Does Apologetics Have a Role in Postmodern Culture?

Primary Audience – My post-evangelical friends who have abandoned apologetics.
Secondary Audience – Those who have no idea what I mean by post-evangelical and perhaps place too high of an emphasis on apologetics.

Like many Christians, I went through an apologetic phase. I got excited about people like Lee Strobel, handed out Case for Christ, the sequel Case for Faith, and the lesser known but probably his best work Case for the Yankees to everyone I knew. I also had a life-size poster of Ravi Zacharias wearing a No. 23 jersey dunking over Nietzsche. It was pretty cool.

What I liked about apologetics is that it allowed a place for philosophy and the sciences. For me, it encouraged thinking, logic and dialogue. Further I found the proclamations and defenses helpful in understanding and sharing my Christian faith.

But over the years, my appreciation for apologetics lessened because I found that at times, it was actually a counter-productive way of sharing the Christian faith. Further, it often led to unhelpful arguments, and frankly many times, most people didn’t really care about it. I hated the endless debating, the “us versus them”, the posturing, etc. I remember hearing things like, “When an atheist says this, counter with this …” Later I found it to be objectifying of people and it dehumanized those Jesus called me to love.

Over the years, I have met many different types of atheists/agnostics/skeptics. Most of them are hurting people and I believe many of them, despite what they say, are searching. I often wonder if sometimes our arguments actually have an adverse effect and push them further away from God. Now certainly, I don’t think skeptics are going to be nearer to God if we answer questions with blank stares and shrugged shoulders and this among the reasons why I have not given up on the discipline of apologetics.

I sometimes feel surrounded by people (physically and online) who perhaps over-emphasize the importance of apologetics and those who have dismissed it entirely. To the former it seems we may have to reconsider the importance, the practice and the ethic that it should be complimented by. To the latter, I wonder if it’s because we have been beat over the head so many times with it that we are simply too turned off to appreciate it’s helpfulness.

It’s important to remember that there is a lot of goodness in discussions that place a Christ-like value on the person you are discussing such matters with. Conversation is essential and the “us dialoging with others” and others with us, and the positioning of being in a time/place where we can share our hearts.

I think it’s important that believers have an understanding of what we believe and be able to articulate why we believe. It’s something that we try to do in our student ministry. We say regularly, “Don’t inherit your parents’ faith, it will fail you. Faith must be owned by you …”. Apologetics, theology, social justice practices, corporate worship, spiritual formation are all necessary in the nurturing of young disciples.

From where I sit, there is a another population in the Church that could really benefit from refuting things like the “Swoon Theory” and “The Legend Theory” or understanding the critiques and responses to the new atheists like Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris. Throughout the centuries, there has always been an intentional undermining of the resurrection of Jesus, and while we cannot ever prove that Jesus rose from the dead, I think in this postmodern era, it is beneficial to present a case that says at the very least, “It could have happened and in faith I choose to believe it did.”

Everything has a context and I think apologetics has a place too. No one can prove “faith”. That’s exactly what faith is. In fact, “proving faith” is an oxymoron. The moment you prove faith you contradict Hebrews 11:1 – one of the most quoted passages of Scripture.

I think some of my fellow seminary-trained, well-read, post-evangelicals get frustrated with apologetics because too much stock has been placed on it. I submit that we are tired of it because we have gotten so much of it. Could it be that we are suffering from an apologetics hangover? I think it’s time we consider its benefits and perhaps invest energies in reframing this discipline of study in our postmodern culture.

As always feel free to disagree/pushback/etc. What do you think – is there a place for apologetics today?

An Easter Reflection – God Experienced Something … New?

You know when a rock n’ roll band releases a new album and they say something like, “This is our best ever yet.”? That’s how I feel about the holidays in recent years. Throughout my adult years, I have always liked Easter and the last few years have been wonderful and this one may have been the most meaningful yet. Can’t really put my finger on one exact thing but I do know the more I put into the season of Lent, the more beautiful they tend to be. Reading through the Gospels, focusing on certain aspects of the Easter story, fasting, my community and of course, having children, have a lot to do with it.

