Category Archives: Culture

The Wimbledon Wii Championship

It seems that tennis has been taken to a whole new level…at least in Brooklyn. Skills required? You just have to be able to swing a Wii controller. About 120 people gathered in Brooklyn for the second annual Wii tennis tournament called Wimbledon. Being a tennis player and a Wii fan, I can’t quite decide whether this is cool in the name of fun or sad in the way of I-have-too-much-time-on-my-hands. If we start to see a whole generation of folks training for video game sports, then I have to choose the sad option. But hey, I’m all about an afternoon of fun in the sun with a Wii controller in hand.

Keep Your Clothes On Danica

Women today are facing increasing pressure from the media and culture to bare their bodies as a sign of femininity and strength. It can be justified from almost every angle. Call it beauty and art. Call it “being comfortable in your own skin.” Call it transparency. Call it sexy. Call it feminine independence. It is all around us. Media and culture are exploiting women and women are buying into it. It is a form of degradation that is extremely overlooked.

Interestingly enough, Ian O’Connor (sportswriter for FOX Sports) has written an interesting article about this issue in light of Danica Patrick’s first victory at the Japan 500. Though it was a monumental achievement, O’Connor contends that it was overshadowed by Danica’s post-race appearances (barely dressed in many media outlets). Danica’s presence in the Indy car sport coupled with her recent victory has made her a role model for many young women. Sadly, Danica’s post-race appearances only feed the perception of women as physical objects and lessens the impact of her achievements. I encourage you to read the article.

Darth Vader Strikes Back

Darth Vader has reappeared with a vengeance. A Welshman dressed as Darth Vader attacked Master Jonba Hehol and Master Mormi Hehol, cousins and leaders of the Church of Jediism in Wales. Vader was missing his trusty light saber and had to employ the force by whacking them with a metal crutch. Lucky for us and unlucky for Vader, “his March attack was recorded on a video camera that the cousins had set up to film themselves in a light saber battle.” Classic. Can someone say You Tube?

An Evangelical Manifesto

An Evangelical Manifesto was released today at the National Press Club. If you are unfamiliar with this document and its purpose then take a moment and check it out. The purpose of the manifesto is “to clarify the confusions that surround the term Evangelical in the United States, and to explain where we stand on issues that cause consternation over Evangelicals in public life.” I believe this could be a very helpful document but I will save my comments for a future post.

Justin Taylor has put together a nice summary of the manifesto. Justin also posted an interview with Os Guiness, who was on the Steering Committee for this document. Dan Wallace had a few words about the manifesto just prior to its release. I’m sure we’ll see many more posts and comments to come in the next few days.

As you get a chance to read it, I would love to hear what you think. I’ll share some more thoughts on this manifesto soon…so stay tuned.

The Monday Muse: Evangelical

What is an evangelical? Our friends at Merriam-Webster list several meanings for the word evangelical. One definition means “relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels.” They also say that it can mean “emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual.” Even a classic dictionary like Webster understands that evangelical is centered around the gospel, the good news. The gospel is the foundation of what it means to be an evangelical.

Now ask a person on the street what first comes to mind when mentioning the word evangelical. I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t match Webster’s definition. You will likely be given a host of other words that give evangelicals a much less favorable definition. Fundamentalists. Right-wing. Conservative. Judgmental. Ridiculous.

If we were to ask ourselves as Christians who falls under the banner of evangelical, we would have a long list. Fundamentalist. Emergent. Emerging. Traditionalist. Baptist. Methodist. Liberal. Conserative. The list could go on for days. Touchstone magazine posted a forum of six evangelicals discussing the definition of evangelical along with assessing the state of evangelicalism. David Wells, author and professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, has questioned whether or not we should continue to retain the term with all of its baggage and stereotypes. Joe Carter commented on the growing trend of people dropping the term evangelical and declared his intentions to be the last evangelical standing if it comes down to it.

So consider this question…

Should we drop or hold onto the term evangelical? Is it worth retaining?

Much more than hearing your answer to this question, I look forward to hearing why you think it is or isn’t worth retaining. I have several things I want to say on this topic but I will save it for the comments section and possibly a future post. Game on.

The Monday Muse: Contextualization

There are several buzz words that have emerged in recent years within the Christian community. Emerging, emergent, relative, missional, postmodern…all words that will commonly be mentioned in conversations about ministry in the 21st century. Frequent many Christian blogs and you will find several occurrences of these words. Another such word is contextualization. This word is born out of a particular question. How do we effectively communicate the gospel within the context of our communities, cultures, and lives? It is an extremely valid question that has been asked by missionaries for many years. It has often been ignored by the church within the American culture. The assumption has been made that American culture is homogeneous. It is all the same. If this is true, then a canned product can be used by every American church to reach its community.

However, this is a grave error. American culture is extremely diverse. Smalltown Indiana is very different than inner city New York. This means that a canned product will not be sufficient. In fact, a canned product may prove to be harmful. Each church, each believer needs to thoughtfully consider the make up of its surrounding community and find ways of communicating the gospel in a way that connects with people within that context. So we must be open to people using different methods in different locations. But can there be a danger to such openness, critical evaluation, and willingness to change? So here’s what I’m getting at:

At what point does contextualization cross the line into compromise?

