Thoughts on Bullying

The fearful always preyed upon your confidence.
Did they see the consequence? They pushed you around.
The arrogant build kingdoms made of the different ones,
Breaking them til they've become just another crown.

You may have caught the recent news about the death of Tori Swoape, yet another teenager who committed suicide because of school and online bullying. It's sad, sad news.

Bullying is a difficult problem in today's world. We hear the arguments left and right that because of the advent of social media, we are empowering each other to say things one might not have said face to face. Aspects of a changing cultural scene play into another one, making the issue of self esteem and bullying a more complex one that ever before.

My heart is saddened by these stories of bullying. My heart aches for the children who literally think there is no other way out of their difficult situations. I struggle a lot with the concept of bullying, mostly though because I'm convinced its been around for ages. Bullying, as I see it, is not a new thing.

Bullying, as I see it, is no more than a power play. Bullying is not about being cool or lame, smart or dumb, black or white, gay or straight, fat or skinny, or any other way that we distinguish ourselves from some other person. Bullying is simply a play of power in an effort to attain more. It is an attempt to use whatever assets I have to make you feel worse about yours.

It is an effort to draw upon the emotions of others using the skills, talents, and resources at your disposal in order for yourself to be made higher. Bullying is simply power at work.

Isn't our entire society shaped around bullying? Isn't the goal of American society to win over someone else? Isn't the goal to be the most powerful? Isn't that the reason that we continue to have one of the strongest militaries in the world? Hasn't the history of the world involved strong senses of nationalism and power?

The opportunity to surrender before entire annihilation in war is an example of this. The reason one might wave their flag of surrender is because they've been intimidated enough to the point that they can now acknowledge that they cannot win. They cannot go on. The other military has then used their resources to convince you and your military that it is weaker, insufficient, and likely to lose. Resources used to intimidate so that surrender happens and the fight for power is over.

It's no different on the schoolyard. A girl can call another girl a 'slut' because she knows it is a degrading word that others will associate with her enemy. If the term catches on, the girl will no longer be the cool girl anymore, she'll be the 'slut.' When the population turns against you, your own acknowledgment of who you are changes. Your confidence is lost. The power is removed from you.

The same is true of the current rush of gay children committing suicide because of bullying. They're just a normal kid until those who are against them use some sort resource (language, popularity, Scripture) against them so that they draw upon an emotional reaction.

Once someone has lost confidence in who they are, they've forfeited all power. And that power is left for the taking.

I see the attention that the media, social media, and school systems are giving to bullying as more than just an acknowledgment that bullying is wrong and must be stopped. In a very real and tangible way it is an acknowledgment that something is wrong with how we live together. Something always has been wrong with the way we have been.

Nevertheless, bullying is our history. If we believe in a cause, we march for it. We stop traffic. We boycott. We sing hymns to stop meetings. We use our resources to beat down those with power to get our side heard. We can and do (both rightly and not rightly) paint it with the brush of 'justice' but we bully...back and forth, left and right. When we use our resources to force even something as worthy inclusiveness and fairness, we are simply using the same tactics on others that were used against us.

I'd wager that some disagree, but I don't read Jesus as having used resources to draw emptional responses in order to win power. He took the authority that God gave him as his guiding light. With that, he was unwilling to submit to a power play. I'd encourage you to study his trial before his execution to see what I mean. It was (and is) I am very sure, a different way of looking at the world.

As we continue as a society, the trick is to remove the power. The trick is to remove ourselves from a world where power is at stake. We must remove ourselves, perhaps humbling ourselves to death...even death on a cross...because we are unwilling to give into the need for power in this world. If we could approach our disputes as people from an attitude of humility, surely some sort of attitude worthy of God would prevail.

If anything, the attention being given to bullying is bigger than it perhaps realizes it is: it's an acknowledgment that something has to change on a large scale or we are to suffer the devastation of centuries past. Worse, it's likely going against God's will.

We cannot continue fighting violence with violence. We cannot continue to fight bullying with bullying. We've got to change society's understanding of power. Hopefully, that will end the battle. Hopefully, that in turn, will end the suicides.



North Carolina's Amendment One: What's God Got to Do With It?

I spent the last two weeks with WAAAAYYY too many United Methodists. Throughout the weeks, those who supported the church removing its statement, "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" wore colored stoles to show their support. The church attempted to reconcile the hurt it has caused to its gay and lesbian members but was unsuccessful at passing legislation that would help mend the wounds. The church then, in a vote of 61% - 39% voted to keep the language currently in its Book of Discipline. When the vote to remove the 'incompatible' language failed, many who support gay and lesbian full acceptance in the church marched onto the floor and refused to leave until the bishops negotiated with them.

Then I came back to North Carolina.

Amendment One has been all over the news here and throughout the country and those voting to defeat the amendment have been adamant about placing signage in their yards. Honestly, with all the promotion I've seen against the amendment, I didn't think it had a chance at passing.

News flash: Bryant underestimates the conservatism in North Carolina.

The best part of any breaking news story in 2012 is the mass amount of Facebook and Twitter trolling that occurs. When Bin Laden was killed, my news feed was split. When Obama cancelled NASA efforts, one would have thought they were calling for his resignation. The same was true today when I watched Amendment One pass with flying colors. Whoa.

My favorite argument: "This is God's plan. This is how God wants it to be."

GOD'S PLAN?!? WHAT DOES God HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS? Last time I checked, America was based on personal liberties, the right to not be under some sort of monarchical rule, and the right to not be told what religion to practice.

Friends, as I see it, America gave up on God A LONG TIME AGO. In America we care about free enterprise. We care about wealthy citizens. We care about the American Dream. We care little about the poor. And we, historically, have cared even less about the marginalized. Remember, we are a country that has based people's worth on the color of their skin. We have even based THEIR PRICE on the color of the skin and the calluses on their hands.

America doesn't care about what God wants. America only cares about what America wants.

Which leads me to a strange place with Amendment One. The majority ruled that they wanted marriage to be defined as between a man and a woman today in North Carolina. Fine. That's the way it goes. We live in a democracy where everyone has a right to their own opinion.

BUT PLEASE, OH PLEASE, DON'T BRING God INTO THIS! We gave up on the Almighty a long, long time ago. America was written under the paradigm of personal liberties and rights. And, somehow, we have been about taking away those rights and liberties ever since. It's a strange place to be in. Something tells me, too, that if those voting for Amendment One had taken God out of the picture completely, this vote would have been incredibly different.

See, the Church has a right to decide how it feels on the subject of Sin. It has a right to attempt to define it based on its own Biblical principles and historical teaching. It can do whatever it pleases and it's allowed to use God because she made it in the first place.

But, for America, no.

God's will has little to do with whether a gay man has a right to his partner's body and life insurance after his untimely death. God's will has little to do with whether a lesbian is allowed to know where in the military her partner is stationed. God's will has little to do with gay and lesbian rights in America.

Us Christians are living somewhat of a dual citizenship and our witness is being hurt by the way we throw one into the other so often.



I use the term 'America' in substitution for the 'United States' simply because it seems to me to be a bit more pejorative. You're welcome.

Why Christian Music Is Essential

I literally remember the moment.

It was on a school field trip and all of my peers had their Walkmen and assortment of CDs with them. One of the greatest pastimes of such trips was, as kids do, compare and contrast the assortment of CDs each friend had brought with them. I remember my friends having CDs of The Smashing Pumpkins, Blink 182, Smashmouth, Green Day, Nelly, and many other secular albums that were often stamped with that 'my mom doesn't know I have this' EXPLICIT stamp.

My collection of CDs, though, was quite different. It was made up of dcTalk, Michael W. Smith, Newsboys, Steven Curtis Chapman, and many others. I loved that music. It was the music on the radio I listened to and I listened to it constantly. That fact alone was not enough though to keep me from being embarrassed when I was around the kids with the 'cooler' music. I was so embarrassed that I even moved dcTalk's albums to the front of my CD binder (remember those things?) because their album artwork would at least look cooler than Michael W. Smith's. The horror as a youngster of being caught listening to music that wasn't 'cool' was more than I could bear.

I liked my music. I just wasn't proud of it.

One peer even said to me (I remember this word for word), "I like the music to Christian music, but the words suck." To which I responded, "Oh yeah, I only listen to the music anyway. I don't listen to the words."

Wait, what?

What kind of an idiot was I? You don't listen to the words!?!? What a MORON!!! Of course you listen to the words, Bryant! That's the whole point!!!

But, you know, saying that would have meant that I submitted to the lyrics that he said, "sucked." I would not be caught doing such a thing as that.

(In seminary we talk all the time about pop Christian lyrics 'sucking.' But, we speak of them in terms of theological shallowness, not in terms of whether they are cool or not.)

I really was stupid. Either that, or I didn't realize the truth behind our faith. The truth is that everything we do forms who we are. The way we worship in church forms us into who we are. The things we watch on television form us into who we are. The things we read form us into who we are. The same is true of the music we listen to. These outside influences affect the way that we interact with God, each other, and surrounding communities.

This is why Christian music is essential. We need something that defines the Church and the disciples of Christ lest we risk allowing our children (and, let's be honest, us) to be influenced by other non-Christian, non-Holy influences. I no longer worry about whether listening to music that speaks the Gospel is cool or not, because I know that what I listen to is forming me into who I am. And, forgive me, but I'd rather that influence be something inspired by Christ rather than the sinful ways of the world.

