Thursday, April 26, 2007

Problems with "Return Splatters"

To whom it may concern:
For some odd reason, my last two post have no place to put comments on. If you wanted to leave a comment on them, do so here.

What's wrong with a little Angst?

This Christian review on Switchfoot's Nothing is Sound surprised me. They found John Foreman's journey's into despair disturbing and (as far as I could tell) unchristian. I find this surprising, and would like to ask what's wrong with a little angst?
Do not misunderstand: by "angst" I do not mean those singers who cry and screech about death and darkness, and then play the hypocrite by not committing suicide and continue to make more CDs and more money. What I mean by "angst" is what Dr. Barnard was talking about in chapel: being honest.
A friend of mine explained to me that Nothing is Sound was John Foreman's journey through being bi-polar. This explains why his songs seem to rise and fall in being upbeat and minor (1st song, minor; 2nd song, upbeat; 4th song, minor; 5th song, upbeat, etc. The 3rd song, being the title track, is a mix of minor and upbeat). Foreman's journey into despair is him being honest about a condition that can lead him to despair. There is nothing unchristian about journeys through despair; read the Psalms if you disagree.
The review was wrong when it said Switchfoot goes through despair without offering any hope. If you treat each song in isolation, then you can make that assumption. However, the CD is a whole work of a journey. The hope comes from the final upbeat song, which is called (surprise, surprise) "We are One," a song that makes no sense unless you see it as Foreman coming to the end of his journey ("We are One" is perhaps an answer to Foreman's pray in "Twenty-four" from The Beautiful Letdown, "Twenty-four voices, and twenty-four hearts...but I want to be one today, centered in truth...").
There is nothing unchristian about being honest about despair. What we have in Nothing is Sound is a great piece of musical art, a journey through despair, ending in hope (with "We are One"), and going on to offer gentle encouragement to another ("Daisy").
What we also have here is on obvious lack of artistic understanding in mainstream Christianity. Once you understand the theme behind the form, you can see the artistic Christian representation of a journey through humanity. The only purpose the review serves is as another proof of mainstream Christianity's disconnect with any artistic vision or sense (but what can I expect? This is the same review site that said Switchfoot's Oh! Gravity song "Head over Heels (in This Life)" was singing about John Foreman's wife).

So I was thinking about Lack Placid...

Do you remember Lake Placid? You know: crappy monster movie about a giant alligator? I was thinking about how much I despised Oliver Platt's character. He was some biologist/treehugger who spouted things like "alligators were once worshiped as gods!" and how alligators are superior to us (we invented computers, but can we do a death roll? I think not).
Of course, the big problem PETA-ites like Platt's character have is when humans encroach (a negative term for land development) upon animal territory. I do not understand this. If I ran up to a PETA-ite and cried, "Help! There was this grizzly minding its own business when another bear encroached upon its territory and when the first bear tried to fight him off the second bear FOUGHT BACK! We must DO something! Picket the second bear!" they would probably think I was nuts (which coming from them is pretty bad) and mumble something about "law of the jungle" or "survival of the fittest" or something. However, replace "second bear" with "human," and the war is on, which makes one wonder: are PETA-ite's wars for animal rights based more on their love of animals, or more on their hatred of humans?

(Side note for movie buffs: I am one of those people that liked the Roland character from The Lost World: Jurassic Park)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Modest Rambling

Let us be honest with ourselves: 99% of the time, chapel...I mean, THE HOUR (da da da, ominous music) somehow manages to successfully suck and blow at the same time without missing a beat. Cheesy (and sometimes horrid) worship mixed with mediocre and oft repetitious messages, or pep talks, or guilt trips, or whatever they are, make up the usual fare.
In addition, 99% of the time these "whatever they are's" fall into three separate categories:

(1) CREW: Let's be honest again--ANY talk on CREW is merely social gospel in disguise (see below in this entry for rantings on social gospel). Do this, do that because that's what Christians do (of course, the Cross cannot be found). Coming from a extremely fundamental conservative Christian background, I must say that talks on CREW always sound suspiciously like the legalistic mantra I'm used to: "Do this, do that because God will frown on you if you don't, you bad Christian you!"

