Archive - June, 2006

Falwell on Media

In an interview on NPR, Jerry
Falwell says a pastor has to be media savvy and states his belief that he must
adopt the latest technology to gain public attention for his
positions.
After writing this post I returned to the NPR website a few days later to recover a quote and learned that without note the article I linked to has been changed. It no longer carries the reference by Jerry Falwell to Archbishop Tutu or Falwell’s statement on staying abreast of new media. Apparently NPR has no policy advising readers that it changes copy in its web articles.

A pastor has to be media-savvy in order to reach everybody, according to Jerry Falwell in an interview on NPR this morning. For Falwell this means, among other things, calling Archbishop Tutu of South Africa a “fake” in order to get Falwell exposed on major media in the United States upon returning from a visit to South Africa.

Apparently Falwell thought Tutu should not ride in a limo and this was his basis for accusing him of fakery. What Falwell makes clear in the interview is that his public statements are calculated to gain the widest media exposure possible and if he must characterize Bishop Tutu negatively to accomplish the goal, he will bend to the situation and do it.

His demurrer is that he tries not to be ugly and harsh, so one must presume he could have done worse than call the Bishop who stood against the apartheid state a fake.

What is instructive in the Falwell interview, however, is his commitment to using media to advance his political agenda. It is clear that he knows how to use media, does so with great effect and has been successful in framing major issues in a way favorable to his particular brand of theological and political conservatism.

In contrast, I was in a meeting recently in which I heard a mainline church official speak dismissively of the communications challenge facing the mainline denominations. This lack of understanding of the relationship of media to theology and the shaping of public acceptance of values is the blind side of too many mainline denominations.

It may not be the only reason, but it is one reason the mainline continues to hemorrhage members and Falwell is dedicating a six thousand seat worship center this Sunday.

Falwell on Media

In an interview on NPR, Jerry Falwell says a
pastor has to be media savvy and states his belief that he must adopt the latest
technology to gain public attention for his positions.
After writing this post I returned to the NPR website a few days later to recover a quote and learned that without note the article I linked to has been changed. It no longer carries the reference by Jerry Falwell to Archbishop Tutu or Falwell’s statement on staying abreast of new media. Apparently NPR has no policy advising readers that it changes copy in its web articles.

A pastor has to be media-savvy in order to reach everybody, according to Jerry Falwell in an interview on NPR this morning. For Falwell this means, among other things, calling Archbishop Tutu of South Africa a “fake” in order to get Falwell exposed on major media in the United States upon returning from a visit to South Africa.

Apparently Falwell thought Tutu should not ride in a limo and this was his basis for accusing him of fakery. What Falwell makes clear in the interview is that his public statements are calculated to gain the widest media exposure possible and if he must characterize Bishop Tutu negatively to accomplish the goal, he will bend to the situation and do it.

His demurrer is that he tries not to be ugly and harsh, so one must presume he could have done worse than call the Bishop who stood against the apartheid state a fake.

What is instructive in the Falwell interview, however, is his commitment to using media to advance his political agenda. It is clear that he knows how to use media, does so with great effect and has been successful in framing major issues in a way favorable to his particular brand of theological and political conservatism.

In contrast, I was in a meeting recently in which I heard a mainline church official speak dismissively of the communications challenge facing the mainline denominations. This lack of understanding of the relationship of media to theology and the shaping of public acceptance of values is the blind side of too many mainline denominations.

It may not be the only reason, but it is one reason the mainline continues to hemorrhage members and Falwell is dedicating a six thousand seat worship center this Sunday.

Khayelitsha Township

Khayelitsha Township,
the sprawling shantytown 30 kms from the heart of Cape Town, South Africa is
featured in a
photo
essay by the
BBC
about new
housing going up in the port city.

Khayelitsha Township, the sprawling shantytown 30 kms from the heart of Cape Town, South Africa is featured in a photo essay by the BBC about new housing going up in the port city.
I was in Khayelitsha last week. It is a teeming urban slum. We were treated well while there, but for residents it is a place lacking basic services, privacy and security.

This photo collection is a revealing look at the township.

