92 AVA DUVERNAY | M AT KEARNEY | N.T. WRIGHT SOCIAL CLUB MISFITS | DONALD MILLER | JON FOREMAN NATHANIEL RATELIFF | KIM WALKER-SMITH | TEDASHII 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
John Legend As he prepares to portray Jesus on TV, the actor, singer and activist (and former church choir director) opens up about his own spiritual journey.
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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
MAR-APR 2018 // ISSUE 92
March-April 2018, Issue 92
It’s our quinceañera issue, what’d you get us?
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: Seth James, Rachel Givens
Creative Director | JOHN DAVID HARRIS Designer | ALEXA MENDEZ Director of Web Development | DANIEL MARIN Director of Audio and Visual Media | NATHAN GRUBBS
Audio Producer | CHANDLER STRANG Contributing Photographers: Ryan McGinley, Dylan Reyes, Dustin Condren, Eliot Lee Hazel, Brantley Gutierrez, Maeghan
Donohue, The Walt Disney Company, Ken Sharp, Brad Elterman Director of Business Development | AME LYNN FUHLBRUCK
Account Manager | HEATHER VOORHEES Account Manager | KAYLEE SANFORD
The Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer will play the titular role in Jesus Christ Superstar on NBC. He’s ready.
Marketing Director | CALVIN CEARLEY Circulation and Traffic Manager | CAROLINE COLE Brand Experience Coordinator | MORGAN HICKEY Support Coordinator | MIKAYLAH ROUCHARD
3 6 // OUR 15TH ANNIVERSARY
Facilities Manager | MARK JACKSON
We’re old enough to be a high-schooler, and celebrating with our favorite people.
Operations Manager | JESSICA COLLINS Project Manager | BRIDGET DOMBKOSKI Finance Director | MICHAEL BOWLES
5 8 // THE U.S. AND CHILD SOLDIERS American taxes fund countries that exploit children, but you can do something about it.
4 6 // SOCIAL CLUB MISFIT S
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All this wisdom could hardly be contained within these three pages.
The director’s work on Selma and 13th was essential and searing, and A Wrinkle in Time will be one of the year’s biggest movies. And yet, DuVernay insists she’s not just another blip in a trend, but rather part of a “historical continuum.”
7 2 // STAGES OF A RELATIONSHIP
8 0 // MAT KE ARNE Y
From spark to date to unknown, millennials chart a strange, unique relationship course.
“Music will swing back to authentic lyrics. It always does.”
7 6 // 5 STEPS TO A NEW CHURCH
8 2 // TIME TO MEET THE DEVIL
The rap duo is back, and they brought their whiteboard with them.
6 8 // N.T. WRIGHT ON PAUL
Church-shopping is tough, but our writer went in like a carryout pizza: hot and ready.
A rise in exorcisms gives a more literal context to “spiritual warfare.”
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1 2 // FIRS T WORD
8 8 // RELE VANT SELECT S Our favorite new artists, and the books,
2 0 // CURRENT The rising perfectionism crisis in our generation, the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s
music and movies you should be adding to your collection this month.
Issue #92 March/April 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:
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9 6 // L AS T WORD
Send address changes to RELEVANT Magazine, P.O. Box 531147,
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How to find silence in a world full of pings,
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ANCIENT FAITH. MODERN LIFE. RADICAL VOCATION. R A DV O C O N F E R E N C E 2 0 1 8 R A DVO C O. O R G 017
FIRST WORD a letter from the publisher
you like John Piper? I prefer Carl Lentz.). And when you’re plugged in and hear about all the injustice
It’s Our 15-Year Anniversary (Mind Blown) We started RELEVANT with a big dream and a clear mission. Fifteen years later, everything’s changed—except that.
happening, cause fatigue is real. Pessimists would say the world is getting worse, faith is waning and the outlook is bleak. But I wholeheartedly disagree. We started RELEVANT to show God is relevant to every aspect of our lives—not just a Sunday service—and to give voice to what
He is doing today. Thankfully, He’s
always doing something new. Life and culture may always be changing and more rapidly than ever before, but none of this is news
to God. I believe He still has a plan
and a purpose. ifteen years ago this month, RELEVANT
FEATURED THE 24/7 PRAYER
Every new year presents new
debuted in print. To say things were a little
challenges and opportunities. The
different when our magazine hit in 2003 is
key is holding everything with an
open hand, pressing in to hear God’s
America was just starting multiple
voice and obeying what He prompts
post-9/11 wars. You didn’t need a “job” or “money” to get
us to do. Over the last 15 years,
THE FACT WE
approved for a mortgage. Hillsong United was a local Sydney
we’ve blown up our business plan
youth group band. The most notable faith moment in pop
and started over more times than I
culture was probably Morgan Freeman’s scene in Bruce
can count. The formats and methods
Almighty. And online dating consisted of typing a/s/l in an
may change, but the mission
AOL chat room.
remains the same.
But something was brewing. God was stirring a new
The key is to stay malleable,
generation who saw things differently. They were asking
humble and hungry. If we stay
questions; they weren’t OK with the status quo. They were
close to God, we’ll find ourselves in
passionate about God—and also justice, authenticity and
the sweet spot of His will for us in
impacting culture. They wanted to be known more for what
any season (This is a lesson I keep
they’re for than what they’re against. They wanted to make
learning the hard way.).
a difference. A movement was forming, and we launched RELEVANT to help give voice to it. Since then, we’ve seen more things change than I can list.
MUSIC GOT THE MAGAZINE BANNED BY MANY CHRISTIAN RETAIL CHAINS.
As incredible—and hard and humbling—as these first 15 years have been, I honestly can’t shake the feeling we’re just getting started.
Technology has revolutionized everything. We are globally
I can’t wait to see what God is going
aware, always plugged in, and people have the opportunity
to do in the next 15.
to make a real difference like never before.
Thank you for reading.
To mark just how far we’ve come, on page 36 you’ll find a 15-page special section looking back on the last 15 years. We talked to faith leaders about the trends and shifts they’ve seen, as well as the opportunities and challenges for all of us moving forward. Let’s be honest, this generation is at a crossroads. As much as technology has connected us in the last 15 years, it’s separated us. The generation gap is wider than ever. Church
C A MER ON S T R A NG
“streams” are getting more defined than ever before (Oh,
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
Young Americans Might Just End Religious Divisiveness in America
‘Heresy’ Is Having Its Hollywood Moment
The rising generation doesn’t view faith as something that divides culture. WHAT THE ... HECK? This spring,
f you flip on the TV or scroll through social media, it’s easy
by religion. Part of the reason why this is so significant
to see America has become
is because it represents a significant cultural
a divided place. But a recent
shift compared to recent generations: 2016
study conducted by MTV and
research from the University of Minnesota
PRRI of a cross-section of young millennials
(which featured more older Americans than
and members of Generation Z found that the
the MTV study) found most people believed
up-and-coming generation no longer views
religion was actually more divisive than race
faith as something that divides communities.
The respondents were asked about
Considering that other studies have
whether they feel the country is divided over
found that nearly 80 percent of the same
things like politics, wealth, race and religion.
demographic say they believe in God and a
Though they overwhelmingly said politics
majority say religion is important to them,
divide (77 percent), a majority said wealth
the attitude shift could mean in the future,
causes division (57 percent) and half saw
religion won’t fade out of American life, but
race as a dividing factor in America. Just 38
instead will become something that is no
percent felt America was currently divided
longer so culturally divisive.
two movies are releasing that tell the stories of people who have questioned the existence of hell— and how it affected their lives. In Come Sunday, Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Carlton Pearson, a real-life pastor who lost his large ministry after he stopped believing in hell (Pearson’s mentor, evangelist Oral Roberts, is played by Martin Sheen.). The film is based on an episode of This American Life and is produced by Ira Glass. Likewise, the documentary The Heretic tells the story of Rob Bell, who famously became an evangelical outsider after his book Love Wins questioned the reality of damnation.
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[S T. S C R O O G E ]
Christians Donate Less Than Other Religions CHRISTIANITY MAY BE THE UNITED STATES’ BIGGEST RELIGION, but when it
Fun fact: She’s the most followed person on Instagram.
Evangelist Selena Gomez? FOR SOMEONE WHO’S JUST 25, Selena
experienced Him firsthand. “You are
Gomez has quite the resumé: She’s a
already being pursued by God who knit
platinum-selling pop star, reluctant tabloid
you together and called you His, but you
fixture (which constantly speculate about
still don’t know that this can be more than
her romantic life), mental health advocate
a nightly prayer,” she wrote, encouraging
and now a speaker at church events.
the audience to seek a deeper relationship
Recently, Gomez was a guest at the
with God. “You don’t know that this will
Hillsong Conference in L.A., where
become the most important relationship,
she took the stage and got emotional
but just wait. Selena, you are enough!
while reading a letter she’d written to
Not because you’ve tried hard … You are
her younger self that documented her
enough because you are a child of God
life-changing encounter with faith. She
who has been pursued from the very
told those in attendance that for years,
beginning. You are enough because His
she knew about God, but never actually
grace has saved you and covered you.”
comes to actually donating to religious institutions, Christians fall way behind both their Jewish and Muslim neighbors. A Pollfish. com survey found that, on average, Jews donated $1,442 annually to religious groups and Muslims gave $1,309. Christians, however, gave just $817 to Christian charities and churches. The number is especially surprising considering most churches consider tithing—giving 10 percent of your income to a church or charity—a biblical mandate.
AVERAGE ANNUAL CHARITABLE DONATIONS BY FOLLOWERS JEWS
M U S LIMS
$1,442 $1,309 $817
For his 81st birthday, Pope Francis
A Bentley University study reported
Cardi B recently secured five top
celebrated with a 13-foot pizza.
77 percent of millennials agreed
10 songs on the Billboard Hot R&B/
He shared it with sick children at
they’d be more productive under
Hip-Hop chart within the same week.
the Pediatric Dispensary of Santa
flexible working hours. Probably
That’s the most ever simultaneous
Marta. Papa John wasn’t invited.
explains your boss’s long lunches.
top 10 hits for a woman.
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THE HOT LIST Bimonthly Cultural Power Rankings
H E RO E S O F CO LO R [Hottest]
Meet the Vending Machines Giving Free Food to the Homeless The machines feed people while also helping them get their lives on track.
Black Lightning is crushing it on TV, and Black Panther is dominating cinemas. Where’s Miles Morales?
A NONPROFIT called Action Hunger
has developed an innovative way to feed members of the homeless
# M E TO O
community and keep them engaged
with groups that can assist them.
We keep waiting for it to slow down, but you can’t stop what won’t stop. ‘THE OFFICE’ [Hot]
They’ve created vending machines stocked with healthy foods and snacks as well as hygiene items like toothbrushes. Everything in the vending machines is free, but in
The beloved sitcom will
order to access it, you have to have
return to NBC in 2018-19
a special card issued by a nearby
The machines are available 24/7 so
(without the World’s
shelter. If a homeless person checks
users don’t have to plan their lives
in with the shelter—ensuring they
around shelter meal times, making
stay connected to a local community
it easier for them to find stable jobs.
support system—then they can use the machines three times a day. The idea is to give people more flexible access to healthy foods.
After the successful debut in the U.K., machines are being placed in New York City and other big U.S. cities this year.
YO U T U B E STA RS [Cold]
Vloggers PewDiePie and Logan Paul were obnoxious even before their controversies. M U S I C F E ST I VA L
Study: Fewer People Pray When They Get Stressed Out
Where have the rock acts gone? And what’s with all the Eminem? L AVA R BA L L
ACCORDING TO A RECENT STUDY from the American Psychological Association, Americans are just
as stressed now as they were a year ago, reporting an average stress level of 4.8 out of 10. However, when asked how they were dealing with stress, only 29 percent of Americans said they turned to prayer. That’s a big change in the course of just a decade: 10 years ago, 37 percent of Americans prayed during times of stress. It’s been a slow but steady decline since.
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Inside Ozzy Osbourne’s Weird Quest to the Ark Encounter
The average adult spends almost three hours on their phone a day.
HEAVY METAL ICON Ozzy
Osbourne and his son recently made an interesting trip for their A&E reality show, Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour: They visited Kentucky’s Ark Encounter. The life-size replica of Noah’s Ark is an outgrowth of the Creation Museum, founded by Ken Ham to educate the public about his Young Earth creationism theology that the world is 6,000 years old. Ham tweeted: “The TV program turned out well! We praise the Lord for all the opportunities He gives us to share the truth of God’s Word & the gospel with people around the world.”
Social App-Tivisim MAKING A DIFFERENCE doesn’t have to be hard. With modern mobile technology,
humanitarian efforts now sit right in your pocket, on your nightstand or at your fingertips. No more complicated pledging or fussy online registrations forms; these are one download away on the App Store. Here’s a look at some smartphone applications that make helping others as easy as scrolling your newsfeed:
With an Instagram-like interface, the app helps you find compelling stories around the globe and connects you with charities making a difference, so you can measure your impact.
This app helps you get in shape and make a difference. For every mile you walk, bike or run, corporate partners of the app make a donation to the charity of your choice.
The app connects to your debit card, rounding up purchases to the nearest dollar and sending the change to the National Bailout fund, helping incarcerated people make bail.
Forward lets you post pictures of used stuff and browse items others posted. Instead of throwing it out, it helps you give it away or connect with a charity looking for donations.
A Michigan restaurant is offering
The fossil of a giant penguin was
A New York City doctor known as
a $60 taco made of Wagyu beef,
found on a New Zealand beach.
the “airline food bully” has ranked
foie gras, caviar, black truffles, ice
The creature was estimated to
every airline’s general food offerings.
plant leaves (?) and Hawaiian salt.
be nearly 6-feet tall and 220
The best? Delta. Coming in last?
The twist: You have to buy three.
pounds. That’s an NFL-sized
Spirit and Hawaiian.
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a new president, 93-yearThe perfect
old Russell M.
way to one-up
Nelson. An apostle
your vinyl snob
with the church for
33 years, Nelson took over after the death of Thomas S. Monson. He, too, will serve for life.
Arcade Fire Is on a Mission to Help the People of Haiti IF YOU WERE IN NEW ORLEANS the week before
one way they’re raising money for a group she
Mardi Gras (we’re assuming you weren’t there
founded called Kanpe (“stand up” in Creole).
for Mardi Gras), you may have witnessed a
Prepare for a new-look Dunkin’ Donuts. The coffee
The group is heavily involved in education,
unique sight: members of Arcade Fire marching
leadership, agriculture and health programs in an
alongside the Preservation Hall jazz band. “The
effort help “the most vulnerable Haitian families
Krewe du Kanaval” collaboration was the band’s
toward their financial autonomy.” It’s an issue
brainchild to showcase the “historical, cultural
the couple is deeply passionate about. Following
and spiritual link between New Orleans and
President Trump’s disparaging remarks about
Haiti,” a place close their heart. The family of
the nation, Butler tweeted, “Haiti is one of the
Regine Chassagne—who’s married to frontman
most special and amazing places I’ve been on this
Win Butler—is from Haiti. The parade is just
earth, and we need more Haitian-Americans.”
and pastry chain is trying an overhaul to just “Dunkin.” The revamped stores will include mobile-order pickup stations and mobile-order drivethrus. The donuts will be in glass cases, too. Sounds kind of like Starbucks.
Megachurches Seriously Lack Diversity UNSURPRISINGLY,
Sunday morning seems to remain the most segregated hour of the week. Based on a new study by Church Clarity of the country’s 100 largest churches, diversity of both race and gender continues
to be lacking in church leadership. Of 100 megachurches, only seven have a senior pastor who was nonwhite and only one has a woman in a senior pastor role— and she co-pastors with her husband. Compare that to the
fact that the U.S. population is about 38 percent people of color and about 50 percent women. The study makes it clear that in the United States, the majority of churchgoers seem to almost exclusively be led by white men.
Tide Pods? The trend became so popular the company had
Patriots star Rob Gronkowski do a P.S.A. warning them against it. Teens are
Remember when teens were eating
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Perfectionism Is Fueling a Millennial Mental Health Crisis Attempting to live the “perfect” life and land the “perfect” job is taking its toll.
NEW STUDY from York
from 1989, millennials are now
St. John University
33 percent more likely to believe
their environment demands
of Bath indicates
perfection (“socially prescribed”
that millennials are striving for
perfectionism), 16 percent
perfectionism more than past
more likely to expect perfection
generations of young people. The
from others (“other-oriented”
study, published in Psychological
perfectionism) and 10 percent more
Bulletin, defined perfectionism as
likely to harbor an irrational desire
the best and, as a result, move up the
“an irrational desire to achieve
to be perfect themselves.
along with being overly critical of oneself and others.” Compared with young people
The blame has to lie with cell
“Meritocracy places a strong need
phones and social media, right?
for young people to strive, perform
Not exactly, according to the
and achieve in modern life,” lead
THEY REPORT INCREASINGLY UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR THEIR LIVES.
researchers. The study
author, Thomas Curran, told Science
concedes that increased
Daily. “Young people are responding
use of social media does
by reporting increasingly unrealistic
mean young people
educational and professional
expectations for themselves. ”
more often to others, but
Curran warns that this heightened
it pays more attention to
competitiveness and perfectionism
what it calls a growing
could be having a negative effect on the
culture of “meritocracy,”
overall mental health of millennials,
where academic systems
especially considering that their
expectations for themselves grow
among students to be
more challenging to meet over time.
