ANTHONY BOURDAIN | THE HOLD STEADY | THE FR AY | BROKEN POLITICS | THE “WAR” ON RELIGION
GOD. LIFE. PROGRESSIVE CULTURE.
TO FIND YOUR CALLING
PHANTOGRAM SHOULD YOU GO GREEN? THE 20I2
THE VOICE OF A GENERATION
DONALD MILLER PRINTED ON RECYCLED PAPER
An unfiltered look at the Blue Like Jazz author—and his controversial new film
ISSUE 57 / MAY_JUNE 2012 / $4.95
SUMMER MOVIE GUIDE
ow N bl e Bi
FRESH TRANSL ATION
tent added to help Italic type indicates con bridge the history gap. s der rea ary por tem con
SCREENPL AY FORMAT In-text notes offer cultural, theological, or devotional insig hts.
mat makes A screenplay for g. more engagin biblical dialog
The Bible is alive like no other book, and The Voice draws you in like no other Bible. Scholars, poets, musicians, and storytellers have come together to create this singularly unique translation that transports you into the Bibleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s narrative. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t just read the Word, step into the story. Visit HearTheVoice.com today for free downloads, translation comparisons, resources, and more.
Thomas Nelson Bibles is giving back. Donating a portion of profits to World Vision and the James Fund, we are helping to eradicate poverty and preventable deaths among children. Learn more and discover what you can do at www.seegodswordinaction.com.
Step into the Story of Scripture. The Voice is the first translation that has made me audibly say ‘Wow.’ It’s fresh, enlightening and extremely accurate. - Pete Wilson, Pastor/Author
I really love The Voice. I can hardly put it down! - Rev. Dr. Jeff Lowe, Pastor/Author
The Voice brings to life the words of the Bible while remaining faithful to the Gospel message. - Patricia Janes, The Voice Bible Reader
Scan Here and Learn More
Visit www.hearthevoice.com to download books from the Voice
Based on the New York Times Best-Seller by DONALD MILLER
BLUE LIKE JAZZ a STEVE TAYLOR film
IN THEATERS APRIL 13 Watch interviews with the filmmakers, clips from the film, behind-the-scenes footage, Donald Millerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s video blog, info about the Blue Like Jazz cross-country promo tour and more ...
EXCLUSIVELY AT RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM/ BLUELIKEJAZZ
WATCH THE TRAILER
GOD. LIFE. PROGRESSIVE CULTURE. RELEVANT magazine May/June 2012, Issue 57 Honestly, there’s really never enough yacht rock, in our opinion.
PUBLISHER & CEO | Cameron Strang > firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial Director | Roxanne Wieman > email@example.com Managing Editor | Ryan Hamm > firstname.lastname@example.org Associate Editor | Alyce Gilligan > email@example.com Editorial Assistant | Heather Meikle > firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTING COPY EDITORS: Ashley Emert, Christianne Squires CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Kristy Alpert, Stephan Bauman, John Brandon, Penny Carothers, Quinn Erwin, Dan Gibson, Lisa Sharon Harper, D.C. Innes, Adam and Christine Jeske, John Pattison, David Roark, Mike Salisbury, Amy L. Sherman, Kester Smith, Laura Studarus, John Taylor, Kelli B. Trujillo, Lauren F. Winner, Bradley Wright Design Director | Chaz Russo > email@example.com Digital Design Director | Tanya Elshahawi > firstname.lastname@example.org Graphic Designer | Jonathan Griswold > email@example.com Production Designer | Christina Cooper > firstname.lastname@example.org Producer | Chad Michael Snavely > email@example.com Web Developer | David Barratt > firstname.lastname@example.org Web Production Designer | Lin Jackson > email@example.com Photographer | Julia Cox > firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS: Noah Abrams, Jeremy Balderson, Sarah Barlow, Danny Clinch, Doron Gild, Trever Hoehne, DP Muller, Reid Rolls Account Director | Michael Romero > email@example.com Marketing Manager | Calvin Cearley > firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation & Fulfillment Manager | Stephanie Fry > email@example.com Customer Service Coordinator | Sarah Heyl > firstname.lastname@example.org
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GETTING IT RIGHT BY C AMERON S TR ANG
6 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
WHEN WE LOOK BACK AT OUR JOURNEYS, WE SHOULD CRINGE FROM TIME TO TIME.
Cameron Strang is the founder and CEO of RELEVANT. Connect with him on Twitter @CameronStrang or Facebook.com/ CameronStrang.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
or readers of this magazine, the biggest generational divide we have is probably what someone thinks of Blue Like Jazz. If you’re, say, 27 to early 40s, the book likely had a significant impact on your life and faith. But if you’re younger than that (or if you’ve only read it recently), you probably enjoyed the book but didn’t think it was all that groundbreaking. Which says a lot about what God has done in our generation since it came out. When Donald Miller released the breakout book back in 2003, the world was a different place. It wasn’t commonplace for Christian authors to vulnerably wrestle with questions of faith and doubt and worldview. Especially in books sold in Christian bookstores. But Don’s book tapped a nerve, gave voice to a restless generation, and helped serve as a catalyst to a new way of thinking and living. Now, if you were to ask Don today about the book, he’d say he looks back and cringes at part of what he wrote. So much of who he was then, what he thought and believed, isn’t him at all today. (He openly talks about the tension in our cover story on page 54.) Interestingly, this magazine has taken a similar path. Birthed around the same time (our print edition launched in the spring of 2003), we set out to give voice to a growing undercurrent we saw in a generation of young believers. We talked about living a Christian life outside of the “faith ghetto” or—gasp!—actually finding redemptive themes in secular art. It’s startling (and honestly, a little embarassing) to look back at those early issues. Especially when you consider they were regarded as pioneering and somewhat controversial at the time. So much about our generation’s worldview—the things we’re passionate about, questions we’re asking, how we live and interact with our world—has changed dramatically since then. Don has had to confront the cringeworthy aspects of his old self head-on over the last few years as he’s worked to reimagine Blue Like Jazz as a fiction movie that releases this spring. He’s gotten to rewrite
his own history, which is probably why you see a lot more of the Don Miller of today in the film than the Don Miller from the book. If I could do that—you know, call a mulligan and rewrite the magazine’s history a bit—I probably wouldn’t use a generic stock image as our first cover photo. And I definitely wouldn’t mistype “Black Eyes Peas” as a title on issue 4. Seeing that still makes me shudder. But, you know, when we look back at our journeys, we should cringe from time to time. The things we were just so sure of, passions we had, mistakes we made—it’s all part of becoming who we are today. Life’s a journey. It’s not about playing it safe. It’s about taking risks, learning from what happens and always moving forward. And that’s what we’re doing right now at RELEVANT. You’ve probably noticed a few changes in the issue you’re holding in your hands. Not only have we redesigned a lot of the magazine, but we’re also introducing new content and a multiplatform publishing model. This begins a significant new season at RELEVANT. First things first—the redesign. The refreshed look is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. I think you’ll find the magazine easier to navigate, from a far more functional table of contents (still in the back, of course) to the allnew front matter and multimedia. Secondly, new content. For example, Reject Apathy, which is where we focus on Christcentered social justice, is now a standing section, not just a couple of random pages. The Drop is now where we cover music news and help you discover artists that are making a difference. (Use the QR codes!) A new section, called Next, highlights forerunners among the RELEVANT audience. It focuses on creative innovation, social entrepreunership and leadership. Next will highlight believers who are pushing the envelope and challenging all of us to make a difference in whatever it is God’s called us to do. But that’s just the beginning. The big news is we’re launching an expansive new RELEVANTmagazine.com—completely rethought and rebuilt from the ground up. Phase one will launch while this issue is out, and every month through the end of the year we’ll be issuing additional enhancements, sections, multimedia and interactivity. While there are too many things in our phase-one launch for me to list here, one exciting update for print readers is for the first time ever, subscribers will be able to log in to read and share magazine content online. Like, all of the magazine content—back to day one. Just, you know, take it easy on our early stuff. Like Don, we’ve changed a lot since then.
[ M A R C H /A P R I L 2 0 1 2 ]
THE ROOTS I have to admit, I wasn’t exactly expecting to see The Roots on the cover of RELEVANT . That said, March/April may have been the coolest cover yet. I so enjoyed reading the RELEVANT perspective on a band that was part of shaping my youth, adolescence and adulthood—truly, truly legendary.” KIMBER NYSTRUM — North Providence, RI
[LE T TERS]
Great article on tattoos and Christianity in @RELEVANT!
@EmErndl: New issue of @RELEVANT in my mailbox today. Articles about #NotforSale and #Gungor plus Q&A with Jason Segel. This is gonna be good!
There is a growing movement in France toward the Gospel! It is slow and sheltered, but it is there. Thank you for shining the light of hope on a portion of the world that so many Christians have all but given up on [“An Unexpected Awakening,” Mar/ Apr 2012]. —EMELINE DUDEVOIRE / Pau, France
After reading @RELEVANT’s feature on The Roots I listened to them all day with renewed insight. #itwasagoodday
Thank you @RELEVANT for featuring immigration in your new issue. People need to know more about the people affected.
Scott Avett’s commentary on art and creating was fantastic [“My Search for Truth,” Mar/Apr 2012]. I almost dropped the magazine with excitement when I saw it!
@Questlove is on the cover of the new RELEVANT magazine! So awesome. This has to be one of the coolest events ever.
—HALEY KIT LITTLETON / Denver, CO
I let my friend read the latest issue of @RELEVANT before I did. “Greater love hath no man than this …”
I love that almost every issue of @RELEVANT magazine mentions @JohnCusack—he’s like their version of Seinfeld’s hidden Superman.
The article “We Need More Boring Christians” [Mar/ Apr 2012] was a lightbulb moment for me! Guilty of “nation-dropping” and “escapism,” as Byers put it, while I now realize there is much to do in my own community. Thank you to Andrew Byers for writing this piece and to RELEVANT for printing it exactly when I needed it most.
Katniss in RELEVANT magazine? I can deal.
—TAYLOR BAKER ROGAN / Pittsburgh, PA
—JOSE CENICEROS / Spokane, WA
—LUCAS HOUSE / Portland, OR
[G O T F E E D B A C K ? F E E D B A C K@ R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M , F A C E B O O K . C O M / R E L E VA N T O R T W I T T E R . C O M / R E L E VA N T ]
8 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
—JOHN DAVID KLINE / Denver, CO
@dansheed: Loving the @Gungormusic article in the new @RELEVANT magazine—that band seriously blows my mind. Like listening to N.T. Wright books in song.
@paulcgallagher: The @RELEVANT mag iPad edition is so readable, it’s persuading me that perhaps the future of print *is* digital, and that’s okay.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
“Who would Jesus Deport?” [Mar/Apr 2012] was such a great article for me, coming from a migrant family from Mexico.
As a Christian with more skin that is covered by tattoos than is ink-free, I was so impressed with Matthew Lee Anderson’s biblical approach to the world of body art [“A Black and White Issue?” Mar/Apr 2012]. As much as I was prepared to offer apologetics, I found myself agreeing with almost everything he said on the subject. Tattoos reflect what the rest of our actions do, too: our hearts.
RELEVANT has a studio, right? RELEVANT makes videos, right? So, please tell me why all of the movies in the “Highway to the Danger Zone” [Mar/Apr 2012] are not in production as we speak? I demand Invasion U.S.A. 2: It’s Happening Again!
A RELATIONSHIP WITH AFRICA IS NOT ONE-SIDED
THE WEST WILL NOT RESCUE AFRICA OUR RESCUES ARE TIED UP IN ONE ANOTHER
A FILM ABOUT
FINDING BEAUTY IN RISK
WATCH THE FILM ONLINE FREE www.LIGHTGIVESHEAT.org
A new chapter has begun in Uganda. When war ends, hope begins. In Northern Uganda, three people escape the brutality of Joseph Kony and the LRA and move south in order to write their own destiny. Meanwhile, a young American couple abandon their stable lives - quitting their jobs and moving to Uganda to adopt a child. Through unlikely friendships and discoveries, they learn that hope is often found in the least likely of places.
LGH FILMS PRESENTS AN INTERPRET STUDIOS PRODUCTION jLIGHT GIVES HEAT kMATT KATSOLIS vJESSE SCHLUNTZ MUSIC BY JOSH GARRELS wAUSTIN BLASINGAME gNIC MCLEAN, MATT KATSOLIS eJESSE SCHLUNTZ ORIGINAL RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 9
SLICES A BIMON T HLY LOOK AT LIF E, FA I T H & CULT UR E
[ B Y T H E N U M B E R S ]
53 % Births among American moms under 30 that are outside marriage
2/3 Unwed couples living together who split before their child is 10
THE NEW MOTHER: YOUNG AND SINGLE For the first time in history, the majority of under-30 moms are unwed
10 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
women are married when they give birth—the percent decreases as education does. Such a racial and economic gap is particularly concerning when research has consistently found that children born outside marriage have a harder time in life. “Children born outside marriage reach adulthood with less education, earn less income, have lower occupational status, experience higher rates of divorce, and report more symptoms of depression,” writes Paul R. Amato, a professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University, in a report for Future of Children. “The importance of increasing the number of children growing up with two happily and continuously married parents and of improving the well-being of children now living in other family structures is self-evident.”
73 % Black children who are born outside marriage
92 % College-educated women who are married when they give birth
*Child Trends’ analysis of National Vital Statistics
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
oday, 53 percent of American babies born to women under 30 are born out of wedlock. This rise in nonmarital births has come primarily from couples living together—a tenuous arrangement, as unmarried couples living together are twice as likely to split as married couples. Although the fastest increase in unwed mothers has occurred among white women in their 20s who have some college education but not a four-year degree, large racial and socioeconomic differences remain. According to Child Trends, 73 percent of black children, 53 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of whites are born outside marriage. Education is also a key factor, as 92 percent of college-educated
MINISTERS CHOICE AWARD
PLATINUM BEST OF SHOW AWARD FOR A DOCUMENTARY ISSUE
NEW MEDIA FILM FESTIVAL
AURORA FILM AWARDS
GRAND PRIZE FOR BEST FIRST-TIME DOCUMENTARY CALIFORNIA FILM AWARDS 2011
TRANSFORMING STORIES INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN FILM FESTIVAL 2011
33RD ANNUAL TELLY AWARDS
NON-BROADCAST PRODUCTIONS FOR SOCIAL ISSUES
AWARD OF EXCELLENCE CANADA FILM FESTIVAL 2012
AWARD OF MERIT
FOR A FEATURE DOCUMENTARY
ACCOLADE COMPETITION 2011
"One of the most compelling documentaries ever made" -Movie Guide
Go behind the veil of the sex industry. ON DVD AND BLU-RAY EXCLUSIVELY AT N E F A R I O U S D O C U M E N T A R Y . C O M 100% of ALL proceeds will go to COMBAT the global crisis of sex slavery. WATCH THE TRAILER RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 11
CU RRENT [SLICES]
[ M I S C ] A new report by Verizon has found that hackers stole more than 174 million records in 2011. The lesson: Make your passwords harder than 123456 ...
FLAVOR OF THE BIMONTH 10 things you need to know right now
St. Vincent in Concert
If you’ve never seen Annie Clark in concert, this spring is your chance. Girl can shred.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was the first female
THE BBC VS. CHRISTIANS
The iPad 3 Yes, the speed is amazing.
Yes, the screen shows a gazillion
more pixels. But can the new
iPad double as a hoverboard?
No. And that’s what we’re still
waiting on. Let’s go, Apple.
has now lost due to British taxes and being generous.
Memorial Day TV Marathons
You will have so many options.
The broadcaster says Christians are treated with less sensitivity
But do not get sucked into
once lived on
At a recent forum on free speech hosted by Oxford University, Mark Thompson, the director-general for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), said that Christianity is handled with less sensitivity by the media giant than are other religions. Basically, Thompson—a devout and practicing Catholic—says the reason is that Christianity is a “pretty broad-shouldered” religion that can take a joke … which, honestly, is sort of a compliment. Thompson also notes many religions are tied to ethnicity and cultural identity—an insult to a religion may be perceived as a horrific slur that could evoke a violent response. “For a Muslim, a depiction—particularly a comical or demeaning depiction—of the Prophet Muhammad might have the emotional force of a piece of a grotesque child pornography,” he explains. “Without question,” he says, “‘I complain in the strongest possible terms’ is different from ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms, and I’m loading my AK-47 as I write.’ This definitely raises the stakes.”
welfare, has reportedly given $160 million in charitable donations … Scientists might have figured out how to prevent (and even reverse)
Festival season starts with a
bang this year—so many bands,
so little money.
Gaming Gets So Much Smoother When yacht rock meets Street Fighter, everyone wins
12 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
showed up on eBay, bearing several images of McDonald’s stunning visage. Sadly, the auction is over, but this exists. So, why stop there? Video game peripheral manufacturers need to read the writing on the wall—in the next year, expect to see Christopher Cross Wii-motes, the Kinect: Peter Cetera Edition and the sure-to-be-a-hit game Little Big Planet: Danger Zone.
Awake Is this the best new show
of 2012? Considering the great start, it’s a distinct possibility. WATCH The trailer for Awake relm.ag/57-awake
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
There has never been, nor will there ever be, a smoother sound than the sweet, sweet vocals of yacht rock legend Michael McDonald. With or without the Doobie Brothers, McDonald could make any lyric sound 100 percent more awesome. And now the silver fox’s brilliance has been recognized by the fighting game community. A PlayStation joystick recently
Av ai la bl e
step into the story of scripture. fresh translation
The Voice is the first translation that has made me audibly say ‘Wow.’ It’s fresh, enlightening and extremely accurate.
ent added to help Italic type indicates cont bridge the history gap. contemporar y readers
screenpl ay format
- Pete Wilson, Pastor/Author In-text notes offer cultural, theological, or devotional insights.
The Voice brings to life the words of the Bible while remaining faithful to the Gospel message. - Patricia Janes, The Voice Bible Reader biblical format makes A screenplay gaging. en re mo log dia
The Bible is alive like no other book, and The Voice draws you in like no other Bible. Scholars, poets, musicians, and storytellers have come together to create this singularly unique translation that transports you into the Bible’s narrative. Don’t just read the Word, step into the story. Visit HearTheVoice.com today for free downloads, translation comparisons, resources, and more.
Thomas Nelson Bibles is giving back. Donating a portion of profits to World Vision and the James Fund, we are helping to eradicate poverty and preventable deaths among children. Learn more and discover what you can do at www.seegodswordinaction.com.
RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 13
Scientists in the Netherlands have discovered a way to use stem cells to grow muscle tissue in a lab. The goal is to create a fully lab-grown hamburger by the end of 2012 … at a cost of about $315,000. While it might seem silly, the scientists involved are trying to find a way to create meat with less environmental impact than raising livestock. The lead researcher says the lab-grown meat could decrease the environmental impact by 60 percent.
[ M I S C ] Banking giant PNC says twentysomethings carry, on average, $45,000 in debt. Usually that debt is
FLAVOR OF THE BIMONTH 10 things you need to know right now
Passion World Tour Passion Conferences are
going global again. Starting
in Vancouver, Passion is then
headed to Rwanda, South Africa
credit card, automobile and mortgage
A $315,000 Hamburger
Epic Memorial Day Barbecue
debt are also
May 28. Grill like your life
depends on it. Because it might.
