Thinking Out Loud

August 29, 2016

Pushed Off the News Cycle

Filed under: Christianity, current events, media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:56 am

Eyewitness News

Growing up in Toronto, television consumption was often dominated by the three network stations from Buffalo, New York. On the half hour, programs were punctuated by bumpers for the local newscast, and stereotypically the lead item on Channel 7’s Eyewitness News involved a fire in Lackawanna, Cheektowaga, or West Seneca. This provided great fodder for standup comics on the Canadian side; with some of the humor having to do with the unique names of the city’s suburbs.

Lately, I’ve noticed that the U.S. network newscasts at 6:30 have also been adopting more of a local news approach. The “If it bleeds it leads” idea was not as common in earlier decades, with the networks taking more of a big picture view of the news. A remnant of that can be seen on PBS, which still steers away from fires or plane crashes.

Some of the reason for this has to do with the number of weather related stories which have been relentless over the past three years. I’ve written about that subject here and here, albeit more devotionally.

There can be no doubt however that the U.S. federal election is also pushing a large number of stories and reports off the news cycle. What business mergers, medical advances, environmental initiatives or social trends are we not hearing about because every significant quotation from Donald or Hillary needs to be included?

Someone once said if you want to know what happened the previous day, but if you want a broader perspective on what those happenings mean and why they matter you purchase a weekly news magazine. Unfortunately, both are falling victim to the need to use sensationalism to sell more copies. Occasionally, even the latter will be accused of tabloid journalism.

What are we to do? I would say look more deeply to find the stories that are getting pushed off. Blogs and Twitter help fill in the gaps, as do those one-paragraph state-by-state reports in USAToday.

And try to find the good news stories that we often don’t hear in a season of primaries, caucuses and campaigning.


July 15, 2016

North Point Community Church on Race Relations in America

North Point July 10 2016

Sometimes it seems like we’ve gone back to the 1960s. The state of the relationship between black and white seems to be at a low that the present generations have not witnessed since the race riots of the ’50s and ’60s. Furthermore, it seems to be getting worse.

Has this — police violence against black people — been going on longer than we know? All I can say is that in this case, I’m thankful that phones now have cameras, and that we have social media to spread the word. (See also the book review here a few days ago for Shane Claiborne’s new book, where he also covers the history of black lynching in America.) Media holds us to a higher level accountability. (I’m reminded of Luke 8:17, Luke 12:2, and even the unique wording of Acts 26:26… You can run but you can’t hide.)

Last weekend, Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church in Atlanta preempted his schedule sermon to have a discussion about the subject with Sam Collier & Joseph Sojourner. The day before he Tweeted: “When you decide to rewrite your message on your day off… Don’t miss church tomorrow!” This church service was rather spontaneous.

I had hoped to embed the message here somehow, but I’ll point you to the link and trust you to click through. This will involve about 45 minutes of your time. (They sing only two songs, have one baptism, and go straight into the interview.) If you have any interest at all on this topic, I assure you that once you start, you’ll want to stay with most of what follows. It’s worth at least watching about 20 minutes of this.

A large percentage of the U.S. population should not have to live in fear from the very people sworn to serve and protect.

Here’s the link to North Point Online.

June 14, 2016

What Every Conservative Christian Needs To Know About The Pride Flag

Today’s post needs a three point set-up. First of all, our friend Martin D. at Flagrant Regard broke radio silence with his first blog post in eight months. Second I believe he posted this before the news from Orlando hit; there is no direct connection as to the timing. Third, this begins with a distinctly Canadian perspective, but I think the rest of it is fully accessible to readers in various countries.

We wanted to share this with readers here, but I’m going to close comments so that you can respond directly at his blog. Click the title below, and then scroll down to “Comments Most Welcome.”

TRUE COLORS: What Every Conservative Christian Needs To Know About The Pride Flag

In light of two recent events; one being the declaration by mayor John Tory that June 2016 is ‘Pride Month’ in Toronto, and the other, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s hoisting the pride flag at the house of commons in Canada’s capital just over a week ago, it’s understandable why traditional or conservative Christians are a tad ticked off.

