True beauty // Q&A John Crist // The pot factor // Summer in the inner city // forgiveness
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SUMMER 2014 | Issue 18
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2 | CONVERGE. Summer
Issue 18 // Summer 2014 Reflect
Technology and Incarnation
Innovations in music, technology, and industry.
Christmas in July Homelessness does not go away in the summer. So why does our compassion?
To toke or not to toke Don’t be left behind in the smoke. A few things you need to know about marijuana.
True beauty Looks like culture is finally making “just being you” a beauty standard.
15 16 18
Look up on Facebook, hook up with an app.
Forgiveness without closure Q&A: John Crist What it means to be a Christian in the entertainment industry.
An open letter to the social network.
20 22 26
The Science of Miracles An account of inexplicable healing.
Technology and children Should tablet time be tapered?
Culture Marketplace Last Word
28 30 42 46 48
Examining science and technology
We’ve got the issues under a microscope
Feature reading Creation-evolution standoff The ongoing battle between evolution and creation. Will we ever learn from either side of the argument?
Desire gone digital
The seductive allure of online lust, and how apps make “getting down” a whole lot easier. convergemagazine.com
converge Magazine .com Converge media publishes honest and intelligent content: personal stories of beauty and grit and issues of cultural importance engage, challenge, and reveal how Christ is present in all things.
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“Each new [scientific] discovery, even every new theory, is held at first to have the most wide-reaching theological and philosophical consequences. It is seized by unbelievers as the basis for a new attack on Christianity; it is often, and more embarrassingly, seized by injudicious believers as the basis for a new defence. But usually, when the popular hubbub has subsided and the novelty has been chewed over by real theologians, real scientists, and real philosophers, both sides find themselves pretty much where they were before.” — C.S. Lewis, “Religion and Rocketry” in regards to life on other planets, C.S. Lewis’ words still resonate. Cemented into our cultural codes we — Christians and atheists alike — fully ingest the belief that says if you’re a Christian, then you shouldn’t think scientifically. And if you do, well, then undoubtedly you aren’t truly a Christian. Because faith requires belief in the unseen, while science sets its sights on proof. So faith and science are perpetually staged as opponents. And once both sides have thoroughly trumpeted their arguments, they settle back onto their haunches, unmoving, deaf to their combatants. Indeed, this is the modern myth: that religion and science are like toothpaste and orange juice. Both are good independently, but when you try and mix them, all that’s left is a foul taste in your mouth. But Christians incorporating technology, or the practical application of scientific knowledge, is another story. It’s rare that an evangelical church doesn’t have a large screen at the front of the sanctuary that displays worship lyrics and sermon outlines. The United Methodists have explored whether communion could be administered in their online church community. Heck, countless churches across North America encourage congregants to live tweet their Sunday morning worship experience. Although his essay was originally published in 1958
Flickr photo (cc) by Sweetie187
But it hasn’t always been this way; certainly, many churches still seem to be divided along generational lines in terms of adaptation to technology. I’m not as naïve to suggest that the evolution versus creation debate is comparable to drums versus organs; but I think there is something to learn from both of these discussions. Many promoters of the utilization of technology, people who think Christians have to be flexible and think beyond church traditions, say technology is a tool to spread the hope found in Christ. At the end of the day, whether it’s tweeted or live-streamed, the gospel message remains the same. And hopefully it goes viral. But, as Nicki Lamont explores in “Next Generation of iTods,” a full embrace of technology has its consequences; the medium can easily overpower the message (or become, as Marshall McLuhan says, the message). Jenn Co shares in “Unfriending Facebook” how routinely checking Facebook can turn into a serious addiction. And there’s no doubt, as Bret Mavrich writes, that technology’s lure is a dangerously seductive one. So perhaps, as Paul Arnold explores in “Creation-Evolution Standoff,” there needs to be room for grace in these arguments, that each perspective should listen to and learn from the other. Otherwise, as Lewis writes, “both sides find themselves pretty much where they were before.”
Leanne Janzen editor
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Technology and Incarnation By Brett McCracken
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
Flickr photo (cc) by Kat N.L.M.
Brett McCracken is a Los Angeles-based journalist and author of Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism & Liberty, as well as Hipster Christianity. Follow him on Twitter @brettmccracken or at stillsearching. wordpress.com
’ve been thinking about the incarnation recently. What does it mean that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us? In our increasingly disembodied world — where everything exists in the cloud and we interact with each other mostly through screens or blips of digital communication — what have we gained and lost when it comes to understanding and valuing the incarnation? I was interested and a little disturbed by the news that Facebook recently spent $2 billion to acquire Oculus VR, a virtual reality tech startup. But I wasn’t all that surprised. Social media already perpetuates a “virtual” reality where we perform, pontificate, emote, and express ourselves differently than we would in the real world. It’s only natural that enhancing the virtual experience of reality is the direction we are going. But I worry about that. I worry about losing a sense of awe and wonder about the real and the physically incarnate.
Technology can connect us to anyone and anything with just a few clicks. But what about our connection to the physical world? What about being present in the glorious lands and spaces we inhabit? When I walk down the street, passing people who have their heads buried in their phones, I lament. When I’m having coffee with someone and he checks his phone every few minutes, I grow weary. Don’t get me wrong; technology in itself isn’t a bad thing. In an important sense, technology is a testament to the creative brilliance of humankind to invent tools for living well. But I often feel like a certain trajectory of technology — to make things more efficient, to save time, to make everything on earth immediately accessible — has grave implications for our future. We must be conscious of how the technologies that are inserting themselves into our lives in seemingly small ways are actually changing our whole manner of being. As Neil Postman observes in his book Technopoly: “A new technology does not add or subtract something. It changes everything. In the year 1500, fifty years after the printing press was invented, we did not have old Europe plus the printing press. We had a different Europe. After television, the United States was not America plus television; television gave a new colouration to every political campaign, to every home, to every school, to every church, to every industry.” This is not (necessarily) to say technology always changes everything for the worse; it’s just that it does change everything. Our task is to observe those changes and evaluate them. If what we discover is disturbing, we must do something to course correct. We must be willing to admit when and how a technology is helping or harming us, or when a technology is altering some fundamental aspect of our humanness. As Christians who believe in the incarnation of Christ and the redeemable goodness of the physical world — including physical bodies — that God created, we must think critically about the values being subtly perpetuated through the disembodying technologies of our time, without deifying or demonizing these technologies. Do these values undermine something important to who we are as followers of Christ? We must think about these questions while acknowledging technology’s incredible power to shape our world and the way we live. convergemagazine.com
you to regularly engage with God. You’re in control of how often you’d like to pray, and with push notifications, you can set simple reminders. With busy schedules, Echo also provides the space to pray. Its “Pray Now” feature lets you set a duration of time and choose a topic. So, if you find yourself speaking those four words, “I’ll pray for you,” there really is an app for that. Echo can help you say those words — and mean it.
The Echo prayer manager app is free to download from the iTunes App Store. More information can be found at EchoPrayer.com.
I’ll Pray For You Transforming Words into Action “I’ll pray for you.” Four powerful, simple words, yet each time you speak them, you know that there’s a good chance you won’t put them into action.
Technology has been used as a vehicle to help spread the gospel, but when it comes to tools that encourage you to pray – there’s a huge gap. That’s why in 2006 the founders of Clover, Ben Rugg and Jim Elliston, developed a web-based tool called Echo Prayer. Echo quickly became the prayer manager of thousands in the Christian community, and grew to over 20,000 nationwide users in eight years. This summer, the Echo prayer manager will be relaunching as an iPhone app. The new Echo app will help you organize your prayers, remind you to pray, and better equip
We want to pray. We genuinely believe in the power of prayer. It’s one of the most important things we’re called to do, but sometimes life can get in the way. So we try to remember. We use journals, spending hours writing and rewriting prayers. We use Post-It notes until our desks are covered. We create prayer lists, prayer chains, and still, there’s a 99 per cent chance we’ll forget to actually pray. We’ve witnessed prayer’s ability to change things and its amazing ability to change us. Not only that, we have a Creator who listens and hears our prayers. Psalm 116 says, “I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because He inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live.” We all believe prayer matters. We just have a hard time creating the space to talk with God.
The Empathy Toy
In just a few years, mobile technology has changed the way we communicate forever. We take our phones everywhere, so much that they’ve almost become extensions of ourselves. The Bible app has almost 140 million downloads and supports over 500 languages. You can now podcast any sermon you want, at any time, from the best communicators in the world. Churches have now stretched far beyond their physical walls to include websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter handles.
The Empathy Toy is a 3D puzzle game that challenges blindfolded players to build abstract puzzle patterns by following each other’s verbal instructions. Left with only their words, players must continuously assess and adjust their communication style to ensure that they are understood. The challenge of doing so inspires rich discussions about the assumptions we tend to make about how other people see the world.
A toy that takes teamwork to build
The toy was originally designed to help sighted students empathize with their sight-impaired classmates – but a Catholic
8 // CONVERGE // Summer 2014
school board immediately saw much broader potential. Since that first order a year and a half ago, over 300 schools and organizations have purchased Empathy Toys to increase skills surrounding communication, teamwork, selfassessment, design thinking, and to help foster a more empathic school or workplace culture. Empathy Toys come with a variety of resources to help teachers and facilitators lead empathy-driven lessons and workshops, and can be purchased directly from shop.twentyonetoys.com.
