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Archive for the ‘Monoculture’ Category

14898992-happy-young-businessman-talking-on-the-mobile-phoneAs churches, missionaries, and Christians around the world consider the trend of Monoculture, their challenge is to adapt ministry and outreach efforts for new realities.  Society’s macro trends can be sudden, or they can be a long time in the making. Pornography is one of those deeply entrenched and old problems, but today porn’s corrosive and toxic reach is dramatically expanding.  Christians are by no means immune.

Pornography is widely accessible, with nearly 90% of pornography accessed online for free.  One writer, describing the problem of children’s access to pornography, said that teens today carry free, miniature X-rated movie theaters (on their cell phones).   Twelve percent of all internet searches are for pornography… and on mobile devices, 20% of searches are for porn.

Implications for society are profound. An article in First Things magazine noted that pornography is a $10 billion industry in the US.  Pornography use is a factor in 56% of divorce cases, and is correlated with sexual assault, according to a University of Pennsylvania School of Psychiatry study:  “All types of pornography (soft core, hard core, violent, and rape) are correlated with using verbal coercion, drugs and alcohol to sexually coerce women.”

The First Things article concludes by noting that, “Lust begins with loneliness- with the pervasive detachment which has become a hallmark of modernity.” Conversely, Christian community is the context “in which the virtues of modesty, temperance, and chastity can be proposed and modeled with credibility.”  Loneliness in young men and women leads them to search for solace, and the siren song of pornographic images beckons them with a fantasy of deep human connection.  Families must be more intentional than ever about providing the security, engagement, and affirmation.  Churches must offer what they alone can provide: “the freedom of fraternity, accountability, and community that abides in the body of Christ.”

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Meeting Force With Force

Over a half century ago, Oxford professor C.S. Lewis voiced concerns about pornography: “We have engineered a great increase in … the apparent nude (not the real nude) … It is all a fake, of course… to make them appear firmer and more slender than nature allows a full-grown woman to be.” He had no idea: the problem is infinitely more widespread and pervasive today than Lewis could have ever imagined!

 

As described in The Meeting of the Waters, Monoculture is at work when values, appetites, and behaviors spread around the world, often driven by global marketing and business practices.  The best example of Monoculture around the world today may be the sexualization of our societies. Sexual content is spread by media in developed and undeveloped countries, in cities and villages, in  western nations and in closed Islamic nations, in totalitarian states and democracies, in book form and on the internet.   Modern advertising, entertainment, and sports reek of sex.

 

In his BreakPoint column, excellent social commentator Eric Metaxas cites how pornography is devastating the next generation’s sexuality, both because it’s addictive and also wildly inaccurate.  University of Texas Professor Mark Regnerus writes about “sexual economics,” where the availability of “fake women who look perfect and are interested only in sex has created a sort of market competition that distorts both genders’ ideas of what real women are actually like.” It creates jaded, false expectations and behavior, both among men and women.

 

Metaxas introduces us to Julia Bluhm, a 14-year-old Maine girl who petitioned Seventeen Magazine and Vogue to begin using real photographs, instead of heavily doctored images of young women.  Remarkably, she collected 84,000 signatures.  In today’s globalized world, it is very difficult to avert a Global Current, and I applaud Julia for her ingenuity.  Her strategy was grass-roots, public, media-driven, and viral — the very features which characterize all Monoculture.  Julia met force with force, and my son, daughters, and future grandchildren will reap the benefits.

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In a recent article entitled, “The Global War Against Baby Girls,” http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-global-war-against-baby-girls Nicholas Eberstadt writes about a “still-growing international predilection for sex-selective abortion.” In simpler words, that means that moms and dads are aborting their babies based upon the child’s gender. More specifically, parents are aborting baby girls… resulting in millions upon millions of missing baby girls.

 

Over the course of the world’s history, statistics show that 103-106 boys are born for every 100 newborn girls. This “sex ratio at birth” (SRB) is going haywire, though: some Chinese towns now report 123 boys for 100 newborn girls, for an alarming SRB of 123. Since 1979, China’s official one-chid policy has caused mass feticide of girls by parents who want a male child. These super-high SRBs are also enabled by China’s universal and unconditional abortion availability and its widespread and inexpensive obstetric ultrasonography.

 
Mass feticide is a horrible worldwide trend reflecting shared global values, an example of what I call “Monoculture.” In addition to China, East Asia’s four “Little Dragons” (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan) report troubling SRB increases. Other countries seeing increases are Vietnam, India (SRBs as high as 120), Albania, El Salvador, Philippines, Libya, Serbia, Austria, Cuba, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Portugal and Spain.

 

And this evil tale gets worse, because of another Global Current — Migration. Because of China’s high SRB, brides are in short supply.  Chinese men look to neighboring countries, therefore, for imported young women. A literal market for women is created, feeding a robust flow of trafficked young girls from Thailand, India, and Burma. “Brokers” in those countries are buying, coercing, and kidnapping girls with promises of jobs and economic opportunity…  only to sell them to husband-buyers.

 

The world’s population is on the move like never before.  Trafficking –whether for military, brothels, or sweatshops– is the human face of Migration.  Until this pointin history, evils and ills of one country might have stopped at the border–but no more. Now, the global economy, mass marketing, and shared values ensure that both good and bad trends spread.  And, in our age of Monoculture, America is also affected…as trafficking spreads rapidly in cities of all sizes. It’s a small world, after all

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Many years ago, then-Vice President Dan Quayle criticized a popular network sitcom because of the values it portrayed. Quayle said that “Murphy Brown,” starring Candace Bergen, promoted moral laxity. His comments were met with a firestorm of ridicule: didn’t Quayle realize that the characters were fictitious, and that no one takes sitcoms seriously, anyway?