The movie version of Donna
Remember Carman? The CCM
Emily’s List, a site that trains women
Tartt’s best-seller, The Goldfinch,
mainstay announced on social
to run for office, reported 26,000
is stacked. Stranger Things vet
media that he’s married now, to Mrs.
women have wanted to start a
Finn Wolfhard and Baby Driver’s
Dana Licciardello. So turns out he
campaign in the past year, up from
Ansel Elgort will both star.
had a last name this whole time.
900 from 2015-16.
50 Years Later, Continuing Dr. King’s Dream Fifty years after his assassination, civil rights leaders are resurrecting Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign.
FIFTY YEARS AGO , on April 4, the
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Just a year earlier, King had announced it was time for the next phase of the justice movement: the Poor People’s Campaign. According to a 2017 study from the Urban Institute, the wealth of the average white family in 1963 was $121,000 greater than the wealth of families of color (adjusted for inflation). It was becoming apparent to civil rights leaders that their initial goal of integration would do little to address the systemic economic legacy of racism. “Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality,” King said just days before his murder. “For we know now that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit
N U M B ER S]
THEN & NOW
UNEMPLOYMENT Unemployment among black workers has fallen by about 3 percent in the last 50 years.
Leaders Still Carrying the Torch a man to be able to eat at an integrated
white people has actually grown since
lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough
the 1960s. The wealth of the average
money to buy a hamburger and a cup of
white family is now seven times greater
than that of the average black family (a
Reflecting on the 10 years of protest activity he’d led, even with all of its
racial justice advocates still hold that
victories, King admitted the plight of
economic reform is one of the most
minorities had not drastically changed.
meaningful steps to be taken to make
So, he envisioned millions of people
DR. BERNICE KING
$700,000 difference). This is why many
Dr. King’s daughter is the CEO of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
King’s dream of racial equality a reality.
of all races camping out at the capital to
The Rev. Dr. Willie Barber and other
demand economic reform. They’d stay
activists are taking the baton from King
encamped there until the government
as they launch a new Poor People’s
responded to their demands. It was
Campaign. Barber rose to prominence as
a justice advocate in North
She founded the Hate Won’t Win movement after her grandfather was killed in the Emanuel AME church massacre.
Carolina’s Moral Mondays movement, a group that protests injustices they perceive in local politics.
CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS REALIZED
Barber has been
INTEGRATION WOULD NOT ADDRESS
touring churches to enlist
participants in a march on
Washington that resembles the effort King envisioned.
The rapper has been using his platform to shed light on racial injustice in the Church and culture at large.
A multi-ethnic coalition for racial justice, the new Poor called the Poor People’s Campaign. But King was killed just as the
People’s Campaign aims to move King’s dream forward.
campaign was to launch.
“Some of us have decided that this
Today, experts suggest that the
50th anniversary of the Poor People’s
economic disparities King set his sights
Campaign can’t be a commemoration,”
on ending have still not changed greatly.
Barber says. “We’re not willing to just
The wealth gap between white and non-
remember the crucifixion [of Dr. King].”
Black Americans earn 66 cents for every dollar earned by whites.
Black people make up a disproportionate amount of the country’s impoverished.
All wealth has increased, but white wealth is now $700k more than black wealth.
[ T H E C H E AT S H E E T ]
How to Spring Clean While Making A Difference If the springtime sunshine reveals more mess than order at your place, here are some ethical ways to tidy up.
AFTER HOARDING EVERYTHING through months
something with your donations.
of cold, springtime means it’s time to simplify
must grow, and I have to evolve everything around me to support
your surroundings. Instead of throwing
1. DRAFT A VISION.
that evolution,” Roberson says. You
everything on the curb and waiting for an
Take 10 minutes to write a
can think of this sacrificially, too.
anonymous truck to roll through, this year
description of your ideal post-
What would it look like to live in
let’s be more intentional. We called on Faith
clutter space. What in your
a sacrificial space? What doesn’t
Roberson, professional organizer and owner of
current situation aligns with your
Organize With Faith, for tips, and we paired her
aspirations, and what doesn’t?
advice with organizations that will actually do
“In order to be truly alive, I
2. STREAMLINE YOUR CLOSET.
Focus on how each piece of clothing makes you feel instead of the cost, Roberson says. How do you feel when you put it on? If the answer points toward the donation pile, toss it. Give to organizations that are sure to distribute your items instead of reselling them, like Dress for Success and Career Gear for clothes and Share Your Soles for shoes. 3. PURGE THE TOY BOX.
“Children are decisive by nature,” Roberson says. “They’ll happily express what they are willing to pass along” (Just be sure to respect your kid’s decision.). A daycare, a children’s home, abuse shelter or even a local doctor’s office can all be places where old toys can bring joy to another person. 4. CLEAR YOUR BOOKSHELF.
Roberson’s trick: See books as temporal experiences, “like going on a trip or to a concert,” instead of objects to hoard at home. The memory of reading the story is more important than keeping the item, so donate it. Liberation Library sends books to young people in Illinois prisons and juvenile detention centers.
ACCURATE. READABLE. SHARABLE.
Learn more at CSBible.com. 035
how people worship, how
started with a simple
they consume and engage
premise: that God is
culture, how they stand
relevant to every aspect
against injustice and even in
of our lives. Whether
the values they live by.
it’s labeled “sacred”
RELEVANT’s goal hasn’t
or “secular,” is part of
simply been to cover it all,
the traditional church
but to truly examine it by
experience or is part of
talking to the people on the
the larger cultural one,
front lines, and figuring out
is serious or goofy, every
how to hear Truth in all the
individual part of our lives
noise. Here’s a look back at
matters to Him.
where we’ve all been, and
In the last 15 years, we’ve seen massive changes in
a look ahead to where God might be taking us next.
15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
IN 2003, RELEVANT was
FA I T H
15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
The rise of the so-called “nones”—people who claim no religion—was one of the biggest stories of the last 15 years, and was fueled by millennials leaving the Church. But behind the sobering statistics is evidence of a new era of faith that is more devoted and more tech-savvy than ever before.
The Deepening Faith of the Millennial Generation Stats about the dwindling number of Christians hide some encouraging news.
IF YOU LOOK at the headlines, faith in the millennial
generation isn’t in a great place. You’ve probably heard about the rise of the “nones,” and it’s true: 35 percent of millennials don’t identify with any religion, more than double the number of Boomers who say the same thing. In the past 15 years, millions of millennials have walked away from the Church, but a closer look reveals a more nuanced picture. Faith among millennials may not be as widespread as it used to be, but it is getting deeper for those who remain. Research has found millennial Christians who do care about their faith actually have more respect for Scripture than older generations. They believe the Bible came from God, and 87 percent of them read it multiple times a week—more than any generation before them.
How one church helped the Church embrace the age of the internet.
RELIGION IS AN ancient
concept, but it’s managed to evolve with every major cultural shift—from the crusades to the printing press. And in the last 15 years, the digital age has reshaped how people practice faith. Since opening its “internet campus” in 2005, Oklahoma City’s Life.Church (yes, the church name is a URL) has officially become the biggest church in America, attracting more than 53,000 weekly attendees across 28 campuses. It also is the church behind YouVersion, the free Bible app that has been downloaded a staggering 300 million times, bringing the Bible to people in more than 1,000 translations and 40 languages. Life.Church open sourced their approach, launching a free ministry resource database called Open Network to bring other churches into the internet era.
C U LT U R E
Mainstream Hip-Hop Started to Embrace Faith Some of the key moments: 2004: KANYE WEST “JESUS WALKS” West led the way, as he so often has, with a blistering number that was basically your grandma’s poem about the two sets of footprints transformed into a revolutionary banger.
2008: ERYKAH BADU
Modern Worship Rising FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, worship music
worship leaders like Matt Redman
was something you played at church.
and Chris Tomlin, who transformed
Sure, there were worship albums from
worship music into a global
the likes of Vineyard and Maranatha,
phenomenon, completely reshaping
but they were mainly bought by
the Contemporary Christian Music
worship pastors looking for some
tunes to teach the band. But things changed. Bands like
Today, it’s Hillsong United, Jesus Culture, Elevation, Bethel and others
Sonicflood and Delirious? started
who are helping to carry the torch. In
finding ways to make worship music
fact, songs from Hillsong alone have
more interesting. Along with bona fide
logged more than 1.5 billion streams.
“MASTER TEACHER” Badu’s masterpiece left a huge impact (it coined “stay woke”), but it also celebrated communing with God. 2010: THE ROOTS “DEAR GOD 2.0” The Roots were already giants in 2010, which made their vulnerable cry for God’s help all the more striking. 2012: KENDRICK LAMAR “M.A.A.D CITY” Lamar’s domination kicked off with his dazzling exploration of the tension between faith and culture. 2016: CHANCE THE RAPPER “BLESSINGS” When the praises go up, the artificial walls between the sacred and the secular come down.
15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
Music helps shape culture, and the last decade and a half has seen a revolution take place across two genres. Worship has gone from a pre-sermon activity to a global phenomenon, attracting millions. And more recently, mainstream urban music has been returning to its Church roots, with artists getting explicit about faith.
15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
For decades, many Christians were nervous about getting involved in justice issues, preferring to focus on the spiritual world. But over the last 15 years, a major shift has happened and a new generation of believers are embracing social justice as an outgrowth of their faith.
The Justice Movements That Defined an Era Here are four movements that changed the way we thought about social justice. 1
Charity: water, Blood:Water and other nonprofits sprung up, launching social campaigns to bring water to places that don’t have any. They were some of the first examples of how the internet could mobilize millions around a common cause, stopping disease at its root. 2
Human trafficking remains not just a scourge, but maybe the scourge of humanity, with an estimated 20.9 million victims worldwide—20 percent of whom are children. The last 15 years have seen a huge uptick in advocacy for these people by various organizations.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
It took some tragic deaths and systemic injustice to wake the Church up to the reality that racism did not die with Jim Crow. Activists braved tear gas and arrests to raise awareness about ongoing racism in America and America was forced into a reckoning. 4
Global Christian persecution has never been as widespread. But as the internet has made it almost impossible to look away, advocates for religious liberty have taken up the cause and are fighting for the rights of all people to worship as they please.
The AIDS Crisis: How the World—and Church— Woke Up
In 2003, WHO declared that the AIDS-HIV crisis in Africa showed “no signs of abating,” claiming the lives of an astonishing 3 million people that year alone. These numbers were chilling on the page, and they lit a fire under the collective consciousness of the
world in a way few could have anticipated. Charities were started, celebrities spoke out, governments and churches got involved, and against all odds it worked. In 2016, only 750,000 died from AIDS. Still too many but an amazing drop in just a few years.
Tech That Changed Everything
Three innovations that revolutionized our lives
From connecting with friends to watching Friends, things will never be the same. BINGE WATCHING
STREAMING TV Services like Netflix made us think about TV differently: Appointment viewing has given way to a new era of high-quality programming, ready to binge on demand.
THE REAL BLACK MIRROR
IPHONE Apple’s revolutionary device did something no other phone had done: They put the internet into a pocketsized computer that was actually easy to use.
Millennials: Let’s Talk About Sex YES, THIS GENERATION MAY BE less
sexually active. Researchers believe a
fact, they are getting married and
religious than prior generations, but
variety factors are at play.
having kids later than any generation
they are also far less promiscuous.
Coming of age in the wake of an
Research has found that millennials
economic crash, as well as being the
report fewer sexual partners and
most indebted generation history
may have different ideas about the
have less sex than any generation
(thanks to student loans), has made
importance of fidelity. Baby boomers,
in the last 60 years. They are also
many millennials more cautious
who raised millennials, recorded the
waiting until later in life to become
about entering into relationships. In
highest divorce rates of all time.
Thanks to their parents, they also
15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
SOCIAL MEDIA Facebook (started in 2004), Twitter (2006) and Instagram (2010) have forever changed the way humanity connects, creates and consumes information.
Economic turmoil, evolving social norms and increasing debt changed how many millennials think about work, relationships and money. But most notably in the last 15 years, it’s been the rapid advent of new technology that has reshaped the way we live our day-to-day lives.
15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
BACK FORTH A RELEVANT roundtable discussion on the last 15 years of faith and culture and what it means for the future.
FOR THE LAST 15 YEARS, RELEVANT
Way—or festivals or any of these
Church in the South. So when peo-
has had a unique vantage point cov-
ple speak about Christian art, I think
ering the intersection of faith and
represents is that people are spending
you’ve got Christians in different parts
culture, and chronicling what God
their money in other ways. The Church
of the country with different perspec-
is doing in this generation. A lot has
has attached itself to different capital
tives on that very same topic.
changed since the magazine first de-
in interesting ways over the last cou-
buted in March 2003, and things are
ple centuries. And we deem certain
PROPAGANDA: This empire was built
changing faster than ever. To mark
things kosher or Christian, and we sell
on an industry or a marketplace that
them as such.
needed categories. It was like this reck-
So, essentially, you are selling a
oning where the term doesn’t even
with some of the important voices in
product, but it’s stamped: “We are affil-
serve all of [Christendom]. There are
American Christianity over the last 15
iated with Christ.” And then the stores
Christians who are “not allowed” at
years—people who have helped shape
that sell these things are also in that
this table. And then somebody finally
the way we talk about faith. Here is
same box. But the reality is, there’s no
went, “I don’t know, man. I feel like
part of that conversation:
such thing as a Christian CD, there’s no
what you’re selling me is safety. Not
such thing as a Christian store. There’s
the faith.” I think it was a reflection of
a building that houses a bunch of piec-
what was happening as a culture as a
es of art that may or may not be good,
whole. And then technology and cul-
CAMERON: When RELEVANT debuted
that may or may not represent good
ture moved on, but the industry didn’t
back in 2003, Christian and main-
keep up, and in the meantime, artists
stream entertainment looked a lot
kept making music and writers kept
different. Since then, we’ve witnessed
EUGENE: I’ve always known this, but it
writing and had to find other ways to
the precipitous decline of the Christian
has never been so poignant and so real
retail industry and Christian music
that this country is an incredibly large
festivals, as well as the success of a lot
country with lots of different views
KIM: Artists and bands and worship
of Christian artists in the mainstream.
and nuances. It just reveals that even
teams that we love, they’re a lot more
Why do you think things have changed
within the so-called nomenclature of
accessible now. That’s the power of
so much over the last 15 years, and
Christian culture, there’s just such a
the internet and social media. I think
what does it mean for the future?
broad perspective and view. [What is
it’s just easier to hear new music, to
called] the evangelical Church in Se-
connect, to watch live streams of fun
attle isn’t even called the evangelical
shows and share moments. There’s
JON: The ultimate thing that Life-
PROPAGANDA RECORDING ARTIST, POET AND ACTIVIST
SARAH PULLIAM BAILEY RELIGION REPORTER FOR THE WASHINGTON POST
AUTHOR AND PASTOR
AUTHOR AND SPEAKER
KIM WALKER-SMITH WORSHIP LEADER
15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
founder Cameron Strang sat down
this convenience factor, for a lot of
gatekeepers of the industry, the pub-
DON: Do you remember the end of M.
people, being able to access the artist
lishers. They used to be the curators,
Night Shyamalan’s movie The Village,
and the music and the different things
and you looked to them for what you
where you kind of discover the mon-
from home now.
should read, what you should watch.
sters are there just to protect this tribe
And now the word-of-mouth game has
from the ways of the world? I think
we’re rolling the credits on that movie
CAMERON: Because of the democrati-
zation of technology over the last de-
in terms of the Christian subculture.
cade, you can now create your own
JON: All of these things that we’re
platform and influence and sell direct-
talking about are human institutions,
ly to people who follow you. Whereas
and there’s a really great difference
before, you had to go to the Christian bookstore to find
CAMERON: Fifteen years ago,
out what was being said.
it was like Christians or Chris-
SARAH: It seems like there
were big titans, like Billy Graham, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell Sr. But now it seems like there are a million little kingdoms. Like 15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
you have people who follow Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker, David Platt or Ann Voskamp, Rob Bell or whoever you name. And whoever you follow, it says something about yourself. “Oh, you’re in that Reformed camp. Oh, you’re in that more Charismatic camp.” DON: In the old days before
the internet, you could just willy-nilly say the Bible said pretty much anything you
tian artists were always trying
“I think people really want to know how to think about these big issues of the day from a Christian perspective.” – Sarah Bailey
so hard to be taken seriously. Now 15 years later, you have Chance the Rapper doing stuff with Kirk Franklin; you have Kendrick talking extremely openly about his faith; Ty Dolla $ign is on Lecrae’s album; Kesha’s doing a prayer song. Why do you think that is happening now? EUGENE: I’ve always believed
that good, compelling, inspiring,
larger consciousness. You’ve got
have made it very clear they are not Christian artists, that they’re not interested in going
wanted and people just didn’t
through the processes that
have the knowledge, the ref-
the Christian industrial com-
erences or the ability to re-
plex forces their artists to go
search the other tribes out
through, but they’re produc-
there who were speaking against those
between Christendom and the Church.
ing some incredible art and music. It
ideas to affect our beliefs.
