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OUR SUMMER MOVIE PICKS IS ROB BELL A

UNIVERSALIST? SOME STRAIGHT ANSWERS ON HIS VIEWS OF HELL

11 THINGS TO KNOW AT 25(ISH)

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HOW TO MAKE YOUR QUARTER-LIFE CRISIS REALLY COUNT

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ISSUE 51 / MAY_JUNE 2011 / $4.95

9

STEP OUT FROM

BEHIND THE MYSTERY


IS IT


TO O L AT E ? Charles Kimball addresses the urgent global problem of the interplay between Abrahamic religions and politics to answer the question, “Is it too late to change course?�


GOD. LIFE. PROGRESSIVE CULTURE. RELEVANT magazine May/June 2011, Issue 51 Like everything else, better with bacon. PUBLISHER & CEO Cameron Strang > cameron@relevantmediagroup.com

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Check out the book trailer!

800-323-3890

www.crossway.org


CONTENTS ISSUE 51 MAY_JUNE 2011 / RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

10 First Word 12 Letters 16 Slices 30 The Drop Kye Kye, James Vincent McMorrow, Bowerbirds

36 REJECT APATHY: LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) 38 IN THEIR WORDS: Tyler Merrick // Project 7 40 DEEPER WALK: What Does “Kingdom” Mean, Anyway?

42 WORLDVIEW: The Requirement of Riches 44 Around the World in 334 Days Poverty, prostitution and prison on The World Race

48 Eisley The band’s faith and family—and how they’ve survived personal and professional tragedy

50 What to Know at 25-ish Avoid a quarter-life crisis

54 The Kills The coolest band in indie rock comes clean about fights, lyrics and why they’re almost twins

60 Is Rob Bell a Heretic? We report, you decide

64 What’s the Point of Worship? 72 2011 Summer Movie Guide 75 Yes, We Need Movie Critics 78 Recommends

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L UP E

FIASCO


IN THEATERS MAY 2011

GET ADVANCE TICKETS AT:


WHAT TO DO WHEN WE DON’T AGREE BY CAMERON STRANG

T

10 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 11

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

his past February, Rob Bell’s publisher released a short video “trailer” for his upcoming book, Love Wins. It was intended to stir conversation about the book and played up controversial questions Bell wrestled with in its pages. Almost immediately, prominent Christian leaders took to the web, condemning the book and Bell himself. After John Piper famously tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell” with a link to the video on Feb. 26, it set off a firestorm in Christian circles. Needless to say, an influential Christian leader publicly condemning another—implying he was no longer part of the faith—drew significant battle lines.

Most of the public criticism joined condemn him? People had to pick a Piper in deeming Bell’s teaching as side, right? Instead, we chose not to heretical and labeling his views as uni- comment before reading the book and versalism. And maybe they are. But talking to Bell directly about some of what struck me was that all of the criti- our questions. That conversation is cism was lobbed before anyone actu- what you’ll find on page 60. ally read the book. We wanted to go to the source, be This isn’t a criticism of Piper, who responsible and handle it properly. In has written for this magazine and is March, we published a (in my opinhardly alone in his concerns about ion) very fair review of the book on Bell’s teachings. But shouldn’t all our website and ran part of the conChristians try to handle disagree- versation with Bell on our podcast. ments differently than how this public But having him in the magazine will, fiasco unfolded? to some people, look like an unequivoWhen non-believers see Christians cal endorsement of Bell’s teachings. It attacking each other the way they have isn’t. It’s simply a continuation of our been around this book, it gives ammu- commitment to sit down with people nition to the argument that the actions who are creating cultural impact, of Christians actually keep people whether we endorse their viewpoints away from Christ rather than drawing or not. Those conversations bring them to Him. Why would non-believ- deeper understanding and insight to ers want to be like us when all they the world we live in. see is our hate and judgment? Jesus The band members of our cover once said that His disciples would be subject this issue, The Kills, are atheknown by their love for one another ists. Does having them in a Christian (John 13:35). Unfortunately, that’s magazine mean we endorse their rarely true anymore. spiritual beliefs? No. But The Kills are This also is not a defense of Rob making great music and shaping culBell. I’ve read his book, and personally, ture, and we find it fascinating to have I don’t agree with every idea in it. But it a thoughtful conversation with them did challenge me. It caused me to look that gets below the surface. There’s at beliefs I’ve long had in a new light. so much to be learned from their It made me reexamine Scripture about approach to art, the purpose of their things I honestly hadn’t explored music and their story. deeply enough. We also have a Muslim in the issue In the end, the book helped (gasp!). When we interviewed rapper strengthen my faith. It reaffirmed Lupe Fiasco, we found him thoughtthings I already believed, and by ful, engaging and more than a little examining some new perspectives I intense. There’s a reason this guy is hadn’t yet considered, it brought me speaking at Princeton and is part of a to a more robust understanding and significant new direction in hip-hop. belief in Christ—even if I didn’t always He’s sparking change and going against end up in agreement with the book. the grain in unexpected ways (he’s an And I think that was Bell’s point. outspoken critic of President Obama, He seems to like ruffling feathers, for example), and again, we need to poking holes in religious balloons and have that conversation. We don’t have looking at things from new perspec- to agree with everything someone tives. That’s why I didn’t says to learn from them. take the video trailer his God has given us all marketing team made at discernment. face value. It was intentionDon’t be afraid to be ally created to cause a stir, challenged. God can use because ultimately more a wide variety of people books will sell if people are and ideas to draw us CAMERON STRANG is the talking. closer to Him. founder and CEO As the controversy was And in the future, let’s of RELEVANT. unfolding, we were contry to not let a hate-filled Connect with him on Twitter tinuously asked for the national controversy @cameronstrang “RELEVANT response.” erupt because of a maror Facebook.com/ cameronstrang. Would we support Bell or keting video.

[FIRST WORD]

FIRST WORD


[LETTERS]

FEEDBACK Comments, Concerns, Smart Remarks [W RI T E U S] F EEDB A C K@REL E VA N T M A G A Z INE .C OM OR FA C EB OOK .C OM / REL E VA N T

MARCH/APRIL 2011

50 IDEAS THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING You all did a great job on the “50 Ideas” cover story, but had a huge oversight: the ShamWow. I mean, hello—it has completely revolutionized the way we soak up messes! But seriously, the 50 ideas article was excellent (and pretty) and made me think about a lot of things we take for granted now. —JODIE LYONS / Danville, CA

“An Open Letter to This Generation” by Dr. Ron Sider (March/April 11) was beautifully stated. It has challenged me. I’ve been finding my generation is so interested in progressing as Christians, we’re trying to distance ourselves from our parents’ worldviews. Sadly this seems to include evangelism. As Christians we’re clearly called to do both, rather than pick and choose. —TY DUNHAM / Seattle, WA

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—DAWN WATSON / Cleveland, OH

—MOSES GREENE / St. Simons, GA

Congratulations on 50 issues! I received a subscription as a gift six years ago and have enjoyed every issue since. RELEVANT is such a great magazine for us twenty- and thirtysomethings who grew up in the Church [to] seek new ideas to challenge our faith without rejecting our spiritual foundation. All the fabulous music you have introduced me to is an added bonus.

Well, now we can’t do Amy. You’re expecting it.

We have lost sight of what the Church truly is (“The Vanishing Church Body,” March/April 11) and we must get that back to begin reaching the world through the Church. The Church is made of every believer in the universe, so to connect it with having to attend —AMY WORKMAN / New York, NY a building is short-sighted and subjective. Come on, friends, let’s Six years ... that was a really long be honest and start living honest gift subscription. with each other here. —RICHARD MATHEWSON / Katy, TX But what if some people want to live honest with each other in a building each Sunday?

jamjenbonds: Should really put @RELEVANTmag down and go to bed, but just can’t do it yet! Great article to our generation from Ron Sider. #NeedToReadIt eyesandwings: I really hope I don’t see Charlie Sheen on the front cover of @RELEVANTmag in April talking about his Christian walk. leahkirts: Browsing through @RELEVANTmag. #DavidSedaris, #TheDecemberists & all the info I need to make fun of #HipstersLikeMe. Ironically, of course. ktosment: When I get my @RELEVANTmag I just like to stare at the cover for a while because the graphic design is always amazing. jszam: Can’t wait to dig into my new issue of @RELEVANTmag! Happy 50th issue! You top MY list of 50 ideas that changed everything. sarahscottw: Just got my first issue of @RELEVANTmag! Looks like I’ll be procrastinating a little longer! You can follow our daily nonsense at Twitter.com/ RELEVANTmag.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

While I appreciate Dr. Sider’s respect for this generation and the passion it has for social justice, I have to disagree with his view that we are dismissing a sense of “evangelism.” I for one loathe the word. I feel dirty whenever I have a direct conversation about God and salvation. Instead I encourage discussion about God on a completely honest level. I will never quote Scripture at people to prove a point or try to prove that what I believe is right. I think on this issue, evangelism needs to take a backseat to doing what’s right for the world and for the people in this world. If we try to sell God with the good works we do through Him, I feel like we are putting conditions on those

works. “I’ll only feed you or give What a surprise to see David you a blanket if you listen to my Sedaris in RELEVANT—that is spiel about Jesus,” or something one funny man (“The Curious, like that. Hilarious Neuroses of Author —ANDREW THURBER / Encino, CA David Sedaris,” March/April 11). I didn’t realize that Sedaris hadn’t Every spring I eagerly await really reached writing success RELEVANT’s New Music Guide, until his mid-30s ... maybe there’s and this year you didn’t disap- hope for the rest of us thirtysomepoint! Downloading your mix- thing aspiring writers! I’ve read tape for my drive to Nashville for your magazine for a long time and spring break was the best decision it’s always fun to be surprised by I’ve made all semester. the unexpected. Amy Sedaris next?

NICE TO TWEET YOU


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[SLICES]

SLICES

A BIMONTHLY LOOK AT LIFE, FAITH & CULTURE

photo: Tim Freccia

DOES HAVING FAITH MAKE

YOUNG ADULTS FAT? Choke this down: New research directly ties faith involvement to obesity

A

16 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 11

FAITH, FAT & THE GOVERNMENT A new Pew Research Center survey shows evangelicals are the least likely religious group to support government efforts to combat childhood obesity (which is supported by 57% of Americans):

• 56 percent

of white evangelicals said the government should not “play a significant role in reducing childhood obesity”

• 61 percent

of Catholics support the government’s role in fighting childhood obesity

• 75 percent

of black Protestants support government involvement

• 51 percent

of white mainline Protestants support the Obama initiative

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

RECENT STUDY from Northwestern Purdue University study in the late ’90s (which University’s Feinberg School of was sent to press under the awesome title “Firm Medicine suggests there may be a link Believers More Likely to Be Flabby”) found between how active people are in their Baptists were the most overweight of any group. church and how much they weigh. The The lead researcher speculated that “overweight study suggests that “young adults who frequently people may find comfort in religious settings. attend religious activities are 50 percent more Temples, synagogues and churches may provide likely to become obese by middle age as young an important source of acceptance in the midst of adults with no religious involvement.” a society that highly values fit bodies.” Which begs the question: Why? Matthew So what can people serious about their faith do Feinstein, who led research for the study, to buck this trend? Well, for starters, stop says, “It’s possible getting together once eating so much. Just because someone a week and associating good works and in your small group brought a couple happiness with eating unhealthy foods dozen donuts doesn’t mean you have to could lead to the development of habindulge. its associated with greater body weight And yes, there is some good news in and obesity.” Which puts all of those old SURVEY SAYS: all of this: Studies show people who are Check out the youth group snacks in a much more omivery religious also tend to live longer and press release nous light. Chubby bunny, anyone? are happier. Though an increased risk of about the survey, It’s not the first time researchers have heart disease seems like it could negate which has 93% found a link between faith and fat. A the happy ... more nougat.


[SLICES]

REJECT APATHY

[ THE NUMBERS ]

MANY ARE UNABLE TO AFFORD HOUSING While the real estate market in the U.S. tries to recover, many around the world are simply trying to put a roof over their heads. According to a recent Gallup survey, many worldwide could not afford basic housing last year. Here’s a median rundown of those who were unable to do so.*

31%

Sub-Saharan Africa

31%

Former Soviet countries

21%

Latin America & the Caribbean

19%

Worldwide

17%

Asia

14%

Middle East & North Africa

11%

United States

8%

Europe

5%

Canada

*Data collected in 128 countries 2009-2010

THERE’S NO PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

“HUNDREDS OF SAUDIS have rallied in 32 years. Gadhafi responded with military the eastern city of Qatif to blast the regime force—after which many Libyan officials for its military intervention in #Bahrain. resigned, condemning his attacks. In March, #SaudiArabia.” Tweets like these have the U.N. Security Council voted to permit become the norm in the Middle East, as “all means necessary” to establish a no-fly social networking sites have evolved into the zone and impose a cease-fire. Gadhafi cononline headquarters for rebellion. Since the tinued his attacks, causing the U.S. and other initial uprising in January in Egypt, there has allies to enforce the no-fly zone. Meanwhile, been a string of similar incidents in Tunisia, fighting broke out in Bahrain between the Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. Protestors minority ruling Sunnis and the majority in Egypt began their fight on Jan. 25 against Shiites, with the latter citing discriminaPresident Hosni Mubarak, who tion. And in Syria, under pressure was in power for almost 30 years. from protestors, President Bashar After violent clashes, mostly al-Assad pledged to lift the state based in Tahrir Square in Cairo of emergency that had been in and resulting in more than 300 place since 1963, and which gave deaths, Mubarak resigned on Feb. security forces the power to arrest 11. Soon after, a referendum was REVOLUTION IN people without a warrant or trial. EGYPT: held for constitutional changes to Through updates on Twitter and This PBS ensure competitive elections. Days Facebook, the world continues to documentary later, Libyans began protesting explores Egypt’s watch as those in the Middle East Moammar Gadhafi, their leader for protests in depth. fight for better lives.

IS JAPAN BLAMING SIN FOR ITS CRISIS?

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disaster victims. However, atheist groups are working in opposition to their efforts. The American Atheists organization recommends its Richard Dawkins’ NonBelievers Giving Aid Disaster Relief Fund, which distributes money to non-religious groups like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

GIVE: donate.worldvision.org donate.salvationarmyusa.org

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

After a devastating earthquake and resultant tsunami hit Japan in mid-March, some leaders said it was a sign from God (no, this time it wasn’t Pat Robertson). Shintaro Ishihara—the governor of Tokyo and a devotee of the Shinto religion—raised eyebrows in a press conference when he questioned the disaster and blamed his people for it. “The character of the Japanese people is selfish,” he said. “The Japanese people must take advantage of this tsunami to wash away their selfish greed. I really do think this is divine punishment.” Regardless, faith-based nonprofit organizations such as World Vision and the Salvation Army are aiding the


[SLICES]

CULTURE

THE CLIPSE’S [Q&A]

Malice (left) and Pusha T

GENE “MALICE” THORNTON FINDS GOD BY JASON BELLINI

HIP-HOP DUO The Clipse has long been known for telling some of the toughest, grittiest tales in rap. Most of their songs are about selling cocaine, threatening and, um, “harming” people who hamper their ability to sell cocaine and spend money. So it’s not just a little surprising to hear that Malice, the older brother half of the group, has revealed a newfound faith in Jesus. We recently spoke with him to hear his perspective on his faith, regrets, the “rappers-find-Jesus” phenomenon and where he’ll go from here.

Q:

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR FAITH?

DO YOU REGRET YOUR PAST RAPS OR ACTIONS?

A:

Malice: I would describe my faith as a believer and lover of Jesus Christ. I can’t dress it up any other kind of way. I believe in Jesus and I believe He died for me, and if I was the only one on this Earth that He would have done it just for me. So, that’s where I stand.

Malice: Well, I believe God’s plan is perfect. And even when we do things that make no sense, when you do all wrong or whatever, if you believe, [there] will definitely be some good to come out of it because He’s going to have His way. So, as far as regretting things, I try not to harbor any guilt or condemnation, but I would love to think that if I could do it all over again, I would definitely not go the route I went. And even if it’s not so much for myself, because honestly I’ve been blessed, but I’ve seen people fall all around me. I’ve seen friends and people that I knew die and go to jail. It very well could have been me.

WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO THINK, “OH, THIS IS JUST ANOTHER RAPPER WHO’S TRYING TO REVIVE HIS CAREER BY CLAIMING TO BE CHRISTIAN”?

Malice: I don’t feel I have to prove anything to anyone. And whatever people think, that’s their right. You know how the world is—it’s just going to keep on thinking and it’s going to keep on criticizing and it’s going to chew you up and find the flaw in it. And that’s cool. I think I’m even guilty of it. I’m not trying to play that game with anybody. And maybe, it could be 10-20 years later and some people still won’t be convinced, so that’s really not my focus. But I will say I am a believer in Jesus, and I know without Him, I am absolutely nothing and not worth anything. I make no bones about it, and I’m not trying to play a role. I’m taking it day by day and doing the best I can.

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Malice: I still plan on making music. Of course it’s going to be different. But it’s still going to be real and true to me. And The Clipse still plan on making music. I heard somebody say, “He quit rapping” or, “He’s doing gospel music now” or whatever. And the thing about that is, I don’t think I would. I respect any vehicle that worships the Lord. I don’t think my platform would be gospel music. But I enjoy it. I listen to it. But I’m a rapper who is Christian. I don’t know if that means the same as “Christian rap” or whatever. I think I would do a disservice switching my platform. I think I’m going to reach those who identify with me and know where I come from and can relate to me. I’m not going to try and play somebody else’s position. I think everybody plays their part and, especially when it comes to glorifying God, whatever arena you’re in and whatever you excel at and whatever He’s blessed you with, you know, you’ve gotta use those tools. And that’s just what I plan to do.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

WATCH: Malice talks about his faith, music and his changed life.

WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE?


[SLICES]

LIFE

[ T H E U G LY T RU T H ]

EVERYTHING

HAS A PRICE

W

6

hat is the cost of producing CO2? How much does it cost for an illegal immigrant to cross through a desert border? How much is happiness worth? These are just a few of the questions explored in a fascinating new book, Eduardo Porter’s The Price of Everything. It turns out, everything really does have a price—and that price affects our values, even if we don’t realize it.

1

WHAT A DRAG Cigarettes doubled in price since 1990. But since 1981, the price of heroin fell 41% and the price of cocaine fell 27%. Between 1988 and 2009, the share of 12th graders who admitted having done drugs in the last month increased from 16% to 23%. The share of teens who had smoked a cigarette fell from 28% to 20%.

BY THE GALLON Printer ink costs $4,731 per gallon. Which clearly means we should be charging more for this magazine.

3

BUYING VOTES

Barack Obama spent $730 million to win the presidency, or approximately $10.50 for each voter who supported him in the election. McCain spent only $5.60 for each of his.

4 THE COLLEGE EDGE A man who graduated from college earns, on average, 84% more than a man who only has a high school degree.

2

THE POWER OF PRAYER

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ITALIAN INFLATION

Stamping the words “product of Italy” on the label can raise the price of a bottle of wine by more than 50%.

THEN WHY ARE MACS STILL SO EXPENSIVE? The price of computers fell 99% between 1980 and 2009, after accounting for inflation.

MORE PRICES: A regularly updated blog by author Eduardo Porter that tracks various prices.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

The happiness boost from praying one more time a week is equivalent to making roughly an extra $12,500 a year. Not to mention the heavenly riches you'll be storing.

5

7


D o our purchases give us meaning? i s o ur only iDentity the one w e steal from holly wooD ? ca n we finD true relationship through o n l ine experiences?

