newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Category: Media

Don’t forget we lost him in 2016. But his torch is still being carried

We can all agree that in 2016, Earth lost many people of note, from politicians to public servants to celebrities and then some. One person whose passing this year barely made a splash was Jack T. Chick.

This is unfortunate.

Because of his prolific work, Jack T. Chick is the most published cartoonist in the United States (sorry Stan Lee). It is doubtless that you may have seen his work and not even realized who created it (CLICK HERE FOR A SAMPLE). Regardless, the man and his work had a major impact on culture in the U.S. and I was surprised his passing didn’t get more attention.

His work was a major contributor to how evangelical Christians have stereotypically been viewed in the U.S. His fundamentalist Christian tenets are the things which drove his work. Full disclosure: I read Chick tracts for pleasure and amusement, not to prepare how to use them as an evangelism tool. When I found out Chick had died, I was worried that I would be unable to find anyone to fill that void for me. And then I found Matt Walsh and Pulpit & Pen. There are others out there maintaining a fundamentalist bent, but these two do a great job of keeping it at the forefront.

So while I mourn the passing of a talented comic artist who I would have loved to dialogue on many of his views, I can rest assured that content that falls into that same vein is still alive.

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#GreatSongs: “Break My Heart Sweetly” by John Moreland

In the past I have done the random post here and there about a song that is currently rocking my world, but as we look towards the last month and a half of the year I have decided to formalize it. This is the first entry in a series referred to as #GreatSongs.

I wish I could sing like this guy. I wish I could finger-pick with the subtlety and nuance this guy does. I wish I could write chilling lyrics like this guy.

“Break My Heart Sweetly” is one of those songs that the first time it started playing, I literally stopped every activity I was doing and sat and listened. I encourage you to push play, turn the volume up, and do nothing for the next 4:33. You can email me a thank-you when you’re done.

Break My Heart Sweetly
I swore the days were over, courting empty dreams
I worshiped at the altar of losing everything
And the guard I held together is losing all its shape
And in my head you look so gorgeous, it’s keeping me awake

There’s a scar on my soul, so let me down easy
Break my heart sweetly, like you always do
I guess I can’t let go til you wreck me completely
Break my heart sweetly, drape me in blue

I was never scared of nothing, I thought I had a home
Life went and broke me open, cause I carried it alone
I’m finding all this well worn sadness I never knew I kept
And I still chase you into heartache every time you take a step

I swore the days were over, courting empty dreams
I worshiped at the altar of losing everything
And you had a halo made of diamonds, resting on your head
I should be dealing with my demons, but I’m dodging them instead

Some initial thoughts on “God’s Not Dead 2”

No, I have not seen God’s Not Dead 2. Will I see it? Yes, once it is out on DVD and available for rent. So why am I posting some “initial thoughts” about it then?

If you read my blog at all, you know that I wrote a post after having watched God’s Not Dead. That post could be summarized by the following: “There were a lot of things that annoyed me about how hokey the film was, including the fact that the only people who got anything out of it were probably the people who enjoy those kinds of movies. However, my ultimate review of the movie is ‘meh’.”

IMDb users rated God’s Not Dead a 4.9/10 stars.

IMDB users rated God’s Not Dead 2 a 3.1/10 stars.

And yet, I’m at least mildly curious to see how this film is. Has anyone seen it yet? What were your thoughts?

A goal for the holiday season.

I was told by different mentors that if I want to achieve a goal that I should write it down. So, here it is:

My goal is to reach 400 subscriber/followers to my blog before the end of the year.

What I know this means is:

  1. I need to put more meaningful content in my blog posts.
  2. I need to self-endorse and plug my blog more.
  3. I need to appeal to anyone reading this to share this post because no man is an island I won’t be able to do this alone.

So…help?

That joke isn’t funny anymore.

Maybe I’m getting older- I turned 30 this year. Maybe I’m just just getting tired of it all. But some things just don’t carry the same level of humor they used to have.

When I was 11, Weird Al released an album titled Bad Hair Day. The closeout track for the album is a song called, “The Night Santa Went Crazy.” The basic premise of the song is that Santa reaches the point of snapping, goes on a rampage, elves and reindeer do not make it out alive, and Mrs. Claus sells the story to the highest bidder. And that’s even the less gory version.

When I was 11, I thought the song was brilliant. A stylistically quaint, tranquil song about a violent act involving a beloved holiday figure, in short a juxtaposition of two unalike things, was pure genius. And funny!

But that joke isn’t funny anymore.

There have been too many deaths cause by people who have had it. Thursday’s shooting at UCC runs the risk of ringing hollow in our ears because it’s another one in a long list of ones that have already happened this year. The joke is always funny until it becomes reality. Then it sucks.

As a country, is it possible that we are about to see a major shift in perception towards media that glorifies senseless violence? We’ve experienced similar things in the past:

1. Blackface was a popular until it was deemed offensive by a large enough group of U.S. citizens. Other ethnic minorities who were the comic relief are now seeing their race portrayed with much more dignity than in the past.

2. In entertainment, the homosexual character received the brunt of jokes until the audience knew enough closeted gay people who were hurt by those stereotypes that the practice shifted.

Something has to change in America. I don’t know what it is. I just know that I am tired of turning on the news and hearing about another tragedy that could have been prevented if something were different in this country.

Ten albums that shaped my faith.

Next year I turn 30.  One of my blogging themes for next year is that every 30 days I am going to publish a reflective post relating to a “top ten” sort of list.  As a practice post, and because I’ve been thinking about music lately, I present for you the “Ten Albums that Helped Shaped My Spiritual Formation as a Christian.”

 

dc Talk- Jesus Freak (1995)  At the time that this album came out, I was annoyed with “church music.”  Pop radio was playing music from bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and The Offspring.  My friends’ parents were listening to rock radio stations that played music from bands like Metallica, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, etc.  I was tired of listening to the “sissy music” of the Church which sounded like little more than a bunch of adults who couldn’t let go of the fact that the 80s were gone.  My brother Pieter and I complained about this notion continually.  I don’t know whether my parents’ move was a moment of giving in or encouraging us to find our own faith, but that bought for me dc Talk’s Jesus Freak.

I wish I could say that it played a role in my faith because of a message of Gospel, social responsibility, and love.  But in actuality, it was significant because of the church in which I was raised.  The church was an independent, full-gospel (with a lack of true Gospel), fundamentalist church where the only acceptable music was praise music which could be sung by a choir or in the corporate Church setting.  Suffice it to say, I was labeled rebellious for listening to dc Talk, and the elders of the church had an “intervention” style conversation with my parents because I had bootlegged a copy of the album on cassette for another girl in the youth group.  What I took away from this time period is that “leadership” is not always right; determining God’s call and will takes time and prayer and not just blindly accepting what others say.

 

Blink-182  – Enema of the State (1999)  Back in 1999, who didn’t like Blink-182?  Answer a lot of fundamentalist Christians, especially upon realizing that the woman who graced the cover of Enema of the State was a full-fledged porn star.  So I did what any good Christian boy would do, I waited until none of the fundies I knew were around and bought the album of my own, hiding it in a blatantly obvious spot (a toolbox in my bedroom which was locked- no I didn’t own any tools).

After listening to the album, I was (not) shocked to find out that satan was not waiting outside my house to take my soul, that I didn’t have an overwhelming urge to have illicit sex, and that I didn’t want to do drugs.  What I learned through this album is that while “everything is permissible, not everything is profitable” (1 Cor. 10:23).

 

MxPx- The Everpassing Moment (2000)  Blink-182 got my psyched about pop-punk music, but after a while I tired of the crassness.  A band I had started listening to a couple years before Blink was MxPx., a band labeled as “crossover punk.”  About the time I was searching for something Blink-esque with more lyrical maturity, The Everpassing Moment was released.  This was a feel-good album from a group of believers that was not blatantly Christian in its lyrical content.

While many of my Church friends were attending the local private Christian school and spending all their time memorizing Bible verses to avoid earning demerits, I was learning to play the guitar and making friends with classmates who also played in bands.  Faith should be something that unites people; unfortunately, it seems to be complicated by people who use it to divide more often unite so sometimes music has to do the job that people can’t use faith to do.

 

Dashboard Confessional- The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most (2001)  By the time I came across this album, Chris Carrabba had already parted ways with Further Seems Forever.  I discovered The Places at the end of 2001 when I was nursing my first serious heartbreak.  This was the first album I had heard with such raw emotion and blatant sincerity in its lyrics.  I started wondering why Church music was never this brutally open and honest.  Everything seemed to be raindrops, roses, and Jesus is my boyfriend.

At 16, all my youth group friends were swearing off dating and staying away from anything that could incite in them anything that came close to resembling lust.  I had no one at Church to talk to about issues of teenage love and depression; The Places spoke to me in a way that those who I was supposed to count on couldn’t do because they were so busy demonizing things like teen dating that they didn’t have an effective way to stand beside teens who actually were dating other than to give them a copy of I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  Sometimes faith is not about giving people the “right answers;” it’s about coming alongside them as they try to find the answers.

 

Project 86- Truthless Heroes (2002)  By 17, I had figured out three things: life is not simple, faith is not simple, and that if I had issues, there were probably others dealing with issues (whether they wanted to acknowledge it or not).  By this point, I had amassed a rather large CD collection.  A band on this compilation album I had purchased at the local faith-based bookstore, Project 86, has a new album out and I do not know why but I was excited about it.  By this point, I was an angry teenager doing his best to fake happy.  On its release date, I drove to the local bookstore and bought a copy of Truthless Heroes and drove home with my car’s stereo turned up as loud as I could stand.  Of course, two months later when the Christian Right protested against the album because it seemed very anti-war and media in a time period when it was socially unacceptable to be so because of 9/11, that same bookstore pulled the album off its shelves.

I was unfamiliar with the idea of controversy of this kind in an album from “Christians,” and I was intrigued.  The story short, not everyone is going to agree all the time.  They especially won’t agree when you express negative sentiments in a worldview that is supposed to be love, joy, peace, etc.  Christianity, however, should be about being open and real with each other and not trying to hide from reality.

 

Haste the Day- Burning Bridges (2004)  This album came out during the spring semester of my senior year of high school; the aggression and passion were something that I had never heard on record before.  It sounded nothing like “Church music,” but was everything like Church music.  This was an album I instantly “got.”  It made sense; it was a way to talk about all the different aspects of being a Christian, but without sounding like a sissy.  There were other bands doing this at the time (see Norma Jean, Stavesacre, P.O.D., or Blindside), but there was something different about Haste the Day.

This album got me thinking that perhaps there was hope for faith-centered music, and that it was okay to push myself musically in that direction.  Learning how to be a guitarist in a metal band did not mean I was setting myself up for eternal damnation.

 

Hillsong United- United We Stand (2006)  If someone had told me that at 21, I would actually put a CD into my stereo that could be filed under the category of “Praise/Worship” and play it endlessly, I would not have believed the person.  But that is exactly what happened when United We Stand was placed into my hands.  This album sounded nothing like what was being released in music stores or what people in the Churches I would go to were singing.  There was something sincere, authentic, and real about the music and lyrics; I couldn’t help but want to sing words at the top of my lungs when listening to this in my car (which created some awkward stoplight moments in the summer when my windows were rolled down).

At this point in my life, I was in the middle of a period of what I could summarize as agnosticism.  I knew there was Someone out there, but I didn’t feel that I or anyone else around me was talking about God accurately.  I still don’t feel that I can talk about God in accurate terms (ideas maybe), but this album helped me to see that just because the word we use come up short doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  Put like this, “That which we cannot speak of is the one thing about whom and to whom we must never stop speaking.”

 

David Bazan- Curse Your Branches (2009)  It would make perfect sense to find an album of music that reflects lyrics antagonistic to a Christian worldview to be in a list of music that shapes faith.  But that is exactly what this entry is.  Since confronted with the idea in my teens that the people of the Church don’t have it all together, I started having doubts and questions.  These doubts/questions have stuck with me my whole life and I haven’t known how to compartmentalize them or express them for fear of being ostracized (it happened with people from the Church when I was younger; I didn’t want it to happen again).

Curse Your Branches was a chance for me to let someone else meditate on some of the questions that I had.  Through it, I learned to accept the fact that doubt is really a part of faith and that it is okay to have questions, express those questions, and not try to answer them but just let them be.

 

Mumford and Sons- Sign No More (2009)  Although this album came out in 2009, I didn’t hear it for the first time until the next year after I was married to my hottie of a wife.  Since the first listen, I have come to realize that an album such as this is a much more sincere reflection of life and faith than much of what is found on contemporary, uplifting radio today (listen to Mandisa, Jamie Grace, Jason Castro, etc. for good examples of what Mumford and Sons isn’t).  I actually have found myself in moments of praise to Almighty through the album Sign No More more often than some of the music that can be found in the Church today.

Music does not have to be about God explicitly to be anointed or holy (these are church terms used to reflect the pureness of something and whether it can be considered set apart for enjoyment by the Creator).  God is reflected in his creation.  Period.

 

Bon Iver- Bon Iver (2011)  There is nothing really poetic here.  Music should be about the total experience, and music in the Church is no different.  As Rev. Vince Anderson states, every music team from every church should have at least one good break-up song.  Bon Iver is a good example of music that should encompass the whole experience of living.  Much like faith is.

 

***Honorable Mentions***

Jars of Clay- Much Afraid (1997)

P.O.D.-  The Fundamental Elements of the Southtown (1999)

Brand New- The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me (2006)

Snowpiercer, or what a post-apocalyptic film can teach us about Ferguson.

