Millennials Need Worship that’s Been Around for Millennia


Joel:

I would highly encourage our readers to head over and read this post. Why look to create new worship when true worship has existed for 2,000 years?

Originally posted on Hipsterdox:

DSC01969 Thom Rainer, the current CEO of the Southern Baptist LifeWay story chain, recently wrote about what type of worship the so-called “Millennials” like. He defines a Millennial as anyone born between 1980 and 2000, essentially those who grew up watching the rise of the internet and technology, or the pre-9/11 generation. The entire article is very much worth the read and I believe he is accurate. All of it is summarized by one statement toward the end:

And you will hear Millennials speak less and less about worship style. Their focus is on theologically rich music, authenticity, and quality that reflects adequate preparation in time and prayer.

In other words, what young people want is a real worship experience, something that really strikes at the heart. The above statement is really unpacked earlier in the article, where Rainer states,

  1. They desire the music to have rich content. They desire to…

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Jesus, the Poor, and Commandments or, How Conservative Evangelicals Jumped the Shark


IMG_0260For those who haven’t paid attention, World Vision – a Christian organization that allows people to sponsor a child, giving money to ensure the child receives proper aid – recently stated they would allow homosexuals to find employment with their organization. The parameters applied to homosexuals were the same ones applied to heterosexuals, namely that anyone involved in a sexual relationship had to also be married. Their justification for this change is that their employees come from over 50 denominations, some of which allow same-sex marriage. In an effort to broaden who they can hire (as it is hard work), they decided to allow for alternative definitions of homosexual marriage.

Such as expected, the change caused an uproar in evangelical circles. Al Mohler was quick to condemn the action, even though – ironically enough – World Vision’s justification is based on a belief in local church autonomy, a cornerstone in Mohler’s Southern Baptist beliefs. The American Family Association went even further calling for a boycott of World Vision. In other words, the American Family Association would rather starve children in need before capitulating on the issue of homosexual marriage. Such a reaction from conservative evangelicals caused World Vision to reverse its decision within two days. In a way, conservative evangelicals just won a major battle in the cultural war, but in so doing they lost the war. This is the equivalent to the Tet Offensive; it was a surprise attack, taking place behind our own lines, one that was easily thwarted, but will forever change public opinion on an already unpopular war.

Christ made multiple commandments to help the poor, but never once did he make a command to boycott morally suspect businesses. While sometimes a boycott is called for (especially when a company engages in practices that openly oppresses people), it’s hardly called for in this case where a company changed hiring policies in the name of hoping denominations would get along. Whether or not what World Vision did is sinful is irrelevant – ultimately, that’s up for God to enact – what matters is that evangelicals opted to drop sponsorships to children in the name of a cultural war. How sickening is that? Or, as one of my friends put it: “Someday I hope the church will be as incredulous about the treatment of the poor, oppressed, and hungry as they are about organizations who hire gay people who care about and serve the poor, oppressed and hungry.”

At the point Christians have to commit a sin (neglecting the poor is a sin, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, it’s quite clear in Scripture) in order to protest a sin, they’ve jumped the shark. Are we saying that God is so anti-homosexual that he’s willing to starve children before letting homosexuals help these starving children? How much sense does that even make?

Conservative evangelicals would do well to take a step back and realize that they’ve gone too far this time. By doing what they did, they essentially lost any and all public support they might have still held. At the point they were willing to withhold aid and food from children in order to score points in the culture war, they gave up the true Gospel of Christ. There is one overarching common theme in Scripture that evangelicals tend to forget, that with the exception Jesus Christ, every single Biblical hero is a horrendous sinner. David, a man after God’s own heart, has an affair and then makes a series of decisions that collapses his kingdom. Abraham, a friend of God, decides to have sex his wife’s handmaiden in lieu of God’s promise of a child. Noah survives God’s judgement and immediately gets black-out drunk. Judah chooses to have sex with his widowed daughter-in-law, only he thinks she’s a prostitute at the time. What’s interesting about all of these perpetual sinners is God used them for His purposes and for his ultimate purpose (all of them were involved in bringing Christ into the world). God apparently doesn’t object to using sinners to accomplish his goals, so why do evangelicals think they can have a standard higher than God?

