Monday, June 30, 2008

Photo of me ironing my pair of doxes

Which "lying ass" evangelist is referred to here?

A blog from Tony Jones below. The answer might surprise you...
                   --or not.

Take a guess, and see if you agree with Tony's professor friend.

One of my new favorite blogs, is "Spiritual Politics" by Mark Silk, professor of religion and public life at Trinity College. Last week, he unloaded on a particular televangelist. Guess which one:

Of all the vile, fake, lying-ass, money-grubbing shyster scumbags on the face of this planet, there is perhaps none more loathsome than [NAME REDACTED], a human haircut with plastic baseball-size teeth who has made a fortune selling the appalling only-in-America idea that terrestrial greed is actually a form of Christian devotion.

Answer HERE.

-Tony Jones

Noll on culture and music

From Mark Noll's "PRAISE THE LORD: Song, culture, divine bounty, and issues of harmonization":

...In these terms, culture is substantially assumed, given, unquestioned, and instinctive—though it can also become self-conscious over the passage of years or when alternative expressions intrude into daily life. For example, you can become aware that your instinctive emotional reaction to an old hymn, a school fight song, or a snatch of elevator muzak is not a universal human reaction but something resulting from your own singular biography and the associations you have experienced in connection with those particular songs.

Likewise, culture exerts a very strong pre-cognitive hold over how people experience the world, but it is also possible for cultural attitudes and reactions to change over time, and for people to learn and unlearn what strikes them instinctively as right. For example, even late in life you can self-consciously learn to appreciate, and even be moved by, Dave Brubeck, J. S. Bach, and probably Twila Paris.

Moviegoers who are conscious of connections between the scores they hear and what they are watching on the screen know that Martin Luther once caught it exactly: "For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate or to appease those full of hate … , what more effective means than music could you find?" We are what we sing, the music we listen to regularly, the music we instinctively like, the music that brings tears to our eyes or a charge of energy to our spirits, the music that expresses our deepest longings and strongest loyalties.

Scripture recognizes the cultural depth of music by simply accepting and recording its fundamental importance—from Genesis 4:21 (with the throwaway reference to Jubal, "the ancestor of all those who play the lyre and pipe") to Revelation, where the living creatures surround the throne of God and sing "day and night without ceasing … 'Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come'" (4:8) while every creature, "myriads of myriads and thousands and thousands" sing "with full voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!'" (5:11-12). Yet in the book of Revelation it is noteworthy that when the great gathering of the redeemed is described—"from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages"—this gathering is said to "cry out" its praise ("Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" [7:9-10]), while in the same scene the angels around the throne are said to "sing" ("Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen" [7:11-12]).

Too much should not be made of the difference between "crying out" praise and "singing" praise. But it does point to the fact that singing is a special challenge when Christian believers gather from every land and tongue or, we might say, from every culture or even subculture. The new Christian music of Andean, Thai, Tanzanian, or Mongolian congregations can be jarring to most believers from the West, even as Western hymnody can be as alien to those congregations as Western individualism, Western economics, or Western clothing (culture vs. culture). Likewise the contemporary praise of Hillsong can sound like an unintelligible musical tongue to believers whose roots are deep in Charles Wesley or John Newton, and vice versa (subculture vs. subculture). In these and many other occasions of musical disharmony, we see again the countervailing realities that have long marked Christian song: music is an exceedingly powerful medium for securing Christianity in a community; different forms of music are one of the most obvious manifestations keeping worshiping communities apart. Explaining why both realities exist requires attention to several theological truths.

Classical theology, as augmented by the rich insights of contemporary missiologists, is clear about a great deal that goes into a Christian understanding of culture. First, God is the originator of everything that constitutes culture. The accounts of early Genesis are peppered with culture-making creations, including the naming capacity of language (2:19), the internalization of standards defining right and wrong (2:16-17, 3:1-14), the use of tools for human purposes (4:22), and, again, the capacity for music (4:21).

Second, without denying that humans abuse the creation for sinful purposes, Scripture is also clear that, because all humans are redeemable, so also can the structures of all cultures be used to honor God. Thus, at Pentecost many languages conveyed the gospel message (Acts 2:4-11), even though at least some speakers of the various languages must have held others in contempt as deficient, barbaric, or uncivilized. The Apostle Paul, when addressing the Athenians (Acts 17:26-28), recognized the worth of innate religious longings and also of artistic works arising from cultures that had not yet received the gospel. And in Revelation we read that into the City of the Lamb at the end of time will come "the kings of the earth" with "their glory," as well as the people who "bring into it the glory and honor of the nations" (21:24-26). This text is plausibly referring to the ornaments of civilization disbursed throughout the world's various cultures. The pointers toward a potentially positive evaluation of culture, wherever it is found, have been spelled out by the missiologist Andrew Walls: "Christ took flesh and was made man in a particular time and place, family, nationality, tradition and customs and sanctified them, while still being for all men in every time and place. Wherever he is taken by the people of any day, time and place, he sanctifies that culture—he is living in it."

In such a Christian view, cultural diversity is a good thing because it manifests the bountiful fullness of God's creating and redeeming work. Drum sets and pipe organs and the kora (a 21-string harp used by the Mande in Senegal) may all, therefore, be employed with great effect to praise God as the author of salvation—at least for those to whom drum sets or pipe organs or the kora are culturally appropriate. To make this affirmation would seem only to flesh out the joyful proclamation of 1 Timothy 4:4, "Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God's word and by prayer."

