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ISSUE 37 | JANUARY_FEBRUARY 2009 | $4.95

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Journalist and traveler Kelsey Timmerman wanted to find out. So he canvassed the globe to put a personal face on the controversial issues of globalization and outsourcing. Whether bowling with workers in Cambodia or riding a roller coaster with workers in Bangladesh, Timmerman bridges the gap between impersonal economic forces and the people most directly affected by them. You’ll never see your wardrobe the same again.

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Available at your local bookstore or visit

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the untold story > CAMERON STRANG When publishing a magazine, you’re always on the lookout for untold stories. It’s fun to open people’s eyes to ideas, people and issues they may not have known about, challenge perceptions and promote things that deserve broader recognition. Sometimes that’s expressed by devoting pages to emerging artists we love, like Lykke Li, Jose Gonzalez or Cool Hand Luke (hey, we’re doing that in this issue—imagine that). Or by putting someone you probably have never heard of, Pete Greig, on our cover because he’s leading a significant, countercultural spiritual movement that’s canvassing the globe. Recently, I was reminded of one of the most significant untold stories of our generation, and it happens to center on our outgoing president. It’s a story so important that I contend a hundred years from now, it will actually be the primary thing history uses to define President George W. Bush’s administration. And it has gone virtually unreported by the media. Dec. 1, 2008, marked the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. To commemorate it, Pastor Rick Warren hosted a Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health in Washington, D.C., gathering non-profit and faith leaders in the fight against AIDS. The guest of honor was President Bush, to whom Warren presented the International Medal of PEACE from the Global PEACE Coalition in recognition of his contribution to the fight

against HIV/AIDS and other diseases. “No man in history, no world leader, has done more for global health than George W. Bush,” Warren said when giving him the award. For many people, that’s not what first comes to mind when they think about President Bush’s administration, but the long-term ramifications of his global health efforts cannot be understated. It was at the 2003 State of the Union address that Bush announced the formation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). At the time, only 50,000 people living with AIDS in Africa were able to receive anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. PEPFAR’s ambitious goal was to increase that number to 2 million in five years—a milestone they’ve actually now surpassed. Those people getting treatment and education have actually led to another 8 million people not contracting the disease who otherwise would have. Ten million lives saved. And of those, 4 million are orphans, the majority of whom were orphaned because both parents died of AIDS. PEPFAR is touching every aspect of African society, providing hope to a generation that has been dying off at an alarming rate. So why has PEPFAR worked where other efforts failed? President Bush insisted on collaboration with African leaders—partnering with them instead of merely pushing our strategies—and then holding those partners accountable for results. “The innovation was trusting leaders at the local level,” Bush said at the forum. “Instead of saying, ‘We’re going to tell you what to do,’ we helped them determine their own strategies for each country. When they develop the strategy, it’s easier to hold the strategy developer to account. “It’s the timeless management principal of aligning authority and responsibility,” he said. “If you disassociate authority and responsibility, you can’t have accountability.” The measurable and unprecedented success of PEPFAR not only led President Bush to reauthorize it this past summer, he actually pushed through a tripling of its funding. For him it was a moral imperative that was non-negotiable. “A president must have a firm set of principals from which he will not deviate,” Bush said. “I believe in the universality of freedom, and I believe freedom is universal because of an almighty God. It’s not just freedom

from tyranny that the U.S. must become involved in, I believe it’s freedom from disease, freedom from hunger, freedom from deprivation. If you believe in the universality of freedom, then you should not shy away from doing your duty.” About eight months ago, I traveled to Rwanda with Pastor Warren. While there, I saw PEPFAR everywhere. In virtually every village, there was a clinic or a hospital or a school that was receiving lifesaving vaccines, training and education because of PEPFAR. It’s changing lives, it’s changing the course of Africa’s future. “They call what’s taking place in Africa ‘The Lazarus Effect’—people given up for dead now realizing there is life,” Bush said. “We are a better nation when we save lives. I wish the American people could see what we have seen after this PEPFAR initiative: People literally lining the roads in Tanzania all waving and anxious to express their love and appreciation to the American president who represents the American people.” With the recent election almost solely focusing on change, I personally hope this is one area Barack Obama will not change course. Thankfully, he has committed to continuing PEPFAR, something that will become increasingly difficult to back up as economic pressures continue to mount domestically. But this is too important, too permanent, to renege on our word. Millions of lives literally hang in the balance. As we look at these closing weeks of the Bush administration, it’s easy to see the challenges our country is facing and forget monumental, positive initiatives like PEPFAR. I want to publicly applaud President Bush for taking a stand when others hadn’t, and doing so without the motive of political benefit. He has stood up for those who have no voice, and he did so because it was the right thing to do. “I believe to whom much is given, much is required,” Bush said. “And when you have somebody say ‘There’s a pandemic that you can help,’ and you do nothing about it, then you have frankly disgraced the office [of president].” It’s a wake-up call for all of us. What are we doing with what we’ve been given? We may not be a president who can push forward a strategy that will change the fate of a continent, but we can all do more with the influence, creativity and resources God has entrusted us with. If we each strive to live outwardly, selflessly and intentionally, history will be altered. May each of our lives be the next great untold story. d

CAMERON STRANG is the founder and editor of RELEVANT. You can email him at cameron


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COMMENTS, CONCERNS, SMART REMARKS > Send your love and hate mail to Please be gentle.

The Nov./Dec. cover story, “Trade in the Lies,” and the “Conscientious Gift Guide” were absolutely exciting to me. Shopping responsibly is one of the many simple ways that we can turn the tides of injustice. People in the United States spend money, and lots of it, around the holidays. If just a tenth of the population decided to buy all of their gifts from fair-trade sources, the dent in world-wide poverty could be staggering. —CHRISTINE THYE / Omaha, NE

This is what I love about RELEVANT. I open it up and the first thing I read is Cameron Strang [“First Word: What It Means to be Whole-Life”] causing me to think about what my faith really means and how I represent it. His close about standing up for whole-life couldn’t be more timely. —ESTHER DENG / Perth, Australia I have enjoyed RELEVANT more in the past year because of its increased focus on the whole of biblical values, not just those of conservative Republicans. There are many who believe the Bible and love Christ but who will see additional focus on social justice as de-emphasizing issues like abortion. They need voices like RELEVANT even if they write hate emails. —MEADE BAKER / Via email I just wanted to thank you for making RELEVANT bi-monthly. As crazy as that might sound, that’s about how long it takes me to read it cover to cover. —AUSTIN HARTLEY / Ozark, MO Austin, you might want to look into They can help. The cover story, “Trade in the Lies” [Nov./Dec. 2008], brought light to a typically veiled, critical issue facing the world, and the community of believers today. Americans are so completely consumed with consuming that no one cares to look at the lives that are being destroyed due to it. But we as Christians must be concerned with this. After all we are not simply citizens of the United States of America; we are citizens of the Kingdom of God and are called to live to higher standards. Let us be the first in line to not buy that $60 t-shirt and work to reform

labor practices around the world. Let us be the first to not just peek under the veil of trade, but completely tear it off. Let us be a people who through their love of God show that we will not stand for anything less than the global good. —SHAUNA MARSHALL / Kirkland, WA I just got the latest issue. Where is The Scene? It’s one of the features I read first. —PAUL BIRDSONG / Via email The Scene is dead. So is ska. The new issue is great. I love the new designs, the Table of Contents layout, everything. Lots of music reviews, and some really challenging and inspiring articles. I am thoroughly satisfied. —KYLE NEMEZ / Winnipeg, Manitoba Our staff’s sole objective each and every issue? The satisfaction of Kyle Nemez.

Universalism is increasing in popularity, so we as Christians need to be prepared to answer it when we encounter it. It’s hard to say the exclusive claims of Jesus to others, knowing that you have found the only truth, yet we must declare Jesus as the only way. —MATT EARLEY / Via email I work for Adult Swim and used the recent article on Moral Orel [Nov./Dec. 2008] to open up conversations about my faith and stance on key issues. I brought some issues in and talked with my crew about people who are Christians in today’s world and that they are not the hypocrites that people assume them to be (represented on the show). I now speak openly about my faith at work. Thank you for the shoe-horn to get my foot in the door. —JOE MULLINS / Atlanta, GA If you really want to thank us, any and all leftover Adult Swim swag can be sent to the address on page 4. We’re fans. Seriously.

“The Rising Tide of Universalism” [Nov./Dec. 2008] was both misleading and uninformed. Universalism is certainly not to be limited to Unitarianism. There are many well-respected theologians, biblical scholars and evangelicals who maintain a belief in God’s ability and desire to reconcile all things to Himself. This belief is rooted less in the proof-texting and surrendering to politically correct idealism implied by your article and more in the Greek and Hebrew texts of Scripture. Evangelical universalism does not believe that salvation is available through all faiths and religions; rather, evangelical universalism teaches that the work of Christ is so significant and cosmic, that it transforms and renews all things. —GREG KLIMOVITZ / West Chester, PA

Are you aware that the new and “improved” RELEVANT.TV HD spends most of its time buffering, usually after playing for only 5 seconds of the video? —CATHERINE BLACK / Springfield, IL

Thanks for publishing an article that stands firm on Scripture’s view of salvation. Props to Jonathan Merritt for speaking truth in a world where truth is not popular. I want more of this. —COLT MELROSE / Merrillville, IN

Because it’s a live stream (not progressive download) playing big, crisp HD music videos, the new RELEVANT.TV HD requires a broadband Internet connection to view. We suggest jacking a friend’s wireless.

I’m really enjoying the [Nov./Dec. 2008] issue. I am glad you featured the article on mentoring [“Revolution”]. I have friends that have been impacted by fatherlessness. Far too often issues like this are overshadowed by injustices that are happening overseas—it’s like people would rather look at things that are thousands of miles away, rather than in their own back yards. —TIFFANY FORRESTER / Via email


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Ben Affleck Leading the Way in the Congo > Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been in the news a lot lately, but the conflict there is an old one ... and until recently, it’s gone largely unnoticed by the wider world. Not so for Ben Affleck, who has spent much of his energy on the country in the past few years, working to bring awareness to the war-torn area where more than an estimated 5 million people have been killed since 2005. “My suspicion is not as many people are aware of that as probably ought to be, and if they were then they’d probably think of it differently,” the actor told Good Morning America in reference to the number of people who have been killed in conflict and conflict-related causes in the Congo. Affleck visited the country four times in the last year, and made a documentary for ABC’s Nightline in May 2008. During his trips, he met with people on all sides of the conflict, visiting hospitals, refugee camps, and U.N. centers which work to reeducate child soldiers and other members of the militia. “Part of these trips for me have been about a learning experience,” Affleck says. “I didn’t think I could honestly do anything until I understood.”


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> HELP FOR THE DRC Though violence in the Congo is on the rise, there are several organizations working to stop the violence and help the millions of victims there. Here are five of those organizations and the efforts they’re making. INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS Affleck visited the IMC program in the Congo while filming for Nightline. IMC treats nearly 100 new cases of severely malnourished children a month at their Virunga Hospital in Goma, Congo. The good news: the recovery rate at Virunga Hospital is 95 percent. MEDAIR For 11 years, Medair has provided emergency relief and rehabilitation in the Congo, and is one of the longest-staying NGOs there. Medair works with large numbers of displaced people seeking refuge. It employs international staff, but also a sizeable local D. R. Congo staff.

> Apparently, the official FEMA manual actually details what to do in the event of an alien invasion or UFO crash. If we’ve learned one thing, it’s not to take their crystal skulls ... > If you’re applying for colleges, be wary of the information on your Facebook page. Ten percent of admissions officers admit to using social networking pages to evaluate college applicants ... > The DVD release of Little House on the Prairie earned an adults-only rating in Finland. Perhaps it was due to the raw magnetism of Michael Landon ...

Hipster Habitat Sufjan Stevens’ label, Asthmatic Kitty, has released a compilation album benefiting Habitat for Humanity. The two-disc record, called Habitat, contains 29 tracks, all focusing on architecture. The album is largely electronic, and features a collaboration between Stevens, Asthmatic Kitty founder Lowell Brams, and Bryce Dessner of The National. The trio, dubbed Tidal River, join artists like Son Lux and Stars Like Fleas on the album. It’s an interesting lineup of artists, and a great cause to be sure. Now, if Sufjan would only do another state album, we’d be happy.

WAR CHILD The conflict in the Congo destroyed 70% of the country’s schools. War Child focuses on education, teaching self-reliance and helping reduce poverty. Through their school rehabilitation project in the Congo, they’ve built 15 schools and re-trained 400 teachers.

RAISE HOPE FOR CONGO Started by the ENOUGH Project, this organization raises awareness of sexual violence against Congolese women. They also work to promote the four p’s—peace, protection, punishment and prevention. Actor Javier Bardem produced a documentary, Invisibles, that includes a segment about the crimes against Congolese women. SAVE THE CHILDREN For 15 years, this organization has reunited children separated from their families in North Kivu, where 250,000 people have been displaced. They’ve launched child tracing efforts in two camps in Goma to lower the number of children who are lost and unidentified.

Porta-be Gone! A new waste water treatment system may be able to deliver hope to disaster areas and developing countries. The Deployable Aqueous Aerobic Bioreactor (DAAB) is housed in a 40-foot shipping container, and can provide sanitary facilities for up to 600 people. The system uses bacteria to remove harmful materials from waste water, and it releases clean water into the environment with no harmful environmental impact. Moreover, while the water it releases isn’t drinkable, it can be used for irrigation. The initial DAAB units will be deployed for use by soldiers in Iraq, but in the future its inventors see it being used in disaster sites and developing countries.


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> A pair of bank robbers sought by the FBI have been dubbed the “Too Tall” robbers. The strange thing is, the robbers are 5’7” and 5’10”. Evidently, the FBI is made up of Oompa-Loompas ... > A new study shows that women have a greater variety of bacteria on their hands than men. Who saw that one coming? ...

NEW YEAR, NEW GOALS ... New Year’s Resolutions are always a tricky matter. Most of us start out with good intentions, then abandon our pursuits within a week or two. So, before you’re drawn away by the plate of doughnuts, sleep through another personal training session or flat-out forget to write those letters to the child you sponsor, here are some tips to actually keeping those resolutions. PICK A RESOLUTION THAT IMPROVES YOU Think long and hard about the motives behind your resolution. Are your goals going to improve your character? What areas might God want you to grow in?

> Actor Joaquin Phoenix has said he is retiring from acting to focus on his music career. Hopefully, he will find the same musical success as Bruce Willis, Russell Crowe and Tim Robbins ... JOHNNY TOLD ME TO

It’s Blair-riffic!!! Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is looking to recruit a few good men (and women). Blair, who converted to Catholicism after leaving office, has started a program to recruit 30 people between the ages of 18 and 25 to serve as interfaith ambassadors. The project is an initiative of The Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the Interfaith Youth Core, and seeks to build understanding between young people of different faiths through serving together to defeat global poverty. Applicants who are accepted for the program go through a 10-month training program, which includes two months of fighting malaria in Africa. It sounds like a pretty amazing and intense program. We’d go so far as to say it’s Blair-riffic! To find out more, check out

SET MEASURABLE AND ATTAINABLE GOALS If you’ve never run in your life (and running after the ice cream truck doesn’t count), don’t start off promising yourself you’ll run every day. Try once a week. Also, vague goals lead to a loss of interest. PRAY Believe it or not, God does care deeply about your personal development. Pray specifically about the areas in which you want to improve. Consider keeping a journal of your prayers so you can look back over the year and be encouraged in the ways God has helped you. TELL A FRIEND, BE ACCOUNTABLE The easiest way to make sure you don’t achieve any of your goals is to not tell anyone about them. Let a friend in on your goals for self-improvement, your timetable and the strategy you intend to use to get there. DON’T BE DISCOURAGED Odds are, at some point, you’re not going to entirely measure up to the benchmarks you set for yourself. Take the inevitable pitfalls in stride, and simply get back to your routine. The worst thing you can do is chalk one mistake up to total failure, and end up chucking all your goals.

VOTE FOR JESUS During the hotly contested election cycle, the real question on everyone’s mind was, “Who got the most write-in votes?” In Anderson, Ind., Jesus narrowly edged out Big Bird with a margin of 3-2. IT’S ALWAYS IN THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK A clergyman in Moscow claims that a local church which had stood for

more than 200 years was stolen brick by brick. We’ve all been annoyed by misplacing something valuable, but an entire church? SCROOGE YOU A marketing campaign by a humanist association in Washington, D.C. rankled shoppers this Christmas. The ads, on the side of city buses, read “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”


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June 25-27, 2009 July 16-18, 2009

New Life Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado




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GAME OF THE GODS? If you thought Monopoly made people angry at each other, it has nothing on the new board game, Playing Gods. In the game, players duke it out as the central figures from major religions. Players can choose an angry looking Jesus, Moses wielding the Ten Commandments like a bludgeon, a machine guntoting Buddha and a whole host of other religious figures. For you old-school types, there are Norse and Roman deities. There are even slightly more abstract deities such as Oprah and The Almighty Dollar. Wiccans can battle Scientologists and ancient Mayan gods

for control over the world—the only limit is your imagination. Unleash floods and plagues on each other’s followers, while protecting your own flock. The god with the best strategy, skill and luck shall rule the world. The central premise of the game is a lot like Risk. The gods move around a map of the world, trying to either convert or kill the followers of other gods. Each deity can dole out blessings—such as prosperity or the promise of an afterlife—or rain down wrath (plague, anyone?). The game is won when one religion conquers more than half the globe. Ben Radford, the creator of

the game, says that although the premise may rile some people, there’s an underlying message to all the madness. “Though the theme includes religious battles—and will almost certainly be controversial—it is really a satire with an underlying message of peace, encouraging people to think about the tragedy of killing others just because they have different beliefs,” he says. He insists that the purpose is not to offend, but to send a message. So, if you’re looking to inject some controversy into game night, pull out Playing Gods. At least it’s less sketchy than Twister.


Designer and philanthropist Kenneth Cole recently released a book about activism, drawing on celebrities such as Elton John, Ludacris, Lance Armstrong and seminal reggae artist and Orthodox Jew, Matisyahu. Here, he talks about how his faith has led to acts of service.

As I grew up, my parents, who are secular, taught me that doing something meaningful with our lives and dedicating our lives to help in some way—whether by donating money or spending a day working with people—was the most important thing. To have the ability to really change the world and affect it in a positive way is such an amazing thing. I just hope my life is centered around that and centered around doing good things.

Playing Gods contains representatives of every major religion, and quite a few minor ones. Here’s a brief rundown.

