Saturday, April 15, 2017

Weekly Web Roundup (4/15/17)

Photo Credit:
World Bank Photo Collection
Here is a collection of items from around the web that caught my attention over this past week:

'What a total God shot!' Understand that? Then you speak Christianese by Patrick Cox (PRI.org)
"This religious dialect is spoken by increasing numbers of English-speaking Christians, especially evangelicals. And it isn't just deployed for Bible study. Everyday non-religious conversation is also sprinkled with words from the scriptures, and phrases popularized by charismatic preachers and writers. So for example, instead of "results," you might hear a Christianese speaker refer to "fruits." Instead of "thoughtful," "intentional." Christanese can also depart slightly from English grammar: "My friend spoke into my life." "I was called to move to Nicaragua." It's code, a useful way for believers to seek out like-minded people."
Who Would Jesus Abort? Confessions of a “Christian” Abortion Doctor by Russell Moore
"The biggest hurdle, though, for Parker, is to redefine life itself. Like many in the abortion movement, Parker scoffs at the possibility of fetal personhood because the child is small, “no bigger, from crown to rump, than the first two digits of my pinkie finger,” and because the child cannot live, in most cases, on his or her own outside the womb. He seems to recognize though that lack of size and lack of power won’t be persuasive on their own, so he continues to what he sees as the real problem: the idea that life is “a miracle.” Parker writes that to say that “conception, or birth, or even death is ‘miraculous’ does an injustice to God.” Life is, instead, he argues, merely “a process.” As I read this abortion doctor’s repeated inveighing against the metaphor of “miracle” for human life, I could not help but be reminded of Wendell Berry’s manifesto against scientism and materialism, which he says demotes humanity from creature to machine. The rejection of the miracle of life, Berry wrote, leaves us with the coldness of abstraction."
How Single Women Became an Unstoppable Force in Bible Translation by Kate Shellnutt (Christianity Today)
"Though women in Bible translation are well represented in the field, they remain underrepresented in leadership positions. In recent years, SIL has worked to bring more women into administrative leadership, believing that “God works through women and men of every ethnic group and age level, and calls them to be involved in leadership roles in all facets of our organizational life.” Women mostly feel free to focus on the work they were called to in the first place—getting more people access to the Bible in their own languages—but the pressure’s still there. Everyone on the mission field works hard and sacrifices much; women may notice themselves working extra hard to demonstrate their contributions."
How Isiah Thomas became the greatest Detroit Piston ever by Bill Dow (Detroit Free Press)
"And then there was Isiah Lord Thomas III, the player whose impact turned around the once floundering franchise and laid the foundation for the construction of one of the premier arenas in basketball, especially for its time. Thomas blossomed into the Pistons' fearless leader during his career, cementing a legacy befitting of his middle name. During his 13-year career, he established himself as one of the greatest “small men” in NBA history. A dangerous shooter and spectacular playmaker, he still is the franchise’s all-time leader in points (18,822), assists (9,061), steals (1,861) and minutes played (35,516). The 12-time All-Star was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000 and was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time team. “Simply put, Isiah Thomas was the difference maker and the key to the franchise’s success,” says Tom Wilson, the former Pistons president and CEO and right-hand man to the late club owner Bill Davidson. Wilson was the project manager of the Palace and first suggested the pioneering concourse-level suites. The arena opened in 1988. “Internally," Wilson said, "we called the Palace 'The House that Isiah Built.' "
That's My King Dr. S.M. Lockridge

In honor of the commemoration and celebration of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ that Christians around the worldwide recognize this weekend, here's a video that reminds us about the King of Kings.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When Stereotypes Go Bad

Photo Credit: Peter.Lorre
It was several years ago and I was sitting down to dinner with a number of pastors from another part of the world. I was speaking at a conference and these men were guests of the conference host.

A mutual friend introduced me to them and shared that I had worked for many years with The Impact Movement, a ministry focused on African American college students.

After settling into our meal and getting acquainted with one another, one of the men asked me, "Can I ask you a question? Why do Black people like fried chicken so much?"

Inwardly appalled by his inquiry, I composed myself and responded, "What makes you think that?"

He went onto share that although he didn't know any Black Americans personally, he inferred from watching American television programs and movies that this was true. He simply wanted to know why and thought I might be able to help him. Knowing that English was not this brother's first language, I took the time to clarify his question and to make sure that I comprehended him as best as I could.

