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I find myself exploring my music collection again, having just added two new selections--The Killers' Hot Fuss, and The All-American Rejects' Move Along. I believe it's possible that The All-American Rejects are rejected (ha ha) out of hand by purist fans of the genre--whatever it is--because the vocals and production are so clean. But it's melodically beautiful to me. And anyone who knows me knows clean production moves my spirit. [Side rant: I hate when people get pretentious about popular music. I automatically hate Radiohead since some fans seem so intent on defining themselves in opposition to others' tastes. Not fair, I know.] Fitting that I have Creed playing right now. I figured out why so many people liked/like Creed, including myself: 1. Clean production 2. beautiful guitar arrangements 3. Spiritually ambiguous lyrics that hint at a kind of inoffensive American evangelicalism. (3) could be bad...hmmm. And did you ever notice that, as popular mainstream
I was reading Reason magazine online yesterday, and it made me mad. (Reason magazine is published by people who call themselves "libertarians"--advocates of largely unregulated capitalism, personal liberty, and a radically smaller federal government.) I don't disagree with Reason much, as my friends know. But this opinion concerned Terri Schiavo. You remember her, the severely disabled Florida woman who was at the center of a battle to remove her feeding tube, because she was allegedly brain-dead. I saw video footage of Terri--some current, some from several years back. I can't escape my initial reaction: "She looks alive to me." And I can't see the argument that she wasn't alive, nor that her 'quality of life' was so poor that we're saving her and ourselves pain and trouble by ending her life. I thought the Roman Catholic teaching on life and death was especially on-point here--embodied in a homily by (I think) the Archbishop of Denver,
I was thinking about Counting Crows, and this great batch of lines from a song of note: She looks up at the building/says she's thinkin' a jumpin'/she says she's tired of life/she must tired of somethin'. I can think of exactly twice in my whole life when the thought of ending it all crossed my mind. (That still probably means there's something horribly wrong with me. Fine.) But it's weird how Jesus being Lord is this ever-present reality saying, "No!" to that kind of thinking. I didn't even know or belong to Jesus that first time. But somebody told me somehow that I'd miss out on something important, that my life had true consequence. Our true hope in life is resurrection and consummation. It's not really religious or theological at all in the end. Just reality. I'm not even remotely sad about anything, in case you're wondering. I was just reflecting on how pain and suffering has seemed to bring clarity to me in my life. Becaus
An extremely rough beginning to an essay I'm preparing... 1 Corinthians 11:23-30 In Brief Before beginning the task of exegesis, it seems proper for me to explain my choice of this passage, as well as to establish some possible applications for future ministry. In this, we ought to find the endeavor both stimulating and rewarding. This particular passage is set in a specific context, one limited by the sins of the Corinthians described in the preceding section, verses 17-22. In short, there was a lack of sharing at the common meal that coincided with the Supper, making a mockery of their equality in Christ, divisions, and a general lack of awareness as to the Supper’s purpose. Bruce noted that the verbs in the first part of verse 23 (receive, deliver) indicate the transmission of oral tradition. Also, the words following (and those in Mark’s Gospel) were established parts of the liturgies of churches. That is to say, the occasion of the meal was, in some manner, more weighty th
Ever since I embraced conservative political thought, it seemed very important to dissociate legitimate policy discussion from the baser inclinations of man. That is, it's not hard to arrive at a decidedly non-liberal issue position from a bad motive. Have you ever talked with someone who agreed with you for all the wrong reasons? That's upsetting. But I still think that a robust conservatism can embody all the good things we can envision. That's why it pains me to write what will soon follow. But first, let me heap a pile of scorn onto those candidates who tried to downplay/weasel out of their support for the Iraq war. The candidate I am about to mention is no exception. Even so, the painful reality is this: Lt. Gov. Michael Steele lost the Maryland Senate race because he is black. Mr. Barone of Fox News did faithfully report that Steele was dramatically underperforming in Republican strongholds across Maryland. It cannot be said that the "Democratic year" was r