I am no different from many Americans across this country:  I am not from the same region, state, county, or city as Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, or anyone else directly involved in the unrest going on in Missouri right now; yet, I have an opinion about all that is going on.  Amid all the voices regarding the situation, Peter Rollins states it clearly:

Rollins_tweet

 

Against this current-event backdrop, I sat down this morning to kick off my Thanksgiving Break with a cup of coffee, my two dogs, and the movie Snowpiercer.  And while watching it, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities.

1.  There are is a people group oppressed by a higher “power.”

2.  The “powers that be” take two young children -one of them who happens to be African American- from the oppressed group.

3.  The children being taken is the catalyst for the oppressed people to revolt violently.

4.  The violent revolutionaries accomplish nothing meaningful other than creating a disturbance.

 

The movie’s resolution provides hope.  It isn’t the leader of the revolutionaries, Curtis, who brings change to the unjust system.  The chief antagonist, Wilfred, does not maintain order.  Change is brought about by the most unsuspecting character, a 17-year-old girl whose father tries throughout the whole movie to maintain her innocence and protect her from violence and evil.  In short, the unsuspecting and innocent girl, with one action undoes an entire unjust, brutal, way of life and at the end of the movie provides the viewers with the notion that there is hope and a chance for survival.

 

Change to a corrupt system in Ferguson (and anywhere else where its unjust nature exists) is not going to be accomplished by untold numbers of people participating in violent deeds; it is only going achieve receiving condemnation from others who are not involved.  Change is going to come when enough people decide to unite and fight injustice with the opposites of the mechanism that created the conflict in the first place.  In other words: peace, love, and non-violence need to be the tools that undo the mess we are in.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. stated it best when he said that “violence begets violence.”  Non-violent protest did not fix all of the racial issues of his day, but it made major headway.  Perhaps what kept the Civil Rights Movement from being a 100 percent success was that it did not last long enough.

As people of privilege, we need to be advocates for others who are stuck in oppressive situations.  Whether the problems are inequality, addiction, exploitation, etc., we have a responsibility to speak up for the least of these.  Ferguson re-opened the eyes of a previous generation and opened the eyes anew for this one.  How will we respond?

So…yeah…

It is uncommon for me to see a video on YouTube which makes me approach the verge of having an accident in my pants.  This video clip from The Graham Norton Show where John Cleese of Monty Python fame insults Taylor Swift’s cat is good for a hard laugh.  Happy Tuesday.

Killing Hercules.

I have seen some pretty terrible faith-based films:  The Omega Code, Apocalypse, and anything starring Kirk Cameron.  But then there are some that I would count as respectable: Thr3e or Faith Like Potatoes.  Last night I watched God’s Not Dead, and managed to put aside most of  my usual complaints about how most films created to appeal to an audience of Christians come across as lame, cheesy, and it’s no surprise why we’re predominantly the only ones who enjoy them because it’s art imitating culture, not creating culture.  There were some things I did enjoy about the film and some things that left me rolling my eyes at the end.

 

One of the best moments of the film, which left me giggling pretty strongly was this cameo from Willie and Korie Robertson, who get ambushed by a leftist blogger/journalist:

Another part that I thought was really well written and delivered was this scene where Dean Cain’s character gets confronted by his mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s:

But there were also things that left me thinking, “Really?!?”

For one thing, I do not know one college professor, and I’ve encountered some pretty arrogant ones, who after inviting a student to present the counterpoint to his lectures (and by the way I have NEVER heard of that happening), would not feel intellectually intimidated enough to do this:

And then there is the final lecture, where not only does the protagonist Josh trump Prof. Raddison, but receives a unanimous ovation from his lecture hall class of 80 students:

 

It felt like for every moment in the film where I found myself starting to really enjoy the film, it would be followed by one that left me wondering, “Is life really like this?  Are people in life this over-the-top?”  And the answer is that yes, it can be and yes, they are.  But the odds of finding in one community someone overly atheistic, one a hardcore Christian, one totally in love with self, one who thought she was but finds out she isn’t and needs someone who isn’t, and many other examples of typical foil pairs  is highly unlikely, just as the evil atheist who experiences a deathbed conversion at the last moment.  This is not to say these things could happen, but the fact that I don’t see them happen in my community on a daily basis makes it hard for me to not notice these things.

Ultimately, God’s Not Dead was okay.  If I’m visiting someone who wants to watch it, I will sit through it with them.  It’s a valuable experience if for no other reason than to be confronted with anti-God arguments which may disturb the viewer to the point of reflecting on his or her faith and how the critiques might strengthen it.  In the end, remember the only way to kill Hercules is to hit him with a car.

Are you thankful like me that video was not as prevalent when we were younger?

I can only imagine what I did when I was a kid that would have had the ability to go viral and embarrass me when I got older…