One of the biggest concerns among evangelicals today is how to address their plummeting numbers, especially among young people. Many want to turn to apologetics, thinking that kids don’t have enough answers to questions (and they don’t). Others think they need to make the church more “relevant,” an attempt that began in the 1980s and has yet to be realized. Each generation has collapsed further and further away from the church, walking away and evangelicals left wondering why, realizing that these students are in search of a real faith, not an embattled faith. While Christians must stand up for social issues, when such stands become the centerpiece of the faith, Christianity becomes nothing more than a political party. People are leaving the church because they fail to see the Church, they fail to see the Gospel properly lived and enacted and instead see a list of “dos” and “do nots.” In short, people leave the church not because they lack answers or because of some moral failure, but because they’ve yet to find Christ within the walls of the church.

If evangelicals want to win back society, then they’ll have to serve society, not wage war against it. The early Christians existed in a time where orgies were a part of pagan worship, men had regular sex with their male slaves, Christian morals were not only despised, but persecuted. Yet, not once do we see them call for a boycott, we don’t see them withholding aid from those who need it, and we don’t see them ceasing to preach the true Gospel, not some moralistic Gospel. After all, the gospel of the modern conservative evangelical isn’t the true Gospel, but a false one, one that is a type of social gospel, believing that if we can eradicate homosexual behavior, elect good Christian republicans, and get our way on every political matter the world will be saved.

The true Gospel calls for support of the poor no matter what and, more importantly, calls for Christians to love sinners and serve them, not condemn them and segregate against them.

10 Movies Every Man Needs to See or, Really, Everyone (Men and Women) Needs to See These


IMG_0084Too often a “guy movie” has some action hero shooting stuff up, blowing stuff up, and then having his way with whatever women he happens to see. Or it’s just a collection of stupidity which is supposed to be a comedy. There are movies out there, however, that while good for everyone to see, tend to play well with the male psyche. They play well with the idea of hope, an epic struggle for fulfillment, or the battle close to every man, that of father and son relationships.

Being someone who loves to watch movies, especially good ones, I have a few movies in mind that I think play well off the male mind, though anyone and everyone ought to see these movies. This list is in no particular order, just a list of ten really good movies worth watching: Continue reading

The Impossibility of Love or, the Either/Or of our crisis


IMG_1007Christians are reluctant to give into the pondering of the pessimist, to allow that love is impossible for humans. The unromantic and nihilistic notion of the materialist is that love is an emotional state of being, nothing more and nothing less. There is, to put it bluntly, nothing substantive to “being in love” or “loving a wife.” Such sad materialistic notions have somehow become a new view of romance, such as believing that we “fall in love” rather than choose to love. There are those who say, “You can’t help who you love,” as though love is no different than a passing whim or an uncontrollable biological reflex. Pop Christianity, however, desperately clings to the idea that love is a permanent state, something that we cannot alter, and they fight desperately against the claims of the materialist or secular idealist.

Yet, I tend to side with those who argue that love is an impossibility for humans. Certainly love does exist independent of human interaction; it is much more than an emotional state of being. Love, like breathing underwater or flying unaided throughout the air, exists, but it is impossible for humans to engage in it, at least successfully. See, love between us, no matter what, will always fail. The divorcée and the widower both have in common that they once loved, but the object of that love is no longer around. The experience of love is one that will inevitably end, either through a fight, drifting apart, or death. Love is like a firework; a beautiful explosion of passion, leaving those involved in awe of its beauty and power, but still dissipating rapidly into the night.

Much to the chagrin of the Christian, such experiences tend to put a negative view on the possibility of love. When over half of marriages end in divorce and infidelity is so high that it’s almost expected to occur within a marriage, where does idealism lead us? We can preach on the absolute nature of love, but we find ourselves waking every morning to an ever loveless world. We see death, wars, starvation, human rights abuses, oppression and the like occurring all over the world. We speak of love, but we might as well speak of unicorns or dragons. Yet, deep down every human knows love exists; after all, while the empirical case for love might be on par with unicorns, we instinctively continue our search for love while only the crazy and insane seek out unicorns. If love did not exist, we would not seek it out on an impulse. Why, then, does it seem like an impossibility? After all, either love exists and our seeking it is the definition of sanity, or it doesn’t exist and we are all insane.

