Tag Archives: culture war

Frozen: Love Worth Dying For

Yesterday I posted (link) this blog about the hidden message some religious people see in Disney’s blockbuster movie Frozen. When we see culture changing all around us, it can be scary. And when we’re scared, we start looking for what we fear, and see it around every corner. Like I said yesterday, I don’t think “homophobia” is the right word. We don’t fear homosexuals. We fear change.

At the end, I promised to share my take on the positive message of the movie. So if you haven’t seen the movie yet (and why haven’t you?) then you can expect some spoilers ahead.

Quick recap if you haven’t seen it:

The gist of the story is that Princess Elsa was born with a magic ability to manipulate ice. As a child she uses this to bring joy to her little sister, Princess Anna. (pronounced ‘Ah-na,’ mind you. My kids correct me all the time.)

Elsa accidentally injures Anna, and everyone decides it would be best to hide these powers away until Elsa can control them. So she grows up repeating a mantra of “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show.” Her powers grow stronger, and her fears rise accordingly. To protect others, she keeps everyone away, including young Anna, who doesn’t understand why “we used to be best buddies, and now we’re not.”

At Queen Elsa’s coronation, her powers are revealed and she flees. When everything goes wrong, the whole kingdom falls under a bitter winter, buried in snow and ice. Villains attempt to kill Elsa to end the crisis. And Elsa once again injures Anna by accident, putting a shard of ice into Anna’s heart that will eventually freeze her solid.

Only an act of true love can thaw the ice and save Anna, so she chases after the man she loves, hoping a kiss from him will save the day.

This leads to a climax, where Anna is stumbling through a storm to reach Kristof (her beau) and Elsa is being stalked by the villain who stands ready to kill her. Suddenly Anna sees Elsa in danger, and jumps in the way of the villain’s blade, freezing solid in the process. Everyone is sad, until Anna’s heart thaws out. “An act of true love will thaw the frozen heart,” they recall.

The kingdom is saved, the sisters bond, everyone’s happy except the villains, and credits roll.

A lot of people note that this movie is not the typical Disney “Prince Charming saves the Princess” story. No princes save the day here. Even Kristof, Anna’s love interest, is not a pivotal hero but more her faithful companion and support. In other words, the whole movie seems to say to young girls, “You don’t need a man to complete you.” I think that’s a wholesome message in a culture that loves to emphasize the need for romantic and sexual relationships.

Elsa has powers and puts them to use for good. Anna has the power of determination and love, and she overcomes adversity in pursuit of her goals. Both characters are depicted as strong, resourceful women who face their difficulties and imperfections with fierce devotion and integrity. That’s also a great message for our young women (and men).

There’s also the “Let It Go” theme of not hiding away our creativity or passion. Someone (see yesterday’s blog post) might think it’s “the homosexual agenda” encouraging people to come out of the closet, and I suppose that’s a valid application. But it’s only one of many. I have writer friends who have hidden away their work, afraid of critique or even being open enough to share it with another. I know artists who draw amazing things you’d never see because they’ll never show you. Musicians and vocalists with skills to blow me away often hide their talents in the ground. Young people sometimes conceal their hobbies, interests, and exceptional abilities, because their passion is something their peers might deride. Frozen is a film that says “We need you to let that go and let everyone see it, because we need your talents in the world.”

And that’s not even the main thrust of the movie. Let’s look for a moment at the conflict at the climax.

The first thing I see is sacrificial love. Anna leaps in front of the villain’s sword, an action that will almost certainly result in great injury if not death. Anna does this without hesitation. The only thing that protects her is that she freezes solid at that very moment, something she couldn’t anticipate.

Second, Anna’s actions reveal selfless love. At this point, Anna and Olaf are convinced she needs a kiss from Kristof, the guy that truly loves her, to cure the freezing condition Elsa’s ice shard caused. Anna is mere steps away from Kristof when she sees Elsa in danger. Anna gives up her kiss to come to her sister’s defense.

Third, this is arguably an expression of undeserved love. Elsa is an icy witch to Anna throughout the majority of the movie, and Anna doesn’t know why. Their bond is broken. The sisterly love seems one-sided. On top of that, Elsa’s the one who accidentally shot Anna in the heart. Anna has every reason to be distant, but instead hurls herself into the path of the sword.

Olaf, unlikely Christ figure.
Olaf, unlikely Christ figure.

Oddly enough, it’s Olaf the Snowman who speaks this theme aloud. When Anna is shivering in the castle, Olaf starts the fire in the fireplace to warm Anna and keep her alive, even though it means he might melt. Anna sees this and panics for her friend, who responds, “Some people are worth melting for.”

