Archives For culture

I’m going to do something I never thought I would do.

Her life is pretty awesome, but she thinks you and I are going to hell.

Her life is pretty awesome, but she thinks you and I are going to hell.

Last Saturday morning, as I sipped my coffee and scanned my news feed, wiling away the couple of hours before the baby awoke, I was accosted by a story just a couple of days old.

Jessa Seewald, one of the children of the super-fundie reality TV Duggar family, thinks I am going to hell.

I didn’t even know I missed the hubbub over her pink wedding dress, and yet here she is, with the audacity that I am going to hell.

To be more specific, Jessa recently said that “liberal” Christians, i.e. those who don’t believe in hell, are in fact, going to hell just the same as all the other sinners out there. Her remarks were met with prompt cries of “intolerance” and “wouldn’t it be nice if she used her platform to proclaim a message of ‘acceptance.’”

She thinks I am going to hell…

And probably you, and you, and you too. We are all probably too liberal for a Duggar.

But I am going to do something I never thought I would do.

I’m going to come to the defense of Jessa and the rest of the Duggar family.

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What is your personal currency?

In the "influence economy" of the modern church, "1%" leaders lecture the 99% on how to be more influential.

In the “influence economy” of the modern church, “1%” leaders lecture the 99% on how to be more influential.

You know, the thing that you strive to collect, to store up, to hoard. That stuff that drives you to do one more thing before you go to bed. The thing that gets you up an hour earlier in the morning. The thing that keeps you up at night, worrying that you don’t have enough.

The American church has done a pretty good job of convincing us that money is not our personal currency. (I suppose it’s easy to tell ourselves that money is not that important to us when we have quite a lot of it, relatively speaking.)

No it’s not money that we are grasping for. Go to churches, go to conferences, go to seminars, read the books. What is the core of what church leaders are peddling?

Influence.

The church has figured out how to make the pursuit of influence sound noble, righteous, even necessary. Now, all of the books are written and all of the conferences are led by guys who obviously have a lot of it. A lot of people listen to the guys at the top. And so they tell us how we too can have it all.

When we talk about our church’s “relevance,” try switching in the word “influence.” There will be almost no difference.

When a conference speaker is discussing “impact,” just sketch the word “influence” in your notes.

When a pastor is talking about “evangelism,” just imagine the word “influence.”

It is influence that, well, influences most of our pursuits. And I have to admit that for most of my adult life, I have been no different. I have hungered and thirsted after it. I have wanted people to give me attention, to do what I say, to respect my opinions.

What I’ve found is that there are a lot of problems with influence being our personal currency.

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IVF_2355941b

No, we do not have equal access to medicine in our country.

What do we mean when we say “reproductive freedom?”

I think most of us are familiar with the usual conversation. The discussion usually about women’s rights and access to medicine and some old guys in Congress trying to take those rights away from her. And that part of the conversation is all well and good, and it’s not the thing I want to talk about.

I just want us to be able to finally admit something?

We aren’t really talking about reproductive freedom. That’s a misnomer. We are talking about something entirely different. It’s not about equality or free access or anything like that.

Because when it comes to reproductive medicine, there is still much about it that is not free, equal and accessible.

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My social media feed has been filled to capacity lately with commentary on the impending release of Fifty Shades of Grey.Fifty_Shades_of_Grey_1

And if you keep the kind of online company that I do, it’s largely negative. For good reason, I think.

A few of the radio stations in town (the top 40 kind that are always giving away prizes) have been giving away tickets all week. One morning DJ in particular is always excited about everything, whether it’s Miley Cyrus or Transformers or some other piece of cultural sludge. It’s almost comical, really. So of course, he says, “I’m not going to lie, I’m really excited to see this movie.” I think it’s his job to be excited about everything, but I honestly don’t see how a self-respecting man, much less a man in media can publicly declare his excitement for a movie like this. It sounds…emasculating.

I don’t know what kind of man would take his wife or girlfriend to see this movie. That sounds even more emasculating. And I really don’t know what kind of man would be comfortable with his wife going out with her girlfriends to see the movie. That sounds really really emasculating. Even though the movie is not really about sex (it’s about taboo behavior), it still sounds emasculating.

But rather than retreading the same observations about the glorification of violence against women, et. al., that others are making more eloquently, it would be better if we asked some other questions. Because Fifty Shades is hardly the first of its kind. And it won’t be the last.

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Did anyone else notice something different about the Superbowl this year?video.superbowlads.com@d2b09cbb-f8cf-35c0-b202-6fd4b5611605_FULL

It was the commercials.

Sure, every year, people complain that the commercials are not as good, not as funny, not as entertaining as they were last year (we all have rose colored specs, after all.)

But this year, there was this undeniable feeling that many of the commercials were not trying to be funny. Leave it to Doritos to be funny. Nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips can afford to be that cavalier on a national stage.

Rather, there were many commercials that were trying to make us feel something. They were trying to make us feel sentimental. They were trying to pluck our little heartstrings (which may have been easier, considering the collective haze of alcohol that hung over much of the country.) They were trying to reach us emotionally…and then sell us their product.

There were two ads that prominently featured positive images of fatherhood. One was for Dove, the other for Nissan.

Fatherhood.

In a positive light.

On a national stage.

I have to admit, I was pretty impressed, which is a sad state of affairs. When I’m used to seeing dads be dunces who can’t wash their own clothes, or be reduced to the insulting role of “Mr. Mom,” (a moniker so insipid, it doesn’t even deserve rebuke), it is sad that it’s so refreshing to see positive portrayals of dads.

But what does it illustrate?

It illustrates what all of you can do to be positively counter-cultural. It illustrates that the most counter-cultural thing to do is building safe, secure, loving homes.

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Many of us had the day off on Monday.

Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about free shipping when he said "free at last," right?

Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about free shipping when he said “free at last,” right?

MLK Day is a nice little holiday that has absolutely no social obligations attached to it. For those of us who have the day off, it truly is a day off. No family gatherings to attend. No meals to prepare. No gifts to buy.

On the other hand, the day that commemorates one of the greatest Americans in history has been kind of reduced to a throw-away holiday. It’s a day to sleep in and maybe save 20% on a new mattress, which I’m not so sure does justice for a man who gave his life in the name of equality and justice.

Despite all of our talk of “progress,” “acceptance” and “equality” I have become convinced that our culture in many ways has gone backwards, towards division and intolerance. Maybe we need a day like MLK Day more than ever.

These are three things I want to do with my family on a day dedicated to memorializing a great man.

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