Thoughts & Highlights on the Q Event Day 2 #qideas

Q Conference
Day 2

What better way to open the first morning presentation than with …

Recovering the Ancient Practices – Phyllis Tickle
“In the busyness of life today, many Christians lose sight of the disciplines, or practices, that keep them grounded.”
As always, she is awesome.
Some favorite lines – “Jesus tells us to fast – why? Because it makes us feel bad – lol.
(Fasting reminds us of our mortality. Fasting draws us in to, our energy wanes and we are confronted by the truth. It is an opportunity for us to meet the Kingdom.)
It’s only when I am confronted my citizenship that I can understand the Kingdom.
There is a rhythm of life and fixed hour prayer is a way of hinging our day on the worship of God. She mentioned an iPhone app. I think it was this one.
Of all the disciplines, she believed that fixed hour prayer is the most important.
She quoted a rabbi that said, it’s the prayers you say, not the ones you don’t that God really cares about. (That actually does help in not turning into a guilt-ridden ritual).
Of the disciplines, sabbath keeping and fixed hour prayer have been difficult for me. I found this convicting and helpful.
I like what she said about “Pilgrimages” – you take all of you and your expenses and go. One of the things contemporary christianity lacks is transcendence –
we can do so with music, literature, but true transcendence a pilgrimage.

Observing the Sabbath – Matthew Sleeth
Q must have got some feedback that asked for more spiritual formation.
Are today’s believers meant to keep the Sabbath?
I liked Matthew’s idea of 24-6 (as opposed to 24-7).
Sabbath not saved by man. – We are not to save the Sabbath – The Sabbath is to save us.
5000 Years of debate of what is work – Rest “figure out what’s work for you and don’t do it.” (Matthew’s wife)
if you keep sabbath for life – you added 11 years with the Lord.
We spent the last minute and change in silence (a tithe of the presentation to sabbath. Cool idea).

Overcoming the Faith and Science Divide – Alister McGrath
I love the faith and science discussion.
In addition to encouraging everyone to engage the sciences, he also encouraged to familiarize ourselves with the views and arguments that argued against faith (like Dawkins’ God Delusion and other new atheists). Lucky for me, I like these books (they strengthen your faith).
One of the reasons why they new atheists are angry. Because they believed that religious belief would have died out within the last 40 hours. “When I read Dawkins, I cannot help but feel nostalgic, that’s the way I used to be as well.” – haha
Encourage – we need scientists to up their game. – They need support.
Think of how we can support scientists from the church.

Don’t Eat the Food – Sean Womack
A very powerful and emotional presentation. It’s nice to see that cutting edge thought is not just confined to stats and ideas.
Forgiveness is cutting edge.
Sean revealed that he had been let go by Wal Mart for having an affair with his boss.
After separated for 3 months from his wife and 3 children, she forgave him. She told him, “I am not just praying for you, I’m battling for you.”
Don’t eat the food (of the world) – Jesus said eat my flesh.
The last 3 years have been difficult
H addressed his wife, – thanks for battling for me, thanks for banging on the gates of hell and demanding your husband back. Every morning I wake up, I wake up next to grace.
I guess I walked away thinking, may God spare us from such an experience but it was beautiful to see the power of love and forgiveness.

Resetting a Creative Economy – Richard Florida
One of my favorite presentations of the event.
“Every human being is creative.”
Florida doesn’t believe we are in a recession but instead in need of a reset – a raw emotional reset.
He looked at other time periods including just before the Industrial Revolution.
He would argue that our creative energy is that makes us human and binds us together.
We have created a new kind of economy that harnesses the human mind – that’s the easy part.
We are moving into a new of post-materialism.
We use to ask what you do for a living, now we ask where do you live?
Being in a place that you love. – in community – Whose Your City? (example used was Jack White from Detroit, now living in Nashville but I didn’t want to stand up and correct Florida in front of everyone. I understood his point. But I had to chuckle now because of the irony of White living in Nashville. Or is it irony?
It’s the place we live that will create meaning
There was a lot I liked about the end, because I see a strong connection with where we live and “Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

Responding to Our Fatherhood Crisis – Roland Warren
As a new father, as a youth pastor, and as one who sees the state of fatherhood in crisis, I was really looking forward to this presentation.
“The concept of the heavenly father is a Christian idea.But this is an anathema for someone who didn’t grow up with a father (or had a bad one).”
“You fix the fathers you fix the church,you fix the fathers you fix the community ”
I really enjoyed the presentation but was hoping for a little more. I am sure Roland had plenty more to say but again, it’s tough because of the time restraint.
I should google him and see what else he has.

There was a panel discussion on adoption and orphans
John Sowers – Mentoring project
Esther Fleece – Focus on the family
Marc Andrews – Bethany Christian Services
Jason L –

127,000 legal orphans
300,000 churches
“Wait No More” program

500,000 kids in the foster care system
countless age out – turn 18

As adoptive parents, this is obviously something that is important to us. As I was listening, it dawned on me that although Susan and I had been asked numerous times about adoption, we do not know anyone who has adopted since we have two years ago. This caused me to think that perhaps I ought to do my part in creating more awareness to the need.