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You & Her
Underwear to keep girls in school in Uganda
Diverse and Positive hip hop Souls Rest carries a positive message through hip hop, as they blend live musicianship with the traditional art of hip hop sampling and scratching. Their ever-growing and diverse fan base is hit with solid, classic and robust beats, overlaid with the melodic subtleties of jazz piano and brass. Souls Rest consists of two emcees and a DJ: abide.n, A.son, and DJ Philamonic. Having enjoyed an
Listen: Follow their jams @SoulsRest. To listen and buy, go here:
artful Canadian life since 2008, Souls Rest has released the EP Two Minutes in 2009 and a full length album extra.ordinary. love in 2011. In 2012 Canadian rap sensation abide.n joined the family and the trio released Better Weapon. They are currently recording a new album that is set to be released this summer.
When schools in Uganda started to ask why the majority of their female students were dropping out in middle school, the answer was unbelievable: they can’t afford the supplies necessary to stay in school while on their period. This means 50+ days of school missed every year. Education is vital in order to rise out of poverty, and the solution is too simple to ignore. Through purchasing their locally made underwear, You & Her is able to produce multiple pairs of underwear — through a You & Her funded sewing centre in Zambia — to distribute in tandem with extra supplies needed for young girls in Africa who fight to stay in school after their period hits. This means locally made underwear for you and her. To peruse their catalogue and find out more, visit you-her.com.
Passburg Spirit-stirring songwriting Passburg takes after the Southern Alberta ghost town it’s named after: haunting yet passionate, inspiring loneliness, calluses, and love. Passburg’s five-track album Mountains, released in August 2013, is layered with soul-inspired vocals, a pinch of math, moments of psychedelic, and lots and lots of tremolo. The band is touring into Southern Alberta and British Columbia this summer while gearing up for a new record next year. For a listen, go here: passburg.bandcamp.com/album/mountains. Follow them @PassburgMusic and on facebook.com/PassburgMusic.
10 // CONVERGE // Summer 2014
What’s new: Putting your dreams and ideas into action? Doing a project that will change your community, or help people for the better? We’d like to know! Send your emerging projects to: ____ email@example.com
A great place for your youth, family and adult retreats.
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Kayaks, Paddle Boats, Water Trampoline, Tubing, Lifeguards
Scan for a Google Virtual Tour The Firs staff are proud supporters of the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. The Firs is on the path to environmental sustainability.
Lit Sports Court convergemagazine.com | 11 Play Area
12 // CONVERGE // Summer 2014
exposure Photo by Joel Kelly
This is a synchrotron, one of the
largest science projects in Canadian history. Located in the Canadian Light Source Inc. in Saskatoon, S.K., it has been vital in providing information for over 1,000 scientific publications since 2005. A synchrotron is a source of brilliant light, enabling scientists to study a materialâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s microstructure and chemical properties. Radio frequency waves and intense magnets are used to produce the synchrotronâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s light, causing electrons to move almost as fast as the speed of light. Researchers are then able to select specific wavelengths of light to observe matter down to the atomic level. Synchrotrons are used in the analysis of physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes. This information can be used in a variety of ways, such as developing new methods to help reduce greenhouse gases, designing new drugs, or improving the safety of medical implants. There are even synchrotron experiments that search for other life in the universe. Source: lightsource.ca
Abbotsford, BC | Canada
With our Urban Mission Dynamics class, students at Columbia partner with local ministries and learn how to put their faith into practice.
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5 Podcasts You Should Listen To By Michael Morelli
Remembering the marginalized year round
This American Life
These first person narratives and fiction pieces are as compelling as they are unique. If you haven’t heard about This American Life, now you know. This one is a staple in the libraries of most podcasters I know. If you subscribe, you won’t regret it.
By Paula Cornell
fter six years of working with holiday season. folks in poverty, I am getting Here are a few thoughts and donation tired of the Christmas spirit. ideas you might not have considered for I’m tired of gently commu- your neighbours who are experiencing nicating to donors who get offended when homelessness in the summer: I won’t let them volunteer for an hour in December unless they are willing to volunteer the rest of the year. Or who get mad at me because I don’t have a project to teach »»The heat can be as »»Spring cleaning produces their kids how lucky they are. dangerous as the cold; a lot of donations, but I’m tired of rationing the dehydration and heat stroke make sure to donate your socks and underwear donated are real risks for those clothing seasonally. Many in December for 11 more without shelter and clean organizations aren’t able to water. Most of us have store off-season clothing, months. And I’m tired of homes, workplaces, and so donate your clean, gently rationing my patience to every cars to cool off in, as well used shorts and sandals in donor who doesn’t receive as the means to buy a water the summer, and save your enough saccharine praise after bottle. But many homeless winter threads for donations they’ve offered their half-eaten folks don’t. in the fall. Chinese food leftovers from this year’s Christmas party. »»Summer means no school; »»Stop one-time Don’t get me wrong, I am that means no lunch volunteering. Become really thankful for the generprograms, and nothing to do a regular volunteer and if your parents work. Find commit to showing up on a ous donations we receive durout whether local summer weekly or bi-weekly basis ing the month of December. camps in your area have for a year. You might be (Who doesn’t love leftover programs to sponsor a child surprised how making the Chinese food?) But I still gento go to camp who can’t time to build relationships uinely believe in the ability of afford it. for longer than an hour at people to live generously the Christmastime changes your rest of the year, too! »»Speaking of camping, perspective. Jesus came to earth to spend it might be a fun summer When in doubt, the a lot of His time loving the activity, but don’t forget best policy is to ask the about our neighbours who person or organization you most marginalized and vulcamp all year because they are interested in: what nerable members of society. have no other options for donations are the most So maybe our earthly exissafe housing. Sleeping helpful at this time? tence could involve more of bags are important in the that as well. In fact, I have a summer, too. hunch that when Jesus said to love our neighbours, he didn’t mean exclusively during the
Everyone loves stories. The Moth features recordings of real people telling real stories in front of a live audience. I guarantee it will make you laugh, cry, and even feel a little awkward.
It’s where science and culture collide. Radiolab gives life to random information that could change the way you think. It’s also great source material for conversational topics to make you look smart.
A podcast about the one per cent of everyday life most people don’t notice or think about. Sure, it’s about design and architecture, but it goes deeper than that. 99% Invisible shows how the spaces we inhabit and encounter shape the way we think and act.
Illustration by Breanne McDaniel
think people should start celebrating Christmas every month of the year. Not for the turkey, the presents, or the parties, but for the spirit of generosity that accompanies the Christmas season.
Folks who are experiencing homelessness and poverty don’t just suffer during December. And poverty doesn’t pick and choose when to affect people the same way we pick and choose when to be generous.
This podcast features interviews with non-fiction writers who know the craft and have heaps of wisdom to share. It’s a writer’s soul and mind food. Everyone who wants to be a proper writer should listen to Longform.
convergemagazine.com // 15
or not to toke We’re still going up in smoke NT AK
With the advent of the legalization of recreational marijuana use in the states of Colorado and Washington, some American Christians are faced with another crisis of belief: is it morally wrong to smoke pot? Prior to the pro-cannabis legislation, Christians were able to draw a distinct line in the sand. It’s illegal, therefore it’s wrong.
But what does it mean for Christians in Colorado and Washington, now that smoking weed is OK? Does the Bible say you’re immoral if you’re a social toker? Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today says the line is clear for Christians. “[Recreational marijuana use] connotes a kind of indolence and ‘tuning out’ that is not an option for people who want to become agents of compassion and neighbor [sic] love, not to mention its association with all kinds of immaturity.” And Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle megachurch Mars Hill, takes a similar, but softer stance in his ebook Puff or Pass: “Some things are neither illegal (forbidden by government in laws) nor sinful (forbidden by God in Scripture), but they are unwise. For example, eating a cereal box instead of the food it contains is not illegal or sinful — it’s just foolish.”
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Indiana pastor John Jackson of Trinity United Church of Christ, says this in an article in The Tennessean: “The God we serve, I don't believe, is that small or petty to be concerned about you smoking weed or [a] cigarette.” Whether you believe marijuana is a blessing from God (Genesis 1:29) that should be enjoyed, or if you believe its effects are similar to that of drunkenness, which is distinctly declared as evil in Scripture (Galatians 5:21), one thing is clear: the issue is not going away anytime soon.
In Canada, though medicinal marijuana use has been legal since 2001, there’s no indication the federal government will briskly follow Colorado and Washington’s lead on recreational pot smoking. Even so, the Conservatives are currently working on legislation that would change the penalty for possessing a small amount of marijuana to be something that’s ticketed — like speeding — rather than a criminal offence.
High Hosers: Where’s marijuana use the highest in Canada? Percentage of people who reported using marijuana in the last 12 months:
Nova Scotia: 14.8% British Columbia: 14.2% Ontario: 12.1% Alberta: 11.8% Quebec: 11.5% Manitoba: 11.5%
Sources: metronews.ca, huffingtonpost.ca
“The Government of Canada does not
endorse the use of marihuana [sic], but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marihuana when authorized by a physician.” -- Health Canada
MB AB SK
Recreational marijuana is legalized in Colorado & Washington State
NB ME VT
Medicinal Marijuana is legal: Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Illinois, Michigan, Maine, Delaware, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Alaska, Hawaii (not shown) Medicinal and Recreational illegal in all other states & Washington D.C.
Stoner states: Where’s marijuana use the highest in America? Alaska 16.29% Vermont 15.97% Colorado 15.09% New Hampshire 14.88% Massachusetts 14.55% Source: cbsnews.com
convergemagazine.com // 17
Beauty By Katerina Heese
A consumerist return to natural beauty
t seems like far too long ago since models actually looked like the people you might see walking down the street. We are bombarded by the unrealistic ideal everywhere: on billboards, in magazines, on television, and even represented in children’s dolls.