Naturally, PNC offered no solutions … Someone is trying to make a reality show based on Modern Family. This is not a good idea ...
Mad Men The best show on TV is
back, and it’s just as awesome
and devastating as you’d expect
that the most
it to be.
YOUR JOB WILL KILL YOU— AFTER IT MAKES YOU FAT In case you needed proof that working on a computer at a desk all day is unnatural, recent studies have shown people with sedentary jobs are twice as likely to die from heart disease than those with active jobs and that 292,345,090 Americans do not get the minimum level of exercise for good health.
Americans burn 140 fewer calories a day than 50 years ago. From 1980 to 2000, time sitting down increased by 8 percent. Even though exercise rates stayed the same, obesity rates doubled. Today, one in three Americans is obese.
14 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
Season five trailer
New York. Even
making that list is probably cause for more despair ...
Angry Birds Space Arguably the biggest
mobile game of all time … now set in space.
It’s Making You Lazy
now a trend for
Per day, obese people sit for 2.5 hours more than thin people. When you sit down at your computer, the electrical activity in your legs shuts off. Fatreducing enzymes drop by 90 percent.
people to steal Tide laundry detergent and resell it on the black market. The obvious
It’s Making You Stressed
One in three Americans say they are stressed at work, and one in four say it’s the most stressful thing in their lives. U.S. employers spend $200 billion a year on stress-related expenses.
is buying black market laundry detergent? ...
Rick Santorum Sweater
Even if he doesn’t win the Republican nomination, Rick
Apple is now
Santorum has restored a great
gift: sweater vests.
Moral of the Story
Exercise more—duh. Or quit your job.
$500 billion ...
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
It’s Making You Fat
city in the
RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 15
CU RRENT [SLICES]
[ M I S C ] Sprinkles has introduced a cupcake ATM in Los Angeles. Who would’ve guessed there could be something better than cash to come from an ATM? … In Tokyo, there are establishments
NETFLIX RESCUES SUMMER TV Summer is almost here—which means good TV is almost gone. But don’t fret. The summer months are a great time to catch up on some of the television you missed— on Netflix. You might have run out of time or DVR space, or they might have flown completely under your radar, but here are five underrated shows worth watching.
where you can have a cup of coffee while you play with kitties. This is weird, but also kind of awesome. However, a new law is threatening these establishments, meaning
Sherlock This series imagines what Sherlock Holmes would be like in modern-day London. The characters, settings and crimes are updated but with more detection and less fighting than the Robert Downey Jr. big-screen version.
show. Filled with the snappy dialogue, the crackling emotion and the “walk and talk” that are Sorkin’s trademarks, this is the show about a sports show you’ll like even if you hate sports.
closure is a paws-ibility ... You know how Australia is notorious
Geek god Joss Whedon’s most recent TV series tries to look at what it really means to be human and what it means to think for oneself. It also has Whedon’s awesomely nerdy dialogue and thoughtful take on sci-fi.
the most bizarre, deadly, poisonous and horrifying of all things? Well, add to that list giant 22-pound
Before there was The Social Network or The West Wing, there was Sports Night, writer Aaron Sorkin’s first network TV
16 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
pinecones … Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe. The AntiDefamation
OK, this one isn’t really “underrated.” But since it aired on PBS, there’s a good chance you missed it while it was on— so get caught up on the trials and drama of the aristocracy in early 20th-century England. Trust us: You’ll be hooked.
reports that 24 percent of the population of France holds anti-Semitic views …
Every year, 10,000 people need bone-marrow transplants, but only half receive them. There aren’t enough donors, and finding a match outside of immediate family is incredibly difficult. In answer to this dilemma, Graham Douglas (whose brother survived leukemia after finding a bonemarrow donor) came up with the idea of including sign-up kits in Band-Aid boxes. When someone cuts their finger and uses a Band-Aid, they can dab some of the blood on the swab included, drop it in an already-addressed envelope and send it to the lab. Presto! They’re in the registry and could be contacted if they’re a match for someone in need. R ELE VA N T M AG A ZINE.COM
[ Q U E S T I O N O F T H E D A Y ]
The most embarrassing song in your iTunes? Nancy Carmichael: “The Day the Music Died,” by the Brady Kids. Yes, you heard me right. Not Don McLean. The Brady Kids. And let me tell you, it hurts so bad.
Your most prized possession? Nan Roberts: My cat, if my cat can be considered a possession. Might be the reverse.
Linsanity is so yesterday. What “movement” would your name spark? Trevor Allison: Allison Wonderland. To get in on future #QOTD action, follow @RELEVANT on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
This under-seen show centers on a piemaker who can bring the dead back to life with a single touch but will kill the person for good if he touches them again. It sounds macabre—and a little ridiculous—but the show’s emotional heart centers on a relationship where the characters can’t touch each other.
Your Paper Cut Could Save a Life
RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 17
IS MORMONISM CHRISTIAN? [ M O R M O N S
Mormonism is in the public consciousness more than ever before. Much of it likely has to do with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, which put a Mormon front and center in America’s political conversation. It’s renewed debate about the Mormon faith—specifically, if Mormonism is “a cult” and if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) is “Christian.” There are similarities between Mormonism and evangelical Christianity. But there are also profound differences. Here’s a breakdown.
B E L I E V E ]
B E L I E V E ]
Jesus is the Son of God, and salvation comes through Christ’s literal life, death and resurrection.
Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the cross were literal. However, the atonement for humanity began in the Garden of Gethsemane and continued through the crucifixion itself.
Jesus’ crucifixion was literal. Jesus died on the cross to conquer death and injustice; He took the sin of the world upon Himself, and His sacrifice atoned for the sins of humanity.
UH . .
God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all of one being with one another. Each member of the Trinity is distinct, but all are God.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God. However, God also revealed the Book of Mormon and other writings. These additional scriptures were given to Mormon founder Joseph Smith.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God. Some traditions also believe Church tradition is inspired by God, but that’s constantly debated even within those church communities.
Jesus’ death and resurrection provide the possibility of salvation. But salvation itself is attained via acceptance into the church (through baptism) and then is perfected after being judged.
YEAH . . THAT’S DIFFERENT
In general, the Christian tradition has held that salvation is dependent on Christ’s death and resurrection, and everything besides that (baptism, good works) comes out of that.
All humans, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Satan were fathered by God the Father. God the Father wanted to give every being the chance to accept or reject the plan of salvation. Jesus agreed to act as Redeemer, and Satan rejected God’s plan.
The Triune God created the world. Humankind was created in the image of God by God and then rebelled against God. Satan rebelled against God sometime before creation.
The biblical account of Jesus’ life is true, but after His death and resurrection He came to the Americas, where He started the church in America.
THE BIBLE ... AND 100% MORE AMERICA?
The biblical account forms the details of the life of Christ.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
Jesus is the Son of God, and salvation comes through Christ’s literal life, death and resurrection.
God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are three independent beings who are of one will. These three beings make up “the Godhead.” God the Father is the literal father of Jesus.
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[ C H R I S T I A N S
RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 19
[WOULD YOU R AT HER?] Bourdain engages in some junior high fun. Q: Would you rather sweat mustard or salivate mayonnaise? A: Sweat mustard. Q: Would you rather fight Christopher Columbus or Ben Franklin? A: Columbus, for sure. I have more respect for Franklin. Q: Would you rather talk in 140 characters COURTESY OF TRAVEL CHANNEL
all the time or have to reference
ANTHONY BOURDAIN’S NEW ADVENTURE
Twilight in every interview? A: Tweet for life. Oh, God. That would be the absolute
A n af ternoon with the world’s mos t frank chef and critic
BY KRIST Y ALPERT
to have to
scenario mention Twilight or even
nthony Bourdain is exactly what you’d expect. In his private dressing room before his latest book tour appearance, Bourdain stands in the middle of the long, white space holding a nearly empty Red Stripe bottle. The room is mostly bare, save for a row of naked lightbulbs, a bucket of imported beers soaking in a bath of melting ice water, a potentially inebriated announcer pretending to sleep in the back of the room and, of course, Bourdain. An unspoken cue. With one last swig of beer, the interview starts. Bourdain is witty, charming, controversial and deep. Everything you would imagine him to be. A few references to food porn, a handful of f-bombs and nearly a tear shed when asked if he hates being away from his wife and daughter so often, but overall he is exactly the guy you know from his Travel Channel hit No Reservations and his new show, The Layover. Then, after a quick iPhone picture, he gets up, walks a few steps away to the dressing room’s bathroom and haphazardly shuts the door. He only gives half
20 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
a glance over his shoulder to see if anyone is around—and, of course, there is. But no matter. There’s a show about to start and who has time for closing doors? As the lights dim in the soldout theater, Bourdain nonchalantly strolls on stage in his gray shirt, sport coat and well-worn cowboy boots to significant applause from a crowd of obsessive foodies and viewers. After a quick shot of vodka with his Russian announcer and friend Zamir, he addresses his fans. “I am a whore. I am, in every way, compromised, jaded, bought and paid for, including my nice f—ing jacket.” It’s that honesty and raw authenticity that resonates with Bourdain’s loyal cohorts. Despite his overtly Hitchens’ stance on religion and profound usage of phrases that would make your grandma squirm in her knit socks, Anthony Bourdain may be one of the few men who truly “gets it.” Even the most prudish of his fans can’t help but respect his high level of honesty as he openly speaks about the mistakes he’s made and the lessons he’s learned from them. It’s refreshing. Enigmatic, even.
think about it. Q: Would you rather be a vegetarian forever or eat meat but have to catch and kill it yourself? A: I’d catch and kill, for sure. Q: Would you rather have to sing everything
Anthony Bourdain grew up the son of a New Jersey Columbia Records executive; his childhood was mildly spent listening to early Beatles albums and watching movies like The Red Balloon and Old Yeller. “I did not want for love or attention,” he wrote in his latest book, Medium Raw. “My parents loved me. Neither of them drank to excess. Nobody beat me. God was never mentioned—so I was annoyed by neither religion nor church nor any notions of sin or damnation. Mine was a house filled with books, music—and, frequently, films … In school I was not bullied any more than the next kid—and maybe even a little less. I got the bike I wanted for Christmas … I was miserable. And angry.”
Bourdain’s ever-growing angst led him down a path of his own making. After summers spent working in resort-town kitchens in Cape Cod, experimenting with drugs and dropping out of Vassar College, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). He worked his way up in the culinary world, starting as a dishwasher, a “prep drone,” a line-cook and, eventually, a sous chef. After graduating from the CIA, he landed jobs at the Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue and Sullivan’s before scoring a job as the head chef at Brasserie Les Halles in New York City, where he wrote his unintentionally-awardwinning book Kitchen Confidential that took a stab at his profession with spilled secrets and witty, incisive commentary on the seedy underbelly of the food industry—plus a few blows to the personalities who litter the lineup of the Food Network.
you say or soil yourself every time you laugh? A: Soil myself when I laugh? That’s not good; I guess I’d have to learn karaoke. Q: Would you rather go a
authentic community: the common table. Whether in Tuscany or Taiwan, more often than not he is filmed sharing a home-cooked meal with a group of similarly passionate hosts in their home. The conversation bounces between religion, culture and history as plates of hand-rolled pasta or garden-fresh vegetables are passed between glasses of some kind of local alcoholic beverage. While Bourdain may not be searching for meaning in each situation, he inevitably finds it. In his book The Nasty Bits, he writes, “As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks—on your body or on your heart—are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
week without alcohol or meat? A: Meat.
For Bet ter or Wor se
It’s obvious to see how much Bourdain has been changed throughout the years. Now on his fourth passport in a decade, a certain sense
T he Bes t Job Ever
It was this book—and all its frankness—that truly started Bourdain’s career. His honesty was contagious. People couldn’t get enough of this lovable misanthrope. Book tours led to TV spots, which led to him getting his own show on the Travel Channel, No Reservations. Now in its eighth season, the show has transformed Bourdain from a struggling-to-pay-the-rent chef into a cultculture celebrity with arguably the best job on the planet. Bourdain travels the world eating amazing and exotic meals with interesting people in far-flung locations. He is given seemingly unprecedented freedom to speak his mind about whatever he wants. And the show affords him the opportunity to offer insightful commentary on the outrageous personalities and places defining the international cultural landscape. After all that, he comes home to a nice paycheck and a night spent with his wife and daughter in New York City, then does it all again. His passion? Experiencing cultures—fully experiencing cultures. When asked about his favorite aspects of the job, a certain giddiness comes over this generally even-keeled man. “I like to eat what’s good and what’s considered good by the locals where it’s good,” Bourdain says. “If I’m eating pho, I like to eat a good bowl of pho in Vietnam, sitting on a little plastic stool with Vietnam in the background. I want to smell Vietnam, I want to hear it, and I’d like to see it in a perfect world. I think it is a major component of the experience.” Through his travels, Bourdain reveals the secret to transcendent experiences and
of purpose has taken over this once wild and untamed chef. For starters, he has been sober from illegal substances for a while and recently kicked his lifelong smoking habit. And most importantly, he has become a father. “It’s all about the little girl,” Bourdain says of his 5-year-old daughter, Ariane. “I am acutely aware of both her littleness and the fact that she’s a blank page, her brain a soft surface waiting for the irreversible impressions of every raised voice, every gaffe and unguarded moment. The fact that she’s a girl requires, I believe, extra effort.” While some may say his wife and daughter have caused Bourdain to “mellow,” Bourdain insists fatherhood has offered him a further sense of enlightenment. “You’ll notice a suspiciously high number of shows filmed in Italy over the last few years,” Bourdain says as he reveals that he now brings his wife and daughter on as many trips as possible, especially trips to his wife’s homeland where they spend time with distant and immediate relatives. “We’ll stay in one place so I can go to work every day and come home to my family. It’s nice.” Bourdain has never been what people want him to be, and he will continue to be so—unapologetically. So now, when people are wanting more than ever to see their bad-boy chef take on another Food Network star in a verbal battle of who-deserves-their-foodie-famemore, he can be found instead sharing a meal and a glass of good wine around a common table with his wife and daughter, discussing their travels and adventures to come.
“ I L IK E T O E AT W H AT ’ S GOOD ... W HE R E I T ’ S GOOD.” Q: Would you rather have the power to fly or read minds? A: Fly. I don’t want to read minds. That would be terrible.
WATCH A trailer for The Layover relm.ag/57layover
RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 21
D EEPER WALK
B Y L A U R E N F. W I N N E R
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I AM A CHRISTIAN BECAUSE OF DOCTRINE. REALLY, I MEAN THIS.
Lauren F. Winner is the author of Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis (HarperOne) and teaches at Duke Divinity School.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
have been asked many times why I am Christian. What people are asking for is “my conversion story,” which is both wacky and typical. It involved growing up Jewish; and then came a dream in which a Jesus who looked like Daniel Day-Lewis rescued me from the clutches of the mermaids who had kidnapped me; and then I got hooked on Jan Karon’s Mitford novels, with their depiction of characters whose lives were infused by faith in a way I yearned for; and then there was the Book of Common Prayer; and so on. That is the story people think they are asking for when they ask why I am a Christian—they think they are asking for things God used to get me to the Cross, to Jesus, to my knees. But now, 14 years after I was baptized, the Mitford novels and the mermaid dreams have very little to do with why I am a Christian this week, this month. They have some genealogical relationship, but it is at best woefully incomplete to say, “I’m a Christian today because of a dream I had in 1995.” And I think, as interesting as the stories of our Christian beginnings are, it would be grand and fabulous if the church would more fully develop the skill of telling—as passionately—the stories of the middle of our faith lives. So, why are you a Christian today? Some of our most compelling contemporary literature explores those questions, or variations on them. To wit, Heather King’s recent Shirt of Flame, in which King, a convert to Catholicism, describes a year in which she comes to understand her own spiritual and personal struggles through the life and writings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Similarly, the many essays Anne Lamott has collected over the years are moments of living after conversion—living into faith. Or Henri Nouwen’s journals, which plunge us deeply into the middle of
WHY I AM [STILL] A CHRISTIAN
Nouwen’s life with God. It doesn’t much matter to the reader why Nouwen became a Catholic priest; what matters is what sense he is making of that vocation 10 years later, 20 years later, 30. As for me, I am only in very small part a Christian this Tuesday morning because of that mermaid dream. Beyond the dream, I am a Christian because a group of faithful people—some known to me and some, I suspect, still unknown— prayed for me, consistently and constantly, during a year when I could not pray. I am a Christian because on the many Sundays when I sat in church and woolgathered, when I have sat mostly spaced out or bored, indifferent to or in rebellion against the sermon and the prayers, the Eucharist still somehow feeds my hungry self—the Eucharist being that piece of bread in which, as St. Francis noted, Jesus hides for our salvation. Here’s a less-than-sexy, less-than-po-mo response: I am a Christian because of doctrine. Really, I mean this. In particular, I am a Christian because of the doctrine of sin—because the Christian story includes an account of everything I see when I look in the mirror and when I look out the window. It includes an account of the beauty and goodness I see—created and redeemed goodness—and also an account of the corroded, corrupt things I see. Indeed, it is Christian doctrine that not only explains those things but that allows me to see them in the first place. So, I am a Christian because of the ways the Christian story teaches me to see reality. I am a Christian because the self-hiding God of Isaiah 45 holds me even when I am in hiding too. I am a Christian because Matthew 25 has been the only thing that has gotten me to interrupt my own career advancement, social life, housework, and more and go to a prison—or in some other way, do something other than advance my own interests. I know many a secular humanist is motivated by something other than Matthew 25 to do good things, to participate in the in-breaking of justice, but nothing else has ever actually gotten me up and out of my house. Matthew 25 has. I am a Christian because when I sing “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” the words always tell the truth. Our conversion stories can be revealing. How we first came to know God shows much about ourselves, about God, about grace, about mystery and happenstance. But perhaps even more is revealed when we ask one another the question, Why are you a Christian this week? Why are you still a Christian? Why are you a Christian today?
RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 23
B Y D AV I D R O A R K
Costumed heroes, aliens and a wildhaired Scotswoman represent this season’s biggest films
Directed by Joss Whedon — May 4 (PG-13) The Avengers brings the biggest Marvel superheroes—including Iron Man, Thor and Captain America—together in one movie. The story follows the Avengers, as Nick Fury (Samuel L.
his year’s dog days boast promise when it comes to the big screen. Like last summer, a fair share of superhero flicks will make their way to theaters, such as the anticipated finale of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. But summer 2012 will also showcase some films that don’t fit the typical summer mold. From a new work by the idiosyncratic Wes Anderson to the latest from the powerhouse called Pixar, the months ahead should give us quality fare from all of cinema’s genres.
Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D summon them to protect Earth from an unexpected enemy. It seems promising, but in the hands of an 1
inexperienced film director, the outcome remains uncertain. WATCH A trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man. Ready or not, this early look is promising. relm.ag/57-spiderman 2
T HE A U T E UR S
B AT S , S P ID E R S A N D AV E N G E R S 4 1
The Dark Knight Rises
Directed by Christopher Nolan — July 20 (PG-13)
According to Wes Anderson’s track record, it would be difficult for Moonrise Kingdom to be anything but fantastic. Set in the
Christopher Nolan’s Batman series has changed the face of
1960s, his seventh feature film centers on two young lovers who
superhero movies forever. It has also depicted our world in a grain of sand by allegorizing American culture and its cynical
Directed by Wes Anderson — May 25 (PG-13)
run away together, prompting a local search party to seek them out. It features an all-star cast in Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Jason
state. In other words, it’s important. The most anticipated
Schwartzman, Edward Norton and Frances McDormand.
movie of the summer, The Dark Knight Rises should not only give us another entertaining feat from the acclaimed
filmmaker, but it should also tell us whether Nolan possesses
Directed by Tim Burton — May 11 (NR)
any hope for Gotham and, thus, our country.