What about the act of self-sacrifice, the core of love? What about when someone gives everything? Wouldn’t this show that love is a possibility for us mere mortals? In such an instance, we do not create this act of self-sacrifice, that is, we do not create love. We do not even originate that love. The object of our affection has always been loved and love has always been directed to him or her, we merely become the conduit in that time and place for the love that has always existed. In choosing to love someone, to perform sacrifice for someone, we manifest a love that is already there and partake in what already exists. Such an act forces us to transcend ourselves, to move beyond who we are, even to appease Nietzsche and to move beyond good and evil, and engage in a raw act of unification.

When we do engage in an act of true love, even then it only lasts for a moment. We see the impossibility of love, because if we give up our food so that one might eat, if we willingly die for a person so that she might live, inevitably that person will perish. Inevitably, that person will undergo further difficulties. That moment of love will not last forever, thus displaying its impossibility. The love itself, the not-always-actualized but always extant love, will remain long after our participation. And we, the conduits of this love, are equally loved whenever we act within love. Like Moses, we must leave the mountaintop, we must walk away from such heights and once again enter the sweltering valley, but we are still forever changed by this event.

Perhaps it is better to recognize that we do not craft love, we do not make love, it is not something crafted from our own hands. If it were then it would be the ultimate absurdity, to seek after something we can simply create. No, love must exist beyond our control, but still tangible enough for us to experience. That we can experience love and not create it makes all the difference on the impossibility of love, it deals directly with the crisis of love: Either love is something we create and therefore means nothing, or love exists independent of us and therefore means everything. We do not make love, but we find ourselves experiencing love, wrapped up in the arms of the Lover. Thus, when our experience of love towards the other inevitably arrives, that experience still lives on in the eternal memory of the ultimate Lover. And so long as we pursue him, that experience lives on within us as well. Love only becomes a possibility when we realize we are not the source, but the participant. It is then that we invite others into this experience with us, knowing that while the experience may end in the here and now, it will continue on forever with the Lover.

The Philosophical Problem of Common Core or, Why All Modern Education Fails


IMG_1066Apple has done the world a great disservice by dubbing a great speech from Dead Poet’s Society in order to sell an iPad. The speech is as follows:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

Now, I’m not exactly sure what any of that has to do with Apple products (my verse will be an overpriced machine?), but the speech itself is the cry of anyone who has sat through a humanities degree. Such people tend to realize that there is a life beyond what one can earn in terms of income. I happen to be one of those people with a humanities degree and like so many other people with one I’m consistently bombarded with the question, “Well what can you do with that though?” Well, I could ask why you want fries with that, or I could just become incredibly successful since that tends to be what people with humanities degrees do, mostly because they can read and write unlike their peers. The whole point being, everyone looks at an education as a vehicle and rightfully so, where we go wrong is in viewing education as a vehicle to a nice job.

Our quest for pragmatic education has its current culmination in a Common Core curriculum, an incredibly controversial program that doesn’t seem to have much to offer. From a scientist stating that its mathematical solutions are difficult to follow to Indiana officially removing Common Core from the classroom, Common Core is in desperate need of a PR firm. More than likely this program will eventually collapse and another program will take its place, yet our educational ratings will continue to decline and our students will still continue to lose the wisdom of previous generations.

The core problem in Common Core and in all modern education elements is that it attempts a “one-size-fits-all” education pattern, or to put it one way, Common Core is “…designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.” Via interpretation, the message is, “We’re preparing your kids for a job or to go to college prepared to get a job.” Every student from Maine to California will study under a uniformed method, expected to produce the same answers. Common Core will make the teacher nothing more than a factory worker, imputing data into tiny little machines and expecting them to produce the same product; and if the factory worker fails then the government just takes over the school completely (a la Bush’s still intact “No Child Left Behind” policies). Just as every iPad is the same after coming off the factory floor, so too should every child’t education be the same after coming off the factory floor of US public education. The Orwellian term employed throughout the website is “equality,” but expecting the same results from the same method is not equality, it’s uniformity.