Take a gander at this comment from Newsweek. What a pathetic parade of mindless words. If anyone cares to examine the foolishness with which the last Iraq conflict was concluded, we ought to lament what is about to occur in Iraq. The very same fools who didn't finish the task the first time are about to 'finish' it again--further undermining the president's efforts there. More importantly, our premature leaving will dishonor our country again, as in Vietnam. But Ms. Davis feels a need to preen, and take cheap shots at the First Family. Whether we have lost our will to succeed in Iraq based on bad news reporting, or the mounting toll, Mark Steyn was right: This is 'the end of the American moment.' Why should anyone trust America's word? If a strongman kills the budding democracy there in Iraq, who among us would celebrate? But we have killed it. We killed it on Tuesday night. When its great champion surrounds himself with those who would have never given it
The election was a somewhat bitter pill the other day, but there were a ton of bright spots (mostly) unrelated to policy. Consider: --This January, a woman will hold the Speaker's gavel for the first time ever as Speaker of the House. (And that is good, even if I don't think in group identity terms.) --An ardent Catholic anti-abortion Republican lost his Senate seat...to an ardent Catholic anti-abortion Democrat. I'm not Catholic, but in terms of life and death, more ardent Catholics=better country. --Heath Shuler, an evangelical Christian and former NFL quarterback, was elected to the House. --Arnold is still the Governator. I probably wouldn't vote for him, but hey, doesn't it just prove how great (and frankly, cool) America really is? --We got to see Bill Kristol become the John Madden of political coverage. --Continuing my unrestrained endorsement of Fox News, (sorry) have you ever been as comforted by so dour-seeming a man as Brit Hume? But admit it, he&#
I face the daunting task of exegeting (er, extracting the meaning out of) 1 Cor 11:23-30, as I have said. As I looked at a few commentaries, it seemed interesting that the sins mentioned just prior had little to do with minor errors in practice; rather, they were reflective of a disregard of the inherent dignity present in their brothers and fellow communicants. I'll not comment much further, as to avoid having to cite someone! But interesting it is to note that, in order to observe rightly, we must consider others. Indeed, consider them better than ourselves. And Christ the Anchor holds us together. I don't know myself without somehow knowing and loving my brothers and sisters. I cannot know Christ without taking a moment to ponder those others for whom He also died. If Christ gave his life without hesitation, how can I bring a charge against another without seeing my sin first? Is this not what we were taught? I use high words because this is not a time to be unclear. I must
I was searching for a notebook; it's a notebook that would contain my notes and reflections on four English renderings of 1 Cor 11:23-30 (look it up for yourself) as a small part of an exegetical paper I'm writing. In the course of my fruitless searching, I found some music: She Must And Shall Go Free, by Derek Webb. I said, "Geez, I haven't listened to this since 'W' carved up a certain French-looking Senator from Massachusetts." I thought it had been lost or stolen. So, I put it in my computer, 'ripping' the tracks to my extensive library. Now, before I say this, let me say this other thing: I am a HUGE fan of Caedmon's Call. I believe the whole gaggle of them are among the more accomplished songwriters and musicians on the planet at this point in time. And Mr. Webb deserves 99% percent of the praise he's received. That said... This album in spots is insufferably pretentious. At what point, and by who's urging, did Derek Webb receive
