ISSUE 61 / JAN_FEB 2013 / $4.95
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make disciples of Jesus.” —from the foreword by David Platt
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Urban edUcation is the greatest social jUstice and civil rights issUe in america
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REACH THE WORLD RIGHT HERE AT HOME
THE MAGAZINE ON FAITH, CULTURE AND INTENTIONAL LIVING January/February 2013, Issue 61 The best thing Nic Cage has been in, in years.
PUBLISHER & CEO | Cameron Strang > email@example.com Managing Editor | Tyler Huckabee > firstname.lastname@example.org Content Development Editor | Stephanie Smith > email@example.com Copy and Process Editor | Christianne Squires > firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: John Brandon, Jesse Carey, Francis Chan, Tyler Charles, Matt Conner, Jeff Cook, Christine and Adam Jeske, Emily McFarlan Miller, Dan Miller, Jack Riggins, David Roark, Amy Simpson, Kester Smith, Laura Studarus, Kelli B. Trujillo, Ken Wytsma Senior Account Manager | Jeff Rojas > email@example.com Account Manager | Wayne Thompson > firstname.lastname@example.org Ad Traffic & Customer Service Coordinator | Sarah Heyl > email@example.com Design Director | Chaz Russo > firstname.lastname@example.org Graphic Designer | Mike Forrest > email@example.com Multimedia and Marketing Designer | Evan Travelstead > firstname.lastname@example.org Production and iPad Coordinator | Christina Cooper > email@example.com Producer | Chad Michael Snavely > firstname.lastname@example.org Photographer | Julia Cox > email@example.com CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS: Ryan Booth, Jory Cordy, Jeremy Cowart, Melinda Culp, Autumn de Wilde, Bryan Sheffield Web Producer | Lin Jackson > firstname.lastname@example.org Web Production Assistant | Steven Linn > email@example.com Systems Administrator | Josh Strohm > firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation & Fulfillment Director | Stephanie Fry > email@example.com Marketing Manager | Calvin Cearley > firstname.lastname@example.org Partnership & Distribution Coordinator | Frankie Alduino > email@example.com Finance and Project Director | Maya Strang > firstname.lastname@example.org Operations Coordinator | Victoria Hill > email@example.com ADVERTISING INQUIRIES: www.RELEVANTmagazine.com/advertise
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A TIME TO PIVOT BY C AMERON S TR ANG
10 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
YOU CAN EITHER STAY THE COURSE, OR YOU CAN CHOOSE TO PIVOT.
Cameron Strang is the founder and CEO of
RELEVANT. Connect with him on Twitter @CameronStrang or Facebook.com/ CameronStrang.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
here’s something I’ve learned over the last decade of publishing RELEVANT. It’s profound. Could change your life. I don’t know if you’re ready for it. Here it is: (Dramatic pause.) Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Let that sink in. See? Media, like life, is all about intentional adaptation. Take this issue, for example. It turned out dramatically different than how we planned it—and even how it looked a week before going to print. The cover story, major features—everything seemed to change in the 11th hour. We’ve known for a long time we wanted our January cover to tackle a hard-hitting “issue.” So we worked for months on a cover story looking at the conflict in the Holy Land—why it’s happening, peacemaking efforts, the (forgotten) story of the Church there and the eye-opening narratives our generation has to grapple with. Especially the Christians. We took a crew to the Holy Land in October (my second journey there in nine months), where we again met with political and church leaders on both sides of the wall, taped countless hours of interviews, shot a ton of video and prepped for one of the most robust and, dare I say, important cover stories we’ve ever published. Everything was in motion. Everything was good. We had a great writer working on the piece. We had access to leading voices. But then ... Things started to change in the region. The week before we went to print, violence escalated in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. Hundreds of rockets were fired, military force was striking back and civilian deaths were mounting on both sides. A cease-fire was announced just before we went to print, though I’m skeptical it will last long. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people is a loaded issue. Whatever you think you know about it—the theology, history, politics, human rights aspects—there’s another side you haven’t heard. An important counter-narrative overlays the entire thing—a third way—and we don’t have the luxury of ignorance any longer.
In our magazine, we have basically one shot to get it right. And just like with partisan American politics, if we take one misstep—or even use a wrong term—people on both sides won’t hear anything we’re trying to say. The last thing I wanted to do was rush to print with an article that could have been outdated the day it released. Or make some other error because of how quickly things kept changing in the region. Yanking a cover story at any point causes chaos for our team—let alone a cover yanked at the last minute. But that’s exactly what we did. We went back to the drawing board the week before print, even though it typically takes four months to put together an issue. A lot of late nights ensued, but the issue you hold in your hands is one we pray will impact a lot of lives. By removing the initial cover story, it opened up a lot of pages. And we hustled to make the most of them. In hindsight, the way this issue came together feels more balanced, timely, personal and accessible—even though it wasn’t initially planned that way and wasn’t easy (at all) to dramatically change direction mid-stream. Sometimes in life, you’re faced with a decision. You can either stay the course, or you can choose to pivot. There are always reasons to stay the course. The job you hate is stable and has good benefits. The guy you’re dating has become a jerk, but you’ve been together so long. You’d love to move to Austin, but you don’t know anyone there. You already have all those size 38 jeans; it’d be expensive to buy a smaller wardrobe. It’d be too much work to change a 10-page cover story at a really late stage in the game. Sometimes you have to pivot because of a crisis or situation beyond your control. Sometimes the pivot is prompted by something way less overt, but you still know you need to make a change. It’s the beginning of a new year, the perfect time to take inventory of your life and prayerfully look for areas where a pivot can move things for the better. Your relationships, your job, your walk with God, your habits, your giving—are there areas where you need to intentionally pursue a new path? Life never goes exactly how we plan it. The question is, what are you going to do when faced with a need—or opportunity—to make a change? In case you’re wondering, the Israel story is going to be our May cover. And yes, it will be dramatically different than the one we would have run in January. Major pivots are rarely easy. But they’re always worth it.
THE HEAVY OS GUINNESS PURITY RING LAUREN WINNER DIVINE FITS RALPH WINTER
BOB GOFF’S 10 KEYS TO AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE
RELE VANTMAG A ZINE.COM
[LE T TERS]
FEEDBACK [NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 20 12]
THE YEAR OF
I’m so glad you had Rainn Wilson on the last cover. Playing such an iconic character like Dwight Schrute must lead to a good amount of gray area between the character and the actor. It was nice to learn about Rainn!
T WEETNESS @jgmalooly Biggest accomplishment thus far of this young day? Re-subscribing to @RELEVANT. Narrowly beat out finding my old comfy slippers. @ThatMeTaraB The Nov/Dec issue of @RELEVANT for iPad is legitimately blowing my mind. It’s a brilliant work of art + thought-provoking content.
— JESSICA RIDGEMOORE / Oakland, CA 5 VISIONARIES TELL US
ISSUE 60 / NOV_DEC 2012 / $4.95
“WHAT I WISH I KNEW THEN”
I’ve never been more inspired reading a RELEVANT article than I was after I finished Bob Goff ’s [“10 Ways to Live an Extraordinary Life,” Nov/Dec 2012]. In the past month, I’ve quit things on four Thursdays and answered every single phone call I’ve received. And that’s just the beginning!
As a 25-year-old who has been married for a few years, has no kids and is ready to wait, I found hope and joy in this article [“The Kid Effect,” Nov/Dec 2012]. I feel better equipped to love and serve my friends with kids and more ready to handle it one day myself. Thanks, RELEVANT. Your magazine is constantly life-giving.
—CASSIE MOLARITH / Portland, OR
—KATIE QUESADA / via email
Is it just me, or is Joseph Gordon-Levitt [Nov/Dec 2012] in a new movie every month? And pretty major ones, too!
I have been so frustrated lately bouncing from church to church, trying to find one that feels like home. The church-shopping article [“A Good Church Is Hard to Find,” Nov/Dec 2012] gave me a hard dose of reality —I realized maybe it wasn’t them, it was me. I’m trying to get through this next season putting down my criticism and picking up my willingness to embrace something new.
—DEIDRE LAVOTH / Houston, TX
—CONNOR COLARUSSO / Melbourne, Australia
Yikes. Someone was fined $675,000 for downloading music illegally [“The Smackdown on Illegal Downloading,” Nov/Dec 2012]? No more of that for me ... —J.J. ALAHAM / Buffalo, NY
I’ve had this idea for a while that Christians need their own New Yorker, so to speak—a true and clear voice on the issues, with quality of design and writing that makes even its critics begrudgingly appreciate it. Then I came across RELEVANT. I’m intrigued by your success so far and happy to see what God is doing through you. Keep on being an encouragement!
—ANDREA SLEUTH / Atlanta, GA
—MARGARET FOX / Princeton, NJ
[L E T U S H E A R F R O M Y O U : F E E D B A C K@ R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M , F A C E B O O K . C O M / R E L E VA N T O R T W I T T E R . C O M / R E L E VA N T.]
12 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
@revdward Just bought my first subscription to @RELEVANT magazine, and now I’m wondering why I waited so long. #loveatfirstread @B_Thunderhands Loving this week’s #NotLeftBehind
@CalebCThomas I’m convinced @RELEVANT on the iPad is the best designed digital magazine out there. #thingofbeauty @zimmolog y Finally getting to listen to this week’s @RELEVANTpodcast. I do not apologize for the joy and laughter that is emitting from my cubicle.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
The Reject Apathy story on how the homeless struggle with the holidays [“Homeless for the Holidays,” Nov/Dec 2012] was heart-wrenching. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I’m now working with a few churches in my area to start a coalition providing shelter for those living on the streets this winter.
@LydiaNess As always, this month’s @RELEVANT is fantastic. Reading it cover to cover—@IJMHQ, @bobgoff, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rainn Wilson.
SLICES A BIMON T HLY LOOK AT LIF E, FA I T H & CULT UR E
[ O U R L E F T B E H I N D P L O T P R E D I C T I O N S ]
60% Odds the rapture’s explanation will be written on the back of the Constitution.
30% Odds Larry the Cable Guy will co-star as Cage’s bumbling sidekick.
NIC CAGE TO REBOOT ‘LEFT BEHIND’ A movie about the End Times may well also be a sign of the End Times. Gather your loved ones.
14 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
multiverse—meaning, it had to happen somewhere. The original Left Behind movies, starring Kirk Cameron, adapted the mega-successful Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins End Times novels that sold more than 65 million copies. Paul Lalonde, writer and producer of the original movies, and John Patus, who worked on the final entry, 2005’s Left Behind: World at War, have written a screenplay and are hoping to take the movie series in a more mainstream direction. So, they are in talks with Cage. He still gets plenty of work (he’s currently signed on for National Treasure 3 and Expendables 3), and is the rare actor who’s managed to find his groove as the punchline to a wild-eyed, overwraught joke. In that context, in this reality, these two are made for each other.
75% More explosions than the original Left Behind movie.
100% Odds Cage will look in the camera at some point and say, “I’ve been left behind.”
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
certain fringe scientific circles, there exists a theoretical concept called the “multiverse,” in which an infinite number of realities coincide with an infinite number of possibilities. In other words, there’s a reality out there in which you’re a billionaire, another in which you’re an accomplished pirate and so on. For obvious reasons, it’s a widely criticized theory within the “serious” field of scientific inquiry. But then, how else could one explain the recent announcement that Left Behind is likely getting a big-budget reboot starring well-known peddler of lunacy Nicolas Cage? Surely such a development is only conceivable if we allow for the reality of a
[ M I S C ] A junk dealer returned $115,000 in savings bonds to a Massachusetts woman after discovering them in a hope chest she
January 1, 2013 Happy “Become a
Member at Your Gym to Finally Get Back Into the Shape You Were in High School” Day.
A dating site
aftermath of death ...
ou know all the lines about how politically divided Christians are these days and the brewing civil war between Republican Christians and Democratic Christians and all that? Well, the statistics surrounding the 2012 presidential election prove the exact opposite. In fact, born-again Christians were more unified than ever this last election cycle, with four Republican votes being cast by evangelicals for every one Democratic vote. Governor Mitt Romney’s share of the evangelical vote was bigger than any presidential candidate before him, with 80 percent of evangelicals casting their ballot his way. Romney even pulled in more of the evangelical vote than the Mormon vote, in stark contrast to pundit predictions in 2011. Contrary to popular belief, the trend of evangelicals voting Republican is a relatively new pheonomenon. In 1982, evangelical voters were as split as the rest of the country, with the shift toward political homogeneity growing steadily ever since.
10 Things You Should Care About Right Now
donated in the her mother’s
UNITED EVANGELICALS STAND The 2012 election saw evangelicals vote Republican at a 4-to-1 ratio.
FLAVOR OF THE BIMONTH
Blue Monday Of all 365 days of the year,
psychologists have managed
to pin down January 22 as the
most depressing. Do they know
provides a place
something about a Dashboard
for Star Trek
Confessional reunion we don’t?
and Star Wars fans to connect and find romance. What
The Grammys and the Oscars
February 10 and 24—the most
important, magical nights of
a Trek fan falls
the year. For Los Angeles.
for a Wars fan? Is that even allowed? ... You’re a movie star, Charlie Brown. The Peanuts gang is getting a bigbudget movie, hitting theaters in 2015 ...
Broken City Russell Crowe as a crooked
mayor. Mark Wahlberg as the excop who’s his worst nightmare.
RUSSIA’S NEW BATTLE: THE INTERNET
16 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
move by Putin to exercise greater control over the population. “Of course there are websites that should not be accessible to children, but I don’t think it will be limited to that,” Yuri Vdovin, vice president of Citizens’ Watch, a human rights organization based in Saint Petersburg, told the BBC. “The government will start closing other sites—any democracyoriented sites are at risk of being taken offline,” says Vdovin. “It will be [an attack on] the freedom of speech on the Internet.”
WATCH The Broken City trailer
Super Bowl XLVII Come for the football. Stay
for the commercials, food, parties and Beyoncé’s halftime show.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
A law that began with the noblest of intentions—to make the Internet a safe place for kids— has the potential to curb free speech in Russia. In July, Vladimir Putin signed the amended Act for Information, which took effect in October, giving the Russian government free rein to blacklist and shut down websites it deems harmful, without any due process. What are the limits of this law? How is “harmful to children” defined? Critics are raising these questions, seeing the law as a
January 18, bros will collide.
An invasion has hit the River Thames, as nearly 100 species not native to Britain have been discovered
game series back in the hands of its creators, and early buzz is hot.
date for this one.
unearthed in an attic by a man whose father
interview for he never completed. Time to clean
Colo., a thief stole an SUV left running in a Wal-Mart
The newest Die Hard trailer.
Valentine’s Day Remember: The only
thing worse than Valentine’s
Day is people who won’t stop
Nothing too out
complaining about it.
here—except for the fact
Ash Wednesday February 13 marks the
that the vehicle
beginning of Lent and the day to
receive the imposition of ashes.
several tubs of live, exotic
4. See Every Movie
If you want people to take you seriously in your role as host, you need to have seen every nominated movie. Since that’s nearly impossible, you’ll have to strike the convincing air of someone who has seen all the movies—and has opinions.
reptiles. Without knowing it, the thief made off with a 13-foot Burmese python, a rattlesnake,
It wouldn’t be an Oscar party without red-faced indignation when something that should have won doesn’t. If you’re not sure what should win, just get mad at everything.
a gecko, a
Ladies and gentlemen, boys
and girls: Your four more years
gets its big, official kick-off on
tortoise named Stumpy ...
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
18 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
your attic ...
of the ordinary
This year’s host is Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy. So, no
Props to whoever decided
King Jr. was
1. Extravagant Formalwear
3. Toleration of Seth MacFarlane
A Good Day to Die Hard
February 14 would be the release
The important thing to keep in mind with fancy food is that it can’t be hearty, substantive or filling in any way. And if ever there is a time to bust out fancy food, it’s at your Oscar party. Consider fun, classy options, such as birdseeds with a pinch of olive oil, or maybe a salad of water.
It never fails. The moment you lift your head off the pillow the morning of the Oscar telecast, you’re struck with the horrifying realization: You haven’t even thought about planning your big Oscar party. You imagine the look on your guests’ faces. Their scandalized disdain. Well, not this year. Just keep this Oscar party checklist handy, and your get-together will be a surefire blockbuster.
2. Tiny Food
The less said about the first
BioShock sequel, the better. But
Sure, you’ll be watching the broadcast from a coffee-stained couch you have to soak in Febreze before you’d even consider sitting on it, but you’ll be wearing that gorgeous new gown. You’re sure to feel like a movie star.
Infinite, its follow-up, puts the
The 85th Academy Awards are on February 24. Are you ready?
Oscar party would be complete without a healthy ability to withstand painfully lazy non-sequitors that are as offensive for their crass content as they are for their startling lack of imagination. Forewarn your guests.
OSCAR PARTY CHECKLIST
10 Things You Should Care About Right Now
in its waters.
[ T H E R E L E VA N T ]
FLAVOR OF THE BIMONTH
[ M I S C ]
[ M I S C ] Time to download “Shatoetry,” a new app where you compose poems and hear William Shatner recite them back to you. And they say poetry is dead ... The most indebted man in America, Jerome Kerviel, owes
AN ORIGINAL NOAH
arren Aronofsky, the filmmaking wunderkind behind Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream, is hard at work on a huge-budget film adaptation of the Noah story—and it will come as no surprise to his legions of fans that it all sounds thoroughly weird. Far from the kindly, bearded zookeeper of past depictions, Aronofsky’s Noah (a perfectly cast Russell Crowe) is more of a Mad Max-esque, battle-hardened warrior, a lone holdout of righteousness in a world gone to some deeply terrifying bad place. This Noah will deal with the Nephilim (the mysterious offspring of human women and the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis), and his ark looks to be more like a last fortress of decency than the cartoony lifeboat you remember from those Sunday School flannelgraphs. The movie also stars Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly, and Aronofsky gets points for authenticity in casting the world’s oldest actor, Sir Anthony Hopkins, as the world’s oldest man, Methuselah. Authenticity sure is the name of the game for this film. The elephantine replica of the arky-arky was stationed in New York’s Oyster Bay during Hurricane Sandy’s landfall. The ark was battered but remains sound, and our modern-day deluge only set production back a few days. The movie hits theaters March 2014.
his former employer $6.3 billion for fraudulent stock trades made in 2007 and 2008 ... If you’re subscribed to the Taliban’s daily email newsletter, you may want to disappear for a while. The terrorist spokesman forgot to “bcc” the recipients in November’s update ...
Lena Dunham’s $3.5 Million Deal It’s a good time to be Lena Dunham. The 26-year-old has two feature films under her belt and a hit HBO series, Girls. Plenty of people are heralding her as the next Tina Fey, but few expected quite the amount of love the announcement of her first book, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned, received. Her proposal set off a bidding war that culminated in a nauseainducing $3.5-million advance offer from Random House. That’s right: advance. Random House is betting $3.5 million on an author who has yet to publish a single word. But if Dunham’s memoir doesn’t sound like your bag, no worries. Ke$ha’s memoir dropped in November.