God created the world with this essential rift, which exists in God, and the job of humans is to somehow fix it, fix the world and, in a sense, fix God.




> The multi-armed Hindu goddess of death and destruction certainly looks like a worthy adversary. You may recognize her from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

> This Siddhartha looks a little less amiable than he is generally depicted. Carrying around a gatling gun is a far cry from meditating under a lotus tree.

> God promised to write the Law on people’s hearts, but this Moses seems like he’d rather write it on their heads. This is probably how he actually felt when he saw that golden calf.

Unidentified Muslim >This is not Mohammed. Radford, was very, very clear on that. Whoever it is, it’s definitely not Mohammed.

Jesus > This depiction doesn’t exactly fall in line with the whole Prince of Peace thing. It’s probably a bit closer in nature to Peter.

Turn on the news and pay attention to what’s happening, whether it’s a fire somewhere or someone being killed, or fighting going on in Crown Heights between blacks and Jews. Whatever it is, see it, hear it, feel it and act from there. Source: AWEARNESS: Inspiring Stories About How to Make a Difference by Kenneth Cole


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CELL PHONE 28% MP3 PLAYER 12% GPS 3% Total Votes: 2,300

>NASA scientists are working on a computersimulated counselor to help astronauts through depression and interpersonal conflict. It sounds like a great idea, but it’s a short path from, “Tell me how you’re feeling today,” to, “I’m afraid I can’t allow that, Dave” ... > A new study shows that eating food quickly and to the point of feeling full contributes greatly to obesity. This study was conducted by The Institute for the Glaringly Obvious ...


Martin Luther King, Jr. Day > Make the day a day of living King’s legacy in the spirit of non-violence and social action.

Presidential Inauguration > Whether or not you agree with his politics, it will be a historic moment when Barack Obama is sworn in as the nation’s first black president. Though tickets to the event are offered free by the Senate, scalpers are already selling them for up to five figures.


Kings Premiere > Although the date of the premiere is not set in stone, the new NBC drama, Kings, should certainly be interesting. The show is a retelling of the King David story, and is set in a modern metropolis. NBC hopes Kings will be its breakaway midseason hit.



Valentine’s Day > Valentine’s Day is either the greatest day of the year, or a brutal vortex of loathing and despair. If you have a significant other, do something more creative than dinner and a movie. Check your city’s website for unique Valentine’s Day events in your area. If you’re single, put The Smiths on the stereo and cry yourself to sleep while eating an entire box of those chalky candy hearts. The tears make them taste better.



81st Academy Awards > With the early buzz surrounding Heath Ledger’s Ledger turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight, Knight this year’s Oscars will be one not to miss. And, the Academy Awards seems to have learned that five hours of homages to sound editing and costume design isn’t a big audience draw, so the show is getting mercifully truncated every year.



> Director Christopher Nolan is being sued for the use of the name Batman by a city in Turkey —called Batman. Ironically, the city has a really high crime rate ...



Charlize Theron was named the 10th U.N. peace envoy, with a special focus on ending violence against women. Theron has focused her energies as both an actress and humanitarian on women’s violence issues. She appeared in anti-rape ads in South Africa, and starred in several movies pivoting on violence against women, including her Oscar-winning turn as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the film Monster, and her role as a woman fighting sexual abuse in North Country. In designating her a peace envoy, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “You have consistently dedicated yourself to improving the lives of women and children in South Africa, and to preventing and stopping violence against women and girls. I look forward to working with you to end this terrible scourge.”





> A new beverage being sold in London pubs aims to help people beat the smoking ban by containing up to 15 percent nicotine. The drink, called Liquid Smoking, already has anti-smoking groups up in arms. But, come on, who hasn’t had the urge to drink from a dirty ashtray? ...


JAN 19

> The Dalai Lama says he’s given up on China in his quest for greater autonomy for Tibet. He has now left the impetus for Tibetan freedom in the hands of the Tibetan people. So they got that going for them. Which is nice ...



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MISC. > A British teen has changed his name to Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined. All that quickness won’t keep him from being beaten up by his peers ...

Denny’s Grammy Slam After a long evening at a show, there are a couple things you want: food and a place to rest until your eardrums stop vibrating. Denny’s has practically made an empire out of providing a spot for the late-night crowd to loiter. And, while day-time Denny’s seems to draw the over-55 set (the kind of people who actually order the meatloaf), night-time Denny’s is typically crawling with hipsters. Maybe this is what the marketing gurus at the restaurant were thinking when they debuted their Rockstar Menu. The new menu contains selections from artists like Katy Perry, Taking Back Sunday and Boys Like Girls. We’re sure the rock stars lovingly prepared these meals themselves. So, if you’re looking for a late-night hangout with high octane coffee, and you demand themed meals, Denny’s is apparently the place.

THE NEWEST FEATURE TO HIT RELEVANTmagazine .com is a section dedicated to bringing you the latest in new music and up-andcoming artists. The Drop offers listeners the chance to stream full albums (for free!) from artists such as Jon Foreman, Travis Taylor, Parachute Band, and Hillsong: London. New albums are continually being added, so you can check out the latest at

Jon Foreman

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Hillsong: London

Travis Taylor




> A team of experts using modern forensic technology have put to rest conspiracy theories regarding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. However, the experts still have yet to determine whether Keith Hernandez spit on Kramer and Newman ... > Israeli archaeologists say they have found the oldest surviving Hebrew text. The five lines of text, written on a shard of pottery, date back 3,000 years ...


A RELEVANT.TV VIEWER TOP TEN 1 Bjork “Wanderlust” 2 Anberlin “Feel Good Drag” 3 She & Him “Why do You Let Me Stay Here?” 4 House of Heroes "In the Valley of the Dying Sun" 5 Keane “The Lovers are Losing” 6 Hillsong “With Hearts as One” 7 Copeland “The Grey Man” 8 Chris Chameleon “All of Me” 9 Cool Kids “Delivery Man” 10 The Watson Twins “How am I Supposed to Be”


> A new film about the life of Mohammed is being made. To stay in accordance with Muslim law, the film will never depict Mohammed visually or audibly. That’s a tough way to make a biopic ...

Bjork “Wanderlust”

>The closure of one web firm has led to a 70 percent decrease in global spam. Where will we get our ch3@p m3ds now? ...

She & Him Cool Kids “Why do You Let Me “Delivery Man” Stay Here”

> Kanye West said in a recent interview that he will go down in history as the voice of this generation. History will also remember him for his humility ...

Keane “The Lovers are Losing”

Anberlin “Feel Good Drag”

The Watson Twins “How am I Supposed to Be”

Catch the best new music every day at our exclusive 24/7 online music video channel, New videos are added every week, so take that!


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Enter code GEN3RELJAN at to hear Nick Cannon as Adam in the book of Genesis.

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THE ALMOST DAILY IMAGES OF TORNADOES, STORMS AND FLOODS THAT SWEEP ACROSS OUR NATION ARE A CONSTANT REMINDER OF THE NEEDS OF THOSE LEFT SUDDENLY WITHOUT HOMES, WITHOUT ELECTRICITY, SOMETIMES WITHOUT FAMILY. FOR TAD AGOGLIA, THESE ARE A DAILY REALITY. AS FOUNDER OF FIRST RESPONSE TEAM OF AMERICA, AGOGLIA AND HIS CREW ARE SOME OF THE FIRST TO ARRIVE AFTER A NATURAL DISASTER HITS. They’ve traveled from the wildfires and mudslides of California to the windstorms and mudslides of Oregon and Washington, the ice storms of Oklahoma, the tornadoes of the Tennessee-Alabama-Arkansas area, the floods of Arkansas and Indiana, the storms of the Midwest, and the hurricanes in New Orleans and Texas. Agoglia arrives with his own equipment as well as his team of four to open up roads, provide generators, remove dangerous debris and, in the case of floods, bring satellite communication systems and hovercraft boats to haul victims to safety. And he does all of this at no cost to anyone else. Not that he’s loaded, contrary to popular belief. “People think I’m wealthy,” he says. “It’s kind of comical because I don’t even own a home. I actually sold my truck and moved out of my apartment to put all of my personal finances into this project.” Agoglia didn’t plan it to be this way. Originally, in 2005, he started a forprofit, contractual organization that helped clear out debris starting one to two months after a disaster had hit—the time it often took to draw up contracts and

hire people. He found it increasingly difficult, however, to have to wait when help was needed on day one. So he made the decision to simply take his company and respond for free in order to be able to go in right away. Recently, Agoglia and his team were in a small Iowan town after a tornado had leveled the city hall and killed several people. They spent the first week removing hundreds of truckloads of debris, recovering missing documents and equipment, and digging graves by hand. “That was a big impact for that community,” Agoglia says. “It really gave the community a boost to say, ‘You know, it’s not going to be like this forever; under that rubble is green grass, and there are people who came from New York to help—there are still good people in the world.’” Moving forward, his energy not spent at disaster sites will be channeled toward expanding his organization and figuring out logistics, such as how to acquire more teams and position them strategically throughout the country, so they can arrive even more quickly. His biggest concern now is finding funding so he can continue his work as well as beef up his arsenal of equipment and volunteers. “Funding is tight,” he says. “My personal funds don���t last forever.” But Agoglia will not be moving back to commercial work anytime soon. “It’s hard to say to a city that needs help, ‘Well, I can’t help you because I’m doing a contractual job in Mississippi,’” he says. “I have a very hard time saying no.” Check out more at


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Truth seekers > ERINA KHANAKWA India is home to Bollywood, the Taj Mahal, Tikka Masala curry and, in more recent years, a booming software industry that has seen the country’s economy climb, following China’s footsteps. It’s also the home of one of the oldest versions of human oppression—the caste system. For centuries, Indian people have been divided into social groups that also determine their economic, political and educational freedoms. The highest group, the upper caste, are the Brahms. The lowest were formerly known as the “untouchables,” but are now called Dalits. Being a Dalit means being seen as barely human and living life entirely separated from the other groups. They’re denied even the most basic necessities, such as water from a public well, which is only given as a “goodwill offering” by members of the upper caste. According to a report published by the Human Rights Watch group, surveys and findings have shown that, far from the situation waning with time, the ingrained prejudices are still alive and active.

In 2006, ActionAid India reported that out of 565 villages across 11 states, 80 percent still used the practice of “untouchability.” And, as the caste system still predominantly determines what job a person can and will be considered for, it’s not surprising that in 2000, over 200,000 Dalits were reported unemployed while others filled jobs as sweepers or manual scavengers (cleaning out human waste from dry latrines and the sewage works). Worse yet, in 2005, a government report stated that crime was committed against a Dalit every 20 minutes. In September 2006, an entire Dalit family from Kherlanji village in the Indian state of Maharashtra was killed, simply for refusing to leave their own land. Dalit women are an especially vulnerable group. Further reports have shown that the practice of “Dedvasi” or temple prostitution, where prepubescent girls are married to a deity and then offered to men from the upper caste, still persists. It’s in this highly charged environment that Pam and Sunil Sardar chose to work with their organization, Truthseekers International. Truthseekers began as a continuation of the works of social reformer Mahatma Jotirao Phule, who wrote against the caste system in the 1800s. The organization now holds marches, demonstrations and educates university students about the ills of the caste system. In recent years, the desire for change has grown so steadily that Sunil has been able to address rallies of 5,000-200,000 people. “The response to our movement from the lower caste and outcaste groups has been tremendous,” Sunil says. “The spiritual climate is open as never before. People are disillusioned with what they know and see doesn’t work. They long for something else.” Currently, Truthseekers is also preparing more long-term and lasting ideas by bridging the different groups through a caste reconciliation center. They have plans for an office, extensive library, and classroom space for seminars, Bible classes and lessons in the lower caste’s contribution to Indian history. a

* Start your Revolution SPOTLIGHT


Truthseekers International

Footwashing India

Happens Annually

> Truthseekers International is a social-spiritual movement originally birthed

> Every November since 2005, Truthseekers International has held a footwashing ceremony to honor the Dalit and low-caste members of India. In 2007, more than 63 westerners traveled to India and, along with a group of Indian social activists and spiritual leaders, washed the feet of the Dalit, giving the message that “no matter what culture around you says, God loves you, and you are worthy of honor and respect.”


My Family’s Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India Narendra Jadhav

by the first social reformer of India, Mahatma Jotirao Phule. As a follower of Jesus Christ, Phule denounced the oppression of castes in the 1800s, and fought for the rights and equality of all Indians, including women. Truthseekers International continues in that tradition. On the basis that all people are created in God’s image, and are therefore equal, Truthseekers is fighting for freedom of the oppressed lower castes of India. These castes comprise more than 700 million people.

> As part of the Dalits, Narendra

Jadhav’s parents made it their goal to educate their children—especially his father, Damu, who stood up to the caste system. In his memoir, Jadhav portrays the 20th century human rights movement led by his father’s hero, and leader of the Dalit movement, Babasaheb Ambedkar. Jadhav also recounts how Damu courageously defied his role as village servant. A surprising revelation: The author is still asked about his caste today.


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Lives of Significance and Service

Distinctively Christian Intentionally Urban Purposefully Multicultural

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THE PROblem of pride in the age of twitter > BRETT MCCRACKEN DO YOU REMEMBER the ‘80s? Back then we talked on landline phones a few times a day, and occasionally wrote letters. Other than that we were more than satisfied with (gasp!) communicating with people in face-to-face, physical spaces—we were even OK with the limitations of distance and time. It never really occurred to us that we would want to call someone while driving. In retrospect, those were desperately archaic days. We were suffering under the tyrannies of landlines; we were enslaved by our ignorance of Wi-Fi; we were hopelessly deprived of knowing everything about everyone’s day on a minute-by-minute basis. Not so in the age of Twitter. In our Facebooked world, our lives are being reoriented toward a sort of play-by-play, all pervasive communication rhythm in which very little is private anymore. The birth of the Internet started us on this track—introducing us to the concept of instant informationgratification. We can get whatever we want, whenever we want it, with nothing but an Internet hookup standing in our way. We’ve become addicted to a strange sort of connectivity—a connectivity that maintains a comfortable balance between distance and proximity, anonymity and overexposure. We’ve become addicted to hyper-controlled, selfBRETT MCCRACKEN has an MA in cinema and media studies from UCLA. He is managing editor for Biola University magazine and is currently working on a book about Christian hipsters.

appointed, “just how I like it” communication. In this McDonald’s-meets-Macintosh world, we’re endowed with the ability to be even more self-obsessed than ever before. How self-absorbed have we become? We have our blogs, our YouTube channels, our MySpace and Facebook pages, our personalized desktops with tailor-made “favorites,” our hand-picked TiVo television schedules, our personalized ringtones, AIM icons, video game avatars, and the list goes on. We can create our “self” to be whatever we want it to be in the digital world—which is increasingly the world we inhabit. I’m not saying these are bad technologies or that we’d be better off back in time a few decades. I’m just suggesting that these technologies are, strikingly and swiftly, changing the way we conceive of ourselves: as fluid, adaptable, hypertext HTML bodies with the ability to cut, paste, copy or delete anything about ourselves at any time. This is a problem. It creates a new frontier of self-entitlement for a generation that is already way too self-entitled. Not only has the Internet made it easy for us to find and see whatever we want, but it’s also become strikingly simple to be whoever we want. We’ve become obsessed with “status,” but not status in the sense of being objectively measurable (as in our vital stats) or community-derived (as in our class or social status), but status in the attentiondeficit sense of “what I am doing right now.” Communication is no longer about learning things from people or sharing experiences; it’s about knowing what they’re doing and how they’re feeling—or at least how they want the world to perceive them as such. Our lives have suddenly become much more dramatic, worthy of being “performed” on a stage visible to millions. But since when are our lives so interesting that we feel compelled to share them with the world? Do we have delusions of grandeur? Perhaps it’s not primarily the fact that we can tell our stories to the world, but that—more so than ever before—we desperately long to. There is a real sense of emptiness in this generation. We’ve grown up in relative

stability and lived borderline boring lives. For most of us, no major wars, crises, famines or holocausts have plagued our lives. Meanwhile, we’ve consumed more media than ever—living in movies, television shows, video games and other fantasy worlds. There’s been a dissonance between who we are (boring, unknown) and what the media has made us want to be (interesting, glamorous, famous). The result is a massive cultural longing to be known. Not by a few, but by many. Author and Berkeley journalism professor Rebecca Solnit described “the great struggle in our time” as being “the endeavor to become a producer of meanings rather than a consumer of them.” We’re a generation exhausted by consumerism, and yet it’s all we really know. Our impulse now is to do something other than take from culture; we desperately seek to contribute—to be significant. Blogs give us this chance, and so does YouTube, and Twitter, and Facebook, and the rest. Suddenly we have things to say and— more importantly—people who are listening. But these ways of “reaching out” or “giving back” to culture are still predominantly about me. About how I find meaning by bouncing ideas off of the wider web world. About feeling important, validated, useful, interesting. It appears that ultimately we’re retreating further inward, to the “i” world of our personal computing universe. Under the guise of increasing our levels of connectivity, these technologies are ultimately just tools to help us isolate, insulate and unshackle from the outmoded constraints of having to answer to anyone other than ourselves. What does the Church—an institution birthed in and bound up within community—do in such a hyper-individualized tech landscape? How can we minister to one another if we’re constantly preoccupied with our own selfstyled status? How can we understand what it means to be the unified body of Christ if we encourage our members to retreat to their iSelf tech bubbles to “express themselves” rather than urging them to put down the mouse, tone down the texting and get their physical bodies into a small group? The problem of self-entitlement (or pride, to be more direct) is a familiar one for the Church, and technology has only exacerbated it. In times like these—when it’s easier and more alluring than ever to be or feel important—Christians must remember that we’re not called to be viral superstars, we’re called to be living sacrifices. We’re not instructed to make ourselves look as good as possible in front of the largest audience we can; no, we are instructed to deny ourselves and humbly follow Christ. d


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THE RIGHT VIEW OF THE BIBLE St. Francis Bible Readers

> SCOT MCKNIGHT A STUDENT WALKS from the lunchroom to my office, sits down to chat, looks at me and asks this: “Why does my pastor ask me all the time if I still believe in the ‘inerrancy’ of the Bible?” Before I had collected my thoughts enough to begin answering such a question, he interrupted me with this: “You know, Scot, I really don’t give a d --- n what my pastor’s view of the Bible is because he doesn’t give one frickin’ dime to the poor and he’s never met a homeless person in his life and he didn’t even know about Darfur when I mentioned it to him at Christmas. At Christmas, Scot. Christmas! And he doesn’t even know about Darfur.” He was obviously setting me up because he asked me this next: “My view of the Bible is this: I read it often—not every day— and I do what I think God tells me to do. What good is inerrancy, if you don’t do what God says?” Then a kick-you-in-the-face question: “If I do what God says, doesn’t that show that my view of the Bible is the right one?” My student might as well have said—to swipe and adapt words from the letter of James—“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have the right view of the Bible but don’t live it out?” (James 2:14).