Fighting Malaria

Poor planning, lack of
infrastructure and general disorganization are hampering efforts to fight
malaria according to an

href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/world/africa/28malaria.html”>article
by Celia W.
Dugger
in
today’s New York Times.

Poor planning, lack of infrastructure and general disorganization are hampering efforts to fight malaria according to an article by Celia W. Dugger in today’s New York Times.
This quote summarizes the most salient point however: It is no secret that mosquitoes carry the parasite that causes malaria. More mystifying is why 800,000 young African children still die of malaria per year– more than from any other disease — when there are medicines that cure for 55 cents a dose, mosquito nets that shield a child for $1 a year and indoor insecticide spraying that costs about $10 annually for a household.

The article makes the case for a more effective delivery of health services. It also lays out the need for better planning to get medicines, nets and pesticides to the people who can make use of them.

None of the problems are insurmountable. The death toll makes it urgent, however, that the problems get resolved and more effective delivery of services begins immediately.

Does Ending Poverty Ring Hollow?

The Times of London examines how much has actually been done to end poverty after much fanfare a year ago in Europe when the G8 made noise about it.

The Times article notes that despite promises, poverty in Africa continues to kill: “Save the Children, however, said in a recent report that 800 children were dying every day across the continent because their families could not afford basic medical care.”

The Times attributes the slow response to hypocrisy among G8 powers and fickle African leaders who compromise ethics and morals at the expense of the well-being of their own people.

The combination of these two leads to continued suffering by the people who lack voice, resources and basic infrastructure to make things better.

The Killing of Christian Leaders Continues in the Philippines

Another church activist has been shot dead
in the Philippines.

Another church person in the Philippines has been shot dead by masked men on motorcycles. This is a common tactic that has taken the lives of human rights workers and church persons for the past several months and there seems to be no end to the death and suffering.

This note was sent by Mervin Toquero of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines:


Dear Friends,

Greetings of Peace in these troubling times!

In less than a month after our brother Noli Capulong was brutally killed,
another church worker of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines from
Oroquieta City (Northern Mindanao) was gunned down by motorcycle-riding
killers on Saturday, 17 June.

Tito Marata was the provincial officer of
the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and a member of the Farmers for
Agrarian Reform Movement. Tito is the 17th church activist killed since
November 2004
(please see list below).

The killing of Marata happened a
day after the Arroyo Government committed one billion pesos (USD 1 = PHP
53) for an all-out war to end the communist insurgency in two years or
less. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez on the other hand declared that loss
of lives is unavoidable if the government will crush the Reds. “You can’t
avoid collateral damage… Sometimes there are bombings and civilians might
get hurt,” Gonzalez told the Inquirer newspaper.

With this appaling development, we once again appeal to you to continue
praying for our country and to send petition letters to your Foreign
Ministers, the Philippine Government, and the Philippine Commission on
Human Rights to put an end to the killings of church people, peace
advocates and leaders of people’s organizations.

Attached are three sample
petition letters
for your reference.

CONTAK Philippines has launched SPEAK Now Campaign (Stop Persecution and
Extra-Judicial Killings Now in the Philippines) last month and we have
produced a Campaign Kit (Primer on the Killings of Church People, Stories
of the Martyrs, Prayer Guides, Petition Letters and Postcards, Posters).
If you are interested to receive a copy, please send us your address and
contact information.

We sincerely appreciate your support and solidarity to our campaign to stop
the killings and to find justice for all the victims.

Respectfully yours,

Lei Garcia
Executive Director
CONTAK Philippines

17 Church People Killed

1. Isaias Manano (UCCP) 28 April 2004
2. Joel Baclao (UCCP) 10 November 2004
3. Juancho Sanchez (UCCP) 16 November 2004
4. Vicente Olea (UCCP) 23 November 2004
5. Abe Sungit (UCCP) 5 February 2005
6. Fr. William Tadena (IFI) 13 March 2005
7. Alfredo Davis (UCCP) 15 April 2005
8. Rev. Edison Lapus (UCCP) 12 May 2005
9. Rev. Raul Domingo (UCCP) 20 August 2005
10. Jose ‘Pepe’ Manegdeg III (RC) 29 November 2005
11. Junico Halem (UCCP) 6 December 2005
12. Mateo Morales (RC) 24 January 2006
13. Nestor Arinque (UCCP) 7 March 2006
14. Rev. Jemias Tinambacan (UCCP) May 9, 2006
15. Pastor Andy Pawikan (UCCP) May 21, 2006
16. Noel Noli Capulong (UCCP) May 27, 2006
17. Tito Marata (RC) June 17, 2006


