TIM SIEDELL URBAN RENEWAL CHRISTIANS AND BIGOTRY ARE OUR BRAINS HARD-WIRED FOR FAITH?
FICTION FAMILY YOUTH LAGOON JUDAH SMITH MARNIE STERN
THE STATE OF MUSIC THE TRENDS, BANDS AND BREAKTHROUGHS TO WATCH IN 2013
THE OFFICE THE CAST TALKS ABOUT BEARS, BEETS AND SAYING GOODBYE
THE RISE OF
10 IDEAS FOR YOUR MOST EPIC SUMMER EVER ONE COUPLE. TWO CALLINGS.
WHAT NOW? RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM
ISSUE 63 / MAY/JUNE 2013 / $4.95
THEY MAY HAVE FIVE ALBUMS, GLOBAL FAME, TOP SINGLES AND GRAMMYS, BUT PHOENIX IS JUST GETTING STARTED
Life’s Special Moments
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isb Life G n: 97 ear 81 for 60 92 Grad 61 s 25 2
on ly P En ray isb f n: or D glis h B er 97 a i l 81 i 60 y Pra ble 92 61 yer 23
Po ck O w/ et Th n th isb Ma i g nD e G n: 97 netic ecoT o 81 o 60 Clos ne 92 61 ure 0 09
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on common ground. Let’s do away with “my translation is better than yours.” Let’s make the good Book as sweet as good conversation. Let’s ask folks from all walks of life (and yes, the best scholars too) to make sure it speaks clear and true. Let’s make it fresh. Vibrant. Real. Let’s build a translation on common ground. Then let’s live it like we mean it. LiveOnCommonGround.com
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FIR S T WORD
“I BELIEVE...” BY C AMERON S TR ANG
he week this issue was being sent to the printer, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Anthony Lewis passed away. He was 85. The day after his death, NPR aired an interview with him from when he retired in 2002. In it, he talked about getting the opportunity to transition from a reporter to a columnist at the Times. Having no experience writing a column, he asked a senior colleague, well, how to do it. “It’s simple,” he was told. “A reporter states facts. A columnist says, ‘I believe.’” Saying what you believe has become a touchy subject lately. As the Church has grappled with a variety of societal changes, we’ve seen some Christian leaders loudly say things in God’s name—usually via social media—that have made the rest of us cringe. (We talk about it on page 46.) The Jesus that the loudmouths represent to the world is angry and judgmental. And they make it look like all good Christians have to be, as well. Christians are being cast in such a light that many who have a genuine relationship with Christ now find themselves pulling back association with the label at all. In essence they’re saying, Don’t lump me in with them, I’m not like that. Marcus Mumford (lead singer of Grammy-winning Mumford & Sons) recently told Rolling Stone that he doesn’t consider himself a Christian. This came as a surprise to many, given the overt spiritual overtones of Mumford’s music (not to mention his parents are national
“YOU DON’T HAVE TO COMPROMISE CONVICTIONS TO BE COMPASSIONATE.” —RICK WARREN
Cameron Strang is the founder and CEO of
RELEVANT. Connect with him on Twitter @CameronStrang or Facebook.com/ CameronStrang.
Vineyard Church leaders in the U.K.). While Mumford says he still believes in Jesus, he doesn’t want the label. “I don’t really like that word,” he said. “It comes with so much baggage. So, no, I wouldn’t call myself a Christian. I think the word just conjures up all these religious images that I don’t really like. I’ve kind of separated myself from the culture of Christianity.” And that’s the danger we’re now in. Like in political media, the extreme views on religion-vs.-culture have gotten the biggest microphones. And it’s forcing a pendulum swing in our generation that’s troubling. We don’t want to be associated with the extremes, or at least their tone, so we distance ourselves. We throw the baby out with the bathwater. We’re often afraid to stand for what we believe because we don’t want to be labeled or marginalized as “one of them.” We’re becoming a voiceless generation. In Ephesians 4:15, Paul admonishes us to speak the truth in love. The sad reality is most of us only do half of that. Those who speak the “truth” generally show no love, and those who only show “love” generally don’t speak the truth. “Our culture has accepted two huge lies,” Rick Warren once said. “The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” The discourse between the Church and society is broken. Increasingly deep battle lines are being drawn, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Christians are called to be light in the darkness. That doesn’t mean entering culture and becoming just like it. Instead, it means standing up, standing out and— with love—pointing people to the freedom that can only be found in Christ. Making enemies is not a prerequisite. Our battle is not with the government, people we disagree with or non-believers. Instead, we should be working to establish bridges of understanding with those whose views differ from ours. Knowing someone and understanding them does not mean you have to compromise your convictions. We can’t let only the bullies have the microphone anymore. Even when it isn’t popular, or it means we might be labeled or even attacked, we’re called to speak the truth in love. We can no longer be voiceless. With a spirit of humility and love, may we always have the courage to say, “I believe ...”
“Multiply is a simple, practical, biblical, helpful, and personal tool for disciples of Jesus who want to
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CELEBRATING 10 YEARS
@travisharger Hard to ignore the great impact the last 10 years of @RELEVANT magazine has had on my life. #10thanniversary
It was a lovely slap upside the head reading the “10 Challenges Facing Us In the Next Decade” [March/ April 2013]. Loads to think about and loads to change in my life and the life of my church. Thanks for connecting with my cranium.
@DarrenWhitehead Congrats to @cameronstrang & team celebrating 10 years of @RELEVANT. This publication brought a fresh perspective & voice to Christendom.
AND DONALD MILLER
TALK FAITH, HOLLY WOOD, VEEP & THE EPIC RETURN OF
ISSUE 62 / MAR _ APR 2013 / $4.95
I loved the conversation between Donald Miller and Tony Hale [“Hey, Brother” March/April]. Two of my favorites in one cover story—what could be better? —MEGAN STRAUSS / Oakland, CA
— PAUL MILLAR/ Westport, ON
scout cookies? I don’t know yet, but I want to be a part of the solution in providing water without a second thought of how awesome it is. Thanks for covering this story. It gave me a direction to set my passion on. —ELDON BLOSSER / Carlisle, PA
Oh good! It was our back-up after the Toby Macinterviewing-Gary Busey piece fell through.
I love this! [“Slant,” March/April] is a piece I am going to come back to again and again. I don’t think I can digest it all in one sitting, and I’m glad for that. Thank you! —IAN MCKERRACHER / St. Albert, AB, Canada
I am so moved by this article [“Google Awards charity: water $5 Million Technology Grant,” March/April] and have been searching to be a part of something with purpose. So yesterday I started a campaign for charity: water. Shave my head, run a marathon, sell girl
Congratulations on 10 years of RELEVANT! I’ve been a reader almost the whole time and have changed right along with the magazine. I’m looking forward to the next 10! —CHRIS PRICE / Brooklyn, NY I am an avid reader of your magazine; I think you bring good, fresh and thoughtful topics. I do have one criticism, though. I noticed that I haven’t seen any women on the cover of the magazine. I think that Christian circles, right now, don’t always give women the support they need in terms of supporting their creativity and ambition. —SARAH NORMON / Via email Representing ethnic and gender diversity is very important to us— and a weekly conversation on our team. We’re definitely aware of the unfortunate “sameness” of most of our covers—though that isn’t true of the other 99 pages. We have a lot of female authors and profiles; they just aren’t always on the cover. But it’s something we’re working on. Stay tuned.
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@nathan macquar y It’s always great when @RELEVANT is in the mailbox. It’s even better when @MrTonyHale is on the cover. @DaveGerhart Man, I am blown away by how good @RELEVANT looks on the iPad! Totally interactive experience like nothing else I’ve seen! @theamcl This @RELEVANT makes me so happy. Jon Foreman, Jon Acuff, The Lumineers, Tony Hale, Francis Chan & Joel Houston all in one spot. @TooTallTJ Yes, @RELEVANTpodcast is out! What I wait for every Friday. @MarkNehrenz @RELEVANT, thanks for recommending @MiloGreene in the latest issue! I am loving this stuff!
A BIMON T HLY LOOK AT LIFE, FA I T H + CULT UR E
[O T HER SONGS T HE Y COUL D’ V E USED IN IN T ER ROG AT ION]
CHRISTIAN ROCK WAS USED TO INTERROGATE TERRORISTS
“Shoot to Thrill” Back in Black AC/DC
Demon Hunter, a Christian metal band, had an unlikely role in SEAL Team 6’s hunt for bin Laden. n an interview with Esquire, Hunter said that “the team asked us if it was OK the Navy SEAL Team 6 member if they did this, and we of course told them, known to the public only as “The ‘YES,’ because we are unapologetic supporters of Shooter”—the one who actu- our troops.” The band went on to say that they ally killed Osama bin Laden— “are honored, humbled and blessed” to support said that the military used the SEAL Team 6. They said they did not know their music would music of Christian metal band Demon Hunter to “soften up” suspected terrorists before they be used in “enhanced interrogation” situations were interrogated. In the piece, The Shooter also and did not comment on whether or not they approved. “The debate about enhanced said that he wore a patch of the band’s interrogation techniques is for politilogo—a demon’s skull with a bullet-hole “I WORE cians, military intelligence, pundits and in it—everywhere he went. “I wore my MY DEMON Demon Hunter patch on every mission,” HUNTER PATCH others of the like to have,” they said in their statement. he is quoted as saying. “I wore it when I ON EVERY It was a high-profile moment for a blasted bin Laden.” MISSION. I band who’s spent the last decade earnEvidently, Demon Hunter’s role in terrorist interrogation only started after WORE IT WHEN ing respect for speaking about their faith with both candor and sensitivity in a Metallica asked the military to stop I BLASTED BIN genre not particularly known for either. using their music. In a statement, Demon LADEN.”
“Born in the USA” Born in the USA Bruce Springsteen.
“White America” The Eminem Show Eminem
I AM WHAT MY STORY HAS MADE ME. I AM MARKED BY ITS TELLING. HE SAW ME. HE SAW MY PAST. HE FORGAVE MY PRESENT. HE GAVE ME A FUTURE.
I AM NAMED.
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GOD’S STORY FINDS ITS PLACE IN YOU
[ M I S C ] According to a new book from Roelof van den Broek, emeritus professor at the University of Utrecht, an ancient Egyptian text says that Jesus
FLAVOR OF THE BIMONTH 10 Things You Should Care About Right Now
Cinco de Mayo May 5 is not actually
Mexico’s Independence Day,
was a shape-
but don’t let that stop you from
celebrating Mexican culture.
like the Bible would have mentioned that ...
Dan Brown’s “Inferno”
The author of The Da Vinci Code, aims to do for Dante what he did
THE TRIUMPHANT RETURN OF
he reality star who has shown audiences how to do anything—and by anything, we quite literally mean anything—to survive in the wild is returning to TV with two new shows. The first, Bear Grylls: Ultimate Survivor, reunites the survival expert with the Discovery Channel, the network behind the series that first introduced Grylls to American audiences in 2006 with Man vs. Wild. On the show, which will air on international channels, Grylls re-enacts real-life disaster scenarios as told by the people who lived them. But these aren’t exactly it-could-happen-to-anyone situations. They’re more along the lines of crashing an airplane into the Amazon rainforest or getting stuck in a crevasse deep in the European Alps. On his unscripted NBC competition show Get Out Alive, which airs this summer, two teams compete in a wildlife survival competition that, as Grylls describes it, sounds like Survivor meets The Hunger Games. “The goal is to empower people with the ultimate in both survival and teamwork,” Grylls says, “and that brings incredible reward … but first there must be some pain.” Empowerment. Survival. Pain. From Grylls. We’d expect nothing less.
for Da Vinci. Expect the general
rather see a
public to regard it as gospel
while scholars roll their eyes.
from the guy who directed Life of Pi or the guy who
The French Open American tennis fans,
your sleep cycles are about to
go bonkers. This year’s Open
kicks off on May 26.
may not have to choose—word is, both Ang Lee and Ridley Scott are eyeing projects based on the Exodus ... Hope you like hashtags. Facebook’s
The iPhone 5S Rumor is, along with a new
iPhone 5S, Apple will also roll out
going to start
a cheaper version of the iPhone 4.
using them ...
Just so long as it still takes selfies. CHECK Bonnaroo’s website to see this
crowned the “heiress of hate,”
announced via a piercing, bittersweet blog post that she and her younger sister had
It was getting to the point where
left the church.
Westboro Baptist’s shrieking hate for
“We know that we dearly
everything was predictable. People
love our family,” she wrote.
began counter-protesting their picket
lines or ignoring them altogether.
betrayers, and we are cut off
But in February, the WBC proved
from their lives, but we know
they could still surprise—in a good
they are well-intentioned.
We will never not love
granddaughter of Westboro pastor
Fred Phelps and the woman
Bonnaroo 2013 Coming June 13, this
Tennessee festival features one of 2013’s best lineups so far.
“At the intersection of surﬁng, culture, and theology lies an opportunity for me to partner with communities around the globe.” Ryan Kuja
Student · MA in Theology & Culture: Global & Social Partnership Track, and future contextual theologian of surﬁng.
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[ M I S C ] Following an incredible outpouring of support, a Kickstarer campaign to fund a movie based on the beloved, short-
5. SPIDER-MAN 3
It seemed unlikely that Sam Raimi’s third Spider-Man film could be any better than his second, but nobody expected it would be as bad as it was. The film’s central crisis is Peter Parker’s sudden affinity for dressing like a member of Fallout Boy.
This thing was bad enough to kill Halle Berry’s career, which was no mean feat in 2004.
3. FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
This film took the Silver Surfer—one of the more compelling figures in Marvel’s history—and managed to make him so dull that this sequel utterly eclipsed how bad the first movie was.
The Tour de France Beginning June 29, the
toughest part of this year’s race will be its own attempt to get out
from the under the long shadow
of last year’s doping scandal.
ith this year’s Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 and upcoming entries from the Spider-Man, Avengers, Thor and Captain America franchises, we are living in what might as well be considered a golden age for superhero films. It’s amazing, really, considering how bad they used to be. There was a time when almost all superhero movies were unfailingly, hilariously, stupendously bad movies, but some were worse than others. And here are the five worst of all.
10 Things You Should Care About Right Now
THE 5 WORST SUPERHERO MOVIES OF ALL TIME
FLAVOR OF THE BIMONTH
The Great Gatsby Baz Luhrmann and
made a million
Leonardo DiCaprio are going to
dollars in under
try to fill some very big shoes.
four hours. Your move, Firefly fans ... Scientists in Europe have built something called “Rapyuta,” which is an
for The Great
in the world
can access as a collective database of knowledge on
Memorial Day This year, May 27 marks
one of America’s more solemn
how to “interact
federal holidays. Enjoy your
three-day weekend accordingly.
in more subtle, human ways.” Good. Wouldn’t
Vampire Weekend’s New Album
want the robot-
The indie rockers return with
uprising to be
Modern Vampires of the City.
too hard ... Netflix rewarded a man who got
2. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
The movie looks like director Gavin Hood ripped a bunch of pages out of the scripts of all the wrong action movies. It’s a parade of comic book cameos doing boring things.
a “Netflix” tattoo with a free year of streaming video. But surely that
1. BATMAN AND ROBIN
If you’ve seen it, you know. If you haven’t, just forget you ever even heard it existed.
Fun fact: In 1916, Congress
refused to make Father’s Day an official holiday, fearing it would
to the man’s
be over-commercialized. So,
please, celebrate responsibly.
a lifetime of
[ M I S C ] It’s wellknown that dolphins’ clicks and whistles represent a far more sophisticated language than most members of the animal kingdom, but a new study suggests that dolphins may New York City. Significantly more Bible-minded than the old York City.
actually be calling each other by name. Someone owes Flipper an apology ...
AMERICA’S MOST CHRISTIAN CITIES ecently, the Barna Group conducted a study to determine which cities were America’s “most Bible-minded.” They took the nation’s 96 largest cities and rated them based on how often their citizens read the Bible in a week and how much they agree with what it says. Not surprisingly, the study shows the South is America’s most biblically minded region—with Knoxville taking the number one spot—and New England is generally America’s least biblically minded region, with Providence bringing up the rear. The study doesn’t line up directly with the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies’ research last year, which sought to answer the more general question of which city is the “most Christian.” That study ranked Salt Lake City, Birmingham and Oklahoma City in the number one, two and three spots, with the greater area of Portland coming in last place.
George Lucas revealed that J.J. Abram’s new Star Wars trilogy is actually bringing back Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford to reprise their roles as Luke, Leia and Han, respectively. “Luke, I am your great-great grandfather” ...
Obamacare Compromises With Christian Organizations President Barack Obama loosened the restrictions around the contraceptive mandate that required employers to provide morning-after pills and abortifacients to their employees. The original mandate allowed nonprofits such as churches to opt out but left regular businesses like Hobby Lobby—which is owned by a Christian family— feeling that their religious liberties were being violated. Under the new ruling, their insurer will be the one who pays for the services, meaning the companies themselves won’t actually have to pay for any services that violate their consciences.
POPE FRANCIS WOULD LIKE A CHURCH ‘FOR THE POOR’ It didn’t take long for Pope Francis to set the tone for his new career as leader of the Roman Catholic Church. In his first press meeting, the new pope said that when he realized the votes had fallen in his favor, his thoughts turned to St. Francis of Assisi. The Pope said he admired the original Francis’ concern 20
for the environment and that he was a “poor man, a simple man, as we would like a poor church, for the poor.” Such words ring true with the pope’s character. As cardinal, he was wellknown for rejecting the opulence due his standing, and often taking public transportation.
BREAKFAST DONE RIGHT Five [Disgusting] Innovations for the Most Important Meal of the Day
ow that Mountain Dew is making its own breakfast drink called Kickstart—marketed as a fizzy alternative to a morning cup of coffee— here are some other ideas for companies to give America what it really wants for breakfast:
[ M I S C ] Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s The Bible miniseries raked in 14.8 million viewers its opening night, making it TV’s most watched show
LUCKY CHARMS MARSHMALLOW MADNESS “But wait,” you say.
“Lucky Charms already makes a sugary marshmallow cereal!” Nay. They sell boxes of toasted-oat pieces lightly peppered with sweet, delicious marshmallows. Stop teasing us, Lucky Charms. Give the people what they want: an entire box of marshmallow goodness.
and the most popular cable show of 2013 so far. Additionally, more than 40 percent
BEN & JERRY’S A.M. ICE CREAM For those who prefer dessert
before they start their day, a pint of creamy Ben & Jerry’s is the perfect solution. Considering ice cream is mostly milk—and you can always add fruit—there’s really no reason this can’t constitute a healthy breakfast.
of Americans viewed at least one episode of the miniseries, and a quarter of the viewers were non-
Why fool ourselves any longer? We really don’t want those eggs, pancakes or fresh fruit. We eat them out of obligation. Denny’s, we’re going to cut to the chase: Just offer a menu item that’s a massive pile of bacon. THE DENNY’S BACON PLATE
Christians ... Jon Stewart will be taking a summer hiatus from his gig
Imagine waking up to the aroma of a deep-dish collection of bacon, cheese and fresh tomato baked into a massive pancake. That’s essentially what the frozen pizza already is. All the pizza proprietors have to do now is figure out how to market their pizza in a way that makes it acceptable to eat for breakfast.
at The Daily Show for a new role: directing a movie based on the true story of a U.K. journalist’s capture and interrogation in
HAM-AND-EGGS-FLAVORED DORITOS If the
chips taste like a hearty plate of proteinpacked eggs and nutritious country ham, your metabolism will be tricked into thinking you just ate a healthy breakfast. It’s just science.
Iran. In Stewart’s absence, John Oliver will take over hosting duties ... Doritos has
STEVEN SEAGAL TO THE RESCUE
Pony-tailed ’90s action hero Steven Seagal
who are obviously not familiar with Seagal’s
was recently invited by the self-proclaimed
movie work, complained that having an aging
“Toughest Sheriff in America,” Joe Arpaio,
actor train armed vigilantes in dangerous
to conduct training for a posse of armed
exercises at public schools was a terrible
volunteers in Maricopa County, Ariz., in an
idea. This, of course, didn’t stop Seagal from
effort to make Arizona schools safer against
aiding the community, as his line between
gunmen. Inexplicably, some local officials,
fiction and reality further deteriorates.
released Doritos Taco Flavored Doritos, plunging the universe into a wormhole ...
Lacey, formerly of Flyleaf
“When I was 16 years old, I planned to commit suicide. … Then the God of the universe showed up.” Watch the rest of Lacey Sturm’s redemption story in her online “Ransom Note”—and then share your own. God knows someone else may be desperately searching for the very hope you have. What’s your story? How will God use it? Visit Ransom.tv. ©2013 BGEA
A M I N I S T R Y O F B I L LY G R A H A M E VA N G E L I S T I C A S S O C I AT I O N
Google’s Ring to Rule Them All When a prankster managed to break into both Burger King and Jeep’s Twitter accounts in the same week and post some outrageous tweets, the results were harmless. But when Wired magazine Senior Writer Mat Honan had his entire digital life deleted after a hacker exploited flaws in Apple and Amazon’s security, it wasn’t so funny. Both scenarios had one thing to blame: their password. Not only are they hard to remember, but passwords are notoriously
why Google is on a mission to kill them. The company is experimenting with a microchip that can be embedded with your
WHAT CAN YOUR 3-D PRINTER ACTUALLY DO?
