The Silent Majority Gives Me Hope for the World

There’s nothing new about sensational journalism. Media does its thing, releasing a story expressing just enough fact to be credible(ish), then seasoning it with enough spin to sink a hook into Twitter-feeders. The world goes crazy about Joe Schmo celebrity/politician/YouTube-sensation for a week. Lather, rinse, repeat. People move on to the next thing without a second glance.

But every once in a while, something different happens.

Everyone not living under a rock has heard by now about the Duck Commander’s “hiatus” from cable network A&E (for Arts & Entertainment…the “Arts” is silent), so there’s no need to rehash the details here. But I do think it appropriate to note the response from what I like to call the “silent majority” with regard to Phil Robertson’s treatment.

phil

Since the network’s decision, Facebook pages, hashtag campaigns, and online petitions have seen immense success. How much, you ask? Well, the most popular Facebook cause had 942,000 likes, and its corresponding Change.org page had over 100,000 “signatures”. Others included the #StandWithPhil hashtag, which among others, I’d venture to guess at least, have been trending worldwide on Twitter since the situation arose.

The show AVERAGED 14 million viewers a week by one estimate, and back in August it officially passed the peak ratings of morally-uplifting Jersey Shore and the tabloid favorite Jon & Kate Plus 8 for the most-watched non-fiction cable show anywhere. Heck, it was even beating out most FICTION cable shows! Seems like all those folks, at least the ones on social media, are out in force to support Phil.

The outpouring of response from this silent majority reminded me of a different situation earlier this year that garnered a similar response, although it spoke to a different reality.

When small-scale news outlets starting circulating the story in March about the abortion doctor standing trial in Philadelphia for multiple murders, the uptick in popularity came through the silent majority, in spite of a media blackout that lasted OVER A MONTH.

Because ABC, NBC, and CBS refused to report on it, and because CNN and “news”papers USA Today, the NY Times had only put tiny stories buried amongst their other coverage, a couple guys organized a Twitter movement to get the word out. On April 12, more than a month after his trial for, among other things, seven counts of murder began, more than 600,000 tweets went out with the hashtag #gosnell. A second “TweetFest” was organized five days later that saw similar results, and, lo and behold, the media finally covered the story.

To get a few things straight, NO, I’m not equating gay marriage advocates with abortion doctors. Yes, I’m aware that the first story was voluntarily covered by the media and the other wasn’t. No, I don’t think gay marriage and abortion are on equal footing.

The reason I bring up the two stories in the same post is to indicate one thing: strength in numbers. In both instances, like they do in everyday stories that uphold the politically-correct status quo, the popular, outspoken culture warriors of the 21st Century had the numbers to make a stink about a “homophobic bearded individual” in the first case and collectively keep quiet in the second case (and, as it were, in the case of the now-former MSNBC host suggesting someone should, to put it politely, poop in Sarah Palin’s mouth (think I’m kidding?)).

What made these two stories particularly special, however, was that the silent majority decided to show their numbers and prove that they too have the power to raise a stink.

Strength in numbers has always been a good thing to have, and in the case of those who have backed Phil Robertson and stood up for proper coverage in the Gosnell trial, it’s not so much about changing the minds of those who so loudly proclaim their modern, progressive way of thinking and change the culture of the world. Instead, I see it as more of a “Hey, yeah, we’re still here” kind of thing, where those who would typically choose against arguing endlessly with illogical neo-liberals on a story’s comment string decide to collectively speak up.

To me, it’s like the bar bouncer who’ll let a lot of things slide, but steps out of the shadows and gives you a dirty look when things get a little too carried away. Or like a parent who hangs out inside while their kid goes looking for mischief around the neighborhood—most things are harmless, but dad’s there to set Johnny straight when it goes too far.

I call it the silent majority because I’ve come across a lot of people who are willing to uphold their traditional values in their lives without announcing it to the masses. They contribute to the common good when not many around them are even aware they’re doing so. In my own experience, these people far outnumber the ones who shout from the rooftops the things that society needs to do in order to work properly. The traditionalists practice while the modernists preach.