Therefore, I give praise for the witness that Christian music, in whatever form, style, or genre, provides.

The next step, as we often lament in seminary, is to actually say something. "Falling in love with Jesus" was ok when we first realized the issue of American music. Now, it's time that we take this formative aspect of music one step further and use it to form disciples who can actually articulate something theological. Our next step is to recover the depth that many of our founders clung to.

Wouldn't that be something!


A Struggling Quest for Identity #GC2012

I thought about writing my reflections on the General Conference of the United Methodist Church 2012 here. I actually did write my reflections on it, for a class. Below are not those reflections. I figured that anyone reading this likely read my tweets and Facebook status updates throughout the conference's ongoings and is also likely unwilling to listen to me rant about something that to them seems trivial. So, instead, I thought I'd present what I see to be an overarching problem with the United Methodist Church.

The United Methodist Church, as it stands today, has one large problem: it doesn't know who it is.

The UMC (then the many forms of the methodist movement and the Methodist church) was both fortunate and unfortunate to have grown up around the birth of America. This means that values based on personal rights and liberties were, from the beginning of American Methodism, engrained into who the church was. To this day, this influence can be seen. The UMC still practices ways of democracy. The UMC constantly bickers about fairness and control of leading ecclesial (church) authorities. Let's face it: the UMC is a post-Enlightenment church heavily influenced by both the good and bad of American Christendom. It is not the Catholic or Anglican church and, to a very certain extent, is very proud of this reality.

The Methodist church in America has been through trial after tribulation after trial after crisis. Methodism in America has dealt with slavery. It has dealt with civil rights. It has dealt with feminism. It has dealt, and is dealing, with homosexuality. In fact with the exception of homosexuality, the UMC has been a leading charge in America, seeking to bring personal liberties and rights to all. It's as if 'all means all' has been written into a little bit of Methodism throughout America's narrative.

But, recently, Methodism has lost its cultural footing. As a church that once pressed the westward American movement, it struggles now to gain or maintain a foothold in what it used to have significant influence on: culture.

Simply put, the United Methodist Church is not culturally relevant anymore. It's not even, as a whole, socially relevant anymore. My diagnosis, again: it doesn't know who it is.

We've seen this before. After Steve Jobs left Apple (mid 1980's), the company began a downward spiral. It produced tons of products. It ventured into commercial areas it had never been. It tried new things without worrying about quality. It forgot the mission the Steves had set out for it since the beginning: make good products. Jobs used to tell this story about when he got back to Apple (late 1990's) where he asked the employees that had stayed why they had done so. Their response? "I bleed in six colors." (A harkening to the old Apple logo) They, evidently in the minority, could still sort of remember who Apple was.

Jobs used to tell this story alongside one about how he preached the future of Apple to his employees once he returned. He said that it became clear that if it was a zero-sum game and for Apple to win, Microsoft had to lose, it was clear that Apple was going to lose. "Apple didn't have to win!" Steve preached. "Apple had to remember who Apple was!" Jobs always said that the only thing Apple focused on was "making great products." That's it. If Apple was under Jobs' leadership, they would be about making great products and little else. Their identity was found inside of making great products. That's who Apple was.

To say that the UMC is not in the same place would be an effort to evade the truth. Little is wrong with the Wesleyan theological heritage of the UMC. Little is wrong with the connectional heritage of the UMC.

What's wrong with the UMC? It doesn't remember who it used to be. It has, because of its love for tradition and unwillingness to move and groove, forgotten that it used to write the American narrative before other groups. It has forgotten that it used to write the culture instead of the culture writing it. It has forgotten that it used to be full of innovation. It has forgotten that it used to be evangelical. It has forgotten that it used to be vital.

The UMC struggled at General Conference over the last two weeks to make any progress toward the future. It chose (because of a host of reasons) to maintain a structural format based off coroporate models that are now half a century old. It chose, in large part, to ignore the essential part of its future: young clergy. With the strange exception of 'guaranteed appointments' for elders, the UMC made very little progress in reshaping who it is and, because of this, must suffer the consequences over the next four years until issues can be brought forth once again.

News flash: four years is too long in today's world. Change was needed and it was needed fast. And it failed, motion after motion, amendment after amendment.

The UMC used to find its identity in strong Wesleyan theology that pushed the culture and innovated before it could. It was able to articulate new, sometimes controversial, ideas better so that the culture understood them in light of Christ rather than in pure Enlightened thought. Somehow, as a church, we have managed to live more into the Americanized version of who we are rather than the Christian version.

The church has simply forgotten who she is.

I fear it will get worse, too, as we become a more global church. As our surrounding culture begins to deal with what it means to have a global economy, it is faced with ways to run the economy. It chooses the easiest, cheapest route almost every time. What a time for the church to lead the way! Perhaps then we wouldn't struggle with the ethical violations! But, the church, forgetting that it used to shape the way, does not. And instead of the world realizing who the world is, the world simply thinks its way is normative. How sad a day.

I feared that change would not come at General Conference 2012. I feared the the church would be stuck in a rut because of its inability to remember who it is. I had little idea however about how bad it would actually be.

'Where's God in this?' you might ask. God's here. Have no fear. The Spirit is moving somewhere. But I don't believe United Methodism to be any sort of sacred thing. It can die. The Gospel will continue on. The Spirit will continue to carry it. The travesty is that the UMC actually has some interesting things to say about the Gospel.

If only it could remember how to say them.



The Greatest Love of All

I'm not one of those people who, when a celebrity passes away, writes on Facebook something along these lines, "People die every day. Why does the world stop when these overdosing celebs die?" I try not to judge people who do, but it's not something I've felt the need to say. And so, I write here not to disparage Whitney Houston's name, simply to call attention to the shaping and forming of our culture through music (which, arguably, music does).

People look up to many celebrities. Singers look up to singers. Athletes look up to athletes. Comedians look up to comedians.  Perhaps it's because they're simply good at their craft. Perhaps it's because they see a little bit of themselves, and a lot of their potential inside of the talent of these celebrities.  Perhaps it's a way to live a life they'll never have, vicariously.

I've refrained from commenting much on Whitney Houston's death. I'm saddened by the reality of her life, her dependence on substances to counteract an abusive marriage, and a talented soul lost from this world.  For many obvious reasons, her death reminds me a lot of Michael's death and that only brings sad feelings to my heart. It's such a shame.

However, I was watching YouTube this afternoon and came across this tribute by PS22 (who I have included man times here and on Facebook; I think they often do a stand up job at recreating pop tunes):



They do a phenomenal job here and are well led.  The female soloist is something else, too.

Every pop artist has their ballad that stands out for them.  It often separates them from the rest of the artists and solidifies their place in history as a phenomenal singer. Whitney, as I see it, had two: "I Will Always Love You" and the one above, "The Greatest Love of All."

What's most interesting to me is that Whitney set a place for black singers such as Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce to become as accepted and popular by mainstream media and popularity as they have been.  Whitney came out of church, gospel-singing background and blew the world away with her incredible range, passion, and natural phrasing. She had a huge voice and knew how to use it. Her level of stardom, in many ways, is untouched.

But, if we are going to see this song, "The Greatest Love of All" as a song that was defining for her career and thereby defining for our culture, I think it's important to examine the text for what it is, especially because of its placement of a bold statement within the title. The Greatest Love of All. If that statement doesn't shock you into listening to it, you ought to wake up. The song title makes you want to listen to find out what it is she is going to define as the 'greatest love.'

She starts by singing, 

I believe that children are our future

Teach them well and let them lead the way

Show them all the beauty they possess inside

I'm tracking. I agree. Show the children the beauty they possess inside? Yes, Whitney. (Whitney didn't write the song, but she's singing it so I'm going to speak as if she agrees with the text.  Especially because the story is that she fought for the chance to record it against Clive Davis's wishes.)

But then, we start to separate. She sings:


Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be


Pride is a weird thing for me.  Our Christian tradition teaches that pride is a bad thing. Our American tradition teaches that pride is how you get somewhere in life.  Without confidence in what you do, in America, it is hard to succeed. The song assumes that pride makes things easier.  If I'm confident and prideful in what I do, life becomes easier. This is a humanist message, not a Gospel message. This is reliance on the individual, rather than reliance on the grace of God.


Everybody's searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me


I assume that because Whitney desired to sing this song that these lines, perhaps more than any other within this piece, resonated with her. It, to me, shows two things: a reliance on herself (obviously), and a direct rejection of any Christian role model (i.e. Jesus).  I appreciate the honesty within the lyrics, but the lyrics suggest a solution that is not Christian (remember, the tradition that Whitney was raised in) in any realm. Reliance on self? Once again, this is a humanist argument. Our hope is that a born-again Christian would have someone who fulfilled their needs, Jesus. And, with that, the Church.


She continues:


I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity


This is almost at the crux of the song. This continues to emphasize this complete and utter reliance on the self. More than that, though, the use of the term "believe" makes this a stronger position. It may not quite reach the lengths of spirituality, but it's clear: the writer of the song thinks that if you believe in yourself and have dignity, you might not always succeed, but you will be...better. This is an American idea to be sure, but seems to stand in complete conflict with the Christian message. Indeed, Christians are to walk in Jesus's shadows.


But there's more to this line before we move on. I read these lines to be an "us against the world" type argument.  This is intriguing to me because that has many parallels to the argument of Christianity. We have a better way of life, you do not. Come join us and put your faith, hope, and trust in the Savior of the world. This message: if I put my faith, trust, and hope in myself...and believe in myself...then I'll have a better way of life than the world. The world may be out to get me, but that's ok...I have myself. This, again, emphasizes where the trust is placed. Christianity claims Christ. This song claims the self.


Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all


And here we are. The definition of the 'greatest love of all.'


Friends, learning to love yourself is not, as I see it, the greatest love of all. The greatest love of all is the grace of God. The grace that is poured out on a broken humanity that confesses its sins and seeks to live in communion with Christ's offering.


The song, for the listeners, is a lie. It spreads a reliance on humanity, on the self, and the good works of said people. It delivers a message of hope that resides completely within the self. It places trust on the individual. And because of that, it is in direct opposition to the heart of the Christian message: Jesus is Lord.


"But Bryant," you say. "This song was written by someone struggling with cancer who may or may not have been a Christian. She was in the midst of a crisis and writing honestly about where to place her trust. In her against the world, she finds the strength within herself to survive. How beautiful of a message?!?!"


I respond: This is not a beautiful message. And it is in direct conflict with where we should be.


The movement towards a trust in the individual rather than a higher power is a move that the Enlightenment granted humanity and may never ever be able to be taken away. Songs like this destroy the Christian message and focus: Christ. They enable humans to understand that they're able to battle whatever they're fighting (whether it is cancer or something less tragic) simply by believing in themselves.


The Christian Scriptures teach us that when humanity ran from God and placed their hope and trust in other things it always went worse than if they had placed their trust in God in the first place. This is a message that obviously wasn't written into Whitney's narrative, because I imagine this song would have struck a different chord with her than it did.  It's sad. And, inevitably, the trust that Whitney placed on herself and the things of this world came to cause her death. It's sad, very, very sad.


I do believe that children are our future. If we teach them well and let them lead the way, we are in for a wonderful ride. But, the beauty within them that this song talks about OUGHT to refer to the beauty that God placed in God's children, not the beauty within their humanity. Humanity is fallen, God is holy. Only a trust and belief in God can give true hope and love. That is the greatest love of all.


Why does this matter? Because music shapes our culture.  Therefore, music shapes us. I'd prefer that Christianity define "The Greatest Love of All," not Whitney. 


Lord, help our unbelief.



Why Apple's Supply Chain Problem is Such a Big Deal

If you clicked this link, your thought was likely, "Bryant's a fanboy, let's see what kind of spin he puts on this horrific topic." Or, you might be someone who has tweeted to me, emailed to me, or trolled my Facebook timeline with this NY Times article released the other day.

The gist of the article is this: Apple employs hundred of thousands of poor Chinese workers who spend their entire lives connecting cables inside of iPhones for very little pay. The article goes further than that though, too. The article makes the pronouncement that Apple cares very little about the working conditions of their supply chain and you should feel guilty for owning an iPhone, iPad, or iPod. Here's a taste:

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

Tim Cook, the newly appointed CEO, made it clear in an email to employees that he was 'outraged' by the accusations that the article made and was deeply offended. It's not hard to see why...The New York Times and Apple have mostly had a very cordial relationship. The NYT's website is included in iOS's default bookmarks and Steve often visited their site first when demoing a new product. The Times was quick to adopt the iPad as a way of releasing their content and the relationship has worked for the betterment of both companies. Everything seemed fine.

Until this.

Even today, the BSR, who is quoted heavily throughout the Times's piece refuted much of its claims. I suspect that we haven't seen anywhere near the end of this.

As a point of reference, here's a short clip of Steve Jobs reacting to the Wall Street Journal's questions regarding the suicides and suicide attempts by Foxconn employees a while back:


Again, we haven't heard the end of this. As we shouldn't.

The poor workers. They're worked hard, worse than many Americans will ever work, and when Apple wants to lower production costs and raise quality of the products, something's got to give. The media is beginning to claim that the cost of these two desires is human lives and well being. In fact, the NYT titled their piece, "In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad."

It's linkbait, but it starts a good conversation. Why is this so important? Why does Apple take the heat?

Sure, it's because theyre bigger than everyone else. That's what got Nike in so much trouble. Sure, it's because they are a hugely profitable company. They made more in profit than Google brought in total last quarter. Sure, it's because people love their products. But I think this has become a bigger deal for another reason.

I think it's because their products speak a bit of hope.

Andy Crouch referred to this phenomenon when he spoke about the gospel that Steve Jobs preached in a piece immediately following Steve's death. I don't agree with the correlations that Andy drew throughout the entire piece, but his general thesis is good. Steve had a different, often better, way of envisioning how a human interacts with a product. (Andy's piece comes off a bit harsh at times, though I know that Andy is an Apple fan because when I saw him speak live once he referred to his MacBook Pro as the true representation of 'perfection' on earth.)

Apple's mindset has always been about Thinking Differently. Using a computer sucked until 1984 when the Macintosh was introduced. MP3 players sucked until 2001 when the iPod and iTunes made it possible to actually enjoy listening to digital music. Cell phones sucked until 2007 when the iPhone finally made a smart phone easy to use. Tablets sucked until 2010 when the iPad reimagined what a tablet was and how humans interact with it.

Steve's quotes. Apple's marketing campaigns. The products themselves. All of these presented nearly hyperbolic statements about what it was like to use an Apple computer and how much there was to love about them. Sites like "" and documentaries like "Mac Heads" and terms like "fanboy" are signs of the effectiveness of this message. (I'll admit, I often get accused of buying into the Apple gospel more than the Jesus Gospel. I'd argue that that might be because Apple is better at presenting it than our churches are right now, but that's an argument for another day...)

When you use an iPhone, you fall in love with it. Or, most people do. Apple is no longer an electronic company; they become an ideology, a mindset, and a way of life. Apple has engrained this "Think Different" message into our understandings of who they are as a company. When we love their products, we want to believe that the truly are better than everyone else. In every single aspect.

Yet this Foxconn situation seems to be the same as everyone else. I remember getting in trouble at a young age and my first response was to say that 'everyone else was doing it!' To which my parents were quick to point out, "Perhaps, but you're better than that." These poor (literally) workers in these factories are indicative of what is wrong with the world we're in and we'd like to think that Apple can rise above those problems. For God's sake, they've risen above it with all of their products!

I hope Tim and Steve are (were :-( ) right that they are actively working to take greater measures in treating their workers fairly. They're certainly working to spread a good word about how much better they are than many other suppliers. I hope that what they say is true, is true, and that it will continue to get better quickly.

Apple has nearly $100 Billion in the bank. If there is one company who can actually Think Different when it comes to this type of labor ethics, it's Apple. They have the means.

I'd like to see them turn this around. Not just politically. Not just through marketing. I'd like to see them make gigantic strides and stand up for the right and well being of humans.

Because that's what Apple does. They Think Different.

Please, dear God, don't let that thought leave with Steve.


Jesus > Religion (?)

Give the next four minutes to this video, even if you have already seen it. It's best to watch or read things several times in order to think critically about them. And, strap in, this is a long post. I hope you enjoy it, though.


It's been 'liked' on YouTube over 160,000 times and 'disliked' on YouTube over 19,000 times. It's been shared on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube time and time again. Most commentary thus far has been divided as to whether or not this 'message' is acceptable. Herein lie some of my thoughts. Feel free to read them, wrestle with them, agree or disagree with them, and challenge them. This is an important topic for our time and we would do well to approach in this conversational way.

I remember going to a Big Daddy Weave Concert. I love them. Soooo good. And they began singing a song, one they covered from another worship artist, "Fields of Grace." In Big Daddy Weave's version of the song resides a line that goes like this:

There's a place where religion finally dies.

And I remember Mike Weaver (the lead singer) prefacing the line by saying, "This is my favorite line of the song." The spirit in which it was sung now seems strange to me. I once was sold on the concept of "relationship, not religion" but I'm now more convinced that that notion cheapens the Christianity that both Jesus and Paul called for.

Which leads me to this somewhat bold statement: The man in the video was too caught up in praise given to him for his skilled rhyming that he forgot to actually check his statements and definitions for consistency.

The problem with the video above is that it seems to go one way...and then another. He claims that Jesus and Religion are on opposite sides of the 'spectrum' but he also points out that your religious affiliation on Facebook doesn't make you a Christian. Wait, what? How are these tied together?

It becomes necessary to define 'religion'. (Good rhetoric makes use of loaded, ambiguous terms like 'religion' and, well, 'Jesus' because you can begin to redefine them in your own way in order to make a point. Not defining them within an argument not only makes the problem worse, it threatens to destroy the terms entirely.)

It seems to me that this man considers 'religion' to mean: a facade that followers put on that masks their spirituality. He's not even close to suggest this. Get religion out of the way because JESUS is what is so important. He seems to be saying that you don't need religion if you have Jesus. In fact, he blatantly says that at the beginning of the piece. He says,

What if I told you that Jesus came to abolish religion?

(I desire to respond: I'd tell you that you were wrong)

If anything, I think, Jesus came to reform religion. Jesus came to correct religion. Jesus came to show humans how to live life. This was a large part of his ministry on earth, including his preaching. Jesus did not come to abolish religion, he came to serve religion. In one sense, he came to serve as a means of growth throughout that life.

So truly, 'religion,' for Christians, is the means by which we worship God and grow further in the likeness of Christ. Religion encompasses sacraments like communion and baptism. Religion involves a confession of sin. Religion encourages prayer. Religion encourages accountability. Religion is a way of life, and a way to grow into a Christ-like life.

