A short video of our wedding at the Rusty Pelican in Tampa, FL. Wedding photos here and engagement photos here. We just had our one year anniversary. I also proposed two years ago on Valentine’s Day. Quite an adventure, it’s been.
An open letter to Christian artists and creative minds.
The Christian subculture tends to celebrate mediocrity because we think it’s Christian to be “nice” even when something sucks.
I mean like, hey man, that’s my kid playing Noah up there in the annual performance of “The Loving Wrath of Jehovah.” Never mind the boat is a rusty shopping cart.
Suburban churches have an extremely high tolerance for bad sermons, bad Christmas plays, bad drama skits, bad music, and all-around poor production values.
We lower our standards with an almost forceful resentment, as if having approval in God gives us permission to be cheap and shoddy.
Most Christianized media is a safe, sanitized, bubble-fringe ghetto that appeals to certain mindless demographics which will eat up anything labeled “for the Kingdom.”
But as the great DC Talk once said, “If it’s Christian, it ought to be better.”
erelah-tabbris asked a question:
Do you like secular tv shows and movies? do you find this keeps us off the path of Jesus/condemns us?
Hey dear friend, to be very truthful, I’m a huge fan of TV shows and movies. My favorite TV show of all time is 24, and I currently watch Person of Interest and The Walking Dead. I’m secretly a noir film buff and I love the old 1940s-50s black and white detective films, particularly with Humphrey Bogart. As an Asian-Easterner, these sort of Western tales are hugely fascinating, with their strong feminine characters and self-deprecating anti-heroes. I’ve read nearly all of Raymond Chandler’s work. I’m also a sucker for Michael Crichton and Stephen King. Oh, and Marvel and DC (why not both?).
I try not to think of entertainment as “secular” versus “Christian,” because this “sacred/secular” divide unnecessarily stirs up a self-righteous superiority, as if art can only be art when “I say so.” There’s no special medal for skipping The DaVinci Code. It also excludes a wide variety of creative expression, which gets a little bit too much like an authoritarian tyranny to me.
undergraceanthem asked a question:
What are your thoughts on bands that claim to be Christian but don’t ever use the name of Jesus in their lyrics?
Hey my friend, to be truthful: I’d rather look at the Christian band behind the songs than the songs themselves. There’s a ton of Christian music that says “Jesus” but they ain’t really about Jesus.
I do think it’s important that Christian music is clear about who it’s about, without question. It’s too easy to turn Jesus into bae. But here are a few things to consider.
1) Sometimes Christians wait for other Christians to meet a “doctrinal threshold” before they’re considered doctrinally sound. I’m not saying that you’re doing this. But when we gate-keep too hard and expect every Christian band to yell Jesus with neon lights, it’s probably stealing our joy to simply be blessed by the aesthetic value of their craft. Plus we all like a juicy story of downfall and failure; we wait for artists to “sell out” and we’re all sick like that. It’s unfair for us to constantly gauge if the song is using “worldly philosophy” or if they haven’t said Jesus exactly seven times.
Hello beloved wonderful friends!
This is a seminar I gave on dating and relationships to a wonderful ministry of college students and young adults in Gainesville FL, aka Gator Town.
It’s called The Adventure of Dating and The Reality of Relationships. It’s about the exciting prospect of dating and the gritty, difficult, raw reality of relationships. Stream here or download directly here!
Some of the content is from my new book on relationships called The Christianese Dating Culture.
Some things I talk about are: The romantic theology of Taylor Swift, that time I overheard a girlfriend catching her boyfriend with another woman, two soldiers at war gossiping about the Kardashians, the best Christian pick-up line ever, the gritty raw painful sweaty work of theater actors and ballerinas, the difference between “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Hurt Locker,” three directions that every relationship takes, if my fiancé gained 200 lbs, the scary anxious fear of marriage proposal and possibly hearing “Nope,” and a Q&A Session including the truth about “wives submitting” and how to find “The One.”
Be blessed and love y’all!
If you ever look back on your old creations — sketches, journals, dance moves, videos, or that squeaky song you wrote for the girl in sixth grade who didn’t know you — you will always cringe at your amateurish recklessness.
The first time through your masterful brilliant brainchild, you probably thought it was the greatest idea in the world. Now you run from it as fast as your friends bring it up to you.
