Saturday, February 28, 2009

Relevant or Trendy?

A friend of mine recently sent this to me:

Position DescriptionWorship Pastor

Part-time. Church Relevant is looking for a worship leader who can rock it out! We're a brand new nondenominational church plant with a huge vision to impact and influence our current culture for Jesus. In just a few months we've grown to almost 100 people simply by word of mouth. We believe the next step for us is a slammin' worship team. If you have a fresh approach, a love for jeans, an appreciation for all things multi-media, a humble spirit and a passion to serve Jesus, then we would love to hear from you. These are the very earliest days in the CR; you could be part of building this vision that is all about "helping people find their way to Jesus". We're looking for radical people of faith who see tomorrow just as clearly as they see today.

Kent Comments:

Isn’t the ‘relevant’ motif for churches becoming a bit tiring?  There is nothing heretical per se about ‘rock it out’, ‘slammin’ worship team’, ‘love for jeans’ and ‘appreciation for all things multi-media.’  If those things get your church motor running, fine – I suppose.

But isn’t it about time to move beyond this whole ‘relevant’ business – which has become an annoying buzzword – to some model that does more than just skim the surface of our already superficial culture?

And there are dangers in the trendy ‘relevant’ model, dangers that are revealed in this notice.

Start with the idea of a ‘fresh’ approach.  Sounds hip, doesn’t it?  But a church can only be ‘fresh’ in some metaphorical sense.  So is the church like vegetables, which you want ‘fresh’?  Or is it more like fine wine or cheese, which should not be ‘fresh’ but aged?

Also, from what is written here, it appears that this ‘worship leader’ (notice the very truncated view of worship implied here) need have no particular level of musical knowledge.  All that matters is that he can ‘rock’ and ‘slam’ – whatever that might mean.

But beyond that, notice that ‘Church Relevant’ appears to have no concern whatsoever for the theological knowledge of this ‘worship leader.’  Multi-media manipulation skills seem to trump a deep knowledge of the Christian faith.

Think of how important it is for a church to sing good theology.  It is likely that more Bible doctrine (or lack of it) is ‘sung’ into a congregation than is ‘preached’ into it.  There is a whole tradition of church music over the centuries that can be drawn on to help convey the very essence of the Christian faith into the hearts of people.  Some of that will be missed if all we do is ‘rock and slam.’

But apparently, at ‘Church Relevant’ all they care about is the ‘rock and slam’ factor.  Is this really relevant, or is it just a very tired version of trendy?

It is time to abandon the idea that if only we could make our church ‘cool’ then we will have done the work of God.  As far as I can tell, the ‘cool’ factor is of no importance to God whatsoever.  Maybe we should adjust our thinking about church accordingly.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

‘Living In Sin’


I receive a daily email from Oxford University Press which contains small parts of a book they publish titled Garner’s Modern American Usage.  Today’s excerpt contained this:

living in sin. This phrase is on the wane. Even the Church of England has proclaimed that "living in sin" is a "most unhelpful" way of describing unmarried couples who cohabit. The Church estimates that four out of five couples live together before marrying. A major Church report in 1995 therefore concludes that the phrase should be dropped. Ruth Gledhill, "'Living in Sin' Is No Longer Sinful, Says Church Report," Times (London), 7 June 1995, at 1.

Kent Comments:

Word usages both reflect and influence the way we think about things.  Here is a good example.  Now “even’ the Church of England has declared that ‘living in sin’ is (and notice the delicate wording here) a most unhelpful way of describing the condition of those who ‘shack up.’  (To use a euphemism which, itself, is a rather interesting phrase.)

Suppose, though, we are not interested in being ‘helpful’ (whatever that might mean) but instead would like to be accurate.  Is it ‘living in sin’ when the unmarried live together and (implied) engage in sexual relations outside of marriage?

Someone will no doubt say that are all ‘living in sin’ in some way or other, meaning simply that we all sin.  But, of course, that does not change the fact that engaging in sexual relations outside marriage is a sin.

Without going into a complete defense of this claim, it is the case that it is based on the historic Christian faith.  If the historic Christian faith is true, then ‘living in sin’ is an accurate description of what we are talking about here.

As ‘the Church’ (of England) points out, many people engage in this behavior.  That, of course, is irrelevant as to whether or not it is a sin.  But if you would rather not make people feel bad by accurately describing their behavior, then, as the report says, ‘the phrase should be dropped.’

But if you are interested in the truth (which, apparently, the Church of England is not) then perhaps we should keep using the phrase.  And there is a benefit even beyond this.