The past two years, the Gospel of Mark has really been special for me. Reading Tim Keller’s The King’s Cross (which was based on Mark) was a helpful devotional for the season. I also found myself talking a lot about the atonement. I cannot recommend enough Scot McKnight’s Community of Atonement which worked its way into two weeks of youth group lessons. I would even say that the “Rob Bell controversy” was a blessing to my Lent as I can not recall a time that I have talked about the topic of salvation (soteriology) more with fellow believers.

I also gave up coffee and Guinness this year. If you know me, you know I like coffee. I drank a lot of green tea in it’s place which is a healthy alternative but always reminded me that it wasn’t as enjoyable as good coffee. Regarding the beer, I’m not a huge beer drinker and I really only like a few. Guinness is by far my favorite. At my favorite pub, they pour one for me as soon as I walk in the door. Now understand, I know that giving up coffee and Guinness is not real suffering. I gave these up because they are things I really enjoy – they are the small rewards that sometimes whisper to me, “life is good”. (If your coffee isn’t whispering to you, it’s probably because you are drinking Folgers and is part of the unethical treatment of global coffee farmers – buy fair trade my friends).

If I had to pick my one theme that I was blessed by this year, it would have to be the Father watching His Son suffer. I know He raises Jesus back to life but that’s another matter entirely. I’m moved by the Father’s role in all of this. It could be that we are parents now and I’m all sensitive about fatherhood but I think it’s also that most of the sermons I hear and lessons I give are from Jesus’ perspective (which is of course, a fantastic and necessary perspective). But this year, I wondered how God could have watched. I know He is omniscient, I know He is omnipotent, I know He loves humanity and wants to offer the world redemption. I know God is just and merciful, I know He is Jesus, etc – I know all these things. But I still wonder and that is good because it’s an exercise that draws me nearer the Father’s heart.

One of my favorite aspects of the Christian faith is that we serve a God that got His hands dirty and bloody for our sake. A God that lost everything – A God that died. Which is utterly crazy in some sense – I mean there has to be another way, right?

As it turns out, there wasn’t. Justice and Love are demonstrated in their highest forms at Calvary. God had delivered His people in many ways before but dying was new. This is humbling, beautiful and downright amazing. I know my words fail to capture the grandeur of it. And I know we can only appreciate the glory of the resurrection when we have grieved the crucifixion of Jesus but this Lent it became clearer to me that God experienced a different type of love for His creation when He suffered on our behalf. In this sense, God experienced something He had never experienced before.God experienced something new? I tell you, this truth drew me in closer.

The Epic Pastor’s Fail Conference – Post 2 – Reflecting on the Grief of Leaving Your Church

Yesterday’s post offered an introduction and a bit of an explanation of what the Epic Fail Pastors Conference was about. Today, I wanted to put down on digital paper what I reflected on while there and since.

Just a note, I do know all the names of the presenters I heard but from the blog posts I’ve seen, everyone has been kept anonymous. As I mentioned before, I was only there for one day so there may have been an announcement made to keep it that way, so contact me if you would like to follow up on some of these presenters’ worthy thoughts.

In any case, one of the speakers shared powerfully of the hurt that pastors experience in ministry. But he did not only share from personal experience, he has been researching this topic for many years now. One thing that struck us all was when you leave a ministry either by your own choice or forced resignation or sudden termination, you go through a grieving process similar to the loss of a loved one. He offered further, if you know someone that is going through this, don’t tell the person, “Don’t worry, that church didn’t deserve you, there are plenty of other churches out there.” Just like you would not say such ridiculous things to someone who lost a spouse and illustrated having this obviously awkward conversation at someone’s funeral.

This was a different type of failure than I thought we would be talking about.

This made a lot of sense to me and I connected with that but not exactly out of personal experience. I have seen my friends mourn their departures. I’ve spent hours listening and “grieving” alongside (and I’m grateful that others have done so for me).  I also remember several stories of people in my church forced to leave their jobs they faithfully served for 20-30 years.

My experience was a bit different. I am completing the fifth year at my second church and I left my first one after being there for 5 years. But what connected with me was that I had mourned for years the dysfunction that I was a part of and hoped to get out. Once my wife and I created our exit plan, we felt we were like thieves breaking in trying to steal back our souls. And once we left – we felt free. For us, the grief process happened before the resignation but the time of healing carried on for a long time after. So much more could be said but this being a public blog, I don’t find it appropriate but only to say, we’ve always missed our students and our friends and this is among the reasons I am grateful for Facebook. But I digress.

