Tres

Here are three sets of three. These summarize much that is important to me in the area of just and compassionate living, which is in my view, more important than religion. I’ve likely shared all of this before; regardless, here it is again:

Tres Essays

I’ve posted these before, but here again are the three essays or articles I’ve shared the most of the past few years.

  1. I Believe in Child Labour, Sweatshops and Torture (Peter Rollins, 5 May 2011)
  2. Inauguration Thoughts: The State is Still the State (David C, 21 Jan 2009)
  3. Christian Nonviolence (Wink). This article has been taken down or moved, and I haven’t been able to find a similar article. But you can download this PDF or see his short book, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way.

Tres Books

  1. Jesus for President (Claiborne and Haw, 2008)
  2. Good News about Injustice (Haugen, 1999)
  3. Jesus Wants to Save Christians (Bell, 2008)

Tres Films

  1. Pray the Devil Back to Hell
  2. Nefarious: Merchant of Souls
  3. A Force More Powerful

It’s hard to only choose three for each category, especially books and films. For books, I opted for accessible over academic.

 

How To Start a Podcast (Part 1)

The Adventist Peace Fellowship will soon launch a podcast. This has all been new to me, and I’ve been learning a lot. But I still have so much more to learn (that’s why this is “Part 1”).

Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way:

General Bits

Most of the material I summarize below I learned in these “General bits” resources. And this is all basic; I don’t go deeply into gates, condensers, telephone calls, apps like BossJock and Sound Byte, and many other things. Okay, here we go….

Cliff Ravenscraft, the Podcast Answer Man, shows up in a lot of tutorials about podcasting. His website is loaded with quality content. I learned a lot from his 8-part Podcast 101 tutorial.

Pat Flynn also has a very helpful 6-part tutorial (see also).

I also appreciated these resources:

Now for my lessons learned (so far):

Recording the Podcast

There are a few ways to record a podcast. Here I list ways in increasing quality and cost. And you’ll want to record WAV files rather than MP3. You’ll convert to MP3 at the end of the process.

Option 1: You can record a podcast with only a smartphone. There are two ways you can improve the sound quality: (a) use an an external mic (see CNET), and (b) use an app designed for quality recording rather than the basic feature that comes on most smartphones. Look for an app that can record WAV files and record in stereo.

First, choosing a mic. You basically have two options for external mics (and see more about mics further down):

  1. XLR mic. Use an XLR mic (3-prong connection) like the Audio-Technica ATR2100 ($60) or Shure SM58 ($100). You’ll need an XLR female to 3.5mm TRRS adapter to connect it to your phone (example from Sescom, $35, or Comprehensive, $32). You can find many reviews of the ATR2100 and SM58 on YouTube.
  2. Lav/Lavalier/Lapel mic. Here’s a good video on YouTube about three lav mics. And here is more about the Rode SmartLav+ ($80) and two for an interview ($160 mics + $20 adapter).

Second, recording the signal in your smartphone. Here are some quality apps you can use to record your podcast (Bossjock has a lot of reviews on YouTube):

Option 2: You can record a podcast using your computer with free software like Audacity (there are many tutorials on YouTube like this one). For this you need a USB mic, not an XLR mic. Or you can get a mic like the Audio-Technica ATR2100 or AT2005 that has both USB and XLR plugs [this is what I chose to do for increased flexibility as we develop]. More on mics below.

Some people recommend using Levelator or Auphonic to even out sound levels. I haven’t used either yet.

Option 3: If you record with a mic into a quality audio recorder (e.g., Roland R-05, Zoom H1), then you can save the files in high quality WAV format. You cannot use a USB mic with a field audio recorder. You have to use an XLR with a 3.5mm adapter or a lapel/lav/lavalier mic that is already 3.5mm (e.g., Hosa). Or use a recorder that has XLR inputs like the Zoom H4N, H5 or H6 (YouTube). You would then transfer the file to your computer to do the rest of the editing and publishing.

