Tuesday, August 31, 2004

How Long Have You Been Stoned?

I was given a tract yesterday at work. For the uninitiated, a tract is a small booklet certain Christians give to non-Christians in hopes this small booklet will lead the non-Christian to Christ. I am categorically opposed to any and all tracts, but that's another discussion.

So, I was ringing up this woman's order. She seemed a bit crazy, and by crazy I mean stoned off her ass. Now, I'm not implying she was smokin' the ganja before buying ridiculously bad and uninspired Christian art (though I wish more people could use that excuse). All I know is that the way she was acting made me want to sing "Shiny Happy People" by REM.

After she pays, she hands me a tract and says, "I want to share this with you." This particular piece was entitled "You're Special." I'm special, and you're a wack job.

I WORK IN A CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE! I don't need salvation. I might need a drink, but I don't need salvation. Salvation I've got, a sane and normal workplace I don't.

It is truly sad when you have become so ingrained in a mind-set that dictates the world will be changed by a small piece of paper with no sacrifice or commitment on your part that you start trying to evangelize the people who on your "side." I pray to God this woman was stoned, because at least then she has the excuse that she willingly hindered her decision making ability. If she was sober, she serves as an example of why people declare religion a "crutch for the weak-minded", a "mental disorder," etc.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

"We live in a political world, where courage is a thing of the past ..." - Bob Dylan, "Political World"

I hate discussing politics, but I've been drowning in so many political discussions recently, that it's the only thing on my mind. So here are some random thoughts about my recent conversations along with a nod to some underrepresented voices in the Christian world.

As can be expected, the majority of my coworkers are diehard Republicans. My manager even has a life-size cutout of President Bush in his office. I try to avoid discussing politics with them, mostly because I, unlike my coworkers, don't think Christians can honestly say either party accurately represents a biblical worldview. That, and I'm tired of being told G.W. Bush has a hotline to God, kind of like the police chief in Batman.

On a lark, I told a coworker that the Holy Spirit had appeared to me in a vision and instructed me to vote for John Kerry. I was kidding, but the look she gave me would have you believe I just said Satan and I went out for a beer to catch-up on the old days.

Many of my coworkers are upset because Garrison Keillor will be appearing at the Minnesota State Fair. They love his work on NPR but are mad because he is an outspoken Democrat. They feel his appearance violates equal time laws. They have a decent point, assuming Keillor talks about politics. However, people in glass houses should not walk around naked. A quick survey of our store showed a variety of Republican themed books and memorabilia, but nothing with an opposing view.

So, in recognition of the variety of political views present in Christianity, I have listed a few links to groups you will not see mentioned in your local Christian bookstore. Their mention here does not necessarily imply an endorsement. I am merely trying to recognize our brothers and sisters in Christ who are not part of the Christian Right. (I stole some of these from other people, but who really cares):

Christians for Cannabis (As the name implies, they want to reform U.S. drug policy)
Christians Against Bush (Pretty straightforward)
Speech by Jim Wallace, Editor of Sojourners, calling on Christians to vote Democrat (we don't carry Sojourners at my store, probably for its left-leaning politics)
Christian Anarchy (interestingly enough, not considered an oxymoron by its supporters)
For more thought provoking discussion on anarchy, visit David Reynolds' Blog
Christian Socialist Movement (The people will rise-up)

Here are some social justice groups whose causes do not get enough mention in Christian circles:
Jubilee Research
International Justice Mission
Fair Trade Federation
M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence

Monday, August 23, 2004

Today's Moment of Melodramatic Introspection

sometimes i feel so all alone
here in this city i call my home
they say, 'hey, you're one of us'
funny, i should feel so anonymous
Over the Rhine - Nobody Number One

Is it just me, or does church feel like that sometimes? Everyone loves you and feels like you belong, but you don’t feel it. I don’t necessarily mean that as an indictment of church. I’m not really sure who I’m trying to indict – probably myself.

I belong to a great church with people who care about me. And yet there are still times I feel like a stranger.

