Saturday, December 27, 2008

Maybe we do have a chance.

Chic-Fil-A's sweet tea is a titan amongst modern beverages. For whatever reason I can't stop drinking it. Perhaps it's the balance between the sugar and tea itself. It may be the type of tea leaves that they use (for all I know it's Lipton), or it could be a psychological thing brought about by the fact that everything else at Chic-Fil-A is amazing. I don't know, and I don't care. I love it.

It was this undying and ever encroaching love that compelled me to stay at the mall for an extra thirty minutes after getting off of work last week. My shift had ended, but I braved the battlefield that was the foot-traffic lanes and escalators in order to refill my Large-size cup at the food court.

"It's worth it," I told myself.

If you've ever been to the mall in December then I don't need to describe the atmosphere to you.

The line to see Santa was longer than any line should be allowed to be. The crowd was thick to the degree that actual walking was impossible. You instead shuffled along at a maddeningly slow pace, unnatural and dragging enough that a Zombie could out run you. And I don't mean the 28 Days Later, "HOLY, THEY'RE SO FAST," zombies, either. I'm talking Vincent Price in The Last Man On Earth zombies. Though, really, they were more like vampires, I guess. Anyway.

After retrieving my Holy Grail I retraced my steps. Made my way back through the crowds to the opposite end of the mall, towards the exit closest to my car.

As I was descending the escalator, unable to simply walk down it as I normally would, I heard what is quite possibly, in my mind, the most irritating sound in the world - a young child screaming. And I don't mean, "Mommy, I want [insert item]" screaming. I'm talking blood curdling, it's-the-end-of-the-world-and-this-kid-was-the-first-one-to-notice screaming.

Due to the view provided me by the escalator, and the slow pace at which I was moving towards the ground, I had plenty of time to locate the source of the noise. It wasn't hard, given the volume and its proximity to me.
It was a young boy, four, maybe five years old. He had stubbornly planted himself in the middle of the crowd, and sat down. Probably mad about something, I decided.
Now keep it mind, it's crowded as all get out. I could just barely see him from atop the escalator. Had I been on the ground, I wouldn't have been able to.
Next to him was a girl, probably ten or twelve years old. From the color of her hair and the look of her facial features, I assumed she was his sister. She had him by the hand, seemed to be trying to get him to stand up.
"Well that's good," I thought, "he'll be fine."
But then, as I neared the ground and the pair began to sink out of my view, she did something strange; she let go.
Not only did she let go, dropping his hand as if it were a hot iron, she also walked away. Turned her back on the little guy and took off. It wasn't so much that she seemed to be trying to get away from him - more that she had better things to due than ensure the safety of her little brother. At least, that's how it looked to me.

I was annoyed, but not surprised. I guess that's something that can be expected of a ten-to-twelve year old, in that situation. She was probably embarrassed, and the child WAS being obnoxious. Surely he'd have a parent or grandparent, or another sibling standing by waiting to pick him up. I mean, that's the way things are supposed to work, right?

Since I was going in that direction anyway, I made it a point to walk to where I had last seen the kid. Figured I'd make sure everything was cool. I expected to see him standing up, with a grownup by the hand.

He was still there. Still sitting down.

I looked around, sure that there must be a flustered parent standing next to him, or at least making their way back through the crowd to retrieve him. There was no one.

The crowd had begun to thin. As I came within arm's reach of the boy I could see that he was entirely, and utterly, alone. No one was standing near him, no one was coming back for him. Whoever was responsible for him, be it the little girl I'd seen moments before or some unseen entity yet to reveal theirself, they were no where to be found.

A number of options flashed through my mind as I took my final steps towards the kid. I could ask him where his parents were, and try to take him there. I could stand and wait and hope they came back. I could call mall security and let them handle it.
I settled on options two and three. Figured I'd wait with him until one of the Allied Barton personnel showed up and then be on my merry way. Before I even had a chance to retrieve my phone, however, something interesting happened.

Apparently I wasn't the only one who heard the kid scream. Three other people had stopped as well, and reached the child at roughly the same time I did. An elderly woman stooped down next to the boy, setting her shopping bags down and placing a hand on his shoulder. She asked where his mommy was, if he was okay. It was then that I noticed the bruise below the kid's right eye, and she asked him about that as well. Another woman stood just behind her, and was leaning forward, listening attentively.

A middle aged man, probably in his mid forties came up alongside me, saying that he had seen the boy's sister, and described her flight as I had witnessed it. He pointed in the direction she had gone, saying,
"She went in there," referencing one of the nearby storefronts. One of the women nodded and said,
"I saw her too."
I offered, "I have Mall Security's number." as I fished out my phone. One of the other three nodded in agreement with my implied course of action, continuing to express their outrage concerning the boy's sister.
As I began to scroll through my contacts, frantically trying to find the I's for, "Ingram Mall Security", the man beside me lost his cool and said, "I saw where they went, I'm going to get them." and began to stalk towards the storefront he'd indicated a few moments prior. This is something I want to elaborate upon.

I don't mean to be unkind or judgmental, but this guy wasn't exactly in the best shape. He was a bigger guy, and seemed to have some trouble walking. Perhaps due to an old injury, or maybe he was sore from enduring the mall all day. In either hand he clutched multiple shopping bags from several stores. He'd clearly been there for awhile, and had spent at least a few hours shopping. The store he was en route to was several meters away - a distance perhaps equivalent to the width of a street in your average suburban neighborhood.

He was halfway between our little group and the store, when from it emerged the girl I'd seen from atop the escalator. Behind her was an older woman, late fifties, early sixties, also armed with shopping bags, a black purse slung over her shoulder. It should be noted that she carried only two bags, and small ones at that.

By this point I'm thinking, "all right, this is okay. She's just realized, in utter shock and horror, that her grandchild is missing, and she's coming back for him. She's still no legal guardian of the year, but she's coming to get him."

But there's still something wrong, and all four of us see it.

She's laughing. She's not crying, not angry, frustrated, or worried. She's laughing. She thinks this is hilarious. When the gentlemen who took it upon himself to retrieve her says, "Ma'am, you left him all by himself. He has a bruise on his eye. It looks like someone hit him.", She laughs. Maybe she knew something I didn't, but this is the scenario as I saw it, and as my ad hoc companions saw it:

Little boy. Three, four, possibly five years old. Left sitting alone, on the floor, crying, in the middle of a crowd, in the middle of one of the busiest shopping days of the year, in a mall. No parent, grandparent, or sibling anywhere in sight. We witnessed him being abandoned, saw the casual manner with which his sister stranded him on the linoleum. Kids get abducted all the time, and this is the ideal scenario for anyone looking to snatch a child with brown hair and blue eyes. They could have picked him up and made for the exit, and nobody would have thought anything of the fact that he was crying and screaming bloody murder - he'd been doing that already. Add to that the fact that he had a fresh bruise on his face, and then when Granny finally shows up to reclaim him, she thinks it's all a big joke.

My point here is not to admonish the lack of responsibility that I'm sure we've all noticed in a lot of modern parents. I'm not here to complain about the fact that people don't look out for their kids like they should.

My point, and the thing that I really want to emphasize, is that four strangers took the time out of their busy, hectic, chaotic day at the mall to stop and form a protective cluster around a scared little boy. By the time we all stopped walking and began to assess the situation, the kid was surrounded on all sides. No one was going to snatch him or trip over him, and he wasn't going to panic and take off into the crowd. He was, at least at that moment, safe.

It's a trait I think we all share; the protector's instinct. The thing inside of you that makes you get out of bed in the middle of the night to investigate the noise you heard coming from the living room. The thing that compels you to stop and help someone change a flat tire. The urge you feel to verbally destroy someone who you know has been gossiping about your best friend.
The innate, ingrained desire to protect, to take care of the people you care about and, some times, people you don't even know. Have you ever seen that video of the guy standing outside the Whitehouse, shooting at it with an assault rifle or something, and then out of nowhere this guy in a cowboy hat tackles him to the ground? Ever thought about the fact that we have volunteer firefighters and paramedics in this country? Volunteers.

People like to - no, need to - take care of each other. At least, that's what I think.

As disappointing as it was to see someone so utterly unconcerned for their child's safety, the reassurance I felt from seeing four strangers wordlessly unite towards a common goal was overwhelming. There was no prior meeting, no plan of attack, no, "Hi, I'm Aaron, wanna help me watch out for this kid?". We just did it. And the thing that's really great about it, is that we're not saints. We're just regular people, and I like to believe that what happened that night is indicative of humanity as a species. A lot of us - say, four out of five, as was the case - give a damn about what happens to everybody else, and think about what could go wrong if nobody does anything about it.

I walked away, sweet tea in hand, with a phrase on my lips, and uttered it to myself as I exited the mall and was greeted by the cold night air,

"Maybe we do have a chance."