GOT TO ADMIT, IT’S GETTING BETTER
20 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
versus “thriving” in October 2012 had nearly flipped since February 2009, according to a recent Gallup poll. And the 18-to-29-year-old demographic showed itself to be the most positive of them all. Four years ago, 56 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said they were thriving, and that percentage has since risen to 61.2. There’s a reason the Pew Research Center has long touted the Millennial generation as “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.” Anything could happen—and Millennials tend to think that “anything” will turn out OK. What can we say? We just prefer being positive.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
It’s been a tough four years for a lot of people. Wall Street broke. Unemployment went off the rails. The housing market ran into a wall. The national debt now creeps toward an ominous fiscal cliff. And yet, in spite of it all, the American public—and young adults in particular— have landed on decidedly more optimistic ground than where they stood in the first month of President Obama’s first term. In fact, the ratio of Americans who reported their well-being as “struggling”
CU RRENT [SLICES]
[ M I S C ] George Michael himself, Michael Cera, is writing for the new season of Arrested Development. What is he, funny or something? ... A 9-year-old Ukranian boy found his parents’ life savings—about $4,000 worth— and spent it all on candy over the course of two weeks. And just like that, childhood has found its new champion ... A super-zealous Hobbit fan
WARNING: DISNEY’S BUYING UP YOUR CHILDHOOD
did what any
It started in 2008, when Walt Disney not be such a bad holding tank for surprised almost everyone by buying your childhood after all. That, at least, Marvel Comics for $4 billion, throw- seems to be their thinking. The House ing superhero fans into super panic of Mouse has dug deep into its nearly attacks about the inevitable fates of bottomless pockets over the last few Spider-Man, the X-Men and all the rest. months to rope in nearly every piece of Horrific conspiracy theories about a nostalgia you’ve got. If getting Marvel was like diamond-slippered Wolverine capturing geekdom’s queen, or a mouse-eared Iron Man then its next move was the got the blogosphere seeing checkmate. On October 30, angriest red. Disney dropped another $4 The result was actually billion for Lucasfilm, gaining something much savvier. What Else Films like The Amazing Should Disney the rights to Star Wars and immediately promising to Spider-Man and The Avengers Buy? release Episode VII in 2015, were not only surprisingly with another sequel to follow good—they also had Disney HOSTESS After all, the minting money. In the middle Twinkie’s recipe is every two to three years. And Disney’s not done yet. of a movie market on the up for grabs. As of print, they were in talks to downturn, The Avengers raked in over $600 million at the box NICKELODEON net Hasbro, which would give Can’t you just see office, making it one of only Dora the Explorer them exclusive rights to pretty much everything in your three films to ever do so. as a Disney childhood toychest. So, it turns out Disney may princess?
Bag End, the
In the early days of the Internet, GIFs were associated with the worst parts of the Internet. You probably remember dancing hearts on email forwards or eye-searing bedazzlements to MySpace pages. These days, GIFs have morphed into the Internet’s universal language, used to express emotions that online commenters feel mere words can’t. Essentially, GIFS are those thousand words that pictures are always supposed to signify. Now Oxford Dictionaries has named “GIF” its U.S. Word of the Year. So deserving. Congratulations, GIF. You’ve come a long way.
balloons to spare would do: He re-created most famous of
R ELE VA N T M AG A ZINE.COM
[ Q U E S T I O N O F T H E D A Y ]
Hobbit holes, entirely out of balloons. One nerd to rule
Your dream job? Josh Jensen: Directing the Left Behind reboot.
them all ... Michael Rogers: I’d like to be Bob Goff. The Internet’s boyfriend, Ryan Gosling, now has his very own coloring book. The book’s description says it’s “the only thing more appealing than Gosling himself,” which seems a little bit of an oversell ...
Advice for your 13-year-old self? Jonathan Chirnside: Quit wearing so much aftershave to school every day. Liesbetjie: Start jogging. P.S. You’ll love it eventually, and it changes your life.
Your biggest pet peeve? Avery: Waiting and waiting and still not getting my Hogwarts letter. Like, what the heck, Owl? To get in on future #QOTD action, follow @RELEVANT on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
22 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
Oxford’s Word of the Year: “GIF”
THE END OF THE
(AS THEY THOUGHT IT)
A LOOK BACK AT A STRING OF FAILED APOCALYPSE PREDICTIONS
of this writing, the world has not ended. There’s no telling what straits everything will be in by the time you read this, but if you heed the warnings of some ancient Mayans and their modern adherents, things could be getting pretty dicey right about now. There’s just no telling at this point, but, frankly, we like our odds.
The predicted demise of the world on December 21, 2012, was far from the first time the warning bell has been rung. All manner of surefire apocalypses have been sounded throughout history, and each time, the Earth has spun right through it. The countdown hasn’t hit zero yet. But while we’re waiting for the world to end, take a look at a few of history’s biggest false alarms.
BIBLE STUDENT MOVEMENT/JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES, 1914 It started in 1914. A certain interpretation of the Book of Daniel gave Jehovah’s Witnesses reason to believe the end was very nigh indeed, and they prepared accordingly. When nothing happened, it was decided they had not gotten the date wrong, only the event—Jesus had actually chosen that day to begin His invisible reign of the world, with an apocalypse to come in the near future. The JWs guessed again with predictions for 1915, 1918, 1925, 1932, 1941, 1975 and 1994—all to no avail.
THE GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT, 1843-1844
HALLEY’S COMET, 1910
A Baptist minister named William Miller predicted the return of Jesus would take place sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. Jesus was a no-show, but the so-called Millerites kept their faith. After further discussion, the date of the end of the world was changed to April 18, 1844, and then to October 22, 1844. Miller continued to wait for the end of days to appear until his death in 1849.
It’s not always religion. In 1910, the front page of The New York Times reported that Earth was directly in line with the tail of Halley’s Comet, which contained cyanogen, which was related to cyanide, which meant everyone would surely die. Other papers picked up the story, and the result was full-blown global panic. A few astronomers convened to report there was nothing to worry about, but the panic didn’t subside until the comet had safely passed our great globe by.
PAT ROBERTSON, 1982, 2007
THE JUPITER EFFECT, 1982 In 1974, two astrophysicists, John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann, wrote that all nine planets would align on March 10, 1982, creating a gravitational pull that would cause catastrophic sunspots, solar flares and earthquakes. By the time Gribbin admitted it had been more hypothetical thought than actual prediction, it was too late to stem the tide of doomsday predictions. And on March 10, 1982, everyone felt justified when high tide clocked in at 0.04 millimeters higher than usual.
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In May 1980, Pat Robertson dropped this bomb on his 700 Club viewers: “I guarantee you by the end of 1982, there is going to be a judgment on the world.” December 31, 1982, passed without a peep, so Robertson gave it another shot in his book The New Millennium, in which he guessed the end of the world would land on April 29, 2007. Nope.
Y2K, 2000 The idea of Y2K had a nice apocalyptic poetry to it, predicting computers as the instrument of our ruin. It was all very Bradbury-esque. Nobody knew how bad it would be, but almost every expert expected something to happen. And something indeed did: Guns, bottled water and generators were bought in bulk. But the new millennium itself began quietly enough, with just a few glitches.
HEAVEN’S GATE, 1997
When Comet Hale-Bopp swung relatively close to Earth in November 1996, amateur astronomer Chuck Shramek observed a companion object following its tail, which he told a radio show appeared to be a “Saturnlike object.” This sparked a fever among UFO enthusiasts, who believed a spaceship was heading to Earth. Tragically, the Heaven’s Gate cult committed mass suicide in March 1997, believing the comet would collect their spirits once they died.
For 400 years, Michel de Nostredame has been to doomsday predictions what Kellogg’s is to Corn Flakes. His writings are just spooky enough to set the imagination twirling and just vague enough to come true without coming true. Among his most famous quatrains is this: “The year 1999, seventh month / From the sky will come great king of terror.” If by that prediction Nostradamus meant the end of the world would arrive in 1999, as many believed he did, then he was wrong.
1994, 1995, 2011, AND 2011 AGAIN Harold Camping could host a list all his own, what with his serial claims of figuring out when the Earth will take its final bow. Recently, he said Judgment Day would arrive on May 21, 2011, kicked off by global earthquakes and a rapture of the faithful. When May 21 passed, he said he’d been partially wrong— that the date marked a “spiritual rapture” of judgment, to be followed by a physical rapture on October 21, 2011. Camping has since recanted his attempts to make these predictions.
RICHARD NOONE, 2000
SUN MYUNG MOON, 2000
The Y2K bug was a bust, but Richard Noone assured us of yet another impending global catastrophe to come in the year 2000 in his 1997 book, 5/5/2000 Ice: the Ultimate Disaster. According to Noone, the Antarctic ice mass would be three miles thick by May 5, 2000, the same date the planets aligned. He figured this would result in some kind of global ice disaster. It didn’t.
So, 2000 was a big year for end-of-the-world theories, but not all of them were doomsday scenarios. Sun Myung Moon, the famed Korean founder of the Unification Church, predicted 2000 would bring about the Kingdom of heaven and the revelation of the Messiah. His teachings on this were just vague enough that his adherents can still claim he has yet to be proven wrong.
MAYAN CALENDAR, 2012 As of press time, we assume this one was wrong, too. If it wasn’t, no sweat—that means you’re not reading this anyway.
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WO RLDVIE W
BY JEFF COOK
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WHY HASN’T JESUS RETURNED? BECAUSE GOD WANTS YOU TO GROW INTO MATURITY.
Jeff Cook teaches philosophy and is a pastor in Greeley, Colo. He is the author of Everything New: One Philosopher’s Search for a God Worth Believing In. Connect at EverythingNew.org.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
rom the recent rapture hoopla that wasted a hundred million dollars on billboards, to the Left Behind writers who fictionally cast us in the Earth’s last days, to the thousands of Millerites who sold their possessions to stare at a midnight sky in 1844 only to return home at sunrise to the mockery of drunkards, Christians love declaring, “The end is near.” Yes, these declarations have garnered many a punchline— and some hilarious mock-rapture pictures, to boot—but our predictive tendencies are not necessarily a character flaw. Though Jesus is quite clear that no one can know when He will return to annihilate sin and death, many still seek His return. And they seek because they are tired. They are tired of experiencing war, pain and abuse. They are tired of their struggle against sin. They are tired of losing loved ones to disease, and they desire God to end the present age in a health-making, soul-benefiting, Spirit-directed way. So, why hasn’t Jesus returned? What’s taking so long? I would like to suggest that Jesus gave us a clear answer for this. And His reason may be even more meaningful than the elimination of pain and the transformation of our bodies that we’re so looking forward to experiencing at the end of time. In His only parable directly addressing the problem of evil, Jesus said our world is like a wheat field infiltrated with weeds. When asked if he would torch the whole field and start over, the owner of the field in the parable said, “Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then
SO, WHY HASN’T JESUS COME BACK YET?
gather the wheat and bring it into my barn” (Matthew 13:30). This parable reveals why evil remains even though God has the power to end it all: God stays His hand for the sake of the important wheat that is just now beginning to grow, even though its life is intertwined with what will be eliminated someday. And what is this wheat of such great value that God would allow even evil and pain to continue in order to let it grow? The wheat is you—your life, your future, your awakening and transformation. Why hasn’t Jesus returned? Because God wants you to grow into maturity. None of that maturity would have been possible if Jesus had returned for the Millerites in 1844. To return—to walk back onto the stage, as actors do after a play—is to declare an end to the show. It means the end of this world as we know it and the beginning of a new era—an era in which those who have been drawn into Christ are transformed from mere mortals into their eternal selves. Christians have prayed for the end of time since before Pentecost. Yet God’s grace is evident in His delay. Because God has waited, you and I have the opportunity to become eternal personalities fulfilling God’s Kingdom future. And that fulfillment begins now. The key element to the parable of the wheat and the weeds is the growth of the wheat. The New Testament calls this “sanctification,” which is simply the process of becoming more like God. Through this process, our bodies and minds are saved from their self-defeating tendencies to embrace rage, greed, pride and death. During this in-between period, Peter instructed, “What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11-12). Some day—God knows when—the number of God’s children will fill the Father’s house to capacity, and we are part of that work now. We are to speed the coming of Christ, both by inviting others into life in Christ and by inviting God’s future Kingdom into our present. When we choose to make Christ the King of all we are, we experience now what we will experience forever: a united people through the Spirit of God who are following the Son together into the Father’s future. As such, our very lives can and should be sung in unison with the prayer that concludes the Bible: “Come, Lord Jesus.”
D EEPER WALK
BY FR ANCIS CHAN
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MANY CHRISTIANS DON’T HAVE A FRAME OF REFERENCE FOR WHAT DISCIPLEMAKING LOOKS LIKE.
Francis Chan is the bestselling author of Crazy Love and Forgotten God. He lives in Northern
Adapted from Multiply © 2012 Francis Chan and Mark
California with his
Beuving. Permission granted for limited use. Published
wife and five kids.
by David C Cook.
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magine your reaction if someone came back from the dead to speak to you. Seriously—try to imagine that right now. What would you feel? How intensely would you listen? How seriously would you take his or her words? Think about what this must have been like for the disciples. They had been working their everyday jobs when a mysterious teacher asked them to follow Him. As they followed, they saw Him challenge religious leaders, embrace sinners, heal the sick and even raise the dead. They knew He was not ordinary. At various times and to varying degrees, people saw Him as the Messiah who would bring salvation for God’s people. But He never quite fit anyone’s expectations of what the Messiah would do or say. And then He died. Just like that, it was over. The disciples spent three days in confusion and disillusionment. Perhaps they had wasted their time following this mysterious person for three years. Then it happened. He came back from the dead! Now that Jesus had conquered even sin and death, He would certainly fix this broken world. There could be no stopping Him. But once again, Jesus surprised everyone. Instead of telling them that He would immediately transform the Earth, Jesus gave His disciples one final command and then ascended into heaven. Essentially, He told them it was their job to finish what He started—to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything” (Matthew 28:19-20). Many read these words as if they were meant to inspire pastors
A TIME T0 MAKE DISCIPLES
or missionaries on their way out to the mission field. But have you ever considered that maybe Jesus’ command is meant for you? Do we really believe Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the 21st-century Church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a Church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’ command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple-making looks like. For some of us, our church experiences have been so focused on programs that we immediately think about Jesus’ command to make disciples in programmatic terms. We expect our church leaders to create some sort of disciple-maker campaign where we sign up, commit to participating for a few months and then get to cross the Great Commission off our list. But making disciples is far more than a program. It is the mission of our lives. It defines us. A disciple is a disciple-maker. So, what does this look like? The Great Commission uses three phrases to describe what disciple-making entails: go, baptize people and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded. Simple, right? It’s incredibly simple in the sense that it doesn’t require a degree, an ordination process or some sort of hierarchical status. The concept itself is not very difficult. But the simplest things to understand are often the most difficult to put into practice. Realistically, the task will require a lifetime of devotion to studying the Scriptures and investing in the people around us. Neither of these things is easy, nor can they be checked off a list. We are never really “done.” We continually devote ourselves to studying the Scriptures so that we can learn with ever-greater depth and clarity what God wants us to know, practice and pass on. We continually invest in the people around us, teaching them and walking with them through life’s joys and trials. Obviously, only God can change people’s hearts and make them want to become followers. We just have to be obedient in making the effort to teach them, even though we still have plenty to learn ourselves.
YOU NEED TO KNOW
AUTUMN DE WILDE
Ben Folds and His Five Are Back More than 10 years have passed since the Ben Folds Five graced the indie-rock airwaves as a threesome. Burnt out and jaded in 2000, they threw in the towel and embarked on solo careers. Then, in January 2012, Folds announced that the band was back. We caught up with Folds to learn about the new record and what he’s learned in the last 10 years.
CAN THE MUSIC BUSINESS SURVIVE SPOTIFY? We’re finally living in the glorious new age of on-demand streaming music that consumers have been clamoring for since Napster. But how long can it last?
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not a dime to show for them. (Spotify uses its premium subscription monies to pay royalties to artists.) And so, while streaming music is being heralded—and invested in—as the music industry’s savior, it looks like it’s going to need a savior itself. Could that savior be Congress? Spotify’s forerunner, Pandora, has introduced a new bill—and asked its users to show support by lobbying their representatives—to decrease the amount of royalties they’re required to pay for streaming music. Unsurprisingly, Pandora’s move has musicians seeing red. An open letter signed by 100 artists, from Katy Perry to Journey, popped up on the Internet immediately, in which they demanded their fair share. And therein lies the problem: In the glorious age of on-demand music, nobody seems quite sure who’s owed what anymore.
It’s been a decade since you made music as a band. Do you feel “older and wiser” now?
The three wise men? (Laughs.) There are ways we’ve learned a few things. We’ve acquired some skill for working together. I was very impatient when we started out. Things had to sound good immediately, and I wasn’t interested in an idea that I thought might not work. You know, I can take a breath, realize I don’t know everything. Someone else’s suggestion may be better than mine.
As a music veteran, do you feel like you have some wisdom to impart?
It’s not that I think I have this great wisdom to impart, but that I’ve been there. I can either give them the version that exalts me and makes me sound cool, or I can tell them the truth: “I didn’t know what I was doing here. That was frustrating.” READ The full interview with Ben Folds relm.ag/61-ben-folds
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
November, Spotify closed a deal that nabbed an eye-popping $100 million from investors, putting its valuation at about $3 billion. That’s a pretty impressive feat for a company that has yet to make a single penny in profit. Spotify, if you’re not in the know, is the music industry’s latest attempt to keep up with the consumer demand to get everything, immediately, for free. Users sign up for a basic plan that grants monthly access to Spotify’s nearly endless library of music, in exchange for the occasional fingernailson-a-chalkboard quality advertisement, or they can upgrade the account for $10 a month to get unlimited ad-free listening, plus mobile access. It’s a good deal, of course, and millions have signed up, which lands Spotify in the same boat as every other good deal the Internet has ever pitched: lots of fans, and
ARTISTS TO WATCH
Page CXVI Hymns
Why We Love Them Odds are, you’ve heard Page CXVI’s songs a million times. But their genius is in making the compositions as
FOR FANS OF All Sons and Daughters, Ascend the Hill, John Mark McMillan ONLINE www.pagecxvi.com
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Pinback Information Retrieved is like a parade of things that make rock great.
Bad Books Kevin Devine teams up with members of Manchester Orchestra to create music not bad in the slightest.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
thoughtful as the lyrics.
dmit it: You’d expect something a bit liturgical from a band named after the 116th page (CXVI = 116 in Roman numerals) of The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis—the moment Aslan sings creation into existence—and you would be right. The project, started four years ago by Autumn Film bandmates Tifah Phillips, Dann Stockton and Reid Phillips, centers on modernizing old hymns. “We were leading worship in churches a lot,” says Stockton. “We were playing hymns, but we didn’t have anything recorded and we didn’t have a name ... We were doing something different.” Fans hounded the trio for recorded versions of the songs, so they reformed as Page CXVI and channeled their efforts into giving old hymns new life. “We grew up with hymns,” Tifah Phillips says. “I remember being a little girl in church, and it’s just an organ and a bunch of voices, and the music honestly kind of bored me to death. But the words really stood out.” These old-hymns-made-new can reach places traditional versions of the songs never would. “[They] can reach out to a whole different community of people who hear music differently than I do,” says Tifah Phillips.
[ M I S C ] In what is perhaps the saddest music news we’ve heard in a long, long while, Tennessee’s folk-slinging wunderkinds, The Civil Wars, abruptly cancelled their 2013 tour, citing “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” We’re praying this news reverses itself
These Brits, named for the Mac keyboard command for “delta,” won the coveted Mercury Music Prize, charted to the top 20 and performed sold-out shows in the U.S., all without flexing a single publicity muscle (aside from talking to us). Here’s a take:
very soon ... It turns out the cassette tape isn’t dead after all—at least, not for organizations needing to store large
Why We Love Them Alt-J worked on An
We didn’t think a lot of people would like [the album]. We thought a lot of people would think it was pretty weird or didn’t really make sense. We thought we’d do a short U.K. tour, go back, start writing a second album and probably get part-time jobs. We didn’t expect to be catapulted into a world tour. But it’s great.
Awesome Wave for five years, and it shows. The album
is one of the most
An Awesome Wave
innovative and complex of 2012 and positions the English rockers on the
FOR FANS OF Massive Attack, Radiohead, Modest Mouse ONLINE www.altjband.com
periphery of stardom.
amounts of data not requiring immediate access. Cost
GOOD OLD WAR
Why We Love Them
Remember the feeling you had the
first time you heard Mumford & Sons?
are cited as
You’ll have the same reaction to the
the reasons for
harmonies and singalong goodness in
this collection of folk jams.
but maybe it has more to do with nostalgia than anything ... We’re guessing Sufjan Stevens’ cover of “The
Good Old War
Come Back as Rain
Banner” is his cryptic way of announcing his 2016 White
FOR FANS OF The Civil Wars, Kevin Devine, The Head and the Heart ONLINE www.goodoldwar.com
House bid ...
