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Letter Writing

Activism 101: 4 tips on being heard

If you are waiting in-line at a grocery store you are guaranteed to be bombarded by flashy magazines. These magazines are often, if not always, an assault on the senses. They are visually disturbing with pictures of scantily clad women and men. Not only that, the headlines and featured articles promote gossip and obsession about sex, weight-loss, image and power (unfortunately those topics all seem to go hand in hand). It is interesting that these magazines are a temptation for women. On a first glance you would think that it would only be visually tempting for men (which they are). However I admit, and know many other females that would concur, that each time again I have to choose to refuse to look at or read the covers of these magazines. They are there for a reason. And it is not uncommon to see women spontaneously buy the latest glossy bit of smut. In fact, that is the very reason they are displayed there. To add to the problem, women who are grocery shopping are often accompanied by their small children. Enough is enough As a family living in Lethbridge (at that time) we witnessed this onslaught of images and ideas each time we shopped. It often bothered me that this was practiced by companies that received so much business from Christian families like ours, who did not want to see these magazines at all. One particular day my husband was shopping at the Lethbridge Save-On-Foods. He saw a young boy (maybe seven or eight years old) waiting in line with a parent. This child happened to be at eye-level with a Cosmopolitan magazine and out of sheer curiosity was staring at it. The cover featured a woman pulling her shirt wide open to reveal herself wearing only a white lacy bra. Now we all know the power of images and how hard they are to purge from your mind. And we all know the vulnerability of a young school-aged mind. And so when he told me about it I felt physically sick. I had had enough. The next time I was in the store I went from the checkout to the customer service counter and filled out a comment card. I briefly described what had been seen and suggested that they also would probably not care for their eight-year-old to see these images. I requested that the magazines be removed. If that was for some reason impossible I asked that they provide a family-friendly checkout that did not have the magazines. Quite a response It was very encouraging to receive a personal phone-call from the local store’s manager a few days later. He said that he agreed with me but then apologized that he could not change the store’s layout. Apparently every Save-On-Foods across Canada follows the same design and this layout is dictated from the head office. However he provided me with the email for the national customer service centre and offered to also contact them to add his support to my suggestions. Soon after, I sent an email to the head office with my concerns, suggestions and contact information. I then forwarded the email I had just sent to friends and family so that they could also send a similar email. After all, the more response that Save-On-Foods would receive the better. Right? A few weeks later a manager from the Overwaitea/Save-On-Foods head office phoned our home. He spoke with my husband and (at that time) agreed that something should be done. He offered to initially contact some of the magazine companies to see if the covers could be improved. If this wasn’t possible then he would look into cascading them or removing all or some of them from the checkouts. He let us know that it would likely be a few months before we would see any changes in the stores. It was once again a very encouraging response. We were looking forward to seeing what changes would take place. Quiet response Unfortunately, since then we have not noticed any significant change. The store in Lethbridge did provide one checkout aisle where they put a plastic cover in front of just one of the magazines (Cosmopolitan) so that only the cover was showing. However, this was the only change and on one’s first glance for a free checkout it was impossible to notice this. We waited for a few months like the manager had suggested but we did not see any other improvements. After that waiting period I sent a follow up email to see if anything was going to be done but I did not receive a response. My husband called again two months after that and was able to speak with the same manager. Unfortunately he was no longer so helpful. It was very disappointing to hear that they have no plans to standardize the idea of family friendly checkouts. According to him, the store is “not in the business of censoring.” They believe that most customers are not upset by the magazines being there and that they are serving their customers. He also reported that one of the stores in Abbotsford, B.C. does provide family friendly checkouts but he refused to provide any suggestions on how or if they could be implemented at other stores. Not the end? I suppose the reason is obvious. When it comes to consumerism, the almighty dollar writes the rules. The magazines are there because they rely on impulse buyers. The customer service team simply has not felt enough pressure to change. So the next logical step is for more customers to step forward. After all, how do you feel when you notice an innocent eight-year old staring at the cover of Cosmopolitan? If one comment card and one email could create a stir like this just think what could happen if more of us step up to the plate! Things we learned from this

1) Follow up, follow up, follow up. Keep the contact information of every person you spoke with in the issue so that you can speak to the same person again. Be sure to let them know in your email or phone call that you plan to contact them again.

2) Set a date. Write on your calendar when you are going to contact them again. Life is busy so it’s easy to forget how much time has gone by.

3) Get more people involved. A message is always stronger if it is spoken by more people. The decision makers need to know that they are serving more people by changing the status quo.