That’s my take on Frozen. It’s a message of sacrificial, selfless love to the undeserving. Reminds me of a story about Someone else I hold dear.

Tomorrow, I have some thoughts about the supposed need for a romantic relationship in a story, and why the non-troversy about Elsa is so frustrating to me.

Roaches in Every Corner

A cockroach!

The little beast scurried across the floor as soon as the light came on. I chased it with a shoe, determined to end its occupation of my house. And with a little effort and a shot of hairspray to slow it down, I succeeded.

But then something funny happened.

Everywhere I looked, there were imaginary bugs in the corners of my vision. Something seemed to move over there in the living room, so I jumped into action, checking behind shelves and under the couch. What was that in the hall? Did I see something move near our shoes? Ten minutes of searching put that fear to rest. But then I would swear I saw a bug in the bathroom, hiding behind the toilet.

Once I had seen one bug, I imagined dozens. Each time I regained a sense of peace, the tiniest apparition of a bug or spider sent me scurrying trying to exterminate them.

I wonder if evangelical Christians sometimes feel this way.

So there’s this little movie called Frozen that came out around Thanksgiving, about two sisters, one of whom has a big problem. You may have heard of it.

Apparently, there’s a religious (Catholic, I’m told) blogger on the Interwebs posting that Frozen pushes “the homosexual agenda” on kids.

What evidence supports that claim?

1. Elsa, the princess-turned-queen, never pines after any of the guys in the movie. This is decidedly unlike Disney, so it must be a hint.
2. There’s an ambiguous scene where a shopkeeper points out his family in the sauna, and there’s another man in there with the kids. Is that his brother, or…?
3. “Let It Go” – essentially the movie’s theme and the winner of an Oscar for best song – could be construed as a message to come out of the closet and stop hiding who you are.

20140326-135128.jpg
If anything, the obvious proof of the homosexual agenda in the movie is Olaf, with his show-tune style song and dance number. That just can’t be straight. (/sarcasm)

Don’t mind the fact Elsa’s trying to control powers she doesn’t fully understand, while trying to fix the weather crisis she brought upon her nation, while trying to stop a coup d’etat, while dealing with her family troubles. She’s not busy or anything. Certainly has time to make googly-eyes at the zero potential suitors presented in the movie. She must be gay.

Cockroaches scurrying everywhere!

I’m not surprised by the fears this blogger has passed on to others. It doesn’t shock me that Frozen is the newest potential target in the religious war on All Things Bad.

I just think it misses the point. Several points, in fact.

Let me be clear. I hate how easily the word “homophobia” gets thrown around in response to these discussions. We don’t fear people who are homosexual, just like we don’t fear anyone else we disagree with on political or religious issues.

Christians are in some ways just like everyone else I know. We fear change.

The world around evangelical Christianity is changing constantly, and we in that camp struggle on many fronts:

      What do we do to keep up?

 

      Wait, should we even be keeping up with the world?

 

      Or should we stick to our traditions?

 

      What message should we communicate to non-Christians then?

 

      And meanwhile, what messages are our kids getting from the culture around us?

 

    What fights are important right now?

In panic mode, when we think we’re seeing sin around every corner, we might get a little crazy trying to clean house.

Not long ago, I heard Christians upset at Hunger Games for its depiction of violence against children. No one disagrees with the idea that children killing each other is evil. That’s kind of the point of a dystopian fiction, to show a world of “what if?” where the unthinkable has become the norm. These Christians overlooked Katniss’s view and actions showing life has value, and instead attacked as wrong the very thing the author put in as what’s wrong in that society.

Back in the early 00s, it was Harry Potter. Witchcraft and wizards, we shrieked. What might our kids learn from this? Maybe it gets them interested in other spiritual content, Wicca or pagan systems that believe in magic. We can’t have our kids running around with wands, painting lightning bolts on their heads! Forget that it got kids reading. Forget that throughout the storyline, it’s clear that the love of Harry’s mother triumphed over Voldemort’s evil, and that the love and loyalty of friends is strong enough to defeat Voldemort at the end.

I’m pretty sure Pokemon was a subject of consternation. What are all those creatures with magical powers, and why do kids have to use them to fight each other, like little Michael Vicks? Video games are favorite targets for both the church and society at large. “Evil” rockers of the day took the place of the last set of so-called devil worshippers; the Dad who heard about the dangers of Ozzy Osbourne now found himself preaching fear to a son holding a Marilyn Manson CD. Even the Teletubbies earned the ire of evangelical preachers. Why does that purple one have a purse?

