Saturday, March 17, 2007

Our Tabloid Society

I typically do not have a difficult time organizing my thoughts and putting them to paper. However, the topic of this blog is one that has stirred me so greatly that I’ve had trouble organizing my thoughts about it. I’m still sorting through the reasons it has affected me as deeply as it has, and writing is usually part of that journey for me.

The tragic death of Anna Nicole Smith has affected me in a way I could not have anticipated. Although aware of Ms. Smith, I never considered myself a fan. However, the media spectacle and constant conjecture surrounding her life has stirred my heart and challenged me to take a closer look at myself and the culture in which I live.

Since her sudden passing, I’ve heard many people (in the media, in conversation, in the blogosphere) say things like “What a wasted life” in regards to Anna Nicole Smith. The constant media scrutiny of the situation has also given many the opportunity to make other judgments about her life, i.e. “She married her husband only for money”, “She did too many drugs and partied too hard”, or even that she was a “hedonist”. And, while I will agree that anytime a life ends, it is sad and sometimes tragic, I wonder who we are to make the judgment that it was also a waste. In addition, I wonder who we are to make a judgment on the heart of a person. I wonder how many of these people knew Ms. Smith personally and had intimate access to the things of which they speak. Many only knew what they witnessed on her show, in the news media, or in the tabloid press. As far as I can see, we, as a general society, do not have enough genuine information to make any judgment calls on the life and times of Anna Nicole Smith. What makes us think that we do? What makes us think that we have the right to sit in judgment over the actions of strangers?

This has made me truly ponder our “tabloid society”. We find it so intriguing and exciting to catch juicy pieces of gossip from the lives of celebrities. We take sides in divorces or become obsessed with the next painful detail to emerge. How often do we truly step back and realize that celebrities are just people? Do we ever stop and recognize their pain and what it would feel like to have that pain so publicly explored? Just because we pay them to entertain us, does that give us the right to demand that they also live their lives on display? I don’t think so. My heart goes out to those who are forced to live heartbreaking experiences on the front page. How devastating it must be to have details you desperately want to keep private splashed across the grocery checkout lines for millions to see and debate.

Of all the buzz surrounding the Anna Nicole Smith tragedy, what has pained me most has been the continual comparisons made to Britney Spears. There is no doubt, from what has been seen, that Ms. Spears is in a tumultuous time in her life. Anyone who has children so close together and is also in the midst of a divorce must feel a bit overwhelmed at times. Many in the media have expressed concern over the direction her life is taking, and I have often heard it said that she could likely be the “next Anna Nicole”. How dreadful. What must that be like to hear? How unsettling it must be to have the thought of your death so freely bantered about daily in the media. If the concern were genuine, wouldn’t a large dose of privacy be in order to allow her to heal from whatever wounds she is facing? Instead, her every choice, her every mistake, is plastered all over the media for her to continually re-live.

I find that I can also get caught up in the buzz. At times I’ve had conversations with friends about “Tom and Katie” or “Brad, Angi, and Jen” as if they were people that I knew or with whom I was friends. Inevitable one of us points out the absurdity of the moment and we laugh and move on to something else. But, I find it interesting how we are drawn to the details of the lives of strangers. I can only assume it is because they seem to live lives beyond our comprehension and we want a glimpse behind that curtain. But, how is it that we forget that they are people too? How do we objectify them in such drastic measure?

I just finished reading a book by Christian artist Sandi Patty entitled “Broken on the Back Row”. In this book, she pours her heart out as she shares her journey to and through a painful divorce many years ago. In 1992, when news of her divorce hit headlines, the Christian community responded with outrage. There were rumors glibly tossed about as to the reason for the split. And, Ms. Patty’s career took an enormous hit. Yes, she had placed herself in the public eye with a specific message. She claimed the name of Christ and professed to be one of His followers, and she made a terrible mistake. The Lord has taken her down a path of grace and reconciliation. His followers, however, in many cases haven’t been so kind. Why do we withhold grace from those in public positions? We often hold them to a higher standard as they have placed their life on display in the public arena. But, especially as the Christian community, should we not have welcomed our wounded sister with open arms and helped her heal? In her book, Ms. Patty painfully outlines the process she went through with her pastor, her ex-husband’s pastor, her church elders, her church body, and all of those her actions affected. She took responsibility and humbled herself before all of those in her life. With a poignant and sweet vulnerability, she worked through a very difficult period in her life. Hers is a story of grace and redemption.

