Monday, February 22, 2010

Apple Says No To Sex

I came across this article from an Apple news feed this morning. The author, Craig Grannell, takes offense that Apple has decided to remove all sexually themed applications from its app store (except Playboy...hmmmm...too hard on the bottom line I guess.)

You can see my brief response (and all of the fallout since) if you visit the site, but let me just say that this kind of thing makes me sick, especially after the presentation I saw yesterday by Brett Ullman about media, faith, and culture (an excellent presentation by the way and not extremist in any way.) Perhaps Brett's presentation has left me a little more sensitive to some of these issues or perhaps it's just the result of how I've been led personally over the last few months, but I'm really getting sick of sex and violence being stuck up in my face at every turn. It seems like most of the best TV comedies have about two years of good material before they start slipping into sex jokes. And what about movies? Isn't real life filled with enough murder and mayhem for you? "Yeah, lets watch Saw IV so we can see her body cut up in slow motion! Cool!"

And finally, have you noticed it's almost always men who are responding to this stuff? And who is primarily responsible for most of the rapes, murders, wars, riots, etc. in our world? Men. I'm not going to over-spiritualize it, but lets just say I've been gaining a new respect for women. A respect that I realize didn't exist not so long ago that makes me angry when I see them being exploited, be they little girls or grown women.

I recognize too that I'm over-simplifying things and that every social ill can't be explained away by blaming it all on video games or movies, but there has to be a correlation somewhere. It is irresponsible to suggest that if we ban all violent movies, TV shows, and video games and we won't have a violent society anymore. Violence is in the heart - everyone's heart, including mine. But let's stop feeding that violence quite so much and see if it doesn't have an effect.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

For Lent I'm giving up telling people what I'm giving up for Lent

So today is the first day of Lent, which for me, is a fairly recent event to consider. I didn’t grow up in a tradition that recognized Lent as a significant part of the Christian calendar so until the past few years I’ve more or less ignored it as a religious tradition that I needed to participate in - especially because I tend to avoid hollow religious traditions like the plague. But I’ve come to the realization that Lent is a significant time to reflect and to spend forty days, in Eugene Peterson’s words, “recovering the rhythms of grace.” Unfortunately, I’ve also come to realize that Lent can be every bit as “commercial” as the other big (formerly) religious holidays.

Although there are no fat men in red suits or chocolate bunnies laying candy coated eggs, Lent has nevertheless joined the ranks of the “let’s make this all about me” events we celebrate each year. How many people do you know who publicly make pronouncements about what they are giving up for Lent? It’s one of the top trending topics on Twitter today for cryin’ out loud! Need some ideas of what to give up? Try out one of these:

• “I think I’ll just try to swear less and use my computer less.”
• “Bye bye fast food…anywhere with a drive-through menu.”
• “No buying purses.”
• "I’m givin up cussin for Lent.”
• “Negativity. I hearby give up giving up for 40 days.”

And my favorite of all…

”Giving up refined sugar for Lent in an attempt to finally reach my goal weight. And, you know, for Jesus.”

I’m pretty sure the author of this post was trying to make a joke and a bit of a biting comment at the same time (I love satire!) but she pretty much hit the nail on the head. We all want the world to know that we are making a supreme sacrifice by giving up chocolate or coffee or swearing…for forty days anyway… but just like Christmas and Easter the focus of Lent has shifted from Jesus to ourselves.

I’ve also heard of some folks who are using Lent as way of sacrificing something they love to raise money for those who are in need. “Add up the money you would have spent on coffee each day and give it to the relief efforts in Haiti.” Now, I’m all for supporting the relief and development work around the world (I work for World Vision!) but despite these good intentions, turning Lent into a fundraiser is just another way of putting the focus back on us instead of Jesus.

I’m reminded here of Jesus’ words during the Sermon on the Mount:

“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting except your Father (God) who knows what you do in private. And your Father who sees everything will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-17 NLT)

Jesus talked a lot about doing things in private so as not to put the spotlight on ourselves but keep it on God the Father where it belongs: “Don’t do your good deeds publicly…” (Matt 6:1), “Give you gifts in private…” (Matt 6:4), “Pray to your Father in private…” (Matt 6:6), etc.

And why did Jesus tell us to do this? To avoid being hypocrites.

And what great sin the church is always accused of? Being hypocritical.

So to those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, who are participating in Lent this year, please…keep it quiet. Lent is between you and God. Your sacrifice is important but it is also meant to be a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice for all humanity. Keep the focus on Jesus’ sacrifice of his life and his resurrection and not on the extra-hot, half-sweet, grande cinnamon dolce latte with whip that you’ll so desperately be missing. Let’s not add fuel to the fire of those who already consider us hypocrites.

I’m off to my closet now…

I received a thoughtful comment from James who pointed out an unintended error in what I had written above. I did not mean to imply that you shouldn't give to worthy charitable organizations as a way of expressing concern for others during Lent, but simply to keep that between you and God. Thanks James!