When St. Francis of Assisi comprehended what Jesus had called His disciples to be and to do, he went for it. He gave up a life of luxury and sensual pleasures to follow Jesus as radically as he possibly could. The brown habit worn to this day by Franciscans embodies the vision of Francis. He reconstructed shabby old churches, he tended to the poor and the lame and the leprous, and he established a concern for God’s creation beyond what most had ever seen. Francis set off a revolution. All because his view of the Bible was one that went beyond having the right view to having a life that matched it. I’ve wandered through the famous Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy. His “relics” stun me. Shoes with blood stains; an old habit showing his intentional poverty. He gave up everything for Jesus because he lived what he thought the Bible said. I know many Christians who believe the right view about the Bible but don’t seem to live it out. In a day of dramatic poverty, how can one believe the right things about the Bible and not do something for the poor? Too many Christians are satisfied with believing the right things (orthodoxy) and not concerned enough with doing the right things (orthopraxy). Orthodoxy that does not lead to orthopraxy is dead.

Ruth Bible Readers The following words, when lined up in this order, lead to what many think is the right and proper view of the Bible: God, revelation, inspiration, truth, canon, Scripture, authority and human submission. For many, that’s the right view of the Bible. But I’m not satisfied with this formulation. There’s more to it than setting out the right terms in the right order. What we want is a rightly ordered life. What view of the Bible leads to a rightly ordered life? I want to appeal to the words of a forgotten woman in the Bible. The right view of the Bible

is living it out the way Ruth lived it out. Ruth lost her husband. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, also lost her husband. And Ruth’s sister-inlaw lost her husband. Three grieving women looking for a way to put life’s broken pieces together. Naomi decides to return to the Land of Israel to start all over again. What Ruth tells Naomi are words for learning how to be “Ruth” Bible readers: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17). Ruth may have thought life would be better in the Land (the right view), but to get that better life she had to pack her bags and enter the Land. This is the commitment needed to get beyond the “right view” approach to the Bible to the “right living” approach. We have to be willing to let the Story of the Bible be our Story and to let its life be our life. We must be willing to pack up our bags, leave everything behind and set out for the Promised Land. Deep inside we know that the reason God gave us the Bible was not so we could figure out what the right view of it was. No, God gave us the Bible so that we could love God with reckless abandon and let that love overflow into reckless love for ourselves and for others in this world. There is a big difference between those who have the right view of the Bible and those who live it out. If your reading of the Bible leads you to a missional life—a life of loving God and loving others—you are reading it right. d SCOT MCKNIGHT is the Karl A. Olsson professor of Religious Studies at North Park College, Chicago, IL. He is the author of several books, including The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible.


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For Fans of:

Prince, Parliament, Marc Broussard

“I TRY TO KEEP THE FLOODGATES OF CREATIVITY OPEN at all times and welcome everything in with a skylight mind,” explains Jamie Lidell about the creative mindset displayed on his new album, Jim, the follow-up to the acclaimed, Multiply. That seems an apt explanation for the commonly perplexed first-time Lidell listeners, who are usually left wondering, “How does he do that?” For the uninitiated, the Brit is an industry anomaly of sorts. He’s equal parts Motown and electronica, with an unrivaled soulful delivery that belies his hipster look. The songs since Multiply are completely pop accessible, yet Lidell remains a fringe artist in the States. Perhaps the new album, recorded in SoCal, will change that. “Jim was designed more than the last record to fit the Motown quality-control model,” says Lidell. “We decided to make these blueprints that were really old school. If you can’t play on a drum set and piano or guitar, then it’s not good enough. ... We didn’t allow ourselves the luxury of tracking them at all. We put them all down in the most low-end way. We were definitely keeping them sparse and gritty.” Lidell’s gravelly vocals reach deep on Jim and the music feels loose and free. The result is a seemingly more relaxed project, perhaps a byproduct of the sunnier recording atmosphere. “Recording was a fun process. It was warm in L.A. and that optimism comes through in the sound as well. I’m always optimistic when I’m in L.A. I know I shouldn’t be that way since it’s quite a plastic place, but I love it.” The result is a sound audiences will love as well. –MATT CONNER



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THE ROAD’S BEEN BUMPY for Steven Delopoulos, one-time lead singer of Christian folk act Burlap to Cashmere. After


MySpace: stevendelopoulos

For Fans of:

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he left the band in the early 2000s and his subsequent solo debut proved disappointing, Delopoulos halted his musical career. But a trip to Santorini, Greece, changed all of that. “Santorini is my Mecca—it’s my Jerusalem,” Delopoulos, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, says. “It’s where I go to find my creative juices and healing. Greece gave me the heart and courage to start putting stuff back on paper. It sparked the flame for music again, except I didn’t want to go back and play the same songs. I had a strong feeling that if I were to recommit to music, I would do it differently this time. That made me feel a sense of hope.” Delopoulos’ new solo album, Straightjacket, is a varied record that sonically roams from monastery to theater, jazz club to choir loft, and folk rally to orchestra pit. The album opens with a recording of Greek monks chanting the Divine Liturgy. Throughout, there are themes of death and resurrection, two ideas that feed Delopoulos’ imagination and spirituality. “As Orthodox Christians, we’re taught that baptism is a reflection of our own death and resurrection,” he says. “We’re told to pick up our cross and love our enemies. To personally die and resurrect ... that concept really inspired me to make this record, and the Liturgy really brought that out for me.”

With the rise and fall of his career, Delopoulos has his share of “fire and gold” stories to tell. “It reminds you of who you are,” he says. “Once you shut off the ego and put it on the cross, and die to your desires, you become a vessel and light for God. A part of you may disappear, but the good news is that your true self gets revealed. And that’s when the good art comes.” —CAMERON LAWRENCE


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creative church conference february 18–20, 2009 worth, texas fellowship church, dallas/fort hosted by



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Barnett Newman, an American artist, once commented, “Any art worthy of its name should address life, man, nature, death and tragedy.” If that holds true, then it seems Damien Jurado has nothing to worry about. The Pacific Northwest’s pensive wordsmith issued his most intimate collection of songs yet, Caught in the Trees. The songs contain a visceral emptiness (“You’ll be happy to know / The situation is worse / The endless bottles of pills / That never seem to work,” he sings on “Coats of Ice”) that speaks of infidelity, arguments and giving up. It’s Jurado’s own story woven in these lyrics: the tragedy of divorce after 13 years of marriage and his subsequent recovery. The album is highly personal, intimate and vulnerable. The results are stunning.


(L-R) Eric Fisher, Jenna Conrad and Damien Jurado


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Caught in the Trees seems as incisive and revealing as anything you’ve released. Is there a reason for this? This is the first album where everything, lyrically, I’ve written is a reflection of my perspective—more so than any other record, for sure. That sort of happened by accident. I’ve been through some really rough times over the past couple years, and every song on the record is pretty much about those times, with the exception of “Gillian Was A Horse,” which is the single they’re pushing now. I don’t know why, though. That’s actually a song I didn’t want on the record to begin with, because to me, lyrically, it just doesn’t go with the rest of the record. But it is more of a personal record than anything else. Over the years, I’ve written all of these fictitious stories. But when you start going through the rough times the way I have over the last two years, it felt like I had no choice but to write from a more personal side. Where does the title, Caught in the Trees, come from? Good question. I don’t really know where the title comes from. It’s hard to explain. I used to think that the things we say or the sounds are caught in things. For instance, I think it’s a scientific fact that things hold sound. I believe that’s true. Of course, I’m not going to get into this scientific deal with neutrons. But I remember in high school hearing about that—how objects are able to hold things. It also goes back to the saying, “If these walls could talk.” So it’s about my voice being caught in the trees—I was trying to say something to someone, but the words didn’t get to you. They were caught in the trees. This is more personal, yet how does that happen when I’ve also read that you allowed others into the songwriting process? That seems a dichotomy of sorts. There are two reasons behind that. One, Eric [Fisher] and Jenna [Conrad] were there during those times. A lot of this was happening while I was on tour, and they were my closest friends. They saw and lived through those times with me. The other reason was that I wanted to make it more of a band. On an individual level, each of those are great writers on their own. So it was easy to do. I’ve always thought of Jenna as a female version of myself. Her writing is a lot like mine, and we’re very similar stylistically. Handing over some of these responsibilities to them was very easy to do. Do you worry about releasing some of these personal songs? Most people aren’t going to know it’s on that deeply personal level unless they read this interview or know everything I’ve ever done. They’re just not going to know. I have people who come to me now at shows while I’m on tour, and they ask me about the songs, wondering if it’s someone I know. There’s never a disclaimer in the CDs or booklet that says they are or are not about me. But they’re now no longer fiction; they’re fact. How much does fear play into what you do as an artist? There’s always a fear for any artist when they release something, but that’s something I was able to let go of a long time ago. I think if you are afraid of what people will think all the time, you only end up writing songs people want to hear. It all ends up as trends, you know? I can’t do that. I have to be who I am. I personally don’t care what people think or whether they like it or not. They can take it or leave it, but that won’t keep me from doing what I do. When did you reach that point? I reached that point years ago of not caring. There are albums, like I Break Chairs, that people really don’t care for because it’s too rock or [whatever]. There are two camps of people in my audience. One loves this whole band thing, and they think it’s good, exciting and they love the upbeat songs. Then the other

camp is waiting for me to release a record with only me and an acoustic. They are the ones who love the encores where I come out and play on my own. So you’ll never please anybody, and my audience is split already. How long have you been with Eric and Jenna? I met Eric when recording Ghost of David, my third record. So it’s been a long time. Then I wanted to record a side band after I Break Chairs, and that’s when I chose him to play guitar. So he’s been with me since then. Jenna has been with me since early 2006. I met her through Eric when we were recording And Now That I’m In Your Shadow, and we needed someone to do the vocals on “Gillian,” since it was meant for that last album. Eric said he knew somebody perfect for that vocal, and since Jenna also plays cello, she could play that on the record as well. While that song didn’t work for that album, we loved her string work and thought she was an awesome singer. So she ended up singing on that record and then going on tour. I ended up turning to Eric and saying that she needed to join us; we just clicked immediately. We’d played with other people before, but never someone like Jenna. To me, clicking with someone on an emotional and mental level as well as musical is more important than someone who can play really, really good. It’s just bonus that she’s also really good. So how did this community translate to the studio sessions? The sessions were really easy because I trust them. Jenna knew what the songs were about, and I think she’s able to bring her own pain, as cheesy as that sounds. She went through that with me. So she was able to transcribe that to the music. Did the community become a part of the healing process? Being with them as friends was very healing. You go through some of your darkest times like I was going through, and you have two people who are in your life who take you in. At that time, I felt the only ones I could trust were those two, and they became the only people I would reach out to or whom I could confide in. I wouldn’t let anyone else in. There were times where even I didn’t want to talk, and the music was there instead. It became our way of communicating. I remember during that time I couldn’t wait to get onstage with them. I absolutely could not wait, because there’s a language that happens there. Music is a language, and when we get onstage, we were able to communicate with each other. What about your own faith during that time? Something interesting happened during this time as well. During this tour, I never, ever lost my faith or faltered or felt like I didn’t believe in God. I never let go of that. Nor did it become stronger. Instead it was neutral—it didn’t change much at all. But one lesson I did take from it was that you just have to let go. When things happen like that or when trials come your way, you just have to let go. You just have to live through it, because there’s nothing you can really do about that. These are lessons you’re always learning that you’re not in control and that God is apparently in control. But even then, you don’t know that fully—it takes faith. You have to let go and let God take over, I guess. That’s interesting, since that “dark night of the soul” tends to draw someone spiritually in or repel them to a place away from their faith. For me it was neutral; nothing really changed. It wasn’t like I became a more spiritual person or became anti-spiritual. Not at all. It was very “whatever.” It wasn’t as much different as I normally am every day. I am pretty neutral on the whole thing. The spirituality thing is very interesting because it’s all faith. I don’t claim to know anything. I just believe and have faith—that’s all there is to it. d


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THE MAJORITY OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS who cast a ballot on Nov. 4, I did not vote for Barack Obama. But that didn’t keep me from sharing in the hope, history and sense of renewal that Obama’s election symbolized. As I sat in front of the T.V. that Tuesday night, watching his rousing victory speech in Grant Park, I was joyful. It was a night of looking forward, though I—along with many others, I’m sure—couldn’t help but recall the night, four years prior, when Obama made his grand entrance onto the public stage with the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. His speech then, as so many of them have been since, was electrifying. In it, Obama famously said this: “The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into red states and blue states ... but I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.” Four years later, this quote speaks volumes about how Obama rose from a relative unknown to be president in such a short span. He represents an eschewal of cynicism, a proposition of hope. He rejects the notion that politics must be about boxes and battlements. He’s a figure of change and difference, but also nuance, thoughtfulness and charity. Even for those who did not vote for him and cannot support many of his policies, Barack Obama commands respect. But who is Obama to evangelicals? How important will his brand of faith-based liberalism be for the future of Christian political alignments? These questions are complicated and not easily answered, at least not for another four years. We do know some things, however. We know that Obama’s presidency is already historic. And we know that—in terms of how faith plays out in politics and government—Obama will be as important a president as we’ve ever had.


be pivotal in this presidency—religion was huge. Major candidates for office included a former Baptist preacher (Mike Huckabee), a Mormon (Mitt Romney), a Pentecostal Christian (Sarah Palin), and a member of an urban Christian church preaching black liberation theology (Barack Obama). Candidates were asked about their favorite Bible verses, sermons became attack ad fodder (Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s “God damn America!”), and media pundits everywhere harped on religion whenever and wherever they could. Throughout the election there was rampant, almost hopeful speculation that Obama would earn favor with certain religious groups where other Democrats had failed before. Sure enough, Obama made headway among previously solid Republican blocs of religious voters. Across the board, Obama improved upon Kerry’s 2004 share of the Christian electorate, making his greatest gains among the “frequent churchgoer” group, narrowing a 29-point Republican advantage (64%-35%) in 2004 to 12 points (55%-43%) in 2008. The more specific category, “evangelicals,” voted overwhelmingly for McCain, but it was a lower share (75%) than for Bush in 2004 (79%). By all estimations, Obama went some way toward closing “the God gap” that has been noticeably un-traversable by Democrats in recent elections. Part of the reason Obama made inroads among evangelicals is certainly the fact that he actively, earnestly courted their vote. His campaign worked with PACs like the Matthew 25 Network to reach out to Christian voters, visited more than 10 Christian college campuses in swing states, attended forums at Saddleback Church and Messiah College and elicited the stump support of young evangelical leaders like Donald Miller, who composed one of the most telling blog posts of the season in his Nov. 3 entry, “From Reagan to Obama: a Brief Political History.” Sarah Pulliam, a political reporter for Christianity Today who attended both conventions and was constantly reporting on both campaigns, found Obama’s campaign to be much more accessible, public and in touch with Christian media than McCain’s. “McCain didn’t really reach out to evangelicals until the convention,” Pulliam says. “His ‘Christian strategy’ was quieter and constantly in disarray.” On the contrary, Obama was vocal and coherent about his faith and his desire to build a new coalition of faith-based voters. In speeches, Obama criticized his fellow Democrats for dismissing


OBAMA’S EVANGELICAL OUTREACH It was evident during the election that the faith/politics discussion will


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religion in the public square as irrational or intolerant, and his campaign distributed literature that described Obama’s conversion experience— when “kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me ... [and] dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.” But was Obama’s Christian rhetoric actually convincing to younger evangelicals? For those who read his controversial (and recently rereleased) 2004 interview abut faith with the Chicago Sun-Times’ Cathleen Falsani, it’s clear he’s not an “evangelical” in any sense (denying the existence of hell, exclusivity, etc.). But is that a problem? How important was his Christian cred at the end of the day?

ARE WE POST-RELIGIOUS RIGHT? Obama held a strong appeal for young people in general. The 18-29 demographic went 66%29% for Obama (compared to 54%-45% for Kerry in 2004) and first-time voters (largely 18-22) went for Obama 69%-30%. The reasons are broad and obvious. Young people are fatigued by almost a decade of Bush and Obama is the un-Bush: he’s an intellectual, eloquent, peaceable and not a WASP with cowboy boots. Obama’s appeal is also strong among young Christian voters. Whether they voted for him or not, most young Christians see some positives in Obama—as representing a new and appealing faith-based politics: one that values diversity rather than dogma, cooperates rather than vilifies and promotes “together we can” rather than “us vs. them.” After eight years of Bush and corresponding bad associations with evangelical/Republican politics, many young Christians were ready for a change, Pulliam noted. And McCain was not particularly appealing to them. They were much more excited by Obama, not necessarily because he’s an outspoken Christian and friend to people of faith, but because he is the type of leader (nuanced, compassionate, culturally relevant) and politician (principled and yet willing to dialogue) that represents their own perspective on how best to change the world. As this election’s results have proven, a lot of younger evangelicals seek to think more independently and diversely about political matters, in part to break out of Christian Coalition-type boxes but also because they’ve grown up in a more complicated, globalized, postmodern world. It doesn’t make sense anymore to think of the world or oneself solely in Democrat/Republican categories. In this election, young evangelicals felt free to support a Democratic candidate out in the open. Christian college newspapers like the Gordon College Tartan and Abilene Christian Optimist endorsed Obama for president, and Democratic clubs from Wheaton College to Biola University were larger and less-shunned than ever before. In a post-election analysis, Sojourners put it this way: “A new generation of young Christians cast a ‘Post Religious Right Ballot’ this election. ... Young religious voters refuse to get caught up in the culture wars of the previous generation.”

Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners and author of God’s Politics, suggested that the election represented a political shift, a cultural and racial shift, a generational shift and a religious shift, in which a new and broader vision for faith in public life was forged. The majority of young Christians did find Obama to be a very appealing candidate, but still could not bring themselves to vote for him. And the issue that most often proved a stumbling block? Abortion.