Of course, everyone wants to remove Common Core, but this is a return to the status quo, a status quo in which American students are failing. Even college students are considerably worse off than they were ten years ago, especially in job prospects. Getting a vague business degree with a minor in management might seem like a sure-fire way to get a job until you realize that everyone else has that same degree. Or even getting a degree in the medical field or some other “hot field” right now doesn’t mean those positions will be open 4-6 years from now. I had many friends who did biology majors and have advanced degrees in pharmaceuticals because at the time they began working on those degrees, that field needed jobs. Once they graduated, however, the jobs were already filled. Same thing with those who received law degrees in the early 2000s, to the point now that unless your law degree comes from an elite university, you’re going to struggle to find a good that will even come close to paying off your school debt. Yes, we can remove Common Core, but it doesn’t come close to touching on our educational crisis, our problem, which is philosophical in nature.

The problem isn’t necessarily Common Core, the problem is we think education is meant to get us a job. When we approach education with the attitude, “This is meant to help get a better job,” then education is no longer about learning what is necessary for life, but instead what is necessary for a living. Education becomes a pragmatic pursuit that teaches the student nothing about the world and only about what is necessary to survive in the world. To some, this might sound logical, but put it in an analogy: It’s like taking a paratrooper in WWII, teaching them how to fire a weapon, how to jump out of a plane, how to survive once they land, and how to read a map, but then never telling them where they’re dropping, who the enemy is, or why they’re fighting. They’ll have all the technological knowledge in the world to make a good soldier, but they’ll still be ineffective because they’ll know nothing of the world around them. Our current educational system teaches our students how to get along in the world, but then tells them nothing about the world, meaning the students ultimately learn little.

A better approach is to realize that the goal of an education is not to develop a worker, but instead to develop a human. While many might agree, they ignore the ramifications of such a statement, the biggest one being is if we truly adopt this as our approach to education then there is no way to quantifiably measure learning. If we are in the business of developing humans and humans are diverse, it means that the outcomes in education will equally be diverse. Yet, we should allow such diversity to occur because diversity is the beauty of life, it is essential to a free society. Uniformity punishes anyone who steps out of life while diversity celebrates the lack of a line (within reason of course). The problem with Common Core isn’t just in its implementation or curriculum, it’s in the philosophy that works behind it that snuffs out diversity in learning. A better way to learn is to allow the natural creativity inherent within all humans to bubble to the surface and for the teacher to help the student hone and perfect that creativity.

Teachers ought not be viewed as factory workers putting cogs into machines and expecting the same results; rather, teachers ought to be viewed as midwives, bringing unique individuals into the world, guiding the process, but not forcing the process. Education ought to teach students about the world and how to be good humans within this wide, adventurous, and mysterious world. This approach is especially true at younger ages; an eight-year-old shouldn’t worry about a career path, nor should we prepare her for a career path. Let her first learn how to be a human before she learns how to be a worker. Do we really expect an eighteen-year-old to know what he wants to do in life? Or even a twenty-one year old? Why are we preparing them for careers before they even know who they are? Let them discover this world and who they are within the world, let them develop who they are within the world, and I assure you the career will come on its own. After all, that’s how it worked for thousands of years and the human race progressed quite nicely.

Though we’ve put a higher emphasis on the hard sciences, students are losing more interest in those hard sciences (unless we show how learning them will make them money). Our experts are at a loss, but it’s not that difficult to know why students aren’t interested; it’s because we’re giving them tools to understand the world without actually helping them to understand the world. At three and four years old, these kids unceasingly ask “why” when they encounter every new things, yet within two years they’re put in an institution with the capacity to answer these whys, but the students stop asking questions and instead become bored. Pragmatic education, educating students for jobs rather than life, doesn’t like or allow for a lot of “whys,” and instead just wants to feed the curriculum to the student. An education geared for life, however, teaches the student not only how to keep asking why, but how to search out the answer. An education for life takes the inquisitive taste for adventure of the four-year-old and helps that taste mature and develop into the actualization of that adventure later in life, of always asking questions and seeking answers.

