Archive for July, 2008

Is Obama the New Reagan . . . ?

Well not exactly, but The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article commenting on the recent polls that say the current Presidential election is much closer than is was a couple months ago.

The reference to Reagan comes when explaining the similarities between the 1980 and 2008 election.

In 1980, President Carter was standing for re-election himself, while in 2008 President George W. Bush, is attempting to pass the baton to Sen. McCain. But the questions about the opposing party’s candidate, Mr. Reagan, were similar to those now posed about Sen. Obama. Mr. Reagan, a former California governor who had spent no time serving in Washington, was seen as light on experience and lacking in foreign-policy gravitas. Some in the political establishment considered his strong conservative philosophy and anti-Soviet rhetoric to be too extreme for mainstream America

Besides the reference to Reagan – a minor point- , the article sets up a great juxtaposition between Obama and McCain’s favorability among U.S. citizens. Although one might not immediately think so, when you look at how the polls are breaking down, U.S. citizens are divided. Although Obama is a “rock star” that status is pushing some voters away. Conversely, although McCain is an Old-school politician – who happens to be a republican maverick – that status gives him familiarity and trust among some voters.

The article also picked up on the important issue of how comfortable citizens with the candidates backgrounds.

Riki Frank, 44, a graphic artist and stay-at-home dad from Auburn, Wash., leans toward Sen. Obama, but hesitates because of his personal background.

“I’m a white-bread American. I was raised in Iowa. I got the Midwestern work ethic,” says Mr. Frank. “He’s a black man. His name — is unique. It’s definitely not a Catholic name. He’s kind of way off the pattern of the norm of what I grew up with. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just because I can’t relate to the person doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.”

That is somewhat anecdotal evidence, but among White voters surveyed, 8% said race is the most important factor in the election (Among African-Americans, who support Sen. Obama, 20% said race is the top factor.)

The immediate thought that comes to many people’s minds is about the prejudice of the White folks worried about Obama’s race and background. However the fact that 20% of African-Americans are considering race as the “most important factor” is equally disturbing -though understandable given the absence of much minority representation in politics especially the position of President (my concern is that people are placing it as the most important factor, not solely that they are making it a factor).

It will be interesting to see if Obama was really correct in assessing that he would lose some points in the polls because he was overseas and how much race and background will play in this election.  By the time November roles around who knows what is going to happen.

Good Readin’

The Root.com has had several great articles in the past week check them out.

The R-Word

For white Gen Y’ers, ‘racist’ is the worst tag of all.

Master TV satirist Stephen Colbert frequently pokes fun at the notions of racial political correctness by having his brash conservative pundit character proclaim that he cannot see race. It’s a simple and reliably funny conceit that plays on the prevalent, if specious, notion that we live in a post-racial era, one that ignores, or optimistically shrugs off, the lingering and substantial issues between the races (Click to See Entire Article).

The situation is this: Two friends of mine; one white male, one black female. One very incendiary word. And the black girl wasn’t the one who said it.

I watched the following exchange with nervous curiosity, my eyes flitting back and forth as if the two were engaged in an intense game of ping-pong. My white male friend had been standing there talking like the rest of us, peppering his speech with “nigga this” and “nigga that” as he joked and laughed (Click to See Entire Article).

Gen Y and the Colorblind Lie

For millennials, race is more complicated than ever.

“Are you serious?” he asked. And though I was, I couldn’t help but notice the disbelief in his blue eyes, his pale face furrowed in confusion. I searched his expression for an inkling of empathy. There was none.

“Why,” he had to wonder, “can’t I say the word ‘nigga’?”(Click to See Entire Article).

Black in America, Now What?

CNN’s sweeping series raises many good questions but offers few answers.

Certainly, the show shines a spotlight on the scope of blackness. But will black viewers see or learn anything that improves their daily lives or inspires new thinking or action? And will viewers unfamiliar with “the black experience” learn anything that will expand or positively inform their opinions of blacks, or—more to the point—spur them to reach out to blacks? (Click to See Entire Article)

Burden of Proof

We’ve earned our stripes. Stop asking us to prove our colors.

