The GOP & the Perils of Talking to Yourself

When I was in college, I was firmly convinced that the Dave Matthews Band was the greatest musical act of all-time and that Jack Kerouac’s On the Road should be canonized as the Great American Novel. Many of my friends agreed with me and we would spend countless nights into early mornings defending our position and expressing our incredulity that anyone would dare think otherwise. We’d whip ourselves up into passionate frenzies and then go out into classrooms where we were shocked and horrified to find that not everyone thought that way! (I’ve eased off my Kerouac claims, but I’ll still put up a lukewarm battle for pre-Everyday Dave Matthews Band.)

I was thinking about this the other day as I was scrolling through tweet after tweet of conservatives who are so passionate about defunding the Affordable Care Act. Just yesterday, Senator Ted Cruz ended his 21 hour filibuster which originated in an attempt to defund or at least delay the implementation of the law.

As I watch conservatives whip themselves in a frenzy over healthcare and liberals do the same over the [deplorable] cuts in SNAP benefits, I’m reminded of my friends and I sitting in a coffeehouse on campus late into the night debating the nuances of Kerouac and Dave Matthews. And here’s the thing that keeps coming up.

It is pointless to even attempt meaningful conversation when we remain staunchly opposed to what people who may think differently are saying.

This is true no matter what side of any debate we’re on. If our only conversation partners are people who agree with everything we say, then we become convinced that everyone thinks like that. They don’t. It’s why Karl Rove had that embarrassing election night meltdown over at Fox News. Everyone he was talking to thought that Obama would lose. So he refused to accept anything else.

But it’s not just with politics that this is the case. This happens all too often in the church as well. Within world religions or Christian denominations, we spend so much time talking to ourselves — or to people who think like we do — that we can become disconnected from the broader public conversation.

In these big conversations about things that impact public life, we need to make space for all people to express themselves and their opinions, and then wrestle through these issues together. Otherwise we become so entrenched on “our” side — which is almost always synonymous with the “good” side — that we not only lose touch with the broader conversation, but we lose touch with our neighbors, friends, and those in our community who may think differently.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have this figured out. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. My main sources of news are the Huffington Post and Jon Stewart. I need to remember this just as much as everyone else.

But in light of the big conversations that are happening in our culture right now — healthcare, government shutdowns, military intervention in Syria, how we fight poverty and hunger — we need to make space for everyone in these conversations.

Otherwise we risk whipping ourselves into a frenzy only to be disappointed by, and ultimately alienated from, the people in our lives who think differently than we do.

Instead of only talking to people who agree with us, or demonizing those who think differently, we need to turn our attention to positive, constructive work in our world. It no longer works to sit by and simply tear things down. It’s time build bridges across our diverse ideologies and opinions, so that ultimately we can spend our lives building a better world.

And not simply talking to ourselves.

Cheers,
Eric

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How to Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke

If you have ears, you’ve heard Robin Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines.” If you’ve had any amount of spare time in the past few days and have access to the internets, you’ve heard about Thicke’s performance at the VMA’s with Miley Cyrus. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, congratulations! You must have looked past the headlines on CNN’s main page in order to read about “secondary” news like Egypt or Syria. You can find a video of the performance here.

If you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter with any kind of regularity over the past few days, you’ve probably heard countless friends or followers sounding off on any number of objectionable things about the performance. Undoubtedly, 99% of things written about it throw around words like “obscene”, “offensive”, and the like.

There have been a number of different parenting websites or blog posts who have come up with good ways to talk to your daughter about Miley. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about parents talking to their daughters about sexuality.

But is no one going to hold anyone else on stage or behind the scenes accountable for that performance? Are we really going to have another one-sided conversation where we only talk to the girls about their sexuality while we completely ignore the boys in the room about their standards of behavior too?

There are next to no commentaries, articles, or blog posts that talk about how Robin Thicke was on stage with a woman young enough to be his daughter while thrusting his pelvis and repeating the line “I know you want it” while T.I. non-chalantly raps about much more graphic stuff. As Shelli Latham astutely points out:

Girls’ sexuality is so much the focus of our ire. Women who have sex are dirty. Men who have sex are men. Girls who dress to be ogled are hoes. Men who ogle are just doing what comes naturally. This is the kind of reinforced behavior that makes it perfectly acceptable to legislate a woman’s access to birth control and reproductive health care without engaging in balanced conversations about covering Viagra and vasectomies. Our girls cannot win in this environment, not when they are tots in tiaras, not in their teens or when they are coming into adulthood.

Issues of misogynistic attitudes and acts of violence toward women aren’t going anywhere until us men make some very intentional decisions about our behavior and about the way we act toward women. There are certain things that Robin Thicke and “Blurred Lines” re-inforce in our culture.

For instance… Studies have shown that viewing images of objectified women gives men “greater tolerance for sexual harassment and greater rape myth acceptance,” and helps them view women as “less competent” and “less human“. Certainly singing about “blurred lines” will at the very least reinforce a culture that already trivializes the importance of consent.*

There’s nothing blurry about Robin Thicke’s role in the VMA debacle. Even though he’s come out and defended his song, going so far as to call it a “feminist movement,” it’s pretty plain to see that’s far from the case.

Here’s where it starts

So what can we do? In order to change the way we view women culturally, we need to change the way we view women individually. We need to call bullshit on attempts to end domestic violence and misogyny towards women by only talking to our daughters. We need to talk to our sons and our brothers about respecting women and respecting themselves.

