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LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD Do you feel like you’re ﬁnding faith or losing it? “I realized recently that faith is not a state of being. It’s not a place you get at one day. It’s not black and white. It’s what you believe about God and that should always be changing and expanding and growing. I think faith is very much a process.” CHRISTINE LAMBERT TORONTO, ONTARIO “I feel like I’m ﬁnding faith. I’m ﬁnding people in life who demonstrate to me faithfulness, that demonstrate to me faith really being lived out. And that gives me hope, when I ﬁnd people who are authentically trusting and believing and hoping, despite seeing and knowing fully. That really supports my own faith.” DAVID GOODRICH JACKSON, MICHIGAN When I started asking questions I deﬁnitely felt like I was losing my faith. I felt like I was betraying a God who I knew to be real and who I loved very much. But the questions kept coming. And I was very fearful of the unknown. “ ERIN WILLIAMS ATLANTA, GEORGIA
“I’m losing it regularly through questions and doubts and struggles, which are good, and I see as an essential part of the journey. And ﬁnding it regularly through new insights, revelations and just through the comforting reassurance of God’s presence with me regardless of how much I feel that I have a handle on Him.” SHANE TUCKER GALLOWAY, OHIO
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GOD. LIFE. PROGRESSIVE CULTURE. RELEVANT magazine November/December 2008, Issue 36
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STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP, MANAGEMENT AND CIRCULATION RELEVANT magazine (Publication Number: 1543-317X) is published bimonthly by RELEVANT Media Group. Filing date: 9-05-08. Number of issues
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address and General Business Ofﬁces of the Publisher are located at 1220 Editor and Managing Editor are: Publisher, Cameron Strang; Editor, Cameron Strang; Managing Editor, Corene Israel; 1220 Alden Road, Orlando, FL 32803. The owner is Cameron Strang, 1220 Alden Road, Orlando, FL 32803; Stephen Strang, 600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746. There are no known bondholders, mortgagees and other security holders owning or holding 1 percent or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages or other securities. The tax status, the purpose, function and nonproﬁt status of this organization and the exempt status for federal income purposes have not changed during the preceding 12 months. Issue date for circulation data: July/August 2008. Extent and Nature of Circulation are as follows. Total number of copies (net press run): average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 74,286; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 75,000. Mailed outside-county paid subscriptions stated on PS Form 3541: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 32,475; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 31,577. Mailed in-county paid subscriptions stated on PS Form 3541: average number of copies each issue
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what it means to be wholelife Cameron Strang In August, I was invited to pray at the Democratic National Convention. The invitation came as a surprise, considering I’m not famous, not a minister, not a Democrat and have differences with the party on several issues. But the Democrats have been proactively addressing some moral issues that should be of concern to all Christians. I thought, what if more Christians would be willing to cross party battle lines and work through disagreements to champion issues of common good—ones that should be bipartisan anyway? Maybe together we could rise above the political fray and see lasting change happen. And, after all, I’m a nobody who would probably get the 2 p.m. workshop prayer slot. It’d be no big deal. So, I accepted. Then, a week later, they told me I’d be giving the benediction on the opening night of the convention, as part of the national broadcast. That changed the stakes a bit. What I would have intended as a bridge-building gesture would have been seen by millions as an unequivocal endorsement, which I wasn’t comfortable with, considering my differences with the party on issues like abortion legislation. Nevertheless, I was interested in continuing a positive dialogue behind the scenes and challenging the campaign to address issues of concern to Christians like us. For instance, if we can’t agree on abortion legislation, can we at least work together to proactively reduce
the number of abortions? You have to be present to have a voice. So, I withdrew from giving the prayer and instead participated in a forum discussing these issues. It was a positive dialogue, and frankly, I wish the Republican convention had done something similar. You would not believe the ﬁrestorm of calls, email and media attention that followed me during that journey. Thousands on the fringe right wing sent me emails ranging from all the reasons I’m going to hell for even talking to Democrats, to actual pictures of aborted children. On the other extreme, after pulling out of the prayer, I was accused by the extreme left for being a coward and representing all that’s wrong with Christianity. It was an interesting few weeks, to say the least, and yet another reason I’m glad the hate-ﬁlled political season is over four days after this issue hits newsstands. Some critics used the invitation (and my willingness to initially accept it) to “prove” that RELEVANT has gotten too liberal, that we’ve chosen a works-driven social gospel over promoting a relationship with God. And while I acknowledge the magazine has begun covering harder-hitting issues over the last year—as well as spotlighting people who are living counterculturally, giving their lives to make a tangible, eternal difference in the world—I strongly disagree that this is a liberal shift. The spiritual foundation of our magazine is unchanged. We believe the Bible is the only complete and infallible written Word of God. We believe God is moving and still speaks to us today. And we believe Jesus came to provide eternal salvation to a lost and dying world. It is actually a better understanding of our faith in Christ that compels us to care about the social issues we’ve been covering. If Jesus said it, we believe it. If Jesus modeled it, we want to live it. If Jesus commanded it, we want to obey it. We believe everything Jesus practiced and preached is as relevant for us today as it was at the time of Christ’s earthly life. Jesus stood up for those who could not stand up for themselves. Ultimately, he gave His life to save those who could not save themselves. And we should model the same mindset today. My primary disagreement with the Democratic party, and the source of so much of
the controversy I experienced, is my belief that life begins at conception, and it is our moral duty to protect innocent lives. To me, that is not just a matter of faith; it is a matter of objective fact. “Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction, but a demand of justice,” Cardinal Justin Rigali reminded pro-choice Catholic candidate Joe Biden in September. However, and this is where many on the right miss it, the example Jesus set for us to stand up for the defense of the innocent does not end at birth. Just as they do for abortion, Christians should be on the forefront of standing against things that take millions of innocent lives around the world every day—systemic poverty, preventable disease, unnecessary wars, slavery, genocide. The list goes on. In April 1859, Abraham Lincoln wrote these words in a letter to Henry Pierce: “This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.” It’s simple, folks: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Christians shouldn’t just be known for being “pro-life,” a term which will never be disassociated from 1990’s abortion clinic bombers. Instead, we need to embrace a more holistic deﬁnition of Christ’s love and example. We need to be “whole-life.” Whole-life means standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. It means seeing a need, like Scott Harrison did (pg. 60) and giving your life to serve it. It also means more everyday things, like being conscious consumers and not supporting companies that subject people to illegal, exploitative working conditions, or promote slavery, like our cover story uncovers. Being whole-life means living out Jesus’ example in our world today—ﬁghting injustice, promoting life, being good stewards of our natural and ﬁnancial resources, and showing God’s love in a tangible way. A Christian’s compulsion to stand for what’s right should be far deeper than someone who does not have faith in Jesus. To dismiss these as liberal issues is to miss the very heart of God. It’s only our Western, partisan mentality that has blinded us from this practical application of scriptural living. d CAMERON STRANG is the founder and editor of RELEVANT. He wrote about the DNC invitation more in-depth on his blog at RELEVANT magazine.com.
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COMMENTS, CONCERNS, SMART REMARKS > Send your love and hate mail to feedback@RELEVANTmagazine.com. Please be gentle.
Thank you for addressing the issue of personal responsibility in the political landscape. The real changes won’t come until we, motivated by love, roll up our metaphorical sleeves and say, “What can I do?” We cannot fairly expect more of our leaders until we expect more of ourselves. —JENNIFER KILLIAN / New York, NY
We don’t understand how recommending our favorite albums (instead of just reviewing whatever) doesn’t help you discover new music. I love “The Drop” at RELEVANTmagazine.com! I stream it in my dorm room all the time, and I just love the music. Thank you for introducing me to such great bands! —SARAH SCHREIT / Cedar Falls, IA “In the Red” [Sept./Oct. 2008] struck me to the core. I am amazed at the effort the people put forward to help those kids, but my mind is paralyzed at the realization that some of the youth there are simply too accustomed to rape and prostitution. —J.J. CARLSON / Austin, TX Is the 2008 RELEVANT cover theme “overstatement”? First, a cover on injustice with someone facedown in a puddle with another standing on them [May/June]. Next, a voter is blinded by a ﬂag and silenced with duct tape [Sept./Oct.]. While I think it’s very cool your cover stories are issues rather than a hot band or actor, it’s become so overstated that it’s beyond insulting to your readers’ intelligence. —NICK MELTON / Mobile, AL What if we had an over-the-top, issue-driven concept involving a famous singer? Would that make it more subtle? We could probably dump chocolate all over Thom Yorke or something. Just wanted to say amazing job on this issue. I’ve been a reader for a few years, but the awesome collection of articles this time motivated me to mention it on my Tumblr, resulting in both my roommate and my mom deciding to subscribe. Thanks for continuing to have the content to back up your always-stellar aesthetics and hilarity. —STEPHANIE COSME / Binghamton, NY I am another person disappointed in the removal of music reviews. Although I’ll still subscribe because RELEVANT is so good, every time I see the little music section, it hurts me deep down. The reviews were one of the big reasons for my subscribing; it’s how I used to discover most of my new music. —KYLE NEMEZ / Winnipeg, Canada
Yet another way we help people discover music. Thanks for bringing RELEVANT.tv back! —TIFFANY FORRESTER / Orange, CA What’s this, Kyle? Another way we help people discover new music? Every time I look through your magazine, I close it with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Your latest issue on voting is a good example. You offer the stances of both presidential candidates for comparison. The problem is, they aren’t the truth. You publish what a candidate tells you in an interview, but you don’t present how they have voted in contradiction to what they say. —JIM PARDEW / Indianapolis, IN I wish RELEVANT would be more responsible with its political “rhetoric.” Less than ﬁve sentences in Adam Smith’s cover story, “In the Booth, Not of the Booth,” he says of Barack Obama, “On one side of the equation is a candidate who seems to offer hope for peace and ease for poverty, yet supports abortion.” What an irresponsible comment! Obama does not “support” abortion. Supporting women’s rights is not the same thing as supporting abortion. Moreover, on numerous occasions Obama has said he wants to see the abortion number drop. —WILL DUFFY / Chicago, IL You’re right, and please consider this a formal correction. Obama states that he supports abortion rights, not abortion—an important distinction. It was an unintentional oversight. When I received the Sept./Oct. 2008 issue, I was very excited to see the articles on voting and on eliminating nuclear weapons [“An Inconvenient
Boom”]. I’m concerned, though, that the section in the voting article titled “Right to Life” only summed up the candidates’ views on abortion while in the same magazine issue you outline another very important right-to-life issue: nuclear weapons. Life doesn’t end at birth, and as followers of Jesus we are called to protect the sanctity of all life by standing up to all violence— including nuclear weapons, abortion, war, capital punishment, HIV/AIDS and abject poverty. —SARAH CAMPBELL / Washington, DC I love your mag, but I have to take issue with your voting article. I’m sick of the religious left as much as the right. Tony Campolo is the mouthpiece for the left as James Dobson could be argued for the right. They all have some valid points. The one thing they fail to realize is that sticking up for our two-party system is the problem. —MIKE MALLETTE / Troy, MI I greatly appreciate the politics page at RELEVANTmagazine.com—especially the stream of the Saddleback Civil Forum. I missed the forum and really wanted to watch. Love the magazine. Keep doing what you’re doing. —JOSIAH SHAULIS / Spokane, WA Head’s up, we’re pulling the plug on the page the day after the election. Enough is enough! I want to thank you for the article “I Live with Another Man’s Wife” [Sept./Oct. 2008]. My wife and I just got done living with another married couple, and I would have to say that everything that it said was spot-on. The words were very convicting and very true, and it encourages me to look more for the brighter side of situations ... If only it had come in the previous issue. —ANDREW SALE / Trinity, FL I recently decided to check out the RELEVANT podcast for the ﬁrst time. After listening, I was perplexed. I’m not really sure what the purpose of it is. It adds nothing to the magazine. There’s really not much to it at all. It’s just a lot of ﬂuff. —PAUL DURHAM / Nashville, TN Our new tagline! “The RELEVANT Podcast: It’s just a lot of ﬂuff.”
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Grafﬁti Goes Green NATURE HAS ALWAYS BEEN ART’S GREATEST MUSE, inspiring the work of countless artists through the centuries. Now a growing number of artists have decided to take the idea of nature + art one step further by using nature itself as the medium. For many of these individuals, including Anna Garforth, their work also has a deeper purpose, drawing attention to the environment and the importance of its preservation. With her beautiful moss script covering a brick wall, aptly titled “Mossenger,” Garforth is reclaiming the ramshackle public areas of London. This is the ﬁrst of a three-part project wherein she will complete her friend Eleanor Stevens’ poem: “In this spore borne air, watch your skin peel, feel your lungs split open, slowly the slits appear.” Maybe not the loveliest imagery, but hey, it gets the point across.
> 6 GREAT EXAMPLES OF ECO-ART: THE ULTIMATE HYBRID This Volkswagen Beetle was transformed by Morten Flyverbom into an ecological work of art, as it is now completely covered with grass and has become its own living ecosystem. The Danish artist has an ongoing collection of nature-centered artwork.
GRASS-IN-A-CAN This spray can of moss is an example of Helen Nodding’s original and ecofriendly alternative to spray paint. The can serves as a shining symbol for the artistic movement of natural graffiti. Now if we could only swap out all spraypaint cans with these ...
THE EVERGREEN INSECT Helen Nodding’s moss bug, inspired by natural moss growth and created from her own unique mixture for growing moss, is her attempt at transforming this dilapidated city wall into something beneficial for the environment.
NATURE-DEFYING GRAVITY Artist Patrick Blanc transformed this wall into a living ecosystem made up of grass and moss. The building happens to be a famous art museum in Madrid, Spain, called La Caixa; the beautiful flowers growing on this upright garden easily rival the works of art displayed inside the museum.
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BUT WHAT ABOUT MY TRAINED DOVES?
MISC. > You know gas prices are high when Diddy is feeling the pinch. The hip-hop mogul has resorted to—gasp— flying commercial. “That’s how high gas prices are,” he said. “I’m at the gate right now. This is really happening, proof gas prices are too high. Tell whoever the next president is we need to bring gas prices down” ... > Facing legal challenges, Google began allowing prolife groups to buy advertising on their network for the first time in September. Google had banned pro-life and religious groups from buying ads against search terms such as abortion and abortion help, but allowed ads from pro-abortion groups ...
No Strutting for the Sisters An Italian priest came under ﬁre recently from his religious order after he proposed the idea of holding a “pageant” for nuns on his blog. Father Antonio Rungi insists the purpose of “Sister Italy 2008,” as it’s been deemed by the snickering press, was to both help revive the decline of religious vocations and demonstrate the “interior beauty” of the nuns, including their work for the Church—although sisters entering the contest were required to include a picture of themselves in addition to some personal information. “It was interpreted as more of a physical thing,” Rungi has said. “Now, no one is saying that nuns can’t be beautiful, but I was thinking about something more complete.” At least they’d all be in favor of world peace ...
The Blair Switch Project SEWAGE IN BLOOM This intriguing work of art was created as an advertisement for an international community-based organization called Green Drinks, founded so people similarly interested in the environment could connect with others around the world and have an open forum for discussion. To learn more, visit www.greendrinks.org. MOTHER NATURE’S MONA LISA After taking two full days to create this innovative replica of Mona Lisa with a lawnmower and some garden tools, 3D artist Chris Naylor’s masterpiece, gloriously displayed on a lawn, only had a lifetime of a few weeks as the image grew out and faded in time.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has transitioned to a new career: religion lecturer at Yale. The workload shouldn’t be too heavy; Blair will only deliver ﬁve lectures a year for the next three years. After leaving ofﬁce in 2007 following more than a decade in power, Blair converted to Catholicism, the faith of his wife and children. While prime minister, Blair was cagey about his faith, but since leaving ofﬁce has spoken openly about it. At his inaugural lecture in September, Blair took student questions, the most poignant of which was that age-old spiritual conundrum: Beatles or Stones. That’s the one that keeps theologians up at night.
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MISC. > A group of Christians in Gateshead, England, is suing an art gallery to block the erection of a statue of Jesus they consider indecent. “This statue served no other purpose than to offend Christians and to denigrate Christ,” a spokesperson for the Christian Legal Centre said ...
THE SAVVVVVVY SWAP Forget selling your old stuff for some pocket change on eBay or Amazon. Instead, trade it for something better. According to C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, “Historically, when times get tough, you see a 50 percent-plus increase in bartering as a way for people to be able to buy things and do it economically.” Here, ﬁve sites where you can get your barter on: SWAPAGIFT.COM One of the most common and convenient presents for any occasion is a gift card. On SwapaGift.com users can not only buy, sell and exchange gift cards, but also opt to trade them in for cash or use them to pay bills. CRAIGSLIST.COM Since Craig ﬁrst put his list online in 1995, Craigslist.com has expanded to the point where you can now ﬁnd just about anything—love, a job, a home, a trade. You can also post items you are looking for or request a speciﬁc trade, such as “Will trade jukebox for a car trailer.”
> A chunk of ice shelf nearly the size of Manhattan has broken away from Ellesmere Island in Canada’s northern Arctic, another indication of how warmer temperatures are changing the polar frontier. Somewhere, Al Gore is saying:
I TOLD YOU SO.
Wait, So Religion Isn’t Cool? Church leaders concerned about apathy and disinterest among younger generations of believers are not alone. According to Rajad Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, religious leaders as a whole “bore young people.” In today’s fastchanging and pluralistic society, he contends, religious leaders have the responsibility to make their faith more attractive to people, since traditional methods do not seem to be working. “If religious leaders and organizations do not attend to this challenge more effectively in this consumerist society, we can lose our youth to the other marketplace players, which are more powerful, attractive and vocal than religion and spirituality,” Zed said. “Young people are not hostile to religion. Religious leaders and organizations need rethinking and reﬂection and come up with creative and new practices, norms and ideas to make their product more competitive.” We suggest free cookies.
Jesus,” a song from country singer Bobby Bare. The song goes a little something like this: “Drop-kick me, Jesus, through the goal posts of life / End over end, neither left nor to right.”
SWAPTREE.COM Simply list your item online, and the site does the rest—it will calculate everything you can get in return. Swaptree even initiates the trade, giving users each other’s email addresses. The service is for free (minus the shipping). U-EXCHANGE.COM On this largest online swap site, with 41,000 members, you can barter personal services—business, cleaning, house-sitting, etc. You can even create a “house exchange” and trade homes for a lost-cost vacation. GOOZEX.COM Earn trading points on this video-gaming exchange site. On Goozex, members can browse the latest games on Wii, Xbox, GameCube and other popular game consoles while recycling the old games they’ve already beaten.
WHAT WOULDN’T JESUS DO? A man celebrating his 23rd birthday was arrested after he was found naked on a roadway. The charge? Providing police ofﬁcers with a false name: Jesus Christ. DROP-KICK ME, JESUS A new Catholic bishop in Green Bay, Wisc., spiced up his inaugural speech with “Drop Kick Me,
HIGHWAY PATROL Motorists in Kansas City were confused when a giant steel statue of Jesus popped up overlooking a major highway. Though one woman complained the statue was decreasing her property value, the man who commissioned it insisted it was an important image for the public.
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Caption goes hjere
MISC. > A 33-year-old Wisconsin mother stole her 15-yearold daughter’s identification, enrolled in her high school and joined the cheerleading squad. Long story short, shockingly she’s now in jail for fraud ... > Not to be outdone by Google’s ecoinnovation, a man has built a pyramid car “powered by 80 lead-acid batteries which drive four independent motors, allowing the car to make a complete 360-degree turn on a dime.” He says a single 3.5-hour charge provides “about 240 miles of driving for only about $5 in electricity cost” ... > G.P. Taylor, the author of Shadowmancer who has sold millions of books worldwide, claims the BBC has banned him because he’s a Christian. He said a producer at the corporation told him they couldn’t be “seen to be promoting Jesus.” Taylor’s solution for future books? He’ll write under another name and employ an actor to do any public appearances, in an attempt to stop his work from being discriminated against ...
THE NEW RESUME Everyone’s heard it before: Watch what personal information you make public. But there’s nothing like statistics to bring it to reality. CareerBuilder.com recently surveyed more than 3,000 hiring managers and discovered 22 percent screen potential employees through social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, with more than a third saying they have dismissed potential candidates after discovering inappropriate
information or photos. Another 9 percent who don’t currently use such sites said they plan to start soon. The upside? A quarter of managers said the info they discovered helped afﬁrm their decision to hire the applicant. As one spokesperson said, “Hiring managers are using the Internet to get a more well-rounded view of job candidates in terms of their skills, accomplishments and overall ﬁt within the company.”
Comedian, political commentator and author Bill Maher has never been one to shy away from espousing his views on all things controversial. His latest subject? Religion. His satirical documentary, Religulous (a combination of the words religion and ridiculous), which hit theaters in October, is a sardonic exploration of various religious beliefs and ideas.
Families That Rock Together ... The tricky relationships between celebs and their parents never fail to generate headlines. Witness Lindsay Lohan’s erratic parents, both of whom can’t seem to get enough of the limelight. But things get even stickier when a parent becomes the manager—and even weirder when the father was a former pastor. From pulpit to PR, here are a few artists who’ve beneﬁted (or suffered) under daddy’s pastoral direction.
Jessica and Ashley Simpson > A former pastor at Heights Baptist Church in Richardson, Texas, Joe Simpson left the evangelical biz for something a little more lucrative when he signed on as manager of his two daughters—and introduced us to “chicken of the sea” and “buffalo wings.”
The Jonas Brothers
> The father of teen pop heartthrobs The Jonas Brothers, Kevin Jonas, Sr., started off as the pastor of Wyckoff Assembly of God in New Jersey. He is also the co-founder of Christ For the Nations Music, which is dedicated to merging worship music with faith.
> Before she announced to the world that she kissed a girl, pop princess Katy Perry released a Christian album before reinventing herself and crossing over to mainstream. Her parents, Keith and Mary Hudson, are associate pastors in California and are founders of Keith Hudson Ministries.
America is a place where a lot of people say they’re religious, but we’re phony religious people mostly. You know, the people in Saudi Arabia? Those are true believers. You ﬂy a plane into the building because you’re so sure you’re going to get the 72 virgins. I mean, it’s evil, but they really believe it. This country, we say we believe, but people cherry-pick. I have faith in doubt. I think if you are adamant in your belief that you are certain that you know what happens after you die, you are lacking intellectually. I think what’s interesting is that the religious people, they don’t know the Bible. Sometimes they can quote. But it’s amazing how ignorant religious people are of the holy books.
16 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
9/30/08 5:11:07 PM
9/19/08 5:25:40 PM
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PURCHASE YOU HAVE EVER MADE?
