Archive | September, 2012

A Political Video That Nails It

27 Sep

I usually avoid speaking about politics because it seems to bring out the worst in people.  As someone who used to vote mostly Republican, I find this clip from the Newsroom nails exactly how I feel about the rise of the Tea Party and the caving of the Republican Party to such an incoherent and anarchist movement within their ranks.

If only this had been John McCain, John Boehner, or even Newt Gingrich speaking these words, I might actually be inclined to consider voting for Republicans.  Until they deal with the Tea Party and it’s insanity,  I will continue to vote against any Republican that fails to distinguish themselves from the Tea Party.

Stomach Flu = No Fun

25 Sep



English: Box of Nabisco PREMIUM Saltines

English: Box of Nabisco PREMIUM Saltines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Yes….it’s true, I’ve been battling the stomach flu with some less than desirable moments.  Luckily the worst has seemed to pass and I’m finally on the mend.  Other than a few sore muscles, I’m finally feeling better.


While sick, I didn’t get a chance to write anything new.  I’d thought I’d do a quick round-up of some the interesting articles and sites I visited while laying in bed, drinking soda and munching on saltines.


Crissamj has a nice site called reverie slice.  Some fun articles and interviews on fashion, music, dreadlocks, and some personal musings about faith and her continuing doubts.   (crissa-I haven’t forgotten about your post-soon…I promise!)


Republic of Gilead has been on of my favorite sites.  Often times it focuses on The Religious right and the political rhetoric against gays.  Ahab’s personal reporting is always worth reading.  I’d recommend this report on Love Won Out and his post on Creation Festival to see what he brings to the discussion…good stuff.


Kate over at devangelize me writes about the frustration of people showing her pity as an ex-Christian.


Wartburg Watch has a guest post up about the Douglass Wilson-style Classical School movement.


It seems that Vimeo has locked the American Winter Trailer as private, you can still view the trailer for American Winter here.


Another really good video by QualiaSoup on evolution




Happy reading, and stay away from that flu bug!








The Curious Case of the Missing Comment

18 Sep
Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes (Photo credit:

A couple weeks ago, I cruised over to the Young Life Leader Blog.

While there, I clicked onto this video



I then left this short comment, which was deleted in less than 12 hours.

AnonymousSeptember 8, 2012 4:00 AM

While I think the video is clever…isn’t it a violation of the High School’s code of ethics for a teacher to be evangelizing the students in her own school?

Secondly, talking about students sleeping over at your home would also seem to be a major breach of standard code of ethics for a High School teacher?

In my experience, groups that are unwilling to dialogue are groups that are willing to break rules when it suits them.   I’m still curious as to why Young Life feel it’s ok for a public school teacher to violate their school’s code of ethics?

Young Life & The Problem With Nice People

14 Sep
Shiny happy people

Shiny happy people (Photo credit: Donna Cymek)

This was my response to Allie, from a comment she made concerning Young Life.  You can read the original post and comment here.


Thanks for your comment.

There’s a few things you’ve said that are not accurate and a few issues that I’ll try to clear up.

This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. You’re worried about her meeting “nice” people?

Would you prefer her getting plugged into a crowd that smokes pot, plays beer pong, and sleeps around?

Let’s talk about nice people. Of course we all want our children to grow up and be nice and hang around with nice people. But there’s one thing you are forgetting. Many people will be nice because they hope to gain your trust to their advantage. They are nice because they have an agenda.

Cults do this, it’s called love bombing. I’ve met very nice folks who wanted to be my friend, only to find out they wanted me to be their Amway down-line. I’ve met nice people who want me to join the Jehovah Witnesses. I’ve met many nice people, who in the end, their main reason for being nice was to try to gain my financial support.

Nice doesn’t guarantee safe. I know this first hand. Nice people are great, if they are truly nice. Nice people with an agenda are a whole other ball of wax.

Young Life has perfected the art of being nice with an agenda. They are intentionally nice so that can try to win a hearing for their version of Evangelical Christianity. They may be the nicest, most well-intentioned people on the planet, but it doesn’t change the fact they have a very specific agenda.

