super whitebread appeal

So what if I’m a year older?  I’m still the youngest dude I know.  Get off my back.

This Sunday we joined some friends at a church which, I think, fits the definition of a “mega-church.”  I’ve never really been to a church like that before, where the service is more of a production and the attendance is simply massive.  It wasn’t bad, but it was different.  I don’t know if the musical experience we had is typical of mega-churches, but it was certainly a spectacle.  A proper concert, with fantastic acoustics and a full band who rendered every contemporary song of praise in some affected Coldplay style: drums and keyboards and lead-guitar arpeggio descants over alt-rock 90s vocals.  Musically, it was quite enjoyable.  I love to watch people play instruments, especially fingers on fretboards; bonus for me there.

It occurred to me, though, that this kind of big-sound “alternative” church music might have an unintended consequence: a super whitebread appeal.  Looking around the auditorium as the lead singer with the choppy hair sang about salvation, my theory was at least anecdotally confirmed: the stadium seating looked like drifts of new-fallen snow, white upon white upon white.  I mentioned my thought to Sharaun after we’d left and she poo-poo’d me, saying that the congregation’s Aryan makeup was likely owed more to the local demographics than the style of music.  (Somehow, over the ten years we’ve been married, she’s gotten a lot better at making solid logical arguments like this; I blame myself.)  But still, I don’t exactly see the universal appeal in the styling…  Much like I might choose a different church if ours started doing all its hymns in the female-lead country ilk – imagine an all Dolly Sunday service; maybe perfect for some but certainly a turnoff for me.

Anyway, I don’t think my idea about the musical ties to congregational diversity are too far off base (I checked around on the Google first, to see if I was trippin’ – not so).  While the linked article doesn’t focus specifically on music as a divisor, I still hold that it could be one, or at least a contributor.  Maybe it’s not an easy thing to address… a “unified” rotation of musical themes seems to obvious and pandering: the alt-rock pierced-heart lung-fillers, some hip-hop hymns, then some Latino-infused cowbell-flared praisers.  I don’t envy you, mega-church “worship teams.”

Anyway, didn’t mean to write the whole thing about church but it just kinda happened.  Had a good time though; got some serious praise on with a gaggle of white folk.


i’m-a still go

Sometimes I think about the state of “religion” in today’s America and wonder, “What will ‘church’ be like when my kids are older?”

Our kids are going to define the church of their age in much the way we’ve “defined” the church of ours.  Oh sure you might say to me, “Dave, the church is unchanging.”  But you’d be wrong.  For “the church,” or more properly “religion” in the non-standard way I’m referring to it here, change is one of the few constants.

Emphasis, interpretation, and focus change with the inevitable march of culture.  That major domestic cultural shifts can effect dogma is a well established precedent: prohibition, suffrage, the civil rights movement, birth control, the “war on terror.”  Ripples from these worldview-changing events have made their way into even hallowedest transepts; confronting, convicting, and ultimately fracturing the belief-sets of many Christians in their time.

If you think about it for a moment, I’m pretty confident you already know the issue that’s going to confront, convict, and ultimately fracture the church in the coming decades.

Within the next ten to fifteen years the issue of gay rights will split mainstream Christian churches.

As social acceptance of homosexuality slowly becomes the majority opinion, churches and denominations will have to stand to the left or right of the divide.  As secular opposition wanes and believing children of today become the believing adults of tomorrow, the modern day Ptolemaic camp will suffer history repeated, dwindling and failing once again in the face of enlightened Copernican thought.  In the 1950s it may have been tough to find a kid in highschool who’d say homosexuals should have equal rights; amongst today’s youth you’ll find large conservative pockets, although I’d bet already ebbing in both number and conviction; and in twenty years naught but the holdouts will ally with their archaic fore-bearers.

I used to think that this would be an impossibly hard transition for Christian majority thought.  However, lately I’ve come to think it more likely that the church will simply “wake up” one day to find their opinions have changed.  With the passage of time, even once hard-fought conviction will erode in the face of overwhelming opposition.  Perhaps glacially, but undoubtedly steadily.  Like slavery, divorce, interracial marriage, and other scripturally-defended dogma before it, the church will eventually change its collective mind.  Not as a whole, not as an absolute, but for the most part this will happen.  I’m not sure when or entirely to what degree, but I no longer doubt the overall endgame.

