Monthly Archives: September 2012

Why I Despair For the Church

Here is a fellow who considers himself a Christian but showed his true colors when I pressed him a little on the issue of abortion. He said “What’s the point of passing a law that just forces the unsaved to act a little less unsaved?” I responded by asking “What’s the point of passing a law against infanticide?”

Heretofore he’d managed to keep his capitalization and punctuation under control, but I guess I touched a nerve. I quote verbatim. (This comment got a “like,” I might add. On a Christian website.)

“infantcide”? really? i couldn’t care less if a woman aborts a fetus. there…i said it! the unborn is the unborn!!!! killing an “infant” is something ENTIRELY different!!!!!! SHOW ME WHERE THE BIBLE DEFINES “MURDER”. PLEASE STOP PUTTING WORDS IN GOD’S MOUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do you know, that in Jesus’ time (the first century) the use of pennyroyal for the prevention of and termination of pregnancy was quite widespread. WHY DID JESUS NEVER PREACH AGAINST THIS????? TELL ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You know, it might be darkly comical if it wasn’t so heart-breakingly, devastatingly sad.

This is where the church is going.

Somebody rescue it.

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Filed under Faith and Culture

Two Saturday Musings (9/29)

Instead of an exhaustive Saturday roundup, I’ll just offer my take on a couple things I found this week while browsing the interwebs. They have absolutely nothing to do with each other, except they kind of balance each other out since one is about something good in the world, and the other is about what’s wrong with the world (HT: G. K. Chesterton).

You’d probably rather walk away with the feeling that something is right with the world, so I’ll start with the WWWtW item first. Some of you may or may not have seen the obscene Samuel Jackson pro-Obama ad that’s been getting a lot of press lately. I watched it to see if it’s really as bad as all that.

It was actually worse.

I knew it involved the use of a particularly vile obscenity worked into the phrase “Wake Up!” I did not know that it would be used to punctuate every other talking point.

That’s not even the worst part of it though. The worst part is that the “story” of the video involves a little girl (younger than double-digits, it looks like), running around trying to “mobilize” her apathetic family to get off their duffs and vote for Obama. So every time Samuel Jackson shows up, the two of them are working together in this noble endeavor, alternately hymning the praises of nationalized health care, Planned Parenthood, and everything else that Darth Romney might look down on. (I found it particularly sickening that the little girl was given the lines about Planned Parenthood.) Our tiny Democratic activist in training is shown standing next to Jackson and even sitting on his knee while he delivers his spoken-word, profanity-laden rants.

But wait, there’s more, because I saved the worst for last. At the end of the video, the little girl runs into her bedroom, flings open the window, and yells the ad’s obscene hook for all the neighborhood to hear.

Did I mention she’s no older than ten, and probably a good bit younger?

What happened to America’s kids? What happened to innocence? What happened to kids not even knowing certain words or things exist? Now our 8-year-olds are humming “Sexy and I Know It” while f-bombs roll glibly off their tongues?? Memo to today’s parents: You’re doing it wrong.

Now, on to the happier note. Some jerk on Reddit had a major foot-in-mouth moment when he posted a picture of a Sikh girl with a beard. Sikhs aren’t allowed to shave any hair on their bodies, so this poor girl has to live with a mini-beard and moustache. It makes me feel embarrassed that I complain about the few hairs on my chin. Anyway, someone thought this picture was funny and uploaded it to get a laugh.

But instead of responding with the kick in the tail this guy deserved, the girl turned the other cheek and wrote an incredibly dignified, gentle comment. The guy was genuinely moved and apologized. I want to link to the response in her own words, but I will just provide a warning that if you keep scrolling down to read the jerk’s apology, he did use an obscenity in the course of his apology. (I know, weird, but I think these days people just use profanity as filler. Seriously, I have a calculus classmate who just tosses it in there all the time, and math class isn’t exactly a high-stress zone. Unless you goofed on the right method for integration by partial fractions and had to erase your work and barely finished that quiz in time only to remember as you walked out the building that you forgot the + C. Of course.)