But: we all go through this. It’s a clumsy, gaudy, lumbering phase of growth that requires a purging of all your awkward first moments, and it’s absolutely necessary.
It’s also okay. You can embrace the process and shed the old skin and keep pursuing your perfection. You’ll look back a year from now and possibly hate what you’ve made today — but that’s only a natural part of your growth. One day you won’t look back on any one single thing you’ve done, but rather see an entire mosaic in a single-hall museum of your creative journey: and that’s life. It’s a collaboration with yourself.
Occasionally a band comes along that I want to champion not only because of their musical ability, but for their unique bright-spot sensibilities in a radio-wasteland of cookie-cutter sameness. It’s the drive for originality that’s keeping the music scene relevant at all, and with their somewhat viral music video filmed entirely in a Honda, Monsters Calling Home caught even more attention with a surprise gig at Jimmy Kimmel Live (and that one’s officially viral with over a million views). It was quite moving to see the reaction of an unknown indie band given the best gig of their career — performing a song that’s actually plain good — and I immediately purchased their EP album.
Monsters Calling Home derives their name from being Asian-Americans: they neither feel home in the states or in Asia, instead much like wandering monsters look for a place to call home. This subtle commentary will be instantly relatable to millions of second-generation citizens who are not so much experiencing the racism of the former century, but fighting an inner-battle of seeking home in a culturally confused era. But you know, the struggle for home is not merely within races, but in the human race: the all-Asian flavor only adds the exclamation point.
As opposed to a Christian band, they are a band of Christians; they are more J.R.R. Tolkien than C.S. Lewis, using broad strokes of spirituality and gritty real life instead of obvious allegories, similar to Mumford and Sons. They include their spiritual struggles rather than being informed by them, which actually strengthens their sound. There’s no tricky balancing act between Christian and mainstream — the band is unashamedly themselves, and I can only hope they remain this grounded.
Try not to cry. An incredible surprise for indie band Monsters Calling Home.
There’s a subtle commentary here of Asian-American Christians trying to find their identity here in the states. I can relate, right in the feels.
Also, their song is great.
From Huffington Post:
Honda Surprises Struggling Band, Monsters Calling Home, With ‘Jimmy Kimmel’ Gig
Jimmy Needham being very open about his former addiction.
Worth the four minutes to watch. I love his opening line.
If only more pastors and Christian artists were this transparent.
Also check out his recent hit song, totally digging it:
What is your opinion on watching tv and listening to worldly music by non believing artists? I’m having a hard time of figuring out God’s position on it. I dont watch or listen to bad things but God isn’t the subject matter of either of them. I think about him and try to bring him in to what I’m watching or make him the object of affection in the lyrics I liste to but I don’t know if that’s enough. I’m struggling with what it means to be set apart. Please help!
I’ve answered this one before: here’s the post.
I understand the confusion about approaching this issue. Our modern day fear of rules and regulations is like our fear of terrorism: completely beyond reasonable expectations. No one wants to be a legalist, and we accuse each other too fast with the “religious Pharisee” label as if that’s akin to NAZI.
But our lax whatever-attitude can do just as much damage, since a lot of media/music/entertainment out there is absurdly stupid. While most people — especially the creators of the material — would never claim that it preaches a theology, at the very least a certain worldview is shaping the material.
That value system easily eats into our brains like osmosis no matter how “tough” we think we are, and as I’ve said before, we believe WAY more lies than we think.
Please know I’m not the guy to say, All music is demonic! Nearly all secular music is actually redeemable, and “Christian music” doesn’t automatically make it holy. But there are some exhortations to consider. Also know that I’m pretty sensitive to my intake so I draw the line pretty close, where as you might not struggle as much and draw the line further. Your intake does NOT make you a better or worse Christian, and in no way should someone judge you for it. So there’s no one-size-fits-all here, but it’s wise to examine yourself and see where your line is.
I started following your blog from a friend of mine, and have been intrigued by your posts. I was wondering, what are your thoughts on listening to music from artists Lady Gaga and Kanye West? They are my most favorite artists to listen to, and I think they are extremely talented and creative, but I’m not sure if listening to them is hurting my spiritual journey. I just wanted to hear your thoughts on them. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question and God Bless!
