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GOD. LIFE. PROGRESSIVE CULTURE. RELEVANT magazine September/October 2008, Issue 35 We No Longer Carry That Brand of Ham™


EDITORIAL Adam “Emeritus” Smith | Editorial Director > Corene “Husky” Israel | Features Editor > Ashley “Miller” Wolpert | Associate Editor > EDITORIAL INTERNS: Chris “Formal” Goodson, Sarah “Gimme” Moore, Joleah “Turkey” Stiles CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Scott Bessenecker, John Brandon, Stephen Christian, Matt Conner, Rebecca Cusey, Robert Ham, Jonathan Merritt, Rhema Muncy, Daniel Radosh, Georgia Sparling, Eric VanValin, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, Alissa Wilkinson, Honorable Mention: Mark Steele

ADVERTISING Philip Self “Respect” | Director of Business Development > > 407.660.1411 x104 ADVERTISING INTERN: Justin “John Hammerdance” Sledge

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MARKETING Betsy “The Real Boss“ Hickman | Marketing Director > Hemarie “Hey, Marie!” Vazquez | Circulation Coordinator > MARKETING INTERNS: Meredith “Iowa” Kane, Chad Pendleton “Bear”, Stephanie “Days Not” Weeks


“the next great Pop Piano Man ...this is one of my favorite records of the year.” — Pa s t e

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RELEVANT Issue #35 September/October 2008 (ISSN: 1543-317X) is published 7 times a year in January, March, May, July, September, November & December for $12 per year by RELEVANT Media Group, Inc., 1220 Alden Road, Orlando, FL 32803. Periodicals postage paid at Orlando, FL, and at additional mailing offices.

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LEading the charge > CAMERON STRANG Let’s get this out of the way up front: I’m not a politically motivated person. Which is why I felt a tad out of place meeting with Barack Obama this summer. And talking to John McCain. And doing countless interviews about the faith and shifting political views of our generation. Yet I have unwittingly found myself thrust into the political arena, a place where people are vehemently passionate about their ideologies and platforms. It’s an entire industry built around being right and proving your opponent wrong, and winning at any cost. It’s a continual power struggle and—from my humble vantage point—seems a bit flawed. I’m someone who tries to think independently and objectively, rather than simply follow what the pundits tell me to think. Because of that, I’ve realized I cannot fully embrace either political party. Both sides of the aisle have some great ideas and goals. But both also have areas where they simply get it wrong. I know the power of politics and the

importance of the process in our world. But I also know that, historically, real, lasting change has started first at the grassroots level long before it was ever legislated. Cultural mindshifts influence Washington, not the other way around. Many Christians traditionally have voted Republican because of their justifiable conviction to protect the lives of the unborn. Now, many younger Christians are voting Democrat because of their justifiable desire to see our nation, the most prosperous in the world, address issues of poverty, global aid and the environment. The problem is, many Christians vote these convictions, but that’s largely where their personal involvement in the issues stops. Are the government leaders we vote for meant to do our job for us? If God has given you a heart for the poor, or to see a reduction in the number of abortions, or to promote peace, or to help the sick, or to stand for strong moral values, or to be a better steward of the environment, then your personal focus needs to be on that—whether or not the President shares your same values. The Bible reminds us to pray for our leaders, but it also talks about praying for those who persecute us. Though I can’t foresee any situation where this would be the case, what if one day every value Christians stand for, even religious freedom itself, was legislatively removed? Christians in China and many other parts of the world face this reality every day. Would it change us? Dare I say, it might actually spur the Body of Christ here into greater action. Could it be that the loss of religious freedoms would ultimately be the best thing for American Christians because it would cause us to stand on our own feet rather than relying on the government to legislate our faith and values for us? I’ve heard that only 5 percent of people who attend church regularly actually serve in any way. I’ve read that if every Christian

in America actually tithed 10 percent of their income, we would have enough financial resources to wipe out global poverty. There’s more power lying dormant in pews around the nation than any government could hope to provide, and that’s where our focus should be. Many Christians want to overturn Roe v. Wade, but I don’t hear nearly as many leading the charge on a national adoption movement. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, where are all of those babies going to end up? Christians should be focused on personal action regardless of legislation, not just waiting for the right number of Supreme Court justices to come along. I’m not saying don’t vote. Do. Vote your convictions and let your voice be heard—that’s one of the perks of living in a democracy. But don’t let politics breed division, or make you see people in a different light. If you have a passion for an issue, rather than judging someone who doesn’t share that passion or viewpoint, just go do something about it. Give your life to it. Be the change you want to see. We need to pray for our leaders and our country, but always remember that our leaders and country do not define us. We are the generation that will shape the direction culture, government and social action will take in the next 50 years. It’s not up to Washington, it’s up to us—and I say it’s time we step up and lead the charge. But that means with our lives, our finances and our actions every day. Not just Nov. 4. d

CAMERON STRANG is publisher and founder of RELEVANT. He also leapfrogs interns.


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

I loved the Jeffrey Overstreet article about faith and film [“The Redemptive Power of Film,” July/Aug 2008], but the following list of 10 most spiritually significant movies [“The RELEVANT 10”] was missing some important films! Magnolia, The Thin Red Line, Millions, To End All Wars, Babel, Lost in Translation, Fight Club and Waking Life, to name a few. Royal Tenenbaums is fantastic, but it can’t trump any of the mentioned films in terms of spiritual content. —JOEL MAYWARD / Jackson, MS anecdotes. When I was in journalism school I dreamt of starting a magazine, and this is the magazine I dreamt of starting. Congratulations on hitting the nail on the head. —EMILY WALTERS / Houston, TX

The past two issues have featured really great bands. The May/June issue’s spread of Death Cab was really great to read, and I was even more thrilled to see the article on The Myriad in the July/August issue. I had recently discovered the latter, and it was very exciting to read up on The Myriad and get to know about them a little more. I’m definitely digging their latest album. And props to RELEVANT for being consistently incredible! —EMILY WISELY / O’Fallon, IL I particularly enjoyed the slice “Building an Emerald City: America’s Cities Go Green” [Slices, July/Aug 2008]. And I wonder, could there be a potential correlation between America’s cities going green and America’s cities going mean? —MARK DISSELKOEN / Ormond Beach, FL > No more than America’s cities going green and dancer Ben Vereen. Though I’ve read the magazine for years, I have only recently started listening to the podcasts with my 45-minute commute. I had checked it out years ago, but for inexcusable reasons, the RELEVANT Podcast and I had been “on a break.” I have to say, we are back together, and I could not be happier. In the last two weeks of Sacramento traffic, I have caught up on two months of podcasts. —PC WALKER / Sacramento, CA > Reunited ... and it feels so good. I had never subscribed to any magazines until I subscribed to yours. It’s the best money ever spent on something for me that is not a necessity. Thank you for all your hard work, thought-provoking articles and whimsical

In the Phantom Planet article in the July/August RELEVANT I noticed where it mentioned that Jason Schwartzman might resurface soon. The good news is that he has! Coconut Records is his new solo music project and it is quite amazing, and you all should check it out ... now! —KENNETH PRICE > It’s good to hear that he’s working again. We were worried about the guy. I was extremely disappointed with your “Denominations” article [“6 Denominations in 6 Weeks,” May/June 2008]. [Jason Boyett] seemed particularly sided toward traditional services, and while that’s not bad, he seemed extremely negative toward the Assembly of God and more modern services. Just because he doesn’t like services like that doesn’t mean he has to paint us so badly and walk out on a service! Next time you do something like this, make sure you get a writer who’s not as biased as this one. —AYDEN FALCONN / Toronto, Canada My fiancée showed me an interesting article in The New Yorker titled “The New Evangelicals” by Frances Fitzgerald. They quote RELEVANT a couple times on the last page. You guys are huge. Way to be. —JEFF MCCLAIN / Chicago, IL > You know, we’re quoted in this magazine, too. I was pretty disappointed to see American Beauty in the most spiritually significant films of the last 10 years. I know you had the disclaimer about the “extremely graphic content,” but I still feel like that is an understatement. You are suggesting that we should take in vile and disgusting images merely for a glimmer of truth.

What ever happened to Psalm 101:3? —NATALIE BUSCH / Tempe, AZ Thank you so much for determining what is better for your readers without actually asking us. I’m referring to your reference last issue to the fact that you nixed the music reviews and did so because “spotlighting only the best music in RELEVANT Recommends is better than reviewing all the mediocre stuff.” Wow. What a great way of explaining laziness. You only publish every other month as it is. Do you really want to start eliminating content? I always turned to the reviews first, and sought out tunes from the records reviewed regardless of your review. If the reviews don’t come back, then neither will my renewal check. —JESSE MOORE / Everett, WA > OK, OK! We put more music picks in the Recommends section. If you’re still not satisfied, let us know. If everyone really wants Reviews back, your wish is our command. I just got my July/Aug edition, and before getting to any article I read the staff page and shook my head laughing, from the “Stepping up our game since late Spring 2008” to the jobs descriptions. You guys are truly silly. It’s great that you don’t take yourselves that seriously and are detailed enough to give your readers humor even on the usually mundane staff page. —KEVIN HOWELL / Eatontown, NJ I was sorely disappointed to see the following written in the July/August issue: “Morgan Spurlock, the handlebar mustache-rocking actor, director and producer extraordinaire ...” Morgan Spurlock is all of those things—except he sports a Fu Manchu. A very impressive Fu Manchu, I might add. I suppose I can forgive you this time, but next time I will unnecessarily end my subscription to RELEVANT, making a meaningless statement through boycotting. —KYLE METZGER / Findlay, OH > But you’re OK without the Reviews?


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Mos Def Documentary Darling

> Actor Mos Def is becoming the king of documentaries. From his role in the upcoming examination of hip-hop and violence, Number One with a Bullet, to his work as narrator of last year’s Prince Among Slaves, which told the story of an African prince who survived slavery, he seems to be popping up all over the place. It’s not surprising, considering documentaries are quickly becoming the new narrative of this generation. Be they socially conscious films like An Inconvenient Truth or Invisible Children, or spiritually awakening works like What Would Jesus Buy? or Lord, Save Us From Your Followers, the documentary format is the preferred way to spur social action. In fact, a new website called allows users to stream them for free. Here are six great documentaries on SnagFilms you may want to check out.


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MISC. > 6 DOCUMENTARIES THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR THINKING: FREESTYLE: THE ART OF RHYME This film documents the emergence of freestyle hip-hop, starting from the early 1980s. Outlining stories from influential figures including (of course) Mos Def, Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur, The Art of Rhyme paints an enlightening yet rarely seen portrait of hip-hop.

RED WITHOUT BLUE A revolutionary portrayal of gender, identity and the unwavering bond of friendship, Red Without Blue follows a pair of identical twins as one “transitions” from male to female. This documentary rethinks the conservative ideologies of the past as the two struggle to find their place in the present.


AMERICAN RULING CLASS A candid story of two recent Ivy League graduates, this “dramatic musical satire” tackles one of our nation’s most taboo topics: class. The crux of this documentary concentrates on the perception of a dominating upper society, and the two men’s arduous choice of career paths in a world with a diminishing middle class.

CONFESSIONS OF A SUPERHERO Confessions of a Superhero traces the lives of four individuals and their paths toward success. Working as superhero characters on Hollywood Boulevard, they give us a personal glimpse into their daily routines that reveal hardships and triumphs as they pursue their own kind of fame.

DREAMS ON SPEC Dreams on Spec takes an intimate look at how far people will go—and how much they will sacrifice—for the chance to pursue their dreams. The film examines the lives of three aspiring screenwriters as they pour their hearts into their scripts in hopes of one day seeing their beloved creations made into a movie. CRACKED NOT BROKEN Like never before, this documentary delves into the harsh world of drugs and prostitution through the story of a middle-aged mother and crack addict who prostitutes herself to maintain her addiction. Cracked Not Broken will force you to reconsider all of your stereotypes about drug addicts.

> A church in North Carolina was perplexed when they noticed liquid running down the walls of their sanctuary. The liquid turned out to be honey from a massive beehive nestled in the church’s 75-foot steeple. Exterminators will remove the hive, but let’s hope they don’t run into any bee-attitudes. Kevin Eubanks, everyone! .... > In an effort to be more environmentally friendly, Prince Charles has converted his favorite car, an Aston Martin DB6, to run on bioethanol. The fuel is made from leftover English wine, which either says good things about English automotive engineering or horrible things about English wine ...

Stop Stealing Music, You Cheapskate! (Legally) free music might sound like a glorious dream, but NoiseTrade, a fair-trade music company co-founded by Derek Webb, now allows music aficionados to download tunes for free at Webb launched the company after the success of Mockingbird’s free-download campaign in 2006—in three months, more than 80,000 copies of his album were downloaded. “If artists and fans realized how they could help each other and started making direct connections, the whole industry would change overnight,” Webb said in a statement on the company website. “It would start a revolution.” NoiseTrade currently has 18 albums available, including Dawson Wells, Alli Rogers and The Khrusty Brothers.


JESUS FISH WERE SO 2007 Residents in South Carolina may soon be able to make a statement of faith using state-issued license plates. The proposed tags feature a cross along with the words “I Believe.” The bill is currently being contested by the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who claims it favors one religion over others. However, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, a proponent of the tags, claims not allowing them would be showing prejudice toward Christians. “We’re going to fight for a change,” he said. “I’m tired of seeing Christians back down in fear of a lawsuit.”


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. e r g o l



> England offers the lowest quality of life in Europe despite residents earning the highest incomes, according to new research. The price of fuel and other essential goods, and below-average spending on health and education, place Britain at the bottom of the European qualityof-life index.

IT’S A ROCKTIVITY BOOK! For his final design project at England’s Huddersfield University, Andy Miller created an indie rock-themed activity book inspired by the (RED) organization, a multi-corporation group that raises money to fight AIDS/HIV. The book emulates the vibe of (RED) products, carried by companies like Apple, Dell and Converse. Check out some of the activities included in the book:

THE INDIE ACTIVITY BOOK Keeping with the theme, the book comes packaged in a CD case with a red crayon stashed in the spine.

JAMES MURPHY Help James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem find his friends by completing a maze. They’ve got to get there soon. Daft Punk is playing at his house!

> Since many of the donations to the Vatican came from the United States, the weakness of the dollar against the Euro hurt the Vatican’s earnings ... > Someone page Jim Gaffigan. A recall has been issued for Hot Pockets because some have been found to contain bits of plastic. Of course, this is probably healthier than what they usually contain ...

1-900-Dial-a-Monk Survivors of deceased Buddhists in Japan are finding financial relief for funerals through an organization called Dial-a-Monk. Founded in Inagi, a city outside of Tokyo, the firm dispatches one of 45 available monks from seven different schools to lead funeral services. While Buddhist funerals typically cost a pretty penny—about $5,180—this service not only allows customers to pick the type of sutra (scriptures) they would like chanted, aligned with the family’s religious customs and sects, but also charges much lower fees, ranging from ¥31,500 to ¥157,000 ($295–$1,480). Customers can either visit or call the company directly. Maintaining full respect for grieving family members, phone operators offer their condolences while bowing their heads before delving into pricing options. Though the company may not earn much profit, the company’s president, Kazuma Hayashi, says religion is not about money, and that everyone deserves a heartfelt service regardless of their financial status.

resurrection was part of the messianic prophecy before Jesus’ time.

BEIRUT Color the carousel from Beirut’s song of the same name. Make sure to use whimsy!

JOANNA NEWSOM Finish a grid drawing of Joanna Newsom’s pear. If it’s anything like her songs, it will take 10 minutes, be super weird and get stuck in your head. FEIST Hunt through a word search to find the lyrics of Feist’s song “The Park.” For extra credit, recreate her video for “1 2 3 4” with your friends!

TABLET FEVER An ancient Hebrew tablet dating to a few decades before Christ’s birth speaks overtly of the Jewish Messiah dying and rising after three days. The tablet, found near the Dead Sea, is known as The Revelation of Gabriel. Archaeologists say the inscription shows that

BLEEDING FOR YOU Thousands of people have flocked to a cathedral in Mumbai to view a painting of Christ they believe is bleeding. The painting has developed a dark patch around the heart, and many devotees claim it is a miracle. Cathedral officials insist it is merely due to moisture in the air. JUNKYARD JESUS An eight-foot plaster statue of Jesus was recently stolen in Detroit. Locals conjecture the thieves thought it was copper and wanted to sell it as scraps. Whoops.


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> A demolitionist in England found a postcard written to J.R.R. Tolkien while demolishing a house. He plans to sell the postcard at auction, and has already received an offer of $500,000 for it. Peter Jackson is already in talks to turn the postcard into an interminably long film trilogy ... > A pair of Christian pub operators in England banned swearing in their establishment and ejected patrons who used salty language. This being a pub, sales plummeted. As a result, the pub’s owners replaced the couple, but the couple has barricaded themselves in the building and has refused to leave. Seems like a simple swear jar might have solved a lot of problems ... > Actor, humanitarian, now ... peacemaker (nothing to do with the 1997 film in which he starred): George Clooney took a notably neutral stand in the discussion between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Stars. While numerous other celebrities have backed one group or the other, Clooney released a statement saying, “What we can’t do is pit artist against artist” ...

The U.K. Competitors

Wanna Get Away? In a vacation that seems tailor-made for adventure seekers, a British travel company is developing a tourist competition that’s said to rival the dangerous path of pioneer explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen’s early-20th-century race to be the first person to plant a flag at the South Pole. Called the South Pole Race, the trip consists of up to eight teams competing to reach the center of Antarctica, a journey

of almost 500 miles. Participants will be battling cold that would freeze your ungloved hand in 30 seconds, perilous wind speeds and 18-hour days of skiing. The designers of the trip told The London Times that the most dangerous part will be the possibility of falling into crevasses, but don’t worry: The trip has been mapped out to avoid the most dangerous areas of the continent. So, it’s only likely death instead of certain death.

It’s On Like

Donkey Kong The enemies from your favorite video games not only want to keep you from winning, they want to stay alive. Due to recent advancements, instantaneous animation gives characters the ability to feed their new sense of selfpreservation. Game producers hope this will make it easier for gamers to connect to the characters—and lead to gaming becoming a mainstream source of entertainment. A byproduct is that video-game characters will become increasingly obsessed with tracking down and killing Sarah Connor.

Al Franken, best known for his role as a writer on Saturday Night Live and for playing über-sensitive selfhelp guru Stuart Smalley, has long been an outspoken critic of all things conservative. The author and comedian is running for Senate in Minnesota, and seems to have a fair chance of winning. In a recent interview, Franken spoke about his frustrations with the right, and the role of religion in the public sphere and in his personal life.

Sometimes it’s OK and appropriate for a president to use God. I probably wouldn’t if I were president.” [Bush] wears his religion on his sleeve, and yet this is the least Christian administration I can think of, in terms of Christ— certainly, as I understand it. I don’t know what happens to you after you die. I’m not banking on there being like a heaven.

Fable II


> This sequel to 2004’s Fable features a world that is completely dynamic. Characters will not have the standard set paths common in most games, but will be free to roam and interact with anything in the game’s landscape over the course of their virtual life.

> In the newest game from Sims creator Will Wright, the player is able to create the characters and environment. Characters evolve as you complete levels; since each character is created differently, they will evolve differently. Talk about a smart console.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed > The evil Stormtroopers have the ability to act differently each time the game is played. If you shoot at them, they may throw a grenade at you or surrender, depending on what will help them survive at that moment.

