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91 PETE HOLMES | RICHARD ROHR | KB | GRETA GERWIG THE LONE BELLOW | CHAD VEACH | ATLAS GENIUS JESSIE WARE | BULLY | THE WELCOME WAGON F A I T H , C U LT U R E & I N T E N T I O N A L L I V I N G

Russell Brand The comedian and activist opens up about addiction, sobriety and how the message of Jesus changed his life.

JAN-FEB 2018 // $6.95 US


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CONTENTS

T H E M A G A Z I N E O N FA I T H , C U LT U R E & INTENTIONAL LIVING

JAN-FEB 2018 // ISSUE 91

January-February 2018, Issue 91 Our most on-Brand issue ever.

Publisher & CEO | CAMERON STRANG Brand Director | JESSE CAREY Managing Editor | ANDRE HENRY Contributing Editor | TYLER HUCKABEE Production Editor | KATHY PIERRE Senior Writer | TYLER DASWICK Editorial Assistant | LESLEY CREWS Contributing Writers: Jemar Tisby, Stephanie Granada, Seth James, Matt Adkins, Devin Jones, Julie Perkins

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Creative Director | JOHN DAVID HARRIS Designer | ALEXA MENDEZ Contributing Designer | LAUREN HARVILL

Features

Director of Web Development | DANIEL MARIN Director of Audio and Visual Media | NATHAN GRUBBS Audio Producer | CHANDLER STRANG

Russell Brand

Contributing Photographers: Eric Ryan Anderson, Mary Caroline Russel, Nate Dumlao, Tom Beard, Nedda Afsari, Ben Zucker, Steve Schofield, Alyssa Gafkjen, Andy Barron, Nate Shuls

p.60

Director of Business Development | AME LYNN FUHLBRUCK

Russell Brand has figured out how to fix the world: getting everyone to start taking the message of Jesus seriously.

Account Manager | HEATHER VOORHEES Account Manager | KAYLEE SANFORD Marketing Director | CALVIN CEARLEY

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3 8 // THE LONE BELLOW Joy? Pain? Loss? Contentment? The folk trio finds inspiration in it all.

Support Coordinator | MIKAYLAH ROUCHARD

4 2 // THE OTHER RUSSIA SCANDAL

6 8 // 6 CHURCHES CHANGING IT ALL

Russia is clamping down on religious freedom. Why isn’t anyone noticing?

A look at some of the churches in the U.S. that are really breaking the mold.

4 6 // PETE HOLMES

7 2 // WHEN LIFE ISN’T GOING TO PL AN

The creator and star of Crashing reveals the personal faith journey driving the series.

5 0 // E XPERT NE W Y E AR ADVICE A few tips on how to make 2018 a year you look back on fondly.

5 4 // KB: THE NE W REBEL-IN-CHIEF The Lecrae protege has big plans for the hip-hop industry.

5 6 // THE UNITED STATES OF PRIVILEGE The reality of racial and gender privilege, and what we can do about it.

6 6 // JESSIE WARE How one of England’s best-kept secrets found the courage to make her music real.

Circulation and Traffic Manager | CAROLINE COLE Brand Experience Coordinator | MORGAN HICKEY

Chad Veach on what to do when we feel like we missed God’s will for our lives.

7 6 // DECONS TRUCTION ZONE Sarah Bessey, Father Richard Rohr and others on how to question your faith well.

8 0 // ATL AS GENIUS The indie hitmakers on how wrestling through depression has taken them higher.

8 2 // BE BET TER AT FACEBOOK Don’t post that hot take on Facebook until you’ve read this.

8 4 // THE MOS T DANGEROUS SERMON Brian Zahnd on why one of history’s most famous sermons needs to be re-examined.

Operations Manager | JESSICA COLLINS Project Manager | BRIDGET DOMBKOSKI Finance Director | MICHAEL BOWLES ADVERTISING INQUIRIES: www.RELEVANTmagazine.com/advertise

RELEVANT MEDIA GROUP 55 W. Church St., Suite 211, Orlando, FL 32801 RELEVANTmediagroup.com TO SUBSCRIBE RELEVANTmagazine.com/subscribe Rates: 1 year (6 issues) U.S. $26.99, Canada $36.99, International $45.99 SUBSCRIBER SERVICES WEB: RELEVANTmagazine.com/subservices Phone: 866-402-4746 EMAIL: support@relevantmagazine.com BULK DISCOUNTS: 866-402-4746 RETAIL DISTRIBUTION Michael Vitetta, Curtis Circulation Company mvitetta@curtiscirc.com

1 2 // FIRS T WORD

8 8 // RELE VANT SELECT S Our favorite new artists, and the books,

1 4 // CURRENT The 18 best movies of the last 18 years, dress your own hipster pastor, an interview

music and movies you should be adding to your collection this month.

with the director of Lady Bird, Bill Gates’

9 6 // L AS T WORD

new vision for paradise, a brand new robo-

Brian Houston opens up about the secret

religion and much more.

that’s made him a better communicator.

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Issue #91 January/February 2018 (ISSN: 1543-317X). RELEVANT is published 6 times a year in January, March, May, July, September and November for $26.99 per year by RELEVANT Media Group, Inc., 55 W. Church St., Suite 211, Orlando, FL 32801. Periodicals postage paid at Orlando, FL, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to RELEVANT Magazine, P.O. Box 531147, Orlando, FL 32853.

2018


MILLION LIFETIMES THE NEW ALBUM FROM RIVER VALLEY WORSHIP

available march 2

DEBUT SINGLE “WORLD NEEDS JESUS” AVAILABLE ON APPLE MUSIC & SPOTIFY TODAY 05

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LIVE ALIVE A Podcast about Discovering Life as it Should Be

Tired of going it alone? Let’s experience more of God together. Last year we buried our prayers in a time capsule. This spring we’re going back to open it. We’ve invited Bob Goff to join us.

Podcast Coming Spring 2018

@letslivealive

LetsLiveAlive.com

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FIRST WORD a letter from the publisher

politicization of the current brand of evangelical Christianity. No matter what triggered it, we’ve all been there. Questioning everything. Is there a God? If so,

WE MAY NOT

Planning the Unplanned

What should following Him actually

Sometimes in our lives, things don’t work out like we expected them to, but God’s plan is always bigger than our own.

because He keeps pulling us toward

A LOT OF WHAT

and have a purpose for my life?

WE’RE SEEING

For some, the wrestling lasts for a season. For others, it’s a lifelong quest. Many of us know God is real Him. He keeps revealing Himself to us through His Word, His Spirit,

we know a relationship with Him matters. That changes everything. So, with an open heart, shedding

The reason, aside from the fact I hate writing, is that

best we can), we begin our spiritual journey anew. Eyes wide open, not

plan, of course, but we’re always making changes—pulling

knowing what’s on the other side,

stories, expanding others and making adjustments late into

we stare into the abyss. It’s in that posture of

initial lineup, and I like to see the issue in its final form

vulnerability and genuine desire

before writing the introduction.

that God reveals Himself. It’s there we know He’s real. We know we

Faith, culture, life, justice—it’s a wide spectrum of seemingly

need Him. And we know that we’ll

unconnected topics. Each time, though, unexpected threads

never have it all figured out.

In this issue, we talk to Pete Holmes, Russell Brand, Sarah Bessey, Father Richard Rohr, KB, Chad Veach and many

That’s what you’ll keep hearing throughout this issue. It wasn’t planned; it’s just what revealed itself. In life, faith and magazine

others. In each conversation, no matter what the interview

publishing, things rarely turn out

was initially about, you’ll notice they drift toward a similar

how we thought they would, but the

theme: rethinking our faith.

new story always turns out better

Not walking away from it, per se. But being OK with stopping to ask questions. So many times in this issue, the

EVERYTHING.

our cynicism, naiveté and pain (as

each issue is a moving target until it’s finished. We have a

narrative of what God might be saying becomes clearer.

WITH HIM THAT CHANGES

RELEVANT. Ninety-nine pages are sent

emerge. As the final pieces fall into place, the bigger

WE KNOW A RELATIONSHIP MATTERS.

the last thing I do on a new issue of

The collection of articles in RELEVANT is always unique.

TODAY, BUT

all the answers, and we may not seeing in the Church today, but

the process. The finished issue looks far different from the

IN THE CHURCH

even His creation. We may not have

itting down to write this column is always

frustrates our project managers to no end).

CONNECT WITH

look like? Does He really love me

connect with a lot of what we’re

to the printer, and then I start (which

HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, AND

have we been told the whole truth?

S

WE MAY NOT

than anything we could have ever planned.

topic of wrestling with belief and doubt—and what led to it—comes up. There’s a moment in all of our lives when we start to rethink why we believe what we believe. Maybe our worldview is turned upside down because we experience tragedy and wonder how God could let it happen. Or maybe we grow disillusioned after being hurt by the Church. Or maybe we have a scientific and academic awakening.

C A MER ON S T R A NG

Or maybe we just want to distance ourselves from the

Publisher & CEO

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CURRENT A B I M O N T H LY L O O K A T F A I T H , L I F E A N D C U LT U R E

Are Christian Millennial Political Beliefs Getting More Centrist?

  All told, evangelical millennials are significantly more conservative than their peers on almost all issues, but when you put a magnifying glass over their individual beliefs, they’re trending toward a more diverse view than their elders. And just as interesting, they’re doing all of this without a

The generally held consensus is that younger Christians tend to be more liberal than older Christians, but the truth is more complex.

significant change in party affiliation.   About half of all evangelical millennials identify as leaning Republican—only slightly fewer than older evangelicals.

D

ON’T LOVE THE recent uptick

Fifty-five percent said stricter environmental

in political divisiveness and

laws are worth the financial cost,

partisan extremism? You’re

whereas only 43 percent of older

not alone—especially if you

evangelicals agreed.

happen to be a younger

  But it’d be a mistake to say

evangelical Christian. As it turns out, the current generation of

that young evangelicals are drifting more liberal in general.

While millennial evangelicals are a little

MILLENNIAL EVANGELICALS HAVE A NUANCE IN THEIR POLITICS

evangelicals has a far more diverse spectrum

In fact, they’re more conservative

of political beliefs than their parents, and

than the previous generation

it’s turning them into a more nuanced voting

when it comes to pro-life issues.

bloc than current evangelicals.

Pew found that 65 percent of

  According to Pew Research Center,

millennial evangelicals believe

millennial evangelicals’ opinions on some

abortion should be illegal in most

topics are drifting more toward what’s been

or all cases. Sixty-three percent of older

more likely than their parents to identify as

generally pegged as being “liberal.”

evangelicals agreed.

moderate, this means that if the Republican

In the case of immigration, 27 percent

  That’s only a slight difference, but it shows

Party wants to continue to rely on their

of young evangelicals said an increasingly

that millennial evangelicals have nuance in

vote, they’re going to have to start evolving

diverse population was good for the country,

their politics that has often been lacking in

their platform to keep up with the rapidly

compared to just 13 percent of their elders.

the partisan views of older Americans.

changing views of voters.

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THAT HAS BEEN LACKING.

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2. ANGELINA JOLIE

She gives to every cause from HIVaffected children in Africa to, of course, refugee organizations.

3. BEYONCE

Beyonce’s mindful of how she uses her wealth—donating to various causes around the world.

4. IAN SOMERHALDER

The Vampire Diaries star established a foundation to advance environmental conservation efforts.

The 6 Most Charitable Celebrities

5. GEORGE LUCAS 1. TAYLOR SWIFT

IN THE WAKE OF last summer’s hurricanes, celebrities

like Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Oprah lined up to offer relief for affected areas like Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Houston. It’s a reminder that celebrity charity isn’t as rare as you might think. Here are some of

Maybe you’ve heard of her. While more famous for her music and her love life than her generosity, Swift is mighty free with her checkbook, having donated to Louisiana flood victims, public schools, and even quietly chipping in to help fellow pop starlet Kesha with her legal woes.

When Lucas sold Star Wars, he gave almost all the money away, investing it in education causes.

6. MILEY CYRUS

Cyrus is focused on fighting teen homelessness, investing a ton in at-risk youth.

the most consistently generous.

China Continues Its House-Church Crackdown

JAN-FEB

IN JANUARY OF LAST YEAR, government

security forces in China raided homes throughout the Xinjiang region, rounding up and arresting more than 80 Christians affiliated with a network of house churches. It’s a crime to engage “in religious activities at non-religious sites,” which in China, means worship outside of a state-sanctioned church,

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and crackdowns in the country are becoming increasingly common. On July 30, dozens more Christians were taken into custody in a series of raids. For Jesus followers, not even public spaces are safe in the country that will soon be home to the most Christians of any nation on Earth.

2018


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JULIANNA MARRACCINO, RESIDENCE HALL CHAPLAIN

Visit Truett Seminary March 22-23, 2018 baylor.edu/truett/preview RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM 017 Baylor University admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, or veteran status.


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THE HOT LIST Bimonthly Culture Power Rankings

UberAIR

TA I KA WA I T I T I [Hottest]

With Thor: Ragnarok, the kiwi filmmaker delivered the best-reviewed superhero movie ever.

R EA L N EWS [Hotter]

The New York Times hit a record number of

Can Uber’s Flying Cars Save L.A. From Its Massive Air Pollution Problem?

subscriptions in 2017.

RIDE-SHARING COMPANY UBER recently

with a network of flying vehicles that could

P O P S O N GS

announced a new partnership with NASA

bypass roads—and potentially make a huge

[Hot]

called the “Space Act Agreement” for the

difference in traffic-clogged cities like Los

Does your movie trailer

two companies to create a never-before-

Angeles, where it will debut. With uberAIR,

have one yet?

seen air traffic control system. The system

a typically 90-minute trip from LAX to

will support Uber’s vision to get cars off the

the Staples Center would take about half

road by offering a cheaper—and potentially

an hour. For a city that’s known for being

cleaner—solution than driving: flying “cars.”

choked by smog, getting cars off the road

COV E RS O F ’80 S

Uber envisions improving urban travel

would be a huge step in cutting air pollution.

VA N S WA R P E D TO U R [Cold]

After 24 years, it’s shutting down. Thanks for the memories.

S K I N N Y J EA N S [Colder]

The U.S. Will Accept Only 45,000 Refugees Annually

Update your hipster

IN WHAT MARKS the lowest

wardrobe jokes. Full legs

number of individuals fleeing persecution welcomed to the United States in nearly 40 years, President Donald Trump plans to limit the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. to just 45,000. By comparison,

are back, baby.

V E R I F I E D ACCO U N TS [Coldest]

Apparently, Twitter’s blue check marks either mean you’re famous or

throughout the ’90s, that number averaged well over 100,000. The low cap comes at a particularly perilous time for vulnerable communities: There are currently more refugees around the world than any time since World War II.

55 PERCENT: DECREASE IN NUMBER OF

REFUGEES ADMITTED TO THE U.S.

SINCE THE 1990S.

a Nazi.

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MISC.

W

ONDER WOMAN’S

accomplishments are almost too many to name at this point. It’s

the highest-grossing superhero origin movie of all time. It’s the highestgrossing movie of last summer. And most notably, it’s the highest-grossing female-directed movie of all time, having been helmed by Monster director Patty Jenkins. All that means Jenkins and Wonder

Pope Francis may have a solution to Brazil’s dwindling priesthood: allowing married men to join. The Catholic Church is considering “an experiment for the

Woman herself, Gal Gadot, had a lot of

moment” confined

leverage when it came to the inevitable

to Brazil.

sequel, and they used that leverage to establish some bragging rights, as well as help make Hollywood a better place for women in general. First, Jenkins was able to net herself a reportedly record-setting payday, but she had to fight for it. Her request was supposedly pretty simple: She wanted pay equity with fellow DC superhero film director Zach Snyder, whose own Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, did not perform up to Wonder Woman’s

A New Era for Hollywood Women Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins are ushering in a fairer film industry.

box office standards. That’s a big step forward for women in Hollywood, but that’s not all. The first movie got a production assist from Brett Ratner, the notorious lothario who’s been accused of sexual harassment by numerous women. But

president of Facebook (the one Justin Timberlake played in The Social Network) is opening up about his discomfort with the site. In an interview with Axios, Parker said Facebook “literally changes your relationship with society,” which, like, duh.

JAN-FEB

has found a way to make flying even worse: They are extending their in-concert series, in which singers perform for non-consenting audiences literally trapped in their seats.

for the sequel? Ratner won’t be able to touch it with a 10-foot lasso.

SEAN PARKER: FACEBOOK TRIES TO EXPLOIT YOUR ATTENTION SEAN PARKER , the first

Southwest Airlines

But then he said this: “The thought process that went into building these applications … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” Yeah. Cool. Thanks for the heads up, Sean.

020

CERN scientists revealed they don’t think The Big Bang makes sense. After observing particles in new ways, they said according to current thinking, “The universe should not actually exist.”

2018


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apu.edu/music-entrepreneurship apu.edu/screenwriting

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[ H O W T O]

Dress Your Own Hipster Pastor

A

B

Help him ask a little more Yeezus into his heart.

“THE WORLD HAS YET TO SEE what God

can do through one man who never leaves the house without looking hype AF.” D.L. Moody said that, we think. Long gone are the days of monastic

C

robes or the old suit and tie your mom’s pastor wore. Don’t even try to walk the straight and narrow in 2018 if you’re not doing it in a pair of tan Gucci boots. To what do we owe this trend? Hard to say. To some extent, spiritual leaders have always had a certain look to them, so maybe we’re just seeing another evolution in pastoral garb. But if that’s the case, it’s a pricey one. Some of today’s most prominent pastors are spotted draped in Yves Saint Laurent, the latest from Fear of

D

God and, of course, Yeezys. Can’t forget about the Yeezys. If your pastor isn’t in a rare tax bracket (or on a first-name basis with some high-profile designers), these clothes are probably out of their ministerial price range. But the first step to full hipster pastordom is to walk in the footsteps of those who have gone before. See what your pastor could look like with RELEVANT’s handy paper pastor and essential hipster accessories.

JAN-FEB

A. MAN BUN & BEARD Imitation of

C. WHITE CHUCKS These should

Christ game = strong.

basically be handed out in seminary.

B. AVIATOR GLASSES How else are you

D. CHELSEA BOOTS Popularized by the

supposed to keep your eyes on heaven?

Beatles. Sanctified by Hillsong.

