25 April 2013

Some thoughts on news coverage, the state of knowledge and media within the Christian Church, and the future of this website

We live in a world of media chaos. We are assaulted by more information than we can possibly take in, assimilate or interpret. I am almost filled with despair when I interact with Christians or when I look at Christian media or the 'conservative' alternatives Christians look to for information.

What's happening is nothing less than criminal. So-called Christian news outlets and leaders are promoting the most biased half-truths and often outright lies. They accuse the mainstream media of spinning the news and yet they are guilty of it tenfold.

Now with email updates and all the other mechanisms Christians are further assaulted by direct and tailored contact often promoting misinformation.

The mainstream media outlets are pro-Establishment. They always have been. There are nuances to this. You can talk about the Vietnam and Watergate era, but largely the media is driven by commercial and corporate interests. Only in the face of overwhelming public action will they shift their focus, which again demonstrates a commercial rather than ideological motivation. Their default is to protect the Establishment regime which is something far bigger than a political administration. They protect the cultural modus vivendi, the way of life, values, and all the assumptions that go with it. The main networks have worked as social caretakers or custodians. Today it's changing. There's greater social polarity but for all that in the end FOX and NBC are not that different. To get into issues you have to turn to more independent and international media. As Christians if we're going to interact with the news, then we better have our eyes open. Most of us aren't going to have the time or the ability to dissect things and we're going to have to trust people at some point.

My counsel is...don't. Not even me. Multiple sources is the best safeguard and that's just as true with history...the news that has stood the test of time and is old enough to be interpreted in a more thorough and comprehensive manner. I can't do the work for you, but I can help. I can help people to think through certain issues, in some cases understand them better, or at the very least I can point the way, even if you're just after a small diet of information.

Christians are upset about some of the things reported in the media, the choice of stories, the choice of human interest pieces. Again, this is motivated largely by commercial interests which will always tend to the sensational. I can't even stomach most American news. It's all entertainment oriented and they focus so much on how people 'feel' about things. It's sappy and largely a waste of time.

The Christian media is even worse but also disseminates disinformation. A classic example of this can be seen with the Christian information and commentary surrounding the Romeike family from Germany.

Germany outlaws homeschooling and they fled here and a court granted them asylum. This is all under review and the Attorney General startled Christians a little while back by suggesting that Homeschooling isn't a universal right.

Alarm bells went off, a flood of emails entered my inbox...look out Obama is coming after homeschooling families. The Nazis outlawed homeschooling. And then in a syllogism worthy of Glenn Beck....therefore Obama is Hitler.

Now I feel bad for the Romeike family and I deplore the German government and not a few elements of German culture that generates this kind of conformity. This is part of their heritage. It contributed to the Third Reich's ability to take over and now their using the same mentality to keep it from rising again. The German government is paranoid regarding both Neo-Nazi groups which have a strong following especially in the disaffected areas formerly part of East Germany. And they like most Western European governments are afraid of Islamic subcultures developing in their midst. They with most modern states believe public schooling to be an essential component of integration and eventual assimilation.

As a homeschooler I disagree with this stated goal though I understand why governments do it and the fear that pushes most societies to accept it. I dislike the public school system in this country and have very little respect for it but unlike many homeschoolers I believe it to be necessary. On the one hand its current collapse has weakened the hand of the authorities and strengthened the hand of homeschoolers, but on the other hand the collapse of education is a bad thing for society at large. I don't think in terms of a Christian society so that allows me to say...let the pagans have their schools, just leave us alone.

Not an easy balance.

What the Christian media has failed to report is that Eric Holder's statement does not imply persecution or a policy shift to go after homeschoolers. Their interpretation is irresponsible and deeply flawed. For these Christians this is ultimately a theological issue. It is theology that drives them to politicise the Gospel. Politics is a power game and has no interest in truth. Let me emphasize that....politics has zero interest in truth.

What a nice game for Christians to get involved in.

So why did Holder say that?

If the United States declares homeschooling to be a universal human right, something worthy of asylum...then watch out. The floodgates will open. Families from all around the world will suddenly be 'homeschoolers' fleeing their governments and seeking asylum in the United States. International courts will have to set up boards of inquiry and there will be pressures put on organizations like the IMF and World Bank to tie in homeschooling rights with loans and policy shaping. Such a policy would create international instability.

In our own country the courts will be overrun by litigation as every state law is challenged. At present the issue has been left up to the states. Shifting the argument to the 'universal' realm brings in the Federal government and if a human rights issue it falls in the realm of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. It opens the floodgates.

