Page 1







ISSUE 56 / MAR_APR 2012 / $4.95


Based on the NY Times Best-Seller by DONALD MILLER


IN THEATERS APRIL 13 BEFORE YOU SEE THE FILM, GO BEHIND THE SCENES Watch interviews with the filmmakers, clips from the film, behind-the-scenes footage, Donald Miller’s video blog, info about the Blue Like Jazz cross-country promo tour and more ...






usinesses have always been measured by how fast, how smart and how profitable they are. But

those aren’t the right things to look at anymore. In The Advantage, best-selling author Patrick Lencioni shows that the most successful organizations are healthy ones. When you improve communication, trust and team unity, then you’ll have the advantage. Now discover how.

Available everywhere books are sold.

i T d o E s n ’ T M AT T E R w H E R E y o u s T A

Mi ssi n g THE M AR K R



Learn why perfection isn’t the standard.

iT ’ s A l l i n y ouR H EA d . . .

Don’t get stuck in a rut.

Learn why true balance is a state of mind.


s u R v i vA l o f THE fiTTEsT



E i M p o R TA n T T H i n g i s T H AT y o u b E g i n T H E j o u R n E y.

i n THE gR oovE? Tips on creating a workspace you and your employees will love.

MAKE iT pERsonAl ni


app coming in 2012!

r Ke Look for the offcial Life

Learn how to put a personal touch on all you do.

For updates about the book and other interesting snippets, consider following the author @justinahrens and his company full of design monkeys @rule29.

Try to create an environment where helping others is just part of what is done.

gET off youR TuKHus

ouT l ooK is Ev E Ry THi n g

Are you bad at making good decisions?

What will life look like beyond your desk chair?

A change in perspective can realign the soul.

Bu y

foRK in T H E R o Ad ?

it to d N ay ob a le t A ,o m r B az oo on ks .co -A m -M , B ill arn io n! es

The new book Life Kerning shows you how, one adjustment at a time.

bE A l i n K i n THE l ovE c HAi n

gET nAKEd Sometimes we all have to face the facts. looK foR MoRE REsouRcEs

Engage in the physical world around you.



bE AnTisociAl



Live a life that fuels your work, and work in a way that fuels your life.

GOD. LIFE. PROGRESSIVE CULTURE. RELEVANT magazine March/April 2012, Issue 56 The luckdragon you take with you on your quest—of life. PUBLISHER & CEO | Cameron Strang > Editorial Director | Roxanne Wieman > Managing Editor | Ryan Hamm > Copy Editor | Ashley Emert > Associate Editor | Alyce Gilligan > Editorial Assistant | Heather Meikle > CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Matthew Lee Anderson, Allyce Andrew, Scott Avett, John Brandon, Andrew Byers, Chris Callaway, Jesse Carey, Tyler Charles, Dan Gibson, Jake and Melissa Kircher, Carl Kozlowski, Scot McKnight, John Pattison, David Roark, Kevin Selders, Kester Smith Design Director | Chaz Russo > Digital Design Director | Tanya Elshahawi > Graphic Designer | Jonathan Griswold > Production Designer | Christina Cooper > Producer | Chad Michael Snavely > Web Developer | David Barratt > Web Production Designer | Lin Jackson > Photographer | Julia Cox > CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS: Dusdin Condren, The Long Farewell, Brian Harkin, Pamela Littky, Zack Smith, Karin Zijlstra

Every person is driven by something. What drives your life? Is it money? Power? Popularity? Ambition? Validation? Acceptance? I’ve discovered that emotions like lust, bitterness, anger, guilt, and fear direct a lot of our choices. God didn’t create you to be imprisoned by your emotions. In this book, we are going to explore emotions that can rob you of your potential and help you get control of them, so that you can reach your destiny. It’s time for you to conquer the Emotion Driven Life!

Chief Revenue Officer | Josh Babyar > Account Director | Michael Romero > Account Director | Philip Self > Marketing Manager | Calvin Cearley > Circulation & Fulfillment Manager | Stephanie Fry > Customer Service Coordinator | Sarah Heyl > Chief Operations Officer | Chris Miyata > Project Manager | Austin Sailsbury > Finance Manager | Maya Strang > Communications Manager & Executive Assistant to the CEO | Theresa Dobritch > Systems Administrator | Josh Strohm > Fulfillment Coordinator | Tyler Legacy > ADVERTISING INQUIRIES: CONTACT Michael Romero or Philip Self at (407) 660-1411

Not sure what those boxes are? They’re QR codes. Here’s what to do with them.

1. Download the app

QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes that can be read by smart phone cameras. Search “QR code” to find a free QR app for your phone.

2. Scan the code

Hold your phone over a box. The app will use your camera to read the code.

3. Enjoy

The code will direct your phone to a site with a video, some music, a photo or other goody.

For additional information scan the QR Code, visit us at or call 1-800-704-1899

Follow @ Bill_Purvis

Where having full-time jobs sure cramps our drifter lifestyles. 900 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789 Phone: 407-660-1411 Fax: 407-401-9100

TO SUBSCRIBE Phone: (Toll-free) 866-402-4746 Rates: 1 year (6 issues) U.S. $14.95, Canada $24.95, International $30.95

BULK DISCOUNTS Call 866-402-4746 for special bulk subscription discounts for your organization.

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES Phone: (Toll-free) 866-402-4746 U.S. and Canada, 515-237-3657 International

DISTRIBUTION If you are a retailer and would like to carry RELEVANT, please contact: Ales Kot Rider Circulation Services > > 323-344-1200 x 247

RELEVANT Issue #56 Mar./Apr. 2012 (ISSN: 1543-317X) is published 6 times a year in January, March, May, July, September and November for $14.95 per year by RELEVANT Media Group, Inc., 900 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789. Periodicals postage paid at Orlando, FL, and at additional mailing offices.

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to RELEVANT Magazine, P.O. Box 6286, Harlan, IA 51593-1786.





n the cover, what if it looked like a photo—but it was actually a video of The Roots holding really still, and you could see them just barely move? Do you think we could we get ?uestlove to wink? It’s ideas like these that dominate our planning sessions now. What was once a meeting about the print magazine with me and a few editors has morphed into a packed room with videographers, digital designers and producers joining us. Since last fall’s debut of our iPad app, we now publish RELEVANT on multiple platforms—and story ideas are no longer just words and pictures. The print magazine, rather than an end-all, is now a launching pad.

So, the team was challenged with Today, when we dream up story ideas, we push ourselves to create thinking outside of a pretty wellintentional, immersive, surprising defined publishing box. Instead of just taking print content and slapping experiences on multiple platforms. it on a device, we began to reconceive A cover can wink at you now. We launched the print magazine how we tell stories from the ground in March 2003—this issue marks up. What would it look like to have our ninth anniversary—and ever video narratives complement the since then, we’ve felt the itch to keep print articles? What could we create tweaking and evolving the medium. in our studio? What could we do with You may notice our design pushes photography we’ve never had the creative boundaries (which, admit- space to do before? These are the questions we ask tedly, sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t), but my philosophy is, ourselves when we’re dreaming up I’d rather make a mistake by trying stories now. If there isn’t an “extra” something new and it not working we can do to tell a story better, we probably skip it altogether now. than not stepping out at all. Like all publishers, we have no So, when the digital revolution in publishing started to become a real- idea how the digital revolution will ity, we couldn’t wait to jump in. We play out, or what the future will actujust didn’t know what it would look ally look like. But we know we have to jump in and pursue innovation like, or what we could afford to do. We’d already been dabbling in and excellence. Shaking things up is multimedia for a while. It started a huge risk, but it’s exhilarating. There comes a time in every busiwith the RELEVANT Podcast, which launched all the way back in ness, life and career when you have to 2005 (and now has more than 75,000 stop and rethink everything. Maybe downloads a week). Bands were reg- it’s external forces (like in our case, ularly coming through to be on the the emergence of new technology) podcast, so a few years ago we started that forces it. Or maybe it’s just restfilming the performances and put- lessness with a job or relationship. The question is, what do you do ting them on The production was awful in the begin- in those moments? Do you pursue a ning, but there was something cool new future? Do you push yourself to find out how you can make your job taking shape. Then we launched The Drop and or relationship better—even if you for people to dis- could fail? Or do you hold on to how cover new music we were excited things are today instead? There’s a about. And, of course, we contin- safety in the familiar, but God calls ued publishing daily content on us all to walk by faith and take risks. In the back of this issue, you’ll But all of these seemed more like random, see a new page spotlighting some individual endeavors than true of the multimedia content we now create online every week. It’s just a multi-platform publishing. Then the iPad came along and it small first step in some very excitforced us to rethink everything. ing, big changes for RELEVANT this We couldn’t wait to make a tablet year that will completely alter how you interact with issue. But the last thing the magazine. we wanted was for it to be We’ve stepped a digital version you basiout, completely cally just flip through. rethought the If we were going to pubmodel and are lish on a tablet, we wanted excited about the it to be ground-breaking. CAMERON STRANG is the future more than We wanted to try things founder and CEO ever. This issue may we hadn’t seen other magaof RELEVANT. zines do yet. We wanted it be our ninth anniConnect with him at to be a completely new conversary, but in so CameronStrang tent experience—and do it many ways it’s just or CameronStrang. on an indie budget. the beginning.



"Sarah's voice lures you into thinking bits of heaven might be here already." - David Crowder


M A R C H 6 TH W W W. S A R A H M A C I N T O S H . C O M


FEEDBACK Comments. Concerns. Smart Remarks.



SCOTT HARRISON Talk about conviction. The amount of money charity: water has been able to raise in such a short time isn’t surprising when you read Scott Harrison’s words— he certainly has a way with them. Charity: water’s 100 percent model is a fresh concept on the tired industry of charity—a way to give and know exactly what you’re giving to. —KAIT PAINE / Hibbing, MN Thank you, thank you for the debt article [“How to Get Out of Debt the Right Way,” Jan/Feb 2012]. There’s a reason people say that they’re “consumed” by debt—it’s a sinkhole that will suck the life out of you, your marriage, your faith and your joy. Everyone should read this article and take heed. —CADENCE BUNNELL / El Paso, TX

Thanks for taking the time to tackle such a pervasive subject in “Debating Calvinism,” [Jan/Feb 2012]. While Mr. Horton [did] a fine job explaining Calvinism, Mr. Olson seems content to muse philosophically on how Calvinism is not fair. I’ve been waiting far too long for an Arminian to provide a logical and cohesive argument that doesn’t devolve into screaming John 3:16 over and over.

sanctity of all life, including those marginalized by society or condemned to die by it. —ANGIE FERRELL / Norwood, OH

I have been inspired to take part in Lent this year because of [“The Real Purpose of Lent’s 40 Days,” Jan/Feb 2012], and I am challenged to live my life more thoughtfully, keeping the poor and oppressed in mind.


—JONATHAN PARSONS / Melbourne, Australia

I really enjoyed the “Debating Calvinism” article. It broke down both sides in a clear, concise way that doesn’t go over your head. As an added bonus, I can now jump into conversations where I hear “Arminian” and not think they are talking about Armenia.

As a reminder of this commitment, you should carry a ball of lint in your pocket every day.


Be sure to connect with us at Here’s some of your scuttlebutt: LyssaCole28: This “Flesh Trade” article in @RELEVANT is WOW. So crazy, scary, and sad! Handmadekate: Completely inspired by everything @EatArtNow stands for. “You get the art—the kids get to eat.” Thank you, @RELEVANT. Toryleegravitt: LOVE the article about @Passion268 in the new @RELEVANT. It captured the heartbeat of the organization and church that I call home so well. Slimcady15: @RELEVANT Thanks so much for highlighting music that can and will always make a difference in our culture! #I’mAListener @BiancaOlthoff: Kudos to @RELEVANT magazine. Phenomenal article on religion and hip-hop. @heatherleithal: Spent 2 hrs poring over @RELEVANT & being drawn closer to God. Tchividjian’s article was so freeing! @MalakaGharib: @RELEVANT I’m not Christian, but I still love your magazine. Keep up the great work! @EricTeetsel: And on page 23 they hit with their own Whitney joke! @RELEVANT ftw!


The article about the red market [“The Flesh Trade,” Jan/Feb 2012] was quite possibly the most disLoved the end of the world turbing article I’ve ever read in piece [“2012: Your Guide to the a magazine—very eye-opening! End of the World,” Jan/Feb 2012]. —JULIO MATA / Delray Beach, FL I definitely learned something Probably the most fun I’ve ever had with an issue of RELEVANT. It In [“Do Politics Belong in the about the harsh realities of life in was basically a Christian-inspired Pulpit?” Jan/Feb 2012], the author Third-World countries. Goosebumps, which made all my posits that “rights for the unborn” —JESSICA TAN / Gainesville, FL 9-year-old dreams come true. is one of the key issues that does belong in both arenas.    I would I have to say, the RELEVANT —FRANKLIN BOOTH / suggest  that, more than just Podcast has never been better. Balboa, WA anti-abortion, Christians should Great interviews, music and nonRELEVANT: fulfilling 9-year-olds’ embrace a “pro-life”  view- sense. Keep it up. #hambone point  that advocates for the —KYLE HINSON / Brooklyn, NY wildest dreams since 2003.





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


A new study shows for every dollar paid to


a lobbyist,







sponsors gain $220 back— making them a 22,000 percent


return on





investment …



SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA “Facebook” was the most searched for term online in 2011—and


variations of


it made up the top four spots. We’re assuming “kittens playing piano” came in


next …


the world’s

For those who want to pinpoint a new center of century ago, Europe was the epicenter of Christianity—as it had been for a millen- Christianity, the answer is elusive and multi-faceted. In nium—with about two-thirds of the world’s terms of sheer number, the Global South claims the title Christians living in Europe. Today that num- with more than 1.3 billion Christians, compared to 860 ber has dwindled to a quarter. According to million in the Global North. However, the concentration of Christians is still much higher a 2011 study by the Pew Forum [ BY THE NUMBERS ] in the Global North, where 69 peron the size and distribution of cent of the population is Christian the world’s Christian population, PERCENTAGE OF GLOBAL (compared to only 24 percent in the Christians today are so geographiCHRISTIANS BY REGION: 2010 Global South). A discrepancy due cally widespread that no single to the fact that the Global South’s region can truly claim to be the % total population is so much greater center of global Christianity. than that of the Global North. Christianity has grown treMID-EAST / N. AFRICA Perhaps the most interesting mendously in sub-Saharan Africa % information to come from the Pew (in 1910, 9 percent of the region’s % ASIA Forum survey is how Christians population was Christian—today PACIFIC AMERICAS are concentrated globally. About that number is 63 percent) and 90 percent of Christians live in the Asia-Pacific region (from 3 countries where they are the relipercent to 7 percent). At the same gious majority. time, in areas where Christianity Only 10 percent of Christians was the norm, the numbers are % live as religious minorities. A dropping. In Europe, the propor% matter of safety in numbers, of tion of Christians has declined, SUBEUROPE SAHARAN course, but also perhaps a comfrom 95 percent in 1910 to 76 perAFRICA mentary on the continued need cent in 2010. And in the Americas, for those who will “go and make it has fallen from 96 percent a cenALL DATA FROM PEW RESEARCH CENTER’S FORUM disciples of all nations.” tury ago to 86 percent today. ON RELIGION & PUBLIC LIFE GLOBAL CHRISTIANITY

Solving problems: The commissioner of a Louisiana parish is trying to make it illegal to wear pajamas in public …






Mexico City was arrested after trying to rob two banks—on a skateboard. It was the most X-treme crime ever …




A man in







ith the kickoff of South by Southwest (SXSW) on March 9, it’s officially the start of festival season. But this year, there are a lot more reasons to attend than just music. Festivals have been adding more and more stuff to do (perhaps why ticket prices have also been increasing …). Regardless, you’ll be getting plenty of bang for your buck. SXSW has become just as known for their tech conference as their music, and this year is no exception. If you’re at all involved in social media, web development or burgeoning technology, the Interactive festival has become a standard destination. Other festivals have gotten more into visual art. Curated in partnership with arts group The Creators Project, Coachella is promising “artistic experiences” developed with bands like Arcade Fire, along with an art installation that will become part of a traveling exhibition. Illinois’ Cornerstone Festival also has a gigantic arts section, where you can do art and see what other people create. Some festivals are adding more outside-the-box extras. Bonnaroo’s comedy stage became an attraction in its own right last year, with Cheech Marin, Donald Glover and Lewis Black all performing. Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina features an entire section where people can tell and listen to stories. And Lollapalooza now offers on-site training for hopeful producers and DJs. So, if you’re a comedy buff who happens to love visual art, technology and wants to get into DJing, this is the summer for you. WATCH A video about the SXSW creative industries trade show, which draws the biggest names in tech

LET THE CCM REUNION TOURS BEGIN April 28 is a big day for Five Iron Frenzy fans—that’s the day the recently reunited band plays their first reunion show. In that spirit, here are five other CCM legends who we think should plot a comeback as well: PFR With the exception of that golden retriever death song, PFR made mid-’90s alt-rock with the best of them. If Gin Blossoms still play state fairs, why not PFR? Bloom-era Audio Adrenaline Sure, “Big House” was their megahit, but who can forget their breezy 1997 album Bloom? AA even covered “Free Ride”! It was their attempt at classic rock. The W’s Isn’t it about time for swing dancing to make an ironic comeback? The Original Newsboys Fact: The best Newsboys albums were Going Public and Take Me To Your Leader (please note, that might be nostalgia talking). So why not reunite John James with Peter Furler and the whole gang? We need a reminder why there’s no breakfast in hell. dc Talk Like you wouldn’t pay to see this.




LEGO recently set the world (well, the Internet at least) on fire with their announcement of LEGO Friends, a new series seemingly directed at girls. Featuring LEGO bricks in pink, purple and pastel colors (along with creepy LEGO girls who don’t look anything like LEGO men), the new sets have been criticized for suggesting traditional LEGOs are for boys and these new sets are for girls. Sexist or not, one thing is clear: The castles we all built as kids can now be 100 percent more pink.


[ MISC. ] File-sharing may be illegal stateside—but it’s sacred in Sweden, where The Church of Kopimism is a recognized religion. “Kopimists” consider


CTRL+C and




ONDAY: Read John 12:1-11. In pouring out her perfume, Mary challenges both consumption and frugality—which are both rooted in selfishness. Today, set aside your agenda and generously celebrate a loved one. TUESDAY: In John 13:21-38, Jesus predicts Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. Spend time on your knees confessing your own faltering loyalty today: people you’ve wounded, promises you’ve broken. WEDNESDAY: Read Jesus’ prayers in John 17. Take your lunch today to pray. Follow Jesus’ example: Pray for troubles you are facing, then pray for those close to you, then for believers globally. MAUNDY THURSDAY: The day before He was crucified, Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples (John 13:1-17). Host your own Passover feast tonight. (Search

“Seder menu” online for traditional recipes.) After the meal, take time to wash one another’s feet. GOOD FRIDAY: Attend a Good Friday service over lunch. Begin fasting at noon and continue until Easter morning—the hours Jesus was dead. Read the Passion story in any of the Gospels. Consider watching The Passion of the Christ. HOLY SATURDAY: As you continue your fast today, journal about things you are “waiting” for—unresolved areas in your life. While there is victory to come, our suffering in the now means something—as does our response. See if any churches are hosting a Holy Saturday vigil you could attend. EASTER SUNDAY: He is risen! So wear your Easter best, sing victoriously, enjoy brunch … but never forget—even when you bite off that chocolate bunny’s ear— why today is a day that matters.

CTRL+V sacred symbols … The Southern Baptist Convention recently reported that


73 percent of pastors reject

Remember “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?

the theory of

One Christian college is using a “Tell us,

evolution, but

or we’ll terminate you” approach when

are split on

assessing the sexual conduct of their

whether the

staff. Employees of Shorter University

earth is 6,000

in Rome, Ga., are now required to

years old …

sign a Personal Lifestyle Statement to affirm they are not gay. While the rest of the conduct code is typical of Christian organizations (no alcohol consumption in view of students, no premarital sex, no adultery, etc.), making sexual orientation an official

Now this is lazy:

cause for termination has created

A Texas church

a bit of a stir. “I think anybody who

has started

adheres to a lifestyle outside of what

“a sanctuary

the biblical mandate is and of what

under the

the board has passed, including the


president, would not be allowed to

is basically

continue here,” Don Dowless, the

a drive-in

university’s president, says. But others


think the Lifestyle Statement goes too

Drivers simply

far and could create a “witch hunt”

tune in to a

environment. Either way, the policy

radio station

brings up questions concerning to

to hear the

what extent Christian companies and

sermon …

organizations should dictate the beliefs and behaviors of their staff.

SECRET VATICAN LIBRARY UNVEILED This will be the first time in history the documents—

instead an “event of unprecedented scientific and

chosen from among manuscript codices, parchments,

media importance”—as the Vatican has released 100

strings and registers from the 8th to the 20th century—

documents from its secret archives to be exhibited in

have left the confines of the Vatican City walls. You can

the Capitoline Museums through September of this year.

be sure Tom Hanks will make the trip.



No, it’s not the basis for a new Dan Brown novel. It is

Your neighborhood needs the church. Your church needs the neighborhood. The Leadership in the New Parish Certificate at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology The Seattle School is proud to introduce a new yearlong certificate program designed to train pastors and ministry leaders to root the mission and formation of their church in their neighborhood. Discover the impact your neighborhood will have on your church today.