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E

G

F

I J

H

K

E. MOTORCYCLE JACKET Cool

G. LAYERED NECKLACES Unleash

I. JOGGERS No better look for

K. COPY OF RELEVANT Yeah, yeah.

pastors get chilly under stage lights.

their inner ... uh, Macklemore.

dunking on the devil.

We know, we know.

F. DENIM SHIRT To unleash their

H. KNIT CAP Useful for keeping evil

J. RIPPED JEANS Give the Holy

inner Idris Elba.

thoughts out.

Spirit some room to breathe.

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MISC.

Books That Will Make You Uncomfortable [In a Good Way]

At an event with Cardinal Blase Cupich, Mark Wahlberg said he asked God’s forgiveness for Boogie Nights. No word if he received absolution for

LAST FALL, A SCHOOL DISTRICT in

Transformers: The

Mississippi announced it would be

Last Knight.

removing the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird from its eighth-grade curriculum, claiming the language “makes people uncomfortable” even though that’s the entire point of the book about standing against racial injustice. If you haven’t read Mockingbird, do so now—along with these three other titles. They’ll help you feel “uncomfortable” about broken systems—and be inspired

Bitcoin, the

to change them.

bizarre online cryptocurrency

JUST MERCY: A STORY OF JUSTICE AND REDEMPTION

RESCUING THE GOSPEL FROM THE COWBOYS

BRYAN STEVENSON

RICHARD T WISS

This powerful autobiography tells the story of a man who was falsely imprisoned because of racial bias. It exposes systemic racism in the U.S. legal system.

The book examines the heartbreaking treatment of Native Americans by earlyAmerican Christians and provides a theological outline for redeeming the legacy.

Bill Gates Is Building the City of the Future ... in Arizona

JAN-FEB

MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME REBECCA SOLNIT

Both funny and cringe-inducing, academic, author and activist Rebecca Solnit’s takedown of “mansplaining” offers an all-too-relatable look at modern gender dynamics.

024

into five years ago, topped $10,000 for the first time last November. Which means your nerd cousin might have actually been onto something.

Chinese officials

FORMER MICROSOFT CEO Bill Gates is investing

a ton of money—around $80 million—to build a “smart city” in Arizona. So, the future is definitely on its way.   According to CNN, “The community in Belmont will be designed around high-speed networks, autonomous vehicles, high-speed digital networks ... and autonomous logistics hubs.” Whatever those are.

that your nerd cousin got really

have asked Christians in Yunnan county of the Jiangxi province to replace their pictures of Jesus with photos of You might say

President

it’ll be a Gated

Xi Jinping.

community.

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John Legend and Jesse Williams Are Doing a Movie About the 1968 Olympic Protests

Inmates pitching in to make a difference.

Doing Good on the Inside Inmates have risked their lives to fight wildfires. But that’s not all.

HARVEY RELIEF Inmates in Texas pooled nearly $54,000 from their commissary accounts to help victims of Hurricane Harvey.

THOUGH ATHLETES TAKING

LAST SUMMER, WILDFIRES RIPPED through

part in demonstrations during the national anthem to protest racial injustice dominated headlines last year, it’s not the first time sports protests have caused a stir. John Legend is teaming up with actor Jesse Williams for a new film about the Olympic protests of 1968. The documentary With Drawn Arms will tell the story of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who famously raised black-gloved fists while on the podium during the XIX Olympiad in Mexico City. The movie will release this fall.

major parts of California, taking lives

HELPING AT-NEED ANIMALS A program in several prisons around the country has inmates care for stray, abused and neglected dogs—inside the walls of prisons.

and causing billions in damage. But one unexpected story from the crisis was that many of those on the front lines battling the blazes were actually inmates in the state’s prison system. In fact, nearly 4,000 inmates volunteered to fight the wildfires—that’s almost 40 percent of the forest firefighters in the state. Though the low-level felons made only $2 a day while clearing flammable brush and doing manual labor—and another

SAVING A POLICE OFFICER When a Georgia deputy sheriff officer collapsed in the heat due to complications from a brain surgery, instead of escaping, the six inmates on work detail rushed to his aid. They each got reduced sentences.

$2 an hour while on the fire line—they were able to learn skills that can help them when they eventually get out of prison. And as prison officials have noted, the program breaks down racial barriers (prisons are often highly segregated). But that’s not all— look at these other positive inmate works:

ASSISTING VETERANS At Enfield Correctional Institution in Connecticut, inmates work with the nonprofit organization America’s VetDogs to train service animals that will be given to wounded veterans when they return.

MISC.

JAN-FEB

Time to brush up on your Elvish, Tolkien

Nutella, the cult-classic hazelnut spread

According to WalletHub.com—which

nerds. A Lord of the Rings prequel TV

your little brother eats out of the jar

factored in giving and time spent on

series is headed for Amazon. Not

with a spoon, is under fire for discreetly

“volunteering and service”—Utah is the

much else is known, but it may delve

changing their recipe, swapping out

most charitable state in the U.S. and

into some of The Silmarillion stories.

some cocoa for plain old sugar.

Hawaii is the least.

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ACCURATE. READABLE. SHARABLE.

Learn more at CSBible.com. 027

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20somethings & Purpose INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS: Set in the

1960s, the Coen brothers film about what it’s like to be a young artist trying to make it is a breezy—yet moving— look at talent, drive and persistence. LOST IN TRANSLATION: In this anti-ro-

mantic comedy, Scarlett Johansson captures what it’s like to be isolated and misunderstood in a young marriage, and how to keep life in perspective, even in difficult times. THE SOCIAL NETWORK: The story of

Mark Zuckerberg’s rise and the invention of Facebook has all the themes you’d hope for in a film about success in the millennial era: betrayal, luck, entitlement and, yes, trying to connect.

The 18 Best Movies of The Century (So Far) WARDS SEASON CAN BE overwhelming. Thankfully, you don’t have to

A

be a film buff to appreciate Oscar-worthy movies. Now that the 21st century is 18 years old, we figured it’s the perfect time to get you up to speed on the century’s 18 greatest flicks. Here are our picks:

Faith

Drama

SPOTLIGHT: 2016’s Best Picture winner tells the

TREE OF LIFE: Terrence Malick’s

true story of a team of journalists who would stop at nothing to expose corruption and the coverup of sexual abuse in the highest levels of the Catholic Church.

masterpiece, which features an amazing depiction of creation, is a deep meditation on grace. HER: Sure, the concept is funny,

THE OVERNIGHTERS: The documentary profiles

a North Dakota pastor who opens his church to desperate people looking for work in the oil fields.

but the film’s messages about loneliness in the interconnected era are profound.

PAN’S LABYRINTH: Guillermo del Toro’s fairy

THE DARK KNIGHT: The comic

tale is a visually stunning and emotionally stirring metaphor for faith and standing up to darkness.

book epic offers a haunting look at post-9/11 morality.

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SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE: Danny

Boyle’s Bollywood-inspired epic about an Indian teen whose life changes while appearing on a game show is funny, entertaining and an emotional roller coaster— in a good way.

2018


Social Issues 12 YEARS A SLAVE: Based on the

true story of Solomon Northup, the movie is a shocking—and important—depiction of one of America’s great sins. HOTEL RWANDA: The winner of

three Academy Awards, the story of a hotel manager who risks his family’s lives to save victims of the Rwandan genocide is a historical masterpiece. WALL*E: Don’t let the cute robot

fool you: Pixar’s story about the cost of consumption and humanity’s addiction to stuff is a message adults need to hear just as much as kids do. CITY OF GOD: Call it a movie about

the rise of organized crime in Rio de Janeiro, or call it an intimate portrait of how our environments shape us in ways beyond our control. Whatever you call it, this Brazilian film is a masterpiece.

Comedy THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS: The film about a dysfunctional

family and their father’s attempt at redemption is where filmmaker Wes Anderson honed his cinematic-meetsstorybook style and hilariously dry dialogue. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND: By blending

sci-fi, comedy and romance, Michel Gondry creates a truly unforgettable movie about grief and the power of memories that manages to be heartfelt and moving and also really funny. ADAPTATION: A unique mind-bender, the movie tells the story

of a depressed writer attempting to adapt a book into a film. It takes so many unexpected turns that experiencing it for the first time is an unforgettable movie-watching experience. JUNO: Not only are Ellen Page and Michael Cera the perfect

combination of awkwardly lovable, the story of teen pregnancy and ultimately choosing life is one of the more redemptive movies of the decade.

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RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


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CURRENT

Science Proves College Students Aren’t Part of a ‘Narcissism Epidemic’ DON’T BELIEVE THE

4 Non-Instagram-Clichéd Cities You Need to Visit AS COOL AS SELFIES from the Brooklyn

We’ve assembled a list of places for

Bridge or California coastal cliffs are, there’s

whatever kind of adventure you’re seeking

a lot more in the world than just the handful

next—from getting back to nature and

of places that constantly fill your Instagram

hitting the beach to a historical journey to

feed. But planning your next lifelong

experiencing some fine dining. Each place

memory-making (and picture-worthy) trip

offers an option that you’re probably not

can be overwhelming. Thankfully, we’ll help.

going to see in your friend’s next post.

1.

2.

Shop and Unwind CASABLANCA, MOROCCO

A charmer with its fascinating architecture and cool markets, the city also has a pretty happening surf scene.

3.

Reconnect with God MOAB, UTAH

Want a spiritual retreat? With tons of trails and outdoor activities, it’s perfect for connecting with God in nature.

Experience High Culture BRITTANY, FRANCE

The city has everything from Gulf of Morbihan oysters and cycling in salt marshes to a night at Opera de Rennes.

4.

Widen Your Perspective TRINIDAD, CUBA

An artifact of the colonial era, its historic plantations hint at the lives of enslaved people who once lived there.

haters, millennials. The journal Psychological Science published a report that compared the results of thousands of Narcissism Personal Inventory tests, which are designed to measure narcissism and have been issued to select college students for decades. Guess what? According to University of Illinois psychology professor Brent Roberts, “The kids are [alright]. There never was a narcissism epidemic, despite what has been claimed.” In fact, when they look at the numbers, they observed “decreases in narcissism from the 1990s to the 2000s to the 2010s.” Whew.

MISC.

JAN-FEB

If you’ve been thinking about

George Clooney’s organization, The

Pollution isn’t just gross, it’s a human

volunteering more and getting

Clooney Foundation for Justice, has

rights issue. A study from The Lancet

healthier, you can kill two birds

donated a million dollars to help

medical journal found pollution kills 9

with one stone. A new study says

investigate and shut down corruption

million people every year and costs

volunteering is good for your health.

among war criminals in Africa.

roughly $4.6 trillion.

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12/14

CURRENT

White Christians Are Now More Forgiving of Politicians ARE SO-CALLED “moral Ryan Gosling is not a robot god.

The Church of AI Wants You to Worship a Robot God. Seriously

ANTHONY LEVANDOWSKI KNOWS a lot about

artificial intelligence (AI), and he wants to share that knowledge. The well-known Silicon Valley engineer—who formerly worked at Google, Waymo and Uber—has set up a website with his findings at wayofthefuture.church. That’s right, “.church.” Way of the Future is actually registered as a nonprofit religious corporation. Levandowski believes that a time is rapidly approaching when AI will become so intelligent, it will overpower humanity, so his solution to the problem is not to fight against it. No, he says we should just make peace with the idea—and start to worship AI pre-emptively. In the paperwork filed with the IRS, he explained that the group is based on “the realization, acceptance and worship of a godhead based on

A Silicon Valley veteran believes a dark revolution is coming, so he’s built a church to worship it.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.” The reason he’s decided to “worship” the technology is even darker than the idea of the church of AI: He believes unless we appease the technology, it might decide to destroy us. Sweet dreams.

conservatives” becoming more OK with immoral conduct? Following the widespread support of Alabama politician Roy Moore among Christians and even some pastors following allegations that he molested a 14-year-old girl, it’s a startlingly relevant question. Now, a PRRI/ Brookings poll found that there has been a massive shift in how “forgiving” some Christians can be of politicians’ personal transgressions. They found that 72 percent of white evangelicals said that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” That number represents a dramatic shift. In 2011, just 30 percent of white evangelicals were willing to see past a politician’s misdeeds and allow them to serve. What’s behind the jump? One reason could be that in 2009, a Democrat held the highest office. In 2016, a Republican was elected. WHITE CHRISTIANS WHO SEE PAST POLITICIANS’ MORAL FAILINGS

A Genocide Is Exposed in Myanmar EVEN AFTER ACTIVIST Aung

San Suu Kyi took office in 2016, Myanmar remains extremely isolated, and now, an unimaginable horror has been exposed. A report from

JAN-FEB

the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the nonprofit Fortify Rights found that 1 million Rohingya—a religious minority—have had to flee their homes as military

forces engage in systematic campaigns of rape and genocide. Now, the U.N. is attempting to find ways to end the ethnic cleansing and allow the refugees to return home.

032

72% 30% 2016

2011

2018


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CURRENT

13/14

[Q + A]

Meet Greta Gerwig—the Director The actress garnered major acclaim for her work behind the camera on indie hit Lady Bird.

T

HIS AWARDS SEASON,

a young filmmaker just might establish herself as one of Hollywood’s next

big directors. Though she’s an established screenwriter and actress (most notably starring in the title role of 2012’s Frances Ha), Greta Gerwig’s latest film, Lady Bird—which she wrote and directed—has become one of the season’s most critically acclaimed movies, garnering the almost unheardof 100 percent critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film tells the story of a freespirited teen navigating a series of difficult relationships while trying to finish her senior year of high school. We recently spoke with Gerwig about making the film and how Hollywood is changing for young female filmmakers. YOU’VE DONE A LOT OF WRITING AND ACTING. WHAT WAS IT LIKE DIRECTING LADY BIRD?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer-director, but because I didn’t go to film school, I’ve really used 10 years of filmmaking in different capacities—both in front of and behind the camera—to learn my craft. So when I was on set the first day, I felt like, I’ve got 10 years of learning under my belt occupying different positions on film sets, and I don’t know how I could be more prepared. IT FEELS LIKE THINGS ARE CHANGING AS FAR AS THE OPPORTUNITIES WOMEN GET. HAVE WE ENTERED A NEW ERA?

I think we have a long way to go in terms of giving a diverse set of filmmakers a chance to tell stories—and that is women and

JAN-FEB

minority filmmakers. It’s very important that we’re having these discussions and giving them a platform, but I am very heartened by what is going on right now and the spotlight that’s being shone on filmmakers, female filmmakers and filmmakers of color. When I think of Patty Jenkins directing Wonder Woman or Sofia Coppola [who] won best director and Kathryn Bigelow, who I’ve had the privilege to meet and talk to, and younger newer filmmakers, it feels like there is something changing and there is a desire for that change and that is just as big of a deal. HOW MUCH DOES THE AUDIENCE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE THINGS?

034

It’s a huge relationship between the audience and change, because successful films about women and with women at the helm and women at the center, once they stopped seeming like aberrations and started seeming like a good business bet, that’s when change [happened]. I remember when Bridesmaids came out and everyone was like, “Whoa, this is really successful,” and the same thing happened with Wonder Woman. The truth is, there’s such a huge market. Women go to movies and want to see themselves reflected on the screen. I think, vote with your dollars. If that’s the kind of thing you want to see, go to the movies and buy a ticket.

2018


035

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


14/14

CURRENT

[ T H E C H E AT S H E E T ]

A Beginners’ Guide to Ethical Cooking There comes a time when every child must put away their Hot Pockets and learn to be responsible with their resources (and health).

WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE: a moment of clarity

your head, and it looks great, but next week,

while staring into your refrigerator, where

you’re probably back to preheating the oven

you determine that from now on, it’s no

for another DiGiorno pizza.

more leftovers and frozen meals. You’re

Truth be told, what you’re trying to do is

going to become a real cook, make healthy

a good thing. Part of being mature with your

meals and start buying groceries from that

resources is knowing how to buy and cook

cool little bodega over by the yoga studio.

food responsibly.

You’re going to be one of those people who

1

It’s not as hard as you think. It just takes a

sprinkles exotic seasonings on your seared

few easy steps to get you started on the right

salmon and harvests fresh herbs from your

path. You’ll be grilling salmon like America’s

little backyard garden. You can see it all in

Next Top Chef in no time.

2

3

4

JAN-FEB

036

START WITH THE BASICS

Food waste is a massive problem. In fact, 40 percent of the food supply is thrown away every year. But you can do your part to waste less. Start simple. Try recipes that take 30 minutes or less, and stick to meals with fewer than 10 ingredients.

EQUIP YOURSELF

Remember to spend sustainably instead of wasting money on fancy gadgets you don’t need. If you keep your recipes simple, you won’t need to invest a fortune in an immersion blender. Buy a good knife, a big cutting board, a frying pan, a pot and a strainer.

MAKE A LIST FOR THE WEEK

At the beginning, limit yourself to cooking one meal a week while you get your bearings. That will give you a manageable grocery list and will keep you from getting too overwhelmed. As you start improving, work your way up to two or three meals a week.

MEAL SERVICES

There’s no shame whatsoever in resorting to trendy, new meal delivery services like Blue Apron or HelloFresh. They provide all the ingredients and simple instructions. It’s like training wheels for cooking at home. You can’t mess it up.

2018


037

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


We look inside their new mission to inspire hope when people need it most.

JAN-FEB

038

2018


BY TYLER HUCKABEE

“ARE WE STILL ENJOYING THIS?” Zach Williams asks this question about

We don’t think people are always paying

referring to themselves as a country band

The Lone Bellow, the band he has been at

attention to the lyrics, and then maybe a few

by way of New York City and, to be sure, you

the front of since 2012. At the time of this

months down the road, they’re humming it

can hear a lot of Waylon Jennings and Hank

conversation, he’s just a few days shy of

to themselves, singing it, and they’re like,

Williams Jr. underneath the band’s muscle-y

the release of Walk Into a Storm, the band’s

‘Wait a minute. What is this talking about?’

Brooklyn folk.

third studio album. It’s another terrific

So I’ve always really strived for that in

achievement in a relatively brief career full

songwriting.”

of them, but for Williams, it’s not enough to

The band has thrived in the five boroughs and made it as much a part of their identity

Take the first single, “Time’s Always

as Snoop made Los Angeles a part of his, so

simply be good. He wants The Lone Bellow to

Leaving.” If the song is playing and your

eyebrows were raised when they announced

be meaningful.

foot isn’t tapping, you should seek medical

they were relocating to Nashville.