I’m-a still go.



Just grant me this..

Welcome to 2009, readers.

New Years Eve day was another (nice!) slow one around the homestead.  Sharaun and I cleaned up a little more of the leftover Christmas mess (and foodstuffs lingering in the fridge, in my case).  Keaton got a deluxe edition DVD of Mary Poppins from our next-door neighbors, and, surprisingly, ate up the film (all that singing and dancing, she’s just a sucker for it); so we watched that in the morning.  The place was looking tip-top (as tip-top as our place tends to realistically get) long before noon.  And yes, I am shooting for most use of parenthetical notation in a single paragraph (get it?).

Right now I feel like I haven’t been to work in ages.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see my shoulders visibly sag were I looking in the mirror as the thought of going back this coming Monday enters my head.  To be clear, it’s not that I’m dreading it, but it seems I’ve been taken by the strangest “bug” lately… this insanely strong inclination to cling to family.

Thus the time spent here at home with Keaton and Sharaun, the week my folks visited over Christmas, and even going back to the nice long jaunt we took to Florida to visit Sharaun’s family back around Thanksgiving: All these things have created a snowball of emotion inside me… an almost physical urge to “family up.”

And, to mention this new desire within me without also mentioning my newfound desire to better integrate “church” (used here, I think, as a generic word for religion, introspect, tradition, spirituality, closeness, etc.) into my family would be impossible (the expressed concept of “ownership” of what is truly our family is actually intentional here). I know that may sound odd, or maybe random and untied to the whole “family” concept I mention above… but in my head lately they are tied so tightly together that I have to finish the thought here.

I’ve typed and typed (and deleted and deleted) about this family/church concept over the past couple weeks, but find I’m still not ready to put what I’m talking about into words… so I’m going to leave it (for now) with this (admittedly lacking) summary: At some point recently, I’ve “decided” that the things which are most important in life are those which, as a father and husband, I should be working to surround myself and my immediate family (Sharaun and Keaton) with.  Chief among those things, I’ve decided, are our relationships with extended family and our sense of “church.”

Right now, I can’t explain why this doesn’t mean we’re going ultra-religious (or scary-religious, however it strikes you), but it doesn’t.  It may read that way (so be it).  I think, basically, it means I want to spend more time with my family as a family, connected spiritually together through a common set of belief and faith (if that makes sense).  And, among other traditions and experiences, I want us to, together, enjoy and share this “church” thing I’m on about.

What it means… practically… I’m not 100% sure.  And, it may not even be blog stuff (there’s plenty of stuff that doesn’t make the blog, and it tends to be the more personal… so this might qualify for that exclusion… who knows).  I do feel better, however, for writing about it finally… and while the explanation is poor (by my own judgment), perhaps it’ll help cement, for me, what I’m even feeling – and maybe put some action around the concept.

I don’t know guys, I just don’t.  I do feel, though… so that’s something.  So hey, don’t read this and assume I’m making drastic wholesale changes.  But, then again, I guess don’t assume I’m not.  Realistically, I’m in early concept-phase here… so it’s a wonder I even put this much around the idea.  OK?

To lighten the mood before I go, here’s Keaton and I dancing to “Brothersport.”  (And, for real, you need to get this new Animal Collective album…)


wherever i roam

Monday night and, despite my best intentions, I ended up at the bar for St. Patrick’s Day after work instead of home in the garage repairing my downed shelving. It started out as an innocent non-commitment to some friends at work. You know the kind, where you say to your encouraging buddy, “Yeah, I dunno, maybe I’ll swing by after work – I’ll let you know.” Most males know this for a fancy-worded version of, “Nah, I’m gonna pass, but I’ll patronize you with niceties anyway.” It’s understood, you could go, it’s entirely feasible – you just won’t. Occasionally, you’ll be challenged on these non-commitments, and it’s then that you have to decide where your loyalties lie.