Veneer l i v i n g d e e p ly i n a s u r fac e s o c i e t y by timothy willard and Jason locy

Bold, intelligent and convicting. even as culture rewards our masks, Veneer urges us to rip them off. the life we ought to live is identified on these pages. only read if you are ready to shed your facade. —G a b e L yo n s founder of Q and author of the next christians when i put down this book, i felt seen, heard, and not crazy. Veneer asked me to look at the truth about myself—consumerism, celebrity-gawking, the temptation to give people a curated-and-manufactured facebook profile version of myself. and then it reminded me of a better way: deep relationships, intimacy, face-to-face connections, honesty even when it’s ugly. it reminded me how i want to live. —s h au na n i e q u i s t author of Bittersweet

willard and locy have peeled back the veneer, they take us on a journey into knowing god. a must read for parents and leaders—i’ll be putting copies of this in the hands of my students. —s c o t M c K n i G h t author of one.life: Jesus calls, we follow

a va i l a b l e w h e r e v e r b o o k s a r e s o l d w w w. e n d v e n e e r . c o m


THE COOLEST TECH OF 2011

[SLICES]

TECH

(SO FAR)

With all due respect to the iPad 2, the coolest gadget of 2011 so far is the Nintendo 3DS. An update of the Big N’s über-popular DS handheld, the most notable part of the device is the fact it can display full 3D, without the need for glasses. It also has an analog joy stick and several cameras that will make augmented reality games, well, a reality. The only thing missing is a killer game, but that will come when The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (aka, “the best game ever”) is released with a 3D makeover.

THE CASE FOR CUTTING THE CABLE

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24 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 11

By now, you’ve held the iPad 2 in your grubby little paws. And it’s great. It’s faster, has a front-facing camera and can come in pretty white. But Apple could have made it so much more. Here’s what we feel they should have included:

AN AIR FRESHENER Think about it: You’re sitting on the bus, minding your own business, and all of a sudden there’s a funky smell (if you’re unfamiliar with this, trust us: any city bus/train rider knows that smell). Press the “AF” button on your iPad, and presto! Instant “Fresh Pine” scent.

POP-OUT WHEELS This would work perfectly with the “Fetch Me a Drink” app. The iPad pops out its wheels, zooms to the kitchen, forces the fridge open and delivers an icy cold beverage. Bonus uses: running to get help and bomb deactivation.

HANDWARMER It is cold outside half the year, after all. Of course, if our 2007 MacBooks were any indication, Apple might have covertly tried adding handwarmers to its products over the years. Unfortunately, critics labeled the feature “overheating batteries,” “extremely dangerous” and “cause for a recall,” so we doubt the iPad 2 will get it.

A DETACHABLE HARMONICA The Garage Band app is nice and all, but that won’t do you any good if a Blues Traveler jam session spontaneously breaks out.

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et’s face it: cable and sat- and then you can stream everything ellite TV have gotten too available in Netflix streaming. expensive. They keep You could also invest in a setgoing up in price, and top box, like a Roku (about $80) or even though you get fan- an Apple TV (about $100). These cier things with each upgrade (like devices will both let you get Netflix, DVR and HD), it’s ridiculous to pay and Roku has the ability to get Hulu $100 each month just to watch TV. Plus, which is Hulu with every seaBut you also have shows you like. son of every show they have. You And maybe even some shows that can also access Hulu Plus (which is are good for you to watch (no, not also $8 per month) on PlayStation 3. Jersey Shore). If you don’t want to subscribe, Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier or want an unavailable movie/TV than ever to cut the cable without show, you can go a la carte. Pretty having to give up some of your much all of the above options have favorites. All you need their own “stores” (except is an Internet connecthe Wii). And if none tion and a device that of these options sound can hook up to your TV appealing, you can hook (which you probably your computer directly already own). If you have to your TV, which will APPLE TV VS. a Wii, PlayStation 3 or an give you every option you ROKU: Xbox 360, you can downcan think of since almost CNET compares load the Netflix app. You’ll every major network now the popular settop boxes. need a basic Netflix substreams its shows online scription ($8 per month) in high definition.

WHAT THE IPAD 2 SHOULD HAVE HAD


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FAITH

5 BOOKS

THAT ARE RETREAT-READY Looking to get the most spiritual bang for your retreat? Here are a few books to pack when you take your break:

Abba’s Child

By Brennan Manning (NavPress) In Brennan Manning’s powerful little book, he ably and poignantly demonstrates that God is passionately in love with us—and wants us to love Him, too. The book is easy to read, which belies its depth and beauty.

The Sacred Romance By Brent Curtis and John Eldredge (Thomas Nelson)

WHY YOU REALLY NEED TO TAKE A

PERSONAL RETREAT

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God. If you’re planning on staying one night or more, monasteries will often let you stay for a very reasonable price, and obviously camping gear will work for most parks. Be intentional about your time. Take your Bible, bring along a few books if you want, spend time writing in a journal, praying, practicing intentional silence and meditating on Scripture. Try to strip away distractions and focus. It’s OK to get sidetracked or even a FIND A CENTER: Check out this list little bored on occasion of Benedictine —the point is being in retreat centers in the tension of the space. the United States. You can also Trust us, God will be check out: http:// faithful in meeting you www.retreatfinder. where you are. What com/directory/ Faith/Christian. matters is you took the aspx. first step to get there.

Pilgrimage of a Soul By Phileena Heuertz (IVP Books)

Discover why contemplation is essential, especially among people who seem to be constantly on the go. Phileena Heuertz found deep meaning in seeking intentional time with God and evocatively writes how you can, too.

The Way of the Heart By Henri Nouwen (HarperOne)

Barely more than 100 pages, this book by Henri Nouwen explores the essential practices of solitude, silence and prayer. If you don’t know what you’re doing during your retreat, this will help.

Divine Intervention

By Tony Jones (NavPress) This book by Tony Jones is dedicated to instructing you in the method of lectio divina, which means reading Scripture in a deeper and more meditative manner. It’s a great tool to approaching the Bible with intentionality.

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O MATTER WHO YOU ARE, there is a good chance you could use some time away. Some time to yourself. Some time to connect with God, do some thinking about your life and your relationship with Him, and to spend some really intentional time in prayer and Scripture. And now that summer is here, it’s easier to do so than it has been all year. First, you’ll want to decide how long you want to be away from everything. Do you need just a few hours alone or do you want a couple of days to yourself? Take a weekend—everyone has them. Then, look into options for where you can have your retreat. Do you need to be near home, or can you venture further away? Places to consider: state and national parks, local parks, monasteries, a campsite, the beach/lakefront or, really, anywhere that’s quiet and will let you commune with

Yes, it’s a little cheesy at times. But this book by Brent Curtis and pre-Wild at Heart John Eldredge is also a great primer at learning to identify the places you’ve been wounded in your life and then giving those wounds to God.


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FLAVOR OF THE BI-MONTH

LIFE

What to do & where to go in May and June [ HEAR YOUR FAVORITE BANDS ]

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PHOTO: KEVIN MCCOY

BONNAROO

Regardless of what kind of music you like, you’ll find something you enjoy at Bonnaroo. Seriously— the headliners are Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, Eminem and Widespread Panic. Held on a farm in Tennessee, the fest also has a comedy and cinema tent. The only annoying thing will be all of the neohippies Hacky-Sacking to String Cheese Incident. June 9-12. More info at Bonnaroo.com.

[ HAVE SUMMERTIME FUN ]

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This summer, you can get your superhero on like never before. There are movies about Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America and the X-Men—and it looks like most take pointers from the best of the genre over the last few years. Everything kicks off with the release of Thor on May 6. Odin’s raven!

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SASQUATCH

Is the Pacific Northwest a little more your thing? Do you dream of hanging out with Death Cabloving hipsters while you watch the Washington sun set? Then Sasquatch is the festival for you. This year, you can chill in the mountains while watching Wilco, which might just be nirvana. Memorial Day weekend. More info: SasquatchFestival.com

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DON’T FORGET YOUR PARENTS

Mother’s Day is May 8. Father’s Day is June 19. Be thoughtful. You’re welcome.

CHURCHHATS.BIZ

We don’t know why this site exists, but we can’t look away.

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and semi-pro leagues— they’re much cheaper than Major League games and still really fun. If you don’t have any options like that, join a summer baseball or softball league. You’ll be surprised how kid-like you feel when you get out on the field.

SUPERHERO MOVIES

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DONALD MILLER’S STORYLINE CONFERENCE

BASEBALL GAMES

America’s pastime is one of the best ways to pass a summer evening, and chances are you have opportunities to see baseball no matter where you live. Even if the city you live in doesn’t have a pro team, check out minor

If you read author Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, you’re familiar with his idea that a good life is about telling a good story. Held June 6-7 in Portland, this conference is geared toward examining your life through the lens of narrative.

ON FIRE: SPIKE JONZE AND ARCADE FIRE TEAM UP AGAIN More Info Emerges About Their Nostalgia-Soaked Short Film

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happen with Where the Wild Things Are (if you haven’t seen it, go rent it immediately), so it makes sense they’re teaming up again to release a short film called Scenes from the Suburbs. The 30-minute

film is about a group of teenagers living in some kind of suburban stereotype torn apart by a war. It also sort of looks like it’s set in the ’70s. Expect to fully miss your childhood naivete by the end.

WATCH THE TRAILER

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Both Arcade Fire and director Spike Jonze are masters of capturing the emotion of the gauzy, happy, angsty and longing-filled days of preadulthood. They teamed up once already to make magic


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were not providing the fulfillment he desired, so for a walk on the beach late one night and came he started exploring his Christian faith looking for across a sand castle. answers. What soon developed was a vibrant—and “God spoke to my heart,” Yagolnikov says. “He sometimes dramatic—relationship with Christ. said: ‘This is what the foundation was before, as “One night I was getting into Scripture,” he far as music and everything else in your life. It was says, “and trying to understand what built out of sand, and it was easily fallmy faith is all about and what it really ing apart. … The foundation is finally means to be a Christian. There was an the right foundation. Start writing extremely loud noise that I couldn’t what you’re experiencing.’” explain. It sounded like a wind that The resultant Young Love, Kye Kye’s went through my bedroom. I felt like sophomore album, plays testimony I was standing next to Niagara Falls. to Yagolnikov’s spiritual transformaThat was the description I rememtion—an experience shared by the rest WEBSITE: bered when the Holy Spirit came down of the all-family-member band. The kyekyemusic.com at Pentecost—the wind when it came album’s electronic elements, soundFOR FANS OF: Paper Route, Postal down and what it sounded like. I felt scape-painting guitars and angelic, Service, Eisley like that was a turning point in my life.” affected vocals carry heartfelt words. LISTEN: Yagolnikov’s primary focus turned “The number-one thing you want to his developing relationship with to do when you’ve found the meaning God, and he questioned whether he of life,” Yagolnikov says, “is just proshould continue as an artist. While claim it from the rooftops.” —CHRIS vacationing some time later, he went CALLOWAY

DANIEL USENKO

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Many people who grow up in a Christian family eventually arrive at a crossroads and ask the foundational question, “What does my faith really mean to me, in my life?” Estonia-born Timothy Yagolnikov, of moody electrorock band Kye Kye, knows those questions well. His parents, both well-known musicians in Russian churches, provided a supportive background, but his personal faith demanded a personal quest. Two years ago, Yagolnikov realized his musical pursuits

T O S T RE A M F UL L A L B UM S B Y A R T I S T S L IK E T HE S E , C HEC K O U T T HE DR OP AT REL E VA N T M A G A Z INE .C OM

[THE DROP]

THE DROP Emerging Artists You Should Know


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house by the sea, drawing inspiration from the mixture of falsetto harmonies reminiscent of Bon changing seasons, the tranquility of his surround- Iver and Fleet Foxes with a healthy mix of tradiings and time spent digesting the works of such tional Irish folk arrangements and pop sensibility. writers as Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and Frost. “The “I was trying to create something 100 percent record is the place it was recorded,” McMorrow mine,” McMorrow says. “It’s not diluted by other says. “A lot of it was written sitting on people’s opinions … for better or for the beach or just walking and forming worse. It’s so easy to blame other peoideas. If I hit a brick wall, I would just ple when things don’t turn out right. leave and go for a run.” Had the project gone wrong, I would All the while, McMorrow was dishave been OK with it because at least it connecting from the uneasiness of the was my own.” year before, processing his story on His work carries distinct spiritual WEBSITE: paper, guitar and microphone. “I strive overtones. While McMorrow agrees, jamesvmcmorrow.com to choose words and make them count,” he prefers to let listeners draw their FOR FANS OF: he says. “Once the music is crafted own conclusions. Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Ray LaMontagne carefully for months, I’ll sit down and, “I’m a spiritual person in a very quite intently, write the lyrics. That simplistic notion. It’s not something I LISTEN: way they become a more thought-out think too long and hard about in my entity. That’s what I admire so much music. I find more often than not that about the novelists, the poets and the people draw their own conclusions musicians that inspire me.” from my music … which is what I like.” The resulting album marries a —CJ CASCIOTTA

JULIE LING

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When James Vincent McMorrow talks of seasons, he means the word in both a literal and a figurative sense. McMorrow’s debut full-length album, Early in the Morning, is a walk through both as he reflects on a confusing and unfulfilling year as a songwriter with a major publishing contract. “The darker songs were written during the cold months,” McMorrow says. “You’ll notice the songs become sunnier and lighter as the album progresses.” The young Irish singer-songwriter spent half a year working on the album isolated in an old

[THE DROP]

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were taking out the trash one day and I asked her own hands and recyclable materials—not quite a out by the dumpster.” bower, but close enough. Prior to this construcThe pair’s musical journey has been as uncon- tion project, they lived in an Airstream trailer. “We ventional as their love story. After dating for a year bought some land, and pulled our trailer out there and a half, Moore got a job as a birdwatcher for the and set it down. We just kind of lived for free,” North Carolina Museum of Natural Moore says. Sciences, and Tacular followed. As one This love of the outdoors serves as would imagine, tracking birds affords a theme in both their lyrics and their some free time. Moore picked up songlifestyle. Not even extensive touring for writing. Tacular picked up the accorUpper Air, their last release from indie dion. Now, the Bowerbirds are working label Dead Oceans, could keep these on a third full-length album and have two, well, caged in. They and their WEBSITE: earned the affection of listeners and traveling band still left the minivan myspace.com/ critics alike. regularly for activities like horseback bowerbirds In this “struggling musician” liferiding, paddling down rivers and genFOR FANS OF: style, the pair has become rather erally spending time in nature. Blind Pilot, The Civil Wars, Waterdeep resourceful. Moore even crafted his “We have a lot of love for the natural LISTEN: own marimba out of wood he collected world and feel like we want to be more himself, rather than purchasing a new, connected to that,” Tacular concludes. expensive one. “Phil got tennis elbow “I think it’s just these ideas about DIY from sanding,” Tacular laughs. The two mentality, taking charge of your own also basically built a cabin with their life.” —ALYCE GILLIGAN

NICK HELDERMAN

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The bowerbird is a rare Australian fowl that compensates for its plain plumage by building elaborate bowers to attract the opposite sex. The Bowerbirds, however, are boyfriend-girlfriend folk duo Phil Moore and Beth Tacular. They are easier on the eyes than their feathered namesake, and wooing one another, they admit, didn’t require much work. “We actually met at Whole Foods,” Moore says. “I worked slinging salads in the salad department, and Beth worked in the whole body department. We

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THE DROP


GET NEW BEARINGS

FALLING UPWARD:

A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWO HALVES OF LIFE In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr helps you see opportunity and hope in the midst of life’s chaos. It’s essential reading for anyone at a crossroads or asking, “What now?”


LIBERATING NORTH KOREA

LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) seeks to rescue oppressed North Korean refugees and change perceptions BY ALYCE GILLIGAN

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ince 1948, harsh government restrictions have paralyzed the freedom of the people of North Korea, binding them in a country characterized by malnourishment, war, neglect, concentration camps, sex trafficking and general oppression. In the mid-’90s, severe famine silently killed more than 1 million people, and the living conditions have only worsened since, with 300,000 North Korean people risking their lives as refugees. So why is nobody talking about it?

“The North Korean people are one of the most forgotten about populations in the world today. This group is unrepresented, and hopefully our voice and efforts will be seen and people will respond,” says Justin Wheeler, the vice president of global awareness for LiNK (Liberty in North Korea). LiNK began in 2004 as a student movement determined to shed light on this often undiscussed injustice. Cookie and T-shirt sales led to grassroots support, and before long, a

ADAM SJÖBERG

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LiNK seeks to be a voice for the hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees. Check out their 9 Lives campaign and see how just a $9 monthly donation can help secure a refugee’s freedom.

Twitter: @linkglobal Web: linkglobal.org

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GET INVOLVED

burgeoning idea turned into a respected non-governmental organization. They moved their headquarters from D.C. to California and established an underground presence in North Korea and China. “It’s a really closed country. That’s been one of the biggest prohibiting factors. You see exactly what the regime wants you to see, which is nothing,” says Hannah Song, who has been the executive director of LiNK since 2008. She says the key to success will be getting the public to distinguish between the negative connotations of the North Korean regime and the innocent people who are often willing to risk torture to escape. LiNK’s work consists of awareness, advocacy and activity. “If people don’t know what’s going on, then you can’t change what’s happening,” Song says. Internationally, there are about 250 campus chapters spreading the word about LiNK. Committed supporters can become “Nomads,” touring North America to educate others on the subject and host screenings of Hiding, LiNK’s real-time documentary of the rescue process. On a legislative side, LiNK activists attempt to tackle the root of the problem, communicating with local and global leaders to change policies and legally liberate the North Korean people. But perhaps the most vital work is with the actual refugees, sheltering and supporting them as they transition into a new life. It takes $2,500 to rescue an individual, including transportation, food, lodging, processing expenses to resettle and support for LiNK’s shelters. LiNK is currently working hard on TheHundred campaign, a push to raise funds to rescue 100 refugees. In 2010 they successfully rescued 22 and have the available funds for another 32. The goal is to eventually complete a Hundred campaign each year. Many of these projects have to be kept confidential to preserve the identity of those involved, who could face up to three years in prison for helping the refugees. “They’re incredibly resilient people,” says Wheeler, who has gone on several rescue missions. “Because they’ve been through so much and they have seen so much, it’s just made them resilient and hopeful that there can be change. … We’re just trying to personalize the statistic of up to 300,000 refugees hiding in China.”

[SPOTLIGHT]

REJECT APATHY


[SPOTLIGHT]

IN THEIR WORDS Spotlighting Inspiring Ideas in Our Generation

TYLER MERRICK OF PROJECT 7

Tyler Merrick got his start in consumer goods at the age of 15, assisting his father with sales calls. After years of building brands and creating products, Merrick questioned if there was a greater purpose to his chosen career. So he founded Project 7, a company that sells all-natural, everyday items and uses more than 50 percent of the profits to support their charity partners. WHY I CAME UP WITH PROJECT 7

Project 7 is a consumer goods line that was started in an effort to create an ongoing revenue stream for nonprofits, specifically [in] seven different areas of need. We do everyday items and when you buy them, they tell you exactly what you’re doing. You’re feeding the hungry, you’re housing the homeless, you’re healing the sick, buying malaria medicine. Our whole message is getting people to think about how they buy, to be smarter as a consumer.

I THINK CONSUMERISM CAN BE COMPASSIONATE

ADAM FISH, FISH FOTOGRAPHY

You’re always going to have a certain percentage of customers that are maybe only buying “compassionate” products because it’s trendy. And you could make a case to say: “Don’t buy any gum or mints at all. Give that up, and use that money to go toward a charity you care about.” But that’s living in a vacuum. That’s not reality, in that sense. We just retool the message and we’re able to reach out to people that maybe are outside of the Church or inside the Church. They’re in a coffee shop, in a bookstore, in a Walmart, and there’s this call-to-action on the shelf that they have to deal with.

“A GOOD CAUSE” STILL NEEDS GOOD PRODUCTS

We first get a shot with these buyers and these opportunities because of the message and the brand. It’s kind of like that gets your foot in the door, but then they look under the hood, and if your price isn’t competitive or the product quality isn’t up to snuff, you don’t get another shot at that. Our goal is to have a quality product, competitively priced, that allows people a way to help fund things they care about. Everything is made in America as well, which is kind of a cool thing. So a lot of times we can be doing international relief, but we’re supporting the local economy with the products we make here in the States.