Calling a sin a sin is a way of exerting social pressure.  Social pressure is not a bad thing – it can be very good.  Using a negative name for bad behavior can be a peaceful way of discouraging bad behavior.  But it seems the Church of England doesn’t want to do that, either.

Perhaps we need more, not fewer, negative names for bad behavior.  And this could create a lot of jobs for linguists!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More ‘Green’ Garbage


There appeared recently in Christianity Today a review of the relatively new ‘Green Bible.’  As you might guess (if you can make it past that nauseous feeling brought on by the constant repetition of ‘green’ in every conceivable venue these days) this is a Bible by environmentalists, for environmentalists.

The review is fairly negative, and worth reading.  But I was reminded of the nature of ‘environmentalism’ by one remark in the review.  In speaking of the many introductory essays in this ‘green’ Bible, the reviewer says:

All these resources aim to orient readers to Scripture's concern for the natural world, along with its calls for social justice and poverty relief.

We should all be in favor of not dumping our garbage in our neighbor’s yard.  But environmentalism has become an ism that goes far beyond this simple desire.  As in this review, it comes packaged with “calls for social justice and poverty relief.”

Now, if those terms were properly defined, I would call them legitimate concerns of Christians.  But what they typically mean in ‘green’ contexts is this:  forced wealth redistribution and the accompanying destruction of free enterprise.

This would be amusing were it not for the fact free enterprise produces both the wealth that the ‘greens’ want to redistribute and the technology that makes cleaner living possible.

But we are dealing here with a popular, yet deadly, ism and such things are often mindless and relentless – which by the way is a terrifying combination.

‘Green’ is not a color any Bible should be, because it stands for a cluster of ideas that are anti-Christian at their roots.  If you look carefully, you can see hints of this fact in many unexpected locations.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where, Exactly, Is That Economic Crisis?


[still another announcement from the university where I minister]

Don’t Miss the First Rock Concert at the BOK!

NKU Students be sure to come to The Bank of Kentucky Center on Monday, February 23 at 6:30pm. The Bank of Kentucky Center will be rockin’ out as Buckcherry, Avenged Sevenfold, Papa Roach, and Saving Abel take the stage for the first rock concert at the new Center. Tickets are only $41.75 and can be purchased at The Bank of Kentucky Center’s Box Office, online at, or by phone at 513.562.4949.

Kent Comments:

Here at our university the president has recently been complaining about needing to make budget cuts.  Kentucky is supposed to be in an economic crisis.  Nationally, we are all on the verge of collapse.  We need bailouts.  We need help.  We are on the fiscal edge.

Well, maybe not.  I have no idea what a ‘Buckcherry’ is, but I do know what economic luxury amounts to, and here we have some.

If there are more than a dozen students at NKU who can afford to pay over $40 to see some stupid rock concert, then we are not hard up at all.  We are just spoiled rich people who want our luxuries, and then complain when someone else doesn’t pay for our necessities.

As long as these kinds of events are being patronized, I have to say, “Stop your whining about the economy.”

Choices, Choices and More Choices


[from the announcement list at the university where I minister]

Students for Choice

Come join us every Wednesday at 3:30pm in SU 108 and see for yourself what we’re all about!

Our mission is to inform, advocate, and protect people’s rights to safe and healthy reproductive services and to maintain a future in which all people’s rights are respected. Each member may feel differently about which issues to address according to her/his own personal beliefs but every reproductive justice activist believes that it is not in the power of the government to decide what a woman, man, or transgendered person can do with their own bodies and their own lives.

Kent Comments:

There are many problems implicit in this little announcement, apart from the grammatical errors in the last line.  I will skip many of these to focus on one point.

Notice that it is not, according to this group, within the (rightful) power of government to decide what a “person can do with their [sic] own bodies and their [sic] own lives.”

This is correct, as far as I can determine, just as long as the person in question is doing whatever she is doing only to her own body and life, and not the body and life of someone else.  But, of course, this group thinks that a living baby inside a mother’s body is just another part of that body.  Some even see the unborn baby as an ‘invader’ to be expelled by force.

That is a bit like inviting friends to spend their vacation at your house, and then drawing your gun in the night and shooting them because they have ‘invaded your home.’

But notice that this group also seems to believe that people have a right to “safe and healthy reproductive services.”  While they don’t state it here, you can be sure that they see it as the responsibility of the government, i.e., their fellow taxpaying citizens, to provide these “reproductive services.”

So let’s summarize their position: don’t you tell me whether or not I can kill an unwanted baby, but I will tell you the services I want that you must pay for.