The technology makes its commercial debut. But what is it actually capable of? recent months 3-D printers have broken into the mainstream, providing wizard-like services to anyone who wants them. But temper your expectations—3-D printing is still in its humblest beginnings. Before you invest a couple thousand dollars on one, here’s a realistic look at what the early models can realistically create.
Nintendo Game Cartridges
You’ll never have to substitute Skittles for missing iron or shoe figures again.
information and will be able to unlock your accounts when it’s plugged into a USB port. Soon, though, Google wants to take
They’ll be purely decorative, but the real ones only worked about half the time anyway.
it a step further by putting it in
the form of a ring. In a report in the IEEE Security & Privacy magazine,
Chopsticks with fork tines on the end? A spoon that catapults food to your mouth? Dream big.
The possibilities here more than justify whatever price you end up paying for your 3-D printer.
Missing an earring? Print a plastic one. Missing a neclace clasp? Print one. Can’t get your boyfriend to propose? Print a ring.
Board Game Pieces
Is there anything more useless than a foosball table with no foosball? Buy a 3-D printer and give every foosball table a shot at purpose.
Google officials said, “We’d like your smartphone or smartcardembedded
authorize a new computer via a tap on the computer.” To summarize: Google wants to create a tiny microchip that will be with you at all times and necessary to do any sort of electronic transaction. Don’t worry; Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil.” So, we’re safe.
TODDLER ‘FUNCTIONALLY’ CURED OF HIV Dr. Hannah Gay, a University of Mississippi Medical Center pediatrician and former Ethiopian missionary, made global headlines for “functionally” curing a two-year-old of HIV. They say “functionally,” because Dr. Gay and her colleagues eradicated the virus to the point where it can no longer be detected in her blood, meaning it no longer requires treatment. The jury’s out right now on whether or not this was a one-time miracle, but it’s virtually unprecedented and very exciting.
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Complete your degree in 14 months with most coursework online Study under some of todayâ€™s top ministry leaders, including Mark Batterson, Stovall Weems, and Leonard Sweet Visit Chick-fil-A headquarters Gather for classes once a month for 3â€“5 days, studying on location in Lakeland, Atlanta, Washington, D.C.
Course Topics The Shape of the Pentecostal Leader Shape of Practical Theology Strategic Missional Leadership The Church and Cultural Engagement
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous
A Practical Theology of the Pentecostal Church Managing Church Finance Holistic Pastoral Counseling Managing Change and Conflict
and they will add
Methods of Biblical Preaching and Teaching
to their learning.
Renewing the Local Church Leading Across Cultures
Proverbs 9:9 NIV
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Lollapalooza in Chicago
2013 MUSIC FESTIVAL GUIDE
Going to a music festival is something everyone should do. Here’s how to make sure you don’t end up at the wrong one.
he lights drop. The crowd shrieks. The smell of sweat fills your nostrils as the throng sweeps closer to the stage. The anticipation cranks to the breaking point and, then, the first blast of noise. You’re attending your 18th or so concert of the day because you’re at a music festival. But which one are you
WHERE: San Francisco
WHERE: Middle of
WHERE: Mount Union, Pa.
HEADLINERS: Phoenix, The
Lumineers, The xx, Vampire Weekend (Rumored) THE CROWD: WASPy
National, Postal Service, The Killers THE CROWD: Melting Pot
Nowhere, Tenn. (June 13-16) HEADLINERS: Mumford & Sons, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Kendrick Lamar THE CROWD: Survivors
(June 26-29) Enumclaw, Wash. (August 7-10) HEADLINERS: Lecrae, Switchfoot, David Crowder THE CROWD: Youth Groups
Bonnaroo is ideal for people who find concerts boring if they don’t include a decent chance of death. The festival is half crowdpleasing music acts and half Hunger Games as everyone is expected to fend for themselves in the humidity-soaked sweat blanket of the Tennessee wild. Many music lovers will come, but only the strong survive.
For 16 years, CreationFest has been presenting the Gospel through whatever means they have available, including (but not limited to) worship acts, CCM artists and speakers like Louie Giglio and Tony Campolo, to name a few. T-shirts spelling out “Jesus” in the Reese’s logo are not required but are definitely welcome.
If you’re headed to Outside Lands, make sure to pack only the essentials: a mix of assorted artisan cheeses (stored at 55 degrees F), your moisture-wicking yoga pants, mini-shots of whey protein, acai berry and wheatgrass to keep your metabolism high and, finally, your bamboo water bottle with a built-in carbon filtration system to stay hydrated.
at? Knowing what festivals offer is the difference between an edenic getaway to a land of cherished bands with likeminded masses and an endless nightmare of weird music and weirder fans. To help you decide which festival is right for you, here’s the RELEVANT breakdown of this year’s big ones.
Few festivals are more accessible than Lolla, whose side stages are peopled by a bunch of bands you’ve never heard of and whose main stages are crammed with bands everybody has heard of. Basically, if you listen to music, there’s a place for you at Lollapalooza. But if you really want to go, you’re going to need a quick trigger finger. Last year’s presale discount tickets sold out in less that a minute.
HEADLINERS: Belle and Sebastian, R. Kelly, Björk THE CROWD: Hipsters
Here’s a simple rule as you try to make the call on this one. If you think any band has ever, ever, in the history of their existence released an album that was better than their first one, Pitchfork Music Festival isn’t for you. But on the other hand, if you have ever struggled to explain why you like listening to music on vinyl more than on your iPod, then welcome home, hipster. We’ve been expecting you.
IS JESUS REALLY ENOUGH? BY JUDAH SMITH
ecently I found myself leading an impromptu Bible study with some unchurched people. They were in their twenties, so at thirty-four years old, I was the old guy. That didn’t feel too good, but apparently my years of experience convinced them I had everything figured out about life, marriage, God and happiness. So I ran with that. Part of me wishes I could say that I delivered a flawless theological discourse that proved beyond doubt the basic tenets of the Christian faith. But I’m not that smart. Instead, I spoke on John 3:16. I told them simply who Jesus is, why He came to earth and died and what that means for our day-to-day lives. I told them God is a good God and that He’s not mad at us. I said life can be tough and that sometimes we do things we shouldn’t do but that Jesus is on our side and never gives up on us. I preached hope. It was pretty much the most basic explanation of the Gospel ever given. But this group had never heard it before, and to them, it was earth-shattering. Mindblowing. World-rocking. After I finished, person after person told me how much my words meant to them. But it was possibly just as world-rocking for me. I watched the same Gospel and the same Jesus that have
WHEN WE SPEND TIME WITH REAL PEOPLE WITH REAL PROBLEMS, WE REALIZE JESUS IS ENOUGH.
Judah Smith is author of Jesus Is ______ (Thomas Nelson, 2013). He and his wife Chelsea are lead pastors of the City Church in Seattle, Wash.
been preached for 2,000 years once again compel lost people to turn to Him. Logic and debate and threat of judgment could not have accomplished in a year what the Good News of Jesus’ love did in just a few short minutes that night. I might wonder why, except that everywhere we look in the Gospels, Jesus is with people. Even when He sneaked off to pray, He somehow ended up surrounded by nosy, noisy disciples who wanted to know what and why and how He was doing. Jesus thrived on that. People were His mission. He was never too busy, never too tired and never too holy for them. This is what amazes me: Jesus never sinned or condoned sin, yet He was a sinner magnet. They were fascinated by Him. They invited Him over to eat and spent hours listening to Him. It would be an oversimplification to say Jesus was just the friend of “bad” people. He was also a friend of invisible people— normal, unremarkable people like Mary, Martha and Lazarus. People like the blind and the lame, whom He healed instantly and with no strings attached. People like the woman with the issue of blood, who expected a rebuke for her impertinence and instead received public praise. Jesus was even willing to be friends with hyper-religious people like Nicodemus—if they were willing to admit that, actually, they were jacked up, too. All of this had a purpose, of course. Jesus came to show us the Father (John 14:9). In other words, how He dealt with people is exactly how God deals with us. He healed people because God wanted to heal them. He hugged people because God longed to hug them. He ate fish-and-chips with alcohol addicts, played hide-and-seek with kids, cracked corny jokes and forgave sins left and right because that’s what God would have done in His place. And he wasn’t faking it, either. He actually loved people. We have to grasp this truth. Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn it. He came to save it—just like the basic truth of John 3:16 teaches. That night with my new, unchurched friends was a bit of a wake-up call for me, actually. It helped me realize that sometimes we take the Gospel for granted. We’ve heard it so much that it doesn’t seem that amazing anymore. But then we spend time with real people with real problems, and we are brought back to this simple truth: Jesus is enough.
WORLDV IE W
LIFE LESSONS FROM A NATIONAL PASTTIME BY TIM SIEDELL
ou hear that? The crisp collision of white ash and cowhide. The staccato snap of well-oiled leather. These are the sounds that begin, ever so quietly at first, just as we shake away the frost of another winter. Another baseball season is upon us. And count me among those who believe, quite strongly, that baseball transcends the common earthly realm of sport. It’s more than a game of ingenious design. It’s more than a symbolic renewal of springtime hope and summer frolic. It is, my friends, life. Because just like life itself, baseball is boring. Stupendously boring. Understand, I love baseball. Most Americans do. Almost 75 million of us attended a major league game last year. That’s a lot of tickets. Maybe the game is ingrained into our national DNA because, of all the sports available to us, this is the one that so elegantly captures the essence of human existence. There’s the tiny minutiae of everyday activity that separates the winners from the losers. The progression toward an undetermined end time, which could come disappointingly soon or march painfully on and on to the bewilderment of all observers. There’s the universal hope for life beyond the regular season. And there’s the tedium. Oh, the tedium. Baseball is all about little things that are equal parts
BASEBALL SO ELEGANTLY CAPTURES THE ESSENCE OF HUMAN EXISTENCE.
Tim Siedell, known to all as @badbanana, has been put on “must follow” lists by the likes of Maxim and MSNBC. He’s a husband, father, and creative director in Nebraska.
uninteresting and critical. Advancing the runner. Not swinging at a pitch outside the strike zone. Avoiding the double play. Hitting the cutoff man. Just like in real life. Very rarely do you have an opportunity to hit a home run or be any sort of hero at work or at home. Usually, a good day involves not inadvertently hitting “reply all” on an office email. Then there’s the rhythm of the game itself, riddled with existential angst. According to Baseball-Reference.com, a major league team throws an average of 146 pitches per game. So, for two teams, you’re looking at an average of 292 pitches. That’s 292 opportunities to sit and ponder and get lost in your thoughts. If, like me, you tend to obsess over the past in real life, you can stew about that last pitch or that line drive that certainly looked foul or why this pitcher was even brought in to face this batter in the first place. You can contemplate and brood as much you want at a baseball game. Because, let’s be honest, those 292 pitches aren’t coming anytime soon. First, the batter is going to have to step out of the box. Then the pitcher is going to step off the rubber. The catcher, sensing an opportunity to use his legs for something other than crouching, will no doubt jog out to the mound. Which will only bring the pitching coach out of the dugout to talk to them both, mostly because he wants to give the impression a pitching coach actually does something. Then the umpire will slowly amble out there, ostensibly to break it all up. In the average baseball game, this happens 3,597 times. But we understand because we know the feeling of wanting to escape our boring cubicles mid-afternoon. For most of us, baseball is just there. Sometimes we look up from our iPhone to see a great play on TV just in time. Sometimes we go weeks without even checking the scores or standings. And sometimes we actually go to a game and get emotionally involved in the outcome, even though it doesn’t much matter. Especially if you’re a Royals fan, like me. Whether it’s baseball or life, you’ll miss the rare exciting parts if you don’t make an effort to look for some kind of joy, some kind of beauty, in the mind-numbing nothingness before you. And just like life itself, all things must eventually come to an end. Even a sunsoaked afternoon at the old ballpark. Of course, that’s when things can get really scary. After all, parking lots are hell.
MUSIC NEWS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Scientists Determine Songs to Help You Drive Your Safest
2013: THE JT EXPERIENCE HE’S SPENT THE LAST SEVEN YEARS BEING AN ACTOR, SKETCH COMEDIAN AND DESIGNER. NOW, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE IS GETTING BACK TO BEING WHAT HE’S BEST AT: A STAR. n January, when Justin anthems that redefine what modern pop can Timberlake announced via sound like. In the media circus surrounding YouTube he’d be returning to this album, Timberlake famously gave SNL the business that made him its highest ratings in five years and took over famous by releasing an album in March, the Late Night With Jimmy Fallon for a week. In March, The Roots’ Questlove let it slip collective response was, “About time!” Following his world-conquering 2006 on okayplayer.com that Timberlake had album FutureSex/LoveSounds, Timberlake another 10-song album in the can, also produced by Timbaland, and that it acquired a taste for film, churning out some memorable per2 ALBUMS. 1 YEAR would be releasing in November 2013. Surprised by the leak, formances (The Social Network) AMNESIAC / KID A Timberlake nonetheless fessed and some less so (Friends With Radiohead up the next day that the news is Benefits). And while his flicks AGE OF ADZ / ALL true. (Word to the wise: Don’t were always welcomed, there was DELIGHTED PEOPLE tell Questlove secrets.) still a growing sense that it was Sufjan Stevens After seven years of pretending time he get back to business. BAPTISM/ANY DAY NOW he’d given up music, Timberlake And back to it he got, releasing Joan Baez has taken to living like earth’s a stunner: The 20/20 Experience, biggest pop star. And if he’s not, ten songs of dizzying, complex COME/THE BLACK ALBUM Prince who is? style. They are neo-soul R&B
When it comes to driving music, to each their own. It’s been a source of friction on family vacations and buddy road trips for as long as there have been stereos in cars to fight over. But now there’s a new study, led by Dr. Simon Moore from the London Metropolitan University, that can help make those choices a little bit easier—that is, if you want to drive safely. The study found that different songs have a substantial psychological effect on how we drive. Metal agitated men’s driving more than it did women’s, causing them to break faster and accelerate harder. Hiphop, however, made women more aggressive than it made men. And here’s a surprising note: No genre made either gender more aggressive on the road than classical music. But there’s safe music, too, and it comes in the forms you’d expect. The study put together the top 10 safest songs they could find, and you might want to make a playlist with them. Topping that chart is Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me,” followed by songs like Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” Overall, researchers found that the safest way to drive is with music that has a beat mimicking the resting rate of your heartbeat. So now you know how to play it safest on the road. But only you can decide if your optimal conditions are worth listening to Jason Mraz over and over.
ARTIS T S TO WAT CH
[ON ROTATION] REID ROLLS
wrote this music for the uncynical ear,” Thad Cockrell says. “And not, like, music geeks. Just people.” It shows, too. Cockrell and his band, LEAGUES, write the sort of music you loved back before everything got all weepy and earnest. It’s the music you still love, if you’re brave enough to admit it. The sort of music that makes you roll down the windows and drive over the speed limit. It’s rock ‘n’ roll that actually rolls. Cockrell found a muse in John Steinbeck, who (accurately) predicted his novel, East of Eden, would not be a critical success and chose not to care. It’s the same attitude LEAGUES carried into the studio. “I was just thinking, what do we need to hear?” Cockrell says of the recording. “I need something that lifts me, man. I need to go have a great time, and we need songs that we can sing to each other and at each other. That connects us.” That’s what LEAGUES’ songs do—hook heavy, sing-a-long anthems that send you to a place where friends are plenty and life’s a party. It’s a change of pace from Cockrell’s solo career, fueled by folksy ballads, but if he’s worried fans won’t follow him into his new phase, he’s not showing it. “Once they adjust to it, they’ll like the old stuff,” he says. “But they’ll actually like the new stuff better.”
You Belong Here WHY WE LOVE THEM We’re tired of indie bands that spend all their time feeling sorry for themselves. LEAGUES sounds like they’re having the time of their lives. FOR FANS OF Death Cab for Cutie, Anchor and Braille , Jimmy Eat World ONLINE www.leaguesmusic.com
William Tyler Impossible Truth Imagine Tom Petty covering Explosions in the Sky.
Jessie Ware Devotion This R&B princess makes classic soul sound like nothing you’ve ever heard.
[ M I S C ] “No, I wouldn’t call myself a Christian,” Marcus Mumford told Rolling Stone when they asked him about his religious beliefs. Mumford said he still
believed in God but was on a journey. A vested, suspendered, banjo-laden
It’s been fascinating to watch Portland’s Humble Beast transform from a niche Christian rap label to one of the most interesting labels in the business. And hip-hop trio Beautiful Eulogy is poised to be their next big thing.
journey ... Is Lil Wayne OK? That was the thought plaguing his fans after
WHY WE LOVE THEM Emcees Odd Thomas and Braille, along with their
Courtland Urbano, blend
We try to be 100 percent authentic when it comes to the art and we try to be 100 percent ministry-minded in all that we do. We wrestle with this tension. How can we be effective in ministry? And how can make a contribution artistically that people will enjoy, love and wrestle with?
forceful theology with
FOR FANS OF
electrifying beats to make
a new kind of hip-hop: a
gorgeous, spirited tapestry
of sound and thought kind
seizures landed the rapper in the ICU and, according to some reports, critical condition ... In response to complaints from artists who say they’re not getting their fair share, Spotify announced ANDREW SYNOWIEZ
it expects to pay half a billion dollars in royalties this year, the equivalent
of what it’s
When It Was Now
It’s a dream that bands often talk about but rarely achieve: record a song so good it makes you famous all by itself. These Aussies pulled it off with “Trojans,” and now Atlas Genius has an album full of tracks that are just as good.
WHY WE LOVE THEM We love to move, and Atlas Genius manages to infuse their rock with hipshimmying beats that call
over the past
FOR FANS OF
The Killers, The Bravery,
MGMT, Prince ONLINE www.atlasgenius.com
The songs I’ve written are generally about issues close to the heart. Those mundane things in life that are actually beautiful and you just need to talk about them, rather than these grand issues. I tend to focus on those little aspects of life more so.
to mind a time when dance music and rock didn’t have to be at odds. Just give it one listen and see if your body starts grooving with or without your permission.
of a certain season?
I think it’s been three years of being a little more home-based and not so busy. These songs have come out of reflection. When you give God space, you discover things about yourself and you discover more about Him.
Is there a difference in the way you write songs now?
Well, I hope they’re better songs, but that’s not for me to say. What a lot of us have done is throw ourselves in co-writing and teaming it. Something new has come out of that, and it’s been fantastic. If I’ve got a song and I play it to someone else, they can always make it better.
MARTIN SMITH THE DELIRIOUS? FRONTMAN WHO PROPELLED WORSHIP INTO THE MODERN ERA IS STEPPING OUT ON HIS OWN.
fter cresting the modern worship movement for not one but two decades, Delirious? chief Martin Smith is no stranger to the Christian music industry. But he wouldn’t call it that—and perhaps that is what has led to his music’s longstanding success. To Smith, worship is not an industry, but a future revival. And that, we learned in his conversation with us, is the sonic force behind his new solo album.
Delirious? had been together since 1992. That’s a lot of time on the road. Has it been tough to readjust to life at home?
After the years, you believe more in what you can do and what God can do, so it all becomes a lot more exciting.
“AFTER THE YEARS, YOU BELIEVE MORE ...IN WHAT GOD CAN DO.”
Actually, it got more exciting. When Delirious? ended in 2009, I didn’t have a job, so I made an intentional decision to be back home. We’ve got six young children, and I needed to be around more. So that’s been a joy.
Where did “God’s Great Dance Floor” come from?
You know when you’re in church and everything kicks off, there’s freedom in the place, and you look around, smiling and think, “Wow, this is like dance floor class. This is God’s great dance floor.”
WATCH The music video for the first single of Martin Smith’s new album, “God’s Great
Did these songs come out
It seems Christians today want to be part of a global revival movement. How do you see worship leading the charge? I think Jesus Culture has opened another door and created an atmosphere of worship that is not all about the big, big songs, but an atmosphere where people can meet God.
I think God is going to use us in a much more revivalist dynamic. Like the big tent revivals. I can certainly see my role becoming like that. Less worship artist ... less concerned about the industry. People are inspired by lyrics that bring them closer to God. We’re not going to be U2, but we have a unique calling to encourage the saints and prophesy to a broken world.
SUSTAINABLE CHANGE. SACRIFICIAL LIVING.
ATTACK OF THE DRONES hen a memo from the Justice Department surfaced in February of this year, it cast a new light on one of the biggest modern military secrets— and not a flattering one. The 16-page government document detailed previously unheard of details on the United States’ drone policy, perhaps most alarming among them, the legality of executing drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) strikes against U.S. citizens. And the lawful conditions for targeting American citizens aren’t comforting, either. The memo reveals three: the person must be a ranking Al-Qaeda official, the person must pose an imminent threat to America and their live capture must be determined unfeasible. While it’s been clarified that drone strikes are reserved only for an “imminent threat,” the Obama Administration also noted that this “does not require the U.S. to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
[ B Y
1 OF 7 OUT
T H E
Drone strikes kill a militant leader (The Council on Foreign Relations)
N U M B E R S ]
Estimate of people killed by U.S. drone strikes (Human Rights Watch)
These abstract regulations soon had citizens and politicians alike sounding the alarm for the policy’s evasive sidestep of judicial due process— what some think could turn into a slippery slope. Then, in March, reports emerged that the drone program is poised to migrate from the responsibility of the CIA to the Department of Defense— which may allow for increased transparency and tighter strike regulations. But on top of the legal ramifications, questions of ethics loom: What does the ability to remotely push a button and end a life mean for human life and dignity? What are the implications of these unclear rules of engagement for war ethics and loss of life? It remains to be seen what will happen next with the U.S. drone policy, but one thing is certain. As Christians widen the lens on the pro-life movement from abortion to any and all circumstances in which human life may be at risk, they now have a new justice concern to consider: what many are calling the U.S. counterterrorism strategy’s “weapon of choice.”