Learn more about this pioneering program at

Study at the intersection of text, soul, and culture. MA in Counseling Psychology 路 Master of Divinity MA in Christian Studies and introducing Professional Development Certificates

888.977.2002 路 路


[ MISC. ] Google+ now




a study that comes as a surprise to approximately no Christian under the age of 40, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project says technology use among religious people is no different than among anybody else. While the stats (see below) raise interesting questions by themselves (Really? Less than 80 percent of Americans use the Internet?), perhaps the most interesting thing about the results is that they seemed to challenge initial expectations. Apparently, they assumed religious people

would be technology-afraid Luddites—or perhaps that those who use technology become less religious. In an interview with Mashable, Jim Jansen, a senior fellow at the Pew Internet Project, said: “There is a view that the more tech-savvy a person is, the less religious they tend to be. Our study shows religiously active Americans use technology at rates in line with the general population.” Which, again—why wouldn’t they? Perhaps with more information like this, the notion that people of faith are cultural outsiders will dissipate. OF RELIGIOUS AMERICANS ARE INTERNET USERS, COMPARED WITH 75% OF AMERICANS WHO ARE NOT RELIGIOUS

allows aliases as profile names—if you can show an existing online presence. So, get ready to prove just how well known “lababy03” is …

The latest apocalyptic warning sign: IBM says mindreading and mind-controlled



computers are only five years away …

If you think vending machines are still quartergulpers where you buy your stale Whatchamacallit

The domain

bars, you are mistaken. Here are four of the (said

craziest vending machines currently dispensing:

the way you think it is) sold


for $1 million.

This Japanese machine will detect your age and

Dudu is a

sex, and will then market specific products to you

social network

as you approach the machine. You then choose

that enables

your drink via a 47-inch touchscreen. Eat your


heart out, Minority Report.

communication. Also, it makes


little boys

This bullion dispenser originated in Germany but

giggle …

has spread all over the world. It’s simple: money in, gold out. And you will feel like a boss.


a Kinect, two

This Chinese vending machine keeps live crabs at

Wiimotes and

5 degrees Celsius (so they’re “hibernating”) and

a treadmill to

dispenses them for $1.50-$7.50 (depending on the

modify a robot

size of the crab). It’s seafood even faster than Long

to mirror his

John Silver’s!

actions. And yes, obviously,


the first thing

A new vending machine in Japan is sure to catch

he did was pet

on in popularity since it doubles as a free Wi-Fi

a cat …

hotspot. You’ll get location-specific ads and the Wi-Fi session only lasts 30 minutes, but hey—free is free, right?





inventor used

More than a degree—

Spiritually formative theological education Asbury Theological Seminary students experience firsthand that quality theological education is more than an academic degree—it is a call to transformational learning, worship, prayer, and life in community.

Schedule a campus visit today at 800.2ASBURY |

Asbury Seminary offers a wide range of degrees including Master of Divinity and Masters degrees in Counseling, Youth Ministry, World Mission and Evangelism, Christian Leadership and more to further equip you to evangelize and spread scriptural holiness throughout the world.




Phoenix and Dallas are drifting apart— literally. The Rio Grande rift is slowly increasing by 1 inch every 40 years. Somebody call John Cusack,




ADULTS (+30)



in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, where men are three times as likely as women to be employed full time. Of course, many women choose not to work full time, but even among those who are working, available for work or actively UNlooking, the numEMPLOYED ber of unemployed or underemployed women is significantly greater than among men. Similarly, young adults are twice as likely to be unem12% 4.5% ployed. Twelve percent of adults under 30 report being unemployed, more than double the 5 percent of unemployed 30- to 49-yearolds. Higher unemployment among young adults is true in all regions, but is highest in the Middle East and North Africa, Europe and the Americas. YOUNG ADULTS (-30)


mericans aren’t the only ones worried about jobs. Globally, employment is one of the highest indicators of wellbeing and is positively linked with GDP. According to a Gallup study, 40 percent of the global EMPLOYED workforce (those FULL TIME who are able and willing to work) was employed full time for an employer in 2009 and 2010. Such employment, however, is anything but equal opportunity. 33% 18% Significant discrepancies exist between employment among men and women and between older adults and younger adults. Of the worldwide population of adult males, 33 percent are employed full time for an employer versus 18 percent of all women. The gap is widest

Microsoft is investigating mass suicide threats at Foxconn, its manufacturing company in China. Last


year, a spate of public suicides brought

President Obama recently passed

attention to

new standards on toxic pollutants

conditions at

and mercury emissions from coal

the factory …

power plants. Environmentalists are praising the move as long-

One student at

necessary and a positive step

the University

toward cleaner coal production.

of Pittsburgh

Critics predict the regulations

designed signs

will lead to lost jobs and strain on

that read

the nation’s power grid. Though


the EPA acknowledges the

Imperial, PA

potential strain on the power grid,

(17.3 miles

it contends the regulations will

away)” and

lead to more jobs as power plants

placed them on

invest in upgrades and estimates

trash cans next

health costs (as a result of less

to recycling

exposure to the toxins) will be

bins. Recycling

reduced to between $59 billion

increased by 29

and $140 billion by 2016, and the

percent ...

regulations will prevent 17,000 premature deaths each year.

MYSTERIOUS DISEASE TARGETS CHILDREN IN UGANDA presence of food and after children have eaten. It’s a

suffering from a mysterious disease that has claimed

disease that has—for the most part—remained entirely in

the lives of more than 50 children since late 2011. The

Uganda, but because of the surge in new cases, experts

“head-nodding disease” mostly attacks children between

fear a potential outbreak. No one knows what causes

5 and 15 years old, and the major symptom of the

the disease—some speculate that it’s a new type of

disease is a continuous nodding of the head—so much

epilepsy, others wonder if it’s caused by a parasitic worm.

so that sometimes victims faint after several minutes

Research is currently being done with the assistance of

from the nodding. Oddly, the nodding increases in the

the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.



More than 2,400 children in northern Uganda are

In darkness find beauty. W

e’re all faced with dark and trying times in our lives. Every one of us is shaken by changes, losses, gains, insights, desires, mistakes, and transitions. The world we live in is both beautiful and twisted. What we need is hope. Hope from a vision that is born with great ideas from great thinkers who have been to the other side and back. Authors who can help show us the way to live as light in an ever-darkening world. What if heaven wasn’t just meant to be experienced after we die? What if heaven can be enjoyed here on earth— right now?

Learn how to make something glorious out of something awful. Provides evidence to a watching world that the gospel is real and powerful.

85% of churches in the US are plateaued or declining, here’s how to make them grow

It’s safe to say most Christians do not live like Jesus did; this books shows you how.


Relevant. Intelligent. Engaging.


Available wherever books are sold. RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 21 Like us on FB • Follow us on TT ReadBakerBooks • Baker Books blog:






This March, The Hunger Games will hit the big screen, making yet another young adult novel into a probably successful film trilogy. Here are three more book series—for “kids”—that would make awesome movies: THE 100 CUPBOARDS TRILOGY It’s a fantasy series written by a Christian, and it’s not terrible. In fact, it’s actually really good—it has secret worlds, mythic monarchies and magic. Basically, everything great in fantasy novels. THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY SERIES This is basically a Roald Dahl series with more mysteries. Bonus: You can also solve brain teasers with the characters. THE HARDY BOYS/NANCY DREW They need to update these and make them crazy action movies with way too many stunts. They should also somehow be revenge movies. Basically, they should be the new Bourne movies. WATCH The epic Hunger Games trailer—the most recent (and perhaps most grim) YA book-turned-movie


2012, so expect a lot of buzz about the end of the world. But in addition to the usual end-of-the-world mania (though nothing will top Nicolas Cage’s Knowing), this year offers several more, shall we say, nuanced portraits of post-apocalyptic survival. The most culturally pervasive instance is probably AMC’s The Walking Dead (based on a graphic novel series), which presents a collection of characters whose behavior might be worse than the zombies who chase them. The show depicts a shell of a world, where food is scarce, medicine is hard to find and mercy might be the rarest resource of all. Don’t expect to find a lot of heroes on this show. The biggest film event of the spring is the movie version of The Hunger Games, which portrays an America post-civil war, split into 12 “districts” and a Capitol. The titular Games are a fight-to-the-death arena battle between children from each of the 12 colonies. Think The Running Man but with more teenage hormones. But perhaps the best example is this summer’s most anticipated film, The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film. From all appearances, the movie portrays a city on the brink of chaos, a degraded society that seems to be coming apart at the seams. What do these movies say about us? Well, probably that we’re all afraid something will cause society to collapse. And perhaps that we hope some kind of hero or “good team” will be around to save us. Either that, or we all want a hero who dresses as a flying rodent …



AVAILABLE MARCH 13th on iTunes


memphis is no stranger to revolution. It’s happening again. we live to love. love god. love people.

For videos, merch, more info about Highpoint Church, or to keep up with the Highpoint Worship Team, please visit







A STARTLING LOOK AT THE COUNTRY’S EMOTIONAL CLIMATE—AND HOW THE CHURCH IS HELPING A recent survey from the Barna Group found roughly one-third of Americans—about 70 million—say they are not living to their fullest potential and/or feel “held back or defined by something in their past.” Thirty percent of adults also acknowledge unresolved emotional pain or conflict in their life. The most common exception to this unhappy majority were practicing Christians. More often than not, being part of a faith community exhibited positive results in the lives of participants. 70 MILLION AMERICANS FEEL HELD In a separate report BACK BY THEIR PAST in the Journal of Religion and Health, those who frequently attended church services were 56 percent more likely to have OF ALL OF LOW-INCOME OF HIGH-INCOME an optimistic outlook AMERICANS HOUSEHOLDS HOUSEHOLDS and 27 percent less likely to be depressed. Church certainly isn’t the end-all; in fact, 16 percent told Barna they’d been hurt by the Church. But researchers credit the optimism of churchgoers to the emotional and tangible support a religious environment can provide. Perhaps the power of big truth and small action—say, help with bills or a counseling session—can provide the assurance a “held back” generation craves.

















LONDON: MOST AMBITIOUS (OR MOST VAIN) CITY longest hug and the home of the most featured literary

the city is campaigning to receive world records in an

character in film (Sherlock Holmes, who has been

assortment of categories, from world’s longest hug to

portrayed by 75 actors in more than 200 films). The

world’s largest parade of boats. The Guinness World

World Record London (#wrldn) calendar has many more

Records will award London with a number of world

record-breaking events planned before the Games,

records in the coming months. Some that have already

including the largest fundraising event (the Virgin London

been achieved include: the world’s first underground

Marathon), the largest Easter egg hunt, and the largest

system, the world’s largest urban museum, the world’s

parade of boats (the Thames Diamond Jubilee).



In the run-up to the London 2012 Summer Olympics,


On the Front Lines





How this innovative organization is empowering people in practical, everyday ways to fight human trafficking. BY ASHLEY EMERT


o stop an evil in the world, you must first know about it—and then become armed against it. Not For Sale is an organization that seeks to equip activists with the practical knowledge necessary to combat human trafficking. When David Batstone discovered slavery in the San Francisco area where he lived, he decided to do something about it. He founded Not For Sale as an organization that could cut off human trafficking at its roots. They started out by building a village for 132 trafficked and exploited children in northern Thailand. Since then they’ve grown to work in several countries around



Join a community abolitionist network (or start one in your area if there isn’t one) through Not For Sale.

Twitter: @NFS Web:


WATCH David Batstone on how everyone can fight human trafficking

the world, including the Netherlands, South Africa and Cambodia. “While meeting the immediate needs of survivors, we soon felt a moral obligation to look upstream— to move to the source of the problem of modern-day slavery,” Batstone says. What Not For Sale realized early on is that while most people are anti-slavery and human trafficking, they have no idea how to do anything about it. Not For Sale Academy was established to train people to recognize and fight human trafficking in their own communities. “We partner with the FBI, [and they come] in and teach about

what they’re seeing,” Batstone says. “We have lawyers come and talk about what it means to create evidence and document trafficking—where to get a court record and where [to] pull a title on a house. “A woman survivor talks about what she went through in the neighborhood where the academy’s taking place,” Batstone continues. “We then give field exercises where we say, ‘How would you go about investigating a garment factory or a brothel [that] looks very suspicious?’ We’re training people [on] how they could trade the evidence and tips that can be passed along to law enforcement to close the place down in that community.” Not For Sale also created the Free2Work app, which allows users to scan a product’s bar code to bring up a rating for the product’s supply chain and details on whether it was made using fair practices. “We believe your purchase is your advocacy,” Batstone says, “because we have the information to buy products that enhance the lives of the people who made them—and avoid the products that exploit individuals in forced labor.” The 2.0 version of Free2Work was funded by the U.S. State Department and the Juniper Networks Foundation Fund, but they weren’t the organization’s only high-profile supporters last year— also granted Not For Sale funding to work in Eastern Europe to provide aftercare to survivors. Then, at the Passion 2012 conference, $3.3 million was raised to fight modern slavery, and $100,000 of it was given to Not For Sale. “These funds create jobs and training for survivors and vulnerable people—giving them new futures and eliminating the factors that make them vulnerable to traffickers in the first place.”





ome of us are guilty of namedropping—casually referencing famous people we know to boost our sense of self-importance. Some of us are also guilty of “nation-dropping.” That kept happening in a coffee meeting I had with a college student recently. He was a twentysomething with a burning passion for Christ and a fine collection of exotic stamps in his passport. The conversation kept coming back to some other place he had been to serve the poor and the lost. Passport stamps are becoming the spiritual merit badges of our day. But radical discipleship is not adventure tourism. The eagerness to follow Christ to “the nations” may certainly evidence a surrendered life. Or maybe we are just bored, unconsciously horrified at the prospect of a monotonous life of normalcy. I should know: I concluded my own college experience with a wild-hare jaunt

to those beckoning horizons. Smitten Discipleship is always specific, always with a fever of 360 degrees (my itiner- in the here and now. It can be hard when someone asks ary took me around the world), I had funds for only 180 degrees (I ran out of you what you’re doing for the summer money somewhere in Southeast Asia). and you have to respond with someMy weary legs made it back home, but thing as unromantic and un-exotic as not without having some dangerous “sitting at a desk doing web design,” or myths and unconscious motivations “landscaping” or “babysitting.” No one wants an un-tweetable, unexposed along the way. For God to change us, we often tend bloggable life. We want excitement and to think we need to go somewhere. But adventure conducive for really cool stathe transient life is not more spiritually tus updates, all conveniently captured with Instagram. But there is nothing enchanted. God may actually intend to trans- romantic about bidding farewell to the form us not by sending us on a plane, family that reared you before climbing but by trapping us in the boring rou- onto a plane. There is nothing romantines and mundane patterns of the tic about the tedious years of language daily grind. Our lives can only be lived study required for having a sensible in the here and now, not in the more conversation about Jesus in an overseas exciting then and beyond. Jesus’ call to café. There is nothing romantic about faithfulness in the small things shows getting lost in some sprawling metropthe best way to prepare for the then and olis because you hopped off the bus at beyond may be to do our homework, the wrong stop. And there’s nothing romantic about clean our house and consistently show running out of cash in Southeast Asia up on time for work. Changing location can certainly because you nobly gave up your day change our souls, but the truth is many job months earlier to just live by faith. of us are in need of being transformed That’s what happened to me six weeks before we end up on distant shores into that trip around the world. My trip had been a cry for God’s spiritually ill-equipped and immature (as many missionaries accustomed attention. I had wanted Him to notice to hosting quest-bound twentysome- me and then to love me for my grandiose and sacrificial endeavors. I had things can attest). I remember praying fervently in deemed my radical itinerary prerequicollege for God to whisper a faraway site for divine favor. No such odyssey was required. nation in my ear. All I needed was a That journey has already been comfaint sense of where, and I was determined to get there. I told Him I would pleted by Jesus, and on our behalf. His board a cargo ship as a stowaway if port of entry was the Incarnation, the need be. Looking back, I now realize points of departure the cross and empty that underlying the prayer, “Lord, send tomb. Through the work of Jesus, we are more than noticed by God. We are me” was, “Lord, get me out of here.” warmly adored and beaming in the Escapism. An escapist wanderlust and a dis- light of divine favor and delight. The Gospel demands dain for the local came radical discipleship. But together under the umbrella in our radical discipleof “radical discipleship.” ship we can miss the All ministry is inescapGospel. Nothing feeds ably local. Boarding inevitably means disembarking, wanderlust like the call and when we disembark, to radical discipleship. ANDREW BYERS we have to interact with Yet nothing infuses is finishing his Ph.D. at Durham real people living on real meaning into lackluster Univ. (England). streets. We should be excited tasks like doing them in He is also the author of Faith about “the nations,” but not radical devotion to the Without Illusions: without recognizing the One who penetrated the Following Jesus designation is vague and horizons of death and as a Cynic-Saint (IVP Likewise, generalized. Those nations hell … and then burst 2011) and blogs comprise individual citiout of the ground to end at www.abyers. zens with names and faces. all futile journeys.


WORLDVIEW Gaining Perspective





hen I was an art student, a professor told me, “If you are thinking about where a painting is going to hang in a gallery and what others will say and think of it before you have put the first brush to the canvas, you are missing the point entirely.” Unfortunately, I think many young artists believe an artwork’s final destination is part of its reason to exist, and that is intertwined with the motivation to create the work.  The pollution of “creation with intent to succeed” has never been more apparent than it is in the pop music of our time. Mainstream radio acts more as a pyramid scheme than an outlet for melodies and stories. A song is written. It is uncomplicated, shallow and flashy with spicy rhythm, tons of fun sounds and a simple melody that’s easy to repeat. It’s ear candy. A long list of people will invest in the song, feeling sure it will be playing on many stations many times, then advertisers and

Our hands and minds, legs and TV and movie folk pitch in, and soon you have a dollar-generating product mouths, eyes and ears, arms and feet trickling down and feeding these inves- were all made with purpose, and though tors. The pyramid is in operation, and you may never find that exact purpose, nothing much is really good about it, it is your obligation to yourself and God except maybe some memorable drives to search for it, and to search endlessly with the song repeating over and over, for a perfection that, though you will and finally you kind of admit the song is never achieve it, you must seek. This is not all that bad because you associate it faith. This is spirituality. So with art and spirituality, I see with this special moment you had.  In the end, it is still as far from art as parallels. Both are misread, both are distorted, both are exploited, both you can go, and no one is better for it.  In all types of art there is a choice. are misunderstood and misused. As I Create what you feel because you believe struggle to find my place in art and in in it, or create what you think will be spirituality, I am beginning to believe “successful.” The difference between the both are destroyed—not by the lack of two is this: with the latter, that which will understanding that seems to swarm be “successful” can only “succeed” for a around them, not by the non-churchtemporary moment with you and your goer or the folk artist making unsalephysical state.  But that which is cre- able, offensive work with horrific scenes ated in sincerity, that which reveals part and poor composition, but destroyed of your soul without control and plan, by the millions of people who claim or will outlive all of us and be generated subtly believe they are right and others between men for years to come. Though are wrong, by the sale of an unfinished the work may not succeed in number of Renoir for $13 million because a piece has prestige but not quality or truth. viewers, it still bears a life. What I’m trying to say is that neither This being said, just because you feel something, it doesn’t mean you will, art nor spirituality is ever “figured out,” without a doubt, go out and make a and they exist as a journey through masterpiece. But you won’t produce a each of our lives in different ways and masterpiece without that truth. This in different degrees. You can’t know the truth is a precious thing,  a heart, a answer. You can only have faith and try.  A creator of art can never stop develnucleus, a child that must be protected from the many distractions and trials oping and changing, nor can a spiritual man.  In one of my grandfather’s serthat attempt to affect it. I often can’t put a finger on what mons, he compared faith to a ship’s ruddrives me to create.  What force drags der being too tight or too loose, saying me to the studio at 6 a.m.? What pulls we must flex and adapt through life.  Art is an extension of spirituality, an me out of bed in the middle of the night to jot down a story idea or melody? expression of this journey through life I have always had something to say that dips and climbs and challenges us or show. Most of it, if not all of it, has all.  Our faith carries us to the studio been only my flawed attempts to repre- to do our work and our faith keeps us sent truth. But it’s been a story that has searching for perfection.  A life only exists in the moment of unfolded over the course of my life. I now. It has no need to just follow it, as it keeps me exist in the past, which busy and well-worked.  is over, or the future, Those who are proud of which does not exist. what they create, and who Your life is like a lump help others through it, should of clay. It can remain count themselves lucky, for that way through luxury this is the seed that grows the SCOTT AVETT and idleness. Or it can be vine that traces the path that is one of the lead singers of The shaped through goodtakes each of us on a spiritual Avett Brothers. He ness and change, until journey with no end or restis also an artist you arrive at the mastering place, a journey that can and printmaker, and owns his own piece that is your life. only be guided by the faith gallery. and can only lead to the flood Adapted from an article in Photo: of light at the final interrupMuse & Spirit. Used with Cracker House tion of our life’s journey. permission.


