he's only chasing safety

Honestly, say this with a straight face. What are you waiting for?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Is it Progression if a Cannibal Uses a Fork?

I was intrigued the other day to find that Brian McLaren is apparently an "informal adviser" to Barack Obama. Since leaving his church, Obama may have needed a more relaxed and tolerant religious influence, thus McLaren is definitely a perfect fit for him. Here's what McLaren said recently concerning the Obama campaign:

"I think there's a very, very sizable percentage -- I think between a third and half -- of evangelicals, especially younger [evangelicals], who are very open to somebody with a new vision," McLaren said.

A friend of mine recently told me that he feels that just like right-wing conservatives have had knee-jerk reactions in the past on certain liberal issues, there is now a similar knee-jerk reaction among the younger generation going the other way. There's a big rush to usher in a new era of social justice and tolerance that's resulting in a mad scramble to raise the Obama flag and begin the redeeming of this country from it's narrow-minded, intolerant mindset. However, all of this prompts one glaring question in my mind:

What are you waiting for?

It seems that some have forgotten the very principles that define social justice, tolerance, and compassion. Why do we think a new president, new programs, and some new renewed sense of justice will change things when November rolls around instead of making the change in ourselves right now?

Look, this isn't some anti-Obama statement, it's just me pointing out the reality that you and I have the resources to begin impacting our communities (and the world) more than any president ever will. We each know people personally, have connections, and are in positions to begin bringing about social justice right now in our own towns and cities.

Find the homeless shelters in your area, donate your clothes, volunteer at a soup kitchen, encourage the brokenhearted, give someone a ride or help change a flat tire, promote racial harmony, and encourage everyone you know to do the same (need I go on?).

After Jesus' resurrection, why did he ascend to heaven and leave his people behind to carry on his work? Hadn't they all proved that they were capable of failure and falling short of the mark? The fact is, he knew that he had provided what they needed and would continue to do so. We've been given the best example of justice, mercy, and compassion we could ever ask for! So instead of waiting for someone to get into office and change things, let's change our hearts and start living out what we've been called to.

If you want to vote for Obama in November, more power to you - I myself am not voting. But whatever you do, don't wait for someone else to bring change, start making the change yourself and invite others to join you. Perhaps we can make a bigger difference in this world than any politician ever could.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

When I Get Home You're So Dead

For some reason, I had a very startling and terrifying realization today. Perhaps everyone else has already pondered this idea and dealt with it, and if so, I apologize. However, I've heard little about the subject and felt that it would be good to share it.

Throughout history, the Christian church as a whole has done some absolutely great things (by the grace of God, I might add) but as we all painfully know, the church has also done some very foolish and detestable things. Heretics burned at the stake, a whole race of people almost completely wiped away from their native land in the name of manifest destiny, proud slave owners in the church and a complete abuse and disrespect for African Americans in the church even after slavery was abolished.

There's no shortage of horror stories in the history of the church, but have you considered this - what will our great grand children be disgusted by when they look back at our generation of Christians?

Sure, we'd like to think we have it all figured out, but time has shown that we are more than capable of creating atrocities in the name of Christ and often do. What will our legacy be? Will it be our complete disregard of the poverty, disease, and death that plague our neighbors despite our sickening wealth and resources? We as the church collectively bat our eyes as we get bombarded with stories, pictures and facts of a poverty stricken world. Will we allow our shaking heads, light sighs, and "tsk tsk tsks" to be what we leave for our future brothers and sisters in Christ to remember us for?

Perhaps it will be our absolute raping of the environment even after we've been warned time and time again that will be the lasting picture of our generation. Despite the fact we've been entrusted by God to care for His creation, we have rudely spit in the face of the Great Artist who provided air for us to breath, sunsets for us to enjoy, and wildlife for us to protect. Do we want to be the generation of Christians who sat back and bulldozed the environment for the sake of bigger and cooler congregations who cared nothing for God's creation?

Maybe we will be remembered for our complete lack of cooperation with our brothers and sisters at any cost. At a time when unity is beyond a necessity, we have once again chosen to draw lines and point fingers, choosing instead to pridefully pat ourselves on the back for our correctness. Last week at the annual conference for the Southern Baptist Convention, a motion was made to cease all friendly cooperation with churches who allow women in particular roles of ministry. All friendly cooperation.

Sure, it's one person making the motion, but make no mistake, denominational pridefulness is rampant and will only continue to burn bridges and cause divisions until no one from outside the church has any desire to be a part of our Christian community. Is this the legacy we want to leave?