Option 4: Use a mixer to get quality sound and open creative options. If you start inexpensively by using the ATR2100 mic with the USB connection to your computer, you’ll get an upgrade in sound quality by switching to the XLR plug and recording it through a mixer. Basic sound flow: XLR mic -> mixer -> audio recorder -> computer.

Mixer reviews I read seemed to favor Soundcraft over Mackie, and some people said not to use Behringer. That said, I’m pretty sure any brand would work for the quality I’m able to produce at this point.

Mics

We’ve already covered the basic difference between USB and XLR mics. Get the kind that will fit your choice of recording technology (USB if recording with your computer; XLR if recording into an audio recorder or mixer).

You’ll also need to choose between a dynamic or condenser mic. I now favor dynamic mics for in-home studios. They are less sensitive to background noise (clocks, chairs, paper shuffling, etc.), so they’re more forgiving of in-home distractions.

As for choosing the specific mic, check out these two comparison videos: Golden Spiral Media and Pat Flynn. Here’s a third comparison that focuses only on high-end mics. You’ll also want to consider the type of mic stand you’ll want and pop filters.

Skype Calls

There are two ways to record Skype calls, and they depend on the recording system you use (described above).

Basic (computer): If you are recording the conversation with Audacity on your computer, then you can record Skype calls on your computer too. There are some free software options for this (I know one podcast that uses this), but the software I found repeatedly recommended online are ecamm (Apple) and Pamela (Windows) [Total Recorder also looks interesting]. If you use Pamela, purchase the Professional not Call Recorder. In Professional you can separate the recording into two tracks — you and the other person. That allows you to tweak audio levels for each track in Audacity (tutorial). I purchased Call Recorder, found it was limited, and then purchased Professional by paying the difference. It wasn’t hard to switch.

You could even record yourself with your USB mic and use that recording instead of the Pamela recording for your voice. Then just delete your track in Pamela. I know of one podcast that uses this method.

Advanced (mixer/audio recorder): If you use a mixer, then recording Skype calls gets a bit more complicated. Here is a tutorial on how to set up a mix minus — YouTube and written. Be sure to get a mixer with at least one Auxiliary line out.

You can also use equipment to record telephone conversations, but that is beyond the scope of this introduction.

Music

Music can be tough to find. Here are some resources:

ID3/MP3 Tags

Some people add ID3 tags in iTunes, some in GarageBand, and some podcasters use other software like ID3 Editor ($15) or MP3 Tag (free).

Additional Equipment

You can find a lot more info on equipment here:

Broadcasting Your Podcast

Once you’ve recorded your podcast and mixed in music and whatever else you want, and then saved it as an MP3 file, it’s time to make it accessible to your intended audience. My three friends who have podcasts all use Libsyn as their host. I followed their lead, but you can find many other hosting services like blubrry.

Then you’ll need to set up your feed. Pat Flynn’s tutorials 3-6 cover this. Tutorial 3 is a bit more complicated than it needs to be, I think. It sounds like PowerPress is a useful plug-in if you’re using WordPress.org, but not if you use WordPress.com, which doesn’t allow plug-ins but can still apparently work for this.

And you’ll likely want to get your podcast on both iTunes and Stitcher. Since iTunes is the biggie, here are what other people are teaching about it:

I’ll probably expand and clarify this section later, or make it Part 2. Stay posted for more.

Closing Thoughts

If you have any questions, you probably don’t want to ask me. I’m learning all this as I go. You’re better off visiting The Podcast Answer Man to see if he’s already covered your question (or just search online for answers).:)

Finally, I want to thank three people who have answered my questions along the way:

Isaiah 1:17-18

This is my second winter working part-time at our local ski hill as a chair lift operator. The half a shift I spend in the booth at the top of the lift can be pretty slow. To make the most of this time, last season I started bringing Bible verses to memorize. Pictured here is the one I’ve been working on this week.

image

It reads:

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:17-18)

I’ve heard a lot about verse 18 in Bible classes, sermons, and worship talks. Verse 17, not so much. Why is this?

