OK. The spring semester at Luther Seminary has ended. I have received comments from professors for all of my assignments. Ah. There is a brief moment to breathe. Then on to pre-work for June intensives. Relearning the 300 most common Greek works found in the New Testament is not really my idea of a good time. Back in the saddle again tomorrow. Lead the way Holy Spirit.
Tell me the old, old story. As I take another run at 500 words to define gospel, the words of that old gospel song run through my mind. I don’t think I can do a better job of defining gospel than the author who penned those words almost 150 years ago. The lyrics are by A. Katherine Hankey (1866) and music by W. Howard Doane (1867). My favorite rendition is by folk duo, Neal and Leandra, which is to a different tune than the original. I couldn’t find a way for you to listen to it, so I threw a quick YouTube video together.
Tell Me the Old, Old Story
Tell me the old, old story,
Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,
Of Jesus and His love;
Tell me the story simply,
As to a little child,
For I am weak and weary,
And helpless and defiled.
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story slowly,
That I may take it in–
That wonderful redemption,
God’s remedy for sin;
Tell me the story often,
For I forget so soon,
The “early dew” of morning
Has passed away at noon.
Tell me the story softly,
With earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner
Whom Jesus came to save;
Tell me the story always,
If you would really be,
In any time of trouble,
A comforter to me.
Tell me the same old story,
When you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory
Is costing me too dear;
And when the Lord’s bright glory
Is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story:
“Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”
The Gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ.It is a life altering story.
Jesus, fully divine and existing with God for all eternity and fully human born of the virgin Mary, came to earth and lived a sinless life, died for sinners and rose from the dead that we (sinners) could be made right with God.
Not even death could defeat Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 59:2, it says that our sins have caused a separation between us and God. The cross bridges the gap, bringing us back together
Intellectual property: creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images and designs in commerce
This is the definition provided by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) an agency of the United Nations. It is also the topic of discussion for my Gospel and Global Media Culture seminary class for this week.
I can’t help but think back to childhood and life in the sandbox as I mull over all of the details regarding copyright (and copyleft), patent, trademark, private property, public domain and numerous related topics. Basically, what information which has been created by an individual or group can be used by whom, when, for what purposes and to what extent.
There was always a kid in the sandbox that no matter what I wanted to play with, would snatch it out of my hands proclaiming, “Hey, that’s mine”. I hated that feeling of having the object of my desire taken away from me- partly because it didn’t seem I had any control over the situation and partly because I didn’t feel I had any right to possess it. And it didn’t matter if the other’s claim to ownership was valid or not. And if there were more than two kids in the sandbox, there was usually the “plays well with others” variety there, too; the kid who was always willing to give you whatever toy (or stick or random detritus) they had…or even better, would join with you to create something together using whatever was at hand. I guess that is typically considered “playing nice” or “playing fair”.
In the world of “intellectual property” (IP), there are those who claim ownership; some rightfully and others not. In the real world rather than in the sandbox, that ownership is usually tied to matters of monetary gain associated with the idea/concept/product. This is typically accomplished through the legalise of copyright, patent and trademarking ventures. There are also those who believe that ideas shared create better ideas.
In the world of IP, fair use mean borrowing from another’s ideas and creativity without exploiting it for your own personal gain whether that be economic or simply glory by assuming his or her work as your own. I understand that use in terms of limited scope settings such as a classroom, but I still wonder how it all applies in the larger, public world where Internet dissemination of material can occur within seconds. That can become a sticky wicket mired in issues of not only moral and ethical dilemmas but also litigation. Giving credit where credit is due is an essential component. If you are putting something out on the Internet that you didn’t create all on your own, cite the origins of the material. If you can’t track down the source, say that, too and maybe someone else out there can supply information that you don’t have.
The Internet was designed as a tool to share information. There is a volunteer organization, The Internet Society, that addresses standards and usage issues. Who knew?
Here’s a few word’s of wisdom from coolrules.com, a website devoted to improving workplace writing. The Apostrophe Song is available in hip hop, pop dance, rock and acoustic versions but only one version has a groovy video.
Crap detection = the process of ferreting out accurate information from inaccurate information, misinformation and disinformation. (Howard Rheingold, the author of Net Smart: How to Thrive Online provides an online mini course to help you develop your own “crap detector”).
When relating the process of “crap detection” to our digital media culture, it behooves us, as thinking and reasoning human beings to use our assessment and analysis skills to figure out if what we are seeing, hearing and reading is indeed factual. Does the information contain elements of truth or is it designed to purposely mislead us or to sway us in a particular direction?