Now, his courageous testimony is notable and honorable. I always am moved by people who had a huge transformation toward Christ-like living in their lives and are willing to speak openly and honestly about it. BUT, because he has this...he operates out of a mindset of grace.

Truly, surely, GRACE is a large part of the Christian story. Paul tells us that we are sinful people, in need of grace. Theologians have told us throughout time that that sin is covered by grace. Though it's disagreed on exactly HOW that grace functions, all Christians agree that the life of Jesus, the death on a cross, and resurrection have something to do with the grace required for eternal salvation. Even our friend in the video remarks that salvation is not based on "my merits, but Jesus's obedience alone." AND HE'S RIGHT.

Jesus's obedience to do the will of the Father, to face death, has a great deal to do with our salvation. This, I believe, is true. And I can't name you a Christian who thinks that YOU can earn YOUR OWN salvation. That idea was pretty much outlawed in Christian circles a LONG time ago.

But, he's still confused.

His points are right. We do need grace. That has been taken care of. Christians should live holy lives, not just consider themselves saved because of their Facebook information. Christians should tear down the facades. Christians should be open and honest. Christians should practice grace.


That's the calling Jesus placed on us through his preaching. That's the call Paul placed on us through his letters. That's the calling our pastors place on us every Sunday. Religion, the practice of worshipping and becoming more Christ-like, is defined by all these things that he outlines. Religion is not just perfume on a casket, it is the burial ceremony and the tears shed for the loved one.

So, you've probably reached the same point I have.

He's a good poet. Spoken Word is popular now. Rhetoric is easy to come by with ambiguous language. Good speakers can catch and win over a believing audience just by the tones of their voice.

But this does not excuse us from watching our words.

Statements are bold. And when they're attached to art, they become MORE powerful.

Definitions are important. Because we use them to communicate effectively.

So 'religion,' as it stands, maye be a used up, dried out word that offends people. And...perhaps we need a new word. But people, good people, Christians in fact, use the word 'religion' to speak about how they're growing into a Christ-like life.

And so to make a statement that Jesus > Religion is simply unfair. Jesus and the Christian religion are intimately tied together. Religion is a way of life. Religion is the VERY thing this man is calling for. Jesus did NOT hate religion. Religion is a means to Jesus, and if approached in that way, those liking and disliking the video can actually come upon common ground.

Wouldn't that be wonderful?

As a writer, I can relate to this guy a lot. I often write papers that make awesome points that contribute to the exact opposite of my thesis. I end up at the end of the paper saying, "Wait, where'd I go wrong?"

I just tend to think that this is dangerous for the future of the Church. Influencing this many people and convincing them that 'religion' is wrong is scary. Very scary. We do need Jesus. But we also need prayer. We need accounable discipleship. We need confession of sin. We need baptism and communion. These are elements of religion that most in the Church are unwilling to let go. Because, for them, this is where Jesus is. This "Jesus and Jesus alone" mindset is ok, but only if religion gets included in the definition of 'Jesus'.


Reflections on Branches UMC in Florida City, FL

The Wesley Fellowship at Duke, of which I am fortunate to serve as an intern from the Divinity School, took a small, but strong, group to Branches UMC in Florida City, FL this past week for a winter break trip.  Branches UMC is a United Methodist Church in Florida City, FL (about an hour south of Miami, right next to Homestead).  Most will remember the area in relation to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. To say that Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida is an extreme understatement. Homestead was pretty much wiped out.  Ever since, Florida City, thanks to help from the US government, has had a rebirth of its economy. It's impossible to fully grasp the amount of impact Hurrican Andrew had on the area without being there. Everything, in one way or another, reminds visitors of the devastation.    Branches UMC also houses a mission program within its walls, one of three Branches sites within South Florida. This mission program was our main focus throughout the past week.   For years now, Branches has provided an after school tutoring program for the community's children.  They tutor every child, help them with homework, pick them up from school, and act as a bit of a liason between the church, the schools, and the community. It's an incredible witness to the community because it is a place free of gang violence, drugs, and other issues. It's a large undertaking for such a task, but the staff and volunteers at Branches are there every day, rain or fire, to minister to this community.   As you're probably aware, South Florida is ethnically diverse.  While English is still the "main language," nearly everyone is somewhat bilingual and many businesses operate almost completely in Spanish if at all possible.  But it's not just, English or Spanish, White or Latino, or Latino or Black either.  These generalizations do little good. There are Cubans, Hondurians, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Haitians, as well as a representation from every race, country, and nationality.  These people are different than those they see around them and they're conscious of this fact.   Because of this, the large collection of 'illegal immigrants' (more on that term another time), the extreme poverty, and other aspects such as weather and climate, South Florida is a type of place that you may not be used to in any way.  As a white male, though I grew up in Florida, I was very underprepared.   But it's not just race.  It's also class. There are the extreme rich (though most of them live closer to Miami).  There are the extreme poor (many live 10 to a small house). There are those who run their own bakeries (and there are some really good ones), and there are those who can't find work.  There are skilled day laborers that stand on the street waiting to see if there will be any work for the day (and their stories will bring tears to your eyes), and there are those who drive fancy cars and have season tickets for the Heat.  Perhaps our whole world deals with these issues of class, etc, but the racial tensions within South Florida seem to make the problem even more...real.   To make it one step worse (or perhaps in some ways...better) the church burned in 2010.     The whole church, more or less, went up in fire, destroying everything.    And here's where I'd like to dwell for a moment.   Obviously, the fire is a defining moment in the church's history.  But not because it changed them. I see it as definining because of the way they reacted.  From the morning after the fire the pastor, Audrey Warren, stood before the communion table and said, "Don't come for communion if you are unwilling to forgive whoever has done this." Imagine the rage in your heart if everything you had worked for had been burned. Now imagine a complete and utter message of immediate forgiveness.  I think that's what Jesus used to speak about.   This church sings songs with lyrics like "out of the ashes we rise," "you fail us not," and "you're bigger than the battle," in ways that I could never dream to.   They begin worship with the call, "God is Bigger" and respond, "All the time."   Because God is bigger than a fire.  God is bigger than lost computers, guitars, and desks.   And they recognized that.  Immediately.   Because they're here, for a purpose, and are working to do whatever they can to make some sort of difference.  Because it doesn't matter if the parents have 'papers' or not...these kids are in school.  Because the Gospel matters just as much in this church as it does in any other place in the world.   There was a fire. It happened.   But that wasn't so important.  That moment when a child's face lights up because he finally understood it was important. That moment when they came together as a community over a campfire to sing songs about making beautiful things out of the dust was important. That moment when they welcomed strangers on their staff retreat so that they could learn just a little bit more about what they do was important.   Branches is a family. A family of Americorp workers.  A family of staffers.  A family of volunteers.  A family of college kids just trying to have eyes opened toward the work of the Church and future of the Gospel. A family of ministers and those in need of that ministry.   It's an amazing place and you ought to go.   -B

I Hated the Organ Because Of Church (A Confession)

I grew up in a contemporary church world with music played by guitars and four chords.  I went to traditional services and hated every minute because they were 'boring.' As I've matured, I've realized that I disliked many of the hymns not because of their content (although a lot of the language no longer makes sense in today's context) but because the way we sang them was...painful. I've listened to countless arguments on why contemporary, modern music doesn't belong in worship context and I've expressed via this blog before that I think those arguing that are wrong.    I've kind of looked down upon the organ as a legitimate instrument for much of my life. They were expensive (I once heard someone arguing for traditional music yell at me for my use of a Taylor guitar because it was 'lavish'), hard upkeep, and generally boring to listen to. I thought of them as the 'old way,' once used to decorate unnecessarily lavish sanctuaries and provide a huge sound, one that is getting closer and closer to being able to be replicated digitally. And, we can conquer their original purpose with audio amplification.    They were cool I guess, but the church ladies never let me play it, so I had a bad taste in my mouth. You had to have the special shoes. Ugh.   I guess I just thought they were antiquated.    Duke's Divinity School is incredibly fortunate to have a stellar organist in David Arcus,and I've spent time in very traditional services at Duke enjoying his art.   

This guy below, though, changes the game. 


I seem to remember being shown something by this guy a ways back, but his art is indescribable here. Watch this three times to get the full effect. 


[youtube=]Don't miss his CBS (old) appearance either. [youtube=]-B

"The Sexual Orientation of My Parents has had ZERO Effect on the Content of My Character"

Zach Wahls, a 19 year old student raised by two women, speaks out about his upbringing and prejudice in allowing at couples to marry, and supposedly, adopt and parent. He is remarkably well spoken, detailed, logical, charismatic, and passionate.


It often occurs to me that changes in culture (whether good or bad) are almost always led by passionate, charismatic leaders who have enriching, yet different, ideas and can articulate it in a clear, concise manner.

It seems to me like Zach might be just the type of leader the cause is looking for. He's young, articulate, and experienced.

Don't miss his appearance on Ellen either.


He's a quality speaker and his thesis is an interesting approach.

I don't care what "side" of the issue you consider yourself to be on; as Americans, I believe, we have a call to fight for equality of all. And as Christians, we have a call to fight against injustice. So, we must ask ourselves, even in the midst of the morality question, are we supporting or fighting against injustice and inequality?

What a tough subject. We need more articulate people, like Zach, on both sides.