The speaker was on to something because he validated and encouraged this type of grief and the different types of failures these experiences conjure up within us. Obviously there are major differences from grieving the loss of a loved one but one aspect that I would like to point out – that when you love and serve the church, it’s not just a job because your entire world is (or very much should be) about people. And it’s when you fail or feel failed by that community of people that have claimed they love you (and you them), real hurt bursts through.

I wished I could have stayed for the next day of the event and wished I could have gotten there the night before but this alone was worth the drive. I finish this post by saying, if you can relate to this, it could be that your grieving process was interrupted somehow. Perhaps it’s time to ask the Lord for healing in this area. As pastors, we know how destructive it is to carry burdens that should have been given over long ago. May this among the burdens you lay at the foot of the cross this Holy Week.

Review of The Epic Fail Pastor’s Conference – Introduction – Post 1

Last week, I stopped by for a day of the Epic Pastor’s Fail Conference in Lansdale, PA. It was an event put on my JR Briggs and the good people of the Renew Community that asked the basic question, “What if we as church leaders gathered and talked more about our failures than our successes?” It was a bit of anti-conference in a way and though it was scaled down, it’s heart really came through, not just in the voices of the presenters but in the amens, tears and even laughter from the listeners.

As helpful as I find ministry conferences, seminars, events, and meet-ups are, there have also been countless times where I have walked away from such an event feeling a mixture of inadequacy and excitement. I have heard similar from countless others. Sometimes you leave motivated and inspired, sometimes enthused and envious. Sometimes you’ll be with a bunch of attendees and talk about someone’s “successful ministry” and eventually someone will say, “Yeah, we could do that too if we had his money or his looks, or lived in the South or had an English accent or (fill in the blank here). Some of it is potentially true but some of it’s mediocrity disguised as a disillusioned self-pity. That said, Todd Rhodes has an interesting post written by PKUZMA where he echoed others in asking are church conferences a version of “Christian porn” where we take something good, embellish it and exploit for lust and profit? As one who enjoys conferences, this is something I have/am prayerfully considering.

Anyway, to have a conference focused on failure is quite the noble task. Everyone walks into the room with some type of a scarlet letter, failed church planter, failed marriage, “old has-been”, “not yet have been”, “afraid to be a never-will-be”, wounded leader and the list goes on. It was fitting to have discovered that the bar we were meeting in was a “failed church” in Lansdale. In fact, it was the first church in that town.

As I was driving over I pictured a bunch of small groups sitting in circles talking about our failures, like out of a scene in Fight Club (grittier and more violent because we’re pastors). I thought there may be some country music too. I even tried to rehearse a story that would evoke enough sympathy and a bit of respect, maybe a ministry version of Rocky V. You know, lose your position (the belt), your church (the ring) but leave with your pride because you knocked out the head elder and now leading a Bible Study in your home – I love that story.

But I was wrong. We did sit in round tables and there was time after each presenter to  ask a question or respond to what was said and there was a guy there that reminded  me of Meatloaf but it wasn’t what I thought it would be and that was a good thing. I  didn’t see a big clergy-style pity party, I didn’t hear desperation, and it wasn’t a  pathetic display of overly-emotional speakers outdoing each other’s nightmares and  offering a bumper sticker sermon at the end – “But I still trust God!”. And fortunately,  no country music was played.

Now remember, I wasn’t able to attend the entire conference but in the sessions I  attended, I heard real anxiety, real hurt, and real hope. I plan on blogging more  about this but in the meantime, check out these links that offer a fuller scope of the  event.

JR’s post – Epic Fail Pastors Conference: Reflections on a Sacred Time

The post where he first introduced the idea and the promo video.

Christianity Today’s, Leadership Blog, Out of Ur posted on it here.

Even Huffington Post had an article on it.

And this was the video they showed to open the conference –

How we started the conference from Epic Fail Pastors Conference on Vimeo.

Can We Drink Starbucks and Not Donate to Japan …

or to Haiti or to the local agencies near us like in Paterson, Harlem, or even Camden? I’ll be the first to admit that questions like this are difficult and perhaps even unfair. I think the goodness is more in the process of answering this question than in the question itself and it’s something that I ask our youth group students reguarly. What should we be doing in times of crisis, dirty water and disease epidemics, global poverty and so forth?

