Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

The Pant-Skirt Issue for Dummies

Genesis 1:27 says:  ” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  God created two distinct genders or sexes, male and female, with two separate, unique roles.  Throughout Scripture we see that God expects men and women to keep the distinctions that He designed—the man the head, the woman the helpmeet (Genesis 2:18-25; 1 Timothy 2:9-15; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-33; Titus 2:1-5; 1 Corinthians 14:29-35; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Psalm 127-128; Romans 1:26-27).   Man and woman have different roles, but are the same in essence (Gal 3:28).   God designed men and women different, gave them different roles, and out of respect for Him, wants them to honor His design.  To show agreement with His design, God gave this order in Deuteronomy 22:5.

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

The words are specific and easy to be understood.  The Hebrew and the English say the same thing.  There’s no problem with the translation here.  The verse prohibits certain activity.  You’ve got three parts—one for the woman, another for the man, and the consequence for not obeying the order.  The cultures who have cared about the Bible have understood and practiced this verse the same way for centuries.

You see what the verse says.  The verse doesn’t say:

The woman shall not wear the military gear of a warrior man.

The woman shall not put on ornaments that a man wears and use utensils that a man uses.

The woman shall try to look different than a man.

The woman shall not be a transvestite.

The woman shall not be a cross-dresser.

The woman shall not participate in Canaanite worship practices that require wearing a man’s clothes.

None of these have been how Christians have believed and practiced this verse.  The verse is not a euphemism for something else.  It isn’t idiomatic.  It is very straightforward.  And in the end, God says a man or woman who disobeys this prohibition is himself or herself an abomination to Him.

The woman is not to have on a male article.  The man is not to put on a woman’s clothing.  Both sides assume that a certain article or certain articles of clothing in a God-honoring culture have been designated exclusively male and  a certain article or certain articles of clothing in a God-honoring culture have been designated exclusively female.   It is obvious from the verse that God wants men and women distinguished from one another in appearance, but the verse says more than that.

I believe that in principle we are helped in understanding God’s will in this matter by looking at 1 Corinthians 11:3-16.  In 1 Corinthians 11:3, we are reminded of the point of the instruction about dress and appearance:  male headship and female submission.  Arguments are made for Christians to continue differentiating themselves in gender and role with their appearance, and in particular a symbol of submission and then male headship, the head-covering.   Despite women being equal in essence to men, God expected His designed role distinctions to be honored in appearance.  Why?  Creation order (1 Cor 11:7-9).  A testimony to angels (1 Cor 11:10).  To honor God (1 Cor 11:12).  To not be a shame but to be a glory (1 Cor 11:7, 13-15).

There is a reason why the problem today is women wearing a male article, not men wearing a female.  This is clear by seeing the problem in Corinth.  It is a headship and submission issue.  It is the woman wearing the pants, not men wearing the skirt.  Today men may hide behind a woman’s apron, but it started with women wearing the pants.

Obedience to Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 is more than a testimony or stumbling block issue.  Obedience to these is a statement to God.  It is an act of worship to Him.  It is a deed of deferment to His greatness and goodness.  By obeying the prohibition, we are saying to Him, “You are wise.  You know what you are doing.  You know what’s best for us.”  Angels were there at the creation of male and female, so they were there to see what God had in mind.  I think there is more to it, but that isn’t as important.  For instance, I believe that we learn sexuality and gender and role by appearance.  This is a means by which children grow up and see the differences.  In other words, without the clear delineation in the roles by means of the symbols of male headship and female submission, we have role confusion.  This in part explains the rampant homosexuality.  Sexuality is in part learned and we haven’t taught it as a culture.

Deuteronomy 22:5 doesn’t mention pant-skirt.  It, however, assumes that God’s people would have such articles that were exclusive to each gender.  And it is true that we have had that in our culture and because of Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16.  What is it that in our culture has symbolized male headship, an article that was uniquely designated for the male, to be seen as a testimony to God and others of our agreement with Him in His design?  Let’s think about it.  Is it the hat?  Is it the shirt?  Is it underwear?  Is it shoes? Is it the cape?  Is it socks?  No and no and no and no and no.  Is it pants?  Yes.  Does history show this?  Yes.

So why did women start wearing pants?  It wasn’t out of conviction.  It wasn’t acceptable to Christians and not really accepted by anyone when our culture reflected more Judeo-Christian ethics.  Was it a group of godly people who got together to pray about being obedient to to God’s will?  Of course not.  It was in defiance of the idea of male authority.  It was women’s liberation.  It was convenience.  Today it is just normal.  Women don’t want to stick out, want to fit in.  So now it is worldliness, going along with the spirit of the age, and even in churches.   Here is a church that has that crazy skirts-only-on-women standard and the women wear pants in the other church—which one will I choose?

I’m not going to argue about whether it should be obeyed any longer because it is Old Testament law.  That is a johnny-come-lately argument that goes along with the licentiousness and antinomianism of our day.  Men use grace as an occasion to the flesh.  Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires.   As it applies to Deuteronomy 22:5, this argument wasn’t even around until women started wanting to wear pants.

You’ve got those who use the “they wore robes” argument.   Let’s jump right to their point.  They say that men wear men’s pants and women wear women’s pants.  Christians or this culture have never made that designation.  We have never stated the unique design of the woman’s pant.  What makes “women’s pants” to be “women’s pants?”   There isn’t any distinction.  Again, that’s just an argument after the fact.  The whole point of pants was to take away differences and distinctions.  Everyone knows this.  Every history says this.  The purpose of Deuteronomy 22:5 is distinction and difference.  The purpose of pants was sameness.  The robes argument doesn’t work because even if they were robes, which the passage doesn’t say, there would have been a unique male robe and a unique female robe.  We haven’t done the same thing with pants.

The biggest argument that I hear is that the whole conversation is just stupid, tiresome, or ridiculous.  The people that talk about it “have an infatuation with a different era and want everyone else to have the same.”   Or, “you legalists!”  The whole thing is actually about God and what he said.  Christians should care.  However, believers have decided to go along with the spirit of the age.  Sad, but true.

If it isn’t about how crazy this discussion is, then it is about how that instead of focusing in on such a minor doctrinal point, why don’t we spend our time on the grand, important issues, like justification and grace and the trinity and the love of Christ.  Or, “stop juding people’s external appearances and start looking at their heart and how much they love the Lord.”  Whoever says those things ought to think of this:  “abomination to God.”   The very fact that God put this in the Bible makes it important enough, but we know that there is more to it than only a dress and externals issue.  It does have to do with the heart.