Discover the Rescued with Soledad O’Brien | CNN and Jonathan Olinger | Discover The Journey
The 7.0 earthquake in Haiti devastated millions of lives. Compassion-fatigued American’s have become over saturated. The natural questions ensue. Can Haiti change? Is there hope for Haiti’s most vulnerable children? Through the power of a documentary platform, the lives of two Haitian orphans are elevated and their stories told. CNN Correspondent Soledad O’Brien and Discover The Journey’s Jonathan Olinger open the world’s eyes to the complexities of caring for children in the midst of one of the greatest disasters the world has ever seen.

In short, Jonathan was shooting a documentary and then the earthquake happened. If I have the story right, Soledad became involved just after flying down to cover the aftermath of the quake and then connected with Jonathan’s story. Gabe interviewed them both and this was the most beautiful and my favorite part of the interview:

Gabe – How do you handle all the suffering?
Soledad – I cry a lot but I channel it through my vehicle.
Once you get numb to human suffering, that’s the beginning of the end …

The documentary this past Saturday night but I was unable to watch it. I am trying to obtain a copy or if it’s online somewhere. Seems worth watching.


I’ll post separately on Conversations on Being a Heretic. It was Scot McKnight interviewing Brian McLaren. It was great, too short, and grateful that both are brothers of mine in the Lord.

Thoughts & Highlights on the Q Event Day 1 #qideas

This is my third year at Q and this gathering has been the most helpful to me. Being a youth pastor, you’d think it would be something like youth specialties (whom I love). Having attended emergent gatherings, willow creek leadership simulcasts, and numerous other events, I have found Q to be somewhat unique. To put it simply, there are channels of conversation that I simply do not have access to. After 10 years of ministry, being in conversation with other pastors, following periodicals like Christianity Today, and being online, you can stay pretty in tune with what’s going on in the “ministry world”. While Q puts out many elements of church ministry, they also pull a wealth of conversation from the other 6 channels of culture (Education, Political, Business, Media, Government, and the Arts).  The idea is to bring the 7 channels together and engage by asking questions and creating conversations relevant to the Gospel.

In previous years, the Q Conference was held in Atlanta, New York City, Austin and this year was Chicago’s turn. Gabe and friends pick great venues in city centers that are rich in culture. This year was the Lyric Civic Opera House.

From the website, “Q educates church and cultural leaders on their role and opportunity to embody the Gospel in public life.  We believe that exposure to old and new ideas is the best way to stimulate imagination for ways the Gospel can be expressed within our cultural context.”

That’s my best explanation for what Q is.  You can read more of the history of Gabe Lyons and the Fermi Project here.

I may use Evan’s idea from the NT Wright conference, and attach my notes soon but I need to clean them up. In a few months will actually post the presentations online, I hope you watch them for yourself.

Some personal thoughts, notes and sentiments as I attended Q:

Who Attends Q?
I love when a conference reveals who is in the room.
Would have appreciated if the ethnicity stat was mentioned.
Like most of these events, it’s a pretty white room. A very small percentage of minorities. In fact, there may have been more non-Anglo presenters then actual attenders (I write that as a compliment to the Fermi Leadership). It’s not the fault of anyone, I’m just saying …
Btw, it was cool that i wasn’t the only Egyptian in the room (salem alek Victor).
Surprised more people aren’t into e-readers.
There were a lot of liars in the room too. I mean all these people saying they are on twitter and the hashtag only had like 30 people. Probably bc there was only one open wifi network.

The Decline of Christian America by – David Aikman
Excellent presentation.
Appreicated the mention of the Newsweek article “The End of Christian America by Meacham”. I remember reading that.
Couldn’t agree more with the average nominal Christian has terrible misunderstandings of Christianity.
I confess that I get tired of the Barna stats. Surprised he didn’t use more of Kinnaman or Christian Smith’s research.
Appreciated the Chinese church comparisons.
Couldn’t agree more about the intelligencia – gatekeepers wake up, it’s time communicate with the tehno-generation.
Didn’t really “learn” anything but there was only 18 minutes, it’s an excellent start to the conference
“Time to get our faith out of rigor mortis and bring alive the faith that changed us”


The Both/And of the Gospel by Tim Keller
While I thought Tim Keel did an amazing job at discussing the Gospel at last year’s Q in Austin (you can watch it here), Keller was the perfect choice for this presentation. To me, it feels like Q is still a pretty conservative room. I think I could still feel the sentiment in some pastors’ minds, “Keep your missional hands off my gospel”.
“Like it or not – justification and justice are joined at the hip” – justice people who are separating themselves from justification by faith are neglecting a powerful and important tradition.
Justification by faith leads to justice – justice leads to God
If you claimed that you are justified by faith you must demonstrate justice.
When Tim Keller is talking about taking care of the poor (which is not new for him and many other traditional types), the traditional church will respond more. I think I heard someone think, “Crap, now Keller is reading that Shane Claiborne guy.” Either that or the BIble.


Q has a series of 3 minute promotions. They’re like commercials and plugs for new ministries. Many of them are excellent and worth paying attention to.
Halogen TV. is worth checking out.


