Calling Out the Contemporary Christian Music Industry

A brief post on Dick Staub’s blog by Lou Carlozo of the Chicago Tribune.

“UNTIL CHRISTIAN MUSIC STRESSES ART OVER AGENDA, IT CAN NEVER BE ANYTHING BUT SECOND RATE (my emphasis). As a music editor at the Chicago Tribune, I have a responsibility to turn my readers on to the best art out there. And as a Christian, I have an obligation to tell the truth at all costs, as I see it. If it’s bad, awkward, mawkish art that Nashville keeps shipping to me like so many day-glo W.W.J.D. bracelets, what choice do I have? I would rather be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness than win the approval of any cabal that is convinced–for all the wrong reasons–that the majority of “Christian” music serves a noble purpose.

Michelangelo makes us cry by depicting the finger-touch of creation in a majestic image. Johnny Cash could break your heart by revealing the serrated edges of his brokenness. Bono makes you wrestle and challenges all assumptions that God is of the right or left wing. None of this is a “business model” to be emulated. These are ways of approaching art and life we are talking about, meant to be done with all the fear and trembling of someone trying to point the way to a higher truth while walking a narrow path.”

Image Isn’t Everything: the uneasy conscience of a GenX pastor

Below is my response to a post on Out of Ur critcizing the image of “Gen-X” pastors.

I do not doubt that you know some people who need this but I think you are being very unfair to so many “X’ers”. Many of us already know that image isn’t everything. But some think that image is nothing (which is just as terrible) – like those with the comb-overs, in old suits, preaching KJV with the terrible halitosis.

You have heard a thousand times and the question remains is what does a Christian look like? I can hear someone now explaining that they don’t have tattoos, they wear pleated khaki’s, drown themselves in Old Spice cologne, drink sweet tea, and only clap on 1 and 3 (because the beat is obviously more consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity). The crazy thing is even in spite of all that, many of these guys are being used by to reach their fellow peers. The same courtesy should be extended to the Next Gen’ers (X’ers, Emergents, whatever you want to call us).

Also, I hope no one is deluding themselves assuming that they are not concerned with appearances when too many in the Boomer Generation are obsessed with not wearing jeans to church, where the carpets are always vacuumed, and the offering plates are always shiny. (And there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m merely pointing out that image-consciousness) Do I need to remind you which generation brought us televangelism? And to the posters that question the authenticity of the X’er, I hope you do not think that this is unique to this generation. Furthermore in my experience, it’s the X’ers who are trying their hardest to show their transparency.

Listen, to the loving admonition of insuring that all of us (you old geezers included) don’t take our image too seriously, yeah, I agree but these two articles seemed to be much more than that – criticizing sharp-looking websites to church names. Furthermore, where does this paragraph come from:
“Though you are seeking excellence, make sure no one knows how much work you have put in. This takes away from the impact. Make it look effortless and that it was just thrown together….”
Are you kidding? A generation raised on choreographed music videos and concert tours knows that very little with any quality is ever thrown together. Even further, a generation that buys their jeans already faded (distressed) and frayed knows that very well!

“Maybe some of what I have described thus far bothers you. Aren’t we as Christians supposed to be less focused on appearances and more concerned with the heart?”

Yes! A hundred times yes! So why are you questioning others by their appearances?

HIV infections decline in Zimbabwe.

It’s great to see progress though there is so much more to be done.

Sweeter Dreams
HIV infections decline in Zimbabwe.
by Isaac Phiri | posted 04/28/2006 10:00 a.m.

Good news from and about Zimbabwe is rare. But this February, a new study revealed a dramatic drop in new HIV infections among Zimbabwe’s 12 million people, 1.8 million of whom are already HIV positive. The disease’s prevalence dropped from 23 percent to 20.5 percent of the population.

Zimbabwe’s first study was done between 1998 and 2000. A team of British scientists collected blood samples in the eastern part of the country. The sample collecting was followed up with a questionnaire on behavior. The research was repeated in 2003.

The most dramatic changes were in behavior. The percentage of women, aged 15 and 17, who reported a sexual experience during the previous 12 months dropped from 21 percent to 9 percent. Older men and women also reported changes in behavior. The number of people who’d had casual sex recently dropped from 49 percent to 22 percent.

Geoffrey Garnett, a coauthor of the study, says “increases in condom use” could explain the decline in HIV infections. But Edward Green, an American researcher known for his study of the role of abstinence and fidelity in reducing HIV rates, told CT, “Zimbabwe seems to be following the same path as Uganda and Kenya.” Christians in Uganda, Kenya, and other African states have supported the so-called ABC strategy for reducing infection rates.

Green said the Zimbabwe study shows that “the primary change again seems to be B [be faithful], partner reduction; followed by A [abstinence]; followed by C [consistent condom use].” Zimbabwe has 900,000 children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS deaths, which occur at the rate of more than 1,000 each week.

Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
April 2006, Vol. 50, No. 4, Page 93

Should Evangelicals Support Bush's Foreign Policy if He Can't Guarantee Religious Freedom? by Rob Moll

“Case of Afghan convert causes some to question democracy push in the Middle East.
by Rob Moll | posted 04/24/2006 09:30 a.m.

The case of Abdul Rahman—the Afghan Christian convert who was arrested for apostasy before being released and given asylum in Italy—has been long expected by religious freedom observers. Despite few guarantees of religious freedom, evangelicals have largely supported democratization in the Middle East. But, some evangelical leaders say, that support may not last if more Christians are sentenced to death.

In his BreakPoint commentary, Chuck Colson said, “I have supported the Bush administration’s foreign policy because I came to believe that the best way to stop Islamo-fascism was by promoting democracy. But if we can’t guarantee fundamental religious freedoms in the countries where we establish democratic reforms, then the whole credibility of our foreign policy is thrown into serious question.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said, “How can we congratulate ourselves for liberating Afghanistan from the rule of jihadists only to be ruled by Islamists who kill Christians? … Americans will not give their blood and treasure to prop up new Islamic fundamentalist regimes. Democracy is more than purple thumbs.”…”

Why I Believe in the Resurrection

The Resurrection is the most central belief of the Christian faith. Without it, the Bible is just another book, there is no super-natural element about it, Jesus is just a very interesting teacher who somehow performed magic tricks disguised as miracles and was able to not only mislead 12 disciples, but millions over the years.
In I Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul said Without the Resurrection, our faith is useless … We ought to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

For thousands of years, the Old Testament prophesied about the coming of Christ. Of course, modern day Jews are still waiting for him, while Christians claim that Jesus is Him. At the end of the day, it comes down to a matter of faith for each of us.

Thus, I am proud, honored, and humbled all at once to have this position. The Resurrection is unique to other major world religions. Most rely on their teachings of morality and perspective in order to be a follower and inherit paradise/nirvana etc. Christianity either backs itself in a corner or trumps the others by relying on a historical super-natural event as its foundation for its existence.

The Resurrection is the greatest demonstration of God’s love. After condemning all mankind to eternal death because of sin, He intercedes and changes the rules … Himself. For those interested in exploring this subject, I believe it comes down to a couple of central issues: the existence of God (which allows for the super-natural), the Revelation of God – Jesus, and whether or not He rose from the dead. If you believe in a super-natural God who has sent prophets to tell of His coming, the Resurrection does not seem that difficult.

Over the years many have tried to explain away the Resurrection. Much ink has been spilled and some have dedicated their entire lives to these subjects and I wish to respect their efforts, but for the sake of time, space, and this medium, I need to be as concise as possible. I say all that to say, I am not trying to create strawmen here …

The Swoon Theory is the one that suggests that Jesus either faked his death by either passing out or the soldiers mistakenly thought he was dead, took him off the cross and put him in the tomb. From here, either he escaped on his own or the disciples came and rescued him.

Though by archeological and historical standards the New Testament (and Old) are considered to be actual historical records, my desire is to use them as little as possible.
(But perhaps at another time, we can mention why they are reliable. It actually is quite impressive in comparison to other ancient texts).

Back to the Swoon theory though. During the Roman Empire in the first century, the penalty for a botched crucifixion was your execution. Considering that not a single solider was killed for his failure to execute a prisoner, it would be unreasonable to conclude that they mistakenly took Jesus off the cross if He had only passed out.
But let’s say they did (In addition it was common to take a spear and stab the prisoner through the heart to make sure – which they did in Jesus’ case but we’ll set that aside too). They lay Jesus into the tomb and put a 2 ton boulder in front of it. HOW DOES HE GET OUT? It is suggested that the disciples came and rescued him, if so, wouldn’t the Romans have hunted them down. Furthermore in the Biblical text, the tomb was sealed and guarded for the Romans were suspicious that this band of religious lunatics might in fact, do this. Let’s say that didn’t for they feared their lives as they made no attempt to save him when they could have and deserted Him. Let’s say Jesus recovered as one of the versions of the swoon theories have suggested. It’s very difficult to move any boulder of any size and fight off the guards and escape if you were just mistaken for dead.
Let’s say that someone like Mary Magdalene snuck into the tomb before they took Jesus off the cross and hid a couple protein bars, Gatorade, and a weapon or two, say even a first century Uzi. Jesus recovers (also, he was wrapped, not exactly like a mummy, but wrapped but that’s the least of his problems. If He can get out of the tomb obviously ace bandages won’t be a problem). He awakens, recovers, gets his strength back enough, gathers the weapons uses the lever to move the boulder. Fortunately it’s on a decline and as it rolls it runs over a couple of soldiers. Jesus the expert carpenter (I mean swordsmen) He is, fights off the remaining soldiers and limps off to find His disciples in the secretive upper room.
Upon being found by Him, most likely they would not say, Wow, just as you predicted, you really showed them, (and pay attention) and Jesus, you promise that I can do this too? It’s not exactly the resurrected body I was hoping for but barely alive is better then dead. YEAH! Where do I sign up? Jesus has been risen from the dead and we can be raised like this too!

Ridiculous no? You got the first botched crucifixion, a man mistaken to be dead moving two-ton boulders, fighting off guards, and then convincing his followers this is the best life to follow. When the natural explanations fail, and the super-natural seems more possible, it’s at least worth investigating.

The Mass Hallucination Theory
The theory is the disciples gathered in the upper-room, delirious in their grief or high from drugs hallucinate and see the risen Christ.
It’s a tough one for the naturalist because historically and scientifically there is much debate on the specifics of the idea of “mass hallucination”.
For a moment let’s assume they did, they heard the hallucination say the same thing, ate with the resurrected hallucination, went fishing together (as reported in the Gospels), appeared to approximately 500 people before the hallucination ascended.

This “mass hallucination” would be the most unique to say the least. This is NOT like seeing a vision of Mary in the clouds or in bowl of cereal. The duration, the fact it happens inside and outside and different times of day and it eats, walks and talks!
Furthermore, perhaps the most compelling reason I have for the Resurrection is the Disciple’s Reaction. Hope you keep reading.

The Disciples’ Reaction
Upon believing that a man you witnessed die has in fact come back to life, you could easy understand why this is exciting. It’s never happened before. As one of Jesus’ disciples you saw some impressive miracles, healing the blind and lame, even bringing back a couple of people from the dead (that would later die again as they were still mortal and not given “heavenly bodies”). Most importantly you heard him claim that He was the Son of God and that He was the Way the Truth and the Life to God the Father in Heaven. By putting your faith in Him, you would know the Father. Being a disciple, imagine again the moment that you believed once and for all Christ rose from the dead, thereby proving everything He said, erasing any doubt from the corners of your mind, and concluding that this must truly be the Messiah, the Son of God. Certainly you would risk everything, from your life to even your loved ones for they too could be saved by God. Then after the Resurrected Jesus tells you to preach this Gospel (this “Good News”), you go everywhere you can faithfully preaching the message of salvation. Logical from the Christian perspective.

However, let us assume that Jesus did NOT rise from the dead. But rather the disciples gathered in the upper room decided to create a story – a story that included the theft of Jesus’ body, a conspiracy and tale of his resurrection so His teachings and legacy could live on. So you make a pact with the other 10, passionately persuade the naïve masses that Jesus rose from the dead, showing that the tomb is empty, convincing them to become “Christians”. In a short time, the Romans are trying to erase your cu

lt by persecuting and trying to kill you and your converts. They succeed in killing Stephen who was not one of the original disciples but one of the early church leaders. The mayhem ensues – hundreds of your converts are being killed, members of the original 12 are killed and dragged through the streets. As it has taken approximately 30-40 years for the last of the original 12 to be killed, you find yourself one of the last ones alive.

Throughout the last 30 or so years of preaching this lie, you have returned to your business, you have returned to your family, your youngest daughter is about to be married and your eldest son is about to give you a grandchild.
A man approaches you with violent intent and says, “You are one of those disciples of Christ.” You will deny it just as Peter did before Jesus was crucified. Why? Because no one willingly dies for a lie. Add to this 11 conspirators, persecuted and killed over 40 years. I tell you the truth, as a person committed to his word but more committed to his wife and family, I will deny some silly lie or pact I made 30 years ago, especially if my fellow pact-makers are already dead. I am going to enjoy the life I have left. But not one disciple escapes the martyr’s death or persecution (as John was exiled after being thrown in a vat of almost boiling oil). You only admit to being one of Jesus’ followers only if you really believe that He rose from the dead! That’s worth dying for.

No one willingly dies for what they know to be a lie. People make objections stating that the from the 9-11 conspirator to the Kamikaze pilot to the Nazi to any other kind of terrorist, etc, that they die all the time for lies. And the refutation is, no they don’t. The terrorist believes that he is dying for the truth, however misguided he is, he believes in his cause.

Again, no one willingly dies for what they know to be a lie. Not one, not 11, not the millions of converts of the early church. In returning to the story of Jesus, it is also important to note that as recorded in the book of Acts, the resurrected Christ appeared to 500 people before He ascended to God the Father.

Especially as many have attacked its historicity over the centuries, these and many other arguments provide solid refutations and probably reason for the Resurrection. To come full circle, please remember that this does not “prove” the Resurrection. The apostle Paul teaches us that we are not justified by our arguments, our behavior, or our rationality, we are justified by our faith. It’s always been a matter of faith, but for me, it’s good to know that I have good reason for my faith.

Reflecting on Illegal Immigration

Today, thousands of illegal immigrants and their allies across the country plan a show of force to illustrate how much immigrants matter in the U.S. economy.

So much has been written on this subject, I thought I would try to highlight some points that I have come across.

1. Deport 11.7 million people is not the solution. And, they have helped the economy.
From Chuck Colson:
“Look at the economy first: If you could find and deport every undocumented alien in America, you would go to the grocery store next week and find the shelves bare. Without immigrant workers, we could not harvest crops. Just as happened yesterday, service industries everywhere would be shut down. With unemployment at a five-year low of 4.7 percent and with 200,000 new jobs added to the economy last month, there is simply a shortage of workers in much of America. (
2. But they have cost the taxpayers as well.
– Depending on what angle you are looking at, illegal immigration has created a burden on the welfare system, the education system, etc.
– Illegal alien households are estimated to use $2,700 a year more in services than they pay in taxes, creating a total fiscal burden of nearly $10.4 billion on the federal budget in 2002.
– Among the largest federal costs: Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs ($1.9 billion); the federal prison and court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).
– If illegal aliens were legalized and began to pay taxes and use services like legal immigrants with the same education levels, the estimated annual fiscal deficit at the federal level would increase from $2,700 per household to nearly $7,700, for a total federal deficit of $29 billion.
– With nearly two-third of illegals lacking a high school diploma, the primary reason they create a fiscal deficit is their low education levels and resulting low incomes and tax payments — not their legal status or their unwillingness to work.
– Amnesty increases costs because illegals would still be largely unskilled, and thus their tax payments would continue to be very modest, but once legalized they would be able to access many more government services.
– The fact that legal immigrants with little schooling are a fiscal drain on federal coffers does not mean that legal immigrants overall are a drain. Many legal immigrants are highly skilled.
– Because many of the costs are due to their U.S.-born children, who are awarded U.S. citizenship at birth, barring illegals themselves from federal programs will not significantly reduce costs.