I'm no more enlightened than anyone else and have no "quick fix" answer to give. I'm just pointing out what I see that could eventually come back to haunt us. Those of you who know me may be getting ready to call me on my hypocrisy, but rest assured that my hand is shamefully raised and accepting of the blame that comes from these accusations. My hope and prayer is that by the grace of God we can muster the strength and integrity to repair our damages, realizing we will be held accountable for what we leave in our wake.

Thank you Jesus for being so very, very patient with us.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Why Christian Hip Hop Isn't a Failure

Sorry it's been so long. I've been enjoying my time away from school work since my classes ended back in May and I've also taken time away from blogging. Frankly, I don't have too much to say, but the things I have been wanting to talk about have taken awhile to form themselves into worthwhile posts inside my head. This post is a response to the article The Failures of Christian Hip Hop posted on April 29th of this year by Scott Schultz at the site Christ and Pop Culture.

The article has received an abundant amount of feedback from hip hop fans and non hip hop listeners alike, as it raises several questions about the effectiveness of Christians in hip hop and the success of the genre as a whole. Schultz admits in the article as being an outsider of Christian hip hop and is making his arguments based on what he has seen from the genre. Currently, another article is in the process of being written for the same site by Alan Noble, who is interviewing several artists and others involved in Christian hip hop to get a more rounded view of the issue.

Back in 1999, I came to know Christ as my personal Lord and Savior thanks in part to a good friend of mine who knew I was into hip hop sharing music with me from several Christian rap artists. We soon started our own group, recording a four song ep, playing shows around the area, and even got our own Christian hip hop radio show on a local station. In the past several years, I have had the pleasure of hosting other hip hop shows, writing for sphereofhiphop.com and Feed Magazine, and interviewing and spending time with many different Christian hip hop artists. I feel like I have a pretty good history and understanding of the genre, albeit not as much as others, but I do believe I can give a good defense of the genre and explain why it's not a failure and why we may need to redefine our definition of success.

First, hip hop is community based

Have you ever wondered why you can name the hometown city of any rapper you've ever heard of? Why can't we do this with other genres? (Sure, there are other bands and artists that we could easily state where they're from, but the fact is that this is much more prevalent in hip hop). The reason is because of the strong sense of community that lies in the roots of hip hop music. Even the beginnings of hip hop involved a desire to embrace your community and represent the area you call home. This is why so much respect lies in one's community and why "beefs" often erupt and cause divisions based on city, coast, area, etc.

Even rappers who don't "make it big" as far as radio play and MTV rotations are concerned can still be some of the most respected and locally famous rappers around. If you want proof, begin going city to city and polling people on their favorite rappers. You'll find that city to city, the name of the rapper will be different and it will always consist of rappers from the area. A perfect example of this is Playdough. Playdough is one half of the group ill Harmonics and is also part of Phonetic Composition and Deepspace 5. While ill Harmonics garnered some attention in the 90s as part of MTVs show "The Cut," Playdough and the other acts he has been involved in have never had breakthrough success that resulted in million plus record sales. However, on your next trip to Dallas, Texas (Playdough's home city) begin asking around about him. He's a regular fan-favorite battler and freestyler in the area for years and just last year was on Dallas' 97.9 The Beat's weekly listener-voted freestyle battle, Playdough reached the maximum amount of consecutive wins before having to be retired so others could have a chance.

Even in a hip hop mecca like Los Angeles, local crews like Tunnel Rats and LA Symphony have the respect of their peers and local hip hop listeners. In college, I was part of a weekly hip hop talk show with three other people, one of which was Salimar Madera from L.A. Upon meeting her and asking her if she knew who LA Symphony was, she replied "Of course! Everyone knows who they are." San Fransico hip hop listeners are focused on the rappers on their local label Quannum Projects. You MAY have heard one of the rappers from this label, Lyrics Born in a Diet Coke commercial a few years back. Otherwise, you'll have to hit the local clubs and radio stations to get a taste of what San Fran hip hop fans listen to. For many rappers, gaining the respect of their city is the highest achievement you could ask for. Even those who manage to breakthrough to mainstream media still always pride in their hometown. For someone who doesn't understand the importance of respect that lies deep in the heart of hip hop, a locally respected rapper with little to no mainstream success could easily be considered a failure, despite indications that point to the opposite.