“We don’t want to just go through the

attention. It’s a boot-stomping, hand-

“I mean, I consider [us] a Brooklyn

motions,” he says. “We really want to make

clapping, grin-inducing riot. It’s so much fun,

band forever,” Williams says. “That’s the

sure we’re doing this, and doing it right.”

in fact, that you could be forgiven for not

foundation that was built for us. That’s

realizing just how forlorn the lyrics are.

our initial family-base. [Famed NYC radio

By almost any definition, Williams is doing this right. Their 2013 self-titled debut album

station] WFUV was one of the very first radio

landed on the Billboard charts along with a

Time’s always leaving, sneaking peeks at

slew of “best of the year” lists. Their follow-

her watch / Always whispering sweet little lies

up, Then Came the Morning, was produced by

about her thoughts …

famed indie-rock kingmaker Aaron Dessner of The National. They’ve made the late-night

I’m afraid of the morning, morning / And I dread the sunset.

was our thing.” But while Brooklyn can be a great place for music, it can be tough for families. That’s a tension Williams and the rest of The Lone

television rounds and were nominated for an Americana Music Award. It’s hard to

stations to believe in us. You know, like that

Bellow started to feel as children came into “It’s kind of wrestling with that thing

the picture.

imagine many bands in their position taking

that’s on all of our backs,” Williams explains.

time for self-reflection, but The Lone Bellow

“Is time passing too fast? Am I living with

heart, but kids grow up fast. I want to be

isn’t most bands. They go to great lengths not

my eyes wide open and my heart wide open?

home as much as possible,’” he explains,

to be.

Did I just go through the motions today? You

describing the conflicted decision to move

know, just that ancient, old fear humans

from the city he loved. “And I basically, I

have always had.”

was like, I can’t just stay in New York just

A DARKNESS UNDERNEATH

“I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible

For Williams, that fear is a little closer

“I was like, ‘I love New York with all my

because we love New York so much if that is

things.” Tom Waits said that, and it’s an ethos

than usual, and it’s led to some big changes

actually taking away time. I couldn’t argue

Williams carries with him.

for the band.

with time.”

good at for a long time,” he explains. “It’s

GO WEST, YOUNG BAND

He likes the “creative energy” of his new

just a nice kind of dichotomy of sorts; it

If you know anything about The Lone

home and how it’s brought him into contact

has the good with maybe the not-so good.

Bellow, you know how fond they’ve been of

with famed country music hitmaker Dave

“That’s what country music has been

The move has been good, Williams says.

039

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


“I WOULD LOVE IT IF THIS ALBUM COULD BE KIND OF LIKE A STOP SIGN IN SOMEONE’S MIND ... JUST PAUSING FOR A MINUTE TO THINK ABOUT THE THINGS THAT RE ALLY MATTER TO THEM.”

WALK INTO A STORM

cooperation on the album. “There were definitely some times

However, the couple clung to hope, and miraculously, Stacy eventually recovered.

The album is an

[when] we were, you know—just like

upbeat, Americana/

creating anything with humans—there’s big

much of his writing. If you listen to his

indie-rock fusion of

arguments or whatever,” Williams recounts.

songs, and really dig into their meaning,

“But when conflict is handled the way it’s

you can begin to hear that Williams has a

supposed to be, it’s a beautiful thing.”

deeper perspective and sees beyond the

catchy choruses and deep lyrics.

All this seems to have helped provide a measure of stability to the rest of Williams’ Cobb, the man behind the work of artists

“He’s got these couches set up and this

circumstances. For years, he served as a worship pastor

life—but that’s something not everyone is

at Trinity Grace Church in Brooklyn’s

happy about.

Park Slope neighborhood. Maybe it’s those

like Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton.

It’s hope, not darkness, that now inspires

spiritual roots that have led him to lean not THEY SHALL OVERCOME

on tragedy for inspiration, but instead look

Stability, it seems, is a good fit for his band.

for the light at the end of tunnels.

beautiful record player and these like

There’s a popular notion that all great art is

incredible sounding speakers, and a table

rooted in tragedy, and it’s a notion Williams

can breed an unhealthy pursuit of chaos,

and notepads,” Williams says of Cobb’s

rejects wholeheartedly.

Williams says, noting that he has seen first-

recording studio on Music Row, sounding

“I remember in like 2010 I was talking

The mentality of just focusing on darkness

hand what pushing artists to actively seek

genuinely awed. “And you sit at the couches

to some punk at a label,” he says. “And he

out negativity in hopes that it will result in a

and basically tell him why you want to

was like, ‘Well, I don’t want to have to wait

new creative spark can do to people.

record the song that you’re about to record.

around for the next tragedy to happen to you

“I’d met a lot of musicians in particular

And then you all just kind of wrap your

for you to be able to write another song that

that, after the shows, we would just kind of

heads around [it] like, here’s what it’s gonna

I like.’ I was just like, ‘Screw you.’”

go a little dark together,” he says. “Whether

sound like.”

There’s a reason the comment elicited

it was like hanging out playing pool at a bar

such a strong reaction. Some of the original

or whatever. I think that there’s just like this

ago by Chet Atkins and has served the likes

songs Williams wrote for the band were

monkey on our back, this pressure.”

of Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton. Given

inspired by journal entries he’d written in

that pedigree, the members of The Lone

the Shepherd Center, a spinal cord and brain

a pressure Williams has seemed to have

Bellow were justified in feeling fortunate

injury rehabilitation facility.

kicked, and he writes about it on “Between

Cobbs’ studio was built half a century

to record there, too. Williams speaks of

Back in 2005, his wife, Stacy, was

Cobbs’ production skill with a reverence

temporarily paralyzed after breaking her

that transcends politeness, but he’s also

neck in a horseback riding accident. Doctors

appreciative of the rest of his band and their

first thought she would be a quadriplegic.

JAN-FEB

040

However, for the latest album, that’s

the Lines”: What I’m here to tell you / You don’t need the hurt / To make something you love / To tell

2018


L-R: Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, Kanene Pipkin

you what you’re worth / And you don’t need

Bellow knows their fans live in a stressful

and providing a bit of respite from the rest

regret / To guide you through the night

era. “It’s at the place now where I don’t think

of the world is a pretty enjoyable job, and it’s

you can dodge it and be honest with yourself

helped Williams answer in the affirmative.

“I wanted this album to say that ... to whoever is standing in front of us

at the same time,” he says. The question then, is what The Lone

“I love the record,” he says. “I believe that music is a really weird, mysterious thing;

listening, you know, ‘May your heart be

Bellow has to offer to these people and when

like why do humans like certain sounds and

open. Whatever changes the wind might be

it comes to that, Williams has one goal: hope.

noises and notes? I think the three of us

blowing,’” Williams says. And if there’s something that’s defined

“I would love it if this album could be kind of like a stop sign in someone’s mind,” he

singing together, I hope it can be inspiring,” he says.

Williams’ stance so far in his journey with

explains of Walk Into a Storm. “Just pausing

The Lone Bellow, it’s just that: keeping an

for a minute to think about the things that

hope in difficult times—Williams is finally

open heart.

really matter to them. That’s my hope at the

able to answer his own question.

shows, so it’s [the] same thing in the record.” HOPING FOR HOPE

“I love this work we get to do.”

Which brings us back to the question

The world is chaotic, and Williams is

Williams started out with: “Are we still

mindful of that, particularly at the band’s

enjoying this?”

live shows. Whether dealing with the stress

And with that idea—inspiring people to

Offering hope to people, getting them to

of day-to-day life or the divisiveness of a

consider deeper, more important truths,

contentious political climate, The Lone

working through tragedies, seeking healing

041

T YLER HUCK A BEE lives in Nashville and is a contributing editor at RELEVANT.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


PUTIN’S UNTOLD WAR ON CHRISTIANITY When will the world start taking Vladimir Putin’s unprecedented crackdown on religious freedom seriously?

JAN-FEB

042

2018


BY TYLER HUCKABEE

LET’S S TA R T WITH

If you are a Russian citi-

knack for propaganda and a healthy dose of

zen in 2018, it is current-

good, old-fashioned fake news. But as Russia’s

ly illegal for you to share

aims become clearer and the fortunes of its re-

the Gospel with a friend

ligious minorities less certain, experts are saying

in your home. It’s illegal

it’s imperative for Christians—and fans of reli-

for you to invite others to

gious liberty in general—to start paying attention

your church. VKontakte—

to what’s going on. And, they caution, what’s hap-

the Russian equivalent of

pening in Russia could happen elsewhere.

Facebook—can’t be used to

It already is, if you know where to look.

spread anything that might be

THE

considered

“evange-

THE LAW OF THE LAND

lism.” In fact, all religious

In the early summer of 2016, Russia passed a

dialogue has been banned

little-noticed pair of laws broadly billed as “an-

outside of churches and

ti-terrorism” in their nature and intent.

other religious sites.

The laws became known as the Yarovaya Law,

On the street. Online.

BASICS.

Even in your own home.

named for Irina Yarovaya, the hawkish head of the Parliamentary Committee for Security and

This is not the most re-

Anti-Corruption. The laws increased the scope of

cent or even most brazen

Russia’s already vast law enforcement agencies,

of Russia’s recent attempts

expanding their legal surveillance capabilities

to curtail religious freedom within its borders,

and data mining operations.

but it is illustrative of the Kremlin’s new attitude

Those measures were concerning enough,

toward religion. The Russian Orthodox Church

reportedly causing discomfort even among the

is deeply intertwined with Russian identity,

Putin-friendly parliament. But they were able to

closely connected to national politics and given

pass a vote, riding on a wave of national unease

broad legal preference over minority religions

after ISIS downed a Russian commercial plane

in the country. While the Soviet Union famously

over Egypt in 2015.

attempted to stamp religion out completely, Rus-

Tacked onto the Yarovaya Law was the provi-

sian President Vladimir Putin has embraced the

sion against evangelism or “missionary work”

Russian Orthodox Church and, critics say, trans-

outside of specific, designated spaces. The law

formed it into another arm of his infamous pro-

defined missionary activity as: “The activity of

paganda machine.

a religious association, aimed at disseminating

By granting it liberties either restricted or flat-

information about its beliefs among people who

out denied to other religions and sects, there is

are not participants (members, followers) in that

strong suspicion Putin has embraced the state

religious association.”

church solely because he’s able to remake it in his own likeness.

“It would be fair to say that various actors have been seeking for quite a long time to get some

But how did we get here? How did a country

so-called ‘anti-missionary’ package through and

that seemed to be bucking decades of Orwellian

that this turned out to be the convenient way of

control slip back into authoritarianism, and why

pushing it through,” John Kinahan says.

haven’t more churches in the West spoken up on behalf of their fellow Christians abroad?

Kinahan is the chief editor at Forum 18, an organization that monitors religious freedom in

The answers are twisted up in a murky web

countries like Russia, Belarus and some central

of politics, nationalism, Putin’s aforementioned

Asian countries. In his view, the Yarovaya Law is

043

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


a significant step in a slow, steady trend toward the complete restriction of religious freedom.

Some of the indifference can be attributed to the lack of a vocal minority in Russia to sound

“Putin is clearly not somebody very comfort-

the alarm. Estimates vary since there is no of-

able with people using their freedom,” Kinahan

ficial census of religion in Russia, but the most

says. “And given the legislative moves that he’s

recent Pew Research Center study found that 71

made, given the actions of state officials, not only

percent of Russians consider themselves Eastern

racial freedom and religious belief but other hu-

Orthodox and another 15 percent say they’re “re-

man rights too, it’s very hard to come to any oth-

ligiously unaffiliated,” meaning atheist, agnostic

er conclusion.”

or “spiritual but not religious.” Between 8 and 10

Organizations found in violation of the law can be fined up to a million rubles, roughly $17,000.

percent consider themselves Muslim, with the rest affiliated with some other religion.

The government’s newly heightened surveil-

Religious minorities did attempt a campaign to

lance capabilities drew the bulk of what little

change Putin’s mind. Head of the Advisory Coun-

international attention was paid to the passage

cil of the Heads of Protestant Churches in Russia,

of the laws. The passage of new laws against mis-

Sergei Ryakhovsky, posted a letter to Putin that

sionary work did not even warrant mentions in

read, in part:

write-ups from The Economist or Reuters.

“The obligation on every believer to have a special permit to spread his or her beliefs, as well as hand out religious literature and material

Russian police

outside of places of worship and used structures

officers patrol on

is not only absurd and offensive, but also creates

the Red Square in

the basis for mass persecution of believers for vi-

central Moscow on April 2, 2017, as Russian opposition promised protests after police

olating these provisions.” The letter ended: “Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], on behalf of thousands of evangelical Protes-

detained hundreds

tants, we ask you not to allow this repressive and

of people during

unconstitutional law to be adopted.”

anti-corruption rallies.

The protests on behalf of religious minorities were sincere, but had even less visible of a presence than protests focusing on the Yarova-


ya Law’s digital surveillance legislation. And they’ve had just as much an impact. That is

“MY CONCERN

to say: none. A LONELY MISSION

David Curry. “It affects our morals, our family

I S T H AT

So those kinds of laws, which say, ‘Keep your

PUTIN’S

Curry is the CEO of Open Doors USA, an

U LT I M AT E

Russia’s threat to religious freedom seriously.

GOAL IS TO N AT IO N A L I Z E

Nevertheless, the United States has largely kept mum on the subject. It’s an odd position for a country as famously protective of religious freedom as the U.S., both within its own borders and around the world. The U.S. sends

freedom ironically coincides with American opinions of Russia actually improving. A Pew

CHRISTIAN

tisan divide (34 percent of Republicans have

sia compared to just 19 percent in 2014. Much of that rise can be attributed to a par-

among their tier one “countries of concern”

like Iran and North Korea.

The lack of international awareness of

percent of the U.S. has a positive view of Rus-

threat to the spiritual health of the country.”

tors of religion freedom, alongside countries

Religious Freedom.

study in the summer of 2017 found that 29

in Russia,” Curry says. “And I see that as a great

on their annual list of the world’s worst viola-

more specialized agencies, like the bipartisan

THE

to nationalize the Christian movement entirely

International Religious Freedom listed Russia

contentious media narrative fell solely to

the Kremlin’s brazen roll-back of religious

“My concern is that Putin’s ultimate goal is

In 2016, the United States Commission on

All of this meant awareness of another

United States Commission on International

organization that advocates for persecuted Christians and is one of the few places taking

Russian legislation. Russian scandal on top of the already hotly

faith limited to ... ’ [are] the ultimate threat to freedom of a religion.”

Hillary Clinton was generally too busy shielding her own campaign from Julian Assange’s email leaks to pay much attention to

life, and you just can’t keep authentic Christian faith within the boundaries of a building.

the summer demurring on his opinion about what the Kremlin may have been up to.

“I think Jesus has been clear in Scripture that faith needs to be part of our social life,” says

to look overly partisan, and spent most of

a positive view of Putin, compared to just 13 percent of Democrats), but at least some of

MOVEMENT E N T I R E LY I N R U S S I A .”

it can also be chalked up to a general lack of information. With the White House currently toeing a fine line with the Kremlin and much of the U.S.’ attention focused on religious controversies at home, Americans tend to have a more favorable view of Putin’s actions than his actions warrant. “The urge to control is quite a strong part

by far the most missionaries to other coun-

of Putin’s approach,” says Kinahan. “He is,

tries (127,000 annually by the most recent

after all, a former secret policeman and such

estimate; Brazil is a distant second at 34,000).

people don’t normally become very keen on While religious freedom is a human right in

freedom in any kind of way.”

every country, few nations have made it a

And for people who are keen on religious

cornerstone of their national identity in the

freedom, Russia is trending in a truly worri-

same way the U.S. has.

some direction—and it shows no sign of slow-

Part of the reason the Yarovaya Law failed

ing down. Last August, Russia said Jehovah’s

to gain much attention in the U.S. was be-

Witnesses violated the country’s anti-extrem-

cause at the same time it was being passed,

ism laws, effectively outlawing the religion.

Russia was making U.S. headlines for differ-

“It certainly would be our view that based

ent reasons: hacking the 2016 U.S. presiden-

on the evidence that the trends of free be-

tial election.

lief for wider human rights in the region

News that U.S. intelligence believed Putin had masterminded an immense campaign to

are downwards,” Kinahan says. “[There is] a seemingly increasing climate of fear.”

sow chaos into American democracy paralyzed national politics and sucked all the media attention. Now-President Donald Trump was then trying to cast Russia as unfairly maligned, expressing admiration for Putin’s strongman tactics. Then-President Barack Obama was loathe

045

T YLER HUCK A BEE lives in Nashville and is a contributing editor at RELEVANT.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


For Pete Holmes, losing everything was the fastest way to find it.

BY A L E X A E D WA R D S

“ W H AT I S F I R E ? ” A S K S P E T E H O L M E S .

that are hard to express. He’s a comedian—a

CHURCHING

It sounds trippy, but it’s not. Not to Holmes

successful one by any definition of the term,

“I have no problem thinking of myself in

anyway, who’s been asking the question for

with his show Crashing gearing up for its sec-

Christian terms,” Holmes says.

a while—so much that it’s become sort of

ond season on HBO and his You Made It Weird

That probably comes as no surprise to any-

his shorthand for the big, esoteric questions

podcast consistently ranking as one of iTunes’

one who’s paid much attention to his career.

about the universe.

most popular.

Holmes can discuss the evangelical subcul-

“Someone would be like, ‘Well, it’s the rela-

And like any successful comedian, bru-

ture and its attending worldview nimbly. He

tionship of this and this and oxygen,’” Holmes

tal honesty is his bread and butter. And the

was raised in a Christian church. He went to

continues. “And I’d be like, ‘No. What is fire?’

brutal, honest truth is that Holmes is laying

a Christian college, even briefly wanted to be

You know what I mean?”

his life bare with his comedy—be it podcast,

a youth pastor—the whole deal. But then life

You probably do. The feeling Holmes is

stand-up or HBO show—and for every one of

threw him a curveball via the disintegration

talking about is not uncommon, but it is hard

the many laughs his work provokes, there’s

of his marriage.

to describe. But that’s a big part of how he’s

another moment that profoundly aches.

become one of the most popular comedians of his generation—by giving words to things

JAN-FEB

As often as not, the two moments are linked; even simultaneous.