Anyway, what I especially appreciated about the girl’s reply was her practical, humble perspective on accepting the body you have and not saying “Mine! Mine!” all the time. Kind of interesting when you consider the Bible says something similar. I think of all the girls who have breast transplants and do other crazy, pointless things to change something they don’t like about their bodies, when here’s a girl who actually has something to complain about and she’s totally comfortable in her own skin. Wow! That’s humbling. Of course, I wish she didn’t follow a false religion (though in an odd way that may have been what got her an apology, since these days every other religion except Christianity and perhaps Mormonism is third-rail material when it comes to making jokes, offensive or otherwise). But I can recognize that this a very admirable character quality, and I’m glad she was an instrument of grace to this jerk on Reddit. May we all somehow learn to have that much self-control and humility.

Consider this an open thread for these topics or any other topic that caught your interest this week.

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CD Review: Pure and Simple, by the Gaither Vocal Band

Pure & Simple

When Guy Penrod and Marshall Hall left the Gaither Vocal Band, I admit that I was skeptical about how much I would like the super-star lineup that replaced it. A DVD came and went, as did a new project, and I remained somewhat lukewarm. But after a year or so, I’ve gradually warmed to this five-man blend of voices. Seeing them at NQC this year, I thought they had tightened as a unit and delivered some of the best new material of the convention. So needless to say, I immediately acquired their latest project Pure and Simple. My verdict is that although it could have been better, it’s a cut above anything else I’ve heard yet this year. Now, I realize I’ve already handed out a 4.5 star rating (to the Booth Brothers’ Gaither tribute), and this project isn’t absolutely perfect, so I can’t quite give it a 5, which means I’m going to be giving the two projects the same rating even though I think one is better than the other. I’m not going to go back and change anything though, because I’m trying to get used to thinking of my star ratings as the answer to the question “How well does this project fulfill its potential?” That could very easily lead to albums that are not completely on a par receiving the same rating. So just in case anyone would have been confused, there’s a little insider tid-bit on how the ratings work around here. As you can tell, I make a lot of things up as I go along.

Okay, so since there are so many tracks on this album, I thought I would do something a little different and sort them into three categories: Prime Cuts, Enjoyables, and Misfires. Because my time is limited, I’ll really only go in depth on the prime cuts and then just briefly touch on the rest. Continue reading

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Filed under 4.5 star, CD Reviews

Poetry in Song: “Silver Thunderbird”

Most of us know Marc Cohn as a one-hit wonder for his timeless classic “Walking in Memphis.” In fact, lots of people probably know only the song and not the name of the man behind it, so ubiquitous has it become while Cohn himself languishes in relative obscurity. The truth is, America never fully realized what a gem of a writer it had in Cohn. Those who took time to explore his work more thoroughly would discover that “Walking in Memphis” is just the tip of the iceberg.

One of my favorite lesser-known songs of his is “Silver Thunderbird.” Every time I listen to it, I’m struck by how clean and perfect the poetry is. He takes words you just don’t hear in songs that often, like “Batmobile” or “comb,” and effortlessly turns them into perfect rhymes. There’s not a single fudged or faked rhyme in the whole lyric. Trust me, I’ve listened around, and there are VERY few songs for which I’ve found that to be true.

But the poetry of the lyric isn’t just found in its clever, consistent rhyme scheme. Listen carefully and you’ll find it’s a poignantly understated reflection on the relationship between fathers and sons, and indeed, on life in general. Think about all the shades of meaning in lines like these:

Well you could hardly even see him in all of that chrome
The man with the plan and the pocket comb
But every night it carried him home…

Down the road in the rain and snow
The man and his machine would go…

Me I want to go down
In a Silver Thunderbird…

“It carried him home…,” “I want to go down…,” “rain and snow…” These phrases evoke a wealth of thoughts and associations that go far deeper than the words themselves.

Which, of course, is what good poetry is all about.

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Filed under Anatomy of a Song, Songs

Monday Morning Humor: The Muppets Try Out for Yoda

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John Piper On Loving the World

My readers know that I don’t always agree with every word John Piper says. However, I think that he often speaks wisdom, and I thought this particular sermon clip was so timely I just had to post it. Piper is preaching from one of Paul’s letters to Timothy. Enjoy your Sunday.

