IN MY YEARS of writing this column, the politics and culture of U.S. public broadcasting has been a topic in regular rotation. During Democratic administrations, I’ve tended to bash both the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio for elitism, timidity, and pro-corporate bias.
But during Republican administrations it’s always seemed necessary to defend the very existence of a nonprofit, public-interest alternative in the vast, depressing, and sometimes dangerous strip mall that is U.S. commercial media.
These days the timidity of U.S. public broadcasting is still in evidence. For instance, NPR has steadfastly refused to join other prestigious media outlets in calling Donald Trump’s patent deliberate falsehoods by the appropriate four-letter Anglo-Saxon word: “Lies.” And as for elitism, take Victoria ... please!
But let’s put all that aside for now. The guard has changed again, and a new president has issued a budget blueprint that would eliminate any federal spending to support public broadcasting. So it’s time again to restate the obvious reasons why public media matter.
A stalwart liberal, Keillor generally resisted the temptation to intertwine religion and politics, both on the show and in his own life. But when religious conservatives dismayed by the leftward tilt of the mainline denominations wonder what makes those pew dwellers tick, Keillor embodies the answer.
Listen to the interview here.
The leader of the Christian social justice group Sojourners says the young black Americans who have been killed by police are victims of deep, structural racial sins that go back to the founding fathers.
1. This Is What It’s Like Being a Gay Christian Rock Star
A year after Christian singer Vicky Beeching announced she is gay, BuzzFeed followed up with the songstress on reactions from the Christian community and her life since. “At times it felt like there wasn’t much respect for me as a person. It was either ‘We’re going to grab her as a mascot’ or ‘We’re going to shoot her as an example of this evil.’ For many conservative Christians, I became a sign that people were slipping down a slippery slope into unimaginable sin. People forget there’s a person hiding under a duvet wondering if they’re going to have a life left.”
“WHAT YOU do to children matters. And they may never forget.”
This thread runs aggressively through Toni Morrison’s most recent novel, God Help the Child. The speaker is Sweetness, a woman who shares her family’s wounds from trying to pass for white, or “high-yellow,” for generations. Of trying to blend in well enough to drink at fountains, to try on hats in stores, to use the same Bible as whites during ceremonies. When her child and the novel’s focus, Bride, is born black, “midnight black, Sudanese black ... blue-black,” all the advancement Sweetness and her ancestors strove for dies. She loses her husband (who assumes she has been unfaithful), her social standing as a light-skinned woman, and any love for her child. “Her color is a cross she will always carry,” Sweetness says. “But it’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not.”
Bride grows up without the love of a mother’s touch and scorned for being so oddly dark, until she learns to use her color to make herself exotic and marketable. What may seem to be a character living into her identity as a black woman is really a façade in order to regain what was lost because of her skin. Of course, what Bride sees as progress is actually proof that she too has fallen into Sweetness’ obsession with what Morrison described in a recent NPR interview as “skin privilege—the ranking of color in terms of its closeness to white people or white-skinned people and its devaluation according to how dark one is and the impact that has on people who are dedicated to the privileges of certain levels of skin color.” But while race and color as social constructs are themes in the book, they are not explored as deeply or given as much emphasis as childhood trauma.
As in some of Morrison’s other novels, magical realism conveys the battle between the past and the present, the spiritual and the physical, playing a poignant, visceral part in Bride’s journey. Bride goes through a literal metamorphosis, assuming it is penance for gruesome choices she made as a child to feel alive and as an adult to feel powerful. She is numbed to what true progress and success are, constantly trying to put a fragmented identity together until she can no longer get up and must face her trauma and changing body.
The only people in the novel who allow themselves to truly heal are a child named Rain and an ex-convict named Sofia. They speak to the power of self-forgiveness. Too often we carry the shame and hate handed to us by other people’s evil, whether from childhood trauma and abuse or complacency and apathy as adults. While we can and must be held accountable for our own mistakes, we must also be willing to take off the shroud of self-loathing and guilt, and move forward past trauma into self-acceptance and healing. Both Rain and Sofia, young and old, can see the power of blame and regret and refuse to walk that path, while Bride, her lover Booker, and her mother Sweetness will arguably always drag the sins of their forebears behind them.
“What you do to children matters. And they may never forget.”
Understanding the process of turning an implement of death and violence into a tool for creativity and imagination is one part of the strategy. In doing so, there is hope that participants in such an event will begin to reimagine their own world and how they engage it. After all, true change first begins with imagining the possibility of such transformation.
Further, Reyes hopes to challenge U.S. citizens to consider their relationships with guns, and moreover, the impact that value has on people in other countries. Again, in the NPR story, Reyes explains, “We have to be allowed to ask questions. If you are not allowed to ask questions, you are not free."
Last weekend the New York Times published an op-ed by University of California-Berkeley physics professor, Richard Muller, who said he has changed his professional opinion on the cause of global warming:
“Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”
Muller’s announcement sparked a media flurry throughout the week, and NPR’s Science Friday host, Ira Flatow, interviewed him today. You can listen to the audio recording HERE.