My spiritual life is … sometimes I have access to it and sometimes I don’t. When I do have access to it, it’s usually a sense of my understanding the best course of action or the best thing for me to do. Source:


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a neue vision for ministry.

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> Taco Bell has challenged rapper 50 Cent to change his name to 79 Cent to reflect their value menu, and have promised to give $10,000 to a charity of Fitty’s choice if he comes through one of their drive-throughs and raps his order ...



Independence Film Fest > In case you needed any more reasons to trek out to Colorado, the Independence Film Festival should do it. Set high in the mountains of Grand Junction, the festival features films handpicked by veteran filmmakers David Foldes and Victoria Paige Meyerink. In addition to the movies, you can expect theme parties and catered dinners, which will help you, as the website said, “get high on film.” We’ll see about that one.




Austin City Limits Music Festival > Showing the world why Austin, Texas, deserves the name “Live Music Capital of the World,” this year’s lineup doesn’t disappoint, with names like the Foo Fighters, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band and Patty Griffin. Food from the Austin Eats Food Court and local art in the So Co Art Market should round out a great festival experience. Plus, it’s in Austin.


Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta > On weekdays during this annual event, hotair balloonists from around the world race across the New Mexico sky. On weekends, the 700 balloons, ranging from colorful domes to giant pandas, light up from within in the evening. And you thought the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons were cool.



> If you’re still bothered by that last little bit of motility keeping you from a truly sedentary lifestyle, there’s good news. A Japanese firm is developing electronics that will allow you to control your TV, DVD player or iPod by moving your eyes or tapping your fingers ...



AFTER A DEVASTATING 8.0 EARTHQUAKE rocked China earlier this year, Shanghai native and Houston Rockets center Yao Ming felt compelled to lend a helping hand. He formed the Yao Ming Foundation to raise funds for welfare issues in the United States and China, and to build earthquake-resistant schools. All donations—including the $3.5 million raised in the first week—will go to earthquake relief, and Ming and his wife will support all of the foundation’s administrative costs. “My thoughts and actions are now focused on helping rebuild the schools that were destroyed, and I hope others around the world will join in our efforts,” he told

> A recent study found that upwards of 90 percent of people can carry a tune. The other 10 percent fall into three categories: people who know they can’t sing, people who think they can sing and dudes in emo bands ...




> Stephen Colbert was invited to Princeton University’s Class Day, an event held the day before graduation. The school’s senior class presented Colbert with “The Great Princeton Class of 2008 Understandable Vanity Award,” which was a plaque with a mirror. Colbert encouraged the graduating seniors, saying, “You can change the world. Please don’t do that, OK? Some of us like the way things are going now” ...

New York’s Village Halloween Parade > Boasting life-sized puppets, costumed marchers, dancers and 53 live bands, New York’s Village Halloween Parade is the largest Halloween celebration in the world, and the only nighttime parade in the city that never sleeps. The best part of the parade is that anyone can join in, as long as they don a sweet costume. A hefty prize is up for grabs for best costume, so you might want to get those creative juices flowing ... now.



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AMERICA THE TOLERANT According to a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Americans are by and large tolerant of other religions. The survey, in which 35,000 individuals took part, found that seven out of 10 Americans believe that people of other faiths can get into heaven. In an earlier, affiliated study, Pew also found that 25 percent of adults in the United States no longer practice the faith they grew up with, and about 67 percent believe that the Bible is the “word of God.”

> The Mars Phoenix Lander has discovered water ice on Mars. The Lander sent a message to NASA reading, “Are you ready to celebrate? Well, get ready: We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars! w00t!!! Best day ever!!” Apparently, the Mars Lander is a 13year-old girl. Its next message lamented it hadn’t received word from its BFF Jill ... > A boy in India has broken a Guinness record for playing guitar for the longest duration. Fourteenyear-old Akash Gupta played for 53 hours straight. In other words, he played through one Phish song ...



THIS YEAR’S INAUGURAL Rothbury Festival, held in July miles off the serene coast of Lake Michigan, had many calling it “the next Bonnaroo.” Besides a lineup showcasing the likes of Dave Matthews Band, Modest Mouse, Sam Beam and Of Montreal, a big draw was its eco-friendliness and “near-zero waste” goal. “There were certain bands we knew would attract the kind of crowd we wanted to bring out,” producer Jeremy Stein said. “This is a longterm concept ... I have no doubt there will be more Rothburys.”

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY The festival ran everything possible, including all of the stage equipment, on clean energy like biodiesel and solar, promising to offset all regular electrical energy. EDDIE FOR PRESIDENT

LOCAL BENEFITS No plastic or Styrofoam was allowed, and compost sites were placed throughout the festival grounds. The compost was then given to local farmers.


MUSIC FOR CHARITY Pearl Jam is no stranger to supporting social causes. Over the years they have promoted a number of issues, including the environment, Chrohn’s disease and aid for Hurricane Katrina victims; they diverted all proceeds from their 1998 cover of “Last Kiss” toward Kosovo War refugees. Their newest battle? Poverty. At a recent benefit concert, the legendary rockers,

in the midst of a nationwide tour, raised $3 million for the Robin Hood Foundation (partly by charging astronomical rates—tickets went for as much as $2,250). Just to mix it up a bit, they also threw in some political commentary, ragging on President Bush and declaring that the next time they played in New York, a new president would be in office.

In an effort to offset the amount of carbon used to travel to the festival, concert-goers were given the option of donating $3 toward planting trees and investing in wind farms.

ZERO WASTE Every trash can was accompanied by a recycling bin. To make it even easier for fans, all recyclable products, except for paper and cardboard, were allowed to be mixed.


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FOR THE REST OF THE JADED, REMOVED WORLD, the very word Darfur may no longer elicit that impassioned, urgent cry that has arisen in response to the ongoing civil war taking place there. It’s been years, after all, and combined with frequent headlines, impossible statistics and other global crises, it’s natural that the world’s collective attention would flicker elsewhere. For the people of Sudan, however, the term civil war is a continuing, horrific reality and an inescapable concept. With the exception of an 11-year hiatus, the country has been engaged in war since it gained its independence in 1955, though a 2005 peace treaty signed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army has promised to grant southern Sudan autonomy for six years. According to, the war has displaced more than 4 million southerners, and the country is in dire need of resources taken for granted every day by Americans. One organization, Nadus Films, refuses to look away any longer.

Nadus Films is a nonprofit documentary film company made up of men and women dedicated to increasing awareness on the state of Sudan, and to moving others to action. “The vision for Nadus is simple: amplify the cries of the Sudanese so that people hear their call for help, and do something about it,” says Coury Deeb, the company’s founder, who is committed to working with others toward rebuilding the devastated country. As their website says, “Our work thus far and the film exist solely to impact the lives of those suffering in southern Sudan.” The roots of Nadus Films extend back to a speech Deeb heard given by Celestin Museukura, president of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, a ministry focused on empowering African leaders to bring positive change to their communities. Museukura was shedding light on the current situation and the needs of Sudan, and his words inspired Deeb and a small team to make a trip to the African nation in 2005. There, a passion was born, and Nadus Films was conceived. A return trip in 2007 resulted in hours of incredible footage that have been transformed into “an honest cinematic vision of The New Sudan.” The New Sudan is a film aimed at educating viewers on southern Sudan’s war-laden history and, of greater importance, their current struggle to create sustainable peace. “Nadus Films goes and gets its feet dirty and brings back a product that will get noticed,” Deeb says. “By getting it noticed, we hope and pray that individuals, organizations and churches will step up and serve the Sudanese.” By visiting, one can learn how to partner with the organization in aiding with medical care, schooling, church growth and providing clean water in an effort to rebuild the country. a

* Start your Revolution SPOTLIGHT


Sudan Research, Analysis and Advocacy

Nadus Films

Images from Darfur

> Eric Reeves has been a huge part of the Darfur advocacy movement for the past few years, gathering enough intellectual clout to testify before Congress on numerous occasions about the genocide. As a full-time Sudan researcher and analyst, he has been on the ground in Darfur, writing, taking pictures and talking to its citizens and government to uncover the facts about this war-torn region. Reeves presents his findings in frequently updated online publications, arming you with the most recent information about the complicated struggle. The website is a great central resource for anyone wanting to find out more about Darfur. > The Nadus Film website contains a myriad of features aimed at awareness for the people of Sudan, including four short videos, photo slide shows, blogs and donation forms. Nadus Films encourages its audience to join the fight and bring hope for the future. > In a slide-show format, this website allows you to view the faces of men, women and children who have sought refuge in their war-ridden country, gathered from photographer John Nicholson.

Facing Sudan

By Bruce David Janu (Bell, Book & Camera Productions) > This documentary tells the story of Brian Burns, an American who volunteered at a Sudanese refugee camp. The heart wrenching visuals and stories call for action and hope, while demonstrating that ordinary people can make a difference.


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Incarnation and the Downward Path > SCOTT BESSENECKER I’VE NEVER REALLY HAD ANY BRUSHES with celebrities. You know, the kind of thing where you bump into Oprah at the mall while she’s shopping for conspicuously consumptive gifts to give to poor people. Once, however, I did sit next to a guy who was part of the ‘60s rock group The Turtles. We were on a flight from Los Angeles to Detroit and struck up a conversation. He told me that it really messed with his head to be 18 years old and touring the country with rock ’n’ roll superstars of the day. I guess being turned into a god overnight had some side effects he hadn’t reckoned on. One of them was an inflated view of self, a problem that plagued him 40 years later. In fact, as we got off the plane I realized we had spent hours talking almost exclusively about him. The quest for fame and power are two of the most basic human instincts. They are, at their core, the desire to be known and the desire to be in control. I must have gotten dozens of Facebook forwards that say, “I can’t believe it, forward this message and see who accesses your profile the most.” It makes us feel good to be sought out like that. While I have resisted the temptation to forward that message to find out who views my profile most (my stalker is safe for now), I do succumb to other such vanities, like checking to see how many people visit my blog. (Please do not check out www lest you feed my famehungry ego. That website, again, is www I am sure McCain and Obama are really fine men. I intend to vote for one of them. But any quest for the presidency has, at its root,

the aspiration to gain control over people, institutions and vast resources. It may be with benevolent designs, but it will be their benevolent designs. Obama and McCain aren’t interested in being anyone’s puppet. They want to use political power to shape America and the world according to their notions of what is good and acceptable. This lust for power is the original human sin. “You will be like God” was the first temptation and the one that toppled the human race from its place of harmonious coexistence with our Creator. Jesus asked, “What good is it for you to gain the whole world and yet forfeit your soul?” The quests for ascendancy are dangerous cravings to entertain. If we are not careful, these desires, if acted upon, will plunder our souls. If ever there were a person who really deserved to be richer than Bill Gates, more famous than Oprah and more powerful than the president, it was Jesus Christ. Jesus could have entered humanity as a competent, independent, skilled adult. Instead, He chose to submit to the messiness of human birth, infancy and childhood at a time and place where child mortality was frighteningly high. He chose to submit to poverty and obscurity, born of an unwed teenage peasant in an oppressed and forgotten corner of the Roman Empire. Jesus possessed the ultimate form of power, and submitted to the ultimate form of obedience. In doing so, He left us an example. After washing the disciples’ feet, He said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:14–17,

TNIV). Just before His death Jesus said, “As the father sent me, I am sending you.” Some have understood this to mean that Jesus sends us in the very way that the Father sent Him—incarnationally—becoming real to people who are lost and in trouble. Maybe that is why He stripped the disciples of their stuff before sending them out in Luke 9 and 10. Those of us following Jesus must follow Him in this journey of downward mobility. It is that descending path that has captured the imagination of saints in every age—that bizarre call to sell all you have and give it to the poor. St. Francis and Mother Teresa are the famous ones, but most of those who have pursued downward mobility have lived in obscurity. None of us are called to lives of insulation, an existence where we build such a cocoon of wealth or such a fan club that we become disconnected with the marginalized and suffering. Rich Mullins, a Christian singer/ songwriter who died in the 1990s, exemplified this. He was making hundreds of thousands before his death but lived in a trailer across from a Navajo reservation on $24,000 a year. The people we turn into gods because of their acting or singing or athletic abilities usually suffer a crippling self-absorption that humans were not built to endure. Rich fought to keep it real, and to be real to those on the margins. If we want to stay alive spiritually we have to be near the spiritual life-giver, and He hangs out with the despised and rejected. He Himself, in fact, was despised and rejected. There are ways to stay alive spiritually in the West, where material ascent calls from the mall next door, reality-TV fame is just an audition away and corporate ladder-climbing is honored above all else. I need nearly daily reality checks to stay alive in a culture gone mad with the allure of raising myself up above others. So before you take that promotion, upgrade your computer or check to see how many friends you have on Facebook, try doing something that will run against the grain of your genetic code. Wash the dishes at the office. Trade in your car for a bike. And stop Googling your name for a while. You may bump into Jesus on the way down, which would be way better than bumping into Oprah at the mall. 2

SCOTT BESSENECKER is author of The New Friars and Director of Global Projects for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.


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OCT 08 “This album is more than a collection of songs. It’s the conversation the Church should be having with the world.”


ed young pastor, fellowship church

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What Is Art? Art Defined

> JONATHAN MERRITT IF YALE UNIVERSITY art major Aliza Shvarts wanted her artwork to spark conversation, she undoubtedly succeeded. Her 2008 senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month period of time during which Shvarts claimed to have artificially inseminated herself and chemically induced miscarriages, drew a firestorm of condemnation and public outcry. In the name of art, she claims she became pregnant many times by injecting herself with semen using a syringe while periodically taking legal abortifacient herbs to force miscarriages. She then collected the blood from the miscarriages in cups and mixed it with Vaseline for preservation, planning to display it alongside video projections of the miscarriage process. School officials later claimed none of it ever really happened, but still defended the artistic value of the stunt. Shvarts also defended the artistic value of her project. “I think that I’m creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be,” she told Yale Daily News. Exhibitions like these beg serious questions about the nature and definition of art as well as how followers of Christ should respond to art they find morally repugnant.

JONATHAN MERRITT is a faith and culture writer. You can connect with him at

Artists and scholars have long debated which criteria should be used, if any, to determine whether something should be considered art. That debate again became relevant in light of these recent events. John Carey, author of What Good Are the Arts?, says it isn’t for him, but it may be for someone else. “If [Shvarts] thinks it is a work of art, then for her, it is a work of art. And if the University thinks it is, then it is one for them,” he says. “It is not one for me.” In his opinion, whether or not something is art is relative to each individual. “My definition of a work of art is: anything anyone has ever called a work of art, but it may be a work of art only for that one person. The situation is completely subjective,” Carey says. Albert Mohler, author of Culture Shift, says that Carey’s argument is out of touch with reality. “Claiming that art is subjectively defined is an interesting argument which makes sense if the autonomous individual is the only standard for meaning,” he says. “It is disingenuous to claim that art is just whatever anyone wants it to be.” Mohler believes that in order for something to be considered art, it should be viewed in light of what he calls the transcendental test. “The transcendental test involves asking three questions,” Mohler says. “Is it good? Is it beautiful? Is it true? While it is hard to argue that there is a completely objective standard, we should hold to the transcendental test.” Mohler points out that the Christian worldview says that the good, the beautiful and the true are one and the same. The problem with Shvarts’ project is that it fails to meet any of the three criteria. “At Yale, there was a failure to produce truth. Even the young lady has said that it was not what it was presented to be. And it fails the goodness test, too. What virtue is celebrated and/or condemned in this artwork? In this case, her grotesque treatment of life and human tissue is celebrated. And it goes without saying that her display was not beautiful, either,” he says.

When Art Offends Art is a medium that historically pushes the envelope, often challenging society’s perceptions and stereotypes. In doing so, the content and style of art is sometimes intentionally shocking. For followers of Christ, art like this can be confusing and even frustrating. After all, Christians are encouraged to fill their minds only with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, [and] whatever is admirable” (Philippians 4:8, TNIV). How then shall Christians respond to art that they find offensive or even morally abhorrent? The simplest response to offensive art, says Halla, is to disregard it. “[If I see] a work of art that is blatantly pornographic, my response is I turn away,” he says. “To me that’s inappropriate subject. And so in that sense, the offense is of the nature that I would just disregard it.” However, he believes we should consider the artist and the context of the artwork before writing off a piece as immoral or repulsive. “Every piece needs to be responded to individually and given the discernment that you would give to any area of life,” Halla says. Before making a judgment on a work of art, Halla will typically do some research on both the art and the artist. What seems offensive prima facie may actually be an opportunity for personal learning and growth. “If it’s a living artist and if there’s something in the work that really interests me or is really compelling, I may see if I can track down the artist, send him a quick email [and] ask him some questions if he’d be willing to respond,” he says. “Just because something might offend me, that’s not a reason to disregard it and not deal with it, but rather use even those opportunities to open up and dialogue with artists, with individuals, to go into that deeper conversation.” “Christians should be open to experiences of art of many kinds,” says William Dyrness, author of Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue. “But they should spend more time thinking about and looking at things that are good and true. If they do this, they will have less trouble deciding what they should avoid.” Sometimes there is a fine line between an illuminating but abrasive artwork and art that has no morally redeeming value, but the key is in making an informed decision, Dyrness says. “There are things that are offensive, and Christians are careful about such things. But one needs to try to understand what the artist intends by such things before dismissing them.” d


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STEPHEN DEVRIES IS THE DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER OF BEDOUINS INTERNATIONAL, A NONPROFIT MEDIA GROUP THAT PROVIDES HIGH-QUALITY ART TO HELP OTHERS COMMUNICATE THEIR NEEDS. What is the purpose of Bedouins? Our purpose is to provide media—we want to provide the highest-quality media possible as communication tools to missionaries and humanitarian organizations all over the world. We realized that missionaries, humanitarian outreaches, church plants and orphanages [who] don’t have the money for media end up with low-quality media, which makes it really hard for them to get the interest of anybody. Nobody wants to look at their websites because they’re poorly done, and we realized that as artists, we had the skills to do that, and we wanted to help them out. What exactly do you do to help these organizations? We’re trying to help them connect with the people who make their mission possible, the people who fund them or the people who are praying for them—and also in general help them raise awareness that God’s doing stuff out there. There are four of us who own and operate the organization—I do photography, Paul does video, Josh does print and web design and Roger’s a musician, so we can provide any kind of media in the highest quality available, and we do it for free.

Who are some of the people or organizations you have worked with? We’ve done a lot of work here in the states for different organizations— although this last year has been a building year, so we’ve worked more with people who are already established to help fund us in the future. We’ve worked with Adventures in Missions, Times Square Church and Harvest Evangelism. In June we worked with an organization that’s starting up in Haiti called the Vanilla Bean Project, and we’re also working with the guy who’s starting an organization called No Excuse Now—it’s kind of like a MySpace/Paypal/ Facebook for missionaries. And She Dances is an organization promoting awareness about sex trafficking. What have you learned since starting Bedouins? More than I ever wanted to know about 501c3s! No, I’ve learned a lot about running a board, and running it from a Christian standpoint. The other thing I’ve learned is that there are so many people who are excited and willing to jump on board; every step of the way we’ve had people get excited about what we’re doing, and willing to help out, and made everything possible. If you’re passionate about something and God’s on board with that, so many people are ready to jump on board and get involved. Check out more at


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� � � � � � � � � � � � � � ���������� Something just happened inside you and around you

that you can’t fully explain. You can’t help but think it must be GOD. And yet you’re unsure about a whole lot of things that Christians are “supposed” to believe.

You don’t know what to think about creation?


