What's Tony Thinking

Updates on Sermons, American Anger and Apologizing


Sermons. Big thanks to those of you who sat through the 27 minute Zoom of my sermon last Sunday. Even bigger thanks to those of you who offered helpful feedback on the experience!

I learned something. Zoom is not the way to go for this. Probably best to just add an audio of the sermon that you can listen to as a podcast when you’re out for a walk or cleaning up the kitchen. So I’m looking into how to do that.

Also, there won’t be a sermon this Sunday. Once a month is enough. So I will aim for that. If I have something I just have to say about one of the Scripture texts on off Sundays, I can add a note to a regular blog.

American Anger. I wrote a piece on this topic and my hunch about what’s going on a couple weeks ago. Recently, David Brooks added some helpful thoughts on this as the introductory paragraphs to an Atlantic article titled, “Despite Everything You Think You Know, American is on the Right Track.” Here are those paragraphs:

“Negativity is by now so deeply ingrained in American media culture that it’s become the default frame imposed on reality. In large part, this is because since the dawn of the internet age, the surest way to build an audience is to write stories that make people terrified or furious. This is not rocket science: Evolution designed humans to pay special attention to threats. So, unsurprisingly, the share of American headlines denoting anger increased by 104 percent from 2000 to 2019. The share of headlines evoking fear surged by 150 percent.

“If any event deserves negative coverage, the terrible coronavirus pandemic is it. And in the international media, 51 percent of stories in the first year of the pandemic were indeed negative, according to a 2020 study. But in the United States, a stunning 87 percent of the coverage was negative. The stories were negative even when good things were happening, such as schools reopening and vaccine trials. The American media have a particularly strong bad-news bias.

“This permanent cloud of negativity has a powerful effect on how Americans see their country. When Gallup recently asked Americans if they were satisfied with their personal life, 85 percent said they were, a number that has remained remarkably stable over the past 40 years. But when Gallup asked Americans in January 2022 if they were satisfied with the direction of the country, only 17 percent said they were, down from 69 percent in 2000. In other words, there was a 68-percentage-point gap between the reality people directly experienced in their daily life and the reality they perceived through the media filter.”

We’re anger/ fear addicts. Is there a 12 Step program for this? Church anyone? Or maybe we’re just a bunch of immature idiots?

Apologizing. I thought this was very cool. A company that took responsibility for screwing up.

“Graza, a start-up company selling squeezable bottles of extra-virgin olive oil, had a tough holiday season. Orders arrived late. The packaging was a mess. Customers felt misled. So the CEO, Andrew Benin, did something crazy. He apologized—to all 35,544 people who had ordered something over the past 60 days.

“’The mea culpa from a one-year-old company with the subject line ‘Learning from our mistakes’ was just about the opposite of a typical corporate response,’ Ben Cohen reports in the Wall Street Journal. ‘It explained in plain English and candid detail what went wrong and why. It took accountability for those errors and offered a discount on future orders. It was raw, transparent about uncertainty and messy with typos and misspellings. It was also oddly entertaining and strangely charming. Mr. Benin watched the replies come back within minutes.

“First one, then another, then 866 more. ‘Thanks for your honesty,’ wrote one. ‘I wish more businesses did the same.’ ‘I won’t be using the discount,’ wrote another, ‘but I will be reordering.’ ‘These messages go a long way,’ wrote someone else. Mr. Benin believes in communicating like a person, not ‘as a business, with a business tone,’ which became obvious to anyone who opened his apology email. And there were many. The average open rate of Graza’s regular marketing emails was already exceptionally high at 58%. This one reached 78%.”

Let’s hear for taking responsibility and speaking in plain English. Maybe we’re not all immature idiots?





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