The St. Louis Cardinals face the New York Mets in the first game of the National League Championship Series tonight at 7:19. The Cards will win in 5 games, and I have five reasons why: 5. The structure of the series. The 2-3-2 format of home/away games means that even in the worst-case scenario (for the Cards) after two games, the Cards can steal the series lead with three home wins. 4. Jim Edmonds. He's gonna catch everything in center field. And though the national media makes much of his apparent decline offensively, he has a unique knack for clutch hitting. 3. Starting pitching. Jeff Weaver will begin for St. Louis against Tom Glavine. This is the only matchup which even appears to favor New York. Yet the Cardinals have fared well against Glavine, and Jeff Suppan was the best pitcher in the NL over the second half of the season. Chris Carpenter is in top form. New York cannot counter with a comparable ace. 2. Albert Pujols. Can utterly alter a game with one swing. The most
Brief Eulogy and An Evangelical Confession I barely know the name of Oriana Fallaci. I know she’s an author who, in brief, wrote in defense of the West and capitalism. From her perch either in Tuscany or New York City, she often urged her native Italy to shed its socialism and embrace closer ties with the US. From what I was able to glean from reports, she had the guts to call Islam stupid, and present it (at least its most dominant forms) as a direct threat to society as we know it. Sure, she and I could find things to agree upon politically, but people who stir the pot semi-constructively at least are cool in my book. We lost her on September 15. We’re not perfect as a nation, or as a Western culture, but maybe it is time to stop apologizing, in terms of asserting our right to exist. Neither our colossal failures, nor others’ perceptions of those failures mean that we must assent to self-flagellating nihilism. Though I do respect human beings and the questions of existence that must
After spending an evening at the home of a successful businessperson, the fellas and I went to Harpo's to sing karaoke on Saturday. Jay said he'd buy me a shot of something if I sang "Cherish" by Kool and the Gang. You all know I'd do it anyway:) So I did. I wasn't terribly impressed with myself, but I love that song. Apparently, so did the rest of the bar. (On the other hand, we took the place over.) I'm always singing it, which suggests two things, both of which are true: I love memorable love songs with catchy choruses, and I'm a hopeless romantic, bound for some kind of puncture to my sappy idealism. Lord-willing, it will happen once I'm stuck with her, and I love her too much to run away. Marriage, in other words. Perhaps that is its own foolish idealism. No matter. I strike thee down, cynicism! I laugh in thy face, devil, destroyer of all good things.
Rev. Travis Tamerius is writing a book about savoring God in the ordinary things of life. I eagerly await his return from sabbatical, and the opportunity to discuss the things he's found. For all I know, he's back now. Anyway, my ordinary things consisted of drinking a beer with my brother, discussing our business, and surveying the National League pitching matchups for the evening. Do you think that with all the trouble and pain in the world right now, I should concern myself with baseball ? Actually, I do. There are legions of people who could care less about baseball, or any other sport. That's regrettable, since we are not simply creatures of intellect, but of passion and emotion. Since I can't seem to connect with Mozart or Dali, I find kinship with Pujols and Maddux. (Note: Maddux has yet to surrender a hit since being traded to the Dodgers.) Bono lent his voice to some commercials touting soccer's ability to stop wars, so I feel fairly safe mildly asserting b
I'm gonna go running willy-nilly through the theological forest for a little while, if that's alright. It all started in Greek class, looking at 1 John 2:2. If you are familiar at all with the Calvinist-Arminian controversy, this will be enthralling. If not, I'll do my very best to come up with something humorous along the way. In English, 1 John 2:2 says, "He is the propitiation/expiation for our sins, and not only our sins, but the sins of the whole world." I put both words there because big things are hanging upon which one you choose. It is, as they say, the whole point. Little note: The NIV rendering of the word in question (transcribed, 'ilasmos') as 'atoning sacrifice' sort of dodges the issue, but garden-variety definitions of atonement and propitiation are useful. (You may notice that atonement and expiation mean the same thing.) My sense in reading these is that expiation/atonement is a kind of general cleansing, while propitiation deno
