Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Eighth Semester

I said my final farewell to my semester in Washington, and now I'm nearing the finish line to my time at Butler University. I've got a full plate of academics, extracurriculars and sorority life (not to mention that thing called "finding a job").

Here's the lineup:

Theological Ethics is my last chance to utilize an elective. As I've continued to explore religion and faith in my daily life and work, I wanted to take a religion course before Butler told me to graduate. Our professor, Dr. Brent Hege, just won an award for theological promise, too! I'm looking forward to some deep discussions, especially since there's only 7 of us in the class.

International Communication is going to focus on how media is distributed around the world - and how that contributes to globalization. Last week our class divided into two section and did some role-playing: one side was the Western world and the other side was the Third World and debated issues of Westernization. It got pretty heated.

The History and Literature of Journalism, though it may sound dry, will probably be pretty cool. I'm hoping to do my epically long research paper on either the Newsboys Strike of 1899 or the development of non-profit media. Who knows? But I'm excited, as only a journalism major could be.

Data-based Investigations is a new journalism elective this semester, taught by the expert! Mark Nichols is in charge of data-based investigations at the Indianapolis Star. We meet once a week, from 7:15 - 9:45, hoping that all those crime statistics will keep us awake! In all seriousness, though, we'll practice writing a FOI request letter (Freedom of Information) and use software to input things like crime statistics.

Directing the Narrative offers me one more chance to work behind a camera before I get out in the real world. It will finish off my Media Arts (video production major. This weekend I shot a short character sequence with a classmate. I played an OCD college student. If all goes well, maybe I can post that clip at some point.

During the week I'm also interning at the Center for Faith and Vocation, working as the multimedia editor for The Butler Collegian, bible study-ing and living in Pi Beta Phi (a.k.a. The White House)! I even found a video (tour of the house) my roommate Christina did for her gig as a Butler blogger.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Religion & Media Roundup for Jan. 11, 2010

Thanks to Butler's "Collegiate Readership Program" I get free access to The New York Times and USA Today on a daily basis. But as my professor so aptly put, "After college, things aren't free anymore."

Since classes have only just begun, I had the luxury (read: "time") to read both newspapers for Jan. 11, 2010. Here are some interesting religion & media stories for today:

"What Would Buddha Do?" (USA Today)

Tiger Woods' big publicity blow-up has gained some spiritual ground. Fox's Brit Hume pleaded for Woods to renounce his Buddist ties and return to his Christian foundations. In a secular news outlet with high journalistic standards, I would expect reporters to steer clear of implementing their own views.

Stephen Prothero, the columnist here, also equates Woods' childhood to that of Buddha.

"What's The Future of Media" (USA Today)

From USA Today's "Money Bookshelf" section come three relevant books: Googled: The End of the World as We Know It, The Curse of the Mogul, and The Chaos Scenario.

David Lieberman begins his review with "This is an awkward time to write about the media business." No kidding.

NPR reviewed Googled with an edge of frustration. The only problem with writing about the media now, is that the next day it seems out of date.

"But the winners in media avoid competition...That's great for investors; not so much for consumers."

It's nothing I haven't heard before; big media comglomerates thrive, but crush options for consumers. It's part of why we continue to have easy-to-produce-and-consume TV shows (i.e. Sixteen and Pregnant or numerous cops/lawyers shows).

Of course, it's still interesting to examine the Google model: how do you get money for a product that can reach everyone for free?

According to reporter Lieberman, Bob Garfield of The Chaos Scenario says the public has enough time, curiosity and IQ to compensate for all the newsrooms shutting down.

"Churches Attacked Amid Furor In Malaysia" (NYT)

Christian Muslims who used the word "Allah" suffered church bombings over the weekend. Arsonist Muslims in Malaysia vandalized churches, increasing political turbulence. According to the NYT, these attacks were unlike anything Malaysia has experienced. It is not uncommon for Arabic- and Malay-language bibles to substitute "Allah" to describe "Jesus, the son of God." However, in Malaysia, Muslim worshippers say that word should only be associated with the Islam faith - otherwise it could confuse people. Malaysia is 9 percent Christian.

"Art Coakley, Animator Who Created Gumby, Dies at 88" (NYT)

Aside from the obituary, it was interesting to know that Coakley's
"asparagus green hero had adventures with a spiritual dimension." According to the article, Coakley sought Enlightenment most of his life. The "Davey and Goliath" show had spiritual undertones, and was apparently underwritten by what is now the ELCA. The show aimed to instruct on values of charity and tolerance.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Finding Grace at the Toilet Bowl

This morning I found grace at the toilet bowl.

And no, I’m not talking about getting saved from a New Year’s Eve hangover.

My first task of 2010: to clean my bathroom at home. Glamorous, right?

I must have been empowered by Mom’s words: “Clean the bathroom like it will never be cleaned again” because I cleaned that bathroom with more gusto than usually take with housecleaning duties. I lathered up the sponge, scrubbing the shower stall tiles and the toilet bowl -- picture me as Cinderella, mopping the tiled floor (minus the delicate bubbles).

While I’d been away in D.C., Mom and Dad renovated the bathroom my sister and I share. They tore down the colorful wallpaper and painted it a solid yellow. The new shower curtain displayed a conservative flower pattern.

As I scrubbed away, the surfaces seemed “whiter” than before – maybe it was the new lighting fixtures. But as I reflected (literally and figuratively) on the brightness of the toilet bowl, words from an old hymn came to mind:

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.

- Jesus Paid It All” (1865)

We’ve had plenty of of "white snow" in Chicago. There is something beautiful about the crispness of new snow – it’s blinding, just like that toilet seat.

Of course, God's promise of grace and redemption doesn’t mean we’ll be picture-perfect Christians, but the image of fresh snow helps remind us God’s ability to make us clean again. We are, by nature unclean – and sin hangs on us like dirty rags. (Isaiah 64:6) But God has called us out of our old clothes – all that old sin, old habits. How about we let that die with 2009?

During my New Year’s celebration, two friends informed me they were starting a diet that would cleanse their bodies (“de-tox” they called it). Every day for seven days, they plan to consume 6 – 12 glasses of this mixture: cayenne pepper, lemon juice, maple syrup and water. My friends said it wasn’t so much for weight loss, as it was to “reboot” and to “get rid of all the bad.” I'd love to cleanse my body like that, if I could handle drinking a recipe like that!

How will we view God’s grace this year? The shiny toilet bowl – as strange as it sounds – reminded me that God does “do-overs’ – whenever I mess up. That blaring white porcelain under the shiny new light fixture – it almost blinded me.

But it reminded that nothing is too impossible for God to handle. He desires for us to live pure and blameless – for we are His treasures. For as many times as we trip up, He's there to catch us and let us start over.