Posts Tagged ‘ Pop Culture ’

Commentary:Farrakhan

I am not a particular supporter of Louis Farrakhan or his ideas, but I do believe he has some wisdom in this clip.

There are a hodgepodge of ideas in this clip, but what do you think about the main issue of influencing culture through hip-hop and his comments about the influence hip-hop culture has on the world?

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Hip Hop 4 Tha Soul

I was thinking about love and this Common joint came to my mind. Enjoy!

Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness

Stanley Hauwerwas and Jean Vanier’s Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness is the third book in the Resources for Reconciliation series put out by Inter-Varsity Press.

I was introduced to Jean Vanier about a year ago. A friend of mine handed me a copy of From Brokenness to Community, which is an edited version of Vanier’s speech at The Harvard University Divinity School Wit Lectures.  As I read Vanier’s story of leaving what he thought he knew, changing his life’s trajectory and engaging in community with the mentally “handicapped” I immediately engaged with my own selfishness.  Reading From Brokenness to Community pushed me into a deep examination of myself, of my brokenness and of the redemption that God provides within community – both in communion with Him and communion with others. If you have not read From Brokenness to Community, it is well worth purchasing. The book is only 50 small pages and is easily read in one sitting – although it is best read at a walker’s pace, taking in every word and nuance.

Vanier begins Living Gently in a Violent World by explaining L’Arche. The L’Arche movement is an international connection of faith-based communities centered on developing communities where people who have developmental disabilities and people who do not have these disabilities live in harmony. In 1964, Jean Vanier and his wife Pauling welcomed two men with disabilities into their home in France. What they learned and gained from that experience was the impetus for the L’Arche movement.

Vanier is humble and poignant in Living Gently in a Violent World. Vanier admits that L’Arche is still maturing and that, in some ways, is a fragile movement.

“. . . L’Arche is a fragile reality. Will it still be here in twenty years? There is always be people with disabilities, but will there always be people who want to live with them as brothers and sisters in community, in a place of belonging that helps each member, each person, grow to greater freedom?”

As I read of the challenge and returns of the L’Arche community I could not help, but think of its larger impact. L’Arche communities are diverse both between communities and within each community. Some communities are primarily Christian (although there is denominational diversity), those outside of the Christian faith lead some, and they exist from North America to the Middle East. However, all of these communities support the whole-person transformation of all community members. The community is not to “help” people with disabilities or even to enrich or mature those who do not have a disability. While, this surely does occur the central aspect is L’Arche is the central aspect of the Christian faith; Love.

Vanier tells rich stories about what love can do to individuals hurt by the pain of abuse; abuse, spiritual, social, and mental. L’Arche’s result is to address brokenness through the love that is found in true community. L’Arche’s uniqueness is that it highlights brokenness, not so that people wallow but so they can find redemption. It is the acknowledgement and gentle approach of community that pain and brokenness that allows society to find healing. When we are willing to recess into our own brokenness, we are able to view the holy aspects of others. We have come down off our spiritual or moral pedestals to dwell and broken people in need of healing and redemption via community and ultimately the Father.

Vanier is the prophet in Living Gently in a Violent World, while Hauwerwas is the polemicist. Hauwerwas begins by confronting the issue of time. While we are often scurrying around to find answers and to enact our own justice, we often neglect that peace (ultimately love) takes time. Violence is a shortcut to peace, and inevitably brings us to more violence. Hauwerwas argues that peace is achieved by redemption and transformation, which inevitably takes time.

“If the time has already been redeemed by Jesus, we learn to wait on the salvation of the Lord by taking time to listen to our weakest members”

Progress pushes us towards deafening speeds that force us to continue to move closer to an ideal, which seems to get further and further away. However, speed is not the central issue. We are consumed with the purpose behind the speed, efficiency. We desire everything when we want it and how we want it. This expands beyond the golden arches (McDonalds), domain names, or radio signals. Efficiency has overwhelmed our relationships. We see the traces of this the heightening levels of divorce, the constant movement of people (i.e. the idea of a “starter house”), the institutionalization of the “mentally handicapped” etc.  What is more dangerous is our dependency on efficiency. Our society is suddenly lost and frustrated when remote controls do not work, when automatic gates do not close on vans, when the internet is slow, when our churches get out “late” or when our food does not come quickly enough. This fervor for efficiency passes over people and focuses on the task.  We disregard community. We go and leave church having little more than interactions of “Southern Hospitality”. We drive past our neighbors rather than getting to know them. It is not that we are inconsiderate, we are simply too busy to invest. For Haurwas the ethos of L’Arche is what the Church and society needs to combat this dependency on efficiency.

