Monday, December 28, 2009
and make millions of dollars, so you can donate it to me at my blog.
Ever wonder where exactly Jesus stood on the hot issues of our time? Was Jesus a Republican or a Democrat? An Adam Smith-free market-economist or a Keynsian? Did he get teary-eyed while reading Marx's Communist Manifesto, or find it utterly absurd? Did he vote for McCain or Obama? That's what we're all thinking.
I imagine Jesus had opinions about the heated issues of his day. Camel-rights perhaps. Agrarian reform. Chariot Manufacturing Union Regulations...all that stuff. He seemed pretty intent on shaking up the longstanding views on things like the Sabbath and how we manage our money.
I've had many conversations about Christianity and economics and Christianity and politics lately, and thought it might be an interesting blog topic. How this relates to Christian young adults, I'm not sure, except that I think it relates to all people, in general. Specifically, it seems that the once surefire hold the Right-wing had on Christians is loosening, particularly among younger American Christians. I won't provide any factual data to back this up. I'd rather assume and generalize. Kidding, of course (neither is an appropriate way to argue a point, although this post is hardly an argument). You can check out this article from the Seattle Times on the shifting trend in voting among younger Christians. Although the article focuses specifically on the 2008 presidential election, it seems to be a broader issue in scope than one particular day in November.
Personally speaking, I prefer free markets to those controlled by the government. I find it ironic when people complain about the greed of corporations but seem so trusting of their politicians with equal or often greater amounts of power. But my question for this post is about Jesus and how a Christian examines issues political and economic. The simple truth is, we begin with a false premise if we try to apply Jesus to the systems of our world. I'm fairly certain that the God of the Bible does not need governments nor economic systems to run things. However, in our fallen state, we rely on these institutions out of necessity. Simple, but often overlooked or avoided.
A recent conversation with my parents demonstrated the difference between two generations: In spite of the fact that I am pretty much of a right-winger (at the risk of labeling myself with a term that will make some people assume things about me), I don't think it's a required ideological tenet for Christians. My parents seemed shocked when I pointed this out, and we talked for a bit longer until the conversation fizzled away (not before my dad declared me a "semi-conservative"). Is that like a semi-truck? Was my dad calling me fat or something? Good night!
At any rate, this issue seems to be raging. I will forever be fascinated by politics and economics, but will hopefully forever maintain that we do have a God who exists outside these systems, thankfully. Ultimately, there won't be any real hope in politicians. Skepticism may be taking over here, but it seems that in order to truly make it in D.C., one must appeal to too many special interests to maintain a clear sight of individual principles and goals. There are small strides, there are honest politicians (hardly any of which have a D beside their name, ahem), but this is not the silver lining, and Jesus doesn't have an R or a D... I'm convinced he was a Tory. Or perhaps a Whig. I realize I have just offended the millions of knee-jerk Tories and Whigs who read this blog (get over it).
However, Jesus does want you to work. And I suppose I need this advice more than anyone. I'm too lazy to hunt for Bible verses; besides, most of the people who read this blog are already thinking of some anyway. I hope I have offended someone. If not, I have failed as a blogger.
That's all for now, gang.
P.S. I enclose this nifty picture for the amusement of my non-republican Christian friends. I found it hilarious, and I hope you do as well.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Can we be whole through our faith and yet still admit to and recognize the brokenness of our human condition?
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
While I'm not promoting his music, the infamous MWS has a good point. Segregation seems most rampant in the church. Work, school, and social life involve a diverse crowd for me. Church? Not so much. The churches I have attended have been predominantly, if not entirely, Caucasian. With catch phrases such as "All are welcome" and "Come as you are" why is it that American Christianity is one of the most-segregated aspects of society?
This subject was brought to the forefront of mine when I was visiting a church and the pastor used a graphic incorrectly in a sermon about obeying authorities. It was the symbol of the "raised fist" of the "Power to the People Salute" covered by a red circle with a backslash: the Universal No or Prohibition symbol. I was shocked; stunned. What kind of conclusions could be drawn because of his poorly considered graphics use in combination with the context of the sermon? What impact is this going to make on people who listen to this man? What kind of impression would that have made on African-Americans? Visitors? Non-Christians? What probably seemed to this man a small matter was something mind-boggling to me.
While racial segregation is something that deserves serious consideration (and it seems to be the most prevalent and worrying), there are other forms of segregation outside of racism that run unquestioned in the church. Segregation based on sex, age, and relationship status are also present.
I'm interested to hear your thoughts on why the segregation system is being perpetuated in church or any other observations you have.
