Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Combating Latina Negative Stereotypes on Television

Photo Credit: roniweb
Although Hispanics and Latinos now make up over 16% of the U.S. population, they remain woefully underrepresented on our country's most popular television shows. Hiispanics, especially when it comes to Latinas, featured on prime-time shows often fit narrow, stereotypical roles.

Melissa Castillo-Garsow addresses this issue:
"A 2008 study published in Human Communication Research found that Latinos continue to be hugely underrepresented on primetime television - at they time, they were 3.9% of the television population and 12.5% of the U.S.population. Latina characters were generally more likely to have the following traits than white or African-American characters: “addictively romantic”, “sensual”, “sexual” and “exotically dangerous.” 
These researchers also found that in comparison to characters of other races, Latinas were the “laziest”, “least intelligent” and most “verbally aggressive.” 
But what really bothers me about the roles of Adrian on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” Alice on “Hellcats” and Santana on “Glee,” is that these are shows marketed towards young audiences – teens and younger – who are still forming their impressions of the world. It makes me wonder who is watching, taking in and possibly acting on these stereotypes. 
Worst of all, Adrian, Alice and Santana are not stupid, or lazy, either. They are actually the cream of the crop – talented girls who excel at school, art or sports, representing real possibilities at diversifying the portrayals of Latina women in the media. Even so, they are still the sluts, still the manipulative characters that antagonize the likeable white character."
Castillo-Garsow points to America Ferrara's role in the ABC series, Ugly Betty, as an example of a stereotype breaking role for a young Latina. Ugly Betty, which left the air last year, helped to present a more complete and accurate portrayal of a Hispanic woman without overly sexualizing her or placing her in a domestic help role.

While it can be argued that some of these same stereotypes can be applied to white television characters, there is a plethora of personalities and characteristics, both positive and negative, that make up the complexity of majority culture television roles. The same can't necessarily be said for people of color. Television still has a ways to go in accurately representing the diversity that is in our country without playing to cliche and inherited stereotypes.

To read Ms. Castillo-Garsow's complete article on CNN.com please click here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Are Broken People Different Than Proud People?

Photo Credit: ashley rose,
There are few books that I have found as personally convicting as Nancy Leigh DeMoss's book, Brokenness: The Heart God Revives. DeMoss goes into great detail about what makes a person's heart proud and how brokenness before God and others is a necessary reality in order to truly experience personal revival.

DeMoss recounts the story of the revival that happened among Campus Crusade staff out during our staff training in Colorado during the summer of 1995. I didn't join the staff of Campus Crusade until a few months after this happened so I wasn't there, but DeMoss shares about how God met all those present in a deep way. Sincere awakening happened among those present as many people confessed and repented of their sins against God and others.

Contrary to what some may think, those of us in vocational Christian ministries such as pastors and missionaries struggle with all the sins everybody else does and our lives are not perfect. We need the same Savior, Jesus, that everyone does and we, too, need to experience the gospel on a daily basis. DeMoss provides a list of the different characteristics of "Proud People vs. Broken People." There are over thirty areas on the list so I won't list them all, but here is a sampling:

  • Proud people focus on the failures of others; broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.
  • Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit and look at everyone else's faults with a microscope, but their own with a telescople; broken people are compassionate and can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.
  • Proud people are self-righteous and look down on others; broken people esteem all others better than themselves.
  • Proud people have to prove that they are right; broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.
  • Proud people desire to be served; broken people are motivated to serve others.
  • Proud people desire self-advancement; broken people desire to promote others.
  • Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated; broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness and are thrilled that God would use them at all.
  • Proud people feel confident in how much they know; broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.
  • Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin; broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.
  • Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor; broken people compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.
  • Proud people don't think they need revival, but that everyone else does; broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.
  • I don't know about you, but after reading this list, I'm confronted with the fact of how filled with pride I can be. I frequently blame others instead of accepting my own wrongs. I want to be served instead of serving others. I desire to be recognized above others. I justify my own sin while wanting the sins of others to be exposed. I can assume myself better than others but utterly fail the test when compared with God's standard. We all need to pray more consistently that God would root out the pride and sin in our hearts and replace it with brokenness, humility and grace.

    To order your own copy of this book you can find it here.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    The Danger of Becoming an Internet Busy-Body

    Photo Credit: Internet Society
    If you spend a similar amount of time online as I do, you are also at risk of becoming an "Internet Busy-Body." What is that you ask? Trisha Wilkerson writes about this type of person as one who spends an inordinate amount of time online with no real purpose -- just surfing the web, bumping around from site-to-site, wasting time by ingesting massive amounts of trivial news and random updates that don't necessarily serve any real purpose.

