Worst Advice Ever, Take the Emotion Out of It

Maybe not the worst advice ever, just the least practical.

That’s what a former engineer recommended we do at last Sunday’s annual congregational meeting when discussing the uncertain status of the After School Tutoring Program (ASTP).

It’s been a tough year for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Maybe historians will point to my being elected to the Church Council as the catalyst for the downturn.

Recently, my fellow Council members and I asked the pastor to resign. Inevitably, that upset some members, some so much so they left. Others stopped attending probably because they had enough conflict in their lives already. Consequently, we have challenging budget decisions to make.

Despite the fact that the After School Tutoring Program represents somewhere between 2-2.5% of the total budget, the congregation spent 90% of last Sunday’s budget discussion debating whether we should continue it or not. This wasn’t a one-off, the church is preoccupied by it. I am totally flummoxed and exasperated by the congregation’s seeming fixation with the ASTP. The attention is receives is totally out of proportion to that of other programs, ministries, and issues.

Which begs the question why. My only conclusion is that my engineering friend has it completely backwards. It’s impossible to take the emotion out of it because it’s  exclusively based upon competing emotions that have formed over its long history.

I am resigned to the fact that the ASTP is our Ford Mustang. Of Ford’s decision to eliminate every sedan except the Mustang:

“. . . the Mustang’s survival isn’t really about numbers. ‘Five years from now, whether Ford decided to keep the Mustang or not isn’t going to be a material factor,’ Mr. Jonas said. ‘It’s more of an emotional thing. They’re trying to preserve the sexuality of motoring the way it used to be known.'”

Apparently, Ford suits gets what my engineering friend does not. You can’t take emotions out of things. At least not completely. And in the case of the ASTP, hardly at all. Resistance, I’m finding, is futile.

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Feeding the Spirit. . . Slowly

Most days I’m bullish, in a two-thirds kinda way, on our future. But about a third of accelerating modernization worries me. For example, young people gravitate almost exclusively to high speed, visual media that leaves the future of non-visual slow mo media like National Public Radio extremely vulnerable.

This was painfully apparent the other day while I was listening to NPR while driving through downtown Bend, Oregon. I learned that the “Talk of the Nation” call in program was going off the air after 21 years. Something about a $7m debt. Next, as I drove back to Sunriver, I listened to a riveting, seemingly unbelievable (it was April 1st) story about a Portland State University student who got caught in a gruesome, downward sex trafficking spiral.

And I thought it was an exotic, mostly Southeast Asian story. I needed educating and was schooled by a memorable story that stuck with me the way powerful journalism does. Journalism that educates, pricks your conscience, and tugs at your emotions.

Youtube videos are often funny diversions from day-to-day life, but few rise to the level of powerful journalism.

I had to listen to the same station for twenty minutes and use my imagination to envision the young women’s harrowing story. Devalued attributes in today’s social media landscape.

I’m a frugal fool meaning my money saving strategies are sometimes irrational. So I identify closely with my friend who likes the Washington Post. I sent him a link to a recent article that described the Post’s new pay wall. He quickly fired back, “It will never work, I’ll just read the minimum number of articles and then turn to other news sites.”

But when it comes to the potential of our journalism to challenge our intellect, hold our public officials accountable, and sometimes even nourish our spirit, we get what we pay for.

I can’t help but wonder, no make that worry, about what happens to 21st Century media when young people are unwilling or unable to paint pictures for twenty minutes and their parents refuse to contribute to the salaries of the skilled men and women who excel at telling our stories.