Archives For culture

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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Many people would claim that America is a “Christian” nation…

The most post-Christian place in America...

The most post-Christian place in America…

Or at least, it was a Christian nation.

My news feed is kind of a continual flux when it comes to just how Christian our culture is today. If I want, I can find no shortage of doom and gloom, prophets and pundits who are always showing just how bad things are for Christianity in America. On the other side of things, there are a few lone voices who speak up every now and then to say, “Wait! It’s not as bad as it seems.”

This week, I saw another survey from the Barna Group which shows just how “post-Christian” American cities are. My hometown, Kansas City, comes in at number 38, with a total post-Christian population at 33%. Albany, NY is the most post-Christian city, along with most of the Northeast, while Knoxville, TN ranks near the bottom (or top, depending on how you look at it.)

I tend to take these surveys with a grain of salt, but something particularly struck me this time about how we typically measure “Christian-ness.” I started reading their various “metrics” (a term that sounds more at home in a tax accountant’s office) that were used to calculate our cities’ rankings, when something occurred to me.

I don’t know if we have a problem of lack of faith in our culture. But we certainly have a problem when it comes to how we measure faith.

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It wouldn’t be Christmas time without all of the traditional trappings…

You know our culture doesn't have a real war to fight when this is its hill to die on.

You know our culture doesn’t have a real war to fight when this is its hill to die on.

The lights, the gifts, time with family,

Some sermonizing from Kirk Cameron.

Now, I am assuming that most of you have not, and will not see Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. It has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (and a 32% user rating.) Even still, Cameron’s “movie” represents a bigger picture of American Christmastime, an annual tradition of defending tradition against the forces of paganism, liberalism, consumerism and whoever else may want to “destroy” Christmas. Every year, there is a part of our culture that makes it their mission as Christian soldiers to wage a culture war, to preserve American Christianity for the next generation.

You know what? I don’t think the liberals or the pagans or the retailers are destroying Christmas or Christianity. I think the culture warriors are. You shouldn’t not see Saving Christmas because it’s bad art. You should skip movies like Saving Christmas, because movies like this actually achieve the opposite of their goal.

It’s time we stopped trying to save Christmas and changed our priorities.

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For the last week, I have watched social media. Watched, but not much engaged nor commented.

Are these white people protesting injustice and oppression? No, they are just trying to get the best deals at Target.

Are these white people yearning to breathe free, protesting injustice and oppression? No, they are just trying to get the best deals at Target.

Since the Ferguson decision, I have mostly kept quiet, mostly watched.

My social media feed has been filled with people all over the country. People who vehemently voice their opinions. People who, like me, do not live in Ferguson. People who, like me, probably have never met a Ferguson resident in their lives. People who, like me, were not witness to any of the actual goings-on in Ferguson. People who, like me, have opinions that do not really matter one bit to the plight of Ferguson.

I watch the comments, which can be roughly divided into two columns. There are the people who “stand” with the people of Ferguson, however they define it. And there are the people who turn up their noses and say “tisk tisk” to the people of Ferguson. They say things like “how very sad” and “They deserve what they get.”

It makes me sad, because Friday came just a few days later, and I knew exactly what was going to happen next.

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On Friday, people went nuts again.

I heard about people camping out for two weeks for some Black Friday deals. I don’t know what kind of math you have to do for that to make sense. But it seems more sensible to me to go to work. If you have to camp out for two weeks to buy a television, you probably have bigger problems than not having a television.

I wonder if Black Friday is even fun anymore. It does not look like it. It looks awful. I said that as I stayed at home in my pajamas, drinking coffee and enjoying the beautiful morning.

The thing is I do not even know what I missed. I don’t know about any of the deals I passed up. I don’t know about all of the fabulous stuff I could have had and unbelievable prices.

But I also know something else.

No matter how much time I spent or money I saved. No matter how hard I fought to get a great deal, I would still probably forget everything I bought by next Christmas. There are so very few gifts that I have received in my life that I remember. Does anyone else realize this?

Gift-giving has long lost its luster for me. In some ways, I actually dread it. The thing that used to excite me most as a child has all but lost its meaning for me. I am glad my family does a fun little “gift auction.” We get play money and bid on items that any of us would enjoy. The other option is that we all just buy gift cards for each other, which is a thinly veiled way to just swap cash.

I have long since learned that the excitement that Santa promised was very temporary, very fleeting. Stuff always loses its appeal, sometimes very quickly. IMG_7885

If everyone realized that, it would probably be a disaster for the economy.

Trigger Warning: This post references topics such as sexual abuse.not_that_kind_of_girl_by_lena_dunham_WEB

Well, we are not exactly Lena Dunham. That would be weird.

A lot has been made of the revelations from Girls star Lena Dunham’s memoir. What may have been intended as a collection of awkward stories from her formative years has now cranked the internet controversy up to eleven. If you have not read the excerpts in question, just google them. The long and short of it is that Dunham, in her own words, compares herself to a child predator as she retells incidents of…erm…close contact with her little sister.

Dozens of writers and commentators have quoted Dunham’s words verbatim, letting her own stories speak for themselves. Thousands of people have tweeted and blogged, often their disgust to Dunham. Dunham has fired back by “rage spiraling” on Twitter and siccing her lawyers on people, threatening defamation lawsuits.

The whole time I took this in, I realized something.

There are a lot of people who consider Dunham’s stories icky at best and predatory at worst. There are some who cannot understand why she would share such things.

But if any of us were in Lena Dunham’s shoes, I think we would have done the same thing. We are not so different from her.

Here’s what I mean.

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