But what then of Christian life together? If you are a believer who worries about throwing up when you find yourself too close to the drummers during an extended praise set—or a believer who falls asleep before a Bach prelude gets to the fugue—or a believer who doesn't really feel the gospel until it is accompanied on the kora—then the divine sanctification of cultural diversity would seem to cancel out the divine mandate for Christian unity.

The solution may lie in a third theological affirmation—that we are living in "the time between the times," the "already but not yet," where the gospel is really and truly active in the world but not yet manifest in its completeness. In this suspended age, signs of the fully realized Kingdom do abound.t is said that William Wadé Harris, who early in the 20th century was so important for indigenizing Christianity in several West African locales, loved to sing "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending," a great, but also complex, Wesleyan hymn from the 18th-century evangelical revivals. Later in the 20th century, a North American, Robert Savage, who worked at radio station HCJB in Quito, published popular gospel songs for Latin America's nascent Protestant churches that skillfully used local instrumentation and tempos.

The increasing number of such examples makes it possible to imagine a fully harmonious and spiritually edifying service of Christian worship where new Christian believers played Palestrina on the indigenous musical instruments of Burkina Faso, where an African American gospel choir led in a chorale of Heinrich Schütz, where white middle-class Presbyterians surged with Christian ecstasy to the beat of a drum, where teenaged believers filled up their iPods with the Robert Shaw Chorale, and where learned Western theologians delighted in a nearly infinite repetition of "God is so good, he's so good to me."

That it is possible in these last days—in days of increased cultural self-awareness, cross-cultural contact, intra-cultural antagonism and appreciation—to imagine (if not yet to realize) such a vision means that the miraculous day draws nearer as described by the psalmist millennia ago:

Praise the Lord! … Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Or, we might say today, "Praise him with syncopation and on the beat. Praise him with 5-tones (the Thai xylophone), 12-tones (most Western music), 24-tones (Arab music), and all scales in between. Praise him a cappella, with orchestra, and with drum set. Praise him with works of supernal intelligence and greatest simplification. Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Together."

Mark Noll

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"a bizarre hybrid of T Bone Burnett and Kid A?"

"a bizarre hybrid of T Bone Burnett and Kid A styled Radiohead, with a little bit of Wilco and Violent Femmes for good measure"

-(Christianity Today)


Souther gothic??

Thanks to
St. Peter
for turning me on to 16 Horsepower/Woven Hand

Jesus Makes Me Laugh

'Jesus Makes Me Laugh; Religious Satire and the Gospel' trailer; the film has since been renamed "Nailing it to the Church":

Choose your enemies carefully

"Choose your enemies carefully, because you will be defined by that choice"

"how we relate to the world is a spiritual discipline"

"Consumer culture is one of the most powerful systems of formation in the contemporary world... Such a powerful system is not morally neutral; it trains us to see the world in certain ways. As all the great faiths have attested, how we relate to the world is a spiritual discipline. As one corporate manager frankly put it, 'Corporate branding is really about worldwide beliefs management.'"

--William T. Cavanaugh

"Thank God for the Buddhists. Those Christians are scary!"


Saturday, June 28, 2008

I don't know about YOUR pastor, but mine says..


The greatest enemy of the church is...

pic by Happy

"The greatest enemy of the church is not atheism, but sentimentality."
-Hauerwas, quoted in a great piece on OUT OF UR called:

"Tuning Out Christian Radio"

From Four Laws to Four Circles

James Choung was challenged to present the gospel in three minutes.

Amazingly, Christianity Today tells the story WITHOUT the diagrams it is based on
Even calls the article "From Four Laws to Four Circles," but never shows the circles.

Of course the very first comementer points this out, and links to the circles.

Here his James' pwn post, and the diagrams are below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

A response:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dear Pastor..

Check out some of Brennon's amazing songs/blogs..including this excerpt of a new lyric:

















fat preachers yelling at gay folks

"You see a lot of fat preachers yelling at gay folks, but very few gay folks yelling at fat preachers"
-a friend of Steve Brown

See also

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Edified by George Carlin

“I feel safe for a while. There will probably be a break before they come after the next one. I always like to fly on an airline right after they’ve had a crash. It improves your odds.”
-George Carlin, last week, talking about the deaths of Tim Russert and Bo Diddley

-George Carlin not only was an amazing analyzer of human weirdness:

"Why do we drive on parkways, and park on driveways?"

"I'll bet you reach beyond the first two slices of bread when you reach into the bag."

..he was one of my favorite theologians.

So often he had tremendous insights into faith. Religion is B.S. ,for one.

And valid critiques.

Too bad he threw apparently babies out with bathwater...

Check out the insights about prayer, and the "interview with Jesus" in "Napalm and Silly Putty."

Here is a clip where he exposes better than most pastors one of my beefs:
That line you hear about deceased friends: "They are looking down on us smiling."

This pop theology is based partly on a misinterpretation of the great "cloud of witnesses" in Hebrews 12...but the point in context is that they are NOT looking down on us.

Or as Carlin said just weeks before his death...well, hear it yourself at 1:44 to long as you know in advance what you can likely already guessed: quite a few F bombs.

He also challenges the statement in a way we are afraid to (3:35).

Internet Monk has a wonderful post on Carlin's legacy here; and a challenge to folks all too sure Carlin is in hell (assumedly with Zappa):

....I admired Carlin and relished his incredible insights into the nature of human existence. He made me laugh and he taught me a lot about how to think differently from the status quo. He was the embodiment of Dickinson’s advice to “tell it slant.” He’d recently been nominated- and will receive posthumously- the Mark Twain Award, and that’s an appropriate recognition. In every respect, Carlin was a worthy imitator and successor to Twain. In these safe and politically correct times, that’s worth an award.

