Today is Halloween and Reformation Day. I didn't have time to post extensively on either (and I was getting tired of annually posting about the "Reformation Polka"), so here's some Reformation fun: Reformation memes.
It's fun to imagine the collision of Renaissance culture and modern cyberspace. I wish I had discovered these last year.
You can read the rest of them here, and it might be only the surface.
I have to be honest. It feels like integrity is dwindling in the news. Quotes are taken out of context and blown out of proportion. Stories are twisted and rephrased to feed the trolls and tribes of social media. Plus, there's kitsch and hoaxes everywhere. Ironically, in this "information age," I have to accept the fact that there's so much I don't know about a certain incident across the country, no matter how much others read into it.
This happened with the Pope in the past few days. (I don't want to start a creation-evolution debate here). TIME Magazinenoted how much people got it wrong.
In grad school, I was taught about a disturbing new trend. In past times, when an archaeological find was uncovered, its validity and legitimacy was thoroughly reviewed by a circle of scholarship. If it passed, then it made it to the press and the rest of the world. That's not the case now. In our Twitter sound-byte culture, rumors, half-truths and even falsehoods get published everyday. For example, the "lost tomb of Jesus" and the "Gospel of Jesus's Wife" weren't legitimate (the former's research was even laughable), but they were good news that got a lot of clicks.
So yeah, the Truth of the Bible and a lot of good truths about what the Church is doing in the world today are not getting good press, but I know these aren't the only victims of mass media. And here's one perspective on what to do about it.
Here's a very good article on work and passion as worship. Over a cup of coffee, Wendell—an entrepreneur with a PhD in biomedical engineering—told me that he was thinking about making a career change. “I don’t want to waste my life,” he said. “I want to do something that has real significance, where I can glorify God and actually love people.” He went on to ask me if I thought he should become a pastor, a missionary, or a nonprofit leader—jobs he thought really mattered in God’s economy. HT: Jim Mullins
There is plenty of room within orthodoxy to be creative, to think, re-think, and re-express the faith given in Scripture, canonized in the creeds, and articulated in the confessions. So as a theologian, I want to play within the safe zone, but in that zone there’s a lot of playground to have fun spinning around on! You can read the rest of the interview here. Thoughts? HT: Dave Dunham and Michael Bird
The work of The Veritas Forum has made its way to The Daily Beast. You can read about it here. A few years ago, I finished reading through a very inspirational devotional book that was produced, in part, by members of TheVeritas Forum. I'm very happy that it exists, and I hope that it can encourage Christians not to shy away from academia, and model the type of civil and peaceful dialogue for the rest of the country as faith and culture continue to clash. The work of Veritas demonstrates that faith can survive, and even thrive, on America’s college campuses. HT: Jonathan Merritt, Kirsten Powers and Ed Stetzer
With the rise and success of LeCrae, even though "Christian rap" has been around for decades, some Christian bloggers are asking (as if for the first time) questions about the intersection of Christianity and rap music, questions I thought were fairly well-answered years ago.
But, despite such a question being in the subtitle, I appreciate this Christian college dean's story of coming to know and appreciate "Christian rap" music.
Clever bit from The Onion. HOUSTON—Shedding light on the suspected league-wide officiating trend, a new study published Wednesday by researchers at Baylor University has suggested that NFL referees may in fact display a clear bias toward disciplined football teams. “According to our analysis of officiating decisions over the past several seasons, referees do appear to distinctly favor teams that exhibit poise and play in accordance with NFL rules and regulations,” said lead researcher Randall Levitz, explaining that on-field rulings disproportionately punish teams that frequently jump offsides, engage in excessive celebrations, or shove opponents after a play is blown dead. “In any given game, for example, the team that repeatedly delivers cheap-shot late hits on the opposing quarterback is targeted for roughing the passer penalties far more often than the team that does not do that. And accordingly, maintaining focus and professionalism throughout all four quarters yields a distinct and, frankly, totally unfair competitive advantage.” The study went on to confirm that the blatant officiating bias has directly affected the outcome of virtually every game involving the Detroit Lions over the past five seasons.
Hillsong United's "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)", even though it's more than two years old, is still popular to sing and to talk about. In my worship leader circles, the debate centered around how singable it was by a congregation, and then how to match its balance of ambience and energy. Recently, a Christian blogger, Annie Downs, pointed out something about the lyrics in an article that's been going around cyberspace, Stop Singing "Oceans".