3. The Principle of Law
Yet while we need immigrant workers to keep the economy going, we are tolerating them at the expense of the rule of law. Once you discover that you have 11 million illegal aliens in your midst, you cannot in fairness grant amnesty. If these new alien workers are going to be assimilated into American life, they have got to understand that we live according to the rule of law. By allowing them to continue to work as undocumented aliens, we are telling them that we really don’t care about the law; that we just want them here to use them as our slaves in our agricultural fields so we can eat cheaply.”
“No previous group of immigrants has had such a large inflow or access to their home country that this latest group has today. That’s because no previous wave of immigrants could walk across our borders.
Earlier groups crossed oceans to come here and were assimilated into the culture in a gradual and measured way. This latest wave quite literally has only to walk right in, and they are doing so in a big way.
Most illegals do not conduct themselves like immigrants of the past. Okay, they work hard, but they are here against our laws and generally have little interest in learning English or the ways of our culture. Illegals generally come here merely to find a job, not necessarily to become citizens. And now they are protesting our generosity and good will.
These attitudes are offensive, and are the reason why most Americans want the border controlled. This is not about racism. It is about a distortion of the process that appalls African, Asian and other ethnic groups who are legally waiting in line to come here.”

Something to consider:

“Let’s look at it from the low- or unskilled-laborer’s perspective: Typically these workers are economic refugees plagued by the corrupt and chaotic economic regimes and attendant policies of Mexico or other countries in Latin America. The problems in these countries are not America’s fault. Arguably, many of these workers would likely challenge their own governments if they didn’t have America as a viable outlet. Nevertheless, it is in our economic interest to allow them to enter our labor force if not but to help maintain our own economic vitality.”

“We should not allow Mexico to export their poverty as a way to avoid economic and social reform. Ultimately, this problem will not go away until Mexico reforms its systemic government and societal corruption, and their people can live prosperously in their own country.”

Border control is a must. “There is an old saying that good fences make for good neighbors. This truism has never been more applicable than with our Southern neighbor. Good fences make good immigration policy too.
We have a proud history of accepting the world’s poor in a system designed to provide gradual assimilation of new citizens into our language and culture. We need to control our border and allow that process to happen properly.”

Concerning those that are already here:
I need to hear more. I do believe that those who stay should be required to pay taxes (back taxes included) whether they are granted citizenship or some other arrangement. The tcsdaily article makes a point in granting working privileges but not necessarily citizenship. I need to think a little more about that.

Since I am a part of the first generation of my family born in this country, I have a lot of sympathy for this subject. At the same time, my parents immigrated here legally. I cannot imagine the frustration of the millions of people awaiting visas knowing that millions of people have cut in line in front of them. I understand that many illegals are here to support their families and are hard-working people burationale rationalle can be used to justify stealing as well. As a society we must be committed to justice as well as truth and liberty (sorry to sound so Constitutional, but it actually is a fantastic document. It’s effectiveness is why we have people dying to get here).

As far as the Church is concerned:
My opinion is that we need to be wise and helpful. We ought to welcome the stranger without betraying the authority of our government. May God give us wisdom.