I think that’s really helpful in this kind
not only speaks to the Church or those
And now, more and more, when
of conversation. You’re talking about
who call themselves Christians; it has
a Christian leader gets up and says
kingdoms other than the Kingdom of
a message that’s also incredibly ap-
something, people kind of go, “Huh,
Heaven, you know?
pealing and engaging with the larger
maybe I’ll make up my own mind about that.” SARAH: I think it’s really shocked the
art will somehow rise to the
Ultimately, the Church is an entity
created by Christ, and it’s not gonna be outlasted by any of these things that
KIM: People want to be real. They want
are gonna crumble.
to be honest. They want to be them-
5 Biggest Faith Stories of the Last 15 Years selves. I think we all want lyrics and po-
bit saturated, too. When The Passion of the
etry and art that will connect to us, that
Christ came out, it was like, “Oh my gosh,
speaks to us so we can go, “Yes, I know
Hollywood is caring about faith!” And now
what that feels like,” or “Yes, you just put
it just feels like there is something biblical
language to my experience.”
coming out every couple of months, so it doesn’t feel as special.
SARAH: I also think that people love see-
1. POPE FRANCIS The only story bigger than the nearly unprecedented event of Pope Benedict XVI’s voluntary stepping aside was the man
ing their faith represented in the main-
EUGENE: I have not watched a quote-un-
picked to replace him. As head of
streams. You see this among Mormons,
quote Christian movie since The Omega
the Catholic Church, Pope Francis
you see this among Muslims; this is not
Code about 20 years ago. I think I’m still
unique to Christians. You see it at the Em-
recovering from it, actually.
mys, the Oscars, the Super Bowl ... when someone acknowledges their faith, that’s
the stuff that goes viral. There’s a big emphasis, I think, on identity and owning [it], and faith is just a part of that.
unleashed a revolution on the religion few could have imagined before him.
2. PERSECUTION IN THE MIDDLE EAST
CAMERON: Hillsong United, Bethel, Jesus
Few modern news items can match
Culture, Gateway and countless others:
the sheer horror of the war ISIS
What do you think has led to the explo-
waged on other religions in the
sion of modern worship we’ve seen over
the last 15 years? 3. RISE OF THE NONES
the rise of Christian movies: Fireproof and
EUGENE: It’s not as complex as we want it
all those. They’re typically not the same
to be. Whether we want to admit it or not,
production value as Hollywood films, but
[churches] have become events that we go
they were very successful selling tickets
to. I’m not saying that they “are” events
to Christians that didn’t typically go to
but that’s just part of the dynamic of going
one religious belief in particular—
movies. So when Hollywood tried to rep-
to a church: a designated time that you go
now make up nearly a quarter of
licate that success with big-budget films
to. We don’t go merely to be entertained,
like Russell Crowe’s Noah, Christian Bale’s
but if we’re all being honest, we’re all con-
Exodus or even Martin Scorcese’s Silence,
The fastest-growing religious demographic in America is none at all. “Nones”—people who are atheist, agnostic or don’t subscribe to any
4. BONO REINTRODUCES
they’ve all flopped. Why? JON: It’s interesting because everyone I PROPAGANDA: The last thing I want to see
know learned how to play in context. And
is another Bible movie starring white peo-
as schools are taking away music pro-
ple. I’m like, “Y’all’s main characters are
grams, the context for music often hap-
still white, and your bad characters are
pens at church.
still brown.” I watched Exodus: Gods and
JUSTICE TO THE CHURCH When the AIDS crisis began to ravage parts of Africa in the early 2000s, Bono served as an unlikely figure who helped to unite churches and leaders like Rick Warren with movements to help those in need.
Kings, and I’m a Christian Bale fan. I loved
KIM: When I get around people who are
him as Batman, but fam, you not Moses.
10, 15, 20 years or more younger than
So I think until Hollywood recognizes
me, I am recognizing something in them:
5. THE DEATH OF THE
that if you’re going to try to get people of
It just seems like they have this really
faith in this building, you really have to
incredible ability to see through every-
stick to the text. And then, you just have
thing. They know when you’re just kind
The fissures started small but
to find people who look like the region
of yanking them along on something, and
became impossible to ignore the
they know when something is real and authentic. And I think that that’s part of
SARAH: Yeah. I think the market is a little
the experience and what they’re looking
crumbling foundation of Christian retail subculture. The festivals, the music, Testamints, you name it. It all fell apart, leading to broader explorations of faith and art.
15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
CAMERON: Over the last 15 years we saw
10 People Who Changed The Faith Conversation 1
RICK WARREN The pastor of
ROB BELL In an era that had
BETH MOORE Caring friend.
faith, culture and
only ever wanted
With Just Mercy,
Stevenson made the
Wise mentor. Moore
more boldly than this
NOOMA video series
union between grace
has been it all
the new millennium
man, who proved
and justice palpable
during her long and
and continues to be
that faith doesn’t
books taught people
and proved it was
an icon of how to do
have to be forced
to stop being afraid
a vital necessity in
she seems to just be
into pop music; it
the American legal
can just be forceful.
for and why they’re being drawn to
I think that it’s especially important
more worship bands and worship-type
for young people, especially those who
events and gatherings. It is more about
are just moving away from home to
These women were really willing to
the experience and connecting to God
go through that, and kind of establish
challenge what was core to the Chris-
in a deeper, more meaningful way.
their own faith and have a relation-
tian faith and what was peripheral,
ship with God that is their own.
what was cultural. You were able to
FAITH TRENDS 15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
CAMERON: Blue Like Jazz was a pivotal
Sarah Bessey, Kristen Howerton, Jen Hatmaker, Nadia Bowles-Weber.
test the waters on a blog, rather than DON: The question isn’t, “Do we have
a publisher having to take a chance on
all the answers,” it’s, “Did God give us
you. A blog post could go viral and no
all the answers?”
harm done. There were a lot of risks
book for many RELEVANT readers. It
And the secondary questions is: “If
was one of the first widely successful
He gave us all the answers, could you
books that embraced rethinking faith
even fit them all in your head?”
taken for a lot of people. PROPAGANDA: I can’t have this con-
as a natural part of spiritual growth.
Like, why would He? A parent
versation without bringing up the ra-
Why do you think, in the last 15 years,
doesn’t sit down with their 2-year-old
cial tone of that. There’s always been
it’s kind of become acceptable for a
and give them all the answers to life’s
somewhat of an unspoken kind of
generation that was raised to “just be-
questions. It’s ridiculous. I think that’s
asterisk that, if you were a person of
lieve” to start openly embracing doubt
what was happening.
color, you had to kind of bury a little
as part of their faith journey?
bit of your opinion. EUGENE: If we surround ourselves
Like, you’re going to have to be a Re-
KIM: I personally love it so much. I love
merely with just doubt; if we’re mere-
publican and [bury] these things that,
the wrestling and the questions, and I
ly surrounding ourselves only with
if you were black or Latino, kind of
think that there’s just something in all
questions, then I fear this rise of what
rubbed you the wrong way. And then
of us that ... we want to feel accepted
I consider to be a very dangerous part
when someone finally went, “No dude,
and loved exactly where we are, and
of our spirituality; this instant cyni-
you don’t have to eat from this table.”
I think that is the beautiful thing of
cism that I think sometimes exists in
I think that, for me, and the people
Jesus. He meets us right where we are
individuals and maybe in our modern
around me, it kind of emboldened our
and He loves us right where we are.
society and Church today.
of understanding over the last 10-15
SARAH: I would say along with Blue
EUGENE: I think there is a trend,
years that God doesn’t expect per-
Like Jazz in 2003, came blogs. If you
even if it may be slow, even if it may
fection from us, and He does meet us
look at a lot of these blogs, they were
be messy, for the eager Church to ex-
where we are, and that He can handle
willing to challenge some of the core
amine its complicity of racism and
our big questions and our wrestling
assumptions that people had. Espe-
especially in the last five years with
and our doubts.
cially women like Rachel Held Evans,
the movement of Black Lives Matter,
I think we have gotten to a place
In 2003, Bono was
BOB GOFF The charming uncle
JUDAH SMITH As a pastor in
The toast of late-
the biggest rock ‘n’
She was one of the
of Christian culture,
Seattle and LA,
night comedy is
roll star in the world.
first to see social
who is always
also a fiercely well-
That’s right when
media not just as
ready with a kind
he made faith-
a place to tweet
word, a fun story
who is liable to take
links to her blogs,
or a real challenge,
but also as a place
Goff lives his life
rich teachings to
into wild, theological
nations central to his
to blur the lines
as a testament
between writer and
to the power of
and is even working
on a new TV show.
with some of the realities of systemic
I think it’s a challenge for your av-
injustice, whether it be incarceration,
erage 100-person church down the
are we inevitably going to have two
immigration, whether it be with the
road that is supposed to take care of
issues of police brutality. I think there
the community. I think it’s a really big
KIM: I think it’s really scary and hard
is a trend within the Church to really
challenge for those kinds of churches
to navigate [these conversations] at
take a look at its complicity—particu-
to survive when people are flocking in
times. And most people in churches
larly its silence.
numbers to the big ones.
want to love and want to be in those
very different types of Christianity?
conversations, but don’t always know how and don’t always know what to
ways is getting bigger, but in many
say. But I think even that is a good
ways is getting smaller in that we’re
place to start.
CAMERON: Looking back at the last
only talking to people that look, act,
It’s the humility, again, going back
15 years, what are some of the other
think, believe and vote like us. And I
to [saying], “Hey, I want to go back to
Church trends that stand out to you?
think that’s a little bit disheartening.
a conversation about this; I want to talk about this; I have a lot of fears and
er-friendly church thing and the multisite church thing really stuck out
concerns, but I want to do it in a way that’s honoring and respectful. How can I do this?”
to me. It’s like, y’all, do we—and I’m
CAMERON: There’s a huge gap between
gonna include myself—do we hear
what matters to our generation and
PROPAGANDA: I’m convinced one of
ourselves right now? Some of us are
to our parents’ generation. The old-
the biggest defining changes is that the
trying to get clean water. You’re wor-
er generation is typically more vocal
term “evangelical” has much less to do
ried about whether or not the service
about what they’re
against; they want to
SARAH: Evangelicals have always been
really good at mimicking the culture,
it seems like this
and some people would think that’s a
generation is more
bad thing. But they’re good at copying
moved by social jus-
trends in marketing and business and
tice and human dig-
they’re good at following the trends,
nity as an outgrowth
so they notice Instagram is popular;
of their faith. How
we’re gonna get on Instagram. The
do you guys see this
multisite thing is taking off; we’re gon-
playing out? Can the
na do the multisite thing.
gap be closed? Or
“Whether we want to admit it or not, [churches] have become events that we go to.” – Eugene Cho
15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
JON: I think the community in some
with your faith than it does your poli-
tioning earlier about how younger
than other presidents. But there was
tics. So I think that if we just come to
evangelicals are more progressive.
a lot of fear built up under Obama on
that reckoning and say, “What do we
And they are; we see in polls, they
the issue of religious freedom and es-
mean when we say this?” I think that
are more liberal than their parents
pecially as it related to contraception
that’s the way forward.
on most issues: climate change, immi-
and gay marriage. And I think those
I can’t help but look at this from a
gration, you name it, they’re probably
two issues really freaked a lot of con-
black perspective and say, “In some
more liberal than their parents. That
servative evangelicals out because
senses, it’s about doggone time.” Be-
said, we haven’t seen a huge shift in
they were afraid: “Oh, are you going
cause I feel like, if we’re gonna go
the voter bloc.
to remove our federal funding if we
back through history, the moral rud-
When we look at evangelical vot-
don’t have gay employees? Are you
der of the American Church has been
ing patterns, they haven’t changed. If
going to force us to provide contracep-
the black folks. We were the ones who
anything, the people who did come out
tives that we consider to be of abortive
were finally like, “Hey, you know slav-
to vote in this last election were very
ery’s crazy, right? Hey, you know Jim
strong for Trump. JON: I think all these terms are help-
Crow’s crazy. You know you shouldn’t DON: Politics are going to keep show-
ful to a degree: evangelical, protestant,
ing us this dissonance. The Democrats
conservative. They help us understand
SARAH: I think a lot of people think
do not have a lock on the teachings of
things, but they are also boxes that are
that the catch-all term, evangelicals,
Jesus. They are not going to help us
untrue. Like, we talked about earlier
is no longer useful as a quick identi-
follow Jesus. The Republicans are not
with “conservative”: what are we actu-
fier of who you might be or who you
going to help us follow Jesus. It’s just
ally conserving? For a protestant, what
align yourself with. It used to be a
that when you are a Christian, you’re
are you protesting? When we start to
helpful term to separate yourself. It
trying to figure out which political
have those kinds of conversations, I
was a helpful term to situate yourself
party you’re supposed to belong to be-
think it can bridge the differences and
between fundamentalist and mainline
cause you think in binary. The truth is,
the disagreements because we begin
you can’t really belong to either par-
to find the commonalities in the things
And now, a lot of people just don’t
ty. You’d have to let go of aspects of
that we can agree on.
think it’s helpful at all. Especially
your faith in order to do that. But you
when you have a lot of black Protes-
do have to compromise with these two
tants who identify theologically with
political parties in order to just have a
evangelical thinking and theology, but
government that functions.
15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
THE FUTURE CAMERON: As we’re pivoting from
they wouldn’t culturally identify as evangelical. It’s become really unhelp-
SARAH: President Obama did so much
what was to what will be, what do you
ful and really unclear.
evangelical outreach, and he spoke
see as the biggest opportunities and
the language so much more smoothly
challenges facing the Church moving
Cameron, I think you were men-
“When I think about my heroes, they are people who do what needs to happen in secret.” – Jon Foreman
PROPAGANDA: I think, looking for-
ward, if we can just have that symbiotic relationship between the individual and the collective that just steps back and says, “What does it really mean to love my neighbor? How can I live out this faith as subversively as Jesus did?” and let that be [what] defines our time. KIM: I think there needs to be this rec-
5 People Who Make Us Excited About the Future of Faith
onciliation and this honor for each
There’s a church in Ohio called
other. I think if we are to truly be the
Crossroads, but across the street from
Church and to honor each other, we
the church they’ve bought this used
should really love each other like the
car lot, and they turned the building
Word commands us to.
into an entrepreneurial help center.
I think that part of loving each othCHANCE THE RAPPER
er is honoring each other and honor-
So they literally help people get businesses started.
ing where the other person is. I think
So the more the Church can under-
conversation sits Chance, a dominant
that’s really easy to do when it’s your
stand the way business works and
force and beloved pop culture icon who
peer, when it’s someone who agrees
help people start and sustain busi-
never misses an opportunity to let peo-
with you. It’s really difficult to do
nesses, the more they’re going to sus-
ple know Who’s really in charge.
when it’s someone you don’t see eye-
tain the basic necessities of life.
At the forefront of the faith and culture
to-eye with, or when it’s someone who
AUSTIN CHANNING BROWN The writer and speaker is finding new
may be a completely different genera-
EUGENE: I think what it means to be a
tion from you.
global Christian is to be mindful of our context in our culture, in our cities, in
JON: I’ve got a friend who goes down-
our nation, so that we’re not perpet-
American Church, marrying boldness
town every Sunday morning, and he
uating this Western Exceptionalism. I
and conviction with grace and patience,
sweeps the bridges where a lot of
think it’s very significant.
and a dedication to dignity.
these homeless folk live. He’s just this
ways to bring racial justice to the
SARAH: I think a lot of churches have
gives them water and food.
stayed on the sidelines on a lot of po-
It’s not a huge movement, and he
litical issues, by saying, “Oh, we don’t
doesn’t want it to be. He just wants
endorse from the pulpit. It’s not our is-
it to be him. And I think for me, that
sue. It’s not a Gospel issue.” But as we
written by Houston and his team being
was one of those things where it’s like,
go forward, churches are not going to
sung by tens of millions of people in
“OK, I want to do that. That’s what I
be able to stay silent on the issues of
churches around the world every week.
want to be imitating.”
the day, whether it’s gay marriage or
JOEL HOUSTON Hillsong United continues to dominate the worship landscape, with songs
I see that in the next generation. They want the real, and they want bigger
Donald Trump. I think people really want to know
how to think about these big issues of
As vice president of advocacy and
that’s just hyped [online]. That’s where
the day, whether it’s racism and white
policy for World Relief, Yang is making
I see the Church’s strengths lying.
supremacy—as you see things like
care and concern for immigrants a cornerstone of her work, and is reshaping how her community thinks about immigration as well.