Monday, December 22, 2008


by Ryan Olsen

My ears were grooving to the sounds of TLC’s classic song “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”, when I figured I should alleviate some of AJ’s stress of writing posts for We’re Sorry. Hopefully it doesn’t suck…..

I’ll be blunt since that’s my personality…I’m not really in the Christmas spirit. Everywhere I turn, there seem to be people aplenty who are in a jolly good (I sound british) mood and are spreading the stereotypical emotions that Christmas is to portray. Giving instead of receiving…new hope….spending time with the family…loving one another…etc. I’m all for that kind of stuff. In fact, I’m glad we have seasons like these where those traditions and values are emphasized. And I’m not going to go into how people need to realize the season is about Jesus’ birth and we need to stop with the commercialism aspect. We’ve already had posts on that. This is more of a release of thoughts from my perspective.

There are a few reasons why I think my mindset is not in the Christmas mood.

First, it’s hard to celebrate Christmas when the weather outside is 70 degrees F and waltzing around in shirts, shorts, and sandals is considered the norm. I went to view the sunrise this morning since it was supposed to be clear and cool, and my attire consisted of what I just mentioned. It was gorgeous by the way. When the advertisements and decorations have snowflakes and parkas plastered everywhere you look, it’s not so fun when you’re just the opposite.

Second, I have no lover to share this romantic season with. I know….cry me a river. One of my favorite commercials this year is the guy who is learning sign language for his deaf girlfriend, and he gives her a necklace or some other cheap jewelry while he signs “Merry Christmas.” Real cute. I love to love and be loved in return, so it’s hard to express my feelings for someone when it’s my imaginary friend Judy. Totally kidding. I’ll just have to live with that till a woman comes my way. Focus on my Jesus all the more. J

Next, it’s hard sometimes to think that this Christmas is going to be any different from the ones before. We have all heard the stories and know the phrases, so how is this supposed to be an exciting time of the year? Don’t get me wrong, obviously the story of Jesus is the greatest of all. Not just his birth, but the entire life and death and resurrection. That’s the craziest shit I’ve ever read about and people don’t even get how amazing it is. It needs to be more. Reading the Christmas story out of a bible to your kids is great, but can we even begin to comprehend what this really means? I can’t. I need someone to scream it in my face, and it’s hard to find that. A friend of mine always says, “Sometimes I think I’ve heard it all.”

Finally, I know why I’m not in the mood. I go through this every year. I don’t get into the Christmas spirit till about 7-10 days before the actual day of Christmas. I don’t like forcing myself to milk out the feelings of the holiday. I want to go nuts in the last few days we have to celebrate it. It means much more to me that way.

So tomorrow after my last exam is done, I am finally going to whip out my Christmas music, pick a great new book, sit down with some peppermint mocha or mint hot chocolate, and go crazy. Yes…that’s my idea of craziness. HAHA There is one thing I can think of that’s really great about this Christmas….I don’t have to be creative about gifts for a woman. Thank Jesus’ birth for that.

P.S. If you guys want a great gift idea for your young lady, go buy one of those digital picture frames that are really hot this year, load it with pictures of you two together, and give it to her! Super cute and she’ll love it. Also, here is my favorite Christmas song. It’s massive. No one knows it to!

Peace and Love…

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Love Came Down

We're Sorry: Love Came Down
by Jen Rose

"Love came down at Christmas / Love all lovely, love divine..." - Christina Rossetti

It was the last weekend before Christmas, and the shopping idea was not going so well. After the kind of day where success is defined as navigating your way back to the car without getting killed (verbal hits and impolite hand gestures notwithstanding), I came to a somewhat cynical conclusion:

I have no doubt that love came down at some point. I'm not so sure it was Christmas though.

Don't get me wrong... I love Christmas. I love the music, I love sending cards, I love everything it is supposed to represent. (I don't love the frenzied shopping part, or the people who failed to get the "Peace on Earth/Goodwill to All" memo.) But something along the way has gone very, very wrong.

It's like our well-meaning ancestors said, "Hey! Let's celebrate this pagan festival, only we'll say it's about the birth of Jesus instead! Sweet!" And then somewhere along the way, more well-meaning ancestors thought giving gifts like the Magi would be a nice touch, and maybe some decorations would pretty things up, and dude, that St. Nicholas guy was pretty cool, so maybe we should figure out a way to let jolly ol' Nick in on the party.

And what are we left with now? Giving gifts becomes cold, obligatory ritual that we put off and go into grumbling all the way. Debt escalates, because we really do need to get something for Aunt So-and-So and a million other people on the proverbial list, and empty materialism and financial worries steal the thrill out of the giving and sharing. And so January rolls around with a mountain of debt in its wake, and many of us, like a frustrated Charlie Brown demanding someone tell him what Christmas is all about, realize something was lost in the whirlwind... something that was meant to define the season.

Joy. Good tidings of great, inexpressible, exceeding joy.

"The angel said, 'Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.'... As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing." (Luke 2:10-12, 15-16 The Message )

I always found it strange that our well-meaning Christian family can get so angry over what a chain store chooses as its greeting of choice, yet not rise up in indignation that the very things this season was supposed to be about -- love, joy, peace, redemption, sacrifice -- are lost in the frenzy of shopping and spending and to-do lists. But God never gave up on a stubborn, screwed up world, so maybe even in this it's not too late for change. I am grateful for movements like Advent Conspiracy that are challenging us to think about what this season would look like if we just attempted to live by that ideal.

And what if indeed?

What if each of us did our part to live joyfully, treat everyone we encounter with love and respect, and take the time to quietly experience the peace and the mystery of the Incarnation? What if we gave handmade gifts and service instead of that random sweater we picked up to check a name off the list? What if we celebrated and spent time together, instead of constantly running from errand to errand? What if we really meant it when we wished each other a "Merry Christmas" (or even "Happy Holidays")? What if we focused on spending less, but giving more, finding creative ways to love each other and make the season a little brighter for friend, family, and stranger alike?

Maybe it would take us one step closer to reclaiming the beauty of Christmas, seeing it for what it is: the celebration of a birth, life, death, and (ultimately) resurrection that changed the world.

This year, with all eyes on an ailing economy, many here in America are talking about cutting back and spending less. I somehow think this could be a blessing in disguise, a chance for us to step back and re-evaluate what Christmas is all about. God has used stranger things to bring his people around... why not this too?

So, Merry Christmas. Whether you have lights on the house and Bing Crosby's White Christmas blasting in your CD player before the post-Thanksgiving turkey coma has completely worn off, or spend the month of December muttering "Bah, humbug" at the chaos around you, I offer you a challenge: Take the time to slow down and reflect on just how profound the reason we celebrate is -- God as a child, sent to redeem a lost humanity and a broken, chaotic world. Then love and live and give deeply and fully, in any and every way you can, because you believe in it. It just might change the world.

Oh yeah. And do your sanity a favor... stay home and bake cookies on the last weekend before Christmas. That's where I'll be.

Special Thanks to Jen Rose for this update. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Reason for The Season

I must admit, I'm a bit of a scrooge during the holiday season. It's not that I don't like Christmas, in fact there are many things about Christmas that I love. The family, the food, the gift giving and receiving. Yet, there are things that I don't enjoy, like long lines at department stores, the same Christmas programs every year, and the commercialism. There are things about Christmas that I don't understand, like how they are already playing Christmas music when it hasn't even been thanksgiving yet.

I saw a sign last year that said "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" And I think this is what most Christians believe, and when I say Christian I don't mean a good person or a person who is an American or even a person that believes Jesus was a good teacher. When I say Christian I mean a person who has had a "born again" experience and has dedicated their life to following the way of Jesus. That sign got me thinking "Is Jesus really the reason for the season?" Is Jesus what we are excited about? Is celebrating the arrival of our savior what we most look forward to during Christmas? Isn't it strange that a word and holiday containing Christ seems so devoid of Christ?

The more of these questions I ask myself the more it becomes clear that we are the reason for the season, and not Jesus. I know it sounds blasphemous and I do believe that Jesus is the reason for the season, but if it wasn't for our sin Jesus would never have had to come in the first place. Jesus is the reason for the season, but so are we. We were the ones that needed saving. Jesus came to save the world from sin. His arrival was not magnificent, He didn't have a Macy's day parade to usher in His kingdom. He came because of our sin in the most humble of ways. And His act of love and sacrifice deserves more than just a season, it demands our very lives.

There is a great verse in the Bible that says "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." John 3:17

This means that the whole world was on God's mind. God had sent Jesus to be the savior of everyone and not just Christians, and not just Americans. Your Muslim neighbor is the reason for the season, your atheist relative is the reason for the season. Your enemy, your friend, everyone in the whole world is the reason for the season. Our savior is not regulated to our church or our hemisphere. He is not bound only to those you agree with. God has the whole world on His mind.

