Pomplamoose, God, and the Brilliant Cover

 

I’ve always been fascinated by a great cover—those nifty, musical do-overs that take an original recording of a song and create something unexpected with it. Lousy musicians produce lousy covers; it often happens when spare-bedroom-bands want to make a little money at a local gig by pretending to be Queen. Or something like that.

Extraordinary musicians produce extraordinary covers. Like an artist who re-purposes old objects, or a master quilter who sews together old fabric in new patterns, a great musician can take existing clay, smash it down on the potter’s wheel, and spin like crazy until something new emerges. It often bears little resemblance to the original, but that’s what’s so wonderful about it.

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Crockpot Faith: The Twelve-Hour Advantage

Christians really like food, especially when it comes in big casserole dishes lined up along marathon folding tables, resting atop plastic sheeting covered with a gold-and-green harvest motif. Churches like their utensils plastic, their chairs metal, and their recipes circa 1972. In the fall and winter, one can always find the line-up of slow cookers at the far end of the buffet table. I see some metaphorical possibilities in the humble crockpot, so hold on while I work out my thesis for eight hours on its lowest setting. In short, I'm discovering that slow-cooked faith, in all its unfashionable glory, is the best kind. 

If you’re a foodie (that is, according to Wikipedia, a person “obsessively interested in all things culinary”), you might look down on crockpot food as hopelessly old school. In your mind, it’s the domain of frumpy housewives or can-opener cooks. But when a woman in her sixties shows up at a potluck clutching both handles of a slow cooker, I anticipate peeking into the lid. Why? Because the comfort food it contains required a certain amount of pre-meditation—its mysteries started hours ago under the direction of a cook who had enough time margins in her life to plan ahead. She’s been smelling the result in her kitchen all day long.

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Digging into the Racist American Quarry

I hate writing the blog du jour. Everyone and his mother is writing a blog this week about bad behavior, driven mostly by the uber-journalism around Kanye’s interruption, Serena’s threat, and Joe’s outburst.  It’s just too easy—a bit of social commentary that practically writes itself.

I won’t repeat the particulars; there are too many editorials about it already, and you don’t have the time. But I am heartbroken today, not merely because I don’t like my children seeing tantrums by adults, but because I made the huge mistake of reading the bizarre racial ideology of a hundred lunatic Americans hiding out on comment threads related to those very stories.

If our nation is a giant rock quarry, it seems I’ve been hanging out around the visible crust for most of my life. I don’t dig conspiracy theories and I’ve never blasted a hole into the darker layers of racism or hate. It’s not my domain. But this afternoon, while keeping abreast of my nation’s latest conversations, I discovered an entire strata I hoped didn’t really exist. I am not as naïve as I once was, nor do I see the world through an optimist’s lens, yet what I discovered in the comment threads of only three news articles—in phrases I cannot repeat and language I could not imagine—has rattled me today.

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The Sex Appeal of Social Justice (And Why Jesus’ Love Turns More Heads)

(Here is a reposting from last year. It's still important.) 

I’ve come to an interesting conclusion. If helping your fellow man is like buying a car, you have two basic options: purchasing the sexy late model edition that makes heads turn, or going with the clunky used car that few notice and even fewer covet.

Without judging this trio’s motives, Barack, Brad, and Bono belong to the first category whether they want to or not. So do the high school kids who fatten up their fancy college apps with obligatory volunteerism and the pro athletes who, through “giving back,” score twice as many endorsement deals as the ones who don’t. You could also include entire political campaigns, blood drives that get you out of work early, and your sister-in-law who uses the Thanksgiving meal at the homeless shelter merely as a photo-op for her family scrapbook.

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Do Christian Women Watch Porn?

It’s a disarming question, to be sure.

I’ll give you the easy answer—right up front with no waiting. My first answer is an unequivocal Yes—Did you really need to ask?  My second answer is a much slower No—and I’m glad you asked.

First of all, the reason you clicked on this piece has everything to do with your own self-assessment. You wanted to either 1) Make sure that you’re not alone in your own behavior, 2) See if your holiness level is a lot higher than other women’s, 3) Determine if being a Christian makes any difference in the way people live their lives, or 4) Succumb to the deep curiosity that men and women have when it comes to private sexuality.

