News with Nuance Feb. 17, 2023
Your Friday dose of News with Nuance: the week's biggest stories, unpacked + more ..
This week’s News with Nuance tackles two stories that show how our current world, and especially American society, have empowered literal terrorism to take root and thrive in our communities. The weapons of fear and domination have been given megaphones by social media and technology companies, where profit margins and commitments to shareholders have replaced any sense of communal or corporate morality. It feels a little bit like we’re passengers in a bus driven by a madman, careening ever closer to a cliff.
And should we pitch over the edge, we - the passengers - will be blamed.
“Why did they make him so angry?” they’ll ask.
He was under a lot of stress.
He felt threatened. He had no choice but to retaliate.
I’m tired of riding in this bus. I feel sick, and not just from motion sickness and bus smells.
The Headline: These women journalists were doing their jobs. That made them targets.
I woke up this early morning around 2:30 a.m. with a pounding migraine headache. This is something that happens to me occasionally, and when it does, I have to drag myself out of bed to take migraine medicine and hope that I can fall back asleep for a few hours.
I did so last night, but as usual, when I woke up this morning, the headache rushed back. Usually, I can combat it with the usual remedies of ice, caffeine, food, Benadryl, and if needed - a second dose of migraine medicine. But even if the pain goes away, I’m left with the classic migraine hangover: fatigue, exhaustion, and a sense of being desperately tired without really understanding why.
It was in this mode this morning that I read this story about the threats faced by female journalists all around the world, simply for doing their jobs. And I’m not saying the story itself exacerbated my migraine pain, but I’m not not saying that reading this story provoked a sort of trauma response inside of me.
I have nowhere near the public platform that many of these journalists do, and still hearing their stories and the callous, violent threats foisted upon them from an often anonymous internet, made me feel sick to my stomach. I recognized their stories and the way those stories make you feel. I recognized, too, the sad conclusion that there’s often no one standing with you, as a female journalist and writer, when these threats are made. And here’s the saddest truth in the story:
“Time and again, research shows, the news organizations that employ women journalists who are under assault turn against them, depriving them of career opportunities and driving them from the profession.”
God, how true and heartbreaking this quote is. By the way, I do see parallels to this same backlash happen to female leaders in the Church.
The worst part about it is how these gaslighting responses make their way into your own psyche. Even as I write about this story I hear the thoughts in my own head: “why are you being so whiny?” Toughen up. It’s not that bad. Why are you complaining?
As I get older and understand more about men and women and gender roles, I’m struck again and again by the lies that we’re told about feminine and masculine strength and power. We’re told, in western culture and in the Church, that women are the weaker sex. But it’s so not true. Again and again, we’re told to bear up. To endure. Our strength is not only physical but emotional. We hold empires together. We bind up community’s wounds. We bear children into the world. We hold fast. We don’t complain. Our tears are much more often for those we love and for the world than for ourselves.
The world can be unbearably cruel. Even worlds that are supposedly predicated on protection of truth and allegiance to love, like journalism and the church.
Women journalists need allies who understand and get it. And so I can’t write this piece without thinking back to my first post-college journalist job at the Naples (Fla.) Daily News. I came there after my desired first job, in Kansas City, went on hold due to a hiring freeze. In Naples, I had an editor who instinctively “got it.” He was a Midwestern white guy who grew up in Southern Illinois and loved covering the Masters golf tournament every year. But he protected and advocated for me, a 21-year-old young woman, covering a popular minor hockey team with a rabid fanbase, without exception. The paper stood behind me in ways I didn’t fully understand at the time. But as I look back, I’m grateful. It is most often otherwise for women journalists, as I’ve now experienced personally and through the stories of colleagues.
If you’re a man in a position of power, especially in journalism or in the Church, I hope that you’ll read this and consider how you can be an ally to your female colleagues. Not paternalistically, but as a friend and a supporter who recognizes your power in the organization/institution to build positive change and break down a culture that rules through fear, domination, and outright terrorism.
Click the photo above or this link to view a powerful video from Pakistani journalist Gharida Farooqi about the online threats she has faced for doing her job
The Quote: “Online violence against women journalists is one of the most serious contemporary threats to press freedom internationally,” the report declared. “It aids and abets impunity for crimes against journalists, including physical assault and murder. It is designed to silence, humiliate, and discredit. It inflicts very real psychological injury, chills public interest journalism, kills women’s careers and deprives society of important voices and perspectives.”