So the next time your Mother in Law is driving you insane with making Christmas all about her, tell her that she is the reason for the season. Because Jesus died for her too, just like he died for you. And He came with more than just this season on His mind.

(Special thanks to Ben Bowman for this week's entry)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Debunking Common Myths in Modern Christianity

1) The consumption of alcohol is not innately sinful.

2) EDIT: Jesus is not a Republican. Or a Democrat.

3) Reading Harry Potter does not make you a witch/wizard.

4) Homosexuals are not sub-human.

5) EDIT: The great majority of us disagree with Jerry Falwell.

6) Pokemon is not a tool of the devil.

7) "Secular" music is not a bad thing.

NEWS: The Facebook Group is up and running. We're sitting at 77 members right now, and the group is open, so feel free to join.

More coming later this week.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Gay Marriage

It’s with slight trepidation that I write this. I’m almost certain that my main argument and the overall point of this article will raise more than one eyebrow (of the conservative variety), but my feelings on this subject are of sufficient strength that I’m gonna write it anyway.

I’ve been planning this entry for awhile. Making mental notes and tossing the idea around, but up until now I haven’t felt seriously motivated to work on it. I can’t tell whether this is due to laziness on my part or if it God just didn’t want it up yet. That’s a moot point, though.

Gay Marriage is one of those hot buttons. It’s an issue that gets lobbed around like a volleyball, much in the same way that Abortion and The Economy do. I’ve been surprised (but not disappointed) by the lack of overall comment on the matter from the two presidential candidates, as I know it’s a big concern for a lot of people.

But what I can’t figure out is why. Why is this important? Why are we talking about it?

Let’s start with the Bible. It’s there that we find our Religious roots, so why the hell not.

Leviticus 18:22 says, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination”.

Okay, cool. That’s fairly straight forward. But that’s Old Testament, and as we all know, Old Testament law doesn’t hold a lot of sway over the modern Christian. If it did we’d be demolishing our houses as a means of combating persistent mildew (Leviticus 14:45) and we wouldn’t be allowed to eat shrimp ( Besides, we all know that Jesus died to forgive us for being imperfect, and to nullify the fact that we simply can’t follow all the Old Testament rules.

So let’s go to the New Testament. There’s lots of verses there, right? Surely some of them must be about homosexuality.

Romans 1:26-27 talks about it as being a bad thing, as does 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Paul wrote those books, and Paul was a good guy. We all like Paul. There are other verses that touch on the matter as well, so clearly it’s of SOME significance.

Alright, so it’s in the Old and New Testaments. Let’s take a look at what Jesus said about it. Jesus is the reason for this whole Christianity thing, after all, so he must have said something about an issue that is obviously so very, very important.

Oh wait.

Jesus never talked about homosexuality. Or if he did it’s not in any of the four gospels.

This is where it gets interesting for me. Jesus came to free us from our sin, and from the obligation of Old Testament law, or at least that’s how I understand it. That doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want – we’re still called follow God’s guidelines for our lives and live as good, decent people, in harmony with God and one another, and-

Okay stop. Harmony. Toss that word around in your brain while we continue.

I once heard (or rather, read) someone say that Christians have an obligation to “stand up against injustice” and cited Abortion and Homosexual Rights as examples.

Now it gets technical, and I’ll try not to divert too much from the main point; what is injustice?

1. the quality or fact of being unjust; inequity.
2. violation of the rights of others; unjust or unfair action or treatment.
3. an unjust or unfair act; wrong.

Okay, cool. Thank God for

Now, Abortion I can understand. That I can see as injustice, or unjust, if you want. It’s a complicated issue, but I understand completely one defining Abortion as injustice. But “homosexual rights”?

I’m sorry, but what kind of self created world do you have to live in where another person’s personal lifestyle, a person who you’ve never met nor have anything to do with, effects you to a degree that you refer to it as an “injustice”?

I should word this carefully, so as not to be misunderstood – I disagree with the homosexual lifestyle. I don’t think it’s right, I don’t think it’s natural, and I don’t think God gives you the thumbs up if that’s how you choose to live.

But that’s just my opinion, and whether or not another person is attracted to the opposite sex is none of my business. It’s also not yours, your pastor’s, nor your church’s.

But we’re not talking about a LIFESTYLE choice, right? We’re talking about marriage. Marriage is a sacred institution, a contract between a man and a woman and God and the state, and marriage means different rules when it comes to taxes, and insurance policies, and bank accounts, and-

Stop again. Shut up. Stop.

I’d like to quote Lewis Black.

“On the list of things we have to worry about, Gay Marriage is on page six right after, ‘are we eating too much garlic as a people?’”

We live in a screwed up world. Two percent of the population controls half of the planet’s wealth. The AIDs epidemic is ravaging the African continent. Vietnam veterans are starving to death on our own streets, and public school teachers can lose their jobs for admitting that they believe in God.

And you’re pissed off because Bill and Ted want to be husbands?

This is my opinion, my main point:

Gay marriage affects three very specific groups of people, and no one else.

1) Gay couples.
2) Ministers who have to choose whether or not they’re comfortable marrying a gay couple.
3) People with too much time on their hands.

If you want something to protest, protest the fact that forty-million Americans can’t afford health care. Protest the fact that an African child dies every five seconds due to starvation. Protest the fact that the church can’t get its priorities straight.

Make a difference. Love someone. Do something that would make Jesus proud, instead of using his name as an excuse to throw a fit every time someone does something that you don’t like. Do something that furthers a culture of harmony in modern society.

I don’t believe we were ever called to tell other people how to live their lives or who they can and can not marry. I believe our calling is far more simplistic, and were we to champion it as opposed to all these other causes and crusades, Christianity would probably be held in a much higher regard within secular society.

“Love one another” (John 13:34-35, 15:12, and 15:17)

That’s something that Jesus DID talk about.

Special thanks to (read the “about” section of this site), Google, and

Agree, disagree, anything in between. Fire away. If I’ve misquoted scripture or gotten any facts wrong feel free to correct them. Also, the rules have not changed – keep it civil.

(PS – Someone said this to me once, and I wanted to throw it in here. Would you rather have a heterosexual son who sleeps with a different woman every night, or a homosexual son who sleeps with the same man every night?)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reality and Truth

My night consisted of delving into a great Stuart Woods classic novel from the Stone Barrington Series when all of a sudden an epiphanic moment struck the inner cortex of my cognitive thoughts..........I wasn't in the mood to read. We all know the feeling. Not reading for a class. That's total crap. But reading for enjoyment or pleasure and you just aren't captivated by any means.

I relieved myself of that activity, sat down at the computer and decided to do some maintenance on the laptop since its been negligent towards my commands. Anyway, another insight erupted and I was forced with the need to verbalize what my mind was conceptualizing. At this point, I still don't know what I'm going to articulate, but I will try and make it sound very eloquent with ostentatious word-choice! HAHA (I'm laughing so hard right now. This actually sounds like I'm smart!)

If you have not noticed by now, our world is real messed up. You must be living under a rock if you haven't recognized that fact. Everyone is living their own reality while running around with their heads cut off. Like a chicken. To understand this, I think we have to define what is in our reality. Our reality is made up of how we view things. Not just by sight. View means not just visually, but how we behold, contemplate, observe, analyze, survey, scrutinize, etc. We use these as a medium to really “view” our beliefs, friends, relationships, surroundings, emotions, thoughts, etc. To put the two together would be to observe our surroundings, contemplate our friends/relationships, and analyze our emotions/thoughts. Because our realities are so disorganized in this present time under these arduous situations, no one can begin to perceive what the truth is. Constancy is unattainable.

Before I begin to talk about the “truth,” we need to explore the problem. You cannot have a correct solution without identifying the problem fully. Everything is so erroneous (bad) nowadays that the word "epidemic" is thrown around so nonchalant. For example, the AIDS crisis, the number of teenage drunk drivers, teachers having sex with underage students, kids playing violent video games, crime rates, murders, number of hours kids spend watching TV and surfing the net, etc.

If you ask me, I say human beings are the epidemic. We are the flaw. When we create ideas and solutions, we are just making more and more problems. As we further our discoveries, the problems arise just the same.

Furthermore, we have another dilemma that I think is one of the main issues. We have this mindset of, “go do whatever you want. So long as it doesn't mess me up, I could care less.” Guys and girls, it's exactly that thinking that's gotten us in this mess in the first place. We are turning to our own realities to try and escape what the real problem is. We retreat to our favorite song, read a book, go on the internet, bitch opinions to friends (what I’m doing right now). We are blaming everyone else when we are the problem.

But alas, we are also part of the solution.

