Sunday, July 20, 2008

 

Malcolm Muggeridge and "reality" TV

Those who are familiar with Malcolm Muggeridge already know that he was a journalist. If you didn't know that, you may wonder how it is possible for a journalist to be a Christian (grin), but that's a discussion for another day. The fact is that Muggeridge was a journalist, and in his lectures that later became the little book, The End of Christendom, Muggeridge notes some problems with the media. Here is the quote from pages 38-39.

"A strange thing I have observed over many years in this business of news gathering and news presentation is that by some infallible process media people always manage to miss the most important thing. It's almost as though there were some built-in propensity to do this. In moments of humility, I realize that if I had been correspondent in the Holy Land at the time of our Lord's ministry, I should almost certainly have spent my time knocking about with the entourage of Pontius Pilate, finding out what the Sanhedrin was up to, and lurking around Herod's court with the hope of signing up Salome to write her memoirs exclusively. I regret that this is true. Ironically enough, as the dramatization of the public scene gains impetus, so we move farther and farther from the reality of things and become more and more preoccupied with fantasy."


That last line gave me pause. Here is Muggeridge, speaking decades ago, addressing the problem of news and reality. I understand this paragraph to be saying that even before the advent of cable TV, Muggeridge saw signs of the media's "dramatization of the public scene" as opposed to the straightforward reporting of "the reality of things." Is this some kind of reference to "making the news" versus "reporting the news"? Perhaps, but more to the point is the reference to the danger of becoming "more and more preoccupied with fantasy." This remark certainly sounds a lot like "reality" TV, doesn't it?

Think about it--we neglect our "real" lives to tune in to shows that purport to show us "reality" on TV. Yet these very shows are more interested in the dramatization of an "unrealistic" setting than in offering us "reality." We strand a bunch of people on an island, encourage them to stab each other in the back, film the results, edit that film, and then call it "reality!" Does anyone else appreciate the irony?

We take the desire among most humans for a loving relationship, find some single guy, set him up with a choice of several gorgeous women, and then film their responses as the fat hits the fan. Then we call it "reality" TV!

We put a bunch of has-been celebrities together in a house, encourage them to participate in shenanigans, then we call it "reality."

Why are we obsessed with this stuff? Could it be that our own "reality" is so mundane that we want a substitute reality for it?

We all know that (like TV wrestling) most of these "reality" shows follow a script and are edited to elicit a certain response, yet we persist in calling them "reality" TV!

Muggeridge was practically prophetic here. Look at the major cable "news" networks--don't you see basic "dramatization" of events instead of a reporting of "things"? Why does the coverage of MSNBC, CNN, and even Fox look the same? We are living in the age of reality dramatization predicted by Muggeride almost 30 years ago!

Maybe we need to look at "reality" in a different light. Maybe we need to search for capital "T" Truth and try to understand our reality in light of God's plans and purposes as opposed to pursuing a fantasy "reality" that has little to do with eternity. Perhaps we should listen to God and pay less attention to "media outlets" and "news makers"? What would the world look like if we took our reality seriously, if we considered God's call on our lives in this reality as more important than the "realities" we see on TV? What kind of world would this be if Christians put as much effort into pursuing God as we put into following our favorite "realities" on TV?

What do you think?

Monday, July 14, 2008

 

Is God There? A Day Dream Moment from Leo

Sometimes, when no one is looking, I day dream. If I'm not careful, I'll even talk to myself. I even find myself writing down some of these ideas on occasion. So, I'll confess: I like to think of myself as some kind of writer or story teller, a scholar or academic of sorts, yet I never seem to have the words to say what is really in my heart.

Of course, God is in my heart, and that is enough (or, at least, it should be!). Even if words fail me and my ability to explain clearly the thoughts and intents of my heart disappears, nonetheless Christ remains faithful and stalwart.

Will God fail? More likely the sun will cease to shine, the stars will blink out, the universe will cave in, and the earth will stop rotating on its axis!

Will God be there? How silly we can be! How can God not be there? For God not to be there amounts to nothing short of hell! That is the only place where God is not. Oh, we try to exclude him, to push him out of our lives as though we somehow have power or authority over the One who holds the cosmos in the palm of his hand! We may dig pits for ourselves, or develop yokes for ourselves to wear in an effort to hide or escape God's great governance of the universe, but we can no more push him out than we can dissolve the rings of Saturn, or move the moon, or snuff out the sun! What ridiculous notions!

Sure, we try to rid ourselves of God, but it never works. He is there, still loving us, still caring, still taking care of us, still pouring grace into our graceless lives. Oh, we may not acknowledge him, we may not “notice” the subtle coincidences as the hand of God, but they are there. Everyday, in hundreds of ways, God is watching out for us. Amazing thought, huh? The Psalmist said that “such knowledge is to wonderful for me,” and I think he was right.