Chesterton once called tradition “the democracy of the dead”, asserting that it “refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” It makes sense though, doesn’t it? I mean, who are we to come up with a “new” way of living when there’s ones that have been around FAR longer (and thriving for far longer, no less) than our short time on earth? After all, St. Peter is a household name, but I’d bet most don’t know anything about Pelagius, Arius, or Cornelius Jansen. But I digress.

Though I do believe those who carry traditional beliefs ought to be preaching more than modernists, this isn’t about wanting to shove everyone to one side or the other. After all, there are no sides—we’re all human, we’re all endowed with inalienable rights by our Creator, and we’re all imperfect. There’s gonna be tension, no matter how you slice it.

There is, however, a right and a wrong in the world. Though no one is perfect, rightness is something we can all strive for, and consistency in practicing right and wrong is something everyone is obligated to do. When you call someone hateful and bigoted for articulating their belief, especially when it’s qualified with a line about NOT hating those people in question, you are the one being hateful and bigoted.

It isn’t right to vilify Phil Robertson for speaking an opinion and keep silent on cases like Kermit Gosnell and his abortion factory, no matter whose interests are being served. It isn’t right to claim to be tolerant, only to turn around and call Christians hateful and bigoted. Things like that ARE black and white, whether people want them to be or not, and if, as Chesterton also said, bigotry is “an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition”, then its those feeling offended who ought to stop pointing the finger and ask themselves if they’re the bigoted ones.

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On Religious Indoctrination

I ran across a graphic the other night while perusing my Facebook news feed proclaiming loudly that the U.S. Government hasn’t, in fact, banned prayer from public schools. All that’s forbidden, the graphic states, is school-sanctioned prayer, but students can still lead it if they so desire.

The reason? The government wants to favor education over indoctrination.

It’s neither here nor there how I feel about public school prayer. What I do care about is that oh so dirty word that people get so afraid of: indoctrination.

Indoctrination has developed into one of those buzzwords “modernists” and “progressives” use as a reason to disagree with more traditional-minded folks, often following its use with their idea of high-minded education: that which includes no mention of anything having anything whatsoever to do with any religion of any kind, ever.

The thing is, indoctrination, in my mind, can go both ways.

For the sake of the argument, let’s stick to the reason why indoctrination as it relates to religion is so hot-button. Faith, particularly Christian faith (I’m using this because it’s what I’m most familiar with), has a lot of “requirements” if a person is going to follow it. More often than not, those requirements are a tad uncomfortable, that is, they wouldn’t necessarily be your first choice (giving someone else the 5 bucks in your pocket instead of buying a Starbucks? If you have a 100% track record with that one, then I’m Miles Davis). People tend to equate uncomfortable feelings for bad feelings these days, so naturally anything that makes you uncomfortable should be seen as bad.

The discomfort manifests itself in two ways, too. Not only does it make people want to say “No” to the things it asks, but this kind of faith seems to make nonbelievers uncomfortable, too. (Disclaimer: I’m not talking about Christians who get in people’s faces and tell them they’re going to Hell for not believing in Jesus, I’m speaking about the people who say “I’d rather not tolerate Christians” and complain out of selfishness)

So, because Christianity makes people uncomfortable in more than one way, nothing relating to it should be taught in our school system. Sounds reasonable, right?

Reasonable enough, but there’s another side of the coin that, in my opinion, doesn’t see the light of day very often. Even if a curriculum moves away from one set of guidelines, it must move toward another set. Those guidelines are used to teach students a government-mandated curriculum from which most students have no other choice but to learn. Regardless of its contents, the curriculum will have an agenda, an expressed purpose for educating students that may make them uncomfortable.

But what would happen (purely hypothetical) if it so happened that students became uncomfortable with the public school curriculum and asked for it to be changed for what appeared to be the same reasons people didn’t like a curriculum with religious influence?

My guess? There wouldn’t be any regress, for starters. (These are “progressives”, remember).