THE PULSE Examining Culture and Faith



enough to know such talented people and lucky Dessner of The National, Van Etten took a minienough that they wanted to spend their time at malistic approach to crafting the gritty melodies home helping me with the record. Lucky because of Tramp. “I took out all of the expected instrumentation they do things that I’m not able to do.” What Van Etten can do is evoke a mood. and let the center be strings and guitar and voice, Listening to her discography is a cloudy journey which I’ve never done before,” Van Etten says. The through heavy remorse and timid hope. She sings resulting track list is slight but searing, with Van Etten’s voice gliding effortlessly from of love and loss with biting introspechaunting and husky to whimpering tion rather than cliché. Take the opensoprano. ing line of “Ask,” a piano-driven “Dear Though Van Etten has carved out a John” ballad: Let’s find something that decidedly melancholy niche for hercan last / Like cigarette ash, the world self, she claims she is still hopeful and is collapsing around me. WEBSITE: feels a responsibility to share that with “I never intend for the songs to her ever-growing number of listeners. see the light of day. It’s more so that FOR FANS OF: “I feel like I’m a much more confiI can deal with my own anxieties and Cat Power, Brandi dent person. I’m a lot more at peace demons,” Van Etten admits. “That’s Carlile, Feist with who I am and what’s happened one of the things I’ve been coming LISTEN: in my life. I don’t want to ever share a to terms with, is calling myself out a song if I feel like it can’t feel positive, little bit. It helps me not blame other or cathartic or help somebody in the people, because I was the one that was end. Otherwise, why share it with anydeluding myself.” one? I don’t want to be self-serving.” With her unabashed lyrics at the —ALYCE GILLIGAN core and the help of producer Aaron



Sharon Van Etten isn’t the first girl to grab a guitar and sing about relationships gone sour. But when she does, people take notice—as well as bands like The National, Bon Iver, The Walkmen, Beirut and The Antlers. The liner notes of her new album, Tramp, read like a hipster’s Spotify playlist, and music blogs eagerly counted down the days to its February release. So what sets Van Etten apart and grants this musical misfit a seat at the cool table? “It’s kind of a hard thing to pin down. I’m just like the middle child of alternative music,” Van Etten jokes. “I feel lucky



THE DROP Emerging Artists You Need to Know



drummer Kirby Campbell. “I feel like us all grow- band has its rockier moments. “It depends on how ing up in Lafayette, seeing the food, the festival, the you look at it,” bassist Josh LeBlanc says. “There’s family vibe … Lafayette is like a huge melting pot— no obstacles, they’re just put there to test your faith the party vibe of Louisiana, the food, the celebration in what you’re doing. If you really believe in what you’re doing, that doesn’t matter; what only matters … it comes through [in our music].” The Southern emphasis on family and commu- is what’s happening between us.” “We’ve had a lot of lucky experiences,” Campbell nity that comes through in their music is also apparechoes. “Eight shows [into our career], we were on ent in the relationship of the members themselves. tour with Dirty Projectors, which was “It’s unlike any other band I’ve ever ridiculous. That was our ultimate dream known, just the way we get along—it’s and all of a sudden we were there. Then like a family,” Campbell says. The conwe started dreaming further and it vergence of the members happened keeps happening, so we just keep imagvery organically within the blended ining what we want and it keeps coming music scene of their hometown. WEBSITE: to us—we work a lot to get what we get. Campbell met vocalist/ “It’s so crazy to think about what ist Tiffany Lamson at drum camp and FOR FANS OF: we do. Music has helped me through listened to his other fellow bandmates’ Vampire Weekend, Foster the People, so many different things and has (singer/guitarist Taylor Guarisco Local Natives made me grow beyond anything. We and keyboardist Nick Stephan) high LISTEN: put out a record and [the listener] school funk band while Campbell was can feel the emotions we were conin eighth grade. He says even then he juring up a few years before, and thought they were the “best musicians take that and have it help their lives.” in town.” —ALLYCE ANDREW Of course, it’s not all magic—every



It’s a pretty common scenario: five friends who love music decide it’s time to start a band. For the Louisiana band GIVERS, though, such ordinary beginnings have resulted in anything but ordinariness. Full of pop hooks, afro-beat influence and relentless optimism, GIVERS’ debut album, In Light, and their infectious single, “Up Up Up” have made the band the new indie darlings. Hailing from the land of zydeco music and cajun culture, GIVERS attribute their unique sound to this heritage. “If we weren’t from Louisiana it would be very different,” says


THE DROP Emerging Artists You Need to Know


The revolution that Jesus started


is still ongoing, spiraling outward

prominent progressive thinker and

through our generation and to

writer Robin Meyers illustrates that

the next. From leading voices

an effective vision for the future of

of the missional movement, The

the Church can be found with the



very first Christians. To reclaim their

the apostolic movement and how

mission, we must put the focus back

to apply ongoing renewal in the

on what we do with our lives and not

Church today.

just what we believe.







Society’s Suzy Rock says. “We have had a lot of peo- dose of life as it’s meant to be lived through the ple in the Christian industry and just a lot of peo- Spirit. These are street-credible songs presented ple in general who have [expressed] their concerns in true-to-life lyrics that are meant to be chewed, about what we’re doing, our music—are we still swallowed and digested—in other words, songs believers? But we know who we are at the core: that don’t just preach to the choir. But what about those believers who don’t get it? We are musicians, we are artists, we are creators, “I think a lot of times we want to but we are also believers, and so that fight back or force people to have the runs through our blood. Everything same perspective as us, rather than we do is biblically driven through our just taking our time and slowly eduworldview, and that fleshes itself out cating them on what we want to do— in every aspect of our lives.” our goal, our vision, our mission and Rock and her fellow High Society WEBSITE: why we are creating the art that we’re ensemble members—Sho Baraka, creating,” Rock says. “So rather than Swoope and JR—are primarily known FOR FANS OF: take offense to it, [we] step back and for their work within the explicitly Tedashii, Lecrae, Lupe say: ‘Hey, let’s bring awareness to a Christian “holy hip-hop” movement. Fiasco new perspective. Let’s bring awareness But High Society’s debut mixtape, LISTEN: about taking a new approach to life, a Circa MMXI, unflinchingly tackles new approach to relationships, a new often taboo topics (at least, often taboo approach to work, a new approach to in their genre) such as marital infidelsuccess and walking people through it ity, racial injustice, pedophilia and slowly.’ ” —CHRIS CALLAWAY drug addiction, and injects a steady



Popular Christian rap has hit its stride over the last few years. Artists like Lecrae and Tedashii have received acclaim from Christian and secular critics alike, and “holy hip-hop” has made its way up the charts. But the genre is also going through a bit of an identity crisis. Some artists are wondering, “If I sing or rap about something not explicitly Christian, does that mean my art isn’t holy?” “I feel like any time you challenge what’s common, there’s always some push back because people don’t understand,” High


THE DROP Emerging Artists You Need to Know




hen you think of “Christianity in Europe,” what comes to mind? Maybe the Pope, Martin Luther or the King James Bible? Maybe the Crusades, or something you learned in history class about the Holy Roman Empire? Maybe a bunch of gigantic churches that are beautiful but usually sit empty aside from tourists? Maybe you think Christianity in Europe is something that used to be the norm, but doesn’t really exist anymore. You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that. The suggestion that Europe is a “postChristian” continent is certainly not revolutionary. Nor are the plethora of statistics that reinforce the fact that Christianity has declined drastically in Europe. For years Christians have been viewing discouraging reports of European religious decline with a sense of dread—asking whether the trend can be reversed and if younger, technologically developed nations like the United States face the same inevitable fate. Phil Kingsley has been doing ministry in Ireland for nearly 30 years, and he’s familiar with missional efforts throughout Europe. Does he see the continent as post-Christian? “The European context is fairly complex, and broad brush descriptions usually aren’t very helpful,” Kingsley says. “In Western Europe, I think it’s fair to say the Good News about Jesus and the Kingdom of God is not considered to be a credible solution to the problems facing modern nations. The stats suggest that in most European countries, no more than 1 percent of the population would claim to have a transformational relationship with Jesus.”

This prompts the suggestion that, rather than “post-Christian,” it might be more accurate to label Europe “pre-Christian.” “If you start with the understanding of Christianity as something distinct from ‘Christendom’—which is widely regarded as the unusual alloy of the story of Jesus plus military, civil and economic power, control and empire expansion—it’s probably fair to ask if Europe was ever largely ‘Christian’ in the first place,” Kingsley says. “If we limit the term ‘Christian’ to a culture that is actually being shaped by the message of the Lordship of Jesus and the Good News of His rule and reign on Earth, then it’s probably very accurate to say that Europe may have never actually been ‘Christian.’ So maybe in that sense it’s fair to describe Europe as ‘pre-Christian.’ ” But Kingsley says he doesn’t fully subscribe to the idea that Europe is truly “pre-Christian” either. He does readily acknowledge, however, that there are a significant number of people in Europe who have no idea what the Christian story is. “No matter how you frame the question, I don’t think anyone would pretend ‘Christendom’ has not shaped contemporary European culture. Churches and cathedrals that are now only used as museums and restaurants—or mosques like we have here in Dublin—are still part of the European story and send a message about Christianity,” Kingsley says. “And this Christendom-shaped culture and history has produced a widespread reaction against what is widely regarded as a negative, repressive, superstitious, often abusive and largely failed expression of Christianity. But for Europe to actually be ‘pre-Christian,’ you would somehow have to erase the entire cultural memory of Europe. And that’s just not possible.” So if not “post-Christian” and not “pre-Christian,” where is Europe in its relationship to Christianity? “Maybe it’s fairer—but clunky—to say Europe is ‘post-Christendom,’” concludes Kingsley.


Born in Manchester, Bryan Doyle is currently serving as the strategy field director for Greater Europe Mission in the U.K. Because of the complexities of Europe, Doyle is hesitant to “lump all of Europe into one basket.” But based on his experiences, he thinks people are increasingly willing to have conversations about Jesus and salvation. “There was a season when Europe had a bad opinion about faith, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore,” Doyle says. “The Church RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 41


is emerging as a real player in its ability to affect society in a positive way, and it is more credible today, broadly speaking, across Western Europe. There’s a receptivity to authentic faith and the Gospel. [Europe’s view of Christianity] is in the best place it’s been in 20 to 25 years.” According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, only 17 percent of British citizens claim religion is very important in their life (compared with 22 percent in Spain, 13 percent in France and 50 percent in the United States). Doyle acknowledges the negative statistics about Christianity in Europe, but he sees reasons for encouragement. “Only 5.5 percent of people in the U.K. are part of a Christian faith community, so there are 94 percent who aren’t,” Doyle says. “But what’s off the radar are the people who don’t send their stats into denominational offices, like house churches and simple 42 / RELEVANT_MAR/APR 12

Paul Baloche in Holland, 2010

churches that [function] like an extended family and don’t have a professional leader, a website or even a name. They’re just a group of people who found faith and are doing life together, and there are hundreds of these networks around the U.K. I know similar movements are taking place in Holland, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden and elsewhere.”


France is often regarded as one of the nations that’s least receptive to Christianity, and Matt Marvane is trying to do his part to change that. The 29-year-old youth pastor and musician from Dijon, France, was raised in a Christian home (his father was a pastor), and he was drawn to music and youth ministry at a young age. “I went to Bible school in England for two years, and I was really impacted [during my time] there,” Marvane says. “I came back with a real vision for France.” In 2004, Marvane launched a youth movement called JTM (Jeunes Talents en Mission, which means “Young and Talented with a Mission”). JTM continues to organize worship conferences, youth events and youth camps every year—and the JTM Band, which includes Marvane, tours regularly. “We are in a particularly interesting time of generational transition,” Marvane says. “We’re seeing a great desire for the youth to live out their faith and communicate the Gospel. We’re also seeing the older generations’ desire for the youth to take on [responsibility]—even if

it does mean doing things completely differently. And I believe this is one of the most important factors if we want to see a real and true movement: We need to see generations working together.” Marvane says he’s seeing Christians practically living out their faith in society and influencing others through their jobs, businesses and talents. “Last year I was contacted by a secular music label in France,” Marvane says. “They said they were really interested in the messages I was trying to communicate [through my songs]. I’m in the process of being produced right now.” Even though Marvane is encouraged by the societal shifts and the recording opportunity he’s been given, ultimately he believes the Church needs to do more to help France reconnect with its religious roots. “We need to think ‘church’ in a totally new way,” Marvane says. “The church needs to be more than just an empty building with no life inside—which is unfortunately how non-Christians in France perceive it. The Church needs to rise up, because people are still desperate to know God. Someone told me recently that when the forest is really dry, you only need to light one match to see the whole forest burn really fast. This is my hope for France.” Even though, statistically speaking, France’s spiritual state appears bleak, Marvane views the discouraging numbers as a challenge. “We are still less than 1 percent bornagain Christian in France, but I have great hope for the future of France and Europe because there is so much to do,” Marvane says. “I believe that if one of the apostles [had the opportunity] to come back and preach to one country on earth, they would choose France.”


Arianna Caligiuri grew up in Southern California but has been living in Europe since 1986. Caligiuri and her husband, Steven, have lived in Greece, Germany and Spain. The organization they founded, TLC International, runs an arts ministry (Edge Mission) and operates an art gallery (El Diseno, or The Design) from its European headquarters in Alicante, Spain, on the eastern coast of the country. “The arts ministry is a place where I have found the ability to flourish in my own personal faith and disciple others to do the same,” Caligiuri says. “We also [host] a variety of events with the main goal of creating a gathering place for people to build new relationships, have conversations about God and about faith, and to experience the joy of expression in arts of every form.” Like the rest of Europe, Spain is diverse—with different regions being more receptive to Christianity than others—and boasts a large number of foreign immigrants. But like most of Europe, the numbers aren’t encouraging. Caligiuri says most young people in Spain just don’t see how church or faith is relevant. “People of this generation ask me, ‘What does a Jewish man who grew up in Israel 2,000 years ago have to do with me today?’ ” Caligiuri says. “Christianity in Spain is associated with the Catholic Church, which is looked upon as archaic to the modern society. Protestant or Evangelical Christianity as we know it is something that is still new and fresh to this generation.” Based on her experiences in Spain and other parts of Europe, Caligiuri says it may have been accurate to label Europe “post-Christian” in the 20th century, but she believes

Christianity is now growing and spreading in Europe. “Over the years, I have seen Christian movements come and go, but I have seen many young adults come to follow a relevant God who we call Jesus, and I have seen the power of community and missional living bringing Christianity to life,” Caligiuri says. “At the very core, I have seen the love of God [expressed through] the simplicity of acceptance as the key to changing one life at a time.”


Paul Baloche is a worship leader and songwriter (best known for “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “Above All”). In recent years, Baloche and his worship team have made a more concerted effort to come alongside worship leaders overseas, making trips to Europe roughly twice a year (spending most of their time in France, England, Holland and Germany). Rather than doing a full-scale tour or big concerts, Baloche and his band have chosen to focus on building relationships. “That’s kind of been our thing: trying to locate the leadership in a particular country and come alongside them—to go deeper, to take a longer view of how we, me and my little team, can be available, ask them what they need and be a catalyst,” Baloche says. “We typically do a night of worship—a citywide thing—and then meet with local worship leaders to encourage them. Our goal is to cultivate conversation and community.” For Baloche, it’s about asking, “How can we serve you?” instead of showing up and saying, “You need to do things like us.” One example of Baloche’s desire to come alongside others was his decision to record a French worship album, Paul Baloche & Friends. Recording a Christian worship album in the language of one of the most notoriously non-Christian nations might not make the most fiscal sense, but Baloche’s decision wasn’t based on financial considerations. “There wasn’t much in the way of French-language worship, so after developing relationships with worship leaders in France, we locked arms and did this project together,” Baloche says. “It was a ministry thing, and it’s been cool to meet a remnant of intergenerational French believers who are trying to revive their nation.” Even though there might not be as many Christians in Europe as there are in the United States, many of the issues facing spiritual leaders in Europe are not that different than those that exist in America. “They’re dealing with a lot of what we see in our twenty- and thirtysomethings,” Baloche says. “Christianity is ridiculed and considered irrelevant, and there’s a lot of cynicism. But the goal and the challenge for us as leaders—in France, Germany or America—is to

make sure we’re in fellowship with a healthy group of people so we can stay inspired and growing. We’re all subject to our faith waning, so it really falls on us to keep our own faith alive. That’s what ultimately inspires us—not the music, the smoke, the lights. It’s the presence of God, the je ne sais quoi, the taste of the Holy.” Baloche believes he’s seeing encouraging signs of the Spirit working in Europe. “I would like to say there’s a revival going on, but for me, it’s really more like green shoots sprouting up—teens and twentysomethings catching on, trying to find an expression of faith that’s relevant and

“YES, EUROPE IS POSTMODERN, [AND] YES, IT’S POST-CHRISTIAN IN GENERAL—AND YET THERE ARE POCKETS OF BELIEVERS WHO ARE QUIETLY AND FAITHFULLY TRYING TO STIR THINGS UP.” —PAUL BALOCHE makes sense to them and their generation, almost like pockets of revival,” Baloche says. “Maybe ‘revival’ is a little overstated, but I’ve been encouraged to come across thousands of believers in these ‘post-Christian’ nations, to find these green shoots—these patches of life springing up. Maybe we, as the American church, can come and water that a bit—to bring sunlight and fertilizer, relationally. Let God do what He wants to do, and not go there and superimpose what we think it should look like.” When Baloche talks about Europe, the passion in his voice is evident. And it’s clear he longs to see more Americans shifting their focus overseas. “Yes, Europe is postmodern, [and] yes, it’s post-Christian in general—and yet there are pockets of believers who are quietly and faithfully trying to stir things up,” Baloche says. “It might be a smaller percentage of believers, but they’re there, and it’s precious to see. And we can’t write them off.” TYLER CHARLES is a writer and minister with the CCO campus ministry at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, OH.








yan Johanson is a 27-year-old recent M.A. graduate from NYU. This past summer, he moved back home with his parents to find a job and start paying off his school loans. But even with his (very expensive) master’s degree, he could only find employment at a local Starbucks. Ryan spends his weekends hanging out with old high school friends and partying. He feels a mixture of apathy and frustration about his life. Jenn Swinton is 25. She has moved twice and worked four different jobs since graduating college three years ago. Her current job feels like a step sideways instead of forward. This spring, her best friend is getting married, and as happy as Jenn is for her friend, this wedding reminds her she still isn’t in a committed relationship or career. So much of her life still feels so unsettled. In most cultures, rites of passage are important. They signify when life is moving forward; when the old is gone and something new has arrived. In many cultures, there are special rites of passage that mark adulthood. Once a ceremony is complete or some sort of notable goal attained, childhood is left behind forever. The individual is recognized by their community as fully developed and immediately capable of mature decisions and adult responsibilities. These ritual events and ceremonies provide an uncomplicated progression from one life status to another.



Modern Western culture, however, lacks this clean transition. For this reason and others, adulthood in the West has become an abstract concept; an idealized, nebulous something that 18- to 29-year-olds cannot seem to define or attain.


Dr. Kara Powell, executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute and co-author of Sticky Faith, has noticed this trend firsthand. “What we are finding today is that certain characteristics of adolescence seem to extend late into people’s 20s and early 30s,” she says. This has led to speculation that there now exists an entirely new phase of life, one that Dr. Jeffrey Arnett, a developmental psychologist at Clark University and leading researcher in studies of persons ages 18 to 25, has labeled “emerging adulthood.”

It’s 28 for men and still rising. Why does this matter? Arnett’s research indicates a later age of marriage directly affects the identity formation of emerging adults. “Getting married at a young age used to provide people with committed partners to help them navigate through life,” Arnett says. “Now, emerging adults don’t have this kind of partnership; instead they rely more on their parents.” Marriage in the past has been a clear indicator of adulthood and created a natural shift in the parent-child relationship.

IT’S VERY DIFFICULT TO LIVE IN A TIME WHERE JOBS ARE SCARCE AND CULTURE IS CHANGING, BUT WHATEVER SITUATIONS YOUNG ADULTS FIND THEMSELVES IN, THERE ARE CHOICES THEY CAN MAKE TOWARD ADULTHOOD. Those in their 20s and 30s are not children, not adolescents and not necessarily adults either; but something uncomfortable and intangibly in-between. Through his research, Arnett has identified the distinct traits of emerging adulthood: “Emerging adulthood is the age of identity explorations,” he notes, “the age of instability, the self-focused age, the age of feeling in between [adolescence and adulthood] and the age of possibilities. … These are things that begin before emerging adulthood and continue afterward, but I think that they reach their greatest intensity in emerging adulthood.” There are reasons why many young people feel disconnected from adult society. And there are reasons why some aren’t even sure how to become part of it.