The Next Christians – Gabe Lyons
“Instead of being offended by what we encounter in our world, we must be provoked to get involved.”
Liked the letter to Diogentus –
Provoked by the line “People don’t care about all people, just most of the people.” – ouch.
Was moved by the story of their first born being born with down-syndrome. They created a campaign of what this child can look like. They put these wonderful materials in doctors’ offices and offered help for others. Beautiful.
Money quote – * I think what the soul is to the body is what we as christians can be in the world


The Future of Education – Sajan George
The problem with education is that we assume this linear pipeline from K-12, they will
somehow all be ready for the adult workplace – amen.
Sajan speaks at breakneck speeds. He needs to be a 36 min. presentation in the future – he’s that good and has that much material.
That and someone that is taking notes needs to take control of his clicking speed through the presentation. If you have ever been to a U2 show when they bombard you with milisecond images and words, that’s how Sajan’s presentation feels, only without the Claw Stage and no sunglasses.
“We need a new standard of teachers that are better.”
it is not a funding problem
it is not just a human capital problem
it is a design problem
The Gospel must motivate us to act.
Called for a more technology-enabled student centric school.
Longitudinal data systems that help how we monitor students
Common core international standards “what we teach”
Excellent quote – “History has shown whenever the gospel is embraced, the future is always beautiful.”
Loved it!


Evolution of a Voice – Bryan Coley
Excellent presentation that this blog post won’t do justice towards. I cannot wait to watch this presentation again.
He used a linear chart to show how particular voices used culture to speak. In this case, movies.
So, the evolution of the African-American voice in movies in the 1960’s where they were referenced (the, “Hey That’s Me” voice) to movies that said, “Hear Me” in subculture classics “Shaft”.
Eventually there is a tipping point between the sub-culture and main stream and for Black Americans it was “The Color Purple”.
Mainstream movies emerge in the 80’s that say, “I’m just like you” and examples of these movies were Eddie Murphy classics (white movies with black men), shows like the Cosby Show, and eventually there is a cultural impact, in this case the 90’s with the voice that says, “I’m like you but you’re different”. An example would be Boyz in the Hood.
The new millennium brought a new voice that said, “I am without you” that was diversified and integrated. Examples are Tyler Perry movies, movies like Hitch with Will Smith and Morggan Freeman who plays God and a president.
Today we have a black president – it was a brilliant connection.
He did the same with movies that represented gay culture and Christian culture.
He quoted a movie producer that made this comment after the success of “Blindside”, ” I would put more Christians on screen but I want to see Christians stop portraying themselves as perfect.”
Bryan concluded his time by saying, It is more important to present a Christian as a human. In this next phase – tell the truth.”


Being Provoked to Engage – Joe Saxton
Jo did an incredible job on this presentation –
Leaders need to be challenged to engage when provoked instead of withdrawing from problems (young leaders need to learn this, older need to be reminded).
We need to choose to be the rescue team.
Jo defined enormous life problems as “cultural earthquakes” – very timely.
The needs in responding to cultural earthquakes are compassion, community, a connecting story, and a compass.
She then put a picture of her, her sister and her foster mother and asked, “Would you have found me in the rubble?” Because she was lost and buried in it and needed a great deal of help. It was a brilliant turn in the presentation – instead of presenting as the hero, she presented as the rescued, who in turn committed to rescue others.  I was moved, she was brilliant.
She asked that we challenge our current paradigms.
Are we leaving 60 percent of American under the rubble by the way we do church?
“We don’t need to be afraid, we need to be the rescue team.”


Did Jesus Preach the Gospel? – Scot McKnight
While visiting South Africa, Scot asked his guide what he thought when he visited the States.
The guide said everywhere he went, everything was the same. The media has taken over, and have made everything the same place
Everyplace becomes no place – When no place becomes every place every sacred place becomes no place – loved it.
When all words mean the same thing, no words mean anything?
Is this true when applied to the word gospel?
Did Jesus preach the gospel?
The text has disappeared under the interpretation – Nietzsche
Told a story about a pastor he bumped into at an airport. Scot asked him if Jesus knew the gospel. Because the pastor only understood the gospel as crucified for sins and resurrection, he argued that Jesus could not know the gospel.
Scot replied with one of the best lines of the conferences, “Too bad for Jesus, He was born on the wrong side of the cross.”
We as evangelicals created a personal salvation culture at the expense of the gospel.
who is in, who is out
We have lost the meaning of the gospel
When all words mean personal salvation, no words mean anything
According to paul and the herald the story of israel as coming to climax with Jesus the Messiah as Lord.
To herald the story of Jesus the Messiah
See my notes for the rest – it was excellent.

Saving Marriage Before It Starts – Mark Regnerus
Christianity Today readers may remember this article .
It has become culturally difficult to delay sex until marriage
Thesis – Price of sex has dropped to an all-time low
1. men want sex more than women
2. all sex within a community is connected with a community
She has something of value, he doesn’t. – women (mostly) don’t pay for sex.
When does sex start in a relationship (unmarried, 18-23)
It starts when she decides that it does.
The price of sex is set by women, it is often negotiated by men
She may charge (no sex until you give me a complete promise at the altar to commit to me for the rest of your life) can she get that today?
92 percent of people have sex before marriage.
Today we find ourselves winking at sex and having to justify getting married
Reasons why couples are getting married later.
1. why we are getting married later
2. men’s decreasing cost of sex
3. shifting nature of labor market
4. availability of high speed digital porn – least influential
5. women’s success
When the price of sex is so low, they will delay marriage
The message becomes what you do when the best years of your life is over.
Excellent topic – very helpful for my ministry. I went to his talk-back session and while I want to push back on a few things (he tends to shift most of the responsibility to women), his thesis is helfpul.

