Archive | February 2013

Please Shake Responsibly: The “Harlem Shake” and Cultural Responsibility

You’ve probably seen the videos by now. It starts off with an individual dancing quite reservedly by him or herself for about 15 seconds. In the background are other people who seem unaware. Once the bass drops, suddenly there is a crowd of people dancing. They’re sometimes clad in ridiculous costumes, flailing, wiggling, and shaking about to no particular rhythm. The irony? None of them are actually doing the Harlem Shake or anything that remotely resembles the Shake.

I was pretty late getting to this viral meme phenomenon. As I perused youtube video after youtube video, I kept wondering in frustration, “Why are they never actually doing the Shake?”

If you don’t know, the Harlem Shake is an actual dance. It was born in Harlem in 1981 and is a vibrant African-American dance. I remember trying to learn the Shake in my middle-school through high school years. Alas, I was an Asian-American girl growing up in white suburbia. It was never meant to be.

While these video memes have gone viral and admittedly are very fun to watch, they’ve also been responded to with strong criticism. It’s been called, “an absolute mockery”, “disrespectful”, “foolish” etc. In my Facebook and twitter feeds, similar criticisms have surfaced. Among these posts have been my own criticisms. Granted, haters… will alway hate… But I feel in this situation, there’s an important message about culture that isn’t being heard.

What it comes down to is this: Cultural responsibility.

I think if it had gone by any other name and paired with a song titled under any other name, this wouldn’t really be subject to any criticism at all. Because it looks, and probably is, a lot of fun. Hence the viralness. But calling it something it isn’t, well that’s like ordering Chicken Souvlaki in a cafeteria and getting a couple of horribly dry chunks of chicken drowning in some mystery sauce. …That was a personally specific example… drawing from a recent embittering experience. There are probably better ones out there… I’ll think of them later. But it mocks what the product truly is with all its cultural glory, history, and the people it belongs to.

My frustration is more with our society’s tendency to borrow cultural artifacts from subcultures and what results is a product that is completely stripped of its origins. We do it so often and we don’t give a crap.

I’m not advocating that we must cease and desist with this particular meme. I don’t think anyone really has made a “Harlem Shake” video with the malicious intent of making a mockery of a part of African-American history but it comes down to giving it its due respect. It’s something that means something to a group of people. It’s part of their history. It has a particular cultural meaning to them. Have some respect. 

Other critics have expressed their concern that the real Harlem Shake will be overshadowed and pushed out of search results by the viral video. That is a legitimate concern. When I expressed some frustration over the meme on a Facebook status, a friend commented that she didn’t actually know what the Shake was. So naturally, I went to Youtube to look up a video to show her. Only when I searched “Harlem Shake”, I went through page after page of the “Harlem Shake” meme. The real Shake was literally pushed out of the results. I ended up having to look up a specific music video that featured the real dance.

And so my complaint isn’t so much about a specific race issue. I don’t think that’s the issue at all. And I suppose it leads into the over-arching question of how to be responsible users in the internet world. When do internet memes cross the line into cultural insensitivity and mockery? How do we engage with this internet meme culture responsibly while honoring people and their cultural background?

In the meantime, please shake responsibly.

On My Reading Desk This Week (02/17/13 – 02/23/13)

Goooood Morning Internet! Happy Saturday!!

It’s a rainy one where I am. I think that calls for a cup of good coffee, good music, and good, thoughtful, challenging reads.

Season of Sharing — Ninkasi’s Niece

The writer uses the different sizes and bottling of beer to talk about how they reflect differences in individualistic and collectivistic cultures. Right up my alley as a wannabe beer connoisseur and lover of culture. Great post.

“What You Call Yourself When No One’s Listening” — The Green Study

Excellent post! “Kids must learn that failure and mistakes are not what defines a person, but how they react to those errors does. It’s a skill that impacts our entire lives.”

“I’m Spiritual, Not Religious” — Eric Hyde’s Blog

“It is perhaps one of the emptiest phrases ever developed in the English language.” Good reflections about this relatively new cultural phenomena.

Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth — Joseph E. Stiglitz, The New York Times

America might have been the land of opportunity once upon a time. In this article, Stiglitz claims that it has become a myth. Discrimination and lack of education, among other factors, are barriers to social mobility. What does he propose we should do?