Based on an old, gothic soap opera, Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows 2
The Amazing Spider-Man
Directed by Marc Webb — July 3 (PG-13)
explores the life of a vampire (Johnny Depp) as he encounters a slew of monsters—played by the likes of Chloe Grace Moretz and Helena Bonham Carter (a Burton movie staple and also his
For some, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy satisfied despite
partner). It could be everything Burton needs to redeem himself.
Toby Maguire going emo in part three. For others, it came up short, spawning the need for a reboot. Darker and grittier than the Spider-Man of the past, The Amazing Spider-Man
will seek to reimagine the series starting with another origins
The preview for Moonrise Kingdom—will
story. But if it doesn’t go far enough, it will be hard to justify– even with the dreamy Andrew Garfield as Spidey.
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it be the next “Andersonian” classic? 5
they discover a plot to destroy Earth. If this ridiculous plotline
A L IE N S , P I X A R A N D T H E F U T U R E
isn’t enough to make you a little excited, know that the film stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard
Ayoade. Oh, and it was written by Seth Rogen and Evan
Directed by Ridley Scott — June 8 (R)
Goldberg and directed by Akiva Schaffer—the brains behind the underrated and hilarious Hot Rod.
A pioneer within the sci-fi genre, Ridley Scott returns to his roots with Prometheus, an Alien prequel with its own mythology and universe. Starring Guy Pearce, Charlize
Theron and Michael Fassbender, who may just be the most
Directed by Jay Roach — August 10 (N/A)
striking actor currently in the industry, the story follows a
In this comedy by director Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet
team of explorers who discover an extraterrestrial race while
the Parents), two rival politicians battle it out to win a spot in
searching for the origins of humankind. With this premise, the
the House of Representatives, representing their small North
film should be full of thrills and chills—not to mention subtext.
Carolina district. But these aren’t—well, maybe they are—your average politicians. These are a few incompetent morons
played by Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell. Dan Aykroyd,
Directed by Len Wisemen — August 3 (R)
Brian Cox and John Lithgow also make up part of the cast.
It’s hard to imagine a Total Recall bettering the 1990 version with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Big, loud and fast, that famed
WATCH A trailer for Neighborhood Watch. The
blockbuster was quite a memorable ride. But with Colin Farrell
end of all time never looked so good.
in the lead role and a more politically-driven narrative truer 8
to Philip K. Dick’s novelette, this upcoming reboot certainly
deserves a chance. The action-adventure film also stars
B O U R NE F O R E S P I O N A G E A ND G R I T
Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, who could provide some interesting flare. 8
Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman — June 22 (PG)
Directed by Ben Affleck — September 14 (R) 9
Ben Affleck’s junior effort takes us to the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, where America and Canada must join together to
Pixar rarely produces a dud, especially when it comes to
rescue six U.S. diplomats held captive at their embassy in
original stories—not sequels like the tepid Cars 2. For that fact, Brave looks about as promising as they come. Featuring
Iran. With a cast made up of Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan
the studio’s first female protagonist, the film spins a story of
Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), the historical thriller should once again prove Affleck
a young princess who defies an ancient custom and brings 10
chaos upon her kingdom. This leaves her cursed and on a
has some notable chops when it comes to directing.
quest to undo the spell. It’s a fairy tale in the spirit of Hans 13
The Bourne Legacy
Directed by Tony Gilroy — August 3 (PG-13) WATCH
Given the effectiveness of the Bourne trilogy, a fourth
The red-haired female hero show her rebellious
entry almost seems unnecessary. But with screenwriter
streak in this trailer for Pixar’s Brave relm.ag/57-brave
Tony Gilroy back on board alongside a brand-new cast of 11
talent, chances are it will be worthwhile. Starting where The Bourne Ultimatum ended, the film welcomes in a new set of
DA D S, P OL I T ICI A NS A ND N E I G H B O R S
characters, specifically Jeremy Renner’s secret agent Aaron Cross and an antagonist played by Edward Norton. It’s bound to be an enjoyable ride.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Directed by Lorene Scafaria — June 22 (R)
Directed by John Hillcoat — August 31 (N/A)
Lorene Scafaria, the writer of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, makes her directorial debut with this dramedy about,
Hillcoat already made a great period piece in his Australian
well, the end of the world. The film puts Steve Carell and Keira
western The Proposition and followed it with a satisfying take
Knightley together with an asteroid on path to destroy Earth,
on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. So he’s set to hit a home run
so clearly Scafaria has her work cut out for her with such a
with this adaptation of the novel The Wettest County in the
tantalizing story and cast. But with David Gordon Green’s gifted cinematographer, Tim Orr, shooting the film, she
World—a Prohibition story about three bootleg brothers trying 13
to avoid the law. Plus, Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce,
certainly has all the pieces in place for a great movie. 10
Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman and Mia Wasikowska star.
Directed by Akiva Schaffer — July 27 (N/A)
The trailer for The Bourne Legacy. Doubters be ready: Renner looks hardcore.
A group of friends start a neighborhood watch group to escape their families, but their plan is thwarted when
RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 25
TH E P U LSE
B Y D AV I D R O A R K
26 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
BATMAN IS A MIDPOINT BETWEEN HOPE AND BLEAK REALITY.
David Roark lives in Dallas, Texas, and regularly writes about film and culture for RELEVANT.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
very generation has its superhero. In the 1980s, that hero was Superman—truth, justice and the American way were just the thing to bring clarity to a world rent by a Cold War. In the 1990s, a dark, streamlined Batman took the superhero reins. But The Batman—as conceived of by multiple directors—ended the decade reveling in campy and laughable villains, becoming a punchline for a decade already steeped in sarcasm. The early 2000s had a squeaky clean Spider-Man who could unironically pose in front of an American flag, a symbol of post-9/11 hope. These superheroes not only reflect a deep desire within all humanity, but also reflect humanity itself—the state, struggles and hopes of a given people at a given time. Today, in the wake of 9/11 and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and amid a seemingly endless War on Terror and “the Great Recession,” anxiety is at an all-time high. For many, there lies an overwhelming cynicism about the future, as the idea of objectivity seems unrealistic and the line between black and white fades. Our culture longs for something better but is simultaneously skeptical of hope—we want things to change, but we’re wary of anything actually working. It’s in this climate that Christopher Nolan debuted this generation’s hero: Batman. But this isn’t the ’90s Batman. Nolan has revised the superhero genre forever, bringing to it an array of nuances. Nolan’s Batman not only marries hope with hopelessness in what some consider “reality” but also represents the essence of our current cultural context. The parallels between Nolan’s Batman and recent American history prove indisputably deliberate. From the descent of Gotham City into a desperate and depraved wasteland, to a terrorist plot to
WHAT BATMAN SAYS ABOUT US
obliterate its most celebrated skyscraper, to the use of fear as modern warfare, the two films strikingly allegorize our society—and the third promises to do the same. The metaphors manifest especially in Nolan’s villains, specifically Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul and Heath Ledger’s already legendary Joker. They’re contemporary manifestations of contemporary anxieties. Ghul’s willingness to carry out injustice for the sake of “justice” is no different than recent attempts to stamp out terrorism “no matter what.” Ghul’s methodology reflects an American foreign policy that tortures and dehumanizes prisoners in an effort to prevent fear and the decay of democracy. It’s also a balancing act Batman must maintain as he taps phones and beats information out of captives. The Joker then represents terrorism—and a new kind of supervillain—with the sole motives of chaos and anarchy. Bearing rocketpropelled grenades and gasoline bombs that detonate with cell phones, the relentless terrorist cares nothing about money or power. As Alfred says of Joker’s kind, they “just want to watch the world burn.” Today’s threats are so much less organized—irrational people who hold the power to kill millions—a nuclear Iran, the anonymous gunmen at a school, the ever-looming threat of another 9/11. For Gotham City, for us, none of it makes any sense. There is no promise things will get better—that justice will prevail. Burdened by the depravity of humanity and the brokenness of their world, Gotham longs for redemption but doubts it will ever come. For that, who else would Gotham—who else would we—want but Batman? The Caped Crusader doesn’t possess any superpowers, and his motives and character prove morally dubious. Batman is a midpoint between hope and bleak reality, and that’s what makes him the perfect superhero for today. He may be the superhero Gotham wants and deserves. He’s probably the superhero America deserves. But the question still lingers: Is he the hero Gotham needs? In a time when fear and anxiety prevail, in a time when, politically and socially, the future looks bleak, in a time when the concept of truth hardly exists, what does it say when our best hero is a mere man—someone unsure of hope himself? It’s a heady reminder that the people we hold up as heroes will always let us down and that true hope is in something greater than any person can give. But Nolan’s Batman is also a reminder of a greater truth: that we all want and need a Savior—but that so many people still struggle to believe one could ever really change anything.
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DROP MUSIC NEWS YOU NEED TO KNOW
A Legendary Record Collection Heads Online
WHAT’S NEXT FOR DAVID CROWDER? Now that the David Crowder *Band has of ficially par ted ways, we spoke w ith the iconic frontman about his future
The late John Peel was one of the most influential and important radio DJs in history. Peel, a DJ on BBC One for nearly 40 years, is widely credited for helping the careers of many independent and alternative artists in various genres over the years. Often, they would receive some of their first mainstream radio play on Peel’s show. Peel was also a noted collector of vinyl. His personal collection consisted of 25,000 albums and 40,000 singles. Now, that entire collection is being put online, complete with Peel’s notes, contributors’ stories and video interviews. Some of the music itself may be copyright restricted, but the operators of the site can likely get around any legal trouble thanks to the famed “Peel Sessions,” which include live performances by everyone from Nirvana to Daft Punk.
BY DAN GIBSON
28 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
“There were a lot of things we felt were non-negotiable that we held on to for the entire length of the band, built around community or relationships. Who knows what the world, pop culture or church culture will say what we contributed to the whole; that might take years to find out. I hope they’ll say at least we set something out in the beginning and we stuck with it.” Crowder says he’s not totally sure what the future holds for him. “[There’s] nothing set in stone or really clear,” he says. “Just the way I’m wired, I suspect there will be more church music in the future, but I don’t know what that will sound like or anything. This might sound ambitious, but I want to try to find out what boredom feels like, breathe in and out a little. “In a few months, I might be able to offer people details on how I’ve been heating my Totino’s Party Pizzas!”
2012 Goes Cash This year, 2012, would have been Johnny Cash’s 80th birthday—which may be why this year is all about the Man in Black. The Cash family recently unveiled the planned restoration to Cash’s boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas. Shortly thereafter, Sony released volume four—two long-lost gospel albums—in the Cash Bootleg series. And this summer, a Cash museum will open, along with a possible sixth album of Rick Rubin-produced Cash music.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
January, one of Christian rock’s most beloved bands played its final show. But as David Crowder reflects on the legacy of his eponymous David Crowder*Band, he’s quick to celebrate and hesitant to grieve. “We had a real sense we were where we were supposed to be in the whole process,” Crowder says of the final performance at Passion 2012. “Bizarrely, it wasn’t very emotional. It felt like a fitting end. I suspect if we weren’t so comfortable with our plan, it would have felt more Brett Favre-like. Thankfully, none of us are really fans of his career arc, so it ended on a more positive note. It felt like it was the perfect way to go out; we couldn’t have scripted how it ended at Passion, with a bunch of college kids, which is really how it started, surrounded by family and friends.” Not just comfortable with the band’s plan, Crowder is comfortable with its legacy.
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ARTISTS TO WATCH
[ K N O W
T H E S E ]
Carolina Chocolate Drops If you like your bluegrass down and dirty, you’ll love this trio.
ELECTRIC GUEST MONDO
Why we love them ... Ever since we heard Electric Guest’s first single “This Head I Hold,” we’ve had it stuck in our heads. And we knew the band was one to watch. FOR FANS OF Foster the People, Gorillaz, Broken Bells WEBSITE www.electricguest.com
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first glance, it might be hard to think of Electric Guest as a “serious” band. Lead singer Asa Taccone’s brother, Jorma, is a member of The Lonely Island, and Asa and bandmate Matthew Compton have helped with some of Lonely Island’s biggest bits. The music on debut album Mondo is infectiously poppy, and even their videos can come off as a little joke-y. But then you get to the lyrics, and things take a dark turn. That’s because Taccone tends to write about driftlessness, a sort of midtwenties malaise—spiritual, emotional and otherwise—that has become synonymous with this post-collegiate generation. “That’s the overwhelming theme of my life,” Taccone says. “Just trying to put it out there that I feel this way, and I think so many of us do—maybe it’s time for a shift.” That shift is what Electric Guest makes music about. Songs encapsulate both the difficulty of growing up and the power of trying to hold on to truth and hope once you’ve found them. “There’s a way to push through a lot of the smoke and mirrors of our culture and find oneself in a more solid place,” Taccone says. “But I definitely think that we have to go through this fire. I know personally where I’m at in my life, there’s just no way around it with how we’ve sped ourselves up.”
Porcelain Raft Icy beats and synths provide the perfect backdrop for singer Mauro Remiddi.
Bison This seven-piece combines the music of Mumford & Sons with the language of the King James Bible.
[ M I S C ]
As a result of a long contract
Here are some great tracks from our recent favorites.
dispute with 50 Cent’s G-Unit, rapper Young Buck has been forced to file for bankruptcy— which means
Electric Guest “American Daydream” relm.ag/57electric-guest
he might lose the trademark to his own name. The
lesson: Never trademark your own name ... In response to criticism of last summer’s underwhelming
THE MYNABIRDS Why we love them ...
set at the
As Mynabirds, Laura
much like her musical
blamed it on his
older brother, Conor
Oberst. Mynabirds’ new album finds
of NBC Jeff
heady topics like love
As an artist, what can you say or do that makes a difference? I am a pacifist. So, how do you move this anger and this desire to beat someone down to making peace in the world and becoming an agent of positive change around you? That’s the story of the record. It starts with anger, and then it moves to “Revenge,” the last song. What is the greatest revenge? That you love everybody.
THE MYNABIRDS GENERALS
FOR FANS OF Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, M. Ward WEBSITE www.themynabirds.com
threw a bar mitzvah for
his son. He hired Drake for $250,000 ... to rap for a kid
Why we love them ...
who should be
They made a Fleet Foxes-like concept
too young to
album about the Fall of humanity.
listen to him ... According to Facebook and
Mynabirds “What We Gained in the Fire” relm.ag/57mynabirds
Neulore “Eve,” live from the RELEVANT Studio relm.ag/57neulore
Neulore makes thoughtful tunes about the human condition. Bonus: they’re fun to listen to.
Porcelain Raft “Unless You Speak from Your Heart” relm.ag/57porcelain-raft
NEULORE APPLES & EVE EP
Carolina Chocolate Drops “Milwaukee Blues” relm.ag/57-ccd
Spotify, the most popular song for new love is Jason Derulo’s “Don’t Wanna Go Home,” while Mumford & Sons’ “The
FOR FANS OF Fleet Foxes, John Mark McMillan, Gungor
Cave” is most popular among those who recently faced a breakup ...
RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 31
Q &A [THE DROP]
us; we need Africa.” There are some things we’re good at that we could probably teach them with growing technologies or something. But they have a culture—they have pride and a lineage and history that equips them with everything they need. Really, they’re good— they’ve got it. If anything, if we really do want to help, we can come alongside them and say, “Who are you? What do you need? Where are you going?”
You have resisted the label of a “Christian” artist. Why has the distinction between Christians who make art and Christian art been important to you?
A DANNY CLINCH
THE FRAY Frontman Isaac Slade gets hones t about Africa, the Chris tian g het to and w hy he was disappointed in their sophomore album B Y H E AT H E R M E I K L E
It’s been three years since The Fray released their self-titled sophomore album. In the break between promoting that record and recording their new release, Scars & Stories, the chart-topping band took time away to travel without itineraries and show dates. The result is an album that’s mature, worldly and, as frontman Isaac Slade posits, “Bigger. In the best way possible.” Here, Slade discusses his travels, his faith and the fears he’s overcome.
Scars & Stories was a product of travel. How did your time abroad inspire you?
Traveling changes your perspective for the better, I think. In a way, when you see everything that’s different about a new place, you’re able to see what’s the same between you and them. We’d seen it on CNN—I’ve seen Africa and Cape Town
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and Kigali, Rwanda—I’ve seen it online and in movies, but I’ve never seen it for myself.
You’ve talked about the struggles of making your sophomore album, The Fray . Was there ever a time when you thought the third album wasn’t going to happen?
How did spending time in Africa change your perspective?
Being there—especially in Cape Town, where there was such apartheid and separation and heartache, and being in Rwanda where there was literal genocide—feeling these cities coming back to life in almost an unimaginable way, it’s humbling. It’s really humbling to whatever problems I have in my day. They sort of shrink before the problems and solutions over there. I love that quote: “Africa doesn’t need
WATCH An acoustic version of “Heartbeat” relm.ag/57the-fray
We tried our hardest on that record, but I was sort of a split personality, caught between trying to make everybody happy and trying to be honest. Somewhere between the second and third record, I cracked; I just didn’t have anything left to lose. I think with that came new confidence and new clarity and a new willingness to step up and be who I am, and trust that that’s enough. Now I feel like I’m sort of put back together.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
“GOD BLESS PETRA, BUT I WISH I’D HAD THE BEATLES.”
Christian art has become a tired, dirty, clichéd genre in a lot of ways. It’s threatened to become a ghetto that, once you’re established there, you can’t get out of. I think it comes from a fundamental flaw in Christian teaching that “in the world, not of it” really means “not in the world and not of it.” Growing up, I was sheltered and hidden away from the “evils” of mainstream culture. Meanwhile, raised on some very limited diet of Christian art—God bless Petra, but I wish I’d had the Beatles.
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LEAD. INNOVATE. CREATE.
COURTESY OF INVISIBLE CHILDREN
THE RISE, FALL—AND RESURRECTION? —OF KONY 2012 T he world’s larges t social phenomenon quickly became a per sonal traged y—and a chance for anger or g race
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From social media to blog posts, where the expected response might have been outrage, rumormongering or even snide remarks about Russell’s very public episode, the overwhelming response has instead been ... well, very Christian. There has been a flood of support and wellwishes for Russell’s recovery—and continued talk of not losing focus on the greater issue. As Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms and a friend of Russell’s, wrote on his blog the day following the incident: “The things we talk about— people needing people, people needing help at times—I believe these things to be true. Life is fragile. Life is complex. We are capable of great good. We are capable of madness.” The support has clearly touched the leadership at Invisible Children. CEO Ben Keesey thanked supporters in a video message—and exhorted them to keep going. “Our commitments are huge,” Keesey said. “And we are going to see them through. That is what is at stake. Thank you for standing with us.”