Let’s pause a second. I’m not writing this to slam educators in any way, shape or form (Seriously). I have tons of relatives and close friends who teach young people, and most of my early childhood role models were teachers. The world would literally cease to operate effectively without the influence of teachers.

What I am slamming, instead, is the double standard of “indoctrination” when it comes to religious vs. non-religious influence in education. I’m a pragmatic guy. I like using the actual definitions of words, so when I use “indoctrination”, I mean it as it was originally intended: To teach someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.

Oddly enough, that sounds more like the public school way of thinking and the opposite of the Christian way of thinking. Am I saying the American public school way and the Christian way are 1) opposites; and 2) bad and good, respectively? HECK no. But I am drawing attention to the fact that, as far as this definition is concerned, indoctrination seems to be what’s being (and been) done to us as American public school students more than it involves anything the pope, as one example, would advocate for.

Again, I’m not pledging my dis-allegiance to the Flag by bringing this up. I’m a proud American, I enjoyed my public school education, and I’m thankful (not as often as I should be) for having been born in a country where I’m free to do things so many others in this world can’t. All I want is a fair assessment by lefties and progressives seeking to “advance” society by excluding all things faith.

To those aforementioned modernists, I don’t care if you keep trying to remove religion from public schools, the public square, or even America as a whole, because I know the Truth doesn’t get eventually squished out or change with the tides like your ideologies do. I just think pointing the finger at “indoctrination” is a poor excuse for people who claim to use higher thinking.

The Myth of the Perfect

I’m not perfect. Surprised? God I hope not. Really, who is?

Sure no one’s perfect, but another thing that applies to no one is the ability to fit into a nice, little pre-made, politically correct, made-for-TV box.

The past week has been rife with commentary online and on the news about the death of Nelson Mandela. The story you get on Mandela’s life depends on where you look; mainstream media praise him as a visionary leader, while conservative “watchdogs” play him up as nothing more than another socialist crazypants who shouldn’t be given the time of day.

In reality, the real nature of Mandela is somewhere in the middle, but why do we almost always prefer the extremes?

We normal humans don’t fit into a box, so it’s reasonable to believe that Mandela doesn’t either.

Another example: This college football season has produced in part what some think are the true colors of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. Miley Cyrus made a new name for herself (unfortunately) earlier this year, and just recently Rebecca Black came back for round two of being raked across YouTube’s coals.

It’s way too easy for us to sit in a coffee shop and read stories about celebrities and only consider the sliver of a person’s reality that’s on the front page of CNN or TMZ. Because we don’t know the person, their actions in the public eye are all there is to go on, so our assessment sits solely on the slim shoulders of that (often ill-researched and overly-spun) news snippet.

I have a theory, and feel free to disagree with me, and it’s that we, as human beings, are always looking for ways to find perfection, to find complete contentment, to find real happiness. In the courses we take, in the sports we play, in the new tech we buy, in the jobs we work, even in the families we help create, perfection, happiness,  rest is what we constantly are in search of.

For some reason, too, we look to those in high places as examples of what happiness is supposed to be. If I had the cars, the money, the fame, then I’d be happy, people so often tell themselves.

The search for happiness, I believe, is indeed our ultimate goal on earth. Our hearts are restless, so the first part of the saying by Augustine went, so we constantly mill about our world trying to calm those damn hearts.

It would seem that, in 2013, everything that could ever make us happy is at our fingertips. Almost every bit of information the world has to offer can come through a 4-inch screen in our pockets. Education is more accessible than it ever has been. We live in a country that allows us to pursue whatever profession we desire, and heck, anyone can get hitched to anyone these days (as far as the state is concerned, mind you).

If all these things exist and are within our grasp, why isn’t everyone happy? Why haven’t we been able to perfect ourselves? Why, if we have all these options, are people still so restless despite having every man-made tool imaginable to “fix” the discontent?