4) Offer your assistance. Ask how you can continue to help with this so that the decision makers don’t feel it’s all placed on their shoulders. They are also busy and they may feel more disposed to help you if you are also helping them.

Below is the email sent to the Customer Service Team:

To whom it may concern,

I am a resident of Lethbridge, Alberta after moving here from Langley, B.C. and I work as a physiotherapist in the local area. I have been a long time shopper at Save-On-Foods in Langley and now here in Lethbridge and I have been very happy with most of the service.

However I have always been disturbed by the magazine displays at the checkout aisles. There are always glossy magazines with full front cover stories that include pictures of very scantily clad women. If they are not in a very tiny bathing suit that shows most of the breast, they are in a dress that reveals almost as much. Recently there was even a full cover picture of a woman pulling her shirt open and holding it open to display her breasts barely covered by a lacy bra.

Now I have no need to see these, what I would consider pornographic, pictures. I realize that as an adult I can choose to turn my head away, which I do, but it becomes even more of a concern to me when I see a small child of 7-8 years old peering at the cover of Cosmopolitan which has been put right at his eye level. Would you want your child perusing the cover of Cosmopolitan? How confusing for our kids to be taught about people's privacy at home and then to be bombarded by these images at the local grocery store.

As a leading business group in Canada I would highly encourage you to rectify this situation, to make a moral stand and refuse to have those magazine covers take over your checkout aisles. Customers know where to find them in the magazine section. There is no reason to have them at every aisle. It is a disgrace to an upstanding business such as yours. Why sponsor this industry?

If somehow the increased magazine sales trumps that decision, I also have a few suggestions: You could opt to display the magazines in a cascading order so that only the title is visible as opposed to the entire cover. Alternatively, you could offer "family friendly" checkout aisles which do not have the magazine displays.

I can not express how grateful I would be to see the change occur. Please take the time to consider these suggestions. I appreciate hearing back from you regarding this email.

Sincerely, Jaclyn Penninga

This was first published as "One comment card and one email" in the October 2008 issue of Reformed Perspective.

Theology

Mike Ditka and Abraham Lincoln’s temporary comfort

Pithy bits of folks wisdom are everywhere – kitchen counters, business meeting room walls, even email tag lines display sayings like "Everything in moderation, and moderation in everything" or "Actions speak louder than words." Usually, there's some truth to these aphorisms, but this past week, when I received a promotional email from Thinkspot.com, I was struck again by how insufficient they often are. Thinkspot is the Facebook alternative that Jordan Peterson and others are trying to put together, and in this email they shared examples of the content they'll have, including one nugget from a Beta user touting the merits of the mantra: "This, too, shall pass." Football fans of a certain age might remember that phrase from famed Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka. When he was fired he told reporters and fans again and again that, “This, too, shall pass.” The aphorism seemed a comfort to him that no matter the pain and disappointment he was feeling, it was only going to be temporary. Ditka attributed the phrase's origins to the Bible, but it can’t be found there. Instead, there is a connection to Abraham Lincoln, who, while not taking credit for it, also thought it a fantastic line. In an 1859 speech he presented it to an audience of farmers, perhaps because of the frequent ups and downs of their weather-dependent occupation:

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

The reason Ditka and Lincoln and many others have been helped by this phrase is that there is truth to it. Whether we’re changing our sixth dirty diaper of the day, or celebrating with family and friends at our wedding, it is worth reflecting that both are only temporary. Knowing it is only for a time can help us endure trials and keep us grounded in triumphs. But, like so much of man's wisdom, this aphorism gets it only partly right. This is the stoics’ comfort, which keeps us from falling too low only by keeping us from rising too high. But Christians know – and need to share with the world – that not everything will pass. There is a lasting joy, and a complete comfort, to be found in knowing that whatever else might be temporary, our God is, always was, and always will be. As David in Psalm 23 proclaims:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

News

Saturday Selections - February 22, 2020

Roe vs. Wade trailer Coming soon, a film about the politics, ignorance, and deception behind the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision (this is the court ruling most responsible for abortion in the US). Based on this trailer it looks like it could be as impactful as Gosnell. "I have three minutes to live!" Witnessing to cults Ray Comfort has an interesting response for cultists when they come knocking at his door.

"I warmly ask for their names, and then say, ‘Someone stabbed me in the back. I am dying and have only three minutes to live. What do I need to do to enter heaven/paradise/the kingdom of God?’”

