Category Archives: media

BreakPoint: Who Cares How Taylor Swift Votes? Our Silly Obsession with Pop Stars’ Politics

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I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d talk about Taylor Swift on BreakPoint. Just look what you made me do.

It’s not exactly a secret where the entertainment industry stands on conservative politics, especially President Trump. With few exceptions, this president has only intensified the full opposition by actors, producers, singers, and performers of all stripes to the GOP. But one pop singer—the world’s most successful pop singer, in fact—has remained strangely quiet.

A recent editorial in The Guardian called Taylor Swift an “envoy for [Donald] Trump’s values,” not because she’s ever expressed public support for the president, but because she hasn’t said much of anything about him at all. Swift, you see, isn’t much for politics. She hasn’t joined other entertainers in denouncing Trump with sufficient enthusiasm. And so that’s gotten her in trouble.

Her critic in The Guardian writes that “[Swift’s] silence is striking, highlighting the parallels between the singer and the president: their adept use of social media to foster a diehard support base; their solipsism; their laser focus on the bottom line; their support among the ‘alt-right.’”

This is just the latest in a drumbeat of demands that the 27-year-old singer take a side in this current political scrum. Some have gone much further, suggesting that she’s a secret admirer not only of President Trump, but of the less savory among his supporters. Reports surfaced last year that Neo-Nazis and other racist groups have adopted the tall, blonde pop artist as an unofficial mascot. Some even called her an “Aryan goddess,” and claim that she has secret Nazi sympathies—a charge she has flatly denied.

Still, with no college education and no political experience, this young woman is expected—purely because of her fame—to tell her millions of fans not only how to vote, but which side of the political aisle are the good guys and which are the bad.

Swift, for her part, has consistently refused. “I chose to do music,” she’s said before. Last year before the election, Swift clarified, “I don’t talk about politics because it might influence other people. And I don’t think that I know enough yet in life to be telling other people who to vote for.”

Well, good for her!

But the burning question through all of this is why on earth we should care about Taylor Swift’s political views! It’s ridiculous that so many people are obsessed with getting celebrities to take sides on candidates and policies. But we’ve got to move beyond this.

First, celebrities aren’t specially endowed with insights into good government. They have the right to express their views like everyone else. But the idea that somehow what they say matters more—well that just proves Neil Postman was right, we are amused to death.

So our celebrities have become our experts and our heroes. That’s a bad idea.

Also this unrealistic expectation of celebrities reveals our culture’s terrible spiritual thirst. Particularly its lack of religious and moral authority. Celebrities are, for too many, the closest things we have to gods.  They are idols, pure and simple.

But there’s still another, and yet more practical reason why setting our political and social compasses by the opinions of entertainers is a bad idea: It poisons entertainment itself. There must be a space that exists outside of politics if our culture is to remain sane—a place where we can set aside our debates and just live together as human beings.

I’m no fan of most pop music, but we do need cultural places where we can live together civilly in our society that are not dominated by political rancor. If everything becomes just another place for a party power struggle, we’ll stop seeing each other first as friends, neighbors and fellow citizens, and only look at one another instead as members of opposing armies.

If we can’t figure out a better source for political insights than Taylor Swift or the other celebrities that we already pay too much attention to, we’re in trouble, trouble, trouble. See what I did there?!

 

Who Cares How Taylor Swift Votes?: Our Silly Obsession with Pop Stars’ Politics

As John has pointed out, our culture’s obsession with celebrities betrays a spiritual hunger that only Christ can quench. Why not talk about that, winsomely, in one of your conversations with family, friends, or neighbors?

 

 

Resources

The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It

  • Os Guinness | HarperOne Publishers | January 2008
Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype & Spin

  • Os Guinness | Baker Books | February 2002
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

  • Neil Postman | Penguin Books Publisher | December 2005
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Sexual Harassment And The Need For Good Reporting

We all have to be aware that victims of sexual abuse, assault and harassment are legion, and that each story about a new victim or victimizer potentially impacts all survivors. We know that stories on spouses who flee domestic abuse, for example, routinely inspire other victims to seek help and shelter. That’s why careful media coverage of the recent spate of stories matters so much.

 

We also have to recall, however, that false allegations do happen. The late Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago’s Catholic Archdiocese was wrongly accused of molestation by a young man who later recanted his terrible charge. The Duke Lacrosse Team was unjustly prosecuted. Rolling Stone infamously defamed a University of Virginia fraternity over an alleged gang rape that did not happen.

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Thanksgiving Day Quiz

Read it here,  or listen to the audio of it. 

The True History Of The Holiday

The facts speak for themselves: In 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated “the goodness of God” as they feasted with local Indians. In 1789 President Washington declared the first national day of Thanksgiving—asking Americans to “unite in most humbly offering our prayer and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations.”