Really, in his own way, Carlin was a great humanist. He didn’t just make comedy; he took comedy from the nature and foibles and follies of human existence. Few
people have ever been able to see below the surface with Carlin’s incredible powers of ironic observation, and even fewer have been as skillful at telling the truth. Carlin was perpetually amazed at what was their to see and hear from the human comedy, and he was committed to making those discoveries known.

For example, go to Youtube and find Carlin’s routine on materialism, which is profoundly labeled “Stuff,” and you’ll be edified, I promise. (That’s the Christian-ese word for positively influenced by the truth.) While Carlin’s routines are often too profane for most Christians, they contain always keen, sometimes breathtaking examples of observation and ironic truth-telling..



Taylor Swift gets non-nude and sloshed on stage

I know I am not the only one who heard this introduction as "Ladies and gentlemen, NUDE female vocalist of the year, Taylor Swift!"

Taylor Swift's ACMA waterfall
click to watch

But If it weren't for Patrol Magazine's David Sessions, who is Christian enough to admit liking Taylor Swift, I wouldn't have known about this shapeshifting (and non-nude) performance at the Academy of Country Music Awards. She begins as a hooded emo Avril, then tosses her guitar and morphs into a stand-up singer, then accomplishes an amazing wardrobe malfunction....and winds up "getting sloshed on stage."

Her delight and relief that the tricks all worked after it is all over is priceless.

I am afraid this is the kind of stuff I would do in sermons if I had the budget.

Of course, you can follow the debate "Is she a Christian?," and find why some churches are boycotting her even if she

Hi-tech Amish living in liminal tension

see also

Amish or Apostle?

Bush and Blair at Violet Hill

"Violet Hill" video expounds the Coldplay politik
POSTED BY Jordan Kurtz // 05/17/2008 11:15 AM

“Bush conducts a military band, Tony Blair strums an electric guitar, and Bush dances, all in time with the music.”

I thought it was a joke when I read it. After finally finding a way to capture grandiose emotions, and realize the importance of musical risk taking, I guess I wasn’t sure what sort of holistic aesthetic experience Coldplay would undertake this time around.

Their previous video for The Hardest Part was proof that they could try to be funny, confusing, or thought provoking (even if it failed). As much as I might pine for the days of “singing on a beach at sunrise” type videos or “walking backward singing lyrics forward” type videos, it seems as though this new “let’s make a statement!” idea, for better or worse, might be here to stay.

It’s a pretty great video. Whether or not its the right video for this song (it is an alternate mind you) remains to be seen.
Patrol Magazine

St. Arbucks: Be Right Back??

Who would have guessed two years ago that this could ever happen in a Starbucks?:

The Power of Presence
I walked into a Starbucks the other day to buy gift cards for our supporters and encountered an empty kiosk with no green aprons in sight. On the counter top I found this small note written in blue marker: "Be Right Back!" I suppose the cheery reassurance was designed to freeze me in place until the staff returned. But it did not work. Having driven miles to get there, I was not about to wait. The experience reminded me of how much of the ministry is really about showing up for work, being there with people when God is doing things. Jesus spent thirty years among people before he started teaching them. On many days in this vocation, simply being there is half the battle. There is no message more powerful than presence.
-Earl Creps

A great new article on "Starbucks' Last Shot" in Code Nast Portfolio here;
video here.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Time is an Invention: Nathan, Einstein, Zappa & Monasteries

One fine day (I don't even remember what continent we were on),
I spotted St. Nathan (pictured here in the middle with two other world-class and world-travelling studs for Christ) wearing a T shirt with an intriguing motto:

"Time is an Invention."

I simply said something like "Cool shirt!."

Nathan, always quite Christlike, did the only thing he could do.

He literally gave me the shirt off his back.

I couldn't complain; he had chapter and verse.

Moral: Be nice to Nathan (pictured here in Cambodia with yet another cool shirt, and eating mystery meat)...
...but beware telling him you like his pants.

The "Time is an Invention" motto is intriguing and attention-getting. I wore the shirt and its message all over L.A. yesterday.

Even there it got some looks.

The case could be made that it is not a random saying; but consistent with no less than Einstein's theory.

I got home today, and googled the phrase to see if I could trace an original source...

..besides Genesis 1:1.

Of course there are lots of versions and variations of it (like this French version in which it was invented by those who don't know how to love.

I should have known that
it would also be attributed to Douglas Adams (at least in its "Time is an inventio. Lunchtime doubly so." version...Actually, though, it appears Adams said "illusion," not invention).

and/or Frank Zappa!

Ah, yes, two of my favorite zany and profound non-Christian Christian theologians.

(see Zappa and Hackett lead in prayer...finally
Prove to. St. (?) Frank Zappa...from the church...that God isn't dumb)

This blog post, and its comments, made those two connections.

The Zappa connection may be tenuous as well, but its paraphrase by Zappa is embedded in his bizarre piece/opus "The Adventures of Greggary Peccary."
I recall it was partly a sly and hastily-recorded throwaway to his record company at the time, fulfilling his contract to a company who wanted something more commercial.

Yeah, right.

It was twenty minutes long.

As usual, even here, Zappa's quirky genius inevitably leaks out.

Here is some of its instrumental suite ("am elaborate event") performed by Zappa and Jan Luc Ponty:

Check out the lyrics here.
It's hardly "Tommy,"
"The Wall,"
"Supper's Ready"....

or even "Joe's Garage"...

but it does introduce us to the proffered inventor of time...or at least the calendar.
And perhaps chronos.