Charlottesville unfold—people want DON: If there’s one mistake that I think
to know how to think about this from
younger millennials (those who are
a Christian perspective. And the #Me-
under 30) are making, it’s the sort of
Too movement with sexual harass-
anti-corporation, anti-money, anti-en-
ment, and the treatment of women.
terprise mentality. We need to pivot
I think in the future, from a polit-
Veach founded L.A.’s Zoe Church which
our understanding to say that money
ical standpoint, we’re going to see
has attracted Hollywood influencers
isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a tool and
a reshaping of political parties and
including Chris Pratt, Hailey Baldwin,
we’ve got to use it to create equality
identity politics. And I think, going
in a society.
forward, they’re going to be looking
Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber with Veach’s approachable teaching style and practical approach to ministry.
I just wish there were more Chris-
to Fox News or John Oliver or church
tian economists, because I think if you
leaders. And I think that’s going to be
really want to study a culture you just
the challenge and opportunity looking
have to study its money.
15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
unknown guy who talks to folks and
THE NEXT 15 We’ve consulted with the finest futurists in the world (and disregarded most of what they’ve said), to come up with these fearless predictions for what the next 15 years will bring.
A DWAYNE “THE ROCK” JOHNSON PRESIDENCY will usher in nearly a decade of prosperity, peace and delightful 15 YEARS OF RELEVANT
Online churches will become the exciting new way people don’t go to church. A CREATIVELY TAPPED-OUT HOLLYWOOD will release like four sequels to the film Avatar, a movie no one has thought about since its release a decade ago.
RELEVANT will shutter its doors indefinitely after a Facebook commenter accuses it of being “more like IRrelevant.” Publisher Cameron
The “future” finally arrives as Dippin’ Dots formally replaces traditional ice cream.
APPLE WILL REVOLUTIONIZE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY with iDisks—10inch circles with a full album on them that you insert into an audio player. “No more scrolling through countless music options,” the company boasts. “Now each album gets its own, uniquely packaged iDisk.”
ALL ONLINE COMMUNICATION will be in the form of invitations from old high school friends asking you to join their very exciting essential oil/ legging/make-up/ vitamin businesses.
“There is no way we can recover from this devastating burn.”
AMERICAN SEMINARIES will begin offering degrees in Fog Machine Operation as the modern worship movement continues to increase the demand for ministers trained in setting the right mood for the climax of “Oceans.”
Rob Bell will release his massive best-of compendium titled “5,390 Questions I’m Just Asking.”
The R&B star will soon take on the role of Jesus— something he’s been preparing for his whole life. BY J E S S E C A R E Y
hen John Legend
will take the lead role in a live adap-
other up-and-coming artist: rapper
steps into the role
tation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mas-
of Jesus in front of
sively popular—and controversial—
Not long after, he was signed to a re-
millions of viewers
musical Jesus Christ Superstar on NBC.
cord deal that not only led to a Gram-
on Easter Sunday,
If you’ve listened to his music, in-
my and a double-platinum album,
cluding his most recent album, Dark-
but also made him the go-to singer
ness and Light, his Grammy-winning
for unique collaborations thanks to
debut Get Lifted, his Oscar-winning
his gospel-infused sound. Since then,
“I grew up with not only my par-
single for the film Selma, “Glory,” or
he’s teamed up with the likes of Jay-Z,
ents being very religious, but also
really any of the other releases in his
Chance the Rapper, Mary J. Blige, Lau-
my grandfather was our pastor,” he
15-year career, those deep Christian
ryn Hill and Alicia Keys.
explains, describing his childhood in
roots probably won’t be a surprise.
he’ll be in familiar territory. In many ways, he’s been preparing for this role his entire life.
They all came to him for a sound
Springfield, Ohio. And when he says
“I grew up playing gospel music,”
that’s familiar to anyone who’s ever
that his family was “very” religious,
he explains. For nearly a decade—be-
listened to gospel and who’s also been
he’s not exaggerating. Church is in
fore he became one of music’s biggest
a fan of R&B.
John Legend’s blood.
stars—he served as the choir director
“Gospel music, particularly—and
at Bethel AME Church in Scranton,
the black church—have been a part of
black music culture for so long,” he ex-
He continues: “My grandmother was our church organist. My uncle took over for my grandfather when
While working at the church, Leg-
plains, discussing the draw of so many
he passed away. I have uncles on my
end—whose real name is John Ste-
kinds of artists to traditionally Chris-
dad’s side who are also ministers and
tian music. “If you just go back and
pastors, and one of my uncles is a bish-
toured the East Coast, playing his sig-
look at Aretha Franklin, she grew up
op in Cincinnati.”
nature brand of gospel-inspired R&B.
in a church and made gospel albums.
In other words, John Legend is inti-
It was then that he was discovered
If you look at Marvin Gaye, he grew
mately familiar with Jesus’ teachings.
by music producer Devo Springsteen,
up in the Church and made songs that
On the evening of April 1st, Legend
who hired him to write hooks for an-
talked about his faith and Jesus and his
views on spirituality. Stevie Wonder
to engage political issues he sees as
is mass incarceration, an issue that
has done it. I think all the great artists
dangerous. His often-fiery tweets fre-
disproportionately affects people of
we grew up listening to, they grew up
quently advocate for issues affecting
color in America.
in the black Church and that tradi-
the poor. And, unsurprisingly, much of
“It was something I felt personally,
tion doesn’t just go away even though
the motivation stems back to the days
dealing with it in my family and with
you’re making secular music.”
he sat in a pew in Ohio, learning about
other friends I grew up with who were
in prison for quite a long time or in
That’s an idea that John Legend
keeps coming back to. The Church, the
“Jesus was kind of a revolutionary
music, it never leaves you, even if you
in his own way,” Legend says, as his
and out of jail for one reason or anoth-
decide to walk away from it.
grandfather’s pulpit influence begins
It’s an issue he’s had to deal with
Legend is no longer involved in the
to peek through. “He was fighting the
throughout his life, and now, he’s us-
Church and doesn’t consider himself
power and speaking out for the un-
ing his platform to make a difference.
“religious,” but he insists, “All of that
derdog almost all the time throughout
“If you look at the statistics and you
is still with me.” In some ways, his ca-
His life. That’s why He was so dan-
look at the policies we’ve had in place
reer is more aligned with the message
gerous, and that’s why the powers
for the last several decades, we’ve be-
of Jesus than it has ever been.
that be wanted Him to not be around
come the most incarcerated country
anymore. I think there’s been more of
in the world by far,” Legend explains.
UNTO THE LEAST OF THESE
a conversation about that lately too. I
“That massive scale of incarcera-
If you follow Legend on Twitter, you
think that’s a good thing.”
tion we have here has contributed, I
er,” he explains.
may be surprised to find a very dif-
The conversations Legend is fre-
think, to a lot of social problems and
ferent side of a person known for his
quently engaged in are about how so-
made life really difficult for not only
soulful songs and laid-back, ultra-cool
ciety treats those the Bible calls “the
the people who got locked up but for
least of these,” the poor, the forgotten,
their families, their communities and
about social injustice and not afraid
the down-trodden. One of these topics
for our society. I think we’ve spent so
much money and energy on polic-
ect, an upcoming HBO documentary,
challenge a value that needs to be
ing and locking people up that we’ve
due out this spring, about the 1968
neglected all kinds of other ways we
Olympic protests by John Carlos and
“It’s a more nuanced definition of
could edify our communities. We
Tommie Smith, who raised their fists
what patriotism means, and the idea
spend often tens of thousands of dol-
to protest racial discrimination after
that loving a country doesn’t mean
lars a year on locking one person up.
medaling in the Mexico City games.
loving it and ignoring all the things
There’s an opportunity cost: We’re
With Drawn Arms is being co-pro-
that are wrong with it,” he says. “It
not investing in things that will pre-
duced by actor Jesse Williams.
means loving it enough to speak out
vent folks from getting in trouble in
Yes, the story takes place exactly 50
when you know you can make it a
the first place and making our society
years ago this year, but Legend says
better place if we treated each other
more loving and more just.”
its message is just as relevant today.
better, if we had more justice, more
In response to the issue, Legend
“It seems so timely right now as
peace and less bigotry and less divi-
we have these conversations about
sion. I think this project honors that
FreeAmerica, which is dedicated to
the football players kneeling during
spirit of a more courageous patri-
helping people who are finding real
the anthem at the NFL games, led
otism, one that actually wants the
solutions to the problems at the heart
by Colin Kaepernick and the con-
country to get better and whose love
of the mass incarceration epidemic,
troversy that’s arisen around it,” he
is directed toward making the coun-
and advocating for legislative chang-
says, referencing the
es to help end it. But at the core of the
program is a single ethos: to listen.
dozens of NFL play-
“Before we even got behind a lot
ers protesting racial
of policy changes, what we did was
injustice and police
we went around the country and
just visited prisons and visited state
says it’s important to
legislatures and visited with district
tell the story because
attorneys and police officers and sur-
athletes have always
vivors of crime, all these folks who
played a major role
have a stake in the system right now,
in shifting culture’s
and we tried to listen and amplify
view of social issues.
voices that may not have been heard as much,” he explains.
“I have no doubt that the message of Christian love has stayed with me.”
“I think this story’s such an iconic
“In addition to that, we pursue
and powerful story to tell that is in
more tangible things like changing
the spirit of what we’re talking about
Once again, when Legend talks
laws, and electing district attor-
in the discussion right now publicly,”
about these issues, he begins to slip
neys we think have the right point
he explains. “I think it’s an example
from pop star to preacher, perhaps
of view,” Legend says. “We’ve been
of one, the cost of it because they
inadvertently channeling his grand-
getting involved in electoral politics
really did make some sacrifices that
in some ways as well, and in the leg-
gave them some short-term pain and
it’s controversial—but it’s also im-
islative process as well. Between all
loss, but it was for a greater cause
portant. It can’t be ignored. In many
of those things, we’ve already made
that they believed in. I think we’re
ways, it’s a lot like the Gospel itself.
some progress in changing laws and
seeing the same thing happen with
electing people who we think will
do a better job of making the system
try more just.”
For Legend, the decision to make a film about a controversial protest
Legend understands that for many
isn’t about politics, it’s about a belief
Americans—and many NFL fans—
in what’s right. He doesn’t seem over-
His passion for using cultural in-
that the protests have been contro-
ly interested in being political; he
fluence to enact social change has
versial, and some may have consid-
just wants to tackle issues that affect
also inspired another recent proj-
ered them to be offensive, but they
people in need. He points again to the
example of Jesus.
That experience too has weighed on him—in
“I think it’s important that we continue to ex-
a good way. It’s made him even more aware of
amine [Jesus’] words and not to project what our
why the message he’s carried with him since he
own political motivations are onto Him, but to
was a child is still so important.
actually pay attention to what He actually said,”
“It just makes me more aware of the challeng-
he explains. “What He said about the poor, what
es parents face raising kids,” he explains. “I feel
He said about loving one another and all the
really blessed that we have had all the success
things that He preached, I think sometimes we
we’ve had, and that pretty much every door
lose sight of that.”
will be open for my daughter, but seeing the
He compares the application to Jesus’ mes-
challenges we face and then knowing it’s much
sage to a more modern example, Dr. Martin
harder when you don’t have the money you
Luther King, Jr., and some people’s tendency to
need, when you’re worried about keeping a roof
use his name and image to champion their own
over your head or worried about whether you’ll
pet causes, instead of seeing them for what they
even have health insurance, and all these other
issues. I think I even
“A lot of times, both figures get appropriated
have more empathy
for whatever cause someone wants to put them
for parents and kids
on,” he says. “But a lot of times people take them
going through those
out of context and don’t listen to their actual
things right now. I
words they said. I think we’d be wise to really
think it makes me
pay attention to what Jesus said and not try to
even more politically
project our own political views onto His words.”
aware and passionate about doing what
A DIFFERENT KIND OF RELIGION
we can as a society to
As Legend got older, his belief system and worl-
make it a little easier
dview began to change. However, unlike many
for these parents and
people who left religion, Legend wasn’t hurt by
these children grow-
the Church—he still talks of it fondly—he simply
stopped believing like he once did. “I’ve just done a lot of reading,” he explains.
Along those lines, Legend
“I feel like I’m not as dogmatic or fundamental-
ist in any way, because I’ve come to the under-
The Show Me Cam-
standing that I don’t have all the answers, that
paign that’s aimed at
my responsibility is to ask questions and learn
helping people escape
poverty and create
“I think we’d be wise to really pay attention to what Jesus said and not try to project our own political views onto His words.”
“I’ve kind of just opened my mind and al-
a better life for their
lowed it to not forget all the things I learned as
own children by mak-
a kid, but also be open to other ways of think-
ing sure they have op-
ing, but still carrying that tradition of love and
portunities for a better future.
respect for each other, and wanting peace, and
“Our main focus is on education,” he says of
wanting a community that’s safe and just where
The Show Me Campaign. “We’ve done things
we all take care of each other and care about
like creating a fund that supports innovative
teachers who are doing exciting things in the
If you read the tabloids or entertainment
classroom that can really improve kids’ ability
magazines, you may have seen that Legend and
to learn. We’ve done things like providing schol-
his wife—model and TV host Chrissy Teigen—
arships to girls in Africa who want to go to sec-
will soon welcome their second child.
ondary school. We’ve done all sorts of things tar-
geted toward improving our school systems here in the United States.”
In many ways, everything up to this point has led him to take on a
While Legend may no longer be
role that is so loaded with other peo-
religious, he carries a moral burden
ple’s expectations, yet so poised to
with him. He sees success as a plat-
form. He sees fatherhood as a win-
No matter what a person’s reli-
dow to better understand the needy.
gious beliefs are, no matter what po-
He sees a society that’s deeply in need
litical party they belong to, Legend
of people who will live Jesus’ mes-
wants people to see Jesus as someone
sage—even if they, and he, aren’t sure
whose message still matters.
who He really is.
“I have no doubt that the message of Christian love has stayed with me,”
JOHN LEGEND, SUPERSTAR
One of the reasons Jesus Christ Super-
Yes, even people who didn’t grow
star was so controversial when it first
up in a family of preachers and pas-
came out in the 1970s was because
tors can be activists, love others and
the musical chose not to focus on Je-
want to change culture, but for Leg-
sus’ divinity. Instead, the production
end, those impulses were ingrained
is about the relationship between
in him from a household raised on
Jesus and His disciples, particularly
gospel and the Gospel.
Judas, the man known forever for his betrayal of Christ.
“I know that there are people who have the same kind of sense of re-
In the play, Jesus isn’t always a
sponsibility for their community and
wise, patient teacher. He’s an emo-
love for their community who aren’t
tional human who’s facing a public
religious, are not Christian,” he says,
execution, all while wrestling with
reflecting back. “But I think it cer-
the relational dynamics of His follow-
tainly didn’t hurt for me to have that
ers, friends and family. It’s not always
message preached to me in church
flattering because the musical isn’t
every week by my pastor, who was
about the divine; it’s about humanity.
my grandfather, and then at home by
Maybe that’s why John Legend
is such a good choice to play Him
All of those countless hours of ser-
in NBC’s Easter production of Jesus
mons and worship services will help
Christ Superstar Live. Legend’s views
when Legend takes the stage as Jesus
about Jesus are no longer about re-
in the televised musical, but even
ligion. They’re about a message that
when the curtain drops on Easter
carries with it a deep sense of hu-
Sunday, that message will stay with
manity and reaching those who need
him, because that’s still what fuels
John Legend—the singer, the activist,
Though that doesn’t mean he’s not feeling the weight of taking on the
the father—in the real role that he was always born to play.
role, “He’s probably the most well-regarded and well-known figure in human history,” Legend says. “And then combine that with the fact that many folks still worship Him today, so it’s plenty of pressure.”
JESSE CAREY is the brand director at RELEVANT. You can find him on Twitter @jessecarey.
Why Are American Taxes Funding Child Soldiers? The U.S. is violating its own law to fund countries that prey on children. You can help stop it. BY J E S S E C A R E Y
R Right now, an estimated 300,000 children globally are being robbed of childhoods. They do not go to school. They don’t spend their days playing with friends. Many no longer see their families. These hundreds of thousands of children are soldiers, and they are fighting on the front lines of some of the world’s most deadly conflicts. Across parts of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, children are frequently recruited—or kidnapped—and forced to fight. According to Human Rights Watch, they are frequently sexually abused and are often subjected to some of the harshest conditions and most dangerous missions—including being used as human shields. In 2008, the United States decided to take dramatic measures to prevent the spread of the use of child soldiers. As part of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008—named for the famous British Christian abolitionist responsible for the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807—Congress passed the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA). It was a revolutionary piece of legislation that placed real consequences on countries preying on the most vulnerable. The law says that no country that uses child soldiers may receive U.S. military aid. The intention of the law is twofold: Primarily, it attempts to serve as a deterrent from using child soldiers—after all, the U.S. spends billions assisting other countries in a variety of military campaigns across the world. But the law also ensures that American taxpayer money isn’t used for buying weapons or equipment that will end up in the hands of children forced to fight in conflicts around the globe. In theory, the law strikes a major blow to the recruitment of child soldiers. But starting in 2010 under President Obama and as recently as September 2017 under President Trump, the United States government has done something that’s flown under the radar of many activists fighting to end child slavery: intentionally ignored its own law.