046

Holmes married young and moved to Chicago in an attempt to break into comedy. At first, he had almost no luck. Meanwhile, his

2018


047

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


then-wife started having an affair (If you’ve

“It’s not that I thought, ‘There is no God,’”

“I felt really, really sad and afraid,” he says

seen the first season of Crashing, you’ve seen

he explains. “I didn’t have a conclusion. But

of the first time he saw the movie. “Not of

the only slightly fictionalized depiction of all

certainly, without being able to articulate it,

hell. Just kind of like, ‘Oh, no. The tragedy of

this.). Their marriage ended shortly thereaf-

I went, ‘What I knew clearly isn’t the case.’”

life took something from me.’”

QUESTIONING

going back to his office and weeping alone.

ter, and his faith wasn’t far behind. “You protect yourself by saying, ‘She was never [the one], and she wasn’t,” he says of

After seeing the movie, Holmes remembers Holmes has this story about The Book of

“I just sat at my desk and just cried a little

his ex-wife. “This is true. She wasn’t the one for me. But it would be wrong to say that when I went in—kind of like the way I went into my faith, which ended up not being right for me either—both endeavors were very earnest and well-meaning, and I thought they were going to last forever. The two of them ending at the same time was ... it felt a little cruel, but it was also kind of appropriate.” Holmes talks about the time in his life

“G O D I S T H E N A M E O F TH E BLAN KET WE PUT OV E R T H E M YS T E RY TO G I V E I T S H A P E .”

when he was enchanted by the positive vibes of megachurch prosperity preacher Joel Osteen’s best-seller Your Best Life Now, saying it had “changed [his] life.” And after the divorce? Not so much. “After my wife left me, I tried to listen to Your Best Life Now again, and it might as well have been in Aramaic,” Holmes says. “I couldn’t hear it because I experienced pain

Comedians Dov Davidoff and Rachel Feinstein with Pete Holmes in Crashing

for the first time in my life. “I put on this guy going, ‘Just go out there and be good and God will give you what you

Eli. Maybe you’ve seen it. It’s a middling

bit and sat there, really allowing ...,” he says.

want.’ And I’m like, ‘Buddy, I did everything I

post-apocalyptic flick in which Denzel Wash-

“Well, there’s a lot of things to miss. I missed

was supposed to.’”

ington spends a lot of time rescuing Mila

God in that moment, and I was like, ‘S***.’ It’s

To hear Holmes tell it, he gave atheism a

Kunis. To get at why this story matters, we’ll

like waking up from a dream, remembering

half-hearted go, but it didn’t take. “I read part

need to venture into some spoiler territory, so

that that was so important to you.”

of The God Delusion,” he says, referring to

consider yourself warned.

Richard Dawkins’ infamous atheist tome. “I couldn’t finish it. It just wasn’t for me.” Instead, Holmes started dabbling in other

The Book of Eli sparked a renewed spir-

The Book of Eli is actually about Washing-

itual odyssey that inspired Holmes to ex-

ton’s character protecting Earth’s last copy of

plore the works of famed mythologist Joseph

the Bible.

Campbell, spiritual author Ram Dass, Fran-

communities. He started making friends with

Holmes doesn’t defend the movie’s quality

ciscan friar Richard Rohr and Rob Bell, who

atheists and dating non-Christians. He didn’t

(“It’s like a 38 percent on Rotten Tomatoes,”

has since become a close friend and frequent

reject his faith entirely, but the substance of it

he says), but he can’t deny that it started

colleague of Holmes’.

became fair game for interrogation.

something fresh in him.

JAN-FEB

048

So what is Holmes certain of now? Less

2018


“ W E ’ V E T U R N E D G O D I N TO S O M E T H I N G T H AT YO U C A N A M A ZO N P R I M E .”

than ever, to hear him say it.

CREATING

“I think what you realize is the point isn’t

How much of this will the

having something concrete,” he says, and

second season of Crashing

then relates a conversation he had with Bell

get into? Holmes hesitates

about the historicity of the Bible. “I said, ‘Is

to respond. “This is the sort

the Bible true, or is it a metaphor?’ And [Bell]

of interview that if [Crash-

goes, ‘Yes.’”

ing producer, Judd Apatow]

If you’re familiar with Bell’s work, that

were here, he’d be kicking

answer probably doesn’t come as a shock to

me under the table,” Holmes

you, but Holmes found it enlightening.

says. “He’s like, ‘When you do

“It’s like, that’s the correct answer!” he says. “If we’re going to read a Semitic book,

press, please just talk about how funny the show is.’”

we need to look at it through Semitic eyes,

The show is funny and,

and that’s a perfectly Semitic answer. We’ve

according to Holmes, the sec-

turned God into something that you can Am-

ond season is funnier. It also

azon Prime.”

continues Holmes’ charac-

So Holmes isn’t looking at God as some-

ter’s spiritual and emotional

thing you order on demand anymore. A bet-

journey, as he experiences

ter metaphor might be that he’s looking at

what Holmes calls “that elas-

God as a forest to be explored. Or maybe that

tic thing where it’s not just, ‘I don’t believe

God is the metaphor.

now.’ It’s kind of like, ‘I want to believe. I

“A great quote that I love is, ‘God is the

Holmes seems to know how to believe—or,

to give it shape,’” Holmes says. “We’re trying

at least, he knows he doesn’t believe he needs

to talk about something undiscussable, and I

to know how to believe. This would have frus-

love it. Ram Dass says the truth isn’t in these

trated his younger self, but that’s not some-

discussions. It’s in the spaces between the

thing he’s overly concerned about. Given

words that we get a transmission. Christians

the hypothetical opportunity to go back and

call this grace, where something is happening

warn his young, believing self about what

beyond our thinking mind, and I became fas-

was to come, he says, “I wouldn’t interfere,

cinated with that.

because it’s beautiful.”

“A virgin birth or a physical death and res-

“Jesus says, ‘Don’t lay up your treasure

urrection is not that wild for me to toy with,

where dust and moth can corrupt,’” Holmes

but then what?” Holmes asks. “What is your

says. “That’s what he’s talking about. That

goal? Ram Dass says our goal in the West is to

breaking point of my wife turning my world

know and to know that we know. But the mys-

upside down and then losing my faith was the

tics say, ‘Lay that down, dude. You’re missing

best thing that could happen to me. I wouldn’t

the point. It’s not knowing and knowing that

go back and stop that.”

yond your brain.’”

performs onstage with Rob Bell.

don’t know how to believe.’”

name of the blanket we put over the mystery

you know. It’s basking in something that’s be-

Holmes frequently

It’s a little hard to explain but then, that’s Holmes’ specialty.

049

ALEX A EDWARDS lives in Austin and writes about faith and culture.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


N E W Y E A R ’S A DV I C E That Actually Works SIX EXPERTS ON HOW TO MAKE 2018 YOUR BEST YEAR YET

JAN-FEB

050

2018


T

BY STEPHANIE G R ANADA

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with the start of a new year, which is

relationships WHAT’S ONE THING EVERY

If we could begin applying

HEALTHY COUPLE SHOULD DO

that communication model to

making resolutions to make

ON A DAILY BASIS?

our conflict, we’d all be better

their lives better.

Communication is the lifeline

for it in the end.

why everyone seems to be

Losing 10 pounds and

of a relationship. Once you

reading a book a week sound

stop talking, you start moving

WHEN DOES A COUPLE

like great goals, but are

backward in your marriage.

KNOW IT’S TIME TO GO TO

we really focusing on the things that will make lasting positive change in our lives? We tracked down six experts and asked them for their best advice on a variety of topics—from career and relationships, to making a global impact to getting more involved in a church. Here are their suggestions for making 2018 your best year yet.

DEBR A FILETA is a licensed professional counselor and speaker, Fileta is the author of the books True Love Dates and Choosing Marriage: The Hardest and Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Do.

In a recent survey I took

COUNSELING?

of over 1,000 married people,

Most couples actually begin

the majority said they spend

the process of counseling far

only 15-30 minutes per week

too late. They start counseling

in quality conversation with

after something really harmful

their spouse. I find that statistic

happens in their marriage,

concerning and a reflection

but we need to start thinking

of the struggles I’m seeing in

proactively about counseling.

marriages all over the country. With our demanding

Couples need to be looking for “patterns” of behavior

schedules, time can quickly

regarding how they interact in

slip away, so couples need to

their relationship and how they

make it a priority to set aside

feel toward their spouse. Those

a few minutes per day—at the

patterns of interaction and

very minimum—to connect and

emotion are either going to be

converse in a meaningful way.

mostly positive or negative.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO

caught in a continual cycle

RESOLVE CONFLICTS THAT ARISE

of negative behaviors and

IN A RELATIONSHIP?

responses toward one another

What makes a marriage healthy

(isolating, yelling, withdrawing,

isn’t a lack of conflict but rather,

avoiding, misunderstanding,

how conflict is resolved. There

passive-aggression, etc.), and

are so many techniques a

conflict continues to get pushed

counselor can offer a couple for

under the rug, rather than

If a couple finds themselves

resolving conflict in a healthy

actually dealt with, then I would

way, but let’s hone in on God’s

say it’s time to seek the help of

Word (James 1:19) for three

a professional counselor to help

really simple but important

you identify and then break

steps: Be quick to listen, slow to

those patterns of interaction

speak and slow to become angry.

before it’s too late.

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RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


career

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO ACTUALLY GET NOTICED

FOR A PROMOTION OR LEADERSHIP ROLE THIS YEAR?

Telling your boss you need to pay off credit card bills or you simply feel like you deserve more money isn’t the right way. Paying extra attention to the things your employer cares about and trying to improve those things is a pretty good place to start. If you do not only what is required but also a little something extra, you will make it very easy for your boss to give you that promotion. HOW DO YOU KNOW IF IT’S TIME FOR A JOB CHANGE?

A quick, easy way to know it’s time to jump is to talk to

JEFF GOINS is the best-selling author of five books including The Art of Work and Real Artists Don’t Starve. He is also a speaker, entrepreneur and blogger at goinswriter.com.

your most cautious friend. We all have one really kind friend who just agrees with whatever we say. Instead, find the cautious friend who wants you to go slow and be careful. Get feedback from them. When even they tell you it’s time to go, it’s time.

impact

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY FOR SOMEONE TO GET INVOLVED WITH AN ORGANIZATION WORKING ON A CAUSE THEY’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT?

Everyone wants to go “to the field”—whatever that means in the context of what you care about. “I want to sit in the tents with refugees in Iraq! I want to rescue JEREM Y COURTNEY is the founder of relief organization Preemptive Love Coalition, which serves people in Iraq and Syria. He’s also the author of the book, Preemptive Love.

girls from trafficking in Bangkok!” That stuff is usually

CARLOS WHITTA KER is the author of Kill the Spider: Getting Rid of What’s Really Holding You Back.

reserved for the highly trained insiders. Raise your hand to clean out the warehouse. Write thank you cards to donors. You might be worth hundreds of dollars an hour

WHAT’S ONE SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

as a designer, editor, coder, etc. But if it’s about figuring

CHRISTIANS SHOULD DO EVERY DAY?

out how to get involved, consider offering your high-

This is going to sound so elementary,

value skills for free—and be honest: “I’m just trying to

but prayer is the one spiritual practice

add value and get my foot in the door.”

we should be practicing every day. I don’t know when it happened, but at

IF SOMEONE DOESN’T HAVE A LOT OF MONEY OR EXTRA

some point “prayer” became us giving

TIME, HOW CAN THEY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

a speech to God. That is not the type of

It’s easy to buy into the myth that we have to have “a

prayer I’m talking about. I’m talking

lot” (whatever that is), in order to make a difference. If

about conversational prayer. Talking to

everyone said, “My part is so small, I’ll just stay home,”

God and Him talking back.

the whole thing falls apart.

This sort of prayer is meant to be

There are only a few people out there giving million-

JAN-FEB

spiritual growth

normal. And this sort of prayer is the

dollar gifts. The rest is up to the rest of us. The same is

type of prayer that literally changes

true with time. Only a few people volunteer a majority of

everything in your life ... This is the

their time—the rest of us write thank you cards or serve

sort of spiritual practice that turned my

a meal or hold a hand at someone’s bedside as we can.

relationship with God upside down in

That makes a difference, in that moment. Period.

the most beautiful way possible.

052

2018


health

WHAT’S AN EASY THING

Drink a lot of water and make

SOMEONE CAN DO TO START TO

sure you are eating lots of fruits

GET IN SHAPE (EVEN IF THEY

and veggies every single day.

DON’T LIKE WORKING OUT )?

Try to eat five small meals a day,

Walk around the block. Increase

instead of three large ones.

the distance of the walk over A NGELA DAVIS is a Nikesponsored athlete, the founder of Urban Fitness 911, a former member of the USA Track and Field Team and renowned SoulCycle instructor whose students include Usher, JAY-Z, Chris Paul and others.

time, then a walk can turn into a

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO STAY

jog. A jog can turn into a run.

MOTIVATED TO STICK TO YOUR

Do a circuit of push-ups,

FITNESS GOALS?

sit-ups and squats when you

Get an accountability partner.

wake up or before you go to bed.

Be willing to hold yourself

Increase the number of reps and

accountable if that partner is

sets over time.

unavailable.

IS IT WORTH IT TO INVEST IN A

definition of accountability that

FITNESS TRACKER THIS YEAR?

I love: “Account to your own

The motive and incentive to

ability.” Begin to visualize the

achieve more than you did the

change you’d like to see and in

time before—that in itself is a

every workout, focus on that

reason to have one.

vision.

My mother gave me a

WHAT’S THE EASIEST WAY TO START EATING HEALTHIER

church

WITHOUT STARTING A FAD DIET?

ASHLEE EILA ND is a motivational speaker, content producer and minister at Willow Creek Church Chicago, the nation’s fourthlargest church. She teaches and works in engaging the local community there.

WHAT SHOULD SOMEONE DO

isolation, but a lavish banquet

THIS YEAR IF THEY DON’T FEEL

enjoyed in transformational

LIKE THEY’RE GETTING MUCH

community as we experience

OUT OF CHURCH ANYMORE?

Christ in one another.

Keep meeting together with

God’s presence is ubiquitous

other members of the body of

enough to meet you in your

Christ. Whether you believe

place of need. Keep stewarding

this about yourself or not, you

your gifts, even when you don’t

reflect a part of God’s character

feel like you’re getting much, so

to other people.

other people don’t miss out on

Church was never meant to be a spiritual buffet enjoyed in

what God wants to accomplish through you.

STEPHA NIE GR A N A DA is a freelance writer based in Seattle, where she lives with her dog, Jack.

053

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


KB WANTS TO CHANGE H I P-HO P Meet Christian hip-hop’s new rebel-in-chief.

JAN-FEB

054

2018


TO DAY W E R EB EL

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

KB’s third studio album is

Always a dissenter, KB’s story began in

a bold takedown of both

a rough neighborhood in St. Petersburg,

mainstream hip-hop

Florida, where drugs and violence were a

and white evangelical

part of daily life.

Christian cultures.

Lit that’s immeasurable, new intellectual, BY A N D R E H E N RY

yeah / I was the Oreo; I was the Oreo comin’ up / Told ‘em, “At least I’ma get my degree,” he raps on the song “Monster,” alluding to his aspirations to break out of the hood. Again, he uses another intentionally

all mankind,” he explains. “When He comes and does good, it affects everyone. That

loaded turn-of-phrase: “Oreo” is a pejorative

means if I, as an American, am experiencing

that kids use against black kids who “act

a freedom and a sort of goodness that my

white,” that is, they live outside of black

neighbors in Syria or Iraq or any given

stereotypes by doing anything from listening

country are not, then we, as a human race,

to classical music to wanting to pursue

are in trouble.” For him, rebellion is also bigger than

higher education. Young KB was guilty of both as an honor

identity politics and partisan affiliations.

student and concert trumpeter who enrolled

“Your allegiance does not belong to your

in Trinity College at the age of 16 to earn

nation,” he says. “It does not belong to your

a degree in theology. Bible college is also

political identity. It belongs to the Kingdom

where KB founded the hip-hop group His

of God.”

Glory Alone (HGA) with fellow spiritually

Even though his words convey that the

minded rappers. They eventually caught the

endgame of rebellion is unity, it doesn’t

defiant Kevin Burgess, better known as “KB,”

interest of Lecrae and earned a spot on the

mean the journey there will always be

announces over the glass-rattling bombast

roster at Reach Records.

pleasant. KB spits some uncomfortable

of “DNOU (Don’t Nobody Own Us),” Radio

Since then, KB has consistently pushed

truths on this album. His boldest, most rebellious moment

hasn’t bought this / Way, way too exhausted /

back on the expectations of mainstream hip-

to tap-dance for your profits.

hop and evangelical Christian subculture,

comes in a takedown of Christian white

earning a sizable following in the process

supremacy on the song “New Portrait.”

Those unaware of the history of minstrelsy may miss the racially charged

(his recent releases have more than 20

historical reference stitched into those bars:

million spins on Spotify).

How can an African like me get the vision / When these preachers owned slaves / But taught that freedom was Christian? he raps.

It’s a callback to a racist and dehumanizing form of American entertainment from the

CHANGING THE CONVERSATION

19th century that depicted black people as

KB believes that rebellious conversations

of chilling creedal proportion: Brown Middle

thick-headed buffoons who tap-danced for

about faith and justice begin with personal

Eastern, definitely wasn’t white / ... committed

the enjoyment of white audiences.

transformation.

His life to a interracial bride / ... God of the

Then he responds with a verse about Jesus

oppressed, even in it, He still thrives.

KB is pulling no punches. Even if he has

He says it begins with “understanding

to make some people uncomfortable while

that justice and compassion are a part of

doing so, he’s on a mission to change the way

the character of God—His heart for those

“Peace is not merely the absence of tension,

Christians talk about faith and justice.

who are hurting, those who are broken,

but the presence of justice.”

“Our lives should be reflections of the

those who are experiencing injustice and

character of God, which is where I think

oppression—spending lots of time on that,

a lot of this conversation has to start,” he

letting that get deep into who we are.”

explains. “When we talk about race or injustice on every level, [we care about it because] it is not a reflection of who our God is. He is a just God.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that

On his album Today We Rebel, KB boldly insists on the latter. No tap-dancing.