And he (of course) is a gregarious wild swine.
And he (of course) is a prophetic dude.



And with that, GREGGERY turned and strode nonchalantly into his dinky little office with the desk and the catalog and the very hip water pipe, and proceeded, with a vigor and determination known only to piglets of a similarly diminutive proportion, to single-handedly invent THE CALENDAR!

With his eyes rolled heaven-ward, and his little shiny pig-hoofs on the desk, GREGGERY ponders the question of ETERNITY (and fractional divisions thereof), as mysterious ANGELIC VOICES sing to him from a great distance, providing the necessary clues for the construction of this thrilling new TREND!

Angelic Voices:





And thus THE CALENDAR, in all of its colorful disguises was presented to the bored & miserable people everywhere!

GREGGERY issued a memo on it, whereupon the entire contents of the Steno Pool identified with it STRENUOUSLY, and WORSHIPPED IT as a WAY OF LIFE, and took their little pills by it, and went back 'n forth from work by it, and paid their rent by it, and before long they were even having BIRTHDAY PARTIES IN THE OFFICE by it, because NOW, AT LAST, GREGGERY PECCARY's exciting new invention had made it possible for everyone to find out HOW OLD THEY WERE!


What hath GOD wrought?


Unfortunately, there were some people who simply DID NOT WISH TO KNOW, and that's why, on his way home from the office one night, GREGGERY was attacked by a RAGE OF HUNCHMEN!.....
(full lyrics here)

One should also rememeber Whitehead's assertion (quoted in my quixotic"Time Travel: Sabbath Novels, Clockless Monasteries,Toyota Corollas and the Gospel of the Kingdom") that religion may be the most "secularizing force" in all history; particularly via the religious institution that "baptized" clock time; at the great expense of the intended outcome (kairos and Kingdom).

Time, by this definition, was a terrible (and "timeless") invention:

"A tool or a machine (any form of technology) is a constituent of man's symbolic recreation of his world. Moreover, machines that have been owned and operated by only a few members of a society have often influenced the entire society.

Movable type, for example, completely altered, within a relatively short time, the entire concept of medieval man and socoiety. As McLuhan notes in 'Gutenberg Galaxy.":

Printing from movable types created a quite unexpected new environment-it created the PUBLIC. Manuscript technology did not have the intesnity or power of extension necessary
o create publics on a national scale. What we have called "nations" in recent centuries did not, and could not, precede the advent of Gutenberg technology any more than they
can survive the advent of electric circuitry with its power of totally involving all people in all other people...The unique character of the 'public' created by the printed word was an intense and visually oriented self-consciousness, both of the individual and the group.

There is, however, probably no better illustration of technology altering Western culture (and eventually, the world) than the invention of the clock.

Before the clock, and until darwin's theory of eveoilution began to sink into the stream of commly held ideas, peple knoew that the world about themm--the world of reproducing plants and animals...-has always exisited, and that its fundamental law was eternal periodicitry. Cosmolological time,a s well as the time perceived in daily life, was sort of a complex repeating and echoing of events. Howeber, with the emergence of the clock and its sudden position of dominance dutiong the Industrial revolution, a transformation in man occurred. Instead of merely living in the natural world he became, nautures alleged master.

Lewin Mumford calls the clock, not the printi g press or steam engine 'the key machine of the moerrn industrial age.' In his 'Technics and Civilization,' he desribes how during the Middle Ages the ordred life of monasteries affected life in the communities adjacent to them:

The monastery was the seat of a regular life...The habit of order itself and the earnest regulation
of time-sequences had become al,ost second nature in teh mosatery...The mosareries--at one time there were 40,000 under the Benedictine rule -helped to give human enterprise the regularcollective beat and rhythm of the machine; for the clock is not merely a means of keeping track of the hours, but of synchronizing the actions of men....By the thirteenth century there are definite records of mechanical clocks of mechanical clocks, and by 1370 a well-designed "modern" clock had been built by Heinrich von Wyck at Paris. Meanwhile, bell towers had come into existence, and the new clocks, if they did not have, till the fourteenth century, a dial and a hand that translated the movement of time into a movement through space, at all events struck the hours. The clouds that could paralyze the sundial...were no longer obstacles o time-keeping: summer or winter, day or night, one was aware of the measured clank of the clock. The instrument presently spread outside the monastery; and the regular striking of the bells brought a new regularity into the life of the workman and the merchant. The bells of the clock tower almost defined urban existence. Time-keeping passed into time-serving and time-accounting and time-rationing. As this took place, Eternity ceased gradually to serve as the measure and focus of human actions.

-John W. Whitehead, "The End of Man," pp. 112-13

Amazing panel on gay rights

Can you imagine these seven on a panel discussing homosexuality, gar rights and gay marriage?
Imagine no more here it is at Relevant.

Steve Brown
Professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Fla., author and host of the nationally syndicated radio show Steve Brown Etc.

Shane Claiborne
Founder of the Simple Way Community, a New Monastic community in Philadelphia, Pa., and author of The Irresistible Revolution and Jesus for President (Zondervan).

Chuck Colson
Founder of Prison Fellowship and BreakPoint, renowned speaker and author of 25 books.

Cindy Jacobs
Co-founder of the prayer ministry Generals International, respected author and speaker.

Brian McLaren
Founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Md., author and a prominent voice in the Emerging Church movement.

Nancy Ortberg
Writer and speaker; served for eight years as a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.