As a result, American taxpayer money is currently sup-
Molyneux says that the CSPA could be a pow-
porting the use of child soldiers in several countries, and
erful tool to end child slavery, however, he says,
the highest levels of Congress, the State Department and
“The law has never really been used to its full
White House all know about it.
A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT
grants a single person—the sitting president—
Every year, the State Department issues the “Trafficking
the authority to issue waivers to any country
in Persons Report,” a document that tracks human traf-
that uses child soldiers if it is deemed to be in
ficking, slavery, the use of child soldiers and other human
the U.S.’s “national interest” to do so. And since
rights violations across the world. The report itself says
2008, nearly all of the penalties meant to be lev-
it “is the U.S. Government’s principal diplomatic tool to
ied on countries that use child soldiers have been
engage foreign governments on human trafficking.”
One of the major flaws of the law is that it
The reason why it could be so effective in preventing
At times, Molyneux says, partially waiving
these types of abuses is because of the potential, signif-
these penalties, can make sense. “We have some-
icant consequences for countries that violate human
times recommended the use of partial waivers
rights. Within the report each year is a list of countries the
tied very much to efforts to reduce recruitments
State Department has identified “as having governmental
of children and to prioritize initiatives that are
armed forces or government-supported armed groups
seeking to do that,” he says. In other words, if a
that recruit and use child soldiers.” If a country lands on
country is making significant strides in reducing
the report, that means, according to the law, they should
the use of child soldiers, Molyneux suggests that not entirely withholding military support might be appropriate. But in the last decade, both Trump and Obama have issued wide-ranging
Countries the State Department says use child soldiers will receive $140 million in U.S. military assistance, despite laws prohibiting it.
waivers via executive order. During Obama’s time, almost all of the restrictions were waived, Molyneux says. And though Trump hasn’t issued waivers as broadly, he, too, has given most of the countries on the list a pass. Part of the problem is the idea of “national interest” is so broad. Many of the countries on the list use U.S. military support to fight radical Islamic insurgencies. In the view of the president, even if those governments are using child soldiers to fight the ter-
not receive any military support from the United States.
rorists, it may be in the “interest” of the U.S. to
Currently, eight countries—Democratic Republic of the
essentially ignore our own law.
Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—are on the list.
THE 8 OFFENDERS
But it also implicates the United States—and its taxpayers—in their recruitment.
“In theory, under [the CSPA], the U.S. government is
“U.S. military aid is obviously this really broad
supposed to be able to block military aid that otherwise
term that applies to all kinds of material aid that
would have gone to the states on the basis of their child
the U.S. might give to another country,” Moly-
recruitment,” explains Tim Molyneux, the Child Rights
neux says. “So it might include arms sales and
Program Manager at Child Soldiers International, an in-
equipment sales and literally, you know, giving
ternational advocacy group that works to end the use of
guns to other countries. Militaries that use child
soldiers or [use children for] training or support
KIDS IN CONFLICT
OF CONGO According to Child-Soldier. org, one in 10 of the world’s child soldiers are here.
Following a conflict in 2012 and a jihadist uprising, the use of child soldiers has become commonplace.
The U.S. says the country uses children in “hostile environments” while battling Boko Haram.
The country has used thousands of child soldiers in its fight against al-Shabab dating back 2012.
for peacekeeping operations and so on and
As the memo reads: “All relevant bureaus, offices and embas-
so forth … In many cases, we’re not actually
sies agreed that there was sufficient information to establish
talking about arms sales, it may just be train-
that Afghanistan, Burma and Iraq had governmental armed
ing and other stuff.”
forces or government-supported armed groups that recruited
But no matter what the military assistance
or used child soldiers … Based on those facts, it is difficult to
functionally looks like in individual coun-
defend the decision not to list those countries as a legal matter.”
tries, by ignoring the CSPA by issuing waivers to governments that knowingly recruit child soldiers, the purpose of the law is defeated.
But even more concerning than the legal implications of Tillerson’s move is what it could mean for children. The memo continues, “It has risked sending a message to
Because of the waivers issued by Presi-
the authorities in all three countries—and to the internation-
dent Trump, this year the eight countries the
al community—that minimal efforts are enough; that we as
U.S. State Department says use child soldiers
a government are not interested in upholding internation-
will receive $140 million in U.S. military as-
al norms, nor in holding countries accountable for ongoing
sistance. That’s money the law says they
abuses against children.”
shouldn’t be able to have.
A few days after Tillerson’s decision, a horrific campaign of ethnic cleansing broke out in Burma, with the Rohingya com-
THE SILENT SCANDAL
munity suffering mass rape, executions and displacement.
“The decision is inconsistent with U.S. law.”
Many of those forced to participate in the campaign of vi-
“This decision compromises U.S. credibility.”
olence were child soldiers—ones, who, as of November, are
“The decision undermines the [State] Depart-
left out of the CSPA’s protection.
ment’s work and harms children.” These surprisingly blunt statements are
WHERE WE GO FROM HERE
three headings of a memo the public was nev-
In July 2017, a new bill co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of
er meant to see.
four lawmakers was introduced “to ensure effective imple-
Officially marked “Not for Further Circula-
mentation of the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008” and
tion,” the memo was leaked to reporters last
“to prohibit assistance from being provided to, or licenses for
fall and offered a concerning look at how the
direct commercial sales of military equipment issued to, the
U.S. is now addressing child soldiers.
government of a country whose police or other security forc-
The document is a “dissent memo,” a vehicle for officials to raise concerns about actions within the State Department without
es recruit and use child soldiers.” However, after passing in the House, the Senate is still yet to finalize the bill.
risking losing their jobs. It made it all the way
Shannon Dick of the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan policy
to the desk of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
research center, says it simply isn’t priority for many law-
before being leaked to the press.
makers. “Many members are uncomfortable getting out in
Weeks earlier, Tillerson took an entirely unprecedented step of personally deciding that three countries—Afghanistan, Burma and Iraq—should be left off of CSPA entirely,
front of cutting military assistance to governments that may play a role in U.S. counter-terrorism activities.” She says in order to move forward, it may take the efforts of voters to get informed and get active.
despite recommendations from State Depart-
“Readers can bring this issue up with their members of
ment officials and intelligence gathered by
Congress, and let them know it’s a priority,” she says. “They
the department itself.
can educate lawmakers on the CSPA and the issue of child
A representative for Tillerson said he made
soldiers, as many are not aware of these issues.”
the decision for “technical” reasons, though
Even though the issue isn’t currently a priority for law-
his decision may actually be a direct violation
makers, for children around the world, the stakes couldn’t
of the law.
be any higher.
SOUTH SUDAN Three years after falling into civil war, the use of child soldiers has been documented on all sides.
Like its Southern neighbor, internal conflicts have fueled the recruitment of young children into battle.
Along with chemical weapons and war crimes, Assad’s government has used kids in his ongoing war.
JESSE CAREY is the brand director at RELEVANT. You can find him on Twitter @jessecarey.
YEMEN Both the Houthis rebels and government force have used kids in a conflict that has killed nearly 9,000.
With Into the Night, the breakout rap duo is daring to challenge preconceptions. BY SETH JAM ES
his breath when he heard a voice in his head
Club Misfits so dynamic. They lean into what
tell him, “Jump. Come on, man. Just jump.”
makes them unique, and that’s why being so
Thankfully, his friends intervened. For
honest is so important to who they are.
many people, the experience would have been a wake-up call. But from there, it only
got worse for Fern as drugs began to distract him from his burgeoning passion for music.
When Marty and Fern were putting the
Not long after that experience, a verse Fern
ideas that would become Into the Night on
laid down on a friend’s track garnered the at-
their whiteboard, a theme began to emerge:
tention of Sony Music Latin, but what should
They wanted the album to defy labels and
WHEN HIP-HOP DUO Social Club Misfits—made
have been a milestone professionally marked
challenge how people think about what
up of rappers Fern (Fernando Miranda) and
a low point personally. He’d found himself
“Christian” hip-hop really is.
Marty Mar (Martin Lorenzo Santiago)—got
deep in the world of cocaine—so deep that he
together to start writing the follow-up to their
actually started dealing it.
breakout 2017 album, The Misadventures of Fern & Marty (which hit No. 8 on Billboard’s rap charts), they started with an unexpected tool: a whiteboard.
“We’re not pastors; we are musicians; we are artists,” Marty says. “This is a gift God
The lifestyle soon caught up with him. In 2004, he was arrested for drug trafficking.
gave us: to write songs. It wasn’t to preach and lead a church.”
It was in the chapel of a South Florida
It’s an important distinction for the duo.
prison that Fern re-embraced the faith he
Yes, they write about their faith and their
“The whiteboard is our compass,” Marty
was raised with. For the next three years, he
own lives. But their whiteboard—the place
says, reflecting on creating their brand-new
dedicated himself to growing closer to God, as
where their lyrics are born—isn’t a place
album, Into the Night.
well as his family who regularly visited him.
where thoughts filter through the lens of
It’s there, before the microphones are on or
It got him thinking about his next steps
the recording equipment is running that the
when he got out. The experience with Sony
pair begins to dump all of their ideas, emo-
confirmed he had what it took for a career in
When discussing the album, Fern would
tions and experiences to start figuring out
music, and when he was released, music be-
tell fans this: Get rid of the labels and the
how those things will become something that
came his main focus.
preconceptions. On their whiteboard, there’s
won’t just make for a great album, but will really impact fans’ lives. And when it comes to what gets put on the whiteboard, they hold nothing back. “Some of it’s really crazy, I’m not going to lie,” Marty says, laughing. “I might have to
Eventually, he met fellow South Florida rapper Marty, and they formed a duo thencalled “Social Club.”
what’s safe or what could be heard from a pulpit. It’s raw. It’s real.
only honesty. “Listen to it the same way you would listen to Rick Ross,” Fern says. “We gave you our sto-
Marty’s story is different than Fern’s, but in some ways, it’s more relatable to many fans.
ries, our point of views. It just so happened, and graciously enough, we met God in our
“Honestly, I didn’t hit rock bottom when I
travels and now we speak through those eyes.
met God,” he says. “I wasn’t at a rock bottom
Can’t help it. Can’t control it. But at the end of
The whiteboard is a place where real-life
situation. I was living life, and I was good. But
the day, we still put out stories like any other
stories become lyrics. It’s a place where Fern
my friends, who I love, brought me to church
mainstream [artist]. We just come through
and Marty get to be brutally honest and deep-
and I was like, ‘Wow. God is good.’ Every-
with different angles.”
ly personal. And on Into the Night, it shows.
body’s situation is different.”
erase some stuff off the whiteboard.”
*** Years ago, Fern, a pastor’s kid from Puerto
They aren’t concerned with trying to push
The duo released an album online called
an agenda or put their convictions on anyone
Misfit, which garnered the attention of major
else. “When you get past religion and you re-
alize it’s relationships, it just becomes that
Rico, was in a hotel room in Florida hosting a
trap beats, hints of island influences and
party that spiraled out of control.
He and his friends were drinking heavily
much more real,” Fern says. “That you can see in our music. It’s just real.”
part of what makes them stand out.
and doing cocaine when Fern started not to
It’s this kind of juxtaposition of styles,
feel right. He went out on the balcony to catch
stories and personalities that make Social
SETH JA MES is a music writer who lives in the Hollywood Hills.
The Wrinkle in Time director has quickly become one of this generation’s most important voices.
BY TYLER HUCKABEE
HERE’S THE THING about Ava Du-
of at least $100 million. She’s feeling
itual allegories inspired by L’Engle’s
Vernay. Talking to her, you feel like
pressure, but DuVernay is not the
own deep Christian faith.
you’re in the hands of a consummate
type of person to let it get to her. No,
It’s a bold move for DuVernay, com-
director. Not just a person who knows
for her, the consummate director, it’s
ing off of personal, more intimate
how to make a good movie, but some-
fare like her acclaimed documentary
one who could get any large group
“I think most artists place artistic
13th or her Best Picture-nominated
of people to do just about anything.
pressure or creative pressure on
Martin Luther King Jr. biopic, Selma.
She exudes authority. When you talk
themselves to reach higher, to try
This may be her most high-profile
to her, you get the feeling you are
new things, to try to tell stories and
project to date, but she’s sticking with
speaking with someone who knows
create images that are as visceral and
the formula that has brought her this
how to deal with situations in which
dynamic as they can,” she says. “So
far: her unique ability to tell unfor-
the stakes are high. And now, she’s at
that’s the pressure I’m feeling.”
gettable stories that are laced with
the point in her career where they’ve
The pressure she’s talking about is,
never been greater. After early crit-
of course, regarding her adaptation
ical acclaim (she’s been nominated
of A Wrinkle in Time, Disney’s up-
“[I’m] kind of like, ‘Oh gosh, did I
for Golden Globes, Emmys, Oscars,
coming blockbuster based on Made-
nail it?’” she says. “And my answer to
and a ton of other major awards),
line L’Engle’s beloved sci-fi story. The
that, to myself, in my head, is that I
she’s now become the first woman of
book was revolutionary for combin-
know for sure—while I don’t know
color to helm a movie with a budget
ing science-based fantasy with spir-
the answer to the question of ‘Did I
powerful social messages and an uncompromising work ethic.
And now, the $100-million A Wrinkle in Time, which, for DuVernay, the choice to
and essential. “I’m a student of history and while this
make was intensely personal.
might feel like a dark time for many, it’s not
“I wanted to get back to a woman-centered
our darkest time,” she says. “So I think it’s
ourselves in the
story,” she says. “I read it, and I immediately
important, while we foreground ourselves in
felt that it was mine. I really fell in love with
the present moment, we have to do so with a
real acknowledgment of the past and how far
The story follows Meg Murry, a 13-year-
we’ve come and an acknowledgment of hope
old on an intergalactic, dimension-spanning
we have to do
quest to find her missing father. “As I was
“We hear those words ‘hope for the future’
entering pre-production, my father passed
a lot, but when you really break them down,
away,” DuVernay says. “So there were some
it’s that the steps we take are forward move-
connections there that were personal to me,
ments. We need to be centered in a sense that
and I really felt responsibility to take the sto-
there is more to do and there is more avail-
ry in my hands and deliver this classic that
able to us and there is cause for celebration
has been around for 60-plus years and try to
and a promise of possibility, and all of those
tell it with kind of every ounce of my heart.”
things are something to smile about and
so with a real acknowledgment of the past and how far we’ve come.”
for the future.
something to be filled with light about.” LIGHTNESS AND DARKNESS
Those sorts of deeply emotional themes
More than just relating to the protagonist, Du-
have shown up in Selma and DuVernay’s ac-
Vernay senses that the story tells a fundamen-
claimed television series Queen Sugar, a stir-
tal story about the reality of the universe. She
ring family drama that unflinchingly tackles
references the story’s idea about light and
topics like race, activism and greed.
darkness, which is prominent in the book. At one point in the novel, “Mrs. Who” (played by Oprah Winfrey in the film) even quotes the Gospel of John, “And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.”
nail it?’—I know the answer to the question of if I did my best. And I did.”
DuVernay sees deep meaning in these ideas. “This conversation about lightness and
Based on a relatively brief career, it seems
darkness, about the best in us and the worst
DuVernay’s “best” is more than enough to nail
of us, and how to reconcile those in each oth-
it. She’s hardly done anything less.
er and in ourselves, is at the core of the book,” she says. “Those are deeply emotional themes
that people are dealing with in their everyday
A project of A Wrinkle in Time’s scope would
life and I think that resonates for people.”
be a big deal for any film director, but DuVernay is feeling the spotlight in a unique way. It was only a few years ago that she was
The book was published in 1962, but the themes resonate especially well today, given the current state of cultural turmoil.
a relative unknown. A Compton, California,
“The book and movie are about an em-
native, DuVernay began her career in jour-
brace of hope and the ways in which we do
nalism and public relations before finally
that—the journey that each person can take
trying her hand at filmmaking, first with
to get to a place where you live in a hopeful
documentaries and then with a 2010 feature
space,” DuVernay says. “It doesn’t mean to be
called I Will Follow, which cost her $50,000 of
naive, and it doesn’t mean to turn your back
her own money. Four years later, Selma was
released in theaters, and DuVernay’s life has hardly slowed down since.
For DuVernay, hope isn’t a vague feeling of optimism but something far more practical—
Ava DuVernay directs 14-year-old Storm Reid, who plays Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time.