We tend to apply verse 18 to believers in general, but verse 17 iseems to be reserved for lawyers or radical activists. What if God intended both verses for all members of the kingdom? What questions might we need to ask?

Here are a few for starters:

How does a person get an education in doing right? What books, films, people, and experiences would be helpful?

What is justice? How can a person or community seek it? Who isn’t getting it right now? What is the relationship between right/righteousness and just/justice?

What does it mean to be oppressed? Who in my community might be oppressed? Or further afield? Am I complicent in the oppression? How can I defend them? What wisdom guides this defense (e.g., nonviolence).

Who is without parents or spouse in my community?  Or futher afield? What are their needs? In what way are the disenfranchised, marginalized, powerless, or hurting?

If we had spent as much time on those questions over the past 2000 years as we have on the theological issues in verse 18 (forgiveness), I wonder what this world might look like today. And since I can’t ask others to answer these questions if I’m not pondering them as well, I have to make this personal.

Thankfully, my wife has been sharing this quest with me for over a decade now. Our lives don’t look the same today as when we got married. We’ve invested ourselves in fighting human trafficking and in caring for immigrants and refugees in ways I wouldn’t have predicted at our start. I wonder what changes and challenges are yet ahead.

image

Equivalent Response?

I recently posted this story on Facebook — Media Coverage of Oregon Militia Standoff Raises Eyebrows — and Ire (Common Dreams, 3 Jan 2016). The subtitle reads: “Despite the extreme nature of the demonstration, both media and law enforcement response appears muted, especially in comparison to other recent protests.”

The article listed a few tweets offering commentary on the situation such as “Did I miss the call for the national guard in Oregon? I recall them in Ferguson and Baltimore. #OregonUnderAttack” (rolandsmartin).

A friend responded that no law had been broken so there was no reason to make a big deal out of this situation (to greatly oversimplify but hopefully not misconstrue his sentiment).

I responded that refusing to leave a federal building sounds like trespassing to me. If I tried to do that at a Post Office, I think I would find myself being escorted out against my will at closing time. Clearly these guys think the same or else they wouldn’t need guns to enforce their position. They could just stay there without threat like I stand in the Post Office buying stamps at 3pm.

But this whole approach — no law has been broken so let it go — misses two important issues, in my view.

First, it presumes that breaking a law is what is required for police to bring down the hammer. There are just too many unarmed and disarmed African Americans dying at the hands of police for this logic to stand up. The Guardian reported:

Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people, according to a Guardian investigation which found 102 of 464 people killed so far this year in incidents with law enforcement officers were not carrying weapons. (Swaine, Laughland and Lartey, “Black Americans killed by police twice as likely to be unarmed as white people,” 1 June 2015).

For further demonstration of how African Americans are treated, compare the two ways the open-carry scenario plays out in this video (I previously posted it here along with other related material).

I believe Black Americans are often treated differently than I am, both by the police and in the court room. I believe numbers like the Guardian reported above and the incidents of specific cases that have received significant media coverage over the past year or so speak to this, some of which I’ve covered in blog posts here. This is a contested statement, yet remains my understanding of our society. Yes, I believe if African Americans were doing something like the Oregon ranchers, a SWAT team or the National Guard would be very involved.

Second, and this is related to the first. I’ve read in two articles that law enforcement has chosen to respond to militias differently after situations like the conflagration at Waco, TX. If this is true, then it shows police are quite able to change tactics. Yet one African American after another dies in the hands of police. I hear of the need to retrain police, to offer better classes, but the people keep dying. Where is the change? This is a second way that I believe police appear to me to treat African Americans differently than people who look like me. Saving white people’s lives appears to be valuable enough to law enforcement to actually bring about tactical change.

So do I still believe the views contained in the original article I posted are accurate? Yes, I do. I believe this would be handled very differently if the people with guns were either African Americans or Muslims. Can I prove it? Obviously not.

