What Exactly is Biblical Literacy?

Ezekiel eating the scroll (Eze. 3:1)

OK quick – what are the first three books of the Bible? Was Paul one of the twelve disciples? Did Abraham lead the Israelites out of Egypt?

If you can’t answer these questions (though I really hope you can) you shouldn’t be surprised. Research has shown that most Americans know very little about the Bible – presumably much less than what was known a generation ago.

“…A Famine in the Land”

Pastors, authors and pundits are saying that we are in a famine in terms of our biblical literacy. This famine is not due to lack of access though. According to the Barna Group, “Nearly nine out of 10 adults and teens report owning a Bible, a proportion that has held steady over six years.” The problem comes in that according to the same research only about 35% of those responding read the Bible once a week or more, and over 40% read it less than once a year if at all (not counting reading in church). Because the Bible isn’t read routinely by many in our society, we’ve lost that knowledge of it that was once considered a given. Continue reading

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PBS to air documentary on Chaplaincy in America

photo: Journey Films

PBS is airing “Chaplains” later this year in order to show the benefit and impact of this occasionally misunderstood and often unknown profession. The film, by emmy-award winning filmmaker Martin Doblmeier will feature Chaplains working in a variety of settings, from prisons to hospitals to production floors. Continue reading

The Chaplain and Mental Illness: When religion makes healing “sinful”

The issue of how Christians deal with mental illness has been on my mind as of late. One reason is that I’ve been going through my own therapy for anxiety and depression, which rears its head from time to time in my life. Second is that I came across a LinkedIn discussion in a pastor’s network group that had some pretty ugly things to say about mental illness and psychotherapy.

Writer and musician Shaun Groves recently posted his own reflections on depression and faith on his blog, and while I can’t repost the whole article, I would certainly recommend it to you (here’s the link). He had written about his father-in-law’s death as a result of suicide and while many offered their sincere condolences some of the responses were a bit shocking. One wrote, “Did he not believe the words from scripture he read to his church?”. Another wrote, “The Bible tells us not to worry, not to fear, be afraid, etc. 366 times, one for every day of the year including leap year! What can stinkin thinkin do, but make a person sick?”. Continue reading

Peter Rollins on Seminary Dropout

I just wanted to give a shoutout to one of my favorite podcasts, Seminary Dropout. The host, Shane Blackshear, interviews some real movers and shakers in the Christian literary and cultural worlds, as well as people you probably never heard of. I’ve been listening for years, and Shane is one of the best interviewers I’ve heard.

Peter Rollins, author of “The Divine Magician”

He recently interviewed author Peter Rollins and I thought it was so good I wanted to highlight and link to it. You can go to the show’s episode page here, subscribe in iTunes or your podgrabber of choice, or click the link below to listen right away. You can even enter contests for books here and there. And he’s not famous, so he will actually interact with you if you hit him up on Twitter!

listen to the episode

Snowpiercer, Ferguson and the Incarnation

(this is a departure from my usual ramblings – and a bit longer – so bear with me)

Be a Shoe

I saw the movie Snowpiercer a few weeks ago after hearing a bit of buzz about it and reading both graphic novels (it’s on Netflix now by the way). I found it a very thought-provoking movie on many levels. Many reviewers hit on the environmental themes in it, while you can also see themes about meaninglessness vs. purpose in there as well (the stolen children who maintain the engine’s inner workings, thus keeping everyone alive). It’s definitely a movie that offers many layers and provokes a lot of thought. A prevailing theme easily apparent throughout is that of class exploitation as well as the limits of revolution. It’s a very dark film, filled with the kind of violence fueled by despair of those in “the tail”. Unfortunately it bears a very strong resemblance to our own world. Continue reading

(Reblog): “Ragamuffin” reviewed on Seminary Dropout

I wanted to post this review of the new movie Ragamuffin by Shane Blackshear on Seminary Dropout. It’s not a movie you’re going to hear much about, but it sounds like it’s well worth your time, even though it’s not perfect. Seminary Dropout is a great site with interesting articles and the podcast has some of the best interviews I’ve heard. Shane’s introduced me to a lot of interesting stuff and people. Read on after the jump.

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Why the Secularization of America May Be Good Thing for Christians

Here’s a story from my life. I grew up in a great Christian home and had the fortune of being in a very active youth group in high school. I was involved in local and short-term missions, was helping lead weekly discipleship, and had some tremendous “mountaintop” experiences while camping. Then I went to college. My faith stagnated, my spiritual life suffered, my relationships turned toxic. By the end of my fourth year I was a mess of anxiety and depression, and had pretty much given up on God and my faith. All because I went to a secular state school, right? Nope – a good, well-respected, conservative Christian college. Continue reading

What does “giving 110%” look like for a Chaplain?

I’m involved in an interesting discussion with colleagues regarding the relationship of chaplaincy to our corporate environments. The discussion started off with an article about how folks in business need to “over deliver” in order to move up the corporate ladder. It was put out as to how we as Chaplains can do this and what it might look like.

It drew some pretty heated remarks. Some considered that Chaplains should not even consider advancement in their work. The general idea was “I’m here to please God, not men! If you’re in it for advancement, get another job.” And that’s not much of a paraphrase. Continue reading

Why is Christian radio so… frustrating?

**update**I changed the original title from “Christian music” to “Christian radio”, as that’s more accurately where my complaint lies. Thanks Jnana!

As I sat down to write this, I just couldn’t think of an appropriate word to express myself regarding Christian music. Segregated? Balkanized? Overlooked? Mediocre? None of these are accurate, and that leads to the main point of my frustration. Christian music is in a hole.

Growing up I listened to a lot of Christian rock. My first real concert was a Rez Band show in Pittsburgh at Soldiers and Sailors Hall. I also dug a  lot of Christian punk (MXPX, Altar Boys, One Bad Pig). I even used some money I got to start a music library for our youth group. I did that because it was so hard to find good (or at least what I thought was good) Christian music on the radio.

Unfortunately I think that’s still the case. Not Christian music, but Christian music radio. At least here in Pittsburgh, we have only one station devoted to Christian music, the grand mammoth that is K-Love. Our other Christian stations are devoted to teaching and preaching, though one has music on the weekends. But on the weekends it sounds just like K-Love. Continue reading

On Donald Miller and Christ outside the church

image: Amy Corron Power

Donald Miller recently wrote in his blog, “I don’t connect with God by singing to Him.” Well Don, I don’t either.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t sing to God. But I find that the only time I do is in church on Sunday for about 20 minutes. At times I find myself being drawn closer to God by music, including Christian music, but those songs somehow never make their way into the worship center.

Plus I don’t sing well. While I knew this all along, it became glaringly obvious to me when I attended a Reformed Presbyterian church in college. At RP services no hymns are sung, and there is no musical accompaniment. The congregants sing the Psalms a-capella, often breaking into multiple lush harmonies as the verses change. I just stood and listened. It was beautiful, but I was a spectator, not a participant.

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