WORLDV IE W
HOW ART CAN BE ACTIVISM
WHAT IF CREATING BEAUTY COULD HELP COMBAT INJUSTICE?
B Y D A N H A S E LT I N E
ussian author and dissident Alekzandr Solzehnitzyn once asked, “What good is art in a violent world?” It’s a valid question. Yet what if creating beauty could help combat injustice? There are two spheres in which I have worked: the music industry and the humanitarianism sector. And both have shared a similar evolution. The music industry was built on large music companies, and you couldn’t make the world stage without them. It was all part of the system. But then technology changed everything. Now artists produce music independently, playing by their own rules and reaching fans through new digital tools. As a result, we have more access to amazing music than ever before in history. The humanitarian aid community has followed a similar path. Until 10 years ago, if you wanted to fight poverty, you sent a check to a large aid organization. It was all part of the system. But once people understood the power of individual responsibility, creative grassroots campaigns sprung up all over. Now there are thousands of nonprofits serving millions of people across the world. In both cases, a deeper connection grew between the artists or the activists and the communities they served.
Dan Haseltine is the singer of Jars of Clay and The Hawk in Paris and founder of Blood:Water Mission. Follow him on Twitter @scribblepotemus or visit him at danhaseltine.com.
“What good is art in a violent world?” Musicians, just like activists, know the answer. Art provokes us to change. Art, like nothing else, allows us to reveal the horror of injustice in order to empower change rather than unplug. Art draws people into a conversation—a powerful tool in the world of aid. A skillfully communicated story, a compelling photo, an infographic or video montage can capture the compassion of those who otherwise might not have taken that second look. Art can show people the humanity of a justice cause and so engage their support. Where would organizations like TWLOHA or Blood:Water Mission be without art? But art in tandem with aid has two balancing acts to maintain. The first act is art vs. commerce. Aid organizations use art similarly as bands. T-shirts, posters and stickers are promotional. Every time a fan walks down the street or in the school hallway wearing a band’s logo, that is a billboard. And in an age of personal branding, where people are increasingly “wearing” art and the causes they support, the aesthetic matters. But the balance gets upset when the fashion supersedes the work. When a person wears the T-shirt without knowing the organization or when the product that once represented a cause now represents a fashion statement, we have an imbalance. And what if the organization isn’t doing good work? What if they are resented in the communities they attempt to serve? Does the cool factor of trendy products overshadow the harmful organization? Historically, this is a commercial dilemma with cosmetics companies that test on animals and bottled water companies that dry up aquifers. But people still drink bottled water and buy cosmetics. It has become a problem in the fragmented rise of mini nonprofit aid organizations that have big hearts and cool T-shirts yet poor practices. The second balancing act art must keep is marketing vs. the truth. Western aid organizations use art to engage western audiences. But art loses its “good” when it fails to honor and dignify its subjects. There’s a difference between portraying people to humanize them and market them. People in warzones don’t wear T-shirts with dictators on them, and families in Africa don’t feel represented by photos of bloated children. This imbalance is harmful. If you wouldn’t show your art to a person in the community you serve, that’s a pretty good sign that the art should change.
T HE NUMBER S
NORTH KOREA’S WORST-KEPT
SECRET irst, North Korea issued an explicit nuclear threat against the United States, followed by a video to prove they meant it— complete with a dream sequence, a Michael Jackson instrumental remix and footage of New York City in flames. Then, former NBA star Dennis Rodman surprised everyone by visiting and befriending North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, himself. The media has been quick to report North Korea’s recent news as “bizarre,” but such coverage actually aids North Korea in diverting attention from the real story of its political prisoner death camps. But now, thanks to crowdsourcing efforts of “citizen cartographers,” Google Earth has unlocked a once-obscured view into one of the most secretive societies in the world. The satellite images not only confirm the existence of the death camps, which Kim Jong Un denies, but also reveal that they are growing—at least 72 percent since 2003. No sooner than Google updated its landmarks, “user reviews” began pouring in. Most are prank reviews, as if the compounds are not death camps but 5-star resorts. But the real accounts of life behind the wire are filled with mass graves, public executions, ritual torture and rape. Prisoners often land there without a trial or even knowing what their “crime” is—which could be anything from complaining about North Korean society, to watching foreign television, to being related to someone else who has and is therefore “guilty by association.” The image Google has helped reveal isn’t a pretty one. Yet perhaps as it comes further to light, Americans will realize it’s no laughing matter—it’s likely the largest and most inhumane prison of our time.
Google Earth is exposing the truth about one of the gravest human injustices of our time.
1 Reuters, 2012
2 The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
ESTIMATED NORTH KOREAN POLITICAL PRISONERS A N E S T I M AT E D
[ T A K E
400,000 HAVE DIED IN THE CAMPS
OF PRISONERS DIE TO MALNUTRITION
3 Amnesty International, 2011
LEARN: Committee for Human Rights in North Korea www.hrnk.org. ADVOCATE: Write to U.S. and world leaders to advocate human rights in North Korea become a priority by clicking the Take Action link at www. northkoreanow.org.
ON AVERAGE, PRISONERS WORK 16 HOURS PER DAY—EVEN WOMEN AND CHILDREN
A C T I O N ]
NUMBER OF GENERATIONS IMPRISONED 3
4 The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
WRITE: Pen a letter to North Koreans which will be translated and broadcasted on the underground Free North Korea Radio. Find out how by clicking Get Involved at www.nkfreedom.org. DONATE: LiNK connects with North Korean refugees to provide support. Help them out at www. libertyinnorthkorea.org.
MBA CEDARVILLE UNIVERSIT Y
Equipping Christian Leaders
EXPLORE YOUR FUTURE cedarville.edu/mba-relevant
C H U R C H T H E
S E P A R A T I O N
A N D H A T E 46
DO YOU HAVE TO BE A BIGOT TO BE A GOOD CHRISTIAN? BY JEFF COOK
eaving a downtown bar on New Year’s Eve, I was affronted by the voice of a man across the street with a large loudspeaker and even a larger cross hoisted high over his shoulder. This man had a lot to say about wickedness, repentance and Jesus, but no one wanted to listen. Walking away, I was most concerned that my unchurched friends would assume that this man was speaking for me—since I am a pastor and, by all outward accounts, both this man and I are Christians. But the Jesus this street preacher was yelling about didn’t sound like the Jesus I know. Perhaps the street preacher with the loudspeaker has become a “what-not-to-do” caricature, yet we find Christians speaking out in cringe-worthy ways in the public square all the time. Take the theological statements following the Sandy Hook shooting, for a horrific example. The backlash was uproarious when a Fox News personality stated such violence should not be surprising—not when Americans have “systematically removed God from our schools.” Another influential voice of conservative faith in America soon caught up this same refrain, citing gay marriage and abortion as reasons God has “allowed this judgment to fall upon us.” Then on President Obama’s Inauguration day, a prominent pastor sent a controversial tweet that called into question the validity of the president’s claim of salvation—encased in the form of a pious call to prayer. Another pastor even went so far as to call the president
“spiritually blind” and an “evil hypocrite” before an audience of his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. It’s no wonder that in modern culture, Christianity is becoming increasingly synonymous with “hate group.” All this is enough to make the rest of us start to sweat and call out, “Please stop. You are ruining things for the rest of us!” But when you hear enough well-funded, title-holding professionals and ministers speaking nonsense, you begin to wonder: “Do I have to be a bigot to be a Christian?”
HIGH WIRE ACT
If you’re like me, such incidents move you not to become more outspoken about your faith— even to counter such incidents— but to become silent. In an attempt to not be branded as one of “them,” we’re tempted to make an equal and opposite error. Because of our experience with foot-shapemouthed Christians, we begin
to question not only the message but the delivery itself. So we become hesitant about speaking about faith at all—even when it might be valuable. If we speak out about what we believe, we risk being branded as “intolerant bigots” and even failing to be “wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16) as Jesus commanded. But if we remain silent, we fail to be the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) sent to speak lifegiving truth into the world. In public discourse, it seems, neither the outspoken fool nor the mute glorifies God. Yet in the order to find a third way, the Church must face some crucial questions: What moral standards should we maintain among ourselves, and what standards should we promote in wider society among those who do not subscribe to the same divine moral law? Racism is clearly inappropriate for anyone, but should we hold those who are not believers of a Christian ethic to religious standards of sexuality, for instance? And once we’ve answered these questions, how then should we engage the laws of our country? Should we advocate for the legislation of Christian morality or simply recognize that secular government and the Church have different moral starting points? For all these questions and more, we are in need of wisdom. RELEVANT MAGAZINE
A NEW GAME PLAN
If we want to avoid the off-key vocalizations of conviction that are becoming so divisive, we have to start by taking a look at where the battle lines are really drawn. Too often, it seems, Christians begin with the wrong targets. We perceive moral differences as camps of “us” and “them,” marking our opponents and so commencing an ideological war. Yet is this approach really what Scripture advocates? The simple truth of the Gospel is that God is remaking His world and inviting Christians to be a part of it through the work of His Son. But there is opposition both around us and within us as we join His work. As Paul writes, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). Greg Boyd, former atheist turned apologist, notes, “If something has either flesh and/or blood in it—it is not our enemy.” In other words, if God is remaking all of His world, no one is beyond hope. The medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas argued similarly that God displays His power not by eliminating all His opponents but by converting them. If this is God’s strategy, then certainly it changes ours. For if His mission is to bring all men and women to Himself, then our main concern cannot simply be who is “right” but who is redeemed. The task of the wise, then, is not to ready for battle but to learn divine jujitsu—to do good to the healthy and sick alike in the hope that the sick will be healed and the healthy inspired. This has long been the approach of Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church just outside Atlanta, which draws over 24,000 attendees each week. This is no accident—Stanley has made it his goal to help the unchurched feel right at home. “If I’m really concerned about helping people see the world differently, if I really think I’m right, whatever right is ... then my goal needs to be to influence you,” he says. Any other method, Stanley asserts, is counter-effective. “Often, making a point undermines our influence rather than fueling our influence.” When a military position is attacked, the army either builds up more defenses, flees or surrenders. So those who sense incoming fire from Christians either put up bigger shields, leave the conversation altogether or surrender. But such white flags do not arise from love of God or their own admission of wrong. That’s not influence—that’s being 48
beaten into submission. But how else can we influence if not with persuasive debate? There is a way—and it takes far more courage than charging into battle. “If we refuse to have a relationship with our opponents, we almost guarantee we will not influence them,” says Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity and other works. “We might coerce them. We might undermine them. We might defeat them. But we won’t influence them. And since Jesus teaches us to love our opponents and do for them what we would want done for us, and since I would think we would much rather be influenced than be undermined, defeated or coerced, it makes sense that trying to build relationships would be a good start.” The solution is not constructing better cannons. The solution is to disengage from the fight completely and transform battlegrounds into hospital wards. For the work of Christ, and ours in imitation, looks more like the work of a physician than the infiltration of a platoon.
A TIME TO BE SILENT
A striking feature of Jesus’ methods is the fact that He often chose not to answer questions. When asked directly about divorce, legislation, tax policy or marriage, Jesus often sidestepped the moral question, mocked it outright or countered it with a new question. In John 8, for example, when a woman is caught in adultery and the Pharisees attempt to test Jesus, they ask him in verse 5, “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” Rather than answering, Jesus stoops down to write in the dirt, then turns their question back onto the woman’s accusers themselves: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).
“A LEADER SHOULD NEVER RISK THEIR ABILITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE BY MAKING AN UNNECESSARY POINT.” -ANDY STANLEY
According to Christ’s example, it seems there are times when we ought to be silent in the public square— but when? Theologian Tony Jones suggests this is a question best discerned in community with wise council. “Christians can only make the decision about when to remain silent by being committed to a small community of people with whom they can discuss and debate the issues of the day,” he says. “Only then can we garner a sense of whether, and how, to speak out.” Plato likewise noted that the wise speak when they have something to say, but fools speak because they have to say something—and perhaps that is another practical gauge for discernment. In essence, the Church is not a daily talk show. We don’t have to have a definitive opinion on every hot topic du jour. In Stanley’s words, it’s not worth losing our credibility and influence over. “It’s neither necessary nor wise to take a stand on everything everyone wants you to take a stand on,” he says. “A leader should never risk their ability to make a difference by making an unnecessary point.”
A TIME TO ACT
17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal had another engagement strategy that’s as wise for today as it was when he first said it: “Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy
of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true and then show that it is.” Some might think this is compromising—that the truth ought to be brutal and unflinching. Yet routinely we see Jesus painting the Kingdom of his Father in ways that target the heart and illicit the reaction, “Of course! That’s what I’m made for!” Perhaps there is a place for both, but we’ve spun them out of order. Christians often speak out on moral issues—war, abortion, marriage—before establishing that following Jesus is respectable, rewarding and an attractive pursuit. This is about as effective as asking the prodigal to clean up before he has any desire to go home. If we offer moral wisdom to those who do not yet find us morally wise, our audience will likely hear our arguments merely as arm-twisting power plays. We may mean well, but it is here that we must make a critical distinction—a distinction so critical, Stanley says, that if failed could be the fatal f law of the Church today. “The Church has lost massive amounts of influence in culture by attempting to legislate the behavior of people who don’t share our assumptions,” he says, “And so it’s pointless [and] works against your ultimate agenda to try and guilt people into or push people into behavior based on an assumption they never embraced to begin with.” Any fool can get online and shoot his mouth off, but certainly talking about what is good and doing good are two different things. Simply being contentious over moral issues like gay marriage, gun rights or war policy accomplishes little—especially if further investigation reveals the speaker’s lofty ideals and personal actions don’t line up. In a culture like ours, where political duplicity and celebrity scandal are commonplace, words carry little weight. Words from stars and congressmen carry little power—but our actions can move the world. Perhaps Peter, one of Jesus’ first disciples, said it best: “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the foolish” (1 Peter 2:15). It’s counter-intuitive, but it
works—our Christ-like actions can resound throughout culture in a way that words cannot. And this isn’t a cop-out to communicating truth, McLaren points out. “I believe the call to morality is an upward call,” he says. “The Spirit of God meets us where we are and calls us to take the next step ... So I would wish that our churches would always be in the forefront, grappling with the next-step moral issues that the culture at large is not ready to confront.” This is often where we find God—one step ahead, inviting us forward. And as we follow Him, we may live lives that display the irresistible beauty of “the light of the world, a city on a hill [that] can’t be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
A TIME TO SPEAK
But in addition to just living, there is also a time—and a way—to speak. Wisdom not only suggests that following Jesus is the best possible way to live. Wisdom also has strong opinions about how to communicate that following Jesus is the best possible way to live. Paul teaches that as representatives of His Kingdom, our job is to be ministers of reconciliation—and to stop holding others’ sins against them (2
Corinthians 5:19). And this changes how we speak. It seems Christians would succeed far more in influencing our culture if their chief message was one of reconciliation rather than judgment. “We couldn’t do much better than to saturate ourselves in the Sermon on the Mount,” says McLaren, “The Beatitudes, for example, set our moral compass to a different north than the typical gamesmanship of political discourse. Jesus’ warnings against insult, judging and even anger are game-changing. And underneath it all is the reminder that we are bound to our neighbor and enemy, so we must love them as ourselves, seeking not the binary of defeat/victory, but reconciliation and the common good.” If this is true, then what we say is equally important to how we say it—an idea echoed in Scripture. At the high point of his most extensive letter on Christian morality, Paul writes, “Love never fails.” Paul invokes in this passage what philosophers call a “universal quantifier”—a function that is true when applied to any and all factors. Jealousy may work, violence may work, blathering may work, sitting on our hands and shutting our mouths may work—but one cannot conceive of a situation in which love will not work. There’s no possible state of affairs where love tempered by wisdom fails, for love has a supreme power. When a moral dilemma arises and we prepare our response, love cannot possibly lead us wrongly. In fact, the reason occurrences of “Christian bigotry” are so repulsive to us is that they are antithetical to love. Bigotry requires irrational devotion to one’s opinions at the exclusion not just of other opinions but of other people. When the time is right, a good moral doctor ought to give a compassionate diagnosis to the patient in order to push him or her toward greater health and wholeness. But when we speak in the public square, we need to leave our loudspeakers behind— remembering that Jesus did not come and die for moral ideals or ethical mandates. He came and died to free the ones He loves— and the wise will act accordingly.
JEFF COOK teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado. He is a pastor at Atlas Church in Greeley and author of Seven: the Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes (Zondervan 2008). You can connect with his work at everythingnew.org.
T H / S _ / S _ Y O U R _ B R A / N _ O N _ R E L / G / O N _ HOW SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH (OF ALL THINGS) IS HELPING US UNDERSTAND THE SOUL
B Y J O N AT H A N ME R R I T T
AS Dr. Andrew Newberg revealed his findings on how prayer affects nuns’ brain scans, one nun said, “This makes so much sense to me. Now I understand the impact God has on my brain.” Brain scans don’t often garner ecclesiastical affirmation, but it’s all in a day’s work for Dr. Newberg, director of research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College.
Newberg isn’t particularly devout, but his work touches a lot of people who are. Newberg and his team, who have conducted brain scans of people engaged in specific spiritual practices—from Franciscan nuns in prayer to Tibetan Buddhists in meditation, from chanting Sikhs to Pentecostal Christians speaking in tongues—have released findings that are changing the way people understand religious experience. Specifically, they’re finding a direct scientific link between spiritual practice and unique brain activity. But with each new finding, more questions arise. For instance, are human biology and human spirituality connected? If so, how? And could a better understanding of our body’s physical workings lead Christians into deeper faith?
EXPLORING THE FINDINGS
To put such questions to the test, Newberg’s team injects subjects with a radioactive tracer and scans their brains using MRI or SPECT imaging. Each subject’s brain is scanned twice—once in a resting state and then while engaged in a spiritual practice. Through these tests, Newberg found surprising links between spirituality and the brain. When subjects engaged in meditation or prayer, for example, their ability to concentrate increased dramatically. Brain scans often revealed an intense loss of one’s sense of self during such exercises. When subjects spoke in tongues, the activity of their frontal lobes—the largest and most complex region of the brain—dropped rather than increased. Newberg interprets this finding as evidence that the subjects aren’t speaking in tongues of their own volition, but rather allowing it to happen to them. “We’ve found that religious and spiritual practices have a profound impact on us,” Newberg says. “If you visualize in your mind, it activates certain centers in the brain. If you engage in prayer, you’ll activate other centers in the brain. And we don’t just see immediate variations in activity. Our studies are starting to show 52
that we can fundamentally change the brain through religious experience.” Not just change it—but improve it. To explore the long-term effects of faith practices, Newberg taught a simple meditation practice to a group of subjects who had experienced memory loss, each of whom meditated for 12 minutes per day over an eight-week period. Perhaps predictably, results showed that the subjects’ cerebral blood flow and cognitive function improved during these times of meditation. That’s not all—their brains also began to function at a high level even when they weren’t meditating. “You can imagine what is happening in the brain of a nun who is engaged in prayer for hours a day over 50 years,” Newberg
connectivity may hold the key to human flourishing.