Most evangelicals and Roman Catholics continue to maintain that homosexuality or same-sex partnering/parenting is not God’s default design for men and women and believe it to be an outworking of the sinful nature. And because of that, they are annoyed at how much attention the pride movement gets. We’ve gone from years of having an entire week dedicated to pride celebrations to a month long event and hey, the way things are headed, 2017 is setting up to be Pride year and 2020 ‘ll be ‘Pride Decade’.

Since the early days of gay activism, the Pride flag has stood as the primary token for anyone celebrating the movement that declares ‘we are separate and different in our sexuality and are not going to stay quiet about it’. The proponents of the movement claim it’s about the freedom to love whomever they want, but let’s be real here – it’s about being fully open in regards to what kind of sex you want to have and with whom.

Stretching from the last quarter of the 20th century and up to the present day, conservative Christians have been angered that the pride movement ‘stole the symbol of the rainbow’ from God or God’s word and that their using it in their parades or as decorations for their front porch was blasphemous and highly disrespectful of the religious community.

But is that really what’s happened? Is the Pride flag even what we think it is?

Here’s a little bit of history:

According to Wikipedia, gay icon Harvey Milk encouraged homosexual activist Gilbert Baker to come up with a symbol of pride for the gay community. His original design was a flag consisting of 8 colors, starting with pink at the top (not a big surprise there!). Apparently, due to fabric unavailability, pink was dropped from the design between 1978 and 79. The flag’s design was left with the 7 colors that corresponded with nature during the formation of a rainbow or when pure light is refracted through a clear glass prism. Those colors are, in case you wondered,

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.

But then something interesting happened. By 1979, the Gay Pride Flag (as it was referred to back then – there was no LGBTQIA) was reduced from 7 colors to 6! Indigo and turquoise (turquoise is not a colour natural to rainbows, per se) were dropped in favor of Royal Blue.

Since then, this 6 colour combination has represented the pride movement and has been presumed by most, to represent the rainbow – an atmospheric phenomena and symbol that the God of Judaism gave Noah after the flood. For those rare few of you who don’t know the history – the flood – a world-wide event referenced by many cultures throughout the planet via writings or oral legends – was a real event. The Jewish or Old Testament take on it was that the earth was full of wickedness and had to be purged via a one-off deluge that would wipe out humanity save for one family that would afterward be responsible for repopulating the planet with hopefully less evil than had gone before them. At the end of the flood, and at God’s bidding, the rainbow appeared in the sky to Noah – patriarch of the rescued family – and represented the promise made by God to never fully waterboard humanity again.

Even though this information is out there, there will nonetheless be a lot of religious folk who get bent out of shape whenever they see the pride flag, believing their cherished faith or perceived symbols of their faith (namely the rainbow) are being flouted.

Maybe a different perspective here will help.

ONE: The pride flag doesn’t represent a real rainbow! It isn’t reflective of what occurs normally and naturally in the physical world. It is a banding of 6 – NOT 7! – colours that have absolutely nothing to do with God’s promises or the bible.

TWO: Even if the flag WERE a real rainbow and LGBTQIA folks were deliberately ripping it off from the bible to annoy conservative Christians who don’t acknowledge the pride movement or who don’t wish to give ascent to their sexual proclivities, they shouldn’t be surprised!

Committed Christians are told in Scripture that:

“At the end of time, some will ridicule the faithful and follow their lusts to the grave.” These are the men among you—those who divide friends, those concerned ultimately with this world, those without the Spirit.”
Jude, v.8

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
1 John, chap. 3, v.13

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”
2 Timothy, Chap. 3, v.12

Bible-adherent Christians should expect to be called out or persecuted by those who don’t like them because of their stance on the Truth of God’s word and the healthy, holy direction God wants His children – his people – to follow.

If you are a conservative Christian who is annoyed by the pride-Nazis (those in-your-face proponents of the alternative-sexuality lifestyle) and their influence on society or the pride movement parades – grow a backbone!

Throw a heterosexual pride parade, write a blog-post about your beliefs or write your local politician stating that you are not standing with them if they decide to ride the Tranny-float down the main drag in your fine city. There are probably many things you can do but kvetching isn’t really one of them. Nonetheless, if you’re going to speak out against or attempt to hamper the pride movement’s influence through legal, worthwhile means, remember this one thing: GOD HELP YOU if you don’t love with all your heart every single person – gay or straight – that wants to attack you for what you believe and WHO you believe in.