The basic element of crap detection really is suspicion. One needs to think critically and not simply accept information that is presented “wrapped up pretty and tied with a bow”. Don’t be a lemming and just unquestioningly accept popular opinion. To quote those pioneer crap detectors, comedy duo Cheech and Chong, “Good thing we didn’t step in it”. Check it out. Use your sources to find out if “it” really is what “it” claims to be.
So it is with that nugget of knowledge that I wade into this week’s topic for my Gospel and Global Media Culture course at Luther Seminary; thinking about how to make credible judgements about authority, authenticity and agency in the context of controversial public issues. The example of mass incarceration in the United States is used to generate our discussion.
The United States has the largest penal system in the world and pumps billions of dollars annually into the entire incarceration system. There is much public promotion of the “War Against Drugs” and talk about being “tough on crime”. That’s the information that gets headlines. That’s what gets promoted to the public and to law makers, yet there is another side to the story that often gets overlooked or disregarded. That relates to many issues that accompany mass incarceration; disproportionate sentencing for the poor and racial minorities, lack of services for rehabilitation while incarcerated, lack of resources upon release, extremely high recidivism rates (so putting people in jail isn’t fixing the problem on a long-term basis), permanent restrictions on citizen rights (i.e. voting) and life-long branding as a convict that impede the ability to get a job and secure housing. (This Charley Rose segment provides credible background information on this topic).
The Charley Rose piece primarily addresses race and class issues regarding the African American population. I live in North Dakota, where only about 1% of the population is African American. But I do know about ethnic minorities being disproportionately represented in the penal system. The Native American population of North Dakota is about 5.5 %, yet up to 1/3 of youth in the ND foster care system are Native American and many of those children have records of delinquency. While there is a disproportionate incarceration of Native American youth, there is some hope that improvement is being seen with an increased focus upon restorative justice.
What does this mean for us as communities of faith? First of all, we must be made aware of the situation. Heart River Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation that worships on the campus of the North Dakota Youth Correctional Center provides an example of what it means to engage in ministry with those young people who are incarcerated and offer them hope for the future. One of the problems that they have identified in conversation with the incarcerated youth, is finding a supportive faith community once they are released from NDYCC. Heart River Bridges of Hope is an outreach and re-entry ministry on behalf of the ELCA and the whole Church to create such a community. (The photo below is from the Heart River Lutheran Church website).
In 2013, the churchwide assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will vote on a social statement on Criminal Justice. While it contains great information, the critical element of a social statement is not simply to have a document of declaration, but to garner action from the people of God. As leaders in the church, we have a responsibility to inform the people in the pews of larger issues in civil society in which we are called to serve our neighbor.
This week I have learned a few new terms: digital divide, net neutrality, electronic frontier and communications justice, to name a few. What’s it all about? It’s about Internet access; fast and cheap access for everyone- everywhere.
I wonder what kind of bubble I’ve been living in that I am so poorly informed about this issue? Since considering this topic for my Gospel and Global Media Culture course just this week, I’ve stumbled upon Internet discussions about this dating back to 2005.
And why does this issue matter? Isn’t the Internet a privilege? After all, it’s not like it’s an every day necessity, right?
Not true. The Internet is used for education- from kindergarten through doctoral studies. The Internet is used for work; even the process of applying for a job is often Internet-based. The Internet is used for commerce; promotion, name recognition and sales. The Internet connects us with our friends and families on social sites such as Facebook or our colleagues on LinkedIn. In terms of research, government and politics, the Internet connects the world in powerful ways. In short, it is an essential element to our daily lives.
However, there are a number of factors that come into play when considering an individual’s actual access to the Internet. Obviously, most of us will be able to identify income as a barrier, since, as Americans, we know that Internet access doesn’t come cheap. Also, if you, like me, live in a rural area, there are issues with even getting the cables or fiber optic systems to your location. I was surprised to learn that a major roadblock to cheap and fast Internet service in the United States is related to the monopolies that the service providers have, which in fact are causing our nation to lag behind other countries of the world in Internet access for the general public. Check out this interview by Bill Moyers with Susan Crawford for more information.
In that video, Susan Crawford (author of Captive Audience) states that “having a communication system that knits the country together is not just about economic growth, it’s about the social fabric of the country”. In short, she indicates that Internet access connects us to one another from personal, individual relationships all the way through to our collective identity as a nation.