 

So much for a secular holiday. These Americans knew to whom they were praying. ( Listen to the commentary below, or read the full commentary here. )

The LA Times is reporting at least three dead in grade school shooting in Northern CA.

At least three people are dead following a shooting at an elementary school in Northern California this morning, authorities said.

Among the dead are the gunman, who authorities said was killed by police at the school in Rancho Tehama, near Red Bluff.


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BreakPoint: Prayer Shaming and the Church Shooting Choosing Policy over God

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Prayer, it seems, is no longer a politically acceptable response to tragedy. Instead, we’re being told to put our trust in something else.

As I record this, just days after the horrific massacre at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a massacre which claimed 26 lives and wounded 20 others, authorities continue to piece together the motives of the young male who perpetrated this act of terror. Apparently, it was a revenge shooting at the church his mother-in-law attended, though she was not there on that Sunday morning.

The victims ranged in age from a baby in utero to 77 years, and included more than one family that lost multiple members and the pastor’s 14 year-old daughter. Most of the victims were, according to reports, children.

As happens at every mass shooting, there are those committed to superimposing their own narratives on the tragic events. In fact, some, as happens at every mass shooting, have found a way to even implicate Christians.

This time that way is what Emma Green of the Atlantic Monthly dubbed, after the San Bernadino shooting, “prayer shaming.” This refers to comments in both social and conventional media that criticize those who say that their thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

The epitome of “prayer shaming” was a front page story in the New York Daily News after the San Bernadino shooting, which read “God Isn’t Fixing This,” and called talk of prayer “meaningless platitudes.” As Rod Dreher rightly commented then, these kinds of statements “reveal a total lack of understanding of what religious people believe, and why.”

They also reveal the extent to which, as my “BreakPoint This Week” co-host Ed Stetzer often has put it, Christians have lost “home-field advantage” that we may have had in the culture.

Until last week, saying that you were praying for someone was seen an act of kindness, even if the other person didn’t believe in the efficacy of prayer. For example, the late atheist Christopher Hitchens thanked the people who were praying for him after he was diagnosed with the cancer that would ultimately take his life, and Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion,” criticized British theaters for refusing to run a Church of England ad about the Lord’s Prayer. He said, “If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”

While I would never call prayer “trivial,” I can’t help but notice how two of the leading public atheists of recent memory were more gracious about prayer than many American activists who want us to “do something.”

Of course, what they assume in the process is that 1) we know what that “something to do” is, and 2), that this “something” will actually solve the problem.

And it’s precisely here that the technocratic worldview of many activists and critics is revealed for what it is. Their faith, while not in prayer, is in something else. Namely, that all human problems and challenges, such as climate change, gun violence, and even terrorism, are problems that can be solved if only we apply the right techniques, which these days are almost always political steps: i.e., passing the right laws or public policies.

In this worldview, the world and all of its complexities can be reduced to mathematical models, and can thus be controlled by our best ideas and efforts. All of our problems, the logic continues, can be, if not eliminated, at least ameliorated.

But it’s a worldview that consistently fails. In the run-up to the financial crisis of 2008, Wall Street honestly believed it had mathematically solved the problem of risk. But it hadn’t. And there’s no reason to believe that the “something” the critics of prayer are advocating will reduce, much less stop, the kind of carnage we continue to see across our nation.

As the psalmist put it, nations continue to rage and people continue to plot in vain, but it’s the Lord alone, that can “make us dwell in safety.” So Christian, keep praying.

 

 

Prayer Shaming and the Church Shooting: Choosing Policy over God

Join with the Body of Christ as we continue to pray for individuals and families, for our nation and our world. We place our trust in God, and put into practice what the psalmist wrote when he entreated the Lord, “Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry!” Psalm 88:2

Resources

Prayer Shaming: The View From Jesusland

  • Rod Dreher | The American Conservative | December 3, 2015
The Power of Prayer: And the Prayer of Power

  • R. A. Torrey | Zondervan Publishing Company
The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer

  • Andrew Murray | Bethany House Publishers

Closed minds

 Thirty years ago, Allan Bloom wrote the book, The Closing of the American Mind. Charles Koch wrote an op-ed with the same title. There are some similarities between the two, but also one important difference.

Charles Koch looks back at the revolutionary technological advances we have made and now take for granted. He is concerned that government and the academy are stifling progress. When he attended MIT, he discovered that “scientific and technological progress requires the free and open exchange of ideas. The same holds true for moral and social progress.”

In America, we used to believe that progress comes from this free exchange of ideas and from challenging other people’s views and hypotheses. The spontaneous process of collaboration and challenge led to the technological advances we have today.