As a final side note, I find it interesting that my white friends focus on “rioting” but not the injustices that lead to demonstrations, both peaceful and otherwise. “The problem is the rioting!” But as soon as it’s white guys with a beef, they want to talk about all the history and context of the situation, asking for nuance of social analysis. “The problem is the legal decision and the government and our rights!” I’m all for learning about the context; I just hope my white friends will start doing it in other situations as well.

Selective Engagement

I have been accused by some of being selective in what I write about, whether in my blogs or on Facebook. This accusation is well grounded. It is true. Here is how I tend to choose what to write about (though there are exceptions, of course). [It seems like I’ve written this before, but I didn’t see it off hand, so maybe it was on Facebook. Not sure.]

First, an event has to happen when I have at least some portion of time to spend reading about it. All kinds of things happen that deserve my attention, but I have many things that keep me busy — marriage, child, 2 jobs, volunteerism, local congregation, and all the regular life chores and demands.

So if an event transpires at an unusual moment when all of those things aren’t taking up 150% of my available time, I select what I engage based on Jesus’ dust-log principle: get the log out of your own eye before dealing with other people’s dust.

That means I deal with people and groups I somehow associate with before I deal with “the other.” That can work out a few different ways, but here’s a view of what I mean:

I’m a Seventh-day Adventist, so I’ll speak to and about my denomination before I address any short-comings of other protestant denominations.

I’m a Christian, so I’ll speak to and about other Christians before I address other faiths.

I’m a citizen of the US of A, so I’ll speak to and about US issues before I address other countries.

I’m male, so I’ll speak to and about men before I address women.

I’m straight, so I’ll speak to and about straight people before I address people with other orientations.

I’m white, so I’ll speak to and about white people before I address other people groups.

There are more ways to describe who I am, but you get the picture.

I tire of men telling women what to do, Christians telling people of other belief structures what to do, white people telling other people groups what to do, and straight people telling people with other orientations what to do. You get the trend. It’s easy to tell someone else to change; it’s harder to look in the mirror and see what I need to change. Crazy hard.

Let me give just one example. One person thinks I should decry Black protesters who destroy property. Of course I’m against anyone destroying property, but my first action isn’t to tell African-Americans what to do. Instead, I focus on learning about the history of white action that led to a situation where African-Americans would feel compelled to speak out in that way (from economic structures to police treatment). And since I work in the media, I want to pay attention to how mainstream/dominant culture press is speaking about minorities, how it is framing the situation, what is being said, how it’s being said, and what is being left unsaid. As a white guy, I believe it’s an easy cop-out to say, “Stop rioting.” Rather, it’s harder and more important to say, “What is going on in and around that particular community that makes people want to demonstrate right now? What is the historical context of the present situation?”

Some of my friends on Facebook think I am too selective. Frankly, I can’t address everything, and this is how I choose to filter what to focus my limited time, attention, and energy on. I choose to work on “our” logs rather than “their” dust.

Social Location and Biblical Interpretation

Two recent articles have spoken to a theme that I believe is important to “hearing the Word.” The focus of each is social location.

Two family members shared this article with me by Brian Zahnd — My Problem With the Bible. Zahnd writes:

I’m trying to read the Bible for all it’s worth, but I’m not a Hebrew slave suffering in Egypt. I’m not a conquered Judean deported to Babylon. I’m not a first century Jew living under Roman occupation.

I’m a citizen of a superpower. I was born among the conquerors. I live in the empire. But I want to read the Bible and think it’s talking to me. This is a problem.

This reminded me of Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (Robert McAfee Brown, 1984).