In that way, the righteous insurgency he intends to lead is as spiritual as it is societal. “One thing I wanted to make very clear on this album is that Jesus is the Savior of

055

A NDRE HENRY is the managing editor of RELEVANT. Follow him on Twitter @andrehenry.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


S Christians need to change the conversation about privilege in our nation.

BY J E M A R T I S BY


SAY Say a space alien teleports into a classroom on a college campus. “Greetings,” he says to the

Edmondson suggests.

currency.”

Conversations about privilege

The key to understanding

to her racial status.

“As far as I can tell, my

almost always elicit strong

privilege is realizing these traits

African-American coworkers,

stunned students. “I’m interested

responses—from defensiveness

are not earned. They are usually

friends and acquaintances

in studying life on your world

to guilt and confusion.

present because of someone’s

with whom I come into daily

birth and circumstance.

or frequent contact in this

and want to stay here a while.” Then he asks a question. “I

The volatility of the topic

makes exercises like this helpful

Usually when people hear

particular time, place and time

want to enjoy my time here, so

in spurring dialogue that

the word “privilege” it is affixed

of work cannot count on most

what features should I have to

wouldn’t happen otherwise.

with the adjective “white”

of these conditions,” McIntosh

be successful on your planet?”

They can help create new

before it, but there are kinds of

famously wrote.

awareness about the way society

privilege that go beyond race. In

answers. “You should be tall.

functions and how benefits are

a society that statistically favors

You need to speak English. You

unequally distributed among

men, someone’s gender can be a

national heritage or about

have to go to a good college. You

different groups of people.

privilege. Inherited wealth can

‘civilization,’ I am shown that

be a privilege. In America, being

people of my color made it what

WHAT IS PRIVILEGE?

a Christian (a religious majority)

it is.”

by Christina Edmondson,

In their book on counseling and

can be a form of privilege.

Dean of Intercultural Student

cultural diversity, Counseling

Development at Calvin College.

the Culturally Diverse, Derald

composed one of the most well-

minority communities, “I am

Wing Sue and David Sue

known explanations of privilege.

never asked to speak for all the

process the activity by asking

explain that privilege means

“I was taught to see racism only

people of my racial group.”

them questions such as what it

possessing certain traits that are

in individual acts of meanness,

would mean to be the opposite

considered more desirable in

not in invisible systems

was white, “I can worry about

of what they just described and

a certain community and thus,

conferring dominance on my

racism without being seen as

whether the alien would then be

give a person easy access to the

group,” she wrote. McIntosh

self-interested or self-seeking.”

at a disadvantage.

rewards of that community.

then composed a list of things

The students begin to toss out

should be a man.”

So begins an activity led

Edmondson helps students

“It sounds to me like there’s a privileged way to be,”

As Edmondson describes it, “Privilege is unearned social

In 1988, Peggy McIntosh

Some examples include:

“When I am told about our

She also explained that unlike

some prominent members of

She added that because she

Although written almost

that she, as a white person, had

30 years ago, the examples

the “privilege” of assuming due

remain relevant today. Putting

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RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


the culture and norms of white

afford health insurance or find

people at the center of society

employment and adequate

brings advantages that people of

educational options, in the same

color do not have.

way people of color do.

THE TROUBLE WITH PRIVILEGE

mean white people don’t

There are some white people

struggle. Rather, it says that in

(though they are few) who

all those struggles, race was not

would readily acknowledge that

an additional obstacle.

PRI V ILEGE D OES N’T ME A N W HITE PEO PLE D O N’T STRUG GLE. R ATHER, IT S AYS R ACE WA S N OT A N A D DITIO N AL O B STACLE.

Privilege, however, doesn’t

racial minorities face certain

“White privilege doesn’t

obstacles. But the majority of

mean your life isn’t hard,” Ken

white people struggle to concede

Wytsma writes in his book, The

that they—being a majority

Myth of Equality. “It means that

group—may have an easier time

if you are a person of color,

maneuvering in society.

simply by virtue of that, your life

White people experience poverty; they endure chronic illnesses; they struggle to

might be harder.” Others often object to the concept of “privilege” because

46%

of its origins. Privilege, they say,

don’t like or don’t like the way

comes from a secular mindset.

they make us feel.”

It’s not a term found in the Bible,

For people of color, though,

therefore, Christians should not

white racial privilege is an

use it. Wytsma argues believers

everyday reality. Recent data

OF WHITE PEOPLE

can employ the term, though.

from the Pew Research Center

S AY T H E Y B E N E F I T

accurate terminology for

of white people say they benefit

something,” he says. “And if that

from advantages black people

F R O M A D VA N TA G E S

terminology is getting confused,

do not have, 92 percent of black

then we need to go back to the

people say white people gain

T H AT B L A C K

roots of the word and strongly

benefits due to their race.

PEOPLE DO N O T H AV E .

“I’m a fan of using the most

define what we mean by it.” Alexander Jun, a professor of

shows that while only 46 percent

This difference is even more pronounced along partisan lines.

higher education and co-author

Among those who are Democrat

of the book White Out, agrees.

or lean Democrat, 78 percent

He wonders if the painful

say white people benefit from

feelings the concept of privilege

their skin color. Only 27 percent

evokes may play a role in some

of Republicans or Republican-

Christians rejecting the word.

leaning people agree.

“Perhaps it is just part of

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our sinful human nature to

WHAT TO DO ABOUT PRIVILEGE

attribute negative meaning to

What can be done about

certain terms in order to justify

privilege? A first step may

the removal of words we either

simply be to mourn. “We need

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to lament the past sufferings before trying to fix them—or

Or you could work in your

else we’ll never feel or truly

school or organization to

empathize with the human toll,”

make sure power is equitably

Edmondson says.

distributed among people of

The Bible admonishes believers to weep with those

diverse backgrounds. involved, one key piece of

weight of the grief of racism can

advice: “Don’t get overwhelmed

create a burden to change the

by the fact that you can’t fix it

status quo.

all,” Edmondson says.

P E O P L E S AY WHITE PEOPLE

But it’s not just about

people with privilege should

stewarding privilege for the

leverage their advantages for

benefit of others. Christians

the good of those who do not

should also lay down their

have such privileges. “We should

privileges for the sake of

reframe our perspectives, and

righteousness and justice.

use the term to acknowledge

OF BLACK

However you choose to get

who weep, and feeling the

Another response is that

92%

to find alternative consequences.

GAIN BENEFITS DUE TO THEIR RACE.

Just as Jesus emptied Himself

that we have it, not so that we

to become a human being and

would feel guilt or shame, but

save those who believe in Him,

to leverage it for good. To whom

believers should release their

much is given, much will be

social advantages, often due to

required,” says Jun.

sinful realities like racism and

offers to sinners. If Christians

embrace solidarity with the

can accept the idea that they

unwieldy as privilege can seem

marginalized (Philippians 2:1-8).

have done nothing to earn

impossible. How can one person

Admittedly, this process can

Tackling an issue as

God’s gift of the Gospel, then the

or even a group of people

be agonizing for those who

concept of unearned advantages

change what an entire society

have social privileges. Learning

may be easier to grasp.

values and how it treats people?

that people can unintentionally

While such effective movements

benefit from racism or other

is purely good. “We merited

are rare, that doesn’t mean

forms of oppression can upend

nothing, but are saved by grace

Christians are powerless in the

one’s perception of the world.

alone by faith alone,” Wytsma

face of privilege.

This is why addressing it must

explains.” In that way, we ought

be done in community.

to celebrate and acknowledge

If you are committed to

But God’s grace in Christ

undoing injustice, it helps

“It’s not easy for people to

to start small. The experts

experience life getting more

only by the merits of the death

recommend focusing on a

complicated or difficult without

and resurrection of our savior

specific issue or topic where

someone mentoring, teaching

Jesus Christ.”

you can practice self-sacrificial

or coaching them through it,”

systemic change.

Wytsma says.

For example, you could be

the privilege of election, earned

It is this grace that frees believers to surrender any social benefits they may have due to

part of discussions about health

PRIVILEGE AND GRACE

race, wealth, education, location

disparities and how infant

The Christian understanding

or any other factor.

mortality rates are higher for

of grace helps dismantle the

African-American babies. You

various injustices caused by all

believers count others as better

could observe what’s happening

forms of privilege.

than themselves. In this context,

in your local school district

Grace—unmerited favor—

Christian community is where

social privilege loses its appeal

around suspension rates for

comes to believers through

and the only true privilege

students of color and join efforts

Christ and the salvation He

comes from serving others.

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JEM AR TISBY leads “The Witness,” a black Christian collective of activists.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


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THE SECOND COMING OF

Russell Brand Fifteen years after embracing sobriety, he’s now talking about how culture can stop its destructive patterns: by following Jesus.

BY JESSE CAREY

y personal feeling is the teachings of Christ are more relevant now than they’ve ever been.” If you have even a surface-level knowledge of comedian, actor, writer and allaround provocateur Russell Brand, this is a shocking statement. Though in recent years he’s become more and more vocal about social justice issues, for much of his career, Brand has been known for his uniquely raunchy brand of shock comedy (This is the guy who once brought his drug dealer to work with him when he was an MTV VJ.). He continues: “When stripped of the cultural inflection of the time when it was first written and is variously being translated, there is an undeniable truth.” Yes, Russell Brand, that Russell Brand, believes the world needs Jesus’ message now more than ever. It’s something he thinks a lot about. Brand feels the world is profoundly broken. Technology, pop culture and social media have accelerated the worst impulses of human nature, and, in his view, never has there been a time in history that humanity has more desperately needed the message of Jesus. “There’s a famous quote: ‘Every man who knocks on a brothel door, he’s looking for God,’” he says. “Crack houses and these dens of suffering and elicit activity, they’re all people trying to feel good, try-

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ing to feel connected. People are trying to escape. People are trying to get out of their own heads. To me, this is a spiritual impetus.” This is at the core of why he believes the message of Jesus Christ is so important right now: Humanity is (metaphorically), knocking on a brothel door, in that they are looking for fulfillment in things that will only leave them empty. And because instant, but quickly fleeting, gratification is always at our fingertips—Amazon Prime, Instagram likes, pornography, text messages and other modern trappings—we have become addicted. And addiction is something Brand knows a lot about. In his new book, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions, Brand not only further delves into his own struggles with addictions to drugs, sex, alcohol, food and fame, but also how he’s found a pathway to healing. Recently, this journey has taken a surprising turn. Brand now feels the answer to breaking out of this vicious cycle—not just as an individual struggling to get clean from drugs, but as a culture—is a spiritual one. It’s one he thinks can be found in Jesus. A CHARACTER WE ALL KNOW

For many Americans, their first introduction to the comedy stylings of Russell Brand was the 2008 hit comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In the film—and subsequent

“My personal feeling is that the teachings of Christ are more relevant now than they’ve ever been.”

spinoff Get Him to the Greek—Brand plays a famous, constantly philosophizing British rock star known for dating a famous American celebrity and going sober after years of drug-fueled antics. In other words, there’s a lot of similarities to the real-life Brand, who was famously married to pop star Katy Perry for about two years in 2009. But before becoming an American movie star, Brand was a well-known celebrity in the U.K., famous for his controversial stand-up comedy, being an MTV VJ, serving as the host of the reality show Big Brother’s Big Mouth,

but as a way of seeing the world. The experience radical-

hosting his own radio and TV talk shows and acting in

ly changed him, and he’s since become an advocate for

various popular series.

what’s known as the 12-step program, an addiction recov-

He was also known for struggling with drug addiction,

ery method based largely on Christian principles that is

often in extremely public fashion. He’d become a fixture

centered on a reliance on a higher power, self-reflection

of British tabloids, and in his darkest moments, would

and forgiveness.

even cut himself. In the years since Brand has gotten clean, he has written openly about his troubled upbringing and becoming addicted to alcohol, hard drugs and sex. Fifteen years ago, he decided something in his life needed to change.

The program transformed Brand’s life. And in the years since he discovered it, Brand began to see everything through the lens of the 12 steps. “I’ve been in recovery from drugs and alcohol for 14 and a half years,” he explains. “The longer I’ve been clean

Already having been arrested a dozen times for

from drugs and alcohol, the more I’ve noticed that [our]

drug-related incidents, Brand was caught shooting up

own addiction—and perhaps addiction in general—is af-

heroin in the bathroom during an office Christmas party

fecting our behavior in ways that we wouldn’t previously

by his agent, who knew that Brand’s life was now legiti-

have assumed.”

mately at risk. After an intervention orchestrated by his agent, Brand embraced recovery—not just as a means of getting clean,

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A SOBER VIEW OF THINGS

The 12-step program takes time, because ultimately, it

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isn’t about changing behavior, it’s about changing oneself. The first three steps are based on the ability to recognize the depths of our own circumstances and to begin to understand how we can free ourselves from them. “We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable,” he says. “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Brand explains the steps in more modern—more profane—terms, essentially, getting “unf***ed up.” The program caused him to think about the powerlessness people have over their addictions if they refuse to recognize the depths of their own brokenness—even if the addictions aren’t drugs or substances. “Everything we do can be colored by this unconscious belief that we can make ourselves feel better with external stuff, be it behavior or chemicals,” he says. “So what I’ve kind of come across mentally is that either we are working an unconscious program or a conscious program. So if we’re not consciously running a program, we’re running on the unconscious program of our past and of our culture. That’s what I wanted to understand an alternative to.” Essentially, Brand believes that instant-gratification culture has led to a culture of addicts, and the 12 steps— which include things like “humbly [asking] God to remove our shortcomings,” “making a list of all persons we had harmed and [being] willing to make amends to them all” and “… [seeking] to improve our conscious contact with God as we [have] understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out—can help free people.” However, when he was first introduced to the program—by an atheist, ironically—he had one problem: all of the religious talk. He was known as a bohemian cultural figure with a taste for dirty jokes, and the whole “God” thing didn’t seem natural. So, instead of becoming traditionally “religious,” he changed how he thought about religion. “My understanding of what religion means altered,” he explains. “Because when I think about the aim, the purpose of religion, I think it becomes—when you put aside the social institutions that spring up around religions in all their strains and various forms of strands—I believe that the purpose of religion is love and connection, to feel connected to one another and to feel at ease with who we are … a kind of oneness, a kind of wholeness. So, as I began to understand that, this sort of superficial language of religion seemed less relevant.” It took a while, but after stripping away the “superficial language of religion,” Brand decided to connect with the

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higher power at the root of the 12 steps. Brand became fascinated with spirituality as a way of escaping the pull of physical vices, and his struggles with addiction—and their root causes—framed his way of viewing faith. “My route to spirituality comes through addiction, so it comes from desperation and fear and this sort of defeat, destruction, annihilation of self in a very humiliating way, I suppose,” he explains. “So, I had no choice but to embrace spiritual life, but now I am grateful for this. It makes sense of my life.” Brand realized that cultivating a spiritual life could help free himself from the strongholds of addictions by treating the root causes of the pain he’d attempted to dull with drugs. And being raised in the U.K.—a traditionally Christian country—he turned to the Christianity. He began implementing spiritual practices every day. “Because I come from a Christian culture, a lot of the language of prayer that I use is Christian,” he explains. “I say the Lord’s Prayer every day. I try to connect to what those words mean. I connect to what the Father means. I connect to what wholeness means to me. I think about the relationship between forgiveness and being forgiven and the impossibility of redemption until you are willing to forgive and let go.” The practice of embracing spirituality, prayer and digging into the teachings of Christ has helped keep him on the path to personal recovery. But while discovering his own unique spiritual path, he also uncovered a message that could be the key to transforming culture. RECOVERING THE WORLD

Brand says reciting the Lord’s Prayer made him start thinking about what Jesus really meant by the words. One phrase in particular began to jump out at him: “Thy kingdom come … on Earth as it is in Heaven.” What does that idea mean for a world crippled by addiction to superficial fulfillment? “I think continually about what Christ meant by the afterlife,” he explains. “And for me, it’s that when you are disavowed of the illusion that the material will fulfill you, you enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is spread upon the Earth.” He references Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 who asks, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Brand says, referencing Christ’s response, “Give away all your possessions and follow me—that’s a pretty radical thing.” Brand says the reason why this idea is so radical is because it strikes at the core of the values so many people secretly hold: that money and materialism can cure our unhappiness. “I think the reason that the economic arguments Christ offered are not promoted is because they are deeply at odds with the way we live,” he explains.

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got a wife and a child and live in a capitalistic society and would just be vulnerable and exposed and torn up by reality. But no, of course, the spiritual perspective is, ‘No, you would be carried there by grace.’”

“Unless Christ is right here, right now, in your heart ... then what is Christ?”

Brand frequently interjects that he’s “not a theologian,” and, at times, has trouble remembering specific Scripture references or using typical “Christian” language. But after studying religions and writings from across the philosophical spectrum, the teachings of Jesus have helped him understand modern cultural addictions—and how to free ourselves from them—in much deeper ways. One of these ways is, in his words, seeking “Christ consciousness”—a concept that Paul refers to as, and many Christians would call, achieving “the mind of Christ.” Essentially, becoming more Christ-like ourselves. “If Christ consciousness is not accessible to us, then what is the point of the story of Jesus, you know?” he asks rhetorically. “He’s just a sort of a scriptural rock star, just an icon. Unless Christ is right here, right now, in your heart, in your consciousness, then what is Christ?” To Brand, this is key to not only changing a person struggling with addictions, but also to recovering a culture. It must be a spiritual change; a change of values. “I do think a spiritual and transcendent change is required for people to be free from addiction,” he says. “And by spiritual change, I mean the transition from one’s life being predicated on self-fulfillment to a life predicated on service, which for me is a moment-to-moment struggle.” Fifteen years ago, Brand embraced sobriety and started a journey to learn about why he sought relief through drugs, sex, alcohol and fame. Today, he sees a world that suffers from the same addictions on a cultural level. And after exploring faith, the teachings of Jesus have

Instead of focusing on unhealthy patterns centered on

led to a revelation: The Kingdom of God can be ushered

self-fulfillment, the message of the Gospel offers an alter-

in on Earth, but only if we free ourselves from all of the

native: caring for others and helping those in need.

trappings that distract us from it—the same ones Jesus

“I’ve seen in many formats now—because I’ve played

Himself warned us about.

out the same pattern many times—the attachment to

For Brand, attempting to do that is what recovery is all

physical things, physical behaviors or people, will never

about. It may seem like a difficult task, but perhaps his

make me happy,” he explains. “But service of others and

most profound revelation is that it is not something that

values that are certainly found in Christianity will make

should be attempted alone. A higher power is here to help.

me feel peace or make me feel happy. It’s a lesson that’s very hard to learn.”

