Of Kim Kardashian, Cobie Smulders, and Georgia Basketball

Kim Kardashian.  Cobie Smulders.  Elisabeth Hasselbeck.  What do these three people have in common?

To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t tell you.  And I’m not sure that I even care.  You see, these three names happen to be the top searches over at Yahoo Buzz at the time that I am writing this.  I do not have a clue who any of these people are, except for perhaps a vague recollection of perhaps having heard the name Elisabeth Hasselbeck somewhere along the line.  And such is the relevance that Georgia basketball has for me right now.  (If by now you may have suspected that my inclusion of the names of Kim Kardashian, Cobie Smulders, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck in this post is nothing more than a cheap ploy to generate more pageviews at this site, then you would be right.  If you have a problem with that, then I will be more than happy to register your complaint at 1-800-I-DONT-CARE.)

At any rate…

Those of you who have been tracking with me for the last few years of this blog’s existence will note that I have had very little, if anything, to say about Georgia basketball.  There is a very simple reason for this:  Georgia basketball isn’t even on my radar.  As far as I am concerned, the words “Georgia” and “basketball” should not be placed next to each other; when they do appear next to each other it is an oxymoron, of the same order as “jumbo shrimp”, “military intelligence”, or “safe Atlanta driver”.

This is sad.  Because it wasn’t always this way.

When I was in college (the first time around) I played in the band at Georgia.  This included a couple of years in the basketball band, during which time I attended all of the home basketball games and went to a couple of SEC tournaments.  Those times were great fun, and I look back on them with great fondness even now, some fifteen years after the fact.

So what happened in the meantime?

Well, the year after I left, Hugh Durham was fired for going 18-10 with a team that should have done a whole lot better.  On came Tubby Smith, and what followed was a whirlwind ride of two consecutive 20-plus win seasons, one Sweet Sixteen appearance, and one should-have-been Sweet Sixteen appearance that was snatched away at the last minute in most heartbreaking fashion.  By all indications, Georgia was on the road to great things and Tubby Smith was poised to take Georgia to much greater heights than they had ever known under Hugh Durham.

And then Kentucky called.  Rick Pitino had just defected to the NBA and they were down a basketball coach, and they wanted to know if Tubby Smith would come.

And just like that, Tubby Smith was gone.

And just like that, Georgia was firmly established on the road to basketball irrelevance. Continue reading “Of Kim Kardashian, Cobie Smulders, and Georgia Basketball”

A Bitter Pill to Swallow: The New Evangelical Scandal by Matthew Lee Anderson

Those of you who are concerned with the younger generation of evangelicals would do well to check this out:  In the winter 2008 issue of The City, a magazine published by Houston Baptist University, Matthew Lee Anderson writes on “The New Evangelical Scandal”.  Be warned:  This article is pretty long, so you need to read it when you have an opportunity to devote a lot of time to it.

This article is a comprehensive look at what we can see in the younger, emerging generation of evangelicals and what it tells us about the future of evangelicalism.  It starts out by looking at evangelical voting in the 2008 presidential election, and goes from there to talk about the ambivalence of younger evangelicals toward politics, and from there to look at other trends which define the emerging generation of younger evangelicals.

To me, this article comes off as an apologetic for the older generation of evangelicals.  It seems to me that the author has taken a tone that the issues which define younger evangelicals are simply generational preferences and that we need to grow up, quit whining, get it together, and fall in line with the rest of evangelical Protestant-dom.

I would strongly disagree with this assessment, if in fact this is what the author is really saying.  I believe that there is much in evangelical Protestant-dom that needs to be changed, and I appreciate that the younger generation of evangelicals is stepping out and calling for change in these areas.  However, this article serves as a reminder that we need to check our motives.  In seeking to disengage from partisan politics and the culture war, are we doing so because we truly believe that God is apolitical, or because we want to curry favor with the world by distancing ourselves from our elders who are so obnoxious about culture war issues?  In seeking to engage with the culture around us, is our motive truly to build understanding with people on the outside in order to be able to relate to them authentically, or is it to simply give ourselves an excuse to indulge ourselves in the same consumer culture as the world around us without any concern for its bad effects?

While I believe that there is much in evangelicalism that needs to be changed, and I laud younger evangelicals for calling for change in these areas, I also believe that we need to check our motives.  In calling for change we need to be sure that we are motivated by honest, godly concern for the fate of our movement, and not simply a desire to throw off the old ways and strike off in our own direction.  If this is all there is to our motives, then our calls for change in the world of evangelicalism are nothing more than the same old hot air that younger generations have spouted in the face of older generations since time immemorial.  Toward this end, this article serves as a necessary corrective for us.

