Media Diary (May 2020)

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

The Great (TV): An absolute delight

The Invisible Man (Movie): Way better than I expected

Dithering (Podcast): Love the content, the business model, the fixed (short!) length and the included periodic Stratechery episodes in the feed

Blackballed (Quibi): I was vaguely aware of the story when it unfolded, but this mini-documentary is fascinating

Homecoming (TV): Tore through this second season

Jojo Rabbit (Movie): Great tone, really enjoyed

Wind of Change (Podcast): Have just started this, but what an insane hook

Reno 911! (Quibi): Glad to have the gang back

I Know This Much Is True (TV): Mesmerizing and depressing

Scandalous: The True Story of the National Enquirer (Movie): The seeds of how our current reality started to crystallize

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (TV): Bleak, but riveting

What We Do In The Shadows (Movie): Fantastic!

What We Do In The Shadows (TV): Also fantastic!

Snowpiercer (Movie): Tremendous

Snowpiercer (TV): Nowhere near as tremendous, but sticking with it to see how things shake out

TFW NO GF (Movie): Should be required viewing if you’re raising children in 2020

Upload (TV): Really enjoyed this

The Maltese Falcon (Movie): Peter Lorre’s character is definitely a highlight

Love Life (TV): Off to a good start

Capone (Movie): Balls-out insane (and worth a watch, despite the reviews)

History 101 (TV): An extremely entertaining and varied set of topics

High Noon (Movie): Didn’t change my life

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend (TV? Movie? Game?): I’d missed them!

Rainman Twins (TV): An interesting look at two identical savants

Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian (TV): Sure it’s a giant ad for various Disney properties, but man if it isn’t entertaining

Useless Celebrity History (Quibi): Not amazing, but a quick way to learn about various celebs I’d probably have otherwise ignored

Conversation Over Comfort

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My last post definitely seems to have resonated in some way, as it’s resulted in what has to be the most real-life followup conversations I’ve had on any essay so far. 😬 In other words, I’m definitely now fully up-to-date with my annual feelings vaccination.

Overall, I’m glad to have had these conversations, and since I’ve already done my Festivus-style grievance airing, I thought this time I’d share some observations from my chats, along with a few items in my hope chest:

  • I hope that we can openly acknowledge and (importantly) publicly address that Christianity in America has a major information literacy “bubble” problem that (by virtue of network effects) touches and affects far more people than the minority that are actually posting the misinformation.

  • I hope that those posting propaganda pieces solely to get positive social media reactions from their closed circle will stop treating current events like they treat photos of their pets. You should post (legitimate) news to start a conversation or raise awareness, not as a source of “yay, my tribe is with me!” comfort.

  • Regarding the ICOC specifically, I’ve observed that there are still understandably raw feelings about the period of turmoil/the Henry Kriete letter (generally surrounding the accuracy of Kriete’s church role as reported, whether or not the church was already in the process of addressing many of the complaints and whether or not past concerns were ignored).

    These are all fair points of contention (though the link in my piece was simply pointing out that the church went through a period of reform, full stop), but you know what helps clarify disputed details? Talking openly and sharing the back-and-forth written communication from this period (however painful), especially to those interested in or new to the church.

    Being radically transparent in the social media era is a smart move, especially for a church that had troubles, but did indeed end up making many positive changes (something that is powerful and encouraging).

    Deleting social media posts that ask for guidance on difficult issues in 2020, however, is the kind of behavior that doesn’t exactly lend credibility to a “we don’t ignore concerns” stance.

  • I hope that churches see value in discussing and applying Christ’s teachings to some of the major social issues affecting us today, rather than opting out of conversations entirely, only addressing them in infrequent “test balloon”-style special event discussions or falling back on opinions and interpretations that were “settled” decades ago.

    As MLK said: “The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the archsupporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.”

    I hope we start publicly and compassionately wrestling with difficult issues, and then never stop doing so.

The Cowardly Church

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I came across this quote today, and I think it nicely sums up the current state of many evangelical churches (our own International Church of Christ very much included):


As I’ve written before, there’s been no shortage of calls for prayer and financial assistance during this difficult time. This is great, and always encouraging.

Unfortunately, when it comes to calling out and addressing the continued spread of dangerous online misinformation (in this case, content that can directly affect the health of others) the church has continually shown absolute cowardice.

Why?

They’re so afraid of taking what might be perceived as a political stance that they stick their heads in the sand as this content gets posted, or vaguely dance around the issue by encouraging members to consider that there are opinions on “both sides” (of a pandemic!).

Nobody (myself included) wants the church to be political, but not addressing the spread of blatant disinformation head-on is incredibly damaging. This piece nails it:

The spread of misinformation is an issue we all need to confront — no matter our political persuasion or age demographic. If the online sphere is our new battleground then truthful information should be our weapon of choice.

Because conspiracy theories aren’t harmless.

To this day, conspiracy theorists still harass the families of the first-grade children who died in the Sandy Hook school shooting. In December 2017, a man opened fire in a D.C. pizzeria with an assault rifle because he was convinced it was filled with trafficked children as a result of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. In October 2018, a man mailed pipe bombs to people named in a prominent far-right conspiracy. And downplaying a virus by posting an easily debunked “Plandemic” conspiracy video puts real people at risk. And you’re spitting in the face of healthcare workers risking their lives and the lives of their families.

But, on a more mundane level, posting and endorsing conspiracy theories makes Christians look like idiots. And it reinforces the public perception that Christians will fall for anything and seriously put the object of our faith into question by outsiders who want nothing to do with our fear-and-hatred based worldview.

If you don’t have the time nor patience to fact-check an article or video, you have no business sharing it. Because you’re bearing false witness. You’re lying. Even if you think you’re making a difference, you’re deceiving other people. You’re harming your witness and the witness of your community.

As a church, you either confront the sin of misinformation or you don’t. Doing nothing means you’ve chosen a side (tacitly endorsing this garbage), and sends a clear signal about your priorities to current and prospective members. Worse still is the active removal of content merely asking for advice/guidance on the church’s misinformation problem (something the ICOC did on its Facebook page this week). This is straight-up shameful.

If (as I suspect) the fear is that having public conversations about misinformation will seem “divisive” and potentially drive members away, what has become of the church? Are we more concerned about membership numbers than truth? The ICOC has dealt with a sea change before. This current situation is far more insidious, and yet…crickets.

Personally, it’s been incredibly disheartening to watch, and as I’ve finally hit my breaking point with the usual small group small talk, I’ll be watching from the corner going forward, sincerely hoping for an injection of church courage. 🙏