Young Life’s mission is not to make people “Young Lifers”. It’s about getting them plugged into a church if they want a relationship with god. Most people who go to Young Life know NOTHING about god at all.

I’d have to half disagree with this statement. I’ve known quite a few Young Life staffers and volunteers, on both coasts. While they certainly are committed to introducing teens to Christ, many of them are less than enthusiastic about church.

I’ve had many a Young Life leader express disdain or frustration about their churches. Some have expressed that the only reason they go is because it’s the proper thing to do, kind of like eating your vegetables. This attitude isn’t universal, but it is prevalent.

My other problem with your statement, is the idea that most who go to YL know nothing about God. I’m sure there are some, but many grow up in a family that attends church. They might not be in an Evangelical church, but saying they know nothing about God is not a fair characterization, in my opinion.

Young Life is a volunteer ran non-profit organization, no body has any “Rewards” for having more kids at their Young Life.

This is simply not true. Young Life has over 3,000 paid staff, according to glass door.,21.htm

According to Charity Navigator, Young Life had revenues of $238 million and it’s CEO, Denny Rydberg, was paid $370,333 (that’s his yearly salary).

There is plenty of money flowing. You might only see the volunteer leaders, 95% are unpaid college students, but that is not the whole story. I was shocked, when as a volunteer leader that spent all my spare time and money doing club and contact work, I learned that Denny Rydberg was making more than a quarter million a year.

And just for fun…..

“American Winter”…New Trailer and Kickstart Campain

10 Sep

With so many millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet, this film puts a human face on those families living this nightmare, as they free fall out of the American Dream.

Here’s a glimpse from the new trailer:

Here’s the link for the kickstarter campaign for those of you moved to help get this film out.

Peace to all of you that struggle just to live….

6 Sep

There’s not much more I can say about this case, except that it should concern any parent considering sending their teen to a week of camp. It really is a sad case of sexual misconduct, manipulation, and just what can go wrong when an adult’s access to young teens goes unchecked.

Young Life Watch

This is another case of a Young Life area director being convicted of sexual misconduct.  Mr. Mark Steven Holm , age 54, was the area director for Young Life in East Central Minnesota and has plead guilty to sexual relations with a 17 year old member of his Young Life club.

What’s especially concerning, is that one of the sexual encounters happened at Young Life’s Castaway property.  How is it that a grown man and a 17 year old Young Lifer can steal away and have sex while being at camp?  This should raise concern for any parent considering sending their teen to camp.

One news report captures the pain of the victim’s mother, you can read the article here:

“On the day that I picked up her cell phone and read all those texts, my world shattered. Everything that I had spent 17 years trying to protect was gone. I…

View original post 422 more words

Christian Music-A Personal History-Part 2

5 Sep

DSC_0100 (Photo credit: c.a.muller)

After dipping my toe into the Christian music scene via Steve Taylor and Stryper, I began exploring the racks of my local Christian bookstore for other musical gems that lay hidden behind the displays of Sunday school pamphlets and Jesus wall decor.

Stryper wet my appetite for metal music, and I began buying up cassettes from groups on the Pure Metal label.  To be honest, I bought the cassettes based on how cool their covers were.  I bought Leviticus and Messiah Prophet  because of the covers.  One had a beast rising out of the ocean with an ominous stormy sky in the background. (Correction: The group with a beast rising was Saint-thanks freedom for that nugget!) The music itself was pretty awful and the recording quality was pretty bad.

I quickly learned that the cool covers from groups on Pure Metal was about as far as it went.  There were some nice attempts at metal, but most of the groups were just poor rip-offs of mainstream acts that were big at the time.  Yes the lyrics were about God (and actually, quite a few were about the Devil and how awful he was)…but the music was not good enough to hold my interest.

Michael and Amy

I did get into Michael W. Smith after his The Big Picture was released.  His vocals were sometimes awful, but his layered synth pop was pretty amazing and overcame his lack luster, nasal vocal lines.  It didn’t hurt for Michael that he was a kind of Christian version of George Michael.

