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c h r i s t i a n s a n d a d d i c t i o n fa l l t v p r e v i e w t h e c i v i l wa r s D u c k D y n a s t y

gungor over the rhine fitz & the tantrums jon acuff on christianese


i honestly thought i was never going to lead worship again. how joel houston and

went from the brink to having their biggest year ever

Steve carell ON cynicism, family and finding

the good in every role

alan chambers

why he apologized and then shut down exodus international

does it matter what you watch?

ideas for navigating the cultural grAy areas

ISSUE 65 / Sept_OCT 2013 / $4.95

A new generation of Worship from HILLSONG


Debut album “We Are Young & Free” available everywhere 10.01.13 Album pre-order on iTunes begins 9.17.13




Featuring Kim Walker-Smith, TobyMac & Martin Smith




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THE MAGAZINE ON FAITH, CULTURE AND INTENTIONAL LIVING September/October 2013, Issue 65 The hills are alive with the song of music PUBLISHER & CEO | Cameron Strang > Senior Account Manager | Jeff Rojas > Account Manager | Wayne Thompson > Managing Editor | Tyler Huckabee > Contributing Editor | Jesse Carey > Copy Editor | Dargan Thompson > CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Jon Acuff, John Brandon, Tyler Charles, Matt Conner, Phil Cooke, Ian Morgan Cron, Eddie Kaufholz, Carl Kozlowski, Brett McCracken, Liz Riggs, David Roark, Maggie Shafer, Kester Smith, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Heather Zeiger, Justin Zoradi Designer | Evan Travelstead > iPad and Production Coordinator | Christina Cooper > Contributing Designer | John David Harris > Producer | Chad Michael Snavely > Photographer & Videographer | Mark Kammel > CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS: Darrin Ballman, Andy Barron, Canoe Studios, Joseph Cultice, Leslie Ryan McKellar, Art Streiber, Zoe-Ruth Photography Project Manager | Ame Lynn Dunn > Accounting and Operations Manager | Stacey Noll> Ad Traffic Coordinator | Kristin Crosby > Marketing Assistant | Caroline Cole > Marketing Assistant | Morgan Beck > Web Developer | Steven Linn > Web Developer | Doug Vander Meulen > Systems Administrator | Josh Strohm > ADVERTISING INQUIRIES:



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There’s no more precious cargo than the gospel you’ve been given. So when it comes to leading, teaching, counseling, and serving in the name of Jesus, make sure you’re firing on all cylinders. Some schools will train you fast. We train for depth. Our trusted and ministry-seasoned professors will guide you through the Bible in order to build a theological framework that drives a lifetime of ministry impact. More than a graduate, you’ll act as an agent of renewal -- wherever the road takes you. No shortcuts. No regrets. Just trustworthy and accessible training for sho gospel-centered transformation.


You wouldn’t take shortcuts with your helmet, right?

Through art, Project 7 Billion shares the GOOD NEWS of Jesus with the entire world. Why art? Because art, like JESUS, can break through ALL barriers. Where people CAN’T go, art CAN. Join P7B and give the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ to ALL the world. Visit to become a part of the movement!

“ Go unto all the earth and tell them the GOOD NEWS.” -Mark 16:15



usic is a powerful thing. The right song, at the right moment, can make you want to buy a car, travel the world or fall in love. Music transports you. It affects you. It stays with you. Put on Shai’s “If I Ever Fall In Love,” and suddenly I’m 16 again, on the top of a downtown parking deck watching July 4 fireworks with my friends. (My buddy was trying to make up with his girlfriend and put it on repeat.) Play “Passing Me By” by The Pharcyde, and I’m on a college road trip getting a speeding ticket in rural Mississippi. Put on Young Oceans, and I’m walking in slow-motion through an airport coming back from the Middle East. A big part of what makes this generation of Christians unique is our relationship with music—and culture at large. Growing up, we inherited a fairly separatist reality, where the sacred and secular were strongly divided. If you were a “good Christian,” you only hung out with Christians, went to a Christian school, listened to Christian music, read Christian books and probably had more than one Christian T-shirt you bought at a Christian bookstore. As we got older, we realized that withdrawing from the world around us seemed a little counterproductive to the Gospel. We’re called to be in the world, yet not of it. We’re supposed to be light in the darkness, not just hanging out with more light. What was the point of wagging our fingers at culture and condemning it without building bridges and actually engaging that world?






Cameron Strang is the founder and publisher of RELEVANT. Connect with him on Twitter @CameronStrang or CameronStrang.

So our generation changed the dynamic. Christian musicians started taking risks to make great art, not limiting themselves to only fit Christian radio formulas. Listeners started engaging more art that required chewing the meat and spitting out the bones. But it’s not just blind consumption; it’s with a discerning eye. (Brett McCracken wrestles with this brilliantly on page 46.) In RELEVANT, we love to talk to the people who are influencing culture— whether we agree with them or not— because it challenges us to see the world through different perspectives. We love to highlight moments of redemption, truth and spiritual longing in culture. We love to look at our world, not through a posture of condemnation, but through a Godcentered lens. We want to cover artists and ideas worth considering more deeply. We also want to give our platform to the people God is speaking through and using to impact our generation. Musically, that means we’re drawn to worship artists. We’re probably the only magazine that covers Jesus Culture and Vampire Weekend in the same issue. Or John Mark McMillan and Phoenix. But that’s what we honestly listen to: indie music and worship. So, that’s what we cover. For a lot of us, our most significant spiritual experiences have been in a worship service. This movement has united our generation. We have shared worship experiences and felt God’s presence together. And it doesn’t really matter if you grew up Baptist and I grew up Pentecostal. Worship songs that are vertically lyriced (you know, to God, not just about Him) can change you. They get the focus off you and reorient your posture. And we love highlighting artists leading our generation to encounter God in an authentic way. That’s why we’re excited to have Hillsong United on our cover this issue. Their story is significant—God using obedient, unqualified people to literally impact millions around the world. They’re humble. They don’t like the spotlight on them. And despite global fame, they haven’t stopped evolving, taking creative risks, or keeping Christ at the center of everything. When you combine music’s power to unite and connect our generation and throw in a passionate focus on worshiping God, something truly amazing happens. Music has always had the ability to move us and stay with us. But when Christ is at the center of the experience, it turns into the sort of thing that can change your life.



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THE SPIRITUAL TURN OF VAMPIRE WEEKEND This was such an awesome article to read for me! I have been a fan of Vampire Weekend since high school and this article really captured Rostam’s brilliance.

­— CAITLIN STUBNER/ Seattle, Wash.

Peter Hitchens’ comments in “The Revolution of Peter Hitchens” [July/August 2013] are absolutely brilliant! I can “hear” the family resemblance in his word usage. It’s uncanny, really! His words truly are a breath of fresh air in the midst of the smoggy, self-idolizing culture we live in. Not only that, but upon reading this I felt very encouraged. Thank you, RELEVANT, for catching up with Peter Hitchens! —JOE MUSCOLINO / Oxford, Mass..

“Is the Church a Broken Institution” [July/August 2013] was a good read. I don’t think the Church is broken beyond repair. The Church is made up of broken people who are preoccupied with their own lives (very often). I have been hurt too, but I think it could have been different if the Church actually dealt with the sticky issues rather than try to pretend they didn’t exist. I think we the body need to speak up more and address this head on whenever we see it in order to affect positive change in this area. It won’t happen overnight, but if we are long-suffering instead of running away, it can happen.


@JonAOwens It took a while to make it all the way to Singapore, but my first issue of @RELEVANT magazine has finally arrived!

@thekozina Just placed my first ever magazine subscription order. Refreshing and insightful content. Here’s to you, @RELEVANT.

@The_Folklore If you subscribe to one iPad magazine, it has to be @RELEVANT. It’s SO well done. Makes me want to learn how to design and develop them.


Thank you for existing. Please continue doing what you are doing: creating a space where the sacred and secular meet in thoughtful writing. It is refreshing to read articles that drive me to think more deeply about my faith rather than just tell myself a Sunday school answer. Articles like the ones you feature, driven by intelligent and caring writers, keep me from completely throwing out my faith because it does not fit the traditional, conservative American Christian mold. —SARAH BARR / via email

Thanks for the article on social media etiquette [“Tweet This Not That” July/August 2013]. It’s not that I’m a stalker or one-line political expert. It’s for my friends.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the Alt-J interview [“Alt-J” July/August 2013]. I had heard a lot about the band before I read it, but finally decided to check them out after reading the article. An Awesome Wave has been the only thing I’ve listened to ever since! It was great to read some of Gwil Sainsbury’s thoughts on music. And I certainly hope it doesn’t take four more years for them to put out another album!

—DAVID BELTRAN / Miami, Fla.

—PARKER MANES / Detroit, Mich.

@Lindsers83 @RELEVANT’s article “Is the Church a Broken Institution?” hit home based on experience and now forgiveness and freedom. Well done.

@sophianyos Coming home from a minivacation to find a new copy of @RELEVANT on your desk makes ending vacation a lot easier.







Christians Getting Real on Reality TV Pastor Alan Robertson: He looks just like his brothers, give or take a beard.


PASTOR ALAN ROBERTSON ou may notice a new face on Robertson to tone down his preaching just A&E’s hit reality show Duck because he’s no longer behind the pulpit for Dynasty this season. 47-year- the first time in 22 years. Since the show debuted in 2012, family old preacher Alan Robertson, the only Robertson brother prayers, discussions about faith and good not yet featured on the show, old-fashioned Bible Belt family values have has announced he is leaving his job in the min- been a staple of Duck Dynasty. In an interview with the New York Post, Robertson said even istry to join his family on the show. The notably beardless Robertson is the eldest though he will no longer be in the full-time brother in the famous family that sells hunting ministry, he still sees himself as an evangelist. “What I do for our church—you products and stars in one of TV’s high“BECAUSE see, it’s a pretty good-sized church— est-rated reality shows. impacts a lot of people, but because Prior to joining the show this seaOF ... THE of my association with the show, I’ll son and becoming the family’s pubSHOW, I’LL get to minister to a lot more peolic relations manager, Robertson GET TO ple. Any person who’s an evangeserved as the full-time pastor of list, that’s what you want to do, so I White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ MINISTER TO had to give this up for something in Louisiana, the church the rest of A LOT MORE PEOPLE.” possibly bigger.” the family attends. But don’t expect




FALL 2013 Preachers of LA debuts on Oxygen, showcasing the lavish lifestyles of some of So-Cal’s most popular pastors. SPRING 2013 The Bachelor’s Sean Lowe announces he and fiancé Catherine Guidici are saving themselves for marriage because of his faith. SPRING 2012 Ted and Gayle Haggard appear on Wife Swap along with “celebrity” couple Gary Busey and fiancé Steffanie Sampson. FALL 2008 The infamous Duggar family kicks things off, teaching Christian values to their many, many children.



[ M I S C ]

A look at the most-shared Slices this month at 10 Who Are the Country’s Highest-Paid State Employees?

As it turns out, there are only 10 states where the highestpaid public employee isn’t sports related. 9 Ira Glass Thinks Christians Get a Bad Rap in the Media

The This American Life host said he thinks Christians are targeted with negative stories.

THE SUPREME COURT’S BIG SUMMER The Supreme Court had a very busy summer. Here are some of the most important (and controversial) cases they decided:

8 Derek Webb Premiers His New song, “I’m Sorry, I Love You”

An exclusive preview of the title track off of Derek Webb’s new album, I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You. 7 The “Fitch the Homeless” Video

This Abercrombie & Fitch “rebranding” campaign proved polarizing. Some thought the idea further marginalized the homeless. 6 The Husband and Wife Who have Worn Daily Matching Outfits for 35 Years

There’s something oddly charming about a couple this dedicated to each other and to floral shirts.




In two rulings determined the same day, the Supreme Court ruled parts of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal recognition of same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. They also upheld a lower court’s decision to overturn California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in the state.


The court ruled that naturally occurring DNA segments cannot

be patented. The ruling allows labs across the country to perform screenings once only available at clinics that held a monopoly on the DNA code. However, the court ruled artificial DNA strands were subject to patents.


In an extremely controversial decision, the Supreme Court cut many elements of the Voting Rights Act, which was first enacted in 1965. The decision no longer requires states to receive federal approval before changing voting requirements, which some critics say opens up the process to potentially discriminatory policies.

THE CREATION MUSEUM ADDS A MASSIVE ZIP LINE In an effort to curb a trend of falling attendance, The Creation Museum is introducing the largest zip line course in the Midwest. Sure, not everyone agrees with the museum’s message that God created the universe in a literal six-day period and that early man once rode dinosaurs like horses. But no matter your theological interpretation of Genesis, we can all agree on one important fact: Huge zip lines should be added to every museum in America.

When an Oklahoma man heard someone breaking into his house, he hogtied the burglar, dumped him in his front yard, called the police to come pick up the subdued bandit, then headed off to work ... Scientists still haven’t discovered what is sending strange radio blasts from deep within outer space, but some have theorized the blasts could be totally normal astronomical happenings like colossal black holes eating entire stars ... The island nation of Grenada has passed a new law making “offensive” social media posts punishable by $37,000 or up to three years in prison. So you might want to rethink that tweet ...


THE HOT LIST 5 A Photo of Robert Downey Jr. Disappointing a Young Iron Man Fan – This just

goes to show that Robert Downey Jr. should be required to wear the Iron Man suit at all times.

4 An STD that Can Kill You in Days – There is a

new strand of gonorrhea that some scientist warn “might be a lot worse than AIDS.” As of now, it’s dodged every attempt at a cure. 3 Update: Mermaids Are Still Fictional –

Evidently, a lot of people Google questions about the existence of mermaids. No one can say we’re not doing our part to solve cryptozoological mysteries. 2 Rob Bell Returns to Mars Hill to Talk about His TV Show Pilot – Like

anything that has to do with Bell, this look at his return to Mars Hill and the trailer for his talk show pilot drew a passionate discussion. 1 A Picture of a Dinosaur Attacking a Wedding Party – This

Reddit gem, which we’re pretty sure was Photoshopped, showed a T-Rex chasing down one unfortunate wedding party.

THE MORALITY OF THE LEAK Should a violation of privacy be permitted if it prevents a potential terrorist attack? Is a website hack justifiable if it brings a rapist to justice? Is it OK to do something wrong if it accomplishes the greater good? Questions like these are increasingly important in the digital age as cases of “hacktivism” become more common. Here’s our look at some recent cases involving the gray morality of the leak.


According to information leaked to several newspapers by a former National Security Agency contractor named Edward Snowden, the NSA and FBI accessed the servers of Facebook, Google, YouTube, Skype and other sites to track user messages in an effort to intercept chatter about terrorism. NSA chief Keith Alexander claimed the “legal” program prevented dozens of potential attacks. Yes, they can also now spy on your hilarious fantasy-sports-related email chains.


The home of Anonymous member KYAnonymous was raided by the FBI after he hacked into a high school sports website, leaking information that revealed the identities of two Steubenville High School football players later convicted of rape. The leak also indicated some local officials with ties to the football program were involved in covering up the case. The hacktivist could receive more jail time than the rapists.


A 25-year-old army soldier named Bradley Manning gave the site WikiLeaks hundreds of pages of classified documents—some of which contained information about airstrikes that killed civilians. Manning is facing life in prison.


A hacker by the name of Guccifer broke into the personal email of George W. Bush and leaked images of paintings created by the former president. International ethicists agree: to hide these paintings of dogs, beautiful landscape panoramas and revealing self-portraits from the world any longer would have been absolutely immoral. 22




THE NEW OLD BUSINESS OF VINYL t’s no secret: Vinyl has made a comeback. But the trend hasn’t just sparked more album sales—it has also created such a high demand that there’s now a market for companies that specialize in refurbishing old vinyl presses. About 19,000 units of the first-week sales of the latest Daft Punk album were vinyl LPs. With artists such as The National and Vampire Weekend also selling tens of thousands of copies


on the medium, vinyl makers are having trouble keeping up with the orders. According to The New York Times, there are only about a dozen vinyl plants in the U.S., and because the last vinyl press was made in 1982, parts and quality machines are increasingly hard to come by. As music purists and artists looking to capture the classic analog sound have continued to fuel a vinyl comeback, small startups such as Brooklyn Phono and Quality Record Pressings have found a niche tracking down and refurbishing old presses.

At the height of his fame, Dave Chappelle famously abandoned production of his hit Comedy Central show Chappelle’s Show and boarded a plane to South Africa. In the eight years since he walked away from showbiz, the comedian has only made occasional comedy club appearances and given a handful of interviews. But this fall, Chappelle is returning to the spotlight, headlining Funny or Die’s Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival tour with Flight of the Concords. The nationwide tour, which runs through September, will feature multiple stages showcasing a variety of alt-comedy acts.


rayer has always been an important part of faith, but generally it’s something done behind closed doors or within the walls of a church. In the last few months though, prayer made the jump from a Sunday morning ritual to a fixture of public events and major media stories. From the Supreme Court and prime-time TV specials to the White House and social media, here is a look at some of the biggest moments in pop culture during the summer that prayer went public. 24


THE COURTROOM The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of opening public meetings with prayer.

THE NEWS A South Carolina high school valedictorian ripped up his pre-approved graduation speech on stage and recited the Lord’s Prayer

THE ABORTION DEBATE After regular prayer vigils from pro-life groups, Virginia’s largest abortion clinic closed due to new strict regulations.

THE SPORTS FIELD After Tim Tebow was cut by the New York Jets, his fans’ prayers were answered when he was signed by The New Patriots.

PRIME-TIME TV Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda prayed for 22-minutes straight while walking across the Grand Canyon for a live television special.

SOCIAL MEDIA Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, tweeted prayers for God’s control and covering throughout the Zimmerman trial.


In Ghana, a minister organizes basketball camps to spread the Gospel to schoolchildren. In Southeast Asia, a missionary uses music to break down cultural barriers and build Christ-centered relationships. In Dallas, Texas, a pastor has discovered that the Lord’s Supper is a worship experience that transcends language and culture. Truett graduates respond in mighty ways to Christ’s command to proclaim the Gospel.


