Lobster Hands, World Vision and Raising Babies (CultureCast)

lobster handsJess the Intern and Philip the Page show off their costuming skills for Zoe’s play, Christian talks about his new job with Crowd Scribed, and Amy can’t remember her Fear of the Week… again. I guess the world just isn’t nearly as scary as it used to be?

In the echo chamber, the crew discusses the World Vision debacle, wrestling with whether or not their reversal makes sense in light of their mission, and if the whole concept of “aid” needs to be rethought. Next, they tackle the Fort Hood shooting and Philip the Page offers his perspective as a veteran while Jess the Intern waxes eloquently on the “military industrial complex.”  Finally, they talk about two new books from very different perspectives about how women can best set themselves up for having babies later in life. Jess almost has an aneurysm.

This post is sponsored in part by Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. Phillips exists to cultivate vital communities, vital conversations, and the public good. If this sounds like the place for you, give them a call at 918-610-8303 or visit them online at ptstulsa.edu.

Also sponsoring this week’s post is the Wild Goose Festival. The Wild Goose Festival is a gathering at the intersection of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. Happening June 26-29, 2014 just outside of Asheville, NC in the village of Hot Springs.

Unfolded Episode 11 – Someone’s in the Kitchen

Unfolded_Final-1

Subscribe on iTunes!

We are tremendously honored to be featuring a piece of poetry by the amazingly talented poet, Sarah Wells, on this episode. And wow, is it a good one! Sarah’s writing is simply brilliant.

In this episode, Sarah offers a beautiful and stirring reflection on life as a woman, mother and wife, and explores the dipolar themes of giving and taking, chaos and order, love and contempt, power and weakness.

SarahWells_AWH0987_smallerSarah lives Ohio with her husband and three young children. Her poetry has been honored with two Pushcart Prize nominations and her latest book is entitled Pruning Burning Bushes, a collection of poems. You can read more of Sarah’s writing on her blog at sarahmwells.blogspot.com and please follow her on twitter: @sarah_wells.

Talk to Us
We truly love feedback and dialogue. Please leave comments here on the blog and let us know what you thought of this episode — liked it? Didn’t like it? Why? And be sure to follow Matt and Jesse on twitter.

Make Art With Us
Matt and I love making art with people. If you’d like to submit a written piece to be considered for the show, email me.

Subscribe
Please subscribe to Unfolded on itunes. Non iTunes users can grab the feedburner feed HERE or listen through Stitcher.

Read
You can read the Unfolded works here.

*** If you enjoy all the Homebrewed Christianity Podcasts then consider sending us a donation via paypal. We got bandwidth to buy & audiological goodness to dispense. We will also get a percentage of your Amazon purchase through this link OR you can send us a few and get us a pint!***


Barrel Aged Graphic_crop2_rev1

Subscribe to the new stream!

 

Subscribe on iTunes Here!

Subscribe on iTunes!

Subscribe on iTunes Here!

Subscribe on iTunes

Subscribe on iTunes

It’s Not Mumford, It’s the Music Industry: Whiteness

I think a lot about issues of race, gender and class. I read about it and talk it over with people every week. I am working my way through an expensive program in order to write my dissertation about it.  I care about matters of diversity and justice a great deal. mumford_and_sons

Ever since talking to my mentor, Randy Woodley at Wild Goose West last fall I have been thinking about this a little differently. Then with the happenings of the Emergent Christianity thing in Memphis … I thought I would bring out what I have been whittling away at in my workshop.
This is something I am working on and I would love your constructive feedback. 

The problem isn’t Brian McLaren speaking at a conference.
The problem is if everyone speaking at the conference looks like McLaren.

The problem isn’t reading a book by a white guy.
The problem is only reading books by white guys.*

The problem isn’t having a man speak up front at church.
The problem is if we only hear men speak from up front at church.

You don’t even listen to podcasts! 

Here is what I want to avoid. There was some grumbling on facebook when The Culture Cast was released and it turned out that both Jordan and Christian were white guys. Ironically, almost all the grumbling came from white guys – but that is a different issue.

One female friend said “where are the women podcasters?”

I suggested that since it was a concern of hers … why didn’t she tell us some recommendations.  Why is she asking a question?