In my experience, there are two types of models: those meant to be coathangers for their clothing, and busty women who mysteriously fill out their dresses in exactly the right places.
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But recently there has been a revolution in the fashion and modelling industry, adding a third category of model. Companies have started saying no to photoshop, and many have decided to employ models who look a little more natural. And in my humble opinion, they look a lot better than the clipped-back, touchedup, and airbrushed women consumers are so accustomed to seeing. Because whether we’re young or old, dark or light, curvy or not, we are all made in the image of God. And it’s encouraging to see this shift in the media’s portrayal of women. Here are just a few of the campaigns that are working to bring a more positive and healthy standard of beauty.
Phone: 519-651-2869 Toll Free: 1-800-465-1961 DiscoverHeritage.ca Pursuing God with Passion & Excellence 18 | CONVERGE. Summer
Sources: reportlinker.com, emarketer.com, baronesse.com, mintel.com.
Equipping people to be pillars of His Church.
Beauty is definitely more than skin-deep with Betabrand. This San Francisco-based company is using actual doctoral candidates to show off their clothing lines. Believe it or not, the models were all found via a call sent out through Facebook. These women defy the stereotypes: you can be pretty and smart at the same time, and you don’t have to look like Barbie to be beautiful.
Can you believe that only four per cent of women around the world considered themselves “beautiful” in 2011? Dove’s Real Beauty campaign launched in 2004, and since then the company has been working to change women’s perceptions of beauty through eyeopening videos and self-esteem boosting educational programs.
The lingerie division of American Eagle Outfitters has just launched their #aeriereal campaign. They don’t use supermodels to display their products, and they don’t use photoshop to drastically alter their models’ appearances either. Instead, they use real women to show off their clothing. They even offer a bra guide that uses pictures of different sized women wearing the bras to let shoppers see how the bra will fit their cup size.
4. AVERAGE BARBIE
Because a real life Barbie would just look strange, an artist named Nickolay Lamm has created a Barbie-style doll that has been made to fit the measurements of the average 19-year-old girl. The difference is astounding, and the doll actually looks quite good. While the artist says he won’t be selling the doll to Matel anytime soon, it would be nice to see the company follow his example and start a line of “average Barbies,” a look that isn’t quite so — for lack of a better word — plastic.
5. MARC JACOBS
Jessica Lange, 64, is now the face of Marc Jacobs Beauty, showing us all that you don’t have to be young to be beautiful. The former actress is only the latest in the trend of using older models, but hopefully she won’t be the last. She may be 64, but no one can say that she doesn’t still look good.
6. NARS 6
It’s not beauty, it’s grooming.
When anti-wrinkle cream becomes moisturizer, and when fragrance is called man freshner. Watch out, ladies. Metro’s the new manly.
Analysts believe the global men’s grooming market will sprout to over $33 billion by 2015.
Charlotte Rampling, 68, is the new face of the entire Nars cosmetics brand. This long-time muse of Francoise Nars will soon be featured in a black-and-white portrait-style image.
There has been a 70 per cent increase in the number of new men’s personal care products since 2007.
25 per cent of men between 18 and 34 say they’ve had a manicure or pedicure, while 38 per cent say they’ve undergone a facial or body treatment.
Spas report that 29-35 per cent of their revenue is from men.
convergemagazine.com // 19
View // dating
What an unofficial break-up taught me about forgiveness By Olive Chan
Eventually, I came to a place where that broken relationship no longer consumed me. And along the way, I learned some things about forgiveness:
Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation. Forgiveness is a transaction mainly between you and God. Regardless of whether the other person wants to make things right with you, you have to let go of that expectation. It is an act of faith that says, “God, I believe you have my back regardless of whether this person does. And You will judge fairly in the end so I don’t need to demand justice now.”
Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiveness is letting go of the debt (real or perceived) that’s owed to you. It doesn’t mean you completely forget about it. A part of you may still hurt when you think back on what happened. Forgiveness is accepting Christ’s death as payment for the other person’s offences toward you in the midst of your pain.
Forgiveness is a process.
20 | CONVERGE. Summer 2014
You know you’re on the right track when you can wish the other person well. A number of years after The Fallout, I heard that the guy got engaged. I remember seeing a picture of the gorgeous engagement ring, sincerely hoping things would go well for them. It was at that moment when I realized I was on the path toward healing. Since my university years, I’ve learned that forgiveness isn’t as much about the destination as it is a series of instances where I can choose to let Jesus meet me in my pain. As long as I keep making the choices of letting go, wishing the other person well, and turning my heart toward Jesus, it doesn’t really matter if I’ve arrived. Eventually, the work of forgiving will shape me to become more like Christ. And that’s what matters most.
Flickr photo (cc) by Mengjie Jo
e met the summer before I entered university. He was handsome, sporty, and impressively intelligent. A year my senior, he looked out for me during my first months as a frosh. It was a close but ambiguous relationship. We talked on the phone for hours, led our campus Christian group together, and he would even invite me to hang out with his buddies some weekends. I really enjoyed his friendship — and he obviously enjoyed mine. Then, without warning, we hit The Fallout. He made a comment and I got offended. I wrote him a letter in response and then he got offended. Just like that, he stopped talking to me or even acknowledging my existence. Emotionally, it was the most devastating experience I had ever faced. In my head, I knew that forgiving this guy was the right thing to do. But how could I do that? In the months of silence that followed, I wrestled long and deep about what it meant to forgive him. I poured over all the Scripture passages that spoke of forgiveness. I reflected on Jesus’ interactions with his disciples who had betrayed him (namely Judas and Peter). I pondered what it meant that God had forgiven me. I prayed over and over again for God to help me forgive him.
It’s easy to get down on ourselves for needing to forgive over and over, for not being “there” already. Forgiveness requires time. The emotions will resurface. Certain situations will trigger the pain and you’ll have to come to God again to ask for grace. It may take months, even years. There may also be various levels on which you need to let go. In the process of forgiveness, you give your heart the grace to catch up to your head, and you give God the time to work His healing in your soul.
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View // Q&A
Lots of people don’t take comedians seriously. Do you think your job is more important than just telling jokes? Absolutely. When I did [a] tour in Kuwait for the troops last year, [it] probably cost the military $100,000 to get all of us over there. I’m like, “Why? Why would they do this?” And the general said — I’ll never forget — he said, “We bring comedians over here because when we do, the suicide rate goes down.” Oh Lord, you could have told me that after the show, first of all. Not before. I’m looking at my material and I’m like, “This is going to save people’s lives? I don’t know about that.”
Have you seen lives changed by the jokes you tell? Yeah. People come up to me after the shows crying all the time. Last month I had somebody come up and say, “Hey, I brought my daughter to the show and she’s terminally ill with some sort of leg bone condition and she’s usually in a wheelchair, but tonight … she wanted to walk. She left after the show, skipping, and it was the happiest I had ever seen her in her entire life.”
john crist on being a Christian in the entertainment industry By Amanda Bast
ohn Crist was born to be a comic. As the third child in a family of eight, Crist had to entertain in order to get any attention. Much like fellow third-child-in-a-large-family comics Brian Regan and Conan O’Brien, growing up in this type of environment helped create Crist’s distinct brand of comedy. Between being homeschooled and being a pastor’s kid, Crist’s jokes give a bizarrely hilarious commentary on growing up in the church.
I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Crist about what it means to be a Christian and a comic in the entertainment industry. 22 | CONVERGE.
100 per cent. If you were given an ability like that, who ... are you to be sitting around playing video games when you have the ability to change people’s lives? Change people’s lives by telling fart jokes. If you’ve been given the tools like that, who are you to keep that to yourself? When you get to heaven, aren’t you going to be asked about that? When I spoke at a conference with Jon Acuff, [there were] all of these creative people, like bloggers and musicians or whatever. The question [was]: what did you do with the talents and the abilities that you are blessed with? You’re going to stand before God and be like “Weeeeeell I started a blog but like only a couple people read it, so I gave up. Well I wrote a song and I sent it to one agent and he didn’t email me back, so I quit.” That’s going to be your answer? OK. Good luck with that.
Photo by Vanessa Jetson
Do you feel like you have a responsibility then?
My comedy is going to save people’s lives? I’m not sure about that.
So would you consider yourself to be a Christian comic, or a comic who happens to be a Christian? I’ve had that debate a million times. The only thing that makes me nervous about being a Christian comedian is like honestly — I do church shows and people like, set me up to be “the guy.” Christians will elevate you to a status. They’re like, “This is the guy! Look up to him! Follow him.” They love you, but then if you do something bad, Christians will cut you. In a second. Like Amy Grant style, you know what I’m saying? “You’re out, we don’t know you anymore.” They should be the champions of your career. I like doing shows in churches, but … I don’t want to be held up as “the guy.”
Are your shows different in churches than they are in clubs? Well, I do my shows in the clubs and I come out to a DC Talk song.
why do people come to see your shows? Unconsciously [interviewer’s note: I told Crist he meant “subconsciously” but he wouldn’t listen] people are coming to the comedy club and they’re looking for answers. They’re looking, in essence — if you come all the way down to it — they’re looking for what we have. They’re looking for the answer to all of life’s problems, the meaning of life, and we have it. After every one of my shows I have a come forward and get saved [moment] and it’s really awkward because no one comes.
A stand-up comedy altar call? Yup.
Oh. I’m kidding.