Living the Great Commission. Built on a strong biblical foundation, George W. Truett Theological Seminary equips the next generation of congregational leaders and ministry professionals to reach people in an ever-changing global community. LEARN MORE


Our Graduates.


[ M I S C ]

In what is in no way some sort of crash grab to capitalize on a national tragedy, two of the writers behind The Fighter have started working on a movie about the Boston Marathon bombings ...



ecently, Google announced it was working on a new program that could eliminate all images of child pornography and child abuse from the Internet. As part of the $5 million initiative, the Internet giant is creating a technology that will be able to identify the images and filter out the sites that contain them from showing in search results. The program works by tagging offending images with unique IDs and “fingerprints” so computers can later recognize them without humans having to view the images. On a blog post announcing the new developments, Google said its partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Internet Watch Foundation is a key element in its fight against online child exploitation. “Since 2006, we’ve been providing software and hardware to



help organizations all around the world to fight child abuse images on the web and help locate missing children,” the post said. The database-matching technology would also sync with law enforcement officials to help them identify and locate the individuals responsible for creating and distributing the content. In addition to their investment in the technology, the tech giant has set up the $2 million Child Protection Technology Fund, which incentivizes other developers to join their fight against the people who distribute child porn by creating more effective tools and software. “We’re in the business of making information widely available, but there’s certain ‘information’ that should never be created or found,” Google said. “We can do a lot to ensure it’s not available online—and that when people try to share this disgusting content, they are caught and prosecuted.”

While playing around on her dad’s phone, this 14-month-old accidentally bought a used car ...

A couple in Charlestown, Ind., shot an actual leopard after they came across it sneaking around their neighbor’s pool. No one’s quite sure where it came from or how a creature native to Africa ended up in Indiana ...

A HIDDEN NOTE REVEALS CHINA’S LABOR CAMPS Last year, an Oregon woman discovered a hand-written letter inside of a bag of Halloween decorations from K-Mart. The note read, in part: “Please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution [SIC] of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.” Recently, The New York Times found the man who wrote it. He’s a former inmate of the Masanjia labor camp, where he was imprisoned for his religion. Prisoners there are subjected to torture and horrible living conditions while being forced to help manufacture products like the Halloween decorations. A researcher at Amnesty International told The New York Times there are as many as 300 such labor camps in China.

WARREN BUFFETT CAN TEACH YOU HOW TO GIVE MONEY AWAY B e r k s h i r e Hathaway founder Warren Buffett, who has famously pledged to give away almost all of his $53 billion fortune, recently launched an online course to show students how to give effectively. At the end of the first “Giving with Purpose” class, which is modeled on a course taught at more than 30 universities, students were able to choose a charity that would receive a $100,000 donation from Buffett’s sister.




nder the leadership of a new CEO, Yahoo is trying to reclaim its title as a leader in innovation, which

primarily means it’s buying other websites. The company recently spent more than $1 billion for the blogging platform Tumblr, an interesting move

considering the site’s limited functionality. Here’s a handy guide to just where all the money went:



According to Yahoo’s investment, Cats wearing sweaters, animals with glasses, dogs wearing hats and other clothed-animal blogs have a greater approximate net worth than the GDP of most American cities.

Whether he’s refusing to eat cereal, saying “Hey Girl” or going head-tohead in a cuteness contest with puppies, the actor’s net Tumblr worth is more valuable than some professional sports teams.



Thanks to Tumblr, photos of hipsters taking pictures of food, images of Kim Jong Il looking at things, collections of awkward stock photos and even random photos of “Goths up trees” now all have entire websites dedicated to them.

Aziz Ansari’s face on rappers, Olympian McKayla Maroney being unimpressed in various situations and doctored photos of actresses without teeth show that Tumblr is about 30 percent funny celebrity photos.



An older generation attempting to post restaurant complaints on Facebook pages, reposting satirical Onion articles they believe to be true or falling victim to unfortunate autocorrects: all get their recognition.

This unsettling Tumblr simply features pictures of famous people Photoshopped to make it look like they have one really tiny hand. By our estimation, it is worth more than a billion dollars.



TELEVISION FINDS ITS NEXT LIZ LEMON This fall, Ellie Kemper, best known for her role as Erin on The Office, will star in her own NBC sitcom, Brenda Forever. The show tells how an awkward 13-year-old became a successful thirtysomething. Brenda follows the model of several other hit sitcoms (most notably, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation) that showcase rising female comedians in the title roles. Many such shows have become some of TV’s most commercially and critically influential shows.

GAWKER CROWDSOURCES JOURNALISM When staff members at Gawker were offered video proof of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine with drug dealers for $200,000, they saw it as an opportunity to break a major news story and utilize crowdfunding technology. Gawker asked its audience to contribute to their self-described “Crackstarter campaign,” and they soon raised the cash to obtain the tape. Unfortunately for Gawker, people who have secret tapes of powerful political leaders doing unsavory things aren’t the types to enjoy international media attention. After being told the tape was no longer available, Gawker decided to donate the money they raised to a Canadian charity that helps individuals struggling with addiction.

Preparation for the race is as unique as the race itself. That is why we offer you multiple opportunities to prepare you to run your course in ministry. Start your training today— To help you become the servant-leader God has called you to be, we offer a number of academic and professional degrees through our campuses in Kentucky, Florida, and EXL (our online learning environment). EXL allows you to pursue your degree without uprooting your life. Some of our degrees are Spiritual Formation, Church Planting, Pastoral Counseling, Christian Leadership, and a Master of Divinity with specializations.

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THE NEW FALL SEASON THAT WILL CHANGE TV FOREVER etting your DVR to record the new fall shows that are rolling out on network TV is so 2012. This year, the model of prime-time appointment-viewing has met head-on with the industry’s biggest trend: ondemand streaming. Here’s a look at the new players in TV and the shows that are changing the game this fall.

along with its critically acclaimed political drama House of Cards. After inking an exclusive deal with DreamWorks, the streaming video provider is set to unveil more original shows created by the popular animation studio.


SHOW TO WATCH FOR Even if you’re not a kid, the slick animation and quick wit of Turbo F.A.S.T.—a new series based on the movie Turbo—which debuts in December, should still help it find its way into your queue.

This year, Yahoo is branching out into original programming, partnering with primetime stars Ed Helms, John Stamos, Zachery Levi, Cheryl Hines and others for a variety of reality, talk, comedy and cooking shows. They also signed a deal to have exclusive access to SNL’s nearly 40-year-old archive.

SHOW TO WATCH FOR Tiny Commando, which was created by and stars Ed Helms, is about a 4-inch tall detective and his fleet of miniature vehicles he uses to fight crime. You definitely won’t see that on prime-time TV.

Back in the spring, Amazon did something truly revolutionary when it was time to decide which original programming pilots would be greenlit and made into full series: They crowdsourced the decision-making process. Users used their collective views, social media shares and online feedback to determine which of the 14 shows would be featured as series on Amazon Prime Instant Video and LoveFilm. A John Goodman political sitcom called Alpha House, Betas (see below) and three children’s shows will air this fall.

SHOW TO WATCH FOR The startup send-up Betas pokes fun at the world of Silicon Valley innovation and social media billionaires in a postmodern workplace comedy.



Hulu attempted to beat some of its TV competitors out of the gate by debuting many of its new shows in July and August, two months before network counterparts air theirs. Along with an original Western, a reality show about mascots, a high school drama and a BBC co-produced satirical detective dramedy, Hulu is banking on the success of two high-profile animated series: Eva Longoria’s Mother Up! and Seth Meyers’ The Awesomes.

SHOW TO WATCH FOR Netflix made a splash in the spring when it released a brand new season of the longdormant series Arrested Development exclusively through its streaming service

The Meyers-created animated comedy The Awesomes, which debuted in August, features the voices of SNL alum Kenan Thompson, Bill Hader and Taran Killam as members of the world’s (former) greatest superhero team.

[ W O R T H




F O R ]

TOP 10 (OLD SCHOOL) TV FALL PICKS Don’t forget to set your DVRs. Streaming providers aren’t the only ones with shows to watch out for this fall.

PARKS AND RECREATION (NBC) With its current cast of rising young stars, this show maintains one of the funniest ensembles on TV.


Unlike other streaming video providers, YouTube has always been about user-created content and providing an outlet for emerging media brands. But YouTube is growing up. Sure, it will still offer thousands of funny cat videos taken on iPhones, but in addition to providing funding to its top content creators, YouTube is partnering with brands to create unique, video magazine-style formats.

SHOW TO WATCH FOR Cable news provider CNN and Internet comedy/meme site BuzzFeed are investing heavily in a collaborative channel, which will feature future programs like “10 Clips of Anderson Cooper that Will Make You Want Gray Hair.”

It would be hasty to assume that the star power and money fueling these new shows spells doom for tradition television. Realistically, TV has never been better. In fact, shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad have expanded the boundaries of just how culturally resonant TV can be. Streaming television is as much a new medium as it is a new delivery method, so while you can expect Netflix and Hulu to be competing with NBC and HBO for viewers, there’s still room for both of them.

Joss Whedon co-writes this comic book adaption about a group of Marvel heroes fighting evil.


BACKSTROM (CBS) In this drama about a self-loathing detective, we’ll get to see Rainn Wilson in a role other than Dwight Schrute. THE CRAZY ONES (CBS) Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar star in this sitcom about a father and daughter who run an advertising agency. ABOUT A BOY (NBC)

This cop comedy stars Andy Samberg as a slacker detective in New York City.

Based on the Nick Hornby book, this sitcom follows a bachelor who befriends the strange kid next door.



(AMC) How will it end for TV’s most morally complicated drug dealer? We’ll find out this fall.

Will this critically loved, cult favorite break through to larger audiences? Season 5 may be this show’s deciding year.

DADS (FOX) In this new Seth MacFarlane comedy, two successful best friends’ aging fathers unexpectedly move in with them.

ALMOST HUMAN (FOX) An action drama about a robot cop in the future made by the team behind Fringe and producer J.J. Abrams.





early 2010, after a few menacing weeks in South Africa, I was inches away from throwing in the towel on my f ledgling organization. There was just too much evil in the world; too many dark forces keeping the poor in poverty and the rest of us too concerned with ourselves to do anything about it. What saved me were the words of a friend. “Don’t make a decision in the dark that was inspired in the light.” While I believe God speaks to us in key moments, much of our success demands the ability to recall and remind ourselves of those moments during times when all hope feels lost. We can never allow a feeling that was stirred in a high hour to evaporate in times of despair. I meet so many people at the beginning of their journey who share stories of late night inspiration only to wake the next morning with their vision a distant memory. Scared, anxious, overwhelmed and insecure, they face an ounce of resistance and stamp out the smoke before it has a chance to catch fire. We stifle those sparks of genius when we fear that we alone must start and sustain the fire, when we think it’s all about us. But it’s not. It’s about God. I lay agonizing in darkness on a hotel room f loor in South Africa because I believed my vision was about me.




Justin Zoradi is the founder of These Numbers Have Faces, a global education nonprofit. His most recent book, Doing Work That Matters, is available on his website.

Now I know better. There is great hope in realizing your vision and passion has little to do with you. These are God’s visions and God’s passions, which He set in motion long ago, timed perfectly for you to step into at the right moment. And because they are God’s visions, they are meant to outlive you. Realizing this is liberating. There is liberation in understanding that you are meant to do incomplete work. You cannot do everything in your short time on Earth. The foundations you lay will be shaky and need development. The seeds you plant will need more water than you’re able to provide. Your accomplishments will be multiplied by others far after you are gone. And that’s exactly the way it’s meant to be. Our relative smallness next to God’s great vastness enables us to do something small and to do it very well. Your calling to the small things is the great invitation from the light that the darkness cannot overtake. You are the worker, not the master builder. Realizing you are just the worker is a wonderful place to be. Being the worker means your job is to put your head down, serve God and focus on your day. Being the worker means you get to trip and fall and fail. Being the worker means your fumbling progress is a step along the way, leaving open the opportunity for God’s grace to show up and do the rest. I’m reminded of a story from Cardinal Danneels of Brussels who said: When I get home after a long day, I go to the chapel and pray. I say to the Lord, “There it is for today, things are finished. Now let’s be serious, is this diocese mine or yours?” The Lord says, “What do you think?” I answer, “I think it’s yours.” “That is true,” the Lord says, “it is mine.” And so I say, “Listen Lord, it is your turn to take responsibility for and direct the diocese. I’m going to sleep.”

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merica may have never been a “Christian nation,” but this is for sure: For most of this country’s history, Christianity has been a dominant cultural and social force. From the engine behind social service outreaches to the founding of educational institutions, hospitals and more, the Christian faith has made an indelible mark on our society—at least until recently. Today, that voice is in decline. Although a 2012 Pew Forum Study indicated 73 percent of Americans still identify themselves as “Christian,” that number would drop dramatically when it comes to significant areas of influence such as the media, academia, business, entertainment and more. Christianity has always had a love/hate relationship with culture—particularly the media. The Catholic Church rose up against the invention of the printing press, fearing the common man’s ability to read the Bible for himself would undermine the Church’s authority. As a result, William Tyndale spent most of his adult life running from the authorities, living among smugglers and eventually being martyred, all for the “crime” of translating the Word of God into English. Since that time, the Church has learned some important lessons. By 1833, the American Bible Society owned more printing presses than the largest publisher in the U.S. Early in the 20th





Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media consultant and author of Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media.

century, the Church embraced movies, radio, then TV and now the Internet and social media. But in the vast majority of cases, we’re not using those platforms to engage the greater culture. From the web to publishing, record labels, TV networks, universities and more, the last 50 years have seen a withdrawal from mainstream culture and a move back to a cloistered, protective bubble. How do we regain influence? Two thousand years ago, an obscure, marginal group following the teachings of Jesus became the dominant religious force in the Western world. They didn’t have political power, an army or vast wealth, so how did they do it? For one thing, they lived lives that baffled the Romans. For instance, at the time, the life of a child had little meaning in Roman culture. If a newborn was unwanted, it was simply left to die. But Christians would go out and find these babies, take them in and raise them as their own. The Romans simply had no context for why anyone would do that. There were plenty of other ways Christians confounded the empire, and after a while, it made a difference. Not through criticism or force, but through actions. What could Christians do today that would so astound people that they might reconsider our message? Perhaps we start with Foster Care. If the Church got serious about solving that issue, there wouldn’t be a foster child within 100 miles of any church in America. And what about funerals? Why do we weep like the rest of the world? Our loved one just stepped into eternity, why aren’t we throwing a party? And let’s fix our marriages. The Church doesn’t have much moral authority when it speaks about marriage as long as the divorce rate among Christians is so high. There are numerous examples, but it all comes down to transformation. If we were really living a transformed life, it would stand out. We can’t argue our way back to the table. But what if we actually lived out the surprising, bewildering and outlandish truth of the Bible? Perhaps just as it happened 2,000 years ago, someone would notice.

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GAME OF THRONES KANYE AND JAY-Z ROLL THE DICE ON THEIR STATUS AS HIP-HOP ROYALTY you want to take the tempera- Finals. When Magna Carta Holy Grail dropped, ture of today’s hip-hop scene, he displayed it next to the actual Magna Carta you need look no further than and played the entire album at the MOMA in the rise, fall and aftermath of New York. This isn’t just marketing—it’s Jay-Z Yeezus and Magna Carta Holy proving how much he can market. And so there’s Kanye, whose perceived Grail. Two huge albums made by the biggest names in the game and released close together, divinity gives him the leeway to do whatthe stories surrounding the two releases could ever he wants, regardless of whether anyone scarcely be more different and, as such, paint a else likes it. And Jay-Z, whose perceived royalty allows him to do whatever he curious picture of rap in 2013. wants because he knows everyone Yeezus didn’t play by the rules. FIRST WEEK SALES will like it. A god and a king. There’s nothing particularly YEEZUS The roles they have chosen for marketable about the album. Kanye West themselves are pushing hip-hop “I am a god,” Kanye shrieks, 327,000 to extremes fans may not be willand it’s hard to tell just how far ing to embrace. Kanye’s album his tongue is in his cheek. He’s MAGNA CARTA sales plummeted by 80 percent clearly making music for him- HOLY GRAIL the week after its debut, and self, and doesn’t care if radio Jay-Z 528,000 critics were not impressed with likes it or not. Magna Carta Holy Grail. Rap Jay-Z, on the other hand, WATCH THE THRONE announced his new album via an Kayne West and Jay-Z gods these two may well be, but what’s a god to a nonbeliever? epic commercial during the NBA 436,000





Thom Yorke and frequent collaborator Nigel Godrich are no fans of the streaming music service Spotify. In a series of tweets, the pair recently announced they would be pulling their music from the online music provider for what they claim are unfair artist compensation policies. Yorke tweeted to fans, “Make no mistake, new artists you discover on #Spotify will not get paid. Meanwhile shareholders will shortly being rolling in it.” In a statement to Music Week, a Spotify spokesperson responded to the move, saying the company is “100 percent committed to making Spotify the most artist-friendly music service possible.”

JARS OF CLAY IS FREE AT LAST Prepare yourself to feel old: this year marks Jars of Clay’s 20th anniversary. That’s quite an achievement for any band, but it’s particularly notable for this bunch, who—if not quite the chart-toppers they were in their prime—have maintained a remarkably consistent level of quality over their career. And they’ve continued to blaze new trails, too. Case in point: Inland, the band’s 11th and latest, is their first independent release. Produced by wonderworker Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket), it’s another quiet accomplishment in a career full of them.

Matt Chandler on Philippians Using Paul’s radical letter to the Philippians as his road map, Matt Chandler forsakes the trendy to invite readers into an authentic Christian maturity. The short book of Philippians is one of the most quoted in the Bible, yet Paul wrote it not for popular sound bites but to paint a picture of mature Christian faith. While many give their lives to Jesus, few then go on to live a life of truly vibrant faith.