We’re told to BLESS those who persecute us* – ‘Bless and do not curse’. Love and be ready to serve any and every LGBTQIA soul who does not love you and your reward in the next life is great! Don’t forget that.

Lastly – relax when it comes to the rainbow. It’s still yours … all 7 colors. It was never really taken from you. It’s still there echoing God’s promise to not super-soak humanity in a watery death. I think it’s more important that we realize that through Jesus, we all have been offered the waters of life. Waters that if imbibed of deeply and consistently – will alter us from the inside out and ensure His true colors come shining through – in our every word and every action.

© 2016 Flagrant Regard; Used by permission

* Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chap. 12, Verse 14 &
Luke’s Gospel, Chap. 6, Verses 28-36


April 18, 2016

Epidemics: Divorce in Christian California 1970s and Suicide in Aboriginal Communities in Ontario 2016

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:44 am

They lived in “Gospel Gulch;” an area in great proximity to Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California. The church had been part of a youth explosion that made the cover of Time Magazine early in the 1970s. As the decade closed out, the couple found themselves with a problem on their hands that may seem almost trivial to us today, but was rarer in the Christian community 40+ years ago: Their marriage was crumbling.

They weren’t alone. California leads the nation in certain types of cultural or social trends, which generally sweep from west to east. I’ve heard the same said in Canada about British Columbia. Christian marriages in the state were crumbling at a time when Christian values and standards in the rest of the United States were much more conservative.

So they went for counseling. The counselor didn’t spend a lot of time on learning to get along better or disagree more agreeably. There was no “5 steps…” or “7 keys…” or “10 tips…”

He told them to get out of California.

His best advice to them was to get away from the contagion of divorce. Get away from a spiritual community where struggling couples found their best option was to opt out. Leave the state and escape the culture of divorce that was sweeping through Washington, Oregon and Northern and Southern California with the force of the Santa Ana winds.

Attawapiskat, Ontario shown by pin: It's waaaay up there, and not much else is nearby.

Attawapiskat, Ontario shown by pin: It’s waaaay up there, and not much else is nearby.

I thought about that this morning as our church prayed about another contagion sweeping through another community: Suicide among youth in Attawapiskat, Ontario, Canada. This isn’t a local story; this is the top national news story in the country and is being picked up by The Guardian in the UK and the Chicago Tribune in the US. Newsweek reported:

Canadian legislators told an emergency parliamentary session on Tuesday night that a rash of suicide attempts by aboriginal teenagers in a remote, poverty-stricken community was “completely unacceptable” and vowed steps to keep it from happening again.

Over the past weekend alone, 11 members of the Attawapiskat First Nation community in northern Ontario tried to kill themselves, prompting the chief to declare a state of emergency. Separately, a second group was hospitalized on Monday after suicide attempts…

…Health Minister Jane Philpott said the suicide rates among aboriginal youth were at least 10 times higher than for the general population of young people. Aboriginals make up about 4 percent of Canada’s population…

Would our California marriage counselor just suggest they get out of town? The advice is certainly valid if you see the situation as contagious, but these people have a family and spiritual connection to their land. They have a way of life that doesn’t translate into moving to Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto.

As we remembered that community yesterday morning, the pastor drew a line connecting this to another one of Canada’s top news stories over the past few months: Doctor-assisted suicide. This has been a contentious issue in the country since the nation’s Supreme Court ruled in February, a story that has been covered by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and BBC News:

Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that doctors may help patients who have severe and incurable medical conditions to die, overturning a 1993 ban.

In a unanimous decision, the court said the law impinged on Canadians’ rights.

And then, there’s the obvious: These people are living without hope and this is something that as the Church of Jesus Christ, we can offer them, right? Well, when you consider the track record of abuse involving churches dealing with aboriginal children placed in residential schools, we may offer our help to them, but they may not want to turn to us…

As Christians, we also have to wrestle with the implications of suicide when someone claims to be a Christ-follower. Is this unpardonable? Canadian pastor Bruxy Cavey recently posted a video response to that question, but even if we allow that this action doesn’t lead to eternal damnation, it does not sit well with Evangelicals…

…Many years ago, the son of a woman I know had a friend who ended his life. In the weeks and months that followed, she monitored her son carefully, knowing stories of the contagious nature of suicide. But what if this epidemic started sweeping the nation? Native teens are not alone in feeling they have no future; no hope.