Scan for the lols Texting and driving, Christian farmers dating, your child is NOT a winner, and other chuckles found here:
24 | CONVERGE. Summer 2014
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View // Life
Because this relationship status is too complicated By Jenn Co
Dear Facebook, It has been seven years since that fateful day we got
26 | CONVERGE. Summer 2014
for invites to noteworthy events and have since learned the art of the humble brag. Deep inside, I’m exhausted from working so hard to keep up this self-made public image. All those Instagram filters and location checkins belie the truth that I’m battling rejection, insecurity, and profound loneliness. And yes, I deal with the pain by distracting myself: browsing through photo-streams and updates. I have turned my life into that of a voyeuristic stalker. Let’s call a spade a spade. I’m addicted to you. It doesn’t matter where I go or who I meet. Everyone asks me the same thing, “Are you on Facebook?” It’s nuts how inseparable we’ve become. Some days I can’t imagine what life was before you entered the picture. Which is why we need to call it quits. I recognize our relationship is dysfunctional and I need to rediscover my identity apart from you. This simply is not working out. I’m sorry, but it’s over. Jenn
Let’s call a spade a spade. I’m addicted to you.
Illustration by Jacob Kownacki
together. In the beginning, things were fun and exciting. We played games and embarked on spontaneous adventures. Eight hours with you sometimes wasn’t enough. Not a day went by without me thinking about you. You swept me off my feet and took over my world. Call it young love. You were Mr. Popularity. You seemed to know everyone and were always invited to the coolest parties. Thanks for introducing me to hundreds of new friends, and even locating some of my childhood classmates. Over the years, I’ve relied on you to the point that now I’m afraid we may have slipped into a co-dependent relationship. Not only are you heavily involved in my personal life (I can’t have a conversation without bringing you up: “Hey, how’s your Mom? Facebook told me she has been in the hospital for a week. You OK?” ) you’ve also entered into my professional zone. Some stories I cover as a media producer are based on tip-offs I receive from the newsfeed you’ve set up for me. I’ve snagged jobs and joined groups facilitated by your networking skills. You’ve even helped me promote my ventures, so please don’t think I’m ungrateful. You’re a wealth of information and because of that, I’m now more aware of the world at large, sometimes more than I care to know. Granted, there’s something about you that causes people to open up, divulging some of their deepest darkest secrets. But truth be told, when I’m with you, you share things about others I really have no business knowing. If it’s not something they would discuss with me faceto-face, then why should I know about it? Consequently, I find it distressing when people blame you for their relationship break-ups or make vague passive-aggressive statements when they really just need to directly confront those involved. Initially, it was amazing having access to so much information, but now I feel overwhelmed. What if I didn’t watch the latest viral video you posted? Or have read up on what’s trending at the moment? Isn’t there more to life than never-ending data streams? I hate it when you unrelentingly remind me that you’re all about connecting. What if I want to disconnect and just hibernate? The more I hear about people’s blissful lives, the more jealous I become. I find myself striving to create the image of a happy, successful world traveller who meets scads of celebrities. I fight
OK. So I never wrote Facebook that sappy letter. I did, however, send them a note around Valentine’s Day. Here’s why. For Facebook’s 10-year anniversary, I was bestowed a gift: a month-long friend request block. Now before you break into hysterics, asking, “How is that even possible?” let me explain. Due to the nature of my work as a media producer, I meet a ton of people. So it’s perfectly normal for me to add new “friends” to social media platforms 24-48 hours after I’ve met them. It’s part of my modus operandi. So when Facebook curtailed my freedom from contacting new acquaintances, I flipped. Apparently, Facebook has an algorithm that determines when friend
before, perhaps I could do it again. At some point in this whole fiasco, I recognized the restriction was perhaps a blessing in disguise. It forced me to ask some gritty questions: Why do I have a compulsion to collect friends religiously? What does “friend” really mean? Who actually knows me? In all honesty, the level of intimacy with my nearly 3,000 Facebook friends equals the depth of a sheet of paper. This obsession to appear successful, confident, liked and accepted — all within the guise of my friend tally — only bleeds the reality that amassing virtual connections perpetuates loneliness. Because connection isn’t conversation with real people in real time. It’s all edited personal promotion in order to project the most desirable image of
What does “friend” really mean? Who actually knows me? “This book promises to liberate many from the entanglements of our culture. It is a wonderful offer to join Jesus in finding our lives by giving them away.” —SHANE CLAIBORNE
requests look unusual: for example, lots of friend requests that have gone unanswered or (worse yet) marked as unwelcome. If you cross a certain line, Facebook will block you from sending any new friend requests for a set amount of time. That’s what happened to me. Although recognizing my pleas would fall on deaf ears, I hearkened to voice my disgruntled state. Despite my written petitions to lift their ban, I received nary a response and had no choice but to wait for 30 days to pass. I could have missed a number of potential business connections. But the imposed silence got me thinking: how did the world operate pre-Facebook? If it has been done
ourselves. And yet, speaking as someone whose livelihood is dependent on the amount of people I reach, the social network provides an interesting conundrum: quantity over quality. Now there’s the rub. I’m not here to supply you a list of 10 ways to defeat a Facebook addiction. I’m here to pose the question of whether it’s possible to keep social media as a tool, not as a source to meet our need for belonging and acceptance.
So let me ask you: what’s your relationship status with Facebook?
IAN DIORIO is a pastor in Southern California who has struggled with his fair share of trivial pursuits. Before becoming a Christian, he was a professional club DJ in LA and pursued all that the night life world had to offer. Follow Ian on Twitter @ianmdiorio
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Angles | Life
of miracles An account of inexplicable healing
By Julia Cheung
amie de Champlain flips through her photo album, the images flitting casually by: grainy shots from the ’80s show a happy toddler, bedecked in lace, staring at the camera. She’s jumping off a pier into a lake. Playing basketball. Arms around her sisters and cousins, smiling for the camera. Jamie had an active childhood as the eldest of seven siblings. Clues to her future trauma and triumph perhaps only show themselves when you look carefully into her hazel eyes — lovely dark orbs, one a slight shade darker than the other. Or perhaps they show themselves when you notice a particular wheelchair of hers, now gathering dust in a storage locker.
28 | CONVERGE. Summer 2014
n 2000 as Jamie neared the end of high school, she says she started to experience pain and weakness in her legs. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with a tumour on her spinal cord. Emergency surgery followed, and surgeons had to cut her spinal cord to remove the tumour. When she woke up in the hospital, she says she was told that nerve damage was significant; that she would go through rehabilitation and never walk again. She had just turned 18. The diagnosis came back — schwannoma — a noncancerous tumour. Mildly good news, amidst a slew of the bad. In rehab, Jamie had to learn how to do everyday things all over again. Life in a wheelchair, managing chronic pain, multiple surgeries, and complications took their toll. “Those first couple of years were especially
Photo courtesy of Jamie de Champlain
I have no problem with miracles. I’m surrounded by them. I am one. —Bono
any liberal Christians tout the belief that miracles (such as physical healings) don't happen in the modern era. Instances in the gospel are allegorical, they say. And various conservative Christians — cessationalists — believe that miracles and healings did literally happen in Scripture, but that they ceased to occur after the writing of the New Testament. Then there are those whose views lie in between. Cancer specialist Roy Ma says he has seen a few baffling healings in his time. When asked if he believes in miracles, he says, “It depends what you call a miracle. It may be something that you cannot explain easily, but it probably still operates on the same types of mechanisms that exist in nature.” “Life is much more complicated than we think.”
Then in October 2013, Jamie began having a series of dreams. Out of the blue, for the first time in 13 years, she had a dream that she was walking. “It was like pinching myself,” says Jamie. “And a couple of times when I woke up, I was in tears because it was so realistic. I’d be crying and praying, saying ‘I don’t know what you’re doing here, God. But you have my attention.’ I was trying not to jump to any assumptions because I didn’t want to get hurt or disappointed.” Throughout the week, the dreams kept getting more clear and specific. She says she had ab out 10 vivid dreams within that span. Finally, in the middle of the night, after she had woken up from another dream, she says she cried out to God. “OK, God you have got my attention. I surrender to you whatever healing you want to do. Restore me. Restore my mind, my spirit, my body.” There she was, alone in the dark in her bedroom, desperate and in tears. Then she tried to move her foot. Normally, it took all her attention
She was at peace with using a
wheelchair for the rest of her life. But doctors told Jamie not to get her hopes up about ever getting out of a wheelchair. Nerves in adults don't regrow. The prognosis for Jamie gave an 18-24 month rehabilitation window in which to see healing or improvement. After that, doctors did not expect any recovery of mobility. Jamie brightens up when she tells this part of the story. “I’ve always known in my mind that God could heal me. But I didn't think that was part of God’s plan to heal me.” By about 2011, Jamie says she had stopped praying and hoping for healing. In fact, she says she was at peace with using a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She had begun to see the ways God could use her as a person with a disability in order to help others and to serve God. She says there had even been occasions when people wanted to pray for a physical healing — and she had refused it. Ayisha Pierce, a staff member at the church Jamie attended, witnessed as much. “I was talking to Jamie after service. And this lady came up to Jamie and said that Jamie was going to walk. That was really awkward. I remember feeling so uncomfortable for Jamie’s behalf.”
and effort just to wiggle her toes — the only movement she was capable of — but that night, her entire foot flexed as if she were pressing on a gas pedal. “I was so excited, I didn’t sleep for a week.” Friends and pastors prayed with her and laid hands on her. Within just a few days, she was seeing strength restored to her legs. By December, to the great bafflement of her physiatrist, she was completely wheelchair-free.
think God knows how to manipulate those systems [that occur in nature] because he set those laws of nature in the first place. You just can’t prove that God is doing it,” says Ma. “Science is a tool for trying to explain how nature works, but it doesn’t answer the question of how it became that way. 1 + 1 = 2 works. But why? If God put those laws of nature in place, then why wouldn’t he be able to work within them to cause spontaneous healing?” Taking the mystery out of life, it seems, is not for science to do. And for Jamie de Champlain, the how and the why might always remain open-ended. What remains sure, however, is the what: one foot in front of another.