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Q &A You have a very distinct writing and singing style—almost like you use your voice as an instrument. How did that develop?
I just tried to write however I heard things in my imagination. I wanted to express a lot of different sounds, but really it was just me and a piano. So, in that way, I was pretty limited. Out of necessity, I would start to find a sound that I didn’t have access to but that I wanted to still have in the music.
You’ve released multiple versions of several songs—particularly early originals, like “Samson” and “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas).” Why did you choose to do that? Do you review old songs and want to do them differently?
With a new album and a return to her long-lost homeland, the indie icon continues to keep things fresh.
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You went back to Russia earlier this year for the first time since you left in the ’80s. What was that like for you?
It was super emotional. And it was incredible to get to come back to a place I was sure I would never see again when I left. At the time, people didn’t come back and forth to visit. You left forever. It has certain things that you don’t realize you’re missing or that you even remember until you’re there—certain smells, certain colors, certain tastes—that are so specific to it and just don’t exist anywhere else. In that way, it was really incredible to experience that.
WATCH The behindthe-scenes shoot of “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” relm.ag/ 61-regina
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
Among the legions of indie pop princesses—from Joanna Newsom to Florence and her Machine—few are more revered than New York’s anti-folk wonder-worker Regina Spektor. Beginning with the rougish charm of 2004’s Soviet Kitsch, Spektor has crafted a career of quiet importance, stringing sober topics like doubt, love and loss through whimsical, sparkling melodies with charming ease. At 32 years old, Spektor’s won a regard and status generally reserved for artists on the downswing of their creative peak, but she’s still got a long career ahead of her. In the last year, she’s invested in that career with a sixth studio release and a return to Russia, where she was born, to revisit the center of her formative years. She talked to us about going home, how she happened upon her signature sound and why she’s chosen to record different versions of the same songs.
“I TRIED TO WRITE HOW I HEARD THINGS IN MY IMAGINATION.”
It’s not so much that I could have done stuff differently. It’s almost like the way they were recorded, a lot of them, it was just so that I woudn’t forget them. That was actually the purpose of those recordings before I ever put out Songs [her 2002 sophomore album]. That came later, when my friend said, “Why don’t you just take 12 and slap a cover on it and put out a record?” I didn’t know how to write them down and capture them. I was already forgetting a lot of songs, so it was an attempt to archive stuff. But it always felt really unfinished because I didn’t get to arrange or produce. I heard so much stuff in my head for those songs, and I didn’t know how to use the studio. I didn’t have anyone who was remotely interested in producing me. But I never felt that they were finished. I just know that for every song that was just a pianoand-voice song, I could hear arrangements and I would want to properly record them.
CREATE. INNOVATE. LEAD.
WORKING FROM HOME: A WIN-WIN? Studies show telecommuting increases productivity up to 40 percent. Let’s do this, America.
IT INCREASES PRODUCTIVITY
Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical and other major companies report that telecommuting employees 36 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
are 35 to 40 percent more productive than in-office employees.
IT DECREASES BURN-OUT
A telework experiment conducted by CTrip.com, a Chinese travel aggregator similar to Expedia.com, revealed that employees who work from home are 50 percent less likely to leave their jobs than their counterparts who work in the office. In addition, 95 percent of companies surveyed by Global Workplace Analytics report that telecommuting has had a “high impact” on employee retention.
IT REDUCES ABSENTEEISM
Unscheduled absences cost U.S. employers $300 billion annually— that’s $1,800 per employee. Plus, 78 percent of employees who call in
sick really aren’t. Yet studies show teleworkers tend to work from home when sick, since they have no risk of infecting others, and that they return to work more quickly following surgeries and other medical procedures.
IT IMPROVES EMPLOYEE SATISFACTION
Global Workplace Analytics reports that 36 percent of employees would choose telecommuting over a pay raise, while a poll of 1,500 technology professionals revealed 37 percent would take a 10 percent pay cut for the chance to work from home. Sebastian Bailey, owner of the Mind Map and contributing writer for Forbes.com, says, “Choice is key ... To be productive and feel fulfilled, people need to have a feeling of independence.”
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
you’ve ever dreamed of sauntering into work in your pajamas or dialing into a meeting from the comfort of your own couch, you may be closer to turning that dream into reality than you think. A recent study by Stanford and ongoing studies conducted by Global Workplace Analytics reveal a workfrom-home option benefits employers and employees enough to give the perk its due consideration. If you need to persuade your boss to get on board, use the following talking points.
RIFLE PAPER CO. A boutique s tationer y s tore makes an impression in the dig ital age. Anna Bond is in the business of whimsy. From painted cityscapes to botanical prints, Bond’s innovative blend of illustration and design has graced the page since 2009, when she and her husband, Nathan, launched Rifle Paper Co. But their business is striking for its ethics as well as its aesthetics, as evidenced through its commitment to local partners, recycled paper and domestic materials. In her own words, here’s why Bond doesn’t cut any corners when it comes to good old-fashioned handcrafted flair.
On how it all started: I was working as a freelance illustrator when I got asked to design a few custom wedding invitation sets. I’d always loved greeting cards and paper goods but hadn’t considered focusing on [stationery] up until that point. I immediately fell in love with the mix of illustration and design that stationery allowed me and decided to launch Rifle Paper Co. as a full stationery collection. We haven’t looked back since. I don’t think that people will ever stop using paper or sending cards. If anything, this digital world has made receiving a card in the mail that much more special.
FIND RIFLE PAPER AT ... Anthropologie Real Simple Weddings Telegram Paper Goods The National Stationery Show in NYC ONLINE www.riflepaperco.com
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On creativity and faith: I think it’s important to stay true to your values with anything that you do, creative or otherwise. For me, it’s about creating original designs and knowing that we’re running our business in an ethical way. I also hope that beyond creating pretty products, I can find ways to leave a lasting impression or change something for the better with my work.
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On quality materials: We’ve always been focused on high quality, whether it be the materials we use or the standards for what gets shipped to a store. By keeping the assembly in-house, we’re able to maintain those high standards by being a part of every step, and every card is inspected before it’s packaged. The paper that we use is milled in the U.S., high-quality, has recycled content and is FSC-certified. We also print most of our products locally, which is something we’re very proud of.
LEAD [NEX T]
WHY LEADERS STILL NEED LEADERS BY AMY SIMPSON
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MENTORING IS ABOUT GROWING INTO YOUR BEST SELF.
Amy Simpson is the author of the forthcoming Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission (IVP).
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
ou’ve got the makings of a leader—you’re educated, creative, savvy and influential. You have everything you need for world change, right? Not so fast. First, you need to slow down and find someone who can show you the ropes. I once watched a leader with great potential fail because he misunderstood the relationship between his own potential and his need for mentoring. This young man dazzled in the eyes of his senior-level leaders, and he suddenly found himself in a high-profile leadership position. Yet his new status caused him to see his own abilities as more valuable than the guidance of those who had been down the same road before him and wanted to see him succeed. Initially, people wanted to follow him and his attractive persona. But it wasn’t long before he realized he was in way over his head in his flashy new executive role. The end result was that he lost the respect of those who reported to him, and he was forced to attempt the impossible: effectively lead people who had long since figured out he wasn’t going anywhere they wanted to go. He relied on his title to command the respect he should have earned with his character and performance, and he failed. Eventually, his superiors asked him to leave. In short, this leader’s promising start fizzled because he refused to seek and heed the wisdom of mentors. A strong start is rarely followed by a strong finish without the help of mentors in between. Strangely enough, leaders often need mentors more than anyone else because they land in situations that call for wisdom beyond
their experience. And because they’re given responsibility for others. And because the consequences of their choices reverberate. And because “from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). If you are a person of influence (and everyone is, at some level), there are a few good reasons you should find a mentor. Investment. Securing a mentor means you’ve found someone willing to make an investment in you. The support you receive from them will help you grow far more than you would without them. Challenge. Your mentor will push you to think outside your limited viewpoint, which will exercise your perspective and, ultimately, stretch your leadership skills. Objectivity. A mentor has personal distance from the issues you wrestle with and is able to look at your life with a more grounded and long-term perspective than you can. Their vantage point will be invaluable to you. Navigation. The mentoring experience is like traveling with someone who has a map. As much as you may feel like a pioneer in your leadership context, many people have already been where you’re going now—just with different scenery. A mentor can help you find your way. Interpretation. Having another set of eyes gives you twice the ability to interpret your world, thoughts and experiences. Learned memory. A mentor can pass along historical spiritual stories you wouldn’t otherwise know, just from journeying within the long legacy of leadership and wisdom passed down through the ages. As God instructed His people in Deuteronomy 8, we must remember what has happened before us and what God has done in the past. Wisdom. Wisdom really does come with experience. Cliché? Yes. True? Also yes. Our culture idolizes energy, innovation and fresh ideas—but these are all useless without the counterbalance of time-tested wisdom. Identity. Mentoring is not about learning to copy someone else. It’s about growing into your best self—which can be sharpened and shaped by a person you admire. Leadership can be a hard and lonely road. But if you take a mentor along for the journey, you’ll join the ranks of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Naomi and Ruth, Mordecai and Esther, Elizabeth and Mary, Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Timothy and many others. As their stories testify—and yours can, too—when leaders learn from each other, their effectiveness can only be multiplied.
[R EJEC T A PAT H Y ]
SUSTAINABLE CHANGE. SACRIFICIAL LIVING.
THE SUPER BOWL OF SEX TRADE
The football event of the year offers a marketing opportunity like none other for advertisers and host city businesses—but also for traffickers.
etween the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a four-day entertainment lineup and a halftime performance by Beyoncé Knowles, New Orleans is gearing up to put on a world-class show for Super Bowl XLVII. But out from under the lights, the Super Bowl is considered the largest annual sex trafficking event in the United States. Its predominantly male crowds, influx of money and party atmosphere converge to drive supply and demand for women. In anticipation of this Super Bowl reality, local law enforcement is taking preventative measures. This year, Louisiana
[ S E X
upped its state trafficking law to criminalize the promotion or sale of travel for commercial sex and sharpened its penalties for traffickers where minors are involved. Citizens are also getting involved. In October, Loyola University New Orleans hosted a prevention conference in partnership with over 25 organizations to equip citizens to responsibly identify and report incidents of human trafficking. With the combined efforts of concerned citizens and local law enforcement, perhaps “The City That Care Forgot” will set an example for future Super Bowl hosts by demonstrating what it really means to care.
T R A F F I C K I N G
T H E
U . S . ]
Annual profits, in billions, of
Average age at which girls enter
Estimated number of sex workers
Department of Justice
sex trafficking in the U.S.
forced prostitution in the U.S.
at previous Super Bowl games.
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United Nations, the United States
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
* Sourced from the
SP OTLI GHT [R EJEC T A PAT H Y ]
GOOD WORK Here are some other organizations making a difference. Check them out—and get involved. 1
R EGENE SIS R ISING
ReGenesis Rising provides mentors and coaches to kids aging out of foster care, with an aim to break the cycle of abandonment and broken relationships.
UHURU CHIL D
Through community-managed social businesses, such as greenhouses and chicken farms, Uhuru Child provides employment for impoverished adults in JEREMY COWART
Kenya and education for their children.
CAITLIN CROSBY’S UNIQUE JEWLERY INITIATIVE IS INSPIRING HOPE
THE GIVING KEYS
sexual abuse and exploitation, Wellspring Living operates several residential programs, an assessment center, a community counseling center
When Caitlin Crosby met Rob and Cera on Hollywood Boulevard, they were holding a sign that read “Ugly, broke and hungry.” She took the couple to dinner and, upon learning Cera loved making jewelry, asked them to be her business partners. Crosby, a musician, had been selling engraved keys to her audiences to inspire hope, and she needed help. Today, the Giving Keys employs 15 people—all homeless—who are supported in their transition out of homelessness through the company’s profits. Giving Keys necklaces are sold at Fred Segal and 200 other stores around the world.
All the keys are old and used and discarded and flawed. And maybe a person feels old and used and discarded and flawed, too. We encourage them to pick out a key that reminds them they’re one of a kind. Every necklace, every key is one of a kind, just like them.
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What is the “giving” part about?
It was always ingrained in my head to give away what we have. My goal is to create that mentality for everybody—a sharing mentality. When you’ve met somebody who is going through a hard time and needs the word on the key more than you do, you pay it forward and give it to them.
Tell us about your employees.
A lot of them are naturalborn leaders. They have gold inside of them. They’re amazing, but they’ve lost a lot of hope in their lives; it’s just been laying dormant. A lot of times when I watch them engrave ... I want to encourage them with the words so it’s not just a mindless job.
What do you hope to accomplish?
and four upscale resale stores.
The idea is to give our employees a source of income to transition them into a new life. We wanted to create jobs so they could build their résumés and start saving money. We’ve helped people open their first bank accounts—just take that next step.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
Why choose to use keys for necklaces?
Formed to help survivors of childhood
BLOOD PHONES lowly and silently, conflict metals from one of the world’s most lethally violent regions have made their way into nearly every sleek technology gadget. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten are smuggled along a conflict-rich line, from the armed militia who force workers to mine the metals, to the
You’ve heard of “blood diamonds”—but a new form of conflict mineral awareness is rising in the international conscience.
[R EJEC T A PAT H Y ]
TH E N U MB ERS
purchasing middlemen, to the giants of the electronic industry who have historically turned a blind eye to the metals’ violent origins. While there’s still a long way to go to rid the world of blood phones, the good news is that the outcry of concerned consumers has caused tech companies to make significant progress in eliminating conflict metals from their phones and other gadgets.
5.4 MILLION HAVE DIED BY CONFLICT-RELATED CAUSES SINCE 1998—
THE DEADLIEST DOCUMENTED CONFLICT SINCE WWII (INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE)
MAJOR MINES IN THE CONGO ARE CONTROLLED BY ARMED MILITIA (BLOODINTHEMOBILE.ORG)
4% LEGISLATION ENFORCING MINERAL SOURCE TRACKING HAS CONTRIBUTED TO A
PERCENTAGE OF PROGRESS TOWARD RESPONSIBLE SOURCING ON CONFLICT MINERALS (ENOUGH PROJECT)
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IN THE MINING PROFIT OF ARMED GROUPS SINCE 2010 (ENOUGH PROJECT)
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
65 DECREASE %
S TAY C O N N E C T E D.
R E I M A G I N E D
GET AN ENTIRE YEAR OF THE RELEVANT IPAD EDITION FOR ONLY $9.99
WO RLDVIE W
BY KEN W Y TSMA
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TRUE MORALITY REQUIRES THE PRESENCE OF GOOD.
Ken Wytsma is the founder of the Justice Conference and the author of Pursuing Justice (Thomas Nelson, 2012), from which this statement is adapted.
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
we roll into 2013, it’s interesting to notice that a new year’s reboot often involves cutting out the bad more than adding in the good. Some of the most common resolutions reflect this, as people annually pledge to give up extra calories, smoking, overspending or other bad habits. Christians often bring this avoidance approach into their faith, as well. We often define the heart of God by what ought not be done, while leaving undone the many things that ought to be done. This perspective has gained us a reputation. A 2007 Barna Group study identifying the most common perceptions of Christianity among young adults found that 91 percent see Christians as antihomosexual, 87 percent view them as judgmental and 85 percent perceive them as hypocritical. Yet while these morality issues claim headlines, AIDS has ravaged the world, killing men, women and children. Human slavery has rocketed to an all-time high with over 20 million enslaved today around the world. And each year, millions of children still die of preventable diseases like malaria. Do we really want to be known for what we stand against, rather than our love and care for others? Is our personal morality helping the world? How many times have we missed opportunities to serve justice and do good because we were so focused on sin management and cutting out the bad? Personal morality is certainly a good and worthy pursuit. Yet it is a misconception that personal piety exclusively constitutes a right relationship with God. The biblical picture is much richer,
[R EJEC T A PAT H Y ]
IN WITH THE JUST
showing that true morality requires more than the absence of vice or sin. It requires the presence of good. It requires being righteous with doing justice, side by side. In fact, there are over 30 examples of “righteousness” and “justice” being used synonymously and interchangeably in the Bible within the same verse, such as: “The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed” (Psalm 103:6). We can trace this theme through God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, too. We tend to think of Sodom’s sin in terms of its immorality or wickedness. However, when God talks about the sin of Sodom through the prophet Ezekiel, injustice is His focus: “This was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49, emphasis added). Sodom was immoral, yes. But so is Bend, Ore., where I live. And so is the place where you live. But in addition to being immoral, Sodom was guilty of the sin of injustice. In her excess of food and prosperous ease, her citizens failed to aid—or even notice— the poor and needy. In this picture, as well as many others throughout Scripture, we see that true morality and justice are related. Righteousness and justice are always woven together as threads in the same cloth when we strive to follow God. So, what if living morally means more than avoiding bad words, saying grace before dinner and wearing a clean shirt to church? What if it means being just? God calls us to walk as He walks, to go where He goes, to care as He cares and to walk morally by doing justice. God’s righteousness is predicated on His active pursuit of justice in the world, and He requires those who would seek and know Him to do the same. The merely moral live by checklists and fear, but the righteous—the just—live by faith. Avoiding sin is morally good, but a lack of concern for justice indicates moral deficiency. All too often, I’m hit with the irony that some Christians focus on pursuing personal morality in such a way that it hinders their pursuit of justice. When did the two become antithetical? As this new year begins, let’s resolve to cut out the sin in our lives. Let’s not stop there, however—let’s also resolve to do good, and to do justice.
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THE NEW YEAR IS THE PERFECT TIME TO EXAMINE WHO YOU’RE MEANT TO BE. BY DAN MILLER
here’s an old story about Akiva, the rabbi, who had been in the village to gather some supplies. Walking back to his cottage, he absentmindedly took the wrong path. Suddenly, a voice came through the darkness: “Who are you, and why are you here?” Shocked to awareness, Akiva realized he had wandered into the Roman garrison, and the voice had come from the young sentry keeping guard. But being a rabbi, he answered the question with another question: “How much do they pay you to stand guard and ask that question of all who approach?” The sentry, now seeing that this was not an intruder but a rabbi, answered meekly, “Five drachmas a week, sir.” At that point the rabbi offered, “Young man, I will double your pay if you come with me, stand in front of my cottage, and ask me that question each morning as I begin my day: ‘Who are you, and why are you here?’”
WHAT’S YOUR MISSION?
If there’s one reason I hear more than any other for failed New Year’s resolutions, it’s “I just didn’t have the time.” But success often comes from knowing what you ought
to be doing and saying no to time-wasters. Without clarity on who you are and why you’re here, anything becomes a possibility. If you approach each day with no vision, anything that pops will redirect your attention. Having a clear mission statement for your life allows you to decide in advance the life you want to live. It creates a focus for every activity in your life. And it needs to be specific enough that you can weigh any activity. Sometimes I see people create mission statements that sound great but mean little. It’s so generic it would fit anyone who breathes. Here’s one: “I want to love God and serve Him forever.” I know that sounds all warm and fuzzy, but I have no idea what that person is going to do tomorrow morning when he gets up, and I’m pretty confident he doesn’t either. I don’t know any high achievers who get up in the morning and just kind of see what happens—just do whatever seems important at the time. No, people who accomplish things decide in advance how they will invest their time. They have a plan.
WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?
It’s easier to quantify doing than being, because we can quantify what we do: how many sales we made, how many miles we drove, how many chairs we built, how many pages we wrote. It’s also easy to see things that need to be done: dishes that need to be washed, beds that need to be made or podcasts that need to be listened to or recorded. Being is harder to quantify and measure: being a great mom, a spiritual leader, a compassionate friend, an understanding boss, a caring neighbor. When people close to death are questioned about anything they would do differently, one common theme rises to the top: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” This is the most common regret of all.