Over the past 50 years, there have been a number of major cultural shifts in the West that have contributed to the formation of emerging adulthood. Several factors have combined to disintegrate twentysomethings’ passage into full maturity. People are getting married later in life. This is perhaps the most significant cause. Fifty years ago women married around the age of 20 and men around 22. Now, the median age of marriage for women is 26. 46 / RELEVANT_MAR/APR 12

As the median age of marriage increases, it creates an extended period of parental involvement, which leads to a lessening of independence and a delayed acceptance of adult responsibilities. Marriage used to mean you were an adult—so what if you’re an unmarried 28-year-old? Are you an adult? Has the definition of “adult” changed? The Western view of sexuality has radically changed. Sex used to be a clear indicator of adulthood because it was connected to marriage, parenthood and responsibility for one’s family. According to Arnett’s research, due to the development and availability of contraception, the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the increased tolerance of cohabitation, “people could plan their reproductive lives like never before, which meant the traditional link that

existed in almost all cultures between sexuality and marriage was broken.” Sex used to mark maturity and lifelong commitment; now it often stands more for personal gratification and freedom. These ideas about sex are frequently encouraged and glorified in broader society, which only fuels the extension of adolescent behavior. There is an ever-increasing need for higher education. Chuck Bomar, author of Worlds Apart and a researcher in cultural trends among twentysomethings, notes that 75 percent of college students graduate without a job lined up. That means many college graduates must further earn a master’s or doctorate degree in order to obtain employment. The demand for higher education coupled with a waning job market has significantly prolonged the student stage of life and increased personal debt on a large scale, causing many emerging adults to financially depend on their parents for longer periods of time. These significant and extensive cultural changes have not only helped create an emerging adult life stage, but also drastically affected the way many twentysomethings think and feel about adulthood. Teenagers used to be excited about becoming adults, getting married and finding jobs. However, this past healthy enthusiasm about growing up has been replaced with widespread anxiety and denial, typical of the emerging adult. “The world isn’t what it used to be,” explains George Irving, a 23-year-old recent college grad. “I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. I have no idea who I am or what I want out of life, so I’d rather just have fun right now and put off dealing with adulthood for as long as I can.” In many ways, according to Arnett, adulthood has about as much appeal to emerging adults as death: “It’s going to happen someday, but why hurry it up?”


Many people would argue that labeling this life stage actually contributes to giving the label power and credibility. Dr. Robert Epstein, a Harvard-educated psychologist and author of the best-selling and awardwinning book Teen 2.0, has been very outspoken in his concern, arguing that labeling is a self-fulfilling prophecy. “When people are labeled, their behavior frequently changes, their attitudes change and their expectations about themselves change,” Epstein explains. “By labeling emerging adulthood we give it permission to exist.”

Could the label of “emerging adult” actually encourage adolescent behavior in people who are in their 20s and 30s, rather than classifying behaviors that are already present? Mark Oestreicher, a partner at The Youth Cartel, who recently held a symposium about emerging adulthood with both Arnett and Epstein, admits the label may have created at least some of the problem: “I think it’s wiser for us to examine ourselves, our culture and our churches,” he says. “We need to stop pointing the finger of judgment at the twenty- and thirtysomethings. We’ve collectively created a culture that isolates young people from adults and adulthood; we’ve created emerging adulthood. They're merely living into expectations.” How, then, should 18- to 29-year-olds respond, despite these cultural changes and labels? Is it possible for an emerging adult to speed up the transition into full adulthood? Is there hope for change?


Oestreicher has a hopeful outlook, regardless of whether the label of “emerging adult” defines behavior or vice versa. “It does seem to be possible for posthigh school teenagers and young twentysomethings to step into adulthood, in some cases very quickly, and to reverse the emerging adulthood trend,” he says. “What is required to do this? In short: meaningful responsibility and expectation.” It may be difficult for young adults to live in a time when jobs are scarce and culture is changing, but there are choices they can make toward adulthood. Adult responsibilities and expectations may not be reinforced by many external sources, but twentysomethings can and should embrace these things internally. For starters, twentysomethings must expect to become adults. Perhaps the most tangible and easily obtainable adult behavior is commitment. Twentysomethings can commit to things like career, church, marriage and community. Avoiding such commitments because of not feeling old enough or adult enough is actually prolonging an advent into adulthood. Both Epstein’s and Arnett’s research indicate that commitment to these types of things designates individuals as adults. Additionally, there are stereotypes about twentysomethings that make it difficult for them to be taken seriously as grown-ups. “I know plenty of people from all generations who view millennials [people born in the ’80s and ’90s] as arrogant and filled with a sense of entitlement,” Bomar says. “It’s never fun to be labeled, but these generalizations have been made because they are true to some degree.” To break away from this stereotype, 18- to 29-yearolds need to begin sticking things out. Many move on to “greener pastures” as soon as a job or relationship gets difficult. They sometimes shirk responsibility and look to parents to bail them out of debt or purchase a new car instead of buying a used one on their own. But as Powell points out, “Few things in life that are worthwhile are easy.” By understanding healthy commitment,

twentysomethings can begin to reconnect to their communities and their adult selves. Another adult marker is the ability to engage in healthy and sustained relationships. Many emerging adults have fragmented and immature connections with others. Things like Facebook and Twitter give the illusion of connection, yet many of these relationships are shallow and temporary. Twentysomethings also have a tendency to move around a lot as they follow educational or employment opportunities, which at times prevents relationships from having the appropriate time to grow. One way to address this is to invest in a community or a local church. Plugging in can impact the path toward adulthood more than many realize. “I know of no better catalyst for an emerging adult to grow into adulthood than by being involved in a local church,” Powell says. “The Church gives all of us—regardless of age—a chance to learn from others who are older than us, and give ourselves away to those who are younger.” An older mentor can also make an enormous difference when adulthood becomes difficult. These mentors can urge 18- to 29-year-olds to embrace independence and adult responsibilities as well as model what adulthood really is all about. Additionally, emerging adults can choose to reverse a limbo mindset about life. There’s a tendency to believe adults do all the important work and young people just muck about, waiting for real life to kick in. But this mindset misses out on something important. “This time of life can produce amazing opportunities for entrepreneurial service and leadership,” Powell says. “I’m constantly meeting folks in their 20s who have joined innovative nonprofits—and sometimes even founded them—because of their vision to change the world.”

YOU MIGHT BE AN EMERGING ADULT IF ... Your credit card maxed out after exclusive use at Subway. Your biggest achievement this year is getting to level 80 in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. With your second character. Your roommate has only ever seen you in pajama pants. Someone just broke up with you because your idea of date night is watching an old VHS on your parents’ couch. You've ever missed work because you stayed up until 5 in the morning discussing Kantian philosophy at Steak ‘n Shake. You always eat breakfast at 1 p.m., and you don’t work a night shift. Your grocery cart is filled only with items that are either carbonated or frozen.

So even if you’re living in your parents’ basement and working part-time at Starbucks while your NYU diploma gathers dust, or if you can’t seem to make a job or relationship stick while your friends are finding careers and pairing off … don’t give up. There are steps you can take toward adulthood, even when it looks hopeless. Rather than allow a label or cultural expectation to define your behavior, you have the opportunity to have your choices define the world for the better—for countless generations to come. JAKE AND MELISSA KIRCHER write about relationships and marriage at You can also follow them on Twitter @marriageismessy.





A $13 7 VA L U E !

ONLY $14 95





1993 WAS A BIG YEAR FOR HIP-HOP. Wu-Tang Clan and Snoop Dogg put out their iconic first albums, and A Tribe Called Quest unleashed the masterful Midnight Marauders. The Pharcyde and Cypress Hill had classic albums break out. And a group called The Roots released their debut album.


Since then, a lot has changed. Most of the artists who made waves in ’93 have been relegated to bargain bins and reality shows, or have long since ceased making music. But in that span, The Roots have released 13 albums, toured the world, worked with everyone from Jay-Z to Joanna Newsom— and became the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. “Our story is definitely the tortoise and the hare,” says Roots drummer (and producer) Ahmir Thompson, better known as ?uestlove. “We first came out and we had to work a little harder to gain respect. A lot of times while you’re working so hard you see what other people have and you’re kind of like, ‘Man, I wish that was us.’ But you can’t even see half the time that you’re winning for the fact that you’re working so much. You’ve got to look back. There’s really only two to three acts from the class of ’92’93 that are still here and making records. I couldn’t have called this in a million years.”


Thompson and his Roots compatriot, Tariq Trotter­ —better known as Black Thought, the MC of the group—might be excused for taking a well-deserved victory lap. But the two seem to be working harder than most new bands, much less a 25-yearold group riding high on the recent release of a critically acclaimed concept album. It’s an unseasonably warm winter day in New York City, and both Trotter and Thompson are clearly two people who don’t have a lot of spare time. They arrived—publicist and stylist in tow—in a hurry, barely pausing to eat a quick breakfast. They’re both busily texting gift-buying instructions to associates (Trotter) or tweeting that the photo shoot music sounds like 1970s avant garde rock group Can (Thompson). Thompson is annoyed—though bemusedly so—that he has to go to a Fallon rehearsal to play “one note” for the show’s guest that night. Both are in good spirits, eager to have a conversation, despite the screaming of schoolchildren on recess carrying over the wall from the neighboring lot. The two have been together for a long time—they tease one another like old friends, but mostly make fun of the people and situations around them. Both are experts at mugging for the camera (and mocking the photographer) and there are moments when it’s clear they can immediately tell what the other is thinking as they answer questions. Both barely seem fazed by the photo shoot and impending interview— perhaps because they’ve done this a million times, and perhaps because the beautiful day means Thompson can wear his Michael Jackson-honoring T-shirt and Trotter can rock his (faux) fur-lined and self-proclaimed “Game of Thrones coat.” Both are clearly in good spirits: When asked what new groups impress them, Trotter stops for a moment and, instead of answering, pauses dramatically, breaks into a telling smirk and chuckles. Thompson bursts into laughter. Trotter grins and says, “It takes a lot to impress me.”


The right to such incredulity has been earned. The Roots have long been a hiphop group that transcends boundaries, even within their own genre. They’ve had fans outside of the hip-hop sphere since the beginning—one of their first major shows was at the alt-rock-heavy 1995 Lollapalooza. Socially conscious rap fans praise their 52 / RELEVANT_MAR/APR 12

lyrics, especially the fiery odes to justice that fill 1999’s Things Fall Apart and 2010’s How I Got Over (and pretty much every album in between). Rap aficionados appreciate Trotter’s technical, deliberate flow. And it’s no question they raise the bar for live hip-hop, performing with up to 12 musicians on stage.

“I’m often on websites and you see the GOAT [Greatest of All Time] lists, and you always see the usual suspects,” Thompson says, implying the group also finds themselves on that list. “I feel like now I just want to concentrate on making the most consistent records. Every attempt is always a more urgent execution of that. I guess I just want to be known as the most consistent group in hip-hop.” That consistency has been proven over and over again, but especially in the last few years. In 2010 and

2011, The Roots put out four full-length albums—two as The Roots, and two as collaborations with other artists (John Legend and soul icon Betty Wright). The two “real” Roots albums were How I Got Over—considered by many critics to be among the group’s best—and undun, the group’s most recent and first concept album. “I’m proud of so much we’ve done,” Trotter says. “I’m proud that we still exist, that we’ve stood the test of time. With every record we put out, I feel like it’s some of our best work. I’m really proud with the way undun came out and [the way it] was received.” Oddly, for a group who has had constant acclaim throughout its career, there’s the danger of being too consistent. “There’s always that fear, that people expect it to be on this level already,” Thompson notes. “I mean, the good thing about the Fallon move was that everyone’s expectations were so lowered, they were thinking we were going to throw it in. So once [our reputation] was back up again, then it just made it that much more exciting.”


The move to Fallon is a surprise left turn in a legendary hip-hop career. The Roots were the first signees to Def Jam records during Jay-Z’s run as CEO of the label. After a single disappointing album in 2004 (The Tipping Point), they had a string of critically acclaimed ones (Game Theory and Rising Down in 2006 and 2008, respectively). Even though The Roots weren’t selling millions of albums with every release, they were perpetually praised. But The Roots' career hasn't only been about their albums. They helped launch the career of Jill Scott by including her as a featured songwriter for their hit “You Got Me.” Thompson helped turn D’Angelo into a soul legend with Thompson’s production and musicianship on Voodoo. Even their live performances had taken on a life of their own. In 2003, Rolling Stone called them one of the top 20 live acts in the world, which has only been solidified by the annual Roots Picnic music festival in their hometown of Philadelphia. The picnic serves as a primer for the music The Roots are making—and proves their skill as curators. The festivals have featured every style of music, from hipster psych-rockers Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti to Vampire Weekend to Public Enemy to Nas. With a résumé like that … why be a house band on a late-night show?

“We were music supervisors for Chappelle’s Show,” Thompson recalls. “Neal Brennan [co-creator of Chappelle’s Show] was going to come and possibly consider directing [Late Night with Jimmy] Fallon, but he declined to do movies. He stayed on as a consultant so he could point out the right writers, get the staff people. It was kind of a passing joke: ‘Oh, you should get The Roots to be your house band,’ an offer that no one thought was serious—including us. He asked if we would be interested. I believe the NBC brass was concerned with whether or not we would have the range for it—could we handle styles of music other than hip-hop? So they would create exercises. That’s how ‘Freestyling with The Roots’ came about—to see what our range was. We grooved it, and that’s when we really were offered the part.” They quickly put to rest any doubts the network might have had, providing backup for many of the guest musicians on Late Night. Whether it’s Kid Cudi, The War on Drugs or Kenny Rogers, The Roots have found a new niche with many of the guests featured on the show: world’s best studio band. Naturally, with the move came some flak—particularly from hip-hop fans who suggested they’d sold out. And, though Thompson still seems annoyed by the “blogosphere” who challenged the decision, he says the pressure just served to inspire them to create better music. “There really was no standard for anybody still being good in hip-hop after, by that point, eight records,” he says. “Usually [after] five records you peak. We put a lot of effort and concentration into making [2010 album] How I Got Over as perfect as it could be because of the perception that people had lowered expectations of us.” Those lowered expectations are a thing of the past. How I Got Over proved to be one of the best-reviewed albums of the year, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has become one of the most acclaimed hours in late-night, thanks in large part to The Roots. Even during its rocky first season, “It speaks volumes that it Fallon’s interacwas Turtleneck & Chain by tion with The Roots Lonely Island. I mean, it's was a highlight for even more ironic that it was released the same day as Hot many critics. It also Sauce Committee Part Two doesn’t hurt that [by The Beastie Boys], but The Roots provide I felt like the spirit of what able assistance for we loved about the Beastie skits like “Slow Jam Boys in the first place was all over [it].” the News” and viral sensation “The


History of Rap.” They now regularly participate in sketches, and often one of the funniest parts of the show is trying to figure out what song the group will play for guest walk-ons. They played the Arrested Development favorite “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ White (It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Brown)” for Will Arnett and “Hot Pockets” for Jim Gaffigan in honor of one of the comic’s most famous bits. The walk-on song phenomenon even has its own blog on Late Night’s website. Of course, it was also one of these walk-on songs that almost got them fired.


In November 2011, they played the Fishbone song “Lyin’ A-B----” for the walk-on of thenpresidential candidate Michele Bachmann, attracting a firestorm of criticism, even from those who disagreed with her politics. Based on Bachmann’s reaction and the swift apologies from Jimmy Fallon and NBC, it seemed like there was a very real possibility the incident could get them fired from Late Night. The group even seemed to immediately regret their decision. Thompson told Pitchfork he didn’t realize the song choice would be perceived as misogynistic and that, in the end, the decision wasn’t worth it. The entire episode (referred to as “Bachmann-gate” by the group) highlighted the peculiarity of The Roots’ new platform. They had become known by people who had never even heard a Roots album, and suddenly the nice band on TV every night was engaging in offensive, pointedly political rhetoric. But people who knew their previous work were even more surprised by the entire incident—The Roots were known for being forward-thinking, socially conscious artists who confronted oppression, not for petty namecalling or casual use of profanity. That may be why the RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 53

incident blew over after the apologies from Fallon and NBC. There just wasn’t much to prove the song was any more than a onetime lapse in judgement. Thompson says even some outlets you might expect to jump to Bachmann’s defense couldn’t gather much dirt on The Roots. “A friend of mine who worked at FOX & Friends during the whole Bachmann-gate scandal— I kind of was doing my daily checkup [and asked him], ‘OK, how big is it on the radar?’ [He said:] ‘We searched [your] lyrics for, like, two hours and we couldn’t find anything. We just gave up.’ We don’t curse for the sake of cussing. It’s for light effect.” As the primary lyricist, Trotter echoes that sentiment, and says his use of obscenities or profanities is never purposeless. He says they use possibly offensive language because it’s sometimes the only word that works. “It’s conscious usage, you know?” he notes. “We use those words in a very nonoffensive way. They’re more effective.” “I mean, on the records we’ve never been like, ‘Yo, suck my—,’ ” Thompson says. “The more we mature—I mean we’ve just never been that type of group. Ever.”


So what “type of group” is The Roots? The answer is as nuanced as many of their lyrics. They can make music as grim and concerned with violence—and its effects—as many rap artists, but they’re also vocal vegetarians (both Thompson and Trotter are avid supporters of PETA). Their group has been as small as two people—Thompson and Trotter have always been the primary contributors—but The Roots has had 19 members throughout the years, including Paris Hilton’s producer, Scott Storch, and a member of alt-rock band Incubus. The group seems like a bundle of contradictions—even though the current line-up is supposedly eight people deep, it’s very obvious in talking to Trotter and Thompson that they’re the ones who speak for The Roots. The group traces its origins all the way back to high school in Philadelphia, where Trotter and Thompson were classmates. Thompson grew up in music—his father was Lee Andrews, the frontman for a 1950s doo-wop group, Lee Andrews & the Hearts. Thompson has said in interviews that his parents didn’t trust babysitters, so he accompanied his parents on tour. It was there he learned to play drums and became a musical director by age 13. 54 / RELEVANT_MAR/APR 12

Trotter has spofor his MTV Unplugged perken of a different formance in 2001, and then kind of upbringing. released a string of critical He grew up knowsmashes (with the exception ing the violent side of 2004's The Tipping Point). of the streets of Their latest, undun, is a concept Philadelphia, losalbum about a fictional characSTART HERE ing both his parter named Redford Stephens— Things Fall Apart ents to murder and named after a Sufjan Stevens 1999 his brother to a song. The dark, almost bleak decades-long prison album records Stephens’ downsentence. That kind fall after he chooses a life of DON'T MISS of a childhood crime to achieve success and How I Got makes it undermoney. Trotter has said the Over standable why some themes on undun come directly 2010 of The Roots’ music from knowing so many people has been described who lived a life of crime and as grim. It also gives died in their 20s. NEXT LEVEL lyrics like, All I’m Such complicated morality Rising and heavy themes are the norm trying to do is live life Down for the group. Even their album to the fullest / They 2008 art and titles tackle hefty issues sent my daddy to of race and oppression. Game You [God] in a barTheory’s cover depicts a man rage of bullets (from being hung emblazoned on disHow I Got Over’s “Dear God 2.0”) a heft of reality. turbing newspaper headlines. And Rising Down shows Trotter and Thompson a Civil War-era drawing called “Negro Rule,” which both attended the prestigious depicts a demonic black man­— snatching and terrorPhiladelphia School for the izing white characters. Other album titles have referPerforming Arts, where they enced a racist pseudo-science (Phrenology), a classic of were classmates with mem- African literature (Things Fall Apart) and social theory bers of Boyz II Men and bassist (The Tipping Point). Christian McBride. It was there Most of the lyrical content of The Roots’ albums has the two started playing together. to do with oppression, political ideology, the morality They added several members to of hip-hop culture, injustice (particularly racial injustheir ensemble and began per- tice) and systemic inequalities that continue to plague forming as a group, dubbed The American society. Those are themes that have been in Square Roots. The Roots’ music from the beginning but have been on They were experimenting their albums since 2006 with a greater frequency. with jazz-inflected hip-hop they So where does The Roots’ lyrical focus on oppression performed live (instead of using come from? a DJ and samples), a rarity at the “From being oppressed,” Trotter says with a sardonic time but now a standard among laugh. He and Thompson nod in solemn unison. most major hip-hop artists. “That’s where we come from,” Trotter continues. After releasing their debut “That’s the music we make. Even though we’ve been in 1993, they released a major- around, we’ve been on TV and we’ve been making label debut in 1995. Four years records for years. But that still doesn’t take you comlater, the group released Things pletely out of the [oppression]—you know what I’m sayFall Apart, their most success- ing? In the larger scheme of things, we’re still oppressed ful album to date. Things was because we’re still two black men in America.” nominated for Best Rap Album at the Grammy awards, and MAKING 3D HIP-HOP took home the Grammy for Best Both men are obviously passionate about making a difPerformance by a Duo or Group ferent kind of hip-hop from what casual listeners hear for their collaboration with on the radio. When they talk about it, there’s a visible Erykah Badu and Eve on “You sense of fervor as they discuss their music, coupled with Got Me.” a sadness that the topics they’re still talking about tend The Roots rode that wave of to be less than happy. Their previous joking is replaced popularity to a performance by a heaviness as they discuss some of the difficult topics as the backing group for Jay-Z they’re known for.


One of the hallmarks of The Roots is their ability to make morally realistic—and complicated—situations (and, in the case of undun, characters) fully fleshed out, rather than two-dimensional, simplistic caricatures. The topic of morality—particularly in the context of a culture ravaged by injustice and inequity—is a practical obsession for the group. “Pretty much every central thing is the tug-o-war of right and wrong, that fork in the road,” Thompson says. “That’s human. That’s being vulnerable. Hip-hop rarely allows you to see that side of confusion—‘I want to do this, but I’m used to doing that.’ Hip-hop rarely allows you to be a threedimensional person. It’s probably more important to me than anything, especially as young black men, to show three-dimensional characters. Hip-hop is so full of caricatures that you never get the sense that they’re human.” Such complexity is what makes Redford Stephens, the character at the heart of undun, such a compelling figure. You can tell he wants to do good, but there are many easy—and enticing—reasons to be bad; it’s not as cut-and-dry as it seems at first glance. And that’s just how the group wants it.