Comments, anyone?

Rethinking Galatians: Perhaps Those Judaizers Were Onto Something?

Several years ago the Brazilian soccer team was in the World Cup.  Now I’m sure you’re aware that soccer is very big down in Brazil, just like college football is big here in the South and professional football is big in other parts of the country (but for those of you who weren’t–you are now).  And I’m sure you’re also aware that Brazil is a heavily Catholic country (again, if you weren’t–you are now).  Well, a key World Cup match for Brazil just happened to fall on Good Friday that year.  The Catholic bishops in Brazil knew how big soccer is there, and they were afraid that church attendance would be low because of the soccer match, so they got on the radio and issued bulletins throughout the country that anyone who missed Mass on Good Friday would be committing a very serious sin.  (The Catholic bishops were not making this up.  It is an actual part of Catholic belief that church attendance on Sunday and certain other days of the year is compulsory.)

At any rate, my first reaction upon hearing this was, “Thank God I’m not Catholic.  I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that.”  Now I get that there is a lot of rigor and structure in the Catholic system of things–that they are strict about such things as when you must attend church, the conditions under which you may receive Communion, and when you must sit/stand/kneel during the course of the service.  And I respect that.  But I find it hard to believe that in the final analysis Jesus cares about such things.  That is a significant part of the reason why I am now Protestant.

And then I find the same thing happening here, right smack in the heart of evangelical Protestant-dom.  One of the discernment watchblogs castigated a church in Arizona and a church in South Carolina for canceling Sunday evening services on the weekend of the Super Bowl, saying that “the gods of the NFL take precedence over the God of the Bible” and “man-centered churches worship man!”  Other discernment watchblogs are saying similar things; here is an example.  As I scroll down through the comments on this one, I see that these churches “don’t follow the true Jesus anyway (as much as they think they do)”, that they are “treating His Word, His Son, and His House with…contempt”, “servants of the Word [who] are submitting to their own will to fill a fleshly desire.”  You should read these for yourself; there is plenty of juicy material here. Continue reading “Rethinking Galatians: Perhaps Those Judaizers Were Onto Something?”

Church WTF

This one is so weird and corny, I’ll just let it speak for itself.  Anybody out there able to figure it out?

My best thought is that it is saying the best vitamin for a Christian is to be one.  Even so, this is weird and corny.

We Christians come up with the strangest church sign material.

A Blog We Can Believe In: The Inauguration Day Edition of Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion

Today is a very historic day in the life of our country.  By the end of the day today, we will have a black president–for the first time ever in the history of our country.

Given the racial baggage which America has had in its past, and which still persists even to this day, I think it is very significant that America has reached the point where it is capable of electing a black president.  I think this is something for America to be very proud of.

Now then…I get that some of you–many of you in fact–have very serious concerns about Obama’s experience, his economic views, and his views on abortion and gay marriage.  I share your concerns.

What I do not appreciate, however, is the Obama-bashing which seems to have become a favorite sport among evangelicals lately.  You know what I mean.  Calling him “Osama” instead of Obama.  Saying that he’s really a closet Muslim.  Saying that he’s anti-American.  And many other such things.  It’s wrong.  It’s completely and totally uncalled for.  Especially from us as Christians.

Come on, people.  You know better than that.  Surely you know that such things are not true of Obama.  It is a bad reflection on all of us as Christians that some of you would stoop that low. Continue reading “A Blog We Can Believe In: The Inauguration Day Edition of Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion”

Music Review: Cori Moon, I Will Sing

If you have been around 7:22 or other similar church environments in the Atlanta area over the past decade, then you have more than likely been exposed to the vocals of Cori Moon somewhere along the line.  Here is one of the finest female vocalists in all of Atlanta–and now, after all these years, she has her very own CD.  It is not yet available in stores, but you can download it from iTunes.

The album is a 6-song EP consisting of worship songs old and new, some you probably know and some you probably don’t, and some that were written expressly for this album.  A voice like Cori Moon’s needs to be the focal point of an album such as this, and indeed it is.  In these musical arrangements, you get none of the overproduced schlock which is so prevalent with CCM female vocalists; instead you have refreshingly minimalistic acoustic arrangements which place the voice of Cori Moon front and center for the duration of the album.

So I would strongly recommend that you check out Cori Moon, and then go to iTunes and download this album.