Available in print and digital editions and everywhere books are sold



FITZ AND THE TANTRUMS WHY WE LOVE THEM Motown doesn’t get the attention it deserves in 2013, responsible as it is for some of the greatest music of the past century. Fitz and the Tantrums embraces the spirit of Motown while putting a modern spin on it. The result is something timeless. FOR FANS OF Robin Thicke Anthony Hamilton Mayer Hawthorne Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings ONLINE





hen Michael Fitzpatrick, known as Fitz, decided to form a band after writing a few heartbroken breakup songs, a friend recommended Noelle Scaggs as a backup singer. The pair instantly clicked. “It sounded so good, and her and I just were singing toward each other and we blended well and there was this chemistry and connection,” Fitz says. He stopped his new band’s first practice mid-rehearsal to book the group a show for the following week. This forced the band to write and rehearse furiously over the coming days, something that has set the tone for their work ethic ever since. Dubbed “The Hardest Working Band” by Vogue in 2011, the group has worked for years to garner a sizable and loyal fan base. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. The band’s single, “Out of My League,” landed high on the Billboard Alternative chart earlier this year. Terrifically catchy, the song wrangles the “indie pop” genre into a concise, singable three minutes full of dreamy synths and disarmingly self-aware lyrics. The group isn’t totally new to Billboard. Their 2010 debut album, Pickin’ Up The Pieces, reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. Fitz describes his life in the band’s success as surreal. “The shows are great and I’m still in shock and awe when anybody actually knows the music. I don’t know why I’m still surprised when people show up at our shows.” Overall, the band’s hard work is all in pursuit of a collective aspiration, a shared vision that is slowly unfolding before their eyes. “Every dream is coming true, and I love it,” Fitz says.


Gregory Alan Isakov The Weatherman Imagine Paul Simon singing to you in Jose Gonzales’ voice.

Portugal. The Man Evil Friends Danger Mouse’s production makes a great band even better.

[ M I S C ]

Along with sponsoring a Little League baseball team in their hometown of Akron, Ohio, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney and guitarist Dan Auerbach offered to autograph the kids’ jerseys if they send them in after the season is over... In a reply to a fan’s tweet, Arcade Fire unexpectedly revealed the release date of their new album (and some strange photos). It drops Oct. 29 ... In a “shocking” study, Bloomberg Businessweek compared song lyrics from hiphop stars bragging about how much money they make to their actual personal incomes and found most of them are lying. The biggest offender? Pitbull ...

THE LONELY WILD It says something when, in the increasingly bloated neo-folk explosion, a band can get you to actually sit up and take notice. The Lonely Wild isn’t joining a bandwagon—they’re showing everyone else how it should be done. We often get lumped in with that genre [neofolk], but I don’t know if it’s a perfect fit for us. I think our songs are a little darker, and I would hope it’s a little more nuanced. It’s not quite as direct, upbeat pop music.




Frontman Andrew Carroll has a background in film, and it shows on every note of The Sun As It Comes. The songs brim with cinematic emotion, transporting you to a version of the Old West often depicted in old Spaghetti Westerns. Haunting, thrilling and addictive.

Fleet Foxes Wilco My Morning Jacket Local Natives

SHOVELS & ROPE Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst were in music seperately when they first met. But when the two began writing together, they became what Hearst calls “a semi-unstoppable rock ’n’ roll tour machine.” At a certain point, we decided to give it a shot. We put pen to paper on it. We said, ‘let’s do this. Let’s see how far we can take this ride and if we ever don’t like it we’ll just quit.’ And so far, we like it just fine.





Because we miss the days of people like Johnny and June Cash, who find as much inspiration in being head over heels for each other as most bands do in heartbreak and adolescent angst.

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hope at the bottom. Right now, the album ends with this total chaos. You kind of feel the ground pulled out from beneath you, musically, which is what I felt. Q: What do you mean? A: I’m a person who easily gets trapped

inside of my own brain, having lots of paradoxical thoughts, and my thoughts can often become like a prison. I’m a person who has been plagued by doubt and my faith has never been an easy thing for me to think about. I don’t know how to describe it. My relationship with God has changed in its nature, but I still would say I love God. I’m still a Christian, and still part of a Christian community, but what’s happening in my head has drastically changed. So with that, it kind of opened the door for our new album and writing about all those sorts of things. So it’s been an interesting little bit of time, but I’ve actually found some freedom in my faith with it. Even on the dark days, it’s still worth staying faithful. Because in my heart I still want Jesus.

Q: How have you seen other people react to that? A: I have been surprised with how

[ Q&A ]

MICHAEL GUNGOR THE GUNGOR FRONTMAN ON THE BAND’S NEW ALBUM, HIS NEW PROJECT AND HIS STRUGGLE WITH DOUBT ut h e nt i c it y is the trademark of a lot of worship bands, but few take it more seriously than Gungor. This band, more than many, broke the mold of formulaic praise music, particularly with their Grammy nominated 2011 album, Ghosts Upon The Earth. But in the last two years, while congregations all over the world have sung Gungor’s “Beautiful Things,” band leader Michael Gungor has been on a pilgrimage. The end result is a radical shift between albums, and one that might surprise fans who hear Gungor’s upcoming release.





Q: You’ve said that each Gungor album is a departure from the last. How did this one turn out? A: When we were looking at the

songs we have written since the last album, some of them are church songs, but then a lot of the songs we’ve been writing are filled with searching, wandering and feeling loss. Musically, I think with this record we just felt free to play. There are more electronic elements in this one, but then again there’s that Spaghetti Western influence, too. The music we’re making on this new album is some of the most fun and free music. There are also themes that can go pretty angsty and dark, but they still find


kind and loving the Christian community has been since I’ve been honest with them about my struggles and doubts. I think there have been a lot of people in the Christian church who have felt afraid to tell others about their inner life and their struggles and doubts. But in being honest, there’s something whole and healing about how you are who you are and you’re honest about it.

Q: Why did you want to create your new separate project, The Liturgists? A: Separating The Liturgists from this

WATCH The short teaser for Gungor’s latest release, I Am Mountain.

new Gungor album to me is not a sacred-versus-secular divide. It’s more of a liturgical versus non-liturgical space. What liturgy means is the work of the people and coming together for something that’s bigger than any one of us. The great composers throughout time have written church music. I think it’s a viable occupation, taking the time to compose music that was intended for a certain thing. There’s something about church music that is beautiful and worth doing.




don’t want a hedge of protection around me. If you’re praying for me, feel free to not install one of those on the landscape of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I think hedges are adorable, but they’re highly ineffective. I mean, how hard is it to step over a hedge? Have you ever seen a bush and thought, “If there’s only one thing standing between me and the devil, I hope it’s a bush of that girth.” Of course not. Nobody is afraid of bushes. And yet, every day, thousands of Christians ask for a hedge of protection with little or no regard to the implication that you’re leaving your life in the hands of shrubbery. I say it’s time to retire that phrase. In fact, it’s time to say farewell to a number of well-known Christianese words and phrases.



When did this become OK? Did we get a vote? I would like a recount, please. This one is kind of gross. Every time I hear someone say that, I feel like they are saying “I lust after your prayers.” Throughout the Bible we’re told not to covet and yet, here we are “redeeming” this phrase. Quit it. You might as well say, “I idolize your prayers.”



Christians use this phrase as a “Get out of jerk free” card. We write the most vile, bitter statement on Facebook and then punctuate it with “just sayin’,” as if that makes the rest of it invisible. It didn’t, we still saw what you wrote. You know who would have loved this phrase in the Bible? The Pharisees. Can’t you see them saying to Jesus, “Whoa, Jesus, you healed a guy. That’s great. Healing is awesome. It is the Sabbath though. Just sayin’.” If we only retire one phrase on this list, I hope it is this one.



Don’t have a husband or wife? Not in a serious relationship with a Proverbs 31 woman? Not learning and living the love languages? Maybe you were given a special gift to remain alone forever. Maybe that one was dropped off on the doorstep of your heart this year. The next time someone says you got the gift of singleness, give them the gift of a leg sweep. Karate Kid style.



Oh, you’re just honest? Yikes. I’ll pray for you. Probably even lift you up in some fashion. I’m not only honest; I’m transparent, like an empty Ziploc bag. I’m authentic, like hipster jeans handmade in the U.S. of A. Honest is old news.













This one makes me want to “puke on.” Why we felt the need to add the word “on” to a perfectly good verb will forever confuse me. Love is enough. I dare say, “all we need is love.”

Next time you’re at a restaurant, try to leave the waiter a “clap offering.” Let me know how that works out for you. And yet, we throw this phrase around at church. If I participate in any of these types of offerings, I feel it’s only appropriate I get a free pass on the actual offering later on in the service. We don’t say “I enjoyed that.” We don’t say, “I liked that.” Instead, Christians are constantly getting “wrecked.” “That sermon wrecked me.” “That song wrecked me.” “That dramatic skit to Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ wrecked me.” There’s a whole lot of wrecking going on in Christianity right now.

I won’t lie, in some situations, this can be honest. You have something you don’t want to tell a prayer circle about, so you throw out an “unspoken prayer request.” Maybe it’s a personal issue you are not ready to broadcast. Fair enough, but just know this: When you say this, everyone will assume some very dark things about you. I’m assuming this is done via telegram or pony express, but the premise is simple. You pray about a cookout you’re having and as a bonus to the prayer, you say, “And Satan, we’re putting you on notice. You stay away from this cookout, devil!” Prior to that notice, I am almost positive he was going to show up and give someone food poisoning via the potato salad. Satan hates being put on notice. This phrase is mostly in the South, but so am I, so I hear it a lot. This is the phrase Christians use to gossip but still look holy. Here’s an example: “That girl is horrible. Very trampy. Very bad morals. Bless her heart!” I once heard this phrase called “vinegar pie.” It looks like pie on the outside, but inside it’s disgusting. You will often hear this in public prayer circles. RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM





This is just the most commonly overused word in public prayer. And I have just ruined you. I apologize. The next time you hear someone pray, it will be impossible to not hear them say, “Lord just hear us, just know us, just, just, just, just, just!” This word is like salt we sprinkle on prayers.



Someone pointed out that this phrase sounds like you’re talking about your cellmate, but that’s not what it means. Technically, it means you went to dinner with someone. Or you talked with your neighbor at the mailbox. Or you waved at someone in traffic. This is “fellowshipping” on steroids, which is another word that could have made this list.





At some point, we decided the phrase “Sunday school” was too old fashioned. It made people think of fire and brimstone and fundamentalism and the scene in Footloose when they weren’t allowed to dance. So we retired it, and instead, we tell our 4-yearolds that they are now in a “community group.” I don’t know that eating glue and bootleg Oreos and trying not to bite one another really counts as a “community group.” Nothing changes someone’s personal beliefs and issues like when you respond to them on Twitter with #FirstWorldProblems. The irony of someone on a Mac laptop in Starbucks taking notes in a Moleskine notebook while wearing an unnecessary scarf judging someone else for having a first world problem makes my teeth hurt.





If someone asks you to pick up bulletins at the end of church, you probably don’t need to say, “I’ll pray about it.” You can just pick up the bulletins. I’m not sure that’s something you have to approach the throne with. This is a cousin phrase of “Bless her heart.” This is the phrase you drop in right before you verbally punch someone in the face. Allow me to demonstrate: “Jon, I hope you can hear this in Christian love, because that’s how I mean it. Your books are horrible. 44


They are really poorly written and I hope no one buys them. In Christian love.”









This is one we use to encourage young Christians not to become Christians. Instead of saying “new Christian” we say “baby” so your position is clearly noted. It means you’re probably not as smart, holy or wise as me. I’m not a baby Christian. I’m an adult Christian. I’m loving on people, which you probably wouldn’t even understand. Fall, winter, spring and summer aren’t enough seasons for Christians. We demand more seasons out of our lives. We are constantly creating our own extra seasons to go through. Got a flat tire on the way to work? That’s a season. Got dumped after one awkward date at Olive Garden? That’s a season. Depressed because you blew through a whole season of TV on Netflix in one night? That’s a season. It’s all seasons, man. That’s a real shame because you know who was really religious? A guy named Jesus. You should see all the old-school laws he followed in his time here. I completely understand the need to separate yourself from some of the negativity associated with Christianity, but wordplay rarely changes someone’s life. I’ve never met a single person who said, “I started a lifelong relationship with Christ after your dissertation on why you love Jesus but not Christianity or religion. That had a huge impact in opening my eyes to my need for the forgiving blood of Christ.” (The one exception to this rule is the guy who did the spoken word video on this very topic. He’s a great guy and made a great video.) You know who repeats things or seconds them? Sinners. Not us Christians. We echo. We have become one big echo chamber. We echo prayers. We echo hopes. We echo thoughts. We echo. Like a cave. Like a cave. Like a cave. With a list this long, you’ll probably disagree with a few of my choices. Or you’ll feel that I left some out. I’ll pray a hedge of protection around you because I’m pretty sure you’re on a slippery slope. I might go as far as loving on you through this season. Just sayin’. JON ACUFF is The New York Times Bestselling author of four books, including his new one, Start. You can follow him on Twitter @JonAcuff and read his blog at and




wo Christians walk into a bar. One of them passes out tracts with hopes of saving some heathens from hell-bound paths to certain ruin. The other sits at the bar and orders a beer, with hopes of drinking the night—and a week full of sorrows—away. The former believes “secular” culture (bars, movies, basically anything that can’t be purchased at Hobby Lobby) is evil and to be avoided. The latter doesn’t believe in the “sacred/secular” distinction at all, seeing everything in culture as fair game for the Christian (as much as it is for anyone else). When it comes to how we engage and consume culture, Christians far too often have defaulted to one of these two extreme approaches. You’re likely familiar with both of them. The Legalists are the Christians who see culture mostly in terms of liability: how it can damage us, taint our witness, lead us down a slippery slope. This mentality leads to the boycotting of Spongebob Squarepants, the picketing of Martin Scorsese films, the ritual burning of Led Zeppelin records at youth camp (the horror!). It’s the approach that claims Harry Potter is Wiccan propaganda, Million Dollar Baby is a defense of euthanasia and P.O.D.’s version of “Bullet the Blue Sky” is OK for Christian radio but U2’s version is not. It’s a philosophy of strict separation, wherein “Christian” labeled alternatives (Amish romance novels) are harmless but everything else (non-Amish romance novels) is worldly and dangerous. The Libertines are the Christians who were either raised by Legalists or used to be one, and thus are now pushing as far away from that attitude as they can, often in as conspicuous a manner as possible. They are the Christians who intentionally subvert “evangelical morals” by holding Bible studies in brewery taprooms or dropping the F-word frequently on their Christian college campus. They smoke (cloves, hookah, pipes, cigars, Parliaments, even pot), drink (usually craft beer), and celebrate the TV-MA shock value of shows like Girls and Game of Thrones. Theirs is a philosophy of no separation. They have purged their vocabulary of words like “worldliness,” “holiness” or “secular,” opting to approach the


realm of culture with an armswide-open acceptance of anything and everything that brings pleasure or entertainment. Among the many things the divergent paths of the Legalists and Libertines demonstrate is this unfortunate fact: Christians have a hard time with nuance. Gray areas are not our strong suit. This is unfortunate because while there are some clear-cut do’s and don’ts in Scripture, there are many areas where it’s just not very black and white. Culture, and what we partake or abstain from within culture, is one such gray area. There aren’t easy answers in the Bible about whether this or that HBO show is OK to watch or whether it’s appropriate for Christians to enjoy the music of Tyler, the Creator. Scripture contains no comprehensive list of acceptable films, books or websites. Contrary to what some Christians maintain, the Bible neither endorses nor forbids many things that we wish it were more clear about. But the ambiguity of a “Christian” approach to culture should not lead us to throw up our hands and default to the easier, black-and-white positions described above. Rather, it should beckon us to go deeper, to ask questions, to truly wrestle with what it means to be a Christian consumer of culture.


For Christians interested in consuming culture in the thoughtful, edifying and ultimately God-glorifying middle ground between extreme legalism and extreme libertinism, the following questions may help. Before you buy a new album, movie ticket, magazine or any other of the thousands of cultural items we regularly consume, consider asking yourself these questions:

1. DOES IT POINT ME TOWARD GOD? Every moment of our

lives should be an opportunity

to worship God. In whatever we eat, drink, watch, play or listen to, we should strive to do it to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). It doesn’t have to be “churchy” to be worship and it doesn’t have to be a praise song to be God-honoring, but given all the things we could spend our time enjoying or consuming, why not choose that which points us toward God? Often, this simply requires a shift in our thinking—to start approaching cultural consumption actively rather than passively, seeking out the goodness and truth within it rather than taking it at face value. When we start looking at culture in a deeper way, the bounds of what can facilitate our worship are greatly expanded. 2. WOULD JESUS CONSUME IT? OK, I know the WWJD thing is overplayed, but if, as Christians, we are called to follow after Christ and “be imitators” (Ephesians 5:1) of Him, then it’s an appropriate question to ask. And it’s not just about whether we can envision Jesus putting on headphones and enjoying the music of Radiohead (though I think He might), as much as whether we would feel ashamed if Jesus took a gander at our iTunes libraries. After all, our ears, eyes and bodies are not our own. They were bought at a price. They belong to Jesus. We are called to be “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God,” not conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1–2). Would Jesus recognize that transformation in the media we choose to consume? 3. WHAT WOULD MY COMMUNITY SAY?