Jim Wallis
Writer, political activist and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Sojourners, a group dedicated to political awareness.

N.T. Wright

Bishop of Durham, England, and one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars. His most recent book is Surprised by Hope (Harper).

Friday, June 20, 2008

NT Wright on Colbert

 NT Wright on Colbert:  Transcript  here; video below.
"Stephen tells Bishop N.T. Wright his idea of heaven is getting a harp, drinking a mint julep and asking Ronald Reagan questions

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

God on demand

I'm sure it's a fine ministry...but can't help but be concerned with the name.  Yes, this is their actual logo.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Beer at baptism..

Beer at baptism..

...of course!

Colson, Boyd, Clairborne: politics/homosexuality

A bit of video of Chuck Colson, Greg Boyd, Shane Clairborne discussing faith and politics, and faith and homosexuaity below.
I'm glad it didn't come to blows: as in Colson vs. the other two. Colson didn't get too crabby, did he? Read Boyd's recollections here; and watch the whole interview here.




Friday, June 13, 2008

No one hates us for the right reason yet

Keith Giles of Subversive Underground asks:

What happened to us?

How have we become a Church where the World doesn't hate us the way it hated Jesus? Sure, some people do hate us, but many of those, at least in America, only find us horrifically annoying. They might hate being around us, but not enough to kill us. And those that do hate us don't hate us the way the Pharisees hated Jesus. They hate us because we're hypocritcal, hateful, intolerant and judgemental. The Pharisees hated Jesus because he was radically inclusive, spent time with the wrong sorts of people who were unclean and dirty and poor and sick and sinful. No one hates the Church for any of these reasons...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bleed into One

Here is the trailer for "Bleed Into One: The Story of Christian Rock."

Recommended if you have never heard Bono's infamous impersonation of Christian singers.
Hat tip to Beth, who has a good post on it, and links to the context of Bono's quotes.

HT, St Beth

St Reggie and Shredding Agendas

One of the 569 reasons I love St. Reggie. I have done this with church staff.
It is revolutionary. Cures staff/staph infections. A good and God thing. Might get you fired. So do it anyway!:

“Reggie McNeal led this session. He related that while working with a church staff, he gave them the following:

Assignment: Leave staff meeting and find a Starbucks, mall or park bench and simply pray, “God, help me to see what you see.”

They came back and shredded the church agenda. It changed the church because it changed the staff. They realized that what God was concerned about was not what they had been concerned about."


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mac asks

Mac asks:

Why is Christ made commemorative in the Modern Church when at the core of our faith He is Living Lord today?
Why is the Bible used as a legalistic weapon when it is an intricate and endlessly equipped vessel of mercy, love and hope?
Why do we construct walls and hide behind them rather than engage people openly in the public square and allow it to be a true dialogue of grace with God invited?
Why are people encouraged to have private, all-inclusive spiritual lives instead of being lopsided gifts to each other as the living Body of Christ?
Why are gender issues rending the Bride of Christ (we are all the feminine) when in the Bridegroom (in Christ) there is “neither male or female”?

Does faith in these realities mean nothing at all?

Why has serious exegesis been replaced by topical studies in PowerPoint presentations that change minds for the moment but have no transformational value at all?
Why are we religious consumers instead of spiritual disciples?

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Last Stop is Violently Blue

It hit me today that the person addressed in these two amazing songs is the same person..

..I just hope it's not me.

It's really the same song;

maybe the only song we have.

How long must we sing it?

I am talking 

               Dave Matthews' "The Last Stop"


               Chagall Guevara's "Violent Blue."

Interestingly/ironically...or obviously/inevitably,
the song by official Christians is not as explicitly Christian in the lyrics as the one by Dave Matthews. Steve Taylor of Chagall calls to his friend, remembering the day when "the perfume of belief" was central in their life. (Not "evangelical" enough, Christian radio complained). Leave it to Dave Matthews to spell it out evangelically to his friend: "Gracious, even God bloodied on the cross; your sins are washed enough."

I know there are differences to the song, but for me they Dovetail.
(What two songs do for you?  Post 'em.)

Here you go; both songs below, lyrics and video.

 What a gig if these two ever played together...might be the best double bill since....Cush/Violet Burning (I missed it, Ryan!!)...or The Alarm/U2 (saw it in 1983 and still breathe it daily) .

"The Last Stop"
-Dave Matthews
The sun is well asleep
Moon is high above
Fire grows from the east
How is this
Hate so deep
Lead us all so blindly killing killing
Fools we are
If hate's the gate to peace
This is the 
last stop
For raining tears
The only way to Peace
I don't fall for that
Raining tears
You're righteous so righteous
You're always so right
Go ahead and dream
Go ahead believe that you are the chosen one
Raining tears
Oh no
Gracious even God
Bloodied the cross
Your sins are washed enough
Mother's cry
Is hate so deep
Must a baby's bones
This hungry fire feed
As smoke clouds roll in
The symphony of death
This is the last stop
Right is wrong now
Shut up you big lie
This black and white lie
You comb your hair to hide
Your lying eyes
You're righteous, so righteous
You're always so right
But why your lie
Go ahead and dream
Go ahead believe that you are the chosen one
This is the best stop
Here there's more than is showing up
Hope that we can break it down
It's not so black and white
You're righteous
You're righteous
You're righteous
You're always so right
There you are nailing a good tree
Then say forgive me, forgive me
Raining tears
This is the last stop
Here there is more than is showing up
Hope that we can break it down
It's not so black and white

"Violent Blue"
by Chagall Guevara

Hey, don't I know you from some other life?
You were wide-eyed and green
And a little bit taller
And you didn't look away
When spoken to

Do you still take two sugars?
You seem a little

And I can't help but notice how hard you appear
When I look into your eyes
A violent blue

Was it sudden?
Was it clean?
Were there a lot of shades in between?

