Monday, February 22, 2010

Youth Director

This video inspires me to a series of two word phrases: One shot. Three takes. Holy crap!

Be creative,
Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Friday, February 19, 2010

One Great Hour of Sharing

One Great Hour of Sharing from United Church of Christ on Vimeo.

Share your resources,
change some lives,
be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010


In a previous post I said that the Motion Picture Association of America has " set standards for their ratings, but rather a secret cabal of industry insiders and extremist social conservatives who dole out ratings apparently based on how funny it makes them feel." I also said that this was a rant for another day, and I think maybe that day is today! So let me explain.

I said that the MPAA has no set standards for their ratings because there is way too much wiggle room for subjectivity and outright bias in the way they define their categories. For example, the MPAA says that "...depictions of activities related to a mature theme may result in a restricted rating for the motion picture," but nowhere defines what these "activities" or "themes" may be—leaving the ratings board carte blanche to define them on a case by case basis in secret.

Which brings me to the next point, where I called the ratings board a secret cabal of industry insiders and extremist social conservatives. The secrecy of the board is one of my biggest pet peeves concerning their system. They claim that it is to avoid bowing to outside pressures—which should beg the question of who gets to be on the inside. This is one of the many subjects tackled in the 2006 film This Film Is Not Yet Rated, wherein filmmaker Kirby Dick hires a private investigator to find out who is on the both the ratings board and its board of appeals.

I used the term "industry insiders" because the appeals board (the only recourse a filmmaker has to argue against the rating their film has been given) was found to have The President of Trans-Lux Theaters, a film buyer for The Movie Experience, the chairman and CEO, Metropolitan Theatres, a film buyer for Regal Entertainment, the President of Archangelo Entertainment, the CEO of Fox Searchlight Pictures, the COO of Maya Cinemas, the vice president of sales for Sony Pictures, a vice president and film buyer for Landmark Theatres, the CA/NV chapter president of North American Theatre Owners, the VP of operations, west coast division for Loews Cineplex Theatres, the director of American Film Market—and two clergy, one Methodist minister and one Catholic priest. (What? No UCC? On second thought, that's not so surprising...) So while the MPAA says that "No one is forced to submit a film to the Board for rating..." it does so with the knowledge that the people who buy and distribute the movies to the theaters are sitting on its appeals board.

I used the phrase "extremist social conservatives" based on the differences in ratings and feedback between Hollywood and independent films, between homosexual and heterosexual sexual situations, between male and female sexual depictions, and between violence and sexual content. While this clearly has no baring on the difference between a G and a PG rating, it plays a huge role in the difference between an R and an NC-17. And while the MPAA says that "NC-17 does not mean 'obscene' or 'pornographic' in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense," the truth is that their appeals board—sorry, I mean distributors, you can why I got confused there. The truth is that movies with an NC-17 rating will not get widespread distribution. Which means that the appeals board—sorry, I mean studio executives—won't support them.

Even putting aside the infected, ingrown nature of the ratings board and its board of appeals aside, I think that many parents aren't utilizing the MPAA ratings for their stated purpose any more. Why? Well, at best the MPAA is claiming that that all parents have the same rules concerning the appropriateness of movie elements for all children. Reality is that every parent has different rules—hopefully based on the fact that every child is different! That's why websites like Kids In Mind have come to the forefront. Kids In Mind has detailed synopses of films so parents can make informed decisions concerning the appropriateness of the film for their children.

In case you haven't noticed, I love movies. I really don't want to malign the studios, distributors, and theaters. But in all honesty, until the MPAA improves their entire process for ratings, I'd like to have as little as possible to do with them. If you're a parent, go to Kids In Mind and take the time to make your own informed decisions. If you're an adult, or your parents say it's ok, rent an independent film every once in a while. Maybe if we all do, things will change.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Haiti Aid

Good afternoon everyone! I found out this morning that a blog has gone up chronicling an aid trip to Haiti. One of the members of the group is also a member of the congregation I serve. I've been following along and it has been very down to earth and eye opening all at the same time. Please take a moment to check it out! I've added a link to the blog in my sidebar. It is under the heading "blogs" and is entitled Haiti Marycare.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

PS Yes, I posted twice in a day, so don't miss the post under this one!