You’re uneasy about what the guy in the cube

Okay, whatever. You don’t want to look like a televangelist? Great! next to you says about Jesus?

But what, exactly, are you supposed to be doing and believing? If you’re a follower of Jesus, you haven’t just joined a club, signed a set of beliefs or learned a secret handshake. You have joined a Revolution. You’re about to have your world turned upside down. More than that, you’re going to play a part in turning the rest of the world upside down, too.





DAREN WENDELL IS ON A TREK AROUND THE WORLD TO RAISE MONEY AND AWARENESS FOR BLOOD:WATER MISSION. At an age when most people can barely map out the next six months of their lives, Daren Wendell has a pretty good picture of how his next seven years will look. His surroundings will change and the languages may become unfamiliar, but his day-to-day will nevertheless remain the same: two feet, one backpack, the miles stretching out before him. Wendell is on a mission to walk around the world—an expedition that will run the course of seven years and take him across 18,000 miles, 14 countries and 36 million steps. The Earth Expedition, which kicked off in Dahlonega, Ga., on March 8, wasn’t an attempt to inject some excitement into his life. The 26-year-old is walking to raise awareness and funds for Blood:Water Mission, an organization seeking to save lives in AIDS-ravaged Africa through clean water and medical attention. “The inspiration comes from a life philosophy of giving back to the world rather than taking from it,” Wendell says. “I just live my life, and I look around, and most people are out for, number one, themselves.” This philosophy took root as he carefully prepared for his trip. With $19,000 in debt, Wendell went on a huge budget, staying away from minor extravagances like movies and the Internet, and keeping all meals under $2.50. He worked two jobs and at one point sold everything he owned (“except a few memories”) over

a period of three days. “It was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done,” he says. “It was almost like a weight lifted off my shoulders.” Now, several months into the trip, he is accompanied by nothing more than a backpack filled with the bare essentials. The journey has brought him into contact with supporters and strangers alike, and given him the opportunity to share the work of BWM in front of larger audiences. Recently, after hearing Wendell’s story, the mayor of Unionville, N.Y., was inspired to give money to the organization. “The snowball is rolling when it comes to fundraising,” Wendell says. “The longer I walk, the bigger the platform. The bigger the platform, the more opportunities I have to bring awareness and raise funds.” That’s a motivating thought as he traverses the endless miles each day. “[My faith] is really the reason, the foundation, the tag line—if you’re around me for any period of time, you’ll hear me say, ‘Life to the fullest.’ I’m still trying to digest fully what that means. It comes from John 10:10, where Jesus says, ‘I have come to give you life and give you life to the fullest.’ I don’t believe that’s something like, ‘Hey, do crazy things like skydiving and white-water rafting.’ I think it means a life of sacrifice—stepping outside of yourself for the sake of advancing God’s Kingdom. That’s kind of what gets me up every morning.” For more information or to support Wendell’s expedition, go to


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NATHAN MARION IS THE FOUNDER OF BANDS WITHOUT BORDERS, AN ORGANIZATION BRINGING MUSICIANS AND NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS TOGETHER TO REACH CHILDREN WORLDWIDE. Music and service, on a personal level, have been coupled in Nathan Marion’s life for some time. After high school, Marion traveled and lived in Haiti and Honduras and can still remember the faces of the children he worked with. Now, the 30-year-old Seattle art curator is a connecter himself, between bands and nonprofits, music and humanitarian work. In 2005, Marion founded Bands Without Borders (BWB), a nonprofit group that connects musicians with humanitarian organizations aimed at reaching children around the world. Locally, BWB is working with First Place School, which assists homeless families and kids in getting an education. On a wider scale, in Brazil, Bahia Street serves young girls and women, helping them get into school and out of poverty. “This new campaign is based on the core concept that education is key to really helping young people to develop and improve their quality of life—and thereby their country,” Marion says. One of the unique things about BWB is its focus on smaller organizations that do not have the big budgets or marketers in place to help them. Marion realized that “nonprofits don’t really speak the same language as bands and young music fans, so someone is needed in the middle to translate.” As he connects the two,

the fruit that comes from the network includes fundraising, awareness and volunteer support. On the artistic side of the coin, Marion has worked with folks like Viva Voce and Mates of State, Mason Jennings and United State of Electronica, as well as The Pale Pacific and a host of other young or indie bands from the Northwest. Typically, BWB musicians are the message bearers of hope and change through charity and service, but some have even stepped beyond that. “Working with The Lonely Forest has been an amazing challenge and inspiration,” Marion says. “Their songs are very creative and socially conscious—definitely hit people hard. [Frontman] John [Van Deusen] is going to Kenya this year to work at an orphanage for a couple months.” Last year BWB raised awareness, volunteers and backpacks for Water 1st, an organization that does clean water projects in very poor countries. “Seeing the photos of the kids in Honduras with the backpacks we gathered was a really touching moment for me,” Marion says. “It’s so small and simple, yet so important for kids to have a backpack for school and access to clean water so they don’t have to gather it all day. “Anyone who is truly living out their faith must absolutely be helping the poor in some way throughout their life—even a 17-year-old in a rock band!” For more information on BWB, visit


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* the scene Touring Shanghai SHANGHAI WAS LITTLE MORE than a fishing village before the 19th century, but what it lacks in the magnificent ancient history so rich in other parts of China, it makes up for in modern bling. Today, Shanghai is home to some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers and has a staggering population of 20 million people. As nationals and foreigners flood to this financial and fashion capital, Shanghai is setting the tone for how the world sees China.

b Getting around Shanghai is pretty easy and cheap, with nine metro lines and taxis that start at $1.50. Arm yourself with a red Shanghai Tourist Map and your travel guide. When in doubt, ask

for help—Shanghai is an easy place to meet young Chinese and foreigners who are more than willing to assist you. If your time is limited, make sure to visit People’s Square in the day and The Bund at night. Formerly the Shanghai Race Course until gambling was banned in 1949, today People’s Square is home to the busiest metro station in the world. Enjoy the art-deco style of the Shanghai Art Museum, located in the old racing clubhouse, and then head over to the Shanghai Museum, with its comprehensive collection of Chinese artifacts.

Don’t leave without taking a stroll around the park itself, where people congregate to chat, fly kites and people-watch. The best place to appreciate Shanghai at night is the Bund, which rests on the Huangpu River and features a string of colonial-era buildings where foreigners conducted business after the First Opium War. Splurge on dinner at the swanky M on the Bund, and then take a walk along the river promenade, where you’ll have a stunning view of Pudong, the financial center of the city, which was farmland only 20 years ago but now glistens with skyscrapers. Both the 88-story Jin Mao Tower and the funky-shaped Oriental Pearl Tower offer amazing panoramas of the city.


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WINTER 40º–45º F Chilly and rainy: Layer up, as indoor heating is unpredictable.

SPRING 47º–70º F While temperatures can fluctuate, the weather is generally mild and comfortable, with flowers blooming all over the city.

SUMMER 75º–95º F Hot, humid, sticky. If you can avoid visiting in July and August, do so at all costs.

FALL 50º–75º F Generally warm—some of the most pleasant days and comfortable nights are found this time of year; bring a jacket and a sweater to be safe.

QUICK FACT Ancient Chinese folk customs, like the New Year bell striking and the Yuyuan Lantern Festival, still take place in Shanghai.

Visit the oldest part of the city for a taste of ancient culture and shopping at the Ming Dynasty Yu Garden. After you tour the garden and temple, get ready for some bargaining. Chinese souvenirs abound here, and you can purchase everything from Mao Ze Dong watches to tea sets and personalized scrolls. Take time to venture beyond the tourist-heavy shopping areas, and walk along the disappearing Shikumen lanes, where residents live in startling contrast to the polished high-rises of the city center. Chic boutiques and artist lofts abound in another Shikumen area on Taikang Road, where many local designers have opened boutiques among the winding alleys. The collection of shops, bars and restaurants at Xintiandi meld metropolitan Shanghai with the glamorous decadence of the city’s past.

THE ART OF THE CHOPSTICK e b All of China’s food comes together in Shanghai: the sweet sauces of Shanghai, the spicy peppers of Sichuan, the noodles of the North. So, allow yourself a Starbucks latte—but then walk past the double arches and into the nearest hole-in-thewall restaurant. Ease into your chopstick skills with Shanghai fusion amid smart, modern décor at 1221, and then move on to more traditional fare at Grape, which is housed in a former Russian Orthodox Church. Don’t leave without trying xiao long bao, Shanghai’s famous dumplings, at Nanxiang Mantou Dian. To get a taste of China’s other flavors, visit South Beauty, where Sichuan’s best fiery dishes will have you asking for extra bowls of rice, and enjoy the hearty meats and noodles of Yunnan province at Lost Heaven. JAZZ BABY e b While Shanghai

struggles to develop its own sound, the revival of the pre-Revolutionary jazz scene remains the best music in town. Come early to the Cotton Club and Club JZ, where nightly performances fill up the small, intimate venues. Other night spots are O’Malley’s Irish Pub and Glamour Bar, where you are sure to meet an interesting array of people, from twentysomethings to businessmen. SHANGHAI’S SPIRITUAL SIDE e b Much has changed since Hudson Taylor and many other missionaries brought Christianity to the small city of Shanghai, but their influence still remains in the numerous churches they founded. The largest gathering of expat believers meets at the International Church on Hengshan Road, where people from all over the world worship together each week. Chinese law prohibits locals from attending services at foreign congregations, but most Chinese churches, such as Mu’En Church, Grace Church and St. Ignatius Cathedral, are open to all. a


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TOKYO POLICE CLUB IF YOU WERE TO TELL THE MEMBERS of Tokyo Police Club four years ago that their garage band would be selling tens


of thousands of records and playing a European tour in 2008, they probably would have laughed. “We totally didn’t expect all of this,” vocalist and bassist David Monks says. “That’s why we’re called Tokyo Police Club—because we


thought no one would ever hear us.”

For Fans of:

Elephant Shell, in April, following the EPs Smith and A Lesson in Crime. According to Monks, Elephant Shell picks Hellogoodbye, Bright Eyes, OK Go

Plenty of people are listening to them now and liking what they hear. The band released their debut album, up right where the EPs left off. “For me, it just sounds like us,” Monks says. “Our strategy was to make what came naturally for us. We just want to be a good band. We want our songs to sound better live, not like we’re missing a digital loop. We don’t put trumpets in when we can’t play trumpets live.” Their natural sound includes dance-party-ready beats bursting with energy, with Greg Alsop, Josh Hook and Graham Wright rounding out the four friends from high school whose bordeom led them to learn to play guitar, drums and keyboard, and form the band their senior year. And even though Tokyo Police Club’s glory road in indie music has just begun, Monks isn’t about to lose sight of why he does this band thing in the first place. “I can see a reflection of myself in our music,” Monks said. “Music understands me when I don’t understand me. It fulfills a personal need. It’s like, when I was a kid, I could play Legos forever. They had an infinite world of possibilities. Now that I’m older, music is like that. It’s the best toy ever. I could never grow out of it. “ —JoLeah Stiles


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UNTIL JUNE FOR THE BALLARD BROTHERS, NOTHING SEEMS TO COME EASY. “This last year has just been brutal. I’d say actually



the last two years have been really hard on us,” says vocalist and pianist Josh Ballard, who, along with guitarist brother Dan and drummer Daniel Dempsey, makes up the piano rock trio Until June. “It’s been a heckuva ride for us.” The list of struggles certainly backs up Ballard’s claim. “My brother’s wife ended up leaving him. And our

producer’s wife left him in almost the exact same circumstances,” he says. That was only the beginning—soon

For Fans of:

afterward, Ballard’s father was diagnosed with cancer, Ballard contracted mono during a frenetic summer tour season

Keane, The Fray

and the group had to deal with financial issues and numerous delays on the self-titled album release. Signs of life still emerged amidst the tragedy, however, showing the power of Until June’s music and the resilience of the band’s members. ABC picked up “What I’ve Done” for megahits Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, and then overseas acclaim found the band in an unconventional way. “When Tower Records went under, they shipped a lot of their inventory over to Japan, and in there was our record,” Ballard says. “For some reason, it hit hard. Then, before you know it, the Los Angeles Tower Records orders 2,000 copies. We’ve shipped 10,000 in Japan, and it hasn’t even been released yet.” The band maintains perspective while on the musical and emotional roller coaster. “God’s got something pretty crazy up His sleeve, and we’re going through this for a reason,” Ballard says. “It’s weird because it seems the enemy is just coming down so hard on us. Maybe it’s a good sign because it shows there are good things in store.” —Matt Conner


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CRYPTACIZE WAS CONSTRUCTED FROM THE MINDS of best friends Chris Cohen and Nedelle Torrisi (commonly



For Fans of:

Deerhoof, Castanets, Atlas Sound

known as simply Nedelle). Nedelle, who records under her own name on the Kill Rock Stars label, had played with Cohen in the past, when he was a guitarist with the experimental indie-rock outfit Deerhoof, as well as with his semisolo project, The Curtains. The thought of making music with a close friend was too good a temptation to pass up. “It was meant to be; it was inevitable,” Cohen says. “We wanted Cryptacize to be a dream band, to do the music we always wanted to do.” The band came into complete fruition after the two friends found the group’s percussionist, Michael Cerreira, in a YouTube video where he was performing a cowbell solo. The entire video was an extreme closeup of hands and cowbell, so it took some investigative work to track down the man behind the bell. As a child, Nedelle studied voice and acting in the hopes of one day becoming a Broadway actress. She never found her way onto Broadway, but she hopes Cryptacize can fulfill some of that childhood longing. “We wanted to do something more dramatic, something Nedelle has always wanted to do,” Cohen says. “Hopefully, this is a chance for her to strut her stuff a little.” It wasn’t until recently that Cohen realized his own affection for musical theater. “When I was a kid I hated it,” he says. “Nedelle turned me on to West Side Story this past year. I like how sophisticated it is, but also so instantly appealing for anybody. That’s the kind of music we want Cryptacize to be like.” —Eric VanValin


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CONOR OBERST DOES NOT EXIST. At least, not the Conor Oberst viewed as an all-knowing, modern-day prophet by millions of adoring fans and scores of expectant critics. For years Oberst has been one of the sole inhabitants of an elite rank of indie artists who have conquered mainstream music while maintaining their artistic credibility. This persona was born sometime around 2005, when Oberst and his band, Bright Eyes, simultaneously released I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in the Digital Urn, the albums that led to such accolades as Artist of the Year and Song of the Year for “When the President Talks to God” at the 2006 PLUG Independent Music Awards. The albums’ success was bolstered largely by Oberst’s achingly honest lyrics, which soon led many to draw comparisons between the songwriter and Bob Dylan. Talking directly to him, though, Conor Oberst the Legend begins to take a back seat to Conor Oberst the Man—not because he doesn’t seem fit to bear the weight of these expectations, but because of his surprisingly candid and likable demeanor. Instead of coming across as brash and arrogant, as one might expect, his words are unassumingly confident and thoughtful. It becomes clear that the real Oberst exists quietly behind the grandiose persona others have forced upon him,


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“Just because you happen to be a musician or an actor doesn’t mean you surrender your rights as a citizen and your ability to participate in the political process.”

likened more appropriately to a much younger version of himself who, at 13, sat for hours in the family’s basement recording songs he had written onto his father’s four-track cassette player, unknowingly setting the course for the rest of his life. At 13, Oberst had to find a way to release the music living inside of him. At 28, he is still trying to do the same thing, putting into song his observations about the state of the world and the changes he wishes to see. When it comes to such real issues as war and the government, Oberst understands their significance, but he refuses to give in to the temptation to become a cynical, negative artist or—perhaps more importantly to him—a pessimistic person. “I think [there’s a tension between frustration and optimism] as a person just as much as as a songwriter,” Oberst says. “I’m sure you’ve experienced that tension of, obviously you can’t close your eyes and ignore all of the things that are horrible in the world. But it doesn’t do anyone any good to completely focus on only that and not see things that are beautiful. For me it’s a day-to-day thing. There are days when I feel really positive and hopeful and really optimistic, and there are days when I wake up on the opposite side of the bed and I can’t get to those feelings anymore. I can only get to the other side—the fear and the horror of these things that go on every day in the world. It’s pretty much a constant struggle to stay positive and not succumb to those kinds of feelings.” This quality is one of the things that makes Oberst unique amongst a sea of artists who ebb and flow with the changing world landscape. Not only does he have pressure to articulate the feelings of a generation living in a world of turmoil, but he does it while continuously seeking optimism. Oberst’s struggle to stay hopeful is quintessentially human, a journey weathered by many in early adulthood, and it comes through in his writing, making his lyrics grippingly personal. This is what allows him to create albums that connect with both listeners and critics, even if that’s not intentionally what he sets out to do. “Usually the songs just kind of come on their own terms, and a lot of times I don’t write with the intention of it being a record,” Oberst says. “So, a lot of it is already written, and I’ll realize, ‘Oh, I have enough material to do a record.’ And then, maybe toward the end of that process, the last few songs I wrote leading up to the recording can be sculpted more into a larger piece of work. But for the most part, it’s just writing songs as they come and not really thinking much about the next step until it’s time to do it.” For Oberst, most of his public image is a result of this tendency to write and say exactly what he feels. This stream-of-consciousness writing has often landed him at the center of controversy, particularly when relating to the world of politics, where his opinions and growing dissatisfaction with the political state of America continually manifest themselves through his lyrics. Much of the controversy surrounding his political affiliation revolves around his outspoken opposition to President Bush. “The last eight years have been so intense in a lot

of ways,” he says. “I do a lot of traveling; I spend a lot of time outside of the States answering a lot of questions, trying to explain that we don’t all think the same way and that a lot of Americans feel completely the opposite of our administration.” In this way, the political affairs of the country he calls home have become a very real element for him, something he constantly wrestles with. “I can remember the first time I got interested [in political affairs]—about a year before the 2000 election, and the whole situation with the results of the election and the fact that it went to the Supreme Court,” Oberst says. “I didn’t know much about politics at all, but I can remember thinking how strange it was that weeks had gone by and we still didn’t have a president. And then, seeing George Bush speak, I couldn’t believe that this person could truly be in charge of our country. It seemed so ridiculous to me, even knowing nothing about politics—just seeing him as a person I couldn’t believe it. And then, of course, 9/11 and the Iraq war and everything just sort of snowballed into this really terrifying situation that we’re still in.” Despite the controversy surrounding his political escapades, Oberst remains unapologetic, holding to the belief that he shouldn’t have to silence his opinion simply because he is in the public eye. “Just because you happen to be a musician or an actor doesn’t mean you surrender your rights as a citizen and your ability to participate in the political process,” he says. “If you want to tell a lot of people something and you happen to have a megaphone in your hand, you’re going to use the megaphone— you’re not going to whisper it.” In October of 2004, Oberst picked up one of the most powerful microphones available to him by taking part in the Vote for Change tour, in which musical artists partnered with to encourage the populace to vote against George W. Bush. Most recently, he has begun to advocate not simply against Bush, but for an answer he believes in, by playing several shows in support of presidential hopeful Barack Obama. “If you have a platform to communicate with people and it’s something you believe in, I think it’s completely within your right and completely appropriate to use that platform,” he says. “People are more than welcome to change the channel or not buy a ticket to the show if it’s not something they feel comfortable with—the mixing of music and politics or art and politics. But I think with the audience I have, people have been pretty understanding that it’s just a part of life, and it’s fair game to discuss it.” This mentality has been one of the defining characteristics of Oberst’s career. It was exemplified in May 2005 when he appeared, clad in red cowboy garb, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to perform his previously unreleased “When the President Talks to God.” The song is an inflammatory anthem against Bush, specifically his use of evangelical vocabulary to justify many of his presidential decisions: When the president talks to God / Are the conversations brief or long? / Does he ask to rape our women’s rights / And send poor farm kids off to die? / Does God suggest an oil hike / When the president talks


