When Angst Goes Viral

When Angst Goes Viral

According to author James Baldwin, “the most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”

This might explain the popularity of Louie C.K., whose rise to stardom has transitioned him from accomplished comedian to household name, not only because of his time writing for luminaries like Chris Rock and Conan O’Brien, or because of Louie, his critically-acclaimed bio-dramedy on FX, but also from an insightful comic bit that went viral in 2008, entitled “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.”

Well now he’s back, with another insightful, melancholy quasi-comedic rant about why he won’t let his daughter have a cell phone. It starts off being about how kids today don’t know how to communicate with proper eye contact, but then before you know it, he’s waxing philosophical about perpetual distraction, existential sadness, texting and driving, and doing a crazy Springsteen impersonation. It’s a five minute tour de force that is brutally funny and shockingly poignant.

I love almost all of Louie CK’s humor, even the crass, over-the-line jokes. They’re just all so painfully honest. With a sentence or two, CK can masterfully project an aura of disregard for what you think about him, which is part of the appeal. And it’s not in an iconoclast, look-at-me-I’m-a-rebel way, but more of a matter-of-fact, this-is-just-who-I-am-*sigh*-whaddya-gonna-do sort of way. Most of his material comes from a side-eyed glance at society at large, and his way of glibly revealing the fraudulent nature of contemporary American pride and excess.

Essentially, Louis CK talks a lot about privilege. Racial privilege, yes [like this R-rated clip], but also the privilege of wealth and prosperity in general, which demands nothing more than the pursuit of and allegiance to itself. But unlike Chris Rock, CK speaks not as a critical outsider, but as one trapped in the machine, all too familiar with the soul-crushing effects of fame, fortune and power.

In that, he has a lot in common with the Biblical figure Solomon.

Solomon was a man of incredibly vast privilege. His reign was part of a decidedly prosperous era for the kingdom of Israel, and he took full advantage of that wealth. With untold riches, multitudes of both wives and concubines, and a reputation for wisdom, he was like Steve Jobs, Tony Stark, and Hugh Hefner all rolled into one. He was the most interesting man in the world long before The Most Interesting Man in the World.

And yet, for Solomon, staying thirsty was not a catchphrase, but a lament. All throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, assumed to have been written by Solomon, is a tone of resigned futility. Verse after verse describes the author’s attempt to find fulfillment through the pursuit of worldly pleasures. And it all adds up to nothing, vanity, meaninglessness. Like chasing after the wind or trying to grasp smoke.

This is what Louie CK was referring to when he talked about that “forever empty” feeling. The fallen nature of sin in the world has created an inescapable sense of foreboding that we adults have to contend with on a daily basis, even if only subconsciously. All of the unfairness of life, all of the frustration, all of the pent-up, unfulfilled longing… it weighs on us. Like graffiti on a random wall, we’re conditioned to believe that there is no gravity, the world just sucks.

As a Christian, I know that there is an antidote for this existential gloom, and it’s not just listening to cathartic music. I believe that the emptiness we feel is evidence that we are in need of a Savior, and that this fallen world is not meant to be our home.

But in too many Christian circles, we’re conditioned to project the exact opposite message. The popularity of the prosperity gospel, combined with the advent of social media, mandates that we project Christian positivity at all times. This is one of the reasons why there aren’t enough worship songs that give voice to lament. We’re not allowed to publicly demonstrate feelings of emptiness, because somehow we think it’s bad PR. We think we’re supposed to look like we have it together at all times, so as to somehow show the world that the Christian life is the best choice because it guarantees the most successful outcomes (kids in the best schools, job with the most money, biggest house, et cetera).

But being confident in our hope doesn’t require us to never show any sadness. On the contrary, the popularity of Louie CK’s latest viral clip is proof that honesty and vulnerability is something that resonates, that causes people to stand up and take notice, and sometimes even stop you in a sporting goods store.

As someone just venturing into stand-up, I admire CK’s bold, unfiltered style, even though I know that as a worship leader, I can’t afford to take all those kinds of risks in pursuit of a laugh. But I hope that every time we see a bit like that go viral, it will be a reminder that perhaps we could do more to be a bit more honest and vulnerable. It’s true that people won’t hear the gospel if no one tells them, but it’s also true that they won’t have a concept for their sinfulness if they’re not allowed to acknowledge that something about life is wrong.

Even if that something is, y’know… little kids with cell phones.

The Affordable Care Act and African Americans

The Affordable Care Act and African Americans

The Affordable Care Act will help make health insurance coverage more affordable and accessible for millions of Americans. For African Americans, like other racial and ethnic minorities, the law will address inequities and will increase access to quality, affordable health coverage, invest in prevention and wellness, and give individuals and families more control over their care.