Thanks for your encouragement!
Ah yes, the secular media question. Pastor Mark Driscoll has written an epic post on this topic which I highly recommend. In a nutshell, he says we can do three things with culture: Reject, Receive, or Redeem. Some stuff must be outright rejected, some can be well received, and some stuff can have enough spiritual themes to be redeemed.
But to answer you with my convictions, I really believe this is a Romans 14 issue. Obviously there are some movies, musicians, and literature that degrade women and endorse stupid values and have no place in the family. But for everything else, we personally decide these matters based on our connection with God and the frequency of our hearts. As Romans 14:22 wraps up, “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.”
I occasionally listen to Eminem, Gavin Degraw, Metallica, and Yellowcard, not so much because they promote “Christian values,” but because of their artistic merit and their expression of the human condition. But I’ve lived a pre-Christ life that fell hard to dirty sins. I do find myself getting deep into secular lyrics, increasingly loving the world again, and thinking their lyrics are good ideas for life. That’s when I know there’s trouble.
Everyone has a different point of contention — mine is early, loud, and fast — BUT regardless of how strong you believe you are, the downward spiral happens quicker than you think, more often than you admit, and more internally than you’ll confess. You must stamp 1 John 2:15-17 all over that. I refuse to let anything drive a splinter in my love for Jesus.
Give Us Rest
By David Crowder Band
David Crowder Band, the cutting edge of Christian worship bands in the last decade, offer up their sixth and final album. It’s a virtuoso effort of bells, chimes, whistles, banjos, techno, and choir-pumped glory, with their most Christ-centered focus and ambitious musicality. It’s an unforgettable experience.
No one does it quite like the David Crowder Band. Not only have they been light years ahead of the Contemporary Christian scene (which is mostly light years behind), but they’re often outpacing their secular counterparts. While most Christian bands have an equivalent in the mainstream — Third Day is Pearl Jam, Tree63 is U2, Group 1 Crew is Black Eyed Peas, Switchfoot is Switchfoot — there’s really no close match to DCB. While they may be made of many derivative parts, David Crowder’s signature country twang and the aggressive, experimental musicianship is more than a copy-paste quilt of genres. He’s really in an artistic league of his own.
“So concerned with what the people think that you can’t tell the truth. The politician spirit’s holdin you down.
So determined to be worshipped – at the price of your soul, the politician spirit’s holdin you down.
Can you even fathom freedom? Trapped in all your obligation, can you imagine freedom when your life’s an occupation? Oh, it’s chains, yes. politician spirit’s holdin me down.
—Pretending to be happy, it’s just a masquerade. Keeping up an image hoping God would soon be pleased, pretending to be healthy, you’re so wealthy and diseased.—
We’ve got time to change, got time to change, thank God we still got time to change.
Thank God, still.”
— Lauryn Hill
It’s romantic to believe that the guy who calls and texts first, saves ‘I love you’ for you, covers you with his coat, cooks your favorite meal even if he’s allergic to it, and a flurry of other Hollywood montage moments will really fulfill you. Before we die, we want to visit Paris at night during Christmas and parasail over the Atlantic and sip wine on a hot air balloon — but you don’t really mean that.
What are you really saying? You want these things if the dude isn’t creepy, if the poor beggars in Paris do not intrude on your comfort, and as long as you don’t have to prepare a thing. A cute guy who texts you first is cute, but you change your philosophy when the dude is too nice or too short or has no jawline. Children are cute until you have to raise one — and kids are screwed up because we push our distorted view of idealism on them in place of real gritty sacrifice.
What you’re really saying is you demand a photoshopped dream, like the impossible make-up model on the cover of Maxim, to attain the highest degree of complacency at the least amount of effort for the easiest life possible. Your blog proves it.
We reveal our selfish hearts with a conditional wishlist that reads more like a bad movie script. Can you step back for a moment and examine what you really mean? And why you have these idealistic fantasies? And what your motives are? We buy into bizarre paradigms of romance and leisure and life without thinking to the bottom of them. You’ll find quickly that self-serving is not even good enough to serve yourself.
The wasted life wastes no time wasting it. The destined life invests time and makes it. You can cheat yourself to death simply by choosing the current convenient option. A life of non-committed fantasy is just a walking grave.