Op-ed: Netflix, Dear White People, and the "Let's All Be Offended About Something We Haven't Seen" bandwagon

Today’s outrage: A new show coming to Netflix called “Dear White People”.

This new show, that expands on Justin Simien’s 2014 movie of the same name, has not been released to Netflix yet, with a due date of April 28.

I did not see the original movie. Judging by the IMDB page, not many people did, it only grossed $4 million – a tiny sum for movies these days. The synopsis of the movie is “the lives of 4 African-American students at an Ivy League college”. The synopsis for the show expands it a little more, saying “At a predominantly white Ivy League college, a diverse group of students navigate various forms of racial and other types of discrimination.”

But what has people upset, upset to the point they are unsubscribing from Netflix, is the trailer that dropped yesterday. You can watch it below:

 

 

The trailer is…. interesting, to be sure. But those boycotting Netflix are saying it’s “reverse racism” and “promotes white genocide” and a long list of other ridiculous claims. Personally, I don’t see how they are getting any of that from this very brief trailer.

Now I’m not saying people aren’t allowed to be fans of the things they want to be fans of, or unsubscribe from the thing they want to boycott. Likewise, Netflix is allowed to produce or purchase whatever they want.

My issue with this particular situation is this:

If you’re boycotting Netflix over this show, are you really doing it for the right reasons? Or are you just doing it because someone told you to be mad about it, because someone else is doing it, or are you really, honestly angry that this show will exist and you’re no happy about the themes in it?

The Band Wagon effect. I hate it. I think it shows the very worst of what mankind can and will do.

This clip is literally 30 seconds long. It shows a bunch of disjointed clips from the show, most less than a second long. The voice is that of one character, probably taken from one scene in one episode. And because of that people are quitting the entire Netflix network. I’m sure there are a few people that saw the original movie and are probably upset that Netflix has made a show out of it, but I promise you that the vast majority of people deleting their Netflix accounts are doing it because of something they saw on facebook or twitter and not actually any first-hand experience.

The same goes for the whole Ivanka Trump/Nordstrom thing. People are writing #BoycottNordstrom because someone (ahem) told them to be offended that they weren’t carrying Ivanka Trump’s clothing line anymore. They didn’t ask Nordstrom WHY they weren’t carrying the line, whether it was a business decision to distance themselves from the White House, or whether it was a financial decision because the line wasn’t selling well, or the supplier wanted more money and made the line less profitable….. No, they just jumped on the social media bandwagon to boycott Nordstrom. A good percentage of them probably haven’t shopped there in the first place.

As I said before, you, me, and everyone else, are free to like and dislike the things we do. And we’re free to spend our money, or not spend it, on the things we want. If you want to boycott Netflix or Nordstrom or any other place, don’t let me stop you. But just ask yourself:

Why am I doing this? Is this something I am really upset about or am I just acting upset because someone told me to?

I don’t have any idea whether Dear White People will be any good. The trailer looks interesting and is certainly controversial in its presentation, but most good art is controversial. And I’m not going to tell you to watch it or not. But before you boycott Netflix, make sure you’re doing it for your own reasons and not someone else’s.

 

And that’s good advice in general. With anything and everything, make sure you’re doing it for your own reasons and not someone else’s.

Jesus would not Repeal the ACA

In the very early hours this morning, the US Senate voted 51 to 48 to begin the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act, or as it is commonly known, Obamacare.

There are many misconceptions about what the ACA is and what it does. Too many people think that it just taxpayer-funded health insurance. And while that is part of it (known as the Public Option, and the expansion of Medicaid), there is so much more in the Act that was intended to help and protect people, and repealing it, without something to replace it is not only dangerous for those that depend on it, but, honestly, unBiblical, and immoral.

As my title implies, I don’t think Jesus would, if he were a US Congressman, vote to repeal the ACA. Let’s look at what we know of Jesus from the Bible, the teachings of which many of the GOP (who want the ACA repealed) claim to follow:

There are 31 stories of Jesus healing an individual in the first 4 books of the New Testament (the Gospels), and there are at least 20 stories of Jesus performing ‘mass’ healings (more than one, often referred to as ‘multitudes’)[1]. Jesus cared not only for the spiritual needs of those who came to him, he cared for their physical needs, their illnesses, their blindness, their paralysis.

And on top of setting that example, Jesus also taught his followers to care for people.