The truth. What is the truth? Right now, everyone believes the truth is being held by one of the two candidates who are running for the office of President of the United States. If that’s the truth, we are doomed beyond all measure. We think the answer will be revealed by some great person who materializes an idea that will save us all. But let me tell you something…. (This is my reality that’s coming up. Take it or leave it people. Some people say my Jesus is a load of bullshit, well listen to this.) The answer to our problems is not an answer at all. It’s the Answerer. It’s Jesus himself. It’s not a bunch of words, it’s the word. It’s not a tightly woven philosophical argument, it’s a person. The answer to all our problems cannot just be an abstract idea, because this isn’t an abstract issue; it’s a personal issue. It requires a personal response. The answer must be someone, not just something, because the issue involves someone—“God, where are you?” (In this case, I’m saying “God” as truth.) None of our answers can be solved by any human, because we are all the same.

All the same.

We yearn for exactly what we need. To love and be loved. You cannot deny that. That’s where it all begins and ends. It’s so simple yet the most complex thing we’ll try to fathom. If you question if there is a Jesus, this is for you. In the end, God has only given us partial explanations. I’m sorry. Maybe that’s because he saw that a better explanation wouldn’t have been good for us. I don’t know why. Sometimes, I wish he’d give us more concrete information. But Jesus is more than an explanation; He’s what we really need. If your friend is sick and dying, the most important thing he wants is not an explanation; he wants you to sit with him. He’s terrified of being alone more than anything else. So God has not left us alone. I love him.

If you don’t like the ending, I’ll put it another way. At the end of the movie A Beautiful Mind, I think we’ve all seen it, John Nash gives a speech for his Nobel Prize Award….

“Thank you. I've always believed in numbers and the equations and logics that lead to reason. But after a lifetime of such pursuits, I ask,

"What truly is logic?"

"Who decides reason?"

My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional -- and back.

And I have made the most important discovery of my career, the most important discovery of my life: It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reasons can be found.

I'm only here tonight because of you [to wife, Alicia].

You are the reason I am.

You are all my reasons…”

How about we get to know the creator of that love? If he has given us the chance to to embrace it, then he must be the love we seek even when no one’s there.

Bibliography: “” 2008. 23, October, 2008.

Nash, John. “American Rhetoric: Movie Speech.” American Rhetoric. 2008. 23, October, 2008.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000.

(Special thanks to Ryan Olsen for this week's update. If you haven't already, check out the We're Sorry Facebook group and drop us a line)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pure Speculation

I'll lead in with a disclaimer, just so we're all on the same page.

As the title of this entry implies, this is entirely theoretical. I got to thinking and kept thinking and finally my thinking gave way to one of those moments typically referred to as an epiphany, but I make no claims as to having discovered some sort of absolute truth. This is just an idea. One I think we ought to consider.

The exact "rules" and "details" concerning what Christians like to call Salvation are sketchy at best. Yes, we believe Jesus died for us, yes, it's only through him that we experience eternal life, blah blah blah heard it all before. But as far as what one has to do to qualify, we just can't seem to agree.
There is that verse which states that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. This is a paraphrase, and I don't know what the reference is. Look it up if you feel so inclined.

But we can't even seem to agree on what, exactly, that means. Some denominations believe that unless you're a part of their church and you follow their rules and are baptized their way, you're screwed. SOL. No heaven for you. Sorry.

Other denominations(and this seems to be the most widely accepted theory) believe that by default, upon birth, you're guilty, and unless you "get saved"(personally I can't stand this term. It's too condescending) before you die, that you're screwed. SOL. No heaven for you. Sorry.

And still other denominations believe the exact opposite. That upon birth, you're SAVED by default, and unless/until you CHOOSE not to believe in God, everything is fine and dandy. That you could live your life in blissful ignorance and end up in heaven, with or without ever joining a church or hearing the name "Jesus".

Personally, I don't know what to think. As far as who is going to heaven and who isn't, that's not my worry. I know where I'm going and I figure that's about all I have the right or responsibility to really be concerned with. That's not to say I don't care, but I can't even begin to be sure what the "rules" are. So why bother?

Once again, the nature of this article is purely hypothetical. Especially the following.

Let's roll with the latter theory for a minute. Assume that everybody is going to heaven automatically, and until they figuratively give God the finger, they have nothing to worry about.

What possible reason might anyone have for purposely choosing not to believe?

At first this is an easy question - science, evolution, logic, quantum physics, blah blah whatever else you want. Alright, fine. I'll take that.

But let's look at the last two thousand years of human history. Given consideration to the church and it's way of conducting itself, both past and present, do you think it might have been possible for the Church and, let's say science for instance, to have a better relationship? Couldn't we have gotten along a little better? Been a little less petty, a little less paranoid? Oh, and the Inquisition. That was a big one.

And if so, and if we had behaved better, then might - MIGHT - there be a lot less people in the world choosing NOT to believe?

Again, I'm not saying this is the way it works or that this is even what I believe. If I were to sit down and really try to figure out the 'mechanics' of salvation, I'd probably land somewhere in the middle. I don't know how that's even possible, which hopefully gives you an idea of where I currently stand - somewhere between No Idea and Got Other Things To Worry About.

Just an idea I thought I should share.

Anyway. This is not your 'official' update. That comes this weekend, courtesy of Ryan Olsen. That's right! An update written by somebody other than me. I think you'll enjoy it.

And as a side note, if you(yes, you) ever feel like contributing anything to We're Sorry, PLEASE let me know. You don't have to be an expert writer(I'm certainly not one). You don't even have to be a Christian. If you have something to say that you feel is conducive(is that the right word? I'm pretty sure it is) to what's being said here, then by all means, share it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Now this is a problem.

I think this speaks for itself.

Come on guys. Come on.

EDIT: I guess I should clarify this one. I work in a CD store, and there's nothing worse than coming across a stack of CDs that thick, sitting around waiting for you to put them away. Evidence suggests that this stack was created by someone perusing the Christian and Gospel section, and typically, only a select group of people tend to do that. I'm sure you see where this is going.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I'm sick of music.

I'm serious. I can't deal with it anymore.

Seems like it's either one or the other. Either it's a wave of mediocre secular stuff that, while often structurally sound(speaking of the arrangement and compatibility of lyrics unto one another) is boring and meaningless and was obviously written to sell a record, OR it's a creeping biomass of Christian and Gospel music that's... the same thing. Except it's about Jesus.

Where's the GOOD stuff? Written by artists who give a flip about what they're saying, and are talented enough to keep me interested while they say it? Actually there's a lot of it. You just have to wade through sewage to find it.

But we're not talking about music as a whole today. Oh no, that's not what we're talking about. Today we're discussing Christian Music, and the neutered steer it's become. That's where my beef is and that's where we're going.

Christian music spent a few centuries as a being comprised mainly of monastic chants and hymns. All of it, while often beautiful and written with all due sincerity, became less and less relatable as the world did what's commonly known as changing(something the church has a real problem with). So then the 90's and 80's rolled around and we got stuff like, "Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music"(A song which answers it's own question), and then artists like Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith showed up. Also Steve Green (*shudder*).

Then Christian Music was what's still known as contemporary. Oh snap, we can play drums and light rock in church? That's okay? Well, no, not if you ask the church elders, but in some places you were able to get away with it.

And now here we are, 2008, and as far as what's changed, there isn't much to say. We have Christian rappers now, that's nice, and a few Christian metal bands. Well good. Maybe the sinners will buy those albums by mistake and come to a saving and redemptive knowledge of Jesus Christ.

What? No? They won't? Using popular media as a cop-out for actual sincerity and earnest faithful living won't work? Especially because we stock all that crap in the "Christian & Gospel" section at all the retailers? Oh. Okay. Well, let's keep doing it anyway.

This is my problem in a nutshell: Christian music, hell, Christian media in general, is unoriginal. It's either an imitation of itself, or an imitation of popular secular media. Ever heard of KJ-52? He's the Christian Eminem(I actually kind of like some of his stuff, in all fairness, contrived as it is). Ever listen to Demon Hunter? They're the Christian(insert angry metal band here). How about Krystal Meyers? She fills her role as the Christian Avril Lavigne quite dutifully, and recently, has even taken a few bold steps onto Katy Perry's turf(minus the songs about homosexuality of course. We all know God hates the queers[this is sarcasm]).

And here's the problem, here's what gets me, and here's why I haven't said anything before now - there's nothing necessarily wrong with any of this. If a bunch of Christians get together and want to form a heavy metal band, and they JUST SO HAPPEN to write songs with religious significance, then what the hell, do it. If Krystal Meyers can't decide whether she likes being Avril or Katy more, then sure, be both. Lord knows enough secular artists blatantly rip each other off every day, so why shouldn't we be able to get away with it?

The issue, the crime is that we were never called to sit by, watch popular culture, and then create our own version of it so that we could reap the entertainment value while still keeping our Sunday pants on.