“IT’S PROBABLY MORE IMPORTANT TO ME THAN ANYTHING TO SHOW THREEDIMENSIONAL CHARACTERS [IN HIP-HOP].” —AHMIR “?UESTLOVE” THOMPSON “That’s the ongoing struggle within ourself, so that’s what we want to address with the art,” Trotter echoes. “We want people to feel something, and it’s not necessarily most important that you feel good. The feeling you get from listening to the music and being presented with these questions—it might be doubt, it might be uncertainty, it might make you feel uncomfortable. But I want you to feel something.” One of the ways The Roots realistically address culture is by shining a light on every part of society. Which, for a group primarily providing commentary on the African-American experience, naturally includes religion. After all, religion has been a part of the AfricanAmerican story since the terrible days of slavery, and

the music of black America— gospel, soul, blues, jazz, rap— wouldn’t exist without faith. Trotter has long addressed religious subjects in his lyrics, with a mixture of references to Christianity, Islam and “Five Percenter” theology, which is a spin-off of the Nation of Islam called The Nation of Gods and Earths that is very popular in hip-hop circles. Five Percenters embrace a black identity, and prominent adherents include RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 55

members of Wu-Tang Clan, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane. Trotter’s wrestling with the divine was explicitly recorded in “Dear God 2.0” from How I Got Over, but it’s been simmering on every album in The Roots’ catalog. To hear Trotter and Thompson discuss it, they approach faith with the same care and sense of nuance as other topics. “I think there’s a way to reflect a spiritual overtone without necessarily—I mean, you speak of it now, and people tend to think

Christian, some days I feel atheist. Some days I feel more spiritual than others. That’s all reflected in my lyrics.” With probing lyrics like, Why is the world ugly when You made it in Your image? / And why is livin’ life such a fight to the finish? it’s clear Trotter is nowhere near finished wrestling.


As 20-year industry veterans, The Roots have also established themselves as arbiters of taste in the hip-hop world. After all, they’ve been a group for almost as long as chart-topper Drake has been alive. It’s given them a bird’s-eye view of what trends stick around, what won’t be around tomorrow and what kind of hip-hop is actually making a difference in music. “Whatever is the standard now, 25 years ago that was almost a career-ender,” Thompson says with a hearty laugh. “I just noticed that. With most music, it’s —TARIQ “BLACK THOUGHT” TROTTER just the age of irony. What you consider the law in a of just red-state, oppressive Christianity,” particular period has slowly morphed into the opposite. Thompson says slowly and carefully, clearly It’s like a pendulum swinging back and forth.” trying to unpack something complicated Trotter notices at least one concrete difference in the without misspeaking. “There are sects of trajectory of hip-hop in the time since The Roots’ debut people who have some sort of spiritual ele- in ’93. “[There have been] so many changes, but one that ment to them. We’re traveling a road not definitely stands out is the incorporation of live instrutraveled before, so this is a learning curve mentation,” he says. “It’s like a standard now, even if for us. When it comes to subject matter, you put out a record of sample material. Almost anyone you’ve got to be true to yourself. Art is imi- who’s going to come do a show is going to have some tating art in our life.” live element on Trotter says he draws from stage. When we his own faith experiences— came out it was and confusion—to give his more of a rarity. lyrics their doubting realism. It’s not a big deal, Some of that likely has to do it’s expected now. with the religiously dualisThat standard tic nature of his upbringing. has definitely “I was born into a Muslim changed. There family, so I kind of grew up weren’t too many as a Muslim, but also grew other acts going up very much in a Christian out performing church that my grandmother with a band—not goes to,” he says. “So I sang rap acts.” in the church choir, went They’re also both exhaustive on trips with the church, consumers of music (Thompson was very involved—I went says: “I go to a record shop and I to Sunday school. I just was buy everything. I go to iTunes and never baptized because my buy, buy, buy, buy—it’s almost too WATCH parents were Muslim. That much to consume. It’s kind of overOUR EXCLUSIVE kind of has carried over into whelming.”) They hear everything VIDEO SERIES my approach for art. Some and have been around longer than Playing now on days I feel more Muslim, most groups—so they’ve found some days I feel more themselves in the unique position





of having the ability to analyze the effects of a music genre that is still in its adolescence. Thompson says their unique status also enables them to be observers of culture, rather than trying to make music they think the culture wants to hear—and it frees them of the pressure to make music they think will sell. “Survival is on usually the mind of 99.4 percent of the people making hip-hop,” he says. “So I don’t necessarily see it as a true reflection [of culture]. Questions that we get about undun is, you know: ‘Why is this so upset? Why is this so depressing?’ I definitely know that all of my albums reflect what is actually going on in the world, which is important. If this is happening, let’s report it. It might be sad, it might be melancholy. “People need to escape from it,” Thompson continues. “Why do people feel the need to escape? Not to deal with those things? I do know a lot of time artists come up to me and say, ‘Man, I wish I could do what you guys are doing, but I would get dropped from the label.’ I guess for us there is no fear, because we don’t necessarily rely on just making records.” Perhaps that fearlessness is the most consistent thing of all through The Roots’ career. It’s what led to accepting the job at Late Night. It’s what has helped them last longer than almost any other artist in hip-hop. It’s also a fearlessness coupled with the idea that things can get better, no matter how bad they seem. Even though The Roots’ records tend to be downbeat, there’s usually a glimmer of hope, even if the only hope is that by shining a light on oppression, maybe something will change. “I never feel hopeless,” Trotter says, “but sometimes I feel about as close to hopeless as you can get without feeling like you’re just giving up. I still don’t feel like all else has failed. That’s why I still wake up every day and do what it is that I do.”

“Holy Rollers is a compelling film... and a provocative discussion starter.” - Christianity Today

“Fascinating documentary... a candid, unexpectedly absorbing view of smart, sincere people.” - Michael Medved

This is the true story of a team of pastors, worship leaders and church planters who took over $3.5 million dollars from casinos.

Available March 6th on DVD and Video On Demand or Book a Public Screening for your Church


















ARENAS BELONG TO SKRILLEX op radio sounded more and more like a dance club in 2011, between the weirdo lewd bounce tracks of LMFAO, David Guetta and his parade of guest vocalists, and U.K. producer Calvin Harris—with some help from Rihanna—who brought a straight-ahead house track to the top of the charts with “We Found Love.” This trend looks to continue, mostly because the music producers working on mainstream pop records were reminded at some point that people actually enjoy dancing or, at the very least, shifting their weight rhythmically in the bucket seats of their vehicles. Beyond that, there’s still another popular sub-genre of dance music out there mostly focused on giant bass drops accented with bits of melody, with Deadmau5, Kaskade and Bassnectar filling tents and giant halls across the country. Even though Swedish House Mafia sold out Madison Square Garden in 2011 and Daft Punk could take over the world, strangely, there hasn’t been a massive star from that field. If someone’s going to pull it off, it’ll be Sonny Moore, better known as Skrillex. Moore has it all figured out. He left his Warped Touring emo act to create music that often sounds like an Xbox game skipping due to a scratched disc, with chirpy vocals f lying by at warp speed. While that doesn’t exactly sound like a compliment, it is. His method of making music—copying and pasting the best moments of popular dance music in 2012 into

something that’s really easy to like when you’re in a crowd and the lighting’s right—is a talent. It’s not dubstep, but it incorporates elements of what has made that genre the dominant force in British dance culture. There are trance moments, but it’s not strictly for the glow stick crowd. When the noise kicks in on a Skrillex track, moshing is even acceptable. Skrillex will be headlining festivals this summer, but by the fall, it shouldn’t surprise you if he’s playing the sort of arenas usually reserved for the biggest acts on the planet—especially if his long-awaited debut album, Voltage, has dropped by then. He might want to stop hanging out with Korn, though. WATCH Skrillex talk about his music and the influence of dubstep





IS FROM ICELAND emember how you felt about Bon Iver’s debut record? Remember how you f lipped out the first time you heard Mumford and Sons? Or how loudly you sang along to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ “Home”? That’s how you’re going to feel about Of Monsters and Men’s debut album, My Head Is an Animal. It’s not that they sound specifically like any of those groups, but they exist in a similar emotional indie folk space. What makes their music memorable is an undercurrent of joy


in their male/female vocal leads, a sweetness mixed in with wistfulness and the simplicity of their melodies and instrumentation. There’s something about their music that’s like a handwritten note attached to a descending balloon. Since they’re from Iceland, you might have some trouble remembering the band members’ names, but their music is so memorable, emotionally resonant and likable, you’ll feel like the group invited you to a campfire ... or whatever they sing around in Iceland. WATCH Of Monsters and Men perform “Little Talks” live on KEXP

’Angelo’s 2000 album, Voodoo, still holds up 12 years after its release—it’s a great soul record that manages to be familiar and sensual, but also inventive and surprising. While some of the other albums from the “neo-soul” era don’t sound so good in 2012, Voodoo’s smooth (and sometimes explicit) ruminations on love, faith, sex and relationships still shine. D’Angelo began work on his followup, James River, in 2002. First D’Angelo was going to record the entire thing himself, then he was working with Prince, then he had legal issues, then ?uestlove said it was in progress ... but signs point to an actual release in 2012. Part of what crippled the creative process for D’Angelo was apparently an issue of expectations. His first video from Voodoo, “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” will likely be remembered by women throughout history—and by men who feel inadequate about their abs—for the focus on his chiseled body. Instantly, he became just as much a sex symbol to potential fans as an acclaimed musician. But 2012 will be the year we finally get to hear what ?uestlove has referred to as “the black version of [The Beach Boys’ iconic, nearly lost album] Smile.” WATCH D’Angelo perform in the heyday of Voodoo

ALBUMS TO LOOK FOR Some of music’s best artists are looking to return in 2012. Here are 12—that we know of—coming in the next year:



SAVING MUSIC AT THE EXPENSE OF MUSICIANS hile Spotify’s restrictions on the amount of free music that can be streamed in a month is a bit of a bummer, it’s hard not to love a service that makes it easier/legal to listen to the music you want to hear, but don’t own. This sort of service seems like the future of music … the recorded history of song, instantly available, at zero or minimal cost. Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Some artists are holding their new music from the site, including The Black Keys and Coldplay, concerned their fans might choose to borrow their latest album when they feel like hearing it instead of handing over $10 to own it. After all, if a band has the ability to still actually sell products, any sale that’s lost to streaming is going to cost them a buck or so at a time. Spotify has also been criticized by smaller labels for offering them lower royalty rates than their major label counterparts, which seems a little unfair, especially since the songs stream the same regardless of the size of the label behind it. Top charting artists are clearly going to be the draw for many consumers, but if Spotify intends to be a “music discovery” service, there has to be enough incentive for groups that aren’t huge (yet) to participate. For iTunes, a sale is a sale is a sale, but no such luck, so far, on Spotify. LISTEN For all its problems, Spotify is awesome for playlists—we made you one

Digital music innovator Derek Webb wrote an extensive blog post on his site, explaining that Spotify’s meager payment per stream (which he quoted as $0.00029, meaning that it would take more than 3,000 streams to get a crisp dollar in a musician’s pocket) was actually worse for him as an artist than illegal downloading. At least the music pirate hopefully feels some shame and might purchase something at a show, but a Spotify user feels like the brief ads that appear between songs is an adequate form of penance. Webb, who was part of the team that launched NoiseTrade, prefers a system of exchanging music for personal information that can be used for marketing purposes later. An email address can turn into $10 earned from a concert ticket or even more at a merch table, the kind of money that would be hard to earn from streams. Everyone loves Spotify, but it seems the site will still need to evolve to appease the artists who supply the product.

Another Rick Rubinproduced album, another great record.

JANELLE MONÁE No one else combines genres like Monáe.

ANIMAL COLLECTIVE Hopefully they’ll retain the pop sensibilities of their last album.

GRIZZLY BEAR 2012’s breakout artist? Possibly, since even Jay-Z likes them.

PASSION PIT A long-gestating album should avoid a sophomore slump.

LOCAL NATIVES Looking to secure their place as hipster favorites.





makes sense that Christian bands and singers have turned up on adult contemporary radio in the past. Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, the first to sneak into the charts, made music that fit seamlessly among the other non-offensive songs more or less about love. However, for Christian rappers, breaking through to a mainstream audience has been more of a challenge, for obvious reasons of content and vocabulary. L.A. Symphony was once poised to give crossover success a shot around 2001, with an album produced by Prince Paul and, but label drama blocked its release. While they plugged away with various lineups for years, it never really happened for them on the level that seemed possible. But maybe it’s time. Mainstream hip-hop has hit a bit of a creative wall, with even the new breakout stars seeming like throwbacks to something familiar. The stars who have emerged recently can provide a real challenge even for the seasoned fan of the art form, with Tyler the Creator and his Odd Future crew adopting an us-against-the-world mentality and lyrics that are hard to defend. Meanwhile, as Christian labels largely gave up on rap, a scene has emerged in a more organic way, possibly adding to its legitimacy as a real thing rather than a product of a Nashville marketing scheme. Houston’s Lecrae even made it into a freestyle session on the BET Awards last year, holding his own and ref lecting his faith to a tough audience. This year, look for other artists like Tedashii, Sho Baraka’s High Society and Thi’sl—all of whom have similarly huge (and great) beats, Christfocused lyrics and plenty of swagger—to show up on mainstream rap’s radar. It might not last forever, but in 2012, it seems distinctly possible. WATCH Lecrae’s video for “Just Like You”





THE XX More darkly alluring electro-pop? Yes, please.



FIVE IRON FRENZY ou may or may not remember, but there was a time period in the late ’90s when it seemed like ska was going to be a really big deal. There were even different kinds of ska fighting for attention. The ska-core bands had distorted guitars and yelling going for them, while the more traditional bands attempted to bring a bit of Jamaican beach party fun to largely white listeners across America. It was a big deal that the Specials had reunited. It didn’t last long, and by 1999, nu-rock had taken over and alternative rock audiences decided they would rather break stuff and be mad at the world than wear pork-pie hats and ride scooters around town. As we all know, everything old is new again, and it’s looking like a ska revival could be in the cards. No Doubt is recording a new album, after all, and Five Iron Frenzy reunited, raising approximately $200,000 from frenzied (sorry) fans in a matter of weeks on Kickstarter. So, while fans of music that WATCH doesn’t include a dance style A very old-school Five Iron Frenzy called “skanking” might be video: “A Flowery dreading the news: Ska will Song” be back in 2012. Get excited for the inevitable reunions of b-list ska bands, which will also be the moment we collectively realize why ska went away in the first place.


Because the world needs to dance in 2012.

MEWITHOUTYOU The new album from the hippie-rockers is sure to be inventive.

DEREK WEBB The biggest question: Will he swear again? Just kidding. Sort of.

PAPER ROUTE Will their new, pop-y direction pay off?

BLACK STAR Finally, a follow-up to one of the best hip-hop albums of all time.







n an age when it’s easy to cynically dismiss a lot of worship music as formulaic, it can be difficult to be intentional about finding music that both honors God and is great to listen to. That’s a tension felt by worship collective Gungor. Over the course of three albums, the band has tried to figure out what, exactly, it means to worship God in an authentic way. Because, above all, Gungor just wants to give listeners something that’s honest. “Worship is an offering,” says Michael Gungor, the band’s leader and producer. “So anything can be worship regardless of the content if it’s made in that way. I guess I can say, for me, it’s worship. I hope it can become worship for other people.” Their latest attempt at this is the mold-breaking Ghosts Upon the Earth, an often quiet and contemplative concept album. Instead of a string of artificially joyful worship anthems, the album detours to explore pain and sadness. None of its tracks are worship “hits” mined from other worship albums either—frankly, there aren’t even many songs that could be sung by a congregation. And, oh yeah, flutes are involved. Michael and his wife/co-songwriter, Lisa Gungor, don’t recall the exact moment their band’s third full release turned into a concept album. It began as a study of dark vs. light. Eventually, it blossomed into one of the most well-received albums of 2011. From “Let There Be” to “Every Breath,” it examines the narrative spanning creation to our own restoration—with the aid of non-traditional instruments and odd time signatures. “In an age of our attention being at two minutes, I liked the idea of putting the effort into a complete work,” Michael says. “There’s a lot of laziness in the creative world a lot of times. I like the idea of thinking enough through it that we could create this entire work that is coherent.” With their art, the Gungors want to do their part to help take worship music out of the well-intentioned box it has often been placed in. They believe people are

ready for an expanded definition of worship. “The art can speak for itself, but it’s also an attempt to open people’s minds to ‘This is worship as well,’” Lisa says. “We do some of these songs at our little church in Denver, [though] some that work there might not work in another place, but it’s worshipful. It’s filled with worship, so I would consider it that, but I wouldn’t say: ‘Here’s this CD. You can teach your congregation these songs and it’s going to go well for everybody.’ We need those congregational songs, but we didn't feel that every song on this CD needed to be that.”


Even though Gungor wrote the album to take on the large overarching theme of, well, all time, it still comes from a vulnerable place. Much of the album’s inspiration originates from time Michael spent in silent meditation last year in Assisi, Italy. There he meditated in the same hills where St. Francis communed with God and creation. “Most of the happy moments on the record came from that time,” he says, laughing. “It was just detox for my soul … it really was life-changing. And it certainly had an effect on the record.” The Gungors began this non-traditional pursuit of the sacred with their 2010 album, Beautiful Things. Listeners resonated with the passionate, dynamic album, which Michael finds ironic since it’s the first time he stopped caring what people would think and if it had any radio hits. He decided he would just make art that came from a deep place within. “That’s what it took for the music to be sacred for me—it took me having to let go of

trying to please this group of people and just make it,” he says. Michael says he believes worship is sacred when it’s given to God, despite our circumstances. Christians should worship God in all aspects of life, from the mundane to the messy. Nothing should be off limits. “Can a person of faith not, as an act of worship, wrestle with sexuality and sing about that?” he says. “How is that outside the realm of faith? I don’t understand. To me, worship is about making an offering out of whatever you’re doing; however you bring order into creation. Whether it’s music, crunching numbers as an accountant or whatever, doing that out of a place of wholeness and humanness unto God.” Record labels and Christian radio, he says, too often shape today’s worship music. It’s promoted and sold by the content of its lyrics. For Michael, the danger then is that the message turns into propaganda, not art. “Everybody uses their art to try to communicate something, but there’s something that happens when it just becomes about the content of the lyrics—the art suffers,” he says. “It makes it not as beautiful and not as meaningful and the whole industry is based on that. It has to fit into this ‘positive, encouraging’ box, which I don’t even know where that came from. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Bible or Jesus’ message to me. It wasn’t ‘positive, encouraging’ Jesus all the time. He said some rough stuff.”


Often during worship, people strive to reach a certain emotional high—a state of abandonment where joy resides. For some of those carrying pain on an average Sunday morning, joy can feel like a foreign land. Gungor is searching for modern expressions of worship for those moments of pain and sadness—and they’re finding it by looking back. After all, the Psalms and Lamentations aren’t filled with exclusively happy anthems. The band is finding that others are searching for the same articulation. “We were at a church that we loved for a long time—it was this big megachurch—and RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 65

“I even have people in my own life that, if something’s wrong, say, ‘God has turned His face from you,’” she says. “‘Oh, your car broke down? Well, have you not been reading your Bible?’ What is wrong? What did we turn this into? Have we forgotten the disciples died? Jesus was crucified. They didn’t get millions of dollars and a big house because they were following Christ. They got killed. I think it’s this idea that if you’re a Christian, everything’s fine instead of, if you’re a Christian, there’s hope.” When it comes to the theology of the band’s lyrics, Michael says he treads carefully. “You’ll never find any escapism in our songs, like the idea of us trying to escape this world and just waiting for someday when we’ll get pulled up into the clouds so we don’t have to deal with it all,” he says. “That’s very antiJesus’ message in my opinion. The Kingdom of Heaven is near in us, so there’s a lot of heaven coming and living among us. A lot of that theology I feel is orthodox Christian theology, but others might disagree.”



WATCH A Gungor live performance and interview from the RELEVANT Studio

I don’t know how many times people would say, even from other churches, ‘I feel like I come to church and I have to put on this face,’ ” Lisa recalls. “The one place you should be able to come and be vulnerable is your community of faith and your friends. It should be family. And for some 66 / RELEVANT_MAR/APR 12

reason it’s turned into this thing where everybody’s gotta be fine and shiny, so I think us looking face-to-face with the pain in our own lives and sharing that with our friends made us realize how this needs to be said in songs, this needs to be shared in worship.” Michael believes this omission of emotions negatively affects the Church. “So much of American Christianity is, in my mind, B.S.,” he says, laughing. “We pretend we believe this. We pretend we don’t have doubts about it. We pretend we’re OK. And [this album] is an attempt to say: ‘Can we be honest with what’s going on? We’re not OK. We’re broken. It’s time to be honest.’ ” Lisa recalls an attitude in the church that sought to avoid such pain—that refused to wrestle with the tough stuff. She attributes that emotional insincerity to the rise of the health- and wealth-focus of the “Prosperity Gospel.” According to the movement, those with real faith have lives that are blessed with money and happiness. Those who are suffering aren’t right with God.