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  

– Luke 10:25-37(NIV)

 

I don’t think it’s an accident, or merely narrative tool that this parable is about a man that is in need of medical care. He could have mentioned a man in need of food or someone without a home, but Jesus chose to use a man that was dying. The Samaritan, henceforth known as “The Good Samaritan”, gave his time and his money to care for a man in need, and Jesus used this as his answer to the question “who is my neighbor?”, but also the original question “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Which brings us back to the GOP and their wanting to repeal the ACA. Republicans like to say “this is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles”. And as such our government and laws should reflect that. But when it comes to things that actually help people the way Jesus did, they say, bafflingly, that “it’s not the government’s job”.

If our Constitution and laws make us a Christian nation (we can argue it doesn’t, but for the sake of this post, let’s just agree with Conservatives on that point), then shouldn’t the actions of the government set up by that Constitution reflect the actions of the Christ it supposedly represents?

The Affordable Care Act, while not a perfect piece of legislature, and something that needed to be tweaked and fixed from the start, was a huge step forward in protecting the life and liberty of American citizens. Providing health care for all harkens back to the very words of our founding documents. In the Declaration of Independence, it’s written “[men/mankind] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[2] And in the Constitution “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”[2] (Emphasis mine.)

So not only in the teachings of the Christ they claim to follow, but in the founding documents they claim to hold so dear, are Republicans facedwith concepts that show that repealing the ACA is not only a sin, but morally and ethically, and patriotically, WRONG.

Benefits of the Affordable Care Act

Benefits of the Affordable Care Act

Now it can be argued that people shouldn’t depend on the government and the Public Option shouldn’t be in there giving people ‘free’ healthcare. And again, I am not saying that the ACA doesn’t have issues that needed to be fixed from the start (and, arguably, they would have if Congress had focused on doing so from the start instead of voting hundreds of times to repeal it.) But there is way more in there than the Public Option. Let’s look at just a few things in there that, if repealed, would do more harm than good:

 

Children covered by parents insurance until age 26[3]

Coverage under your insurance no longer ends when you child turns 18, this means your son or daughter is covered as they pursue their education or as they get their first job and enter adulthood, taking the pressure off of them so they can focus on become responsible adults and eventually able to obtain their own insurance.

Cannot be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions[3]

You change jobs, or are transferred to a new state, or something else happens that forces you to change your insurance. But you have an illness, maybe even a very serious one. Insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage of that condition. This adds amazing security to cancer patients, or diabetics, or any number of people with an endless list of conditions. This gives you the confidence you need to find a better job, or move closer to loved ones.

No lifetime limit on coverage[3]

This is a personal one for me. 10 years ago, before the ACA became law, I became ill. Very ill. To this day we don’t know exactly what is wrong with me, but it involves a lot of crippling pain, weakness on my left side, and some brain issues. Before I was terminated from my job (because I couldn’t do the job anymore) and my insurance was still in effect, I had to have some very expensive tests done. All of which required approval from my insurance before they were done, so I thought they were covered because the insurance approved them. But then the bills came in, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bills that I will never be able to pay back. A call to the insurance company revealed a sad truth. They could set a limit on how much they pay out and can cancel my policy for reaching that limit, without warning and without covering procedures they had previously approved.
The ACA ends that despicable rule. The insurance must cover the things they agree to cover in your policy, for as long as your are paying your premiums and cannot set some arbitrary limit and put your health in jeopardy.
This is really important for cancer patients, whose treatment is literally life or death. And anyone else that needs lengthy and sometimes lifetimes of treatment. A car accident, like the one my mother was involved in, can lead to years of recovery. Now insurance companies can’t just cut us off.

Your premium must be spent (mostly) on your healthcare, you can even get a refund if you don’t use your insurance.[3]

The ACA sets a limit on how much of your premium is used for administrative costs. The rest MUST be used for your health care. Insurance companies can no long make monstrous profits by not providing the care they are supposedly in business to provide. In some states you can even get a refund on premiums you paid but didn’t use for health care. This ensures your money is used for it’s intended purposes – your health.

 

These are just a few of the things put into the ACA that benefit ALL Americans. These are the things that will be stripped away when congress and our new President repeal the ACA without replacing it with a new law that includes these (and many other) things.

To do so, to just rip away the protections of the ACA from American citizens, is not only irresponsible, it’s immoral.

