The New York Times reports of a well-intentioned protest by a pastor to protest the ridiculous and dehumanizing lyrics of the type of hip hop shown on networks like BET and MTV.

Wearing white T-shirts with red stop signs and chanting “BET does not reflect me, MTV does not reflect me,” protesters have been gathering every Saturday outside the homes of Viacom executives in Washington and New York City. The orderly, mostly black crowds are protesting music videos that they say degrade women, and black and Latino men.

Among other things the protesters want media companies like Viacom to develop “universal creative standards” for video and music, including prohibitions on some language and images. Video vixens and foul-mouthed pimps and thugs are now so widespread, the protesters maintain, that they infect perceptions of ordinary nonwhite people.

“A lot of rap isn’t rap anymore, it’s just people selling their souls,” Marc Newman, a 28-year-old car salesman from New Rochelle, N.Y., said on Saturday. He was among about 20 men, women and children from area Baptist churches marching outside the Upper East Side residence of Philippe Dauman, the president and chief executive of Viacom Inc.

This is well intended but I doubt it will help much. Perhaps the Pastor should focus more on preaching about Jesus to fans of hip hop music as opposed to attacking the media corporations. Here’s why:

(1) As long as consumers want music that degrade women and celebrate stupidity someone is going to produce it and distribute it. No one forced to buy stupid music.

(2) The best way to protest is with your wallet. If people didn’t buy this music, or attend the concerts of the artists who produce the music, this type of hip hop would die.

(3) Viacom does not force artists to rap lyrics that degrade themselves and women. They freely choose to rap about those things on their own volition.

(4) If the public wants Viacom to act virtuously consumers are going to have change their preferences, artists are going to have to refuse to rap about ignorance, and, then, Viacom executives are left to make the risky decision to opt out of distributing filth. If Viacom could make money off of virtue it would.

Viacom does NOT need to create universal standards for content. Maybe morally debased consumers need to embrace virtuous preferences. If the culture is not morally formed citizens will not make moral decisions. Why isn’t this group protesting the malformed desires of hip hop’s consumers and artists as well?

In what might be the dumbest attempt yet by any large corporation to appear “green,” NBC decided to turn off the lights on their Sunday Night Football broadcast’s studio set last night. This was apparently an effort to offset the carbon footprint of Matt Lauer in Greenland, which – judging by the size of the huge area lit by the lights they hauled up there – must have been pretty huge.

It’s just too bad that NBC didn’t team up with the NFL to turn off the lights at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and let the Eagles take on the Cowboys under the cover of darkness. I’m inclined to believe that if you’re going to deliberately make your broadcast lousy to make a political point, you might as well go big or stay home. Darkening a studio? Small gesture. Darkening an entire stadium filled with some of the, uh, rowdiest fans in the NFL? Huge statement. And frankly, just imagine the entertainment value of Tony Romo desperately trying to find Terrell Owens in a darkened endzone – it calls to mind the image of a young Luke Skywalker learning to use the force while wearing a blast helmet.

Stretch out with your feelings, Tony…

Regardless, video of a badly-candlelit Bob Costas and icebound Matt Lauer follows:

Via Hot Air.

Blog author: jballor
Monday, November 5, 2007
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I’ll be leaving on Wednesday and returning on Saturday to attend GodblogCon 2007 in Las Vegas, held in conjunction with the Blog World & New Media Expo. The Acton Institute is a sponsor of this year’s GodblogCon.

I’ll be representing the PowerBlog at the conference, and if you are a reader of this blog and will also be attending, drop me a note in the comment box on this post. I’ll also be scouting talent for next year’s Acton University, which fills up quickly, so if you’re a blogger and are interested in coming to Grand Rapids to learn more about theology and economics, talk to me.

And in other news from around the blogosphere, check out the 2007 Weblog Awards, including entries in this year’s revived “Best Religious Blog” category.

Blog author: mvandermaas
Thursday, November 1, 2007
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Heads up: Acton Research Fellow Anthony Bradley will be making an appearance today on NPR’s News and Notes program. Braodcast times may vary, so check your local NPR affiliate’s schedule to see if you can catch the show. If you miss it, you can check the show archives right here.

Update: Here’s the audio (3 mb mp3 file).