    Wilkerson says this:
    "When was the last time you found yourself going around from house to house being idle? Or, perhaps calling or texting too many friends in one day? Does boredom lure you in to busy-bodying? What do you gain by knowing more stuff? When does being curious distract your heart away from what God wants you to focus on? 
    The sin of the busy-body is often when desires are disappointed and we either demand or settle for the pleasure of knowing others’ business. Instead of being connected relationally to God and people, we slip into false intimacy and gather knowledge that doesn't grow us, but instead wastes time. Like greed or lust, busy-bodying is a thirst for more. We are saying to God that he doesn’t satisfy our hearts."
    This is a helpful reminder that although this is much that is positive about our ability to connect with another and learn new information on the Internet, there is also the temptation to flutter away significant amounts of time each week by wasting time online. We can all-too-easily trade the realities of our seemingly boring and mundane lives for the salacious and exciting news of celebrities and others we don't know.

    While there is certainly a place for entertainment and recreation, we should be concerned if we find ourselves spending more time living vicariously through the lives of others online than we do seeking to become better people ourselves who are growing closer to God and who connect in healthy relationships with others in real life.

    To read Trisha Wilkerson's complete post please click here.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Sinclair Ferguson on The Holiness of God

    Photo Credit: Andre Maceira
    From Sinclair B. Ferguson's, A Heart for God:
    "What does the Holiness of God mean? It is this: His holiness is an attribute of God that encompasses all of his other attributes. It is His "God-ness." When we speak of God's holiness we are speaking of His purity, power, perfection, all-sufficiency, eternality, immutability, transcendence, omnipresence, omniscience, righteousness, wisdom, goodness, mercy, sovereignty, faithfulness, love. It is God's holiness that makes Him separate, sacred and above all other things. Nothing can be compared to Him. God's holiness means He is separate from sin. But holiness in God also means wholeness. God's holiness is His "God-ness." It is His being God in all that it means for Him to be God. To meet God in His holiness, therefore, is to be altogether overwhelmed by the discovery that He is God and not man."
    (h/t to Derrick Grow for the quote)

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Chevy Chase on the Downside of Fame

    Photo Credit: Alan Light
    I am currently reading Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller's book, Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, a book of interviews with those associated with the show during its nearly forty years of existence.

    I came across the following quote from Chevy Chase, a breakout star from SNL's inaugural season who went onto become one of the biggest comedic movie stars of the 1980's. Having personally gone from obscurity to fame seemingly overnight when SNL became a breakout hit in 1975, Chase says this about fame:
    "I think if there is one perception that the public feels about people who become famous, it's that it is a great, wonderful, marvelous, magical thing. And that's true up to a point. But in fact it's also a very, very frightening thing, because it's one of the most stressful things. There's a certain amount of post-traumatic stress involved in being regular guy and then suddenly an extremely famous one.
    By and large, people who are looking for some sort of immediate gratification to being with, some validation of what their identity is, who they are, some acceptability. They're not novelists who are waiting after ten years to see how they did. They want it right away. They're children, basically. And in all children there's this reservoir of self-doubt and guilt and sense of low self-esteem, I think. And so one lives with this kind of dualism, this disparity between the marvelous magic of becoming accepted by so many so fast and, at the same time, a lingering sense that one doesn't deserve it and sooner or later will be found out."
    Fame is fleeting for most who find it and most people will never achieve the kind of recognition that television and film stars find. But true satisfaction and meaning is not found in the applause we get simply for making people laugh or by being really good at pretending to be someone we're not.  We can take comfort in knowing that there is a God who knows everything about us and still offers a love to us that is not based on our performance. To find out more about this God, please click here.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Tim Keller on Marriage

    Photo Credit: 19melissa68

    Our society is currently grappling with the meaning of the institution of marriage. We're told that one out of every two marriages fail. We celebrate reality television unions based more on celebrity than that of commitment. And here in 2011, we find that even the very definition of marriage is being re-examined.

     So what is the purpose of marriage? Dr. Tim Keller, an author and pastor in New York City, sheds some light on this subject in his new book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. In a recent television interview, Keller expounds on his belief on the institution of marriage. You can watch the video here.
    Dr. Keller offers a counter cultural definition of why marriage exists. It is much more than emotional love, although it certainly includes that. At its heart, marriage is complete commitment to another person and with that commitment comes a freedom to be completely oneself with another. It is a beautiful illustration of God's commitment to those that He is in covenant relationship with and we humans get the opportunity to get a small taste of God's view of us through our experience of the marriage covenant. It is love in its purest form.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2011

    World Missions & Western Guilt

    Photo Credit:
    royalconstanstine society
    We missionaries from the West often get a bad rap in the increasingly secularized culture in which we live. Because of shameful aspects of our past such as the Crusades, Western colonialism and the African slave trade which some missionaries contributed to, those of us that travel to other cultures to tell people about Jesus can find ourselves apologizing for the calling we feel that God has given to us.