THE REAL QUESTION
All these findings are revealing, but they also tap into a deeper question science has yet to answer: Are humans biologically predisposed to religion? Scientific studies provide at least a few clues. Research demonstrates humans are inclined to think of the idea of God, as opposed to lacking a concept of a higher being altogether. The brain is put together in a way that accommodates spiritual experiences as a natural function. So the more we engage in faith practices, science affirms, the better we function overall. “We are all basically born as believers,” Newberg says, “but we have to determine what it is we will choose to believe. To a large extent, even an atheist has the same basic tendencies with regard to belief as a religious person. In that regard, I might say we’re ‘hardwired for faith.’ But even if we accept that the wiring is there, we’re still
“WE ARE ALL BASICALLY BORN AS BELIEVERS, BUT WE HAVE TO DETERMINE WHAT IT IS WE WILL CHOOSE TO BELIEVE.” —DR. ANDREW NEWBERG
says. “It is changing the way her brain works and even the way she looks at reality.” If spiritual practices are a general strengthener of the brain, Newberg notes, the effects could spill into many other areas of life. A spiritually active person might be better equipped to navigate her way if lost, to excel at her job, to cope with death or even indirectly improve his golf game. In other words, spiritual
left with the bigger question of how or why that wiring got there.” Newberg admits this is a question science cannot answer. His research can demonstrate connections between faith and the brain, but it cannot prove the underlying cause. Other experts, however, are more willing to pin down the question of causality. Matthew Alper, author of The “God” Part of the Brain, believes religion can be traced to evolutionary development. “Before there was Christianity, there were other religions,” he says. “People were still getting on their knees and looking up to the heavens
and praying to some god or gods. This means humans are biologically generating these types of experiences.” One reason Alper believes people began generating religious belief is because humans are the only creatures with an awareness of death. Humans carry the unique understanding that one day, they will lose everything they love and be forgotten. To soften this bitter truth, Alper argues, the brain has evolved to create religion as a coping mechanism. Yet scientists of faith, like Mario Beauregard, author of The Spiritual Brain, see another force at work—especially when it comes to near-death experiences. When a heart stops beating (known as cardiac arrest), blood flow to the brain ceases within a matter of seconds. Without blood and the oxygen it carries, the brain shuts down. Beauregard says that patients in this state should not be able to perceive or create memories. But during the last decade, studies have shown that patients retained
these functions during cardiac arrest and had intense spiritual experiences. They often report floating above their bodies and encountering bright lights. Some even recall what happened during the re-animation process. “The evidence suggests that religious or spiritual experiences are the cause of something else other than the brain,” Beauregard concludes. “They must have a non-material origin. We cannot demonstrate that God specifically causes religious experience, but we have to consider that nonphysical parts of us are involved in what we’re seeing.” Beauregard claims he had a near-death experience in his early twenties. During heart failure, he had the impression of leaving his physical body and meeting with a being of light that radiated unconditional love. While he doesn’t practice a particular religion today, he claims that experiences like his cannot be overlooked. Of course, the conclusions of such studies are not independent of one’s personal leanings or worldview. While the aforementioned nuns saw Newberg’s work as an affirmation of everything they’d long held to be true, the local atheist community also thanked Newberg for his work in that same study. “You have finally proven that religion is just a function of the way the brain works,” one remarked to him.
CHRISTIANS AND THE BRAIN
So what are Christians to make of all this? Can brain research inform the inner life of faith? Since souls don’t show up on an MRI, is it possible for scientific research to help believers understand spirituality? The Christian tradition, for one, maintains that the physical world reveals spiritual truth. The Psalms regularly connect God’s handiwork to divine knowledge. Romans 1 teaches, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (v. 20). Nature points toward the supernatural, and through it,
BASELINE BR AIN SCAN
BR AIN SCAN DURING PR AYER
Matter of Prayer
In this first scan, the brain during prayer shows the language center—in the lower left, in red—to be highly activated.
In this second scan, the orientation area of the brain, the area at the bottom which registers one’s sense of physical space, is shown to be highly diminished. Newberg says this alludes to the blending of spiritual and physical realities during prayer.
one can uncover information to grow in understanding of God and faith. “Recent discoveries in neuroscience can help us more fully understand our life in Christ,” says Curt Thompson, a Christian psychiatrist and author of Anatomy of the Soul. RELEVANT MAGAZINE
Rather than viewing it as a mere figure of speech, Thompson takes seriously Paul’s directive to “offer [our] bodies as a living sacrifice” and “be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (Romans 12:1-2). He asserts that the human brain is designed to help people love God better through the ways they choose to practice their faith. “Paul isn’t just using an abstraction,” Thompson says. “He isn’t just talking about changing the way we think. He is talking about changing the mechanism by which we think. As we uncover the way our
stress when they are connected to other brains in community.” Evangelism. Attempting to share one’s faith with a nonbeliever can often be frustrating. How can a person transfer a passion that’s buried so deeply within to someone who seems to care so little? Should Christians begin with a series of logical arguments or by sharing their own story of Gospel transformation?
exponentially increases the postive effects. Perhaps this is why David benefited so greatly from meditating on the Word of God “day and night” (Psalm 1:2) and why Paul encourages us to “rejoice always” and “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17). “If you practice multiplication tables or watch horror movies on a regular basis, it will alter ... your brain. This is the way the brain has been designed to work,” says Thompson. “And as a Christian, I believe this is not just a physical reality. It can turn us into people of goodness, joy and all the fruits of the Spirit.”
PROBING THE MYSTERY
These studies are only the beginning of an exploration into how brain research might inform an understanding and practice of Christian faith. But they have generated an entirely new field of study—“neurotheology”—in which scientists and theologians collaborate in their investigation of meaning, existence and religious experience. Neurotheology probes the question of divine revelation—what is happening in the brain when humans claim to have religious experiences. It also delves into the much-debated concept of free will, as scientists investigate how decision-making happens at a biological level. This new area of study may even help us better understand the Trinity. Newberg says, “Christians believe that God exists in three distinct persons within one being—Father, Son and Spirit. Science has demonstrated that the brain is actually hardwired to perceive of parts as well as a whole.” It’s still a paradox, Newberg admits, “but it does assist us in understanding a complex theological issue.” While Christians have been probing many of these questions for centuries, scientists now join them in the endeavor. And if a bridge can be built between these two communities, Newberg believes both could benefit. Science can help inform our understanding of religion, he says, just as religion can help inform our understanding of science. Neurotheology, as a field of scientific research, is still in its infancy, but it gives hope to those who are seeking spiritual truth—hope that the answers we all crave about faith may yet be discovered. Even in the absence of answers, it gives hope that God has designed us to thrive and be transformed as we seek Him—in both body and soul.
INTENTIONAL ENGAGEMENT IN PRAYER, WORSHIP AND BIBLICAL STUDY CAN INGRAIN NEW PATTERNS IN THE BRAIN THAT CAN ACTUALLY HELP CHRISTIANS LOVE GOD MORE. bodies, and specifically our brains, work, it adds gravity to what Paul is saying.” In other words, intentional engagement in prayer, worship and biblical study can ingrain new patterns in the brain that can actually help Christians love God more.
THE REAL EFFECT
Data emerging from neuroscience informs at least three areas of interest to Christians: community, evangelism and discipleship. Community. The communal code for Christians is made clear throughout the New Testament. Members of the body of Christ are told to love one another, serve one another and bear one another’s burdens. But recent trends in church attendance indicate many Christians believe in a disembodied God—a God who permits Christians to follow Jesus without plugging into a local faith community. Neuroscience indicates humans are biologically predisposed for communal experiences. In fact, according to Thompson, community is the default state of the brain. When isolated, the organ actually enters into a state of distress. “The data is pretty clear,” Thompson says. “Brains do much better at handling 54
According to recent research on the brain, the latter may be more effective. A team of neuroscientists from Princeton University conducted an experiment that involved hooking up an audience to MRI devices while they listened to a speaker tell a personal story. Researchers found that the more listeners understood the story, the more their brain activity dovetailed with the speaker’s. The narrative approach aligned the speaker and audience’s brain patterns, tapping the listeners’ empathy in a way that logical persuasion could not. Story, it seems, may be the brain’s most immediate doorway to lasting, heartfelt transformation. Discipleship. Thompson notes that engaging in spiritual practices—prayer, journaling, fasting and the like—helps the brain work more effectively. Data also indicates that repeating these practices
JONATHAN MERRITT (@jonathanmerritt) is author of A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars. His work appears regularly in outlets such as USA Today, The Atlantic and National Journal.
DO YOU HAVE FAITH IN GOD BUT, WHEN QUESTIONED... YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO PROVE IT? “Faith in God is rising, yet so is skepticism. The evidence for the existence of God must be grasped and clearly articulated to answer this challenge,” says author Rice Broocks. Drawing from the areas of philosophy, science, history, and theology, we can form persuasive arguments for God’s existence and His presence in our lives. This book equips us with the tools, providing clear, easy-tofollow explanations of the key concepts and controversies. God’s Not Dead is apologetics for the twenty-first century. “This is quite simply the most concise, punchiest, and wide-ranging argument for the existence of God and the truth of Christianity that has been written in recent years.”—David Aikman, former senior correspondent, Time Magazine; and author, One Nation Without God
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AS MILLENNIALS MOVE INTO THE CITY, THEY’RE CHANGING THE URBAN DNA. THE EFFECTS ARE BOTH SOCIAL AND SPIRITUAL. B Y E M I LY M c F A R L A N M I L L E R
Spanish-speaking students in my English as a Second Language class know what it is even if they don’t know the word for it in English. They know, as one of the men in my class explains to me, that east of Western Ave. in Chicago, everyone is American (read: “white”) and that west of Western, everyone is Mexican and Puerto Rican. They know that rent is now twice what it used to be when they first moved into the neighborhood, as another woman tells me. She says that when she first moved in, she was scared of the crime and wanted to leave. But not anymore—not since the young professionals starting streaming in and the urban developers not long after. They know all about gentrification. British sociologist Ruth Glass first used the term in 1964, describing the movement of the middle class “gentry” into workingclass neighborhoods of London, which resulted in the displacement of the original occupants and the transformation of the area’s social character. The same concept applies in the changing cityscapes of today, but with a few added layers of complexity. The process often begins when artists looking for cheap rent migrate into lowincome neighborhoods. This hipster influx brings fresh vitality to the neighborhood, which yuppie urbanites soon begin to see as cultural hotspots rather than the “bad side of town” it once was. But when young professionals start moving in, prices continue to rise. Rent takes a hike, condo high-rises are constructed,
local businesses are threatened by next-door development of national franchises, and it’s not long before the lower-income residents are pushed out. When the focus is on the positive outcome of this process, it’s often called urban renewal. But when the focus shifts to its uglier side effects, it’s called gentrification. During the 2012 Summer Olympics, for example, many critics were quick to point out, citing the UN-funded Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) report, that the Olympic games had displaced more than 2 million people in the past 20 years. Most of these people were living below the poverty line and pushed out due to a gentrifying urban clean-up for a city’s Olympic bid. Gentrification has spread across the country in urban neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Wicker Park, Chicago; the Mission District in San Francisco; and Mississippi Avenue in Portland, to name a few. Sean Benesh has kept an eye on this growing trend as part of his post as director of The Epoch Center for Urban Renewal in Portland, Ore.
As urban landscapes have transformed, he says, the attitude of the general population has likewise shifted from, “‘Inner-city America—that’s scary,’ to, ‘That’s so hipster. It’s cool.’” Yet, there can also be many ugly side effects to this kind of shift, which Benesh explores in his book Vespas, Cafes, Singlespeed Bikes and Urban Hipsters: A Biblical View of Gentrification. As more and more middle class move into the city, it displaces lower class residents through rent and cost of living inflation—cost hikes that are a result of local businesses leveraging their services for a wealthier clientele. This sudden change causes conflict in the community and forces previous residents to find more affordable housing elsewhere. Bob Lupton, the founding president of FSC (Focused Community Strategies) Urban Ministries, remembers when the damaging effects of gentrification first really hit home for him. In Atlanta, one of America’s most rapidly gentrifying cities, his neighbor was suddenly evicted from the home that she had lived in for many years. The City of Atlanta told her landlord to fix it up or board it up, so he decided to board it up until rising property values made it worth selling, Lupton says. But for all the gloom and doom leveled at gentrification, even by the gentry doing the gentrifying, Benesh says there can be a positive side. “A lot of people cry foul on gentrification, but I don’t think people talk about the good old days of drive-by shootings and crack houses,” he says. And in a surge of urban renewal, gentrification can transform what were previously “urban blight” neighborhoods into cultural epicenters, Benesh explains. It can convert boarded-up districts into thriving blocks filled with coffee shops, art galleries and the like. The re-entry of the middle class can stabilize declining areas, increase property values, spur community development and even cultivate diverse community relationships. But it doesn’t stop there. As Christians, Benesh says, “Our approach to gentrification has a spiritual or Kingdom meta-narrative that is overarching. It is more than addressing the blessings and cursings of urban revitalization. It is to help move the neighborhood and city to be more reflective of the Kingdom of God.”
CITY ON A HILL
Reflecting the Kingdom “in a holistic way” was Pastor Daniel Hill’s vision when he planted River City Community Church nine years ago in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. Hill established and defined three pillars for his church around this vision, representing one’s own spiritual progression: worship, reconciliation and neighborhood development. It’s this last pillar, however, that has proven to be the most complicated. Hill says that the inspiration behind the pillar comes RELEVANT MAGAZINE
from Jeremiah 29, in which God encourages His people—through the prophet—to settle down and build houses and marry and increase in number in Babylon. He tells them in Jeremiah 29:8 to “seek the peace”—or the shalom—“and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Hill wanted this vision of a thriving city and diverse community to become the story of River City Church. “Black, brown and white were about to collide, if they weren’t already,” he says. Previously, the neighborhood was almost exclusively poor, Hill says, from the east side, the cultural heart of the city’s Puerto Rican community; to the west side, a historically black neighborhood. He says that it was unusual to see a white person in the neighborhood at all. But from 2003 to 2006, the gentrification of Wicker Park spread into the east side of Humboldt Park. And today, River City’s Sunday mornings are filled with representatives of Humboldt Park’s diversity. Its worship band has five black faces and two white. There is a solid mix of baggy sweatpants, ankle-length skirts and skinny jeans. And the sermon text is projected on the wall in English and Spanish. For better or for worse, gentrification is happening— at a rapid pace. “You have to treat it as a wave that’s coming and try to figure out how to ride it in a way that is most beneficial for the poor,” Hill says. And while developers and landlords may mainly have a financial opportunity in mind, Christians can pursue another opportunity: expanding the boundaries of the Kingdom.
[TAKE AC TION]
Read: Theirs Is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America by Bob Lupton
Learn: Explore the unique culture, needs and faith stories of the city at www. centerforurbanministry.org
Serve: Enter your city or zip code at www.volunteermatch. org to find opportunities in your own neighborhood
OUR APPROACH TO GENTRIFICATION HAS A SPIRITUAL OR KINGDOM METANARRATIVE THAT IS OVERARCHING. Lupton calls it “gentrification with justice.” Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, calls it “reweaving shalom” into the fabric of a community. He explains this concept in his book Generous Justice as the result of Christians weaving themselves—their time, their gifts and their resources—into the neighborhoods in which they live. Arloa Sutter, founding director of Breakthrough Urban Ministries in Chicago, simply calls it “being a neighbor.”
But being a neighbor first means undoing the damaging effects of gentrification. Lupton’s team, for example, rallies together suburban church partners to purchase and return the 58
homes of their displaced neighbors in gentrifying neighborhoods throughout Atlanta. Church members work together to restore t he homes to safe and functional living conditions, and then structure loans to enable their former occupants to become homeowners again. Sut ter, on t he ot her ha nd , made t he i ntent iona l decision i n 20 0 6 to move to Ga r f ield Pa rk hersel f— just a few block s f rom t he Brea k t h roug h center.
The rent she pays each month, at a rate that is able to cover the landlord’s mortgage, lends stability to the building and gives other tenants more flexibility in making their payments. And she’s not the only one. Sutter is seeing more and more young Christians move into the neighborhood. But these newcomers don’t want to push former residents out—they want to contribute to the local culture, to have their neighbors over for dinner and to build a healthy, blended community together. In another Chicago neighborhood, River City Church offers not only the free ESL program but also a Montessori school which just opened last year. However, the school’s tuition system is structured in a unique way. For the new families in town, full tuition or partial tuition is required, depending on what families can afford. But for the families who first lived in Humboldt Park, their children’s tuition will be fully covered. The goal in this, Hill says, is that “hopefully, their lives will be better because of the fact gentrified families came.” And hopefully the lives of incoming families will be better, too, Hill says. Because for them, “Part of what gentrification represents is an opportunity to learn, to have the scales come off their eyes in terms of how the world really works.” But the pastor ultimately hopes that this merging of unlikely communities will refine a Kingdom perspective for everyone involved. Because living together in communities that were once divided is starting to help the members of Hill’s church to realize that with more money comes more choices—and not just in the choice of where to live, but where to attend school, work and buy groceries. As a result, it creates a new environment where residents begin to share the burden of such choices, work together for the common good and see each other no longer in terms of class distinctions, income brackets and social stigmas, but simply as neighbors. Hill doesn’t call that gentrification. He calls it “a beautiful thing.”
EMILY MCFARLAN MILLER is an awards-winning education reporter, a Chicagoan, and, as of May 2011, the unlikliest of newlyweds. She writes at www.emmillerwrites.com.
THE FRENCH BAND ON FAILURE, SUCCESS AND CHASING THE IDEAL WHILE RECORDING THEIR FIFTH ALBUM, BANKRUPT! BY L AUR A STUDARUS STEVEN TAYLOR
a cold day in New York City and Deck d’Arcy—bassist for French pop rock megastars Phoenix—is
weighing his odds of living forever. “I’m curious about cryonization,” he says. “I saw a kid who explained on Youtube in a very mature way how he was going to freeze his brain. He froze his two dogs. He was like 14, and he saved all his money for this. It’s
creepy, but he explained it very well.” This is the sort of stuff that Phoenix likes to talk about. Be it in technology, film, art, their own musical medium or immortality, they are obsessed with fringe trailblazers and forward movement. They are, however, far less obsessed with dissecting their own creative work. The quote, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” (which has been attributed to everyone from Steve Martin to Elvis Costello), exists because no artist wants to talk about getting from point A to B. Count Phoenix among them. RELEVANT MAGAZINE
At this point, they have no need to promote themselves. On the eve of releasing their fifth studio album, Bankrupt!, they’ve had plenty of practice charming fans and press alike. On their first meeting with RELEVANT, a photo shoot, the French four-piece sweeps into their hotel room-turned-studio, impeccably self-styled and cracking jokes with the photographer. “You can call me Thomas,” frontman Thomas Mars says. “Or Tom. Or T.” They’re unmistakably rock stars, but they’re of the affable, approachable variety. If you didn’t know these guys’ last album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, had gone gold in multiple countries, spawned two runaway smash singles in “1901” and “Lisztomania,” scored spots on any reputable “Best Albums of 2009” list and garnered a Grammy for Best Alternative Album, you wouldn’t guess it from their demeanor. That could be because, six albums in, the band knows better than to take success for granted.
A LEAP OF FAITH
A few days after the shoot, the band reconvenes at the hotel, looking slightly less put together than their on-camera selves—Mars’ pants have seen better days— but no less conversational. Mars possesses a remarkable range of knowledge, able to wax poetic on the new Yo La Tengo album, his collection of classic French films, and bad sitcoms with equal reverence. Right now, though, inspired by an event he attended the previous evening, he’s most excited about Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s hit skewering of hipster culture, Portlandia. Clutching a glass of mineral water, Mars recalls his previous night with quiet relish, where he and a few bandmates caught a music/comedy show starring Fred Armisen at
duty themselves. Still, the similarities—both d’Arcy and Mars insist—all stem from an internalized place of mental and creative chaos. “We don’t really learn from our experience,” d’Arcy says. “We probably do, but we don’t really realize in what way. When we go on tour for two years, when we come back, we don’t remember how to make a song. It takes us ages to really go back to doing substantial stuff. Which is really annoying for us. Very tiring. But it is the best way to make something fresh.” “Whenever we try to make music, we try to bypass our brain,” Mars clarifies. “For some reason, whatever our brain comes up with, it wants to flatten it. It wants familiar things. It wants comfort. Whenever we record something, the first things that we hear we think are good. We come back a few days after, and they are not. They’re not interesting. They’re just
“PEOPLE WHO WERE THE MOST RELIGIOUS, GROWING UP, IT FELT LIKE THEY HAD LOST EVERYTHING AND THAT THEY NEEDED SOMETHING.” New York’s Bowery Ballroom. Next to him, visibly jetlagged bassist Deck d’Arcy struggles to keep his eyes open, apologizing that the sunlight streaming through the large window is “melting my brain.” “There’s a pattern to what we do,” Mars says. “There’s a pattern that has repeated itself since we were eighteen. It varies sometimes, but we’re very conscious of this. This cycle, it’s a comfort.” “The way we work is very similar on each album,” d’Arcy adds, kicking off his first of several spectacular pieces of sleep-deprived paradoxical reasoning. “The result ends up being very different. We have a particular way of working. It’s always pretty much the same.” This shouldn’t be mistaken for monotony. What’s the same about their process runs deeper than nuts and bolts. The band has haunted recording studios in Berlin, New York and Paris, preferring to pick up and record whenever and wherever the inspiration strikes. While the core of the band has been in place since before the members could legally drink stateside, they’ve made room behind the mixing board for producers Tony Hoffer (Beck, Air, Stars, Supergrass) and Philippe Zdar (of French house band Cassius) when not doing the 62
familiar. And the things that we thought were not interesting or we couldn’t relate to, they reveal themselves. It needs a day at least. After that, we find something interesting in it.” The key word is “we.” Both d’Arcy and Mars speak of themselves in the plural—roping their bandmates into their personal declarations of likes and dislikes. It’s more than simply having spent an inordinate amount of time in each other’s airspace during the recording and touring processes. As Mars explains, the band’s interdependence is the result of a
mysterious bond that manifests in some inexplicable ways. “It seems like the more albums we do, the more we love this leap of faith,” he says. “We all jump together with one idea that can be very distant from our music. The fact that we all agree is even more interesting to us than whatever it represents itself. There’s this kamikaze aspect to it. We just love the fact that we’re on the same wavelength. Then there’s something about the fact that maybe we are
trying to protect ourselves from doing things. At the end of the last tour, people started to talk about success more than music.” D’Arcy jumps into clarify. Even though in many ways it’s still them against the world, accumulating listeners didn’t exactly take the band by surprise. Nor are they unappreciative that they’ve amassed a worldwide audience. “We had a progressive success,” he says. “We can’t say we’re used to it. But it’s growing slowly. We started the band a very long time ago. There’s been a change with the last [album], but not like it would have been from zero to there.” “Also, we learned with albums that success is not something very substantial. We had success in one country for one album. Then the album after would be a total catastrophe there and be very successful in another country.” He pauses. “We’re aware of the emptiness. We feel lucky in that way.”
