Thinking Out Loud

February 12, 2016

Unsportsmanlike Media

Filed under: Christianity, current events, ethics — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:44 am

Color barsThere was less than five minutes on the clock when I finally tuned in Sunday’s big game. I’m not a sports guy. Even if I were, I’m told it wasn’t the greatest football telecast in history. And it’s a lot of football to watch just to see a few innovative commercials.

So this means I saw far more of the post-game coverage than anything else.

There are winners and losers in any sport, and one team walks away in celebration while the other goes home in defeat. For the losing quarterback it was too much to bear.

The cameras got a tight shot of the man sobbing. The broadcast director — the one choosing the camera shots that go to air — called the shot of the dejected player and then just held there for about five seconds which seemed like five hours. I’ve directed community television before and worked in broadcast as well, and the director in me was saying, ‘Enough already! Cut to another shot.’ (If it bleeds it leads, if it cries it…)

The next day the sports bloggers and talk radio hosts had a field day criticizing the quarterback. He was sulking. He was being unsportsmanlike. It was unprofessional.

Okay, I have a question: How is that the fans are allowed to abandon all emotional restraint cheering on their team, but the players themselves are not expected have any emotional investment in the game?

Carolina was the favorite going in. The championship game can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’ve waited for this. You go in hoping for the win. If the win doesn’t happen it’s a loss, it’s a big loss.

My issue is the way the director held the shot for so long.

In the song Dirty Laundry, Don Henley sings, “People love it when you lose.” And “It’s interesting when people die.” (If you don’t know the song, at least play the first two verses, this is a lyric version.) In today’s world, what is considered good journalism is often close-ups of pain and suffering. Media ethics? Probably a somewhat sketchy field.

I did not hear of any of the sports bloggers or talk radio hosts criticizing the broadcast director. But to me, holding the shot as long as they did seemed equally unsportsmanlike. Yes, the same quarterback later walked out of the press conference, but maybe by doing that he was actually averting more emotional display.

For the crew at CBS: A flag on the play.

 

February 7, 2016

Orangutans Are Skeptical of Changes in Their Cages

Filed under: current events, politics — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:34 pm

So on Saturday night I was feeling a bit whimsical, so I tweeted:

Orangutans are skeptical of changes in their cages.

You can see it on my Twitter feed. Or maybe not. I just scrubbed it now realizing that I spelled orangutans wrong. #embarrassing

The reason I put that on Twitter is that I tuned in for the final half hour of A Prairie Home Companion on Saturday night only to find that I’d not only missed most of the live show, but the guest was Paul Simon. Definitely want to listen to more of that show on line.

So I listened to a few of Simon’s greatest hits on YouTube, including “At the Zoo” hence the tweet.

img020716But then I started reading my Twitter feed and realized that unless people were of a certain age and knew obscure Paul Simon lyrics, they would simply see it as a veiled reference to the Republican leadership debate, which was happening live at the same time.

Republicans are skeptical of changes in the cages?

Speaking from the perspective of someone who is part of that group called “America’s closest neighbors” do we really have to endure ten more months of this? The election — and that most complex of processes leading up to it — probably bumps many more important stories off the nightly news cycle. I suggested to more than one U.S. citizen that if they want to know what really happened in their country on a given day, they would learn more from BBC World Service or even Canadian news.

Right now it is caucus and primary season. You can lose in any state but still come up a winner if you’re continually adding to your number of delegates at the national convention. Proud Americans speaking glowingly of the beauty of the complexity on the road to Inauguration Day, but it’s not that there’s anything wrong with the system of getting to naming the Presidential nominee; rather, it’s the vast amounts of mental energy that are associated with the process.

Opinions on all matter political also consume vast amounts of water cooler time at the office and heated discussions around the kitchen table. And once a new U.S. President is chosen, from the first day, politicians and those who surround them will begin contemplating how that choice affects their prospects in the 2020 campaign. It’s a election process that now runs non-stop, 24/7 over connected four-year cycles.