Please call and write your congressmen (https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials) and tell them to do all they can to protect us, the American citizens, from this action. If the ACA is to be repealed, the consumer protections in it must be kept intact by replacing it with another law that includes them. We cannot put the lives and health of our fellow citizens, our neighbors who we are called to love, on the line for political statements.

 

[1] “31 Individual Healings of Jesus Christ”, http://stronginfaith.org/article.php?page=111
[2] “America’s Founding Documents”, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs
[3] “Key Features of the Affordable Care Act”, https://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts-and-features/key-features-of-aca/

Change is hard, and not always for the best

Our church is going through a very difficult transition period.

Actually, it’s gone through many in the past decade, but this one seems to be the hardest. And while, in the long run, it might be for the best, right now it is not good. Very not good.

I share this in hopes of connecting with others and hopefully sparking some conversation.

So here’s some details.

We’re a small church. The highest I’ve seen our membership in the past 10 years was about 200. On average there’s been less than 100 of us. The lowest we’ve been is 15. It might have been lower than that for actual membership, but one Sunday – several in fact – there were 15 people in the seats. That included my wife and (at the time) 6 children.

At the time we joined the church, my wife and I were the youngest adults in attendance. And we were in our mid-30s. There was probably a 20-year gap to the next oldest. For a long time, our church was primarily ‘gray’. The “older folks” greatly outnumbered the “younger folks”. And except for my own, we had no kids.

Fast forward 10 years. Now there are many younger folks, and lots of kids. But the ‘gray’ crowd, is leaving. In droves. Some are telling us why, most just stop coming, stop talking to us, and just break all connection with us.

And while that in itself is not fatal to our membership numbers, since we are gaining younger folks and our numbers are about the same, it has been devastating to our finances. Truth is, younger families with kids just don’t give as much as older, retired folks.

Now that’s the facts. Sorry if that sounds cold and ‘numbery’ and all the other things we’re not really supposed to worry about when ‘doing’ church, but I had to lay it out there just for the background.

When you look away from the numbers, to the love and support and the spiritual grown of the church, we are thriving. We have a great preacher on staff, a great secretary that supports the whole set up, and a really great leadership team that is full of great people with varied skills.

But then we hit a wall. And we’re stalled.

We had a flood of fantastic ideas, we formed teams to run things, and then just…. flat. People got busy, meetings were canceled, others just gave up, and the teams sputtered and then died.

So we’re here, facing a huge shift in our demographic age wise – but also diversity. Now diversity is good. One of our principles as a church is to be a mosaic, a whole made up of very different parts. In that we are succeeding, but I think the change has been too much for some of the ‘old school’ folks and for whatever reason – agism, racism, old-way-ism – they felt it was time to move on.

So what does a church do in this situation? The word panic comes to mind, but that’s not what we need to do. We could do the ol’ “step out in faith” giving sermon, but that’s not something we do.

Here’s my personal opinion:

 

Modernize. Fast.

I know that’s kind of a dirty word in church – “modernize”, because tradition is important. And it is, it really is. But there’s traditon and then there’s “they way we’ve always done it”. Nothing kills anything faster than “this is how it’s supposed to be because we always do it this way”.

There’s a story I’ve heard several times.

A church did communion every week. Many churches do it, but this particular church had a very particular way that they did it. With great ceremony the elements were brought in, th trays carefully stacked with decorative cloths draped over them. After the elements were passed, the cloths were then ceremoniously draped back over and the trays quickly returned to the kitchen.

One day someone asked “why?” Why so quickly brought to and from the kitchen and why the cloths? What was the Biblical reason? No one knew, but everyone knew that it ‘had to be that way’. Finally someone took the time to find out. Only one person knew. Betty, a 98 year old founding member. Expecting great wisdom, everyone gathered around to hear. “The cloths and the shuffling back and forth from the kitchen”, Betty said, “is to keep the flies off the elements. If we don’t keep the trays in the fridge, and if we don’t keep them covered when they’re not in the fridge, the flies get on them.” Flies? The church didn’t have an insect problem. But then they realized. 50 years before, the church didn’t have air conditioning or heating. It didn’t even have electricity originally. The doors and windows were kept wide open during the warm months of the year, so there were always flies. But as the church modernized, the flies were kept out.

