YOUNG THE GIANT | LUPITA NYONG’O | JUDAH SMITH | DAVID CROWDER | ST. PAUL & THE BROKEN BONES | TIM KELLER FAITH, CULTURE & INTENTIONAL LIVING
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z IN E .C O M
CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE Win Christmas morning with these creative, intentional and redemptive gift ideas
S TA R R I N G I N M E L GIBSON’S GRITTY WAR FILM HACKSAW RIDGE WAS A RISKY MOVE— BUT IT BROUGHT BOTH M E N FA C E - TO - FA C E W I T H THEIR VIEWS ON GOD, FA I T H A N D M O R TA L I T Y
ISSUE 84 | NOV_DEC 2016 | $4.95
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THE MAGA ZINE ON FAITH, CULTURE & INTENTIONAL LIVING
WE KNOW WHAT WE ARE, BUT KNOW NOT YET WHAT WE MAY BE. W i l l i a m Sh a kes pea re
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016, ISSUE 84 Garfield and friends Publisher & CEO | CAMERON STRANG Editorial Director | AARON CLINE HANBURY Director of Digital Media | JESSE CAREY Managing Editor | REBECCA JO
There is within you—way down deep—a dream. Something God has given you to accomplish in this world. At Northwest University near Seattle, Washington, we’ve been helping students discover and unlock their dreams since 1934. Here, all things are still possible. Interested in learning more? Visit us at discovernu.com/relevant.
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RELEVANT magazine (Publication Number: 1543-317X) is published bi-monthly by RELEVANT Media Group. Filing date: 09.30.16. Number of issues published annually: 6. Annual subscription price: $14.99. The complete mailing address and General Business Oﬃ ces of the Publisher are located at 900 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789. The names and addresses of the Publisher, Editor and Managing Editor are: Publisher, Cameron Strang; Editor, Cameron Strang; Editorial Director, Aaron Cline Hanbury; 900 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789. The owners are: Cameron Strang, 900 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789; Stephen Strang, 600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746. There are no known bondholders, mortgagees and other security holders owning or holding 1 percent or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages or other securities. The tax status, the purpose, function and nonproﬁ t status of this organization and the exempt status for federal income purposes have not changed during the preceding 12 months. Issue date for circulation data: July/August 2016. Extent and Nature of Circulation are as follows. Total number of copies (net press run): average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 38,000; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 39,000. Mailed outside-county paid subscriptions stated on PS Form 3541: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 26,167; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 24,083. Mailed in-county paid subscriptions stated on PS Form 3541: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 0; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 0. Paid distribution outside the mails including sales through dealers and carriers, street vendors, counter sales, and other paid distribution outside USPS: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 700; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 745. Paid distribution by other classes of mail through the USPS: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 2,513; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 2,269. Total paid distribution: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 29,380; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 27,097. Free or nominal rate outside county copies included on PS Form 3541: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 0; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 0. Free or nominal rate in-county copies included on PS Form 3541: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 0; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 0. Free or nominal rate copies mailed at other classes through the USPS: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 0; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 0. Free or nominal rate distribution outside the mail: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 3,719; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 4,888. Total free or nominal rate distribution: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 3,719; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 4,888. Total distribution: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 33,099; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 31,985. Copies not distributed: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 4,901; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 7,015. Total: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 38,000; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 39,000. Percent paid: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months, 88.76%; number of copies of single issue published nearest to ﬁling date, 84.72%.
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A LET TER FROM THE EDITOR
’TIS THE SEASON BY CAMERON STR ANG
ongrats, everyone! We made it through the hellish election cycle. (My heartfelt congratulations—or condolences—on the results, depending on your worldview.) Now, we can collectively exhale, get back to normal and start looking toward the season ahead. It’s officially the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year.™ The only problem is, the holidays are also the most stressful, materialistic and exhausting time of the year. Somehow, what we all intend to be a sacred time of family, relationships and faith veers into overextending ourselves, trying to do too much, trying to make everything perfect, getting stressed out by family and overspending. It’s enough almost to make you look forward to an election cycle. That’s why in this issue, we have two pieces that look at ways to engage the season differently. On page 86, leading pastor, author and theologian Tim Keller challenges us to see the Christmas story through a new lens, one that fundamentally alters the sanitized nativity version we’ve all gotten used to. Christmas isn’t what we’ve made it out to be, and Keller offers us a stark reminder of what the story really represents. In addition to that, we’re excited to unveil our Christmas Gift Guide on page 26. One of the core values of this magazine,
We can intentionally do things differently this year. We can be thoughtful, generous and contemplative in this season. I think that’s how Jesus wants it.
and our readers, is that we’re not materialistic. So, this time of year always provides a unique tension. On one hand, we want to show the people in our lives we care for them with thoughtful gifts. But we also want to be intentional with our resources and hate wasting money or getting generic presents that’d better have the gift receipt with it. So, this year we’re giving you a cheat sheet. Our team hand-selected unique, creative gift ideas that create a positive impact in various ways. Most of the companies give to others when you purchase, some of the items are created in uniquely sustainable ways, some lift people out of poverty and some are disruptive business models that provide high-quality items for a great value. Every item on the list is the sort of thing you’ll feel good about giving—and your loved ones will appreciate receiving. No gift receipt required. Those two pieces will hopefully provide subtle reminders that we can, and should, buck the cultural status quo and rethink not only the purpose of the holiday season, but how we engage it. We don’t have to get swept in the normal hustle and bustle. We don’t have to get stressed out, and we don’t have to overspend trying to keep up with the Joneses. After such a toxic and exhausting political season, what if this year we all committed to engaging the holiday season with more intentionality? We could choose to prioritize things like worship, serving others, rest and time with our loved ones. We can treat the season like a Sabbath for the year, resting and reflecting on what God has done for us—and is doing for us. We can intentionally do things differently this year. We can be thoughtful, generous and contemplative in this season. I think that’s how Jesus wants it, and it feels a lot more like the kind of holiday season I want to have. Because boy do we need to detox after that election.
CAMERON STR ANG is the founder and publisher of RELEVANT. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @cameronstrang.
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let there be light.
Live album from Hillsong Worship recorded at Hillsong Conference in Sydney, Australia Featuring What A Beautiful Name, Behold (Then Sings My Soul) and Love So Great
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ON ISSUE 83 SEPT/OCT 2016
PLEASANT SURPRISE When I got this issue of RELEVANT in the mail, I thought that I recognized the guy on the cover and was intrigued. I was a huge fan of him on Boardwalk Empire, so to see him leading such a huge project was exciting for me. And I was excited to watch Ben-Hur and see the scene he mentions where he improvises at the crucifixion. PAUL RIVERS / Via email
T W E E T N E S S
@ AK RW_D E SIGNS
@RELEVANT mag’s design NEVER disappoints. Truly brilliant layout + graphic elements, friends. @ C OLE E Z Z Z Z
Loving the @RELEVANT magazine #2016votersguide!! The Trump quotes are fantastic. @ J E R RYR E D C LEIFF
This month’s Drop in @RELEVANT mag is on point! Social Club Misfits, Audrey Assad, Day Wave. @ K SIMME R R
I could read @RELEVANT all day. AKA I spent the whole day reading RELEVANT.
Thank you for your wisdom in the letter from the editor, this issue especially. We can’t keep passing the buck to future generations and wondering why they haven’t made major changes. Every single person can start changing things whether it’s in a small way or in a big way. It’s important for us to respond the way Jesus would. CAITLIN G. / Via Facebook
I desperately need to de-stress my life, so “No Chill” was helpful. I’m starting with the first tip and being intentional about it. TOMMIE B. / Via Facebook
Thank you for publishing the article related to Black Lives Matter. I know it is very controversial for many of your readers. Thanks for leading the way and beginning a discussion about what will hopefully be an awakening for many on this issue.
@ B ON D 007
Thanks for the RELEVANT U section this month. I’ve been thinking about grad school, so this is right on time! JINA TAYLOR / Via email
This @RELEVANT mag article on Switchfoot is bringing up serious nostalgia. Didn’t realize it had been 10 albums already. @ AAP STE R IN
The Richard Rohr interview in @RELEVANT mag’s latest issue is fascinating. I’d never known who Friars were until now.
So happy to see Jack Huston on the cover of RELEVANT. Big things in his future! @MARKIMARKJACOBS / Via Twitter
ALEX E. / Via Facebook
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UNDER GOD? THE RAGING DEBATE OVER RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN AMERICA THE MAJORITY OF AMERICAN CHRISTIANS THINK THEY'RE LOSING FREEDOM. IS THAT TRUE?
hristians in the U.S. are nervous. And it’s not just the older generations. More than half of millennial-aged Christians think religious freedom is “worse” now than in the past few years, according to a Barna study. A slightly higher percentage (56) fears religious restrictions will only increase. With few exceptions, the major cultural tensions within America this year center around religious liberty. Some of these tensions were explicit, like the heated debates about the range of the rights of religious business owners. But even others, like the knee-jerk reactions against Muslim refugees, were ultimately about religious liberty, too. People of faith feel the tension. A brand new CNN poll showed that most Christian groups, including mainline Protestants (73 percent) and Catholics (61 percent), believe “Christian values are under attack in America.” But how do these feelings stack up to Christians around the world? In the State Department's annual report about
global religious liberty, researchers found that, overall, the number of countries with "high or very high" restrictions on religion is slightly decreasing. Still, this year saw some major setbacks. In Russia, president Vladimir Putin infamously instituted anti-terrorism laws that radically restrict religious practice, namely evangelism. It seemed like the new laws might be little more than empty threats, but they have resulted in arrests of Christian leaders for “illegal missionary activity” (preaching). Just a little later in the year, the mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, banned Muslim women from wearing "burkinis"—a full-length, modest bathing suit—to the beach, calling them a "symbol of Islamic extremism" and fearing that they may spark public disorder. In France and Russia, the idea is that a "safe" state should limit anything that distinguishes people as religious. Undeniably, the United States faces complications related to freedom of religion, but against the backdrop of most of the rest of the world,
America remains uniquely free.
THE DROP FROM 2013-2014 IN COUNTRIES WITH HIGH RESTRICTIONS
of that drop limit women’s ability to wear religious attire
require women to wear par ticular clothes
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M I S C. [ GRANDPA IS RIGHT ]
THE KIDS AREN’T ALRIGHT WE’VE ALL HEARD older-types California is home to the world's first lucky pizza box. When Selena Avalos opened up her Domino's order, she found $5,000 cash. She returned the dough (get it?), and the store gave her free pizza for a year.
Mythbusters is back—well, kind of. Netflix announced it will be home to a new show starring the Mythbusters “build team.” The project will be produced by the same team behind the former Discovery Channel hit.
Everything we ever learned is unraveling: The FDA is calling for the removal of “antibacterial” ingredients from commercial hand soaps—because they don’t make your hands any cleaner.
gripe about kids these days not understanding the world. Well, they’re right. It turns out most younger Americans don't know basic global concepts, according to a National Geographic survey. Only 29 percent passed a pretty easy geopolitical literacy test, and only 17 people, (ahem, 1 percent), scored an A. Among millennials, the average was just 55 percent.
THE CASE AGAINST #ALLLIVESMATTER
s 2016 comes to a close, the two-year cultural debate about #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter is taking on renewed life. Now some prominent Christians are speaking out, explaining why Christians should reject #alllivesmatter. “The #alllivesmatter hashtag is like spitting in the face of black folk," hip-hop artist Lecrae posted to Instagram following a recent shooting of an unarmed black man. "Not because all lives don't matter. Of course they do. But it's very clear that black lives don't to many in this country. ... True faith stands up for the oppressed and the broken.”
THE REAL FAMILY GUY: WHY GAFFIGAN JUST QUIT TV
THEY CALL IT his “dad brand.” True,
"All lives are not at risk right now. We [at Hillsong NYC] ARE saying BLACK LIVES MATTER. Because, right now, black lives apparently are worth LESS on our streets. It's 'our ﬁght' not 'their ﬁght.'" —On Facebook
Jim Gaffigan makes a living cracking jokes about marriage and parenting (and Hot Pockets). But earlier this year, Gaffigan proved his dad image isn’t just for TV cameras. He and his wife, Jeannie, put the kibosh on a third season of TV Land's The Jim Gaﬃgan Show. He explained why: “[The show] was empowering, exhilarating and exhausting. As many of you know, all the episodes this season were written by Jeannie and me. However the time commitment to make the quality of show we wanted was taking us away from our most important project, our five children.”
“If you quickly add [#alllivesmatter], it sounds like a rebuke. ... It sounds like the point that was trying to be made isn’t worth being made. Of course that is true, all lives matter, but oh how timing matters and how context matters.” —On his podcast AUSTIN CHANNING
"When the response is all lives matter, the speciﬁc purpose of proclaiming #blacklivesmatter is erased. … Instead Christians who *truly* believe all lives matter, have no problem proclaiming #blacklivesmatter." —On Twitter
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WE’VE KNOWN that Hollywood has a diversity
problem. And that problem extends to roles offered to minorities. Actress Kerry Washington has been at the forefront of calling for more diversity—and her work on Scandal is credited with opening doors for more black actors challenging stereotypes on TV. But even Olivia Pope herself has dealt with racial typecasting. She told Variety that she was fired from two TV pilots because she wasn’t “hood” or “urban” enough. She said, “For both [pilots], it was because they wanted me to sound more ‘girlfriend,’ more like ‘hood’ more ‘urban.’”
KERRY WASHINGTON LOST A TV ROLE BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T SOUND ‘HOOD’
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I . C .Y. M . I . IN C ASE YOU MISSED IT
ENTERTAINMENT ACTUALLY WORTH YOUR TIME
F IL M /T V AUDIO B O O KS
[ PUT SOME CLOTHES ON ]
POP CULTURE IS PUSHING BACK AGAINST PORN HERE'S WHAT FOUR CELEBRITIES HAVE TO SAY ABOUT IT
Donald Glover’s critically acclaimed new show on FX takes on race, poverty and fame in a groundbreaking way. 2 REAL EMOTION
The new release from indiepop darlings Paper Route takes you on a (fun) journey of sounds and moods.
3 MAKING SENSE OF
he internet is a modern day Wild West, complete with interest groups and politicians rushing to regulate it. But if one thing is consistent on the internet, it’s porn. To be exact, 35 percent of all internet downloads are pornographic. And some data suggests 25 percent of all internet searches are for porn. For a little perspective, as of 2015, that means 68 million porn searches a day. But despite porn’s uncanny ubiquity, the tide might be turning. In recent months, some major (and unexpected) celebrities have spoken out about the dangers of porn and why it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
GOD If Tim Keller writes,
you should read. This one he calls the "prequal" to The Reason for God.
4 DESIGNATED SURVIVOR Yes, it's a
fast-paced network drama, but the unifying motif and strong cast make it worth your time. 5 UNINVITED
Lysa Terkeurst knows what it's like to feel deep loneliness. This new book oﬀers a framework to thinking for overcoming it. 6 WE'RE ALL GONNA DI E The newest music from
Dawes provides the genrebending, mellow vibes you want from the L.A. outﬁt.
“We have often warned about pornography’s corrosive effects on a man’s soul and on his ability to function as husband and, by extension, as a father … How many families will suffer?"
RUSSELL BRAND “Our attitudes toward sex ... have deviated from its true function as an expression of love and a means of procreation. I heard a quote from a priest who said, ‘Pornography is not a problem because it shows us too much. It’s a problem because it shows us too little.'”
“Pornography, in a lot of ways, it really, really messed up my life ... By not telling people, it becomes more powerful. But when you tell and when you put it out there in the open ... it loses its power."
JULIETTE BINOCHE "A lot of men take porn as not that important, not that serious, whereas women tend to take it personally. ... When you don't have the [love and commitment-based] feelings it becomes animal-like because you're not in touch with your heart . There's a sad and pathetic side to it."
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IT’S LUPITA NYONG’O’S WORLD WE’RE ALL JUST LIVING IN IT
ou can’t miss Lupita Nyong’o. She took home an Oscar for her role as Patsey in 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, gave life to Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and this year received a Tony nomination for her breakout stage debut in Eclipsed. It doesn’t take long to see what all the buzz is about.
W H AT S T O O D O U T T O YO U A B O U T T H E Q U E E N O F K AT W E R O L E ? The fact that it is a true story, an uplifting story from east Africa, meant so much to me. Nothing like it had crossed my desk. But it was also the fact that I would be playing a woman who was very afraid of the dreams and the dreamer, and who has to come to terms with letting her daughter pursue more than she thought was possible. Ten pages in, I put down the script and made it known that I was going to have to make the film.
A R E YO U N O R M A L LY S O L D T H AT E A R LY ? It was definitely an exception. I haven’t felt that way about a script ever. I’ve never been this sure so early on in a script. I wanted to do it.
W H AT WA S T H AT L I K E T O INHABIT DEVELOPING U G A N D A? It was great that we were shooting on location because I could visit Katwe. I could visit with the real Harriet, the real Fiona [Harriet’s daughter], the real Robert Katende [a Christian missionary played in the film by David Oyelowo] and really see who they are and observe the world they live in. It was about getting there and allowing my eyes, my ears, my nose to take it all in.
Nyong'o is that rare Hollywood star who speaks as passionately about a role as the story's creator. Her latest project, Queen of Katwe, finds her portraying the mother of a chess prodigy from Katwe, Uganda. Unsuprisingly, to critical acclaim.
YO U ’ R E O F T E N IN ROLES WITH A M E S S A G E T H AT M AT T E R S . I S T H AT I N M I N D W H E N YO U APPROACH ACTING? I gravitate toward and am attracted to roles and stories that are complex, that say something and teach me something new about the human spirit. I do believe in redeeming social value potential, and I am attracted to those kinds of stories because I do think that cinema and television, popular culture, really is the way in this day and age that we understand the world. When a story interacts with the world beyond our immediate surroundings, it gives us a better understanding of the world we live in.
WHERE DOES T H AT D E S I R E F O R I M PA C T F U L A C T I N G COME FROM? My father has been a politician all my life and he’s been in that kind of social service all my life. My mother, as well, is a social servant by default, and I’ve been raised with a strong philosophy to be useful in the world. I think it’s very much in the fabric of my upbringing.
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S H E WA N T S T O K N O W W H AT I S T R U E â€“
N O T PA R T LY T R U E , O R S O M E T I M E S T R U E , O R A L M O S T T R U E . S H E WA N T S T R U T H I T S E L F.
She Reads Truth tells the stories of two women who discovered that only God and His Word remain unchanged as the world around them shifted and slipped away. Sometimes it takes everything moving to notice the thing that doesnâ€™t move. Sometimes it takes telling two very different stories to notice how the Truth was exactly the same in both of them.
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M I S C.
Chipotle is testing out a drone-based burrito delivery service at Virginia Tech University. Students order online, and a nearby Chipotle truck launches a burrito-equipped aircraft . What a time to be alive.
GEORGE CLOONEY UNCOVERED SOME SERIOUS CORRUPTION AN ORGANIZATION co-founded by
George Clooney, The Sentry, recently released the findings of a two-year undercover investigation into war profiteering within the South Sudanese government. Clooney's org found officials have amassed massive personal fortunes from arms deals, oil and gambling—all to fuel what's become one of the world's deadliest confl icts, leaving tens of thousands dead and half the country without access to food.
