Archive for context

It’s All About Context

Posted in current events, pop culture with tags , , , on September 27, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Watching “Morning Joe” this morning on MSNBC, I was once again disappointed with television pundits.

It wasn’t even a major thing. I know every 24-hour news network is going to have some sort of bias to keep viewers, and in order to keep that bias, some context needs to be removed. But when the story is boiled down to sound bites and over-simplification, that’s when it gets extremely disappointing.

The segment of “Morning Joe” in question was when they were discussing Stephen Colbert’s testimony in front of Congress. They did the usual stripping of context, playing only the parts of Colbert’s testimony where he mentions that he would rather have his tomatoes “picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan, and served by a Venezuelan, in a spa, where a Chilean gives me a Brazillian.” And then the discussion stemmed from what is definitely the most unimportant part of Colbert’s testimony.

But what became frustrating was when Mika Brzezinski referenced, and was offended by, her over-simplified back story: Colbert was testifying about a segment that he taped for his Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report.”

Yes, he did immigrant labor work for a segment on his show, but it wasn’t originally meant to be a segment. It was originally Colbert fulfilling his promise to work a day as a migrant worker as part of the UFW’s “Take Our Jobs” campaign, which asks all Americans to spend a day working as a migrant laborer. It is a brilliant idea, since the prevailing mantra among people against illegal immigration is that immigrants are taking jobs away from true Americans. If this was the case, the UFW says, then all unemployed Americans should be jumping at the chance to “take back their jobs” from the illegal immigrants.

And jump they did. The program started this summer, and to date, only 16 people have taken the offer. Not so much of a jump as it is a hop, possibly a skip.

Colbert’s testimony was meant to offer a perspective of what it is to be a migrant worker, the harsh working conditions, the extremely low pay, and the idea that you have absolutely no rights, and may very well work this job for the rest of your life, never really having made a living. And members of Congress were “surprised” that a comedian who riffs on politics for a living would dare to make a mockery of the Grand and Glorious Congress.

But the whole Colbert thing is just a small part of a bigger picture of context. With election season in full swing, political ads are saturating the air waves, especially here in Iowa. Ads put out by Republican and Tea Party committees are urging people to go out and vote to “take back America” from the evil President Obama. One ad states that Obama’s “experimental policies” have failed, because 15 million people are unemployed, the economy is still rough, and thousands of houses will be foreclosed on by the end of the day.

Never mind that the decline started in the Bush administration. Never mind that the rich in Congress, regardless of party, consistently look out for their own best interest, all but ignoring Middle America. It’s easy to look at a small chunk of something out of context and make a big deal about it, but if the “big deal” is blatantly wrong, then the whole idea of informing people with the news is no longer relevant.

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Children’s Bible Misses the Point

Posted in religion with tags , , , , , , , on July 7, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

A couple of weeks ago, I was wandering around a Waldenbooks book store that was in the mall, and for fun, I decided to check out the children’s Bibles. I remember getting one when I was a kid, and I was more enthralled by the drawings of the people and the animals with huge eyes than the actual stories. Really, I was curious as to how simplified the stories would be, and if there was any improvement in the illustrations.

But one of the Bibles I found made my jaw drop. It had all of the traditional stories of the Bible–Creation, Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the Big Fish, Jericho, Birth of Jesus and all of his Miracles–except for one important and crucial story: the Death and Resurrection.

Anyone who has ever been a Christian in their entire lives knows that those two events in the life of Jesus are the whole reason there is such thing as Christianity in the world today. It’s one of those things that can be boiled down to an “If you only learn one thing today” statement: If you only learn one thing, it’s that Jesus died and rose again to save us from our sins.

Simple. Easy. It’s in the Apostle’s Creed even: I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord… was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day, he rose again, and ascended into Heaven.

So why is it missing from this childrens’ Bible?

I’ll admit, sometimes it’s hard to talk about the death of Jesus. We have to deal with it for 40 days of Lent. It’s a tough topic to preach on, and many people have to actually force themselves to go to church during Lent. And I’ll also admit that trying to explain something as complicated as death and resurrection to small children will take a lot of creativity.

But imagine what that kid is going to think the first time he or she hears about the crucifixion of Jesus. He or she will probably turn to the parents and say, “What are they doing to Jesus?”

“Oh, they’re crucifying him. It’s part of the life of Jesus in the Bible.”

“No it isn’t.” And out comes the children’s Bible, which ends with Jesus performing a lot of miracles and living a happy life.

Hopefully this child is taught about the Crucifixion before they see Passion of the Christ for the first time. It could be disastrous going into that blind.

How can such an important aspect of a religion just be left out of a Bible? It’s a question I’ve been tossing around in my head every so often since I saw that Bible. It’s like Scientology without Xenu. It’s like Buddhism without the enlightenment. It’s like Harry Potter without wizardry.

A s’more without chocolate is just a sticky, burnt marshmallow between graham crackers, just like a Bible without Jesus’ death and resurrection is just a story about a nice guy that did a lot of cool things for different people.

When you leave out the most important part of the story, you take out the entire reason the story existed in the first place. For those with or expecting children, check your children’s Bibles. Make sure you’re giving them the full message.