Discernment in our cultural habits should include a consideration of those around us. We don’t want to offend them with things we are free to consume, but which might be frustrating stumbling blocks to them. Also, it’s just a wise thing to consider the counsel of others rather than relying solely on one’s own judgment. As Proverbs 18:2 says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” We shouldn’t isolate ourselves and privilege our own opinions about things. If others around us have thoughts about why something is or is not appropriate, maybe we should listen. 4. IS IT GOOD QUALITY? If we’re going to be spending money, time and energy listening to music, watching a movie or consuming some other item in culture, why not focus on the highest quality we can find? Sure, there’s a time and a place for “escapist” fare, but a diet of 100 percent Katy Perry and Jerry Bruckheimer does not do a body RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


good. A key aspect of a healthy Christian consumption is the ability to recognize and then support the most excellent and creative content we can find, however subjective such determinations might be. Discernment is not just about avoiding too many F-words or overly nihilistic themes. It’s also about avoiding the trite, cheap and clichéd and instead seeking out the best. 5. IS IT EDIFYING? This sounds like something Focus on the Family might ask. But it’s a solid question. Paul tells Christians to rid themselves of “anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8), which isn’t to say we should avoid

any media that depicts such things, just that we should beware of such influences tarnishing our character and eroding our witness as God’s chosen people. We are to set our hearts and minds “on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1–2), and to dwell on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). If we can’t find any of those redeemable attributes in the culture we are consuming, we should question whether it’s worthwhile.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU CONSUME Ultimately, the question of what you consume in culture, and how you go about it, says a lot about what you value and the type of person you want to be. Do you want to be the person who is always pushing the boundaries, consuming culture recklessly and rebelliously without ever engaging it on a deep level? Do you want to be the person who legalistically avoids all culture out of fear or apathy, refusing to dig into the trenches of discernment and, as a result, misses out on the goodness, truth and beauty that can be found? Or, do you want to be someone who is caught up in the desire to be more Christ-like, to know Him more, to testify to His glory through the manner in which you engage the culture in His world? As a people charged with the task of being salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16), a “royal priesthood” called out of darkness and into light (1 Peter 2:9), Christians must consider how our consumer choices contribute or detract from this vocation. What is communicated about our identity and values via our consumer behavior? If a Christian is seen at church one minute and seen throwing money away at a casino or guzzling cheap beer at a kegger the next, what does that communicate? On the other hand, if we consume culture in a thoughtful, healthy manner, we both reflect the grandeur of God’s creation



back to Him in worship and to the world around us as witness. The manner in which Christians engage culture is too important to get wrong. It’s lamentable that throughout so much of Christian history, we have approached it so simplistically, and often in reaction to whatever end of the spectrum the previous generation favored. When God created culture, He said it was “very good.” Yet the fall of man complicated things, making culture a realm that is as full of the bad, false and ugly as it is of the good, true and beautiful. Still, there are vestiges of “very good” everywhere, and it behooves Christians to work to discern, discover and champion it whenever they can. I once heard the Eastern Orthodox bishop Kallistos Ware define the Christian as “the one who, wherever he looks, sees Christ everywhere.” I don’t think he meant the Christian sees Jesus’ face on tortillas. Rather, I think the bishop was getting at the same thing C.S. Lewis was expressing when he famously said “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” It’s what Abraham Kuyper was getting at when he said “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” It’s the idea that Christ illuminates and animates all things; that our enjoyment of culture is both justified and amplified by His Incarnation. It’s the reason there is so much at stake in this question of how we consume culture. It’s a way for us to seek and honor our Creator, even while we enjoy His creation. It’s a statement to the world that yes, Christians care about culture. We care about it so much, in fact, that we’re not going to just consume it recklessly or indiscriminately, or to prove a point. Rather, we will consume culture carefully, thoughtfully, joyfully and worshipfully. Which is to say: Christianly. BRETT MCCRACKEN is the author of Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty (Baker), from which this article is partially adapted.







ccupy Wall Street. Facebook rants. Moving back in with our parents. All telltale signs of our generation, motivated by one overriding attitude: cynicism. Our generation isn’t quick to trust, especially those in power. We love sarcasm. We’re not hopeful about the future of our country or our careers. And maybe our cynicism is inevitable. It’s hard not to feel sour and disillusioned when our sports heroes are caught taking performance-enhancing drugs, when our political leaders have proven themselves more interested in re-election than keeping promises, when Wall Street bankers can avoid prosecution for stealing billions of dollars and when pastors who preach family values are exposed for having sex with everyone except their wives. Cynicism has permeated our worldviews and even crept into our churches—the places where hope should be most present. Lately, it’s hard to find a follower of Jesus who hasn’t been swept out to sea by the rip current of cynicism flowing through our culture. What’s particularly interesting is how cynical we’ve become about the Church itself. It’s common to see Christians roll their eyes or smirk when the topic of Church comes up in conversation. It’s as if we’ve lost confidence in the ability of human language to carry the freight of our disappointment with it. Sure, we might attend a church service now and then, but we would sooner fall out of an airplane than say something positive about it. Trawl the Christian blogosphere and you’ll see what I mean. We parody the “shoot” Christians say, produce spoofs of modern worship services, Instagram pictures of the smarmy things people post on church signs and ridicule the stuff Christian culture likes. Don’t get me wrong; these caricatures of the Church and Christian culture are often funny. I mean, really funny. And what’s the harm? As G.K. Chesterton said, “It’s the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” But our satirization of the Church feels relentless, and the cover we take behind the “just kidding” defense only works for so long before the veil frays and the gauzy silhouette of our cynicism becomes visible. This brings us to a dilemma: Jesus loves the Church. Scripture says He died for her. So how can we love Jesus yet feel so cynical about His Bride that we tirelessly ridicule her like she’s the subject of a Comedy Central roast?


I began to investigate my own cynicism toward the Church last year while revisiting the life of St. Francis of Assisi. In St. Francis’ time—the 13 century—many Christians were cynical toward the Church for reasons that parallel our own. The Church was losing credibility. It was viewed as hypocritical, untrustworthy and irrelevant. Clergy were at the center of all kinds of sexual scandals. Church leaders used “creative accounting” to finance their opulent lifestyles while the average person lived in squalor. The Church had commercialized Jesus, using His name to leverage the sale of products. Sermons were either so academic that people couldn’t understand them or they were canned. The Church was entangled in politics, and the Christian world was at war with Muslims. Sound familiar? Then came Francis. Francis was a twentysomething with no job, a rich father and a penchant for partying. But while he was looking for direction for his life after a brief stint in the military, he heard God telling him, “Francis, rebuild my Church. Don’t you see it’s in disrepair?” Francis discovered he was meant to rebuild the Church Universal. Jesus was calling Francis to live a life that so nearly mirrored His own that it would cast a humiliating light on the Church’s failures and force her to repent and reform. It’s hard to believe one man rebuilt the whole Church from the foundation stone up,

but historians claim Francis succeeded. His witness led countless people to faith, thousands adopted his revolutionary manner of life and, along with him, they restored the credibility of the Gospel and set the Church right. Eight hundred years later, Time magazine ranked him first on their list of the 10 greatest people of the second millennium. So how did Francis do it? Some chalk it up to his embodiment of the Gospel. Or maybe his radical identification with the poor, the way he taught peacemaking as a spiritual discipline or his rejection of materialism. But the secret of Francis’ success lay in his abject refusal to join the choir of cynics, those who ridiculed the Church from the sidelines. For Francis, faith was “not a thing like a theory, but a thing like a love affair.” Even though the Church had become an embarrassment, he never despaired. He once said, “God wanted me to be a new kind of fool in the world.” What could be more foolish than to believe the Church could be restored? He was hopelessly hopeful. It would be a mistake to believe Francis was naïve or a starry-eyed idealist. Like Jesus, he was a stark realist. He saw the world as it really is—beautiful and ruined. To borrow a phrase from poet Christian Wiman, Francis couldn’t “take a walk in the backyard without tripping over an epiphany.” To him, everything brimmed with the glory of God. At the same time, Francis saw the ruin of the world without gloss. He witnessed the degree to which human beings could be violent, cruel, consumed by greed, corrupt, radically self-centered and indifferent toward the plight of others. Worse yet, he saw the Church perpetrate or collude with those who committed these sins. He had no illusions about how far the Church had strayed from the Gospel. Francis’ capacity to squarely face the ruined condition of the Church, his knowledge that God had voluntarily entered the wreckage of it all to die for it and his refusal to give up on it ultimately inspired cynics to do the same. RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM



Words to cure your cynicism “Don’t hunt through the Church for a hypocrite. Go home and look in the mirror. See that you make the number one less.” —Billy Sunday “The Church is not a gallery for the exhibition of eminent Christians, but a school for the education of imperfect ones.” —Henry Ward Beecher “It would be far better to be of no church than to be bitter of any.” — William Penn “No church can flourish unless its members are workers. The people must lift where the ministers lift.” —Ellen G. White “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.” —D.L. Moody




So what can a premodern saint teach postmodern Christians about how to overcome their cynicism? FIRST, BE REALISTS, NOT IDEALISTS. George Carlin once said, “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.” We need to see the Church for what it actually is, not what we thought it would be. We have to acknowledge that our disillusionment with the Church is an admission that we had illusions about it. Did we uncritically believe the Church would be a Utopian oasis? Did we lapse into cynicism when it failed to live up to our expectations? Every community you enter into in this ruined world will eventually disappoint you, embarrass you and break your heart. This includes your marriage, your family, the company you work for and even your closest friends. What makes us think the Church won’t let us down in a similar way? A lot of what makes us cynical toward the Church goes away when we abandon our illusions about it. SECOND, BE CRITICS, NOT CYNICS. The Church needs bold critics to call it out when it goes off the rails. When it’s time to criticize the Church, however, we need to do it like the Old Testament prophets who, as Walter Brueggemann observed, were careful not only to criticize, but also to energize people to work toward a hope-filled future. Cynics stand just close enough to the Church so it can hear their discouraging complaints, but not so close that they have to roll up their sleeves to

inspire and help make change happen. THIRD, MODEL IT. Francis told his brothers never to carp about the Church. He believed the best way to overhaul something was to keep quiet and simply do it better. To adapt a quote from Gandhi: “Seek to be the change you wish to see in the Church.” This approach requires conscious effort while cynicism requires none at all. Let your actions speak louder than your words, and perhaps the example of your life will win over the hardened hearts of cynics and awaken the Church to its need to change. In some ways, cynicism for us is like water for fish—we’re so used to it that it’s hard to talk about it objectively. But if we’re going to get serious about moving on from a brief but very destructive era in this generation’s attitude toward the Church, we’re going to have to do the difficult work of living radical lives. The results may take some time, but it will help usher in something we have needed for a long time. A whole new age: the era of post-cynical Christianity. IAN MORGAN CRON is the Best-selling author of Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale, and Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir ... of Sorts.



oel Houston is already looking ahead. Fresh off of a U.S. tour with sold out shows coast to coast, the leader of Hillsong United hesitates to reflect on the last year, let alone the scope of the entire ride so far. “It’s just not the way I’m wired. It’s not the way any of us are wired,” he says. “At the moment, 54


we just came off one of the most incredible months of our lives, and it has been an amazing time. We’re all kind of blown away by it all. But at the same time, you feel the weight of what is next. There’s still so much to be done, so much that we want to be able to do and be a part of.” It’s hard to envision what’s left to achieve for a band with such a strong global presence. With 14 albums in 15 years, Hillsong United is arguably the most influential force in modern worship this generation. They have played in 42 countries, had their songs translated into 32 languages and toured on six continents. And there are no signs of slowing down. The band’s latest album, Zion, not only

became a No. 1 best-selling album in their native Australia, but also charted across Europe and hit the top 10 in the U.S., Norway and New Zealand. Hillsong United is bigger than ever.


While Houston had musical dreams since his childhood, he says he never planned on Hillsong United “becoming a thing.” Instead, the Aussie’s teenage years were spent playing in a rock band called Able with friends Michael Chislett (who has toured with Brooke Fraser and Butch Walker) and Marty Sampson. After recording an EP and playing the Sydney bar scene, Houston says the doors just suddenly closed for the band. “We had pipe dreams,” he says. “We would play pubs and dream that you could make music out of Australia

and people would connect with it. It was funny because all of that fell over, then God took that and amplified it to something much more beautiful with so much more purpose attached to it.” Without much else going on, Houston agreed to get involved in Hillsong Church’s youth ministry, which was trying to unite various age groups in quarterly gatherings they were calling, appropriately, United. He and some friends began to write worship music for those nights. It wasn’t long until Able and company were founding members of what would become Hillsong United. That was 15 years ago, and while the size of the stages has changed, Houston says the goal for Hillsong United has largely remained the same since those early days—an authentic, meaningful worship experience. “Australia is quite a secular nation, and the idea of

young people wanting to go to church on Friday night rather than go to the park and get drunk or whatever else was kind of foreign,” he says. “It’s the same anywhere, I guess, but at the same time we really believed God wanted to use us and God would use us. So the responsibility was there to make every Friday night great—to make it something that was true and that our friends at school would want to come and connect with God at.” Houston laughs at the notion that United was bound to succeed due to the presence of Hillsong Church’s worship leaders in the marketplace. With familiar names like Darlene Zschech (“Shout To The Lord”) and Reuben Morgan (“I Give You My Heart”), it’s

easy to assume the mantle was passed, but Houston doesn’t see it that way. “I can tell you honestly that back then it seemed like that was built around Darlene or built around a personality or a certain gift. I didn’t feel like any of us had that gift,” he says. From those initial meetings of a few hundred students, Hillsong launched a yearly youth conference called Encounterfest. Those large-scale worship gatherings would eventually launch Hillsong United as a rising force in the worship scene, beginning with their RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


From Left to Right: Benjamin Tennikoff, Timon Klein, Taya Smith, Michael Guy Chislett, Jad Gillies, Dylan Thomas, Joel Houston, JD Douglass, Adam Crosariol, Simon Kobler, Matt Crocker

first international show in Canada. “I remember we traveled to Canada and were the house worship band for this conference with these other Christian music stars, although we had no idea who they were at the time,” Houston says. “We were cut off from Christian music. So we’re all watching TobyMac jump around and Delirious? playing, and we got up to play these worship songs we had written for our youth ministry. We were thinking no one’s going to know them, so let’s pull out ‘Our God is an Awesome God’ or whatever we started with. “It was so funny because we were there for four days and at first it was just dead,” he continues. “We thought we sucked and the whole thing sucked and no one worshipped God whatsoever. They just kind of blankly stared at us. Then I remember at the end of the four days seeing all these kids just going crazy for God, singing these songs. I remember at that point thinking, ‘This is incredible. There could be something in this. These songs have the ability to travel.’ “I’ve always loved that about music—the idea that somebody in some obscure place in the middle of nowhere, literally the end of the earth, could write a song and that song could travel around the world. I think it was at that point our eyes were opened to the idea that maybe God had bigger plans than just what was happening in Australia.” But later, things took a turn. 56



“Two years ago I was ready to throw the towel in completely,” Houston says. “Not on my faith, but basically on everything attached to ministry.” On the heels of an Ethiopian trip with charity: water and before a tour in South America, Houston and company were in the midst of recording Live in Miami, the band’s 2012 release. It was at that point everything fell apart for Houston personally. “I just felt dry,” he says. “I can’t describe it to you. I just felt empty. I remember being up there leading worship feeling like everyone was getting excited except for me, and I just felt like I was in the driest place of my life. I didn’t feel anything. I was completely numb to everything. And I remember feeling, ‘This is horrible. If this is what it’s going to be like, I don’t

want to be a part of it. I don’t want to do this.’ “Looking back on that now, I can reflect on a whole lot of different things that were going on,” he explains, “but at the time, I was just exhausted, and I was emotionally unstable, to be honest. I felt completely alone. I had to take a break.” Houston backed out of the South America trip after consulting with his father, Hillsong Church’s senior pastor Brian Houston. That began a sabbatical that extended from three to six months. Houston stepped away from his responsibilities as the global creative director of Hillsong Church and his role in United. After undergoing surgery to repair his voice and spending significant time away, Houston says he was unsure he would return to the band. “I honestly thought I was never going to lead worship again,” he says. “I doubted if I would ever be on a platform again because I just didn’t feel like I could do it.” Carl Lentz, who has co-pastored Hillsong NYC with Houston since 2010, says he didn’t see Houston’s break as him stepping away from ministry, but rather as him taking what

“I’VE ALWAYS LOVED ...THE IDEA THAT SOMEBODY IN SOME OBSCURE PLACE COULD WRITE A SONG AND THAT SONG COULD TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD.” matters most—the state of his soul and his passion for Jesus—as seriously as he could. “That is the essence of ‘ministry,’” Lentz says. “Joel never had the opportunity to ‘step away’ in his life. Most people get to walk through some fire in private and grow outside the spotlight of public ministry and influence. Joel was leading basically from day one. So I was excited for him. I felt like he needed it and had earned it 10 times over.”