Patriarchy Bites

I have often self-identified as a feminist, and in many ways I still am. Somebody recently sent me a video rant from The Nostalgia Chick. I'm not going to embed it because—well, if it were a video game it would probably be rated T (Teen) and if it were a movie probably PG-13—I won't link to the MPAA site because they have no set standards for their ratings, but rather a secret cabal of industry insiders and extremist social conservatives who dole out ratings apparently based on how funny it makes them feel. But that's a different topic for another day. The video I was talking about is entitled The Smurfette Principle and is a comedic feminist treatment of the animated cartoons that I grew up with. And the fact that I saw the funny/hurtful truth in the piece does still put me in the same camp as the feminists, I guess.

But more and more I think that the term doesn't apply quite as well as I thought it did. I first began having these thoughts in seminary, where I was very much in the minority because I was:

(A) Fresh out of college


(B) Male

I have distinct memories of being one of about three men, and the only one of my age, in a class of thirty or forty people. The conversation had turned to patriarchy, and I'd be agreeing with all the things the women around me were saying about the ills of that particular social system. Pretty quickly, however, they would stop saying "patriarchy" and start saying "men." By the end of the class I was slumped down in my chair, hoping that the mob wouldn't notice that fact that I have a Y Chromosome. I regained some of my courage after getting through the cafeteria line and sitting down at a table to discover that the women from my class seemed to have stopped resembling a mob. So I asked them if they had realized that they had taken their language concerning men to a place that closely resembled what patriarchy does to women? And I was basically dismissed, "Oh, we didn't mean you, Josh. You're one of the good men!"


I hope that what she meant was that I'm a man who isn't afraid to point out that patriarchy bites—for both genders. And I've been seeing a ton of stuff floating around the intertubes lately that have to do with how the patriarchal paradigm is hurting men!

For example, I ran across this story about a gentleman on his first day of working retail. He is given several packages of little girls' underwear to shelve, and he's wandering the store to figure out where they go. The funny part is supposed to be when the customer accosts him and accuses him of being a pervert. First of all, do you think it would have happened that way if he'd been female? Secondly, did you know that there are female pedophiles? It's not a male-only sickness.

Let me give you another example, one that doesn't bring pedophilia into it. Let's look at Benjamin Amos, who worked as a shift manager in a Starbucks in Sherman, Texas for seven years—until he was asked to resign because "the regional and district managers didn't like the tattoos" Benjamin had from the day he was first hired. When he refused to resign, he was summarily fired. So far the story is sketchy but possibly legal. The real kicker, however, is "the female employees in the store who have tattoos yet still kept their jobs." The only explanation? "...male tattoos are typically considered to be more threatening and aggressive than female tattoos -- which are considered more decorative and, if that's your sort of thing, sensual." Pure gender discrimination based on the patriarchal concept of all men as rough, tough, and dangerous and of women as fragile objects of desire who are to be put up on a pedestal and gazed upon.

And then... let's go back to this.

I'm usually one who defends comedy as—at times—necessarily inappropriate. If this skit was intended to be a comedic way to bring domestic violence into the spotlight, then it has failed. And the people who cried out against it also failed. It was a good thing to point out that Rihanna was a victim of domestic violence and that it wasn't cool to do a joke about domestic violence while she was a guest on the show. But it was a tactical error, in that the Rihanna piece completely overshadowed the rest of the argument; if the gender roles had been reversed, absolutely no one would have been laughing. Whether or not Rihanna had seen the skit before it went on air is not the question. The question is, what does the skit say to the male victims of domestic violence watching the show?

As I was writing that last sentence, I went to reach for a statistic... but I don't know how many male victims of domestic violence there were in the United States when that skit aired. And the reason for that is the patriarchal paradigm. According to a recent article:
...more than 200 survey-based studies show that domestic violence is just as likely to strike men as women. In fact, the overwhelming mass of evidence indicates that half of all domestic violence cases involve an exchange of blows and the remaining 50% is evenly split between men and women who are brutalized by their partners.
But the patriarchal paradigm says that you're no longer a man if you get beat up by a woman, so the above fact is largely ignored. And I don't just mean by people watching Saturday Night Live. The Department of Justice has historically refused to fund studies to research domestic violence against men. The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women is the only national toll-free hot line that specializes in helping male victims of domestic violence. And yes, they are getting calls concerning male victims—try 80% of all their calls.