COMPUTER 23% IPOD 12% ENGAGEMENT RING 7% LAST NIGHT’S DINNER 5% Total Votes: 587
JOIN IN ON THE FUN! GO TO RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM AND VOTE IN OUR WEEKLY POLLS. IF YOU DON’T, WE WON’T VOTE IN YOUR POLLS ... SO THERE!
> A wild dolphin near the south Australian coast is apparently teaching other members of her group to walk on their tails. Step two: long division. Step three: world domination ...
FIVE THINGS TO PAY ATTENTION TO IN NOVEMBER & DECEMBER
Rock the Vote > Just do it.
The National Conference on Christian Apologetics > This Charlotte, N.C., conference, themed around “A Summit On Defense of the Biblical Worldview,” is designed to equip Christians with knowledge of the core beliefs of Christianity—and the tools to share this with their community. The lineup of speakers includes Dr. James Dobson, Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell. www.nationalapologeticsconference.com
Green Festival > Join more than 125 leading authors and educators on sustainable living at the Green Festival in Washington, D.C. The festival offers a mix of workshops, ﬁlms, activities, food and live music, as well as a marketplace featuring 350 ecofriendly vendors selling every type of organic or renewable item imaginable. www.greenfestivals.org
Big Apple Film Festival > In its ﬁfth year of competition, the Big Apple Film Festival will play selections from the independent New York City ﬁlm community and from around the world. The festival also selects a variety of ﬁlms that can be used as learning tools for the New York City Public School System. www.bigappleﬁlmfestival.com
Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center > Get in the Christmas spirit by witnessing the 76th tree lighting at NYC’s Rockefeller Center. Watch as the famous Norway Spruce gets bedecked in twinkling lights—the perfect setting to skate a few laps around the Rockefeller Ice Rink. www.rockefellercenter.com/home.html
> If this isn’t a telling statement of our culture, we don’t know what is: According to CareerBuilder.com, 21 percent of people making more than $100,000 a year say they’re living paycheck to paycheck ...
In a recent survey, the First Amendment Center found that 40 percent of adults polled could not name any of the rights protected by the First Amendment. Some of the other interesting ﬁndings: 31 percent would prefer that musicians not be allowed to sing songs with lyrics that others might ﬁnd offensive, 38 percent would permit the government to require media agencies to report a certain amount of “positive news” in return for their licenses to operate and 39 percent would allow the government to regulate cable and satellite channels the way it currently regulates network television. Moreover, 54 percent would continue the IRS ban on churches endorsing candidates from the pulpit.
> According to a new study conducted by the University of Michigan, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria are the world’s happiest countries. Closer to home, both Canada and Mexico are among the top 15 happiest countries in the world—ahead of the United States ...
> FREEDOM OF WHAT?
> A spill at a jam factory in Essex, England, on Sept. 15 resulted in clouds of toxic chlorine gas, injuring 51 people. A tragic accident, to be sure, but the more important question still remains: What in the world are Brits putting in their jam? ...
THERE WAS SOMETHING ABOUT BEARS ...
18 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
9/26/08 2:38:10 PM
9/17/08 3:31:28 PM
MISC. > Johnny Depp has confirmed that he will be playing The Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland film. Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton movie? Shocking! Also on the horizon for Depp is the role of Tonto in Jerry Bruckheimer’s The Lone Ranger. Since it’s Bruckheimer, expect a lot of explosions and unnecessary slo-mo ...
Kermit Walks We already know Kanye West is an innovator. But for his newest project, he’s tapping into the most cutting-edge medium out there: puppets. The hip-hop superstar is developing a show for Comedy Central he describes as a hip-hop version of The Muppet Show. The program will be a variety show, and will have a celebrity guest host each week. West will emcee the program, and will provide music along with fellow rapper Rhymefest. The production company involved knows their puppets; they were also behind the Comedy Central series Crank Yankers. If everything goes according to plan, expect to see West storm on stage at an awards show next year and rant that Fozzy the Bear did not deserve the Puppet of the Year Award.
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 The Reign of Kindo, Josh Rouse, Iron & Wine and The Glorious Unseen. New albums are continually being added, so you can check out the latest at www.relevantmagazine.com/thedrop.
House of Heroes
THE END IS NOT THE END (Gotee Records)
WHITE LIGHTS (Brave New World)
Ten Shekel Shirt
SOUND COLOR MOTION (Independent)
JUBILEE (Rounder Records)
> An amusement park in Japan has upped the ante on eco-friendliness. They’ve installed a pedal-powered roller-coaster. In spite of looking incredibly unsafe, the contraption is a good way to burn off those amusement park churros ... > Sir Paul McCartney, preparing for his concert in Tel Aviv, visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the site where tradition holds Jesus was born. For a guy from a band that once claimed to be bigger than Jesus, we gotta give Sir Paul props for showing respect ... > Chicago city officials have asked bars near their baseball stadiums to stop serving alcohol for periods during the playoffs. Yeah, not likely ...
RELEVANT.TV GOOD MUSIC
A RELEVANT.TV VIEWER TOP TEN 1 The Myriad “You Waste Time like a ...” 2 Gnarls Barkley “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” 3 Radiohead “House of Cards” 4 Cool Hand Luke "Wondertour" 5 Noah and the Whale “5 Years Time” 6 Socalled “You Are Never Alone” 7 Santogold “L.E.S. Artistes” 8 Orba Squara “Gravel” 9 Classic Crime “Abracadavers” 10 Albert Hammond Jr “GFC”
A RECENT RTV SPOTLIGHT VIDEOS
RadioHead “House of Cards”
Santogold “L.E.S. Artistes”
Noah and the Whale The Myriad “5 Years Time” “You Waste Time ...”
Gnarls Barkley “Who’s Gonna ...”
Classic Crime “Abracadavers”
Catch best new music every day at our exclusive 24/7 online music video channel, RELEVANT.tv. New videos are added every week, so take that!
20 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
9/25/08 6:35:51 PM
9/16/08 5:49:04 PM
TAKE ACTION AND DO SOMETHING >
The Mentoring Project > JAHRED SCHMIDT Certain things come to mind when people think of the urgent issues plaguing the world—things like slavery, poverty, the environment. As real and as important as these are, other issues are often left in the shadows. One such problem is fatherlessness: Approximately 25 million children a year grow up in the United States without a positive male role model. One organization, The Mentoring Project, is hoping to change this. Founded in 2006 by Donald Miller—who wrote about his own fatherless childhood in To Own a Dragon—The Mentoring Project partners with churches throughout America to raise up mentors and provide opportunities for boys who have no fathers (or father ﬁgures) in their lives. Their goal is to mentor 10,000 boys throughout the nation over the next ﬁve years. “This is a crisis, and this is why: Kids are growing up without positive male role models. This is the story they are living; there are very few people who would see that as a crisis because it’s become so normal,”
says Wade Trimmer, executive director of The Mentoring Project. “We think we can change that story—and in doing so, we think our communities, neighborhoods and families will be healthier, and our country and—we shoot for the moon—our world will be a better place.” The Mentoring Project aims to break the cyclical pandemic of fatherlessness, through helping kids with their homework, playing catch or even something as simple as companionship. “I don’t think anybody ever sets out to abandon their family,” Trimmer says. “I don’t think that’s part of anybody’s story that they want to write for their life.” Trimmer tells the story of a boy whose father is in jail for life and whose mother was arrested on his 10th birthday. Trimmer told the boy’s mentor to throw him the most memorable birthday imaginable, and the boy and 15 of his friends spent the afternoon at an arcade, complete with go-carts, food and gifts. People from the local church also showed up to celebrate with him. “It was a beautiful picture of the Kingdom of God celebrating that child,” Trimmer says. Though statistics continually rise in regard to how fatherlessness directly correlates to crime, organizations like The Mentoring Project are hoping to change the landscape of the nation. As Trimmer puts it, “Our mission simply is to engage in the To Own a Dragon story of fatherless boys. We don’t say we’re Donald Miller going to transform their lives, and we don’t think that in and of ourselves we have that > In this autobiographical ability. At best, we can engage the Church narrative, Miller recounts growing up in a single-parent home. After in this story, and we think our presence is writing the book, Miller founded going to make a huge difference. It’s very The Mentoring Project in hopes simple, and it’s based on what we believe of giving young boys who grow about God’s presence in our lives. And if the up fatherless opportunities they claim is true that we can do ‘greater things might not otherwise have. To Own a Dragon is a compelling than these’ (John 14:12), then let’s do it.” a read for anyone who has yearned for a father figure, or
* Start your Revolution SPOTLIGHT The Mentoring Project www.belmontfoundation.org > In ﬁve years, The Mentoring Project hopes to raise up 10,000 mentors throughout churches in America. The goal is for each church to raise up 10 mentors who can pour into the lives of kids without dads. Currently TMP works strictly with boys. “We would love to help another organization that wants to mentor girls,” Trimmer says. “We are just laser-focused, and we feel like our mission has to do with boys.”
anyone simply hoping to be able to see life through that particular lens.
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Pursuing Personal Revival Randy Bohlender I grew up reformed old-school Pentecostal. Too holy to dance, not holy enough to eschew makeup on women, we dangled in ecclesiastical no-man’s land, somewhere between the Puritans and the Presbyterians. One cultural quirk of my upbringing was a simplistic understanding of the word revival. When I was a child, revival was a noun. It was something the church hosted, usually with an itinerant speaker. For weeks in advance, the congregation was primed to invite their unsaved loved ones or unloved saved ones, in hopes the speaker would say something that would cause a sudden change of heart in an individual. Later, if they were to be asked where their walk with Christ began or was radically changed, they’d cite “the revival of ’82” as if describing an epic snowstorm. To be fair, I’m oversimplifying. Those saints had a further understanding of the word revival, but for many people (including myself) the word meant a tent, an evangelist, an organ and an altar call. It was something to be experienced, documented, stamped with a date and stuck in a spiritual ﬁle. I realize now that I was wrong. Sometime in my twenties, I realized that my concept of revival had to change, or I would forever be resigned to living between revivals instead of in one of my own. In pursuing a fresh daily walk with God for myself, I came to realize that revival itself had an expiration date of sorts. It was good on the day it was issued, but it had to be restocked regularly.
Personal revival is pursued daily Recently two of my sons decided it would be a good idea to pour a two-liter bottle of soda into a pitcher and leave it on the counter for easy access. Little did they know that from the
moment they poured it, it began to lose its ﬁzz. Later, they discovered that a fresh, invigorating drink had become a sickly sweet (but ﬂat) experience. In Exodus 16, God pledges to rain down fresh bread—manna—on His people as they wandered in the desert. His only caveat was this: Don’t try and save it up. Today’s manna is tomorrow’s maggot buffet. The people of God were free to receive from God day after day, but what they received yesterday would not sustain them today. It took a daily pursuit and provision. Never taught the importance of encountering God daily through the Bible and prayer, many people who have had a genuine, heartfelt encounter with God have allowed the experience to grow stale. Living meeting to meeting is not just hard—it’s counter to a vibrant Christian life. One begins to resent the little bit of nourishment they’re getting, because it seems so stale by the time the next meeting comes around.
Personal revival connects truth to task My old paradigm emphasized good preaching. Truth was declared from the pulpit, and people responded by going forward. I still hold to the value of strong, biblical preaching that makes no apologies for the Gospel. I am less tolerant, however, of my own tendency to disconnect from the truth in day-to-day living. James 1:22–25 describes someone who looks at himself in the mirror, recognizes the truth of his appearance and walks away without making any adjustment. That simple, cognitive recognition of the truth is not personal revival. Transformation only takes place when we take the truth and assign ourselves tasks that will allow the truth to be manifest to those watching us. Whether or not others read the scripture we read, they should be able to see the truth by watching us. If we are pursuing revival, our personal walk with God demands that we live out what we’re learning, or all we are really pursing are good meetings.
Personal revival is combustive My wife is the ﬁre starter in the family. She grew up camping. I’ve learned a little about starting ﬁres from her. I grew up on a farm in North Dakota. For recreation, we went inside. It’s not quite as easy as piling a bunch of wood together and tossing a match. In fact, there is so much to learn that you could probably get a college degree in Tinder Management. There is an art and a science to placing each stick in a speciﬁc spot—and a certain distance from the other sticks. It might look haphazard to the untrained observer, but it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to ignition. If you host a series of legitimate, good meetings and call it revival, a certain measure of people will come, but most people won’t. Some will have schedule conﬂicts. Others will have aversions to meetings in general. The meeting will be proﬁtable, but only to those who actually make it into the room. Most will manage to avoid it, and in doing so, avoid being touched by the ﬂame. Contrast that with ﬁve people on a college campus who are pursuing personal revival. Scatter them across a campus. By going to their three classes on Thursday, those ﬁve rub shoulders with hundreds of others who would never darken the door of the Wednesday night meeting. The potential for the campus to experience a sweeping response to God’s presence is increased exponentially because a ﬁre starts more quickly when the embers are placed a certain distance apart. That’s not to criticize the meetings—they often stoke the embers in those individuals’ hearts. It’s only to point out that it’s individuals, seeking God and reﬂecting His glory, who move the hearts of most individuals. God is actively placing individuals stoked with the ﬁres of personal revival into the woodpile in the places where a ﬁre has a far better chance of breaking out. d
RANDY BOHLENDER is a missionary serving the International House of Prayer, TheCall and the Luke 18 Project. He is also a regular contributor at NeueMinistry.com.
24 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
9/29/08 11:08:09 AM
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9/29/08 4:39:43 PM
bus stops and missed opportunities Adam Smith HE APPROACHES ME AT THE bus stop when all I want to do is go home and be left in peace. He offers me a furtive smile, and sits down a little too close. On the other end of the bench, his girlfriend lies prostrate, sobbing uncontrollably. She’s at least six inches taller than him, decked out in goth regalia, her lips painted blood red. She sports a Led Zeppelin T-shirt, a band that broke up long before anyone even thought of conceiving her. Clutching at her stomach, she moans, sobs and shakes while her boyfriend comes over to talk to me. All I am is tired, and I don’t want any part of this. “Can you come sit by us, mate?” he pleads. “My girlfriend is really upset. She just had her second miscarriage.” The words hit me like a blow to the gut. Second miscarriage? Good grief. By the looks of her, she can’t be out of her teens. I want nothing less than to go sit by this domestic sideshow. Still, I sidle up next to them as the boy tries to console his crying girlfriend. She yells at him to leave her alone, and he leans in to talk to me. “We’re too young to have a baby, aye?” What in particular would make me an
authority on that? Still, I ask him how old they are. He’s 18, she’s 16. And this is their second miscarriage. They should be worrying about report cards and school formals. Instead, they’re dealing with the termination of a life. “It’s a blessing in disguise, aye? We’re too young,” he says, again seeking wisdom I don’t feel I have to offer. I can’t even stammer out a hackneyed platitude to help. I’m utterly without words for the situation. If I feel anything it’s a mild irritation at the fact that I moved to New Zealand to absorb beauty, and I’ve been thrust against my will face to face with the ugliness of reality. “Why me?” I keep wondering. “Why ask a total stranger at a bus stop to sit shiva with you?” The boy keeps leaning over to try to comfort his girlfriend, apologizing over and over for getting her pregnant. Again. She keeps yelling that she wants to be left alone. I keep checking my watch, begging for the bus to come. I think of telling him to leave her be for right now. Just let her cry. Instead, I sit next to him in silence. Mercifully, the bus arrives, but to my horror, they ask me to sit with them there as well. I oblige, and do my best to make it seem like it’s not a problem. Like I don’t mind connecting myself to the anguish of these strangers. The boy keeps asking my advice, and I wait for my pastoral instinct to kick in. Wait for the words of wisdom and encouragement I’m so used to offering friends in difﬁcult situations. They never come. Instead, we talk about music. It’s the only subject I feel qualiﬁed for right now. He thanks me over and over for sitting with them, tells me he likes me. I’m a good guy. I don’t feel like such a good guy when I’ve been viewing their catastrophe as nothing more than an obstacle to my own relaxation. They needed a big brother. They got an impatient commuter, too self-absorbed to deal with the hassle they presented. It’s amazing how easy empathy is from a distance. Kids far too young for the dirty reality of surprise pregnancies and painful
miscarriages experience these things all the time, and my heart breaks for them when they’re not sitting next to me on the bus. Why is it so hard to live out my faith when humanity in all of its ugliness is staring me in the face? I have no problem offering heartfelt ﬁnancial support for organizations that deal with situations like this. Why is it that when God offers me an opportunity to show His love in a practical way, all I want is to be left alone? I ﬁnd I fail time and time again when I am so obviously being called to be Jesus to those right in front of me. The sad fact is, distant acts of macrocharity will always be easier. As much as we’re told that money has its hold on society, time and empathy are the real commodities people are unwilling to part with. We’re all for helping the broken and downtrodden, just not on our ride home after a long day. The life Jesus actually calls us to, by contrast, is much messier than buying a cause-driven T-shirt or sending money to a nonproﬁt organization. It’s one that gets down in the muck of the human experience and lives with the people there. It shares the pain of the widow and the orphan, the oppressed and unlovable. This life is not something Jesus suggested. It’s something He mandated. While supporting global causes is both necessary and noble, we can’t be self-satisﬁed in our efforts if we ignore the hurting people around us. Ending the AIDS crisis in Africa is not only worthwhile, it is imperative. But what about those living with AIDS in our own communities? Am I being naive in believing we can make a difference locally without sacriﬁcing our concern globally? The ultimate question is, will we take a risk to put a face to the problems we give lip service to? I hope the next time I’m offered the chance to show the love of Christ, I won’t be so selfcentered as to only recognize it in hindsight. In my attitude, if not my actions, I failed those kids on the bus. However, I know God continues to bring me in contact day after day with people who need to see His love. May we all seek opportunities to sacriﬁce things more valuable than money. d
ADAM SMITH, currently living in New Zealand, is a contributing editor for RELEVANT.
26 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
9/26/08 9:46:06 AM
My Heart Is Slowly Beginning To Work www.myspace.com/lilywhitemusic
C L O T H I N G C O M P A N Y
9/17/08 1:05:33 PM
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: CLAY MASSEY, STEPHANIE FISK, ERIC RETTERBUSH AND ERIC HANSON
ADVENTURES IN MISSIONS
HOW DO YOU END GLOBAL SLAVERY? YOU COULD WRITE LETTERS TO YOUR SENATOR, QUIT BUYING FROM IRRESPONSIBLE CORPORATIONS, DONATE SOME MONEY TO AN ORGANIZATION ... OR YOU COULD DO WHAT STEPHANIE FISK DID, AND GO FOR A BICYCLE RIDE. Although outlawed more than a century ago in the United States, the slave trade industry is still ﬂourishing around the world, with total revenues estimated at $30 billion a year. In March, Fisk and three friends rode their bikes on a 450-mile journey from Phoenix, Ariz., to the Grand Canyon and back to raise awareness of human trafﬁcking. Fisk, 26, a native of Milford, Iowa, grew up in a farming community with her parents and sister. After graduating from Wartburg College with a degree in biology, she founded a nonproﬁt and went on a yearlong mission trip around the world, where she was exposed to the existence of modern slavery. While in Southeast Asia, her heart broke over the injustices of forced prostitution and child labor. “It shocked me to ﬁnd out that an estimated 27 million slaves exist in the world today in the form of sex slaves, domestic laborers and child soldiers,” she says. “But it changed me and ignited a ﬁre deep within my spirit when I sat across from Benz, a Thai women who was forced to sell her body in the red-light district in Bangkok. For me, the statistic could be forgotten, but Benz would stay with me forever.”
Returning from her trip, Fisk was anxious to connect with others who were equally passionate about abolition and networked with anti-slavery organizations to launch a publicity campaign. She also orchestrated a nationwide conference call so people could listen to activists and pray for the end of slavery. “While the bike ride would physically catch people’s attention, we needed an outlet that could involve people spiritually and intellectually,” she says. The group traveled up through Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, where they spent two days hiking the 18-mile Tanner Trail before heading back. Along the route, they were met by cheering individuals and journalists. For Fisk, it doesn’t just end there. She continues to raise awareness through her blog, speaking engagements and networking with other organizations. In July, she led a mission trip around the world, spending three months in Southeast Asia and three months in Eastern Europe—two “hot spots” of human trafﬁcking. Her goal? To continue to meet people and tell their stories. “I will never forget their eyes,” Fisk says of the people she has met. “They are no longer the nameless and faceless. Their stories are etched on my heart and into my mind. As people become more aware and numbers become names, I believe the Church will stand up and become the Body of Jesus here on earth. Through prayer, light will overtake evil and captives will be set free.” Check out more at www.www.freewebs.com/baht.
