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Friday, May 19, 2017

White House Spirituality

The Paradox of Cultural Appropriation
I was in New Orleans last weekend and thinking about cultural appropriation—taking possession of or making use of another's culture for oneself. I noted once again how much cultural borrowing, some of it "appropriation," really, has gone on and still goes on in New Orleans—French, Spanish, Cajun, Creole, black, white, and now Vietnamese, Hispanic, and so forth. The city is practically defined by how its manifold cultures mix and match and borrow from one another. It's not so much multicultural but a cacophony of cultures—and extraordinarily delightful and confusing to this Northerner. It happens in a dynamic process where cultural appropriation/borrowing/appreciation all get mixed together.

A few days earlier I had read about a Canadian editor in chief who stirred up a storm of protest (accompanied by shaming and the demand for apologies) when he announced that he didn't believe it was wrong for writers of one culture to write stories about people of another culture. Many accused him of encouraging cultural appropriation. It was another example of extreme political correctness, because most people realize that in a multicultural free society, it's not only the right but the responsibility of writers to explore other cultures. We swim in our own cultures and those writing from the outside can reveal things to us that we simply can't see.

But I do get the frustration of those offended, because cultural appropriation can go south. The Chicago Tribune recently ran a piece about "Beer Church," in which a church has been turned into a tavern. That wasn't as much of a problem as seeing a picture of an altar with the symbols of alpha and omega and the monogram HIS, both of which refer to our Lord. It had been turned into a beer tap. With what seemed a hint of mockery, upon entering the tavern the author asked, "Is this sacrilegious?" He doesn't seem to think it's a serious issue, being sacrilegious. Maybe if we told him it was insensitive cultural appropriation, he'd get it.

So, yes, there are moments when cultural or religious appropriation is done insensitively and merely to exploit. It both saddens and infuriates one when such things happen, but this seems to be the price of living in a free society, which paradoxically requires both sensitivity and a thick skin.
Cleanest Room in the Planet
This fascinating piece about how Intel makes microprocessors begins:
Before entering the cleanroom in D1D, as Intel calls its 17 million-cubic-foot microprocessor factory in Hillsboro, Oregon, it's a good idea to carefully wash your hands and face. You should probably also empty your bladder. There are no bathrooms in the cleanroom. Makeup, perfume, and cosmetics are forbidden. Writing instruments are allowed, as long as they're special sterile pens; paper, which sheds microscopic particles, is absolutely banned. If you want to write on something, you'll have to use what is known in the industry as "high-performance documentation material," a paper-like product that doesn't release fibers. …
The air in the cleanroom is the purest you've ever breathed. It's class 10 purity, meaning that for every cubic foot of air there can be no more than 10 particles larger than half a micron, which is about the size of a small bacteria. In an exceptionally clean hospital OR, there can be as many as 10,000 bacteria-size particles without creating any special risk of infection. In the outside world, there are about 3 million.
Grace and peace,
Mark Galli
Mark Galli
Mark Galli
Editor in Chief, Christianity Today

P.S. Karl Barth is on sabbatical.

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