We got serious about these topics a few years ago when we did a series that focused on poverty, suffering, entitlement and how we are called to serve the world. We talked about how 2.3 billion people live on $2 a day and asked is it godly for us to buy a drink that costs more than that? Should we boycott Starbucks? What about our many friends that work there (like our PT Jr. High Youth Pastor, a couple youth leaders and others whom we love and value)? Do we tell them to get new jobs that might not provide health insurance? Should we provide it? I remember someone saying, “I’m getting a headache” and someone saying, “Well, coffee helps with that but don’t do it” – lol.

Our youth group has a little coffee bar in the back of the youth room. We used to charge for the coffee, tea and hot chocolate but then we thought better that it should be a “Freely give, freely receive” tip jar. Some are extremely generous with it and some are still working on it. We know things like this are small tokens in comparison to the needs of the world but I am hoping that these little things help us in seeing how things like money control us and will continue to until our generosity liberates us from that control.

This conversation goes in so many directions. Tithing, missions, mission trips, volunteering, vocational ministry, non-vocational, bi-vocational, suburbia, urban ministry.
Other practicalities like what about our schooling? Can we go to the movies, can we go on vacation, what about things like prom, birthday parties and weddings? Jesus went to weddings right?

We said things like, you can’t watch action movies and romantic comedies and not watch documentaries. There’s a time for vacations and mission trips, going and sending, celebrating and serving. We talked about how even Jesus didn’t heal everyone during His earthly ministry and nor does He now. We talked about being faithful, Jesus-like, compassionate, and prayed that we would learn what it mean to be humble and self-sacrificial.

I believe there is a time to wash dirty feet and a time to feast. It’s very biblical. But the moment we think we have done enough is the moment our entitlement and self-righteousness overwhelms our generosity. So back to the original question*, the answer is yes to both. May we seek the Lord’s wisdom and may we desire to do more for others than we do for ourselves.

*Btw, we can’t just donate money to Japan and expect that to be enough (even if it’s a generous amount). They lost more than homes and buildings. Similar to Haiti, New Orleans and countless other tragedies, supporting the rebuilding of Japan will require much and we should spend time reading, researching conversing and doing. May the Lord give us strength.

Can a Youth Ministry Be Missional When We …

… irregularly participate in local service projects, not be Jesus out in the world and neglect our spiritual formation. Can we be missional and donate inconsistently to clean water projects and anti-trafficking campaigns? Are we missional because we want to do these things, talk about them frequently, and hope that we one day will be more consistent? These are questions I regularly ask myself but not because I’m mad/disappointed at our students/church/myself but with the hopes of being faithful with the calling and opportunities the Lord has placed before us.

Here’s our context. We are an evangelical, suburban church 20 miles outside of NYC. We haven’t gone bowling in years, never have seen a Mercy Me concert, and if you ask them who Josh McDowell is, they’ll likely tell you that he was a inconsistent attender who graduated the other year. There’s so much I love about our ministry: We have committed volunteer leaders (some have been serving for more than 10 years), some awesome students (I mean that), and a church leadership/congregation that highlights student ministry regularly. We have amazing movie themed retreats, youth group gatherings that tackle tough issues, go on life-changing mission trips, lead music on Sunday mornings, and have gone the second mile, individually and collectively on numerous occasions.

Among many things, we have students run their Invisible Children Schools for Schools campaigns at their public schools. They’ve hosted screenings, walk-a-thons, benefit concerts, and have sold shirts they’ve designed. It seems everyone has a story of being thought of “weird” or “crazy” for being a Christian by friends in their schools. I’ve heard their regrettable confessions and have witnessed many moments of them being “salt and light” in needed and dark places.

So obviously, I’m proud of our students, grateful for the ministry but still wonder are we being faithful to the mission God has called us to and secondly, can we attach the adjective “missional” to our name?

Here’s what I know – our students and families are busy. Everyone is. It’s unfair to label us as self-absorbed, undisciplined, forgetful (although which one of us doesn’t suffer from any of these?) but guilty more regularly than we wish to admit. And we are discontent and are constantly at war with this reality.

I look at my own life and wonder things like “Am I missional enough?”, “Am I serving efficiently and effectively enough?”, “Am I Christian enough?”. These are often very humbling moments for me and from numerous conversations, I am grateful that our students, leaders, and congregants wrestle with the same questions. I suspect that numerous other youth pastors, senior pastors, and all who serve the Kingdom vocationally or not wrestle with this too.