Consider this—When they dug Saddam Hussein out of his hiding place, God was in that little hole with Saddam, loving him, trying to get him on the right track. When you and I try to hide away from God like Adam and Eve, using inadequate fig leaves to cover a problem that only the blood of Christ can fix, God is still there. When we hide in a closet or close our hearts to those who care, God is still there. He is at the highest height or the deepest depth!

The God who loves, that same merciful God is with you, in whatever rabbit hole you find yourself, he is there to comfort, to help, and most importantly, to love on you like nobody’s business.

Do you think God doesn’t care? Look around you. Do the trees worry about their next drink of water? Do the flowers worry about the sun? Do the birds worry about food? Yet we continue to think that God doesn’t care? How utterly foolish we can be! If God didn’t care, none of life would be good, none of this would matter, none of us would be alive, none of this would exist.

I don’t know how to say it—we are caught up in "God moments" everyday. We may not recognize them, but there they are! Jesus shows up as the odd person who seems destined to "waste your time" and only wants to chat, or as the young person looking for encouragement concerning something “disturbing” he has found in Scripture, or as the mother with three young Veggie Tales fans who is taking great pleasure in her latte and in browsing for books at the bookstore, or as the friend who arrives on your doorstep at just the right time with a word of encouragement and hot chocolate. He shows up as the person who tips or compliments you, as the person who “accidentally” gives you a word of encouragement. He comes as the encouraging e-mail, the unexpected but welcome phone call. He comes in the beauty of creation to overwhelm and amaze you.

He comes like the Father who adores the child. He smiles, he says, “well done.” He is There with YOU! In the flood, in the fire, in the sweet times, in the good times, in the hard times, he stands with you and applauds you. He kisses your face and thinks to himself, “What a delightful child! How proud I am to be here!” Look for him, he is there!

Thank you, Father, that you are here, and you will be there. Create moments for us that remind us of your subtle and eternal watch care for us. Energize us by that knowledge and create the character of your Son Jesus in us. For Christ’s sake, do these things we pray.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

 

In Honor of Independence Day--July 4

Well, the USA is celebrating yet another birthday, and although some people think that the brightness has worn off this "city on a hill," I'm not ready to read her obituary yet. I went back into the archives to find some quotes for you today. The first one comes from John Wayne. On the internet you can find a lot of fun stff about the Duke, but this audio of him speaking about his country is priceless to me. Click here to listen: http://www.coyote-art.com/91102/johnwayne.htm.

I wanted to add another one from my favorite actor. In the movie "The Alamo," Duke plays Davey Crockett, leader to the Tennessee volunteers. At one point in the movie he gives a speech about the USA and the idea of a "republic." Here is the excerpt I liked the best:

"Republic. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Republic is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat - the same tightness a man gets when his baby takes his first step or his first baby shaves and makes his first sound as a man. Some words can give you a feeling that makes your heart warm. Republic is one of those words."


Finally, I wanted to share a poem with you all. About 8 years ago I discovered the poetry of Edgar Guest. The first poem I ran into was his "It Couldn't Be Done" in which he describes an optimist who wouldn't say "it couldn't be done" until he tried, and in trying the optimist accomplished the thing. At any rate, Guest is the author of dozens of patriotic poems, and I wanted to share this one in honor of the men and women who serve the USA in the various branches of our military and reserves. As you read this poem, why not say a short prayer of thanks for their service and ask God to protect them as they serve? Here's the poem, "The Things that Make a Soldier Great," by Edgar Guest:

The things that make a soldier great and send him out to die,
To face the flaming cannon's mouth nor ever question why,
Are lilacs by a little porch, the row of tulips red,
The peonies and pansies, too, the old petunia bed,
The grass plot where his children play, the roses on the wall:
'Tis these that make a soldier great.
He's fighting for them all.

'Tis not the pomp and pride of kings that make a soldier brave;
'Tis not allegiance to the flag that over him may wave;
For soldiers never fight so well on land or on the foam
As when behind the cause they see the little place called home.
Endanger but that humble street whereon his children run,
You make a soldier of the man who never bore a gun.

What is it through the battle smoke the valiant solider sees?
The little garden far away, the budding apple trees,
The little patch of ground back there, the children at their play,
Perhaps a tiny mound behind the simple church of gray.
The golden thread of courage isn't linked to castle dome
But to the spot, where'er it be --the humblest spot called home.

And now the lilacs bud again and all is lovely there
And homesick soldiers far away know spring is in the air;
The tulips come to bloom again, the grass once more is green,
And every man can see the spot where all his joys have been.
He sees his children smile at him, he hears the bugle call,
And only death can stop him now --he's fighting for them all.


On this fourth of July, as you give thanks for the freedoms and opportunities God has given you in this land, please remember to pray for those who defend our way of life and for the families of those whose loved ones paid the ultimate price so that we can enjoy our great republic. Remember, it is a cliche, but it is true "Freedom isn't free."

Thanks for reading!

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