Confident that what I heard was what he had asked, I posed a question, as well as a follow-up to him:
I asked, "Have you ever had fried chicken?" 
He said, "Of course! Many times." 
I then asked, "Do you like it?" 
He responded, "Of course!" 
I said, "I do too. So I guess there are lot of people that probably like fried chicken, including the both of us."
I then went on to explain that unfair stereotypes -- ways of categorizes groups of people without viewing them as individuals -- had been woven into our country's history, especially as it pertained to African Americans. In order for those in power -- yes, even some Christian pastors -- to justify the dehumanization of those of African descent, negative stereotypes of Black people had developed over time. Sadly, many of these stereotypes persist to this day.

I could have assumed there was racist intent behind the man's question but I don't think that would have been fair...nor helpful. He had little context for American history and admittedly knew no African Americans personally. His question came from a place of unawareness and not ill-intent. He had been exposed to a stereotype about Black Americans that wasn't being applied to other ethnic groups and he simply wanted to know if it was true. I attempted to address his question in the most gracious and helpful way I could.

In the case of African Americans and fried chicken, the curious might wonder how this specific stereotype might have come about. Gene Demby with NPR provides some history:
"What is it with this stereotype about black people loving fried chicken? 
I asked Claire Schmidt for help. She's a professor at the University of Missouri who studies race and folklore. Schmidt said chickens had long been a part of Southern diets, but they had particular utility for slaves. They were cheap, easy to feed and a good source of meat. But then, Schmidt says, came Birth of a Nation. 
D.W. Griffith's seminal and supremely racist 1915 silent movie about the supposedly heroic founding of the Ku Klux Klan was a huge sensation when it debuted. One scene features a group of actors portraying shiftless black elected officials acting rowdy and crudely in a legislative hall. (The message to the audience: These are the dangers of letting blacks vote.) Some of the legislators are shown drinking. Others had their feet kicked up on their desks. And one of them was very ostentatiously eating fried chicken. "That image really solidified the way white people thought of black people and fried chicken," Schmidt said. 
Schmidt said that like watermelon, that other food that's been a mainstay in racist depictions of blacks, chicken was also a good vehicle for racism because of the way people eat it. (According to government stats, blacks are underrepresented among watermelon consumers.) "It's a food you eat with your hands, and therefore it's dirty," Schmidt said. "Table manners are a way of determining who is worthy of respect or not." 
But why does this idea still hold traction, since fried chicken is clearly a staple of the American diet? Surely, KFC, Popeyes and Church's ain't national chains — and chicken and waffles aren't a brunch staple — because of the supposed culinary obsessions of black folks. "It's still a way to express racial [contempt] without getting into serious trouble," Schmidt said. (Among the Code Switch team, we've started referring to these types of winking statements as "racist bank shots.") 
"How it's possible to be both a taboo and a corporate mainstream thing just shows how complicated race in America is," Schmidt said."
In discussing the topic of stereotypes, it may be helpful to explore the origin of the word. It seems that the term originated as a result of the printing press. When books were being printed, it was a laborious process for the printer to have to set the type to new molds for each book being printed. With limited supplies available, it meant that other books couldn't be printed while those on the press were being created. When books that were popular had to be printed over and over, it felt even more time consuming to have to do the same process with each printing.

Eventually, it was discovered that a printer could create a mold of already set type and cast large metal plates so that the book could be quickly printed again at a future date. Once the "stereotype" plates were created, the set type could be taken apart and used for other projects. This made the job much easier for the printer. They didn't have to think about searching for the right letters and carefully placing them in the right order to print the book. They could just slap the plate down and, Voila!, an exact reproduction of the book could be created.

In the world of printing books, it was discovered that stereotyping can be a wonderful way to ensure consistency in product while saving significant time and money.

But, when it comes to people, stereotypes can be destructive.

Stereotypes can strip people of their humanity and leave them with nothing more than a label placed upon them that is not of their choosing. Even if a common belief about a certain group of people might be generally true (e.g. Canadians like hockey), we must resist the temptation to treat people as weird if they do not meet the expectations that we have presumed upon them.