One thing the couple is looking forward to is returning to the church they started in downtown Denver. Bloom meets Sunday evenings in the basement of an old Baptist church across from Colorado’s state capitol building. In its early days, the Gungors would leave life on the road to attend services. These days, their schedule is more intense and their attendance is spread out, but they still find renewal in their home church. “It’s been so good for my own soul,” Lisa says. “There’s something about being there with people who know you and it’s not about what you’re doing. It’s a definite drink of water when we’re home.” The Gungors admit they were hesitant about starting a church. They didn’t want to do it for the wrong reasons. They didn’t want it to become a distraction. “We really wondered if we should shut the whole thing down, but then we started hearing these little stories from people of how it actually has changed their lives and connected them with something, so it’s good,” Lisa says. For his part, Michael admits he’s only fully connected with creativity and God when he’s living in community. “The songs that mean a lot to people are birthed out of Bloom,” he says. “They are the roots of the tree that is Gungor. The music, the inspiration, the hope, the honesty. I want to tell Bloom that. I want them to see what we’re doing as a part of Bloom’s ministry.” Bloom allows people to express pain and sorrow during worship. During one recent service congregants were encouraged to yell out, “Why, God?” before sorting through their hurt. “It was interesting to see the healing that comes with sharing your pain with each other,” Lisa recalls. “Someone could just share their story—you don’t have to say, ‘Well, this is my answer for this’ or, ‘Let me pray for you.’ Hope rises in your heart when you share your pain with each other. “Jesus is in the middle of the suffering. He’s in the middle of the pain and somehow His face is seen when we help each other and share that with each other.”


The first film in Erwin Raphael McManus’s compelling series Signs, Earth. Journey through the landscape of spiritual barrenness into a world of breathtaking beauty. Signs reveals how all of creation declares not only the glory of God, but the story of us. Learn more at www.ᎦᎨGNᎦ






ITH HIS LANKY FRAME and hangdog face, Jason Segel knew early in his career that he didn’t have the conventional looks of a leading man. But when he was cast as one of the leads in the high school dramedy Freaks and Geeks in 2000, his life changed dramatically. That’s because the Freaks producer Judd Apatow taught Segel that if he could write a great script for himself, he’d

be able to play to his strengths. Along with his Freaks co-star Seth Rogen, Segel has taken that advice and established himself as a top comic power—and leading man. You can see Segel on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, where he has been part of one of the best casts in network TV

for the past seven seasons. He became a box office draw in 2008 when he co-wrote Forgetting Sarah Marshall with Nicholas Stoller and cast himself as the lead. Marshall earned $60 million and gave Segel the clout to fulfill another dream: bringing the Muppets back to big-screen glory. As he prepared for the release of his latest Apatow-produced film—The Five-Year Engagement, which he also co-wrote with Stoller—Segel took time to reflect on his Muppets experiences, the common themes between his G-rated and R-rated work and where his values come from.


What led to your interest in puppetry?

It started when I [began] making short films at 14 or 15 years old. I bought Toy Story puppets to practice writing and editing with them. I found I loved working with them and was kind of good at it.


So was the puppet plot line in Marshall part of a bigger agenda to get a shot with the Muppets?

That was sort of a one-thingleading-to-another situation. The Muppets inspired me writing the Dracula musical, and the Dracula musical inspired the idea of “why not bring back the Muppets,” so it was a real chickenand-egg situation. And I already had an in with [Jim] Henson’s people because they designed the puppets for Marshall.


What did you find to be most challenging about working with puppets?

The logistics of shooting with Muppets is difficult. Sets have to be elevated to hide the puppeteers. There were scenes written like having 10 Muppets run full-frame out of a building, but then we had to figure out logistically how to make it happen. Watching these puppeteers at work. They are absolute geniuses at the top of their game right now. They haven’t been making big-screen films but Internet videos and TV specials. They were chomping at the bit for a movie opportunity, so when they got it, they really brought their A game.


How did you handle the pressure of staying true to such a legacy? Was there backlash?

There was some trepidation. The biggest fear was that we were doing this with irony, making fun of doing The Muppets. But it’s a pure love letter to the Muppets. I felt like it was very important to honor a legacy that means so much to so many people. But I felt it was more important to get the Muppets back to the forefront of comedy, because if they were allowed to languish any longer I don’t know if they’d get another chance. Walter [the main Muppet, and a new character created for this film] was the eyes and ears of the audience, really—an analog for me. He’s a wide-eyed fan and an outsider who wants to bring the Muppets back to the way he grew up with. That was very much how I felt.


Prior to The Muppets, your only other movie-writing credit was the hard-R comedy Marshall. So how do you manage to swing between writing very R-rated comedies and family fare?


The tone for the film was welldefined in the first three Muppet movies from the ’70s and ’80s and The Muppet Show series. All we had to do was stay true to the tone set by Mr. Henson and [Muppet co-creator Frank] Oz. The movies we write, even with cursing and nudity, tend to have an inherent sweetness [to them]. That’s built into Nick and I. There’s a tradeoff in that you lose certain raunchy jokes but get puns and breaking the fourth wall, which you could never do in a regular movie.


You worked with Judd Apatow early in your career. How has he shaped your work?

I was interested in writing, but it was Judd who said the smartest thing to me. He said, “Write your own material and tailor it to yourself because you’re not a typical leading man.” That’s when I wrote Sarah Marshall and my career took a turn for the better. Now the way it works, once you’ve proven you carry a film, people get excited about putting you in their movies. A small group

of people get that chance. Hollywood’s not the most innovative place, and once they’ve seen you can do it, they keep letting you.


As you mentioned, even your R-rated films have an inherent sweetness. They also say a lot of rather wise and positive things about relationships, despite the raunchiness.


That’s what interests me. What hopefully separates our style of comedy is it’s not just joke upon joke, but there are underlying themes and that’s what holds viewer interest for 120 minutes. You lose interest in one gag stretched over entire films. Our movies explore deeper themes.


Do those deeper themes extend to your newest film, The Five-Year Engagement?

I couldn’t be more proud of it. It’s about myself and Emily Blunt, and we’re engaged early in our relationship, then it follows what happens for five years of relationship. It’s about how much you sacrifice in a relationship for your partner’s happiness.


Where do you draw your sense of purpose from, and how do you manage to stay out of the tabloids in Hollywood?

I was raised in a mixed JewishChristian household with values, but they were more about being a good person in general. My mom said, “The way you carry yourself is a reflection of the job I did.” The Muppets have a message of being stronger together than apart, and that you don’t have to get laughs by making fun of other people, and that’s an important lesson for the younger generation. The adult films are about what becomes important to you in life, which is my friends and loved ones and relationships. Money and fame goes away, but how you’re remembered as a person is what lasts and what matters. WATCH Behind-the-scenes footage from the making of The Muppets movie with Jason Segel




he ’80s were awesome. Just turn on the TV any Saturday afternoon, and there’s a high likelihood you’ll stumble upon a few of the following, courtesy of a basic cable matinee: sweet haircuts, muscles, amazing one-liners, explosions, music montages, tank tops and/or robots. The decade may not have churned out the most artful contributions to American film, but what the movies lacked in subtlety, they made up for in pure awesomeness. And explosions. 70 / RELEVANT_MAR/APR 12

In short, it was the golden age of cinema. We’re not the only ones who recognize this fact. In the next few years, Hollywood has lined up bigscreen remakes of action classics like Total Recall and Red Dawn; new installments of Death Wish and Top Gun are on the horizon; super-cool police epics like Beverly Hills Cop and 21 Jump Street are getting rebooted; even the decade’s toys are receiving the silver screen treatment with a movie adaptation of Battleship and a new G.I. Joe flick coming soon to a theater near you.

Unlike today’s morally complex heroes and intellectually out-of-touch filmmakers who are obsessed with stories that “explore the human condition” and “offer purpose and meaning,” in the ’80s all you needed to do to make a blockbuster was randomly select from the following multiple choice options and let the cameras roll: SETTING a) summer camp b) Miami c) the future d) a beach volleyball court e) the jungles of Vietnam LEAD ACTORS a) muscle-bound combat expert b) martial arts titan with a heart of gold c) future-Scientologist d) feathered-haired heartthrob e) John Cusack OPTIONAL SUPPORTING ACTOR a) friendly robot b) sinister robot c) law-enforcing robot MAJOR PLOT POINTS a) a terrorist building takeover/ communist rebellion b) cage-fighting tournament c) future robot/alien mercenary conflict d) nerds seeking vengeance on jocks e) volleyball MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION a) sports car b) fighter jet c) time machine d) van e) dirt bike Ahh, simpler times. So, in honor of Hollywood’s retro revival, we decided to go for broke and create our own list of awesome remakes. These movies need to be revisited in all their ’80s glory.

TAG LINE: “This summer, Dog the Bounty Hunter goes commando.” PLOT: In the original Commando, Arnold Schwarzenegger played an ex-Special Forces soldier rescuing his kidnapped family and avenging the deaths of his former unit. Because this was 1985, and because this was Schwarzenegger, pure awesomeness ensued. For our Michael Bay-helmed reimagining of the ’80s classic, TV’s last great gun-wielding mullet, Dog the Bounty Hunter, plays Sergeant Tucker Maddox, an ex-Army Ranger whose longlost daughter has just been abducted by communist drug lords. His only hope of rescuing her and preventing the drug lords from dropping nukes on Mount Rushmore (of course, the communist drug lords have nukes) is to team up with an elite group of mercenaries (led by Dog’s real-life wife, Beth Chapman, and son, Leland) and catch the group’s leader, Lars Montagrave. There’s only one problem: Tucker Maddox has been locked up in Alcatraz for the last 10 years for a murder he didn’t commit! Can Maddox escape Alcatraz and reunite with his team to find Montagrave in time? Only if he can … go commando. OBLIGATORY ONE-LINER: “Sorry, Abe, but honestly? The nose job suits you.” (Said by Maddox during a battle scene at Mount Rushmore, when he inadvertently blows the nose off Lincoln’s face while firing a bazooka at an Apache helicopter flown by Montagrave.)

BAD DUDES (THE ARCADE CLASSIC) COMMANDO NEW TITLE: Commando Redux: South Dakota Strikes Back STARRING: Dog the Bounty Hunter and family

NEW TITLE: Bad Dudes: The Movie STARRING: Channing Tatum (we’re talking G.I. Joe Tatum, not Dear John Tatum) and Rider Strong (who will naturally be wearing the same bad-boy haircut and devil-may-care leather jacket as he did playing the rebellious best friend “Shawn” in Boy Meets World), as “Blade” and “Striker.”

TAG LINE: “Are you a bad enough dude?” PLOT: If there’s one thing we’ve learned from action flicks like Max Payne, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, it’s that video game adaptations are ridiculous … LY AWESOME! The 1988 arcade/NES classic Bad Dudes featured two street-wise thugs—named Blade and Striker—fighting ninjas and saving the president. If that’s not the premise to an epic ’80s remake, then we don’t know what is. And, thanks to a carefully crafted in-game story line, the script practically writes itself. The game opens with this line appearing on the screen: “Rampant ninja related crimes these days … Whitehouse not exception” (carefully translated from the original Japanese). If there’s one thing even today’s most cynical audiences can still relate to, it’s rampant ninja-related crime. A Secret Service agent then appears and asks our two heroes: “President Ronnie has been kidnapped by the ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue him?” Obviously, they are. Like the video game, after dramatically setting the stage, the movie will feature 70 uninterrupted minutes of hand-tohand ninja combat in a variety of urban (sewers, highways, train stations) and wilderness (forests, caves) settings until Blade and Striker locate the ninja lair, defeat the boss “DragonNinja,” and rescue President Ronnie. (SPOILER ALERT: In the game, the president expresses his gratitude to Striker and Blade by eating cheeseburgers with them at the White House—this will be a shot-for-shot recreation.) What were the ninjas’ motives for holding the president hostage? Why are there waves and waves of ninjas roaming the streets and leading Blade and Striker right to the secret hideout? When did “bad” come to mean its complete opposite? Just how did “ninja-related crimes” become so rampant? If you really have to ask those questions, then you’re probably not a bad enough dude. OBLIGATORY ONE-LINER: Though there is very little actual dialogue in the film, at one point both Blade and Striker look directly into the camera, and say (at the same time): “Us, bad enough dudes? You tell us!” They then simultaneously roundhouse kick several ninjas in the face.


THE NEVERENDING STORY NEW TITLE: The NeverEnding Story Has Still Not Ended: Falkor’s Revenge STARRING: The voice of Sean Connery as Falkor. (A return to dragon-themed voiceover work, after his hallmark, memeinspiring performance in Dragonheart.) TAG LINE: “This time, his bark matches his bite.” PLOT: If you were born sometime between 1978 and 1988, you most likely remember The NeverEnding Story. The fantasy classic features a young boy named Bastian who stumbles upon a magical book while eluding bullies at school, and embarks on a fantastic adventure to save the mythical land of Fantasia. The film gives us sphinxes, rock-eating giants, quicksand and an endangered childlike empress—all this while dealing with light-hearted themes such as soul-crushing darkness, a strange meta-reality and allegories involving the loss of innocence and childlike wonder. If you were like most other 7-year-olds, this (thankfully) went directly over your head, and there is only one thing you remember about this movie: the giant, terrifying, flying dog-dragon name Falkor. Also like most children of the ’80s, even though Falkor the “luckdragon” was a friendly helper to the film’s young hero, he has still haunted your nightmares for the last two decades. For reasons still unknown, a massive, talking, flying dog is the single most disturbing image the human psyche can process. Our remake of The NeverEnding Story will be a horror/thriller based on Falkor’s return to earth to seek vengeance on bullies. Despite its strong anti-bully message, our David Fincher-directed, Trent Reznor-scored epic will be a controversially unflinching look at justice, Falkor style. It will be rated a hard-R. OBLIGATORY ONE-LINER: “Who let the dogs out? Oh yeah: ME.” (Falkor as he swallows a bully whole.)




NEW TITLE: Invasion U.S.A. 2: It’s Happening Again! STARRING: Chuck Norris as former CIA agent Matt Hunter TAG LINE: “This time it’s personal … again.” PLOT: The original 1985 Chuck Norris classic Invasion U.S.A is one of the most aptly titled action films ever made. The plot is as follows: A group of communist guerrillas decide to invade the U.S.A. by simply riding boats onto the beach in Miami, ditching their boats, running ashore and indiscriminately attacking suburban neighborhoods, shopping malls and South Beach recreation centers. Disturbingly, their unsophisticated plan works—that is until the CIA can convince former super-agent Matt Hunter to come out of retirement and single-handedly stop the guerrillas … who just happen to be led by Hunter’s former nemesis, Mikhail Rostov! (Details like how the two primary characters became enemies, who these guerillas are and why invading the U.S.A. is so ridiculously easy are never made clear. Exposition is for ’90s movies.) In our sequel, Matt Hunter has once again retired, and is once again living a simple, quiet, communism-free life in South Florida. That is, until communists decide to invade the U.S.A.—again! Armed only with a denim vest, two Uzis and his mullet, our hero embarks on a one-man mission (this is his one rule: he works alone) to defeat the communists. The reds are led by the vengeful son of Rostov, who, angered by his father’s death at the hands of Hunter, has sworn a communist blood oath­—a way bigger deal than a normal blood oath because Lenin is involved—to kill Hunter. OBLIGATORY ONE-LINER: “If you come back in here, I am gonna hit you with so many rights you’re going to beg for a left … again.” (Spoken by Hunter after he has just hit someone with so many rights they begged for a left.)

NEW TITLE: Disney/Pixar’s RoboCop STARRING: The voice of Patton Oswalt TAG LINE: “Fight back … for friendship!” PLOT: The pitch meeting for 1985’s RoboCop went something like this: Screenwriter: “RoboCop is a movie about—” 1980s Film Executive: “Stop! You had me at ‘RoboCop.’ If this film is about an actual cop that is a robot, which I have no reason to believe it is not, then we’re green-lighting it! Here is $50 million.” The concept of RoboCop sounds like every 8-year-old kid’s dream: A robotic police officer fights criminals with awesome weapons (a Cobra Assault Cannon!) and a sweet car. Unfortunately for every 8-yearold kid who wanted to see RoboCop, the movie was so shockingly violent it had to be re-edited 11 times to move down to an R rating. Which is why our updated version will restore RoboCop to its conceptual innocence by giving it a family-friendly, slapstick happy treatment. In this Disney/Pixar remake, RoboCop will be a combination of Buzz Lightyear and Mr. Incredible, and will “fight” bad guys with a cool-looking but playfully non-lethal ray gun. RoboCop—along with his loyal, comically awkward sidekick, BarneyFuse— will find the value of friendship and going after your dreams, all while fighting hardened criminals in the gritty urban slums of Detroit. OBLIGATORY ONE-LINER: “Wait a sec, I just fired a Cobra Assault Cannon … Cobra Assault Cannons explode!!!” (Shouted by RoboCop immediately after he fires the Cobra Assault Cannon, which does, indeed, explode.) If you’re normal, you long for the days when movies didn’t require you to have an emotional response other than sheer, overthe-top euphoria. You’ve likely despaired of ever feeling that way again. But take heart—there is hope. Together, we can give Hollywood the greatest gift of all: these five films that will make cinema matter again.



K D E ?



I regretted my tattoos,” Amanda Jensen remarks, “it would be like other people wishing they had fewer freckles. Tattoos become a part of you, and eventually you forget about them.” Amanda and her husband, Alex, sport their sleeves proudly. And for good reason: Amanda is one of St. Louis’ premier tattoo artists, and while the more reserved of the two, she is incredibly thoughtful about her craft. “It’s a little selfish,” she muses, “because my tattoos are a diary of my life that no one can read but me.” The Jensens are at the center of the millennial Christian culture that sees no conflict between ardent love for Jesus and inking their bodies. Alex waxes eloquent on the “receive, reject, redeem” rubric that has become popular among younger Christians. To the Jensens, tattoos are firmly in the “redeem” category, as they open up a world of relationships within subcultures that have frequently been marginalized and neglected by the Church. But Alex and Amanda still sometimes experience that marginalization. While it doesn’t bother them (much), they recognize they aren’t that kind of Christian, namely the middle-class suburban kind. For most younger Christians, tattoos are no longer icons of the liberated, edgy and non-legalistic culture that once differentiated them from the clean-cut Christianity of their parents. The tattoo has been domesticated, reduced from an icon of rebellion to a relatively acceptable form of self-expression. After all, if even Barbie has

a tattoo, how controversial can they really be? That’s right—Barbie. In October 2011, Mattel teamed up with Tokidoki to release a tatted-up collector’s edition of the iconic doll. Faux outrage on the Internet ensued, which only reinforced for most of America how little they cared. L’affaire tattooed Barbie felt like a trumped-up controversy designed to sell a product. After all, Barbie had been there before: In 2009, Mattel released a version that let girls choose the tattoos. Sales exceeded expectations. For most of middle America, tattoos aren’t even as controversial as Tim Tebow. Then there are the statistics. The Pew Research Center reported in 2010 that nearly 40 percent of millennials sport at least one tattoo, more than double the number of our parents’ generation. While most of those tattoos are covered up by clothing, that doesn’t mean we’re ashamed of them. If anything, twenty- and thirtysomethings are proud of our body-art, but cognizant that not everyone will get it. As sociologist Mary Kosut writes in the academic Journal of Pop Culture, people with tattoos today “are not exotic or deviant others—they are everyday people with aesthetic sensibility.” Now when friends show off their new ink, many of us inquire what prompted it, and then move along. Yet many younger Christians’ relationship to tattoos is still more complicated than most people’s. Those who grew up in the Christian subculture have memories and battle scars of the heated and contentious debates with parents and youth pastors over Levitical laws. My first confrontation over tattoos occurred when I was convinced that my neighbor’s newly minted Tweety ankle tattoo was the first step on the short road to perdition. This specter of legalism hasn’t entirely gone away, even though most younger Christians are ready to move on. In a world full of sex trafficking and poverty, the debate hardly merits the energy and drama that have sometimes been spent on it. Parents and pastors may still have their objections, but most younger Christians don’t seem to be very concerned. Yet sometimes it is those practices we take for granted that make space for the most interesting observations about ourselves and our world. Getting behind the trends we have adopted often means reframing the conversation. Discussions about tattoos have often been limited to a single question: “Should I or should I not?” While that’s an important line of inquiry, it’s not the only one. And answering it requires first thinking through what tattoos mean, and why they’ve become such a prominent form of self-expression at this point in our history. Why not poetry or pixels instead? For Christians, these questions are especially pertinent. The Christian faith is in a God whose concern for

human bodies is such that He became one in order to accomplish salvation. The most basic intuition of American culture is that our “rights” allow us to treat our bodies how we want, but the Gospel sets forth a startling alternative: “You are not your own, but you have been bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” Christians are to be “living sacrifices” who re-enact in their bodies the pattern of the cross through the power of the cross. The standard is not simply one of not harming themselves or others, but faithful conformity to the life of Christ. So what does that mean when it comes to permanently altering a body?