THE A-WORD It may not be the coolest topic to be up in arms about anymore, but abortion is still hugely important and hotly contested, and Obama faced an uphill battle on this issue from day one. Obama’s record on abortion as a U.S. and Illinois state senator has been extremely pro-choice. He opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion, opposed a bill similar to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, and co-sponsored a 2007 version of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which he promised to sign “first thing” if he became president. FOCA would overturn hundreds of local, state and federal abortion restriction laws, including bans on partial-birth and late-term abortions, which seems to contradict Obama’s comments when he interviewed with RELEVANT in the fall, saying “I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother.” There is no such exception in the language of the FOCA. Indeed, for many younger evangelicals, abortion was the issue that kept them from casting a vote for Obama. This was certainly the case for Tim Arlen, a 25-year-old Ph.D. candidate in physics at UCLA who liked Obama on pretty much every issue except abortion. For Arlen, a registered independent who describes himself as “a social and economic liberal but moral conservative,” Obama was extremely appealing on everything from healthcare to foreign policy. And yet Obama’s record on abortion proved too large a stumbling block to overcome. “I’m extremely pro-life,” Arlen says. “I grew up going to pro-life rallies, standing outside abortion clinics. I pretty much view it as murder. Ultimately, I have to believe that Obama just doesn’t think fetuses are human. The alternative is that he is fine murdering children, and I don’t think that is the case.” Either way, Arlen—like many young evangelicals who respect Obama and agree with him on a large number of issues—could not vote for Obama because of abortion. For them, “single-issue” was not a four-letter word. Other evangelical voters found ways to reconcile Obama’s stance on abortion with a pro-life mindset. Athena Fleming, an AfricanAmerican senior at Biola, believes Obama was the better candidate for reducing the number of abortions and addressing its systemic causes. Fleming, who this summer started the first Democrat club in Biola’s history, said abortion was never a stumbling block for her in supporting Obama. The majority of young evangelicals, however, do still see it as a stumbling block, and the



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“Trickle-down economics is the worst idea I’ve consolation that Obama will “work to reduce the heard in my entire life,” Arlen says. number of abortions” has been unconvincing to Rather than tow a particular party line, young a generation that statistics show is even more evangelicals are increasingly more concerned pro-life than its parents. As Rev. Mark Dever—of with simply living a life that is defined by and D.C.’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church—told The Wall consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Street Journal in November, the abortionThat can mean Democrat or Republican, but reduction rhetoric of Obama “[is] like saying, most often it means both and neither. Two parties ‘Let’s work to make sure they kill fewer Jews in cannot contain the cause of Christ, many young the concentration camps this year.’” Christians would say. And as such, many of us feel Abortion is still a passionate and polarizing trapped between a rock and a hard place. issue, but is it the most important issue for Part of the tension comes from the desire of faith-based voters? many young Christians to rid Christianity of its It’s just one among an increasingly wide range anti-intellectual and anti-complexity reputation. of issues that young evangelicals are concerned Young people, including young evangelicals, about, notes David P. Gushee, professor of are increasingly averse to binaries like red/blue, Christian ethics at Mercer University. black/white or freedom/tyranny. They recognize “Young evangelicals,” Gushee told The New that “either/or” is just as false as the notion that York Times, are “attracted to a broader agenda” “anything goes.” that includes the environment, poverty, human Young Christians today are living in a post-Pat rights and torture. Robertson world. After all of the scandals, sound Christoffer Skogholt, a 27-year-old Swedish bites and corrupt cronyism that has plagued the evangelical currently studying theology at power-trip of evangelical-run Washington since Uppsala University, believes American Christians 1994, there are signs of a growing weariness should consider that “pro-life” also means with the Christian-Republican merger. a commitment to reducing disease, poverty, For many young evangelicals, “Republican” famine, war, drugs and guns—and finding ways is a fearsome label, even if they probably agree to reduce abortions and improve healthcare. with most of the party’s platform. “The U.S. is the wealthiest country in the David Kern, a 22-year-old student at UNCworld, and to spread that wealth among its Charlotte, is registered as a Democrat, even citizens when it comes to basic needs such as though he voted for McCain and talks like a healthcare seems to me to be a core Christian Reagan-era Republican. He hates big government commitment,” Skogholt says. “If we say that and the idea of wealth redistribution. only those who were rich or smart enough —DAVID BROOKS, But he also hates straight-party voting to get health insurance should be able to get (“it’s an abomination”) and is sick of “the big healthcare, I think that reflects individualistic NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST money/corporate Republicans” who have failed egoism (or even Social Darwinism) rather than at dealing with issues like poverty, human Christian solidarity and stewardship.” trafficking and the environment. Young evangelicals are still stridently proHe’s somewhat skeptical of Obama, but life, but they are beginning to think about what understands his appeal as a sort of unifying force for a generation that that means in a broader sense, something that Jonathan Merritt—a is more disparate, individual and heterogeneous than ever. 26-year-old evangelical writer and Southern Baptist environmental “We saw how people rallied around him, and how in doing so they activist—pointed out in an October interview with PBS’s Religion and entered into communities of a sort,” Kern says. “I think that helps show Ethics Newsweekly. that we are hard-wired to want community, to want to be a part of “Being pro-life does not mean only supporting anti-abortion something bigger.” causes,” Merritt says. “The disconnect between my generation and the generations that preceded me is this: Being pro-life to me does not mean simply opposing a culture of death. It means supporting a culture of life WHAT OBAMA’S PRESIDENCY MEANS FOR US wherever we find it. So while that does mean supporting the abolition of Churches across the country—of every race, denomination and political abortion ... it also means that we need to address the 3 million people sensibility—celebrated America’s first black president in the weeks that will die this year from water-related diseases and the over 1 million following the election. Many older Americans never expected this to people in Africa who will die from malaria, and the list rolls on and on.” happen in their lifetime. As Fleming watched the returns on election night, her father called her on the phone and was speechless. He had been at the Washington A GENERATIONAL THING Monument and heard Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Even though young evangelicals veered farther to the left this election, 1963; watching a black man’s presidential victory speech was something their older counterpoints actually voted in higher percentages for he never thought he’d see in 2008. McCain than they did for Bush. Soon the significance of Obama’s skin color will wear off, however, as “We’re seeing that younger generations are more and more concerned we come to terms with the fact that he is president of the United States with living a life that is consistent with the teachings and ministry of and has a job to do. A big, huge, harder-than-ever job. Jesus Christ than they are with towing a particular party line,” Merritt But what will his presidency look like? What will it mean for told PBS. Christians? Indeed, fewer and fewer young evangelicals are identifying with oldEvangelical pastor Joel Hunter, who prayed at the Democratic National school Republicanism. They may side with Republicans because of issues Convention as well as privately with Obama on the night he was elected like abortion, but when it comes to Reagan-style economic philosophies president, believes Obama’s presidency will offer a unique opportunity or Cold War-infused, us-vs.-the-world foreign policies, many young for evangelicals to be cooperative with a Democratic president. Christians are finding more in common with the left.



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“I think we’re going to be invited into many conversations,” Hunter told Christianity Today. “[Obama] is a consensus-oriented type of leader. We need to be able to respond to those invitations. ... Part of our role is to speak truth to power ... [and the] most effective way of doing that is not to be so narrow and combative. It’s to be part of the conversation.” Other Christian leaders have echoed these hopes. On his blog the day after the election, Al Mohler (President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) wrote that Christians “must hope that he will lead and govern as the bridge-builder he claimed to be in his campaign. We must confront and oppose the Obama administration where conscience demands, but work together where conscience allows.” The abortion issue will be crucial to how Obama fares among faith communities. “If he signs or proposes FOCA early in his first term, that will elicit a very visceral reaction from evangelicals,” Pulliam says. “But if he focuses on the economy for now and stays quiet on abortion for a while, I think that will be his best political move.” Then there is the question of how important faith will be in the Obama administration. If Obama continues to talk openly about his faith, it will stay prominent within the public sphere, notes David Kern. “But if the government begins to get heavily involved in social issues in such a way that hinders private organizations and churches—either by regulating how they work or who they work with—then the American church could begin to see its social influence lessen.”


ECONOMY 32% 48%


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TERROR 12% 8%

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE 3% 1% *According to a post-election survey conducted by Faith in Public Life, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and Sojourners

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Most of the media’s coverage of Obama’s faith has been relegated to his once and former relationship with Wright, or his tendency to use churchy language to attract the ever-important religious vote. What most people don’t know is that Obama has a rather intellectual, theologically informed understanding of Christianity, and how faith should influence politics. A few years ago, David Brooks wrote a column in The New York Times in which he described a discussion he had with Obama about theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Obama called Niebuhr one of his favorite philosophers, saying that from Niebuhr he takes away “the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain ... but we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. ... We have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism.” Obama has been known to quote Niebuhr, as did Jimmy Carter, something Martin Marty— preeminent Christian historian from the University of Chicago—has noted. Marty calls

Obama and Carter the most “theologically literate” presidents of our time. Niebuhr was a practical theologian who talked about “realistic hope” and “hopeful realism,” a temperate vision of history that falls somewhere between stagnant conservatism and head-in-the-clouds progressivism. For Marty, it’s reassuring that we have a president who has read Niebuhr and experienced enough of modern life in all its complexities to know that realism must always accompany liberalism. For evangelicals who have been historically skeptical of the liberal “government will solve all our problems” approach, Obama’s “realistic hope” vision, as influenced by his faith, is something many find appealing. It’s something that has potential to change the way Christians think of policy and politics. Brooks concluded from his interview with him that Obama is miles beyond most Democrats when it comes to articulating a faith-based, realistic progressivism. “Thanks to Niebuhr,” Brooks writes, “Obama has thought about the human condition, in terms of our shared nature and sin, categories that most liberals have rebuked since the 1960s. ... Obama’s liberalism is not that of the perennial separation of church and state. His liberalism is born of the public implications of Christian faith, a recognition of the moral limits of the state and the individual.” And this is exactly where Obama has and will find common ground with evangelicals— especially younger evangelicals. They are more hopeful and progressive in a lot of areas than their parents were, but they’re also keenly aware of humanity’s fallen nature. They are skeptical of simple, party-line answers to issues that are glaringly complicated, yet they believe that truth is out there and some issues aren’t ambiguous. For them, “change we can believe in” comes firstly from living a Christlike life, something that goes beyond parties and politics and partisanship. Obama will not always be loved by Christians, but—if he stays true to his Niehbuhrian theopolitical ethics—he will at least be respected by them. If Obama lets his Christian faith influence his policy-making, it will be a new, more intellectual sort of influence. He won’t cower to the agendas of religious special interests, but it does seem like he will be open to an audience with them, open to deep and out-of-the-box thinking on crucial issues. And this will be a good thing for all of us. A good thing for the Church. If we dialogue rather than lobby, reason rather than rebuke, and move beyond the red/blue divisiveness ... the possibilities for the “Obama and evangelicals” future are limitless. Who knows, perhaps he’ll even come around on abortion. a


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Do you want a radical faith? In a world where radicalism makes the news every day through suicide bombings, wars, terrorism, injustice and reckless violence—all in the name of God—is it even acceptable to say yes? We live in a day where being “extreme” in your beliefs has a much different connotation than it did 10 years ago. Today, saying you’re a radical might get you in trouble, especially when militant religious groups from major world religions seem to be colliding. Karen Armstrong, author of A History of God and The Battle for God, says that during the course of the 20th century, a militant form of piety developed in every single world religion. Being a radical or extremist today is often akin to violence and heavy-handed coercion in the name of God; it’s a picture of women and children strapping bombs under their clothes and walking into heavily populated places to destroy the enemy. Closer to home, we see extremists coldly picket the funerals of fallen soldiers, spouting off condemnation and celebrating what they perceive to be the judgment of God on America. Radical religion like this doesn’t have a reputation for inviting outsiders to “taste and see the Lord is good,” instead, it yells at them to “run and hide, the Lord is anything but.” Of course, there are some incredible people who are doing daring things to impact the world in a positive way. Through sacrifice, creative service and humility, some are choosing an extreme countercultural way of life out of a deep commitment to the will of God. Would we still call these people radicals? And, if so, should we seek to emulate them, becoming radicals ourselves? RADICALISM IN THE WORLD One person who knows about the implications of radicalism is Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, the author of My Year in Radical Islam. Gartenstein-Ross grew up in a nontraditional Jewish family—one that had a portrait of Jesus in the living room and a Buddha statue in the backyard. He converted to Islam in 1997 when he was in college, and after his graduation he took a job with the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in southern Oregon. At the time, Al-Haramain was one of the largest Wahhabi charities in the world, Wahhabism being an austere form of Islam predominant in Saudi Arabia. Al-Haramain is now specially designated by the U.S. government as a global terrorist entity, and has been fingered as one of the major sources of funds for Al-Qaeda. “When I went there, I didn’t have extremist views. I didn’t know the depths of what Al-Haramain was involved in, or the tenets that it held,” he says. “What I didn’t realize was that over time I would find their religious arguments to be persuasive, and in fact started to adopt them myself. When you look at the ideology Islamic extremists put forward, it’s not nonsense. There are legitimate bases for many of the theological arguments that they’re making: I am not saying that their views represent ‘true Islam,’ but that many Western analysts tend to misunderstand and overlook the religious traditions upon which they draw. If we don’t understand this, then we’re going to drastically underestimate the enemy we face. “A lot of my early religious struggle was with the question of who Jesus was. What my parents thought—and what I believed growing up—was that He was a good and wise teacher. However, this view seemed to be at odds with who Jesus claimed to be in the Bible. When I first

learned about Islam, it felt appealing because it answered the question of who Jesus was in a way I felt comfortable with. Over time, my idea of religion shifted: I no longer thought that religion was something that should make you feel comfortable. Rather, religion should be forging a relationship with God, based on the truth of God. This attitude led me both toward and ultimately away from radical ideology.” Gartenstein-Ross left Al-Haramain when he went to law school. During the summer after his first year, he went through a time of spiritual seeking. Reading the Bible, and studying the Koran and both Christian and Muslim apologetics, he eventually became convinced of the case for Christ. By the end of the year, he became a Christian. He’s now the vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a counterterrorism organization in Washington, D.C. formed by a group of visionary philanthropists after Sept. 11. Now he spends his time analyzing terrorist movements and conducting counterterrorism training for law enforcement and government officials. For Gartenstein-Ross, a faith becomes radical in a dangerous sense when people believe their religious views can be forcibly imposed on others. “God’s will is not the forcible imposition of certain religious norms on other people, and certainly not with the threat of violence,” he says. He notes that some people use the term “radical” in a positive context with respect to faith. “You can define radicalism in many different ways, you can define radicalism with respect to violence or rejection of society, you can define radicalism in ways that are positive.” Gartenstein-Ross defines radicalism in the positive sense as life transformation. “When your relation with the world is transformed by your relationship with God, it transforms the way you relate to others, it transforms the way you do your work, it transforms the way you live your life.” When asked if he seeks to have a radical faith in Christ, Gartenstein-Ross pauses, then says yes, but quickly checks that and adds that he prefers to say he desires to be both transformed by God and to live a life that is in line with His will. Gartenstein-Ross isn’t comfortable settling into the term “radical” as an adjective for personal faith—there’s just too much discrepancy with what that really means these days. THE RADICALISM OF JESUS Did Jesus call us to be radicals? Certainly there were many things that Jesus said and did that would fall into the “extremist” category during His ministry. The Bible records Jesus telling His followers that they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life. The people who witnessed this were upset and many left saying, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:53-60). Jesus also said to a group of followers, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even life itself—such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). This fundamentalist call seems insensitive and out-ofplace for the serene Jesus we see in pastoral portraits, but they are His words. Jesus also called His followers to lose their lives, take the narrow gate, rejoice in persecution, turn the other cheek and to live as if members of a heavenly kingdom. There is little about Jesus that’s conservative when it comes to life-change. But was Jesus a proponent of violence for religious cause? Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Suddenly the pastoral scene has changed to a battlefield. Is Jesus really this kind of a radical, the kind that’s empowered by violence and coercion and calls His followers to do the same? We don’t have to look far for answers. When Jesus needed extremists the most, when He faced the Roman centurions in the garden at His arrest, He told Peter, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Was Jesus using double talk here? In one place He seems to encourage the radical violence that comes with His Kingdom, but in another He quiets the blade and rebukes His disciple. Could it be that the reference to


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the sword was relative to the effects the Gospel would have on relationships and families and, ultimately, cities and nations? In other words, being a Christian might bring a sword, but as a Christian you weren’t to wield one yourself?

A passage that moved Litton during this time was Philippians 2:5-8: “In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” “It just profoundly impacted my thinking about what it means to be a Christian because this idea that Jesus ‘emptied’ Himself of His divine rights, His privileges, comfort, security, control and became a servant and suffered unto death. When you hold that model out—if that’s the attitude you are supposed to have—it’s hard to say that you have a right to hold back if this is what Christ did,” he says. This challenge changed Litton’s worldview and drove him to start working for IJM. Shortly after, he went to Manila to start a new IJM field office. Litton gave up a promising career, a prestigious job with a bright future, and exchanged it for a chance to make a difference in the world for Christ. When asked if he was able to save that one girl, Litton says, “Yeah, there were a number of children we were able to help. The first little girl I [helped] was a girl named Katherine who had been raped.” Litton was able to track down the rapist, who was the son of a police officer, have him arrested and convicted. There were several other children who Litton helped escape the brothels as well. “I would say now, having lived that life for a bit, that I think what’s at the heart of being a radical Christian is becoming radically like Jesus,” he says. “Your vocation is secondary, where you live is secondary, your salary, the neighborhood you live in is secondary, the radical heart of it is to be radically like Jesus—to have His values, His thoughts, His character. “A lot of radical people, let’s be honest, they’re lacking love, they’re lacking gentleness, patience,” he says. Litton cautions against the idea of being radical as an end in itself. “The Pharisees were radically obedient to the law, they were radical in their embrace of the minutiae of these different laws and the application of them—but they were empty on the inside.” Litton believes that what sets Christian radicals apart from the world is the commitment to take the teachings of Jesus seriously and to be known by humility and love. “I know a lot of people focus on the big steps—should I leave my job, should I move to Africa, what can I do? And we should be open to those things, but they can become a distraction because, really, what God is calling us to every day is to radically obey Him,” he says. “Radical followers of Christ, their chief characteristic will be love.”