When we assume we know everything about a person because of how they look or where they are from, it prevents us from learning who they are as individuals. Each human being is a expression of the handiwork of God and they deserve much more than a stereotype to define them.

The Bible tells us that God created us uniquely and that He even knows the number of hairs on our head. In light of this, doesn't it make sense that we would seek to know our fellow image bearers of God as individuals and not simply categorize them based on lazy stereotypes?

Let us do the hard work of "resetting the machine" for each person God gives us the privilege of encountering. It takes great time and effort but, in the end, we will discover that viewing each person as an individual is better than settling for a stereotyped copy.

(h/t to my friend Rasool Berry for his assistance in writing this post and to Mental Floss on the origin of the term stereotype.)

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Weekly Web Roundup (4/8/17)

Photo Credit: Amaza Design
Here is a collection of items from around the web that caught my attention over this past week:

How to be a Tech-Wise Family & manage kids, technology & family by Andy Crouch (AnnVoskamp.com)
"Some of our happiest times as a family have been spent on this first floor, lit entirely by candlelight and the glow of a wood fire. Why wait for a power outage? The Wi-Fi and cell signals are there, all right—but we can choose to ignore them, turning instead to conversation, music, books, or silence. Indeed, on Sundays that is what we intentionally do, all day long. And all the most beautiful and striking things—everything that would start a conversation or capture a child’s attention—require our active engagement. Children love this, by the way. They thrive in a world stocked with raw materials. Too often, and with the best of intentions, we fill their world with technology instead—devices that ask very little of them. A cheap electronic keyboard makes a few monotonous sounds, while an expensive one promises to make all kinds of sounds. But actually, neither the cheap keyboard nor the expensive one has anything like the depth and range of possibility of an acoustic piano. A single pencil can produce more “colors” of gray and black than the most high-tech screen can reproduce. For a child’s creative development, the inexpensive, deep, organic thing is far better than the expensive, broad, electronic thing."
Faceless of the Game: Where have all the MLB superstars gone? by Jayson Stark (ESPN.com)
"For more than three decades, dating to the arrival of Bird and Magic, the NBA has embraced star power as the secret sauce for How To Sell Your League. And baseball? Not so much. "Baseball has always promoted the game," [Arn] Tellem says. "But it's been more about the game and its history. And it's been less about the individual players." Tellem sees that approach beginning to change. Finally. But in a star-driven society, he said, it can't shift gears fast enough. "Baseball is at a point now where they have to reach the youth of America," he says. "And clearly, [promoting] the game is important. But it's about using stars and developing stars and helping them become bigger names, as a way of reaching the youth. And baseball has to see that convincing [those stars] and having them participate will serve the game."
‘S-Town’ Explores the Maze of the Divine Clockmaker’s Mind by Kaitlyn Schiess (Christianity Today)
"My favorite professor likes to say that a biblical view of humanity “needs to start in Genesis 1, not Genesis 3.” In saying so, he’s arguing for a fuller picture of what Scripture tells us about ourselves—not only that we’re fallen and sinful, but that each and every one of us is made in the image of God. It’s actually the combination of these ideas that most fully explains both the goodness and evil of which humans are capable: We display—albeit brokenly and imperfectly—characteristics that point us to the perfect character of our God. Christians can find signs of this eternal truth in highly unusual places, such as the incredibly successful podcast S-Town."
How Japanese Americans Survived Internment in WW2 by Emily Wilson (The Daily Beast)
"With President Trump having issued executive orders for two travel bans for majority Muslim countries, both blocked by federal judges, the history of rounding up a group of people based on ethnicity or religion seems especially relevant and urgent. A couple weeks before the exhibition’s [Exclusion: The Presidio’s Role in World War II Japanese American Incarceration] opening, Eric Blind, the director of Heritage Programs for the Presidio, showed me the space that would house it. Outside the entrance visitors will see a telephone pole with a replica of the poster telling all Japanese Americans to report to that buses that would take them to the camps. “It’s an ordinary object with an extraordinary pronouncement,” he said. “We want to create this empathy with people seeing the order—not just if you were Japanese Americans, but their friends and neighbors—about how would you feel if you saw this on a telephone pole?”"
Black Eye on America - What Is Black Twitter?: The Daily Show

Roy Wood Jr. explains how the African-American community uses Twitter to discuss social issues and finds out why that communication is unique to black culture.