RISING FROM THE ASHES?
This sort of popcorn popularity has made Phoenix a band of the here and now. One of their greatest strengths is their ability to make modern fads sound timeless. D’Arcy confirms that the band is more interested in immediacy than legacy. Even their own personal social, moral and religious roots are held at arm’s length. “We grew up in Versailles,” Mars says. “We have both the weight of history that makes
us agnostic in a way. At the same time, we grew up in a very strong Catholic environment, which makes you want to challenge this ... People who were the most religious, growing up, it felt like they had lost everything and that they needed something. “It was ritual,” he continues. “That part we like actually. That part is amazing. When [famed Italian film director, Federico] Fellini talks about religion— he’s not a religious person— but he was inspired by all the rituals. He said that what the Church gave him was his creativity. But at the same time, he wasn’t involved.” Mars remains noncommittal about the band’s relationship with faith. “We battle between knowledge and being humble. So we’re not really sure about life after death. It’s a big question. I’m not sure I have a big answer.” Despite d’Arcy’s dabblings in cryogenic freezing, life after death is a dicy prospect for the band. Yet mortality seems to inspire them or, at least, motivate them. It plays a major role in their willingness to go out on a creative limb. “If we would live forever, I don’t think we’d make something interesting,” he says. “When you look at people in the 17th century, their life expectancy was 35. They’d be prolific at 12. So we have to fight this comfort all the time. We took our time. We made this record, thinking about this all the time ... we had to protect ourselves from that and underline the fact that things that you can lose have more beauty. There’s more beauty in thinking about losing what you have rather than just gaining more awards and trophies.”
Well, some trophies. While preferring to lean towards the more Luddite side of existence (“When you’re more successful, you can have comfort in your life,” Mars says. “It’s always RELEVANT MAGAZINE
the enemy of creativity.”) the band is proud owner of an unusually decadent piece of rock history. Last year, before beginning the mixing process on Bankrupt!, guitarist Laurent Brancowitz discovered that the console used to mix Michael Jackson classic Thriller was being sold on eBay. After convincing the seller to cut the price of the Harrison 4032 solid-state recording console in half, the band purchased it for $17,000. “We aren’t into memorabilia,” Mars explains. “We don’t worship instruments. We like them, but we love cheap instruments, too. The purpose of an instrument is to be played. When we grew up, Chris and Deck had a friend whose dad had an amazing guitar collection. When we went there, we were not allowed to touch them. It felt wrong. “But this one, this recording console, it was too good not to get. It was too tempting. Also, it’s a very unique piece of equipment. It does things that are very specific. It does things that other pieces of equipment can’t do. We wanted to use it and not just look at it.” “This console is famous, it has been verified and all that stuff,” d’Arcy adds. “There’s a magic button.” Magic button? “The ‘Thriller’ button,” he smirks. The mixing console is an elaborate piece of evidence of the widescreen life that the members of Phoenix might not have believed possible as children. Growing up in the Paris suburb Versailles, Mars, d’Arcy, Brancowitz and guitarist Christian Mazzalai found each other when they were still young—young enough to have weathered the most awkward moments of their teen years
together, young enough to joke about the exact number of bands at their Catholic high school. (“Three,” says Mars. “One,” d’Arcy counters, implying there’s was only one that counted.) “I had drums that I didn’t know how to play,” Mars laughs at the memory of their first band, formed at the tender age of ten. “The kick drum. It was only a snare drum and a high hat. He had a small keyboard,” he says, gesturing across the table at d’Arcy. “I wanted to have a long keyboard,” d’Arcy laughs. Aside from one of France’s best music stores (staffed by an appropriately curmudgeon sales clerk whom d’Arcy insists was the result of the now-famous High Fidelity complex), both d’Arcy and Mars cite the city as a major influence to their artistic development. The homogeny of
that small town existence gave them the much-needed cocoon to develop their craft, free of social stratums. “It [Versailles] is the first city outside of Paris,” Mars says. “It’s there, but you’re not there. You’re not remote from anything. You’re close enough, but you can’t really access it.” “A suburban environment really helps creativity,” d’Arcy muses. “The permanent wish to escape from it. It made stuff easy, in a way. It’s easier to find your voice. It’s easier to be cool in Versailles. For some reason, we were lucky as well.” Easier to be cool, perhaps, because in a post-Serge Gainsbourg, pre-Daft Punk world, there was no blueprint for early ’90s French suburban teenage cool. To hear the band tell it, the term was non-existent. They made their own rules. “There wasn’t any goth kids,
rock kids, popular kids,” Mars says. “It was basically all ‘not.’ It was a very Catholic and serious environment. There was a dress code. It was very specific … That’s why there’s a freedom now. There was not one specific genre of music. You could get and listen to anything. It didn’t matter. There were very few kids in our school who were listening to music.” Outside of school, the members of Phoenix’s burgeoning interest in music flourished, thanks to supportive parents and families with slick, genrespecific tastes.
MAKING MUSICAL SHOCKS
“Purple Rain and Thriller are the two big records. They are the two tapes we had in my parents’ car,” Mars says. “Later, things that were not as popular came in the picture. But in the beginning, it was those two. We were
eight. It was the first big moment when I discovered music.” D’Arcy gets a little wistful at the memory. “Making an album,” he says, emphatically, “We’re trying to reproduce the emotions we had, the musical shocks we had when we were kids.” Moving from their childhood milieu into the world of professional music was easier than any band is likely to admit. The combination of musical curiosity and elbow grease led Phoenix
to start their own label, Ghettoblaster, to release their debut single. The imprint was short-lived but lasted long enough to see the band signed to Paris’ Source Records. Stints as Air’s backing band followed, along with touring their own work. By their second album, Alphabetical, the snowball effect took place, and Phoenix headed out on an extended 150-date tour. Fans slowly began accumulating—including director Sofia Coppola, who included a track from Phoenix’s debut United on the soundtrack of her Academy Award-winning film, Lost in Translation. By the time Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix won the Grammy, the band had headlined a slew of notable international festivals and became one of only three acts asked to play three songs on Saturday Night Live. (U2 and Coldplay are the others.) They were also ready for a break.
Despite all the promotional Bankrupt! work to come, Phoenix insists that they’re contrarians at heart. All the nights sweating it out on stage and laboring over lyrics has left them craving what their lives are currently lacking. “Outside of music, our fantasy is Immanuel Kant’s life,” Mars says. “At 5:15 you will have tea, and at 5:30 you will take a nap. That’s what we’d love to achieve, to have a very strict routine.” He pauses, laughing to acknowledge the irony of the statement. “That’s probably because when you’re on tour, it’s impossible. Our fantasy is the opposite of what people think is the rock ‘n’ roll life. The real rock ‘n’ roll life is this. It’s very precise.” It’s that spirit of longing that informs their new album Bankrupt! Having toured extensively for Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, all four members were left with a renewed appreciation for their home country. Coming home, they were also left with the difficult proposition of redefining what it means to be French after being disconnected from their homeland for so long. “At the end of the last tour, we became nostalgic,” Mars recalls. “We started listening to music from all our childhood memories. Not even teenager things that we were listening to when we started the band. Things that we grew up with, without even noticing. Just popular culture. Very French things. Things that we couldn’t see before because we were too inside of it. We almost look at France’s culture as a tourist would do. In a very distant way. But then the influences, I feel like they came really on this record from everywhere.” Mars says that Bankrupt! is “a powerful mix” of nostalgia and otherworldly, space-age sonics. The quartet’s heads may be in the clouds, but the album also includes a liberal sprinkling of more terrestrial elements, some which they’ve been accumulating throughout their travels as unconscious souvenirs. “Chris was saying he read somewhere that people were thinking there was an Asian sound,” he says of “Entertainment,” the album’s jaunty first single. “We were thinking at the beginning it was Egyptian. We’ve been listening to great records with Ethiopian musicians. We realized that it was coming from there. So this record, what is nice is that it’s a mystery to us. We don’t know where it’s from, really. It has all these fantasies about everything. It’s also like we stole from a bit of everything.” Indeed, it’s difficult to trace the entomology of the album’s ten tracks, stuffed to the brim with handclaps, absurd wordplay, trance beats and candy-colored cartoon synths. It walks an unusual line: retro without being dated, European-dance friendly while still American-radio ready. Comparisons come hard and heavy, all with an amendment of
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REAL ROCK ‘N’ ROLL LIFE
“sorta” or “almost” attached: fellow dance-pop purveyors Passion Pit and Friendly Fires or perhaps sound constructs Jesus and Mary Chain. That last one is actually a more blatant influence, with the Scottish shoegaze act actually inspiring the song “Bourgeois.” “They have a secret, Jesus and Mary Chain,” Mars says. “Their songs are very basic, but everything, the way it’s played, everything is so unique that they could play the blues in just one note and it would sound like them. That’s something that on this record, when we started we wanted to be surrounded by instruments. That you could play something, that even if it was really boring, it would sound like this album. That it would have a strong identity.”
FROM NOWHERE AND EVERYWHERE
It’s that idea of being immediately recognizable to their fans that Mars feels Phoenix is finally starting to hit upon, noting that every song on the new album is different—unified only by his band’s sonic signature. “We were not satisfied with playing just one note,” he says. “It got more complex. But it gave us that sense of confidence. It sounds nostalgic and futuristic at the same time. You’re happy with that, and you can write whatever songs need to be written. That’s the sound. We were happy with the color and the sonic pallet. “ After over two years of work, the band has made an album, which might bear a French passport but really hails from nowhere and everywhere. “You have to get outside and be exposed to it,” says Mars, trotting
“WE LOVE QUESTIONS MORE THAN ANSWERS. WE SEE THE BEAUTY IN IT.” out another in a line of unexpected cultural touch points. “The distance is very key to us. It’s like when I went to Italy recently. I watched TV and saw Friends. I would never watch Friends, but it was dubbed in Italian. It was incredible. With this distance there’s always all these little twists. There’s something way more interesting about it,” he laughs. “You can tell when someone is upset. It’s very easy. It’s very universal.” All this adds up to an experience that Mars hopes fans will need multiple listens to fully unpack. He likens the relationship with his connection to the great French filmmaker François Truffaut (400 Blows). “He would watch movies at the cinematheque,” Mars says. “He would go and watch them over and over.” Mars’ childhood self would have approved. “I know that there are a few songs I played on repeat that I discovered as a kid,” he adds. “A hundred times, maybe. The first time we bought Psychocandy. There are so many that you go through, and you play it so much that the CD breaks. I love that feeling.” In the past, Phoenix has jokingly refused to refer to themselves as musicians, citing their lack of fundamentals. Thomas confirms that, despite continuing to solidify their identity as a band, all members 66
feel like luck plays a huge role in their success. “Branco has a theory that if monkeys have a piano in front of them, and they have a lot of time, they’ll eventually end up playing every Beethoven sonata that’s been written,” he says. “That’s out of luck. There’s definitely something in us like that. We work a lot and we record as much as much as we can. That’s part of the process. The key part is selecting more than just coming up with ideas. That’s the moment when we’re scared we can lose something. That’s when we’re obsessed with missing an idea. We’re not scared of having a blank page. That’s not
scary. We feel like we’ll always come up with things. To miss something or not realize that it’s interesting, that’s our obsession. Their success, though, is more sweat than fortune cookie-based. “We provide the luck,” d’Arcy says. “We set everything up so we can randomly find the moments. It’s not pure luck. It’s not happening with us not doing anything.” But hard work has only gotten Phoenix so far. Mars muses that their success as a band can’t be completely broken down or quantified. “There’s a mystique about music,” he says. “There’s
definitely something. There’s a part that’s still mysterious to us. There’s secrets to be revealed. There’s something more. It’s our own mystique.”
THE PHOENIX FAMILY
Now well into its second decade, the story of Phoenix has expanded. All four members are in serious relationships (Mars is married to one of his more famous fans, Sofia Coppola). Both Mars and Mazzalai are fathers. But are they prepared to make the professional concessions that having a family can often require? “It’s a constant evolution,” Mars says. “The more things you
have in life, the more emotions and the more potential your creativity has. In that sense, yes. Working with Philippe Zdar, who helped us produce this record, he has an incredible life. He’s lived 10 lives. Every moment is exhausting. Every day of his feels like the last day on earth. You live in this constant furor. At the end of the day, you feel like you’re spent. It’s the washing machine position when it goes really fast. You want to dry off. You’re just exhausted. He emphasizes every moment that we have in the studio. “There’s already a story. Every day something is happening. It’s a story already. I know it’s like that because he lives
every moment. It’s comforting to know that if we go in the same direction we could be like that.” Until then—at least while on the clock—Phoenix will continue to be an insular unit, a band of four friends speaking and performing first and foremost for each other. “It’s a very selfish process, the four of us,” Mars says. “Music, it has to be a very unconscious process. It’s not a statement; it’s not a therapy in any way. While looking for something very precise, it’s the same thing we’ve been looking for since we were eighteen.” With five albums under their belt and over half a lifetime spent together as a band, do they believe they’ll ever find that certain musical je ne sais quoi? Mars thinks on that one for a good long while. “We love questions more than answers,” he says, after a considerable pause. “We see the beauty in it. We’re not too naïve to think we’ll ever find the answer. It’s not possible. Not in our lifetime. It’s fun to just witness beauty. To gravitate to it.”
LAURA STUDARUS is a writer living in Los Angeles. She’s a regular contributor to Under the Radar, Filter, eMusic and RELEVANT.
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YOUR DIFFERENT CALLINGS DON’T HAVE TO BE DEALBREAKERS. BY MELISSA AND JAKE KIRCHER
months before our wedding, we sat on a hill overlooking Boston’s north shore and tried to figure out where our relationship was heading. We talked, we fought and we cried—because we were no longer sure if our callings converged. At that point, Jake was thriving in his role as a youth pastor while working part-time as a valet to make ends meets. I, on the other hand, was just about to graduate college and nervous about becoming a pastor’s wife. I wanted to use my degree to become a professional artist and eventually stay at home to raise children—something that would be impossible on Jake’s current salary. The tension between us gradually mounted until Jake let these famous words fly: “I’m called to work for this church, and if you marry me, you’re marrying my calling.” I agreed to these conditions, just as foolishly as Jake constructed them, and so began our marriage. There were definite consequences. After only one year of marriage, which included horrible arguments, getting kicked out of our first apartment because of the arguments and seriously contemplating divorce, we were burnt out. We were beyond frustrated with both life and each other. So we plopped our butts down in a counselor’s office and begged for help.
It wasn’t until then that we realized how skewed our understanding of calling really was. And rediscovering its meaning not only saved our marriage but also helped us move forward into God’s plan for our lives—both as a couple and as individuals. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, your calling will affect your relationships. But first, we have to understand what “calling” really means—and where we’ve gotten it wrong.
The term “calling” tends to be thrown around quite often within Christian circles and usually in one of two ways. First, we use calling to talk about divine life direction from God. We think of it as the heavenly decree that this person should become a business mogul, then give all her money to orphans in Africa or that person should marry “The One” and no one else. We think of God as a divine GPS, telling us to turn this way or that way. And often, in the process, we fail to utilize common sense and the wisdom of others when deciding what exactly to do with our lives. The second way Christians tend to think about calling is by equating it with vocational ministry. Many believe the only people who are “called” are pastors, missionaries and social justice or nonprofit workers. In this view, everyone else just gets a normal, non-calling job and does what he or she wants. Both ideas have a biblical foundation—though we often misunderstand what that foundation means. Two of the most frequent Greek words translated “calling” in the Bible are klētós and klésis. Both, in the original Greek, translate as the general call to salvation—the one God issues to all people. In other words, the Bible’s use of the word “call” is very rarely about life direction or vocational ministry. Certainly, God calls us at times to act or move in specific ways. But first and foremost, God’s call is a beckon to all people to enter into a saving relationship with Him. To answer this call of God means that every breath, every thought and every action
now flows out of the truth that you have reoriented your life tow the one true God. We see this in Paul’s challenge to “live a life worthy of the calling [klésis] you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). Of course, there will be times that God leads you on the specifics of your career, ministry or relationships. But by understanding the difference between divine calling (klésis) and the occasional specific direction God gives us concerning life decisions, we free ourselves to live in a manner that is not in constant state of anxiety over what to do. As St. Augustine of Hippo once said, “Love God, and do what you want.” But what does this look like in the context of a relationship— especially when you seem to want different things? What if you want to be a missionary and your fiancé wants to work for a bank? Here are a few ways to think through this issue when your callings seem to clash.
WHEN CALLINGS CONFLICT
The danger many young Christian couples face today is overemphasizing the idea of calling as vocation—to the detriment of their romantic relationships. The aspiring missionary and fledgling banker walk away from their relationship without considering that marriage is also a calling. What we learned in the counselor’s office was that by choosing to get married—something we did without a booming vocal direction from heaven—we were now called to live out our salvation within the context of our relationship. Marriage, too, was now our calling. If two people are not willing to compromise at all, then, sure, they probably shouldn’t get married. But for most couples, vocational callings can and should be merged until both parties feel they are living faithfully according to their gifts, desires and goals. After all, if calling is about 70
living each breath for Christ, then two people who commit their lives to each other have a divine calling to honor each other fully. They have a divine calling to respect and love each other, work through conflict together, forgive and make sacrifices for each other. Perhaps we’ve made too much of calling as vocation and life direction. Maybe we’ve positioned it as the determining factor in a relationship when it should only be part of the conversation. C.J., a twenty-six-year-old engineer, believes this to be true. As a single who has used his singleness to pursue his dreams—enrolling in a graduate fellowship and backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail—he knows such life decisions won’t be up to only him after marriage. “Two people are now one flesh and must strive to operate with the unity that Christ exhorts us toward,” he says. “Thus, perhaps the first action of any married couple struggling with two seemingly disparate vocations is a prayer that God would mesh them together in an obvious way.”
THE BIBLICAL PORTRAIT OF MARRIAGE REVEALS THE HONORING OF ONE ANOTHER AS A MYSTERIOUS BUT BEAUTIFUL DANCE. And even if such prayers are not immediately answered, C.J. says, “the dynamics of working through differences are still guided by the example of Christ and the Church.” This is no easy task, but it can be rewarding—as another couple, Hunter and Jen, learned. Hunter works in finance and needs to stay at his job for the practical reason of paying off college loans. But his fiancée, Jen, has long felt called to missions. They also deeply love each other and have decided their marriage is just as important as their unique vocations. So, after much communication and compromise, they figured out how to fuse it all together. For now, Jen is happy to plan short-term missions trips while Hunter keeps his finance job. In the future, they plan to enter the mission field together. It took hard work, but Jen and Hunter are honoring their call as a couple and as individuals—all under the umbrella calling of living each moment for Christ. Speaking from personal experience, the two of us have vastly different vocational callings, yet we have committed to supporting each other in them.
But it isn’t always easy. When Jake interviewed for a new ministry position six years ago, this commitment was put to the test. Jake had communicated to the search committee that God has gifted him to be a youth pastor but that I was gifted as an artist and writer. When the committee learned they would not be getting the popular ministry “2-for-1” deal, they told us quite bluntly that my aspirations were unrealistic. “If Jake takes this position, he will be overworked and underpaid,” they said. “It will be up to Melissa to get a real job so that she can support Jake and your future family.” At the beginning of our marriage, we might have agreed. But we had already experienced the cost of elevating vocation above our marriage, so we knew to hightail it out of there. Eventually, we found a church that supports both our vocational choices, and we have seen our marriage and careers benefit as a result.
THE GENDER QUESTION
As if the concept of calling wasn’t already confusing enough, there’s also the issue of how gender roles play into it. The word “submit,” arguably one of the most divisive words in Christianity, shows up in perhaps the most famous passage on marriage in the Bible— and so it’s not a topic that can be avoided in the conversation about calling. We have to ask the inevitable questions: Is calling a man’s world in which women submit their own goals and plans to that of their spouse? If a man compromises his career goals for his wife, does that mean he has relinquished his role as “head” of the relationship? Is the pursuit of one’s calling to be done at the expense of the other’s or according to a model of mutual submission? This is not a new debate by any means. But no matter your
view on gender roles, the Bible affirms the idea of joint calling in marriage and “his” and “her” callings as individuals. Here’s how. For starters, the biblical portrait of marriage reveals the honoring of one another as a mysterious but beautiful dance, regardless of your interpretation of the word “submit.” Paul writes in Ephesians 5:2224, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
Next, Paul turns to the husbands and gives them different instructions but for the same reason: to live out a marriage that is reflective of Christ’s self-giving love. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Paul writes. “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, people have never hated their own bodies, but they feed and care for them, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body” (vv. 25, 28-30). The gender roles in this passage are widely debated, but one thing is clear: Both husband and wife are called to put the needs of their spouse above their own. When done properly, the gifts, goals and opportunities of both spouses function at their best. In this way, the calling to live out each breath in relationship with Christ is fulfilled, as is the calling to ref lect Him in your marriage. Paul affirms the importance of the individual again in Romans 12: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (v. 6). And we must use those gifts, Paul says, because each gift plays a unique and important role in the body of Christ.