NPR reports on a University of California, Berkeley study:
The image of an actively communicating God resonates with many people that T.M. Luhrmann interacted with on her anthropological study at a Vineyard Church in Chicago, and which is accounted in her new book When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God.
Today she tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that as an anthropologist, she doesn’t feel qualified to say when God is or isn’t speaking to people, but that “[she] can say something about the social, cultural and psychological features of what that person is experiencing.”
In the NPR piece, she talks about the fascinating ways American evangelicals experience God.
I’ve been thinking about the media and the truth after listening to This American Life's show this week, which is devoted to thorough and heartfelt repentance for inadvertently broadcasting a story in which monologist Mike Daisey said things that weren’t true. In contrast to the makers of This American Life, Daisey was, shall we say, non-thorough in his apology. And, as we all know, Daisey is just the latest link in a long chain of non-apologizers.
Such a long chain, in fact, that I think it deserves its own Twitter hashtag:
#circumpentance: Giving a vague approximation of repentance while sidestepping the real issue, often by misusing the word “if” or other rhetorical footwork. For example, Daisey’s statement: "the audience of This American Life … if they feel misled or betrayed, I regret to them as well." (Related term, already in use: #fauxpology.)
Once I got started thinking about this, the media-survival hashtags just started bubbling up.
Over the weekend, our friend Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, senior religion editor for the Huffington Post, was a guest on NPR's "On Being" program with host Krista Tippett, to talk about how the Social Gospel movement of the early 20th century is shaping the religious and spiritual reality of 2011.
An ordained American Baptist minister and a former dean of religious life and the chapel at Princeton University, Raushenbush is the great-grandson of both the venerable Christian scholar Walter Rauschenbush and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. He talked to Tippett about the influence of faith on the Occupy movement, religion and emerging technologies and what his great-grandfather Rauschenbush's take on the social gospel — he famously said, "Social problems are moral problems on a larger scale" — has to say to the life of the church and society writ large today.
It's a compelling conversation, well worth your taking the time to listen.
Two Muslim Americans resopnd in different ways to TLC's All-American Muslim; authors honored at 2011 National Books Awards; solar organizations introduce Occupy Rooftops; how cloud seeding effects water shortages and weather systems; Google's new music store; and much more.
With the opening of the G20 Summit in Cannes, France today, an idea that’s been around for awhile is in the news again and gaining more attention as a result of the #OWS movement: The so-called “Robin Hood tax,” a minimal tax on all financial transactions with the resulting revenue dedicated to anti-poverty programs….Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in his response to the occupation of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, endorsed the Vatican proposals. Williams observed that ”people are frustrated beyond measure at what they see as the disastrous effects of global capitalism,” and urged a full debate on “a Financial Transaction Tax … or, popularly, a ‘Robin Hood Tax.’”
"I'm finding out as I'm aging that I am in love with the world. And I look right now, as we speak together, out my window in my studio and I see my trees and my beautiful, beautiful maples that are hundreds of years old, they're beautiful. And you see I can see how beautiful they are. I can take time to see how beautiful they are."
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at home in Washington, D.C. getting ready to go to Sojourners' office. I was upstairs listening to the news on NPR when I heard the first confusing report of a plane crashing into the south tower of the World Trade Center. I immediately called downstairs to Joy and asked her to turn on the television to see what was going on. Moments later, as we ate breakfast together with our three-year-old son Luke, we watched the second plane strike the north tower. I still remember my first response to Joy, "This is going to be bad, very bad," I said.
Of course, I meant more than just the damage to the Twin Towers and the lives lost, which became far greater than any of us imagined at first. Rather, my first and deepest concern was what something like this could do to our country and our nation's soul. I was afraid of how America would respond to a terrorist attack of this scope.
Yesterday afternoon I found out that ABC news plans to dedicate it programming today to "Hunger at Home: Crisis in America." It precipitated my writing of this post which I had planned to add as a later addition to a series on tools for prayer.
One important item in our prayer toolkit is knowledge of our hurting world. Not knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but knowledge that equips us to respond. Becoming aware of the needs in our world can lead us into a deeper understanding of the ache in God's heart for our hurting friends and neighbors. It can also connect us to our own self-centered indifference that often makes us complacent when God wants us to be involved. And it can stimulate us to respond to situations that we once felt indifferent to.
When it comes to homeless youth the facts are simple, services in the City of Chicago are falling far behind the need. A survey of Chicago public school students from 2009/10 revealed 3,682 children who identified as being homeless and in need of shelter. In contrast there are approximately 189 beds for homeless youth (ages 18-25) funded by the City of Chicago. In 2010, 4,775 homeless youth were turned away from youth shelters for lack of room. To be clear, that was 4,775 instances where homeless youth sought shelter and were unable to find it. To date there are only 10 percent of the beds needed to provide safe shelter and supportive programs for the estimated number of Chicago's homeless youth.