A Biblical Approach to Liberties Versus that of Evangelicals and Many Fundamentalists

March 25, 2009 84 comments

The internet is new.  Just look at Al Gore.  Social networking sites (SNS)  are even newer.  In this era of modernity with the explosion of the information age, there is more to come.  C. H. Spurgeon faced new kinds of entertainment at the end of the nineteenth century.  He had words of warning based on scriptural principles for issues not found in the Bible.  These require the development of spiritual discernment.  God didn’t give church leadership a mandate to bury its head in the sand.  We should give guidance in new areas of potential danger to the church.

A common opposition to biblical application to cultural issues is argument by moral equivalence.  I’ve heard a couple different types even this month.  One goes like this:  “You can get in trouble with any kind of communication device.  You can sin on the phone or on the internet too.  SNS are no different.  You could get hit crossing the street.  Are you going to stop doing that too?”  How did you know?  I’m putting my finishing touches on my no street-crossing post, the father of all safety-patrol.  I’m kidding, but I do believe there is a biblical answer to this.   It’s 1 Corinthians 10:12:  “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”  We have admonition against presumptuousness about sin.  Certain places are of greater temptation than others.  Some have worse associations.

Another moral equivalent has been the “SNS isn’t that much different than writing on a blog and you do that” argument.   I could waste time here.  I could violate scripture.  I could cause damage to a church.  I could get puffed up with pride over readership.  I say “yes” to all of those.  I could do any four of those “couldas.”   So I should look at blogging with scrutiny as well.  I do.   I’m not going to write about it, but I do.  However, as I have, I see them as very different activities.  My blog posting doesn’t parallel with the activities of facebook.

The responses I’ve read and heard in this SNS discussion remind me of the major differences in the approach to liberties.  What I am often reading from evangelicals and even fundamentalists are several unscriptural and indefensible perspectives of liberties.  They’ll deny it, but I’ll also explain how it is that they do take on these three at least.

1.  We have liberty to sin.

They say, “Do not say that.”   I say, “You don’t say it, but you do it.”  How?  Some commands in Scripture require a secondary premise.  Let me provide a syllogism.

Major or First Premise:  The woman who wears the male article is an abomination to God.

Minor or Second Premise:  Pants are the male article.

Conclusion:  The woman who wears pants is an abomination to God.

I’ve found that Christians today won’t even agree on the major premise, even though Deuteronomy 22:5 says:  “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”  “That which pertaineth unto a man” is the male article.  I often ask men, what is the male article.   Most don’t want to answer it.  They know it’s pants, so instead of replying to it, they say:  “the cape,” “the derby,” etc.  They take a position of mockery akin to those who scorn the coming of Christ in 2 Peter 3.  Without pants, there is no male garment any longer, and people know it.  And they don’t care.  It isn’t an abomination to them, only to God, so it doesn’t matter.

I recognize that I’ve chosen a more controversial example, but this isn’t a liberty issue.   We don’t have liberty just because there’s a controversy.  We don’t have liberty just because men have muddled up this issue.  This is how Christians have practiced for centuries.  Since the onslaught of feminism and unisex, men have changed the practice in favor of one more acceptable to pagan society.  We have liberty in non-moral issues, and things that are an abomination to God are moral.  It’s a sin to violate God’s instruction.  There are many other examples.

2.  We have the right to cause someone to stumble, to be a bad testimony, to offend another person’s conscience, to conform to the world, or to profane worship.

They say, “I do not say that.”  I say, “You do too.”  How?  Evangelicals and now many fundamentalists turn 1 Corinthians 6-10 and Romans 14 on their head.   Those passages don’t emphasize demanding rights.  They emphasize limiting liberties for the sake of weaker brothers, of unsaved people, and for the greater glory of God.  And yet the evangelicals and fundamentalists now see this as a basis for many unscriptural activities.

3.  I don’t practice personally unpopular biblical application.

They say, “I do not say that.”  I say, “You do too.”  How?  Evangelicals and many fundamentalists say something like what Nathan Busenitz wrote over at Pulpit Fellowship:

[T]he Bible tells us “not to exceed what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6). We cannot add to the Scripture without subtracting from its effectiveness in our lives. If we elevate personal preference and man-made tradition to the level of God’s Word (Mark 7:6-15), we risk entangling people in the bondage of legalism and diverting them from the true issues of sanctification (Romans 14:17).

It sounds good.  They say we don’t want to exceed what is written.  And yet Phil Johnson recently wrote what he believed determined what foul language was:

Culture determines this. It’s quite true that the standard may be different from culture to culture and generation to generation. But both history and literature prove that it’s not nearly as fluid or as nebulous as postmodern language-theorists suggest.

You read it.  If you want to know what cuss words are or what smutty speech is, culture determines this.  Really?  I agree with Phil wholeheartedly.  To make application, you have to do that with truth not found in the Bible.  Certain words, based upon the culture, we can conclude, “Yes, that’s foul language.”

We can also determine by the culture what is worldly dress, what is pagan music, and all sorts of other important application of Scripture.  We do it the same way.  Here’s what happens.  Busenitz and Johnson (and me) don’t like the profanity in the pulpit.  That’s wrong.  So there, it’s OK to “exceed what is written” in Scripture.  They throw that verse around at what they want to throw it at.  But when it comes to these other cultural issues, they are blind in their application.  What you will see them do is make statements like this monumental and mocking strawman that Johnson  threw out for areas that he does not prefer to make application:

Yeah, but no one here (except maybe Kent Brandenburg) has ever seriously suggested that 1950’s style is the standard to pursue, either. What I have consistently argued for is clarity, biblical language (as opposed to some subculture’s hip patois), sound doctrine, and boldness in our proclamation of the truth-claims of Scripture that aren’t currently fashionable.

It’s weird how that keeps getting morphed into 1950s-style haircuts and poodle skirts in the thinking of some of the very same people who are so keen to keep up with postmodern fashions. I’ve said nothing whatsoever about dress codes, hair styles, or ’50s fashions in corporate worship or music. Let’s not pretend this post is about that.

What do you think of those arguments?  See what evangelicals and fundamentalists do?  They pick and choose the kind of applications they want to make and then veto the others.  In this case, he talks about 1950’s style (who would make that argument?) or “poodle skirts” as a way to frame what is what Zephaniah 1:8 calls “strange apparel.”  Evangelicals and fundamentalists commonly protect their popularity by making these areas of application matters of “liberty,” and the ones that they don’t like, they say they can be determined by the culture.  You can see it yourself.