To my readers, most of whom are Americans: I love your passion for the November election. But stay in touch with the larger, international news cycle. Keep in contact with the science, health, social justice, arts and economics news stories. Allow margin for non-election-related activities and discussions.

Engage with it, but don’t let it consume you.

January 18, 2016

Letter from Liberty University

Dear Mom and Dad,

Sorry I missed you when I tried to phone.

It’s hard to believe I’m already in my second semester of my freshman year. Classes are going well, and I was able to get a good deal on some textbooks.

I just wanted to tell you about something that happened today, because you’ll probably see it on the evening news.

Today Donald Trump came to speak to our chapel service. Well, it’s not really a chapel service, because calling it that messes up something; maybe it’s the accreditation, or state funding, or something. So they call it Convocation.

Anyway, Trump came to speak. Everybody was expected to attend. Somebody said there’s a $10 fine for skipping chapel, er, Convocation, so I went. The place was packed. Our president, Jerry Falwell Jr. took about 18 minutes — I checked the time on my phone — to introduce him, and mostly talked about the history of the college. I mean, we thought he was introducing Trump, but I think he kinda lost his way, not to mention spilling a glass of water and having his phone go off in the middle.

Then finally, Donald Trump walked on to the stage at our school, and spoke for 50 minutes.

Between that and being told last semester all the students should get a concealed carry permit — I mean nobody in our family even owns a hunting rifle — I’m kinda wondering what I’m doing here. I keep thinking that some people, like the Amish and the Mennonites and the Anabaptists don’t mix their politics with their faith the way we do here at Liberty U. And they get by without guns, too. And I’m reading that in other countries they don’t think like Americans do about religion and politics being so intertwined.

A few of my classmates are from Canada and they just roll their eyes anytime someone mentions government, or the debates, or the primaries or the election. They say it’s got nothing to do with what we are supposed to be learning.

Myself and two people in our dorm are driving to Pennsylvania this weekend to visit an Amish community. We’ve been invited to stay overnight. Some of them have a deal where you can do an extended stay and work with them on their farms. I’m thinking perhaps instead of doing my sophomore year right away I might —

–sorry, my R.A. is calling me to a dorm meeting. I’ll write again.

P.S.: Can you find out if we have any relatives in Canada?


Watch the entire Donald Trump event at Liberty (69 minutes) below or at this link.

January 16, 2016

Breaking: Saeed Abedini Released

Filed under: current events — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:15 am

Saeed AbediniThis is breaking Saturday morning…

(CNN) Iran has freed four prisoners from the United States, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, Iran’s semi-official FARS news agency reported Saturday, citing Tehran’s prosecutor.

According to FARS, Iran freed Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, who had been held on various charges…

…The release is part of a prisoner swap deal in which the United States reportedly freed six Iranian-Americans held on charges related to sanctions against Iran, FARS said…

…Abedini, an Iran native and convert to Christianity, was arrested in 2012 and convicted the next year on charges of attempting to undermine the Iranian government. He had been sentenced to eight years in prison.

More at CNN

I had heard last night something was happening and prayed, along with so many others for this very outcome.

Saeed Release ACLJ 1 Night Before

Saeed Release ACLJ 2 Next Morning

The ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice) and its founderJay Sekulow have been most active in campaigning for Saeed’s release. 

A few of the previous stories here at Thinking Out Loud:

March 26, 2013

Continue Praying for Saeed

April 22, 2013

Pray for Saeed Abedini

September 17, 2013

Wife of Saeed Abedini Speaks at Liberty University

November 5, 2013

Next Few Hours Critical for Saeed Abedini

December 3, 2013

Free Saeed Abedini

December 1, 2015

God Talks to Bob, The Angel

One of the lesser-known angels, Bob works in the Issues Department that reports to the head of the Helping Them Work Out Their Salvation With Fear and Trembling Department. (They exist somewhat outside of linear time there, so departments can have long names.)