In the 80s, we flipped out about Dungeons and Dragons and told horror stories of what it did to unsuspecting children. D&D is full of magic, and Dragons are obviously signs of the devil based on Scripture. I’m sure there were plenty who condemned Star Wars. The idea of the Force looked like a trap of New Age philosophy hidden in a new and interesting spin in a sci-fi epic, luring kids (and adults) in with starship battles and lightsaber fencing.

What’s that scrambling across the floor in the corner of my eye?

When we look at what’s popular in the culture only to see what might be wrong with it, we often miss the point of what’s right. There are messages we can affirm, themes with which we’d whole-heartedly agree. Conversations can start on these subjects, opportunities to explain our position to a world that thinks we’re defined by being “against.”

And we won’t have to freak out at every little bad thing we think we see… because most of the time, they’re not there.

To bring it full circle, what’s my take on Frozen? I’ll post that tomorrow, as an example of what positive themes we can get from a movie someone decries as “evil.”

Doubleplus Ungood Thoughtcrime

For the sake of future celebrities, CEOs, and spokespersons, I have a risk management proposal. I suggest the following application for anyone in a public position:

1)      Do you support same-sex marriage and consider same-sex sexual activity morally acceptable?
Yes? Continue to question 2.
No? Please sign at the bottom and turn in the form.

2)      Do you intend to positively advocate, in the form of advertisements, announcements, or personal interviews, for same-sex marriage and activity as well as the LGBTQ community?
Yes? Continue to question 3.
No? Please sign at the bottom and turn in the form.

3)      Are you free of the influence of any deeply held personal beliefs?
Yes? Congratulations, your application is complete.
No? Please sign at the bottom and turn in the form.

I, the undersigned, accept disapproval for consideration for this position through no fault of the employer based on the above.
Sign: ___________________

Based on recent events, tolerance is not enough. Acceptance is not enough. Only full-fledged outspoken public support will do. Anything else means you’re a homophobic bigot.

If your pasta or fast-food company isn’t making ads for same-sex couples, expect questions. Because pasta, chicken, and every other product on the market is all about the same-sex marriage debate. If you’re a star in an ongoing reality TV show and you express an unapproved but entirely expected opinion, prepare for indefinite suspension.

Corporations are willing to make millions off you in the short term, while cringing on the inside saying, “Lord, please let them not get asked about gay marriage today so we can keep raking in the cash.”

But eventually, the disgusting hypocrisy of such corporations might cost too much, making even huge short-term gain unprofitable. Thus, the litmus test err application I have provided above.

Your tolerance is required. Our tolerance is on back-order.
Your tolerance is required. Our tolerance is on back-order.

The message is clear. There is an unwavering standard. There is no acceptable form of dissent on this issue, no expression of disagreement respectful enough, no divergence from the correct position:

You must not think ill of homosexual activity. You may not speak ill of it. Your mere acceptance only buys you time until you are caught expressing homophobia. Your tolerance is allowed but will not be returned.

Homophobia is thoughtcrime; violators will be prosecuted.

Only in the court of public opinion.

At least, for now.

See what Phil Robertson actually said. Crass, yes. Hateful, no. Homophobic? Not at all, unless we redefine the word.

They See Me Rollin', They Hatin'

A good friend of mine (who sometimes — occasionally — posts things on the internets) proposed a joint venture:

How would you feel about a role playing group that plays once a month for about four hours, records the sessions, and posts the highlights as a podcast?

I love the idea, because I greatly miss having an RPG group. But this has been done before, so what’s the hook?

We can try using D&D Next as a way to introduce it and test it out.

Fantastic. I only know a little of what I’ve heard or read in forums online, so a hands-on D&D Next experience would give me perspective and potentially be useful for readers/listeners. Certainly more than “check out the stupid antics of our RPG group” would.

I’m looking forward to the idea, but there are a few technical tests to run and we need a fourth member, so this isn’t happening tomorrow, just sometime in the Future ™. That’s assuming we don’t all lose our motivation and get sucked into some other distraction.

Then I was chatting with my wife today, and she mentioned how she lost a friend on Facebook over D&D. How do you lose a friend you barely know over D&D?

The source of all evil!
The source of all evil!