Human beings are often critically aware of their own DNA-encoded predisposition to everything God-dishonoring, and that includes sexual perversion (If you don’t believe that pornography is a form of sexual perversion, then stop reading because we won’t agree on much from here on out). I’m not one of those editorialists who believe that all your hang-ups come from society’s misguided Victorian ideals or mother-imposed guilt trips. I’m a believer in the Fall, a writer who accepts both the evidence from my culture and the Bible’s words in Genesis 8 that “every inclination of [man’s] heart is evil from childhood” and in Romans 3 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

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Are You a Wedding Cynic?

Don’t attend a wedding with a cynic. It’ll be no fun at all.

Weddings, like rock salt on a slug, leave some people dried out on the sidewalk. For every attendee weepy and sentimental at the sight of a sacred covenant, another guest is raging against the machine—that botched up, burnt out, old school institution known as the American marriage.

Someone doesn’t become a cynic overnight. It happens in layers, year after year, as one’s life experiences begin to outnumber the perceived myths. Domestic violence, a set of affectionless parents, a personal betrayal, or one’s own moral failures can add a layer. If you combine lots of these over time—or if your own love story recently tanked—then sitting through a wedding ceremony for some people can have all the emotional poignancy of C-SPAN.

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Are You the Smartest Person in the Room? God, I hope not.

Those of us who regularly read, process, and filter cultural commentary are often distressed when we have conversations with people who, for whatever reason, seem light years behind. It is a writer’s job to be positioned right in the front seat of the cultural roller coaster, staring down the tracks, and telling others what kind of loops and dips are just a few seconds away. Sometimes we even aspire to engineer the next big ride. But then, when we chill with the people who are riding for the first time, we can feel easily irritated. They ask us really faded questions like, “What’s all this about the Emergent Church business?” or “Have you ever heard of Twitter?” and we let go of the handrail and stare off in the distance while they chatter. Cultural commentators can be insufferably condescending.

Christianity and Fiction: Challenging Our Horse-Drawn History

I heard recently that at least among one segment of the Christian reading population, Amish fiction is selling big. Apparently during slippery moral and economic times, it’s comforting to know that a character can find adventure in vegetables, love, and horse-drawn buggies. Forgive me if I’m wrong since I haven’t read any such stories lately, but the thought of combining all three in a plot sequence does seem riveting.

The marketers who weigh in on stuff like this must know more than I do. It wouldn’t be the first time that I missed the cut on art trends. If I had been one of the culture-makers this year, Lady Gaga, Bruno, and skinny jeans would’ve been kept out of our collective consciousness. So much money lost forever, I know.

So I found it interesting when I read an interview with Yann Martel, a Canadian writer and philosopher who makes this statement: “But if I project, Christians—part of this is based on my personal experience, and part of it is based on my intuition—don't read fiction. The Bible is enough for them. Jesus is enough for them. That otherworldliness of the Bible stimulates their imagination enough. Ardent Christians are not novel readers . . .”

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Whose Footprint?

You don’t have to be hardwired for poetry to consider the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing with lyrical wonder. Space travel was then, and will always be, the fascinating collision of God and man, the chance for ordinary mortals to do something divine while the world watches on. But here’s the irony: we seem to be more enamored with the astronauts and tech-wizards who dared to press a bootprint into the lunar soil than we are the God who created the tiny ball of dust in the first place. Seems like misguided awe to me.  

Mankind has always been like that—more often impressed with itself than God. When the astronauts arrived back to earth to face TV cameras and book deals, they must have felt what Apollo 13 author Jeff Kluger called “existential whiplash.” One commander remembered attending a celebratory barbecue and asking himself “What am I doing here?” It wasn’t a literal question in the least; perhaps he knew better than the rest of us that seeing the glowing perimeter of the moon in your windshield can make you consider your teeny-weeny insignificance in powerful new ways. Would they dare tell the fawning public that what they did was really no big deal in comparison?

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Q and A: Talking About The Forecast

Your new novel The Forecast sort of defies artistic labeling. You don’t classify it as Christian fiction, but the secular markets don’t know what to do with it. How would YOU define it? 

It’s sort of like asking a musician what kind of music he plays. I didn’t set out to package this book as a commercial enterprise. I’m a storyteller whose non-negotiable relationship with Jesus influences how I see the world. It’s as simple as that. If you really want to know what sort of thematic storyline it follows, I guess I could say Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors meets Kate Chopin’s The Awakening meets Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. On top of that, I called it a “counterfeit memoir” because the main character has such a strong confessional voice. Go figure.  

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About
Why Cracks? Because in my suburban world, the collision of faith and modern life is sometimes messy. Can I find beauty, not only in Christianity’s smooth concrete, but also in the broken places?


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