As the daughter of a retired African-American foreign service officer, I’ve lived patriotism, and it’s time we settle one issue regarding race in America: Enough already with questioning the patriotism of African Americans just because we have a hyphenated identity. We can be black and red, white and blue (Click to See Entire Article)

Consumers of the United States of America

I was watching TV this morning and saw this Discover Card commercial.

Last time I checked we were a country of citizens not consumers.

Obama Blog

I was wasting time on the Internet the other day and came across Michelle Obama’s newly formed blog over at Blogher.com (an online community for female bloggers). Her first entry was mainly an introduction, but has this election – and perhaps Barack Obama’s presidency – progresses it will be interesting to read what she has to say.

A Model of Reconciliation

I wanted to give a shout out to my friend, Jody Fenerando’s article, A Model of Reconcilation, on the Burnside Writer’s Collective website.  I read this article a couple weeks ago, but forgot about posting it (sorry).

For those that don’t know, Burnside Writers Collective is

“an online resource for Christians looking for a connection with the world outside of franchise      Christianity. As such, readers will find articles on issues relating to social justice, novels relating to humanity, music expressing reality and books strengthening our understanding of God’s heart for the world, for equality and whole morality.”

Go check it out.

G’s to Gents

For the past couple weeks I have been seeing the preview for a new MTV show called, From G’s to Gents. The premise of the show – produced by Jamie Foxx – is to take self proclaimed gangstas from around the nation, all of who have exaggerated expressions of masculinity and hyper-aggressive attitudes, and to make them into dignified, responsible, and classy men (gentlemen).

I happened to remember that the show was premiering this week so I decided to take a peek. As with any reality TV show we were introduced to all the characters, the competition was set, enemies were made and alliances were set. After sitting and engaging with this “entertainment” for a full hour, I was hard pressed to concretely decipher the show.

On the one hand, there is some value to teaching men that there is more to life than grills, girls and hustlin’. There is a certain deficiency that modern males have – specifically many ethnic minority males – in that that we often take our cues from pop culture and the escalated masculinity presented in action movies, rap/rock stars, and ultra-competitive super athletes. In turn, we often portray this deficiency with a belittlement of women, a shirking of real responsibility in substitute for glamorous thrills, and a glamorous sloth in the completion of tasks that we see as monotonous, difficult or uncool.

On the other hand, the alterative established by the show is unrealistic and aristocratic. It is not that the men are learning to just be gentlemen; they are learning to be formal, proper, upper-class, patriciates. Perhaps the thought is that they need an extreme to pull them to the middle, but since this is reality TV, the point is more likely to set up an extreme juxtaposition in order to garner rating.

My concern with From G’s to Gents goes deeper than just what is presented on the TV. As I was watching I asked, where are the positive and real male figures in their lives? Where are the positive men who are mentoring them and helping them learn how to really be a man? The answers to these questions are extremely complex. Part of the issue is the defiance put up by the “G’s”, most of them gave off a supremely prideful bravado that suggests that they would be slow to allow someone to actually understand who they are (except of course if it is Jamie Foxx and they are on TV). Coming from someone who works with teenagers who present these same “G-ish” characteristics I know that it is exhausting to get past the myriad of walls and barriers they put up.

Another part of the issue is a combination of socioeconomic segregation, justice and pride. In my mind many of the men who would be able to mentor these “G’s” either, live too far away and don’t regularly – or ever – interact with the “G’s”, are too busy because they have the jobs where they have to work long hours in order to provide for their families, or they are just too prideful to “step-down” and sacrifice time and emotions to those who present as they have no care in the world.

This baffles me, especially as a Christian. Where are the strong Christian men at? Where is the concern for the drop in male church attendance? Where is the concern for so many males – especially ethnic minorities – being incarcerated? Where is the worry for those children of single-mothers who need their father back? As Christian men we have no place in our hearts for judgment, segregation, prejudice or any other sin that spawn from pride.