28 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
9/25/08 3:56:40 PM
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3/19/2008 9/24/0811:26:25 5:02:38AM PM
For Fans of:
Death Cab for Cutie, Arctic Monkeys
WHAT MADE MILWAUKEE FAMOUS? VOCALIST MICHAEL KINGCAID doesn’t think you can hate his band. In fact, Kingcaid would say they sound a lot like your favorite group. “We have certain elements where you might like us for any given 30 seconds,” Kingcaid says. “You can’t really totally hate us.” Despite his lighthearted demeanor, Kingcaid is serious about his band’s commitment to making the music they think people want to hear. What Made Milwaukee Famous?—consisting of Kingcaid (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Drew Patrizi (keyboards, vocals, guitar), John Farmer (bass, vocals), Jeremy Bruch (drums, vocals) and Jason Davis (guitar, vocals)—takes making fun music seriously. “There are too many aspects of music to narrow down. We don’t want to alienate anybody,” Kingcaid says. “We try to write good songs and not sound one way all the time.” The result is an electrifying mix of smooth, hook-ﬁlled pop, spiked with enough rock to make Keith Richards feel at home. Kingcaid’s laid-back vocals hold the music together just enough, while the rest of the band pushes the traditional rules of indie-pop to the edge—and over it. Their latest album, What Doesn’t Kill Us, recorded with producer Chris Michaels (of Sparklehorse), does exactly that. And it’s their energetic presentation that has yielded many interesting memories for the band thus far. From playing with Franz Ferdinand on the famed Austin City Limits TV Show, to performing with the Black Keys and Arcade Fire, What Made Milwaukee Famous? has not slowed down. —John Choquette
30 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
9/25/08 2:27:31 PM
9/23/08 4:52:30 PM
For Fans of:
Grifﬁn House, Pete Yorn
“HOW DEEP IS THAT RIVER? I don’t want to know where it’s coming from, I don’t need to know where it’s going to, before I put my trust in You. I just want to know how deep,” sings Mason Jennings on his latest full-length album, In the Ever. On his newest output, the singer/songwriter fuses spiritual wonderings with childlike melodies. “I didn’t have a religious upbringing,” he says. “But after starting a family, becoming a father opened my eyes about where I’ve come from and what the meaning of all this is. I just started to search for meaning.” His search is clear on In the Ever, yet it is without ﬁnality. “I wouldn’t afﬁliate with any religion; I like to go to different mosques, churches and temples. The biggest thing for me is trying to love and have faith, without always having answers.” This idea is clearest in a song about how he loves Jesus as well as Buddha: Why do some people say that there is just one way / to love you, God, and come to you? We are all a part of you. Jennings’ spiritual longing is a sincere desire for peace and love. For his ﬁrst attempt on Brushﬁre, Jennings locked himself in a cabin and wrote and recorded In the Ever in the Minnesota woods. A spiritual record is not surprising amidst such an environment, devoid of outsiders’ injections of production values or remarks. “On this record, I saw how much fun kids have when they draw and do their art, so I wanted to bring that into my music,” Jennings says. “I thought about why I started music in the ﬁrst place, when I would just have an idea, write a song and ﬁnish it by the end of the day. So with this record, I’d try to write during the day, record in the afternoon and be able to listen to my song by night. It was like a fun art project.” —Dylan Peterson
32 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
9/29/08 9:39:29 AM
bethany ad.indd 1
9/29/08 10:27:46 AM
BY JONATHAN MERRITT
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ight years ago, Bishop Carlton Pearson was the epitome of success in the Christian world. His South Tulsa megachurch, Higher Dimensions Family Church, boasted more than 6,000 members, he served on the board of trustees at Oral Roberts University, he was a guest host on the Trinity Broadcast Network and he was one of a few black religious leaders advising President Bush. That was before he discovered “the Gospel of Inclusion.” In 2002, Pearson began preaching that Christ’s death provided salvation for everyone and that no one will spend eternity tormented in hell. While this message may sound sweet to some, his church family was not so accepting. Over the last few years, his congregation has diminished to a few hundred faithful, his church buses have been banned from the ORU campus and his church property has been lost to foreclosure. But that hasn’t stopped Pearson. His website proudly urges visitors to explore “the newest shift in religious sensibility.” It seems spurn from the evangelical world energizes him. The remnants of his church have been joined with Tulsa’s All Souls Unitarian Church, the world’s largest Unitarian congregation, and Pearson has signed a three-book deal with publishing powerhouse Simon and Schuster. Bishop Pearson is not alone. A recent Pew Study, for example, found that “70 percent of Americans with a religious afﬁliation say that many religions—not just their own—can lead to eternal life.” And in a more speciﬁc study, LifeWay Research asked a niche of Protestant churchgoers whether they believed a person could obtain eternal life through “religions other than Christianity.” Shockingly, 31 percent of respondents still agreed. Ed Stetzer, Director of LifeWay Research, says this trend is signiﬁcant. “Many in the LifeWay Research study neither agreed nor disagreed, so you can’t see them holding strong belief that Jesus is the only way,” he says. “The elephant in evangelicalism is that many evangelicals just don’t believe what evangelical professors and pastors have consistently taught.”
Salvation for All? Universalism, or the belief that everyone will eventually be reconciled to God, is neither new nor novel. Early church fathers like Origen and Clement of Alexandria held to universal salvation, although it was later deemed heresy at the ﬁfth ecumenical council in 553 AD. In America, founding fathers like Benjamin Rush also held to this view, and did so without apology. Rush once said, “A belief in God’s universal love to all his creatures, and that he will ﬁnally restore all of them that are miserable
to happiness, is a polar truth.” Today, you might ﬁnd the theological descendants of Origen and Rush in a Unitarian Universalist Church. “Unitarian Universalism is rooted in Christianity, no doubt. But we have grown and developed,” says William Sinkford, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA). “Today in a UUA church, you might have a liberal Christian sitting next to a Buddhist sitting next to a pagan sitting next to an Atheist.” The services at a UUA church, Sinkford points out, feel similar to a Protestant service. They are replete with the singing of hymns, prayer and a sermon, but the difference is apparent in the message. “The sermon almost always pulls from a wide variety of traditions,” he says. “It wouldn’t be uncommon to hear references from many literary sources, from the Bible to the Koran to poetry.” Sinkford is quick to point out that the UUA does not have a set creed of beliefs. Though this might not sound very substantive, he says it has been attractive for many. “Unitarian Universalism has good news, too. But the good news for us is not rooted in one particular religious
“A Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim may not see Christ the same way, but if they live in a way that reﬂects Christ—even if they don’t know Him—it will affect their eternal fate.” —Eric Stetson
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“If a person says they embrace Jesus and the revelation from God about Him in the Bible, which is our only real access to what He taught, then to believe everyone is saved denies fundamental parts of Jesus’ message and warning.” —Darrel Bock metaphor,” he says. “We are inspired by Jesus, and we also draw from others. We see the wisdom of the Gospel reﬂected in almost all of the world’s faith traditions, so people ﬁnd our congregations to be places that nurture their spirits. We are a place that stands on the side of love, not division.” The UUA boasts more than 1,000 churches nationwide, with more than 250,000 members. Unlike the UUA, there is also a smaller but growing movement among people who hold to universal salvation while still attempting to maintain that salvation is found only through Jesus Christ. As opposed to Unitarian Universalism, which is an interfaith view that doesn’t elevate Christ above other great religious ﬁgures, Christian Universalism holds that Jesus Christ is the fullest expression of the character of God who offers salvation to everyone—even if they don’t actually receive it. “True Christianity is not so much about doctrines that we believe in. It is about following the way of Jesus,” says Eric Stetson, Executive Director of the Christian Universalist Association (CUA) and author of Christian Universalism: God’s Good News for All People. “A Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim may not see Christ the same way, but if they live in a way that reﬂects Christ—even if they don’t know Him—it will affect their eternal fate.” These people may be called “anonymous Christians.” Hell is, surprisingly, a real place in Stetson’s view, although he nervously avoids using that word. “We believe there is an afterlife, and we do believe there is a reality of judgment of punishment for sin because we reap what we sow. But ultimately, every person will come into harmony
with God at some point,” he says. “God’s anger doesn’t last forever. It is His mercy that endures forever.” Stetson is an ordained Charismatic minister, and on his board of directors sit people from various denominations, including the United Church of Christ, Southern Baptist Convention and several charismatic traditions. More than a third of the members of his association are ordained ministers and local church leaders. They have come together to unite around one thing: “the universal salvation of all people and the all-inclusive love of God.”
The One and Only Clearly, there is a mammoth difference between Christianity as Scripture describes and the Christian Universalist’s variation. And it is not simply a matter of preference; it is a matter of Scripture. “Anyone who afﬁrms universalism has a problem with biblical authority and ultimately with Jesus, Peter and Paul,” says Daniel Akin, President of Southeastern Seminary and author of A Theology for the Church. “The Bible provides no theological support apart from special revelation, and nothing that would support the anonymous and eventual views. That is more the wistful musings of liberal theologians.” Darrel Bock, New Testament scholar and author of Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ, agrees with Akin that Universalism fails to understand the core message of the scriptures. “If a person says they embrace Jesus and the revelation from God about Him in the Bible, which is our only real access to what He taught, then to believe everyone is saved denies fundamental parts of Jesus’ message and warning,” he says. Furthermore, Universalism is irreconcilable with many critical scriptural lynchpins. For example, if God will eventually save all, the New Testament’s emphasis on evangelism is confusing at best. More importantly, if Jesus’ life was simply a wonderful example of how we must live, the cross becomes unnecessary. “To believe everyone is saved denies fundamental parts of Jesus’ message and warning,” Bock says. “In many ways, it risks making the cross very irrelevant, as well as the message Jesus taught and commissioned the apostles to preach and write about to the world.” And what of the doctrines of judgment and grace? According to Philip Gulley, author of If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person, the difference between Universalism and Orthodoxy on these issues is not much. “I suspect the chief difference between my understanding of grace and the Orthodox understanding is one of degree,” he says. “I believe grace will ultimately triumph, working for the eternal good in all lives, while Orthodox theology believes that there are limits and boundaries in God’s love for us.” But in reality, the chasm between Universalism and Christianity on judgment and grace is not one of degree but
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Battling With the Bible > Universalist theology, particularly Christian Universalism, combats skeptics with the many verses that speak of salvation for “all” or “the world”: LUKE 3:6 And all people will see God’s salvation. TITUS 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. JOHN 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
> Orthodox Christianity focuses on scriptural themes like judgment, hell and the nature of the cross, and fights Universalism with verses that speak of the exclusivity of Christ: 1 TIMOTHY 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ. ACTS 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. JOHN 14:6 I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.
of deﬁnition. “What is amazing about grace is that it completely removes the huge debt of sin we rack up before God and transforms us into a new way of life where we can be what God created us to be, not simply go on as we were,” Bock says. “A savior who confronts me about the realities about myself and my utter need for God does me a favor. And I can love Him with all my heart because He has literally given me a new lease on life.” Indeed, one must make several scriptural leapfrogs in order to arrive at Universal salvation. First, there is Jesus’ assertion that “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6, TNIV, emphasis added). Then, there was Paul’s statement that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ.” The list rolls on and on in support of one central truth: Salvation is attained only through faith in Jesus Christ.
Tough to Swallow In the worlds of fashion, dance clubs and vacation destinations, exclusive is an attractive term. It invokes a sense of glamour and poshness. It makes one think of VIP rooms and all-you-can-eat buffets and clothes no one else has. But when it comes to salvation by faith, exclusive isn’t so pleasant. Exclusive in this sense means that no matter how hard someone tries, they will never secure salvation without submitting to Christ. It says that the world’s most murderous dictator can make it to heaven through a deathbed conversion, but the Dali Lama still needs Jesus Christ. This type of exclusivity means that your best friend who is a Buddhist and your atheist co-worker may be in serious trouble, and no matter how good your father was up until he died, he didn’t go to heaven if he didn’t accept Christ. As sour as it may taste, that is the belief that is overwhelmingly supported by the scriptures and has been historically held by Orthodox Christianity. The Christian message, therefore, can be a tough message to swallow in a world where inclusivity is king. We live in a culture where Little League baseball associations mandate that every child gets equal playing time and every opinion is considered equally valid.
“Sometimes it seems like the only remaining taboo is intolerance—you can do and believe anything as long as you don’t tell someone else they are wrong and dare to believe you have found a universal truth,” Stetzer says. And his work at LifeWay Research supports that claim. Salvation through Christ alone “is not a popular message in our pluralistic world,” Bock says. “It sounds arrogant, but it is like saying to someone if you jump off a building on your own strength gravity will get you and you will die. You can’t ﬂy on your own, even though you can picture that possibility in your mind.” Followers of Christ must come to realize that our message can unite in supernatural ways, but it can also be terribly divisive. If this doesn’t sound right, check out Jesus’ words in Luke 12:49–57 when He says He didn’t come to bring peace and warns that Christianity would cause division even within families. “Jesus told us that Christian truth would be divisive,” says David Wells, author of Above All Earthly Powers: Christ in a Postmodern World. “He said it will divide families, and that is what has always happened. When people hold up as the norm that something cannot be true if it divides, it tells us how far they are drifting from a biblical understanding.“ By its very deﬁnition, “salvation” assumes that one is being saved from something. Though it can be unpopular in our culture, the message that salvation is found exclusively through faith in Christ is the only one that Scripture supports. But this message is not one of judgment and doom. It is one of humble hope. “We should be as committed as Christians to making such efforts in our presentation of Jesus’ message—the difﬁcult bits as well as the nice parts—because that is offering genuine help to those in dire need, a need every human shares,” Bock says. “If we were more humble about our dire JONATHAN MERRITT need for God, is a faith and culture we just might writer whose work cling to Him has appeared in more tightly.” national outlets such Now that’s as The Washington a salvation Post, The AtlantaJournal Constitution worth having. and Time. He is a 2 regular contributor RELEVANT magazine. Connect with him at jonathanmerritt.com.
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where you’ve been, where you’re going…
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MEWITHOUTYOU GOES BEYOND THE MUSIC BY ANDREW KELHAM
LEFT TO RIGHT: AARON WEISS, CHRISTOPHER KLEINBERG, MICHAEL WEISS, RICHARD MAZZOTTA AND GREG JEHANIAN
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For mewithoutYou guitarist Michael Weiss, social justice is not a macro issue, measured in research and quantiﬁed through statistics. It is not a ﬁnancial issue, created by spending habits and solvable by administrative redistribution. It is not a political issue, a product of societal disparity and amendable by progressive taxation. It is a personal issue—a deep one at that. “In any situation, I think my response has to be more than just giving money over and feeling that I have done my part,” Weiss says. “It takes personal attention toward individual people, and that cannot always be measured with how many dollars you give away or what percentage of your income that represents. Take poverty and homelessness as an example—sometimes we have to take a moment to look a person in the eyes, or at least stop and ask them their name. To say hello, to ask who they are and let them pour out to you is more valuable than any ﬁnancial transaction. Letting someone speak seems like a pretty fulﬁlling way to address an issue, rather than just throwing coins to the ﬂoor.” It was Weiss’ mother who instilled this mindset into both him and his brother Aaron, mewithoutYou’s vocalist. “My mom treated people the same, regardless of whether they were a drug addict or a Christian; it didn’t matter to her,” Weiss says. “There are various other ways of seeing someone other than by an inherited societal status. We should never see anyone the way we are trained to see them. We should desire to see everyone the way God would see them. Anything God created is so much more than a lack of ﬁxed address.” Weiss remembers a schizophrenic drug addict the band met in Los Angeles. Discovering the man played the trumpet, they invited him to play onstage with them later that night. “To get this guy playing his heart out was an eye-opening experience for me as a musician,” Weiss says. “No, we are not out there setting up soup kitchens on tour; no, we are not out there ﬁghting homelessness; no, we do not even give to speciﬁc organizations for social justice as a band—but we do try to ﬁnd ways to value everyone we meet regardless of how society has rejected them.” This mindset, so simple yet so bold, is the driving force for the band—a departure in a narcissistic profession that places the self above all other things. mewithoutYou does not lean on the excesses of prodigious substance abuse or sexual temptations, instead distinguishing themselves from the culture around them. Musically, they strive for originality and never release the same album twice. With three releases under their belt, they have recorded with the legendary J Robbins (Jets to Brazil, Hey Mercedes, Against! Me) and Brad Wood (Pete Yorn, Far, Sunny Day Real Estate), creating songs that range from clattering post-hardcore to intimate folky sonnets. For their newest (as yet untitled) record, set for an early ’09 release, the band recorded with Dan Smith of Danielson, scaling up acoustic songs written by various members of the group. Organizationally, the group operates directly in contrast to the prevalent wisdom of the music industry. Exhibit A: the band’s legendary vegetable-oil-run tour bus. “We bought a tour bus and we were spending all our money on diesel for it,” Weiss recalls. “It was ﬁve miles to the gallon to run the thing, so Aaron had this idea to run the bus on veggie oil—we thought he was crazy.”
Aaron spent his own cash to convert it, and on the next tour the other members chipped in money they would have spent on diesel. “Before the end of the second tour, he had totally recouped his money,” Weiss says. “Paid back in full. Ever since then, it’s been awesome.” Driving on fuel procured from fans, Japanese steakhouses and Chinese restaurants, mewithoutYou emits a low amount of carbon and no sulfur. They also have an open-door policy on the bus—if anyone looks like they need help or a ride, they are welcome onboard. “Aaron really likes to pick up people who need help,” Weiss says. “It is a basic principle he tries to live by, and we all support that 100 percent.” The band’s practices do not go unnoticed by those around them, including other bands. “We toured in Europe with mewithoutYou,” Brand New vocalist Jesse Lacey recalls. “We had catering in each venue, and Aaron did not go to catering—he just waited until everyone had ﬁnished their food and ate the remains from the plates. For the ﬁrst couple of days it was a bit weird, and then slowly we realized how much food we were wasting.” And the realization has translated into action. “Since we met mewithoutYou, we take smaller portions,” Lacey says. “If we have food on the bus, we don’t throw it away; we give it to people because there are people in every city who could do with an apple or a drink. Knowing them has changed who we are as a band.” For mewithoutYou, the point of being a band is to explore, to question, to be creative in every possible expression. It goes deeper than the music they write—it deﬁnes the way they travel, how they do business and how they treat those they come into contact with. It’s something the band lives out, rather than something they merely preach. “If we were to go around with pamphlets outlining our views I don’t think we would get very far,” Weiss says. “Most of the pamphlets would end up in the bin. But to be around a guy like Aaron—I think that leaves a lasting impression. Aaron convicts you with who he is.” For Weiss, the constant example of his brother and the lesson of Scripture are the guidelines he follows to ward off self-focus. One verse, in particular, holds special signiﬁcance: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40, TNIV). They are the things that constantly uproot him from his comfort. “It frightens me that when we pass by somebody who is in need, someone who is hungry, someone who is poor, we are passing by Jesus,” he says. “It is really hard to face the reality of that, and I am constantly failing in things I could be doing. I fail to take the time, and I so often decide to do something for myself rather than give to someone else.” As Weiss and his bandmates discover new ways to serve and to follow, they strive to ensure the focus is never lost. “We should not romanticize homelessness or any other issue like it,” he says. “Bringing a homeless person food is great, but I think it is dangerous to start looking at yourself as someone who can save anyone. It is not up to me to solve all of someone’s problems. I am not called to erase the problem of homelessness, but I am called to erase the part of me that feels in control of any one person’s destiny. I always ﬁnd the focus should be less about me and what I am doing for these people.” In all of this, the guitarist’s remarks are only critical of one person: himself. “I deﬁnitely don’t want to come off as judging anyone other than myself when I say I could be doing a lot more,” he says. “When we are out on the road touring, we get a lot of opportunities to face the challenge to make something of each day, to do something meaningful and not just waste away in a bus or dressing room. I try to make sure I am being responsible for the things that are important for me. If you feel passionate about something, there is no choice—it chooses you, and all you need to do is follow the strong passion in your heart. I’m trying to follow.” d
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12 WAYS TO SAVE SOME SERIOUS DOUGH—EVEN DURING THE HOLIDAYS
BY ADAM AND CHRISTINE JESKE
YOU’RE WORKING ON A DEGREE IN PSYCHOLOGY OF PHILOSOPHICAL ANCIENT LITERATURE, AND YOUR BEST JOB OFFER HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH ALPHABETIZING PAMPHLETS IN A CUBICLE. You’re starting to wonder whether what you really want in life is just to go volunteer for a few years in Namibia. Meanwhile, Black Friday is looming, and every time you turn on a television, Satan Claus sings a little louder: You better buy more stuff, or no happy new year for you. But there’s one problem: You need cash. When you start to imagine the next 10 years slaving away to buy matching furniture, payments on a minivan and your future kids’ braces, the walls start closing in. Fortunately, there are alternatives. In our experience, trusting God and following the Bible’s sometimes weird wisdom about ﬁnances brings some odd freedoms. We’ve moved 30 times since we got married in 1999. We lived in the house of an old man named Bob, a barn in Nicaragua, a Communist bloc apartment in China and a refurbished pig shed in South Africa. Looking back, we can now see some lessons about money we didn’t even know we knew. If you need some help getting through this season and into the next year, here are some of our gleanings:
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LOSE THE LOANS We know this isn’t possible or applicable for everyone, but ﬁnishing college without debt can put wings on your ﬁrst few years after college. Some people have generous parents or lots of scholarships, but part-time jobs, cheap stateschool tuition and living on a shoestring budget go a long way, too. If you’re the type who hopes to spend a lot of time volunteering or working in some of society’s less appreciated jobs, like being a social worker in downtown L.A., you might not earn much money for a while. Some dear friends of ours who would have liked to become campus ministers are now stuck in grinding jobs to reduce their debt. We can’t imagine how different the last nine years would have been if we owed someone $100,000 (or even a couple thousand).
EVERYBODY DRIVES A USED CAR In our society, we’re told and sold the idea that “the car makes the man.” What a load of crap. Do yourself a favor and draw your identity elsewhere—it’s a lot cheaper. Yes, you need to know what you’re looking at, and it can help if someone you know will sell you something decent for a good price. Even if you don’t revel in clunkers like us, ﬁgure out what you want, and ﬁnd one a year old with a few miles on it for thousands of dollars less. Then use that cash to throw a party. And invite us.
ONLY FREE FURNITURE
INTERESTED IN INTEREST A few thousand bucks can balloon to many thousand bucks in a decade. Forget get-richquick schemes, but ﬁnd a company or mutual fund you agree with and believe in, and buy some shares. Then forget about it for a few years (except to drop in whatever you can, whenever you can). You’ll be shocked at how you earn a little bit of interest, then a bit more, then you are earning interest on your principal and the interest you earned the year before. It’s called compound interest, and it’s a miracle.
MAKE IT MINI Before a 1995 Isuzu pickup we just got for African dirt roads, we had a 1995 Ford Escort (small), a 1989 Plymouth Horizon (small) and a 1987 two-door Honda Civic (tiny). Comparing mileage on the little versus the big (30 vs. 15 mpg) is remarkable—if we’ve driven efﬁcient vehicles 20,000 miles per year for 11 years, with gas running $3 a gallon, we’ve saved $22,000 over that time. Even better have been two different motorcycles we’ve owned, and better still, the bicycles we’ve pedaled and the shoes we’ve walked in.
USED CAR? USED COUCH? USED EVERYTHING! In college you might have furnished an apartment with a ratty couch last year’s renters left on the curb. Maybe you’re ready to move up from the faint whiffs of coffee and vomit on these street-corner treasures, but the price of a new sofa would set your budget in a tailspin. Keep your ears open, and don’t be afraid to ask, ask, ask. One of the perks of living in one of the richest nations of the world is that people buy what they don’t need, and then they want to get rid of it. Some of that is stuff you’ll want. Perfect. Even if it takes sewing a new couch cover, you’ll come out ahead ﬁnancially. Or hit those bastions of bargains, the neighborhood thrift shop, and ﬁnd a nearly new bread machine/book/shirt for 90 percent less than you’d pay at the regular shop down the street.
We’ve been all over the place in all kinds of situations, and there always seem to be enough chairs and beds for us to be able to use someone’s or for them to be given to us. It’s a truly remarkable chain, from the rippedup couch from the Catacombs Coffeehouse in Madison, Wisc., to a chair Adam made with a neighbor in Nicaragua, to a couple desks from an elderly couple in South Africa, all ﬁnding their way into our homes. OK, we’re a bit soft on this, as we currently own a book shelf and a cabinet that we bought for a bit more than $100—we all spend money sometimes. And true, you can’t be picky, but it makes for some interesting decor. And the next time you need to take off for The Next Big Thing in your life, you can happily just give it to someone else.