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to God? The performance quickly circulated on the Internet, drawing attention due to its unblinking confrontation of a sensitive subject. But while appearances like this may serve to draw heat from Oberst’s critics, they also elicit adoration from fans who see him as a voice for those who would otherwise remain unheard. However, he admits that when writing these songs, he has no intention to start any political revolutions. “I don’t really have much control over what I write about,” he says. “I tend to write about what’s on my mind, and I never wrote political songs until it really started to affect my personal life and what I thought about on a daily basis. At that point, the feelings just started coming out in the songs, but I never really sit down and say, ‘I’m going to write a political song or a love song’ or whatever. I don’t have a message like that. I have to just let the songs come and be what they’ll be.” And what they often become is a sounding board for those who call his music their own. “It’s hard—I don’t know the best way to organize a society,” Oberst says.“ We’ve tried different ways, and none of them have been completely successful. So I don’t know, I think the best you can do is live in a way that’s compassionate toward other people and do your best to spread positivity and not negativity.” In spite of its often biting commentary, this


is what Oberst attempts to do on his new selftitled album. Penning words that agonize over political change while not seeing immediate results is frustrating, but Oberst has pushed through any negativity and disappointment to release a new album that is fresh yet familiar. The album was recorded over the course of one month last winter in a temporary studio housed in a mountain villa in Tepoztlán, Morales, Mexico. “It’s the first record I’ve done in a number of years that never saw the inside of a computer,” Oberst says. “It was all done on tape. I don’t consider it lo-fi, but it wasn’t made in a studio, and I think it has a casual feel that I enjoy about it.” Along with a new means of recording, the album also employs a new band name. Drifting from Bright Eyes, the most notable of the seven bands Oberst has been a part of, the group of musicians he engaged on this album call themselves the Mystic Valley Band, after the environment surrounding their studio. In a show of loyalty not often seen in the music business, Oberst decided to forego using the recognizable Bright Eyes’ moniker, since Mike Mogis didn’t play on the new album. “I consider Bright Eyes to be a band with Mike and myself and Nate Walcott,” Oberst says. “Since Mike didn’t play on it, I didn’t really feel like it would be right to call it Bright Eyes.” The absence of Mogis on the album led to more changes than just the band name. Embracing a nature of experimentation with Conor Oberst, he also left Saddle Creek in favor of Merge Records. It was all part of a “time for change,” as Oberst calls it. “There was no ill will between me and Saddle Creek,” he says. “It was more the idea of trying something new, and I’m really lucky to be in the position where I don’t have to come out with a contract to anyone, so I can release one record with one label and do something else with the next one. We thought we’d take [the experimentation] a step further and release [the new album] in a different way.” While Oberst has a firm grasp on who he is and what he believes politically, when it comes to matters of spirituality, you find him candidly searching for answers. The title to 2007’s Cassadaga is a

“To me , the single most dangerous thing that’s happening in the world today is the rise of fundamentalism across the board. Evangelical Christians, Islamic extremists, crazy Zionists, the Israeli and Palestinian situation and how unreasonable that can be sometimes; all those things coming together— it’s terrifying.” direct result of this quest for truth in his life. Named after Cassadaga, Fla., known as the psychic capital of the world, the album came after Oberst visited the town in hopes of finding the truths its advocates promise. “I actually went and checked it out, and I had built it up in my mind as this place I really needed to go to,” Oberst says. “Eventually I did, and for whatever reason, I just found a lot of peace of mind down there. I believe there’s energy in places, and I think there’s a reason they’ve all congregated there and lived there. There’s something that’s palpable to me when you’re there, [as in] anyplace you go where there’s enough people focusing their mental energy on something, whether it’s a psychic, ESP-type thing, or any kind of spiritual center where people go and pray or meditate. I think the mind is very powerful, and you can feel that when you’re in those places. I left [Cassadaga] with a new peacefulness—a calmness—and I can’t quite explain why it all happened that way, but it made enough of an impact on me that I decided to name the record that.” Growing up in a Catholic family, Oberst


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attended mass during his early upbringing, but says that when he “could make an argument beyond ‘I just want to sleep in’ for not wanting to go to church,” his parents were understanding and allowed him to make his own choices. As witnessed by his continued search for truth, though, Oberst’s exit from the Church didn’t lead to an exit from religious pursuit. Though he may have a hard time embracing organized religion, he understands the significance of spirituality. “To me, the single most dangerous thing that’s happening in the world today is the rise of fundamentalism across the board,” Oberst says. “Evangelical Christians, Islamic extremists, crazy Zionists, the Israeli and Palestinian situation and how unreasonable that can be sometimes—all those things coming together, it’s terrifying. I think spirituality is really important, but unfortunately, it’s hard to look at—from a historical standpoint—organized religion and see much good that it’s brought to the world. It’s mostly been something that’s

“I still believe there are more good people in the world than not and that human beings want to help each other if it’s presented in a way that’s understandable and achievable.” divided the world and caused suffering. More [often] than not, it’s used as a political tool and as a way to control people and to gain power, wealth and advantage for small amounts of people at the expense of big populations of people. I think that’s the way it’s been since most of these religions have been here. “Of course, good things have happened too, but think of all the wars that have been waged because of these differences. I don’t know; maybe it’s human nature. Maybe you can’t blame it all on organized religion. Maybe it’s the human heart that’s flawed either way, but to me it seems like a negative force.” Underneath the hard shell of skepticism Oberst wears when religion is brought into the conversation is a fierce hope in the inherent good in people. Oberst believes that, given the chance, people will do good simply for the sake of doing what is right.

“To me it’s somewhat cynical, the idea that people are only going to do good if they can make money,” Oberst says. “I think that’s a little shortsighted. I still believe there are more good people in the world than not and that human beings want to help each other if it’s just presented in a way that’s understandable and achievable.” Perhaps it’s this hope that keeps Oberst writing and believing in the power of good in the face of so many global tragedies. What fans of Oberst can expect in his future, though, are the same gut-wrenching lyrics that put Oberst at the forefront of music in the first place. The deep sense of harmony the Mystic Valley Band experienced during that month of recording brings cohesion to the instrumentals, building on the maturity Oberst showcased moving from his 2005 albums to Cassadaga. In this way, Oberst continues his storied career in the same way he always has: unassumingly shouldering the weight of fans, critics and expectations while continuing to make music he believes in, pouring the essence of who he is into the songs that have set the course of his life. 2

Read the full interview with Conor Oberst.

YOUR BRIGHT * FEAST EYES ON THESE One man, seven bands. Here are just a few of the albums Conor Oberst has released: Norman Bailer // Sine Sierra (Lumberjack Records) 1995

Commander Venus // The Uneventful Vacation (Grass Records) 1997 Park Ave. // When Jamie Went to London ... We Broke Up (Urinine Records) 1999 Desaparecidos // Read Music/ Speak Spanish (Saddle Creek Records) 2002 Bright Eyes // Cassadaga (Saddle Creek Records) 2007 Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band // Conor Oberst (Merge Records) 2008 ©2008 Integrity Media, Inc.

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> It’s August 1945, and Captain George P. Shultz, U.S. Marine Corps, is headed stateside. THE MAN WHO will serve as Reagan’s Secretary of State and a chief political architect of an age defined by nuclear weapons has made it through three years of combat in the Pacific theater. Now rumor has it he is headed back to San Diego for redeployment in a pending invasion of Japan. But then word comes down: The United States has dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the war is over. “We were overjoyed,” Shultz told me the first time we met, “but of course, none of us knew what an atomic bomb was.”


UT, OF COURSE, none of us really knows the Bomb, even today. How can you know something that has no limits? This is true: There’s no technical threshold to the magnitude of a thermonuclear bomb. The blast is limited only by the earth’s ability to bear it. Most people think somebody got rid of these things at the end of the Cold War. We didn’t. Yes, we’re down to 20,000 weapons worldwide from a 1986 height of 70,000. Ninety-five percent of them are split between the United States and Russia. The U.K., France and China have a few hundred each. India, Israel and Pakistan have many dozens. North Korea, maybe a handful. It’s still more than enough. The risk these days is less a global thermonuclear inferno than it is a single bomb smuggled in by terrorists on a rented truck or stolen boat. It would probably be a simple, crude affair—fission, rather than thermonuclear—the sort that we used on Hiroshima. But the results would be catastrophic, and would forever change American and world history.

It gets worse: In the nuclear business, this bomb would be described as “weak,” “ineffective” and “not strategically deployed.” Deliver the same bomb by truck to Wall Street or Pennsylvania Avenue on a weekday morning, and words begin to fail entirely. Worse still, this is the beginning, not the end. The next bomb used would most certainly not be the last. And we haven’t even gotten into the number of abjectly poor people who would be killed by the Bomb, never mind that they would never see a mushroom cloud—they’d die in the global economic depression caused by a detonation half a world away. When it comes to nuclear weapons, only zero is enough.


Y PARENTS WERE antinuclear

activists during the Cold War, and I somehow stumbled into the family business. Now I spend my days with nuclear wonks, younger by several decades than most of the people I work with—people in dark suits who talk about scenarios like the one above as if they’re talking about the weather. So calm. So matter-of-fact. Let’s ponder if a Bomb was smuggled in a But you have to check your humanity at the shipping container and delivered to the Port of door if you want to talk calmly about nuclear Long Beach, Calif. Here’s what would happen: weapons. Understand that you can’t talk about the Bomb without your voice IMMEDIATE DEATHS FROM BLAST AND FALLOUT cracking if you think about how each of the 60,000 dead in a poorly executed, inefficient attack was personally formed by God in PEOPLE REQUIRING IMMEDIATE the womb. MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR It’s hard to chat fallout RADIATION POISONING stats with your fellow wonks if, in your mind’s eye, it’s your grandkid staring up in wonder at the SQUARE MILES falling silver dust that will make his hair fall out and IN IMMEDIATE RENDERED UNLIVABLE his mouth and skin bleed DAMAGES FOR 10 TO 20 YEARS uncontrollably until he dies


a few excruciating days later. This kind of destruction is so vast and categorically opposed to restoration that math doesn’t really do it justice. You need theology. The character of this devastation removes the possibility of treatment for the wounded, consolation for the grieving and honor for the dead. The Bomb brings thousands of people’s stories and hopes, life trajectories hitherto disparate, to one terminus in a single abrogation of God’s common grace (see Matthew 5:45). It enacts a sorry human approximation of that which God Himself promised to Noah never to bring about: ground cursed, life destroyed, agriculture and seasons undone. The word you’re looking for here is sin—no matter which country or group is pulling the trigger, or which political agenda the explosion purports to serve.



PEOPLE DON’T know that Ronald Reagan’s deepest, most enduring passion was the abolishment of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. According to his wife, Nancy, he thought they were “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing and possibly destructive of life on earth.” That’s why he proposed their complete elimination at a 1986 summit with the Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, in Reykjavik, Iceland. Here’s the official American memorandum of Reagan’s words to Gorbachev, related in the thirdperson: “[Reagan] preferred to see a different formula. Ten years from now he would be a very old man. He and Gorbachev would come to Iceland, and each of them would bring the last nuclear missile from each country with them. Then they would give a tremendous party for the whole world ... [Reagan] would be very old by then, and Gorbachev would not recognize him. The President would say, ‘Hello, Mikhail.’ And Gorbachev would say, ‘Ron, is it you?’ And then they would destroy the last missiles.” When the record of this conversation got back to Reagan’s people, his national security advisor was so horrified that he classified the memo way above the authorization of even most White House staff. But none of Reagan’s people understood him anyway: They saw his anti-communism and his willingness to build up the arsenal, and they didn’t realize that under all this was a master plan—history will judge its wisdom—to create conditions in which the Bomb could be done away with altogether. Nobody got him, that is, except his top diplomat, George Shultz. In that room outside Reykjavik, when Reagan said, “It would be fine with [me] if we eliminated all nuclear weapons,” and Gorbachev replied, “We can do that; we can eliminate them,” the notes record the old marine exclaiming, “Let’s do it!”


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countries that acknowledge possessing such weapons are, chronologically: the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, the People’s Republic of China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel (widely believed to have, although does not admit to possess, nuclear weapons).


O IT’S NOT really surprising that in

October 2006, Shultz got a bunch of Reagan staffers to commemorate that momentous day in Iceland. What came out of the meeting was a call to finish the job their old boss started. They wrote up a conference statement and brought in a few other headliners to join Shultz as frontmen: Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State for Richard Nixon; Bill Perry, Defense Secretary under Bill Clinton; and former Senator Sam Nunn, who knows as much about the politics of nuclear weapons as anyone alive. Then they published it in The Wall Street Journal under the title, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons.” Here was the gist of their logic: > There’s nobody we really want to nuke, but Osama bin Laden would like to nuke us. > The only way for us not to be nuked is to keep terrorists from getting the Bomb. > The only way to prevent them from getting the Bomb is to control and then eliminate Bomb material worldwide. > We need global cooperation to do this. > We can’t get the cooperation we need unless we’re seriously willing to eliminate our own nuclear arsenal along with everybody else. > A world with any nukes at all means that someday we get nuked. > A world without any nukes means we don’t.

These are not stupid men; they realize that there are tough questions: “What about Iran/ Israel/Russia/cheaters/etc.?” But these can be answered as we go, because as Sam Nunn says, even if we can’t see how to summit a

What’s standing in our way is a simple lack of willpower, arising from the inertia that is endemic to all failures of imagination. This failure should not be confused with hardheaded realism or self-evident common sense. It’s instead the same disabling lack of creativity that prevents the addict from imagining life without a fix; the same incapacity, in fact, that keeps the despairing sinner in disbelief that there might be such a thing as grace bringing forgiveness, reconciliation and joy. Examples to the contrary are few but profound, like F.W. de Klerk, the last apartheid president of South Africa, who both demolished the system that had raised him to power and dismantled South Africa’s secret arsenal of nuclear weapons. Both actions, he declared to his senior aides, were necessary to bring their country back into the family of nations. That’s redemptive creativity.


’VE FOUND THAT many boomers see

mountain, we still know to head up instead of down. And by January 2008, in fact, the plan had the endorsement of 70 percent of the living individuals who have served as secretary of state, secretary of defense or national security advisor. This is a supermajority of people who wouldn’t recognize utopianism if they stole its milk money.

THE OCTOGENARIANS WON’T LIVE FOREVER. WILL MORE OF THE YOUNGER GENERATION STEP UP IN TIME? That means the problem here isn’t the merits of the idea or the technical feasibility of abolition. Whether you A) want to preserve American lives; B) think nuclear weapons take precious resources from the desperately poor; C) think we can’t tackle the really hard problems like climate change and pandemic disease if we can’t handle the Bomb; or D) think the weapons are intrinsically evil because God hates the shedding of innocent blood—no matter what your reasoning is, the case is clear: The things have to go. (Full disclosure: I’m E, all of the above.)

the Bomb as an unavoidable fixture of existence, and I think this leads to the terminal failure of moral imagination described by the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth: “What cannot be avoided or escaped from becomes confused with some necessity of nature, and this is in very truth a demonic caricature of the necessity of God.” But George Shultz and his team were men grown before our world’s imagination was invaded by the Bomb. They’re simply too inventive to believe that it’s “a necessity of nature.” You’ve already met Shultz. But take the likes of Ambassador Max Kampelman, who got his law degree while voluntarily starving for a year during WWII, to help researchers learn how to treat famine victims; or Dr. Sid Drell, the Stanford physicist who’s advised our government on nuclear security for half of his life; or Ambassador Jim Goodby, a diplomat who served nine straight U.S. presidents and convinced the former Soviet states to hand the nuclear weapons on their soil over to Russia. But the octogenarians won’t live forever. So the question is: Will more of the younger generation step up in time? And when the last of them falls, will there be enough of us to honor their service by catching the banner they have raised? There aren’t many of us in our 20s and 30s working on this issue, probably because we were never terrified into caring about it. There’s certainly nothing like a youth movement on this—we just happen to be younger people in the various organizations that deal with nuclear matters. Those of us born outside the petrifying grip of the Cold War do share a gift in common with those a half-century our senior, however, which our parents don’t: We can readily envision a world without the Bomb.


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> Sign the Biblical Security Covenant and renounce nuclear weapons. Our taxes pay for American bombs, they belong to us and we’re accountable to God for them. Declare as a witness to Christ that you don’t want your security to be sought through means which God finds abhorrent.



> Start including the abolition of nuclear weapons with other nonnegotiable sanctity-of-life issues. They kill indiscriminately, without regard to combatant or innocent. This should be unacceptable to us.



> Google and then read “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons” and “Toward a Nuclear-Free World” (The Wall Street Journal, 1/4/07 and 1/15/08). When you finish, you’ll know more about nuclear weapons than 99 percent of the American public. Email the links to your elected officials and candidates for public office, and tell them to read them, too. Let them know that you think the vision of Shultz is a moral imperative of the highest order, that you’re watching and (if you’re over 18) that you vote.



> Pray for the president. If the occupant of the Oval Office declared that the nuclear-weapons posture of the United States was dedicated to the global abolition of all such weapons, everything would change.



> Get involved long term, because our moral witness is relevant to what the government does. Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Nunn have created an initiative called the Nuclear Security Project, designed to promote the policies that will help make us safer and move us toward the end goal.



> This December, another group of major global leaders is going to launch a major effort called Global Zero: A World Without Nuclear Weapons ( Think the ONE campaign, but for eliminating the Bomb instead of debt: a global public outreach project that includes the worldwide theatrical release of a documentary by Academy Award-winning producers in spring 2009. We’ll be working on a special partnership to direct Christian support toward these common-good campaigns, and you can join up. Want to host a film screening and a conversation at your church or campus? Let us know:


’M CONVINCED THAT it’s precisely young Christians who can become the vanguard of a movement. There are thousands of us with the willpower and conviction and unshakable moral standard—we just have to pick up the issue. I’ve been talking nuclear-weapons elimination with evangelical leaders over the past year. People are remarkably open to the idea, but the fire’s really there with the younger leaders. I’m especially heartened by the fact that this is an issue where Christians can be at the forefront—as some of our brothers and sisters were with the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement—rather than dragged in at the end. The greatest gift we have to offer this movement is the imagination of our faith—our ability to see the world as God would have it be, rather than as it is now. The exercise of our faith, summed up in the threefold Christological affirmation above, depends on our ability to occupy presently a Kingdom that’s not yet here. We live between two realities that we haven’t seen: on the one side, the cross and resurrection; and on the other, the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom in the “tremendous party for the whole world” that is a redeemed creation. When Christians are faithful to this vision, there is a savor to our salt and a brightness to our light that the world needs badly.