For me, and tonight, it was an easy decision: Sharaun was at her pregnant teen-moms thing, and she’d taken Keaton along (man, I hope Keaton doesn’t learn anything from those teens…), so I effectively had a kitchen pass until around 9pm. Even though she’d bought a rotisserie chicken for me, and left me handwritten instructions on the various sides I could make for myself (salad: tomatoes and cucumbers are in the bottom drawer; au-gratin potatoes: the box is in the cupboard; and garlic rolls: they’re frozen, bottom shelf of the freezer), I decided to instead join the crew at the brewpub for a drink to the patron saint of Ireland. I spent about $15 on beer, $13 on a dinner of shepherd’s pie, salad, a side of potatoes, and bread (starch-laden, just the way I like it).

But, I did manage to make it home by 8:30pm so I get to see Keaton before she goes to bed… and that’s where I am now: Sitting on the couch typing while I await the arrival of my family. I even sliced off some of that (now cold) chicken and ate it, just so all my wife’s efforts to take care of her poor helpless lout of a husband in her absence weren’t entirely wasted. The chicken was good, and I’m able to listen to the iPod a little too. So, in all, it was a a good evening – even if I didn’t lift a finger to get the garage shelf (and all its contents) up off their pile on the floor (which, incidentally, happened to fall right on top of our other garage-pile, making some kind of stunning super-pile – read yesterdays’ entry if that doesn’t make sense).

Well folks, that’s about all I have. But, in closing, I just wanted to share an image I received in an e-mail from a dear, dear relative – one who believes all Democrats are direct spawn of Satan, and only Republicans can get into Heaven (I’m not sure she really believes this, it’s just a comedic device – and, really, I do love her… for-serious-real). This was attached to a long mail about how President Bush is the Second Coming of Christ or something (read the thing here, if you’re interested – but note Glenn didn’t really say it all), but it was so good I had to share it all by its lonesome:

See, all the hubbub over that Abu Ghraib business was totally overblown, because… I mean, when you put it in context… look what Kennedy did. I was all like… wow…

Goodnight my friends.

foolish faith

Monday night and I finally gave into this sickness I’ve been trying to shake the past week or so, coming home after noon to try and get some rest (didn’t work, ended up on the phone or e-mail the entire time). Monday night and Neon Bible still hasn’t leaked (the new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! did though, so that helps a little). I really though it’d be soon after those five tracks dribbled out last week… I think they’re just messing with me now. Hurry! Up! Arcade! Fire! Let’s write now.

I wanted to start these next few paragraphs with an impactful, attention-grabbing sentence: In this day and age in America, religion, Christianity in particular, I fear, is headed for the same fate as the Southern accent.

If you haven’t noticed, in recent times the Southern accent has, quite unfairly, been associated with ignorance. I’m not sure where this stereotype actually came from, but you can pick up on it from just about any piece of pop culture from the last 70 years or so: look at Gomer Pyle, who was famous for his idiocy, and had the most pronounced twang in Mayberry; there’s Cleetus, the “slack-jawed” yokel from the Simpsons; the entire premise of the backwoods hillbilly Clampett family being misplaced in the modern world. Yeah sure, those shows are serving to foster the image, and maybe it’s unfair to use them as examples – but for more proof you don’t have to look much further than Saturday Night Live’s President Bush caricature. When did having a Southerly drawl automatically lower your perceived IQ? I’m not claiming it’s ubiquitous, not everyone is shallow enough to pigeonhole someone by their accent, but still – it’s there.

When I was a kid, we used to this incredibly mean and insensitive thing when we wanted to ape an idiot. We’d let our hand hang limp at the wrist, and then repeatedly thump it against our breast while making “Der, der, duh, der” sounds. This was an imitation of a “Jerry’s Kid.” Crazy thing was, as a kid I really didn’t even know what I was doing. I mean, I knew I was somehow making fun of retarded kids, who apparently beat their own broken wrists against their chests on the Jerry Lewis Telethon – but I had no idea how mean it really was. We were just calling each other stupid. Make a dumbass comment, and I’m gonna tease you by thumping my chest and doing my best “Uhhh, derrr, oohhhuhh.” See, I didn’t really know any retarded kids (that’s not entirely true, but mostly so) – but I assumed they were all stupid (OK, strict definition of “retarded” aside) and therefore a good point of reference when calling out someone else as such. Hicks, yokels, Okies, hillbillies, rednecks, Johnny Rebs. And I think Christians are headed the same way. Instead of tomorrow’s kids beating their chests with limp wrists, maybe they’ll thump and imaginary Bible or fold their hands in mock prayer.