I got inspired to write another post about popular music. I don't remember when I bought The Collection by Amy Grant. Maybe Rev. Russ Ramsey told me to buy it when I said, "Heart In Motion kicks the living crap out of all her Christian stuff." I took it as a challenge. Anyway, I had never listened to any of it until tonight, except for "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" and "El Shaddai." So I heard this song called, "Where Do You Hide Your Heart?" and it was OK, but I had a funny thought: Doesn't it sound like Amy got mugged by Christopher Cross and Jeffrey Osbourne on the way to the studio? "SAAAAAILLLLLLLLING, takes me AWAAAAAAAAAAAAAY, to where I always heard it could be..." "On the wings of LOVE, only the two of us together, flying HIGH..." For those untutored wretches (great insult, John Calvin) out there, those quotes are from the two biggest hits by the aforementioned "muggers." If you know these songs
Music Post, ctd: Best Song By A Guy Never Heard From Again: "Walking In Memphis," Mark Cohen Best Album By an Artist Better Known for Attractiveness: "The Woman In Me," Shania Twain Best 'Crossing Over from Christian Music Oblivion' Album: "House of Love," Amy Grant Best 'Secular' Song By Amy Grant: "I Will Remember You" Really Good Vince Gill Album: "When Love Finds You" Best Year For Music During My Lifetime: 1993 Best Environmentalist Song: "Conviction of the Heart," Kenny Loggins Best Boyz II Men Imitation Group: Shai Best Song That Sounds Like It Was Written/Produced By The Bee Gees But Wasn't: "Officially Missing You," Tamia ("All I hear is raindrops/Falling on the rooftops/hey baby, tell me why'd you have to go?/'Cause this pain I feel, it won't go away/and today...I'm officially missing you..." Great song, check it out.) Instrument I'm Playing When
Music post. Top 5 Sappiest Songs Ever: 5. "That's What Friends Are For," Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Dionne Warwick 4. "I'm Still In Love With You," New Edition 3. "Ballerina Girl," Lionel Richie 2. "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," Starship 1. "Cherish," Kool & The Gang Be not deceived into thinking that I'm embarrassed; on the contrary, I love these songs dearly. Onward: Song Most Often In My Head: "Daughters," John Mayer Top 3 Babyface Sound-Alike Songs: (but not him) 3. "Nobody Knows," Tony Rich Project 2. "Lost In You," Chris Gaines/Garth Brooks 1. "Breathe Again," Toni Braxton Top 5 Musicians Reviled By Critics (and loved by me) 5. Mariah Carey 4. Jason Mraz 3. Creed 2. John Mayer 1. Toby Keith Genre that is misunderstood the most: Country New Music (to me) That Is Expanding My Musical Horizons: Saves The Day My Kindred Spirit in Sappiness: David Foster Song That
Back somewhere in the archives of this blog, I posted a paper reacting to a Robert Wuthnow book. Wuthnow is (the second half of the title was ‘Spirituality in America Since the 1950s) a Religious Studies professor from Yale. Wuthnow’s main contention seemed to be that spiritual life in this country broke down into those with ‘dwelling’ and ‘seeking’ ways of conceptualizing relation to God or the Other (if you like). In brief, dwelling was stable, familiar, and generational; seeking is transient, fluid, and in search of a spiritual high. He went on to say that the seekers wanted stability and familiarity, and some dwellers felt their spirituality was stale, or focused on preserving a social order they knew. Fairly ticked off about the lack of depth in pretty much everyone profiled in the book, (either Wuthnow’s fault, or the people) I sought to defend what I understood as the gospel. I called it in part, “A Spirituality of Dwelling in the Incarnation.” We need stability, we need to sto
I got a little annoyed just now; looking through my music files on my computer, I noticed that Windows Media Player had labeled the genre for Jim Brickman’s Destiny as, ‘New Age’. “Well, that’s unacceptable,” I thought, conjuring images of hippies praying to rocks and sticks. “I know Jesus, and if Jim wants to pray to rocks, or have other fans who pray to rocks, well, I guess I can’t stop them. But I can’t look at that.” So, I changed it to ‘Instrumental.’ Which isn’t strictly true; 7 or so tracks have guest vocalists. But hey, Jim plays the piano. Thinking that ‘piano’ was too much of a stretch for a genre, I made my choice. Irony to God’s glory: as I type, “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey is playing. Don’t worry, I won’t:)
O Lord, overcome me. End my sin and rebellion with your ever-present love. Purify me with your Spirit. I need you now, Amen.