Yet the old ways remained, even when no one could remember why they were doing it.

Author Neale Donald Walsch put it this way:
“Honor the tradition, but expand the understanding. That’s what religions must do right now if they hope to be helpful to humans in the years ahead.”

If you don’t understand why things are the way they are, then we need to figure it out. If we can’t figure it out, then ditch it. But more than that, the tradition is not as important as the understanding. The root, the reason, God, the Bible, the people – if that is not ‘it’ then your church doesn’t have ‘it’.

But what does that look like in practice? What are the practicalities of it? What does a church need to actually DO to catch up?

There are some realities that can’t be avoided. Not the least of which is money. Churches need money to function. There are expenses. Bills that need to be paid. Paychecks for staff. That reality can’t be avoided. Churches also need buildings, be it their own or a rented space or whatever. That too can’t be avoided.

But then what?

All the rest is negotiable. All of it. Every bit of it. (Ok, so a church also needs the Bible, but I figured that was assumed, and discussions on the interpretation thereof and all that are for another blog post.)

Modernize. It’s not a bad word. You don’t have to compromise belief to do it.

You want to reach ‘millennials’ or anyone else, you reach them where they live instead of expecting them to come to you. And they live in the new millennium. Our fast-paced, social-media connected, world is what it is now. That’s where people live. And that is where your church needs to live.

 

I’ve ranted enough now. What I really need is discussion. What are your thoughts?

 

Thoughts On The First Clinton/Trump Debate

This evening, Trump and Clinton will face off in the first republican/democratic debate of this election year.

 

Yippee. So thrilled. Really.

Disclaimer: Offically, CWOTI as an entity doesn’t endorse any candidate. Personally, I think it’s stupid for newspapers or any other organization to endorse anyone. Who cares? A newspaper can’t vote, so what difference does it make who they say they endorse?

And I have own opinion about who to vote for. But that’s not the point of this post. The point is the debates. And how pointless they are. Especially now.

Trump said he didn’t think debate moderators should fact-check the participants. And the executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates agreed. It remains to be seen what the moderator of tonight’s debate or any other will do, but the ground is already laid for claiming that a moderator is biased against one candidate or the other if they fact-check ANYTHING.

As a result, tonight’s debate, and any that follow are pointless. If the candidates can say whatever they want without being held accountable IN THE MOMENT, then why bother?

Seriously, why even freaking bother? Oh, sure you can watch the debate while also following someone that will be fact-checking, but if you follow a Trump supporter, they won’t really fact-check Trump, and a Clinton supporter won’t really fact-check Clinton, so if you follow different people, you can get multiple “facts”.

But here’s the thing:

Facts are FACTS – facts, by definition, aren’t debatable. They aren’t things to argue about. Truth is truth. Reality is reality. These aren’t things our Presidential candidates, let alone anyone with half a brain, should be debating.

But that is exactly what will happen tonight and in the following debates. Facts won’t be presented, they’ll be argued. Worse, they won’t even be argued fairly. There will be a lot of hand-waving and interrupting and lots of wink-wink nudge-nudge to their supporters, but in the end, nothing will change.

Trump supporters will still support Trump, Clinton supporters will still support Clinton, and few, if any, undecided people will decide. (And honestly, who is still undecided at this point? The campaigns have been going on for years already.)

Bottom line is this: It doesn’t matter. The debates between now and election day don’t matter. Because you won’t learn anything, your opinion of your candidate won’t change, and both sides will declare that they won and that the other side broke rules or that the moderator didn’t do his job or blah blah blah.

Will you be watching? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Why is everyone so stupid?

It was a rough weekend, this third weekend of September 2016. Bombs, a suspect in custody, an innocent man gunned down for having his vehicle broken down. Politicians of all stations flapping their lips about refugees and terrorism and supporting law enforcement. All the talking head channels want us to think that everything they say is the most important ever.

And the stories trickle down to social media. And the rest of us talk about it. And boy do we talk. And boy do we love to claim that anyone that has a different opinion than us is stupid.

We love to say things like:
If you really believe that…..

….I’ve got a bridge to sell you….
….you’re as bright as a burned out light bulb…..
….dumber than a box of rocks……
….etc…..

Or maybe we’re less aggressive and instead use phrases like “I’m sorry you were triggered because I have a different opinion”. Or some other no-less rude phrase.