Being religious is is turning into being stupid, and it’s happening fast. Oh sure, throughout history people have always been “too smart” to have faith, the whole science vs. faith thing has been around for eons, but I think it’s different these days. Today, the loudest voice is not longer the church and it’s various supporters installed as kings and queens. Today, the voice heard above the most is that of media and celebrity. And that is, more often than not, not the church’s voice (some might say it’s the voice of reason, others the voice of Satan). Regardless, if the believing collective don’t get their act together soon and do a major PR campaign, they risk being forever viewed as the Flat Earth Society – the new Jerry’s Kids, the new Cleetuses. Plenty of smart people believe in God, right? Doesn’t matter – who’s going to willingly join a organization of dinosaurs futilely holding onto the old ways? You may think that, as everyone gets dumber, everything will balance out – but I disagree. Everyone being dumb just means it’s easier for those who aren’t to convince the masses their way is correct.

I’m rambling now. Let’s sum it up: Christians in danger of being recast as simpletons, need to come up with plan of action before this fate unfairly befalls them. Stereotypes are bad, but they’re also powerful as hell and take centuries to overcome.

I wrote fast, probably full of typos, omissions, and things I didn’t mean. Goodnight bitches.

he that hath an ear

Welcome to Wednesday night. It’s getting harder and harder for me to remember what I’ve written about on this thing. Usually, before I set out to write something, I’ll do a quick search through the archives to see if perhaps I’ve covered it before. I’m sure, though, that if someone printed this rambling mess out and read through it cover-to-cover, they’d encounter a fair amount of repeat and perhaps even contradictory materials. It’s hard, you know, trying to keep track of it… all these words, all the arguably-wasted effort. That’s a good intro, eh? Good enough for me…

Motivated by nothing in particular, I spent some time tonight downloading MP3 versions of both the Bible and Quran. Put them on my iPod as audiobooks, which makes them “bookmarkable” (you can pick up listening where you last left off rather than beginning anew each time) and excludes from playback while shuffling (Matthew chapter 11 as a follow-on to some Kanye could really kill a party). Admittedly, I don’t plan on listening to these very often, but I do think it’s neat to have them at arm’s reach for curiosity’s sake. Used the Firefox DownThemAll extension to speed up the download process, grabbing all the files automagically (i.e. bandwidth-raping) rather than navigating through hundreds of individual links and pages.

As a pleasant second-order effect of my search, I was turned on to several great sites which offer completely free MP3 audiobooks. I think it’s awesome that I can download and listen to all sorts of material on the iPod, from the classics to philosophy. If you’re interested, Librivox and both have nice-sized collections of completely free-to-download audiobooks (between the two sites there is nearly 1,000 works of literature available for listening). Most of the works available are older and are now public domain, but there are some original and newer titles as well.

In the process of writing the above paragraph, my mind once again drifted to being stranded on a desert island. How much more enjoyable would being stranded be if you had an iPod chock-full of music and books? Well, providing of course you first have health, food, and shelter. Anyway, the only problem here is the one of power… the iPod battery won’t last forever. But… any person who has irrational fantasies about one day becoming stranded on a desert island who’s worth their salt will have a solar-powered iPod charger with them at all times. All you need is the solar iPod charger, a solar AA battery charger, and a set of AA-powered portable iPod speakers – and you’re the life of the castaway party! Seriously, I’m thinking about getting that solar iPod charger just for the “cool” factor.

Keaton’s hair has almost all fallen out and is slowly being replaced with a new, blonder, quaff. Seeing this happen over the course of weeks tends to downplay how dramatic of a change it really is. In fact, I hadn’t realized just how much her hair had changed until I was browsing some old pictures last night. In an attempt to illustrate this, I GIMP’d Keaton’s hair from a picture taken at fifteen weeks onto the head of a picture taken last week. Roll your mouse over the image below to see the difference (allow a couple seconds load-time on the 1st rollover):

Wow! Goodnight.

the only just outcome

Sunday evening, another very enjoyable weekend – lots of downtime with friends. As is tradition for the week’s first entry, I’ve uploaded a new set of pictures to Keaton’s gallery – why don’t you go ahead and check them out here.