WORKING WITH WALMART ISN’T SELLING OUT

The reason why I started Project 7, the number-one reason, was to try to help nonprofits on an ongoing basis in these seven areas of need. So if Walmart gives us an opportunity to sell products and help those people, that’s why we started it. I can name off over a dozen groups that have turned us down this last year, so ones that do give us a shot, we’re like, “Let’s make the most of this.”

THE PROJECT 7 LINEUP The Project 7 product line ranges from coffee to gum, mints and water. Whenever you buy a Project 7 item, part of your money goes to one of seven different causes: heal the sick, house the homeless, feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, teach them well, hope for peace and save the earth. Visit Project7.com for more info.

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he looks to resolve a conflict that runs deep. The Christian Atheist small group DVD study is now available. Visit christianatheist.com today.

Are you of two minds? If you profess a belief in God, but live as though He doesn’t exist, you may be more divided than you think. Join pastor Craig Groeschel as


WHAT DOES “KINGDOM” MEAN, ANYWAY? BY SCOT McKNIGHT

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RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

HE MOST MISUSED biblical term today is “Kingdom.” One of my college students told me her sister was not working in the Church but was doing “Kingdom” work and “justice” work at a social service. Another student explained to me she was joining hands with a local interfaith group to further peace. She called it “Kingdom” work and added, “It has nothing to do with the Church.” There’s a common theme here: the “Kingdom” is bigger and better than the “Church.” We are using this word, “Kingdom,” both to cut out things we don’t like— evangelism and church—and to cast a vision for what we do like—justice and

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compassion. But it’s time to give this Kingdom people are those who lisword “Kingdom” a fresh look, because ten to Him and live out His Kingdom we’re misusing it. vision. They know His words and they The word “kingdom” comes from abide in His words. Jesus, and so to Him and His Jewish There’s a third element about what world we must go. It was impossible in Kingdom means for Jesus. Kingdoms Jesus’ world to say “kingdom” and not only work well when they have a conthink “king.” Either the word “king” stitution. The Jews of Jesus’ day called referred to Caesar, the empire-build- it “Torah.” Jesus swallowed up Israel’s ing, worship-me-or-die emperor of Torah into His Kingdom vision—and Rome, or it referred to Israel’s hoped- it broke loose one day when He was for King, the Messiah. When Jesus said teaching His disciples. We call it the Kingdom, He meant the Messiah is the Sermon on the Mount. This is the one true King and Caesar is not. Torah for followers of King Jesus. Furthermore, a first-century Jew The biggest problem with the couldn’t say “Kingdom” or “King” Church for many is that the people without also thinking of “Kingdom they know who go there don’t follow people” (or citizen-followers of the Jesus. Which is the exact reason why Messiah). The most unusual of people so many today want to disconnect were Jesus’ Kingdom people—sin- Kingdom from Church: Too often a ners, tax collectors, fishermen, hook- church looks like anything but the ers, demonized women and ordinary, Kingdom because too many so-called poor Galileans. Jesus invited people Kingdom people don’t follow Jesus! to the place of Kingdom living and Christians need to sit down with the said anyone who was willing to turn gospels, read them and compare the from sins and injustice and economic themes of Jesus’ Kingdom vision with exploitation and accumulation would the themes of many local churches. find forgiveness and fellowship and I wish we would all dig in all over freedom. So every evening, when again and construct new foundaJesus decided to eat with His followers, tions for a Kingdom vision of the He attracted a crowd, He told stories Church. A church embodies themes (parables) of what the Kingdom was like love, justice, peace and wisdom. like and He asked His listeners to join The Kingdom church will not only the movement. That table of fellow- talk about such themes, but will be a ship embodied both who was follow- society marked by a Gospel justice, a ing Jesus (or at least hearing Him out), Gospel peace and a Gospel wisdom. It and how they were to love one another will be a people who eat together, love in concrete deeds. one another and who see the needs in That was the Kingdom’s launch in the world around them and do someJesus’ day: King Jesus and His people thing about those needs. According to sitting at a table telling stories. Jesus, a local church is designed to be But Jesus’ vision of Kingdom a local fellowship of Kingdom people was even bigger than that. A scribe who love and follow King Jesus. once asked Jesus a restrictive quesInstead of choosing either the tion: “Who is my neighbor?” But he Church or the Kingdom, Christians meant, “What are the boundaries are called to see church as a living between God’s people (my neighbor) manifestation of the Kingdom. and all the rest?” Jesus turned that I see a freshness about this in man inside out and told him the right churches all around the world, question was, “To whom churches devoted to will you be neighborly?” being a community that Jesus’ answer was: “Anyone serves the community, you meet. Especially the a fellowship that loves needy.” Jesus converted the the neighbor, a church restrictive question into that cares for the poor an inclusive habit. Those and a society that is the SCOT McKNIGHT who live out that inclusive fertile ground for a comis the Karl A. Olsson Professor habit are Kingdom people. pletely new society—the in Religious King Jesus came to create a Kingdom society of Studies at North Park University. Kingdom people, and His Jesus.

[STATEMENTS]

DEEPER WALK Words for the Soul


THE REQUIREMENT OF RICHES BY CRAIG GROESCHEL

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RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

AM GOING TO read your mind. Think: How much money would you need to feel you were “rich”? Envision a specific dollar amount. Whether your number is an annual income range or a fixed dollar figure, the number you came up with is … more than what you currently make or have. How did I know? Because you’re normal. Gallup asked Americans what annual income they’d need to consider themselves rich. People who made $30,000 a year or less answered (on average) $74,000 a year. People who made around $50,000 a year said they’d need $100,000 a year to be rich. Virtually no one believed their existing annual income

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classified them as rich. It’s not sur- eye requires no innate gifts—only prising, really. Ecclesiastes 5:10 tells practice. What does the world start to us, “Whoever loves money never has look like when we begin to perceive enough; whoever loves wealth is never it through generous eyes? When we satisfied with their income” (NIV). focus on giving what we can, where we When normal people picture some- can, we begin seeing others the way one rich, they imagine a hedge fund God sees them: as people in need. tycoon, a successful entrepreneur or If we want blessings that last, we that average-looking person in high need to look beyond materialism. school they never dated who grew First John 2:15 and 17 tell us: “Do up, turned gorgeous and wrote a best- not love the world or anything in the selling novel. It’s always someone else world. … The world and its desires who’s rich, not you. Rich people rarely pass away, but whoever does the will think they’re rich—because someone of God lives forever.” What things do else, somewhere, has more. you desire? Financial experts say you Most of us place ourselves finan- can see where your passions are just cially somewhere between a million- by looking at your checking account aire and a homeless person. But there’s history. Where you’re spending shows a problem with this completely nor- what things you truly care about. mal line of thinking. Normal people, So, we know what we should do. But even when we sincerely seek to follow how do we do it? Jesus answers in Luke God, often skim past the parts of the 12:22-34, and in verse 34 specifically: Bible directed at rich people, thinking, “Where your treasure is, there your “Oh, that’s for somebody else.” heart will be also.” But this principle If you haven’t missed a meal in the can work in reverse, too. Where do last three weeks—because you couldn’t you want your heart to go? Then start afford it, not because you were diet- putting the things you value there— ing—you’re rich. If your kids attend and your heart will follow. a school of your choosing—either As I hinted at earlier, the only way to because you pay for it or because cultivate generous eyes is to practice— you’ve chosen to live in a specific geo- to look for opportunities and then give graphic area—you’re rich. Do you have in to them. I like to think of these as a car? Only 3 to 5 percent of people in three levels of giving: the world do, you know. Rich people. 1. Spontaneous. When you see a If you have a little house for your car need you can meet, do it. (often called a “garage”), you’re rich. If 2. Strategic. Plan your giving. you pay other people to prepare and Calculate ways your generosity can serve you food—like, say, in a restau- achieve maximum impact. rant—you’re rich. While you may not 3. Sacrificial. Live like you’re manfeel rich, the fact is, you are, because aging not your own resources, but you have rich-people opportunities. God’s. Give both spontaneously and Luke 12:48 says, “From everyone strategically, but use only the miniwho has been given much, much mum that you need and give the rest. will be demanded; and from the one Practicing all three will not only who has been entrusted with much, draw you closer to God, but it will help much more will be asked.” God has you begin to see life from His eternal blessed you with enough—actually, perspective. When people say, “I don’t with more than enough—because have enough to give,” what they’re He is entrusting you with truly saying is they don’t a great responsibility. But feel they have enough that responsibility comes extra to give without with a wonderful promise: adjusting their lifestyle. Proverbs 22:9 says, “The It takes deliberate intengenerous will themselves tion and time to develop CRAIG be blessed” (NKJV). generous eyes. God has GROESCHEL, I know business leaders blessed you so that you senior pastor who have an eye for deals. can be a blessing to othof LifeChurch. tv, wrote WEIRD: I know good designers ers. It’s time to let God Because Normal who have an eye for color. transform your intenIsn’t Working (Zondervan). But cultivating a generous tions into actions.

[STATEMENTS]

WORLDVIEW Gaining Perspective


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[ R EJEC T A PAT H Y ]

AROUND THE WORLD IN 334 DAYS C

A RECENT COLLEGE GRAD ENCOUNTERS POVERTY, PROSTITUTION AND PRISON ON THE WORLD RACE

mold. My team walks into Malaybalay City Jail guided by the warden, who tells the girls not to get too close to the prison bars. “You don’t want to tempt these dogs,” he says with a crooked smile. BY CURT DEVINE We make our way past rusted cells filled with dozens URT DEVINE SHARES HIS EXPERIENCE ON THE WORLD RACE, of men. They jeer and smile at some reaching out for handAN 11-MONTH MISSIONS TRIP TO 11 DIFFERENT COUNTRIES. us, shakes and high-fives, others WE ASKED HIM TO REFLECT ON WHAT HE’D SEEN, TO OFFER staring in jealousy of our freeMost of their bodies are US SNAPSHOTS—BOTH VISUAL AND WRITTEN—OF HIS TRIP dom. covered head to toe with scars AROUND THE WORLD, FROM URBAN SLUMS AND RED-LIGHT DISTRICTS and faded tattoos, reflecting the gang violence overrunning TO PRISONS, RURAL CHURCHES AND ORPHANAGES. this city. They stare at the girls with hunger, mumbling crude Day 1: Los Angeles, U.S.A. better angle, 1,000 lights flash in mere seconds remarks. We came hoping to teach English As I sit in LAX awaiting my flight to Manila, and the two celebrities simply ignore it all. The lessons and encourage the prisoners to trust Philippines, my mind splits as a thousand terminal becomes chaos. God with their future, but after only a few thoughts vie for focus. I’ve been awake for 33 The irony is not lost on me. Before embark- moments in these conditions, I feel doubtful hours, but my adrenaline is still going strong. I ing on a journey to the poorest corners of the we can even interact with them at all. close my eyes and consider the things I’ve left world, I have a layover at the center of posh, “I don’t know if I can handle this,” my teambehind. Almost a full year will pass before I see materialistic American culture. I look around mate Jeannie says. “I don’t feel safe.” my friends and family, more than 300 nights and see Burberry advertisements, Starbucks I tell her nothing bad can happen with the will go by before I sleep in my bed, six major logos, billboards with picture-perfect mod- guards standing nearby, but the darkness of holidays will happen without me. I look down els—the images that have kept me focused on the prison weighs heavily on me, and I secretly at my over-stuffed backpack, knowing my me and my desires for years. The noise around agree: it’s not safe. “God, are you even in this house has been replaced by a tent, my bed has me seems to grow until I can hardly stand it. place?” I can’t help but ask under my breath. been replaced by a sleeping bag and my closet This is when I first recognize The World Race “Keep coming this way,” the warden says. has been reduced to a week’s worth of clothing. is not a great sacrifice. It’s an opportunity to We follow him around a bend to another Do I really want to go through with this? seek God like I never have before, a chance to wing of the prison. We walk past iron doors While I stand in the terminal checking abandon my selfishness and get lost in what holding the jail’s troublemakers in solitary boarding times, I see a suspicious number of He is doing around the world. The Philippines, confinement and then past more crowded camera-wielding journalists lined up near Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Rwanda, cells, finally stopping at a small, dark cell in the baggage claim. They keep filing in right Kenya, India, Romania—these countries and the back corner of the prison. I look inside, off the street; each one with slicked-back more will soon become memories of love and stunned by what I see. “How old are these hair and camera lenses the length of baseball adventure. I long for this year to be a turning kids?” I ask the warden. bats. “Who are these guys?” I ask out loud. point for my entire life. “Twelve to 17 years old,” he says. “Most are I hear the young blonde sitting next to me “Flight number 618 now boarding,” the in for drug pedaling or gang robbery. Don’t shout, “JWoww and Snooki are coming!” In intercom says. I grab my pack and walk toward be fooled, though. They’re young, but they’ve an instant, the two divas from MTV’s Jersey the boarding gate. earned their time. Some are in for murder.” Shore burst through the terminal doors with About a dozen teenage gangsters rush to a swarm of paparazzi chasing them. Each pho- Day 28: Malaybalay, Philippines the cell’s bars, smiling and reaching out their tographer fights with the one next to him for a The prison entrance smells of sulfur and hands to greet us. They wear colored bandanas

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“GOD, ARE YOU EVEN IN THIS PLACE?” I CAN'T HELP BUT ASK UNDER MY BREATH.

CURT DEVINE

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 45


and have fresh tattoos, yet they look more like children in gang costumes. I high-five many of them, unable to imagine their hands committing the crimes that earned them years in this seedy jail cell. “My name is Ronnie,” one slender boy who looks about 15 says to me. “Nice to meet you,” I say. “Is there anything you’d like to learn today?” “Can you teach me to worship?” he asks. “I want to praise Jesus more.” His question shocks me. Is he serious? I wonder. But as he stares at me, I sense genuine longing in his eyes—the look of someone desperate to know God more, to feel His presence. “I would love to,” I say, motioning to the small guitar leaning up against his bed. He picks it up and stands across from me. “Thank you. Can you teach me ‘On the Wings of Eagles’?” he asks. “Sure,” I say, amazed that his faith survives in this darkness. Day 55: Sihanoukville, Cambodia As I wait in line for coffee in a small shop on the beach, I talk with an aged Australian man. While he sips beer and receives a massage from a thin Khmer girl, he shares things that make me cringe. “This place is like heaven,” he says. “You can get whatever you want.” “Oh yeah?” I ask him. “So what brought you here?” “A business opportunity,” he says. “I own a guest house. It’s the only one right in the street. You should come by.” “No, that’s alright. I’m staying with my friends at a motel.” Although I get the hint about what kind of place this man is running, I can’t help but ask more. “How’s business?” I ask, fearing how he will answer. “Oh, it’s great, mate. Hundreds of girls wait across the street. Guys pick out their dates, rent a full-priced room for an hour, then leave. I make hundreds a night. Really, you should come by.” Feeling nauseated, I shake my head and muster, “No, that’s quite alright.” But he continues: “Oh, come on, man. The girls are cheap. And young … really young.” At this point I can’t take anymore. Images of older men making deals with teenage girls flash through my mind. I look at him wideeyed and say, “That really depresses me.” He just smiles and laughs, so I walk away. After the conversation, I return and sit with my team as they eat lunch next to the beach. My teammate Shannon asks, “How was the

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PACKING LIST

Going on your own worldwide adventure? Here’s what you need to pack: Internalframe backpack (60-90 liters) Because it’s your closet Lightweight sleeping bag You’d be surprised how small these get Digital camera Kind of a nobrainer

Laptop/ Netbook Blog your trip or keep a daily journal Water bottle Especially useful in countries with no drinkable water Running shoes A good pair of shoes makes sure you can trek all day

coffee break?” I can’t even respond. The chubby Australian’s face is all I can see, and the more I think about him, the more I want to hurt him. I want to go back and throw his beer in his face, telling him he is the reason the world has problems. I want to knock over his chair and spit on him. I want to make him feel pain. Yet as I pray about our conversation, I know this man, a brothel owner, is just as enslaved as many of the girls wrapped up in prostitution. To him, heaven is making quick money, buying cheap beer and having unmitigated sex with girls who don’t love him. He has never tasted what true life is, and that’s nothing short of a tragedy. This is not to say he doesn’t carry responsibility for his actions, but it’s a reminder to me he is just as much in need of God’s love as the girls he profits off of. Cambodia is a vibrant nation with lots of life, and yet it’s plagued by one of the most destructive markets—the sex industry. I can’t help but recognize the paradox—that so many men here are satisfied playing in the mud when heaven is on the horizon. As I sit on the beach thinking through all this, I feel farther from home than I ever have before. Day 103: Phuket, Thailand Tonight we visit Bangla Road, one of Thailand’s capitals for sex tourism. Our goal: talk to prostitutes working in bars and invite them to lunch at SHE, an organization that provides women who want to leave the sex industry with work, shelter and group support. Walking down this street for five minutes is enough to change the way I see the world forever. Old Westerners purchase young Thai girls for $15; tourists get plastered on cheap alcohol, and transsexuals run through the streets, flashing men and dancing on bar tables for attention. “This street is the pit of hell,” Mark, the director of SHE, tells us. We arrive at about 9 p.m., before things get really crazy. I walk past a few bars when I notice my teammates, Lacey and Carmen, talking to a young Thai girl under a neon sign that reads “Bad


as she hands it over. “Thank you, Ice. You’re so beautiful,” Carmen says. Just as Carmen pockets the paper, the bar owner walks out from behind the counter, moving toward

we survived.” He pauses and looks at us. “Can you share some about your life?” he asks. I’m speechless. I scramble to find some common ground and think through my hardships: working long hours at Starbucks, breaking up with girlfriends, pulling all-nighters for research papers. “I’m not sure I have much to share,” I say, embarrassed. “That’s OK,” he says. “I know you are here for a purpose.” He tells us about his hope for the future and how he has seen God transform Rwanda from the inside out. “My generation is going to live different. We have destiny.” We nod our heads in agreement, feeling like he encouraged us more than we did him. “Can we pray?” I ask. “Please,” he says. We bow our heads and praise God for bringing life out of the country’s rubble. ***** In traveling from country to country, my team and I continually confront the cruelties of poverty and abuse. Men like John Paul remind us the world can be an ugly place, yet hope remains. Working with prostitutes in Asian red-light districts and with beggars in dusty African streets can be overwhelming. And yet when we step back, we see God working behind the brokenness—healing the wounds and filling in the cracks. Sometimes I still ask myself if coming on this race was worth it. I’ve neglected my Facebook profile and haven’t downloaded an iPhone app in six months, but in quieting the noise around me, I’ve been able to hear more clearly what God is doing throughout the world. The trip is only half over and I’ve already had a lifetime’s worth of experience. In abandoning all, I have more than I’ve ever had before.

I REALIZE THIS MAN IS AS ENSLAVED AS MANY OF THE GIRLS WRAPPED UP IN PROSTITUTION.

Girls Bar.” I stop and listen. “So, do you like working here, Ice?” Lacey asks the girl, who barely looks 18 years old. “Well, it’s not what I love to do,” Ice says. “But I have to support my baby. He is 1.” “Do you just work at the bar, or do you go with clients?” Lacey asks. “Oh, well, some men take me on dates. Sometimes I go with them for a while, wherever they want,” she says, turning her face away. “Well, you should come have lunch at our house tomorrow. We stay at a place that helps women get out of these bars and find jobs they like. Will you come?” Carmen asks. “Oh, yes,” Ice stops and looks over her shoulder, noticing the British bar owner watching them suspiciously. “You need to go now. He will get angry with me, and do things.” “OK, give us your phone number quick. We’ll call you,” Carmen says. Ice jots down some digits on a scrap piece of paper, smiling

them quickly. “Can I help you girls with something?” he asks, but not before they turn around and walk into a crowd. A week later, Ice visits SHE and eats lunch with the girls. They sit and talk about food and movies, and later about how there is more to life than bars and abusive clients. “I’ve never had friends like you before,” Ice says with tears in her eyes. “I think I want to stay here.” Day 142: Kigali, Rwanda “They dropped dead right in front of me,” 21-year-old John Paul says, describing the murder of his parents 17 years ago. “I was very small, but I still remember.” As my team visits young adults in Kigali, the city where more than 800,000 Rwandans died during the genocide in 1994, we struggle to relate. We spend time in government-funded houses talking and praying with people who lost mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters as a result of propaganda and mindless hatred. John Paul sits up straight in a worn couch, speaking slowly as he recounts the aftermath. “I wandered the streets for a few weeks, looking for shelter, sleeping in the dirt,” he continues, looking down at his feet. It’s clear the memory still stings. “Eventually my aunt found me, and

FIND OUT MORE

The World Race is a ministry of Adventures in Missions. Visit WorldRace.org to find out more and apply to go yourself.