The following is an exert from God's Blogs by Lanny Donoho. It's a really good book and if you ever get the chance to read it, I highly recommend you do so. This of course from a guy who hasn't finished it. I got it for free at a youth worker's convention back in '06, but it's a damn good book.

"Bubbles are thin layers of film made of liquid and soap that hold pockets of air. All the air inside the bubble is separated from all the rest of the air outside the film. Most of you know all that. As I mentioned in a previous post, it's pretty natural to want to burst a bubble when you see it.
There is one that I would like to burst. I have a strong desire for My children, the ones who love Me and claim Me as their father, to be who I made them to be and to relate well in a culture that doesn't yet know me.
Some, however, have chosen to build a wall or a bubble around themselves to keep them away from the culture. They focus inward and tragically don't want outsiders in there with them. It seems kinda silly to Me when I see anger and rejection flare up inside your bubble because some of your artists decide to perform or write for the folks outside of your bubble.
Here is a thought...
Artists who are Christians have a better shot at changing the world than "Christian artists."
You now have your own Christian stores and books and singers and mints. You have created your own clothing and music and lingo, and you have isolated the rest of the world.
You have built a bubble around yourselves and used insider thoughts to try to influence outsiders... and they aren't getting it. As a matter of fact, they see your bubble and your actions inside that bubble and they hear your words and they are choosing not to get in there with you. And that is a wise choice. I didn't send My Son to die so you could form a club and dance at your own recital. I did it so all people could see Me and experience Me and understand forgiveness and grace and mercy and love, and so everyone would dance at My recital... and so I could dance at everyone else's.
The world has become dark, and bubbles can't be seen in the dark. Sometimes I want to take a God-sized pin and burst your bubbles

and hand you all a light instead.

This is exactly what I'm getting at. Rather than try and summarize it I thought you just outta read it.

Not too long ago this guy named Brian "Head" Welch(You know that one band, KoRn? They're a little bit popular. Just a little bit.) left his drug and sex laiden lifestyle behind, saying that "I believe I would be dead right now if I continued using Meth, but instead, I chose to surrender my life to Christ and die to myself so He could share His resurrection with me". He left KoRn and is now a Solo artist producing a sound similar to that of his former gig, but instead of KoRn's message of... well, you know KoRn... he's telling HIS story and helping other drug addicts to escape from the lifestyle that he himself was trapped in. The above quote might sound Churchy to the un-churched, but don't be fooled - this is not your typical celebrity conversion. Consider the following, Welch's new music video for the song Flush,

Oh my God.

Of course the conservatives flipped out, and a bunch of retailers actually pulled his CD from the shelves. Welch said the following in response,

"The video for FLUSH is about Crystal Meth addiction and the crazy things anyone addicted to Meth will do while they’re high or to get their fix. Everything the models were doing in the video is what I was wrapped up in while I was addicted to Meth. The video is a very realistic look at the addiction and where it will lead you if you get hooked. I understand the images of the models may be too much for some people, but honestly, I was just trying to be real with what happened in my life and show where I was, as well as where I am at now...

...I totally understand that the video may be a bit too much for some conservative people and I respect everyone’s choice. But to me, taking my CDs off the shelves because of a music video (that isn’t being sold with the CD) is a bit too extreme! There is a huge message of hope on my CD and I believe those retailers that are pulling the CD from their shelves are robbing someone spiritually by taking it off of the shelves. But, thank GOD for iTunes!...

...I’m not called to be a Sunday School teacher obviously….I mean, just look at me….(Smile)…..I’m called to speak to people that understand my language and I’m gonna be as REAL as possible. The CHEESE has to disappear from the Christian media. I challenge the conservative Christians to start thinking “outside the box,” and get real with how they try and connect with the masses!!

Oh yeah….one more very important thing….I love you all….Even you conservative nit pickers!!!

How beautiful. How perfectly and eloquently put. Mr. Welch has a greater understanding of what it means to SHARE Jesus with the rest of the world than most(and I mean most. I'd guess at eighty percent) of the self proclaimed "Christians" I've met in my years as a church goer(twenty years now, eight of those spent asking myself just what the hell is wrong with us[twenty one if you count the months prior to my birth hahah gestation reference]). And even in the face of ignorant, bad-mouthing censorship, he has the caliber, the heart to say, "I love you all"

Holy God.

How many of the people who condemned him for the content of his video said the same? This is just a guess but I'm going with zero. I'm gonna go buy his album on iTunes as soon as I'm done with this first draft.

Christianity Today and Patrol Magazine recently commented on the sound of Christian music. I have to say that both make valid statements and I understand exactly what they're talking about.

I work at FYE(For Your Entertainment, a property of Trans World Entertainment), which is a music and movie(and usually) video game store. We have a bunch of TVs mounted to the walls and they play music videos all day(sometimes they play The Nightmare Before Christmas). We play a wide variety of stuff, from rap to rock to screamo to pop to... Christian.

Three Christian songs are included in our current playlist(I won't name the artists), and I'd never heard the songs before I started working there. Literally, three chords in, I said to myself, "That's [artist name]". Another one started up a half hour or so later and I thought, "That's probably a Christian band". 'Nother half hour later, "Gotta be a Christian song." I didn't look at the monitor, I promise. I didn't even hear the lyrics(with the exception of the third one. She got two lines in before I made my first approximation).

All three times I was right. All three times. 3/3. That's what's known as 100%.

And that's not because I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Christian music, it's not because I'm a musical expert, and it's not because I work in a record store. It's because Christian Music(and all other Christian media) is doing the same thing it did for decades and centuries before it tried to modernize with light rock just a short time ago - rehashing a tired and overused formula, doubling back on itself, and inbreeding, producing a myriad of lackluster content aimed at selling records to the people who will, inevitably, spend money on them. Although, at the writing of most hymns, record stores didn't exist.

I realize that Secular music does the same thing. Secular media does the same thing. Been to the movies lately? You've seen it all before. I suppose it's not even the rehashing that bothers me. The PROBLEM is this idea, this apparent need to be separate from everything else, and to designate things as "Christian" and "non-Christian".

Rob Bell was recently interviewed by Patrol Magazine(I really like these guys, both of them) and made the following statement,

"I would argue that if you need to add a label to it, than you have missed its inherent goodness in the first place. So when people tack "Christian" as an adjective onto things, it's a misunderstanding of Genesis, that creation is already blessed, it doesn't need your adjectives or labels to somehow make it blessed. "
(You can read the interview here, which I strongly advise that you do)

I have a friend who's a huge music buff. He's really picky. He listens to just about everything, genre wise, but if something sucks(in his opinion), he doesn't listen to it. He has an ear for what's good and what's bad.

A year or so back he really got into Tracy Chapman, specifically the song "Fast Car". He made the remark once, "I could worship to that song."

You'd have thought that he just claimed Jesus was a gay space alien and that we were all his action figures.

Our youth pastor at the time started talking about how horrible that was and how far from God this friend of mine must be. This was of course to myself and several other parties, not the person who made the initial statement.

I nodded my head and went along with it at the time, but looking back I find myself asking just what exactly the big deal was. A human being felt inspired and expressed it through musical, God-given talent, and another human being saw God's beauty through that talent. And this is somehow wrong? Don't even think about reminding me of Chapman's sexual orientation. I don't care and neither should you.

Don't mistake me - "Christian" music is important. We need Tomlins and Hillsongs and Newsboys just as much as we need Switchfoots and Welchs and Chapmans.

But what we don't need, what we need to be without, is this construction of our own culture, our own society, somehow removed from everything else that's going on. We were called to be in the world and not of it, not outside it and of ourselves.

I believe that this is a prime example. Commercialism with a sweet sugary coating of Jesus Music. I'd love for somebody to explain to me why this is necessary, and don't tell me that Christian kids should have their own Guitar Hero because the other one has "bad" music in it. Nothing in Guitar Hero is going to drag our kids to hell or get them hooked on drugs. I promise.

I don't know if there's a solution to this or not. What I do know is that Christian media has a problem, and maybe over time things will start to change. Plenty of people in the industry have already realized it, but it's going to take a lot more than that.
I'm not telling you to stop buying Christian CDs or boycott Chris Tomlin. All I'm saying is that art is worship, and music is art. That in mind, do we really need our own industry?

Special thanks to Patrol Magazine, Christianity Today, Rob Bell, and Brian Welch. None of them will probably ever read this, but that's alright.

I want your opinions. Agree, disagree, or anything in between. We've need to start talking about this stuff.

(PS - I did buy Welch's album, and it's great.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

And they blamed the music.

Full article on music soon to follow. For now though, I'd like to highlight what GOOD can come when believers pick up guitars and jot down lyrics. Here are five bands which run, more or less, in the Christian musical vein without being blatantly evangelical.