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RENT A HOME? BUY A HOME? NEITHER. Just live somewhere for free! A whole slug of free living arrangements exists, and they can make a low-paying job or volunteer position worth much more than the pay. You might ﬁnd an arrangement living with and helping out someone like the aforementioned elderly man, Bob, who shared his home and groceries with us for a year. We have also lived at a camp for city kids, lived in a university residence hall where Adam worked as a director and taught English in China where professors are provided accommodation. In Nicaragua, the village provided a home—a dark room in a barn shared with a few rats (fewer after we lived there). Many of these arrangements have also fed us—a double bonus, since Adam needs a lot of calories.
LEAVE Get out of the country. For a long time. It might take you a little time to ﬁnd your niche somewhere, or to save cash to buy the plane ticket to make the plunge, but living in South America, Africa or Asia can be very, very cheap, especially in small cities or rural areas. Remember that half the people in the world live on $2 a day or less. They have a lot to teach us. If you volunteer somewhere (teaching, building, whatever), you will likely ﬁnd free accommodation and maybe food. If not, you can get prepared food really cheap in many places, and basic staples are lowpriced. You can join in the poverty, learn a lot and help some as you go.
ABOUT THOSE GIFTS ... Every family has different expectations and traditions around Christmas. You need to negotiate that mineﬁeld for yourself. But have the conversation after this year’s round of merry consumption. You might suggest a dollar limit for gifts, or a funny gift-exchange activity instead of a pricier tradition. Or go for gifts of donations to each person’s favorite charity (the Heifer Project has fun booklets you can actually give to the person, informing them that they got a bunch of livestock for Christmas). But however that conversation goes, hold up your end with love and grace.
OH, AND ALSO ... GET COOKING
HAVE KIDS OK, this is mostly for those of you who are married. Most people think they can’t afford a kid, but those people didn’t notice tips 5 and 6. Nobody needs a $300 stroller to use for three months of a baby’s life. Think used. And think baby shower requests. Besides, there are some sweet tax breaks when you have kids, especially when your income is low—the Earned Income Credit (EIC) had our kids earning a couple thousand dollars for us each year. Our tax situation has changed somewhat, but we were able to sock that dough away. Maybe our little ones will get to go to college someday after all ...
That bread machine you got at the thrift shop will come in handy. Within a week (two, if you’re a bit dense), you can make fantastic bread in just ﬁve minutes. I’ve timed it. That would cost $3 per loaf in a bakery, without the fantastic smells and getting to eat it hot. The cost of your ingredients? About 50 cents. And this applies to lots of things in the kitchen. Get a book of simple recipes. Get used to buying ingredients (onions, garlic, oregano, ﬂour, chicken) instead of meals (pizzas, cans, packets, mixes). You’ll be amazed at how terrible some of your results are. OK, but then you’ll also ﬁnd that you can make some things taste better than you ever knew possible, and you’ll get faster and better and healthier, and save a bunch of cash. Cook big, freeze leftovers, and it’s even more time-efﬁcient. Oh, and vegetables are expensive. Find out about your local farmers’ market, buy loads in season and freeze ’em.
Cultivate gratitude. None of this does any good if you’re still pining away for diamond necklaces and the $2,000 camera that refuses to ﬁt your budget. Buckle down and thank God for what you’ve got. Savor the little things, whether it’s free day-old restaurant mufﬁns when your usual fare is instant noodles, or public parks when your “yard” is a cement balcony. Enjoy what others have without needing it for yourself. Gratitude gives a freedom that’s worth more than all the money you have (or don’t have), no matter what the commercials and sales papers are shouting this Christmas. 2
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BY JESSE CAREY
WE PREDICT THE
TRENDS THAT WILL RULE IN 2009
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GOODBYE, GENTLEMAN— 2009 WILL BE THE YEAR OF THE DUDE 2008 was the year of the gentleman. First, the mustache— the ultimate symbol of the gentlemanly pursuit—ruled the box ofﬁce, with the stars of Oscar-nominated ﬁlms including Daniel Day-Lewis, Josh Brolin and Casey Afﬂeck all supporting the lip curtain in major roles. After Hollywood’s embrace of the mouth brow, men and women alike followed suit, ushering in the year of the gentleman. But it wasn’t just a facial fashion statement—it was a lifestyle. Chapply games like equestrian, shooting and weightlifting took center stage in the Summer Olympics, while activities like smoking pipes, reading leather-bound history novels and lifting kettle balls swept the nation. But in 2009, America will move on from its affair with the chap in favor of an edgier persona. Welcome to the Year of the Dude. Break out your white sports coat, black Ray-Bans, a permanent 5 o’clock shadow and your South Beach attitude, because this year, the Dude is back. In ’09, yacht rock will rule the airwaves once again, with the tender sounds of electric drums, synthesized keytar melodies and steely voices reminiscent of Phil Collins and Michael McDonald providing the soundtracks to evenings ﬁlled with speedboating, playing pool and oceanside heat. Along with a stash of soft-rock mix tapes, every Dude will acquire the following must-have Vice-style accessories: a closet full of satin robes for lounging around in, lots of white leather furniture and upholstery, an authentic tigerfur rug for your workout room, a convertible, white linen pants and a medallion with some sort of masculine symbol (a lion, a handgun, a dollar sign, etc.) And remember, ladies, being a Dude isn’t just for the men—like the gentlemen, the Dude is a state of mind, not just a style. But when it comes to the look, there’s really only one fashion rule: Never, under any circumstance, wear socks.
2009 WILL BE THE YEAR REALITY TV MAKES ITS LAST STAND—AND IT WON’T BE PRETTY Remember the good ol’ days, when you could easily kill a solid two hours of primetime watching people bicker on some tropical island or see how many bugs they could eat before freaking out? Well, just like the career of Joe Rogan, those days are fading fast, and in 2009, reality TV will try one last time to shock viewers and bring our society one step closer to the apocalypse. To do it, they’re going to up the ante. Here are our predictions of shows that will be hits in 2009. Dancing with the Stars: The Beltway Edition: While transitioning into his postPresidency career, W trains hard on this ABC staple, competing against former Attorney General and tango specialist Janet Reno, environmental advocate and urban-dance phenom Al Gore, and Bob “Disco All Night” Dole. The Biggest Gainer: 12 contestants. Three months. All the cheeseburgers you can eat. Only on Fox. Man vs. Where Wild the Things Are: In a promotion for the big-screen adaptation of the children’s classic, Bear Grylls, having already conquered the world’s toughest terrains, will travel to the land of the Wild Thing. Armed only with his wit and survival instinct, Bear proves no match for a jungle full of ﬁercelooking, but easily freighted, monsters. Hole in the Wall: Contestants in silver bodysuits will be forced to contort their body in suggestive positions before being knocked into a pool of water by a slowmoving wall with a precariously shaped hole in it. It will be a sign of the last days.
SWIMMING WILL BECOME A NATIONWIDE FITNESS AND TRANSPORTATION FAD In the ’70s, jogging took America by storm, inspiring everyone from businessmen to housewives to lace up a pair of sneakers and go running. In the ’90s, a nation inspired by the heroic efforts of Lance Armstrong jumped on bikes as cycling swept the ﬁtness world. But in ’09, following a record-smashing Olympic outing by Michael Phelps, Americans everywhere will be hitting the water. But it won’t just be a fun exercise—like cycling, swimming will become a lifestyle activity in ’09, with amateur athletes ﬁnding aquatic routes to work, forgoing morning commutes in favor of dips in local waterways. Aside from the obvious beneﬁts to greenhouse gas emissions, the “swim to work” craze will also have another upside—a boost to consumer savings. It was reported that during his training, Phelps consumed more than 12,000 calories a day. That means now, just one stop at KFC will satisfy every swimming American’s daily intake requirements, saving them millions from the rising cost of grocery shopping.
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2009 WILL BE THE YEAR IRONIC ACCESSORIES LOSE THEIR IRONY In 2008, hipsters everywhere spent countless afternoons wandering their local thrift store, searching for that perfect addition to their outﬁt that would not only win a few laughs, but would also earn some scene points at the next party. But put away that “Dale’s Lawn Wranglers” hat and your new 1987 North Face ski vest, because this year, those ironic accessories aren’t so ironic anymore. Does this sound familiar? “Hey man, nice fanny pack!” Here’s how you would have heard this statement answered in 2008: “Yeah, dude, isn’t it hilarious? What a killer ﬁnd, huh? It only cost me $1.75 at Salvation Army!” But in 2009, it will go something like this: “Why, thank you. Not only does the ﬂorescent pink go with the arms of my plastic sunglasses, but it also is a helpful way of safely carrying my belongings.” Next year, a red-white-and-blue headband and a skinny necktie just won’t go as far as they used to.
CONFUSED CHRISTIANS WILL BE DISAPPOINTED BY THE LACK OF SPIRITUAL INSIGHT FOUND IN SHAQ’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY IT WILL BE REVEALED THAT SUFJAN STEVENS IS ACTUALLY A LONG-LOST JONAS BROTHER In 2009, music fans everywhere will be shocked to learn that indie-folk star Sufjan Stevens is actually a long-lost sibling of Disney pop sensations the Jonas Brothers. Despite their clear resemblance, their propensity to write values-centered lyrics and their obvious musical abilities, the news will rock the music world.
Having heard all the buzz about the 2008 William Paul Young best-selling book about the nature of God, The Shack, confused Christian readers will be disappointed by the NBA star’s autobiography, which we predict will be released in 2009. Although Shaquille O’Neal’s book will contain sordid details about his rivalry with former teammate Kobe Bryant, working with the Zen-practicing coach Phil Jackson and his recent trade to the Phoenix Suns, the Big Aristotle’s tell-all will fail to deliver the theological perspective and scriptural interpretation Christians expected after hearing about the widely discussed William Paul Young novel.
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HEARING IS BELIEVING.
F R E E D O W N LOA D
of the Book of John at zondervan.com/tbe
Listen to 400 of todayâ€™s greatest entertainers and leaders deliver the Good News. The Bible Experience is a fully dramatized reading of the Word of God. Now you can read along as you listen with mp3 plus text.
9/22/08 4:05:44 PM
THE SMART CAR WILL BECOME SELF-AWARE In 2008, the clean-energy-powered mini-car from Europe was introduced in the United States to curious consumers intrigued by its petite size and promises of excellent gas mileage. But in 2009, the automobile that gained rave reviews for fuel efﬁciency and intuitive design will become too “smart.” It’s highly touted “hybrid technology,” ergonomic style and smart features will allow the vehicle to take the ﬁrst step in its turn against humanity in a revolt on its own German engineers, as the war with machines begins.
2009 WILL BE THE YEAR OF THE ILL-ADVISED COMEBACK Inspired by the epic comebacks of football legend Brett Favre, cycling star Lance Armstrong to the Tour de France and the longawaited return of rock icons Guns N’ Roses, there will be several other highproﬁle—albeit ill-advised—comebacks in 2009. Rumor has it that comedy legend Sinbad will once again attempt to become a staple of prime-time TV and the box ofﬁce with his self-ﬁnanced independent ﬁlm, First Kid 2. 2 Though instead of a lighthearted family comedy like the original, the sequel will be a gritty, dark thriller with controversial political undertones. Sinbad’s comeback will also be comprised of an appearance on a “Where Are They Now?” HBO special and an early departure from Celebrity Apprentice season 3. In another poorly planned comeback, Larry Bird, having played his last game with the Boston Celtics more than a decade ago, will once again lace up his high-tops in a disastrous effort to join with Beantown’s current big three. The 51-year-old former NBA star will prove to be woefully unprepared for today’s fast-paced game—as well as the current not-so-short-shorts, a far cry from the leggy briefs he is used to sporting on the court. British Knights, the popular early ’90s shoes worn by suburban wannabes and hip-hop stars alike, will attempt to once again become the kicks of choice for urban-styled young Americans. But after ﬁerce competition from another ’90s-era shoe company also poised to make an ’09 comeback—the light-up favorites L.A. Gear—BK will fail to recapture their 1992 glory.
ONLINE BONUS @ RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM VISIT RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM TO FIND MORE WACKY TRENDS OF 2009.
2009 WILL BE THE YEAR THE FUTURE OF ICE CREAM IS FINALLY REALIZED In the years leading up to 2009, it wasn’t an uncommon site to observe people wandering aimlessly around their local shopping malls, thinking to themselves, “What will ice cream taste like in the future?” In those days, a few curious shoppers would be lucky enough to stumble upon an inconspicuous Dippin’ Dots kiosk and have their question ﬁnally answered. But in 2009, Dippin’ Dots will no longer just be a novelty dessert reserved for food-court outskirts and Minor League baseball games—no, this will be the year it will ﬁnally achieve its promised status of “Ice cream of the future”—a title it has weakly proclaimed since it ﬁrst came on the scene in 1987. The term ice cream will now be synonymous with tiny frozen balls of ﬂavored ice that comes at the cost of $7 per cupful, not the sweet, creamy, diary-based product that generations before us have come to know.
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Changing Lives, One Shoe Box at a Time The miracle began when Pastor Jun helped deliver 180 gift-ﬁlled shoe boxes as an outreach to children living in a squatter community in the Philippines. Their parents wanted to know more about Jesus, so he started a church there. Four years later, the congregation has moved its worship services to a gymnasium, and 380 children attend outreach programs. “For us, Operation Christmas Child is a miracle because our church started from a spark—just a spark of joy that it has given these children,” the pastor said.
Contact us to ﬁnd out how to pack a shoe box for a needy child overseas this holiday season. www.samaritanspurse.org/occ | 1-800-353-5949 CMYK
RICH BLACK: C:30 M:20 Y:10 K:100
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham, President. RED: C:0 M:100 Y:100 K:0
GREEN: C:100 M:0 Y:100 K:0
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the mind that shapes
he hands of God reach down into a perfectly coifed Middle American burg, clearing ﬂuffy clouds, chirping birds and a church rooftop to reveal a cherubic boy, gleefully waving back. So begins Moral Orel, a Cartoon Network show about Orel Puppington, an 11-year-old boy desperately committed to putting his faith into action as he grows up with his father, mother and half-brother in the ﬁctional town of Moralton. It’s the setting for one of the most painfully funny, offensive and human shows since The Simpsons. Because of its use of stop-motion animation, Moral Orel is stylistically reminiscent of a certain iconic 1960s stop-motion television classic. But it’s a sensitive topic for Moral Orel creator Dino Stamatopoulos. “The Davey and Goliath thing was seriously just an afterthought. It just seemed like the perfect medium—this very innocent-looking puppet kid. You can get away with so much with puppets.” And Stamatopoulos has gotten away with a lot. Season one revolved around the many ways Reverend Putty’s weekly sermons were taken to their illogical extreme through Orel’s mix of sincere piety, childhood literalism and unbending commitment. Each week Orel’s blind idealism wreaked havoc on the poor
folk of Moralton, nearly all of whom were morally challenged churchgoers. In the second episode, Orel is motivated by a sermon to encourage people to enjoy God’s gift of life. Orel goes to the place where people seem to be most ignorant of this gift, the cemetery, armed with a library copy of the Necronomicon to bring them all back to life. At the end of the show, Orel receives a spanking in his father’s ofﬁce. Grateful that his father doesn’t “spare the rod,” Orel ﬁnds out he wasn’t spanked for animating killer zombies, but for unleashing corpses who happened to be naked. Shamefulness toward the human anatomy is one of the ﬁctional Lost Commandments various townsfolk have added to justify their skewed religiosity. Other episodes captured a sublimely satirical tone that would not only push the envelope but potentially alienate some viewers, a fact that doesn’t really bother Stamatopoulos. “I feel like if people are going to be offended by the show, it’s almost like saying, ‘Hey, I resemble that remark!’” he says. ”The only people who should be offended are people who are hypocrites. I’m not saying every Christian is a hypocrite; I’m just saying that the hypocrites are the ones I’m making fun of. “ When it comes to speciﬁc sources of inspiration for his characters, Stamatopoulos keeps the lens pretty wide. He doesn’t cop to borrowing from any actual people as
BY ANTHONY BARR-JEFFREY
The only people who should be offended are people who are hypocrites. I’m not saying every Christian is a hypocrite; I’m just saying that the hypocrites are the ones I’m making fun of.
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the blueprint for Moralton’s residents. “I think these characters are so speciﬁc to the world of Moralton. The ﬁrst season is just a cartoon, and I’ve slowly injected them with my version of reality,” he says. “But I think it would be imperceptible to anyone that any one of these characters is even minutely based on a real person.” And lest anyone assume he is simply being avoidant about some sort of religious trauma, when pressed, Stamatopoulos talks openly, in rather unremarkable terms, about life in a conservative Greek Orthodox family. “My parents were very puritanical in their own way,” he says. “They didn’t pound [their beliefs]; they didn’t force me to be any particular way—it was just the way things were.” Stamatopoulos believes that the inﬂuences of this youth, although present, are fairly subconscious; his obvious inspirations are far more pedestrian. “Let’s be honest, you’d have to be totally blind not to get a little fundamentalist Christianity in your life living today,” he says. “Just look around you—there’s no shortage of that kind of reservoir.” And though the hilarious musical parodies sprinkled throughout the episodes are borrowed directly from early ’80s Christian heavy-metal bands, Stamatopoulos swears he has never really even heard Christian music. “Those songs are more about imagining what a Christian would listen to,” he says. “I don’t research a lot; I just let inspiration hit me as it comes. A show like Moral Orel is easy to make, since the characters are just making up their own rules anyway.” At a glance, some might be tempted to dismiss Stamatopoulos as a desensitized anti-religious hack. Of course, like so many things, those who
Let’s be honest, you’d have to be totally blind not to get a little fundamentalist Christianity in your life living today. Just look around you—there’s no shortage of that kind of reservoir. have stayed with Moral Orel into this current season, its third, have found that there is more to the show and its maker than meets the eye. Stamatopoulos is not a twenty- or thirtysomething who thrives on aloof hipness or cool weirdness. He is a 44-year-old divorced father, self-proclaimed slacker and procrastinator who looks like Tim Burton’s disheveled cousin with a self-effacing Larry David-like vibe. Stamatopoulos’ rejection of trendy coolness seems to be the source of Moral Orel’s uniqueness. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Stamatopoulos always treats Orel and his faith with absolute respect. Despite his misinterpretations, mishaps and mistakes, Orel has never once been a smarmy postmodern punchline of the show’s joke. And while that sincere dose of humanity grounded the show from the start, Stamatopoulos suddenly ﬁnds himself beginning to offer a little of that same
grace to other characters, letting the show evolve into something more unexpectedly redemptive than either fans or critics might expect. “The ﬁrst season was about taking jabs at fundamental Christians who are hypocritical,” Stamatopoulos says. “But I have a short attention span, so I could only do the ‘Orel messing up religion’ thing for so long before getting bored. I didn’t have any preconceived notions about season two, but when we did the Nature episode [the ﬁnal episode of season two], it was clear to me that there was no going back. I think the show is turning away from simply being a jab at anything. It’s more about exploring the characters. Moral Orel is basically becoming less and less funny, which I’m cool with.” Stamatopoulos seems unusually conﬁdent about this move because he sees it following the precedent of a truly iconic show that he personally and professionally reveres. “The ﬁrst season of Moral Orel was a lot like The Simpsons or The Tracy Ullman Show,” he says. “It was just these characters with a small hint here and there of reality. Once it became its own show, in its ﬁrst and second seasons, I felt like the [Simpsons] characters during that time were more real than any other television show at the time. Back when Homer actually had his own point of view.” Inspired, Stamatopoulos is committed to ambitiously raising the bar. “Now I’m going more and more into what I think The Simpsons should have gone into,” he says. “Take out the jokes, let them be a real family and let the humor come from those little moments and not just jokesetup-joke—all of a sudden, Homer doesn’t know what a dog is anymore in this episode.” Although Stamatopoulos only ﬂirted with this idea in early episodes, season two concludes with Orel confronted by some of the unavoidably painful growing pains that real boys face daily. When Orel witnesses a moral failure in his father for the ﬁrst time, it is a moment mixed with pathos, awkwardness, humor and confusion that leaves viewers between laughter and tears. This from a late-night animated show. More ambitious than he is willing to let on, Stamatopoulos is clearly dedicated to his craft and to making something fresh and challenging. Of course, as Stamatopoulos has been writing comedy for 20 years, Moral Orel isn’t the ﬁrst time he has rolled up his sleeves to make something special. And the hard work of putting Moral Orel together actually appears to simply be an extension of the DIY approach Stamatopoulos tapped into during his college years in his hometown of Chicago. While writing in college comedy classes, Stamatopoulos started doing a weekly show, 1986, with college friend and comedian Andy Dick at a local bar called The Roxy. “They had a video projector, so we did half live, half video. Not unlike Mr. Show, only much less structured than that. It was kind of new for [that time], in a way—but nothing Monty Python didn’t do,” he says.
