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Monday, August 31, 2020

Not Canceled

I’ve recently determined that it’s time I got more serious about joining the cancel culture. In fact, I likely have been moving that direction for a while now. Before I explain that, a review of the term is in order.

“Cancel culture” has only come to light in recent years. Some attribute its arrival into the collective consciousness around 2017. That’s when it became “hip” to "cancel" celebrities for things they said or did that the highly-culturally-sensitive crowd didn’t approve of.

A few can trace the now common activity of public shaming to earlier in the previous decade. Myles McNutt, a TV critic and assistant professor at Old Dominion University, tweeted in February, 2014, regarding the cancellations of TV series. He wrote: "It's unfortunate how renew/cancel culture has made 'not renewed early' read as canceled—'wait and see until pilots come in' is normal.”

Merriam-Webster, one of the authorities on all things word related, connects the term “cancel culture” to the #MeToo movement. Professor Lisa Nakamura from the University of Michigan explained via the New York Times in 2018 that what cancellation amounts to is a "cultural boycott" of a certain celebrity, brand, company, or concept.

Google Trends data revealed almost no search interest of the phrase "cancel culture" until late 2018 and early 2019. The most search interest came in July of this year (2020).

Former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian “Hairman” Urlacher just found out the hard truth of cancel culture. The Bears organization dissed Brian after his criticism of the NBA protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The boys in the Bears front office responded, "The social media posts in no way reflect the values or opinions of the Chicago Bears organization.” Thank you, Brian, for all your great tackles, but you are not “us.” Canceled.

The retired Urlacher is displeased with the protests against racial injustice. He supports President Trump, even visiting him in the White House. Of course, the cancel culture would like to fully cancel The Donald—who, along with his family members, spoke out about “cancel culture” at his convention last week.

So how am I joining the cancel culture parade? Let’s start with the electronic news. They feed me things in the order they find important—and from their very slanted perspective. I’ve canceled watching that, unless it’s the weather.

I still glance at the New York Times and the Washington Post for headlines and rare stories of a non-political nature. Otherwise, I’ve canceled reading anything they write. The same goes for almost all opinion pieces in the Chicago Tribune. And frankly, a lot of what Christianity Today has published more recently I’ve canceled.

I’ve canceled watching any television shows revealing the true beliefs of Hollywood. And we’re moving that direction with movies, as the moguls introduce, by “force,” characters of an alternative lifestyle. 


And among my very favorites—televised sports—I’m fast forwarding past ANY of their patronizing promos to cultural resistance and protests. This includes a full pass on any national anthem protests or on field antics by players. And to go one step further, for those teams that “canceled” their recent games out of “protest,” I’ve canceled watching ANY of their games. Just don’t need the nonsense.

Here’s what I haven’t canceled. Truth. I know, from the Bible, that man is created in God’s image. All of us have worth in His eyes and therefore should have value in mine. No race is “superior.” I know that Jesus' message to “love one another” is all the call to action we need to do that in word and deed. Truth is found in Jesus.

And while I’m on my soapbox this week, I’m also not cancelling going to church in favor of sports or other activities shoved onto our Sunday schedules in more recent years.

But that’s me.

The apostle John closed his writings in the book of Revelation with these words about the return of Christ: “Come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20 (NIV)


That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information:

Monday, August 24, 2020

Never Trust Anyone

One of the most memorable seminars I attended in my business life was led by a successful radio programmer. His aim was to help the many naive station programmers who actually believed that they could negotiate with managers—some who were also owners. He pointed to oft-made promises of “future raises” based on performance that never materialized without being in writing.

He then challenged all to remember the words “Your father told you. 'Never trust ANYONE!!’" Actually, my father never gave me that message. Perhaps his own father should have given it to him. My dad’s blind trust hurt him on multiple occasions.

I didn’t like that advice then. And I still don’t. However…I have come to appreciate the reasons for it being said.

Several current examples abound. Fake news being one. How do we know what is fake and what isn’t?

Apparently, there is a self appointed arbiter of truth and reality. It comes via QAnon. I confess to being clueless on this source of reality up until recently.