 

God: Hi Bob, I haven’t seen you for awhile.

Bob: But we exist somewhat outside of linear time, so what’s ‘awhile?’

God: You know what I mean. What have you been up to?

Bob: You’re omniscient. You know.

God: Work with me here, Bob; I’m just trying to have a conversation.

Bob: Well, things are settling down on the gay marriage file. I think people have decided where they stand and there’s less venom flying back and forth.

God: I’m not sure about that; the Mormon thing about refusing Baptism to kids of same sex couples kinda stirred up the debate a little lately.

Bob: Okay, so now that you mention them — the Mormons — are they part of our whole operation here?

God: I guess you’ll have to wait to find out… So what other files you working with?

Bob: Well there’s always issues involving just war versus pacifism, especially with the whole ISIS thing and what happened in Paris; and the Americans always have a unique take on things given the whole “right to bear arms” thing you gave them.

God: Bob, you’re doing it again. I gave them the ten commandments. You’re always mixing it up with the U.S. constitution.

Bob: Well, they seem to think the right to have guns is God given, and it divides Christians and non-Christians alike.

God: So maybe the Americans are up for something else to debate. What else ya got?

Bob: How about coffee cups.

God: Coffee cups? Seriously?

Bob: Well, red ones actually.

God: Next!

Bob: Okay, never mind. I’ve got them also wrestling with whether or not they should be taking in refugees from Syria. Again, even in the local churches, people are divided on this one.

God: That’s why it falls under your job description, Bob.

Bob: There are some really solid arguments on both sides, and until the refugees start to arrive, it’s hard to say what the whole process is going to look like. It’s really got them thinking and maybe a little worried.

God: And that’s why you’re in charge. This is a real test of how much they are thinking about what it means to follow me and know my ways and sense my heart on things like this.

Bob: But sometimes I think both sides make sense. I mean, no disrespect God, but if I were down there with them I don’t know which argument I would find more persuasive.

God: What do you think I would choose?

Bob: So there’s one clear and obvious answer? Let the refugees in? Keep the refugees out? Both are problematic.

God: I know. Your job is to make sure both sides of the debate have an opportunity to really consider what the other side is saying.

Bob: I just wish it wasn’t so complicated. There’s so much hanging in the balance for them of getting this decision right; both now and in the future.

God: What else you working on?

Bob: Well, I’ve been thinking also about something personal. I mean, I like my job and everything, but there aren’t a lot of angels named Bob and I was wondering if you had something a little more distinctive to offer…

 

 

 

November 19, 2015

Where Do We Go Post-Paris?

Filed under: Christianity, current events, issues, social justice — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:19 am

a guest post by Rick Webster*

To read this at source, click on the original title below:

Paris. Now What?

A few days ago there was a murderous rampage by members of the terrorist group ISIS on the streets of Paris. In light of such horrific events, and in their wake of the emotional trauma and fear, I’m left wondering what the Christian faith has to offer at times like these. Distance removes most of us from the victims, and takes us out of orbit to their pain. Few of the people reading this, if any, will have a role in directly comforting the victims, their families and loved ones. But you don’t need to be a Christian to comfort the afflicted. You just need to be a decent human being. So what does Christ-like faith have to offer the world at at time like this? Three thoughts come to mind:

  1. Transformative Justice. The work of the prophets is to call the nations of Israel and Judah to justice. Life in the ancient world was lived under the tremendous burdens of empire. Taxation was oppressive and political and economic systems were designed to keep the poor trapped in horrific poverty while the wealthy reaped the benefits of exploitation. There was no middle class in the ancient world; there were only the incredibly wealthy and the victims who supported their wealthy lifestyle. The Christian faith, at its core, calls for a radical reevaluation of how we live. To live with justice as per the ethos of the prophets and of Jesus Christ is to radically change the way we interact with others, bringing freedom from oppression, corruption and crushing poverty – the very conditions which radical fundamentalism needs to thrive.
  2. The Incarnation. One of the foundations  of Christian faith is the belief that Jesus is divine, and that he took on human form. Jesus being clothed in humanity is known as “The Incarnation.” The reason why our efforts in the middle east (and elsewhere) have failed so spectacularly, and continue to fail, and will continue to fail, is because we operate from the basis of empire to conquered people, and our work in the world suffers from colonialism and ethnocentrism. We operate from the perspective that if failing nation states are going be successful, they’re going to be like us, thus perpetuating the evils of our world. If we are to truly follow the way of Christ we are to become embedded in the culture of those we care about. If we are to follow the way of Christ we become a part of the social, cultural, political and economic lives of our friends. We can only effect positive change in the world, particularly in the middle east, from within the body of the ‘other’.
  3. Self-sacrificial Service. If we are to take the words of Matthew’s Gospel at face value, then we cannot help but acknowledge that Jesus “…came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Clearly, Jesus operated from a position of powerlessness, but the objective of his philosophy was to be a ransom – a rescue or redemption – for others. The Christian faith, as lived by it’s most noble practitioners, brings rescue or redemption to those enslaved, oppressed and to those denied hope. It takes a particular depth of faith to live with justice when we realize that we are the oppressor. The authentic voice of faith does not ask “How can I make you like me?” but rather, “How can I help you reach your full potential?”

I’m not naive enough to realize that we can live in a world without armies, and that our history will not continue to be blood-soaked and violent. But the Christian faith, contrary to popular belief and popular practice, is a radical, revolutionary call to live with justice and mercy, and offers the world compassion, redemption and hope. What Christian faith offers the world is the hope that this world, here and now, can be a better place and a vision for how we might get there.


*Rick Webster is the pastor of Third Space Church in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada and the author of Introducing Jesus: A Heart to Heart Encounter with the Most Influential Person in History.

 

November 16, 2015

When Things Start to Implode

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:46 pm
Sometimes, often unexpectedly, the dynamics of a situation cause things to implode, unravel, or crack under pressure.

Sometimes, often unexpectedly, the dynamics of a situation causes things to implode, unravel, or crack under pressure.

Over the past few days, I’ve witnessed two completely, totally unrelated situations where things have begun to unravel.

The first concerns the marriage of Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini. We’ve written about U.S. pastor Saeed’s imprisonment in Iran here before and I have devoted other blog posts, links and Tweets to continuing to both bring his story and his wife’s advocacy to the forefront.

But this week Christianity Today reported:

For the past three years Naghmeh Abedini has publicly battled her husband’s captors, advocating for his release from an Iranian jail.

Behind the scenes, she also struggled with his inner demons.

Last week, the emotional distress of doing both finally proved too much, she said.

In two emails to supporters, Abedini revealed details of her troubled marriage to Saeed Abedini, an American citizen and pastor imprisoned in Iran since September 2012…

…Touring the country to advocate for Saeed’s release while coping with marital conflict proved too much, she wrote. She told supporters she’s withdrawing from public life for a time of prayer and rest…

…He has been repeatedly beaten and denied medical care at times, said his attorney, Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.

In September, Abedini’s lawyers learned that his eight-year prison term might be extended.

Sekulow told CT that Saeed was beaten again this week and that his life remains in danger…

click the link above to read the full story at CT

The other item is the story of the decision of the LDS Church (Mormon) to not baptize or confer any of the church’s other sacraments including ordination for ministry on the children of same-sex couples. An exemption would only occur if (a) the child turned 18 and also (b) moved out of the house and also (c) renounced his/her parents lifestyle.

Now many members are resigning their membership. The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

More than 1,000 inactive and active Mormons — along with their backers — rallied in City Creek Park on Saturday to protest the LDS Church’s recent policy decisions involving same-sex couples and their children.

Many who attended the Salt Lake City event brought rainbow flags in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. They also hoisted signs with slogans such as “LDS: Love Doesn’t Separate.”