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
March 5, Invisible Children posted a video chronicling the devastation caused by Joseph Kony in Uganda. The video called viewers to make Kony “famous” in 2012 in order to expedite his ultimate capture. The video exploded overnight, garnering more than 90 million views and sparking both praise and intense criticism. But then, you already know all this. And you also know that on March 15, the co-founder of Invisible Children, Jason Russell, had a mental breakdown and was detained after being found roaming naked through the streets of a San Diego neighborhood, ranting and possibly masturbating. Russell was hospitalized for what was medically diagnosed as “brief reactive psychosis” and at press time was still receiving treatment. All this you know, because everyone knows it. But perhaps the most surprising in these series of shocking events has been the public response.
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IN N OVATO R [NEX T]
LOCAL IS LOVELY
FARE ON FOUR WHEELS A sampling of Big Wheel Provisions’ dishes ...
Tony Adams and his Big W heel Provisions are on a mission to prove local, fresh and handmade food is not only sus tainable—it ’s gourmet Tony Adams always knew he wanted to be a chef. “I felt led to this life,” he says. “It is very clear to me this is what I was meant to do. It would be silly to write that off as anything other than divine intervention.” After graduation from Johnson and Wales University and externships at Disney and a two-star Michelin restaurant in England, Adams began to see his calling as more than just cooking. He felt led to change the way people eat. Through his food truck, catering business and charcuterie, Adams is dedicated to local, seasonable and sustainable cooking. “It’s stewardship—to take what we have been provided with and to be responsible with it.”
What is the goal or mission statement of Big Wheel Provisions?
How do you feel a sense of “calling” in your vocation?
How would you say Big Wheel is “innovating” in your industry?
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It’s all about stewardship. We go to our farms and make sure the workers are in good conditions; we look at the animals and how they are treated. Our farmers show us around with pride because they are doing proper things with what they have. That’s our company mission, as well as a personal calling.
We wake up every day trying to make tasty food and doing it in the most fun, responsible, playful way—[to show] you can eat seasonally and locally and still eat well. It’s our goal to be the best at what we do, but at the end of the day, that’s for others to decide.
A lot of that goes back to making sure you are a good steward of your body and health. And I don’t think I’ve ever been to any type of church service where there wasn’t something being served! Fact is, relationships are formed and bonded over food.
L oc al g r ouper cheek slider w ith g r een-tomato tar tar s auce and loc al le t tuces
L oc al Ber kshir e por k r ille t tes on cr os tini w ith spicy pick led loc al ok r a
R oas ted f ennel-and-her bs tuf f ed por che t ta w ith cr ispy sk in of r oas ted por k loin
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
We believe local food is the answer to many questions dealing with the economy, health, nutrition, environment, etc. If I can look the guy growing and picking my food in the face, then that’s a more responsible system, a more accountable system. It’s better for everyone.
What are some ways you see that food is connected to faith?
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STATEM ENT [NEX T]
PUTTING FAITH TO WORK BY AMY L. SHERMAN
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CHRISTIANS BLOOM WHEN THEY INNOVATE NEEDED REFORM IN THEIR INDUSTRY.
Dr. Amy L. Sherman is the author of Kingdom Calling (IVP), from which this article is adapted. Used by permission.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
any Christians know they need to integrate their faith into their work, but they don’t really know how. Yet such an integration is a vital component for any Christian walk to become a good steward of one’s vocation and use the “vocational power” of that profession to deepen faith and Christian witness. Such vocational stewardship is not as hard or abstract as it might first appear. In fact, there are three primary ways individual Christians can intentionally integrate belief into the work they do each day. Bloom where you’re planted. The primary and most important avenue for deploying vocational power is in and through one’s present work. The first place believers should look to conduct their mission is right at the current job they hold. Christians bloom when they acknowledge God as their director and audience and conduct their work in functional, daily reliance on the Spirit. Christians bloom when they honor God through their ethical practice and when they intentionally and creatively seek to advance God’s peace for all the organization’s stakeholders. And Christians bloom when they act as “intrapreneurs”—people who innovate needed reform within their company or industry sector. The temptations in this stance are two (at least). One emerges when Christians seek to be people of integrity on the job and attempt to evangelize co-workers but do not think deeply over the work itself. A second temptation is triumphalism. Triumphalism rears its head when Christians assert that only they can perceive the true, the good and the beautiful. Triumphalism surfaces when believers fail to be good listeners to people who do not share their Christian faith—when believers are inhospitable toward others’ views.
Donate. A second pathway of vocational stewardship involves donating skills to organizations other than a regular employer. This includes volunteer service at churches, nonprofit ministries and private or public agencies that can make good use of a Christian’s particular vocational knowledge and experience in their labors here at home or abroad. This pathway is unique in that volunteer service intentionally capitalizes on vocational power—it means you do what you’re good at. The main temptations of this pathway involve impatience, arrogance and failure to appreciate work styles or work environments and cultures different from those with which one is most familiar and comfortable. Highcapacity marketplace professionals are likely to find the nonprofit world a different animal than the corporate world. Some of those differences point to weaknesses in nonprofit culture, but others may reveal its strengths. Pro bono volunteers need eyes to see both, rather than just getting irritated by inefficiencies or the lack of shipshape policies and procedures. They also need to cultivate an appreciation for the talents and skills of nonprofit staff—while also humbly offering their own when and where needed. Invent. Pathway three involves drawing on your vocational power to launch a new social enterprise that seeks to advance the kingdom in a fresh way. It is about creating new or alternative institutions (big or small) that implement innovative ways of addressing social problems. Vocational stewardship along this pathway brings foretastes of God’s peace to the direct beneficiaries of the services provided by these new organizations. The principal temptation of pathway three involves failure to listen or to partner. Excited about her new idea, a high-capacity Christian may fail to realize that others have been working on the problem long before she came along. Entrepreneurs may need to consider how they might partner with existing programs rather than reinvent the wheel. In the same way, professionals who have proven themselves excellent problem-solvers in the business realm may fail to see where there are limits on the transferability of those skills. An idea or approach that worked marvelously in the corporate or technical sector may not succeed in the social sector. Each of these three pathways touches on how Christians can ably bring their faith and their work together. Such vocational stewardship eliminates the false separation between faith and real life that so often seems to exist. It makes faith into a holistic force that affects the whole Christian.
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[R EJEC T A PAT H Y ]
SUSTAINABLE CHANGE. SACRIFICIAL LIVING.
A NEW NORTH KOREA? W
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generations of the defector’s family to be killed. Kim also forbade the use of any foreign currency, hurting the already weak economic stability. Additionally, communications from the younger Kim’s new government explicitly maintain the status quo. An official government statement read: “We solemnly declare with confidence that the South Korean puppets and foolish politicians around the world should not expect any change.” While the final outcome of Kim Jong-un’s rule remains to be seen, it’s clear injustice is still very much a part of North Korea. Kim has expressed empathy for the North Korean people in the past, but it seems as though that hasn’t (yet) translated to positive action for the oppressed.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
hen North Korean leader Kim Jong-il passed away in December, his son, Kim Jong-un, assumed the throne. Kim Jong-il was widely known for his engagement in human rights abuses—will his son be any different? So far, the results are mixed. North Korea has promised to suspend its nuclear program, which means some crippling economic sanctions may be loosened—which could provide food and money for more people. But there are other indications that the younger Kim may be repeating his father’s sins. After assuming power, Kim ordered anyone trying to defect from North Korea to be executed and three
With a different leader, will there be a greater emphasis on justice?
RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 41
SP OTLI GHT [R EJEC T A PAT H Y ]
DOING GOOD We’re impressed with the work these charities are doing. Check them out. M AT T OO
Men Against the Trafficking of Others aims to inform men about slavery today. They see the need to involve men in the abolition of a slavery they often cause.
111Pr ojec t
As of January 2011, there were 8,308 children in Oklahoma who needed adoptive homes—and 6,000 churches. The 111Project TREVER HOEHNE
is committed to pairing at least one family from each church to commit to adopt at least one child—“to leave no Oklahoma
EMPOWERING WOMEN, BIT BY BIT How f ive women from California came up w ith a plan to eliminate pover t y in Africa—one necklace at a time
child without a father or a family.”
Surfers, Not Street Children
This South African nonprofit focuses on getting the country’s large population of homeless children off the streets.
A glance at their website and 31 Bits may seem like just another jewelry company—soft lighting, gorgeous models and brightly-colored accessories. But when Alli Swanson and the other 31 Bits co-founders set out to counter poverty in Uganda by selling handmade paper jewelry, they knew it would take more than pretty trinkets. What emerged was a grassroots program that combines a steady income to Ugandan women with education, financial and vocational training, holistic care, and strong support systems. We spoke with Swanson to hear the story behind 31 Bits and how their programs have already begun to empower women in Uganda. How would you briefly describe the mission and purpose of 31 Bits?
How did 31 Bits start? How did you figure out what worked?
What do women take away from their time working with 31 Bits?
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We spent time learning from other organizations [like Invisible Children and Krochet Kids]. We hired on a group of six women in Uganda because we found that’s what we could afford to do. We worked [to] give them a sustainable income [so] every month they were getting about a teacher’s salary.
31 Bits isn’t just a means to an end for these ladies. They’re not just in our program for as long as they want to be—it’s mainly a steppingstone for them to learn business experience and to gain an amount of money. We’ll be graduating 10 women in January to start small businesses of their own.
They’ve come into our program and learned the hope they can have from working hard and making an income. To see the power of these ladies providing for themselves in a culture where women don’t have much of a say—to see that change is incredible.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
We work with women in Uganda who make jewelry out of recycled paper. We run a development organization with them by not only giving them a sustainable income every month but also providing them with holistic care and education.
How have you seen women change through their 31 Bits experience?
“Andrew Farley is one of the best young writers in the church today ... a 21st-century Bonhoeffer.” —Leonard Sweet, best-selling author of Jesus Manifesto
WHY I HATE RELIGION BUT LOVE JESUS
Through true stories of robbery and extortion, laps around the Indy 500 track, tapped phone calls to a psychic and a grandma’s late arrival at her own funeral, bestselling author Andrew Farley (The Naked Gospel) invites you to discover the depths of God’s grace. Farley dismantles common Christian misconceptions, revealing the truth about judgment, rewards and discipline. He exposes the problem with today’s popular challenges to “be radical” and “die to self.” You'll learn to relax in the finished work of Jesus and enjoy Him like never before. DrAndrewFarley
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TH E N U MB ERS [R EJEC T A PAT H Y ]
VIOLENCE AT HOME Of ten under the radar, domes tic abuse is s till shocking ly common Would you be surprised to learn the developed nation with the highest rate of child homicide is the United States? Or that 1.3 million women in the U.S. are physically abused by an intimate partner each year? How about that 54 percent of rape victims in the U.S. experienced their first rape or attempted rape when they were younger than 18? Rihanna and Chris Brown may have brought domestic violence front and center earlier this year, but the truth is, this sadistic form of aggression has long been a problem in the U.S.
1 * CDC, Intimate Violence Report 2005 2 * U.S. Department of Justice 3 * National Institute of Justice: Research Report, 2010 4 * Domestic Violence Resource Center
INJURIES FROM INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE EACH YEAR
A S E X PERIENCED 1 IN 4 WOMEN HDOMESTIC VIOLENCE
MORE THAN 3 WOMEN A DAY ARE MURDERED BY THEIR HUSBANDS OR BOYFRIENDS
*New York Daily News
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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MURDERS JUMPED 10 PERCENT DURING 2010
OF ADULT FEMALE HOMICIDE VICTIMS WERE KILLED BY AN INTIMATE PARTNER
OF GIRLS AGE 14 TO 17 REPORT KNOWING SOMEONE THEIR AGE WHO HAS BEEN HIT OR BEATEN BY A BOYFRIEND 4*
WERE KILLED IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INCIDENTS IN 2010, UP FROM 17 IN 2009
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE JUST IN NEW YORK:
OF FEMALE RAPE OR ATTEMPTED RAPE VICTIMS WERE UNDER 18 WHEN THEY WERE ATTACKED
WO RLDVIE W
BY STEPHAN BAUMAN
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JUSTICE IS ABOUT RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS— RELATIONSHIPS THAT WORK.
Stephan Bauman is President and CEO of World Relief, which partners with the Church to fight poverty and injustice. www. worldrelief.org
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
ustice is trendy today. Shop for something “red” to stem the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Buy a bottle of pure drinking water to help the billion people who survive without it. Spare 99 cents at the cash register for the 2 billion who survive each day on less. Watch a war live on CNN. Amidst all the fanfare surrounding justice, we become overwhelmed, confused and even jaded. What, really, is justice? In a remote village several hours from Pnom Penh in Cambodia, two members of a cell church discover a 19-year-old girl, listless, lying beneath a house on stilts. The girl says she “lays down the whole time,” she is infected with HIV/AIDS, and “she wants to die because it is so difficult.” Seven years before, at the age of 12, her sister led her from their home, telling her they were going to visit her aunt and uncle. When she questioned the way, her sister told her, “We don’t want you to live with us anymore.” She took her to a brothel, where she was a sex slave until she escaped and met her two new friends. “They shared with me about the love of God ... and that He can give me life. That’s why I’m still alive today. They helped me to learn to love myself again. And I know God will not forsake me.” Too often we theorize about justice, forgetting that justice is deeply personal. For this young girl, justice wears the skin of two Cambodian Christ-followers. They embody hope for a life nearly snuffed out. Two words are used for justice in the Old Testament. The first, mishpat, means “rendering judgment” or “giving people what they are due” and is sometimes referred to as “rectifying justice.” The second word, tsedeqah, means “the right thing” or, especially, “right relationships” and is referred to as “primary justice.” These words are often paired
[R EJEC T A PAT H Y ]
together in Scripture as “justice and righteousness” and, in some instances, one means the other. The Book of Isaiah even uses the word justice to mean “the sum total of what the Lord has deemed right”—or, in essence, the very will of God. Taken together, mishpat and tsedeqah present a relational definition of justice, an important dimension that has been overlooked for too long. In its fullness, justice is about right relationships—relationships that work. Injustice is about relationships that don’t. Justice for what some call the “the Quartet of the Vulnerable”—the orphan, the widow, the immigrant and the poor—is especially important to God, due to its prevalence in Scripture. Injustice occurs when these people are left out, oppressed or exploited. The Old Testament vision of justice carries through to the New and converges in the life and message of Jesus. Jesus not only teaches justice, but he becomes justice. Through the Cross, the very possibility of justice is made available to all, and the incarnation is both a mandate and an example to us. Justice is best incarnated by the people closest to those who suffer, not only geographically, but culturally too. When we live out justice in our relationships, we give witness to the person of Jesus and effect change. When we empower others to become the hands and feet of Christ in their own communities, we create heroes who, in turn, bring justice to a suffering world. For a Cambodian girl sold into slavery and, in her mind, rejected from God, justice comes in the form of two followers of Christ. For a woman who cannot feed her child, justice comes in the form of a community banker offering a microloan or an agronomist teaching techniques to increase her crop yield. For a refugee, justice comes with a hospitable heart and an open home. Neighbor to neighbor. Tribe to tribe. The wealthy to the poor. The poor to the wealthy. Governments to their citizens. God to his people, and His people to creation. These relationships, when stitched together justly, weave a tapestry of hope that fundamentally changes society for the better. We are experiencing a radical redefining of justice today. Justice is being reclaimed, stolen back from social and political camps, and rediscovered. What is emerging is beautiful: a new and ancient justice, anchored deeply in the person and sacrificial love of Jesus and inseparable from the very essence of the Gospel. As we recover its biblical meaning, we encounter a God who loves justice, demands justice and executes it for the needy. With such a glimpse, how can we be deaf to its cry?
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G O I N G G R E E N (FOR THE RIGHT REASONS) BY KELLI B. TRUJILLO
WHY EMBRACING “CREATION CARE” SHOULD BE ABOUT MORE THAN JUST SCIENCE 48 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
limate change. Use this term around a typical group of Christians and you’re likely to get some extreme and extremely polarized responses. Though 82 percent of the world’s environmental scientists believe human activity is a significant contributor to global warming, just 34 percent of America’s white evangelicals agree. The level of vitriol in this debate can run high. Political anger, distrust of the scientific establishment due to decades of perceived “faith versus science”
battling in the public square and debacles like Climategate—where leading scientists were caught fudging data to be more sympathetic toward the theory of human-caused global warming—add to the furor. Like a big green line drawn in the sand, Christians are picking sides. Is it possible to find some
common ground where believers of varying opinions can stand together regarding creation care? Can Christians agree on environmental stewardship without fighting about former vice presidents, ice caps or apocalyptic movies?
WHY CREATION CARE MATTERS
Though there may be debate about the causes of climate change and humanity’s role in it, there’s a core concept in which all believers need to agree. Scripture’s creation narrative clearly points to God as the maker of all things. Nestled in the creation account is a clear mandate for humankind: to “rule over” the created world (Genesis 1:26-28) and to “work it” and “take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). This task of stewardship involves wisely using and preserving earth’s abundant resources in a manner that reflects God’s character. Clearly given a special place in the created order as image-bearers of God, humankind is in a sense “above” plant and animal life but, as science clearly demonstrates, is never separate from it. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). God’s created world is designed to function in intricate and interrelated systems; humans must drink the earth’s water and breathe its air; humans grow crops in the earth’s soil and consume animals living in the earth’s diverse ecosystems. This is how God designed life to exist; along with all the created life on this planet, humankind is the Lord’s. This is the starting point for discussion and is a foundational reason that Christians with varying opinions on the science of climate change must agree that creation care matters.
“The strongest focal point for our common ground is our acknowledgement of God as creator of all things,” says Dr. Calvin B. DeWitt, professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Earthwise: A Guide to
Hopeful Creation Care. “Colossians 1:15-20 describes Jesus Christ as the one who created all things, the one who holds all things together, and the one who reconciles all things to God. Because God is creator and because we follow Jesus, we do pay attention to His creation.” For DeWitt, environmental stewardship begins as a matter of discipleship: “Rather than accepting Jesus as Savior and then packing that away into some sort of spiritual box that is separate from our lives,” he says, “as evangelicals the aim and purpose of our lives is to follow Jesus. When we do that, we’re following the one who created all things, who holds all things together, and who makes things all right again.” A choice to follow Jesus in one’s daily living inherently means valuing His created world, rightly acknowledging Jesus as the sustainer of all life, and joining Him in prioritizing the making-right of the world. “It would be odd for someone to say, ‘I really like Rembrandt, but I don’t care about his paintings,’” DeWitt says. One’s love for God and worship of Him logically ought to work itself out in a commitment to honor His creation.
Much of the current discussion about pollution is focused on the effect of greenhouse gases on the global climate. Along with the many positives of industrialization (economic growth, inventions and discoveries, advances in medicine and science) came the byproduct of contaminants entering the environment. Exposure to pollutants can lead to serious health risks; according to the World Health Organization, one-fourth of the diseases affecting humankind today are a direct result of environmental pollution. One of the most dangerous forms of industrial pollution is the proliferation of heavy metals like lead, mercury, copper and nickel. Byproducts of industrial production, they enter the environment as particulate matter in emissions and wind up in soil, water, plants, animals, and even in snow and rain. Heavy metals also enter the environment through improper disposal of consumer products (like electronics) and some fertilizers used in industrial farming. Exposure to high levels of heavy metals can be linked to neurological damage, respiratory ailments, skeletal deformities, organ failure and an increase in cancer. In addition, urban “smog” presents clear health risks, including cardiovascular disease and asthma. These threats aren’t only outdoors; according to the EPA, the air inside American homes contains two to five times the amount of unhealthy chemicals (called volatile organic compounds) than occur in normal outdoor air. With all these environmental dangers, self-preservation—the God-given instinct to keep oneself and
one’s family healthy, safe and alive—can be one of the most fundamental motivating factors for environmental stewardship.