“A WORLD WITH ANY NUKES AT ALL MEANS THAT SOMEDAY WE GET NUKED.” You see a lot in the way of this salt and light lately. I’ve lost count of the headlines proclaiming young evangelicals’ ambitious activism. But I think the phenomenon is frankly misunderstood by secular observers. The variegated service of my peers, which leaves me awestruck in its sacrificial integrity, seems to me to be not so much “save-the-world organizing,” but rather a profound act of testimony to the work of God. I don’t think we have any illusions that we can fix creation. I think we’re simply not willing to let the devil act like he’s got free run of the joint, as though Christ died for nothing. When we see genocide and poverty and racism and environmental degradation and sex trafficking and eugenics of every variety, we’re really watching Satan preach a sermon to humankind. These evils are the lifeapplication sections in his homiletic of hopelessness. With them he’s saying, Welcome to Hell. He’s saying, I make the rules, and they hurt. Well, there’s no way we’re going to sit silently in the pews of life and listen to that garbage. Our so-called activism is really spiritual shouting: standing and hollering back at the devil’s gruesome pulpit that his dominion of darkness was humiliated at the cross by the Kingdom of God. When we come to nuclear weapons, then, we find ourselves with liberated imaginations. The abolition of these weapons won’t bring the Kingdom about, but we can envision a world without them precisely because we can envision the Kingdom of God. There is no place for nuclear weapons there; we can do away with them here. They are sinful but not sin itself, and save only sin, all works of humankind may be undone. 2


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The air felt thick, like a suffocating blanket—I know, because I not only felt it but tasted it. An eerie glow in the air seemed to reflect the street and vendor lights that gathered from every direction. I didn’t belong here. No one did. My hands were in fists, but it wasn’t someone I wanted to fight—it was just my body’s natural response to the surroundings. As I walked down the narrow alleyway to the middle of the redlight district in Calcutta, India, I realized my heart wasn’t broken at all. Actually, for a short time, as I walked down the pensive streets, it felt as if I had no heart. It had frozen, or dissolved, or ceased to beat in fear of allowing my feelings to overwhelm me. My body wanted to simply curl up in the fetal position and sob forever. These children—and that’s what most of them are—will sell their bodies and the little that’s left of their soul for a few rupees tonight. These were not women of the night; they were mere girls who looked as though they had just gotten into mommy’s makeup and would be in trouble upon her arrival home. They had a few worn, brightly colored clothes slung on their backs and juvenile minds that clenched tightly to the few remaining dreams from their youth. Youth. That is exactly what they had, or the little that what was left of it. Some of them couldn’t have been more than 15 years old. I choked, not only because of their circumstances, but because none of them smiled. Their eyes looked vacant, as if their whole bodies had shut down like mine wanted to do. Their evenings were set to autopilot. I wanted to grab them and run—but where? I didn’t care, not at that moment. I just wanted to transport every single one of them to someplace where we both could cry. Where they could love because of love, where their soul wasn’t bought for 20 to 200 rupees (a mere $0.50 to $4). But it doesn’t do much to stare at their present circumstances—sympathy is an enabler, and I wasn’t at a zoo; I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death with a fiscal address. For them, this was home. These streets were where they had spent the days of their early childhood learning about life and what it contained. What is to become of them? Are they destined to live the same as their parents? Are they to be the ones I will walk past and eventually cry over 15 years down the road? I have to do something. St. Luke said, “To much is given, much is required,” and that night much was given to me. The modern practice of human trafficking enslaves 27 million people around the world. This is more than at any other given time in history. This is not simply a problem on a foreign shore; human trafficking and slavery are not specific to poor or impoverished nations. The reality is that there

are more slaves in the United States today than there have ever been in history, including the era of American slavery and the Civil War. The cost of owning such a slave has dropped immensely since the Civil War as well; in his book A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery, Benjamin Skinner explains that “after adjusting for inflation, a slave sold in 1850 would now roughly cost $30,000 to $40,000. Today you can go to Haiti and buy a 9-year-old girl as a slave for $50.” The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) reported that every 10 minutes, a woman or child is trafficked into the United States and into forced labor. This is in the United States! How does this happen in the “land of the free, home of the brave”—and yet so many of us are ignorant or have turned a blind eye? The CIA recently reported that an estimated 45,000 to 50,000 women and children are brought to this country every year under false pretenses and then are forced unwillingly into roles as abused laborers, servants or prostitutes. We did not know what to expect—no one could have prepared us adequately for this. I personally had no preconceived notions except for the fact that we, the 21 of us from different bands (including Anberlin, Classic Crime and Showbread) and organizations, wanted to help in any way we could. THE TEAM FROM FACELESS INTERNATIONAL touched down in Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal with a more-than-modest population of 15 million (the second largest in India). The Neaji Subhash Chandra Bose international airport looked more like an open-air market, complete with vendors of local foods, a hub for buses and taxis, tourist novelty stands and a gathering point for locals to talk about the daily news. Within mere seconds of getting off the airplane, it dawned on us that everything we had been taught culturally in the West was, at this point, absolutely useless. All traffic blazed insensitively by as if everyone was rushing to the hospital for some sort of emergency, a pregnancy, a life-saving surgery maybe. Here in the United States, we take defensive driving classes, lessons on how to reduce risk by anticipating the other drivers and avoiding dangerous conditions and the mistakes of others. This is not the case in India. The taxi-cab norm is to have ominous gashes in the side of the car, and side-view mirrors mangled and dangling from the side of the car. I have been sky-diving, white-water rafting, rock climbing and feet away from being struck by lighting, but nothing has given me the panic-stricken, adrenaline-rushing near-death experience like being in the front seat of a Calcutta taxi. Indoors, the people of this country are very polite, but once out on the streets, masses of people have a very “me first” attitude when walking to and from their destinations. You are no longer a human with feelings when walking the streets, but meat, resembling slabs of raw beef hanging exposed and vulnerable in a manufacturer’s freezers. I can safely say we were all very much naive to the culture and absolutely green on our quest to fight human trafficking, which at that point was a series of statistics we had not yet put a face to. But we soon would. “Brad” works with these kids each and every day, teaching them a trade so they won’t have to repeat the lifestyles of the ones who have gone before them. I asked him that night, while sitting in the Apne Ap office, what he feels when he sees the “kids” (both the girls of the street and their children). He said it still hits him from time to time, though he has grown immune over time because he sees it so frequently. But then he said, “There is nothing I can do about what is happening tonight; I cannot save anyone who has worked in this industry in the past or the present. My eyes are simply focused on what and whom I can change in the future.” That struck me as rather odd—how could anyone grow


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I cannot be like the U.S. government and merely

throw money and sympathy at the problem ...ting

immune in this environment? But he was right—the only way to stay somewhat sane was not to focus on the immediate despondency that surrounded this place, but to focus solely on tomorrow and plan for better futures for these children. But how did they end up here? It was clear that very few of them were actually born in India. UNICEF says that most of the children are often “sold” by a naive and unsuspecting father or mother who honestly believes the children they have just sold (in most cases for under $5) will be maids and farmhands, and are going to get educated, learn a trade and be carefully looked after by their new “caretaker” (human trafficker). The parents are lied to and told that at any time, they can buy their children back from the caretaker—but even if the impoverished farmer does eventually raise up the purchase price to do so, the caretaker usually just explains that there is interest on their child and triples the price of the child. Little does the impoverished farmer know that his child has probably been bought and sold several times; most likely is no longer even in the same country anymore; and is, at this point, for all intents and purposes, untraceable. The United Nations office on drugs and crime has estimated that the total market value of illicit human trafficking is approximately $32 billion a year. Of this, $10 billion is derived from the sale of individuals, and the rest of the money represents the profits from the goods produced or services rendered by the victims of this slavery. The harsh, ugly, cold reality of sexual trafficking is far worse than simply statistics. What happens right after a farmer sells his daughter is that these fragile little girls, who should be selling lemonade while discussing Barbie and the neighbor’s son, are having their virginity sold to the highest bidder. Moments later the girl is raped by several different men to break down her resistance and mentally prepare her for the horrific life she is about to lead. According to the UNDOC, these victims “are subject to gross human rights EDUCATE YOURSELF. There are violations including rape, torture, beatings, several websites focused on educastarvation, dehumanization and threats of tion and the abolishment of slavery, murdering family members.” including We saw this with our very own eyes. While and in India, we met two girls who had children, but who, at the age of 10, were children DONATE. Organizations are in themselves. We saw a 9-year-old who desperate need of your money, but was getting prenatal care due to her past not just your money—they need your life of child prostitution. The most hearttime as well! Check out wrenching for me was the 7-year-old who, and due to malicious rape, will never be able to walk again. The stories are horrific, but WRITE. Send a letter to your local they are real; these are real children forced and state government officials asking to live adult lives. When you look into the them to make stiffer laws against eyes of someone who has only lived a life of human trafficking and make sure they child prostitution, who at the age of 12 has know your stance of against slavery. more sexual experience than most people in your circle of friends combined, you will EXPERIENCE IT. There are severnever be the same again. Something clicks, al organizations, such as FacelessInsomething changes, and you realize that no, that can help take matter how hard you might want to try, you you overseas to work with children will never, ever be the person you were just who have been affected by human days before. trafficking. I know I have to look to the future to save these children. I cannot be like the U.S. PRAY for these children. government and merely throw money and

* Your red *

* * *


sympathy at the problem of human trafficking and hope it will go away. I must live by the words of Mahatma Gandhi and “become the change I wish to see in the world.” MY HEAD ACHES TO HELP NOW; I don’t want to grow immune to a lifestyle where pursuing comforts in life is far more the venture than doing my part to help humanity for the better. Imagine if everyone helped just one person in the advancement of his or her life. Imagine a world where the West did more than just throw money at the problems of the world and actually got involved in taking care of the innocent. As the fog of the night cleared, as if even the night itself knew the lessons I would have to focus on that fateful evening, I remember thinking, as clichéd as it sounds, I regret that I had just one life to live for these children and children like them around the world. I now know that this savior complex that I was trying to evaluate and “treat” was not a complex at all, but rather was a mere introduction to the fate and destiny that lay before me. I have been given the knowledge and responsibility to do what I can to help these girls and their children. Faceless International began with Sarah Freeman and myself in Haiti almost two years prior, when we decided we had to try to create change in a world that was hurting. We decided Faceless International should exist to raise awareness and education on social issues happening throughout the global community. We educate through offering firsthand, real-life experiences by providing trips around the world, as well as other opportunities to be a part of the solution through a variety of resources. Since Haiti, we have had a handful of compassionate individuals who have come alongside us to organize, lead and help plan humanitarian trips to places such as Guatemala, Ecuador and our adventure to India. Human trafficking is a real problem, one that has been generally ignored for far too long now. But when you experience something like this, you cannot remain unchanged. Since our last India trip, Faceless International has been actively trying to help these girls back onto their feet by aiding organizations such as Apne Ap, Ten, IJM and Free the Slaves. Faceless is also working with girls in these organizations to purchase and distribute handmade goods so that they can sustain their life without the need to go back onto the streets, or wind up like their parents. But it is going to take more than just a handful of us to create the change we so desperately need in this world. We need your help, no matter how little or great your time, energy or finances. The fight against human trafficking needs your help. 2

STEVEN CHRISTIAN is the lead singer of Anberlin.


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POLITICS IS A STICKY BUSINESS. Every four years, the American public is given rhetoric from both sides of the spectrum, each painting an idealistic view of a hopeful future, an America that represents the light of the world. Each party claims that their platform has a monopoly on attaining this goal. This year’s presidential election, in particular, has deeply divided Americans. For those seeking to embody Christ, the choice can be especially difficult. On one side of the equation is a candidate who seems to offer hope for peace and ease for poverty, yet supports abortion. On the other is a candidate who champions the rights of the unborn, yet seeks to continue the war in

Iraq. Can a Christian truly throw unflagging support behind either candidate? It’s not just the candidates that can give Christians pause. Indeed, the entire political process has become so polarized and vitriolic that some have begun to question its very foundation. Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, authors of Jesus for President, were so disturbed by the way they saw Christians drawing political battle lines that they embarked on a cross-country tour to tell people about a different vision for political engagement. “It started around the last election,” Claiborne says. “To vote or not to vote— that was the question. How do we engage the political conversation? We wanted to think deeply and theologically about it as Christians—how to engage or disengage, or appropriately engage. There was an inherent—and I think, healthy—suspicion about putting all of our hope in one day, or one vote, or one candidate or party.” Haw agrees. “We’re trying to help people


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go *deeper Jesus for President Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw Claiborne and Haw explore the intricacies of being citizens of God’s Kingdom while residing in America. The result is revolutionary and often shocking. Red Letter Christians Tony Campolo Campolo charts a new course for Bible-believing Christians—one that transcends parties and puts concern for the poor above all else. The Myth of a Christian Nation Greg Boyd Pastor Greg Boyd deconstructs the idea that the Church should have involvement in the government, arguing that the quest for worldly power has always harmed the Church.

think as Christians, and that takes a rugged revisitation of the whole biblical story,” he says. “To be able to think as a Christian requires to have Christian historical memory and imagination.” The conclusion that Haw and Claiborne came to was that the very nature of the political system was in opposition to the picture Jesus painted of God’s Kingdom. With this in mind, is it appropriate for a Christian to not vote? Haw and Claiborne feel it can be, in some situations. “I think theological grounds can be made for that, on grounds of coercion, or what it means to call Jesus our Lord. Where your vote goes is kind of where your wish or hope is going,” he says. The very nature of the campaign process, Haw believes, should give Christians pause. “The current state of voting involves a very serious hurdle that Christians must see as a red flag, which is the whole question of coercion,” he says. “You have this idea of a tug of war going on publicly. Many people don’t seem to step back and realize that it’s a tug of war that one side is going to win. It appears very hard for me as a Christian, with the precepts of Jesus and the way He views His enemies and friends, to jump in on one side of the tug of war and then be happy if you’ve pulled your tug of war in one direction and say, ‘We’re glad we beat you other guys.’ I think Christians should be very unsatisfied with the whole nature of coercion. In some ways, there is a latent violence that sits under the voting mechanism.” Moreover, Haw believes that our faith in the government’s power to effect change may be misplaced. He holds that global markets, rather than elected offices, truly hold the balance of political power. “I think Christians need to be making some economic connections, too, about what the whole sphere of political change means today,” he says. “In the mid20th century, something started changing within the U.S. economy and the military and the whole sphere of global economics that started totally moving in this direction of global capital being more powerful than any government. That has not been noticed by most folks. We still think we’re controlling the government by our vote. It turns out the marketplace is really tantamount to all the things going on in the government. Eisenhower, when he gave his last speech upon leaving office, said that the military-industrial complex has utterly taken

over. It should be shocking and chilling for Christians— or any person, for that matter—to hear his message basically saying, ‘We’ve lost control.’” Claiborne and Haw are very clear that they would not unequivocally encourage Christians to abstain from voting, merely to prayerfully consider the best course of action for them and to follow their conviction. “We’re very careful not to say, ‘Don’t vote,’” Claiborne says. “Think very critically. Pray. Study Scripture. Whatever you do, do it with fear and trembling, with our neighbors in mind, with the poor in mind, with kids in Iraq in mind.” Author Tony Campolo, however, feels that Christians must engage politically. “I think addressing political issues is a requirement for any true Christian who wants to live out his or her faith in today’s society,” he says. “I don’t think there’s a choice—you have to become politically sensitive and politically involved.” Campolo believes that while grassroots efforts to see societal change are necessary, they are not enough. “The reality is, the religious communities, not just Christians—though we are the dominant ones responding to the needs of poor people—cannot solve the problem of poverty by itself,” he says. Change, Campolo believes, must also come through legislation. “Eliminating poverty requires not just taking care of the victims of poverty; it requires transforming the infrastructure of poor countries. Do they have the roads for them to get food? When it comes to building roads, airports, facilitating transportation and communication, all of which are essential, and providing massive educational programs, which are essential to overcome illiteracy, I don’t think the Church alone can do it. We need a partnership,” he says. This partnership, though, is often curtailed by sharp ideological differences. One of the defining characteristics of American politics has been intense partisanship. Starting in the 1980s, the Republican party seemed to become the de facto party of evangelicalism, but more and more young evangelicals are becoming disaffected with the idea of being defined by a particular party, and are frustrated with change being stifled by partisan posturing. Claiborne echoes this dissatisfaction. “It’s tricky when you don’t have any party that really embodies the central values of the Scripture,” he says. “No one’s really saying, ‘Blessed are the merciful and peacemakers and poor.’” Claiborne feels that Christians can embody the ideals of both parties. “One of the things I love about Jesus is that He’s never telling people exactly what to do—or if He does, it’s different for two different people,” he says. “There are a lot of different ways people are going to respond. I think one of the mistakes the Religious Right made was telling people exactly what to do, like, ‘If you’re a real Christian, you’ll do this.’” Campolo agrees. “My contention is that if anybody asks if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, the answer should be, ‘Please name the issue,’” he says. “On certain issues, I’m going to come across as someone who likes what the Republicans say, and on other issues I will come across as saying what the Democrats say.” In fact, Campolo became so disenchanted with the politicization of evangelical Christianity that he and a group of Christian authors and thinkers have chosen


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to eschew the term. Instead, they call themselves Red Letter Christians, a reference to the words of Christ being printed in red in some Bibles. Campolo hopes to break the stereotype that one political party has a monopoly on Christianity. Ultimately, Campolo feels that both parties need the guidance of Christian leaders. Campolo is himself a Democrat, but would like to see a spirit of cooperation between Christians on both sides of the aisle. “I would hope that people who are Red Letter Christians would join the Republican Party, and I would love it if some of them got into the platform committee and said what they had to say in that setting,” Campolo says. “I think it’s important that Red Letter Christians be in both parties, and be articulating the values of Red Letter Christians.” On many issues, Campolo believes there is no partisan answer, but that Christians should seek an entirely different path. “We are looking for new answers to questions that transcend both the Democratic and the Republican resolutions,” he says. “On the war in Iraq, the left-wing understanding is that they want to pull out tomorrow morning. The right wing wants to stay there as long as it takes. People say, ‘Are they the only two options?’ The politicians have polarized the American society so that we think they are the only two options.” Another issue in which Campolo sees Christians finding a different path is abortion. “The abortion issue cannot be ignored,” he says. “Here’s where you can see where both parties have something to contribute. The Republicans want to overthrow Roe v. Wade, and the pro-life people would cheer that, and they should. The other side of the story is this: Seventy percent of the abortions in this country are presently driven by economic forces. You have an 18-yearold woman who works at Wal-Mart at minimum wage—she has no hospitalization, she has no opportunity for maternity leave, she has no access to daycare when the baby is born, she’s in dire straits. If you’re going to be pro-life, you cannot only be concerned about the unborn; you have to be concerned about after they’re born. Are we going to have universal health care so she doesn’t have to worry about paying her hospital bill? Are we going to raise the minimum

wage, because presently that woman cannot pay for her rent, let alone take care of herself and a child? Are we going to provide daycare for her, so she can continue to be employed? Are you willing to give her a maternity leave so that she doesn’t have to either lose her job or have an abortion?” Campolo believes that by engaging both parties, Christians can begin to see change. “Many of us are looking to gain access to the policymakers. We need to be with the opinion makers of our party, and I would hope that Red Letter Christians would be working with opinion makers of the Republican Party,” Campolo says. While Claiborne and Haw would not discourage political involvement, they warn that Christians

