|The Violence of Forgetting (Evans & Giroux, NYTimes)

Brad Evans and Henry Giroux shared an engaging conversation at the NY Times — The Violence of Forgetting (20 June 2016). Below are three excerpts on the topic of education:

I begin with the assumption that education is fundamental to democracy. No democratic society can survive without a formative culture, which includes but is not limited to schools capable of producing citizens who are critical, self-reflective, knowledgeable and willing to make moral judgments and act in a socially inclusive and responsible way. This is contrary to forms of education that reduce learning to an instrumental logic that too often and too easily can be perverted to violent ends…. What matters is the type of education a person is encouraged to pursue.

. . .

Education does more than create critically minded, socially responsible citizens. It enables young people and others to challenge authority by connecting individual troubles to wider systemic concerns. This notion of education is especially important given that racialized violence, violence against women and the ongoing assaults on public goods cannot be solved on an individual basis.

. . .

Confronting the intolerable should be challenging and upsetting. Who could read the testimonies of Primo Levi and not feel intellectually and emotionally exhausted? Or Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, not to mention those of Malcolm X? It is the conditions that produce violence that should upset us ethically and prompt us to act responsibly, rather than to capitulate to a privatized emotional response that substitutes a therapeutic language for a political and worldly one.

Read the article here for more thought-provoking material.

|How to Start a Podcast (Part 2)

I spent most of Part 1 looking at recording. That was appropriate because I wrote that section while learning the basics of how to record a podcast. Now that I’ve posted three episodes to iTunes and Stitcher (and have recorded a fourth), it’s time to share a bit of what I’ve been learning about the rest of the process–mixing/production and distribution. Maybe someday I’ll have a third post focusing on podcast marketing.

If you haven’t read Part 1 in a while, check it out. I’ve revised it based on what I’ve learned over the past ~3 months. And this blog post just goes into more detail about what is already covered at the end of Part 1. Read that first, so this will have context.

And it might help to know that of the six recording methods described in Part 1, I use “Option 6–Mixer, Mic & Audio Recorder” (Soundcraft EPM6, Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB, Roland R-05; if I were starting over I’d go with Option 5 using a Zoom H6–simple version, complex version).

Mixing and Editing

Some people are able to do a straight show by using a sound cart (Sound Byte or Bossjock) and by talking coherently (ex., Podcast Answerman). It’s the talking coherently part that really gets me. I stutter. I stall. I can’t think of words I want to say. I make weird sounds. I know I do this, and it almost kept me from starting a podcast at all. Guess who gave me inspiration to try to host a podcast anyway? Diane Rehm. I thought, Diane’s voice isn’t one I’d predict could make it in radio, yet she has a brilliant show. Why let my voice stand in my way?

Right, so my raw audio is not ready for iTunes. Not even close. I require a lot of editing to get rid of the long stretches of silence where I’m thinking about what to say or ask next. I get rid of the “Uh, Uhm, so…” garbage that clutters my audio track. And because I don’t yet use a gate (I plan to add a dbx 266xs [$150 + $105 for a box/stand to store it], not the 166xs that also has a limiter for $90 more), I have a fair bit of audio trash on the line that I need to remove. Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time editing my first three episodes, and the fourth will probably take the most time yet.

I use Audacity to clean up my audio files. I import them from my audio recorder, and work on them in three separate sections–introduction, body/interview, and conclusion. In my first episode, I imported all my audio files for each part of the show and tried to work on them with a series of tracks down the screen. My main track. Doug’s track. Ron’s track. The music track. The narrator track. The tracks for parts I had to re-record because the original grammar of the questions didn’t quite make sense when I spliced the two interviews together into a single show. It was a mess.

Now I work on each of the three parts separately and export them when then are each finished. When all three sections are done and exported as three separate WAV files, I import those three into a single new, clean, fresh Audacity working file, line them up (having music fade across these three sections helps connect them into a single experience), and then export the final show. It just works easier this way for me for now.

The introduction has my music track, the narrator’s track, and then another track from me if I feel I need a bit more to set up the interviews. I’ve had a different friend record the introduction for each episode. I plan to continue this for the time being. It’s fun to get friends involved.

The body has my track with my questions and comments, the track of one or two interviewees, and in Episode 3, I had more narration from my friend between the two main interviews.

When I record Skype, I record my voice into one side of the stereo and the interviewee into the other (on my mixer I have my voice panned left and the Skype line/track panned right). This makes editing the conversation easier. I used to split the stereo track to mono before editing. Now I do as much as I can while combined before splitting. This makes moving content easier while keeping the left and right (me and the person/people) synchronized.

