Praise the Lord and pass the beer, change is brewing among American Christians

CNN Belief Blog

By Brett McCracken, special to CNN

(CNN) — Something is brewing among American Protestants, and it has a decidedly hoppy flavor.

For much of the last century in the United States, Protestant Christianity’s relationship with beer was cold or even hostile at times. Protestant organizations such as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League led the campaign to make alcohol illegal.

Even after Prohibition ended, many evangelicals defined themselves by their abstention from alcohol, called “the beloved enemy” by televangelist Jack Van Impe.

Drinking was, and in many cases still is, outlawed on Christian college campuses and among leadership of many churches and denominations.

But in recent years, change has been fermenting. Taverns and beer halls, once dismissed as the domain of the “worldly” in need of reform, are today the meeting places for churches

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The Silent Message

A large driving force behind creating this series was actually less about affecting the gay community directly, and more about giving the general population a way to relate to gay imagery which is devoid of sex, victimization, or banality – themes that might usually prevent some folks from connecting,” writes Summers. “The photographs are not documentations, they are dreamy illustrations of what open expressions of love in different cultures *could* look like in the future, more accepting time.” says Braden Summers, who is New York-based photographer and visual artist. Summers travels around the world to capture the special moments that inspires him one way or another.

I never had the opportunity to meet Summer. However, by reading his blog as well as looking at the pictures he took over the years, there is something inside of me making me feel different about his photos. After thinking and examining his pictures for a while, I begin to understand what Summers is trying to present to the viewers — The Silent Message.

As the communication student, over the years, we learned so much about various theories from the courses.We train people how to be presentable in public speaking, we coach the students on the concept of media connection, even we travel to other countries to reach the unreachable groups to tell them about Entertainment Education. Without thinking, people tend to assume that communication is all about using the words. In general, majority of the public believes that communication is the field where people use words to make others feel better. I have to clarify here one more time: Communication is a broad professional study. There is a huge difference between Communication Scholarship and delivering the messages.

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Certainly, another form of communication is non-verbal, such as what Summers does. Using the photos to send the messages to the people who are interested. Summers emphasizes that “photos has the power to tell the stories. Looking for emotional connection with strangers. Photos can transform the relationship from one phase to another.” Like the opening quote, Summers uses his camera to take pictures of romantic relationship/ intimate moments among gay community. Summers travels to allow the public to identify the new meaning of “love” from different angle. Come to think of it, everywhere we go, we always see the heterosexual couples are walking around. Their eye contact, their verbal communication shows their passion and dedication in the relationship. Meanwhile, we ought to know the love and the passion among gay community members should not be ignorant. They are here and everywhere.

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One of the advantages of using photos is offering the rooms to the viewers in term of their imagination. What we see through our eyes might not match what truly happens in reality. Summers’ pictures on the  homosexual couples display the silent love from another group. They deserve the same amount of honor and attention as the normal couples do. By looking at the photos carefully, the smiles in the pictures, the struggles on their faces, the bonding between two partners are shown by each image in front of us.

Pictures have tremendous power. Whenever people organize a protest or advocate for the unfairness, they ought to know photos might be the best voice of all. The silent message will become the voice of many.

The Summer Photos

Distance Friendship

B-day from Google

Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for coming to my birthday celebration this evening and I am honored to have all of you to come here to celebrate this important day with me.  Two days before my birthday, my roommate Tao thought it would be a great idea if I made a speech on this occasion.  As you might know, my major is communications. We tend to be the “long-winded” speakers from time to time. So, I asked Tao, ” how  long should I talk?”  Without missing a beat, Tao said to me, ” Mengfei.  It will be the night about you. You can talk as long as you want. But we are leaving at 10pm.” So, I will try to keep this short tonight. I promise we will be out of here before tomorrow morning newspaper arrival.

Once I heard someone saying: The old believe everything. The middle-aged suspect everything and the young know everything. I have to admit that I agree with this saying partially. I think the young  know something, not everything. Just last week, I tried to make the Chinese dumpling at  home. Little did I know, it was harder than writing the dissertation. I still couldn’t believe a young, good-looking Chinese person like me failed at the dumpling-making class.  I bet my mom and dad will laugh so hard once they find out.

Tonight, it is going to be a special night for me. Because it is my Birthday. At the same time, it it’s also the anniversary for my parents. They have been married more than 28 years. Happy Anniversary, mom and dad! I would like to say a few things about them. First of all, I am being grateful that my parents supported me all those years while I am studying in the US. While I was little, I was raised and disciplined by my parents’ rules. I longed for the freedom to live  on my own. I always thought about the days my parents let me go and I knew I would be on cloud nine. However, after moving to US. I guess I am wrong. I miss my  parents greatly. I wish they could be here on this special occasion. Thanks to their guidance and relentless nagging, I am able to stand firm when I face obstacles. I am able to tell the right from wrong. Tonight, I realize they didn’t want to give me a hard time. All they were doing with me  during the time of my growth was to prepare me to be a real man later on.