African Americans suffer from obesity, heart disease, and diabetes at higher levels than the general population. For example, in 2010, 37 percent of African Americans were obese, compared to 26% of whites. Expanding opportunities for coverage can improve health outcomes for African Americans.

Already, the Affordable Care Act has benefitted the nearly 85% of Americans who already have insurance:

  • 3.1 million young adults have gained coverage through the parents’ plans
  • 6.6 million seniors are paying less for prescription drugs
  • 105 million Americans are paying less for preventative care & no longer face lifetime coverage limits
  • 13.1 million Americans have received rebates from insurance companies
  • 17 million children with pre-existing conditions no longer denied coverage or charged extra

Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will provide 6.8 million uninsured African Americans an opportunity to get affordable health insurance coverage. The following provides an overview of the coverage and benefits available to African Americans today and those made possible by the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Happening Now:

  • An estimated 7.3 million African Americans with private insurance now have access to expanded preventive services with no cost sharing. These services include well-child visits, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, Pap tests and mammograms for women, and flu shots for children and adults.
  • The 4.5 million elderly and disabled African Americans who receive health coverage from Medicare also have access to many preventive services with no cost-sharing, including annual wellness visits with personalized prevention plans, diabetes and colorectal cancer screening, bone mass measurement and mammograms.
  • More than 500,000 young African-American adults between ages 19 and 25 who would otherwise have been uninsured now have coverage under their parent’s employer-sponsored or individually purchased health plan.
  • Major federal investments to improve quality of care are improving management of chronic diseases more prevalent among African Americans.
  • The health care workforce will be more diverse due to a near tripling of the National Health Service Corps. African-American physicians make up about 17 percent of Corps physicians, a percentage that greatly exceeds their 6 percent share of the national physician workforce.
  • Investments in data collection and research will help us better understand the causes of health care disparities and develop effective programs to eliminate them.
  • Targeted interventions, such as Community Transformation Grants, will promote healthy lifestyles, lower health care costs, and reduce health disparities.
  • Increased funding available to more than 1,100 community health centers will increase the number of patients served. One of every five patients at a health center is African American.

Coming Soon:

  • 6.8 million uninsured African Americans will have new opportunities for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Of the 6.8 million uninsured African Americans who are eligible for coverage through the Marketplace, 56 percent are men.
  • The Marketplace is a destination where consumers can compare insurance options in simple, easy to understand language. At the Marketplace, consumers will be able to compare insurance options based on price, benefits, quality and other factors with a clear picture of premiums and cost-sharing amounts to help them choose the insurance that best fits their needs.
  • Consumers may be eligible for free or low cost coverage, or advance premium tax credits that lower monthly premiums right away. Individuals with higher incomes (up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $94,200 for a family of four) will be eligible to purchase subsidized coverage from the Health Insurance Marketplace.
  • States have new opportunities to expand Medicaid coverage to include Americans with family incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level (generally $31,322 for a family of four in 2013). This expansion includes adults without dependent children living at home, who have not previously been eligible in most states.

New Report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on lower than expected premiums available in the new Health Insurance Marketplace:

A new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finds that in state after state, consumers will see increased competition in the Health Insurance Marketplace, leading to new and affordable choices for consumers. According to the report, consumers will be able to choose from an average of 53 health plans in the Marketplace, and the vast majority of consumers will have a choice of at least two different health insurance companies – usually more. Premiums nationwide will also be around 16 percent lower than originally expected – with about 95 percent of eligible uninsured live in states with lower than expected premiums – before taking into account financial assistance.

To read the report on health insurance rates, visit: http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2013/MarketplacePremiums/ib_marketplace_premiums.cfm.

To view the data on rates, visit: http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2013/MarketplacePremiums/datasheet_home.cfm.

Visit HERE for helpful resources to get more information on the Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Information provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  


Civil Rights Activist Evelyn Lowery Dies

Civil Rights Activist Evelyn Lowery Dies

Evelyn Lowery, wife of Civil Rights activist Joseph Lowery, passed away due to a stroke.

She was 88.

Lowery was the daughter of activists. Her father, a Methodist preacher, was the president of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP and her mother was actively involved in community organizing. She inherited her parents activist spirit and participated in the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. In 1979 she founded the SCLC/WOMEN–Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now–an organization that was created to “champion the rights of women, children and families, and respond to the problems of the disenfranchised regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, or religion.” This organization gave a voice to women during the Civil Rights Movement and Lowery formed alliances with other women’s organization to fulfill SCLC/WOMEN’s goals. She also created the “Drum Major for Justice” award named in memory of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and is awarded to those who contribute to the cause of freedom, equality, and achievement in their professional field.

Lowery was a woman of substance in her civic and social justice involvement on top of being a wife and a mother to three children. She is survived by her husband Joseph Lowery, three daughters, a sister, and a grandchild.

The Urban Ministries family sends their condolences to the Lowery family during this difficult time.