(2) Sex, Love, and Dating: Sometimes good, sometimes bad, and always the same thing over and over again (wait till your maweed!). One shining light of hope came last week when the bioethics expert (Dennis Hollinger? His last name escapes me) treated sex as more than a biological function. Typical SLD messages revolve around sex as a biological function only, and that we should wait because God "says so." In today's post-modern world (both Christian and secular), "say so's" don't count for squat anymore. People need to know why (and God's reason's for why are amazingly deep and mysterious, treating sex and humans as sacred and spiritual things/beings). And, of course, the Cross cannot be found.

(3) Racial Reconciliation and Diversity: In the last "The Hour Live Show" version of chapel, the host decided to kick off the event with a little RRD. His weapon of choice? A typical "White Man Guilt Trip" story that played the same old card: black person got gypped by a white person of authority. Shame on you white man; shame on you all--that's the message that was received. Let's be honest AGAIN: no one is going to dispute that the injustice happened (I certainly don't), but does our RRD department really think that races can be reconciled by creating racial tension by constantly bringing up examples of racism? All "The Hour Live Show" accomplished was to make the racial relations between blacks and whites seem stuck in the 1930's (and can we PLEASE mix it up a bit? Why not a story of black injustice on white people? Or Latino injustice on blacks? Or Latino on Asian? Or Asian on white? Or Arabic on white? Or White on Arabic? Or Latino on white? Or White on Latino? Or Asian on Latino? Or White on Asian? The list of examples seems endless, and endlessly untapped).
Most RRD begins with a guilt trip story whose moral is "Shame on you, white man" and ends with everyone being reminded that we still hate each other. And, again, the Cross cannot be found (A friend of mine once asked a RRD lecturer how we as races are made one together in Christ. The lecturer laughed nervously, called my friend "brother" a bunch of times, and then kindly ignored the question).

Oh, there is some kind of "gospel" that gets presented at chapel, but it is not the gospel of Christ. The "gospel" that gets presented can also fall into three separate categories:

(1) Prosperity Gospel: Oh sure, sure, we had that little seminar on the subject a week ago, and nominal consensus around campus is that Prosperity Gospel is a load of horse manure. But it still can sneak in. Mostly, it sneaks in during what feels like a underglorified Christian pep rally. The speaker quotes some obscure passage from II Chronicles and uses it as a springboard to launch into a "You can do it!" dish with Christendom on the side. There is no accounting for suffering, and therefore, again, the Cross cannot be found.

(2) Social Gospel: This one is deadly because it sounds so, so...Christian. It follows St. James command to a "T": they take care of the fatherless and widowed and sick and helpless. It seems so holy, so righteous; how can one speak out against it (and its children: SOS and CREW)? Here's how: the Cross cannot be found. "What profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?" Paraphrase: What profits people if we remodel their house, buy them clothes, read to them, cure AIDS, or end world hunger when they still die and go to hell? I doubt the horror of separation from God will be lessened by their freshly upholstered furniture.
"But, Jesus met people's physical needs before he met their spiritual ones." That's bologna. Before Jesus healed the paralytic, He said, "Your sins are forgiven." Jesus' entire life was bound up in the Cross and the redemption of the world so that suffering is no longer meaningless or the end of all things. Ask yourself, What is more Christian: fixing some one's broken house, or leading someone to the One who can fix a broken soul?

(3) Love Gospel: Perhaps the most devilish of them all because it sounds even more Christian than Social Gospel: God sent His Son to die because He loves you. Okay. Right on target. However, why should we accept such salvation? Because...God loves you! He's crazy about you! He's foaming at the mouth practically! Can't you see how much He loves you?! He's going crazy! I'm going crazy! AAAHHH HA HAAAAAAAAAA!
Love Gospel is missing two things: (1) sin, and (2) repentance. The devilishness comes in the fact that there is NO CROSS, and yet there is a silhouette, i.e., Jesus' death is acknowledged, but its reasons are twisted. Why did Jesus die on the cross? According to one previous chapel speaker: "Because God wanted a dramatic way to show that He LOVES YOU! HE'S CRAZY ABOUT YOU! WEE HEE HEE!" No sacrificial love, no "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins," no Christ being "made sin for us," no nothing. The violence of the Cross was because God wanted you to know His love? Good grief! Either God is a sadist, reckless, or BOTH. A simple reading of John 3:16 would have sufficed to all that bloodshed. Love Gospel strips the Cross of its power and its glory, and just like its prosperity and social cousins, it leaves no room for the reality of suffering or the reality of God being made one with our suffering.