“There is a love for the world that makes ministry impossible. There is a love for the world that produces either the abandonment of ministry or the making of ministry so worldly it’s useless.”

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Borrowing: “Kentucky Rose,” by Michael W. Smith

I think it’s time to dust off some old series. Here’s an entry in the long-neglected “Borrowing” category.

Michael W. Smith has never been known for writing country-tinged songs (he left that to his colleague Steven Curtis Chapman), but the little-known ballad “Kentucky Rose” stands out in his catalogue as a refreshing exception. It was included as one of two new songs on his First Decade best-of collection, released in 1993. While the production includes some light rock flourishes, overall the music falls squarely into the genre of early 90s country ballad. With Smith’s knack for melody and keyboard touches, it’s a sonic delight.

The lyrics tell a simple, albeit somewhat syrupy story about a preacher man who gives selflessly to his community. Aside from the oddity that lyricist Wayne Kirkpatrick  decided to give a flower nickname to a male protagonist, it unfolds rather nicely. Although I read that it was singled but pulled from the air when someone started the rumor that Michael was flirting with New Age spirituality, based solely on the closing line, “Now on that hill one flower grows. They say it is the spirit of Kentucky Rose.” Now, granted, that’s a rather silly closing line, but I always thought it was just a trifling bit of sentimental fluff, thrown in to provide a flavor of folk legend closure. I think people were just overly hyper about Smith since he had been a trail-blazer in 80s Christian rock and then had pop crossover success, both of which were controversial at the time (how times have changed!)

Anyway, upon re-visiting the song recently, I got to thinking that it wouldn’t be hard to adapt it to southern gospel. After all, it’s essentially a country song, and say what the SG purists will, but these days the line between country and gospel isn’t always that sharply defined. The first artist that popped into my head as being perfect for it was Paid in Full. I think lead singer Lance Moore delivers a story really well and could easily make the song his own. It could be a solo + BGV vehicle similar to “The Other Side.” And of course, it’s a given that his vocal would improve on the original. :) What do you think?

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David Phelps on the Spiritual & the Secular

Some people are wondering whether or not to classify David Phelps’ upcoming Classic project as “southern gospel,” because it contains some songs that are more inspo or classical, even though Phelps has sung in gospel music all his life. I think that’s really just a matter of what criteria you’re going by—depending on whether you’re categorizing by singer or songs chosen, either approach could make sense. But, on the topic of secular vs. sacred, I came across this interesting little exchange between Phelps and Bill Gaither in the promo video for the DVD:

Bill: Some people might say, well why aren’t you singing gospel songs? Of course I’ve always said the gospel leaks out in a lot of different kind of ways, right?

David: That’s right. I grew up singing gospel music, and that’s so much a part of me. And then I would think, you know a painter can paint a picture of a cross and then paint a beautiful field. And it doesn’t say anything about who he is spiritually, or is one more spiritual than the other…? When it comes down to it, secular is really our choice. Because everything that comes our way, we can learn something spiritual from it.

I’m not going to say much about this because I want it to spark discussion amongst yourselves (perhaps a few song-writers who might be reading can offer some positive, constructive commentary—that would be cool!) However, I’ll say this much: I think that in the end I know what Phelps is getting at, and I agree with him… to a point. Around the last sentence is where our opinions start to diverge, unless he was saying something much looser/sloppier than he actually meant. What about you?

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NQC Hasty Notes: Saturday Night

It’s over already?? Yes, hard to believe though it is, tonight was the last night of NQC. The singers were tired tonight but gave it their all, and we had some wonderful moments. I think everyone who bought the webcast should have felt like they got their money’s worth. If you’re on Facebook and you bought the cast, be sure to check out the group NQC Webcast Friends 2012. Consider this an NQC Open Thread. I hope you’ve enjoyed my snapshots of each night! Looking forward to next year already!

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NQC Hasty Notes: Friday Night

Some good stuff happened tonight! Gaither was in the house and much more. Read on for the penultimate batch of hasty notes…Oh yes, and this installment includes two pictures of David Bruce Murray’s sock. Read on for an explanation of that too… Continue reading

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