An open letter to Josh Duggar

Dear Josh:

I am not proud of myself, right now.  My first reaction to your ongoing situation has been a sort-of glee.   A thing I have noticed in your apologies is that you follow the example set in scripture, of recognizing that first the apology ought to go to God, and only after that should the apology go to those we have wronged.  I have followed your example in this, and made my apologies to God about all this first, before formulating this open letter to you.

When I found out about your destructive decisions, I put a lot of energy into focusing on the differences between us.  Though we both follow Jesus, that plays out in our lives very differently.  I spent some time thinking about verses in the gospels and Revelation, which boil down to the idea that all the things we do in secret, they will some day be made so very public.  I spent some time thinking about how some folks smarter than me talk about Jesus having come to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

I got awfully focused on the ways that you seemed so self-satisfied.  I got so focus on that splinter in your eye, I missed the beam in my own.  Somehow, I was able to miss a really brutal fact: if Jesus is here to afflict the comfortable, in my judgement and joy of your situation, I had suddenly become the comfortable.  Jesus was here to afflict me.  What is worse, by the condition of my heart, I had become a sort-of affliction to him.

And this?  This will not do.  And so I send my apologies: to our creator first, and to those who suffer by my cruelty and by your cruelty second, but not least of all, I send my apologies to you.

Yours in Christ,

Jeff

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I hope it’s worth the 20% she saved

A couple nights a week I work at this book store.

This book store offers a discount to teachers.   For items used in the classroom.

Tonight, I was chatting with this lady.  She was telling me how much her son was into World War II.  And she had another son that was seven.  She was talking about how she’s never waited this long to do her Christmas shopping before.

I rang her up and she produced the teacher discount card.  I did what they tell me to do: ask her if it’s for the class and then just take her word for it.

All of it was either appropriate for a seven year old or was World War II related. 

She stated that all of it was for the classroom.

There’s a level on which I truly don’t care.  I think it’s a stupid policy to be run that way.

But the thing that drives me crazy is this:

She teaches at a Christian school.

I don’t think that Christian’s are morally superior to anybody.  This incident clearly indicates that.

But I do think that whenever we advertise our faith comitment, we’d better be prepared to demonstrate that we hold ourselves to the standards we’re claiming.

This lady had no way of knowing where I’m at spiritually.  Her little display of hypocrisy could have been the thing that made the difference for me.

I know it’s not hip to be calling people out like this.  I guess I’m supposed to offer up the idea that I sin too.

And I do sin.

I guess I just want to offer up the idea that we have an extra obligation whenever we identify ourselves as Christians.  We need to expect that there is somebody watching.  And our displays — for better or worse– these make all the difference.

On Toons and Hypocrisy

 

Like virtually any corporate giant, Disney is a controversial organization. I’d like to focus today on a Disney Creation that I haven’t seen too much focus on: Toontown.

Toontown is an online game/environment thingy. It’s one of these websites where players from all over the world interact, sort of like Web Kinz starring Mickey Mouse. Toontown, however, features a narrative, an over arching mission for players to engage in.

As I was watching my kids play and asking questions about the world of Toontown, quite an interesting (and hypocritical!) message emerged, hiding underneath the story.

 

At first glance, there’s nothing wrong with the message implied in the game. In broad strokes, it‘s archetypal. Arguably, the framework for this story is lifted right out of Genesis itself.

In the time before the game begins, toon town was this happy, colorful place. Like Eden, maybe., except that they use jellybeans as currency.

Something went wrong. The perfection became corrupted. The town was invaded. Buildings began to be taken over. These were robbed of their colors and turned into places that made more of the “bad guys.” The players are called to resist the invasion, to find new, joyful ways to combat the evils of the invaders, reclaim their land, repell the invaders.

So far, so good.

 But let’s explore the invaders a little bit. Collectively, they are called cogs. The cogs are made up of variety of types. These include telemarketers, micromanagers, head hunters, ambulance chasers, and yes men. The cogs use weapons such as rolodex, fountain pens, and brain storms against the players.

In short: the villian of the game is corporate America.

The idea is that Corporate America is coming like a virus to rob the joy, color, and life from the world.

This is emphasized by the terms of the battles which go on. The players lose battles with the cogs when they run out of happiness before there gags (thrown pies, squirting flowers, etc.) cause the opponents to explode.

A player who is defeated in battle is sad. He is returned to the playground, and rather creepily, can’t leave until he’s happy. (There’s probably a whole post alone in the subtext of a utopia based on the happiness police enforcing the joy  but I’ll save that for another time.)