Finding Jesus, in Drag — Jay Bakker, The Huffington Post

Finding grace in unlikely places. Following Jesus to the unlikely places He used to go.

How The Resurrection Changes Everything — Chris Johnson, Relevant Magazine

Critical piece for Christians. Do you have a full theological understanding of the resurrection? A must read.

Eyes Through The Glass — A Blog About Asperger’s

A post about the aftermath of Sandy Hook for the mentally ill. In light of the mass shootings in our country, are we defaulting to mental illness as the culprit in ways that are leading to the mass dehumanization of the mentally ill?

Which article was most interesting to you? Why? Agree? Disagree? What’s on your reading desk?

On My Reading Desk This Week (02/10/13 – 02/16/13)

Happy Saturday Everyone!

This week was chock full of good reading. But these are my top picks for the week. I post some of the other great pieces I find but know I probably won’t add to this post on my Facebook. So… You should add me on Facebook if you wish to receive those links 😀

I do hope you take some time to read. Even if it’s not from my Reading Desk. I can’t stress enough the importance of reading. I can’t stress enough allowing those reads to sink deep into your soul. Let them challenge your mind, challenge your worldview, And challenge the laziness of our thoughts.

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” -Confucius

A Life Defined Not By Disability, But Love – NPR

Absolutely touching. A love between Mother and Daughter that challenges the statistics. Love is more powerful than your circumstance.

Why Virginity is not the Gospel – Carolyn Custis James, Huffington Post

This article is redemptive. In a world where 1 in 4 women have been sexually abused before the age of 18, what message of worth is American Christian understanding of “purity” sending our daughters?

Calling All Christians – Skye Jethani

A bit long but so good. ‎”It is not the pastor’s task to wrestle more people away from “secular” engagements in order to help him accomplish his “sacred” work, but to erase these categories in the lives of those he leads in order that Christ might come to reign over all parts of their lives and world.” Read this.

Egyptian women: “It’s time for our voices to be heard”  – Egyptian Streets

Haunting. This post had me wrecked. I have to say: Viewer discretion advised. But if you’re up to it, it’s not long at all and this is the reality we can turn a blind eye to. I hope it breaks your heart for our sisters around the world and moves us all to prayer and action for women’s rights around the world.

Why I Write – Harper Faulkner

Great piece. I feel this big time. Sometimes, especially with the articles I post in these Reading Desk issues, I read stuff that is so wonderfully written that I start to wonder why I even try to say things. Nevertheless, they inspire me to write.

The Street Kids of San Francisco – Alex Mayyasi, Priceonomics

Seriously interesting and informative piece on the life of Street Kids (Homeless) of San Francisco. It’s a great word to our consumer/materialistic driven culture. Just a realy interesting read. Highly recommend.

More Than You Can Handle – Addie Zierman

I cannot recommend this post enough. I’ve read it and reread it so many times this week. This is good writing. The kind of writing that really gets to the heart of human existence, pain, and suffering. Writing that offers no conclusive answer we so desperately want in life yet gives you a peace and connection to the rest of humanity just trying to figure it all out. Just beautiful.

In Defense of the 4-Letter Word – Addie Zierman

So Addie is my new favorite person. This is a great piece on basically… being real. Christians are so legalistic about language. I always found it so fake growing up and Addie hits it on the head of the nail.

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I’d also love to hear your responses, thoughts, and feedback on any of the links posted in the comment section! And feel free to comment if you have a reading recommendations for me! Ready…… GO!

Facebook Stalking God

If you took a poll amongst my friends, I’m quite certain that whether best friends and acquaintances (I’d just like to note here that I do NOT know how to spell that word without spell-check), if you asked them to describe my top two characteristics, they would say: Facebook stalker and awkward human being.

I LOVE to Facebook stalk. I mean.. for the most part I think everybody Facebook stalks, I’m just way more public about it. But I do it so much and I’ve gotten so good at it that it’s become sort of like a game to me. Like… How much can I figure out about a person through Facebook? Also, our timelines aren’t finite sources of information. We update, comment, like, etc. everyday! There’s always something new to learn about someone! In a way, it feels like Facebook is saying, “Are you up to the challenge??” And to that I say… Challenge accepted, Facebook. Challenge. Accepted.

