Honestly, say this with a straight face. What are you waiting for?
Friday, August 1, 2008
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
"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
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
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
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
Check it out
Boo-yah. See ya later.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
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.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
This is simply a list of singers that can make me cry on the best day of my life or make me smile on the gloomiest of days. These are the voices that act as my therapists, the ones who seem to know exactly what I want to say, but can put it so much better than I ever could. Without further adieu, here they are.
Just Missed The Cut: William Beckett, Aaron Marsh, Craig David, and Trevor McNevan
10. Stephen Christian (Anberlin) - I've seen this guy live four times now, and it never gets old. He's got to have one of the most distinct voices in all of rock music right now, and incredible songwriting skills. Not to mention he's a cool dude, but that has nothing to do with being a good singer. Listen to: The Unwinding Cable Car (Cities)
9. Jason Gleason (Further Seems Forever, ActionReaction) - The first time I heard Jason Gleason sing, I was with my friend Mitch. I was entranced from the first note, this guy can flat belt it out. As much as I like his work with FSF, I think I like ActionReaction even better. It's much more solemn and his voice is gentler. Listen to: The Sound (How to Start a Fire)
8. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) - Kurt doesn't have the prettiest voice in the world. That's okay, because it's all about his rawness. I love listening to Nirvana and hearing the voice of a man that means what he's saying but couldn't give a crap what anyone thinks about it. There's something to be said for a guy who's not afraid to be himself. It's just too bad he's not around to still do it. Listen to: Come As You Are (Nirvana: Unplugged in New York)
7. Brandon Rike (Dead Poetic) - Brandon has to have the best range of anyone on this list, I've heard him hit notes that I didn't know guys could hit - and it still sounds good. While I'm a fan of all of his work, the songs from New Medicines tore me apart. Brandon is retired from music I guess, but hopefully he'll give us one more album. Listen to: Modern Morbid Prophesies (New Medicines)
6. Craig Owens (Chiodos) - Craig Owens is the author of most of my blog titles (sorry for stealing them dude). I think he may be the best song writer on this list, his lyrics are so incredible that you can often times literally feel the pain or the passion of him coming through the speakers. Not to mention he's got the voice that just about every lead singer of every scene band today wishes that they had. Listen to: Baby, You Wouldn't Last a Minute on the Creek (All's Well That Ends Well)
5. Phil Collins - I've had the pleasure of seeing Phil Collins in person, thanks to my pal Mitch. I don't know if I'll ever experience another musical performance like it - his voice is so pure, it's unreal. Not to mention he's just fantastic in just about every way you could ask a singer to be. And he plays a mean set of drums. Listen to: Another Day in Paradise (But Seriously . . . )
4. Mike Herrera (MxPx) - Mike is the voice of just about every mixed up, confused, trying to find his way kid in the world. I hope my kids have a songwriter like Mike to listen to when they grow up. He's got the perfect voice for a punk singer, and he sings songs that just about anyone can relate to. There's a lot of bands that owe Mike and the gang a big thank you. Listen to: Doing Time (Life in General)
3. Chris Carrabba (Further Seems Forever, Dashboard Confessional) - Unfortunately, I missed out on a lot of good Chris Carrabba years. Thankfully I've discovered his genius and he has quickly climbed my list. Chris is just about as honest as anyone you'll hear, and I can't even imagine his songs with a different voice. He's a very gifted man, and I hope he continues to make music for years to come. Listen to: Snowbirds and Townies (The Moon is Down)
2. Spencer Chamberlain/Aaron Gillespie (Underoath) - I decided that I couldn't split these two guys up. Sure, Spencer made music before he was with Underoath and Aaron has his own band now, but there's something about listening to these guys battle it out on each and every Underoath song. Spencer's roars and Aaron's melodies are at war and at peace at the same time somehow. Not to mention they are both amazing songwriters and I truly believe that they spy on my life in order to write their songs. Listen to: You're Ever So Inviting (Define the Great Line)
1. Jason Vena (Acceptance) - I'm not sure how this happened. Jason Vena made one complete album with his band before he bowed out of music and called it a career. There's just something about his voice that makes me want to cry every time I hear it. Hearing him sit on a stool and sing one of Acceptance's pop rock songs to nothing but an acoustic guitar just made me fall apart. The saddest part of this story is that I saw him perform live before I even knew who he was, and I was so excited to see another band that night that I barely paid attention. This is one unbelievably gifted man, and I hope he knows how much the few songs he wrote meant to me and to many others. Listen to: In the Cold (Phantoms)
That's all. How exciting. Maybe next week I'll get back to the "good" stuff. Until then, listen to Jason sing.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Ever go bowling? I haven't in awhile, so I decided that I would go with my wife and a friend this weekend. We planned on hitting the lanes on Saturday night. I knew it would be fairly busy, but this is the city right? We got there to find that they were having league bowling - something that bowling alleys do, but seriously, on a Saturday night? The place had 40 lanes and 38 of them were being used for league. There were 2 lanes (yes, I said 2) if we wanted to wait in line. We didn't.