The “Get out of the state” advice for divorce became invalid just a few short years later when, even in Christian circles, separation and divorce became more rampant. Today, as Evangelicals wrestle with the “Gay and Christian” controversy, divorce seems rather tame and has fallen of the map of church concerns. Divorced people now sing in the choir, teach Sunday School, serve on boards of elders and deacons and even pastor some of our churches.

Are we allowing the culture to dictate our definitions of acceptable morality for Christians? Do we simply allow new issues to take the place of others on the front page? What if a climate of suicide swept your church’s youth group? What are the implications of a drug epidemic or pregnancy epidemic occurring among your church’s teens or preteens? 

Obviously, I believe these things are worth thinking about.




March 29, 2016

Where Are Canada’s Refugee Families?

Better Together Project

Canadian churches, civic groups and even wealthy patrons are asking, “Whatever happened to our refugee families?”

What’s more, these groups have collected donations of furniture, appliances, bedding, linens, coats, and more. They’ve raised the minimum $32,000 – $40,000 (CDN) needed to implement the project. They had volunteers standing by to teach the newcomers about North American life and to help them learn English. In many cases, they’ve rented apartments or made other financial commitments to secure property.

And now the Canadian government has pulled the rug out from under them.

The Globe and Mail reported:

Sponsors who responded to the government’s call to help Syrians are now being told waiting times for the arrival of the refugees they sponsored will be months longer than they expected.

As the government returns to a normal processing pace after hitting its goal of resettling 25,000 Syrians by the end of February, private sponsorship groups are frustrated by the increasing waiting times for resettling the newcomers. During the height of the government’s efforts to resettle 25,000 Syrians, all Syrian refugee applications were given priority and arrived within a few months of their application being received. Now, sponsors are being told they may not meet the refugees they sponsored until 2017.

Temporary processing centres established in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon to handle the 25,000 Syrian refugees are now closed and regional missions are in charge of processing, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)…

…The IRCC recognized some sponsors’ disappointment that the expedited process is not continuing, but said the “accelerated pace of recent months could not be sustained indefinitely.” The department also confirmed that Syrian applications will no longer be prioritized, meaning the refugees won’t arrive as soon as some sponsors expected.

“Private sponsorship applications that are submitted now are not expected to arrive this year as current application inventory already exceeds the high target that has been set,” said the department in a statement…

The Toronto Star reported:

The latest revelation that Ottawa has quietly stopped making it a priority to process Syrian sponsorship applications at its central processing centre in Winnipeg is another kick to the stomach of the private sponsors who responded to the government’s call for support and now feel abandoned.

“The government looked good in those photo ops after they made the 25,000 target in February. Now, they no longer care about the other sponsors and have left us in the cold,” said Thomas Vincent, whose group in Collingwood has been waiting for the arrival of three Syrian families since December and now worries for further delays.

“I get the same question every day: ‘Where are the Syrian refugee families that we are sponsoring?’ We have to say to them, ‘We don’t know.’ It looks silly on us.”

Earlier in March, the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association — whose members connect interested community and faith groups with refugees awaiting resettlement abroad — was told by the immigration department that Syrian applications are no longer a priority.

And worse, Syrian applications submitted by the agreement holders since January are now going to be counted toward the annual caps imposed on them by the immigration department. Every year, each agreement holder can submit only a limited number of sponsorship applications; this means they now have fewer spots for non-Syrian refugees awaiting resettlement to Canada…

…“We have organized for months, have all the volunteers, services, resources in place to sponsor our families, and no one can tell us whether it will be one month, six months or a year to obtain our families,” said Vincent.

“Totally unacceptable and an utter waste of our time, money, energy and resources. We have responded to this refugee crisis as humanitarian, and our desire to do the right and compassionate thing. And we sit waiting, while our federal bureaucracy drops the ball.”