Step away
Let off
Throw it down
And lose yourself

Hey, are you in there?
Or don't you recall
When the perfume of belief was all we needed
It was all we needed
To set our sights

So when did you throw out
The rest of the world
Deaf from the din of your self-righteous babble?
I think you've been blinded
By your own light

Was it hatred?
Was it pride?
Or did you just have a lot to hide?

Come away
Throw down
Let it burn
And lose yourself

To ashes
To smoldering ruins
Are you in there?
Are you in there?

Am I boring you?
I could say more
We were destined for somewhere but that was before
You traded in your peace sign
For a finger

And I don't believe it's the way you were raised
Or the cards you were dealt
Or a poor self-image
I think you love yourself too much

You want to rule some sovereign state?
You want to smother in all that hate?

Get away
Lay down
Strip it off
And lose yourself


Viva La Naked Hymn

Who would you guess is singing this:

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sweep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the King!"

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Calavary choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

Of course you guessed..




The new CD, Viva La Vida, not released until June 17, is already the biggest selling presale on ITunes. Its streaming live now officially  here (though I can't get it two work, two songs that do work are here) as it was leaked. Lots of buzz about the disc...and about the themes.

Death and All His Friends.

But this is the guy who last time out basically felt God woke him up in the night to rewrite a hymn naked (Chris was naked, not the hymn), and then witnessed to a Rolling Stone reporter about it.

Another new song:

God is in the houses and God is in my head…
I see God come in my garden, but I don’t know what he said,
For my heart it wasn’t open…

Isn't that our story?

The lyrics are still not that hot (though good and Godhaunted), but kudos to producer Eno for some sonic reinvention.

Here is a glowing review from the Sun:

I nearly lobbed it in the drawer of unheard music next to SCOUTING FOR GIRLS’ last release.

But the innocuous sleeve with an obscure codename was in fact holding the biggest album of the year — possibly the decade.

I can bring you the first full review of the new COLDPLAY CD, out on June 12.

And I think epic is the word. The full title — Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends — should have been a clue.

The band have really pushed the boundaries of what we expect from an album, producing a beautiful, serious and sometimes testing 45-minute disc.

The attention to detail is incredible. You can imagine CHRIS MARTIN, GUY BERRYMAN, JONNY BUCKLAND and WILL CHAMPION obsessing over every note and word in this, their fourth album.

The boys have developed and evolved their songwriting with each of their albums — from Parachutes, released in 2000, to A Rush of Blood To The Head two years later, then X&Y and now this.

They haven’t gone off the rails with drugs and booze, churning out rubbish, like many a band before them.

This latest album — much of which was recorded in churches in Spain and and Latin America — is full of religious references. It’s as heavy-going as the Bible but as ultimately as rewarding if that’s your bag.

this is not the real world, Pastor Iva

Santa Juana's post on Icehouse's "Just turn the key to the kingdom"
reminded me of how haunting and Godhaunted a soundtrack was Icehouse's self-titled song and (banned) video was to my (little did I know) soon-to-to-be Christian era (early 1980s) .

Frontman Iva Davies is an intriguing guy, classically trained genius, still making music, volunteers at Salvation Army.

But this quote got me, bold emphasis mine. How do I force myself to realize/remember and name that "this" (church/pastor-professor status/title/whatever) is "not the real world."
My "Christian name" is always misspelled/misunderstood.
Perhaps, the greatest significance of the exercise is that, through it, the name "Iva Davies" came into being. The label of the first single bore the name "Ivor Davies," but the second was attributed to "Iva Davies and Afghan." Apparently, the misspelling of the name on the label was just the last of such a long chapter of errors in producing the disc; so much so that it was never corrected. The singer Ivor Davies was released to the popular music world as Iva Davies, so he decided to go along with the idea. It has been that way ever since, at least to the outside world. Yet, a few more recent remarks to Rolling Stone on the subject of the popular music industry, do reveal that there is still another inside world with a longer standing inside label.

"You know what this industry is like: you sell a few records and you think you're king of the castle.

"That's one of the reasons why I kept the misspelling of my Christian name for this. They got my name wrong on the label, they spelt it "Iva" instead of Ivor, which is still my legal name. I still sign cheques and my parents still write Ivor on my birthday cards. I get really affronted if any of my friends write Iva. I kept it just to remind me that this is not the real world."


church is entirely world

“The church, like Christ, has to become world. It is a denial of the real humanity of Jesus and also heretical to take the concrete church as only a phantom or an illusion. It is entirely world.”

(quoted in a great paper by Toothface: "The Role of Art in Worship")

Sunday, June 08, 2008

partly right, but not even wrong

"In the face of silence...,we are left with theories."
-St. Cathleen Falsani / The Dude Abides

Peter Woit's working conclusion about string theory is hugely helpful to church/culture shift.
No surprise, as God has been speaking to us in ekklesia about ekklesia, from the parellel and dovetail discipline of physics (see
"Christianity as a branch of physics").

The whole modern-postmodern pregnant parenthesis wer are in is basically the same story as the relativity>quantum; Newtonian>postNewtonian morph.

The conclusion is basically that string theory is inevitably partly right (that is if it exists)...
but, as in his title, "not even wrong."