But it’s one thing to stoke those themes out
self. While these characters’ ethnicities are
feels so ferociously important right now. It’s
of dramas, it’s quite another to make them
not explicitly stated in the book, they’re cod-
not just her talent, but her determination to
pop in a $100-million Disney movie. DuVer-
ed as white (and have been depicted as white
make everyone feel seen—even, perhaps es-
nay describes that challenge as a “joy.”
in almost all of the book’s artwork), so it’s rev-
pecially, the people who usually aren’t. There
olutionary casting, and it made waves.
aren’t many blockbuster movies that are made
“It’s actually difficult in any film to penetrate plot and get to a personal place,” she
“I get—I don’t know—a hundred tweets a
says. “But it’s a space where I feel comfortable
day of people telling me that they cry at the
and I like to be. And so I just applied every-
trailer or the thought of the trailer because it
There’s been a lot of media chatter about
thing I know about that kind of work to [A
is a very emotional experience when you’ve
A Wrinkle in Time in that context, as it comes
Wrinkle in Time].”
been absent to suddenly be present in a pow-
on the heels of Marvel’s Black Panther and
erful and strong way,” DuVernay says.
just a year after Moonlight won the Oscar for
Whether it be Selma, Queen Sugar or even
And it’s not just emotional for fans. It, too, is personal for DuVernay.
specifically with minorities in mind; it took someone like DuVernay to make it happen.
best picture. The conversation claims a new “trend” toward black representation in Holly-
13th, her documentary about the blight of
“It’s hard to explain what an emotional ex-
mass incarceration in America and its roots
perience it is to finally see yourself, whether
wood, but DuVernay is skeptical on that point. “These are not the first sci-fi films with
in slavery, racial justice has been close to the
you’d be a woman in a role or person of color
black people,” she says. “I think that part of
heart of every project DuVernay’s taken on.
in a role,” she said.
the bias of Hollywood is calling it a ‘trend.’ I
With Wrinkle, DuVernay tackled the issue
But the movie’s diversity isn’t relegated
don’t think it’s a trend. I think it’s a part of a
through representation. She cast two of the
strictly to the cast. DuVernay tried to bring a
proud black lineage of black filmmakers who
three supernatural figures who guide Meg on
holistic multicultural perspective to the en-
are making films with black heroes ... I don’t
her quest as women of color (Oprah Winfrey
tire production—everything from costume
think it’s a trendy thing, it’s something that is
and Mindy Kaling), and cast a little-known
design to set pieces.
part of kind of a historical continuum.”
black actress named Storm Reid as Meg her-
And this, perhaps is part of why DuVernay LOOKING AHEAD
Ava DuVernay is already looking ahead to the future. She’s a busy woman, with a new documentary about the Central Park Five on the horizon, another season of Queen Sugar in the works and a few mystery projects she won’t say anything about yet. And part of that busyness, it seems, is that DuVernay’s not taking anything for granted. She’s aware of the rarity of her current stratosphere, and she intends to make the most of it by telling the sorts of stories that she’s uniquely equipped to tell and widening the world for anyone who will come after her. “I’m in a really privileged position as a woman filmmaker, as a black filmmaker because at the current moment there’s not a shortage of opportunity to tell the stories and that’s not something that I was able to say even two years ago, three years ago,” she says. “It’s something that a lot of filmmakers never get to say, so I feel really grateful.”
T YLER HUCK A BEE lives in Nashville and is a contributing editor at RELEVANT.
Scholar N.T. Wright believes many Christians have gotten the apostle all wrong.
BY A N D R E H E N RY
believing creatives of all sorts have eschewed the dreaded title “Christian artist.” We don’t
say that Christian chefs make “Christian food,” some variation of the argument goes, so why must we have “Christian movies” and “Christian music”? In his new book, Paul: An Autobiography, renowned biblical scholar and historian N.T. Wright suggests the same about the New Testament writer: that the apostle is not just one of the most prominent biblical authors, but that he is one of the greatest thinkers of all time. Period. We recently spoke with Wright about this new take on Paul, what we’ve gotten wrong about him and the major studio film about the apostle starring Jim Caviezel and James Faulkner that hits theaters March 28.
RELEVANT : One might expect a
RELEVANT: So you’re saying that
Jews, who don’t think Jewish-ly.
renowned theological scholar
what Paul wrote has something to
Paul is determined to be loyal to the
to write about Paul’s thoughts,
bring to bear on history in general.
Jewish traditions but to say things in
but you’ve chosen a genre that
a way that will grab his hearers. He’s
focuses on Paul as a person. What
WRIGHT: Absolutely. I mean, I
got to figure out how to do that. We
were some of the challenges
started off studying ancient history
see this in some of the great poems.
of approaching this work as a
before I started theology. I was
looking at people like the Emperor
that “Christ was in the form of God,
Take the poem in Philippians 2,
Augustus, and philosophers like
but He did not regard His equality
WRIGHT: I was trying throughout to
Seneca and so on before I ever
with God as something to exploit” as
bring Paul up as a three-dimensional
turned my attention to Paul. I want
so on and so on. Nobody was saying
character so that when we then
to say, Paul is up there along with
that sort of thing before Paul so far
meet him in his writings, it’s not
people like Cicero and Seneca.
as we know. Nobody
just, “Oh here’s a book by somebody
He didn’t write as much but, he
during Jesus’ lifetime
called Paul.” But, “Oh my goodness,
was every bit as influential. When
was saying that, but
yes, now, of course this is what he
we come back to our own age, over
Paul realized that
wants to say to the group ...” It was
the last 200 years, Paul is up there
was a way of praying
the attempt to get the real flesh-and-
with Thomas Jefferson or Karl
the Jewish prayer of
blood man back up and running.
Marx or Václav Havel or people
like that. These are great thinkers
Jesus in the middle
church groups, beyond the Jewish
who have actually changed the way
groups, beyond the world of
that history moves through their
scholarship certainly and to say to
thinking, actions and writings.
My hope was to go beyond the
ordinary readers, “Here is one of the
That’s revolutionary. It’s deeply loyal to Jesus,
N.T. WRIGHT is the former Bishop of Durham in the
great public intellectuals of all time,
RELEVANT: The book describes Paul
but it is expressing
writing in vivid, exciting prose—and
as an “inventor of new paradigms”
that loyalty in a
sometimes verse—wrestling with
for how we understand Jesus and
whole new way,
some of the biggest issues that any
what He accomplished. What does
enabling people way
human being ever faced—love and
outside the Jewish world to pray
death and life and God and all of
Church of England and one of the world’s leading Bible scholars.
Jewish-ly, but Jesus-ly. That was a
that—and then coming up with
WRIGHT: When Paul is going out
some dramatic and startling things
into the non-Jewish world, he has to
to say.” Everyone needs to deal with
address people in the marketplace
RELEVANT: Many Christians don’t
at Athens or down by the river in
like to think about the involvement
Philippi or wherever, who are not
of human beings in writing
James Faulkner as the lead in the upcoming film Paul, Apostle of Christ.
“THIS IS SOMEBODY WHO IS ACTUALLY AS MUCH OF A PHILOSOPHER OR A KIND OF A LOCAL POLITICAL ACTIVIST AS HE IS A RELIGIOUS TEACHER OR ... EVANGELIST.”
version of a modern Christian, if you see what I mean. RELEVANT: What would you
Scripture at all, let alone to talk
I want to say something
[who experience] that kind of
about a specific person writing
hope a movie about Paul would
similar, not exactly the same,
dogmatism have said, “Oh dear,
most of the New Testament.
but something similar about the
what a terrible man he sounds.”
Why is it important that readers
Bible, that it is fully the word
understand the person behind
of God, and it is fully human
know him, I mean, you have to
somebody in the movie industry
the words of the Bible?
face the fact that Paul is the one
or in television hears the word
who writes that amazing poem
St. Paul, they think religion. In
Certainly with Paul, we
[But] in fact, when you get to
WRIGHT: In my world, when
WRIGHT: For me, the paradigm,
can see, you take a letter like
about love to the Corinthians.
your world and mine, religion is
of course, is Jesus Himself who,
Corinthians, where he wears
You can be quite sure that
something that’s quite different
as the Church has always said, is
his heart on his sleeve. His
somebody who writes a poem
from politics, economics, society,
fully divine and fully human.
heart has been wounded and
like that is not likely to face the
etc. It’s something that some
bruised, and he tells them that.
Corinthians coming back [at
people do on the side, and they
Paul himself is actually saying,
him] and saying, “Well, that’s
think that it’ll do them good and
“Here’s how it is with me, and
all very well Paul, we wish you
get them to heaven or whatever.
I’m telling you straight from the
were like that and what a pity
shoulder, this is what’s been
you aren’t.” Or whatever.
PAUL GETS HIS DUE
Religion in the first century is not like that at all. Paul belonged
going on and it’s been tough.”
Then, in Acts when Paul
in the middle of the rough and
I think if we just glance
is giving his farewell speech
tumble of everyday life. He was
over that, we are doing a great
to the elders from Ephesus it
starting new communities that
disservice to the divine element
says that, when he told them
were living in a different way,
in Scripture as well as the
that he would never see them
giving allegiance to a different
again, they were all in tears.
Lord, other than Caesar, living
This is a man who inspired
by a different economic system.
RELEVANT: Many people who
enormous affection and love
are used to thinking of Paul, the
person, don’t like him. Why do you think that is?
But this is what’s so difficult for people today to get their heads around, that this is
RELEVANT: There is a major
somebody who is actually as
movie about Paul that’s coming
much of a philosopher or a kind
This Easter week will
WRIGHT: I’ve known plenty of
out this year (Paul, Apostle
of a local political activist as he
see the release of Paul:
people who thought that Paul
of Christ). Do you have any
is a religious teacher or in our
Apostle of Christ, a
was either dislikable or was
pet peeves when it comes to
sense an evangelist. Because the
biblical epic that will
actually wicked or whatever.
film adaptations of Biblical
whole thing works differently
explore how an obscure
Again and again, they just
from how we in the modern
pharisee from Tarsus
haven’t understood him. They
became the pivotal
haven’t got inside his skin.
figure in the spread of
What’s happened again and
West have imagined it. That’s WRIGHT: I mean, as an ancient
the really hard thing for us to
historian, I don’t like watching
figure out. I look forward one
Jesus’ teaching. The
again is that Paul is being used
movies about the ancient
day to somebody getting that
by some dogmatic teachers
world in general. Because I’m
Faulkner will handle
in the church to say, “Here
constantly struck by the things
the title role while Jim
is what Paul said, and we’re
that they get wrong. [If one is
going to beat you up with it,
not careful, one may] commit all
to robes and sandals
and you’ve just got to shape
sorts of anachronisms that you
himself—will play Luke,
up and [get in] line.” People
try to make Paul into an early
A NDRE HENRY is the managing editor of RELEVANT and tweets @andrehenry.
the physician who smuggles Paul’s letters to the young Church.
THE 6 S TA G E S O F E V E RY M I LLE N N I A L R E L AT I O N S H I P Things change. Love doesnâ€™t. At least, not too much.
BY TYLER HUCKABEE
Yeah, dating follows very few blueprints in this strange new era. A lot of the maps you were raised to follow feel outdated. The pickups are now put downs, and all the keys you’ve got have stayed the same but the locks got changed. But there are still a few guidelines that can help even the most luckless single out there, and if you’re finding yourself bewitched by
A TALE AS OLD AS TIME: Boy meets girl. Boy
the fickle mistress of commitment this year,
asks girl out. Or girl asks boy out. Or they ha-
then take the following to heart.
ven’t actually met yet, but they both swiped right. Or some algorithm determined that their interests, religious views and love for bingeing old episodes of Parks and Rec means they are compatible. Or they’re going on
Ah yes, the spark. It needs no introduction and has remained a staple of any relationship from time im-
dates but they aren’t going out yet. Or it’s sort
memorial. In the days of yore, the
of assumed they’re going out but neither of
woman was just thrown into a lake and if she
them actually asked the other out so the rela-
didn’t drown, it was assumed there must be
tionship sort of just happened by osmosis. Or
some sort of spark with the town mayor.
they’ve just been hanging out in groups for a while and then one day—bam!—married.
Today, the spark is almost ephemeral. You know it when it happens, but it’s hard to describe it before it does and even tougher after the fact. There are the sweaty palms, weak knees and other descriptors from the first few bars of “Lose Yourself.” There’s the nervous banter, the fact that you start looking for them in a crowd or getting anxious when they don’t immediately respond to a text. There’s the fact that you laugh at their jokes with the force of a jackhammer. All these things are signs of the spark. Sometimes it lasts for a day or two, and sometimes it chains itself to you—a constant feeling of nauseous delight that you drag around like a sack of jelly beans. It’s terrible.
If you’re feeling the spark, take a step back
are trying to determine the extent to which
and enjoy it. Just because you’re in the first
they’re supposed to be romantic. In this
stage doesn’t mean you need to slog through
scenario, there are a series of Rube Gold-
all of them.
berg-type actions that could turn the event
into a date (like hand-holding or one person THE ALIGNING OF INTERESTS
paying for the whole meal) and if they don’t
This is a time-honored phase of
happen well, then, it wasn’t a date. Or it
love that predates the royal fami-
wasn’t entirely a date.
ly and will outlive the world’s em-
It’s better to call a spade a spade at the
pires. It usually happens around
outset. If you’ve felt the spark and you think
the same time as the spark, but it also outlasts
it might go somewhere special, ask them on
it. It’s the alignment of interests, a little game
a date—using those words: “Would you like
in which the two of you figure out what things
to go on a date?” Sure, it takes putting your-
you both enjoy. This often involves some savvy
self out there, but the risk of being let down
negotiation, because you’ll probably be feeling
is much better than asking someone to go to
pretty generous with your “interests” when
coffee, having a good time and then realizing
you’re crushing on someone. OK, so maybe
you still don’t know where you stand.
you don’t technically love archery, but he does
Relationships take intentionality, and be-
and, well, you like The Hunger Games which
ing upfront about your intentions is part of
has some archery in it, so it’s not a total lie.
honoring and respecting the other person.
This little bartering session becomes a
No matter how far your relationship goes,
bit awkward down the road, when you sud-
always remember that this person has a real
at personally. Are you ready for a new rela-
denly have to explain why you don’t know
life outside of your interest in them.
tionship? Is this a rebound? Are you using
all the lyrics to K-Ci and JoJo’s “All My Life”
this other person to fill a void in your life THE HUDDLE
that might be better handled alone? How
In romantic comedies, the Hud-
is your relationship with God, and is it in a
dle usually takes place over a
good place to be in a relationship? These are
few pints of ice cream among
the sorts of questions that get asked in the
ly align. But don’t force them to. Be upfront
best friends, but the Huddle can happen
Huddle. If it feels uncomfortable, that means
about your real interests and don’t fudge
anywhere. The gym, with family over the
you’re doing something right. These aren’t
the facts. After all, if the sole foundation of
holidays, over text with your college room-
fun conversations, but realizations like this
your relationship is that the two of you like
mate or just on the couch with your cat. The
are easier to come to before a relationship
the same movies, you’ve probably got some
point isn’t the location, but the subject: You’re
starts than afterward.
tough questions to ask yourselves.
weighing the pros and cons of a new relation-
even though you swore up and down it was your favorite song. That’s why this stage of a relationship is best skipped if possible. Yes, pay attention to where your interests actual-
ship with a patient, trusted sounding board.
THE FIRST DATE
In which case, the cat should be saved as a
The first date is more than just
Of all the stages, this one is the most concrete. There’s a definite
a first date. It’s a declaration of
The quality of the Huddle depends on just
intent. Or, at least, it should be.
how honest the other people in it are willing
official with someone. It’s a sea
A lot of first dates end up as an
to be. They won’t just ask about the person
change. One moment, you’re single, avail-
ambiguous hangout in which both parties
you’re interested in but about where you’re
able, “just seeing people.” The next, you’re
moment in which you become
“official.” You’re “dating.” You’re “taken.”
question that is bound to clear up some of the
Whatever the terminology, there’s a certain
unspoken misunderstandings between you,
amount of concrete-ness to them. Being offi-
and as a bonus, it works as a nice segue into
cial is a tangible thing, and it sets up certain
less abstract topics.
rules around your life.
looks like and, unfortunately, a lot of couples
don’t really discuss those expectations. There’s
end in tears, but getting too caught up in fret-
a notion in the world that the “So, can I call
ting about all that now will keep you from
you my girlfriend?” conversation has univer-
starting in the first place.
What are those rules? Well, that’s where things can get nebulous. Different people have different expectations about what official
A rarely asked, but helpful, question to avoid this confusion is a simple one: “How do you define ‘dating?’”
From here, you’re on your own. Maybe your new relationship will lead to the altar, maybe it’ll
sally understood implications, but the reality
Whatever happens, don’t forget to take
is that your understanding of dating is shaped
care of yourself in the midst of it all. Pray.
by years of unique experiences, from the
Hang out with other friends. Get some alone
home you were raised in to the church you
time. A new relationship is no excuse to stop
attend to the most recent movie you watched.
working on yourself.
A rarely asked, but helpful, question to
For now, just try to pace yourself through
avoid this confusion is a simple one: “How do
the stages, soaking in whatever experience
you define ‘dating?’” It’s a fun, unobtrusive
you can along the way.
T YLER HUCK A BEE lives in Nashville and is a contributing editor at RELEVANT.
BY TYLER DASWI CK
Moved to a new place and need to find a church? Suck it up. It’s easy. Here’s what you do.