1. Flyleaf - Hard hitting vocals and lyrics that might actually mean something. Solid instrumentals that punch you in the eardrum. Lacey Mosley's vocal prowess makes them more than worth a listen, and her distinctive, almost haunting harmonization clashes beautifully with her hard hitting screams. You've probably heard "I'm So Sick" played somewhere, given it's success both in Christian and Secular arenas. Here's a video, so this article won't be too boring.

2. Mute Math - Those that know me can attest to Mute Math being one of my favorite bands. Born in part of the defunct Earthsuit, Paul Meany brings to the table his knack for phraseology that makes you think twice about what you're listening to. From the fast paced, "Chaos" to the ambient "Stare at The Sun", Mute Math's debut album was an underrated, almost underground musical offering which shouldn't be passed up by anyone. Mute Math is known not for being a Christian band, but rather a, "band of Christians", and like Flyleaf, bears no qualms about showing their faith in their song writing. Shown here is a video from Mute Math's official Youtube page, titled, "Lavatory Loops", in which we see them working on the new album. Which I can't wait for.

Worth mentioning is Earthsuit, previously mentioned, and another of my favorite bands. While now disbanded, Earthsuit did things that the Christian music scene had never scene before, introducing a distinctive blend of hip hop, rock and techno. It's difficult to describe, and simply must be experienced to be understood.

3. Switchfoot - You've heard of these guys. I know you have. They've been around for years. With six albums currently under their belt they're probably one of the most well know alternative bands still kicking. Starting with The Legend of Chin in 1997, they went on to release two more independent albums(New Way to be Human in 1999, and Learning to Breathe in 2000), before striking it big with The Beautiful Letdown. Perhaps most well known for, "Meant to Live", Switchfoot's music has always been mellow and energetic. Both of those. Following BL came Nothing is Sound, and most recently, Oh! Gravity. NiS was very chill, not so rock based, while O!G was pumped full of classic Switchfoot rock elements reminiscent of BL.

Rather than proclaiming the Biblical wonders of the Lord, Switchfoot's method concerning faith has always been subtle. Rather than tell you how great Jesus is, they seem to want to show by portraying a message of realistic hope and optimism. Here's their "Stars" music video, from the Nothing is Sound album. Very artsy. And good.

4. The Fray - I'm hoping some of you just went, "Yeah, the Fray." Everybody likes the Fray. Alright, so, maybe not everybody.

Yet another Band of Christians. The Fray's music is relaxing. Peaceful, yet brutally honest. Isaac Slade, the band's lead vocalist, pianist and songwriter originally wrote specifically Christian music, but avoided Christian record labels because, "None of my friends outside the church understood any of my songs; we had a different set of vocabulary" So instead Slade devoted his talent to more relevant, realistic songs about life. Life, hope, and whatever else you care to read into them. I won't say much about them because you're probably already familiar with them. But just in case,

5. The David Crowder Band - Alright, so, I dunno. Maybe they don't belong here. DCB is probably the most blatantly Christian band I listen to, but with good reason.

Instead of rehashing the same old, "Might Jesus Messiah Son of God blah blah" formula, DCB's music has always been distinctive and unique. From the live album, "The Lime CD" to the critically acclaimed, "A Collision" and the most recent "Remedy", the Crowder band's music bears a specific quality rarely seen in worship bands. Their instrumentals are solid, untouchable even. The titular singer's vocals are sincere, often with a layer of desperation that lets you know he means what he's saying. Lyrically Crowder's music has always been without the feeling of, "I'm a Christian artist and I'm on a Christian label so I'll write Christian music." It's instead one of, "I can't deny what God is, and I can't help but express it."

Are we left here on our own?
Can you feel when your last breath is gone?
Night is weighing heavy now

From Egypt lately come
Where death and darkness reign
To seek our new our better home
Where we our rest shall gain

There sin and sorrow cease
And every conflict’s o’er
There we shall dwell in endless peace
And never hunger more


Why do You shine so?
Can a blind man see?
Why do You call?
Why Do You beckon me?
Can the deaf hear the voice of love?
Would You have me come?
Can the cripple run?


The heart breaking makes a sound
I never knew could be
So beautiful and loud
Fury filled and we collide

So courageous until now
Fumbling and scared
So afraid You'll find me out,
Alone here with my doubt

Here it comes, a beautiful collision
Is happening now.
There seems no end to where You begin and there I am now

You and I collide

That's a sample, I guess. Lyrics found via Google do them no justice though, trust me. I've been to Crowder concerts, and they are astounding.

A Collision in particular covered a wide array of genres, from contemporary worship to bluegrass country, to techno, hard rock-opera ballads and other stuff which can't quite be defined in traditional terminology.

I could gush about DCB for paragraphs, so I'll sum it up with this video and a strong recommendation. Later this week, I hope to have more on music typed out.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I suppose it's about time?

It's literally been three weeks since the last update. Sorry.

It occurs to me that if I wait to put anything up until I have something that strikes me as deep and profound, I probably won't update very often, and I'd hate for this to go belly up. So in between psuedo-sermons I thought maybe I'd... comment?

It seems the creators of Facing the Giants have a new movie out, apparently starring Kirk Cameron. My views on dedicated Christian media are somewhat conflicted at the moment, but Facing the Giants was, all in all, a fairly decent movie. It had moments which were profound and beautiful, as well as others that were cheesy to the point of being laughable. The writing was decent and the acting was acceptable. What I liked was that Giants was very grassroots, you know? Funded by a congregation and made by an amateur film maker. So who knows, Fireproof may be worth checking out.

I've felt a considerable amount of angst lately concerning the election and plight of our great fancy nation. I love my country as much as the next guy and the guy after him, and I'm of the opinion that, at current, it's not being run very well. I think we're all hoping that after this election, it will be, and a big(WARNING: OBVIOUS STATEMENT) part of that depends on who's elected.

I'm not going to say who I'm voting for or what I think about this issue and that issue and all the other stuff. That's beside the point.

I'm bothered by the fact that the majority of us Christian folk(the ones I know anyway, or at the very least, the vocal ones) seem motivated in their choice of candidate by a very narrow set of issues. Specifically abortion and gay marriage.

I've expressed my views on abortion before, so I won't bother going into that. Gay marriage is a topic for another day. My only point is that making a decision based on one issue, regardless of what that issue is, is dangerous. Abortion is important, nobody is denying that, but when you consider the economy, the war(s), healthcare, etc., voting based on your pro-life views alone is(again, just my opinion) moronic at best and catastrophic at worst. It's not that simple. Our current state of affairs is too complicated to pick an issue and form all of your opinions based on that.

I'm not condemning conservatives, endorsing Obama, or anything of the sort. My personal views aren't important and to be honest, I'm not sure who I'll vote for. That, again, is beside the point.


Eight years ago I was in church waiting for the sermon to end. My pastor at the time commented on the upcoming election and said the following,
"Some churches will tell you that if you're a Christian, you'll vote Republican. Other churches will tell you that if you're a Christian, you'll vote Democrat. All I'm going to tell you is this - Vote your conscience, but vote."

I agree 100%. All I'm saying is that your conscience should be informed.

I'm tossing around the idea of articles concerning Gay Marriage and Music. Can't seem to settle on one. Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Let's try something new.

I was driving on I-90 the other day, right through the heart of downtown San Antonio. I saw a road sign which gave me pause. Not literally, because I was driving. You get the idea. I've done my best to recreate it using my rudimentary graphic artistry skills, shameful as they are.

I realize this is a poorly done, embarrassing rendition of a road sign. You'll have to forgive me. I operate at a level only slightly more advanced than a basic knowledge of MS Paint.

Littering is illegal. It has been for a long long time, and(hopefully) always will be. The fact is that it's just plain bad to throw trash on the ground. Bad for us, bad for the animals, bad for the planet. Bad all around. Most places you pay a fine if you get caught doing it, sometimes a hefty one at that.

I don't know if you've been outside lately but there's still a lot of trash lying around. People are still throwing paper cups and cigarette butts out of their car windows on the highway. Construction workers still leave cans and bottles lying around on work sites. Nobody is really all that concerned about littering. Even the people who don't litter don't really seem all that worried about it, save the folks you see every once in awhile on the side of the highway. Sure, there will always be environmentalists, but the majority of the population doesn't seem to give a flying damn where their candy wrappers end up. I know I don't.

This is a problem, because littering has the proven ability to damage the environment, and we just don't care.

So these fine people, the Texas road authority or whoever, decided to try something new. Instead of yet one more sign that says, “No littering” they innovated. They played with the font size and came up with a thing that, maybe, next time you go to drop something on the ground, you'll remember. They did something memorable.

Christianity is doing a fine job of not being memorable. We recycle the same old words and phrases and methods in our church services, our music, our way of living. A lot of these tried and true formulae are good and sincere and probably make God smile.