RADICALISM REVISITED Sean Litton, the vice president of field operations for International Justice Mission, a Christian human rights agency that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery and oppression, says, “To radically follow Christ means to be radically like Him.” Litton’s own life and faith would be described as extreme by many. Litton grew up in Aida, Mich., where his family drove downtown every Sunday to attend church. That’s where it all began, Litton says. He trusted Christ in the eighth grade and stayed involved in Young Life in high school and Campus Crusade during college. Litton says he grew up believing the Christian life was supposed to be this romantic, grandiose journey, and it was this idea that first attracted him. “Back then, we were reading Jim Elliot saying, ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose,’ and there was this real sense that we’re going to go out and radically sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel—with this idea that we would chew glass for Jesus.” When Litton graduated, he had his mind set on full-time missions but he was turned down for the mission field and eventually started as a youth pastor in New Mexico. Litton’s experience in ministry wasn’t what he expected and he soon became disenchanted with Christian ministry. “I just had a lot of frustration. I was frustrated with the lack of authenticity and honesty and the lack of truthfulness,” he says. Litton left the church to start law school with the sense that he still wanted to serve God in the back of his mind. After graduation, he was hired at a prestigious, well-paying firm in Washington, D.C. But three years later, Litton was unsatisfied and the notion of serving God was still lingering, so he started praying—What’s next, God? That’s when Gary Haugen, the president of IJM, spoke at his church and talked about helping just one child to make a difference. “I just remember sitting in church that day, I had just come out of a trial and my soul was dry as dust and he is talking about this child and I thought, ‘OK, what would it cost me? If I could help, maybe I could help one kid,’” he says. “So I put that on one side of the scale—to rescue one child out of prostitution where she is being sexually abused day after day after day, locked away, no hope for the future, separated from her family. And on the other side of the scale, what would it cost me if I decided to try and help her? I would lose my professional standing, my security, my comfort and I’d lose control. When I put all these things on the scale it came down firmly on the side of that little girl—she didn’t have a name, it was just a girl in my mind.”

( Field Guide to Radicalism ) Commit your heart and life to the teachings of Christ.

Ask yourself, “How can I empty myself and live for the sake of others?”

Be prepared to face opposition, even from those closest to you.

> The most practical way to become a

> It comes naturally to live a life that’s

> Don’t be surprised if your life-change

love-extremist is to devote yourself to Jesus’ teachings, to worship, to studying Scripture and to letting His thoughts be your thoughts. This is where every radical begins—in the simple but profound message of Christ.

inwardly focused—filling ourselves up—but it takes intentional discipline to empty ourselves for others. In what areas of your life is God calling you to empty yourself? For what relationships is God calling you to give yourself up?

brings conflict to your closest relationships. Jesus said, “For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—your enemies will be the members of your own household’” (Matthew 10:35-36). The obstacles for complete devotion to Christ sometimes begin within one’s own family.




Release any romantic notions about faith and focus on ordinary, daily obedience.


> Sometimes it’s harder to live for Jesus

than it is to say we’d die for Him. Embrace the ordinary reality of waking up each morning with heart refreshed, willing to go where God calls you and do what God requires in the smallest details. In the long term, the sum of these small choices amounts to radical change.


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There’s a Bethel Seminary student who started a church in an urban coffee shop. Wackily caffeinated idea? Not to the people who cram in for one of the three services every Sunday. Something’s happening. God is at work in unusual ways and places. And if He’s calling you, get ready to go at Bethel Seminary. Go online and see why.

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11/14/08 AM 11/7/08 10:19:03 1:33:32 PM

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It’s the beginning of 2009 and the economy just isn’t what it used to be. If you’re like a lot of people, getting a tighter reign on your finances is one of those big New Year’s Resolutions. And it’s a good resolution to make. In the face of hard economic times, it’s absolutely critical to be a good steward of your resources. It all starts with getting out of debt, and getting in to a savings plan. Myth: Debt is a tool When training for my first career in real estate, I remember being told that debt is a tool. “Debt is like a fulcrum and lever,” allowing us to lift what we otherwise could not. We can buy a home, a car, start a business or go out to eat and not be bothered with having to wait. But I also remember a finance professor telling us that debt is a double-edged sword, which could cut for you like a tool but could also cut into you and bring harm. They call it OPM, other people’s money, and using it to prosper is a myth. The academic garbage is spread really thick on this issue. We are told with sufficient snobbery and noses in the air that sophisticated and disciplined financiers use debt to their advantage. Careful, you’ll sunburn your upper lip. My contention is that debt brings on enough risk to offset any advantage that could be gained through leverage of debt. Given time, risk will destroy the perceived returns by the myth-sayers. I was once a myth-sayer myself and could repeat the myths very convincingly. I was especially good with the “debt is a tool” myth. I have even sold rental property that was losing money to investors by showing them, with very sophisticated internal rates of return, how they would actually make money. Boy, what a reach. I could spout the myth with enthusiasm, but life and God had some lessons to teach me. Twenty years ago, my wife, Sharon, and I went broke. We had started with nothing, but by the time I was 26 years old, we held real estate worth more than $4 million. I was good at real estate, but I was better at borrowing money. Even though I had become a millionaire, I had built a house of cards. The short version of the story is that we went through financial hell and lost everything over a three-year period of time. Only after losing everything I owned and finding myself bankrupt did I think that risk should be factored in, even mathematically. It took my waking up in “intensive care” to realize how dumb and dangerous this myth is. Life hit me hard enough to get my attention and teach me. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” I was confronted with this Scripture and had to make a conscious decision of who was right—my broke finance professor, who taught that debt is a tool, or God, who showed obvious disdain for debt. Beverly Sills had it right when she said, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”

now makes more money on credit than on the sale of merchandise. They are not a store; they are a lender with some stuff out front. However, in 1910 the Sears catalog stated, “Buying on Credit is Folly.” J.C. Penney department stores make millions annually on their plastic, but their founder was nicknamed James “Cash” Penney because he detested the use of debt. Henry Ford thought debt was a lazy man’s method to purchase items, and his philosophy was so ingrained in Ford Motor Company that Ford didn’t offer financing until 10 years after General Motors did. Now, of course, Ford Motor Credit is one of the most profitable of Ford Motor’s operations. The old school saw the folly of debt; the new school sees the opportunity to take advantage of the consumer with debt. Debt is now so ingrained into our culture that most Americans can’t even envision a car without a payment, a house without a mortgage, a student without a loan and credit without a card. We have been sold debt with such repetition and with such fervor that most folks cannot conceive what it would be like to have no payments. Last year, 6 billion credit card offers were put in our mailboxes and people are taking advantage of those offers. According to CardTrak, Americans currently have $807 billion in credit card debt. We can’t do without debt—or can we?

Credit Cards Bankers, car dealers and unknowledgeable mortgage lenders have told America for years to “build your credit.” This myth means we have to get debt so we can get more debt because debt is how we get stuff. Those of you who don’t use debt have found that cash buys stuff better than debt. But if I were selling debt, as the banker is, I also would tell you to get debt to get more debt. I’ve heard all the bait put out there to lure the unsuspecting into the pit. A free hat, airline miles, brownie points back, free use of someone else’s money, a discount at the register—the list goes on to get you to sign up for a credit card. Have you ever asked why they work so hard to get you involved? The answer is that you lose and they win. You won’t wear the hat, and Consumer Reports says 75 percent of the airline miles are never redeemed. Next time you are in the store that gave you the discount for signing up for a card, you will have forgotten your cash, you’ll use the card and the cycle begins. Maybe you think, I pay mine off so I’m using their money. I’m winning. Wrong again. A study by Dun & Bradstreet showed that the credit card user spends 12 to 18 percent more when using credit instead of cash. It hurts when you spend cash, and, therefore, you spend less. The big question is, What do millionaires do? They don’t get rich with free hats, brownie points, air miles and the use of someone else’s money. What do broke people do? They use credit cards. An American Bankruptcy Institute study of bankruptcy filers reveals that 69 percent of filers say credit card debt caused the bankruptcy.

I have met with thousands of millionaires in my years as a financial counselor, and I’ve never met one who said he made it all with Discover Card bonus points.

Our Culture I’ve found that if you look into the lives of the kind of people you want to be like, you’ll find common themes. If you want to be skinny, study skinny people, and if you want to be rich, do what lots of rich people do, not what some myth-sayer says to do. The Forbes 400 is a list of the richest 400 people in America as rated by Forbes magazine. When surveyed, 75 percent of the Forbes 400 (rich people, not your broke brother-in-law with an opinion) said the best way to build wealth is to become and stay debt-free. Walgreens, Cisco, Microsoft and Harley-Davidson are run debt-free. I have met with thousands of millionaires in my years as a financial counselor, and I’ve never met one who said he made it all with Discover Card bonus points. They all lived on less than they made and spent only when they had cash. No payments. History teaches us that debt wasn’t always a way of life; in fact, three of the biggest lenders today were founded by people who hated debt. Sears

Car Payments Taking on a car payment is one of the dumbest things people do to destroy their chances of building wealth. The car payment is most folks’ largest payment except for their home mortgage, so it steals more money from their income than virtually anything else. USA Today notes that the average monthly car payment is $464 over 64 months. Most people get a car payment and keep it through their lives. As soon as a car is paid off, they get


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CREDIT CRUNCH 76 percent of undergrads have credit cards, with an average of $2,200 owed. Additionally, they will leave school with almost $20,000 in student debt. The average American with credit owes $16,635 (excluding mortgages). Total U.S. consumer revolving debt reached $962 billion in May 2008, up from $869 billion in 2006. About 98 percent of that was credit card debt. 28 percent of those surveyed in July 2008 said their ability to pay off their credit card balance had become more difficult. Source:

another payment because they “need” a new car. If you keep a $464 car payment throughout your life—which is “normal”—you miss the opportunity to save that money. If you invested $464 per month from age 25 to age 65, a normal working lifetime, in the average mutual fund averaging 12 percent (the 70-year stock market average), you would have $5,458,854.45 at age 65. Hope you like the car! If you put $464 per month in a cookie jar for just 10 months, you have more than $4,000 to pay cash for a car. I am not suggesting you drive a $4,000 car your whole life, but that is how you start without debt. Then you can save the same amount again and trade up to an $8,000 car 10 months later and up to a $12,000 car 10 months after that. In just 30 months, or two and half years, you can drive a paid-for $12,000 car, never having made a payment, and never have to make payments again. Taking on car payments because everyone else does it does not make it smart. Will your broke relatives and friends make fun of your junk car while you do this? Sure they will, but that’s a very good sign you are on the right track. Having been a millionaire and gone broke, I dug my way out by making a decision about looking good versus being good. Looking good is when your broke friends are impressed by what you drive, and being good is having more money than they have. Today I drive very nice, very expensive cars, but it wasn’t always that way. After going broke, I drove a borrowed 400,000-mile Cadillac with a vinyl roof torn loose so that it filled up with air like a parachute. The predominant color on this car was Bondo. I drove that Bondo buggy for what felt like 10 years during one three-month period. I had dropped from a Jaguar to a borrowed Bondo buggy! This was not fun, but I knew that if I lived like no one else, later I could drive like no one else. Today I am convinced that my wife and I are able to do anything we want financially partially because of the car sacrifices we made in the early days. I believe, with everything in me, that we are winning because of the heart change that allowed us to drive old, beat-up cars in order to win. If you insist on driving new cars with payments your whole life, you will literally blow a life’s fortune on them. If you are willing to sacrifice for a while, you can have your life fortune and drive quality cars. I’d opt for the millionaire’s strategy.

College Debt Student loans are a cancer. Once you have them, you can’t get rid of them. They’re like an unwelcome relative who comes to stay for a “few days” and is still in the guest room 10 years later. We have spread the myth that you can’t be a student without a loan. Not true! USA Today says that in 1992, 42 percent of students took loans, while in 2006, 65.6 percent of students

took loans. Student loans have become normal, and normal is broke. A couple of years ago, I met with the dean of the college of business from the university where I graduated. At that time, the average college student graduated with about $15,000 in student-loan debt after spending three of four years in an apartment, not the dorm, and eating off-campus, not on the meal plan. The average student pays $5,000 more per year to live and eat off-campus than to live in the dorm and eat cafeteria food. The student loans that they “had to have” or they wouldn’t be able to go to college weren’t for college at all. The student loans, on average, paid for an off-campus standard of living, and no debt was needed to get the degree, only to look good while getting the degree. When people call my radio and TV shows to scream, “WE’RE DEBT FREE!” a car or a student loan is almost always the last they paid off. Except for a mortgage, these are the two largest debts most people have. If you have a student loan to pay off, it’s time to get crazy, get intense and attack that debt. Knock it out so it doesn’t stay around so long you think it’s a pet. If you are still in college or thinking about going back—PAY CASH!

Mortgages First, let me tell you that mortgage debt is the only kind of debt I don’t yell about. I don’t borrow money—ever. But if you have to get a mortgage, just be smart about it. First, make sure you are ready to buy a home. You should be debt-free and have three to six months of expenses saved for emergencies. Why? Because if you don’t, the roof will leak or the air conditioner will need replacing as soon as you move in. It’s a lot better to rent for a while longer than to be in a house you can’t afford to take care of. Never take out more than a 15-year fixed-rate loan, and never have a payment of more than 25 percent of your take-home pay. That’s the most you should ever borrow. If you borrow more, you won’t have the money to do anything else. Try the “100-Percent-Down Plan.” Luke called me from Cleveland. He made really good money. His income at 23 years old was $50,000, and he married a young woman making $30,000. His grandfather had preached to him never to borrow money, so Luke and his new bride lived in a very small apartment over a rich lady’s garage. They paid only $250 a month for it. They lived on nothing, did nothing that cost money and they saved. Man, did they save! Making $80,000 in the household, they saved $50,000 a year for three years and paid cash for a $150,000 home. No payments! If you make $80,000 per year and don’t have any payments, you can become wealthy very quickly.

The Myth My dream is to get as many Americans as possible out of debt. Unfortunately, I could sell 10 million books and there would still be 6 billion credit card offers per year, so there is no danger of my working myself out of a job. The best weight-loss program in the world can never ensure there will be no fat Americans; after all, there are too many McDonald’s. Debt is not a tool. The myth that debt is a tool has been spread far and wide. Always keep in mind that if you tell a lie often enough, loud enough and long enough, the myth becomes accepted as a fact. Repetition, volume and longevity will twist and turn a myth, a lie, into a commonly accepted way of doing things. No more. Debt is not a tool; it is a method to make banks wealthy, not you. The Bible is right: The borrower truly is slave to the lender. Your largest wealth-building tool is your income. When you tie up your income, you lose. When you invest your income, you become wealthy and can do what you want. How much could you give every month, save every month and spend every month if you had no payments? Your income is your greatest wealthbuilding tool, not debt. There is no such thing as good debt. a

DAVE RAMSEY is a personal money management expert, New York Times best-selling author, nationally syndicated radio talk show host and host of The Dave Ramsey Show on the Fox Business Network.


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Pete Greig and 24-7 Prayer have been praying nonstop for a decade, spawning 6,000 prayer rooms in 83 countries. But that’s just the beginning. BY MATT CONNER


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APPARENTLY, GOD DOESN’T CARE WHAT PETE GREIG THINKS. ALMOST SIX YEARS AGO, in the cover story of RELEVANT’s first issue, Greig said he didn’t think 24-7 Prayer was going to take over the world. One global movement later, it seems it wasn’t up to him. “Last time I checked, the 24-7 movement had spread into 83 countries,” says Greig, the unassuming 39-yearold founder of 24-7 Prayer and author of Red Moon Rising (Relevant Books) and God on Mute (Regal Books). “All from that first, solitary, little night-and-day prayer room tucked away on an industrial estate in England. We never expected it to happen.” The largest and most countercultural spiritual movement you’ve probably never heard of, 24-7 Prayer has blossomed into a worldwide network of people who have been praying nonstop since 1999. Their online hub,, which was designed at Greig’s kitchen table, gets 150,000 visitors a month. There are thousands of prayer rooms, meeting everywhere from cathedrals to bars, and more than 30 modern-day monasteries have sprung out of them. These prayer activists are engaging missions worldwide, and 24-7 Prayer has offices in 11 countries trying to keep up with it all. Media outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Reader’s Digest, and even a TV documentary, have covered the movement. “It’s been quite a ride,” Greig humbly says. The Beginning of a Movement For Greig, the beginning of this ride was at the end of Europe. After graduating from the University of Greenwich in 1991, Greig and a friend set out to travel Europe. One lonely night at Cape St. Vincent, the most southwesterly point of Europe, Greig stood at the edge of the cliffs while his friend slept in his tent nearby. With his hands outstretched and his back to the sea, Greig prayed for the nations of Europe. And it was there that God gave him a vision that would change his life.

“My eyes were open, but I could see with absolute clarity before me the different countries laid out like an atlas,” Greig writes in Red Moon Rising. “From each one a faceless army of young people rose from the page, crowds of them in every nation awaiting orders.” It would be several years before Greig would see this vision begin to take shape in the form of 24-7 Prayer, but from that moment on God was at work in Greig’s life—and in the lives of a handful of others around the world—laying the foundation for a global awakening rooted in prayer. In 1999, after pastoring a couple of young churches in England, Greig went on another road trip through Europe, this time with his wife, Samie, and their infant son, Hudson. Along the way, they made a stop in Germany at Herrnhut, the famous home of the Moravians and the birthplace of a hundred-year prayer movement in the 18th century. It was there Greig wondered if God was calling his church to something similar. At the time, Greig was thinking of a month-long, nonstop prayer meeting. “If this little community of 32 houses could pray nonstop for a hundred years,” Greig thought, “a church like ours could manage a month.” And so a few months later, Greig’s church in Chichester, England, set up a prayer room and started praying. A decade later, the prayer hasn’t stopped. Prayer Rooms The heart of this revolution is found in the prayer rooms. There is no formal structure to a 24-7 prayer room—they can be set up virtually anywhere—the only requirement seems to be a group of people committed to connecting with God in prayer. Sometimes that is done orally; sometimes people write their prayers down on paper and pin it to the walls. Some prayer rooms have art, some have music. No matter their style, the common thread is focused intercession. One participant, Phil Togwell, journaled about his experience at a prayer room near London: I walked into the prayer room at 7:55 this morning, and the air was still potent with prayer: That invisible fog of intercession that you can feel but cannot see—it hung there. It’s the weirdest thing, but it felt like the room was actually “alive.” ... About 20 young people had been there all night— they’d arranged their own [schedule] and had brought their sleeping bags to snatch bits of sleep in-between slots ... but for many those sleeping bags remained unused. For nine hours or so they’d poured it all out, before passing the prayer baton at around 6 a.m. This is the vision Greig fights for. An army of young people, impassioned for God. A missional movement birthed in prayer.