These, then, are the ideological children of the Obama administration.  And all is right with the world.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

So Are We All Racists Now?


[What follows is an excerpt from a Christianity Today article.]

Q&A: What Obama's Election Means for the Segregated Church
Michael O. Emerson on why black and white evangelicals can't believe the other voted as they did.
Interview by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra posted 12/19/2008 08:12AM

Michael O. Emerson is founding director of the Center on Race Religion, and Urban Life at Rice University.

What does an Obama victory mean for potential racial reconciliation in the church? How would his loss have affected reconciliation?

If he had lost, I would be worried. There would have been less hope, among African Americans in particular. But the fact that he won has the opposite effect—there is a hope. It provides a new energy to discuss race reconciliation. We're becoming a more diverse nation. He didn't get the majority of the white vote, so that means nonwhites overwhelmingly voted for him. They will also have power and influence in our churches and everywhere else.

Did white Christian or evangelical voters miss an opportunity by not supporting Obama?

Yes. I'm already hearing that. I've heard some African American leaders questioning white Christian leaders who questioned Obama's depth of faith and his commitment to Christian principles. There's the potential for more divide on that front.

What is more likely to happen: racial reconciliation because of Obama's win, or racial divide because of how Christians split over the vote?

It depends on what Christian leaders do. Will they get together and discuss what it means and how can we move forward? Or will they fire stuff back and forth, questioning one another's Christianity? I'm hopeful that there will be reconciliation, but there are some steps along the way that will decide for us what really happens.

Kent Comments:

I am almost – but not quite yet – tired of thinking about Barack Obama.  For these comments, I am assuming that Michael O. Emerson’s comments as given above are an accurate summary of what went on in the last election with that large segment of American Christendom that we label ‘Evangelical.’

I sometimes wonder if I even live in the same world as described by some.  I have never held ill-will toward anyone because of skin color.  But it seems that is all some can think about recently with the election of a somewhat-black President.  I think that lightly-brown color of Obama is very becoming.  Being all ‘pinkish’ as I am seems rather bland in comparison!  In the end, that shouldn’t be important. 

Perhaps I bring a unique perspective to all this.  I don’t dislike Obama because his skin is darker than mine.  I have no problem whatsoever that his father was from Africa, while mine was from Indiana.

What I don’t like about Obama is his leftist, statist, totalitarian ideas.  I wouldn’t object to his holding those ideas, but when he was made President he gained the power, along with his friends in Congress, to impose those ideas on the whole country.

But why, you ask, do you so dislike those ideas?  I find them revolting for two main reasons.

First, if fully implemented those ideas will damage civilization.  That is a long story that I have hinted at elsewhere in the blog, but I won’t detail it here.

Secondly, and this is also part of the reason behind that first point, those ideas are brazenly anti-Christian.  There is no way to reconcile using the force of the state to make people pay for abortions with the teaching of the Christian faith, just for one very significant example.

A brown man who would properly apply Christian principles to the office of Chief Executive would have been something I would have campaigned for, voted for, and supported with enthusiasm.  But Obama is nothing close to that, except for the skin color part.

So if it is true, as the interview above indicates, that ‘African American’ leaders can’t understand why some ‘white’ Christian leaders have questioned Obama’s faith, I have to be very worried that my perhaps naive view that ‘color doesn’t matter’ was stupidly mistaken.

If ‘African American’ Christians really would have had “less hope” had Obama lost the election, I have to worry that perhaps these ‘African American’ Christians are not really as color-blind as I thought Christians should be.

And if ‘African American’ Christian leaders cannot understand why some people might question Obama’s commitment to Christian principles – that is, if they really think that Obama’s principles are Christian – then there is a great ‘racial’ divide where there should not be one.

That divide, if things are as this interview indicates, is between the understanding of these ‘African American’ Christians and the Christian faith itself.

In other words, if you examine Obama’s principles and do not realize that they are distinctly not Christian, then I have to worry about your understanding of the Christian faith.

This indicates that there is a very dangerous split in the Christian community.  It is not a simple split along the lines of race – as bad as that would be.  Rather, it is a split between Christians willing to recognize that Obama does not hold Christian principles, and those who do recognize that fact.

Truly tragic here is the fact that many on one side of that split are ‘African Americans’ who are apparently more enamored with having a black President than adhering to the Christian faith.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Better Explanation

Here is the beginning of a recent Breakpoint commentary:

No God Condones What?
The President and the Innocent

February 10, 2009

At the National Prayer Breakfast last week, President Obama seemed to signal that he has seen the light and is abandoning his radically pro-abortion agenda.