But the most frightening thing is that the law is categorically not on the side of male domestic abuse victims. Because women can use the law to continue the abuse. 85% of the two million temporary restraining orders that are issued per year are made against men. Why 85% when 200 studies show that men are just as likely to be abused? But the nail in the coffin is this: A man who calls the police to report domestic violence is three times more likely to be arrested than the woman who is abusing him. How about that for a bad day? What other crime can you name where if you report it, the police are three times more likely to arrest the victim?

And why does this continue? How does this continue?
A recent 32-nation study revealed that more than 51% of men and 52% of women felt that there were times when it was appropriate for a wife to slap her husband. By comparison, only 26% of men and 21% of women felt that there were times when it was appropriate for a husband to slap his wife. Murray Straus, creator of the Conflict Tactics Scale and one of the authors of the study, explained this discrepancy: "We don't perceive men as victims. We see women as being more vulnerable than men."

That's the patriarchal paradigm at work. Call me a feminist if you have to, but there has to be some other word for what I'm actually saying... we need gender equality now.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Monday, February 08, 2010

Happy Birthday Boy Scouts!

It's Monday, February 8th, 2010, and the Boy Scouts of America is officially 100 years old! I somehow almost missed this, even though I had a really interesting conversation about the BSA with an old, old friend last summer. Well, let me back up a step or three...

I'm not going to name him here, unless he gives me permission later to do so—I wasn't able to ask him about this entry at the time of its writing. For now, let's just say that I've known him since he and his family moved to my hometown when we were both in 3rd Grade. For those of you who are counting, I'm pretty sure that I'm in 26th Grade now. In any case, he and I have a lot of birthday parties, school projects, youth group meetings, movies, sleep-overs, and your basic running around in the woods and having fun under our belts together.

And Scout meetings. We were Cub Scouts together for years, and we transitioned into Boy Scouts together, too. Once in Boy Scouts we took different paths, though. I kind of petered out. I don't know if I just wasn't able to incorporate myself into the existing group of older boys, or if I randomly lost interest, or if I was just that disappointed that growing up meant leaving behind the Pinewood Derby. My friend, however, went on to become an Eagle Scout!!

So, if we took such divergent paths concerning Boy Scouts, why were talking about it over fish 'n' chips at the Sea Swirl? I'm glad you asked! We were at the Sea Swirl because it's nearby our hometown and he was there to visit his folks—I was home because I was unemployed! Boy Scouts came up because I was telling him about someone close to me who had just come out of the closet. I think he could tell that I was a little nervous telling him about it, because I was clearly fine with my LGBT brothers and sisters—and I didn't really know where he currently stood on the subject. He immediately put my fears to rest when he confided that he had gay friends and that he was perfectly ok with it all, too. And that's when he brought up the Boy Scouts.

My friend told me that he'd been thinking a lot about them, how much he had gotten out of being a Scout and how he would like to give back to them as an adult leader. He told me that the reason he hadn't been volunteering with the Scouts was that he disagreed with their policy on homosexuals. For those of you who have missed the whole controversy, the BSA officially does not allow "avowed homosexuals" to acquire or maintain leadership roles or even membership in the Scouts.

I could see that my friend felt strongly about the good things that the BSA does for boys and young men in general, and had done for my friend personally. I could also see that he felt strongly about the social justice issues surrounding their leadership and membership policy. Legally, the BSA are a private organization, so unless they're getting funding from the government, they can be as discriminatory in their leadership and membership policy as they like. Perhaps the greater issue for the Boy Scouts is the possibility of losing the support of people like my friend—an Eagle Scout who loves the BSA in all other respects.

For what it's worth, seeing how strongly he felt about both things, I suggested to my friend that the time may have come for him to become involved with the Scouts again—and that if he feels that strongly about the one policy, that maybe he could affect change from within.

I hope that if I've made no other point here today, that it is this: I think the Boy Scouts of America is a good thing—but they could be a great thing. I hope it doesn't take another 100 years to get there.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh