read this first
First of all, thank you for visiting my website. I believe that your time is invaluable. The thing with time is that once you spend it there is no getting it back. So I have two purposes for this introduction. The first is to give you information that will help you to decide if this website is 'worth your time'. I'm hoping you conclude it is. If so, the second goal is to orient you to how this site works so that you get the most out of your experience.
WHAT IS THIS WEBSITE?
It's your regular dose of my own personal takes on matters of faith, social justice, and popular culture along with other life-inspired musings. Basically it is my personal 'social commentary' intermingled with some life journaling. It also includes a lot of links to other podcasts, articles, and videos. So if you feel dismayed in the era of "fake news" (no matter what perspective you come from), I have scoured the internet for you in order to identify content that I think is honest and informed and worth listening to, reading, or watching.
A few important disclaimers to begin with...
- I reserve the right to express opinions AND emotions. Some people are uncomfortable with the latter but I've decided I can't really be honest without sharing both thought and passion. Be forewarned that while I do not intend to "curse like a sailor" on this blog, I do use emotive language from time to time. I prefer honest, salty discourse over annoyingly polite, passive-aggressive rhetoric.
- As far as my opinions, I also reserve the right to change them. So whether on this website or anywhere else, please know that I don't write or speak ex cathedra. Each piece reflects my thoughts on whatever it is I am talking about at the time it is published.
- Lastly, let me be clear from the beginning that the views and perspectives expressed here are solely that of my own and NOT of my family, friends, or employer. So please don't take your disagreements with what I express here out on them.
WHY should you take your PRECIOUS TIME TO engage with the content of this website?
Aristotle suggested that persuasion occurs when the listener perceives that the speaker has character ("ethos"), passion ("pathos") and reason/logic ("logos").
First of all, please don't mistake character (ethos) for perfection. If you do then stop reading right now because there is no way that I will meet that standard. The fundamental issue here is whether you think I'm lying or not on this website. That doesn't mean I'm right but that at least I'm being honest in whatever I'm sharing, with no hidden and manipulative agenda. If you feel I'm being genuine here, then read on.
Passion (pathos) is hopefully more obvious. Your question here should be whether or not you sense genuine care and real emotion in what I express on this website. Those of you who know me personally can attest to my passion for the things I talk or write about. If you are new to me, the ‘jury may still be out’ and understandably so. For the time being you will have to decide if you are willing to give me the benefit of the doubt for now on passion. If you feel you can, again, please read on.
What about reason (logos)? Basically, do I know what I'm talking about? First of all, I'm not omniscient! Many of you will agree with the common expression, "The older I get the more I'm convinced of how little I know." But I'd like to think that I have enough knowledge and experience that it makes it worth your time to stop and listen. When it comes to faith, social justice and popular culture, here are my credentials:
- On faith and religion, specifically as a "recovering evangelical": Along with just living the first 42 years of my life as a member of the evangelical community ("born on Saturday, in church on Sunday"), I graduated from two well-regarded evangelical academic institutions (Multnomah University and Western Seminary) and worked vocationally for nearly twenty years (1999-2017) as a pastor, teacher, or director in evangelical organizations. My formal education, though from an Evangelical perspective, did include some study of other religions. More importantly, my personal interactions with people of other faiths, including my extensive experience with predominantly Muslim refugees, should also lend some weight to the perspectives I share on this subject.
- On social justice: I was literally born into the field of social work, with my parents being group home managers for women with developmental disabilities for 30 years (including my entire childhood). So a value and passion for those who are uniquely marginalized runs deep in the family DNA. I would eventually go on to do some work in that field as a group home relief manager and work site supervisor (97-2001). During my many years involved in church ministry, whether as a volunteer or staff pastor, I had some limited experience working with both the homeless and incarcerated communities, the latter including visiting death row inmates at San Quentin State Penitentiary. More recently I spent almost seven years (2011-2017) with World Relief, where I directed one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in the nation (World Relief Sacramento). During this time I personally contributed to successful refugee-related legislative and budget initiatives in the state of California. I also engaged with the refugee crisis more broadly through the Refugee Highway Partnership, a global network of Christian churches and ministries working with forcibly displaced peoples. I still volunteer as a member of the RHP's North America leadership team after having served as Co-Facilitator for the North America Region and participant in the network’s Global Leadership Council (2014-2018). My participation in this network afforded me the opportunity to travel oversees to visit Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon in 2015, witnessing firsthand in that context the cruel outcomes of war. Of course this wasn't my first brush with the realities of war. It was a sense of justice that motivated me to join the Army post 9/11 (2002-2004), which would include a tour of duty in Iraq in 2003. Recently I joined the staff of No One Left Behind, a D.C. based non-profit started by veterans who are passionate about ensuring that foreign nationals who worked with the U.S. military and government in Iraq and Afghanistan are given the opportunity and resources they need to seek safety and a new start here in the U.S. So when it comes to matters pertaining to social justice, I think it is fair to say that I have had plenty of "skin in the game".
- On American pop-culture: OK, this is a bit of a stretch so take whatever I share on this subject to be more novice or intermediate level. We are all in a way "experts" in our own culture. Think of the sheer volume of popular culture we consume here in America. That, of course, doesn't make me a professional sociologist. However, I think the previously mentioned background (e.g. global experience) and my analytical wiring might lead to some interesting perspectives. I do have some background in the arts as a musician (almost went and majored in music before I shifted towards ministry) and am fairly well read. Additionally, I have had a fair amount of personal experience with news media (print, radio and TV), having been interviewed easily a couple of dozen times while I served at World Relief Sacramento (Google "Kirt Lewis refugees" and you will find a bunch on me). Like I said, this is more of a stretch so take what I share as a primer that hopefully steers you to investigate much sharper minds in this field.
WHAT'S THE FORMAT?
It’s basically a blog that includes a podcast option where you can listen to me reading the blog post. The podcast version works well for those who like to listen to something while driving to or from work, hiding in the closet from your children, or lying in bed and for some mysterious reason the sound of my voice serves as the perfect cure for your insomnia. If it's the latter, I'm not offended. Just know that if you are listening to a podcast you are likely missing out on some important links, so make sure to go back later to the text version to explore those resources. Note that in addition to podcasts being embedded in blog posts, they can also be found on I-Tunes. Beyond the blog articles with the audio option, there are some regular pieces that are purely a podcast or vlog. More on this in a minute.
Brief Comment on Comments: If you do comment on a post just know that if I reply it will likely be very brief and limited to maybe two or three replies in a thread. My hope and encouragement is that you take any conversation you start on this website and carry it into a dialogue with someone you can actually see without the medium of a screen. That could be me if we know each other personally. It could be a family member or a good friend. Hey, it could even be a complete stranger! Who knows? Along with having an honestly good conversation, maybe you will end up acquiring a new friend. That's a win for everyone!
WHAT'S THE CONTENT and schedule LOOK LIKE?
I think the best analogy that will help you understand the content and schedule of this website is to think of it as a TV. TV’s have channels, with each channel featuring certain shows and those shows having individual episodes. There are four main channels on this website: Faith, Social Justice, Pop-Culture, and Other Life-Inspired Musings. Each channel features certain shows as follows…
The Faith Channel
The Faith Channel is dedicated to the subject of, well, faith and the big questions we all wrestle with in our attempt to discover and live out our purpose on this planet. It features the following shows…
- Faith v Religion: Here I give my take on the best (I'll refer to this as "faith") and worst (what I will call "religion") that the quest for spiritual understanding has to offer. Much of what I share will be related to my journey as a "recovering evangelical". So whether you are actively a part of that community, have left it or are just interested as an outsider to hear my perspectives on the pros and cons of this tradition, then you might find these articles of interest.
- Help Me Understand: Ever meet (in person or virtually) someone who is just fascinating to you? I'm like you, especially when those people come from a radically different background than mine which I would describe as American, white, male, suburban, middle-class, conservative Christian. Help Me Understand is like my own home-grown version of Humans of New York or StoryCorps. First, I find someone who fascinates me. It might be someone I have a personal history with but it could be someone you suggest via the Suggestion Box! Then I record a podcast interview with them, seeking to understand them by asking a series of questions that surfaces their meta-narrative.
- Theologians in Cars Drinking Libations: In my own shameless adaptation of Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix series, this vlog features myself talking with another student of ‘God’ who brings a passionate heart, a keen mind, and a witty tongue to this all-important and mysterious conversation. As we randomly cruise the streets of Sacramento, California—or whatever city we happen to be in--we talk about our liquid of choice for our drive, hear from our special guest on his or her journey as a theologian, give them a few minutes to 'preach it!' on something they've recently discovered in this ‘field of study’, and pretty much talk about whatever we feel like talking about as it is inspired in the moment, from the potentially profound to the amusingly trivial. So expect an irreverently reverential chat inspired by the spirit, sacred texts, and possibly some caffeine. Have a theologian you think I should talk with in a future episode? You can recommend them to me via the Suggestion Box. Basically, I am looking for accomplished clergy or those who have spent significant time writing and speaking on the subject of theology.
The Social Justice Channel
We as humans seem to excel at creating systems that enslave. I'll define 'slavery' as anything that violates an individual or community's agency. The criteria for determining who is the slave and who is the master are largely based upon factors such as level of education, economic class, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, nationality or a combination of several of these traits as an identifiable ethnicity. The end result is some pretty messed up stuff out there, some injustices being painfully obvious with others being oh so subtle. The Social Justice Channel features the following shows...
- Rage Against the Machine: Here I either share more broadly my thoughts on social justice or I'll drill down on one particular injustice to include who is driving it, what are their root motivation(s), how they have systematized and monetized this particular form of oppression, and more importantly what you and I can do to disrupt the system and fight for a more free and equitable world in the great tradition of nonviolent resistance.
- Profiles in Courage: In a nod to the JFK work, I highlight courageous but likely lesser-known voices who have challenged the status quo, representing in my opinion the best of civic and economic resistance. Most of the time, this will tie into a previous Rage Against the Machine episode, so we get a 'boots on the ground' feel for how someone is addressing a systemic injustice.
Have an injustice you think I should cover in a future Rage Against the Machine Episode or someone that you think I should highlight in an upcoming Profiles in Courage podcast? Again, you can suggest names using the Suggestion Box.
The Pop-Culture Channel
The term 'culture' is extremely broad with multiple nuanced definitions and as such has become a source of great confusion. I'm using the word here to refer to common activities which express the beliefs and values of an identifiable group of human beings. Enter, American pop-culture. The Pop-Culture Channel features the following shows…
- Armchair Imagineering: Most sports fans, especially here in America, know the meaning of the idiom, 'Armchair Quarterback'--that is, "a person who offers advice or an opinion on something in which they have no expertise or involvement." Hey, we all do it because it is fun to pretend like we know what we are talking about! Well, I have a major lifetime obsession with Disneyland. Unfortunately, I'm not a skilled graphic artist nor am I an accomplished engineer, so a career as a Walt Disney Company 'Imagineer' is not likely in the cards. Is that going to stop me from telling them what to do next with the Disneyland Resort? Hell no! So in Armchair Imagineering I will both update you on what's happening at the Happiest Place on Earth as well as share my own crazy ideas on how they can make it even happier.
- Pop Goes the Culture: If "laughter is the best medicine" then I think that these days we all need an extra dose. And what better source for comedic material than that of American pop-culture, especially in T.V., music, sports, advertising, news and social media! (Movies, I'll come back to you in a minute.) Pop Goes the Culture reviews (in reality roasts) one of the infinite number of absurdities recently excreted from these mediums, while drawing attention to the rare bright spots when reason, creativity, and basic human dignity managed somehow to squeeze through.
- Buttery Fingers: I love movies and yes I love the popcorn, though I know that each bucket is likely decreasing my days on this planet. So on occasion I post my review of a movie I recently saw (on the big or small screen). Here is my scoring system for Buttery Fingers...
- Dog-Eared Review: This is where I review a book I recently read, from classics to recent popular "best-sellers". Don't expect a comprehensive examination of the book, but rather a brief overview, my take on its relevancy to contemporary life, followed by a rating according to how many 'dog-ears' I give the book: The scoring is as follows...
The Other Life-Inspired Musings Channel
This channel is essentially a personal journal and it features the following shows:
- My Life So Far: Each episode of this show highlights reflections on the people, places and plot of my journey to date.
- Fatherhood: I've observed it as a son since 1974 (thanks Dad!). I've personally lived it since 2009 (thanks Melody!). In this open-ended series, you will hopefully hear hard-earned wisdom and simple joys from my life as both a son to a father and a dad to two girls.
When do new episodes air? Sunday features new episodes of shows on the Faith and Other Life-Inspired Musings channels, where Thursday highlights new installments from shows on the Pop-Culture and Social Justice channels. Every new episode goes live at 4:00 am (PST). Of course, once it goes ‘live’, it is available to you ‘on demand’.
I also do a special Q & A vlog every time a month has a fifth Sunday, which is approximately once every three months. Simple concept: You submit the burning questions you have for me via the Suggestion Box, I'll review and pick my favorites (perhaps one of yours!) and dedicate some time to sharing my answers to these questions.
Please note that just as there are breaks between 'seasons', there are a few times of the year where I will enjoy some downtime. I've chosen to do this on the third Sundays and Thursdays of March, June, September, and December. Of course, you can take this time to go back and check out 're-runs' of your favorite episodes
If all of that is a bit confusing, here is a helpful graphic that summarizes the ‘broadcast’ schedule:
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO STAY ‘PLUGGED IN’?
First, I would encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel and "like" or "follow" me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Along with posts/tweets highlighting and linking to new content on the website, I also occasionally share brief thoughts via quick text comments or ad lib videos (YouTube), fun or thought provoking surveys, or links to other articles, videos or podcasts that I think are worth checking out.
Another great way stay in the loop and engage at a deeper level is by signing up for my free monthly newsletter. Visit the Subscribe page to learn more.
WHAT'S MY "ENDGAME"?
I essentially have three goals with this website. One is selfishly therapeutic--that is, there are just some things I've got to "get off my chest". Second, I hope that what I publish here genuinely helps others in their own navigation of this mysterious and fleeting thing we call "life". Third, I hope it becomes a source of some secondary income. Please see the Support page to learn more.
WELL I APPRECIATE YOU TAKING THE TIME TO READ THIS. IF THERE ARE OTHERS WHO YOU THINK WOULD BENEFIT FROM THis website, I WOULD BE VERY GRATEFUL IF YOU took a few minutes to share it with them.
Kirt E. Lewis.