I'm sure there are those in the government who would like to see homeschooling eliminated but at this point there's not a whole lot they can do. The public school system is imploding and an utter failure. Generally speaking homeschooled children are flourishing and academically superior to public schooled children.

The issue could be tackled in terms of religious freedom. That's the angle if someone wants to pursue it, but that too has failed because there's no consensus in the American Church. The Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination have tried to put forward statements encouraging the members to home school. And they fail. Why? Because thousands upon thousands of SBC members are teachers, principals, and superintendents in the public school system.

Without consensus there's no unified ideological basis to argue the position. Homeschoolers are out of the mainstream and would have more Christians arguing against them than for them. It would split denominations and congregations, because if a denomination is going to draw a line in the sand, what happens when members and officers don't agree? If the Church isn't willing to make it an issue of orthodoxy (which it's not) then it's hardly a universal right in the civil sphere.

And to declare it a universal right would cause more problems than it would solve. As usual the issue is a bit more complicated than the Christian media would like to report. And frankly the 'spin' critique often amounts to selfish desire. They want the news reported the way they want it and to only focus on the issues they want.

That's not the spirit of truth and on practical level it's pretty immature and irresponsible. These are the leaders of the American Christian community...all too often a cadre of pampered self-serving and spoiled brats who have attained their position unworthily and are a sign of judgment from God.

Now on this particular issue I've rambled a bit beyond the topic, but this is an example of what I'm talking about. My hope for this project is at some point to not only write the essays I currently produce, but to generate shorter, more accessible, streamlined versions dealing with these topics. I want to establish a parallel site or sites that deal with specific news issues and cover them with some actual informed and Christian commentary. The audience won't be large, but I think there are some segments of the Christian community in the United States and outside of it that would be interested in this. I think podcasts or YouTube videos could be put together.

I guess this issue stirs me once again to think in terms of a bigger picture, establishing something of a resistance to the mainstream, the mainstream Christian Church that is. I know there are people on the Christian Left and people within the Emergent movement that levy some of these critiques against the mainstream Evangelical community. But I think all too often their solutions are no solutions. In some cases there aren't any and I'm not afraid to point that out. In some cases their solutions only obfuscate and cloud the issues to a greater degree.

I'm not out to make money, but I do have to make something in order to survive. The only way I can get this to happen is to promote this site or ultimately sites, bring more people into the circle. My overhead can be so low in comparison to 99% of the so-called ministries out there. And that's true even if I bring others on board, which I would be keen to do.

If you have any interest in this, if you think these commentaries and analysis are needed then I ask for your help. That help can even come in just simply trying to steer people here. I ask for comments. Comment here or email me at protoprotestant@gmail.com

I don't want to change the essence of what I'm doing but I do want to expand it and make it more accessible. Are some of these issues simply too tough for people? Is our society that far gone that people can't grasp ideas, can't follow an argument, don't know enough history or geography. Is it just too much?

I'm in the process of writing several pieces dealing with geo-politics, economics and what I can only call Pilgrim ethics and theology. I want to spend so much time on this stuff but at present I'm tied up with the most time consuming series of jobs I've ever had. I am heartbroken over the time it's eating up. I feel like I'm wasting time and want so badly to turn my energies to this work...which next to my family is the most important thing to me.

I can try to put these ideas into book form (thus possibly generating some sales) but it takes time and crafting to do this. If I had the time I'd do it, and yet I don't think the books would really sell very well. It would give people something more accessible but in reality at this point any such books would probably end up only available in either an e-format for a reader or a self-published (print on demand) type situation which means...they would be expensive. I doubt people will want to pay $20 for a cheap paperback of my writings.

Ultimately as I've expressed before my hope would be that enough people would be on board with what I'm doing that everyone sending in $20 or $50 a month or something would support me and this work. Right now the numbers just aren't there. My expenses and overhead are low, and if I can find the way to do it I could make them even lower and literally live on less than $1000 a month.

Am I trying to be a freeloader? Anyone who has visited this site knows how much I produce and when I have more time (as some months demonstrate) I can produce volumes. Granted a lot of it is long-winded and verbose. Crafting takes time. Typing at high speed takes time but I can put stuff out at a fast pace. But even that takes a lot of time and there are many nights I'm up at 2am or am getting up at 5am. I'm not looking for money to sit around and be lazy. This is my work and I give myself to it and happily. I have to live but I'm not trying to 'get ahead'. Frankly I'm uncomfortable taking money for any of it, but if I'm going to do it, I have to.

What I'm trying to do isn't unprecedented. There are others who 'get by' this way. Some have faded, having lost their support or moved on due to financial needs or changing circumstances. I'm not looking to build up some kind of business or big 'ministry'.

