To Change the World

James Davison’s Hunter’s new book, To Change the World, has been stirring up buzz since it came out this spring, and for good reason. It’s an intellectually robust, complicated, nuanced treatment of a crucial, continually difficult subject matter: The relationship between Christianity and culture. How do Christians relate to culture? How do they transform it? Is this even the right question to ask? For those familiar with this blog and my prevailing concerns as a writer, you know that this is a subject near and dear to my heart. Thus, I read To Change the World voraciously, though critically, enjoying it as much as I’ve enjoyed reading any other book this year.

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Give the People What They Want?

Recently, there was a mini firestorm online brought about by how a Christian conference was selecting its speakers. The conference organizers used a polling system in which respondents could vote "Thumbs Up" or "Thumbs Down" on any given nomination. Voters could also suggest their own speaker if they thought someone else would be better to listen to. (For more on the hoopla, visit here.

While the use of this new technology generated considerable interest for the conference organizers, what's really interesting is that we often face the less blatant version of this in every day Christian life. At least one other commentator has made the point that preachers, especially, are ranked and categorized and are given an often-hidden, thumbs up or thumbs down.  It's less blatant than an online polling system, but the gossip and evaluation are effective at the task nonetheless. Often this  has little to do with the substance and much to do with the individual's entertainment value.

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Fear and Loathing--Period

 

 

Hunter S. Thompson wrote a series of articles in 1971 in Rolling Stone that eventually were turned into the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. One of the more memorable quotes, in my opinion, is as follows:

Hunter ThompsonHallucinations are bad enough. But after a while you learn to cope with things like seeing your dead grandmother crawling up your leg with a knife in her teeth. Most acid fanciers can handle this sort of thing. But nobody can handle that other trip—the possibility that any freak with $1.98 can walk into Circus-Circus and suddenly appear in the sky over downtown Las Vegas twelve times the size of God, howling anything that comes into his head. No, this is not a good town for psychedelic drugs. Reality itself is too twisted.
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On the Importance of Church Family

My church has a custom, on the second Sunday of every month, of calling everyone who has a birthday or anniversary during that month to come to the altar rail and receive a blessing. Birthdays go on one side of the altar, anniversaries on the other. Since my birthday falls in August, this past Sunday I went up and knelt with the other August birthday-ers – and, as it happened, on my left was a young girl of sixteen, and on my right, a mature woman in her sixties, both of whom I consider friends.

After we received our blessing, I went back to my pew, and watched as the priest blessed the anniversary couples. As usual, he asked how many years of marriage each couple was celebrating, and repeated the number for the congregation to hear: this month we had celebrations of 20, 55, and 65 years. (We applauded.

Thoughts on the Release of Hipster Christianity

Five summers ago, I was a just-out-of-college intern for the C.S. Lewis Foundation, working on the Oxbridge ’05 conference in Oxford and Cambridge. It was one of the most enchanting, life-changing summers of my life. On top of the many brilliant lectures I heard in Oxford and Cambridge, I had dozens of conversations over pints and pipes—at pubs at 2 in the morning, after an evensong service in some magical cathedral, or in the garden of The Kilns (C.S. Lewis’ home in Oxford).  These were the conversations that sparked the first true ideas that would eventually become Hipster Christianity. When I got back home later that summer, I wrote “A New Kind of Hipster” for Relevant. Five years later, Hipster Christianity is out in stores (as of Aug. 1—the official release date).

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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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Patriotism and the House of Worship

I grew up in a church that celebrated the Fourth of July every year with a big patriotic musical. That was the one Sunday of the year when everyone was encouraged to "dress casual," the service included a lot of patriotic songs, and the preaching focused on how America needs to get back to her Christian roots. Songs were sung about how we are one nation under God. Military veterens dressed in their uniforms. There was a color guard that marched in with the American flag and led us through the Pledge of Allegiance. Come to think of it, the entire sanctuary was decked out in American flags, and everyone dressed in red, white and blue. Following the worship service, there was always a church picnic on the grounds.

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"Sunday's Coming": An Analysis

If you are at all plugged-in to the evangelical twitterverse or blogosphere, you’ve likely been bombarded by links to the unavoidable video, “Sunday’s Coming,” produced by North Point Church. If you haven’t seen it, watch it here now.

The video, which launched a buzzword (“Contemporvant”), cleverly capitalizes on the recent fervor for evangelical self-parody (see the massive success of Stuff Christians Like, for e.g.) and conveniently resulted in exactly the sort of viral buzz promotion for North Point that its creators doubtless intended. That’s all well and good, but what are we to make of the whole thing?

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Why Are Pastors Stepping Down?

In recent weeks, a spate of prominent pastors have announced that they are either temporarily or permanently stepping down from the role of pastor. Here is a list of some of the big ones, followed by the reasons they’ve given as to their change:

John Piper: Taking a leave of absence until Dec 31, 2010 “because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit.”

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Christian Science Institute Announces First Human Clones!

The Christian Science Institute (CSI) shocked the world Tuesday when they announced that they have successfully cloned human beings, and have also perfected a way to pass on knowledge, experience and personality to the clones.

“The loss of some of our greatest pastors and Christian leaders concerned us,” said Ron Boldbee, head scientist at CSI.  “We looked around and realized that the young Christians who remained showed no evidence of stepping up and filling the gap.  Then we thought, ‘If the secular world can clone sheep, why can’t we clone some shepherds?’”

Boldbee points out that CSI has already introduced cloned pastors into several locations with little or no complaints.  Congregants at Bayside Baptist say they prefer their new, cloned pastor to their previous “natural” pastor.  “For once I don’t have to do any work,” said one congregant, on the condition of anonymity.  “Laypeople can finally let the clergy do everything without feeling guilty.  If our pastor burns out we can grow another one.”

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