April 2008

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out.

Basically, I liked the album (With Arrows, With Poise by The Myriad). It’s just that this kind of rock doesn’t last. It’s good, but it gets old, and has too much depth to hold the general public’s attention for too long. Shame.


1) Recently I bemoaned a painful interview I had with an extremely talented musician named Thad Cockrell. The conversation was strained and filled with the most umms and ahhs I have ever heard in my entire life…both from him and me. Well, I have succesfully edited the piece so that it will be released on into the hill awkwardness free. However, that was impossible for this guy when he interviewed Sigur Ros. I feel your pain, sir. I feel your pain. Be sure to check out the “director’s commentary” linked below the video. My interview with Thad should be up later this week. *Thanks for the heads up on this one, Aaron.

2) There is some great new content at the Hill. David just posted one of the most beautiful music reviews I have ever read. I can’t wait to check out this artist. And our latest contributor, Nate Jenkins, makes us privy to yet another indie offering. Finally, my review of The Myriad’s new album should go live tomorrow afternoon. I will post a blog linking to it tomorrow. For now, check out their myspace page and come to some conclusions of your own.  

3) As usual, Chris Case has posted some very thought provoking material over at Reformergent. Check it out!

4) So I went to the flea market today. I found: a) Rattle and Hum by U2 b) The Joshua Tree by U2 c) Green by REM 4) Graceland by Paul Simon–all on CD. Vinyl it ain’t, but then, I haven’t figured out how to run my record player through itunes. All that great music and it cost me six bucks. I just thought you might like to revel with me.

5) Jeffrey Overstreet has gotten super bloggy the last couple of days. If you’ve never read his blog, you should. See if this whets your whistle…or makes you vomit…or cry…either way, it’s creepy. While you’re there, check this out. Seems like Mr. Stein has a little bit of Michael Moore in him. I shudder to think of what my most conservative Christian friends are going to do with this movie. I’m excited about the questions it raises, but am fearful that it is only setting up Christians to look like propoganda guzzling nit-wits.

6) I finally saw There Will Be Blood and somehow it managed to exceed my expectations. I was talking with Into the Hill’s resident movie nerd David Kern about the film the other night. David brought to my attention that the film seems to have a lot to do with relationships. Kern’s thoughts on Plainview’s desperation to avoid human relationships and his inability to do so reminded me of the ragged, tree-creeping Christ of “Wise Blood.” In the same way belief hunted down Hazel, so does human relationship hunt down Plainview.

I agree with David’s assesment. I brought something to David’s attention, however, that I don’t think he had thought of, and I wanted to see if you did. Though Plainview “plainly” (hehe) had disdain for humanity (as expressed in his assertion that his adopted son was nothing more than a “bastard in a basket” and a “cute face” he used to buy up land) I couldn’t help but suspect that there was still a spark of the imago dei in even this most corrupt character. Though Daniel insisted that it was not sentimentality that caused him to take HW as his son, I felt as if he was trying to convince himself of this. It seemed that he, in fact, did desire human relationship, but was so corrupt his own evil and drive for “success” won out over this very dim spark within him. This is demonstrated in various other ways throughout the film, but I am tired. Ha. But seriously, what do you think?

1) My writing partner and part-time wannabe-Holy Spirit has been accosting me for months to record a song I used to do called “A Thousand Pricks of Light.” David Kern has begged for it. And I think there was some protest on the part of Graeme Pitman as well. So, basically, that covers all the readers of this blog. So here: clickie-clickie.

2) Before One-Eighty last night, I was chatting with one of our deacons (and father of two girls in the youth group). He told me that some friends of his from the community have a son in One-Eighty. They weren’t sure what church it was. They said it was the one “that all the sudden just started growing.” (Never mind that our attendance has been slowly dropping over the last few months). At this, Bill (the deacon) said, “Let me ask you something. Is your son kind of gothic?” To which they replied, “YEAH!” Bill smiled and said, “He goes to First Presbyterian Church.”

I should note that the young man in question is by no means “gothic.” He spends almost all of his time playing World of Warcraft and talking about zombies. However, he has many friends that one untrained in the nuances of youth culture might consider “gothic.” ( “Punk,” “emo,” and “scene” would be a bit more appropriate…though still insufficient.)

I love that Bill immediately assumed that since this couple’s son was “gothic” he went to First Pres’s youth group…and assumed correctly…and assumed joyfully.

This signals a subtle transition in the thinking of our church. Not long ago, an elder was approached by someone in our church. This individual suggested that perhaps we should have some sort of dress code for One-Eighty. The concern was not over the sometimes too-short shorts and other immodest dress of “Covenant kids” (i.e. church kids), but over piercings, skulls, tight jeans and studded belts that characterize the dress of our “Community kids.” The elder respectfully explained to the concerned member that perhaps that would send the wrong message. “We don’t want these kids to think that they have to change themselves in order top please God.” He or she (thankfully I don’t know who it was) reluctantly agreed that a dress code would not be wise.

As I reflect upon the sudden growth of One-Eighty and the demographics of our students, I am struck by two things. First of all, as Director of Student Ministries, I have never once sought to “grow” our youth group. I never began any sort of marketing campaign. I never set goals concerning attendance. In fact, I have repeatedly failed to keep attendance records. I am not saying that I am above being concerned about numbers, or even that being concerned about attendance is a bad thing. Indeed, as attendance has waned in the last couple months, I have realized that numbers truly aren’t important to me…as long as we are growing. That all changes when you start to shrink. My point is merely that I have never sought to increase the number of students attending One-Eighty; this has happened organically.

Secondly, I have never targeted a specific type of student. Bill joyfully and accurately predicted that this couple’s son is “gothic” (accurately according to their shared definition of “gothic”). How could Bill make such an accurate prediction? The rest of the story is telling.

After saying that, yes, their son is “gothic”, this student’s parents made this statement: “It’s the only youth group in town that will accept them.”

I should point out that there are a number of churches in town that are accepting of people who are a bit out of the norm. Admittedly, students that are a bit out of the norm might not be so accepting of rich kids wearing Abercrombie and Fitch and go to church every Sunday because mommy and daddy do. Nevertheless, there is a perception, not just among students but among their parents as well, that the Church is generally not accepting. They consider it an anomaly (and a blessing) if one church is accepting.

I am struck that our youth group has grown not because we wanted to grow. We have not attracted the outcasts because we targeted the outcasts. We embodied the love of Christ, and even as Christ attracted sinners and repelled the self-righteous, so have we.

If we are attracting the kind of people that were attracted to Jesus, and receiving the criticisms of the kind of people that attacked Jesus…well…then…i guess we are doing something right.

1) Check out Relevant’s review of the book Rapture Ready. I am excited to read this one.

2) Speaking of the rapture, I found this link over at ship-of-fools. Who knows if this is for real. And if you do know, please don’t tell me. I don’t think I want to know.

3) I don’t know what I think of ship-of-fools yet. I appreciate poking fun at Christian sub-culture, but I would say it explores the line…and jumps over it repeatedly. Consider that a warning before clicking on the following link. You don’t even need to watch the second video as you can probably predict what it will say. Nevertheless, i was glad somebody else has been frustrated by the reductionist tendencies of our fundamentalist friend Mr. Comfort.

4) Another book I look forward to reading is this one. I am trying not to form an opinion on the book before reading it, but from watching the video I have to wonder about some of their assumptions. They give lip service to emerging being about more than the “three C’s” as they call it in the video, and yet when I hear them speak, I can’t imagine why in the world they should be emerging as the title to the books suggests. Nothing they say in the video indicates that they have any sort of emerging leanings. They seem to be tow-the-line reformed evangelicals–except one of them has holes in his jeans. I was excited about this book when I first heard about it because I was hoping they would be people like me only a little further on their journey. I was hoping that they had been in the middle for a while, had seen the good in the emerging church, but were led to some conclusions that took them in a different direction. But no, it seems that they are just two young guys who are trying to be “hip” while bashing the emerging church (a pretty hard task, haha). I was hoping they might provide some clarity for me on some of the issues I have been thinking through. Perhaps they can still do just this. I won’t know until I read the book, I guess.

5) I was just chatting with my dear brother Andrew Webb. We discussed this video. From their the conversation went just about everywhere but I couldn’t help but sense a theme of Christian paranoia. The video which caused us to have this conversation certainly discusses a view that is indeed dangerous. But the way the video is put together (down to the dramatic voice-over) plays to fear. I don’t really want to judge the motivations of the ministry that made the video, and I am not suggesting that we merely ignore prevalent, dangerous approaches to life. I am more concerned about where our conversation ended than where it began.

Andrew and I eventually began discussing the proper Christian response to hot button issues like homosexuality. We Christians have a tendency to worry an awful lot about changing this nation through government and politics. What are governments but sinful man’s expression of his sinful desire for dominance? Though God uses such institutions redemptively, and may indeed in his grace place us in a country that lets us participate in the political process, this does not mean that we are called to “stand up for our rights” or effect change via the government and politics. I become seriously uncomfortable when Christians talk about protesting in a certain way or voting in a certain way as being our “Christian duty”. I just don’t see that in scripture.

What we need is a healthy re-education in the doctrine of total depravity. We will not save the world by treating the symptoms of sin. The gospel heals the disease. Why are we throwing kleenex into our governments when we could instead inject the life-saving drug of the gospel into the veins of individuals?

And why is it that we are expected to be the moral judge of our surrounding culture? Are you surprised that the world is acting like the world? What happened to the doctrine of original sin? What of the doctrine of total depravity? What happened to the mustard seed kingdom? What happened to the gospel of Jesus? Are we embodying Christ by protesting for our rights and voice? Are we being meek?

“But that will never work!” you say. No, it won’t. Not according to the standard of the kingdom of the world. Not according to sinful man’s estimation. But in God’s economy, the rich are poor, and the poor rich; to paraphrase Derek Webb, “We see things upside down.” And finally, why do we judge those on the outside so harshly, and deal so lightly with sin on the inside. Dare I quote scripture here? I dare!

“I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.”

1 Corinthians 5: 9ff

semper reformanda

~t clair

Check out the latest at Into the HIll. This time, Heidi Tanacea reviews the new Ali Rogers album.

I actually got to hang out with Ali and some of her friends along with my old band (Lydia’s Address) when we were recording in Nashville. I remember having a fascinating conversation over dinner with someone in that crew. He was actually pretty infuriating. He challenged all of my assumptions about what it meant to be the church, how to approach epistemology, hermeneutics and the culture at large. He used two terms I knew little about.

The first was “postmodernism.”

The second was “the emerging church.”

=) go figure.

Mr. Phelps, world renowned hater-in-the-name-of-Jesus, finds an unwelcome admirer.

Speaking of homosexuality, we had a great discussion on this last Sunday at One-Eighty. Recently, I had the students submit questions to me on any subject whatsoever. We will be taking Sunday nights for the next few weeks to discuss some of the subjects brought up by their questions. I was amazed by their courage to ask questions adults steer clear of, to admit complexity where I am tempted to say “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

The students walked away thoughtful. I don’t think any minds were changed; most students would have agreed with the consensus opinion that emerged at the end of the hour. The way the kids entered into the discussion, however, was something to be seen. I was amazed that such an incendiary topic engendered not grandstanding, rhetorical traps or exasperating arguments but patient, thoughtful dialogue. This from individuals aged 13-18.

We ended the night by reading Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 13 back to back. Suffice it to say I walked away proud of students and elated that there was no clanging cymbals that night–despite the fact that we came to a conclusion that would make our culture (and some of the students in the room) uncomfortable.

1) This was really enjoyable. With Thom Yorke playing one of those ghetto make-do-in-a-coffee-shop rigs. Sweet on.

2) Also, REM at LaBlogotheque. I am pretty excited about this new album. Incidentally, I hope that one day the Hill Sessions will be this freaking ridiculously awesome.

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