Now don’t ask me for which system we need in order to accomplish this. While I’m heavily in favor of the classics, I also realize that how the classics are administered is going to vary from culture to culture, from state to state, town to town, and teacher to teacher. There is no single uniformed approach to learning how to live life; while a classical education is proven to be the best approach, that approach is quite ambiguous. All I know is that whatever educational system is developed at a local level, it must have one goal and one goal alone: Teach children how to be humans in this world. Don’t prepare them for the career path or for college, prepare them for life, which is so much more than what you do for a living or where you go to school. We prepare our students for a living when we ought to prepare them how to live.

We can continue on with Common Core or programs like Common Core. We can try our best to improve our education, but as time goes on we’ll notice that the job market becomes harder and harder despite all our innovative methods. We’ll find that we have students who understand certain aspects of jobs, but cannot think outside of the box or muster up enough creativity to find a new answer to an old problem. We need to educate our kids for life, not for jobs. Jobs will come and go, but life will always be around. If we train our kids for jobs and that job market fails, then they have no other recourse for income. If we train our kids for life, however, and their job fails, they will always have a calling, a mission, a goal, and the creativity to find some other way to make it in this world. Real success isn’t measured in tests, it’s measured in the lives our students end up living. By that measure, I’d say we’re failing.

 

Christian Porn is not Dead or, This Post Isn’t About Sex


School of Athens

School of Athens

Pornography has a reputation for creating unrealistic expectations and having horrendous acting. A man comes over to fix the cable and a scantily-clad model answers the door and, well, you can imagine where it goes from there…he fixes the cable. (Sorry, I’ll try not to be so fatuous). Essentially, it creates some false reality where sexual fantasies can be lived out; porn creates a type of “strawman” concerning sex itself, putting in unrealistic expectations and scenarios. At its base, porn isn’t so much about sex as it is about false self-affirmation, about putting one’s self in a mental state of imagining the impossible and ridiculous. Overall, even the “secular” media realizes that porn is a bad thing that desensitizes people to actual sex. Or to put it in hipster terms, porn is a chemical additive to the natural and organic act of sex, thus ruining the act.

Of course, porn doesn’t have to be sexual. There is a popular term called “disaster porn,” wherein the media blasts images from a disaster into people’s heads 24/7 until the public is immune to that disaster (or to disaster itself). Often times, the real news of the event is lost in the narrative that the media wants to shape. There is violence porn where television shows engage in too much violence, which then desensitizes the audience to violence in general. There’s even a new Superhero porn, where the plots of every single superhero movie out since 2003 are exactly the same, but hey, explosions, so why not? Christian culture, or more appropriately American Christian culture, is not immune to a type of porn; Christian porn, or the Christian cultural attempt to fit in.

Christian porn is whenever Christian culture attempts to ape the world in music, products, television, style, or movies, but does so in a mediocre, “Not the cool kid but really want to be” way. Instead of Hootie and the Blowfish, in the 90s Christian porn produced Third Day. Instead of hip hop, Christian porn produced DC Talk. Somewhere around the early 2000s, MercyMe evolved the whole copying aspect of Christian music and said, “Hey, why not just create an entire genre?” Thus, since 2000 Christian porn has evolved its own genre of music, where lyrics and chords sound almost the same across “artists” and bands. Not to be outdone, Christian porn also gave us apocalyptic fiction via the Left Behind series, gave us Christian television in various, beautifully bad forms, and of course who can forget the Christian movies?

The latest product from Christian porn is God’s Not Dead, a movie that opened up to church groups movie theaters everywhere this past week. As someone who lives in the Bible Belt, I can say confidently that churches went full-force at this movie. The local movie theater didn’t have a single parking spot available on Sunday. Restaurants emptied earlier than normal on Sunday and weren’t busy that night as the theaters took all the business.