Monday, August 24, 2009
I am 22 years old and I have a love for fantasy. Be it the Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, or even Disney movies, I will probably love it. And I have been thinking, as a Christian, how right is it to love these stories? I was in junior high when the evil Harry Potter emerged from the shadows, and I witnessed a large influx of Christians going to great lengths to give reasons why nobody in their right(eous) minds should read these books. As a result, for many years I assumed these books were horrible, and I did not become a fan of the Boy Who Lived until half-way through high school when I finally read the books for myself.
I have witnessed many Christians bash fantasy, mainly stories such as Harry Potter or Twilight—probably because these have been among the most popular. While I can see both the good and bad in these stories, I wonder why we go to such great lengths to speak out against them—and not other things. I wonder how many of these people are willing to sit and watch other movies produced by the Hollywood industry—movies that, I might add, are far more likely to contain language or sexual content than a fantasy movie directed at the younger generation; yes, even more than Twilight. Why is it that when a story includes an element of magic or myth, we only then choose to be wary? I will tell you right now, I love Harry Potter. I also think Edward Cullen is one of the most brilliantly thought-up characters—really. I grew up on Disney movies and continue to love them, and am a little kid at Disney World. I’m a Christian who loves fantasy.
I wonder why the same Christians who speak out against Harry Potter aren’t coming forward to speak against Lord of the Rings. These movies contain elements of magic, wizards, and the mythical. Even Chronicles of Narnia does, although I do realize that this series is a portrayal of the Bible, so if you are wary of fantasy this is a safer option. However, Chronicles of Narnia does contain many mythical creatures, which I find interesting (centaurs, minotaurs, sea monsters, talking animals, trees that are alive, etc). While I definitely am not against fantasy, I don’t believe that people should be consumed with these stories either. There needs to be a balance.
I think that where the real problem arises in fantasy, or any other book or movie, is when we allow it to become the center of our lives. Believe me, I spent three fourths of my Christmas vacation last year reading the Twilight series. It practically consumed me. And that is where I think the problem arises with anything. It becomes our idol, our god, and replaces our time with God. I attribute my obsession with Twilight in December to the beginning of a spiritual dry spell, one which I am still struggling to get out of. But I don’t think that Twilight itself caused it, because I know that I caused it. I take responsibility for it myself, having made the choice to spend hours a day reading the books instead of with God and my family—and not wanting to spend the energy it takes to do what I know I need to.
I’m not here to encourage anyone to start reading Harry Potter or Twilight. Whether or not you think it’s right or wrong is your business, but I suppose I would like for people to think about why Harry Potter is bad, but why a story like Lord of the Rings is ok, or any other movie in Hollywood that might contain “a few” negative elements that are outweighed by the “positive” elements. I simply want to raise the question about Christians’ often selective hatred for the fantasy genre. It is a subject that has bothered me for a few years now, and I wonder why we can’t allow these stories to raise some real questions rather than completely disregard them.
All in all, I think that fantasy is one of those disputable issues spoken of in Romans 14. We so often pass judgment on other Christians for such things. We can be so petty! Be it fantasy, books, movies, or anything, I think that as Christians we have to be very careful. However, I feel that this attitude towards fantasy gives Christians this air of superiority over others. “You watch Harry Potter? But I thought you were a Christian! Surely a good Christian would condemn young Potter and all his wizarding ways. And don’t you know Dumbledore is gay?!” I have gotten a bit of this attitude from Christian friends when they are appalled to find out I’m a fan. We should definitely question things, but I think that Christians are so quick to point fingers toward those who love fantasy. Don't want to watch fantasy? Fine. In the end it's your choice to go by what your convictions are, but think twice about your other entertainment choices before pointing fingers.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Was reading a book the other night that was talking about "God finding us" after we wander. The author made it sound so easy. "Just come home and let Me hold you, protect you, cleanse you from the world that ravages your very soul". Just come home and let someone else do all the work. Let someone else take over. Give up control and receive an amazing gift.
I can't help it. I just don't understand grace. Really. I get something for free? Something I don't deserve? Can never deserve? And you'll fix everything? Grace doesn't make sense. I realize that what I outlined there is a very simplistic view of Grace and missing probably quite a few bullet points, but that's the vague gist I get. Not only do I not understand it, but even in those few moments where I think I might know, I can't ever give up the control.
My life hasn't been incredibly difficult, but neither has it been a walk down Easy Street. Maybe this is just another place where the supposedly-American 'can-do' attitude and that cursed 'American Dream' is really going to do me no good at all. I have worked hard for things I now feel that I have earned or that I deserve. I have struggled to get my life under control, my control and to suddenly give up the reins and accept a free gift while I'm at it feels like a cop-out. Grace feels like a cop-out.