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I remember swinging my daughter when she was small and seeing her gleeful face—I couldn’t help being a little sad. I was thinking, ‘Sorry, kid, you’re going to learn that it’s a tough world.’ I think that’s what Orel’s going through. I have faith that he’s still going to keep what’s good about him even though he probably won’t be as innocent. Dick moved to L.A., but he didn’t forget his college partner. “When I came to L.A., Andy referred me. I did work for Ben Stiller, Conan O’Brien, The Dana Carvey Show, Letterman, Mr. Show and SNL’s TV Funhouse.” During that time, Stamatopoulos wrote a script for a pilot of an admittedly bizarre show created to star ’70s rock icon Iggy Pop as a 10year-old boy. Years later, Iggy Pop’s character evolved into Moral Orel. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim came calling and told him about successful, unconventional animated shows with low production costs, like Robot Chicken. “I got to not work for a long time, and Moral Orel came in the nick of time,” Stamatopoulos says. It would seem that Moral Orel has, for the most part, been mostly lost to the general public, sandwiched late night between quirky cartoons, avant-garde animation and complex Japanese anime on Cartoon Network. This is unfortunate because the show is one of the few on television that is smart, poses no easy answers and secretly has a serious moral center. Conversely, it is those same characteristics, mixed with the show’s potty humor, that would probably disqualify it from being viewed by more people based on the standards of most prime-time television. Stamatopoulos is circumspect and characteristically laid-back about this conundrum. “You secretly don’t want it to be popular, but you yell about it angrily: ‘Why isn’t this show more popular?’” he says. Like a painter who expects to be more appreciated in death, Stamatopoulos is somewhat resigned to the odd situation in which he ﬁnds his show. “I’m not that upset that the episodes aren’t more popular. I want to make them all and get them out there, and hopefully later they will become popular after the show is cancelled, which I’m ﬁne with,” he says. Whether Stamatopoulos is really that carefree or simply protecting himself from disappointment, he is a complex person who appears to grow more comfortable with his foibles and ﬂaws, and even those of fundamentalists he loves to skewer. “I think we’ve all seen how humans relate to each other. Religious or not, we’re all hypocrites in some way,” he says. “We all try to make our lives as easy as possible. We’re all a little lazy. I’ve come to realize that a lot of these characters, some of the horrible characters, are little aspects of me. I’m working out a lot of my [stuff] through these characters. I think I could be a father like
Clay if I felt like my life was in a dead end. “Good writing doesn’t come from looking objectively at your characters; it comes from being those characters, relating to them and empathizing with them. It’s having a bad guy who you know isn’t really a bad guy—it’s just his way of thinking and his perception of things. That bad guy always thinks he’s a good guy.” This approach sounds great for the character development of Moralton’s townfolk, but what about Orel? Is Stamatopoulos going to force Orel to grow up and lose the very thing that made him so appealing? When talking about the inevitable changes ahead for Orel, Stamatopoulos’ thoughts turn toward his own daughter. “I remember swinging my daughter when she was small and seeing her gleeful face—I couldn’t
help being a little sad,” he says. “I was thinking, ‘Sorry, kid, you’re going to learn that it’s a tough world.’ And I think that’s what Orel’s going through. I have faith that he’s still going to keep what’s good about him even though he probably won’t be as innocent.” What about Stamatopoulos? Has the evolution of Moral Orel reﬂected any changes in his life? “Hopefully I can regress a little bit and not be as bitter and cynical,” he says. “I didn’t really know who Orel was before the show was produced. It may sound silly, but this show and Orel have taught me the importance of innocence and having faith in something as long as you aren’t dogmatic about it. You get tired of being a cynical comedy writer. Now I’m just cynical; I’m not even a comedy writer!”
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what do you do when god doesn’t play by our rules? BY Earl Creps
I thought I understood what it means to be an American until my wife, Janet, and I took a trip to Japan. Immersed in their remarkably communal society, we found ourselves enjoying everything about Osaka and Tokyo, but were jolted by culture shock at the same time. We had always thought of ourselves as collaborative and peopleoriented, but in a country where even some vending machines offer life coaching, we felt stressed by the sense of being crowded and handled way beyond what our American individualism allowed. None of us knows what we really are until we are dropped into a setting where we can’t be that. The subtle influence of American values (e.g., individualism, optimism, pragmatism) often operates below the level of my awareness until something brings them to mind, the way tripping and falling reminds me of the law of gravity. My spirituality is no exception. But what do I mean by “American”? While our society is amazingly complex, its history resounds with the defining story of capitalism: people taking advantage of free markets to achieve the dream of prosperity through individual achievement. We use phrases like “selfmade person” to describe Donald Trump and other heroes of our system. The less heroic are called other things. We admire people like Bill Gates, Michael Phelps and the guys who developed Google, but tend to think less of the person who asks us, “Do you want fries with that?” Our culture is about winning as a reward for talent x hard work; it’s about investment and return; it’s about transactions—and so is our spirituality.
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Transactional Spirituality Faith never operates in a vacuum. That’s why megachurches look like suburban malls and coffeehouse ministries blend seamlessly with brick midtown neighborhoods. We are not just Christians; we are American Christians. And so, we easily lean toward a market theory of God. As a pastor, I have talked with many believers who see themselves as free agents in a spiritual marketplace that rewards winners and punishes losers. God extends the “invisible hand” that returns blessing for righteousness and chastisement for sub-righteous conduct. The apostle Paul might easily have put the same interpretation on the Holy Spirit’s refusal to allow him to preach the Gospel in several parts of the Roman Empire even though his presence there was in direct obedience to Jesus’ command. Imagine young Timothy, just recruited as Paul’s protégé on this trip, discovering that Ministry 101 consists of wandering around in confusion only to end up somewhere you don’t really want to be (Acts 16:6–10). If you’ve ever experienced a time when it seemed hard to get a straight answer from God, you know this feeling. The nature of your spirituality usually is revealed in how you tend to interpret these hard times. When you can’t make your school loan payment, your laptop crashes and you lose your part-time job at Starbucks all in the same week, does it feel like God is sending you a message? If so, you tend toward a transactional spirituality, and for good reason. Don’t television preachers assure us that if we simply implemented their teachings our lives would
Are there consequences to disobedience? Yes. But our relationship with God is about love, not the pursuit of rewards and the avoidance of penalties. be amazingly better than they are now? So if I face struggles, doesn’t it follow that either I’m in sin or I am neglecting to practice Rev. So-andSo’s guaranteed life-improvement formula? Some very spiritual people reason to exactly this conclusion every day, working backwards from their situation using the cultural logic of the marketplace in which everything is a business deal. This thinking seeps into our spirituality enough to shape Christ followers who are saved by grace but are deeply committed to living by law, as if the good seasons in life have been earned, and the painful times are a result of personal failure of some kind. In both cases, the focus is on “me.” When that happens, a relationship with God becomes about “my agenda” by trading God the things I believe He wants in return. This issue has the highest profile in people like the grim legalist who has a heart attack when a 20-year-old wears shorts to a church service. For this person, defending an official standard of dress for Sunday morning is necessary to “please God.” That’s code for doing what He wants (e.g., me wearing a necktie) so I get what I want (e.g., zero punishment and maybe a Prius). But a more subtle form is probably more prevalent. Millions of believers scour bookstores and the Internet looking for the spiritual keys, or secret principles, or prayer techniques that will persuade God to do for them what His love alone does not seem to be sufficient to provide. But in the end, our secret principles are really just a way of placing us in control of our relationship with God by supplying the “currency” He demands (e.g., holiness, giving, faith, positive thinking) in order to come across with the products and services we need. But another focus is possible.
Transformational Spirituality The story of Paul’s team doesn’t end in frustration. After multiple rejections, he had a vision in which a man from Macedonia pleaded, “Come over and help us.” Why go through several rejections before the real plan is unfolded? We will never know. But what we do know is that the vision appeared only after Paul had tried all of his own ideas. Their new calling was not just to another region, but to another continent—Europe. As a pastor, I always taught the importance of knowing the will of God in our lives, while personally struggling to find it at times. The process seemed like mining for diamonds—small fragments were available for those willing to invest large amounts of exhausting effort in arduous conditions. But then a documentary informed me that diamonds are actually available anywhere on earth we find volcanic activity. In other words, they are plentiful—we just don’t expect to find them. Similarly, what if God’s plans are sometimes challenging to identify, not because they are so small, but because they are so big we do not have a category for them? What if He wants to send us to a new continent, not just a new region? Your “continent” may be in the office next door, or a local coffee house, or on a missions trip to someplace that requires getting shots. Transactional spirituality is based on the need to explain our circumstances by reference to a set of cause-and-effect principles that we control. In other words, if Paul is wandering around failing to preach the Gospel, it must be because he is suffering the punishment he
deserves. This kind of spirituality is limited to only reasoning from the known (I’m suffering) to another known (God is punishing me) because it operates within a narrow explanation of our Creator. A transformational spirituality moves us from the known (I’m confused) to the unknown (God must be up to something in this, I just don’t know what). Trusting in God’s basic goodness, rather than in a set of market principles, roots our walk with Him in grace and faith, which makes us “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, TNIV).
Making the Change So how can we make the shift from transaction to transformation? A few steps can begin a journey in that direction. > Diagnose the influence of your culture on your spirituality. Consider whether what you believe would still work in a cross-cultural situation. Would your take on the Gospel function in a profoundly poor nation, among scientists at a research laboratory or even for people who had never heard of Jesus? Ask yourself, “How much of my faith is Christian, and how much is American?” > Realize your relationship with God is based on grace, not on law. In other words, it is rooted in the part of God we cannot explain: His unconditional love and unfathomable wisdom, all exercised on our behalf. This kind of relationship is not accessed by works that earn rewards, but by childlike dependence. Ask yourself, “Do I believe God would still love me even if I could contribute nothing measurable to His Kingdom?” > Avoid over-interpreting our circumstances. Having seen many good people suffer and some not-so-good people prosper, I am reminded that God sends “rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong” (Matthew 5:45). Thinking of all my setbacks as proof of spiritual inadequacy is a recipe for discouragement and depression, making my relationship with God more like a treadmill than a walk. Ask yourself, “Do I really deserve better or worse treatment from God than the other 6 billion people on this planet?” > Cultivate an attitude of worship. If things are really bad, with my credit card debt spiraling out of control and my application to graduate school being turned down, God is still worthy to be praised. And if my life is going well, God is worthy to be praised as the source of all goodness. “Every good and perfect gift is from above,” writes James (1:17). Ask yourself, “Am I a worshipper of God without conditions, or only when I think He (and I) deserves it?” > Consider what God may be up to. Rather than blessing us or punishing us, perhaps our situation is more about God just trying to get our attention. A time of blessing, then, may be more about supporting the drilling of wells that provide drinking water for impoverished regions than about buying that second flat-screen TV. Alternatively, a really hard time may be a test of faith aimed at refining our character. Ask yourself, “What might be the long-term potential of my current circumstances?” Does it pay to serve God? Sure. Are their consequences to disobedience? Yes. But that being said, our relationship with God is about love, not the pursuit of rewards and the avoidance of penalties. As we abandon too-easy equations (e.g., faith = blessings) the nature of our relationship with God shifts. Rather than connecting with what we think we know about Him, we can fall in love with God Himself, and all the mystery that involves. In the process, we are changed.
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FOUNTAINS OF LIFE Scott Harrison brings water—and hope—to a parched continent BY CHRIS GOODSON
SCOTT HARRISON IS A HARD MAN TO TRACK DOWN. On any given day, one would be just as likely to ﬁnd him taking a conference call behind a desk in his Soho ofﬁce or digging in the dirt in the arid heat of West Africa 7,000 miles away. For the past four years, Harrison’s life has been a delicate balancing act between Western high society and third-world poverty. Although seemingly disparate worlds, both are an integral part of his life. Unlike other days, though, today is Sept. 7, Harrison’s 33rd birthday. That means there can be no doubt as to where he is: the Abenea school, in highly impoverished Northern Ethiopia. Surrounded by thousands of locals, the American looks incredibly conspicuous and out of place. But Harrison is precisely where he needs to be, doing what he has committed his life to doing. Under the scorching sun of this place, and others like it—places so dry even the ground cracks from thirst—Scott Harrison has just made it rain. WATER A decade ago Harrison was running an event company
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in New York, planning special events for the city’s social elite. But after spending a third of his life climbing the ladders of society and materialism, he found himself in desperate need of change and joined Mercy Ships, a humanitarian organization that provides free medical services to the poorest areas of the world. Aboard the Mercy Ships’ ﬂoating hospitals, doctors provide free medical treatment to those in the most remote regions of the globe. It was in these places that Harrison ﬁrst encountered the incredible poverty and suffering millions face daily, often for one simple reason: lack of clean water. Although it covers 80 percent of the world, more than 1.1 billion people live without access to safe water, with 42,000 losing their lives because of it every week. Ninety percent of them are under the age of 5. These people face a daily ﬁght against disease and infection, which often go unchecked in their communities, spread by the murky, contaminated water they are forced to consume. “A billion people—that’s a big problem,” Harrison says. “What that actually means is that millions of people walk hours each day to get water that makes them sick.”
CHARITY After his two-year stint with Mercy Ships, Harrison’s next step was obvious. “The more I learned about the global water crisis, there was really nothing more pressing that affected the global poor,” he says. “Deciding that I wanted to throw the rest of my life at this, water was sort of the only place to start.” Thus was birthed the idea for Charity:Water, a nonproﬁt organization dedicated to solving the global water problem at its source, by drilling life-giving wells for poor communities. The organization ofﬁcially launched Sept. 7, 2006—Harrison’s 31st birthday. “Seven hundred friends came, and everyone tossed $20 in for a bottle of water,” he says. “We raised $15,000, and we built three wells and ﬁxed three wells in southern Uganda.” Harrison has since held other successful campaigns; last spring Charity:Water partnered with high-end retailer Saks Fifth Avenue, selling bracelets, e-cards and well sponsorships in more than 100 of its stores and raising more than $400,000 in eight weeks. He’s also forged
partnerships with the likes of actress Jennifer Connelly, who lent her face for a public service announcement, and Perry George, director of Hotel Rwanda. Harrison’s quick to share about some of the other individuals who have partnered with Charity:Water to raise money and awareness, such as the 7-year-old who has raised more than $2,000 for a well and the tax accountant who has sold Charity:Water’s famous $20 water bottles during the last two tax seasons, raising $210,000—enough to give 50 villages in Libera clean water. One thing that sets Charity:Water apart from other organizations is that 100 percent of the funds they raise go toward building wells in Africa; there is no skimming off the top. “We wanted to create a way where we could answer the question of how much money actually went to helping people,” he says. “So we created this 100 percent model and basically said I would always give 100 percent of the public’s money to the water project, and we would ﬁnd our administrative income from a separate set of donors, sponsors and foundations.” In total, Harrison and his organization have raised more than $3.5 million, with more than 800 projects underway in 11 countries. Already, they’re closing in on 200 of these projects—which translates to clean water for more than 250,000 people. “It’s a start, a very small start,” he says. “There’s a lot to be done.” SEPTEMBER Perhaps the most successful—and intriguing— fundraising campaign to date, however, is Born in September, an annual event that started in 2007. To celebrate his 32rd birthday—also the ﬁrst anniversary of Charity:Water—Harrison decided to go a rather untraditional route. “We said, ‘Let’s not throw another party for our oneyear anniversary,’” Harrison says, “‘Let’s actually send out invitations to not attend a party and ask everyone to just send in a little bit of money.” He asked for donations of $32, and after only a few weeks more than $59,000 had been raised. Still in September, Harrison then got other people whose birthdays were also in the month to sign up and do the same thing. Ninety did, and together they raised more than $150,000. The money went toward digging wells for three hospitals and one school in Kenya. This year, they’re going even bigger. The goal? To raise $1.5 million—10 times the amount they raised last year. “If 90 people could raise this money, what about 900 people?” Scott says. “Could we do 10 times that?” In April, Harrison visited 33 waterless communities in Ethiopia, creating and posting short ﬁlms of the trip to Charity:Water’s website. The ﬁlms, made to give the public a more intimate look at his Born in September campaign, represented the ﬁrst 33 communities scheduled to receive wells from this year’s campaign. “So that’s our whole focus; we’re building this social network where people can engage in this,” he says. “It’s really the most exciting thing that we’ve done, and that makes it a unique—it’s just proving the power of low-level donations.” 2 At press time, Charity:Water had received $408,000 in matching funds. To ﬁnd out more, go to www.borninseptember.org.
All Is Not Well *
Want to help? Each $5,000 well means new life for an entire village. Find out more at www.charitywater.org.
ONLINE BONUS @ RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM A PHOTO GALLERY OF CHARITY:WATER IN ACTION
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The Pain Behind the Perfection One Woman’s Struggle to Overcome Abuse BY RENEE ALTSON
> When I was just a little girl, I learned quickly how to be afraid of God. I grew up in a seemingly Christian home. My father was a evangelical fundamentalist and devout Bible reader. He covered the walls in his bedroom with handwritten Bible text and commentaries, he taught kindergarten Sunday school at the church and he ensured that I behaved as a proper Christian girl should. I wore dresses, not pants (I didn’t own a set of jeans or shorts), and wasn’t allowed to pierce my ears. Makeup was a mortal sin, and cutting my hair was a sign of rebellion. Movies were simply not acceptable, and Christian rock (but not too hard) was my only acceptable vice. I was at church every time the doors were open, and was so consistently there that I won the perfect Sunday school attendance award eight years in a row. My father stood next to me in the pew, his arm around my waist, holding open the hymnal as we both sang our devotion and our obedience. The rest of the church would nod their approval at his parenthood and my submission, at the way he had taken a broken family and single parenthood and redeemed it so beautifully. The other girls my age would hate me for being “the good girl,” and envy my expensive dresses and fancily braided long hair. But behind all of the show and perfection the others in the church observed was a nightmare beyond belief. My father used God as a weapon: psychologically, emotionally and physically. He would rape me while reciting the Lord’s
Prayer. He would hurt me while singing Christian hymns. His words were knives that sliced through me, words straight from the verses of the Bible: words of wickedness, sinfulness, rebellion, punishment and the promise of hell. I was terriﬁed of upsetting my father, and even more terriﬁed of upsetting God. In many ways, they were one. My father’s earthly disgust with me, his disappointment, his rage, was a reﬂection of how God viewed me as well. To occasionally please my father was a blessed relief, and gave me a slight reprieve from the God who I believed despised me so. But the relief never lasted. Within a moment’s breath of the praise came the ﬁst. The moment I began to think I might actually matter was crushed under yet another condemning scripture or accusation of God. I would lie in my bed at night, after being raped, and ﬁnd myself apologizing to God. I would promise to do whatever God wanted, whatever my father wanted, anything to stop the punishment God was giving me. And yet, nothing changed. My pleas went unheard and ignored. As I grew older, living this way became more difﬁcult. During my formative years, I had no idea who I was. I was convinced I wanted to become an English teacher, never cut my hair or wear makeup, avoid movies and television, marry a nice Christian man, have a family and stay devout to the Church. There were no other options; this was my fate. In fact, for many years it was what I thought I wanted. Life at home grew more difﬁcult and more
abusive. My father continued to justify my suffering through the Bible and words he heard directly from God Himself. He added on an extra bedroom at the home we were living in, and it became necessary for me to go through my father’s bedroom in order to get to my own. This made the incest inevitable; no matter how quiet I tried to be when I arrived home, he was always waiting. During high school I went through a very difﬁcult time of Bible studies and God-pleasing activities. The youth pastor ruled with an iron ﬁst—as an ex-marine, he was well versed in orders and a loud authoritative voice. We went on mission trips and spent our entire summers in a program he devised that included choir tours, mission trips, running a mile a day, memorizing an entire book of the Bible, Bible studies, door-to-door evangelism and more. I decided to attend them, and dutifully went every summer, partly to get away from my father and partly to see if it could actually make me a better person. It didn’t work. I quickly learned to say what the youth pastor wanted to hear, and I perfected a testimony that brought tears to people’s eyes. It was full of lies, but as long as it moved hearts, no one really cared. The few times I did something wrong—the times I didn’t run the mile in the time allotted or didn’t know my Bible verses—the pastor brought out an old heavy wooden board. He would pull down my pants in front of the entire youth group and swat me several times with it while quoting verses about temptation, Jesus’ blood sacriﬁce, the redeeming of wickedness and the ﬁres of hell. The stinging ache of the physical injury was less painful than the crumpling of my heart. I would ﬁll up
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with tears that I couldn’t cry (it wasn’t “Christian”), and my inner soul would feel even more unloved, more unsatisfactory and hopeless. My ache increased. My despair intensiﬁed. Soon I had perfected an outside “Christian girl” with a testimony, an ability to play the harp and a Bible follower. I knew it was the only way I could survive. I was sent to a Christian college, and things did not improve. Run by the same senior pastor and his staff who ran the church, the attitudes and beliefs were the same, even in this institute of higher learning and older students. I would go to class drowning, seeking some way to walk on the waves of the demands and disappointments from God, but always falling underneath, scared and defeated and gasping for air. My hopelessness increased. By this time, I was beginning to doubt and despise a God who would insist that a father have sex with his child, but my self-esteem and utter terror of God made me afraid to really question His “will.” The façade I had worked so hard on began to fade. I ﬁrst suffered my strains of mental illness: depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and anxiety. I could no longer keep myself together, could no longer take the abuse I had known for so long. I wandered desperately from class to class, from teacher to teacher, falling apart at the seams, screaming of thoughts of suicide, seeking a different kind of God, a different kind of life—yet still unable to reveal to anyone my family secret. The “good Christian girl” would never have told those things—even if her life depended on it. One evening a professor came to dinner at our house, saw the way my father and I interacted and the way our two bedrooms were attached, and, being sensitive enough to hear my deep pain underneath my “good Christian” demeanor, said to me in his ofﬁce the next week, “I can’t imagine that something sexual is not going on with you and your father.” I quickly closed my eyes and put a smile on my face. “But we’re a Christian family,” I said, and changed the subject. The professor never brought it up again, but I was terriﬁed. He knew. At the same time, I became even more utterly desperate and uncontrollable. I started talking about suicide with anyone and everyone who would listen, not just with people I trusted. Deep inside I thought this professor had discovered that I was a bad girl—that I wasn’t doing the will of God, and He had judged me appropriately. I was convinced, therefore, that I had no reason to live anymore. I started to wonder if perhaps it hadn’t been my fault from the very beginning—that God had known who I was and insisted on the abuse as punishment. I reached out for help, for conﬁrmation, for anything that would help declare me loved and valuable, for anyone who would dare to believe I was special and I mattered. In those days, you weren’t often told that you really mattered to God. You were told it in a popular quote (at least at my church) that felt manipulative: “God loved you so much He died for you,” and “If you were the only person on earth, Christ would have died for you.” What could I do with that? I didn’t want God to die for me. I didn’t want to matter so much that I caused Him pain and suffering and death. Our monthly communion, passed down the rows as grape juice and a little biscuit, terriﬁed me. This was what God had done to show me I mattered. He wanted me to eat Him and drink His blood to show that I was grateful for His sacriﬁce. But I still didn’t understand the love behind it. I didn’t understand the love of God at all. The school’s response to my desperate reaching out and confusion was to call a meeting in a dark, dusty upper room of the administration building. I sat in a chair, in the middle of a circle composed of all of my current professors and a few more I didn’t have classes with. A professional counselor who worked at the school started off by talking about how badly I wanted attention, how I was telling everyone I was suicidal for attention and how they had reached an agreement they expected everyone to follow. My eyes ﬁlled with tears. I knew there was no hope for me, no way out of this life I was living, no one
listening, no God who was anything like I’d hoped was out there. The counselor went on with words I will never forget. “I am asking that none of you listen to her thoughts of suicide. If she begins to talk like this, inform me immediately. I am insisting that you never talk alone with her in your ofﬁce, in your classroom, even in the hallway. Do not be alone with her ... ever.” I felt I had nobody. I knew that it wasn’t time to react, that crying would give them what they wanted, but I couldn’t help it. I started to sob, and the tears rolled uncontrollably down my face. I howled, noises that came from deep within a broken, hurting girl. I tried to swallow them back, and choked. A box of Kleenex, which sat next to the counselor, was not offered to me, and I pulled my legs up onto the chair and buried my face in my skirt to absorb the teardrops and hide my humiliation. My shame was immense and all-encompassing. I wanted to kill myself then and there. I wanted to curl up and hide from them. “Also,” I heard the counselor say to me as I came back to the moment, “you have to go to therapy in order to stay in school. We will kick you out if we discover you are not going.” Somehow, somewhere, I nodded, and listened as the counselor prayed for me with words I don’t remember. In shock, I watched as my teachers ﬁled out of the room one by one. None of them dared to speak to me or comfort me. Most of them avoided my eyes. We all had been told what to do. Our respective duties and instructions had been laid out. It was the way things were. Even God had agreed. The teachers had been well trained. The relationships I had forged with some of the nicer professors were instantly abolished. They no longer said “Hi” or “How are you?” in passing. My papers were handed back with little comment. I had, to them, become an outline of a body, not a person. Therapy was a disaster. It was a Christian therapist, and because of my father’s frantic obsession with God and Jesus, he was able to talk to the therapist in terms the therapist agreed with. “God’s will,” “wayward child,” “If we confess our sins ...”—all of these were the words my father used. I used words of doubt and despair and depression. It was easy for the counselor to choose my father as the one who was right. I was labeled as disturbed and wanting attention. My suicide talk was simply talk. My problems were a result of not trusting God enough or obeying His Word. I became a shell. Hopeless that my future would ever change, ﬁlling my father’s sexual needs, I didn’t care about anything anymore. The self-injury I had been doing since I was younger increased. The idea of God was nothing more than a horrible man with a giant penis in the sky, a man who loved to punish girls for their disobedience. I felt I would never be loved, and I stopped even hoping for it. I followed the motions of the church and grew numb to the entire purpose of it. To those who were watching, I seemed to “turn around.” My suicidal talk stopped, my grades improved, I never talked to a teacher or administrator, the counselor deemed me “ﬁxed” and I was no longer a troubled child. But I was no longer really anything. All that had mattered in me was beaten, raped and humiliated out of my yearning soul. But I was OK, according to them. And even though my father abused me nearly every night as I tried to sneak quietly through his room to my own, I didn’t care anymore. I deserved it. I was a bad girl. I deserved it, and believed God had condoned it. These events continued for several years, and ﬁnally culminated in the abortion of my father’s child, and a desperate frantic ﬂee across the country to the opposite coast. I was running away from my father, from the church, from my old life and from the God I now hated passionately. But the old God followed me. He was ingrained into my very composition of self. He was the voice of shame and self-hatred. He was constantly judging me, shouting at me regarding my sin, punishing
My father used God as a weapon: psychologically, emotionally and physically.
