What I Write About

I write about the infinite number of intersections between every day life and the good news of the God who has come to get us.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Pop Culture Musical Check-In: Kanye to Green Day

With a 2 year old and one on the way, there’s not much time to keep in touch with pop culture. But over the break I’ve had lots of car time to listen to G105 (our local top 40 radio station) so I thought I’d compile a pop-culture musical check-in:


*It’s not particularly new, but Davis and I still crank up Kanye West’sGolddigger” anytime it comes on the radio—and given the fact that G105 has about a 10-song playlist (like most top 40 stations) it’s on about every 27 minutes or so.  The song somewhat satirically talks about women, particularly black women, who date rich black men in order to get pregnant and get child support.  The last verse, though, touches a more serious subject.  Kanye talks about a woman sticking with the same (poorer) man while he climbs the ladder—only to be left “for a white girl” once he makes it.  This actually points to a more serious issue that lots of black women face: as society mows down black men, black women face a serious shortage of men that are quality material.  Quality black men dating white women is a definite source of angst for black women, and given the issues they face, it makes sense.


 *Weezer’sBeverly Hills” is just a fun song (although I understand the video was shot at Playboy Mansion—I wouldn’t know, we don’t have cable!).  I read last week that Weezer’s lead singer took a 2-year vow of celibacy that he recently finished up…and he’s decided to continue on.  I’m not completely sure about his motives initially, but when asked if it had been hard to keep celibate all this time, the comment of this super-rich, fairly popular rock band lead singer was interesting.  He said something to the effect of no, it hadn’t been that hard.  Our generation has been so burned relationally that people are tired of the whole hook-up scene anyway... 


*Greenday continues to be a good barometer for me of white, post-modern pop culture.  Their songs are catchy, and there’s a good mix of honest and earnest angst along with ridiculous self-pitying drivel—again, a good barometer of white post-modern pop culture.  The cynic in me sometimes listens to them and wonders how they can be so freakin’ depressed about everything given how much fame, money, and success they’ve accumulated along the way.  Then the Spirit answers to the cynic and says: “Exactly.”  In a generation that’s had everything except for the stuff that really matters, there’s nothing that orients the “stuff” around what is real and true.  Bereft of roots, real community, and most of all the God who has come to get them, my generation and the next (to quote some old Caedmon’s Call) has everything it could want and nothing that it needs.   


Friday, December 30, 2005

Reflections on the War on Christmas Part 2

The real issue is the utter failure of secular pluralism to live up to its' own hype. The only way for the secular world to 'celebrate diversity' is by neutering everyone's beliefs to fit into a very narrow spectrum. In other words, for Kwanzaa, Christmas, and Hannukah to all co-exist, anything that's particular or could be construed as offensive has to be removed. The only way to enter into secular diversity is for all authenticating and unique aspects of each culture/people group/religion to be gutted, leaving a wet washrag of a shell behind. Woo-hoo! Let's celebrate!

Several years ago, Kenny, an African-American InterVarsity student of mine at VCU, led our chapter through his families' celebration of Kwanzaa. He talked about how Kwanzaa isn't really a religious celebration but a harvest celebration. His family had appropriated the celebration as a part of honoring Christ as Lord, life-giver, and provider. This is great stuff. The early church did this with Christmas and Easter, both of which were originally pagan holidays that the church grabbed a hold of and redeemed.

This is the call to Biblical pluralism that the church has abdicated. The Christian church was one of the first cross-cultural movements in the world. Everywhere the early missionaries went, they looked for signs of God's movement already present in the culture. When they found them, they grabbed a hold of them and redeemed them. Over time, we gave up that role and work and started exporting American culture along with the gospel (see New England-style churches built in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest), and so secularists have filled the vacuum. Their pluralism is only a shell of what was intended by Christ when he called his disciples to go to the ends of the earth.

Today, when I talk with my students about intentionally moving across racial boundaries, they think I've bought into a the politics of political correctness. In reality, the sad thing is that most of them don't know that this was Biblical before it was political. Where we've failed in our mission to be church, others have taken up the fight but without any redemptive power or purpose.

Hence, 'the war on Christmas.' I think we actually fired the first shot with our cross-cultural silence.

Reflections on The War on Christmas Part 1

The fat man has come and gone and some of you overachievers have already taken the tree down. But there was a lot of hype this Christmas about the 'war on Christmas,' particularly from evangelical Christians, and I thought I'd jump in before the dust totally settled.

It's not Old Navy's job to keep Christ in Christmas. It's the churches' job to do that. Best Buy will only tell me Merry Christmas to get me to buy the Ipod from them, like a used car salesman manipulating me to buy his car. I'd rather the large corporations not break commandments (thou shalt not lie) and simply wish me a happy holiday season rather than manipulating the Christmas name to get me to buy their products. Really, the "war on Christmas" has been going on ever since there was money to be made in it.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Why Piebald?

Piebald generally refers to any animal or flower that has patches of very prominent colors.

In C.S. Lewis’ glorious book Perelandra, the protagonist, Ransom, takes an inter-planetary voyage in a space craft. When he arrives one side of him is sunburned while the other side is still pale. Upon meeting “the Green Lady” who plays the Eve character, she names him “piebald man” because of his coloration. Throughout the book Ransom’s piebald-ness is symbolic of his struggle for control—will he submit to God or will he go his own way? At a climactic point in the book, Ransom is up all night wrestling over this decision. In the end he submits to what he knows to be his work, even though it will most likely cost him his life. The next morning he sees that his piebald coloring is largely faded away.

This is the journey I’m on. In C.S. Lewis’ life, his split was between imagination and intellect. When he became a Christian, he found a place for both sides of him. In my life, the split is between my desire for creative ministry on the one hand and a draw towards the contemplative life on the other. Sometimes these two sides seem to be at war with each other, fighting for supremacy. Thus far, I have avoided any out-loud conversations with myself (at least in public), but I have often felt their tugs in differing directions. As I submit these two passions to the Lord, I’m finding ways for both sides to bless each other. Welcome to my journey, I appreciate you coming along!