image1005310g.jpgOuch! Ok, now I feel bad for George. He’s currently lying in the bed he’s made for himself and although it’s appropriate, it’s still a little sad. Although I disagree strongly with a vast majority of his choices, I pray for him that through this tough time politically, he can examine himself (as we all should) and start making a path for this country that is more responsible, compassionate, transparent, humble, and honorable. He’s established a culture for the leadership in Washington that is simply wreckless and irresponsible and the American people are starting to recognize this now more than ever.

Download a pdf file of the full CBS News poll here.


We Need Rain

RainIt has been 131 days without any rain in the Phoenix area. Obviously, we need a good rain in a very bad way and it looks like it could possibly come this Tuesday or Wednesday. I might have to clear my schedule tomorrow for a rain dance session.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

I don’t have a great understanding of economics in general, but much of what I do know I’ve learned from the economist William Greider. He wrote a book a few years back called “The Soul of Capitalism” that I found very interesting and I recommend it highly (i know that doesn’t mean much coming from a drummer).

The reason I bring up William Greider is because he recently wrote an article for The Nation regarding the Bush administration’s decision to allow the United Arab Emirates to operate 6 major ports in the United States. Greider brings to light some very important points regarding the hypocrisy between the handling of this port deal and the rest of the Presidents agenda and it’s very much worth the read.

Now, while I do find Bush’s decision very interesting to say the least, I can’t say that it’s the absolute wrong decision. With that being said, I do agree that it’s not so much the decision itself that is peculiar but the rather Bush’s reasoning behind it. The administration suggests that we “don’t need to be worried about security” but that suggestion flies in the face of everything the Bush administration seems to stand for as it sets out to rid the world of terrorism (isn’t that kind of like trying to rid the world of oxygen?). Like Greider points out, the war in Iraq, the forty percent increase in defense spending and additionally the warrant-less wire tapping of U.S. citizens are all based on the reasoning that we indeed NEED to be worrying about our security. What gives? Something behind the scenes is not right here.

Seeing how there are both Democratic and Republican members of Congress uniting against the President’s decision, hopefully this will lead this president into the “lame duck” phase of his second term sooner rather than later. I don’t mean to be unfair but judging by his ability to lead this country, that’s probably a good thing.

Another post regarding this issue that is well worth the read is over at Will Samson’s blog.

Notes from Outside the Bubble: Part 2

This is a continuation of the previous post regarding my involvement at the Futuregen Conference here in Phoenix. In “Part 1” I ended off with where I’m at in the present day with my faith. Here I’ll be fishing for where this all will lead me as I try to create a framework for my faith and how I can connect with those who don’t share in the Christian faith.

These days I feel like I’m straddling the fence between the Christian Culture and the secular world. I guess it’s fair to say that my primary residence is in the secular neighborhood with occasional trips to the other side of the tracks. A trip to church is almost always met with a concerned fellow believer who shows a concern for my well being out in the dark and gloomy world of secular rock music. Often I hear, “It must be hard for you out there,” or “How does being out there affect your faith?” It’s like I’ve gone to fight in Iraq and have lived to tell about it. I know those questions are well intentioned and that those who asks me those kinds of things are just genuinely concerned, but they expose the naïve attitude many have in the church of the dangerous “outside world” of secular music.

When I’m asked those kinds of questions, I want to ask the same questions right back at them. How do they keep their faith strong and real inside this Christian “culture bubble” that’s full of bumper sticker evangelism, end times fiction, religious breath mints, homophobia, and praying for Supreme Court justices to die off. From my perspective, it’s easier for me to keep my distance from the Christian culture but still remain in pursuit of God’s will for my life. I’ve inherited my perspective on the church from those I know who keep themselves away from Christianity based on what they see going on in the “bubble”. In my conversations with my non-Christian friends, I’ve learned that much of what they see going on in the Christian culture troubles them and keeps them at arms length. Many of the concerns they share are very much like the concerns and questions I had when disengaging from Christianity as a teenager.