I'm looking to reach people on the Evangelical fringe, people from perhaps the Church of Christ and maybe others from more Anabaptist persuasions.

Please send me emails with opinions, suggestions, proposals, or whatever. I am restless. I feel like I'm wasting time. I could work through official channels and maybe five or six years from now end up teaching at a school or writing for some kind of journal... and place a different kind of shackles on my time and freedom. Anyone who has any ideas about websites I should try to contact, foundations or organizations that might be interested in my work, anything like that, I would appreciate it. Do I need to get the site on Facebook? Is it worth the headache?

If this all falls apart, I will probably look seriously at returning to school and pursuing the necessary certifications in order to teach or write in an official capacity. But if that's the case, that would effectively end this website. I won't have the time available to me while shuttling between school and work.

At present based on the statistics available to me, there's a pretty good stream of new traffic to the site but I think only a small number stick with it. Either it wasn't what they were looking for or they are offended by what they read. Since I write about a lot of different things, Google and other search engines will pick up on articles I write. Someone might go looking for something on the Byzantine Empire, find my site and it's not what they were looking for. We've all done that.

Aside from getting 'linked' somewhere, I don't know what to do other than get out on the web and spend some time going to sites, leaving comments, jumping into discussions and then people (when interested) will make their way back here.

I groan under the weight of this burden. I am at something of a turning point. I either need to re-tool my life and engage myself to a greater degree in my work, expand the nature and most likely the size of my business and with it my time obligations, or I need to extricate myself from this work and give myself fully to this writing/teaching task. Trying to do both is wiping me out.

One of the points I hope to make in some upcoming articles is that in order to survive in so many fields of work you have to literally sell yourself to it. You have to eat, breathe and sleep the job. I believe this is wrong and an unacceptable way for a Christian to live.

There are some people who don't have to do this. For some they punch a clock but now have to go to another job in order to make ends meet and even then they don't really. I know numerous people who basically work two low wage part-time jobs but as a result end up working seven days a week. That's wrong, not just socially...but ethically. Theologically. And I'm not talking about Sabbath keeping or anything like that.

There are some who make enough that they can afford not to excel and can to some degree leave their work at work. They are blessed.

Others (like me) due to my circumstances have a very limited range of employment options wherein I can make enough to support my family. I'm in one of them but even in a small town, if you're going to follow the law which most of your competitors are not, you have to live your job.

So I either have to do it and jump in and fully engage and engross myself in the work or I need to find something else. In the case of what I do, if I don't obsess, if I don't think about my work in the shower, in the middle of the night, virtually all the time, I will make mistakes and I can't afford to do that. Literally. I could easily spend a couple of hours every night reading up on something, researching an issue or working on some aspect of the project. I went into business for myself in order to be free, but that doesn't feel like freedom.

One way or another I must change. I either need to pick up the tempo and retool what I'm doing here to generate more interest and traffic and sorry to say it...revenue. Or...I need to back off, engage myself in my work which practically speaking means there won't be much happening here. That's been the reality for the past several months.

In aggravation and to alleviate some stress I've literally taken a couple of days of work. At this point if I get fired, I really don't care. People will work you to death if you let them. And if that means I can't function in their world...then good riddance. I'm not trying to be the top guy. You literally cannot unless you're dishonest. And even if you're technically conforming to the law, you're violating Christian ethics. It's not an option and I hope to discuss that in these other posts.

I'm just trying to get by and I can do it but it's miserable, enslaving and often pushing the boundaries of ethics. I'll talk more about that in the upcoming pieces. But for someone uneducated as I am I don't have a lot of options for work that allows me to make more than a low wage which I cannot live on with a wife and four children.

Something has to give. While I 'feel' it to be waste, it may be that I have to apply myself 110% to the construction work I'm involved in. I would rather give 125% to helping people to understand the Kingdom as it relates to the world. In the end I guess like everyone else, I'll do what I have to do.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.




Anonymous said...

I don't know what to tell you. I'm sure there are some people, probably a small group that really appreciate your work here.

Honestly it's way too out there for some people. Probably a little wacky to some, for others just too hard. Not for me. I get what you're trying to say and appreciate the fact you try to be fair. Things are bad, and you're being very candid about it.

When you write about a wide range of topics you're bound to step on somebodys toes which means they will be less likely to support you.

They will be interested, continuinng to read and think, but support? Doubt it.

Try putting some of your stuff in ebook format. You might be surprised. I like to read on a Kindle better than on a computer screen.

Your road, our road(for I'm with you on most of this) is pretty lonely.

And you're not really clear. In your (support) page you're kind of saying don't bother sending money because you're making plenty right now. Do you want support or are you just putting the feelers out?