Social Networking Sites (SNS): A Case Study for Standards of Judgment

March 17, 2009 5 comments

I’ve made some bad choices.  All the way through college and graduate school, I used the same manual Smith-Corona typewriter that my dad used all the way through his college and graduate school to type every paper.  When we got the church going out in California, I decided to buy an electric typewriter, an IBM selectric with rotating and interchangeable ball.  It’s very funny now, but that was big-time for me at that juncture.  I bought it used with no warranty for about $50, if I remember correctly. What a deal!  In less than a month, it was broken.  I paid $75 to have it fixed.   A little over a month later, it was broken again.  I didn’t repair it again.  I went back to the Smith-Corona, and shortly thereafter, I owned a used Apple IIe with dot-matrix printer (it was free), so the broken IBM launched me into the computer age.

I learned from that mistake a little about purchasing.  I’ve never made that type of bad decision again.   I’ve made others, but not that one.  We go through this life only once.  The choices we make about how we will use our time, energy, and money are what make up our life.  We are redeeming the time, exchanging it for what will be greatest value.   Nothing is more important for us than how we will use this life that God has given us.   What becomes very important is our criteria for making those exchanges of time.

We have more than a standard of right and wrong.  It’s not wrong for me to eat a bowl of hot chili right before I go to bed, but I will pay for it all the next day because of the lost sleep, the acid reflux, and what I call “rot gut.”  I have a higher standard than right and wrong for myself.  So does God.   We’re not always arguing about whether an activity is right or wrong.  We’re asking ourselves other questions like:  Is it the best?  Will it glorify God?  Is it true, lovely, of good report, or virtuous? Will it edify others?  Will God be pleased?  Will it hurt someone else?  Is it a bad testimony?  Is that wise stewardship?  Those types of questions.

In Paul’s prayer for the Philippians, he asked of God for them (1:10):  “That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.”  Paul didn’t want just what was right.  He wanted what was excellent.  Someone said, “The greatest enemy of great is good.”  Why have it be good if it can be great?  When Paul wrote that to the Philippians, he wasn’t praying for them to do right.  He wanted them to do their best.

For the Philippians to strive for excellence, he also prayed something else for them in v. 9:   “that [their] love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.”   They needed love, love for God and love for others, if they were to be excellent in their decision making.  It wasn’t just love, but love that was tempered by knowledge and judgment.  When it is love, which it must be, then it will be thoughtful and judgmental, that is, discerning.

One of the bad problems in discussions about issues like social networking sites is that people want to argue that there is nothing wrong with the activity.   They resent someone like myself even questioning their desired practice.  Well, wrong and right aren’t even a biblical standard for a Christian (unless he’s a legalist).  It is ironic, isn’t it, that the people who talk about legalism the most want the standard to be right or wrong?  It reminds me of a blog I read recently, entitled, “Am I Still a Fundamentalist?”, in which the author was asking his readers to inform him if he was still a fundamentalist despite the fact that he allowed himself a list of ten different activities, two of which were:

The church I pastor usually changes the schedule of our Sunday evening service on Super Bowl Sunday to an afternoon service. And, if I were given tickets to the Super Bowl I would probably miss Sunday night church for it (and that might go for Cubs World Series tickets too).

I don’t know what type of behavior he thought he was encouraging with those two points, but it was neither about loving God nor about excellence.  His standard was:  the Bible doesn’t say thou shalt not watch the Super Bowl on Sunday.  He was angry with anyone who might challenge him to anything higher.

Our standard for ourselves is nothing like right or wrong.   We want excellent service, excellent products, excellent food, excellent traffic, excellent treatment, excellent attitudes, and even excellent entertainment.  I contend that the evangelicals and the fundamentalists with the low standards are the legalists.  They will be judged by no greater standard than right or wrong or they are allowed to mock, ridicule, and name call.   I believe that they don’t love God.  They love themselves.  If this is all about God, and not about us, then there is no way that right or wrong could possibly be a sufficient criterion.

The Case of the Social Networking Sites

In a recent study by Valerie Barker, PhD at San Diego State University, research was conducted in the way of interviews with older adolescents about their motivations for social networking site usage.  The most important incentive for SNS was communication with peer group members.   The conclusion of the research was that these teenagers used these sites for collective self-esteem.  Females especially reported a positive collective self-esteem to compensate for negative feelings about their real life social group.  Males more than females needed SNS for identity gratification and as a social function to compensate for low self-confidence.

What do we see in this research?  Young people look to SNS to find their social identities and to boost their low self-confidence.  This is in fitting with a modernistic society that looks outward to find its value.  Who we are, instead of being about belief and character, has become about other’s opinions or estimations.  David Wells talks about this in No Place for Truth (pp. 157-158):

[W]e turn outward in a search for direction, scanning others for the social signals they emit.  This produces a new kind of conformity. . . .  [The modern person] seeks approval and even affection from a surrogate family, “an amorphous and shifting, though contemporary, jury of peers,” as Reisman put it.  This person is oriented not to inner values but to other people.  It is in the peer group that acceptance is found and outcasts are named. . . . Relationships within the group become the coin for all of life’s transactions as well as the chief test of taste. . . . He feels at home only in the mass. . . . Where once people took pride in their accomplishments and in their character, other-directed individuals think only of how they stand with others. . . . Once people worked to achieve tangible ends, to accomplish things.  Now, such accomplishments are of far less signficance than one’s “image.”  Once peple worked; now they manipulate.  Once people sweated; now they seduce.  Once people wished to be respected, to have their accomplishments recognized; now they wish to be envied, regardless of whether they are envied for anything they have actually accomplished.

Facebook and other SNS fit into the modernistic pattern of finding our value in other’s estimation of our personality.  In Losing Our Virtue, Wells writes (p. 97):

Until this time, the self had been understood in terms of character, of virtue[s] to be learned and practiced, of private desires to be denied. . . . These virtues were all sustained by a belief in a higher moral law; . . . the focus abruptly shifted from character to personality. . . . Character is good or bad, while personality is attractive, forceful, or magnetic.  Attention therefore was shifting from the moral virtues, which need to be cultivated, to the image, which needs to be fashioned.  It was a shift away from the invisible moral intentions toward the attempt to make ourselves appealing to others, away from what we actually are and toward refining our performance before a public that mostly judges the exterior.

Our character was once judged by those communities formed and ordained by God—the family and the church.   Wells says in No Place for Truth (p. 202) that “we are creating a new tribe based not on relational but electronic connections.”   Productivity and character are no longer necessary in this new medium to gain social identity, acceptance, and even status.  Once our culture valued the higher achievements of human nature—the good use of language, moral behavior, reasoned discourse, and aesthetic achievements according to the highest aspirations of the human spirit.  We’ve reduced these often to the lowest common denominator, vulgarity, politicization, and triviality.