CONTAK Philippines —
(Church Office for International Network in the Philippines)
2/F UCCP National Offices
877 EDSA, West Triangle
Quezon City PHILIPPINES

contakphilippines@gmail.com


As a member of a delegation to the Philippines that spoke with government and military leaders January 3-6, 2006, we sought to press the point that church missionaries working with the poor are not communists or terrorists. This rationale has been used to justify extra-judicial killing in the Philippines. Many of these killings have gone un-investigated. Others have been justified under the murky reasoning stated by Justice Secretary Gonzalez above.

I have posted sample letters in the file Philippines Sample Letters which concerned persons can use as models to write to officals.

Does Ending Poverty Ring Hollow?

Is ending poverty a hollow promise? The
Times of London explores why that promise made with fanfare a year ago has not
had much backup from world governments.

The Times of London examines how much has actually been done to end poverty after much fanfare a year ago in Europe when the G8 made noise about it.

The Times article notes that despite promises, poverty in Africa continues to kill: “Save the Children, however, said in a recent report that 800 children were dying every day across the continent because their families could not afford basic medical care.”

The Times attributes the slow response to hypocrisy among G8 powers and fickle African leaders who compromise ethics and morals at the expense of the well-being of their own people.

The combination of these two leads to continued suffering by the people who lack voice, resources and basic infrastructure to make things better.

The Challenge of Social Isolation to Christian Understanding of Community

The General Social Survey which tracks core
discussion groups and the social networks through which we relate indicates
we’re more isolated than ever.

The number
of people
saying there
is no one
with whom
they discuss
important
matters
has nearly
tripled.
–General
Social Survey

The bowling alone syndrome may be growing according to the General Social Survey. The survey measures the “core discussion groups” Americans use. Simply put, it measures with whom we talk–family and friends–and it identifies the social networks in which our conversations take place. It was first conducted in 1985.

Based on this year’s research, it appears we’re more isolated than ever. The researchers who conducted the report say it’s possible something fundamental is changing in the culture. They hedge a bit in identifying what this change may be, or what it foretells.

They suggest that new communications technologies may allow us to expand the reach of our conversations, but caution that this doesn’t necessarily result in the same depth of relationship that comes with face-to-face contact.

We really don’t reach out and touch someone through Internet or cellphone contact in the same way we do when we sit together around the same table.

This presents communicators with a dilemma. How does technology encourage or discourage community? Are we, in fact, undermining community when we implant technology into communities that have relied upon personal contact for communication? This becomes more than a conundrum as we seek answers to the questions raised by this survey.

Given the reality of pervasive media, the demand is put to us to determine how we can utilize media to foster community. When The United Methodist Church began its outreach effort known as Igniting Ministry, which was a training initiative coupled with television and radio advertising, the perception in the church was that the advertising component was the defining element. It isn’t.

The key to Igniting Ministry is how it prepares a congregation to review its life together and become a more welcoming and hospitable community. The Christian tradition teaches that we are created to be in relationship. We are created for community. I believe it was from Neil Alexander of The United Methodist Publishing House that I first heard the phrase, “We belong to God, and to each other.”

The key to meaning in our lives, we believe, is to experience relationship with the Creator and with our brothers and sisters through the mediation of Jesus whose teachings and self-sacrifice reveal the depth of relationship a loving God seeks to have with us.

Through this unique relationship we find meaning. We discover who we are and how we can most meaningfully experience life. Outside of that experience, Christian teaching says we are incomplete.

Some have made individualism a cardinal principle of their values. Following the formative philosophy of John Locke, they see individualsm as the highest state of human existence.

But, I think Augustine’s thought that sin is the state of separation from God is more descriptive and accurate. Sin is a state of unrealized community with God.