"I don't think this is an official Apple case."
Disney announced it is remaking the early-'90s classic The Lion King with director Jon Favreau at the helm. If his recent The Jungle Book is any indication, it could be another live-action remake. Because people buy things.
FAITH IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN SILICON VALLEY
not uncommon to hear people claim religion is bad for society. Of course, many disagree for all kinds of reasons. But one might surprise you. The Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion recently published results of a study on the economic impact of religion on America—which is the first of its kind. The study, "The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis" looked at the economic impact of the
James Corden’s popular segment "Carpool Karaoke" is going high-brow: The sketch took home a Creative Arts Emmy award— against the competition of Beyoncé, Adele and Amy Schumer.
social programs of 344,000 religious congregations around the country, in addition to quantifying the economic impact of religious institutions and religion-related businesses. They valued the total economic contribution of religion in America at almost $1.2 trillion. Here's a little perspective on what that means: Religion in America, according to this study, produces an economic value equal to the world's 15th largest economy. That’s more than Apple, Google and Amazon—combined.
MILLENNIALS: AMERICA'S MOST CONSERVATIVE GENERATION? THE GENERATION AFTER "X" is
Reaganing. A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shows that during their last year of high school, a larger percentage of millennials identify as conservative than did Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, which is a key indicator for generational researchers. Because groups traditionally grow more conservative, this study anticipates millennials will end up as the most conservative generation ever.
MAR_APR 2016 NOV_DEC 2016
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CODY PEARSON GRAPHIC DESIGN MAJOR CLASS OF 2013 GRAPHIC DESIGNER AT BROOKS RUNNING, SEATTLE
DESIGNING FOR THE PROS Challenging classes and experiential learning prepare Northwest Nazarene University graduates for success. Cody Pearson developed skills through his coursework and college internships that landed him an intern position with the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders immediately after graduation. Read about his amazing year designing during the Seahawksâ€™ championship season at NNU.EDU/CODY.
FIND A COLLEGE YOU TRULY LOVE nnu.edu/relevant 877-NNU-4YOU
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THE H T LIST BIMONTHLY CULTURE POWER RANKINGS
That's not an Excel sheet.
SUPERNATUR AL T V [HOT TEST] Kristen Bell’s The Good Place, Netflix's Stranger Things, and Frequency are putting a redemptive twist on the supernatural TV craze.
BON IVER [HOT TER] Five years was worth the wait for the album 22, Million, the falsetto-heavy indie rock album we’ve been waiting for.
SELF-DRIVING CARS [HOT] The dream of being able to safely watch cat videos while “driving” will soon be a reality.
TURDUCKEN [COLD] For the sake of your arteries, these Frankenstein meats should be removed from all holiday menus. SNAP SPECTACLES [COLDER] Just when Snapchat was ﬁnally getting not creepy, they had to go and put a camera on the outside of glasses to ﬁlm unsuspecting people.
POLITICS [COLDEST] There are now four more years until this national nightmare starts again.
THE COST OF ALL THOSE SNAPS AND DOUBLE-TAPS: $192 BILLION
his generation lives in a basically socialfirst world and, sure, that carries some benefits. It's also costing employers money. A lot of money. A new study by the recruitment firm Ajilon found that millennial workers waste $192.4 billion worth of work each year just by checking
social media during work hours. The average millennial employee, the study says, spends 140 hours per year on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and 13 percent of millennials claim they spend an hour or more using it at work. That's not even including Pokemon Go.
45% claim their jobs don't have a policy against office-hours social media
[ THIS ISN'T DIAL-UP ]
THIS RICH DUDE JUST GAVE WIFI TO A BILLION PEOPLE ONLY ABOUT 20 PERCENT of people in India—the most population-dense
country on the planet—have access to the Internet. This dramatically limits their ability to function in the modern world. That’s why Mukesh Ambani is funding high-speed wifi for nearly a billion Indians who don’t have access now. And he's making it available for just about $2 a month.
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10 YEARS, COUNTLESS LIVES
TALKING WITH JAMIE TWORKOWSKI ABOUT A DECADE OF TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS
nly a few months ago, a report stated that suicide in the United States is at a 30-year high. It is a humanitarian crisis—one that Jamie Tworkowski has spent the last decade trying to fight. He’s the founder of the nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year, and bestselling author of If You Feel Too Much. We sat down with Tworkowski to talk about his decade of helping people find hope and healing.
WHAT DOES TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS DO DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHER MENTAL HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS?
We get to kind of run in a few different directions at once. We do a lot online; we do a lot on college campuses. Over the years we’ve shown up in places like the Warped Tour, we’ve had our T-shirts sold at Hot Topic. Right now there’s a whole bunch of women on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team who are supporting us. I smile at just how surprising it is all the different places that our message of hope and health has been embraced over the past 10 years. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?
Just the need that exists—that so many people struggle and so many people feel alone. We didn’t invent hope, I didn’t scribble hope on a napkin 10 years ago and come up with it. But there’s such a need and it gives me a lot of confidence, especially 10 years in, to believe in what we’re doing and what we’re saying. WHAT PART DOES YOUR OWN FAITH PLAY IN THE WORK YOU DO?
Faith is the lens that we see the world through. Even if you call yourself an
atheist or agnostic, no matter what you believe or don’t believe, you wake up and you place your faith in certain places. We all do. And so for me I feel like I’ve never been able to shake this idea of God who made me, who loves me, who designed me to be in a relationship not only with Him, but also with other people. A God who desires to know me and has created this life in such a way where I’m actually meant to be known by other people. So I think that definitely informs the work I do—all the way to the question why is life worth living. WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE TO OTHERS WHO MIGHT WANT TO LAUNCH A NONPROFIT?
I love to tell people that I didn’t set out to start a nonprofit. This thing started out about as small as it could with trying to help one person and trying to tell one story. And from there, as it began to take off, the next big step that I took is connecting with someone who knew how to run a nonprofit. HOW HAVE YOU GROWN PERSONALLY IN THE LAST 10 YEARS?
There was a time when I got comfortable standing on a stage and telling people it’s OK to go to counseling, it was OK to be honest, but I hadn’t really taken those steps in my own life. Over the years that has definitely changed. I am someone who has been on antidepressants for the last few years. I am someone who has gone to counseling consistently. I am someone who has taken a week in May and went away to basically an intensive therapy. And I say that with no self-pity, no regret. I am thankful for these tools that exist. So all of these things that I love to tell other people about, I think I am secure in my own need for them as well.
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FIRST STUDIO ALBUM FROM JESUS CULTURE WORSHIP LEADER CHRIS QUILALA
Featuring “Because Of Your Love” and “Won My Heart”
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UNEQUAL: CAN RACE AND GENDER SHRINK YOUR PAYCHECK? W
omen today are more likely than men to complete college and go to graduate school. They also make up nearly half of the country’s total workforce. But a new report from the White House shows that although women have made advances in education and employment, a
YOUR COMPANY'S CEO IS PROBABLY NAMED JOHN
70% OF K-8 TEACHERS ARE WOMEN, BUT MALE TEACHERS STILL OUTEARN THEM
There are more executives named John than there are female executives. Period.
significant pay gap between the sexes still exists. At the rate progress is going, it will take until 2059 for the gap to finally be closed. Here's a look at what this pay gap looks like, and how it impacts the earning potential of women across the country.
Median earned per week in a salaried teaching position
20 LOWEST PAYING JOBS
ALL BUT 5 CAREERS PAY MEN MORE THAN WOMEN FOR THE SAME POSITION
Source: White House Equal Pay Task Force
20 HIGHEST PAYING JOBS
STUDIES SHOW THAT EVEN WITH A MASTER'S DEGREE, WOMEN ACTUALLY MAKE LESS THEN THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS WHO ONLY HAVE A BACHELOR'S DEGREE BY
WOMEN OF COLOR FACE EVEN LARGER GENDER PAY GAPS THAN THEIR WHITE COUNTERPARTS
Of the country’s 20 lowest-paying jobs, women make up 56 percent of the workers. In the highest paying 20, they make up only 29.
THESE 5 STATES RANK WORST IN EQUAL PAY These ratios show just how much women can earn in comparison to men.
WEST VIRGINIA 67.3%
W YOMING 67.9%
NEBR ASK A 73.1%
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GOSPEL MINISTRY IS HARD WORK. OUR MDIV SHAPES YOU FOR THE TASK. We invite you to intensive preparation, where you will gain essential training in Scripture interpretation, theology, pastoral practices, leadership, preaching, and spiritual formation. Our new curriculum is also designed to help you develop skill in cultural exegesis and a deepened Christian worldview that will equip you to engage with diverse peoples and cultures for the gospelâ€™s sake.
Source: White House Equal Pay Task Force
Our new MDiv curriculum begins Fall 2017. Learn about full scholarship opportunities at teds.edu/mdiv.
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IDENTIFY YOUR KEY RELATIONSHIPS Think about who will attend your funeral. Assume everyone who is alive and in your life today will be there. This includes family, friends and coworkers. The important thing is that these are people who represent the groups you can still influence. As long as they are alive and you are alive, you can have a positive impact.
DESCRIBE HOW YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED BY EACH GROUP One way to do this is to write in a simple sentence format: “I want [name or category of relationship] to remember …” For example, Eric, an online marketer, said this is how he wants his social media followers to remember him: “I want them to remember my transparency, authenticity and generosity. … Most of all, I want them to see in me a role model with a life worth emulating.”
MAKE THESE “LEGACY STATEMENTS” AS COMPELLING AS YOU CAN
WHAT'S YOUR LEGACY?
IT'S SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO START WHILE YOU'RE YOUNG BY MICHAEL HYATT
ypically, we only use the word legacy when we talk about the rich and famous. Obviously, Abraham Lincoln left a legacy. So did Cornelius Vanderbilt. And Martin Luther King Jr. and Margaret Thatcher. But the rest of us? Absolutely. Our legacy comprises the spiritual, intellectual, relational, vocational and social capital we pass on. It’s the sum total of the beliefs you embrace, the values you live by, the love you express and the service you render to others. It’s the you-shaped stamp you leave when you go. Truth is, everyone is in the process of creating—and leaving—a legacy. The question is not “Will you leave a legacy?” but “What kind of legacy will you leave?” The sooner you come to grips with this reality, the sooner you can start creating it. Like it or not, your life now shapes your legacy later. You have an impact on everyone around you. You will influence the course of other people’s lives for good or bad. In other words, your life matters. You are here for a reason. Your job is to determine why. The good news is that you can shape the memories of the people who matter most to you. The thoughts, words and actions you choose will have an impact. Here we want to help you clarify the memories you want to create. I know this might sound a little odd, but it’s helpful to visualize your own funeral. Ask, “How do I want to be remembered when I am gone?” What do you want the people closest to you to say? Be open and vulnerable with yourself. You want to capture your true values. By numbering your days and facing your mortality—even while you’re still in your 20s—you can engage your mind and heart in a compelling, powerful way.
Remember, if your life plan will be compelling enough to shape your future, it must engage your mind and your heart. Both are essential. When you’re done, you should have a collection of statements you can now form into your eulogy. The key is write as if your funeral were today, not a future date. When Eugene O’Kelly, former CEO of KPMG, was diagnosed with late-stage brain cancer, he was forced to think about his impending death and the impact he had on others. In true CEO fashion, he created goals for himself. He made a list of important relationships he wanted to “unwind.” By this he meant he wanted to bring closure to those relationships and communicate how much each person meant to him. Unlike us, he didn’t have time to procrastinate. He couldn't add it to his “someday/maybe” list, because he was out of days. None of us know how long we have left. Do we have another 50 years—or 50 minutes? We don’t know. But we can make a difference and begin to shape our legacy now.
MICHAEL HYATT is the bestselling author of several books, including Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Driﬅing and Get the Life You Want, from which this article was adapted.
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R E L E V A N T
CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE BUYING CHRISTMAS GIFTS SHOULDN’T BE STRESSFUL. HERE ARE OUR PICKS FOR UNIQUE PRESENTS YOU WON’T NEED TO KEEP THE RECEIPT FOR.
There’s an old saying that gets thrown around this time of year: It’s better to give than to receive. It’s true that giving is pretty great, so purchasing presents with some thought behind them takes the exchange to the next level. But how do you find thoughtful gifts that
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aren’t just contributing to mindless consumerism? Where are the gifts that give back, are of revolutionary value, uniquely creative, or sustainable? We’re glad you asked. Here are some gift ideas that will be definite hits, regardless who you’re buying for.
T H E M
MVMT WATCHES Nothing says “classy friend” like giving someone a watch. And these are about as cool as watches get. Plus, you can afford them. Men’s: $95 USD Women’s: $115 USD
our parents gave you a lot—the least you can do is hook them up with something thoughtful at the family gift exchange. Here’s a look at some thoughtful products that work for recipients of any age.
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THE GIVING KEYS
ONE WORLD FUTBOL
The key necklace that gives back and ups your socially conscious hipster cred now comes in black.
Your giftees’ morning joe now matters. Because these beans help orphans find a home.
They’re wireless, look great, sound great—and provide hearing aids to people in need.
This buy-one-give-one soccer ball is nearly indestructible.
Approx. $12 USD
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PRIVATE PRESS CLUB
Every month, they send a fresh, expertly currated vinyl do your door. It’s a great way to tell your friends to move on from Pandora. $27 USD W W W.PRIVATEPRESS.CLUB
COTOPAXI UNISEX JACKET Here’s how you suggest making your family reunion take place in Iceland next year. (Plus, these sweet jackets fund sustainable poverty alleviation solutions.) $160 USD W W W.COTOPAXI.COM
This is the only affordable bamboo bike. All the green. PRICES VARY W W W.GREENSTARBIKES.COM
SACKCLOTH & ASHES BLANKET
S’WELL WATER BOTTLE
Here’s the alpaca blanket that every Christmas gift getter needs. $109 USD
There’s no cooler (get it?) way to tote water than a hand-painted S’well bottle. $45 USD
A subtle, socially conscious way to help your dad upgrade that briefcase he’s had since the Reagan era. $130 USD
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LOOPTWORKS COMPUTER BAG
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G I F T S
F O R
H E R
hether she’s your best friend, your sister or wife, this year, give the woman in your life a gift that stands out. You know, the kind of present that her friends will notice.
PAPIRMASS ART SUBSCRIPTION Everyone knows boots are a girl’s best friend. $195 USD
That’s right, you can subscribe to art. Every month you can discover the next great artist and find the perfect print for your wall. So long, IKEA prints. Approx. $12 USD
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THISTLE FARMS SOAPS
Cute clothes that provide meals to others? Of course. We really like their “Do Good” tank.
Keep the lady in your life sparkling with sustainably sourced jewels from the Philippines.
Handcrafted in Uganda, these sandals have everything— except maybe warm weather.
These not only give back, but you get to skip the long, awkward line at Bath and Body Works.
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RELEVANT CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE
EVER MAYA BAG
ZERA SERVING TRAY
This Guatemalan bag is unique and fun—plus each one helps local workers. Win-win. $98 USD
This woven basket from Local and Lejos is a RELEVANT office favorite. So we’re guessing any lady in your life will love it, too. $52 USD
Nothing says, “I love you, but your apartment smells funky” like a candle. And these are our favorites. $10 USD
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TEYSHA SLIPPERS These shoes are crafted with one-of-a-kind artisanship curated for each pair to have an original design. $95 USD W W W.TEYSHA.IS
31 BITS BR ACELET
RAVEN & LILY RINGS
Not all sweaters are for winter.
These help displaced women combat poverty through art and fashion.
Each candle is made to order, one at a time. (So you actually have to know the girl.)
Gorgeous jewelry that inspires style and community impact (fair wages).
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G I F T S
F O R
H I M
ook, there’s nothing wrong with cologne or cufflinks, but seriously, how many years can you give your brother another bottle of Stetson? This year, purchase a gift that he’ll not only want to show off, but one that will last for Christmases to come.
SKYLINE USA SOCKS
These super cool watches are made from wood. What else do you need to know?
You can get these styled after most pro-sports teams—or just good old ‘Murica.
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THIS IS GROUND MAN ROLL Make sure your crew is always prepared for something amazing with these original leather-made products. $85 USD W W W.THISISGROUND.COM
THE FOREVER T
TOMS DUFFEL BAG
HARRY’S RAZOR SET
Genade Clothing created the only tee you’ll ever give (because it lasts forever). $35 USD
If you know someone who travels a lot, help them. $104 USD
Discover a great shave for as low as $3/ month with these German-designed razors. $15 USD
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RELEVANT CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE
PASSPORT WALLET This 100 percent leather wallet will have the jetsetter in your life say ‘gracias.’ Or ‘merci.’ Or ‘danke.’ $35 USD W W W.LIVEFASHIONABLE.COM
These belts provide micro-loans to communities across the world. Also, they keep your pants up. $40 USD W W W.MISSIONBELT.COM
Themed boxes, choice goods and stories that help you make the most of it all. $45 USD W W W.BESPOKEPOST.COM
STONE & CLOTH BAG Each purchase helps provide scholarships to students in need, which make the higher price totally worthy it. $245 USD W W W.STONEANDCLOTH.COM
It’s a basic. Every guy needs a set. And these are literally the coolest you’ll find. $65 USD W W W.SHINOLA.COM
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T R E A T
Y O ’
S E L F
ou know what’s truly the gift that keeps on giving? The one you bought for yourself because you know exactly what you want. This year, take that bonus or check from grandma, and treat yourself to something from your own Christmas list. HOME CHEF
The weekly meal delivery service has everything you need to prepare homecooked meals in about 30 minutes. VARIES BY ORDER W W W.HOMECHEF.COM
TUFT & NEEDLE MATRESS Quality mattresses are insanely expensive. Except these made out of adaptive foam so you can finally throw out your bed from college. $350-$750 USD W W W.TUFTANDNEEDLE.COM
JCOCO CHOCOLATE SET
These are eco-friendly with a sevenyear ink supply. Not too shabby. $9 USD
Set your new year up in style with these sunglasses. $130 USD
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All proceeds from these go to fighting hunger. Because you need a reason to buy chocolate. $56 USD W W W.MOUTH.COM
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RELEVANT CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE
Clean up and give back with these all-natural, crueltyfree products
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Sprout something new in your creative life with the world’s first sustainable pencil.
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YELLOW LEAF HAMMOCK Isn’t it time for life to feel as good as lying in a hammock does? We thought so. $179 USD W W W.YELLOWLEAFHAMMOCKS.COM FAIR TRADE DESK ORNAMENTS
Complete your own hipster look (and support jobs in Uganda).