Been devouring Wikipedia articles on the Middle East lately, in my continued efforts to educate myself on the elaborate intertwined history of the people and region. While I didn’t start at the very beginning, I am beginning to establish a factual historical picture that I believe is opinion-free and fact-based. With all the shifting borders, disputed territories, and artificial partitions – it’s a tangled nightmare to try and understand the geographical boundaries let alone the religious, tribal, and political ones. I do feel, though, that I’m getting a little better at it. I understand the implications of Israel’s declaration of independence and the resultant Gaza Strip and West Bank. I’m fairly up to snuff on Hezbollah’s motivations in the capture of Israeli soldiers as a bargaining chip for prisoner release, and how that kicked the situation into its current tailspin. For this knowledge, I love Wikipedia; I really do. Too bad it can’t make people stop dying.

Speaking of the Middle East, I had a thought in church this morning that was interesting. Set a reminder on my cellphone to write about it. I thought it might be interesting to think about the current Israel/Hezbollah/Lebanon conflict as a fundamentalist who favors signs and portents. From that angle, what might the outcome of this fracas tell us? Let’s think about it.

What does the eventual outcome here mean? On the surface, and from a simplified point of view, we have humans fighting other humans over religious beliefs. Sure there are politics and property rights and cultural aspects, but boiled down most of these things can be said to stem from religion. So, above two groups of humans who are fighting we have the God of each of those groups who, in no small way, defines each group. It only makes sense, based on what the sacred texts of each group tell them, that each firmly believes their God has an active hand in the events of their lives, and that whatever happens, it was God’s divine will. This notion becomes extremely interesting (to me) when you think about the current Israel/Hezbollah/Lebanon conflict.

Even though the outcome of this particular conflict is still unknown, could a look at some of the potential outcomes possibly tell us something about the very nature of God? If the assumption is that some higher power is indeed directing or supporting his followers, can an outcome here give humanity in general some insight into the divine?

Will the God of Judaism let his chosen people be once again pushed from the land He promised them? Or will the God of Islam see Jerusalem and Temple Mount once again under Muslim control? Whose God loves His adherents the most? Going one more step: whose God is listening, whose God is rewarding the faith of His people… whose God exists?

Certainly some modern-day Christians would see collapse of the Jewish state as a step backwards in the march to the Second Coming. Without their promised land, the Jews certainly can’t rebuild the temple – another misstep for the unfolding of Biblical end-times prophesy. Three faiths for which the outcome of this conflict could be interpreted as telling of the nature, plans, and, for some, potentially even the relevance or existence of their God. Sure, that may be a hyper-sensitive, reading-into-it, way to look at it – but I’m sure some of the more extreme of adherents are relying on God to see this conflict to what they consider the only just end. Being that it can’t have a just end for both, some will be left questioning God’s plans. Nothing new, to be sure, but interesting nonetheless.

Finally, a qualifying afterthought: I realize that this is most certainly not the first, and is not likely to be the last, time that religious differences have come to a head in the form of humans fighting. I also acknowledge that analyzing a point-view of instances like this on the timeline of humankind and then using that analysis to try and pick a “winning” God may seems stupid. Sure, I’ll admit that Gods and/or their powers likely won’t be proven or disproven by the outcome of one small skirmish along the road from the beginning of times to the end of times, I’ll give you that. But, I still maintain that it’s worth a look, and a good coal for discussion. And, what’s more, maybe the way to look at it isn’t from a point-view, maybe we should consider the longer-term “trending” that’s happening (although, without have an endpoint in sight, trending could be argued worthless in terms of how “far” we’ve come). Anyway, what about those trends? Who’s trends look good, who’s don’t? What would sports bookmakers and odds-men have to say about the world’s religions at this point? Which one is the dark horse, which the frontrunner?

Maybe that would make a good entry someday, trying to get a semi-quantitative count of bad and good things that’ve happened to the major religions since their inception. Maybe a tally of purported prophecy fulfillment, new converts graphed against time, y’know, things that are quasi-measurable. Map all that out to see where they all lie, who’s “winning?” Yeah… maybe someday, but not tonight. Tonight I’m done.

And that’s it, decided to limit Monday’s post to this topic only… binning the other random weekend-writing for mid-week filler. Goodnight folks, love you like money.