Even when we pile a million little things into our lives to help the search for happy, all that ends up happening is an inability to operate as ourselves. We tend to just react instead of think, and we turn ourselves into robots going about a daily duty fulfilling each one of those commitments. Sounds like the opposite of rest to me.

The problem with this method of searching is that no thing originating from the hands of man will ever make us truly happy. Logic itself can tell us that: Humans aren’t perfect; man makes many of the things in the world; therefore the things themselves will always be imperfect.

What does that leave us? Well, that means that the only path to perfection and happiness lies in something that hasn’t originated from the hands of men, and something that, in itself is unable to die. Something that was here before any of us ever was, and will exist far beyond our departure from this earth.

That seems to leave earthly things like the forest or the ocean, both of which have far longer lifespans than us people.  But even the forest or the ocean are fleeting things from a human perspective.  The forest and the ocean, in and of themselves, are still just things, unable to have any transcendent power over the human condition.

What we need is a thing that isn’t a thing.  Something, or Someone, that provides a meaning and a context to all other things–something eternal.

See, the second half of that line from Augustine read like this, ”…until they rest in Thee.”

We humans, in one way or another, believe in the Myth of the Perfect, that someday someone will create the Fountain of Youth, the magic formula that will make all things right in ourselves and in the world. But what we don’t realize is that the Solution has been within our grasp our whole lives.

We only need allow ourselves to rest enough to discover it.

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It Really Is That Simple

Here’s a story.

Josh and Zach weren’t friends, but they each knew who the other was. Both were relatively powerful guys—Zach was a rich and successful businessman, while Josh was in charge of a popular new view on the world that was sweeping the nation at the time. Josh was well liked among most regular folk, and those who didn’t know what to think about him were at least amazed at how boldly he went about his business. Zach, on the other hand, was one of the more despised individuals in the town, and was known as a cold and heartless swindler who took advantage of others.

One day, Josh and Zach’s paths crossed. Josh was coming through the area and had attracted a crowd, so much so that Zach, who was short in stature, had to climb a tree to get a glimpse of the guy he had heard so much about. When Josh saw Zach up in the tree, he took the opportunity to ask if they could talk over dinner at Zach’s house. The people who come to see Josh were upset that, of all the people in the crowd, he had chosen to dine with the most despised among them, and more than anything they were disappointed that Josh had chosen a man who, to them, wasn’t worthy of spending time with a man of Josh’s reputation.

If you haven’t figured it out, Josh and Zach weren’t the real names of the two guys. Rather, they’re shortened versions of Jesus and Zacchaeus from the story found in the first part of Chapter 19 in Luke’s gospel, and they tell a story of Jesus accepting one of the most hated people in the town because he had come to “seek and save what was lost”.

Now, I’m not trying to give a Bible lesson here. The reason I’m bringing this up is because of an article written a couple days ago on FoxNews.com that I thought at least deserved a smidgen of a response. Yes, I fully realize the guy will probably never read what I, a person with an upstart blog with few readers, think of what he wrote, but still.

Credit: Catholic Memes
Credit: Catholic Memes

The blog in question positioned Pope Francis as “the Catholic Church’s Obama” and boldly claimed in its opening paragraph that he would “prove a disaster” for the church just as our president has been disappointing to America.

I know I covered exactly this in my last post — that the mainstream media oversimplifies and misunderstands the key goals of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church in general — but the author, Adam Shaw, swung so hard at this topic and whiffed so badly he spun himself around and clocked the catcher in the back of the head with his proverbial bat.

For starters, the pope is trying to please no one. Francis, like Jesus in the story above, is only interested in spreading the message of the Gospel out of love for every human being with whom he comes into contact. No more, no less. How that sits with people like Shaw isn’t his problem (or the Church’s problem, for that matter).

The pope is emulating Jesus’ attitude toward Zacchaeus when he reaches out to those beyond the confines of the cathedral walls, despite Shaw’s perception of it as “rubbing the egos of Church-hating left wingers”. In fact, the crowd was probably accusing Jesus of “rubbing the egos” of the rich and famous when the story happened too.