That evening, there was a panel discussion on Scripture with Alister  McGrath, Brian McLaren, Father Dempsey Rosales-Acosta and Tim  Keller.  It is heavy in context so to debrief in this space would be  inadequate but I will say it was an excellent discussion.  There were  parts that I was not able to connect with and parts that I cheered  (sometimes said by the same person).  I look forward in listening to  this conversation again.

Reflecting on the idea of the Culture Wars – Part 4

I ended the last post by stating that my greatest hope is that we seek communion with God, Himself. Thus, I do believe in things like evangelism, mission work, serving others, etc. This brings us to the “social justice” discussion. For various reasons, this is a tricky term. Those who have been raised in evangelicalism tend to dismiss the idea of social justice as liberalism. The charge is often made that these types of advocates only want to help people for the sake of this world and disregard the message of Jesus or salvation, etc.

For me, I want to preach a Gospel that can be accepted or rejected. God has given us the free will to make accept or reject His grace. No I am not a Calvinist (further, Calvin himself didn’t seem to be a good one either). The gospel can be rejected. When I read passages like John 6, I see Jesus allowing people to leave him. Earlier in that chapter, He feeds the 5000. The next day he crosses the lake, the people follow and to paraphrase His preaching, He says, “You have come looking for the temporary things of this world (bread and more signs in this case), but I am the bread of life.” Upon hearing this, many left feeling disappointed and confused. In fact, among the few that stayed were already His disciples.

It’s always been so interesting to me that He still fed the masses the day before. Being Jesus, He must have known how this would have happened. My western mind could think, “Wow, that was inefficient.”, or “Quick say something less confusing so they stay longer!”, “Levitate or levitate them so they know that you are the Messiah. Do something so they don’t leave!” Jesus doesn’t do any of that. The Gospel can be rejected.

It’s not the Gospel if it’s manipulative. It’s not love if it’s forced or coerced. It’s not the abundant life if it’s been demanded against my will. I am sure that Jesus wanted every one of those 5000 people to stay, believe, and become His followers. But as John 6 records, many of them left and He let them. That’s the Gospel. It feeds people, helps them, even heals them, with no strings attached. That’s also justice. Being righteous because there is no other way to show that your love is truly without condition then to allow it to be rejected.

I am still not sure what Glenn Beck tired to say. I’ve listened to parts of the original broadcast. I’ve seen quotes from his follow up and for the life of me, I do not understand what He’s trying to say. At face-value, it sounds ridiculous. Yes, there are some churches that have sold Jesus short. That has been in many ways, from promoting a preacher-personality higher than Jesus, from creating a community that is exclusive or self-caring, to putting programs ahead of the mission of the Christian faith.

But the idea of social justice is a very important part of the Gospel itself. A follower of Christ cannot say to a poor hungry person “Hey, I’ll give you food if you agree to hold my beliefs.” Or to the rich and depressed person, “I would like to offer you the hope of a meaningful life of Jesus, but first, you need to agree with me.” That’s not justice.

Throughout Lent, I’ve been reading through the Gospels and every time I read through them, I think, “Wow, if I was Jesus, I would have said things so differently. I would have said more. I would have said less. I would have ….”. The other day I was reading through Matthew and there are a series of healings in chapters 6-8. it’s like Oprah, “You get a healing, and you get a healing, and you over there, you get a healing!” It used to strike me as odd that in numerous cases, Jesus heals the person but doesn’t offer a moral lesson, or a charge to love God, or an offer of repentance. He doesn’t even leave a business card. He just heals and walks away. He demonstrates love, compassion, and grace with no strings attached.

That seems like a better way to take part in the “culture war”.

Reflecting on the Idea of Culture Wars – Part 3

If you have been reading along, you know that I have expressed my frustration of the way, we Christians have discussed and engaged in the idea of the “culture war”. I’ve been saying a lot of what I don’t want and in this post I hope to communicate things that I do want. In fact, I hope we all want them.

First, let us stop calling it a “culture war”. There is one, I know I get it. I am not suggesting that we call it a “cultural misunderstanding”. I know many have not only been hurt but destroyed, physically, emotionally, spiritually, in every way possible. Not only am I aware of this but my heart is broken for this too.

Further, it’s not the violent imagery that I am against. Our Scriptures are full of that type of imagery, “fighting the good fight”, “I’ve come with a sword”, “Our battle is not against flesh and blood”. I am aware of this too. What I am frustrated by is that imagery lends itself to readily to “Us versus Them” mentality. And I find that unloving. The narrative of the New Testament (and you could argue for the Old as well) is that the Christian mentality needs to be “Us and Them” or even “Us for Them”.

in good conscience, I cannot sing, “They will know we are Christians by our love” and preach against the culture war. I do not want to create and label any more “enemies” that what we already have. And to those who call themselves as enemies of the Christian faith, we should find ways to reconcile.