Yes, Use Words When You Preach the Gospel

You can say a lot of things about Mark Driscoll, and I often do, but he is one of the preachers in today's world who is actually using theological concepts in his sermons.  He doesn't sugar coat anything and he doesn't preach simply for the sake of his own voice (though he is often accused of such things).  His sermons are passionate, clear, long, and theological. There's not any fluff in Mark's sermons.     In case there is any confusion, this is the way things once were.  Pastors have served as theological guides since the beginning.  They've described hard concepts for parishioners to get and they've outlined things like salvation so that their understanding of the Scriptures is clear.   Mark may be wrong in many ways, but he is doing what others, recently, haven't been.   Yesterday he said this, in regards to the St. Francis attribution, "Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.":   [youtube=]Mark's view is clear: The Gospel must be preached, with words.  Demonstration is not enough.  This is not a new idea by any means.  At first though, I was struck by his tone.  I mean, it's St. Francis for God's sake.   St. Francis was all about demonstration of the Gospel.  We remember St. Francis and his lifestyle more than many many who have preached the Gospel.   Mark's understanding hinges around his conception of salvation, and I've made it clear in the past that I don't agree with his concept of elected salvation much at all.   However, I tend to agree with him here.  I suppose that Jesus's command to preach the Gospel is significant, but Jesus's command takes different forms at different points. In Mark, Jesus commands his disciples to enter ministry by casting out demons.  In Matthew, Jesus gives direct command to the disciples after his resurrection to go make more disciples by baptizing them and telling others to follow his teachings. What, then, is ministry truly supposed to look like?    Probably, both and.   I agree with Driscoll.     Not because it might lead to damnation if you don't, but because it is practical for the spreading of the message.  Mercy, hospitality, help, etc are all important for the livelihood of the Gospel. They are things that Jesus and Christian history has spoken of time and time again. But, in practicality, are they enough to spread the Gospel?   The truth is, we communicate with each other through words.  Sometimes these are developed languages, sometime they are little more than grunts.  But we communicate with each other through vocal inflections that we mutually agree mean something.  These inflections help us to understand things.  These inflections help us to understand each other.  These inflections help us to understand our actions.   Evangelism is, I think, a word that was hijacked by those trying to save souls. They used it for all kinds of things: monetary gain, bigger churches, among others.  They used the crap out of it, over and over, even distinguishing themselves from the mainline denominations with it.   I think St. Francis's quote has been used a lot as of late because society has begun to regard evangelists as crazed, religious people who fight with whatever powers they can until their bullhorns run out.  Society hasn't appreciated the Christian television programs because they seem inauthentic.  So, Christians not associated with these people have turned to other ways of spreading the Gospel.  And the quote has found a new home, within people who want to spread Christ's love, and care little about telling people why.   But evangelism is a call upon Christians.  A call for the future of the Church.   And it's a call that some Christians are afraid to approach now because of the connotations of it in our society. And that's a problem.  Less and less churches in America have a steady string of members and attendees. Which means less and less Christians are being formed.  And less and less Christians are being inspired to go and spread the Gospel.  Which means that less and less Christians are hearing the Gospel story.  Which means there are less and less Christians.   Which means that Jesus's command isn't being followed.   We should exhibit works of mercy.  We should also preach, with words.   Both, and.   -B

Music in the Church - A Series

The facts are simple.

They can be boiled down to this: the Church, as an all encompassing body of believers, is declining in influence and popularity, in general, world-wide. The mainline denominations have less than 50 years left at their rate of decline and the "growing" churches among the world are not growing anymore. When "growing" churches can be named, because they are so few and far between, we know that we have a problem; we shouldn't be able to name the churches that are growing.

In general, religion is dying. While it seems to be growing in African countries and tribes, it is declining in Europe and America, places where lots of money, power, and world influence are still held. It is sometimes losing to "spirituality" or "divine relationship." The decline of organized Christianity will, by definition, lead to a loss of Christians. Less Christians might lead to less accountability. Less accountability often leads to weaker discipleship. Weaker discipleship allows the sinful world, not God, to win.

We are to be comforted, though, because we know that in the end God does win. However, I often fear that we are forgetting Jesus's commands to go and make disciples.

As far as the Church is concerned, I think I've come to the realization that the Church needs a revitalization movement. We've had several successful ones in our history, and there's not reason to think that God wouldn't bless a faithful one even today. Within that movement, we're going to need leaders. We're going to need followers. We're going to need ministers. We're going to need missionaries. We're going to need disciples.

And, we'll need some practical things as well.

We'll need new, creative, innovative, relevant, contextual, powerful ways to reach the world. We'll have to be ahead of the world, reflecting the ultimate Creator, rather than behind the world, simply copying what they do.

I imagine that we'll need some leaders that will attract followers with their charisma and gifts. But I don't think this movement will be led by only key leaders (what movement ever has?). No, I think this movement will need everyone; all hands will need to be on deck.

One of the gorgeous things about the Church is how diverse we are...we have so many people with so many talents, passions, and gifts. We'll need them all.

So, here is my thought: Let's stop talking about it. Let's just start it. It's already too late.

The movement is beginning, so let's start.

Throughout reflection, the Church has to find within each of its individuals a sense of place, a sense of fit, a sense of call. The area of which I feel I have been impassioned and gifted is music.

The point is often made: music is not the reason people come to church. While I'd often be inclined to disagree, I'll forego that opportunity to make a larger point: music serves a higher purpose than to get people to come to Church. Whether or not people come because of music is irrelevant. I believe that if we have quality, solid music, the details will often take care of themselves.

When people attend a church service, questions that are often asked are, "What songs did you sing?" or "How was the choir?" or "Is the service 'contemporary' or 'traditional'?" These questions are indicative of the situation of music in the Church. It matters to people.

Music is, as I see it, one of the most integral parts of the Church as it stands today. It is Biblical, traditional, formational, communal, along with many other things. It serves to worship God, it serves to create disciples, and it serves to create fellowship. Music is a magical thing that challenges perspectives, opens eyes, implants happiness, and encourages hope. It's often empowering and bold.

Last week, I attended a conference that tried hard to be cool and to reinvigorate a livelihood into the United Methodist Church. So, having thought about some of my thoughts above, I went to a a workshop on music ministry. I thought'd be a good reflection time. The lady who led it was nice, intelligent, talented, and very talkative. There were all kinds of students there. There were practiced, studied musicians. There were diva-like "worship leaders." There were hipster, tight-jeaned guitarists. There were classical snobs. We talked for about an hour about random things, mostly having to do with the practicalities of organizing a music team, rehearsing them, and some about leading music for worship. All in all, it was an ok workshop.

But that was my issue: it was just ok. It wasn't mind-blowing. We didn't talk about writing new music. We didn't think creatively. We didn't even really discuss why Christians sing. We just talked about how cool or sucky our band was and how to pray with our group. Then we left.

And I left the room knowing there had to be something more. There had to something more to our approach. I left the room feeling as if we were just sitting in a rut, trying to push ahead while the dirt just kept us back. And I realized this (probably aided by our worship service experiences throughout the weekend): We're faking it. We're faking it really badly. And we aren't growing from it; all we are doing is keeping from dying.

So that's what I hope to explore throughout a small series here on this blog. I'm going to be posting over the next week and organizing my thoughts into three different posts and categories, explaining why I think we do what we do and what good it is going to do for a dying church.

I often don't like using violent language, but I feel as if this fits: We aren't on the offensive, we are on the defensive. I can't think of a single point in history where those on the defensive changed the world because they intended to.

It's time to take the offense, and because it's one of the only things I know, I'm starting with music.

I hope to cover things like:

  • Why do we sing?
  • Is music foundational for the future of the Church?
  • Is music for the Church ever-changing?
  • What do we sing?
  • What's a 'good' song for worship?
  • Why do we use terms like "hymn" and "praise song" and what are their connotations?
  • Who is writing quality material in 2011?
  • What historical church material is worth retaining?
  • What movements have progressed the Church positively?

...along with many other nuances of music ministry.

As is always the case with me, you'll hear my opinions and observations, and those often change from time to time.

It is, though, something we should be talking about, and I'm ready to get going on it. This dead time within the Church is killing us.

Follow along? I hope so.


The Death of the UMC #explo2011

I've had over 63 pages of writing due in the last two weeks.  It's funny that we often describe Divinity School as "Hell on Earth."  Currently, I'm tired of writing my theology paper.  Thus, I am taking a break to do this. I attended Exploration 2011 this weekend in St. Louis.  Exploration is a conference for about 600 young, college-aged, United Methodist adults who are exploring (hence the title) a call into some sort of ministry.  It serves several purposes:

  • Encourage young people to explore their calls into ministry,
  • Explain the ordination process,
  • Educate attendees about different methods and modes of ministry,
  • Provide reflection time in small groups to discuss,
  • Enable UMC young-adults from around to the world to meet each other, converse, worship, and fellowship.
In addition, all of the United Methodist Seminaries (13 in all) were represented by staff and student alike, providing information, sweet giveaways, and advice to potential seminary students.  I'm already a seminary student, but I was not a rep from Duke.  I was an attendee.  But, you know, I wore Duke stuff everyday.
Friday night's preacher in worship was none other than Adam Hamilton, the pastor of the largest United Methodist church in the world, Church of the Resurrection.  Adam has been promoted through churches like WillowCreek and is easily the best known United Methodist pastor in today's culture.  He spoke well, clearly, and with passion.  He encouraged young people to truly consider ministry for the good of the Church. If a quick search of the Twitter hashtags "explo2011" says anything, his message reverberated with a large percentage of the attendees that night.
One of Adam's main focuses: The United Methodist Church's decline.  It does little good to bore you with insignificant stats that prove this thesis.  Instead, this general point can be made: If the rate of decline in membership in the United Methodist church continues, the UMC will not be in existence in 2050.

