The West Wing

Tonight I finished watching all seven seasons of The West Wing. The West Wing ran from 1999-2006. I remember watching some of it but I didn’t stick with it. Politics is not my favorite world to inhabit anyway. But thanks to the tepid (and other unkind words) offerings of the networks for television, I decided to take a look at this old show and I’m so glad I did. The first five seasons were simply excellent viewing in every way. The acting, writing, and themes were all great. The sixth season a little less so, and the seventh season I made myself watch although I found it had outlived it’s story (and my interest).  I’m mentioning this because there might be someone who hasn’t watched it who’s scanning across the channels looking for something … anything… with some substance and entertainment value to watch. But I’m mostly mentioning this because in some small way watching The West Wing gave me a reprieve from the distressing real-world of politics in which we live.

The fictional President in this series is a Democrat and some of the positions taken, some characterizations of Republicans, and a very few episodes that sounded kind of preachy are notable, but not frequent.  But the reason I was so drawn in to this show were all the things that remind me of what I’m missing today. The imaginary Bartlet Administration wasn’t perfect but I did like the portrayal of a certain quality of life … a set of values that focused on the importance of people. There was a camaraderie of the cast in the presentation of the way they worked together through tough situations. There was, in a word, civility.

Civility has become a lost art … a relic of the past … a gaping hole in our society but also among our leaders in Washington. Civility has been replaced by a crass spirit of profanity and a vulgar display of accusation without restraint. Not just by one person or one party, but it pervades the landscape.

It’s almost as if voters in this country wanted such leaders. And if we did want those kind of leaders, what does that say about us?

So every time I see power-house party leaders who won’t sit at a table and do the right thing for the American people … who are just concerned with their party’s well being or making a name for themselves … I’d just rather watch President Josiah Bartlet and think about the America that could be.

I don’t write much about politics. I still think I should vote. I should and do pray for our leaders … and all world leaders.  But mostly the blunders and tweets and positioning of the political world leaves me thirsty for that missing quality of civility.

Maybe I’ll start again with Season One.

Thanks for reading, JD.

The Offense of Phil Robertson

If you access any form of social networking at all, you have been witness to the firestorm of protest surrounding Phil Robertson’s interview with GQ Magazine and his subsequent release from the famously popular Duck Dynasty show.

Living in Ouachita Parish, I have enjoyed watching the fame of the Robertson family explode in all media and every merchandising outlet. My only real acquaintance with the family is through Al, who I first knew as a fellow minister here in town … before he started the show. I have been around some of the family but not enough to stake any kind of claim to personal friendship.  I can tell you that though no human is perfect, this family – from the youngest to the oldest – has a sterling reputation for living the Christian life with boldness. So I rejoice in their influence for Christ in this community, and now, the world.

The offense of Phil Robertson has, in one day, stirred the emotions of thousands of people. That says a lot about his influence, doesn’t it? It seems that everyone is offended. The homosexual community is offended and some in the African-American community are offended. The mainstream Christian community is offended at A&E, who has suspended him from the show. Some Christians are offended at Phil’s crude language, even if they agree with his stance. It may even be true that some Christians are offended at other Christians who aren’t offended. I am moved to wonder why so much offense swirls around Phil Robertson?

My theory is that in some unexpected way Duck Dynasty has tapped into a void in the American experience. The last family we saw praying around the table (other than the Reagan family on Blue Bloods) was the Waltons. And maybe the last patriarch we saw spouting off country wisdom, ignoring the modern world around him, and accepting the antics of his children was Jed Clampett. In terms of TV moms and grandmothers I’d rather eat at Ms. Kay’s table than that of Olivia Walton or Granny Clampett’s. But he element that touches us at our core is not cooking, nor the family prayer, nor the earthy wisdom. At least as I see it,  the connection with the American audience is the inward desire for family acceptance and devotion.

I believe that the love the Robertsons  share for one another is genuine and hard won. Phil Robertson’s life story has become legendary. His I Am Second interview (Along with Kay, Jep and Reed) was simply stunning in its honesty and authentic faith.