Story by Taylor Lorenz, Washington Post (herself a victim of gender-based threats and online bullying for her journalistic work)
The Headline: Students slain at Michigan State were ‘incredibly loved,’ ‘tremendous’ leaders
I paired this story profiling the victims of the Michigan State University shooting, with the previous story about violent threats against female journalists, because I think the two go hand-in-hand.
Merely a quick Google search leads to numerous studies about the undeniable link between domestic violence (predominately against women) and mass shootings. And still, the dominant rhetoric on the political right is to defend gun rights and inhibit prosecution and legal action against male abusers. Over and over again, we choose to protect guns and violent men at the cost of innocent lives and silencing justice and truth.
Reading these stories about the victims of mass shootings is painful, heartbreaking, and sometimes feels like a meaningless exercise of inertia and deja vu, illustrated by the fact that some of the students sheltering in place at MSU were also students at Oxford High School in Michigan on Nov. 30, 2021, when a mass shooter killed four students and injured another six, in addition to wounding a teacher.
Michigan is also home to formidable Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was the victim of a kidnapping plot in her home state by far-right extremists.
We have to close our eyes and blink pretty hard to pretend that these correlations are not causations. Violent and discriminatory rhetoric against women leads to mass violence. It’s unequivocal. What will it take for those in power, especially white men in government, to recognize the existential threat to America that is untrammeled guns and irresponsible violent rhetoric in search of social media followers and, ultimately, money?
And then in the mean time, parents are left to mourn their children. In particular on my heart today is Alexandria Verner, a basketball and volleyball player at Clawson High School, who was killed in the MSU attack. Verner wore #24, the same jersey number my son wears. But I don’t want to write anymore about that, because I too have to worry about exposing too much about my children publicly. I learned that lesson the hard way, because I used to have my kids’ names on my Twitter profile.
When will the madness end? Or will we allow the madman to drive the bus over the cliff?
Alexandria Verner, #24. Photo courtesy of Clawson Public Schools
This Week in Christian Nationalism and Religious Extremism
While this newsletter won’t focus overall on Christian Nationalism, each Friday I will include a brief update from that week, as it’s both a continuing focus of my work and also, I think, a critical threat to both American democracy and the faithful witness of Jesus’ Gospel, which exists independently of the United States!
In one sentence: Christian Nationalism is a version of the idolatrous Theology of Glory, which replaces the genuine worship of God with worship of a particular vision of America, often rooted in a revisionist history of white people in the 1950s, before the Civil Rights movement or the women’s movement. Christian Nationalism supports a violent takeover of government and the imposition of fundamentalist Christian beliefs on all people. Christian nationalism relies on a theological argument that equates American military sacrifice with Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. It suggests that Christians are entitled to wealth and power, in contrast to Jesus’ theology of the cross, which reminds Christians that they too have to carry their cross, just as our crucified savior did.
This Week: I have to be honest, dear readers. My heart is heavy after covering the previous two stories. The sense of inertia and powerlessness is weighty and seems impossible to overcome. And as a Pastor and researcher about Christian Nationalism, I know that violence against women and worship of guns is inextricably linked to the ideology and theology of Christian Nationalism. Again and again, historians and sociologists have painstakingly shared the gruesome statistics. Journalists have reported the stories. Pastors have presided at far too many funerals. It feels sometimes that there is nothing left to be said. Nothing more you can do to overcome the rising tide of hatred and callousness.
It is in these times that we dearly need community: both the community of the local church, which is undeniably powerful and needed, and also the community of fellow brave voices who are speaking to truth and justice.
I have often found encouragement in this work from historians and prophets likeand . Their work and steadfast courage, in addition to their personal kindness, gives me hope that decency and goodness will not be so easily defeated.
As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, with, Kristin and Jemar are working on a four-part roundtable here on Substack about Christian Nationalism. Last week, I shared Robert's seminal part I. Here are parts II and III from Kristin and Jemar:
Both pieces are a Must Read. And Robert will have a concluding piece coming soon, so check back for that on his Substack:.
I know many of you are coworkers with me in this work. Find your people, both online and locally, and know you aren’t alone.
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Angela, I feel your pain, literally 😥. You are in my prayers🙏🏼