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hard, but the next 10 to 12 were a lot easier,” she recalls. “I had a lot of anger towards God. I was convinced that any God that would punish a young innocent woman with a cruel painful affliction obviously wasn't a kind and loving God that I would want to have anything to do with.” But one pastor from a nearby community church heard about Jamie’s surgery, and he called the family to reach out. He knew another teenager who attended the church, two years younger than Jamie, who had been a paraplegic since a childhood car accident. That young paraplegic was Nicole — soon to become Jamie’s lifelong best friend. Nicole eventually invited Jamie to church; “It was like an awakening of my spirituality,” Jamie says. Within a year, Jamie was baptized, began volunteering in the church, and grew in her Christian faith. “I came to understand that my disability was not because God was trying to punish me. That God still loved me and that I was not any less of a person,” she says.
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Angles | Culture
next generation of
TV time and learning disabilities. A study by Pediatrics showed that infants who watched a higher amount of television per day nearly always developed stronger attention disorders later in life, compared to those who had watched none. But that was TV in 1999; this is tablets in 2014. Although both are considered screen media, the latter of the two is arguably more than just a viewing device. Tablets are often used by parents as a learning tool. With millions of apps targeted towards young children to help develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, the market for kids’ apps is rapidly expanding. But as illustrated by the mom in the restaurant, many — if not most — of the interactions between toddlers and tablets aren’t for educational purposes at all. They’re meant to entertain. Alex Letov, a game designer from GLU Mobile, says that more games are being aimed towards children, even if they’re not the target demographic. “Developers want to widen their audience as much as they can without compromising the game,” says Letov. “We make the controls super easy; [we] make the game intuitive. Even the icons on the app store are very colourful and flashy. They pop up at you. It helps kids be drawn to it. A lot of developers do keep kids in mind, even if the game isn’t for children.” By Nikki Lamont Some apps have proven to be a benefit to children. The U.S. Department of Education says that a PBS app called Martha Speaks “I honestly don’t know. It’s the only thing that calms her down.” increases the vocabularies of children under seven by as much as 31 The mother of a fussy 16-month-old at a high-end restaurant in Toper cent in only two weeks. But in ronto shakes her head as she answers the question: What would you 2013 the American Academy of Pediatrics said they’re sticking by do without an iPad? their original statement; a child’s And judging from the half-dozen other patrons in the restaurant who time with any form of passive media should be limited, and that includes were entertaining their small children with their smartphones and tablets. tablets, she’s not alone. “A child will always learn more from someone interacting with So is there anything wrong with constantly exposing children to this them then they will learn from an kind of technology? iPad,” says Jelena Brcic, a social and personality psychologist at the UniBack in 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a versity of Toronto. “You can pracpolicy statement saying children under the age of two should tice language or social skills on electronics, but kids will learn only be watching television two hours a day at most. It was conmore from seeing a person actually doing the behaviour.” troversial at the time, but in the past 15 years there have been The brain develops more rapidly in its first three years than it countless studies showing an undeniable link between excessive does during the rest of its life span; when children learn in such
30 | CONVERGE. Summer 2014
Illustration by Theresa Chong
How is technology affecting our children?
a non-participative way, the effects are long-term. “If we’re relying on these devices to be language teachers, v we’re going to forget how to use language properly,” says Brcic. “Even looking at how high school students speak these days, it’s getting worse and worse. Eventually university students will be communicating poorly and we’ll be satisfied with just a summary. We won’t need to talk to others because the answers we’re seeking will be at our fingertips.” Children are being taught on tablet apps that in order to finish a puzzle on a screen, you simply touch two areas to connect the pieces. They technically are still learning hand-eye coordination, but the apps are providing a particularly limited version of it, and it’s doing so in a very sensory-restricted environment. By merely watching these puzzles being completed on a screen, they’re lacking the skills to know how to actually put one together. Their bodies aren’t developing what it takes to see a puzzle piece, pick it up, and connect it with another piece. They’re only learning a small portion of the motor and mental skills it takes to complete the activity. The proliferation of tablet technology also creates barriers in socialization. What is being demonstrated when an irritated toddler is consoled by an iPad, rather than identifying the source of his or her discomfort? That we should turn to our devices instead of each other?
Handing over an iPad to a child has become a precarious parental judgment call.
Adults who were born without these electronics find it difficult to put their smart phones away when they’re in social situations. If a generation who has already mentally matured when these devices were invented can’t ignore them, what are the social skills going to be like for people born into a post-tablet world? “If kids are socialized by their parents that they should always be on their iPad, then they’ll always be on their iPad,” says Brcic. “It’s the same in that if you’re not socialized to put away your phones during dinner, you’re never going to voluntarily choose to do it. When we have lots of parents checking their phone during dinner, their kids are going to learn that’s what you do in social situations. No children growing up with this conditioning today is going to know to put them away when they’re with friends.” Tablets and smartphones are still relatively new forms of technology. We’ve only been able to track their short-term effects, but the educated guesses from child psychologists and pediatricians are enough to conjecture they are hindering children’s learning patterns in the long term. The majority of our waking day fundamentally revolves around items we can plug in or turn on. And that’s only going to increase in the future. Handing over an iPad to a child has become a precarious parental judgment call. While tablets have proven to be useful tools, allowing children to spend unlimited time on them will eventually come with a cost. So the question remains: is it worth the risk? convergemagazine.com
Can either side leap the great divide?
32 | CONVERGE.
By Paul Arnold Illustration by Jonathan Fajardo
When Bill Nye, in his emblematic bowtie, turned to Ken Ham and said, “Mr. Ham, I learned something. Thank you,” I was shocked. I find most public debates about science and religion pretty boring. The most recent debate — between atheist Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Ken Ham, a young-earth creationist and founder of the Christian apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis — was no different. Most debaters in these forums toe the party line to such an extent that everything seems scripted and predetermined. Scarcely, if ever, do opinions change or shift in the smallest degree. And on those rare occasions when a debater does admit to learning something, it’s slightly shocking. Even though, ironically, most debaters are academics who are supposed to make learning their profession. But Nye’s was a genuine thank you, not a patronizing one that many post-debate commentators thought Ham deserved. Nye didn’t elaborate on what he actually learned, heaven forbid any candid thoughts would come to light in such a forum. Instead, he immediately moved into his presentation; the debate continued without any more surprises. But such is the debate between science and religion, evolution and creation. It is mired in such strong political rhetoric that proponents on either side can’t help but turn their opposition into caricatures. To atheists, religion is oppressive and illinformed. To religious fundamentalists, science is morally bankrupt. Debates must be won in order for
opinions to be swayed and legislation to be passed. After all, future generations must be protected from science or religion, depending on your bent. And as a result, neither side is willing to even entertain the plausibility of their arguments, lest they lose the entire war. Scientific secularists get to define religion as an evil social construction; religious fundamentalists get to define science as a skeptical philosophy used to corrupt the young. Thus, a crevasse has been created between science and religion with no obvious way to cross. Of course, not everybody thinks and acts in such binary terms. But the problem is, those who do — the same people who also tend to yell the loudest — are usually the ones who get to define the terms of the debate. Those of us who don’t see science and religion as living on opposite sides of a crevasse are then left to wonder: why we are forced to straddle this proverbial pit that seems to be growing wider by the day? Why do secularists or religious people have to be all right or all wrong? Can’t they be partly right and partly wrong? Can’t they at least acknowledge there are things they can actually learn from each other? Maybe that’s why Nye’s thank you was so important: the crevasse was narrowed, even if it was ever so slight.