When someone realizes his life is almost over, it’s easy to look back and see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. It’s critically important to honor your dreams along the way. When you are on your deathbed, the opinions of others fade alongside the recognition that you have not lived an authentic life. My work with those making midlife corrections in their careers is largely that of simply peeling back the layers of others’ expectations to reveal once again those clear and passionate childhood dreams. In those, we discover work that is meaningful, purposeful and profitable. Life offers many choices. Choose consciously, choose wisely and seek godly counsel, but then choose honestly.
WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH YOUR BLANK CANVAS?
When I was 13 years old, I painted a horse head with a paint-by-numbers layout. I thought it was pretty good, but now that I’ve seen some real masterpieces, I realize it was pretty amateurish. The paint was clumpy where I tried to stay inside the identified lines. It didn’t look real; it just looked like I did a good job of painting. My wife, Joanne, on the other hand, has drawn some amazing pieces—always starting with a blank canvas and then allowing her imagination to direct her brush or pencil. I realize now that life’s opportunities are presented to us in much the same way. If we paint by the numbers (take the first job, buy a certain kind of car, take two weeks’ vacation every year), we will see predictable results. You know what it’s going to be—and it might be good—but it will never be amazing to you or anyone else. The only way to get a masterpiece is to start with a blank canvas. Of course, a blank canvas means you could end up with a disaster you decide to throw away. But the next one may be the masterpiece that makes the world remember you. While you may think this is about willingness to take risks or that it’s a reflection of personality style, I think it’s more about dreaming, imagining and taking action. And this is not just a business or career question; it’s more a question of the kind of life you want to live. Think of Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Bono, Oprah, Rick Warren, Howard Schultz or Billy Graham. Their personality styles cover the entire range of possibilities, and we would not consider them risk-takers in the sense of being people who’d go bungee jumping or hang gliding. All of them had big dreams, started with a blank canvas and then took action to create their unique masterpieces. Success is never an accident. It typically starts as imagination, becomes a dream, stimulates a goal and grows into a plan of action—which then meets with opportunity. You get to choose what you’re creating of your life. What will it turn out to be?
DAN MILLER specializes in creative thinking for increased personal and business success. He is the author of 48 Days to the Work You Love and No More Dreaded Mondays. Excerpted from Wisdom Meets Passion: When Generations Collide and Collaborate by Dan Miller and Jared Angaza. Copyright © 2012. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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ASSEMBLED BY JESSE CAREY
aith has always taken a front-row seat in the realm of professional sports. Pre-game prayers and post-game God-thanking have long been staples of Monday Night Football match-ups, Saturday afternoon baseball games and primetime NBA showdowns. But 2012 witnessed the convergence of faith and sports on a whole new level. Superstars like Tim Tebow, Olympians Gabby Douglas and Lolo Jones and underdogs like Jeremy Lin and Bubba Watson made more headlines for their faith than their game, confirming 2012 as the year when faith became more than a post-game platitude. We’ve taken a look at the year’s biggest stories and what was written and said about or by these outspoken champions—for better or for worse—in this year of the Christian athlete.
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ollowing a series of improbable victories for the Denver Broncos, vocal Christian, unconventional quarterback and sideline prayer warrior Tim Tebow led the underdog team to an overtime playoff victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers—in true miraculous fashion.
I H AV E S O M A N Y T H I N G S T O W O R K O N , A N D S O M A N Y WAY S T H AT I FA I L . B U T T H AT ’ S W H AT G R A C E I S A L L A B O U T. A N D I C O N S TA N T LY WA K E U P E V E RY M O R N I N G T RY I N G T O G E T B E T T E R , T RY I N G T O I M P R O V E , T RY I N G T O WA L K C L O S E R T O G O D .
How to TEBOw
Beginners will want to be in a safe, private place. More advanced Tebowers can go out in public. Leave the end zone to the pros.
Drop to one knee and rest one arm on your thigh. Next, drop your head. If you’re huddled and shy about it, you’re just bowing. This is Tebowing. Get it right.
• • • • • • •
Heisman Trophy Sports Illustrated College Football Player of the Decade Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week (twice) Manning Award Maxwell Award Wuerffel Trophy ESPY for Best Male College Athlete
Shut yourself off from what’s happening around you. This will be hard at first, but remember that true masters can Tebow even while playing Monday Night Football.
350-yard-driving, pink-club-wielding, poker-faced-pranking Bubba Watson isn’t your typical Masters champion. He may be a goofball, but when he won the green jacket in golf’s most prestigious tournament in April, he revealed a sincere side in his gracious approach to those who oppose his Christian faith.
GOLF IS JUST AN AVENUE FOR JESUS TO USE ME TO REACH AS MANY PEOPLE AS I CAN.
Above all else, be respectful when Tebowing. As of October 19, 2012, Tebow owns the trademark.
IN 2 01 1 , T E B O W WA S R E N DE R E D A S A S U P E R H E R O B Y M A RV E L C OMI C S . H I S A LT E R E G O I S C A L L E D “ S U P E R T I M .”
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ue to a series of injuries sustained by starting guards on the New York Knicks, former D-leaguer and benchwarmer Jeremy Lin was given a chance to get in the game. In the weeks following, the Asian-American Harvard grad almost no one had heard of became one of the leading scorers in the NBA and an instant media sensation for his rise to fame, cool demeanor and soft-spoken faith.
Lin couldn’t wear #7 on the Knicks because the number belonged to all-star Carmelo Anthony. “Seven was my number last year, and it’s one of God’s numbers that He uses throughout the Bible.” —Jeremy Lin
T H AT WA S A S L O U D A S I H AV E E V E R SEEN THE GARDEN. —KNICKS SUPE R FAN SPIKE L EE, FOLLOW ING A LIN BUZZE R - B EATER AT MADISON SQUAR E GAR DE N
GA M E 1 25 points, 7 assists GA M E 2 28 points, 8 assists GA M E 3 23 points, 10 assists GA M E 4 38 points, 7 assists Lin’s wristbands say, “In Jesus’ Name I Play”
“ WHEN OTHER PEOPLE S E E M E P L AY B A S KE T B A L L ... T H E WAY I TR EAT MY TEA MMATES , TH E O P P O N E N T S , T H E R E F S — T H AT ’ S A L L A R EFLEC TION OF G OD ’ S I M A G E A N D G O D’ S L O VE . S O T H AT ’ S THE S TU FF I TRY TO FOC U S O N .”
performances that surprised even the most seasoned analysts, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein led his team to a 10-0 start in 2012, leading his Wildcats to a prestigious BCS bowl game. The 23-year-old Heisman candidate with a penchant for power running and an unconventional throwing motion is drawing attention for his outspoken faith and conservative values.
I WOULD SAY THE THING [TIM TEBOW AND I] HAVE MOST IN COMMON IS THE THING THAT’S MOST IMPORTANT TO US, AND THAT’S OUR FAITH AND OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST, AND EVERYTHING FLOWS THROUGH THAT. IT’S AN HONOR TO BE MENTIONED IN THE SAME SENTENCE. I’M VERY GRATEFUL. 56 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
god, gold & Gabby
just anyone can emerge a winner at the international nexus of marketing, athleticism and political correctness otherwise known as the Olympics. But 16-year-old Gabby Douglas made waves on several counts—for being the Olympics’ first African-American woman to become the all-around champion, for being the first American gymnast to win gold in both the all-around individual and team competitions in the same Olympics and for giving all the credit for her success to God.
I GIVE ALL THE
AT H L E T E
GLORY TO GOD. IT’S KIND OF
I THINK A LOT OF PLAYERS HAVE FOUNDATIONS IN THEIR FAITH ... A LOT OF GUYS LOVE HIPHOP OR RAP MUSIC, BUT THEY TEND NOT TO HAVE HIP-HOP OR RAP MUSIC THAT KIND OF CO-SIGNS THEIR VIEWS ON LIFE. I THINK THAT’S KIND OF WHAT I PROVIDE THEM.
A WIN-WIN SITUATION. THE GLORY GOES UP TO HIM, AND THE
T H E F LY I N G SQUIRREL
BLESSINGS FALL DOWN ON ME. —DOUGL A S’ W O R D S TO A REPO R T ER AF TER WI N NING T H E AL L -AROU ND G O LD
D I D YO U K N OW ?
SHE’ S 4’1 1 ” AND WEIGH S 95 P OU N D S
September, the latest album, Gravity, from Christian hip-hop star Lecrae debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. But Lecrae isn’t just the latest topselling crossover Christian artist—he’s also the unofficial M.C. of the year of the Christian athlete and serves as a chaplain to the NBA’s Kings and Timberwolves, the NFL’s Giants, Falcons and Buccaneers, and MLB’s Yankees, Braves, White Sox and Diamondbacks.
After winning the gold, she tweeted her fans: “Thank you guys for everything! I am SO grateful God has truly blessed me! Remember to ALWAYS give him the glory for he is GREAT! <3”
JESSE CAREY is a frequent contributor to RELEVANT and a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT podcast.
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A ROGUE FAN. INTERNET RUMORS. CRASHED SERVERS. THE ROAD TO THE LEGENDARY SKA BAND’S REUNION HAS BEEN ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY.
BY TYLER HUCKABEE MELINDA CULP
one of New York City’s brisk fall mornings, and Reese Roper is waking up in a music studio. He’s in a band, so you know the drill. He stayed late writing lyrics and laying down tracks with the rest of the posse. Everyone else went home. Roper decided to get more done and ended up crashing at the studio— all the easier to start recording again in the morning. Business as usual for any band hard at work on a hotly anticipated follow-up. But Five Iron Frenzy is hardly any band. And this album is far from the usual follow-up. The octet—originally of Denver, but now from a little bit of everywhere—is one of the most ferociously beloved bands of Christian rock’s early-aughts heyday. And while many of the band’s peers have moved on to irrelevance or, in some cases, laughingstocks, Five Iron’s fanbase remains uncommonly devoted. Within minutes of announcing a Kickstarter campaign to fund their reunion album, the band hit its $30,000 goal. By the time the project was over, they’d raised over $200,000. To reiterate, these guys hadn’t recorded a single note together since their obsessively mourned breakup eight years prior. One could hardly
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blame them for being a little rusty. But Roper says that, against all odds, it’s been like getting back on a bike. “I thought when we played shows, it was going to be horrible and very rough,” he says. “But I don’t think we’ve ever been this tight. Somehow, we’re sounding better than we ever have.” Not bad for a band coming off nearly a decade-long breakup—a breakup, says Roper, in which the back door had never been shut tight. “I think even as we were breaking up, we were like, ‘Maybe we can get back together in 10 years or so,’” he says. “[Trombone player] Dennis would come into Denver when I lived there, and then we would get together for a barbecue or something, and we’d say, ‘Hey, have you guys thought about it?’ And we’re like, ‘Ah, too early.’” But “too early” has finally turned into “go time,” adding another offbeat, unexpected but widly embraced chapter to Five Iron Frenzy’s zany history. By any measure, Five Iron Frenzy is an odd bird. The band got its start in the late ’90s, when the ska renaissance was in full swing and proving particularly kind to Christian acts like the O.C. Supertones and the Insyderz. Third-wave ska music, infused with brassy horns and deliriously cheery upbeats, made for notoriously oddball acts with equally oddball fans. Ska was to
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rock what fantasy is to fiction: not bad, per se, but unmistakably fringe. Among this island of misfit bands, Five Iron stood out. Initially launched as a rebrand of a Christian industrial trash metal quartet (oh, one of those) called Exhumator, the band ultimately embraced ska as its roster swelled with friends who could play brass. And then there’s the way the group reveled in goofiness. They dressed in Star Trek uniforms, and their wild-eyed fans showed up with sock puppets, ready to sing along to every word of every song. The band recorded bloated medleys around themes like a mysterious pair of pants
“WE GET A LOT OF EMAILS FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE LIKE, ‘HEY, I LOVED YOU GUYS AS A KID ... I’M NOT A CHRISTIAN ANYMORE, BUT I’M STILL VERY EXCITED ABOUT THE ALBUM.” —REESE ROPER
or the dubious perks of moving to Canada. They namechecked everyone from Kenny G to William Shatner. They were a weird bunch. And fans ate it up. “I think we all were the kids that got picked on and were the nerdy outcasts in school,” Roper explains. “I think we attracted those fans through our lyrics, and we were goofy on stage. They stuck with us. They love Five Iron. We struck some chord with them, and now it’s crazy. They’re still our fans.” That last part is an understatement. Rumors of a Five Iron reunion have plagued the Internet since the band’s sold-out farewell show in 2003. And despite relatively little acclaim outside the niche Christian ska set, Five Iron boasts the sort of fan loyalty most bands only dream about hopelessly. Thus, the now infamous Kickstarter campaign. Fans flocked to it with enough furor to crash Kickstarter’s servers within minutes of the launch. “They got it back up,” Roper recounts. “For about an hour, we were excited. And then just kind of terrified. We were like, ‘What are we going to do now?’” It was an understandable reaction to a reunion that can most readily be described as “accidental.” Sure, Five Iron Frenzy may never have given up on the idea of a reunion, but the whole thing kept getting lost in procrastination purgatory. It might have gone that way forever, had not the band’s hand been forced by a fan who bought the rights to the Five Iron website in 2010, rebooting it with new art and a mysterious timer counting down to November 22, 2011— exactly eight years after Five Iron’s final show. “He just did it,” Roper says. “Nobody in the band had any idea he was doing this. Our friends started asking us, like, ‘Hey, what’s this about? Are you guys getting back together?’ And then, on the Internet, there were all these people speculating.” Among those speculating was Leanor Ortega—known to Five Iron fans as “Jeff the Girl,” the band’s lone female and saxophonist. When she was at alternative Christian music shindig Cornerstone, she was approached by fans who asked if there was any truth to the rumors. “She thought she was talking off-the-record,” Roper says. “She was like, ‘Yeah, we talk about it quite a bit. We’re thinking about it, maybe.’ And it got printed on some guy’s blog that we were getting back together.” Viral bedlam ensued. The Internet was convinced Five Iron Frenzy was rising from the grave—and, what’s more, that they had a November 22 due date. “We emailed each other and were like, ‘We’ve got to put out a statement that says we’re not going to get back together. It’d be lame to drag people on,’” Roper says. “And then I was just like, ‘Why are we doing this? Why don’t we just get back together?’” It would seem the reasons for not getting back together were myriad. The group’s members had spread to every corner of the country. “Real jobs” made the idea of touring seem impossible. Most dauntingly, ska had gone the way of Beanie Babies and snap bracelets. That last problem, however, hasn’t fazed the band. “That’s the magic of Kickstarter,” Roper says. “There’s
Let’s Get Reacquainted Hey, it’s been eight years. If you need a Five Iron refresher, here you go. FIF 2: Electric Boogaloo 2001 All the Hype That Money Can Buy 2000 Our Newest Album Ever 1997
WATCH Five Iron thank its Kickstarter supporters.
nobody telling us how to write a record. Since all the fans paid for the album already on Kickstarter, we were able to say, ‘Let’s make a good album that we like.’ Instead of trying to be, like, ‘Do they want a ska revival? What do you think our record label wants?’” Whatever obstacles the band may have faced on the way to reunion, the freedom provided by a die-hard fan base was enough to overcome the biggest one. A few emails and phone calls later, the gang was headed out to New York City to put together their latest newest album ever. Roper says the band’s sound is heavier and darker now (“more rock with horns”) and that the shift is reflected in the lyrics, too. Some of that’s to be expected. For all the antics, Five Iron was always one of Christian rock’s more bracingly honest bands. Roper owned up to his doubt and depression much more readily than other CCM acts at the
time, and with piercing eloquence. Even the most jaded cynic would have to give the band credit for leaving the kid gloves off when it came to wrestling their demons. And that wrestling has only been honed over time. “Here’s what it is,” Roper says. “As time passes, I become more embarrassed by the Church, more embarrassed of the actions of Christians. I don’t want that to get in the way of me telling somebody about the love of Jesus Christ.” He adds, “I get the feeling a lot of our fans are in that place, too. We get a lot of emails from people who are like, ‘Hey, I loved you guys as a kid. You’re my favorite band. I’m not a Christian anymore, but I’m still very excited about the album.’ I want to write an album for those guys.” The album is being written by a few of those guys, actually, as two members of the band no longer call themselves Christian— an interesting dynamic for a band known for its faith. But for a group already comfortable on the fringes, it doesn’t seem odd. In fact, the band’s spiritually skeptical members have helped shape the album in surprising ways. “They’re just as disappointed in the behavior of the Church and, to be honest, I’m just as lost as they are,” Roper says. “They have a lot of questions and a lot of searching, and it’s the same for me. So, I’ve tried to be more inclusive in writing lyrics.” Questions. Searching. Inclusive. In other words, Five Iron’s return album may not be destined for Christian radio—a prospect which doesn’t have Roper losing much sleep. “If we’re alienating the grandma that is going to come in and see us on the endcap at Family Christian Bookstores, there’s no love lost,” he says. “I don’t think grandmas have ever loved Five Iron.” Maybe so, but Roper admits he’s gotten the cold shoulder from more than just grandmothers. “For the most part, I think most of organized Christianity has kind of tossed us off,” he says. “Even before, we just didn’t go over very well. We were weird, and I think we didn’t say ‘Jesus’ enough in our songs.” It burns, Roper admits. But then and now, he’s tried to maintain perspective. “What I’m more worried about is the people that have been marginalized by the Church and those fans that used to be Christians and still love us,” he says. “I really care about them. I want to write an album for those people.” The album that’s written for those people is due out this spring. RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 61
A CONVERSATION WITH SHANE HIPPS
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Christian faith is defined by a lot of beautiful and astonishing superlatives—the greatest God offering the fullest life to the most fallen of creatures. Yet is it possible that what Jesus offers is even bigger than Christians have imagined and indoctrinated it to be? After spending a decade as a pastor—most recently, at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, Mich.—this question has haunted Shane Hipps more than any other. We asked this former-Porsche-advertisingexecutive-turned-pastor about the disconnect, as well as why he thinks Christians have sold themselves short on the incredible promises of Jesus.
BY JACK RIGGINS
In the past, you’ve written about the intersection of technology and faith. Your latest book, Selling Water by the River, is more theological. Where did the idea come from? Are you familiar with zen koans? They’re sayings designed to set the mind off balance enough that something deeper can emerge from within you. There was this really interesting koan I came across that said, “Zen is selling water by the river.” I thought it was a brilliantly humble statement, basically saying all of Zen’s philosophies and practices are not at all necessary for the thing they’re trying to introduce. The more that I had been reading Jesus and His teachings, the more I had become convinced that He didn’t come to start another religion. And so at that moment, I thought, “I wonder if Christianity isn’t selling water by the river, too?” I realized that’s what I had been driving at over the last seven or eight years. It really comes down to my conviction that Jesus came mostly to talk about two things: the Kingdom of heaven and eternal life. And I believe those two things have been fundamentally misunderstood by much of Christendom. In what way? For Christianity, eternal life has been relegated to a category after you die. But Jesus speaks about eternal life very often as a present, continuous reality. So, for example, He stands before a festival crowd in the book of John and says, “Anyone who is thirsty, come to Me, and streams of living water will f low from within you.” It’s really fascinating because it’s not to you, it’s from you. The Greek verb tense is “continually flowing in this moment from within you.” It occurred to me that, for Jesus, the possibility of eternal life begins the day you’re born, not the day you die. But Christendom has tended to locate eternal life somewhere in the distant future. As it relates to the Kingdom of God, Christians have also relegated that to sometime in the future. But Jesus described the Kingdom of heaven as a reality
that exists within us. So, when the Pharisees confronted Jesus and said, in the book of Luke, “Tell us, when will we know the Kingdom of heaven is here?” Jesus responds, “You will not see the Kingdom of heaven in things observed. Some will say, ‘There it is.’ Others will say, ‘Here it is.’ But I tell you the Kingdom of heaven is within you.” This is an astonishing truth that Jesus proclaims. The other really astonishing thing is that the phrase “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of heaven” isn’t found anywhere—not in any other rabbinic writings, nothing in the Old Testament. This is a completely fresh phrase that Jesus comes up with. So, I think that when Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God and eternal life, He’s talking about a fundamental possibility while we live, not just after we die. Where do you think this common idea in Christianity of heaven as a place “up there, after we die” comes from? Well, I think I would say it’s fairly human. Every human is born with two basic questions: What is the meaning of my life, and what happens after I die? And it is the anxiety around these two questions that drives the creation of every religion. Christianity is no exception.