When asked about taking the first step to recovery, Brand, a man who has thought about recovery every day

The reason he says the lesson is hard to learn is because

for more than a decade, offers this advice for those want-

even when people are free from drugs and alcohol, there’s

ing to get clean spiritually and physically: “Admit you

always the pull of a society focused on self-gratification

have a problem. Believe it’s possible to change, and ask

instead of selflessness. That struggle—consistently ques-

Him for help. Invite Him in … Capital H’s, of course.”

tioning our attachment to material things instead of eter-

Of course.

nal ones—is the tension of a journey to actual recovery. “I question what would happen,” he says. “‘Russell, if you had the strength of character to give up everything and just live in the service of love? Would you?’ I sort of rationalize why I don’t do that. I don’t have to. I can’t. I’ve

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JESSE CAREY is the brand director at RELEVANT. You can find him on Twitter @jessecarey.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


T H E H O N E S T B R I L L I A N C E

JES S IE

O F

WA R E

How motherhood, her fans and Ed Sheeran helped her embrace honesty.

BY SETH JAM ES

“I don’t think I’ve been losing my mind,”

and Glasshouse is no exception. But this

Jessie Ware jokes while reflecting on

time around, not only did Ware’s well of

the buildup to the release of her hyper-

inspiration grow even deeper, but her music

anticipated new album, Glasshouse. “But

also got a lot more honest.

it feels like this kind of thing that, you’re working toward a date, and it feels really

FULLHOUSE

bizarre and unreal.”

Ware became a mother while recording

If she seems flustered, it might be because

transformed her in ways both expected and

nothing new for the singer—she’s spent the

unexpected. Far from creating newer and

last five years as one of the more up-and-

harder demands on her artistic life, she felt

coming of pop’s up-and-coming stars.

energized to start creating again.

“Now [the album] is here, and it reminds

“I think actually that my brain being so

you why we do this,” she says. “It feels like

scattered and having to think about a lot of

a celebration ... Just to be in touch with the

different things, this became a place where

fans, with them tweeting me. It feels like

I could go to fix my head a little,” she says

reality now, not just a hypothetical release

of the recording studio. “That was kind of

date, you know what I mean?”

an escape for me too, but behind that was a

Well, no. Ware is in a rare state of creative energy, and not many people could really relate to her process. That’s how she’s able to release such consistently excellent music,

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parts of Glasshouse, an experience she says

Ware’s schedule is stacked. Though that’s

fierce drive to make it work.” Instead of distracting from her passion as an artist, the new stage in life galvanized it. “I think I’ve got more of a reason now to

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GL AS SH O U S E Ware is inviting listeners to a new level of intimacy, in a way only she can.

be an artist,” she says. “I’ve got somebody to kind of impress and inspire. I want to show [my daughter] that if you work hard, things pay off. I think my work ethic is far more driven and focused since I have a baby.” NICEHOUSE

That work ethic shows, as Glasshouse is, in many ways, Ware’s most successful effort yet. It mixes the tempered patience her fans have come to know her for with a newfound bracing of honesty that feels like a relief after a career built on tension. It’s so honest, in fact, that Ware admits she was a little hesitant to record one song, “Sam.” It took the encouragement of her writing partner, pop superstar Ed Sheeran, to talk her into it. “He kind of settled me by just saying, ‘I think if it makes you feel uncomfortable it’s a good thing, and people haven’t heard you speak like this before, so maybe take the risk and see how it happens,’” she remembers. “I think that risk has actually paid off. I think people—from what I’ve gathered—enjoy hearing something a bit more personal and more direct.” She’s right. “Sam” is one of the greatest achievements in Ware’s career, and points to a new, thrilling direction. With her first two albums, Ware felt like an artist on the rise. With Glasshouse, it seems like she’s here to stay—a confident artist who has come into her own. But Ware’s real fans know she’s earned her new sense of confidence. “They’ve been there from the start,” Ware says. “They’re ready to ride or die. I’d like to think that my music invites the kind of people that I’d like to hang out with. They’re really fun, my crowd, and we have real laughs at shows. I give a lot of myself in my shows. Maybe that’s made them devoted.”

SETH JA MES is a music writer who lives in the Hollywood Hills with his family.

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Meet some of the faith communities breaking the mold of what it means to be a church.


IF

you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: “We don’t do church the same old way here.” It seems to be a statement memorized

2

CREATING A COMMUNITY HUB

IMPACT CHURCH: ATLANTA, GA

Impact Church’s slogan is “Doing Church Differently,” and they’ve worked hard to earn

by most aspiring church planters and trumpeted with

it by creating a church that puts more focus on the other

pride from the stage. You know, the stage—the same

six days of the week than they do on Sunday mornings.

stage with the same artsy decor, led by the same cool

With Pastor Olu Brown at the helm, Impact has become

white guy pastor with skinny jeans, Warby Parkers and

one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States,

a bit of scruff just before he launches into the same

and they’ve done it all while maintaining a commitment

Sunday morning programming.

to improving the lives of their

Now, none of this is bad. In fact, a lot of it is really good. Churches can accomplish a lot using tried-and-

congregants inside and outside their walls.

true models, and utilizing tested programming isn’t necessarily laziness—it might be called smart. So where are the churches truly doing something

In addition to offering Bible studies, Impact fosters communities to teach things like

different? We wanted to highlight some trailblazing faith

financial responsibility, dating

communities rethinking what church can look like in a

advice and even estate planning.

modern context, whether in terms of how they engage

The next stage in their

their members, how they reach out to their communities

journey is refurbishing a

or how they champion justice. Some of them are big and

warehouse into an eco-friendly space that will serve

well-funded, some of them are small and struggling, but

not just as a church, but also a sort of community

all of them are setting a new bar for what church can be.

center. The new space will feature hygiene centers for Atlanta’s homeless population, after-school programs for area youth, office space to serve as incubators for

1

startup businesses, a community garden and creative

CONNECTING IMMIGRANT FAMILIES

NACO CHRISTIAN CHURCH / IGLESIA CRISTIANA DE NACO: NACO, AZ

Naco Christian Church is one church with one pastor in two different locations­—with a large, taxpayer-funded fence between them. The church is just a few blocks

programming and coding classes.

3

LEAVING THE BUILDING

WE ARE CHURCH:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

In 2013, famed author Francis Chan stepped

from the Mexican border and

away from his huge church platform to try something

offers services on both sides

very different: a church planting network with no

of it. There’s an early-morning

building, no overhead and

service in Naco, Arizona,

minimal structure. It’s called We

followed by one just across the

Are Church, and it’s made up

border in Naco, Mexico, later in

entirely of small communities

the day.

that meet in homes. The rules

The church is pastored by

are straightforward: Each

Jesse Wood, while his wife

home has two unpaid pastors

Jessica works as the church’s

and members are placed

children’s coordinator. They’re a binational couple,

within a church in their local

making them uniquely fit to lead a church that serves

communities.

two different cultures. And the church is no gimmick. By

With no building costs and no paid staff, the entirety

operating close to the border, Naco Christian Church is a

of church tithes and donations can be spent on

lifeline between children and their parents who’ve been

charitable work, missions, relief aid and other causes

deported back to Mexico.

the various house churches find meaningful. There’s

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also less fear of trying something new or different, since

that transcends nominal lip

there’s so little overhead and, therefore, virtually zero

service to “diversity” to offer

financial risk.

a truly radical integrated

4

community of people who

CHAMPIONING NONPROFITS

depict something that more

CROSSOVER BIBLE CHURCH:

closely approximates what the

TULSA, OK

actual body of Christ might

Crossover Bible Church isn’t just a church; it’s

look like rather than the usual

a nonprofit organization. Actually, it’s four nonprofit

homogeneous lineup.

organizations, a dream brought to reality by two men in

The church has doubled down on its focus on

two different fields who found their visions overlapped.

combating racism since the events in Ferguson, Missouri,

The Rev. Philip Abode was a pastor who wanted to plant

in 2014. Cho was deeply moved by the death of Mike

a church in North Tulsa that would have a real impact

Brown and what he perceived as the Christian Church’s

on the impoverished area. He

lack of compassion about the realities of systemic racial

met up with Justin Pickard,

injustice in modern America.

a Harvard graduate who had a vision of a housing and economic revival in North Tulsa. The two realized they could do more together than separate, and out of that partnership

6

HOUSING DALLAS’ HOMELESS

CHURCH OF THE INCARNATION: DALLAS, TX

This Anglican church has been around for

Crossover Bible Church and its

a long time, but its approach to ministering to one of

affiliate Crossover Community

Texas’ larger cities has remained cutting edge for every

Impact was born.

one of its more than 100 years. Under the leadership of

Crossover Community Impact operates four

the Rev. Anthony J. Burton, the

different LLCs (limited liability companies). There’s

church has set the bar for what

Crossover Sports Association, which runs after-school

it looks like for a church to take

sports programs. There’s a family medical clinic

Jesus’ concern for the homeless

called Crossover Health Services. There’s a housing

to heart.

development nonprofit called Crossover Development

Whether it’s volunteering at a

Company, and Crossover Preparatory Academy, a private,

nearby home for the low-income

tuition-free all-boys school. By minimizing the scope

elderly or cooking hot meals for

of their reach (if you’re going to work for the church,

a nearby shelter, there are few

you have to live in the neighborhood—no exceptions),

ways the Church of the Incarnation isn’t involved in local

Crossover has deepened the extent of their impact.

homeless work. Maybe most notable is their Incarnation House, an area for homeless teens and teens in unstable

5

housing situations. Incarnation House provides a real,

TAKING AIM AT RACISM

concrete place for teenagers without anywhere else to

QUEST CHURCH: SEATTLE, WA

go, and provides them with physical, educational and

Eugene Cho was already a rising pastor, author

spiritual resources to take the next step.

and speaker when the aging, mostly white

congregation of Interbay Covenant Church agreed to merge with the young, mostly Asian-American congregation of Quest Church, gifting them a large, upscale debt-free building in the process. The church had the usual generational bickering at first—arguments over the volume of the music and the type of food

DEVIN JONES is a freelance writer who lives in Denver with his wife and daughter.

served at potlucks—but what’s emerged is a new vision for a multi-ethnic church in the United States, one

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When Life Isn’t Going as ‘Planned’ Pastor and author Chad Veach looks at what happens when things don’t work out like we thought they would.


BY JESSICA STEPHENS

B

rowse the Christian aisle

WE’VE GOTTEN WRONG?

at any bookstore or look

I think the easiest way to simplify [it] is

at sermon titles from big-

to say, “Stop holding on to your history at

name pastors and there’s

the expense of your destiny.”

a good chance you’ll find

So many people are holding on to their

some of the following words: purpose,

past and are rehearsing things that God

calling, plan.

forgot about a long time ago. So they’re

Many Christians are taught God has a

punishing themselves for things, and

unique plan for their lives and a purpose

God is like, “I will remember your sins

just for them.

no more.”

But after moving to L.A. (a place he

I don’t think that God has a plan B for

calls a “city of broken dreams”) to plant

any of our lives. He’s not on the fly like,

Zoe Church a few years ago, Chad Veach

“You messed that up, so now I have to

realized that many Christians have come

change my plans.”

to a place in life where they believe they missed that plan. Veach wrestles with the question of what happens when things aren’t going

God has a plan no matter what we do. God has a plan no matter what our behavior or sin or failure is. It doesn’t change His heart toward our lives.

as planned in his new book Faith Forward Future. It’s a question anyone whose life

FOR SOMEONE WHO THINKS THEY

didn’t pan out like they thought it would

REALLY MESSED UP AND THAT IT’S TOO

has likely found themselves asking.

LATE, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM?

We recently spoke with Veach about what the Bible says about our individu-

I don’t think any of us can go too far out or too far away from God’s grace.

al callings, what to do if we’ve veered off

I heard someone say that God’s view

of God’s plan for our lives and the mis-

doesn’t change the way He sees your life,

conceptions too many Christians believe

but people’s opinion, that’s what chang-

about their “callings.”

es. We hold so much weight on what man sees and their opinion, so we think God

YOU’VE RECENTLY EMBRACED A

feels the same. But He doesn’t.

MESSAGE THAT CHALLENGES WHAT

It doesn’t matter how far you’ve

MANY CHRISTIANS BELIEVE ABOUT

gone—God [stayed] faithful to Peter

PURPOSE AND CALLING. WHAT IS IT THAT

when he [denied] Him.

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“I don’t think that God has a plan B for any of our lives.”

God did not do that. We live in our own

out of my cynicism, out of my failure.

fallen universe. We live in a world with

What is the future? None of us know,

a sinful nature and free will. That’s why

and the future could change.

the hope of heaven is such a great idea.

The plan is not doctor, lawyer, teach-

There’s no more sickness or sorrow or

er, pastor. It’s not. The plan is in His Son.

suffering there.

And the adventure in that takes faith

We calm fear by declaring who God

and risks.

is in His word and His promises. And

I think it’s hard for us to wrap our mind around the idea that in spite of how bad I am, God still loves me and has a plan for my life.

everyone goes, “Oh yeah, God said this

WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST REVELATION

would happen. Oh, right, this is not my

YOU HAD THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS?

home. I’m going to be good.” That’s the

I couldn’t stop this thought: God really

comfort, and that’s what God does. He

has a plan for every single person.

revives us. He said His Word will heal us. It’s a lamp unto our feet in the midst of dark-

The more I studied it, the more I understood that the gifts and callings of God are irreversible.

The majority of people are not con-

ness. That is our greater citizenship. I

We think that we messed up God’s

vinced that there’s greatness on their

think right now we have an opportuni-

plan, so surely He can’t still be com-

life. I don’t think a lot of people are feel-

ty to get people’s hopes up to a greater

mitted to us, but the more I study these

ing like they’re called to do these great

place. This is not our home.

Scriptures, the more I realize that God

things for God. That’s why you have to go to God. And once you have a relation-

If we don’t have those truths, then

is so committed to our lives even when

people get very lost.

we’re in our worst place.

eyes a little bit, and you start to see that

IT SEEMS LIKE THE REASON A LOT

for most people here in L.A., they’re like,

you can actually make a difference in

OF PEOPLE HAVE TROUBLE WITH THE

“This is not what I envisioned. This is

other people’s lives and that He wants

IDEA OF GOD’S PLAN FOR THEIR LIFE

not what I planned. It’s broken.”

to do something in and through you.

IS BECAUSE THEY THINK THE PLAN IS

ship with God, He starts to open your

Ephesians 3:20 [talks about] the idea

I live in a city of broken dreams. And

A DESTINATION. CAN YOU EVER REALLY

I think that’s a huge space for God to walk in and say, “I’ve got a better plan.”

that God is able to do things exceeding-

BE OUT OF HIS PLAN?

ly and abundantly—far above anything

That’s just it. We see “plan” as destina-

a man have in his heart, but the Lord di-

we could ask, think or imagine.

tion, geography, occupation. It’s not.

rects his steps.” I get excited that some-

Most people can’t imagine or think

The only way to discover God’s plan is

that God uses ordinary people to do ex-

through following His Son, Jesus. And as

traordinary things.

you follow, His plan unfolds—that was

Proverbs 16:9 says, “Many plans does

one could say, “OK, I made it. I’m going follow Jesus and see what happens.”

one thing that became very evident. The WHEN WE READ ABOUT TERRIBLE THINGS HAPPENING IN THE WORLD

We think the plan is an office with a

THAT SEEM LIKE THEY ARE OUTSIDE

corner view or X amount of money or

OF GOD’S PLAN, PEOPLE START

X amount of followers. No. God’s plan is

QUESTIONING WHY GOD WOULD ALLOW

His Son. So that’s why we need faith and

SOMETHING LIKE IT TO HAPPEN. WHAT

Jesus to move forward.

WOULD YOUR RESPONSE BE?

JAN-FEB

ultimate plan is just following His Son.

Jesus called me out of my addiction,

074

JESSICA STEPHENS is a freelance writer living in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her terrier, Buffalo.

2018


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2018


HOW TO DECONSTRUCT YO U R FA I T H WITHOUT LOSING IT S A R A H M I K E

B E S S E Y ,

M C H A R G U E

R I C H A R D F A I T H

R O H R

B E G I N S

A N D O N

F A T H E R

W H Y

W I T H

R E A L

D O U B T .

BY TYLER HUCKABEE

“My husband and I had lost one

these questions without really

CONSTRUCTION

structure in their community

of our children before birth,”

acknowledging them.

We’re talking about a process

and theology.”

says Sarah Bessey, author

Every now and then, she’d

called deconstruction—an

So says Mike McHargue,

of Jesus Feminist and Out of

feel doubt like a brush of cold

academic term for the

broadly known as “Science

Sorts. “And the experience of

fingers in her soul, but she

systematic pulling apart of the

Mike” to fans who relate to his

walking through that meant I

successfully avoided facing them

belief system you were raised

“Christian turned atheist turned

didn’t really have the option to

head on.

in. It’s what happens when the

follower of Jesus” journey.

questions you’ve pushed down

McHargue started blogging

choose the intellectual spiritual

“I think the thicket of

dishonesty of pretending that I

questions, doubts, problems

your whole life finally bubble

about his experience online and

was fine.”

and wondering were all well

over the surface, and you’re

was surprised at the response.

and fine until I actually started

forced to stare honestly at your

she hadn’t been fine for quite

experiencing grief on a really

doubts. The infallibility of the

of emails a month from people

some time, even before her

personal level,” she says.

Bible. The omniscience of God.

saying, ‘I’m experiencing that,’”

The finality of hell.

he says. “And then I started

The truth, Bessey says, is that

tragic miscarriage. She’d felt some questions

The devastation held her face to her doubts, and she realized

This is all more common

“I started getting hundreds

podcasting and then I got

bubbling up in her faith—the

the system of beliefs she had was

than you might think. “There

thousands of emails a month.

sort of questions good Christians

no longer adequate.

are a lot of Christians—millions

There [were] so many people—

in the U.S.—who are deeply

primarily in a post-evangelical

aren’t supposed to ask about

“So that meant I went in the

their beliefs. Like a lot of

direction of feeling like I needed

fearful and traumatized by their

context, but also from the

people, Bessey says she sensed

to burn it down,” she says.

own curiosity, because of the

mainline and also from the

077

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


Catholic Church.”

mainline denomination to

that keeps people from starting

universalism or spiritualism or

the process of deconstruction.