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DENIK JOURNAL These journals are designed by artists from around the world. A portion of your purchase helps build schools in impoverished nations. Write it down. $11.95 USD W W W.DENIK.COM
BETTER WORLD BOOKS
Unlike Amazon, this used bookseller uses profits to fight illiteracy. PRICES VARY W W W.BETTERWORLD BOOKS.COM
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THE WAR ON CHILDREN:
50 MILLION KIDS FACE AN UNPRECEDENTED GLOBAL CRISIS TWO-THIRDS OF ALL REFUGEES ARE UNDERAGE. CHRISTIANS CAN’T IGNORE THIS. mran Daqneesh became a world celebrity in August, but not in the typical sense. If his name doesn’t sound familiar, you no doubt remember the image of the Aleppian boy perched on an bright orange seat in an ambulance, blood-splattered and covered in dust. Minutes before, first responders pulled Omran from the rubble of a building destroyed by an airstrike. During the following weeks, images and video of Omran circulated all around the world. But he is only one of 50 million children around the world who migrated or is displaced by war and violence, according the United Nations Children’s Fund. In a devastating and disproportionate statistic, the U.N. claims kids comprise about one-third of the global population, but about half of all refugees. According to their findings, 11 million of these kids are either refugees or
asylum-seekers forced to flee their homes because of violence, terrorism or similar instability. Many, like Omran, are from Syria, where a devastating civil war just concluded its fifth year and claimed 400,000 lives. In addition, at least 20 million children globally flee their homes because of nonviolent causes like natural disasters or climate change. And the spread of ISIS in the Middle East has displaced another 17 million kids within their own countries. Last year, according to UNICEF, more than 100,000 of these children applied for asylum unaccompanied—meaning they’re not only refugees, but they’re alone. For centuries, Christians have applied Jesus’ teaching to care for the “least of these”—a theme explicitly reiterated in the book of James—as an imperative to protect and provide for children. Now, children around the world face an unprecedented crisis that Christ followers can’t ignore.
GET INVOLVED YO U R T I M E VOLUNTEER: Use your time and skill to serve with an organization like World Relief, which is helping settle refugees across the U.S.
YO U R VO I C E ADVOCATE: Tons of nonprofits and relief organizations need people to help push initiatives through Congress. You can also contact your representative directly.
YO U R R E S O U R C E S DONATE: Organizations like World Vision do great work globally. In the Middle East, Preemptive Love Coalition serves victims well.
SUSTAINABLE CHANGE. INTENTIONAL LIVING.
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the ent for
A BRIGHT HOPE HOW ONE FAMILY’S SHATTERING LOSS IS SAVING THE LIVES OF MILLIONS.
BY ALEX DUKE
he boy had been alive for more than a month. They first learned of him through an agency email. In adoption lingo, it’s called a “referral.” So of course they started to prepare: toys, clothes, bedroom decor,
all the things first-time parents obsess over. They also prayed—a lot. Adoption is hard, Ethiopia is far away, and they weren’t going to be able to bring their son home for another three or four months. They named him Brighton, and they were absolutely thrilled. But by December’s end, the boy fell ill, and his caretakers admitted him to the
government hospital for severe diarrhea and pneumonia-like symptoms. He rallied, and after 10 days returned to the orphanage. But despite this apparent fortunate turn, Brighton quickly got sick again, an indicator he never fully recovered. “The next thing we knew,” his mother says, “is that we got the call he had passed away—not in the hospital. He was at the
SUSTAINABLE CHANGE. INTENTIONAL LIVING.
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orphanage and had just passed away.” Brighton Asher Hoff man was 76 days old.
*** A decade has passed since then. But even to recall the details of that fateful phone call is an exercise of faith for Tymm and Laura Hoff man, another step in their winding spiritual walk. For Tymm, it’s a walk that started not too long before Brighton entered their lives. It was just a few years prior that he’d started going to church with Laura. At that point, Tymm wasn’t sure what exactly God could offer him. He had a beautiful wife, an enjoyable job, two cars and a house with a fence. Around the same time, however, the Hoff mans were trying to grow their family. But they ran into a bitter battle with infertility, and before long, they began having conversations about international adoption. More time passed, and it became clear biological children simply weren’t a safe option for Tymm and Laura. “God shut that door pretty quickly,” she said. “And we were totally at peace with that. He brought us peace in an instant, taking the desire [to have biological children] away.” But it’s not as though the resolve to be parents disappeared, or even waned. Instead, it re-focused on the prospect of adopting internationally. In 2007, Ethiopian adoption was not common, so the Hoff mans knew they’d likely be matched soon—and they were right. Barely three months after applying for an adoption in Ethiopia, an agency matched them with Brighton. Tim recalls a line he often says to summarize this season of life: “I didn’t meet God in a pew, but in an orphanage in Ethiopia.” After Brighton’s death, the Hoff mans were reeling. After a season of infertility and two failed attempts at adoption, they began to ask themselves: Does God even want us to be parents? But they continued with the adoption process. Their agency knew of a girl in need of an adoptive family, and asked if the Hoff mans were interested. “I immediately texted Tymm and told
him, ‘I’m looking at our daughter’s face,’” she said. The death of a son and discovery of a daughter happened in a mere two weeks. “It was such an odd mix of emotions,” she said. “Because here we are, grieving so badly the loss of our son but also wanting to celebrate this baby girl the way she deserves to be celebrated.” The girl’s name was Meron—a name given to her by the police officer who found her outside an Ethiopian church. In Amharic, Ethiopia’s native language, the name means “a gift from God.” After Meron—now almost 9—there was Mebrate (they call her Mebbie); she’s almost 8. And after Mebbie, there was Zechariah; he’s almost 5. These are Brighton’s siblings, each of them also from Ethiopia.
need of a home. They just wanted to bring the kids some food—specifically, formula, with the hope it might save a child’s life. The logistics proved difficult, but not impossible. Over time, their grassroots,
*** When Brighton died, the orphanage produced a death certificate with “sepsis pneumonia diarrhea” as his official cause of death. But it’s more reasonable to assume malnutrition claimed his life. The problem of malnutrition is particularly widespread in Ethiopia where, according to the United States Agency for International Development, approximately 44 percent of children suffer from it. An astounding 81 percent of these cases go untreated, which means 28 percent of Ethiopian children younger than 5 die from malnourishment every year, according to The World Food Programme’s “The Cost of Hunger in Ethiopia.” The numbers are staggering, and Tymm and Laura want to do something about it. “We felt like we had to do something, no matter how tiny it is,” Tymm said. Two people want to do something about a plague that affects tens of millions of people not only in Ethiopia, but all over the world. The Hoff mans aren’t stupid. They know the statistics better than most, but they also know nothing is worse than doing nothing. “The problem seems so big,” Tymm said, “that an unintentional apathy can set in.”
*** “Give us the worst orphanage you know.” That’s what Tymm and Laura said to an Ethiopian adoption agency in 2010. They weren’t inquiring about another orphan in
From the left: Mebbie, Meron, Zechariah, Laura and Tymm Hoffman
cottage industry non-profit flourished. Soon enough, it had a name, and a familiar one at that: Brighton Their World. Nearly six years later, the scope of Brighton Their World has expanded, even as its mission has remained laser-focused: Seeking to eradicate the problem of malnutrition among Ethiopian children. They still send formula—and diapers and wipes and blankets and baby medications. And they also just opened a school for children in the first through third grades. This might seem like mission creep. Laura insists it’s not, that nutritional concerns remain front and center. Every student receives a free breakfast and lunch every day, and they’ve just recently installed water purifications systems nearby to provide clean water not only for the student, but the family as well. The Hoff mans’ hope is that every student of theirs no longer feel physical hunger, but they don’t want to stop there. They’re keen to alleviate spiritual hunger, as well. They live in Colorado now, where Tymm works for World Vision and Laura works full-time with Brighton Their World—but she doesn’t take a salary. They want every penny possible going to helping nourish children. ALEX DUKE is a writer and editor living in Louisville, Kentucky.
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speaks to it with profound clarity. Paul says that Christians should submit to the State (Romans 13:1-4), obey its laws (Titus 3:1) and pray for its leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Christians are to be good citizens. Christians are also to be subversive citizens, political prophets who boldly live out a narrative of suffering, sacrifice and death. The fulcrum of the biblical story hinges on a revolutionary peasant-King who received the death penalty for treason. The Christian proclamation that Jesus is king is inherently a political protest.
THE REAL REVELATION
CAN CHRISTIANS ‘PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE’? WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM COLIN KAEPERNICK’S PROTEST BY PRESTON SPRINKLE
olin Kaepernick just might be the most famous and well-paid backup quarterback in NFL history. On August 26, before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers’ quarterback sat down during the national anthem in protest against racial injustices in America. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL.com. America boasts of many freedoms, including a citizen’s right to peacefully protest injustices—and there are many—prevalent in our society. If Tim Tebow is free to kneel and pray, if presidents are free to send 18-year-olds overseas to kill and die, if the KKK is free to continue to exist as an organization, then professional athletes should be free to stand or sit during a song which celebrates America—a country, like all countries, with a questionable moral track record. Of all people, Christians in America should be the first ones to raise questions about our relationship to the State. Should we stand? Or—should we sit? Should we give our allegiance to the State? Or to Jesus? Or can we somehow do both?
No one said it as clearly as John in the book of Revelation. It’s unfortunate that this subversive piece of literature has been hijacked by contemporary newspaper theologians who use it to predict the end of the world in bewildering detail. The book of Revelation is an aggressive critique of the State, written by a pastor imprisoned for a lack of patriotism. John boldly lambasts Rome for its immorality, greed, pride, excessive luxury and an addiction to military might that stained the world with blood to secure its interests (Revelation 17-18). No Christian in the first 300 years after Jesus would have pledged allegiance to Rome during a church gathering. Roman flags didn’t stand next to Christian flags in first-century house churches, and followers of Jesus viewed themselves as citizens of one: one Lord, one baptism, one kingdom of sojourners scattered across the Earth as colonies of Heaven. Christians in America are more like Israelite exiles in Babylon than Jewish kings in Israel. While Christians should submit to the state, pray for its leaders and render qualified obedience to its laws, to pledge allegiance is a profoundly religious act. It’s a religious statement infused with divided loyalties and borders on syncretism. I think the burden of proof rests on those followers of the crucified Lamb to show that citizens of heaven can truly pledge allegiance to anyone other than Christ—and that’s something Christians need to think about deeply.
UNDERSTANDING ALLEGIANCES Christians too often ignore these questions, or they get mad when people raise them. Try blowing up your next Bible study by asking the question: Should Christians stand for the national anthem or recite the Pledge of Allegiance? You might just start a fight. The early church’s relationship to Rome was a pressing issue and Scripture
PRESTON SPRINKLE a po is a speaker, podcaster, blogger and author of several books including Erasing Hell.
SUSTAINABLE CHANGE. INTENTIONAL LIVING.
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THE INDIE ELECTRO-POP OUTFIT IS BACK WITH A HIGHLY ANTICIPATED SOPHOMORE ALBUM. he Nashville band Leagues is no stranger to the music scene. The duo combines pastor’s kid Thad Cockrell and drummer-producer Jeremy Lutito. Both are industry vets—Cockrell, a traditional singer-songwriter, has three solo ablums to his name; Lutito has played or produced for just about everyone, from The Backsteet Boys to Andrew Peterson to Audrey Assad. Back in 2013, they debuted Leagues’ first album You Belong Here. Now three years later, they’ve returned with a new experiment in originality stretching beyond the tidier melodies of their first release with a second full-length, Alone Together. Cockrell says the band focused on removing the burden of expectations and allowed themselves to speak to what mattered most to them instead of focusing on a template. Alone Together is an experiment in possibilities, an energetic synth-pop collection of sound that begs
you to roll your car windows down. The album lyrics explore faith, relationships and the vulnerability you need to make your life into something more than a random series of occurrences—something to take hold of. “When we put a song out there, we hope it becomes yours,” he says. “We hope there’s enough structure to hold the thing up and have people see themselves in the story of it. “As soon as I believe the songs come from me, the pressure is on and I close up in a second. I believe songs are a gift [from God]. And so, if I receive them as a gift, there’s no pressure, repeat performance anxiety. It takes it away. And I really truly believe it. I just open myself up and allow whatever is truly creative to happen.” Cockrell assumes he’s just a “vessel,” sharing whatever the world within him is pressing into language. And in Alone Together, he invites you to dive into his world.
W H Y W E L OV E T HEM:
Leagues’s Alone Together is an electro-pop album with enough experimenting to sit on the cutting edge, but their energy and bright falsettos keep it accessible. F OR FA N S OF:
Kopecky, Ra Ra Riot, Savoir Adore
MUSIC THAT MATTERS
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ARTISTS TO WATCH
BAP TIS T
THE BREAKOUT CHICAGO RAPPER SHOULDERS A COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP WITH THE RELIGIOUS WORLD.
rowing up as a pastor’s kid in Chicago, William James Stokes, known by his stage name Sir the Baptist, witnessed both the beautiful and the dark sides of orga-
nized religion. Sir attended a Christian grammar school and a Catholic high school. He loved gospel music and dreamed of making music like producer Rodney Jerkins, another pastor’s kid who blended church sounds into hip-hop and R&B music. But Sir was also frustrated with his church’s silence after his siblings were abused and molest-
“I felt like I was in this wilderness and needed to say something that was really needed.” 42
ed by members. He watched greed and politics get in the way of churches really loving people. “I felt like I was in this wilderness and needed to say something that was really needed,” he says. Sir quit his job at an ad agency to make music and spent the next year homeless, living and recording music in his car. Through it all, Sir found his own brand of spirituality and a unique sound. His debut album, The Preacher’s Kid, draws from the gospel and R&B of his childhood while speaking to big social issues and offering biting critiques of religion. Sir sees himself as a prophet of sorts, trying to “free people from the chains of religion” and point to something bigger than himself. And he’s not afraid to go deep. During a recent Lollapalooza performance, he rolled onto stage in a coffin to perform “Wake Up,” his song about Chicago violence and the Black Lives Matter movement.
W H Y W E’R E FA N S:
Faith in hip-hop is having a cultural moment right now. But Sir the Baptist isn’t just hopping on the bandwagon. He stresses that gospel-infused music has to have meaningful lyrics to match the sound. F OR FA N S OF:
Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, Shoffy
MUSIC THAT MATTERS
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T HE DROP
Stream these albums (& tons more) on The Drop at RELEVANTmagazine.com
BEFORE 2013, Mothers was the solo project of Kristine Leschper, who was studying printmaking in Athens, Georgia. When Leschper started collaborating with a handful of other musicians she met through Athens’ thriving music scene, Mothers the band was born. The group’s debut album, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired, was built around Leschper’s solo material, but the band is now getting the hang of writing collaboratively. Leschper is still the primary lyricist, singing about everything from feelings of love to envy to insecurity. She’s comfortable being transparent, but she says lately she’s been branching out writing about bigger issues.
ALL SONS & DAU G H T E R S
Poets & Saints
W H Y W E’R E FA N S:
Leschper’s vocals range from delicate and trembling to almost yelling layered over a bevy of instruments.
B I R D TA L K E R
F OR FA N S OF:
Mitski, Frankie Cosmos, Big Thief
M AT T H I R E S
HÆLOS EXILE IN ABER DEEN
Glory & Wonder
THE MEMBERS OF HÆLOS ARE DEDICATED to making electronic music organically. In the era of computerized pre-tracks, that may sound like a contradiction, but Hælos meticulously design all of the sounds in their music, using old synthesizers, surround-sound vocals and even sounds recorded on road trips and found in everyday life. “You get a sense of the room it was made in,” says band member Arthur Delaney. “It’s like you’re standing in the middle of the room and we’re standing around you.” The result is the kind of music you can get lost in, but the members of Hælos hope it ultimately helps bring people together.
W H Y W E L OV E T HEM :
The band’s debut album, Full Circle, is immersive, mystical and almost hypnotic. You won’t regret letting it sweep you away. F OR FA N S OF:
Låpsley, Glass Animals, Foxtrott
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JOEL HOUSTON THE HILLSONG UNITED FRONTMAN ON THE ALBUM THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING illsong United’s latest project, Of Dirt and Grace, features live versions of songs from the band’s studio album Empires. But it’s not your regular live album. The band filmed and recorded the project at locations around Israel—drawing inspiration from the places where Jesus actually walked. We talked to band leader Joel Houston about the process of making the album.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO DO A LIVE, VISUAL ALBUM?
The whole premise is based on this idea of dichotomy and reality versus the spiritual—the empires of the world that we live in versus the Kingdom of Heaven that God is establishing. We started with what Empires was: The instrumentation is quite large and the production value is really high. We wanted to do a version where we stripped this all the way back to a point where we didn’t arrange these songs beforehand. WHAT’S BEHIND THE TITLE, OF DIRT AND GRACE?
It’s the line of the song “empires of dirt and grace.” This idea that we’re flesh, we work, but it’s God’s light, it’s God’s grace inside of us, it’s the Spirit that we’re chasing after. It’s the wind. You can’t necessarily explain it. You can’t see it, but it drives everything we do. It’s not our job to create the wind. We’ll huff and puff and we’ll lose our breath and we’ll die trying. It’s our job to be faithful stewards with what’s in front of us and trust that God’s gonna come through. HOW DID RECORDING IN ISRAEL COME ABOUT?
It started as one of those ideas that gets thrown around in a room as an “imagine if.” Logistical-
The whole premise is based on this idea of dichotomy and reality versus the spiritual—the empires of the world that we live in versus the Kingdom of Heaven that God is establishing.
ly, it seemed impossible. But then, all these events started working together to make it happen. I look back at it now and it looks like a highly polished thing that we planned out for months in advance, but I promise you it was the most disheveled, unorganized thing. We would get to a location—and it could be anywhere, on a cliff like Mount Arbor looking over the city of Galilee—and we’d have 25 minutes. We’d record the song twice, and that was it. The whole project played itself out that way. It felt like an expedition. We didn’t know what each day was going to look like. HOW DID IT FEEL BEING IN THOSE LOCATIONS?
It was my first time in Israel. The first place we recorded was the tomb where people think Jesus was buried. People love to make a shrine out of geography, but I was like, “I don’t feel anything special right now.” I realized in that moment that as the church—as people who’ve accepted the grace that we have in Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit that is now alive and at work in us—we are the geography of God. We are the temple. God’s spirit is always with us. He’s not just there.
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THE REALIT Y OF PUTTING HUMAN SETTLEMENTS ON M A RS IS CLOSER T H A N E V ER, BU T IS IT A GOOD IDE A?