MORE FROM CURT Author Curt Devine has been blogging regularly during his trip. He also regularly posts photographs illustrating each step of his journey.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 47


GROWN UP

BY KEVIN SELDERS

AFTER YEARS OF PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL HEARTBREAK, THE INDIE BAND RETURNS—WISER AND LESS WHIMSICAL

A

n artist’s best work is often borne out of personal tragedy. In the case of the three DuPree sisters from the altpop band Eisley, such inspiring heartbreak took the forms of a painful breakup, a broken engagement and a divorce. The entire band, which includes brother Weston DuPree and cousin Garron DuPree, also recently experienced the calamity of a professional divorce with Warner Bros. Records/Reprise Records, who released their first two albums and several EPs. The sisters, Stacy, 22, Chauntelle, 29, and Sherri, 27, huddle close together on a couch and—as sisters are wont to do—they speak over each other, finish one another’s sentences and cast knowing looks when thorny subjects come up. When they speak, they do so as if they’re on the other side of it all. They’ve made it through the worst of times. Their easy camaraderie and obvious care for one another suggests they haven’t escaped pain unscathed, but

48 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 11

the events of their lives have had the positive effect of pushing them closer together than they’ve ever been. Marking this milestone is the release of Eisley’s third full-length album, The Valley. The project chronicles the myriad low points the band experienced in the four years since their critically acclaimed Combinations, and the new direction they’ve been given as a result. What Eisley was has passed away. But there is also the promise of something new. “It’s kind of like the end of an era for us,” says Sherri, who sings and plays guitar. “We’re starting over with a new label and everything. It’s going to be different.” Love Lost … and Found Again The Valley, which came out in March, is a continuation of Eisley’s trademark bittersweet pop-rock, but presented in a more grown-up tone. The mature viewpoint is largely the result of Sherri’s divorce from Chad Gilbert, guitarist for New Found Glory.

“My songs kind of follow a story of finding out that I was going to be divorced, accepting that and moving on from that and then falling in love again,” says Sherri, now married to Max Bemis, frontman for the band Say Anything. “My part of the record is kind of a concept and takes a journey.” Stacy, the band’s other chief lyricist, singer and keyboardist, couldn’t help but feel her sister’s pain as she penned her lyrics. “I think I drew a lot of inspiration from Sherri, honestly,” says Stacy, who married MuteMath drummer Darren King in mid2010. “There are some really deep emotional things going on, but then there’s also a lot of love and romance.” Though Sherri admits the band’s style and sound are still cloaked in whimsy and childlike awe, the DuPree sisters have reached new levels of directness and vulnerability in their art. Their latest songs explore the band’s darkest and most trying times, while sharing elements of their strength, patience and

CHRIS PHELPS


perseverance. It’s no surprise this darker subject matter has led the band to be more straightforward—and sad—than they have ever been. Sherri admits the extended time between projects proved beneficial for her. It gave her time to heal and move forward. “It’s allowed me to step away from it all and see that—wow— it was a crazy time in my life, but now it’s in the past and I’m ready to get it out to the world,” she says. “I can sing the songs live now and not feel all of the heartache and pain that I went through. It sounds really dramatic, but had we released it right away, I don’t even know if I would have been able to sing those songs live.” Although the recent challenges—both personal and professional—have taken their toll, the DuPrees have moved on. “We’re not bitter people,” L-R Sherri adds. “Everyone goes Garron, through terrible things and peoChauntelle, Sherri, ple get divorced. People have it Stacy and worse than us. It’s relationship Weston crap that happens to everyone.” DuPree “We don’t like to stir up drama either,” laughs lead guitarist Chauntelle, as she switches to a sarcastic, gossipy tone. “‘Did you hear Eisley’s record?’” It’s another mark of maturity that an album borne out of so much pain isn’t written like a jilted lover’s diary. Out with the Old, In with the Indie Eisley’s label troubles sound like every stereotype you’ve ever heard. The band announced their departure from Warner Bros. on their website in February 2010. Nine months later they signed to Equal Vision Records. The move was meant to allow them more freedom to chart their own course and not become something they didn’t want to be. “I don’t think we were the right type of band that they’re used to developing,” Stacy recalls of Warner Bros. “We don’t have the radio pop songs,” Sherri adds. “Major labels need that right now because they’re all kind of sinking.” After they signed with Equal Vision, Sherri expressed excitement about joining the label: “It’s really refreshing for us to be working

with a label that’s driven by passion and has made a name for itself by working really hard with bands they actually love,” she said. “It’s especially cool for Eisley to be on a label that started out as a punk label because despite not being a punk band in any way musically, we have always done our own thing, gone against the grain and fought for what we believe in, and that is true to the essence of punk.” When the band released its first EP with Warner, Stacy, the youngest of the sisters, had just turned 15. The band is still a young one, with the average age of its members being 25. But despite that, they’ve never been anywhere close to the teen pop that most people their age are famous for making. As Eisley developed under Warner Bros. Records’ Reprise label, they felt they weren’t supported because they didn’t fit the pop music mold. “Not that they ever asked us to, but we weren’t willing to ever go in the pop direction of it being all about your looks, showing more skin and stuff like that,” Chauntelle says. “They did try to get us to tour with Hilary Duff and we said no,” Sherri adds. “No offense to Hil Duff, but that just wasn’t the direction we were going in.” On the new album, tracks like “Smarter” and “Sad” reveal the raw emotion and musical aggression present during the moment they were written. Elsewhere, there’s a stately solace in the hopeful “Kind” and dream-like “Mr. Moon,” and buoyant string arrangements decorate opener “The Valley” and “Watch It Die.” “It’s definitely still whimsical,” Sherri says of the new album. “Not as whimsical as some of our Room Noises fans [would like]. We still get that a lot: ‘You guys don’t write about fairy tales anymore.’ I’m [27] years old. I can’t always write about that.” The album’s chilling closer, “Ambulance,” is a snapshot of the sobering reality of sudden abandonment: I need an ambulance/ I took the worst of the blow/ Send me a redeemer/ Let me know if I’m going to be alright/ Because I know how it usually goes. It’s a visceral reminder of a band of people who has been hurt and known pain. And it tells of how they learned to get back up again. Family and Faith While the trials of the last few years left their mark on the band, the DuPrees’ well-documented faith remains intact. “We grew up in a family that was really rooted in faith and we grew up in church,” Sherri says. “That’s always been such a big

part of our lives. It didn’t affect that. That’s always there for us.” Eisley (even before they were named Mos Eisley, after the Star Wars spaceport town) began as The Towheads, a house band for BrewTones Coffee Galaxy. The venue—operated by the DuPrees’ parents, Boyd and Kim— is part of the family’s church, The Vineyard Church of Tyler in Tyler, Texas. Members of Eisley have lent their talents to the church’s worship, which Kim leads. Boyd, in turn, is the band’s manager and graphic designer. After Eisley formed in 1997, Christian labels approached the band, ready to deem them the industry’s next big thing. Eisley, however, opted to take a different route and seek a broader, secular audience. The DuPrees have said they feel Christian music is for Christians and they want to play for people outside the Church, too. The band’s bigger reach has allowed them to work with both worlds. Stacy and Sherri appear on Bright Eyes’ Cassadaga, as well as David Crowder Band’s Church Music. They’ve also opened for Coldplay and The Fray. Having reached the secular, the sacred is still important to each member. “That’s always the constant, solid thing in our lives other than our family … and that is what holds our family together,” Chauntelle says about the bands’ faith. “There’s just nothing more constant than that.” The trials of the last few years have strengthened the family bond within the band. “Anything like that that you go through— any hard thing as a family—if you push through and help each other get through it,” Sherri says, “you always come out closer.” After spending more than half of their young lives in this band, the DuPree sisters say the turbulent times have increased their dedication to their art. “I think we’re braver now,” Stacy says. “We’re definitely more confident in what we’ve been given and what we do,” Chauntelle adds. “That makes it even more fun.” “We love music, and nothing can stop us from doing it,” Sherri says. “It definitely made us stronger.” How that will play out remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: Eisley has changed— and there really is no going back now.

WATCH Eisley perform live in the RELEVANT studios.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 49


11 P R O V EN WAY S T O AV OID A QU A R T ER- L IF E C R I S I S BY SHAUNA NIEQUIST

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hen you’re 25-ish, you’re old enough to know what kind of music you love, regardless of what your last boyfriend or roommate always used to play. You know how to walk in heels, how to tie a necktie, how to give a good toast at a wedding and how to make something for dinner. You don’t have to think much about skin care, home ownership or your retirement plan. Your life can look a lot of different ways when you’re 25: single, dating, engaged, married. You are working in dream jobs, pay-the-bills jobs and downright horrible jobs. You are young enough to believe that anything is possible, and you are old enough to make that belief a reality.

Y O U H AV E T IME T O F IND A JOB YOU LOVE

Now is the time to figure out what kind of work you love to do. What are you good at? What makes you feel alive? What do you dream about? You can go back to school now, switch directions entirely. You can work for almost nothing, or live in another country or volunteer long hours for something that moves you. There will be a time when finances and schedules make this a little trickier, so do it now. Try it, apply for it, get up and do it. When I was 25, I was in my third job in as many years—all in the same area at a church, but the responsibilities were different each time. I was frustrated at the end of the third year because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do next. I didn’t feel like I’d found my place yet. I met with my boss, who was in his 50s. I told him how anxious I was about finding the one perfect job for me, and quick. He asked me how old I was, and when I told him I was 25, he told me I couldn’t complain to him about finding the right job until I was 32. In his opinion, it takes about 10 years after college to find the right fit, and anyone who finds it earlier than that is just plain lucky. So use every bit of your 10 years: try things, take classes, start over.

G E T O U T O F D E B T A ND S TAY OUT OF DEBT

Part of being a healthy, mature adult is learning to live within your means all the time, even if that means going without things you think you need, or doing work you don’t love for a while to be responsible financially. The ability to adjust your spending according to your income is a skill that will serve you your whole life.

There will be times when you have more money than you need. In those seasons, tithe as always, save like crazy, and then let yourself buy fancy shampoo or an iPad or whatever it is you really get a kick out of. When the money’s not rolling in, buy your shampoo from the grocery store and eat eggs instead of steak—a much cheaper way to get protein. If you can get the hang of living within your means all the time—always tithing, never going into debt—you’ll be ahead of the game when life surprises you with bad financial news. I know a lot of people who have bright, passionate dreams but who can’t give their lives to those dreams because of the debt they carry. Don’t miss out on a great adventure God calls you to because you’ve been careless about debt.

DON’ T RUSH MARRIAGE

D AT IN G

A ND

Now is also the time to get serious about relationships. And “serious” might mean walking away from a dating relationship that’s good but not great. Some of the most life-shaping decisions you’ll make during this time will be about walking away from goodenough, in search of can’t-live-without. One of the only truly devastating mistakes you can make in this season is staying with the wrong person even though you know he or she is the wrong person. It’s not fair to that person, and it’s not fair to you. “Who are you dating?” “Do you think he’s the one?” “Have you looked at rings?” It’s easy to be seduced by the romancedating-marriage narrative. We confer a lot of status and respect on people who are getting married—we buy them presents and consider them as more adult and more responsible.

But there’s nothing inherently more responsible or more admirable about being married. I’m thankful to be celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary this summer, but at the same time, I have a fair amount of friends whose marriages are ending—friends whose weddings we danced at, whose wedding cake we ate, whose rings we oohed-and-aahed over but that have been taken off fingers a long time ago. Some people view marriage as the next step to happiness or grown-up life or some kind of legitimacy, and in their mad desire to be married, they overlook significant issues in the relationship. Ask your friends, family members and mentors what they think of the person you’re dating and your relationship. Go through premarital counseling before you are engaged, because, really, engagement is largely about wedding planning, and it’s tough to see the flaws in a relationship clearly when you’re wearing a diamond and you have a deposit on an event space. I’m kind of a broken record on this. My younger friends will tell you I say the same things over and over when they talk to me about love, things like, “He seems great— what’s the rush?” and, “Yes, I like her—give it a year.” And they’ve heard this one a million times: “Time is on your side.” Really, it is.

G I V E Y O U R B E S T T O F R IE ND S A ND FA MILY

While twentysomethings can sometimes spend a little too much energy on dating and marriage, they probably spend too little energy on friendships and family. That girl you just met and now text 76 times a day probably won’t be a part of your life in 10 years, but the guys you lived with in college, if you keep investing in them, will be friends for a lifetime. Lots of people move around in their 20s, but even across the distance, make an effort to invest in the friendships that are important to you. Loyalty is no small thing, especially in a season during which so many other things are shifting. Family is a tricky thing in your 20s—to learn how to be an adult out on your own but to also maintain a healthy relationship with your parents—but those relationships are really, really worth investing in. I have a new vantage point on this now that I’m a parent. When my parents momentarily forget I’m an adult, I remind myself that someday this little boy of ours will drive a car, get a job and buy a home. I know that even then it will be hard not to scrape his hair across his forehead or

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tell him his eyes are looking sleepy, and I give my parents a break for still seeing me as their little girl every once in a while.

G E T S O ME C O U N S E L IN G

Twenty-five is also a great time to get into counseling if you haven’t already, or begin round two of counseling if it’s been a while. You might have just enough space from your parents to start digging around your childhood a little bit. Unravel the knots that keep you from living a healthy, whole life, and do it now, before any more time passes. Some people believe emotional and psychological issues should be solved through traditional spiritual means—that prayer and pastoral guidance are all that’s necessary when facing issues of mental health. I disagree. We generally trust medical doctors to help us heal from physical ailments. We can and should trust counselors and therapists to help us resolve emotional and psychological issues. Many pastors have no training in counseling, and while they care deeply about what you’re facing, sometimes the best gift they can give you is a referral to a therapist who does have the education to help you. Faith and counseling aren’t at odds with one another. Spiritual growth and emotional health are both part of God’s desire for us. Counseling—like time with a mentor, personal scriptural study, a small group experience and outside reading—can help you grow, and can help you connect more deeply with God. So let your pastor do his or her thing, and let the person who has an advanced degree in mental health help you with yours.

S E E K O U T A ME N T O R

One of the most valuable relationships you can cultivate in your 20s is a mentoring relationship with someone who’s a little older, a little wiser, someone who can be a listening ear and sounding board during a high change season. When I look back on my life from 22 to 26, some of the most significant growth occurred as a direct result of the time I spent with my mentor, Nancy. The best way to find a mentor is to ask, and then to work with the parameters they give you. If someone does agree to meet with you, let it be on their terms. Nancy and I met on Wednesdays at 7 in the morning. I guarantee that was not my preference. But it was what worked for her life, so once a month I dragged myself out of the house in

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OVE, TRAVEL, TAKE A CLASS, TAKE A RISK. THERE IS A SEASON FOR WILDNESS AND A SEASON FOR SETTLEDNESS, AND THIS IS NEITHER. THIS SEASON IS ABOUT BECOMING. what felt to me like the dead of night. It also helps to keep it to a limited-time period. It’s a lot to ask of someone to meet once a month until the end of time. But a one-year commitment feels pretty manageable for most people, and you can both decide to sign on for another year or not, depending on the connection you’ve made.

B E A PA R T O F A C H U R C H

Twenty-five is the perfect time to get involved in a church you love, no matter how different it is from the one you were a part of growing up. Be patient and prayerful, and decide that you’re going to be a person who grows, who seeks your own faith, who lives with intention. Set your alarm on Sunday mornings, no matter how late you were out on Saturday night. It will be dreadful at first, and then after a few weeks, you’ll find that you like it, that the pattern of it fills up something inside you.

F IND A R H Y T HM FOR S P IR I T U A L D I S C IP L INE S

Going out into “the real world” after high school or college affects more than just your professional life. Where once you had free time, a flexible schedule and built-in community, now you have one hour for lunch, 10 days max to “skip” work and co-workers who are all over the place in age, stage of life and religion. In those first few years of work-life, it’s easy to get too busy, too stressed and too disconnected to keep up spiritual habits you may have built in school. Figuring out how to stay close to God and to grow that relationship through activities and disciplines that complement your new schedule is critical for life now—and those habits will serve you for years to come. One of the best routines I adopted in my 20s was a monthly solitude day. In addition to my daily prayer time, I found I lived better


No one cares if they have to sit on lawn furniture, bring their own forks or drink out of a Mayor McCheese glass from 1982. What people want is to be heard and fed and nourished, physically and otherwise—to stop for just a little bit and have someone look them in the eye and listen to their stories and dreams. Make time for the table, and you’ll find it to be more than worth it every time.

DON’ T GE T S TUCK

if once a month I took the time to pray, read, rest and write, to ask myself about the choices I’d made in the past month and to ask for God’s guidance in the month to come. Some of the most important decisions I made in that season of life became clear as a result of that monthly commitment.

VOLUNTEER

Give of your time and energy to make the world better in a way that doesn’t benefit you directly. Teach Sunday school, build houses with Habitat for Humanity, serve at a food pantry or clean up beaches on Saturdays. It’s easy to get caught up in your own big life and big plan in your 20s—you’re building a career, building an identity, building for a future. Find some place in your life where you’re building for a purpose that’s bigger than your own life or plan. When you’re serving on behalf of a cause you’re passionate about, you’ll also connect in a deep way with the people you’re serving with, and those connections can yield some of your most significant friendships. When you serve as a volunteer, you can gain experience for future careers. Instead of, for example, quitting your banking job to pursue full-time ministry, volunteer to lead a small group, and see where it goes from there. Use

volunteer experiences to learn about causes and fields you’re interested in, and consider using your vacation time to serve globally.

F E E D Y O U R S E L F A ND T HE PEOPLE YOU LOVE

If you can master these things, you’re off to a really great start: eggs, soup, a fantastic sandwich or burger, guacamole and some killer cookies. A few hints: The secret to great eggs is really low heat, and the trick to guacamole is lime juice—loads of it. Almost every soup starts the same way: onion, garlic, carrot, celery, stock. People used to know how to make this list and more, but for all sorts of reasons, sometime in the last 60 or so years, convenience became more important than cooking and people began resorting to fake food (ever had GU?), fast food and frozen food. I literally had to call my mom from my first apartment because I didn’t know if you baked a potato for five minutes or two hours. The act of feeding oneself is a skill every person can benefit from, and some of the most sacred moments in life happen when we gather around the table. The time we spend around the table, sharing meals and sharing stories, is significant, transforming time. Learn to cook. Invite new and old friends to dinner. Practice hospitality and generosity.

This is the thing: When you hit 28 or 30, everything begins to divide. You can see very clearly two kinds of people. On one side, people who have used their 20s to learn and grow, to find God and themselves and their dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults. Then there’s the other kind, who are hanging onto college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate, because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are good but not great, because they don’t want to be lonely. They mean to find a church, they mean to develop intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than when they graduated. Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal. Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? What have I learned about God this year? What parts of my childhood faith am I leaving behind, and what parts am I choosing to keep? Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?” Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love, and with people who believe God is good and life is a grand adventure. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path. SHAUNA NIEQUIST is the author of Bittersweet (Zondervan).