Keep up the good work even if it has to be less frequent. Everyone understands that. Like you've said over and over, we're not going to win as our culture defines winning. Power grabbers will always win the day and that's true in the Church too.

Steve said...

When I read this post I immediately thought about Albert J Nock's essay "Isaiah's Job". I hope you find it encouraging if you haven't read it already.

I agree with Owen on the ebook format. I'm sure you have enough content to compile into a traditional book. Then again, I always thought that I might see you become a columnist at LewRockwell.com.

If I have any further ideas I'll let you know.

BTW - I'm working through your posts on Restorationism and wondered if you ever read David Lipscomb's "On Civil Government"?

Protoprotestant said...

That's an excellent essay and I profoundly thank you for sharing it with me.

You are most correct to assume that would resonate with me.

While I'm very concious of the fact that I'm not Isaiah I do believe what I'm trying to is similar though certainly uninspired.

And I hope through my groanings that I'm communication something of a spirit of submission to the fact that it will always be a tiny remnant that will hear me.

There are serious temptations for anyone to compromise in order to make a buck or a name for themself.

I hope thats not what I'm communicating! If so then I've failed miserably!

No way will I compromise the message. I just think there are probably more people out there who would be interested but the essay is correct to point out that...if it's meant to be, they'll find me.

I am content.

As far as volume, it's been awhile since I tried to tally things up and assess everything but there are easily a couple of thousand pages of material here. That doesn't mean it's all of the same value but I suppose I could try at some point to take out topical selections or something and put them together.

I greatly appreciate Rockwell's site...in part. I frequent it and his podcasts. When it comes to revisionist history, the American Empire, a lot of material along those lines I'm in agreement and find the perspective refreshing.

Economics...yes and no. Thus far a lot of readers will probably peg me as a quasi-socialist. I'm not done yet with my economics discussions. Not even close. In the end, I hope to make it clear that I'm not a socialist but some of aspects of it may be necessary just to keep things from collapsing. There are anthropological problems with the Ron Paul position. I'm speaking of man in a state of sin. Nevertheless I greatly appreciate a Localism that has little use for what we conventionally know as the state.

But I do think it's pie-in-the-sky utopian dream stuff. There's no way in this world (and with this population of 7 billion) that we can ever revert to that arrangement.

Yes I do want to write 8 hours day and read another 4 of them, but if it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. Praise the Lord.

There are more people reading this blog than I ever would have dreamed. That's exciting enough. Maybe someday the numbers will be there, something more can come of this. But not yet. The numbers just aren't there. Thanks for the comments, and the emails I received. It's helpful to know where things stand.

I don't want to sell out, I just want to know if there's something more I should be doing. Something a computer-tech neanderthal like me is missing.

I will see if I can track down the Lipscomb piece.

I appreciate the recommendation.

eliyahu said...

Bro, I have been enjoying your very refreshing commentary on the church for many months now and am continuing to. So let me say, sharing the truth of God's Word with the proof of our lives in deed and truth is actually every believer's responsibility. How and when, perhaps God will give you to recognize opportunities; but it must and will be done.
I'd like to hear you share the insights I've been hearing on you tube and other social media for sure; but a wise man's words are few-for a reason. One such wise man shared with me that he got into much trouble with The Lord by immediately sharing whatever the Lord taught him; he learned he should be going out and doing it himself first as the husbandman that labors must first be partaker of the fruits. One thing you can focus on is being a doer of the word-and the people and opportunities to minister these many important truths will present themselves to you.

I intend, God willing, to keep reading your site-or sites- because it's given me quite a bit to do; as well as think about.

The Lord be with you brother:


Anonymous said...

Proto, your site and your writings are hugely important.

Would you ever consider relocating, perhaps a bit more west? I'm praying some ideas on the back burner...

Protoprotestant said...

Thanks Eliyahu. Point taken. Though I often do wish I was doing something else, I realize that in the end I'm exactly where God wants me to be. The question is, what do I do with it?

Learn and seek to function as a Christian in whatever venue I'm placed. And thus I will glorify God which is my desire, or it ought to be.

I'm so thankful for the past 8mos. or so. I will be even more thankful when I'm out of this situation and have more time. I've been blessed and yet also exasperated. Nevertheless I have learned a great many things about business, law, government, the motivations of people and the nature of our financial system. It's been tremendous.

Soon I will wash my hands of it and move on. And God willing I won't get myself into a situation like this again.

It was the same with my days in legions. Much to repent of in terms of what I was a part of and yet it was highly formative. For some reason I was meant to be there and so I repent, move on and learn and grow.

Protoprotestant said...

Thanks Victoria. Well I'm always open to ideas.