Objective truthfulness has been replaced by subjective experience.  Personal testimony has become a source of knowledge.  The question is no longer whether Christ is objectively true but whether the personal encounter has been appealing and whether it has brought me into common connection with others.   A true indicator of worth becomes the number of friends, requiring a kind of friendliness that is divested of scriptural judgment, since such judgment cannot escape a charge of unfriendliness, even bigotry.

SNS fit within a larger paradigm of modernistic society.  In other words, when we examine them, we need to take a few more steps backward to see the big picture.   More is going on then typing and talking and networking.  Something that is so popular in the world ought to give believers pause.   Their judgment should not merely consider whether SNS are wrong or right.  What makes SNS so popular in a God-hating world?  Do I have my sufficiency in Christ?  Am I seeking first the kingdom of God?  Why is it that I can’t get satisfaction through my family and my church?  Am I just running from God-ordained evaluation for unconditional acceptance?  Does my desire for SNS signal my own discontent?   Have my electronic relationships replaced or hindered my real ones?  What does God want and is that important to me?

Romans 14 and Issues Like Social Networking

March 11, 2009 4 comments

If someone on the highway speeds past me and cuts me off, almost causing an accident, I don’t care if he gets caught by the police.  However, if I do the same to someone else, I hope I don’t caught.  We believe in justice. We just don’t like it when it applies to us.  I can say the same thing about being judged.   My flesh is repulsed by someone telling me that I’ve done wrong.  I don’t normally like hearing from another person about how far off I am in some of my thinking.   We don’t like to be judged.

All of us are going to be judged by God.  “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).  What God knows about what we do is what’s most important.  And when God judges, He’s going to judge based upon more than whether the activity was right and wrong.

The Bible doesn’t say facebook or social networking are wrong.   Because of that, people don’t want to be judged for using facebook.  When I start talking about potential problems with it, people often don’t like hearing it.  They don’t like to feel judged by me or anyone else.   Just because facebook is permissible, doesn’t mean that it is God’s will for you to use it.

To make a good decision about whether we will use an online social network or not, we must look at the principles God gives us to judge matters that the Bible does not mention.  The first half of Romans 14 says that we should not judge people so harshly in non-scriptural activities.   Verses 1-12 of Romans 14 say that it’s okay to use facebook.  After all, it is a non-moral issue that Scripture nowhere prohibits.

However, the second half of Romans 14 says that we should judge ourselves harshly on the same non-moral activities that we had liberty to practice.  If we’re going to please God, then we don’t judge them based just upon whether they are right or wrong.  The strong Christian doesn’t flaunt his liberties or rights and demand them, but restrains himself in them for the sake of others.  There is nothing wrong with playing pick-up basketball, but that doesn’t mean that I should play on Sunday mornings.  There are reasons why not.

There are two related reasons why it is that we don’t just do anything we want even if  it might be permissible to do so.  We might have a right or a liberty to do something, but that isn’t the only criteria.  We also must ask:

Will Someone Else Be Affected?

The Christian Harmed by a Stumbling Block

An activity may be lawful to do, but it could cause someone else to stumble.   Facebook is a tool, but one that has trappings built into it.  Paul wrote in Romans 14:13:

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.

Instead of being concerned about whether we’re being judged or not, we should judge ourselves by asking if our continuation will harm someone else.   God is our Judge, but He will judge us not just for what we do, but also for what impact what we do will have on others.  There are many ways that a weaker believer could be harmed by facebook.  We must consider whether our example could result in the potential spiritual hurt of others.

We can see some of the harm that we cause others in vv. 13-15.   One of us might be able to handle facebook.  However, there might be someone else who can’t.  It may waste his time.  It may result in him getting caught up with the wrong people.  It might draw him away from God by his addiction.  In the end, he is grieved by the problems he has because of facebook.  At that time, he might remember that he went ahead and joined because we were there already.

What I am hearing from some commenting about facebook is something like:  “There are numbers of ways that people can sin.  If they were going to sin at facebook, then they probably would have chosen someplace else to sin anyway.  Since they were going to sin one way or another, we shouldn’t be kept from facebook just because of them.”  However, there are dangers on facebook.  I believe that they are too heavy for many, if not most Christians,  to remain obedient to God.  However, they may not be too much for certain believers.   Those Christians must think about how that their continued association with facebook might result in the future grief (v. 15a) or destruction (v. 15b) of others.

The Christian Harmed by Loss of Testimony

You may think that an activity is fine to do.  It might be.  But “your good could be evil spoken of” (v. 16).   There is one verb in v. 16 and from it comes the English word “blaspheme.”  Since it is a liberty, it is a good.  However, if your good causes the world to see us in a different way, in a way that causes “men” (v. 18, not a reference to believers) for whom Christ died to turn from God, to blaspheme, then we should not do it.

Verse 17 tells a little about how this could occur.  An unbeliever might miss out on a true understanding of the kingdom of God because we would rather prioritize what God has allowed us to do rather than what He wants us to do.  It might be that our liberty keeps us from evangelistic opportunities.  If we spend hours on a facebook page and never talk about Jesus in a scriptural manner with the kind of seriousness that would represent Him in a salvific way, then the lost will not understand Him, His kingdom, or His life.  Someone can’t just “drop” the name of Jesus into a mass of commonality or profanity as an accurate representation of Him.

An unsaved man might ask, “If Jesus is really Lord, what doesn’t this man talk about Jesus like He is?”  Or, “If He believes in Jesus Christ, then why does the subject matter of his conversation not differ from mine?”

While I was on facebook the short time I was there, I never heard anything good about Jesus or what He had to offer.  The talk was a clean waste, but nevertheless just as much a waste as any unbeliever’s talk.  These social networking sites are not conducive, I believe, to evangelism.  They tend to weaken or cheapen Christian testimony.

And we also should ask:

Will It Build Up Someone Else?

Does facebook result in the building up of other believers?  Will this be something that edifies the most in the most constructive way?

As other believers relate to our Christian liberties, they should receive us in non-scriptural issues (Rom 14:1).  Facebook is one of those.  However, as we judge ourselves and our use of our liberties, we should see our lives as the Lord’s.  They aren’t our own liberties but God’s for Him to use.  Our desire should be to do what He wants us to do, since we’re going to be judged by Him.  If we see facebook that way, then we won’t be angry if we feel like someone is judging us in our usage of it.   In matters of liberty, we’re called to think first of God and then of others.  Will He be pleased as our Judge?  Will we cause others some kind of spiritual harm or will we edify them?

