Media Diary (April 2019)

Some things I’ve enjoyed lately, in no particular order, and not necessarily only recent stuff:

Game of Thrones (TV): Having caught up a few years back, then been forced to painfully wait, my wife and I are consuming these final episodes like heroin addicts

Avengers: Endgame (Movie): They totally nailed it, what a way to close things out

Chase Darkness With Me (Audiobook): Just starting this, but as someone that’s gotten to know Billy a little bit recently, it’s fascinating to hear his life story

John Wick (Movie): I can’t believe it took me this long to finally watch, I’ve been wasting my life

John Wick: Chapter 2 (Movie): WASTING MY LIFE

Gotham (TV): I watched the first few seasons, then lost interest, but came back for the final few episodes to see just how far it went off the rails into crazytown (spoiler: entirely, in a delightful way)

Blue Velvet (Movie): It’d been years since I’d watched it, but man what a masterpiece

Dune (Movie): I’d actually never seen it (only Jodorowsky’s Dune, which I re-watched again after), and it was about what I expected

Lost Highway (Movie): As you can see, I went on a bit of a Lynch spirit quest this month, and this one was really something else

The Twilight Zone (TV): So far, so good

The Legend of Cocaine Island (Movie): Fairly hilarious, with quite the turn

Barry (TV): Still hard to pin down, still intriguing

Mary Poppins Returns (Movie): Fine, but pretty unnecessary

Shrill (TV): Really enjoyed this

Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad (Podcast): Speaking of Billy, his new weekly show with Paul Holes offers a really interesting look into the world of unsolved crimes

Special (TV): Was fine, and had a very Shrill-like vibe (though in my opinion wasn’t as good)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (TV): Have always been a fan, but hadn’t finished out the remaining episodes until now, and am bummed that it’s over

Social Specks and Planks

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
– Matthew 7: 3-5 (NIV)

I’ve written before about the lack of social media participation among evangelical men, along with their (in my opinion, flawed) rationale for abstaining.

But what about people (of all sexes) that do participate? While some are completely lovely and many silently lurk to avoid causing “division” (a stance I find slightly cowardly, but can at least wrap my head around), there’s a clear contingent that’s somehow able to a) see their screens and b) slam that post button, despite having giant planks in their eyes.

Aside from the ongoing stream of Instagram-ready scripture snippets or MLM pitches from this crowd, you’ll also generally come across judgment-heavy memes or endorsements that cover the full playlist of greatest hits from the two-headed conservative/evangelical monster that this country painfully birthed decades ago:

  • Purity, purity, purity!
  • Keep your hands off our guns
  • Democrats want to murder babies
  • Hillary is (sometimes nearly literally) the devil
  • “Mainstream Media” can’t be trusted, you’re being conned!
  • We need to hold our ground against LGBTQ rights

And yet, maddeningly, there’s near-total radio silence surrounding:

  • The effects of purity culture (especially on women and teens)
  • Consideration of even small gun control efforts in the face of endless school shootings and clear evidence of success outside of America
  • Compassion, reflection or willingness to have the hard conversations on the complex issue of reproductive rights
  • Any criticism of Trump and his growing laundry list of unprecedented abuses
  • The value of seeking out (and supporting) legitimate journalism, even if the facts uncovered are painful to your existing worldview
  • The importance of wrestling with existing interpretations of scripture as it relates to the LGBTQ community (looking to Jesus’ example)

This essay puts it another way:

“They passionately worship a deity made in their own image: white, American, Republican, male—and perpetually terrified of Muslims, immigrants, gay children, Special Counsel reports, mandalas, Harry Potter, Starbucks holiday cups, yoga, wind turbines, Science—everything. Their God is so laughably minuscule, so fully neutered of power, so completely devoid of functioning vertebrae that ‘He’ cannot protect them from the encroaching monsters they are certain lurk around every corner to overwhelm them.”

My wife and I were both flabbergasted to see a recent Facebook post from within our own church movement actively instructing people not to “like” an update from someone brave enough to come out of the closet. I typically try not to curse these days, but frankly this is some vile, hateful bullshit. “Jesus wept,” indeed.

It of course goes without saying that someone’s social media presence isn’t a complete representation of their “real” life, but consider that the number of people you physically see in a given day is minuscule compared to your online footprint, so the content you share or endorse (as well as what you avoid talking about) sends a powerful message.

All of this is really driven home in this great piece:

“To clarify, I mean the tunnel-vision, white supremacist, refugee-refusing, gun-toting-equals-faith, gay bashing sort. The ones who see a terrorist behind every tree. And those who use prayer as an ATM and easy answer, instead of performing actions to make the world a better place by providing healthcare, food, shelter, and love to the suffering human creatures God put in front of them. The bumper sticker bearing and meme fans of fake news. The Bible-verse-stuffing-down-your-throat sort.”

I’m personally sickened that Christianity has, in the minds of so many, now become inextricably linked with this crowd. Does any of this bother you as well? If so, it’s time to engage! Raise your voice online, because by remaining silent, people are (understandably) going to assume the worst, and your message of love will be lost.

Two Types of People

I came across the following tweet the other day, commenting on the predictable GOP reaction to Elizabeth Warren’s ambitious “free college/student loan debt forgiveness” proposal:

“I have come to realize that there are two types of people in the world: those who say, ‘I had to suffer through this, so you people should, too,’ and those who say, ‘I had to suffer through this, so I want to make it better for those who come after me.'”

Man does this resonate.

The “suffering builds character” crowd will conjure up endless reasons to justify their opinions, but it’s all a sleight of hand routine to cover up their primary emotion: envy.

As always, there’s nothing new under the sun. Let’s look at Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20: 1-16):

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

You know who else probably felt slighted? Older Polio survivors watching younger people receive the newly-available vaccine. Or victims of discrimination that had their lives or careers sidelined, only to watch the barriers start to fall for the next generation. This is progress, and something to be celebrated.

Being human means feeling hurt, or sometimes vehemently disagreeing with the decisions of others. You may not approve of how your tax dollars are being spent by those in charge, but pause for a moment to reflect on your motivation. Don’t keep yourself afloat by forcing the heads of others underwater in your pool of envy.