Running water, indoor plumbing, electricity and telephone services were once imagined to be luxuries of the privileged few. That is no longer the case. Internet access may soon join the ranks of basic utilities, but it may require advocacy and policy change for that to occur, at least in the United States.
Does “communications justice” matter for the Church? It should. If those with access to the Internet can further themselves, earn more, achieve more, etc. than those without it, then that means there is inequality. And the church should always stand for justice and equality for all. The National Black Church Initiative is taking a stand to stop the digital divide and the first link in my post cites the efforts of the United Methodist Church on this issue. See one of my classmate’s insightful discussion of this topic in relationship to ELCA (The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) policy and stance.
Ah, do you remember Ron Popeil? The man who introduced the world to the infomercial selling such divine items as the Veg-O-Matic and the Pocket Fisherman? Not only was this amazing product available for purchase at an incredibly low price, there was always something else to go along and sweeten the deal.
This week, I feel a bit like Ron Popiel. No I’m not going to try and sell you any kind of gadget or gizmo, but I do have something amazing to offer: the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A few weeks ago I posted my definition of the gospel on this website (in 600 words or less). Now for my seminary class on Gospel and Global Media Culture, I’ve been assigned to add 500 more words drawing upon the collective faith and wisdom of my classmates.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…
So here’s the deal… my own definition of the gospel is a pretty limited one. But here’s the joy of the community of faith: the whole is greater than sum of its parts. My understanding of the gospel has grown because of the perspective and wisdom of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Adding onto my previous thoughts on the gospel which at its very basic is: “is nothing but the preaching about Christ, Son of God and of David, true God and man, who by his death and resurrection has overcome for us the sin, death, and hell of all men who believe in him” (Martin Luther).
The gospel is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God for salvation for all who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ died for all people. Jesus on the cross, opened his arms for everyone. The only requirement is faith.
My friend, Matt Schur, provided a beautiful description of the gospel and is far more eloquent than I can ever hope to be. My favorite part of what he has to say about the gospel is this: “That is where we find Jesus–in the broken things. That is where we see Jesus’ face–in the faces of the lowly, in the faces of the sinner. That is where we experience Jesus at work–on the margins, on the other side of the walls we have built, on the other side of the lines we have drawn”. Both Matt and another person in my small group, Kelly Nieman Anderson point out that the gospel of Jesus is Christ is for now and in the future.
In Isaiah 59:2, it says that our sins have caused a separation between us and God. The cross bridges the gap, bringing us back together.
This week for my class Gospeland Global Media Culture, we are considering the topic of prayer in a digital world and other public media. So… we were assigned to watch several YouTube videos of different prayers and even an episode of the popular TV series Glee (The Grilled Cheesus episode from Season 2). Two of the prayers were given at the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama; one by the Gene Robinson and the other by Rick Warren. Another was a prayer for the Minnesota State congressional session by Bradlee Dean. And finally there was a prayer by Joe Nelms at a NASCAR event.
(Can anyone clarify for me if it is Pastor Nelm or Pastor Nelms? Since so many people have no idea how to use apostrophes or possessive forms correctly, I can ‘t make heads or tails of this from a Google search. Grammar issues will have a separate blog in the not too distant future).
OK, so back to prayer. What I noticed with all of these prayers was that there were pieces that I liked in each of them and things that rankled me. So…I had to wonder about that. Was there something similar to each of them that didn’t sit well with me?
Each of these prayers would be classified as Christian prayers. I will admit that none of them pray like I do but prayer comes in many forms and shapes and sizes and voices and I’m okay with that. But what I noticed with all four of the prayers that I watched is that somewhere along the way I wondered, “Just who are they praying to”?
Minus the NASCAR prayer, at some point in time they ceased to be prayers and became public speeches. There are lot of kinds of prayers-thanksgiving & praise, confession and penitence, petitions of need and intercessions on behalf of others, plus many, many more. But prayers aren’t political platforms. They aren’t an opportunity to chastise others, especially those who behavior or beliefs are different from yours.
So, as a Christian leader, what does all of this mean for me? Part of ministering in this world today means engaging digital media cultures. Even if I never plan on praying at a big public event, it doesn’t mean that a prayer I offer somewhere doesn’t get video-taped and plastered on YouTube. So here’s my plan:
1. Make it clear to all who are listening (whether in real-time or delay) that I, as a Christian, am praying to God (The Triune God)
2. Remember that I offer prayer on behalf of the whole people of God- Christian or not
3. Prayer is a conversation with God. Public prayer is more than others overhearing- they are part of the prayer.