Losing One's Life in the Era of Lebron

I am a huge basketball fan, and like many people, I was wildly disappointed about how Lebron James left Cleveland over the Summer. For a while after "the event," there seemed to be an unanimous concensus that his behavior was nothing short of deplorable, and then Lebron played the race card. His argument was that if you look at demographics, the majority of people (we can assume people outside of Cleveland) who thought his actions were wrong were white. Rather than race, I think, it is better to understand this as a clash of cultures.

There is a culture whose motto is: You have to do what is best for yourself. This motto is frequently repeated by sports commentators: Well, he did what was best for him and his family, and you can't ask for more than that. Now, in a broad sense, this seems reasonable. But it is only reasonable when we are talking about putting food on the table, and not, as in the case of Lebron, when it comes to self-fulfillment. But there is a culture gaining steam in America and beyond where "the best for yourself" is simply the ability to self-fulfill (or, to follow Nietzsche, the will to power). "Can" has suddenly come to imply "ought." 

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For the World to See

We're told in Scripture that we see dimly, but one day we will see clearly. This is true. Think of the clarity we lack as we look at the world in which we live.

Every so often, I pause and reflect on what films stay in my mind and linger in my imagination. As the cost of attending the cinema increases, I want to experience something and not simply view something. I want to participate, engage, be impacted, and have my imagination and memory impacted. These two things: my imagination and my memory are two of my most (and if you're honest, your memory and imagination are just as valuable) prized possessions. I remember people when songs come on the radio and I remember places when I smell and when I see. Faith should impact these two things and it's my belief that love, whatever it is, captures both the imagination and the memory or it isn't going to last. These two precious jewels, these rare elements that have no rival on the periodic table are like prime numbers that cannot be divided in any way. 

In recent months and years, films that have made me see the world a bit differently are few, but let me mention a couple of them both as recommendations and as recreation. The Soloist with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx is worth experiencing as Downey walks in and out of various comfort zones that remind us of our own fear of the homeless, fear of the unknown, and fear of our own shallowness and shame. It's worth your time because the characters are not unlike the people you will meet on your drive home or in your local grocer. People you must deal with in a tangible and loving way. A second film of note is Milk with Sean Penn as a human rights activist is San Francisco. Penn disappears and deserves whatever awards he received, but for me, I felt many other things that would normally be seen also disappeared and there was presented to me again, many human beings who had names, God given purpose, and God given dignity. Quite unexpectedly, I cried during the vigil scene where some actual footage interacted with the cinematic portrayal and my heart ached for what the Fall has done in this world. 

Yet, the film that most haunts me as of today is a French film entitled The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.While I hope you watch the other two films I have mentioned, I implore you to please give this film a shot. The dual themes of imagination and memory are obvious and play a central role in the film and if you walk away unmoved by the story, I am sad for you. I won't digress into being a film critic here that's not my point, rather I want to remind you that the world is a dangerous and delightful place. The thing this film will do will remind you of both the danger and the delight, but it will also encourage you (I hope) as it continues to do to me that part of growing in faith is growing fuller into a renewed humanity that is being restored daily by grace. You can't love me well if you don't know what hurts me, but I have not loved you well if you are not in my memory or imagination. For the world to see a vibrant Christ or for the world to see an authentic love or for the world to see more clearly grace rather than a dim version dripping with legalism and pride, the world will need to see something that captures the imagination and lingers in our memory. Without this dual engagement, we may be doomed to a lesser humanity.

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Consuming News, Consuming God

This article originally appeared on the Mars Hill Church Creative blog.

USA Today announced recently they're significantly restructuring of their newsroom, starting with a big layoff. Underlying the physical effects are real changes in their business of journalism. As newspapers and magazines continue their sprint away from physical towards digitally distributed content, we gain some helpful visibility into how Americans consume news and, far more importantly, how and what news is reported on. Fundamental shifts in how Americans produce and consume news are happening quickly, and, rather subtly. We'll take a look at why this matters to you, but first, some brief background.

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What I Didn't Learn About Manhood From Esquire

[This originally appeared on the Mars Hill Church blog]

I was originally assigned the task of looking at advice on how to be a man from a men’s magazine. Problem is, there wasn't any.

Esquire's June/July 2010 issue was called How to Be a Man. Appropriate. With a title that declarative and a tagline of “Man at His Best,” I was anxious to comb through it to see what they had to say about manhood. With a base circulation of 700,000 and competition like GQ, Maxim, and Details, Esquire is arguably one of the largest and most influential men’s magazines in the world. They've got to know what they're talking about, right? Esquire’s website describes their audience as "the affluent and successful man." Should be exactly what I'm shooting for here.