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T HE FA MOU S LY DE TA C HED R OC K B A ND F IN A L LY TA K E S A H A RD L OOK AT REL AT ION S HIP S , BE A U T Y A ND BEL IEF S A F T ER A DEC A DE OF T OURING SHAWN BRACKBILL

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the

BY JESSICA MISENER

T

he Kills are holed up inside in the middle of a slushy, wintry New York day, and Alison Mosshart is chewing gum by the pack. She’s cut her signature dark hair, and her bangs don’t totally obscure her face as they have onstage for a number of concerts. Bandmate Jamie Hince rifles through magazines and fiddles with a camera, seeming restless. Sitting side by side, they seem simultaneously very close and knowing, and endearingly cranky with each other—the hallmark of a duo that’s been working and recording together for almost a decade. In person, Mosshart and Hince’s bond seems genuine, warm and honest—the kind forged by years of creative and relational communion. They bicker over things like who’s more of a morning person (Hince: “Me. Or maybe I just stay up really late.”) and more of a neat freak (Mosshart: “Probably me. I’m not OCD, I just like things tidy.”). They went vegan together for a while, but now they’ve both turned omnivore again. Just witness their strong (and differing) views of the “free music” nature of the industry that has saturated the new millennium: “It’s not debatable at this point that people downloading music illegally has hurt the industry. Bands don’t sell records,” Mosshart says. “There’s this mentality that music should be free and people now think that’s how it should be. There’s this guitar tech who I was backstage with, and of course his entire profession is based on making money off of bands. One day he told me, ‘I think music should be free.’ And I was like: ‘Are you serious? You realize you wouldn’t have a job if that were the case?’ No one could afford to make records or be in this industry if people didn’t pay for music and live shows.” Hince makes it clear he doesn’t totally agree, but he’s careful to explain. “I think it’s complicated,” he hedges. “Music is not Kmart or Walmart, but it’s difficult because the spirit of free music has been around for a long time. The ideals of freedom and music and of avant-garde have been around for ages. Punk was about bringing music to the people. Everything that’s been anti-establishment in music has given itself away for free. The problem now is that the world isn’t like that. Why should musicians suffer more than anyone else? Artists sell a painting for $5,000; they sell to rich people and make money off that. Musicians are expected to go around giving their music to people for free and not get anything from it.” “It’s just rock bands that get hit with that ideal, too,” Mosshart interjects. “It’s not hip-hop, and it’s not classical music. Rock musicians are the ones most being hurt by it.”

“But I understand where the idea has come from,” Hince continues. “It’s the history of rock music. It’s the spirit of it. But it’s gotten to the point where it’s hurting the bands themselves. And really, there’s nothing you can do about it now because it’s technology-driven.” It’s a quick (and remarkably informed) give-and-take that shines a light on the band’s peculiar partnership. They’ve learned to lean on each other, and The Kills have morphed into a strange—and almost, but not quite, family-like—dynamic. “When we’re in the studio and working together, we tend to do a lot of things together, like deciding to only eat raw food for two weeks. We really become a lot alike,” Hince says. “The only time the pendulum swings the other way is when one of us is depressed or down, the other one picks them up.” “I think our partnership is always changing and growing and becoming easier and more interesting,” Mosshart says. “The best picture of that is our records.” FINDING A MESSAGE If the pair seems a little world-weary, it’s understandable. As a band, they just released Blood Pressures, their fourth LP, and both Mosshart and Hince are nearly 20-year veterans of the music business. Mosshart, now 32, formed a punk band at the age of 14 in her home state of Florida and spent most of her youth touring around the world while her classmates were studying for SATs and saving for prom. Hince spent the ’90s with his rock band Scarfo, and now at 42, he’s found international fame with Mosshart and their globe-trotting as The Kills. When they first joined together and decided to make a band, their challenges were fairly pragmatic: first, how do two people make a band, and second, what were they going to sing about? They found a surprising solution to the first problem: a drum machine. Whereas most duos might have hired a drummer for studio purposes, Hince and Mosshart have, since the band’s genesis, laid their guitar and vocal tracks and then finished recordings with a mechanical beat. While playing live, they still forgo a drummer, with the drum machine acting as the invisible rhythm section. At first glance, you’d think they’d look and sound anemic without at least one backup musician, but their minimalist sound is actually well-served by the unrelenting throbs of an electronic beat. The question of message, then, is what challenges the band the most. The Kills’ lyrics are at once detached and brimming with emotion; their songs tackle topics as diverse as fractured

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relationships and the again when Hince, a downfall of the New private person by his York City punk scene own admission, started with stylish aplomb. dating supermodel Kate Hince says penning lyrMoss. The band was ics is a deeply personal thrust into headlines endeavor for him. when rumors swirled “I struggle with writabout Moss’ desire ing lyrics,” he says. to join the band (and “They’re so important Mosshart’s reported to me. I can’t just spit refusal). All along, The them out. I don’t write Kills have personified songs as a character. It’s lo-fi. In the beginning, —JAMIE HINCE much more personal they refused to do interand honest for me.” views and maintained a He also draws on themes in literature, like persona of shrouded rock indifference. on the single “Last Day of Magic,” an aching Mosshart and Hince are a band of image, exploration of the final loose threads of love blending a slick fashion sense with detached inspired by the character of Raskolnikov in hipster cool. Even when playing larger venDostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. ues, they face each other onstage, singing “[Raskolnikov’s] room is just described to each other as if the audience didn’t exist. so amazingly in that book,” Hince said in an Hince wails away on his vintage guitars while interview with Magnet magazine. “It’s like a Mosshart lays into the microphone, puffing brain, a paranoid brain. That’s what the song’s away nonstop on Marlboro Menthols. They about, really: having a sickness, a paranoia, have erected a career out of tightly coiled tenand just wanting someone to love, want- sion, from the stiff slingshot snappings of their ing that person to be there on that last day of melodies to the mystique surrounding their— magic. But they’re not there. You’re on your by all accounts platonic—relationship. own, basically, at the end of the day.” “Some days I think [Jamie and I] are twins,” The track appeared on the album that pro- Mosshart says in the run-up to the album’s pelled them into fame, 2008’s Midnight Boom, release. “Some days I think we aren’t similar a short LP that purred with the slinky, dark at all. We came together because we ‘liked’ the cool of a 3 a.m. cab ride. Interest began to cen- same things. We had so much in common on ter on this mysterious musical couple with the an art and music level. We are both quite impablistering stage presence, and it was piqued tient. We are both quite excitable, but Jamie is

“I STRUGGLE WITH WRITING LYRICS. THEY’RE SO IMPORTANT TO ME. I CAN’T JUST SPIT THEM OUT.”

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a perfectionist. He won’t stop something until it’s just the way he imagined it. I’m not like that. I love the moment, the snapshot, the accident. Oh, and I’m American, and he’s English ... so there’s that.” The pair also admits to ocassionally getting into fights, especially during songwriting and recording. “It goes without saying that a band of two people where your music means that much to both of you, you’re going to fight,” Hince says, laughing. “You argue and then you reach some clever compromise. The music is a good release for that.” THE ROAD TO A ROCK BAND Prior to all the quibbling and cathartic songwriting, Mosshart and Hince nurtured independent careers before they were brought together. Growing up in Vero Beach, Fla., on the beaches of the Atlantic, Mosshart got a staggeringly early entree into the world of music. She joined the punk rock band Discount while still in middle school, in 1995, and embarked on her first tour at age 14. “That was the hardest tour to do for my parents. They didn’t want to let me go,” she says. “It was spring break my first year of high school, and finally they let me go. It went fine, so they were more relaxed after that. They’ve been so supportive and they’ve never held me back.” With her hair cropped in a short, spiked pixie cut, Mosshart fronted the all-male lineup, howling out punk songs with a fury that belied her years.


“I’ve always been in bands with all boys,” she laughs. “I grew up in a neighborhood with all boys. I skateboarded with boys. It never seemed strange to me to be the only girl.” While on tour in Europe with her band, Mosshart, then in her late teens, happened to be staying in the same London apartment complex where Hince lived. Though his bands, Scarfo and Blyth Power, had run their course, Hince was still pursuing music, and Mosshart heard him practicing guitar often, his amplifier spilling notes and chords through the walls of the building. They soon got to know each other. The two began writing songs together; even though Mosshart had moved back to the States, she and Hince would record tapes on 4-tracks and mail them back and forth (this is how intercontinental songwriting worked pre-Internet). As it became clear that their musical enterprises were promising, Mosshart moved to London, and The Kills began the hard work to get their act off the ground. THE RISE AND FALL OF GARAGE ROCK Rock music rattled into the new millennium in a strange place. The ’90s had brought the rise and fall of grunge, pop-punk and metal, of Nirvana, Green Day and Limp Bizkit. After the excess angst, technology and genre-bending of that decade, rock seemed on a speeding train back to its minimalist roots, with a necessary foray, then, back through the blues. Garage rock was the rock ‘n’ roll sound of the future, ushered in by the four horsemen of post-punk: The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Vines and The Hives. The Kills’ debut album on Domino Records, Keep On Your Mean Side, lumbered onto the scene in 2003, when this sort of music was at its gritty apex. Melding blues and sparse riffs, Mosshart and Hince rubbed their collection of early tracks raw with a scratchy stream of guitar. The album was recorded at Toe Rag Studios in England, the same venue where The White Stripes’ Elephant was put to tape. “Being in a band back in the ’90s, the world was quite different. Touring was different,” Mosshart says. “We both came from DIY backgrounds where you drove your own tour bus. You put out records yourself. That was how we were used to it.” Though their style and musical leanings would ostensibly settle them into the garage rock scene, the band still feels ambivalent

about being typecast. Their style blended genres and, they say, defied those who would pigeonhole The Kills as just another lo-fi rock outfit. “The media lumped all these bands together as ‘garage rock’ that were actually quite different from each other. To this day we’re friends with a lot of those people, and they’ve all gone their own way since then,” Mosshart says. “That was a time in music where there had been a bit of a drought in guitar music for a while,” Hince says. “We never aimed to be garage rock. There’s elements of it in our music, but there are also elements of blues and of punk and rock and dance. But everyone lumped us and Kings of Leon and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in the ‘garage rock’ category, and it wasn’t a true label.” “The press killed the ‘garage rock’ scene off, in a sense,” Mosshart adds. On the heels of their debut album’s fledgling success, the next record, 2005’s No Wow, embodied a sleek Los Angeles vibe, its collection of artier pop spawning the hit “The Good Ones.” But it wasn’t until their next album, Midnight Boom, that The Kills started garnering more mainstream attention. Inspired by Pizza Pizza Daddy-o, a 1967 documentary about girls’ playground games at an innercity high school in Los Angeles, Mosshart and Hince wove sparse, hand-clapping rhythm and beats into the album’s 12 tracks, some

“IT NEVER SEEMED STRANGE TO ME TO BE THE ONLY GIRL.” —ALISON MOSSHART of which clocked in at under a minute and a half—a galloping tempest of an indie record. Though the record was lauded by critics, it was the songs’ appearances on Gossip Girl and other TV shows that nabbed the attention of younger fans, including tracks like the abrasive “Sour Cherry,” and “Cheap and Cheerful,” one of Boom’s jaded odes to hipster cool, which was featured in an episode of House and in a Fendi commercial. Doubters might call this “selling out,” but Mosshart says the band has never questioned their decision to allow their music to appear commercially. “It’s always fun when your music shows up in shows you actually watch. I really like Gossip Girl!” Mosshart says. “I remember when they first asked us to have our music on the show, and I had to sit down and watch an episode, and I got totally hooked. I don’t watch a ton of TV, but that show is a lot of fun. “My mom really digs going to the movies, and I won’t tell her that we have a song in the

THE DISCOGRAPHY Keep On Your Mean Side (2003)

The slinkiest, bluesiest Kills album was their debut.

No Wow (2005)

If you’ve ever wondered what detached cool sounds like, here you go.

Midnight Boom (2008)

Some of the most interesting rhythms on any indie album.

Blood Pressures (2011)

Alison Mosshart taps into her inner emotional banshee.

WATCH The video for “Satellite,” the first single off Blood Pressures.

movie, and she freaks out in the theater. It’s really cute,” she adds. THE OTHER BAND The Kills had finally hit their crest of recognition, and they announced on their website that they had begun work on their fourth LP. But what happened next was unexpected: Mosshart joined another band. The Kills had toured with The Raconteurs in 2008, opening up shows for Jack White and company. When White suffered a neck injury and lost his voice just prior to one show in Memphis, Mosshart serendipitously filled in as Raconteurs’ lead vocalist, and White, inspired, assembled an ad hoc collection of musicians that included Mosshart for an impromptu recording and songwriting session. Without warning, a new band was born. The Dead Weather, as they became known, included Mosshart, White, Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age and Jack Lawrence of The Greenhornes. If The Kills were marked by their hipster detachment, this project for Mosshart drove in the opposite direction,

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“WE JUST TRY TO FOCUS ON MAKING REALLY GOOD MUSIC.”

boiling with raw emotion. As run by two of our best friends, lead singer, she slung herself who built it with their own into the role of roadhouse banhands. There’s not too much shee, prowling the stage in her going on in this small town signature gold boots and spitexcept for this incredible stuting out lines like, I’d call you dio. It’s a really inspiring place a heartbreaker, but I reserve to work.” that for nicer things with the fury of a saloon woman BLOOD (AND OTHER) scorned. She traded vocals PRESSURES with White—and maybe Beyond the changes in pro—ALISON MOSSHART a few punches, as tabloids duction, The Kills also delved alleged, though Mosshart has deeper into this personal vehemently denied the rumored fistfights. approach for the new album. Blood Pressures While Mosshart roamed the globe touring is scattered with themes of paranoia and relawith The Dead Weather and doing things like tional dyspepsia. Take “D.N.A.”, a slow-burnshooting machine guns with White for the ing track penned by Hince, that opens with, “Treat Me Like Your Mother” video, Hince When it came to pass, lonely passed me by/ Fate remained in England at work on the album. with a single blow has custard pied me now, and After two Dead Weather LPs and at the end heats up into an anthem for perseverance with of her latest tour, Mosshart, understandably the refrain, We will not be moved by it. exhausted, set her sights on finishing up the These are the days we’ll never forget, fourth Kills record. Mosshart declares on the final choruses of “After we’d made the record, Alison and I “Pots and Pans,” sounding more earnest than talked about the theme: there’s a lot about gen- she’s ever managed before. After years of ironic der, about relationships,” Hince says. detachment, the band has let out a breath they Blood Pressures, released in April, scrapped maybe didn’t know they were holding, fixating minimalism for lush layers of sound, marking less on the external stylings of life and more on a departure from the artsy pop that No Wow the real emotions that claw at human relationand Midnight Boom had borne and a step back ships. Maybe the coolest band in all of indietoward the band’s earlier rock roots. They dom has finally found its heart. recorded the new album at the Key Club stuThey’ve evolved musically, too. Gone are the dio in the tiny town of Benton Harbor, Mich. playground-chant singalongs; Blood Pressures “We love to go there. We wrote No Wow marks some of the grandest and most sophisthere, and we’ve always been looking to get ticated tracks the band has ever penned, which back every chance we get,” Mosshart says. “It’s Hince says was intentional.

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“It’s been a long time since 2002, when we started being a band,” he says. “When you get to your third or fourth record, evolving the sound just seems like the natural thing to do.” For the inky, clattering “Satellite,” Hince and Mosshart, who describe themselves spiritually as atheists, were joined by a full gospel choir, an event that touched them both deeply. “We were all together in a tiny room, and we drew the blinds and it was really quiet,” Hince says of the recording session. “The room was just full of voices. It was quite the experience for us, because it’s usually just the two of us singing. You don’t expect it to be so transcending, but it was.” Mosshart, who admits she still gets “really nervous” before going onstage, says she adapts her approach to music for both acts. “Working with Jamie definitely makes me go in a certain direction,” Mosshart says. “With Jamie, it’s this conversation between us, this relationship between us onstage that’s being projected to people. The Dead Weather is a four-piece band of people going crazy.” Even though they’re veterans of the music scene, The Kills still face a continuous stream of pressures, from the unusual—their tour bus vanished prior to a gig in Texas in 2008 and, after an FBI search, was later found abandoned by the driver in a Los Angeles parking lot—to harrowing schedules on the road, including an incident where Mosshart fainted onstage from heat stroke during Lollapalooza. Hince has popped up in the tabloids recently for a different kind of notoriety. His love life became the target of international gossip when he started dating Kate Moss back in 2007. Rumors are currently swirling that the couple is engaged or married, but Hince refuses to let the media’s obsession with his personal life trump his artistic career. “There’s my point of view and then everyone else’s point of view, and everyone else’s point of view is the problem,” Hince says. “I just live my life. I love myself. I lock myself away and it doesn’t bother me. I always wanted to live my life under the radar, and a lot has changed. But I just want to focus on music and live my life in the most pleasurable way I can. “It blows us away that people buy our records and come see us,” he continues. “I’ve been making music since I was 18, and just playing music is what I want to do. Everything else is stupid, you know, like being in the papers for your girlfriend.” “We pick our battles to fight, and I think that’s the most important thing,” Mosshart says. “I don’t read reviews of myself. We just try to focus on making really good music.”


IS ROB BELL A HERE TIC?

The author and pastor discusses his new book, Love Wins, and the controversy surrounding his views on eternity BY JOSH LUJAN LOVELESS

DUCKDUCK COLLECTIVE

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Are your feelings hurt by what has been said about you and your ideas?

R

ob Bell’s new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, has drawn as much controversy as you’d expect from a title like that. And it did so before the book even hit bookshelves, before a single review was written. Bell and his publisher released a “trailer” for the book where he pretty much asked all the questions you’ve ever wanted to ask about heaven and hell and why that really great person you loved—but who didn’t believe in Jesus—is now in hell. Except he didn’t answer any of them. And so the firestorm began. The central question amidst the controversy seemed to be: Is Rob Bell a universalist? The debate is still raging and it’s sparking renewed interest in the afterlife and what the Bible actually teaches. We talked to Bell to find out why he wrote the book, why he asked those questions and, yes, if he’s a universalist. Last time we talked, you were a Christian. Then we went online and the Internet said something different. [Laughing] I think I may be even more of a Christian. I think Jesus is more compelling and interesting than when we were last together. I think I’m going in the other direction than apparently what you’ve heard. Why do you think so many people have found it entertaining to question whether or not you’re a Christian? That is something I don’t understand. The Christian tradition is a vibrant, dynamic conversation about the resurrected Jesus that has gone on hundreds and hundreds of years. It is a wide, diverse, fascinating, cacophonous conversation we’re all taking part in because we’re serious about following Jesus. We believe Him, we trust Him, we think He’s where it’s at, we think He is who He says He is. That discussion shouldn’t be threatening, it should be joyous, it should be life-giving, it should be challenging. I thoroughly enjoy it. So the idea that within this conversation, there are a group of people who have decided they are the chosen, they are the elect, they are the arbiters of who belongs and who doesn’t—it’s not something I understand.

When you give your life to trying to share the Good News of Jesus with a world that I believe desperately needs to hear it, and then somebody very passionately and defiantly announces you are in fact working against the very thing you have given your life to, that takes you into a deep, deep place of trust in God, because you are forced to confront your powerlessness. It takes a person on a journey deep into the trust and love and security of God. That’s a personal thing. That’s an intimate thing. So yeah, there is a deeply personal component to it, and that’s about as much as I can say about that right now. … And, I have a choice. Because we all have a choice when we are spoken of in negative terms. You can throw rocks back and become equally mean and nasty, or you can allow that pain to shape you into the kind of person who loves your enemies and who is more open and more expansive and more humble. It shapes you one way or the other. You either become equally bitter and fearful and angry and mean, or the pain pushes you into this place where you’re broken, and because you’re broken, God can fill you in new ways. Why this topic? Why now? My experience as a pastor interacting with real people is that what lingers behind most discussions and most questions and most struggles is the question: What is God like? People want to talk about a particular issue, but as soon as you start talking, you realize you really need to talk about the thing behind the thing behind the thing, and that is, “What’s God like?” Over and over again, I’ve interacted with people and had extraordinary conversations with people who the truth is—deep in their psyche and heart and soul— God is not good. Somewhere along the line, they picked up really destructive images of who God is, and what God’s like and all of the horrible things God just can’t wait to do to us. This book comes out of [my belief] that Jesus came to show us, teach us and invite us into relationship with a God who is good and a God who is love. That is good news, and I believe the world desperately needs to hear it now more than ever.

are dimensions of existence, they are choices we can make every day. And I assume those choices and those realities extend on after we die. I grew up like a lot of people, [thinking] heaven is somewhere else, sometime else, mainly after you die, and Jesus is how you go somewhere else, sometime else. And so all of this arises out of my studies of the Scriptures and my interactions with people from across the depth and breadth of the Christian conversation, and my growing awareness that [for] Jesus, in the world that He lived in, the issue was not evacuation, the issue was not, “How can I get out of here?” The dominant story of the Bible is a God who wants to restore and renew and reconcile and redeem this world, which is our home. And that is a different narrative arc, that is a different understanding than lots of people were taught. So I start there. In the book, I explore: “Here is every verse in the Bible in which hell is mentioned. Here are the actual Greek words. Here is the word ‘forever.’ Here are the actual words.” And I try to sort of help people [see]: “This is what the Bible actually says. Now, you’re free to believe whatever you want, but don’t make the Bible say things it doesn’t say.” Have you always held these questions and conclusions? Or did you begin to ask them in college? Or are they new?

