Endless Observations and Critiques about Duck Dynasty, the Internet, and America’s Christians

As someone that has grown up immersed in Christian culture, it’s tremendously disconcerting to watch a familiar act play out at least once a year. A figure whom Evangelical culture has spent thousands of hours retweeting Bible verses said athlete/celebrity/television hero shared on social media, DVRed all their episodes or athletic endeavors, and purchased and passed along their ghost-written memoirs opens their mouth about a hot button issue and…

a) the answer does not align with 2013 personhood and subsequently serves as ammunition to “prove” that the media exists to get under the skin of Christians

b) the answer not only does not align with 2013 personhood, it also is rendered in a coarse, harsh, crude, racist, sexist tone, that then not only serves as ammunition to “prove” that the media exists to get under the skin of Christians but also incites all sorts of social media squabbles (and often–anger) among Evangelicals about tone, race, class, privilege, Pope Francis, Rush Limbaugh, freedom of religion, freedom of speech etc. 

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When we say it’s possible to hate the sin and love the sinner–that can also apply to idolized Christians who are just as culpable of making nasty, mean, perverted, gossipy, unloving, resentful, remarks as we are. And it’s not wrong to call them out. 

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What irks me the most is that the speed and cohesion with which Evangelicals fought to save a reality TV show character (in the hundreds of thousands people) could be used to

a) move immigration reform out of Congress’ peripheral vision and into an action item on the agenda–let’s recall that there are 13 million people without papers in this country–and millions more parents and children estranged because of this debacle

2) figure out what ways their own cities could prevent stories like Dasani’s from occurring

c) share how it is that Christ exactly views LGBT people (that he loves them) in a loud, unified, vocal way.

One wonders how the waning numbers of Middle Eastern Christians, who are being chased and terrorized out of their very homelands–settlements of Christians, you may remember–that have existed since Jesus became a movement–perceive their Western comrades.

It’s okay though. The United States’ cable box-owning and Facebook petitioning Christians would like to unite to defend lewd ways of discussing homosexuality by a loved reality TV show star. And you have that right in America. 

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On the other side, I’m wondering what an actual helpful response by progressive Christians looks like. I’m not sure if its form is this post, which could be seen as a caustic and irritated barb, if not self-righteous. Indeed, that is what I fear the most is that progressive Christians are not taking their rage home–rage of observing conservative Christians engage in what they deem another “shameful” culture tirade–and having the interpersonally strenuous conversations of why, why, why, the Gospel says so much more than A&E could ever display. 

In other words, I fear that too often the response is asserting social media superiority, instead of leaving no paper path on that platform about weighing in, but instead calling up Those People That Are Not My Neighbor Who I Am Called To Love On My Facebook Wall AKA The Person In My Small Group or College Roommate or Uncle and offering that space for them to parse through their fears and their rage, and you, listening, and challenging through questions, and unpacking assumptions, and doing the work of the church.

There is so much of the I Do Not Want to Be Tarred and Feathered by Association AGAIN that I fear that sometimes we forget that Jesus came down here because he wanted to show that that was precisely, what the God we (hopefully, allegedly, often) worship was all about.

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This applies to everyone

James 3:5-10

5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

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When I see Christianity in America, I see an identity complex that has so successfully and strategically braided power into what it means to be a person of the way of Christ in the United States that Jesus’ followers have no idea what it looks like to sit around the board table at the public square–rather than at the head of it. 

Yes. There were days when one could spout off about Christianity in newspaper columns and pulpits without repercussion, those perhaps one should be more correctly understood as white men, as those were the few with the social clout and education and means to enter into the public square. We must be honest with ourself that the public square has often been much more restrictive and onerous to the one does in 2013. 

As I relayed to my mother last month, I read this glamour-nostalgic piece in the New York Times where the author  pined for the days when air travel was all Luxor and was more than a little distraught about its overwhelmingly banality, boorishness, and honesty. I almost sided with the author, before I read this letter to the editor:

What James Atlas is seeing is not the emergence of a new aristocracy in the sky but rather the democratization of flying.

The fact that the plane looks more like a bus terminal than a magic carpet means that regular people are going places that their parents and grandparents saw only in the pages of National Geographic. The world is a better place for it.

And I could not help but think that when the privileged lose their frills, frills they often have assumed as norms and to such are entitled, it’s rarely seen as an institution operating as a matter of pragmatics, longevity or commitment to mission. Instead, it’s an identity shift, narrative death, and a frightening adjustment because these “extras” or “add-ons” in everyone else’s eyes, were the very thing that made up their ethos. 

But if those who have been given so much: federal holidays that fall in line with their religion, the faith that so many Supreme Court justices, presidents, governors, and elected officials share, crosses in graveyards, chaplains on baseball teams and in combat zones, and a default assumption that those with power assume God exists, could see all of that as the fatty, greasy, tasty part of following Christ in the U.S. of A.–and not its essence.

 

 

 

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Friday

The last token of 2011 vanished from reality a couple weeks ago. In an effort to maximize my three year warranty, I sent off my durable and slightly marred, shiny blue dell to Best Buy Never-Neverland and learned this week that it’s not coming back. Rather than scour the planet for the obscure part to fix the disc drive exterior, they’re handing me a voucher–worth the amount I paid–that I can use towards another laptop.

What that means: No Christmas music for me in my house. During Christmas. Also, I feel relatively guilty chucking a computer after only three years. Its Kentucky check-up could be boiled down to some pretty surface issues.

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When I finally fell back asleep at 6 a.m. this morning I dreamt that a (less-than-I-thought-would-be) pregnant Alyssa and me were strolling along some American highway. (From what I remember, the dream-version of myself believed herself to be in Queens. The conscious-version of myself knows that is absurd.) Not surprisingly, given that her due date was several days ago, she went into labor during our walk. The best part of the entire experience was when a giraffe walked by (why) and then proceeded to undress from a giraffe costume and became a white man with Big Bang Theory glasses.

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What’s it like being gay at a Christian College? To be honest, my article doesn’t answer. But hopefully the hundreds/thousands of readers that will indulge this report will click thru to the stories of the students themselves.

This comment was especially provocative and telling.

“It’s taken me years to understand that my sexuality doesn’t hinge on the validation of others, and it will take even longer to learn how to live without that validation,” — Ian Gackowski

I’m so grateful this article was published and that the stories making it possible were also told. Thank you for all who stepped out to share.

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The next 12 hours of my life will involve some chaotic mix of Stephanie, Dawnique, Sarah Baranik, Kevin, Kristin, my house, Harlem, JFK, Astoria, and hopefully a shower. I think that I opted for blogging over swimming but I my soul needs water. Badly.

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This week, the NYT gave a homeless girl star treatment and by that I mean, they scrutinized and mulled over her story with more love but just as much of a fine-tooth comb.

All of this made me once again think about Coro and the powerful of learning how to write effective emails, motivate others, and Do The Work. Seriously, how many elephants in the room were ignored in a) the shelter, b) government buildings, c) Supreme and Chanel, d) Chanel and Supreme’s parents, e) other social workers.

Interpersonal communication, interaction, feedback, learning how to be liked, inability to have “Those” conversations, this epitomizes what maintains and enables dysfunction.

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Merry Christmas.