Current Events

Mic Check

It is award season again and we all know what that means. Celebrities will be thanking their moms and God and using their moment to shine a light on a cause. Do you recall the 2015 Oscars? There was no shortage of heartfelt speeches, urging us to join together for the sick, hungry, or forgotten.

Last night I watched the Golden Globes which, let’s be honest, consists mostly of observing people eat, drink, and squeeze their way through a room filled with a few too many tables. The dresses sparkled, the tuxes were perfectly tailored, and soon the guests were lit right along with the political fuse.

It is no secret which way the Hollywood community leans. There was no shortage of jokes at the expense of the President-Elect. Hugh Laurie -later unnecessarily explained by Meryl Streep-  joked that the room was full of republican enemies. Hollywood. Foreign. Press. Surely we can all admit that we found that at least a tad humorous.

But here lies the question. Should celebrities use their platform to take a political stand? Unofficial research (a glance through my Facebook feed) would suggest that as the general public, we don’t agree on this topic. No surprise there.

Many people, including Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg, say celebrities should stay out of it.  And, as this article would suggest, many people wish that Meryl Streep would have simply accepted her award, reflected on her career, and not gone over her three minutes. These individuals have offered important arguments for us to consider and yet, I cannot help but wonder…

Most of us have been taught to use our influence to stand up for what is right. We teach our children to do the same. Whatever platform you have been given, use it. Be a voice for good. You have been handed a microphone which broadcasts your voice to the edges of a certain audience, so speak up. Football captain? Speak up. Pastor? Speak up. Business leader? Office assistant? Mom? Quiet kid with a small group of friends? Speak up. You influence someone so make sure your influence is positive.

For a bit of history, Pope Pius XII caught a lot of flack for not speaking out more directly about the Holocaust. (Read more on that here.) Why  would people expect him to speak out? He’s not a politician. He’s not going to decide who goes to war and who stays home. And yet, as a religious leader he had influence, so people, churched and unchurched, expected him to use his platform to speak up.

Why, then, do so many of us believe that celebrities should check their mics at the door?

Because we are a deeply complicated people. If you knew that a celebrity felt strongly about something that you cared about, you would likely be very confused and perhaps even disgusted if they chose to remain silent. This observation comes from noticing again and again when friends repost interviews and quotes from celebrities (or celebrity pastors), praising their bravery to speak up for what is right. I’ve also noticed that we quickly change our minds when a celebrity speaks up for something with which we disagree.

It comes down to this: We want to hear our own voices reflected back to us. We celebrate when people speak up for our causes. We vilify when they speak up against them.

Sure, I’d much rather be entertained than challenged, but no one would ever grow that way. Then again, art in itself can be the challenger, so should Hollywood stick to using their voices through film and music? How do we decide where the boundaries lie? I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong for celebrities to be so vocal about politics. I do know that as a community of humans, we are utterly contradictory. People on every side contradict themselves. There has been plenty of evidence throughout the last year. So, maybe it isn’t only celebrities that are at fault. Certainly, we are collectively better when we each use wisdom when it comes to the microphones we carry. There is a time to speak up and a time to check the mic at the door for each of us: for celebrities, for you and me, and even for the President himself.

Justin and Jesus

Dear Justin,

Recently, you stated your love for Jesus in the most gentle way. In my opinion, you came across as a man sure yet struggling with his faith. And that is the most honest statement of faith I know. It is us all. “I believe, help my unbelief.” I don’t know you, not the real you. I only know the media-version of you, and honestly, I didn’t follow your story very closely so I only know bits and pieces of that Justin as well. That being said, it might seem strange when I say, “I am proud of you.” I am. I am proud of you for handing your days back over to Christ and doing the hard work of letting Him shape you. It isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t comfortable. So I am proud of you.

I am also nervous for you. The reality is, you are under the microscope of fame, and the world will not deal kindly with you. There will be those who pick apart your story for the rest of your life. There will be those, that when you fail, which you will as we all do at times, will throw your Jesus-loving-words back in your face. You have said that you are not going to hold in your faith any longer. You are ready to speak what you believe. There are those who will want you to be quiet.

But, it won’t just be “the world” that rips you to shreds. Unfortunately, many christians will as well. You have a past ridden with mistakes. And despite the fact that each of us has our own past, there will be those who will question your love for Jesus. They will scoff at the idea that you would have the audacity to claim to be one of them. They will roll their eyes at your humble words of faith because they are certain you are working the system for publicity’s sake. And Justin, you also have a future in which you will make mistakes. And despite the fact that we all make mistakes nearly daily, there will be christians who do not hesitate to drag you out of the city gates and stone you.

For that, I am so sorry. As a whole, well, perhaps more so the media-version of the church, has never been good at letting Christ on the cross take on the sins of those in the public eye. But it really isn’t up to us.

Justin, it is true that there will be many hard things, unjust scrutiny, perhaps strained relationships, because of your desire to love Jesus and live as He did. But, for as many christians who will throw stones, there will be many more who will cheer you on in your journey. There will be those who will weep with you in your moments of weakness and celebrate with you when the victory of Jesus is evident in your life. There will be those, who though they don’t understand your life or even your approach to faith, will listen and try to hear your heart beyond the noise of the media.