For those not in the know, you can watch the cringe-worthy trailer with the Newsboys (them?). Or, you can see that Rotten Tomatoes has it around 40%. To put that in perspective, Sharknado is around 82% and Noah is around 76% (but hey, at least it’s not Catwoman bad). The film deals with the typical Christian view of a philosophy professor; a man angry at God who doesn’t believe in God because of some personal tragedy and decides to indoctrinate all the students into believing that way. To further this trope, we’re led to believe that anyone not a freshman at this university no longer believes in God. I mean, the professor makes his students sign a pledge saying they don’t believe in God (academic freedom?), the professor gets angry when one, just one student, states a belief in God. Within the trailer we’re taken from some mysterious/probably unnecessary skeptic in Dean Cain (Superman is trying to eliminate the competition) while Hercules mocks God possibly for perceived daddy issues over abandonment (not realizing that Zeus and the Judeo-Christian God are different).

Of course, there are other subplots within the movie. A muslim girl converts to Christianity and is kicked out of her house by her father (just short of an honor killing I’m assuming), a vegan journalist discovers veganism causes cancer (or something like that), and somehow people end up at a Christian concert with the Newsboys (them?).

And the whole thing is really Christian porn. It presents an incredibly unrealistic scenario with bad acting where the plot doesn’t matter, but allows Christians to fulfill their fantasies and see those fantasies played out in “real life.” We always hear about the big, bad, dangerous atheist professors who are just waiting to destroy the faith of college students. Of course, most students lose their faith in college not because of what they learn in the classroom, but because of what they learn in the dorm room; their faith isn’t lost by reading Friedrich Nietzsche or David Hume, it’s lost when the Christian cultural bubble collapses and they’re exposed to a world unlike anything they’ve ever seen. If anything else, a more accurate description would be a hostile atheist student – whose sole education in the subject consists of a few YouTube videos and Reddit – yelling at a Christian or theistic philosophy professor. In fact, Quentin Smith laments the rise of theism within the field of philosophy a la Alvin Plantinga. Not to mention that Oxford University Press, Harvard Press, Philo, and other academic press agencies and journals regularly publish peer-reviewed pro-theistic/pro-Christian books/articles.

The movie God’s Not Dead simply serves to confirm biases and present a watered-down, emotional, and useless faith. Hercules’ Kevin Sorbos character asks about a God that would allow a 12 year old to have cancer, and we’re met with a song by the Newsboys (them?). We’re then confronted with the idea that the ONLY reason this professor could show such hostility to God is that he has personal issues. Of course, the idea of a 12 year old dying of cancer ought to cause us to question God; that’s not a lack of faith, that’s called being a decent human being. The Bible is full of its main characters questioning God in the face of evil, there’s even an entire book dedicated to such a thing (Job). Even Christ, God incarnate, while on the cross shouted out Eli, eli, lama sabachthani (“my God, my God, why have you forsaken me”). The point being, the movie allows for a very real question, but this provides a fluff answer.

Christianity has a very rich heritage of providing rational and solid responses to critical questions. The first philosophical defense of Christianity is found in the book of St. John, when the Apostle uses philosophical language to describe Christ, showing that Christ is an answer to the questions of Greek philosophy. In Christianity’s recorded history, however, St. Paul serves as the first philosophical defender. While the account of Mars Hill in Acts is a summary, St. Luke (being a genius), refers to Paul’s refutation of two competing philosophies (Epicureans and Stoics) and showing how Christianity served as a solution to their problems. Anyone versed in Greek philosophy who reads Acts 17 sees that Paul is refuting their claims while finding common ground; but most importantly he is giving substance and rational replies to their critiques.

Even outside of Biblical tradition there are great Christian thinkers who defended the faith while also raising questions. Justin Martyr gave a strong philosophical defense of Christianity with arguments so solid that they are used today. St. John of Damascus gave a summary of the faith, providing a defense for the existence of God (this after he wrote a work on logic and philosophy). After experiencing the Russian revolution, S.L. Frank wrote The Meaning of Life where he openly questions if life has any purpose and goes on seeking a purpose. Of course the other famous Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, gave the best argument against the existence of God via evil in The Brothers Karamazov, and he did this while being a devout Christian. Some of the greatest music, greatest ideas, greatest art masterpieces, greatest scientific discoveries, and so on for the past 2,000 years in Western history have been accomplished by Christians. How did we go from the Sistine Chapel to Thomas Kinkade?