"I cannot escape the exceeding wonder that not only does God look upon a guilty person in the court room and exercise clemency and forgive him and say, 'You're guilty, I forgive you, go and sin no more', but he also, beyond all imagination, looks upon this guilty sinner and does not just say 'You're guilty, I forgive you' he says 'You're not guilty.' I mean forgiveness is understandable --just a little bit understandable. We kind of had some way to get our hands around forgiveness: you let it go; you don't hold it against them. But this looks me right in the face, right in the face, sinner that I am, and says 'Righteous'." -John Piper_____________
Buchanan, Anne and Tammy Maltby. 2008. "Confessions of a Good Christian Girl". Thomas Nelson: Nashville.
Friday, August 14, 2009
As I am currently the sole male contributor to this blog, I thought I would submit a post on the topic of masculinity. My first idea was simple yet profound: a post containing nothing but random words and phrases relating to masculinity. “Football,” “Bud Light” (although I prefer Sam Adams or Yuengling if I have to drink beer), “Sperries” (just learned this name yesterday although I’ve known what it was all my life—it’s a boating shoe popular with upper-middle-class Southern frat boys), “growl,” “ESPN,” “Braveheart,” “corvette,” “jackhammer,” “remote control,” “golf,” and “beating the shit out of someone,” et. al.
Then I decided it would be slightly more constructive to talk about how masculinity is defined in our culture and by the Church. How do these definitions differ? How do they reinforce each other? How could they be improved upon? How are they right or wrong, logical or completely stupid, beneficial or destructive? But that, I realized, was a post that would require significant research and patience on my part, and as I am generally lazy, this did not agree with my natural inclinations whatsoever.
I toyed with the idea of “opening up” (not a phrase to be automatically or instinctively joined with the ones listed above). I could talk about what I think masculinity looks like from my own point of view. I can assure you ladies that we guys do have an easier time of being single in the church. We’re expected to be less mature and need far more time before we “settle down,” but we are expected to do so eventually, and the cultural wedding clock is ticking, although not as quickly or as loud as yours.
But opening up—that’s sissy stuff.
I can’t deny that I prefer to watch a 1940s mystery like The Big Sleep rather than “Movies For Guys Who Like Movies” (i.e. Dirty Harry or Point Break or something with Jean Claude Van Damme or Bruce Willis). Although I have to admit that Die Hard is one of THE most exciting movies of all time. And watching football is only a little less boring to me than watching C-Span or Senator Joseph Lieberman (or worse, Joseph Lieberman on C-Span…talking about football. That would be really bad. On the other hand, insomniacs would rejoice at finally discovering a cure that works.)
I eagerly await a Facebook quiz entitled “How Masculine Are You?” I’m a big fan of self-diagnosis by way of the internet. It saves me a trip to the doctor and lots of money and also the burden of having to “open up.” I’m relieved to report to you that this means I will probably pass the impending Facebook masculinity quiz.
I have noticed that within the church there is this sort of “Battle of the Sexes.” Not in the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn-Adam’s Rib way, but this sort of social construct that says “birds of a feather flock together.” Boys hang out with boys and girls hang out with girls. Won’t dispute the healthy, natural importance of this. It is important. Very important. On the other hand, a little integration could go a long way in helping students to be able to converse with the opposite sex in ways other than awkward, irritating, or restraining-order-inducing.
I close, with these thoughts, dear Reader: We ought never to define ourselves solely by our masculinity—or femininity, as it is the lifelong work of childhood bullies, nosy church wives, and facebook quizzes, to forever undermine our security on either side of the pendulum. And in the words of someone very wise, “I’m afraid I’ve run out of things to say.”
Friday, August 7, 2009
Now, hear me. I am not condoning weekend orgies. Nor am I prohibiting a night on the town. Honestly, I am a bit out of my element in the hazy atmosphere. I soon tire of shouting to be heard. I squirm at inevitable contact with strange figures. But with a group of friends, a drink and night of dancing can be fun. And on that particular evening this summer, as I fingered a martini and dug my elbow into the slick counter of a downtown bar, I wondered at the desperate immediacy of the hunger around me. Bodies and souls entwined on that grinding dance floor. No mistaking the dingy sacredness of that room, a yawning cathedral, where men and women gathered weekly to worship and feast. Ginger nods and the curl of cherry lips acknowledged familiar faces. People shook the dust of the week at the door and drowned their sorrows. Absolut. Corona. Jack Daniels. Stolen kisses. Reckless moments.
