Thursday, February 28, 2013
Monday, February 25, 2013
Monday, February 18, 2013
Friday, February 15, 2013
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Monday, February 11, 2013
Friday, February 08, 2013
I'll be honest: none of his tweets is striking me as can't miss--none, in fact, lived up to the article's promise of "bold and provocative quotes and pithy one-liners, ... helpful links, how-tos and news." I went twenty or so tweets deep before I moved on. I don't mention this out of disrespect for Bill Hybels; I actually hold him in pretty high regard. He was my pastor for about eight years, and he once gave me directions to a Willow Creek bathroom. But I sort of think that "a little common sense" would have striven for some greater diversity; Christianity is a big tent, a global enterprise. More nonevangelicals, More non-Americans, more nonwhites, more nonmen--these inclusions wouldn't have just been politically correct; they would have been intellectually honest. At the very least, shouldn't the list have included Pope Benedict, who made worldwide news on December 12 when he opened his Twitter account (@Pontifex)? I admit he has fewer tweets (currently 33) than many of the list, but he has more than a million followers (on Twitter; the number of followers at Sunday morning mass is, uh, slightly higher). Maybe the power of each follower is exceptionally low. I'm one of his Twitter followers, so the case could be made for that. Here's a sample tweet from His Holiness:
I have rarely seen people far from God as open to spiritual conversations as they are this year. Let's be ready with words of hope!— Bill Hybels (@BillHybels) December 23, 2012
The pope follows eight people on Twitter. News flash: I'm not one of them. All this to say, I found this list annoying, and I needed to vent about it. How about you? Am I making too big a deal of this? Why? Who would you add to the list? Why?
Everything is a gift from God: it is only by recognizing this crucial dependence on the Creator that we will find freedom and peace.— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) February 6, 2013
Thursday, February 07, 2013
Monday, February 04, 2013
This is my Bible. I am what it says I am, I have what it says I have, I can do what it says I can do. Today I’ll be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I’ll never be the same, in Jesus name.This is tantamount to a creed, a statement of faith. There's a presumed faith in a triune God, which the Bible affirms, but the main focus is on the relationship between what the Bible says and the individual person. Which leads to . . . (4) The sermon. The sermon is fast-paced and packed with hooks--sensible advice in alliterated short sentences, illustrated by stories from the Osteen family and people one degree removed thereof. My wife is a therapist, and she hears lots from Osteen that she would be comfortable sharing with her clients if they weren't from Osteen's lips. He's good at gently prodding his followers out of self-defeating attitudes. It's hard to be afraid of life when you're listening to Joel Osteen; it's easy to think that anything is possible. The most remarkable thing to me, however, is the cadence of it. "La la lala la laaaaaa; la la lala la laaaaa." Something like that.
"God doesn't ____ ____ _______________; God _____ ___ ______ _______ __________________. . . . You're not ___ ______ ______ __________________; you're _____ ___ ______ _____ _______________."These are the things that a congregant might right down on a church bulletin, and there's a startling number of them in one thirty-minute period. This sort of thing is, I think, ideally suited to television, which has taught us to expect pithy proverbs and tidy turns of phrase. You know you're on the clock during a Joel Osteen sermon, and you're fine with it: you've got a full day ahead of you, and you can't fritter the day away watching TV. God doesn't want you vegging out; God wants you sucking the marrow out of life. Or something like that. Anyway, before you know it Osteen has made his last point of the week, your self-confidence is topped off and you're ready to face the day. Only one thing remains: (5) The invitation. Every episode ends with an invitation to give your life to God. It's a happy moment, and we're left imagining hundreds of hands being raised in Houston, and thousands more throughout the country. That's the magic of television: the viewer is a full participant, even though what the viewer imagines may well have nothing to do with reality. It's worth noting that there's clearly stuff that happens in Houston at Osteen's church before and probably also after the broadcast. I suspect there's some congregational singing, maybe some announcements, undoubtedly an offering. We forget that happens when we're in Osteen's thrall from the comfort of our living rooms. Osteen and his people have figured out what elements of a church service as we've come to understand it translates to his chosen medium. He's found the product within the phenomenon of the gathered body of Christ, and he's packaged it up nice and brought it to market. I find myself less and less put out by Osteen. He's harmless and even, I daresay, sometimes helpful. I'm more concerned, frankly, by his medium than his message: if what he's selling is what church is, how long will it take before the whole world changes the channel?
Sunday, February 03, 2013
At times words can be a dangerous addition to music--they can pin it down. Words imply that the music is about what the words say, literally, and nothing more. If done poorly, they can destroy the pleasant ambiguity that constitutes much of the reason we love music. That ambiguity allows listeners to psychologically tailor a song to suit their needs, sensibilities, and situations, but words can limit that, too. There are plenty of beautiful pieces of music that I can't listen to because they've been "ruined" by bad words--my own and others. In Beyonce's song "Irreplaceable," she rhymes "minute" with "minute," and I cringe every time I hear it (partly because by that point I'm singing along). On my own song "Astronaut," I wrap up with the line "feel like I'm an astronaut," which seems like the dumbest metaphor for alienation ever. Ugh.I can imagine David Byrne singing that Beyonce song, actually. In case you don't know it, it goes a little something like this:
To the left, to the left . . .Whereas Beyonce sounds strong and defiant, as is typical of her, David Byrne's version sounds much more plaintive as I imagine it. Beyonce keeps her head up, but Byrne's head is decidedly down. I was surprised by how candidly Byrne throws Beyonce under the bus in this passage, but in his defense, he does sing along. Not to mention that rhyming a word with the same word is a pet peeve of mine as well. I once got so vocal about it that a friend wrote a poem to mock me for it. Each line ended with the word me, which was extraordinarily funny. The only line I remember, however, is this:
Everything you own in a box to the left . . .
Don't you ever for a minute get to thinking you're irreplaceable.
Loathing--such loathing!--for me and my clothing.That, my friends, is a great little lyric. I daresay that my friend was engaged in emergent storytelling twenty years before David Byrne wrote a book about it.