Houston now sees that time as a significant turning point in his own relationship with God and Hillsong United. While the band’s music inspires millions in their own intimacy with God, Houston says that sabbatical provided a spiritual high point for him, centered in a necessary pruning of his own pride. “In no way was I running from God,” he says. “In fact, I think my relationship with God was actually at its strongest during that season. But now I see that God was revealing more areas in me of pride that I needed to deal with. Not the obvious, arrogant, self-serving kind of pride that we guard ourselves against voraciously. It was more this layered, deep stuff. “For some reason, I thought I had to do it on my own. I couldn’t let go of certain things. I needed to

go through a season where I suddenly realized that everything didn’t rely on me, that if I wasn’t going to be involved, God was still going to do what He was going to do.” One particularly helpful moment came when Houston received advice from one of the few people who could understand the pressures he faced: Louie Giglio. For the first time in several years, Houston was forced to sit, due to vocal rest, during a Hillsong conference, and Giglio was a featured speaker. Afterward, the two compared notes, and Houston said the moment brought clarity and perspective. “Basically, he sat with me and told me he had been through a very similar season,” Houston says. “He told me a story of feeling like everything was on his shoulders and reminding himself again that the cornerstone is the cornerstone and that He takes the weight of all that. I was feeling the same way. “I see Louie carrying so much,” he continues. “He has got the biggest movement certainly among young adults in the world, and I would look at someone like Louie and see him carrying more, doing more, making things happen. It would inspire and challenge me to go on even though I didn’t know if I could keep on going. So for him to be the guy who comes to me and says, ‘I just went through this season’ just humanized everything in a very beautiful way.” RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM



Houston did return to United after his time away, and the band has continued playing concerts all over the world, even becoming the first Christian act to ever sell out the Staples Center in Los Angeles. This summer, they enjoyed one of their biggest moments to date at the legendary Hollywood Bowl. “LA has always been one of those places that felt like home for us,” Houston says. “Back in the day, when we first started coming to the States, everybody would give us every reason why it wasn’t going to work here. It might work in Canada. It might work in South Africa. It might work in Australia, but the U.S. was supposed to be different. They said we would have to do 200 dates and just run through the Bible Belt over and over and over again and build it up. But that wasn’t us. It’s not what we were called to do. “For whatever reason, early on, we would go to LA and people would just turn up,” he continues. “Like at Staples Center a couple years ago—when we played there, it was a huge risk and people were like, ‘That’s crazy.’ But we sold it out and it was awesome. So when it came around to this time,



Staples was unavailable and we didn’t want to go backward. The Hollywood Bowl was just sitting there, and we wondered, ‘Is it possible for us to do that?’ We were told, ‘It’s pointless, don’t even try doing it.’ “It’s important to remember that going into this season with Zion, I didn’t even know where we were going to land. I didn’t know if people were still hungry for what we were doing, so I remember sitting there talking about whether we were going to do that date and we just decided to take the risk and do it. “So when it came to that night, it was incredible. It was packed out. Just an amazing, amazing night. All our friends and family were there, and to me it was just a little bit of an answer to prayer. It was a little bit of God going, ‘I’m still in this with you guys.’” Longtime United member Jonathon “JD” Douglass agrees that playing at the Hollywood

Bowl was an incredible moment. “To be honest, I got slightly teary and emotional when we took the stage at the faithfulness and grace of God,” he says. “To think that a bunch of very ordinary but passionate young people from a church on the other side of the planet would get to lead worship in an incredibly influential city and such an iconic venue where all the big bands have played was such a humbling experience. I will never forget that night. I think what stood out the most is that everyone sang so loudly and worshiped so passionately. It’s exciting to see what God is doing in His Church and you can only think that the best days for His Church are yet to come.” As if playing in front of 15,000 people wasn’t enough, Houston says the real highlight of the night came from two specific people who caught his attention early on. “At the Hollywood Bowl, people pay in advance for the whole season to see all of the big shows that come through,” Houston explains. “So I remember when we started off, we came out and there was this huge crowd and the atmosphere was incredible. But there was this couple in their 50s,

you know, this classic-looking LA couple, and they’re sitting there with their bottle of wine in the front row. They were right in front of me the entire night, and you could just see they had no idea what they were walking into. “So you’ve got this huge crowd of people going crazy, and then you’ve got these two people, and I just couldn’t take my eyes off them the whole night,” he continues. “I watched them sit through the first hour and a half of the night, just trying to figure out what was going through their minds. And I remember when we gave people the opportunity to make the decision to follow Christ, they both put their hands up and made a decision for Jesus. “What was also awesome was, after that point, seeing them on their feet with these huge smiles on their faces, and that was the last image of the entire tour for me: this couple in their 50s who had no idea what kind of event they were coming to. I don’t know if we’ll ever see them again, maybe we’ll see them in heaven, but that was honestly the highlight of the entire trip. It just brought huge value to what we do and why we do it.”


But United’s reach and the grand scale of some of their concerts draws a fair share of criticism. From lights and cameras, to ticket prices and the size of the stage, Houston says he has heard it all. “We’ve had every kind of criticism, I think,” he laughs. “I think people are often threatened by the bigness or magnitude of it all. One thing we’ve been very careful of is to make sure we’re together—to always make sure our purpose remains the same.”

While he takes the criticism in, Houston says he has grown to understand he can’t do much about the bulk of it. “Sometimes I wish I could fully explain everything we do and why we do it to everybody, at all times, because I feel very strongly that what we are doing is great,” he says. “We’re doing it the best we know how, and it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but the heart is pure and the motives are pure. The desire is to keep lifting the bar for ourselves, but also for others. To say, ‘Hey, this is what’s possible for us as the Church and as the Body of Christ, as musicians and as songwriters.’ “I feel like that’s what God has called us to do,” he continues. “Whatever criticism comes with that, I feel like it’s an opportunity to just embrace it and say, ‘This is where we’re going and why,’ and let the chips fall where they may. At the end of the day, let the fruit tell the story. That’s all we really can do.”




HILLSONG MUSIC Hillsong’s original band released its first album in 1992.

HILLSONG YOUNG & FREE Hillsong’s next group, Young & Free, will release its debut this October.



One point Houston is quick to agree with is perceived issues of depth, or lack thereof, in many modern worship choruses. “To be honest, I think that’s a criticism that’s worthy,” he says. “It’s hard. I never want to be critical of worship because of what it is. It’s not our job to go, ‘I like this,’ or ‘This makes me feel good,’ or ‘I don’t get that,’ because the fact is that God uses all of that in His own way. That’s the mystery of God and how He uses people to reach other people for Him, so I want to be careful in saying that. “At the same time, I think the responsibility is on us to be digging deep and to make sure there’s a painful element to songwriting.” Hillsong’s global presence with several church plants and songwriting teams means Houston is a gatekeeper, of sorts, in his role as creative director. “The biggest thing we’ve learned in the last five or 10 years is that there’s a lot more intent in what we’re saying and the responsibility that comes with that. I think our job as songwriters, especially when it comes to worship, is actually to be prophets to the generation and to what God is wanting to say and do here and now. “I think there’s a huge responsibility, and if I see that cheapened in any way, shape or form, it actually disturbs me and I can see why that would disturb others,” Houston continues.

“The hymns that have stood the test of time are the greatest songs in history, I believe. The depth that comes with those songs has stood the test of time for a reason. I think there’s a culture we live in, especially in the Church, where the humanistic nature of it all says, ‘Pop out another album. Pop out another song. Pop out another modern worship hit.’ Those songs f ly and then die.”


Even with the care Hillsong United takes in crafting its songs, the band has still managed to maintain a yearly cycle of album releases, international tour dates, global conferences and countless ministry opportunities. Yet, Houston has no idea what is ahead for himself or the band. With his role as co-pastor of Hillsong NYC, a 2-year-old church plant with several meeting locations in the Big Apple, he has a new platform and community to consider. But just as he did as “an insecure 17-yearold,” Houston says he has never had any real idea of what’s ahead. And he likes it that way. “We’ve never really had a plan,” he says. “It has just been to take what’s in our hands and to do the very best with it. I love the mystery of God. I love that He works in ways that don’t make sense looking forward, and in hindsight, you know, you go back and look at it and say ‘He was with me through all of it.’ I know that we’re going to keep going. I’ve never felt so strongly in my Spirit that God is with us and He’s calling us to do more. But what that looks like? I have no idea. I really have no idea what’s next. I just know I’m ready for it.” 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.

HE SHUT DOWN EXODUS INTERNATIONAL AND THEN APOLOGIZED FOR THE EX-GAY MINISTRY HE RAN. WHY? hange is possible!” That was Exodus International’s slogan, an unapologetic answer to the dicey “are people born gay?” question. Often described as the largest “ex-gay” ministry in the U.S., Exodus worked with Christians who dealt with same-sex attraction for 37 years. That all changed in June, when Exodus International’s president Alan Chambers stunned the world by apologizing for his




ministry and shutting its doors for good. Chambers sat down with RELEVANT Podcast castmember Eddie Kaufholz (who happens to also be a pastor) to discuss that apology, tell his stories and give his vision for the future. EK: You first got involved at Exodus when you were 19. What was your background before that?

AC: I grew up in a Southern Baptist church. Looking back, I think I only knew part of the truth about who Jesus is. I knew Jesus, but not the full truth that in the midst of everything, before the creation of the world, God knew every single thing that was going to happen in my life, and He wasn’t up in heaven wringing his hands, wondering what He

“I FELT LIKE IF I WAS GOING TO DIE PREACHING A MESSAGE, IT WAS GOING TO BE THE MESSAGE OF GRACE, NOT THE MESSAGE OF ‘CHANGE IS POSSIBLE.’” The first thing I woke up thinking in the morning and the last thing I went to bed thinking was, “I’m gay. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t choose it. I don’t want it. God hates this. Therefore, God might hate me, and I have to get rid of it by morning.” And that was my entire day, every day, for years and years. And I think the overwhelming part of that and what really caused me so much anxiety was that I grew up in the Church and this was how the Church treated homosexuality. EK: What do you believe brought you to a point at that age where there was already same-sex attraction? AC: I don’t know. I look at it now as

an adult and I think we are complex beings. We are a myriad of things. Everything goes in to make up who we are. I absolutely believe there are genetic and biological components to every part of who we are. And to say we have a genetic predisposition to feel or act certain ways, whether it’s sexual or otherwise, I think it’s too simple. But I do think there are genetic and biological influences that go into that perfect storm to make up every part of who we are. EK: How did you first hear about Exodus? AC: I heard about Exodus through

was going to do. But at 19 years old, I was wringing my hands, wondering what I was going to do and thinking that’s who God was—that He didn’t have a perfect plan unless I followed His perfect will. And so for me, I was a devastated, afraid, lonely kid who was desperate for someone to give me some hope.

an evangelist who used to do these youth events. He gave this alter call where it was unmistakable God was calling me. He said, “There’s a gay kid sitting in the audience tonight ... come forward and talk to me.” And I thought, “I’m totally doing this one.” I went forward, tapped him on the shoulder and said, for the first time in my life, “I’m the gay kid.” And he responded in a way that astounded me. He said, “Great.” He smiled, his face lit up and he shared

hope with me that night. And through a series of events, I found out about Exodus. EK: Do you remember what he said to you? AC: He said “I have three words for you,” and for me, as

the gay kid growing up in church, my first thought was, The first two words are “God hates”—because that’s how we live in the Church. The world knows we are Christians by what we’re against. And I wondered, is it “God hates sin?” Is it “God hates homosexuality?” Is it “God hates homosexuals?” Or is it “God hates me?” Because I had heard all of those things. But he said something completely different. He said, “God loves you.” He didn’t need to say anything else. I think that’s where my journey began. And those are the words that have caused me to keep moving forward all these years, even in the midst of great trials, even in the midst of my life in the gay community and all of those things. Certainly, where I live my life today, the three words I feel are the most important to me and the three words I find most important to share with anyone are, “God loves you.” That will change everything. EK: Talk about how your view has changed since you first came to Exodus. Where do you stand now? AC: I don’t see anything in Scripture other than God’s

very clear word about sexual expression and creative intent for human sexuality. I believe it is one man and one woman for one lifetime. And yet, I also believe there are all sorts of points of view out there on this. Something else that has become very clear to me in my study of God’s Word is that once someone has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, nothing can take that away. Our relationship in Christ, our place in the Kingdom, is secure. So what that says is not that whatever we do is OK, not that behavior doesn’t matter, but that if our entire relationship with God is based on our behavior, then it’s sinking sand. If your relationship with God is centered around how good you are or what good you can do, then you’re never going to be good enough. You’re never going to be clean enough. You’re never going to be secure enough. Those things are shaky. God is not shaky. Therefore, I can love the gay Christian. I can accept the gay Christian. It may be different than what I believe about how someone should live their life, but that’s not for me to tell them. If they want to know my opinion, I believe it’s important for me to share it. But they can’t live their life based on how I live mine. They don’t have to. It is about a relationship with Jesus Christ. RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


Eddie Kaufholz and Alan Chambers talk in the RELEVANT studio. Watch the video at

EK: It must have taken a while for this worldview to take shape. What part did Exodus play in this? AC: Especially in the last eight years, I’ve

really been trying to unpack and dive into this understanding of the finished work of Christ on the cross. The understanding of grace has so captured me, so transformed me, so freed me from the fear I have walked in—even as a believer who felt secure in my relationship with Christ—that I have had to talk about it. And yet, I would jump back and toe the politically correct Christian line, partly because I didn’t know how to express all that was going on within me. When I really fully grasped this truth I’m speaking about today and became very secure and bold in it, I was unwilling to jump back in line. I couldn’t pretend I don’t believe what I believe. I felt like if I was going to die preaching a message, it was going to



be the message of grace, not the message of “change is possible.” Not the message of “look at my life and how wonderful it is,” because I’m looking around going, “Not everybody’s life looks like mine. And yet, they have an opportunity to know Jesus.” I’m not going to risk people running away from the Church, never to return. And I’m not going to risk people running from Jesus to leave their faith or be miserable or kill themselves for the message we were sharing that they were confused about.

Watch the 3-part interview on our YouTube channel or

EK: It seems like, generally, the message of Exodus was, “you can change; you are not right as you are.” For you that seemed to work, but why does it not work for other people? AC: Mine is not the unique story within Exodus. It is one

of a number of amazing stories where something did change, where marriage was possible, not just something we chose to appease or pacify or as a second option, but

as the main option that is the best part of my earthly life. I think it didn’t work for a lot of people because the message we ran with was really not the main message of the Gospel, the main message of who God is and what He wants for all of us. It became, really, a counterfeit message of the Church, but it was the thing we found the most support in from the Church. The support and affirmation and encouragement we got from the Church was, “Change is possible. You run with that message and we will

support you.” It’s neat and tidy, so we ran with it. It’s not to say it wasn’t true in our lives, but the reason it didn’t work is because we promoted my story as the story. We promoted marriage and heterosexuality and wholeness and change ambiguously as the message of Exodus and the message of Jesus for gay people. And the reason it didn’t work is because that’s not the message of Jesus for gay people. The message of Jesus for gay people is the same as the message for straight people and anybody else. And that is, “I can have a relationship with anyone.” Jesus died for all of us or He died for none of us, and you don’t give your heart to Jesus thinking it’s going to be all better. EK: I see you leaning into this message, but it started with an apology. What, exactly, are you apologizing for? AC: When it comes to sexual

expression with members of the same sex or the opposite sex, I cannot apologize for what we believe about that. And yet, how we have wielded that sword has caused damage. There were people who were hurt by our message, by techniques, by people who did unspeakable things in the name of Jesus and in the name of leaders and authority figures. We had to say we’re sorry specifically. We’re sorry you experienced this. We’re sorry this caused you shame. We’re sorry this hurt you. We’re sorry that in the name of Jesus, in our desire to do good, we didn’t do good in your situation. EK: So you’re apologizing for some of the methods and techniques Exodus used to move a point. AC: Yeah, and even broader than

that. I think it’s beyond Exodus. It’s us as believers. We’re sorry for how we have treated you as Christians with regards to this. When your feelings didn’t change, that we made you feel less than. That we

made you feel like you should feel something we could never promise you would feel. That we doubted your relationship with Jesus. That we made you doubt your relationship with Jesus. I mean, there are an infinite number of things that I felt like we had to say we’re sorry for. And this hopefully will provide an example for the Church. I hope pastors will stand up on their pulpit and say, “We’re sorry. God loves you as much as He loves me. He wants a relationship with you as much as He wants a relationship with me.” And I hope that will change everything. EK: Why is this an issue in society? If homosexuality just sits on the plane of sin with all other sin, why is this such a big deal? AC: I think we are all image-bearers. Whether we know

[God] or not, we were created to be image-bearers. We can’t look at any human being walking down the street, whether they’re gay, straight, black, white, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, atheist, whatever and not see some part of the image of God. And I think the whole issue of marriage and sexuality is an expression of who God is because it is an expression of male-female. It is an expression of complementarity. And for me, the way I live my life and the way I interpret scripture and creative intent is the only way we can fully experience and express His image sexually is through bringing together the complement—and that is man and woman. I think we should talk about those things. I don’t think we should debate them in angry divisive ways that rip humanity apart in the ways we have. It’s a conversation we need to have in a very different way than we have had it before. Nothing will divide us more than taking a little bit of truth and then adding fear to it. And we have responded and reacted and lived in the Christian Church for its entire history motivated most by fear. I think this is such a big deal because we have escalated it to a point where we believe everything is going to be lost over this one issue. So for us in the Church, we have to stop this culture war. We have to stop waging war for the sake of an institution called marriage that we have abused far worse than anyone else. And we need to redefine, not marriage, but rethink how we engage with culture on this issue. It doesn’t mean we change what we believe—obviously, I haven’t. But I’m unwilling to fight. I’m unwilling to grab my sword and use it against people. So, why close Exodus? Why start something new? Because I have a hope that we can do something better. I have a hope that we can sit down across the table with gay and lesbian people, with any people, and say, “Okay, this is what I believe, and I’m really passionate about what I believe. And I realize I’m only responsible for me, but I want to hear your story. I want to find out where we have something in common.” EK: So you’re saying the Church needs to reframe the conversation about homosexuality? AC: We have led with “this is what we’re against.” We

have led with “this is a sin.” And we have not led with

“WE NEED TO REDEFINE, NOT MARRIAGE, BUT RETHINK HOW WE ENGAGE WITH CULTURE ON THIS ISSUE.” “Jesus loves you. Period. Everyone can have a relationship with Him. We all fall short. You’re absolutely welcome here.” I think we have this conversation with tears. I think we have this conversation with great caution and care. It’s not about capitulating to the world or denying the truth of God’s Word. But are there faithful people out there who love Jesus, serve him as much as we do and live very differently from us who we need to talk through these things with? I would say yes. I find the space I have walked into far more contentious than the one I left behind. But I also don’t believe people live on polarized ends of the spectrum. I think the silent majority live in the middle. I’m standing here in this very weird place and not alone. I think I’m standing with a whole lot of other people, most of whom don’t have a microphone or a camera following them, who are saying, “I want to have that conversation.” I have gotten some hate mail from both sides, but I feel like Santa Claus in the enormous amount of snail mail, email, Facebook messages, text messages, you name it that are coming in. Thousands and thousands of people are saying, “I may not agree with you completely, but it’s about time we had this conversation, and we’re with you.” People from every single faith, sexuality, country, perspective and political affiliation imaginable. It feels overwhelming, but I feel like people want to have the conversation, so I’m going to keep having it very imperfectly, and we’re going to figure this out together in a way that honors Christ. EDDIE KAUFHOLZ is a minister, counselor, and writer living in Orlando, Fla. He is married to Brianne and has two girls. Eddie can be heard weekly on the RELEVANT Podcast.






a scale of 1 to 10, what do you think you are?” Steve Carell asks 14-year-old Duncan in the opening scene of The Way, Way Back. “I think you’re a three,” he tells the teenager. It is a different side of Carell than audiences are used to seeing. Usually, whether he’s being utterly goofy in movies like Anchorman, reaching for greater emotional depth in films like Crazy, Stupid, Love or combining those two qualities in the same role in f licks like Evan Almighty, Carell radiates likability and decency in a rare way that only greats like Jimmy Stewart and Tom Hanks can match. But after nearly a decade of playing nice guys, Carell is feeling the urge to stretch himself a bit. This fall, he’ll play a paranoid schizophrenic murderer in the true-life tale Foxcatcher. And in The Way, Way Back, which came out in July, Carell plays an emotionally distant jerk who clashes with a vulnerable teenage boy. The Way, Way Back follows the story of a 14-year-old named Duncan, played to emotionally confused perfection by Liam James in his first starring role in a movie. Duncan’s parents recently divorced, and he’s quietly stewing over the fact that his mom has jumped into a new relationship with a guy named Trent (Carell), who tries to put on a nice face but is carelessly cruel to Duncan. “I don’t think he’s a bad person,” Carell says, referring to his character in the movie. “He’s trying to do the right thing, or what he perceives to be the right thing. But his perception of what is right is not the same as



others’ perceptions. It reminds me of the coaches I had in high school. They would be tough, and they would be cruel and always think they were building character, building a better athlete and toughening kids up for what is inevitably a tough world out there. “I think he thinks, in that way, he is providing a service to this 14-year-old kid, but when you examine it, he’s doing great damage to this kid’s psyche,” Carell adds. “But I don’t think he has a bad heart or is a bad person. That’s always intriguing to play—to approach it not as a villain but as someone who has troubles and probably didn’t have the best upbringing himself. It’s kind of sad when people are trying to be a certain way but just don’t have the capability to do what they need to do.” Carell says it was the film’s surprising, heartbreaking opening scene that drew him into the script by the writerdirector team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the same team behind George Clooney’s critically beloved The Descendants. “That scene drew me in because it felt very legitimate and very real, and subsequently I found out it was real and happened to Jim Rash when he was a boy,” Carell says. “Here’s the thing: I don’t think everyone is as mean or as nice as you think they are. I think there are dark aspects to me, I’m sure.”