We are all hungry wanderers in search of communal, life-giving experiences. While some file into Sunday-morning pews among candles and liturgy, others flock to disco ball and pulsing beats. Neckties and plaid skirts costume church-goers while skin spills out of lace and leather of the devout on Church Street. Though dress code and behavior differ, thirsty hopes and fearful aches are the same. Hence, the following lines of poetry conceived in my mind that night, born of sadness and conviction. Sorrow for these silhouettes who may feel disappointed tomorrow or, more likely, will feel just fine. Sad because I, too, love to gorge my heart on hollow, frozen gods. I am just better at hiding, skilled in erecting a tidy exterior. So much easier to enter church with an apathetic, critical and selfish eye. I rarely wear desperation on my sleeve.
Ring the bells, tinkle
of martini glasses
and whiskey sour. Pick
me please plastered
on porcelain faces, silent
call to worship. Ladies drink
for free tonight, so come
ye weary, find rest
in a sea of fractured
light and lurching
beats where hollow
and holy break
body, sip blood.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
"Town to townBen Folds has said that the song was written to be a view through Jesus' eyes if he came back to see what had happened to the land that was originally founded as "Jesusland". It seems slightly ironic that this honest appraisal comes from a non-Christian secular artist and disappointing that this kind of examination is not more prevalent in popular contemporary Christian music (CCM).
broadcast to each house, they drop your name
but no one knows your face
Billboards quoting things you'd never say
you hang your head and pray".
While I had grown up on the likes of Caedmon's Call, Derek Webb (one of Caedmon's former lead singers) was actually an acquired taste for me. The folk rock/country sound usually featured in his music was never really my 'thing', as I tended to lean towards stuff with more of a jazz/blues foundation. However in recent years what drew me to Derek's music was not the music as much as it was the lyrics and his timely messages for the Christian community.
"If I can tell what's in your heart by what comes out of your mouthThe powerful lyrics on the new album, plus a new and different sound make this well worth the listen.
Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it's about
It looks like being hated for all the wrong things
Like chasin' the wind while the pendulum swings".
There are several themes that jump out at me when I study these lyrics. The one that seems most prevalent in both "Jesusland" and "What Matters More" is the sadness at the lack of action in the religious community of today. Webb sings to the people who "don't give a shit / about 50,000 people who are dying today", noting the relative silence on subjects of world hunger and genocide in comparison to more favorable or fashionable christian causes. Folds, too, touches on the inaction of Christians. His lyrics about "parking lots / cracked and growing grass" portray a broken down city without a cure in sight. Even more gripping is the imagery in the second stanza of walking through a city brimming with apparent prosperity, but never truly seeing the people; we "still / have yet to see a soul".
"Jesusland" covers the subject of materialism which is even more illuminated by a view of the music video. Against a backdrop of melancholy music and heartfelt words, a televangelist with ring-laden fingers sells guaranteed "miracle-working holy water" juxtaposed with pictures of a decaying city and devotees sitting in front of ramshackle houses and boarded up shops. He even goes so far as to mention the "McMansions" that have come to equate happiness and the American Dream in our culture -even in our religion today with the excess of 'Christian' merchandise and even books promoting material gain as evidence of a strong prayer life.
Folds' composition touches on the disconnect between Christians and the culture they are professing to reach. Webb, too, has a point to make about the dichotomy between what Christians are called to and what they do instead. Webb plays on the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31), remarking that "you say you always treat people like you like to be" and goes on to bring up the example of the conservative Christian community's evident animosity toward homosexual people and the gay rights movement.
What I get from both of these songs is an overwhelming sense that the Christian community has lost it's focus. Reverence for God; for our fellow man have been pushed aside in favor of consumerism Christianity and material religion. There is a difference between being a 'light in the darkness' and being so isolated that we lose touch with the rest of the world.
"Jesusland" by Ben Folds
Take a walk
out the gate you go and never stop
past all the stores and wig shops
quarter in a cup for every block
and watch the buildings grow
smaller as you go
Down the tracks
beautiful McMansions on a hill
that overlook a highway
with riverboat casinos and you still
have yet to see a soul
Town to town
broadcast to each house, they drop your name
but no one knows your face
Billboards quoting things you'd never say
you hang your head and pray
Miles and miles
and the sun goin' down
from their homes
You're not alone
Lights come on
as you lay your weary head on their lawn
cracked and growing grass you see it all
from offices to farms
crosses flying high above the malls
A longer walk
"What Matters More" by Derek Webb
"You say you always treat people like you like to be
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
You love when people put words in your mouth
'Bout what you believe, make you sound like a freak
'Cause if you really believe what you say you believe
You wouldn't be so damn reckless with the words you speak
Wouldn't silently conceal when the liars speak
Denyin' all the dyin' of the remedy
Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?