How has your theology of heaven and hell evolved over the years?

My growing understanding of what Jesus meant when He said certain things, my growing understanding of how the first-century Jewish world talked about this, this has all been the past 10 years, I would say. And then the endless discussion and discovery [that] this is nothing new. Lots of Christians have said, “Hey, wait a minute, perhaps we ought to think about it like this.” It all comes out of what is the story the Scripture is telling, what is Jesus calling us to, how did He talk about these things? And how many things are floating around in the culture, that are lingering there in the air about heaven and hell, that have no basis whatsoever in the Bible? And my experience has been when people are just shown: “By the way, here are a couple passages. Here are the roots of the passage. Here is the first-century context.” It just comes to life, and what I’ve seen over and over is people [saying]: “Oh, that is so helpful. That makes so much more sense.” I’m just trying to illuminate for people who find these things interesting.

One of the things I traced is that heaven and hell in the Bible are present realities, they

One of the main points of controversy is that people feel you’ve embraced

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And you see the difference being …?

“THE VERY NATURE OF LOVE IS FREEDOM. SO IF AT ANY POINT GOD CO-OPTS YOUR ABILITY TO CHOOSE, WE NO LONGER ARE DEALING WITH A LOVING GOD.” universalism. Most evangelicals believe once you die, there are no more decisions to make. Do you think your position is controversial? It fits squarely within the orthodox, historic, Christian tradition. Lots and lots of people have raised these sort of questions from across the spectrum. It’s not outside the tradition. Serious, faithful, devout followers of Jesus have wrestled with these questions and have entered into the speculation and have all sorts of ways they thought about this and talked about this. I’m not interested in dying on any one of those hills; I’m interested in dying on the hill that says, “There’s lots of hills, and there’s lots of space here.” That’s what’s interesting to me. Based on your understanding of universalism, do you consider yourself a universalist? No, I don’t. 62 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 11

My observation would be that people mean lots of different things with that word. I think for some people, apparently the word means nothing matters. It doesn’t matter what you believe, it doesn’t matter how you live— nothing matters. And I simply don’t believe that. Certain paths are destructive. Certain paths are wrong. Certain paths cause all kinds of toxic harm to other people and it’s not loving your neighbor. So if by “universalism,” people mean it doesn’t matter—it doesn’t matter what you believe, it doesn’t matter what you do—that’s just complete rubbish. So, no. Secondly, sometimes when people say the word “universalism,” I think they mean at some point God just swoops everybody up into heaven. Like, “Come on, everybody— everybody is in.” And the problem with that is, I believe love wins, and the very nature of love is freedom. So if at any point God co-opts your ability to choose, we no longer are dealing with a loving God. And if there are people who are in heaven who don’t want to be there, then it’s not heaven. Like God is saying, “It’s a party—and you’re going to like it!” I did a wedding probably 10 years ago, and the father of the bride absolutely despised the groom and made it known to everybody that he thought his daughter was making a huge error in marrying this guy. When he brought her down the aisle during the ceremony so he could hand his daughter off to the groom, he said to the groom in a voice everybody could hear, “She’s yours now.” It was like the most ferociously awkward moment, and this father of the bride cast such an oppressive dark cloud on this wedding celebration. The fact of the matter is, if people don’t want to be at the party, they can ruin a perfectly good party. The question I do think is terribly interesting, and which as a Christian we must wrestle with, is written in a letter to Timothy: “God wants everybody to be saved.” Now, this is fascinating. God wants everybody to be saved, so perhaps the important question is, is God a universalist? I do think as a Christian it is our duty to long for the things that God longs for, and to want the things that God wants. That passage has been used quite a bit to convince people they need to be evangelistic. But if people get a second chance to choose later, why should we bother evangelizing now? Central to your experience of the redeeming, saving, loving grace of God that Jesus gives us,

is this joyous, “I want everybody to hear this and experience this.” When you fall in love, you tell people about it. You show pictures of your kids. The things you love, the joy you experience, you can’t help it. It explodes out of you, it spills out the top; you feel like you’re going to spontaneously combust if you don’t tell people. That is the essence of good news. So when Christians begin to [say], “Maybe we shouldn’t share,” well then, what are you talking about when you talk about your experience with God? Because my experience has been, how can you not want to share this? What is your take on judgment day? First and foremost, there is a human longing for judgment. When we see dictators killing their people—when we see greed, injustice, rape, abuse—we long for a world that is put back together and is made right and is rid of all of the things that ruin the peace God intends. In the Scripture, over and over again, is the hope and the longing and the assumption that God will fully restore and renew this world, and that will involve a decisive act of judgment, or acts of judgments, where certain things are banished. And even the picture at the end of Revelation of a new heaven and a new earth, it says there are those who continue to want to murder or deceive, etc., and they aren’t in the new city. “You can’t do that here.” For it to be a new heaven and a new earth, for heaven and earth to come together and be one, certain things cannot coexist with other things. And that is a beautiful longing. That is a hope, a vision, an assumption at the heart of the Christian faith. I would add a second point: Sometimes what develops is this sort of, “Man, I can’t wait for those people to get it.” Judgment is when those bad people are going to get it—you know, the ones who disobeyed God, the ones who failed to love and did all sorts of horrible things. I would just point out [that] central to Jesus’ call was confession and repentance and our owning up to the ways our hands are not clean in this. We all have contributed to this. So sometimes what you find out is people want to be off the hook for their own stuff, but they want other people to pay, and this is why we are at the mercy of God. “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” It’s a beautiful prayer. If God is love, can you experience love (or joy or peace or patience) separate from Him? That’s a great question, and in the book I talk about how Moses strikes the rock and


it provides water for the people, and then Paul later says, “Oh, that rock is Christ.” And then he doesn’t really give much in the way of commentary. Paul just says, “So in the rock story, Jesus is present; He is the mystery hidden in the very fabric of creation.” Then Paul says in another passage He holds all things together. The biblical writers didn’t have a category for “without Christ.” He is the Word made flesh, through Him all things were made. He is the animating life force of the universe taking on flesh and blood. So the question is, “Are all sorts of people responding to Jesus, just not by name and they don’t know it?” That’s a fabulous question, and I think it’s very important that a Christian leaves all sorts of space for that, because first and foremost, the Bible leaves all sorts of space for that. That is not dishonoring Jesus or shrinking Jesus—it’s magnifying and expanding what the massive scope of His saving works might really be like. I think that’s actually extremely important for our witness in the world, that we know when to leave space for this mystery hidden in every spare inch of creation.

“GRACE—PURE, RAW, TRUE, 100 PERCENT GRACE—IS ALWAYS A DISRUPTIVE FORCE TO WHATEVER RELIGIOUS SYSTEMS HAVE BUILT THEMSELVES UP AS THE ARBITERS OF GOD.”

Why are people terrified of that understanding of Jesus? I think grace—pure, raw, true, 100 percent grace—is always a disruptive force to whatever religious systems have built themselves up as the arbiters of God. In Jesus’ day, the lepers were out, the tax collectors were out, the sinners were out, the prostitutes were out. And Jesus came along and touched them, and held them and dined with them, and that was profoundly disruptive. Ultimately, He confronted an entire religious system that had essentially created categories and labels for who fits where, and it got Him killed. So this is not really anything new. Your book is a reminder people are wrestling with more questions than the ones answered at church on Sunday. How can people live in the tension between certainty and doubt? I’d always begin with your own story. And the power of your own story being retold. Your sins, failures, shortcomings, conflicts, things that totally blew up in your face, your victories, your achievements, all of it—Jesus wants to retell your story, and He wants to retell it through the lens of grace and love. So I’d begin with your own story and with the fundamental metaphor Jesus used, which was fruit. So let’s talk about the fruit: Let’s talk about marriages that are being healed, about drug addicts getting clean, about people who have been struggling with suicidal thoughts who are having less suicidal thoughts. Let’s talk about actual fruit and actual lives being changed. So when people start voicing the actual questions they have, I think the Spirit gives people a sort of radar for when they are doing or speculating or making judgments that aren’t theirs to make. I think grand declarations about who will burn forever and who will not, something within us says: “That’s not my job. That is not something Jesus calls me to do. I don’t have to make that kind of declaration.” You can hold up Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. You can speak of Him as the unique, singular revelation of God, and you can still create all sorts of space, and you can in all humility say: “There are a bunch of other questions I can’t answer. All I know is I’ve met Him, and it’s saving me, and I think He wants to save the whole world.” So truth is based on our experiences? Well, when you ask where we start, what we read in these Scriptures is we read these

accounts of these people who met God. And as we read this, we find our story in their story. We find their story in our story. So we have the witness of history, we have our own experience, we have the experience of those around us, those who have gone before us. You have this great, giant, ongoing witness to the resurrected Christ. You find it across cultures, you find it across all sorts of ways we have divided ourselves, you find this Jesus uniting us. That’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. The people who disagree with you believe they are right. They go to bed at night 100 percent believing there is no room for discussion. Is there a chance you could be wrong? Wrong about Jesus? That He isn’t our salvation, He isn’t the way, the truth, the life? No, wrong about your reading of Scripture on heaven and hell? Wrong about the importance? The absolute necessity of understanding the reality of heaven and hell and the urgent invitation Jesus offers us and warns us to choose heaven now? That part? I’ll ask more specifically. Do you think you could be wrong that you don’t get a second chance to choose heaven or hell—that, as evangelicals believe, your one decision on earth is the only one that matters? Of course. We have no video evidence. So, we are speculating about exactly how it unfolds. That’s what we are doing, so the most important thing is to be honest about what we are doing. We have to begin with humility. Sometimes the question simply is, “Well, if that’s true, we’re all actually really screwed.” We will have far larger problems than some pastor from Grand Rapids saying some stuff, if in the end God turns out to be something other than love or goodness, and love doesn’t win and we don’t have choice. People choose hell now. I assume people, when you die, you can choose hell. So there is no denial of hell here. There is a very real awareness that this is a clear and present reality that extends on into the future. But the real question is, if millions and millions of people who have never heard of Jesus are going to be tormented forever by God because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they’d never heard of, then at that point we will have far larger problems than a book by a pastor from Grand Rapids. RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 63


? P I H R

S

O WHAT’S THE POINT OF WORSHIP? EVERY SUNDAY, CHRISTIANS GATHER TO SING SONGS TO GOD ... WHY?

BY BONNIE AND TREVOR McMAKEN

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10 a.m. on Sunday morning. In a small, steepled church, people sing a few old hymns backed by an organ, listen to a sermon, share in Communion and have bad coffee as they laugh and catch up in the church basement afterward. A few blocks away, in a rehabbed industrial warehouse, a clock on a screen counts down the seconds to the start of the service. Before and after the sermon, a 10-person band led by a young, flannel shirt-wearing, ambient electric guitar-playing worship leader plays highly produced music from an elevated stage accompanied by full lights and a colorful media presentation. Depending on your perspective, either of these scenarios might make you uncomfortable. Both evoke certain stereotypes based on your personal church context. Everyone would like to think the “worship wars” are a thing of the past, and most can agree people are probably worshiping in both of these contexts. But even so, everyone has their own distinct ideas of what worship is and—even more clearly—what worship isn’t. Even for Christians who engage in sung worship each Sunday, many have nagging questions about the entire thing. What is “authentic” worship, and what does worship have to do with singing? Can individuals get there on their own, or do they need to be in community to “really” worship? How have modern trends like worship concerts aided worship—how have they hindered it? To find out, we went to the source—asking some of the world’s foremost leaders in modern worship music. Their experiences differ: Some are in full-time local ministry, and others get paid to write and perform original music. But all of the leaders, in their own way and context, have dedicated their lives to trying to help God’s people worship Him. They presented us with thoughtful opinions, across styles and spectrums.

IT’S

Why Music? If worship is an expression of love between God’s people and their Creator, and people’s entire lives—behaviors, thoughts, relationships, jobs, everything they are and do—can be an act of worship (1 Corinthians 10:31), then what is the relationship between worship and music? “There are a lot of ways we worship God,” says Hillsong Church creative director and worship leader Joel Houston. “Sometimes we put too much emphasis on [music] solely as our method of worship, but at the same time, it’s a great gift. Song has an incredible ability to bring us together and to open us up to who God is and what He’s about.” During sung worship, the Body responds in unison through words, rituals and music— simple human actions that point to a deeper spiritual reality. “When you see God, understand the story of Jesus and get a glimpse of the heart of God, it’s impossible to not respond,” says songwriter and worship leader John Mark McMillan. And with that response, says McMillan, a conversation begins: “In worship, we respond to God, then we give Him the opportunity to respond back, to sing and dance over His people.” What Happens When We Sing? Singing is one of the most elemental ways Christians respond to God in worship and tell the Gospel story. Song has always been a central worship practice for the people of God: The Israelites celebrated in song after crossing the Red Sea, and Paul talks about hymns, psalms and spiritual songs in Ephesians 5. Today, people meet God through organ-led hymns, electric guitar-driven choruses, evensong services, banjo folk songs, gospel choir improvisation and countless other traditions. “I think there is some mystery in song,” says Steve Smith, associate director of worship arts at Harvest Bible Chapel in Naperville, Ill. “It’s historical, it’s biblical, it’s bigger than us. We’re joining together with the voices of generations of believers in this practice of singing to God.” Singing opens the worshiper up to God, Smith says. “There is something about song that expresses the inner heart of the singer that just saying the words can’t express. It allows communication from our souls.” Houston agrees that music stirs something deep in worshipers: “[Singing] helps us push past our brain. When you’re singing a song, your soul is open, your heart is open, but you’re also not thinking too much about it.” But worship isn’t merely an emotional response. It’s profoundly holistic.

“IN WORSHIP, WE RESPOND TO GOD, THEN WE GIVE HIM THE OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND BACK, TO SING AND DANCE OVER HIS PEOPLE.” —JOHN MARK McMILLAN “When you are a part of a body of people singing to some[one] greater than them,” says Lisa Gungor, who—with her husband, Michael—is part of the band Gungor, “it’s hard to not be engaged with your whole person.” Worship Unifies Song brings together all aspects of a person, but it also binds together groups of people. “There’s a power to a song, and you don’t have to be in church to see that,” Houston says. “When you go to a football game and the crowd stands as one and lifts their voices up, there’s a unifying power.” If one doubts the point, watching any European soccer match supports it—the fans might not be worshiping God, but they seem to be worshiping something. McMillan says he recently did a concert at a school that doesn’t use instruments in worship. “Before we played, 1,000 people sang without instruments, and it was beautiful. When you join into that group response, there’s a sense of being connected to something bigger than yourself. We’re created to be a part of that.” Worship leader and songwriter Vicky Beeching explains this “otherness” like this: “[Worship] knits us together. Lifting our voices together allows boundaries of age, nationality, gender and money to fade away. In that gathering of the Church, we become one body praying, ‘We’re in this together.’” Houston experienced the concord of worship on Hillsong’s I-Heart Revolution tour, which brought together churches around the world to not only worship but do mission. “People were coming from churches who often can’t do anything together, but were singing these songs under the one name: Jesus,” he

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remembers. “We wanted to take the unity we see through the song and put arms and legs on it in a local context.” Worship embodies the unity in a way that is physical—audible and tangible. It incorporates individuals into a community and communities into the global reality of the Church. As Christians physically sing the same words and melody, their hearts bind into one, even as they are beautifully diverse. Preferences and Division While music has power to unify, preconceptions about what worship “should be” can easily divide. Isaac Wardell of Bifrost Arts, a collective of musicians exploring the power of sung worship, calls it a great irony. “There’s something very dark and unfortunate about the fact that music, which is this thing that has the capability of uniting people across language, cultural and generational barriers, can end up doing the exact opposite thing for people sitting next to each other in the pews. We don’t have a vocabulary for seeing worship as something that’s here to connect us and not a way to define ourselves.” It’s when people refuse to budge from “our kind of worship” that division happens. These unwavering preferences—the willingness to split over things that aren’t essential—aren’t just an issue in the Church today. Paul addressed the same thing in his letter to the Corinthians. The Church there had split into factions. Some said they were of Paul, some of Peter, some of Jesus. Paul reminded them—and Christians today—that being part of the Church means being part of a family, and that

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“WE OVERESTIMATE WHAT WE CAN DO IN 75 MINUTES, BUT WE UNDERESTIMATE WHAT WE [CAN] DO OVER THE COURSE OF PEOPLE’S LIVES.” —ISAAC WARDELL

means sacrificing and compromising for the sake of unity (1 Corinthians 1:10). “How much of it is me, me, me, and how much of it is we, we, we?” Wardell asks. Beeching puts it like this: “Everyone has to lay down their preferences when we gather, finding the common denominator.” Tangibly, that common thread is the response of the Church to Christ. “Even with all of the different styles and cultures of worship today, the heart of worship music is the unified voice of the congregation,” Smith says. “All the other aspects of worship are there to support the singing of the church.”

Distractions in Worship Focusing on singing to Jesus as the “common denominator” is often hindered by the trappings surrounding worship. The emphasis on highly produced, band-led worship—which comes from a sincere desire to make worship as “good” as it can be—can drown out the response of the congregation. “While our music production values may be getting better,” Wardell observes, “congregational voices seem to be fading into the background.” To bring the communal voice back into its rightful place, Steve Smith’s church tried something outside the box. “We ‘fired’ the band last week because we want the voice of our congregation to be a joyous expression of singing. It’s so vital to hear one another.” If slick worship production can become a distraction, then so can the worship leader. Have churches adopted a “band leader as celebrity” mindset? “We need big personalities to sell worship records,” Wardell laments. Ali Gilkeson of Irish band Rend Collective Experiment agrees: “[The touring worship trend] has a tendency of promoting a celebrity culture that’s at odds with the value of humility. When a concert has integrity, it has the potential to encourage the Church. But when it’s all about selling records and T-shirts, it’s worthless. We attend church to gather together to honor God with singing, not to be entertained by rock stars.” Lisa Gungor, who has just returned from a touring stint with her husband and band, describes the stage as potentially poisonous. “Being elevated above everyone else can give the sense that you are quite important and that people are actually worshiping you rather than God,” she says. “This is something humanity has always struggled with; we have a knack for fashioning idols.” Michael Gungor agrees, pointing out the danger of pride for any worship leader. “[Worship] often becomes less about God and more about the songwriter. I think those of us on the stage need to actively fight that in our churches.” It also means Christians in the congregation need to fight the desire to create idols out of the people on stage. How do worship leaders keep worship vertical? What is their appropriate role? “One of my favorite metaphors is John the Baptist,” Beeching says. “[He] is not the focus, but he’s leading people to the focus. I see myself as a connector: taking somebody’s hand and taking God’s hand and connecting them. Once you lead people to Jesus, you then fade away.” Houston, who has traveled around the world with Hillsong United, admits, “I’ve


always found it a really uncomfortable place to be, but I’ve learned to work in the framework to help people connect to God in a way that’s true.” Houston emphasizes that leading worship—in a church or in an arena—is “not about how good is the music, how exciting is the stage or how great is our presentation of worship. It’s actually about people’s hearts being opened up to the Spirit of God through His Word that is preached.” The reality that people can worship without the production level and star power of a touring worship concert is good news for the majority of churches who don’t have resident professional worship leaders. Wardell insists there’s no need for churches to feel the pressure of imitating the concert industry experience. “There aren’t really a whole lot of things you need to worship,” he says. Traveling around the country hosting hymn-sings in homes and churches, Wardell says he saw this firsthand. He believes people connected with those nights because they were doing something the Church has been doing for hundreds of years but hasn’t been doing for the last 25 years: singing together. Worship Changes Us The heart of worship is the relational communion with God and His people. Singing together helps Christians engage in that reality. “Singing songs of worship is a great way for people to open up, remove themselves from whatever distractions they have to encounter the Spirit of God,” Houston says. And when people’s hearts are opened to that interaction with Jesus, their lives begin to be transformed to look more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). Beeching explains it like this: “People are making themselves available to what God wants to do in them. They’re worshiping Him by saying, ‘You’re in control.’ Worship is about surrendering and letting God change us.” “Singing changes us if we actually buy into what we are singing,” Lisa Gungor says. “It’s hard to truly worship and not be changed. When we are connected with our Maker, we are pulled outside of our self; we begin to live for something more. Love is the reaction to [encountering God in worship].” Becoming people who love like God is not something that can happen in a single worship experience. Worship concerts can be great times of connection with God, but it is the worship of the local church over time that really shapes Christians into the Body of Christ that can then go out into the world to love others and ultimately bring them into a worship relationship with God.

