Sunday, August 31, 2008

tv news

Whether it be the evening TV news, the midday news, or the morning news there are three features with which I am increasingly frustrated.

It is copy-cat
Whenever I travelled to Australia I would smile at how much they copied the Americans. From extending news broadcasts beyond the evening hour ... to single news readers becoming male:female combinations ... to a fascination with weather reports from quirky eccentrics ... to the actual template of the broadcast - on and on it goes. Then a few years later we find New Zealand slavishly copying Australia. [One of the few distinctions I can identify is that the Aussies and the Americans like their male readers to be older in order to convey greater authority and gravitas].

It is casual
When so much of the news is bad news, even tragic news, I find the casual chit-chat between the presenters to be annoying. Light levity. Vacuuous commentary. Not only does this medium then clash with the message, it trumps the message. The serious sadness of human tragedy gets washed away in wasted and inane words. In recent weeks and months I have watched with alarm as the BBC and CNN have started selling-out to this approach.

It is 'celebritous'
One of the great mysteries of popular culture is just how it is that people who read the news off a tele-prompter can be paid so much money and gain so many headlines. The heroic becomes eclipsed by the celebritous. It is dragging us down. What is the relative time given by people today to the reading of a biography of a hero versus viewing the story of a celebrity? We are far more interested in the flaws of the latter than the character of the former ... and it shows.

As a follower of Jesus I want to affirm the way creativity is more important than copy-catting, being serious is more important than being casual, and following heroes is more important than watching celebrities.

nice chatting


Monday, August 18, 2008

john, barak ... and rick?!

I have a fair amount of Americana in me - having been educated at an American boarding school (Woodstock School, India) and then at an American theological college(Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Chicago). So when the presidential elections come around I struggle to shrug off compulsive behavioural patterns!

2008 has proved the biggest struggle of all.

From the moment a Republican candidate, in a public debate back in January, was asked about what he thought of the 'submission passages' in the Bible (golly gosh - did he really get asked that question - in a political debate?). But wait - there's more! He gave a pretty conservative response and was greeted with thunderous foot-stomping applause...

... Through to the way the inflammatory comments of a Democratic candidate's minister threatened to bring down the entire candidacy of that candidate (really?! - do ministers have that much power over there?) ...

... To yesterday's forum where for the first time in the 2008 presidential race McCain and Obama stood on the same stage together. And what stage was this? Saddleback Church - the Saddleback Civil Forum! And who stood between them with his arms draped around both of them? Rick Warren! Not exactly a great photo opportunity for their separation of church and state, is it?!

It was staggering. It trumped the Olympics coverage for me (although I did manage to switch channells briefly to watch Phelps get Gold #8).
So many observations flood the mind from yesterday. Here are a handful:

1. The prominence of Christian faith in the American context. If a candidate is to win they must convince the American public that their faith is deeper and more authentic than the faith of their opponent. And the more you can lean to 'the right', rather than to 'the left', the better. And so on the hierarchy of evil, abortion is worse than global poverty.

2. The bias of the media. Fox News' advocacy of 'the right' is almost comical in its brashness. Never have I encountered such bias in a branch of the media. Sometimes I wonder if I have tuned into David Letterman by mistake...

3. The impact of communication skills. The smooth intelligent oratory of Obama still seems to be eclipsed by the bumbling, self-deprecating, story-filled style of McCain. This change amazes me. We are a long way from JFK and so very close to GWB.

4. The surfacing of the issues of political correctness. In the Democratic nomination process we had gender and race and now in the Presidential race we have race and age. In reality they are not surfacing explicitly - but they are there alright.

5. The influence of context. John McCain cannot really be understood unless you live in the USA and absorb the prominence they give to patriotism, to freedom and to honouring the military. My children watching with me could not comprehend the weight of the applause he received for the comments he made from within this framework. The fact that Barack Obama received no "bounce" in his poll ratings from his 8day visit to key foreign countries is staggering, making me wonder if - at the end of it all - he makes most sense beyond the USA.

And a word about "Uncle Rick" (I call him "uncle" because Barby's maiden name is "Warren" and some years ago I did little to stop a rumour going around NZ that he was Barby's Dad - or Uncle ...). Well - I thought Uncle Rick did really well. One hour with Obama and then one hour with McCain, asking them exactly the same questions with each candidate unable to hear the other one's responses. Great template. Probing questions. Stopping short of baptizing a candidate or a party. Yep, he did well.

nice chatting


Thursday, August 14, 2008

the kiwi psyche

OK - take a deep breath, New Zealand.
Don't panic! Hold your nerve.

The medals will come ...

... but in the meantime why not warm our hands and cheer our hearts next to the golden glow of someone else?! Here is a classic headline from this morning's newspapers. Ah, it deserves a full exegesis in search of that elusive Kiwi psyche.

nice chatting - and relishing seeing 'Kiwi' and 'golden' in the one headline!


Thursday, August 07, 2008

the crusades ... again?!

The other night we attended the parent:teacher evening for our youngest child, Joseph (aged 14 - year 10). With five children we've been to a few of these events over the years...

A Unit of learning in his Social Studies class is the Crusades. Really?! In two thousands years of history this is the story that is still being selected to impact impressionable minds on the themes of the way the wrong ideas can breed injustice?!

I'll take a lot of convincing to change my mind that there isn't an agenda behind this, an agenda that sows a seed in young Kiwi minds that Christianity, particularly Christianity among all the religions of the world, is the root of (all) evil and so stay clear of it.

Of course, we all know what the great irony is, don't we?! Don't we?! If it were not for the Gospel and for the Christianity which carried it, the history of the world would be a far sadder place than it has been.

There may not be a physical persecution of Christians going on - but in the realm of ideas (which is where it really can have a lasting influence), the persecution of faithful followers of Jesus willing to speak their faith in the public world continues on unabated.

Courage is the commodity that we chiefly need.

I attended the launch of the new Laidlaw College (formerly the Bible College of New Zealand) on Saturday where the Principal, Mark Strom, cast a vision of a School of Humanities where the worlds of politics, economics, and philosophy can be engaged. May it be so! We've needed it desperately for some time but the Christian church has been too busy pursuing adenaline and playing with fencing wire.

nice chatting