At one of several tables, attorney Mark Naugle helped Mormons expedite their paperwork to resign their memberships in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their forms were then dropped into a file box, which was rapidly filling 90 minutes after the event began, for mailing to nearby LDS Church headquarters to have those members’ names removed from the faith’s rolls…

…”We may have even reached 2,000.”

click the link above to continue reading at the Tribune

Is this the beginning of a movement? I’ve always felt that the LDS Church seems to have had an inordinate number of gay supporters, and was possibly a haven for some who wanted a worship life that was gay-friendly. Perhaps this stems from a disproportionate number of gay LDS bloggers that I’ve run into in the context of compiling weekly news feeds. Apparently the head office is putting an end to that perception with this announcement. 

As to the other story, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) will continue to advocate for Saeed’s release even as his wife and family step out of the media spotlight.

 

 

November 15, 2015

Thoughts on Paris

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:00 pm

I realize there are a lot of voices speaking to the events of Friday, so I’ll go with bullet points…

  • Human Chain - Paul Louis MetzgerPaul Louis Metzger: “In the current situation, many people are very quick to condemn Islam, or religion, or even secularism, depending on one’s own ideological stripe. This would be a gross mistake. …[W]e cannot afford to make sweeping judgments in a state of anger. All we do is end up sweeping others away, and ourselves in the process. We need to make the French connection, the human connection, the connection with all people, not simply the victims, but also the victimizers. Such a connection should not be taken to mean some shallow form of sentimentality that discounts the terrorists’ responsibility for their heinous acts of terror. Yes, they must be brought to justice, whatever that might entail. But we must all take a deep look within ourselves and ask how far we are willing to go to build a relational connection with those outside our orbits of relational gravity. We must do everything in our human power and graced by transcendence to make immanent the humane connection with those who are disillusioned, who feel left out, and who can be easily pulled down by ideological extremes that would destroy us all. We cannot afford the isolation.”
  • Someone tweeted this weekend that we have to be careful to avoid using the events of Friday to support opinions and ideologies that we already held the week before. I think that is a big part of a tendency we see online: To spin or manipulate current events to suit our purposes. If anything, I believe we need to allow ourselves to be changed by events like this. While our core beliefs may be relatively the same, we have to realize that not everything fits into neat categories, each act of violence or terrorism should be helping us to refine our so-easily offered positions.
  • One example of the above is that here in Canada, some are suggesting that we use this event to put the brakes on a mass Syrian refugee sponsorship program. After all, we don’t know who we’re bringing into the country and what terrorist cells we may be inadvertently incubating here. However, others suggest that the very thing that shocks and offends us concerning what happened on Friday in Paris is the very type of thing these Syrian refugees are fleeing; and this should cause us to, if anything, want to accelerate the program.
  • How does a “peace” denomination like the Anabaptists (or Mennonites or Amish) respond to these events? Bruxy Cavey of The Meeting House family of churches in Ontario, Canada offers this video response.
  • My wife suggested that what the Islamic community needs is its own Gandhi, its own Martin Luther King; someone who can convince the radicals that there is another way; another solution; another path to what they ultimately seek. (Yes, I can hear you responding to this one already; but still…)
  • While everyone is focused on Paris, it’s easy to overlook that on Thursday, the day before, an ISIS attack in Lebanon killed more than 40 people. Paris was a coordinated attack, and grabbed the front pages, but terrorism is rife throughout the world. There have been seven countries impacted by terrorism in the last 14 days.
  • This morning our pastor included this in a prayer for those leaders and governments that are in a position to make decisions arising out of the events of Friday: “Forgive us God, for picking and choosing who we will love and who we will hate.”

Image credit: Paul Louis Metzger (click on image)

November 6, 2015

Canada Reacts to New Government

Filed under: current events — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:58 am

canadian-fallsCanada welcomed its new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau on Wednesday. While the U.S. is now in Day Gazillion of leadership challenges for both the Republican and Democratic parties — and still a year away from the actual vote — in about 75 days the cousins to the north had a peaceful change of government.

