Sunday, August 30, 2009

Adultery, USA

Today's story of choice centers around one man's descent into infidelity and his wife's peculiar punishment of such infidelity thereafter.

The story itself is a must-read for humor alone, but one thing that struck me in the article was the radio DJ's confidence that the marriage would not last. It was not so much the prediction that was intriguing, but rather how the future of the couple was discussed as if the humans involved were a pair of dice being rolled in a game of craps. Pity or empathy was found nowhere in the article, but rather the event simply became another edition of a reality tv (in this case reality radio) wherein the whole show centered on the question, "will this last?"

None of this really is really a surprise. Marriage simply isn't sacred anymore. And it really should not come as a surprise when science of all institutions is advocating adultery such as in this article (Warning: while the article is entirely scientific in nature, sexuality is discussed with openness especially within primates). But while evolutionary theory may very well argue human sexuality and whether or not adultery should be considered taboo, we must scratch our head a little bit when the scientists decide to become religious skeptics in the name of science when we read such quotes in the article linked above:

“Claims to moral outrage appear to be falling on deaf ears as humans in modern societies are moving closer to the kind of sexuality that existed in our species for millennia; that is, before civilization imposed religious strictures on who was allowed to bonk whom.”

SOAPBOX: And this is what really gets my goat...when I was in evolutionary biology classes in college and when I read scientific articles and books regarding the subject, there are occasionally the scientists who just have an open bias against religion, and talk of the ancient homo sapien races before civilization with a kind of romanticism of "the old ways" before morality and religion corrupted man. Which in my opinion, is absurd, as scientists should have no say on philosophical and religious matters. SOAPBOX OVER

Now that I am off my soapbox, my whole point of the link to the science article is that if what people say is true in that where science go, western culture will follow, it will not be long until polygamy is the quid pro quo amongst relationships. Sure the divorce rate may go down, but at the price of monogamy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The God Gene...what about the Worship Gene?

So the following articles are a few years old and perhaps many of you have already heard and read up on the issue, but it's all somewhat new to me. The issue: The God Gene which is discussed further in the book by the same name by Dean Hamer and even went on to be a covered in Time Magazine (pictured). The idea is simple, certain people are predisposed evolutionarily to believe in a higher being based on them having the VMAT2 gene. While the gene does not conclusively decide that the people with the gene will believe in God, the gene does "handle one type of brain chemical, monoamines, that have a lot to do with emotional sensitivity." In essence people with this gene can create the emotional stimulants necessary to believe in God, and then have encounters with this higher being.

This is all well and proper, but if this discovery were true, one would expect more publicity on the issue, even for the issue to be popular today. However, the reason the issue has become a dead issue is because Hamer's findings are without proper scientific criticism. Hamer even released his book without proper testing. This was not the first time Hamer released controversial findings without solid foundation: In 1993, Hamer claimed to have found a gay gene, but was also not accepted into the scientific community. One can read a brief critical piece of Hamer's poor scientific work on the God Gene from famous scientist, Carl Zimmer, here. There is another critical piece here that handles the issue from more of a theological perspective.

So the issue is dead. But as for my two cents, while I do reject the idea of a God gene theologically, I think there is something to be said about someone's ability to produce emotional and euphoric highs based on chemical reactions in the brain. I have not read up on the issue as properly as I should (but this is a blog, not a scientific quarterly article), but....

I have observed some Christians able to just go head over heels emotionally over God in church ("power worship")...and to me these individuals appear to be on a completely different plane spiritually and emotionally than myself. I have tried time and time again to work myself or to attempt to allow God to alter my consciousness through his Spirit to such a point emotionally that I reflect the "holy rollers" and "ceiling jumpers" we see in church, and I just can't do it.

It's not that I am intimated by those observers around me, because that is the last of my worries, nor do I find myself anxious when praising God, it's just that I cannot find myself at such an emotional plain that I can do the things of those apparently more spiritual than I. And as the man interested in cognitive science, I do wholly admit the possibility that I am faulting genetics too much when my lack of inclination to "power worship" is fully a spiritual fault of my own....but I am just suggesting that is it possible that some of us are more predisposed than others towards acts of "power worship"? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Youth Congress Updates

So we're still digging through the depths of our Youth Congress files, and found some pictures and vids from the big event that we're still posting at Youth Congress Live!