The Escapist World of Social Networking

March 6, 2009 30 comments

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And just as a reminder, this same Jesus, Whom God hath highly exalted, and given a name which is above every name, this same Jesus, that every tongue should confess as Lord, this same Jesus is Lord also of the Internet.

Social Networking is the new reality.  Friends multiply daily, and rapidly. Whether we agree with it or not, our kids are involved.  Some directly: they have their own Facebook page.  Others indirectly: they hear their friends and cousins talking about their Facebook page.  Like it or not, we are all affected by the Social Networks.  They influence our young people, they entice our old people, they affect our ministries.  Social Networking includes all the various ways of “connecting” or “communicating” via the Internet — including (but not limited to) blogs, forums, chat rooms, and so forth. But my intention is to deal directly with the issue of MySpace and Facebook. Before I begin, though, let me recommend a hilarious article on this subject… it illustrates through satire what I can only talk about.

Social Networking 101

As I understand it, Facebook and MySpace are more alike than not. Originally, Facebook was limited to the Harvard student body (A group of Harvard students invented it in their dorm rooms). It slowly expanded to other ivy league schools, then to college students (Facebook required an e-mail address with a “.edu” in order to join). Finally, in 2006, Facebook expanded to include high schoolers and eventually all users 13 and older.

MySpace, on the other hand, was created in 1999 by Tom Anderson, who (I’m told) is the first friend to join the network of every MySpace user. You might be interested to know that MySpace was acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for $580 million (that $580,000,000 in Russell Anderson terms) in July, 2005.

Most of the differences between the two are merely surface differences. From what I can see, there are differences between who uses them, how they are used, and the features that are available. More women use MySpace than Facebook (by about 4%). College educated, career-oriented, and suburbanite people tend to use Facebook, while teens and inner-city people tend to use MySpace.

Some have said that the more creative types tend to gravitate towards MySpace, and that the pencil-pushers and account handlers tend to like Facebook. That could be the result of some of the user-features of the two. MySpace allows more control of user profiles by the individual, enabling a user to be more creative. This design feature often leads to a very amateur and cluttered “look and feel.” Facebook profiles tend to be more uniform. Also, many MySpace users will use a pseudonym of some sort, or will attempt to hide their true identity. This has made MySpace more of a hotbed for sexual predators.  I have not been able to verify this, but a friend told me that within the last six weeks, MySpace removed 90,000 sexual predators.  As I understand it, Facebook will remove any user that they have good reason to suspect is using a fake identity.

As far as I can tell, these are the major differences between the two. And, as I said earlier, they are more alike than they are different. Both have a stated purpose — to connect people. MySpace is more likely to connect total strangers, while Facebook tends to connect people with mutual backgrounds. Both are all about promoting the self.

And both are highly addictive. The information I have on this is a little over a year old… but in October of 2007, MySpace and Facebook were both in the top 10 domains visited on the web. MySpace accounted for just under 5% of all Internet visits. Facebook for 1% of all Internet visits. I realize that this is old information.  As I understand it, Facebook is quickly overtaking MySpace in popularity.  but the point is that when you consider that these two represent just 2 domains on the Internet, the numbers are phenomenal. In addition, the people who frequent these places tend to spend hours going from one friend to another to another. It is the Internet version of bar-hopping.

Slumber Partying 101

At our youth camp this last year, in a discussion of these Social Networks, I made the comment that MySpace reminded me of a giant, virtual slumber party. In fact, I find the whole idea of young men frequenting these social networks to be very troubling — and I think it leads towards effeminacy. To further illustrate my point, Facebook has what is called a “status” feature, where users note how they are doing or feeling at any particular moment. MySpace has also added a “mood” option. It reminds me of those mood rings that people wore back in the ’80’s.  You’ll have to excuse me if you did that, but I was always a little weirded out by guys who wore mood rings.  Especially if they wore one on their pinky.  And played the piano.  Or wore leather pants.  But that’s just me.  I do think there is something very effeminate about a guy who wants the world to know what mood he is in.

But if we are to deal with the larger issues surrounding the virtual world of the Internet, we really must discuss the voyeuristic and escapist elements of Social Networking.  We must understand that Social Networking is a cultural issue.  It is but the next step in a culture consumed with itself.  And, naturally, with amusing itself to death.

With that in mind, MySpace and Facebook are first and foremost voyeuristic.  This is in keeping with the times, to be sure.  We live in a supremely voyeuristic age. We much prefer watching to doing.  We like reality shows.  We love American Idol.  We like to watch people try and we like to watch people fail.  We like to watch the making of the next Elvis.  And, considering the rampant obesity that afflicts our youth, we must be more into watching than into doing.  Consider our fetish with pornography, with video games, with spectator sports.  And, consider our fixation with MySpace and Facebook, a fixation that has made these domains million dollar industries.

There is something effeminate about all this video stuff… guys who are the big heroes on the virtual gridiron, who couldn’t stay in for a set of downs on a real football field. The Bible commands our boys to “act like a man” (I Cor 16:13). Among other things, this requires some real action on their part. It also requires diligence — associated with doing, not with voyeurism. What are video games associated with? Industry, or sloth? And what about Social Networking? Instead of video games and social networking, we must teach our young people how to play some real sports and real games, how to make some real friendships, how to be a real friend, and how to build a real friendship.  In the realm of social networking, voyeurism meets friendship.  We no longer try to be a friend.  We now try to get friends.  We try to “friend” people.  We have become watchers of friendship.

Secondly, Fakebook and MyFace are escapist.  Consider this quote from the New York Times online edition…

Facebook purports to be a place for human connectivity, but it’s made us more wary of real human confrontation. When I was in college, people always warned against the dangers of “Facebook stalking” at a library computer — the person whose profile you’re perusing might be right behind you. Dwelling online is a cowardly and utterly enjoyable alternative to real interaction.

So even though Facebook offers an elaborate menu of privacy settings, many of my friends admit that the only setting they use is the one that prevents people from seeing that they are Currently Logged In. Perhaps we fear that the Currently Logged In feature advertises to everyone else that we (too!) are Currently Bored, Lustful, Socially Unfulfilled or Generally Avoiding Real Life.

For young people, Facebook is yet another form of escapism; we can turn our lives into stage dramas and relationships into comedy routines. Make believe is not part of the postgraduate Facebook user’s agenda. As more and more older users try to turn Facebook into a legitimate social reference guide, younger people may follow suit and stop treating it as a circus ring. But let’s hope not.

Friendship 101

We have all sorts of virtual friends… but do we have any real ones? Having lots of friends (which I understand is one of the goals of networking) hinders many from having any sort of real relationships.  The social networking scene is the gathering place of the socially unfulfilled, where people go to escape reality, to escape friendship. Besides being effeminate, the escapism embodied in social networking is yet another form of abdication… a way of shrugging off duties.