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“The most encouraging part for me right now is realizing just how simple the idea of a prayer room is,” David Blackwell, the National Leader for 24-7 Prayer USA, says. “You can tell someone in a few minutes how to start a prayer room, and they can really do it.” Blackwell tells of a group of students in Indiana who emailed him because they wanted to use one of their parents’ garages to start a prayer room. Every other month, they do a 40-hour prayer stint where they clean out the garage, put paper on the walls, incorporate a prayer station and set up some things they want to be praying for, like global issues and their friends. “They just do it,” Blackwell says. “I love how simple it is to do something like this, and yet how meaningful and impactful it can be. The beauty of it is that it’s gotten out of our hands. We didn’t have a patent on this, so we’re sharing the stories and spreading the idea in a very simple way, and just trusting God to take care of the rest and meet people.” To Blackwell, that’s success—when God is meeting people. “However that happens is just awesome for us. [The prayer movement] is reproducing itself and multiplying in a rapid way, and it’s my honest belief that if every prayer room was registered, we would find over 5,000 prayer rooms.” Missional Prayer Seemingly contradictory to its name, there’s actually much more to the 24-7 Prayer movement than just prayer. “We’ve discovered that prayer is actually a brilliant way of mobilizing engagement,” Greig says. It seems once people start praying, it isn’t long before they are acting. A passion for prayer soon becomes a passion for mission, too.

Registered Prayer Rooms Across the Globe




South America







North America


Every prayer room has stories of participants challenged to action in their families and communities. People pray for someone they know, and after praying they want to do something about the situation or relationship. God uses their prayers to break down barriers. Nowhere is this more clear than in Ibiza, Spain. In Europe’s hedonistic party capital, 24-7 is making a stand. It started with prayer rooms during the party season, and has now spawned a full-time church plant. “We do a lot of work on Ibiza, which houses the biggest clubs and bars in Europe,” Greig says. “We met a Venezuelan illegal immigrant called Andres who was working as a professional stripper. We became friends and he began a journey with Christ. The local church sadly rejected him because he had too many tattoos. We couldn’t find anyone who would accept him as he was, so we realized that we were sometimes going to have to start caring ourselves for the people who were responding to the good news about Jesus.” These 24-7 church plants, otherwise known as “boiler rooms,” developed out of necessity. “As people gather to pray with each other, a common heart and mission often form, working to bond the group together,” Greig says. “Then, as they serve and engage their local context, they find those they’re reaching need a place to worship, to find love and to grow in their newfound faith.” There are about 50 boiler rooms across the world. According to Blackwell, each is essentially a community of believers committed to being authentic, relational and missional. “Prayer is the boiler room that fuels the life of the Church,” he says. “I think that’s partly why we chose the name from the get-go. But it is a community of believers that loves God, loves each other and loves the world. Those are the three core values.” As 24-7 launches these boiler rooms, it would be easy to assume they are born out of a dissatisfaction with what the Church is doing. But Greig insists it’s out of a sincere love for the Church that 24-7 is operating in the first place. “Unless we love the Church, we cannot change the Church,” he says. “Many people in our generation have been wounded by their experiences of congregational life. As a result, they develop ideas that merely appear radical but really are just reactionary and sectarian. “I recently visited an impoverished township in the north of Zambia. Tens of thousands live without running water and AIDS is decimating the population. The only hope is the Church. It’s the Christians who are building a school. It’s a bishop who is running the AIDS counseling service. We don’t have the luxury of playing politics with the Gospel in such contexts. “The Church provides a unique social infrastructure,” Greig continues. “It is the world’s best hope of social transformation. We want to bless it, thank God for it, love it, encourage it, support it.” The leadership of 24-7 hopes churches will embrace a partnership where the two groups can work hand-in-hand toward accomplishing the mission of reconciliation here on Earth. 24-7 has already worked with almost all mainline denominations, and Greig hopes the future involves both


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the traditional and the innovative. “If there’s to be any kind of transformational movement, it’s going to take both a renewal of the old vintage wineskins and also the emergence of flexible new wineskins,” he says. “Too many people pin all their hopes on either the new, postmodern, emergent expressions of faith, or on the ancient traditions. The truth is we need both. We’re entering a new cultural landscape full of unusual missiological, social and intellectual challenges for the Church. We need innovation and entrepreneurial spirituality. Business as usual just isn’t going to get the job done.” Growing Pains Though canvassing the globe, 24-7 Prayer faces some major obstacles. It’s an organization that’s grown quickly and unexpectedly, and, Greig will admit, without necessary things like business plans and budgets. “We spent the first few years hoping a grown-up would walk into the room and tell us how to do everything,” he says. “The vision is always expanding and it can be hard to keep up.” With so much growth, 24-7 Prayer faces constant challenges of sustainability. Each new initiative taxes its existing structure. “For instance, we’re developing a social justice dimension called Just24-7,” Greig says. “I’m very excited by it, but then again I’m also thinking, ‘Oh, man! We were just about to catch up and now we need even more people and money and expertise.’” In the midst of the changes and challenges, Greig also notes that much has changed about his own understanding of why they started praying in the first place. What he believes about prayer now is much different than when he first began this roller coaster journey. “One thing I’ve learned is that prayer is not a big switch in the sky that makes revival happen,” Greig says. “It’s not a formula at all. It’s a relationship. After a few weeks of nonstop prayer in that first 24-7 prayer room, I think we kind of thought, ‘Man, we’ve never prayed this hard before in our lives. Any minute now, the angel Gabriel is going to come through the clouds singing the Hallelujah Chorus and everybody is going to get saved.’ “Don’t get me wrong; we’ve seen plenty of remarkable answers to prayer, but it’s just not like a Coke machine. You don’t put in your prayer and get out a miracle. It’s more agrarian. It’s more organic. You sow something and you harvest it later, and it’s often quite different than what you sowed.” The Future Next up for 24-7 Prayer is bringing this worldwide movement to the United States in an unprecedented way. They’re calling it Campus America, a bold initiative to start a prayer room on all 2,614 college, seminary and university campuses in the U.S. by 2010. Greig and Blackwell realize they’re in over their heads, but, historically, they’ve seen that’s usually the place where God works the most. As a British citizen, Greig holds a unique perspective of a post-Christian America that is largely influenced by the current spiritual climate of Europe. With 74 percent fewer

confessing Christians on America’s campuses than in the population at large, Greig recognizes the signs. “In Europe, we surrendered an intellectual and cultural battle on the university campuses after the trauma of the second World War,” he says. “Christians lost the hearts and minds of a generation of students, who graduated with a post-Christian worldview. This shaped the way we think today. That’s why so many Europeans no longer ask the questions to which Jesus is the answer. It’s not particularly good news that Jesus died to forgive your sins if you don’t believe you are sinful in the first place. Sadly, America seems to be on a similar spiritual trajectory.” Though an eerily similar trend seems to be happening in the U.S., Greig sees hope for America’s colleges. “There’s sparkling creativity and passion, and they don’t want to be sold short by materialism and a vacuous celebrity culture any more. They want to harness the potential for something that really matters.” Greig sees an army of young people rising up, just as he did years ago standing at the tip of Europe. “There’s a spiritual, intellectual and moral challenge that we’re facing, and we believe that the coming change will be born in prayer.” 2

ONLINE BONUS @ RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM Visit to learn about Triibe, an innovative arts movement rooted in 24-7 Prayer.

Books by Pete Greig

RED MOON RISING: How 24-7 Prayer is Awakening a Generation With crises happening all over the world and in our own backyards, the world needs continual prayer like never before. This book is an honest account of persevering prayer, and a generation that’s bringing an ancient practice into modern times.

GOD ON MUTE: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer In this personal account, Greig examines what it means to pray through suffering, and suffer when met with silence. When even God doesn’t seem to have the answers you’re looking for, how do you respond?

THE 24-7 PRAYER MANUAL: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining a Holy Space in the Real World Still not quite sure you understand what 24-7 Prayer is all about? This book covers the basics of the movement, including how to start a 24-7 prayer room in your church and keep it conducive to prayer.


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The house occupied by Cool Hand Luke might be asleep, as their fifth studio title suggests. The better descriptor, however, is that it’s made of cards.


After 10 years of crafting intense, thoughtful pop structures that fly mostly under the radar of mainstream attention, conversations with the Nashville three-nomake-that-four-no-make-that-three-piece reveal a fragile state of mind and existence. Instead of a seasoned act confident in their identity and manner, it seems time has chiseled the youthful zeal away, leaving a band comfortable with making it big or letting it all fall apart. “As I’ve gotten older, I just care less about who I impress,” says Mark Nicks, the primary songwriter and vocalist. “I’ve realized that being allowed to tour in a band and make records is a gift and privilege. I’ve gotten to go all over the country and meet lots of people and I don’t know how much longer God is going to give us to do this in this capacity. As we all talk about it, we’re all of the mindset of however long we have left to do this, we really want it to be about the Gospel. We’re not going to fret if we’re playing small shows or church shows or if we don’t get on big tours. The best times, the most fruitful times I’ve had on tour, usually have no correlation to how many people were at a show or whether it was a bar or church. It comes down to the people you have in front of you to talk to and what God is doing at a specific place and time.” The lessons learned stem largely from the band’s lack of a solid platform from which to play their music. They live in a sonic no man’s land with no defined target audience or musical genre, leaving labels and radio stations uncomfortable in approaching Cool Hand Luke. “It’s really hard because we are a Christian band through and through,” explains guitarist Joey Holman. “We talked CASEY MCBRIDE


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about Jesus on the stage. We want people to know about Jesus, but it’s hard for us because we don’t play music that would really fit that stereotype of those types of bands. So we ended up being too Christian for the label we were looking at and not Christian enough for the record labels interested in us. So it’s a catch-22 and it’s hard to find a home.” Occupying that tension is a difficult process considering the band’s members—which also includes bassist Casey McBride—don’t want to fall into the typical trappings of Christian music. “I’ve been in Cool Hand Luke for 10 years and this has been the case the entire time that we’ve been a band,” Nicks says. “For me, I just don’t listen to very much Christian music. I just don’t enjoy it very much. I think a lot of it is very derivative. I’m not saying that in some way to sound like our sound is a superior genre or that we’re better or anything like that. It’s just that I want to write lyrics that make people think, that point people toward Christ without being trite. “I also want to make music that I would want to listen to,” he continues. “The idea is that we’re supposed to glorify Christ through music, but if we just sound like a Christian version of some better secular band, I don’t know how we’re doing that. I know that maybe everybody sees us differently, but Christian music is laughable, for the most part, to non-Christians. Now, maybe that should be. Maybe it’s more about the content than the music. But we just want to make good music without compromising the message of it. It’s not that we don’t talk about Christ enough, it’s just that we don’t do so in a way that’s marketable. We don’t fit it into a three-minute pop song. And for the general market, just the idea that we mention Christ at all is too much.” The Sleeping House stands as the latest example of Cool Hand Luke’s musical style. The album’s themes are undoubtedly Christian and deal directly with the Church and its mission and calling. And three-minute, up-tempo melodies are nowhere to be found. Instead, it’s Nicks’ piano-based compositions that darken the mood and dominate the haunting soundscapes. And it’s something that Nicks believes there should be space created for. “We don’t write up-tempo songs that compact four choruses into three minutes. If that’s what you like, that’s fine. It’s just not what I’ve ever identified with and it’s never inspired me. We’ve had a couple Christian rock singles and they were cut to pieces and had so much edited out of them that if you read the lyrics, it wouldn’t even make sense. There were gaps of the story missing and that’s just the way that radio is Website set up. I think the way that Christian labels think is if they can’t put something on radio or make a video MySpace: for it, then it isn’t worth the time therealcoolhandluke and money. And I just get frustrated For Fans of: with that, whether it’s Christian Radiohead, Copeland, Leeland, Starflyer 59 music or secular music or whatever. I think people will listen to what you tell them is good music. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is the most requested song in radio history and it’s seven minutes long. That was OK in the ‘70s, but now it’s not. So there’s a lot of music that you’ll never hear because it doesn’t fit the formula.”

“I WANT TO WRITE LYRICS THAT MAKE PEOPLE THINK, THAT POINT PEOPLE TOWARD CHRIST WITHOUT BEING TRITE.” —MARK NICKS “We want to have our artistic integrity,” Holman says. “We want to do what we want to do, not because it would fit us into a market. To be honest with you, Cool Hand Luke doesn’t have a very big market. We’re singing about Jesus, but we don’t want to play in churches. So it’s hard to really know what we’re about unless you really just get to know us as guys and dissect our music. We’re waiting on somebody to accept that and understand that we’re not trying to fit into a market. We want people to know the music we’re playing is because of Him and it’s for Him and we’re cool with that.” Instead of letting it get them down, the guys in Cool Hand Luke seem quite satisfied with where they’re at. Even if it’s a meager sphere they inhabit, it’s one of musical and spiritual freedom. And ultimately, the band believes it’s not even about them and any success they could experience. “I think we don’t take ourselves so seriously anymore that we try to convince people we’re cool or that they should like us,” Nicks says. “It’s just like, ‘Well, this is what we do and we’ve been doing it for 10 years.’ If we were going to be on TRL, it would have happened by now, so we will just keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully we can meet and love some more people and tell them about Jesus. If that means that we make some money and people like our music, then that’s great. But that’s not why we’ve set out to do this.” 2


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A PLACE TO REST: Women at Panzi Hospital are given a safe place to stay, medical attention and friendship.

WHEN YOU FIRST HEAR OF THE VIOLENT ATROCITIES in the Democratic Republic of Congo, you can’t imagine that anything of beauty could ever exist there. A bleak thought perhaps, but one that Christine Schuler Deschryver must face every day. As a women’s rights activist in the Congo, she has been up close and personal to women who have endured some of the worst documented cases of sexual violence over the last 10 years. The five-year conflict in the Congo was formally “over” in 2003, with 5.4 million dead at last count, according to the International Rescue Committee. But even today, violence still rips through the heart of the eastern regions and threatens to spill over into a fresh full-scale war. The world’s largest peacekeeping mission—a United Nations force of 17,000 soldiers and police—still struggles to protect the population. The country, formerly known as Zaire, has its first elected president in more than 40 years and should be rich from its gold, diamonds and minerals. But millions of people still suffer from a lethal combination of corruption, disease and hunger caused by conflict and displacement. Women, young girls and even babies remain targets for vicious sexual attacks, genital mutilation, torture and humiliation. Women often disappear from their homes, captured by groups of rebel soldiers and forced into a lifestyle of sexual slavery, never to be returned to their loved ones. In a land where gender discrimination is the norm, it’s common for women to be left for dead in the forest like animals.


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Deschryver was born in the city of Bukavu, Congo to a Congolese mother and Belgian father and raised with an appreciation for both cultures. She sees herself as a “citizen of the world,” having spent her childhood in both the Congo and in Belgium at a Catholic boarding school. She speaks French and at least four African languages fluently. She began fighting against injustice at an early age, after experiencing prejudice and discrimination as the child of an interracial couple. In 1994, Deschryver was a school teacher for a Belgian school in the Congo when refugees first began arriving from their neighboring country of Rwanda. Little did she or the people of the Congo know that their arrival would spark a rapid deterioration to the already fragile peace-keeping efforts within their own region. A group of rebel forces within the Congo itself were already at loggerheads with the government, but the refugees from Rwanda were followed by a band of Hutu rebel soldiers, who were led by rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and were known to have taken part in the genocide over the border in Rwanda. The Congo’s internal wealth made it a target for Nkunda and his men, who clearly saw the instability of the Congo as an opportunity to take control of the resource-laden country and immediately began an offensive. Within months, the country fell into a state of chaos, with not one but two rebel forces fighting to overthrow the Congolese government.

RENEWED HOPE Dr. Mukwege heard about some land that had been donated by UNICEF to build a new medical treatment center, but was sitting undeveloped. He and other like-minded individuals decided to take action and the idea was born to try and set up an operating room at the new center where the women could be assisted. The center would primarily be a maternity ward for women and their infants who needed urgent care. Deschryver and Dr. Mukwege had been friends and acquaintances for some time, so when Panzi Hospital was established, one of her first steps of action was to find out what she could do to help and assist him. Today, on average, Panzi Hospital receives 10 new cases each day and 30 percent of the women undergo major reconstructive surgery. But with a lack of trained hospital staff, power cuts due to the war and interference from the Congo’s corrupt government, the daily functioning of the hospital is always at risk. To make matters worse, this past September, Panzi Hospital was attacked by a gang of bandits. Hospital staff had to literally fi ght off attackers with sticks. Ambulances and important transport vehicles were vandalized. Windows of the hospital were smashed. Many people were injured, including patients and staff. Although she isn’t an employee, Deschryver has become one of Panzi Hospital’s most-trusted longterm volunteers and activists, using her personal time when she isn’t at work to bring awareness to their cause by giving clandestine interviews to foreign press and speaking up on behalf of the women. “I became a sort of advocate for them, going there on weekends or any time I can,” she says. “My role is that of a friend and listener. I talk with the women, but mostly I listen to them— their horror stories. We sit and cry together, even though [listening] is difficult as it affects me so much.” For a country whose war is officially declared “over,” the stories of the abuse and violence that women and children face every day in the Congo continue to flood in. “Another 10-month-old baby named Isabelle died again in my arms last May,” Deschryver says. “And one raped mother explained to me how soldiers forced her to eat her own children. They [a group of survivors] were taken into the forest by the rebels and given meat to eat without knowing the meat the rebels were cooking for them was human flesh! Their own children! Another 84-year-old woman was crying as she told me she’d been raped. She kept asking me to look at her, [and] wondered what they were looking for in such an old body. I’m often revolted, very depressed, by what I hear and I know I need counseling myself. I rely on medication to sleep and wake up with strong cups of coffee.”