People fear the unknown, and if all they’re given is misinformation or worst-case examples, it’s easy to villify “that thing those people do” without ever giving it a chance or at least some rational thought. A lot of our friends are Christians, and sometimes we can be the worst at getting good information on a subject. Harry Potter is a tool of Satan in the “culture war” to introduce kids to witchcraft, right? And Star Wars is a tool of Satan to get kids hooked on New Age ideas. And Twilight is a tool of Satan to make kids stupid…

Well, maybe there’s something there.

But all too often we go off half-cocked on whatever the new cultural phenomenon is, and in the 80s, D&D got the same mistreatment from the Christian community. “People sit around in the darkness with candles casting spells!” and “Kids kill themselves when their characters die in the game!”

Hardly. More like “Friends sit around a table and interact in person telling stories, instead of acting like zombies staring at a TV screen or the light of a smartphone.”

But myths are hard to dispel. (Dispel… like dispelling MAGIC! Now my words are starting to incorporate witchcraft terminology! See how easily the evil creeps in?)

Spreading warts since... never.
Spreading warts since… never.

My family and I were at a park the other day, and in the course of playing around, we found a toad. After some effort, including a hilarious moment when the frisbee we tossed onto the toad started hopping around the sandbox, we successfully captured the beast.

We released it, and moments later, a little girl was watching it closely with wide eyes. Her parents stood close by, and the mom said, “Did you pick that toad up? That’s a horrible idea! That’s how you get warts!”

No, it’s not. But that’s been said so long, many of us believe it’s true.

To my Christian friends, is it possible we are all too willing to believe the scary news about whatever the next thing is, rather than investigate for ourselves and find the truth? My first-hand experiences with D&D and other RPGs have been nothing but positive. You can find some of those accounts in the Gaming category on this blog.

And to any RPG friends, maybe you’re curious what D&D Next will look like. Or maybe you’ve had a bad experience and can use a second opinion. Or maybe our group will discover that it really sucks, and we’ll post rants complaining about the dumbing down of the traditional game. In any event, I expect it will be a fun ride.

So stay tuned for updates, and keep an open mind.

D&D Next is not the Devil.

…or is it?

Die a Log

There’s a tactic of discussion that drives me nuts. Take any social topic, and start out with name-calling against your opposition.

“So and so is a bigot.”

“She’s a racist.”

“He’s a misogynist.”

Because clearly any difference of opinion is exactly the same thing as hatred (animosity, hostility) and intolerance (an unwillingness to endure without repugnance the existence of something).

It’s an incredibly lazy way to approach social issues. It’s judgmental, it’s making assumptions about the motivations and the thoughts of another person – something we cannot accurately and objectively determine – and treating those assumptions as fact. It’s the pot calling the kettle black.

When you call folks out on this disparity, they love to declare “I won’t be tolerant of intolerance.” It’s ok to judge the judgmental. Disregard the fact that almost all virtues are revealed when we demonstrate them toward others, and especially regardless of how the other party behaves. Compassion is no virtue if I’m only concerned about those who are concerned about me. Integrity is useless if I’m only honest with those who have been faithfully honest. If you love only those who love you, what’s special about that?

Call these folks out (or just wait a minute while they sputter in self-righteous rage) and then you’ll hear “I don’t want to debate beliefs. Everyone can feel the way they feel. I just wish people wouldn’t shove their beliefs in other people’s faces.”  (Right, like when you claimed anyone who disagrees with you is a bigot/racist/misogynist/ignoramus.)

So in other words, don’t discuss ideas. Even though these differences of opinion form the foundation of multiple debates on social and political policy in our country, let’s not “shove our beliefs in anyone’s face” or discuss our differing perspectives.

Just close off in your little bubble, surrounded by the comfort of assenting voices, hearing only the praises of those who would have you conform to their view. Never let an outside opinion challenge your ideal world, and advocate the value of standing up for nothing, since apparently there’s no topic worth discussing, no argument worth making or defending, no person worth persuading to your cause.

People today — not all, but far too many — are content to live in a cozy little isolated fortress of solitude. Let not some strange concept or disagreeable thought intrude upon this idyllic fantasy! There is no need for dialogue! It would be a shame to have to think.

Think of the Children

I’m usually a pretty calm person, especially when it comes to dealing with other people. It takes a lot for someone to really get under my skin.

I do have my moments. Technology that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, for example, is like turning on a flamethrower in my chest. (I’m looking at you, Microsoft products, with all the ways you try to ‘help’ me by complicating the simplest tasks.)

My dog peeing everywhere, just brazen and unashamed. Yeah, that gets me ‘perturbed.’

But mostly, I keep calm and drink my coffee.

One thing that does get on my nerves is when people spew venom in the name of Christ.