She responded that she didn’t listen to podcasts.

I was stunned.

I asked “then why do you care? What difference would it make to you?”

It would be like me complaining their aren’t enough black NACSAR drivers. I don’t watch NASCAR. I don’t even know how many black drivers there are. That reality is irrelevant to my existence.

I think that we need to care deeply about things that we are invested in. There are too many issues that matter for too much for us to get tangled in controversies vicariously.

 

We don’t except tokens.

We need to be careful of tokenism. Let me be clear on this: if you are group of white people who have organized a conference, already have 10 white speakers lined up and then think ‘we need some color – let’s see if we can get Randy Woodley’ … that is token.  Randy got no say in the direction and organization nor had any power or influence. You just want to put a microphone in his face and have him do his schtick.

Token is an afterthought that serves primarily to help one feel good about being able to check off a box. If Randy was on the organizing committee – trust me the no conference would look the same.

In contrast to ‘token’ let me offer 3 examples:

  • Anthony Smith is an emergent voice and influence. He was in the movement before me and helped bring me in. That is not token. That is influence. Anthony Smith is influential.
  • When Tripp and I organized the Emergent Village Theological Conversation we said “Monica Coleman is our marquee speaker, our cornerstone, our prima donna.” And we did not do anything until she agreed to be our first round draft pick. She got session 1 to start the conference to set the tone and she got session 5 to end the conference so that she had the final word. We built the conference around that structure. We then invited others to come in around her.
  • When we inherited the Phoenix Big-Tent Christianity event many of the speakers were already in place. It was great to have Richard Rohr, Marcus Borg and Brian McLaren to boost ticket sales. But we wanted to highlight some voices that people had not heard a lot before. So, for instance, we structured the actual sessions that one of the ‘marquee’ voices was asking questions of one of the ‘emerging’ voices. For many people, that was the first time they had heard of Rachel Held-Evans. I will never forget watching her debate Marcus Borg about church folks understanding of creation!

 

I’m with the band. 

Here is my big point:
The problem isn’t that Mumford and Sons are all white guys. We have to look at the way that bands form. It makes sense that the guys of Mumford connect and play.

The problem is if every band on the radio is white guys.

The problem isn’t that Bono is a white guy or that U2 are all white guys.

The problem is if every band on a record label is a bunch of white guys.

We have to learn to distinguish between how a band come together and how the music industry functions.

We also need to do this for church … and for christian conferences.

No conference or podcast is or can be the full expression of the kingdom on earth. It is not nor can it be heaven. It is not supposed to be. Like no band can play every type of music …

I understand our desire for diversity – I just want us to manage our expectations. Our problem isn’t with Mumford and Sons, it’s with the music industry.

The answer isn’t “add a black guy”.  That is not how bands work.
Can you imagine somebody saying “why doesn’t Boys 2 Men have a women in it?” or “why doesn’t Destiny’s Child get Ricky Martin to join?”

 

The problem then isn’t with any church, podcast, organization, conference or person. Our concern is with how that all comes together in a less-diverse way than we would hope for and desperately need. 

The answer then is not to ‘add a women and stir’ or to ‘get some color’. That is what we call token – and it is insulting to everyone involved.

The need is to examine the bigger picture. This includes how things are planned, who makes decisions, and in what ways can people access resources.

Here is a timely example: Tripp and I are singers and songwriters. Our friends Callid Keefe-Perry and Steve Knight are as concerned about the impact of technology on the church as we are. We have talking about  it whenever we are together. We started this when we lived in 4 different parts of the country. Tomorrow, Steve Night is in town and we are going to record a podcast about the subject.

That is not a problem. We are Mumford, or U2, or The Stones, or the Beatles … we are just a band.
It is not a problem that we sing together – or in this case talk together. The problem comes if we are the only ones you hear.

___________________

 

*If you find yourself in this situation, here are some books suggestions

Quest for the Living God by Elizabeth Johnson

Christ the Key by Catherine Tanner

Teaching Community by bell hooks

Shalom and the Community of Creation by Randy Woodley

Many Colors or The Next Evangelicalism by Soong Chan-Rah

Triune Atonement: Christ’s Healing for Sinners, Victims, and the Whole Creation by Andrew Sung Park

 

Is the Internet for Women and Gays?

