Wednesday, August 22, 2007

is the grass really greener?

I've decided (again) to try to start blogging a bit more frequently as an exercise to jumpstart my writing. And I was getting a little bored with Blogger, so at least for now, I'm going to head over here to wordpress. New address:

Friday, August 10, 2007

All Hail Saint Bono: Rocker finds friends in unlikely places

Today, the National Association of Evangelicals awarded the title of “honorary evangelical” for the first time. The recipient? Rock icon and AIDS activist Bono.

“Not even Jean-Paul the second earned this one, and he was our buddy!” exclaimed excited NAE member Debbie Marsh, who had eagerly awaited the news after coordinating a national letter-writing campaign pitching the idea to the organization’s leaders.

Her husband Wayne was somewhat less excited. “I just went along because it’s been getting embarrassing,” he muttered. “I mean, the guy’s been on the cover of more Christian magazines lately than Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell put together! If we’re gonna exalt him that much, he ought to at least sort of be one of us.”

Bono’s rejection of structured religion and penchant for salty language on national TV don’t seem to bother Debbie. “What are we supposed to do? Let those darn candle-burning relevant emergents have him all to themselves? I can care about poor sick Africans too!”

A source higher in the NAE, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed bewilderment and frustration at the recent groundswell of support and acceptance for Bono. “I honestly don’t know what these people are thinking. Can’t they get behind Steven Curtis Chapman or somebody? After all, he was adopting foreign babies way before Brangelina … isn’t that a good enough cause for us any more? Why do we have make this guy a hero?”

Whether it’s the sexy (red) sunglasses or the cool accent or a combination of both, Bono does seem to have gained an unprecedented amount of popularity with an audience previously not open to his charms. A quick internet search turns up homemade graphics superimposing his face over crosses, and even unlicensed merchandise with slogans like “w.w.b.d.?” According to an Island records spokesman, the company has been approached by multiple Christian retail chains hoping to distribute the next U2 project. This may be due to rampant speculation on the online discussion board “Be like Jesus: be like Bono” that the singer and his mates plan to release a collection of ancient hymns complete with the Edge’s signature soaring guitars. The same record company spokesman says such rumors are “just downright silly.” In fact, there is evidence longtime U2 fans are increasingly annoyed with his latest pursuits.

“It’s great to see him getting the extra attention and all … but he’s just so boring now,” said Joe Frazee, a longtime fan who claims to have seen U2 on every U.S. tour they’ve ever done. “It seems like all he wants to do is preach about helping people and stuff. Why can’t he just rock out like the old days? Surely the lyrics of “Pride” – heck, the whole Joshua Tree album! - were enough of a constructive cultural contribution for any man.”

But back at the Marsh home, it doesn’t seem that Bono is going anywhere anytime soon. “We’re actually hoping that this ‘honorary evangelical’ title will be the beginning of something … kind of like how some folks want to amend constitution so a foreign-born person like Governor Schwarzenegger can be president.” Debbie giggles at her husband’s rolled eyes. “Oh come on, Wayne! It’s not like we’re trying to expand the trinity or something! Although now that I think about it …”


Note: The previous post is completely fictitious satire. Any similarity to actual people and events, however, is completely intentional. And the originals of the images contained herein are probably copyrighted by someone else.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Roaring Lambs: the book that changed (part of) the world

My recent foray back into the heart of the Christian subculture got me thinking ... things have changed lot in, for example, the Christian music scene in the last 8-9 years. MXPX and Project 86 have gone from being attacked and embattled by the "Christian" side of the industry to being revered as pioneers, while bands like The Chariot and He Is Legend and Emery (who were at this festival) not to mention more like Anberlin and Underoath, have gained cross-market appeal making music that I simply don't think would have made it into CBD a few years ago.

So what does Underoath have to do with a book published in 1993? Well, you have to understand the context. Once upon a time in the 90s, as a market began to balloon for "christian" versions of all that was hip and cool, there was this guy named Bob. Bob Briner was a very successful businessman who worked in the television industry, who was a Christian and along the way wrote a few books sharing what he felt were good solid management principles. He became burdened to see Christians working in the secular marketplace, particularly the arts and communications fields, and making an impact on their world rather than ghettofying themselves into a parallel Christian subculture. He wanted to see Christians interacting with the world and making a difference and doing what they did with great excellence. At this point in the history of the Christian subculture, I think it's safe to say this was not a common philosophy. Anyone who gained a following in the "secular" music market, for instance, was immediately reviled for "crossing over" and "selling out." Perhaps it's appropriate to observe a moment of silence for Amy Grant at this point. After all, she was being attacked for her musical territory long before her personal relationship issues became public knowledge. Artists like the short-lived Seven Day Jesus talked about a "Jesus per minute" lyrical quotient that had to be met to gain approval from the Christian industry.