And it proposes that there’s life after you die and Jesus is the way to get there. To which I agree! All I’m trying to do is extend that life to now, not just later. Instead of contrasting eternal life versus death, I’m contrasting eternal life versus temporary life. What are the ramifications of this idea of heaven as a future reality? Well, there are a couple. One is people believe that this life is here and it’s for suffering, and someday you’ll get your reward, but you’re not getting it now. This reminds me of an experience I had in another country where I didn’t speak the language. I was with a group of friends at a restaurant, and the waiter tried to describe this meal plan to us in broken English. It was this very elaborate five- or six-course meal. And it sounded great—especially the final dish sounded amazing. And as we were served, I decided to skip one course to save room for the final dish, and instead the waiter brought out the check. I had lost count, and so what I thought was an appetizer was actually the entree I was most looking forward to.
“I DON’T KNOW WHERE JESUS IS AT WORK. HE’S SO MUCH BIGGER THAN I CAN FATHOM.” I believe that when we locate salvation and the Good News in the next life, we mistake the entree for an appetizer. And we miss the feast that is available now, not just later when we die. You’ve said that just because Christianity claims Jesus as its own doesn’t mean Jesus claims Christianity as His own. That’s a pretty explosive statement. What do you mean here? One of the things I think is fascinating is that Jesus gives gifts to people even when they don’t ask and even when they don’t RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 63
have any idea who He is. In the New Testament, Jesus walks up to a blind man, smears mud on his face by spitting on the ground, and then tells the guy to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The blind man does, and his sight is returned. The blind man does not ask for Jesus to do anything. He didn’t even know who Jesus was. Jesus gives gifts anonymously. Is it possible that Jesus is at work in all kinds of places throughout the entire creation where His name is not mentioned but His gifts are being given? I think that’s what Paul does at the Acropolis at Mars Hill. He says, “You have this statue to an unknown God. Well, I know the name of that God, and He’s at work among you.” This is an incredible teaching. But Christians have come to this conclusion that we have a corner on the market of Jesus just because we bear His name. And I’d like to suggest that I think Jesus is so much bigger than the religion that bears His name.
When it comes to this claim of Christians, you have an analogy about the wind and a sail. Would you explain this? When we talk about Jesus—who is God, in my opinion—I believe that Jesus is a lot like the wind. And I think Christianity is like a sail. And I think pretty much every religion is a sail. They’re just different efforts to try to capture the wind. Now, that does not mean all religions are saying the same thing and that they’re interchangeable. If you go to a regatta, you will see many different kinds of sails, and they are not all equal at catching the wind. Not only that, but you will find many different sailors—some who could not wield a sail with wisdom, who will either capsize the boat or let the sail lie. My point is, the wind is always there. My opinion is that Christianity is one of the best sails out there. But I’ve known plenty of people who have wielded that fantastic sail brutally. They have capsized boats. Just because you have a great sail does not guarantee you are going to capture the wind. And I’ve known some pretty weak sails with some phenomenal sailors who have artfully and responsibly caught the wind in the most exquisite ways. So, my recommendation is, find the best sail you can. My second recommendation is, be humble and learn how to use it well.
Grab Your Hipps From digitalization to doctrine, Hipps’ ideas have made their mark. The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture (2006)
Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith (2009) WATCH The trailer for Selling Water by the River
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And never confuse the wind for the sail. What are some critiques you’ve heard to this idea that Christ is bigger than religion? There’s this film trailer I put out for the book, and I would say I got predictable responses. You have those who have been wounded by religion and go, “Finally, somebody is telling the truth!” And you have people out there who are angry that I would be throwing religion under the bus. Of course, the problem with both of these responses is that they’ve misunderstood. I love religion. I find incredible life in it. I think the world’s better with Christianity than without it. Billions of lives have been transformed—my own included. I’m not jaded and angry about religion. It’s beautiful. I just think it needs to be more humble—a lot more humble. How have you seen that humility grow in your own life? It’s probably my own awareness of my total and utter dependence on this power that created the universe. All my words and ideas can never capture the vastness of this power. I heard it said this way once. A king had several wise people, and he drew a line on a board and said, “Make this line shorter without doing anything to the line.” All the wise men couldn’t figure out how to do this. Finally, the court jester came up and drew a bigger line next to it. And he said, “There. Your line is shorter now.” I think you can’t really do anything to make yourself humble. All you can do is place yourself next to something that is so much bigger. You automatically find yourself smaller. That bigger thing is this wind. It’s this breath. It’s this gift. It’s this grace. It’s this love that is so vast, so much bigger than all of the boundaries and categories and words I use to bind it up.
Photo: Nikole Lim
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WHAT WE AREN’T TALKING ABOUT IS
KILLING US. BY TYLER CHARLES
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uddy was loud, obnoxious and goofy around people he knew—like Nate, his next-door neighbor and best friend who remembers how much fun Buddy was to be around when he wasn’t depressed. “No one could say anything bad about Buddy; everyone liked him,” Nate says. During their junior year of high school, after Buddy became increasingly depressed and addicted to drugs, his parents enlisted him in a wilderness therapy program, where he wrote Nate a letter. “It was an apology note, saying what he regrets, what he wants to do,” Nate says. “He wrote that he was very addicted to drugs because he needed something to make him happy and relieve the pain. He said he
needed some kind of outlet, and he turned to drugs.” When Buddy finally came home again, Nate says he was different. But he was still just trying his best to be happy. “That’s pretty much all he wanted to do—just become happy,” Nate says. “I didn’t think he was suicidal; I thought he just needed some time to get better, to get out of his funk.” A month into Nate’s sophomore year of college, he got a call from his brother—Buddy had hung himself from his back porch. Nate’s dad found him and cut him down, but it was too late. Buddy was 19 years old. He hadn’t left a note. Nate doesn’t blame himself or anyone else. But like many people who have lost a loved one to suicide, he still wonders if things could have been different for his friend. “There were a few times when he called me or sent me a text, asking me to hang out, and I was just too busy,” Nate says. “But I really do think that with enough education and enough support, it could have been prevented.”
A SUICIDE OCCURS EVERY 17 MINUTES.
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88 PEOPLE DIE BY SUICIDE EACH DAY IN THE U.S. A GROWING PROBLEM
Buddy’s story is tragic, and perhaps what makes it even more tragic is that it’s a shockingly common story among this generation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list suicide as the second leading cause of death for those between the ages of 25 and 34. It’s also the second leading cause of death among college students. Every year, nearly a million people attempt suicide, and every 17 minutes, one of them succeeds. And the numbers are only getting worse. According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, suicide rates have increased more than 30 percent in 10 years. In 2012, suicide overtook car accidents as America’s leading cause of injury-related deaths. To put this in perspective, it means Americans are now more likely to die on purpose than by accident. Welcome to the new American epidemic. Licensed marriage and family therapist Kim Navarro works with the faces behind these statistics in Los Angeles. With 20 years of experience working with the depressed and suicidal, Navarro believes it’s not so much that suicidal “ideations” are more common among people now as it is that social media provides a platform for them to express their unfiltered emotions. And it’s their inability to regulate emotions that Navarro believes leads to suicidal thoughts in young adults. The danger of unregulated emotions is that they can blur the line between suicidal thoughts and acting on those thoughts— which is why it’s so important to address those thoughts in their early stages. “The people I’ve worked with who have made those attempts will tell me [afterward], ‘I didn’t realize I could have killed myself,’” Navarro says. “It’s very much an ‘in the moment’ thing.” Reese Butler understands how suicide can be an “in the moment” thing. His wife, Kristin, took her own life in 1998 while suffering from postpartum depression. After her death, Butler sold their house 68 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
and used the money to launch the Kristin Brooks Hope Center—a nonprofit named after his wife to educate the public about suicide warning signs and the importance of preventative treatment. Originally, Butler had wanted to educate college women about the significant realities of postpartum depression. “But when I discovered there was no national suicide hotline, I was shocked,” he says. “There are 1-800 numbers for everything— plumbing, Judaism, everything. But there was nothing for those considering suicide. I couldn’t believe it.” Nor did he accept it. Butler got to work fixing what he perceived as a serious void. And it was out of this that America’s first suicide prevention hotline was born. Also known as the National Hopeline Network, Butler established 1-800-SUICIDE in 1999 as a toll-free number that links to more than 200 crisis centers across the nation. The system couldn’t be simpler. When a caller in crisis dials that number, he or she is transferred to the closest crisis center. Currently, 1-800-SUICIDE (as well as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800273-TALK) connects callers
launched IMAlive.org. Equipped with fully trained volunteers available 24/7, IMAlive became the world’s first online crisis center. The volunteers provide crisis intervention, emotional support, resources and local referrals—all through online chat. With the hotline and online center in place, Butler turned his attention to ministering to hurting young adults in person through Alive! Mental Health Fairs on college campuses across the country. “We try to have something that would attract students to the fair and make it a holistic, healing event,” Butler says. “We tried different things before we found a formula that was pretty successful.” That formula involves employing exhibits from PostSecret, the famous keeper, curator and broadcaster of anonymous secrets. These exhibits give students the creative opportunity to share secrets anonymously on postcards, as well as paint “It Gets Better”-esque messages of encouragement on an 8-foot graffiti art canvas. “We set up the canvas in a high-traffic area, and we ask students to paint it, tag it, mark it with their message of hope to other students,” Butler says. “It’s a phenomenal way to get a conversation going.” After hosting over 50 fairs, Butler says one of the most encouraging results is having been able to connect students in crisis with school counselors. “While you would think they could just go in the counselor’s office on their own, that is not the case for many students,” he says. “The fear can be paralyzing. Yet talking to us, in the context of the fair, they are able to open up and then agree to walk with us to the counselor’s office.”
Suicide prevention on college campuses is crucial, but struggles with suicidal thoughts often start long before someone is old enough to enroll in college. For example, 14-year-old Yvette posted her final goodbyes online in early 2012, announcing she was
SUICIDE IS THE SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH
FOR 25- TO 34YEAR-OLDS. to an organized, trained network of crisis centers. The network receives, collectively, over 75,000 calls every single month. Of course, for some people, the idea of calling up a complete stranger to share the intimate details of their depression isn’t an inviting prospect. Butler realized some people would be too intimidated to make that phone call. So, in 2011, he
planning to overdose on pills. She chose to post her message on the prayer wall at MyBrokenPalace.com, a website designed to offer both education and intervention for young people struggling with emotional pain. Shortly after Yvette posted her message, an intern for My Broken Palace alerted Scott Brinson, the founder of the organization. “I felt in my spirit that it wasn’t a cry for attention,” Brinson says. “She had put her phone number in our database. So I tried calling, but I got no answer. I prayed, waited and called her again.” This time he heard a soft, groggy “Hello?”
When Should You Get Help? Low feelings happen. But when do they get dangerous? • Feeling like you want to die. • Looking for a way to kill yourself. • Feeling like you have no reason to live. • Feeling like you’re a burden to others. • Feeling like you’re trapped or can’t handle the pain. • Drinking excessive alcohol or using drugs. • Feeling anxious or agitated. • Sleeping too little or too much. • Feeling like you can’t talk to anyone. • Wanting to be alone. • Wanting to seek revenge. If you experience these symptoms, get help right away by calling 1-800-SUICIDE.
“People are afraid of the response they might be met with,” he says. “They’re afraid of being judged, labeled, misunderstood, and they buy into the idea that the people around them have enough on their plate, so they don’t have room for our stuff.” So, Tworkowski says, the struggle can be a very lonely one—even as it’s increasingly broadcast to the faceless masses. The Internet has become an outlet for people who feel safer firing suicidal thoughts into an impersonal void than they do sharing those thoughts with people who can actually help. “I think a lot of people are afraid to say things in person,” Tworkowski says. “They’re a little less afraid to say something on the phone, and the least afraid of saying something on social media.”
When it comes to sharing dark thoughts and inclinations toward self-harm online, Tworkowski says it takes several usual forms. “For some people, it’s the cryptic song lyric status update. For someone else, it’s the fullon, really, really honest, heavy YouTube video. It’s easier to make a heavy YouTube video than to walk into the first counseling appointment,” he says. “But the heart of the matter is, ‘Okay. What next? Do you want help?’ We [at TWLOHA] think they deserve better than YouTube comments or an ‘online community.’ I think the heart of it is, they’re trying to be known, because we were made to be known.”
AN OPEN DIALOGUE IN THE CHURCH
When Sarah was a teenager in Texas, her father told her he was going to take her to a new school. He drove her to an unfamiliar building and then had her go inside to take a look. By the time she discovered it was not a school, but rather a homeless shelter, he had already driven off. It was the latest in a long string of abandonments. Both Sarah’s heroine-addicted mother and her grandmother had abdicated responsibility for her, and by the time she ended up at the shelter, that rejection manifested itself in drastic fashion. “I was into drugs,” Sarah says. “I was into drinking. I was really severely into cutting. I lived under constant tension. I didn’t know there was any hope.” Several workers at the shelter were Christians who loved and listened to Sarah—something she acknowledges as a “big step”—but she steeled herself against their faith. “When they took me to church, I’d sit in the back and write ‘F*** God’ into the pew with my razor blade,” she says. She couldn’t stop slitting her wrists, and eventually she was
AMONG FAITH GROUPS, PROTESTANTS HAVE THE HIGHEST SUICIDE RATE.
“I said, ‘This is Scott from My Broken Palace. Did you just overdose?’” After a moment of silence, he heard her response: “Yes.” Brinson convinced Yvette to give the phone to her neighbor and then persuaded the neighbor to call 911 immediately. “Yvette is alive,” Brinson says. “I don’t know all the details, but I saw her active on our site a few days later, responding privately to people who messaged her through the prayer wall.” While the team at My Broken Palace is prepared to intervene at the last moment, Brinson’s real hope is to prevent that critical call in the first place. “Suicide usually follows a path,” he says. “Prevention, to me, isn’t about gun control or prescription medicine control. It’s about connecting with people long before the suicide note.” Brinson uses the word “epidemic,” too, to describe the number of young people experiencing depression and hopelessness, citing the grizzly and sobering statistics on suicide amongst teenagers. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 1 in 3 American teenagers has contemplated suicide. It’s the fourth leading cause of death among those aged 5 to 14 and the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds. In 2010, almost 5,000 people between the ages of 5 and 24 took their own lives. It’s an ugly, growing fact of adolescence, and Brinson wants to see more people joining together to combat this stark, painful reality. “There are too few organizations for the amount of hurt,” he says. “We need support, and so do other organizations willing to take on this epidemic. It is amazing that suicide is the third leading cause of death of teens in America and yet we have so few resources allocated to prevent it.” One of the organizations that is looking the epidemic in its face is the famed Florida-based nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA). Born of a 2006 essay that founder Jamie Tworkowski wrote about his friend’s struggle with depression and suicide, TWLOHA morphed into an awareness-raising campaign for the too-often-hushed-up topics of cutting and depression. They produced T-shirts and stickers, and bands like Switchfoot brought them into the public eye. Since then, TWLOHA has become increasingly proactive in meeting the emotional and relational needs of this generation’s lonely, hurting and depressed. The organization is a major player in a national grassroots effort to remove the stigma and shame surrounding suicide—and Tworkowski says that shame is the biggest obstacle. “There’s no stigma in talking about a broken arm,” Tworkowski says. “But a broken mind or perhaps a broken heart—a lot of people feel like they’re not allowed to go there or be honest about it.” The reasons people don’t open up about their struggles are myriad, says Tworkowski, but one of the biggest is the fear of being perceived as weak.
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How Can You Help? If you know someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, here’s what you can do. Be direct. Talk to them openly about suicide.
“They went out of their way to be all things to all people,” she says, “to reach into my life, to get down on my level. They told me even if I didn’t follow Jesus, they’d still be there to love me.” The church became Sarah’s new family. And it wasn’t much later that she sat in one of the church’s services, telling God, “If you’re real, and if this isn’t just crazy, then I’ll surrender.” The Church is uniquely positioned to connect those who are hurting with those who can help. It’s an opportunity—and a calling—that many churches, like Sarah’s, have taken to heart. And Brinson says more need to follow suit. “We, as
“Honesty meaning telling the truth, saying the hard thing, like ‘I’m worried about you’ or ‘I think you need help,’” he says. “Compassion means making sure the person knows you love them, you’re with them. You won’t walk away, won’t give up on them.” “The more we talk about it,” Brinson says, “the easier it is for someone to come out of hiding and ask for help.” And sometimes the help a person needs goes beyond having a place to tell the truth. Navarro points out that two types of depression exist—environmental and
Listen. Allow them to express their feelings, and accept what they share without judgment. Don’t judge. Don’t debate with them about suicide’s rightness or wrongness or lecture them on the value
SUICIDE IS THE SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH
AMONG COLLEGE STUDENTS.
of life. Don’t stay silent. Tell someone, and ask for help. Don’t offer empty platitudes. Direct them to alternatives available to give them the help they need. Get help. Seek counsel from agencies that specialize in suicide prevention, such as 1-800-SUICIDE, IMAlive.org, MyBrokenPalace.com or TWOLHA.com.
sent to a psych ward. When she got out, she moved in with a friend. Then she ran away and lived in a car, stealing food to survive. “God was the furthest thing from my mind,” she says. Why Sarah finally walked into a church remains a hard thing for her to explain. “I thought it might be a place to make friends,” she says, even though she thought Christians were crazy. What she found was a community that loved her relentlessly. “The church I walked into was not a church full of people so separated in their holy ways that they didn’t know how to handle me,” she says. They brought her pancakes, told her she was beautiful and financially supported her. 70 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
the Church, are supposed to have answers to the most important questions in life, and we need to start seeing what’s happening here. Most churches I have attended have never addressed topics like suicide, depression or cutting from the pulpit.” Sarah agrees. “I’ve seen churches that are so churchy. They’d hurt that girl that walked in,” she says, speaking of herself when she chose to darken a church’s doorway. But the Church’s reluctance and inability to help those who are hurting isn’t alienating people outside its walls only. New studies show it’s taking a toll amongst its own. Among America’s major faith groups, Protestants are the most likely to commit suicide, followed by Roman Catholics. This isn’t news to Tworkowski, who’s witnessed hurt and despair in the Church firsthand. “It’s easy to feel like being a Christian means ‘having joy’ and ‘being whole,’” he says. “And so you’re not supposed to struggle with depression or addiction. So many people—even pastors—fake it. We put perfect people on stage, or people pretending to be, instead of people willing to be honest about the fact that life—even life as a Christian—is still a struggle and painful at times.” Navarro concurs that the Church needs to do a better job recognizing those who are hurting—and simply be willing to listen. “[They] need a congregation they can talk to and say, ‘I know I should have these feelings of love and appreciation for life, but right now I’m angry and I hate the world,’” she says. “Sometimes there’s this shame that comes with faith, and that’s what we need to throw out so [people] will feel comfortable talking about their feelings.” That happens by following one of the Bible’s most well-known commands: to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Or, as Tworkowski calls it, “balance honesty with compassion.”
physiological—and that the latter is the product of low serotonin levels. “For someone who has low serotonin,” she says, “trying to think happy thoughts or focus on God isn’t going to work because their chemistry isn’t working at 100 percent.” In these cases, medication becomes an important part of the solution—and something the Church needs to take seriously, despite the stigma historically associated with it. The risk is just too high. “Two out of three people who struggle with depression don’t get help for it,” says Tworkowski. “I think that’s a huge piece to this puzzle—trying to change that number by encouraging folks to get the help they need. I hope the Church will be part of the solution, part of telling people they’re allowed to be honest, allowed to be broken, allowed to need help beyond prayer or reading Scripture.” And with enough people talking, perhaps those who find themselves in Buddy’s shoes will feel comfortable enough to call a friend and know they are not alone—and not without hope. That’s what Sarah found. “I don’t want to sound sound like my story has a perfect ending,” she says. “I’m not perfect. The difference is, now I see the love that God has for me. I have community with my Creator. That brings me peace.”