I moved to a new city recently.
neither I, nor anyone I know, has ever
Aside from my coworkers, I
done as it relates to their church-shopping
don’t know a single person here,
experience. I asked for professional help.
so that means I’m flying blind
Kara Powell is executive director at the
when it comes to tracking down
Fuller Youth Institute. It’s her job to look at
a solid faith community.
youth movements in churches and comb
If you’ve ever visited a
data to learn exactly what young people
new church, then you know
want in a church. At this juncture, I had
the moves. You want to visit,
no idea what I wanted. I knew the kind of
but you don’t want it to be a whole thing.
church I liked, but finding it was proving
No welcome team. No “visitor reception
tough. If anyone could help me get my
packets.” Just let us have a cup of coffee,
bearings, it was Powell. She’s a pro.
worship and a sermon, and let us go home
Powell has researched over 250 churches
to make up our minds about this place in
in the United States. Most congregations,
peace, thank you very much.
she says, are shrinking in size and growing
Wait, you say, can’t you just ask your
older. It’s vital that these churches find a
coworkers for help? Psh, I could, if I was a
way to engage with millennials, but the
rookie. Let’s make one thing clear: I work
research says that “old-school” church
alone. Only sticklers waste time “consulting
values like dense theological teaching or
their friends” about churches. I set out in
pious worship aren’t as important to young
my new surroundings ready to people-
people as another, perhaps more “new
watch, take names and fill out precisely
school” factor: community.
zero “connection forms.”
“For people in their 20s, the need for
I know this is going to blow your mind,
community with people in their life stage
but that plan bombed. Sunday after Sunday,
is obvious,” Powell says. “A lot of churches
I slid into the back row of churches with
think that community needs to be really hip
names like “New Life Community” and
and cool, but that’s not what we found. It
“Zenith” only for them all to run together.
was more about community that was warm
Sure, there were style changes, but after about a month I had a steady progress sheet of “alright” churches. What was wrong with my church-shopping game?
and welcoming. Warm is the new cool when it comes to young people.” I could track with that. I became a Christian in college, and one of the things
After a month of botched church visit attempts, I sucked it up and did something
that made for an instant evacuation whenever I tried out a church was if I felt
THE CHURCH-SHOPPING REPORT CARDS
they were pandering to me. If a space
Our completely official grades for church
a “loft,” I was going to ghost on them
experience, style and, of course, fog
faster than a wildly awry Tinder date.
was modeled after a coffeehouse or a production studio or, heaven forbid,
“Don’t be cool,” I wanted to tell them. “Just be real.” So my time with Powell reoriented me toward a new goal: Don’t find a church, find a community. Done and done. That sounded
THE INDIE-FOLK CHURCH
simple enough, so I figured that’d be
WORSHIP STYLE: MTV UNPLUGGED
the extent of my professional advice.
AVERAGE AGE: 28 BUT FEELS 38
“Slow down,” Powell says. “There are
PASTOR TYPE: COFFEE-SHOP POET
some new rules to follow.”
SCREEN DESIGN: LOW-BUDGET PRAISE POSTURING: 25% PRAYER HANDS,
RULE NO. 1: ADHERE TO YOUR PREFERENCES, BUT DON’T BE AFRAID TO FLEX.
25% RAISED HANDS, 16% EYES CLOSED, 34% CHILL FOG MACHINE USAGE: 8/10
I’ve been doing things
THE STADIUM ROCK CHURCH
my way since the start. If it’s my
WORSHIP STYLE: HILLSONG BUT WITH
taste to go to bigger churches with a
modern worship style and scholarly teaching, I’m gonna stick with that.
AVERAGE AGE: 35 BUT FEELS 25
Indie-acoustic churches or suit-and-
PASTOR TYPE: SEATTLE TRANSPLANT
tie affairs? Please. I know how I like
SCREEN DESIGN: DAFT PUNK CONCERT
my Jesus, and that means served up
PRAISE POSTURING: 15% PRAYER HANDS,
without a fussy, geriatric choir.
51% RAISED HANDS, 11% EYES CLOSED, 2%
Powell said I should spend roughly
CHILL, 21% JUMPING,
80 percent of my time church-
FOG MACHINE USAGE: 9.3/10
shopping at places that fall within my personal church values and about 20 percent of the time experimenting.
THE WHOLESOME FAMILY CHURCH
“This is one of the best times to
WORSHIP STYLE: YOUR GRANDMA’S
question your assumptions on what
church means to you, so don’t waste
AVERAGE AGE: A NICE, RIPE 47
this opportunity by only looking
PASTOR TYPE: LIVELY OLD FELLOW
at churches that fall into a narrow
POWERPOINT DESIGN: BUSINESS
strike zone. Question your initial
PRAISE POSTURING: 18% PRAYER HANDS,
7% RAISED HANDS, 14% EYES CLOSED,
So, in other words, try a different
style one out of five times? I can work
FOG MACHINE USAGE: 0/10
with the brass on that.
RULE NO. 2: TRY MULTIPLE CHURCHES MULTIPLE TIMES.
all my dating prospects” or “let’s take
In other words: Jesus didn’t pander to
surreptitious pictures of the guy trying
people or put on a front to make Himself
to stay awake” than the things Powell
more appealing, and your church
was telling me about. Her point: If the
shouldn’t either. The message of Christ
That violates one of the
goal is to find community, I need to pay
should stand its own.
pillars of my MO: “Don’t let
attention to the kind of community the
them remember your face.” I’m trying to stay invisible in there, and now Powell’s
church fosters. Powell’s advice: Show up five minutes
RULE NO. 5: DON’T GO IT ALONE.
telling me to revisit the scene of the
early, then have one five-minute
This is when Powell laid
conversation before you leave: “Try
down the final-act plot
to meet a leader. Whether it’s a senior
twist on me: Try not to
Powell says once you’ve discerned an elite tier of churches you like, go back
pastor or worship pastor, introduce
to each of them one or two more times.
yourself and say it’s your first time. Ask
“You can’t always judge the depth of a
what they love most about the church,
community in a first visit. Go to a small
what they’re most excited about for the
isolation,” Powell says. “[Find] a close
group or an outreach where you come to
upcoming year at their church or what
friend or mentor who could listen, ask
understand how committed this church
their biggest prayer is these days.
questions and help you figure out what
is to being authentic and caring about
“Based on their [affectation] toward
their neighbors. You can tell a lot about
you as a guest, what does that tell you
a church by what it says on a Sunday
about the church itself?”
morning, but you can tell more about a
fly solo. Church-shopping shouldn’t be a solitary affair, she says. “Ideally this is a decision not done in
you’re feeling or thinking.” It wasn’t the churches that were failing me in my streak of mission
A pretty far cry from my usual visiting
screw-ups, it was me who was failing the
church by what it does outside of Sunday
techniques, but I understand where she’s
churches. I needed to invite someone
into the church-shopping process with
Visit a church at a non-Sunday
me because Powell says it isn’t enough to
small group or Saturday feeding of the
RULE NO. 4: PUT JESUS FIRST.
homeless. I had to admit, seeing a church
The critical, unbreakable
Finding a new church is rarely as simple
outside of its Sunday morning context
rule Powell gave me: “Pay
as picking a new go-to pizza place.
attention to how much
Church-shopping in a new city is about
they talk about Jesus.” It
having intention with the community.
function, she says, like a Tuesday
try and discern things on my own.
RULE NO. 3: SHOW UP EARLY, AND ASK QUESTIONS.
sounds obvious, but Powell says when
That’s how you find out who’s really
a church is putting the life of Christ
living the Gospel and who’s just putting
forward, it’s reflected in how they
on a performance.
Powell cut to the chase:
engage with the non-church community
“It’s tempting when you’re
around them. When a church is growing
like a spy and more like a tourist trying
visiting a place to slide in
So now when I visit a church, I’m less
and letting Jesus lead, they demonstrate
to soak up every experience that I can. It
as unnoticed as possible, but I think it’s
with their involvement with their
involves a little more vulnerability than
a mistake. You find out a lot in the five
neighbors and impact in the lives of
I’d like but, if you can’t be vulnerable at
minutes before or after the worship
church, where can you be?
service starts. So I would say get there
Plus, on a ground level, a church that
early. You learn a lot by watching people
talks a lot about Jesus is prioritizing the
greet each other as they come in.”
Gospel above their own presentation.
I’m no stranger to people-watching
“Christianity and Christian culture can
during service, but to be honest it’s
kind of be awkward or confusing, but
more along the lines of “let’s gauge
Jesus is always compelling,” Powell says.
TYLER DASWI CK
is RELEVANT’s senior writer. He’s on Twitter @tylerdaswick.
MAT KEARNEY MAR-APR
The singer-songwriter has found himself at a crossroads, and this time, heâ€™s forging his own path.
BY R ACH E L G IVE N S
“I remember my first music
“You’re like, ‘Yes. That’s true.’”
CRAZYTALK, he’s continuing
video,” Mat Kearney says, think-
Kearney understands the tension between
to experiment. The album
ing back to his 2006 breakout
creating music to appeal to the masses and
fuses Kearney’s vocals with
album, Nothing Left to Lose.
being tuned in to your own creative desires.
trip-hop and big electronic
“[Columbia Records] spent like
He’s dealt with the urge to write songs that
$250,000 on it.”
felt more true to trends than true to himself.
“It’s so interesting because
“Now we’ll spend that much
“There are times where creatively I haven’t
when I started doing music,
on the whole recording and
listened to that voice,” he says. “And it doesn’t
playing with ‘genre,’ people
marketing of a record,” he says,
ring true, and I don’t want to listen to those
hated it or they loved it,” he
reflecting on the massive chang-
says, remembering how Roll-
es that have taken place in the
Kearney has evolved as a musician—the
ing Stone criticized the way
streaming era of pop music,
newest album sounds different from any-
he merged different styles
where artists releasing music online can top
thing he’s ever released. In many ways, CRA-
in his music. “Now it’s like
the charts and traditionally powerhouse art-
ZYTALK represents a return to his songwrit-
I meet artists ... and they’re
ist release albums unannounced, sometimes
ing roots. He’s not concerned with trying to
with little marketing.
figure out how to navigate an industry in con-
with that thing that was
stant flux. Kearney just wants to be real.
Not only were multiple songs from Kear-
ney’s debut featured on primetime TV shows
“I started writing music in a season of my
Once again, Kearney has
and in movies, but the album was also nomi-
life where people were telling me I wasn’t
found himself at the cross-
nated for a Dove Award from the Gospel Mu-
defined by mistakes, and God really loved me
roads of an industry.
and was fighting for me, and there was a jour-
Music may be leaning to-
ney to be had with that,” he says. “And I don’t
ward the dark and contro-
know of a more important message.”
versial, but that’s not him.
In many ways, Kearney’s music represented the tension of a music industry at a crossroads. It was “secular” and “Christian” at the
Kearney is no longer inter-
same time. It had indie music cred with main-
ested in following an indus-
stream pop appeal. It was rock, but it was also
Kearney has been spending a lot of time
try that’s always changing.
hip-hop. It was something totally unique but
alone in the studio lately. This time around,
Now, he only wants to be
also oddly familiar.
he’s decided to become a producer in addi-
true to himself.
Twelve years later, Mat Kearney finds him-
tion to a singer-songwriter—a decision that
“[Music will] swing back
self—and his industry—at a crossroads. And
many artists are now taking, bypassing ma-
to real, authentic lyrics,” he
with his latest album, CRAZYTALK, he’s again
jor label budgets to make and release albums
says. “It always does.”
ready to defy expectations.
independently. And as you listen to the new album, it’s clear his music is better for it.
*** “Pop music is so dark and swaggy and druggy right now,” Kearney says, reflecting on the state of music in 2018.
“Money definitely does not equal success in recording,” he says. Kearney remembers recording his very first record in a small basement in Nashville
It’s not hard to find examples. Post Malone’s
with very little outside help, and it led to a
“Rockstar,” a non-ironic ode to “poppin’ pil-
deal with Columbia Records. For the next
lies,” and Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” an ode to
album, he had all of the money, producers
$700 Christian Louboutin shoes, were among
and resources he could ever want. But things
the most popular songs of the last year. The
didn’t go as planned.
Killers’ latest single, “The Man,” boasts, “I got
“We went to the fancy studio and spent a
news for you baby, you’re looking at the man.”
ton of money making it, and I hated it,” he
Taylor Swift famously declared that the old,
remembers. “We ended up finishing it back
innocent Taylor Swift “is dead” on the open-
in the basement, and all the good stuff came
ing of her new album.
However, there are outliers Kearney refer-
This time around, all of the solitude has
ences, like Chance the Rapper, who are open-
led to a breakthrough. He’s always been
ly dealing with more thoughtful themes while
comfortable bending genres—often merging
honestly wrestling with faith. “There’s a rea-
acoustic singer-songwriter melodies with
son why Chance strikes a chord,” he says.
spoken-word, hip-hop and pop beats. For
R ACHEL GIVENS is a writer and editor living in Portland.
A look at the rise of exorcisms and the changing face of spiritual warfare in America
BY T Y L E R H U C K A B E E
to an exorcism. Anneliese Michel, Alt believed, was possessed by a demon. Multiple demons, in fact.
evil thoughts. Possession is the rarest form of demonic oppression, but it’s on the rise. Or, at least, people seem to think it is.
THE DEVIL WE KNOW
“It definitely is real,” says Jonathan
This event, which took place from
Martin. “I would say, just based on the
roughly 1970 to 1973, formed the ba-
literature that I’ve read around pos-
sis of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the
session and all those kinds of things as
2005 supernatural horror directed
well as a few experiences I’ve had, that
by Scott Derrickson. The movie took
there certainly seems to be something
a lot of liberties with the plot, but it
organized about Satan.”
remained one of the more theologi-
Martin is an author and pastor in
cally informed supernatural films in
Tulsa, Oklahoma, who has what he
When Anneliese Michel was 16 years
the Hollywood canon, owing largely
calls a “curiosity” about the world of
old, she had a seizure. Doctors in her
to its reliance on Catholic teaching. In
small municipality in Bavaria, Germa-
real life, Michel’s bout with what she
“The first proper appearance of Sa-
ny, diagnosed her with epilepsy. Her
and her family believed to be demon
tan in the Bible is in the book of Job,”
condition worsened, and she was tak-
possession ended tragically when she
Martin says. “The word that appears in
en to a psychiatric hospital, where she
died of malnutrition from not being
Hebrew is literally ‘the Accuser.’ It’s an
was prescribed anti-convulsion drugs.
able to eat. She was 23 when she died
office. It’s a title. He is the Accuser of
They did little to alleviate her symp-
and weighed just 68 pounds.
the brethren. So I feel like there’s this
toms, which grew not only worse, but
A lawsuit sprung from her death,
through line throughout all of Scrip-
increasingly bizarre. Michel described
which led to Michel’s parents and the
ture that first and foremost Satan is
seeing a “devil face” throughout the
two priests in charge of her exorcism
embodied as accusation.”
day. She was prescribed more drugs.
being found guilty of homicide by neg-
Martin says this idea, of Satan rel-
She began to hear voices telling her
ligence. The Catholic Church retooled
ishing in being an “accuser,” can be
that she would “rot in hell.” Most sinis-
its rules around exorcisms in the wake
subtly manifested through real-world
ter of all, she developed an intolerance
of the negative press.
for religious objects.
If that makes it sound like there’s
“What is more evil than scapegoat-
Michel had been raised a devout
a lot of red tape around the Catholic
ing another person, making ourselves
Catholic, and she began to suspect her
Church’s dealing with demon posses-
feel righteous at someone else’s ex-
condition was not medical, but spiritu-
sion, you haven’t heard anything yet.
pense?” he explains. “That’s part of
al. She asked for an exorcism, but local
Rome recognizes various degrees of
what I feel like is happening now. I
priests refused, saying her condition
demon oppression. There’s infesta-
find it interesting the Catholic Church
did not meet enough of Rome’s criteria
tion—similar to a haunting, in which
is reporting a record number of exor-
to qualify. By the time Michel turned
objects move and creepy noises issue
cisms. I feel like ‘the accusation’ is out
20, her life had become a nightmare—
from nowhere. There’s vexation, in
of control in the world right now.”
she was eating spiders and spending
which people appear to be physically
No one’s keeping exact numbers,
days in a dog-like state—and a priest
attacked by demons, showing bruises
but the Pope Leo XIII Institute was
named Ernst Alt was finally convinced
and bite marks. There’s obsession, in
founded in Libertyville, Illinois, in
to implore the local bishop to agree
which people can’t seem to turn off
2010 in direct response to the Catholic
Church’s sense of a growing need
if you know in your head that Satan
for more trained exorcists. The In-
isn’t a mustache-twirling guy with
stitute graduated its second class of
horns and sharp teeth, it’s still hard
52 freshly minted exorcists in the
to push back against the onslaught
fall of 2017.
of cartoonish imagery that’s invad-
When contacted by RELEVANT,
According to Gallup, around 79 percent of Americans believe in God, while just 61 percent believe in the devil.
the Institute said they do not refer
were a kid.
priests to the media, but Msgr. John
One way Christians have pushed
Esseff, president of the institute’s
back against this idea is by mak-
board of directors, told the Catholic
ing the notion of spiritual warfare
Register that he was “hopeful bish-
a visceral one. In the ’80s and ’90s,
ops are becoming more aware of
Christian author Frank Peretti be-
their role as the ‘chief exorcist’ for
came a minor celebrity for his Ste-
phen King-esque tales of Christians
“There is also still some resis-
waging prayerful combat with the
tance of the reality of Satan,” he
supernatural forces of evil in books
continues. “... As if there is just evil
like This Present Darkness, Piercing
and not the devil.”
the Darkness and The Oath. Hugely successful Christian recording artist
Carman would regale listeners with
This idea is not limited to the Cath-
olic Church. The idea of Satan is
in which he—a God-fearing Chris-
something talked about frequently
tian—would humiliate Satan.
in Sunday School—largely because
the concept of a mystical super vil-
tales may have been, they stood in
lain is a good way to hold the atten-
stark contrast to most Christians’
tion of 7-year-olds. But as Christians
experiences with the devil—and
get older, talk about Satan and de-
only further enforced the notion
that he wasn’t quite real. That, ac-
There are a number of reasons for this, but a big one among many
cording to some people, might be part of the plan.
evangelicals seems to be that all this talk about Satan and demons is just
a bit silly.
