Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 04/27/22

Thoughts on Twitter. I don’t tweet but I do have an opinion on the free-speech guidelines real-life Batman Elon Musk (you just know he has a really cool car in the cave beneath Musk Manor) should lay down as the new proprietor of the online public square. I’ll try to keep it to under 280 characters.

No Threats. No Doxing. No Porn. A narrow list of banned words (i.e. the N word and the F word) to keep conversations reasonably civil but otherwise have at it. With public debate the best ideas will win out over time and the stupid/evil ones will be exposed and fall aside.

That’s exactly 273 characters, if you’re counting.

Meanwhile, Amazon Founder/Washington Post Owner Jeff Bezos has tweeted concern that Musk’s ownership of Twitter will give China undue “leverage over the town square.” That concern presumably arises from the fact that the electric cars produced by his Tesla auto company rely on rare earth metals largely controlled by the communist dictatorship. A.) It’s a good sign that he can actually tweet that concern on, you know, Twitter. Here’s hoping the free speech on the platform grows. B.) Doesn’t China already directly control the even-larger social network platform Tik Tok? C.) Isn’t China’s potential leverage over President Biden (not to mention Biden’s Russia problem) a much greater issue of concern? And D.) The broader issue of transferring our energy reliance from resources we control to resources China controls is certainly a discussion worth having – especially when mining those Chinese-controlled resources have ecological issues of their own.

Anyway, one good thing about having a blog is that you don’t need Twitter to vent.
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Here’s something for all the would-be Christian Elon Musks out there. The worlds richest person is described as irreligious but certified financial educator Bob Lotich offers financial insights aimed at the traditionally faithful via his SeedTime Money podcast (co-hosted with his wife Linda) and his new book Simple Money, Rich Life: Achieve True Financial Freedom and Design a Life of Eternal Impact. Our conversation follows his video below.

JWK: Here’s the backstory I have on you: Broken down and stranded 1,000 miles from home with only $7 left in his bank account, Bob Lotich had reached his breaking point. He was stuck in a dead-end job, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and overwhelmed by debt. Bob had been following the world’s advice with money and this was the fruit of it. In desperation, he cried out to God for wisdom, for a different way. The answer was a simple four-part formula, one based on timeless biblical principles, and, most important, it worked. How about you take it from there?

Bob Lotich: The first kind of steps I took was just starting to read some books (and) magazines about money. At the same time I kind of discovered that The Bible actually has something to say about money which was really fascinating to me – to realize that this book, thousand of years old, still has timely wisdom when it comes to our finances. So, really I think the thing that started me off was just the humility of getting to a point of admitting that I didn’t know everything about money that I thought I did.

You know, I had worked at a bank. I had worked at a financial services firm. I had grown up wanting to be an accountant. So, I just kinda thought that I knew everything about money. While I did know some specific things about money, I really didn’t know how to manage it well. That was sort of the beginning of my journey – just putting some of the pieces together (and) bringing The Bible into the equation.

JWK: Were you a person of faith before you sort of stumbled upon what The Bible has to say about finances?

BL: At that point I was definitely a Christian and definitely following God but kind of at the beginning of my Christian journey I would say. For me, as a fairly new Christian, it was fascinating just popping open The Bible and seeing that, wow, it actually talked about money in a relatable way for today.

JWK: I think a lot of people think The Bible tells you “Hey, be poor!” Did you find that not to be the case?

BL: I think we have a lot of denominations (focusing) on the two extremes. We have some that definitely think you’re more righteous if you’re poor and then we come to the other extreme (where it’s a) you’re righteous if you’re wealthy type thing.

When I read The Bible holistically I see this balance. We have plenty of warnings against wealth but, at the same time, we have incredibly righteous men and women of God who did have significant means. I think the key is that when I read all the Scriptures about money – especially in the New Testament when it comes to Jesus talking about it – the common denominator that I see is this heart issue. Does money have our heart? Is God still Lord of our life or have we made mammon our Lord?

