Men, Women, and Super Bowl Ads

Yesterday’s Super Bowl was pretty entertaining for a neutral observer–more points would have been nice, but the down-to-the-wire excitement made for a great game. Congratulations to the Giants for overcoming the Patriots again! (Now if only my Seahawks could get back …)

Super Bowl ads get a lot of hype–and understandably so. It’s estimated that almost 120 million people tune in to watch the game, so that’s pretty great exposure for whatever you’re selling. Every year, there are some ads that are awesome, clever, inventive, or creative; and then every year, there are some ads that are lame, flat, or just dumb. And every year there are ads that are sexist and pretty insulting–both to women (by portraying them as nothing more than things to be objectified) and to men (by advertising to them as driven and motivated by a single organ–not the brain).

This year was no different, and I’m not going to grace them by posting them on here. (You can check them out on the recap from Mother Jones at “Twitter Talks Back to Sexist Super Bowl Ads.” All I’m gonna say is, “Really, Teleflora?!” And incidentally, I actually switched from gershomsjournal.com to justinbfung.com in order to switch my registration from GoDaddy.com, on account of their ridiculous commercials.)

The topic of men and women is one as old as time, particularly in the church. And I want to point out that we as Christians should be even more vigilant at how the culture we inhabit–and, perhaps more importantly, we ourselves–think and act. As a Christian man, it matters how I think about and treat women. My friend Eugene writes:

the treatment of women is the oldest injustice in human history. It’s so old and so taken for granted, that we don’t quite understand what’s at stake – not just for women, but really, for all of us. In more nuanced and simultaneously graphic ways, women are objects to be objectified and marketed and packaged for consumption. And these messages start early and often in human development and identity.

Moreover, many Christian guys–whether ignorantly and inadvertently or, more tragically and infuriatingly, deliberately–continue to feed into this mindset that women are somehow less than we are. There aren’t very many good, genuine role models of what it looks like to be a guy like Jesus, and given that missing paradigm, we can tend to swing to one extreme (emasculated and uncertain) or the other (hyper-macho and equally insecure). Neither of those is a particularly biblical understanding of how men and women are supposed to be in relationship with one another.

Jesus should be the example for our lives, and particularly, for Christian guys, in the way that he interacted with women. I’ve posted these words from Dorothy Sayers before, but they’re a constant reminder to me on what I want to be like:

Perhaps it is no wonder that women were first at the cradle and last at the cross. They had never known a man like this man. There never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made sick jokes about women; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took women’s questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out a certain sphere for women; who never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took women as he found them and was completely unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its point or pungency from female perversity. Nobody could get from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything funny or inferior about women.

On a related note, what did you all think of H&M’s David Beckham ad? Because it just made want to work out … but is that a double standard?

Faith and technology: who is in control?

Adapted from yesterday’s message, “Who is in control?”

Technology allows me to distract myself by Facetiming with myself and taking a picture of it.

The world today is very different from the one that we were in even ten years ago. Teenagers nowadays share their passwords as a show of affection … yes, really. We’re a generation that has seen immense (particularly technological) change–and have adapted to it pretty seamlessly. We’re good at that. We own cell phones, computers; we’re on social media; we’ve joined the digital revolution without really giving it a second thought.

Because when something is as ubiquitous as media and technology, we usually don’t even think about it. It’s like oxygen; we don’t tend to think about how we breathe, about the biological or physiological processes that are going on; we just do it. And for many of us—I’d be so bold as to say all of us—this is the same with media and technology.

  • When we watch TV, we aren’t necessarily tuned in to what’s happening as we watch this show or that movie.
  • We’re a culture where we “like” somebody’s link or picture or comment on Facebook if it takes our fancy.
  • We post things online about our lives, and sometimes about other people’s lives, without thinking about the ramifications or the consequences.
  • When we see, hear, or read an ad or even the news, we often just receive it.

We don’t tend to actively think about how something impacts us or how we interact with it. And we don’t tend to think about how our faith might impact the role these things play in our lives.

At The District Church, we’re going through a series called Mustard Seeds. The background is from Matthew 17:20, where Jesus says, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will be so; and nothing will be impossible for you.” We want to talk through what it looks like for us to have faith to move mountains (and it’s not a lot!) in our everyday lives.

Yesterday, I talked about the impact of faith on technology, and framed it with the question, “Who is in control?” Technology is all around us, enabling us to do more, to see more, to experience more. The world of media and technology that we inhabit is not in essence good or evil. These things can be used for good or for harm.

  • We can send emails that build up or we can send emails that gossip and tear down.
  • We can be manipulated by the way a news channel spins its reports, or we can seek the truth and point others to it.
  • We can allow advertisers to tell us what we’re missing and how their product will make things all better, or we can laugh at the lie that is being told and remember that what we’re all missing, what we all need at root, is a Savior to rescue us from the disease of sin and selfishness.

Who is in control?

Sherry Turkle has this interesting story to tell, and I think it may resonate with many of us:

I check my e-mail first thing in the morning and before going to bed at night. I have come to learn that informing myself about new professional problems and demands is not a good way to start or end my day, but my practice unhappily continues. I admitted my ongoing irritation with myself to a friend, a woman in her seventies who has meditated on a biblical reading every morning since she was in her teens. She confessed that it is ever more difficult to begin her spiritual exercises before she checks her email; the discipline to defer opening her inbox is now part of her devotional gesture. (Alone Together, 154)

My friend John calls this, “the first battle of the day.” And it’s a battle I fight every morning too. Who is in control? Whose voice do I want to hear first thing in the morning and last thing at night?