So that’s why I think the offense of Phil Robertson struck like lightning across the collective consciousness of our nation. The family that found a way to love, togetherness, acceptance, wisdom, faith, and connection has reminded us of the desire we all have for the same. The landscape of broken families in our nation is heartbreaking. The Robertsons have managed to create a living demonstration of the definition of family. We can’t help but be touched by this. Millions of people care about the Robertsons … what they say … and what happens to them.

Though Phil Robertson loves Jesus, he is not Jesus. Yet even Jesus knew that if he loved people with all his heart and told them the truth they would be offended.

Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me. ~Matthew 11:6, NIV

And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. ~Matthew 11:6, KJV

I’m wondering tonight if the offense of Phil Robertson is really the offense of Jesus Christ? Would we be offended at someone who loved us enough to point us in the right direction (toward God)? The answer is yes. Jesus lost his earthly life because of that very thing. In our culture everything is acceptable except pointing out that something is not acceptable to God. We can bat around the wording, the process or the method of shining light into a dark world. But one thing you have to say about Phil Robertson: He is intentionally shining God’s light. That’s more than a lot of modern Christians can say for themselves.

So I think the reason millions of people care about what Phil Robertson said is because he and his family have touched a beautiful place in our hearts. And in spite of the many kind words spoken, all the attention is being given to some unfortunate expressions that reflect the words of a man who is imperfect but trying to tell the world about Jesus. That offends some people.

The offense of Phil Robertson comes because we have come to love him and all who are gathered around that table. We have experienced so many situations with them that we feel that we know them. When we watch the show, we are drawn in and feel a part of their family.  That’s why when Phil Robertson speaks, people listen. If you are offended by what he says, take a closer look. You’ll see a man who tells you that he loves you because God loves you. And the world would be a better place if we would go by The Book and love one another more.

Thanks for reading,

John

Related Post: Choosing Not To Be Offended

Do You Have The X-Factor?

Yesterday I posted some observations about the television show THE X-FACTOR. For those unfamiliar, the term “x-factor” is that certain spark, charisma, or charm that turns an ordinary person into a superstar.  The television show is looking for a singer with that factor in order to give them a 5 million dollar recording contract.

I’ve known some preachers who’ve had that x-factor. They had the ability to hold the audience spellbound and unaware of the passing of time. There are very few of those (and I’m certainly not one of them). I’ve known some Christians who have had that certain something that gave them the ability to reach people that no one else had been able to reach. They make evangelism seem effortless. There are very few of those as well.

I wonder what God might identify as the x-factor? Commonly heard on the television show are comments like:

*You’ve got the right look

*You’ve got a unique sound

*You’ve got steel in your eye, confidence

All things admired by most people. Those might have been the kind of things that Samuel was looking for as he interviewed Jesse’s children. What a handsome, talented, charismatic family that must have been. Samuel was sure that one of those boys would be the next King of Israel…they had that certain “it”.  But God declined. There was one other,  a shepherd boy, not even considered worthy for audition. But he was the choice.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.       ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

I’m thankful to God that Simon Cowell isn’t my judge! I don’t have to win over an audience’s approval. I do not have to perform with perfection. I’m so thankful that I’m not in competition with my fellow Christians. But there is an x-factor with God. There are some passages of Scripture that define the kind of heart and life that God expects His people to have. Here are some x-factors from the Bible:

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. ~Ecclesiastes 12:13

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah 6:8

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~Matthew 22:37-40

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. ~James 1:27

There may be others, but these are the kinds of things that God calls attention to in absolute ways. None of us have to be approved by a panel of judges – we are to come before the ultimate Judge, represented by Christ. These are the kinds of things that God will be looking for. Don’t trust your own greatness – he’s looking for something better.

