Thursday, July 31, 2008

A White Guy Walks Into a Bar...

Which is a more threatening element of Western culture: racism or consumerism?

What is funnier: a joke at your own expense or one at another's?

Which is the stronger cultural icon: iPods or Starbucks?

If any of these three questions sparked your interest, I know a place you should visit. It is a land where satire meets cultural commentary meets racial stereotyping; where you may find yourself laughing at yourself laughing at yourself, or maybe you'll be completely offended by the fact that you found yourself completely offended.

If you haven't heard of it, the website is called Stuff White People Like (SWPL for short), and since its launch in January of this year, it has become the topic of discussion at places like The Chronicle of Higher Education, NPR, and hosts of national newspapers, not to mention lots of blogs... It's a satirical blog that lists off the top 100+ things that "white people like." Sound moderately offensive? It is. Sound kind of funny? It is very.

More than anything, SWPL is less an overtly racial commentary and more an adept exploration of the sub-mainstream/young-hipster/college-student culture in this country (not to mention a website that made me laugh out loud a few times, and then wonder if I should have). But I think there are some racial elements boiling just beneath the surface as well, and it's worth taking some time to think and talk about them.

I got sucked in and read almost everything on the site. Then I spent even more time reading what other people have to say about it. Now I want to know what my friends think.

Check it out, take 10-20 minutes, read a few of the posts, and then come back here and share your initial thoughts. (Click here for the full list)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Let Freedom Ring

What is freedom?

Your answer to this simple question, please.

(There are a few ways to think about it, so let your mind wander for a few minutes before answering...)

(Also, this requires you to make a comment to respond with your answer, in case you hadn't realized, thanks)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Don't Hate This Guy

...I'm just a little concerned that he's not thinking too clearly lately.

It was a little over 2 years ago when Barack Obama appeared as the keynote speaker at a Call to Renewal event in Washington, D.C. But it has not been until the past month that a number of his comments made at that Jim Wallis/Sojourner's get-together have come under attack by one of his chief political opponents.

And I'm actually not talking about John McCain.

Instead, Barack's 2-year-old comments are getting flak from a man who claims that he can't even vote for McCain in good conscience. He's a man who literally millions of Christians turn to for wisdom and guidance, who has gone from being a champion of preservation and redemption of the family to a political/social commentator on any issue he can get his hands on that so much as crosses the deep line drawn in the "conservative" sand, a man who actually believes that a nation can somehow be "Christian" (I believe only people can be Christians).

Dr. James Dobson spent a good deal of time in a radio address that aired two weeks ago attacking remarks Obama made in that speech two years ago. He accused the likely Democratic Presidential nominee of "deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world-view, his own confused theology."
I ended up listening to Dobson and his political cohort Tom Minnery go on in their criticism of Obama, in their words a commentary that is "of incredible importance in understanding his (Obama's) world-view." I won't go on with more quotes because I'll provide links below where you can either listen for yourself, or look at some excerpts. Anyway...

The more I listened, the more angry I became. I wasn't angry because I necessarily disagreed with the principles for which Dobson stands: Biblical authority, understanding our politicians' world-views, the "religious" basis for morality (although I think he improperly labels this one; unless I'm mistaken, God is the basis for morality, not religion). I was mainly angry because I read that speech that Obama gave two years ago, and I loved it. It's one of the best speeches I've ever heard. Listening to it proved to me that Barack Obama is a thoughtful, informed, and devoted follower of Christ (that is, if he was truthful in all he said; I think he was). His understanding of the role faith plays in social and political matters is insightful and well-articulated. Moreover, it actually aligns fairly well with what people like James Dobson (on the right), Jim Wallis (on the left), and even Jerry Falwell (back when he was alive, he was so far to the right that he kept tipping over) have practiced for a long time: the insertion of issues of faith and morality into the political conversation.

But the thing that made me angry about Dobson's diatribe was his complete misrepresentation of Obama's words. He took quotes out of context, made inferences that were clearly inaccurate to anyone who read the entirety of the speech, responded defensively to what was not even close to an attack (but simply a reference) even when Dobson claimed not to be responding defensively to the "offensive" words from Obama, and COMPLETELY missed the point of the Senator's speech.

As I sat and pondered these things, already quite angry and fed-up with Focus on the Family (at least for the time being), I found a second wave of frustration as I considered the platform from which Dobson speaks, his influence, and therefore his responsibility to speak the truth (also to do so in love). There was so much in Obama's words which resonated as truth, and so little in Dobson's. I'm not accusing him of being intentionally deceptive, but rather warning him to take more care as one whose words travel so far to so many ears.

Luckily, I found this website: James Dobson Doesn't Speak For Me. Apparently I'm not alone as a Christian who is frustrated with Dobson's misuse of his platform as an Evangelical leader.

The Point: Barack Obama is actually a Christian. He believes that his faith needs to inform his politics, and not just on two or three issues approved by the Right. He believes that for some reason, God wants to be involved in all arenas of life, and that peoples' world-views cannot and should not be separated from the moral decisions and actions they take. I know, he sounds like a total idiot, doesn't he? Or does Dr. Dobson not believe these things as well? Faith and politics are an increasingly interesting area, not just to me, but to most Christians I know. I wonder how much longer people like Dobson can go on spouting partisan rhetoric before my fellow Christians start thinking for themselves.

Sorry if I sound angry. I've cooled down a bit from when I began this post, but I am still frustrated. Does anyone relate here or am I way off-base?

- Read Obama's Speech (Awesome)
You should really read this speech.

- AP Story about Dobson vs. Obama
The basic story.

- James Dobson Doesn't Speak For Me
Provides quotations from both Obama and Dobson shown in comparison. Very helpful.