TYLER CHARLES is a campus minister with the Coalition for Christian Outreach at Ohio Wesleyan University.
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THE BREAK-OUT INDIE QUARTET IS BACK WITH A NEW TWIST. BY L AURA STUDARUS
eep in the heart of Los Angeles’ Echo Park district, perched at the top of a long driveway, sits a small, nondescript house. From the street, it would be easy to overlook—the structure blends into the surrounding businesses, and even the U.S. Postal Service has been known to give it a miss. It’s an odd home for the nexus of an indie music sensation, but that’s exactly what it is. Welcome to Gorilla Manor, headquarters of LA’s folkpop revolutionaries, the Local Natives. Gorilla Manor is the house in which the band’s debut was recorded, and it served as its namesake. On the strength of that album’s lush tapestry of swelling vocal harmonies, frenetic percussion and jittery folk sensibility, the band (made up of Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn and Matt Frazier) found themselves on the road for the better part of three years, enjoying that rarest of vehicles to stardom: the rocket. The album was a rarity—a debut that sounded like the band had been together for ages. It had a polished song cycle that sounded both playful and composed. It was one of 2010’s absolute best. The success of Gorilla Manor netted the Local Natives their own studio setup, high profile gigs at the likes of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and gushing fans in the ranks of Arcade Fire and The National. And the first stop to crafting a followup was to throw out the playbook that had worked so well on the first go-round. “The last thing we wanted was to remake the same record that we had already made,” says keyboardist/vocalist Kelcey Ayer. “We’re, on some level, conscious of that, but on another, I think it was just what happened naturally, as our songwriting has developed a lot over the last couple of years. The methodology was completely different this time, as well, and I think there are a lot of factors
that went into making this record a very clear step forward from Gorilla Manor.” It’s natural for bands to want to take forward steps on sophomore efforts, but fans aren’t always so eager to take those steps with them. One of the strengths of Gorilla Manor was how homespun the whole thing felt. The album had a clarity of vision that’s rare in bands who’ve got a lot longer discography list than the Local Natives. The trick for bands like the Local Natives, then, is to branch out creatively without sacrificing essentials. And they navigated that particular puzzle with the help of their pal, outside producer and The National mastermind, Aaron Dessner. Chosen not only on the strength of his day job, but also for his production work on Sharon Van Etten’s recently released album, Tramp, Dessner came to the Local Natives’ attention after a brief string of supporting tour dates. “This thing with Aaron happened organically, as a lot of this record has happened for us,” says Ayer. “I think he comes from a very collaborative place, working with his bandmates. It’s a very similar situation with us, where we’re always trying to vote and work on different parts and write the songs. It worked out really well. He was a songwriter that we respected. He took on a big brother role.” That familial quality manifested itself in more ways than studio duties. The band left Los Angeles and camped out in Dessner’s Brooklyn studio, only a few stories above Dessner and his family. Despite the cozy digs—and the fact that most bands would salivate at the thought of working alongside a member of indie-rock royalty—their working relationship took a leap of faith. “We were toying with the idea of working with an actual producer for this record because we wrote the whole last record ourselves,” says Ayer of the transition process. “It felt like handing over all of your RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 73
Los Angeles, We’re Yours The Local Natives are on the forefront of LA’s newly hip scene. But they’re not alone. Best Coast Lo-fi fuzz doesn’t get much better than the surf-rock stylings of Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno. Foster the People Few bands have done more to bring the hipster kids out of their bedrooms and onto the dance floor than this electro-pop trio. Flying Lotus Futuristic beatmaker Steven Ellison makes music that sounds like his city: frenetic, crowded and irresistible.
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little newborn babies in a basket to somebody. It was very terrifying at first.” But the end result of the Local Natives’ time with Dessner was an album that, while preserving evidence of the band’s extraordinary musical chemistry, shows a definitive move in a different direction. Hummingbird is the flip side of the coin, a streamlined, blue-tinted complement to the sprawling, rose-colored folk attack of Gorilla Manor. Both Rice and Ayer agree the tonal shift toward the melancholy was a natural reaction to life in the wake of Gorilla Manor. Like the line from the debut track “World News” puts it, where the band praises “the bad that feels so bad makes the good so good,” Rice admits the band had been thrown into a state of extreme emotion after its first release that colored the writing and recording process for the second. “I think this album is more intensely personal,” Rice adds, alluding to a dark period that included a family death and the band’s unhappy split with bassist Andy Hamm. “We went through some really difficult times and some incredibly positive times. And I think that that balance is reflected more on this album. [It has] a lifting, hopeful thing going on.” While erring on the side of optimism, the members of Local Natives acknowledge the benefit of a sad song—particularly when the chips are down. “I was sleeping up in the attic of Aaron’s house, and it was just every night, I would try to go to bed and I couldn’t,” Rice says. “Eventually, I figured out what did the trick. I had never listened to much of Nick Drake before. And I put on Nick Drake, Pink Moon. And then I listened to it every night, trying to sleep, for probably a little over a month. And that was the thing that helped me go to sleep.” “If you’re happy, then you’re fine,” adds Ayer. “You don’t need anything. If you’re happy, you’re kind of bored.” “If you listen to a sad song, it puts you into a sort of community where you can be sad with the song,” says Rice. “The song’s your buddy. And then you’re like, ‘Oh, I went there. I felt bad. And now I can feel good again.’ It provides closure in some sense.” To hear both Rice and Ayer tell it, Local Natives is a project anchored by personal ties. While the size of the rooms where they perform has expanded considerably and you probably won’t find them living in shared quarters (outside of touring) anymore, at its heart, the band is just a clutch of friends who’ve been playing music together since they were teenagers. To put it
simply, the more things change, the more they stay the same. “We’re renting and living with other people and stuff,” says Rice. “But we have this space in LA, and we still see each other absolutely 10 times more than what should be allowed to see another human being. We’re still together all of the time, doing it ourselves. It doesn’t feel that different, from that perspective.” If you keep a sharp lookout at Los Angeles’ watering holes or burrito stands, you might even see a few Local Natives enjoying time away from the “office.” They’re aware that not every band enjoys their level of camaraderie—the kind that endures everything from a crowded studio to a stuffed tour van. “We’ve learned that we’re a bit of an anomaly in that sense,” says Rice. “Other people will ask, ‘Why are you guys hanging out together?’ And we don’t really have a good answer. We’re just together all of the time, just trying to figure out what the good next move is and how to write a song that we can be into. That never changes. It’s just hard for us to be outside of it.” Ultimately, Rice says, it’s the bulletproof, decade-long friendships that have helped the band not only survive the emotionally treacherous recording process, but also create two albums that uniquely reflect its creative musical entity. “There was this song I totally played all my cards to get on the record,” he shares. “I kept working on it, and in the end, it didn’t make the record. I think that could be the story of how a band crumbles. But instead, I feel the way that we do it, everybody at the end of the day is feeling really great about the end product and what we have. There is a functionality amidst the chaos.”
LAURA STUDARUS is a writer living in Los Angeles. She’s a regular contributor to Under the Radar, Filter, eMusic and RELEVANT.
WHAT’S GOING RIGHT BY KELLI B. TRUJILLO
hen the class of 2000 graduated high school, generational theorists Neil Howe and William Strauss proclaimed theirs was a generation with a true capacity for greatness. They predicted this service-oriented, civic-minded, ethnically diverse and globally connected group of young people would become another hero generation, much like the “Greatest Generation” of the World War II era.
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Now, that initial spark of optimism seems to have given way to a collective cultural sigh of disappointment. Society has become jaded by the newsfeed constantly bemoaning the rate of the now twenty- and thirtysomething young adults shirking their workloads, boomeranging home to live with Mom and Dad and just generally extending their adolescence well into their 20s and beyond. This sense of dismay is especially poignant in the Church, where study after study reveals Christian kids in America are exiting the faith in droves as they enter adulthood. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, one in five American adults claim no religious affiliation—the highest such finding in Pew’s polling history. But all this gloom and doom doesn’t tell the whole story. “There are real challenges facing the generation. That’s why I wrote two books focusing on the problems,” says David Kinnaman, who has made a career running these numbers as president of the Barna Group, the leading Christian research firm. “Yet I am incredibly hopeful about today’s young adults.” And this hope is not unfounded. “We can have total confidence in the next generation not because the age group is so great—but because God is,” he says. Drew Dyck, author of Generation Ex-Christian, sees promising evidence for this hope in what he calls “a smaller but more committed core of young Christians.” “If there’s a silver lining to the large number of young adults leaving the faith,” Dyck says, “it’s this more passionate group of young Christians ... They’re against-the-stream swimmers who are serious about their relationship with Christ.” Even Howe and Strauss could not have predicted the three powerful things happening
right now, as what they named “the next Greatest Generation” collides with an even greater God.
THE GLOBAL CHURCH IS EXPANDING
While Europe has moved fully into a post-Christian society with America following close on its heels, Christianity is actually on the rise throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia. In fact, the majority of proclaiming Christians in the world today are in these “Global South” nations, with 70 percent of the world’s evangelicals living outside the West. And as Christianity is on the rise in this global context, Christian nominalism is being replaced by fresh faith in the next generation. “Sometimes people think that Christianity is a Western spiritual movement,” says Jaeson Ma, the founding director of Campus Church Networks, which has planted over 300 student-led churches throughout North America and East Asia. “But there is truly an awakening that’s happening among young adults in Asia on a large scale. It’s revolutionary.” As many as 40,000 people are committing their lives to Christ every day in China, Ma reports—a movement he has documented in the film 1040: Christianity in the New Asia. “And these aren’t ‘cultural Christians,’” Ma says. “These are people who are laying down their lives and everything they have for the Gospel.”
“WHAT WE’RE SEEING EMERGE IS A SMALLER BUT MORE COMMITTED CORE OF YOUNG CHRISTIANS.” —DREW DYCK The depth of commitment among these new Christians in Asia is evidenced by their passion to bring the Gospel to the rest of the world. After watching 1040, more than 15,000 students in Asia have committed to spending two years doing “marketplace missions” in China and the Middle East. From hip-hop artists to social workers to NGO workers to students, these entrepreneurial missionaries “are boldly proclaiming Christ and living out the Gospel while also being excellent in their careers,” Ma says. And with these young Christians influencing media, television, music and technology sectors, he continues, “We’re literally at the beginning of a massive renaissance in Asia of the Gospel influencing every fiber and thread of society.” Henry Deneen, president of Greater Europe Mission (GEM), is likewise seeing revival unfold on a continent where Christianity has long been deemed dead. Out of GEM’s mission to plant churches in 50 major European cities in the next five years, Deneen has observed an intense hunger in young Christians for something more. “These are young adults who want to be part of something bigger than themselves—who want to join in on something that only God can do,” he says. The young Christians running a coffee shop in the culturally diverse Brick Lane area of London is one example. Engaging with their community through art exhibits, sewing classes and, of course, good java and ambience, these Christians welcome nearly 20,000 people off the streets every Sunday—and many of them are coming to Christ.
Christianity in Europe may be on the decline, but Deneen believes the Christians who remain are more committed to living—and sharing—the Gospel than ever. And in terms of reaching the world for Christ, Deneen says, “They’re going to do a far better job even than my generation has done.”
THE LOCAL CHURCH IN AMERICA IS STARTING TO BOOM AGAIN
Andrew Schey, pastor of the Huntington Beach campus of Rock Harbor in Orange County, Calif., sees a surprising bright side to the volume of young Christians leaving the Church. “The numerical decrease of nominal Christianity is a good thing,” says Schey. “While the voice of the nominal has grown quieter and the temperature of the lukewarm is settling to cold, we’re left with a contingent who just want Christ. It’s a group marked by perseverance and compelled by the Gospel to invest in the Church.” Not surprisingly, when this genuine core is all that’s left, it attracts outsiders all the more— even in the most unlikely of places. Costa Mesa was anything but a thriving spiritual landscape when Rock Harbor began its services in 1997. But the church soon drew people in. In the past three years alone, its central campus has expanded to five campuses and an ever-growing collection of open spaces— from homes to coffee shops to beaches—where young people gather, hungry for God’s Word. Other churches around the nation echo this same story of growth in unexpected places. In Los Angeles, where the cultural emphasis leans on appearance and ambition rather than faith, Reality LA has multiplied 50 times over since its opening in 2006—with the majority of its attendees coming from young hipster neighborhoods and the Hollywood industry. In Seattle, RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 77
[BE THE CHANGE] Want to play a more active role in the movement? Start here.
READ The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America
WATCH 1040: Christianity in the New Asia
“THESE ARE YOUNG ADULTS ... WHO WANT TO JOIN IN ON SOMETHING ONLY GOD CAN DO.” —HENRY DENEEN But it didn’t start this way. “We started from scratch,” Lentz says of the church’s opening in 2011. “We began with a connect group in an apartment of 15 [people]. Now, we have over 4,500 people who could call this church home.” As Hillsong NYC grows wide, it’s also rooting deep. “We focus on Psalm 92:13—‘Those who are planted in the house will flourish,’” says Lentz. “Being planted in the local church means being fully committed, heart and soul. When people throw their whole lives into the church, they thrive.” And when a church thrives, it brings transformation to its surrounding city. “The most inspiring thing about our church is to see people valiantly go into this nasty city with bright eyes, reaching people,” says Lentz. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, 700 of Hillsong NYC’s members volunteered to clean up and help those left homeless by the devastating natural disaster. “That’s what church should be,” says Lentz.
ORGANIC COMMUNITY IS TRANSFORMING
PRAY Pray for GEM’s work as they disciple young people in 50 key European cities. Learn more at www.gemission.org/pray.
despite the bleak spiritual climate, Eastlake Community Church draws nearly 8,000 young people each week. The fast-paced, fight-to-thetop culture of New York City is another unlikely setting for revived spiritual interest, yet a spiritual clamor is exactly what Hillsong NYC, the first U.S. campus of the Australia-based Hillsong Church, witnesses each week as people wait in line for hours to enter the services in downtown Manhattan. “You never have to advertise a good party,” says Carl Lentz, the church’s pastor. 78 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
As this generation plants itself firmly in the local church, its attention turns outward—to those beyond church walls. Kinnaman observes, “The most common theme I hear from those who stay committed is that they are finding ways to follow Jesus that connects with the world they live in.” CJ and Kelly Casciotta, for example, simply wanted to get to know their neighbors in Southern California. “We’d do small coffee shops or pubs or other events in our living room,” CJ says. “We’d invite our neighbors to come over, and we’d also invite local artists [or] ... nonprofit leaders to talk about what they’re doing.” As more people showed up at these gatherings, Sounds Like a Movement began—a nonprofit dedicated to creating common space for community to thrive. At its regular gatherings, Christians and non-Christians come together to hear and share stories, to enjoy good food and to team up for local service projects. “We just want to create a simple and natural context for relationships,” says CJ. “We want to show people a strong marriage, a welcoming home and the values we have in common with them. They can watch us try to actually live the way Jesus did.” People need to see more than Christians preaching Jesus and singing worship songs, CJ says. “You can only go so far with that until you infuse it with real life. But when people see the simplified Gospel-in-action infused into real life? That’s gripping.” Rob and Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma co-founded Culture Is Not Optional (*cino) with a different vision—as a means of sustaining Christians in community post-college, in that vulnerable period when many young people leave their faith. This vision led them to purchase a historic school in smalltown Three Rivers, Mich., to serve as a community hub for
shared meals, art shows, camping trips and community development projects. What keeps even those jaded by the Church coming back to these gatherings, Kirstin believes, is a new way of doing community. Instead of a one-way message from the pulpit, *cino cultivates collaborative work and conversation. “When generosity becomes reciprocal,” she says, “I think we push beyond an ‘us and them’ model, in which one person is the helper and one is the ‘helpee,’ to a model of mutual encouragement, help and giftedness.” Rather than a structured church program, young adults are embracing this praxis of the Gospel as a full-life message— and it’s working. “Over time,” CJ Casciotta explains, “we’ve been given permission to speak into [our neighbors’] stories as we love them more and share with them the life that has given us so much hope and freedom.”
GOD’S NEW WORK
From the marketplace ministry in Hong Kong to a coffee-shop church in London to house concerts in California, a renewed spiritual movement is at work. This generation may be known for getting stuck and stalling out in faith, but perhaps behind this decline there is a greater refinement at work. “Those who stay ... are concerned about their generation’s exodus from organized religion,” says Kinnaman. “They are heartbroken by the spiritual wandering of their peers. And they are as committed as ever to the Scripture and to loving Jesus.”
KELLI B. TRUJILLO is a Midwest thirtysomething and the author of the series
Find her on Twitter @kbtrujillo or at www.kellitrujillo.com.
HOW THE OUTSPOKEN M.C. IS MAKING THE INDUSTRY SIT UP AND TAKE NOTICE. B Y M AT T C O N N E R
ap used to turn heads. Ask your grandparents about it. It didn’t matter if it was East Coast, West Coast or underground—it was controversial. But these days, no one bats an eye when the world’s biggest rappers date Kardashians or own parts of sports franchises.
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That’s not a bad thing, but hip-hop has always been at its best when it’s challenging the status quo and shining a light on those subjects the mainstream can’t—or won’t—address. Nobody’s asking for a return to the days when being a rapper was a legitimately dangerous career. It’d just be nice to hear someone creating hip-hop that talked about the things you don’t hear talked about very
often and doing it in a fresh, invigorating way. Enter Jason Petty, aka Humble Beast’s Propaganda. Propagada’s a whole new animal in every way. Musically, he names inf luences like Sigur Rós and Sufjan Stevens and Explosions in the Sky. Lyrically, he gravitates toward
folk music for the “raw musical perspective” it lends toward the human condition. Artistically, he’s inspired by spokenword poetry. And he certainly isn’t one to hide in the shadows when it comes to saying the things he believes everyone needs to hear.
Propaganda got his start as a “vicious, aggressive battle rapper” in Los Angeles in the underground West Coast crew called the Tunnel Rats. The M.C. says he took to poetry as a way to hone his craft and strengthen his skills. “The city I grew up in was kind of a hub for spoken word, so there were plenty of poetry venues that were happening almost every week,” he says. “I just started going to different open mics and hearing the difference between dudes that were rapping versus the poets. They were just such better writers.” The disparity between his rap colleagues and the spoken word artists prompted Propaganda to give poetry a go. “It was just such a clear difference,” he says. “I was like, ‘Man, I want to be able to write that well.’ How do you captivate an audience for three to five minutes with no music, nobody else on stage with you? I got hooked. That’s how poetry started for me.” Propaganda describes himself as a “daywalker” since that moment—a rapper who relies on the vocabulary and process of poetry to create his work. He says he never considered leaving the hip-hop scene (he calls it his “native tongue”), but his poetic venture afforded him a newfound freedom. “If you try to say something that complex and profound in a song, it would make for a really bad song that you can’t sing along with,” he says. “There’s nothing to put your hands up with. In songs, there are requirements. [With] poetry, those requirements don’t apply anymore. You can be as deep, as intellectual and as complex as your heart desires.”
THE STAMP OF EXCELLENCE
Lyrically, Propaganda pulls no punches on his new release, Excellent, and speaks to issues many Christians within any genre are often fearful to broach. Like, for instance, the unseemly sins of our faith’s forefathers, whom we place on pedestals. His song “Precious Puritans” flings out accusation: You know they were the chaplains on slave ships, right? / Would you quote Columbus to Cherokees?
