In Praise of Protest

In Praise of Protest

I recently came across these two photographs on social media. They both depict elderly protesters at recent anti-Trump rallies in the United States. The photo on the left is of a woman named Shirley, attending her first protest rally at the ripe old age of 93. I found it on a Twitter feed of people posting that they were attending their first public protest. Most were young. But some were old. Like Shirley. What’s happening in America when a frail 93-year-old is moved to protest for the first time? And is it a good thing? Some are saying that such protests are just made up of sore losers who can’t deal with Donald Trump’s election victory. I’ve heard (often), we need to stop complaining and just allow duly elected officials govern. But protest shouldn’t be dismissed so readily. Indeed, protest is a noble cause, a collective responsibility, and a necessary form of self expression. Here’s a few reasons why I think we shouldn’t be afraid of mass protests. Protest is Essential in Liberal Democracies   Dissent is what forged democracy in the first place, and it remains essential in fomenting change in democratic societies. In fact, it moves those societies forward. It always has. Protests nearly always arise in response to social or political changes and can therefore be rightly

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Truth-telling in a world of fake news, alternative facts, and America First

Truth-telling in a world of fake news, alternative facts, and America First

Remember the days when we used to suppose that Western society pretty much held to values drawn from Christianity? In those days the church used to rail against such social ills as drugs and booze, and marital infidelity, and gambling, all the while assuming that society basically valued things like truth-telling, justice, neighborliness and generosity. That seems long ago. Now we find ourselves in a world of fake news, alternative facts, America First, and that “beautiful” big wall. Now we find ourselves in a world where telling lies and looking after yourself isn’t just secretly practiced; it’s openly championed. And all the way to the very top. A few years ago I was visiting friends and the 12-year-old girl of the house was running for president of the student body at her school. She asked if she could practice her campaign speech to the grown-ups, so we all assembled in the living room. She cleared her throat, readied herself, and launched into her presentation. And started telling straight-out lies. She promised better teachers, more appetizing cafeteria food, less homework, brand new lockers, and a whole range of other inducements for her fellow students to vote for her. We applauded dutifully and told her she was great. Which she was. But later I asked her mother whether it was alright for

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I’m pro-life and I marched.

I’m pro-life and I marched.

I was in San Diego on January 21. The morning was bright and crisp that day. The previous night the city had been lashed by a rainstorm, leaving everything shiny wet and the streets and sidewalks littered with puddles. You couldn’t help but feel the energy in the city that morning. It was the day of the Women’s March.  Blue skies opened up as residents streamed down Broadway toward 5th Street to start the march. And I joined them. There were smiles and laughter. People were dressed in costume, many wore pink. Muslim women wore hijabs. Most carried signs, some of them hilarious, others quite touching. No one was threatening to bomb the White House. It was one of the most joyous public demonstrations I’ve been part of. And I’ve been part of a lot of them over the years. By now you know, the marches were originally conceived as a single event, the Women’s March on Washington, and intended to send the freshly minted Trump administration a message about women’s rights and social justice.   But it couldn’t be contained to the capital. Marches began sprouting up in over 400 US cities, including lil’ ol’ San Diego. And 168 other countries, where there were nearly 700 marches worldwide, including 20 in Mexico and 29 in Canada. It is estimated more

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My Most Popular Posts So Far

My Most Popular Posts So Far

I started blogging less than six months ago and I don’t know why I didn’t do it earlier. I’m having a blast. It takes some discipline to try to regularly write meaningful content in beautiful ways, but I’ve been delighted by the huge response it’s receiving. So far I’ve posted 50 articles on everything from Star Wars to Botticelli, from Donald Trump to John Calvin, from the missional movement to bald presidents (I have diverse interests). As I’m hitting the road on a speaking tour I won’t have the time to produce any new posts for a while, so I thought I’d share with you links to the five most popular posts from one to five. Thanks for reading.   1. YEP, MEANINGFUL PUBLIC DISCOURSE IS DEAD This article reflected on a social media conversation I had with someone after Meryl Streep’s famous takedown of Donald Trump at the Golden Globe awards ceremony. In it I outlined why I think public discourse is so difficult these days.  The reaction to this post was phenomenal. It really struck a chord for many readers. And it annoyed a bunch of others who just wanted to argue whether Trump was actually mocking a reporter’s disability or not (groan).   2.  <a href="http://mikefrost Full Report.net/homepage/not-liberal-agenda-gospel/”>IT’S NOT A LIBERAL AGENDA, IT’S THE GOSPEL! Here I expressed my frustration that advocating