Toxicity and pollution in soil, air and water may be a problem in American communities, but there are parts of the world where the dangers are shockingly bad. The Dandora dumpsite in Nairobi, Kenya, is one of the largest unregulated waste dumps in the world, collecting some 2,000 daily tons of municipal, industrial and medical waste. Pollutants from the dump have entered the environment, causing severe health problems for those living nearby. Half of the children living near Dandora have respiratory problems, and one-third suffer from blood abnormalities indicating heavy metal poisoning. Similar problems exist in other parts of Nairobi and in numerous cities like it around the globe in which dense populations live in large slum areas that have virtually no waste removal. Imp over ishe d people in these communities live on soil and drink water that’s tainted by dangerous waste and byproducts. Churches in Peru have banded together to help fight a similar problem in La Oroya, a community home to an American-owned mining and smelting plant. Considered one of the most polluted places in the world, those living and working in La Oroya suffer a tremendous range of health problems stemming from
OF EARTH’S KNOWN SPECIES ARE IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION
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lingering industrial pollution. One study found that 99 percent of the children living in this community suffer from dangerously high levels of lead in their blood, leading to severe neurological problems. The united efforts of Christians in Peru and worldwide to draw attention to La Oroya has brought about efforts to regulate the plant’s emissions and begin to clean up the surrounding environment. Those most affected by pollution are often the most vulnerable in society: young children and the poor. Water must be consumed from the contaminated river; there is no option of drinking treated water from a faucet. Fish must be caught and eaten from the pond downstream; there is no choice of purchasing fresh and safe food from the grocery store down the street. For low-income communities, there’s no insulation from the dangerous realities of pollution. “Pollution kills people. Pollution dislocates families,” says Dr. Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of
Even minute levels of mercury exposure has the potential to do significant developmental harm (such as brain damage) and in some cases even cause death. “About 70 percent of the mercury that’s emitted in the United States comes from burning coal—primarily from coal-fired power plants and coal-burning industrial boilers,” Hescox explains. Mercury enters
growing babies, causing birth defects, stillbirth and infant death. A pro-life stance that seeks to protect the unborn from abortion ought also be passionately committed to protect the unborn from lifethreatening toxins that can be reduced through clean-energy
“BECAUSE GOD IS CREATOR AND ... WE FOLLOW JESUS, WE DO PAY ATTENTION TO HIS CREATION.” — DR. CALVIN B. DEWITT Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. For Moore, environmental stewardship is intricately connected with true compassion and evangelism. “Will people believe us when we speak about the One who brings life abundantly when they see that we don’t care about that which kills and destroys? Will they hear us when we quote John 3:16 to them and then, in the face of their loss of life, we shrug our shoulders and say, ‘Who is my neighbor?’” A choice to be deeply concerned about environmental dangers is a decision to be a globally-minded Christian; it’s a biblical choice “to act justly and to love mercy” (Micah 6:8).
Unborn babies are among the most vulnerable people in American culture. Over 1.2 million lose their lives to abortion each year in the United States. Since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, Christians have been a strong voice in American culture speaking for the God-given right to life and, of equal importance, coming alongside women in crisis pregnancies to offer aid and support in bringing their pregnancy to term. Yet many American Christians may not be aware of another dangerous threat to the lives of the preborn. “Mercury is one of the most potent neurotoxins in the world today,” says Rev. Mitch Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network. Studies reveal one in six newborns in the U.S. are born with dangerously high levels of mercury already in their blood, passed to them from their mother. 50 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
the air, lands in water, is converted to methylmercury, which is ingested by fish and wildlife, and then enters the food chain. When pregnant women eat mercurytainted food, this dangerous neurotoxin is passed on to their developing baby. Mercury exposure isn’t the only threat to the preborn; other pollutants such as sulfur dioxide in the air and chemical compounds in the soil and water also endanger
technology. “As a Christian I am passionately pro-life. I am anti-abortion,” Hescox says. “But I am pro-whole-life. I believe God wants us to give our children the best chance at living the abundant life Jesus offers (John 10:10). By taking away I.Q. points, motor skills, language skills or basic physical
health, we are taking away the best quality of life God has in store for each child.”
“From Genesis 2:15 to Psalm 24 to Colossians 1, Scripture repeatedly emphasizes our responsibility to be good stewards,” Hescox says. “We have a biblical call to care for something that belongs to God—it’s not ours.” How Christians go about doing that may vary based on one’s views about the role of government in public life. Some believers focus primarily on personal lifestyle choices like spending lots of time outdoors, reducing energy consumption, using cloth rather than plastic bags at the grocery store, or composting biodegradable waste. Others focus on civic involvement in public policy issues like regulation of pollution or the protection of threatened species. “Even those who agree about what’s at stake with climate change can have different opinions about the best ways to address the issue,” Moore says. “We might disagree on the means, but we can do so as people with common goals.” “No matter our political views or opinions on climate change, we can all agree that God created the earth and that how we live is an act of worship,” says Tracey Bianchi, pastor and author of Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet. “How we treat God’s gift to us says something significant about how we worship God with our daily lives.” Like the psalmists who uttered words of praise to God for the mountains, for the seas and for the stars, Christians of varying opinions about hot-button issues like climate change can still unite in the soul’s instinctive worship-response to creation’s grandeur. “Enjoy creation!” Bianchi says. “Take time to relish a sunset, to watch a thunderstorm roll in, to hike in the forest. Celebrate the creative mind of God as seen through His creation.”
modern-day industrial, farming, power-production and waste-management practices are anything but sustainable. For example, rather than the old-fashioned and sustainable methods of crop rotation and fallowing land, industrial farming practices in America have led to a rate of topsoil erosion that’s 10 times faster than the time it takes for new topsoil to naturally form and replace it. Fertilizers and pesticides from that lost soil are washed into streams and rivers, creating dead zones in American coastal waters. Or consider America’s energy economy that’s focused so heavily on using finite resources like fossil fuels (which often use production methods that pollute); how might a shift toward renewable resources like wind and solar power benefit future generations? Sustainable choices in business, farming and industry do involve a financial cost, but people of faith can see this cost as a morally motivated investment. “Sustainable business practices are choices to protect and preserve earth’s resources for the long-term,” says Robert Aram, a renewable energy engineer and sustainability consultant. “But sustainability isn’t just about the environment—it’s also about community. It’s about business leaders caring about their employees, about the people living in their local community, and especially about passing something good on to future generations.” Rather than living as a “me-generation,” making choices primarily based on immediate wants and personal profit, Christians should consider choices to live and work more sustainably as an othersfocused act. Wise conservation (reduction of pollution, waste and other dangers to the environment) is a way for Christians to love their neighbors and future generations as they love themselves—and, even more, to love with a Christ-like, selfless love. “We ought to care about conserving the environment precisely because we believe in loving our neighbors, born and unborn,” Moore asserts. “When I care about those downstream from me in space and time, I want what’s best for them in terms of safe food, clean water, breathable air, just as I want for myself.”
OF THE WORLD’S LEADING SCIENTISTS BELIEVE THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING
The Edenic world described in Genesis 1 before the Fall was beautiful, healthy and self-sustaining—a far cry from patterns we see today in our sin-damaged world. Many
How You Can Really Care for Creation • Study what Scripture says about environmental stewardship in passages like Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15; Psalm 19; Matthew 6:25-30; Romans 1:1920; Colossians 1:15-18; Revelation 11:15-18 • Dispose of consumer electronics through e-cycling or community e-waste collection programs (see www.epa.gov/ecycling) • Educate yourself on pollution issues in your local community • Pray for the poor around the world who are threatened by environmental problems • Financially support Christian organizations (like World Vision and Plant With Purpose) that care for the poor by addressing environmental issues like water sanitation, sustainable agriculture and reforestation • Learn more about the Evangelical Environmental Network’s mercury and the unborn campaign at www. creationcare.org/mercury • Reduce your reliance on coal-fired energy by using energy-efficient lightbulbs and appliances and by weatherizing your home • Research opportunities to buy your power from renewable energy sources • Protect animal life threatened by consumer waste by recycling plastics, using cloth bags at
KELLI B. TRUJILLO is an author and editor; she lives in Indianapolis with her husband, David, and their three children. Join her in conversation about creation care and spiritual formation at www.kellitrujillo.com.
the grocery store and using biodegradable materials as much as possible
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WHY ONE OF OUR FAVORITE ELECTRO-INDIE BANDS SHOULD BE ON EVERYONE’S SUMMER PLAYLIST BY L AURA STUDARUS DORON GILD
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he best music doesn't just rely on melody and lyrics for its quality—it sets a mood and keeps for the length of an album. Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based electro-duo Phantogram sets a mood with the best of them. Phantogram somehow manages to make music that captures what it feels like to wander city streets at night—which is perhaps why their last project was called Nightlife. The band jokingly refers to their brand of musical melodrama as “street beat”—a combination of dark, nocturnalsounding synths, hip-hop beats and crashing guitars, all frosted with vocalist/keyboardist Sarah Barthel’s ethereal coo. But as guitarist/vocalist Josh Carter prefers to explain it, once the rough-edged romanticism and sultry grooves are stripped away, at the core of Phantogram are two ordinary friends making extraordinary music. With lives so interconnected, neither member can remember the specifics of their first meeting, both members of Phantogram (who have never been romantically involved) see their amicable musical collaboration as a natural extension of their friendship—which, as Carter recounts, didn’t become musical until much later in the game. “We ended up hanging out for a few years as friends. I would play her my demos. One day, I discovered she had a really good voice and she played the piano, which is something she kept secret from most people.” “I think it was a Mazzy Star song or a Hope Sandoval song,” Barthel says of their first time casually making music together—noting that she didn’t consider her singing talent to be a particularly well-kept secret. It was a revelatory moment
for Barthel. Despite having attended art school and nursing ambitions of making a living as an artist, Barthel never believed a career in music was likely. “I thought it was a side thing, a break from working on visual art,” she says of her musical ambitions. “Go play the piano to chill out.” Carter, on the other hand, saw music as his only option. “I thought I was going to move out to California and become a professional skateboarder after high school,” he says of his pre-music goals. “I started playing the guitar when I was 18. I just knew I had to [pursue music]. Now I’m doing it. I am a firm believer that you can make anything happen, as long as you work hard and believe in what you’re doing.” The pair went on to name their 2009 debut full-length Eyelid Movies, and they admit their affinity for film has roots that extend far past their first album. “I used to work in an independent movie theater when I was in college,” Barthel says with an easy laugh. “I got to see all the movies for free. That was pretty much the only reason I did it, because the pay was like three bucks an hour or something ridiculous.” Having long since left the theater behind (“I haven’t been watching movies because we’ve been going crazy with touring and working on music,” Barthel laments), Carter and Barthel revisited their love of cinematic imagery while recording Eyelid Movies’ sampleheavy follow-up, Nightlife. “That’s how we write a lot—very visually,” Carter says of the six-song album, which the band prefers to call a —JOSH mini-LP rather than an EP. “We pass ideas back and forth: ‘Oh, picture this happening. How does this sound?’ There are certain things going on in a film.” Nightlife may capture a night on the town in all its multifaceted glory, but don’t expect the band to brand themselves as the life of the party, party animals, scenesters ... or anything else, for that matter. “I think our work is our persona,” Carter says. “It’s who we are. I find it interesting and I don’t think it’s a bad idea for bands to have a persona. When we toured with The xx, they were almost in uniform in all black with gold jewelry and stuff like that—early ’90s haircuts or whatever. I think for us, we’re just trying to make music and be who we are and be honest about what we do.” He pauses before offering a quick clarification. “I’m not accusing anybody who does have more of a polished persona of being phony or anything like that. We have our persona. We are who we are. We’re Phantogram.” While fans may have taken notice of the band’s after-hours tunes, Phantogram’s slowly escalating public profile—including opening spots for Yeasayer and Metric—was lost on Barthel’s mother. “She didn’t think we were taking it seriously as a career. She just thought we were doing it for fun,” Barthel says, a smirk playing around the edges of her voice.
It took the band booking Late Night with Jimmy Fallon for her mom to understand the extent of her daughter’s success. “She was like: ‘Whoa! You guys are going to be on TV? That’s kinda cool!’ ” Barthel says. Carter notes that, like Barthel’s mom, his parents are pleased—even if it took his father a while to fully grasp his band’s sound. “My dad has listened to the Beatles every day since he was about eight years old,” he laughs. “I remember my dad scratching his head when he heard ‘Mouthful of Diamonds.’ He was like: ‘What’s up with the bleepy-sounding whatever’s going on in the background?’ I’m like, ‘That’s how it’s supposed to sound!’ He didn’t fully understand it [but] they’re very supportive.” Although reluctant to discuss specifics, Carter circles back around to his relationship with his bandmate, admitting his and Barthel’s friendship has been a sustaining force for him in the past years—a theme that comes to play heavily in Nightlife’s closing track, “A Dark Tunnel.” Set against aggressive beats and a sea of fuzz, the song contains a barely audible spokenword passage. Carter confirms the murmurs were extracted from a voicemail his bandmate CARTER left for him during a particularly dark period of his life. “It means a lot to me, and it was very touching,” he says. “I figured, if anything, maybe it could subconsciously touch the listener in a way that will affect them emotionally.” Despite the moody and occasionally dark lyrical and musical themes, it’s a takeaway message of positivity that Carter hopes the listener will glean from Nightlife as well. “If I could, I would go back to myself during more dark times in my life and tell myself, ‘Listen, it may seem hopeless right now, but things get better. Tomorrow can be the best day of your life.’” For a band that makes music best listened to at night, it’s a positively sunny sentiment.
“IT MAY SEEM HOPELESS RIGHT NOW, BUT THINGS GET BETTER.”
CHECK OUT Phantogram sing “Don't Move” live relm.ag/57-phantogram
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All That Jazz BY PENNY CAROTHERS
PENNY CAROTHERS (YES, THAT PENNY) GETS REAL WITH DONALD MILLER ABOUT HIS LANDMARK BOOK, THE NEW MOVIE IT INSPIRED AND THE TENSION OF TURNING FACT INTO FICTION
onald Miller looked at me from across the room. He was standing in the corner with his hands jammed into his pockets, as nervous as I’d ever seen him. “It’s terrible, right?” he asked, softly, as if he didn’t want me to hear. I rolled my eyes and shook my head at him but kept focused on the page in front of me. He tried to get my attention again, a little louder this time: “Penny?” “Don, I’m trying to read!” It was 2002, and I sat with my friend and fellow Reed College student, Laura, in Miller’s den. We were curled up like cats in the overstuffed chairs, reading a manuscript Miller was about to have published. Though we’d all been close friends for the past year, until that afternoon we hadn’t known he was writing a memoir, let alone a memoir about us. “OK, Don, I’m done,” I said, after several more pages. “Could you tell I liked it? I laughed at every other word.” He smiled weakly and handed me a pen and a single sheet of paper. “So, they want you to sign these papers, saying you won’t sue them
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or something. But we all know no one’s going to read it.” “Not necessarily. It’s good,” I said. “It is,” Laura echoed. “Thanks, guys.” Miller shuff led the papers together and looked much more like himself. Then he smiled his little boy smile, the one that clues you in a joke is coming. “You know we’ll be laughing about it in 10 years. ... ‘Remember that book Don wrote? Too bad … but, you know, he’s made such a good delivery truck driver.’” Six years later, Miller called me again. His wildly popular memoir Blue Like Jazz was on its way to becoming a movie. Along with co-writers Steve Taylor and Ben Pearson, Miller had created
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a semi-autobiographical story that follows a fictional character named Don Miller who escapes his Southern Baptist roots to attend one of the most socially progressive schools in the country, Reed College, where Miller and I had met and become friends. And once again, Miller told my story—or at least, he’d created a character based on my story. “Pensive!” (Don has a lot of nicknames for me.) “We’re done with the screenplay. Can I send it over? You’re gonna love it, and you’re gonna love Penny!” “I’m sure I will,” I said, and meant it. “So … no one’s going to see the movie either, right?”
THE CONVERSATION OF A GENERATION
When Miller finished Blue Like Jazz in the spring of 2002, he hoped it would sell some copies. He knew it was well-written, which he recently admitted to me as he squirmed in his chair. But he didn’t have any idea it would become the unlikely manifesto of a disaffected generation or that his disarming humor and self-deprecating candor would resonate so strongly with those who had grown up in the conservative, evangelical Church. It turned out he wasn’t as alone as he felt. To date, Blue Like Jazz has sold more than 1.5 million copies and has spent 43 weeks on the New York Times' best-sellers list. Initial sales were slow until Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) championed the book and distributed tens of thousands of copies on campuses across the country. Blue Like Jazz resonated especially with college-age Christians. For this group, which resembled Miller in upbringing and emerging worldview, reading the book became a kind of rite of passage and cultural
TO DATE, BLUE LIKE JAZZ HAS SOLD MORE THAN 1.5 MILLION COPIES AND HAS SPENT 43 WEEKS ON THE NEW YORK TIMES' BEST-SELLERS LIST.
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[ E X T R A S ] We spent some time with Donald Miller to talk details behind the filming of Blue Like Jazz (the movie). We also got him to do some crazy stuff. Enjoy.
WATCH We go behind the scenes with the filmmakers relm.ag/57blj-exclusive
marker in their shift away from religious conservatism and the values espoused by the Christian Right and the Moral Majority. Blue Like Jazz seemed to point the way to a new expression of church and faith. Ten years on, the film version of Blue Like Jazz aims to continue that conversation. The movie takes place at Reed College, well-known now in Christian circles (because of Blue Like Jazz) as the college where “students are most likely to ignore God.” Though Reed occupied only 30 of the 240 pages of the book, the setting is essential to the kind of story the screenwriters wanted to tell. Some will disagree with more “liberal” aspects of the film, like Miller’s friendship with a lesbian or the movie’s portrayal of the party culture at Reed (though Reedies would laugh at the PG-13 depiction), but these elements illuminate the movie’s unapologetic underlying message: that faith can exist, even thrive, in these countercultural spaces. This notion captured the young Christian imagination a decade ago and continues to inf luence the conversations occurring in that subculture today. As Miller and I chat about the movie just before its release, he sounds excited to be so close to the finish line after five years of work. He doesn’t have a ready answer when I ask him what effect he thinks the movie might have, but he does offer his thoughts on how the Christian audience has changed since Blue Like Jazz (the book) first came out. “[We’ve] changed a great deal,” Miller muses. “We’re much more self-deprecating and self-aware as people— less dogmatic. … There’s an enormous demographic of people who understand the evangelical world but also disassociate from it. And I’m one of those people.” He
hesitates, perhaps wondering if he'll be misunderstood. “I don’t live outside the church or inside of it. I live—and many of us do—kind of in those spaces in between. Even in the spaces in between certainty and doubt. … [We live in] the spaces in between defined Christian community. And this movie comes out of those spaces.”