Second, I am being thankful that my friend Bill Smith is here. As a matter of fact, Bill Smith is one of my best friends in US.  Former US President Ronald Reagan used to say : a real friend is someone walks in when rest of the world walks out. I believe Bill is the person who walks in, no matter what happens to me. We have known each other over 10 years. There is so much to share with everyone about our stories. I will never forget the moments he and I met each other in an English Summer Camp in Beijing, China.  He was the English teacher and I was his assistant. I will never forget Bill shared with me his personal testimony  on how God changed his life over the years. He was the believer of Jesus and I had faith in Bill’s stories. I will never forget that Bill drove 8 hours to attend my college graduation in 2011. He was ” my biggest fan” and I was his pride. Over the years, our friendship never  go away. His son, Nathan, always says to his father, ” Dad. You are just like Chinaman ( which is me). You two could put on a play and make everyone laugh.” So, I want to give special thanks to Bill. Thank you for teaching me and pushing me to become a better person.

Lastly, I want to extend my appreciation to the people who are here tonight. Thank you for coming and being here.   That truly means a lot to me when I see all the smiling faces at this moment. I know Regent University doesn’t have a lot of international students here on campus. For those of us who are here, it is unlikely to have so many friends remember our birthdays. People always question me why I chose Regent University for my Master Degree.  Every time, I am confident and proud to tell them there are two reasons. First of all, Regent University is one of the greatest schools in US which is equipped with cutting-edge facilities in teaching Communications. I couldn’t give a second thought on choosing it. Second, Regent University is a Christian school. Since  I came to US for education, the Lord blessed me in many ways. I always had the desire to be part of the Christian school where my faith will be strengthened and challenged.  The minute I graduate from school, I shall be ready to embark on the new journey waiting for me. I was made in the image of the Lord and I am called to be more than a conqueror.

In the end, I would like to say : thank you for your listening and your presence. Please have fun tonight and let’s celebrate this day together!

Mengfei Li

What’s the Social Media?

” Yo, please remember to facebook me when you get home.”  Or “what are you talking about?! I just twittered it!” I bet those are the things you hear very often among the public these days. When I was exposed to Facebook or Twitter, Linked-in, the whole time I thought those are the names of the company. Today, if we look carefully and listen carefully, facebook, twitter or myspace are the popular “verbs” people use on the daily basis. Here is the question that we never ask ourselves : what’s the social media? How can the social media just takes over our lives?

Social Media Bomb

 

According to the survey done by Brown & Fraser Research in 2005, there 579 participants were invited to answer the questions on the functions and the importance of social media in the life of individuality.  After answering the questions by filling out survey, the results were rather surprising. One thing we ought to bear in mind that social media might not be as popular as it is today back in 2005.  Dr. William Brown found out that ” on average, one person did 21 times on the social media sites in a week.  At the same time,  on average, one person talked to 9 people about what they saw on the social media sites in a day.  etc.” By looking at the numbers and reading the survey analysis in depth. It is more obvious to see that people are spending more time on social media sites on the daily basis. Not long ago, one of my college friends just got hired by Twitter. When I asked him how he got hired by the famous company,  his answer was much jaw-dropping. He told me, ” well, I just twittered my stuff every 5 minutes.  The minute I woke up and the moment before going to bed, I always used my phone, PC to twitter about anything I found. One day, I got a call and the next thing you know. I am employed. My job is to twitter about things for the public. I am getting paid to do this.” Just that easy?! Apparently, it is easier to get a job if you are a social media maniac.

The point I am trying to make is the communication channel shifts among humans. Let me ask you this question: when was the last time you talk to someone face-to- face on a very sincere and meaningful topic? I guess you are saying to me ” well, I don’t know. I don’t have time for that. If they need my help. They can find me on Facebook.” Friends, it is okay for put the phone or the PC aside for a second. On one hand, it is true that we need to get ” connected” with the world. We ought to be quick to answer and fast enough to respond through technological innovations, however, we can’t afford to  lose the chances to make friends with people. Or  the last thing we want is to ignore the valuable time with someone we truly care. Very often, I hear people saying to me : I don’t like getting emails when I am in a meeting. or I can’t be away from my phone for 6 seconds, or someone will need me.