The thing is, I can’t say that I completely disagree with this subtext. But it seems like the height of hypocrisy for Disney to be espousing this view. It seems like using a billboard to advertise for the “Billboards are evil” Campaign.

Without the real yes-men, micrmoanagers, and ambulance chasers in Disney’s employ, Toon Town never would have been created. I can see three possible objections to this critique: #1) Maybe Toon Town is created b y maverics who are trying to take the giant down from within #2) Corporate America owns the platform; anti-corporate voices have to use the platform in order to get their message out.

Obviosuly, if I thought that if any of these objections were valid I wouldn’t have written this. And I want to be clear. I just intend this post as food for thought. I’m not saying that we ought to boycott Disney. I haven’t even banned my kids from the game. But I have discussed it with them.

At any rate, I can imagine somebody pointing out that Disney has a long history of subversive artists working from inside the corporate structure. We all know how those wacky cartoonist snuck dirty parts into Disney movies. The argument might be made that maybe this Toontown’s subversiveness (is that a word?  Maybve it’s subversion )is for a better cause.

The problem with this argument is that corporate America has infected the arhitecture of the game itself. The basic version of the game is played for free. But my kids quite frequently remind me that all the cool stuff on the game is members-only. You have to fork over some cash if you want to access a variety of functions that make you a better player.

Bottom line: You have to send an enomorous corporation even more money if you want to be effective at fighing the imaginary, symbolic forces of Corporation within the game. If there are in fact maverics trying to subvert the corporation from within, they have been outmaneuvered by the cogs.

A slightly different objection to my post is that if anybody wants to critique corporations, they have to use the corporations to do it. The idea is probably half way true. For example, Shane Clairborne writes against consumer culture. He realizes he’s a part of that system he opposes when he sells his books to a publisher.  Which will then chop down trees to print his book and try to convince everybody that they need more stuff.   Or consider a quite a different example: George Lucas utilized the motion picture industry. And yet the message in the more recent Star Wars trilogy is quite anti-industry in a variety of respects.

There are distinctions between Clairborne and Lucas on the one hand and Toontown on the other: reasons that it’s more valid for somebody like Lucas or Clairborne to say that they need the corporation’s platform in order to denounce the corporations.  The reasons why this excuse doesn’t work for Toontown follows:

A) It’s clear that Lucas’ and Clairborne’s vision began in one person who actually atleast partially wanted to bring about change through their vision. This is not clear about Toontown.

B) Clairborne turned his profits over to his community.

C) Lucas sought to create new companies which didn’t inherit all the evils of the current system.

D) Clairborne recognized the difficulties with his position; he named the elephant in the room.

Is Toontown the most evil force in the world? No, of course not. But it is presents a world view that is radically oversimplified and quite hypocritically delivered. It’s easy to miss that, though, if we’re not paying attention.

This post was submitted to Watercooller Wednesdays, a cultural blog carnival over at Ethos, Randy Elrod’s blog.

Double Standards

I recently found an audio tape that was a staple of my adolescence. The tape was an early Nine Inch Nails. I was a bit schocked. There were portions that were quite obscene. As a whole, it was quite comparable to many of today’s rap C.D.’s, in terms of smut.
Something in me resisted this comparison… But this resistance, it’s a rationalization which borders on racism. It occurs to me that there are a number of activities that we give a pass to the person in the majority (straight, white, male, adult) that we would criticize someone in the minority for engaging in exactly the same thing. Similarly, there are many activities which we engaged in as kids but we find ourselves much more annoyed by the modern versions of these things… even when the principal comes down to the same.
Let’s begin with a variety of music examples:
Consider a bunch of suburban kids listening to some “edgy” music associated most often with white listeners: industrial, heavy metal, punk, etc. There is no shortage of unhealthy sexuality, mysogomy, drug use, condoning of violence, etc in these genre. Yet it seems like it’s much easier to criticize rap C.D.’s which glorify these activities.
I’m not sure if rap has more of these things or not. But quantity isn’t really my point. My point is how do we react when some kid pulls up to us blaring DMX ( a rapper) out his car stero. Compare this with gut reactions to say the Sex Pistols (punk) coming out of the car next to us.
Or consider an adult example:
Imagine a middle class sales rep. This person is filling out paperwork for reimbursement of his expenses. Or he is filling out paperwork stating his sales to recieve a commission. How do we feel when the sales rep pads his numbers to increase his pay check? He is effectively stealing from the company, right?
Compare this reaction to someone walking into the store– perhaps a minority. They grab goods sold by the company and walk out without paying for them.
I’m not saying that stealing is o.k. I am saying that morally there is no difference between the two examples. Both people should be criticized. But do we treat both theives the same?
Or consider a single mom at a park who is talking with her friends instead of supervising her kids. (This one drives me nuts!) We might — and should– feel annoyed with her for neglecting her children.
But what about the dad who impregnated the mom and took off? He is ditching his responsibilities in a much more significant way. Where is our righteous indignation for him?