Is evolutionary tail-telling affecting Bible translation? In Job 40:15-18 the Lord describes a beast with a tail that "sways like a cedar." What sort of creature might that be? Would you believe some translators rendered is as a hippopotamus? Why would they do that? Might a compromise with evolutionary thinking have blinded them to a more likely possibility? The euthanasia slippery slope is real Once killing patients is deemed medicine, then on what basis are we going to withhold this "treatment"? It turns out that once we give up on all life being precious – given as it is by God – then any subsequent lines we draw are arbitrary, and it is a simple matter to erase and redraw them further down the slope...again and again. Biblical history in broken pots "Stop me if this sounds familiar: Archaeologists digging in Israel discover artifacts buried for about three millennia. Upon close examination, their find either confirms the biblical narrative or at least undermines a long-accepted dismissal of a biblical claim. Okay, don’t stop me. After all, it won’t matter if you try, because I never get tired of telling stories like these...." My 3-year-old son is a girl now "Who am I to question my three-year-old?"

Daily devotional

Thursday February 28 – Wholehearted commitment

So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. – 1 Kings 19:19 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 19:1-21; Luke 9:57-62 In retrospect, when Elijah saw Elisha plowing with a yoke of oxen, he cast his cloak upon him.  Elisha knew the symbolism of receiving Elijah's cloak. He realized that Elijah was picking him as his successor. But more than that, Elisha realized that the cloak wasn't being presented to him just by Elijah but by the Lord. That's why Elisha did not offer any excuses. He did not say, “I will follow you after we get the plowing finished.” Or, “I will follow you when the harvest is in.” Instead, verse 20 describes how Elisha left his oxen and ran after Elijah. When he caught up to Elijah he had only one request. He said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” By that request, Elisha was not evading the call to serve like those described by Jesus in Luke 9. Rather, Elisha was fulfilling the teaching Jesus would later give to His disciples when He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Elisha’s life of commitment reveals the truth that Jesus would later speak, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). What an example Elisha set! No matter what calling or vocation you have, use your time, energy and talents to serve the Lord. For His glory and the building up of His kingdom! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that He calls each one of us to be a fellow worker with Him and gives all of us a place of service within His kingdom, as every Christian is vital to the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years.

News

Science politicized: when democracy doesn’t suffice anymore

In the West most citizens take pride in their democratic institutions, pointing to how it’s through democracy that change can be peaceably pursued. Of course, not all change is positive. As Christians we understand that getting the government we deserve – the government that most of us have voted for – is not always a good thing. Why? Quite simply, the majority can be wrong. But that’s an insight available to us because we have an absolute standard – God’s Word – by which we can evaluate the “will of the people.”

But for the secular West, which has rejected God and his Word as their ultimate standard, democracy has largely been the replacement standard, and government is said to get its legitimacy from being supported by the largest number of voters. So it is with some interest, then, that we can see the idea that the best governments are democratically selected has come under serious scrutiny from some in the international community of scientists, and a new ultimate standard is being proposed.

Scientists vs. democracy?

For the last couple of years the influential scientific journal Nature has touched on this topic repeatedly. In editorials and other articles it has been suggested that some voter choices are more legitimate than others. In other words, not all votes are equally valid.

The new assertive stance of many scientists became evident during the April 22, 2017 “March for Science,” when tens of thousands of scientists marched in Washington and in at least 600 other cities around the world. A news item in Nature (April 27, 2017) said this event “may have been one of the largest-ever demonstrations in support of scientific research and evidence-based policymaking.”

These objectives may sound quite harmless, but the rationale was that the scientific agenda is under threat and needs to be more forcefully promoted in the political arena. These people apparently believe that the recommendations of scientists are not making it into policy choices nearly often enough. Thus an editorial in Nature on May 11, 2017 declared:

“…fears are increasing that anti-science forces are on the march. Indeed, on last month’s March for Science, a ‘war on science’ was frequently invoked as a reason for researchers to mobilize.”

Obviously the conflict cited is not overt, such as one with guns and other weapons. But it is a power struggle and the scientists want to make sure that they win. So who are the others involved in this conflict? Commentary in Nature labels the other side as “idiots” (December 1, 2016) or “dissenters, doubters and right-wing jackals” (January 5, 2017). Those are strong words to describe political adversaries. But this battle is intense.

Globalism vs. democracy?

The scientific view, at least as it is articulated by activists in Nature, includes a desire for governments to move further towards international, or even global control. This would involve taking it out of the hands of democratically-elected representatives. For example, a trio of advocates declared that countries need to put scientifically-advocated programs and ideals ahead of national priorities (Nature, October 6/16 p. 29)

But what does this mean?