I really hate it when they use children as their excuse.

I really, really hate it when they look right past their own faults to point at the faults of others.

You can’t expect mercy for your sins while proclaiming judgment on everyone else’s.

(I probably hate that because I’m often guilty of that myself.)

So… at some point or other I got signed up for a “defend marriage as one man and one woman” page on Facebook. I only recently noticed some of the stuff they post in pursuit of their cause.

I’ve gotten into it with the faceless individual(s) behind the page. Every now and then, someone says something completely asinine, and I feel compelled to share a reasonable voice with a logical counterpoint to the ignorance. It would be one thing if people were having thoughtful discussions and clarifying how their beliefs intersect with government and freedom and tolerance and all that. Most everyone I know is willing to admit we may not all agree, but we can disagree in a civil manner and hopefully all learn something from the debate.

Not everyone seems so inclined.

This little tragedy of grammar and graphics got posted on my wall today:

I’m not posting this because I agree with the image. First off, I can’t agree with incorrect word choice and terrible cut-and-paste graphics…

I don’t know why, but I happened to read the ten comments on the picture.

It was like a religious frat party, with people giving each other textual fist bumps by reminding everyone about God’s original plan for marriage and how sad it would be when the child eventually says, “I wish I had a father.” Someone ridiculed the smiling faces, conveying the tragic nature of this hypothetical union and its dangerous impact on the child’s development. Someone simply responded with, “Oh, barf!!!!!”

I’ll leave aside the fact that there are children being raised by gay couples around the world and not all of them are collapsing under the burden of self-loathing or grief. Both sides will point to various “experts” with studies that “prove” that gay couples raising children is “no harm done” OR there is irreparable damage. Whatever. Let’s just agree that there are a lot of kids out there who are going to grow up with two mommies or daddies (yes, this is a proper time to use the plural ‘daddies’).

And they’ll be just fine.

There was one voice of reason, who made the outrageous and satanic comment that “Making fun of gays is not going to help. This is a serious issue and a heated debate which deserves a thoughtful response. Insulting people is only going to burn bridges.”

One voice out of ten.

You can’t hear my sigh, but trust me, it’s a long one. (My wife can attest to this.)

The response from the page?

“We don’t believe putting adult lusts above the needs of children deserves consideration.”

Those dirty gays, sacrificing the souls of impressionable young kids on the altar of desire! /sarcasm

Full disclosure: I’m Christian, if you didn’t get that yet. I believe what the Bible says, though I understand a lot of it comes down to interpretation and theological debate. And the Bible seems to clearly identify homosexual activity as a sin.

But that’s not all it addresses.

What do I mean by that? I’ll let my response on Facebook to that picture speak for itself:

“Putting adult lusts above the needs of children is terrible, but people do it all the time. It’s just their sins are heterosexual. Or perhaps just gluttony, or alcoholism. Maybe it’s simple neglect. Maybe even it’s how some parents worship their work or ministry by devoting all their time and attention to those things while forsaking their responsibilities to their children.

“Maybe it’s the arrogance of adult Christians who forget that they’re looking down on the needs of some children out there, children who think they’re gay, who know they’re different from most everyone else, who absolutely know without any doubt that the Church is the very last place they’ll find love or acceptance (and I don’t mean acceptance of sin, but acceptance of them as a human being worthy of Christ’s sacrificial love expressed through us).

“Maybe our need to communicate how disgusting homosexuality is gets in the way of God’s desire to communicate to THEM how incredibly powerful and merciful and life-changing His love is, and maybe it gets in the way of His desire to communicate to us that in His holy sight all our sin is just as repulsive and ‘barf-worthy’ as theirs. ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ doesn’t mean much if we don’t do it.”
I don’t want to abuse God’s mercy or call sin ‘righteous.’ That’s not within my purview.

I haven’t torn out any passages in my Bible that claim homosexuality is a sin.

The difference is that I’m paying attention to the rest of the passages too.

Fire and Forget

Military jet fighters carry a type of air-to-air missile nicknamed “Fire and Forget.”  Older missiles required continuous guidance from the pilot, who would need to keep a target locked on until the missile got close. But these missiles use active radar to find their targets, and the pilot is free to do other things (like focus on survival and avoiding enemy missiles). The pilot can “forget” the missile and let it do its job.

Politicians and reporters are now equipped with fire-and-forget missiles.

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve seen a rash of outlandish statements, jumps to desired conclusions, opinion pieces disguised as facts, and blatant lies spread as truth.