When we have money in its proper place we can use it. We have the opportunity to use at as a tool to fund and finance Kingdom activities to fulfill the calling and purpose that God has put on our life. The issue comes when money is the goal – when it’s the thing that we’re after, when it’s the thing that we’re serving, when it’s the thing that we’re trusting in. That’s when we have a problem but when we make it a tool to fulfill His purposes and His calling in our life then we can use it as an amplifier and something that can help us make more of an impact.

JWK: What is your basic advice to someone who wants to create more income and to do good things with it?

BL: There’s a lot here to unpack, a lot of different directions we can take this. One of the first things that we’re always recommending to people is to actually pay attention to what’s going on. If we understand and view ourselves as managers of the money that’s entrusted to us…we’re stewards. We’re stewards of all kinds of different things. We’re stewards of our time, we’re stewards of our kids that God has entrusted to us (and) also our money. When we understand that then everything in our bank account, all of our assets – our cars, houses, whatever – is not actually ours but it’s God’s and we have been put in a position to manage for Him.

Maintaining that kind of mindset and understanding and walking in that is a really helpful thing in terms of actually managing your money. Once I discovered that and said “Okay, I’m managing for Him now,” if that’s the case, then I need to know what’s going on because if someone hired me to manage to manage their money (for them I need to ask myself if I’m doing a good job). The simple fact for me was “Heck, no!” I was doing a terrible job. Once I realized that it was “Okay, I’m a steward. I’m managing God’s money. Now, I need to pay attention.”

This is where we get into the practical part. What does it look like to actually pay attention? I think the first thing is knowing where all our of our money is going. This is why I recommend getting a free app like…PersonalCapital.com that allows you to quickly plug in your debit card or credit card information and see exactly where you spent for the last three months or so – so you can quickly find out if you are spending the way that you think you are, if there are any trouble spots there or anything else. That’s a good first step that we’re recommending for a lot of people.

JWK: Aside from spending, you talk about side hustles as a way to raise income.

BL: The thing is that we live in a day and age where there has never been an easier time to bring in extra side income. The internet and the advent of all technology has created so many opportunities. That’s part of the goal. The goal of the book – the goal of our mission – is kind of following a John Wesley quote. He said “Earn all you can, save all you can and give all you can.”

So, this idea of earning as much as we can – taking much of our time and turning it into income and then reducing our expenses…the purpose behind all this is so that we can give significantly more than we would be able to give otherwise. That’s kind of the pattern that we’ve been following. That’s kind of the pattern and the approach of the book (which) is to help people reduce their expenses so they have more cash available then also to increase (income) whether that’s in their current day job or business that they’re in or picking up a side hustle or whatever. Again, the purpose and intent here is to have more to be able to fulfill whatever God calls us to do, to be able to give more or whatever else.

JWK: Do you think these principles should be taught more in schools? I mean good money management isn’t something that’s really instilled in education.

BL: Not like it should be, that’s for sure. That’s the thing that I find so fascinating. I remember learning about the Dewey Decimal System, writing cursive and some of these things. I spent a lot of time learning about them but why did I not learn how to actually manage, save or grow my income?

Some things are starting to change and that’s good but until we that problem is solved we need to fill in those gaps. Part of why we wrote this book is to help fill in those gaps because, unfortunately, we’re all developing beliefs about money. We all have a financial education. It’s just that it comes from the wrong places. We might be learning about money from our broke friends or our broke parents, from a credit card company or from any other (unreliable) source. That’s not where we should be learning about money. Especially as believers, as Christians, we should be implementing and pulling The Bible into our financial education because that’s the true source of all wisdom. I think that’s what we need to be tapping into.

JWK: How do you start building capital when you basically have no capital?