I know a few more things – we care and want to care more. We try and wish we could do more, we fail and beat ourselves up and then pick ourselves up and plan new things. We’re overwhelmed at times, disappointed with ourselves and are self-aware enough to know that we drop the ball from time to time. But we don’t wallow in our missed opportunities but ask the Lord for strength to be faithful in the next one.

I am not sure if we are missional, I don’t know if we are not. I know I have wanted us to be growing followers of Jesus serving in the Kingdom and I know we collectively want this. As a youth pastor, as an individual, I submit this question to the Lord Himself. He will judge us, He will forgive us, He will empower us. This is perhaps my favorite aspect of the time the Lord gives us in this world. We don’t know the number of our days, there’s next week, next month, and tomorrow and in the meantime, may we pick up our crosses and follow the One who has asked us to be, serve, love in the name and way of Jesus. May He find us faithful.

A Sarcastic Youth Pastor’s Review of Tim Keller’s Excellent The King’s Cross

Regular followers of the blog know that I like to read and review books. I get them from a number of publishing houses blogger programs and then there books that I simply choose to read – The King’s Cross by Tim Keller was one I wanted to read.

There’s a lot I like a lot about Keller. I know some of my friends feel he gets too much attention and to some extent it’s true but like others, there overplayedness shouldn’t actually detract us from appreciating their work (while some of my friends love him). Among his qualities, I like his use of words and concepts and he tends to have the right pastoral balance of intelligence and simplicity when preaching/writing to congregations filled with life-long Christians and seekers. It’s a quality that I hope to mature in.

I was interested in reading The King’s Cross for a couple reasons. One, it’s on the book of Mark and we just finished teaching that in Sr. High Sunday School class (yep, as I was reading I had plenty of thoughts of, “Oohh I wish I would have used that illustration.” There were a also a couple of thoughts of “Hmm, I’m not sure he’s right about that one but hey, who am I? ;)

The second reason I wanted to read this was all my books I’m reading this Lent have to do with the Christ’s work on the cross. So far it’s been Love Wins and Community of Atonement. If Bell’s book was the provocative piece (at least semi-provocative), and McKnight the theological teaser (not sure you can find a more brilliant book that only has 120 pages), then Keller’s book was the devotional.

Please do not read in too much into my use of devotional. I was trying to avoid reading critically (not that it’s a switch you can turn off). I did need to continue reminding myself that these are sermonic in nature and he is consciously avoiding certain features of Mark. So when he doesn’t frame the parables in the context of Mark the way Wright does (even though he’s quoted throughout the book), it’s intentional on his part. It’s not a cheap treatment, definitely not boring or cheesy, but it’s more classic and reinforcing. Hope that makes sense.

Third, I wanted to read it because I’m accustomed to answering ‘No’ to the question, “Have you read Keller’s latest?” Like I mentioned already, I like Keller but I’ve tangled with his following from time to time (The Keller Klan? You heard it here first). I must say that things changed for me after he brought NT Wright to Redeemer but I digress.

I really liked his use of illustrations:
Now, don’t get me wrong, every illustration has a breaking point and when you’re a youth pastor, even when you steal a brilliant illustration from CS Lewis or Martin Luther or even the Apostle Paul, students still say it sucked. Give that same illustration in sermon on a sunday morning, and their parents will cry and grandparents will repent of their sins. I’m telling youth ministry is where it’s at. So of course over the years, I have become a consignor of illustrations. Keller’s church is in Manhattan (and that’s almost as tough of a crowd as AP suburban teens) he needs to have decent illustrations. (But then again, they like Trump too so … :).

Just an example, no one I am aware of has ever used Harry Potter in an illustration relating to substitutionary atonement – a little 2005 emergent, no? :). Anyway, I loved it. And I look forward to his next book The Apostle’s Execution when he uses the Twilight Series to illustrate the Council of Jerusalem. #rumorsIamstarting

Again, Keller writes/speaks beautifully to church people and seekers and as he says in this video, “and everyone in between”. If you are looking for a classic Christ-centered devotional-type on Mark, I hope you check it out.

Here’s the first chapter.