When we think of real friendship, the kind that involves real people in real time in a real world, we have real duties and obligations that we really must meet.  It has been rightly pointed out that virtual friendships, those that involve pixels rather than people, provide absolutely zero opportunity for fulfillment of those duties and obligations.  That is not to say that people who have Facebook relationships never venture beyond the virtual and into the real, nor is it to say that they cannot.  Just that neither Facebook nor MySpace require a person to venture beyond the profile.  Facebook enables a person to escape loving his neighbor through long ‘friend’ lists.

Beyond that, Facebook is a place where a person can go to escape the pressures and responsibilities and problems of this life.  If a man would have friends, he must show himself friendly.  This requires him to do.  But in the world of Facebook, one must leave the virtual on purpose, and enter the real world if he is to do his duty as a friend.  Facebook provides fake friendship.  Facebook friendships have all the depth of a spray-on tan.  They look like friendship, but Facebook friendships are ended the way a spray-on tan is ended.  One need not explain.  One simply needs to delete.

If there ever were a day in which we need to re-learn the real-world work of friendship, it is in this day.  Our culture is dying of loneliness and starvation.  Ironically, we die this way in a day of ‘overpopulation’ and ‘overcrowding.’  We don’t know our neighbors, but we have thousands of friends.  We haven’t done anything for anybody, but we have thousands of friends.  We don’t love anybody, but we have thousands of friends.

Friendship, as we said, requires work.  The man who attempts to escape the work of friendship in the real world will have no friends.  A man that hath friends must give way.  The self-centered will find few real friends.  And yet, somehow in the world of Facebook, the most narcissist and self-absorbed among us are the ones with pages and pages of virtual friends.  That fact alone should wake us up to the reality of virtual friendship.  It is a form of escapism, and not true friendship.

Addictions Anonymous (101)

Besides the voyeuristic and escapist elements of social networking, these things are also very addictive. Those who spend a considerable amount of time blogging might have an idea of the addictive nature of the Internet.  It is a difficult thing to put up a comment and then to walk away from it.  And that is in a cross-section of the Internet that leans towards serious discussion and debate.  How much more so is this true in a venue that calls, not for serious commentary, but for techno-grunts and lol’s and rotlmfho’s, and “like, cool, and stuff.”  Virtually all of the features of the MySpace world encourage more MySpace.  And we must remember that I Corinthians 10:23 and 6:12 apply to the Internet as much as they apply to anything else.

Finally, social networking is degenerative… it always tends towards entropy.  Just like in the teen-aged slumber party scene (something that godly parents should conscientiously avoid), the conversation tends to move in a specific direction.  We don’t expect to hear our teen-aged daughters, sleeping bags stretched across the living room, immersed in a discussion of William Shakespeare.  Nor do we expect to find that sort of conversation anywhere in the social networks.  I like this quote from Douglas Wilson in the most recent edition of his Credenda/Agenda, referring to what he called the Internet version of the slumber party (Facebook and MySpace):

“In any setting, when kids get together without parental direction and supervision, two things will happen – and they will happen for the same reason that weeds grow in your garden. The first will be that the conversation will drift downward into the silly and inane. Once that tone is set and established, some people will introduce some real sin. They will wait a bit to introduce it because teens steeped in the silly and inane are not equipped to stand up to real sin. Laziness is not preparation for battle, and so when battles do come to the lazy, they are usually short battles. Silly and inane conversation revolves around trivialities, superficial feelings, flatteries, flirting, and so on.”

This is the kind of thing that fills pages and pages of Facebook and MySpace.  It is the reason why these places are so attractive.  It is the reason why even adults, longing to escape their own miserable reality, enjoy the virtual world.  It is the reason why these places are so addictive.  And it is the reason why we must be on our guard at all times when we enter into the realm of the Virtual Relationship.  Sin will be introduced.  It is not a question of ‘whether,’ but of ‘when.’  At some point, that immodestly dressed girl is going to hit on your son.  Or, maybe, on you.  These sites do not move in a direction towards more sanctification and holiness.

As we interact on the Internet, we must remember that God promises to judge our every word — even the idle ones. Especially the idle ones. Is there a lawful use for Social Networking? Certainly… among family, keeping in touch, even for witness.  Just that this is not the common use for such places.  We must then set a watch before our lips (and our keyboards).  And we must be sure that we do all things to the glory of God.

Putting the Web in Web

Read Proverbs 4:14-28 and think about facebook and myspace, especially for youth.  I’m going to highlight parts that catch my attention.

Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall.  For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.  The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.  My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.  Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.  For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.  Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.  Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.  Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.  Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

If you didn’t read the text, go back and do that.  The first part of Proverbs targets the youth culture.  God knows that people have certain problems when they become teens, certain new temptations.  They need the help of their parents.  In their trek to become an adult, and a godly one, they don’t need the dumbing down of the opinions of other young people.  Nothing in scripture tells young people to look for the company of other teenagers.   The Bible doesn’t recommend youth groups.   If anything, God’s Word says no to it.  We see the rejection of a peer group in Proverbs 1:8-16:

My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:  For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.  My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.  If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:  Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:  We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:  Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:  My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:  For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.

Did you read those verses?  If not, go back and do it.  Teens have their family.  During these unique times, they need to listen to their parents.  See how many times Proverbs 1-7 tells a young man to listen to dad and mom.  Again and again.  Teens need a group, the same one that adults need.  It’s the church.  In Psalm 73, Asaph seems to have been going through some of the same kind of covetous desires that a lot of teenagers go through when they’re growing up, thinking they’re being ripped off.  Asaph got caught up meditating upon how good it was in the world, very much like the prodigal son.  What was the solution for him?

When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;  Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.  Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. Psalm 73:16-18

Teenagers feel pain, all alone and no one understands what they’re going through.  They turn to facebook and myspace.  Where did Asaph find what He needed?  The house of the Lord.  There he heard something from God.  Today it’s the church and you hear God’s Word to give you the right perspective on life, what’s really important.

The internet is a worldwide web and it’s a place to get caught in something you don’t want.  You think you are getting something, but in so many instances you’re just getting gotten.  Bad boy-girl relationships.  Busybodying.  Introduction to sins.  Havens for lust.  It’s the same for adults too, but young people are getting heavy doses of exactly what scripture warns them in particular about.

Social sites are a glove fit for the youth culture, because so much of what teens think they are missing, they can get virtual loads of.  And they are not ready to handle it.  I haven’t met one teenager who the social networking scene really helps.  They’re supposed to be becoming an adult, but they are served more immaturity and childishness, very much lacking in responsibility and sobriety.

