Getting goats for Christmas (Or, how a disillusioned shopper found his joy)

I hate Christmas shopping. Not because I’m bitterly opposed to the commercialization of the holidays. Not because I can’t fight for a bargain (one infamous Black Friday, I bobbed and weaved through a crowd at a now-defunct electronics store to physically lie atop a row of desktop computer boxes my dad needed for his office). In fact, I love surprising my loved ones with gifts that I know they’ll enjoy.

It’s just that sometimes those gifts are awful hard to find. Maybe I’m just not creative enough. Maybe I don’t have the gift of gifting. My aunt can find everyone in the family the perfect gift every single time, despite only talking to us a handful of times each year. Meanwhile, I’ve never known what to get her. A candle that smells like the ocean? Socks with jingle bells? A toaster?

When you don’t know what to get, hunting for gifts is painstaking, and usually fruitless. It was even worse for me when I lived in Arkansas and the nearest shopping destinations were over an hour away. So, one Christmas, I dug into the family traditions and revived something a fellow displaced relative began some seasons ago. In lieu of the perfect gift, I made a charitable donation in honor of that family member.

Continue reading “Getting goats for Christmas (Or, how a disillusioned shopper found his joy)”

Where was the end when we needed it?

After all of the campaigning, all of the political posturing, all of the polling and remarkably reality-defying punditry, all of the… noise, the election finally happened. In its wake, we saw the worst of people on social media. I counted a few particularly rogue Facebook statuses that had been deleted by Wednesday. A handful of dumb students reflected poorly on the University of Mississippi.

The whole thing makes us crazy. But credit Governor Romney and President Obama, because perhaps the greatest moments of a multi-year campaign came at its end.

This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation […] Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work, and we citizens also have to rise to occasion […] [W]e look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics. – Mitt Romney, Concession

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.

And together with your help and God’s grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth. – Barack Obama, Acceptance

How gracious in defeat was the governor? How re-energized and inspiring was the president? With the burden of the campaign finally removed from each man’s shoulders, we saw what we had been looking for the entire time. In the fog of war, divide and conquer was the master plan, when we the people were looking for sense and civility all along.

Calls for unity. Calls for effort from citizen and servant alike. Calls for prayer. The invocation of God, for one night, not a political province of the right but a hope for one nation.

Maybe it won’t last. Probably it won’t last. But on the night when so many Democrats were gloating and so many Republicans were forecasting the fall of Rome, Mitt Romney’s campaign website was streaming Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in a simple gesture of solidarity. And so, on Election Night, this disaffected voter watched two men emerge from battle, wondering where philosophies like these were one week earlier, and what will have happened to them one week later.

A new season begins

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1

The past few months have been good for the blog. Summer provided a good bit of free time and some fun topics to write about. It also provided some much needed time with those closest to me. I was talking to a fellow friend displaced by higher education a few nights ago. We agreed – you never truly appreciate family and friends until you have left them. So I am thankful I received a season at home.

Now, it’s time to turn the page.

At the beginning of the month, I moved to Tuscaloosa, Ala. Next week, I begin my work as a Doctoral Assistant in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama. Daunting as it may be, I am looking forward to immersion in the Ph.D. process. I like the future it promises; the possibilities now only imagined. With prayer I take this step, mindful that “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

But that has very little to do with the blog.

I am writing you to let you know I will not be writing you. At least as frequently. Or, at least not in as much depth. I hope to still share the occasional thought on more prominent events. That or bore you with stories about my research.

Best wishes for your next season. May we meet again soon.

Chick-fil-A, the First Amendment, and the drawing out of a public relations firestorm

Since Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s comments on same-sex marriage one week ago, folks on both sides of the debate have been speaking out. Opinion leaders have publicly shown their support for the fast-food chain, like former Arkansas governor and current talk show host Mike Huckabee, who is orchestrating a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. Opinion leaders have publicly denounced the fast-food chain, like the Henson Company, which announced its Muppets characters would no longer be tied to Chick-fil-A promotions. As I wrote last Thursday, choosing a side on a hot-button issue is not going to come without repercussions. From a purely business perspective, the hard-line stance could only harm Chick-fil-A’s bottom line by offending some and turning a trip to the drive-thru into a moral dilemma.

[RELATED: Chick-fil-A on public relations tightrope after latest Cathy same-sex marriage comments]

But in recent days, Chick-fil-A has received some unexpected help in its public relations quagmire from an opposition that has lost its mind and its constitutional principles.

Continue reading “Chick-fil-A, the First Amendment, and the drawing out of a public relations firestorm”

Chick-fil-A on public relations tightrope after latest Cathy same-sex marriage comments

I cut sheets of black paper into indiscernible blobs, taping them on the canvas of an old white t-shirt. It could have passed for a Rorschach Test until I went in search of a bovine mask and a bell to bind around my neck.

I dressed up as a cow last week for a chicken sandwich combo meal. What would you do for free food?

Courtesy Chick-fil-A.

Cow Appreciation Day is just part of Chick-fil-A’s charm. The fast food restaurant feels like anything but. The dining rooms are clean, the service is done with “pleasure,” and chances are, you’re going to get a free taste of something if you stick around long enough.

Of course, if you don’t have a stack of readily available coupons, Chick-fil-A ain’t exactly the value menu. It’s pricey fast food, but its customers gladly pay the premium in exchange for the culture.

The Chick-fil-A culture is closely intertwined with the Christian faith. Its founder, S. Truett Cathy, is a publicly professing Christian and through the success of his restaurant chain began a number of Christian missions under the umbrella of the WinShape Foundation. It’s not uncommon to hear Christian music playing in the restaurants and, perhaps most famously, you can’t go to Chick-fil-A after church – they are closed on Sundays.

It’s something Evangelicals can appreciate – no wonder the chain does so well in the Bible Belt – but the friendly service and philanthropic endeavors are enough to appeal to people of most any ethic. Everybody appreciates an upstanding company with strong ties to community. Christians and non-Christians alike can get behind eating more “chikin.”

But lately, the restaurant chain’s leadership has been vocal about a divisive religious issue with political connotations. Namely, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy has publicly decried same-sex marriage, most recently in a radio interview on the Ken Coleman Show:

I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

Continue reading “Chick-fil-A on public relations tightrope after latest Cathy same-sex marriage comments”

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