Second, the Christian market failed to understand hip hop

The final remaining urban label in the Christian market, Gotee Records, recently cut ties with their major distribution companies and went back to being an independent label. In the process, they were forced to cut all hip hop acts besides John Reuben. In the late nineties and early 2000s, it looked like Tooth and Nail sub-label Uprok Records, along with Gotee, Grapetree, and several other independent hip hop labels signed onto major Christian distributors were destined for success that would have made this whole issue irrelevant. Instead, the big wigs in the Christian music industry dropped the ball on marketing the music to hip hop fans, and instead attempted infiltrating suburban youth groups and failed to see real results. What happened next was an arms-in-the-air "we give up" fire sale which resulted in hip hop acts in the clearance bin and a complete shutdown of record labels, leaving respected hip hop artists with no home and no money wondering how they were going to continue making music.

The only remaining hip hop acts signed to a Christian label are KJ-52, John Reuben, and Manafest, who now apparently define what Christian hip hop is. I don't want to use this particular post to bash these guys, but I will say that the Christian music industry was and is clueless when it comes to marketing hip hop. But hey, KJ sells well to the youth group crowd, so why not keep it up?

You could easily point the finger at "lackluster" artists without knowing what good hip hop is and without hearing the stories of those involved in the situation who saw CEOs that didn't care to listen to what people were saying about the genre and how it should work and watched their careers and their music get slapped in the face. Many of these artists are now signed to underground secular labels, independent labels, or are just releasing their music on their own via the internet or the ol' "out of the trunk" style. Despite the failures of the Christian labels, good Christian hip hop music is still around and is still making an impact if you take the time to look for it.

Third, hip hop is still affecting lives for Christ

This next section has nothing to do with platinum records and MTV Video Music Awards. Call it corny if you like, but Christian hip hop artists (through the creation of good and relevant music) have been and are still having an affect on the lives of listeners in the name of Jesus Christ. I'm just one example of someone who came to know Christ partly through good Christian hip hop music.

Crossover Ministries in Tampa, Florida, is a Christian community developed over a decade ago that is influencing thousands of lives through urban ministry in the form of hip hop. Cross Movement Ministries, a project of the Cross Movement, is doing the same in the Philadelphia area and beyond. Likewise, other communities are seeing the affects of hip hop ministry in their areas. The fact of the matter is, as much as everyone would like to see some of these deserving Christian artists sell a million records, the absolute number one reason for making this music is to use it to share the love of Christ with listeners. That doesn't mean that both can't be done together, as I already anticipate the response of "Well, (insert mainstream rapper here) is sharing their message and is having a bigger impact on its listeners than any Christian rapper I know of." Sure, and show me a media or artistic outlet where an Christian group or artist is having a bigger impact than its secular counterpart. It CAN be done, but we can't measure our success based on whether it is or not. We'd all love to see talented Christians dominate the music charts, but at some point we have to realize that the message of Christ, however loud or subtle it is, is not welcome in the hearts of unbelievers unless the door is opened by Christ himself.

These are just three big reasons I've been pondering on lately as to why I find it foolish to call Christian hip hop a failure. There are more reasons, and there are certainly areas where we can point to and say "yes, Christian hip hop failed here." However, I feel that despite the "failures" I've seen in the genre and in the careers of artists I know and love, I've seen much fruit and hearts that are dedicated to delivering good hip hop music to those who would hear it. I know some will still see me as naive and unable to see failure where it exists. That's fine. I've seen the success of it in my own life with my own ears and the same in the lives of others I know.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Same Dark Sweater

The semester is officially over for me and has been since Tuesday. I've used the extra time to watch the first season of Arrested Development. As you can tell, I'm already putting my seminary education to work. Our focus now is to continue the IMB application process and get overseas. In the meantime, it's summer (kind of) and we're heading back to Oklahoma next week for 10 days. While I do have some serious blogs coming soon, I have to start with a blog about summer music. There never seems to be a better time to roll down your windows, put on your sunglasses, cruise around town, and blare pop punk music from your car speakers than summer. I've come up with a list of ten essential summer albums (in no particular order) that have provided a summer soundtrack for me throughout the years. There's plenty more, but these are a few to get you through those lazy Summer days while you sip on a Mountain Dew.

FM Static - What Are You Waiting For? - This is just good ol' fashioned pop punk rock at its best. Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch put together this side project in 2003 and I'm glad he did. You're never too old for songs about heartbreak and high school (or are you?).

Yellowcard - Ocean Avenue - Punk music with a violinist. Nuff said.

LA Symphony - Call It What You Want - This album never got released due to stupid record label garbage. If it had, it would be on everyone's top summer album's list. As it is, you'll have to hit limewire if you want some songs off of this beauty.

Dead Poetic - New Medicines - Yes, Brandon Rike, your band did used to be screamo. I don't know why you're mad though, no one else seems to be. New Medicines is the shiz.