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me for not being a better “Christian.” I spent ﬁve years running around the country. I lived with a group of Mormons in Utah (experiencing family for the ﬁrst time), a pair of lesbians with patchouli and hemp (who taught me much about grace and stillness, about earth and love), sought to ﬁnd and discover my mother (who had left when I was quite young, and who died homeless in a snow bank only 20 feet from her refuge), and went from Greyhound stop to Greyhound stop, always searching for something I could not deﬁne. Eventually I returned back to my home town. I got a restraining order against my father and his mother, and he was sent to jail for a time. There was no feeling of victory or triumph, though, only a continued emptiness and a furious relationship with God. My father may not have been physically in my life anymore, but I carried him within me. His thoughts echoed through my head; his dogma drove my decisions. He would even whisper how despised I was as I tried to go to sleep at night. In the end, I learned that I had to stop going to church (to any church) to truly ﬁnd the small, still voice of God. I took small, cautious steps toward any kind of belief at all. I began to embrace meditation and mantras, to research other religions and other views of God. I became very ritualistic and very creative. I learned to create meaning out of seemingly insigniﬁcant things. I found meaning in the way a certain rock looked in a stream or a bird’s nest in the top of a tree. While this wasn’t difﬁcult for me, it was a totally new perspective to the way I had dealt with God. It was a God without limits and expectations, a God of creative love and life and hope. I had begun to discover God without the conﬁnes of the dogma and doctrine that had woven itself into the fabric of my being. Not surprisingly, I felt empty as that old God began unraveling its hold on me. I missed the rules and deﬁnitions, the scriptural precepts, and ﬂoundered in a massive sense of wide-open unknowing. I wasn’t sure who I was without this other God. I wasn’t sure I deserved to live or had any purpose. I didn’t know how to let go of what I knew in order to accept what was to come. I started by admitting my emptiness. I’d hold my hands out in the morning and say, “Here I am.” I began to make everyday altars—drawings, collages, stacks of stones, water, sculptures and other kinds of art—to put the unspeakable into a form of expression. I searched for the holy in the little things, and through the people I’d meet on the street. I began to pray to God, hoping He was big enough to handle whatever I needed to use to feel safe. I decided to tear the God of my childhood out of me in a small ritual I designed for myself, and though it didn’t tear that God out for good, it made space for the real One. Because people had been such a devastating inﬂuence on my view of God, they were, for the most part, left out of my search for the real God. I no longer trusted anyone, and I
didn’t let people into my thoughts or heart. I learned the powers of observation and information, and worked out my spirituality by myself. But of course there were some who inﬂuenced that—even though I didn’t want them to nor willingly sought them out. I started walking to a local episcopal church, and it was there that I ﬁrst discovered the NRSV, a Bible which is gender-inclusive. I read that Bible vigorously. The simplest thing, the smallest inclusion, was a treasure. Suddenly I was a part of the Bible, a part of the story. I would sit in church and cry during the scripture reading, and the associate rector often saw me. After a time he approached me, and eventually, as parts of my story unfolded and he responded with compassion and care, he was given a very small piece of my heart. He helped redeem the woman in me who didn’t think she was valued, and the teenager who’d had an abortion. He taught me the depth and meaning of communion—a totally different explanation than I’d heard growing up. I also lived next to a wonderful lesbian couple who taught me a lot about true friendship. I adored them. We would take turns cooking meals, snacking on hummus and tabouli, and just sprawling out on their living room ﬂoor to look out the window at the night
I wasn’t sure who I was without this other God. I didn’t know how to let go of what I knew in order to accept what was to come. sky. We never talked about religion, but we talked much about spirituality. Through their inﬂuence, I learned about the compassionate God, the God who treated all people equally, the God who didn’t punish. I learned what it was like to have true friends. One night I made a suicide attempt, and they were there for me, unaware of what I had done, but noticing they didn’t hear me making noises next door. They sat by my bedside as I came out of the attempt, and offered their friendship, their love and their compassion. There was no judgment from them, and I was able to live with them until they moved away to another state. In April of 2001, I began working with Youth Specialties. It was a wonderful experience, and being able to be so close to Mike Yaconelli and his “Messy Spirituality” was incredibly healing. The company quickly became a family for me, and I started realizing that not all Christians were like the ones I had known growing up. Most of these people were wonderful,
caring, fun-loving, playful and devotional—a combination I had never seen before. This YS family was very important to me throughout the seven years that I worked there. Eventually I found a spiritual director. He started out as a pastor who was keen on noticing God in the little things. I went to him, wondering if he could help me. Soon I realized that he could, but not in the way I had imagined. Spiritual directors are not people who tell you what to do. They help you notice who you are and where you are, and give you permission to choose your own path. I desperately needed that permission. He said very little, but asked questions and listened to my feelings without bias. We slowly grew apart due to a misunderstanding, and I have not spoken with him in a long time. But he was an important part of helping me take a bigger look at who I was and what I believed. My life has still been difﬁcult. I am currently struggling from post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. I have tried electroconvulsive therapy and many psychiatric hospitalizations (six this year alone). I am constantly ﬁghting against the lies and the abuse in my head, sometimes believing them, sometimes able to ﬁght them off. But I am learning to live through hope. Not the big, fancy lightning-splash church version, but the little things: the way the stars look in the darkened sky, the times I overcome the urge to self-injure, the night I am able to sleep without nightmares. I don’t perceive that things will ever be normal or perfect in this lifetime. I’ve stopped expecting it. But I do know that each moment (even the painful ones) contains grace. I do believe God is nothing like the fake, abusive God I grew up with. When I look, I see the real God everywhere: in the homeless, in the disbelieving, in the hurt and wounded, in the arrogant conservative—and sometimes, God even shows up in me. I still struggle daily with doubt and indecision, with fear and despair, with suicidal thoughts and with deep memories. Some days I am so depressed I can’t get out of bed or speak to anyone. This is still a part of who I am. Of where I have come from. Of what I have survived. It’s true, really—I’m stumbling toward faith. It’s not an easy path, and it isn’t a well-traveled one. RENEE ALTSON But I have learned to is the author of Stumbling Toward Faith pray one sentence (Zondervan) and former throughout my days, managing editor for my struggles, my The Journal of Student rage, my sadness, Ministries. She has been my disbelief and blogging online since my confusion. 1997, and currently blogs at www.ianua.org. “I believe. Help Thou, oh God, my unbelief.” 2
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In a State of Flux Mates of State Embraces Change
When Mates of State emerged on the indie-rock
BY ROBERT HAM
scene in 2000, they were something of an anomaly. Their unmistakable, punchy pop sound emerged from a sea of inﬂuences (The Zombies, The Pretty Things) that many of their peers at the time were unwilling to tap into. They used the unusual—though not unheard-of—instrumental combination of drums and keyboards. And the two principal members of the group, Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, were a happily married couple.
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Over the past eight years, the Mates have become key components of the seismic shift taking place in the music world, helping push indie rock into mainstream acceptance with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Spoon and Of Montreal. Like any band worthy of the success they’ve obtained, however, when it came to writing the songs for their highly anticipated ﬁfth album, Re-arrange Us, they both knew it was time for a change. They started with the signature element to the band’s sound—the vintage 1970s organ played by Gardner since the band’s earliest days. They felt, Hammel says, “that that was sounding a bit thin sonically.” In its place, Gardner has taken to the upright piano, which adds a decidedly nostalgic tinge to even the most upbeat numbers. “It was quite a bit of a departure for us,” Hammel says. Gone as well is the strident drive that marked so many of the band’s most memorable songs. In its place is a calm, pensive tone, with a reliance on atmospherics and restrained tempos. It’s in the aching strings that bolster the rolling beat of “Help Help,” and pervade the album’s heartbreaking closing track, “Lullaby Haze”—a rumbling weeper—that beg the desperate question, “Why are you making it harder?” This change in the band’s musical approach coincides with changes in the couple’s lives—particularly their move from Brooklyn to the relatively quiet suburb of Stratford, Conn. While the music evokes the eerie calm of a smaller town, the effect of the move can be found more directly in their lyrical output. Many of the songs found on the record make reference to house and home, but in less-than-idyllic terms. Tracks like “My Only Offer” and “The Re-Arranger” speak of broken families and troubled marriages. Hammel does acknowledge the inﬂuence of the move on these songs, but says much of it spurs from more personal matters going on around the couple’s lives. “When we were working on the album, a lot of relationships in our extended family were breaking up, people going their separate ways,” Hammel says. “It was a real shock to the system.” Elsewhere on the record, Gardner digs into her own past, exploring the mixed emotions of an abusive relationship from high school in the track “Blue and Gold Print.” The album is not without hopeful moments as well, such as the dreamy track “You Are Free,” which, Hammel explains, comes from looking at the end of a relationship from a more reassuring angle. “We took an entirely different spin on it,” he says, “envisioning someone who has just broken up with someone, but moving past being all depressed about it and ﬁnding a newfound freedom and a new life.” Hammel could easily be talking about the freedoms he and his wife feel they can bring to their music. Although some fans have raised their eyebrows quizzically at this deviation, the way Hammel talks about it, there could be a lot more changes afoot for the band’s future. “At this moment, I feel like this could become something of a pattern for us, having us do something different with each record,” he says. It’s a small statement, but one that carries a lot of weight for a band that, for the most part, has kept to their signature sound. But it’s one Hammel can easily make, considering the appreciable level of success they can boast as they enter their 11th year together as a couple and as a band. The two met when they were students at the University of Kansas and were both making their way in the local music scene, each playing guitar and singing in separate bands. Once together, they started an early version of the band with a traditional two guitar/bass/drums lineup—a group that fell apart when the couple decided to move to San Francisco. It was there that Gardner
and Hammel settled into their current sound and quickly made a splash on the local scene with the release of their 2000 debut, My Solo Project. Over the course of three more albums and hundreds of shows across the world, the Mates have built up a sizable fan base, including notable fans like Ira Glass (who asked the two to be the musical act for a touring version of his popular radio show, This American Life) and Carl Newman (erstwhile leader of The New Pornographers who brought the band in to do backup vocals on his upcoming solo album), as well as Jim Eno of Spoon and Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla, who co-produced Re-arrange Us. It’s a fairly typical indie success story, but one that, again, has that unusual element of the couple’s happy marriage mixed in with it, a fact Hammel sounds a little bored talking about (“I feel like our relationship is overplayed,” he says.). But he admits it is crucial to the band’s survival. “One of the reasons we are able to stay level-headed is that we have this sort of checks and balances with each other,” he says. “We support one another creatively and artistically. On the road, when somebody gets tired, the other person will cover for them. That’s the reason we are able to manage it so well.” The same can be said for the couple’s decision to throw children into the mix of their nomadic lifestyle as working musicians. “It’s an untraditional way to raise kids, but we realized that we don’t want to quit our lives as musicians,” he says. “So, we needed to make sure that those two lives can coexist.” To that end, the couple relegates their touring to the summertime, bring nannies along with them on the road and, when they’re at home, work their practice times around school schedules. The duo recently ﬁnished up a lengthy tour that saw them playing the festival circuit, including Lollapalooza, All Points West and Download Fest, with stops along the way in Canada, Spain and throughout the United States. It’s a lot of work for the parents, but Hammel says things have been going smoothly thus far. “There’s always going to be struggles, especially traveling: You’re exhausted, you feel like you need to be home, the club is totally awful and we don’t want to have our kids there,” he says. “There are issues that come up, but you solve them and get through them.” As happy as Hammel is about how well his daughters have adjusted to the world of a touring rock band, he doesn’t think he will encourage them to follow the same path he Website and his wife have taken. “We want to www.matesofstate.com teach our kids everything possible,” MySpace: he says, “and expose them to all www.myspace.com/matesofstate sorts of different skills. To give them For Fans of: a knowledge base so they can make Death Cab for Cutie, Neko Case a decision like that on their own.” On the ﬂipside of that, don’t expect Mates of State to hang up their instruments and settle into the comforts of suburban living, either. In fact, suggest such a thing to him, and the usually even-tempered Hammel gets more than a little riled up: “Music is our lives! Would you consider cutting off both your arms and living like that?” 2
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KNOWING THE TRUTH COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING BY CORENE ISRAEL
When Black Friday rolls around on Nov. 28, it becomes ofﬁcial: Another manic season of holiday shopping has begun. Which means a month-plus of some rather predictable scenes—clothing ﬂying off the rack, credit cards colliding with perfectly wrapped and bowtied gifts, jolly tunes of Old Saint Nick rising above the din of mall chaos.
COLIN FIRTH ACTOR 250 million children work in agriculture—a statistic that didn’t make it into Bridget Jones’ Diary.
PHOTOS BY GREG WILLIAMS
For some, the madness of Christmas shopping is an experience of pure joy. For others, it’s the ultimate nightmare. But for better or for worse, during this time the civilized world as we know it becomes little more than a massive vortex of shoppers, long lines, red-tag sales, bored husbands and carrier bags ﬁlled to the breaking point. But what, exactly, is in those overﬂowing bags? Whether it’s a $60 shirt, the latest iPod accessory or a box of assorted chocolates, the things shoppers snatch up may be more than they bargained for. That little sticker may show where it was made, but reveals nothing beyond that. Who made it? Under what conditions? Were they paid for their labor? All secrets hidden behind a perfect shell. Or maybe not so secret. These days, news of sweatshop or environmental scandals is more available than ever. And with scandal comes change— or at least good PR. But ultimately, nothing really changes until the average consumer changes. “When we pull our wallet out every day, we are affecting the world,” says Matthew Sleeth, author of Serve God, Save the Earth. “We have to be mindful in
the purchase of anything—some gasoline companies are better than others, and it’s up to us to try and ﬁgure that out. Some tennis shoes are made by little children who are locked up in factories, and some are made by people who get a fair wage—and that means it’s more difﬁcult to buy. Our relationship to spending changes dramatically [when] we realize we’re just stewards of that money, and that’s our way of inﬂuencing the world for better or worse.” Across the world, the numbers are unsettling: According to the International Labour Organization, the branch of the United Nations aimed at eliminating human trafﬁcking, more than 12.3 million people around the world are forced into labor, with 2.4 million-plus trafﬁcked as commodities, generating $32 billion in proﬁts a year. It is estimated that half of these individuals are under the age of 18. Sweatshop stories may not be anything new, but many Americans are not—or choose not to be—aware of how closely their dollars and decisions are linked with some of the greatest abuses going on globally. Kathie Lee Gifford set off a ﬁrestorm of public outrage in 1996 when news leaked that her
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line of clothing, carried by Wal-Mart, was made by children as young as 13 in South American sweatshops. Twelve years later, Gifford’s faux pas seems like a distant memory, but today many of the same abuses are going on in factories all around the globe. And individuals who continue purchasing from these companies—often wellknown apparel companies such as Nike, Gap and Levi’s—sometimes unknowingly fund the offense. “There’s one aspect of labor around the world that continues to, if not shock me, at least appall me—it is the large amount of workers who are perpetually in situations where they are being forced into labor,” says T.A. Frank, a former sweatshop inspector whose work took him to the factories of big-name companies all over the world, where he witnessed a wide spectrum of abuses, from dirty and overcrowded factory ﬂoors to zero ventilation in rooms thick with the smell of glue. “Slave labor sounds so extreme. But it is slave labor if you are not free to leave your employment, if you’re somehow trapped and illegally kept doing something you don’t want to do, for wages you don’t want to be earning that way.”
Changing Their Ways NIKE BEFORE: Controlling 49 percent of the athletic footwear market (together with Adidas), Nike employed 600,000-plus workers in its factories across the world. Past complaints: 77-hour workweeks, a ban on unions and unsafe work environments (workers have lost limbs). NOW: Nike has pledged to resolve workplace abuses and has adopted a transparency policy, publishing its corporate and social responsibility (CSR) report, which includes in-depth information on its factories.
GAP BEFORE: In 1999, factory workers on the island of Saipan sued the corporation over poor working conditions. Gap (and other companies) eventually paid $20 million for abuses including withheld wages and forced overtime. NOW: Gap admitted its abuses in a “mea culpa” CSR report, and subsequently canceled contracts with 136 factories due to poor working conditions and low pay.
LEVI STRAUSS BEFORE: Allegations against this denim giant included low wages and ﬁring workers who were in unions in Haiti and Mexico. NOW: After their abuses were discovered, Levi admitted to the offenses and started working with the contractor to allow membership in unions. They now also use organic cotton in some of their apparel. Source: www.organicconsumers.org
During one particular inspection, at a blouse factory in Jordan that employed Bangladeshi workers, Frank discovered the employees had not been paid in weeks—and when they did get paid, they were not receiving the amount they had been promised. Furthermore, having conﬁscated their passports, the factory owner was effectively keeping the workers prisoner in the building. “This is a very common thing, to have your passports taken by the factory owner, because you’re not allowed, in a lot of these countries, to go out without papers,” Frank says. “So if they went out without papers they could be arrested.” In 2007 the British paper The Guardian broke out a story about a nine-months-pregnant woman, employed at an Indian factory supplying Gap, who was denied immediate leave after she went into the labor. After being forced to ﬁll out paperwork for an hour and a half—“I was in such pain, I could hardly stand up,” she said—she was ﬁnally allowed out of the building; once outside, she collapsed before giving birth in the street, where her baby died. Though a Gap representative in India denied some of the facts of the story, U.S. representatives did not dispute the woman’s charges. “I feel angry,” she said. “They gave me money, but nothing will bring the baby back. But I need the job. If I have no job, I have no food.” Even high-end designer labels have not been able to escape the critical eye of human rights watchdogs. Last summer Prada came under scrutiny for employing Chinese immigrant workers in deplorable sweatshop conditions. The famous rich pebbled and buttery leather handbags, which sell for thousands in posh boutiques and department stores, were being made by Chinese workers in the Italian luxury brand’s Tuscan shops, working 12-hour days while earning just 3 euros (approximately $4.40) an hour. Telling people not to buy sweatshop products sold in Wal-Mart is one thing, but admonishing people to recant their afﬁnity for Nike or Gap, or drop their Prada addiction, is another entirely, especially for a generation of twenty- and thirtysomethings commonly branded as the most self-entitled, career-drive, status-obsessed generation ever. What next, give up their designer jeans and shades? To ask that question would be missing the point entirely, says Gawain Kripke, director of policy and research at Oxfam America, part of Oxfam International, an organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of the world’s poor. The decision to be a responsible consumer means more than going through the motions of changing the way you spend money—it means understanding the way consumer habits affect other lives around the world. “Everything we do has an impact on other people. At a minimum, there’s a biblical injunction—do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” he says. “Something like a billion people live on less than a dollar a day. Something like a billion people don’t have enough food to eat. That argues that maybe we have an even stronger sense of obligation to
take the case of our brothers and sisters around the world into our own lives and take actions that would help them. The products we choose to consume are a part of that spectrum of actions, and many of the poorest people in the world are involved in making things we consume.” People like Kripke and organizations like Oxfam are setting a new standard for what is needed in order to effect monumental lasting change. Partnering with more than 3,000 local organizations, Oxfam works to provide justice for those in poverty, on the premise that every human being has the right to certain basic elements: the right to a livelihood; access to basic necessities like clean water, education and medical aid; and the right to have their voice be heard and respected. With the rise in awareness of these human rights abuses, even celebrities are getting involved and making their voices heard. Chris Martin of Coldplay has built a reputation as an outspoken advocate of fair trade, and Radiohead has long been known for their pro-environmental stances and campaigns against slave labor. Earlier this year, Radiohead partnered with MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafﬁcking) to raise awareness of those who are sold into slavery and forced to work in terrible conditions around the world. Together they produced a video for the band’s track “All I Need,” off their album In Rainbows, featuring two parallel stories: One follows the day-to-day of a boy in the West, and the other a boy working in a sweatshop in the East. “I think if [the campaign] does one good thing it would be to make this concept of slavery less taboo. If they can make it something that is OK for us to talk about, and for politicians in the West to actually accept that this is an issue, well, then we’re doing a good thing,” Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke said in an interview with MTV. “If you are in the West, it’s a luxury to be able to talk about the importance of human rights for everybody. I think it’s important for everyone in the West to understand the consequences of our economic activity. You must be aware of the level of exploitation that’s going on. It’s part of our Western life, and one we should accept responsibility for. There’s no such thing as a free lunch or a free ticket to another country.” Martin and Yorke are just two of a slew of celebrities—including Antonio Banderas, Snow Patrol, Minnie Driver, Michael Stipe, Colin Firth and Alanis Morrisette—who have partnered with Oxfam to raise awareness of the injustices in global agricultural industries. In a series of visually striking photos, the stars are shown drenched in everything from chocolate to coffee to wheat—commodities often associated with unfair trade—to symbolize how farmers in poor countries get “dumped on” by wealthier nations. “We were trying to demonstrate, visually, the plight of many poor farmers in developing countries, who are facing markets that are distorted by the policies of powerful people in
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“‘Slave labor’ sounds so extreme. But it is slave labor if you are not free to leave your employment, if you’re illegally kept doing something you don’t want to do, for wages you don’t want to be earning that way.” —T.A. Frank
MINNIE DRIVER ACTRESS & MUSICIAN That silk shirt you love so much may have been made with slave labor—how do you like them apples?