The thing is… I’m never really satisfied with just Facebook stalking. Most of the time it makes me want to hang out with that person in real life more and more. Like.. “I see that you like eating popcorn and watching Mean Girls… I too… like eating popcorn and watching Mean Girls..” or… “I see you have a Doctor Who poster hanging up in your room… in that picture you posted… last year… I too… like Doctor Who..” And after hours of creeping on everything there is to creep on their timeline, I’m left to face the fact that…. I do not actually know them.

I’d like to say that I do draw a line between friendly online creeping and actual watching-you-from-a-tree-outside kind of stalking. I do have some sort of self-control that allows my friendships to happen organically (even though I most likely have Facebook stalked them prior to meeting them in person) rather than trying to contrive them. ..generally… yea… anyway.

When Facebook Stalking moves to Actual Relationship

It’s a magical moment when I finally get to hang out with someone I’ve only ever known through Facebook stalking.

I’m thinking about the people in my life, some really close friends that I had stalked like… two years ago and now are some of my best friends. As much as I love creepin’ on their pictures and finding really random things they liked on Facebook, it’s nothing compared to the things I find out about them through real life interactions…

Like the way she can’t make eye-contact with you when you complement her. The way he addresses you by your first name in situations where normally, people wouldn’t think it necessary to because of familiarity but he does so because he so respects and cherishes your company. The way she has a facial expression to go with everything and anything she says. The way she naturally facilitates group activities, not because she doesn’t think what we’re doing is fun or feels excluded, but because she’s used to being the big sister and she loves her role as being the one who gives the opportunity for others to have so much fun. (I’m referring to specific things about a few different people here)

These are just a few examples of the little things I love about my friends that I only know because we actually spent time together face-to-face.

Creeping on Jesus

Another important thing to know about me is that I love to read. I don’t really read fiction… but about 3 or 4 years ago, I started to really love studying theology. I love to read books, articles, blogs, journals, etc.

Now and then I wonder, at what point am I just knowing things about God rather than actually knowing Him?

It’s like saying you’ll go on a coffee date with a friend… but you only ever talk about getting coffee, and like.. you only end up reading customer reviews about potential coffee shops where you could have this coffee date… and then you like… only ever end up talking about what kind of coffee you’ll drink at your coffee date.. and.. whether or not that coffee is fair trade or whatever…. and brainstorming what topics you’ll discuss during the date… You get the point. You never actually gain any ground in your relationship and most importantly, no coffee has been consumed. (Maybe not most importantly… but still…)

Now and then, I get worried that my knowledge of things about Him is disproportionate or takes precedence to my intimacy and knowing of Him.

How many of us can say with a definiteness, if all things go to absolute crap, that it matters not because we know God. Many of us have a testimony we can share… we’ve practiced the 2-minute version of our conversion story to whip out if occasion called for it… but how many of us, without hesitation, could say that we have known God throughout our ups and downs in life?

When I think about knowing my friends versus knowing things about them, the difference lies in the knowing them that goes beyond a list of facts. There’s this transcendent knowing of them that goes like: I know you. The deep down inside you. The things that break your heart. The things that irritate you. The things that make you laugh. The things that make you smile that have no significance to other people. 

I get to knowing these things about my friends through stuff like spending time together, staying up till 5am talking to each other, butting heads but figuring it out with each other. Sharing life together.

And so it should go with our relationship with Jesus.

The point in which my relationship is less like Facebook-stalking the son of God and actually knowing Him with that definiteness is:

– When I’m regularly spending time in His presence, in His Word. It’s actually going on that coffee date. That “partaking of His cup” thing that means to partake in experience. (Which in the Bible, eludes to sharing in Christ’s suffering) It’s both experiencing Him in silent meditation and the actual active-doing of Kingdom things.

– Talking to Him. Spilling my guts, laying all that’s on my mind and heart at His feet in prayer. Being real and honest about the things that piss me off, the things I don’t get about Him.. working out WITH Him the conflicts of interest that arise when my own wants, preferences, and desires are at odds with the things of the Kingdom.

It’s in these things where you get to know the heart of God: sharing your life with the Divine in both time spent just-being and doing. Perhaps that’s why Jesus asked us to, “do as I have done”. “Knowing” requires a shared experience.

The Bible is not a Timeline. It is not just a thing we read that gives us more facts about God. It is the Word of God. It is alive. Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood! (John 1:14, The Message) He talks. He listens. He responds. He’s real.