Smith thinks the biggest difference between a concert and a service is that in a concert, “you don’t know each other and you don’t ever see each other again. There’s no lasting pattern where we see our congregation changing over the course of years.” Houston agrees that it’s the presence of relationship that makes worship in the local church so beautiful and transformational. “They’re two different worlds,” he says of the concert and the local church setting. “When you’re at home, you’ve got your family, your friends and the people you do life with.” It’s this long-term formation through worship that only the local church can accomplish. “We overestimate what we can really do in 75 minutes, but we completely underestimate what we do over the course of five years or 10 years or 20 years of people’s lives,” Wardell says. “If all we’re ever doing is every single week trying to give them a new experience, trying to make them cry or trying to give them goosebumps, it turns into us not feeding our people very well.” It’s a lesson not only for worship leaders, but also for the singing congregation: molding hearts and minds into God-honoring instruments takes time. And that emotional experiences elicited by worship can be fleeting. Christians need to be wary if the emotional high becomes an end in itself. Glorifying God is about praising Him through the warm, fuzzy feelings and the stark, mundane moments of worship. When the high becomes the norm, that’s not true worship—that’s manipulation. It’s why Christians are called to worship even when they don’t feel like it. In the moment, it can seem inauthentic—like going through the motions. But if worshipers open their hearts to the Spirit, this dynamic exchange—over time—can and will change them. A find-the-next-hip-thing style of worship misses the main point of a loving interaction between Jesus and His bride. When the Body confuses the sanctuary with the stage, it’s the relationships that are missed. Wardell notes that worship is not a concert hall or a lecture hall. Instead, he says it is a banquet hall—like at a wedding—where we all come to participate in the festivities (Revelation 19:7-8). “We’re pointed to God sitting on His throne,” Beeching says. “We won’t need well-written songs; it will just be a response from our hearts, proclaiming, ‘Holy, holy, holy.’ We’ll see God at the center. There will be flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, but they won’t be coming from projection software. It will just be us gazing on the beauty of God. This is a picture of what the Church should aspire to.”

THE WORSHIP MIX Here are some of our favorite recent worship albums:

HILLSONG UNITED Aftermath

JESUS CULTURE Come Away

MISTY EDWARDS Fling Wide

JOHN MARK M c MILLAN The Medicine

BIFROST ARTS Come O Spirit!

GUNGOR Beautiful Things

SONS & DAUGHTERS Brokenness Aside

ASCEND THE HILL Take the World, But Give Me Jesus

PASSION Passion: Awakening

A WORSHIP MIX Because we care.


LUPE FIASCO

THE CONSCIENTIOUS RAPPER TALKS POLITICS, FAITH AND WHY HIS LABEL WOES DROVE HIM TO THE DESERT

A

BY ANTHONY BARR-JEFFREY

s a rapper, entrepreneur and social activist, Wasalu Muhammad Jaco—aka, Lupe Fiasco—has been challenging hip-hop paradigms since he arrived on the scene in 2007. The self-proclaimed “nerd” has seen his star rise with each consecutive release, lighting up the charts on “Touch the Sky” with Kanye West, “Kick, Push” (probably the only hip-hop anthem all about skateboarding) and “Superstar.” After a professionally and personally chaotic year, 2011 finally sees the arrival of his much delayed third release, Lasers—a backronym for “Love Always Shines Everytime, Remember 2 Smile.” Hook-laden and polished, Lasers is arguably the wordsmith’s boldest work to date���a set of socially progressive, politically incendiary rebel cries that come complete with a 14-point manifesto (WeAreNotLosers.com). And, if you’ve heard his lead single, “Words I Never Said,” you know Lupe Fiasco has a lot to say about more than just his music. RELEVANT recently sat down with the rapper to discuss his label troubles, his role as provocateur and his Muslim faith.

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Q A

Lasers was two years in the making ... and not because you wanted to take two years to release it. How did that happen?

It was the traditional “creative difference” relationship that exists between an artist and label executives. It exists with techno bands, pop singers, jazz musicians. You have the people who put money into a project and feel they have a certain artistic input about that project and leverage the release of that project or particular songs on that project. It’s to the point where the executive becomes the artist and the roles almost get reversed and the artist is forced to act in a business capacity. It cancels out release dates, it cancels out progression of the music. It creates a feedback loop where you become an artist speaking to another artist. The traditional relationship between a record company and the artist was where the artist would be the crazy, wild, abstract person and the record company would basically tell them to stop in order to meet a deadline. Now, the system I’m in has become about dibbling and dabbling in the actual art itself to make it more

ANDREW ZAEH


commercially viable for their bottom line, even outside of just royalties. It’s a complicated relationship that went sour real fast.

Q A

It sounds like they went from being business execs to being producers.

Right, they went from being executive producer to producer. Producer meaning, “I have the right to make beats and tell you what to rap about,” which doesn’t sit well with me—especially since I’m not a new artist and my accolades speak for themselves. There’s a certain amount of integrity that comes along with being an artist. You can have somebody with a ton of hit records, [but] people don’t even know what they are because they are homogenized to the point where they sound and look like everyone else—they have no identity. And then it comes down, despite all the publicity and YouTube, in the end you aren’t really selling more records than artists who don’t have all that hootin’ and hollerin’! And the artist that doesn’t have all that still has integrity and is selling off that integrity, which is his to lose or gain. He doesn’t have someone picking any old song and putting it out there for him. If that’s you, you’re at the mercy of the guy who picked that song, and what happens if that guy doesn’t want to pick songs for you anymore? What happens to you when you are known for the songs that someone else picks out for you? What happens if you don’t want to make the records they are picking for you?

Q

So, though artistic integrity may draw a lasting, dedicated fan base, it sounds like you were forced to become business-minded to save your artistic integrity—and it still sounds like it peeved you. What did you do personally to keep your sanity?

A

Well, to be honest, I kind of lost a little bit of it in the midst of the process and went to some very dark places. I explained it very systematically, kind of articulately, somewhat emotionless, right? But the actual process of going through that was an emotional, mental and spiritual train wreck. These were my stories, my music, my pain, my adventures and my concepts, and it was just being looked at like cannon fodder. Even the strongest personal beefs about people dabbling in what is considered personal to them.

For me, I literally had to go away. I had to stay here, but mentally I had to go to another place to stay sane. I had to go to a rebellious place where I was like, “I don’t give a f--- about you or your money or your record company,” and not just for the sake of being a rebel or as a business tactic. No, I’m at home considering jumping out of a window and crazy [stuff] like that. I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to do drugs or drown my sorrows in alcohol. So it was like my therapy; it’s what I did to combat forces trying to tear me down. I went out and bought a bunch of cars and drove through the desert, anything I could do to give myself a barrier from the nonsense!

Q

And yet, in the past year you went from those lows to being asked to speak at a symposium at Clark Atlanta University. How do you make sense of that?

A

It feels good because it’s a weird world that I walk in. I’m not really famous, I’m more infamous. I’m not followed by paparazzi, but they want me to speak at Princeton, they want me to teach at Georgetown. I’m subversively popular. I don’t live on BET or MTV. Every move I make isn’t covered, every song I drop doesn’t get played on the radio a million times—I don’t have that. But what I do have is a massive academic following. Teachers are teaching Lupe Fiasco courses at Brown University and professors [are] quoting me at Princeton and Harvard. So it’s an interesting piece, to have that be the other side of it; to have that be the buildup from records like “Kick, Push,” “Superstar” or “Hip-Hop Saved My Life” and my body [of] work. And some people might not see that as commercially impressive, and it wasn’t—I didn’t sell billions of copies, but socially it had an impact and meant a lot to people who are actually “the masses.” Selling a million records is [selling to] a minority. If you sell a million records, you aren’t even speaking to a percentage of America; you’re speaking to a percentage point. Even if you sell 8 million records, you’re still not really touching the masses in America or the rest of the world. So to reach beyond that, selling a minimal amount but having a reach that is worldwide, it transcends just being [like], “Oh, you’re famous!” No, they want to hear what you’re saying because the music has a certain level of impact.

Q A

So it's really not about the money for you?

There’s definitely some economic incentive for me, but it’s not as important [and doesn’t] override my desire to be a balance in hip-hop, to put out positive music and give that kid an option. When that kid listens to the radio, he can hear Rick Ross, he can hear Lil Wayne. He can hear T.I., but he also hears Lupe Fiasco—a character who speaks to what they’re about, their oddness. They don’t want to wear the same thing everyone wants to wear, they like to skateboard and they’re from the hood; they’re black and they don’t want to gangbang or be a gangster, and they want to be a rocket scientist or philosopher. So for me, it’s about playing that role— not to be a role model, but let me just put myself in that position. As far as the economic benefit or financial gain, even though I still get it and it still has a certain level of importance, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the point of what I’m doing.

Q

There’s been buzz about your criticism of some of President Obama’s international policies. Why do you think it’s notable that you criticized the president?

A

Because [Obama] is “hip-hop’s president” and it’s funky because I never really agreed with that. I pay my taxes, but I’ve never voted and I never will vote as long as the system works the way it does. Even when Obama was running, I wanted to see a woman run! I’d rather see a woman in the White House as opposed to Obama. I got a little lambasted and people came out and said some things about me. But at the end of the day, it don’t matter, I wasn’t going to vote for [Hillary Clinton] anyway— they represent the same system, they come from the Democrats or the Republicans. The party lines don’t change, that’s what makes them a party and you’d be a fool to think that just because there’s a black man in there it’s not gonna change the real foundation of the system. Especially when you look at his largest contributor to his campaign, AIG, one of the culprits in the economic meltdown itself. So for me, I’m not looking at the fact that a black man is in office. I mean, come on, Robert Mugabe is the president of Zimbabwe!

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 69


vote for that, and I’m going to speak up because I pay my taxes, I paid for bombs and bullets in that helicopter and that blood is on our hands!

Q

In regards to your personal crisis and our world’s economic crisis, how does your faith keep you from becoming overwhelmed or simply quitting?

A

Q A

You're using the anarchy symbol in the Lasers title. Is that an intentional rebel statement?

Most definitely, it’s completely political. I love Barack Obama. On the emotional side, for me, which is as deep as I’ll go on the racial side of it, we have a black man in the White House, which is something most people never thought would happen in one of the most racist societies in the world. This country was borne of slavery. The fields where cotton is still grown in the South were produced and tilled by slaves who were beaten and sold. So for me, that’s an amazing feat. But it’s not just about race anymore. There are poor white people, poor black people, there’s poor everybody! If you look at where we actually meet, it’s economic. And if you look at Barack Obama’s economic team, they are the same people who are responsible for predatory loans offered to the poor. The main thing I said [in the song “Words I Never Said”] was, “Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say s---” and he didn’t. When Israel was going to war and bombing civilians and 900 people were killed, Obama didn’t say a word, not a peep. Nothing. For me, it was like, “See, that’s why I didn’t vote for you.” And that’s why I wouldn’t have voted for Hillary Clinton or John McCain because [they] probably wouldn’t have said anything either, because at the end of the day, it’s the same thing. They have your allies you need to keep, even though it’s oppressive, an atrocity or a war crime that’s going to go unpunished. I can’t

70 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 11

IF YOU LIKE LUPE ... If you like Lupe’s approach to real issues, controversial political statements and his old-school flow, here are three other albums you should check out:

Mos Def Black on Both Sides (Rawkus, 1999) A Tribe Called Quest Midnight Marauders (Jive, 1993) The Roots How I Got Over (Def Jam, 2010)

LISTEN Lupe Fiasco’s incisive song “Words I Never Said.”

It gives me a moral compass, an ethic and something bigger than myself to strive toward. And sometimes I question it; I’m a human being and sometimes it don’t make sense. Sometimes the stories don’t match up and aren’t as scientifically correct as they possibly should be. But knowing it’s based on faith, I know it’s a nonsense kind of thing from the door—you can’t see it, touch it, taste it, smell it; it’s an internal thing you can’t verify. It is nonsensical. It gives me a basis to see things on a different platform. The prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, got a lot of his tutelage and understanding of the world from literally hanging out with Jewish priests and others who were traveling through Arabia and Mecca and trading. Since there is the DNA of all those religions in there, you get a whole worldview. If you’re not a complete extremist or fanatic and you’re open and tolerant, which I think a majority of the Muslim world is, you get to see a large part of why things happen. If you are an open-minded and tolerant Muslim, you have enough knowledge to question the moves of a Christian governor or even the Ku Klux Klan. They called themselves a Christian organization, but how is that possible since Jesus didn’t do that? It’s like saying you can’t draw images of the prophet Muhammad. That means he would have killed you if you looked in his face! He wouldn’t have done that, so why would you kill somebody, kill them because they drew a depiction of him? The point of not drawing depictions of the prophet Muhammad wasn’t out of vanity; he didn’t want people worshiping him or [any] intermediary between humans and God. There is a certain level of usurpation of faith as a justification for aggression in all religions, but the other side of it is that if you understand religions, you can combat the usurpation because you understand the morals and ethics of that religion and civilization.


THESE COULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE

BY DAVID ROARK

S

ummer may not bear a reputation for particularly good movies, especially since studios today often wait for award season to unleash Oscar contenders, but it certainly has a reputation for movies. It’s the time of year moviegoers can leave their brains at the box office, buy some popcorn, and sit back and enjoy big-budget blockbusters with alien robots, crystal skulls and that kind of stuff. This summer has its share of those flicks, including the 50 superhero films that won’t be mentioned here because, well, you’ve already seen them everywhere else, and thankfully so. Movies like Cowboys & Aliens and Super 8 look awesome and should be loads of fun. They’ll hopefully remind us that cinema must first and foremost be enjoyed before anything else. But fortunately, 2011’s dog days also boast some enticing films that don’t fit the summer movie mold. From Terrence Malick’s anticipated Tree of Life to The Hangover Part II, the months ahead include a vast array of movies that should not only entertain us but leave some sort of imprint on our lives. If they don’t, oh well. It is, after all, summer.

72 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 11

MONEYBALL (N/A) Directed by Bennett Miller, screenwritten by Aaron Sorkin – September 23 This baseball movie about Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane and his attempt to make the A’s a more competitive team reeks of greatness. The plot may not seem appealing, but Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) wrote the screenplay and Bennett Miller (Capote) directed it. Plus, the film stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman. With those stars, it’s bound to play well.

Tree of Life

2011 SUMMER MOVIE GUIDE

TREE OF LIFE (PG-13) Directed by Terrence Malick – May 27 There’s nothing like a film by Terrence Malick. His films are visual poetry: beautiful, reflective and profound. And while his prior works have all been epic, Tree of Life has the potential to be the most stirring. Starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, the story seeks to explore life’s biggest questions through one soul’s transition from childhood to adulthood and his longing for redemption.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (PG-13) Directed by Woody Allen – May 20 Woody Allen has pretty much proven himself a staunch nihilist and atheist—but he’s also proven he can make good, interesting films year after year. This year’s entry, a romantic comedy starring Adrien Brody, Rachel McAdams and Owen Wilson, appears a bit more lighthearted and buoyant than his recent fare. That’s good news for both optimists and fans of his earlier comedies. RESTLESS (PG-13) Directed by Gus Van Sant – TBA Based on a play by Jason Lew, Restless spins a tale of love and mortality as a terminally ill girl, played by rising actress Mia Wasikowska, falls for a boy who encounters the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot. Director Gus Van Sant, who’s already made several profound films dealing with youth, including Elephant and Paranoid Park, seems a perfect fit for this unique story. The Tree of Life The newest film from Terrence Malick looks like a visual wonder. The trailer has more breathtaking moments than most movies.


Beginners

NAME-DROP THESE AND SOUND HIP

One Day

BEGINNERS (R) Directed by Mike Mills – June 3 Mike Mills returns with a second feature film, Beginners, after his underrated art-house comedy Thumbsucker. This piece, a bit more on the serious side, tells the true story of Mills’ father, who left his son with startling news before dying of cancer five years later. Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) play the leads, which makes it just that much more promising.

THE DETAILS (N/A) Directed by Jacob Aaron Estes – TBA If The Details’ premise—which deals with worms, raccoons and a married couple undergoing an existential nightmare because of them— doesn’t do it for you, then you should know that the dark comedy stars Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks and Laura Linney. Oh, and it’s directed by Jacob Aaron Estes, the visionary behind that spectacular 2004 coming-of-age drama Mean Creek.

LIKE CRAZY (N/A) Directed by Drake Doremus – TBA Director Drake Doremus may not be a household name, but he’s already turning heads with Like Crazy, the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The film follows a British girl, played by newcomer Felicity Jones, who falls in love with an American boy. Their relationship is put to the test when the couple becomes separated by distance. With all the buzz, Like Crazy could potentially be this year’s best love story.

ONE DAY (PG-13) Directed by Lone Scherfig – July 8 In 2009, Lone Scherfig surprised us all with An Education, which earned three Oscar nominations and helped Carey Mulligan achieve the recognition she deserves. This year she directs One Day, another story of romance and heartache. Starring Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess and Patricia Clarkson, the film follows two young lovers across 20 years. It could either be everything An Education almost was, or proof that Scherfig’s first feature was a fluke.

THEY’RE GONNA BLOW STUFF UP TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (N/A) Directed by Michael Bay – July 1 Say what you want about Michael Bay, but the guy is some kind of genius when it comes to brainless blockbusters with lots and lots of explosions. It’s as if he was born to make those sorts of movies. Dark of the Moon, which brings the alien robots to, well, the moon, looks to be the perfect finale to a series that’s been big, loud and stupid yet satisfying. SUPER 8 (N/A) Directed by J.J. Abrams, produced by Steven Spielberg – June 10 This sci-fi flick—written and directed by J.J. Abrams, the mastermind behind Lost, and featuring Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights—could be the summer blockbuster we’ve all been waiting for. Set in 1979 Ohio, it tells the story of six young children who discover something alien amid a catastrophic train wreck. The premise invokes the older work of Spielberg (the film’s producer), making it all the more exciting. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 (N/A) Directed by David Yates – July 15 This is the moment Harry Potter fans have anticipated for what seems like forever. With the success of Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which basically existed to set up Part 2, there’s a lot to look forward to here, especially in terms of battles and visuals. If nothing else, the film should show Christians who oppose the series how evident Christ is in it.