Do you have the x-factor? If not, then get busy serving God with humility and grace. Thanks for reading. Below are some Kindle finds. Today they are all free! Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for Max Lucado’s latest book HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kingdom Life in Matthew by Geoff Waugh

Kingdom Life in John by Geoff Waugh

Kingdom Life in Mark by Geoff Waugh

Kingdom Life in Luke by Geoff Waugh

The Love You Had At First by Robert Wurtz II

The X-Factor

When American Idol became the top television show, there were sure to be those who wanted to cash in on similar shows. I admit to being an American Idol fan. I didn’t watch the first season, but every season since. Personally, I do not really enjoy the show until they whittle down to the top 12 or so … I don’t like the audition episodes much. The singing / music is the part I like. The judges, however, help add a lot to the shows whether you like them or not.

I have not watched The X Factor in previous seasons except an occasional episode if I happened to catch it. But this year I decided to dvr it and see if I enjoyed it or not. It’s not the ratings giant that AI is, for sure. There are a couple of things I really like about X Factor, though.

The auditions are in front of a live audience. I know there are still the clowns that come out and ham it up for laughs, but when the auditions are in front of the audience, there is a greater emotional charge than just watching the judges roll their eyes such as on AI. There have been some great auditions this season and I look forward to hearing more from these hopeful singers. Most of them have very difficult backgrounds and struggles and hope this will be their big break.

The performers are a focus of the show. For AI, it seems the first several weeks are nothing but making fun of the performers. It’s almost like AI is against them, but X Factor seems to propel them forward and help them look their best. Doesn’t everybody love a rags-to-riches story … rooting for the underdog kind of tale. I think X Factor is producing that.

I like the judges. I am not in the music business and have no idea who LA Reid is. I’ve never heard Demi Lovato sing that I know of. But they are likable, and mostly encouraging. Simon Cowell plays his role well, sometimes cruel, but most of the time he is right. And there is Britney Spears.

The redemption of Britney Spears? I have not been a big Spears fan. She started off as a teenager in a much-too-sexy-for-her-age persona. Her meltdowns and personal struggles have been detailed by the media. Her stage shows and song lyrics are provocative, and sometimes shocking. In short, she has used her body and her beauty. Sex sells, and Britney has sold herself to the public. I wonder if X Factor is the redemption of Britney Spears? Because the truth is that Spears is simply charming in her role as a judge on the show. It is my hope that this is perhaps a new beginning for Spears. I’m sure some would say she doesn’t need a new beginning – she’s mega rich, touring sold out shows, and a world wide pop queen. That’s been true for a long time, but it hasn’t been a great ride for Britney. I’m not suggesting she’ll show up next on the Gaither Gospel Hour, but I wish her the best.

I don’t know if you will like The X Factor or not, but I’ve enjoyed it. And I’ve had a few spiritual thoughts about the show as well. I’ll save those for the next post.

Thanks for reading. Below are from free Christian book selections for your Kindle! Don’t forget to enter to win Max Lucado’s newest book on the previous post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not a Fan: Teen Edition: What does it really mean to follow Jesus? by Kyle Idleman

Praying Circles around Your Children by Mark Batterson

NIV Once-A-Day 31 Days of Wisdom

The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg

Goodbye George

When Norman Lear created All in the Family and it’s spinoff The Jeffersons, he created a brilliant look at the times – and did it in such a way that exposed bigotry with a laugh. Controversial, probing, and sarcastic, both shows explored race relations as well as other contemporary issues. In the hilarious scene above, Archie and George learn just how alike they are when George’s son has decided to marry a woman with a white husband.

George Jefferson was played by Sherman Alexander Hemsley (February 1, 1938 – July 24, 2012). His death today at age 74 reminds us of the many smiles we’ve enjoyed by the characters he has portrayed. Not only George Jefferson, but also as deacon Earnest Frye on Amen. He once played a victim of the devil on an episode of the Twilight Zone!

We won’t really miss George. He’ll be living on in sitcom syndication forever. Maybe I’ll spend the rest of today humming that catchy theme song from The Jeffersons.

Thanks for reading,

John

DVD

Andy Griffith for your Kindle and More

Upon the passing of Andy Griffith you may want to do some extra reading on your Kindle about / by this American icon!

DVDs and CDs featuring Andy Griffith

Audio CD

Audio CD

DVD, Not Available for Kindle

DVD

About Andy Griffth / The Andy Griffith Show