Why in the world would you have league bowling on the night of the week that you are most likely to get casual bowlers? I mean, do people just sit at the dinner table on a Thursday night and say "Hey, let's go bowling tonight!" Obviously I don't own a bowling alley, so I don't know how all of this works, apparently I'm stupid. Now, on with the show . . .
The Social Gospel
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the social gospel as "the application of Christian principles to social problems." It sounds simple, but the social gospel has caused just about as much trouble and controversy within various denominations as anything. Even today, emotions run high when the topic is discussed and it is often viewed as a liberal idea amongst evangelical Christians, particularly many Southern Baptists.
Former SBC President Bailey E. Smith discussed the social gospel during his 1982 Presidential Sermon, saying:
"We will not escape the deadness of the so-called social gospel that has done very little good for society and has no gospel. They speak of race relations, world hunger, temperance, and human ethics, but it has always been the evangelistic Bible-honoring church that has opened its doors to all races and put food on the table of the hungry."
Before I continue with this discussion, understand that I am not using this quote as a blanket statement for the view of all Southern Baptists, that would obviously be foolish. However, it would be just as foolish to assume that only a few fundamentalist Christians within the SBC view the social gospel as such, thus it would be good to take a look at the validity of a statement such as this, and what the Bible (particularly Jesus) has to say about it.
First, let's begin with the notion that the social gospel has done very little good for society. Is it really wise to assume that Christians who are in Africa right now providing medicine and clean water for the natives there are doing no good for the society? What about those seeking peace overseas in the midst of religious conflict? Are the people who arrive at the local kitchen at 5 a.m. every day to begin cooking breakfast for the homeless people in the streets of your city doing nothing more than bringing deadness to society? I don't believe that anyone would agree with that. Or have we forgotten the words of our Lord Jesus?
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." - Matthew 5:7
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." - Matthew 5:9
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'" - Matthew 25:41-45
I could go on, but I know you get the point. The fact of the matter is, Jesus spent an enormous amount of time during his earthly ministry healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and comforting the weak. Even more than that, he warned against those who fail to do just as he did! This isn't to say that the spoken word Gospel of the work of Jesus Christ be dismissed, but that it should not be given without action! The Pharisees were rebuked by Jesus for giving their offering to the church but neglecting justice and the love of God to those around them.
Secondly, is it really only the "evangelistic Bible-honoring church that has opened its doors to all races and put food on the table of the hungry"? I'm not sure how such a statement can be made. Certainly, some evangelistic Bible-honoring churches have done so, but many have not. Consider the Southern Baptist church near the U of L that I spoke of a couple of months ago that refuses to reach out to its community while the Church of Christ down the street draws 70 young people off the street every Wednesday night for a much needed meal and a dash of compassion. We would be dangerously arrogant to presume that ONLY evangelistic "Bible-honoring" churches care about society. What classifies "Bible-honoring" anyway? Are we seeking to honor the whole Bible or just the parts that are convenient enough for us?
Many Christians and churches around the world are opening their doors and their lives every day to meet the needs of needy people, who I might add are made in God's image. Where were you and I this morning at 5 a.m. while one of the men I met in Tulsa, OK, two years ago who runs an inner city kitchen called The Iron Gate fired up the burners to feed hundreds of homeless people who walk for miles for a hot meal? "Deadness"? I think not.
Let it be said as many times as need-be that work apart from the good news of Jesus Christ is not the true Gospel. Let it also be said that the spoken word Gospel without compassion and mercy in the form of social action ought to be raising just as many eyebrows. How dare we give them a Bible verse and yet walk away from their needs knowing full well that we have the means to provide for them.
I'm going to leave you with a quote that makes me swallow so hard it hurts. This is because I've seen this quote used as an excuse for not sharing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ with our mouths. Although I don't usually look to Roman Catholic friars for my theology, I wrestle quite often with this thought-provoking quote from St. Francis of Assisi.