r. Denis Lamoureux is a professor of science and religion at the University of Alberta and the author of Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution. In his words, the NyeHam debate was “a complete disaster.” “It was a propagation of the false dichotomy that a creationist has to be a young-earth creationist and a scientist has to be on the side of skepticism.” And if anyone knows a thing or two about skepticism, it’s Lamoureux. Raised Roman Catholic in Edmonton, Alta., he says he lost his faith — as many do — in university, when he began to learn about the world, philosophy, and most importantly, biological evolution. The more he discovered about evolution, the more convinced he became. This eventually brought him to what he thought was a logical deduction: “If evolution is true, then the Bible must be wrong and Christianity is false.” With that conclusion, Lamoureux effectively broke with Christianity and considered himself a deist before fully embracing atheism a few years later. But, in his last year of dental school Lamoureux attended a debate on evolution, where the anti-evolutionist, Duane Gish from the Institute of Creation Research, took the biological evolutionist to task. Lamoureux says the debate opened him to the possibility of being a scientist and a Christian. After the debate with Gish, Lamoureux says he began to feel like he was being “duped” by the secular rhetoric he had heard from university professors about things like naturalism and scientism — views that are metaphysical, not scientific. So, when he had a “genuine conversion experience” a few years later, he became a full-fledged youngearth creationist. At the time there were few nuanced approaches to evolution; you could be a scientist and a Christian, but certainly not an evolutionist and a Christian. This dichotomy between evolution and religion was solidified with the rise of Creation Science in the 1960s, the fundamentalist Christian movement which argued against the scientific evidence for evolution in favour of a literal reading of the six-day Genesis creation story. When Lamoureux was in university in the 1970s, there weren’t many God-fearing scientists who were vocal about their simultaneous belief in God and their trust in the scientific evidence for evolution. Of course, there were many people
and scientists who believed in both, but their voices were drowned out by the loud and abrasive political rhetoric that continues to characterize this debate. As a result, Lamoureux says he was “trapped in the dichotomy. There was no middle ground.” Things have certainly changed in the last 30 to 40 years, but we still have trouble breaking out of the binary thinking that makes science and religion enemies of one another. For example, in his debate with Nye, Ham tried to undermine “secular” science by driving a wedge between historical and observational science. The problem is that all science is, in practice, historical science. There are lots of things we accept as true in science that we don’t directly observe, like atomic theory. No one has ever actually “seen” an electron before, but we believe it exists because the idea of an electron explains the natural world extremely well. If we fall into the trap of separating historical science from observational science, then we begin to lose our idea of what science is as a whole; this is why science has sometimes become a caricature of itself, or an enemy of religion. But many evangelicals don’t really care about science. They actually don’t think the evolution versus creation debate is all that important. They say it isn’t a faith issue. That it doesn’t determine whether Jesus can save someone from his or her sins. But, here is the thing: it is a faith issue. As Lamoureux tells me, “Kids are losing their faith at record numbers in record speeds and the debate over evolution is one of the issues that drives it.” Lamoureux’s class on science and religion at the University of Alberta has doubled in size in recent years. Why? “Because the kids are seeing the evolutionary evidence, they are having a divine experience, but they are not equipped and no one is showing them how to relate faith and science appropriately. They are yearning for that,” says Lamoureux. There are many reasons why the crevasse between science and religion remains distended. One reason, of course, is that this stuff is complicated. The nature of evolutionary biology, let alone the entire endeavor of modern science, can take years to grasp. Evolution isn’t as simple as “survival of the fittest,” or “natural selection,” or even “descent with modification.” At the same time, to believe in a God, let alone the
A crevasse has been created between science and religion with no obvious way to cross.
34 | CONVERGE. Summer
Christian God who became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ, is no less complicated. I mean, how do you put your faith in someone you can’t see or touch? And on top of that, the Bible, the thing that the Christian faith depends on, requires a deep knowledge of language, history, and literature to appreciate — subjects that in their own right take years to grasp. It’s no wonder then that it took Lamoureux a long time, and a little help, to sort some of this out for himself. A person of great importance to Lamoureux was Loren Wilkinson, an interdisciplinary professor at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C., whom Lamoureux refers to as his intellectual hero.
When Lamoureux first started at Regent in the 1980s he says he was a “fire-breathing, dragon-slaying, card-carrying youngearth creationist.” He was willing to battle anyone, professors included, against the merits of evolution with his “battle axe” (i.e. his Bible). He remembers the end of one particular class on science and religion. Wilkinson looked at Lamoureux in front of the whole class and asked whether Lamoureux would lose his faith in Christ if he came to believe that evolution was true. “Of course,” Lamoureux says, “that wrecked me. That day Wilkinson started the process and got me asking whether there was something more to this that I had not yet seen.” It turns out there was.
t’s easy to imagine someone like Lamoureux, who has three doctoral degrees including one in evolutionary biology, would accept evolution because of the scientific evidence. But that was not the case. Lamoureux actually accepted the theory of evolution because of the Bible, not science. He says the Bible simply doesn’t support an interpretation that takes the early chapters of Genesis literally. According to Lamoureux, “Young-earth creationism from a scholarly perspective is, well, it ain’t scholarship. It’s a bunch of really devout people — I don’t question their faith — but here is the irony: they simply don’t know enough about the Scriptures. Of course that is a shocking statement to say, but speaking for myself, I left young-earth creationism for biblical reasons.” He goes on: “I believed in young-earth creationism because I was taught a bunch of nonsense in Sunday school and I read a bunch of people who shouldn’t be writing on the topic. You know, smart people like medical doctors or engineers or historians, but most of the time they don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to the Bible.” Lamoureux is troubled that most evangelicals today simply do not understand how to read the Bible, much less the early chapters of Genesis.
Young-earth creationists and biblical literalists have many loopholes and reasons for why they take the Bible’s picture and poetic language literally. But their rationale carries an arrogance that assumes the Bible was written for future audiences, specifically 19th and 20th century evangelical Christians, not ancient or 1st century audiences. In the same way that Ham dismisses “historical science,” many evangelicals go ahead and dismiss all of history itself. A popular example of the ongoing struggle with biblical language comes from Galileo in the early 17th century. Galileo, often called the father of modern astronomy, championed heliocentrism, the belief that the sun was at the centre of our universe. In light of his findings and in response to backlash from certain — though not all — members of the Christian church who wanted the earth at the centre of the universe ( Joshua 10:13 or Psalm 104:5), Galileo famously says, “The Bible teaches how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” On his website, Lamoureux has re-written this famous phrase in light of the current debate over evolution. He says, “The intention of the Bible is to teach us that God is the Creator, and not how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created.” The Bible tells us that God created, not how he did it. To describe how he currently understands God’s relationship to the world, Lamoureux uses the term “evolutionary creation.” The term points out that the world was created and designed and purposed by God through natural processes, not intermittent divine interventions like those in the Intelligent Design camp believe. Evolutionary creationists use the analogy of an embryo to explain the mysterious nature of life. The development of a life in the womb is observable here and now — not millions or billions of years ago — and yet it still remains a mystery. Who can say when God breathes his spirit into a developing baby or when He stamps this embryo with His image? As Christians, all we know and all we can really say is that the development of an embryo is an uninterrupted natural process that is sustained and maintained by the work of the Holy Spirit. And, interestingly enough, that is pretty much all we know and all we can say about the development of life through evolution too.
Kids are losing their faith at record numbers in record speeds. And the debate over evolution is one of the issues that drives it. “Hermeneutically, we evangelicals are generally not that good. As much as we pound on our chests thinking we are the sharpest people of Christendom, it’s not true. Just because we can cite John 3:16 or John 3:3, that doesn’t make us theological geniuses, despite the fact that most people think they are.” Lamoureux was clear to stress that the Holy Spirit inspired the biblical authors, but that doesn’t mean they escaped being a product of their time. They wrote in ancient history, which means they wrote out of an ancient cosmology, with ancient languages, through ancient literary conventions. Theologian J.I. Packer, for example, refers to the ancient writing of the early chapters of Genesis as “picture language” – language that tells a story or paints a picture rather than explaining literal events of history.
Lamoureux is indeed a rare person. There are not many people who have not one, not two, but three doctoral degrees in subjects as diverse as dentistry, theology, and evolutionary biology. But he remains humble about how far his expertise can take him. “I don’t know everything, I still don’t know everything and I will never know everything,” says Lamoureux. “But God’s got me on a process, an intellectual voyage, and my job is to be as clean and as competent as I can with the data in front of me.” One can only hope that all of us, atheists, young-earth creationists, and evolutionary creationists alike, strive to do the same. It may force us to actually learn something from those we disagree with. convergemagazine.com
Desire gone digital The dirty on how apps make â&#x20AC;&#x153;getting downâ&#x20AC;? easier than ever.
By Bret Mavrich | Photos by Kriza Borromeo
36 | CONVERGE. Summer
The idea was simple enough: Click on the pictures of the people you know on Facebook who you would like to have sex with. If someone picks you in return, you both get an alert; if not, you’re none the wiser. This was the original design behind Down, an app that, according to Mashable.com, in August 2013 had enlisted one million users and had aided 200,000 matches since its launch in January last year. Colin Hodge, the under-30 CEO and founder of Down (formerly known as Bang With Friends) told Mashable.com that he got the idea for the app after “looking at the frustration people have with other dating sites and getting tired of the dishonesty.” Millennials share his frustration: a recent study on online dating conducted by The Pew Research Center found that a paltry 11 per cent of millennials said they have used an online dating service. But that doesn’t mean they’re not looking for love online. According to the same study, 41 per cent of millennials have used the Internet to get more information about someone they were interested in dating, and 35 per cent admit to having looked up information about someone online with whom they already had plans to go on a date. And while 45 per cent admit to having flirted with someone online, 47 per cent — nearly half of them — have asked someone out via their cellphone. Don’t think texting; think any of the barrage of apps that blend texting with profile-sharing features that millennials have come to expect. Down is just one of them. It was Tinder that gained notoriety at the Sochi winter Olympics when athletes used the app to fuel the typically raucous hookup scene which is the Olympic Village (the average age of an Olympian? Patently millennial at 26). Tinder functions similarly to Down, but it adds the element of proximity. The video on the Tinder homepage actually shows a young woman flicking with her thumb through Facebook-esque pictures of eligible men whom she has likely run across during the day. “It’s like real life,” Tinder’s homepage explains, “but better.”