Oh, I was aware of it, but could not give you two sentences about what’s behind it. When I saw a recent article explaining how this “voice of reason” in the minds of many was now impacting churches, I paid closer attention. For your edification on this connection, read QAnon: The Alternative Religion that's Coming to Your Church. (link below)

What I discovered you may already know. QAnon is named after “Q,” who posts anonymously on the online bulletin board 4chan (another mystery to me.) “Q” has a knack for finding evidence of so-called “deep state” abuses—and exposing them. One source found a 71% increase in QAnon content on Twitter and a 651% increase on Facebook since March. You read that right.

Where this gets dicey is when church people move from Gospel-centeredness to viral rumor spreading. An example from the Religion News Service article describes a pastor in Missouri who sat down to count the conspiracy theories that people in his church have been sharing on Facebook.

The list was long and included “claims that 5G radio waves are used for mind control; that George Floyd’s murder is a hoax; that Bill Gates is related to the devil; that masks can kill you; that the germ theory isn’t real; and that there might be something to Pizzagate after all.”

Since 2017, “QAnon, has coalesced in online forums and created millions of believers.” The concern is not just that these are among the many conspiracy theories that abound on the Internet, but that the audience among faithful Christians abounds as well. Adrienne LaFrance wrote in The Atlantic in June, “To look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion.”

That view in and of itself may be overstated. To be fair, proven accounts of misleading or outright purposely slanted news leaves the door open for conspiracy theories. Within the Religion News Service QAnon story, they share that a 2018 poll “found that 46% of self-identified evangelicals and 52% of those whose beliefs tagged them as evangelical ‘strongly agreed that the mainstream media produced fake news.’”

The apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Thessalonica, penned these words: “But test everything. Keep what is good, and stay away from everything that is evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NCV)

I tend not to write off all that is termed a “conspiracy theory.” If you read the Bible book of Revelation, you find startling predictions about world events in what are called, “the last days.” Some of those signs seem to be with us right now. So let’s keep “testing” for truth while avoiding “false religions.”

Meanwhile, I’m going to check out that Pizzagate. I wonder if they serve anchovies on a “deep state pizza?”

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information: 

Monday, August 17, 2020

App-ropiate Parenting

Ever heard of Lipsi? How about Tellonym? Okay…let’s try Houseparty? Holla??? If you haven’t, don’t be surprised. Especially if you’re an adult—and more importantly, a parent!

Each of the names above are apps that your teenagers may well be aware of—and you should be. The website offers up a list of some of the hottest apps that teens use these days. Several offer convenient ways to avoid parental oversight. (The link to the complete article is found at the end of the blog.)

Lipsi users, for example, “can easily erase chat history, which means they (users) can be tempted to engage in risky behaviors.” Houseparty is a group video chat service and is reportedly the fourth most downloaded app. It’s estimated 60 percent of its users are under 24. The app doesn’t monitor chats, upping the risk of kids being exposed to inappropriate content.

In terms of messaging apps that are very popular, Kik is reportedly used by one-third of American teens 13-17. The app has been shown to involve cases of online predators. WhatsApp (13 and over) is on Apple’s list of the most popular apps for teen use. With it users can send unlimited messages and photos. Then there’s Discord…a voice and text chatting tool for gamers. They report over 100 million users who can send direct messages to other gamers—including complete strangers.

I’m following up on my recent blog that discussed the amazingly popular app, TikTok…another teen favorite. Before we go there, let’s give sort of honorable mention to the other hip-hot-app-spots that are in the photo-sharing category. This would include Snapchat (69 percent of teens 13-17 use Snapchat, and it ranks first in terms of how often it is used), Instagram, and Pinterest, among others.

Of course, this is just a sampling of what’s out there. The federal government rarely gets involved in restricting apps. But concerns over “national security” prompted action to considering limits on access to TikTok.

That aside, the larger question might well be, where are the parents in this discussion of scrutiny? Useful reading is an article titled, “Do Parents Know How Much Time Their Young Kids are Spending on Devices?” from the website As the writer points out, “During the coronavirus pandemic, many parents have allowed their children to spend more time on tablets and other screens than they typically would.”