It sounds really basic, right? I mean, we’re really talking about Facebook and the gospel? Email? Twitter? Texting?

Yup.

Because it’s in the basics where the rubber hits the road. It’s all well and good to say, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength,” or “Love your neighbor as yourself,” but it’s in these basics–in the simple things–where that’s really worked out. One of the greatest disconnects that people outside the church see, and that people inside the church feel, is the disconnect between Sunday and the rest of the week—that what we hear and say and read and experience on Sundays doesn’t always slide very easily into the molds of Monday through Saturday. Well, it’s not just in the big things; actually, it’s faith worked out in the small things that in time forms the character that works itself out in the big things as well.

And so it matters what we do in the small things. So what does it look like to live out the gospel in and through your technology-saturated life?

  • Maybe it means taking a step back and turning up your sensitivity to how you engage and interact with technology, even just for a week, at first.
  • Maybe it means that when you get annoyed with somebody for not being present (because they’re checking their phone constantly), you also ask yourself, “Do I do this to other people?”
  • Maybe it means building structures or maybe even rules in your life for the ways and the places you utilize technology so that you can be more intentional—both in interpersonal relationships and in your relationship with God.
  • Maybe it means that, like Sherry Turkle’s friend, you choose not to check your email until after you’ve spent some time with God.

You can—you need to—figure out for yourself what it looks like for you to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were asked by a serpent, “Who is in control?” They answered, “Us,” and ate the forbidden fruit.

Three thousand years ago, in Babylon, three young men named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were asked by a king on pain of death, “Who is in control?” They answered, “God,” and were thrown into the blazing furnace–in case you don’t know the end of the story, God came through for them.

And two thousand years ago, a man in Palestine named Jesus hung on a cross and was asked, “Who is in control?” He answered, “God. Forever and always, God. Even when it doesn’t look like it, even when you don’t understand it, God.” And this Jesus gave his life to take the sin of the world on himself, so that we might be liberated from the cycle of brokenness and death, to right relationship with God and with others. And in case you don’t know the end of the story, three days later, this man Jesus rose from the dead—that’s how you know God was in control. That’s how you know that God is still in control.

Here in 2012, you and I are asked the same question, “Who is in control?”

What’s your answer? And how are you going to back it up?

You can check out the full sermon online here.

UPDATE: Thanks to the Washington Post for picking this up in the local faith section.

Links of the Day, December 1

It’s World AIDS Day. Watch this vid:

Iron Man 2:
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Green

Finance reform

Miscellaneous

Culture, technology & theology

One of the classes I’m in is Theology & Culture with Barry Taylor. I love it. We’re looking at the way in which God can be found in various aspects of culture. This week, we looked at media, and we noted how technological advances have revolutionized not just media and media communication, but how technology has also lent itself to a developing theology. Barry made the point that technological advances have laid the groundwork for imagination to play a more central part in shaping our realities; not that imagination (or vision, as someone else phrased it) was not previously involved in the process of seeing and working towards a better or alternate reality, but that it’s place is becoming more central and its potential is becoming more wide-ranging. At least, that’s how I understood his point.

A year ago, I wrote a paper on spirituality and technology in the 21st century. My basic point was that technology is a boon to us–it allows us to do so much more than we were ever able to–in this specific case, in terms of communication, with email, with social networking, with sites like YouTube and Twitter; but that we need to be aware of how it impacts us and how it influences us. This is a particular challenge since technology is such a part of our lies that it is often difficult to see what influence it has upon us. But we need to be active and proactive in engaging with culture, in seeing how God is working in the culture we inhabit, in the technological advances that we see and the benefits that they bring, as well as being aware of the pitfalls and risks. Media and technology and their benefits for culture and spirituality can only be properly enjoyed and appreciated if its challenges to culture and spirituality are also properly understood and engaged–the best way to engage is with an eye on the whole picture.

I love technology. As a musician, I love the convenience of being able to carry my entire music collection around on my laptop. I have over four thousand songs in my library, and assuming (generously) that a CD can hold fourteen or fifteen songs, that would equal almost three hundred CDs. As someone who lives on a different continent to most of my family and many of my closest friends, I appreciate th ease with which technological advances have allowed me to chat with friends over IM or talk to people long-distance for cheap (or free). As an activist, I love that the internet can be utilized to bring people together for a common goal, to share with and to encourage one another.

But I’m also distinctly aware of the challenges that technology poses: the temptation to avoid silence and contemplation having so much with which to distract myself, the tendency to waste time browsing inane websites (and there are A LOT), the abuse of the internet to spread falsehoods and malice, the multiplicity of creative TV shows that can take up much of one’s time (to the point where one doesn’t even take time to be creative oneself!).

As a church, as Christians, we need to be engaging with culture; we need to be seeking God in culture and seeing where he’s working. I think if we really open our eyes and look for him, we’ll be surprised where he shows up.

Speaking of media, there’s a new NBC drama that I love. It’s called “Kings,” and it’s based on the biblical story of David, translated to a fictional modern kingdom. Apart from the fact that Chris Egan, who plays David, seems to always have a look on his face as if you’ve just wounded him (I suppose that’s the natural look for a young, righteous hero), it’s been interesting to see how the writer Michael Green has brought this story to life for modern times. Here’s a teaser video for the premiere episode.