Sunday, November 21, 2004

Melting My Faith

Nothing says “Christmas cheer” quite like stuffed snowmen. Though not usually considered to be religious in nature, we still have a large number to choose from. My favorite is the one with “Jesus Warms My Heart” tattooed on its bell. Apparently, this qualifies as religious content and thus guarantees a spot in a Christian bookstore.

“Jesus Warms My Heart.” Stop to think about that from the perspective of a snowman. If Jesus truly warms your heart, then any decision of faith turns into a matter of life or death. The warming of a snowman’s heart brings about his inevitable melting. Accepting Jesus will kill him. This is worse than Frosty the Snowman having to go into the greenhouse.

So, if he accepts eternal salvation, he looses his life. If he rejects eternal salvation, he keeps his life but spends eternity rotting in hell. Talk about an existential dilemma. Screw the martyrs in China, this is the ultimate youth group sermon illustration about the “hard life of following Christ.”

In a moment of honesty, would any of us actually say we would accept Christ if it required melting? I probably wouldn’t, but I hate getting my socks wet.

It’s a humbling experience to realize a snowman has greater faith than you do. Damn you, Cuddly Plush Snowman!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

California Here We Come

I was recently struck by the abundance of books declaring “The Gospel According to…” Apparently, the gospel has been told by Peanuts, The Simpsons, Disney, Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, and Tony Soprano, to name a few.

I believe television, film, books, comics, etc. are all high forms of art. I appreciate any attempt to discuss possible themes and/or artistic visions of the creator(s). Somehow I don’t believe that explains this glut of “Gospel According To…” books. Call me a cynic, but I suspect it has more to do with the Christian desire to claim everything for us so we don’t have to feel guilty watching this.

How many people were initially scared to tell their church friends they were fans of The Simpsons, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, or NPR? We are always afraid of being judged as worldly sinners whose minds were being brainwashed by the liberal media intent on stealing our money and killing our children. If we can pull out a book declaring the Simpsons are a Christian family because they pray, then we’re in the clear. No hell for me, baby.

With that in mind, I want someone to write a book called, The Gospel According to the O.C. I know it’s a trashy show that doesn’t even approach the label of art, but it’s so damn addictive. It’s my new guilty pleasure. I’ve even come up with an outline for all you writers out there. I just ask for a cut of the profits.

Chapter 1: The Cultural Church as Represented in Orange County
The characters on the O.C. are a bunch of narcissistic, spoiled rich kids from the suburbs. Sounds like a mega church to me.

Chapter 2: Ryan Atwood and Spiritual Adoption
No matter how screwed up we are, God still invites us into his dysfunctional church family just like the Cohen’s invited troubled youth, Ryan, to join their dysfunctional suburban paradise.

Chapter 3: Seek and You Shall Find – The Give and Take of Our Relationship With God as Represented by the Relationship of Seth and Summer
Seth wants Summer, but he doesn’t know how to get her. He reaches out to her, and she comes. Everyone else in the world knows that Seth will never be loved like he is by Summer. Despite this, he continues to push her away. In the same way, no one will ever love us like God loves us. Despite this, we still constantly push Him away.

Chapter 4: Sandy Cohen – God Does Not Forsake Us
His father-in-law’s a drunken thief; his wife never appreciates him; his kids get in fights with the water polo team; and they all come to Sandy when they need help. In the same way, we often ignore God until our troubles are beyond our control. At this point we reach out to God, who never lets us down.

Chapter 5: Marissa Cooper – Spiritual Warfare or Mental Illness?
She throws furniture in swimming pools, drinks like an unemployed Irishman on St. Patrick’s Day, sleeps with the yard guy, and spends time in a mental hospital. The church has spent years inappropriately labeling mental illness as spiritual warfare. Why stop now?

Chapter 6: Luke Ward – Sin Has Consequences
He slept with his ex-girlfriend’s mother. I hope it was fun while it lasted, because he nearly died in a car accident. In the same way, promiscuous sex and rampant drug use may be fun in youth group, but eventually, God will punish you in a fit of melodramatic rage.

The rest of the book can fill itself in. Someone should really consider writing this thing. I would volunteer, but I’m too busy on my new project: The Spiritual Journey of Clay Aiken.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The New Album From Jesus

FYI: Jesus has a new album. I’m kidding, but our computer database does list the artist for this album as “Jesus.” I do find it interesting that Jesus recorded an album covering all the overplayed, tired worship songs you used to love but now secretly hate. Then he commissioned a companion book to generate a few extra profits.