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“That’s what the mindful Christian life is—we shouldn’t just be bobbing along in society. We should be setting the tone for it.” —Matthew Sleeth
ALANIS MORRISETTE MUSICIAN Isn’t it ironic we love wheat, but don’t know what happens to the people who grow it across the world?
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rich countries,” Kripke says. “In the United States and Europe, we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on subsidies for agriculture production, and often producing massive oversupply, which is then dumped on developing country markets. It was an eye-catching way to sort of be able to tell the story of how agriculture is important for poor people and how agriculture and trade policies are hurting poor people.” Perhaps more symbolically, the stars who partook in the Dumped On campaign were from all areas of the world, not simply recognizable Western A-list celebrities, highlighting the strength that can be found in unity. “You really saw a global outpouring of interest from celebrities, but also celebrities from developing countries—people you might have never heard of but who are huge in India or West Africa, singers and actors who wanted to be a part of it,” Kripke says. “We created a type of global celebrity platform for an important message.” Campaigns like these offer glimpses of hope, as does the groundswell of companies and individuals directing their time, ﬁnances and talent toward creating things that beneﬁt workers. Ultimately, however, real change will require more than a few companies venturing to make a positive, lasting difference. Despite companies like Nike, Gap and Disney working to clean up their image, the abuses are still rampant. So what is the solution? Teun Van de Keuken had an answer. He sued himself. The Dutch journalist of a popular national TV program ate 19 chocolate bars one day in 2002 before turning himself in to the police. His crime? Aiding and abetting the chocolate industry in their use of child slaver labor. In knowingly consuming chocolate tainted by child slave labor, Van de Keuken argued, he was guilty of participating in the crime. Though the police initially did not take him seriously, the case eventually went to court, where, ﬁve years later, an Amsterdam judge decided not to prosecute Van de Keuken but agreed that serious abuses existed in the chocolate industry. “It’s so strange that we in our rich Western society eat our chocolate without thinking about it,” Van de Keuken later told Time magazine. “We just want to pay the lowest possible price, and in another part of the world, these people are forced to work in the most horriﬁc circumstances.” Child trafﬁcking in the cocoa industry is relatively unheard of in a world where social justice is rapidly gaining momentum. But the problem is extensive in West Africa, and in particular the Ivory Coast, which alone has an estimated 18,000 cocoa farms and is responsible for almost 40 percent of the world’s supply of chocolate. The allure of a job on a cocoa farm is strong for poor migrant children looking to make some money—who are then forced into intensive labor, often never seeing a penny of the money they were promised.
“The promise of a good job on the cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast is very tempting for children from Mali and Burkina Faso,” says Phil Lane of Stop the Trafﬁk, a global grassroots movement dedicated to stopping the trafﬁcking of individuals around the world. “[In those countries] in certain seasons there is little work and a tradition of migration. The children have to pick the cocoa beans, work 12 hours a day, with little food and rest, unprotected when using pesticides or machetes and no pay—these are described as the worst forms of child labor under International Labour Organization Convention 182.” The issue is further complicated by farmers who freely admit they withhold pay from child workers but say there is nothing they can do about it. “I cannot afford adult workers. Children I can afford,” one farmer said in an interview for the Dutch ﬁlm Warzone. “When you do not get enough for the cocoa, you can’t even pay the children. When you go to the airport, the cocoa buyers do not give you a good price because they say that they do not get a good price from Paris. So what should I say? You Westerners decide everything, so I ask you: Help us. Help us gain enough to pay our workers. Now we keep getting children from Burkina Faso to work on the farms. We cannot do otherwise.” In 2001, Representative Eliot Engel and Senator Tom Harkin passed an amendment requiring all chocolate sold in the United States to bear a tag showing it was free of child slave labor. The chocolate industry lobbied against the ruling, and the two sides eventually settled on a protocol requiring the chocolate industry to end the worst forms of child labor by July 2005. When the date rolled around, however, the industry hadn’t fulﬁlled their promise. The deadline was extended to July 2008—which they also missed. The problem, Lane says, is that proﬁt-driven companies only out to improve their bottom line are only too happy to make excuses for why they can’t change their practices. “Often, companies will hide behind the fact that they don’t know where the beans come from in order to plead that there is nothing that they can do,” he says. “Ignorance is bliss; the problem can go away. The point is, however, that they should know, and they can know. In particular, if they source from a cooperative, then the whole supply chain is much more traceable.” He points to Royal Verkade, a popular chocolate maker in the Netherlands, who in July made a landmark decision to go fair trade; starting in the fall, they began using 100 percent fair-trade cocoa and sugar in their products. This is no small victory: That simple decision by Verkade means a 20 percent increase of fair-trade cocoa beans sold on the global market. “What Royal Verkade did was a huge step forward,” Lane says. “We hope that other national companies that are afﬁliated with Verkade will follow their example.” The same mindset needs to extend to all industries and companies involved in practices that exploit human lives, according to Kripke.
direct *impact Fair trade can drastically improve global standards of living—but what exactly does that mean? The numbers:
+ $2.6 Billion Amount of total fair-trade sales in 2006
+ 93% Growth In the global fair-trade cocoa sector in 2006. In 2006, coffee grew by 53%, tea by 41% and bananas by 31%
+ 800,000+ Households (approximately 5 million people) who earn a living from fairtrade production
+ 2 Cents Amount farmers on conventional farms receive from the average $3 latte (as compared to …)
+ 20 Cents Amount of social premium paid on top of the per-kilo price to fair-trade-certiﬁed coffee farmers for organic coffee, according to Fairtrade Labeling Organization standards
+ $13 Billion Total amount required to provide basic education and nutrition in all developing countries www.fairtradefederation.org
“It’s certainly possible to certify slavery-free [products],” he says. “It’s always an issue of whether the company cares enough—if it’s important to a company that their [products] be produced by people who aren’t in servitude, the market will make it possible.” Moreover, Sleeth says, that doesn’t take the responsibility away from the consumer. “I think with us being the big consumers on the planet, we have enormous control over those things,” he says. “I’ve seen how things that were really hard to get ahold of 10 years ago—for example, fair-trade coffee—now you can [get at] any grocery store, and it’s always the pioneers who say, ‘I’m willing to pay more, I’m willing to do more and I’m willing to ask more from the company I’m buying from’ who end up being the culture setters, the trendsetters in society. That’s what the mindful Christian life is—we shouldn’t just be bobbing along in society. We should be setting the tone for it.” “You know, the goal isn’t to beat Nike,” Kripke adds. “It’s to make Nike want to be a better
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company by showing them the way. And part of the way to show them is making decisions about your consumer actions.” Even if that means shelling out a few more bucks. Fair-trade chocolate, coffee and other products—as well as those that are recycled, organic or sustainable—at times necessarily command a higher price due to a structure that protects the workers, regardless of the ups and downs of the American economy. But the cost shouldn’t be a deterrent, Sleeth says; there are other ways around it.
> Recommended Viewing Trade LIONS GATE > In this brutally
revealing and graphic drama, a Polish tourist and a 13-year-old Mexican girl, Adriana, are kidnapped in Mexico City and forced to endure abuse and rape at the hands of their captors. While Adriana’s brother, Jorge, attempts to rescue her, he meets Ray (Kevin Klein), a police ofﬁcer driven by a loss of his own, and the two embark on a journey to ﬁnd Adriana before she is sold.
Black Gold SPEAK IT FILMS > For those who drink
their morning cup of java without ever giving a thought to where the coffee beans came from, Black Gold will serve as an eye-opening jolt of reality. The movie follows one man in his quest to save 74,000 Ethiopian coffee farmers from bankruptcy by paying them a fair price for their beans—and the complex layers of challenges he faces as he takes on the major players of this $80 billion industry.
“Take coffee,” he says. “I’m personally not a coffee drinker, but I’m going to guess that it probably costs 50 percent more to get fair-trade coffee—but I would say it would be better to drink 50 percent less.” Sleeth is not alone. According to Co-op America, surveys taken by three separate research organizations since 1995 have consistently shown that most people are willing to pay up to 28 percent more for an item if they know it wasn’t produced in a sweatshop. The bottom line, Kripke says, is that the decision to become a responsible consumer is an intentional one. “It’s about choices,” he says. “Most people have the ﬂexibility
in their budgets to buy fair trade because they buy other things they don’t need as much. Saying fair trade or organic is too expensive is really saying that you’re not prioritizing it.” Sleeth acknowledges that the choice to be a responsible consumer requires effort and persistence. “The right thing to do, according to Jesus, is never the easy thing. It’s never the most convenient or expedient thing; it’s always a little more difﬁcult. Christianity demands something that the world would never ask of you.” So what does this mean for shoppers come Christmastime? When they hit up the mall, unless they patronize self-labeled fair-trade shops, can they know which shirts were made in sweatshops and which weren’t? Not likely, says Frank: “If they want to stay away from clothes sewn in miserable conditions, then they should probably go naked for the season!” In Kripke’s opinion, the situation is not quite as drastic as that. Though the market may still cater to irresponsible factory owners, the tide is quite certainly shifting. “[Fair trade] is still tiny in the overall market, but the growth has been explosive, both in Europe and the United States,” he says. “I think the rate is 45 or 50 percent a year. People tend to be favorable when they hear about it. There’s real hunger for taking actions that have social justice implications by consumers.” “I’ve been seeing a big change,” Sleeth adds. “When people are presented with this biblical sort of way and you read the verses of the Bible that support a mindful way of consuming, churches and people who are led by an ethos of biblical living change really fast, and it’s not just talk— they actually dig in and look,” he says. There are plenty of things individuals can do to remain cognizant as they shop. Things as simple as getting online and doing some research, asking some questions and ﬁnding organizations that value the lives of their workers—ultimately, understanding that the choices they make with their money matters. Countless stores—many of them with an online presence—offer unique, wellcrafted items in every category and price range that are fair-trade, sustainable, organic and the like, and many of these same websites are a rich goldmine of information, news and tips on how people can make an impact. Teun Van de Keuken has created Tony’s Chocolonely, a line of certiﬁed slave-free chocolates; the website also tells Van de Keuken’s story and gives the audience the opportunity to participate in the ﬁght. Fair-trade and ecofriendly items are also sold in mainstream markets, tagged to let buyers know the history of the product and where proﬁts go. More and more organizations are also allowing people to purchase an experience or an intangible item, with proceeds beneﬁting the underprivileged. Oxfam’s newest campaign, Oxfam America Unwrapped, offers a whole slew of symbolic gifts for the holiday season—a cow, for example, or a water puriﬁer—with a card going
toward the recipient explaining that the gift was purchased in their honor, with funds going toward creating a better life for someone in need. “We live in such a material abundance that people really hardly need gifts. And it truly is the thought that counts,” Kripke says. “It’s a way to give a gift but have the real value go to people in developing countries.” Whether individually or as a group, consumers can take a stand. As futile as the act may seem, when people write to local, state or national government informing them of what they, as consumers, will and will not stand for, it gets noticed. “Shops will store [fair-trade products] when customers are asking,” Lane says. “Shopkeepers might be surprised to hear what is going on. A lot of people just have no idea of the horror of trafﬁcking going on. As I asked in one supermarket whether they stored slave-free chocolate, the response was, ‘Slave-free? No idea. You might have a look at the diet products.’ Sugar-free, fat-free, slave-free.” It’s important that consumers do their homework and know what they are getting into if they decide to take further action. Boycotts, for example, are tricky to pull off and are a somewhat controversial tool of leverage. The common thought in America is that boycotting products made with forced labor is the morally correct thing to do, but it would almost certainly prove detrimental to a population facing few or no other opportunities to generate an income. “It’s important to remember that these jobs, as bad as they are, are still pretty important for the people who have them,” Kripke says. “The better strategy is to engage in reform rather than boycott.” Frank, however, sees the potential beneﬁts of a boycott done right. “Boycotts can work, so I’m not against them. I’m not against the pressure they create,” he says. “I really think that when you’re talking about the very worst factories, these are not jobs we should be unhappy about anybody losing. If somebody is breathing glue all day and it’s killing them, I just don’t accept the argument that they were getting paid better there than they got paid on their farm.” Ultimately, being a conscientious consumer isn’t only about fair trade. It’s about refusing to fund—or be a part of—any practice that is contrary to the global good, whether it’s a product that is manufactured in an eco-damaging way or an ad campaign that commodiﬁes a person by selling the ﬂesh. Sleeth has a radically simple idea. “I think in general, we need to all buy less,” he says. “Our whole mindset has been growth—more, bigger, better—and I think that deﬁnition of wealth is changing for us.” He recounts a church in Lexington, Ky., that pooled together Christmas money they would have spent on buying gifts. “Together, they came up with $200,000, which they then used to drill water wells in Afghanistan,” Sleeth says. “That stuff lasts forever. Most of us can’t remember what we got for Christmas two years ago.”
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CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE
Sick of all the generic, unoriginal, overpriced ﬂuff you see at the mall? Fret not. This Christmas, we’re going to help you give something that makes a positive difference. Here are 50 unique, eco-friendly, fairtrade or sustainable gifts for everybody on your list.
01. Flybrary Bookshelf $26 www.uncommongoods.com This bookshelf with a twist has metal strips that clamp onto books and allow them to lie horizontally, creating an intriguing shelf space. 02. Atomic Bonsai Kit $20 www.wishingﬁsh.com An evergreen alternative to wilting foliage, this recycled cardboard bonsai plant can be pruned into unique forms.
03. The Ethical Travel Guide $20.05 www.amazon.com With the mindset that tourism should always beneﬁt local people, this guide has resources for trips to 60+ destinations. 04. Doodlebook Frame $16.50 www.lumens.com Channel your inner Picasso with this sketchbook that has a 4 x 6 cutout in the middle to accommodate pictures.
05. Recycled Football Watch $72 www.thegreenloop.com When entire weekends of watching football are not enough for you, strap on this watch, sourced from old footballs.
06. Wooden LED Clock $49.99 www.sourcingmap.com This wooden clock displays a digital LED readout, seemingly from nowhere, and comes with alarm capabilities. 07. Simple Shoes $55 www.simpleshoes.com Does she need new ﬂats? Choose something cute and comfy—and made from eco-friendly materials.
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08. EcoTools: 5-Piece Brush Set $14.99 www.ulta.com Beauty products are known for their hazardous impact on the environment. Not these makeup brushes, with bamboo handles and bristles made of natural cotton and hemp. 09. Napkin Catch $19 www.joshjakus.com These recycled placemats have a cutout that folds into a handy napkin ring—no more having to search for missing rings. Genius!
10. D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself Deck $16.95 www.chroniclebooks.com Bored with your bedroom decor or your wardrobe? Here are 25 ideas that will inspire you to make your own shirts, invitations, wall graphics, stationary and gift wrap.
11. Artala Can $16 www.umbra.com These cans are made from a bio-degradable plastic and are seriously cool-looking. Say goodbye to that old gray rubber bin. 16
12. Peace Gospel Buffalo $500+ www.peacegospel.org Give a water buffalo in their name. Proﬁts from the animal’s milk output will fund education and orphan care for impoverished South Asians. 13. Gathered Together ‘09 Calendar $18 www.fredﬂare.com Right in time for the new year, this crafty calendar is themed around “keeping aﬂoat, on water and in spirit.” Made from recycled paper and vegetable-based inks.
14. Hemp H2O Mini Pack $38 www.hempmania.com Replace your ratty old backpack with this richly hued mini-pack, made of natural hemp ﬁbers.
15. Coffee Cuffs $66 www.contexture.ca/bentwood These sleek, reusable wooden cuffs, made from reclaimed materials, double as a cool bracelet. 16. Catchall Basket $10 www.btcelements.com These baskets are made from nothing but grass and potato chip bags gathered from the streets of Nepal. 17. Worldchanging $21.83 www.amazon.com nearly every Worldchanging covers environmental base, offering unique tips on how to go green while also discussing the newest eco-friendly technologies.
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18. Recycled Record Coasters $20 www.ecoist.com These one-of-a-kind vinyl record coasters were created from original records. 19. iPod Nano Case $43 www.45ipodcases.com Protect your nano in a case made out of old cassette tapes for a retro throwback.
20. Bike Chain Card Holder $20 www.uncommongoods.com A cardholder sourced from old bicycle chains make for an unstuffy way to display your oh-so-important business cards. 21. I Am Not a Paper Cup $18.98 www.ochelly.com Forcoffeeaddicts:microwave-safeporcelain cups that can be reused day after day.
22. Eco ‘brella $30 www.totes-isotoner.com Next time it rains, stay dry with an umbrella made of bamboo and recycled materials.
23. Black Cat Flashlight $10 www.uncommongoods.com This feline ﬂashlight requires no batteries— simply hand-pump for light. Plus, the LED lights never need to be replaced. 24. Candywrapper Clutch $49 www.vivaterra.com For a splash of color, accessorize with this earth-friendly candywrapper clutch.
25. Elephant Dung Products $3.99+ www.rainbowgifts-usa.com This stationary is made of recycled elephant dung; proﬁts go back to the elephants and their caretakers who are losing jobs due to technological advances. 26. Clocky $50 www.nandahome.com Get out of bed on the ﬁrst beep. If you hit snooze, Clocky wheels away and hides, forcing you out from under the covers.
27. MIO Beehive Softbowl $39 www.2Modern.com These wool bowls were created using less than 10% of the energy needed in the production of comparable ceramic pots. 28. Endangered Species Chocolate $8.50 www.chocolatebar.com Bite into fair-trade treats that also raise awareness about endangered animals.
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One of the Five Best Music Programs in the Country
© 2008 Full Sail, Inc.
- Rolling Stone Magazine
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29. TOMS Shoes $42+ www.tomsshoes.com For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS gives a pair to a child in need.
30. Orphan Sponsorship $25/month www.peacegospel.org Sponsor a child at a South Asian orphanage (and plant veggies in the their garden). 31. Non Planner Datebook $20 www.fredﬂare.com Made with recycled paper and soy-based ink, this planner is undated, meaning you can start the journal whenever you want.
33 32 31
32. Yesterday’s News Pencils $10 www.fredﬂare.com For the kid in you: 12 colored pencils made with recycled Chinese newspapers. 33. Baby Grobal $12.75 www.delight.com This self-watering system reminds you when to nourish your plant, and the pot does the rest of the work for you. 34. Chesapeake Bay Candles $9.99 www.chesapeakebaycandle.com Reﬂect and relax with the gently wafting scent of these natural soy candles.
35. Mixtape USB $19.99 www.wishingﬁsh.com Go old-school with these mixtape USB ﬂash drives—a great way to share 60 minutes of music with a friend. 36. Self-powered Radio $35 www.mxyplyzyk.com All you need is elbow grease to charge the internal batteries on this radio—also an alarm clock and a powerful ﬂashlight. 37. Tony’s Chocolonely $44+ www.chocoloneley.com Savor the rich taste of chocolates made strictly from fair-trade cocoa beans.
38. Earthopoly $24.95 www.lateforthesky.com Play Earthopoly, and buy properties and collect carbon credits— then trade them in for fresh air. 39. Mikado Bag $8.50 www.envirosax.com This beautiful waterproof bag is made from natural materials. A portion of proﬁt goes toward environmental causes.
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There’s a Bethel Seminary student who started a wilderness camp. Wild idea? Not to the kids who are encountering the God of creation for the ﬁrst time. 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.
Get ready to go!
9/17/08 3:21:39 PM
40. Sun Jar $40 www.elsewares.com The solar-powered cell and rechargeable battery give you ﬁve hours of natural light.
41. Yes to Carrots Products $9.99+ www.yes-to-carrots.com These face, body, hand, hair and lip care products are made from fruits and veggies. 42. EcoJot Journal $20 www.barnesandnobles.com No new trees were used in the creation of this journal, made with 100% recycled paper and vegetable-based ink and glue.
43. HYmini $49.99 www.hymini.com This universal charger/adaptor borrows from the sun and the wind to charge itself. Charges cell phones, iPods and the like.
44. Fashionably Folksy Owl $24 www.nightowlpapergoods.com These cards, made of recycled birchwood, are perfect for just about any occasion. 45. Keep Calm and Rock On $16.99 www.theposterlist.com Find a wicked variety of posters and other wall art at ThePosterList.com.
46. Kikoy Covered Book $10.99 www.amaniafrica.org This beautiful notebook is made by Amani ya Juu, a “sewing-marketing-training project for marginalized women in Africa.” 49
47. Scratch Note Set $16 www.zanisa.com Unleash your inner artist with this scratch note set made from 100% recycled card stock.
48. Oxfam America Unwrapped $18+ www.oxfamamericaunwrapped.com Give to a cause and buy a symbolic gift; the money beneﬁts those living in poverty. 49. Winepocket $29 www.joshjakus.com Deliver that perfect vintage wine in this case, made from leftover factory fabric. 50. RELEVANT Subscription $12 www.relevantmagazine.com/gogreen The ultimate gift: a year’s subscription to RELEVANT, a goldmine of wonderfulness, all printed on recycled paper!
