Geek dad status: unlocked. (Oh let’s be honest, this is nothing new…)

Last night I showed my oldest (13-year-old) daughter the first 5 minutes of Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, resulting in sustained laughter, amused snickers, and a request to watch the rest of it.

Feels like I must’ve done at least something right.

I tried YouTube TV – here’s what I found

YouTubeTV is the latest entry into the streaming TV field. I’ve been an early adopter here; I signed up for Sling on day one (ESPN streaming? Finally!) and moved to Hulu Live TV last fall to get access to the Big Ten Network as well. YouTubeTV rolled out in my area last fall, but I held off trying it until they had applications that supported the devices I have at home. Google had promised apps for Apple TV and Roku, and it took them a while but they finally rolled out a few weeks ago, so this week I signed up for the one week free trial.

The Good

  • Roku, Apple TV, and iOS apps are good
  • Video streams load smoothly, don’t often buffer
  • YouTubeTV includes streams of local TV channels, which is awesome since a couple of our local channels have weak over-the-air signals
  • very intuitive live TV guide grid (this is notably missing from Hulu)
  • Cloud DVR function is intuitive and feels like you’d expect a DVR to behave (mostly. we’ll get to that)
  • Cost is similar to Hulu and Sling

This is all good stuff. No real complaints here.

The Bad

  • Cloud DVR doesn’t seem to differentiate between new episodes and re-runs. This is such an obvious oversight I can’t really believe they shipped it this way. If I’m interested in The Big Bang Theory, I want to record and watch the new episodes, but not the re-runs that are in syndication. YouTubeTV DVR doesn’t have a way to say “new episodes only”. That’s pretty much a dealbreaker.
  • No Food Network or HGTV. Apparently Google doesn’t have a contract with Scripps yet for those channels. For my family, that’s a dealbreaker.

I only have a couple things listed here, but they’re biggies. I assume Google is working to fix those, but until they are corrected, YouTubeTV is really a non-starter for me.

Conclusion

For the moment I’m sticking with Hulu Live. Their stream quality has been good, they have all the channels we want, and the DVR-type function is sufficient. They have promised that they have a major app update coming that’ll help navigate the live TV. If they implement a grid-type guide system and keep or improve their DVR function, they’re the right choice for me right now. But YouTubeTV is close enough that with a few improvements they could jump up to the top of the list.

Beck: A practical Lenten fasting routine

Richard Beck describes one of his concerns with traditional Lenten fasting and his rationale for working within it:

I have a rule of thumb I like to keep: Don’t let your pursuit of holiness pull you away from your family. As a part of this, I’ve always disliked how fasting pulls me away from family meals. Sure, I can sit at the table and talk while everyone is eating, but that’s just weird. Eating–actually eating–with my family is a profoundly important experience.

I also don’t like how fasting affects my ability to accept hospitality when offered. When someone invites you to a table you should eat. Even if you’re fasting.

So my normal fasting routine is this: Eat only one meal a day, family dinner at night. If you’re invited to eat with someone, accept, don’t decline because you are fasting. Otherwise, don’t eat during the week.

The impact to family meals has always been a big hesitation for me when thinking about this kind of fasting. I appreciate Beck’s reasoning here… makes sense and seems like something I could adopt.


Experimental Theology: My Fasting Routine

These are the deep questions I ask myself…

The other night we were playing “Name that Disney movie” while shuffling soundtracks on Spotify. The question I have rattling around in my head two days later is this:

Do I like the Moana songs so much because I like their distinctive style? Because I do think that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s approach feels and sounds very different than what, say, Robert Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez do in Frozen or what Randy Newman does in half the Pixar movies ever made…

Or am I just drawn to them because I love Lin-Manuel so much that I will irrationally support and be attracted to whatever he produces?

This question bothers me more than I’d like.

Liss: Some questions for those who say the solution is to arm teachers

Casey Liss, whose wife is a teacher, writes up a list of 35 practical questions that we’d need to have good answers to before we went the route of arming teachers to try to prevent more school shootings.

Just a taste:

  • Where does the money come from to buy firearms for these teachers?
  • Given most taxpayers won’t give money to cover basic school supplies, what makes you think they’ll be willing to give money for firearms?
  • Where do the guns get stored? How do we prevent children from getting them?
  • Are teachers allowed to shoot first? Or only after they hear gunfire?
  • How do teachers know who the good guy is, and who the bad guy is? How do we ensure there’s no friendly fire?

Sure, Casey’s got an opinion on this… but these are also practical questions that would need to be answered before anybody could roll this idea out in practice. It’s worth reading through the whole list.


Liss is More: A Series of Questions for Those That Advocate Arming Teachers In Order to Prevent Innocent Children from Being Slaughtered

Parkland

How long must we continue to sacrifice children on the altar of the Second Amendment?

As Christians, being “pro-life” must extend beyond the unborn life to care for all of life. Do we love our guns so much that we are unwilling to even allow studies of gun violence?

We must be Christians first and Americans later. Do we really think Jesus would say the solution is more guns?