But I think a lot more of them make him shake his head and sigh. When did Christian music become this rehashed, recycled, reused mathematical utilitarian recipe with no originality or inspiration to it? When did our church services become predictable and bland? And why the hell aren't we doing anything about it?

Of course plenty of people have already realized or said the same thing. Take Rob Bell, whom you may or may not have heard of. His Nooma video series is both relevant and innovative, combining story telling and visual metaphors with sincere spirituality, tackling tough issues and core concerns relevant to today's society. He presents himself in a way that is interesting and innovative. He doesn't just write another book or give another sermon saying, “This is the way I think it should be.”

God gave us the ability to create and imagine and innovate. I think we slap him in the face when we fail, even refuse to exercise it. How sad it is when anti-littering propaganda makes more of an impression on me than any number of recent church services. A glimpse at a road sign, lasting perhaps half a second, is more inspiring than an hour long sermon. Wake up, Church. You're asleep at the wheel.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Relevancy, or Godzilla vs. Batman

Some of you may not like this. I know for a fact that some of you will, but I'm sure at least a few people will disagree with me. If such is the case with you, I would encourage you – no, I would ask you – to speak up. Not so we can argue or change each other's minds, but I would really appreciate a look at somebody elses perspective. The same goes for any of the other topics I've touched on.

I believe there are very few things in life which do not strive to be relevant. Music plays on our emotions and personal experiences, becomes relevant to us, and then we spend money on it. Movies and television appeal to our perceptions of what's cool or interesting, and so we spend money on them. Politicians exploit issues and current events to win the loyalty and enthusiasm of the public, becoming relevant to their supporters, and then they prosper.

Relevancy may be one the most powerful forces in existence. Things that are relevant or interesting to the general public tend to warrant more attention than things that aren't. They prosper. They live on, even if not in a tangible form, at the very least in infamy.

Example: I love Godzilla movies. Love them. I've seen most of the twenty eight or so that have been filmed since 1954, and most of the ones I've seen I have on DVD.
Most people on the other hand don't like Godzilla movies. For some reason they find the idea of a suit actor in a dinosaur costume stomping on cardboard buildings to be boring, stupid, and irrelevant, while as far as I'm concerned movies of that genre are about as interesting as you can get. Don't ask me why.
If another Godzilla movie were to be imported to the united states and saw a theatrical release, it probably wouldn't do very well at the box office. The great, great majority of people wouldn't bother with it. I would, some my friends probably would, but most people would not.

Now imagine what the public response would be if another Batman movie were released. Dark Knight just slaughtered at the box office, and it was a really good movie. So if in another year or so, another Batman movie comes out(which, fingers crossed, it will) it would probably make millions and millions of dollars and be loved by most of the people who see it. The same people who wouldn't give the time of day to Godzilla vs. Some Other Monster would probably flip over the release of Batman: Please God Let It Still Be Christian Bale.

I believe the reason is because Batman, unlike Godzilla, is relevant. Godzilla doesn't appeal to what people want or enjoy or find interesting. Godzilla isn't a character you can identify with. Godzilla is just a big dumb lizard who makes a lot of noise, breaks things, and spits atomic fire from his gaping maw.

Batman on the other hand is the ideal personification of human ingenuity and physical ability. He's strong, fast, smart, and by all accounts, nigh-unstoppable, and he doesn't even have super powers. He's something or someone that most everybody can identify with, because everybody wants to be Batman, in one sense or another. Don't tell me you don't, because you'd be lying.

Nobody wants to be Godzilla.

So by this point you might be asking yourself why I've devoted four paragraphs to a comparison between Godzilla and Batman. You may have even stopped reading. If you're still with me, then good for you. Hang in there.

My point is simple: The Church, like most other things in life, strives to be relevant. We want the message of love and hope and forgiveness which is the foundation of Christianity to mean something to people. We want them to feel that Jesus' message can be and is a part of their daily lives. And this, I believe, is a worthy and potentially obtainable goal. We CAN reach people, we CAN be relevant. We've done it in the past.

Unfortunately though, the Church, more often than not, seems to completely blow off Batman's example. We don't identify with people. We don't portray ourselves in a way that people can relate to. We achieve no real, large scale success in being something that people can understand, and as long as we continue, we will never, never be relevant.

As far as I'm concerned, Jesus' life was the most relevant thing in our history. It put us back in touch and gave us direct contact with our creator, something we hadn't had for thousands of years. This is what Christians believe. In addition, we believe we're supposed to share said belief with the rest of the world. And in in attempting to do so, our words often fall on deaf ears.

I could give you any number of reasons as to why I think this is, but in my mind the main reason is that the rest of the world doesn't see us or our message as relevant. Our beliefs don't seem to pertain to peoples lives. What we say doesn't make sense. We come across as spewing irrelevant babble in the form of folk tales and moral principles which, in today's society, seem outdated, stupid, and unimportant. And when we express our beliefs with the vehemency which many attempts at “evangelism” often are, we end up turning people off to Christianity altogether. We either accomplish nothing, or even worse, are counter-productive in our efforts to share the truth of the single most beautiful and miraculous thing to occur on Planet Earth.

We act too much like Godzilla. We talk too loud, say too much, and shut ourselves off in our own little worlds with our bookstores and record companies and T-shirts and social clubs. We make it all about us. Like a mutant atomic dinosaur stomping on Tokyo, we make it all about us. We become irrelevant.

And then we do one better, by taking logos from things like Reese's and Starbuck's and photoshopping them to say things Jesus and Serve-me. I'm not kidding. These are actual T-shirts.

I saw a shirt in a Christian book store a couple weeks ago with a screen print of a cowboy riding a bull at a rodeo. At the top it said, “I can stand anything for eight seconds.”

And then at the bottom it bigger, bolder letters(but the same font) it said,
“Except Hell.”

And then there was some verse about the wages of sin.

And I stood there, mouth nearly agape, scratching my head asking myself how, in a million years, we can ever hope to be relevant when this is medium through which the world sees us.

I realize that we shouldn't just roll over and say to the rest of the world, “OKAY YOU'RE RIGHT” on anything, but for decency's sake, can't we at least not use our faith as an excuse to stick out like a blue swan?

I just made that up, blue swan.

I submit to you that if we meld our faith and our values with a practical world view, and stop all this microcosmic, “it has to be all about old-time religion” crap, then the church would have a much better shot at being seen as a relevant and significant part of modern society.

I know that the cowboy T-shirt isn't the standard. I know that a lot of Christians don't think that coming within a hair's breadth of copyright infringement is going to change the world for the better. But I also know that we need to meet people where they are, and I think it's impossible to do that as long as we make a spectacle of ourselves and wear weird T-shirts and adamantly refuse to listen to secular music and then chock it all up to being faithful.

A friend of my sisters bites her nails. Once while attending a homeschool group outing, one of the mothers of another kid saw her biting her nails. The woman rushed up in a frenzy, demanded that the girl place her hands on the car, and then proceeded to pray, loudly, that God would give her the strength not to bite her nails, and then continued to pray, loudly, saying the same thing over and over again, but with different phrasing. Right there in the middle of a skating rink parking lot.

Could we get any stranger?

I am not so arrogant as to assume that I'm the only one who's ever said or thought this. Plenty of other people have said the same or similar things(see 1 Corinthians 9:22), but this particular topic, for whatever reason, hits home with me. Every church service I attend I find myself trying to see it from the eyes of someone who's never been to church before, and often, from that perspective, I become bored, irritated, and confused. Sometimes I even become that way from my own perspective.

I don't have a solution. I don't even have a suggestion. My goal is not to be combative or overly negative, and I'm sorry if this rubs you the wrong way. But can't we at least consider that maybe we've missed something, somewhere, and start looking for ways to make the church more real? More relate-able? More Relevant?

(1 Corinthians 9:22)
“To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some.”

Blue swans and white swans had a hard time relating to each other.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Two wrongs don't make a right and being the loudest won't stop abortion.

In most Christian circles abortion is thought of as a bad thing. I agree. But I'm not going to spend the next few paragraphs telling you why or trying to convince you to agree with me. We all know that enough cyberspace and oxygen are already devoted to that. What I'd like to do instead is talk about our - the Christians' - response to abortion, and why a lot of us are failing miserably at making a positive impact.

Before I continue I should emphasize that by no measure do I mean to make light of what is a very serious issue. If I seem flippant or as though I'm trivializing, then I apologize with all due sincerity. Abortion is a serious thing no matter what side you're on.

In 1993 a group of antiabortionists protested outside a clinic in Pensacola, FL. They waved signs and chanted and shouted and did all the other stuff that we typically associate with an antiabortion protest. As the doctor who ran the clinic was walking from the front door to his car, a man in the crowd "prayed for the doctor's soul" and then stepped forward out of the group and shot the doctor three times in the back, killing him.