“I WISH THERE WERE EXPERIENCES IN LIFE THAT WERE OFF-LIMITS, BUT LIFE ISN’T LIKE THAT. LIFE ISN’T NEAT WITH PRETTY BOWS.”
But Propaganda isn’t out to make waves for wave-making’s sake. He’s just willing to speak honestly about what he believes is worth our attention. “Controversy for controversy’s sake is sinful,” he says. “I wish there were experiences in life that were off-limits, but life isn’t like that. Life isn’t neat with pretty bows that you can say, ‘I’m going to protect you. Don’t go down that alley.’ That’s just not life. Sometimes you go down the alley, or sometimes the alley comes to you. So why should it be off-limits?” While Propaganda’s approach and lyrics conjure a confident aura, the artist says the album was actually an exercise in humility. The theme behind Excellent took shape during writing sessions, as the artist realized the need to push Christians to be excellent in all they do. “I was reminded of this quote from this 19th-century illustrator, Robert Henry,” he says. “The quote goes, ‘The presence of good art will unconsciously refine a community, and poor art will do it incalculable harm.’ [It’s] the idea of what art does to the culture.” When applied to the Church, he says, the stakes are even higher. “Especially as believers, the damage we’ve done to the body and to the body’s reputation for the rest of the world by making mediocre art has been incalculable. How terrible. How much the world doesn’t take us seriously because our art isn’t wonderful.” And so he strove for excellence on the album. Every ounce of instrumentation is played live. Whether it’s jangling keys or chopping an onion, there’s not a single sample to be found. And then, as he strove to write around the theme of “outperforming everyone else,” he says he came to a realization. “As I was writing these songs and thinking about different topics to cover,” he says, “I realized, ‘Wow. I’m not better. I’m failing miserably. In all of these areas, I’m failing.’ Which led, ultimately, to the point of the album, which is that our worth doesn’t come from some kind of performance or inequality but by the price the Father was willing to pay to purchase us. That’s what gives us worth. That’s what gives anything worth—it’s the price the purchaser’s willing to pay for it.” “So, we’re stamped excellent,” he continues. “We’re declared excellent. Ultimately, that’s what I’m trying to articulate.”
GETTING A GOOD RAP
As Propaganda pursues his craft, it’s clear others are taking note. Critics lavished praise on the album, and Excellent charted well at Billboard and iTunes. Given Lecrae’s recent success, as well, the marketplace is taking notice of this new crop of hip-hop artists. Propaganda is not surprised it has taken time to get to this point, though.
“Hip-hop, in one aspect, is so young that it just took a while for us to get taken seriously,” he says. And when it comes to Christian hip-hop, he says the challenge was even greater. “We didn’t have any models. We were inventing a scene. It wasn’t like [rappers 20 years ago] could go to their pastor and say, ‘So, look. I’m a breakdancer. Um, how do I foster ministry among the people?’ Nobody knew.” Now, as technically excellent and celebrated as Propaganda is, the poet says he desires to leave his audience with an impression of something greater than himself. “I want to leave them in awe,” he says. “I want them to be wowed, but ultimately so that they can be wowed by the Father that we serve.” It’s not about him, in other words. It’s about the excellence of God. “Where does the wind come from?” he asks. “I don’t know. Where does it go after? I can’t even get my brain around that!” Ultimately, it comes down to this, says Propaganda: “You’re blown away by what you do see so that ultimately you can be blown away by what you can’t see. Hopefully that’s what people leave with.”
MATT CONNER is senior editor at SB Nation and writes about all aspects of pop culture for the Indy Star and other places he says don’t matter.
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HOW CHRISTIAN SINGLES ARE RETHINKING THE SEARCH FOR LOVE
B Y E M I LY M c F A R L A N M I L L E R
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enee Fisher read Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye when she was growing up—back when she was Renee Johnson. This was when she was being homeschooled in Nebraska. “I was raised with the mentality of ‘Don’t date until you’re 35.’ I just thought dating was wrong,” she says. She felt bad—like she wasn’t godly—when she did go out on dates. Then she felt bad—like something must be wrong with her—when no one asked her out at all. Fisher tried online dating with little more success. Her yearlong subscription to eHarmony.com cost $250 and 12 months of awkward, stilted conversations that were generally about as romantic as a paper bag. “The second date I went on with the same guy, he tried to force me to sleep with him,” she says. “I ended up basically running out of his apartment—from a guy who supposedly said he was a Christian.” And blind dates, she declares, were the absolute worst. By the time Fisher was 28 years old, God still had not introduced her to anyone approaching Mr. Right. She felt frustrated that it hadn’t happened yet, but she also felt guilty for wanting it so badly. She tried to enjoy the “gift of singleness,” but she was desperate for a chance to give it away. After trying everything she could think of, Fisher realized there were ideas about dating she needed to shed, as well as new ideas she needed to explore. And Fisher isn’t the only one realizing this. It’s been about 100 years since Americans commenced the social institution of dating as we know it, and it’s been 15 years since Christians entertained kissing dating goodbye. In 1997, Harris’ book went viral—back before “viral” was even a thing—and initiated the DTR between Christians and dating. It has sold more than a million copies and spawned a wider genre that includes titles like When God Writes Your Love Story, No Sex in the City and The Thrill of the Chaste.
25.1 in 2001, and for men, to 28.9 from 26.8, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, says 32-year-old Ruth Rutherford, “The Church hasn’t changed its mindset, where you get married straight out of high school or college.” Rutherford liked parts of I Kissed Dating Goodbye when she read it while growing up in New Jersey, where her dad was a pastor in an Assemblies of God church. But now, as a writer for a government consulting firm who is living on her own in Washington, D.C., she considers its “courtship” approach outdated. “It’s just not realistic to expect someone to call my father when I’m 32 years old,” she says. And so, for Christians like Rutherford and Fisher, the relationship with dating remains a complicated one. “You can’t just kiss dating goodbye and then get married,” Rutherford says. “Where’s the in-between? Something’s obviously missing.” Here’s how a few couples have found that “in-between”—and how they’re throwing out old models of dating for something newer, deeper and better.
A TRADITIONAL AFFAIR
For Vanessa Collins, that in-between stage was courtship—much like Harris proposed in his 2000 follow-up book, Boy Meets Girl. It’s a path that starts with purpose: with its compass pointed directly toward marriage. And it often includes guidance from parents
IT’S BEEN ABOUT 100 YEARS SINCE AMERICANS COMMENCED THE SOCIAL INSTITUTION OF DATING AS WE KNOW IT, AND 15 YEARS SINCE WE KISSED DATING GOODBYE. Some would say the subculture that surrounded Christian dating in years past—purity rings, abstinence pledges and a heaping amount of parental supervision—was a fruitful movement, guiding young men and women into God-honoring relationships. Others saw it as a cringe-worthy franchise of good intentions gone wrong. Still others saw it as a complicated blend of both. Whatever it was, it was certainly countercultural. And it hasn’t changed much over the years. The culture at large has evolved to legitimize casual hookups and cohabitation as common practice. Americans are waiting longer to marry—in the last decade, the median age for women getting married has jumped to 26.1 in 2010, up from
and a commitment to purity along the way. For many courting couples, this means not only saving sex, but also the first kiss, until after one’s vows have been spoken. Collins was a young teenager when the “no-dating thing” caught fire. She remembers the books and speakers that were all the rage while she was growing up in her Christian community in Indiana. And her parents, who didn’t become Christians until after they were married, were all too happy to see this cultural shift away from casual dating. Collins agreed right away when her dad, RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM / 83
who had pastored an independent Baptist church for 13 years, told her he wanted to be involved in her relationships. But then she met Tim Collins in the summer of 2010. And after scoping him out on Facebook, she got understandably nervous about having her dad involved. “I was 29 years old,” she says. “I didn’t want to look like a preschooler that needed to be babysat.” Vanessa and Tim chatted online for about two months—they’re very “modern traditionalists,” Vanessa jokes—when they decided to meet in person. They took along several friends and met halfway between her home and his in Ohio. By the end of the night, she says, “I think we both knew this was going somewhere.” Then Vanessa’s dad suggested he meet with Tim for lunch once a week. He also suggested that she and Tim take a few months to get to know each other as friends before pursuing romance. Those were the parental guidelines, but Vanessa and Tim took things a step further on their own. They commited to not holding hands until six months into their relationship and not to kiss until their wedding day. They married just over a year later and now live near Cincinnati, where Tim is an assistant pastor at a small church. So, the story has a very happy ending, although Tim probably never saw the road to marriage looking quite like it did. Vanessa understands if the particulars strike some people as a little bizarre. And yet, remarkably enough, it all worked out just fine. “Tim was totally open to it and very respectful,” Vanessa says. “He said, ‘I was going to do whatever it takes to get to know you,’ which was really sweet. Not a lot of guys would be willing to go through all that.” The prospect of that much parental involvement almost certainly sounds daunting to anyone not charmed by the idea of courtship, but the couple says they benefited from cultivating their relationship in the context of their families. But, of course, not everyone has a family willing or able to be so involved. In that case, it’s about the people who know you best, Vanessa says. “And it’s not to prevent heartbreak,” she adds. “That’s not the goal. The goal is to try to keep a pure relationship before God and sense His will for your life.” Anyone who takes issue with Tim and Vanessa’s romantic journey has one very tough obstacle to deal with: It worked.
Miki and Tré Reaume had all but kissed dating goodbye—Miki because she was disenchanted by the dating scene in New York City, where she was a musical theater performer, and Tré because he was still figuring out what a “Christian” relationship should look like after years of dating before committing his life to Christ. Then Tré’s friends thought it would be funny to set up a profile for him on an online dating site. He never did anything with the profile, but it set another idea in motion when, not long afterward, he saw a Facebook ad for ChristianMingle.com. 84 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
ChristianMingle.com is part of the California-based Spark network of niche online dating sites, which includes JDate.com (directed toward Jewish singles) and the selfexplanatory LDSSingles.com. The ChristianMingle site took off in 2010, when Christian community manager Ashley Reccord realized the need for a dedicated online space for those dating within the Christian faith. Since then, the site has grown to nearly 7 million registered members—2 million of which registered in 2011 alone. Says Reccord, “It’s the largest and fastest-growing online community for Christian singles.” Within about two weeks of registering on the site, Tré was drawn to Miki’s profile by “the cute pictures,” he says. One photo in particular showed the former Rockette wearing a Star Trek T-shirt and giving the Vulcan salute. Her quirks made an impression. So Tré sent her an email through the website’s message system. Miki, then Miki Berg, couldn’t
read the message without a paid subscription, which she didn’t have. But Tré’s profile made her laugh, and it said he was a youth pastor in San Diego, so she took that as a positive cue about his faith. Curious and smitten, she ponied up the cash for a month-long subscription and responded to his message. It wasn’t long before their emails turned into hours-long instant message conversations, which soon turned into exchanging phone numbers and Skype calls. Then, two months after their initial contact, Tré booked a cross-country flight to take Miki on a first date. “Online dating is such an accelerated process,” he says. For one, the distance requires the get-to-know-you process happen through conversation rather than activities. He says it also averts the pressure that often comes from well-meaning friends who can sometimes push a relationship to be more than it needs to be. For Miki, getting to know Tré from afar allowed her to seek God first in their relationship—something she’d struggled to do in the past. As their relationship grew, she focused on Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Tré and Miki, both now 30, married in spring 2010—just over a year after they first connected online. They live in New York
state, where Tré is a pastor to young adults at a Wesleyan church and Miki continues to perform and teach dance. Tré says their unconventional experience was a lot of fun, despite how serious the notion of online dating sounds. “Enjoy the dating process,” he says. “See the differences He created us with. And then learn about yourself in the process.”
DINNER AND A MOVIE
So, these are happy models, but they’re still just that—models. And for someone seeking a new paradigm for dating, the prospect of signing up for ChristianMingle.com or asking parents for help might seem like aban-
Renee attributes her reaction after that first date to the aftermath of the Christian nondating movement. “When there was somebody who would initiate, then it wasn’t just dating. It was like you were intentionally going to court and marry her,” she says. “But ... some people just like to hang out and go to the movies.” Rutherford agrees. While many churches today still encourage Christians not to date until they’ve met someone they’d consider marrying, she
IN SCRIPTURE, THE WAYS WE SEE MEN AND WOMEN BROUGHT TOGETHER ARE ARGUABLY EVEN STRANGER THAN THE MODERN CHRISTIAN DATING SCENE. doning any hope of a normal relationship. At least, that’s how Fisher felt. Frustrated, disappointed and confused by the circus of Christian dating advice, Fisher—then Johnson—decided to write her own relationship book. The last thing she wanted to do, given her experience, was add another how-to manual to the already toppling pile of dating books. “It wasn’t about a formula,” she says. “It wasn’t about not dating or courting or whatever. It was like, ‘Go on the journey yourself with God, and He’ll show you what to do. It’s between you and God. What is it that works best for you?’” When Fisher started writing the book— titled Not Another Dating Book, released in early 2012—she realized just how bitter and jaded she had become about romance. That’s also when she met Marc Fisher. Marc, an engineer, had joined the small group for twentysomethings Renee co-led through her church. The small group met weekly at her parents’ house in Escondido, Calif. But then Renee moved to San Diego. Marc helped with the move. Then he asked her out. After their first date, Marc wasn’t sure it had gone well. Meanwhile, Renee wrote in her journal, “Husband?” She laughs about it now, saying, “How crazy and Christian-ese was I?”
believes the purpose should be much simpler. “The reason you date is to see if there’s a spark,” she says. Even Joshua Harris has shifted his stance on relationship models. While he says he still stands by his message that short-term romantic attachments can distract young people from serving God, he has since distanced himself from the legalistic interpretations that emerged in the wake of his first book’s soaring success—and he did so most overtly in a blog post published on Valentine’s Day 2009. “We need to learn to hold our own convictions on this matter with charity,” he wrote. “Most importantly, we need to make sure that our convictions are shaped by Scripture—not culture, church culture or my books.” So, looking at Scripture, it’s worth noting that the ways we see men and women brought together are arguably even stranger than the modern Christian dating scene. The Bible shows matches being made
when a man awakes to find his rib missing or a woman lying at his feet on the barn floor. And perhaps most interesting for the modern dialogue on dating is the fact that none of the great love stories of the Bible—Adam and Eve, Jacob and Rachel, the lover and beloved of the Song of Songs, to name a few—started in exactly the same way. “The Bible doesn’t really come out and say, ‘Thou shalt not date,’ or, ‘Thou shalt only court,’” Fisher says. “It does talk about how to ... love others. It talks about boundaries and sexual purity.” Perhaps the best way to encompass these timeless principles for godly relationships, then, is also the simplest—by looking first and foremost not to a specific mold but to Christ Himself. With Christ at the helm, the finer particulars of selfless love, sexual purity and holding one’s significant other as secondary to the Savior seem only natural. And the Gospels make it clear, Rutherford adds: “Jesus really cares. He cares about my stupid dating life.” This is a reality that has sustained Rutherford through her experiences with online dating, speed dating and blind dating. And as she’s continued to explore what’s next, she’s discovered she’s not alone. For the past year and half, Rutherford has been sharing her dating stories and the stories of others still navigating the dating scene at IKissedMyDateGoodnight.com.
BREAKING THE MOLD
Renee and Marc dated for about eight months before they were married in October 2011. They went to the movies. They studied the Bible. They spent time alone and time with friends. “We just had a lot of fun ... just getting to know each other,” Renee says. They didn’t follow a blueprint—and, in their view, they’re the better for it. While every Christian relationship model will make its claim for being biblical, Fisher believes God’s will for relationships is better informed through a relationship with Him than a pre-set template. And then she adds a final bit of wisdom: “Get your own love story. You have permission. You don’t need my permission, but if you do need it, I would love to give it to you: Go get your own story.”
EMILY McFARLAN MILLER is an award-winning reporter, an adventurer, a Chicagoan and, as of May 2011, the unlikeliest of newlyweds. Mostly, she writes. Connect with her at www.emmillerwrites.com.
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BY CHRISTINE & ADAM JESKE
people trail-blaze their way through the quarter-life jungle, t here comes a point—or 10—when they might start to feel stuck. Maybe you can relate. Mired in the city you have tried to f lee. Shackled by the golden handcuffs of gainful employment that steals away your sanity. Messaging friends who aren’t really friendly. Worshipping alongside Christians who don’t seem all that interested in following Christ. Your life might be ready for a shove. Here are a few signs your life may have wandered off course—and how you can get it moving in the right direction again.
1. YOU CAN’T REMEMBER THE LAST TIME YOU USED A PHONE FOR TALKING
Here’s a scary reality: Most of your good friends today will eventually move away—if you haven’t already moved away yourself. We live in a transient culture where jobs, relationships and fresh starts beckon us to other lands of opportunity. The easy way to cope with your impending community break-up is to keep posting clever updates on Facebook, send the occasional text when you eat at your friends’ favorite dives and let the relationships drift.
To give your relationships a shove, talk to the people in your life. Plop down on some upholstery. Grab a favorite beverage. And ring them up. Drop the chit-chat (you don’t need it) and talk about what’s really going on. It’s not good enough to know that you could call someone and have a conversation whenever you want. You actually have to call. If time’s an issue, call when you’re driving or walking somewhere. Stop saying, “But they’re so far away.” Better yet, instead of waiting for them to come your way, plan your vacations around visiting old friends.
2. EVERYBODY YOU KNOW HAS THE SAME GROCERY LIST
If your friends could swap out your fridge for theirs and you wouldn’t notice, it’s time to branch out. If you shop hippie-vegan, do you have white-bread-and-bologna friends? If you never worry about your checks bouncing, do you know someone who limits their grocery trips to the twenty-dollar bill they have in hand that week? Meeting people who don’t look, talk, shop, think, act or pray like you takes guts and gumption. It’s even harder to actually build friendships with people who are different than you. But common ground can be found in strange places, if you’re willing to search for it. Give yourself a shove by walking or biking through your neighborhood (or one that doesn’t look like yours) and stopping to greet people. Ride the bus and talk to your seatmate. Visit a prison, a retirement home or a multilingual church. Or take a risk even closer to home and invite someone you don’t know well yet over for dinner.
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3. THERE ARE WHOLE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE THAT YOU’VE NEVER READ (OR EVEN HEARD OF)
Books like Obadiah, 2 Peter and Hezekiah don’t get a lot of attention. (Wait. Hezekiah isn’t a book of the Bible.) Maybe you’ve spent a lot of time in the Gospels and the Psalms, or maybe you made it through the whole New Testament a couple years ago. Try something new and go back to the beginning. No, not Genesis—the table of contents. Then f lip to whatever book’s least familiar. Go slowly, looking at what the content of that book meant to its original readers, and mull over what application that message may have in your own circumstances. Or, in addition to Scripture, try a new way of interacting with God. Try lectio divina, the Liturgy of the Hours or the Book of Common Prayer, for starters. Your Google machine can give you more information on any of these.
4. YOU HAVE COMPLAINED THRICE IN THE PAST HOUR
There’s plenty in this life that’s not awesome. Traffic. Meddlesome parents. Canker sores. Lame co-workers—or worse, unemployment. Bad habits. Bad customer service. Bad breath. The “cursed animosity of inanimate objects,” as C.S. Lewis once said. Yes, you need to do your part to improve a whole bunch of those things. After all, becoming the biochemist who finds a canker sore cure is a worthwhile ambition. But if you’re simmering in irritation all the time, you probably need a shove. Make a list of what you’re thankful for—from Grape Nuts to indoor plumbing to Siri. You’ll likely find that cultivating gratitude for what is good helps you deal with what is not.
