A few years ago I wrote a book on gambling--not pro but con. I'm against gambling in all its forms. I thought then and still think now that gambling is an ingenious way to bilk people out of their money. Just design a game in which people give you money to play. There you have it. Pay to play and pay you do if you gamble very much.
My book is entitled "Gambling: Don't Bet On It" and it's still available in print in a revised edition. I wrote the book mostly in 1996 just before the Internet became publicly available. By the time I revised the book in 2005 I had to add an entire chapter on Internet Gambling. Such is our dubious progress.
Here're a few more thoughts on this most postmodern, i.e., irrational, pursuit:
Americans, if not Westerners in general, view the Middle East and North Africa through what I call "filters." We see through a lens darkly. But then again, Middle Easterners and in this case specifically Arabs also hold a set of misconceptions about Americans that affect their view of who we are and what we are about.
Every presidential election cycle seems at some point to be a contest of "I-Am-More-Patriotic-Than-Thou.” Each candidate claims a higher degree of fidelity to the nation’s ideals, zeal for Americanism, and patriotic holiness.
In one sense, this is to be expected, and it is a phenomenon the world over. Politicians in nearly every country proclaim their patriotic commitment to the fatherland. Perhaps if that is as far as it goes there is nothing inherently wrong with this. In fact, one could argue that there is a lot right with this because it helps to reinforce the nation, which is to say the people’s identity and community.
In another sense this rush to patriotic holiness can be threatening. For one, politicians and people, if not also pundits, too easily wrap the Bible, or whatever holy book they affirm, in the nation’s flag. Religion and politics get confused one with the other, a particular danger for religion and an unhealthy situation for politics.
But religion, and I would say especially Christianity, should stand above and apart from politics. Why? Because in doing so Christian values and principles can be brought to bear in critical review of politics. Religion in general and Christianity specifically provide a moral standard against which politics may be evaluated and one would hope corrected and improved.
Another danger of patriotic holiness is that it gives the politician a heightened and ill-advised sense of personal rightness and righteousness. Politicians tend to believe their own press and tend to think they have a corner not only on the best policy positions but the only, and holy, ones. This attitude leads to hubris for the politician. And it dampens debate.
Patriotic holiness is mostly about posturing and parade. It’s not so much about philosophic presentation or prescient pronouncements. It’s a malady that afflicts the election process and certainly one we’d all be better off without.
When you speak regularly for churches, schools, organizations, and ministries you experience a lot of things. Most things are good, because the people with whom you're working are good people attempting to do their best. But sometimes the doing-their-best isn’t attempted and as a guest speaker you’re left with having to go with the flow.
For example, here are a few fairly frequent occurrences:
--People promise the moon in terms of the support technology you’ll have available, e.g., video projectors, sound systems, etc. But the tech available isn’t what the contact person thinks it is.
--Often the tech available is exactly what the contact person promised it would be, sometimes top-notch. But tech is only as good as the person operating it, and this is where organizations trip-up way too often. The person, a volunteer, doesn’t show up. The person is late, isn’t adept at using the tech, knows some other kind of tech, like Apple vs. PC, but does not know what’s on hand.
--The tech support person doesn’t listen. This is an amazingly common experience. People want to run their tech the way they want to run it, not the way a guest speaker wants or believes the audience needs. I worked not long ago with a young woman who didn’t want to turn up the sound on the video—her 20-year-old ears could hear just fine, but the audience was 40-85 years, leaning in trying to hear. My wife told a fellow she wanted to play vid #2 and he says, “Yeah.” Then when she’s ready up comes vid #1.
--Sometimes orgs want you to speak “while people eat—oh, it’ll be OK.” I’ve done this many times and likely will many more, but it’s not OK. People want to socialize while they eat, not listen to a speaker.
--The host org generously provides food, which is appreciated. But whoever coordinates the food support sets it up as a buffet line, wanting to maximize choice. But what this maximizes is time, a lot, especially when people make their own sandwiches one condiment at a time. This can eat up, pun intended, half the assigned speaking time. It’s much better to go with something very simple or with box meals from a place like Panera Bread or Jimmy Johns.
--Organizations invite or otherwise allow you to speak and then a day before remember they want you to speak on a complex theme that has little or nothing to do with your expertise, plans, etc. For some reason, churches especially want you to fit their motif rather than present your ministry’s work.
There’s more, but you get the picture about learning to flex and go with the flow.
I have a theory about why contact persons over-promise re tech and tech support. Most of them are 40 and up. They don’t live and breathe tech. This doesn’t mean they’re technologically illiterate, just that they don’t use it for speaking, certainly not daily. And every time they’ve seen it work, it has, because the president or senior pastor is there and the tech support is as it should be. But not when the guest shows up.
All this is why most of us who travel and speak regularly carry our own small vid projectors and speakers. If you don’t, you’re at the mercy of these vicissitudes.
Have PowerPoint. Have Video. Have Vid Projector/Speakers. Will Travel.
“Arab Spring” is the phrase or name that pundits, academic and media, use to describe protests in the Arab countries of North Africa and the Middle East, beginning with Tunisia in December 2010. Demonstrations and even violence continue to this day, in particular at this moment in Syria.
One problem with the name is that demonstrations have not been limited to Arab countries and the experience and outcome of most have not been as much “spring”—openness, renewal, new politics and opportunity—as some would have hoped. At this moment, it’s difficult to know whether to be optimistic or pessimistic about “What’s next?” in countries like Libya or Egypt, let alone Syria or Yemen.
Another problem is that the “Arab Spring” has not necessarily brought a time of freedom and better conditions for all minorities, including the Christian minority in the region. Even the “New York Times” once used the phrase “Christian Winter” to describe fears and concerns about backlash and what might be. This concern continues.
In the midst of this, SAT-7 continues to broadcast Christian teaching based upon a biblical worldview that supports respect for all human life, support for liberty for all human beings, freedom of thought, worship, and expression, and encouragement of a worthy work ethic, productivity, honesty, and respect for property rights.
The Christian Church, capital "C," the Body of Christ or the Church Universal, exists today in the Middle East and North Africa. What this means is that indeed there are local Christian churches and local believers in every country in the region. Now some of these churches exist in hiding, "hidden believers" as Brother Andrew called them, but they are there. And their faith is amazing and resilient.
But the church is also, in some countries in the region, suppressed, repressed, oppressed, and at times persecuted. SAT-7, Christian satellite television in the region, broadcasts daily in Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish to the Church and to all who wish to view its programs.