This last example is going to stir up something, I suspect.
Imagine a pair of teen agers. Kissing passionately in public. We’d most likely be a little annoyed, especially if we had young kids around. But we’d exhale, and go on with our lives.
Now… what if the teen agers were of the same sex?

I understand all the beliefs that homosexuality is wrong. But that’s clearly not the issue with public displays of affection. We didn’t like heterosexual displays either. If it was all about the fact that heterosexuality is wrong, then we’d have no problems with the “straight” kids.
I further understand that there might be two issues with the gay kids: issue #1 is that they are displaying any kind of sexuality. Issue #2 is that they are displaying the wrong kind of sexuality.
But it seems to me that this just shifts the burden back on to us to demonstrate and explain to society at large why homosexuality is wrong (Assuming we believe it is wrong). Given that we failed doing so, we live in a world where homosexuality is considered o.k. We might not like this fact. We might not want to live in this world. But we do.

Last example: Many kids I knew growing up had a stash of Playboy magazines. I don’t know where they all came from. But it was almost a right of passage.
I’m not saying that it’s right. I’m not saying that we should have had them. But we did.
Today’s kids don’t need a physical place to stash smut. They have the internet.
Is there any difference between a 12 year old boy hiding pornography in his bedroom in 1980 and a 12 year old boy engaging in internet pornography in 2008?

I am not condoning obscene lyrics, stealing, inapropriate displays of sexuality, or pornography in any form. There can be real differences between these. As a society, we need to deal with a thief who steals 1 million dollars differently than we deal with a theif who steals 100 hundred dollars.
Spiritually and morally, though, sin is sin. Furthermore, external shoplifting and internal embezzlement are treated differently; It’s tempting to give punk music a pass while critiquing gangsta rap. These are areas that differentiating makes no sense whatsoever.
It’s telling, I think, the way we make these determinations. I consider myself a pretty enlightened guy, and I know that I have to actively combat my tendency to make some of these judgements. I don’t think I’m alone.

The Prostitute

I was them

when I did not recognize you.

There is no simile here:

there is nothing like anything else in that statement;

I was not like like them

when I did not recognize you.

I

was them

when I did not recognize

you.

I was them

when I issued that invitation

I was them

when I decided before I met you

I was them

when I would not look in your eyes.

As I sat in that opulence

as I feared you would change everything

as I prepared to discredit you

because I was afraid:

and I was her

running in the dark alleys

I was her

changing sex into money

Denying you was my prostitution.

Even then, you were headed for execution.

How I applauded inside, at that dinner.

When she touched your feet.

But it was me who touched your feet!

I thought as I dined

I was The Great One

but I saw how you died

and yet you lived because you’re God’s son.

And so I came back to that place,

I went back to you.

I cried on your feet

what else could I do?

Power Dynamics ( a fragment?)

To be accepted

requires more than surrender of that which I would otherwise do…

It is not enough to kneel before hypocrisy.

To be accepted

Requires that I hang a banner behind a throne

beuaitfully embroidered with the word hypocrite.

Then, after hanging it.

I kneel and kiss the ring.

And proclaim allegience…

Praising that I can not

but he can

she can

it can

do what I can not do.

Consider, for example, the beauty pageant.

Good girl slut Maddona Whores

Proclaiming peace in their bathing suits.

In bodies that are impossible to achieve through the normal course of things…

In high heeled shoes which brake the ankles…

with breast implants that cause cancer which eat the breasts…

We hang a sign on the one most objectified.

It is not enough that they submit to be objectified.

It is also that they must not objectify themselves:

Remember the beauty queens

who lost their crowns

when they fooled around

with each other?

It is not enough to refrain.

We must also submit

to that which we can not do.

Consider, for example, the death penalty.

Murder because you murdered

proclaiming balance in an eye for an eye.

We will demonstrate your wrongness

by repeating your actions

your actions which are not crimes only by virtue of the agent doing them.