American Idol Sings Shout to the Lord

Last week American Idol wrapped up their “Idol Gives Back” episode with a group rendition of “Shout to the Lord.” I’m not going to say a whole lot about this collaboration. Josh Harris has already written some very good reflections on this episode. However, I will say a few quick things. First, I was immediately skeptical the moment I heard about this ordeal. It’s one thing to take a song by a “Christian” artist or band and use it as a theme song for a show or background music for an episode. Generally it just means that the music happens to fit with the theme of a show or episode. It has nothing to do with promoting God. It’s just good music. In fact, I just heard Pillar’s new single, “For the Love of the Game,” being played as the background music to a video highlighting college football on ESPN. Do you think they wrote that song with a college football video in mind? I highly doubt it. It’s great that songs like this are being used in multiple formats. But don’t make it more than what it is.

Second, American Idol totally changed the first line of the song. Instead of “My Jesus, My Savior,” the Idols sing “My Shepherd, My Savior.” Is it a huge deal? Not really. Does it change the meaning of the song? Possibly. Why not sing it like it was written? Because shepherd leaves the meaning open to the listener. It doesn’t offend people. It doesn’t promote anything in particular. It’s politically correct. Another sign of the times. Furthermore, I think it makes the song sound very awkward to me. My opinion: if you can’t use the song the way it was written, don’t use it at all. (Though I did find out later that they sang it again the next night with Jesus included.)

In the end, I side with Josh. I don’t get real worked up about it. Some Christians will point this out as a victory path into culture. If this is our idea of engaging the culture, we might need to have another brainstorming session. However, I will say that there are several Christians laboring in the entertainment industry that need our prayers as they seek out ways to engage their co-workers and industry with the gospel. Maybe this is one way that their influence is being felt. (Read Josh’s follow up post and inside scoop for more insight on the Idol deal) I will admit that I struggle with cynicism at times. But I would never want to discourage the efforts of the people who are laboring in the fields. Praise God for those people.

Baby With Two Faces

No, this is not some deep metaphor explaining human nature from the beginning of life. What you see is what you get. This is literally a baby with two faces. I have never seen anything like it. Even crazier is the fact that doctors have a term for this condition: craniofacial duplication. The fact that a term already exists for this condition makes it obvious that this little girl is not the first two faced baby.

Like mentally handicap people, the picture of this little girl moves me. It is sad. It should be a very plain reminder that this world is not right. There is something very wrong with this world, this existence. It drives me back to the cross. It reminds me of the faith I have in Christ…that my life has been made new. God has poured out his grace on me. And the best part…His grace is made available to all people through Christ.

The Monday Muse: Useless Inventions

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about all of the pointless inventions that litter the shelves of stores across the world. Some inventions are so pointless that it is almost frustrating. Some of them actually make life more difficult in one way or another. Most of the time we tolerate and celebrate these inventions because they are the latest trend in fashion and cool or they seemingly make things in life go a little smoother. My question to you is this:

What is the most pointless, useless, or frustrating invention that you use or come into contact with on a regular basis?

My vote…men’s button fly jeans. I’m not going into great detail on this but I will say that men’s button fly jeans are absolutely worthless. Who came up with the bright idea to put buttons on the fly of guy’s jeans? SERIOUSLY! Do they look any cooler with buttons instead of a zipper? No. Are they annoying and functionally frustrating? Yes. Do I have more than one pair of button fly jeans? Yes. So what does that say about me? Hmmm…

So let’s get rid of button fly jeans. They are not cooler. They are not more functional or practical. They are completely pointless in comparison to a zipper.

Ok, your turn.

Church Set to Protest Ledger’s Memorial Service

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In a stunning display of grace, Westboro Baptist Church has stated that they will protest the memorial service of Heath Ledger. Westboro is the same Kansas church that pickets the funerals of American soldiers who are killed in Iraq. Now they have decided that Ledger’s performance in Brokeback Mountain is cause for them to unmercifully protest any type of memorial service for the man and his family.

Though it doesn’t suprise me, especially coming from Westboro, I am still stunned. This planned action is both gutless and heartless. Whether you agree with Ledger’s character or role in protraying homosexuality, protesting a man’s funeral might be the close second to cheering for the man’s death on the graceless scale. At the very least it is like rubbing salt in a wound. How would Jesus treat this family? What would he do in this situation? I can’t exactly answer that question. However, I have a strong hunch that picketing and protesting, and at a man’s funeral no less, would not be his course of action. We are called to speak the truth in love…in love. (Ephesians 4:15) What love can be seen in protesting a man’s memorial service? Can a person disagree with another’s stance and beliefs while showing grace and love toward that same person? Absolutely. Instead of rushing over to Hobby Lobby to gather up picketing gear, how about humbly and thoughtfully reaching out to the family and friends of this man and showing them gentle compassion as Jesus showed compassion. Wouldn’t that go a long way in protraying the truth of the gospel? Wouldn’t that be a better representation of Christ? My hope is that between now and the memorial service Westboro Baptist Church will seriously reconsider their course of action. My hope is that they will put on the character of Christ and discard the radical legalism of the Pharisees.

To the Ledger family…though I am not a person of any great significance and for what it is worth, I am sorry for your loss.