[The reviewer was furnished with a copy of this CD.  Thanks for hooking a brother up.]

A Nostalgic Win: The Psychedelic Furs, Forever Now

Forever Now by the Psychedelic Furs was one of my favorite albums back when I was in high school.  Okay, it was a few years old by the time I made it to high school–it came out in 1982 and I did not start high school until 1986–but I liked it just the same.  And if you give it a listen you will see that it certainly beats the crap out of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.

The edition that I now have is a remastered version that came out in 2002.  The original artwork from the UK version of this album has been restored, and six new bonus tracks have been added, including the B-sides “Aeroplane” and “I Don’t Want to Be Your Shadow”, and live versions of “President Gas” and “No Easy Street”.

This album was the breakthrough album for The Psychedelic Furs.  They had already won something of a cult following with their previous two albums The Psychedelic Furs and Talk Talk Talk, but it was this album that put them on the map.  “Love My Way” peaked just outside the Top 40 on the UK singles chart and at No. 44 on the US singles chart, and the album spent seven months on the Billboard albums chart.

The album features the work of Todd Rundgren as producer.  Steve Lillywhite produced the first two Psychedelic Furs albums and didn’t want to do any more with them.  Also, the Psychedelic Furs were looking to incorporate the synthesizer sound which back then was just starting to become popular and which would go on to become one of the defining characteristics of 80’s music, and they chose Todd Rundgren to help them go in that direction.

High points of the album include “Forever Now”, which leads off the album establishing the new, streamlined synthesizer sound to follow.  “President Gas” is a strong rock anthem with a cello break inspired by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring midway through the song.  (By the way, the title “President Gas” is a not-so-flattering reference to Reagan.)  “Love My Way”, the hit single, is a cross between a ballad and a dance track and is defined by a marimba line that runs throughout the song.

Mainstream success followed on the heels of Forever Now, and it changed the sound of the Psychedelic Furs in many ways.  Midnight to Midnight (1987) was the Psychedelic Furs’ most widely successful album here in the US, yet many critics question the artistic quality of it.  The Psychedelic Furs themselves regret the changes to their sound which resulted from increased commercial success.  (Personally, I have no problem with Midnight to Midnight.  But even if it is just a bunch of commercialized schlock, this schlock still beats the hell out of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.)  Forever Now captures the Psychedelic Furs in that ideal state as they were in transition from an artistic band with a small cult following to a mainstream success, and able to enjoy the best of both worlds.

So to all you high school kids out there:  Put away your Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers.  They’re just not worth the time or trouble.  It’s time to give some props to the Psychedelic Furs.

I’m Having a Moment Here…

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You.

To know and follow hard after You
To grow as Your disciple in the truth
This world is empty pale and poor
Compared to knowing You my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after You
Lead me on and I will run after You.

I’m having a moment here.

Actually I’ve been having a moment for the last few years now–certainly for as long as I’ve had this blog.

I am not sure what has brought this on.  It may be the result of changes and challenges in my life over the last few years–failed romantic pursuits, changes in my professional status, coming to terms with certain developmental issues in my life.  It may be simply part and parcel of growing up and then just growing older.  Or maybe it is a combination of all of the above.

At any rate, the upshot is that I am most certainly not the same person that I was when I first heard the worship song quoted above.

The song is entitled “One Pure and Holy Passion”.  It was originally penned in 1992 by a fellow named Mark Altrogge.  I first heard it performed by Steve Fee and Candi Pearson (now Mrs. Jonathan Shelton) at OneDay, a gathering of college students in the Memphis area which took place in summer 2000.  The writeup from the back of the CD which was recorded at this event will give you an idea of what took place here:

On May 20, 2000, tens of thousands of college students gathered from across the nation and around the globe for a sacred assembly simply known as OneDay.  Converging on the vast expanse of Shelby Farms, just outside of Memphis, TN, they came to pray, seeking the face of God for awakening in this generation.  Yet, they came not just to pray prayers, but to offer their lives as worship before the living God, yielding gladly to the all-consuming purpose of making the name and renown of Jesus Christ known throughout the earth.

Some of you were present at this event, whether as a volunteer (as I was) or as a straight-up attendee.  For me, this song was one of the high points of the entire event.  It is a very short, sweet, and simple song, and I loved the idea of it–that I could know and follow hard after Christ, that if He would just lead me then I would run after Him.  At the time I was taken with the idea that I would follow hard after Him, and that wherever He led I would run after Him with everything in me–in my youthful presumption I believed myself fully capable of pulling something like that off.

