Eugene Cho

sex, gossip, and entertainment sells but…

Sex, gossip, and entertainment sells but stuff like compassion and justice often seems like a hard sell. Feels like pushing a big boulder up a big hill. Even on this blog, I’m often disappointed at the lack of response to posts that aren’t “pop [christian] culture.”

Sometimes, I wonder if one of the reasons why certain topics don’t get addressed from the pulpit isn’t because of the lack of awareness of important issues but actually the awareness of the lack of response from the congregants which translates into lower attendance and lower income.

I know. Too simplistic and too cynical but worth thinking about.

Someone sent me this poignant drawing last week (via San Diego Union Tribune) steve breen…in response to the frenzy of media attention surrounding “the boy who flew away in a homemade balloon.”  It pretty much proves my point.

What do you think?

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17 Responses

  1. Hi Eugene, I think you raise some excellent points here. Often, speakers and communicators are afriad to address real issues because it is too close to the bone, and substitute in with pithy pseudo-funny stories that have little or no bearing on the life of Christ. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for effective and engaging communication, but please let’s not shy away from the issues. People, PEOPLE are being bought and sold much like the groceries we have in our cupboards. We are often more concerned about plants dying than humans. More concerned about beauty than life, not realising that life is the essence of beauty.

  2. Esther says:

    Thank you for the challenge! When I step back and am honest with myself I see that more often than not I get more involved with discussions about, for example, women in the church or virtual church and I shy away from really engaging with discussions on how to meet the needs of others. My initial thought is this is because the needs of the poor throughout the world feel so distant from my everyday life so it’s easy to not even be pressed to think about them. But on deeper reflection I think in all honesty I care more for myself than others so I really only take an interest in what I want and not what God wants me caring about.

  3. Esther says:

    Thank you for the challenge! When I step back and am honest with myself I see that more often than not I get more involved with discussions about, for example, women in the church or virtual church and I shy away from really engaging with discussions on how to meet the needs of others. My initial thought is this is because the needs of the poor throughout the world feel so distant from my everyday life so it’s easy to not even be pressed to think about them. But on deeper reflection I think in all honesty I care more for myself than others so I really only take an interest in what I want and not what God wants me caring about.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  4. Arianna Huffington wrote a blog post not too long ago suggesting that perhaps we should put all children in need in balloons, and then the world will notice.

  5. Tony Lin says:

    Regarding the lack of teaching on the topic from the pulpit, you have to read Passing the Plate: Why Americans Don’t Give Away More Money by Christian Smith and Michael Emerson (Authors of Divided by Faith) with Patricia Snell. Quite convicting book.

  6. Travis McKee says:

    i think the problem is that you have to educate many people on what the problem IS first. I don’t think that enough people want to realize what is happening elsewhere, or what the true (non-balloon) problems are. Even in our own back yards, we have much more to be concerned with than celebrities or CNN.

  7. […] sex, gossip, and entertainment sells but… « eugene cho eugenecho.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/sex-gossip-and-entertainment-sells-but – view page – cached Sex, gossip, and entertainment sells but stuff like compassion and justice often seems like a hard sell. Feels like pushing a big boulder up a big hill. Even on this blog, I’m often disappointed at… (Read more)Sex, gossip, and entertainment sells but stuff like compassion and justice often seems like a hard sell. Feels like pushing a big boulder up a big hill. Even on this blog, I’m often disappointed at the lack of response to posts that aren’t “pop [christian] culture.” (Read less) — From the page […]

  8. David Greco says:

    do you think a lack of posts on a blog about social injustice has more to do with the fact that people agree and have nothing to add (except for maybe a quick “amen”)? or perhaps it’s that readers just plain don’t know what to say to something like, “1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day.” hopefully the response is one of doing and not so much one of speaking (or typing).

  9. Kay says:

    Hi PE,

    Did you happen to read the column written by Bob Herbert in yesterday’s NY Times?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/27/opinion/27herbert.html

    He’s really talking about our society’s passive voyeuristic position with respect to all that’s going on in the world. Anyway, I think it’s a call to activism with a heart of compassion in a way…

  10. Erick says:

    Thanks for sharing your frustration about this stuff, Eugene. Lately, I have found myself so sad and angry about things like this and quite honestly I have not handled my frustration very well. I am praying more, because I just feel lost in all of this sometimes.

    The youth I work with are passionate about helping those with little or nothing at all, they are incredibly inspiring to me and I hope that their excitement continues to spread to others around them.

  11. danderson says:

    My guess is that abortion is often not talked about in certain churches, either. I think we have to be careful in making sermons agenda driven versus being faithful to God’s word, no matter if it has to do with world hunger or being consistently pro-life ala Psalm 139. This false dichotomy might make for great media stories about how extreme some pro-lifers might be, versus those “do-gooders” who want to make sure they get the media’s attention on hunger and poverty issues. Just my two cents…

  12. your friend says:

    We have become a society of SPECTATORS. It is easy to see pictures in the papers and on TV, we are bombarded with them, and we do not feel part of them, since they are out there, so we just stay onlookers.

    Words have become cheap (due to mass media). Pictures still speak volumes, but often not to our hearts, it stays in our discussion.

    As soon as I lived with the poor in Africa, it all changed. They became my friends, my family, my people. I forgot that I looked different. And they felt my heart was with them.

  13. Bill Harper says:

    As another preacher who has to find the “right” words to say every Sunday, I too find myself “editing” the content based on my own intuitions about how it will be received. I am more inclined to preaching as pastoral care, and less inclined to prophetic preaching. And I worry about my own hypocrisy. And yet, there is truth to be told. And then action to take. Thank you for reminding me.

  14. chad m says:

    i confess, i am one who knows of all the injustice, but feels at a loss as to how to tackle all the things i know about. i love awareness and having a “social conscience”, but i need help on the action part. i am great at serving in some areas, but can’t figure out how to tackle these major issues of social, systemic, and political injustice.

    throw me a frickin’ bone!

  15. Cindy says:

    Eugene, I just read in Kristof’s Half the Sky about a psychology research conducted where two groups of people were asked to donate to a certain cause. One group was told the money would go to save the life of one person, the other was told the money would save the lives of eight people. The first group contributed twice the amount of the latter. People are compelled by individual stories. I believe God calls us to be the voice for the voiceless, to enable the poor to tell their stories and broadcast them to the world. Press on and don’t be discouraged!

  16. Eugene Cho says:

    @david greco: thx for the comment. certainly can be the case. my statement was based on the stats i check out every now and then. the disparity between “reads” on posts are often 10 to 1.

  17. I’m with Cindy on this one. We help people that we can identify with because personalized stories generate actual emotions. And humans only act on emotions.

    The reason we don’t help the “millions of starving people” is because that phrase doesn’t generate any empathy, joy, love, hope, etc. Abstract numbers and intellectual cases can convince someone that “it would be good” to help but don’t actually connect to a person’s heart. Most folks who hear the statistics over and over feel despair, fear, or anger and want to help just enough to stop being exposed to the problem (i.e. to make the fear, despair, etc. go away).

    In my experience the only way to motivate someone to help when they aren’t emotionally engaged is to either appeal to their self-righteousness or subtly threaten them with the fear of being unrighteous should they not make some sacrifice. This is the ugly (but useful) underbelly of morality.

    This is why marketing is so crucial. And why short-term trips overseas have dramatic effects on the rest of a person’s life in respects to addressing global issues.

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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