Update II: Rome office director Kishore Jayabalan commented on the S-CHIP issue for Vatican Radio today; listen by clicking here (230 kb mp3 file).

Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson discusses a new book on economic history that looks at the poverty problem from the perspective of “nature vs. nurture.”

Comes now Gregory Clark, an economist who interestingly takes the side of culture. In an important new book, ” A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World,” Clark suggests that much of the world’s remaining poverty is semi-permanent. Modern technology and management are widely available, but many societies can’t take advantage because their values and social organization are antagonistic. Prescribing economically sensible policies (open markets, secure property rights, sound money) can’t overcome this bedrock resistance.

“There is no simple economic medicine that will guarantee growth, and even complicated economic surgery offers no clear prospect of relief for societies afflicted with poverty,” he writes. Various forms of foreign assistance “may disappear into the pockets of Western consultants and the corrupt rulers of these societies.” Because some societies encourage growth and some don’t, the gap between the richest nations and the poorest is actually greater today (50 to 1) than in 1800 (4 to 1), Clark estimates.

Samuelson notes that “Clark’s theory is controversial and, at best, needs to be qualified.” In his column, The Global Poverty Trap, Samuelson summarizes Clark’s view: “Capitalism in its many variants has been shown, he notes, to be a prodigious generator of wealth. But it will not spring forth magically from a few big industrial projects or cookie-cutter policies imposed by outside experts. It’s culture that nourishes productive policies and behavior.”

Since the 2007 Catholic High School Honor Roll

Honor Roll Cake – Time to celebrate

was released, reactions have been buzzing. We’ve been consistently floored by the Honor Roll’s impact. Here’s some highlights:

Huge Roar: “When we announced the award to our students yesterday, a huge roar of spontaneous cheering filled the building. What a glorious day!”
Margaret Miller, Holy Cross Academy – Oneida, NY. 4-time honoree.

Notre Dame Regional High School Principal Migliorino addresses students, the press, and parents.

Enrollment Impact: “The Honor Roll is really making an impact for us. This year we have had already over 240 shadows for 120 spots for next year’s freshman class[and] many mention the Honor Roll.” – Sister Elizabeth Anne, Principal, Mt. De Sales Academy, Catonsville, MD. 4-time honoree.
Ignite Enthusiasm: “…the Catholic High School Honor Roll will ignite enthusiasm in this Diocese.” “When it comes to recognition, this honor is priceless.” Bishop William L. Higi, Bishop of Lafayette-in-Indiana.
Archbishop Chaput: “This recognition is well-deserved and I applaud the

St. Theodore Guerin High School – Noblesville, IN. Bishop William L. Higi showed up for a surprise assembly and press conference.

administrators, teachers, parents and students for their dedication and devotion.” – Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput. O.F.M. Cap. Archbishop of Denver.
“We’re just so happy you exist!” Liz Molter -Parent preparing to move, enquiring about where good Catholic schools can be found.
Best thing Going: “What you do is still far and away one of the best things going for Catholic Education in the United States.” Ed Wassell, Executive Director, Holy Rosary Academy, Anchorage, AK. 4-time honoree.
“Thanks to the Acton Institute, Holy Angels Academy is no longer ‘the best kept secret’ in Louisville. More families and prospective teachers both in and out of state are hearing about our excellent program.” Mrs. Marilyn G. Malone, Principal, Holy Angels Academy, Louisville, KY

To see a list of the top 50 schools and learn more about the Honor Roll, please go to www.chshonor.org.

In the classic 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, the character of film star Norma Desmond, played by Gloria Swanson, declares, “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” I watched Sunset Boulevard for the first time last night, thanks to the recommendation from a friend in Virginia. As a fan of classic films, I had high hopes for this film, which was directed by Billy Wilder. Wilder also directed one of my favorite classics films, Stalag 17.

William Holden starred in the film, playing a Hollywood script-writer named Joe Gillis. It is evident Gillis is an out of work and down on his luck kind of guy. Gillis meets Desmond when he is trying to flee the men attempting to repossess his automobile. He has a blowout and parks in the garage of what appears to be an abandoned mansion, which is owned and inhabited by Desmond and her butler. The dark, sinister, and shady side of Hollywood takes off from there. Desmond is a former silent movie super star, now washed up and forgotten. She hires Gillis, in the belief he can help launch her “return” to Hollywood glory by editing her movie script. If you are interested in an overview of the entire plot, check out this film site.