How things change.  A couple of decades later, social commentators are pointing to sitcoms as proof of America’s growing acceptance of the gay lifestyle. An upcoming NBC sitcom featuring a gay couple and their surrogate child is called — wait for it — “The New Normal.”  While conservative groups loudly protested the “Ellen” sitcom in which comedian Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian in 1997, gay characters now are common fare.  Vice President Biden recently chimed in, opining that “Will & Grace,” which ran from 1998 through 2006, “probably did more to educate the American public than anything anybody’s ever done so far” regarding sexual diversity.

Media is a powerful carrier of values, lifestyles, and mores.  Global media contributes to “Monoculture”, the Global Current which carries messages of all stripes, disseminating and entrenching ideas at speeds and distances previously unimaginable.  And, because “culture is upstream of politics,” laws are also changing. With President Obama’s recent announcement of support for gay marriage, he proved that a long-ago Republican Vice President was right.

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One of the primary “carriers” of cultural and societal change is media.  Movies, television, magazines, and the internet spread values and ideals; whether originating in Mumbai, Hollywood, Paris, or Hong Kong, these ideas spread virally and create a global “Monoculture.”  As a result, communities and countries come to embrace fads and values which would have formerly been unthinkable.

Two Arizona State researchers recently confirmed that fat is now out — all around the world.   Obsession with thinness has long existed in the U.S., England, Australia, and other “Anglosphere” countries, but it has now spread to countries where plumper, larger bodies have traditionally been viewed as attractive.  In India, where portliness used to be associated with wealth, one woman now observed that “Fat equals lazy. Fat equals comedy relief.  I had a highly educated friend confess that she would prefer for her children to be anorexic rather than overweight.”

The lead Arizona State researcher suggested, “I think the next big question is whether it’s going to create a lot of new suffering where suffering didn’t exist before.”  And, that is where the global Church should come in.  As body issues such as objectification, comparison, self-image, addiction, and exploitation become pervasive in all countries, followers of Christ and churches must provide truth, comfort, and love.  Even in the face of “Monoculture creep,” Christian truths like human dignity, inner beauty, grace, and abundance will win the day.

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According to NPR’s Morning Edition, Spaniards are engaged in a rift over cultural values.  The debate illustrates the Global Current of Monoculture–where outside ideas seep into a place and longheld locals values are threatened. Spain’s government in Madrid is defending the “toreo” (bullfighting) tradition, while animal rights activists are up in arms.

No sooner did the regional government in Madrid declare bull fighting should be legally protected as a cultural treasure than an animal rights activist made his own proposal. He filed an application declaring that if bull fighting has been part of Spanish culture since time in memorial, then so, too, has the siesta. His mocking application suggests protecting this other Spanish art form by installing beds on the streets.

But the conversation runs much deeper than sarcasm. In September the New York Times described the complex toreo battle lines in Spain’s Catalon region.  Spanish nationalists seek to protect toreo.  Catalonian separatists decry toreo as an imposition on their regional subculture.  Many voices from the European Union protest toreo as cruelty to animals. 

In the end, though, it may be the global Monoculture which has the final say.

While nearly three quarters of Spaniards say they have no interest in bullfighting, they’re loath to have foreigners tell them what they can or can’t do. This is why Spain has consistently resisted pressure from the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights to end toreo. What will end it, if anything, is public indifference, competition from cheaper entertainment like soccer and video games, and the passing of a generation of aficionados.

As I have been traveling through Spain, I have seen a culture with many traditional trappings but a current passion for sports, media, and celebrity…just like in my home country of the United States. My guess is that, more than matadors, their current cherished icons are sports stars like Rafael Nadal, Sergio Garcia, and Real Madrid and Barcelona soccer players. Youth, especially, are completely absorbed in media, including music stars and celebrities like Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. Evangelicals, less than 1% of Spain’s population, face subtle-but-strong persecution. Overt evangelism can be quite counter-productive, but friendship remains the best course. To walk alongside secular neighbors increasingly requires familiarity with Monoculture, nowhere more than Spain.

To read the full articles go to:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124723376

and also http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/01/arts/01abroad.html

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Christianity Today reports on the efforts of a woman and her church to reach an unchurched subculture in California.  Joanna Quintrell felt  God leading her out of the comfortable church structure and into an unfamiliar edge of Monoculture–  “eclectic spirituality,” or what’s more often called “New Age.”  Quintrell set up a Christian booth at a giant “Health and Harmony Fair,” and now marvels at how Christ is a bridge to so many people who reject the church.

Sonoma County, in the middle of wine country, has low church attendance and highly liberal politics, but its religious profile is less secular than alternative. Many are attracted to eclectic spirituality, what used to be called New Age spirituality.

In this city, Quintrell thought, there must be tens of thousands who have known Christ in some way, but disillusionment or woundedness has caused them to leave. These are Christ’s lambs. They have been hurt, and nobody’s tending to them.

Quintrell led a slow and deliberate effort to provide love and counsel to people with alternative spiritual backgrounds.  She found that many had been part of the church in the past, but had been hurt by it.  Alternative spirituality is an emerging Monoculture, in that it is spreading around the world and altering far-flung societies.  Just as youth in Mongolia listen to hip-hop, women in India are choosing jeans over saris, and Hollywood’s reach knows no bounds, so New Age ahderence is spreading

Joanna Quintrell shows one way the global church can embrace Monoculture, and seize opportunities  for sharing the gospel in new and unfamiliar contexts.

See article:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/december/31.40.html

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