Teens look out for acceptance.  They need to look up and see they already have it in Christ.   In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and we are complete in Him.   They need to look to their family like Proverbs commands them.  Facebook gives them another source to find acceptance.  It won’t give them what they need.  It is a lie in that way.  We have to learn to say “no” to the different ways that sinners entice us.

Young people think they need their space.  Now they have their space on myspace.  And what does it turn into?  Everyone needs accountability.  No one needs a place where he is uninspected.   In Proverbs 7 you see the young man without anyone around.  He is loitering in a place that he shouldn’t be.  He might be very intelligent, but there are places that will turn down any of our IQs and could reduce us, like it did him, to a piece of bread.  We should stay away from those places—or spaces—wherever they may be.

Invasion of the Friend-Makers

March 2, 2009 4 comments

We want to be your friend. No, really! We do. We want to be your friend, because then you’ll have to be our friend, and we want to have lots of friends. In fact, we want 6,529 friends. And more. So, check out our status. We were happy three hours ago, and contemplative ten hours ago. We’ll be updating our status to depressed if you don’t poke us at least once in the next half hour. And we might get down-right angry if we don’t get five more friends before the next time we update our profile (which should be every ten minutes for the next few weeks).

We’re delving into the Fake world of virtual friendships, also known as Facebook. Or My Space. Social Networking, 101. That is the target. We’ve got a Christian Worldview, and we’re not afraid to use it. On the Internet, for that matter. So hold on to your profile, because we’re gonna plaster some walls during the next month.

JackHammer hammers the Social Networks. Comin’ right up.


What We Say about Television

I’ve been away from my keyboard for a bit (and not minding it at all), and will be away for about another week. We spent half a month in Indiana and the country in between, visiting family and friends and covered bridges and State Parks. Along the way, we saw the new Lewis and Clarke Museum near Nebraska City, the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, and paid through the nose for petro. We arrived home on Tuesday night, unpacked for half a day on Wednesday, and then I got down to business preparing for our Summer Camp, which begins on Monday. When I finish camp, I’m looking forward to a little bit of a slower pace… and (I hope) some extra time to re-acquaint myself with my fellow JackHammers, and with my keyboard.

I had one more post I wanted to do on television, before we move on to the next item on the agenda. About a month ago, I wrapped up a series of lessons on television by asking our people to consider their relationship to what has affectionately been dubbed the “boob tube.” I proposed a series of questions for our people to ask themselves regarding the television, and in this post, I want to propose that same set of questions. Feel free to answer them in the comments section, if you like. But first, let me introduce the questions.

Paul makes a statement that I believe is relevant to the issue of television, as it is to many other cultural issues. He said,

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

2 Corinthians 10:3-6

We want to bring into captivity every thought about television to the obedience of Christ. Really, that has been the point of this series all along. Would we like you to turn your television off? Sure. Would we like you to get rid of it altogether? Why not. But we have not turned this series into an extended rant on “television, smell-a-vision, hell-a-vision.” We have not urged holiness Read more…

Categories: Culture, Mallinak Tags: ,

Scriptural Realism in Application to Television

For several weeks of summers, during my college years, I spent time in a cabin with jr. age boys.  I always had a disciplined group and rarely missed the few hours designated for sleep.  To get this accomplished, I didn’t make threats like:  “If you don’t stop making noise, I’ll jump from this bed, roll you in honey, and make you do 1000 push-ups on top of an ant hill.”  That was big talk that might work until they found out that you wouldn’t follow through with your promise.

We want to get rid of the television problem in churches, but we shouldn’t do that with big talk that we can’t back up with Scripture.   We should strive for air-tight application in the verses we use as guidelines for television viewing.  We also don’t want to set standards that we don’t enforce because we can’t due to the fact that we’re not convinced of them ourselves.  A few things will happen in a church if we do that.

1.  Lots of television will be watched; we’ll just not know about it.

2.  The people who do watch will limit talk about television to those with the least discernment in the church—those with the most discernment won’t talk about it.

3.  Kids will grow in the church seeing the standard as phony, so won’t have sustainable convictions.

4.  Wild contradictions will exist in behavior in the church relating to entertainment.

5.  We’ll be a joke to the world and deserve it.

I’ve already explained my television credentials.  You may not do better than sending your TV to the dump.  We survived just fine the centuries before television came along.   With television, networks possess a convenient pipeline to send out their moral sewage.  Advertisers will feed your lust and news outlets will manipulate your view of the world.  Even the sports is often a distraction to what’s really important. Read more…

Categories: Brandenburg, Culture Tags: ,

God of the Thoughts

Does television exalt itself against your knowledge of God?  If it does, it probably does through its images.  God revealed Himself and His will through His Words.  God is a Spirit.  We can’t see Him.  Our understanding of Him comes through Scripture.  He won’t captivate our mind if we can’t allow Words to dominate our thoughts.

Our brains more easily access images.  They are mind candy.  Something close to the equivalent would be the choice between koolaid or water, a coca-cola or h2o, or a candy bar or a piece of celery.  If thinking is a road, images are downhill compared to words uphill.  We machete through words and coast through images.  We sweat through words and relax through images.  Images are the elephant in the room.  Words are the dust mite.

Everywhere we go we have the choice presented between words and pictures.  The Bible or the game.  The book or the movie.  The reading or the activity.  Images are the enemy of pondering.  We can’t meditate when the pictures have muscled their way to the front.

The more we give into the visuals, the deeper their groove becomes in our mind.  We become more comfortable with them.  It gets harder to think about what God said or a book about it.  Our mind tires on the long sentence and thick paragraph.  The golf cart’s there, so why walk the eighteen.  Just push on the gas.

We won’t submit to God, when something else dominates our brain.  The images crowd God out.  He wants to fellowship through the Words and sentences.  He wants to inform, to convict, to guide, to encourage, and to help.  He wants our attention.  Whenever He doesn’t get it, whatever it is that does is what we worship.  How much competition should we give Him?

Categories: Brandenburg, Culture Tags: ,

What Television Says about Values

May 16, 2008 3 comments

Graduation is tonight, then I’m off for a couple of weeks that will include some R & R, some family reunion-ish activity, and some guest preaching. But I don’t want to quit on our discussion, so I’m leaving a short and sweet post for you all — enjoy!

I invited our church members to participate in a little experiment… watch one hour of television, leave it on the same channel for the entire hour, and count how many commercials there are in that one hour. I think you would be surprised at the answer. Any television-saturated person will also be a commercial-saturated person. To watch television is to watch commercials.