( Listen to the rest of the commentary, Download file | Play in new window | Size: 1.52M, or read the whole commentary. )

 

sin is not exclusive to one party or political persuasion. ( from Cal Thomas )

“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” (Proverbs 29:18)

Ancient wisdom from a Higher Authority, which is available to anyone who takes the time to consider it, was provided to constrain people like Harvey Weinstein from acts he has been accused of committing.

In an age when we have cast off most restraints — from restrictions on abortion, to sanctioning same-sex marriage, to normalizing the use of nudity, crude language and sex in Hollywood films, not to mention wisdom — why is anything off limits? Who decides where the limits are these days? And on what do they base their decision?

Haven’t some federal judges been eviscerating the U.S. Constitution for decades? Haven’t even some clergy made attempts to rewrite or ignore Scripture to conform to opinion polls and align themselves with contemporary trends?

 

Many Republicans and conservatives are joyfully berating and belittling Harvey Weinstein and his fellow leftists, but they should remind themselves that sin is not exclusive to one party or political persuasion. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) resigned his office last week after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obtained text messages between Murphy and his mistress in which he told her to have an abortion if she thought she might be pregnant. Murphy, who claims to be “pro-life,” co-sponsored a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks.

( Billy’s thoughts – Read the rest of this spot-on column from Cal Thomas. ) 

BreakPoint: The Catastrophic Vision of Hugh Hefner

The man who embodied the sexual revolution has died. We’ll talk about the consequences—and victims—of his vision.

Back on September 27th, Hugh Hefner the founder of Playboy, died at ninety-one.

An ancient Roman maxim says that one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but it would be irresponsible to not take note of his ideas and cultural influence, along with their consequences and victims.

Much of the coverage of his death has been admiring or even adulatory. The New York Times’ obituary, while mentioning Hefner’s feminist critics mostly in passing, emphasized how successful and influential he’d been. There’s been a lot of “he changed the game,” “he lived on his own terms,” and “he lived life to the fullest” sort of language about him.

CNN said that while “Some critics dismissed him as a relic of a sexist era, especially in his later years . . . many men envied his adolescent-fantasy lifestyle.” The Washington Postcalled Hefner’s legacy “complicated” and then proceeded to quote gushing tribute after gushing tribute. This sort of adulation for a man best-known for wearing his pajamas all day and spending nights with women young enough to be his granddaughter should embarrass even the media.

Eleven years ago, Chuck Colson put Hefner’s legacy into proper perspective. On the occasion of Heffner’s 80th birthday, Chuck said that “Hugh Hefner did more than anyone else to turn America into a great pornographic wasteland.”

Hefner’s journalistic eulogists are celebrating his rebellion and ultimate triumph over the “puritanical elements of the [1950s].” You know, that “dark and joyless time in America,” as writer Matthew Scully put it, “when one could actually go about daily life without ever encountering pornographic images.” Without Hefner’s pioneering vision, “American males could not avail themselves of hundreds of millions of obscene films every year—as they do now.”

That our pornographic wasteland is filled with so many victims is also part of the man’s legacy, which can only be fully understood in light of the larger story of the sexual revolution.

You see, Hefner once claimed to have changed America, and it’s hard to argue that he didn’t. He took Alfred Kinsey’s ideas of sex separated from morality and embodied them in images and words, making them seem glamorous, sophisticated, and respectable.

Along with the birth control pill, porn was the other tangible artifact of the sexual revolution and catalyzed the separation of the sexual act from its God-given purpose. Instead of a self-giving, life-giving act in the context of marriage like God intended, sex became an act of selfish pleasure in the cultural imagination.

Porn turned image bearers into objects to be enjoyed instead of subjects to be respected and honored, while giving the illusion that there were no consequences or guilt. Hefner was what I call “the artist” of the sexual revolution, granted a loosely-used modifier here. Ideas alone can’t change culture; they need champions, and the most effective champions are artists and educators.

The problem, as my BreakPoint This Week co-host Ed Stetzer often says, is that no one even won the sexual revolution, but everybody lost. Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims.

Hefner’s legacy includes fatherless homes, objectified women, porn-addicted and trafficked children, and the sexualization of all aspects of culture. And in a supreme bit of irony, a decreased interest in sex with real-life women by addicted men.

All of this is the result of what Hefner called the “Playboy Philosophy”: ultimately the divorcing of sex from its God-given context—marriage—and its God-given consequences—children.

 

I posted about Hefner’s legacy on Facebook soon after his death, and one commenter quoted Jesus, “For what will it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” And thanks in large part to Hugh Hefner, the same might be asked about our entire culture.

Hugh Hefner and the Sexual Revolution

Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire and arguably the man most responsible for popularizing the sexual revolution, passed away at 91 on Wednesday. John Stonestreet and Ed Stetzer assess the damage of pornography and “free love,” and what they’ve done to perpetuate abortion and separate sex from marriage and procreation.

Listen to the program.