“I DON’T THINK THERE’S A CHOICE—YOU HAVE TO BECOME POLITICALLY SENSITIVE AND POLITICALLY INVOLVED.” —Tony Campolo should be wary about aligning themselves too closely with the political system. Ultimately, they feel that nationalism in general is often misplaced. “One of the things that’s so troubling when Christianity and America become so fused together is that what becomes at stake when things like Iraq happen is not just the reputation of America, but the reputation of what it means to be Christian, because it’s been totally baptized in Christian language and the blessing of God,” Claiborne says. “I certainly learned that when I was [in Iraq]. One woman said, ‘Your government is creating tremendous bloodshed and asking God’s blessing. It’s the same thing my government is doing. But what kind of God would bless this? What happened to the God of love and the Prince of Peace?’ For us, the litmus test for whether we’re a Christian nation is, does it look like Jesus? We didn’t invent Christianity in America.” Haw adds that the idea of nationalism is often theologically unsound. He says that being “born again” should mean, from a theological standpoint, that Christians have a new and different citizenship. “Theologically, born again didn’t just mean that you have a spiritual attitude to your life. It literally meant that you’re joining into this people of Abraham that are a holy

nation, set apart. There seems to be evidence all over the Bible that this is a very concrete people. You’re latching yourself onto this other nation. Now when you use the word we or our, your identity is connected to a different group of people, a diasporic people. That’s not just linguistic gymnastics. It’s biblical realism. Without that, our nationalism is misguided.” Claiborne says that this was a concept understood well by the early Church. In a time when allegiance to Rome was not only expected, but required, early Christians maintained a peculiarity and attitude set apart from the empire in which they lived. “The early Christians said a Christian could only be emperor if he decided not to be a Christian,” Claiborne says. “There was a deep collision of identities between your citizenship on earth and your citizenship in heaven.” It’s a collision that Haw and Claiborne believe Christians should still feel. “It is this question that will forever be asked: Can we serve two masters, the Church and the State?” Haw says. “Are our arms big enough to carry the cross and the sword? Caesar’s flag can easily show up on God’s altars, but Christians didn’t always buy it. Tertullian said, ‘The divine banner and the human banner do not go together, nor the standard of Christ and the standard of the Devil. Only without the sword can the Christian wage war. The Lord has abolished the sword.’” Thus, say Claiborne and Haw, Christians should belong to a citizenship that is transnational. “What does it mean to be born again?” Claiborne asks. “For Christians, there’s got to be a sense that there’s something that runs deeper than what’s born of the flesh—my biology, my ethnicity, my nation-state. Our central identity is in this reborn people of God that’s transnational.” In this context, patriotism can seem like a vice. However, Claiborne and Haw believe it’s all about keeping an appropriate perspective. “A love for our own people is not a bad thing, but it’s a love that doesn’t stop at the border,” Claiborne says. Claiborne believes Christians can celebrate the good in America without falling prey to the idea that the United States, rather than Christ, is the hope of the world. “We want to celebrate the things that America and leaders of this country do well and right,” he says. “There’s plenty of them, but there’s also plenty of things historically and currently that don’t look like Jesus. That’s why it’s so important to differentiate them. Our hope and what we’re called to is to remind the world of Jesus, to be like Jesus, to take the words of Jesus seriously. We will applaud people when they do that, and we will interrupt and prophesy when they don’t.” With this in mind, how can we chart a new course? How can we see society transformed when we have to be wary of involvement in the system? Claiborne and Haw believe that the importance lies in keeping our perspective. “There are a lot of models in Scripture,” Claiborne says. “There are prophets who are


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on the margins. There are prophets in the royal court. There are people who are engaged in a lot of different ways. One of the tricky things is to maintain the peculiarity and the distinctiveness of being a Christian.” This peculiarity can indeed be difficult to maintain when we thrust ourselves into being active participants in a twoparty system, when neither party fully upholds the ethics of Christ. However, Claiborne believes Christians can work within the system as long as they remain unwilling to sacrifice certain principles. “For those of us working legislatively, we can’t compromise on things like, ‘We’re going to beat our swords into plowshares,’” he says. “That’s what we’re called to, and to bless the poor and meek. If we don’t hear any of these parties saying something that embodies that, then we don’t put our hand in with it. There are a number of ways you can call that. You can work for the Kingdom of God and align yourself with whatever seems to move us closer to that. It’s possible to say we’re also going to interrupt with grace and humility whatever seems to be standing in the way of the reign of God. One way of looking at voting is that it’s damage control. We’re in a sense voting against whatever is going to do the worst damage.” Part of that perspective, as well, is not canonizing one candidate while vilifying the other. “You can quote both Republicans and Democrats who have had that triumphalism and messiah complex,” Claiborne says. “We’re ultimately not thinking that this person is our savior or the source of real change for the world.” In fact, much of Claiborne and Haw’s mission has been to deflate the idea that one candidate or party symbolizes hope for society. What people do with that message, Claiborne believes, is up to them and their own convictions. “We’re inviting people to think,” he says. “That’s what a lot of people have been scared of: not trusting people to think for themselves with the help of the Spirit of God. Some folks go out and organize for one of the candidates. Others say, ‘We’re going to write in Jesus.’ Part of the beauty of it is saying, ‘We’re going to trust that the Spirit is at work in different people’s hearts in different ways.’ Ultimately, [we hope] whatever they do is seeking first the Kingdom of God and embodying their politics with their lives rather than just trusting in a single candidate or a single politician to change the world for them.” Haw points to Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of achieving justice legislatively while still holding fast to his principles. “A good way to draw that out might be to think about Martin Luther King and Barack Obama. People have tried to draw parallels between them, but it’s good to draw out how distinct and different they are,” he says. “Martin Luther King was outside,

putting pressure on the system. He wasn’t only being grassroots. There were people who criticized him for being too involved in trying to press for legislation, but you can’t argue that he was pressing from the outside. Barack Obama is going through the system. One thing they have in common is this language of hope, but



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immediately the distinctions in their language and goals are very different. For instance, Martin Luther King was killed not long after he started saying, ‘The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.’ He started saying, ‘Don’t let anyone make you think that God chose America to be a messianic force and to be the policeman of the world.’ Barack Obama has said, ‘The ideals of America are the last hope of the world.’ That’s very different.” Ultimately, Claiborne and Haw say the key is for Christians to begin with themselves rather than trust the government to stop injustice. “The world is going to change when we begin to change, and when we begin to change our neighborhoods,” Claiborne says. “Figure out how we can vote for the people who Jesus voted for, or spent His life with. Let’s vote for the poor. Let’s vote for the immigrant. Let’s vote for the people who are hurting. Figure out how we can do that.” Haw adds that action on the part of Christians far eclipses their party affiliation. “What is more important than how we vote on Nov. 4 is how we live on Nov. 3 and Nov. 5,” he says. So, how should Christians engage the political arena? That is the question. If Claiborne and Haw are any indication, the choice is up to the individual. No matter what that individual decides, though, they must realize that true change will never happen through legislation alone. And, no matter what the individual chooses to do, they must realize that they are already voting through the way they choose to live. “We vote every day with our lives,” Claiborne says. “We vote every day with our feet, our hands, our lips and our wallets. We vote for the poor. We vote for the peacemakers. We vote for the marginalized, the oppressed, the most vulnerable of our society. Ultimate change does not just happen one day every four years.” e

Visit to hear full interviews with Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo and Chris Haw. ©2008 Integrity Media, Inc.

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MURDERED in the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda. Only two family members survived. So I wrote my Dallas Seminary dissertation on forgiveness, and now I’m ready to take the gospel back to a continent in dire need.” Celestin Musekura Doctor of Philosophy in Theological Studies, 2007; Founder of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM)

To hear Celestin’s story go to

My theological training at DTS is invaluable. DALLAS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY Teach Truth, Love Well 800-DTS-WORD


EACH POLITICAL SEASON, it can be difficult to separate rhetoric from reality. Pundits taint messages, facts change and where the candidates stand on actually important issues can get lost in a whirlwind political blur. If you’re going to vote this November, it’s important you get informed. And what better source to know where the candidates stand than their own words? The following guide is to help you sort through the political noise this season and make an informed decision. After all, it’s only the fate of the free world at stake.


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RIGHT TO LIFE ON ABORTION “If I am fortunate enough to be elected as the next President of the United States, I pledge to you to be a loyal and unswerving friend of the right-to-life movement. The pro-life movement appeals to the best instincts within each and every one of us. In that regard, our pro-life cause will ultimately be successful.” —Letter to March for Life, January 2008


Opposes abortion, but would not seek a constitutional amendment to ban it. Instead, would nominate Supreme Court judges with anti-abortion stances.

Supports the expansion of the death penalty, and putting federal limits on appeals. Favors relaxing federal restrictions on financing of embryonic stem-cell research.

ON ABORTION “I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that ‘mental distress’ qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception


in place, I think we can prohibit lateterm abortions.” —RELEVANT magazine interview, July 2008 In favor of upholding Roe v. Wade, and has said he would sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade and limit states’ abilities to set their own abortion laws. Supports the death penalty in cases “so heinous the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage.” Does not support the extension of the death penalty, and has said he does not think it deters crime. Supports abstinence and sex-education classes as well as economic recovery to reduce the number of abortions. Supports the relaxing of federal restrictions on stem-cell research.


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ON THE ENVIRONMENT “Suppose that the governor and I are wrong, and there’s no such thing as climate change. We adopt these green technologies, and the free-market cap-and-trade proposal is enacted. Then all we’ve done is give our kids a cleaner world.” —Republican Debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., January 2008

ON IMMIGRATION “We need to sit down as Americans and recognize these are God’s children as well. And they need some protection under the law; they need some of our love and compassion. I want to assure you that I’ll enforce the borders first. We’ll solve this immigration problem.” —YouTube Debate, November 2007

Pledged to toughen automotive fuel standards and says he will use diplomacy to convince India and China to address the threats of global warming.

Supports comprehensive immigration reform that addresses border security and what he calls the economy’s need for immigrant labor.

Wants to put a cap on greenhouse emissions, and allow companies who come in under that cap to bank greenhouse emissions in case of times of economic distress.

Believes in reforming immigration policy so that highly skilled foreign workers are more likely to remain in the country.


Wants to expand domestic exploration for oil and natural gas.

ON THE ENVIRONMENT “I don’t believe that climate change is just an issue that’s convenient to bring up during a campaign. I believe it’s one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation.” —Speech in Des Moines, Iowa, October 2007


Plans to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 through a cap-and-trade system, and by combating deforestation. Wants to invest $150 billion over the next 10 years in clean-energy research. Supports the development of biofuels.


Co-sponsored a comprehensive reform bill that would double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol and called for a border fence, a crackdown on employers who hire undocumented immigrants, a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants and a “guest worker” program offering temporary visas.

ON IMMIGRATION “The time to fix our broken immigration system is now. We need stronger enforcement on the border and at the workplace. But for reform to work, we also must respond to what pulls people to America. Where we can reunite families, we should. Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should” —Statement on U.S. Senate Floor, May 2007


Supports reform that provides “stronger enforcement on the border” by adding personnel, infrastructure and technology. Wants to “crack down on employers that hire undocumented immigrants.” Supports a congressional proposal that would create a new employment eligibility verification system so employers can verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. Has been a proponent of guest-worker programs that first offer available jobs to American workers.

HOMOSEXUALITY ON GAY MARRIAGE “I just believe in the unique status of marriage between man and woman. And I know that we have a respectful disagreement on that issue.” —John McCain to Ellen DeGeneres, May 2008


Opposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Wants the issue of gay marriage to be decided by individual states. Voted no on extending the definition of hate crimes to include sexual orientation. Voted no on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. Favors the continuation of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

ON GAY MARRIAGE “With respect to marriage, it’s my belief that it’s up to the individual denominations to make a decision as to whether they



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So, where are you going?

You’ve seen God’s leading hand in your life so far. But chances are you have some questions about the next stop on your ministry journey. No matter where you are going, preparedness is key to increasing your options and effectiveness. Bethel Seminary is known as a school that prepares men and women to boldly and obediently take the next step in ministry. We understand that life can be a blur of activity, so we have programs geared for the rapid pace of life, with locations and delivery styles that fit your situation — including our leading edge distance learning programs. Where are you going? We can’t say. But we can help you prepare for it. Call us today with your questions at 800-255-8706, ext. 6288. Or log on to: St. Paul • San Diego • New York • Philadelphia • Washington D.C. • New England

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GLOBAL POVERTY AND THE ECONOMY ON GLOBAL POVERTY “I believe that many nations will not reach their true potential without outside help to combat the entrenched problem of HIV/AIDS, which afflicts poorer nations more severely. It’s critical that we face this crisis head-on, which is why I have consistently supported the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program (PEPFAR).” —


Would provide a $2,500 refundable tax credit for individuals, and $5,000 for families, to make insurance more affordable, but would not mandate universal coverage.

want to recognize marriage or not. But in terms of the rights of people to transfer property, to have hospital visitation, all those critical civil rights that are conferred by our government—those should be equal.” —YouTube Debate, July 2007 Opposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Supports civil unions. Believes the issue of gay marriage should be decided by the states. Would provide benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees. Favors including sexual orientation in antidiscrimination laws.

WAR ON WAR “To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq— regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East—is the height of irresponsibility.” —Senate Committee on Armed Services, April, 2008


Opposes setting a timetable for troop withdrawal in Iraq.

Opposed the Supreme Court decision to allow detainees the right to challenge their detention in civil courts. Opposes seeking diplomacy with rogue dictators like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and North Korea’s Kim Jong-il.

ON WAR “There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. This war has made us less safe because it betrayed a set of international rules that were in place to protect us, that could have helped us defeat terrorism.” —Illinois Senate Debate, October 2004


Plans a 16-month withdrawal from Iraq with possible redeployment of troops to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Opposed the initial decision to invade Iraq. Would close the prison at Guantanamo Bay where terror suspects are detained. Supported the Supreme Court decision to allow detainees the right to challenge their detention in civil courts. Would seek “aggressive diplomacy” with rogue dictators.

Has historically voted against minimumwage increases, saying that they hurt small businesses. Plans a $60 billion tax cut for middle-class families. Plans a 10 percent reduction in federal corporate taxes. Will continue to support President Bush’s AIDS-relief program.

ON GLOBAL POVERTY “We can—and must—make it a priority of our foreign policy to commit to eliminating extreme poverty and ensuring every child has food, shelter and clean drinking water.” —


Will introduce an optional national healthcare plan. Helped introduce the Global Poverty Act, a bill aimed at cutting global poverty in half by 2015 through aid, trade and debt relief. Wants to double the United States’ annual foreign assistance to combatting HIV/AIDS and malaria. Plans to raise minimum wage and index it to inflation. Will provide a $500 tax credit to low- and middle-income workers. 3

Supported the initial decision to invade with Iraq. Would close the prison at Guantanamo Bay where terror suspects are detained.

Check out the candidates’ stances on more issues.


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> Actually, make that three. Of course, my own is also there, along with the others’ corresponding husbands, so it’s hardly as scandalous as it could sound. Then again, judging by the response of most people around us— including our families— you’d think I’d left it at the first statement ...


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TO PROPERLY STATE MY SURROUNDINGS, I live with my wife and three other couples in an old historic home. Oh my goodness, what do you do about bathrooms? We have three and manage just fine. How can you possibly have any privacy? The house is plenty big, although you can expect some level of sacrifice there. And money? We all throw into a common purse. There’s no way I could do something like that. You’re probably right. It’s not for everyone. Even a few years ago, it wasn’t for me. Four years ago, I was single, planting a new church and just fine in my own house with my own room and my own stuff. But long story short, I got married and so did our church—to the wrong side of town. A cheap, old abandoned elementary-school building became available, which we purchased for $80,000. Since then, we’ve never been the same. Developing a heart for the neighborhood we’re in came slowly but surely for our group of mostly 20- and 30somethings. It’s the wrong side of the tracks in a dirty Midwestern town where you almost wonder if there is a right side. But the building and surrounding dilapidated houses became our treasure, along with the writings of civil rights activist/author John Perkins. Perkins’ cornerstone work (for us), Beyond Charity, notes that for real reconciliation to take place, relocation must be involved. You can’t help the poor if you don’t know them. You can’t provide an answer if you don’t know the real questions being asked. This both hurt and made sense, and it provided the slow-working truth needed to turn our community’s heart. Of course, the decision for four couples to move in together wasn’t as thoughtful as that sounds. It also came down to friendships, financial motivations, safety issues and a desire for shared hospitality. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just say good night and head upstairs rather than having to drive home?” was the commonly stated question among my wife and me and some of our best friends. Another foursome of married couples approached us once they heard we were spinning the idea in our own heads. And after three months of brainstorming and planning, we moved in together.

I travel quite a bit—for writing and ministry excursions—and the thought of leaving my wife home alone in a run-down neighborhood wasn’t in any of our premarital counseling books. So taking on a living situation in such a place almost necessitated someone else being around. Communal living provided that answer. In this economic climate, and with my job as a part-time pastor, it also helped that my wife and I could live for a few hundred bucks a month—which includes everything from groceries to Internet access. In our scenario, each couple pays the same amount over what we need, giving us a monthly grant to give away to a neighbor in need or a nonprofit. We’ve covered our neighbor’s electric bill, given money to a local women’s shelter and sponsored a family for Christmas. Communal living has provided our group the ability to be generous. And even though I enjoy a wonderfully healthy marriage, there are moments when outside support is necessary for my role as a pastor and as a regular person. Within our house, we’ve enjoyed times of singing together, impromptu prayer sessions and accountability. Some serious hardships have surprised a few in the house, and having close, committed relationships at arm’s length eases the pain and provides perspective. Communal living extends a web of spiritual and emotional support, reminding us we’re in this mission together. After weighing all these options, it made more sense for us to live together than alone. Values of simplicity and community firmly take root in such an environment. One lawn mower rather than four. One blender, one toaster, one dining table. There’s a freedom in giving the rest away, a commercial liberation of the soul. It all sounded so good, so wonderful, so ... the way it was meant to be. And then the reality of our decision hit. “A lot of people ask us about living all together,” says Tim Bock, business manager of Jesus People USA (JPUSA). “And it’s easy to sum it up in one word that properly describes community—and that’s forgiveness. Forgiving each other for leaving the garbage in the hall, for your kid swatting another kid—or you play music too loud or I don’t like the meal. At the heart of community is forgiveness. That’s what has changed me the most—learning to be gracious, humble, to be merciful. It’s a touch of heaven, if you will, in a broken world.” Bock should know—he’s lived with about 400 people for the last 30


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years in a 10-story hotel in Chicago. Currently, JPUSA is a community operating both for-profit and nonprofit businesses to support the community they have formed, extending a mission that includes homeless shelters, food banks and Cornerstone Music Festival. In all, JPUSA has been a living, breathing case study in communal living on a large scale since the Jesus Movement in the ’70s. And Bock’s experience breathed words that spoke what I’m finding to be all-too-true in my current situation. Difficult conversations confronting someone for the things they are (or aren’t) doing. Worse yet, being challenged by someone you live with because you’re injuring the community with an attitude or behavior. These are the common currency in an economy of communal living. Your heart is exposed. Your best intentions are found lying on the floor. And there’s no place to hide in the open garden you’ve created. “The other part of living together is understanding the weakness in the Christian Body,” Bock says. “It’s not just going to church on Wednesday and Sunday. We live and work together, so we know each other’s weakness and we have to understand that we are weak.” Perhaps the word painful is best applied here. In those moments where others have seen me for who I really am, I want to take all my stuff back—my privacy, my belongings, my rights, my entitlements. My previous life allowed me some level of comfort, a curtain for me to be the Wizard of my own Oz. Communal living strips me of all of this, leaving an open wound of my insecurities, sins and fears. Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche communities for the developmentally disabled and their caretakers, is one of my favorite writers on the subject of community. His wise words have been influential in many ways. “We are all hurt people, we have all been trodden on and we all tread on people,” he once said. “I find that community is built on forgiveness—that is what Jesus has given to our world. It is the opposite of separation—‘Just buzz off and I can forget you,’ which is the opposite of forgiveness. Forgiveness is saying, ‘You can live; you can have your place. Even if I don’t like you for the moment, I love you; I can accept that you can live and can grow—perhaps someday I will like you. I don’t want you to disappear.’” When forgiveness flows within the community, the individuals within finally come alive. A resolved conflict breathes new life into the house, and it’s clear that all the verses I was forced to memorize as a kid regarding settling things and not allowing bitterness to take root actually held meaning for real life. However, finding God in the community usually isn’t about times of praying together or staying up all night worshipping—at least not in our house. For us, it’s about finding God in the mundane approaches to daily living together—cooking and cleaning, chore lists and game nights, crowding around for a Bourne marathon or our weekly obsession with Lost. Misty Pfanz Martinez lived in community for years in Seattle in the same scenario—four couples in one house. In fact, it was only after visiting their house that I decided I could possibly do the same thing. For Martinez and her husband the substance of communal life was found in the details. “When I think back to all the pros and cons of living in community, most of them are specific to me as an individual,” she says. “I’m an extrovert and a homebody, so I liked having people around without having to go anywhere. I see food as sacred, so I couldn’t bear sharing a kitchen or having other people make decisions about what I ate. Other people hated sharing a bathroom. Agreeing on spiritual values never seemed to be much of an issue. All the good and bad came from the practical day-to-day aspects of life.”