I’m not talking about Weekly World News, whose cover stories I read with delight as a child. “UFO Base Found in New Mexico!”  “Bat-Boy to be Wed! Pics of Sasquatch Bride on page 6!”

And I’m not talking about the Rush Limbaughs and Bill Mahers of the newstertainment industry, whose job it is to say whatever ridiculous thing gets them a riled-up audience.

I’m talking people who should know better, people whose job descriptions are all about communicating clearly and truthfully with the American public and the world at large.

Say what you want, you can retract it later… if anyone bothers to prove you wrong.

 

I know this has been going on for a long time. Propaganda and “spin” and yellow journalism and so on are nothing new. You probably already have a particular news agency in mind. For some of you, it’s the Devil, Fox News. For others, it’s the real Devil, MSNBC or CNN or ABC or whoever last said something glowing about President Obama.

Let’s run down a few stories.

James Holmes shoots up a crowd at the midnight showing of Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO. This is a horrific tragedy, and not surprisingly inspires lots of conversations about how we can possibly avoid or prevent future tragedies on this scale. It also inspired ABC’s Brian Ross to point out,

“There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last year. Now we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes, but it’s Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo.”

That was enough info for some people to run on. Even though it was later shown to be a different Jim Holmes and Ross later apologized, the damage was done. For some, the important association of Tea Party with the shooting had been proven.

This seemed familiar in an eerie way. I’d heard something like this before.

Perhaps you recall Jared Lee Loughner, the individual who shot U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords and several other people in Arizona. Immediately there was talk of “inflammatory rhetoric” and suggestions that this must be the work of extremists “like the Tea Party.” But no such connection ever materialized.

Oddly enough, when Army Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire in the Fort Hood incident, there were warnings to avoid a “rush to judgment” about his motivations.

Shouldn’t caution and restraint and thorough investigation be the default policy in cases like this?

Lest you think, dear reader, that I am a staunch Tea Party / Right Wing defender, allow me to turn the tables on my conservative friends’ lunacies.

I’ve seen posts and Facebook-shared articles warning of President Obama’s devious plan to stage an assassination attempt against himself in order to declare martial law and prevent the 2012 elections from taking place. This reportedly got started with a blogger in Florida and grew in assured Truthiness (thanks, Colbert!) to the point that a Tennessee Republican sent a letter to his constituents to warn them of the possibility.

“The more we talk about [it]… the stronger is our defense against it actually occurring.” – Joe Angione, conservative blogger.

Hence all the discussion of the impending zombie apocalypse.

Again, the government official apologized, and most people realize it’s a tinfoil-hat conspiracy. But I still found the story being shared on Facebook. I’m not completely certain it was being shared in order to “clear up the confusion.”

Fox three! Fire and forget!

(“Fox three” is NATO brevity terminology for launching an active radar missile. That it might be mistaken as referring to a news agency related to this subject is mere delicious irony.)

Before Facebook became our go-to news source for everything that agrees with our existing point of view, I used to get e-mails forwarded from conservatives that detailed all manner of overblown Left Wing conspiracies and Obama Administration evildoing. Usually, these could be refuted with a quick facts check, but judging by the list of addresses in the forward chain, that probably never took place.

In almost every case, I’d hop on Snopes and have an answer–or at least a clarification–in seconds.

If you’re being told a story that proves exactly all the terrible things you’ve always believed about the “other side,” you’re probably not getting a fair and objective account of all the facts – regardless of the news organization’s slogan or stated objectives.

This Chick-fil-A business is no different, sadly. Did you know that Chick-fil-A dollars went into lobbying Congress to stop the U.S. Government from condemning a hate-filled bill in Uganda which would authorize life imprisonment and even death as punishment for the crime of homosexuality?

Yeah, neither did I until I saw it posted on Facebook.

Well, that would explain why people would be so up-in-arms about Chick-fil-A, I guess.

Except it’s not true.

Chick-fil-A’s profits supposedly go to a non-profit “charity” they run called WinShape Foundation. They donate to a variety of Christian groups, including the Family Research Council (FRC). A lot of these groups have, as part of their platform of political views, the idea that marriage is about one man and one woman. I totally get why people might object to that in and of itself.

But that’s not good enough for some, who want to paint a picture of Christians as filled with hate and murderous intent for anyone different from them. A picture made it to my Facebook wall that declared how Chick-fil-A was supporting the FRC who in turn used $25,000 to lobby Congress. The FRC’s goal, according to the picture? Stop Congress from condemning the Ugandan bill mentioned above.