Gone. No more.  One of the denominations on which Christian culture was established in the United States will have vanished.

It won't have been the first time a denomination that has been so influential in our history has declined. Or died.
Adam discussed a crucial point, too.  He admitted that our goal ought not to be to save a denomination, or religious group.  He pointed out, more or less, that our goal should be to make disciples. And, as United Methodists, we believe that the Wesleyan way of discipleship is the best, most effective way to do this.  By reaching into our Wesleyan core (which, from my observations, seems to be - at the most - ambiguously articulated in a majority of UM churches across the globe) we may discover new ways of changing the world through disciples of Jesus. I agree, but I do think that and established church has at least the possibility of bringing this on (This is obviously widely disproved throughout the course of history, but a man has to have a little faith, right?)
I'll quote Vance Rains here,

Does anyone here, including myself, really know how to save the United Methodist Church?

All I can do, as a new comer to this movement, is observe. I can tell you what I think the church is doing well.  I can definitely tell you what the church is not doing well.

And for me, it seems to be summed up in this: We aren't skating to where the puck will be.

This phrase is attributed to Wayne Gretsky (though I'm unsure if he actually said it) and was one of the favorites of the late Steve Jobs.  Jobs wanted to move ahead. So, to do that, he moved ahead…taking great ideas from other people and fusing them with his own.  Through this, he innovated and created products people didn't know they wanted. Like Henry Ford, he created phones without keyboards, tablets without styluses, and computers without disc drives. Ford is claimed to have said, "If I'd have asked the customers, they'd have said they wanted a faster horse."

But the UMC doesn't seem to be doing that.  The UMC doesn't seem to be taking old ideas, mixing them with new ones, and coming out with something effective. The UMC doesn't seem to be thinking creatively. The UMC doesn't seem to be not only listening and reading their Wesleyan heritage, but synthesizing it to create something that will serve the needs of the world. No, it doesn't seem to be doing that.

And that's ok.  Research In Motion isn't doing that either. But come five years, they won't be around.

Wesley was an innovator.  Wesley was clear about what he thought.  Wesley knew of effective ways of maintaining accountability in discipleship.  Wesley knew of positive ways to change the world.  Wesley knew that the power behind religious revival was in a movement. And Wesley should get a lot of credit for thinking differently than many, many others in his time.

I think United Methodists recognize this. And I do think, as a General Church, the UMC is trying to be relevant.

It's just that our methodology seems a little screwy.

Our version of "relevancy" seems to be based on what the Reformed or evangelical churches are doing. And we, as we always have been, are behind.  Seriously behind. And sometimes we throw resources into the wrong areas.  We staff the wrong places. We don't always hire the best in the field.

So no wonder our attempts at things are less successful.  We're creating the hi-PHONE instead of the iPhone.  We're trying to play contemporary music, but it's just not…quite…right…yet.

I think it is happening this way: through desperation, we are copying others.  20 years ago, we saw the evangelical denominations growing faster than us. So we decided something had to change.  We waited around for 5 years to make a decision to do so and then we got to work. We started marketing campaigns (I would say, some of the more successful things we've done). We started rethinking who we were. Why? Because we saw others do it.  I ask of you: how different are those rethink church commercials, really, than those billboards from non-denominational groups that advertise a "new way to do church"? They're only different in that they are more socially minded (a good a righteous thing), but our attitude is much the same. "Oh, God, they're undercutting us by stripping down some of the perceived ridiculousness of our liturgy and system," we might as well have said.

The funny part is, the ReThink Church commercials are easily one of the best things the Church has done, in my opinion.  I think we've called on people to question some things that ought to be questioned.  It just appears to have had little follow through.

Which gets me to my point.  We copy others. AND THAT'S FINE.  But, in our copying, we aren't thorough.  We write things like "Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds" when large percentages of our church simply don't believe it. We try to be relevant, but many of our churches are much, much older than other churches.  So, we try to do things in our old buildings that just aren't practically possible.  And the product of our efforts doesn't look "cool" like we think it does.  It looks like a cheap knock off. And people, congregants, don't see authentic worship, they see posers (something our culture is less and less tolerant of everyday).  They see people faking what's popular.  They see BOBS instead of TOMS.  They see Samsung instead of Apple. We're ripping off others, and to make it worse…we're not even doing it well. (At least Samsung stuff still looks good)

Instead, perhaps, maybe we ought to truly rethink church.  Not basing it off of our own social values.  Not basing it off of our own bias.  Not basing it off of our own thoughts.  Not basing it off of our own Scriptural interpretation. Not basing it off of our own political beliefs.  Not basing it off of our own definitions.

Because the Wesley that I read doesn't seem to have been ripping anybody off. Wesley seems to have been starting something new, incorporating the traditional values, thoughts, concepts, and theological insights of the old tradition to bring about a revival that focused on holiness in discipleship. That movement is what helped influence the Christian culture in America.  And his thoughts were so good, I'm convinced there's another opportunity, if only we'd wake up.

Picasso said, "Good artists copy.  Great artists steal."  There's a huge difference between the two, and I'm unconvinced that the UMC understands that.

So please, let's not put up a GPS (or phone…we had disagreements about what it was) around the lyrics being projected on the screen unless we're going to take the time to actually explain it, incorporate it, and usefully employ it. Otherwise, it looks like we saw the evangelical churches using the iPhone theme for their events and thought, "Oh, God, we're behind." Which, I'd imagine, is exactly what happened.

If we're going to do it, we need to do it well.  Otherwise, we're going to die.

Like Vance, I don't know what is going to save the church.  But, I do feel as if I'll know when I see it. And I know this from observation: we can't keep following everyone else.  We have never been like that as a church and this is an awful time to start. We ought to seriously rethink who we are, where we're going, and where we've been. We make corrections, we synthesize, and we move on…making the best, most faithful decisions we can as fast as we can. And we have to do it throughly, with class, artistry, energy, and resources.  Every detail has to be ironed out so that what we say is cohesive and intentional. And we don't need to try to be "cool."  That'll come to us, if we are who we are and the story is as good as we say it is.  And, friends, it is.

Please, it's too good of a story not to tell in new and fresh ways. And besides, Jesus is calling us to tell it.


Goodson Chapel's New Cross

Great video of the new cross recently installed in Goodson Chapel at Duke Divinity. It was a neat experience to watch the cross be lifted up and talk to the men making it happen. With commentary and explanation from the cross designer and our Chaplain, Rev. Sally Bates.


Next time you're in Durham, make sure to stop by and see it.


Are We Better Off With or Without Apple?

Since Steve's passing, the world has honored him at Apple Stores, via social media, via television talk shows, and countless other ways.

The world, even Apple haters, has been kind to honor the work and change he's made.

But, now, it's been a few days. And we've all had a small chance to grieve. And we've all had a small chance to reflect a bit on his direct impact on OUR lives. It is like when Michael died, we all grieved because the world had lost another Mozart; then we began to reflect on what kind of difference was made on our personal lives. For some it was sad to lose Michael, but not for too long. The same has been true of Steve, for some.

He's been compared quite a bit to Thomas Edison, the famed inventor of the light bulb. I was asked this question the other day, "Edison created the light bulb, how does Steve even begin to compare to that?" My honest first reaction was to automatically assume that the asker simply doesn't think about what they do day in and day out.

To me, the impact is simple to see: almost everything that consumers do with computers today has so much to do with Steve's work. He was the driving force behind making the graphical user interface popular (a paradigm we take hugely for granted today...I think my evidence above proves it). He made using computers simple, and I'd argue that that is what brought forth widespread adoption. Because of some of Apple's poor decisions and Microsoft's willingness to copy, it happened indirectly...but it was Steve who did it.

This morning, the point was raised to me,

"i[sic] think he was brilliant for sure but are we better off as a people to have the newest toy but as a whole we are going broke to afford them.[sic] i[sic] think these things have made a much more selfish world that are[sic] self centered and spoiled."

It's a fair point with a certain amount of validity. There are also many claims going on here:

  • Steve simply made the newest toys
  • We are going broke to afford them
  • These things have made a much more selfish world
  • This selfish world is self centered and spoiled (apparently because of the devices Steve has created)

Again, it's a fair argument. I know there are families that struggle to feed themselves each night, but give their kids smartphones. I know, and have acknowledged in the past, that texting and driving has become one of the most dangerous parts of our lives.

The main point though, I think, is that Apple's marketing has encouraged people to want the next big thing all the time. Our emotional draw to the company has forced us to wait in long lines, complain excessively, and stop everything we are doing for product announcements. Yes, it's true and each any every one of those statements applies directly to me.

I think it would be fair to account that a large objection to the future and progress of technology can be summed up inside of this argument: these things (and the marketing of them) have made us worse people.

I think I've recognized the bit of truth to this argument. We text instead of call. We avoid face to face confrontation if at all possible. We have gained a new sense of individualism, and less of a sense of community. I might argue that things like Skype and FaceTime have actually counteracted this argument, but I'll leave it be for the time being.

The question for me though is, "Who is to blame?"