However, a letter to the Vancouver Sun suggests that the writer was told the opposite; that their non-Syrian family wasn’t coming because only Syrians were being admitted:

Last November, our parish joined another to raise funds to sponsor a Middle East refugee family. A family of five: two parents and three children under 10 years from Mosul, Iraq, was selected for us.

The family was in the “greatest need” category which often includes Christians and other non-Muslim minorities who cannot be accommodated in UN camps because their safety cannot be guaranteed. This family and many others live in overcrowded camps in Jordan.

The king of Jordan had made pleas to the world to help.

A minimum $45,000 for private sponsorship for people in the greatest need was raised (versus $25,000 for government sponsorship). An apartment was found and secured. Groups were formed for welcoming, orientation, language training etc. We even had a photo of the family.

Last month we learned this family was no longer our sponsored family. The Canadian government had decided that only Syrian refugees could be sponsored. This family had hope in us. They have been let down. So have we.

How can our government be so callous and change its policy in the middle of the process? Is the refugee issue only about meeting the quota, deadline, political correctness, and photo ops?

One such sponsoring project was headed by the former mayor of Toronto, John Sewell, CITY-TV news reported late Thursday,

“Nobody knows when their family is going to arrive,” Sewell told CityNews. “There’s a lot of sponsorship groups in Toronto that have raised their money and have houses and apartments all ready to go. There’s no families.”

“They’ve cut back all temporary staff in Jordan and Lebanon and Turkey so they can’t process them and they’ve taken all the temporary staff out of Winnipeg so they can’t process them.”

On top of closing those processing centres, the government has implemented caps on the number of privately-sponsored refugee applications for this year. That cap is not just for Syria but for all refugees entering this country. It’s a policy decision that wasn’t announced with any level of fanfare and one that wasn’t acknowledged by the Prime Minister even when he was pressed on the issue Thursday.

But the report contains a video which shows the Prime Minister sidestepping the question even earlier that day. Clearly the plan was to bury this in a part of the news cycle where journalists shut down for the Good Friday long weekend.

The CITY piece ends:

Many groups have already rented homes for their sponsored families and have only just learned they’ll sit empty for at least another eight months.

The government publicity gambit — the story details coming together only late in the day Thursday — seems to have worked. A story that should have received more coverage has yet to appear from the country’s national broadcaster, CBC News. When I mentioned this change to people over the past few days, without exception, everyone I spoke to was unaware of this development.

better-together-logo-72dpiFor this writer, it’s partly personal. A group of churches in our community (later joined by some civic groups) decided to commit to seven families under the umbrella of The Better Together Partnership. At the combined Good Friday service, the final balance of the $250,000 (CDN) needed was raised. That’s a rather large sum of money for small-town churches who, if they had known where this was going, might have diverted those funds to another project.

Two families have already arrived.

I feel bad for them as well. We’re not exactly at the center of the earth here, so having been told there will be seven families altogether, it’s not fair for them either to know that our government — so benevolent towards them just a few weeks ago — is now effectively shutting down the process for the time being. They were probably anticipating a micro-community with a common history and stories to share.

The story happened so quickly and quietly that one of the co-chairs of our project here seemed unaware of it when I mentioned it on Saturday night. I was rather hoping she would have heard it from someone else by that point.

This just isn’t fair to anyone.

This is politics at its worst.

We’ve all been lied to.





February 20, 2016

Is Donald Trump a Christian? Is the Pope Catholic?

Much ink has been spilled and much energy has been spent trying to flesh out the subject of “who’s in and who’s out” in matters of the Christian faith. Only God knows. The religion news story of the week was Pope Francis weighing in on Donald Trump’s faith and Trump’s inevitable response. The Pope asserted that Christians work to build bridges not walls, and on the basis of a statement reflecting this particular fruit of Trump’s character, implied that Trump’s Mexico/USA border wall concept is not consistent with identity as a Christian.

But on what do you base an assessment of someone? Within my own sphere of acquaintances there are people who disagree on a wide variety of subjects; some of which are part of Biblical interpretation, some of which are ethical, and others of which are reflective of the living out of their faith in everyday life. Is any one of these a significant marker of one’s spiritual sincerity or authenticity? Is there a single litmus test of orthodoxy? And is the in-versus-out question based on what I do today or tomorrow or on faith commitments I made at an earlier stage of life? Can I be in one day and out the next?