We are living in a busy world. It is true that we can be helpful to someone in life. But how much time do we give to ourselves? This summer, two of my professors from school are flying to Italy with their spouses. When I asked them the reasons to go.  ” To simplify my life. We are going to get ” unplugged” with the social media.” I was very touched by their intentions. I can’t even remember when the last I shut off my phone and didn’t plan to see the email for the whole day. Try it and you will notice how much we have been ” controlled or dominated” by the social media. Remember: we are the ones who invented them. Don’t allow them to manipulate us.

Be Contagious.

” Please get away from me. I don’t want to get sick.  You don’t want to get everyone sick here with the flu.” I guess you are not strange to those comments if you are sick. I bet some of you are used to this kind of comments when you know your sickness might be contagious for the people around your office, around your house, etc. However, do you know there is something positive that you can spread to others? It is contagious as well. But I am sure you won’t get many negative comments this time. The power of being cheerful and positive.

Years ago, I was living with a family in Charlotte, North Carolina. Needless to say, I was taught by each of the family members regarding to the principle of living in US. Each one of them had their own unique ways to present their maturity and understanding of life.  I was very drawn to the stories from the mother. Let’s call her “Rosemary.”  Rosemary was the youngest kid in her family among 8 brothers and sisters. Since she was little, she began to cook for the whole family. Her father was never around and her mother suffered from alcoholic addiction and other negative aspects in her life. Rosemary shouldered the responsibilities of the family while she was little. She made the dinner and helped the older siblings to do he chores. Life went like this until she was admitted to college. She finally had her own life and began a new journey for her. Little did she knew, after getting married to her husband, she had issues with depression and alcoholic addiction, too. Most importantly, her depression was getting worse after three years of her marriages. She became very depressed and negative in general. Her husband and children didn’t know what to do. She was beating herself up with words and thoughts. After going through numerous clinical treatment, finally, the doctor told her husband that the major caused her depression was her own thinking. Simple enough to understand: Rosemary couldn’t let go of the past. Subconsciously, she had some grudges against her mother and her older siblings as well.

Maybe you are asking yourself this question: why do I feel emotional or emotionally attached to Rosemary? Am I her? Well, Rosemary went through a hard time with her family and career until one day she met someone from her church who was a well-known psychologist in the United States. The psychologist told Rosemary two things after a in-depth conversation in the office. Number one: You can’t undo the past. Just let it go. Having grudges against others will only hurt you, alone. Second, started to see things in a more positive and cheerful way. People will be drawn to you sooner or later.

Rosemary decided to give a shot after thinking and pondering for a while. She started to walk with her husband more often after dinner. She began to share with her husband some funny stuff she saw on the way to the grocery stores. Whenever she was tempted to get down, she would get on her knees, praying and asking for the help from the Lord. At the same time, she dumped all her leftover wines and beers in the garbage can. To make long story short, today, Rosemary is healthy and strong. She is 76 years old and travels all over the world to widen her horizon. Just yesterday, she mailed me a postcard from Japan. Rosemary is in the process of building an orphanage there.

Looking back, Rosemary had issues with her past and her addictions. However, she chose to fight with it. She didn’t get bitter, she got better. Coming back to our topic, when I talk about ” being contagious” in life, what I am, trying to say is our positive energy will greatly affect the people around us. Just because we are upset about something, it does not give us the reason to be sour and bitter towards others. I don’t know about you. I never want to be around the person who always has a chip on his shoulder. We all have issues and troubles to deal on the daily basis. It is part of the journey. However, it is our choice to get bitter or to get better. When we are positive and encouraging to others, people are more likely to engage in a conversation with us. When we are spreading the joy to others, we are more likely to be more helpful towards other people.

When was the last time you had a good laugh?
When was the last time you had a good laugh?

Stop being the “sickness” to others. Maybe you don’t feel up to a par from time to time, that’s okay. Just ponder about the great moments that happened to you before. There is always a reason to argue or fight with others, between married couples, among co-workers, even at church between pastors and congregation.  Ruth Graham was once asked by someone what kind of person Bill Graham was in her mind, and whether she ever thought about divorcing him after disputes. Ruth said, ” divorce? No. But murder, yes.” What am I saying? When you are about to get depressed next time, do yourself a favor. Leave them behind before talking to others. Started to spread the joy and peace to others, not bitterness, not hatred, not coldness.

The last thing we need right now is war. I am not just talking about the war between countries. I am talking about the war in our homes, in the office, and most essentially, the war inside of us. Remember: you have something more powerful than sickness giving to others. Take actions today and you will be the “cut-up” for others.

What Students Remember Most About Teachers

When I was a high school teacher overseas, I was trying really hard to understand the principle of being the “teacher”. This article surely inspired me to know that the Lord placed me at the right position. Knowing students could make the difference in the life of an adult, that ought to be the gift from Him.