Once the flow of the interview is set, I split the stereo track to two monos, and then I’m able to clean up junk hiding in the silent spaces. Episode 2 is a case study in doing this poorly; I left dead space in some places. The first interview of Episode 3 is a case study in why speaker phones are a bad idea for Skype calls. This relates to two tracks, so hear me out. At the last minute, I learned my two separate interviews were going to do it together. But that meant they wanted to use a speaker phone in one person’s office. Unfortunately, the birds outside our home were very loud. The birds should have only been in my track, and then I could have wiped them out from all of my quiet spaces (which is most of the time in my interview style podcasts). Instead, my mic picked up the birds, piped them to the speaker phone’s speaker, the speaker phone’s mic picked up the birds noises and piped them back to the mixer/audio recorder on their track as well. It was impossible to to get the birds out. Three future solutions: (1) no speaker phones, (2) use a noise gate, (3) find a quiet place to record. Or all three!

Then my final section has the outro music along with my final credits, thanks, and a disclaimer.

I use the compression feature in Audacity for each of the three segments before exporting them.

As I said, I work on and export each of those sections independently. Then I open Audacity again, import the three files (intro, body, outro), line them up, and export them as my final file.

A word about using Levelator and Auphonic. I have not used Levelator, so you’re on your own there. And on YouTube you can find plenty of tutorials on using Auphonic, so I won’t go into details now. But here’s what I’ve learned about it: “Adaptive Leveler” is good for the interviews, especially when I have multiple conversations in one episode. However, it messes up the intro and outro music that fade in and out. I want the fade; I don’t want “adaptive leveler” equalizing it. I learned that the hard way. So now once I have the three segments exported from Audacity, I only run the middle one through Auphonic. I use “Filtering” and “Noise and Hum Reduction” along with “Adaptive Leveler.” I don’t use “Loudness Normalization.” It makes the middle section/interviews louder than the intro and outro.

Preparing for Distribution

I now have the episode’s complete WAV file that needs to be prepared for iTunes and Stitcher.

First, I convert it to an MP3 using iTunes. You can watch YouTube videos on this, so I won’t go into the details.

Second, I use MP3 Tag (free) to add ID3 tags and my podcast art (I use the same art for every episode). Some people do this in iTunes, GarageBand, and other software like ID3 Editor ($15). One time I forgot to make the MP3 file, and added the tags to the WAV file. When I realized my error, the conversion process to MP3 removed my tags, so I had to do it over again with the new, smaller file. Convert to MP3, then add tags.

Distribution

First, I upload the file to Libsyn ($5 a month plan). I follow the Podcast Answerman’s advice and use “Add File For Download Only.”

Second–and this will seem ridiculous to some people, but I have my reasons–I use a free WordPress.com blog to make my feed that iTunes and Stitcher pick up. Here are instructions on how to do that. Obviously using WordPress.org would be better, so I could use a plug-in like PowerPress. But hosting a WordPress.org site adds a monthly cost that I’d like to avoid. Plus I was scared off of using FeedBurner, so using the free WordPress blog made sense to me. Here’s the thing. No one knows it’s there. No one ever sees it. That site is just to have a free way to run my podcast RSS feed to iTunes and Stitcher. More on this in the next step in the process….

Third, I make my blog post on the APF blog that has the Show Notes (see all in the podcast category). This is what I promote on social media and on the podcast itself. Why not just run my feed from this blog instead of the secret blog? Because my organization is on it’s third blog in 5 years, and we’re about to move to a fourth (Typepad, proprietary CMS, WordPress, SquareSpace). We are too young and too unstable to run a consistent feed there. With this system, I can move away from Libsyn and away from my current blog/website platform, and still keep a consistent feed via my hidden, free WordPress.com blog. I’m sure there’s a better way, but I’m a newbie and this is the best I’ve been able to figure out so far.

Fourth, I promote the link(URL) to the Show Notes for that episode via Facebook, Twitter, and email. Each of these posts has a link to iTunes and Stitcher, so people can sign up to follow the podcasts there.

For more on each of these steps, check out the resources I listed in Part 1.

BONUS LESSONS LEARNED SO FAR

Episode 1

  • Splicing multiple interviews together to sound like it happened around a table is time consuming and not worth it.
  • Don’t split tracks until all content is in the right order.
  • Don’t change the input recording level between different interviews. Keep it steady and use the mixer to make all adjustments.
  • Skype calls to phones sound better than to computers. Using headsets vastly improves the quality if you have to call a computer instead of a phone. And land lines sound better than cell phones (at least based on my small sample size).

