Thursday, July 23, 2009

For I was hungry...

I'm a giver. I give. As long as you don’t hijack me at the register and guilt me into donating to your cause, as long as I don’t feel manipulated into donating, you can count on a buck or two from me. If your kids are selling lemonade, I’ll never pass them up. If your selling candy so your team can afford to take a trip to play in some tournament, I’ll get my sugar fix from you. If you’re collecting for Miseracordia or Firemen’s Charity or whatever on the street corner, I’m happy to help.

So I was reaching for a dollar bill in the center counsel of my car today when I read the name of the charity the girl was collecting for and I stopped. PLEASE HELP OUR CHRISTIAN MISSON TO AFRICA. Hmmm. I closed the hatch, left the dollar bill where it was and politely shook my head no. Sad, considering I’m a Christian huh?

That’s the problem though. These people are going to go out into the world and do “good” in the name of Christians. Only I don’t trust those people. They hijacked my faith. In fairness, not all of them have. Maybe it’s even fair to say that most Christians are still good, but it seems like the loudest, most visible, most vocal ones give the rest of us a bad name. I didn’t donate because I wasn’t sure which kind these were—would they make me proud or make me ashamed of them?

On their mission, will they teach love forgiveness and compassion or judgment, self-righteousness and intolerance? Will they be so backward thinking that they refuse to acknowledge science? Will they insist that dinosaurs walked the Earth 3,000 years ago to accommodate their biblical timeline? Or will they understand that science is the greatest proof of God’s existence? Will they embrace the fact that God is more than a book which was never meant to be taken literally in every single instance?

I was at a stop light when this all happened. I only had a few seconds to make up my mind. My typical, usual, normal reaction is just to give. I can always spare a buck or some spare change. I certainly could have in this instance too. And either way, my dollar isn’t going to make much difference. It’s just a dollar. It’s just spare change. My little stand doesn’t really mean much.

But I’ve always believed that the way you change the world is by not letting the world change you. And today, I wonder, did change the world by not giving without knowing exactly what those people believed in, stood for and represented, or did I let the world change me by not doing something that normally comes natural? I’m not sure. What I do know is that I have a growing resentment for many of those who fall under the title of Christian. I find myself apologizing for them, disassociating from them, distancing myself from that title.

How sad. But true; And now I want a new title. When I stand up to be counted, I want people to know on which side I stand. I’m tired of being lopped in with the intolerant and self-righteous. I’m tired of apologizing for what I believe, because others who read the same book I do twist it to their own agendas.

Maybe those kids out there collecting money were the good guys. Maybe they weren’t. I don’t know. But I couldn’t take the chance of supporting that which I so fully resent. What a complete shame.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And that's the way it is

I find it a bit ironic that after the media storm that was the coverage of Michael Jackson’s death, the passing of Walter Cronkite last week has been met with such apathy from the media. Of course, they reported his death, but somehow, with him being the very symbol of integrity in journalism, I’d have expected more.

Perhaps the media didn’t make such a big deal of it because of the contrast that was so evident when contrasting the very things Cronkite was known for, and what the mainstream media has become.

The idea of fair and balanced reporting is such a foreign concept to today’s audience. Today, we have networks devoted to telling us what we want to hear. If we are conservative in thought, we have news networks devoted to telling us how to think and why we’re right and why the other side is wrong. If you’re liberal in thought, you have the same on your own network.

The idea of fact-based news is already antiquated and obsolete. I can’t help but wonder, if perhaps, Cronkite wishes he hadn’t lived to see what’s become of things since he passed on the torch?

Then again, sensationalism in news is nothing new. Less than scrupulous writers have always played fast and loose with the news and the facts for the sake of the “get.” Perhaps the problem is that today there is just so much news and so much competition that stretching facts and bending them to appeal to a certain audience is the only way to assure a certain share of viewers?