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Decision Making and the Will of the People

Decision Making and the Will of the People

This week, Donald J Trump will take the oath of office of the president of the United States. A lot of people can’t believe it’s actually happening. There have been “Not My President” rallies across the country. There’s been hopeful talk that Russian hacking scandals might forestall him taking office. Some Democrats are planning to boycott the inauguration ceremony. Like it or not, Mr Trump won office fair and square. Well, according to the rules of the US electoral system. Complaining about his victory will achieve nothing. But trying to figure out how he did it might prove to be more profitable. How did a man with no experience of public office whatsoever manage to defeat a woman who was regarded by all to be one of the most qualified candidates ever to run for the presidency? What were people thinking when they voted for Donald J Trump? In the early 1970s two brilliant young academics embarked on a research project to unravel the mysteries of human decision-making. Amos Tversky (left) and Danny Kahneman were professors at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and they hoped that by revealing the mechanics of decision-making, their work could transform how individuals, corporations and governments chose which courses of action to follow. Tversky and Kahneman thought if they could transform decision-making into a kind of engineering problem, they

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LIVE: the more we watch, the less we care.

LIVE: the more we watch, the less we care.

“Sony wants you to stream your whole life online.” “Show off how marvelous your life is.” “Stream your world live to Facebook using the ‘Social Live’ camera feature.” “Fill YouTube with constant videos of your cat sleeping or your baby dribbling, thanks to the new Live on YouTube app.” These are actual advertising slogans. If you use social media you’ll know live video streaming is being pushed pretty hard these days. Facebook has changed its algorithms to ensure live videos appear in your notifications and fill your newsfeed. Sony, Apple and Samsung are falling over themselves to develop the necessary products to make live streaming even easier. I expect the boffins who decide these things think that video will overtake text as the primary way we share stuff online at some time in the near future. And of course it’s pitched to us as a way of boasting about our fabulous lives. Post a vid of you arriving at a big concert, or dancing at a music festival, or sailing on the harbor, or singing along to the radio on a road-trip with friends. Everyone’s life is meant to look awesome online. Except if it’s not.   On December 30 last year, a 12-year-old girl in Georgia live streamed her own suicide after telling the world that she had been

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The Opposite of Poverty is not Wealth, it’s Justice

The Opposite of Poverty is not Wealth, it’s Justice

An inflatable boat slips into a cove near Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos. It is packed with Syrian asylum seekers wearing orange lifejackets. They have just crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey. One of them waves a lifebuoy triumphantly to the man wading into the water to greet them. The sun is setting. The last rays of hope are receding behind the horizon. In a few moments it will be dark, and no one wants to spend a perilous night at sea in a small craft. The UN worker or government official holds his hands high to greet them. They’ve made it! They are safe. Kind of. This poignant photo was taken by Aris Messinis in February, 2016, nearly a full year ago. Since that time we have heard countless reports of how miserable life is for thousands of Syrian refugees in Europe. Countries like Germany, Austria and Sweden have been remarkably generous, but many asylum seekers, including quite possibly those in this very photo, are still stuck in limbo. This week’s cold snap across Europe has only made matters worse. In Lesbos, snow blanketed the Moria refugee camp, home to more than 4,000 people, most of whom subsist in small tents. Some of those tents have collapsed under the weight of the snow. The UN has tried

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When the country goes temporarily to the dogs

