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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