After all, the media is, first and foremost, a business. A company who sponsors a certain news program will never be profiled as harshly on that program as they should be—if they do something worthy of media scorn. Is that wrong? If a politician from one party has a scandalous affair, some networks will portray him as a repentant sinner and others as an untrustworthy monster. The next week, they’ll switch positions when a member of the other party does the same thing. Is that wrong?

The common axiom is that we American’s get the government we deserve, meaning that we elect them, so we deserve them. I think the same is true of the media. We get the media we deserve. We get weeks of coverage on Michael Jackson’s death because we watch it and talk about it and blog about it and as long as it brings in the viewers, it brings in the advertising dollars which is what makes the world go round.

We get ridiculously slanted news because we want it. We watch it. We buy into it. We support it. We watch Fox News and buy Ford trucks, or we read the New York Times and donate to Greenpeace. We don’t demand the facts. We don’t even ask for them. All we want is the latest buzzwords. We don’t want news, we want marketing. If you’re willing to tell me what I want to hear, in the way I want to hear it, and explain the events of the world in a way that aligns with my preferences, I’ll patronize you—that’s the way it works now.

Facts? Balance? Integrity? There is no place in the world of big business news for such things. We get the government we deserve. We deserve a government that spends its time posturing, fighting and more concerned with power than people. We get the media we deserve. We deserve the media that markets the events of the day to us rather than report them. Sure, reporters have changed since Cronkite sat in his anchor chair and reported the news to us, but more importantly, we have changed.

We’ve all chosen sides. We all want to be right. We’re willing to be lied to—even to the point of ridiculousness, to maintain that aura of being in the right. The media is biased. The media plays to an audience. The media bends facts and changes stories to suit that audience.
We are that audience. We get what we deserve. We get what we demand. And that’s, sadly, the way it is.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Evil That Men Do...

Pay attention kids, because this is a very important thing happening right now. I know that learning lessons can be quite boring but you really don’t want to miss this one. The lesson is this: It’s okay to molest little children if you are one of the greatest musicians of all time. Oh, don’t get me wrong, Michael Jackson faced a little adversity based on his “alleged” kiddie diddling while he was alive, but that’s all in the past now that he’s dead.

Across the world, friends, Roman’s and countrymen alike are wondering why the evil that men do doesn’t live on after them and Catholic priests are crying out to God asking Him why they couldn’t have invented the moonwalk. Michael Jackson is dead and everywhere you look, everything you read, everything you see on television shows St. Michael of Moonwalk in the light of angels. The settlements made with children who attended Jackson’s “sleepovers,” are forgotten.

In dying, Jackson succeeded in once again becoming universally loved. His sins are forgiven. His transgressions have been cast aside. It is the evil that will remain interred with his bones. I don’t begrudge the man respect for his musical talents. I don’t begrudge him his place with the icons of music history. Like anyone else, when Billy Jean comes on my radio, I feel like dancing.

But we didn’t lose the music, we lost the man who made it. He hasn’t had a hit in years. New Michael Jackson hits weren’t forthcoming. His death didn’t mean an end to his music—his pedophilia took care of that. His music will always live on and we won’t have to miss it one bit.

The man is gone though. Usually when pedophiles die, people say good riddance. They proffer that he should have done the world a favor and died sooner. When priests do the same things Jackson did to young boys they are ostracized, they receive death threats. When civilians do those things they register as sex offenders and get bricks thrown through their windows and threats warning them to leave the neighborhood. No one but their family members mourn them when they die. Society chuckles and hopes they burn in hell.

There’s no explanation for the phenomenon going on now. A few weeks ago you couldn’t utter Michael Jackson’s name without some righteous indignation boiling up in you. Now we celebrate his life and work and accomplishments and we forget his sins. Every channel has a tribute program in the works or already playing.

So learn the lesson and learn it well: The lines have now been clearly drawn. Celebrities are all saints once they die. All sins are forgiven. We only remember the good, we discard the bad and we celebrate their life as if it were some guide to how we all should live.

Somewhere, in his prison cell, O.J. Simpson is fashioning a rope out of his bed sheets. Fame and heroism along with a clean slate are only a sharp crack of the neck away.