As Christians, we are called to show the sacrificial love of Jesus, demonstrate reconciliation, teach, disciple, serve, and be a part of redemption. That’s a messy process because it involves dealing with the consequences of people’s selfishness, sin (personal and institutional), and pride. Then there is our own sin and failures that do not allow us, myself included, serve in perfect righteousness. I am very well aware of many instances when in the attempt of serving someone, I have hurt that person or someone else. But praise God, there have been times when serving has brought healing, glorified God,

I suspect it’s true for you as it is for me, when we serve, we do not feel like we are at war.

I want to be a part of the momentum created by hope and redemption. I want to encourage people to not only support churches, para-church organizations, and political parties but also support local and global ministries, NGO’s and various charities. Please note that I did not stop supporting the former and choose the latter. Please also note that I do not mean financially only.

Imagine what it would look like if we channelled our energy, resources and focus from our many institutions, broadcasts, magazines, newsletters, fundraising etc. to people, projects, and programs that helped the suffering and oppressed. I know that was a long sentence and I know many will dismiss it as naive idealism but this is my prayer. If the last 100 years of conservative evangelicalism was spent on building institutions, subscriber lists and all too often, self-serving programs, may the next 100 be spent focused outside of our walls.

One last thing I wish to offer. My ultimate hope is not to alleviate the suffering of the world. As one who also suffers in some ways, I know it is not possible to live a pain-free life. Even if we could, I believe there’s more. My great hope is that people be reconciled to a loving God that sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins and allow us to be reconciled to our Creator. So may the Holy Spirit work through, in and beyond us as we live this hope and mission but I have concluded that people are seldom reconciled in war, they’re further hurt and displaced. Let us do better. More on this next time.

Reflecting on the Idea of Culture Wars Part 2

I finished the previous post by offering a brief overview to my introduction to the idea of the “culture war”. This post I want to engage in how many of us as Christians have been fighting the culture war. As you saw in the last post, there was a connection between Christianity and political conservatism. While not all Christians have made that same connection, I did. It was a reflection of our Christian faith – to vote conservative. While I will not argue that the right evangelical expression is to vote more liberal/left (or moderate, or not vote at all, etc.), it is my aim that our faith must transcend our political ideologies. Said another way, our faith can be reflected in our political views but not defined. For me, “fighting” in the culture war did not allow me to see that and I suspect that many young evangelicals can relate.

It should be said that some do not actually see a culture war but instead see many expressions of beliefs and practices that some respond with varying degrees of tolerance/intolerance. For our purposes, I will simply use the idea of “culture war” to reference the fight that results between our conflicting ideologies, namely conservative versus liberal, Christian versus non-Christian. However, as the posts unfold, I am more interested in the Christian’s perspective and posture towards the idea of the culture war.

From where I sit, I see four typical responses to the way the culture war has been fought by Christians.

One is way of the “Conquistador”. They can be the trailblazing missionaries that jump off of boats, planes, and blogs ready to claim soul and land “in the name of Jesus!”  You could argue the missions movement of the 19th century was another example of this. You could also make the case the birth of America was rooted in this too but good luck explaining how the treatment of the Native Americans was moral, Christian, or in an sense, acceptable.  But those may be subjects for another day.

Easier examples might be the more modern versions of the “Conquistador”.  Sometimes the Conquistador is an innovator/builder/mogul like a Billy Graham.  At its laziest and lamest, the Conquistador is the “copycat” who sees You Tube and creates God Tube or sees MySpace and creates HisSpace or something like that. The purpose is to claim “space” in the name of God.

The second response I see is the “Guardian” mentality. The Guardian is the one who is scaring the life out of people on radio, television, internet, and from behind the pulpit. “The ACLU is coming to get you! And if they don’t succeed, the other secularists will! And so, if you send $50 to our organization, “Keep God Where He Belongs”, you will do your part in making sure the omni-presence of God stays where it belongs, right here in America!” Yes, that is a caricature.

Probably a better connection point is the common sentiment that the 1950’s were a very Christian and moral time in America and we need to get back to it. It’s the hope of Pleasantville and the personalities are the televangelists like Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, etc. You could say that the Guardian mentality is the generation (not 40 years of time but of mentality) after the Conquistador. They quote Paul and the Founding Fathers in the same breath. That’s a problem for the Christ-follower who claims to be seeking the Kingdom of Jesus.

Succeeding the Guardian is the Debater/Protester/Activisit. This person is a combination of the Conquistador and Guardian. They are (re)claiming something and guarding something else. In the political world, it could be Ann Coulter. In the subversive Christian world, it could be a Shane Claiborne. (By the way, this is the only time in the entire internet that those two names will be found in back to back sentences). This person is typically passionate and prophetic. To its extreme, this person is the assassin.

The final Christian response to the culture war is the “Private Apathetic”. This is the person who has more or less seen the gravity of the situation, has fired upon others in the culture war, has been fired upon and has been wounded. This person has regretted hurting others and being hurt and has consequently abandoned the fight.