The Confusion of Church and Politics in America No, this is not a screed arguing for ‘separation of church and state,’ whatever that means. And it’s not a call for Christians in America to be more leftist (necessarily). And this is most certainly not a call to be more rightist, though we know where my heart is, don’t we? I’m angry about 1 thing today: how we bring political words into the way we speak about God and each other. Have you ever heard someone say, “I left a liberal church/denomination”? I’ve done it millions of times myself. But don’t we mean ‘unfaithful’ or ‘apostate’? Why don’t we say this more often instead? But many of us use ‘liberal,’ wondering why we get identified with the Right. Granted, a lot of us are right-leaning politically, but not all. And in fairness, there’s nothing liberal about it when people abandon the truth of the gospel. Nothing good or progressive at all. Therefore, I commit myself to not using ‘liberal’ when describing ap
Speaking of Babyface, he's my other favorite artist behind Brooks. If you're not into R&B/lite soul, this could be your gateway. I would highly recommend 1993's For The Cool In You, which gave us 5 R&B/pop hit singles, including: the title track, "Never Keeping Secrets," and the haunting, "When Can I See You". Frankly, the albums beginning with 1989's Tender Lover, the aforementioned For The Cool In You , and 1996's The Day, make up perhaps the best three-album set released by someone other than Brooks or George Strait. Here is a partial list of the songs written or produced by Babyface in the 1990s for other artists: "Change The World," (performed by Eric Clapton) "Take A Bow" (Madonna) "Breathe Again" (Toni Braxton) "End of the Road" (Boyz II Men) "I'll Make Love to You" (Boyz II Men) "Baby, Baby, Baby" (TLC) "Pretty Girl" (Jon B) "These Are The Times" (
Music fans, we need to have a talk. Perhaps I should have said 'pop music'. More specifically, those people who consider themselves fans of a certain music legend named Garth Brooks. I've heard one thing these many years: "Man, I love Garth, but the Chris Gaines album was horrible." To which I can only reply: YOU'RE ALL INSANE! Honestly, it's one of the best recordings I've ever heard. The story that came along is irrelevant; it was a movie project collaboration with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds that fell through. (You can hear a testimony to Babyface's pervasive influence on the second track, "Lost in You." Vintage.) I took Brooks' advice: I just listened to the album , willing myself to imagine a new artist that I'd not heard. If that were the case, every music fan in America would say, "Wow, pretty good for a first time." And it was a first time, because it's a pop album. Admit it, the Chris Gaines record
A few suggestions, if I may, for the troubled but proud Kansas City Royals baseball team: 1. Trade Mike Sweeney. This in no way impugns Sweeney, but he makes too much for this team. Even if the trade value is low due to his injuries and age, the money saved will be worth it. 2. Re-acquire Jeff Suppan. He's the kind of pitcher the Royals need: always keeps his team in the game. And since his stats aren't that impressive, he won't break the bank. 3. Hire a great pitching coach. Dave Ricketts or Leo Mazzone (masterminded all those Braves division titles) can't be that attached to their new jobs. 4. Keep Reggie Sanders. The guy wins wherever he goes. It's clubhouse chemistry. That is the beginning of winning: a clubhouse full of guys who like each other. 5. Don't trade any minor-league prospects, ever. Even if St. Louis offers Pujols, don't do it. Most especially not pitchers, ever. 6. Stop making excuses. Oakland and Minnesota are consistently good with simila
Does anyone read this? Does it matter to me? Why or why not? Do ladies read this, like eligible, attractive ones? Is my secret crush reading this right now? Does she know of her status? Does she care? Do I care? I don't know. Should I set it aside to "focus on God"? How do you tell if someone is attracted to you? Do ladies cover it up in spiritual encouragement like guys sometimes do? In a way, I hope so. It makes me feel not as alone in my stupidity (idolatry, ahem). What does 'tradition' mean in the letters to the Thessalonians from Paul? Did Paul have a last name? Did he write 'apostle' on everything next to his name? Was he a bishop? Was he a presbyter? Was he a brother who led the congregation in singing once a month? Or a pulpit minister? (That one's for you, misguided congregationalists.) Was there anything remotely close to Coca-Cola in first-century Judea? Did they advertize? What did Judas Iscariot do for fun? Did he drink the first-century C