All because they disagree. Obviously, we’re smart because our opinion is the best, and everyone else is dumb.

When honestly, we’re all stupid. Few of us see the whole picture, or even try to, and all we really want to do is be right.

I have a picture of the world. An ideal picture of the world based on my experiences, things I’ve read, my religious and political beliefs, and an imagined vision of what the world could be. Based on that ideal picture, I have opinions on things. Stories in the news, things people say, shows on TV… my opinions are mine. Some change easily, like what my favorite movie is, others change less easily, like my political party affiliation.

My opinions are mine, so I believe they are right. Obviously, or I’d change them. And I will defend my opinions because I think they’re right. If I’m writing an essay like this, or giving a speech that’s easy. I state my case and I answer questions.

But social media is different. I can state my opinion in 140 characters or less, then pretty much abuse anyone that comments that they think differently.

I witnessed an exchange from a community member that went like this:

Magzine posts a link about refugees and terrorism.
Community member states the fact that in the case of the bombs in NY and NJ, the suspect was a nationalized American that came to the country when he was 7.
Troll states he was Muslim, that all terrorists are Muslims and therefore all Muslims are terrorist. It’s a ‘pattern’.
Community member states that a religion is not a pattern.
Troll digs in and passive-aggressively apologizes for ‘triggering’ but all Muslims are obviously terrorists.
And from there….
you’re stupid
you’re racist
you don’t know what you’re talking about
you’re an idiot if you think that

And so on.

We’ve all done it. We all will do it. We all will continue to do it.

Why?

Because we can. Because social media gives us the platform to be anonymous and terrible. Because our boundaries are ours to protect. And no matter how hard we try, at some point, someone is going to cross a boundary that we consider sacred. And that person is an idiot.

And then “love thy neighbor” and all the other rules we try to live by go right out the window. Because we can’t face the person we’re talking to, we can’t sit down with them and actually talk. So we whip out a sentence or two at a time, pretending we’re ‘debating’ when we’re really just wanting to win.

We’re all stupid.

Me included.

And I hate to say it, even ashamed to say it, but I must admit…..

I love it.

I LOVE it. I love feeling that I made a ‘zinger’ or that I hammered on someone to the point they started ignoring me, or the coup de gras: when I have made them so angry they block me.

Then I won.

I LOVE IT.

So help me, it’s rude, it’s wrong, it’s very un-Christ-like, but I love it.

It’s an addiction.

And I’m hooked.

I think a lot of us are.

And that, right there, is the real problem with discussions on social media. We’re addicted to winning. We are right, and we will be right and when we prove we’re right, either through our opponents’ admission or through getting them to quit, we win.

So let me offer a better way, for you and for me, than winning.

When I was in high school, there was a debate team. We had debate competitions. When we went to these events we didn’t get to choose the topic or the side we were on. For example, we’d go and the judges would have three envelopes. In one was the topic “women in the military” (this was the 80s), in another was “global warming” (yes, we talked about it back then), and in the last was “should Reagan run for re-election”. The judges would pick one at random. Then they’d flip a coin. The “heads” team would argue ‘for’ and the tails team would argue ‘against’. We’d have a heads up before the competition what the topics might be, but we’d have to be prepared to argue either side – no matter what our personal belief might be. You have to remember that this was in the days before the Internet. We had to prepare by doing the research before the event. And once the coin was flipped we had to a couple of minutes to prepare, but that was all. And yes, our goal was to ‘win’ but not necessarily be proving our point, but by being the better debate team.

To simplify, we had to win by knowing the topic better than the other team.

We had to KNOW the topic, both sides, better than the OTHER SIDE.

And social media makes it too easy to no know.  It makes it too easy to assume the other side doesn’t know either and just go in guns blazing.

We need to stop that. We need to not jump into the discussion and INSTEAD stop, research, and know.

Even if you never end up responding, it is far better to KNOW. Even if you don’t agree with the other side, you NEED TO KNOW IT. Then, and only then, can you truly understand the issue and know, truly know if you are on the right “side”.

So here’s the challenge. The next time you feel compelled to respond because someone is wrong, stop, count to 10, then read something about the issue. Steer away from opinions and blogs and focus on finding out as much truth about the issue as you can. Take 10, 15 minutes and find as many fact-based links as possible. Then read as many as you can before you respond.

I know, that takes all the fun out it.

But you might learn something.