The same lesson is becoming apparent for us. We’ve centered more discussion on chores and how to treat specific belongings than anything else. “Would you mind bringing back the entire set of dishes up in your room?” “Can you please remove your laundry within 14 days of drying it?” Of course, these statements sometimes come without the proper precursors of politeness, leading to moments of tension between the party concerned and the party who could care less. When someone abuses the couch you bought brand new right before moving into the house, you are forced to wonder if it’s worth bringing up. When the leftovers you’ve been saving in the fridge are eaten, it causes frustration. Add enough of these moments together, and resentment builds rather quickly. Yet it’s in that tension that you realize the selfishness coloring your outlook—and what you need to sacrifice. The same can be said for personal belongings. How is someone to respond when others living in the same place mistreat his or her possessions? It’s a lesson in ownership—whether we own our things or whether they own us, as the saying goes. It offers another place of forgiveness, allowing people to ruin, break, borrow, chip, bend or stain an item and not the relationship. “Some people say that in community everybody is equal, but that is not true,” Bock says. “Everybody isn’t equal. I have different responsibilities than others. We’ve never said life is fair. Community isn’t fair. I might have more things. I drive a pickup truck because of my work. Not everyone has a vehicle here, but everyone has their things that make it work—time off or vehicles. One thing we don’t have a lot of is money. But we are all satisfied in our needs.” It’s in these daily things, these little things, that love truly takes root. It’s in the unglamorous, boring routine that your heart really begins to change. I had a different mindset when we first began—believing that living together with other Christians in the same life stage would lead to all-night talks about how church should really be and how we would inspire one another toward our goals and dreams in ways that living alone wouldn’t allow for. But I was wrong—about a lot of things. I had no idea how selfish I could be and how hard specific parts of my heart were. I didn’t know I could be loved and forgiven in such deep, meaningful ways. And I also didn’t realize there could be such joy in sharing life so intimately with others. Yet I realize, as we have some visitors who process it with us, that it’s definitely not for everyone. “Community is not for everybody—but for who it is for, there is no better life,” Bock says. “I really do believe God has called certain people to community, not that it’s any better than living in a church setting and working outside. I have people all around me who would do anything for me. And I would also do anything for anybody in the community.” When it’s all said and done, living in community seems to be as honest an approach as you can get to living out the Gospel. Those who do go down that path experience joys and sorrows in a whole new way, finding a deeper level of living. Perhaps Vanier states it best: “The mission of a community is to give life to others—that is to say, to transmit new hope and new meaning to them. Mission is revealing to others their fundamental beauty, value and importance in the universe; their capacity to love, to grow and to do beautiful things and to meet God.” When it comes down to it, the most I could want with my life is to live as authentically for the Gospel as I can. For us, communal living is the way to be faithful to that calling—intentionally placing ourselves in a position to be personally challenged and united together in a common mission. It’s the richness of life Tim Bock referred to, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 2

“a lot of people ask us about living together, and it’s easy to sum it up in one word: Forgiveness.” —Tim Bock


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Surviving the

SUBCULTURE A NON-CHRISTIAN’S 10 WEIRDEST DISCOVERIES EXPLORING THE CHRISTIAN SUBCULTURE BY DANIEL RADOSH UNTIL A FEW YEARS AGO, I knew approximately two things about Christian popular culture: Left Behind and Stryper. Both made me want to bang my head. I’m a secular Jewish New Yorker who never had any reason to set foot in a Christian bookstore or turn on a Christian TV station. But I have a distant half-sister who’s Christian, and one day while visiting my wife’s family in Wichita, I ended up tagging along with her to a music festival called SHOUTfest. I was fascinated. The bands, the T-shirts, the trendy teen Bibles. It was

all so—how can I put this politely?—weird. That day was the beginning of a yearlong journey into the evangelical subculture, which was an enlightening journey. For one thing, I learned that many Christians are even more skeptical of Christian pop culture than I am. After a while, my perception of weirdness itself began to change. That’s why my list of the 10 weirdest things I discovered while being “in the Christian world, but not of it” ends quite differently than it begins.

TESTAMINTS But you knew that, right? It wasn’t long after my first visit to a Christian bookstore that I heard the phrase “Jesus junk.” A lot of Christians, I found out, are pretty put off by how cheesy Christian culture can be. And to make their point, most of them singled out Testamints, breath mints wrapped in scripture verses. Despite all the eye-rolling, Testamints have spawned an array of imitators, such as cross-shaped lollipops and candy hearts that say “TRY GOD.” The founder of the Scripture Candy company told me his sweets let parents “get a Christian message into schools without getting into trouble.” Well, you can get something into schools, but I’m not sure it’s an authentic Christian message. There are a lot of supposedly Christian products out there, but I’ve never seen a trucker hat that said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” or a plastic key chain that said, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” Maybe this lack of context about what Jesus preached is why Jesus junk is really so junky. The pitch for Gospel Golf Balls is, “Now when you lose a golf ball you will be sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.” But when I read the pastor’s endorsement on the box—“This golf ball is the most effective outreach tool I have ever seen in golf”—my reaction wasn’t, “Wow, that must be pretty effective,” but rather, “How many golf-based outreach tools are there?” Does someone make a Cleansed by His Blood ball washer?

BIBLEMAN IS IN ON THE JOKE Bibleman, of course, is the evangelical superhero, known to insiders as the Caped Christian or, when the copyright lawyers aren’t listening, Batman for Jesus. In his popular low-budget children’s TV series, Bibleman whacks villains with his lightsaber while quoting scripture at them. Just like Jesus! When I first watched the show, I assumed the producers didn’t realize how dopey it is. But after meeting Bibleman himself— children’s pastor Robert T. Schlipp, who replaced Willie A a m e s — I found out that they do know. “It’s cheesy, it’s campy, it’s goofy—but in a good way,” Schlipp told me. That struck me as a healthy attitude, but then he added that the laid-back approach extended to how the sets look on camera or whether actors hit their marks. “At some point you’ve just got to decide which is most important,” Schlipp said. “Is the production most important, or is the message most important?” In other words, as long as it’s Christian, it doesn’t have to be very good. I’m glad God didn’t take this approach in Genesis. “Well, the green sky kind of clashes with the orange ocean, but as long as people get the idea ...” Most of the time, a topnotch production is its own best message.


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STEPHEN BALDWIN IS STILL A CELEBRITY Sometimes it seems like the people most attached to living in the Christian bubble have a bit of an inferiority complex. They judge their own culture’s worth by validation from the outside. That’s my best explanation for why any B- or C-list Hollywood celebrity who becomes a Christian is suddenly treated like royalty (as long as they give up Hollywood, of course). It’s been more than 10 years since Stephen Baldwin made his only movie of any consequence, The Usual Suspects, but at a Christian book fair I attended, the line for his autograph was a good half-hour. Baldwin now fronts a skateboarding ministry, and his skate-and-sermon video, Livin It, has sold more than 150,000 copies. He was at the book show to hawk his memoir, The Unusual Suspect, in which he explains that he has been anointed to evangelize the youth of America, which is why God wanted him to co-star with Pauly Shore in the movie Bio-Dome. Baldwin uses the following arguments to persuade his readers to make a decision for Jesus: 1) It’s like “shooting par golf or better every day”; 2) it makes sex more exciting; 3) you no longer have to worry about things like fighting poverty and protecting the environment because God is in charge of all that boring stuff; and 4) you’re still allowed to say “crap.” Then Baldwin adds that you’re free not to take his advice, but “don’t blame me when that lever is pulled and you start falling toward hell.” I wonder if God regrets not anointing Pauly Shore instead.

SOME BIBLES ARE MORE FLATTERING THAN OTHERS I was surprised to discover this—and nowhere was it more clear than in The Personal Promise Bible, which comes customized with the owner’s name (“The Lord is Daniel’s shepherd”), hometown (Woe to you, Brooklyn! Woe to you, New York!) and spouse’s name (“Gina’s two breasts are like two fawns”). The Personal Promise Bible is just one manifestation of the modern Bible industry. Americans purchase about 25 million Bibles every year, to the tune of half a billion dollars. The weird thing is, 91 percent of American households already own at least one Bible—the average household owns four. So often what people are really buying is not a new Bible, but a new package. That brushed-metal cover is so 2005. Better buy the new eco-Bible, with the lowest carbon footprint. Come to think of it, why not just download Hollywood’s biggest stars reading it aloud on your iPhone? Bible publishers spend a fortune each year on trend-spotting and advertising to keep people buying new Bibles. The argument, of course, is that it’s not about making money, it’s about ensuring God’s Word continues to be read. Breezy translations with matching pocketbooks may be gimmicky, but a leather-bound King James that gathers dust on a shelf is useless. Still, maybe leave my wife out of it.

“MODEST IS HOTTEST” T-SHIRTS (Pictured page 76) Settling on the single weirdest example of “witness wear” wasn’t easy. I could have gone with “Jesus has skills” or “I’m like totally saved.” Or I might have chosen a high-concept T-shirt like “1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given.” And then there are the ubiquitous shirts that twist corporate logos into messages of faith. Look closely, and you’ll see it’s not “American Idol” but “Amazing Grace.” Not “Yoo-hoo” but “It was YOU WHO he died for.” And those are the good ones. It’s when these parodies jump the rails that trouble really begins. “Bloodweiser. His blood’s for you.” Really? Or the emulation of Mountain Dew’s “Do the Dew” logo that says “Do the Jew.” Even if you manage not to misinterpret that in any of several possible ways, it’s still pretty messed up. But in the end, I could think of nothing weirder than the tangled messages of “Modest is hottest.” I tried to imagine the thinking that went into it. We can persuade girls to dress in a way that does not attract sexual attention by telling them that doing so will attract sexual attention, especially if they wear this form-fitting shirt. Runner up: stop-sign thong underwear, from the Abstinence Clearinghouse. If you can read them, you’re too close.

THE GREAT PASSION PLAY I understand how meaningful the Passion drama is to Christians, but as a Jew, I can’t help but be wary. For centuries, Passion plays have often been a vehicle for anti-Semitism, distorting the Gospels to suggest that all Jews are guilty of killing Jesus, and downplaying the fact that Jesus Himself was Jewish. Fortunately, most Christians today embrace Jews as their brothers, but The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Ark., the largest production of its kind, with a cast of hundreds, was founded in the 1960s by one of America’s most notorious antiSemites. Gerald L.K. Smith even ran for president on the platform of “the preservation of our Christian faith from the threat of Jew Communism.” So I was probably courting weirdness by going incognito as an extra in the play. It wasn’t a demanding job. All the dialogue is prerecorded, and the audience sits too far away to hear the actors speaking. But things got weirder than I expected when I found myself in the crowd of bloodthirsty Jews shouting for Jesus’ crucifixion. I began to hallucinate that I had fallen into some eternal retelling of this story, that I was representing the Jewish people not just for one American audience but all past and future generations who ever had or would hear this tale. I raised my hands to the mob. “Maybe we should reconsider this!” I shouted. “Maybe a flogging is enough!” It didn’t work, but I like to think that at some level, I’d made my point.


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MEWITHOUTYOU Weird isn’t always bad. Aaron Weiss and mewithoutYou are the best kind of weird. They’re musically adventurous in ways that challenge not only the torpid Christian music scene, but mainstream rock ’n’ roll as well. And while it’s Weiss’ art that gets him noticed, it’s his life that serves as a powerful rebuke to the all-too-normal world the rest of us live in. When I first heard about Weiss at Cornerstone, most people seemed to know two things about him: He had transfigured his band’s tour bus so that it ran entirely on used cooking oil, and he ate food out of the garbage—exclusively. And then I heard him telling an audience that the mission of Christianity is not to fight evil, that he expects to see Muslims in heaven, that bands shouldn’t try to make money by selling T-shirts. Now that’s weird. Sociology professor Jay Howard told me, “If there’s a legitimate indictment of the Church today, it’s that we’re subcultural rather than countercultural.” A subculture, he explained, buys into mainstream values but “tacks on its own things.” A counterculture challenges dominant values. Not just by singing about a different way of life, but by living it. Weiss freaks out a lot of Christians. And he freaks me out. So he must be doing something right.

MAINSTREAM CULTURE HAS A LOT TO LEARN FROM THE CHRISTIAN BUBBLE It turned out Austin Creed had wrestled with secular troupes, and he found them to be filled with shallow, vulgar, self-centered, juvenile creeps. UCW, he said, felt more like a family. The wrestlers supported each other and looked out for each other. Now, I certainly don’t think that all Christians are saints (or that all my fellow non-Christians are creeps), but after a year in the Christian bubble, I came to see the best aspects of Christian pop culture—the focus on fellowship, the unabashed celebration of the transcendent, the commitment to personal responsibility— as a bright light shining on the ugly side of the mainstream. I realized that Jesus’ radical message of brotherhood, selflessness and dignity may be just the antidote to our contemporary ethos of shamelessness and overindulgence. Which is why I find myself still, even with my journey officially over, stepping back into the Christian world now and again for a breath of fresh air. How weird is that? 2 DANIEL RADOSH is a writer and a contributing editor for The Week. His book, Rapture Ready: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture, released in April.

As a co-host of The View, Shepherd is best known for having suggested that the world might be flat. And then there was the time she said there were Christians in ancient Greece because nothing predates Jesus. So she’s gotten her share of laughs. But at a Christian comedy showcase, I got to hear Shepherd do her stand-up routine, and it’s not only intentionally hilarious, it borders on brilliant. I can’t really capture the flavor of her intricate monologues here, but what makes them work is that she talks explicitly about her life as a Christian, mining humor from it rather than idealizing it. One of her themes is something you might recognize as a common evangelical myopia—the condition of believing that whatever I happen to want is the same as God’s plan for my life. In Shepherd’s story about catching her husband in an affair, even

murdering him with a table lamp can be a calling. “I didn’t see any problem,” she said. “I figured I’d just witness to people in jail.” The Christian comedians who share this approach with Shepherd tend to save this kind of material for church audiences, who are more likely to be receptive and to get the references. In secular clubs, Christian comedians tend to do normal observational comedy, without the foul language. But what’s really weird is that I found myself thinking that non-Christians are probably the best audience for comedy about being Christian. In performing honest routines that express their anxieties about what is most important to them—their faith, their practice, their culture—Christian comedians have the potential to build bridges—to help non-Christians understand what it’s like to be Christian in America in the same way Richard Pryor helped white people understand what it was like to be black. However, that task will probably fall to someone other than Shepherd. I’m afraid she’s already compromised.

ONE OF THE STARS OF ULTIMATE CHRISTIAN WRESTLING ISN’T A CHRISTIAN Christian pro wrestling, which combines the over-the-top violence and showmanship of the WWE with the message of Christ’s humble love, is so counterintuitive that, of course, there are at least four troupes dedicated to it. The UCW, in Georgia, is one of the biggest. As any pro-wrestling fan knows, the cartoon brawling is nothing without the elaborate soap-opera plots. Christian wrestling is just another form of storytelling, and what did Jesus do, after all, but tell stories? As UCW founder Rob Adonis sees it, life is a wrestling match. Some people wrestle with addiction, some people wrestle with their boss, some people wrestle with 290-pound men in spandex. Adonis adds that at any given show, about 10 percent of the audience will make a decision for Christ. “We are well over 1,257 decisions,” he said. “How do I know God is in this? That’s how.” I still don’t quite understand this running tally of souls saved that many Christian entertainers keep in their heads. It turns the sacred ritual of the altar call into a score card, and a profoundly flawed one at that. The fetishization of the altar call as a single moment of victory seems to obscure the need for the hard work that it must take to bring someone to genuinely meaningful faith. That’s why I was impressed when I discovered that Awesome Austin Creed, one of the UCW’s biggest draws, has never been saved. All those body slams for the Lord, all those nightly invitations, and he was still holding out. It wasn’t that I thought Awesome Austin was better off as a non-Christian. If somewhere down the road he does become a believer, that would be fine with me. I just felt it showed some spiritual integrity that whatever path he chose, he wasn’t going to do it because of the allure of pro wrestling. Of course, I had to wonder why he was wrestling for the UCW, and his answer helped me come to what was perhaps the weirdest discovery of my journey ...


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the language of art AN INTERVIEW WITH



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O SOME, THE PHRASE STREET ART OR GRAFFITI ART is an oxymoron—words that simply don’t belong together. Yet more and more, mainstream culture is discovering value and meaning in the lettering found along highways, buildings, alleys and other urban elements. The legend of Galo “MakeOne” Canote is cemented in the L.A. street art scene, a true pioneer of his trade for almost three decades. It’s more than master craftsmanship that lends MakeOne his credibility; it’s the blending of art with social justice and faith. For Canote, his artistic expressions overflow into his love for God and others. RELEVANT was able to catch up with MakeOne recently to delve more into the street art scene and to find how all of this merges together.

So where does the moniker MakeOne come from? Choosing a name that is unique is part of the graffiti game. One may choose a name because it reflects their personality or a message, or it can be a reference to a street they live on or the date they were born. It can simply be a nickname as well. MakeOne came after sourcing through names. I went through a plethora of names before I decided to be Make. I came up with Make after watching Style Wars, a documentary on New York graffiti by Tony Silva. A gentleman, and now friend of mine, by the name of Carlos “Mare139’” Rodriguez came out, and I really liked his personality/demeanor, name and style. I swapped the “R” for a “K,” and MAKE was born. I have been writing Make now for nearly a quarter-century. I also use my real name, Galo, and have other monikers as well. But Make and Galo are the ones I am most known for. The other monikers are for fun, and some are kept hush-hush. Make now, to me, means to create, to manifest, to bring into existence. MAKE: Mastering Art, Knowledge and Education. MakeOne painting live

How did you get your start with street art? As far as I can remember, I was always into art. After going through some painful fundamental art classes, I was still bored with art itself. It struck me as bland—too formulated, too studied, too structured. So I eventually dropped the classes. I was also always into lettering—lettering found in band logos such as KISS, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and so on, or letters I’d see on board games such as Candy Land and cereal boxes as well. I really liked Rick Griffin and Stanley Mouse poster letters and rock poster art. So I began by reproducing band logos on my Pee-Chee folders, notebooks, on desks, bathrooms, etc. The gang writing in L.A. also had a significant influence. Calligraphy as well. Basically anything with letters or fonts. When Graffiti was introduced to me through the punk and hip-hop movement, I was fascinated


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by it, captivated by the entire movement and culture. It was fun, unprecedented, risqué, refreshing and it had attitude. It gave me a new perspective on art and also opened my eyes to the power I possessed to manipulate letters and create letters. I’d say this was around 1983, and I’ve been doing it ever since, then expanding to other mediums as well, such as wheat pasting, stickering, stenciling, street installations and so on.