His life-size cardboard standup , promoting his latest recording, was lingered upon by many a female fan.  As one fan told me, Michael W. Smith was rather easy on the eyes.  I once saw an interview with Michael in which late night host, Jay Leno, asked Michael what it felt like to be a Christian Sex symbol.  Michael kind of stumbled in his answer as he laughed and told Jay he’d never been called a sex symbol before.  But Jay Leno was right,  Michael W. Smith was a sex symbol to Christian music fans in the 80’s and early 90’s.

As was Amy Grant….

In the late 80’s, she gave up the ghost on her soft rock and blue jeans.  She turned over a new leaf by putting on the leopard skin jacket and assembling a new band of synth-guitar rockers.  The album was called Unguarded, and it marked the first time Amy would storm the top 40 single charts and also climb into Billboards top 200 album charts.  Quite a feat for a Christian artist in the 80’s.

Her status as a rock star and sex symbol brought her love and success with her teen audience, but scorn and condemnation from many older Christians who saw her new sound and style as worldly and too sexual.

As far as Christian music fans were concerned, Amy’s new direction was just what CCM needed.  The music was in synch with the pop music of the day and the cool look was just what the doctor ordered in a post Jesus-freak world.

It can’t be overstated just how big and important Amy Grant was to Christian music.  Whenever she released a new record, it was like Christmas for Christian bookstores.  The bookstore I worked at usually stocked 5 to 10 copies of a new recording.  But when Amy had a new one, we would literally throw a release party with around one thousand copies on hand.  We’d have record flats, banners, and a life-sized cardboard cut out of Amy on hand.  Our store literally looked like a shrine to Amy Grant whenever her newest offering was released to the masses.

Not only was Amy Grant important to Christian bookstores in terms of her massive sales, but she also served as the patron saint to many a new Christian artist.  She helped launch the careers of Michael W. Smith, Rich Mullins, Degarmo & Key, Kim Hill to name a few of the artists that would rise.  All thanks to Amy, and the exposure she gave these artists through her tours and their guest songwriting on her records.  Without Amy Grant, the explosion of artists and the sales growth of Christian bookstores in the 80’s and 90’s would have been greatly diminished, if not impossible.

On a personal note,  I had become a music buyer for a chain of Christian bookstores while in college.  Being a buyer gave me a front row seat to all the growth and explosion of Christian artists during this period.  Beside the popular success of artists like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, the newest genre of Christian music that I discovered was dubbed Christian Alternative.

Against the Grain

Artists like the 77’s, Undercover, the Swirling Eddies, and the Choir quickly became favorites for Christian fans that enjoyed edgy rock and lyrics that were more about questions of faith, instead of the typical proclamations of certainty that dominated Christian pop and radio at the time.  While never huge sellers at the Christian bookstore scene (in fact, many bookstores wouldn’t even stock Christian alternative) these artists did have a loyal following and many helped to build the Christian festival scene.  Thousands of fans would travel to Cornerstone or to Creation Fest to get a glimpse of these emerging Christian rockers and their twist on the pop-punk scene.

I first caught a glimpse of the new Christian alternative scene at a Degarmo & Key concert, when a punk band called The Altar Boys took the stage as the opening act.  While most of the D & K fans stood there with their mouths wide open, about 100 fully decked out punkers descended to the stage in an all out mosh pit.  I was at the front of the stage as an observer, in awe at the raw emotion of the band, and admiring the reaction of the punkers that were in an all out mosh mode.  It’s safe to say that most of the D&K fans were either amused or scared at what was taking place.  I enjoyed myself and quickly became a fan of the group and their heart wrenching, throaty lyrics about feeling desperate for God in their brokenness.

At the time, it seemed like Christian music was poised to take over the world.

More on this next time….

ExChristian.Net features “The Powerlessness of Prayer”

3 Sep

Just a heads up that has just posted The Powerlessness of Prayer on their front page.

You can click here, to check out the article and the discussion that is ensuing.

Have a happy Labor Day!

Christian Music: A Personal History-Part 1

1 Sep
The Controversial I Predict 1990

The Controversial I Predict 1990 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Music has always been an obsession in my life.  I was five when I stumbled across my mom’s old collection of 45’s and began listening to Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley.  At age 6, I discovered the Beatles when Yellow Submarine was shown on Television on July 4th.  What better way to spend Independence day, hamburgers, sparklers, and then a psychedelic soundtrack in pure Beatles harmony.