Today when I go to a church, I carry with me the perspective of my un-churched friends with me. I hear and see things that solidify the suspicions held by many. I’ll sit in the pew and think about my friends, whom I love, and wonder what it is about this experience that turns them off and in turn, my own experience seems ruined. I can never decide whether this is because I’ve been so “secularized” that most churches just creep me out or if I’m just being petty and unfair. I want to be able to go to a church and just worship and connect with God and connect with others, but right or wrong, it just doesn’t happen often.

So this brings me to this upcoming conference that I’ve been asked to take part in. I think what I’ve explained here is that there is a big gaping hole between those who are suspicious of the Christian church and those who have cocooned themselves within the Christian culture, safely away from the secular world (maybe this isn’t a big surprise). How can the church begin to take it upon them selves to start filling in this hole and bridge this gap? The downward spiral of interest in the church by those who are a part of my generation and younger has been painfully obvious, especially among those who have no church background. I have my suspicions of why this is, but who’s to say I have anything resembling a sound answer to this problem? People like me and can bitch and moan all they want but no one will likely start listening until we provide some helpful alternatives and approaches that might work.

Through the efforts of many great Christian leaders, there has been some amazing headway made in beginning to fill this gaping hole. The disappointment from my point of view is the lack of willingness of Churches to really listen to these alternative voices. Instead the soldiers of the Christian bubble often end up bitterly defending their way of doing things. They’re not able to hear the outside suggestions very clearly because their scud missiles of modernity are being lobbed at a rapid pace in defense of the status quo. I get the feeling that many outside the church walls are just taking cover.

I’m willing to dig in and try to do whatever I can to add to the discussion, but my fears are a) that I have no real helpful suggestions to give and b) that the churches who are comfortable within the protection of their culture bubble will not be willing to listen. It will be interesting to see how the conference goes and I’m looking forward to getting a closer glimpse of how churches themselves are approaching this problem of not successfully engaging young people outside the bubble.

Notes from Outside the Bubble: Part 1

As some of you may have read in an earlier post, I will be taking part in the Futuregen conference here in Phoenix in March. From what I gather it’s a conference that will be mostly made up of Christian ministry workers and will focus mostly on how to reach young adults. I asked for some suggestions and many of you pulled through with some great comments and questions. In this post that I’ve split up into to two different peices, I’ll be taking a closer look into what it is my perspective really is and what useful ideas i may have, if any, to offer a room full of pastors.

Basically I’m at a point where I need to find a way communicate in some way my take on the perspective of those outside the Christian church culture. I’m in a very unique position in my life in that although I’m a Christian, I rarely hang out with other Christians other then when I’m with family members or the occasional bible study group. When I work, I literally travel and live with those I work with (all of them are great friends of mine). In this traveling group of secular misfits, I’m usually the lone “religious nut” in the room. As someone who is a Jesus follower but often finds himself outside the Christian culture socially due to my “secular” status, I get asked a lot about the opinions of those who are outside the Church walls.

I grew up in a church environment that was firmly in direct opposition to the secular world around me. No rock music, no rated r movies, no alternative radio, no tattoos, no earrings. Although not totally prohibited, drinking was frowned upon. No bad words, no hanging out in bars, etc. They even showed the junior high group the video “Hells Bells: The Dangers of Rock and Roll”!

Ironically, I’ve now found myself playing drums in a moderately successful secular rock band. I am currently living a life that is in direct opposition to what I was told was “good” by the church while I was growing up. Even more ironic is that I sense a deeper connection to God now than I’ve ever had growing up. As a young churchgoer, all the dos and don’ts got old. The villainizing of the secular world began to go in one ear and out the other. I began to sense that merely following a specific moral code wasn’t enough. I became suspicious of the church and packed my bags and checked out. (To be fair, I need to clarify that the people who I was surrounded by as a young believer were all very loving towards me. My parents, my sunday school teachers, my youth pastors were all amazing people for me to be around. I learned many great life lessons and useful wisdom from them during this time and for that I can only be eternally grateful.)