Cowboys & Aliens

COWBOYS & ALIENS (N/A) Directed by Jon Favreau – July 29 Next to Super 8, Cowboys & Aliens could very well be the supreme summer movie. Based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name, the sci-fi Western centers on an alien invasion in 1873 Arizona. With that original of a story and a cast featuring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell and Paul Dano, the film’s success will hang on whether director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) can handle such big guns. Super 8 Somehow, this trailer manages to combine nostalgia, aliens and an evocative score into two minutes. Clearly, director J.J. Abrams is a fan of Steven Spielberg's 1970s sci-fi epics, because this one has a serious E.T. feel.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 73


YOU’LL EITHER LAUGH OR SIGH The Hngover Part II

Bad Teacher

The Hangover Part II Zach Galifianakis can make us laugh by just walking.

BAD TEACHER (N/A) Directed by Jake Kasdan – June 24 Bad Teacher, directed by Jake Kasdan (Orange County, Walk Hard) and starring Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake, follows a money-hungry mess of a schoolteacher (Diaz) who tries to woo her fellow colleague, who also happens to be the heir of a watch fortune. If the film doesn’t get too crass—and it very well could—then it’s bound to be hilarious. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE (PG-13) Directed By Glenn Ficarra and John Requa – July 29 By the writers and directors of I Love You Phillip Morris, this comedy could be a real hoot with a cast including Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. But with a story that deals with marriage, divorce and family as Carell’s central character finds his perfect life unraveling, only time will tell if there’s some moral value to justify the laughs.

THE “OTHER” CATEGORY LARRY CROWNE (PG-13) Directed by Tom Hanks – July 1 Larry Crowne may seem a bit hackneyed being a romantic comedy with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. But as Hanks’ second directorial feature following That Thing You Do!, and with a timely premise about a middle-aged man who loses his job and goes back to school, where he falls in love with a professor, it definitely has some redeemablesounding elements. Plus, who doesn’t have a soft spot for Sleepless in Seattle or Pretty Woman? DRIVE (N/A) Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn – September 16 There’s a lot going for Drive. Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn directed the action drama. Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and TV stars Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) play in it. Alas, the premise sounds about as original as its title: a stuntman moonlights as a wheelman, but the heist goes wrong. With that cast, it should be the most intense movie of the year.

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HORRIBLE BOSSES (R) Directed by Seth Gordon – July 8 This movie could be the Office Space of the 2010s, or it could be a vulgar disaster that offends all good taste. The film’s premise is about three friends (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) who formulate a plan to murder their terrible bosses. Naturally, disaster (and potential hilarity) ensue. Jennifer Aniston plays one of the bosses; perhaps more randomly, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Colin Farrell co-star. THE HANGOVER PART II (N/A) Directed by Todd Phillips – May 26 Easily the most anticipated comedy of the summer, The Hangover Part II should achieve box-office success for its title alone. But the real question is, can Todd Phillips provoke the kind of laughs he did in 2009 as, this year, his boys travel to Bangkok for Stu’s wedding? On a side note, it’d be nice to see less vulgarity and more depth this time around. Doubt it.

Larry Crowne Even if you have the hardest heart ever, this romcom with Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks will make you smile. Unless you also hate cute babies and puppies.

30 Minutes or Less

30 MINUTES OR LESS (N/A) Directed by Ruben Fleischer – August 12 Had Ruben Fleischer resorted to making a Zombieland sequel for his second film, it would have been OK but predictable. Fortunately, he decided to make 30 Minutes or Less, an action-adventure about two idiots (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) who kidnap a pizza delivery man (Jesse Eisenberg) and make him rob a bank. It sounds like a hopeful follow-up to a very satisfying first feature. THE DARKEST HOUR (N/A) Directed by Chris Gorak – August 5 The Darkest Hour could offer an innovative interpretation on the alien genre by bringing an invasion story to Russia, where a group of young people—including a character played by Emile Hirsch—fight to survive. If nothing else, the film should at least be aesthetically pleasing. Director Chris Gorak worked as the art director for visually stunning films like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fight Club and The Man Who Wasn’t There.


YES, WE NEED CRITICS

BY DAVID ROARK

F

ilm criticism is under assault. Our culture is one where everyone gets a voice and every opinion is right. Bloggers and online communities dominate the conversation, while websites like Rotten Tomatoes allow moviegoers to get a consensus without even reading a review. It’s a complete free-for-all. The public has grown negative toward the practice of film critique, espousing the view that critics only like movies not meant for “normal” people. And out of all this, a pivotal question persists: Do film critics matter? Perhaps the greatest defender of the film critic is film itself. Essentially, film critics matter because film matters. Americans simply don’t flock to theaters every weekend spending millions of dollars for no reason. We don’t talk about films with our friends, family and co-workers because there’s nothing else to say. Movies matter. They tell stories. They entertain us. They educate us. They allow us to escape. They are a universal means of communication. Movies, nevertheless, are most important because of their cultural implications. They both reflect and shape culture, challenging the way we think and feel. In his book Life: The Movie, Neal Gabler goes so far to say American culture takes on the characteristics of movies and calls film “the most pervasive, powerful and ineluctable force of our time.” So, if film is this important, especially culturally, it only makes sense we need critics to study, critique and guide us through dialogue about it. Without them, the medium—by becoming susceptible to perversion and greed—loses its quality, integrity and power. Today, as Hollywood continues to make bad movie after bad movie—sequels, remakes and a slew of 3D gimmicks— the need for film critics seems even greater than ever. Consider the

prophetic words of the great American film critic Pauline Kael: “Criticism is all that stands between the public and advertising.” The box office, moreover, cries out for the help of critics. Weekend to weekend, idiotic, unimaginative movies—many times exploitative and culturally degrading (like this year’s overly crass Hall Pass or the soulless Sucker Punch)—continue to make the most money, leading to a downward spiral of movies and

WITHOUT FILM CRITICS, THE MEDIUM LOSES ITS QUALITY, INTEGRITY AND, THUS, ITS POWER. culture. For that reason, we need critics to not only guard us from trash and the marketers who make us think we need it, but also to demand good, quality movies that both entertain and enlighten. We need critics to call filmmakers to excellence and challenge them to realize that morals and cultural continuity are measures of artistic value. All the same, film critics do more than just judge and act as moral compasses. Most importantly, they start conversations, which is arguably why they matter the most. By using their knowledge of aesthetics and film history, they give us a set of lenses through which to view film, helping us better understand, appreciate and experience it. They challenge us to look at film in a way we otherwise wouldn’t

have. In turn, we can agree or disagree with the perspective proposed, and in many ways, it’s healthy if we don’t agree. But by embracing criticism, we allow ourselves to see things differently and experience the fullness of film. This can help us see and understand its more complex elements, as well as its artistic and moralistic value. It can also help us identify truth, and because all truth is God’s truth, this inevitably points movies back to Christ. An example of this can be seen in the Coen brothers’ True Grit. For many, the film seemed like a standard revenge flick. By taking a closer look, however, several film critics helped us see its deeper subtext, unlocking a moralistic tale—based on biblical truth—about the harsh consequences of violence and vengeance. If it wasn’t for film critics, many may have never seen the film in this light. By reflecting upon and considering all aspects of film, particularly context, film critics shed light on what we may otherwise overlook or ignore. Given the excesses of culture, such a task isn’t always easy. Sometimes what a filmmaker wants to show us is unpleasant. But if we force ourselves to listen and learn, critics can show us that the Gospel’s most penetrating truths have escaped beyond the bounds of abstract theology and been given life. And in our cynical age, there may not be a more potent example of the word becoming flesh. André Bazin, a believer and perhaps one of history’s most influential film critics, believed film was better suited than any other art form to imitate reality. He believed every shot of film is a representation of God manifesting creation. Ultimately, when we open ourselves up to the possibilities of film and embrace what critics can teach us, we don’t just allow ourselves to gain a better appreciation of film. We allow ourselves to gain a better appreciation of the One who created film.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 75


The Church in the New Testament impacted the world. It changed culture from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The early disciples turned the world upside down with their message, their lives, their commitment, and their passion. Can you imagine the Church of today having the same influence in our world, being a part of such wondrous miracles, and seeing people receive Jesus like never before? The time has come for contemporary Christians to be unleashed—to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, fueled by a passion to reach the lost and impact the world!

Dave Stone

Mike Breaux

Anita Renfroe

Phil Allen

Miles McPherson

Greg Nettle

Dudley Rutherford

Jeff Vines

Jeff Walling

Francis Chan

Daryl Reed

July 5-8 | Cincinnati, OH | gotonacc.org NACC President, Dudley Rutherford (

@pastordudley)


There’s a Bethel Seminary student who started a wilderness camp. Wild idea? Not to the kids who are encountering the God of creation for the first time. Something’s happening. God is at work in unusual ways and places. And if He’s calling you, get ready to go at Bethel Seminary. Go online and see why.

seminary.bethel.edu

SAINT PAul • SAN DIeGo • NeW eNGlAND • WASHINGToN DC • 800-255-8706

Get ready to go!


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> The Passion conferences

> TV on the Radio returns with a

provide a chance for the best worship artists around to try out new material and connect with this generation. Here for You is experimental and worshipful. Lecrae raps on two songs including “Our God” on the deluxe edition and the fantastic Crowder song “Shadows.” Chris Tomlin seems to pull worship songs out of thin air. He writes about acting out the Gospel and focusing on what God has done and not what we do for Him (see “All My Fountains”). Kristian Stanfill sings “Forever Reign” by Hillsong with some serious, er, passion.

slightly more accessible sound— the more straightforward rhythms and themes about falling in love are almost mainstream. The band still has a penchant for surprise, though, changing the tone of a song mid-stream or shaking things up with some crazy vocal part when other bands would probably do a guitar solo. “New Cannonball Blues” is about getting complacent and has a massively brilliant trumpet chorus at the end. “Killer Crane” starts with a ticking clock and meanders to an inevitable croonfest, and “You” has an equally subtle vibe.

THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART BELONG (SLUMBERLAND)

ABANDON KANSAS AD ASTRA PER ASPERA (GOTEE RECORDS)

> When everyone was doing

vocal delivery make Abandon Kansas one of the better Christian alt-rock bands. The album name, also the state motto of Kansas, means “to the stars through difficulties.” Mark Lee Townsend (Relient K) produced the album, which has some Kings of Leon swagger and a slight Euro-rock feel. On “Take My Lead,” the band channels The Killers with their staccato guitars and happyfingers synth. Themes focus on conquering fear and holding fast to convictions. Will you fly on the wings of love tonight, they sing on “Wings (Fear of Heights).” OK.

drugs/ We were just doing love, sings Kip Berman, lead vocalist in this twee-pop band. “Too Tough” hammers along like Metric or Great Northern, thankfully forgoing the twirling upper registry guitars and too-cutenes so common with the sub-genre. Producer Flood (U2) adds some warmth and space on most songs, but Peggy Wang steals the show on songs like “Heart in Your Heartbreak” with her simple organ. The songs still fall into the twee canon: precious moments of heartbreak and sadness.

> Catchy melodies and energetic


RECOMMENDS

DVDS/// TRUE GRIT (PARAMOUNT PICTURES, PG-13) > Before True Grit begins, a passage from Proverbs 28:1 appears on the screen: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” The verse doesn’t just set the tone of Ethan and Joel Coen’s gritty Western—it also provides a lens to view it through. As do the words of the story’s spunky young heroine, Mattie Ross, before she sets off to avenge her father’s death: “You must pay for everything in this world. Nothing is free but the grace of God.” Alongside the drunken, eyepatch-wearing Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and the bigheaded Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), Ross believes she is the bearer of God’s justice. But the weight of her words ring just as true for her. True Grit confirms the Coen brothers’ absorption in the divine, and also their true feelings about violence. The simple yet profound story, originally a novel by Charles Portis, comes to the screen as a straight Western with slick action, quirky humor and memorable characters, thanks in part to some superb performances and a precisely adapted script.

SOMEWHERE (FOCUS FEATURES, R)

TRON: LEGACY (WALT DISNEY STUDIOS, PG)

> Somewhere, a dark glimpse of

> Joseph Kosinski’s 3D action-

Hollywood but a beautiful picture of redemption, centers on actor Johnny Marco, played convincingly by Stephen Dorff. Marco appears to be an influential celebrity, but behind the camera he leads a sad, meaningless life. That is, until his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning) shows up. As their relationship grows, Marco begins to confront (and eventually overcome) his lifestyle. The subtle moment when it happens proves that Sofia Coppola has something to say, making the film her most personal, meaningful and accomplished picture yet.

adventure follows Sam Flynn, who gets sucked into the virtual world his father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), has been trapped in for 20 years. They then go on a quest to escape, while a unique villain (a younger, computer-animated Bridges) tries to stop them. Like the original, Legacy doesn’t really make sense, unless it’s a metaphor about video games destroying human relationships. But it certainly pleases the eyes and ears. The visuals emerge like an explosive light show with an energetic soundtrack by Daft Punk to perfectly highlight them.

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THE KING’S SPEECH (ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT, R)

THE ILLUSIONIST (SONY PICTURES CLASSICS, PG)

THE FIGHTER (PARAMOUNT PICTURES, R)

> This period piece from

> The Illusionist, taken from a 1956

director Tom Hooper may be a controversial Best Picture win, but it definitely leaves its mark. Starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, the film spins the true story of King George IV of Britain (Firth), and his struggle to overcome his stutter with help from an unconventional speech therapist (Rush). Not just inspirational, The King’s Speech is about the power of friendship and love. It all comes together through an Oscarwinning performance from Firth and flawless chemistry between him and Rush.

script by the late French filmmaker Jacques Tati, tells a timeless tale of aging and obsolescence. As a struggling illusionist finds his career threatened by the rise of 1950s rock ’n’ roll, he befriends a young girl who still finds his work captivating. Their father-daughter bond becomes a catalyst for hope and wisdom. Almost silent, besides periodic dialogue and a charming score, the film is witty, touching and visually alluring with handdrawn animation. Directed by Sylvain Chomet, it does everything Toy Story 3 did—and more.

honest, inspirational and void of the sentimentality often present in films of the genre. Based on the true story of American boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg in tip-top shape), the film traces his career and, essentially, his fight for class, as well as his brother Dicky Ecklund’s (Christian Bale) difficult struggle with a cocaine addiction. Faith, family and forgiveness stand front and center in this underdog story, not to mention a careerdefining performance from Bale. The Fighter is a sports movie for those who don’t like sports movies.

> David O. Russell’s The Fighter is

ANOTHER YEAR (SONY PICTURES CLASSICS, PG-13) > In a time with so many cynical films, Mike Leigh goes against the grain, providing optimism amid the pessimism. Another Year epitomizes that approach wholly. The story follows a year in the life of a happily married British couple, Tom and Gerri, made believable by Leigh regulars Jim Broadbent and Rush Sheen. As they open their home to friends and family like Mary (Lesley Manville), an unhappy alcoholic, we see two people marked by compassion and unconditional love. Unlike today’s heroes, these characters are the kind we can admire.

As Christ welcomes all, we welcome you. We welcome your beliefs. We welcome your ideas. We welcome your spiritual journey.

Erin Gill | Kansas City, MO Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy Student

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RECOMMENDS

BOOKS/// KING’S CROSS TIMOTHY KELLER (DUTTON) > King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, the newest book from Timothy Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, is compiled from a series of sermons Keller preached at Redeemer on the Gospel of Mark. According to Keller, Mark was written almost entirely from the eyewitness accounts of Peter, so it has an immediacy the other gospels lack. Following the thematic layout of the Gospel itself, King’s Cross first builds a case for Christ’s identity as King, and then lays the groundwork for His death and resurrection. Keller manages to make an old story new again with fresh analogies and an original perspective. His reputation for contextualizing complicated passages is especially evident here, which makes King’s Cross an engaging read for the skeptic and the faithful alike. An apologetic for our times, King’s Cross makes a compelling argument that “the gospel story of Jesus is the underlying Reality to which all the stories point.”

Training for Full Time Christian Service Regardless of Occupation! Leadership Through Servanthood by Christ’s Indwelling, Resurrection Life. Practical Bible Teaching Genesis to Revelation: Christ Revealed in the Written Word.

THE POETRY OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS OF RUTHERFORD WENDELL BERRY (COUNTERPOINT) > Wendell Berry’s essays and stories are written to a nation of people who are often unconnected to any place and are on their way to some other place. In his new book, on the poet William Carlos Williams, he draws upon his thoughts on the land, economics, locality and imagination, and connects it to poetry. Berry writes compellingly about the practical importance of poetry in modern life, while arguing for the virtue of limits in all aspects of human culture.

SWAMPLANDIA! KAREN RUSSELL (KNOPF) > Last summer, the New Yorker named Karen Russell one of 20 writers under the age of 40 who “capture the … vitality of contemporary American fiction.” Russell proves worthy of the accolade with Swamplandia!, the story of young Ava Bigtree and her search for her missing sister in the swamps of Florida. Ava is guided by the mysterious, creepy Bird Man, a gypsy-like wanderer who is led by the vultures that populate the swamps. Don’t be fooled by its cover: There are dark shadows hidden in this beautifully written book.


THE GREAT STAGNATION TYLER COWEN (DUTTON)

THE TIGER’S WIFE TÉA OBREHT (RANDOM HOUSE)

> Available only as an e-book, Tyler Cowen’s The Great Stagnation sets our current downturn in a historical context. According to Cowen, our recession is the result of a technological plateau that began in the 1970s. While the Internet is an exception, online companies employ few people and provide largely free content, contributing little to job growth or the national GDP. The book is a thoughtful pragmatist’s review of the American economy that should inform future policies if it is to “feel better” anytime soon.

Relevant 2_3.65 x 4.98

> Téa Obreht’s debut novel is set in the Balkans in a period of calm after decades of intermittent war. The narrator, Natalia, is a young doctor who, while on a goodwill medical mission, learns her grandfather has died. Natalia searches for clues about his life, as well as his death, in two stories from his past: one about a deathless man, and one of a woman who loved a tiger so much she almost became one. The Tiger’s Wife belies the author’s age (Obreht is in her mid-20s) and signals the arrival of one of this generation’s voices. 8/3/09 10:39 brightest AM Page 1

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WAS AMERICA FOUNDED AS A CHRISTIAN NATION? JOHN FEA (WESTMINSTER JOHN KNOX PRESS) > To address the question in the

title of his new book, historian John Fea first provides a panoramic history of Christian nationalism, then moves in for a closer look at the British colonies, Revolutionary War, America’s guiding documents and the religious beliefs of several founders. Readers looking for a reliable guide to help them sort through the historical complexities of this controversial question, your search is over.

THE FOUR HOLY GOSPELS MAKOTO FUJIMURA (CROSSWAY BOOKS) > Illuminated Gospel Books were high art throughout the Middle Ages. The Four Holy Gospels, featuring Makoto Fujimura’s paintings, is an extraordinary return to that tradition. According to the publisher, The Four Holy Gospels is the first Gospel Book of “this scope and brilliance executed by a single artist for more than four centuries.” At $130, it is also the most expensive book you’ll ever buy—but you won’t regret it. The Four Holy Gospels is a stunning reminder that the Gospel, illuminated or otherwise, is our greatest treasure.


CONTENTS ISSUE 51 MAY_JUNE 2011 / RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM

10 First Word 12 Letters 16 Slices 30 The Drop Kye Kye, James Vincent McMorrow, Bowerbirds

36 REJECT APATHY: LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) 38 IN THEIR WORDS: Tyler Merrick // Project 7 40 DEEPER WALK: What Does “Kingdom” Mean, Anyway?

42 WORLDVIEW: The Requirement of Riches 44 Around the World in 334 Days Poverty, prostitution and prison on The World Race

48 Eisley The band’s faith and family—and how they’ve survived personal and professional tragedy

50 What to Know at 25-ish Avoid a quarter-life crisis

54 The Kills The coolest band in indie rock comes clean about fights, lyrics and why they’re almost twins

60 Is Rob Bell a Heretic? We report, you decide

64 What’s the Point of Worship? 72 2011 Summer Movie Guide 75 Yes, We Need Movie Critics 78 Recommends

68

L UP E

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RELEVANT 51 | May / June 2011