CASUALTIES OF WAR Caught between the crossfire, the women and children were the first to suffer and the emergence of barbaric and senseless acts of violence quickly became the trademark of the war. Deschryver’s life was changed dramatically when the war invaded the home of her best friend. “One of the first cases of rape in 1998 was my best friend, colored like me,” she explains, still having to keep her friend’s details confidential, for fear of reprisals. “She was gang-raped by the soldiers and killed.” Then in 2000, an 18-month-old baby girl with broken legs was brought into her office. “She’d also been gang-raped and died in my arms, right there in my office. ... I knew something really terrible was happening here and we had to try and alert the world.” Around the same time, Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Christian surgeon who fled the fighting in Lemera, a town in South Kivu, settled with his family in Bukavu. His arrival would be significant in the road to recovery for countless numbers of the Congo’s women. Years before, when he was young, Dr. Mukwege had accompanied his father—a pastor—on home visits, where he had first contact with “patients.” His father would pray for the women and they were always grateful, but Dr. Mukwege left their homes feeling frustrated. He wanted to do more than just pray for them. Though he knew spiritual healing was an important part of the process, he wanted to learn how to take away their physical pain, too. Years later, the newly qualified doctor had been working successfully at a Christian hospital in Lemera when the war broke out and the hospital was completely destroyed. He decided to settle in Bukavu and couldn’t believe what he found on his arrival. Women fled from their villages, sometimes traveling through the jungle or dirt roads, for days and weeks on end. Many were badly injured, having survived brutal sexual attacks, mutilations, suffering from genital lesions and bleeding severely. They arrived needing immediate medical attention, but had nowhere to go. Some of those who fled while pregnant simply came to die after laboring for hours unsuccessfully. In addition to the severe psychological impact, many survivors were left with genital lesions, traumatic fistula and other physical wounds, as well as unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Local response to support such survivors is hindered by a lack of resources. Additionally, there was near total impunity for these crimes as perpetrators almost always walked free.

( Tracking A Tragedy ) Democratic Republic Of Congo

South Kivu North Kivu

Rwanda (Nkunda’s troops at border)

Bukavu (Panzi Hospital) • Goma (largest refugee camp) •


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AFFECTION AS MEDICINE Dr. Mukwege holds a baby girl as Panzi Hospital patients gather around. The hospital started out as a maternity ward.






Beginning of Discord

Conflict Recognized

Peace Accords

Presidential Elections

Africa’s Worst War

> The first Rwandan refugees

> Conflict officially “begins.”

>Rwanda and Uganda say they’ve

> Congo holds its first round of

>International Rescue Comm-

flood across the border into the Congo, followed by Hutu rebel soldiers. Congolese women are abducted, their children are put to forced labor or recruited into the rebel army, and reports of rape and sexual assault begin to emerge.

Rebel forces under the orders of Laurent Nkunda try to overthrow the Congo’s government.

withdrawn most of their forces from eastern Congo after peace accords in which Congo agrees to disarm and arrest Hutu militias in its territory. A peace deal signed at the end of the year states that rebels and opposition members will be given jobs in a powersharing interim government.

presidential elections. Joseph Kabila receives nearly 45 percent of the vote, with his main rival, Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba, winning around 20 percent. In December, Kabila is sworn in as president.

ittee says that the Congo’s war and its aftermath has caused more deaths than any other conflict since World War II. The Congolese government, Nkunda and other rebels sign a peace deal to end fighting in the east.


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FULL SCHEDULE A chalkboard shows all of the procedures Dr. Mukwege must perform that day. On average, Panzi Hospital receives 10 new cases a day.

Dr. Mukwege has trained a team of nurses, obstetricians and surgeons in the complicated area of genital reconstruction and the female staff perform up to 18 operations a day. The most common procedure is fistula repair, which are often torn as a result of violent rape. This damage often leads to incontinence, infection and inability to walk due to the severity of the pain. The women feel forgotten, silenced by the war and often have no other family to turn to. As a result of their rapes, many of the women contracted STDs, including HIV, as well as unwanted pregnancies. For many, their families are too ashamed or afraid to take them back in. It’s not unheard of for the same woman to be attacked repeatedly. Some women came to Panzi for help after their initial attacks, healed and returned home, only to return again after a second or third assault. This kind of strain has torn apart family units across the Congo. Thus the survivors at Panzi have formed an informal community, sharing what little they have with each other and supporting one another emotionally. They are also finding spiritual restoration in this unconventional setting. BEAUTIFUL RESTORATION A typical day at Panzi begins with a morning service led by Dr. Mukwege himself. He often delivers a message of hope to the women, and then they all spend some time in song and prayer. Ninety-five percent of the Congo’s women are Christians, but after losing so much to war, they are broken within. On arrival, many women have already given up on life and doubt there is a God, but over time, with the care,

* 40,000 b That’s how many survivors there are of sexual and gender-based violence in the Congo. Today, several armed groups still use sexual violence as a weapon of war in the Congo. Further, international actors, including U.N. personnel, have been implicated in perpetrating sexual violence in the Congo. Armed men systematically violate women and girls in the streets, fields and homes. The armed men in the Congo have perpetrated gender-based violence through various forms, including sexual slavery, kidnapping, forced recruitment, forced prostitution and rape.

love and affection they receive from Dr. Mukwege, his staff and activists like Deschryver, they gain the hope that one day things will get better. “I’ve learned so much from these women,” Deschryver says. “How to forgive, how to love and the real value of sharing things like a basic cup of water. In Africa we have nothing and give everything ,and in Europe and the U.S. where they have everything, [it’s like] ... they don’t care and give nothing.” It’s a view shared by many women in Congo, who ask how a government can place more value on protecting the lives of their gorillas and elephants above the lives of their women. A “femocide” (the complete and deliberate annihilation of the female species) is happening in the Congo. Gang rape has almost become a national sport, where the people know the houses in which the perpetrators live, but due to a lawlessness that abounds in the country, none of them are arrested or prosecuted. This lack of awareness and government support often leaves the women and activists like Deschryver feeling exasperated and at a loss. Deschryver tells about one of the times she cried out in desperation to God. “Being so often in Panzi and facing so much daily horror deeply affected my faith. In 2000, when that little baby died in my arms, I took her into the cathedral and like a fool I really cried and railed at God, begging him to let us all die instead of all these sufferings. Just asking Him, ‘Why?’” There was no great flash of revelation in answer to her lamentations, but Deschryver did feel a renewed sense of purpose toward her work. She puts it like this: “Since that day, I started believing with a new passion in what I was doing. I felt it had a purpose, but interestingly, I also lost my ability to actually pray. Then in April 2006, I met an 8-yearold victim. Her little body was destroyed forever from her attack, but she would come and hold my hands together and pray with me. She’d seen me crying so many times, and so she asked me to forgive these murderers like they [the women] all had. She understood the rebels probably didn’t know what they were doing. So she helped lead me back to faith. Now, since that day, whenever I am feeling totally down, I stop and pray. Many of these children at Panzi are just little angels.” Deschryver says there are so many tales that have moved her deeply, she could sit and write a book just on the accounts of torture she has heard alone. But despite the ashes of war, she says “The best place for me to be is at the hospital. There is so much suffering and the persistent smell of death all around me, but above all that there is a certain positive energy coming from these women that gives us the strength to continue.”



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The authorized companion to the bestselling Not on Our Watch by Don Cheadle & John Prendergast Order the book today for $7.50 at


For more information please visit Darfur Christian Action | and ENOUGH | For more information please contact |

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JOY AFTER HEARTACHE A group of patients perform tribal dances. They gain strength through the connections made at the hospital.


CAMPAIGN “Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource, Power To The Women And Girls Of The DRC” Renowned Playwright and Women’s * Rights Activist Eve Ensler, best known for her internationally successful book and play The Vagina Monologues, paid a visit to Panzi Hospital in early 2007. After seeing the women and hearing about the injustice, she joined forces with Panzi Hospital, UNICEF and the U.N. to launch a new campaign to raise awareness of the femocide. Together they seek to:

b end impunity for sexual violence, enforcing measures to ensure that state armed forces and police do not perpetrate sexual violence against women and girls.

TODAY In November 2008, U.N. peacekeeping troops and local aid organizations informed the west that fighting in the Congo had once again escalated. Nkunda spread his forces along the hilly, mineral-producing border region of Rwanda, sending over 200,000 refugees fleeing for their lives. Terrified and hungry, they arrived in and around Goma, resigned and full of despair. Sleeping out in the open, some even wrapped themselves in banana leaves at night to find some protection from the cold. Thousands more are feared to be roaming North Kivu’s bush-covered hills, desperately seeking safe shelter, food and water. Wives, mothers and sisters reported they were forced to leave their men behind in homes and villages, and had no way of knowing what would become of them. The U.N. and foreign aid groups are still scrambling to cope with an emergency described as “catastrophic” by relief workers. They are rushing to distribute supplies and provide medical care for the displaced, but fighting has disrupted aid operations. Reports of rape, sexual assault and forced labor doubled in a two-week period. Meanwhile,

Nkunda threatens to fight any additional peacekeeping troops sent into the region unless Congolese President Joseph Kabila agrees to negotiate directly with him. For the women and children in the Congo, life remains a thing of uncertainty and the painful story continues. There is still no formal end to the violence and bloodshed. The country hangs in tentative balance between peace and chaos. After the Rwandan genocide, the international community promised “never again.” Then came the Sudanese war and we said “no more.” Another war is raging in the Congo. Fifteen years after the initial conflict began, the international community has a chance to make its voice heard by speaking up for the Congo’s most valuable resource—their women and children. 2 ANNA MARIE HOPEWELL is the Women’s Worship & Creative Arts Pastor of’s international worship body. Anna edits JHM Global’s flagship publication preciouswomanmag. com, an initiative that rescues, heals and restores women and children.

b implement national laws that protect and empower women and girls.

b create the “City of Joy” in Bukavu—a center for survivors who have been left without family, community or the capacity to have children. City of Joy will give them a safe place to live while providing an education, leadership training and a chance to earn income. Learn more at


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b Write to the President of DRC, His Excellency the President of DR Congo Joseph Kabila Kabange, urging the government to do more to stop violence against women and girls and bring perpetrators to justice. Send letters C/O U.N. Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict (U.N. Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, P.O. Box 3862, New York, NY 10163). Download a prototype letter you can sign and send from DRCLetterTemplate.doc.

bDonate to City of Joy, a project of Panzi Hospital in partnership with V-Day and UNICEF. To donate online, visit To donate by check, please make the check out to “V-Day” and write “DRC” in the memo line. Then mail to: V-Day, Power to the Women of DRC Campaign, 303 Park Ave South, Suite # 1184, New York, NY 10010-3657.

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It’s not a scene defined by its sound but rather its sincerity. Sweden is brimming with musical talent and, luckily, much of it spills into the States. The sweetheart of the Swedish music scene is Lykke Li (pronounced: Lick-ee Lee), a Stockholm girl who has found fame at age 22. “Sweden is so small, so it’s quite crucial to have some success in America if I want to pursue the plans I have for my artistic career,” Li admits. With a headlining tour of North America that’s selling out weeks in advance, she’s well on her way. The time was just right for an artist like Li to find attention. Peter Bjorn and John garnered worldwide acclaim for Sweden with their hit “Young Folks” in 2007, suddenly putting Sweden’s music scene under a spotlight. There was already the relative success of electronic duo The Knife, the indie pop balladeer Jens Lekman, and the acoustic brilliance of Jose Gonzalez. Logically, the next Swedish star had to be a songstress. With her long blonde hair and traditional Swedish looks, Li fits the part. She is also unapologetically fashionable. “It’s natural,” she says of her personal style. “Right now I’m wearing some fabulous black oversized men’s jacket and fishnet stockings. It’s Baroque meets Goth.” Hailing from the city that headquarters H&M, Li fits her image in with her music like a wellexecuted outfit. Her full-length debut, Youth Novels, is a little bit coming-of-age romance mixed with some dance-floor fanciness. “It’s about me and my youth ... which I’m still in,” Li says. “It’s about love, loneliness, confusion and a bit of ‘I don’t give a [expletive].’” Li’s voice is sweet and welcoming on Youth Novels. She sounds like a teenager, and proud of it. Li does not want people to feel they should take any sort of specific message away from her music. “I believe in believing in yourself and wanting good for others,” Li says. It’s an ideology that is clear in her live show as well, in which she encourages audience members to hold hands with each other during the songs. She wants her fans to be happy. “We should all try to support our planet and humankind, whatever our belief is,” she says. “We are all one.” And with this warm feeling of unity comes a unique pop sound. It’s fully equipped for a dance floor; the best moments of Youth Novels come when it’s grooving steady. Li refers to the sound as “good beats and sparse production,” but there’s a strong dose of fun thrown in as well. Tracks like “Little Bit,” “I’m Good I’m Gone” and “Breaking Up” have all the right voices, keys and beats needed for a good old-fashioned dance party at a friend’s apartment. It’s an album that will enhance memorable nights, cultivating nostalgia. Released independently, Youth Novels is bringing Li all kinds of positive attention, from critical praise across the whole of the blogosphere to collaborations with fellow Swedes, Björn Yttling and the Shout Out Louds’ Adam and Bebban, to remixes by CSS and Black Kids. Yttling (of Peter Bjorn and John) actually produced Youth Novels. “It’s great to work with such a talent!” Li says of her producer. “It would be nice to have success like [he had through ‘Young Folks’].” After one album and a year of glamorous acclaim, there’s no reason to assume that Lykke Li will fall off of any musical map (be that Sweden or the U.S.). Her plans for the future? “Don’t get too involved in the business, remember where [I] came from and keep [my] priorities strictly musical.” As long as she can stay indie, keep that Swedish pride and continue making great pop music, Li has devised a formula for success. d

You’ve Been Sweded Indie Pop sounds best in Northern Europe apparently. Lykke Li is just one of many who are making Sweden a Mecca for exquisite music:

JENS LEKMAN Gothenburg • > Sweden’s resident softie. He sings like Stephen Merritt and his lyrics are as clever as they come: “She said it was all ‘make-believe’ / But I thought she said ‘maple leaves’ / And when she talked about the fall / I thought she talked about the season / I never understood at all.”

PETER BJORN AND JOHN Stockholm • > These popsters have a melody that beckons the cool Swedish countryside. Their biggest hit may be yet to come, but producer Björn Yttling may find success through other artists first ( Lykke Li, the Shout Out Louds or Sahara Hotnights).

THE KNIFE Stockholm • > After receiving Album of the Year honors from Pitchfork Media in 2006, this creepy electro-rock band has remained relatively quiet. But after Silent Shout, whatever The Knife puts out next will be met with immense anticipation.

DUNGEN Vastergotland • > They don’t even sing in English! But their new album, 4, is as clear to the rock and roll ear as any. Fusing pyschedelia with garage rock, Dungen speaks through melody.

JOSE GONZALEZ Gothenburg • > Acoustic and ominous. A single voice accompanied by one guitar speaks volumes through this Argentinian/Swede. Gonzalez’ full band, Junip, is a rare treat. Here you can find Gonzalez covering Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”

THE LIBRARY TAPES Gothenburg • > Ambient music at its most beautiful. The Library Tapes recalls the cold loneliness of a winter heartbreak. Davis Wenngren is the man behind the music; in 2008, he released the magnificently serene full-length, A Summer Beneath the Trees.

THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH Dalarna • > Let’s not call him the next Bob Dylan, but admire Kristian Matsson’s similarities to the folk legend. Shallow Grave is the underground gem of 2008. The Tallest Man on Earth brings out the folky side of Sweden.


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YEAR IN REVIEW 2008 was a tumultuous year. A tragic cyclone in Burma left close to 150,000 dead, a geriatric Indiana Jones returned to the box office, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider somehow managed not to rip the universe to shreds. The year was packed with tragedies, triumphs and trivialities. While every year is eventful in retrospect, 2008 seemed to be a watershed one. Here’s a look at eight stories that defined the last 12 months. 72 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 09

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THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION After a seemingly interminable two-year election cycle, Americans elected Illinois Senator Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States. Winning both the electoral and popular vote handily, Obama seemed to signify the growing disaffection many Americans had with the Bush administration. Whereas in previous elections, evangelical voters seemed largely the domain of Republicans and generally ignored by Democrats, both sides courted the voting bloc in 2008. The culmination of this was Saddleback pastor Rick Warren’s Civil Forum. The Saddleback Civil Forum consisted of Warren individually asking the candidates questions

of interest to evangelical voters, while the candidates tried to make a case to appeal to Christians. The forum marked the first time the candidates had appeared onstage together, and was broadcast live on news stations. Both Obama and Sen. John McCain received spirited applause from the audience for their statements on policy and faith. With the eventual election of Obama, the U.S. elected its first black president. While the evangelical vote was divided between McCain and Obama, even those who didn’t vote for Obama agree that this is a triumphant moment and many are hailing it as the pinnacle of the civil rights movement.

THE ECONOMY GOES INSANE Little good news seemed to come from the financial sector in 2008. Oil prices skyrocketed, which in turn drove up food prices. At the same time, several major credit firms and mortgage companies collapsed, leading to housing foreclosures. Unemployment worldwide increased, with many economists predicting global unemployment will hit an all-time high of more than 200 million by the end of 2009. Meanwhile, the stock market plummeted, with the Dow Jones dropping below 9,000 for the first time in five years. A government bailout to the tune of $700 billion couldn’t make it past Congress its first time around, and investors became even more terrified. Through all of this, the economy became the key issue of the 2008 election, with issues like national security and the war in Iraq taking a backseat. While congress and the new presidential administration have promised swift action to bolster the sagging economy, it remains to be seen if 2009 will bring an economic rebound, or if we’ll all be warming our hands over trash barrel fires and fighting each other for the leftover cheese on the inside of discarded pizza boxes.


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A BITTERSWEET BATMAN SEQUEL After the success of Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up, The Dark Knight, was highly anticipated. Adding to the excitement was buzz over Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. When Ledger died in January of an overdose of prescription medication, publicity surrounding the movie kicked into overdrive. Early reviews indicated that Ledger had given his finest performance in the role. The film opened to rave reviews and garnered $18.5 million in its midnight showing, shattering the previous record set by Star Wars: Episode III. To date, The Dark Knight has grossed close to $1 billion, and Ledger’s performance sparked speculation of a posthumous Oscar nomination. At the time of his death, Ledger was midway through filming on the upcoming Terry Gilliam film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. The rest of the film was completed with Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell playing parts of Ledger’s role.

THE ‘90S MAKES ITS COMEBACK The return of the ‘80s held sway over pop culture for much of the early part of the millennium. Suddenly, New Wave was new again, jeans kept getting tighter and mullets re-invited everyone to their party in the back. However, as the first decade of the 2000s winds down, the ‘90s seem to be coming back into vogue (speaking of which, maybe that dance will come back). It started with the return of ‘90s music. New Kids On the Block, their age belying their moniker, released their first album in 14 years. The record released at number one, and went on to be certified gold. Meanwhile, erstwhile indie icons My Bloody Valentine reunited and began a tour, and finally got around to finishing an album they had been working on for the past 12 years. Rage Against the Machine got in on the trend by embarking on a world tour, though the group has no plans to release a new album at this point. The return of all things ‘90s reached its peak in 2008 with the return of 90210 to the airwaves. The update of the seminal ‘90s teen drama (didn’t someone already do that and call it The OC?) includes original cast members, and has sparked speculation of an updated Melrose Place. It remains to be seen how much the ‘90s will continue its assault on culture, but we assume the next step will be baggy flannel, fuzzed-out guitars and teen malaise.