    In our efforts to be culturally sensitive, we may shy away from the verbal proclamation of the gospel message of Jesus and instead focus on humanitarian aspects of mission such as provide food, housing and clean water for those in need. While these things are good and appropriate for missionaries to participate in, our guilt over past atrocities committed in the name of Jesus may cause a hesitation in identifying ourselves as Christians who believe the message we have is needed by all. Western guilt can drive much of what exists in Christian missions today but it doesn't have to be that way.

    In a recent article for Christianity Today, Bishop Hwa Yung challenges Western missionaries to not be driven by unhealthy guilt but to be compelled by the gospel of Christ. A highlight:
    "We've witnessed many conquests and imperial expansions throughout world history. Many of these were done in the name of religion. But I am not aware of a society that has self-critically developed a guilt complex as deep and extensive over past mistakes as today's West. One can easily name a number of non-Western societies and nations that have practiced territorial expansions and various oppressions in the name of religion or national interests. In which of these do we find serious wrestling with guilt? I am not saying those from other cultural and religious traditions aren't able to develop guilt complexes. I am saying that, outside Western culture shaped by a Christian history, I do not see evidence of such a complex on a similar scale. 
    The point is this: The very fact of Western guilt may be one of the supreme evidences for the enduring validity of the gospel in the post-Christian West. For it shows that the gospel has the power to shape the conscience of a culture, even when its propositional claims have been forgotten or largely rejected by that culture. Seemingly, despite being abandoned by many Westerners, the gospel continues to simmer in an unquenchable manner in a society that once acknowledged Christ. 
    What do we conclude from this? That yes, Western guilt should lead to repentance for presumptuous, insensitive, ethnocentric, and triumphalistic missions. The wrong conclusion, however, is to suggest that we must forgo Western missions because such missions have lost integrity. The very guilt that troubles the Western conscience over past failures points to the moral power and enduring validity of the gospel. Without this burden of guilt, which the Spirit imparts, this world would be far more cruel, heartless, unjust, and oppressive than it is. Only when our hearts and our cultures have responded to the call of Christ and experienced the work of the Spirit can such a conscience develop on the sort of scale that we find in the West. Thus, the Western guilt complex properly understood is also a profound call to humble confidence and boldness in mission."
    For sincere missionaries not seeking to convert others to their own culture but to simply introduce them to a God that makes Himself known in all cultures, Yung's words are a comfort. Many missionaries have confused their calling and attempted to force new believers to adopt the culture of the missionary. A good missionary knows that the gospel of Jesus does not exist in just any one culture or people group but it has the power to flourish and prosper within any culture on the planet.

    Though the gospel message should never change, how it gets expressed and how it gets delivered should always adapt to the culture in which it is being lived out. It is possible to celebrate and appreciate my own culture while, at the same time, celebrate and appreciate the culture of others. The God of the Bible is not limited to any one culture but He expresses Himself in all cultures. I need not be ashamed of my culture nor should I presume it upon others. As a missionary, my calling is to introduce others to the Jesus of the Bible and to step aside so that that same Jesus can make Himself known within that individual's life and the culture in which they live. There is no need to feel guilty when that is my motive.

    To read the complete Christianity Today article please click here.

    Monday, November 07, 2011

    John Piper: A Recovering Racist Changed By The Gospel

    Photo Credit: Micah_68
    Dr. John Piper is a renowned pastor, author and speaker that is considered by many to be among the country's top Christian leaders. But in a newly released book, Piper confesses to the racism that infiltrated his heart while growing up in a segregated South in the midst of the American Civil Rights movement.

    In Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian, tackles a topic head-on that few of his peers in conservative, evangelical circles are willing to address -- racism. Piper adeptly uses the Holy Scriptures to argue that not only is the Christian God opposed to the racism that has so tainted our land but that He cares deeply for people of all cultures.  By courageously sharing his own journey on this road, Piper demonstrates that the gospel of Jesus can transform hearts in deep and undeniable ways.

    While I am quite supportive of this book and would encourage you to read it, I do have one glaring concern with the potential for how it is being received within certain corners of evangelical and, more particularly, Reformed Christian circles...

    On one hand, I am unbelievably encouraged that a white Christian leader of Piper's stature has chosen to write so explicitly about a topic that so many of us white American Christians would wish to simply go away. On the other hand, I am troubled that a number of people seem to be promoting this book as the first effort that a Christian has ever made to address Christianity, the Bible and racism.

    Though Piper's work is theologically rich and plentifully backed up by Scripture, his is not the first to do so.  There are a number of solid Christian leaders that have written on the same subject over the years but have essentially been ignored or dismissed by some of the same types of people that are champions of Piper's book because they don't subscribe to the same systems of theology or have a different cultural background.