“Constancy of place seems to me imperative if we are to be Christians who don’t abandon one another in the name of greater goods. You cannot be constantly going and coming as an assistant in L’Arche. Core members, love routines, and routines create and are breated by familiarity. Familiarity is what makes place “a” place.”

I must admit; I was a little disappointed by Hauwerwas’ contribution.  Make no mistake; Hauwerwas gives a sophisticated perspective on the L’Arche community and its prophetic voice to both the global and local contemporary church. Hauwerwas’ academic resolve is unquestioned. However, his academic prowess convolutes the wisdom of his commentary. Nevertheless, Hauwerwas’ perspective is a valuable asset to the book.

Gentleness and weakness are usually the last things we think about in our modern society. We are a society of quickness, efficiency and strength. These characteristics result in a violence that is sometimes systematical interwoven in the fabric of our society (i.e. American Slavery) and sometimes intentional.  Vanier and Hauwerwas view L’Arche as a flagship to the church and hope that its expression of Christianity can embrace a gentleness of patience that will bring healing to broken people and a broken world.

(I will be going back and writing on the first two texts Welcoming Justice and Reconciling All Things later this spring and I hope to read the last text Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission soon after its release.)

Thoghts about pop-culture, ethics, morality and value ispired from a conversation on facebook.

Although we have moved away from overtly signing songs and telling folk tales or myths as ways to convey ethics, values and meaning in our culture, popular culture has become the town square, campfire and village gathering that the contemporary person covertly learns societal values through. The tragedy is not the vehicle of information. The tragedy is that the stories and songs are no longer mediated by elders seeking to guide the community they are mediated by some guys trying to make a buck.

Rugby and Reconcilation

Invictus may not be as popular as this year’s bigger holiday releases, but its poignant themes of justice and peace are both entertaining and redemptive.

Clint Eastwood’s Invictus has generated lots of buzz as a potential Oscar contender, and rightly so. But it’s unfortunate that bigger films like Avatar and Sherlock Holmes are drawing more attention from audiences, because Invictus presents a story that’s both entertaining and transformative.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island’s maximum-security prison after 27 years as a political prisoner whose only crime was resisting South Africa’s unjust apartheid laws. In 1994, Mandela became the first Black president of South Africa. In 1995, he began to reconcile his country through peace, justice, selflessness, and rugby.

Director Eastwood utilizes the superb talents of Morgan Freeman (Nelson Mandela) and Matt Damon (Francois Pienaar) to adapt John Carlin’s book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation to the silver screen.

Make no mistake — Invictus is an inspirational sports film. Those hoping for an epic history of Nelson Mandela’s trials and triumphs in office or a deep commentary on South Africa in 1995 will be disappointed. The film paints a decent background of South Africa in the mid-1990s and Eastwood and Freeman intentionally refrain from painting an idyllic picture of Mandela, but these are supportive elements for a story about reconciliation and the power of humility.

Noticing the brokenness of his country, Mandela views the South African national rugby union team, the Springboks, as an opportunity to promote a unified national pride. Mandela understands that the Afrikaners (White South Africans) are afraid of his administration and fear exile from a country that has become their home. Instead of exploiting his new position as an office of domination and vengeance, Mandela acts humbly and selflessly. Mandela calls the nation to seek peace not by changing their colors or the name of the Springboks. Rather, he asks his fellow Black citizens, who spent years viewing the Springboks as a symbol of apartheid, to embrace the team as their own.

The title “Invictus” (Latin for inconquerable) comes from the poem by William Ernest Henley. Mandela drew strength from Henley’s triumphant text while in prison, and he sends a handwritten copy of the poem to Pienaar to inspire him to lead South Africa’s team to the world championship. The eventual national embrace of the team transforms a symbol of division, racism, and hatred into a symbol of a “Rainbow Nation” growing towards reconciliation.

finish reading at Urban Faith.com

White Savior Stories

I have been back in forth on whether to write a post about The Blindside. Ultimately, I am choosing not to because there is a plethora of articles on the web about the racial, white-privilege undertones of the film.