It’s a powerful image, yet, again, it’s no easy task. Figuring out how two callings can work in harmony is a process that requires ongoing humility, wisdom and a good deal of simply sticking things out. Things will get messy, but that doesn’t mean a couple should separate or that they didn’t hear correctly from God. Neither does it mean the woman should let go of her passions, gifts and opportunities just because she is a woman. The two need to rally together and figure out— sometimes over a long period of time—how they can honor each other. “There is not always a clear pattern of whose vocation will take primacy in any given life situation,” says C.J. “But in the dance of submission, of sacrificial love, of always looking ‘not only to your own interest but also to the interests of others,’ obedience to Christ’s leading for both spouses should be the end goal.” Take it from two people who learned this lesson the hard way. A marriage that incorporates the salvation calling of Christ into everyday life while supporting the individual callings of both husband and wife is a much happier, healthier one. In terms of relationships, calling is freedom. It’s permission to pursue the dreams and goals God has given you. It doesn’t have to dictate the success or failure of a couple, but can help them move more fully into commitment and Christlike love for one another and for who God has called us, all of us, to be.
MELISSA AND JAKE KIRCHER are the authors of 99 Thoughts on Marriage and Ministry (Simply Youth Ministry, 2013) and write regularly about marriage and relationships at www.holymessofministry. com. You can follow them on Twitter @marriageismessy.
ver the past 15 years, few industries have gone through more upheaval than music. Of course, music is an art, and art is always evolving, but rarely does it go through a macro-evolution this substantial. It’s not just what k ind of music people listen to that’s new, but how we listen to it, how it’s affecting us and even what we consider to be music. For something as personal as music, it’s virtually impossible to get an objective grip on where it is, what’s most interesting about it and what upcoming trends and artists are most shaping its future. But that doesn’t mean we can’t tr y. R ELEVANT rounded up a panel of a few seasoned music experts to talk about what current bands they’re most intrigued by, their take on the current state of the music industr y and what they see on the horizon that has them most excited. The conversation that follows touches on ever yone from Katy Perr y to Kendrick Lamar. We also spotlight a few fast-rising artists you ought to put on your radar. Long stor y short—if you’re look ing to get caught up on the state of music in 2013, this is a great place to start.
TYLER: What is one band that’s small-time right now that you’d like to see get big? That it’s time. They deserve it. They’ve worked hard long enough. PROPAGANDA: Seryn. The show is such an experience. To the point where, and maybe it’s because I’m new to all this, but I had to step out of the venue for a song or two because it was just so overwhelmingly beautiful. LAURA: I’m going to say White Sea. It’s a member of M83’s band, and her name is Morgan Kibby. I’ve watched her grow and evolve as an artist over the past couple of years. [THE PANEL] She’s not afraid of pop hooks, she’s not afraid of R&B, she’s ANDY BARRON not afraid of big statements. One of our favorite music She’s finishing up her debut photographers, who’s shot album, and it should come out the likes of Switchfoot, this year. Mumford & Sons and the Civil Wars. ANDY: Two bands come to mind— LAURA STUDARAS TYLER: I said one band, A prolific music journalist Andy. who’s covered everyone ANDY: [Laughs] They’re a from Johnny Marr to Ben Gibbard to the cover super new band, but I have story of this issue. some friends who work with them. Their name PROPAGANDA is Sir Sly. It just sounds Rising star of Los Angeles’ massive. It’s very Foster hip-hop scene and artist on the Humble Beast label. the People, electronicrock kind of stuff, but it’s a lot more mellow. TYLER HUCKABEE They’re just so good. Also, RELEVANT’s managing Superhumanoids. editor, who curates the LAURA: I’m resisting the music coverage for the magazine and website. urge to start spitting out band names now.
ANDY: I’m honestly more excited about Justin Timberlake coming back than David Bowie. PROPAGANDA: I’m not going to lie to you: Justin Timberlake’s songs give me chills. I don’t care. He’s amazing to me. ANDY: Just the fact that he’s going to be in my life more—I’m fine with that. PROPAGANDA: I’m telling you, dude. He is black people’s guilty pleasure. Nobody wants to admit we like that. We’re like, “Man, that white boy is funky.” TYLER: I’m more excited about that album than Destiny’s Child’s reunion. But I’m not not excited about a Destiny’s Child reunion. LAURA: You know, I’ll throw a curveball in and say that Solange is my favorite Knowles. ANDY: Blue Ivy is up there. TYLER: I agree with Laura. There’s an edge to Solange that Beyonce just never had.
TYLER: Timberlake’s new album. If it’s as good as the last, man. ANDY: I do want to hear Earl Sweatshirt’s record, too. Like is it going to be [slows voice] so mellow, and he’s talking like this—or is it going to keep my interest? I’m curious. LAURA: Maybe it’ll be a sedative. ANDY: I don’t know when it’s coming out, but just the idea of a U2 record with Danger Mouse gets me really excited. I’m really excited for the new Cold War Kids record. I just always forget how much I like that band. TYLER: When the last Cold War Kids record came out, I remember being pumped about it, but the girl I was seeing at the time said it’s the sort of music that “not cool kids who wish they were cool kids” liked. We ended things on the spot because I am very cool. But I do see how they’re in this weird limbo, which is where a lot of bands are finding themselves. They’re a hipster band that got too popular for hipsters to like them, so now they’re huge, but they’ve also been abandoned by their fan base. They get written off as “pop.” ANDY: I’m a fan of records that get big, just because I really like music. I always kind of secretly hated that I liked pop music so much. There’s definitely good pop, and there’s definitely bad pop. LAURA: There are a lot of artists like Alt-J and Charli XCX and Sky Ferreira helping to change the conversation between what is indie and what is mainstream as far as sound goes. Saying, “Hey, I can work with a producer and still make something that’s left-of-center and interesting.” ANDY: All the lines are blurring. Even on that Kendrick Lamar record, they sample a Beach House song. I like Beach House, and I like listening to them on this Kendrick Lamar song. It’s just so funny that all these worlds are coming together to make this weird, hybrid whatever it is. PROPAGANDA: That leads me to someone I’m excited about for next year, someone from [Lamar’s] imprint, whose name is Ab-Soul. I mean, if you have the Dr. Dre machine in your backpack, I don’t care how indie you say you are. Your record is going to do fine. But [Ab-Soul and Lamar] are very different in their approaches, who they’re trying to reach. I think that’s where a lot of hip-hop labels go wrong: They try to put every artist down the same tunnel. RELEVANT MAGAZINE
1 MIDWAY through Youth Lagoon’s critically
This includes the end of life and beyond.
acclaimed debut album, 2011’s The Year of
“Everyone knows we die, but if we think about
Hibernation, Trevor Powers, the band’s sole
it too much, then we can’t live,” he says. “I’ve
creative force, recalls his mother’s advice to his
been getting more into taking some personal
teenage self: “Don’t stop imagining. The day
things to put into music and then dressing
that you do is the day that you die.”
them in different outfits sonically, like it’s not
While death is a topic explored on Youth Lagoon’s
release, Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum
just about an idea, but toying around with it and tearing it apart to put it back together in a strange way. That’s more appealing to me.” Another such topic Powers explores more
Records), the surreal album’s depth reveals
on Bughouse is his own spirituality.
that Powers is still very much alive. “It is much more expansive,” he shares of
“I’m really interested in dimensions. Like
the new album. “I’ve been getting into building
activity that is happening in the same space
these types of universes that I could see myself
that we are in yet a totally different dimension,”
living in. Like sonically, if it’s a place I could see
he says. “There have been times I’ve been
myself living in, then it’s right.”
completely alone, but can feel different types
Powers teamed up with indie producer
of presences, which is the spiritual world.”
Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Washed Out) to
Although Powers says he’s a spiritual
shape Wondrous Bughouse’s 10 hypnotic pop
person, he doesn’t see himself as religious.
soundscapes. Standouts include initial singles
He believes there’s more to God than we often
“Dropla” and “Mute” and the Sgt. Pepper’s-
make Him out to be.
esque “Raspberry Cane.”
“I don’t think God exists in that kind of
As with Hibernation, the album’s influence
propriety, but rather in relationship,” he says.
once again came from within. Powers’ goal
“We live in a s****y world full of s****y things
entering the writing stage of Wondrous
and everything is still so beautiful because of
Bughouse was to not think too hard—or to not
grace. The Scriptures have gotten so twisted by
even think at all.
people over time that Jesus is now made out
“Usually, I start with a certain idea that I want to just get out of my system,” he says.
not the Jesus I know.”
“It’s often like a stream of consciousness thing,
Powers remembers after releasing his first
where I make up things as I go just to see where
album realizing it would one day be compared
my mind is at. If I have any idea
to what came next. Luckily, any anxiety
that comes out that I feel like it’s
this thought created fueled his creative
something worth working on, then
mind. The “sophomore slump” has been
I start to shape that idea and turn
it into something. It’s always like
“I always remember that I do music
wrestling with myself. I throw away
to express the areas of myself I can’t
way more songs than I keep.”
get out of me otherwise. Like therapy
Lyrically, the album continues to travel along the intersection of the physical and the metaphysical.
to be some kind of Republican politician. That’s
Youth Lagoon Wondrous Bughouse
or something,” he says. “As long as I stay in that mindset, I know I’m creating what I need to.”
TYLER: Looking back at 2012, I think if you look at a lot of “best of ” lists, you’re going to find Kendrick Lamar, you’re going to find Frank Ocean—interesting hip-hop has gotten really mainstream. Is hip-hop going to see the same transition that mainstream has had where it gets a little more toothless? PROPAGANDA: I always have to remind myself that hip-hop is relatively young in relation to every other musical genre. I think that, if anything, it’s going to have the same ebb and flow of any other music that has been tied to a movement. Which I feel is why hip-hop may survive this spotlight coming on it. It’s always been the the language of the broken. But I think there will also always be bubble gum dudes playing dress up. LAURA: I have to agree with you. I recently saw Odd Future at a festival. When watching Odd Future, I felt like it was something I’d seen before. It was almost like watching children learn to swear for the first time. Where I look at some of the electro-hiphop producers out of L.A. like DJ Nobody and Nosaj Thing and people on the Stones Throw label. And suddenly I realize, “Oh, this is hip-hop too? I like this.” I like Flying Lotus. Once you take away the artifice of being outside the societal norm, it’s something that’s interesting to me. I would love to see more of that. PROPAGANDA: That’s interesting. Because the truth is that from an insider perspective, when you say the name Stones Throw, as far as we’re concerned, we’re like, “No, that’s hip-hop.” Even now, even with Aloe Blacc—that dude is a rapper. Odd Future is a movement. It’s a type of hip-hop, but in my opinion, it’s more of a symbol of youth rebellion. ANDY: Yeah, Odd Future always just felt like punk-rock hip-hop. They’re just like, “We’re just going to do our own thing.” PROPAGANDA: It’s just fun. And I think that it represents more our desire to rebel rather than make hip-hop. Even Frank Ocean rose to the top of that whole circle because that dude is making music.
TYLER: Think of “Gangnam Style.” Or something dumber like “Call Me Maybe”— it’s akin to Odd Future in that it’s just fun. You couldn’t call it good, but it is unifying. It becomes a sort of a take on the old spirituals.
ANDY: That’s going to be the takeaway quote from this: “Odd Future are the new old spiritual hymns.” TYLER: [Laughs] I do wonder what’s going to happen next in terms of—are you going to see more of those pop songs that nobody likes but everybody knows? Are those going to become more and more of the norm? LAURA: I wonder if, as social media becomes more and more a part of our culture, in increasingly terrifying ways,
having ubiquitous cultural anthems will start happening less and less. ANDY: Uh, One Direction. Come on. PROPAGANDA: I think social networking is the new A&R now. That’s the movement. We were told at one of our little label strategic meetings that, they were saying, of the twenty-and-unders, 80 percent get their music from YouTube. TYLER: Everything is getting so nichemarket and pulling us apart. You don’t have
to listen to what everybody else listens to. You can find your own thing. If your thing is tribal beats, you can listen to tribal beats all the time, and it doesn’t matter whether or not the radio plays it. PROPAGANDA: It’s the great equalizer from an artist’s perspective. I don’t have a fraction of the budget or popularity that other artists have. But because of things like social networking, we’ve been able to bring this tribe of people.
The Chronicles of Marnia, Stern admits she wasn’t comfortable with the sort of things her quest to be real unearthed. “I like clutter,” she says. “I like everything all jumbled and messed up. I’m sure that’s some way to hide.” So, on Chronicles, she’s trying to come out from behind her guitar. “The singing is clearer, which is hard for me, but I’m glad I did it,” she says. “When the vocals are really upfront in the mix, it’s like, oh my gosh, it’s really hard for me. “ On her new album, Stern is more structured. This makes her front and center, but also, to her thinking, more self-critical. “Is it too saccharine?” she asks. “Does it come across as Coldplay? All those judgments you make on yourself are a disaster. They block you from moving forward.” Stern is good at moving forward, however, and if she’s making any judgments on herself, she does a good job of shutting them down. It’s rare to hear an artist so bound and determined to march to the beat of their own drum, but when you listen to the runaway mine cart of a melody on Chronicles of Marnia’s first single, “Year of the Glad,” you’ll know she’s blazing her own trails. You’ve never heard anything like it. “For a long time I’ve just been trying to dig out the most authentic part of myself, no [SPOTLIGHT]
matter how comfortable or uncomfortable it made me. I don’t even know what this stuff sounds like anymore. I’m just trying to do what I think sounds good.”
“The problem the last couple years is I was stuck in the same pattern. I’m trying different stuff to get out that pattern. Whether it comes
“ENERGETIC.” That’s how Marnie Stern describes her
Guitarists” list there is) and her own goofball personality which, Stern says, is her muse.
style of music, which is kind of like describing
“I’m trying to put my personality into songs,”
Hammurabi as “old.” Her music is energetic in
she says. “Trends come and go. I’m not really
the way rollercoasters are—dizzying, pulse-
paying attention to them. I’m just trying to be as
pounding and mind-melting. The only real center
authentic as I can.”
seems to be Stern’s wizard-like, virtuosistic
But finding that authenticity hasn’t been
guitar-playing (she’s made appearances on just
easy, as any dig into the core of yourself is bound
about every reputable “World’s Greatest Living
to be. On her newest album, the exquisitely titled
across as different or not I don’t know.” It does.
Marnie Stern Chronicles of Marnia
3 BY MAT T CONNER
WHILE PROPER terminology dictates calling
and we didn’t realize this when we started to
Ivan & Alyosha’s new release a “debut,” the
look at producers and wanted to record a first
Seattle band has waited a long time for this
full-length—and we are capable of making our
own records,” says Wilson. “Not that we’re
After two EPs, the literary quartet—whose
opposed to working with people, but I think
name comes from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The
for this particular record we really had to stay
Brothers Karamazov—is finally ready to break
true to who we are and the kind of music that
through to mainstream success with All the
Times We Had. Founding member Tim Wilson
The band’s spiritual leanings are the subject
says he’s aware of the buzz around the band’s
of many songs and interviews, and Wilson says
album, but he’s been at this for too long to get
that continues to be the case on the new album.
caught up in it all.
However, rather than purposefully focusing on
“I think when you live inside something like this, it’s a lot less cool than people think,” he
says. “But it’s also a lot cooler than we think. I
“I think, much like the musical direction of
think the truth is somewhere in between there,
the band, the things that we’re talking about,
and certainly it feels like a lot of great things are
the things we’re singing about, I think it is just
a more natural progression of who we are as
“The bottom line is, the record’s something
people rather than, ‘Hey, we’re gonna write
that we’re really proud of and worked hard on,
about this or that and push people’s buttons
and I think the songs stand out.”
here or here,’” he says.
Early EPs like The Verse, The
“It’s just kind of a progression of
Chorus (2009) and Fathers Be Kind
who we are as people, with a lot of us
(2011) brought attention from NPR
in the band growing up in the Church
and other media outlets, but various
and still having faith and having that
issues kept the band from releasing
be a constant theme in our lives and
the full-length they’ve wanted for
our priorities. It’s just going to come
some time. Wilson says the band is
out. I always say that songwriters are
better for the experience, but he’s ready to get these songs out there. “I think we are empowered now—
such subjects, it’s an organic flow out of the
Ivan & Alyosha All the Times We Had
selling belief or unbelief, or God or the Devil, or whatever, just like anybody else. We’re all selling something.”
LAURA: Do you think this is allowing the cream to rise to the top? PROPAGANDA: I think it’s definitely causing that. Because you have to weather it. Because anyone can load a song on YouTube. Anyone can do it, and to buy yourself a little Logic rig with a little M-Audio interface to record music at your house— anyone can do that. TYLER: But then you’d find people who will say the exact opposite. You’ll find people who would say that because everybody can do it, some no-talent kid will manage to figure out how to work his Bandcamp, and then all of a sudden he’ll become really popular. But he’s never done the hard time of touring and putting out his own EP and burning CDs. ANDY: But even so, if he’s good, then he’ll last. If he’s not, then people will be like, “You shouldn’t do this.” I heard a record the other day from a band my friend is working with right now that he literally made in a closet on his laptop. And it sounds unbelievable. It sounds like this massive record. I don’t think something like that could have happened 5 or 10 years ago, even. PROPAGANDA: Last week, my little seven-year-old daughter, I’m making her learn how to tell time on a clock with hands on it. I’m frustrated that she’s not getting it right, and I’m like, “She needs to know this!” But then I’m like, “Why? Why does she really need to know?” I don’t know how to work a cotton gin. In some sense, I have this looming fear, not of aging, but not aging well. I don’t want to ever become irrelevant because of holding onto a particular way of becoming a star. That’s great that you can upload very well-mixed music to some social network channel. And then if that gets you on the road, you see if you can make it there. And maybe you didn’t have to play the dive bar, the hole-in-thewall with 10 cats like what I had to do. Or you didn’t have to battle the local dopest rapper to get the mic. Then good for you! I can’t get mad that he didn’t have to go the way I went.
TYLER: So do you think the radio is becoming irrelevant? LAURA: I’m not sure that the radio is necessarily irrelevant, but DJs are becoming more relevant. I don’t listen to radio in my
car just to listen to it, but if I know that certain DJs are on, I will be all about it. Because I feel like they’re curating my experience in a way that I trust a little more than K-Rock. PROPAGANDA: Hear, hear. Amen. Retweet everything you just said. And to qualify that, my world of hip-hop is mixed, too. Most people in my hip-hop world are also hipsters. We like all the other stuff that we’re not supposed to like. TYLER: Like, for example? PROPAGANDA: Well, there’s the second nuance with me on the fact that I’m in the Christian market. Where it’s like, I like this dude, but I’m not supposed to because they don’t say “Jesus” a million times in their songs. But there’s definitely a list of people who I would say I’m not supposed to like. One of which would be ... let me see ... ANDY: Just say Justin Bieber—get it over with. PROPAGANDA: Oh, I’ll tell you who it is: It’s Katy Perry. I think she’s dope. I enjoy her music.
PROPAGANDA: Pop is a formula of making music that’s been tried and proven. This is research. It’s a science. This is how you make a top-40 song. That’s what it is. And, yet, everyone likes the guy who’s not a part of the system. Indie is the new mainstream. LAURA: I love the hipster backlash. There’s nothing funnier to me than slowly watching people get upset because bands they love hit the mainstream. I want my friends to eat and have shelter and not beg on the streets. I want my favorite musicians to do the same. ANDY: I have vivid memories from my sophomore year in high school; I would be listening to Clarity by Jimmy Eat World. They were my band then. They were the first show that I ever shot photos at. So when their album Bleed American then came out and it blew up, I totally had that exact feeling of like, “Dangit, this used to be my little band that I enjoyed, and now they’re everywhere.” PROPAGANDA: I t hink t he f irst person t hat I was f ina l ly able to let t hat go for was Kendrick La mar. I was genuinely happy t he moment t hat he blew up. I’m rea l ly happy for him because I feel li ke we’re turning over a new lea f. Maybe t his is a new sound, a nd he a lso represents a n age group of k ids who—when I was in high school, I hid my Nir va na a nd A la nis Morriset te. I wou ld immediately lose street cred if I had t hat. [La mar] represents, to me, t his generation of dudes t hat are li ke, “No, I listen to t hat.”
AlunaGeorge This UK duo have been recording pitch-perfect R&B for a few years now, but this June, they’ll be releasing their first official album, Body Music. If it’s as good as the songs that we’ve heard here and there, we’re in for a treat.
Arcade Fire There’s a rumor that the band is trying to whittle down “two albums worth” of solid songs into one, manageable release. If they just go ahead and release two albums, we doubt many people would complain.
J. Cole ”Am I about dollars or am I about change?” J. Cole asks on his sequel to Cole World: The Sideline Story. “Am I about knowledge or am I about brains?” The answer remains to be seen, but he’s asking the right questions.