At least, that’s the only reasonable conclusion one could make after hearing the President, who says he's a Christian, also say: “There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know.”

So I could only surmise that the President now concludes that “no God” would condone the 1.6 million abortions performed each year in America—1.6 million innocent lives destroyed.

But I’ve checked the White House website, and it’s very clear that God’s disapproval hasn't changed the administration’s agenda one bit.

Here’s what the White House website says: “President Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority in his Administration.”

Well, in one way I’m glad I wasn't at the breakfast this year—I was speaking instead at Moody—because I’m not sure I would have been able to stay in my seat.

How can a President of the United States say that “there is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being,” when he himself favors a woman’s right to have an abortion under virtually every circumstance? How can he say that, when, as an Illinois state senator, he voted against the Illinois Induced Infant Liability Act, which would have protected the lives of babies who survived late-term abortions? When he even had the audacity to describe the act as “One more burden on a woman . . . I can’t support.”

Kent Comments:

Colson goes on to explain that he thinks this can be explained by Obama's being influenced by the subjectivism of postmodernism.  I would like to think so too, but there is a much more simple, and more likely explanation:

Obama is a boldface, totalitarian leftist, lying politician.

There - I think that explains it.

Slaves Like Us

The introduction to a recent Christianity Today article begins:

"The Lord Can Make You Free"
Slave-turned-abolitionist Frederick Douglass crusaded against the "soul-destroying religion" of the slaveholders.
Compiled by Tim Stafford | posted 2/11/2009 03:10PM

Frederick Douglass might be called the Barack Obama of the early 19th century—a figure who revolutionized expectations of black people simply by being himself. A brilliant writer, thinker, and orator, Douglass repeatedly confounded both friends and critics. They found it hard to believe a self-taught former slave could engage as an equal with the intellectual leaders of his day.

Kent Comments:

The article itself is rather interesting.  But this little editor’s introduction is enough to turn the stomach.  Frederick Douglass was the ‘Barack Obama’ of the 19th century?!?  Really?

How, you say?  He was “a figure who revolutionized expectations of black people simply by being himself.”

What an insult to Frederick Douglass!  So is the editor implying that Douglass was in favor of using taxpayer’s money for the murder of the unborn?  Was Douglass in favor of economic fascism?  (Anachronistic, but you get the idea.)

And leaving Douglass aside for now, in what sense has Obama ‘revolutionized the expectations of black people’?  What, exactly, are ‘black people’ expecting (in this editor’s mind, at least) to get when B.O. is just ‘being himself’?  Does this idiotic editor think black people now expect to get bigger welfare checks?  Do they expect to get ever more from the government, at the expense of everyone else?  (In this editor’s mind, that is.)

This editor’s fawning over B.O. ends up being very offensive, I would think, not just to the long-dead black man, Frederick Douglass, but also to all living Americans who happen to have a bit more pigment in their skin.

Maybe most darker Americans think this way, but I sincerely hope not.  I hope this editor is not the idiot he sounds like here.  I truly hope he is wrong.

Frederick Douglass thought it was wrong for people - any people - to be enslaved.  A slave, you might recall, is someone who is forced to work for others.  Obama is more than content to allow many Americans to work for the state.  Could we call this state-sponsored slavery?

Think of the extent to which our government has become like the southern slave-masters of old.  If we don’t work for them, we are punished.  When we do work for them, they ‘graciously’ hand out a pittance here and there to certain favored slaves, in an attempt to make all the slaves dependent upon the master.  And we slaves are supposed to enjoy this arrangement.

Yes, you slaves, let your expectations rise every higher.  Barack Obama is just ‘being himself’ and all is well with the world.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Yes, But It Shouldn't Be

Kent Comments:

It is an unfortunate fact of political life that the D.C. has become 'the center of the universe.'  It is, but it shouldn't be.

Because when it is, individual freedom is diminished.  Governments have power only at the expense of individuals.

In the comic strip, the blonde thinks she is 'the center of the universe.'  It is funny, and it points out the problem with egocentrism.  But there is something much worse than egocentrism.  Let's call it:


For while we can ignore people like the blonde, the government imposes itself upon us.  As it does so it begins to crowd out everything else.  It begins to try to replace family, friends, clubs, businesses (if you don't realize this you haven't been reading the news lately) until finally, it tries to replace:


And we are very close, if not there, already.  You can see that when people begin to think of the President as the 'messiah.'  When Congress thinks it has all power.  When courts claim to have the final say in all matters.

I suspect that God does not like this.  And as one New Testament writer reminds us, it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.