“Is the internet for women and gays?” may seem like at odd question at first – but there is a story behind it. I am coming at the question as a researcher.  I am doing research design at UCLA right now in preparation for my dissertation next year. One of the research questions is in relation to technology, the community of users interacts with the technology, and possible issues related to who conceived of and  designed the technology. recycle-resized-600

An interesting case study is found in the Grindr social network community.  Grindr is a widely popular mobile, GPS-enabled hook-up app for gays. The folks at Grindr  had the idea to launch a ‘straight’ version called Blendr, and it has been massive failure. [You can read about why it failed here and here and here ]

One of the theories is that Grindr was conceived of and designed by gays. A hypothesis we were testing is that embedded in the ‘DNA’ of the technology was something inherently ‘gay’ that resonated with its users but was lost in translation when the conversion to Blendr was attempted.

During this research I have also become aware of a growing problem of cyber-bullying, particularly of women and LBGT persons. It shows up on Facebook, Xbox chat rooms during multi-player games, and blogs.

One article about women bloggers contained two different women’s experience.

“The death threat was pretty scary,” says HollaBack! cofounder Emily May. “And there have been several rape threats. But it’s mostly ‘I want to rape you’ or ‘Somebody should rape you.’ Most are not physical threats–they’re more about how ugly I am, how nobody would bother raping me because I’m so fat and hideous. Once, after reading all these posts, I just sat in my living room and bawled like a 12-year-old.”

Jennifer Pozner agrees. “Very rarely have I gotten negative feedback that doesn’t include either a rape threat or calling me ugly and fat. Or sometimes they tell me I’m hot, but they hate what I’m saying– they’d rather watch me on TV with the mute on.” Pozner’s threats have not been limited to online: One man left a letter at her door saying he’d “find you and your mom and rape you both.”

Ponzer says “It’s about the policing of women … using threats to keep us silent.”

It is clear that many of the same oppressive behaviors, patriarchal attitudes and hurtful rhetoric that plague us in the ‘real world’ show up in cyberspace. Is a matter for concern? Is this a surprising reality? Does this need to be addressed?

The question “Is the internet for women and gays?” seems to have 3 initial answers that each expose some significant underlying assumptions.

  • The first possible answer is “Of course it is! In fact, it is a powerful leveler of the social hierarchies and power structures that dominate our inherited cultural history” . The internet is seen to be a democratic space that allows for harmful elements to be exposed and for the community to vocalize and govern in ways that are newly empowering. It allows us the possibility to combat bullies and shame those who are hurtful to others.
  • The second possible answer relates to the idea that embedded in the DNA of technology  are the values and priorities (as well a biases) of it’s designer. In this case, it would make sense that many of the same problems in Western culture are carried over into the technologies that are conceived of and designed by folks from the culture. It is the same shit by different means. Same prejudice – different medium.
  • A third possible answer is that technology is an empty vessel when it comes to values and we, as users, supply it with meaning and content. So a message board, Facebook page, blog and XBox chat room are just spaces that we utilize. They are neutral and can be used in socially positive (welcoming) or negative (aggressive or discriminatory) ways.

 

Why am I concerned about this? 

This issues concerns me in two ways:

1) I am deeply troubled to read of women bloggers being threatened and intimidated – even virtually. I am concerned about stories I hear from the girls in my youth group about their Facebook experiences. My wife has worked in both Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Counseling while I have been in youth ministry. Issues related intimidation, violence and  oppression-suppression are serious and deeply impact the quality of someone’s life, their mental and emotional health and their capacity to participate in family, church and society.

2) Technology seems to be a good test case for a much larger concern that I have regarding leadership and community development in the next generation. This particular issue gives me great hesitation about getting too excited regarding this potential new era of open-mindedness, equality, acceptance and freedom.  The issue is simply this:
We who have been trained, groomed, shaped, and socialized into the old forms – bring with us into the new forms, our patterns, values, ideas, permissions and prejudices. 

It’s like whenever someone complains about a perceived shortcoming in the Emerging Church, I find myself saying

“yes … but part of that has to do with that which we are emerging from. These are inherited patterns because we are all embedded in systems that contain inherent values. It will take a while to entirely emerge out of that.”