With Irony As Our Guide

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What Urban Outfitters Reveals About Their Customers

In the same way you can learn about what someone values by what they buy, you can learn about a group by looking at what a store sells them.

URBN

Urban Outfitters has 130 stores in the US, Canada, and Europe. On January 31st, Urban Outfitters Inc. reported $1.94 Billion in annual revenue (nearly doubled in the last 4 years). Their website claims that their "established ability to understand our customers and connect with them on an emotional level is the reason for our success." They also claim to offer a "lifestyle-specific shopping experience for the educated, urban-minded individual in the 18 to 30 year-old range".

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The Omega Male

[This article orginally appeared on The Resurgence]

He can be sweet, bitter, nostalgic, or cynical, but he cannot figure out how to be a man. - Hanna Rosin

There has been significant attention in the media recently about changing roles between men and women; most notably in The Atlantic, Slate, and The New York Times (Interestingly each written by women). One of the major themes in this trend is the rise of two things: The Omega Male and women who don't need them.

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5 Good Minutes with: Mark Batterson (pastor and author)

5 Good Minutes with: Mark Batterson  

The Humanitarian Jesus Interview Series  

Mark Batterson founded and pastors National Community Church (NCC) in DC and authored three major books: Primal, Wild Goose Chase, and In a Pit with a Lion.  But I wanted to talk with him because his church meets in theaters across the city, operates a coffee house called Ebenezers (which happens to be next to the old row home that houses the church offices), and close to 70% of the congregation are single 20-something DC singles – almost half of which change every year.  Safe to say this is not your typical church.  Mark’s daily blogs are read that thousands more than attend the church and he sits within a block of Union Station, the SEC, and the Federal Courts building.  From that vantage point it is also safe to say that he might have a unique perspective on what is going on in the hearts and minds of Christians traditionally interested in social issues.  But NCC is not a cause driven church – and it stays that way on purpose.  We talked about it in his office…

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The Attraction of Atheism

If atheism is true, and there is no God, then everything really is all about me, and what I want, and what I can get. “My will be done, not Yours.”

Put your finger on the pulse of modern culture: it throbs with “me, me, me.” Advertisements tell me: “Indulge yourself! You deserve it!” I can buy my lunch and my coffee made “my way.” I flip open a magazine, or browse the best-sellers, to find ten easy tips on how I can have what I want, right here, right now.  

Put one way, this is selfishness. But it’s spun as empowerment, self-actualization. We are told to follow our hearts, seek our deepest desires, do what feels good. Indeed, if atheism is true, there is no ultimate purpose to life, so we might as well go for self-indulgence, whether through hedonism or through constructing one’s own “meaning” in life.

Culture: Thick and Thin

I just read this article by Roberta Green Ahmanson, who is on my short list of personal heroes (these images show me interviewing her in March at IAM's Encounter 10). In it, she describes two types of culture:
The sociologist James Davison Hunter has argued that—from entertainment, sports, and literature to family customs, fashion, and architecture—we live in an increasingly thin culture. I think of a film of ice on a lake so fragile that it breaks at the slightest touch. What can sustain us through suffering, loss, aging, and death? There is nothing to catch us when we fall. Thick culture is, instead, like the ice you see in a Dutch Master’s painting of canals in winter. Skaters fly across ice formed by freezing temperatures, adding first one layer, then another and another. Sliced, it would be feet deep. It won’t break when we fall.

A thick culture, in other words, provides a foundation for the challenges of our lives: for building friendships, marriages, and commitments, for facing loss, suffering, and even death.
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Can We Afford to be Multicultural in Education?

In the next 30 seconds, a little boy or girl in Africa will die of malaria.[1] Other research tells us that nearly 1 billion people in the world are illiterate[2] and another 1.4 billion can’t get to clean water[3].  So, what would those stuck in poverty have to add to a discussion about education and what could they possibly teach those of us who not only have drinking water flowing from a faucet, but who also sleep free from mosquito nets, with the ability to read ourselves to sleep? Let me pose the question a different way: are there universal methods of education that transcend cultural and socioeconomic lines to the point that we can articulate a core set of principles that may guide educators around the world, thus forming an international set of ideals that blurs the lines of the literate and illiterate and transcends the borders of East and West, North and South?

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