Cited is a study from Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. For in-depth reading, check out, “Young Children’s Use of Smartphones and Tablets.” Eleven authors contributed. While the results are based on pre-pandemic research, it revealed that “Many parents misreport what their children are doing on their devices, and that some very young kids are using apps meant for teenagers or even adults.”

How about this? Some 72% of teens check their smartphone first thing in the morning. About 56% associate the absence of their cellphone with either loneliness, being upset, or feeling anxious. And the average teen sends about 60 texts each day.

The statistics I shared above, and a host of resources to help parents monitor and put appropriate content controls on phones, can be found at

One of my ministry friends recently wrote in a devotional, “Parenthood isn’t about ownership, it’s about stewardship. Your first assignment is to provide love to make them secure, laws to make them wise, light to walk in, and a lifestyle to follow.”

And the Bible says, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17 (CSB).

Without parents being parents, kids may grow up to be…? Try filling in the blank.

You may not like the answer.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information:

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Clock is TikTokking

I have been rolling merrily along without even an ounce of concern about TikTok. That could be because sometimes ignorance is bliss. Other times, a lack of awareness lets a problem fester until it becomes cancerous.

It’s hard to say where TikTok fits into the puzzles of life. It’s become a hip and very popular app for the younger crowd in this country. Its source country is China, where they maintain a separate app for their market known as Duyin, which has over 300 million active monthly users.

The website reports, “Since its launch, the TikTok app’s popularity has been growing tremendously. In October, 2018…The app reportedly amassed over 500 million monthly active users, the US being the most popular country where it has been downloaded over 80 million times.” (Currently more than 100 million.)

The company mission seems noble enough: “TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.” The videos are distinctive in that they are described as “tall, not square, like on Snapchat or Instagram's stories, but you navigate through videos by scrolling up and down, like a feed, not by tapping or swiping side to side.”

How does such popularity suddenly spring up? Celebrity endorsement helps! Jimmy Fallon is a clear example. Jimmy, of course, is a popular television personality. In November, 2018, he started a new “challenges” section on his Tonight show. TikTok was a platform for this challenge.

Jimmy urged viewers to take on the #TumbleweedChallenge. Participants would “post videos on TikTok of themselves rolling like a tumbleweed.” Fallon himself took the challenge to start things off. As reported, “The challenge went viral and gathered over 8,000 entries and 10.4 million engagements, within a week.” Celebrities in other parts of the world have generated similar promotional results.

You’ve heard the phrase, “All politics is local”? So is the rising popularity of TikTok. It’s common for the app to run local contests and challenges. TikTok picks up on the current buzz through the use of localized hashtags.

An example would be the “1 million audition” contest that TikTok runs across several countries, separately. As explains, “For each contest, participants are given themes to create videos and then the top video creators are awarded. This contest not only leads to the creation of thousands of local videos for each country where it is held, but also helps TikTok creators gain recognition and followers.”

By now you should get the picture. (Pun intended.) The lives of American youth, in particular, have been invaded by TikTok. And once all their friends and social influencers are using the app, so must they.

Assuming it’s all innocent fun, there’s no need to worry, right? Not exactly. Because innocence can be lost without even knowing it.

On August 6th, President Trump signed an executive order effectively banning the use of TikTok in the United States. The White House claim is that TikTok captures vast swaths of information from its users including location data and Internet search history.

TikTok defends itself by saying that the company is open regarding the data it collects. It’s estimated that the amount of data collected is about the same as what you’d find in apps owned by our American tech companies (Google, Facebook, and Apple). Perhaps it’s true. But gathering info on American citizens by China certainly raises security concerns. 

TikTok’s data collection agreement on mobile devices states: We collect information when you create an account and use the Platform. We also collect information you share with us from third-party social network providers, and technical and behavioral information about your use of the Platform. We also collect information contained in the messages you send through our Platform and information from your phone book, if you grant us access to your phone book on your mobile device. More information about the categories and sources of information is provided below.

NPR reported that “A federal class-action lawsuit involving dozens of American families claims an independent security review of TikTok revealed that the app is siphoning data, including the facial profiles of American children, and sending it to Chinese servers, though the suit does not provide evidence any information has ever been transferred to the Chinese Communist Party.”