"Preach the gospel everywhere you go, and, if necessary, use words."
As my wife pointed out to me, it is necessary to use words in order that God receives the glory, and not ourselves, however, words apart from action result in much of the same. The Gospel must be preached by both our words and actions. Like it or not, every one of us could use a dose of what it means to live out the Christian life by showing compassion and mercy to those around us. Those of us who do implement social action into our Christian lives are not abandoning the truth of the Bible and are certainly not replacing the Good News of Jesus' death and resurrection with our actions. Unfortunately, it is difficult for many to comprehend how this is so. The social aspects of the Gospel are worth wrestling with and they're worth talking about. How do I know? Well, I think Jesus told us to.
Monday, February 25, 2008
So according to the weather men, it was supposed to be in the low 50s today. It never got out of the 30s. I've gone most of my life scoffing at weather men and anyone who seems to think that they can see into the future, but as I've aged and gained responsibilities, I seemed to have thought it wise to keep up with expected weather and plan parts of my day around it. No more. I'm going to go back to just going with the flow and not listening to the TV shaman that tell me the future.
This week's post is a continuation in the "What Kiel thinks about issues that cause conflict in the SBC" series. I'm unbelievably surprised at the amount of feedback I've gotten so far. Maybe people care more about what I think than I thought. Or maybe no one will reply to this post and things will return to normal. Whatever the case, I should let you know that a certain blogger over at http://thisblogchoseyou.wordpress.com/ discussed this week's issue earlier this week with a great post you should check out. Head on over to Bryan's blog.
During the past few years, some Southern Baptists have taken a very peculiar stance on homosexuality. It has been stated that if a method were developed to somehow reverse homosexuality in an unborn child to make him or her heterosexual, such a method should be endorsed by Christians, just as we would endorse any method that would decrease the temptation of anyone.
As much as I respect the opinion of some of my fellow Southern Baptists, I must strongly disagree with this stance. For some reason, homosexuality has become the most vile of all sins amongst evangelical Christianity over the past decade or two. What's even more embarrassing is that there is actually conversation among Christians involving "what to do about it" as if homosexuality hasn't been around more than a few years.
Before I get into that though, I'll respond to the idea that science can somehow cure sin and other stances that insist that homosexuality is some evil switch that gets flipped on or off. I'll begin by saying as forcefully as I possibly can that to state that we should interfere with God's creation in such a way as to "take away" or "rid" someone of a particular sin is an absolute slap in the face to Christ's work on the cross. Who are we to reach into the womb of a mother and decide the outcome of what God has already ordained? Furthermore, who are we to think that we can take away sin?
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." - Psalm 139:13
"Just as man is destined to die once, and after that face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people, and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." - Hebrews 9:27-28
The work is done, Christ has taken away the sins of his people. There is no need to further attempt to deal with the problem of sin - we can't deal with it. That's precisely why Christ came to die, nothing we do could ever be enough. Why is it not suggested that we find unborn children who will be prone to be alcoholics? Or adulterers? Why not genetically cure everyone of all sins before they are even born? Because it would do no good. We cannot take away the sin of anyone, only Christ can do that.
Because of the direction this post is taking, it would be wise of me to say that I'm not pulling a Brian McLaren here and getting ready to tell you that we need to wait it out a few years before the church takes a stance on homosexuality as a sin. I do believe that it is, in fact, sin. However, I will now address the second problem facing the church in regards to homosexuality, and that is the inability of our fellow Christians to understand homosexuals and treat them in a respectable and loving way.
For some reason, it seems that our churches equate welcoming a homosexual into our company with carrying them to the pulpit. This reaction to homosexuality in the church is just ridiculous. Every single one of us entered into the church as a sinner - maybe not struggling with the sin of homosexuality, but struggling with sin just as deserving of death and judgment. In fact, I would go so far as to say that every one of you is struggling with sin right now leaves you in a terrible predicament if not for the grace of God. Why is homosexuality so different? It's certainly not something to overlook, but nor is it something to get scared about or be deemed as too far for the grace of God to reach. God is more than capable of saving a homosexual, just as he is also capable of saving anyone he so chooses. How dare we decide who is good enough for God's grace.
I would urge you to go out this week and befriend a homosexual person. I feel like I can't even say it without it sounding like "go out and make friends with a grizzly bear." I promise, they won't bite - and in fact, you might just find out that they're human beings just like you. No different. No less deserving of the grace of God. No less fun to joke around with, to share a meal with, to be friends with, and to love - just like everyone else. Let's stop dividing people into the who's in and who's out circle of God's love and start acting like people are in need of it and we have the means to share it with them.
