Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Do We Hate Rupert Murdoch?

I've really never understood the amount of animosity towards media mogul Rupert Murdoch and now that he dealing with the current scandal in the UK over phone hacking, some of these "Rupert haters" are now dancing with glee. The New York Time's Joe Nocera, who usually is an even keeled columnist, is enjoying how the hunter has become the hunted:
Let’s be honest here. There is something undeniably rich about seeing the tables turned like this. When I see photographs of Brooks, or Murdoch, or his son James (who until a few weeks ago was his father’s heir apparent at the News Corporation), sitting in their cars, staring blankly ahead, I can just picture the paparazzi horde jostling to get a decent shot of its prey. Murdoch’s papers have always feasted on scandals like this, picking the bones of their victims. Now Murdoch’s the one whose bones are being picked...

“The schadenfreude is so thick you can’t cut it with a chainsaw,” wrote The Wall Street Journal in an editorial on Monday, defending Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation. (That’s right. After woefully undercovering the scandal in its news pages, The Journal’s editorial page is now leaping to the defense of its owner. Proving, yet again, that The Journal knows where its bread is buttered.)

Well, yes, the schadenfreude is pretty darn thick. Who would deny it? The whole thing reminds me a little of the ending of Ian McEwan’s wonderful novel “Solar,” in which the many awful things the central character has done in his long life suddenly come together to bury him in an avalanche of comeuppance. I’m O.K. with that.
Nocera then lists the sins of Rupert Murdoch, number being Fox News:
Although I generally admire entrepreneurs who build giant companies, Rupert Murdoch, despite giving us Homer Simpson, generally has not been a force for good over the course of his long career. His Bill O’Reilly-ed, Glenn Beck-ed Fox News has done a great deal to coarsen the political discourse. His tabloids have lowered the standards of journalism on three continents — and routinely broken the law on at least one of them. He had dumbed down his prestige papers, like The Times of London. He has run roughshod over cross-ownership rules meant to prevent one man or company from having too much power — and then used his lobbying might to get those rules diluted. He has put kowtowing to China ahead of freedom of the press, even killing a book set to be published by his HarperCollins unit that the Chinese authorities objected to. He has consistently used his media properties to reward allies and punish enemies. It’s a long list.
While I think it's important to look into the phone hacking mess to find out how far up the corporate chain it went, I think it's a tad premature to tar Murdoch with all of this, as if he order folks to hack into phones.

One of the sins that Nocera mentioned is the advent of Fox News and how it has cheapened the public discourse. I'm not a fan of Fox News, but I have always said it has to right to exist. If people don't like Fox they can just ignore it. Also, its not as if political discourse was some kind of Eden before Fox. Fox News is just a symptom of a greater disease, and if it were to disappear tomorrow, we wouldn't all go back to being nice with each other.

All of this hate and schaudenfruede is a bit much. And frankly, at the end of the day it makes those that enjoy it look somewhat small and petty.

Maybe Murdoch is guilty. Maybe he did know what was going on at News of the World. If so, then he should pay the penalty.

But we don't know all the facts. Instead we want to see someone squirm simply because we don't like them.

I don't think that's right.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Repost: The Old Man and the Queen

This post is from 2008. One note: when this man dies, I will be at his funeral.

And I will cry.

As several denominations struggle with the issue of gay pastors, I am reminded of something that happened to me a few years ago.

I had just graduated from seminary and was doing my CPE at a local nursing home. I was still involved at the church where I was an intern and was asked to serve on the church board. It came to a vote and I was voted in nearly unanimously. I say nearly because one person voted against me. I knew who it was and so did many others. It was an elderly member of the church. He had some idea I was gay and many people assumed that was why he voted against me. After the meeting concluded, he asked me to come with him into another room. He explained that he prayed and studied the scripture on the issue of homosexuality, but his conscience was not swayed in favor. As he said this, he began to cry.

I was and still am touched by this guesture. He did have to speak to me to explain his actions, but he did. He might not approve of who I sleep with, but he did treat me with respect. This wasn't simply about being right for him, but about being loving.

Yeah, I know that his actions were hurtful. Yes, it would have been nice had he voted in favor. But I could respect his decsion even if it was wrong, because he valued me enough to respect me.

Why am I sharing this? I guess because sometimes those of us who fight for justice for GLBT folk tend to paint everyone and anyone who might disagree as evil and backward and not worth listening to. Many pro-gay people think saying anything that is against being gay is hurtful to gays and react strongly to anything that might be hurtful to gays.

But the thing is, there is a difference between words and people that do mean to harm and those that are just not there yet. There are people that truly hate gay people, but not everyone who might have an opinion opposing gay marriage or gay ordination is necessarily a bigot. And the fact is, I'm a big boy-I can handle an old guy.