Episode 2

  • Cutting out all sound from both tracks (me and the interviewee) leaves completely quiet dead space, so leave some hum on one of the tracks for a more natural flow.
  • When interviewing in the field, try to have a quiet area. His office was across from the department’s copy machine.

Episode 3

  • Don’t let the interviewee use a speaker phone.
  • A 5am interview after 3 hours of sleep is going to sound tired.
  • Try to have a quiet recording studio.
  • When the interviewee promotes the episode on social media in addition to my own promotion, stats improve.

Episode 4

  • Having two people on Skype at the same time means they are on the same track, which complicates volume adjusting if one person is louder than another.
  • Ask interviewees to use a headset and to find a quiet place to have the conversation.

|Three Sermons on Micah 6:8

The Woodland Hills Church recently had a 3-part series on Micah 6:8. I appreciated it, so I wanted to share it here.

PART 1: Love Mercy (Greg Boyd)

Normally I would be frustrated if a speaker made this biblical mention of mercy into a purely “spiritual” concept (i.e., God’s forgiving mercy toward us), but (a) this sermon’s rendering is beautiful to me, and (b) Boyd and the congregation have a deep and wide embrace of practical mercy that transcends a single sermon. Boyd hints at some of the social relevance of the phrase, but it’s not the focus.

PART 2: Walk Humbly (Seth McCoy)

Putting up with the poor audio quality is worth it. McCoy’s analysis of authority and vulnerability comes through loud and clear. Jesus radical vulnerability has moved me, challenged me, and I‘m encouraged to hear a pastor address it head on. It seems to me that many Christians are fixated on personal and national security rather than the vulnerability Jesus modeled for us.

PART 3: Do Justice (Greg Boyd)

The series ends on the critical theme of proactively working for justice–what is due people who were created in the image of God. As a neo-Anabaptist, you can guess a general approach Boyd will bring. It’s a conviction I share with him (not surprising since I studied at a Mennonite seminary), though I have sympathy for Jim Wallis’s approach too. I respect both men a lot, and I don’t feel the need to critique either of them on this. Regardless, it’s an important debate that I’m glad was included in the conversation.

I really appreciate what Boyd says about calling some government policies “Christian.” I have tried to make that argument as well. We can say some values are consistent with Christianity, but policy implementation is so fraught with unforeseen complications and unintended consequences. Let’s not drag Jesus name into our political quagmire.

Okay, I can’t resist. A “short” comment on the Boyd-Wallis difference. I’m all for systemic change, but I’m pessimistic about how much these fallen systems in our world can be redeemed without changed hearts and minds. And before Christians try to change the world through the government (a Constantinian model), I’d like to see us try to do it through the church by using the tools given us by the Spirit and by following the nonviolent, living model given us by Jesus.

And that means (at least partially) living what we want the world to be. Do we want racial justice in the world? Then we need to exemplify relationships of respect and fondness with all people created in the image of God with one blood. Do we want economic justice in the world? Then we need to demonstrate it in the mutuality of the community of Jesus. Do we want environmental justice in the world? Then we who believe God made the world good–very good–need to learn how to live in a way that supports the flourishing of all life on the planet, not just the short-term life of a certain economy or of a certain people group (a more robust definition of what it means to be pro-life). Like Boyd says, if all 2 billion Christians did this, we just might see some systems start to change.

If we are pursuing that as a faith community, then I support humble attempts to bring those values into our shared public space of a pluralistic society. But if we try to change society through the government without first pursuing and living these themes, then I can’t support that form of activism. Said another way, if I want the government to force people to live a way I don’t even follow (or my community doesn’t follow), then there’s a real problem even beyond the church/state issue.

I hope you’re as encouraged, challenged, and blessed by the three sermons as I was.
[I typed this on my phone while we were driving down the road recently. My partner was driving.:) ]

|All My Friends Think I’m Delusional

I have a diverse group of friends (and family). To a degree this is inevitable, but it is also intentional. I want a diverse group of people to share life with. They all think I’m delusional.

I can think of two ways to have a diverse crew of friends. First, tacitly agree to never talk about areas of disagreement or difference. Just talk about what we have in common, whether it’s sports, politics, religion, a hobby, or some other area of mutual interest.