As I graduated from high school, my band ended up making a path for our selves professionally and started playing shows in the Phoenix area and eventually all over the country. As I ventured out into the real world and into the heart of secular America, my suspicions of the church were confirmed. I walked into dingy bars and slept on the floors of strangers’ homes and found a real world with real problems. I found people who, under the surface, were no different than those in the church. I found people who were honestly searching for answers in life but had been previously burned by flames of fundamentalism. I’ve met homosexuals who wouldn’t be caught dead in a church for fear of death itself. When interacting with these amazing, interesting, and wonderful new friends it became pretty clear to me: the God I learned about when I was a young believer was dead to them. In a way, I can’t say I blame them because that God was dead to me as well as I pulled away from church activity in high school.

It wasn’t until a few years ago, in my mid twenties, when I was shown a new picture of what God might look like through a new lens. Through many discussions with my friend John Chandler, sermons by Rob Bell, and books by Brian Mclaren and Dallas Willard did I start to see my relationship with God in a totally different way. It was a way of framing faith in a way I could approach with passion and conviction and not the embarrassment and doubt that choked my experience as a young believer.

Now that I’ve been given a glimpse into a fresh and renewed perspective on following Jesus, where does that leave me in my surroundings today? Has God placed me in the secular music world for a reason? If so, how am I to proceed in a world that is becoming increasingly resistant to what the Christian Church has to offer? I have further thoughts on this but I’ll put up the rest of the this post some other time. Until then, I’d love to hear more thoughts and suggestions.

Keep A Child Alive

Keep A Child Alive is a great organization I just recently heard about from my friend, Zack Newsome (great name!). This is from their website:

“Keep A Child Alive is a unique campaign that offers you the opportunity to provide life-saving AIDS medicines directly to children and families with HIV/AIDS in Africa and other impoverished countries. For just a dollar a day—or a monthly contribution of $30—you can help save the life of a child or a parent who can’t afford essential treatment and care. Probably less than you spend on coffee each morning.

Contributions to Keep A Child Alive go directly to children and families in desperate need of AIDS medicines. We provide regular updates on Keep A Child Alive’s treatment sites and the kids and parents receiving ARV treatment and support. Most of all, you’ll receive the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a real difference in the lives of children and families who have nowhere else to turn—helping them live longer, happier lives.”

Above are two photos of the same boy taken 5 months apart (you can see more photos here). This is the kind of difference we can all make in the lives of these children with just $30 per month. These drugs (ARV’s) are not cheap and many in developing countries simply can’t afford it on their own. Without these necessary drugs, life is bleak and hopeless. We can make a huge impact with very little of our resources.

Chuck Colson Knows Best

Thanks to Rhett, I saw a recent article written by Chuck Colson regarding the issue of worship styles in Church and the replacement of conservative Christian talk radio by “meaningless” Christian music programming. Here’s an excerpt:

When church music directors lead the congregation in singing some praise music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked. We had been led through endless repetitions of a meaningless ditty called, “Draw Me Close to You.” The song has zero theological content and could be sung in a nightclub, for that matter. When I thought it was finally and mercifully over, the music leader beamed at us and said in a cheerful voice, “Let’s sing that again, shall we?” “No!” I shouted loudly. Heads all around me spun while my wife cringed.

Now let me preface the following with the fact that I think Colson has done a great deal of good with his prison ministry and his Angel Tree project. Also, there are actually some ideas he brings up in the article that I can agree with to a certain extent. But after reading that article, I’m reminded of why the Christian Church has become so irrelevant with figures such as Colson being one of the louder voices reverberating inside the christian bubble.

First, let’s address the obvious. Who really cares about what kind of music Colson likes or dislikes in church or any other application? I’d actually be more interested in what kind of paper shredder he endorses or what kind of lock pick he prefers, but that’s beside the point. Additionally, do we really need to hear about personal anecdotes how Colson like’s to obnoxiously scream out loud in church? Poor Mrs. Colson. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of “Draw Me Close to You” either, but it’s hardly due to the lyrics. Either way, who cares what either Chuck or I think?

I don’t take issue with Chuck’s taste in music as much as I take issue with the black and white moralism that saturates his whole article. Let us remember that the only reason we know Colson’s name is because of his part in covering up the Watergate scandal under the Nixon administration. He was convicted and sent to prison for 7 months for obstructing justice.