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or we’re going to be stuck on one planet until some eventual extinction event,” he says. “In order for me to be excited and inspired about the future, it’s got to be the first option.” Tyson, though, disagrees with Musk. For him, the question is not “could we?” but also “should we?” Tyson isn’t convinced that we have to send humans to Mars; he bets it would take less effort and less money to figure out how to survive threats to Earth than to colonize another planet in order to maintain the species: “I think HE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND we should visit planets, as you’d visit any place you’ve never been before,” he says. EVERYTHING IN IT. THE WORLD AND ITS “But we evolved on Earth to live on Earth.” PEOPLE BELONG TO HIM.” (PSALM 24:1) In other words, why spend the money to go to Mars, when the resources to BUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THOSE solve Earth’s problems are here? PEOPLE ABANDON THAT WORLD ALTOGETHER? THIS This tension—whether to NOVEMBER, ACADEMY AWARD- AND EMMY-WINNING invest in fixing this planet or PRODUCERS BRIAN GRAZER AND RON HOWARD ARE invest in finding another one— LAUNCHING MARS, A DRAMATIC MINISERIES BASED IN could end up being one of the SCIENTIFIC REALITY. THE SHOW ENVISIONS THE FIRST most important questions our HUMAN CREW SENT TO HABITATE THE RED PLANET generation faces. And it has IN 2033. a unique application when it comes to Christian theology. What’s unique about the series is the scientific MARS’ AIR is less than 1 percent of In short, does God have a foundations it is built upon. Leading innovators and the density of Earth’s and more than plan for humanity specifically scientists, including SpaceX founder Elon Musk and 95 percent carbon dioxide on Earth, or does astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, all conHe intend for us sulted on the show to make sure it was based THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE on to create our own in scienctific fact instead of science fiction. Mars is minus 81 degrees Fahrenheit future and popuMars exploration is a universally excitlate other planets ing and beneficial premise for the scientific LACKING A SUBSTANTIAL MAGNETIC as a sort of backup community, but the concept of building perFIELD like Earth’s, Mars cannot deflect plan? manent human settlements on harmful radiation from space Jim Stump the planet is actually a point of ASTROPHYSICIST NEIL of the organizacontention. DEGRASSE TYSON MARS’ GRAVITY is 38 percent of tion BioLogos, a In September, Musk unveiled S AY S M A R S H A B I TAT I O N Earth’s thinktank dediSpaceX’s plan for a human misIS NOT A QUESTION OF cated to exploring sion to Mars by the year 2024—at “COULD W E?”— COMMUNICATION SIGNALS from Earth Christianity and the cost of tens of billions of dolBUT “SHOULD WE?” take between 3 and 24 minutes to science, believes lars. NASA’s plan is to send hureach Mars—one way the disagreement mans to Mars in the 2030s. between Musk’s and Tyson’s Musk’s team has already successfully landed their A YEAR on Mars is 687 days perspectives is a conversation Falcon 9 reusable rocket on a drone ship off the East people of faith need to join. Coast of the U.S. this past April, a technology key to SPACECRAFTS take a minimum of six Stump says Christians are SpaceX’s Mars plan. (It was a groundbreaking feat months to travel to Mars called to explore creation—an likened to throwing a pencil over the Empire State act that helps learn more about Building and landing it on a the Creator. “The first chapter shoebox on the other side—in a of Genesis basically commands windstorm.) us to do that—to uncover what God SpaceX’s plan appears has done,” he said. achievable. But it is not about The question then becomes, space exploration for Musk; does uncovering everything God it is to create a new home for made within the “heavens and humanity because TESL A AND SPACE X earth” extend to colonizing worlds of inevitable Earth FOUNDER ELON MUSK beyond this one? extinction. It’s a question that soon may not “The future of simply be the stuff of science fichumanity is fundamentally going to bifurcate along tion, but a reality for people who one of two directions: Either we’re going to become may be calling the Red Planet home. a multi-planet species and a spacefaring civilization,
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W E L I V E I N A N E M O T I O N A L LY T U N E D - I N C U LT U R E . B U T W H A T HAPPENS W HEN ALL THESE EMOTIONS AR ENâ€™T TELLING US THE TRU TH?
10/6/16 10:41 AM
BY JUDAH SMITH
while back I played in a golf tournament at a local golf course. I had high hopes and expectations for my performance because I’m an optimist, and against all odds I always believe there is a pro golfer inside me who will manifest someday. But I had a terrible game, to put it bluntly, and I was hurting inside. I held myself together for all 18 holes—only because I was playing with legitimate adults. A couple of them knew I was a pastor, unfortunately. So I was like, “Oh wow, a bogey! No big deal. Who cares? Listen to the birds. Look at the blue sky.” It was totally fake. That’s not me at all. Who cares about the birds and the sky? I just bogied for the fourth time, and I wanted to die. Or at least cuss. But I played it off like it was no big deal. “It’s golf. It’s just a game.” Inside I was thinking, No, it’s not just a game! It’s the most important thing in the universe right now! But I didn’t say that. I shot an 88, which is bad for me. I knew that my golfing friends would call me and ask me how I played, and I was embarrassed. But I was still playing it cool. Until I got to my car. My whole family—my wife, Chelsea, and our three kids—was waiting for me inside the vehicle. I got in and shut the door. The first thing my 5-year-old said was, “Hey Dad, how did you do?” That was when I snapped. I lost it. I started punching the dashboard like a loved one had passed away or something. Then between punches I heard my ever-observant 8-year-old say, “Not so good, I guess.” Five minutes later, of course, I was mortified. Shocked by my reactions. Embarrassed by my behavior. Really, Judah? I thought. There is already a 5-year-old in this family, and it’s not you. It was a golf game. Get
some perspective. Have you ever been surprised by your soul? Shocked by your feelings? Stunned by your reactions? Do you know what it’s like when your emotions are so raw and so real? You can’t help yourself. You are in a horrible space, a really low place because what you are experiencing is so tangible to you. The source of pain can be almost anything—a word, an event, a loss, a fear. It can be big or small, momentary or ongoing. I’m using my golf game to make a point, but I certainly don’t mean to gloss over genuine tragedy. My point here isn’t so much what triggered the emotional spiral as what to do about it now. What do you do when your emotions are so out of alignment that you can’t see straight? When your thoughts betray you, accuse you and confuse you? When both the world around you and the world within you are equally devoid of hope and happiness? What do you do when your soul hurts?
OUR EMOTIONS DON’T SURPRISE GOD King David was an emotional kind of guy, too. He was a warrior, he was a king and he was a fighter, but he was also a lover and a poet. He was complicated, just like us. Two of the songs that David wrote—Psalms 42 and 43—are clear examples of the kind of soul turmoil that humans everywhere experience. Notice this refrain, which actually appears three times in the two psalms:
Why are you cast down, O my soul and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5) David is talking to himself, and we get to listen in. He
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is saying, “Self, what is wrong with you? Soul, why are you so down in the dumps?” Scriptures like Psalms 42 and 43 remind me that God knows exactly what is going on inside us. God is the master architect of the complicated, confusing and even contradictory constructs that we call our souls. Maybe our souls surprise us—but they don’t surprise God. He isn’t shocked or scandalized by the up-and-down tendencies of our hearts. He isn’t embarrassed just because our feelings get out of hand. He sees the craziness and chaos, and it doesn’t bother him a bit. He knows us
unquestioned, unassailable bastions of individual truth and identity. Question what I feel? No, that would be disingenuous. Unauthentic. I just need to go with what I feel. Be organic and real and unscripted. I’m not being unkind to emotional, feelings-oriented people. I am one, remember? I would be totally in favor of this kind of personal, subjective way of living and acting—if it worked. I would be totally down with this philosophy—if it produced lasting joy, fulfillment and meaning. What I have found instead is that fulfillment, peace, joy and health on the inside are, ironically, often found by doing the exact opposite of what we feel like doing in the moment. Our feelings don’t rule our lives. That is why we must question them. It is helpful, healthy and humbling to admit that maybe what we feel is flat-out wrong.
I AM CONVINCED THAT AN AWARENESS OF GOD’S CARE FOR US IS THE KEY TO EMOTIONAL SANITY. LIFE IS TOO BIG, TOO UNKNOWN AND TOO CONFUSING FOR US TO FIGURE IT OUT ON OUR OWN. better than anyone, and He loves us more than everyone. If God designed the human soul, then it’s only logical that He would know how to fix it when it is out of alignment. Three times David asks the question, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” And each time, he comes up with the same answer. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Hope in God. It’s a definitive and clarifying statement. It’s a perspective that pushes away the cloudiness, the murky moments, the confusing feelings. Two things stand out to me about this.
DON’T BELIEVE YOUR EMOTIONS David is willing to question his feelings. Why am I feeling this way? This is incredibly important in our culture and society. If we want to be healthy on the inside, we have to question our insides. We have to question our souls. We have to question our feelings. That seems so simple. But we are living in an age where feelings have become the
HOPE IS MORE THAN A FEELING The second thing that stands out is the answer the songwriter gives us: “Hope in God.” It’s a simple statement, but keep the context in mind. The author is lost, confused and hopeless. So he looks at his options, and he comes to this conclusion: Either life is meaningless and my existence doesn’t matter—or God is the only hope I have. When we consider the magnitude and proliferation of pain and suffering on this planet, those are really the only two conclusions we can come to. On one hand, maybe God isn’t real and life is an accident. If that is true, then our lives have no significance beyond the present. But on the other hand, maybe there is a God. Maybe we are here because a creator, an architect, a being bigger than us is actively at work in the universe. If that is true, it stands to reason He would reveal Himself to us. Not only that, but He would be committed to preserving
GO DEEPER In addition to being the lead pastor of The City Church, Judah Smith is a New York Times best-selling author. Here are some our favorites: H O W ’ S YO U R S O U L ?
Smith doesn’t ask his friends, “How are you?” Instead, he gets to the heart with, “How’s your soul?”
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and protecting and loving his creation. When you find youself tumbling down melancholy rabbit holes of discouragement and depression, therefore, you have a choice. Either you believe that nothing matters or put your hope in someone who is bigger than you are—God. I think this mental wrestling match is exactly what is happening in these two psalms. We are witnessing the inner turmoil of someone who is facing his options. And he chooses hope. He chooses to turn to God, and that makes all the difference. I am convinced that an awareness of God’s care for us is the key to emotional sanity. Life is too big, too unknown and too confusing for us to figure it out on our own. God is our God. He is our salvation. Our souls can find their hope in him. JUDAH SMITH is the lead pastor at The City Church in Seattle.
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Y O U N G T H E G I A N T BY A ARON CLINE HANBURY
T HE Y’R E A N IN DIE-ROCK OU T FI T W I T H CR I T IC A L ACCL A I M, R A DIO H I T S A N D A SOU N D A L L T H EIR O W N . B U T T H AT ’ S N O T W H AT M A K E S T H E M O N E O F T H E M O S T I M P O R TA N T B A N D S O F 2 0 1 6 .
he third full-length album from Young the Giant arrives amid a specific time and place. Following their 2010 eponymous album, Young the Giant broke out with hits “My Body” playing behind high-frequency TV commercials and “Cough Syrup” receiving a full pop-cultural baptism on shows like Glee and The Voice. Mind Over Matter (2014) earned the group a new, broader wave of fans and projected the guys to headlining tours and rounds on the late-night circuit. And
now their highly anticipated Home of the Strange just released to critical acclaim and debuted at No. 1 on iTunes. But that’s not what makes this band and this album matter for this moment. Home of the Strange represents more than top-shelf indie rock. It’s one of the most immediate records in memory, remarkable both for its prescience and effortlessness. This record could only come from a band with Young the Giant’s genes. All five members of the Southern California band hail from immigrant families. This shared experience not only brought them together and defines their relationship to America, it indelibly shapes their music.
This year, United States faces an ageold tension between insiders and outsiders. Already, the country accepted and settled a record number of refugees at the exact same time more than 12 governors shut their states’ doors to refugees. Around the world, war, oppressive governments and terror groups slung a record 50 million refugees across the world. In response, would-be asylum states quickly took steps to moderate the number of people they accept. Yet despite efforts against it, the diversification of the United States seems unstoppable: During the last 50 years, 59 million immigrants settled in the U.S. And recent research suggests that in less
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Front L-R: Eric Cannata, Payam Doostzadeh, Sameer Gadhia Back L-R: Jacob Tilley, François Comtois
than 40 years, America won’t include a “single racial or ethnic majority.” Insiders and outsiders appear set for a collision. And here, into 2016 America, this quintet of immigrant kids and first-generation Americans release a rock album that wrestles with this very tension. “We all have our relationship here in America now,” Sameer Gadhia, Young the Giant frontman says, “but I think our identity is somewhat in between.” Home of the Strange, for the most part, sounds like Young the Giant. From their beginning, the band’s music popped with sounds, tones and textures that don’t normally appear in rock. You’re
as likely to hear a traditional Indian or Persian instrument as you are a guitar. This fabric of sounds is on full display in Home of the Strange. But one of the first things you’ll notice is the absence of the synth-driven hooks that characterized Mind Over Matter. That album presented a more aggressively rock feel, where Home of the Strange hints back to the self-titled project—while steadfastly pushing their sound forward. At a moment when seemingly everyone in the music industry trips over themselves to experiment with all sounds electronic, Young the Giant doesn’t take the bait. Gadhia says the progression is natural:
HOME OF THE STRANGE
Young the Giant’s third album debuted at No. 1 on iTunes.
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“I think we were really wanting to find our voice and our sound narratively and I think we got there. There’s a lot of diversity in the album.” Tonally, Home of the Strange takes a minimalist approach—instead of a track overlaying, say, 50 sounds, a given song on this album will explore only five or six. “We tried to dial down and really make parts only be there if they’re necessary,” Gadhia says. “The second album was actually more synthesizer-heavy than this album. A lot of the sounds that we actually got—they may actually sound electronic— but they’re done on organs or on analog instruments. It’s not super sheeny. ... “We tried to keep a constant theme tonally throughout the album, and there are some songs that depart from more traditional song arrangements we’ve done in the past.”
WE’RE NOT BEING CYNICAL; WE’RE NOT BEING OPTIMISTIC. THERE’S JUST SOMETHING B E AU T I F U L LY STRANGE AND HUMAN ABOUT A M E R I C A—O R WHERE I THINK W E A R E I N I T.
But don’t take “minimal” to mean simple or stripped. Many of the tracks feature more groove-laden hooks than previous offerings. These often come with bright, 1970sreminiscent beats that give the album a fresh, unexpected feeling. In part, this evolution is thanks to the band’s new collaborator, super producer Jeff Bhasker (who regularly works with Kanye West and co-wrote 2015’s ubiquitous hit “Uptown Funk.”) Still, Home of the Strange is a vocalsforward album, with Gadhia—who draws parallels to early Chris Martin and Matt Bellamy—front and center. But with a noticeable difference: He sounds darker, less poppy than before— one critic describes Gadhia’s sound on Home of the Strange as carrying “an edge of paranoid menace.”
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Back in the 1990s, Gadhia’s father, Tushar Gadhia, moved his family from Ahmedabad, India, to work in the Detroit-area auto industry. Most of the family, though, still lives back in India, some in Ahmedabad and some in Mumbai. Distant relatives are in Gujarat and Bengal, which gives Sameer Gadhia his “half-Gujarati and half-Bengali” makeup. He’s “definitely the first one in the family to go through what it is to be an American.” The area of Michigan where Gadhia comes from was intensely diverse itself, and when the family later relocated to Southern California, he became friends with the other immigrant kids who, though their families arrived from different countries, shared his first-generation American story. During the last year or so, the Netflix series Master of None shined a light on the experience of first-generation Americans. In many ways, the semi-fictional life of Aziz Ansari’s character resonates with Gadhia. Both experienced firsthand the immigrant life of an Indian family in America, along with the tension of trying to fit into two cultures at one time. Unlike the Ansari family, however, the Gadhias aren’t Muslim. They come from a more traditional Hindu background. “Hinduism is interesting because a lot of it is philosophy and way of life,” Gadhia says. “So from a young age that was a big part of my understanding of how to be a good person and how a lot of things are intertwined; I feel like in some ways belief is intertwined. That was a big part of my growing up. I think I find myself somewhere in the ether of being understanding of everything or trying to be open to everything.” If his family grew up with an Americanized Hinduism, those around him in Southern California were something, everything, different. “We delighted in the fact that we were able to be around so many different cultures and people and just understanding,” he says. Gadhia isn’t an outlier within Young the Giant. In fact, each member of the band shares this experience. Francois Comtois’s family immigrated from French Canada, Jacob Tilley’s from Britain, Eric Cannata’s parents came from Italy and Payam Doostzadeh’s from Persia. And as first-gen Americans—actually,
I T H I N K W E W E R E R E A L LY WA N T I N G TO FI N D O U R VO I CE A N D O U R S O U N D N A R R AT I V E LY AND I THINK WE GOT THERE. THERE’S A LOT OF DIVERSITY IN THIS ALBUM.
Tilley and Comtois are residents, not citizens—that means they come from homes filled with music native to their parents’ homelands. Necessarily—and detectably—this influenced the future music of Young the Giant. While Gadhia shies away from an “ethnic music” label, he admits the flavorings of the band’s own diversity is inevitable. “Everyone brings these little things in their stories to the table,” Gadhia says. “And that’s kind of how we joined. There wasn’t much to do in Irvine [California], but we met each other at a very young age (I met Payam when I was like 10 years old), and we all started picking up instruments separately from one another. “I think we wanted to do something a little bit different.” The first single from Home of the Strange is called “Amerika,” an allusion to the incomplete first novel by literary giant Franz Kafka. It’s a story about the wanderings a young, European immigrant named Karl Roßmann. The reference isn’t haphazard; this entire album maintains a literary quality throughout, crafting stories in allegory and metaphor. Gadhia even says they built each song around a set of characters. Nowhere is this novelized storytelling more clear than in “Amerika.” The song, which Gadhia calls a “weird, offkilter, surreal romance story,” tells about a Roßmann-esque guy walking into a
house party. It’s a dangerous, even deadly house, broken chandeliers on the floor and clear signs of distress. At the party, the song’s persona searches for this girl. That girl, Gadhia explains, is freedom or “some sort of liberation.” She’s compelling, but elusive. “That song broke some of the ideas of where we wanted to go with the album,” Gadhia says. “We wrote the song before this election thing was getting super heated, but I think it was just this idea— going back to the fact that we are all immigrants or sons of immigrants—that we’re all in this in-between place.” But don’t overthink these narrative aspects. Gadhia doesn’t. “There are some breaks in that narrative. I think it’s a wider space than just trying to get any agenda,” he says. “We’re not being cynical; we’re not being optimistic. There’s just something beautifully strange and human about America—or where I think we are in it.” Because Home of the Strange isn’t preaching some kind of message. You’re not listening to politics, and Gadhia isn’t merely observing the world then commenting on it. This album really represents a confession, a real-life meditation from real humans. Home of the Strange isn’t about the 21st century American experience; it embodies it. A ARON CLINE HANBURY is the editorial director for RELEVANT. He’s on Twitter at @achanbury.
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W HEN CON T ROV ER SI A L DIR EC TOR M EL GIBSON TA P P E D A N D R E W G A R F I E L D T O S TA R I N A N E W F I L M T H AT A S K S B I G Q U E S T I O N S A B O U T WA R , G O D A N D M O R A L I T Y, N E I T H E R R E A L I Z E D H O W M U C H I T W O U L D CH A NGE BOTH OF THEM.
BY BR ET T MCCR ACK EN
THE CHOSEN ONE
EL GIBSON, BY HIS OWN ADMISSION,
does not live up to the standard of Desmond Doss. Neither does Andrew Garfield, who plays Doss in Gibson’s new film about his life, Hacksaw Ridge (in theaters November 4). Yet both Garfield and Gibson, men born in U.S. but raised abroad, find inspiration in the classic American tale Hacksaw Ridge tells
about Doss: a tale of convictions tested and courageous faith (literally) under fire. Doss was a medic in World War II and America’s first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor. A devout Seventh Day Adventist, Doss’s pacifism kept him from wielding a rifle. Yet he felt compelled to join the Army; he wanted to save lives and not take them. He endured scorn and persecution for this conviction, but went on
to become a legendary hero. Doss survived some of the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific, and in the process he saved scores of his fellow soldiers from death—all without ever touching a weapon. Justly portraying a complex hero like Doss was a challenge for Garfield, more so than a comic book hero like Spiderman, who he portrayed in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and its sequel. “It was difficult to live up to that
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goodness, that purity, that guilelessness and childlikeness,” Garfield says of playing Doss. “It’s hard to hang around with him because I would disappoint myself when the day was over. I would fall back into my own flawed nature, my own jealousies and insecurities, my own irritations that just weren’t present as I was inhabiting Desmond.” Gibson, too, finds the example of Doss a challenge to live up to. “I look at a guy like this and think, ‘I don’t know that I have that much faith.’ I don’t think I’m going into a battlefield with no weapon, repeatedly crawling into enemy fire to save my fellow man,” Gibson says. “I look at the faith and convictions of Desmond Doss and I’m inspired by it. I doubt that I could do it.” The seemingly unattainable level of faith exemplified by Doss is not a reason to write off the story as unrelatable or inauthentic, however. On the contrary, both Garfield and Gibson see the “superhuman” faith of Doss as an important message of hope for a cynical and broken world. “We need these examples, these stories, these inspirations,” Gibson says. “[The story] makes us better because we realize it’s possible. It’s possible to stand by your convictions. It’s possible to have that kind of courage and that kind of faith. It’s possible to keep your equilibrium and principles and adhere to the higher aspect of your calling in the midst of a situation that turns most men into animals.”