Now, however, I am a profoundly different person.  I now see things in the cold light of the reality that I am a cripple who is incapable of running hard after Christ.  Indeed I would not know anything of Christ at all if He did not take the initiative to reveal Himself to me, and I cannot follow after Christ unless He moves me Himself in the direction where He is going.

And I think that if we were all gut-level honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that none of us is capable of knowing Christ apart from the revelation which He Himself has taken the initiative to give us, or of following Christ unless He moves us Himself.

I think that instead of saying that we will follow hard after Christ, we need to pray that He would take the initiative to move us where He wants us to go.  We can’t do this thing on our own, as if He is out there somewhere and we are following after Him.  We desperately need for Him to come to us and move us Himself.

So let us abandon the hubris of our youth that says we can live this Christian life on our own, that we can follow Christ in our own strength.  Instead, let us acknowledge our brokenness.  Let us acknowledge that we cannot follow Christ on our own, and let us pray that He would move us Himself, just as He has taken the initiative to reveal Himself to us.

Music Review: Coldplay, Viva La Vida

Viva La Vida is the long-awaited fourth album from Coldplay.  Released in 2008, this album comes three years on the heels of X&Y.  There have long been rumblings that this would be a different kind of Coldplay album, and when you listen you will see that this is true.  Though this album has its share of arena-rock moments, these by no means make up the bulk of the album as they do on previous Coldplay releases.  There are no obvious made-for-radio songs which feature Chris Martin in falsetto like “Clocks” or “Speed of Sound” on this album.  The album as a whole has a sort of old-world Spanish flair which is vaguely reminiscent of Tears For Fears’s 1995 effort Raoul and the Kings of Spain.

The album leads off with “Life in Technicolor”, a broad, sweeping instrumental introduction which sets the table for everything that is to follow.  Those of you who are familiar with Hillsong United should feel at home with this, as it resembles the instrumental introductions which appear on some of their albums.  Other high points of the album include “Lost!”, which consists entirely of vocals, organ, and clapping.  “Viva La Vida”, the title track and lead single, is a soaring rock anthem powered entirely by strings and bells.  “Violet Hill” is a more traditional Coldplay rock song, a brooding affair laced with pianos and distorted guitar.

With this album, Coldplay broke out of the mold that was set with their first three albums.  Just like Florida’s football program, Coldplay is only getting started with the promise of even greater things to come.

K. W. Leslie on Teaching Science Instead of “Christian” Science

Today I would like to direct your attention to a post that I found over at K. W. Leslie’s blog, which is entitled “How I taught science instead of “Christian” science”.

It is a rather lengthy post, so be prepared to commit a little time to this one.  K. W. Leslie recounts his experience teaching middle school science at a Christian school, and finding that the textbook which he was supposed to use was woefully inadequate.  This textbook did not attempt to address the state standards for science; instead it was taken up with nature trivia, space trivia, and all sorts of mostly irrelevant Bible verses about how great nature is and how great God is for creating nature.  In order to deal with this, he took whatever he could use from the textbook and went out and pulled together a curriculum that would satisfy the state standards.  But there was a problem:  the parents wanted a textbook; they wanted to make sure that their kids were learning “Christian” science and not “secular” science.

This is an issue for many Christian parents because the concept of evolution, which so permeates the world of “secular” science, is seen to be in direct opposition to the authority of Scripture.  The Bible is believed to make specific claims about the age of the earth; Archbishop James Ussher put together a chronology based on the lives of the patriarchs listed in the biblical genealogies and arrived at the conclusion that the earth was created in 4004 BC.  This assumption lies at the heart of young-earth creationism.

But people who take this stance are not defending the Bible from science, much as they may think that they are.  Instead, they are defending their own interpretation of the Bible.  In the final analysis, Christianity and science are totally separate provinces:

These are separate realms. Or, to use a Christian term, kingdoms. Christianity can say nothing to science except about moral issues: “I don’t think the way you’re going about that experiment is right.” And scientists can say nothing to Christianity except quantitative issues: “Your behavior is not consistent with the morals you teach.” We can only speak in the languages of our respective kingdoms. When we try to apply the rules of those kingdoms to the other, you get the farce of “Christian” science… and maybe Scientology.

As a college student studying education, I had to be prepared to resolve the issue of science versus the Bible in my own mind.  I don’t think that I would have even considered going into education at all if I was not in a place where I was willing to accept that “secular” ideas about science might have some merit and that what the Bible says about science–or rather, what almost all of evangelical Protestant-dom says it says–is not the final word.