From the back cover (emphasis mine):

Peter Woit shows that what many physicists call "superstring theory" is not a theory at all, but an unrealized hope that a theory exists. In his view, superstring theory has departed the realm of testable hypothesis and now resembles something like speculation, even theology--it makes no predictions, even wrong ones.

I also love the New Scientist review of the book from (emphasis mine):

"A call to arms for physicists to pursue multiple paths in search of truth, not funding."

If we only realized that Emergent/emerging, emergissional, or whatever we are and tend to trust in is not the Final Answer; the coveted Theory of Everything (see Mike's rude toejam here)... least in its perfect form).
It may not even be a theory yet..if ever.
They/We may not even be predicting predictions.

Yet we intuit we are partly right in this wineskin; as any means of mixing/mashing small and large worlds/groups/networks is a Kingdom thing. Just as Sexy String Theory as currently defined seems to be the best model we have for making sense of small/micro (quantum) and large/macro ), so the creative forms and norms many are testing these days (cell and celebration; house church and city church, etc) are good places to be.

Maybe we don't need an emerging string theory; we just need a Spirited "whack on the side of the head."

Woit even addresses

the set of units sometimes revered to 'God-given' units, or 'natural' units...(which) are chosen to take advantage of basic features of special relativity and quantum mechanics, getting rid as much as possible constraints..(5-6)

All I want to do is take holy and wholly advantage of all things "naturally" or literally "God-given." Eschewing a reductionist version of Hegelian synthesis; or an old school mainline
line of skubala ("The millenium/heaven-on earth has arrived, and we have created it."). We might even have enough to work from if all we have is Jesus...and a sur-theoretical/pre-theorectical predilection for praxis and liminality.

If only we really did pursue multiple paths in search of truth, not funding. Mammon (and his twin Aphrodite) may be the only false god we ultimately wrestle with. Hmm, money and sex. Isn't that prostitution?
Ask Eugene Peterson sometime about pastors "whoring after other gods."

Friday, June 06, 2008

the camera isn't real

Thanks to HunselArnBerry, who sent this video out with the comment, " the medium is the message - McLuhan is still right."

Note: "People act differently in front of the camera, even when the camera isn't real."

Read Shane Hipps (he's real) and watch more ZOO TV (even if it isn't real).

Thursday, June 05, 2008

relentless cult of novelty

Randy White blogs on Solzhenitsyn:

Former Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in describing the emptiness of art education in the academy, addresses the foundation of higher education's rejection of traditional subject matter in favor of nihilistic, avant-garde approaches that are focused solely on technique. He calls it the "relentless cult of novelty," whose underlying quality is a "deep-seated hostility toward any spirituality" and enslavement to anything "new."

"This relentless cult of novelty, with its assertion that art need not be good or pure, just a long as it is new, newer, and newer still, conceals an unyielding and long sustained attempt to undermine, ridicule and uproot all moral precepts. There is no God, there is no truth, the universe is chaotic, all is relative, 'the world as text,' a text any postmodernist is willing to compose. How clamorous it all is, but also -- how helpless." (quoted in The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior, by Stephen Garber, IVP 1996)...
link to rest of his post

Uncle Buck and New Models

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change things build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - Buckminster Fuller

More from Uncle Buck here

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

All That Matters to Me is...

Please sign off now if you are easily offended.

I am sorry to post below actual blasphemous lyrics from a popular song.

But I want to make a point about the blasphemies all too common in contemporary music:
uh, contemporary Christian music (the only genre of music that can officially be blasphemous)

It's a nice bouncy, infectious pop song by Addison Road.
But the unapologetic lyric of the chorus is as follows.

Please brace yourselves.

And do not listen to the song, as the chorus is so catchy you will find yourself singing it and thus reinforcing the heretical message.


"All that matters is
All that matters is
I know Your love has set me free
And that's all that matters to me."

Wow, if that is all that matters to me, I cannot possibly be a Christian.

Okay, don't hear what I'm not saying:

I am not saying the songwriter and band are blasphemers; or the lyric was intentionally blasphemous. They are likely better Christians than me.

I am not saying that I don't need reminders of how awesome my personal salvation is.
I do.

I am saying that the chorus should not be memorized or internalized.
The inevitable perceived message is the inevitably popular individualistic gospel.
How anti-gospel.

How about for once a lyric in a Christian song that runs something like:

we keep the poor in slums, to ignore them or despise them, and we broadcast shows and movies, to amuse and tranquilize them … in the suicidal system, the suicidal system.”

Oh, wait...there is a Christian lyric like that. But you haven't heard it on Christian radio.
I wonder why not?
More on that in a minute.

Back to the Addison Road song at hand.

Of course, context is crucial. A quick read of the complete lyric here is helpful; the theme of the verses is finding security and self-worth in God's love and acceptance, not in comparing oneself to someone else, or popular standards of beauty. A great message; especially for youth.

I guarantee that that chorus ..with its unintended the part being sung by youth and youth groups around the country.

Hopefully, they'll also "get" the verses, which ironically are, as Christianity Today sees it,
"a sassy rally cry against our appearance-obsessed society."

Kudos to Addison Road for wanting to get that worthy message out. But it is hijacked by a catchy chorus whose lyric unfortunately proffers the opposite.

One can't complain about the individualistic gospel with an individualistic (and dualistic) gospel.

Kudos also to Christianity Today for actually saying in a review of the CD this song comes from that it is characterized by "predictable songwriting and the lack of a definitive sound," and one song is "filled with one yawn-worthy cliché after the next." Amazing honesty; I almost thought I was reading Patrol.