And Justin, you are right in saying that going to church doesn’t make one a christian any more than going to Taco Bell makes one a taco. But I encourage you to find a church. Churches are full of broken people and so churches are messy. But just as you shared about relationships, “Love is a choice, not a feeling.” It is the same with The Church. We are a mess, at times we are arrogant and stubborn and cruel. But there are many times we are compassionate, sacrificial, filled with grace. It is difficult to love The Church, to love a church. I will be the first to raise my hand on that one. I have had many days in this life where I have wanted to be done with Her. But Jesus loves Her. So, while going to church isn’t what makes you a Christian, a life lived for Jesus is much fuller when lived in community with a church.

Justin, this faith-place you have come to. It is good. I believe your words. I hear an honest love and honest struggle in your sharing. Faith is a quest. It is a long road. Keep walking, resting, and leaning on Jesus. He will sustain you.

A fellow-struggler,


Break the Circle

I cried myself to sleep this weekend. Nothing was wrong, at least not in my little world. In fact, aside from a few inconveniences, a couple of bad habits that I can’t seem to shake, I am loving my life. I wasn’t crying for me.

The fourth Planned Parenthood video was released. I had previously watched the others, and the callousness of the conversations bothered me. But this one, it broke me. Everything in me wanted to look away, to just navigate my way back to buzzfeed or some other mindless time-suck. Instead, I made myself watch. I forced myself to pay attention while a baby lay pulled to pieces in a dish.

I thought about the pain that baby must of felt as it was dying. I thought of the hardness of a heart that can do that job day in and day out and not feel the weight of it. I thought of how broken our world is that little image-bearers get ripped to shreds and then sold piece by piece in the name of “research”.

And then, I thought of the mother. The kidneys that the lab technician was prodding, the tiny, newly formed eyes being rolled about in a dish, belong to a child…a child who has a mother. A mother who was so terrified, or so hardened by pain and anger that she chose this for her child.

I began to wonder, “How are these mothers feeling as they see these videos?” What would it do to a woman to hear her aborted child being sold to the highest bidder piecemeal? I’m sure there are those who are still convinced they made the right choice. But, I would imagine there are many who have already tried to put behind them the guilt of choosing abortion. And I would imagine that these videos, this national conversation, feels like torture.

And here we are, all huddled up, praying that the government would defund Planned Parenthood. It’s not a wrong prayer. But if we are so busy circling up to pray that we are blind and deaf to the ones around us drowning in sorrow, screaming for relief, that is wrong.  Perhaps, just as there is a time to pray, there is also a time to shut our mouths and listen, a time to lift our heads and open our eyes and see the masses shrinking away in shame. See the woman who can’t seem to figure out how to love her three year old because she regrets the choice she made for her baby who would now be eight. Hear the muffled weeping of the teenage girl who wanted to keep her child but chose to listen to the ones who promised this would be better, that she wouldn’t want the burden of a child to steal her life.

Yes, we are busy praying that the government would make better choices. You see, much of the problem is that we want it to all rest on the government. Either we think the government can solve everything or we think the government ruined everything. Neither is true. As Christians, we are known mostly for what we are against and we want the government to side with us. (A non-Christian government regardless of how we would like to claim that this is a Christian nation.) So the fact remains that abortion is legal. Planned Parenthood is funded by our taxes. We have to make choices in that reality. Most of us will choose to fight it in some way. But the question remains what will that way be?

Prayer is important. But, so is compassion. Do you know what compassion means? “To suffer together.” In other words, to not excuse ourselves from someone else’s mess. I wonder what would happen if, instead of screaming at women who choose abortion, we were there when grief strikes them? What if, instead of trying to condemn them for considering that path, we offer to help them walk through the pregnancy and help them find a way to navigate parenthood or find an adoptive family? What if we stop viewing adoption as plan b, stopped spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on forcing our bodies to have babies when they won’t and instead spent that money giving a home to an orphan?

It is hard to step into the mess around us. Much harder than just blaming the government or hoping laws will make it all better. But the government didn’t break mankind and they won’t fix mankind. The fault is on everyone who has ever sinned…so me and you. And the solution, I believe, is Jesus, His death and resurrection…and the power that He gave to the Church to carry out His Kingdom which I imagine looks very different than what I see happening in our culture wars today. It’s time for us to pray with our eyes open, watching for those who might need someone to roll up their sleeves and step into the junk with them. Break the prayer circle. Our hands are needed for holding frightened teenagers, squeezing the hand of a woman in the labor of choosing life, opening metaphorical and literal doors, building metaphorical and literal homes. Pray continually, but not at the expense of compassion.

If you have made choices in your past that have been stirred up the recent videos, know that you are loved. There is forgiveness available. There is hope. There are churches, though sadly not all of them, that will welcome you, bandage your wounded heart, and walk with you through healing. There is a Father who knows your pain, knows your shame, and loves you in all of it.

(All that said, given the horrendous things we know about PP, I would love for that government funding to go toward making adoption more affordable. That seems like a better use of government funds and a more agreeable cause than where it is currently going.)