Friday, February 15, 2008
This week is the second installment of posts I'm making on issues that cause conflict within the Southern Baptist Convention and where I stand on the issue. This week's topic is the role of women in ministry.
Women in Ministry
I spent the summers of 2004, 2005, and 2006 working in inner-city Tulsa with a Methodist organization called Project Transformation. The goal of the organization is to move into dwindling or struggling churches within the inner city community and begin to restore a bond between the people of the community and the church through offering the children a summer program. A team of 5 or 6 college students is assigned to a church where they put together a daily program for children in 1st-6th grade that consists of math and computer skills, art, reading, songs, games, Bible study, and much more. Also, the children are provided breakfast and lunch along with a safe, positive, and loving environment, which is unusual for most of them.
Each of the three summers, I was assigned to a different Church in Tulsa. My final summer, I worked at Grace United Methodist Church on the west side of the city. The pastor there was a woman named Cindy Mayes. Cindy pastored this church along with another church in the area, which means she was doing the ministry of two people - an amazing feat. Cindy is one of the most loving and compassionate people I've ever met, I wouldn't trade my time in ministry with her for anything. Seeing her passion for that community was astounding and truly inspiring for me, especially when I found myself wondering "what's the use?" on certain days while she pushed on with a smile and a positive attitude.
I believe that God has given different roles to men and women. I believe that God created Adam as the head of Eve, and the Genesis account seems to make clear that Adam had responsiblity to lead his wife and was given responsibility for her mistake in the garden - it was his too. Contrary to what most say, I truly believe that our great struggle since the fall is to regain the roles that God made for man and woman and declared to be good. When God says to Eve in Genesis 3, "Your desire will be for your husband" he's saying that she will desire his role, to have authority over him. This was not meant to be.
I wish there was a simple way to convey the roles of men and women without causing others to feel as if women are being given the short end of the stick. Just quote 1 Timothy 2:12, which says "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent," and immediately tempers will flare and ideas will be misunderstood. I believe that the role God has given to women is a beautiful and wonderful role to fulfill, but to explain this to those who do not hold this is extremely difficult. And maybe rightfully so.
I've always wondered how, for example, how the husband of a woman pastor could be expected to be the spiritual leader of his household. How does that work? But yet, I look at Cindy's situation in Tulsa and see that she seems to be meeting the needs of her community. Should we penalize her with not "following God's commands" when there are no men stepping up to do the job there? Would it be better for no one to be leading a church in that community? What about single woman missionaries, should they evangelize only to women? How do you do that in a culture where women aren't even allowed to associate with others and everything must go through the husband? Should we just leave these places unreached until a willing man comes along to do the job?
I cannot convince myself that this is the case.
Which leaves me at a crossroads of sorts. I truly believe that the pastoral role is reserved for men and that men are to lead their households in loving them as Christ loved the church. At the same time, I stand and applaud Cindy Mayes for her commitment to serving the hurt, unloved, and struggling people of Tulsa. Cindy is an example of what the Christian life should look like in practice, and I can't imagine having not worked with and learned from her. In fact, it's hard to imagine Grace UMC without her, as she is now pastor of prayer and belonging at Asbury United Methodist Church on the east side of Tulsa.
This probably makes my stance as clear as mud, but I just can't make it any clearer at this point in my life. Maybe one day I'll understand completely the roles of men and women in God's kingdom, but I believe that day will be when I stand before him. I can't wait for that day to come.
Friday, February 8, 2008
I began my reading (albeit begrudgingly, as I wasn't too interested in Southern Baptist history) with a book called Baptist Battles. Some researchers from Emory University did a study on the Southern Baptist Convention - it's history, the divisions among the members, what they believe, and how that has affected the course of the SBC. It's been fascinating to learn about where the SBC came from and why certain divisions and disagreements exist. I've really enjoyed it.
The interesting part is finding out which category of Southern Baptists I fall into - because it seems that I'm a bit of a weirdo. I don't seem to fall in line with any particular side. I'm definitely not fundamentalist, and I'm far from being completely liberal. Yet, I'm not completely in the middle, because some of my views are strikingly fundamentalist, while others are quite liberal, and still others fall somewhere in between. Therefore, I'm going to be taking some time over the next few weeks to discuss my stance on particular Baptist issues, possibly more for my own benefit than for yours, because . . . well, do you really care what I think? I didn't think so.