One of the best articles I’ve seen on this topic is in the book A is for Abductive by Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren and Jerry Haselmayer in which they speak of bounded sets, centered sets, and dynamic sets; along with helpful diagrams. It’s a book I keep handy, but the lateness of the hour on Friday prevents me from scanning in those pages, so you’ll have to settle for someone else’s work. On the previous page there is a circle with no center point; one is defined as either in or out. X, Y and Z below are all in, but B and C are certainly close. Then they introduce centered-set thinking:

Bounded Set, Centered Set, Dynamic Set

For most of you, this either simplifies things or makes it more complicated. (There’s a logical statement.) But it illustrates the degrees to which people go to try to think through the issue of who’s in and who’s out.

In searching for the graphic I came across this quote from C.S. Lewis along with another diagram:

Christians as centered set vs bounded set_thumb[5]

[The] situation in the actual world is much more complicated than that. The world does not consist of 100% Christians and 100% non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: some of them are clergymen. There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand…. And always, of course, there are a great many people who are just confused in mind and have a lot of inconsistent beliefs all jumbled up together.

Consequently, it is not much use trying to make judgments about Christians and non-Christians in the mass. It is some use comparing cats and dogs, or even men and women, in the mass, because there one knows definitely which is which. Also, an animal does not turn (either slowly or suddenly) from a dog into a cat. But when we are comparing Christians in general with non-Christians in general, we are usually not thinking about real people whom we know at all, but only about two vague ideas which we have got from novels and newspapers. If you want to compare the bad Christian and the good Atheist, you must think about two real specimens whom you have actually met. Unless we come down to brass tacks in that way, we shall only be wasting time.

 ~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 208-209.

So while the media has fun with the friendly banter between the Pope and the Presidential wannabe, know for sure that deciding on either the present devotion or the eternal destiny of anyone in particular is way above our pay grade. We can’t do it when speaking of individual people because we’re not God; but Lewis argues that dealing with it theoretically has no value.



February 18, 2016

War Zone vs. Highway Carnage

Filed under: Christianity, current events, media, weather — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

Now it’s Syria. Next month, I fear to say, it may be somewhere else.

We see the video on the evening news of areas blown apart by war and it’s easy to feel grateful that we don’t live there.

free_snow_signBut I wonder what they see.

I’ve done some weather related blog posts before — everybody talks about it, right? — so I don’t want to repeat myself, but I wonder what people in the Middle East would think if they saw the highway carnage on the U.S. Interstate Highway System that also plays out on those same supper hour newscasts here.

On Monday, which was the Presidents Day holiday, over 2,000 separate accidents were reported, many involving loss of life. It’s easy to sit back and armchair quarterback the whole thing; “Why didn’t they just wait and leave the next morning?”

But on that day we found ourselves having to drive in similar conditions without an option of postponing our travel. The roads were sheer ice. Averaging about 5 mph, I still managed to trigger the anti-lock braking system with just the slightest touch of the brakes. We saw the horrific after effects of cars in the ditch and facing the wrong way.

Do those scenes ever play on television there?

What if a family in the Midwest or a family on the East Coast decided they wanted to be refugees? Refugees from freezing rain. Refugees from tornadoes. Refugees from hurricanes. Refugees from mudslides. Refugees from record snowfalls.

What if a line started forming and heading toward the equator? People seeking to escape the weather with the same earnest as those fleeing war zones on the other side of the earth? Again, I ask the question, “Were people really meant to live here?”

That question always leads me to another. Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote:

To those who constantly ask, “Is America in Bible prophecy,” the answer might have more to do with the country being diminished by weather catastrophe than by some major loss of economic influence.

But take that question, “Is America in Bible Prophecy” and Google it sometime. The results can be rather disturbing. Two years ago we looked at four possible answers.

So I’m waiting to see the first American family seek refugee status somewhere else. Not because of election year politics. Not because of abortion. Not because of gun control.

But because of the weather.

And no; those shots of a truck rollover on the I-95 probably don’t play out on the evening news in Syria, because they’ve got a real war going on there. However, the pictures have some similarities, and some days, our lives are not entirely different.

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.

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