B Bang with Friends had weathered a number of storms by the end of last year, not least of which was an exile from the Apple App Store because of its salacious logo. Then, in August last year, Bang with Friends was sued by Zynga for a trademark infringement, lest someone gets the impression the app was the latest in the series that brought us Words with Friends and Scramble with Friends. Finally the app relaunched as Down — “down” smacks more of the millennial patois than the crass “bang”— complete with a flat design reminiscent of iOS7, and a G-rated logo. But lawsuit and name change aside, the very existence of the app suggests that sex is as casual an activity as playing scrabble. Its users are mostly millennials — 70 per cent are between the ages of 10 and 34, says Mashable.com — which signifies a significant shift in the way millennials approach sexuality, compared to prior generations. This shift in sexual ethos is one that Dan Allender, founder of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, and an expert in
38 | CONVERGE. Summer
sexual pathologies, finds himself addressing almost constantly. One young man explained to Allender that, to him, sex was akin to sharing a donut and coffee. Allender had to cede the point on a chemical level: starch and caffeine make dopamine and oxytocin rise in the blood stream resulting in ecstasy. But the question involves more than brain chemistry; namely a severe breakdown in world views. Allender asked whether the man would want the donut-sex model for his future marriage: an open monogamous relationship. When he answered no, Allender countered, “Why wouldn’t you be OK with your spouse having a donut with a neighbour?” It’s a great question for all millennials, who are postponing marriage to pursue career, in the process relegating sexuality as a way to pursue fleeting pleasure sans commitment. This trend is compounded by the fact that sex is being co-opted by the digital age. Instead of a pinnacle of intimacy between two committed people before God, our hyper-connected lives constantly encourage us to think in terms of links and tags: hot/not, like/
trash, friend/down. These ways of thinking can quietly wreak havoc in imperceptible ways, often evading detection until there is a total breakdown. For instance, Down was working out great for shameless hookups, except when it wasn’t: Facebook rolled out a graph search early last year in which it made public all members of Down. Suddenly, these people were exposed and ashamed. The breakdown came at the cost of the most crucial advantage to the app’s appeal: anonymity, the very quality which mitigates shame, and the very experience all users were hoping to avoid. But Allender doesn’t think shame is a bad thing. He insists shame is a gift from God that has been co-opted by the powers of evil: “It’s the red light on the dash board that says, something isn’t right here. But it’s not meant to metastasize into our character as an ongoing judgment. Shame is meant to be this thing that seizes me with horror at who I have become in the midst of any moment.” Even if that moment is the moment Facebook reveals that you are eager to have casual sex with your Facebook friends.
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to avoid shame. Apps offer us the ability to short-circuit shame and take a shortcut to intimacy. The Down website says under its privacy section the app was “designed to avoid awkward moments.” Readers are left to imagine the freedom that comes from avoiding that awkward moment when someone discloses to another person that she would like sex from him but not much else. But when we find a workaround for shame, we miss the gift that shame is: a vulnerable path to grace before God, who heals all of our brokenness. “The biological experience of shame is not the problem,” says Allender. “It’s how shame is bonded to our judgments of ourselves. Evil’s desire is constant that the judgment would take us away from being beloved. God wants shame to direct you back to Him.” People will do almost anything to avoid shame, and what is at stake when they do is a lucid view of God, and His intention for humans. In this sense, apps like Down are fundamentally misanthropic. “[Down] is using creativity and technological brilliance to facilitate that which deprives people of a sense of honour, loyalty, and goodness,” says Allender. “If we don’t agree that the end is destructive, we can’t agree that the means is bad.” In other words, without a thoughtful treatment of what technology is and how it ought to be used, millennials — just like generations before them — are in peril.
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40 | CONVERGE.
t Technology is an extension of ourselves, which is why this is the first generation that must be warned continually that a few unwise photos posted on the Internet could harm their future chances at getting into the right school or finding their dream job. But if technology is an extension of ourselves, it is therefore an extension of our spirituality. Jesus said it is those things in our hearts that defile, particularly when they come out of our mouths. All communications activity is flowing out of our deeper person, our soul, and reflects either godliness or idolatry. David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group, the leading researcher on faith and culture, recently co-wrote a book with Jun Young, a digital marketing communications professional. The book, Hyperlinked Life: Living with Wisdom in an Age of Information Overload, warns against technology as the idol of our times. Technologies are shaping our lives in powerful ways, say Kinnaman and Young; they recommend a “theology of information” that addresses three specific aspects of the information age: self-oriented, networked, and collaborative. Social sites allow us — encourage us! — to be profoundly self-oriented. We toggle switches and filter feeds until we only see as much or as little of people as we would prefer. And we take great pains to ensure that our social profiles reflect the best possible version of ourselves. Next, we’re networked: one of Down’s “innovations” is that now you can browse not just friends, but friends of friends, allowing a user to decide from all the available options a connection might represent. This “feature” only enforces a commodified version of relationships that places a premium on reaching more people purely for the sake of getting what we want, whether that’s a better job or a sexual fling. Finally, our lives in the information age are collaborative. Kinnaman and Young point out that even our purchases are collaborative in that our apps help us see what our friends, or others who share our tastes, are reading, watching, wearing and buying. Social capital is no different, and many of us intuitively size up profile information in a matter of seconds to determine whether a news source is reliable,
Sources: zoosk.com, statisticbrain.com
e c n a h c r You he world!
or a celebrity’s Twitter profile is legitimate. To imagine that our brains are not firing in the same way with the people we choose to like and approve of is to deliberately ignore the way our social milieu has groomed us to process our world. Without a deliberate and thoughtful theology of information applied to our lives, we are in peril of bowing to an idol that will have devastating consequences on our work, our relationships, and our love. Apps like Down and Tinder are extreme, but these three areas help us address the widespread effects of technology on socialization. While holding out the Sisyphean promise of connectivity, too often our gadgets disappoint, giving us only isolation through anonymity. According to the Barna research behind Hyperlinked Life, almost half of millennials feel like their personal electronics sometimes separate them from other people, a paradox for devices that have the potential to keep us up to speed with our friends. Consider for a moment the shift in the way we use the word “friend.” What a generation ago might have meant a close and
Shame is only realized for the gift it is when we are in face-toface relationships with people who can then envisage grace for us in return. This is how we are healed, but it takes time and effort. Peter writes about it this way: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” That sincere and earnest love requires that we actually see one another for who we truly are. “Offline friendships require spending time together — over coffee, on the phone, during the weekends. Offline friendships require attention and effort, plus they’re messy because people’s lives are messy,” say Kinnaman and Young. Another part of the solution is to make an effort to unify our online and offline selves. Millennials are innately comfortable with their digital devices, say Kinnaman and Young, but they struggle to learn how to be fully themselves in both digital and analog roles. Authenticity is one of the greatest challenges of our connected information-saturated milieu.
Digital dating 52 per cent of online daters are men; 48 per cent are women.
Remember when it was humiliating to admit you met online? Now it’s pretty typical; about 17 per cent of marriages had their start online.
Online daters don’t waste any time. The average length of courtships ending in marriage are half as long as those who met offline.
eHarmony has over 15 million members. But that’s nothing compared to Zoosk’s 50 million.
10 per cent of online users are sex offenders.
The online dating industry brings in over $1.2 billion in revenue per year.
trusted confidant, “friend” on a social media platform indicates only the loosest connection (I met her at a party), or general interest (I follow his posts). Another way social media isolates is through the easy exit: a click of a button jettisons anyone no longer useful or interesting into the void and out of our feeds, tumbling into the blissfully silent ether like Sandra Bullock in Gravity. It’s like they never existed. In addition, according to the same Pew study, 36 per cent of millennials admit to have unfriended or blocked someone they used to be in a relationship with, and 41 per cent unfriended or blocked someone who flirted and made them feel uncomfortable. What does all of this communicate about the intrinsic value of people formed in the image of God?
The solution isn’t easy, but it’s probably more analog than the lifestyles of many millennials. Real relationships demand time, and are often full of gloriously awkward exchanges as people struggle to love one another like Christ.
Hodge may have been frustrated with the dishonesty on dating sites, but anonymity isn’t the answer; integrity is the answer, the union between the inner self and the outer life. “Don’t be like the hypocrites,” said Jesus. He could have easily been talking to a generation that masks their weakness with shined and buffed social profiles. “We need to be sure we don’t cultivate two different versions of ourselves: our online self versus our offline self,” say Kinnaman and Young. They encourage readers to consider excessive Instagramming, and to remove the Twitter humble-brag. When we widen the gap between who we are and what we want people to perceive us to be, we are only feeding into the disease. But that’s not to say technology is to be shunned; all of this is in service to cultivating true relationships, with God and with others. Grace meted out through authentic relationships, not apps, is the antidote to shame. At our core, we all desperately want intimacy without shame, and if deliberate relationships with intentional use of technology can get us there, we’re down. convergemagazine.com
Underdogs By Joel Bentley
t their best, science fiction movies both reveal a world of possibilities and reflect back on our present lives. They’re meditations on what it means to be human. They’re warning signs of the dangers present in scientific discovery and environmental tampering. They’re retellings of the myths our society is built upon. These five movies might not show up on “Best Of” lists, but each deals with a classic sci-fi theme and deserves to be seen among the classics of the sci-fi canon.
1. Twelve Monkeys (1995) What’s it about? Time travel, dystopia, madness, and memory. Beginning in 2035, when the world population has been decimated by a deadly virus, the film follows James Cole (a delightfully solemn and disturbed Bruce Willis) as he is sent back to 1996 to learn as much as possible about the terrorist group The Army of the Twelve Monkeys, who are suspected of releasing the virus.
Why should I watch it? One very good reason is Brad Pitt’s
crazed Mad Hatter performance as Jeffrey Goines, a mental patient and leader in The Army of the Twelve Monkeys. Directed by Terry Gilliam, a Monty Python veteran and the man behind such films as Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, the film is filled with wry humour, satire, antics, and a deep look at fate: are we able to change the present to rearrange the future, or are we simply fated to live out the lives that have been written for us?