Thankfully more and more churches have engaged the single mother and cared for her; they have provided food and support for struggling families and provided other supports for struggling women. But, I don’t see this happening for needy men. Men are often demonized because there is an expectation that they should be responsible and not have issues. We don’t address that many fathers leave their children because they are insecure, inexperienced (many having no model) and immature. We don’t converse about how we can strengthen the male population. We get caught up in an argument about women’s rights – which I agree with – , but in so we forget that men have problems too. When a child is born out of wedlock – or in it for that matter – that child is the product of a man and woman and we should be working on supporting both pillars of that little boy or little girl’s family. What that doesn’t mean is publicly yelling at men to take responsibility and “step up” or lambasting them for their insufficiencies. It means talking to men, taking them under our wing, encouraging them, trying to understand and deal with their deeper issues.

I don’t want to sound like I excuse the actions of these “G’s” or other men who portray similar characteristics – especially father’s who leave bastard children. Those actions are wrong and it should be pointed out that they are wrong. But we have been approaching this issue in the wrong way and encouraging males to pursue the American façade of “pulling yourselves up by your bootstraps” instead of showing them how to deal with their issues and put on their boots of responsibility.

I am not sure how the rest of the season of “G’s to Gents” is going to go. I will most likely not be wasting my time to watch any more episodes – at least not in full. But I am sure the nation will tune in to be entertained by the deficient men our culture has created.

The Evangelical “Center”

I have been reading several books this summer, one is David Gushee’s Great Book, The Future of American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center.

David Gushee, author of, Kingdom Ethics -a book that has been transformational in my young Christian life – argues that there is a rising Evangelical Center (which I would say that I am apart of ) that is gaining strength in para-church organizations, churches, politics etc.

I have recently realized how stuck I feel, in not only he Christian political world, but in the Christian social/moral world as well. The recent emergence of the evangelical left has, in some ways given me great joy, but their position – or lack of – on some issues and their occasional usage of patchwork Biblical truth makes me cringe. It seems to embody much of what I didn’t like from the evangelical right, although focusing and ignoring different issues.

Several organizations and leaders such as Jim Wallis & Sojourners, Tony Campolo & Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, Call to Renewal and even Brian McLearn (to name a few) have influenced Christian life. But honestly, so has James Dobson & Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins/(Family Research Council) and Jerry Falwell & Thomas Road Baptist Church (mostly because I grew up in Lynchburg and much of my discipleship was through Thomas Road Baptist Church & its ministries). I am not making a claim that these influences have been good or bad, but rather that this is the reality of who I am. Galvanizing towards either the Evangelical left or the Evangelical right feels dishonest and inauthentic. I, almost, equally have qualms with both sides and rejoice with both sides.

After reading the Gushee’s book I realized that there are a host of other organizations and leaders that have influenced me and that have been resonated with me on a deeper level than either those of the Evangelical right or left; David Gushee, Ron Sider & Evangelicals for Social Action , John Perkins & Christian Community Development Corporation (CCDA), Noel Castanolles & CCDA, the Evangelical Environment Network, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Tony Evans, Christianity Today, and World Vision. I will say part of this realization is because Gushee is arguing for the presence of an Evangelical Center so he makes sure that the evidence is there. But apart from that, I realize that throughout my life these organizations and leaders have represented more of my own heart and mind than those on the left or right.

I would advise anyone, interested in how Christianity and and American political system works together, to read this book. Gushee starts by affirming the need of Christians to be involved in the public and political sphere and then defines the Evangelical right, left and center. The rest of the book (which is where I am) is focused on the beliefs of the Evangelical center (Toture and Human Rights, Marriage and the Law, Creation Care and the Climate Change B

I welcome and embrace the emergence of an Evangelical Center that shares no party loyalty and that focuses on a variety of social and moral issues. For me, it seems the most correct and most Biblical approach to the involvement with Christians in politics and society. However, I am realistic enough to realize that often groups galvanize towards the extremes. Does anyone one believe that an Evangelical Center can have longevity and if so how do you believe that will be accomplished? Also, I wonder what those in the Evangelical Right and Left think about this new center, do they dismiss it, embrace it? Do they try to annex some the evangelical center into their own camp? There are a vastness of questions and contemplations that are relevant.

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Also, it is worth it to check out this C.S. Monitor article about the book. The article influes a 15 minute interview with Gushee in which he gives elaboration and backround for his book as well as an explination of the classification of the Evangelical Center (he also makes some great comment about the current Presidential election).