To take this back to our initial question about technology. Technology isn’t the solution to the problems that haunt us. They may be helpful for bringing about the solution – but simply have an open room – Facebook, Xbox chat or blog – is not a fix in itself. The prejudices and issues of power that are ‘outside’ the room are brought in with the people who come in to use the space.

This seems to me to be an import issue to vocalize. My hope is that in simply naming it to raise awareness that technology is not inherently neutral, safe, or equal. There is more going on in our use of Facebook, Xbox chats and blogs than just our use of those technologies. They are not absent of the values, patterns, prejudices and social power dynamics of the world and culture that made them.

We need to be vigilant to address hurtful and harmful material in our technologies. Technology is not neutral – it is embedded with meaning and value.

 

The Silent White Guy and Invisible Black Women

A record number of people read the post yesterday “Beyonce and the Bigger Question”. I want to thank everyone who commented on the blog, FaceBook and Twitter for making the conversation so fruitful and constructive.  It is a difficult question and we certainly have an issue with race in our society. beyonce-super-bowl1

I am also glad that people seemed to like the idea of Critical Theory and the structure of the questions that I put forward.

 I did notice 2 places where the conversation trickled to an drip. 

  • One is the issue of what white guys are allowed to talk about.
  • Two is the way to talk about the role of black women in our society without picking on Beyonce.

Let me give those some background:

My friend Hollie Baker-Lutz tweeted yesterday a sentiment that I hear quite frequently

“Uh oh, overheard in the university cafe: “and I can’t say anything in that class cuz I’m a white male, which is the worst thing u can be.”

I get this all the time from guys young and old alike.  I think something may be missing from that equation however.
Here are two things it would be helpful to add to the mix:

  1. an acknowledgement that the world is changing.
  2. a familiarity of the word hegemony.

If you add those 2 things, it has been my experience that people are generally open to hear what you have to say. People are quite interested.

What they are not interested in is the hegemonic refrain.  See, here is the problem: because that is the dominant cultural narrative … they have already heard it. They know it well. They may know it better than you because they have had to deal with it –  whereas you have only assumed it and benefited uncritically from it.

 

The second issue came from my friend Janisha when she wrote in response to yesterday’s post:

I appreciate your article and your attempt to think deeply. I don’t think anyone except for black women can truly determine what are primary and secondary issues.
The place of black women in society as a primary issue has with it endless complications, including “taking back one’s physicality in the face of generations of oppression and marginalization.”
My place in this culture is directly linked to taking back my physicality, because my black womanhood is my physicality. They aren’t different. they cannot be separated. I will argue again, that this conversation is difficult to have unless you are a black woman, because who else can fully understand the implications of Beyonce?

MP responded: 

I get what you (Janisha) are saying about the black woman conversation and I don’t want to butt into it, white man that I am. But that conversation would be about actual black womanhood, whereas this one is about public spectacle, one created and much enjoyed by white men. So there’s a white man conversation to be had about why we (white men) have created a category of “black women” who occupy this particular place in our spectacle. 

… Bo, I wonder how to tackle the issue of “what place black women hold in our culture” without picking apart actual cases like Beyonce’s half-time show??

 

MP makes 2 excellent points!  

The first situation I would compare to ‘reader response’ approaches to text. We have the author-text-reader.
In this case we have Beyonce-Performance-Viewer.

So each of us viewers is related to the performance differently so ‘white men’ and ‘black women’ may be relating to the performance differently.

In the second I just think that we need to be VERY clear the difference between an example and an anecdote.  Focusing in one example can be illustrative or it can be problematic.

I would hesitate to use this performance by Beyonce as an example – she is not the only one who dances like this. Lots of performers do. Also white women (like Christina and Britney) do.   So it is not unprecedented.

NFL Cheerleading squads do many of the same moves in much the same outfits … the difference is that
A) they don’t have a microphone  and
B) we don’t know their name.

Which is a HUGE difference.
If we want to talk about male sexuality and football we should have the Cheerleader conversation. That is every team – every week.  Women walking

If we want to have the ‘place that black women hold in our society’ conversation, then we would ask a different set of questions. Like ‘where were the other black women during the 5 hour broadcast of America’s largest TV event of the year?’  Since it is a commercial event … maybe we would even take a look at the commercials and ask how black women were represented.