What would’ve happened if Jesus constantly appealed to his own followers only and shut everyone else out? I can say this much: we wouldn’t have a Catholic Church to argue about in 2013, that’s for sure.

The reason it’s important to evangelize to those outside the Church now is the same reason it was important for Jesus to do back then; no one would have ever followed Jesus had he never asked them to follow him, or reached out and given them the chance.

Shaw acknowledges that Pope Francis is bringing people back to the Church, but states that a study shows less people identifying as Catholic. Chalking that up as current Catholics being alienated through his tending for those outside his flock is flawed logic at the very least.

Did followers of Jesus get offended when he showed love to those who weren’t following him yet? No! In fact, Jesus told them to do just as he did, and those who didn’t like it were free to leave (and they did). The pope is leading, not ordering or dictating, for a reason. Misinterpreting his intentions through a refusal to undertake due diligence isn’t an excuse.

What’s funny in all this is that, despite their constant oversimplification, the media misses the forest for the trees and vastly overCOMPLICATES the pope’s intentions. Shaw and so many others attempt to point out how Francis is liberal, conservative, socialist, communist, an ideologue, a bad economist, an undoer of the work of JPII and Benedict, blah blah blah. What they’re missing is that Pope Francis is simply one thing: Catholic.

If everyone in the media would drop their self-imposed monikers and apply the one Francis himself is using, and furthermore learn more about what that means, it would be so much easier to not only understand his intentions, but also to spread them to the millions reading their product each day.

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It’s Not That Simple

Pope Francis has been nothing if not a media superstar since he ascended to the Chair in March. From embracing disfigured men while driving through the streets of Rome to the story just released that he was once a bouncer, the guy has been winning the hearts of Catholics and non-Catholics like it’s going out of style.

The attention has allowed the simple message of Christ to reach those it may never have under his predecessors’ tenure, but there’s still a problem with the way his other messages are being spread to the masses. In a word, the media is drastically oversimplifying what I think are his most vital messages, and people are being deceived as a result.

The most current example is the fallout from his recent Apostolic Exhortation (fancy language for a less-than-formal address from the pope) Evangelii Gaudium (latin for “Joy of the Gospel). The document, which at 50,000 words is no walk in the park, speaks to a variety of different topics. Though it primarily talks about how Christians should evangelize, one subtopic is how economics can either lift up or suppress the poor.

The Washington Post wrote an article on that particular aspect, which was promptly picked up and oh-so-intelligently disseminated by Rush Limbaugh. Here’s what he said.

Now, I’m going to let it be a given that anyone with half a reasonable mind could deduce that Rush is wrong in his assessment, but it’s not because “the pope is Catholic and Catholics aren’t Marxists”.

No, beside the fact that Rush didn’t bother to realize that the words “unfettered” and “capitalism” didn’t even appear in the pope’s document, he oversimplified a very nuanced and complex issue addressed by Francis.

We don’t need to go into the exact details of the pope’s policies on economy, but suffice it to say that the media fails to account for the context in which Francis speaks on economy, just as his comments on persons with same-sex attraction were misunderstood and taken out of the context of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Simplifying will only get you into trouble.
Simplifying will only get you into trouble.

It’s a shame that the media just doesn’t take the time to research thoroughly for an article that may only be perused and glossed over by people who would rather get their information from an Instagram photo or Mashable infographic. Honestly, for their part in trying to reach the masses, it’s a smart move from a business standpoint. Shorter content generates more clicks, plain and simple. But, business reasons aside, this practice is doing nothing but further dumbing down a society that’s already hopelessly entrenched in the “News Feed” culture.

Fortunately for us, we still have brains, and we can still think for ourselves. Just like the idea I addressed in this site’s seminal post, we have the ability to delve deeper into the issues brought up by the mainstream media and get the real story for ourselves.

The New Year is coming up, so maybe for a New Year’s Resolution we can all do a couple extra Google searches a day to find out the deeper story, or even the origins, of what the media fails to include.

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