Underoath - They're Only Chasing Safety - Need to get out a little angst this summer? Or just feel like screaming at the top of your lungs and then listening to Aaron Gillespie sing you to sleep? Then check out TOCS.

St. Lunatics - Free City - This is Nelly's group that he grew up with in St. Louis. They didn't get as big as Nelly's solo stuff did, but this is still a great album.

Joey the Jerk - Average Joe - We could put just about any LA Symphony (or solo members) album on this list, but I picked this one because it helped get me though a tumultuous 2003 summer. Thanks Joey.

MxPx - The Everpassing Moment - You could also pick just about any MxPx album for this list, but this one is my favorite.

Grits - The Art of Translation - This is Grits back before they got weird. Fun album, and you can't go wrong with a song named Tennessee Bwoys.

PAX 217 - Engage - Although I'm not into it as much anymore, the whole nu-metal, rapcore, whatever you want to call it genre did have a good couple years. This is one of the better releases in the genre.

That's all. I've got more blogs coming very soon (if anyone still cares), including why Christian hip hop isn't a failure and a defense of my church. See ya then.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Don't Dink and Drance!

I must apologize for my lack of blogs. With the semester coming to a close, I've been overwhelmed by the amount of work I've put off until the last month which has resulted in a reduction in blogging (among other things). I don't have an original post for you this time, but I do have one for you by someone else. This week, my pastor, Wade Burleson, wrote a blog about the importance of unity among believers using the consumption of alcohol as an example. His post was money.

Check it out

Boo-yah. See ya later.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

They Don't Make Hallmark Cards for Moments Like This

It's been awhile.

Not only have I been strapped for time, but I've had to do some soul searching regarding this blog and what I really want to talk about here. I noticed a couple of weeks ago how several blogs had been discussing various amusements, and even the importance of a sense of humor and having a life. Getting caught up in the merriment, I made my last post and actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Previous to this, I had made four posts regarding my stance on various Southern Baptist issues, based on the reading I'm doing for my Southern Baptist Heritage class.

It seemed like a good idea since I wanted to be able to articulate my understanding of these various issues, and I actually got quite a bit of feedback (for better or worse). However, during the past few weeks I've been overwhelmed due to various circumstances at the horror of how easy it is for some people to get completely caught up in this stuff. I mean, people spend their whole lives sitting around talking and blogging about this stuff without ever making a difference. I'm not lumping everyone into the same category, I'm just saying that I can see that many people completely miss the point with all of this stuff and end up wasting their lives.

As a result, this will most likely be the last blog post on this site where I deal with this stuff. If you want to talk, talk. If you want to blog, blog. I'm not saying it's evil to do so when it comes to this stuff, I'm just saying that I don't think I really care anymore whether everyone on the internet knows or cares what I think about it. If people want to know, they'll ask. As for me, I need to make sure that my focus is correct and that my priorities really are in order. I'd hate to look back and see that i missed living life to the fullest because I was too excited about talking about the Who's Who of the Southern Baptist Convention or arguing over some trivial aspect of life instead of actually having one.

To wrap up the "What Kiel Thinks About the SBC" series, I've just got a quote from an author to post that I think speaks for itself. I recently read a book titled "Going for the Jugular: A Documentary History of the SBC Holy War." I think the title should give you a good vibe for what the book had to say. It was extremely informative and very interesting. I'd just like to share with you a few very interesting words from one of the authors, Walter B. Shurden.

"When a Christian believes he or she has a monopoly on the gospel and others err because they do not agree with a certain interpretation, trust is out of the window, reconciliation is impossible, and Christians with a different point of view are labeled dangerous and heretical. The uncompromising, non-negotiating aspect of fundamentalism can only be understood in light of their passionate conviction that fundamentalists and fundamentalists alone are the truth people. They think they are being 'fair' when they do not appoint people to committees who disagree with them. They think they are being 'fair' when they want people fired from faculties who do not agree with them. They think they are being 'fair' when they want only their kind appointed to positions of leadership in the denomination."

Please hear me say that I am no scholar on Baptist history and I'm okay with saying that I don't "know it all." Even more, I'm not trying to be a scholar on Baptist history and am quite sure that I never will "know it all." This has been made quite clear to me. What I do know is that I'm quite alright with that. I'm proud to be called a child of our great God and humbled to know that no matter how "wrong" my opinions may be, God still loves me enough to crush his Son for me and raise him from the dead, that I might be granted righteousness and eternity with him no matter how much I know or don't know. THAT is what I want my life to proclaim with all of its might, and due to the grace and mercy of our God alone, maybe it will.