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

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.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Shipwreck, A Castaway

I've decided to take a break from the SBC posts for awhile and just make a normal person post. As many of you know, I love top 10 lists, and I make them throughout the day in my head ranging from ice cream flavors to sports cars. You also may know what a big part of my life music is. I can't go through the day without it - a lot of it. I decided to take on the task of making a top 10 list of MY favorite male vocalists. Notice that I didn't say "top 10 male vocalists of all time," just "my favorite." As a result, here are some things that did NOT go into the creation of this list: popular opinion, timeliness, how many records they've sold, how many albums they've made, whether they were ever a part of the rat pack, etc.

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

This is probably the best, not to mention the worst, idea that I have ever had

Before part four of the "What Kiel thinks about issues that cause conflict in the SBC" series, I've got a little story for you.

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.