In Canada, this analysis of the new Cabinet was all over Facebook. I made one minor edit to make it more family-friendly, and Americanized the spelling for those in my 74% U.S. readership unable to translate! (I kept the capital letters from the original. Not sure who should be credited for this.)


For once, Canadians are proud (and perhaps even a little bit smug). We ran the data:

We have a Minister of Environment and CLIMATE CHANGE.
We have a Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and REFUGEES.

Our Prime Minister is a sci-fi geek.
Our Minister of Health is an actual Doctor.
Our Minister of Families, Children and Social Development is a poverty economist.
Our Minister of Science is an actual Scientist (oh, and she has a Nobel Prize).
Our Minister of Status of Women is an actual woman!
Our Minister of Veterans Affairs is a quadriplegic because he was shot in a drive-by shooting.
Our Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labor is a Professional Geologist.
Our Minister of Democratic Institutions is a Muslim refugee.
Our Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities is a Paralympian Athlete.
Our Minister of Defense is a respected war hero, Afghanistan combat vet, and police officer.
OUR MINISTER OF TRANSPORT IS AN ASTRONAUT!

Half of our Ministers are women.
Half of our Ministers are men!
Two of our Ministers are people of First Nations (Kwakwaka’wakw, Inuit)
Three of our Ministers were born outside of Canada (India, Afghanistan)
Two of our Ministers are Sikh.
At least one of our Ministers is Muslim.
At least two of our Ministers are Atheist.
One of our Ministers is battling breast cancer.
One of our Ministers is in a wheelchair.
One of our Ministers is blind.
One of our Ministers is openly gay.
One of our Ministers is openly ginger.
Also, Hon. Navdeep Bains has a perfect twirly mustache.


Read about Canadian/US government differences at this link.

October 2, 2015

God Bless Help America

Umpqua Community College Shooting

I had originally mentally sketched out another article here in the wake of the Kelly Gissendaner story. As someone writing from another country, it’s not my place to comment on the U.S. justice system except for those times I can bring the perspective of how I feel the story plays out in other countries. I’m not sure that Americans really have a clue how their nation in perceived outside its borders — something about not seeing the forest for the trees comes to mind — unless they (a) have traveled widely overseas or (b) have made a concerted effort to follow U.S. stories in foreign media.

I guess the thing that confounded those of us looking through the window from the outside was the reporting that this woman had not actually carried out the murder that brought about her sentence, nor was she even present, but the life of the man who did the actual killing would be spared the death penalty because he struck a plea bargain deal with the judiciary.

The problem was that I turned to Twitter the next day only to learn that another state had another execution scheduled, and a third state had something scheduled later in the week. I thought about the statistics that the world’s largest prison population is in the United States which also has the highest incarceration rate per 100K population; and then thought about the U.S. gun laws that seem so bizarre to people from other countries. Apparently, at both ends of the spectrum, life is cheap.

But alas, I need to stop here. This is not the time, because once again there has been another school shooting, this time south of Portland, Oregon. President Obama went on television for the 16th time in his presidency and said, “Somehow, this is becoming routine.”

In other words, ‘This is becoming normal.’ The new normal. Obama then again called for changes to gun laws. “This is a political choice that we make to allow this happen every few months in America… We collectively have to answer to those families.”

Mass shooting #294. In only 274 days. More than one per day. (Defined as incidents where four or more people are killed by gunfire.) As I write this on Thursday night, 10 people are dead and 20 injured. Lives cut short. Families shattered.

Gun advocates say that people need to have guns to defend themselves, but where are the headlines where a mass shooting was aborted because some civilian took out the shooter?

Again, it’s not my place to comment on the laws of another country. But know this: To those of us outside what Pope Francis reminded Americans is called “The land of the free,” we don’t believe the authors of the U.S. Constitution had days like these in view. Not for a moment.

It certainly is “The home of the brave.” You’d have to be brave, to leave your house in the morning not knowing if you’ll be having supper with your family at night.

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