I don’t know, maybe I’m the only one with a variety of spiritual connection disorders.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

"If you have a bobblehead, it means you're somebody."

One of my worst nightmares has come true -- my store actually sells Christian bobblehead dolls. You can buy Moses, Noah or Samson. I'm reminded of a Chandler Bing quote from Friends, "Too...many...punchlines."

If you want to learn more about the history of the company, Isaac Bros. Bible Bobbleheads, you can check out a feature from the May 23, 2003, issue of the Louisville Courier Journal.

The discovery of such items led me to do some exploring. If secondary characters like Moses, Noah and Samson have their own bobbleheads, surely Jesus, the Son of God, would have his own. I found the:
I think I know what I'm buying people on my Christmas list.

Monday, August 16, 2004

We Are Not Alone

This was mentioned in the comments section for one of my posts, but I thought I would mention it here for all to see. Apparently, there is a wonderful site called Arts & Faith. It's a message board covering all forms of art from film to music to literature and so on. I've only briefly glanced through it, but I can tell I'll be spending a lot of time over there. I might even post every once in awhile.

It's a great site, and you should check it out.

Friday, August 13, 2004

More Passion Talk

Ouch. Check out the less than flattering review of the Passion of the Christ DVD by Rollingstone’s Rob Sheffield. (Warning: This review is not suitable for Christians with an extremely thin skin.) Sheffield’s comments about “The Passion [being] slow and pompous with too much blood,” do raise an interesting question: Do Christians like this movie because it is good art, or do they like it simply because it is about Jesus?

As is usually the case, I am not the first to ask this question. For an interesting discussion of this issue, check out the article “Overcome with Passion,” in the March 2004 issue of Catapult Magazine, written by my old college friend, Kate Bowman. I recently came across it, and though the article is about five months old, I think the issues are still very relevant, especially within the context of the film being released on DVD later this month.

Kate raises some excellent points about Christian views of art, film and culture in general – issues that are near and dear to my heart and my academic pursuits. Plus, whenever anyone mentions the film Magnolia in a positive light, I perk my ears up and listen.

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

Yesterday, I discovered Left Behind-The Movie TM Board Game (yes, that’s the official title). I especially enjoy the flames of hell that appear at one corner of the board. I wonder if the loser misses out on the rapture and is forced to spend eternity on a post-apocalyptic earth (insert your own joke about New Jersey).

How do you market a game like that? Imagine being in the marketing meeting trying to come up with slogans for the game.

  • “You’re not just playing to win, you’re playing for your life.”
  • “Buy the board game or Kirk Cameron will make a sequel. Go ahead; test us.”
  • “The most important board game – ever.”
  • “The board game that will save your friends from hell.”
I wonder if they have Left Behind lunchboxes?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

This Has To Be A Bad Joke

The Christian apparel industry never ceases to amaze me. My store is currently running a sale on Kerusso t-shirts. The one that caught my eye is bright red and with the phrase "Heavy Drinker" in large letters. The biblical reference John 7:3 appears in smaller type below the uplifting message. The back of the shirt displays the verse as a quote credited to Jesus: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink."

Many will recognize that Jesus is speaking in a spiritual context. Whether or not you believe he is correct, is a debate for another time. My question is why would a Christian t-shirt have the phrase "Heavy Drinker" on the front? I don't know about you, but when I see a bright red shirt that says "Heavy Drinker," I think drunken frat boy not spiritual enlightenment. While there are many things about the Christian culture that make me wish I was a heavy drinker (including this t-shirt), I'm not going to declare it on my chest. (And please don't use the argument that Christians are trying to co-opt a phrase with negative connotations and turn it into a label of empowerment. This is not African-Americans using the n-word. This is Christians aligning themselves with the frat boys on MTV's Spring Break.)

This t-shirt is an embarrassment to anyone who takes their Christian faith seriously. I cannot believe a company with the motto, "Change your shirt; change the world," would actually release this shirt into the public. I have a feeling some cynical intern came up with the idea as a joke, but the powers-that-be loved it and made a t-shirt out of it.