It took about two minutes to find this article from CBS news where the FRC is allowed to clarify their position. Kind of in line with everything else they say and do, they’re not okay with wholesale murder of homosexuals. They’re also not keen on the U.S. Government declaring homosexuals a protected segment of the populace like how we protect people based on race, gender, religion, and so on. Again, I get why people don’t agree with or particularly like the FRC, based on that position. But at least make sure the position you’re angry with them about is the one they actually hold.

Still, the message is out there. FRC wants the Ugandan death bill to be passed. Chick-fil-A supports the FRC. Deep down, all those people who lined up at Chick-fil-A want nothing more than dead homosexuals. Obviously.

Why check facts when we already have an explanation for a given story?

Fire and forget. That missile will do it’s job. Actually, in this case, it’s more “fire and remember,” because the intended audience gets the message and makes the desired connection between the accused and whatever political agenda is being targeted. Sure, there may be retractions and apologies later, when no one cares.

And that’s if we’re lucky. It’s practically shameless.

MSNBC actually defended the edited video saying, “MSNBC did not edit anything out of order or out of sequence and at no time did we intend to deceive our viewers.” The video is worth watching as an example of what I’m talking about; there’s no way to conclude that the edited version was meant to accurately portray Governor Romney’s actual comments.

Maybe this is why people turn to Jon Stewart for a refreshing take on news stories. This site from ‘the Inquisitr’ is just what popped up on my Facebook wall and got me thinking more on this subject. At a guess, I imagine they’re probably just as bad as all the other sites and organizations out there. The two videos in the story are worth watching, though.

I know I’m not saying anything new here. This problem is known. Solutions for it aren’t easy, because ultimately, the public is clicking those links and hitting the “Like” and “Share” buttons on whatever news stories support their preexisting views. So these news sites keep firing off more junk and opinion-disguised as fact.

My wife saw the title to this post and came up with a good possible solution for reporters and politicians willing to speak in haste.

“Fire and forget? Oh, you mean, like, fire that guy, and forget about him?” 

Oh, if only…

Not Welcome

“Your values aren’t our values. We know about your plans to open doors in our city, and we want you to know you’re not welcome here.”

Sound familiar?

Maybe… but I’m not talking about Chick-Fil-A and Boston (or Chicago… or probably a list of cities that will want to jump on this bandwagon to show how progressive and tolerant they are…)

The “threat” to America

I’m talking about Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and the unremarkable but apparently controversial mosque being built there.

Based on the estimate in the July 19th news story in the link, the worshipers might have already had their grand opening. I sure hope so. I hope they’re having the best Ramadan ever.

And I hope their opponents are choking on bile as they see it happening.

There’s a thing called the First Amendment in the Constitution. It goes something like this:

These apply to everyone,
Not just people we like.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In this case, no one’s worried about Congress. The Federal government is (to my knowledge) not involved at all. But what the folks in Tennessee seem to be forgetting is that the amendment that lets us freely step into our churches on Sunday wherever we’d like is the same amendment that permits Muslims to build a place for worship wherever they’d like.

Intolerance and fear are clearly a part of the issue. One resident talked about the Buddhist place of worship in town and how no one seems to pay those guys any mind.

“Well, with 9/11 and the whole terrorism thing, people are just a bit nervous about having a mosque in town.”

That’s a paraphrase, but you can read the sentiment in the article for yourself.

To that I’d say,

“With the vandalism and arson on private property, and the open hostility, maybe the Muslims are a bit more frightened of you than you are of them.”

I’d say that, but I’m afraid that (were they ever to read my pointless rant in this corner of the Web) the perpetrators of this fear-mongering would feel proud at the thought. “Look at how we stood up to those Muslims! We sure let them know they’re not wanted here.”

Yeah, good job. Way to go against one of the key reasons America was founded. Way to stand up against one of the freedoms men and women have fought and died to protect for the last 226 years. Take that, religious expression!

Regrettably, our freedom of speech (see First Amendment quote above) doesn’t create any hindrance or safeguard concerning spewing ignorance. Anyone can say pretty much whatever they want.

I approve that. I applaud that. I don’t want the government telling us what is approved speech and what is not. And I know the vast majority of Americans feel the same.

But that allows for voices of thinly-veiled hatred to speak terribly insensitive and frightening thoughts.

Horrible thoughts like the North Carolina preacher a few months back with his “I got an idea… we build an electric fence, and we take all the gays an’ put ’em behind it.”