If you ever find yourself in Columbia, Missouri, there's more than a few things you ought to do. For instance, your trip would be more complete if you stopped at CJ's on 7th and Broadway for some chicken wings. Or a morning of worship at Christ Our King Presbyterian could change your world on a quiet Sunday. But I want to tell you about a man named Robert Collins. He's a history professor at our quaint University, and he's bleeping incredible. As a friend noted, he actually defends his positions during lecture. The stereotype of a professor filling young minds with his unsubstantiated (usually un-American) opinions doesn't apply to Collins. When I took his History of the 1960s, sure we dealt with the dominant liberalism of the time, giving it a fair airing. Then we critiqued it! Our class had to read Radical Son right alongside The Things They Carried. He even said some nice things about Nixon (which, even from my right-wing perch, takes some doing.) Collins will n
I agree with Martin Luther; Scripture is the final authority because its main subject is God, reconciling all men to Himself through Christ. You’d better come up with a better answer than “just because” when an unbeliever asks why he or she should believe the Bible. This is the real reason why Protestants call the Bible the Word of God. But how many know that? Not too many, I’d judge. It’s not that I’m so smart, but reality’s contours are marked by this: a personal God revealing Himself in history. The Ten Commandments are useless if they weren’t written by God, and a reflection of His character. Seriously, what use does anyone have for manmade rules? Press some fake right-winger about this; you’ll see that they’ll blather on about ordering society, preserving the Republic, and saving families. But equally as obvious will be that noticeable lack of contrition, (repentance) and personal extension of the forgiveness of sins. Such a person doesn’t know Jesus; he is a means to an end. Law
It all began when a friend asked me to look at a book (nice phrase, 'look at a book') for his class--what Mizzou was calling Religious Studies 104 at the time--"The Many Faces of Christology" (the study of interpreting Christ and His work). The introduction struck me, because the author said that he had wrestled through doubt in his twenties, proclaiming himself a Marxist. Yet, he continued to receive Holy Communion, saying that it eventually became a confirmation of his identity. The discovery was union with Christ, and it had never been broken truly. (Marxism in truest form is openly hostile to the gospel; incidentally, so is the humanistic basis of some forms of libertarianism, e.g. Objectivism) As I realize that the plain offer of the gospel is manifest in the bread and cup, it is also apparent that the eucharistic celebration is the confirmation of my identity, of my place in the body of Christ, and the heart of our mission. We cannot make disciples if we do not
The dumbest rap song I've heard in the last hour: "I'm in Love with a Stripper," by some guy. The best one: "When I'm Gone," by Eminem. If Christians stop moralizing for five seconds and actually listen to what people say, we'd love them like Jesus does. There's real life and real pain in this guy's songs. I want to preach to him and hug him every time I hear one of them. My advice is to listen past the bad words, and remember that a real person wrote this whole thing. (And in this case, they tend to be very autobiographical.)
What is inerrancy? What do people mean when they say the word? Does it mean the Bible is an instruction manual? What can we say about a specific text’s application to our lives? Does submitting to the Bible as the only authority lead to an unreasonable doctrinal subjectivism? Do we all become our own popes? Is it good to have one authority (a pope)? Why do we trust the Scripture? Why should we? Is it possible to believe in a Great Tradition of Christian Orthodoxy while holding Scripture paramount? Is there healthy, responsible non-Catholicism out there, or should we all just submit to the Vicar of Christ, and repent for following the man who ‘trampled the Lord’s vineyard’? Am I scaring anyone yet? Am I scaring myself? Yes. Why do “restorationist” (or New Testament) churches scare me more than the Roman Catholic? Why do I feel as though I will never preach or teach anything good that hasn’t already been said? Am I OK with that? Absolutely. Why do I love authority, legitimately constitut