Downs's problem isn't with the song itself, but with the hearts of the congregants who sing it. Do they really, honestly mean it when they sing through that challenging bridge? Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander, that my faith would be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior. That's giving God license to challenge and refine you, including by proverbial fire. So yeah, Downs has a good point.
But "Oceans" is far from alone in having strong, honest and worshipful lyrics that we may not think through singing (but we should). Here's a list of popular worship lyrics (both recent and from hymnody) that also may fall in this category.
"Lord, strip it all away, 'til only You remain" -Simplicity, Rend Collective
"Go, then, earthly fame and treasure! Come, disaster, scorn and pain! In Thy service, pain is pleasure; with Thy favor, loss is gain." -Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken
"If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus 'tis now." -My Jesus I Love Thee
The Holy Scriptures have the good news of the Gospel, but they also convict us of our sin and challenge us with a call to God-directed sacrificial living. It's good that both hymns of old and modern praise songs are reflecting that balance.
Can you add any challenging praise lyrics to this list?
It seems that two recent events have really sparked more discussion on "Christian film" and even general Christian subcultural production. First, there was LeCrae's new album Anomaly, its success and his statements about Christian art. Now, there's the (non-Christian and Christian) lambasting of the new Left Behind movie.
I admit that I'm a bit surprised at the voices rising up to defend the artistic output of Christian subculture. I think it's good that discussions are getting deeper into artistic philosophy and vision when it comes to Christian art. Here are some links to some of the discussion:
Defenders of Christian subcultural film and art are correct to point out the artistic shallowness and moral vacancy that plagues most of the commercialized entertainment industry, and I wouldn't find it hard to believe, personally, that there might be a bit of prejudice against "Christian film" among reviewers. However, I really think that an improvement of Christian subcultural production is possible when we ask (and try to answer) the hard theological and artistic questions. What makes a film "Christian"? What is this art's purpose? To entertain, affirm, evangelize, disciple, and/or make a certain statement (all the while keeping in mind that too much "purpose" can easily detract artistic integrity)? In better answering these questions as artists and consumers, I'll be brave to say that there's could be a day where reviewers don't lambaste Christian art.
Like Trevin Wax, the contemporary Christian music of the late 90's and early 00's defined most of my teen years, though mine heavily toward Tooth & Nail Records and the like rather than what was on the WOW albums. I was still, though, very familiar with Jennifer Knapp's music and testimony, and I made it to the back of a moshpit for her showing at Cornerstone 2000. Many of my youth group friends were very moved by her testimony and her music.
Trevin Wax wrote a very good review of what looks like a very revealing autobiography, Facing the Music. You can read it here.
There's yet another unique (and maybe promising) contribution to the increasing list of what could be considered Christian films. "The Song" is a modern tale based on the song of Solomon, and no - it's not what you're thinking. The film seems to be a blend of nods to Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and Proverbs that will strike a chord (pun fully intended) with its viewers. Sandwiched between two major studio productions about biblical legends (Noahand Exodus) is an independent film about the rise and fall of the ancient Hebrew king, Solomon. While The Song lacks the artistic depth of Noah and the presumably jaw-dropping special effects of Exodus, it may have more heart and real-world value than either one. You can read the rest of the review here. The movie's website is here. (PG-13).
Perhaps in honor of its 30th anniversary, it's been announced that there will be a Tetris movie, adding a curious entry into the growing list of film adaptations of video games.
I'll have to level with you. How they'll put together the script, to me, is quite puzzling. They probably have enough to build upon. I hope everybody remembers their lines. Will it be filmed in 3D? Is it being filmed from Russia with fun? Will the sequel be called "Next"? Okay, I'll stop with the puns and give you guys to think of a few.
I've written about this before, but Jon Acuff provided a light-hearted but important reminder that we, as Christians, shouldn't "stink at grace."
I run into these situations and realize I stink at grace: 1. When someone walks across an intersection I'm at and doesn't hustle. 2. When you poorly wrap my burrito. 3. When someone is slow to get off a plane.
You can read his explanations here. Can you think of any other examples where we can show more grace?
Here's an interesting take on LeCrae's new album and the concept of Christian rap. I wouldn't agree with everything said in this article, but it has some interesting points.
Who is Lecrae? He has the no. 1 album in the United States. That album,Anomaly, is classified as Christian rap, because he’s widely thought of as a Christian rapper.
Not a rapper who is Christian, but a Christian rapper.
In addition to topping the Billboard 200, Anomaly holds the no. 1 spot on the gospel charts (his sixth album to do so) and the no. 1 spot on the Christian charts (his fifth album to do so). He is the first person to pull off this feat. And it very much is that: a feat.