84 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
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RELEVANThillsong_AdTemplate_08.indd 1 RELEVANT_AdTemplate_08.indd 1
18/9/08 2:40:04 PM 9/19/08 4:09:59 PM
THE MUSIC, BOOKS AND MOVIES YOU NEED TO CHECK OUT
COLD WAR KIDS LOYALTY TO LOYALTY (DOWNTOWN)
> “The devil’s in the details, he’s got your gold watch and chain,” Nathan Willett sings on the new Cold War Kids release, Loyalty to Loyalty, an amazing sophomore outing that combines literate songwriting with a keenly attuned musical sense. On the ﬁrst single, which they leaked on purpose as an in-studio performance, Willett has a line about people reaching behind them to see if they can ﬁnd a spine (on “Something Is Not Right With Me”). On “Avalanche in B,” it becomes increasingly obvious that their debut, Robbers & Cowards, was not an anomaly: There’s this axiomatic Radiohead piano part (and, let’s be clear: California native Willett sounds almost exactly like English-born Thom Yorke) and a hanging-on-every-word lyrical structure. “Relief” bookmarks nicely with “Highly Suspicious” off the latest My Morning Jacket, with its goofy synth part and anachronistic Prince impression. But listen closely to the slower songs like “On the Night My Love Broke Through” and how Jonnie Russell ﬁlls in all the gaps with intricate guitar and how Willet makes seemingly out-of-place piano mash-ups sound like they were always supposed to be there. Sure, Loyalty is darker at times, and does point a ﬁnger (there’s a lot of sarcasm about privacy on the opening song), but it’s still a fun ride from open stanza to closing power chord.
OF MONTREAL SKELETAL LAMPING (POLYVINYL)
TV ON THE RADIO DEAR SCIENCE (4AD)
> Insufferably complex. That’s how you
> If you don’t hear something you like
might describe Kevin Barnes, a musical
on the new TV on the Radio, their third
oddity who takes his eighth release in a
full release, keep listening. There are so
rather spurious new direction. Skeletal
many musical colors you’re bound to
Lamping is, in fact, a multilayered story
ﬁnd one you connect with. “Stork & Owl”
about his false persona—an African
is a muddy, meandering take on a Bloc
American who has had several sex
Party-style ballad, with Gregorian chants
changes. If that’s not weird enough
and crazy ﬂuttering strings. “Family Tree”
for you, just try listening to the music.
is equally quaint and relatively somber,
Lamping reminds us of a bad Andy
a song that will probably end up on the
Warhol movie from the ’70s with a
soundtrack to some soapy-but-off-kilter
dreamy funkadelic backbone, falsetto
romantic comedy by LionsGate Films.
improvisations and lava-lamp synths. “For
When the guys in the band have massive
Our Elegant Caste” hits a John Legend
beards and names like Tunde Adebimpe
vibe at ﬁrst, slides effortlessly into John
(vocals) and Kyp Malone (guitar), it’s hard
Lennon mode midsong and then passes
to form any clear expectations. (Guitarist
for some weird Prince/Stevie Wonder
David Sitek produced Anywhere I Lay My
amalgamation, marking the ﬁrst and
Head, the Scarlett Johansson release
only time those artists will be mentioned
from earlier this year, but Dear Science
in the same sentence. The ﬁnal song
shares absolutely nothing in common with
comes to a screeching halt as the “groovy
that more folky affair.) The band deﬁnitely
ninjas” take over for a moment and you
keeps the funk alive on songs like “Red
think, I have just heard what the Beatles
Dress.” And how about that “Non-Musical
would have done if they had been born
Silence” number? Wow, what a melody.
in 1985 and took way more drugs.
86 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
sit the new RELEVANTstore.com to see other staff picks.
9/25/08 6:20:14 PM
MEET YOUR NEW GRAPHIC
DESIGNER BITE INTO COLD ORANGE MEDIA FRESH-SQUEEZED DESIGN FOR LIFE AND MINISTRY.
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MUSIC/// DENISON WITMER
CARRY THE WEIGHT (MILITIA GROUP) > With his meandering and myopic style, Denison Witmer is folksier, less orchestrated and probably a little more depressed than Sufjan Stevens—a one-time touring partner who played on his last release from 2005. A more buoyant Witmer offers up confessional songs like “Chesapeake Watershed”—which references home life and insomnia—and the title track, where he admits he’s “not ashamed to say I don’t know anymore.” “Song of Songs” breaks into full-on Simon and Garfunkel mode and gets a little humdrum, but this Philadelphia songwriter can’t help adding subtle grunge undertones (see “If You Are the Writer”) that loosen and liven up his acoustic patternmatching style. On some songs, there’s a painstakingly beautiful female vocal part—thanks to Michigan singer/songwriter Rosie Thomas—that accomplishes the same goal as the grungy bits, but you never really get the impression that Witmer wants to wake you from a nap. He’d rather just keep you right on the edge of dreaming and being fully alive.
SARA GROVES O HOLY NIGHT (INO)
THE DARK ROMANTICS HEARTBREAKER (LUJO)
> Most of us know that if Sara Groves
> Depression, despair, darkness. The
sang the ingredients from a Kraft
only cure is to wrap yourself in the
Macaroni and Cheese box or the
warm cocoon of The Dark Romantics, a
last John McCain speech with no
rebirth of sorts from former members
accompaniment whatsoever, it would
of Denison Marrs and Party People.
still make us weep with joy. O Holy
Songwriting tends to be light and ﬂuffy
Night, the best Christmas CD to own
on most songs, yet this second release
even when Christmas is over, mixes
oozes with sedate orchestration and
a batch of originals (“To Be With
lush keyboard interchanges. There’s
You”) with yuletide peacekeeping
nothing too salacious, and they can
dirges we all love (“Midnight Clear”).
play off the bats-in-the-belfry themes
Musically, Groves follows the Bebo
with both vim and vigor. For example,
Norman recipe of making a bright
on “Death of You,” it almost seems like
pop song without all the trappings of
ghosts from the Addams Family will jump
traditional Nashville song creation. The
up from the ﬂoor and scare you, or that
authenticity shines as bright as a certain
someone might start cackling.“ It’s like
northern star, mixing sweeping strings
the Haunted House ride at Disney World:
and thin-ﬁnger guitar strumming.
incredibly fun and never overly scary.
9/29/08 9:41:28 AM
2 A RELEVANT FAVORITE
DEERHUNTER MICROCASTLE (KRANKY)
CALEXICO CARRIED TO DUST (QUARTERSTICK)
LOVEDRUG SUCKER PUNCH SHOW (MILITIA)
NEVERTHELESS IN THE MAKING (FLICKER)
> Micro-sized songs should never
> Expert musicianship and living-what-
> On the song “Everyone Needs a
> Named after a phrase in Luke 5:5
be more than three minutes, right?
you-say songwriting mark this ﬁfth
Halo,” angry Christian songwriter
where the disciples decide to follow
Deerhunter hits that mark on
release from one of the best indie bands
Michael Sheppard sings about so
Christ regardless of the cost, this
only a few tracks with their ode
around. At times, Carried to Dust sounds
many taboo subjects he’s sure to
Chattanooga alt-rock band is thankfully
to shoe gazing, the wonderfully
like a long-lost Los Lobos album that
send megachurch fundamentalists
wiped clean of all Southern rock
never got released. Most songs have a
cringing in their penny loafers. “The
inﬂuences. Straight-up alternative stuff,
Fortunately, they don’t let you lock
shufﬂing Tex-Mex beat that’s perfect
Dirtiest Queen” deals with lust and
sure, but furious piano on the opening
your stare for too long on songs
for wiling away the hours on a porch or
temptation, and “Fake Angels” raises
track and dalliances with acoustic
like “Activa” and “Green Jacket,”
somewhere in North Dakota. Check out
questions about how responsible we
pop make them more listenable than
both musical transportation devices
“Two Silver Trees,” with its midtempo
are to ﬁnd our way out of the rat cage
the average poster-kids-for-Jesus
for the stressed Facebook crowd.
Conga excursions, droning xylophone and
of life. Turns out, if we just let God be
band. Think a more accessible Future
“Nothing Ever Happened” toys with
zipper-tight acoustic picking. Songs are
sovereign for once, everything will
of Forestry or maybe Rush of Fools
actual percussiveness, as though
about places and feelings, like traveling
turn out OK in the end. The catchiest
with better singing. “God, you’ve got
the guys ﬁnally looked up from
the Southwest with a really knowledgeable
song, “Only One,” explains why we
to save us; we hide behind the faces
the ﬂoor and noticed us. “These
tour guide. The only issue: After 15
all get so depressed, offended and
we make to disguise the things we’re
Hands” sounds like someone gutted
songs of spatial relocation south of the
misrepresented. Guess what? The
ashamed of,” sings Josh Pearson,
The Cure’s vocals and hermetically
border, you’re gonna need a siesta.
sun/Son doesn’t revolve around you;
with earnestly clean vocals that will
it’s a wonderfully stationary object.
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9/25/08 6:23:14 PM
MUSIC/// KAISER CHIEFS
OFF WITH THEIR HEADS (MOTOWN) > The Kaiser Chiefs have gone more theatrical on their third outing. Crescendoing strings highlight “Like It Too Much” and at the end of “Half the Truth,” acting like the backdrop to a wild car chase, thanks mostly to composer David Arnold of recent James Bond soundtrack fame. “We made a vow to holy cow; we set it up just to knock it down,” sings Ricky Wilson in his typical cheeky style on “Always Happens Like That,” probably referencing our celebrity preoccupations, considering the next song is called “Addicted to Drugs.” There’s not a lot of cerebral wordplay here, but then that other really famous Brit-rock band wrote about strawberry ﬁelds being forever, and it didn’t seem to matter much. Longtime fans might not ﬁnd another “I Predict a Riot” soundtrack-to-life anthem, but the band is having such a good time with this new material you just want to start pogoing yourself.
OKKERVIL RIVER THE STAND-INS (JAGJAGUWAR)
DEERHOOF OFFEND MAGGIE (KILL ROCK STARS)
> A foot-stomping good time? Not
> Deerhoof, a three-piece experimental
really, especially if you read the lyrics
rock band from San Francisco, is
on Okkervil River’s The Stand-Ins. In the
a grungier take on Modest Mouse
booklet, there’s a picture of a woman
with brilliantly meaningless lyrics.
with no arms sitting idly on a bed. The
“Buck and Judy” is about fruit,
songs sort of match that word-picture
and another song uses
with lines like “I retire to a split white
made-up words like hystering that
smile” and writing that uses frequent,
leaves you going, “Huh?” in a good
out-of-place, commas. Musically, Okkervil
way. Deerhoof sounds a bit
River have hit their stride, effortlessly
like Lykke Li if you added band
shifting from raging rock anthems
members from Menomena or maybe
(on “Pop Lie”) to something both Jeff
Architecture in Helsinki and let them
Tweedy and Jay Farrar—both of Uncle
live on an island where they
Tupelo fame—would like (“Blue Tulip”).
subsisted only on kumquats, leafy
Granted, the band can sound remarkably
veggies and Diet Pepsi. Oh,
like Old 97s and Rhett Miller at times,
nevermind: Deerhoof is sort of the
but we think that’s a good thing.
indie amalgamation of every strange indie movie you’ve ever seen (think Eternal Sunshine), set to music.
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9/25/08 6:24:26 PM
KINGS OF LEON ONLY BY THE NIGHT (RCA)
BLOC PARTY INTIMACY (ATLANTIC)
HILLSONG LONDON HAIL TO THE KING (INTEGRITY)
> If the fuzzblam keys on the song
RACHAEL YAMAGATA ELEPHANTS/TEETH SINKING INTO HEART (WARNER BROS.)
> On “Biko,” singer Kele Okereke
> Pogo stick worship anthems—the kind
“Crawl”—off the strikingly good
> Desperation and longing, a cold chill up
gets down to business: “If I could eat
that replicate an auditorium experience
new Kings of Leon release, Only
your spine, an uptempo dirge on a dreary
your cancer I would, but I can’t,” he
for your morning commute but also
by the Night—doesn’t get your
day: These are the musical incantations
sings amid an aching synth and a
make you want to jump with a crowd
attention right away, watch out
Rachael Yamagata explores on her new
fantastic bass and drums crescendo.
somewhere—are kind of old hat. Hillsong
for the raging guitar solo at the
two-part release (Elephants being the full-
It’s as close as the band will get
London, a church plant from Hillsong in
end of the song and what appears
length, with the grittier and louder ﬁve-
to classic Peter Gabriel without a
Australia, dispenses with the anthems on
to be some aggressive anti-war
song EP Teeth released simultaneously).
musical cloning. “Signs” is equally
their latest offering, Hail to the King. It’s
sentiments: The cruciﬁed USA,
Yamagata is the perfect female
compelling, with a so-complex-it’s-
more musically inclined with actual synth
as every prophecy unfolds, Hell is
complement to Damien Rice, letting the
simple xylophone progression. Bloc
parts and a techno-crunch intro song
surely on it’s way. Ouch, a stinger.
words and mood of a song sink deeply
Party is at their best when they
called “Now” that almost sounds like the
Thankfully, the Kings focus on
into your skin before the music ﬁlls in at
scrape against the bone of humanity
Kaiser Chiefs. “I’m Not Ashamed” borrows
mesmerizingly cool audio samples
the edges, like water covering potholes.
and reveal their inner thoughts.
heavily from the modern Brit-rock canon
and piano while pushing some of
Producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Rilo
“Ion Square,” the best song, pounds
as well. “Rise” is a return to the norm, but
their trademark Southern-fried rock
Kiley) soothes out an orchestral vibe, with
at you musically and verbally,
then there’s a long series of ballads that
into the background, borrowing
Yamagata’s raspier lounge-singer vocals
quoting e.e. Cummings in one
emphasize lyrics over an inﬁnite repeat
the idea from Wilco’s textbook.
reverberating around the mix on songs
breath and unleashing an echoing
on ham-ﬁsted choruses, linking a London
like “Sunday Afternoon” and “Duet.”
chamber-choir explosion the next.
vibe to the Hillsong ACC mothership.
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9/25/08 6:25:23 PM
BOOKS/// JESUS WANTS ANTS TO SAVE CHRISTIANS NS ROB BELL (ZONDERVAN)
> Those who have loved the conversational, insightful writings of Rob Bell in the past will not be disappointed by Jesus Wants to Save Christians. In this newest endeavor, Bell partners with Don Golden to examine the worth and effect of the American Gospel. The title isn’t aimed at questioning salvation, so much as what the American Church is doing with it. Bell argues that God is trying to save Christians from the things we put our trust in other than Him—money, governmental security, etc. The book goes back into the context of biblical times, exploring nationalism, social justice, oppression and the role of God in it all. One of the most interesting statements is the claim that the Bible is “an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires ... This can make the Bible a very difﬁcult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the most powerful empire the world has ever seen.” Jesus Wants makes for excellent conversation, bringing ideas and concepts typically unfamiliar to the churched. For those familiar with Bell’s writings, this will be another welcome addition to your collection.
MORE INFORMATION THAN YOU REQUIRE JOHN HODGMAN (DUTTON ADULT)
THE ROAD OF LOST INNOCENCE SOMALY MAM (SPIEGEL & GRAU)
> John Hodgman, The Daily Show’s
> Gripping and stunning, The Road
“resident expert” and one-half of the face
of Lost Innocence is Somaly Mam’s
of the popular Mac commercials, follows
shocking ﬁrsthand account of the sex
up his previous release, Complete World
trade and human trafﬁcking rampant
Knowledge, with a hilarity-inducing book
in Cambodia. Mam is graphic as she
covering the entire gamut of useless but
describes her grandfather selling her
must-know (made-up) facts, narratives
into sex slavery at the age of 12 and
and lists on such themes as “How to
the many other abuses she suffered.
Cook an Owl” and “Gambling, the Sport
Ultimately, her novel is one of hope—
of the Asthmatic Man.” Oh, and let’s
hope that other lives can be rescued,
not forget the 700 mole-man names he
that her story of escape and new life
lists in precise detail as well as answers
will be the beginning of many more to
to questions fans send him via email. If
come. Mam is a co-founder of AFESIP,
that’s not enough to get you to your local
Acting for Women in Distressing
Border’s, maybe the book’s cover, which
Situations, which helps battered
features Hodgman cradling a ferret, will.
women reassimilate back into society.
CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS ANNE RICE (KNOPF)
TRANSFORMATIONAL ARCHITECTURE RON MARTOIA (ZONDERVAN)
THEANYSPACEWHATEVER VARIOUS (GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM)
HOLY CURIOSITY WINN COLLIER (BAKER)
> From the French philosopher Gilles
> Questions demand answers. The
> In 2005, Anne Rice shocked the
> In a postmodern society where the
Deleuze, the term any-space-what-
process of grappling for these answers
literary world with her return to
world seems absurd and undeﬁned,
ever is a cinematic term used to refer
is sometimes ﬁlled with struggle,
Catholic faith. Those disappointed by
people have lost deﬁnitions of who
to the multiple perspectives that can
confusion and frustrations. Jesus
her decision to no longer write tales of
they are and what they’re doing.
link in an inﬁnite number of ways.
asked the toughest questions of all:
vampires and devils weren’t soothed
What is the story that every person’s
Theanyspacewhatever catalogs the
“Who condemns you?” “Why do you
by her Christ the Lord series. She has
life tells? In Transformational
creative collaborations of 10 artists whose
doubt?” “Do you believe this?” “Why
taken a different track with her latest,
Architecture, Ron Martoia seeks to
work is displayed in an exhibit of the same
are you afraid?” In Restless Faith,
a memoir titled Called Out of Darkness,
help his readers rediscover their
name at the Guggenheim Museum in New
Winn Collier insists that through
which offers insight into evolving faith.
missing story, and how God’s story
York City. Featuring the essays and texts
this process, Christians will be able
Her agonizing moral quest clearly
and His plan ﬁts into their own.
of scholars, critics and curators, this is
to better understand the richness and fullness of knowing Jesus.
outlines her novels—themes of good
He is honest and forthcoming in
the ﬁrst book of its kind, examining the
and evil, of a distant God and close
his own spiritual struggles, continually
artistic exchange among contemporary
demons, and the power of choice.
pushing himself and his readers
artists. Theanyspacewhatever will
spiritual investigating as he pulls you
Old readers will surely be touched by
forward to a new kind of understanding
intrigue readers while giving insight
into the deep and compelling questions
her moving account of redemptive
about how God wants His people to
into the workings of some of the
Christ poses, asking you to dig deeper
faith—while still missing the vampires.
relate to others as He relates to us.
most creative minds of our time.
and discover your faith anew.
Collier references his own path to
92 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
9/25/08 6:26:28 PM
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9/24/08 1:28:25 PM
(ETHNOGRAPHIC MEDIA) > Directed by Jim Hanon (End of the Spear) and narrated by Della Reese, Miss HIV is a documentary about two HIVpositive African women who enter the Miss HIV beauty pageant in Botswana. The ﬁlm, which aims to be “a voice for AIDS prevention, but shows potential to revive a grassroots movement in Uganda,” follows their journey and trials along the way as they passionately endeavor to raise awareness about the prevention of the illness among their fellow Africans. What truly sets this ﬁlm apart from other AIDS documentaries is the mission of the organization behind the movie. EthnoGraphic Media (EGM) is offering the movie for free to any African nation who wishes to use it as an avenue for “mass media education.” Hanon, especially, felt a strong social responsibility to be involved with the project, and he hopes the ﬁlm will cause African countries devastated by AIDS to begin to seriously consider the questions at hand. In particular he asks, “Why are we losing a war against a preventable disease?” Approximately 4 million people are infected with HIV every year, and Miss HIV is an eye-opening, deeply compelling, invaluable resource that will be given away for free, no strings attached, for the sake of turning the tide in the battle against AIDS; EGM decided to selfdistribute the ﬁlm so as to not be tied down by any “contractual obligations that would hinder the overall plan for getting this message to the people who need it most.” You can learn more at www.misshiv.com.
THE VISITOR (GROUNDSWELL PRODUCTIONS)
WALL-E (PIXAR ANIMATION) > This critically lauded Pixar science-
> The Visitor is the perfect movie to
ﬁction animation is all about adventure
rent when you’re up for some discussion
and romance ... from a robot’s perspective,
regarding American politics and the
at least. The movie depicts a very
nation’s current immigration policy—topics
frightening future for Planet Earth
certain not to be too far from people’s
after the human race has decimated
lips after the presidential election in
its home through pollution, forcing
November. The movie follows college
humans to depart the planet. In their
professor Walter Vale as he goes through
hasty departure, they accidentally leave
the motions of his life following the death
behind one of their robots, WALL-E,
of his beloved wife. He retreats to his New
who has no choice but to live a life of
York City apartment, only to ﬁnd another
solitude on the barren desert the earth
couple occupying the same space.
has become, cleaning up the trash the
Walter begins a relationship with the two
humans have carelessly left behind.
young illegal immigrants in a journey
Meanwhile, humans reside on a luxe
that slowly leads him into unpredictable
space cruise, with every conceivable
territory. Movies confronting themes as
type of robot to cater to their every
controversial as the one tackled here are
whim. WALL-E delivers what Pixar
sure to have their fair share of bias, but
productions are known for: amazing
writer and director Thomas McCarthy
visual details, endearing characters and a
does a decent job of presenting both sides
compelling plotline—but it is also a careful
of the story while leaving the audience to
critique of the world’s treatment of the
decide for themselves what they believe
environment and a call to action against
to be right and wrong concerning the
the harmful waste the world—speciﬁcally,
ﬁctional case presented in The Visitor.
the United States—is creating.
94 / RELEVANT_NOV/DEC 08
9/30/08 5:31:13 PM
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CONTENTS 08 FIRST WORD Cameron Strang
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12 SLICES 22 REVOLUTION The Mentoring Project
24 DEEPER WALK Randy Bohlender
2009 PREVIEW ������������������������
9/25/08 7:11:42 PM
The nine trends that will rock your face next year
28 COUNTER CULTURE
TRADE IN THE LIES
30 SPOTLIGHTS CHRIS MARTIN RICE IS GIVING HIM A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD ...
Uncovering the truth behind what you buy
Who Made Milwaukee Famous? & Mason Jennings
42 FINANCIAL WISDOM 10 ways to avoid debt this Christmas—and in life
52 MORAL OREL
MATES OF STATE
The mind behind the poignant, irreverent show
Major changes are afoot for this indie duo
UNIVERSALISM Is there only one way to God?
58 FORMULAS VS. REAL FAITH The problem with American views of God
CONSCIENTIOUS CHRISTMAS GIFTS Unique, practical and sustainable gift ideas for just about anyone on your list
HARRISON How the Charity: Water founder is changing the world
86 RELEVANT RECOMMENDS Our favorite music, books and DVDs
A JOURNEY THROUGH ABUSE One woman struggles to overcome a painful past
MEWITHOUTYOU The band has set themselves apart with how they live—and others are noticing
40 9/26/08 1:13:59 PM
experience the content, community & resources at neueministry.com
9/29/08 10:27:45 AM
7/25/08 5:06:11 PM
Published on Dec 10, 2008
RELEVANT covers God, life and progressive culture. Our November looks at fair trade as it relates to our Christmas consumerism. What we buy...