of a television or computer screen with nothing in mind other than to have nothing in mind, and be entertained. But more often, I’m interacting with media, in the sense that I’m asking questions that go below the surface of the story that’s being told on screen – like yesterday’s question – “Who’s paying for this show?” To put things another way, while sometimes I do watch television, most of the time I “read” television. In an effort to further define things, here’s another good question for you to ask: Question 2 – What narrative is being advanced? One of the hardest […]



How to Watch TV (and other media)

Following on my recent commentary responding to a survey in which 70% of Christian women indicated that media does not influence their decisions, it occurred to me that I could suggest some frameworks for how to view media, and live with the tension of its influence on our lives. Watching television doesn’t sound like something that should require skill . . . but if you pay attention – even a little – you’ll see what kind of effort is being put into influencing you. While a good bit of what I will offer here applies most directly to television viewing, you can certainly generalize the questions I ask to include movies, radio, internet, music, and news outlets. This is a bit of a lesson in semiotics, or a way of understanding signs and symbols. Trust me, it’s not as intimidating as it might sound. You can arrive at some healthy […]



Responding to a Survey of Women’s Attitudes

One of my friends here in Seattle is a guy called Jim Henderson. I’m not just name dropping here – we really are friends . . . he even said so in his new book/DVD, which released this past week. Anyway, in what’s been a busy week for Jim, he released some data that he collected about Christian women’s attitudes toward church. As it turns out, women seem to be pretty happy with their church experiences. You can see some of the questions and results here. Jim’s asking for some broader feedback on the data, so I thought I’d put the word out to my little band of readers. Check things out, and give him your thoughts. As a white male, I’m actually not that interested in my own opinions on most of the items, but here’s my .02. First, my general response to all the happy attitudes of women […]



The Complexity of Reconciliation

A while back, I blogged about our need for more sophisticated thinking.  Well, during my recent visit to South Africa, I had some experiences that uncovered some of my simplistic notions about things like justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, and progress.  In the 80s and 90s, it was all too easy for the world to look at the evils of apartheid, and judge white South Africans guilty, and isolate the nation as much as possible until it made the necessary changes to usher in democracy.  And once Nelson Mandela was released from prison and elected to take the new government forward, it was all too easy to celebrate and look on and think, “Well, it’s good to see that problem is behind us.  Now we can be enlightened friends with each other.” Not so fast.  The black majority may have the votes, and the control of the political systems, but who has […]



Turkey: A Muslim Counterpart to the United States?

As my trip was in transition between Latin America and Asia, I had a chance to stop for just a couple of days in Istanbul, Turkey.  This is fitting in the sense that Istanbul is a geographically transitional city – half the city is in Europe and half of it is in Asia.  Turkey is also a transitional country, in that they are trying pretty hard to gain acceptance into the European Union (which is an interesting, complex story).  I’m glad I got to stop there, because a former student at The Purple Door in Seattle is from Turkey, and my parents have spent some good time there, so I wanted to be able to experience a small bit of what they have. Because I was only on the ground for such a short time, and I was only in the most tourist-y, small section of a huge, huge city […]



Politics Anyone? Si!

Throughout the past couple of weeks here in the Caribbean/Latin America, I’ve had several random conversations with people.  After traveling to India last summer, during the U.S. presidential election campaigns, and being constantly asked about whether I thought Obama could win the White House (which everyone there wanted to happen), I was interested to hear what people here are thinking.  I offer the following completely non-scientifically validated observations about USAmerican political topics (in no particular order).  Sorry if they don’t match up with your politics – the reason for this post is just to give a brief glimpse into people that may or may not have votes to cast, but certainly have to deal with the consequences of U.S. politics. – The people of this region are happy (very) that Barrack Obama is the president.  They are hopeful for positive changes in the relationships between the U.S. government and the […]