If you'd like to see more evidence of God's great glory, drop by won'tcha?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PoMo won't Die and nor will I

I saw this picture and couldn't help but laugh. Wikipedia has become the default website where one can go and read a certain article and declare themselves an expert on any given issue of their choice.

The fact that I have a B.A. in political science holds little weight in a discussion when one can simply wiki search "Mutually Assured Destruction" and come away with an equally informed understanding of the topic.

I fear the biggest loss of our post-modern generation is our inability to evaluate good information from bad information, and further how to judge a good source from a bad one.

Anyone can now search their presupposition on an issue and find some one out there in cyberspace who has some poor rhetoric and fake reference to back up the presupposition. And then we end up in the quagmire of, "then how can we know which is the truth?"

And I, as a regretful post-modern answer the above question with, "I am not exactly sure it is possible to uncover a truth based on information anymore since anyone who sets out to prove a point or make a statement is too full of assumptions and presuppositions to come away with an objective opinion."

And if we think it's a generational thing, read this article about wikipedia adding it's three millionth article.

We see of a rift between “deletionists” and “inclusionists," which to me equates perfectly to me between the war of post-modernists vs. modernists: People who fight to make the information as objective as possible and those who want to add any and every opinion on the topic.

I think we as human beings too often devalue and underestimate the power of our presuppositions and influence of the community around us in our declarations of knowing the truth. And this is why I am a regretful post-modern.

Put On A Little Dylan

Ol' Bob isn't quite the cultural figure he was 40 years ago, or so it seems.

Two police officers in their 20s asked Mr. Dylan, 68, to provide identification as he took a stroll through Long Branch, N.J., last month,The Associated Press reported.

“I’ve seen pictures of Bob Dylan from a long time ago, and he didn’t look like Bob Dylan to me at all,” Officer Kristie Buble told ABC News. “We see a lot of people on our beat, and I wasn’t sure if he came from one of our hospitals or something. He was acting very suspicious. Not delusional, just suspicious.”

This highlights something I've taught our students at church, namely that culture's definitions change. People, things, sounds, styles of dress, etc. that are popular at this moment in time will probably not be popular in the very near future. Like, by three o'clock today. Stuff changes.

Bob "the 60s icon" Dylan has been replaced. Is that thing that weighs you down everyday really worth it? Will it be relevant a year from now?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

CS Lewis

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

-God in the Dock

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Post-Modernism: Friend or Enemy

I am sitting here in my biblical hermeneutics class and the topic that is currently on the table is how to witness to a post-modern world. One of the slides that my teacher Bro. Norris has up is the good/bad of my post-modern generation. The list very much intrigued me, and I will present here:

  • No One Expects you to know every thing
  • Being Authentic and self-deprecating works
  • Shorter Sermons are effective
  • No One expects you to know everything
  • ONLY being authentic and self deprecating works (pride is sniffed out and loathed from a mile away).
  • Pretty much only shorter sermons are effective.

While this list seems simple enough, I love how "relevant" it is....Does anyone else have anything to add to this list?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Spirit Filled Snow Patrol?

When we were in Northern Ireland last year, we were privileged to meet a wonderful couple who until recently were pastors of a Spirit filled church in Belfast. It turns out that their son is the lead guitarist for Snow Patrol. It was very interesting to hear them talk about what it was like to have a twenty something famous son. For example, they may be at a restaurant and their son will suddenly appear on the t.v. screen (giving an interview, music video, etc.). Or maybe their son will be in for a visit and they'll go to the grocery and then suddenly be surrounded by young girls who recognize him.

I've been following Snow Patrol with interest since that meeting and noted that they are the opening act for U2's European tour.

So it was with interest and reflection on the Spirit filled angle that I read this posting from one of the Snow Patrol Band members. This is from Friday and you can read the entire post here.