Some have retreated deep within the Christian sub-culture and filled their days praying for the rapture while waving their finger of judgement at the decadent world. While others have abandoned any form of institution whatsoever and in some cases, forsaken Christian community as well, wishing only to worship God “privately”.

What’s interesting to me is that most of us have dabbled in all four mentalities at some point, some at the same time.

Now, I am not saying that there is no virtue in any of these. I am trying to draw broad strokes on a blog post here. Certainly there is a place for Innovators. Indeed, there is a time when we do need to guard important matters. There is a place for debate, protest (hello Protestant Reformation), and activism. There is also a time to retreat from the affairs of the world and find rest and renewal. I would contend that the work and the cross of Christ can be seen in these mentalities and more. I would also argue that the work and cross of Christ go much further and thus, so should we.

I’ll pick up here in the next post.

Reflecting on the idea of Culture Wars

It was back in college (Liberty University) that I learned about the “Culture War”. I remember having to be convinced that there was one. Prior to that, I do not remember having many enemies. In the 90’s, I think I disliked two groups of people, abortion doctors and Red Sox fans ;-). Around that time, I only had a few problems, bad luck with girls, Greek (the language, not any frat reference. Come on, the context is Liberty University! ;-), and rock n’roll sucked. As I recall, in 1997, there were two songs on the radio, Matchbox’s 20 “Push” and Sugar Ray’s “Fly”. Oh wait, there was Chumbawaba and boy bands were about to take over the world. In response, I started listening to John Coltrane, Miles Davis and other classic jazz musicians.

Anyway, I was informed that we were at war. I’m not talking about Ephesians 6 (Our battle is not flesh and blood …), but a war of competing ideologies, beliefs and values and the fate of the world rested on it. My real enemies were the ACLU, Bill Clinton and his Democrats, and Marilyn Manson. It was then that I started reading Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint, World Magazine and books by Cal Thomas and William Bennett. I was also very interested in apologetics and really believed that I could prove Christianity. So Ravi Zacharias, RC Sproul, and Phillip Johnson and on serious days, Gary Habermas and William Craig. I remember that summer reading Robert Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah (which is an awesome book title) and thinking that I needed to be ready “to take a stand” and “hold the line” because a good Christian was a good soldier.

Like all good soldiers, I was headed down the road of not questioning my superiors. The orders I was given were more of disposition and rarely of action (after all, we were evangelicals ;-) But as influential as Bork’s book was, I remember coming across a report where the ACLU represented a student-led after-school Bible study in a public school. What??? I knew that Jesus said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” but was this something even more diabolical? I started seeing that things were a bit more complicated. Later I began understanding things like why many people had abortions (turns out, the white, affluent, liberal, career women represented a very, very, tiny percentage. It was lower-income minorities that comprised much of the stats.) And while that didn’t change my position on the topic of abortion, I started seeing the complexity of life, this world and God, Himself (including His mercy and justice).

Later I stumbled across Addicted to Mediocrity by Franky Schaeffer which eventually led to the work of his father, Francis. Titles by C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft starting filling up my shelf and while I have always been and still remain conservative/moderate on most issues, the idea of objectivity (meaning that we as flawed, sinful people could actually be objective) was losing its grip on me. While I did not recognize it at the time, the idea of postmodernity was becoming a good thing and instead of seeing myself at war within my society, I started understanding the potential virtues of plurality and the power of relationships and conversation.
Part 2 later.

What if Michael Jackson Was an Iranian?

It’s the second week of the “aftermath” of the death of Michael Jackson. Similar to the Anna Nicole saga, you get more and more disturbed of the details that are uncovered. Of course, part of this is the job of television, to take something, twist it enough to make you say, “Wow, that’s unbelievable! That’s crazy!” In fact, every time we get into one of these around the clock coverage breaking news obsession times, I think of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. He argues that the news does not serve to inform us but to entertain us long enough to pay attention to their sponsors. He says a bit more but that’s the one sentence executive summary (*wink* at Biblical Seminary people).

Some of my friends and I have lamented that since Jackson died, Iran has gone missing.  Maybe it has all been resolved or perhaps they were so moved by the King of Pop’s untimely death that their hearts were so broken that they mutually decided to set aside their differences and mourn with the rest of the world and continue discussion at a later time. In a united statement both “president” Ahmadinejad and the protesters said “In light of recent events in the entertainment world, we would like to take the focus off of ourselves and allow all of our attention to be focused on Michael Jackson.”

God only knows what is actually happening there. May He be near.

This leads me to wondering a few things.

What if Michael Jackson was an Iranian? My tongue-in-cheek argument is that regardless of nationality or language, Jackson would have been a super-star regardless where he was born. Just as the moon is universal so is the “moonwalk”. Second, what if an Iranian-born Michael had been killed as part of the Iranian conflict? The world would be in shock! I really wonder what would have happened next. Third, this crisis is prompting me to consider paying more attention to international artists. I know it’s cool to like international music, I’m just not into it. Aside from U2, Radiohead and Coldplay, and the euro-trash bands that emulate them, I never had the motivation. I have enough trouble keeping up with genres that I already like. But here’s my real point, if we are frustrated by our news outlets, perhaps we should consider artists. I know language would be an initial problem but the world is getting flatter, we could probably find out and get whatever we wanted.