The problem is that many Christians feel they have to be countercultural in their artistic endeavors while equally being overly spiritual. There can’t be a subtle message, there can’t be any mystery, rather it has to be an in-your-face, moment by moment display of the Christian message. Gone are the days where Lord of the Rings is appreciated as a great epic and in are the days where Jesus is seen as Gandalf and Kirk Cameron should star as Aragorn.  Gone are the days where a Christian can have great dialogue over the question, “If God is dead, then what?” and in are the days where when faced with the question of if God is dead, we answer with Hercules, Superman, and the Newsboys (them?).

Christians need to wise up and realize that they are deserving of better. Instead of supporting low-budget, low-quality productions, they ought to support good stories that are well-done. No one is saying the Christian message cannot be overt in a work of art done by a Christian. The Christian message is incredibly overt in Dostoevsky’s Brothers, but it’s also a beautiful work of art. Dante’s Inferno is blatantly Christian in its message, as is Milton’s Paradise Lost, but you can’t get through an English major without having to read both of them due to their artistic beauty. While subtlety is preferred in today’s market, it’s okay for Christian art to be overt in a Christian message, but it must be done well. Movies like God’s Not Dead are not only a disservice to living Christians, but also to those who helped develop the Western-style of art that is so abused and neglected by today’s Christian “artists.”

We live in a world where Michael Bay, J.J. Abrams, and others are considered innovative directors because of explosions and light glare on a lens. Our culture’s idea of music is Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus. Art, true art, is more and more being confined to museums, the rich, and The New Yorker. As our culture degenerates more and more, as it succumbs to the entropic hole left by the collapse of postmodernism, it is in desperate need of an artistic voice in the wilderness. Before, during, and after Rome’s collapse, Christians stood tall as the saviors of civilization. Christian monks preserved the works of the pagan Greeks even though the pagan Vikings sought to destroy anything not of value to them. Christian iconography allowed for art to continue, even outside the church. The Renaissance was a Christian affair. Christians didn’t just have a voice in the formation of Western art; Christians formed Western art. It’s high time that Christians moved back to such a position, producing quality and supporting quality. After all, we’re made in the image of God, who is the Creator. This means that we ought to be creative. If God isn’t dead then neither should we let our creativity die, we should give up our taste for Christian porn. Christians don’t need to become countercultural and watered-down in their artistic endeavors; they need to lead the culture and become the pinnacle of artistic standards.

Morning Must Come


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A big beautiful ball of life
Adrift in an ocean of black
Surrounded by an expanse of strife
Yet here a lack of nothing where nothing lacks

Chaos found a way to this blue haven
Where man kills his brother
Simplicity we have forsaken
And sell our humanity for a dollar

Do we cherish this tiny island of hope
Or toss it away to busy lives and waste
We traverse down a destructive slope
But beauty is something for which we have taste

Man will one day awake anew
To a world familiar yet unseen
He will embrace the love he always knew
And eternally rest in creation redeemed

The day will be brighter but not hot
We shall all laugh and play
An eternal holiday for the wearied heart
How we all anticipate that day

Toil now on his earth
Let the sweat pour until reckoning
For it all has eternal worth
When we shall leave this night for morning

7 (A poem)


IMG_1029Too lazy to have a fashion sense

Too poor to have the time

Too proud to make recompense

Too guilty of the crime

 

Too sick for the day

Too cheap for medicine

Too blind to find my way

Too far gone in my sin

 

Too damn lonely to care

Too cold to be warm

Too bald with no hair

Too afraid of the storm

 

Too loveless to love

Too bitter to hope

Too violent for a dove

Too upset to cope

 

Too exiled to have a land

Too isolated for a people

Too weak to take a stand

Too drunk to be stable

 

Too hopeless for a future

Too skeptical for a fraud

Too alive for the vulture

Too dead for a God

 

Too breathless for life

Too wrong to be right

Too impatient for a wife

Too engrossed in plight

Of Languages and Coca-Cola or, Christianity and Nationalism Don’t Mix


If you watched the Super Bowl last night and the commercials that came with it, chances are you saw Coca-Cola’s amazing “America the Beautiful” sung in multiple languages. The commercial obviously refers to the United States’ place as a very diverse nation, a nation that has always spoken multiple languages (we’ve never had a singular national language). Still, it didn’t take long for conservative trolls commentators Allen West and Todd Starnes to jump on the “English only” soapbox. Allen West stated quite emphatically that the song sung in multiple languages places the US “on the road to perdition” (and not the good kind with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman).  Todd Starnes decided to go full jerk with his comments on the commercial:

 

 

For those who haven’t seen this apparent sinful video, here you go:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8iM73E6JP8

 

While Starnes’ comments are simple mockery and display a crudeness and ignorance to US linguistic history, West took his outrage further and in the process destroyed the English language. One important part of understanding English is understanding vocabulary words, like the word “perdition.” Perdition is exclusive to Christian theology, arising from the Latin word perditus, sent over into old French/late Latin perditio. The word isn’t technically “English” as it didn’t arise from Anglo-Saxon origins, but required William the Conqueror bringing over his non-English language into England in 1066. Regardless, the word refers to hell or the loss of the soul. To say someone is “on the road to perdition” means the person is on the road to Divine judgment, on the way to Hell. Of course, it does hold the archaic use of referring to “utter ruin,” but that use dropped out somewhere around the 16th century, well before the founding of the United States and when the word was still spelled perdicion (some archaic uses of “perdition” to mean ruin lasted into the 19th century, but even then the idea of “ruin” was idiomatic and only made sense within its meaning as a term within Christian theology). 

The whole point being, West’s use of the word “perdition” implies that by allowing people to speak a language other than English, the US is on its way to destruction, or on its way to Hell. Such a sentiment is nothing short of nationalism and nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity. Nationalism wants one culture, one language, one party, one ideology, and in many cases one race (shockingly, West is silent on that area of nationalism). While one can be a nationalist and say that it’s “Un-American” to sing a patriotic song in “foreign” languages (English is a foreign language if you really think about it), one cannot invoke Christian theology to justify such biases. Mostly because Christianity is not limited to one language, culture, nation, people, or race. Christianity is, always has been, and always will be – even into Eternity – diverse. 

One of the central beliefs within Christianity is that of the Triune God, or a God who is one in essence, but diverse in persons (three). God has called Christians to unify with him and to become one with him, yet this often ends up looking different in different cultures. One can look to the Eastern Orthodox Church and see a variety of liturgical styles, from the Greeks to the Russians to the Antiochians and so on. Yet, in this diversity there is still a unity (ideally speaking of course, nothing is done in perfection), one that transcends any language barrier, national border, or race. This unity holds true on the broader spectrum for Christians around the world, many of whom do not speak English. This is because love, unity, freedom, respect, and personhood are not dependent upon a common language, but upon a common love for one another. 

Applied to West and Starnes’ criticisms of a multilingual commercial, while one can proceed in ignorance concerning what makes a nation strong, one cannot use Christianity to justify such ignorance. Acts 2, where the Church began, makes it incredibly clear that the Church started within a multilingual context. God, it seems, is not put off by the idea of speaking multiple languages. A multilingual nation is not on the road to perdition, but instead on the road to education and proper unity (as the greatest nations to ever exist were multilingual). 

West and Starnes can remain ignorant all they want, they can continue in their nationalism and bravado of only speaking English (which is actually a sign of lacking education; up until the 20th century, knowing more than one language was a point of pride for academics), but they ought not drag Christianity through their nationalistic mud. 

Two New Websites


First, I’d like to thank Jonathan Anderson for allowing The Christian Watershed to obtain ownership of both Hipsterdox and Orthodox Ruminations. We will keep up all his work and begin to contribute our own.

We’re going to take some time before really adding any new content to both sites as we decide the direction we want to head with both. We do plan on upgrading both sites and taking them in different directions. On both, we anticipate and hope to add guest authors on a frequent basis. While at The Christian Watershed we look at the world through a lens of “theology applied,” we hope to make Orthodox Ruminations a place for Eastern Christian theology and Hipsterdox a place for finding how Eastern Christianity applies to our tempestuous era.

We at The Christian Watershed will meet sometime in early February to hash things out and prepare the sites, with a hopeful “relaunch” on March 1. Until that time, we’ll work to bring some content over in order to keep everything up to date.

In all of this, we pray Lord have mercy.

- Joel Borofsky