I find it ironic that someone with Colson’s sorted past has become so comfortable in the seat of judgement and has become so certain as to what’s best for christians everywhere to listen or sing along to (Heaven forbid we sing songs that could be sung “in a nightclub” as he puts it. Maybe Colson, the big lover of hymns, has either forgotten or is unaware that some of Martin Luther and Charles Wesley’s traditional hymns were adapted from music heard in taverns. Whoops!). For Colson, if Christians prefer music programming compared to “sound teaching” over the airwaves, then he contends that we’re all on our way to illiteracy. He writes:

The decision by Christian broadcasters to avoid moral controversies could result in the Church withdrawing from the culture as it tragically did a century ago. The great strength of radio, as with books, has been to present in-depth teaching that engages Christians cognitively. Unfortunately, thinking analytically is something Christians find increasingly difficult. According to a government study, the average college graduate’s proficient literacy in English has declined from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent ten years later. The study defines proficient literacy as the ability to read lengthy, complex texts and draw complicated inferences.

Who’s to say illiteracy is all that necessary to follow Jesus? I can’t imagine the slaves in Ephesus who were hearing Paul’s letter could read very well. Does that mean they can’t experience the redeeming and loving God as well as those who can read? Also, in terms of the programming changes that have concerned Colson, maybe he hasn’t considered that Christians are becoming sick and tired of analytical thinking when approaching God. Maybe music is a welcome change to the moral issues so often ranted about on Christian radio. Colson claims that the truth must be “learned” but maybe people are tired of learning and want to experience the truth.

As I mentioned before, we only know Colson due to his illegal activities while serving Richard Nixon, but that’s not totally accurate. Yes, Chuck has had his own “experience” where he discovered the “truth”. That experience came in the form of some hard time and a little C.S. Lewis. From that experience, he’s emerged and done some very good things and has served many in the prison system that for the most part are a forgotten faction of society. For that he is to be appreciated greatly.

Like Colson, we all have our sordid pasts. At the end of the day, I am no better than he is. Because of those blemishes on our record, big and small, we have no solid ground to stand on when spouting our hallow moralism. If a house wife turns off “Focus on the Family” and switches to Michael W. Smith, don’t blame her or the radio station. Maybe it’s time for those like Dobson and Colson to take off the analytical thinking cap and take a look in the mirror. What can they do differently to connect with her and compell her to seek the will of God? May I suggest that telling her that her taste in music sucks is not the first place to start. Then again, if Colson’s bad experience in prison has helped him emerge the better man, maybe he can allow the rest of us to experience the “prison” that he calls “blissful amusement” and hopefully we can emerge as the great “morally controversial” figure he is today.

A Closer Walk

A few of my friends and I will be hosting a screening of the movie “A Closer Walk” at 7pm on March 30th at Pollack Tempe Cinemas. The screening will be free of charge and anyone who is interested in seeing this film is invited to attend.

For those of you who may not know, “A Closer Walk” is a movie directed by Robert Bilheimer, an academy award nominated documentary film maker. As the films website states, “A Closer Walk is the first film to depict humankind’s confrontation with the global AIDS epidemic,” and it does so in a powerful and heartbreaking manner.

Our hope is that you come and learn about how HIV/AIDS is impacting millions upon millions of people throughout our global community. Also, we hope that this film might help compel us to step into this issue with a heart of service and justice.

Here is a list of my friends/bloggers who are all a part of making this screening happen: Justin Narducci, Zack Newsome, Kelli Newsome, David Mulhern, Jamie Mulhern, Brandon Willey.

We hope you can come to the screening and be a part of this event with us.

George should listen to Laura more often…..

“If we resort to violence, it’s very, very difficult to have any sort of dialogue.”–Laura Bush in regards to the violent protests in reaction to the Muhammad cartoon.

Wow, some great advice that might have come a few years too late. Maybe George Bush can pull off the ultimate in the history of his infamous cronyism and appoint his own wife as Secretary of Defense. Based on this little nugget of wisdom, she would be a welcome change to who’s currently filling that role. It’s not like you need any kind expertise to attain a high ranking post in his administration. Just ask former FEMA head, Michael Brown.