When I was in high school I took a government and economics class(Not at home. This one had other folks and a teacher I wasn't related to.) It was a Christian class taught by and for other Christians. One day we talked about abortion and weighed both sides of the issue and just kinda tossed it around.
The teacher told us a true story about an elderly Christian woman who spent a lot of her time in abortion clinics. What she did was hang out in the waiting room with cookies or brownies that she had baked, sitting down with the women who were there and talking with them. Finding out their stories, who they were and where they were from, why they were getting an abortion, so on and so forth. She never tried to change their minds, never told them they were committing a sin. Some of them changed their minds, decided to raise their kids themselves or put them up for adoption. Others went through with the procedure.

I believe the following with every fiber of my being: One old woman sharing brownies and taking the time to listen to a confused and scared teenage girl is more powerful than a million people waving signs and screaming on capital hill.

We love protests, we Christians do. Gay Marriage, Abortion, Scientology, Terri Schaivo. Give us a cause and we'll give you a sign made out of poster board. The thing is in all of these examples, protesting hasn't changed anything. (And just for the record, I'm not talking about Scientology or Gay Marriage. That's for another day.)

Put yourself in the shoes of a sixteen year old girl on your way to an abortion clinic. You're scared, confused and maybe feeling guilty. You've put a lot of time and thought into the decision you've made and you're gonna go through with it. You pull up to the clinic, and instead of seeing the empty parking lot you were hoping for and expecting, you see several dozen people who look like they might tear you to pieces if they so much as suspect you're about to walk through the doors of the clinic.
But you've made you're decision and you're sticking to it, so you get out of the car and walk to the door. On your way there, people run up to you and hand you tracts. They start spewing medical facts at you about when a fetus' heart starts to beat or quote that scripture about how God knew you in the womb. Or, if they're really zealous, they try to keep you from entering the clinic. Maybe they even threaten you.
You were already scared and confused. Now in addition you're feeling alienated and humiliated. And on top of all that, you've just been blasted with an extremely negative side of the church and Christianity in general.

I could be wrong – and I mean that, I could - but I find it difficult to believe that Jesus would be okay with this kind of behavior.

Now consider the same scenario as the one above, but this time, instead of the Christians being outside the clinic en mass, there are only one or two of them, inside the clinic, and after you've been in the waiting room for a few minutes, one of them comes and sits next to you, asks you your name, and takes the time to listen to you. And they care, they genuinely care when you tell them your story. Who are you more likely to listen to?

And on a grander scale, who would you say looks more like Jesus?

I'm not saying that we should never protest or stand up for what we believe in. We should all do as God calls us to do, regardless of what that means, and just because I think protesting abortion is a bad idea doesn't mean no one ever should. That's not the point.

My point is that we were called to love.

We've been waving signs and chanting and shouting for years now, and nothing has changed. What if we stopped protesting and yelling and alienating people, and took a step back and looked at things in more practical terms?

What if we spent more time and money and energy raising awareness about adoption and foster care, or sponsoring support programs for young and single mothers, or at least trying to understand the issue a little better?

You can't stop with "it's murder", because there's more to it than that. If it were that simple it'd be illegal. And even if you disagree, there are people for whom the issue is more complicated. And aren't they the ones we should be trying to reach?

One of these days abortion may be outlawed. There are plenty of people in Washington who would love to see that happen. But even if it isn't, we still have the ability to make a difference for the positive.

And we can do it without a megaphone.

Luke 6:31

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

I don't want people waving signs at me, and megaphones hurt my ears.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Us vs Them

There's a popular sentiment that seems to run deep within most Christian circles. I've experienced it for much of my life, and felt it on a personal and ambient level. If we're to be honest, most will probably agree that it's nearly as old as the organized church itself. In a sense I think it's a natural, even sensible way to feel, but only in a certain context and to a certain degree. As it exists now I'd call it unhealthy, dangerous even, and I believe that if the church ever hopes to really be relevant in the contemporary world, the state of mind I'm about to touch on should be done away with all together.

The thing I'm talking about is this: The general attitude, the feeling of "Us vs. Them". Like any group or organization, Christianity can be, and often is, an extremely separatist entity. We have a tendency to make our events and music and even our way of speaking esoteric and exclusive. We see ourselves as being separate from the rest of the human population, and I'll give that yeah, in a way, we are.
But here's the thing - we're all human. I can't count the number of times I've heard the phrase, "non-Christian friends" used in a negative, almost derogatory context. I mean sure, if somebody asks, then say "No, so and so doesn't go to church." "No, so and so doesn't believe in God". But why does it have to be such a big deal?

A couple years back I and a few friends hosted a new years party at the church. It was a last minute, spur of the moment thing, and we called everybody that day to invite them. It wasn't a church sponsored event, but we got permission from the pastor to use the building. We invited somewhere near twenty people and everybody brought snacks and drinks so that we didn't have a spend a bunch of money on food. The plan was that we'd all meet there around seven, and probably stay the night, so as to avoid the danger that comes from driving home on new years eve after midnight. Drunk drivers and all, you get the picture.

Neil and I were the ones that put it together, and Neil and I have for several years had a lot of friends in common. We worked at Target together, and so we invited a bunch of people from work. We went to youth group together, and so we invited a bunch of people from church. Do you see where the chemistry is going? Two groups, two dichotomies - a bunch of church people and a bunch of not-church people.

At first I thought, hey, this is a great idea. This is the perfect opportunity for us to show my non-christian friends that we're not all uptight and unfriendly. We'll show them how cool the church can be to outsiders and maybe, just maybe, they'll show up on a Sunday. In high school, I was very naive.

I'll say first that we, overall, had a good time. A lot of people showed up and most everybody enjoyed themselves.

But instead of the two groups mixing and melding and bonds being formed that would bridge the gap between "christian" and "secular", all of my christian friends hung out in one of the offices(which we weren't even supposed to have access to) while all my friends from work stayed out in the main room and enjoyed each other's company. Everybody from work felt shunned. I later asked them(the church people) why they'd even bothered to show up, since the message they sent was that they weren't even interested in what was going on. The general attitude that several of them had was that they weren't happy about all these strange people being in their building, and they didn't like that they and these other people had so little in common. Perhaps I'm being presumptuous, but several of my friends from work later asked me exactly what the problem was and what they had done wrong. To me it was a disaster.

It's my opinion that the entire fiasco took place because Christians spend way too much time focusing on how "different" we are. We think that because we've met Jesus and we spend a lot of time and church and we try to exercise self control and whatever else you want that we're somehow on a different playing field. That the people outside of our religious circles are somehow of a different species. I doubt you'll find many Christians who profess to this as a matter of principle, but I'd wager that if we were honest with ourselves and each other, that most of us probably feel this way on some level. And the proof of it is in our behavior, as I've already illustrated.

The fact of the matter is that we're all the same. We're all human. We're all descended from the same thing, whether you believe in Adam and Eve or primates that learned to hunt with clubs. We're all sinners, we all screw up, and Jesus died for all of us. Believing in him or not believing in him doesn't make you any less or more of a person. It doesn't put you in a separate category. They're just two different ways of thinking(and hopefully) living, and when we forget this, the results can be embarrassing at least and catastrophic at worst.

It's my firm belief that if we focused on the fact that we're all the same, and work at integrating the belief of it into our lives and way we deal with people, then the church would probably have a lot more credibility. If we stopped ridiculing our fellow Christians for hanging out with their, "non-Christian" friends, then we'd probably have a much better chance of connecting with said non-Christian friends. We'd probably have a better chance of getting them through the front door of the church building. And even if they don't stay, at least they'd know we don't resent them for not agreeing with us.

There is no Us, and there is no Them. It's ALL of us. It's We. And We can't afford to forget that.

Romans 3:23
"for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God"
As far as I'm concerned, that's a a pretty cut and dry statement.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

This is either a great idea, or a waste of time

I think we need to apologize.

I think we need to admit that we messed up.

I think we need to stop getting caught up in the details and get back to the point of the Christianity thing.

That point being Jesus. That point being forgiveness. That point being that if we screw up, it's OKAY, because two thousand years ago, the son of God took responsibility for our failings.

To that memory and for his sake we do our best to live our lives in a way that would make him proud. To live in a way that demonstrates his love for us to the world we live in.

But unfortunately, we're flawed, sinful people, and every day, we do stupid things that make Jesus look like nothing more than Pam Anderson's homeboy. We make mistakes - a lot of them.

Some of them are fleeting, like when we cut someone off in traffic, while the back of our car sports an icthus. Some are devastating, like the Inquisition or the crusades.

We never - ever - know what kind of an impact we're going to have on the world around us, and so often, that impact is a negative one.

So before we run off to Africa with bags of oatmeal or invite our friends to church, lets admit something, all of us, together.

We're Sorry.