My Visit to the CS Lewis Society in NYC This Past Friday

I visited the CS Lewis Society this past Friday. It’s been on the list of things to do for quite some time and the night’s title interested me – “Another Repressed Question of God: C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud on Laughter” by Terry Lindvall. Often when I hear/read of Freud, I think, I need to read more of him beyond my college general studies understanding. Throw in some CS Lewis and we got a winner.

I know some of my Twitter friends are CS Lewis-ed Out. I get that, he gets quoted quite a bit but he has so much good stuff, I still find that he’s really worth reading. I like that Lewis is not an evangelical but appreciated by so many. I have always liked how he was able to bring his pre-conversion thoughts and address them post-conversion. I liked how he struggled to find faith and how he honestly wrote about doubt and hope. Further, I like natural law, I admire his mind and I love knowing that he would be completely disappointed with how his Narnia world has been adapted to film today.

First impressions upon walking into the CS Lewis society: Nothing like the Eagle & Child Pub, no lounge chairs, no pipes, no alcohol, just metal chairs in row style and coffee cake served in the back. It meets in the Parish House of the Church in the Ascension in Greenwich Village.  I was among the younger people there (it meets on a Friday night in New York for goodness sakes) but found everyone to be very friendly and very knowledgable about the Oxford scholar.

Regarding the lecture, Terry did a fantastic job. For one he’s talking about humor and he’s actually funny (like professor funny, not Brian Regan funny, ok?). What I liked is the access that he had into Lewis’ thought and work. You probably already know there is a section of academics that have studied Lewis’ work for years but I have found it difficult to hear about it (considering how often Lewis is quote and illustrated. I suppose this is true about anything and that’s why I think this Society is cool). For those interested in more of Lewis’ understanding of humor, check out Terry’s book,  “Surprised By Laughter: The Comic World of C.S. Lewis” available on Amazon.

The first part of the lecture demonstrated Freud saw humor and contrasted with Lewis’ perspective. Among many points, it was pointed out that since Freud saw most things sexual, humor was often included in that. Terry showed humor in Lewis’ work and life and offered that Lewis protested that humor did not need to be sexual. Making the point that sometimes things are just funny for their own sake. He used the example that Freud saw sex in everything from cigars to rose gardens. Lewis felt that although you could see sexuality in those things, he simply liked cigars for what they were and enjoyed rose gardens because they were beautiful.

Perhaps my favorite part was the Terry telling of the story of Abraham and Sarah. He asked is there any greater comedy than humor about and between men and women? Both created in the image of God but among other things, so much humor is found too. He recreated the encounter well with Abraham and Sarah and highlighted the part where Sarah laughs. Indeed the thought of their geriatric love-making and conceiving at this age is funny (but don’t think about it. Really. I’m just trying to help. Ok, fine think about it). Instead of rebuking Sarah for laughing, God blesses them and tells them to call their son “Isaac” which we all know means “laughter”. God understands humor, He’s the creator of it, and among the blessings that He bestows on those He loves is children and laughter.  As a young dad, there is a world of pleasure and goodness in that thought.

So much more was said in the night but I appreciated most that God enjoys humor and again, is the giver of it.
I don’t know how many I can get to but let me know if you want to attend one evening. They meet the second Friday of every month (except for August). It’s free to attend but you can “join” the society for $10. The benefit of that is enjoying their newsletter that is filled with essays on Lewis. If you would like more information on the CS Lewis society, here’s the site.

A Youth Pastor Watches His First Season of The Jersey Shore Part 4 – We Watch Because We Are Bored

Yesterday’s post focused on the idea that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, then the Jersey Shore life is a good option because in the words of the Apostle Paul himself we might as well, “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” Today, I want to start with the simple question, “Why do we actually watch?”

Now, a few things to be clear. I am not calling for any type of a boycott of the Jersey Shore shore. If it fulfills your need of entertainment, great. And as the second post already mentioned, I do think it’s important that we take inventory of the messages we receive in our media, but I am not suggesting that the JS is the worst thing on tv  (but let’s agree that it’s not good quality television).  Today, I want to make the point that we will always have a Jersey Shore type of phenomena, Brittany, a Mel Gibson or Charlie Sheen, or some type of other pop-culture hype, controversy, or outrage. It’s not just money, it’s because as a society, we are bored.