BLUE LIKE MILLER
Miller doesn’t say so—and never would—but some believe his voice was instrumental in this shift in evangelical culture. David Dark, author of The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, describes Miller’s memoir as “a breakthrough on account of its radical candor and transparency. [It gave young Christians] permission to be honest about one’s own doubts and one’s own dysfunction—one’s failure to live up to the ideals that are presented, or fetishized … within that culture.” It also presented an opening for people who wanted to connect with non-Christians or struggling Christians. The director of strategic partnerships at Cru, Dan Hardaway, saw just such an opportunity. Through Cru, he bought more than 250,000 copies of the book to hand out on 400 campuses. Now, with the release of the movie at hand, he’s excited for the conversations the movie will start, especially regarding another central message of the film: that we all fail to live up to the calling of Jesus. He believes there’s power in recognizing that reality. “That kind of humility and repentance could compel someone to follow Christ,” Hardaway says. It remains to be seen how the movie will be received and whether the script—which Miller fiercely edited, sometimes hours before filming, to ref lect his developing sensibilities about the evangelical church—will speak both to the demographic to which it is targeted—young people— and to the fans of the book who, like Miller, have changed a great deal in the past decade. Miller writes in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, which was published in late 2009, that the adaptation of Blue Like Jazz revolutionized his life. Through the screenwriting process and the wise counsel of his co-writers, he was forced to see his real life was not fit for the screen. It was just too boring. In screenwriting terms, all normal lives are boring, but Miller decided he wasn’t satisfied with this explanation. He wanted to live as if his life really meant something. While all of this was happening, I noticed the changes when we saw each other or talked on the phone. It’s hard to say when things shifted for good, but, as he wrote, it definitely coincided with climbing a 14,000-foot peak, which he sort of tricked himself into in order to impress a girl. On the far end of this shift, Miller can’t help but cringe a little when he looks back. Still, I was surprised to hear him say he is embarrassed by parts of his 30-year-old self. Miller tells me when he read through Blue Like Jazz for the audio version, he found himself “wimpy and whiny.”
“Oh, come on. I never thought you were whiny,” I say. “Wimpy, maybe … really, though, you’re nothing like you were at the end of Blue Like Jazz?” “Oh, no. I’m nothing like that guy.” “So, what about Don? Is he like the Blue Like Jazz Don?” “Which Don?” he asks, confused, and I have to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. “I know, right? Are we talking about you or the Blue-Like-Jazz you or the Blue-Like-Jazzmovie you? I mean the Don in the movie … is that you?” He shakes his head. “No, that’s just not me. Even when we were writing it, I never thought it was me. I would say [movie] Don is a little more healthy than I was at that age. He’s a
Top 5 Memories That Never Made It Into Blue Like Jazz
Jammed into Miller’s Honda Prelude, flying
down Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast, singing Patty Griffin’s “Mary” at the top of our lungs. (Miller can really hit the high notes.)
“I DON’T LIVE OUTSIDE OR INSIDE [THE CHURCH]. I LIVE ... IN THOSE SPACES IN BETWEEN.” —DONALD MILLER
Smoking pipes on the quad, watching wisps
of vapor curl up into the purple haze, talking about everything and nothing.
Drinking coffee at the Red and Black,
a “socialist” bar/cafe, swapping ideas on how to
little more confident. He’s a little more like I am now. He’s like a 40-year-old in a 21-yearold’s body.” In Blue Like Jazz (the movie), Miller is telling a new story through a new character; it’s a different story than he told 10 years ago and a story he couldn’t have written without the success of his memoir and the confidence it gave him. Unlike the book, the movie is not meandering, and it’s definitely not “whiny.” Miller says the message is pointed: “Learn to be OK in your own skin. And let the cards fall where they may. [Don] keeps his faith … because of Penny’s inf luence and because everyone else is OK being who they are.”
EVERYONE’S A CHARACTER
“At least she’s blonde,” I told my husband when I saw the picture of Claire Holt, the actress who played Penny. Like Miller, I know “Penny” is not the real Penny, but the presentation of a girl with my name and some of my story has the potential to impact the way people think about me— and the way I think about myself. “Penny’s the hero,” Miller told me when we spoke about the script after I read it in 2008. “But I’m not a hero, Don,” I responded. “I don’t rappel off buildings and run across the world at the drop of a hat. I’ve got a kid and a mortgage, and I spend my day in mommy
take down Jerry Falwell.
Hanging out at the Pied Cow, trying to get Miller to stop making
jokes to avoid talking about his feelings. (Ugh! Annoys me even now! He still does this!)
Watching the cars go round and round the golden Joan of
Arc, a statue that stood triumphantly just a stone’s throw from Miller’s fishbowl of a room.
groups and grocery shopping.” “Yeah, but that’s now. She’s very close to you, to who you are underneath all of that stuff.” And then he paused, and when he spoke, his voice was softer. “Do you want me to change her name?” “No, no, everyone will know anyway. I just don’t want people to think I’m a saint and then be disappointed when they meet me.” “No one will be disappointed,
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Pence. You’re one of the best human beings on the planet.” Every movie needs a hero, but what if you’ve been inside the hero’s head and you know she’s not perfect? What if the grown-up version of the 22-year-old is just a normal person with very few answers, trying to navigate the complexities of making an impact in the world? And what if social justice (well, actually just about everything) is no longer quite so black and white?
MAKING A MOVIE FROM STRANGE SOURCE MATERIAL
When Steve Taylor, a former Christian singer/ songwriter and emerging director, asked Miller in 2005 if he’d like to make Blue Like Jazz into a movie, Miller said yes immediately, or as soon as he knew they could fictionalize things. “I knew it wasn’t a movie. I knew we would have to make up a narrative,” he tells me, sitting at the long bar in his condo. Like Miller’s real life, Blue Like Jazz was not fit for the screen. The memoir is essentially a collection of narrative essays centered on certain themes. Steve Taylor and Ben Pearson, the film’s other co-writer who also served as cinematographer, worked together to create a story that ref lected the spirit of the book. Their only stipulation: It had to include the confession booth scene, a chapter in the book that occurred at Reed College. To tell the story, the writers kept only three main characters from Miller’s memoir: Don, Penny and Laura. This is where the adaptation gets interesting—and even a little confusing. Though the book was a nonfiction memoir, the movie is semi-autobiographical fiction. In practice, this means all the characters are fictional, though they are based on real people. Think of it this way. Truth: Miller grew up in Texas, got fed up with his church and left for the Pacific Northwest. Fiction: Miller left to go to Reed College. And so it goes for the other characters as well. And then there are some characters, like Laura and Miller’s mom, who depart almost completely from reality. When the screenwriters decided to change Laura into a lesbian, Miller contacted her to make sure it was OK. “She was fine with it,” he tells me, and, knowing Laura, I’m not surprised. “But then I thought, ‘You know, she doesn’t mind now, but what if in 10 years …’ It’s a powerful thing to do to someone. And then it just occurred to me: ‘We’ll make her Lauren.’ We went from Laura to Lauren hours before. I’m glad we did it.”
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“THERE MAY BE SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES TO NOT CONFORMING, BUT THERE ARE NO ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES.” —DONALD MILLER [ E X T R A S ]
GO Behind the scenes of our photo shoot relm.ag/57-bljshoot
MEET The filmmaker, Steve Taylor relm.ag/57-bljsteve
When I hear him say this, I think of my own ambivalence, of how odd it feels to hear people say, “I can’t wait to see you on screen!” “But here’s the thing,” I counter. “You keep telling everybody the movie is fiction, but I still think people will think you worked in a factory making communion cups and I rappelled off billboards for fun.” “Yeah, you can sit there and say, ‘None of this happened, this is all fiction,’ and there’s a group of people who simply will not hear you,” he agrees. “They will assume it’s all true.” And I think immediately of his mom. “What about your mom? How’s she doing?” “Yeah, that’s hard,” he says. I’m pretty sure I see some color drain from his face. “You know the story, right? I emailed her and said: ‘There’s a character that’s based on you … and she’s having an affair with her pastor. Is that OK?’ And she replied: ‘Anything that would serve the movie. I know it’s fiction.’ I couldn’t believe it. And we didn’t talk about it again. Then she comes up to the Storyline conference, and we’re about to watch it with 500 people. And I say, ‘Hey, Mom, thanks for agreeing to do this—it really served the movie.’ And, I kid you not, she looked at me and says: ‘You were serious?’” “Oh no …” “It was a rough night.” “What happened after she saw it?” “She loved it, but she said, ‘I hope nobody in my area code sees it.’ I’ve felt like garbage ever since.” “Oh, Don, how terrible …” I can tell it’s time to switch gears. “So, how about Claire Holt as Penny? How did that work out?” “In the movie Claire ended up being a great read,” he says, brightening. “It played differently than I’d written it, and it played differently than you are. Because she’s doing an American accent, she comes off as mothering. … It made for an interesting Penny character, it’s just not necessarily the Penny we wrote. But if you think about it, Penny’s the only character in the movie who really has her crap together.” I laugh so hard I snort. “Well, that’s fiction,” I say.
THE DAY THE MOVIE (ALMOST) DIED
LEARN The heart behind the movie relm.ag/57blj-rtv
On Sept. 16, 2010, Miller posted this on his blog: “The book that swept the country will not sweep theaters. It’s a sad day amongst many of my friends. After spending a year writing the screenplay, and another year trying to raise money for the movie, everything seems to be on hold indefinitely.” The post catalyzed a Kickstarter campaign that quickly got up and running through the work of two fans of the book. In just a few short weeks, the team was able to raise the bare bones needed to proceed: nearly $350,000 from 4,495 backers, which, at the time, was a Kickstarter record. The funding campaign ended, and filming began in earnest just two days later. Fortunately, Steve Taylor and a pre-production team had been working
10 Reasons I [Penny] Never Married Don Miller
He wore baseball caps (and
He got so into the monk
not to cover a bald spot). He spent a tad too much time talking to the trees
outside his window.
thing I was afraid he was
going to start wearing robes around campus.
for a few weeks (and some for years) without pay to prepare. Miller flew down to Nashville, where they shot most of the movie. Though the actors and crew were not familiar with the book (except for Marshall Allman, who plays Don in the movie), there was energy around the film because of the Kickstarter campaign. Miller puts it this way: “People knew this was a big deal. They knew this movie wasn’t going to compete with Titanic or anything, but people were actually going to see it. It wasn’t going to be stuck on the Hallmark Channel at two in the morning.” Miller spent a lot of his time on set “massively rewriting the script” during the first two weeks of shooting. “We changed an enormous amount of material under the pressure of deadline,” he remembers. “It was way too evangelical. And I toned that back down considerably. And [later] they edited even more of that out. The story wasn’t sharp enough. It felt like the whole thing needed a tune-up.” Miller also hung out with the actors, especially Allman, who spent a lot of time shadowing Miller to get a sense of how to portray “Don” in the film. These interactions with the cast also led to revisions of the script, particularly Lauren’s character. “When I met Tania [Raymonde] I just thought, ‘This girl needs some teeth,’” he says with a laugh. “And I just sat down and rewrote it.” As we talk, I can’t help but wonder if it was weird to see one’s work change as other people interact with it. Miller doesn’t hesitate at all: “It’s better.” “The actors change it completely,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anybody who goes off script. And yet, it plays nothing like it played in my head. It plays better because [the actors] know what they’re doing.”
MILLER THE FEARLESS
Even though the 30-year-old, pre-fame Miller never had to make the grade at Reed (he was only on campus for a year, auditing courses), I always felt Miller was a Reedie at heart. Above all, he loved what he called “the pursuit of truth” at Reed. He seemed to cherish the freedom of thought even more than we did, perhaps because he’d lived the alternative for most of his life. I’ve always wondered if he feels Reed had a lasting impact on him. “Oh yeah,” he says. “When you grow up in the Church—probably with any culture that has some authoritarian structure— they guide and, to a degree, manipulate using fear. Because there’s not really an authoritarian structure at Reed, there’s a fearlessness to ideas. I still feel that—when people get mad at me, it doesn’t affect my daily life.” When he speaks again, he sounds more like a Reedie than ever. “Truth exists outside of your opinions. There’s this truth out there, and we’re all trying to find it. There may be social consequences to not conforming, but there are no eternal consequences.” “You sound like a heathen,” I say. He shrugs his shoulders and smiles. “So, what’s next?” I ask. “What are you working on?” “I’m working on The Diary of God. It’s a fictional narrative about the period when God was making the angels and the heavens. Writing the movie was a great transition for me from memoir to memoirbased fiction. So this is the next step.” “Oh yeah? The angels and the heavens? Maybe Reed didn’t ruin you after all.” Heaven. Hell. The origins of the universe. How to follow Jesus and still enjoy a pipe. Whatever the subject, the thing about Miller is, he’ll never stop asking questions about it. And that’s a good thing because we’re all anxious to hear his answers.
He would never let me play with his remote-control car,
no matter how much I begged. (I swear I heard him whisper “hypocrite” under his breath.)
He was a little too obsessed with Patty Griffin. He liked nothing more than to laugh. And you have to be
serious if you’re going to change the world.
People go out with their best friends … but sometimes you
just don’t want to risk ruining what you have.
He said he had a job, but he just kind of hung around.
And when he got bored, he watched movies on the lawn while we studied. Movies!
Did I mention I was writing my thesis? He doesn’t believe in slogans. Not even to save
PENNY CAROTHERS has never (ever) rappelled off anything, but she did spend a few hours up high in the humansized nest on Reed’s front lawn. She writes and edits and, in her spare time, harasses Don Miller. (Someone has to.)
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BY D.C. INNES AND LISA SHARON HARPER
DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS BOTH GET IT WRONG—HERE'S HOW THEY CAN TURN IT AROUND 60 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
one ever hoped politics would get less partisan and angry, 2012 has been a disappointing year. The rancor hurled by both sides of the political spectrum has been just as bad—if not worse—than ever. And it’s not like Christians have—at least publicly—been much different. The same vitriol appears among believers ... it’s just peppered with more Bible verses.
But there are some people who are trying to buck the trend. In their book Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics, D.C. Innes and Lisa Sharon Harper come together from opposite sides of the proverbial aisle to wrestle with some of the most fundamental issues facing Americans today. Though both consider themselves evangelical Christians, it is striking how different their worldviews are: Harper is a Democrat,
and Innes, a Republican. And yet they hold two things in common: 1) They both love Jesus, and 2) They are both dissatisfied with their own partyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s current engagement with the public square. Both are fiercely committed to their respective
political ideasâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;but both are also passionate about extending charity to their political opposites. We asked the authors to weigh in about how their own parties are getting it wrong, especially from a Christian perspective, and how they can get back on track. RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 61
THE DEMOCRATS By Lisa Sharon Harper In the course of history, moments come and go when leaders rise up and lead. On the national stage of history, such leaders have not only shaped the course of American life, but their passion, their words and their actions actually have shaped America. Consider the moment Republican President Abraham Lincoln received news that in the course of one day of fighting on Sept. 17, 1862, more than 3,600 American souls perished at the Battle of Antietam. The average leader might have been crushed under the weight of responsibility for so many lives. But Abraham Lincoln was not a lesser leader. Five days later, Lincoln led America full-throttle into righteousness, announcing he intended to formally proclaim the emancipation of every enslaved human being in states that had seceded from the Union. Five days—that’s all it took. And consider, in January 1964, when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared unconditional “War on Poverty” in the United States. Nine years later, after a steady stream of “Great Society” anti-poverty legislation, the poverty rate for African-Americans had dropped from 55.1 percent in 1959 (the only figures available from before Johnson’s declaration) to 30.3 percent in 1974. Twentyfive percentage points in 10 years. Ten years—that’s all. Then the recession of the late 1970s hit, and Dems and Republicans both repented of those just policies and turned their backs on the poor. “We must support the middle class” became the mantra of mindless political theater, and it’s been the mantra ever since.
WHEN WILL ANYONE STAND AND DECLARE: “NO MORE! POVERTY IS UNACCEPTABLE!”? The poverty rates for both blacks and whites rose sharply and peaked in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan drained funds from Johnson’s Great Society programs. On the flip side, both rates fell the sharpest since Johnson’s declaration under President Bill Clinton when he poured funding back into Great Society programs like food stamps, Medicaid, Head Start and children’s health. Whites basked in the sunshine of a 7.4 percent poverty rate, while blacks felt the faint glimmer of the light of day with 22.4 percent of its population managing to live below the poverty line. And yet, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, under Obama, 25.4 percent of blacks and 11.1 percent of whites still are living below poverty today.
DO THE DEMOCRATS PROTECT THE POOR?
So, here is my question for both parties, especially my own: When will the horrors of poverty be seen for what 62 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
they are in America? When will anyone in either party stand up and say 25.4 percent of a particular community having to decide whether they will eat or pay the rent; having to go without running water or heat in the winter; having to suck the marrow from chicken bones for a week between the last food stamp and the next measly round— when will anyone stand and declare: “No more! Poverty is unacceptable!”? Consider this: When Democrats and Republicans entered the mid-summer 2011 deficit reduction battle, our legislators’ priorities surfaced. One may think it was the Republicans who wanted to cut government support for the poor, yet according to a report issued by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The Democratic plan contains $73 billion more in Medicare and Medicaid cuts ($475 billion) than [the bipartisan] BowlesSimpson ($402 billion), and the same or a greater amount of cuts than the [bipartisan, moderate] Gang of Six plan.” Despite the longstanding impression that Democrats always protect the poor, the report goes on to explain the Democratic plan to cut the deficit actually had a higher ratio of discretionary cuts to revenue increas es—6:1—than the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson or Gang of Six plans, both of which had cuts to revenue ratios of about 2:1.
DEMOCRATS AND TAXES
Now let’s talk taxes. If we’re really serious about cutting America’s deficit without letting the poor get even poorer, there’s no way to do it without increasing revenues. In 2001 and 2003, President George W. Bush instituted temporary tax cuts to benefit the richest Americans. Those cuts were set to expire on Jan. 1, 2012. They have been
extended—initiated by a Republican administration and extended by a Democratic one. By the year 2021, the Bush-era tax cuts will account for nearly half of America’s deficit. If America wants to balance the budget, we the people have a choice to make about our moral priorities. Will we cut SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits and take food out of the hands of vulnerable mothers and children? Or will we let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire? This is not hyperbole. This is our choice. Nehemiah heard that Jerusalem’s wall had been decimated. He heard of the great poverty of his people, and he wept. He prayed. He fasted, and he owned his culpability in the suffering of his people. His fault was that he had done nothing. He had lived in prosperity serving the king’s court while the king’s subjects—Nehemiah’s own people— were living in shambles. I want to know when American politicians of this age will weep over poverty in America. When will they face God’s truth about the degrading effects of poverty on human souls? When will they own their culpability, and when will a Democrat or a Republican count the cost of leadership as Lincoln and Johnson did and, this time, lead America out of poverty’s perverting clutch? It’s not like we don’t know how. We do. We’ve done it before. We’ve just lost the will, and I fear we may have lost the mettle—the stuff leaders are made of.