Of course, some of our faithful readers (thanks, Mom!) have already thought to themselves, “I don’t watch the commercials… I mute them.” Perhaps you do what my dad did when I was growing up. Of all the things on television that bothered my dad, the commercials made his skin crawl the most. So, he invented a Commercial Curtain. He had my mom cut and hem a piece of dark material that we couldn’t see through, he gray-taped it over the screen, and then put a message on it. It said, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.” Whenever the commercials started, he would flip the Commercial Curtain over the screen.  Then, he would turn down the volume, and every once in a while peak to see if the commercials were finished.  When the regular program (which, apparantly, was not the ‘wicked thing’) returned, the Commercial Read more…

Television: My Story part second

A man heard a hot message from his preacher against television.  He told the pastor that he had decided to put his TV in the closet for one month to honor the Lord.  About halfway through the month, his pastor asked him how it was going with the television.  He replied: “We’ve had a hard time all fitting into the closet.”

When I was a kid, my family didn’t leave on the TV like it was another household appliance.  Did you ever have one of those moments though, growing up, when someone says, “I don’t have anything to do”?  Translated:  “Can I watch TV?”  You don’t have anything to do and so you think and you think about what you can do and television’s the answer. Can television by definition count as something to do?  Isn’t it the apex of do-nothing?  Isn’t the TV in the same picture with the couch potatoe?  Isn’t television in the definition of “sedimentary”?

When we had a television, we turned it on.  I don’t imagine that there are many families that get home at night, who don’t turn it on.  People ask, “What’s on tonight?”  If the answer is, “nothing,” that doesn’t mean that they don’t watch.   First they look, but then they find the best nothing on there and sit and watch it.  Is there anything else that we say we’re glued to, besides TV?  Imagine children glued to homework.

More On Videos

Essentially, no television was available to me from the summer of 1980 for the next ten years.  I spent some time standing in the television section of department stores, admiring the new technology for covering NFL and college football.  I remember the advent of the close-up, cameras now zooming close enough to see clearly the ball manufacturer.  I recall thinking that it would be nice to watch that kind of football coverage, briefly coveting the experience.  It was during those silent years, however, that the video arrived, first Beta, then Read more…

What Television Says about Us

May 12, 2008 4 comments

Shhhhhh.  Your television is talking.  Just listen.  Quiet now, everybody.  Can you hear it?  No, no, don’t turn it on yet.  Even when it is off, it still has plenty to say.Â

You probably know what I mean.  It speaks to you at night, when you sit down with a plate of Oreos and a mug of milk.  It calls your name.  It begs.  It promises you a good time.  “Just pick up the remote… go ahead!  It won’t hurt anything.  Just for a little bit.  Won’t you please?”Â

Of course, your television talks to you when have it turned on, too.  And I’m not just talking about the images on the screen, either.  They talk to you, of course.  But not just them.  Your television talks, too.  You listen, sometimes.  Your television reminds you that there are other options than the one you are watching.  It reminds you to check and see.  You could check the TV guide.  But why ask someone else?  Your television is right there, promising an answer.  “Go ahead, answer your curiosities.  Forget what that newspaper says, I’m the expert about myself.  I’ll tell you whether there is anything else worth watching.  Just use your remote, and explore me for a while.”  You oblige.  The TV keeps its promise.  And doesn’t.Â

Your television doesn’t just talk to you.  It talks about you.  We already saw that.  It tells us about your priorities, about your life, about your relationship(s).  It has a lot to say.  More than you know.  But that is not all it says.  Your television talks to you, talks about you, and talks about us.  It not only tells your story, but it also tells our story.  The story of our culture, of the so-called “Age of Information” is projected in its glow.  Listen carefully.  Your television has something to say.

Driver or Passenger?Â

First, I would point out the fact that television really does speak about us.  In a culture that talks incessantly about television, we should note this.  Television actually has more to say about us than we have to say about it (as hard as that Read more…

Categories: Culture, Mallinak Tags: ,

Television: My Story

Hi.  My name is Kent.Â

I want to tell you the true story of me and television.  The names will not be changed to protect the innocent.  I’m not innocent.  Is anyone?  We could add a chapter to James and say that he is a perfect man who can control the television.  A television can no man tame.  But I digress.

Before I really get into this story, I want to give you a few preliminaries.  First, for the last 20 out of 21 years, which is my married life, we have owned a television, but had no antennae or cable hook-up, which in California means that we don’t receive any actual television to view.  We do own a combination DVD/CD player and a VCR.  Second, I think television can be as dangerous as anything to us.   But so can guns.

The Early Shows

OK, I grew up watching television.  I watched Armstrong make his one giant leap for mankind on our black and white tube television, peering through the porch window where my brother and I slept on a very warm July late evening before my dad left for graveyard shift at the factory.  Did you notice that I remembered all that and television was a positive part of it?  Yes.  Gilligan’s Island, Hogan’s Heroes, The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, The Andy Griffith Show, Get Smart, Gomer Pyle, Petticoat Junction, Leave It to Beaver, and The Waltons strand my cultural fiber.  I remember the talking heads of the Watergate hearing.  I first witnessed the amazing growth of homosexual political power in San Francisco on a news program on the same black and white.  I’d never go to San Francisco after witnessing that.  Ooops.  Many days Read more…

Categories: Brandenburg, Culture Tags: ,

What Your Television Says About You

At the founding of our nation, if someone had told America’s forefathers that in the future, a significant part of an American’s day would be spent staring at a box in the living room, I feel fairly certain that he would have been dismissed out of hand.  Somehow, it is hard to imagine that men like Franklin, Madison, Adams, or Washington would have the ability to fathom such a cultural phenomenon.  Let alone imagine the possibility of it.

And no, I am not simply referring to the invention of miniature projectors of animated images.  Certainly, there are many inventions of the modern era (e.g., automobiles, telephones, i-pods, and tennis shoes) that would have baffled them.  I am referring, not to the invention, but to the activity of television viewing.  Considering the amount of time spent on this activity, we would have had one confounded Founding Father.Â

Yet here we are, right smack-dab at the start of the Twenty-first century, where Television has replaced baseball as America’s favorite pastime.  To borrow a line from Neal Postman’s delightful little book, we twenty-first century Americans are consumed with amusing ourselves to death.Â

One might say that this new pastime of ours has had an impact on our culture.  That would be irrefutable.  And yet, one gets the vague feeling that such a statement somehow gets off the train a few stops short of reality.  Television has had more than a mere impact on culture.  Television has become our Read more…

Categories: Culture, Mallinak Tags: ,

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