How does this get into a blog about media and culture? I think in this way: When major media are placed at the disposal of commercial interests, they serve the function of separating us. In the hands of those who want to sell us goods and services, they are merely tools for commercial enterprise.

The most effective way to sell to us is to focus on our individual needs and concentrate on creating desire for those products and services. This inevitably involves a process of indivualization; emphasizing our individualism to a degree that isolates us and leaves us alone in the world. This is the state of unrestrained individualism.

Ironically (perhaps) some of the more popular television programming targeted toward young adults who have grown up in this culture are those programs that provide a facade of community–the recently expired Friends, Sex in the City, and Will and Grace, for example. I think Marshall McLuhan said when something is no longer relevant, we turn it into an art form. (And if he didn’t say, he should have.)

Thus, the loss of community as a vital function is honored through the art form of television, perhaps providing us some consolation as we sit alone watching the artifice of community on the screen.

What this says to the Christian community is more complicated than we tend to consider. The mainline denominations, for example, concentrate on their loss of membership as if what were at stake, and most important, is the survival of the organizational church. In fact, what is at stake is the spiritual condition of people who exist outside a community of support and outside a relationship to the Creator and other human beings. What is at stake is the human community and a full understanding of what it means to be human.

Viewed in this light, membership statistics pale in importance, don’t they? The challenge is not merely to bring new members into the church for the sake of the survival of the organization. The challenge is to create community in which people are assisted to comprehend that their destiny is to be related to each other, the Creation and a loving God. How we use media is fundamentally a theological concern.

Affordable Computers for the Developing World

Low cost, full service computers for users
in the developing world hold the potential for connecting the most distant
villagers to the worldwide web.

While in Nairobi colleagues and I met with Aaron Sundsmor, Nairobi-based Director of Programs for First Voice International.

We talked into the evening about the potential for using community radio, cell phone networks and low-cost computers to deliver information to people who are isolated and information poor. First Voice is doing a remarkable job making digital media more accessible to poor villagers.

I note that Matt Carlisle in his blog points to an Information Week feature article about low cost computers being developed for users in poor countries. MIT is perfecting the $100 laptop, a sturdy, basic laptop designed for rough handling in remote villages.

One of the ironies I experienced on my last visit to Kisumu, Kenya is standing with Benta Atieno Ogonyo, leader of the Koriato Women’s Group, as she explained the work of the demonstration plot while clutching a cell phone. The irony is that the plot has no electrical hookup. The women use a car battery re-charged by a solar panel for an electrical source.

When I was in Kisumu last, almost two decades ago, it was connected to Nairobi by road and a government-operated landline telephone system that was, for Africa in that day, relatively efficient. But it was far from convenient and a long, long way from accessible to rural villagers.

Driving into the Koriato project, Peter Odengho, development specialist, told us it was selected because it is nearly inaccessible and during the worst of the rainy season even bicycles can’t get there easily.

Today, however, it’s connected by cell phone and First Voice’s satellite services. Tomorrow it will likely be on the web. And still, it’s off the grid.

Thy Kingdom Come

NPR’s Linda Wertheimer interviews Randall
Balmer, author of Thy Kingdom Come. He contends the religious right is
distorting Christian faith in blind allegiance to the politics of the
right.

“I don’t find
much that
I recognize
as Christian”
(in the
religious right)
–Dr. Randall Balmer

Politics have highjacked evangelical Christianity, according to Dr. Randall Balmer, professor of religious history at Columbia University and Barnard College and a contributing editor to Christianity Today. Balmer was interviewed by NPR’s Linda Wertheimer on June 23.

“They have taken something that is lovely and redemptive and turned it into something that is ugly and retributive,” Balmer says in a quote on the NPR website.

In a revealing interview he relates querying eight religious right organizations about their positions on torture and received no response from most. Two replied that they support the Administration. One of those is the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a persistent critic of several mainline denominations. In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Balmer writes, “Its president worried that the ‘anti-torture campaign seems to be aimed exclusively at the Bush administration,’ thereby creating a public-relations challenge.”

He continues, “I’m sorry, but the use of torture under any circumstances is a moral issue, not a public-relations dilemma.”

Balmer’s latest book is Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts Faith and Threatens America.

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