    I am excited about the potential that Bloodlines has to influence a generation of Christians that love John Piper but don't expose themselves to many writers of color or those outside of their narrowly defined theological bubbles.  These individuals may be led to consider issues that they never have before and for that I am grateful. Racism has affected our lives as American and as individuals in ways that few other sins have.

    Brave Christians need to be willing to look within our own hearts to recognize the sin that lurks within and be obedient to God to address this first in ourselves and then in the society around us. I agree with Piper that it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the antidote to the disease of racism. It's just unfortunate that so many Christians feel like we're not infected.

    To read Dr. Tim Keller's introduction to Bloodlines please click here.

    For a moving video in which John Piper shares about his journey with racism please watch this video below.

    Bloodlines Documentary with John Piper from Crossway on Vimeo.

    Friday, November 04, 2011

    Making A Positive Impact Through Coaching Youth Sports

    My football team from last year
    Upon graduation from high school and entering college in the fall of 1991, there were two things I wanted to do with my life career-wise. I wanted to be an elementary school teacher and a coach. I enjoyed the satisfaction that came with teaching children and having enjoyed participating in multiple sports throughout my childhood and youth, I particularly enjoyed the combination of teaching and athletics that coaching brings.

    I had the chance to coach junior high school football and basketball while in college and looked forward to the opportunity to potentially coach as a profession. But God had other plans for me and led me into Christian ministry with college students. The chance to coach athletics didn't really present itself for a number of years after college but I was able to get back into the game several years ago due to my son's participation in a league near our home.

    I have found coaching flag football and basketball in an Upward league especially rewarding. Upward is a Christian-based sports league that teaches children the importance of sportsmanship, teamwork and positive attitude. It also places competition in its proper perspective by limiting the amount of practice time that each team has and ensures that each child gets an equal amount of playing time. It's been a joy coaching in a league that recognizes that athletic competition can be fun without having a win-at-all-costs attitude.

    The New York Times recently wrote of the difference that positive coaching can make in the lives of youngsters. David Bornstein writes:
    "Coaches can be enormously influential in the lives of children. If you ask a random group of adults to recall something of significance that happened in their fourth or fifth grade classroom, many will draw a blank. But ask about a sports memory from childhood and you’re likely to hear about a game winning hit, or a dropped pass, that, decades later, can still elicit emotion. The meaning that coaches or parents help young people derive from such moments can shape their lives.

    But today’s youth coaches often struggle to provide sound, evidence-based, and age-appropriate guidance to players. Part of the problem is that of the 2.5 million American adults who serve as volunteer coaches for youth sports less than 10 percent receive any formal training. Most become coaches because their kid is on the team ― and they basically improvise. I did this in soccer and, through my over-eagerness, almost destroyed my then-6-year-old son’s delight for the game.

    But a bigger problem is that youth sports has come to emulate the win-at-all-costs ethos of professional sports. While youth and professional sports look alike, adults often forget that they are fundamentally different enterprises. Professional sports is an entertainment business. Youth sports is supposed to be about education and human development.

    That’s why it is so disturbing that, over the past two decades, researchers have found that poor sportsmanship and acts of aggression have become common in youth sports settings. Cheating has also become more accepted. Coaches give their stars the most play. Parents and fans boo opponents or harangue officials (mimicking professional events). They put pressure on children to perform well, with hopes for scholarships or fulfilling their own childhood dreams. Probably the most serious indictment of the system is that the vast majority of youths ― some 70 to 80 percent ― drop out of sports shortly after middle school. For many, sports become too competitive and selective. In short, they stop being fun."
    Sports can teach kids a number of important life lessons and they can be a tremendous way to teach kids how to be humble winners and gracious losers. But they don't need over-competitive adults spoiling the fun. Parents and coaches have the opportunity to provide a memorable, fun experience for kids through participation in athletics. But they can also take something that used to be fun for a child and ruin it through too high of expectations and not letting kids be kids.

    While growing up, I had the privilege to play for many very good coaches and a few bad ones. I seek to model the things I learned from my good coaches and do the opposite of those who had a skewed perspective on what is most important in life. Simply put, the number one goal for someone who is coaching youth sports is to provide their players with a fun experience. Kids have fun by improving as a player, by coming together as a team, by doing things they didn't think they were capable of and by just getting to play a sport they love. I'm grateful that, hopefully, I help kids get to enjoy sports the way I did as a kid.

    To read the complete New York Times article please click here.

    (h/t to Linda Perukel for the link.)

    Tuesday, November 01, 2011

    Halloween Fun 2011

    The Avengers - Thor, Captain America & the Incredible Hulk

    My little pop star

    One proud dad

    Our pumpkin creations:
    Detroit Tigers, Cookie Monster, Owl and Christian fish & Cross