It’s okay to “Facebook stalk” God. Theology, knowledge of God, gaining better understanding of Him, that’s all good. But don’t stop at Facebook stalking. Know Him face-to-face. Enter into that magical moment: when Facebook-stalking becomes actual relationship.

When we’ve moved from “Facebook stalking” God to knowing God, perhaps we’ll be better acquainted with His heart.. what grieves Him… what delights Him… and perhaps not only will we be acquainted with what His heart is like, we’ll begin to be grieved and delighted by the same things in our own.

Challenge… accepted?

On My Reading Desk (02/03/13 – 02/09/13)

Happy Saturday everyone!! Here are my top picks for good reads this week in no particular order. Hope you are all making it through Nemo okay. If you’re snowed in, hope this offers some food for thought or at least something interesting to pass the time.

Why Did Men Stop Wearing Heels — William Kremer, BBC News

The meaning of heels throughout history.

The Price of a Stolen Childhood — Emily Bazelon, New York Times

A gripping article telling the story of 2 women who were raped as children for child pornography. How those horrors still affect them as adults even though the abuse has ended and how can restitution play a part in putting their lives back together.

Former sex trafficking victim shines light on dark underworld of Super Bowl — Naomi Martin, Nola.com

For majority of Americans, the Superbowl is a beloved national holiday. But not too many know of the darkness that has come to be part of this beloved day of American tradition. Former sex trafficking victim tells her story and sheds light onto human trafficking on American soil.

Delhi gang-rape introspection: India fails to check rampant sexual abuse of children — Emirates 24/7

An update on the Delhi gang rape case, the status of India’s rape laws, and the pending trial. She may have died but her death is sparking an awakening in India. Here’s the story so far.

Michelle Rhee: My Break With the Democrats –Michelle Rhee, The Daily Beast

Some really great thoughts on education reform by Michelle Rhee. I first heard of her from the documentary. Waiting for Superman.

The Absurd Legalism of Gender Roles — Rachel Held Evans

Some really great writing from start to finish. Exposes American social and gender constructs and holds them up to what is really biblical. It saddens me that not a lot of people will be able to accept parts of this post because they can’t differentiate what roles and stereotypes are products of tradition and culture. I’m not sure if that’s because of pride, ignorance, or stubbornness or just lack of adequate experience in the social sciences. I don’t always agree 100% with Rachel but this was one of the best things I’ve read recently. I applaud her.

Why Do Christians Say Dumb Things? — Neil Samudre, Relevant Magazine

Wonderful piece on the difference between speaking truth with love and just plain slander.

Friendship in an Age of Economics — Todd May, New York Times

I cannot recommend this one enough. Pieces like this make me wish I had majored in journalism or something. Great piece on what is friendship. Such good thoughts.

Warts and All

This is a repost from my original blog written on 10/14/2012

From Genesis 32:

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with human beings and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

————

In a strange turn of events, the frustration that seemed to pull me away from grace is the same thing that seems to be driving me back to the cross.

I’ve been struggling with God. Wrestling ‘till day has finally broken. My stubbornness, my arrogance, my pride refused to let grace prevail over my sinfulness. So God, in His infinite mercy, has given me a limp.

I am walking with a limp. A thorn in my side.

Because I’d rather have learned my lessons well and present myself as wiser, more mature, having beaten my issues and I no longer have to struggle because I’m that good now. I want consistency. I want to put meaning to my past struggles. I want to win.

But like a deep, puss-filled, infected wound, one treatment isn’t enough. I require repeated disinfecting and cleaning. Because if it were as easy as I wanted it to be, I would start walking without Him. I would need community less and less. Because some part of me still believes that I can achieve some sort of holiness on my own. Without really realizing it, I act like all His sacrifice, pain, and suffering endured on the Cross falls short of the atonement necessary to cover my sin. So, in part, I need to save myself.

I mean, that’s what we were brought up to believe right? If you work hard enough, you can have it all. You aren’t just given things without working for it. You get what you put in.

I’m a lot like Jacob. Worried that God won’t do what He has already promised to me. So I tried to take matters into my own hands. I tried to secure His promises with my own hands. I tried to learn my lessons well so that there would be no next time. Tried to force letting grace work in my life because I know it ought to instead of actually experiencing Christ.

