Editor's Note: This week's Wrap was guest curated by Sojourners contributor Adam Phillips. By way of introduction, Phillips is pastor of Christ Church: Portland (Ore.), a new open, active, and inclusive community. He enjoys a Stiegl Radler after his bicycle commute, has still not seen Stranger Things, and thinks that Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness is seven songs too long. Read along for his top stories and notes from the week!
It’s the dog days of summer (100 degrees in Portland, Ore. for crying out loud!). So here’s a random assortment of stories you might have missed that you could slip into your Sunday sermon or small group class to see if anyone is paying attention.
Alongside programs like Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards, Netflix now offers users another type of content: Christian sermons. The online video streaming service added lectures by four popular Christian pastors in early December.
“I believe if Jesus were on planet Earth today in the flesh he’d be on Netflix,” said Ed Young, one of the pastors, in a phone interview.
Of course good art is in the eye of the beholder, but I define good art to be creations of paint, music, or stories that speak profoundly to the human condition and break open our imagination beyond what already is. Much of what is qualified as “Christian” art or music has instead done the opposite. It shuts down possibilities by offering a script to be consumed. Instead of creating space for genuine exploration of questions about God — who God is, what God does, where God can be found, etc. — Christian art supplies manufactured answers in a new marketing package. We have struggled to rise up into a prophetic imagination to speak against the dominant consumer culture. If anything, the subculture has been subsumed by consumerism.
This is a major policy for a leading company, given that our country remains one of three countries in the world with no guaranteed paid parental leave. In fact, only 12 percent of Americans — those at Sojourners included — have access to paid parental leave (this drops to 5 percent for low-wage workers), and only four states — California, Massachusettes, New Jersey, and Rhode Island — currently have publicly-funded parental leave.
With its announcement, Netflix joins other tech companies, including YouTube, Yahoo, Reddit, and Twitter, as one of the most generous workplaces for parental leave. As TechCrunch notes, this responsive shift in part reflects changing priorities of Silicon Valley's talent, as the workforce shifts from wanting perks that "make work fun" (unlimited soft drinks, ping-pong tables, bean bag chairs) to wanting real work-life balance.
"The talent is growing up," says TechCrunch. Netflix is listening ... it remains to be seen whether national policymakers will.
All presidents beseech God to bless the United States of America. Many pray for divine aid for themselves or their policies. Some can only wonder at the inscrutable ways of the Almighty.
Then there’s Frank Underwood, who spits in God’s face.
Underwood is fictional, of course, the power-grabbing president and central character in the hit Netflix series House of Cards. And Underwood is a notoriously amoral — criminal, actually — practitioner of a realpolitik so brutal that nothing he does should be surprising.
Indeed, in the show’s first season, a frustrated Underwood stopped by a church and looked heavenward to speak to God, then down to address Satan. Finding no satisfying answer from either, he concluded:
“There is no solace above or below. Only us, small, solitary, striving, battling one another. I pray to myself, for myself.”
Still, it is almost jarring when, in the third and most recent season of the political thriller, Underwood — again stymied in his schemes — meets with a bishop late at night in a darkened sanctuary and engages in an extended debate on divine justice, power and love.
"Did you think I’d forgotten you? Perhaps you hoped I had. Don’t waste a breath mourning ... For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain there can be no mercy. There is but one rule. Hunt or be hunted." - Francis Underwood
So ends the Shakespearean soliloquy at the end of the first episode of House of Card's highly anticipated second season.
Underwood lives by a very clear code of ethics: Get to the top and do whatever is necessary to achieve that goal. For him, the end always justifies the means. And so, although it certainly made me wince to see what happens in Season 2's opening episode, I was left in awe at the show’s brutal honesty of what a life purely committed to power potentially looks like.
Some scenes perhaps strike us viewers as far from reality (Washington can't really be that bad, can it?!?), but other vignettes are far more plausible. Consider Underwood’s commendation of a congresswoman for making the cold, calculated decision to “do what needed to be done” by wiping out entire villages with missile strikes.
Her “ruthless pragmatism” merely makes Underwood smirk.
I love Netflix. I love that from the comfort of my couch, I can watch almost an endless selection of movies and TV shows. I’m re-watching all of The West Wing right now, along with most of Washington and probably much of the country. My friend Kat told me recently that she and her fiancé are watching it for the fifth time on Netflix, despite it sitting in a deluxe DVD set above their TV. Why get up to switch DVDs when your streaming player automatically starts the next episode for you?
So I wasn’t too happy when I read that my Netflix habit is seriously energy intensive. In a new article on Salon.com, I learned that watching Netflix streaming for an hour a week uses more energy each year than two new refrigerators. In my household we definitely watch a lot more than an hour a week.