If I can tell what's in your heart by what comes out of your mouth
Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it's about
It looks like being hated for all the wrong things
Like chasin' the wind while the pendulum swings
'Cause we can talk and debate until we're blue in the face
About the language and tradition that he's comin' to save.
Meanwhile we sit just like we don't give a shit
About 50,000 people who are dyin' today
Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?"
Folds, Ben. 2005. Jesusland From Songs for Silverman. New York: Epic Records.
Mishan, Ahrin. dir., 2005. Jesusland. 4 min. New York: Epic Records.
Webb, Derek. 2009. What Matters More From Stockholm Syndrome. Nashville: INO Records.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Topics of interest: the transient life, England, blogging, unreached peoples
Grew up with three siblings and parents in full-time Christian ministry. Now that I've completed my bachelor's degree in Interpersonal Communication, I'm off to England for a year, volunteering with a British nonprofit. I have an increasing interest in linguistics, especially if I get to live in the jungle. In the mean time, I plan to enjoy the style and excitement of London.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
While this is written with a default target audience of young twenty-something people in the church, it is important to note that this is not advocating the continued segregation within the church. Even as we explore the issues influencing and important to this demographic, we need to understand that we are a part of a larger community and we must remain connected and involved.
We hope you can take a minute to look around, check out who we are, what we’re doing and what we have to say and maybe even get involved in the discussion on some of the posts.
Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Topics of Interest: Politics (with anyone except my older bro), books (the reason why I have perpetual paper cuts), music, people, God, and the necessity of going barefoot.
Bio: I'm "Linz" to my familiars. I'm finishing up my bach this December in Creative Writing and Literature from Eastern Michigan University. I recently got a short fiction story published, and I find myself strangely addicted to the process, despite the fact that I'm still waiting to get paid. I'm poorer and hungrier than a church mouse (as I have no access to church tithe money and no matter how hungry I get I CANNOT bring myself to nibble on my books). But inexplicably, I still cannot bring myself to major in business, or marry rich. Strangely content, I find myself writing through life, spending my spare time in deep conversations with my older sisters/sister-in-law and friends, doing my best to get my strangely mature little sisters into trouble, arguing with my car (which I've named "M" after the classic, indomitable Bond character), teaching my three and one-year-old nephew and niece important phrases like "Aunt Lindsay is my favorite aunt", watching House or NCIS with my mom, or trying to remember where I last left my cell phone.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Topics of Interest: Making sweet music, film history, politics and economics, stuff that offends people, framing LP's on my wall, the occasional culinary experiment, long walks on the beach, pretending to be an academic when I am too lazy to actually be one, all the usual stuff
Topics of Interest: Politics, health care, food, & fitness (hah)
I have survived my first year as a nurse, trekking on through my second year as a neurosurgical nurse. I am finding my way into the adult world of balancing life and work. I enjoy being with family, hanging with my friends, drinking large cups of coffee, running (love/hate relationship), loving on my little surrogate kids, and downing a good beer. I like following politics, commentaries, and talk radio. I always enjoy a good episode of The Office and 24. My musical interests vary from American standards to pop, folk, rap, and good soundtrack music!!
I have a degree in English Literature and am currently an intern with Reformed University Fellowship (campus ministry). I enjoy strong coffee, people, music, real stories, ballet classes, making messes in the kitchen, writing poetry.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Topics of Interest: health-care policies, politics, reformed theology
Bio: Natalie is currently living in Florida and has recently finished up her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She is on the brink of her career and learning her role as an independent woman. She describes herself as an introvert/extrovert who loves to spend time with family and friends, read, drink coffee, listen to music, listen to talk radio, and laugh. If you have to give her a label politically you might call her conservative, but she likes to question both sides and think it through and considers her allegiance with Christ rather than any political party.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Topics of Interest: Cultural Anthropology, Urban Poverty, Foreign Policy, Singlehood in the Church
Anthro-geek, museum-nerd, and introvert all rolled into one, I currently reside in Northern Ohio, graduated from UM (Go Blue!) with my BA in Anthropology last year and am currently working and deciding what to do for grad school. I was raised in a very conservative Christian home, but have since had to reevaluate some of my opinions and beliefs through some soul-searching and striving to find out what my faith truly means to me in recent years. I love to laugh and have a definite soft-spot for a good cup of tea, almost any chocolate, and a good book.
"I wanna dream up a world I wanna live in
I wanna spray it on a building downtown
I wanna protest with patience and a paycheck
'Cause there's got to be a better way"