However, the issue of White savior stories is still important. Many have tried to articulate that because The Blindside is a true story people should stop complaining about the racial issues. However, that is the exact problem. Most of the true stories about African-Americans (or ethnic-minorities) coming out of negative situation don’t involve White people. Films and books like The Pact, which display the determination of African-Americans without a major White figure in their lives, are not highlighted and these stories are not produced by major film studios and don’t get the literary notoriety. Why? Well, I don’t believe it is because the folks at these studios and publishing companies don’t care, they simply want to make money. People don’t go to see these films or read these books because they don’t have the same type of good feelings appeal, they don’t give the allusion that privileged folks – white or otherwise – must help the impoverished transcend their situation. Why do films like Lean on Me get ignored but Dangerous Minds, though rejected by critics, gaine mass success or why does Erin Gruwell have her story massively publicized through the production of  Freedom Writers while Geoffrey Canada ‘s story – no relation – gets little airtime? Just think about it.

It get a little frustrated with SNL and Mad TV because they are usually shallow and I find them offensive rather than insightful or comical,  but occasionally their parodies are actually good satire. Here is a funny and intelligent skit about White female character’s as saviors.

Like any good satire, it is funny because it is ridiculous, yet true. But like any satire it is supposed to make the viewer change themselves and society, not just laugh. So let’s start supporting more of the true stories of African-Americans not just the ones that make White people look good.

Don’t get me wrong, I value what White people do in African-American communities, but when we only highlight those stories, it gives the perception that African-Americans cannot overcome situations without White folks. I don’t want movies like Blindside to not be produced, I want to see more movies produced that show the reality of African-American transcendence of poverty and social oppression.

The larger issue of all of these “inspirational” stories, whether casted with a White lead, Black lead or otherwise, is that most true stories about African-Americans and other ethnic-minorities don’t involve coming out of poverty or socially difficult situations. Most true stories are just about life. I would ultimately like to see more films that don’t focus on the misfortune of ethnic-minorities. We need balance.

Glen Beck & “White Culture”

Why is it so hard for Beck to define White culture – especially when he says Obama has a hatred of it?

What is “White culture”?

My personal take is that there is “White culture” just like there is “Black culture”. But just as within Black culture, White culture is not monolithic, nor should everyone who is White be stereotyped into a rigid Whiteness.*

An interesting characterization of “White culture” -in the shallow expression of culture** – is the Stuff White People Like Blog and the subsequent book Stuff White People Like: The Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions. If you haven’t seen either they both contain a list of things that typically White people enjoy: farmer’s markets; bookstores; wine tasting; etc (Our of Ur and Urban Faith posted a interesting article about the potential of small groups being a White Christian thing.)

I actually don’t like the book/website because it is limited and Lander, the creator, is making misinformed generalizations. It is really only touching on one section of White America. I think about lower-class Whites, or blue-collar Whites, or inner-city Whites, or rural Whites, the book/website it isn’t really stuff “White” people like, it is stuff a certain level of educated and socialized White like.

But there is something important in the book/website. It affirms that there is a culture typical to Whites – more appropriately various White cultures within a boarder American experience. White folks who deny that they have a culture and assume that  their actions are universally normal hinder actual multiculturalism, diversity and reconciliation because that perspective naturally color-blinds the world.

But again, it is also dangerous to ignore the diversity within Black and White folks  – as well as Asians, Latinos etc.  We literally make things black and white and don’t examine the variations and blending. So many Black folks have to fight the assumption that we ALL like, fried chicken, rap, baggy jeans, the N-word, basketball etc. and fight Being called “White” when we don’t like those things or happen to like NPR. Also, some white folks fight being called a “wigger” ( a common expression I heard when growing up) when they are genuinely a child of Hip Hop culture.

So I return to the original question, what is “White Culture”?

*The conversation is beyond just  Black/White – but Beck’s comments and interaction with the issue of culture was/is mainly Black/White.

**There are deeper culture values that are help differently in different cultures (i.e. preception of eldery, perception of time, gender roles, role of religion etc.). These are perhaps the real difference that divide folks. Which is why people of different ethnicities seem to be able to increasingly feel capable of working together – a fairly shallow exercise – but struggle with worshiping  and living together.