With his warm smile and kind voice, Carell seems like he knows he’s someone who caught a lucky break that millions of others dream of, and he’s going to make the best of that opportunity for everyone else who’s out there striving to make it in Hollywood. That sense of appreciation



and honest work ethic were rooted in him while growing up as one of four brothers in a Catholic family in Acton, Mass., a town he still spends summers near with his own family today. His mom was a psychiatric nurse and his dad was an electrical engineer, so Carell didn’t grow up harboring ambitions of stardom. Instead, he played ice hockey for his high school team and played the fife with his family during Revolutionary War reenactments before becoming a mailman in the

big at the box office with the smash-hit success of his first leading-man movie role in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which he co-wrote with its director, Judd Apatow. While The Office clicked as a massive nine-season success (Carell left when his contract ended after seven seasons), Virgin proved to be an even more intriguing choice. The movie caused some division among Christian moviegoers, as it appeared to be yet another morally bankrupt sex romp, but Carell maintains that it actually harbored many morally conservative themes about the oversexed society we live in. “It’s really about friendship and love and commitment as much as anything else,” Carell says. “I went back to my high school reunion just before that movie was coming out, and I said I just finished this movie called The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I could see their eyes rolling back in their heads, and I knew what they thought it was. I went on a national morning talk show, and one of the hosts refused to interview me on the basis of that title alone. They thought it was just going to be a raunchy sex comedy, and they didn’t want any part of an interview with someone in it.” Ultimately, the movie proved to be a smash, earning $109 million domestically and nearly $70 million more worldwide, despite the fact that when it was released, the average American household barely knew who Carell was. Along with cleaning up at the box office, the movie also earned a prestigious Writers Guild Award nomination, proving Carell and Apatow had earned the respect of their professional writing peers, as well.

“I DON’T THINK EVERYONE IS AS MEAN OR AS NICE AS YOU THINK THEY ARE. I THINK THERE ARE DARK ASPECTS TO ME, I’M SURE.” neighboring town of Littleton. He might still be walking a mail route today if his boss hadn’t driven him to quit after six months. Wondering what to do with his life, he remembered he enjoyed performing improvisational comedy while studying history at Denison University, so he headed to Chicago to try his luck at the legendary Second City theatre, the launching pad for comedy stars ranging from Bill Murray to Chris Farley and Tina Fey. In fact, it was there Carell first met and performed with a young Stephen Colbert. Both received their national TV break when they were hired for the short-lived yet highly influential sketch-comedy series The Dana Carvey Show before landing on The Daily Show together in 1999. “I don’t know what the magic of The Daily Show is in launching so many people,” Carell says. “I think it’s a very specific set of skills you need on that show. It’s a hybrid of things. You have to be good on your feet, so you need to be a fairly decent improviser. My pieces had a lot of improv and were unscripted. You’re also playing a character, and you have to play it at the top of your intelligence, which isn’t really acting or improv.”


It was 2005 that proved to be the most momentous year of Carell’s career, as he left The Daily Show to play Michael Scott, the clueless yet compassionate boss of a paper company office in the American remake of the The Office. He also scored 68


“There were a number of different things in that movie, and I think that’s partly why it ended up working,” Carell explains. “I pitched the basic idea to Judd of this guy who had given up on the whole idea of sex, and really, relationships. He had become a bit of a hermit and it took these other guys and his relationships with them to bring him out.” But beyond the shenanigans and bromances that were a large part of the movie’s appeal, and which also helped launch Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd to cinematic stardom, Carell says Virgin had a lot to say with its potent satirical moments about sexual peer pressure among teens and the omnipresent use of sex to sell products in advertising. One particularly memorable moment came when the main character, Andy, is seemingly pursued down the street by a truck adorned with a giant, sexually charged ad. “You see the scene where Andy is walking down the street, and for the first time he’s bombarded with all these images, and it is overwhelming,” Carell says. “And I do think that people grow complacent to it. I was doing a press junket in Las Vegas a few months ago and brought my wife and kids, and I hadn’t noticed how sexualized everything had become. Or maybe it always had been, but I had never thought about it. I was more acutely aware of it because I was with my kids. And I think that’s partly what that scene was: an innocent seeing those things for the first time. “I don’t think we were trying to make any huge statement about society, but I think things were implied about things being sexualized,” continues Carell, who is currently writing his first script since Virgin. “To me, that movie is about love. Even after all that, he still doesn’t have sex until after he’s married. As dirty as that film is, as raunchy as it gets, I think it has a very innocent quality and is as innocent as that character. That movie was way beyond its title.” Of course, The Office also proved to be far more memorable than its fairly generic and nondescript title. As Michael Scott,



“I TEND TO GRAVITATE TOWARD THINGS THAT LACK CYNICISM. I FEEL THERE IS SO MUCH CYNICISM ON A DAILY BASIS, AND I GET TIRED OF IT.” Carell managed to both pay tribute to and satirize the average American boss by vividly depicting a man for whom his colleagues were also his de facto family. When he departed the series after seven seasons in 2011, with his character heading off to pursue marriage and family life with his dream woman, Holly Flax, in Colorado, most fans and critics felt the show lost a great deal of its magic. And so, as the series finally drew toward its conclusion in May, there was rampant debate for months about whether Carell would make another appearance, which—spoiler alert—he did. “We knew all along that we wanted some sort of revisitation, but the question was to what extent. I wanted it to be subtle and slight, and be more of a tip of the hat to the show and the cast to thank them and the people who watched,” Carell says. “I didn’t want to take away from them. This is their summation, their characters and their finale, and I didn’t want to take away from 70


that. So, for me, the trick and the key was to come in and achieve both of those things. “It was hard to lie to people, constantly, on every talk show I went on,” he continues. “But it was fun seeing people wonder, and it was interesting that everyone wanted to know the truth and the answer. I thought ‘Do you really? Wouldn’t it be more fun to be surprised?’ So, for the fans, we tried to keep it under wraps. It was fun. And now you know. We’re all very good friends, and I empathized with what they were going through because I had gone through it two years before, and to be saying goodbye to those characters and that world was pretty emotional.”


Before anyone worries that, in taking on different roles, Carell is abandoning the lovableness that has made him so popular, he wants to make it clear he’s not done yet with his quest to make movies that are both smart and kind. In fact, he feels these kinds of roles are helping further his positive worldview by showing that there’s a sweet side in even the most seemingly sour people. “I tend to gravitate toward things that lack cynicism. I feel there is so much cynicism on a

daily basis, and I get tired of it. I like things that are even vaguely hopeful,” Carell says. “You look at a movie like [his acclaimed 2006 hit] Little Miss Sunshine, and it doesn’t necessarily end happily, but it ends hopefully. Which isn’t to say they’re all going to be best friends from there on out, but there’s going to be change and there’s going to be a better life for those people from there on out. I like that.” And even as his career moves forward, Carell remains a dedicated family man. Part of his decision to take the part in The Way, Way Back was the fact that the film was shot in Marshfield Hills, the town where he spends summers with his family. In fact, he owns a general store in the city with his wife, actress Nancy Wells. “Maybe five or six houses down from my character’s house is our family beach house,” he says. “It is a place where, just like in the movie, people are right on top of each other and right on the beach. It’s a very sweet little community, and they were so happy to have us there. I would tell people on the crew and cast where to go for the best lobster roll.” In the end, despite all the hit movies, an iconic TV series and many more successes no doubt headed his way, it isn’t Hollywood that drives Carell and gives him purpose in life. While he didn’t directly answer whether he’s still driven by the Catholic faith he was raised with or practices another form of Christianity, he gave an answer most believers can agree with. “The most important things to me are my wife and children, truly,” he says. “At the end of my life, when all is said and done, that’s what I’m going to reflect on when I look back on my life. Not what roles I did, what movies or TV shows. So that’s it for me. I love this job, but no matter where I am, I can’t wait to get back home.”

CARL KOZLOWSKI is a Los Angeles journalist who has been bringing humor to the page and stage for more than a decade.





a 2012 article for The New York Times, author and filmmaker Annie Leonard wrote a column titled “Individual Actions Just Don’t Add Up.” In it, she detailed the tension of those reusable grocery bags we often feel compelled to purchase—the big cloth or vinyl so conspicuously displayed at supermarkets. Somewhere in our minds, many of us feel we ought to be using these bags. Perhaps everyone ought to—what a world that would be. Leonard did the math. “Sure, it reduces the waste from my household,” she says. “But even if we could get everyone to do the same, the impact would still be negligible, because household garbage is only 3 percent of the waste produced in the United States.” Managing household waste is one small example, but it’s a microcosm of a much more daunting problem: How much change can one person actually make? It may seem minor when applied to things like reusable bags, but takes on new depth in issues such as poverty and one issue that’s recently resurfaced on the public radar: race relations.


Joe isn’t the man he was when I met him 10 years ago—selling drugs on a street corner, making a living by risking his life. But as he sits at our kitchen table, his head is down and his shoulders are slumped over his plate of leftovers. He has been depressed for a while now, because the systems in which

he struggles to survive haven’t changed as much as he has. “You coming to the meeting tonight?” I ask, knowing Joe has heard my wife and me talk for weeks about our church’s meeting to address racial profiling in our community. “What meeting?” Joe says. “You know, the one where we’re going to talk about how it’s hard for guys like you to change if neighbors are always calling 911 and the police are always trying to search you.” Joe says no, he’s not going, then proceeds to tell me just how messed up the whole system is. How when it comes to racial profiling, employers are just as bad as the police. How Church people are some of the worst. “I’m worth more to the system in prison than I am out here,” Joe says. “They would rather send me back there than let me work here.” “Don’t you think we need to do something about it?” I ask him. “You can’t do anything about it,” Joe says. “It’s just the way it is.” I tell Joe I know it’s hard for him to believe in change right now. “Hang on,” I say, “Some of the rest of us are going to believe for you.” By any account, the hard reality of universal, systemic injustice is daunting. Where is one person supposed to begin? Will buying a hybrid car actually make a dent in nonrenewable energy sources? Probably not. So should individuals even bother working to conserve fossil fuels? Is ending worldwide poverty a reachable goal? Perhaps not. So should one person fight for it anyway? Will addressing the problem of racial bias in our

neighborhoods have any effect on a wider, global scale? If not, why bother addressing the problems where we live? For some of us, addressing systemic injustice is too big a task—just too overwhelming. We shy away from the conversation because we don’t want to “get political.” Or maybe, like Joe, we simply can’t imagine some things ever changing, so why try? Others of us romanticize global justice and deceive ourselves into thinking, given time and the proper conditions, we can fix this broken world ourselves. We fall in love with the idea of world change, yet fail to do—or even realize—the work it takes to bring such change about. In the end, neither of these approaches will get us anywhere.


Humanitarian Paul Farmer, who serves as a doctor among the poor in Haiti, often says the problem with white liberals is they think they can change the world without having to change themselves. This is often the problem with justice-loving Christians, too: We haven’t disciplined our imaginations to see the new world through eyes of faith. In 1955, Martin Luther King Jr. was caught up in a justice movement he had not planned on. It was his first year pastoring a church in Montgomery, Ala., where he was also a young father and a student trying to finish his dissertation in the spare moments he found increasingly fleeting. Whatever dream King had for the future of America in 1955, it was reserved for his precious sleeping hours. His daily planner was already full. But when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat on that fateful day in December of that year, King’s eyes were opened to the pressing need around him. He began to envision a better future—a future he would work tirelessly to bring to life over the next 13 years— and he envisioned it through eyes of faith. In a speech soon after, King declared, “If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong ... and Jesus of Nazareth was a mere Utopian dreamer who never came down to earth.” King instinctively knew the justice he sought was rooted in the authority of Jesus. This foundation would become extremely important to King, especially later. “America, you must be born again,” he preached in the months before his assassination. King’s dream for justice was just that—a dream. It could only be seen through eyes of faith. RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


If we are to see the justice issues of our day through similar eyes, we would do well to learn from King’s Gospel-rooted vision of justice. We do not resist sex trafficking simply because it’s a violation of human rights. We resist because we know trafficked women are children of God—that they and their abusers were created for something better than commodified pleasure. We conserve natural resources not only because it’s good for the environment, but also because we are mandated to care for and cultivate God’s creation. When we stand up for justice, we are standing with

Again, King’s life is instructive here. The tactics of nonviolence that had proven effective elsewhere were not working in Birmingham in 1963. King and his fellow workers could not see how change might come. His colleague Andrew Young tells the story of King emerging from a meeting on Good Friday and saying, “I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I know I’m going to jail.” King got arrested that weekend and wrote what became his famous letter from the Birmingham jail. But King’s witness still did not have the effect he hoped it would. Birmingham stood strong in its defiance of integration. Then, unexpectedly, some of King’s aides told him the children wanted to march. When they were met by dogs and fire hoses, the nation reacted by putting pressure on the federal government to do something. Civil rights historians say the Civil Rights Act signed into effect in July 1964 was born in the spring of 1963 as Americans watched those kids harmed in Birmingham on the evening news. We can never see what resurrection is going to look like from this side of the cross. But the stories of the saints remind us that, as pacifist theologian John Howard Yoder used to say, “Those who carry crosses work with the grain of the universe.” In the short term, faithfulness may look like the high road we must choose over and against effectiveness. Yet, as King said, “The moral arch of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” We can’t beat injustice by our own efforts, but with God, all things are possible. In this way, faithfulness to Jesus is actually the most effective means we have for reaching the world we long to see. Every small act to curb global warming, every fair

WE CAN’T ALWAYS KNOW HOW THINGS ARE GOING TO WORK OUT. OUR TASK IS OBEDIENCE. God Almighty—the one who raised Israel from Egypt and Jesus from the dead. We need to know this is a God who can, as the long-standing African-American idiom says, “make a way out of no way.” Like the civil rights workers of the 1960s, we can learn to sing with the authority of God’s people, “We are building up a new world. Builders must be strong.” But we must learn to sing it with a humility that does not always come naturally to people who are used to wielding power. Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero understood this well. Romero, who advocated for the human rights of his country’s oppressed until his assassination in 1980, once said, “We are workers, not master builders ... We are prophets of a future not our own.” As we engage our broken world, our confidence must be not in ourselves but in the Master Builder who calls us to His good work. This—and not faith in our own abilities—is what makes our vision secure.


To consider the peculiar way of Jesus in our pursuit of justice is to think not only of the world as God created it to be, but also of the means God uses to redeem creation. While some justice workers cry out for change “by any means necessary,” we would do better to consider how Jesus engaged the powers when He walked among us. Often, the question of means in the struggle for justice has led Christians to say our mandate is faithfulness, not effectiveness—and this is as it should be. When, for example, Christians couldn’t see how turning the other cheek was going to end Jim Crow, they were admonished to be faithful to Jesus and His way. When, today, we can’t see how reducing fuel emissions could possibly stem the tide of climate change, we should remember the outcome is not necessarily the point. We can’t always know how things are going to work out. Our task is obedience. The humility we learn in submitting ourselves to faithfulness—no matter the outcome—is extremely important, especially for those of us who are in recovery from believing our task is to run the world. 74


trade purchase, every dollar given to help those afflicted by AIDS matters because we are joining forces with the Master Builder, and He is our ultimate guide.