McHargue interested in the idea

a different mainline product of

Fear of the unknown. Fear of

of deconstruction—how beliefs

denomination.

rejection by your community.

All the attention got

can shift over time.

“So that fear comes from how

“Sociologists tell us that—and it varies a percent or two year

For some people, there can

high the fence is around your

be fear of losing work and, of

theological community.”

course, depending on what

by year—but 43 to 44 percent

A big reason, according to

exactly you’re questioning, fear

of people will go through a

McHargue, is the level of fear

of eternal damnation. That’s

major faith transition at some

involved. The more rigid your

why many people’s process of

point in their life,” he says. “And

faith structure, the more drastic

deconstruction begins with an

that’s any faith transition. So

the leap of faith required to start

inciting incident—a personal

that can be from one Christian

asking questions surrounding it.

earthquake that shakes them

denomination to another

loose from their moorings.

“You’ve got a very high

denomination; that can be from

fence—a very high level of

belief to atheism; that can also

required belief—of fear that

incident was her miscarriage,

For Bessey, that inciting

be—and this happens—from

asking one question will lead to

but the grief didn’t stop

secularism to some form of

a lot more,” he says.

there. If anything, she says,

religiosity. But 44 percent is a

deconstruction opens the door

huge number.” Indeed it is, and it’s a number that gets even more interesting

DECONSTRUCTION

for an even deeper struggle with

“People are very afraid of what

sadness.

W I T H R I G H T

. . .

T O

B A S I C A L LY

P E O P L E

P E R F E C T

G E T T I N G

According to McHargue, people raised in more

T H E

C E R T I T U D E

D E S T R O Y E D

when you start to pull it apart.

T H E

. . .

B I B L I C A L

Father Richard Rohr, friar and

sense of grief that comes along

founder of the Center for Action

with deconstruction,” Bessey

and Contemplation.

says. “I think a lot of times, we

conservative structures—

“You go back to the first 1,300

have that sort of feeling that we

Southern Baptists, for example—

years of Christianity, and faith

only have one of two options,

are among the least likely to

is defined as a combination of

which is to either double down

experience a faith transition.

knowing and not knowing. Of

and pretend everything’s fine

That may not be terribly

a willingness and readiness by

and stuff your questions down

surprising, but what is

the grace of God to live with a

and your doubts and things

surprising is that when

certain degree of unknowing or

where you feel like maybe it

people raised in conservative

what the mystics call darkness,”

doesn’t add up or you feel like

belief systems do have a faith

Rohr says. “Now with that out of

you don’t belong anymore.”

transition, it tends to be a

the picture, and people getting

dramatic one.

the impression that they have

move to the next level of

“So when very conservative

Rohr agrees. “You don’t

a right to perfect certitude

faith without going through a

religious people go through

and perfect clarity and perfect

necessary period of darkness,”

a faith transition, they

order every step of the way,

he says. “When you’ve never

tend to leave faith behind

you’ve basically—I’m gonna say

had that in your background

completely,” McHargue explains.

it strongly—you’ve basically

and it’s all about building this

“People of a more moderate

destroyed the biblical idea of

coherent, consistent system

theological background tend

faith to begin with.”

where you actually love your

to make a transition from a

JAN-FEB

“I think there is always a

looks like deconstruction,” says

Fear is one of the major things

078

understanding of faith. This is

2018


not the love of God anymore,

soon as you lose sight of where

this is an idol called certitude.”

you started. Deconstruction is a

and ideologies and political

necessary part of many—if not

views that I have now that will

most—spiritual journeys. But

probably be very different in

it was never intended to be the

five or 10 years from now,” she

whole journey.

says. “And that doesn’t scare me

And certitude is a hard thing to leave behind. “So now when bits of darkness or actual faith journey [are] asked of people, they think

“There are a lot of opinions

“The trick is to find some—

anymore, as much as it does feel

they’re losing their faith. When

what I’d call—consensus of

like this is sort of a journey. If

in fact, the great ones would say,

epistemology,” McHargue says.

we’re not growing and changing,

‘You’re finally finding it.’”

“Something you can hold loosely,

we’re missing it.”

just to facilitate conversations

McHargue went even further

RECONSTRUCTION

with people. For me, that’s a

on Twitter recently, when he

It took Bessey a while to allow

scientific worldview. Most people

said he was of the mind that

herself to embrace honest

can agree that what we observe is

every believer should be an

questions but when she did, the

real and we can make conclusions

atheist at least once in their life.

experience wasn’t as frightening

about what we observe.”

“After you’ve been really

as she thought it might be.

certain that God is real, and you RECONCILIATION

lose that, it’s kind of hard to be

doubts and things I had been

“I feel like everything is

full of yourself and your ideas

fighting for so long ended

different in a lot of ways,”

again,” he explains. “It becomes

up being a really beautiful

Bessey says, sounding delighted.

impossible to have your ideas

invitation from the Holy

“I can’t really think of any part

about God become an idol. The

“The very questions and

I M P R E S S I O N

T H AT

E V E R Y

O F

I D E A

S T E P

O F

F A I T H

T H E Y

T H E T O

H AV E

W AY,

A

Y O U

B E G I N

H AV E

W I T H .

Spirit,” she says. “And I found a

of my life that was untouched

biggest thing I got from being a

third way, which is something

by everything. I unlearned and

fundamentalist evangelical and

between doubling down and

relearned who God is.”

then a fundamentalist atheist,

burning it all down. ... It’s kind

It’d be a mistake to say this is

was I was fundamentally wrong

of an invitation from God that

the goal of reconstructing your

about how the world works

there is goodness in here, there

beliefs, because the goal can

twice. I’m determined to not

are good people, and you may

look different for everyone.

make that mistake again.”

not have all the answers, but the journey is good.” People get stuck in a phase

“I look back at who I was 20

Bessey feels the same way.

years ago, 10 years ago and even

“There’s not just one story or

five years ago and we are always

one thing that’s happening,” she

of deconstruction, partly out of

growing,” Bessey says. “And I

says. “It’s so generous and big

a fear of being hurt again. It’s

think that’s part of the point. If

and inclusive and all of a sudden,

difficult to pull apart a belief

you’re not growing, changing

you end up finding your tribe

system you’d grown to trust,

and evolving, you’re not paying

and your people and finding

so some people never trust

attention to what the Holy Spirit

a path when you used to feel

one again and never create a

is wanting to do.”

really alone. ... You have that

real worldview again. This has

Bessey’s realistic about the

seamlessness now to your life.”

the sheen of intelligence—it’s

fact that this changing and

easy to feel smart when you’re

evolving process isn’t something

nitpicking flaws in other

you can rush through, and she’s

people’s epistemologies—but it’s

under no delusions about being

like giving up on a journey as

at the end of her transformation.

T YLER HUCK A BEE lives in Nashville and is a contributing editor at RELEVANT.

079

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


ATLAS GENIUS BY

M AT T A D K I N S

Overcoming depression gave the band a new perspective on their music—and their lives.

Keith Jeffery understands how hard it is to have a song truly break out. “You have publicists, you have managers, you have labels, you have a whole team of people who try and create a certain buzz and then that song just did it all on its own, which is pretty remarkable.” Jeffery is talking about “Trojans,” a song that is the true genesis of his band, Atlas Genius, as much as anything else is. You’ve heard the song—an insidiously addictive little pop earworm that remains a true mark of the sea change that’s taken place in the industry in the last few years. Jeffery and his brother Michael recorded the song and uploaded it on a blog, no different than any of the other thousands of anonymous, unsigned performers do every day. But unlike those uploads, “Trojans” caught on, and currently has nearly 50 million Spotify plays. No managers. No labels. Just a good song. “I’ve thought about it a bunch,” he says. “And as time


goes on, I realized just how lucky

back now, it was depression.

yourself; then you’re on a bus

we were with that. We had no

At the time, I don’t think I

and then you’re using alcohol

idea anybody was gonna hear it.

diagnosed it. But looking back, it

or drugs or sex, these things

When the lyric and the melody

was depression.”

that are very temporary mood

match the music, and you throw

Depression affects people

enhancers and then they go

in a bunch of luck and good

from all walks of life, but there

timing then something like

has been particular focus

‘Trojans’ can happen, I guess.”

on it in the music industry

over hypotheticals here—

But that was then. These days,

away. It’s unnatural.” Jeffery’s not just musing

recently, with the tragic deaths

he’s speaking from personal

Atlas Genius has a publicist, a

of people like Soundgarden’s

experience. His time on the road

manager and a label, and while

Chris Cornell and Linkin Park’s

did something to him, he says. It

this might diminish the need

Chester Bennington, both of

forced him out of his own head.

for luck in the future, the band

whom took their lives over the

isn’t using success as a crutch.

summer of 2017. Cornell’s death,

the crowd, it gets you through,”

They’re committed to their

in particular, had a profound

he explains. “On the tour, I’d be

craft, churning out solid albums

impact on Jeffery.

extremely tired from the work,

chock-full of the sort of songs

“For me, [Cornell] was one of

“You get that feedback from

my two heroes as a kid,” Jeffery

stage where you might have—

first place.

says. “Kurt Cobain, who sadly

like at Lollapalooza—10,000

went the same way, and Chris

people giving you that instant

great music look easy but, as

Cornell, who seemed to have

feedback. That keeps you going.”

Jeffery will tell you, it’s been

escaped it. 52. Lived healthy.

anything but.

Wife and kids. Seemed to have

LIKE A HUMAN BEING

everything sorted. And one of

Where’s it gotten him? To

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

the most respected musicians

making music that’s more

“Cabin fever in the studio is

out there. The fact that he lost

representative of his state of

very real,” says Jeffery. “You’re

the battle, I think a lot of people

mind: a bit more buoyant, a

working on something, and you

who suffered from depression

bit more optimistic and, if you

can lose perspective or just plain

are like, ‘If he wasn’t happy how

ask him, a lot better. “I think if

lose your mind.”

are we supposed to be happy

I’m in a happier place I tend to

with our lives?’”

be more able to see the bigger

Jeffery is frank about his love of touring—being on

Jeffery pauses here, thinking.

picture with the art that we’re

stage, getting the immediate

“I was kind of fascinated for

creating,” he explains. “People

feedback from the crowd. He’s

a bunch of reasons,” he says.

who have been in depressed

less enthused about the studio,

“What caused it?”

states have written great music,

where he’s the first to admit that THE SADHOUSE

style, and I don’t think it’s the

own head.

“It is a hard life,” Jeffery says

best way to go about it.”

of being out on the road. “And

upbeat dance-rock with smart guitar-driven indie pop.

The result is a new lease on

he says. “Doing the second

I think there is a fine line. As

music, and a better perspective

album was mentally an extreme

a musician, I know when I

on the industry in general.

challenge.” He explained that

hear about rich and famous

“When I’m feeling good, there

after 18 months on the road for

musicians complaining about

tends to be a bit more of an

their first tour, they jumped

their depression, as a fan, you’re

awareness of the other aspects

right back in the studio.

like, ‘What are you talking

of a song,” he says. “Like if I’m

about? You live this privileged

writing, it’s not just one thing

months before we played

life ...’ But it is a real thing

I’m writing. It’s the lyrics, the

another show,” he says. “And in

because it’s such a bulls***

melody, the instrumentation

my lifetime, I’ve never had that

existence. Because you play on

that fields the production. All

much time away from the stage.

stage, you have a thousand or 10

those different things. I’m better

There were some long periods of

thousand people giving all this

at doing all of that when I’m

depression as a result. Looking

love, then you’re in a hotel by

feeling like a human being.”

“It ended up being like 15

The album smartly fuses

but it tends to be of a certain

he can get a little trapped in his “For me, it wasn’t healthy,”

OBJECTS

but those hours you spend on

that put them on the map in the The band makes creating

I N A N I M AT E

081

M ATT A DKINS is a freelance writer who lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and son.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


How to Know Your Facebook Post Is About to Go Very, Very Wrong A handy guide to not embarrassing yourself. BY JESSE CAREY

JAN-FEB

082

2018


qualify with how not racist you are, maybe

can declare a leading Christian pastor to be

take some time to try and understand why

an irredeemable heretic because they didn’t

you feel it’s necessary in the first place.

like a two-minute YouTube clip of a sermon.

Then, instead of lecturing friends on your

Obviously, there’s a problem here.

own hot take—or shouting into an echo chamber of your own making—engage in

YOUR PRIMARY ARGUMENT IS MADE IN THE

real, face-to-face conversation with people

FORM OF A FUNNY PICTURE WITH WHITE

who see the world differently than you do to

BLOCK LETTERS ON IT.

challenge your biases instead of just trying to

As anyone who has mastered the time-hon-

have them affirmed.

ored art of argumentation and the Socratic Method can tell you, nothing will favorably

YOU’VE NON-IRONICALLY LINKED OFF TO A

end a debate quicker than a picture of Willy

WEBSITE THAT QUESTIONS THE VALIDITY OF

Wonka saying something snarky about Beng-

THE MOON LANDING.

hazi. It’s the intellectual equivalent of a Mor-

e’ve all seen it happen.

We live in a time when fake news has become

tal Kombat finishing move.

A Facebook post, Instagram caption or series

a real problem. There are sites and media

Actually, it’s literally the most nonproduc-

of tweets starts innocently enough, and sud-

companies whose entire business models are

tive contribution you can possibly make to a

denly your social media “friend” is ranting

predicated on completely fabricating current

debate. Memes are funny, but no person in

about Starbucks cups, burning bridges with

events (Pro tip: Most actual news stories don’t

the history of the internet has changed their

their own family members or making prob-

contain quotes about the Illuminati.).

position on a political or social issue because

lematic “observations” while sharing a local news story. Social media gives us all the ability to express our ideas—and our opinions—about

One of the ugliest characteristics of the fake

they saw a picture of that guy from Lord of

news trend is the tendency for conspiracy

the Rings saying, “One does not simply give

theorists to turn actual tragedies into click-

300 million people free healthcare.”

bait fiction.

If you are going to engage in nuanced de-

whatever we want, and gives us the sense of

Don’t let your posts contribute to fake news

bates about complicated issues, be respect-

security of doing so right from our phones

and the conspiracy epidemic: If you’re linking

ful, thoughtful and let actual dialogue—not

while waiting in line at the deli counter.

to an article, make sure the site doesn’t also

sarcasm—guide the conversation.

But just because you can say something,

have content that makes the case that lizard

doesn’t mean you should. And as the old ad-

people are running the pop music industry

THE IMAGE YOU’RE ABOUT TO POST

age goes, the internet never forgets. Nothing

and the body of Elvis has been cryogenically

COULD HAMPER FUTURE EMPLOYMENT

is ever really deleted.

frozen under the Vatican.

OPPORTUNITIES.

So, before you limit your future employ-

Not only does it damage your own credi-

Here are a few questions you should ask

ment options, deeply offend elderly members

bility—it also perpetuates the cycle of misin-

before posting that “hilarious” picture you

of your family or burn bridges with lifelong

formation.

snapped during a church retreat prank, a late

friends with a single late-night Facebook

night during summer vacation or while wear-

rant, here are a few red flags to watch out for

YOUR POST ATTEMPTS TO DEFINITIVELY

ing what you now realize was a problematic

when posting.

DECIDE IF SOMEONE HAS BECOME A

costume to a Halloween party: Will posting

HERETIC AND SHOULD THEREBY BE

this give the next business/nonprofit/church/

YOU STARTED WITH THE PHRASE

EXCOMMUNICATED.

school that wants to hire me any pause? If so,

“I’M NOT ______, BUT …”

Debating theology can be a fruitful exercise.

maybe just keep this one on the camera roll.

If you have to preface what you are about to

But if a thread turns from a friendly discus-

Look, showing up as “Adam” in an ex-

post with a warning that—despite the forth-

sion about an interesting book to a Spanish

tremely/unsettlingly realistic flesh-colored

coming comments—you are not racist, bigot-

Inquisition-style determination of the eter-

bodysuit and a single fig leaf seemed like a

ed, closed-minded (or fill in the blank), then

nal resting place of the soul of some blogger

funny idea at the time, but your future HR de-

we’ve got some unfortunate news: You’re

you’ve never met, things may be escalating a

partment may think otherwise. Use Facebook

probably about to write something racist,

little too quickly.

to grow in your faith, not just to try and dis-

bigoted or closed-minded.

In AD 325, the Council of Nicea featured

Everyone has their own personal biases,

weeks of debates between hundreds of the

and sometimes social media has a tendency

world’s foremost bishops tasked with choos-

to reveal and then amplify them. Instead of

ing writing to be canonized as holy Scripture.

expressing an opinion you feel you have to

In 2017, some rando with a Facebook account

083

prove others’.

JESSE CAREY is the brand director at RELEVANT. You can find him on Twitter @jessecarey.

RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


Brian Zahnd shares how a Jonathan Edwards sermon in 1741 still shapes the Church today.

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BY JULIE PERKINS

the summer of

St. Joseph, Missouri. He had long been

You understand that some sort of legal

1741, theologian

fascinated and compelled by Edwards’

agreement had been worked out between

Jonathan Edwards

startling prose. But something happened to

God and Jesus that involves us sinners, but

published a sermon

Zahnd as he began to grow in his faith. He

does God really love us?

that would go on to reshape American

began to question the core idea of Edwards’

culture. Not only did “Sinners in the Hands

legendary work: Is God angry with creation?

YOU ONCE OWNED A FRAMED

of an Angry God” help fuel the religious

It’s a question he tackles in a new book.

COPY OF THE SERMON AND PERSONALLY

revival known as The Great Awakening, but

We recently caught up with Zahnd to

REVERED IT. WHAT LED YOU TO LATER

more than 250 years later, its impact is still

discuss how Edwards may have gotten it

QUESTION THE CORE PREMISE OF IT?

reverberating in the Western Church.

wrong—and what the implications are for

Just staying on the journey with Jesus over a

Christians today still living in the shadow of

very long period of time and coming to the

the most dangerous sermon ever preached.

conviction that the clearest revelation of God

There are multiple stories of Edwards delivering the sermon at churches throughout the American colonies, and

we have is Jesus Christ Himself—that God is

afterward there being fingernail marks

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE IMPACT OF EDWARDS’

like Jesus. God has always been like Jesus.

indented into the back of the wooden pews,

SERMON ON EARLY AMERICAN LIFE?