Either way – isolating the one performance by Beyonce is not our best starting point.

 

Beyoncé and the Bigger Question

Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime ShowIt is with great interest that I have read the blowback over the Beyoncé SuperBowl Half-Time Show. I have read several interesting articles – both in support and in criticism – of the spectacle.

I get why people want to talk about her outfit, her moves, and her assembled cast of all females – about modesty, sexuality, and female empowerment. I get why those are conversation points.

What is becoming a trend, however, is that I have little interest in that conversation – not until we have a more significant conversation first.

I think that it is time I lay all my cards on the table.

While I was in seminary, my mentor Randy Woodley, showed me how to look at bigger systems and structures than I was used to. I have continued down that road and during my time at Claremont have been in dialogue with a school of thought called ‘Critical Theory’.

Critical Theory has taught me to ask 3 initial questions in order to examine an issue:

  1. Is there a pattern visible?
  2. Is there something behind the main thing?
  3. Is there any issue of power differential?

The Critical part is that we are going beyond the initial perceptions, the popular approach and the cultural conversation. The Theory part is that we are going to see if we might offer an explanation about the deeper issue.

SO let’s ask our 3 questions about the SuperBowl Half-Time hullaballoo.

  • Is there a pattern visible?  

I would argue that there is. I noticed it just before kickoff – during the Nation Anthem to be specific. Alecia Keys was introduced, Jennifer Hudson had just sang with the kids from Sandy Hook … and I knew that Beyoncé was the halftime show.

I thought to myself:

“It’s odd that the only 3 black women involved in this TV spectacular are all singers.” Pam oliver

I noticed that CBS didn’t even have a black female sideline reporter like Pam Oliver (on FOX) for its NFL broadcasts. I watched the rest of the festivities – including all the military stuff – and was struck by the noticeable lack of black women associated with the event. Walter Payton’s daughter presented Jason Witten with the NFL Man of the Year award … but that was about it.  None of the coaches or commentators … not even many of the commercials involved black women.  This seemed significant since so many of the on-screen TV personalities, coaches and players are black.

 

  • Is there something behind the main thing? 

It is easy to see the answer to this one. The answer is consumerism. While the game itself is ‘the main event’ the commercial aspect of the SuperBowl has become at-least or almost as big. Commercials this year sold for a reported 4 million dollars a piece. Like the controversy we covered yesterday in the ‘So God Made a Farmer’, commercialism-capitalism-consumerism is the unspoken thing.

It might be hard to see in a short blog post like this but Beyoncé isn’t the telling controversy. The more telling one was the criticism of Alicia Keys’ soulful rendition of the national anthem. People criticized her not just for sitting at a piano (!) but for altering the tried and true version of the song.

In CT when something is assumed – even if unstated – as a dominant form, it is called hegemony. It is a type of power or influence that may or may not be overtly communicated. If one were to look at just the first half of the SuperBowl broadcast, it might be possible to say that the major narrative when it comes black women is twofold:

  • you can sing – we like that.
  • but make sure you do it our way. Don’t do anything too much or too … you know… that’s not why you are here.

 

  • Is there any issue of power differential?

This is the one that we never get around to talking about. Maybe it’s because we don’t know how to or don’t have frameworks for it.  There is a question that needs to be asked though: who decided that Jennifer Hudson, Alecia Keys and Beyoncé would sing? What did that committee look like?  Who are in those seats of power?

Did the group that decided who would sing look like Jennifer Hudson, Alecia Keys, and Beyoncé?

I don’t know, I’m asking an honest question. It’s the tough question that no one wants to ask. Who has the resources? Who has the influence? Who makes the decisions? Who sits in the seats of power?

 

Now you can see why I am not interested in talking about whether Beyoncé should have had more clothes on, should have gyrated less or is a model for taking back one’s physicality in the face of generations of oppression and marginalization. 

Those are all secondary conversations.

The primary conversation is about what place black women hold in our culture.

It is a much bigger conversation with much deeper consequences than if Beyonce’s hips and wardrobe were appropriate for a Half-Time show.