The Knife The Knife specializes in spooky soundscapes that manage to mine moments of beauty in the midst of their nervy tension. Their new album, Shaking the Habitual, is like a nightmare you’d rather not wake up from.
The National This band has yet to release a weak album, and we don’t expect Trouble Will Find Me to be their first. They’re among modern music’s most perfectionistic, vulnerable acts.
NEEDTO BREATHE Details are scant on the follow-up to South Carolina’s first sons of gospel rock’s fourth studio album, The Reckoning. But if it keeps up the alluring melodies, expect it to continue their climb to national fame.
Sleigh Bells Derek Miller’s ‘80s guitar insanity laced with Alexis Krauss’ cheerleader yelps and coos isn’t going to change much, but keep an eye on Krauss. Her evolution from bratty sidekick to confident co-collaborator has been impressive.
Switchfoot Rock superstars. Folksy troubadours. Switchfoot has been viewed as everything except what they started out as: acclaimed surfers. But with Fading West, which includes a surfing documentary, that’s about to change.
Vampire Weekend The quartet expands their tour of the world’s beats and rhythms on Modern Vampires of the City. And that’s what the album sounds like: the eclectic influences you’d find in New York City’s boroughs.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs Everything about Mosquito suggests that it will be vintage Yeah Yeah Yeahs; meaning, it will be raucous, daring, raw and, yes, utterly addictive.
AFTER NINE YEARS, IT’S NOT JUST GOODBYE FOR VIEWERS. IT’S GOODBYE FOR THE CAST, TOO. BY CARL KOZLOWSKI
hen NBC launched the American version of the acclaimed British TV sitcom The Office in spring 2005, no one thought it would last beyond six episodes. After all, its signature mockumentary style—so commonplace today—seemed odd and disjointed back then. And the original British edition only lasted two seasons before its creator and star, Ricky Gervais, pulled the plug, fearing more episodes would dilute the quality of the show. But a strange thing happened. Not only did the American edition thrive, earning four Emmys and the hyper-prestigious Peabody Award, but it surpassed its British predecessor in wit and heart. The Office is often described as “quirky,” but the show was at its best when it wasn’t quirky at all but, rather, fearlessly real. Its characters were recognizable. You knew these people. You worked with them. You probably were at least one of them. The show turned an ugly mirror on the American workplace—but the reflection was never so bad that you couldn’t find a spark of charm. Yes, The Office was good at awkward moments and workplace hijinks, but it was great at heart. Jim, Pam, Dwight, Stanley, Kelly, Michael, Andy and all the rest have cemented their place as some of television’s finest characters. And as the show’s swan song (airing May 16) looms, the cast sat down to share with RELEVANT their memories.
coming for past nine years, and I love all of these people. We’ve grown up together. We’ve had children. We’ve gotten married. We’ve gotten divorced. We’ve cried together. And that’s really what I’m gonna miss the most. We went from some really goofy kids nine years ago to the giant megalomaniac TV stars you see in front of you now. OSCAR NUÑEZ (Oscar): Season 1, Rainn came to work on a unicycle. This year, he comes to work on a chopper. He gets choppered in from Malibu. Are you going to keep any memorabilia, like, from your desk or some other part of Dunder Mifflin? ED HELMS (Andy): I had my entire house remodeled to look like the bullpen. So, I’m taking a lot of the stuff for that. I’ve also hired most of the cast to live there with me. I actually really want Andy’s Cornell diploma for some reason. I really like that. ANGELA KINSEY (Angela): I have my eye on a few cat figurines.
How different is life for you now than it was that first and second year? JENNA FISCHER (Pam): In real life, I got married. I had a very small wedding, and my mom was asking me, “So, who are you going to invite?” I said, “It’s just gonna be immediate family and a few friends. There’s gonna be no famous people there.” And my mom said, “Are you inviting your cast?” I said, “Yeah, I’m inviting my cast.” She said, “Those are famous people.” I think that we still feel about each other and see each other through the eyes of those first‑season relationships because, you know, you drove out of here. You passed by some pretty shady stuff on the way here. I mean, we don’t come to work every day in a glitzy place.
RAINN WILSON (Dwight): During that first year, John and Jenna and Steve and I all went out to lunch. We were shooting the pilot at that time, and I remember this really intense conversation we had. We were all like, “Could you imagine if the show got picked up—how cool that would be?” And then someone else was like, “What if it went for, like, a season?” It’s so weird now, nine years later, that lunch coming true. People have asked me, “What are you going to miss most?” Well, it’s really clear to me—this is my other family. This is where I’ve been
PHYLLIS SMITH (Phyllis): I want my Dundie—my first Dundie. KATE FLANNERY (Meredith): I actually saved a pelvis cast, so I would take my pelvis cast.
JENNA FISCHER: I want Pam’s watercolor, the one that Michael bought at her art show, which is still on the wall. And the receptionist sign, even though I don’t sit there anymore. RAINN WILSON: I want Dwight’s car. CREED BRATTON (Creed): I want the bags and bags of mung beans that have been piling up in my desk.
ever felt like it was an opportunity for bigger things. If bigger things came, great. We all fully support it. But to come back was the real treat and the real goal, and I’ve felt more honored to be a part of this show than anything else I’ve done. This is something that you make a priority, period. Since season 1, it’s been a huge thing for Jim to get out of the office and expand his horizons. How has that continued in this final season?
ED HELMS: We’re going to fight for Creed’s guitar. CREED: We are going to fight over that guitar. Yes, indeed, we are. GREG DANIELS (Creator): It’s worth less than the mung beans. Greg, from the writer/ producer point of view, how did you keep the different storylines going beyond where the British edition of the show left off? GREG DANIELS: The romance stories that we’ve told have been a great way to keep the show going for other characters. And with Steve’s character, we made him more three‑dimensional after season 1 and then put him into more of a tradition of American character comedy, where you are rooting for him as opposed to judging him. Several of the actors in the show have become movie stars. It’s very rare for a show to pull off more than one person becoming a big star, much less for them to stay on the show and make it work. What made you decide to stay and make both parts of your career work? JOHN KRASINSKI (Jim): It’s really simple. I don’t think I 80
“I’VE FELT MORE HONORED TO BE A PART OF THIS SHOW THAN ANYTHING ELSE I’VE DONE.” —JOHN KRASINSKI GREG DANIELS: Well, we had been very respectful of [Jim and Pam’s] marriage and their relationship, and we didn’t want to put pressures on them for a very long time. Part of the appeal of this last episode—last season—was to try and do that, and actually, the specifics of it were John’s idea, in terms of going to Philadelphia and the new company. JOHN KRASINSKI: The thing I’ve respected most about this show is how real the base level is and how real all the characters are—that no matter how wacky or fun or ridiculous some of the situations can end up being, you’ve experienced something very real with all these characters and especially with all the Jim and Pam stuff. I remember [season 2, episode 11] “Booze Cruise.” I remember being on the top of that boat and shooting that scene and having that impulse to look behind me to see if anybody was going to call “Cut!” or anything. It just seemed like this isn’t how it’s done in television or anything having to do with a
camera. This is only in real life that someone would take forever to say “I love you” or be so nervous that no words come out or some of these things that are so real. They were able to delve into that headfirst. It was such an honor to play stuff like that. JENNA FISCHER: In the life of a marriage, the two people don’t stay the same. And for the first time in Jim and Pam’s relationship, something changes in a pretty major way. People get laid off or people get new jobs or somebody has to work out of town or you have a surprise baby. There’s these things that can happen in a marriage— curve balls—and so far, Jim and Pam haven’t really had one. This year, they do. JOHN KRASINSKI: I mean, even the most perfect marriage can have strenuous days, months, situations, where it’s not necessarily as, you know, TV‑esque as cheating on someone. It’s really just about small things that have been niggling at you forever. They start to become bigger things, and then before you know it, you feel like you’ve explained that to someone and they have no idea what was happening. Just a couple years later, you’re like, “I told you all these ambitions I had, right?” And you don’t realize that those ambitions hadn’t been discussed. GREG DANIELS: One of the things we really wanted to explore thematically this season was the difference between the fairy-tale romance and reality because the show was always an extremely realistic show and was purporting to be a documentary, but [Jim and Pam’s] relationship is also so romantic and perfect. It seemed like there was a little
[OFFICE PROJECTS] Michael (Steve Carrell) Anchorman: The Legend Continues Ron Burgandy returns. Everyone, stay classy. ABOVE : l-r: Ed Helms, Phyllis Smith, Kate Flannery, Craig Robinson, Paul Lieberstein, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Steve Carrell, Creed Bratton, John Krasinski, Oscar, Nuñez, Brian Baumgartner, Leslie David Baker, Mindy Kaling, Angela Kinsey
bit of tension there. Can each of you pick your favorite episode of the series? OSCAR NUÑEZ: I liked the “Lice” episode [season 9, episode 10], only because we have a special-effects department, and they had a lot of fun with the CGI. There’s a scene where I believe everyone is shampooing Jake’s hair, and they superimposed my arms on his body. It’s seamless. It worked. If you watch it, you can’t tell. It worked. ED HELMS: I’ll never forget when I first came to this lot to chat with Greg about joining the show. I popped down at the set to watch a little bit of filming. Just the prospect of joining the show was so exciting to me. And I sat in the greenroom, and I watched the scene of Steve smooching Oscar in “Gay Witch Hunt” [season 3, episode 1].
ANGELA KINSEY: I loved the first Christmas episode [season 2, episode 10]. That’s one of my all‑time favorites. When we had Yankee Swap, and there was that weird Angela Martin poster of the babies. It’s so weird. They didn’t let us see the poster until we did the first take, and we all lost it. Steve is so angry with the mitten he got from Phyllis. I love that episode. RAINN WILSON: I like “The Injury” from season 2 [episode 12]. It’s such a classic in my mind. Dwight getting in a car accident and a concussion and throwing up on his car. Him actually developing a friendship with Pam because his personality has changed from the concussion. I love that one. JENNA FISCHER: I was going to say “The Injury,” as well. I really love the episodes where Pam and Dwight become friends. We just did one, actually, where Pam and Dwight team up for a common goal, and while we’re shooting it, I realize this is probably the last one of those stories we will do because you can only have so many, right? Is there anything you want to say to that audience that has been following you all this time? JENNA FISCHER: Thank you.
CARL KOZLOWSKI is a Los Angeles journalist who has been bring-
Andy (Ed Helms) The Hangover III The wolf pack gets one more epic vacation. Pam (Jenna Fischer) You Are Here Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner directs a road trip comedy about two childhood friends. Ryan (B.J. Novack) The Internship Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson bluff their way into a Google internship. Kelly (Mindy Kaling) This is the End Six famous friends try to survive the apocalypse. Dwight (Rainn Wilson) Uncanny A sci-fi thriller about earth’s first robot. No, Wilson doesn’t play the robot.
ing humor to the page and stage for more than a decade.
THE LONG-AWAITED SOPHOMORE ALBUM FROM JON FOREMAN AND SEAN WATKINS PROVES STOPS AND STARTS CAN SOMETIMES BE A GOOD THING. B Y M AT T C O NNE R
you’re among the many who waited (and waited) for new music from Fiction Family to finally release, you’re not alone. Jon Foreman and Sean Watkins, the two men who founded the group, were as eager as anyone for the new album to get out. After the alt-folk group debuted in January 2009, the songs for a follow-up album wrote themselves quickly. In fall 2010, Foreman noted via Twitter that the release was “getting close.” But it was four long years after their debut album that Fiction
Family Reunion finally released on January 29. Both songwriters admit that they were anxious to show fans the music. “The record was done for pretty much two years,” Foreman says. “We just sat on it. This winter is a time when everyone was free. So that’s when we decided, ‘Let’s put it out and make a big deal out of it.’” “It’s just a juggling act,” Watkins says. “You want to have the most time. You want to give a record the best shot. But then you also have to save time for other things that you’re working on. It’s just shifting things around. It’s like the rest of life.”
THE FICTION FAMILY TREE
For the uninitiated, the “things to shift around” are Foreman’s and Watkins’ primary creative
outlets—Foreman is the frontman and principal songwriter for Switchfoot, while Watkins has his own solo career along with a storied history in the platinum-selling, folk-pop trio Nickel Creek. In addition, Fiction Family is hardly the only side project of either player. Foreman has released several solo EPs, helps numerous charitable organizations and has penned many essays for Huffington Post. Watkins and his sister, Sara, play in Watkins Family Hour, and Sean is a founding member of Works Progress Administration, a dynamic collaboration that includes songwriter Glen Phillips among several others. “The biggest hang-up was our schedules, to be honest,” says Foreman. “We were convinced that we wanted to tour this record. Fiction Family, more than anything I’ve ever been a part of, was—is—such a fun experience for me live. It has a lot less pressure on me as a frontman and as a musician in general. I just show up and have a great time.” “When we started talking about when to release this second record,” he continues, “we said, ‘Well, we could just put it out and not
“The great thing about this record is that Aaron and Tyler really played an integral part,” Foreman says. “Aaron is one of my favorite drummers, and Tyler is just a great musician. It feels like a different band than the first record. It feels like a band, where the first record kind of felt like exactly what it was: two guys messing around in their spare time.” While the new additions round out the mix, the band’s material is really built upon the chemistry and friendship that’s formed between Foreman and Watkins. After meeting at a festival in San Diego that featured both Switchfoot and Nickel Creek, the two exchanged emails and talked about meeting up. But the difference between this and other such occurrences between musicians came down to one simple thing: follow-through. “It’s kind of a joke that whenever you hang out with other musicians or guitar players, you think, ‘Oh, we could write a song together someday,’” Foreman says. “And that’s kind of passed around a lot, but nothing ever happens. The funny thing with Sean is, we actually did. We actually followed each other up and started writing songs.” “A lot of times, the chemistry is just not there, even with the people you really think it will be—people that come from similar musical backgrounds,” Watkins says. “But it was [with Foreman]. It was really just fun. That was it ... There was no preconceived goals or anything like that. It was just fun.”
FICTION FAMILY ... HAS A LOT LESS PRESSURE ON ME AS A FRONTMAN AND AS A MUSICIAN IN GENERAL. I JUST SHOW UP AND HAVE A GREAT TIME.
JUST HAVING FUN AND TRYING STUFF
—JON FOREMAN tour it and just kind of let it sit on record players but never live, live. And we decided that plan wasn’t any fun at all and that we wanted to actually hand-deliver it and tour this new record and really support it because we believed in the songs.” The major change between the band’s first release and its second release is the player lineup. Fiction Family has become an official foursome, bolstered by the permanent additions of bassist Tyler Chester (Phil Wickham, Brooke Fraser) and drummer Aaron Redfield (Sia, Cake).
Foreman and Watkins are quick to say that Fiction Family wasn’t born out of any frustration. Both artists maintain a solid footing inside their chosen musical genres, and Foreman holds a central position within a Grammy-winning band established in 1996. Rather, the collaboration brought with it the freedom of a new creation. In short, Fiction Family was a chance to break the mold. “That’s why side projects are good for what they are,” Watkins explains. “They give you an opportunity to do and say something that you wouldn’t normally do. You have a new voice. For Jon, it was much more of a folky thing. For me, I was able to do things, genre-wise, that just didn’t fit into what I was doing with Nickel Creek at the time. That’s not to say I felt trapped or anything, but a new outlet kind of can bring out a new set of creative ideas.” Foreman agrees and is quick to clarify there’s no tension in his current role with Switchfoot. In fact, Switchfoot is knee-deep in preparations for a new soundtrack and documentary about its global journey over the years, slated for release in summer 2013. If anything, Fiction Family is simply an organic movement, birthed out of a mutual friendship and mutual musical discovery. “For me, it’s always been about friendship,” Foreman says. “Switchfoot started out as friends. My relationship with Sean and the rest of the Nickel Creek guys and ladies, we were just friends. We met them, and then I met him again a couple times. We had coffee.” For a kid who got his musical start in a Led Zeppelin
cover band in junior high, Foreman says he’s found an education through Fiction Family because of Watkins’ well-versed background in traditional bluegrass, Americana and folk. “It wasn’t so much a matter of what I couldn’t do with Switchfoot as much as the potential of what could happen with Sean that I had never been a part of before,” Foreman says. “It was just so eyeopening to hear this canon of American folk music ... to see it through [Sean’s] eyes and hear the backstory of all this music that I had never heard but was kind of right under my nose all along. It was out of that friendship that the songs kind of came, just almost as a byproduct, just really naturally.”
MAKING MUSIC THAT STICKS
The positive side of being so busy is that neither Foreman nor Watkins is dependent on Fiction Family to become anything more than what it naturally is: plain fun. With this project, the duo finds no agendas, no external expectations and no logistical hoops. The end result is a batch of songs that make the cut simply because the artists love them. “We never really discuss topics that need to be discussed,” Watkins says. “It seems to just be about the song. ‘Do you like the song or don’t you like the song? Does this song work in this context or doesn’t it?’” Foreman adds, “With this record and the last one—again, because there’s no real pressure, there’s no real expectations that we’re feeling or feeding off of—we could simply just kind of speak off the cuff, and any song that felt like it was a Fiction Family song, we would just kind of throw it on a pile.” When it comes to the new album’s material, fans will find another collection of vulnerable, honest songs that speak to the entirety of life, love and faith. For Foreman, this breadth of subject matter is about going beyond traditional songwriting fare. RELEVANT MAGAZINE
[THE LIST] When members of different bands collide, things get weird. Here’s some of our other favorite super groups. ATOMS FOR PEACE AMOK (Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers) DIVINE FITS A Thing Called Divine Fits (Spoon, Wolf Parade) THEM CROOKED VULTURES Them Crooked Vultures (Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age)
“I get bored with sad songs about girls. Nothing against those songs— I’m sure they need to be written. Heaven knows we’ve all felt sad about girls,” he says with a laugh. “But for me, as a songwriter, I feel like they’re not attractive to me. They’ve been written so well and so often that I’d rather write about other things.” Foreman points to one new track in particular, called “God Badge,” that 84
kicks off the second half of the new album. The song is a straightforward, mid-tempo pop song that includes pointed lines like: Put the God badge down and love someone / Let it free your soul / The world never was and never will be in your control ... There is no “us” or “them” / There’s only folks that you do or don’t understand / Unlock your heart and love someone. “I feel like sometimes there’s these songs that ruffle feathers in a good way,” Foreman says. “When I can sing a song and feel like it’s singing back to me and feel like I might need to change my actions because of it, then that’s probably a true and honest song. ‘God Badge’ definitely feels like it’s hitting that role on the record.” While fans and even the band’s members hoped for a shorter span of time between releases, Watkins believes the new release, titled Fiction Family Reunion, turned out stronger because of the wait. “I think it sticks together more as a whole now than it did,” he says. “When we first started recording, it was like, ‘Here’s this song.’ ‘Okay, yeah, cool. That’s great. Let’s do that. Here’s two songs of mine.’
‘All right, let’s do those.’ Then a month or two later, we’d do something else. The songs were all good, but they were all over the map. Had we put it out then, it would have been a schizo record.” In the time between those first sessions and the album’s final cut, Watkins estimates the pair added 5 or 6 new songs. The album itself only comprises 10 tracks, which means the delay allowed them to pick the strongest and most cohesive mix among the lot. “Once you’ve got a record and you put it out there,” he says, “you always wish that you’d done things differently, like, ‘Oh, I wish we would have recorded this song,’ or, ‘I wish we could have taken this song out and put this song in.’ But it’s out there and you just let it be what it is.” “For us, it was sort of like having a second chance,” he continues. “We sort of had it done, and we were able to step back and look at it and have the ability to take certain songs out and re-record. We re-recorded two songs, and they ended up so much better than the original ones. The opportunity to do that was really great. Now we can put it out and feel pretty good about it. There’s not much I would change at this point.”
MATT CONNER is senior editor at SB Nation and writes about all aspects of pop culture for the Indy Star and other places he says don’t matter.
here’s nothing wrong with pool parties and barbecues, but why not use this summer to branch out and do something new? Something totally EPIC. To help inspire your ambition, we’ve compiled a list of 10 ideas to make the summer of 2013 the best ever.
BY JESSE CAREY
RUN AN ADVENTURE RACE
Who needs a half-marathon when you can run a race that includes wading through mud bogs, avoiding electrified wires and leaping fire hazards? Adventure races like the Tough Mudder, Reebok’s Spartan Run and the Warrior Dash let racers live every eight-year-old’s dream by running through mud-drenched courses littered with American Gladiatorinspired outdoor obstacles. And because most are reasonable distances and designed more for weekend warriors than elite athletes, getting in shape for an adventure race is an achievable goal. And if swimming through sludge and avoiding getting shocked isn’t your thing, the 5K Color Run craze (where runners are doused with colorful powders as they blaze their course) is a more-tame, art-inspired outing, but you still get all the perks of bragging about the race you ran.