Don’t say that we shouldn’t get political with our Christianity. Christian beliefs have political implications. As N. T. Wright says, to declare “Jesus is Lord” is to inherently say that “Caesar is not”. Our priorities and attitudes should be shaped by the Sermon on the Mount before the Bill of Rights.

Enough is enough. I’m not saying there is an easy solution, but allowing the unchecked proliferation of guns cannot be the answer.

Bullet points for a Wednesday morning: travel edition

It’s grey outside and I’m on business travel all week. Bring on the bullet points!

  • I’m ready to be done with this head cold. Bleh.
  • Normally on a business trip I’d be looking for a nice restaurant to hit for supper. Given that today is Valentine’s Day, I expect they’re all gonna be crazy busy tonight. I think I’ll hit the mall food court instead.
  • Here’s hoping my 11-year-old remembers to give her mom the card I left with her.
  • Oh and it’s Ash Wednesday. Thinking I’ll go to a service tonight.
  • I can’t remember the last time I’ve really gotten into a new album. Probably when the Hamilton soundtrack came out a couple years ago. As a guy who used to be buying a new CD every month or so this seems sad.
  • I gotta set myself a reminder that I’m leading worship this weekend… have everything planned but need to do some mental rehearsal.
  • Pitchers and catchers report today. Looking forward to another good season for the Cubs!
  • Before Hamilton, the last record I really fell in love with was Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs.
  • Wordsmithing documents in a 20-person committee is quite an experience.
  • Is it lunchtime yet?

Finished reading: where has 2018 gone already?

I start each year with the intent of writing up Finished Reading posts on a book-by-book basis. Then I find myself in the first week of February and realize I’m nine books behind already. So it’s compendium time. Here’s what I’ve ready in 2018 so far:

The Gospel Coalition has its #MeToo moment

The pace of sexual abuse allegations and resignations / firings in the wake of the #MeToo movement has been stunning. Since early October when Harvey Weinstein was deposed from his organization, executives, journalists, actors, athletes, and doctors with patterns of abuse have been uncovered and summarily fired, retired, and replaced.

Last week, the trial of US Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar provided the most heartbreaking story yet as 160 women gave victim impact statements, confronting a man who had abused each of them under the guise of providing medical treatment. (As many as 265 people have now come forward accusing Nassar of abuse.) Rachael Denhollander, a victim of Nassar’s as a teen, was the key witness in his prosecution and provided the capstone victim impact statement last Friday. In a 30-minute address in the courtroom, Denhollander spoke bluntly about the systems that had failed her and Nassar’s other victims, about her struggles to advocate for abuse victims, and then about the good news of the Gospel.

Denhollander’s statement went viral. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were full of Christians, from leaders to laymen, lionizing her courage and willingness to share the Gospel so publicly. But from a close reading of her statement, there was a question stuck in my head: she said that her victim advocacy “cost me my church”. What was that all about?

Yesterday, in a fantastic interview with Christianity Today, the other shoe dropped. Rachael revealed that the church she lost was a church “directly involved in restoring” Sovereign Grace founder C. J. Mahaney, who left his pastorate after being accused of covering up sexual abuse within his church network. She says that she and her husband were told by multiple church elders that this church ‘wasn’t the place for them’ if they were going to speak out for abuse victims that way.

This hits close to home.

Mahaney was a council member of The Gospel Coalition (TGC), a group that is strongly influential in the evangelical circles I’ve been in all my life. TGC leaders have consistently supported Mahaney, with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler making jokes about the accusations against Mahaney while introducing him as a “guest speaker” at the “Together for the Gospel” (T4G) conference in 2016. Mahaney resigned from the TGC council after the abuse scandal broke, but has slowly, without publicly addressing the allegations, worked his way back into good standing with the group. He is now back as a regular headline plenary speaker at T4G 2018.

Mahaney isn’t the only T4G plenary speaker in the penumbra of this kind of allegations. A former student at The Master’s College, founded by John MacArthur, has come forward to allege that the leaders of that college forced her into a “biblical counseling” session with her abuser, and then threatened church discipline if she refused to drop charges, eventually kicking her out of the school.

It’s time for The Gospel Coalition to come to grips with their own #MeToo moment.

TGC is filled with men (and yes, it’s only men) who have served long in ministry and been helpful to many. I’ve personally benefited from the teaching of MacArthur and Matt Chandler and TGC founder Don Carson over the years. But in this cultural moment, their willing blindness to these issues is inexcusable, and their silence is deafening. Indeed, this planned T4G 2018 seminar leads me to believe they still really don’t get it:

We can do better.

How loudly would it speak to the watching world if Rachael Denhollander were invited to be a plenary speaker at T4G18? For the leaders of the theological movement that Rachael and her husband are a part of to recognize their failures in the area of addressing abuse, to repent, and to hear the truth spoken by their sister?

