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.

Continue reading

“Son of God”: For us, by us, but what for?

“S’cool dude! It’s all good!”

The movie “Son of God” opens today and I, for one, am not interested. This is not to diss the movie at all. I’m not here to judge it on it’s cinematic merits, cinematography or anything else really. I’m just wondering if a movie of this type really needed to be made.

A quick peek at Rotten Tomatoes gives “Son of God” an 18% rating, and even skimming over the positive reviews you’ll see that this is a good movie – for Christians. I’m not sure if the film was designed to be evangelical in nature, as in “invite your non-believer friends to the show with you”, but it doesn’t seem like it was designed to change anyone’s mind about anything. That said, I have to wonder if this film really needed to be made at all.

No doubt many Christians will view it favorably and find it affirming of their own beliefs. However it does not, at least on the surface, seem to make one think about Jesus, the nature of His ministry, or legacy in any new way. Reviewers note that it’s “incredibly safe” and “made by believers for believers”. However if a film, or even a novel or other piece of media, serves only to affirm one’s already held belief without enhancing or challenging it in some way, I have to wonder what the point of it is other than to provide a sense of familiar satisfaction.

“The Passion of the Christ”, for example, tells an extremely familiar story but was compelling in how direct and brutal it was, to the point where some Christians thought it was too violent. However this also made it one of the more historically accurate representations of what crucifixion was like. For me, as a Protestant, it really opened up the role and character of Mary in an unexpected way. Watching the film as a new dad, the image of Mary comforting a young Jesus after he fell juxtaposed against her inability to help him as he is tortured, broke my heart and was the prevalent image and lesson I took from it. It spurred a lot of discussion both within and without the faithful, which is a good thing.

But is this another case of Jesus being too safe for our own good? If this film changes some minds and gives the opportunity for others to talk about their faith in a positive way, then yay SoG. But what else could have been done with a $22 million film that is basically an edited-down version of the History Channel’s “The Bible” with deleted/extra scenes added in?

If this is a film for Christians by Christians, why couldn’t it challenge the faithful as well as the unwashed masses?