BROKEN BODIES AND BROKEN MEN By war film standards, and even by Gibson’s own standards of cinematic violence (see Braveheart, The Patriot, Apocalypto, etc.), Hacksaw Ridge is a bloodbath. Its name, which sounds like it could be the title of an Eli Roth torture film, refers to a pivotal ridge at Okinawa, where U.S. infantrymen endured a relentless barrage of “steel rain” from a well-positioned Japanese army in April and May 1945. Though at times they veer into Tarantino-levels of gore, Gibson’s battle scenes are among the best in cinema since the opening sequence of Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan redefined the genre. The film’s brutal violence has provoked some critics to
Gibson directing Vince Vaughn on the set of Hacksaw Ridge
note a possible incongruity, however, in a film about pacifism that so revels in blowing off limbs and hacking off heads. But Gibson defends the violence as a crucial means to understand the level of Doss’s sacrifice, courage and convictions. “I think you have to understand the ferocity of war, even as an audience member to be a little bit in the foxhole, to have your breath taken away by the hell of war,” he says. “War has to be hell. Otherwise the sacrifice and the courage and the mammoth faith of this man doesn’t come through. You have to see what he was up against.” Gibson said he’s shown Hacksaw Ridge to veterans, including disabled veterans and those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, who all found the depiction frightfully accurate. Gibson even cast a veteran who lost his legs in Afghanistan in a small role as a maimed soldier. “I was very gratified that so many [veterans] we have shown it to, to the man I think, found it very cathartic but also therapeutic,” he says. It’s likely that Gibson himself, war-torn in another sense, found making Hacksaw Ridge cathartic and therapeutic. The world hasn’t seen or heard much from Gibson in the last decade, since around the time of his last film as a director, Apocalypto (2006). The actor-director’s infamous fall from grace included a DUI arrest in Malibu, a divorce from his wife of 26 years, a troubled short-term relationship with Oksana Grigorieva, allegations of domestic violence, struggles with anger and alcoholism, rehab, anti-Semitic rants and more. Gibson became persona non grata in Hollywood. There were calls to boycott his films. He was dropped by his
agency. It was uncertain whether Gibson, who won the best director and best picture Oscar for Braveheart in 1996, would ever work in Hollywood again. And yet nearly 12 years after he hit another career high—and became a darling of religious communities the world over— with The Passion of the Christ in 2004, Gibson is on a path of redemption. This summer he received critical praise for his impressive turn in Blood Father, an underseen but provocative film in which Gibson plays a version of himself (father, recovering alcoholic, man of faith, Mad Max). He’ll soon star alongside Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson in The Barbary Coast, a TV series about the California Gold Rush, and then alongside Sean Penn in an adaptation of Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman, about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. Gibson is even talking about a sequel to The Passion that would focus on the resurrection of Christ and events after and before. But Hacksaw Ridge is the true announcement of Gibson’s return. The film received a 10-minute standing ovation when it premiered in September at the Venice Film Festival, and there is ample critical and awards buzz surrounding the film. Now 60, Gibson is as blunt and surly as ever (in recent interviews he ranted about Hollywood big budget superhero films, calling Batman v. Superman “a piece of sh-”), but like many artists he channels personal flaws into ambitious craft. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman describes Hacksaw Ridge as “conceived and presented as an act of atonement,” which seems
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consistent with what Gibson himself has said recently. “I think if you make a film, your personality is sort of in the film, if it’s coherent and sticks together,” Gibson said. “I’ve done a lot of work on myself these last 10 years. I’ve deliberately kept a low profile. I didn’t want to just do the celebrity rehab thing for two weeks, declare myself cured and then screw up again. I think the best way somebody can show they’re sorry is to fix themselves and that’s what I’ve been doing and I’m just happy to be here.”
HEALING IN A WORLD OF HACKSAWS The arrival of Hacksaw Ridge is timely on a number of levels. It hits theaters in early November, just days before the climax of an American presidential election that has been remarkably divisive and ugly. It also hits the world at a time where war is pervasive and ideologies of hate are seemingly on the rise. It’s a world where everything is weaponized: a terrorist-driven truck on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, “The Star-Spangled Banner” before NFL games, the coughs of Hillary Clinton, the bathrooms of Target, NCAA championships in North Carolina. It’s a world where a film with “hacksaw” in the title automatically feels in tune with the zeitgeist. Gibson’s film attempts to bring healing in a world of hacksaws. “I think Desmond actually says this in the film. He’s got a line, ‘With the world so fixated on tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing for me to want to put a little bit of it back together.’ My hope is that the spirit of what he did and who he is continues to inspire and impact the world around us. This is what stories are for.” As stories go, Doss’ is a good one. From Lynchburg, Virginia, Doss is a country boy from humble origins who becomes an iconic American war hero for saving rather than taking lives on the battlefield. The Capra-esque story was one producer Bill Mechanic tried for 15 years to see made. He pitched it to Gibson two previous times before the director finally took on the project. “I guess I just had different eyes to look at it,” Gibson says of why the third time was the charm. “I thought I could tell that story. I got tooled up and went for it. It’s such an inspiring story. How can this guy have done what he did? And what does that tell you about the human spirit? What does that tell
us about who we might be at our best?” is entirely Australian, apart from himself Garfield agrees. He was drawn to the and Vince Vaughn, who plays Doss’ serfilm because it is “medicine that this geant. Hugo Weaving gives an impressive wounded world needs right now,” he says. performance as Doss’ father, a WWI vet Garfield sees the film’s message as one of whose postwar alcoholism and violent tenencouragement to not stand by idly while dencies presumably inform Doss’ pacifism. the world becomes worse, but to do some- Rachel Griffiths plays Doss’ mother, Tething, anything, to help make it better. resa Palmer his wife and Sam Worthington “It’s about being a servant and healing also stars as an army captain. Gibson’s son and seeing the state of the world and long- Milo Gibson has a small part as well. ing to do something and actually finding a Filmed in Australia, Hacksaw is strucway to do something,” Garfield says. “[Des- tured in two halves, with the first hour mond] found his part of the garden to tend.” focusing on the convictions of Doss in the For his part as a “garden-tender” in the context of his family and faith, showing field of acting, Garfield has stewarded his him as he volunteers for the army and is talents well in an impressive filmography forced to justify his conscientious objector that is full of humanity and conscience. In convictions. The second, far more violent films like Boy A (2007), Never Let Me Go and visceral half shows Doss putting his (2010), 99 Homes (2014) and now Hacksaw Ridge I T ' S A V E R Y H A R D T H I N G T O S TAY T R U E T O he has explored ONESELF A ND ONE'S CON V ICTIONS IN THE questions of what it means C U LT U R E W E ' R E I N R I G H T N O W. Y E T I T ' S T H O S E to be human, to grow, to reP E O P L E W H O S H A P E T H E C H A N G E T H AT A sist temptation, to sacrifice for C U LT U R E N E E D S , B Y S TA N D I N G S T R O N G I N T H E others. MIDST OF TER R IBLE STOR MS. In Hacksaw Ridge, Garfield – A NDR EW GA R FIELD leads a cast that
Though Doss would not use a weapon that did not keep him from being on the front lines.
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convictions to the test on the battlefield. While some audiences will note a jarring contrast between the film’s two halves, Gibson sees them as two sides to the same coin. “Both are like war sequences. One is like testing the man, testing the mettle, testing his convictions and courage to stand in the face of persecution,” Gibson says, who notes that before Doss gets to Okinawa “He’s already been put in the crucible.” The second half, Gibson says, is about taking Doss “out of the frying pan and into the fire to see if he can still maintain those principles when the going gets extremely tough.” The brilliance of Hacksaw Ridge is that even viewers who can’t relate to the literal battle will be able to empathize with the interior battle Doss wages to live out his convictions. And it is this sort of battle, when opposing convictions and consciences conflict, that defines another layer of the film’s timeliness.
current religious freedom debates overtly, but the story of Doss’ conscientious objection carries undeniable pertinence to them. “It’s a very hard thing to stay true to oneself and one’s convictions in the culture we’re in right now,” Garfield says. “Yet it’s those people who shape the change that a culture needs, by standIn a scene from the movie, ing strong in the midst of Andrew Garfield, portraying terrible storms.” Desmond Doss, appears before Doss’s pacifist convichis military superiors. tions were certainly very unpopular in his World War II context, and the film does a good job depicting the ridicule and persecution he en- In one scene, Doss saves Smitty’s life by dured because of it (Gibson insists the real wrestling a Japanese attacker, showing persecution was far worse than what he that Doss’s pacifism doesn’t keep him from portrayed in the film). Yet Doss also loved defending others. HONORING DIFFERENCES EVEN his fellow soldiers and wanted to serve “There is violence there. There is a kind WHEN WE DISAGREE them, even when they disparaged his con- of warrior defense that, when called upon, What happens when a Muslim woman victions. He is sober about the fact that his he will show up with,” Garfield says. “But wearing a “burkini” on a Côte d'Azur refusal to bear arms might put his fellow Smitty is the one who ends up killing the beach conflicts with the French values of men in danger, but he’s determined to com- guy. And then you can see that Desmond secularism and gender liberation? Or when pensate by being as ferocious a medic as he is sort of torn about that. Why did this guy can be. have to die and not me? He’s indirectly “It’s one of the a part of this man’s death. He’s partly rethings that makes sponsible. This is haunting for Desmond.” him even more Garfield sees in the film a timely mes[T HE STORY] M A K ES US BE T T ER BEC AUSE W E fiercely healing sage of “live and let live,” a modeling of on the battle- peaceful coexistence between people with R E A LIZE IT'S POSSIBLE. IT'S POSSIBLE TO field,” Garfield convictions of every sort. And, doubtless, S TA N D B Y Y O U R C O N V I C T I O N S . I T ' S P O S S I B L E says. “But for him some will see Hacksaw Ridge as a relativishe keeps bump- tic defense of “to each their own” morality, T O H AV E T H AT K I N D O F C O U R A G E A N D T H AT ing up against the while others will see it as a defense of resame thing. It’s ligious conscience—for example, a defense K I N D O F FA I T H . – M E L G I B S O N not a choice; it’s a of those whose faith prevents them from physical incapac- affirming LGBT sexual ideals. ity. He has a physIt’s unclear whether Garfield, himself an ical incapability outspoken advocate for LGBT rights who a Native American kindergartner in Texas of picking up a machine of death. He has once said Spider-Man could be gay or panis told to cut his hair because it violates an a physical incapability of taking another sexual, would apply this “live and let live” elementary school’s hygiene policies? Or person’s life.” approach to the religious who believe in a when a Christian cake-baker’s conscience Despite his unorthodox approach to traditional sexual ethic. In a 2013 interprevents her from participating as a vendor warfare, Doss finds a way to coexist with view with The Times about the gay-themed in a same-sex wedding? his fellow soldiers and his actions earn play Beautiful Thing, Garfield said, “There These are real conflicts that have really their respect. By the film’s climax he has is no argument against [marriage] equality. arisen in recent years, as sincerely held befriended his platoon’s most efficient kill- How can anyone argue against compassion faith convictions conflict with the rights ing machine, Smitty (played by Luke Brac- and understanding?” and beliefs of others. ey), and some of the film’s most moving During the past two years, this tenHacksaw Ridge doesn’t engage in the scenes explore their unlikely connection. sion between civil rights and freedom of
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FINDING THE FAITH OF DESMOND DOSS
conscience protections has been a central tension in American public life—from the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision to bathrooms in North Carolina to faithbased colleges in California. All sides of the issue are asking, “What is the way forward when individual rights or national interests conflict with the consciences of religious individuals or groups?” This is a question explored in Hacksaw Ridge, and its implications for contemporary American politics are more significant than the ostensibly feel-good film lets on. Gibson admits that these tensions create a “puzzle.” There are immense complexities inherent in protecting individual citizens’ faith convictions when they impinge upon the flourishing of others, as in a soldier whose refusal to kill might be a wartime liability to the soldiers fighting beside him. In the case of Doss, the puzzle was solved by the humility and sacrifice of a man who showed how heroism can look different and still be heroic. “He earned the admiration of all those around him, even guys who were agnostic,” Gibson says. “It didn’t matter. They understood that what he was doing was an immense act of love, and greater love has no one than to give his life for his brothers. This guy did that again and again. I think that’s an inspiring story even if you’re looking at it from a very secular perspective.”
How do you live up to the faith of someone like Desmond Doss? For Gibson, it’s clear that Doss (in his own words, an exemplar of John 15:13) is a high bar, a Christological aspiration for everyone. Gibson’s Roman Catholicism surely informs this approach. For broken men there must always be models, saints to whom we must look for inspiration in our struggles with sin and pathways to redemption. For Garfield, who describes his personal faith as “free to roam,” Doss’ Christianity is inspired not in its doctrinal specificity but in its humility. “He gave all of the credit for his actions not to himself but to God,” Garfield says. “He never claimed to be a hero; he never set out to be a hero, but he called those men who didn’t make it home alive the real heroes. He’s such a truly, sincerely humble man who just wanted to be himself and do his duty as he saw it.” Though Garfield was not raised in a religious home, he says he is “very interested in what it is to live a very spiritual life.” He says he’s fascinated by the role faith plays in the lives of history’s most significant change-makers. “It does seem like the great figures, the great activists, the great men and women in history had a spiritual component to their lives that enabled them to do these superhuman things,” says Garfield, who was moved by Doss’ “intrinsic” reliance upon and worship of something other than and greater than himself. “This idea of not being able to do these things without help, without some help from something greater than yourself and without the longing to serve something greater than yourself ... that’s really a beautiful thing to explore,” he says. Growing up without faith, Garfield felt that “there was always something lacking” in his life and believes that faith helps channel our worship toward something beyond ourselves or our pleasures.
“As we know if we don’t worship something healthy we’ll end up worshipping, more often than not, something rather unhealthy,” he says. “Look at our consumer culture. Look at our celebrity culture. You name it. We worship the wrong thing; or if not the wrong thing, something that doesn’t actually feed us in a deep way.” Garfield spent significant time exploring the “deep feeding” of the Christian tradition in recent years as he prepared for not one but two starring roles as men of Christian faith. In Hacksaw Ridge he plays a devout Seventh-Day Adventist and in Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming Silence he plays Jesuit missionary Father Rodrigues, facing persecution in 17th century Japan. To prepare for both roles, Garfield spent a year studying with a Jesuit priest in New York City, Father James Martin. He immersed himself in the writings of Trappist monk Thomas Merton, listening to a lot of Merton books on tape. “I connected with [Merton] so much because he seems to be always on the knife edge between faith and doubt,” Garfield says. “He seems to understand that the opposite of doubt isn’t certainty, that living with doubt is just as much a part of living with faith as faith itself.” Both Doss in Hacksaw Ridge and Rodrigues in Silence deal with doubt as their faith is put to the test, both struggling to not abandon convictions in the midst of enormous pressure. For Garfield, the commonality in these characters is the complexity of faith. It’s a journey, a dance of doubt and certainty, weakness and strength, struggle and hope. Even with his apparently unflappable convictions, Hacksaw’s Doss is still just a man living on faith, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Ultimately Doss, like any man who sticks to a minority conviction because there’s something more important than his own popularity, is betting on a truth that he won’t know and can’t know is true “until the end,” Garfield says. “I think there’s something exquisitely, painfully beautiful about this—the attempt to live in accordance with something greater than ourselves, some greater ideal." BRET T MCCR ACKEN is a writer and editor who lives in L.A. His books are Hipster Christianity and Gray Matters.
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N E W S T U D I E S S H O W T H AT M I L L E N N I A L S A R E M O V I N G AWAY F R O M C H R I S T I A N I T Y, B U T D O E S T H AT T E L L T H E F U L L S T O R Y ? BY JESSE CAREY
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SHIFT HAS BEEN happening within Christianity. The way people are talking about, practicing and thinking about the religion of Jesus is changing. You can see the evidence in the numbers. A generation is leaving the Church at a record pace. And many of those who are staying are taking up causes that have been neglected by large swaths of their parents’ generation of believers: The justice gospel has overtaken the prosperity gospel. Preachers and thinkers are asking questions instead of just outlining the answers. Millienials are leaving the Church not because they have a problem with Jesus, but because they feel like many of the churches they grew up in don’t accurately reflect His message as they know it. “I think often they’re dropping out for very good reasons,” says author and pastor Brian McLaren. “They’re not dropping out saying, ‘I want to become a more vicious, angry, hateful, immoral, irresponsible person.’ They’re dropping out saying, ‘I don’t want to be part of a community that hates people of other religions, or makes me more judgmental than I otherwise would have been, or that tells me not to be compassionate to people unless they’re of my background.” People aren’t just rethinking Christianity. They are rethinking the entire message of Jesus. Nowhere has this spiritual migration been more apparent than among millennials, a generation that has seen thousands leave organized faith in favor of claiming “none” on lists of religions. But there may be something behind the rise of the nones. Without going as far as claiming no faith, many Christians are re-imagining what it means to be a believer in the first place. “We’ve all inherited a Christian faith that is a mixture of beautiful resources from the Gospel and cultural baggage and some of that cultural baggage is very, very significant,”
McLaren says. “I think part of what we’re facing now is that this baggage has worked for us in past centuries, but it has now become a problem, and we have to be willing to disentangle the heart of our faith from these elements of baggage.” This shift to a new kind of faith is corporate, in that it’s reshaping Christianity as a whole, but it’s not organized. It’s not the work of an institution. Something very personal is happening to young Christians around the world. And once it takes hold in a person, it changes everything.
A PERSONAL SHIFT McLaren is one of the most influential—and controversial—names in modern Christianity. His books A New Kind of Christian and Generous Orthodoxy fueled the “emerging church” movement a decade ago that led to theological debates and rifts across evangelicalism. To his critics, he is a “dangerous” teacher, willing to pose questions that challenge the fundamentals of evangelicalism; to his fans, he’s a revolutionary. His writings have made him a sort of intellectual mentor to leaders like Rob Bell, and he counts intellectuals including Malcolm Gladwell—who recently referred to him as “one of the greatest preachers of our time”—as fans. McLaren sees this shift because, in many
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ways, he’s helped create it. He’s also lived it and experienced it firsthand. For him, this shift began following a conversation more than two decades ago. “I was a pastor in my late 30s, and I remember one conversation where I realized that for Jesus, the Gospel is not, Here’s how to go to heaven when you die,” he explains. “For Jesus, the Gospel is, The Kingdom of God is at hand. I had no idea what that meant, and I remember leaving that conversation thinking, ‘I’m a pastor and I’m about to rethink the whole essence of what the Gospel is!’” Eventually, McLaren realized that all of the things he saw as problematic about how modern Christianity was practiced—from its politicalization, focus on
“But once our needs are met, then we face the question: Are we actually going to become followers of Christ? And if we’re interested in really becoming followers or disciples or students of Jesus then his way is a way of concern for others not selfinterest only.”