On a whim, I decided to take our computer database at face value. What if Jesus really had recorded an album? Here is an excerpt from an interview that would have appeared in [insert your favorite music publication].
After a 2000 year hiatus, Jesus has returned to the recording studio. He has remained largely absent from the music scene ever since his band Jesus and the Fishers of Men All-Stars broke up. For the first time in 2000 years, we sat down with Jesus to get his thoughts on the state of music, the possibility of a reunion tour, his new album, and the genius of Ringo Starr.

[Music Magazine]: So why did you wait 2000 years to record a new album.

[Jesus Christ]: I felt like the time was right. I was tired of this religious revival with all these people claiming to understand the impact of my music and then butchering it. It’s like The Strokes; they desperately want to be The Ramones, but they don’t have the talent, the attitude or the life experience to capture that raw energy. Music today is full of posers. I’m here to bring the old school flavor back.

[MM]: There has to be someone you like in today’s music industry?

[JC]: Kanye West, but he did write a song about me. After Bono lost his god complex, I really began to like U2. Johnny Cash and I were really tight. That man was more punk than Blink 182.

[MM]: Who do you think represents what is wrong with the music industry?

[JC]: Kelly Clarkson. She is all that is soulless and wrong. Nickelback really sucks too.

[MM]: In this election year we’ve been reintroduced to musicians making political statements. Your music always seemed to capture the political and social issues of your day so well.

[JC]: How so?

[MM]: Well, you were always looking out for the poor, the oppressed, and the children, among others. You always seemed to want justice. Your music provided the blueprint for socially conscious artists.

[JC]: Those aren’t political issues. That was the major point of my music. These were spiritual issues. They could only be changed by the power of God channeled through His people. I always tried to avoid politics. The issue of taxes was the only exception. If you look at my entire catalogue, I didn’t try to change the world through political action. I tried to change people’s hearts. When these issues are co-opted by political campaigns, they are inevitably distorted, watered down and done a disservice.

[MM]: Many of your fans have tried to claim their political action was motivated by your music. Were they wrong?

[JC]: Here’s the thing about fans, and it’s true of any fan of any major artist: they always get the facts wrong. They all become instant experts. They take one aspect of your music and blow it out of proportion. They end up completely misrepresenting your talent, your message and your catalogue.

The Beatles are the perfect example. Lennon and McCartney were a great songwriting team. People go on and on about that. Those guys were good, but they weren’t that good. The fans also try to say Ringo was the luckiest man in the world; a talentless hack who got lucky. But they overlook the sheer genius of the minimalist drumming on tracks like “In My Life.”

[MM]: So are the fans just dumb?

[JC]: That’s not what I’m saying. You have to remember, that when my music first began to emerge from the underground scene in Nazareth, the cultural climate was a hotbed of unrest. People wanted a revolution. They wanted “Street Fighting Man” by the Rolling Stones. I didn’t give them that. So they ignored the vast majority of what I was saying. They took what was popular and ran with it. But the music lives on, and if you return to that you’ll understand what I’m saying.

[MM]: Let’s get to the question on everyone’s mind, is there going to be a reunion?

[JC]: Nothing has been confirmed, but I will say the boys and I met for a week in Key West and discussed our future over key lime pie and margaritas. We had a great time, and I think the creative tension is still there. We’ve started talking to producers, and I’d say there is a very good chance of an album by the end of next year.

[MM]: Can you give us any kind of taste of the artistic direction of this album?

[JC]: Well, we were hoping for a world music kind of feel. Not Paul Simon in Africa kind of stuff but more of a sampling of music of the disenfranchised. We already have some guests stars lined up, people like Chuck D from Public Enemy, Bono from U2, Moby and Justin Timberlake.

[MM]: Justin Timberlake sings music of the disenfranchised?

[JC]: No, but our record label wanted at least one radio single. It was either Justin Timberlake or Clay Aiken. Pick your poison. I tell you, those accountants are ruining the art form.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Librarians Rock

I just found one of my new favorite blogs: Dispatches From a Public Librarian.

Thanks to my friend Kate for the link.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Indianapolis Art Show

For any of you in the general vicinity of Indianapolis, my friend, Kyle Ragsdale, is having an art show November 5 that I highly reccomend. "Honey I'm Home" sounds like it has great potential to create discussion about community, the church, etc. I'm a big believer in the power of the arts to bring about social change in the world. I also am a big fan of Kyle's paintings and am the proud owner of a couple of them.

I think the format for the gallery show sounds original. It should be a wonderful experience. Plus, you get free food. You can't beat that.