BL: That’s the thing. We all start somewhere. Some are born with a better hand than others but I think the reality is anyone can improve. The question isn’t a matter of where we start. I don’t know why people start where they start. I don’t know why some people are given a silver spoon and some people have plastic spoons but we all can make improvements based on where we currently are.

That’s where my focus is. I don’t know why some people have been dealt a difficult hand but, going back to my own situation, I remember being in some really tight spots. I remember putting in only three dollars of gas into the gas tank because that’s all the money that we had. I remember fasting because we ran out of grocery money. I remember being in that situation but the best thing I did in that situation was not to give up hope (as if) I might as well not try. The best thing I could do actually was to try to make the most of what God had entrusted me with at that point. I’m really thankful that I did because those beginning first steps were really small. They weren’t making a lot of impact but it adds up. It’s like a little bit at a time, a little bit at a time and over and over and over years and (eventually) you find yourself in a very, very different situation.

So, that’s my encouragement to anybody who’s in a really tough spot and feels like “I don’t even have anything to manage.” Start with what you have. Everyone has something they can do something with. Start, definitely.

JWK: Anything you’d like to add as we wrap up?

BL: Yeah. My biggest passion behind the book and everything we’re doing is I just want to be the Body of Christ. I want to see Christians advance in their financial lives and understand there’s a purpose beyond. I want to see everybody improve their financial situation so they can take care of their families…At the end of the day, my desire is to see people impact eternity with their finances. That’s why I wrote the book.

JWK: When you say “impact eternity” what do you mean by that?

BL: I mean that…we understand that every dollar that we give can be used to shape someone’s eternal future. You know what I mean? The money that can be spent or invested in our own (God-given) purpose (is money) that God is using to ultimately win the lost (possibly through) money given to organizations that are actively winning the lost. We can use that money to win people to the Lord. That’s something that’s always gotten me really excited.

JWK: So, it’s not just about getting rich. Having a God-given purpose is important.

BL: 100%. Yes, absolutely.

NOTE: They’ll be more on the relationship between God and money in this space on Friday when I post my conversation with Crown Financial Ministries CEO Chuck Bentley about his book Economic Evidence for God? Uncovering the Invisible Hand That Guides the Economy.
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The 73rd Annual Christopher Awards celebrates 22 films, TV shows and books with themes of healing, justice, service, building bridges and overcoming steep odds. And the winners are: 

TV, Cable, & Streaming

+Aly Raisman: Darkness to Light (Lifetime) follows the Olympic gold medalist as she meets fellow sexual abuse survivors and learns about their trauma, pursuit of justice, and ongoing journey toward healing.
+Amen-Amen-Amen (PBS) reveals the story behind the first Jewish community formed in a Muslim country in centuries (in Dubai), and the historic gift of a Torah scroll dedicated to the memory of an Arab-Muslim ruler.
+The House That Rob Built (Tubi) explores the legacy of Rob Selvig, the University of Montana’s pioneering women’s basketball coach, who turned his team into a model of inclusion and empowerment at a time when gender discrimination was the norm.
+In Lidia Celebrates America: Overcoming the Odds (PBS), chef Lidia Bastianich meets resilient Americans who have faced extraordinary challenges, found purpose in serving their communities, and turned their losses into accomplishments.
+ The biopic Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia (Lifetime) profiles gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, who became an international success and sang at civil rights rallies in hopes that her music would inspire racial equality.
+Faith, family, and Christmas spirit permeate The Waltons’ Homecoming (The CW), a remake of the 1971 TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story that led to classic CBS series The Waltons.

Feature Films

+In CODA (Apple TV+), the only hearing member of a deaf family must choose between helping her parents and brother run their fishing business or pursuing her dream of becoming a singer. (This film, of course, was infamously upstaged by Will Smith when it copped this year’s Best Picture Oscar. With all these plaudits, I guess you can count me as the odd man out.)
+Encanto (Disney Plus) presents an enchanting, animated tale about the Madrigal family, their unique magical gifts, and the reminder that each of us has inherent value regardless of our talents.
+The documentary Francesco (Discovery Plus) profiles Pope Francis and his efforts to bring the message of human dignity to the world by shining a light in places where political, social, economic and religious injustices are occurring.