The second bit of writing is by Miguel A. De La Torre, author of The Politics of Jesús: A Hispanic Political Theology. This essay–A Colonized Christmas Story–is actually based on that book. He writes:

The Gospel narratives depicts a careful dance which takes place between Rome the colonizer and Jesús the colonized. Not far from the story-telling surface is the real world dynamics and consequences of colonization. We see it throughout Jesús’ everyday experience and how he responded to the circumstances brought about by the economic and political occupation of Judea, as made evident by questions posed concerning paying tribute to Caesar (Mt. 22:20), constantly facing danger for preaching of another reign or kingdom more powerful then the one to which Jews were subjugated (Mk. 1:15), or given a death sentence under the charge of being “king of the Jews,” hence a rival sovereign (Mk. 15:2). Even the very audience that first heard the words of Jesús was fellow colonized compatriots, many of who held an abiding hatred toward the Roman oppressors. From this colonized space, the Gospel message is shaped and formed, and ignoring this historical reality leads to false remembrance, if not pure illusions.

What does my social location blind me too? What steps can I take to change that location or to somehow see with new eyes and hear with new ears? Do I have the courage and desire to do it?

Interfaith Solidarity

I’ve heard two stories lately about interfaith solidarity that really impressed me.

First, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds was taken prisoner in WWII. A Nazi prison guard demanded to know who of Edmonds’ men were Jewish. Edmonds refused to single them out, but instead declared, “We are all Jews here.”

Even with the threat of death, he didn’t change his answer. This courageous act saved the lives of the Jewish soldiers. The story goes:

Nazi leaders had told the Jewish soldiers to assemble outside their barracks one morning, to be taken to labor camps where they would almost certainly die.

But Edmonds, of Knoxville, Tennessee, ordered the entire contingent of 1,000 U.S. servicemen to join them, saying the Nazis had to kill all of them or none.

Even when threatened at gunpoint, Edmonds didn’t budge, and his gambit worked. The Nazi official backed down and around 200 Jewish soldiers stayed in captivity with the others until they were liberated.

You can learn more of the details here (“‘We are all Jews here’: U.S. soldier honored after leading revolt against Nazi prison guard who demanded Jews step forward so they could be killed,” Kieran Corcoran, Daily Mail, 2 Dec 2015).

Second, a similar situation recently occurred in Kenya, but this time it was Muslims protecting Christians. The BBC reports:

A group of Kenyan Muslims travelling on a bus ambushed by Islamist gunmen protected Christian passengers by refusing to be split into groups, according to eyewitnesses.

They told the militants “to kill them together or leave them alone”, a local governor told Kenyan media.

At least two people were killed in the attack, near the north-eastern village of El Wak on the Somali border.

Learn more about this brave stance here (“Kenyan Muslims shield Christians in Mandera bus attack,” BBC, 21 Dec 2015).

What would I do if I had been in that camp or on that bus? Would I have the courage in the moment to stand up for others? Would I express that level of solidarity? I’m thankful for those who such a brave example for us to ponder. May I be shaped and formed by these stories.

Environmentalists Respond to COP21

I’m interested in the responses to the basic agreement made in France during COP21.

Compare these two excerpts of emails I read tonight.

Sierra Club:

Last weekend, negotiators at the Paris Climate Conference wrapped up a landmark global agreement to curb climate disruption by limiting temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Nearly 200 countries committed to reducing man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and helping developing nations adapt to sea-level rise, catastrophic weather events, and other impacts of global warming. (more)

Adbusters:

This time we take to the streets of every major city and smash the post-COP21 complacency. Paris is too little, too late, a toothless deal full of magical thinking. It doesn’t even scratch at the root of the problem: the global system that created the climate crisis in the first place. That’s right—the same failed system that drives the yawning rich-poor gap, the extinction crisis, the doctrine of perpetual war. (more)

Then I stopped by Grist and saw they had an article addressing this disparity — Green groups are deeply divided on whether the Paris Agreement is a win or loss (Adler, 14 Dec 2015).

In this mix, Red Letter Christians posted a story attempting to make a balanced assessment — No, COP21 Is not the Messiah but We Hope It’s not a Naughty Boy Either: The Paris Agreement and Saving the World (Pope, 14 Dec 2015).