For those of us who worry how our meager efforts could ever make a difference in such a broken world, we can place our hope in another reality—one which Peter Maurin, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement with Dorothy Day, said is the task of building a “new society in the shell of the old.” We don’t get to start over and build a new world from scratch. But Jesus shows us how to begin living in a new creation even as the old world marches on toward its ultimate demise. For an example of how this vision shapes our day-to-day living, we would do well to look to the Underground Railroad of the 19th century. Long before the U.S. had outlawed slavery, women and men rooted in confidence that they were fighting on God’s side knew they were called to build a new world—one without slavery. A peculiar mix of freed slaves, white evangelicals and Quakers, they worked for legal changes they knew they would not see in their lifetime. But that is not all. These people knew every person is created in God’s image, and they began living out the vision within their homes and immediate communities. They hosted runaway slaves and hid them from authorities. Through a series of stations along the pilgrim way, they built a new society inside the shell of the old. Like these freedom fighters, we have work to do, the fruits of which we may not see in our lifetime. It is within our power to live as if the new creation has already come. We can plant gardens and install water-saving systems in our homes. We can organize co-ops and alternative economies in our neighborhoods. We can carve out spaces where the lines between homeless and housed, ex-cons and community members get blurry or fade entirely. We can do this not because it will change everything, but because every gesture toward justice is a testament to the new world that is coming and has now come, wherever we have the faith to welcome it. JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE is a writer and speaker who lives with his family at the Rutba House, a Christian community that shares life with the formerly homeless in Durham, N.C. His new book, Strangers at My Door (Random House), is due out in November.


t’s early morning at a rustic old farmhouse on the outskirts of Cincinnati, and Linford Detweiler is sitting on the front porch. His wife and bandmate, Karin Bergquist, is inside. There’s coffee. Birds are singing. Detweiler is weary, but chipper, eyeing the lazy circles of a red-tailed hawk soaring over his front yard. 76


In every way, it’s an exact picture of what you’d expect life to look like for the members of Over the Rhine. “I’m a little road weary,” he says. “Karin and I have been doing this for over two decades. We have never taken a year off completely. There have been years that have been lighter than others, but I have never had more fun on the road than I’m having right now.” Detweiler comes across like a kindly

uncle. He’s familiar and honest, with a way of being vulnerable without making everyone uncomfortable. “I think we’ve had a little bit of an antagonistic relationship with touring,” he says. “We always saw it as something that would go away eventually.” He laughs at that notion. “Somewhere along the line, I realized that I really need that connection with an

audience. It completes the circle. We’re not trying to write songs in a vacuum. We’re wanting our songs to connect people and us in some real way with the world around us. And it’s—well, maybe you can feel that on our new record. It feels like we have finally found our groove.”


It might take a long and impossible discussion to determine who, exactly, is the country’s most

underappreciated band, but Over the Rhine certainly belongs in any such conversation. For two decades, they have seemed ever on the verge of their big break. They have released 13 albums— all critically lauded. Entertainment Weekly said there was “no more soothing voice in music than Karin Bergquist’s.” A.V. Club said there was “no rhyme or reason” as to why the band wasn’t more famous. They have acquired one of indie music’s most fiercely devoted fan bases, toured with Bob Dylan and appeared on too many “Greatest Living Songwriter” lists to name. And yet, they have been saddled with a lowflying career—forever praised as the “best kept secret” of folk music, even as the genre’s recent revival seems to have come just a few years too late to really bring them any of that longdeserved acclaim. “I don’t really think about it,” Detweiler says. “I think when Karin turned 40, she got her first tattoo. She tattooed a beautiful watercolor of a female hummingbird on her left shoulder with the phrase, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ It’s something we like to keep handy because nothing will suck the life out of a creative journey faster than comparing yourself too much to what other people are doing. It’s best just to stay fiercely committed to your own standards of perfection. Stay committed to your own voice.” Staying committed to that voice may seem like a no-brainer now, what with The Lumineers and The Civil Wars making millions on their brands of Americana-tinged folk, but Over the Rhine was churning out this stuff back in the early ’90s, when Nirvana had largely made acoustic music a thing of the past. “Everybody was turning their guitars up to 10,” Detweiler recalls. “And for some reason, we had made a very personal, introspective record. The first song on the record was something like five and a half minutes long with no drums. Somehow, we found the courage to quit trying to scream along with everybody else and just to lean in and whisper something. “My goodness,” he laughs. “That record outsold all three of our major label releases combined.” Nirvana is gone now, and dozens of other bands have come and gone, but Over the Rhine has trusted their gut, and while their career may not have ever reached the highs of, say, My Morning Jacket (to whom they are frequently compared), it has never had any true lows, either. “We just found permission to be ourselves and not worry about what people were going to think,” Detweiler says. “We didn’t expect everybody to love what we were doing. It sure makes it a whole lot more enjoyable to just try to make records that resonate.”


Over the Rhine is named after an iconic Cincinnati neighborhood that romanced the two in the early days of their relationship. Today, it’s a haven for Ohio’s bohemian set, populated with hipster bars and heavily tattooed kids with big glasses. But 20 years ago, OTR (as it’s known) was unequivocally the bad side of town. This wouldn’t have struck many as a viable namesake for a young couple looking to make their mark in the folk music scene, but that was part of the appeal. “It was kind of beautiful and ragged and dangerous,” Detweiler says. “All of the things we hoped our songs could be.” While the neighborhood might still be beautiful and ragged, it’s not terribly dangerous anymore. The band recently played for a crowd of 7,000 at the opening of a newly renovated park in the heart of OTR. If that felt like the band coming a little full circle, playing for a neighborhood that had come to realize the creative potential they saw in it two decades ago, it also felt like the end of an era. Detweiler and Bergquist have found a new artistic muse—the aforementioned farmhouse— that has become as vital to their music as OTR. “We always had a secret dream, I think, to eventually end up outside of the city,” Detweiler says. “We were also kind of curious about certain American writers and artists like Robert Frost or Flannery O’Connor or Wendell Berry or even a painter like Georgia O’Keeffe. When you think of these artists, you immediately think of a particular place where they lived and worked and a piece of unpaved earth. And Karin and I were increasingly haunted by this idea that we wanted to get out of the city.” Their opportunity came when Detweiler stumbled across the pre-Civil War farmhouse while on a country drive, dreaming up songs for 2005’s Drunkard’s Prayer. Romanced by it in the RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


that’s new every morning. “I don’t know,” he confesses. “It’s something that we haven’t completely articulated.”


“WHAT IS THIS BEAUTIFUL WORLD ASKING OF US? THAT’S THE QUESTION THAT’S NEW EVERY MORNING.” same way that OTR had called them years ago, the couple bought the house and began a new adventure: learning to farm. “When we moved out here, we didn’t know the names of anything.” Detweiler says. “We didn’t know what these old trees were that the pioneers planted. We didn’t know the names of the birds that were singing over our shoulders. We didn’t know the amazing wildflowers that were growing and weeds that we had never seen before.” Things fell together with the help of Detweiler’s father, an Amish farmer and avid birdwatcher. “When my dad came down on that first visit and heard all of the birds that were singing, he said he heard birds that he hadn’t heard since he was a boy. He encouraged Karin and 78


me to leave the edges wild out here so the birds could have their secret hidden places for their untamed music.” They took his advice to heart, and the phrase “leave the edges wild” has become a mantra of theirs, both in how they keep their farm and how they craft their music. It pops up repeatedly on their latest album, Meet Me at the Edge of the World, along with the new language of their home. “We very much realized that we had a cycle of songs that was loosely revolving around this place that sometimes feels like the edge of the world to us,” Detweiler says. “Leaving the edges wild has a lot to do with just accepting the fact that there’s a lot of stuff that we don’t know,” he explains. “There’s a lot of stuff we haven’t figured out, and leaning into those questions is what it’s about. Leaving room for mystery. Acknowledging our own mortality and the wildness of accepting the fact that we’re not going to be here forever, so what is this beautiful world asking of us? That’s the question

“When we were a young band, I always assumed the day would come when I would pick up the phone and call home and tell my mom and dad that we had gotten it out of our systems and we were going to hang up our songwriting hats and get back to our real lives and get real jobs,” Detweiler says. “And I assumed everybody would just breathe a sigh of relief, you know? The years went by and I realized I was never going to pick up the phone and make that call.” Some of that seems to be owing to the fact that Over the Rhine feels a sense of purpose in their music—a purpose that has been largely handed to them by their fans. “I remember being haunted by a Scripture from childhood. If somebody’s naked and you clothe them or if somebody’s hungry and you feed them or if somebody is thirsty and you give them something to drink, it’s like you’re doing it for God,” Detweiler says. “That’s really overwhelming because there’s so much need in the world and where do you begin? “But there’s something about handing somebody a song. It enables you to be present with them in some of those big moments, even if you can’t be there physically.” This might sound a little melodramatic if Detweiler and Bergquist didn’t have proof. They took an afternoon to lay out all the letters they had received over their career, and it made a compelling case for their ongoing existence. “The first one was something like, ‘Hey, we just wanted you to know that we met in college and fell in love and your music was the soundtrack to our relationship.’ And the next letter was, ‘We had one of your songs performed while we were walking down the aisle.’ And then there was a letter that was like, ‘I just wanted to let you know that we actually conceived our child listening to your music.’” He chuckles at that last one. “Uh, OK.” This list goes on for ages. A soldier who brought their albums to Iraq. A man whose sister wanted to listen to them in the final few hours before cancer claimed her, even as a woman in Ireland listened to them as she started her first round of chemotherapy. A woman who played them when her first child was born. “We were looking at these letters. It was the whole human experience, from the very beginning—excitement of somebody falling in love all the way through to burying somebody. And regardless of what’s happening with our career, if people are making that deep of a connection with what we’re doing, it feels like it’s worth doing.” Detweiler says. “I can hang my hat on that,” he says. “As long as I believe the music is good and that we’re still doing our best work, that will get me out of bed in the morning.”


is the managing editor of RELEVANT.

Follow him on Twitter @tylerhuckabee.




ike Watford knows a thing or two about addiction. Today, Watford is a chaplain with the Salvation Army in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but his journey to this position was a rocky one. Watford found himself living on the streets of Bridgeport, Conn., shortly after his father died when he was 15. “The first day I was on the streets was the first day I ever drank a beer or smoked marijuana,” he says. “From that point on, I started using periodically.” A couple months later, Watford started selling drugs. The more he began selling, the more he began using. “Alcohol was my main drug of choice,” he says. “I would drink and smoke marijuana.” And later, he started using cocaine. When he was 19 going on 20, Watford was arrested for the first time for possessing a stolen car—one that he had traded for in exchange for drugs. As his drug abuse became more consistent and significant, spending time in jail became a frequent occurrence. “I went to jail and came out, and it became my lifestyle,” he says. “Jail became my home away from home—in and out, in and out.” Watford had been raised in a Christian home, and when he was 25, he stopped using and rededicated his life to Christ. He had his first daughter and got married. “That was the first time as an adult that I committed wholeheartedly,” he says. “I was still sort of straddling the fence, so to speak, but nonetheless, God got ahold of me.” But having been on the streets from a young age, Watford still didn’t feel stable. He and his now ex-wife and their two daughters built a good life, but he was still struggling inside. “Even though I had a relationship with God and my desire was to serve Him, there were still some unsettled issues I needed to deal with,” he says. “Ultimately,


I ended up going back to the streets—back to the drug life.” After 17 years, Watford’s marriage failed. For a couple years, he was homeless again. For most of this time, he was using drugs but no longer selling. He wasn’t able to keep an apartment for long because of his drug abuse. He ended up driving to Florida with a guy who promised him a job in Fort Lauderdale, but after he got there, Watford learned his services weren’t needed. So, once again, he found himself unemployed and homeless— this time in an unfamiliar city and without enough money to make it back to Connecticut. “Years ago, a cousin of mine had gone into the Salvation Army program in Boston and I remembered that when he came out of the program, he was clean and doing well,” Watford says. “And that gave me hope.” He found a Salvation Army facility in Fort Lauderdale and told God, “If you get me in here, I’ll never do it again. I’ll never pick up another drink or drug. I’ll let you into my life 100 percent.” Watford had been turned away from rehab facilities in Connecticut because he didn’t seem desperate enough, because he was still able to function at

a high level. At first he received the same response in Florida. “The intake woman said, ‘I don’t think you need to be in here.’ And I said, ‘Please, I just need a chance to get my life right,’” he recalls. But eventually, he got accepted into the program, and he has never looked back. Since completing the six-month program, Watford has continued to work for the Salvation Army facility in Fort Lauderdale, first in one of the retail stores and later as a chaplain in the rehabilitation program. Watford continues to stay focused on recovery, but he’s proud to say he has been alcohol and drug free for 29 months. “I know for a fact there are others out there going through the same things I did— if not worse—and it’s not just about helping those who are obviously in need, but also those who are overlooked but are trying to get help,” he says. “I think there are a lot of people out there who are seeking help, but they don’t know where to go. And they just need people to invest in them.” For Watford, living an alcohol and drug free life is a choice that becomes a routine. “That’s something I share with the guys,” he says. “This has got to be a lifestyle. It’s almost like getting up and putting my wallet in my pocket now—I’m going to wake up and put sobriety in my life. I’m still learning, but I know this isn’t something that is going to be handed to us. We have to reach out and grab sobriety. Because it’s rightfully ours. Lean on the grace and mercy of God, but take [sobriety] by force.”


Porn is a taboo topic in many churches, but in churches where pornography addiction is addressed, Crystal Renaud, founder and executive director of WHOLE Women Ministries and Dirty Girls Ministries, says it’s detrimental to suggest it’s only a problem for men. “That makes women believe they’re not normal if they look at porn, which makes them feel like they can’t seek help,” she says. Renaud knows what that feels like because she lived it for years. Pornography wasn’t something she sought out. When she was 10, pornography found her. “I found a pornographic magazine in my brother’s bathroom, and at 10 years old, I hadn’t had the proper conversations about sex. I didn’t even know what pornography was,” she says. “Two thoughts came to my mind: ‘Don’t look at that,’ and ‘What is that? I’m curious.’” RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM



Help for those fighting addiction REDEMPTION: Freed by Jesus From the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry By Mike Wilkerson

WIRED FOR INTIMACY: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain By William Struthers 1-800-662-4357 The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Routing Service—a free confidential hotline available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can also find resources and a facility locator at ALLTREATMENT.COM Information about treatment options, a directory of rehabs by state, resources to help identify symptoms of drug and alcohol addiction and more. CONVENANTEYES.COM Downloadable software that keeps you accountable online by tracking the websites you visit and sending a report to someone you trust. XXXCHURCH.COM Pornography addiction resources for men, women, parents and couples that include articles, videos, podcasts and an online recovery program.



Renaud looked at the magazine, and then she kept coming back to look at it again.“I saw things no 10-year-old should be exposed to,” Renaud says. “It was my first time seeing naked people, and they were involved in sexual acts. And it was very different, shocking. It was intriguing, exciting. It gave me a rush because it was so different than anything I had ever experienced. I kept it a secret because I liked how it made me feel. “One day it was no longer there, so I wondered where else I could find stuff like that.” Renaud found R-rated movies she wasn’t supposed to watch—movies that included sex scenes. “At 10 years old, it wasn’t an addiction,” she says. “I was just curious.” When the Internet became more common and accessible a few years later, she discovered porn sites and began engaging in online chatting (or cybersex). When she became a Christian at age 16, Renaud says she knew her porn use and compulsive behavior was sinful. “But the conviction of it was the biggest weight in the world because I didn’t want to be doing these things, but I didn’t know how to stop,” she says. “I had a faith in this loving God, but I couldn’t shake this thing.” For the next few years, she lived out two identities. She was a good, Christian girl who tried to do good things to somehow “fix” herself and free herself of her struggles. But in secret, her sexual indulgences continued. “As much as I wanted to be free of it, I still didn’t make the choice to stop,” she says. “I would pray to God and say, ‘How do I stop this? Help me be able to tell someone.’ Nobody knew. I was never caught. It was completely a secret, but I prayed to be caught sometimes—just because I wanted help, but I didn’t know how to tell anybody.” Renaud says her addiction was “desiring more of her.” In order to get the same rush, she needed to do even more—which, for her, meant having sex. Through an online site, she arranged to meet a stranger for sex in a hotel room. “As I was waiting there, I was terrified,” she says. “But as I was sitting there waiting, this was a rock bottom moment when I thought, ‘I’m about to have sex with a stranger. How did I get to this point?’ And I felt like the Lord said, ‘Crystal, what are you doing? This is not who I created and called you to be. I called you to live life abundantly and in freedom.’ When Renaud got home that night, she was glad she didn’t move forward with the deal, but she still didn’t know what to do about her addiction. “I stayed in that space for two weeks feeling like I would be trapped in this forever and it would keep getting worse and worse,” she says. Some time later, she bumped into an acquaintance at a Christian concert. “She told me her story, and it wasn’t pretty—not the kind of Christian story you hear from people. Her story was, very bluntly, ‘I’ve struggled with sexual sin. I’ve struggled with

pornography,’” Renaud recalls. “This was a woman, first and foremost, but it was also the first person I had ever heard saying they struggled with sexual sin and pornography.” The girl later informed Renaud that she felt impressed upon by God to share her story. In that moment, though, Renaud says she knew she had two choices: tell a sugarcoated story about how great God is or admit she needed help. “So I told her about everything—the last eight years of addiction and what happened with the hotel room situation,” she says. “Instead of being judged, I received grace from her. And she offered accountability and comfort.” That was the beginning of Renaud’s road to recovery. She is now 28 and has been sober for almost 10 years. Sharing her story was a huge first step, but she stresses the need for ongoing accountability for anyone who genuinely wants to find freedom from an addiction. “Surrendering to a process of sobriety comes down to how willing you are to have accountability,” Renaud says. “If you’re not being honest and seeking that accountability, you’re not going to be able to maintain sobriety. “When you get to that point of surrender, you have to select someone in your life and give them permission to call you out

on your junk,” she says. “You need to let someone be in your life who you talk to at the point of temptation—regardless of what your addiction is.” Renaud says addicts won’t necessarily need this type of accountability for the rest of their lives, but they definitely need it until they’re free from that temptation. “Surrender is about asking, ‘Do you trust God enough to get well?’ If you do, you turn over your wounds to Him, and you begin to seek help—whether it’s through the Church, a counselor, a support group or a friend,” she says. “It’s about letting someone else come into your mess so you can begin that journey of healing.” She says someone struggling with an addiction is experiencing two or three thought processes—saying to themselves, “I don’t know who to talk to,” or believing “I’m the only one struggling with this” or “If I tell someone, I’m going to have to stop my behavior.” “The thought of stopping that behavior terrifies some people because this is something that has been their ‘friend,’ for lack of a better word, for a long time,” Renaud says. “To go from having that in your life for that long to not having it anymore can be scary. When you take away the vice, you have to feel your emotions and face what’s hurting you. Suddenly everything is exposed.”