I have never in my life seen a crowd reaction like that of Katowice last night. Right from opener Breathe there was a daft magic in the air. Insanity everywhere you looked. People's faces clothed in the kind of joy I've only seen in gospel churches and then only on the TV so to see this religious fervour up close was overwhelming.

By the end even Bono was speechless, for a few seconds anyway. The things he said next are lost to me verbatim but what I won't forget is the tears that came to me then. In floods. And when I turned to check if anyone had snared me for blubbing I realised that every single person around me also had tears in their eyes. We were sharing something that simply never happens at rock shows anywhere. A collective emotional and spiritual surrender of epic proportions. This was majesty and tenderness married and that is a rare thing indeed.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

AP Outfit Royal Tailor Band

Last month at Louisiana Camp Meeting my brother and his friend Aaron Kelly opened for an outfit I'd never heard of called Royal Tailor Band. Despite my greatest intentions of getting to the show, I never made it. Something about two small children under the age of 4 and night time after 10 pm...anyways....
My brother came back telling me what a great band RTB are. So I checked them out on their myspace page, and wow.....they are the real deal.

Offering up multi-layered sounds with a hint of disco and a splash of electronica (think Mutemath but not quite so crazy), these guys are an Apostolic band with a totally fresh sound - by Apostolic standards or any other.
And it sounds like the guys have the right approach to music ministry. Here is an excerpt from their myspace page:
Royal Tailor was formed out of a desire to see students begin to take pride
in their identity as Christians and to reach to the hearts of those distant from
relationship with Christ...the goal of RTB is not to gain notoriety, but to see
a tangible difference in the lives of every student their music has the chance
to touch. ..
According to their Facebook page, the gig at NAYC was cancelled due to a scheduling conflict. Any tweeters or bloggers out there have a scoop? Any chance of a surprise, last minute show?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Newsboys Minus Furler Plus Tait

So let's see. Newsboys release new record, Peter Furler announces he's quitting, Michael Tait announces he's joining for live tour. Unless the live show comes anywhere near you and you have tickets, you have no idea what the Newsboys sound like sans Furler.

Until now.

Thanks to Jesus Freak Hideout for prompting me to follow this link to hear the new single with Michael Tait and the Newsboys-sans-Furler.

It sounds like....Michael Tait singing with the Newsboys. Wow, shocker.

I think I like it, mainly because it is great to hear something new from Michael Tait. It's been a while. I also like his voice combined with the slight techno feel that the Newsboys serve up (at least on this song).

Let's hope the formula continues to work.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Bazan's Back. Is That Good?

Here's an interesting article/"interview" with David Bazan, the former Pentecostal lead singer of Pedro the Lion turned agnostic.

As front man for Pedro the Lion, the band he led from 1995 till 2005, Bazan was Christian indie rock's first big crossover star, predating Sufjan by nearly a decade and paving the way for the music's success outside the praise circuit. But as he straddled the secular and spiritual worlds, Bazan began to struggle with his faith. Unable to banish from his mind the possibility that the God he'd loved and prayed to his whole life didn't exist, he started drinking heavily

Now he's back playing to Christian audiences, but as one pointing out the struggle he's had with faith. And he's not pretending to have any answers.

Bazan says he tried to Band-Aid his loss of faith and the painful end of Pedro the Lion with about 18 months of "intense" drinking. "If I didn't have responsibilities, if I wasn't watching [my daughter] Ellanor, I had a deep drive to get blacked out," he says. But as he made peace with where he found himself, the compulsion to get obliterated began to wane. On Curse Your Branches Bazan sometimes directs the blame and indignation at himself, other times at Jesus and the faith. He's mourning what he's lost, and he knows there's no going back.

But for me, the most interesting thing about the article is the reaction of young Christians to his music. Apparently, most explain his questioning (yea, probably even blasphemy) away as an honest pursuit of truth. The problem is, that's not what Bazan is intending at all. He actually wants Christians to see the "error of their ways".