Rachael is a survivor of abuse and mistreatment from the hands of both a despicable doctor and a group of church leaders more intent on protecting themselves than their sheep. Her words cry out to them like the blood of Cain’s brother calling from the ground. From the end of her interview with CT:

First, the gospel of Jesus Christ does not need your protection. It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church. Jesus Christ does not need your protection; he needs your obedience. Obedience means that you pursue justice and you stand up for the oppressed and you stand up for the victimized, and you tell the truth about the evil of sexual assault and the evil of covering it up.

Second, that obedience costs. It means that you will have to speak out against your own community. It will cost to stand up for the oppressed, and it should. If we’re not speaking out when it costs, then it doesn’t matter to us enough.

Rachael Denhollander is a hero and example to us all. It’s time for The Gospel Coalition to admit their complicity in these things and show true repentance. Come on, guys, set an example for us. Invite Rachael to speak at T4G. Let’s show the world what it can really mean to be together for the Gospel.

Positive Politics: Religious Liberty

It’s been too long since I’ve written in this series. So let’s tackle something that I’m sure isn’t controversial at all – religious liberty.

Free exercise

I think this part is actually pretty straightforward. As guaranteed by the First Amendment, each person should have free exercise of their religion. This will feel strange at times as our country, which has traditionally been majority Christian, becomes more diverse. But at the basic level, we should welcome and spend time getting to know our neighbors of other faiths, and encourage the building and protection of mosques and temples in the same way we care for Christian churches.

“Congress shall make no law…”

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…

Here’s where it gets a little more challenging. What does it look like to respect an establishment of religion? What about this “separation of church and state”?

From a Christian standpoint, we first need to have a clear recognition of how closely tied our American governments have been to the Christian church and Christian principles. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. However, it gets more and more difficult as our country becomes more diverse and as the general population becomes less and less devotedly (or at all) Christian.

The positive influence that Christianity can bring to this country must come from the church, not from the government. People will be drawn to Christ through the beauty and love of the Gospel message, not because Christians win legal battles to have school-sponsored Christian prayers and exclusive access to the city park for a Christian nativity scene.

But what about…

The current sticky places in the religious liberty discussion are where evolving cultural views of civil rights and protected classes come into conflict with sincerely held religious convictions. So let’s talk about just a couple of them.

The Gay Wedding Cake

This one is currently before the Supreme Court. Gay couple wants to order a custom wedding cake. Christian baker refuses. State prosecutes the baker for violating anti-discrimination laws. What’s a man to do?

If it were me personally, I think I would’ve been OK baking the cake. I’m not a professional baker, but I am a musician who has occasionally been paid for playing at weddings, receptions, and the like. And I would be OK with providing my musical services at the reception after a same-sex wedding. But that really just speaks to the state of my convictions, not the overall principle.

I’m still on board with Andrew Sullivan’s summary statement from last month: if the Christians had been more Christian, or the liberals more liberal, we wouldn’t be in this situation. There’s no question that our societal views are changing. What we need in an age of significant shifts is time for adjustment. Bend a branch too hard and too quickly and it will snap and cause significant damage. Apply pressure gently over time and it will accommodate the changes.

Contraceptive Coverage

The Hobby Lobby case is the exemplar here. The law requires employers to provide a basic level of health insurance, including contraceptive coverage for women. The owners of Hobby Lobby have a religious objection to the use of some forms of contraception and refuse to provide the coverage. Slightly more challenging is the Little Sisters of the Poor case, in which a Catholic order that runs a group of homes for the low-income elderly similarly refuses to participate in providing contraceptive coverage, even to the point of refusing to sign a form saying they won’t provide it, because that form would then trigger government coverage, which the Little Sisters believe would make them complicit in the sin.

In these cases I’d like to sidestep things a little bit.

First, we need to take a long look at the rights of corporations. While corporate entities are necessary for the economy, the pattern of extending the rights of persons to corporations has a weakening effect on our democracy. When corporate entities are entitled to free political speech (spending), the richest can quickly overwhelm the political messaging arena in ways that ensure they get richer. With the Hobby Lobby case, the court allowed for corporations to exercise the religious rights of their owners. As a basic principle I would suggest that for-profit corporations should not receive all of these rights reserved for the people.

Second, the United States should get away from the employer-provided health care system altogether. Having health coverage tied to employment makes less and less sense in an economy that is moving toward more fluid employment situations and more self-employment / freelance work. While that discussion belongs in another post focusing specifically on health care, I bring it up here just to note that in a system where health coverage was not tied to employment, Christian employers would not be put in the position of needing to make decisions on covering procedures that conflict with their beliefs.

Evaluation

So let’s evaluate these against the five-principle framework.

1. Is it good for the poor?

Well, yeah, on principle free exercise of religion is good for everybody, including the poor.

2. Is it good for the planet?

Same answer.

3. Does it promote peace?

A focus on true religious tolerance would indeed help promote peace.

4. Does it challenge the powerful?
5. Does it let the marginalized have a seat at the table to speak for themselves?

If we follow the line of thinking that free exercise and free speech are rights that properly belong to individuals and not all corporations, then yes, it would be a challenge to the powerful.