THE REPUBLICANS By D.C. Innes I am a Republican because I believe Republican Party principles most closely match what I understand to be biblical political principles. I am far from alone in this among evangelicals. And there is good reason when you consider what is important to the evangelical voting bloc. First, since the cultural disintegration of the 1960s, evangelicals have been fighting to preserve the traditional Christian moral order, an environment that supports a life of godliness and the nurture of one’s children in the faith. The GOP sympathizes with these concerns in contrast to the openly “progressive” attitude that prevails in the Democratic Party. Among these moral issues, abortion is unique. Since 1979, evangelicals have aggressively opposed this procedure that takes the life of the helpless and innocent. The GOP has
been the only political alternative in this battle. Second, in the Republican party, evangelicals found a friend of low taxes and small government, i.e., government that restricts itself to the biblical and traditional role of protecting life, property and the moral environment. This limitation allows God’s people to live their Christian lives as individuals, families and churches unburdened financially and unobstructed legally. A high tax burden limits what believers can do to provide for the life and growth of the Church, including missions and mercy. But given that the GOP is not a Christian party and, like the country as a whole, has only a nominal Christian majority, the Republican-Evangelical alliance is necessarily a marriage of convenience. This means there will be areas where evangelical Republicans must call their party to mend its ways. The Republican Party fails in a hundred ways to restrain the government from unbiblical intrusion into private responsibilities. But from what I believe is a biblical standpoint, let me suggest three matters in which Republicans are delinquent in actually using government.
THE DISINTEGRATION OF THE FAMILY
One of our greatest national security threats is the disintegration of the family. Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum has made family matters an issue by his remarks on contraception. Research now indicates more than half of all births to women under 30 happen outside of marriage. That is a first for the nation, and many experts— Marvin Olasky and the Heritage Foundation among them—have sounded the alarm. Family is the foundation of society, but it has been under assault on multiple fronts—from tax policy to entertainment.
Unwise government policies, such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children and liberal divorce laws, have contributed significantly to a dramatic rise in single-parenthood over the last few generations with all the predictable social pathologies. We need a 20-year policy agenda to strengthen and protect marriage and family at least as tenaciously as we protect waterways and wildlife. Ronald Reagan appointed a Special Working Group on the Family to examine all policies for their impact on the family. That was good, but the work needs to be less reactive. Thoughtfully crafted and fully coordinated family policy at every level of government should recognize the requirements for and impediments to healthy family life. Conservatives are rightly hawkish over how a tax or regulation will affect small business and job creation. The family deserves the same protective scrutiny.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY AND RESISTING BARE INDIVIDUALISM
The Republicans are also the party of equal opportunity. Whereas some are happy to keep the poor dependent on the state and thus as reliable voters for statist politicians, the party of Lincoln and Reagan wants the poor and everyone to be able to enjoy the fruit of their honest labor and to prosper according to their talents and efforts. That’s fairness. Republicans should frame the economic liberty issue explicitly in those terms with direct reference to folks at the bottom.
WE NEED A 20-YEAR POLICY AGENDA TO STRENGTHEN AND PROTECT MARRIAGE AND FAMILY AT LEAST AS TENACIOUSLY AS WE PROTECT WATERWAYS AND WILDLIFE.
DEFENDING THE POOR
My second suggestion is that the party should become an outspoken defender of the poor. Another Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, inadvertently drew attention to the place of the poor in the policymaker’s concerns when he said he’s not worried about the “very poor,” but it’s rare to hear a politician speak of the poor except as recipients of government programs and handouts. The Hebrew prophets chastised wicked governments for failing in their duty to protect those who, like the poor, are particularly vulnerable to abuse. The rich can generally defend themselves, the middle class are strong in numbers, but the poor are usually the ones who suffer at the hands of unscrupulous economic powers and foolish government policies. The GOP is better positioned than the Democrats to make this case. It is the party of the rule of law. When the Bible speaks of justice for the poor, it means ready access to the courts and fair treatment under the law without partiality to the wealthy and well-connected (Exodus 23:6). Republicans should make themselves champions of those most in need of these protections.
The Republican party is also the party of community initiative. It can appear to be the party of bare individualism over against the party of government paternalism. They must correct that. The well-to-do can easily wall themselves into a secure and private world, but the poor depend much more heavily on a safe and supportive community, a large part of which depends on healthy families and thriving religious bodies. Republicans should critically examine anything that could arguably threaten the fabric of poorer communities in particular.
As much as Christians might believe that their respective parties, when they are truest to their principles, stand in agreement with the biblical view of the scope and purpose of government, in a fallen world there will always be distance between the way things are and the way God wants them to be. Christians must all recognize their ultimate hope should be in Christ, not in any earthly institution or human theory. Neither one’s country nor one’s party is the Kingdom of God. Yet political passions are strong, and political idolatry is tempting. For this reason, Christians must be especially open to biblical critique of their own political convictions and political parties. As well, they should be charitably cautious in any of their various political pronouncements and affiliations. LISA SHARON HARPER is the director of mobilizing at Sojourners. D.C. INNES is an associate professor of politics at The King’s College in New York City. Both are co-authors of Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics.
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Frontman Craig Finn on growing up and finding faith again B Y J O H N TAY L O R
raig Finn is a devout Minnesota Twins fan, even when the Twins aren’t expected to do very well (which is often). He is a devout boyfriend, a devout music aficionado and an even more devout Catholic. He also happens to be the leader of a very influential rock ‘n’ roll band. The Hold Steady has captivated and divided audiences for nearly a decade with their wildly unique style. Yet, at the end of the day, it’s the band’s lyricism that turns heads. Finn places an unconventional spin on the typical rock ‘n’ roll fodder. Yes, there is talk of drugs, sex and “killer parties.” But there is also talk of God and salvation. Characters in song narratives drunkenly mix citrus and liquor at a party in one line and “feel Jesus in the clumsiness of young and awkward lovers” in another. It’s a startlingly complex take on the one-dimensional hedonism witnessed in most pop music— and one that has made audiences take notice. Finn’s first solo record, 2011’s Clear Heart Full Eyes (a not-so-subtle shoutout to Friday Night Lights, one of Finn’s favorite TV shows), delves even more deeply into exploring religious themes. RELEVANT recently sat down with Finn to talk faith, growing older and how a rock show can be just as spiritual as a church service.
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You recently turned 40. Did you think you'd be playing rock this long?
[Laughs] I think it’s a matter of just waking up and deciding: How are you going to live your life? What’s going to be important to you? What are you going to get caught up in and what are you not? I think in some ways, your attitude toward each day will determine the outcome of your life, how things are. I feel really blessed to be able to travel and play music for a living and meet all these people.
Tell us a little about your new solo record, Clear Heart Full Eyes . You sound more content on this release.
It’s a quieter record, so I’m not yelling at the top of my lungs. [Laughs] I think I’m in a good place and that some of my struggles are behind me. I get to do what I want. Everything’s a choice, right? I play in a rock ‘n’ roll band, which I love. But I'm choosing that over being an investment banker with Goldman-Sachs, so I’ll probably never live in an $8 million house. But that’s easy for me to live with. I think finding peace is understanding that you’re making these choices, and when you move toward something, you’re also moving away from something. Even if you don’t realize that.
You've said before that the title is a Friday Night Lights reference ...
They say, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” I like [Friday Night Lights], and I always like when they say that. Also, the show happens in Texas. I made it “clear heart full eyes.” A couple of reasons for that: “clear heart” meaning transparency, honesty; “full eyes” meaning experience. It sort of spoke to me—the idea of maintaining optimism, or hope, even getting older. And not becoming jaded, but remaining optimistic in your life.
You've talked about returning to faith in your 30s. What prompted your return at that time?
You get older, and your family—people in your life—have bigger problems with illness ... employment problems ... substance-abuse problems. Things seem to get heavier in your 30s than they are in your 20s. And so, [my] 30s was a time when I drew a lot from my faith and prayer. That
has affected me. Now that I’m 40, that’s something that became important to me again.
OK, then. So, yesterday was Sunday. Did you happen to go to Mass?
I didn’t. I have waves of going and not going. I kind of get in the habit and out of the habit, but yesterday I was traveling. I was coming back from New York, so Mass was off the table yesterday. But I have been in sort of a rut for not going the past few months. It usually happens around the holidays—I’ll get back into it, and then through Lent I’ll go. It’s like I’m at the gym. If you belong to a gym—right around January 1st, it’s packed. And then it gets to July, and it’s emptier. And by October, there’s no one ever there. I think that’s how my schedule of Mass goes, unfortunately. [Laughs]
Lots of critics seem desperate to pigeonhole bands into genres. What do you think of the “Christian rock” label?
Let's take things one step further. What does the word “Christian” mean to you?
There’s a lot of great rock that references Christ and Christian themes, but when it’s made into Christian rock, it isn’t quite as powerful. I’ve never heard Christian rock that I can compare to Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan. Those guys have Christian themes too.
To me, being Christian is thinking about Christ and trying to emulate Him in the decisions that you make and the way you treat people or treat your life. To have Christ in mind. We’re only human, so that doesn’t always work. But you have to have some sort of guide in how you’re making decisions and how you’re going to treat people.
Heaven and hell have been hot topics this year. What are your thoughts on heaven?
I think heaven is a peace and a place of positivity. Maybe not so much a place, but just a feeling of peace and contentment. And love that comes from living in a righteous way. Not so much as a reward at the end of the line but a reward every day. With good friends, good relationships. Family. And love.
You’re communicating with the other musicians on stage, but also there’s a whole ritual ... a Mass. It starts with when you load the gear in the morning. You load in everything, you set it all up the same way as you did the night before. You do sound check and you go away for a few hours. The doors open and the crowd comes in. There’s an opening band and then you come out on stage. Usually for the tour, we play the same music when we go on. It’s this great ritual. Of course, the people in the audience are different. But you try and make a connection. What performance, and art in general, [is] to me is trying to connect and to say to people: “Hey, I felt that way too. I feel this way too. There’s some similarities between all of us here.” On a good night, when you get to that place, it really is transcendent. It happens a few times a week on a tour. If it’s a good show, you get people up into a crescendo. It kind of gives me the chills. You just have to turn around and see what the crowd is doing. It’s very humbling. And really exciting.
The Essential Hold Steady If you’ve never heard a note of Minneapolis’ finest, here’s where to start: Separation Sunday Drugs and redemption Boys and Girls in America
People love the sense of positivity and joy they get from your live performances. Is that intentional?
In my experience, there is a lot of joy in a rock ‘n’ roll show. It’s a ceremony—there’s a joy that really relates to Mass, to community and a lot of things that happen in the church. I’m not interested in the idea of nihilism, which is something people think of when they talk about punk rock or rock ‘n’ roll.
Fist-pumping rock ‘n’ roll WATCH Craig Finn, live and solo relm.ag/57hold-steady
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can ask yourself right now that might help you figure out what it is you really want to do. Whether you do it or not is up to you.
1. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE GOD’S DREAM FOR THE WORLD?
HOW TO FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU “GROW UP” BY ADAM AND CHRISTINE JESKE
hat do you want to be when you grow up?” It was the most important question anyone could ask you when you were a kid. And, if you were like most kids, your answer probably changed on a regular basis. In fourth grade, you saw yourself as the fun, cool, smart (and lax) teacher. You knew you would educate children, inspiring them so profoundly that at your retirement party, there would be three former presidents, an NFL quarterback and Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. In seventh grade, you had matured. You would definitely be a cop. You knew this because you watched COPS, and it was pretty cool to carry a Maglite and a taser. Obviously, you were meant to drive a beat as a 5-0. Or perhaps you carried big childhood dreams of playing football or figure skating professionally, only to find your body didn’t cooperate. Or you wanted to deliver food to gaunt people in exotic lands, but learning new languages isn’t your thing. “It would be so awesome to get onto Saturday Night Live or Second City,” you thought, but you soon realized your community theater wasn’t going to get you there. You had visions of waving your arms on Wall Street, yelling “Buy! Sell!” and driving off in a Porsche, but you struggled with math class or lacked the gene for conniving. Or maybe you’ve never had a dream. You’ve never known how to answer that favorite introduction opener, “So, what do you do?” You’ve heard all your life you could do anything, be anyone, live anywhere and change the world, but you’ve never had the slightest idea how to go about choosing. There are a few people in the world who love hearing a motivational speaker say, “Just do what you always dreamed of doing.” Those people have a dream secure in their pocket and are ready to take off. For most of us, though, trying to visualize what we always dreamed of doing feels like staring at a 75-foot-wide IMAX theater screen that’s shut off and blank. But it doesn’t have to be that daunting or hopeless. There are some steps you can take and questions you
Give yourself a break from worrying about what your dream is and instead zoom out to the bigger picture of what God cares about. After all, ultimately what you’re looking for is your place in the great big story God is writing in the world. If your dream is really just to have oodles of cash, to have your face on TV, to wrap yourself in a security blanket of suburbia, you’re missing it. It’s not wrong to earn money or be on TV or live in the suburbs, but if that’s the culmination of your dream—if there’s no so what? for you—you need to keep looking. We are created to know our Creator. We are redeemed to serve our Redeemer. We are blessed to be a blessing.
2. FILL IN THE BLANK TO THE PHRASE “IF I HAD A MILLION DOLLARS, I WOULD .”
The first thing that comes to mind might be, “Give it all to some charity,” or “Buy myself a nice house,” or maybe “Get a monkey.” That’s a start, but dig deeper. Which charity would you want to give it to? What about that nice house would make you happiest? In what places do you feel held back because of money? What training would you invest in? Keep this question in your mind for a week. You might be surprised by the ideas that come to mind—things like, “I would buy solar panels and get off the grid,” or “I’d open a free water park for kids in an underprivileged neighborhood,” or “I’d invest it and make more.” At this point, you’re not likely to have a million dollars fall in your lap, but what comes to mind might offer a clue as to what you care about—and you can begin to brainstorm ways to get started now. If you’re the solar panels person, maybe it’s worth investigating areas where you can work on environmental sustainability. If you’re the water-park person, maybe you’d love working in a job where you get to see kids smile. And if you’re the investment person, figure out ways you can get business management skills and work for a company that makes the world a better place.
3. WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?
Taking photos of your friends? Organizing an advocacy campaign on a college campus? Playing ultimate Frisbee? Cranking through a lot of details to make an event come together? Write down every joyous moment you can, and then go back through the list, asking yourself the very important follow-up question: Why? What is it you love about doing those things? Can you see from your answers that you love being involved in other people’s lives? That you love seeing things done carefully and accurately? That you love inspiring others? That you plan things very well? What is it about a career that would actually make you smile? RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 67
4. WHAT BUGS YOU?
When’s the last time you cried, pounded on a table, shouted, threw something at the wall, or otherwise expressed frustration? Look at your answer to that question from two directions: what it says you shouldn’t do and what it says you should do. If you spent all of Tuesday afternoon considering dropping your laptop in the toilet because you had to write a research paper, perhaps you shouldn’t go into academics. On the other hand, if seeing a $200 leatherbound Bible for sale in a church bookstore makes you want to throw up, start looking for a way to educate people on stewardship.
5. WHAT DO PERSONALITY AND STRENGTHS INVENTORIES SAY ABOUT YOU?
You are not the only person asking these questions. Everybody has asked them or is currently asking them. Smart people have made lots of tools to help you figure out how you’re wired and what might be the dream you’re supposed to live out. You can start by buying the StrengthsFinder book. It’s about $20 for an online assessment and the book itself. You answer the questions and it spits out your five greatest strengths. It makes you feel like a superhero. Maybe you’re an Activator who starts things, have Focus to carry anything through to completion or are driven by Competition and would benefit from a job that has explicit ways to measure what you do.
NO JOB HAS TO BE ORDINARY. JUST ABOUT ANY JOB CAN BE DONE WELL. That’s just one tool, and there are a lot of others. Find out your Myers-Briggs type. Go to a workshop on the Enneagram. Try the Department of Labor, Employment and Training’s free assessment at www.mynextmove.org or another free assessment at www.humanmetrics.com. Find a spiritual gifts inventory. Or bust out your Google machine and do them all. Let the results spark insights about what you really want—allow them to clarify what might actually be your passion and your whole reason for being.
6. WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK YOU SHOULD DO?
Ask them. Your best friends probably know you better than you do. Have friends over for an evening of personality inventories and brainstorming fueled by fine food and beverages. They’re probably asking the same questions as you. Better yet, talk to someone a few years ahead of you in life—someone you can look to for some wisdom. Ask them what strengths and weaknesses they see in your life and how they’ve seen your gifts in action. Often others see themes and currents in our lives that we don’t notice from our own limited view on the inside. 68 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
7. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE SOMEONE TO NOTICE ABOUT YOU?
Maybe you can think of an actual compliment you once received that made a strong impression on you. What you take pride in is a strong clue as to what you’re passionate about. Maybe there’s something you know deep inside you’re good at that no one has ever had a chance to notice.
8. WHAT KIND OF JOBS MATCH UP WITH WHAT YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF?
Now that you’ve brainstormed some activities that make you smile (or vomit), figure out how to make those ideas pay your bills. If you’re still having trouble thinking of ideas, check into career counselors— most colleges and universities have someone who can help, or check your state’s website and look for employment links. The Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov/oco has information on job outlooks, job descriptions, salaries, working conditions and required education. There are probably careers you never knew existed, and a career advisor can help you find these.
9. WHAT WILL YOU TRY FIRST?
Pick a couple careers that pique your interest and test them out by volunteering or job-shadowing. You can also call someone in that career or a similar field, and request an informal informational interview. Talking to people who are in specific careers of interest to you will quickly help you see if that career would be a good fit. It’s also a great way to build up a professional network. Then look at your list of careers and ask which of them you can actually do now. Which could you do in five or 10 years if you took some steps right now to move in that direction? What would be more fulfilling as a volunteer position or hobby while some other job pays your bills? What are those steps you’d need to take? With all the options out there, not to mention tasks like writing a résumé and finding places to send it, it’s easy to get paralyzed and do nothing. Don’t let fears of veering in the wrong direction stop you. Start by trying something, and you’ll feel what’s right and what’s not.
10. HOW CAN YOU DO ANY OLD JOB BUT DO IT WITH PIZZAZZ? Let’s get real here—we don’t all have to do some lofty thing we always dreamed of
doing. That’s right: It’s not necessarily wrong to have a plain old job. No job has to be ordinary. Just about any job can be done well. Like Mother Teresa said, you can do “small things with great love.” (The exception would be if you’re working in a company whose ultimate values are opposed to yours, like building nuclear arms or using slave labor, in which case you have permission to quit that job, sleep on your parents’ couch for a while and find something better.) A lot of justiceminded, Christ-following people often limit themselves to jobs they typically think of as “good” jobs: missionary, pastor, counselor, teacher or occupational therapist serving people with AIDS somewhere in Africa. Give yourself permission to do what isn’t going to be voted Noblest Job Ever. If you get a job shredding paper in an elementary school but stop to have lunch with the kids, help them through tough times in life, listen well to stressed-out teachers and otherwise do that job well, there’s nothing less noble about that than selling purses made by Cambodian women who have fled the sex industry. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” So take your broom— whatever that might be, wherever it might take you—and sweep it like you mean it. ADAM AND CHRISTINE JESKE dream a lot. Their next book is This Ordinary Adventure: Settling Down Without Settling (IVP, October 2012). He tweets @adamjeske and she blogs at www.intothemud.com.
THE “WAR” ON RELIGION A CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT AMERICA REALLY THINKS ABOUT CHRISTIANS. (YOU’LL BE SURPRISED.) BY BRADLEY WRIGHT
70 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
SHOULD CHRISTIANS CARE?