At age 8, I bought my first 45 with some money I had saved from allowance.  I bought “She Loves You” by the Beatles on Parlaphone.  I played both sides until I had memorized every note and word.  My first LP purchase was the double LP soundtrack of the movie Grease.  I loved the old 50’s style with a twist of Olivia Newton John.  What a combination!

From ages 8-14. I spent most of my free time glued to a record player or radio, soaking in the best of the old and new sounds of popular music.  Groups like Soft Cell, A ha, Billy Joel, and U2 began to fill up my own record collection.  If I wasn’t listening to music, I was reading about it.  I used to go to the library on a weekly basis to read Billboard magazine and to see the Top 200 album charts.  Other than Billboard, I read bios on the Beatles and had Rolling Stone’s massive encyclopedia of rock.  I read it almost as much as I read the Bible.

Christian Music

Somewhere in my early teens, I began to become aware of  something called Christian Rock.  Rock music that was from a Christian point of view and a more hip look to the covers-well sort of…  My first taste of Christian music was Amy Grant and Sandi Patti.  I enjoyed some of Amy’s early stuff, but a little too soft.  Sandi was just so canned and opera sounding that I hated it instantly.  It didn’t help that I had a Baptist aunt (we were Presbyterian-after all) who insisted that Amy Grant was not Christian and that Sandi Patti was the best thing since chocolate.  It only made me hate Sandi and like Amy more.

These early tastes, left me with the impression that Christian music was pretty much limited to soft rock.

Steve Taylor & Stryper Rock My World

I think it was a Sunday school teacher who told me about Steve Taylor.  He said I might like it, so I trekked on down to the Christian bookstore and found a $4.99 cassette (blue-kind of cool to see a blue one) by Steve Taylor called I Want To Be a Clone.

I took it home and popped this blue meanie into the cassette player…and it shocked me.  It was actually kind of cool. The music was modern (at least, modern for 1984) and the lyrics were biting and sarcastic.  What teen couldn’t relate to biting sarcasm?

I played the tape to death and was fascinated by Taylor’s Christian worldview put to a pop rock soundtrack.  I was hooked….

My next trip to the Christian bookstore, I spent over an hour just browsing all the different artists, meticulously studying the covers to try to pick my next purchase.  I think the manager thought I was trying to shoplift, because she kept poking into the section and asking if I needed help.

Actually, I did…since I didn’t know what any of these groups sounded like.  I told her I liked Steve Taylor and she directed me to the rock cassettes.  She also pointed me to a cassette deck and told me that they had demos of all the groups.  I was free to listen to the demos to help me find my next big group.

I wasn’t really a metal fan at this point, but I had vaguely heard of a group called Stryper.  The cover looked very cold war meets Motley Crue and the title was Yellow and Black Attack.

I purchased the Stryper cassette and hoped it would live up to its repuatation.  I stuck it into my player at home and the thrashing and slashing came pounding through my stereo as Stryper launched into “Soldier Under Command”.  At one point, I ran over to the player and switched it off.  Michael Sweet was screaming Jesus so loud, that I wasn’t sure if it was ok or not.  I had never heard anything like it.  Could you really play metal music and still be a Christian?  These guys sure seemed to think so.  But the spandex, screaming, and feminine make up and hair doos had me wondering if this was really Christian at all.

A few times through the cassette, and I began to enjoy the intricate guitar work and layered vocals…even if I wasn’t into the spandex, I was willing to overlook it.  These guys were good and the music rocked, while not being raunchy.  If anything, they were down right Evangelical in their lyrics.

This was my first foray into Christian music and began a journey that would last over 25 years.  A journey that started as a fan and turned into a profession.  One that had many strange twist and turns.  One filled with many fun and musical moments.  Others filled with politics, money, and the hypocrisy that seems to follow.

One that I enjoy remembering in one sense, but also fills me with a measure of regret.  I’ll explain more as I get the chance.