My walk is anything but perfect. Anything but polished. It’s rough. There are ups and downs. Yet part of me stubbornly still wants to seem better than I am.

“It is very easy to forgive others for their mistakes; it takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed your own.”

At last, I cannot hide my limp.

Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader and later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England. It was customary back then for royalty, when having a portrait painted of them, to have it done in the best possible light, omitting much of their physical flaws. Contrary to this, Cromwell asked to have his portrait painted, “warts and all”.

Friends, here I am. Warts and all. I have wrestled with God. I am wrestling with God. And in my struggle, have been given a limp.

It’s a limp that reminds me of my arrogance. Reminds me of my inadequacy.

A limp that disables me from going too far on my own. A limp that forces me, mid-struggle, to cling tighter to the One I wrestle with.

The wrestle is exhausting. The stubbornness and arrogance that had seemed to prevent Grace from prevailing turns out to have never stood a chance against one single touch from the almighty.

And just like that I am rendered powerless, helplessly grasping on to Him.

“I will not let you go ‘till you bless me”

Hallelujah for my limp. Hallelujah for He is patient through my rebellion and struggling, only to win me over in His timing.

Hallelujah, I will not let You go.

Hallelujah, He never lets go.

On My Reading Desk This Week (01/27/13 – 02/02/13)

I’ve decided that on Saturdays, I’m going to make a post with a list of interesting articles, or blog entries, or opinion pieces that I found throughout the week. I love, love, love reading articles online. I got the idea from Jahnabi Barooah, the Assistant Religion Editor at The Huffington Post.

In her words: “I am an obsessive reader. As a web editor, I spent several hours online reading essays, blog posts and reportage every day. I also read in the subway, in the bathroom and occasionally, when I’m eating alone. In the world of new media, good writing and original ideas are becoming increasingly rare. When I encounter them, some give me momentary pause in the midst of a busy work day. Others linger with me for days challenging my worldview.”

Word, girl. Word.

So here are the things I’ve been reading this week:

Surprised by Suffering — Scott Bessenecker, Least of These Blog

Western Christian perspectives on suffering… or lack thereof. Is Christianity really just “positive, encouraging, and safe for the family?”

Is Delhi so Different from Steubenville? — Nick Kristof, New York Times

Thanks to Jahnabi for the link: On the condescension of the West towards treatment of women in India following the gang-rape and death of Jyoti Singh Pandey, and why rape is America’s problem too.

Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A — Shane L. Windmeyer, Huffington Post

Is it possible to stand together despite having polar opposite convictions? This is an amazing story that I hope will set the example and blaze the way for building bridges between the Christian community and the LGBT community.

Chiune Sugihara, Japan Diplomat Who Saved 6,000 Jews During Holocaust, Remembered — Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post

The unsung hero of the Holocaust. I never heard of him till this week. Awesome reminder that wherever we are in life, whatever resources, status, networks, etc. we have can be aligned with and used for justice if you have the creativity and the eyes to see it.

Pay-What-You-Can Restaurants Dish Up Dignity in Denver — Jeff Haanen, Christianity Today

What has meal-sharing become in American culture? Redefining and re-appropriating our understanding of what it means to pay for things and how we view people who pay us. What might it look like to contribute to the flourishing of your city without the condescension of charity from a distance?

Re-discovering Christianity as a Movement – From the Streets of Bangkok –Matt Wilson, Redletter Christians

Reflections on Christianity as a movement towards kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven rather than a belief system you simply arrive to.

God Is Not A Christian: Desmond Tutu And The Dalai Lama’s Extraordinary Talk On God And Religion — Huffington Post

A recount of two spiritual leaders exchange about religion and God. I found their interaction to be really beautiful and example-setting to us all.

After Being Raped, I Was Wounded; My Honor Wasn’t — Sohaila Abdulali, New York Times

Jahnabi: In the wake of the heinous gang-rape of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi, Abdulali shares an emotive story describing her own rape.

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II — Mike Dash, Smithsonian

Fascinating article detailing an encounter between a party of traveling soviet geologists and a family isolated from any contact with outside civilization (let alone other people) for a good 40 years.

The Girl Who Got Away — Allison Singh Gee, MSN

One girl’s story of how she was almost a victim of human trafficking and the realities of human trafficking on our own turf.

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