The reason we are bored is because we struggle to find identity, meaning or purpose. As a result we pinball our way through the rat race of life. We bounce off of events into tragedies into triumphs into droughts of mundaneness that are interrupted by moments of transcendence. We search for hope, truth, and goodness and when they elude us, we look to escape the pain and emptiness by finding ways to escape.

And that’s what things like the Jersey Shore really are. I doubt most people actually want to be like one of them. People may envy their fame, money and newly acquired lifestyles but I doubt strongly that are a lot of guys out there who really want to be Mike “the Situation” or Snooki. This does not mean that they are terrible people but most people watch the show to be entertained by the mess or as others have put it, “to watch the trainwreck“.

No one wants to watch a show where people are reading, playing with their children and where their spouse is grateful when the dishes are done -even 80’s sitcoms were more entertaining.  Sadly, people want to see a girl barely 5 feet tall get punched in the face in a bar in Seaside.   But as the cruelties of life will show us, one day we’ll be laying on the dirty floor realizing that we are wasting our days with such meaningless things.

The resurrection of Jesus offers the abundant life, now and forever with the Lord. A life that desires to serve the world, the community, the home. A life that offers meaning instead of escape, hope in the face of evil, purpose in the vast emptiness, and salvation from death itself. And the good news is that it’s for every cast member, every tough guy, every sweetheart, everyone. May we continue to discover and enjoy the life that Jesus offers.

A Youth Pastor Watches His First Season of the Jersey Shore – Part 3 – If Christ Has Not Been Raised, You Might As Well Live the Jersey Shore Life

One of the most important passages in the entire New Testament is I Corinthians 15. In it Paul talks about the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus, how it defeats death, and offers forgiveness for all humanity. He also has this little line in there, “If Christ has not been raised from the dead, our preaching is useless and your faith is in vein. Later in the chapter he says, “We might as well eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” (vs. 32). He’s quoting that line from a motto in his own culture. Paul was writing this letter in Ephesus then, if he were writing it from almost the same distance away, like maybe Philadelphia today, I wonder if he’d say, “If Christ has not been raised, you might as well live the Jersey Shore life.”

What I mean by that (and I think what Paul means) is that if Jesus isn’t who said He is, you need to find a new religion or a new philosophy of life, because you don’t really have much of one here – after all it all centers on Jesus being alive again. It’s always been interesting to me that Paul says this. He’s a Jewish rabbi and while he broke his allegiances with the traditional Jews, he could have hidden out in a small village, tentmake, return to his pre-Christian Jewish perspectives and wait for the real Messiah. After all, they’ve had failed messiah-figures before.

Now I don’t want this post to get too long but want to mention that the people he is writing to in Corinth are not Jews, but Gentiles. For them, if Christ has not been raised, they are likely not going to convert to Judaism but probably return to the governing philosophies of the day. This makes what he’s saying to them a bit more clear.

In undergrad, I had a theology professor who said, “If Christ has not been raised, then it’s just like that beer commercial, ‘You only go around once – grab all the gusto you can.'” I find this to be a very revealing statement of the entire scope of our Christian faith. Our obedience to God, our morality, our generosity, our kindness to the stranger, etc. is a response to a God who is real and offers life. As Christians, we don’t do these things to secure His favor, mind you, we already have His favor, but rather we live our lives after His example as a reflection of His love and favor.

It’s like Paul saying, “If Christ has not been raised, nothing else really matters except for whatever it is you want to matter”. It’s a huge statement because it puts down other religions and in some ways, if we were to follow the logic, it exalts social darwinism – the strong, the beautiful, and the popular are the ones who who “make it” in this world.

In this world, the Jersey Shore life not only makes sense but arguable is a great way of life. As many have pointed out, celebrities born out of reality tv are fascinating because majority of them are not talented in the same way as our other celebrities like actors, musicians, models, and athletes. So instead of being accountants or working retail, they get paid to do what they like the most – party. What separates the cast of the Jersey Shore from the random people you meet a bar or a club? In some ways – not much. This fame-lottery winning cast was able to capitalize on the buzz of their show and continued in getting people to watch by more or less acting crazy and living it up. They are rewarded for drunkenness, getting arrested, womanizing (and the opposite) because their philosophy of life (their religion) is “get rich and get famous.” (they opening song, “Get Crazy” says as much). And in a world where there is no risen Jesus, not only can we not blame them, but we must congratulate them.

Thoughts? Part 4 Soon …