No matter how scary it can be, Renaud stresses that freedom is always the better choice. “You no longer have to hide. You don’t have to lie. You don’t have to be in pain anymore,” she says. “You can heal. You can be free.”


The path to freedom from addiction often has many pitfalls, and the struggle with faith in the midst of that journey can be complicated. Nate Rossi says he never lost his faith even as he struggled with drug addiction and came in and out of rehab. Rossi’s addiction began during his depression after losing his father when he was 17. “I went home after his funeral and I decided to get drunk—even though I had never really drank before,” he says. “I told my cousin I just wanted to get away from everyone. I got so sick, I was throwing up everywhere.” Soon after that, Rossi started using pills, then heroin. He says he wanted to die at that point in his life. “I wanted to be with my dad. I thought about shooting myself. I even put a gun in my mouth,” he says. “But I thought that was too gruesome, so I thought I’d do all the drugs I could—trying to die, trying to die, trying to die.”

“SURRENDER IS ABOUT ASKING, ‘DO YOU TRUST GOD ENOUGH TO GET WELL?’ IF YOU DO, YOU TURN OVER YOUR WOUNDS TO HIM, AND YOU BEGIN TO SEEK HELP.” —CRYSTAL RENAUD Rossi went to rehab for the first time when he was 20—when he was doing black tar heroin and crack cocaine. He says he got closer to God during the few weeks in rehab. “He had been there the whole time,” he says, “but looking back, I feel like I was in a pit, and I assumed there was no ladder or rope long enough to pull me out. Only God and His arm could reach me—and it was almost like I had this vision of God’s arm coming down and me standing on it and Him pulling me out of the pit. “But it didn’t happen at that time.” After his first stint in rehab, Rossi relapsed, and he relapsed again a year after a second stay. He compares dealing with an addiction to being possessed by a demon. “There’s not one drug addict who wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I want to do this for the rest of my life,’” he says. RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM


“They do the drugs and then say, ‘I can’t keep doing this. I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.’” He says he was obsessed with his addiction. “If I wasn’t high, I was thinking about it. It was the only thing going through my head. [Addiction] is neurotic. You drive yourself crazy and you drive those around you crazy.” But even in the low points of his addiction, Rossi says he was still seeking truth. “Just because you have a problem with drugs or something in your life, that

Addictions are exceptionally complicated because people dealing with the same addictions do not have the same experience. Addicts struggle. They relapse. Maybe once. Maybe dozens of times. They give up; they find new hope. There is no template for a per-

help somebody into a facility doesn’t mean they’re going to get clean,” he says. “But each time they go there, they’re going to learn about themselves. Each time they go, they have 28 days to be clean and learn.” But, most importantly, Rossi says, we need to treat drug addicts like human beings. When he went to church, he felt like people were looking at him and wondering what he was doing there. “It wasn’t comfortable at all. You would think it would be the opposite, that people would rush toward you and offer help, but it wasn’t like that at all,” he says. “It’s almost like people don’t want to address the topic. You feel sort of like the lady at the well who had to go when no one else was there because she was an outcast.” Jesus didn’t hesitate to reach out to that woman at the well, to treat her like a real person, and that’s what Rossi would love to see the Church do more effectively. “Christ came into the world for the prostitutes, the drug addicts and the sinners,” he says. “Christ didn’t dine with the high priest; He dined with the people everyone hated.” Christians should also remind those struggling with addiction that they are never alone. Watford says he feels for those who are struggling without the support of others. “To that person struggling in silence, know that the Lord is hearing you,” he says. “And He cares. He definitely loves us. Silence is very loud in the ears of God. Don’t give up. God has a plan and He has something specific for every one of us.” Ultimately, the journey out of addiction is painful, but can be beautiful. “When you get to that point of healing, of freedom, of surrender, you’re able to help someone else—because you have a story of the freedom we’re all longing for,” Renaud says. “And there’s nothing better than seeing your story redeemed. Because God will use that. He will use your story to help someone else.”

“WHEN YOU GET TO THAT POINT OF HEALING, OF FREEDOM, OF SURRENDER, YOU’RE ABLE TO HELP SOMEONE ELSE— BECAUSE YOU HAVE A STORY OF THE FREEDOM WE’RE ALL LONGING FOR.” —CRYSTAL RENAUD doesn’t mean you can’t have a relationship with God in that state,” he says. “I would read the Bible when I was drunk, stoned, smoking crack. Was I following God’s commandments? No. But was I still seeking God, trying to understand things? Yes, I was.” Rossi says his thoughts fluctuated between “God, I don’t want to do these drugs,” and “How am I going to get more? When am I going to do it next?” He started praying, “You know the desires of my heart and you know I don’t want to be like this.” “I kept saying, ‘God, take this away from me,’” he says. “I had prayed that before, but I believe God lets us go through things to teach us lessons. After praying this time, I don’t know what happened, but I just lost the desire to do it. “It’s like something changed in my brain, and it was almost like a miracle from God,” he continues. “While I was still using drugs, something happened where I got out of it somehow. And I can talk about it now without wanting to go do it. It’s exactly what I prayed for.” Now, Rossi is engaged. He has a plumbing internship, and, for the first time in his life, he has started saving money. “My fiancée told me the other day, ‘Nate, it’s like you’re not even the same person,’ he says. “Right now, I don’t have any desire to go back to drugs. I feel very hopeful about maintaining my sobriety.”


Watford, Renaud and Rossi are only three examples of battles with—and victory over—addiction. Whether it’s drugs, porn, sex, alcohol, gambling or various other addictions, people struggling to find freedom from these vices attend churches every week. In their various stages of recovery, or perhaps afraid to even seek recovery because their struggle remains a secret, they pursue God in the midst of their addiction. 84


fectly straight path to recovery. But some things that do remain constant are that addictions are messy, and that recovery is a process—one that isn’t always linear. Another thing that is certain: There is hope. The Church’s job is to communicate that. For those for whom addiction has never been an issue, it might be difficult to know how to be loving and supportive—but firm when necessary—or how to offer hope when the addict’s life gets especially messy. It’s precisely when addicts are in the midst of despair that other Christians can offer them hope. But what can we do? Rossi says he wishes there were more programs or efforts within the Church to minister to those suffering from drug addiction. He emphasizes the importance of offering support without enabling the addict. “If you love somebody, you shouldn’t do for them what they can do for themselves. All you’re doing is hurting them because [you’re allowing them] to stay in that state,” he says. Rossi says the best way to help an addict is to get them into rehab. “Just because you

TYLER CHARLES is a freelance writer and a campus minister with the CCO at Ohio Wesleyan University.

No  doubt,  it



AFTER 9/11,



After a two-year investigation, the bipartisan Task Force on Detainee Treatment of The Constitution Project produced a report describing the use of torture by the U.S. government. The Task Force was co-chaired by Asa Hutchinson, former Republican member of Congress from Arkansas, and Ambassador James Jones, former Democratic member of Congress from Oklahoma. The report details acts of torture, including waterboarding, stress positions,                      

Remember  those  in  prison  as  if  you  were  their  fellow  prisoners,   and  those  who  are  mistreated  as  if  you  yourselves  were  suffering. Hebrews  13:3

Learn more and join us in ensuring that U.S.-sponsored torture never happens again.


WATCH The video for “The One That Got Away.”




Listen to Volcano Choir in surround sound if you can. On the band’s second album, the bass and drums resonate like a Wisconsin windstorm. Justin Vernon, the brains behind Bon Iver, sings on several songs, but multi-instrumentalist Thomas Wincek also leads an ensemble cast. On “Almanac,” amid synths and soaring guitars arcing across thunderous percussion, the chorus takes on a Sigur Rós vibe. In other words, ambient expressions of emotional dissonance.

> Worship is not a passive exercise. Our praise should be symphonic. On the first fulllength album by The Digital Age, this aesthetic is on full display. The explosive “Symphony of Grace” is so rooted in a Foo Fighters mentality, you can see the plaid shirts. On “Your Name,” the guys—essentially David Crowder’s former backing band—stretch their voices in grungy unison. The best song, “Break Every Chain” (a Jesus Culture cover) is a tear-jerking ode to God’s eternal grace.



> Real anger can’t be controlled or diminished. On The Civil

Wars’ self-titled sophomore album, pounding guitar and explosive vocals serve as evidence. The fury here is a marked departure from the duo’s more demure debut (so much for subtlety). The Civil Wars, composed of former Christian pop star Joy Williams and the sage-like John Paul White, will be parting ways after this release, but they’re leaving this as a goodbye present. “The One That Got Away” is about how temptation is never welcome. “Same Old Same Old” is reminiscent of their megahit “Poison And Wine,” but it’s more authentic: freedom only comes when the guilt washes away clean. We hope it means a third album someday. But if that never happens, this is a testament to what might have been.


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his eighth album as a solo artist, named for three things that can aid any relationship, he writes about how he “stood outside the church� (on the title track). The songs are more personal this time: He sings about how love is like a song forming before the words (“Lover, Part 3�) and how he has a habit of getting in over his head (“The Vow�). Musically, Webb is getting back to his roots with more analog sounds, most of which he played himself.

DISCLOSURE SETTLE (PMR RECORDS) > What makes an album compelling? The U.K. sibling duo Disclosure has a recipe. First, they nail transcendent, heavily computerized vocals. The synths sound otherworldly and effervescent (think Moby after 14 cups of coffee). On “White Noise,� the melody connects firmly to your synapse like a vise grip. Wait for the bonus track called “Confess To Me� with Jessie Ware. And the song “Defeated No More� brings back Boyz II Men, one R&B groove after another.


LOWLAND HUM NATIVE AIR (LOWLAND HUM) The harmonic duo Lowland Hum have no problem letting the acoustic guitar linger on songs contrived in and for coffeeaccented venues. The band, birthed in a N.C. lowland, is a husband and wife team singing over a lone guitar. At concerts, they hand out custom-made booklets and fresh-baked bread, “Don’t send me to Sheol, it’s too much like home. I’ve known the palest mornings, I’ve held back locusts swarming,� they sing on “My House Is Empty.� Sounds like someone needs a hug, huh? >

“Take a good swing at me,� sings Lauren Mayberry on the full-length debut from the electropop band Chvrches. The three-piece, straight from Glasgow, sings about relational troubles (selling a future to someone you love, lack of understanding) amid a furious cornucopia of cascading synths. There’s a hint of Metric and some M83 leanings, but a healthy foundation of melodic pop. Mayberry sings with an angelic grace. >

What you learn in Messiah’s classrooms can help you solve real-world problems the very next week. You discover the responsibility that comes with knowledge, and develop the capacity to make the world better even before

you graduate. Messiah College. See anew.

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Come see us at one of our open houses on Oct. 14, Oct. 26 or Nov. 11, 2013.




> Shane Carruth, the writer, director, star and composer of

Upstream Color, compared his new film to a record, saying it demands multiple viewings in order to catch its fullness. The story follows Kris (Amy Seimetz), who’s trying put her life together after being overtaken by a strange drug and losing everything, including her sense of self. But she discovers she’s not alone and connects with another survivor, Jeff (Carruth). Upstream Color is as perplexing as Kris’ circumstances. Part drama, sci-fi, thriller and romance, the film moves back and forth between dreams and reality, literal and figurative, with fragmented editing, lyrical images and an ambient score. The film, though, is more than a mere puzzle to be figured out. It’s an emotional, transcendent cinematic experience about loss, love and identity, realized by Carruth’s brilliant vision.

Develop both/and at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary —both your mind and your spirit for ministry, whatever form it takes. Our faculty are leaders both in the academy and the church. They embody both scholarship and passion for ministry—both in and out of the classroom. Our students serve Christ in both traditional churches and innovative ministries. They both deepen their theological views and learn from other traditions. Our graduates become both mission-minded pastor-theologians and creative leaders—both church planters and counselors, both lawyers and educators. They do both evangelism and social justice. They minister both nationally and globally, both at home and cross-culturally. For both program options and information about financial aid follow the link or the QR code.



Is Jeff Nichols the best American director under 40? After the magnificent Take Shelter, the 34-year-old triumphs again. A fugitive (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on the banks of the Mississippi gets a chance at redemption when two boys set him up with the woman he loves (Reese Witherspoon). Like every other Nichols film, Mud manages to be a mix of sentiment and grit, troubling and moving.



Though it still centers on the lives of some messy people, Noah Baumbach’s latest boasts more optimism than all his other films put together. This undeniable cheer and charm derives mostly from the talents of Greta Gerwig. She stars as a struggling dancer trying to make sense of her life. Through her story, Baumbach explores post-college angst and provides a fun homage to French New Wave, borrowing music from Godard and Truffaut.

Bridging the Word and the World

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Part three of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy might just be the best of the bunch. This installment centers again on Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), who are now married with children. Whereas the past two films contemplated a range of ideas and questions, this one maintains a tighter focus. With Linklater’s same observational style, the result is a real and powerful meditation on marriage. >

from Japan’s Studio Ghibli, the masters behind gems such as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, From Up on Poppy Hill represents a different kind of kid’s movie. It’s slow, warm and sweet, a coming-of-age story about a girl grappling with first love and the absence of her parents. Set in the nostalgic 1960s, Goro Miyazaki’s film takes on themes of alienation and the struggle between change and tradition. It’s also marked by lush illustrations.



Folks are jumping ship because this sequel doesn’t live up to its predecessor, but Into Darkness makes for a very entertaining ride. The film brings back the same Enterprise crew as they search for a weapon of mass destruction. It showcases all Abrams’ staples: humor, urgency and heart. Into Darkness confirms again that he can take the reigns of a major franchise. Look out for Star Wars. >

Great Gatsby may miss the moral fabric of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, it’s still a feat. From the extravagant set pieces to the hyperstylized cinematography, Luhrmann’s adaptation proves a spectacle. It seamlessly places sound against image, juxtaposing the ’20s with Jay-Z and Jack White. The hero, however, isn’t Luhrmann, it’s DiCaprio, who anchors the film as Gatsby himself.



> Flannery O’Connor once wrote, “I write to discover what I know.” A devout Catholic living and writing in the American South in the 1950s and ’60s, she was known for her piercing wit and gothic style. Her characters represented the best and worst of the faithful and faithless, but faith was a consistent theme throughout her stories. But before O’Connor published any of her most famous works, she was a 21-year-old student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. During this time, O’Connor kept a prayer journal that has, until now, gone unpublished. It reveals great insights into the interior life of a superior writer. She is plain about her desire to succeed, but she is also committed to placing God above personal ambition: “Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument of Your story.” Within this inspiring devotional is a picture of strength and struggle, of one who reveres God and wrestles with Him.



> The third book in Atwood’s dystopian trilogy focused on the Waterless Flood pandemic and its aftermath, Maddaddam brings together characters and storylines from the first two books, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. Focusing mainly on Zeb and the origins and future of MaddAddam, the book is filled with adventure, romance, and the superior storytelling one expects from Atwood. MaddAddam serves as a thrilling conclusion to this epic series.

> Simón and David are strangers

in a strange land, the latter a young boy in search of his mother, the former an older man determined to help David complete his quest. They have been assigned new identities. Their questions about this new land go mostly unanswered, and their search for David’s mother is viewed with suspicion. Coetzee is famous for his insights into the human condition, and this eerie allegory serves as some of his best work in years.

Engaging faith to engage the world Bridging difference Listening generously Tell i n g Good News

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



was published in 2009, it offered a much-needed alternative to those who felt caught between the traditional and emerging models of church. In his new book, Belcher expands upon the idea of deep church, investigating the sources of modern doubt and skepticism and sharing examples of Christian witness. In Search of Deep Faith helps readers discover just that: a faith with the power to carry through the ages and still convict our hearts today.

What matters most to you? Where does most of your money go? The Scandrettes explore the ways they have brought these questions together in their own lives. Part anecdotal novel, part workbook, Free illustrates both the mindset and the method by which one can discover a standard of living that allows for generosity, creativity, sustainability, gratitude and trust that “what we have is enough.” >

THE INVISIBLE GIRLS SARAH THEBARGE (JERICHO BOOKS) Sarah Thebarge was in her late twenties, a cancer survivor and living in a new city when she befriended Hadhi, a Somali refugee struggling to raise five daughters in a foreign culture in desperate poverty. The Invisible Girls is Thebarge’s poignant memoir of cancer and that unlikely friendship. What stood between Hadhi’s family and starvation was “a stranger they happened to meet on the train.” But Thebarge realized how fortunate she was, too.



George Packer, a staff writer for The New York Times, weaves together multiple narratives in The Unwinding—including that of a factory worker, a biofuel entrepreneur and a Washington lobbyist—to tell the story of America in an age of decline. It’s an age of extremes, Packer believes, which are undermining the social contract. Rather than coming off shrill or despairing, the book is a riveting, sometimes beautiful work of uncommon moral force. >


HILLSONG UNITED 54 Joel Houston, the leader of a band that has shaped a generation of worship music, talks dry seasons, the responsibility of songwriting and the future of United.

14  First Word

on different roles and the importance of family.

16  Feedback

72  What if You Can’t Actually Make a Difference?

18  Slices The new Duck Dynasty star, our guide to fall TV, a look at why Yahoo bought Tumblr and more.

36  The Drop Kanye and Jay-Z’s rap kingdoms, interviews with Michael Gungor and more.

50  Post-Cynical Christianity How can this generation change its cynical attitude toward the Church?

62  Alan Chambers

Our small, everyday actions toward justice can often feel pointless. Is it still worth trying?

76  Over the Rhine The underrated folk duo on touring, new inspiration and “keeping the edges wild.”

The former president of Exodus International explains why he apologized for the ministry and shut it down.

42  20 Christianese Phrases We Really Need to Stop Saying Jon Acuff examines “In Christian love,” “wrecked” and 18 other Christianese terms.

46  Shades of Gray When it comes to engaging culture, there are few black-and-white areas in the Bible. How do we decide what to take in?




80  Breaking Addiction 66   Steve Carell The lovable comedian talks about his rise to fame, taking

Three stories of addiction, recovery and hope.

90  R elevant Recommends

RELEVANT - Issue 65_September/October 2013  

Joel Houston is the leader of Hillsong United, one of the world's biggest and most influential worship bands. And in this interview, he tell...

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