EMBRACE THE FREEDOM OF DOING SMALL THINGS IN GREAT LOVE, NOT POUTING OVER THE SEEMINGLY BIG THINGS SOMEBODY ELSE DID (OR SAYS YOU SHOULD DO). 5. YOUR MAJOR DECISIONS CAN ALL BE TRACED BACK TO SOMEONE ELSE CALLING THE SHOTS
You can’t remember why you chose your college major or job. You always used to want that other thing, that other path. But “they” said it was unpractical or that you were unqualified. It’s time to start saying what you want out loud. In honesty and humility, lay your dreams and plans before the Lord and your church community. Maybe you won’t be the concert cellist or lifetime missionary to the Sandwich Islands you always dreamed of being. But that doesn’t mean you should discount those dreams completely. What was true, good and glorifying to God about those plans? Find out, and pursue that same heartbeat in your current situation. For instance, maybe you can weave those dreams into your present reality by prayerfully supporting a missionary, joining a community music ensemble or holding a cello concert to raise money for the Sandwich Islanders. Find a small step toward what you believe in doing—and do it.
6. YOU’RE FREAKED OUT
Ask yourself seriously: What are you afraid of? Likely it’s not a monster under the bed or a vampire in the basement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your life isn’t steered by fear. You might 88 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
fear wasting time, standing out, disappointing your boss, wrecking your car, being normal, losing your phone, getting old, never having a spouse or kids, getting sued or running out of time before you’ve done something big enough. We wear (and hide) our fears tucked underneath everything else we do in life. Fears are like underwear—nobody sees ’em, but everybody’s got ’em. Hidden or not, these fears are holding you back. So, slay your demons. Spend time in prayer about what fears control you, and ask God for help. Share your fears with one or two close friends. Then wait until nightfall, bring out a good light and a big stick, and take those fears out, once and for all.
7. YOUR STANDARD RESPONSE TO, “HOW ARE YOU?” INCLUDES THE WORD “BUSY”
Nobody ever asks to work a 73-hour week, but somehow it happens. Maybe the sun keeps getting a little lower in the sky by the time you get home from work each day. Or maybe what you thought were “leisure commitments”—fantasy football, crochet night, lacrosse club—have taken over any space for spontaneity in your calendar. If you checked “yes” to any of these, it’s time to introduce a new word to your vocabulary: “No.” Most of us have a deeply ingrained tendency to fill whatever hours we have available—plus about three more hours we don’t have. If you set boundaries around some of your time and refuse to let work take it over, an amazing thing happens: The world goes on spinning. Face it—you are expendable. And you’ll be a better contribution to the world if you de-frazzle yourself, drink a quart less coffee and get enough sleep. Give yourself a jump start in this area by keeping the Sabbath. Take a day and rest—listen to music, drop in on a friend, read a novel, make tacos, go sledding. The Sabbath isn’t about proving to God how goody-goody of a legalist you can be. It’s about your needing rest. And about being able to serve and worship God with better reserves. In addition to taking a Sabbath day off, build other cycles of rest into your life, like monthly retreats, daily quiet moments or walks—whatever brings you closer to Jesus.
8. PACKING A SUITCASE FOR A WEEK TERRIFIES YOU
Your routine is your lifeline. Changing cereal brands is not an option. You like your stuffed animals lined up— alphabetically—at your bedside, safe and close. Change and uncertainty? God, please, no. Tucking yourself into a box is not a healthy or Christlike way to live. So climb out of it. Run away—literally. Run as far as you can, for longer than you ever have before. (Drastic times, drastic measures.) Take a long drive. Book a flight. It doesn’t matter where you go; what matters is that you get out of your comfort zone. Greyhound works, too (and can make you very thankful for your life). Consider the bonus path of volunteering with a secular organization and bringing along a non-Christian
friend. You’ll reap the double benefit of ministering to the organization’s recipients as well as those you serve with. Or start with baby steps and simply drive a different route home from work. Change has to start somewhere.
9. FIGURING OUT WHERE TO PUT YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENTS IS LIKE PLAYING TETRIS
Your apartment looks like you’re auditioning for Hoarders. You’ve never fully unpacked from your last move. This week, you couldn’t find something you needed ... twice. You only do laundry once a season. You’re considering a visit to that store that tells you how to use your closets more effectively. These are surefire signs that you need to downsize. Start with the worst room or closet or pile, pick up an item and ask yourself, “Do I need this?” As in, “Could I live without this for a weekend?” Box or bag the reject parts of the pile, and load them into your car—immediately. Deliver them to a charitable shop within 24 hours. Then sit back and drink in the profoundly liberating feeling. Another challenge: Give away a ridiculous amount of money (whatever that means for you).
10. YOU’RE WORKING HARD ON YOUR FROWN LINES
Have you been a little more down, bored, even depressed than usual? Do dead daisies make you cry? Feel like no one seems to understand you? Is getting out of bed taking more energy than you can muster? It happens to the best of us. But often, all it takes to push out of those joyless slumps are some basic life adjustments. The poet Ginger Andrews calls these slumps the “mulleygrubs,” and she offers a solution: “Get up and bake a cake. If that doesn’t do it, put on a red dress.” We also recommend drastic haircuts, bowties and
sparkly tights (or all three). Try keeping a list of one amazing thing you do each day. And there’s no shame in seeing a professional counselor, so don’t put off that very important move if sparkly tights don’t do the trick.
11. ALL YOUR FREE TIME IS “ME TIME”
When you think “down time,” does that include anything besides “screen time”? If your non-work hours include more time watching Netf lix than doing things and seeing real, live people you actually know, it’s time to start interacting with the real world. Building a routine of regular gettogethers into your schedule saves you the time and energy of setting them up over and over, and it also keeps you from wallowing in the vortex of your screen with all the fictional friends it creates. Find a regular “thing” to do with friends—whether it’s knitting, making fondue, shooting hoops or something else. Wing night, bowling night and Bible study are all good options. Or, better yet, start a regular “Wing, Bible and Bowling Night.”
12. YOU’RE SHADOWED BY GUILT OVER THE THINGS YOU HAVEN’T DONE
You know that little thing that keeps nagging in your mind and stirring up a load of guilt? The yoga class you’ve always meant to join. The relative you keep meaning to visit. The service opportunities you’ve been wanting to try at church. Here’s the deal: You need to poop or get off the guilt pot. Either start doing the thing you’ve been meaning to do for umpteen months or get real, drop the guilt and focus on something more realistic. Take time to figure out whether the guilt you’re feeling is real (and you’re shirking something God-glorifying) or unfounded (and you can let go of what you can’t do and focus on what you can). Embrace the freedom of doing “small things in great love,” as Mother Teresa said it, instead of pouting over the seemingly big things somebody else did (or says you should do).
13. YOU ATE YOUR THIRD HOT POCKET FOR DINNER IN A ROW THIS WEEK
Great jumping Jehoshaphat! You may be too far gone.
CHRISTINE AND ADAM JESKE‘s new book, This Ordinary Adventure: Settling Down Without Settling (IVP), speaks of living unstuck in Nicaragua, China, South Africa and the U.S. Learn more at www.ordinaryadventure.com.
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M USI C
WATCH The official video for “Anything Could Happen” relm.ag/61-ellie
ELLIE GOULDING H A LCYON [P O LY D O R]
> Great pop music needs a maturation period, and for Ellie Goulding, the process didn’t take long. On her sophomore release, Halcyon, Goulding sounds more sure in her skin than she did on her debut, mixing dreamy pop with sampled electronic beats. Pumping synths and cascading vocal segues fill a lower registry as she nails the angelic high notes. Even a sampled chipmunk incarnation of her own voice (yes, you read that right) makes a cameo midway through “Only You.” Not quite a break-up album, Halcyon seeks to reconcile what we know about love with what we experience. Then, on “Joy,” Goulding laments how stardom adds pressure. We’d say she’s handling it nicely.
BEN GIBBARD FORMER LIVES (BARSUK)
FICTION FAMILY FICTION FAMILY REUNION (ROCK RIDGE MUSIC)
> Careful now, Benjamin Gibbard. We like you just fine as the Death Cab for Cutie frontman, but this solo act thing is also quite mesmerizing. The song structures on Gibbard’s new release, Former Lives, stand on their own without any alt-rock filler. On “Dream Song,” Gibbard goes into folk-rock mode à la Van Morrison, and “Lily” sounds like something akin to The Decemberists. “Oh, Woe” is most like Gibbard’s main gig but also fits nicely in this collection of backwater country odes.
> Is rock ‘n’ roll dead? Not if Jon
Foreman has anything to say about it. The head Switchfooter has joined once again with Sean Watkins, of the defunct country-folk band Nickel Creek, on a sophomore release for the duo, called Fiction Family Reunion. Overall, it’s an eclectic mix: brilliant acoustic guitar work (especially on “Guilt”) and confrontational lyrics (“putting your God badge down” gets said) that make for an interesting hybrid that’s never too folksy or self-referential.
CoLab Collective is an outreach designed to support the arts community. music, film, paint, photo and print (fiction/non-fiction, comics/graphic art)
colabcollective.com lex luke
Coming 2013. Sci-Fi Feature Film.
THE DIGITAL AGE REHEARSALS (ASTERISK SOUND)
SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS PUT YOUR SAD DOWN (VAGRANT)
TAME IMPALA LONERISM (MODULAR RECORDINGS)
LORD HURON LONESOME DREAMS (IAMSOUND)
> The Digital Age has accomplished the near impossible. For an ensemble that’s essentially the David Crowder*Band minus David Crowder, this searing worship release breathes new life into the old standby “How Great Thou Art.” With multi-part vocals, wonderfully dense synth fill-ins, a touch of Dave Grohl—or maybe the Calm Blue Sea—and soaring guitar solos, Rehearsals is, hands down, one of the best worship albums of the year.
> School of Seven Bells is a New
> Listen closely to “Elephant”
York techno-pop-trance duo that uses nothing but a synth and guitar, with heavy doses of 1983 mixed in for fun. The duo’s second release includes a 12-minute opus that beats you into submission (in a good way) with heavy repeating loops and Alejandra Deheza’s slitheringwhisper vocals. “Secret Days” bounces and lurches, hinting at some weird African tribal chant. By the end, you’ll see neon flashing lights and yearn for the days when MTV still aired music.
off the sophomore album, Lonerism, by Australian psych-rock band Tame Impala, and you can almost see the large mammals linked in a thundering herd at the outset, finally stampeding into an implosive synth-rock breakdown. One part The Beatles (if they’d toned down the experimentation) and one part Animal Collective (if they’d spent more time in counseling), Tame Impala finds its own niche.
> Ben Schneider, leading man of Lord Huron, fancies himself an old soul, prone to dressing like some 1800s Appalachian preacher, pining after his sad-eyed lady of the lowlands, or the north country, or wherever. It might all come across as a little much, except Lord Huron’s full-length debut, Lonesome Dreams, channels it all with such irresistible, FleetFoxy charm. Schneider plays like he missed the last century of music, and that’s just fine by us.
LOOPER RI A N JOHNSON [ D M G E N T E R TA I N M E N T, R ]
> Do we have the free will to shape the future, or are our destinies predetermined? These questions lie at the center of human experience and, well, most time-travel narratives. Looper, writer-director Rian Johnson’s take on the genre, doesn’t give a definitive answer, yet despite the ambiguity, still satisfies. Set in 2044, the smart action thriller centers on Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in ridiculously convincing makeup), a “looper” hired to kill people from the future whose sad, criminal life is thrown for, yes, a loop when his latest target turns out to be an older version of himself (played by Bruce Willis). A series of moral dilemmas and showdowns between young and old Joe creates a fresh blend of action—Willis goes classically berserk with a machine gun—and comedy. But the story finds a heart and soul when it shifts from town to country and the young Joe gets a shot at redemption.
RED HOOK SUMMER SPIKE LEE (40 ACRES & A MULE FILMWORKS, R)
ARGO BEN AFFLECK (GK FILMS, R) > In his third feature outing,
> In the story of a troubled young
boy who spends a summer with his religious grandfather in Red Hook, a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn, director Spike Lee expresses his admiration for and frustration with the Christian faith. The result proves an honest, optimistic and heartfelt vision that proclaims the Gospel as the necessary agent for social change while being nearly thwarted by the vehicle—namely the contrived performances— that drives it forward.
Ben Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, The Town) proves once again his chops as a director. Dramatizing the true account of Tony Mendez (played convincingly by Affleck), a former CIA operative who, during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, led a secret operation to save six American diplomats, Affleck brings the story to life through unlikely details and unexpected comedy. The film’s precise pacing gives it a strong urgency from start to finish.
Engaging faith to engage the world Bridging difference Listening generously Tell i ng Good News
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Master of Divinity Student Georgetown, DE
Explore these degrees | Master of Divinity, MA Marriage & Family Therapy, MA (Religion), Doctor of Ministry
WUTHERING HEIGHTS ANDREA ARNOLD (ECOSSE FILMS, NR) > If you don’t know the name Andrea Arnold, you probably should—she’s the emerging British auteur who made the riveting 2009 socio-realist drama Fish Tank and now presents a bold and beautiful revision of Emily Brontë’s 1847 classic, Wuthering Heights. This fresh adaptation uniquely embodies Arnold’s distinct style with the employ of unsympathetic characters, scarce dialogue and music, and bleak imagery with a high attention to detail.
END OF WATCH DAVID AYER (EXCLUSIVE MEDIA GROUP, R) > Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as partner police officers in South Central Los Angeles, End of Watch marks the best buddy cop film to emerge in a long while. Playing as an exciting exercise in style (from a found-footage feel to the Cops-like action sequences), it also boasts a sharp sense of humor, thanks to the delightful chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Peña, and eventually settles into an expressive meditation on brotherhood and sacrifice.
DO-DECA-PENTATHLON JAY DUPLASS & MARK DUPLASS (DUPLASS BROTHERS PRODUCTIONS, R) > This latest dramedy by the
Duplass brothers centers on two grown brothers, Jeremy (Mark Kelly of Mad Men) and Mark (Steve Zissis, a Duplass regular), who upon reuniting for a birthday party, battle it out in a homemade Olympics event they created as children. The competition makes for a fair share of hilarious moments but also functions as a catalyst for reconciliation between the siblings.
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN MALIK BENDJELLOUL (REDBOX FILMS, PG-13) > Ever heard of the singersongwriter Sixto Rodriguez? Probably not. But in South Africa, he’s nothing short of a big deal—the equivalent of Elvis or The Beatles, in fact. Searching for Sugar Man, a lyrical documentary by Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, tells Rodriguez’s amazing story, from his failed career in America to his later success abroad, when his songs became the anthems of the anti-apartheid movement of the 1970s.
B O O KS
BOTH FLESH AND NOT: ESSAYS DAV ID FOS TER WA LL ACE [LIT TLE, BROWN AND COMPANY]
> When David Foster Wallace died in 2008, he left behind boxes of material that editors and publishers are still sifting through to fill the void created by all Wallace might have written had he lived. Already this has yielded the undergraduate thesis he wrote as a student at Amherst, the text of the commencement speech he gave at Kenyon College and an unfinished novel that was published as The Pale King. Now we have Both Flesh and Not, a collection of 15 essays spanning most of Wallace’s career as a nonfiction writer published in book form for the first time. The essays explore topics ranging from the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges to Terminator 2, and as a special treat for Wallace’s fans, the publisher has included selections from a running list of unusual words Wallace appreciated before each essay. At its best, Wallace’s work is breathtaking. Here’s hoping there’s more to come.
LITTLE WOLVES THOMAS MALTMAN (SOHO PRESS) Thomas Maltman has published essays, poetry and fiction, and his debut novel, The Night Birds, won various awards, yet he is still somewhat of an unknown. His most recent effort, Little Wolves, should change all that. The story of an act of violence and its impact on a small Minnesota town, Maltman’s novel focuses less on the “who” of the crime and more on the “why.” Little Wolves is a haunting novel reminiscent of Philipp Meyer’s American Rust or Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone.
JESUS: A THEOGRAPHY LEONARD SWEET & FRANK VIOLA (THOMAS NELSON)
> Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
(co-authors of Jesus Manifesto) have written Jesus: A Theography for laypersons and scholars alike, combining a theology and biography that connects the person of Jesus to the larger story of God while showing how the BIble serves as a series of signposts to the Son of God. Where recent years have brought a vast assortment of books on Jesus, ranging from historical to devotional, this book seeks to offer a perspective helpful to all.
MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY SEAN HOWE (HARPERCOLLINS)
TIGER RAG NICHOLAS CHRISTOPHER (DIAL PRESS)
A YEAR OF BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD RACHEL HELD EVANS (THOMAS NELSON)
> From the acclaimed author > Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics:
The Untold Story is a fantastic and funny, sad and serious, raw and raucous ride through the Silver Age and beyond. The story of a bunch of misfit malcontents who band together to create something lasting and legendary is an apt description for each story inside the Marvel universe, as well as those who created the universe itself. Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is hilarious and heartbreaking—and all the more so because it’s true.
of Veronica and A Trip to the Stars comes a thrilling piece of historical fiction based upon the life of too-often-unsung legend of American music, Buddy Bolden. Nicholas Christopher’s Tiger Rag is a fascinating mix of literary biography and pulp fiction that follows Dr. Ruby Cardillo and her daughter, Devon, in their search to learn the secrets of their family and the mysteries they uncover along the way about the man many claim invented jazz.
THERE WAS A COUNTRY CHINUA ACHEBE (PENGUIN) > Just over 50 years ago,
> A few years back, journalist
and author A.J. Jacobs wrote The Year of Living Biblically, recounting his experiences attempting to live by every biblical teaching—some familiar, some more obscure—for one whole year. Now Rachel Held Evans has attempted a similar feat with A Year of Biblical Womanhood, chronicling her experience upholding every teaching addressed to women in the BIble with wit, compassion and candor.
Nigerian author Chinua Achebe wrote his first novel, Things Fall Apart. The magnum opus quickly received global acclaim and is perhaps the most widely read book in modern African literature. Achebe’s most recent work, There Was a Country, serves as a memoir from the perspective of a man whose life and work were powerfully affected by the Biafran War of the late 1960s. It is a monumental and moving work, rich and riveting.
CONTENTS Five Iron Frenzy 58 The most beloved ska band is back after an eight-year hiatus— and they’re blowing up ser vers. [F E AT UR E S]
What’s Going Right 76
Breaking the Ice 82
The news is always harping on the bad stuff, and the Church often follows
The Christian dating scene is a particular breed of animal. What are
suit. But here’s the other side of the story.
we to make of the seemingly absurd choices?
2012: The Year of the Christian Athlete 54 From Tebow Time to Linsanity, here’s how the world went nuts for the
sports scene’s outspoken faithful in 2012.
Who Are You, and Why Are You Here?
He’s the hip-hop poet who won’t mince words while delivering one perfectly turned phrase after another.
It’s a new year. Time to gain clarity about your life.
Suicidal Tendencies 66 It’s a taboo topic. But what we’re not talking about is—literally—killing us.
62 Is Jesus Bigger Than Religion? Shane Hipps isn’t afraid to push the envelope. Here’s one way he’s doing it.
13 Signs You Need to Get Unstuck 86
Use this checklist to find out if you’re stuck in a rut—and how to unstick
Come on in. Pull up a chair. Spend some time at home with LA’s latest
yourself, if you are.
indie favorite. THE HEAVY OS GUINNESS PURITY RING LAUREN WINNER DIVINE FITS RALPH WINTER
BOB GOFF’S 10 KEYS TO AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE
RELE VANTMAG A ZINE.COM
THE YEAR OF
• Nic Cage & Left Behind
• Regina Spektor
• Working From Home:
• End-of-World Predictions
• Ben Folds
Is It Time?
• Disney Owns Your Childhood
• Page CXVI
• Rifle Paper Co.
• Sex Trafficking at the Super Bowl • The Giving Keys
• Oscar Party Checklist
• Amy Simpson on Why
• Ken Wytsma on
• Francis Chan on Discipleship
• Good Old War
Leaders Need Mentors
Morality and Justice
96 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 13
Feedback First Word 10 Recommends 90 ISSUE 60 / NOV_DEC 2012 / $4.95
5 VISIONARIES TELL US
“WHAT I WISH I KNEW THEN”
R E L E VA N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M
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