I truly believe we must work for justice and inclusion in the church. But grace has to be part of the plan. The old man's opposition was tinged with grace and for that reason I could also respond in grace.

I still see the old man-he is now in his late early 80s, but still going strong. We are friendly to each other and he still treats me with the utmost respect and even sees me as Biblical scholar (?). And I love his tenor voice-which is still strong after all these years. I have no idea how he feels about me being gay or having a husband. But I do know that he has taken the command of love very seriously and I will truly weep the day this man leaves the scene. He has taught me about grace; and for that I am ever thankful.

Great, now I'm tearing up...

Graceful Conversation

I think in our day and age, we are losing the act of conversation.  It's kinda odd, in this time when we have so many ways of talking to each other, we really don't talk to each other, at least we don't talk to people who we happen to disagree with.  Instead, we stay in our little circles, unwilling to actually listen to someone who might disagree with us.

It's interesting being a moderately conservative guy in a room full of liberals.  At some point the conversation gets wanders around to someone like Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann and everyone takes turns knocking down Republicans.  I start to get a little uncomfortable at all the trash talk.  I have to believe that the same thing goes in conservative circles.  Woe is the lone liberal that has endure that experience.

The sad thing these days is that we really don't know how to listen and talk with each other.  We seem to forget that each person is a child of God and so we hurl invectives at the other camp.  We are so full of righteous indignation that we are blind to loving our enemies.

As Christians, we need to learn to have conversations.  I guess it's kind of ironic that the person who has trouble with conversations is the one bringing it up, but there you go.  Yes, there were times that Jesus got angry, but there were also times that he listened to people.  At times, we have to learn to give up our need to be right, our need to be angry to learn to love the other- especially when we disagree with them.

Presbyterian pastor Janet Edwards wrote a wonderful post on conversation with adversaries, especially when it comes to GLBT issues.  Here's a snippet:

  1. Approach the other person as a beloved child of God. See Christ in the eyes of the other person. Set aside every presumption you may have about him or her except that God loves this other, just like God loves you. This is often a mystery for me that our talk with help solve.
  2. Trust deeply that the Holy Spirit has a word for you both. Watch carefully for the gift God has for you in your exchange with this other. It probably will not be the same gift for both of you. It will most likely be a still, small voice so you must listen hard for it.
  3. Try hard to see things from the other’s point of view. Ask questions like: “This is what I hear you saying, is that correct?” or: “I want to make sure I get what you mean, is this what you said?” My own convictions have been strengthened many times by testing them against the other’s heartfelt words.

I think these words are important, especially for those of us that are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. We have to be willing to hear for the Spirit speaking even from those mouths of those we disagree with.

I don't think any of this is easy. But then, no one said following Jesus was easy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Who's A Feminist?

I know I will probably stir some kettles with this one...

About 15 years ago or so, I remember listening to a call in show on public radio that talked about women's rights.  At one point a caller called in and talked about a friend of hers that was in many ways a strong feminist except that she was pro-life.  The caller asked if this woman would be consider a feminist.  The guest on the program responded: no, she could not be considered a feminist because of her stance on abortion rights.

I remember being rather shocked about that.  I can understand not agreeing with someone on that topic and I can see myself (I am pro-choice, by the way) have some issues.  But I didn't think this one issue should disqualify a woman from being...well, pro-woman.

There's a post up at the Her.menutics blog (one of many blogs from the evangelical magazine, Christianity Today), that talks about "evangelical feminism" in light of the prominence of two women in political ciricles, Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin.  Now, I'm not a fan of either woman.  I strongly disagree with Ms. Bachmann's anti-gay views and I agree with former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty in that the congresswoman hasn't done much during her time in Congress.  I think Palin does have some smarts, as evidence in this recent Atlantic piece, but I think she decided to play the role of outsider instead of competent governor.  I know it might distrub folks to see these folks as feminists, but in a way, they are.

Before people start throwing tomatoes at me, let me speak.  What I am trying to say here is that both women are very strong, opinionated women who have worked hard to get where they are.   I might totally disagree with their views, but these are not the stereotype of conservative women that hide behind their strong husbands. 

Does that make people especially my liberal feminist friends, uneasy?  Yeah, it probably does.  But then maybe we need to think again about what feminism means.  If it only means being pro-choice, then you have made it the same narrow kind of club that we accuse conservatives of doing.  However, if there is a diversity of ways of being a feminist, then maybe people can come together on issues where they agree to continue to uplift the role of women in society.

Okay, just let me get my umbrella.  Now you can throw your tomatoes at me.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Autism and Sex

I know it might be bad form for a pastor to be sharing an article about how people on the autistic spectrum achieve an orgasm, but since there are a lot of us out there that will find a partner or spouse, it's probably a good idea to share this.  So, read it.