Pursuit of a Joyful Life

Dear Young Teacher Down the Hall,

I saw you as you rushed past me in the lunch room. Urgent. In a hurry to catch a bite before the final bell would ring calling all the students back inside. I noticed that your eyes showed tension. There were faint creases in your forehead. And I asked you how your day was going and you sighed.

“Oh, fine,” you replied.

But I knew it was anything but fine. I noticed that the stress was getting to you. I could tell that the pressure was rising. And I looked at you and made an intentional decision to stop you right then and there. To ask you how things were really going. Was it that I saw in you a glimpse of myself that made me take the moment?

You told me how busy you were, how much there was to do

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Who is American?

” Well, you are not an American, let me tell you how we do things here. You need to listen to the native speaker to tell you what to do!” ” Okay, take it easy. All I am trying to do is to have a decent conversation with you. I am not an American. But I am not stupid.” What you saw just now is the conversation happened to me last week at school. And I can promise you that this was the first time for me to have similar conversation. As soon as I walked away from talking to the person, I always ask myself this question: What’s American? Do they just know everything?
Not long ago, we celebrated one of the major holidays in US — Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. There is no need for me to go further on the reasons why we ought to celebrate this important holiday. It is Dr. King  who was rooting for the equality between white and black in US. His point was to ask everyone to be united as group. His battle didn’t tell us that equality ought to be for certain days, or limited years. As long as we are living under the same nation, pledging to the same oaths to the strips and stars, there should be equality in this nation. Today, What I am going to talk about the international students and their contribution to this nation.

Whenever I hear someone saying to me, ” You are not an American. Let me tell you how we do things here,” I always tend to tell them : you are right. I am not an American. I might not know everything about US. But I do know how to have a conversation with people without hurting them. Put your arrogance away! Upon this day, if we carefully look around, US has always been the nation filled with people from everyone. Those are the people who are willing to move to US for the greater future of this nation. I want to  say to my friend:
you are American. But do you know

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Simply, I am not showing this numbers to scare anyone. My point is the relationship between US and any other nation is vital and beneficial for everyone.  US is no longer the nation who grows and feeds herself. As a matter of fact, there is no one nation who can stand alone without getting the resources from their alliances.  There is no point to degrade other people who come from other nations. Instead of welcoming us, people put on the hat of the “ego and arrogance” to teach us how to  “be American”. Can I tell you the truth? We never want to be American. We always want to be ourselves. This is who we are.

Second, most of us don’t have the time to check out some of the important figures.  In the state of Virginia,  a small county called “fairfax.” Within this small county, currently, there are over 1500 people from South Korea, either living or studying there. Among them, one-third of the people are working in many important fields, such as hospital, auto industry, navy officers, etc.  1073 people are from India,  16% of them are working in the banking system locally.  716 people are from China, most of them are working in the manufacturing areas . 425 people are from Italy, etc. This is one of the small counties in Virgina. Can you imagine how many international folks living in US as a whole? What’s my point? There are so many people who move here to make changes for the place they love. They are not here to destroy this nation. Instead, they love Virgina. This unique place offers them greater opportunity to make a difference in the life of others. On the opposite side, according to CNN report in 2011, among 308 million US citizens, only 30% of the people have passports. With closer look, in 2009, 65 million people traveled to Canada or Mexico where passports are not required.  Clearly, majority of the US citizens have never had experiences in living abroad. They have no idea how to make a living in a foreign country. So, as my friend said to me, he is America and he knows how to do things right in US. Well, he is missing a word. “only!” He only knows how to do things right here ONLY!”  The world is getting more and more international, people ought to be mindful of all kinds of knowledge. With living abroad or knowing other cultures in-depth, people have better chances to make more friends and acquire better jobs.

Love

So, I would like to tell my friend. You are right. I am not an American. I might not know who to do some of the things here. But US is no longer a nation which can survive on its own. This nation is in need of helps from other nation, and vice versa.  By saying those comments will only hurt yourself, not us. In the end, we are here to help US to become better and stronger. You are right. We don’t possess the green card as we would like to. But we are happy that we are not those people who have the green card and try to murder US citizens. You are right. We don’t have rich parents to support us to buy expensive things. But we are the people who are willing to join the army or navy to fight for  this country. You are right our English might not be as good as you are. However, we are the people who work overseas, so you can have the products like, iPhones, HP laptops, Mercedes-Benz, etc. In this day and age, what we need is the brain and the spirit to work as a team, not the ego or arrogance.

http://http://gawker.com/senator-tells-the-surgeon-general-nominee-he-knows-some-1516317305

Sources:

Avon, Natalie. (2011)CNN. Why More American Don’t Travel Abroad.      http://www.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/02/04/americans.travel.domestically/

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/government/about/data/

http://www.worldsrichestcountries.com/top_us_imports.html