2. Children of Men (2006) What’s it about? Infertility, the end of the world, Michael
3. Contact (1997) What’s it about? Nerds, satellites, first contact with aliens,
Caine’s crazy hair, and hope. The world has been pushed to the brink of collapse by global infertility. Set in 2027 in a decrepit United Kingdom, the story follows Theo Faron (a melancholy Clive Owen) as he is recruited to escort a West African immigrant with a secret, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), out of the country and away from various parties trying to capture her.
faith, and science. Following Dr. Ellie Arroway ( Jodie Foster), Contact attempts to make the first contact with extraterrestrials believable, building its momentum through presidential cameos, CNN broadcasts, and security cam footage. Gloriously nerdy, it instills as much drama as possible while Jodie Foster shouts star coordinates into a walkie talkie: “Left! 36 hours!”
Why should I watch it? Like he did with Gravity, director
Why should I watch it? Because it’s an endearing (albeit
Alfonso Cuarón exposes his characters to the most dire of situations, pulling them through countless dangers on their way to safety. The payoff is incredible, thanks to Cuarón’s theatrics and John Tavener’s moving score (I have never watched the penultimate scene without weeping), proving that hope is worth fighting for, no matter how awful the situation.
42 // CONVERGE // Summer 2014
preachy) case for faith. Foster’s Dr. Arroway is an atheist, with faith in the facts, but when she can’t prove what she has discovered or experienced, she calls on her accusers to take her word by faith. Movies aren’t the greatest arena for faith vs. science debates, but it’s heartening to see this kind of discussion in a major film.
4. Gattaca (1997) What’s it about? Eugenics, cons, space travel, and destiny. Set in a world where people’s lives are determined by their genes, Ethan Hawke’s Vincent Freeman attempts to beat the system by proving he can overcome his predicted outcome. Disguising himself in Jerome Eugene Morrow’s genes (a downtrodden and suave Jude Law) through urine bags, blood drops, and hair samples, Freeman works his way up to his dream job: taking a flight to Saturn’s moon Titan.
Why should I watch it? It’s a stylish film that discusses some
big ideas. Who determines our destinies? What matters more: our genetic makeup or our willpower? It’s both a cautionary tale and a metaphor for the current divide between the elite (the rich and educated) and the poor who are often doomed to manual labour and low-paying jobs.
5. Upstream Color (2013) What’s it about? Pigs, parasites, possession, and purpose. OK, this one is a little hard to follow, but essentially it’s about Kris (Amy Seimetz), who is kidnapped, drugged, and exploited. But that’s just the beginning — this film is really about the aftermath. Shot for maximum atmosphere and reflection, the story puts its two central characters through a period of discovery as they slowly piece together what has happened to them and what that means for their identities.
Why should I watch it? In part because it’s a testament to
what one talented filmmaker can do. Shane Carruth, the film’s director, writer, producer, lead actor, composer, and editor, is a one-man force, and his vision for this film is impeccable. The experience of watching it is a meditative one, as it’s easy to translate each of these characters into symbols for our own lives: what lies do we believe that steal our time and energy? What is destroying us? Who is helping us recover? What determines who we really are?
Books Season of love Loveology John Mark Comer Zondervan, 2014 Loveology is a primer on the biblical view of love, marriage, and sex. Writing primarily to young Christian singles, pastor John Mark Comer of Portland’s Solid Rock — A Jesus Church, starts his book with a definition of love: is it something that happens to us? A feeling that we receive passively? Or is it an action, a verb that pushes us to treat those around us with grace and care? Well, Comer says, it’s both, but the latter is more important, as Jesus sets the example: self-sacrifice is the way to lasting relationships. Diving into the story of Genesis, Comer uncovers what God intends for marriage: not to be an end unto itself, but meant for friendships, for families, for careers and for sex. Comer outlines these insights in plain straight-talk. He doesn't beat around the bush. He even navigates into the prickly area of gender roles. That plainness is also a weakness: there’s no poetry in his language, and his asides tend toward outright cheesiness. But I get that beautiful prose isn’t really the point here. His goal is to reaffirm a biblical view of relationships, and he does well in that goal. This is a not a book read for enjoyment, but as a launching point for discussion — with your church, with your friends, or with your girlfriend or boyfriend. The Q&A section at the back of the book is particularly helpful in this, drilling down to the nitty gritty, complicated questions. Throughout the book, Comer dispels the misconceptions of a cold and stoic God who only wants us to deny ourselves. God is a God of love, a God of romance, a God of marriage, and a God of sex. He is a God to fall in love with. — Joel Bentley
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Bring Summer Croons By Landon Ajimura
S. Carey Range of Light Jagjaguwar; April 2014
S. Carey is best known for his involvement with Bon Iver as a percussionist and background vocalist. It feels as though Range of Light’s nine tracks capture a sunlit, picturesque moment from nine different angles. Carey’s vocals – a combination of the silkiness of Jon Foreman and the soulfulness of Justin Vernon – accompany his variegated instrumentation, spanning from classical to electronic, even incorporating creaking floorboards and falling rain. At the release of Range of Light, Carey posted nine pictures on Instagram (@scareypics) that correspond to each track, inviting the listener to seek out the beautiful illumination of all things that are revealed in the spectrum of light.
Said The Whale Remixed Hidden Pony Records; April 2014
Said the Whale, a Vancouver-based indie outfit, recently dropped an EP remixing four songs from their 2013 full length album, hawaiii. Each track is saturated with heavy synth processing and vocal sampling, highly reminiscent of Rostam Batmanglij and Wesley Miles’ recording project Discovery, which produced the 2009 album, LP. The fourth track’s (“I Love You”) processing transforms the original’s fast-paced bass-drum drive into a gradual incline through punctuations of electronic haze. The rest of the EP features interesting electronic interpretations of the band’s original sound, which might indicate the future direction of Said The Whale. If so, I’m down.
Neøv “Laketown” Fullsteam; Album Release TBD
Finnish indie-pop outfit Neøv recently released the single “Laketown” as a taste of a future album. The band is characteristically melodic, with soft vocals that complement their overall tone, creating a cohesive, driving sound. Neøv, with their rhythmic punctuation and occasional anthemic propensities, could be the musical love child of Radiohead and Two Door Cinema Club. Keep an eye out for this album.
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Your Friend Jekyll/Hyde Domino Recording Co; April 2014
Your Friend is the lo-fi, semi-folky singersongwriter project of Taryn Blake Miller. The digital debut of the six-track album Jekyll/Hyde was released in February, and the album comes out on record in April. Miller’s vocals are simultaneously dreamy and haunting, framed by the saunter of her electric guitar and poignant percussive riffs. The composition of Jekyll/Hyde seems to capture an important part of the human experience which, due to Miller’s dreaminess, might be mistaken for apathy. The album transports its listeners to personal contemplation, even internal dissonance. Miller succeeds in ensuring that each track is bathed in the melancholy and listlessness of the last light of any Sunday afternoon.
Timber Timbre Hot Dreams
Arts & Crafts; April 2014
Timber Timbre’s fifth album, Hot Dreams, continues the dark, multi-genre compositions the Canadian band is known for. Lead member Taylor Kirk’s diverse and even unexpected use of instruments and synthesizers often move a track from brooding to nostalgic to cinematic in a matter of measures. Kirk’s vocals, saturated with earnestness and introspection, are dragged along in the sweep of each song’s bluesy movement, and perhaps even show hints of self-loathing. The title track is thoroughly sexy with deliberate vocals and instrumentation, complete with a sax outro that might encapsulate Hot Dream’s overall demeanor: longing, moody, and full of desire.
Listen! Hot Dreams title track:
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There’s harmony in community By Michelle Sudduth
hough the word “Trinity” can’t be found in the Bible, the theological term is used to describe God’s mysterious nature that is woven throughout the pages of Scripture. Theologians have always had difficulty finding adequate metaphors to help us understand how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct, yet unified. How can one be three and three be one? Many of us have heard the Trinity compared to the three parts of an egg, or the various forms in which water can exist. A couple years ago I was introduced to a metaphor from music theory that has been the most helpful. Theologian Jeremy Begbie uses the example of a music chord made up of three notes called a “triad.” Each note creates its own individual tone, but all three played together create another distinct entity. This “three in one” nature reveals God as an inherently relational being; in the same way, God created us to be in relationship with others. Therefore, the
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chord metaphor can be beneficial as we think through what it is to be in community with those around us. Playing one note on a piano is beautiful, in and of itself. However, the nature of that one tone is enhanced in relation to the other tones heard along with it. When a chord is played, each note provides the setting for the others, both showcasing their individual importance while also creating an entirely new, beautiful sound altogether. Furthermore, the sound is enriched as each note is played to the best of its ability. If one of the notes of a chord is softer than the others, the entire sound is weakened. When all notes are played with passion, each note owns its special place. The individual notes don’t need to stand out or compete with the other notes, because each understands the value of the other. When we imagine community spatially, we tend to think there is a place at the top we need to strive for in order to be our best selves. By this logic, there are people who must be put at the bottom. But when a chord is played and reverberates through the air, each note is both decipherable and indecipherable from the others. Each note has equal value. How wonderful would it be if we were able to receive the freedom of this metaphor in the various environments in which we live! We wouldn’t need to “one-up” each other, since the presence of the other is what makes each individual voice become more fully expressed. Maybe this can even challenge us to rethink what “being at our best” means. Being my best doesn’t connote being the best. You are the best in relation to God and others, not apart from or above them. Jesus’ humble love was the opposite of self-exultation. Jesus shared in our humanity. His act of self-sacrifice made the way for all of the world to flourish. May we take Jesus’ way to heart. May we submit ourselves to living a life that makes way for others to be their best selves. In doing so, may our best self be brought out as well. Together we can make beautiful chords in the song of life.
Flickr photo (cc) by Doyle Smtih
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