The alternative way to have a diverse cadre of companions is to be open and accepting of differences. You like the Dodgers; I like Chris Sharma. You like Putin; I like Nader. You served in the Marines; I’m a pacifist. And that’s okay. I like you. Let’s talk.

Of course one doesn’t need to “like” the other person to have a meaningful conversation, but I’m talking about friends and family–people I generally like and wish to keep traveling with.

I suppose there is a possible third way to have diverse friends–having no opinion of one’s own, so “the other” is never at odds with your own views. But this seems impossible, so I think there are probably just the two ways I’ve mentioned above.

So yes, all my diverse friends think I’m delusional in one way or another. Christian friends think I’m delusional for “remembering the Sabbath” on Saturday instead of the commonly accepted Sunday. Muslim friends think I’m delusional for believing Jesus is not just a prophet but actually God. Atheist friends think I’m delusional for thinking there is a God at all. Anarchist friends think I’m delusional for voting. Republican friends think I’m delusional for leaving the party. Democrat friends think I’m delusion for becoming an independent instead of a Democrat.

If you and I talk long enough — a prerequisite for becoming friends — we’re going to find areas where we hold vastly different values, beliefs, and priorities. It’s inevitable, as I mentioned in my introductory paragraph. Since birds of a feather flock together (and social psychologists tell us this is more true than opposites attract, with certain conditions), we tend to find people who are similar to us in important ways. We try to minimize differences even though differences can never be totally done away with. We each are so unique that differences are truly inevitable.

Thankfully, difference doesn’t need to be a friendship deal-breaker. However, rudeness is. We can talk respectfully about our differences, but once pride, arrogance, disgust, disdain, and rudeness rear their ugly heads, the conversation is doomed for a dead end. I try to keep listening even once these communication demons manifest, but it’s hard. Rather than listen, my general approach is to walk away. Unless it’s a conversation on Facebook, and then all social mores and norms are gone. Bring on the argument.😉

Given the social reality of “birds of a feather,” it takes intentional effort to initiate and cultivate meaningful relationships with those who are different from us in the areas we value most. I’m not great at this. I’m no expert. But it’s something I care about, so I put some energy into it.

But I admit it, I also really like relaxing with people who know me and understand why I do what I do. I don’t have to explain myself. For the most part. You know what I mean. And you know who this is for you. May we value people who are like us in important ways as well as people who are different in those very same ways.

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)

[edited June 2016 after 3.5 podcast episodes]

The Adventist Peace Fellowship recently launched 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 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–Smartphone: 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–Tablet & Bossjock: Yes, this is very similar to Option 1, but with a tablet you get a step up in features.

Here are five examples of using Bossjock (iTunes) on an iPad:

Option 3–Computer & External Mic: You can record a podcast using your computer with free software like Audacity (there are many tutorials on YouTube like this one) or Audio Hijack (YouTube one, two, three).

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.

Option 4–Audio Interface, Mic & Computer: Use a USB audio interface to connect an XLR mic to your computer to record using software like Audacity or Audio Hijack (described in Option 3). There are many audio interface options; here are two — Focusrite Scarlett (2i2 or others) and  Tascam US-2×2. This way you can use a good mic like a Shure SM-58 without a separate audio recorder as described next in Option 5. 

To learn more about this method, check out B&H’s description or watch this video by Podcast Fast. If I were only recording in my “studio,” I’d be tempted to use a 2i2 (and here’s an example with Skype and the 2i4).

Option 5–Audio Recorder & Mic: 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 (simple system, complex system). You would then transfer the file to your computer to do the rest of the editing and publishing.

Option 6–Mixer, Mic & Audio Recorder: 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.

Note: This is the system I went with. I plan to add a gate/compressor by dbx. However, if I were starting over, I think I would use this system with the Zoom H6.

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. I tried to get away without using a pop filter, and my audio has suffered for it.

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.

NOTE: I use Option 6 described above. In addition to feeding the Skype call through my mixer and into my audio recorder, I experimented and used Pamela to record Skype at the same time. I haven’t been able to get a good Pamela recording this way. It is too hot, so it’s peaking and distorting. But these are the levels that give me a good recording in my audio recorder, so I don’t want to turn anything down. Pamela probably words better in a simpler system without the mixer and audio recorder.

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.

For a simpler system that doesn’t require a mix minus, check out this method that could be adapted to other recording setups — YouTube.

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).

PROCESSING

Some people recommend using Levelator or Auphonic to even out sound levels. I will eventually look at these in more detail in Part 2.

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:

CHECK OUT PART 2

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?

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