The Church has discussed this for ages. The questions has always been, "Are we a part of the culture or are we not?" or "Is progress good or bad?" or "Can we have material things, or should we deny ourselves?" or "How is Scripture interpreted for this purpose?"

Throughout time, religion has made use of new mediums. In example, George Whitefield's popularity in early American Christianity is largely due to the newspaper reports of his preaching. There are tons more examples.

Isn't it a question now in the Church as well? We've got churches who attract more members because of their light shows and moving backgrounds. We've also got churches who speak down on these churches and worship in a very liturgical, high church way. Both have dying churches. Both have growing churches.

This argument currently going on in the Church is not separate from the argument made to me this morning.

However, even more high church churches are beginning to figure out how to relate to people. They sometimes break it down by "worship" vs. "outreach". For example, it's ok to have a website, because people want to know about you...but no computers in a worship service. But...even that's becoming less and less true.

I know where your mind is going..."Who is winning?"


This isn't about winning. This is about living a Christ-like life. This is about hearing a call from God. This is about Resurrection and Salvation.

I am convinced that these things, these most important things, are still possible with progress.

I actually think that progress helps these things. For instance, because of the advent and popularity of texting, we have been reminded that living, talking, and being in community is important. And now, now that we know this, we are able to use these new fangled inventions and technologies as tools instead of distractions.

Sure, these tools have the ability to distract, and ARE VERY TEMPTING in this sense. But, what if the Church were to look at these tools as better ways to communicate, as better ways to outreach, and as better ways to live as disciples in 2011?

What exactly are we afraid of? That we won't be creative enough to figure it out? That God won't show us the way? We've got to have more faith than that.

What I like so much about Apple's approach to technology is that they don't do things just because others did. They don't make a bigger screen just because others have bigger screens. They don't implement a voice recognition piece of software just because Google did. They don't have an open platform just because other companies did.

No, they approach it from the perspective of use. What good is voice to text software if you still have to hit buttons? What good is a big screen if you have to use two hands to use it and it no longer fits in your pocket? What good is an open platform if its very openness is one if its greatest downfalls as an experience? It's not even really about being ahead of the's about taking a technology, a concept, an idea and applying it in a real world situation for a real purpose in a way that helps people communicate. That's what spurred Steve's innovation. That's what defines who Apple is in today's world.

So has Apple's marketing asked people to become self centered? Their new iPad ads don't seem to support that.

No, it doesn't seem so. No, what has spurred on this idea is our reaction. I can no longer blame the technology companies for my failings as a human. I can no longer blame McDonald's for the hot coffee I spilled on my lap. I can no longer blame the cigarette companies for my lung cancer (post-revelations that that was actually bad for you). I can no longer blame the city for me not paying attention to that huge stop sign. I can no longer blame the fast food companies for my fatness. I can no longer blame the Church for my lack of faith.

No. Because at some point, I must take up my own cross. At some point, I must learn that it's not the new things that bother's the way we use them. It's not the progress that makes us worse's our sinful nature. It's not someone else's fault that I'm not the disciple I could be, it's me.

(It's worth adding that this is mostly true in America, currently. There are places in our world where girls are used in conjunction with the exploitation of men's sexual desires. This is not the girls' fault, this is the both the faults of the brainwashers above them, and the men who readily support these ventures.) I, in these cases, think the Church has to speak up for the girls...speak up for those who can't. It is still worth noting that those reading this in American CAN almost assuredly speak for ourselves.

As soon as the Church realizes that our mission is active and not passive and that we are not controlled by others, but only influenced by the grace of God through Christ, then we will be able to look at our culture with new a way that is beneficial to the life of faith and the progress of the Gospel.

We don't do things just because. We don't slobber at the feet of our favorite company just because they brainwash us. No, we appreciate what they do because it makes a difference. It changes what we can do. It changes how we do things. It's up to us to be able to step back and see where we have succeeded and faltered.

Apple made tools. Thankfully, they made good tools.

Let's use them for good. Please.


PS - Lack of recognition of Steve's contributions to society is a great example of just how well he succeeded.


Rob Bell announced yesterday that he and Carleton Cuse (of LOST fame) will be writing a TV show that has been picked up by ABC. He and his family are moving to Los Angeles from Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is only now appropriate for his Mars Hill family to wish him "Farewell, Rob Bell". I wish him serious luck. Hollywood is a mean, ripyouupeatyoursoulandthrowyououtwiththedogs kind of business and if the show doesn't play well, you'll be able to buy all ten episodes of "The Complete Series" at Target for $39.99 in a year or so.

Most Christians I know have become very cynical of this news. Wait, the word "cynical" is too generous.

I've been thinking, though, what my reaction might be if I was all the various types of Christians out there. These are generalized statements and intended to be humorous, so don't get too angry if you fit into these categories:

Reformed Piper Followers - "This guy has been going off the deep end for a long time. When will he learn that Love is not for everyone and that God picks and chooses who He saves? Farewell, Rob Bell. Welcome to your life of fame."

Roman Catholics - "These evangelicals will never understand that the Church, even above God, AND DEFINITELY NOT TV is at the center of all things good in the world."

Nondenominational hip Churches - "Dang, wish we could have thought of that. I guess our Twitter account won't cut it anymore."

United Methodists - "Hey, will someone tell us what to think of this? We can't seem to make up our minds about anything important."

Mormons - "He thinks a TV show is an effective way to change the world? Why doesn't he just run for President?"

Southern Baptists - "At least it's not a woman."

Passion 20somethings - "When can we get Chris and Louie on a TV show?"

Divinity Students - "Bell is too centered on himself and his megachurch obviously isn't big enough for him anymore. Down with the megachurch! Down with the megachurch!"

It seems absurd to me that so many of us might be so quick to judge because of a few website headlines we read. Bell is a phenomenal, charismatic, well-read communicator who happens to have followed a call into ministry off of a chance preaching opportunity years ago. He's been picked as one of the most influential pastors in America and has made it his mission to welcome back those hurt by the church by incorporating relevant and trendy cultural points into his sermons and speaking engagements.

Beyond that, Bell is controversial and not afraid to be so. He borders on being more "spiritual" and less "Jesusy" with the hopes that if he can attract people to a new way of life and understanding of Scripture, he can make better disciples. This, because it seems to be less traditional, is controversial. But Bell is not afraid to be so. People respect that, and because he is quite charismatic, and they follow him. The strongest argument against him is that he lost Jesus, but if you study him'll find that it's simply not true. Jesus is a significant part of Bell's theology, rightly so.

Bell isn't as anti-traditional as some have made him out to be. I've seen nearly all of his videos and listened to countless sermons of his and I've rarely come across some sort of exegetical insight that I strongly disagreed with (at last not any more than you might find in any mainline church in any town in America).

It's time we stop thinking of religious innovators (and while that term probably does mean progress, it DOES NOT mean a loss of tradition) as inherently "bad". We must judge the preacher on the content and gifts and less on how we view people who have the same church-style.

And beyond all that, it's time we start approaching ministry and those attempting it from a positive stance, and only after that criticizing his/her work from an understanding of their theology, and not from our own personal bias.

If we fight inside these walls and don't go out there, they'll always find another one. Something is wrong...something is terribly wrong.


Ten Years Later: Thoughts on Christianity in America

I was in second period band when someone from the front office of the school came into the room, whispered something in the band director's ear and then announced to the class that two planes had hit the World Trade Center. She began her statement by saying, "I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but our country is under attack as two passenger jets have hit the World Trade Center in New York City."

It's funny the things you remember so perfectly. I feel like I even remember the temperature of the room.

I also remember this well: George Bush standing with firefighters and his bullhorn saying, "The people who hit these buildings will hear all of us soon!" According to his book, he said this in a response to someone in the crowd shouting, "We can't hear you!"

Chills. I got, and still do get, chills.

Retaliation. There's got to be some sort of inner (almost definitely sinful) human desire to get someone back who has wronged you. So, when the President of the US stands at Ground Zero and tells those who had gone into the fallen building and the country that we were going to get them back for what they had done and we were so overwhelmed with emotion and anger, we cheered. We clapped. We went to war.

Today, we remember all of those who lost their lives on 9/11/01. Today, we remember and honor the lives of those who we now consider heroes: those who risked their lives to save another. Today, we remember all of the loved ones who lost their lives fighting insurgents and terrorists in far away countries. Today, we honor those still serving overseas.

And we should. We should remember. We should honor.

But, I can't help to rethink my original feelings when I heard Bush's bullhorn moment. What is it that makes me feel so patriotic? What is it that gives me chills? What is it that still angers me when I see the TV footage?

Can I get the chills? Is that right? Or am I moved by something I shouldn't be? Doesn't God call on us to forgive completely? Does Jesus call on us to love our enemies? If so, and I truly believe that, why is it that I constantly think about how angry 9/11 made me? Can I truly get excited when I find out that the man who masterminded these attacks has been shot and killed by our own forces?

These are some of the most difficult questions an American Christian can ask themselves.

Because, as a Nationalist, the first reaction is to flood the White House gates with an American flag around our shoulders. Because victory, over something so tragic, is sooo sweet.

We are a nation with a history of getting what we want.