If Jackson was Iranian, not only might we as Americans have liked him more, we might also care more about the injustices surrounding him. I wonder what else would be different today.

Are you 30ish and remember the first time you saw the video “Thriller”?

My earliest Michael Jackson memories include the Thriller video, him being on the cover “Weekly Reader” when I was in second grade and answering my friend’s question, “Why does he only wear one white glove”. (I think the answer I gave was, “Because that’s what he wears in the “video” which were pretty new back then). If you can imagine, in the early 80’s not everyone had cable television and access to MTV (nor were there things like remote controls). Anyway, Jackson was the first super-star that I came to know. He would be followed by Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, Sylvester Stallone, & Optimus Prime.

Yeah, the pet tigers were weird and so was that glass oxygen chamber he supposedly slept in but that didn’t stop me from putting quarters into the “Smooth Criminal” arcade game (still my favorite Jackson song). It wasn’t until he released the Black or White album, that I started getting bored with him. It wasn’t that Black or White was that bad, but there was Pearl Jam and Nirvana (in that order) that were much cooler and more interesting. But even grunge and flannel couldn’t compare to the eye-candy video of “Black or White”. (It was one the one with everybody morphing into each other and it was the same technology used in Terminator 2). Besides, whose against racial reconciliation?

There were two other (admittedly minor) things that annoyed me about Michael Jackson. One was that I was a bigger Michael Jordan fan and I acknowledged him as the true “Michael” or “MJ”. Second was the extremely long video of “Remember the Time”. It was a video of him and his love running around ancient Egypt. Being Egyptian, I got annoyed by the cheesiness of the video (but I do like that Bangles, “Walk Like an Egyptian”).

Jackson grew weirder and while I had grown up (a little), it seemed he never did. I know growing up with Joe Jackson as your father probably didn’t help nor did being a child super star help your adolescence. As he grew older, there were the weird marriages, the continued skin lightening, the nose jobs, the scandals, and there wasn’t any amazing music to justify the weird and perverse behavior. In the world of Rock’n Roll, that means you’re finished.

But finished only to people like me because a significant part of the rest of the world was still in love with him. During our mission trip to Estonia in 2004, we were asked over and over how Michael could be accused of such terrible crimes. I remember speaking to a young adult there and she was absolutely crushed when I told her that many of us in the West see him as deranged. 40 year old men don’t share beds with 12 year olds. It was a losing argument for me.

Fast forward to last week. I read the twitter updates that said he was being rushed to the hospital due to a cardiac arrest, I went to the gym, came home and Susan told me that he died.

All week all the FM stations played his music. You could start “Billy Jean” on one station and finish it on another. On my way to school last week, I was rudely cut off by a BMW 750 owner. Normally I would have pulled out my bazooka and sent him into oblivion but I was listening to “Man in the Mirror” and thought, “If I want to make the world a better place, take a look at myself and make a … change.”

I’m really trying to say something redemptive here but it fails. Though I literally own zero Jackson cd’s (I did own all his cassettes from Thriller to Black & White however), I admit, I was a bit saddened. There was a part of me that always justified the extremely odd behavior brought upon my numerous reasons like being a world-famous celebrity and being called, “The King of Pop”. But there was also a part of me that always wanted him to redeem himself. A lot can be said right here but it’s already been a long post. Still, it seems fair to say that this is yet another story that does not end the way we thought it would.

Reflecting on Articles Discussing the Slowing of the Christian Media Industry

You probably heard by now – we are in tough economic times. This is affecting virtually everyone, including those that represent the prosperity gospel. Last week I read two articles about the terrible condition of Christian publishing and Christian music sales. There was this Newsweek article called Preacher Don’t Publish by Lisa Miller (love the title) and Music In Recession by Mark Geil on the Christian Music Today site. Who would have thought that those who peddle the idea of profitable materialistic gains for “spiritual investments” would also be affected? Jesus can give joy to the suffering, heal the sick, shine light into darkness but apparently He’s not recession-proof. If ever there was a time to use the supposed “prosperity gospel” as a form of evangelism, it would be now.

Am I glad that some Christian bookstores are closing and that several Christian magazines are out of print? Let me consult my Prayer of Jabez bobblehead.  Hmmm, I know I am supposed to say, “No it’s a terrible shame and it’s giving the devil more ground” but this is my blog and this month, I’d like to refrain from lying about trivial matters (yes, I know how that reads).  Yes, I am glad that the recession is affecting Christian media.  While I do not want all the Christian publishing houses and various businesses to close, I hope this causes a re-shaping of the industry.  To me, the idea of the Christian bookstore is a dinosaur.

Do I hope that these once sanctified from the ways of the world real-estate gets converted into, say, an Adult bookstore? Aside from the countless laughs I would enjoy from seeing the expressions of faces on Ladies Bible-study thumpers hopping out of church vans, my real answer is no, I’d rather see regular bookstores. I can hear one of those ladies saying, “There is no such thing as a regular bookstore. The merchandise will be set by the store owner and you won’t have as many Christian books as say, New Age books.” Well that will be true if  New Age readers frequent more than Christian readers.