Books for Adults

+In Dorothy Wickenden’s The Agitators (Scribner/Simon & Schuster), Harriet Tubman, Martha Coffin Wright and Frances A. Seward cross racial and class divides to become friends who fight to abolish slavery and establish women’s rights and true equality for all.
+Every Deep-Drawn Breath (Scribner/Simon & Schuster) shares Dr. Wes Ely’s quest to return “humanity to doctoring” by tending to patients’ emotional and spiritual needs, as well as his effort to end a practice in hospital ICUs that left patients suffering from long-term brain problems.
+Daniel James Brown’s Facing the Mountain (Viking/Penguin Random House) revisits the heroism of Japanese Americans who fought for the U.S. during World War II, while their families at home faced unjust persecution and government internment camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
+As an antidote to the dehumanizing ways in which we disagree in today’s world, Amanda Ripley’s High Conflict (Simon & Schuster) offers practical solutions and real-life examples on de-escalating tensions, practicing open-mindedness, and engaging in healthy discussions.
+In Learning to Pray (HarperOne/Harper Collins), Father James Martin invites both spiritual seekers and longtime believers to engage in “conscious conversation with God” by exploring various types of prayer practices and answering common questions on prayer’s effectiveness.
+Retired New York City Fire Department Chief Joseph Pfeifer’s Ordinary Heroes (Portfolio/Penguin Random House) recalls the heroism he witnessed at the World Trade Center on 9/11, the importance of working together in times of crisis and the spiritual foundation of his selfless career.

Books for Young People

+In The Boy Who Loved Everyone by Jane Porter, illustrated by Maisie Paradise Shearring (Preschool and up, Candlewick Press), a child who verbally expresses his love to classmates, animals, and nature learns that affection and caring can also be conveyed in unspoken ways.
+The seek-and-find book 10 Hidden Heroes by Mark K. Shriver, illustrated by Laura Watson, (Kindergarten and up, Loyola Press) invites children to identify the everyday heroes around them, recognize the importance of helping others, and focus on being kind themselves.
+Despite the genetic disorder that leaves her non-verbal and requiring a wheelchair, Elsie feels excitement at attending her first father-daughter dance and is bolstered by the love of her family in Dancing with Daddy by Anitra Rowe Schulte, illustrated by Ziyue Chen (ages 6 and up, Two Lions).

+Writer and illustrator Don Tate scores a touchdown with Pigskins to Paintbrushes (ages 8 and up, Abrams Books for Young Readers), the true story of Ernie Barnes, an art-loving African American child who faced racism and bullying on his road to becoming a professional football player and a painter.
+The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan (ages 10 and up, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House) presents an endearing, humorous story about family separation and the relationship between humans and animals as seen through the eyes of a lonely girl, an autistic boy, an elderly lottery winner, and a former circus elephant.
+In The Happiest Man on Earth (young adult, Harper Collins), Eddie Jaku, who passed away recently at age 101, recalls his teenage years in the Auschwitz concentration camp, his remarkable survival, and his commitment to living with gratitude and kindness to honor all those who died in the Holocaust.

2022 Christopher Spirit Award
Masterpiece: All Creatures Great and Small (PBS) is a reimagining of the classic British TV series about a veterinarian during the 1930s. The show, inspired by the semi-autobiographical books by James Alfred Wight (who adopted James Herriot as his pen name), is an ode to the bonds of community, the power of humor, the hope and resilience required to overcome struggles, the sacrifices we are called to make for a greater good and the love that allows us to see the best in the people around us.