So, Bob's book became very popular when it was rereleased in 2000, thanks to the acclaim the book had gained among Christian artistic types. It was released along with a compilation cd. I was one of many who picked it up. After all, it had cool cover art, and a cool title, and a cd was included! But something clicked. The book really gave shape to the feelings and questions I'd been experiencing, at the ripe age of 17, about Christianity and art and life within our culture. Longtime producer Charlie Peacock published a book around the same time titled "At the Crossroads", which espoused a similar philosophy that was totally freeing to some of us who were struggling with the legalistic attitudes towards music that were far more prevalent in the Christian community then than now. (Not that those attitudes are gone). And in striking these chords and helping artists and the rest of us escape the ghetto, Briner and Peacock helped to create a world in which Christians were allowed to just make good and even disturbing music and still be Christians, and we were allowed to be Christians and listen to it ... a world where Underoath and Anberlin and Project 86 can make their music and be embraced by a broad spectrum of listeners. I truly believe we all - those who were inside the subculture and those who were out - owe a debt to books and thinkers like these. So thanks, Bob, for all you did.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Man in Black" by Johnny Cash

You wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Centrality of the Kingdom of God

Here's a link to the message I preached at church on Sunday - dealing with the centrality of the Kingdom of God in Jesus' teaching and in our lives.
The first thing I noticed when I listened to it was the excessive verbal clutter ... gonna be working on that.

Monday, May 21, 2007

McCain may have dropped the f-bomb in a meeting, but if so, it was definitely in a gerund.

I'm sorry, guys, but this is too hilarious to pass up. It's from Fox News ... I've highlighted what to me is the funniest part. It's an article about an immigration reform meeting that John McCain was involved in.

You can read the whole article here.

Two Republican aides with firsthand knowledge of the fracas told FOX News that McCain, growing impatient with the presentation, interrupted Cornyn and challenged his commitment to strike a deal, describing the delay with an expletive for chicken feces. McCain even suggested Cornyn just leave the room.

An incredulous Cornyn hit back at McCain by insulting his attendance record at meetings and saying the candidate can't just "parachute" into the room, the aides recounted. According to the aides, McCain then lobbed the "F" bomb at Cornyn and said he is more of an expert on immigration than anyone in the room.

A McCain spokeswoman vehemently denied that the senator had used this highly-inflammatory phrase, suggesting the senator might have used the profanity in a gerund to request that the meeting just move forward. The aide said she had never heard the senator use such a phrase in her year on his staff.

Don't tell me that's not funny ...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

thoughts inspired by the death of Jerry Falwell

I was surprised at the depth of my own reaction when I started hearing and reading about Jerry's death last week. (As an alumni of Liberty University, I reserve my right to refer to him only by his first name.) I was moved ... my eyes have gotten moist a time or two watching tribute videos and footage of the announcement of his death. The reason this is surprising is because of my own feelings about the man. If there's one thing that almost kept me from going to Liberty in the first place, it was the fact that it was "Jerry Falwell's school." After visiting, I went there in spite of, not because of his presence. I found a Tinky Winky doll in a thrift store and kept it on my desk in my dorm room, in memory of what I considered one of his silliest faux pas. (Thanks to Ann Coulter, by the way, for being right for once and setting the record straight on that Tinky Winky thing.) I kept the Tinky Winky until my hall leadership partner and I decided to douse it in rubbing alcohol and burn it in a big coffee can that was still a quarter full ... inside our room. But that's really beside the point.

I remember, as I was preparing to leave Lynchburg, telling my younger sister that after spending three years living, being educated, and/or working on Liberty's campus, I have great respect for Jerry. I could tell she still thought he was a nut ... but that's okay. I know. I know because I was privileged to be under the leadership of a man who modeled integrity. His ministry was never destroyed because of an inability to keep his zipper up or to keep his hands off money that wasn't his. I've never even heard a rumor of an affair ... and if I did, at this point, I think I would laugh at the person speaking it. Right before I hit them.

Jerry ended up on the wrong side of issues every once in a while ... like a certain piece of civil rights legislation, for instance. He was a product of his environment, as all of us are. But he changed his mind and changed his ways. I would think that a commitment to stewardship of of the environment and development of renewable energy would have been one of those things he would have come around eventually on.

One of the annoying things about the news coverage of his passing, as my wife pointed out the first day and Ann Coulter wrote in the column linked above, you would begin to think that his first name was "whether you agreed with him or not". Even Billy Graham had to throw that in. It's funny, because if you were around the man enough you realize that very few people at, say, Liberty, agreed with him on everything. He didn't ask you to, either. He was accepting - at least on personal level - of those differences. He just stood up for what he believed was right and expected you to do the same.

At any rate ... for now, let me say without qualification or equivocation: I respect Jerry Falwell as a man of God and for the impact he has had as a pastor, visionary in education, and innovator in ministry. Those should recognized as his greatest contributions. When it came to politics, he was a man for his time and was used by God to draw Christians out of their apathy and embarassment. I pray that my life would have a fraction of the positive impact his made.

Love and Peace,