What will our story be? As a society as a whole, and specifically as the Church within this society what will history say of us? Why must someone sacrifice all that they hold dear in order to chase their dreams? It breaks my heart to see the trade off of fame and celebrity. Why isn’t it enough to allow entertainers to simply entertain us and then enjoy their life without interruption? What is this phenomenon and what does it say of our humanity? As I walk through the grocery store check-out lines, or see the latest Entertainment news on my computer screen, I will make a conscious effort to remember that real people stand behind the glossy prints. Their divorces are painful, their loves – private. And, I will try to have more respect for those who have given up so much to chase a dream and entertain us.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A bit of truth from fiction

I just finished reading the last book in a series about a family in Indiana. The story started with The Redemption Series by Karen Kingsbury and has continued in The Firstborn Series. (I hear there's a third series on the way and I can't wait to see what happens next). Anyway, this series of books follows the ups and downs of a Christian family as they learn to love each other and make it through the trials that are thrown their way. At the heart of the family are John and Elizabeth Baxter, the parents. In this story, they weather many storms together through decades of marriage. At one point in their journey, Elizabeth takes the time to write down her "Ten Secrets to a Happy Marriage". And, although this is drawn from a fictional story, I found the words to be poignant and applicable to all relationships, not just marital ones (although some of them are specific to marriage and may even raise a few eyebrows for some of you). I wanted to repost them for you here.

1. God has you here to serve on another. Love acted out is serving.

2. Women need respect and nurturing. Love your wife so she knows you'd lay your life down for her. Continue to date her and admire her. Share a hobby - find something you can do to have fun together.

3. Laugh Often

4. Be patient. Love crumbles quickly under the weight of unmet expectations

5. Spend more time trying to fix yourself than your spouse

6. Keep short accounts. The Bible says, "Do not let the sun go down while you are angry." Make it a habit to forgive

7. Determine up front that divorce is not an option

8. Learn about love languages. not all people show love or receive it the same way. You want a back rub and your spouse wants a clean kitchen. the love languages are fairly simple: acts of service, time, physical touch, gifts, and words of affirmation.

9. Words of affirmation are a love language for all men

10. Men are born to be leaders. He cannot lead unless she gives him the confidence to do so. If you love your husband, build him up. confident men do not seek love outside the home

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nope...haven't fallen off the face of the Earth...

Fallen off the face of the earth…

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged anything. It’s actually been a while since I’ve done much communicating at all. For a natural born introvert who converted to extrovertism at a young age, there often come times when I need a break from all social activity. Sometimes these periods are brief, other times they can be quite protracted. I have no idea when this one will end. I suppose the fact that I’m even thinking about sharing my most recent thoughts is a good sign that the end is near. We shall see.

During these periods of introspection, I spend a great deal of time reading and “chillin’ out” and not much time conversing and connecting. I find that I need these stretches of time to recharge myself and again be able to face my world of extroverts. However, I think these phases of mine confuse my friends. I think they begin to feel as though I have “fallen off the face of the earth”.

Thanks to Jamie for drawing me out some this weekend. It was really wonderful to spend some meaningful time in conversation with my dear friend. And, thanks again to those I saw on Saturday night…several friends who I don’t see often enough.

Maybe one day I’ll decide which I really am…introvert or extrovert. Then again, probably not. Those who know me best understand that these periods of silence are more about me and my ability to give than about my desire to spend time with them. Sometimes I just need to disengage. So, for those of you who are certain I’ve fallen off the face of the earth…I hope to resurface soon! ;-)