The Christophers, a nonprofit founded in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity. The ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”— guides its publishing, radio, and awards programs.  More information about The Christophers is available at www.christophers.org.
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Dallas Jenkins chosen by UTA. With production getting underway on Season 3 of Angel Studios’ The Chosen comes word that Dallas Jenkins, the creator, producer, writer and director of the global phenomenon has signed with A-list talent agency UTA to represent him, as well as to help The Chosen branch into other media spaces.
The Chosen has received almost 400 million views around the world is a multi-season LostFound-style series about the life of Jesus.
Reflecting on the deal, Jenkins says “After some career disappointments, I didn’t think I’d ever care about or pursue agency representation again,” adding “I just wanted to focus on making content and reaching as many people as possible with it. The reason UTA overcame my reluctance is they’re clearly going to allow my team and me to be even more focused on content while they do the work in areas where I’m weak or inexperienced. Their relentless support of their clients is going to allow for even more reach.”
“Dallas has done something truly remarkable – created a worldwide sensation with top notch production quality which is now the largest fan-supported series ever” notes UTA agent Nick Barnes who continues “We are excited to expand the reach of The Chosen and future Dallas projects to new audiences that will resonate with his talent.”
Meanwhile, Jenkins’ Chosen team is building a state-of-the-art production complex in North Texas including a first century Bible set. Portions of Season 3 are scheduled to be shot at the complex.
“Season 3 is our most emotionally intense season yet, capped off by our filming of the Feeding of the 5,000, which will include over 10,000 of our fans on our set over two days,” according to Jenkins. He elaborates “There will be more backstory between Jesus and the people who knew him, including some new famous people from the gospels. I’m especially excited about where we’re going with Simon and Eden‘s marriage this season. We cried throughout the writing of this season, so I’m optimistic people will do the same watching it.”
The Chosen is free to watch, with fans given the opportunity to “pay it forward” to fund the seven planned seasons. Season 4 is currently being funded.
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Fox News Alert. The Ingraham Angle Town Hall: Florida and the American Comeback airs tomorrow (4/28) at 10:00 PM (ET) on FNC. During the live town hall event, host Laura Ingraham will moderate a panel of lawmakers and experts, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who will discuss issues such as parental rights, freedom for business owners and the recent bill dissolving Disney’s special tax status, among other topics. Throughout the forum, the guests will also take questions from a live audience.
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Joe Rogan mocks the CNN+ debacle. Of course, the populist podcaster isn’t alone in the pile on. I mean it is kinda funny that the powers that were at so-called news network that hardly anyone was watching for sorta free (stuffed inside a larger their cable or satellite bundle) actually thought people would pay to watch more of it.First, Jeff Zucker – once described as “the most destructive media executive ever to exist” – nearly destroyed NBC then he failed up by wrecking CNN which, until he arrived and descended it into brand-destroying nonstop opinionated smugness, was actually a respected news source. Just like the current execs at the Don’t Say Boy or Girl Kingdom disrespected and denigrated everything Walt Disney built, Zucker and his crowd did the same to CNN Founder Ted Turner‘s legacy.
Here’s my advice to the channel’s new owners at Discovery: Admit that the past five years of CNN have been a complete and utter disaster and get back  to the straight news the network used to be known for. Win or lose in the ratings, at least you’ll have your dignity. That used to count for something.  I’ll also say this. While former Fox host c seriously disappointed me with his partisan performance moderating the Donald TrumpJoe Biden presidential debate, he (along with the excellent Clarissa Ward) is one of the channel’s few on-air personalities with any kind of journalistic cred whatsoever. As part of the rebuilding process, the network would be wise to offer him a Larry King Live-format interview hour in the 9:00 PM ET time slot vacated by Chris Cuomo of “Please, show me where it says that protests are supposed to be polite and peaceful” infamy. I think the audience would be receptive to something like that. It’s a start.
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Finally: Good box office news for DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys. Recommended here last week, the family-friendly animated heist film stole the #1 slot at the box office over the weekend. Good work is rewarded. Congratulations to all involved.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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