There’s never been a time when God wasn’t

left by terrified congregants.

This is a Puritan sermon, and I don’t think

like Jesus.

As the title suggests, the sermon depicts

there’s been any sermon in the history of

So I began to see that God being portrayed

an angry, vengeful deity: “The God that holds

America that has more shaped our collective

as violent, vindictive and full of wrath

you over the pit of hell, much as one holds

religious imagination than “Sinners in the

seemed to be incompatible with the person

a spider, or some loathsome insect over the

Hands of an Angry God.”

of Jesus Christ.

fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked:

America, because of how it came about,

I understand that if you want to paint God

His wrath towards you burns like fire; He

has a Puritan soul. Atheists are Puritans in

as angry, violent and retributive, you can

looks upon you as worthy of nothing else,

America, by which I mean the God they don’t

use the Bible in such a way to do that. Those

but to be cast into the fire.”

believe in is the Puritan God.

portraits are there, or at least you can cobble

Edwards warns that the only escape

So the sermon, even if a person has never

from this punishment is through Jesus’

encountered it—though a lot of people have

portrait, but you can do a lot of stuff like that

work on the cross, though it ends on this

through school, where it’s given as a stock

with the Bible.

note: “The wrath of Almighty God is now

example of creative writing often times—

undoubtedly hanging over a great part of

they’ve been influenced by it.

this congregation.” A copy of the sermon once hung on the

It’s just part of the zeitgeist of the

Bible verses together in a way to create that

What the Bible does is point us to Jesus—that’s the thing I’d say the Bible does infallibly, it points us to Jesus. And do we see

American religious imagination that there

Jesus as one who would delight in dangling

walls of the office of Brian Zahnd, a writer

is a very angry God from which Jesus can

sinners over a fire as one dangles a spider,

and the pastor of Word of Life Church in

possibly be the one that would save us.

from Edwards’ phrase?

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CHURCH TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO, WHAT DO YOU THINK THEIR RESPONSE WOULD BE?

I think, at least for the well-trained elders, bishops, pastors and leaders, they would

America has a rather peculiar obsession with retributive justice, and no doubt some of that is connected with our theology that goes back to colonial times, when it was Puritan revivalistic preaching.

have an instinct to recognize that as some form of paganism. I think they would say, “I’m afraid you are confusing the God revealed in Jesus Christ with some of the pagan deities of the gentile world.” I think that would be their initial inclination—to be very suspicious of it, and say, “It seems that you’ve imported some pagan ideas in.” BASICALLY YOU’RE SAYING, “GOD LOVES US,” AND NOT JUST “WE GET TO BE SAVED FROM HIS WRATH THROUGH JESUS.”

When Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” Jesus is not asking the Father to act contrary to who He is. He isn’t inviting the Father into a transactional agreement. Rather, He is revealing who the Father is. I think of it this way: When the Son says, “Father forgive them,” the Father says, “Of course, Son, this is who we are. This is what

WHEN YOU HAD A TRANSITION OF THINKING,

punishment, and it colors the way we even

we do.” And so the cross is where the sin of

HOW DID IT PERSONALLY IMPACT YOU?

hear the word.

the world is absorbed by Christ and recycled

What it did was it made me more passionate

When the average American hears the

into nothing but love and forgiveness.

for preaching the Good News than ever

word “justice,” I think very often—unless

because it really is good news. It’s not cheap

they’ve been taught otherwise—the first

unique. It’s going to strike people as such,

good news—it’s not saying there are no

idea they have is punishment, and that’s

because they’re unfamiliar with it. But I’m

consequences to sin … but the truth is we’re

unfortunate. Biblical justice is always

drawing heavily upon that which has always

more punished by our sin than for our sin.

restorative. The point is never simply

been the theology in the Orthodox East.

It is this God of love supremely revealed in

punitive; the point is to set the world right.

Jesus who wants to save us from that. So without hesitation, I can preach the

There are three types of nations that

What I’m saying is not terribly novel or

In the West, we have thought what we really need is a lawyer. “We have a legal

actually practice capital punishment [today]:

problem, so what we need is a lawyer to get

Gospel as good news, and not engage in

totalitarian states, Islamic states and the

us out of a jam.” There are all these forensic

this good-cop/bad-cop routine where God

United States.

and legal metaphors dealing with salvation.

is dreadfully offended at you—hates you

So who we’re in unison with is North

even—but Jesus gives you a way out. I

Korea and Saudi Arabia in practicing capital

don’t have to play that game anymore, and

punishment. Why is that so?

there’s a freedom in that. There’s light and

I think it’s because America has a rather

And in the East, the thought is more like, “We are sick, and we need a doctor.” I’m always suspicious of legal metaphors, but thinking of Jesus as a kind of physician

no darkness at all in the way I can preach

peculiar obsession with retributive justice,

is very natural. What is Jesus doing all of the

the Gospel now. I don’t need a stick to beat

and no doubt some of that is connected with

time? He’s healing people.

people with.

our theology that goes back to colonial times,

WHAT IS THE MODERN LEGACY OF THE SERMON?

rather Jesus is healing us and bringing us

and some of that bitter fruit is still among us.

home again.

We seem to be suspicious as a nation:

It’s unfortunate that Jonathan Edwards has

We’re suspicious of mercy. We’re suspicious

been so deeply connected with this one

of kindness as public policy. We don’t think

single sermon. Edwards has had other things

that will work, and that seems to be very

to say that are wonderful and beautiful.

incompatible with what I see in Jesus Christ.

I will say this: I think America, in a unique sort of a way, has an obsession

IF YOU WERE HYPOTHETICALLY TO SHOW

with retributive justice. That is justice as

THE SERMON TO SOMEONE IN THE EARLY

JAN-FEB

And so it isn’t that Jesus is saving us,

when it was Puritan revivalistic preaching,

086

JULIE PERKINS is a writer and photographer in Brooklyn, New York.

2018


R E L E VA N T SELECTS

FILM/TV MUSIC BOOKS

NEW RELEASES YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

Bully They’re here to save punk. They just don’t know it. THE FIRST TIME you listen to Bully, you’d

be forgiven if you thought you stumbled onto a band from the glory days of ’90s alternative rock. Frontwoman Alicia Bognanno, 27, sounds like she’s turning her vocal cords into mincemeat without ever losing her knack for a catchy melody, infusing the grunge-type proceedings with a punk flavor, though “punk” isn’t something she’d ever considered herself creating. “Everyone called us a punk band, but I’ve never thought of us as being a punk band,” she says. “I’m not complaining about it. But it’s funny to hear.” Maybe that’s because Bully samples a little from a huge variety of alt-rock acts, from the Pixies to Nirvana. All of that means Bully is something all to their own. And with startling honest songs about the inability to ever really fall out of love, their passionate sound isn’t afraid to get personal. Sometimes, getting this real takes a lot of work, and in Bully’s case, it was worth the effort.

LOSING [SUB-POP]

Bully combines indie-rock charm and old-school grunge attitude in the breakout LP.

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Chris Stapleton For anyone who’s ever said, “I don’t like country music, except for Johnny Cash.”

H

AVING TO LIVE UP TO the expectations created

by the acclaimed debut of Traveller isn’t easy, but Chris Stapleton is up to the task. His duo of albums, From a Room (Vol. 1 & 2) not only

live up to the hype, in many ways they exceed it, with Stapleton doing what he does best: creating a soulful fusion of blues and country. Instead of trying to reinvent himself to overcome the sophomore slump, Stapleton digs in his heels, further establishing himself as culture’s outlaw songwriter. FROM A ROOM VOL. 2 [MERCURY NASHVILLE]

Stapleton’s ballads about the pitfalls of success and the dangers of indulging vices are more concerned with real honesty than just tapping into trends.

MARSHALL

Marshall serves as a

BRAVING THE

writers, with research

REGINALD HUDLIN

powerful reminder

WILDERNESS

into authenticity and

[OPEN ROAD FILMS]

of the legacy of the

BRENE BROWN

Supreme Court’s first

[RANDOM HOUSE]

vulnerability that has validated a way of thinking that, for years,

Chadwick Boseman’s

black justice—and why

(of Marvel’s upcoming

his work remains as

Brene Brown is one

has existed only as a

Black Panther)

relevant today as it

of her generation’s

gut feeling. This book

depiction of Thurgood

was in his lifetime.

most important

continues her vital work.

Beautiful Eulogy MOST WORSHIP MUSIC sounds pretty similar—like Dashboard Confessional passionately covering U2. But the guys of Beautiful Eulogy know that worship isn’t a genre, it’s a direction of the heart. And by blending hip-hop influence with meditative melodies, the band creates a sonic

WORTHY [HUMBLE BEAST]

Even in a genre as flooded as hip-hop right now, it’s still possible to hear something that makes you sit up and

experience unlike anything else out there. It

pay attention. Worthy deliv-

was high time someone broke the worship

ers on that and much more.

music mold. Beautiful Eulogy is delivering.

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RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


02/03

SELECTS

St. Vincent MANHATTAN BEACH

Annie Clark’s masterpiece is finally here.

JENNIFER EGAN [CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS]

Jennifer Egan is one of

E

VERY WRITE-UP about St. Vincent has

her generation’s finest talents, and she crafts a

to include a lot of grandiose

nimble tale of love and

language. She’s a genius.

crime in New York City.

She’s a superstar. She’s the voice of her generation. The truth of statements like this are largely in the eye of the beholder, but here’s what we can say for sure: Annie Clark—the woman the world knows as St. Vincent— has finally actualized the potential or greatness that

JULIEN BAKER TURN OUT THE LIGHTS [MATADOR]

On her latest effort, the Memphis singersongwriter delivers an album of softly

she has clearly always had inside of her. Masseduction, the singer-songwriter’s fifth album, is everything a St. Vincent album should be: catchy, dazzling, danceable, disorienting and so, so good.

devastating beauty,

It solidifies Clark’s place

mining her most painful

in the pantheon of great

moments for studies of profoundity that will take your breath away.

American musicians, To listen

MASSEDUCTION

to Masseduction is to take

[LOMA VISTA]

a trip through the mind of a

On each of Masseduction’s 13

dizzying talent and is enough

tracks, St. Vincent explores the

to suggest that she may just

neurosis and apathy of modern

be getting started. One can

American life like no other

only hope.

THE FLORIDA

artist could.

OWN THE MOMENT

TAYLOR SWIFT

CARL LENTZ

REPUTATION

[SIMON & SCHUSTER]

[BIG MACHINE]

In his first book, the pastor of

Taylor Swift is smarter than you

Hillsong New York City breaks

think. She knows you think you’re

down the importance of engaging

sick of the drama. She knows

culture, standing against injustice

you think you’re tired of the

finding hope in the midst

and creating real community while

schtick. But she sold 1.28 million

of poverty while living in

“owning” the moment God has put

albums in the first week. Taylor

you in.

Swift knows you’re wrong.

PROJECT SEAN BAKER [A24]

Both funny and heartbreaking, the drama follows a family

a run-down hotel.

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NEŌ WAX BLOOM

MAJID JORDAN

ALL SAINTS

THE SPACE BETWEEN

STEVE GOMER

[OVO]

[AFFIRM FILMS]

Toronto’s buzz-garnering R&B duo

The acclaimed film tells the true story

returns with synth-driven ballads that

of a pastor who risks his church to

play as well in the club as in the car

help a group of Burmese immigrants—

with the windows all the way down.

who end up saving it.

IGLOOGHOST [BRAINFEEDER]

A lot of EDM is aggravating noise pollution, but Irish producer Seamus Malliagh crafts soundscapes that both soothe and delight.

Aha Gazelle Crafting a new sound to ask old questions. NEW ORLEANS-BASED singer-

from R&B to soul to trap. But

rapper-producer-multi-hyphenate

it’s not enough to be a gifted

talent Aha Gazelle understands

musician, although he is. Gazelle’s

his city’s vast and varied musical

also interested in questions of

TRILLIAM 3

history, and it informs his present.

how his faith relates to social

[REACH RECORDS]

But he’s also got an eye on the

justice. He’s not just looking to

future, anxious to be part of a

ask uncomfortable questions—he

musical evolution that will involve

wants to give some even more

grappling with his

his unique blend of everything

uncomfortable answers.

newfound platform.

The final chapter in a trilogy finds Gazelle

WHOSE STREETS? SABAAH FOLAYAN [ MAGNOLIA]

From the outside, the

AHA GAZELLE

Ferguson protests

MASTERFULLY BLENDS

seemed like they came from nowhere. But this

EVERYTHING FROM

documentary explores

SOUL TO TRAP.

the decades of systemic racism that led to Michael Brown’s death.

SOONISH KELLY & ZACK WEINERSMITH [PENGUIN]

This look at the “10 emerging technologies that’ll improve and/ or ruin everything” is a fascinating (and, at times, terrifying) look at modern innovation.

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RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


03/03

SELECTS

Wolf Parade WOLF PARADE GOT THEIR START opening

for Arcade Fire, and while they share their fellow Canadians’ love of big anthemic sounds, they tread some darker waters. These guys create ominous tones, suitable for gray days and late nights, when you might feel more inclined to join them. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing along, regardless.

WE WERE EIGHT

the Obama years aren’t

YEARS IN POWER

about politics: They’re

TA-NEHISI COATES [ONE WORLD]

JAN-FEB

about the impact the

[SUB-POP]

Wolf Parade showcases their mastery of driving rock, bracing lyrics and oddly impressive vocals.

MUDBOUND

racism, the power of

DEE REES

generational attitudes

[NETFLIX]

first black president had

CRY CRY CRY

about social issues and what it takes to overcome

on American culture, and

Though it takes place in

them is a stirring look at

The acclaimed

why the lessons learned

the days after WWII, the

the power of love and,

journalist’s essays from

must not be forgotten.

film’s messages about

ultimately, courage.

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The Welcome Wagon The New York duo adds another masterfully pastoral album to a catalog full of them.

S

HOULD YOU EVER find yourself in New York City, don’t hesitate to stop by the Brooklyn church pastored

by the Rev. Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique, otherwise known as The Welcome Wagon. Their music is deceptively simple, with layers that open themselves up to you upon repeated listening,

LIGHT UP THE STAIRS

  “I love being a pastor, but I also love

[TOOTH & NAIL]

being a musician,” Aiuto says. “I love being with Monique when we’re making dinner, but I also love being with her when we’re

A lovely meditation on Scripture, love and the ways they mix in life.

singing.” It shows.

COMMUNITY. SCHOLARSHIP.

CHURCH.

APPLICATION DISCOUNT CODE: DUKERELEVANT www.divinity.duke.edu

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LAST WORD A Thought Before We Go

was indicating that so often a

Yes, Jesus died to save you

sense of complacency and our

from your sins, but He also died

inability to hear can rob us of

to bring heaven to Earth and for

the measure God intends when it

you and me to live surrendered

comes to fulfilling His promises

to His cause. If you lose sight

in our lives.

of the “more” the apostle Paul

What awakens in you the

The Power of Receptivity God might be trying to speak to you, but are you listening?

ONE

of my many weaknesses lies in my

speaks of in Ephesians 3:20, you

simplicity of a little child? What

will become familiar, jaded,

sparks that innocent faith that

and perhaps even critical and

the circumstances of life can

cynical, which is no way for

rob from you? Do you have a

anyone to live.

vision exciting enough to get you

In Acts 13, Paul speaks

up early or a dream inspiring

directly to people with that

enough to bring anticipation

attitude: “Watch out, cynics; look

so deep down in your soul that

hard—watch your world fall

it makes you smile every time

to pieces. I’m doing something

you are reminded of it? Are you

right before your eyes that you

ready for more?

won’t believe, though it’s staring

What I mean by that is, have

you in the face” (verse 41).

you prepared for all that God

Without receptivity, you can

has planned for your future?

live just like this. Things can be

It’s a big question and perhaps

staring you in the face that you

ability to zone out in the middle of

is followed promptly by, well,

just can’t see. Familiarity and

a conversation and get lost in my

what does God have for my

presumption will rob you of

future? I may not be able to

wonder, and cynicism or lack of

answer that specifically for you,

expectancy will keep you from

but He has good plans, big plans.

the more that God has for you.

thoughts. At times, I can be oblivious

whisper became a shout? Life

He knows your heart’s desires

to those around me. There have

itself presents us all with so

and is poised to fulfill them, but

been many times when one of

many distractions, worries and

are you ready to receive?

my kids would be calling me as

concerns that can fill up our

I watched the news, and even

hearts, block our ears and dim

are past all that now. You have

though I could hear them, it

our vision. The noise of life can

become a “realist” and are

wouldn’t register.

so easily drown out what God is

settled into living quietly for

trying to say.

the Lord and placing all your

My daughter, Laura, would be calling, “Dad ... Daaad ... Dad!”

Jesus often said, “If anyone

Perhaps you believe you

expectation in spending eternity

Then, in frustration, she would

has ears to hear, let him hear”

change tack and shout, “Brian!”

(Mark 4:23). On one such

at which, I would swing around

occasion, He went on to say

it’s a pity, because no one is

and ask her what she wanted.

to His disciples, “Take heed

saved for heaven alone. Praise

Not a good habit, I know.

what you hear. With the same

God that heaven is our final

measure you use, it will be

reward, but you are saved,

BR I A N HOU S T ON

how switched on are you to the

measured to you; and to you

called, purposed and graced to

is pastor of Hillsong Church

world around you?

who hear, more will be given”

make a difference here on Earth

(Mark 4:24).

now, among your friends, family,

But how wide-eyed, how alert,

If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, do you have the ears

I believe that when Jesus was

in His presence. If that is the truth, then I say

neighbors and coworkers and

and author of the new book There Is More, from which this column is adapted. Excerpted by permission

to hear His whisper, or would

speaking to His disciples about

through every opportunity God

of WaterBrook. All rights

you not hear Him even if His

“measure” in Mark 4:24, He

brings your way.

reserved.

JAN-FEB

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2018


03

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2018

RELEVANT - Issue 91 - January/February 2018  
RELEVANT - Issue 91 - January/February 2018