Can you talk a little about your background with family and faith? I am a Los Angeles native. My mom was Mexican and my dad’s Ecuadorian. I have one sibling named Sandra. I’ve mostly lived in L.A., although I lived in Mexico for about a year. I have little schooling. Mostly all my knowledge and training is self-taught and learned through experience and influences. I came to the Lord around ’84 or so. It was never much of a “conversion” ’til about a decade later, when I understood about nourishing a relationship with Him and what spiritual warfare meant. I’ve been growing ever since. A few staggers here and there, but still enduring and still fighting the good fight.

What are some of the misconceptions about art that you often find? Or perhaps some of the boundaries people place around it? Well, for starters, people censor a lot of art in general. I strongly believe art should not experience any kind of censorship. Yes, sometimes art can be offensive, but it’s also expressive, touching, soothing, comforting. It can be your inner voice. Art is a visual communication, a way to relate, whether it is intended to be with the audience, the critics, other artists or one’s inner self. Something that powerful shouldn’t have boundaries. Graffiti art experiences the same trials, yet unfortunately, it is scrutinized more because of the negative connotations behind graffiti and the stigma it carries. Either way, graffiti or street art or urban art—whichever way you wish to coin it—will always be a compendium of ideologies. Even amongst us writers.


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Galo and Ezra collab

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MakeOne in action

Galo and Neo collab


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One good, effective comparison is typography. A great part of graffiti is very similar, if not exact, to the art of creating fonts. For example, take Times Roman. Someone took the time to create that “A,” then had to create a “B” that complemented and was proportionate to that “A” and so on. Then someone decided to italicize. Claude Garamond, creator of the Garamond font, adopted many existing fonts and modified them, too. You can say he enhanced them. The same principal with graffiti—take an existing font and create your own modified version of it.

What has been the most redemptive thing, one particular highlight, that has been most meaningful in your work? There is no one thing that is greater than another or more meaningful. Everything related to my art has been meaningful. Every experience. Every hardship. Every betrayal. Every friend made. Every friend lost. Every redeeming moment. Every cent made to every cent lost. Every bit of exploitation. Every bit of recognition. Every single little thing. But if I had to answer with “one meaningful thing,” I’d have to say the opportunity to work with kids, teens and at-risk youth. That, hands down, is the most meaningful thing about my art career or work.

You’ve been into street art for almost 30 years now. What has changed the most in the scene? Thirty years! Man, it’s been a long time, huh? Thanks for reminding me I’m old! There really hasn’t been much change. From an outsider’s view, with the commercialization of graffiti, the popularization of stickering and the sensationalism of stenciling and wheat-pasting, it may appear to be more at the forefront of the masses. But it’s always been in existence. Basically because it’s trendier now, it’s seen more. It’s more accepted, which is a good thing, I guess. The only change perhaps is that with graffiti, kids nowadays have no concept of lettering, nor do they possess fundamental graff values. The majority of today’s graff or street art looks like a regurgitation of what is seen in magazines and the Internet. It seems as though no one “pays dues” anymore, and no one seems to go through the developmental process many of us old-school writers went through. Many want the instant-coffee mix. Know what I mean? I also noticed a lot of the new generation don’t have a true appreciation for letters. I think that makes a difference. I must say, though, there are many new-schoolers who do have it, know it, execute it and produce nice work. You can see the foundation, the composition and the understanding of letters in their work. So, to answer your question more directly, the Internet has been the only change.


What has changed the most for the artist in that time? Nothing, really. One who is a true artist will tell you that nothing has really changed—other than, of course, the progression of art. An artist still struggles, still paints,


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Photo by Paul Sun

Galo in Seattle

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still suffers, still finds success, still loses themselves, still creates work for aesthetic value, still creates crap, still creates fine art, still lives in poverty, still makes lots of money, still hates their work, still loves it. The artist still eats, drinks, sleeps and craps art. One thing is certain, street art or graffiti art is definitely the most powerful art movement of this century. It is shaping, forming, guiding and dictating what progressive art is.

How do you fuse art and your work with youth together? Is that a positive outlet? I work with kids by introducing the fundamentals of graff or street art to them. Is it a positive outlet? Absolutely! As I mentioned earlier, graff or street art is trendy. And because of that a lot of kids are into it. I use graffiti as a tool to bait and reel them in and also as a vehicle or a portal to introduce other art forms—perhaps more conventional art forms or simply to further their graffiti skills. If kids, teens or youth are replacing their time spent with negative friends, in negative environments, or their idle time with two hours of art, how can it not be positive?


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In addition, I strive to become a factor in their life, to have a positive impact. Help them untap their inner person, unleash their creative being. I try to help them be themselves and be comfortable at it. I work hard to instill confidence, to help them not feel inferior to anyone regardless of color, where they live, what they believe in or level of education they possess. As a graffiti artist, they may identify with me, and it is there where I posses power for either positive or negative influence.

What is your ultimate hope with your art? I used to paint for fame, for recognition, for social status, for approval and disapproval, for expression, rebellion. Now? I just paint for myself. It’s a medium for me. I no longer have an agenda. I learned that when one paints for the critics, the audience, the gallery or art scene, or other graff artists, then one no longer paints for themselves. You sort of lose yourself. In essence, I have no underlying message behind my graff. I do occasionally highlight love, and I guess that can be the one thing I set out to do—to spread love. I do, though, want to be remembered for my art, my

contributions, my work, my impact or lack of, and for my faith. That can easily be interpreted as recognition or fame, but I am not swayed by it. [Charles] Bukowski once said, “When one is swayed with his fame and his fortune, you can float them down the river with the turds.”

How does your own faith influence your artwork? My faith is embedded in me, so it exuberates. Whatever level it is at that moment will project in what I do, whether my faith is strong and at its peak, or when it’s weak or I am disappointed with it. It will project or influence the choice of colors; the aggressiveness in the lines, angles and shapes; the choices I make for when, where and what I paint. It may very well be the most dominant influence or the one being overpowered by another influence. Occasionally I may decide to note something on my art, but other than that I let my actions do Check out the full gallery of MakeOne’s art. the talking. 2


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(UNCOMMON PRODUCTIONS) > You’ve probably heard about how the beans that make your morning coffee can be harvested in tragic conditions. But what about the sugar you add to that coffee? In The Price of Sugar, director Bill Haney follows Spanish priest Father Christopher Hartley and his work to obtain basic human rights for the oppressed workers in sugar-cane fields in the Dominican Republic. These field workers from neighboring Haiti are treated as slaves, earning less than $1 for every 14-hour day they work. The film chronicles the plight of the workers, but it also shows the history behind the indenturing of the Haitians—a longtime hatred of Haitians by the people of the Dominican Republic. Hartley, who worked with Mother Teresa for 20 years, began his work in the Dominican Republic in 1997, and spent 10 years battling the Vicini family, who owns many of the plantations in question. The film centers on Hartley’s dedication to the people group, which adds a poignantly personal angle to the issue. Hartley says of the Haitians, “These are my people, and whatever happens to them, I would like it to happen to me.” During those 10 years, he was devoted to the cause, organizing a strike that helped secure decent housing and doctor visits for many of the workers, and attracting the attention of the Dominican Republic’s police forces, who almost deported him. The Price of Sugar is an inspiring account of a courageous man and the injustices he was committed to overcoming.

IRON MAN (DREAM WORKS PICTURES) > In this latest comics-to-film adaptation,

> In one of the most controversial

Robert Downey Jr. steps into the role

pictures of the year, Ben Stein chronicles

of Tony Stark, a genius engineer who is

the alleged bullying, by advocates

kidnapped by a terrorist group demanding

of Darwinism, of those in academia

that he create a missile for them. Instead,

who support intelligent design. While

he manages to build an armored suit

Stein doesn’t hide his belief that God

with which to escape, and upon returning

created the world, this isn’t a creationist

home, announces he will cease making

propaganda film. Rather than trying

weapons and instead concentrate on

to sway the viewer to the standpoint

improving the powerful suit and ridding

of intelligent design, he focuses on the

the world of the weapons he created

plight of scientists and educators who

and once grew rich off of. Though the

embrace the idea, who say they have

film, which released to high acclaim and

lost their jobs, been denied tenure, had

impressive box-office numbers (and was

their writings refused for publication and

rated “best-reviewed film of the year so

faced ridicule by co-workers. Interviewing

far” on, boasts

both those who feel they have been

fantastic effects and stellar performances

ostracized and the alleged ostracizers,

by Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence

Stein questions how the nation can

Howard and Jeff Bridges, it is the

support free speech in every other arena

underlying themes explored that sets Iron

of life, but not in the realm of science. By

Man several notches above its peers. As

examining questions like this and how

the world struggles with issues of injustice,

they are playing out in the academic

poverty and war, the idea of using great

world, Stein tells a story not many of us

power for good—rather than exploiting it

have heard before—and is willing to take

for selfish motives—is something we could

whatever comes at him because of it.

all afford to pay a little more attention to.


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sit the new to see other staff picks.

7/25/08 9:23:48 PM





> If the blistering fuzz on the second track of Ben Folds’ new piano-happy pop dirge (called “Dr. Yang”) doesn’t send you into deep hysterics, keep listening. At the end of the song, the former third (of three) member of his namesake band—if you don’t know, Ben Folds Five paved the way for just about every indie band that plays piano— suddenly goes all Jerry Lee Lewis for about 20 seconds. Yeah, he is full of surprises. On “You Don’t Know Me,” he elicits some help from Regina Spektor to siphon out some of his cornball-by-way-of-ElvisCostello humor and very nearly unleashes a legitimate lounge song (though it’s still quirky). A risk taker who tapped Modest Mouse producer Dennis Herring, Folds includes an all-instrumental track and a song about coffee double-entendres, among other quirky subjects. As usual, absorb Ben Folds with caution. He can get a little raw.

It's Your Mission-Christmas halp-page Ad

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> Will Oldham is slowly working his


way up the food chain. In his case, the

> My Brightest Diamond’s sophomore

“food” is a classic folk-music sensibility

effort is filled to the brim with

that’s finally becoming more palatable.

sophisticated, multi-instrumental

Lie Down is a strange marriage of The

soliloquies, thanks mostly to vocalist Shara

Carter Family, Doc Boggs, Conor Oberst,

Worden. Twenty musicians contributed

George Jones and a few things too

little-known reverberations from the

bizarre to categorize. There are loopy

likes of a virbraphone, subtle and anemic

woodwinds on “For Every Field There’s

French horns, and clarinets that sound like

a Mole” amid double-tracked vocals. On

cooing birds. Worden wails and moans,

“So Everyone,” he takes a nifty country

hits impossibly high notes, delves deep

picking part from some early-era Elvis

into a musical gutter and vamps with

song and infuses it with anxiety and

cabaret glee. On “Bass Player,” she lingers

hallucination. Then there are the typical

on each note like a bus passenger who

moments of brilliance: the aching guitar

keeps missing her stop. It doesn’t really

drone on “Where Is the Puzzle?” and the

work between sessions of The Maine and

so-simple-it’s-complex piano accents on

David Cook, but—if you’re in the right

the title track. Oldham shines brightly

mindset—you might think it’s the best CD

on this one as a true songwriting talent.

since the last time you heard Tom Waits.

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> Don’t just check out

> Seabird is infectious. Whichever way

> Smooth grooves by way of

> The best former Tooth & Nail

you approach the band, whether from

Norway, with a smattering of neo-

band ever, Anberlin’s New Surrender

Underoath’s new release. Live

a musical or lyrical standpoint, we dare

folk simplicity? Sure, that works.

is notable for its brilliant vices.

in it for a few days. Tracked

you not to be sucked in. The music, which

Lykke Li’s debut release is an

For one, the band just couldn’t

with amps in the room—which is kind

gets its influence from bands like the

amalgamation of her own American

resist re-releasing the fantastic “Feel Good

of unusual—using a relic tape-delay

Beatles, ELO and Doves, is inlaid with

influences (the vocals and “shaking

Drag” from their stellar sophomore outing,

system while playing two drums

loads of guitar and piano, and flows with

my hips” lyrics are on loan from

Never Take Friendship Personal. And, OK,

at the same time, it’s a furious

a smoothness you wouldn’t expect from a

Kylie Minogue, though) and expert

twist our arms. We will suffer through

release for people who probably

band’s debut album. The band explores a

production by Björn Yttling (he of

it again. Most songs follow the story

already have a headache. It’s

variety of sounds on Til We See the Shore,

Peter Björn and John fame), with

arc of a typical CW television show

heavier than Underoath’s

including a toe-tapping swingy number

some weird Euro-dance constructs

(girl hurts guy, guy is mad at

already crippling Define

called “Maggie Mahoney,” a rocker with

that make her sound like a female

the world), and the band sort of has

the Great Line. A song like

a solid bass line with “Let Me Go On”

Moby on one song and someone

one dominant sound (pounding drums,

“Emergency Broadcast” seems

and an epic piano piece in “Not Alone.”

who could have recorded with

cascading guitars, emotive vocals), but

to banish Aaron Gillespie (the

Aaron Morgan’s voice is raspy at the exact

T-Bone Burnett on the next. “I’m

darn if it isn’t fun. Anberlin’s frenetic rock

drummer and “clean vocals”

right times and showcases his passion in

Good, I’m Gone” is quirky enough to

still has a weird ‘80s vibe at times, but

guy on most songs) stapling

a way that makes you stop and listen.

be a Bjork stand-in, with fluttering

the lyrics take an introspective upturn.

your ears to the wall.

piano and Li’s translucent vocals.

Journey withus SEMINARY

We invite you to journey with us at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, where Christians from all walks of life travel together. together. Master of Divinity concentrations: Christian education, Missions, Theology, Practical theology Master of Theological Studies Dual Degrees: MDiv/Master of Social Work, MDiv/Master of Music Doctor of Ministry Come visit us! Fall Preview Oct. 23-24, 2008 Winter Preview Feb. 5-6, 2009 Spring Preview March 19-20, 2009 For more information about Truett call 1-800-BAYLOR-U, option 5, (254) 710-3755 or visit

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> David Johnson has photographed some of the most tragic places in the world, including the beaches of Normandy, the slums of Brazil and Kenya and tsunami-ravaged zones in Thailand. Of all the places he’s been, however, Sudan offers the worst living conditions he has ever seen. On a visit to IDP camps in Darfur, he photographed some of these areas, beautifully capturing the smiles and tears of the people there. After returning to the United States, Johnson compiled the photographs into a book, Voices of Sudan, aiming to share the stories of the Sudanese in order to educate and inspire readers to take part in stopping the ongoing genocide. “I am confident that when one is forced to view the images of the Sudanese he or she will be moved to help,” Johnson wrote on the book’s website. “All I can offer are my photographs ... they tell a story, and they will force the viewer to respond.” Johnson himself offers a small way for us to help—proceeds from book sales go toward building clean water wells and providing food and medicine for those in the IDP camps. In 2007, book proceeds raised more than $38,000—enough to build three water wells that service about 9,000 Sudanese people.



> From blues to country to indie folk,

> Theology: It’s not just for theologians.

Americana music has evolved and

In Coffeehouse Theology, Ed Cyzewski

tracked with the story of the evolution

not only says that theology affects

of America itself. Pop-music journalist

what we believe in our everyday life, but

Amanda Petrusich went in search of

that it is shaped by our unique cultural

that story, encountering the legends of

context. Using a helpful schematic

the musicians, producers and cities that

for understanding the interconnected

made Americana—and, in many ways,

nature of Christian theology’s sources

America—what it is today. In It Still Moves,

and contexts, the book works through

Petrusich recounts her travels, explora-

the different places that our theological

tions and conversations, weaving in an

ideas come from, and the central goal:

engaging portrait of local cultures that

to serve God’s mission on earth, in

spawned near-mythical musical figures

which we are shaped by our cultural

through the 20th-century challenges of

context—including our nationality,

racism, poverty, war and political conflict.

ethnicity and time in history. Cyzewski

This is a book for Americana lovers, but

grapples with difficult questions and

it’s also for any American who wonders

challenges our most basic assumptions

how we got to where we are today.

through examples of his own journey.


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> Beth Guckerman grew up in a

> In Acts 2, Paul described a church where


> Marilynne Robinson’s 2005 Pulitzer

comfortable middle-class family in

everyone shared their possessions, had

> As Election Day 2008 rapidly

Prize-winning novel, Gilead, introduced

Ohio, but her life changed drastically

everything in common and was devoted

approaches, the topics of politics and

readers to John Ames, an old Congre-

when she went to Albania on a college

to practices like fellowship and prayer.

faith—and how they mesh—are on the minds

gationalist preacher in the Midwestern

missions trip and encountered the poor

If you’ve looked around the modern

of Christians. What would it look like to

town of Gilead writing letters to his

and the orphans who challenged her

Church and wondered where that kind

espouse a faith that is aligned with one’s

young son in the 1950s. Home revisits

assumptions about God, faith and security.

of gathering is hiding, we suggest you

political/social convictions? Pastor Joel C.

the town, telling the story of Glory

Inspired to embrace the work God called

read Reimagining Church, which will help

Hunter addresses this question, and more,

Boughton: unmarried, nearing 40 and

them to, Beth and her husband, Todd,

form your convictions into revolution-

in A New Kind of Conservative. Though

disappointed with life. Glory lives in

have spent much of their lives working

izing thoughts. Frank Viola, a leader in

he speaks from a conservative viewpoint,

Gilead and cares for her elderly father,

among orphans in Mexico and, in the

the home-church movement for 20 years,

he isn’t bound by the topics—abortion,

the town’s retired Presbyterian minister.

process, have adopted several children

lays out the complicated issue of “redoing

marriage—that have historically seized the

When Jack—Glory’s wayward and worldly-

and told many more of God’s love for

church” in a tangible and practical way,

attention of the religious right. Instead,

wise brother—returns to Gilead after

them. In Reckless Faith, Guckerman

never skimming over the hard issues like

he broadens the spectrum of what should

20 years of wandering, the members

tells stories of the adventures she,

unity, authority and the spiritual status

matter to the Church—social justice, the

of the Boughton household must deal

Todd and others have encountered as

quo. Spilling over with relevant scriptures

environment—and addresses what it would

with ghosts of the past, failures of the

they follow God’s will and live in faith,

and illustrations, Viola’s convictions

look like if we cast our votes in a way that

present and forgiveness for the future.

trusting in His miraculous provision.

are sure to challenge and excite you.

truly reflected the values of our faith.

Photos (from left): Wendy Shattil / Rob Rozinksi, Kevin Shafer

“Oh LORD, how manifold are your

works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” -Psalm 104:24


ob beneath the waves with a pair of green sea turtles or nestle with emperor penguins on a bed of Antarctic snow.

Irreplaceable: Wildlife in a Warming World—an exhibit of wildlife photography—brings you face to face with the incredible plants and animals of our planet: species big and small, familiar and exotic, but all threatened by a rapidly warming world. Visit our website to learn more about these amazing creatures and sign the Call to Care letter to show your support. Visit


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2 P G



Jim Vot



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RELEVANT (Sept./Oct. 2008)  

RELEVANT covers God, life and progressive culture. Our September issue looks at the elections, what it means for us, and much more.

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