Horrible thoughts like the mindless venom pouring out of the mouths of Westboro Baptist Church members. I won’t even quote their signs. You’ve seen them on the news, or you can google them and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Horrible thoughts like that of one of the leading opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque. “I know we weren’t going to win the legal battle… I just wanted to show ’em they’re not welcome here. And I plan to keep up the fight.”

What fight? Once the mosque is built, as is permitted by local, state, and federal government, and by our fundamental freedoms in America, what fight is there? 

I have several friends and coworkers who are gay. Some have made the point that they have come out in public because they don’t want to give anyone the impression that they will sit quietly while people malign or threaten them. They’re all sensible, thoughtful people who would love to leave that part of their lives off the radar. It’s such a minor thing to them, and it’s so not anyone else’s business. But oftentimes the terrible treatment they receive from others necessitates a harsh response, so they stand up and are counted. They stand up and say, “This mistreatment will not stand,” because they know there’s probably someone else sitting in quiet fear, too afraid to speak out in their own defense.

To my fellow Christians, I’ll say, how long are we going to sit in peace and quiet, shaking our heads, muttering a little tsk-tsk in shame, looking at stories like Murfreesboro or Westboro or the electric fence guy? I’ve often heard people ask, “Where are all the moderate Muslims to denounce what the radicals are doing?”

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Maybe we think it goes without saying. “Everybody knows” that Westboro Baptist Church is a bunch of nutjobs that have nothing to do with Christianity. “Everybody knows” that what that NC preacher is saying is horrific and wrong. “Everybody knows” that the First Amendment protects the rights of these Muslims in Tennessee.

Apparently everybody doesn’t know.

Welcome to America.
Check your hate at the door.

 

It’s time we stand up and be counted. Make sure that those who would wrap themselves in the American flag while clutching a Bible to their chest properly understand the significance of both of those symbols.

Make sure we speak out to those who would spread hate and fear in the name of Christ, and let them clearly understand:

“Your values aren’t our values. We want you to know you’re not welcome here.”

Taking Control

I had an interesting discussion on Facebook yesterday.

A page about “defending marriage” posted a link to a story saying the UN was working to legalize prostitution. The comment on the link being shared was:

“We need to take back control in the world…”

I assumed the “we” is Christians, given the audience of the page. This made me wonder.

When did we have control?

Were we supposed to have control?

How did religion having control go for the world?

What did Jesus suggest (err… command) that we do in the world?

Did He not know that one day we might have a chance at establishing a Christian nation? Did the possibility slip His mind?

Does He come across as someone who is not very careful with words?

So maybe He said what He meant and vice versa.

Religions holding political power have a history of working out poorly. That’s part of why the first colonists came to America.

There was every opportunity for the Founding Fathers to make America out to be an absolute Christian nation, but they chose not to.

There was every opportunity for Jesus to command His followers to establish a kingdom, but He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He could very well have explained theocracy and suggested it as a plan, but we don’t have any indication of that. Governance clearly wasn’t on his personal agenda.

The Bible – particularly the New Testament – portrays the world as fallen, corrupt, and under the spiritual authority of the Devil. For example, Jesus was tempted by the Devil, who offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He would simply bow down and worship the Devil. Jesus didn’t dispute whether Satan had such power to make such an offer. Likewise, Paul wrote about the spiritual darkness in the world, saying it did not belong to God but to our adversary.

We’re living in occupied territory. We’re living behind enemy lines.

Jesus never told us to set up a nation here. We’re not establishing a base or negotiating a treaty. To be clear, our “enemy” is not those people who disagree. We’re not fighting against flesh and blood… or at least that’s what the Bible tells us. Fighting flesh and blood means collateral damage.

Maybe some of us forgot that.

I expressed my concerns about what the post implied. I was told something like, “Our representative government isn’t representing all of us, its people. We have to fight in the political arena to ensure that the representative government actually represents us.”

That sword cuts both ways. That argument can be made by either side.

It basically boils down to “majority rules,” since there are two groups with opposed goals that both seek representation. Majority rules is a system that hasn’t always done well for us either. In the Sixties, the local, vocal majority would have voted to keep segregation going in some parts. That doesn’t make it acceptable or right.

Likewise, from the biblical perspective, we were never told to follow the majority. In fact, Jesus said that’s the road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:14).

We were meant to be the minority. We were meant to be different.

But we look just like everyone else.

The divorce rate in the church matches that of the world. Western Christianity looks just as self-centered and greedy as the culture it is supposedly working to save. Instead of going and making disciples, we’re going and making new recruits for our political parties. And our young people are leaving the church in droves.

Yeah, maybe we need to take back control…

We need to take back control of ourselves.