Hey, Kerusso! You're making baby Jesus cry. Stop it! What's next? Are you going to release a t-shirt that tries to declare all Christians are brainwashed?

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Hit & Run

We sell these bumper stickers that say, "Angels protect this car."

I'm probably evil for thinking this, but if I ever see a car with that bumper sticker, I want to run it off the road. Then I'd ask them, "Where were your angels? On their cigarette break?"

Like I said, I'm evil.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

A Little Kick-Ass Beauty Before We Die

I just received the new Over the Rhine live album, Changes Come, and I can't stop playing it. This self described "Christ-haunted" band has a large cult following and is one of my favorites currently making music. They'll probably never be sold in my Christian bookstore because they're on a secular label (Virgin Backporch), they don't say, "Jesus loves you" in every song, and they play in bars. That's a shame because I think it's beautiful music.

Changes Come was recorded live during their Fall 2003 tour to promote their critically acclaimed album Ohio. Seeing Over the Rhine in concert is always a highlight of my life, and this album comes the closest to capturing the feelings of those concerts. After I saw them last fall, I wrote in my journal, "Seeing Over the Rhine play is like going out for a couple of beers and a smoke with your best friend. You spend the night talking about everything and nothing at the same time. And for that moment, in that bar, on that corner, life makes sense." (I believe now would be an appropriate time to quote the musical Rent, "That's poetic; that's pathetic.")

But seriously, those of you who are fans know what my melodramatic prose are attempting to say. In a world where sub-par singers like Ashlee Simpson sell 398,000 albums in their debut week, bands like Over the Rhine are a message from God reminding us that the entire music industry has not gone to hell.

You can only order Changes Come through the band's website, where you can also pick up Ohio or other Over the Rhine projects (Good Dog, Bad Dog is another personal favorite).

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Since When Do Cartoons Have Eternal Souls?

Today, whenever I was in the music section I kept hearing the Chris Rice song, "Cartoons." For those of you unfamiliar with the song, let me fill you in. The premise is simple: what if cartoons got saved and became Christians? Chris Rice then sings "hallelujah" in a variety of rather decent cartoon voices. Check out the lyrics. Apparently, it's supposed to illustrate that Christians can have fun too.

Is it just me, or does it seem sacrilegious to have Astro from The Jetsons sing hallelujah (ra-ra-ru-jah, to be exact)? I thought worship was about reverence toward God. I just dislike the entire thing. I'm even more disgusted with the cult following surrounding this song. I don't usually advocate censorship, but if someone wanted to organize a CD burning party for this song, I'd bring the beer.

That all sounds very harsh. I know some people love the song and think it's just a clean, fun song that Christians can listen too. I just wonder when turning faith in God into a nursery rhyme was ever healthy for anyone involved.

That's one of my major concerns with the Christian subculture. All we do is pander to the lowest common denominator. We never push forward. We never ask real questions. Maybe I should be thanking Chris Rice. Maybe he's showed us that constantly pandering does not edify the church but in fact forces us to devolve until we're speaking in cartoon voices. It's like Mr. Rodgers on an acid trip - it might seem fun, but do we really want to go there?

I don't want to speak ill of Chris Rice, a man I have never met. I just wish to point out one of the many reasons I believe Christian music is irrelevant and in many cases detrimental.

P.S. If you're really brave, listen to a sample of the song (Track 17 on the playlist). Press play at your own risk.

Den of Thieves

I had to work today. If you'll notice the time/date stamp at the bottom of this entry you'll notice it's Sunday. A Christian bookstore open on Sundays. I think the world is going to end. I haven't watched Left Behind in a while, so someone let me know if this is a sign of the impending apocalypse.

We're only open from 1-5pm on Sundays, because they want to give us time to go to church. Well, my church service didn't get over until 12:00 pm. So I had to skip the opportunity to fellowship (Christian code for talk) to my friends so I could get to work by 12:30 to open the store. Is that really the church life we want to promote? Especially for a couple hundred bucks worth of business.