Rolling Stone cover of alleged Boston bomber sparks controversy – Framing villains and violence

Social media went nuts Wednesday, when Rolling Stone released its latest issue, the cover featuring alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Rolling Stone Tsarnaev

As the day wore on, major pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid all announced they would not carry the issue. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote a letter to the magazine’s publisher condemning the glorification of terrorists and wondering why first responders and survivors didn’t make the cover.

The cover refers to Tsarnaev as “The Bomber,” though he pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. The photo is from Tsarnaev’s Twitter account, and – let’s face it – could have just as easily been the face of a young pop star gracing the music magazine.

Surely that must be the reason for our collective outrage – Tsarnaev doesn’t look like the bad guy here, though the cover text goes on to say he “fell into radical Islam and became a monster.” But even that phrasing, “fell into,” refers to a narrative that has existed since the day a major American city was completely shut down until Dzhokhar was found bleeding in a boat – he was the sheep that wandered into older brother Tamerlan’s sadistic plans. Dzhokhar was to be admired before his fall. He “became a monster”; we remember his humanity. (Though the article makes it pretty clear “The Bomber” is no hero to be celebrated.)

But Boston remembers humanity as well. The three killed at the marathon; the MIT police officer killed in the lead-up to the massive manhunt; the 280 injured between the two events. In the days following the bombing, newspapers and television newscasts were filled with graphic images of victims clutching soon-to-be-amputated limbs along blood-soaked sidewalks. Seeing one of the two men responsible for that carnage on the cover of a national publication is going to stir some raw emotions.

Except it didn’t in May, just three weeks after the bombing, when the New York Times ran the exact same photograph on their front page to promote a similar profile story.

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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.

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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