"Christian music," if it exists at all, should change.
Christian music might as well become Christian.

Honest worship music cannot be an oxymoron.

God cannot be skipping church entirely these days, just to hear the truth at the Nine Inch
Nails gig, can he?


I can't graduate to exclusively "secular" radio to keep my spiritual life intact, can I?


I realize that one of the most amazing, anointed, psalmlike prayers/songs ever penned will likely never be sung "in church." But the F-word in that song is only holy profanity, not hellish blasphemy. Very ironically, that song ("Wake Up Dead Man" by U2) is from a CD whose message is the same as the Addison Road song's intended message; the "sassy rally cry against our appearance-obsessed society."
Also ironically, that band incarnated the message by "complaining about the individualistic gospel with an individualistic (and dualistic) gospel." But it worked for them as it was loaded and leaded with prophetic satire. Intelligent listeners got the joke and the point. The Edge remembers "That character was a great device for saying the opposite of what you meant. It made the point so easily and with real humour." When the singer said "Watch More TV" (while appearing on a TV screen) dressed as the devil, it was obvious the message was "Don't Watch More TV."

I fear that the only message most youth..intelligent ones included..are taking home from "That's All That Matters" is

"Me...that's all that matters to me."

You want "honest worship music"? Try on Michael Knott's devastating "Double."

Or the Violet Burning's brilliant and biblical insertion of "Eleanor Rigby" in the context of an upfront "worship album."..  or  (double dare you to listen to   "

the most listenable "unlistenable" album ever made).

Can we admit that "no one was saved" while simultaneously celebrating our salvation?
I hope so/not. We must live in creative tension and parradox. We must tell a few "Well-Ended Stories That Don't End Well."

Of course, we play Sigur Ros and Pink Floyd at our church.
(I wonder if St. Ryan has snuck some CUSH songs into the set at his church; some day we'll be brave enough to stealth in some...selective...Zappa)We have to, to keep our faith and integerity. And to be faithful to the biblical command to sing to God in psalms...which would inlcude songs of lament where the Dead Man doesn't wake up., and where we shout, like David and Jesus and any real Christian, "Where the hell are You, God?".

I guess if there were any justice, I could show the new Sigur Ros video in church, the one Paul Leader winkingly teased me about showing (see comments here)

Don't worry, Mom. I won't.

But can we get over our sin of believing nonChristians are never happy;
and we Christians are never human? (How about a happy clappy, and scripturally sound worship ditty called "Jesus had homosexual temptations"? ..or at least my podcast on the about a little Jason and DeMarco song to shake up us supposedly straight saints?
Maybe settle for reading Jamie's post first..then come back and write a song for church)

But can we start singing some "worship songs" that actually address God AND the real world?

Among bands that actually get played on Christian radio, Delirious have been moving a bit in this direction since the song "Our God Reigns" (how delightful that that cliche chorus is juxtaposed with a word that sometimes got censored, as well as concern for AIDS victims..that doesn't happen in every worship song..yet!) ,
and especially with their newest CD, "Kingdom of Comfort" (see this interview).

Part of the point and problem, though, is what if honest worship music becomes the norm; and actually starts selling big time...oy vey.

When I was a member of a mainline, socially conscious denomination, I was exposed to all kinds of well-meaning but ridiculous songs meant to celebrate inclusiveness and social action. These songs were just as blasphemous and cheesy as the evangelical individualism they were reacting against.

But it is a valid observation to sing; and sing as church and in church:

"We keep the poor is slums"

For one, the pronoun is the rare but right one; the ownership of "we." We can and should sing "We Love You Lord," but not without also incorporating something like "we built a suicidal system."

Corporate (in both senses of that term) repentance is in the Book.

But how will it play on the suicidal system of immoral and amoral "moral absolutes" of Christian radio?

Where do we start? With tribesters like many of the above...and with David Ruis ("Ruis: risk with perfection and a bit of Pink Floyd"),certainly. And with an obvious emerging Christian musician named..

Brian McLaren.

Yeah, you read right.

Some of his songs may come off a bit hokey, folky and cheesy to you. But what better sign that one of the most important prophetic teachers of our day is in the "Christian music business." (:
Ever since his famous/now infamous article asked the million dollar question:

If a Martian visited earth and observed earthlings at public worship in contemporary or nontraditional settings, what would he/she/it report back to the home planet? read

...and through his "Deep Shift/Everything Must Change" Tour, one of his passions and compassions has been to move us beyond...well, "Your love has set me free
And that's all that matters to me."

Yes, he (and some singing friends) have cut a CD.

One of which actually addresses God and us about how and why
we keep the poor in slums, to ignore them or despise them, and we broadcast shows and movies, to amuse and tranquilize them … in the suicidal system, the suicidal system.”
And about this song below, Len Hjalmarson says:
"If Brian Walsh was a singer.. if Tony Campolo had a brother.. if Jim Wallis was a worship leader.. yeah, this would be about right. The song brought tears to my eyes. I have no deep issues with the “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. There are times when I want to live into the Song of Songs, and times when I need to know I am loved. But I don’t want to live there in that inward place. Here we have lyrics that have more in common with Bruce Cockburn or U2 - prophetic voices that confront our comfort and materialism and that call us to justice."

Here is another, with McLaren himself leading the way/vocals:

And a video below with some background and context for the CD. I am sure McLaren well recognizes the irony of this basically being an ad for a Christian CD which subverts ads for Christian CDs. But may he wear that ZOO TV mantle well...but no devil horns, please.

That's all that matters to me.