The Inerrency of Scripture
I believe that the 66 books of the Bible that we have were written by men that were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Each of these men had motives what they were writing and undoubtedly had their own agenda. I have no problem with this, because I believe God used each of these men to get across what he wanted to. I take the Bible literally, although not completely. I mean, Jesus saying that He is the door does not that he really is a door. There are certainly stories, metaphors, poetry, and many other things that are to be taken in their context. This is why I believe it is important for Christians to learn these different writing styles and the context of each writer to better understand what the writer intended.
I do not believe that Scripture is to be read in a way that it means whatever someone wants it to. Certainly, the writers had a point when they wrote and weren't just writing so that we could take whatever we wanted from it. No, all of Scripture has an exact meaning, and we should work dillegently to understand it.
All of this being said, I firmly believe that it is preposterous to claim to have the Bible compeltely understood. It would be absurd for us to treat others with different understandings of Scripture as idiots. I'll give a few examples:
I believe in a literal six day creation. I feel that I can give a very good defense for it, but not a complete defense. Nor do I believe that one can be sufficiently made. I have good Christian friends who believe that the world was created over the course of several thousands/millions of years. They have no less of a defense than I do. Yet, to make such a claim about the world not being created in six days is enough to be labeled a liberal and a danger to the inerrency of Scripture.
I am a five point Calvinist. I don't agree with everything about John Calvin, but I do hold to his five TULIP points. I have very good Christian friends who are Arminian and believe in human free will to an extent to which I cannot. I belive the Bible is clear on these issues, but yet I went years of my life believing the opposite. While I can give a defense of my beliefs in this area (and regularly do) I find it nearly impossible to "convert" someone to Calvinism based on any argument that I can give.
My point is, God is the one who makes the Scriptures clear to us, not ourselves. I believe that there is a right and a wrong to each issue, but for anyone to claim that their way is competely right and inerrent is just silly. Each of us is capable of error and misunderstanding. This is why I think kindly dissent and decent conversation is so important among Christians - especially Southern Baptists. Perhaps if we were more willing to listen to our brothers and sisters in Christ instead of attacking anyone who differs from us, we might become more open to understand God through his Word in a new and different way - after all, it is all about him right?
Monday, January 21, 2008
I do know that I finished up with my Emerging Church reading that I engaged in over the past two months. I may blog on that later and give my final synopsis. I will say, that if you're like me and you avoided reading "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller because he's so cool and trendy and all the hip college kids like him, put down your armor and read that book. It was amazing to me. It was so refreshing to hear words from an ordinary dude who cares about his faith but is honest enough to address his faults. It has easily become one of my favorite books.
So earlier, I was reading the Modesty Writers Guild which is a blog written by Stephen Christian, the lead singer for the band Anberlin. Not only is he an amazing singer, but he's got some awesome things to say. Some of it may be a bit to liberal for some people, but if that's you . . . get over it I guess. Okay, that was a bit rude, if you don't want to read his blog, you don't have to. But he's got some great things to say and he's taking a trip to Guatemala to address poverty there in June that I would love to be apart of if I get the opportunity.
In his latest blog, he discusses the war in Iraq. I know, I know, I'm tired of talking about it too. But he brings up some very balanced and fair points. After discussing the good things that have come from this war for the sake of the Iraqi people, he gives these statistics:
"i recently read an article on an education portal, which was explaining that we pay about $186,000 per minute (total of 443.7 billion). it is not the amount of zeros that make this frustrating its that they went on to say that with that amount of money we could put 21,510,598 (the amount of every high school student in the united states) students through a four year college education at a state school, add 7,689,734 million more teachers to our school system."
I hope that blows you away. And like Stephen, I hope it makes you question whether that's a bit too American focused to discuss in depth. Because obviously, if not for what's already been accomplished in Iraq, the people there would not have recovered many of the freedoms that have been given back to them. I think the point is though, think about what we could be doing with our youth here in America to ensure a more educated and better world. Perhaps, as Stephen says, we could "raise up a generation who values the power of the pen over the sword."
I'm not trying to push a pro or anti war agenda here, I'm just giving you some things to think about before you slap another "I hate Bush" or "I cry tears of blood for our troops because I support them so much" bumper sticker on the back of your vehicle instead of interacting with other people and displaying your opinions in a way that is at least a little respectful AND respectable.
Sorry that sentence was so long, but it's been bottled up inside me for quite awhile now. If you have one of those bumper stickers on your car, I still love you. As for me, I'm out until next time.