THERE WAS REALLY NOTHING GOOD ON TV If you turned on the television in early 2008 and noticed it was entirely reality programming with an occasional rerun of Mama’s Family thrown in for good measure, it was because of the WGA writers’ strike. The strike started in late 2007 when the WGA and studio bosses couldn’t come to a contract agreement. It ended up lasting 14 agonizing weeks, leaving Americans no choice but to go outside or talk to their loved ones. Many series’ seasons were severely truncated by the strike. Ever the troopers, many talk shows returned to the airwaves sans writers. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report came back on the air, but out of deference to the striking writers, temporarily changed their names to A Daily Show and The Colbert Report (with hard t’s). Finally, after missing half a season of Lost, the strike ended in February of 2008, and America could return to its gentle slumber.


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CASTRO RESIGNS Fidel Castro, the controversial leader of Cuba, ceded power to his brother Raul in February of 2008. The communist president led Cuba for nearly 50 years, and was often at odds with the U.S. Early in his career, Castro was a popular, if galvanizing, figure in U.S. culture, even appearing on The Tonight Show. However, as it became apparent that Cuba would not hold democratic elections and Castro would retain supreme executive power, he was quickly relegated to the role of a despot in public sentiment. At the beginning of Castro’s presidency, he declared Cuba an “atheist” nation and put severe restrictions on the practice of any religion. But during the waning years of his rule, Castro began to ease those restrictions. In 1998, he welcomed Pope John Paul II to the country, and reinstated Christmas as a public holiday. While churches still have to register with the government, freedom of religious expression is a growing reality in Cuba, and churches are even allowed to openly evangelize. Under Raul’s presidency, Cuba has continued to ease restrictions on its citizens. Raul Castro signed two United Nations human rights agreements upon taking power. He has also allowed Cuban citizens to buy products like DVD players and computers, loosened travel restrictions and freed political prisoners. With hard-line communism waning in Cuba, the long-standing U.S. trade embargo of the country may fall by the wayside. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to buy Cuban cigars soon.

as op. de






BILL TRIES ACTING Bill Gates, America’s favorite nerd and Microsoft CEO for more than 30 years, stepped down from his full-time activities with the company to focus on his charitable work. The computer mogul still works part-time for the company (perhaps doing janitorial stuff?), but left his day-to-day duties. Gates founded the software giant in 1975, and worked his way from being a college dropout to the richest man alive for 15 consecutive years. He and his wife, Melinda, founded The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which has given more than $28 billion to charity and has done work to stop the spread of malaria in developing countries. After leaving his full-time duties at Microsoft, Gates appeared in a short-lived series of ads for the company, co-starring Jerry Seinfeld. In the bizarre TV spots, Gates and Seinfeld try to mingle with normal people. The ads were going for an awkward meta-humor, but really only achieved the awkward part. Originally planned as a series, only two of the ads ran before it became too painful for everyone to watch and they were mercifully given the blue screen of death.

If the I.O.C. were looking for a trouble-free Olympics, they probably shouldn’t have picked a host country with a highly-criticized authoritarian government. Smart choice, guys. The Beijing Olympics were controversial long before they even began. With a variety of groups charging the Chinese government with human rights abuses in their preparation for the games, criticism rained on the communist country. China was accused of driving people from their homes in order to build the Olympic stadium and village. Moreover, China’s trading relationship with Darfur brought cries for boycotts, even leading to Steven Spielberg—originally tapped to direct the opening ceremonies—canceling his involvement (thus killing the chances of any CG dinosaurs being included in the ceremonies). Beyond human rights abuses, China was also criticized for its poor air quality, and many athletes were warned to bring face masks to filter out pollution while competing. Once coverage of the games began, journalists complained of the communist government’s restrictive media policies. After the games got underway though, all the previous controversy seemed forgotten, and all the talk of boycotts amounted to nothing. The story that dominated the Olympics was that of American swimmer Michael Phelps, set to break Mark Spitz’ 1972 record of seven gold medals. Phelps grabbed gold for every event in which he competed, taking home eight gold medals and breaking not only Spitz’ record but the record for all-time gold medals for a single Olympian, and possibly even developing a rudimentary set of gills. However, controversy returned to the games when the Chinese women’s gymnastics team, who won gold, were accused of having underage (and thus ineligible) members on their team. The International Gymnastics Federation are still evaluating the claims and a disqualification could result in the second-place U.S. team receiving gold. Do you think they’d make new medals for that ... or would the Chinese team literally have to give up their gold? 2


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to serve and lead

Every EMU student studies in another culture. In D.C., students intern at places like Faith and Politics. In Cambodia, environmental science students work on water resource management.

From Peacebuilding and Development to pre-law, all programs of study consider creation care, stewardship and justice as part of a Christcentered education. EMU prepares students to serve and lead in a global context.

EMU photography majors saw the rich history of the Balkans through their lenses, summers ’06 and ’08 (Lithuania).

Harrisonburg, Va.


is coming...


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> It’s been nearly 10 years since Q-Tip’s

> The world is not going to crush you like

debut solo album, Amplified, but he’s

a twig, people often find their soul mates

kept himself busy over the years making

and the sun will rise again tomorrow.

> The infinitely quotable lyrics of Andrew Bird captivate you

feature appearances on tracks for

While these sentiments may not be

initially with their literate voice, then force you to ponder their deeper meanings. “In the salsify mains of what was thought but unsaid / All the calcified arythmatists were doing the math / And it would take a calculated blow to the head / To light the eyes of all the harmless sociopaths,” he sings on the lead-off track, “Oh No.” After wandering through the chorus (on which he cheerfully repeats the “harmless sociopaths” line), Bird whistles and strums, steps aside for a viola solo that sounds like sampled insects, reaches a thrilling climactic overture and then idly slides into the next folksy masterwork. Noble Beast has it all: lucid alliterations (like the “flailing feudal fleas,” from “Master Swarm,” a song where doctors scan Bird’s body and find a man growing inside), words you have to look up in a dictionary (e.g, “aubergine”), and cleverly disenfranchised musical accoutrements.

Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, the Chemical

normative on a Snow Patrol release (it

Brothers, Jay-Z, R.E.M. and dozens more.

seems like it’s raining in most of their

Q-Tip’s practice is paying off on The

music videos, and someone is getting

Renaissance. Finally taking the spotlight,

emotionally flattened), A Hundred

Q-Tip maintains the sure-fire flow that

Million Suns is a stark departure. Lead

caught listeners’ attention when he was

patroller Gary Lightbody finds a pulse

the front man of A Tribe Called Quest.

on the lead-off track, casts lifeboats

For his 2008 output, laid-back rhymes

and patches things up. The 16-minute

are delivered comfortably and with

final song—which is loosely reminiscent

confidence. Featuring sparse help from

of Relient K’s 11-minute “Deathbed”

D’Angelo, Norah Jones and the late J

off their last studio release—has three

Dilla, The Renaissance avoids being

parts, but not a one of them seems like

cluttered with too many guests or skits,

it could work at a close friend’s funeral.


and rolls through 12 cool tracks that couldn’t be improved upon. Q-Tip not only proves his vocal ability throughout, but his producing skills as well. He gives up the producer’s reins only once for J Dilla on “Move,” a track that joyously pushes aside the negative stereotypes of the rap world in the name of something hopeful.


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sit the new to see other staff picks.

11/26/08 5:00:54 PM

God is bringing

change to the church... Seminary can be a time for learning how to navigate change.

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Be the



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11/21/08 3:42:17 PM




> Seventh Day Slumber is a band

> AC Newman has carved out a fledgling

> Extemporized funkadelic garage rock


known more for their blazing guitar

indie sound—slightly ornate but always

provides a good foundation for Jenny

> This low-brow hard rock band is

work (think Kutless with a hint of

accessible. Here, on his second solo

Lewis’ loungy vocals on Acid Tongue,

certainly becoming something. Yet—like

Tex-Mex) and the fact that the lead

release, he uses finely crafted triple-

her second solo effort. Recorded live

Dr. Frankenstein’s monster under the

singer once had a $400/day cocaine

tracked vocals (the Mates of State add

with help from M. Ward, Elvis Costello,

knife—they’re probably not sure exactly

habit. On Take Everything, the band

a blessed triumvirate on nearly every

members of Rilo Kiley, her boyfriend

what. There’s an almost operatic

re-imagines several recent worship

song), enraptured drums (thanks to Jon

Johnathan Rice and some guy named

feel to some songs, especially

songs from Chris Tomlin, Hillsong,

Wurster of Mountain Goats fame) and the

Rudy who wandered into the studio

“Self-Existent” with its cascading

and Marc James by pumping new life

occasional droning harmonium or organ.

(not really on that last one), this

symphonic chorus and pounding

into them. Jeremy Holderfield does

As a musical wunderkind, Newman pulls

release still feels tightly wound: classic


his best guitar work ever, adding a

out a few new tricks: “Young Atlantis”

rock guitar solos, Janis Joplin-style

ring piano. You partly listen to them

melodic undercurrent to hits like

lifts skyward on the fumes of his fine

emotive vocals and superfine piano

to try and figure it out: not quite

“Might to Save” and making “Lead

acoustic guitar work; “All of My Days...”

balladry. “Carpetbaggers,” the best

as guttural as Haste the

Me to the Cross” sound more like

borrows the raw vibe of Big Star and

song and an obvious first single, almost

Day, yet avoiding the melodic emotion

Guns N’ Roses than the Carpenter’s

gives it back to you, fully cooked.

passes for honky-tonk, except that

of Underoath. Drums are not

Family Christmas. The best song,

country singers never write anything

really percussive or expressive—more

“Surrender,” will split your CD in

about unrequited love, do they?

like a nail gun into thick plywood, giving you an immediate

half if you play it loud enough.

and satisfying headache.


Paint Your Picture Julie Meyer’s artistic worship and musical creativity are evident in her third album entitled Paint Your Picture. With a desire to be wholly God’s, Julie sings of her loving relationship with the Father. FREE song download at

Invitation to Encounter After learning to walk in humility the Lord encountered Julie unexpectedly in a series of prophetic dreams. They carry the word of the Lord for this hour in history, and they also carry something else: the Lord’s invitation for every believer to seek and meet Him for ourselves.

Forerunner Media Group is a ministry of the International House of Prayer Kansas City. Visit for more information

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> Two guys shuffle up on stage

> In another time and place, gifted

> Parts & Labor should not be

> Husky-voiced guitar virtuoso M.

carrying MacBooks and water

songwriters such as Sufjan Stevens,

allowed to record music anymore.

Ward is not one to re-invent the wheel.

bottles. It’s either a) a slideshow on

Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal, and

Their brilliant deconstructionist noise

On Hold Time, he picks and strums

global warming or b) experimental

Anathallo frontman Matt Joynt would

pop makes every tween-pop band-of-

his way to folk nirvana once again,

techno music. Telefon Tel Aviv, the

be writing complex operatic dirges or

the-day seem amateurish and dull.

with help from an eclectic troupe of

brainchild of Charlie Cooper and

sweeping concertos. Here in 2008, they

Most songs on Receivers start with a

musicians. Lucinda Williams adds some

Joshua Eustis, is the latter—with

just record in their apartments. Canopy

major key and then reanimate some

occasional grit and grime, while Tom

a touch of shoegazer ambient

Glow has a mesmerizingly low-fi quality,

weird noise-techno concoction. Check

Hagerman (the multi-instrumentalist

noise and, thank the Lord, very

part-toxic wordplay (“Feed the roots and

out “Satellites” or “Wedding in a

with DeVotchKa) adds lightly eccentric

few sampled loops that repeat

honor the tongues of the animals / Drift

Wasteland,” which both channel the

accents. Oh, and Zooey Deschanel

ad infinitum. In fact, safe to say

into the moss and bloat where the peat

Moody Blues in very uncomfortable

fans are in luck: The duo reunite

most of the sounds are recorded

bog pulls” sings Joynt on “The River”)

ways, yet somehow emerge

after a successful outing as She &

live on actual synths (so, not like

and part orchestrated perfection. You

uncorrupted. B.J. Warshaw and Dan

Him. There’s a wry wit and sarcasm

Moby) and lead toward some

wonder: How’d they get those trumpets

Friel (along with a new drummer

on a few songs (e.g., “Jailbird” has

eventual conclusion. The title

to intersect so effortlessly with the

and guitarist for this release) are

a line that goes, “Who’s gonna hear

track, “Immolate Yourself,”

Broadway-by-way-of-Michigan vocals

cheeky enough to allow bagpipes on

you help me, help me now”).

has light percussive flourishes

(on “Italo”)? Somehow, they do.

“Little Ones” to close out the song.

throughout, bumps into a melody

Would Fall Out Boy do that? Ah, no.

at the end, with a sagging and delusionary guitar part.

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(LEGENDARY PICTURES) > Starting from the lofty territory of his previous hit, Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan takes his grittier and more realistic re-imagining of the Batman franchise to astronomical new heights in what is probably the greatest comic book adaptation ever made. The movie pits Batman against his greatest nemesis, the Joker, an anarchistic madman whose only goal in life is to strip away the shell of society and reveal the chaos that lurks in the hearts of us all. Even as Batman and his legitimate law-enforcement allies Harvey Dent and James Gordon fight to clean up the streets, the Joker works to sow chaos in the world and in their lives. Their lengthy struggle plays out across the streets of Gotham and in the hearts of its citizens and leaders, making for one of the most morally complex superhero tales ever told. It’s also one of the darkest and most intense, and the performances by all the stars are almost universally superb. Best of all, even though it deals with dark, complex material, it never descends into the nihilism and despair that so many great books and films remain unable to escape, such as the upcoming adaptation of Watchmen. Make no mistake: This is the Moby Dick of superhero films, and one that’s sure to go down in cinematic history.

BOTTLE ROCKET (CRITERION COLLECTION) (GRACIE FILMS) > This movie started as a short film shown


at a festival and ended as a feature-length

>Time has passed since we last saw

box-office flop. But that didn’t stop brothers

Scully and Mulder, and neither are with

Owen and Luke Wilson and their friend Wes

the FBI anymore. But the FBI seeks

Anderson, who all make their debuts here.

Scully’s help in finding Mulder when

It follows Anthony and Dignan, two young

they discover a priest who’s having

down-and-outs whose life plan is to get

visions about a series of abductions.

into high crime. The first heist goes well,

Director Chris Carter lays the themes

but it’s soon clear they don’t have a head

on thick and there are a lot of twists,

for crime: Anthony falls in love as they

but he returns to the classic conflict:

prepare for their first major job, and their

Scully’s inability to make a leap of

getaway man runs away. The Wilsons show

faith, and Mulder’s quest for validation

the charm and wry goofiness that made

of his belief. The movie plays out like a

them stars, and Wes Anderson’s directorial

long television episode, and the plot is

skills and wit are apparent. Features on

eyebrow raising, but Gillian Anderson

this re-release include a commentary with

and David Duchovny slip back into

Anderson and Owen Wilson, a making-of

their roles perfectly, and really, that’s

documentary and the original short film.

what you’re there for anyway.


Shape Your Culture

You believe that redemptive, positive-value stories are worth telling. At Regent University, we will teach you to craft your stories in ways that are both compelling and meaningful. Let Regent teach you how to move your audience and leave a lasting impression.

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> This intriguing exploration of the history

> Nick Hornby gives us another

between the so-called “black church” and

thoughtful and entertaining glimpse

“white church” isn’t a how-to book on

into the lives of modern man-boys

racial reconciliation. Instead, it’s a reflec-

and boy-men with Slam, the story of

tion on the difficult truths of how we got

a teenager who gets his girlfriend

here, told by a white boy who crossed the

pregnant. The tale Hornby spins out

invisible line. He pursues different visions,

of that simple, unfortunately common,

from dipping into emotionalism to seeking

and always revolutionary premise is

refuge in intellectualism to appreciating

just as amusing and richly personal

different cultural expressions of Christian-

as his previous books. Hornby doesn’t

ity. And finally he asks the big question:

pull any punches when it comes to

What does it mean to truly be bound

confronting the difficulty that comes

together in Christ? In a time when both

from something as life-altering as

the black and white church are struggling

Sam becoming a teen parent, but he’s

to remain relevant and their youth are

also delightfully balanced in giving us

falling away, we all need to rediscover the

sympathy for Sam and showing us how

power of the hope that Christ offers us.

one mistake doesn’t rule our destiny.

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5:26 PM

Page 1

A RABBI’S SON WANDERS THE BIBLE BELT IN SEARCH OF HIS OWN FAITH BENYAMIN COHEN (HARPERONE) > Benyamin didn’t ask to be a Jew—especially not an Orthodox Jew. He was just born that way. As a boy, he’d gaze at the church across the street and the “khaki-clad parishioners and their always smiling progeny.” He wondered what it must be like to be one of the “normal” people who got to eat Nerds and bacon and watch the Smurfs. Throughout his life, Cohen struggled with his Jewish faith, feeling that something was missing—something those ever-smiling Jesus people seemed to have. And so he spent a year investigating odd bits of Christian pop culture: mega-churches with their own workout gyms, Christian professional wrestling, and even RELEVANT itself (which, by the way, he subscribes to). His year’s adventure is a hilarious glance into how absurd, ridiculous and sometimes wonderful we Christians can look to those on the outside—and how his year in the Bible Belt actually made him a better Jew.

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Cover story


Cameron Strang

The eight events we’ve deemed most worth








20 COUNTER CULTURE Tad Agoglia Pete Greig has big plans for the future of 24-7 Prayer.

24-7 Prayer is coming to a campus near you.

22 REVOLUTION Erina Khanakwa

24 PULSE Brett McCracken



Scot McKnight



Jamie Lidell & Steven Delopoulos

Making good music in a no-man’s land.


RADICALISM It’s a bad word in today’s culture. But is it what God wants from us?

32 DAMIEN JURADO Gets personal with his music.



This indie artist is finding inspiration in her youth, and the dance floor.

A CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN? In January, Obama takes office. What will his presidency mean for young Christians and for faith in America?



RECOMMENDS Our favorite music, books and DVDs


STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT DEBT Dave Ramsey busts the myths about debt.


BEAUTY AMONG ASHES Violence against women in the Congo has gone under the radar for far too long. Panzi Hospital and V-Day are doing something about it.

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RELEVANT (Jan./Feb. 2009)