When the country goes temporarily to the dogs

“The fundamental cause of the trouble in the modern world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell   Lord Russell wrote that back in 1933 just as Adolf Hitler was being installed as the duly elected chancellor of Germany. Benito Mussolini had been ruling Italy since 1922, and fascist dictator Franco was on the rise in Spain. Moderates like the UK’s decent leader Ramsay McDonald sought appeasement, but they were no match for Hitler’s fanaticism. Russell had put his finger on an issue of his day, but he had also voiced a timeless truth. Fanatics are always so certain of themselves, while wiser people, aware of various possible solutions to any problem, struggle with self-doubt. The latter know that immigration policy in a globalized world is complex and vexing. They know that overhauling an entrenched system of cronyism and lobbying in modern politics will take time, tact and resolution. But fanatics can just chant “Build that wall!” and “Lock her up!” and “Drain the swamp!” And they do so with great gusto and confidence. They seem so… to use Russell’s term, cocksure. It’s the same in the church. Some of us believe we need to do the work of developing a detailed and compassionate biblical response to issues like gender roles

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Yep, meaningful public discourse is dead.

Yep, meaningful public discourse is dead.

Yesterday I posted a link to Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe acceptance speech on Facebook. You know, her impassioned plea for basic human decency in publc discourse. The speech that referred to how “…the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter – someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back.” The one that concluded, “When the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose.” That one. In response to my post, a self-confessed conservative groused, “…says a member of the powerful Hollywood elite whom much of America no longer trusts.” Okay, maybe it’s because I’m the brother of an intellectually disabled woman, but I was irritated. I mean, even if you’re a Trump supporter surely you can’t think the public humiliation of a person’s disability is acceptable. Ever. So I bit back. Don’t shoot the messenger, dude. Even if you don’t like Ms Streep, you’ve gotta agree with her stand. No, my Facebook friend replied, “…it’s hypocritical for Streep to say this when she publicly supports the biggest murderer of disabled babies in America (Planned Parenthood).” Several others weighed in on the discussion, pretty much making the point that on the topic being discussed (the public mockery of the powerless), Streep was right. And then something interesting

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To be shaped as much as to shape

To be shaped as much as to shape

I love this image of a tree growing in a barren plaza, its root system spreading across the cement pavers. I love it, not only because it’s an image of organic life bursting forth from a pretty ugly built environment, but because the trees roots have been shaped by that very environment. They extend across the plaza, zig-zagging at the same angles as the pavers. The tree is conquering the plaza, but the plaza is shaping the tree. It’s a beautiful metaphor for the church. We too have been planted in a dry and barren place. We long to grow in a verdant forest, but we find ourselves here in this strange, broken place, trying to figure out how to be in this world, but not of it. This makes me think of the experience of those great exiles of the Old Testament – Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, and Esther in Persia. Like us, and this tree, they too were planted in foreign soil. Literally. All three were forced to live in foreign lands and, like this tree, all three adopted many of their host cultures’ values and practices, while remaining faithful to Yahweh. They flourished like the tree, but were shaped by the contours of their captors’ cultures. Joseph, Daniel and Esther all prospered in their host

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We’re cheering for Rogue One but we’re really on the Empire’s side

We’re cheering for Rogue One but we’re really on the Empire’s side

As you probably know by now, Rogue One is about a small band of rebels, part of the larger Rebel Alliance, who try to steal the design plans for a super-weapon called the Death Star. Even if you’re not that into Star Wars films (which I’m not) you’d enjoy it. It’s basically a heist movie – a ragtag bunch of compatriots, each possessing different but complementary skills, attempt to rip off an evil guy’s stuff. It’s like Oceans 11 in space. The movie’s tagline is “A rebellion built on hope.” And there’s lots of talk of hope. Because we all know that what the Rogue One crew is doing won’t defeat their enemy but will offer hope for the future for the Rebel Alliance (see Star Wars Episode IV for how all that turns out). But the Empire is all-pervasive. It has conquered the galaxy and seems invincible. The Rebel leadership is ready to capitulate. There’s simply no way to stop it. Until Jyn Erso and her plucky crew take matters into their own hands. And everyone cheers them on. After all, we hate Darth Vader and Moff Tarkin, right? But what if I told you that most of those in the cinema, munching blithely on their popcorn, were really on the side of the Empire without knowing it?   We watch films

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