Tattoos are the ultimate form of self-expression, a way of making visible a personal narrative and integrating those things that matter most on to your body. Ask someone with a tattoo about it and you’ll hear a story in return. And even if they simply thought it would look cool, the tattoo is an entryway to a conversation, a doorway to self-disclosure. It hasn’t always been this way. Historically, if tattoos weren’t a regrettable mistake prompted by inebriation, they were primarily limited to subcultures and gangs that wanted to express communal solidarity, or to sailors and military men. Tattoos mean different things for each generation, which is partly where so much of the generational conflict stems from. It was the cultural tastemakers—from Rihanna, to Angelina Jolie, to David Beckham and nearly everyone in between— who managed to make the tattoo the icon of fashion and cool. While people get tattoos for various reasons and give their tattoos various meanings, our generation doesn’t bat an eye at getting a tattoo because the arbiters of culture made it plausible—even expected—to get RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 75

one. Individuals don’t get their ideas in vacuums; they are filtered to us, dressed in the clothing of the culture we imbibe. In short, tattoos were sold to American culture, along with everything else. As Kosut points out, the irony of tattoos is that they have all the marks of the sort of cultural fads that eventually fade away—only the ink will still remain. Yet despite parental warnings against it (which is all the arguments over tattoos ever boiled down to), the permanence of tattoos is precisely what makes them such an intriguing form of self-expression. Even for someone who is an artist like Amanda Jensen, getting a tattoo “is still exciting because it’s forever and ever.” The need for genuine selfexpression isn’t limited to our particular generation. But tattoos resonate with millennials in part because life has often been fragmented, unstable and shallow. Millennials’ church culture has frequently been hollow, countless twentysomethings’ families have decayed, the geographical mobility of people in their 20s and 30s has made it hard to set down roots and many are aimless in their employment habits. There is little about our world that feels permanent and stable, which has left a large number of us with a lingering sense of emptiness and instability. The widespread adoption of tattoos can be seen as an attempt to overcome these instabilities and find a coherent unity of our lives that was never provided for us. The tattoo helps us remember the meaningful and significant, and thus resist a culture that is oriented toward forgetfulness. Yet it hasn’t always been this way.

mark, signifies a permanent status—a physical expression of human faithfulness and God’s ownership. As for the New Testament, Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle has famously pointed to Revelation 19:16 as proof that Christ the tatted warrior will return with His sword someday. It’s a stunning image, and one that plays well in the grunge-oriented city where Driscoll preaches. There’s only one problem with it: It’s resting on a bad translation. Biblical scholar Grant Osborne points out that grammatically, the verse is better translated along the lines of “on his robe covering his thigh he has a name w r i t t e n” — r a t h e r than on his thigh directly. Otherwise, the closest you’ll find in the New Testament to a commendation of tattoos is when Paul writes that he carries on his body the “stigmata,” or the Greek word for tattoo. The reference is sometimes used as an argument for voluntary tattooing, but it shouldn’t be. Paul’s tattoo (if he, indeed, had one) was most likely administered as a punishment, as tattoos in Greco-Roman culture were almost exclusively punitive. Paul is undermining his punishment by identifying it with the sufferings of Christ. In other words, Christians shouldn’t collapse the distinction between the bodily persecution Paul experienced for the cross of Christ and a voluntary decision to add the Ichthus to their forearms. Otherwise, there is the risk of emptying out the uniqueness of the suffering of the martyrs and improperly inflating an individual standing in the Kingdom. The record from Scripture is mixed. There aren’t necessarily any explicit prohibitions of aesthetic tattooing, but it’s not exactly endorsed, either. Instead of focusing on the diversity of self-expression through the body, Scripture repeatedly turns its attention toward the pattern for self-expression: the person of Christ and the means He established to bring believers into conformity with Him. The Christian identity is given in union with Christ and by a life within Christian community, as the



It’s nearly impossible to draw a straight line from the Bible’s teachings on tattoos to today, as the meaning of tattoos has drastically shifted. The Bible knows nothing of tattoos for purely aesthetic purposes, or as artistic self-expression. Instead, tattoos in the ancient Near East were punitive, expressions of fidelity to the local deity, or marks of ownership over slaves. The debates over Leviticus 19:28 are officially worn out, and most everyone knows the exegetical troubles that come with trying to interpret and apply the Old Testament law. The more interesting Old Testament passages are in Isaiah, where the Lord suggests that some Israelites will one day write on their hands, “Belonging to the Lord” (44:5), and that the Lord has written their names on His hands (49:16). In the former, the marking seems to be tied to the Israelites’ perfection as the people of God. Isaiah points to a day when the people of God will be so faithful that some will mark the name of the Lord on their bodies. The tattoo, or tattoo-like 76 / RELEVANT_MAR/APR 12

book of Ephesians repeatedly emphasizes—not in tattoos or the histories written on a body. The primary concern of the New Testament is not aesthetics or fashion, but faith working through love.


So what can one make of all this? In one sense, the popularity of tattoos within the younger Christian culture could be read as an indictment of the Church, which has largely left the younger generation on their own to interpret their experiences and discover their own sense of meaning. And not surprisingly, twentysomethings have turned to the culture for cues. The absence of meaning-making rituals within the Church has left an empty space that tattoos have admirably filled. Yet in this, there may be reasons for caution. When selfexpression takes a religious form through tattooing crosses

or other iconography, there is the risk of obscuring how the Bible enjoins believers to express faith through their bodies. The faith, hope and charity that set Christians apart in the world are not aesthetic markings per se, but rather expressive behaviors that reshape a Christian’s muscles and organs (including the skin). Holiness, in other words, can’t be tattooed on—it can only be cultivated through the practices of the Christian life. Whether any particular Christian should get a tattoo is, then, an open question. But Christians should think about them differently than they have. In short, the question of whether to get a tattoo should be a question of Christian discipleship, rather than purely individualistic forms of self-expression. One pastor says in 30 years he had never been asked by a member of his church whether they should get a tattoo. But if a believer’s body is to conform to the pattern of Christ’s life, then perhaps making tattoo decisions are moments that should require pastoral counsel and advice. For instance, if Christians are tattooing themselves as a reminder of God’s work in their lives, it might make sense to bring a Christian community into the discernment process in order to ensure the correct meaning. In such an act, where the tattoo is a manifestation of celebratory gratitude for God’s gifts, Christians might consider allowing others to “rejoice with those who rejoice” through participating in the selection process. After all, the selves that are expressed in tattoos are formed primarily by the relationships of love within the church.

The same principle holds, in fact, for those seeking tattoos simply because they look good. It’s tempting to treat tattoos as an expression of autonomy, or the individual freedom to do to our bodies as we will. But if individuals are to avoid the chasm of individualism, then people must open themselves in the discernment process to the counsel of others. The permanent things are faith and hope, without which any tattoos are simply empty symbols and meaningless art. Many twentysomething Christians have been frequently misunderstood or ignored during debates about tattoos, which Why am I choosing this form of selfcan be deeply frustrating. But expression over others? Christian freedom doesn’t primarily mean anyone can get a tattoo if they want one. Who do I trust that I can allow into The purpose and goal of the discernment process? Christian freedom is love and unity, which sometimes may Will the tattoo unnecessarily mean joyfully relinquishing rupture or harm any significant reladesires for the sake of others. tionships? Tattoos should not be occasions for asserting one’s rights against others, but of listening, learning Will a tattoo open up new relaand seeking the unity God has tionships and life patterns that fit with brought in Christ. my vocation and trajectory? Tattoos will continue to matter because bodies matter. The tattoo will be a part of me as Because “the form of this world a 60- or 70-year-old—do I understand is passing away,” Christians how it will change that experience? ought to enter into the permanence of tattoos the way the Anglican Book of Common Prayer advises believers to enter into the permanency of marriage: “reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God.” When Jesus offers Himself to humanity and for humanity, when He reaches out and says, “This is my body, given for you,” He invites all of us into a relationship of mutual self-giving. Christians cede authority over their individual bodies to Him. The body, in Paul’s great metaphor, is a temple, the place where the Spirit dwells. Christians do not pick the pattern of its adornments by themselves, but are to pattern their bodies on the life of Christ, clothing themselves in the fruits of the Spirit and above all the love of Christ, which is the bond of unity (Colossians 3:14). In the reciprocal exchange of the Kingdom of God, artistic self-expression on the Christian body must ultimately give way to the deeper reality of the gift of self to God and to another through love and gratitude for His gift to humanity. Regardless of whether one gets a tattoo or not.



3. 4.


MATTHEW LEE ANDERSON is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why our Bodies Matter to our Faith (Bethany House) and works at The Journey in St. Louis, M.O. He writes regularly at





iguel is a man in his 30s, working as a caregiver for the past seven years in a private home nestled in a suburb of Los Angeles. His days from Monday through Friday are long ones, stretching from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and for those 60 hours each week he earns a mere $300 monthly, $75 per week—to go with his room and board in the home of the disabled person he cares for. But despite how dire his circumstances seem, Miguel can’t simply pick up and find another job—and it’s not just because of the bad economy. Miguel (not his real name) is one of an estimated 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States, otherwise pejoratively known as “illegal aliens,” who help raise children, care for the elderly, tend lawns, pick crops and keep restaurants thriving. These 11 million people have had children (who are citizens), have been in the country for years and have made themselves a vital part of the American economy. In short, they are like most other Americans—they just aren’t in the country legally. “It’s frustrating, and I have a sense of powerlessness, of not being able to apply for jobs or submit applications without fear of being recognized and persecuted legally because of my country and lack of work permits,” Miguel says. “But on a daily basis, I know residing in the country is not an issue—as long as I stay away from trouble, I should be fine.” Even now, Miguel is one of the relatively lucky ones among the “undocs” (a slang term for undocumented workers). He doesn’t have to stand in front of stores or on street corners with dozens of other men each morning, hoping for a truck to come by so he can negotiate a day’s low pay for backbreaking work in the sun. While Miguel dreams of finishing college

and becoming a psychologist, he found his job because a cousin told him the person he now works for was looking for help. He had been living in the northern California town of Placerville after illegally crossing the border from Mexico, and felt his prospects there were at a dead end. “My cousin said, ‘A group of us are living in Los Angeles’ and had a structure for themselves. I didn’t think twice, even though I knew I would be working for $300 a month, and room and board,” he recalls. “There was not access to English as Second Language at schools in Placerville, and my cousin said I could access them here, so I didn’t think twice and headed for Los Angeles.” The hardest part of Miguel’s life in the United States has been the distance it’s caused with his once tightknit family back home. He is afraid to leave for a visit back home because he’s afraid he’ll be caught on his return trip. Since he left home, his parents have died, leaving him only with siblings and cousins in Mexico, and the cousin who talked him into moving down to L.A. is the only family member he has left in America. “You’d think people here would understand migrants because that’s how this country was founded,” he says thoughtfully. “I used to talk often with my family, but I don’t know for which reason we became estranged and the relationship became more tenuous. Now I don’t know my family in Mexico as much as I used to—I now call every two or three months. I have no kids—I wouldn’t have left them behind.” It seems like frayed relationships and basic concerns might be enough to challenge anyone’s dreams. And so Miguel wonders if it’s worth it to stay in the United States. “It’s a question I’ve asked myself multiple times. I think there are a lot of opportunities in this country, but I haven’t been able to focus and that’s the reason I find myself in this situation,” Miguel says. “I know there are millions of people who have achieved the American Dream, who have been able to fulfill their goals. It hasn’t been my case, but all in all, I’d say yes, it’s worth it to remain here.”

ruining the stock portfolios and careers of middle- and upperclass Americans, the situation also grows more dire at the bottom of the economic ladder. Miguel is just the tip of the iceberg. A recent film called A Better Life attempts to shine a spotlight on the often overlooked millions of undocumented workers. The film follows the story of Carlos, who works as a landscaper while also struggling to be a single father for his teenage son, Luis. The film received some of the best reviews of 2011 and was recently released on DVD. Starring veteran Mexican actor Demián Bichir as Carlos (who earned an Oscar nomination for best actor for his role in the film), A Better Life brings a new level of understanding and empathy to the debate over how



That hope is what drives so many undocumented workers to stay, even when job opportunities are limited— such as the young and old men you see on just about any early morning in any city in America, dozens of them standing on street corners or in front of Home Depot. This is one of the few avenues available to them for finding work as they aren’t legally able to pursue work through job fairs, websites or other conventional channels and often don’t yet speak English fluently. As the U.S. economic crisis rolls ever onward,

—JENNY YANG to solve the issue of America’s immigration crisis. “Part of the problem is the misinformation that goes around, from politicians who are out to make you uncomfortable and afraid of ‘these people, who are taking everything from us!’” says Bichir, who is also known to American audiences for his portrayal of a recurring character on the Showtime series Weeds. “Misinformation plus fear equals hate, and I think this film has the power to change this point of view. People just get what they’ve been told and no one goes to search for their own.”


The debate over immigration can’t be restricted to utilitarian RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 79

“THERE ARE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE ACHIEVED THE AMERICAN DREAM. IT HASN’T BEEN MY CASE, BUT IT’S WORTH IT TO REMAIN HERE.” —MIGUEL, AN UNDOCUMENTED WORKER or cultural discussions. For Christians, the issue of undocumented workers must be discussed in terms of biblical and theological truth as well. “In general I feel like so many Christians approach this issue from a purely economic or political point of view without really going back to the Bible to see what it says about immigrants and how to treat immigrants among us,” says Jenny Yang, director of advocacy and policy at World Relief. “As Christians, we have a responsibility to view this issue as Christians first and Americans second. Oftentimes in this debate it becomes so politicized that it becomes about our American values and not our Christian values. This is an issue that isn’t separated from the Church.” The difficulty for American Christians, of course, is to navigate the tricky waters of compassion and legality. After all, if illegal immigration is illegal, and Christians are supposed to obey laws, is it possible for Christians to maintain compassion and respect for the laws of the land? Yang says it’s not only possible, it’s also vitally important to the larger American culture. “The one thing that is illegal is hiring undocumented workers,” Yang notes. “Christian businesses shouldn’t hire undocumented workers; it is not legal to do so. In terms of ministry in general—whether it’s building relationships with them, teaching them English, helping them with their immigration papers—that’s one way churches have historically been compassionate, that has really made the biggest difference in communities. What we’ve been seeing recently is churches have started to do legal services. It comes down to just befriending immigrants in our community.” 80 / RELEVANT_MAR/APR 12

Yang also notes new laws in states like Arizona and Alabama have increased the difficulty of compassionately caring for immigrants without breaking the law. The law in Arizona actually states it’s illegal to transport an undocumented immigrant, affecting ministries and charities all over the state. In fact, the possible penalty for giving an illegal immigrant a ride is confiscation of your vehicle. “I have a friend who’s a youth pastor in Phoenix,” Yang says. “He picked up undocumented youth for his Sunday school class every Sunday. And when this law passed, he had to think: ‘Should I keep picking these people up? Because if I get caught it’s going to be considered a state crime for me.’ So he had to come up with an answer to the question, ‘Should I continue to minister to these people and do what I feel like God is calling me to do and go against the law, or should I obey the law and not fulfill what I feel like God is calling me to

do?’ He’s still continuing to pick up the kids for his youth group, but laws like that have really implicated a lot of ministries in doing the work they feel like God has called them to do. Nationally there’s not much illegal we can do as U.S. citizens, but I think on a state-by-state basis it’s been different.” One of the groups that helps immigrants— illegal or otherwise—in Los Angeles is Homeboy Industries, which was founded by a Catholic priest named Father Greg Boyle in the late 1980s and assisted with the making of A Better Life. Branching out from a former church ministry at a local parish, Homeboy helps provide GED classes, job training, therapy and tattoo removals to an average of 12,000 former gang members across Southern California each year. Often, some of those gang members come out of homes where immigration is a serious issue and the lack of opportunity can make crime an attractive option. “When I first came to Homeboy, Father Boyle asked me why I got into a gang, and I said for money or to settle a beef,” says Hector Verdugo, Boyle’s second-in-command at Homeboy. “And he said, ‘No, you’re running from something, something that happens more than likely in your own home.’ It made me think about my mom, who was a heroin addict, and my father, who died of a heroin overdose. I had a crowded home, and I grew up in a neighborhood where generation after generation had the same gang. You have false love, but it’s something.” As he speaks about his own painful past, Verdugo is sitting in the office of “Father G,” as Boyle is affectionately known to most of his Homeboy clients. On this day, Boyle is off on one of his numerous trips around the world to discuss his work with forgotten youth and help other groups learn how to

transform the troubled young lives in their own communities. It’s an office filled with hundreds of photos of the young men and women Boyle has helped over the years, and the fact that Verdugo is sitting in it on this day as the bustle of hundreds of enthused and changed lives swirls around him is testament to the fact that anyone can change if given the chance, that no life should be wasted. “We’re a beacon of hope for those coming out of jails who want to stop gangbanging but have tats on their faces and live in a horrible neighborhood,” Verdugo says. “We don’t go out to houses. People come to us and we say, ‘You want to come drink this refreshing water of renewal?’ And they come.” Homeboy Industries also tries to help undocumented workers like Miguel, the caregiver. “[We] are going to stand in solidarity for justice and the brothers and sisters who are immigrants but labeled illegal,” Verdugo says. “They’re human beings. “Immigration reform is such a complicated issue, but what would Jesus do?” he continues. “Everyone pushes things like, ‘That’s them, this is us,’ when it should be ‘we.’ There should be the dignity of human rights all the way around, and the right to eat no matter what status in society. It’s a complicated issue, but we stand on the side of justice. If somebody’s hungry, we gotta feed ’em.”


One of the reasons the immigration debate hasn’t gone away is because it transcends normal red-blue, Republican-Democrat boundaries. While the sides might differ when it comes to addressing the issue, compassion and pragmatism mean undocumented

workers aren’t an easily categorizable issue. One such example of how immigration can cut across political divisions is Roger L. Simon, the author of the original story behind A Better Life. Simon is now one of the nation’s most influential conservative bloggers—all while maintaining his strong support for the film and its message. “I’m totally down with the film, and the hero is a very good man, almost saintly. A man like that deserves amnesty,” he says. “If this were a movie about a Hezbollah member sneaking across the border, it would be a different movie. That happens, and that’s why we need secure borders. But at the same time we have to give people like this a break. It’s beyond politics—if you can’t give a man like this a break, who can you give it to? “We’ve been living with this problem for 40 years,” Simon continues. “It’s not new at all that people come over the border for work, and we accepted that they’re our gardeners and restaurant workers. So to tell these people they can’t come over, it’s not over. You have to check them out, but if they’re good, let them over here. We wanted them here and now we say stay away?” Yang says the answer isn’t blanket amnesty or turning a blind eye toward border control. But she also says mass deportations are WORLD RELIEF the wrong tactic. “If we’re going to make it harder to enter CATHOLIC LEGAL illegally, we need IMMIGRATION to make it easier to NETWORK enter legally,” Yang says. “So that means reforming the visa A BETTER LIFE system; making (Summit Entertainment) it easier for famiWATCH lies to be reunited. The trailer Sometimes the for A Better Life, starring waiting time can Demián Bichir be 10-15 years. But


then you have the problem of the 10.8 million people who are in the country undocumented. What can the government do to address the situation? Many of the immigrants have been working here for 10 or 15 years, they have citizen children—so just on a fiscal scale as well as a moral scale, I think there’s problems with [deportation]. We need a middle ground approach. It’s not offering them a free pass, but it’s not saying, ‘Leave the country’ either.” Many people have also pointed out there are entire industries that would collapse without the work of undocumented workers. Yang says it’s estimated that 60-70 percent of farm workers are immigrants with no legal status. “I’ve talked to farmers,” Yang says, “where they go by the books—they pay the prevailing wage times two, they provide housing and everything—and a lot of times, local [American] people don’t want to do this work. Sometimes when you look at the economics of it, it just means they prefer to go with the [undocumented] immigrants.” Bichir echoes the theme of simply facing the facts. “There’s a reality—these 11 million people are here. They have a house and a normal life like we do. I don’t see how we bring all these millions of people back to anywhere, because this is home for them, and that’s pretty much it,” Bichir says. “If you think about the story of this country, that’s what it’s made of. The guys who started in New York and Philly ended up going West, not knowing what was out there, and some of them died, but they kept going. A lot of things made this country great, things like that.” For Bichir, it’s idealistic and an issue of justice—but it’s practical. “There’s not a single activity in our daily lives where an undocumented worker is not involved to make our lives easier and happier.” RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 81



nyone who has gone to church for any amount of time has likely noticed a strange phenomenon around Good Friday and Easter. Depending on what kind of church, one of two things probably happened. One, at a Good Friday service, which is supposed to be a somber reflection on the death of Jesus, the minister instead figuratively winked at the congregation and ignored the pain and humiliation of the cross, with a proclamation of, “Jesus died ... but the story doesn’t end there!” before a choir burst into a giant chorus of “Up from the Ground He Arose.” The meaning was clear: Sure, the death of Jesus was important, but there’s no point dwelling on it. After all, He rose again! Or two, the church emphasized the crucifixion and its meaning to the point where the resurrection became


an afterthought. What Christ did on the cross and how His sacrifice saves Christians from the wrath of God became the primary lens through which to understand faith. The resurrection becomes an almost forgotten, if pleasant, afterthought. But neither of these is the Gospel. The full Gospel of Jesus Christ is an intertwined story of life, death and resurrection. Easter Sunday is meaningless without Good Friday, but Good Friday is equally as meaningless without Easter Sunday. Perhaps one of the most befitting images for the Gospel story is that of a Celtic knot. In a Celtic knot, every strand is completely interlaced with every other strand. There is no beginning or ending to a Celtic knot.