Sunset Boulevard masterfully portrays the emptiness of self love and selfishness gone mad. It is equally a haunting look at spiritual emptiness and decay. I was drawn in by the dramatic acting of Gloria Swanson, who turns into a warped and pathetically sad individual as she continually plots her return, which is in reality only in her mind. The dramatic scene at the end is a captivating portrayal of this madness at its pinnacle. The film was obviously controversial, because it exposed such a negative and dreary portrayal of Hollywood in its heyday.

The film is packed with powerful imagery and symbolism. In addition, the powerful use of black and white was phenomenal, which was made all the more haunting when coupled with the musical score. What is also powerful, is that the film is so relevant for today’s audiences. One look at Hollywood gossip shows, Hollywood worship television shows, and the self love, narcissistic culture, makes this clearly evident.

As a Christian, the film scores big as a reminder of the decay and shallowness of a life that pursues vanity, greed, and narcissism. It also reminds us that sin has consequences. Many of us are aware of people who are locked in the prison of their shallow, self-loving world. The probing question being, are we a community that seeks to be saved, and sacrifice for others, or a society seeking instant gratification? The vexing question has even found its way into the Church, in the form of prosperity gospel theology. But those who know the power and truth of real freedom, know Christ. We are made whole and complete in the sacrifice, suffering, and resurrection of Christ. The Apostle Paul said in 2nd Corinthians, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Paul also notes in Romans , “We share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
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Here’s a definition of freedom worth noting:

The Word of God teaches that the Christian is a free man and should “stand in the freedom which Christ has made him free.” What is meant by Christian freedom? What is freedom in general? We answer: it is not the right and the ability to do as one pleases, but the ability to move without constraint in the sphere for which God made us. Freedom therefore is not inconsistent with limitation and law. The bird is free only when it can move in the air unhindered. A worm is free when it is not prevented from moving in the ground–in a sphere which would mean bondage and death for many other creatures. A locomotive is not free unless its motion is confined to the two rails on which it was made to run. Man was made in the image of God to be like Him and to reflect his holiness. Consequently he is free only when he moves without constraint in the sphere of holiness and obedience to God’s law.

–“Christian Liberty,” in “Report of the Committee on Worldly Amusements,” Agenda: Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, To convene June 13, 1928 at Holland, Mich., p. 22.

The biblical text cited above is Galatians 5:1.

Do you care enough to help?

Via Hot Air

Regarding John Armstrong’s insightful post yesterday, I want to pass along some related wisdom on the subject from Richard Baxter from his 1682 treatise, How to do Good to Many. Writing on the text of Galatians 6:10, he writes about the problem and responsibility of passing along wealthy estates to heirs:

III. The Text plainly intimateth that it is a great Crime in them, that instead of doing good while they have opportunity, think it enough to leave it by Will to their Executors to do it. When they have lived to the flesh, and cannot take it with them, they think it enough to leave others to do that good, which they had not a heart to do themselves: But a treasure must be laid up in heaven before-hand, and not be left to be sent after, Matth. 6. 20, 21. And he that will make friends of the Mammon of Unrighteousness, must now be rich towards God, Luk. 12. 21. It’s no victory over the World, to leave it when you cannot keep it: Nor will any Legacy purchase Heaven for an unholy worldly soul.

IV. Yet they that will do good neither Living nor Dying are worst of all. Surely the last Acts of our Lives, if possible, should be the best; And as we must live in health, so also in sickness, and to the last in doing all the good we can; and therefore it must needs be a great sin, to leave our Estates to those that are like to do hurt with them, or to do no good, so far as we are the free disposers of them.

The Case, I confess is not without considerable difficulties, how much a man is bound to leave to his Children, or his neerest Kindred, when some of them are disposed to live unprofitably, and some to live ungodly and hurtfully. Some think men are bound to leave them nothing, some think they ought to leave them almost all: And some think that they should leave them only so much as may find them tolerable food and raiment. I shall do my best to decide the case in several propositions. (more…)