NEW FOUNDATIONS McLaren says that the first step in the process of making this shift personally—from a Christian whose worldview is distorted by cultural baggage to one who sees the Gospel in fresh ways—is to be willing to ask questions. Even if these are “dangerous” ones that seem to challenge ideas we’ve been taught not to question.
[THE FIRST STEP IS] BEING WILLING TO SEARCH FOR THE REAL TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL ABOVE OUR IDEA OF BEING “RIGHT” BY CULTUR AL STANDARDS. rules, tendencies to wage culture wars, denominational divisions—were symptoms of a bigger issue: We’ve gotten the core of the Gospel wrong. We’ve shifted away from its essence. “I just tried to kind of go back to the beginning and learn in fresh ways,” he explains. One of his great realizations was that the Gospel wasn’t just about escaping hell; it was about creating a kingdom here on earth. There were deep, personal implications for this “fresh” perspective: “Is our understanding of the Gospel terribly faulty when it is seen primarily as a message of self preservation?” he asks rhetorically. “Maybe all along, the Gospel was actually a call to us to move beyond selfish concerns. Maybe what repentance means is to repent from only being worried about your individual well-being.” The shift started happening when he applied this new understanding to Jesus’ actual teachings. Suddenly, the Gospel he’d read for his entire life took on new meanings: “I personally think the core of the Gospel is not, Here’s how to go to heaven when you die and avoid hell, but, Here’s how to join God in God’s Kingdom coming and God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven,” he says. “I do think a lot of us come to faith because of personal need. Whether it’s fear of hell or a need for deliverance from addiction or a need for community, we come out of a sense of need and there’s nothing wrong with that.
It’s being willing to search for the real truth of the Gospel above our idea of being “right” by cultural standards. “If Jesus had said, ‘By their correct doctrine you shall know them’, we’d be OK. But he didn’t. He said, ‘By their fruit you shall know them,’” he explains. “Or if Paul had said, ‘The only thing that matters is correct doctrine expressing itself in correct behavior,’ we’d be fine. But Paul didn’t say that. He said, ‘The thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.’” For Christians raised to believe their denomination’s biblical doctrine is the primary foundation of every other belief about faith, this can sound like a risky prospect. But, despite what his critics may suggest, McLaren isn’t simply trying to throw out doctrine in favor of religious universalism. He’s trying to get people to rebuild their idea of Gospel from the ground up. And that may mean re-laying the foundation. “I’m certainly not against doctrine, but I think we have painted ourselves into a corner where a certain kind of system of beliefs has given us a shortcut to a kind of moral superiority and moral complacency that is very destructive,” he says. It’s not that the doctrine itself is dangerous. It’s that McLaren believes we become so focused on it that it allows us to develop major moral blind spots, shifting our focus from Jesus to a set of guidelines that reduce His ideas to teaching dogmatic principles. “Here would be a great example: By those
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traditional lists of doctrine, you cannot have a lot of people who are considered 100 percent orthodox because they have, for example, a doctrine in inerrancy of Scripture or the five points of Calvinism or whatever it is, but they’re still a racist, they still treat women as inferior, they still are incredibly selfish, they put the interest of their nation above the needs of the orphan or the widow. And nobody ever raises a question because we’ve defined the rules of the game to be ‘Simply say the right statement.’” For the personal shift to happen, we have to be willing to question these priorities, even if it means questioning the focus of doctrine we’ve built our faith on. For many, this isn’t easy. And for good reason. “It takes courage because suddenly you ask one question too many and you find out that this community that’s been very warm and nurturing and has sustained you up to this point in your life is ready to kick you out at a moment’s notice for asking one question too many.” But, despite the risk, making the shift isn’t ultimately about leaving community. It’s about helping to change it.
RE-ENGAGING THE CHURCH In this new way of thinking, the Bible is still the primary means of how we understand God, Jesus and His way. But after we become willing to reunderstand the core principles of faith, the next step is to read the Bible with fresh eyes. This starts by rethinking about what the Bible even is. “The Bible isn’t a book that tells you what to think,” McLaren says. “It’s a book that actually challenges you to think, and that’s one of the things that will happen.” This also involves listening to new voices and joining communities willing to see the Gospel in fresh ways. “We don’t have that much practice in reading the Bible from a different perspective, but thankfully we have more and more people who are modeling it,” he explains. “So that’s one of the other things I would recommend as they start listening to new voices and see how they read the text.” Despite a skepticism about traditional Christian institutions, McLaren says that it’s important that these shifts don’t involve abandoning community all together. “Sadly, a lot of them end up joining the ranks of what we might call ‘the spiritual but not religious,’ only because there is no faith community to give them a home.” However, finding these kinds of communities that challenge each others ideas, point each other in the direction of Jesus and work together to serve others
is still key. Big changes in the Church will happen from inside as well as outside. “Many people are forming creative new faith communities that are embodying this spiritual migration and they’re making space for people,” he says. “There are a lot of people in existing churches who are deciding to create new space for people and they’re making room for this kind of migration even in more traditional churches. If it continues, what I think will happen is that we’ll find churches reaching across old barriers. I think there’s real value in Christians from diverse backgrounds who are united by this desire to serve the common good.” Eventually, these collections of believers will be able to inspire big changes. “We have to listen for voices who are willing to critique the status quo, and then we need institutional leaders who have the courage to listen to those voices and align with them whenever their conscience tells them they must.”
THE EVEN BETTER NEWS Brian McLaren sees a shift happening because young Christians are reclaiming faith from the traditions and institutions that have, in many cases, distorted it. Making this shift may not be easy, but the reward is worth it. The reward is Jesus. “When we ask questions about God and violence, and then we go back and look at Jesus, both His life and His teaching, and especially the meaning of his death, suddenly we realize that Jesus brings us better news than ever,” McLaren says. “We realize that what Jesus reveals to us is a God who would rather suffer torture than torture others. A God who is willing to give God’s own life rather than take lives in revenge. It makes us love and honor and respect Jesus more than ever before.” McLaren is encouraged about the future of the Church because he doesn’t see a Church hemorrhaging young people who are abandoning the institutions that sustain Christianity. He sees a collection of individuals willing to ask big questions in order to make big changes. Maybe this generation can change things and re-embrace Jesus in new ways. “Tens of thousands of people are waking up to that realization every day,” he says. “They’re faced with the choice: Do I stay where I am and just keep saying what I’ve been taught even though it doesn’t ring true anymore, or am I going to search for a more honest way of engaging?” For those who choose the latter, a shift will start to happen. And the news that they will find is even better than ever.
JESSE CARE Y is the director of digital media for RELEVANT. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.
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THE ‘COMPLICATED’ RELIGION OF
ST. PAUL & THE
B Y M AT T C O N N E R
BROKEN BONES 66
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(SAINT) PAUL JANEWAY SAYS THEIR FIRST ALBUM SHOULDN’T COUNT. The frontman and vocalist for St. Paul & the Broken Bones is understandably excited about his band’s second full-length album, Sea of Noise. But to discredit the band’s debut LP and the torrent of acclaim that came with would be a silly overstatement. The soulful Birmingham-based sextet burst into the mainstream in 2014 after two extended plays and regional touring. Half the City earned rave reviews from critics enthralled by the band’s gospelsoul fusion. Equally as impressive were the
band’s live shows, winning new fans with each spirited, sweaty show. The dynamic sonic cocktail along with the band’s strong work ethic brought everyone to their feet. Tours across North America and abroad soon followed, including festival stops at Bonnaroo and Glastonbury, late-night talk show performances and even touring with The Rolling Stones. To dismiss the first album is to pretend St. Paul & The Broken Bones isn’t already one of the hottest bands to come around in the last few years. But Janeway calls Sea of Noise an expansion of the band’s “musical palette.” “The new album is different than our first record,” he says. “It’s us growing and maturing as a band. I don’t really consider this the second record. I kind of consider it the first record because we didn’t have any time for that first one. “I think if someone wants part two of our first record, they will be disappointed. But if they’re willing to go on the journey with us, I think it’ll be rewarding for them.” When a band has played together as much as this one has these past two years, Janeway says it’s easy to see why he feels this album is so much better. “The last record was done so quickly,” he says. “I mean, we were a band for less than five months before we recorded that first record. For this one, we had a lot more time. I was really able to really concentrate on the musical arrangements.” “Plus,” he continues, “we played over 200 shows in 2014, 150 in 2015 and we’re going to play over 100-plus this year. As a band, that’s about the best chemistry you can get. When you’re touring and around each other that much, it shows when you go to record. It really rearranges and expands everything.” Janeway got his musical start in the church when he was encouraged to learn how to play guitar and help with the church’s worship service. Some of those themes remain clear in the band’s music even as Janeway’s personal beliefs and habits have shifted over the years. “I loved church,” he says. “The moment the doors were open, I was in church, and I really did love it. “When I was about 11, there was a pastor who came in and kind of took me under his wing, and I would say until I was about 18 or
19, that’s what I was going to do. I loved it. “Knowing what I know now, I think I loved the performance aspect of it. I really loved trying to create a moment where all these people come together and there’s a central understanding. I think that’s a good thing. It really helped me with this job, by being able to read a crowd. I call it ‘fun church.’ It was a bit charismatic. I don’t participate now, but it really helped
SEA OF NOISE
The band’s second album landed at No. 6 on Billboard’s Tastemaker Albums chart.
me in situations I’m in now.” Janeway is unsure of where he’s at spiritually these days, referring to it as “complicated.” “It’s not that I’m against it,” he says. “I just don’t have a strong desire for it right now. When I fell out of love with it, I developed so much venom for the church and organized Christianity in general. Then as I’ve gotten a little older, there’s still venom in certain aspects. But at the same time, there are good people who go to church doing good things. There’s still a peace I find in it, but I am not practicing. I just don’t go, and I don’t feel a strong need to go.” It’s this same level of honesty and “complicated” reflection that keeps fans returning St. Paul’s music. But it’s still a ton of fun. If Half the City brought St. Paul & The Broken Bones into the mainstream, Sea of Noise will turn up the lights. You can expect the band’s already legendary live shows to pop with soon-to-be favorites “All I Ever Wonder” and “Flow with It (You Got Me Feeling Like).” “At every one of our shows, I guarantee you we gave the same effort,” he says. “We opened up for The Rolling Stones and we gave the same effort there that we would at a 200-count room in Des Moines, Iowa. That’s just how we’ve operated, and I don’t think everybody does that; I think that’s what’s gotten us gigs. We really do give everything we’ve got. I know I pour myself into every show.” MAT T CONNER is a writer and editor living in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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T H E FA I T H , D O U B T A N D F E A R S O F H O L LY W O O D ’ S M O S T I N T ER EST I NG BLOCK BUST ER FIL M M A K ER
B Y J AY S O N D. B R A D L E Y
he Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchise is making a major change. When MCU went bigbudget with the blockbuster Iron Man in 2008, the decision was made to keep the stories grounded in science fiction, and to steer them away from the realm of fantasy. This is why every Marvel character carries a decidedly modernist, scientific explanation for their powers. Even Thor and the other Asgardians represent technologically advanced aliens rather than gods.
In 2011's Thor, Thor tells Jane Foster, “Your ancestors called it magic, but you call it science. I come from a land where they are one and the same.” That’s all about to change. The newest addition to the MCU, Doctor Strange, will introduce an essential element intentionally absent from previous films: magic. And at the helm as both writer and director is Scott Derrickson, the acclaimed horror filmmaker—and Christian. Since the early 1960s, comic book fans have known Dr. Strange as “Sorcerer Supreme” and the “Master of the Mystic Arts.” His skills are firmly rooted in the arcane, which is what initially drew Derrickson to
the character. Unlike the Avengers' Scarlet Witch whose powers the MCU attributes to “cosmic energy,” Strange’s powers will simply be magical. “We’re not explaining magic scientifically,” Derrickson remarks. “Magic is magic.” “My interest in the comic goes back a long time,” the director says, “because I grew up reading comics, mostly Marvel Comics, and I always loved Doctor Strange uniquely. It was the presence of the fantastical, the presence of the supernatural that was in it. The idea of magic. Seeing a component that was very unique to more scientifically or biologically weird superpowers. ... I thought that character in the
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Scott Derrickson, writer and director of Doctor Strange, sits with titular character, Benedict Cumberbatch, on the set of the movie.
middle of a magical, mystical, psychedelic world—which is what you get in the comics—was just amazing material for a fresh kind of superhero movie.” But it’s not just his magical nature that makes Strange unique to the MCU. He has a very particular character arc that resonated with Derrickson. As he explains it, “I also was really just taken with the Dr. Strange character himself— a character who had been on top of the world with everything, was kind of a jerk and through a gauntlet of pain and suffering really learned to grow spiritually and overcome himself.” Unlike other superheroes, Dr. Stephen Strange doesn’t get bit by a radioactive spider, injected with super serum or create some advanced technology. The doctor is a pretentious, world-renowned surgeon whose hands are completely destroyed in a car accident, and with them, everything that gave him meaning and power. In his search to find a way to restore them, he discovers the Ancient One and starts down a road that will forever change his destiny. In Derrickson’s words, Doctor Strange is
“one man’s journey from being this soulless, but self-satisfied, ego-maniacal, high-level New York neurosurgeon to being brought down to the deepest valley and losing everything. Losing his identity, his sense of self, his personal relationships, and then having to go on a journey that takes him up and out of himself and into something much, much greater and much, much bigger than he ever knew he could be.” It’s this journey that sets Strange apart from his Marvel movie peers. Unlike many other MCU champions, he isn’t already a heroic personality who just needs a special power in order to shine. Before he can be a hero, Strange is forced to evolve beyond his arrogant and ego-driven character and embrace humility. He doesn’t start out as a lovable scoundrel like Ant-Man’s Scott Lang or Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star-Lord; he’s a genuinely self-absorbed and unlikable fellow. His growth is hardwon through study, practice and character development. “He starts in such a place of egocentric, stunted human development, in spite of the fact that he’s so smart and so successful,”
Derrickson tells us. “He is so dwarfed in his character in his soul that he has great room to travel and he travels that great distance into a world of discovery. Of discovering selflessness, of discovering soulfulness, of discovering surrender and discovering these big things that humanize us when we grow as people.”
a writer and director, Derrickson has focused much of his career on the horror genre with movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister, and Deliver Us from Evil. This interest in movies with a strong good vs. evil motif piques Derrickson’s interest because of his Christian faith. “I love the horror genre for how cinematic it is,” Derrickson told RELEVANT in a 2007 interview. “I gravitated, I think, initially, toward the horror genre because, of all the genres, I think it is the genre that is most friendly to the subject matter of faith
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and belief in religion. The more frightening and sort of dark and oppressive a movie is, the more free you are to explore the supernatural and explore faith.” Doctor Strange shared much of the same appeal for Derrickson. But instead of just being a film about simply vanquishing an ancient evil, it is a film about the internal battle that we all fight. This idea of Strange’s personal and spiritual development seems to spark something in Derrickson as a Christian. A year ago he tweeted an image of the Sorcerer Supreme with a quote by Thomas à Kempis, the author of The Imitation of Christ: “Who has a harder fight than he who is striving to overcome himself?” “It’s about the circumstances they’re having to overcome and what they’re having to learn,” he explains. “There have been a lot of good boxing movies in the history of cinema and there’s always the top contender that your hero’s got to fight at the end, but no good boxing movie is about that conflict. It’s really always about an individual finding out who they are, what they’re capable of, are they strong enough to build themselves up to be able to accomplish something like that. I think in this case it’s great because it’s not about physical achievement, it’s not about a character manifesting himself in physical strength, it really is about getting past one’s ego and coming to recognize that true growth and true power come from a sense of surrender to something greater than yourself and service to something greater than yourself.” When pressed to consider how his Christian faith influenced his work on Doctor Strange, Derrickson observed that he’s gotten away from the impulsive need to express his own point of view as he’s matured as a filmmaker. “In this age where the word ‘Christian’ conjures up angry, vocal, closed-minded Christians and the word ‘atheist’ conjures up images of angry, closed-minded atheists and all of these terms just become fighting words,” Derrickson says, “I really liked the idea that the comics and the movie therefore could just be a third thing where we’re talking about magic and we’re talking about mysticism and we’re talking about possibilities and other realities and places where we all know religious ideas and scientific ideas overlap, even though we’re not really playing with either in this movie.”
" T H E M O R E F R I G H T E N I N G A N D S O R T O F DA R K A N D OPPR ESSI V E A MOV IE IS, T HE MOR E FR EE YOU A R E TO E X P L O R E T H E S U P E R N AT U R A L A N D E X P L O R E FA I T H ."
To Derrickson, the allure of Doctor Strange doesn’t spring from a desire to conform the story to his perspective, but rather comes from the places the source material’s view of the universe syncs up with his own mindset. “I can’t help but view the world mystically,” he reflects. “It’s how I see it. I’m not a strict materialist. I think there’s much more to the world than what we see with our five senses. I think I’m a good choice for this material because I see the world that way.” But he’s quick to point out that, even if you see the world differently, there’s still plenty in this film that will resonate with you. “I certainly made the movie for everyone to try to make that jump and enjoy the ride of possibilities of what could be out there and to do it in a way that wasn’t presenting a point of view, or even challenging someone else’s point of view, but rather articulating what we all know—which is that we all need to grow. “We all have to get past ourselves. We’re all capable of being more than we presently are and the effort that it takes and the will that it takes and sometimes the trauma and tragedy that it takes to force us into that kind of growth is the story of our lives. And to do something that's that spiritual and that personal and that meaningful in the context of a gigantic, entertaining, mindtrip psychedelic action film—that’s the kind of movie I want to see.” The big question is how to pull off this kind of internal struggle in a way that will appeal to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s target audience. When push comes to shove, they’re still buying tickets to see a blockbuster. And you might think Derrickson would worry about the need to sacrifice story elements in order to craft a big-budget blockbuster with mind-bending cinematography. “No. I felt just the opposite,” Derrickson
A STRANGE CAREER Scott Derrickson's 20-year film career includes some of the most acclaimed horror films of this era—a strange career path for a comitted Christian (see what we did there?). Here's how you know him:
Opening to critical acclaim, Sinister is about a crime writer who finds a box of home movies in his new home that begins a series of events that his family suffers from.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
This 2014 box-office hit follows a police officer who partners with a priest to save the possessed people who are wreaking havoc in the city.
THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE
This 2005 horror movie made it to a 2006 list of the 100 Scariest Films Ever Made, maybe because it was loosely based on a true story.