We've always had an innovative military system. We've always had a string of religious principles that has been with us throughout our short history. We've always been geographically separated from so many of the world's problems. We have led the Christian movement in many ways in the world over the past 200 years. We were also that nation that dropped two obliterating bombs on the nation that invaded our naval base. We helped end the Nazi regime, but we also interned Japanese and Native Americans. We fought each other hard over ending the enslavement of humans. And even after that, it took another 80 years (and we are still not there) to treat all American citizens like actual humans. Our leaders sometimes swear oaths with God's name mentioned. We have religious, Biblical themes throughout almost everything we do. We allow churches to function without the headache of paying taxes. But we also highly profiled Muslim citizens wanting to fly from place to place after 9/11.

We are used to getting what we want. We are strong. We are relatively united. And our culture is that which supports and encourages any citizens to strive their best to get what they want or need.

Which is why, I think, we are so offended when we are attacked on our own soil. And, because we operate inside of that paradigm of thinking, our reaction draws emotional stimuli. And when our leader says out loud what we are feeling deeply inside ourselves, we get chills.

Because we have to defend our lands. From our very beginnings, we don't like people telling us what to do.

The question, then, truly is this: can American Christians, a group that from our Jewish backgrounds has been somewhat nomadic and lacks a centering geographical location for our "home", live in an authentic dual citizenship between God and country?

There are so many fundamental conflicting values between the two. And, perhaps, these are best seen and discovered when we remember times when we were so offended by actions against us.

To me, these questions, these ponderings, and these conflictions are the reason that as American Christians, we must study the Holy Scriptures. We must learn and synthesize the history of the Church. We must read and prayerfully consider what Christ asked us to do when he spoke about how we interact with one another. We must read Paul as a guide for our lives of faith.

There seems to be a movement in American Christianity to refer to Scripture whenever they don't know the answer to something. I tend to think that they're right...they just often choose the least important decisions to focus on, rather than overarching themes and principles. We focus so much more on gay marriage, something Jesus didn't even mention by our records, when we ought to be focusing on loving our enemies, something he spoke strongly about.

If we forget who we as Christians are, and we often do in America, we run the risk of making hasty decisions that increase violence and war in the world, rather than bringing about peace and love.

Isn't that our goal? Isn't that God's goal? Peace, hope, faith, and love?

I think so.

America has changed Christianity significantly since 1776. I can't explain it, but I'm convinced that we can be both American citizens and Christians.

The question, for all of us, should be on a day like 9/11, how?


"Wrong Worship"

Divinity School has been busy. Sorry it's been so long.

Give the next few minutes of your life to this clip.


It is evidently a clip used in a sermon illustration at what appears to be First Baptist Church in Orlando, FL.

I've been to the church before. It's huge and their growing services are almost all in the contemporary style.

It seems to me that out of context this might appear to be a treatise against contemporary music, the performance-based nature of the art, and the sad reality that has come with the modern church.

I think this is what many people see when they see contemporary music. I think this is what many think of when they think of modern worship.

While I think the video makes some great points about the me-centered church and cultural bindings that have come with the modern church movement, I also worry about the danger it brings to those who criticize the modern church and contemporary music. Are some of the songs sung "hymns"? Sure. But, the giant stage, lights, microphones, and everything else that comes with it may add fuel to the raging fire around what seems to be a growing dislike for the modern worship movement.

It's an interesting introspective look at what modern music has done to our world, the dangers that lie within any type of musical worship literature, and it surely will serve as an accountability measure for the faith community.

Funny, too.


Fitting Into Societal Norms

Throughout my life, I've struggled with a lack of discipline in many areas of my life. I was never one who thoroughly enjoyed exercise or the simple discipline of it and I LOVED eating. As time has progressed and my metabolism has been unable to keep up with my poor habits, my body has taken the brunt force of those "bad" habits and it has become a factor of embarrassment for me as I try to relearn what it means to take care of my body, from the way that certainly seemed more "natural".

So, recently, I've been watching what seems to be the new trend in television: shows on losing weight. After all, when A&E does a series, you know it is the trend. I suppose it most likely started with "The Biggest Loser", but "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" and A&E's own "Heavy" have been most popular in recent months. I've watched significant portions of each show, trying to wrestle with how these people came to be in the position they are, what lifestyle decisions they've made, and why it is that they can't seem to change themselves, by themselves.

All of the participants in these shows are significantly overweight. More than I ever hope to be. Yet, I still find it intriguing because I recognize their lack of desire to work and equate it with my struggle as well. No, I'm not 500 pounds, I'm not even that close to half of that, but I figure that if I can learn about what it is they need to change about themselves, perhaps it will assist me in changing myself as well.

The question always seems to be begged: why is the change necessary?

These people break down into two distinct groups (as I can see it). About half of them have been overweight since birth. The other half had some sort of traumatic experience in their lives that has driven them to compulsive eating. Most of the second group deal with some sort of depression.

The first group, though, is the most interesting to me. They've always been overweight. They've always eaten a lot. They've rarely exercised. Surely some of that is due to their upbringing, the sudden growth of fast food, etc. However, it makes me wonder, why is it that they never exercised? Why is it that they ate more than a normal human should? And I wonder these things because I wonder them about myself as well. Why is it that I chose to go play the piano or guitar before going for a run? Did I not find running interesting? Did I find running painful? Why is it that some people are encouraged when the pain sets in? Why is it that some people can easily fight through the pain when others of us cower in fear? If it is "natural" to exercise, why is it that most of us don't? Why is it that we come up with easier ways to get around so that we can avoid exercise at all cost?

Surely when our societies were hunters and gatherers, we were in great shape because we had to hunt down the food we were going to eat that night. And we weren't eating fried potatoes.

But that wasn't sustainable for the long haul. It seemed easier, and profitable, to do the hunting FOR other people. Then we'd sell them the food. That'd make it easier. Then we'd be able to feed more people more efficiently. And we are humans...we love efficiency. We build tools to help us be more efficient.

It's obvious what has occurred: we've built tools to help make our lives easier. That's why we are all addicted to our smart phones and iPads. We spend more time inside than any generation before us. We walk and run less than any other generation because there are enough distractions other than exercise. And it has come to the point that when we are walking around the mall our mood goes down when we see stairs, because we'd rather ride the escalator.

But I return to my original thought: discipline. Have we become undisciplined and lazy?

Or, has laziness simply become a byproduct of progress? Or "naturally", are we more inclined to create tools to help us? Or is the hunting and gathering mindset what is really "natural"?

Which leads me to my ultimate thought: does what is "natural" always fit into a societal norm? And, is what is "natural" always the high road and good?

Some people are born with a chemical imbalance that leads them to abuse alcohol. We all know the phrase, even after you're clean, "Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic." On ABC Family's "Switched at Birth", one of the characters is an alcoholic. She's hard on her biological daughter who chose to drink prior to being an adult. The daughter didn't understand why she was being so hard on her. But the mother explained that she simply doesn't have luxury of being able to have one drink. It's not possible because of who she is. But just because her bodily inclinations and behavior lead her to act in certain ways, doesn't mean that society thinks it is okay to be an alcoholic. We look down on drunks.

The same is true of drug users.

The same has been said of gay people.

And so, I suppose the question ought to be asked of societal norms: are societal norms (and accepted practices) based on what we might consider "destructive" behavior? In other words, do we judge others' actions because what they do puts them (and often others) at risk of dying sooner than they might?

The extremely obese people will die because their body and heart simply can't keep up. Alcohol abusers will drive themselves out of house, home, and family, because they use alcohol to cope. Drug abusers run the very real risk of overdosing or taking something that they thought was something else.

And they all become addicts. They become so engorged in what they are doing that they don't care about anything. They lose their families, they lose their jobs, they lose their lives.

Because these things...the unnatural foods, the copious amounts of alcohol, the drugs, all seem...unnatural.

The laziness is unnatural. Because that's not how we once lived.

And we draw this line to connect the dots between "unnatural" and "destructive". And we assume, in almost every instance, that these two are inherently connected.

And if we think under that paradigm, we can perhaps see why homosexuality has been treated, in our society, the way it has. Biblically, it seems unnatural. Many of the conservative voices have argued time and time again that it is "destructive" to our society because it breaks down how we view humanity and the design of a family. Many view it as an addiction, one that can be "treated" (see Michele Bachmann's husband).

Because we've connected those dots. We operate under that mindset. We equate "unnatural" with "bad". We think everything that is "unnatural" is "destructive".

There's no doubt in my mind that many of the Biblical writers (for the most part) consider being gay (or participating in homosexual acts) "unnatural". AND, because of the societal norms of their culture, and the cultures working against them, they equated "unnatural" with "bad" or "sinful".

So the question becomes: can we read "unnatural" in the Scriptures and equate it with our definition of unnatural French Fry? Can we read into God's creation of Adam and Eve and assume that that is what is "natural"?

Because that is what we are doing. We are reading texts out of context. We are placing our own 21st century definitions on words used thousands of years ago. And we assume, that because what seems unnatural now has proven itself to be destructive, that that's what "unnatural" has always and will always mean. And we assume that what society currently considers "normal" behavior is the correct way to be. And when we do that, we lose sight of humanity and of God's creation of it.

It's a tough thought process, one with unclear implications and most likely more divisiveness than unity. It's troubling.

I was not born with an inherent desire to exercise. I have always been a fan of progress. This is the "unnatural" reality I live in. At the end of the day, I really like my iPad...but I still need to exercise.


Yes, I know this doesn't make a clear and decisive argument, as you might be used to getting. That's because I'm not sure this can all be answered.

Chris August, "Not Over You"

It's so good to see Christian artists being just as creative as the rest of the YouTube world. I'm convinced that this guy is a genius.


Thanks to Sam for sharing.