Let’s start with a basic question: Should Christians even care what others think of them? Scripture doesn’t promise Christians will be popular if they live out the Kingdom of God; in fact, the opposite might be true—it can prompt persecution. Obviously this isn’t a license for acting like a jerk, because persecution is only laudable when it happens because of righteousness (Matthew 5:10), not from being insufferable. Still, there’s no scriptural basis for linking authentic Christianity with high public-approval ratings. Also, when anti-Christian sentiment does exist, it’s usually based on stereotypes and not on an objective assessment of beliefs and actions. Stereotypes, by definition, are inaccurate to a degree, and they persist in the face of countering evidence. So, if every single Christian was suddenly to become a perfect Christian (whatever that would look like), some people would still have negative views of Christians.
WHAT DO THEY REALLY THINK?
recent years, Christians have become increasingly concerned with a certain popular narrative. It goes something like this: Non-Christians hate us. They hate us because we are hypocritical jerks. We need to be more like Jesus so the world likes us better. The growing negative perception, many churches and leaders believe, is the result of Christians not living out the Gospel. Believers have been behaving “unChristian,” so non-Christians now see them as nothing more than judgmental and hypocritical. That perception, in turn, impedes the mission of the Church. After all, who wants to listen to judgmental hypocrites? And so the story goes: that Christians need to do their best to change public perception by acting like better Christians. It sounds very holy, doesn’t it? After all, how can anything that calls for Christians to better live out their faith be a bad thing? And all of that might be the case ... if the narrative was true. Or helpful. Unfortunately, the narrative is neither true nor helpful.
Let’s look at some data to find out what people really think of Christians. A 2008 Gallup poll asked Americans how they felt about different religious groups, and the groups that elicited the most negative reactions were not Christians. About half of Americans have negative views toward Scientologists and atheists, and about 40 percent have negative views toward Muslims. When it comes to Christians, attitudes vary widely depending on which label is used. About a quarter of Americans have negative views toward evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, 10 percent toward Catholics and Baptists and only about 5 percent toward Methodists.
asked the question again in the 2000s, only about 35 to 40 percent of non-Christians had an unfavorable opinion. This lower level has remained stable for the last decade, so, contrary to popular assumption, non-Christian attitudes toward evangelicals have gotten more—not less— positive over time. There’s no definitive explanation for this change in nonChristians’ attitudes. Perhaps it is linked to the changing nature of evangelicals’ involvement in politics. In every election cycle, there is plenty of talk about evangelical Christians and politics. This year, for example, pollsters are examining how much evangelicals will support the candidacy of Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon. In the 1980s and ’90s, however, Jerry Falwell and other well-known evangelical leaders explicitly aligned themselves with the Republican Party— coming close to equating
ON AVERAGE, AMERICANS’ ATTITUDES TOWARD EVANGELICALS —FOR EVERY AMERICAN WHO AREN’T THAT BAD— HAS A NEGATIVE VIEW, ABOUT THREE HAVE NEUTRAL OR POSITIVE VIEWS. There’s clearly a disconnect. Americans think more negatively of evangelical Christians than they do Baptists, yet many Baptists are evangelicals. For whatever reason, the term “evangelical” has become stigmatized, eliciting more negative reactions than other labels of the same group of people. (The easiest way to improve ratings of Christians would likely be to use different language in survey questions, asking about specific denominations, “nondenominational” Christians or even “born-again” Christians.) Undoubtedly, there is regional variation in attitudes toward evangelical Christians, with attitudes being more or less positive depending on where you live. Nonetheless, on average, Americans’ attitudes toward evangelicals aren’t that bad—for every American who has a negative view, about three have neutral or positive views. Of course, most Americans (about two-thirds) identify as Christians themselves, so let’s look at data from just non-Christians. In a nationwide survey conducted in the 1990s by the Pew Foundation, about two-thirds of non-Christians had an overall unfavorable opinion of evangelical Christians. However, when Pew
being Christian with supporting a particular political party, which turned off many people. By contrast, the best-known evangelicals of today, such as Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, are less politically partisan. For example, in the 2008 presidential election, Rick Warren invited both Senator McCain and President Obama to speak at his church. Another common assumption is that young people, relative to the old, have a much more negative attitude toward Christians. If true, this is bad news for Christianity because RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 71
it suggests future generations will be less welcoming of the Christian message. It turns out, however, it’s the older people, not younger people, who have the more negative attitude. In a 2007 Pew study, about 45 percent of respondents aged 50 and older reported unfavorable opinions of Christians, compared to just more than 35 percent of those between 18 to 29 years old. While the story Christians hear most often is that the Church is “losing the young,” at least with this issue, it’s more like, “What’s Grandpa cranky about now?”
SPINNING THE DATA
To be fair, most of the pastors, writers and others who spin the tale of non-Christians disliking Christians do so with the best of intentions. They want to use it as a wakeup call for believers to live more devoutly and as a more effective witness to the world (and to not be known as bigoted, hypocritical and angry). Ultimately, the approach of scaring and criticizing Christians is counterproductive. If you want me to like somebody, telling me they don’t like me isn’t going to help. If Christians constantly hear they are bad, why would they want to share their faith with others? Wouldn’t they just internalize this judgment and become demoralized? The broader issue here is one of truthfulness. Christian-fear narratives are based on an ends-justifies-the-means approach. The unspoken assumption is that it’s OK to stretch or ignore the truth as long as doing so will help people to become better Christians. So, a pastor might begin a sermon with the most negative statistic he can find on the topic—one that portrays Christians as utterly failing in an area—in order to create a sense of urgency among 72 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
listeners. Likewise, a Christian author might use the first chapter of her book to condemn the Church in order to get readers to fully engage the remaining chapters that offer a prescription for change. As a result, sometimes Christians select and pass along information for its shock value rather than accuracy. Using fear and criticism to grow the Kingdom of God is a problematic alchemy and probably no more successful than turning lead into gold. The Christian message rests on a foundation of truth, and so it’s reasonable to assume it is best served by rigorous honesty about every aspect of the faith. That’s not to say the problems of Christianity should be overlooked; rather, Christians should aim for the most accurate understanding of all things—both good and bad.
has drawn many to the faith throughout history. Furthermore, Christians are called to love everyone, not just the people they would like anyway or otherwise agree with. This “everyone” even includes people of different religious beliefs. So, how are Christians doing in this area? Not particularly well. Looking at data from the 2007 Pew study, about half of American Christians have unfavorable attitudes toward atheists, about one-third toward Muslims and about one-fifth toward Mormons. Perhaps more surprisingly, attitudes toward other religious groups are the most negative among Christians who are most active in their faith. Of Christians who attend church every week or so, a full two-thirds have unfavorable attitudes toward atheists. It appears Christians are not getting out the “love everyone” message in church services as effectively as they could be. There is no shortage of irony here, that Christians—who are called to love others—have overall less favorable attitudes toward non-Christians than non-Christians have toward Christians. Rather than worrying about what others think of Christians, wouldn’t it make more sense for Christians to instead focus on loving others? Maybe it’s time to change the narrative.
ULTIMATELY, THE APPROACH OF AND CRITICIZING SCARING CHRISTIANS IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.
WHAT CHRISTIANS SHOULD WORRY ABOUT
While many things are going better than commonly thought, there is still plenty for Christians to be concerned about. For example, as much as Christians have talked about other people’s opinions, they have perhaps overlooked a more critical issue: What do Christians think of others? While Scripture may not call Christians to be loved in the world, it most certainly calls them to love others. This is a defining characteristic of Christianity, as well as one that
BRADLEY WRIGHT is a sociologist at the University of Connecticut. Learn more about his work at www.brewright.com.
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MEWITHOUTYOU TEN S TORIES [PINE STREET]
THE WELCOME WAGON PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN’S DEVICES (ASTHMATIC KITTY) Thomas Vito Aiuto, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, Monique, who sings, plays glockenspiel and harmonica, return on an eclectic mix of rambling old-school hymns, along with songs about rice, beans and marriage. The opening song is the best, but Vito Aiuto’s unusual arrangements of classics like “I Know My Redeemer Lives” lend a worshipful spirit to the entire project. >
> Mind-twisting songs about the criminalization of elephants, understanding our prophetic dreams, the nature of psychosis and intermediary faith in an age of abject materialism are just the beginning in this sprawling and brilliant release, the fifth for the band in 10 years. The album, a loose concept album about a circus train crash in Montana, is as hyperliterate and imbued with spirituality as you’d expect from mwY. Curiously, while the lyrical wordplay is as diverse as ever (often involving woodland animals), the music follows a more palatable trajectory, sometimes even leading to a discernable chorus or a soaring guitar part. The best bits: Aaron Weiss switches effortlessly between total screamo breakdowns to what’s essentially folk-rap.
METRIC SYNTHETICA (METRIC MUSIC) > Shut up and carry on / A scream becomes a yawn ... sings Emily Haines on the fifth studio album from the synth-pop band Metric. Ah, yes—the plight of famous rock stars: rage in their early years finally gives way to solemnity. Bummer! Yet behind the deeper tones and spurious synth parts, there’s still plenty of sarcasm. No Metric album has found quite the same groove as Synthetica, giving the synth (and Haines’ voice) the full soapbox treatment.
BEACH HOUSE BLOOM (SUB POP RECORDS) > On Beach House’s fourth release, a light shift to more mature arrangements and urgent percussion adds some much-needed spark to the whole affair. The best song, “Wild,” reverberates with an atmospheric charm by way of classic New Order and Memoryhouse; later on in the album, “Irene” rattles with a dreamy gloom. The echoing synth, sporadic/spastic drums and fantastic guitar parts on Bloom make you forget all about trivial earthly problems.
OF MONSTERS AND MEN MY HEAD IS AN ANIMAL (REPUBLIC RECORDS)
JACK WHITE BLUNDERBUSS (THIRD MAN RECORDS)
ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT BLACK RADIO (BLUE NOTE RECORDS)
> If you’ve ever wished Jack
Of Monsters and Men features an unusual style that sounds like Emily Haines from Metric wandered into an Irish pub by mistake, was joined by a jazz ensemble and several drunk guys who chant “heh” on cue, and ended up writing several Arcade Fire-like dirges. There’s also a hint of Sigur Rós and other bands and musicians with strange glyphs in their name. Taken together, the band settles into a deep, old-world groove. >
White could clone himself and start a band, that’s essentially what he’s done with his debut solo release, which is fully recorded and produced by the former White Stripes frontman. Blunderbuss has hard-boiled blues-rock guitar solos and suggestive lyrics, plus a slowburn acoustic song, rollicking piano parts and even some fiddle. The album is more personal, with White wanting more from love, dealing with regrets and moving on.
> You know the jazz piano you
hear on rap albums by Q-Tip or Kanye West? You can thank Robert Glasper for that. On his latest, the virtuoso employs several legends of soul, rap, R&B and hip-hop, including Lupe Fiasco (on the brilliant “Always Shine”). Glasper melds R&B singers Chrisette Michele and Musiq Soulchild on another song. The album sounds like an extended backroom jazz experiment, even tackling “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
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Ranked among “America’s Best Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report and Forbes magazines. Seven academic schools: Business, Christian Studies, Education, Fine Arts, Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. Students from more than 30 states and 40 nations. Opportunities for international study in more than a dozen countries. Celebrating 125 years of academic and Christian excellence.
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A FAITH OF OUR OWN JON ATH A N MERRIT T [FAITH WORDS]
> Jonathan Merritt begins A Faith of Our Own by describing a quote he has in his wallet from Goethe: “That which you have received as heritage, now rediscover for yourself and thus you will make it your own.” These words have been a signpost to Merritt. “As a follower of Jesus,” he writes, “I can cherish the faith of my father and grandfathers. But I also need to take hold of it myself.” For Merritt, taking hold of faith has meant recognizing that the Christian political witness of the last few decades—a witness typified by “culture warriors”—has failed. Many young Christians want to follow Jesus beyond partisan politics and to broaden the agenda beyond abortion and homosexuality to include issues like poverty, sex trafficking and the environment. Merritt believes we are witnessing a shift from political faith to incarnational faith. A Faith of Our Own is essential reading in an average year; it is urgent reading in an election year.
STAY AWAKE DAN CHAON (BALLANTINE BOOKS) > A father is haunted by the memories of his previous family as he tries to build a new one; a foster child reconnects with his older sister, only to be reminded of the violent past they share; and a college dropout tries to escape the memories of his parents’ death. The stories in Stay Awake are arresting, dark and tragic. The characters and their fragile lives exist somewhere between the moments before we close our eyes and the world of sleep that awaits us.
NEW COLLECTED POEMS WENDELL BERRY (COUNTERPOINT) > As a writer and farmer, Wendell Berry has been plowing the same Kentucky hillside for fifty years. His New Collected Poems touches on themes that are ubiquitous across his work: fidelity to home, neighbor, creation and Creator. “Stay away from anything / that obscures the place it is in,” Berry writes. “There are no unsacred places; / there are only sacred places / and desecrated places.”
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PARIS, I LOVE YOU BUT YOU’RE BRINGING ME DOWN ROSENCRANS BALDWIN (FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX) > Rosecrans Baldwin had been
a Francophile for decades when, at age 31, he was offered a job at an ad agency in Paris. Yet Baldwin hadn’t even settled into his office on the Champs-Elysées before he began to realize the Paris he had romanticized from suburban Connecticut didn’t exist anymore. Baldwin’s account of the eighteen months he lived in Paris is hilarious and poignant.
BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS KATHERINE BOO (RANDOM HOUSE) Ten years ago, writes Katherine Boo, she “fell in love with an Indian man and gained a country.” But loving a place means asking it hard questions. In Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Boo gives us an unforgettable portrait of Annawadi, a slum a few hundred yards from the luxury hotels surrounding Mumbai’s airport. This poignant book throws into stark relief the affluence vs. poverty contradictions of India. >
A SENSE OF DIRECTION GIDEON LEWIS-KRAUS (RIVERHEAD)
EVERYDAY MISSIONS LEROY BARBER (IVP BOOKS)
> In an effort to avoid a life
> Leroy Barber, president of Mission Year, says we all have an innate desire to do something that matters. But he’s saddened by how many young people are bursting with potential but are hindered from living out an extraordinary call. In Everyday Missions, Barber tells the stories of folks ancient and modern, famous and unsung, whose ordinary lives have been offered up to be used by God for extraordinary purposes. Barber exhorts us to do the same.
of constraints, Gideon LewisKraus moves to Berlin, a place that promises variety and freedom. But when “freedom looks like too many choices,” Lewis-Kraus accepts a friend’s invitation to join an ancient pilgrimage route across Spain. What follows is a series of adventures and misadventures that are a brilliant mix of hilarity and hope. By the end, Lewis-Kraus is learning how to draw from the past, live in the present and look to the future.
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WAR HORSE S TE V EN SPIELBERG [T OUC HS T ONE P IC T UR E S, P G -13]
> War Horse tells the powerful tale of a teenage boy named Edgar (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse, Joey. From their early bond on the English countryside to their separation on the brink of World War I to the hope of an eventual reunion, the film highlights the powerful impact Joey has on Edgar and anyone and everything else he encounters. Director Steven Spielberg, working from a script by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis and adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel, summons the likes of E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. As he did with aliens there, here Spielberg uses a horse as a catalyst for hope and redemption—for a boy, his family and even a war. In this, Joey transcends as a vessel of divine intervention—as a “miracle horse.” Spielberg’s film is made in the spirit of Hollywood’s Golden Age, evoking celebrated classics like The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind in its story and moving sentimentality.
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A SEPARATION ASGHAR FARHADI (SONY PICTURES CLASSICS, PG-13) > In this Iranian drama, the
Academy Award–winner for Best Foreign Language Film, a husband and wife separate and catastrophe follows. The husband finds himself accused of manslaughter when he allegedly pushes his pregnant maid down some stairs, killing her unborn baby. The film asks us to see all sides of the incident and to sympathize with each character. The honest performances help this ring true.
THE DESCENDANTS ALEXANDER PAYNE (FOX SEARCHLIGHT, R) > Alexander Payne’s subtle and sincere fifth film, The Descendants, explores grace and forgiveness through one man’s literal midlife crisis. George Clooney plays a wealthy lawyer whose wife, whom he’s neglected for years, is dying— and then he discovers she has been cheating on him. These bleak circumstances set up a powerful story of redemption, as Clooney’s character must face his responsibilities as a father and deal with the pain of regret, betrayal and death.
TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY TOMAS ALFREDSON (FOCUS FEATURES, R)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE— GHOST PROTOCOL BRAD BIRD (PARAMOUNT PICTURES, PG-13)
> Gary Oldman stands front and center of this intricate espionage film, an adaptation of the 1974 John le Carré novel. When a former agent gets called out of retirement to find a mole in British intelligence, the plot thickens, layer after layer. Such complexity demands patience from the viewer as the story unfolds toward the final revelation, but it proves rewarding. An all-star cast makes the film all the more enthralling.
For those who thought another Mission: Impossible seemed unnecessary, director Brad Bird and Tom Cruise proved them wrong. Marking the fourth film of the franchise, Ghost Protocol turns out to be a satisfying installment. Cruise anchors the film with his athleticism and energy, not to mention an unforgettable action sequence on the side of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world. >
HOLY ROLLERS BRYAN STORKEL (CONNELL CREATIONS, UNRATED)
TAKE SHELTER JEFF NICHOLS (SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT, R)
> Not to be mistaken for the 2010 drama with the same title, this documentary about Christian card counters succeeds for two unique reasons. First, blackjack always makes for a fascinating subject, especially the idea of pastors and church planters doing it to make a living. Second, the story takes an honest look at Christianity, debunking many common misconceptions of the faith while not steering away from difficult questions.
> Evoking the Noah narrative,
this apocalyptic drama centers on a family man who believes that something awful lies on the horizon. He has dreams and visions that a storm will soon sweep over the land. This leads him to make a storm shelter at the cost of his job, finances and reputation—and nearly his wife. Is he a prophet or lunatic? As the film builds with suspense toward an answer, one finally arrives in a compelling climax.
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[LE T TERS]
CONTENTS All That Jazz 54
Penny Carothers (yes, THAT Penny) talks to Donald Miller about turning memoir into movie [F E AT UR E S]
Confessions of The Hold Steady 64 Frontman Craig Finn gets candid on everything from faith to rock
From the RELEVANT Studio
Phantogram Why your summer nights need 100 percent more of this band
10 Ways To Find Your Calling 66 Don’t know what your dream job is? That’s OK. Here’s how to figure it out.
70 The “War” On Religion 68 You’ve heard people don’t like Christians ... but is that true?
WATCH Kari Jobe relm.ag/57-kari
Going Green for the Right Reasons
Broken Politics 72
Beyond global warming, here’s why Christians need to care
How our parties have gone wrong—and how they can get on track
• David Crowder • Electric Guest • Mynabirds • Neulore • The Fray
• The Resurrection of Kony 2012 • Local Food Trucks • The Intersection of Faith and Work
• Is There Hope for North Korea? • How 31 Bits Empowers Women • Justice 2.0
Getting It Right
80 / RELEVANT_MAY/JUNE 12
Letters 8 Recommends 74
WATCH Rend Collective relm.ag/57-rce
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
Slices • Anthony Bourdain • Summer Movie Guide • Why Batman Matters • Lauren Winner on Believing While Doubting
RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 3