Until we see the Gospel as a Celtic-like knot—completely interwoven with no definitive start or finish—we will always have an incomplete picture.


In particular, today’s Christian has a tendency to reduce the Gospel to Good Friday. The result? Grace is also reduced to one theme: atonement—to Christ shouldering and then reversing the wrath of God. But the Gospel knot must include Easter Sunday—there’s

no Kingdom without resurrection. Jesus’ life leads to crucifixion, which leads to the resurrection, which leads to exaltation, which leads back to His life with a new view of the whole. So central to Paul was the resurrection of Jesus he even says, without it, our preaching is a waste of time, our faith is useless, our message becomes false witness, our hope is disastrous and our sins are not forgiven! “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:13-17, NIV). The Gospel is a knot of events, but we need to remember the apostle Paul was obsessed with the resurrection: no resurrection, no Gospel, no grace. Of course, many affirm resurrection. But few Christians absorb resurrection. Which is odd, considering Jesus and the early Christians absorbed resurrection so much it began to usher them into the Kingdom of God—in the here and now.


In a Good-Friday-only view of the Gospel, the cross does everything. In that old Gospel, both forgiveness and justification are the result of Christ’s death only, and the resurrection (along with the other parts of Jesus’ life past and future) are just “extras.” But this is not what Paul says: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). So redemption, too, is like the cord in a Celtic knot. Jesus’ life and then His death have brought forgiveness, but that death cord morphs into the resurrection cord, and it is the resurrection that brings “justification.” This term refers to God’s declaration that Christians are right with God, accepted, on good terms and reconciled to Him. But what creates the very possibility of a relationship with God is Jesus’ death that was overturned in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You see, the problem is death—and the solution is life. Jesus entered death and came back to life and Christians can climb on His back into a new life.

One of the best verses to describe this is found in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Ordinary translations insert some words here to make it sound right. Thus, the 2011 NIV says, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.” But the original Greek was sharper—it read something more like: “If anyone is in Christ … NEW CREATION!” There is no “the” or “has come” in Greek. All Paul has are two words: new and creation. He then explains new creation with this doublebarrel two-liner: “The old has gone, the new is here!” The claim is altogether revolutionary. What the Bible anticipated and what thoughtful, hopeful Jews had absorbed was that when God finally brought the Messiah, when God finally was ready to establish His own rule once and for all, when those things and others like them occurred, creation would be renewed or creation would begin all over again! But the claim is even more astounding for this reason: Paul thinks new creation is already working! When? When a person is baptized into Christ. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). In a person's union with Christ, dramatically enacted in the body at baptism, they enter into the death of Christ and into the resurrection of Christ and it brings them into a “new life.” The cord of resurrection means Christians begin a new life in the here-and-now.

A NEW KIND OF COMMUNITY It’s not just Paul who talks about the interconnectedness of the various strands of the Gospel knot. The apostle Luke

also talks about it in Acts 4:33-34 when he writes: “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Luke says the resurrection unleashed the grace of God and Christians were losing their grip on their selfishness and beginning to live for one another. The knot entangles all of it: the life of Jesus morphs into the death of Jesus, the death of Jesus morphs into the resurrection of Jesus, and all of this and more will morph into the new heavens and new earth. Until that happens, Christians are able to—through the Spirit— lose their grip on selfishness and instead share a common life with others who are on the way with Jesus. Now for perhaps the most astounding claim of all, one that ties the knot tighter: God made His people to rule over His creation, the point of Genesis 1. But they failed and God sent Christ to rule. Astoundingly,

THE FULL GOSPEL IS AN INTERTWINED STORY OF LIFE, DEATH AND RESURRECTION. Paul says both that Christ now rules and that Christians have joined Him in that rule (Ephesians 1:20; 2:6). What this means is so vital for life in this world: Christians do not see the president or prime minister as the one who rules for them. The Christian's ruler is Jesus Christ, and their destiny is to rule with Him. That rule has entered into this world in the power of the Spirit, and Christians are called to name those powers and to speak victory over those powers by denouncing false rulers and establishing through the political Body of Christ a whole new way of ruling. Pretty much every Christian today calls for “social justice.” But ... why? Why is this so important (and it is)? The answer: the resurrection. Because Christ has been raised, His rule is now the only true rule. Because Christians have been raised with Him, they are summoned to live under that rule and to extend that rule to others in this world—to oppose injustice and fight for those without power. The full “knot” of the Gospel connects the entire life of Jesus, from birth to teachings to miracles to death to resurrection to ascension to the second coming and to the End of Ends when God is All in All. The Gospel has a goal: to create the Kingdom of God, and one element of that “good news” is that it begins now. With you and me. In the here and now. It is all tied into the Gospel knot of grace. SCOT McKNIGHT is the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University. He is the author of several books including The King Jesus Gospel (Zondervan). Follow his blog at


Shape Your Culture You believe that redemptive, positive-value stories are worth telling. At Regent University, we will teach you to craft your stories in ways that are both compelling and meaningful. Let Regent teach you how to move your audience and leave a lasting impression.

888.777.7729 | Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral Degrees Cinema-Television • Communication Studies • Journalism • Theatre Regent University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associates, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404.679.4500 for questions about the accreditation of Regent University. Regent University admits students without discrimination on the basis of race, color, disability, gender, religion or national or ethnic origin. Regent University is certified by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to operate campuses within the Commonwealth of Virginia. COM111264




WATCH All Sons & Daughters live in the RELEVANT Studio

> Worship music doesn’t always have to fill the rafters. Sometimes, it only has to fill the emptiness of life, the lonely drift from one minor spiritual success to another. All Sons & Daughters—who willingly changed their name to avoid confusion with the Scottish alt-rock band Sons & Daughters— sound like the unplugged warm-up band for Chris Tomlin, blissfully unaware of the hand-raising crowd and glaring spotlights. “All the Poor and Powerless” is creaky, organic worship at its finest, where you can hear the honest vocals, hushed piano chords and the crack of a piano bench—before a thudding bass drum kicks in. “Brokenness Aside” sounds like a more down-to-earth and worshipful Eisley, and “Oh Our Lord” starts with a pump organ and light finger-picking as the duo Leslie Jordan and David Leonard begin their ascent: God is majestic on His own, apart from our ability to ascribe Him. All of these artists are playing now on



> Making something listenable and unique is often a challenge. You (usually) can’t have it both ways. With Andrew Bird’s latest, Break It Yourself, the quirky violinist manages to channel old-timey folk machinations and sloppyshoe shuffles that feel homey and genuine, yet packs them with helium to lift every song into an ether-realm. On “Give It Away,” he lumbers along like a modern, hyper-literate folk singer and then adds a full-on orchestral breakdown mid-song. “Near Death Experience Experience” sings about dancing “like cancer survivors,” and happy bell chimes echo the lyrical intonations.

> Even after all this time, Hillsong UNITED still put on a must-see live show. And if you’ve never been able to catch them in concert, Live in Miami is a great way to experience UNITED’s boundless energy and God-honoring vibe. Recorded at the American Airlines Arena in 2011, these 22 well-known tracks from the Australian band include “From the Inside Out,” “Take It All,” “Mighty to Save” and “The Stand,” plus some lesser known but wholly engulfing anthems like “Take Heart” and “Oh You Bring.” The real stars? The audience seems to fill in the echo parts on cue and cheer at all the right spots.





> You know the effect where the camera pans and zooms across vintage photos in a Ken Burns documentary film? That’s how Memoryhouse likes to describe their music—a musical ebb and flow that never quite rises above the tide. On their first full-length following a dreamy EP in 2010, the band—which consists of composer Evan Abeele and photographer/ singer Denise Nouvion—drifts in and out of consciousness on songs like “The Kids Were Wrong,� which paints a vivid picture: lying in your parents’ bed, watching the sun through cracked blinds, and finding ageless sleep beneath starless skies.

> Mette Lindberg, the lead singer

> When a high-profile producer is involved with a sophomore album, music fans take notice. In this case, indie outfit Tennis (think: a twee-pop Leigh Nash meets Arcade Fire) gets a helping hand from Patrick Carney, the drummer in The Black Keys, and the result is more percussive and upbeat. On “Take Me to Heaven,� married couple Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, philosophy majors in college, ask questions about the afterlife and not believing in what they can’t see. Yet, there’s a pervasive sense of hope: They long for a place where “mistakes can’t overtake me� and how we might possess a soul.

> After a five-year stall, The Shins return on their own label (an imprint of Columbia) with James Mercer playing most of the instruments, writing the songs and singing lead vocals. Songs like “It’s Only Life� have a rollicking folkpop feel, a mid-stream guitar solo and sentiments about embracing the inevitable. On “Simple Song,� there’s a squiggly euro-dance synth part that makes the band sound a bit less like Arcade Fire this time out. “Bait and Switch� has an emotive appeal a la MUTEMATH—no morose low-fi rock here. Instead, the inventive chord progressions channel Sting or maybe Modest Mouse.

of Asteroids Galaxy Tour, has more spunk than a can of Red Bull, belting out her psych-pop songs as though her lungs were filled with helium. Out of Frequency, the band’s sophomore effort, features spontaneous synth parts that work well for iPod commercials and episodes of Chuck. “Major,� a song about finding your place in a chaotic world, sounds like a crash between big band and reggae. The lead single, “Heart Attack,� borrows a piano part from the ’60s but adds a furious bass line. “Mafia� has a late-stage breakdown that sounds like a Nintendo video game gone wonderfully awry.

You develop into a different sort of professional at Messiah: by entrusting human possibility to the promise of God’s grace by defining justice and the means to secure it by thinking across cultures. You’re ready to see the broader meaning of everything you do. Messiah College. See anew.

sharpening intellect deepening christian faith inspiring action 800.233.4220 Grantham, Pa.

Come see us at our Spring 2012 Open House on Saturday, April 14.




> Among the current crop of writers whose work is often classified as “spiritual memoir,” Lauren Winner stands at the top. Her debut, Girl Meets God, and its follow-up, Mudhouse Sabbath, featured a compelling mix of wit and wisdom; they were filled with poignant, and sometimes painful, candor. Winner’s latest book, Still, is about being in the middle of faith, about what happens when, as Winner writes, “the assumptions and habits that sustained you in your faith life in earlier years no longer seem to hold you.” It is the story of one who wrestles with God, and finds herself blessed in the process. Instead of pie-in-the-sky platitudes, Winner offers us a hope hard-won through suffering and perseverance. Still is for those who have been awhile at this thing called faith, for those who sometimes struggle to stay at it, for those who’ve made it to the middle and hope to see it through to the end.



> Joseph Campbell said that myths are public dreams, and dreams are private myths. One wonders, then, how to describe the creations of great authors who press language against intuition to rework myths into powerful new creations. In Ragnarok, A.S. Byatt reimagines the Norse myth of the end of the world, as mediated through the experiences of a young girl who has fled the London Blitz. It sheds a contemporary light on a timeless story, while presenting a vision of global violence as sobering in 2012 America as it was in 13th-century Norway.

> Wild Abandon centers on the quirky founding family of a backto-the-land Welsh commune. But the family is fracturing under internal pressures: the patriarch, Don Riley, loves being in charge too much; his wife has had enough; his daughter is collegebound; and his son is anticipating the apocalypse. The Rileys would fit in well in a Wes Anderson film, yet Joe Dunthorne handles his characters deftly, using their idiosyncrasies to deepen the novel’s poignancy. Wild Abandon confirms Dunthorne’s place as one of our most exciting literary voices.

“I want the presence of God himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with the religious . . . I want all that God has, or I don’t want any.”

The A. W. Tozer Bible There’s something unvarnished about classics. Writers like C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and A. W. Tozer didn’t compromise their faith in order to be liked. They fought for authenticity. No bells and whistles, no feel-good sensibilities, just the real deal. And today we want that back. The A. W. Tozer Bible joins together more than 500 selected passages from Tozer’s most pivotal works with the KJV scriptures. You’ll be inspired, challenged, and convicted by language that is as immediate as if it were just written. They’re classics for a reason.



> When Gil Scott-Heron died last May at the age of 62, he was eulogized as a poet, novelist, musician and the “godfather of rap.” The final decades of his life were characterized less by music than by jail time and illness (he was a drug addict and HIV-positive). The Last Holiday is mostly silent about those struggles, but Scott-Heron’s voice comes through, crackling with the brilliance, generosity, lucidity and revolutionary spirit that have inspired succeeding generations of artists and activists.

> In 1968, in the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, a Jesuit priest and professor named John Brooks recruited 20 black men to attend the College of the Holy Cross. It was an extraordinary group of freshmen that proved to include several leading lights of their generation. Fraternity takes a closer look at five of those students as well as the visionary Father Brooks. This inspiring book affirms the truth of Henry Adams’ statement that, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

WHEN I WAS A CHILD I READ BOOKS MARILYNNE ROBINSON (PENGUIN GROUP (USA)) > The seventh book from Marilynne Robinson—author of the novels Housekeeping and Gilead—is her second collection of essays. When I Was a Child I Read Books explores the relationship between religion and science, the role of faith in society, the life of the mind and “the miraculous privilege of existence”—drawing inspiration from the likes of Moses, Virgil, Calvin and Whitman. This might seem like familiar territory for Robinson, but what is striking is how necessary the book feels: These are the right essays at the right time.

LETTERS TO A FUTURE CHURCH: WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT AND PROPHETIC APPEALS CHRIS LEWIS (FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX) > Inspired by the apostle John’s letters to the seven churches, Letters to a Future Church, edited by Chris Lewis, features more than 20 letters written in response to the question, “If you had one thing to say to the North American church, what would it be?” This moving collection features an admirable range of responses, including contributions from Makoto Fujimura, Shane Claiborne, Rachel Held Evans and Walter Brueggemann.

YC2012 A CONFERENCE FOR STUDENTS We all have veils...masks in our life that separate us from the world and from God. But what if we were...

April 20-22

register at YC.TAYLOR.EDU 15% discount given to registrations before March 20th. Registration cost is $99 per student and includes meals, lodging, t-shirt, and a concert with Sidewalk Prophets and Josh Wilson.





(PARAMOUNT PICTURES, PG) > Known for films full of pulp and grit, Martin Scorsese takes a new turn with this 3D animated picture. The story, adapted from the 2007 pictorial novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, centers on Hugo (Asa Butterfield), an orphan boy living inside the walls of a 1930s Paris train station. As he seeks to unlock a mystery surrounding his deceased father (Jude Law) and a legendary filmmaker (Ben Kingsley), alongside his new pal Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), a story about the pertinence and preservation of film emerges. In the process, Scorsese creates a visual spectacle. From fast chases through the crowds and clocks of the station, to a library scene in which pages of a book transform into moving images, he takes 3D to places it has never been before. In the end, a powerful narrative consummates such visual awe. When a filmmaker finally realizes his legacy and Hugo comes to terms with his father’s death and finds his purpose in the world, an overwhelming sense of redemption fills the screen.



> As its title suggests, this new documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog explores the bottomless depths of human experience. While investigating a triple homicide in a rural Texas town and the two young men convicted of the crime, one on death row, the film takes a close look at the death penalty. It puts into question the benevolence of the sentence and the very concept of justice. Despite the difficult nature of the subject matter, though, Herzog seems to be more concerned with life than death as he makes a case for love and grace.

> Though lacking in subtlety and

with a handful of clichés, Machine Gun Preacher does what most religious films fail to do: It explores Christianity honestly and, contrary to its title, doesn’t preach. Starring a convincing Gerard Butler as an ex-con who becomes “born again,” the action drama follows his journey to South Sudan, where he leads a crusade on behalf of the thousands of “invisible children” in the country. While Butler’s character seeks to take down the warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, pertinent questions concerning faith, violence and war arise.

Navigating uncertainty. Engaging new relationships. Protecting God’s creation. Questioning assumptions.

Explore these degrees | Master of Divinity, MA Marriage & Family Therapy, MA (Religion), Doctor of Ministry

800.264.1839 |

Steven Ogdie

Master of Divinity Student Allen Park, MI

THE MUPPETS (WALT DISNEY PICTURES, PG) > After a 12-year hiatus, the

Muppets, at last, make their return and prove that, even in today’s cynical world and film industry, they can still entertain. Featuring a slew of celebrities—including Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Jack Black and Chris Cooper—the film follows the beloved Muppet crew as they try to rescue their old theater from the greedy hands of an oil magnate. This production, one of the most acclaimed blockbusters of 2011, makes for a fun, hilarious and nostalgic musical adventure with a gleeful feeling of optimism.

THE ARTIST (LA PETITE REINE, PG-13) > As a mostly silent black-andwhite film, The Artist turns out to be a surprising crowd-pleaser. Set in Hollywood during the late 1920s and early 1930s, the film focuses on a silent movie star (Jean Dujardin) who falls from grace and fame at the onset of talkies. The real story, though, comes through in his relationship with a successful starlet (Bérénice Bejo) who, out of love, helps him get back on his feet. Anchored by powerful performances and physical comedy, which pays homage to the period it reflects, this charming French romance plays with pure delight.


Adventures of Tintin is a fun throwback to his Indiana Jones series. From a motorcycle sidecar pursuit to a search for an ancient scroll in the Middle East, the animated adventure arrives full of nostalgia. Based on a set of comics from the 1940s, the story follows a young journalist, his little white dog and a drunken sea captain as they embark on a hunt for lost treasure. In the spirit of Spielberg and his body of work, the film is a magical and visually striking ride with a totally unforgettable one-cut chase scene.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (WEINSTEIN COMPANY, R) > An unconventional biopic of the quintessential American sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe, Simon Curtis’ first feature film stars Michelle Williams as the eminent blonde beauty. From the perspective of a young Brit named Colin Clark, the film centers on the short affair Clark had with Monroe. Curtis treats the cultural icon with pure sympathy, asking us to consider her a victim of her environment, a broken woman desperately wanting to be loved. In that, he receives considerable help from Williams and her mesmerizing performance.

I knew from Discovery Weekend that Austin Seminary was the best fit for me, but it has exceeded all of my expectations. In preparation for ministry, I believe that community life is every bit as important as what we learn in the classroom. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to enroll here. —Chris Dunn, Annapolis, Maryland

Substance. Scripture. Service. Austin Seminary encourages growth in mind and spirit, toward discernment of God’s leading.




Even though Daniel Bashta’s most recent album, The Sounds of Daniel Bashta, is his debut, it’s already made significant waves. The song “Like a Lion” has been recorded by David Crowder* Band and Newsboys, and his music is sung in churches all over the world. Which makes sense, because Bashta’s goal is to participate in a worldwide movement of worship. The son of missionaries, Bashta grew up living everywhere from the Netherlands to Bali. Those travels gave him a unique worldview,

helping him marry his faith to a call to justice. He’s started a nonprofit ministry called GoMotion and has also become involved in the world of adoption advocacy, having adopted a son with his wife. Bashta’s music is simultaneously organic and arena-ready, filled with both intimacy and soaring cries to God. His performances at the RELEVANT Studio show Bashta at his best—plaintive and Godhonoring. See them on

WATCH Daniel Bashta and an all-star band show why he’s an exciting new talent in worship music




Kye Kye has been making waves since their debut, Young Love, came out in 2011. The combination of taut electronic beats, ethereal vocals and deeply spiritual lyrics filled a void for many fans. If you’ve wondered what Kye Kye’s wonderfully cloistered songs would sound like stripped down to their acoustic roots, that’s exactly what they did during their session at the RELEVANT Studio.

WATCH Kye Kye perform an intimate set at the RELEVANT Studio on


Sarah MacIntosh, former lead singer of seminal ’90s Christian band Chasing Furies, now makes music on her own. The legacy of the Furies carries on in MacIntosh’s reflective and worshipful songs. She performed some of her new music—taken from her March 6 release, Current—at the RELEVANT Studio, and the results are as raw and moving as you would hope.

WATCH Sarah MacIntosh performs some of her new music on


“That was more awkward than a Lana Del Rey performance.” “Is it on the soundtrack to Garden State 2: Revenge of the Lycans?” “They’ve got their mesh tank tops and Speedos and Crocs and it’s party time.” “So the pressure is on for me to become a viral sensation.” LISTEN The RELEVANT Podcast is new every Friday. Subscribe at iTunes and join the conversation in the podcast section at




8 First Word 10 Letters 12 Slices 26 REJECT APATHY: Not For Sale


28 WORLDVIEW: We Need More Boring Christians 30 THE PULSE: My Search for Truth 34 The Drop Sharon Van Etten, Givers, High Society

40 An Unexpected Awakening A look at Europe’s changing spiritual climate

44 The Age of Arrested Development 58 2012 New Music Guide 64 Gungor 68 Jason Segel

50 T HE R OO T S


70 Highway to the Danger Zone A humble plea for Hollywood to bring back the golden age of American cinema: the 1980s

74 A Black and White Issue? Tattoos are so common, they hardly get a second thought anymore. Should a Christian response be different?

78 Who Would Jesus Deport? 82 A Connected Gospel 88 Recommends 94 From the RELEVANT Studio

RELEVANT Issue 56  

The Roots, Revival in Europe, Gungor, Jason Segel, Immigration

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you