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Paw Paw’s Inbox – A Primer on the Psychology of Chain Emails

Introducing Paw Paw’s Inbox – the part of the blog where we look at the latest chain email to convince your grandfather (aunt,  mother-in-law, second cousin twice removed… there’s always one) that a radical Muslim president is seeking to destroy his own country.

The degree to which these emails are disseminated and believed causes me tremendous frustration. Democratic discourse becomes polluted when such blatantly false misinformation is accepted as fact – especially maddening when it is often so simple to debunk. But the factual qualities of the message aren’t as important a part of acceptance or rejection as you might think. Often, it comes down to our perceptions of that message, and how it fits in to what we already believe.

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[Clickworthy] Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me

C.S. Lewis had some strange theological ideas. I still read and love his work. George MacDonald was a universalist. His book are still instructive and beautiful. Tolkien had his own theological failings. After watching the fiery debate over the Harry Potter books, I wonder if any novel, Christian or otherwise, could withstand the theological nitpicking that’s been inflicted on Rowling, either in the work itself or the author’s worldview.

Andrew Peterson’s exploration of spirituality – even overt Christianity – and Harry Potter isn’t necessarily a new thing. But his post on The Rabbit Room blog is quite poignant, conversational, and, given the historic weekend Potter’s final chapter is having at the box office, clickworthy.

Peterson makes an argument that has long been made of mainstream literature and film – that parallels to the story of Christ can be made and should be enjoyed by those who hold the beliefs. I’ve seen creative uses of The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, and countless other films in the context of a sermon. I once used the Harry Potter book series in a speaking appearance of my own. Are they intentionally, explicitly “Christian” works? Not at all. But they still reflect the story in which so many place their hope. As Peterson explains:

Let me be clear: Harry Potter is NOT Jesus. This story isn’t inspired, at least not in the sense that Scripture is inspired; but because I believe that all truth is God’s truth […] I have the freedom to rejoice in the Harry Potter story, because even there, Christ is King. Wherever we see beauty, light, truth, goodness, we see Christ. Do we think him so small that he couldn’t invade a series of books about a boy wizard? Do we think him cut off from a story like this, as if he were afraid, or weak, or worried?

I have always held the same impression of music. Songs mean different things to different listeners, approaching the creative work with different experiences and beliefs. Artists will tell you it’s one of their favorite things about making music – that their art can be interpreted so many different ways. There are many songs in my library that I interpret as having spiritual lyrics (as the mocking statement goes, replace “baby” with “Jesus” and you’ve written a Christian song). When I worked in Christian radio, I loved being able to place those songs in the context of a faith-filled playlist. It added (badly needed) variety, and perhaps accentuated the message I perceived.

So, what do you think? Are people of faith misguided when they attempt to draw parallels between their own source of salvation and a movie or book that may, or may have not intended such a meaning? Should the parallels be used to teach others, even if the other portions of the work arguably depart from the message of the faith?


See something in the news that you think is Clickworthy? Email Dylan.

Life at the end of the Trail

To the friends, family, and colleagues who helped make the launch of this website a success, thank you. We had a big first few days, even before the search engines caught on. That being said, I probably shouldn’t have launched the thing right before a weeklong trip to the Pacific Northwest. Apologies for the quiet time. Let me make it up to you with some photos:

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[Clickworthy] Is your church too cool?

We have one place for the uncool people—our ministries—and another place for the cool people—our church services. When we actually bump into one another, things can get ‘awkward,’ so we try to avoid it.

Rachel Held Evans explains why she longs for the traditional “uncool” church in a brief feature for Relevant Magazine that hit their website Wednesday. While I certainly think it is possible for a church to market itself and not lose its way, her story shows us how quickly branding and image can supercede the mission.

Read more from Evans on her blog. This clickworthy article was spotted on Jonny Diaz’s Twitter feed. Follow him. He’s entertaining. And his brother is a major league baseball player.


See something in the news that you think is Clickworthy? Email Dylan.

[Clickworthy] Once again athletes, think before you tweet

If twitter were a loaded gun, no telling how many athletes would have shot themselves in the foot – or worse.

A great piece in this morning’s (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger by legendary sports columnist Rick Cleveland on the hazards of 140-character public statements by (particularly) college athletes. Included are eight maxims of Tweeting that everyone should be aware of, but so few seem to be (I’m looking at you, Mr. Weiner).

C.J. Johnson, a 5-star recruit heading to Ole Miss in the fall, was the latest public figure to not realize that he was one. SportsbyBrooks preserved a host of obscene tweets, many of them denigrating to women, and a few more relating to a new vehicle Johnson supposedly obtained during his recruitment period (the link is but one screenshot, and it does contain offensive language).

Johnson’s tweets aren’t uncharacteristic. High schoolers and college freshmen say stupid things. But until recently, they haven’t been said so publicly, which tends to become a problem when that everyday high schooler/freshman suddenly becomes a person of public interest.

His tweets are also part of a greater unfortunate trend among black Twitter users. Patrice J. Williams wrote a thoughtful article in January about the habits of the disproportionately large number of African-Americans on Twitter. She observes how “Black Twitter” serves to reinforce negative stereotypes about the community as a whole – and especially black youth. Johnson bears the weight, however misappropriated, of adding to that regrettable portrayal.

Johnson closed his Twitter account shortly after the story broke (he deactivated his Facebook account months earlier after getting into a public dispute with Mississippi State fans). Cleveland suggests that the potential star football player go further than that – to consider all of his words as just the type of public statements they now are, and to, perhaps a little sooner than the typical incoming college freshman, grow up.


See something in the news that you think is Clickworthy? Email Dylan.

Wallace/Stewart interview fallout good for media discourse

Many months ago, in November 2010, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace visited the set of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to talk with Stewart, inevitably, about the perception of bias in Fox News programming. Wallace continually asked Stewart to come on his Fox program.

Last Sunday, Stewart finally obliged. Again the talks took a turn toward bias in the media, and at Fox in particular – this time, on Wallace’s home turf.

(Click on the annotation for part 2)

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Going ‘Gaga’ for 99 cent album – Amazon’s cloud service promotion

Her music is shallow. A Madonna acolyte who thrives on controversy and shock factor, muffled beneath layers of techno beat. Her stage name is even obnoxious.

So, when I purchased Lady Gaga’s new album, Born This Way, on Amazon, I felt dirty. Like a wine connoisseur who grabbed an oversized juice box off the shelf at Walgreens because it was free with the purchase of a tube of toothpaste. I placed a notepad over the Mae album on my desk. It didn’t need to see this. I hesitantly clicked the purchase button. Then I wondered…

Is there any album I wouldn’t buy for 99 cents?

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