Thinking Out Loud

November 5, 2018

Where Does the Broader Society Get Its Standard for Correct Behavior?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:52 am

Megyn Kelly, Roseanne Barr, Matt Lauer, Brian Williams; the list goes on.

Why are the people on our television screens held to such a high standard of correctness, while politicians seem to get a free pass?

Rudi Guiliani famously told NBC’s Chuck Todd that “Truth isn’t truth.” The network loves playing the clip as a Meet the Press promotional teaser. It sounds like a license to say anything. It doesn’t have to be rooted in facts. Why not, ‘Facts aren’t facts.’

Yet somehow, words seem to matter if they’re the wrong words spoken by the wrong person at the wrong time.

It’s as though the phrase actions speak louder than words has been turned on its head and is now words speak louder than actions.

Cross the wrong special interest group, culturally appropriate the wrong group of people and it can cost you your high paying job in entertainment, information or news.

These are interesting times.

All this can creep into the church as well. In some respects, we have a longer tradition of false piety, in particular when it comes to speech. Eugene Peterson has rendered a familiar passage in Matthew 5:

“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” 

So how did the people in the list of names at the top of this piece lose their jobs? You can decry a “Godless world,” and yet there are standards to which people are held. Where did the world at large get those? 

Apologists are quick to seize on this and rightly so. If there is no God, is morality derived entirely from logic, or from the social contract theory? Certainly those play a part, but there is evidence that even in these pluralistic times,  Judeo-Christian moral teaching is looked on as authoritative. 

At least for the time being. 


We leave you with a pop song from 1982 by The Thompson Twins. However, as you listen keep in mind:

  • no one in the band is named Thompson
  • no one in the band is twins
  • the song is called “Lies.”


 

 

 

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May 13, 2018

Panicked Publishers add Morality Clauses to Book Contracts

After John Ortberg (pictured left) took concerns about sexual impropriety concerning Bill Hybels (pictured right) to the Chicago Tribune, the dominoes started to fall leading to Hybels’ resignation from one of America’s largest churches last month.

From Bill Cosby to Bill Hybels, 2018 has so far been a year that has placed sexual misconduct in the spotlight. Each year, publishers are forced to withdraw product from their catalogues, or cancel pending publication of forthcoming titles. Sometimes, there’s nothing in the book itself that is harmful, but the authors have become tainted and publishers want to avoid the spectre of large numbers of returns if the public gaze intensifies.

Rachel Deahl covered this recently at Publisher’s Weekly. The following is only a small excerpt, so read the piece by clicking the title below:

In the #MeToo Moment, Publishers Turn to Morality Clauses

Until recently, the term “moral turpitude” is not one that crossed the lips of too many people in book publishing…

A legal term that refers to behavior generally considered unacceptable in a given community, moral turpitude is something publishers rarely worried themselves about. No longer.

Major publishers are increasingly inserting language into their contracts—referred to as morality clauses—that allows them to terminate agreements in response to a broad range of behavior by authors. And agents, most of whom spoke with PW on the condition of anonymity, say the change is worrying in an industry built on a commitment to defending free speech…

…Another agent, who admitted to having concerns about some of the morality clauses he’s seen, said he nonetheless understands publishers’ rationale for using them. “There are obviously a lot of very complex things going on here,” he said, speaking to the way publishers are reacting to the shifting social climate. He also noted that most publishers he’s dealt with have been open to changing these clauses. “When you go back to [publishers] and remind them that authors are allowed protected speech, political or otherwise, my experience is that they’ve been very responsive.”…

…Mary Rasenberger, president of the Authors Guild, who has seen some of the morality clauses publishers are using, said she also understands why houses are moving in this direction. “There are instances where it is appropriate to cancel a contract with someone—if, say, they are writing a book on investing and they’re convicted of insider trading.” But Rasenberger has concerns about the new boilerplates she’s been seeing. “These clauses need to be very narrowly drawn. The fear is that clauses like these can quash speech that is unpopular, for whatever reason.”

Another agent admitted to being distressed by the fact that some of the morality clauses she’s seen “are going very far.” She said that though she and many of her colleagues think it’s “not unfair for a publisher to expect an author to be the same person when it publishes the book as when it bought the book,” she’s worried how extreme some of the language in these new clauses is.

“If you’re buying bunny books or Bible books, these clauses make sense,” said Lloyd Jassin, a lawyer who specializes in publishing contracts, referring to deals for children’s books and Christian books. He wondered, though, about a publisher trying to hold authors of any other type of book to a moral standard. Noting that morality clauses are about money, not morality (specifically, they’re about a publisher’s ability to market an author), he posed a hypothetical. “Is the author of The El Salvador Diet, which touts a fish-only regimen, allowed to be photographed eating at Shake Shack? That goes to the heart of the contract.” He paused and added: “This is definitely a free speech issue.” …

again, you’re encouraged to read all this in the context of the full article

 

 

March 23, 2015

When Down Is Up

Today’s article contains some graphic imagery.

About 40 years ago, Kirk, the son of family friends, was walking in a park near his apartment complex when he was lured into a public washroom where he was then sexually assaulted. As I was very young, my parents felt it better to spare me some of the details, but in the hushed whispers I gathered that it was an assault of the worst kind, and although the event faded over time, as I grew older the sense I got was that Kirk had been sodomized, and while I was never to speak of it if I had contact with him, I was left to believe that for one person to do this to another was an act of unspeakable horror.

Fast-forward 40 years and I’m checking out who some people on Twitter are following and I land on the account of a young man who is probably now the same age as Kirk was when his assault took place. A quick look told me this was not an account I wanted to check out further; in between the model cars and sci-fi themes there was some very hardcore gay pornography. But before I clicked away never to return, I wanted to see how he had captioned a picture of two guys who were, well… It said, “I wish someone would do this to me.”

The title of this old Doobie Brothers album sums up how change takes place: "What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits."

The title of this old Doobie Brothers album sums up how change takes place: “What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.

What was for Kirk a couple of generations ago an act of the worst kind imaginable, is now something desired by high school students, and even middle-school students. The very activity that made Kirk a victim has become in some places a recreational, after-school sport.

How did things change so quickly?

I don’t want to blame the internet for things it didn’t do, but we know that revolutions in communications brought about by technology tend to accelerate social change. From the reaction of our family friends to Kirk’s unfortunate assault to 2015 where a kid wants this type of contact, something has shifted radically.

But it doesn’t always take place over the course of 40 years.

Sometimes worldviews are altered more quickly. I don’t need to footnote this with a source to be able to say that even within the church, attitudes toward homosexual practice or gay marriage have shifted, even in the last two years, with some suggesting that attitudes toward polyamory and incest are also in flux.

Your attitude toward an particular social issue or behavior can change over two years, but it might change over two weeks depending on what voices are allowed to speak into your situation, or what types of input you allow yourself. What was once so very wrong becomes less of a big deal. You find yourself now ‘soft’ on a particular subject that years before would have produced a ‘hard’ reaction.

If you are the type of person whose values and worldview are absolute, that is, in one sense, good to hear. But anyone who ever changed political party, or switched from coffee to tea, or made any other type of shift knows well that we are capable of having our opinions reshaped.

That’s what happening right now in our society in general, and in the Church. We’re living in a time when down is up, and that should horrify you every bit as much as Kirk’s attack did our family 40 years ago.

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