It starts in homes. It starts in small conversations that treat all people as worthy and equal. It starts with having the courage to speak out against the wide variety of forces in our society that objectify women.

It starts with understanding that as men, our value does not come from how much power we hold over women. Our value comes from being respected and being loved as we respect and love the people who matter to us.

Be brave enough to tell a different story. Be courageous enough to rise above the lies that our culture tells you about how to treat women. In doing so, you’ll help create a better world for your sons. And for your sons’ sons. And that’s something to which we should all aspire.

Cheers,
Eric

* = Thank you to policymic.com for these links

Why Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros Give Me Hope

First off, if you haven’t seen the video for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ song “Man on Fire”, please take the 4 minutes to check it out. I promise you won’t regret it!

I think this video speaks a lot to the benefits of a creative outlet. What differentiates (wo)men from (wo)men on fire is that creative outlet. Odds are these kids have school all day, homework, chores, and all kinds of other things in their lives. That’s what makes them men or women. They have obligations and stuff going on.

But what sets them on fire is having an outlet for their creative energy.

I think, particularly in my corner of the Mainline Protestant church, we can lose sight of this fire. We can lose sight of being creative in favor of the comfort and nostalgia offered by the days of old. But if we are truly living as people of Pentecost, as people marked with tongues of fire, then we must find ways to become people on fire.

And I don’t necessarily mean in that “on fire for the Lord” kind of way because that always weirded me out. But we need to have the fires of creativity stoked in our congregations in order to escape this circular pattern of “just getting by” as churches. One way we can thrive is to engage the creative energy of people of all ages to express how they see themselves in the world around them.

This video gives me home because it’s happening. It’s happening all around us. We know that it is not out of our realm of possibility. We’re actually doing it everyday. But it is always such an incredible thing to see such creativity compiled together in a video like this.

So what’s your outlet, creative or otherwise? What do you do [that isn’t an obligation] that helps you become a person on fire?

Cheers,
Eric

New Beginnings & A New Name: Jesus Goes Pop

So things will be moving in a [slightly] different direction around here. I have been feeling like this is getting pretty random lately and so I am making an effort to focus this in a little bit more on the things I’m passionate about, namely the intersection of where faith meets the media we consume — the music, movies, books, and television that we listen to, watch, and read.

I’m still going to post frequently and keep up with the awesome content, but it’s just going to be more intentional and focused about what I’m posting on here.

Here’s what I have on the docket to post in the next week or two:

“The Odd Gospel of Timothy Green”

“The Avett Brothers & The Carpenter”

“The Ethics of Breaking Bad” (this one could be a whole website in and of itself)

“Away from the World: A Theological Review of Dave Matthews Band’s New Album”

Unholy Night: A Book Review”

I’m excited for this new direction and think it’ll be a great thing.

I hope you’ll join me.

Cheers,
Eric

Music to Get Through a Bad Week

It’s been a long week. I haven’t slept much. My mind has been racing on a lot of different tracks. I’ve felt discouraged, beat down, unworthy, unable, and in most ways just pretty crappy. Some things I had hoped would turn out one way didn’t. Some things I hoped would go well went pretty terribly.

Anybody else with me? Do you ever have weeks like this?

Whenever I have weeks like this, I often turn to music. It’s fairly effective in two things. Music either 1) shifts my perspective to focus on more positive things or 2) gives me a 35,000 foot view of my life to realize this isn’t the end of the world.

This song has really helped me out a lot this week. It’s a fairly old song (old like 2005 or so). But I’ll post the song and then the lyrics underneath. I hope if you’ve had a week like me, this song helps.

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Pull the hair back from your eyes 
Let the people see your pretty face
Try not to say anything weird

Save your questions without answers
‘Til your old enough to know that things ain’t as they appear

Before you go out in the sun
Cover your skin and don’t get burned
Beware the cancer, it might kill you when you’re old

Be first in line, raise your hand
Remember everything you hear
And playing in the rain is worth catching cold

Sooner or later
We’ll be lookin’ back on everything
And we’ll laugh about it like we knew what all was happening
And someday you might listen to what people have to say
Now you learn the hard way

We only want what’s best for you
That’s why we tell you what to do
And nevermind if nothing makes sense

‘Cause it all works out in the end
You’re just like us without a friend
But you can build a privacy fence

Sooner or later
We’ll be lookin’ back on everything
And we’ll laugh about it like we knew what all was happening
And someday you might listen to what people have to say
Now you learn the hard way

Some things you have to learn them all on your own
You can’t rely on anybody else
Or the point of view of a source unknown
If it feels good and sounds nice
Then it’s your choice, don’t doubt yourself
Don’t even think twice

Pull the hair back from your eyes
Let the people see your pretty face
You know they like it when you smile
Find a reason to smile

Try not to focus on yourself
Share that love with someone else
Don’t let the bitters bring you down
Don’t let anything bring you down

Sooner or later
We’ll be lookin’ back on everything
And we’ll laugh about it like we knew what all was happening
And someday you might listen to what people have to say
Now you learn the hard way

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I hope you enjoyed that song as much as I do. And I hope it helps shift your perspective a little. I know it does that for me.

What songs help you get through bad weeks or give you encouragement? Leave them in the comments if you have any.

Cheers,
Eric

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