The solution may be for an American firm to acquire TikTok. Microsoft is one of several companies in talks to acquire the app.

But there may be another issue here revealing a bigger problem. I'll look at that next week. The clock…is ticking.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Enjoy the new Moving People Forward YouTube program and podcast at 

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Followership - Part 2

Rick Ezell is a chaplain serving with Employee Care of America. This group partners with businesses to improve productivity and profitability by providing care, coaching, and crisis management for employees. Rick previously served as a pastor in Naperville. Contact information is found below. He has allowed me to share from his recent web posting a two-part series on “Followership” as I enjoy a brief summer break. Today, Rick asks, “So what makes a good follower?”

1. They complement the leader. 
Followers don’t compete with the leader but complete the leader. It’s like a marriage. The husband and wife experience mutual submission; they don’t compete, but rather complement one another. Leadership is participatory. Leaders and followers exist in a mutually beneficial relationship where each adds to the effectiveness of the other. Good followers complement their leaders by using their gifts, speaking affirmation, displaying loyalty, and extending support. Without the help of followers, leaders are doomed to failure.

2. Good followers stand in the gap. 
Often leaders have the vision, but lack the management and execution tools to see the idea become a reality. Leaders have needs, weaknesses, shortcomings, imperfections, that are often glaring. So, leaders need loyal and dedicated followers to fill the gaps in their efforts.

3. Good followers take the initiative. 
Being a follower doesn’t mean that you just stand around and do nothing until the leader tells you what to do. Leaders provide the overall plan—the vision—but followers execute. Good followers know what to do without being told. Good followers don’t just do something; they do the right things.

4. Good followers make great leaders.
A study of 218 male Australian Royal Marines was conducted. The Marines differentiated themselves as natural leaders (with the skills and abilities to lead) or followers (who were more concerned with getting things done than getting their way). The researchers tracked the recruits’ self-identification as leaders and followers across the course of a physically arduous 32-week infantry training that prepared them for warfare in a range of extreme environments. The study culminated in the recruits and commanders who oversaw their training casting votes for the Commando Medal award to the recruit who showed most leadership ability. Who got the votes? Researchers discovered that those recruits who saw themselves (and were seen by commanders) as followers ultimately emerged as leaders. It seems that those who want to lead are well served by first endeavoring to follow.

5. Being a good follower teaches one how to value someone else’s opinion, consider others’ inputs, and develop emotional intelligence. 
They care about their followers and will demonstrate it. They understand and appreciate the limits of their leadership and how their followers make or break them. No matter the number of subordinates, they see themselves as still human and share the same vulnerabilities, shortcomings, and struggles. They view the people they lead as their equals. They don’t punish employees who question and challenge them—knowing that being held accountable is an essential part of becoming a better leader.

6. The mission takes precedence.
Donald Phillips’ insightful book,
Lincoln on Leadership, examines the character, behavior, attributes, and attitudes that made Abraham Lincoln our most honored and revered president. When Lincoln took office in 1861, he found that the United States was unprepared for war. The union had an insufficient, poorly trained, and poorly equipped army under the command of General Winfield Scott. As the war waged on, Lincoln went through general after general for three years before he finally found a responsible risk-taker man, and, most importantly, one who made things happen—Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln could not have won the war without Grant. Lincoln was the leader; Grant, the chief subordinate.

It wasn’t until Grant was added to the mix that Lincoln and the Union Army found victory. In Grant, Lincoln found a strategic, aggressive, creative follower who took the initiative to accomplish the mission.

Donald Phillips comments: “All leaders should realize that they can’t do everything on their own. They simply must have people below them who will do what is necessary to ensure success. Subordinates who will take risks, act without waiting for direction, and ask for responsibility rather than reject it, should be treated as your most prized possessions. Such individuals are exceedingly rare and worth their weight in gold.”

Businesses, teams, governments, and churches can have leaders who possess exceptional vision and provide direction, just as Lincoln did. Still, they can’t succeed without people like U. S. Grant to carry out the mission.

Leaders need followers to execute the mission.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Enjoy the new Moving People Forward YouTube program and podcast at 

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