CREATE A START-UP
Everyone knows the story of Woz and Jobs starting Apple out of a garage or Mark Zuckerberg launching Facebook from a Harvard dorm room. But it’s not just tech companies that got their start with little more than a shared passion and a few hundred bucks: Multi-billiondollar retailer Whole Foods was founded
by two twentysomething college-dropout health nuts selling produce out of their apartment. It got them evicted but, well, it worked out. And, even recently, if it weren’t for free time and a good idea, do-good companies like TOMS shoes and Warby Parker eyewear, environmentally sustainable businesses like Mast Brothers Chocolate, and a slew of socially conscious fair-trade coffee dealers wouldn’t be around. So this summer, if you’ve got a business idea and enough passion to tap into your innerentrepreneur, you could join some good company. Or, if all else fails, you will have an in on Shark Tank. Which, brings us to our next EPIC summer idea …
LIVE A REALITY SHOW
Instead of spending your entire summer watching Storage Wars marathons, Sasquatch hunting adventures and pawn shop haggling, why not go out and actually live your favorite reality TV show. It’d be very meta. Gather some friends and go check out a roadside antique sale (ala American Pickers). You may not find and restore a Prohibition-era Coke machine your first time out, but you could score some unique office décor with a story behind it. Living in the wilderness with no supplies and eating slugs for nourishment like Bear Grylls is probably a little extreme,
but going on an off-the-radar camping trip can make for a memorable weekend. And remember, you don’t need three sarcastic judges for a karaoke night. Go ballroom dancing or try your hand at an open mic comedy night. This summer is a good time to stop watching “reality” and start living it.
BE AN ACTIVIST
You don’t need to be an Occupy idealist or a full-time missionary to find a cause and start making a difference. Make it your goal this summer to find a way to help others, serve your community or further a cause you believe in. Find a local church to volunteer some time at, give a few hours a week to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, get involved in local politics or even start your own movement. Summer is a perfect time to set aside a Saturday morning or a lazy afternoon and forgo the beach in favor of serving others. Even if you aren’t launching the next big non-profit, there are still plenty of ways to get involved in something you believe in—the website VolunteerMatch.org has an easily searchable database of local charities, needs and volunteer opportunities.
RENT A WATER JET PACK
Want the ultimate one-up story for your “what I did over my summer vacation” roundtable? Then look no further than the Water
Jet Pack. This Rocketeerlike pack straps onto your back and uses a hyper-powered stream of water to f ly you 30-feet over your local waterway. Read that sentence again. And with jetpack rentals starting at about $100 and available on both coasts—as if you needed another excuse to road-trip to Florida or Southern California—you’re virtually out of reasons to not f ly with a jetpack sometime this summer.
the help of Garage Band on a MacBook and a few microphones, anyone can record a debut EP. Bands including Passion Pit (whose lead singer first recorded songs on his laptop as a Valentine’s Day present for his girlfriend), pop-punkers Paramore (who started as cover band that played funk songs) and The Lumineers (whose lineup solidified over Craigslist) all show that even successful acts have the humblest of beginnings. And if you’re not musically inclined, helping your friend’s new band by making T-shirts, booking shows or loading gear is part of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, too—even if it is just for a summer.
START A BAND
Everyone knows that one dude who brings his acoustic guitar to all the parties in an attempt make the ladies swoon. That’s not something we recommend. So instead of being the attentioncraving solo act playing unsolicited Dashboard Confessional covers at causal get-togethers, this summer gather friends and actually start a band. With
HOST A THEMED MOVIE MARATHON
Instead of sitting in a movie theater every other weekend of the summer, do something different and host a moviethemed marathon. Bro out to some Keanu Reaves classics and have all your guests wear the masks of their favorite presidents while watching Point Break, Speed and the Bill & Ted movies back-to-back. Experience the terror of the apocalypse and Gary Busey by watching Tribulation, Left Behind and The Omega Code. Or just
YOU KNOW WHO JESUS IS.
learn to LOVELIKEJESUS LOVE Love Like Jesus, Judah Smith’s newest book, shows Christians how they can reach a world desperately seeking purpose and meaning, and it addresses how to overcome the common challenges shared by everyone who wants to share their faith—including fear of failure, lack of love, and living in an age of compromise and complacency. Love Like Jesus provides relevant and practical tips for those who want to spread their passion for Jesus to their neighbors and the world. Available June 2013 Love Like Jesus, by Judah Smith. Author of NY Times bestseller JESUS IS
go old school and watch the epic, truly terrifying Thief in the Night trilogy.
EAT INSANELY EXOTIC MEALS
One of the primary components of any EPIC undertaking is some element of adventure. And there’s nothing more adventurous than eating a raw cobra heart. This summer, follow the lead of Travel Channel star and writer Anthony Bourdain and venture out into some new cities, experience some local culture and eat their exotic cuisine. And we’re not talking about eating roaches in jungles or anything like that. (Although, if you have the opportunity, we won’t try to dissuade you). You can just get in your car and explore the hidden gems, dives and diners on the other side of town—or down the highway a couple hours. The important thing is to eat adventurously—ordering items that you normally wouldn’t and eating meals that you won’t soon forget.
PLAY TRAMPOLINE DODGEBALL
Here are some reasons why you should play trampoline dodgeball this
summer: First, because there is such a thing as trampoline dodgeball. You literally jump around in cages made entirely of trampolines and throw balls at people. Second, there are now 26 “Sky Zone” parks across the U.S., making a location easily road tripable. Third, you can play on six-person teams—the perfect number of people to cram into a van for a memorable road trip. Fourth, what could possibly be a better excuse for a road trip than dodgeball on trampolines? Which is exactly what it sounds like?
READ A TRILOGY
There is literally nothing more EPIC than an epic trilogy. So this summer, instead of the typical beach-read fare or young adult adventures, go to the classics. Before he became famous for the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis penned
the darker and much weirder Space Trilogy. Filled with superhuman aliens, angelic and demonic forces, space travel, and nefarious pseudo-government “institutes,” the novels are fast-paced sci-fi adventures with deeper messages about good and evil. And speaking of Lewis, if you’re looking for something theologically deeper, check out the book Lewis called the “the best popular apologetic I know” that was responsible for “baptizing” his intellect. The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton is the third apologetics book in an unofficial trilogy that also includes Heretics and Orthodoxy. For books about apologetics, they’re surprisingly witty, entertaining and, despite being 100 years old, timely. If you’re looking for something more modern, check out Cormac McCarthy’s grim Border trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing and Cities of the Plain). The author of novel-to-movie bestsellers No Country for Old Men and The Road explores themes like simplicity, violence and the consequences of sin in western stories drenched in biblical symbolism and morality lessons.
JESSEY CAREY is the contributing editor for RELEVANT magazine and a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT podcast. He’s also just a really funny guy.
800 years ago St. Francis revolutionized Christianity...
Now he’s doing it again. Bestselling author Ian Morgan Cron masterfully weaves together the life of St. Francis and the story of a broken pastor to explore the brilliant message of a saint who breathed new life into disillusioned Christians and a church on the brink of collapse. Chasing Francis is a moving and hopeful book with profound implications for those who yearn for a more vital relationship with God and the world. “Reading this book may cause a total overhaul of the way you think about what it means to be a follower of Christ.” —Mark Batterson, New York Times bestselling author “Chasing Francis invites readers on a pilgrimage—through history, through doubt, through the back roads of Italy, to unlikely holy ground. What begins as the story of someone else’s journey turns out to be your own.” —RACHEL HELD EVANS, author of Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood
Pick up your copy today!
RELE VAN T RECOMMENDS: MUSIC
WATCH The official video for ‘Returning’ relm.ag/13cwqvj
DANIEL BASHTA THE INVISIBLE (PROVIDENT)
CHARLES BRADLEY VICTIM OF LOVE (DAPTONE)
SPECTER AT THE FE AST
> When a man names his children
[VAGR A N T]
Bravery and Phoenix, you know there’s a deep well of poetry. Daniel Bashta, who wrote the the megaworship hit, “Like a Lion,” returns on this sophomore release with a worship set about hope conquering injustice. “The cross will never lose its power ... ” he sings on “Undone” amid cascading banjos and ascendant choirs. “Behold the Lamb” has a John Mark Mcmillan vibe: no cheesy soccer chants, no posing boy-band wannabes, just analog praise anthems to God’s mighty, mollifying sovereignty.
On the title track of his sophomore album, former James Brown impersonator Charles Bradley delivers the goods. There’s a lilting guitar, bell chimes and ‘70sera background vocals, then he unleashes an otherworldly “yeoh” scream. He and his Menahan Street Band vamp and bop through 11 old-school soul numbers, a looser concoction than his stellar debut. On “Strictly Reserved For You,” the bass is so bountiful that it makes you want to hug a stranger. At age 64, Charles Bradley is finally hitting his stride.
BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB > “Time carries us on ... ” sings Peter Hayes on the latest from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. A tribute album of sorts, the band’s seventh LP is filled with remorseful odes and hyperkinetic blues implosions, a la The White Stripes. Robert Been’s father Michael (who had his own alt-rock band The Call from 1980 to 2000) died of a heart attack in 2010 while on tour as the BRMC soundman, and you can hear the sounds of loss haunting every note of every song on Specter at the Feast. There’s a newfound fury here, especially on The Call cover song “Let the Day Begin” and on “Sell It,” a song which blasts using Christian mortification as a marketing tool: “It’s all wrong, wrong intentions ... it’s not love if you get it from a label.” It’s the best this band has been in ages.
A community rooted in the Reformed tradition and committed to Biblical, holistic formation. Grand Rapids, Michigan www.calvinseminary.edu firstname.lastname@example.org 616-957-7035
THE JOY FORMIDABLE WOLF’S LAW (ATLANTIC)
FOALS HOLY FIRE (TRANSGRESSIVE)
NIGHT BEDS COUNTRY SLEEP (DEAD OCEANS)
BOY MUTUAL FRIENDS (NETTWERK)
> The band’s name sets the tone.
> Math-rock pioneers Foals return for a third outing, and this one’s a barn-burner. Holy Fire starts with a flicker then explodes into “Inhaler,” a song about moving on from painful memories. On “Bad Habit,” lead singer Yannis Phillippakis bemoans his failings (“If I could wash the stains away, would you forgive me now”) amid a blistering glockenspiel. “Everytime” takes a few cues from both Steely Dan and Muse, creating a percussively charged fuselage of sound. By the end, you might even forgive the cover’s ridiculously posed horses.
> If you need another reason to
> The dream-pop duo Boy is here
unplug from the Internet, Winston Yellen will give you one. He wrote his debut album, a folkish affair, alone in a house once owned by Johnny Cash. The song “22” is so emboldened by a forlorn cleansing that it features a cricket choir. On “Cherry Blossoms,” which hints of Damien Rice and Wilco, Yellen sounds like strings of hope are holding him together, one chord at a time. Yet the real genius here is in Yellen’s voice—angelic, organic and with a soaring profundity rivaled only by the lyrics themselves.
for an emotional rescue with Mutual Friends, a debut album about the cheering power of community. On “Army,” singer Valseka Steiner states her theory: Through relationships, our world gets brighter. The music, a cheery excursion, takes up a buoyancy that might be mistaken for Feist after a jolt of caffeine. The single, “Little Numbers,” seems to gradually fill with helium until it pops with the souped-up chorus, a whimsical melody about waiting for someone special to call.
And when the Welsh three-piece, led by singer Ritzy Bryan and childhood friend Rhydian Dafydd (on bass), get together, the result is a soundtrack for pushing through adversity. On “Tendons,” a guttural bass sounds off with the gravity of a wolf’s growl, but then the synths swirl into a Metric-y chorus that chases away any trace of nerves. On “Bats,” the band goes Rage Against the Machine meets Paramore. Lines like, “I’ll take the silent treatment off your hands,” make the formidable palatable.
RELE VAN T RECOMMENDS: DV DS
ZERO DARK THIRTY K ATHRYN BIGELOW [COLUMBIA PICTURES, R]
> One word sums up Zero Dark Thirty: ambivalence. Not because the film is a mixed bag of successes and failures. With her eminent style—a cinematic realism of mobile camerawork, excessive dialogue and restrained performances—Kathryn Bigelow constructs an engrossing feat. Its ambivalence is due to its conflicted view of the War on Terror, making the film as pertinent as it is entertaining. While labeled “journalistic,” Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal’s approach spurs more out of complexity than a commitment to objectivity. From its brutal portrayal of torture to its celebratory depiction of bin Laden’s demise, Zero Dark Thirty represents a complicated outlook— personified in its protagonist, Maya, played spectacularly by Jessica Chastain—that so many hold. It’s an outlook unafraid to admit the paradoxical nature of war and violence.
WRECK-IT RALPH RICH MOORE (WALT DISNEY, PG)
PROMISED LAND GUS VAN SANT (FOCUS FEATURES, R)
> This latest animated installment
> A filmmaker with plenty of duds
from Disney feels like a superficial frenzy of nostalgia, with its bright colors, manic action and Nintendonoise score. It moves swiftly and sporadically like, well, a video game. But underneath the chaos lies a meditation on human experience and being an outsider. Through an exploration into the souls of arcade avatars, particularly that of Ralph who sets off on an odyssey after growing tired of being the “bad guy,” the film proves to have heart behind its gimmicks and ploys.
and delights, Gus Van Sant puts together a smart drama in his latest. Promised Land tells the story of two city slickers, Steve (Matt Damon) and Sue (Frances McDormand), who try to convince a small town to let a gas company drill on their land. But as Steve falls for a local (Rosemarie DeWitt) and butts heads with a skeptical scientist (Hal Holbrook) and an environmentalist (John Krasinski), he begins to question his actions. The result is half cautionary tale and half romantic comedy.
WEST OF MEMPHIS AMY BERG (DISARMING FILMS, R)
ANNA KARENINA JOE WRIGHT (UNIVERSAL PICTURES, R)
LIFE OF PI ANG LEE (FOX 2000 PICTURES, PG)
> Amy Berg’s West of Memphis proves an infuriating tale of injustice. The film centers on the case of three teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of murdering three boys in West Memphis, Ark., in 1994. Despite a contempt for the justice system that could have underscored the film, Berg doesn’t dwell on cynicism. She offers a glimmer of hope amid the tragedy by focusing on another narrative: the love between an architect and Damien Echols, the so-called leader of the “West Memphis Three.”
> Joe Wright’s bold adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel is the most underrated film released in 2012. With his distinct visuals—colorful costumes, fluid imagery, vibrant cinematography—Wright not only creates stunning eye-candy out of the classic. He also infuses the story with the same biblically informed morality. Anchored by enthralling performances, Anna Karenina captures the sanctity of marriage through one woman’s bleak decent into adultery and one man’s buoyant new fidelity.
> Sure, Pi’s boat in the middle of the ocean might as well have had a “Coexist” sticker on it, given the film’s pluralistic message, yet Life of Pi still finds a way to be compelling. Give credit to director Ang Lee, who creates a visual spectacle out of a boy’s struggle to survive the Pacific with a tiger named Richard Parker. Newcomer Suraj Sharma gives a masterful performance as Pi, who simultaneously embraces Hinduism, Islam and Catholicism. If nothing else, Life of Pi makes for a good conversation piece.
LES MISÉRABLES TOM HOOPER (UNIVERSAL PICTURES, PG-13) > Despite Russell Crowe’s second-
rate singing, Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables adaptation boasts enough spirit to transcend its problems. The story, rooted in Hugo’s classic, could be pulled straight out of Galatians. It preaches through Jean Valjean’s struggle between law and grace. Riveting performances from the likes of Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne and especially Anne Hathaway, who offers up her arguably greatest turn to date, give the story flesh and life.
RELE VAN T RECOMMENDS: BOOK S
AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED KHALED HOSSEINI [RIVERHEAD]
> Khaled Hosseini’s newest novel begins with these confident words: “So, then. You want a story, and I will tell you one.” This is no empty promise. Hosseini certainly knows how to tell a story. When the Afghan-born American novelist published his debut novel, The Kite Runner, in 2003, it became an international best-seller. His follow-up, A Thousand Splendid Suns, was met with similar popularity and success, spending 75 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. Hosseini’s latest novel, And
the Mountains Echoed, ventures into familiar territory, with family—in this case, sibling relationships—as its central theme. Fans of Hosseini’s prior work will find that this profound multi-generational story about love, betrayal, honor and sacrifice breaks new ground in beloved, familiar territory, and those just discovering him will find this new book to be the perfect place to begin.
ALL THE DEAD YALE MEN CRAIG NOVA (COUNTERPOINT) > “And sometimes I think this sense
of not being loved is the key to it all.” The “I” here is Frank Mackinnon, the narrator of Craig Nova’s newest novel, All the Dead Yale Men. The story centers on the death of Frank’s father, Chip, and how that death draws Frank into his complex family history and secrets dating back three generations. As Frank comes to terms with his past, he finds his daughter’s present and future happiness threatened, forcing him to wrestle with how far a father will go to protect those he loves.
EVERYONE SAYS THAT AT THE END OF THE WORLD OWEN EGERTON (SOFT SKULL PRESS) > Owen Egerton’s newest novel may
offend you. Possibly on the first page. What it will also do is make you laugh and think. Egerton isn’t interested in answering questions so much as asking them, and his are the big questions. While his way of asking these questions may strike some as provocative, it is also entertaining. Everyone Says That at the End of the World is a romp through the coming apocalypse. Hang on and enjoy the ride.
STOLEN GLIMPSES, CAPTIVE SHADOWS GEOFFREY O’BRIEN (COUNTERPOINT) > While the goal of movies is to
entertain, the most entertaining movies also provoke and inspire. The most entertaining film writing does the same, and few do it better than Geoffrey O’Brien. Stolen Glimpses, Captive Shadows offers a collection of O’Brien’s writing on movies from the past decade, reminding us why we love them. Covering contemporary blockbusters and beloved indie films, O’Brien invites us to stand at the intersection of screen life and real life.
EAT WITH JOY RACHEL MARIE STONE (IVP BOOKS)
PROTOTYPE JONATHAN MARTIN (TYNDALE MOMENTUM)
> For too many of us, food serves
> The subtitle to Jonathan Martin’s
as a source of guilt and anxiety. As a nation, we struggle with eating disorders and obesity. Recent films and books have heightened our awareness of how food is processed, but this awareness can lead to greater anxiety about how we eat. In her new book, Eat With Joy, Rachel Marie Stone reminds us that God intends us to delight in food, and she invites us to do so again. Offering up both wisdom and recipes, Stone welcomes us to the table and shows us a way to eat with joy.
new book, Prototype, asks the question: “What happens when you discover you’re more like Jesus than you think?” To some, this notion might seem presumptuous and even blasphemous. But Martin suggests that Christ came not simply to save us but to show us what it means to be human and to remind us that “human” is what each of us was created to be. As we discover how Jesus’ knowledge of who He was in God shaped His identity, we find that same knowledge can shape us.
BREAKING OLD RHYTHMS AMENA BROWN (IVP BOOKS) > Rhythm can be a blessing and a
curse. When the rhythm becomes a rut, our lives often become stagnant, and we feel far from God. Spoken-word artist Amena Brown’s book, Breaking Old Rhythms, reminds us that God calls us beyond the patterns and habits we’ve established and into a new way of living and breathing and being. By walking in the way of Christ, we learn the deeper rhythms of faith, hope and love and discover the abundant life Christ always promised us.
CON T EN T S
Phoenix 60 France’s princes of indie pop rock tell us their connection to Thriller , how they handle fame and family—and yes, what they think of religion. [F E AT UR E S]
The State of Music in 2013 72
Our panel of experts break down the albums, bands and trends that are making this year an incredible time to be listening to music.
[DIGI TA L E X T R A S]
Separation of Church and Hate
Is it possible to stand by your convictions without being a bigot?
This Is Your Brain on Religion 50
Out of ‘Office’
Could your mind be hardwired for belief? Neurotheology, a new scientific field, suggests so.
We chat with the employees of Dunder Mifflin about the nine seasons they spent changing TV.
Pushing City Limits 56
Fiction Family 82
Gentrification is a dirty word—but a rising generation of Christians is changing that.
It’s been a long road to Fiction Family’s second album, but who says family reunions are easy?
OUR INTERACTIVE SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL GUIDE
10 Epic Things To Do This Summer R ACHEL HELD EVANS MILO GREENE THE FUTURE OF AID
What to do when you want to start your life together but feel called in different directions.
It’s the first summer of the rest of your life. CELEBRATING
YEARS ( 2 0 0 3 - 2 0 1 3 )
THE LONE BELLOW MARK BURNETT & ROMA DOWNEY
• Christian Rock Was Used to
• Martin Smith
• Attack of the Drones
• Inside North Korea’s Prison
Interrogate Terrorists • A Guide to 3-D Printers
• Beautiful Eulogy
• History’s Worst Superhero
• 2013: The Justin Timberlake
Camps • Dan Haseltine on Activism Through Art
[E X P ER IENC E T HE F E S T IVA L S B EF OR E Y OU GO]
RELEVANT TV’S TOP 20 MUSIC VIDEOS [WAT C H T HE B E S T V IDEO S OF T HE MON T H]
TAKE ON THE BIBLE
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EXPERIENCE THE ‘STATE OF MUSIC’ IN A WHOLE NEW WAY [L IS T EN T O T HE CON V ER S AT ION, WAT C H MUSIC V IDEO S A ND HE A R T HE A R T IS T S]
One Couple. Two Callings. Now What?
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The release of their fifth album may have solidified Phoenix's place as global rock superstars, but in our cover story they talk about how t...