“I find it interesting that some of the
Stats back this up: Belief in Satan
times I’ve experienced evil in the
isn’t as popular in the U.S. as belief
ways that I thought were most like
in God (according to Gallup, about
disturbing or profound were in the
79 percent of Americans believe in
ecclesiastical setting as opposed to,
God, while just 61 percent believe
you know, a Marilyn Manson show,”
in the devil), but even among those
who do believe, for many, he does
As an example, he relates a time
not factor into their lives in a seri-
he was in a denominational meet-
ing and tempers began to flare over
Maybe that’s because so much of
ed your idea of the devil since you
the issue of women in ministry.
our talk around the devil is shaped
“More and more people were
by cultural representations. Red
kind of railing against it,” he re-
tights, pointy tail, pitchfork—even
counts. “Then it just got super dark.
THE VATICAN’S 4 TYPES OF DEMONIC ACTIVITY The Catholic Church has outlined different ways of understanding how demons work to better comprehend the idea of “possession.”
INFESTATION Priests describe this as demonic activity associated with a specific place—think a haunted house.
Priests say this occurs when a person begins to be physically harmed by demonic forces.
OBSESSION Whereas vexation is physical, the Church says this stage is where demons actually mentally attack.
POSSESSION Possession, like is seen throughout Scripture, happens when someone’s body is “taken over” by demons.
The energy behind it, I mean, it was
so. We are really faced with a cruel
who claimed he was waylaid from
so blatant like it was ugly, it was
dilemma. When the humans disbe-
answering prayers for 21 days while
gross and I just remember feeling
lieve in our existence, we lose all the
he and the archangel Michael con-
like, ‘Man, there is something in
pleasing results of direct terrorism
tended with a “Prince of Persia”—
the air here that is wrong.’ It felt
and we make no magicians. On the
something biblical scholars believe
like people are not ... in their right
other hand, when they believe in us,
to be a reference to a demon. But for
minds here. You think about like
we cannot make them materialists
the most part, the Bible’s focus tends
the mob that crucified Jesus, there’s
toward things that seem compara-
something about that kind of mob
This, according to Martin, is the
mentality once it starts to kind of
real heart of any conversation about
tively mundane. For humans, at least, the battle
demonic oppression. Not spinning
against Satan does not often look
That story doesn’t have the sort
heads and crucifixes, but the lack
like exorcisms. “Submit yourselves
of sizzle that would inspire a Hol-
thereof. If the devil is real—and the
therefore to God. Resist the dev-
lywood movie like Michel’s, and it
general consensus of church history
il and he will flee from you” says
may be a more effective demonic
is that he is—then the battle being
James 4:7, making victory over Sa-
strategy for that reason.
waged against him is an important
tan sound about as complicated as
C.S. Lewis’ classic spiritual sat-
one and the flashy demon posses-
ire The Screwtape Letters follows a
sion tricks are a very minuscule
fictional elder demon advising his
part of it.
That, according to Martin, is the point—although we often tend to fo-
rookie nephew in the ways of keep-
cus too much on the latter, and not
ing a young Christian from getting
too close to God or, as they have it,
For his incendiary place in pop cul-
“This submission to God is the
“The Enemy.” In one of these letters,
ture, the Bible speaks very little of
key part,” he says. “I think mostly
enough on the former.
the devil. Revelation spins a dramat-
in terms of how spiritual warfare
“I wonder you should ask me
ic origin story of an angel who fell
is accomplished is mostly through
whether it is essential to keep the
from heaven, taking a third of the
spiritual disciplines that cause us to
patient in ignorance of your own
angels with him. Jesus is tempted by
come into a deeper place of surren-
existence. That question, at least
Satan in the desert, and casts out His
der to God.”
for the present phase of the strug-
fair share of demons—once, memo-
gle, has been answered for us by
rably, into a herd of pigs.
the High Command. Our policy, for
And there is the occasional wild
the moment, is to conceal ourselves.
detail in there. In the Old Testa-
Of course this has not always been
ment, Daniel speaks with an angel
T YLER HUCK A BEE lives in Nashville and is a contributing editor at RELEVANT.
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Our World Is Messed Up. RELEVANT’s January interview with Russell Brand hit home for us here at Yellowstone Theological Institute. With forceful eloquence, Russell’s four-letter word choice hit the nail on the head. We’ll paraphrase: our world is a mess.
He’s right. But there’s a better way.
Join us on this mission—this adventure—to bring hope back to our broken world. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YTI, CHECK US OUT AT
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FILM/TV MUSIC BOOKS
NEW RELEASES YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats The soul man and his band want this one to feel worth it. OLLOWING UP THEIR ACCLAIMED SELF-TITLED
want—and I need—everybody to feel like they’re a part of
2015 DEBUT, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night
this band,” Rateliff says. “I want them to feel like they’re
Sweats are back with Tearing at the Seams.
contributing artistically and emotionally to the experience
This one is way more than the desperation
of writing and creating this music. We’ve all had to make
move that marked their last effort. The 2015 album was
sacrifices to be in The Night Sweats and I want them all to
the group’s last shot at the music industry—if it sank, they
know that it’s worth something.”
For Rateliff, this
were out—but unexpected success pulled them back in. Now their focus is on maintaining that surprise momentum as they adjust to life as full-time musicians. “I
That drive toward unity shows. Look, you’ll never see us write this sentence again, but trust us on this one: The
album is about the group.
Night Sweats are worth it.
IF ONLY YOU KNEW
Author Jamie Ivey believes in the power of transparency. Her new book is about how she began to embrace her own weaknesses—
and how it changed her life.
Behind all of the swag and bravado of their fifth album (see “The Man”), The Killers bring a surprising amount of vulnerability and heart with songs about mental health, shame and a whole lot of faith.
JOE PISCATELLA [NETFLIX]
The story of a “teenager vs. superpower” follows Joshua Wong as he leads the Hong Kong Occupy Movement,
aimed at holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable.
The pop superstar returns with the team that started it all. IT’S BEEN MORE THAN 16 YEARS since Justin
Timberlake teamed up
with producing duo The
Neptunes (Pharrell Williams
and Chad Hugo) on his
Four years after she
solo debut Justified. This
released her last album
time, Pharrell and JT (with
of original music, the
a team that also includes
singer-songwriter returns with a collection
Timbaland), are capturing
of musings about doubt,
what Timberlake has called
questions and, most of
a “Southern American”
all, hope, in an ode to
sound, without forgetting
his club roots. They’ve also leaned on genre-melding collaborations with artists like country star Chris Stapleton and R&B singer Alicia Keys. Though it’s not the “campfire” album he’d hinted at, Man of the Woods finds us listening to a Timberlake who’s still evolving. This guy’s older,
more mature, but still fun.
LEE UNKRICH [PIX AR]
With stunning visuals, Pixar’s latest is a tribute to Mexican culture through the lens of an
MAN OF THE WOODS [RCA RECORDS]
Timberlake is leaning into his Tennessee roots on this one.
epic adventure—all while tackling big themes like death and family.
Lucy Dacus Witness the rapid rise of a gifted songwriter.
YEAR AND A HALF AFTER the release
of her debut, No Burden—which was recorded in a single day—Lucy Dacus has returned with Historian. The
album had a bigger budget but maintains her gritty ethos, further establishing her as a next-big-thing. But if you ask her, her rapid rise is still somewhat of a surprise. “Where I am now is kind of a shock to me,” she says. “The ‘why me’ question is as elusive to me as everyone else.” HISTORIAN [MATADOR]
The album further establishes her as one of indie-rock’s most unique singersongwriters by channeling ‘90s-era alt-rock and deeply personal lyrics.
a charming, funny
extroverted? That’s the
and deeply moving
question at the heart of
story centered on the
Hansen’s book, which shows why those who don’t always “fit in” are
From filmmaker Greta
children have with
Gerwig, the breakout
their mothers and the
Why are so many church
uniquely positioned to
indie comedy set in
redemptive power of
programs and ministries
do big things for the
the early aughts is
geared toward the
Kingdom of God.
Tedashii “NEVER FOLD BECAME this encouragement to myself and others,” Tedashii says. Unpacking its meaning, he explains, “Don’t look back. Don’t quit.” Since losing his young son, Tedashii’s music has
NEVER FOLD [REACH RECORDS]
Giant club beats are
become a way for him to encourage others
paired with thoughtful
who have experienced unimaginable loss
lyrics about loss, faith and
to persevere with the help of others, God
social justice in Tedashii’s
and, yes, even music. The album is equal parts inspirational and challenging, but still fully hopeful.
latest offering, which presents the full spectrum of his emotions and his talents behind the mic.
Elevation Collective The megachurch worship outfit is getting experimental. FOR THEIR LATEST ALBUM, Elevation
renditions of some of the most
Worship teamed up with gospel
treasured songs in Elevation’s
heavyweights like Israel Houghton,
catalog. “We’ve seen the impact
Kierra Sheard, Tasha Cobbs Leonard,
our songs have made beyond the
Tye Tribbett and Travis Greene to
walls of our church,” says Elevation
form a supergroup called “Elevation
songwriter Chris Brown. “We’ve
seen them reach people in different
Their first project, Evidence, offers fresh, imaginative and interesting
BORNS BLUE MADONNA
churches, and it’s inspired us to
The songs are powerfully reharmonized as rock-gospel anthems with notes of indie, pop
partner with some amazing artists.”
There’s a classic rock attitude that Garrett Borns brings to his latest collection of fist-pumping indie-pop bangers and falsettofueled ballads.
THEY WERE INSPIRED BY HEARING NEW INTERPRETATIONS OF THEIR SONGS.
THOR: RAGNAROK TAIKA WAITITI [ MARVEL]
Just when we thought the MCU couldn’t do anything new, the new installment in the Thor story combines ‘70s-era B-movie action, a Mark Mothersbaugh-synth score and big laughs.
BRAVE ROSE MCGOWAN [HARPERONE]
The story of a woman who takes over
Based on an acclaimed children’s
in adulthood: Hollywood
ownership of her friend’s dog after her
novel, Wonder follows a boy with
and the sexual predators
tragic suicide is a moving examination
a facial deformity, who challenges
who are now coming to
of grief, loss and companionship.
others’ ideas about true acceptance.
The actress recounts growing up in a cult, but also standing up against the abuse of another cult
MGMT The East Coast indie duo has found their ‘pop juice’ again. LITTLE DARK
GMT HAD BEEN EXPERIMENTAL TO A FAULT. The duo’s last two
albums, 2010’s Congratulations and 2013’s MGMT, alienated
critics and fans alike, admits frontman Andrew VanWyngarden. “A lot of people
After two swings and misses, the indie-pop pairing has rediscovered the ‘80s influences
wrote us off,” he says. “They were like, ‘They
that drove their
have no pop juice left in them.’”
The pair stepped back and realized they were masking their influences—Hall and Oates, Talking Heads—and they chose to embrace them again on Little Dark Age. The result is MGMT’s loosest album in years, with punchy hooks, goofy lyrics and bright vibes. It’s a solid return to form. Welcome back.
WHAT IF GOD’S FAVOR LOOKS DIFFERENT THAN YOU IMAGINED? “Can the people of God face trouble in the world and still know themselves to be highly favored? Brian Jones’s Finding Favor convincingly, winsomely cries, yes!”
ALAN D. WRIGHT , author of Free Yourself, Be Yourself
Coast Modern FOR A TWO-MAN BAND, Coast Modern manages to create a pretty massive sound. The duo of Luke Atlas and Coleman Trapp
is influenced by their native Southern
California, with sunny harmonies and bright
indie-rock choruses, but their wall-of-sound approach is a timeless ode to classic pop forerunners. The band cites everyone from the Beatles to Weezer as influences, and
with indie-rock on the windows-down collection of songs about falling in and out of love.
when you hear the new self-titled record, you’ll know why.
WHAT ARE WE DOING
SNARES LIKE A
get down and dirty with
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MARILYNNE ROBINSON [FARRAR]
God, theology, beauty
[DRAG CIT Y]
collection of essays that
masterpiece that’s all fuzzed-out guitar, highenergy drumming and
are as entertaining as
The duo of Randy Randall
they are challenging.
and Dean Allen Spunt
GOD GAVE ME HIMSELF AS
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LAST WORD A Thought Before We Go
“I neglect God and His angels,
Most High” and the “shadow of
for the noise of a fly,” said the
poet John Donne. The solution? Stillness. Or more specifically, His still, small voice.
Silence in a World Full of Noise
Silence is anything but passive
But my favorite descriptor might be the “hiding place.” You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble
waiting. It’s proactive listening.
and surround me with songs of
Noted author Henri Nouwen
deliverance (Psalms 32:7).
believed that silence was an act
Did you know that God is
of war against the competing
singing songs of deliverance
voices within us. And that war
all around you all the time?
isn’t easily won because it’s a
You can’t hear them because
daily battle. But each day God’s
they’re outside your range of
voice gets a little louder in our
hearing, but you’re surrounded
lives until He’s all we can hear.
by a sonic shield. Those songs
Hearing God’s voice means first
He wrote, “Every time you listen
of deliverance are powerful
cutting out the distractions.
with great attentiveness to the
enough to break any bondage,
voice that calls you the Beloved,
overcome any addiction and
you will discover within you a
solve any problem. Those songs
desire to hear that voice longer
are the reason no weapon
and more deeply.”
formed against you will prosper
BY M A R K B AT T E R S O N
His whisper quiets us, calms us,
The quietest room in the world is the anechoic chamber
By definition, white noise
(see Isaiah 54:17). The voice can reproduce only
at Orfield Laboratories in
what the ear can hear. I’m not
is a sound that contains every
sure what problem you need to
frequency a human can hear.
concrete walls and three-foot-
solve or what issue you need
once observed, “The sole cause
And because it contains every
thick fiberglass acoustic wedges
to resolve, but my prayer is
of man’s unhappiness is that
frequency, it’s very difficult to
absorb 99.99 percent of sound.
that you’ll learn to discern His
he does not know how to stay
hear any specific frequency,
Background noise measures
voice. When you do, His songs of
quietly in his room.”
especially the still small voice of
−9.4 decibels. All you hear in an
deliverance can set you free!
God. As such, chronic noise may
anechoic chamber is the sound
Quit hiding from God.
problems, then the solution to
be the greatest impediment to
of your heart beating, blood
Hide yourself in Him.
those problems is a prescription
our spiritual growth.
circulating and lungs breathing.
If our problems are hearing
that is as old as the psalms. It’s
When our lives get loud, with
That’s the sound of silence, and
so critical to our spiritual vitality
noise filling every frequency, we
it reminds us that it’s in God that
that it’s worth meditating on one
lose our sense of being. We run
“we live and move and have our
word or phrase at a time:
the risk of turning into human
being” (Acts 17:28).
doings rather than human
beings. And when our schedules
Be still, and know.
get busy, we lose our sense of
Be still, and know that I am
balance, which is a function of
God (Psalm 46:10).
the inner ear.
Have you ever tried to quiet
If you want to hear the heart of God, silence is key. If you want the Spirit of God to fill you, be still. The psalmists didn’t have an
Can I go out on a limb?
anechoic chamber to retreat to,
a loud room? Attempting to yell
Your life is too loud.
so they retreated to God. They
above the crowd usually doesn’t
Your schedule is too busy.
referred to Him as their refuge,
work, does it? It’s far more
That’s how and why and when
their fortress and their ever-
effective to shush the crowd.
we forget that God is God. And
present help in time of need.
That’s the method God employs.
it takes very little to distract us.
They spoke of the “shelter of the
M A R K B AT T ER S ON is lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. and author of numerous books including Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God.
:'44'A;ĩ4' Z':T T H E N E W A L B U M F R O M R I V E R VA L L E Y W O R S H I P
Published on Feb 27, 2018