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says. “I felt like the extremity of one gave permission for the extremity of the other. It’s very easy when you’re making movies of this size, these kind of giant tentpole Hollywood movies and we’ve all seen it happen over and over again, but it’s really easy for a filmmaker or a studio to kind of lose control or track of what target they were trying to hit in the first place. And going into this it was very clear to me what target we were trying to hit.”
the end, even the best director relies on his cast to carry the vision across the finish line. No decision was more important than who was going to be chosen to play Dr. Strange. A choice that went to English actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Derrickson remembers, “He was my first choice and he was [producer] Kevin Feige’s first choice. We wanted him right away. I think Kevin was the first one to bring him up and it was probably within minutes I was like, ‘It’s just not going to get better than that.’ I’d seen all the Sherlock
Derrickson (right) works with Cumberbatch on the film's set.
as The Ancient One to be another example of Hollywood’s “whitewashing” issue. Because the Ancient One was originally a Tibetan-born male, critics accused Marvel Studios of erasing Asian characters.
"IT'S A MOV IE A BOU T MOR A L COMPLEXITIES. A ND I THINK I ALSO CHANGED A LOT OF THINGS ABOUT M Y S E L F A N D T H E WAY I WA S L I V I N G A N D T R Y I N G T O E VO LV E M O R E A S A P E R S O N — E VO LV E M O R E S P I R I T UA L LY."
episodes, I’d seen The Imitation Game, and I flew to London and offered him the role. “He wanted to do it. I had a summer release date and there was just no way to make it work practically because he had committed to Hamlet in London. When I came back, Marvel and Disney were like, ‘We’ve got a great date in the summer.’ So I met with a bunch of other actors, and came back to Kevin and said, ‘It’s just got to be Benedict. He is Dr. Strange.’ Kevin, to his credit, pushed the release date for Benedict.” The hype surrounding Doctor Strange hasn’t been without controversy. Many considered the casting of actress Tilda Swinton
In the midst of the rumpus, Marvel released the following statement: “The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic,” adding that the studio routinely casts diverse talent for its projects and “regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life.” Derrickson himself tweeted, “Raw anger/hurt from Asian-Americans over Hollywood whitewashing, stereotyping & erasure of Asians in cinema. I’m listening and learning.”
Spend any time talking to Derrickson and you’ll find this sentiment to be indicative of his thoughtful and introspective nature. It’s no wonder that Doctor Strange would play a dramatic part in his own personal growth. In a contemplative moment he says, “It’s not a movie about simplistic moral perspective. It’s a movie about complexities—moral complexities. And I think I also changed a lot of things about myself and the way that I was living and trying to evolve more as a person—evolve more spiritually— as I was making a movie about a character who’s self-centered and successful and quite oblivious to the areas in which his life was meaningless and soulless. “It was a really beautiful growing process for me as an individual to go through this whole arduous journey of making a movie this size about a character of growth. It was psychedelic and invigorating and traumatic and extremely fun. And I certainly have come out the other side a different person as a result of it. And that’s what you hope for when you invest two years into a creative project.”
JAYSON D. BR ADLE Y is a God-botherer, writer, sinner, husband, dreamer, father, musician and audiophile. He blogs at jaysondbradley.com.
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SHOULD I QUIT MY JOB AND START CHASING MY DREAM? FIVE EXPERTS WEIGH IN B Y J E N N I C AT R O N
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ENTREPRENEURSHIP SEEMS LIKE THE CULTURAL TREND THESE DAYS. With the ability to create a website and the social media tools to advertise to the masses, being selfemployed and building your own business is seemS O C I A L LY ingly more simple than ever. In addition, there’s an angst under the surface of CONSCIOUS society that breeds discomfort in this generation with the idea of doing anything other than what ENTR EPR ENEURS they want to do. If you’re not chasing your dream, it seems like you’re not fully living. E V ERY W HER E , These advances in technology have made the Y O U ’ R E P R O B A B LY question for many millennials, would-be entrepreneurs, activists and world-changers not, “Can I WON DER I NG IF A quit my job to pursue my dream,” but, “Should I?” God has created everyone with dreams and ‘R EGU L A R’ JOB IS plans buried deep within their hearts. The challenge is finding the right way to cultivate those ST I F L I NG YOU R dreams and to determine how, when and where to direct them. DR E A MS. BU T IS So, are you supposed to work hard where you are, or are you called to step out to follow that ENTR EPR ENEURSHIP God-given dream? If you stay put, are you being A L L I T ’S CR ACK ED content or just lazy? If you follow your dream, how do you know it’s a calling and not wanderlust? U P TO BE? Thankfully, other people have been there before. We talked with five experts to get their advice on how to know when (and if ) you should quit your job and start chasing your dream. Here are five things to think about before you decide:
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CONSIDER YOUR “WHY”
Paul Sohn, leadership coach and author of the book Quarter-Life Calling, is a brilliant young leader who from all appearances looks like he is wholeheartedly pursuing his dreams. But when I asked Paul if we should all quit our day jobs and start pursuing our dreams, he had this to share: “Personally, I’ve asked myself this question countless times. Last year, I did the craziest thing an ambitious 28-year-old could do. I quit my high-paying Fortune 50 job in order to chase my dream. But honestly, my answer is ‘Yes and No.’ It depends. It depends on whether your dream is merely an expression of your selfserving ambition or an unmistakable call from God. If you find yourself in the former camp, I’d reassess your dream altogether. Start from ground zero and transform the intentions of your heart. If you know this is a profound sense of God’s calling, I say YES. Steward your time, talent and treasure and go all-in to pursue your dream. The world needs it.” Why you’re chasing your dream is one of the most important questions for you to answer before you make a leap. Are you pursuing your dream because of deep conviction and passion that can withstand the challenges you’ll face or are you simply seeking a fast track to fame or success?
Busy. “This is where the ‘do what you love’ advice for potential entrepreneurs falls flat. Just because someone loves making graphics doesn’t mean that person would love running a graphic design business. Having passion for your business is fabulous, but don’t mistake loving watercolor painting to mean you’ll be great at running a watercolor painting business. A business needs a manager, a salesperson and
NEVER LET THE EXCITEMENT OF YOUR DREAM OUTPACE THE WISDOM GOD HAS FOR HOW YOU GET TO YOUR DREAM.
CONSIDER WHAT YOU LOVE
What do you really love? “The biggest potential pitfall with quitting your job and launching your own business is the belief that because you loved doing one thing that you will love running a business about that thing you love,” says Alli Worthington, business coach and author of Breaking
someone who produces the product (or service). Sure, one person can do all three of those duties temporarily, but it’s not an optimal plan for long-term success. “It’s very common for someone who loves doing something as part of a business to leave to start their own business, only to learn that the act of running their own business keeps them from doing the one thing they love.”
CONSIDER YOUR WORK ETHIC
Productivity expert and New York Times best-selling author Rory Vaden has some strong advice about evaluating our work ethic before chasing our dreams. He shares, “I actually think too many people today quit good jobs because it’s vogue to go after a ‘dream job.’ They think it’ll be easier to pursue their dream job but it’s not; it’s harder. You have to work harder, for longer, for less pay and less chances of being successful because most
dream jobs are highly competitive. Even if it’s your own business, you’ll have a lot more work and headaches to manage. “So do a check up from the neck up about how hard you’re really willing to work before you leave a great job in search of some fantasy. A good litmus test is how hard are you working now? You should always work hard. Crush it where you are. Succeed at the thing right in front of you. Experience all that your current opportunity has to offer. Perhaps it would be more of a dream job if you just worked a bit harder at it. If you’ve already proved you can work incredibly hard, and you’ve experienced most of what your current path has to offer, then sure, make the leap.”
CONSIDER THE COST “I feel bad for my response because the traditional Instagram-type inspirational quote would say an emphatic ‘Yes!’” Casey Graham, CEO
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RESOURCES TO HELP Figuring out how to turn your dream into a career isn’t going to be easy, but these resources can at least clear up some of the confusion: PURPLE COW
Entrepreneurial guru and best-selling author Seth Godin writes about how in order to be successful in any venture, you have to stand out and be a Purple Cow. THE TIM FERRISS SHOW
Best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss hosts a podcast dissecting the strategies people use for success and how listeners can use them. BORN FOR THIS:
of 7 Figure CEO, says. “But after being in business for myself for a decade, I would say, you can’t buy a cheeseburger at McDonald’s with a dream. Real life costs real money. Real success requires real risk. Realizing dreams often times takes decades. So, yes, you should pursue your dream, but only if you have real money to pay your real bills and a real plan to actually sell something to real customers. I believe in your dream, but I also know it takes real dollars. Go for it! But only if you have real commitment.”
CONSIDER YOUR TIMING
Creative director, Stephen Brewster encourages people to dream for tomorrow while being a good steward of today. “I love the dreamers. The truth is most of my life I have lived in a state of dreaming. I am a firm believer in the idea that God is aggressively planting dreams in His people! What comes
with dreams is the responsibility for stewardship. “God wants us to chase the dreams He is growing in us! But never let the excitement of your dream outpace the wisdom God has for how you get to your dream. God has given us a job and the Bible is clear at how we are to steward what God has given us. Chase your dreams! Chase them with passion and excitement. Chase them like crazy but never at the cost of stewarding what God has you to do today. Tomorrow is going to be amazing but not at the cost of today.” Chasing your dreams is a sacred calling. As these experts share, there are some important considerations you need to process before you make a leap. Make sure your dream is really a burning passion. Take time to process, pray and seek counsel from people who know you well. How long have you had this dream? Is it today’s latest idea or is it something you’ve grown more passionate about over time?
HOW TO FIND THE WORK YOU WERE MEANT TO DO
Chris Guillebeau’s book takes readers through the steps of of either finding their dream job or creating their own.
Work on your dream while doing your day job. The best way to determine if your dream is worth the sacrifice is learning how much you’re willing to sacrifice for it now. You’ll have a better understanding of the costs and the commitment necessary to ultimately help you succeed. Chase your dream, definitely. Whether you quit your day job is worth the extra consideration. JENNI CATRON serves as the executive director of Cross Point Church, a multi-site church in Nashville, Tenn. She blogs at jennicatron.tv.
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BY L I S A BE V E R E
Y O U M AY N O T R E C O G N I Z E I T Y E T, B U T M O R E T H A N L I K E LY, Y O U â€™ R E I N A C U LT. A N D E V E R Y D AY Y O U S E E A L I S T Y O U H AV E T O L I V E U P T O. H O W C A N Y O U B R E A K F R O M C O N S TA N T C O M PA R I S O N ?
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HE FOLLOWING ACCOUNT is a sadly true and embarrassing story about me. I hope none of you has suﬀered from the temporary insanity disorder I am about to lay out here, but if you have experienced this ... you are not alone. My day started out innocently enough. I puttered around the kitchen hovering in front of my espresso machine. There was no ﬂight to catch. No early morning meeting to shower for. There was perfect stillness.
Which is the very reason I should have paused to bask in God’s goodness to me. I should have known better than to turn on my phone. Believe me. I know now. I see social media as an opportunity to connect with my friends. Flipping through posts would be kind of like having coffee with confidants. Longing for connection with others is great if it’s the right time and place. This wasn’t either. As I scanned my Twitter feed, I began to recognize my stream of friends acknowledging a list. This wasn’t just any list. This was the list— one I very much wanted to be part of. Scanning the names, it wasn’t long before I realized I had not made the list. Just about everyone else I knew was on it. People I had mentored made the list. Someone who translates my books into Spanish had made the list. You may be wondering what this list was and why was it so important to me. It was a list of the top 100 female ministers in America. Ridiculous questions and comparisons flew through my mind. I read the postscript that trailed the list. Apparently, the author admitted that there might be room for oversight and some women who should have been added to her list didn’t make it. To rectify this, she had provided room for additions. I scrolled down. Would it be wrong to add my own name? Was I serious? Of course it would be! Maybe I could have my assistant add my name. Realizing I was teetering ridiculously close to the brink of junior high insanity, I went looking for my husband. A fluffy whirlwind of pajamas, I stormed into
his office bewailing, “John, I’m not on the list!” My Bible-reading babe was confused. With my arms flailing about, I shared who was on the list and my obvious frustration of not being on it. When my rant was done, he calmly suggested a few Bible passages for me to review. This was not the response I was looking for. I wanted him to say, “Lisa, I am so sorry. I agree there has been an awful mistake. Bring me my phone. I will add you to the list.” But he didn’t. No sympathy was going to be found in the company of my husband. I stormed out of his office yelling, “I don’t need to read those Bible verses to know I’m wrong! I know I’m wrong! But knowing I’m wrong doesn’t make this feel right!” Now I was mad at the concept of the list and frustrated with the author. Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel as though you are on the outside of yourself watching a crazy woman? That’s the moment I was having. I put down my phone, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and let it go. As I exhaled, I heard the Holy Spirit gently ask, “Lisa, would you be this upset about the list if you were on it?” Truth time. I would not have. I would’ve used my social media platform as a way of pointing others to the list. Busted. I am the wife of one, the mother of four and a grandmother, and yet when I disconnect from my true identity I can still struggle with the cruelty of comparison. When we look to others for our affirmation, we will always feel as though we are on the outside looking in. To be quite honest, there is no single person who can completely fill the void of affirmation in your life. (Sorry—even if your husband
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looking in. I hate seeing anyone intentionally left out. Yet there are times when feeling on the outside is the only thing that causes us to look within. In that way, the list was a gift because it located me. So how about those Scriptures, the ones John suggested, the ones I knew? First, there is 2 Corinthians 10:12: Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. (ESV) Learn from me. Don’t you dare classify, compare or commend yourself. Why? It is an action of pride, even if the comparison you make is unfavorable. Pride imbalances one end of the spectrum, while insecurity cripples the other. There is but one true measure, the immeasurable Christ. Here’s another one of the Scriptures I could have turned to: John 5:44:
COMPARISON WILL ATTEMPT TO PUFF YOU UP THROUGH THE INSIDIOUS VEHICLE OF PRIDE, OR IT WILL PUSH YOU DOWN THROUGH THE TYRANNY OF INSECURITY. is perfect, it is not going to happen.) There is no lifetime achievement list or award that can ever write with assurance the words God alone can scribe on your heart: Loved, beautiful, valued, intimately known, mine. No matter what it looks like from the outside, God understands what causes the quaking of a woman’s heart, and God knows how to calm the frenzy of women in pajamas who forget to still their souls before comparison comes to steal their peace. As Theodore Roosevelt so aptly wrote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparison has a pull to it. If allowed to, it will always move you away from your truest center. Comparison will attempt to puff you up through the insidious vehicle of pride, or it will push you down through the tyranny of insecurity. Either way it will not be long until you feel as though you are off-kilter and on the outside
How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God? (The Message) Why would we waste our time ranking our rivals when we have been invited into the presence of the unrivaled God? Whenever I allow my life to be defined by people, I find my connection with my heavenly Father slipping. Soon my vantage is distorted by what I see and hear people say about who I am, and I forget God’s declaration of who I am becoming. I hope you can laugh at my ridiculous morning and arrest any of your own tendencies toward comparison. The opportunity to know Jesus is our highest privilege. When I reached for my phone rather than choosing to know Him more, I chose the lesser thing. Let’s not be satisfied with human lists and comparisons. When we notice the pangs of inadequacy that rivalry inflicts, let’s hit our knees and ask for a revelation of the One who is without rival. LISA BE VERE is a minister and best-selling author. This essay was adapted from Lisa’s new book, Without Rival: Embrace Your Identity and Purpose in an Age of Confusion and Comparison (Revell, 2016).
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H E’S NO N E WCOM E R TO THE CHRISTIAN M USIC SCENE, BU T T H ER E’S S O M E T H I N G R E A L LY FR ESH A BOU T HIS N E W A L BU M. W E S AT D O W N W I T H CROW DER T O D I S C U S S H O W, AFTER 20 YEARS, HE’S FINDING A W HOL E N E W VOICE . BY MARGO ROBINSON
Crowder’s highly anticipated second solo album completes the shiﬅ in his sound.
lot has changed over the last two decades. Three different presidents sat in the White House. The internet grew from a novelty to an irreplaceable part of the developed world. And more sociocultural shifts have occurred than you could name. One thing that’s the same, however, is that worship artist David Crowder is still making music. But unlike similar long-term Christian singers, Crowder’s music itself isn’t the same at all. In 2012, Crowder’s namesake group, the David Crowder Band, played its last show, ending the tenure of one of Christian rock ‘n’ roll’s most prominent outfits. Two years later, Crowder released his solo debut, Neon Steeple. The album, by and large, featured lyrical continuity with previous Crowderwritten songs. But his sound hinted at a stylistic pivot. In September, Crowder released a second solo album, American Prodigal, which completed his southward turn— into the geographically rooted, soulful sounds of the Gulf Coast and the Southern experience. Crowder calls it “swamp music.” If you imagine Bobbie Gentry or J.J. Grey singing late 20th-century hymns and black spirituals, you’re on the right track. In this new genre, Crowder says he’s found the vocal home he’s been trying to find for 20 years. But evolving his music hasn’t been easy, and any innovation for an artist who
built his work around helping others worship God involves a balancing act. We sat down with Crowder to get the story behind his evolved sound, the process of discovering his voice and pushing his art while trying to serve his listeners. THE NEW ALBUM DRAWS HEAVILY FROM JESUS’ PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON. WHY THAT THEME?
I was thinking about songs and starting to think about the new record when at our church, there was a series about the Prodigal Son. The story is actually about a number of characters, and the word “prodigal” actually means, “the one who has been lavished upon.” Here’s the deal: I was born in Texarkana, Texas, and it’s a town that’s divided—half in Arkansas and half is in Texas. Half of the post office was in Texas and half was in Arkansas. And you knew this because there was a pole at the steps that had a Texas sign on one side and an Arkansas sign on the other. You’re supposed to stand there and put your feet on each side of the lines and say, “Oh my gosh, I’m in two states at the same time, take my picture, this is amazing.” And so I did that and you know what, turns out you can’t feel a difference. I think a lot of these lines that we have that separate us, somebody has put there and it’s not what’s intended and nobody asked permission. We just feel them. So I think our job when we’ve been given a lot is to figure out how can we be there in the divide to point to the thing and go, “I love you, there’s no divide here.” AMERICAN PRODIGAL EXPANDS ON SOME OF THE TEXTURES WE HEARD IN NEON STEEPLE, NAMELY THE SOULFUL, SWAMPY SOUND. IT ALMOST SEEMS LIKE YOU REDISCOVERED YOUR VOICE.
“Lift Your Head Weary Sinner” off of
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Neon Steeple opened a door for me where I felt like, “Ah, okay.” I’ve never felt like a singer, I just have felt like I’m accommodating pitch and melody and trying to do my best. But then we pulled in “Because He Lives” and I was like, “Oh my gosh, you’re
HERE WE GROW Yes, his music has evolved. And right along with it, has David Crowder’s beard.
getting into something deeper in me and this feels really natural—I’m not having to fight any of the notes or the melody.” It feels as natural as talking to you now. With the “Lift Your Head Weary Sinner” thing, there’s a whole other stream over here that is in equal portion to how I felt like bluegrass and white gospel music fit my insides: I had no idea that black gospel fits my insides. There is a track that is straight up gospel called “All My Hope” that’s just straight up gospel melody chord passing tones. There’s no line between the things that we’ve got lines between. WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO INNOVATE ARTISTICALLY, HOW DO YOU MANAGE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO REMAIN ACCESSIBLE BECAUSE PEOPLE WORSHIP THROUGH YOUR MUSIC?