Oh, and don't get me started on the music. One time the singing was so bad it even made me grimace. That is a profound thing. Usually when musical garbage is being pounded into my ears, I remain quiet and politely stand still while others who like that stuff proceed to enjoy themselves (and it is themselves that they are enjoying). But I will not lie: I was raised by a college trained pianist for a mother, and thus have a musical ear. The "worship" presented one time was so horrid that a keeled over, clamped my hand over my mouth, and physically shook to keep in the laughter. Hoo, boy--these people where flat, off beat, and out of tune at the same time while singing in the key of Q. It didn't help that they were singing a song nobody knew, leaving even the praise and worship crowd to awkwardly shuffle back and forth while forty-somethings sang noise at us. Christianity needs a Simon Cowell. The only time I can remember when the worship music actually put people in a worshipfully state was when Josh Smith lead us in old hymns of the faith. What a coincidence. And an ignored fact.

Take heart, though. There is still the 1% of the time when chapel does not suck/blow, but actually is a place where the Spirit of God moves freely: times like Stuart Briscoe, Brian Loritts, or Dennis Hollinger. Even today's chapel was good. Why? Because the Cross was there, and there boldly, without apology, without flinching, without fluff, without fear, without a sugar-coating, and without the key of Q.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Facebook dialogue with Madam Johnson

In regards to a relevant Christian foodcourt:

Goodness! What would the house of "Church of Relevancy and God, Inc." say about a foodcourt? Perhaps we could stop by the "Communion Hut". I like my host smothered with extra cheese and mushrooms, and I'd like diet wine (or lime flavored...OR Root Beer wine! hmmm...) Or how about the "Fish and Bread" (as opposed to "Fish and Chips"), where you are served your order of fried fish with french fries (everyone knows there were french fries in first century Palestine, only they called them "Pharisee Fries") by a Jesus statue that hurls them at you (hope you're a good catch!). The possibilities are endless; anything for marketing Christianity for massive consumer consumption, right?
[And don't forget] to mention Burger King of Kings. You can have the Trinity special: one Whopper, that's God; one Whopper Jr., that's Jesus; and a side of fries with a drink, which is the Holy Spirit (Burger King Communion!). I'd eat at Eucharist Bell (would I have to pray over my own food?).
[And what about] the Fruits of the Spirit? We could have Spirit Smoothies! And you can enjoy your smoothie at our high-tech oxygen bar (called "Smooth Spirit," or "Pneuma through a Tuba"...not sure which), while enjoying Praise and Worship Hits. Later, you can enjoy a brisk workout at the Christian Yoga and Palates center where you do exercises to Chris Tomlin music videos.

An Addition to Madam Johnson's Comment to Master Jenkins

In regards to the modern church feeling more and more like looking for Jesus at the mall:

From the P.A. of Wolfchase's new "Church of Relevancy and God, Inc.":

"Bluelight special on Jesus' 10 steps to a thinner waistline."

"Price check on the latest copy of 'How to re-energize the church with the latest pop art and clever sermon titles.'"

"Are you tired of thinning hair? See how God doesn't want you bald!"

"Price check on 'How God would manage His stock portfolio.'"

"Clean up on the Communion aisle. We have spilt grape juice on the Communion aisle."

"Attention shoppers: Will the owner of a silver BMW with 'God is my co-pilot' and 'Follow me to Sunday School' bumper stickers please come to the front. You left your lights on."

"Attention shoppers: There is a lost child in our store, and no one seem to want to find him."

"Attention shoppers: If you find the lost child, please give him a copy of 'God's Five tips on how not to Get Lost in the Mall.'"

"Attention shoppers: We are apparently overstocked on Bibles, so there going from 75% off to 99% off."

"We have a return at the service desk. Someone has returned relevancy to go and seek reality."

Monday, April 23, 2007


As if insanity was not enough, I just had to push it. Welcome to Vowell Movements, the random collection page for when I have what the prestigious Dr. Justin Barnard would call "diarrhea of the mouth" (pleasant image). Anyway, have fun. We can't all be serious, ya know?