During the two days I follow Bazan and his fans around the Cornerstone campus, though, it becomes clear that he isn't really misunderstood at all. Everyone knows what he's singing about—what's happening is that his listeners are taking great pains to sidestep the obvious. "Well, his songs have always been controversial," one says, but when asked to pinpoint the source of the controversy suggests it's because he swears—nothing about not believing in hell or not taking the Bible as God's word. Bazan's agnosticism is the elephant in the merch tent.

When I tell Bazan that there are kids at Cornerstone resisting the clear message of his songs, he's surprised. "That someone could listen to what I was saying and think that I was saying it apologetically—like, in a way that characterizes [doubt] as the wrong posture—bums me out, but that's pretty high-concept given how I'm presenting this stuff. So I have to hand it to someone who can keep on spinning what is so clearly something else." He pauses for a long moment, then adds, "I don't want to be that misunderstood."

I'm not opposed to asking tough questions about faith, and in particular I appreciate an artist that can do so in a new and compelling way. I prefer that they follow it up with some sort of answer. But to totally overlook an artist's message to justify listening to the music is a bit of a stretch for me.

As I often tell our students at church, to decide what type of music is okay to listen to requires research into the lives and hearts that are writing and performing the songs. Bitter and sweet can't come out of the same fountain.

The Ghosts of Youth Congresses Past

If you want to see the good, the bad, and the ugly from the last 2 Youth Congresses, drop on by 90&9's Facebook page and take a gander (as Mamaw used to say).

For news going on today through this weekend, drop by Youth Congress Live. We're posting throughout the North American Bible Quiz Tournament.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Bono Surrenders

Bono has uttered another "possibly spiritual" phrase on stage during the current 360 World Tour.

Steve Stockman gives this excellent review of the Dublin show last week, and mentions that at one point Bono screams out "I Surrender," a statement that Stockman says was aimed at God.

Nearing the end of Magnificent the fourth song in a row from the new album No Line On The Horizon, Bono stand arms open and declares “I surrender.” It is a surrendering to his God; it is a surrendering to the people (the fans) whose hard earned money put him on this stage, in one of the biggest stadiums in Europe, literally one or two miles from where he grew up; it is a surrendering to his place in the world, where with three chords and the truth, as he once said, he could meet some of the world’s deepest hunger.

It seems that Bono is always saying something that someone wants to use to identify him as the Lord's servant, and I'll leave all of that to the talking heads. I do think this is noteworthy because as you can see from the pictures and videos of the shows at U2's website, these guys are truly a force of nature that the has the attention of the entire world. And if they are somewhere in the general direction of something positive and true, certainly couldn't hurt.

It's The End Of The World As We Know It

It sounds like the traditional music news and review medium, namely the music magazine, is dying - and fast. Slate has this article on the three big reasons why music magazines are going down.

Late last month, Vibe magazine announced that it was ceasing publication. The next day, word arrived that Spin was laying off a half-dozen staffers. In late March, Blender folded outright, and a few months before that, Rolling Stone trimmed its masthead. (Blender hired me out of college in 2002, and I worked there until its demise.) For this strange moment, at least, many onetime professional music nerds share a common experience with many onetime investment bankers: whiplash.

Think about it - do you actually buy music magazines?

A couple of months ago I got all excited about an indy music magazine called Paste. I had heard of it a year or so ago, promptly forgot, and then a friend showed me a copy. I read all the reviews and articles and quickly became frustrated because I couldn't actually hear any of the music that was being discussed.

Wasting no time, I closed the magazine that I had so anxiously looked forward to reading, turned on my laptop, navigated over to Myspace or the artists' website, and listened to clips, full tracks, videos, and even read blogs from the artists themselves.

I've never purchased another copy of Paste since.

In a world where we are now accustomed to interacting (or at least following) music artists on Facebook and Twitter, it is easy to imagine that the music industry magazines' time may have come.

And these are points covered in the article (more or less). So now that I'm over my rant, here's the three reasons set forth in the article.

1. There are fewer superstars, and the same musicians show up on every magazine cover.

2. Music mags have less to offer music lovers, and music lovers need them less than ever anyway.

3. Music magazines were an early version of social networking. But now there's this thing called "social networking" …