Consider the case of the province of Ontario. A news item in the Edmonton Journal (November 21/17) reported that electrical power exports from sources with nearly zero carbon emissions (for example solar and wind energy) resulted in a loss to the province of Ontario of between $732 million and $1.25 billion over a period of 21 months. This is happening at a time when consumers in Ontario are suffering from exceptionally high electricity costs. This is an example of placing international priorities for climate control ahead of local interests.

The scientific community keeps promoting international agendas in other ways too. For example, a Belgian microbiologist declared in Nature (February 16, 2017):

“To prevent further breakdown of the EU, scientists must shout from the rooftops that many of our problems today can be solved only at a European, or even a global, level. We must challenge time and again the current populist view that countries are better off trying to address the most pressing problems on their own.”

Similarly, a Dutch sociologist from Utrecht declared that:

“Academics also have a moral obligation to protect liberal democracy. By promoting social and political pluralism, the system produces the circumstances under which researchers can do their jobs and science can flourish” (December 15, 2016).

The people who favor policies which protect the interests of the voters, are considered to be right wing, according to the scientific press. These people are also much less interested in “racial, gender and sexual identity politics” (Nature December 1, 2016) than are many in science and academia. An editorial in Nature (same date) declares that scientists and academics are rightly worried about allowing political discussion to include conservative and religious viewpoints. The scientists consider that this latter initiative would lead to “unacceptably broadening the limits of acceptable discourse – and freeing and normalizing people’s worst base instincts and a rhetoric of hate.” This editorial admits however that academics are often “tolerant,” but only of their own point of view.

Liberal democracy vs. populist democracy?

With recent electoral results that are the opposite of what left wing interests had hoped for, some scientists are warning about an increasing tension between populism and liberal democracy. Thus Matthijs Rooduijn, a Dutch sociologist, declared that there are two types of voters: those that support “liberal democracy” and those who support “populism” (Nature, December 15, 2016).

Obviously liberal democracy sounds very appealing, but what about populism? This latter term is what many scientists have suddenly adopted as a way to portray in an unfavorable light the opinions they do not like. Thus voters who make political choices that many scientists do not like are described as populists.

So what are populists? The implication seems to be that populists represent an ignorant mob (such as in the French revolution.) Alternatively a sympathetic definition in an editorial in the Edmonton Journal (November 10, 2017) stated:

“A populist political culture is one that includes a widespread belief in the moral and intellectual capacities of the ‘common people’ and thus a strong reluctance to defer control over decision-making to the state or other elites.”

Dutch sociologist Rooduijn elaborated on this point: “populists not only attack political and economic elites; they also target ‘snobby intellectuals’ in academia” (Nature, December 15, 2016). Well, fair enough. The Dutch sociologist nevertheless declares: “Academics also have a moral obligation to protect liberal democracy.”

A lead editorial in Nature on April 20, 2017 echoed the above sentiments:

“Social scientists rightly see this co-opting of far-right policies by mainstream parties as being as dangerous to liberal democracy as populist far-right parties themselves…”

It should be noted that some people succumb to the temptation to label anything with which they disagree as “far-right.”

Media and academic elites vs. democracy?

It is evident that scientists applaud some voter preferences but suggest that others are to be discouraged. Matthijs Rooduijn rejected the idea that voter preferences (as declared in the ballot box) should in general be translated into government policy. Thus he declares:

“Right wing politicians in the crop currently making headlines are populists in that they want the will of the people to be the point of departure for political decision-making. This ‘general will’ should, according to their populist message, be translated as directly as possible into actual political decisions” (Nature, December 15, 2016)

But the scientific view is to reject such an approach. There are many reasons such as climate change considerations or human rights that might discourage implementation of voter preferences.

Liberal democracy, according to views expressed recently in Nature and other scientific press, apparently promotes whatever the scientific community prefers: pluralism (many cultures all equal), internationalism, human rights that take priority over religious values, and a climate change agenda.

Populism apparently represents the opposite.

Sensible people, informed people, one hopes will not be discouraged by unflattering terms. Let the voters make their own choices without intimidation from the media and academic elites. Let us all be aware that “Science is only one of many factors and interests that a thoughtful politician needs to weigh when choosing a position on a complex topic” (Nature editorial May 11, 2017). Indeed that editorial ends on a high note, and so will we: “Name-calling and portraying the current political climate as a war between facts and ignorance simply sows division.”

Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of No Christian Silence in Science, a book every Christian teen considering a career in Science should read before heading off to university.


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