Don’t get me wrong, I buy Christian stuff all the time. Like many, I listen to David Crowder Band and read Brian McLaren books. Like many, I do not listen to Casting Crowns (not that there’s anything weird about them) nor read Joel Osteen books (because there is something weird about him). I own all the Nooma videos and every time some sincere soul urges me to see Fireproof, it reminds that I have yet to see academy award nominated, Rachel Getting Married.

I like that I was able to buy Tony Jones’ New Christians from Barnes & Noble two days before Christmas (I’m sitting in a B&N right now and there’s one copy of New Christians currently on the shelf). It’s great that people buy Third Day albums at Target and I await the day when you can rent the in-production, Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz movie from Blockbuster. Christians should shop where everyone else shops – this is normal. One of the few bullets we’ve dodged as a Church is that we did not see the advent of the Christian grocery store. Though I have an imagination cultivated by years of watching the Simpsons, I’ll spare you what the inside of such a place might look like.

Sensitivity is not one of my gifts so take that as a warning but I was a little encouraged after I reading those articles.  The decline of the Christian publishing and music industries implies that the Christian bubble is leaking. My prayer is that Jesus would drive a spear through it so more in the Church will find themselves engaging throughout society.

Reflecting on Colson's comments regarding Obama, abortion and postmodernism

Chuck Colson wrote on his breakpoint post yesterday (No God Condones What) that the breakdown of today’s society is based on postmodernism:


At the National Prayer Breakfast last week, President Obama seemed to signal that he has seen the light and is abandoning his radically pro-abortion agenda. At least, that’s the only reasonable conclusion one could make after hearing the President, who says he’s a Christian, also say: “There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know.”


So I could only surmise that the President now concludes that “no God” would condone the 1.6 million abortions performed each year in America—1.6 million innocent lives destroyed.  But I’ve checked the White House website, and it’s very clear that God’s disapproval hasn’t changed the administration’s agenda one bit.


Here’s what the White House website says: “President Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority in his Administration.”


Well, in one way I’m glad I wasn’t at the breakfast this year—I was speaking instead at Moody—because I’m not sure I would have been able to stay in my seat.


How can a President of the United States say that “there is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being,” when he himself favors a woman’s right to have an abortion under virtually every circumstance? How can he say that, when, as an Illinois state senator, he voted against the Illinois Induced Infant Liability Act, which would have protected the lives of babies who survived late-term abortions? When he even had the audacity to describe the act as “One more burden on a woman . . . I can’t support.”


President Obama is a highly intelligent man with a huge job on his hands. I know what the White House is like, and I pray for him fervently every day. But how does such an intelligent man make a statement like this without understanding its implications for his own pro-abortion policies?


The only way to explain it is to understand the intellectual environment, called postmodernism, in which President Obama and his peers have been raised. Generations of Americans have now been taught that truth is subjective. You have your truth, I have mine. And, even worse, I can’t “inflict” my version of truth on you. The law of non-contradiction has been suspended.


So politicians can tell us over and over that they can’t allow their personal faith to affect their views on public policy. Or they can take two completely opposing positions at the same time: like believing that no God condones the taking of innocent life and at the same time, condoning—even promoting—the taking of an innocent life.


The problem isn’t simply President Obama and his views on life; the problem is a postmodern culture which believes that truth is merely a matter of opinion, and that therefore the sanctity of innocent human life is simply an expression of one viewpoint among many.


I have argued for the last 20 years that postmodernism would lead to the unraveling or our society. The fact that so few noticed the contradiction in what the President said and the policies he pursues tells me that we’re far along in the unraveling process.”



Now first, there is a lot I appreciate about Chuck Colson but it’s these statements that frustrate me because I do not find them to be fair.  Call it whatever you want, but the modern evangelical culture, or the infamous 1950’s or the “Good Ol’ Days” were not the days of the Garden of Eden. 

Second, I am not an Obama fan-boy (but I will support the president).  My convictions are pro-life but I do not want to villianize every person who either believes in pro-choice or has had an abortion.  And while I wish everyone would be pro-life, I think these typical statements made by Colson have failed as a starting point and only serve to rally like-minded individuals. At the same time, I wish those that are pro-choice but also hate abortion would at the very least, participate in pursuing ways to limit the number of abortions.  

Colson is a brilliant, well-educated righteous man.  I do not presume nor dare to correct such a godly man, but with all due respect, postmodernism is not the problem, the selfishness of the human condition is .. and this is not new. 

This is part of the problem with how we as conservative believers engage the world.  It seems to me that we refuse to actually engage the world.  It’s like we’re saying, “We’ll play basketball with you, but we’re not going to acknowledge this 3 point line thing, or this shot clock thing because we used to not have it and we liked the game better then.” 

Yes I know this analogy is not sensitive to the complexities of culture but if we are serious about engaging others, we need to do more then point the finger.  I’m not going to make it another four years if all I am getting from my conservative leaders is negative sound-bytes and pessimistic daily readings.   

My input is that we need to get realistic of how “good” days of old were.  Second, then, we should forget about them (because they are not a standard of entitlement).  Third, engage the culture we are in Christ-like ways.  Fourth, learn to handle the disappointments in Christ-like ways (I could use some extra grace on this one) and lastly, be believers who are committed in pursuing the Kingdom over personal preference or agenda.