This past week has been a welcome respite known as spring break in which I got lots of stuff done. One huge task was to create a video, which took me forever. It was to be a video about our second blog topic, which for me is about Singles adopting. Soooo, what images do you use to impart that? I had to use some creativity to explain things such as people who discourage others from adopting. I finally finished everything last night about midnight. Do click on the link (above in red) and watch it.
We also had to critique an academic journal article about YouTube or online videos. I chose “Framing and praising Allah on YouTube: Exploring user-created videos about Islam and the motivations for producing them,” which is a 2012 in New Media and Society (albeit reprinted last year) by two Dutch scholars. One thing the article reported was that 4,900 videos a week on Islam are uploaded onto YouTube. The authors sampled 120 of them during March 2008. The majority of posters were male (women were only 12 percent) from 26 countries. The greatest number sought to
educate people about Islam but the second-treated number (at 39 percent) were critical of Islam. Another popular topic was women in Islam, with the largest percentage of those videos being critical of women’s place in Islam. However, there were a growing number from Muslim women themselves saying they were not oppressed. (And in recent years, I’ve seen a bunch of Islamic views starring women on topics such as how to wrap a hijab). The positive ones about women mentioned in this paper featured Muslim women in the west wearing cute tunics, tights and color-coordinated headwear; the negative ones showed burka-clad slave-like creatures in the east. The largest amount of users were from the U.S. and the UK, then equal amounts from Canada, Pakistan and Egypt. Positive videos showed lovely scenes of Mecca or other cities with monuments; negative videos showed photos of suicide bombers and kids with guns. If nothing else, Islam does not lack for images! IMHO hijabs are fine if you have a pretty face. I, alas, do not, so I’d look frightful.
The authors concluded that YouTube videos of Islam are fairly balanced; that is, 51 percent were negative whereas 49 percent were positive. Obviously Muslims are learning their way through this propaganda war. One common theme in videos is footage of wounded people in places like Iran, Afghanistan and Syria; many of them images that’d be inappropriate on TV. Basically YouTube, they said, has allowed Muslims to counter what they see is a biased media by telling their story in their way. YouTube is their new public sphere. One thing they did not mention were the beheading videos nor the Al Qaeda recruiting videos, which are in a whole class by themselves.
This was also our last week to read Clay Shirkey’s “Here Comes Everybody,” also about new media. He says a lot about something called “distributed and delayed payback,” which is another way of saying ‘what goes around, comes around.’ The Internet, he said, has worked best when unpaid volunteers post information about all manner of things and so contribute to a global cloud of shared knowledge. I took advantage of that ‘cloud’ yesterday when I watched three different videos on ways to operate iMovie. He calls this a global talent pool that depends on the goodwill of basically everyone to help each other out. Which is what made the computer software Linux such a success. It was open source; meaning people could contribute ideas on how to improve it. Wikipedia operates under the same assumption. It’s a nice idea and but it’s annoying when people will tell me – when I have a question about something – to ‘just watch a video on it.’ Because some videos are good and others aren’t. Also, I still cannot understand how a company like Apple is so successful when the directions they give with their products are so shabby. Any Apple product I’ve bought has meant hours of sitting in one of those Apple stories learning how to operate it. Anything to do with computers is not intuitive for me.
This past Saturday, I was about to get some more hours of desk work done when a chance Facebook post caused me to look up a congregation, Covenant Life Church, that I had once reported on. CLC was an outgrowth of a beloved Christian ministry, Take and Give, that I attended in the 1970s near downtown DC. The two men who led it: CD Mahaney and Larry Tomczak, were brilliant speakers and some 2,000 of us crammed into Christ Church on Tuesday nights to hear them. It morphed over time into a large church in Gaithersburg, Md. and I was dimly aware of it when I moved back to the area in 1995. It turns out that 1995 was around the time that its lead pastor, CJ, was kicking out Larry. I eventually encountered Larry and got out of him the story of what had happened. And in 2003, I did a profile of the church for The Washington Times, which is when I took over the religion beat. There was something about CLC that gave me the creeps – as did CJ. I sat in CJ’s office, but only got cliches out of him. This was not the same guy I had heard preach so well back in the mid-70s. Things at the church seemed very controlled and everyone was into submission, which was a red flag for me.
I wrote the piece and had included in the article what had happened to Larry. At the last minute, the man editing my piece took out anything remotely critical of the church, excising the whole mess about Larry. I know this sounds bizarre, but that editor was a member of CLC. The day the article came out, I was nearly sick to my stomach. It was over Christmas, so it was several days before I could complain about it to the managing editor. And of course I had to call Larry up and profusely apologize. He wasn’t too happy either, as he was so hoping that this article would get out his side of the story. Fortunately the managing editor severely disciplined – so he told me – the offending editor, but the damage was done.
A few years passed and I began hearing about real problems at CLC. People who had left had formed several blogs, the most famous of which was SGM Survivors. I left the Washington Times but at some point in there met with Larry when he was in town and heard more about things at CLC. It had taken years for Larry to build his life back up again and he was moving to Nashville (or thinking of it; I forget the exact time sequence). By the summer of 2011, things at CLC were at a boiling point and I was freelancing for WaPo at that point. I really pushed to do a magazine article on the mess going on there but the editors there thought it was too much inside baseball and plus, a staff reporter had done a short story on the matter, so that settled it in their minds.
Eventually CJ was forced out of CLC and ended up moving to Louisville to start a new church in 2013. (I toyed with visiting the place when I was up there last fall but thought the better of it). What I didn’t realize is that there’d been a lawsuit filed in early 2013 detailing massive sexual abuses over several decades there and charging nearly every leader connected with the place of knowing who the perpetrators were but allowing them access to kids nonetheless. I just read the lawsuit today and it is horrifying: Rapes of young children, the gang rape of an 8-year-old; stuff that makes anything I wrote about concerning Church of the Redeemer seem like child’s play.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years that evangelicals have just as many skeletons in their closet as do Roman Catholic priests and the dirt is only now just starting to spill out. There’s a great blog out there called the Wartburg Watch that’s detailing the never-ending stream of scandals going on now involving various evangelical churches these days and how it’s non-stop. I was just emailing one of my high school friends about the scandals involving Bill Gothard of what was once Basic Youth Conflicts, the Bible study seminar that so many of us attended in high school and college. At the age of 79, this man has been unmasked as a child molester. Who back in the 1970s would have dreamed this?