THE BILLY GOAT’S GRUFF
It’s the ‘90s granola look you remember from youth group.
THE EASTERN ORTHODOX
The halo hair and full beard signaled a change.
for THE FULL ROBERTSON
What captures Gulf culture better than a hippy Duck Dynasty aesthetic?
The way I’ve gotten around getting in my mind too much is that I don’t really see myself as an artist. I’ve never really felt like, “Hey man, I’ve just got to create, I’ve just got to make stuff.” I’ve felt very utilitarian. It was just hard to find music that fit our collegiate church setting. It was hard to find music
in a way that people like me can identify with. There’s a sense of responsibility that comes there. YOU’VE BEEN DOING THIS A LONG TIME. HOW DO YOU APPROACH BALANCING THE DESIRE TO KEEP PUSHING WITH BEING CONTENT.
The people who are closest to us are the best mirror for where we are, and if you’re able to be seen completely and allow yourself to be seen completely, then you have the best shot at transformation. If you hear something that’s difficult to hear then it’s like, I’m not very compelled by that. But you can hear stuff that is not pristine, but it’s authentic and real. Authenticity beats perfection every time. It does in the Church, it does in the workplace. When you’re able to open yourself up and be seen, all your flaws and everything. When you’re living in that space, the story of Jesus is incredibly compelling because that’s the point of it. The point of it is this guy who feels far away, who had been given a lot and wasted it, and you haven’t gone too far. He blew the inheritance, but he’s with
THE PEOPLE WHO ARE CLOSEST TO US ARE THE BEST MIRROR FOR WHERE WE ARE AND IF YOU’RE ABLE TO BE SEEN COMPLETELY AND ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE SEEN COMPLETELY, THEN YOU HAVE THE BEST SHOT AT TRANSFORMATION. that we felt like was ours. So it was like well, maybe I can write some. It was that simple in the beginning. Then I found out there are some people who have similar life experiences as I do, they love Jesus, but their experience with church culture has created some difficulty in their approach to God and how to carry their faith in public life. I feel that tension a lot, so I think the way I write and think about how to articulate our experience of God comes out
his father and there’s something really deep and meaningful about that. There’s also people who are home and have the presence of the father, have had the inheritance the whole time and are just angry and upset about all of it. I think finding your space is mostly about opening yourself up to be seen—and then you want to write songs about that. MARGO ROBINSON is a writer and justice advocate living in Baltimore, Maryland.
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HRISTMAS these days is a pretty sterile event. A Precious Moments nativity set and jolly ol’ Santa kind of thing. Even if you were to attend a church service sometime during Christmas week, the general concept is about the same. It kind of feels like we’re missing something about the story of Christmas, but exactly what isn’t always clear. Pastor and best-selling author Tim Keller is famous for shaking up paradigms and offering fresh perspectives on Christianity, like in The Reason for God or Prodigal God. Now, he’s taking that same approach to Western culture’s overly quaint view of Christmas. This sanitized version of Christmas, Keller says, misses what’s really going on—the “hard edges”—within the biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ. His newest book is Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ. We recently sat down with Keller to discuss the confrontational, history-shaking reality of the holiday we wrongly perceive as safe.
secular holiday that grew out of the religious holiday and they’re celebrated at the same time. What I try to do in my book at the very, very beginning is to not be too harsh about that. The reason why the secular holiday does gift giving was because Jesus was the great gift. The reason why the secular holiday talks about the poor is because Jesus was born in a manger. The reason why the secular holiday is a festival of lights is because the Bible says that our hope comes from outside of us—it’s a dark world and Jesus is the light. All the features of the secular holiday have grown out of the religious roots. And that’s fine. I’m very happy to share the virtues of the holiday with the broader world. But it is dangerous that nobody will even acknowledge where the roots are. This book is a lesson for people whether you’re Christian or you’re not.
BY A ARON CLINE
YOU ARGUE THAT MOST AMERICANS MISUNDERSTAND
CHRISTMAS—WE’VE SANITIZED IT. CAN YOU EXPLAIN
YOU TALK ABOUT THE IDEA THAT JESUS IS THE GIFT—
WHICH IS VERY CHRISTMASY—BUT HE’S NOT THE KIND
My inspiration comes from a satirical piece that C.S. Lewis wrote years ago called “X-Mas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus.” It’s funny. Somebody goes to the island of “Niatirb”— which of course is Britain spelled backward—and discovers this very, very strange place where there are two different groups of people who celebrate two different holidays on the same day. He goes and describes it and calls X-Mas “a commercial holiday”: they go out and buy gifts and they get drunk; it’s a bit over the top. Christmas is a holiday that’s utterly different. Instead of gifts, it’s about a child born in a manger. And then at the very end, Lewis says there are these theories that these are really two versions of the same holiday that have evolved away from each other over time—but that’s impossible. It’s a satirical piece on the fact that you have a
OF GIFT PEOPLE EXPECT.
Right. I go through Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and then Simeon. Everybody knows Simeon said, “Now Lord, let thy servant depart in peace.” But then he looks at Mary when she has the baby Jesus in her arms and he says, “This child will be a sign for the falling and rising of many in Israel,” and he says “a sword will pierce your soul as well.” He sees baby Jesus and makes a prediction of conflict. What I did is I took Simeon, at Gabriel’s appearance to Mary, the angel’s appearance to Joseph and the shepherds when the angel appears to them. It’s all the same messages of conflict, which is not what they expect. Then the second half of the book is about how you receive this. How do you respond? What does
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it mean, what do you have to do in order to receive the gifts that God gives you at Christmas? CHRISTMAS WILL ARRIVE THIS YEAR RIGHT AFTER AN ELECTION SEASON THAT’S BEEN SUPER CONTENTIOUS.
Recently, a former general and very recognizable person in Washington D.C. had his emails leaked. And he’s absolutely where a lot of people are—just so unhappy with everything going on in the American political arena.
WHAT WILL READING THE NATIVITY STORY LOOK LIKE AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF 2016?
RIGHT, IT’S LIKE THESE COUNTER OR FALSE CHRIST-
In the first chapter of my book, I tackle the Isaiah chapter on which the Handel’s Messiah is based: The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light. The message is that when we feel confident, we feel like the democratic process will work, or technology will work, or we have what it takes to meet our challenges, the message of Christmas
THERE’S JUST NO DOUBT TH AT CHR ISTM AS W ILL M EA N SOMETHING IN A Y EAR W HERE PEOPLE W HO W E THOUGHT C O U L D S AV E U S A R E R E A L L Y L E T T I NG US DOW N. negates all of that. The world is a dark place. There’s even places in the Bible, places in the prophets where God says, “You think you can kindle your own fire, but you have to look to Me for your light.” There’s just no doubt that Christmas will mean something in a year where people who we thought could save us are really letting us down.
8 WAYS TO REINVENT YOUR ADVENT SE ASON If you’re like us, you feel that an overly commercialized Christmas misses the point. But you don’t know what you can do about it. Here’s the key: Drop the self-centric season in favor of serving others. We gathered some of our favorite ideas for where to start:
MASES ARE FAILING RIGHT IN FRONT OF US.
A friend of mine who’s been in politics for many, many years said he’s never seen Washington like it is. He says that there’s all these friendships ending and he doesn’t see them even coming back— friendships within parties are ending over all kinds of things. There’s been a lot of real hard feelings this year in a way he’s just never seen. For quite a number of years now both Republican and Democratic parties have been Messianic— and they’ve grown increasingly Messianic. They are not depicted as “this is a somewhat better way to run the country than the other party,” which is what it was when I grew up. Now the other party is evil, the other party is going to take us off a cliff and our only hope is in this party not that one. Each political group is Messianic, and I think that is actually breaking down. And that’s good. There’s only one Messiah. Democracy, technology, human effort can only make things a bit better. WE CAN’T LEAVE OUT WHAT’S BEEN 24 TO 26 MONTHS OF RACIAL TENSIONS AND UNREST WITHIN OUR COUNTRY. IT’S BEEN A CRAZY COUPLE OF YEARS.
It’s true, and that racial tension is actually part of the same thing [people looking for justice from places that can only make it a bit better]. There seems to be intractable differences that just don’t
COOK A MEAL
for a friend or neighbor you’ve been meaning to reach out to.
your time at a soup kitchen.
your community through a group service project.
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appear to be resolvable and yet they’re serious. Nobody can really see a good way forward. It seems to be that there is just anger on all sides and no one sitting down at any table at all. In fact some people saying that it’s a compromise to sit down at a table with the other side. … I have never felt this same kind of hopelessness. And it’s kind of weird because on the one hand, some of it’s economic. It is true that the economy has never been good, but some of what’s strange is that here you have—both with Bernie Sanders’s supporters all the way over to Donald Trump’s— people who feel like the culture is broken not just the economy, and yet they are radically different in what their understanding of culture should be. But from a minister’s point of view, it’s not bad for people to get disillusioned with the prospect of human beings saving themselves. WHAT WILL SOMEONE READING HIDDEN CHRISTMAS COME AWAY KNOWING?
First of all, the themes are light in the darkness, which is to say that one of the messages of Christmas is that the hope for the world comes from outside of it. It will not come from inside, if we’re gonna have hope it’s got to be an intervention from outside. And that’s one of the themes, I think, of Christmas. A second theme of Christmas, which is quite important, is the incarnation and that we have a God who has done everything to come near us. So Christmas means that we have a God who’s not high and remote, but who actually wants a relationship with us. Another theme of Christmas actually is dying to live—becoming small to become great, losing yourself to find yourself. Weirdly enough, Jesus doesn’t come as a strong
general or an angel of light to summon the strong to suck it up and merit salvation, but instead he comes as a baby, he comes as a poor person, he comes in weakness to die on the cross and atone for our sins so that all people who admit that they’re weak and repent and are willing to also make themselves smaller just like God made himself smaller in the incarnation. So it’s a thorough salvation. Salvation through weakness for the people who admit that they’re weak and who make themselves weak and dependent on God, as opposed to other religions which basically provide salvation for the strong, to the strong. God does not experience weakness in the other religions.
A ARON CLINE HANBURY is the editorial director of RELEVANT. You can follow him on Twitter at @achanbury.
with someone who has hurt you.
books or blankets to a local homeless shelter.
with your parents or grandparents—it’s an adult way to honor them.
on the past year and set goals for the year ahead.
a family for Christmas—make their day, and yours will ﬁnd new meaning.
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JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW WE MOVE
This signals a curious and intriguing departure for James Vincent McMorrow. In We Move, the folk singer-songerwriter moves from the genre that made him famous to a minimalist R&B. He explores traditional instrumentation, electronic beats, synth and high-end production. Marrying these with his characteristic, gentle falsetto, McMorrow creates a whole new sound.
SPLIT THE SKY
In his first solo album, Split the Sky, Chris Quilala of Jesus Culture departs from his previous recordings. This is an ‘80s-vibe, indie-pop version of the same deep, exploring lyrics listeners expect from Quilala. It’s a welcome twist on the current worship scene.
To hear Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel put it, the outfit’s anticipated new album is more lyrically “bombastic and heavy” than previous offerings. That fits: The record is inspired by heartbreak. But Barthel and bandmate Josh Carter don’t stray from their signature synth-beats and popinspired tracks.
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22, A MILLION
[ROUGH TR ADE RECORDS]
[ J AGJ AGU WA R]
[AT L A N T IC R ECOR DS ]
This third full-length from Warpaint is attention-grabbing and focused. This project is simultaneously danceable and soulful, incorporating R&B and hip-hop sounds into their native rock. Still, even with all these shift s in sound, Warpaint’s Heads Up maintains an intense, moody quality.
This indie rock/pop record takes you on an intentional sound journey: Soft , atmospheric tunes aptly give way to hook-driven, anthemic swells. And Real Emotion doesn’t waste any time—the album is exciting from track one and doesn’t let go until its synthtextured conclusion.
22, A Million, the long-awaited return of Bon Iver, features a distinctly gospel sound unlike much of what we’ve heard from them. This electronicforward, seemingly Kanye West-inspired record—though notably brief—takes you through a full narrative as the songs all weave a single story.
Grouplove’s third full length showcases the band’s growth over the last three years. This is a candid offering, featuring fast-paced, chorus-centric indie rock that carries oftendark lyrical musings. Like their previous music, the sound of Big Mess trends bright and airy, occasionally playful.
LESS EXPENSIVE THAN YOUR AVERAGE COLLEGE
SOUTHWESTERN CHALLENGE YOUR BRAIN, NOT YOUR BUDGET
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MOVIES + BOOKS
FREE STATE OF JONES
THE CONJURING 2
LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT
[NEW LINE CINEMA]
Matthew McConaughey stars as Newton Knight, a farmer and Confederate medic who had a change of heart, leading him to start a rebellion against Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. After the war ends, Knight tries to maintain his group’s power throughout the Reconstruction era.
The sequel to the hit movie The Conjuring brings back paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren as they go to England to help a family living in a demon-possessed house in the late 70s. This is one of several horror-thriller movies written by brothers (and Christians), Chad and Carey Hayes.
Ewan McGregor plays Jesus— and the Devil—in this movie that imagines what the time Jesus spent in the desert looked like. He’s confronted with the Devil, who wants to tempt Him and test Him. But this widely known story becomes fascinating when the tempted and the tempter are the same person.
This documentary by Ava DuVernay focuses on race and the way it plays a major role in the fact that the United States has the world’s highest rate of incarceration. The film’s title, The 13th refers to the 13th constitutional amendment which abolishes slavery except as punishment for a crime.
DOCTOR of MINISTRY DEGREE Transformational Leadership Track
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Th sta wr wh
THE BROKEN WAY: A DARING PATH INTO THE ABUNDANT LIFE
LOVE, HENRI: LETTERS ON THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
UPSTREAM: SELECTED ESSAYS
[THE PENGUIN PRESS]
[THE PENGUIN PRESS]
Released on the 20th anniversary of his death, this collection of previously unpublished letters of Henri Nouwen offers a warm introduction to a broad swath of his work. Readers will find themselves imagining that they have the privilege of listening in as Nouwen shares his wisdom.
These essays sit at the intersection of two of the most prominent themes in Oliverâ€™s work: the craft of writing and a deep love for the natural world. In an age that is losing attentiveness, these essays invite us to savor the wonders that surround us at any given moment.
ANN VOSKAMP [ZONDERVAN]
With her signature, lucid style of prose, Ann Voskamp offers us a stunning meditation on what it means to follow in the way of Jesus, preferring others to ourselves and learning to enter compassionately into the struggles of others.
Swing Time explores the lives of two young, biracial women who are childhood friends in London, but whose lives diverge as they have grown older. Although this novel wrestles with crucial issues of race and class, it is strikingly illuminated with flashes of dry humor.
MAKE A SEVEN PROGRAMS TWELVE CONCENTRATIONS MULTIPLE LOCATIONS 100% ONLINE OPTIONS AVAILABLE *check JohnsonU.edu for available program locations
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RELEVANT PODCAST SOME NOTABLE RECENT EPISODES OF THE WEEKLY RELEVANT PODCAST
CROWDER AND MATTHEW SOERENS
Shauna Niequist, speaker and author of Present Over Perfect joins the podcast and talks about her new book, why the whole idea of being efficient is probably overrated and how it’s important to slow down sometimes. Science Mike also joins as a co-host and clears up some common scientific misconceptions.
Hillsong United discusses their new documentary, Let Hope Rise and how they fit into the greater global worship movement. Jesse and Cameron talk about their annual trip to Lollapalooza and share some of the music from their favorite bands at the festival. And our friend Calvin comes back to talk inefficient Olympic swimming techniques and more.
Stand-up comedian Nate Bargatze joins this edition of the podcast to talk about his faith and how that intersects with his comedy, his worst job ever and what it was like to perform on The Tonight Show. They also discuss why Jim Gaffigan ended his sitcom, pizza delivery drones, what your Instagram feed says about your mental health and much more.
EPISODE 511 Crowder performs music from his newest album, American Prodigal. Matthew Soerens, the U.S. Director of Church Mobilization for World Relief and co-author of a new book on the global refugee crisis, talks about how we can all do something to help some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
Now available from Discover y House, trusted publisher of timeless devotionals since 1988.
d h p . or g
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RELEVANT.TV SOME OF THE CURATED VIDEOS AND SHORT FILMS PLAYING NOW ON RELEVANT.TV
LET HOPE RISE CLIP
NOT THE SAME
WRITTEN IN KINGS
“Heart Haunting” is the latest single off of LaPeer’s upcoming EP titled When Lands Are Golden. The song and video focus on the way a heartbreak feels when a couple breaks up and has to learn how to carry on life day-to-day without one another. Directed and edited by Josiah Schmidt, the video is minimalistic in a sense.
In this clip, from the Hillsong documentary, Let Hope Rise, Joel Houston talks about how the worship experience reminds him to look to the picture of the cross. He talks about being honest with your faith and loving others honestly. The film is about humanity, the power of music to reach people, and most importantly, hope.
For their newest video, Written In Kings decided to illustrate what it looks like when we hold on to our past mistakes to the point where we allow them to define who we are. Written In Kings regularly bridge the gap between faith and mainstream culture, creating a new norm for themselves.
Sascha Xiomara is a jack of all trades. She’s worked as a singer, songwriter, actress, lawyer and model all while gaining international popularity for her music career. For the video to her latest single, “Not the Same,” Sascha Xiomara mixes a pop beat with pensive and picturesque landscapes and visuals.
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NOV/DEC 2016 ISSUE 84
SHOULD HUMANS GO TO MARS? The reality of putting human settlements on the red planet is closer than ever. Good idea?
HOW IS YOUR SOUL? Pastor Judah Smith helps you navigate your tricky emotions.
DIRECTOR STRANGE Meet Scott Derrickson, the mastermind writer-director behind Marvel's psychedelic, religiously loaded Doctor Strange.
SHOULD YOU CHASE YOUR DREAM? How do you know when it's time to quit your day job and chase your dreams? Five experts weigh in.
The controversial Mel Gibson is back, directing one of the year's most important films—and front and center is Andrew Garfield in an Oscar-worthy performance.
THE CULT OF COMPARISON Lisa Bevere knows the trap, and she understands how to get out.
52 YOUNG THE GIANT
One of Christian music's most influential voices has a new project featuring a whole new sound.
66 ST. PAUL AND THE BROKEN BONES
FIR ST WOR D
CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE
Leagues, Sir the Baptist, Joel Houston, Haelos, Mothers
THE REBIRTH OF DAVID CROWDER
Why Jim Gaffigan quit TV; Lupita Nyong'o; Jamie Tworkowski of TWLOHA; the gender wage gap; religion is worth more than you think; Lecrae and Carl Lentz on Black Lives Matter; religious freedom and more
THE EDGES OF CHRISTMAS We've sanitized the birth of Jesus. Tim Keller explains how to recover the grittier, true meaning.
R E J E C T A PAT H Y
Children in the global refugee crisis, child malnutrition, Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protests 90
R E L E VA N T R E C O M M E N D S
The music, movies, videos and books we’re excited about
10/6/16 10:42 AM
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NEW ALBUM FROM BETHEL MUSIC WRITERS OF ‘NO LONGER SLAVES’ - DOVE AWARD NOMINATED ‘SONG OF THE YEAR’
Published on Oct 26, 2016