Given this range of perspective, how do you view the COP21 agreement?

CT: Survey: Frequent Bible Reading Can Turn You Liberal

A few years ago Christianity Today (CT) reported on interesting research regarding the Bible — Survey: Frequent Bible Reading Can Turn You Liberal (12 Oct 2011). I just learned about CT’s article from friends who shared Addicting Info’s recent coverage of the study (link).

Christianity Today reported:

Frequent Bible reading has some predictable effects on the reader. It increases opposition to abortion as well as homosexual marriage and unions. It boosts a belief that science helps reveal God’s glory. It diminishes hopes that science will eventually solve humanity’s problems. But unlike some other religious practices, reading the Bible more often has some liberalizing effects—or at least makes the reader more prone to agree with liberals on certain issues. This is true even when accounting for factors such as political beliefs, education …

Addicting Info provided more details than were shared in the “Article Preview” CT offers non-subscribers. Read the more recent analysis here.

Working for a Better World

This week I talked with two friends who are searching for their place in this world. I can relate.:) They are looking for different things, but they both expressed a desire to find ways to use their talents more directly and fully. Both are Christians, so that gave the conversations a certain shape. One friend spoke about social justice; he wants his life’s work to somehow make this world a better place for people who are under society’s heel or are neglected at the margins (my words, not his). He asked about finding work in a social justice organization, which made me think of the following bits.

Geography versus Mission

First, you have to be clear about your priority. Which is more important to you — (a) where you live or (b) the specific issue you engage or organization you work for? If you want to live in the PNW, you might look into World Vision. If you want to live in Colorado, check out Compassion International. But if you want to fight human trafficking, look at International Justice Mission (Washington DC), Exodus Cry (Grand View, MO), or Tiny Hands International (Lincoln, NE).

Nonprofit versus For-profit

Many of us start our search for our better-world-job in the nonprofit sector. Makes sense. And here is a list on my site to help you in that quest. If you want to support abused women, fight AIDS, drill wells, or respond to disasters around the world, you’re probably going to find yourself in the nonprofit world. But these are not the only organizations making the world a better place.

For-profit businesses are also important for a better world. Nonprofits rely heavily, though not exclusively, on donations and grants. These funds come from people and organizations that make money and have some left over to give to nonprofits. So they are important sources of funds, and certain ones are also doing good through their work. The rise of the social entrepreneur is an important feature of modern capitalism (since that’s what we’re working with here). And this is a lot bigger than just Toms.

If you’re into fair trade, check out Ten Thousand Villages or other similar importers (I toured two cooperatives in Guatemala and was really impressed with the difference they make). If your focus is the environment, check out basically everyone who contributes to 1% for the Planet.

Also, B Corporations are worth looking at (see The Economist). Maybe Patagonia would fit the bill, or how about Textbooks for Change (B Corp job list).

So maybe you’ll find your work in an important nonprofit, or maybe you’ll find it in an equally important business. Or in a school, a hospital, an engineering firm, a research lab, or a film company. There are just so many different ways to use your skills and experience to make the world a better place. It can be overwhelming.

Christian versus Secular versus Interfaith

Do you want your faith or world view to play a direct role in your work?

US versus Abroad

I’m writing from the US, so that is my home base, so substitute your home country for the U.S. Basically, do you want to work around the world or closer to home?

Government versus Private

Does USAID or Blood:Water more closely align with your aspirations? Does it matter to you?

Conclusion

No, this list is not exhaustive; there are more considerations.:) So yes, it can be overwhelming. But it’s a grand quest. Talking with friends and family, experimenting locally through volunteerism, taking time away for prayer, and the passing of time are all things that help the search. May we all engage the on-going process of connecting our skills with the world’s need. Probably the best sermon I’ve heard on the topic is by Shane Claiborne–Finding Your Calcutta. Kingdom Calling (Sherman) might be easier for most people to get their hands on.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
― Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (Good Reads)

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