Need to regurgitate?

Reading this article, I was reminded why I become nauseous every time I go into a christian bookstore.

DENVER — The fake rose petals strewn across the tablecloth gave Milton Hobbs’ booth a romantic aura. He stacked crystal-cut perfume flasks in a pyramid and set out pink candles tied with ribbon. The effect was almost sexy — at least compared with the other booths at the International Christian Retail Show.

Hobbs liked it. He needed a striking display to call attention to his most unusual product. “Christian perfume,” he said. “It’s a really, really new genre. We’re the first!”

Virtuous Woman perfume comes packaged with a passage from Proverbs. But what makes the floral fragrance distinctly Christian, Hobbs said, is that it’s supposed to be a tool for evangelism. “It should be enticing enough to provoke questions: ‘What’s that you’re wearing?’ ” Hobbs said. “Then you take that opportunity to speak of your faith. They’ve opened the door, and now they’re going to get it.”

More than 400 vendors packed the Colorado Convention Center last week to showcase the latest accessories for the Christian lifestyle.

After years of steady growth, the Christian retail market notched $4.3 billion in sales in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available.

Gospel Golf Balls are touted as “a great golf ball with a greater purpose.” Manufactured by Top-Flite, the golf balls are printed with well-known verses from the Bible, such as John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…. “). Dave Kruse, president of Revelation, said they were meant as “conversation starters,” to help men share their faith while teeing up.

An added bonus: Duffers need no longer feel bad about losing a ball in the rough. “If you’re playing great, good,” Kruse said. “If you’re spraying the ball, well … lose a golf ball, share the gospel.”

Read the rest here.

Futureman + String Quartet

This past Saturday, a friend and I attended a house concert given by Roy Wooten (also known as Futureman, drummer for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones). The concert, after opening with an A Capella number by a Chinese Opera singer, featured a program based on “The Black Mozart“, including dramatizations based on his life and a performance of some of his music.

And then things got interesting. Roy led a string quartet in playing several movements of a new quartet he recently wrote while adding percussion, and then invited Ron Block (from Alison Krauss & Union Station) to join in on Banjo. After playing about five movements, he decided to switch to the Remix versions and asked a DJ, a Rapper, a Dancer, and a French Horn player to join in. I don’t think I can say I’ve heard that combination before, but I sure hope to again. It was a very cool concert.

America: A Christian Theocracy?

I’m always intrigued at how, when our attention is drawn to an issue, we start to see evidence and discussion of it all over the place. For instance, I’ve been thinking recently about how I disagree with the doctrine of cessastion as taught by most Baptists, but also disagree with the Charismatic church on the other side on how certain gifts are practiced today and the implications thereof. Then last week, I came across a blog post where someone mentioned John Piper’s position on cessationism and found this sermon by him, and the next day Tom (a pastor at my church mentioned in passing at a Bible study his disagreement with cessationism. I probably wouldn’t have noticed those comments had I not already been thinking about that subject.

That brings me to my current topic. Last week, I was involved in a discussion on this blog about the following excerpt from a recent speech given by Illinois Senator Barack Obama:

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.

In the comments section, I said “I do not want to live in a county ruled by Communistic law or by Sharia law, but neither do I want to live in a country ruled by James Dobson or Jerry Falwell’s versions of Christianity. Imagine the Arts in a world controlled by either of those two.”

The next day, I came across an essay by Philip Yancey entitled The Lure of Theocracy. He ends his essay with this statement:

The very things we resist in Islam, some Christians find tempting. We, too, seek political power and a legal code that reflects revealed morality. We, too, share a concern about raising our children in a climate of moral decadence. We, too, tend to see others (including Muslims) as a stereotyped community, rather than as individuals. Will we turn toward our own version of the harsh fundamentalism sweeping Islam today?

These are issues that we all should spend more time thinking about and discussing. Do you consider the possible end results of the positions you take? To what degree do you think your interpretation of scripture and current issues should be legislated?

News Flash: The Gospel is Safe!

According to a recent poll by 15,000 people, the Gospel is now safe. Forget what Christ said about stumbling blocks and offenses. Forget what Bonhoeffer wrote about a Gospel that calls men to come and die and his writings decrying cheap grace. Forget about bloody substitutionary atonement and disrupting calls to follow. What we want today is a gospel that is safe for everyone.

The MPAA recently gave a PG rating to an upcoming movie produced by an Atlanta-area church, “Facing the Giants”. The distributors of the film claim the MPAA told them it was for “religious content”, which the MPAA denies, saying it received that rating partly due to the discussions of infertility and depression.

The misnomered Religious Right has been crying foul and claiming persecution, making 15,000 phone calls to the MPAA demanding a rating change, and uttering statements like “This incident raises the disquieting possibility that the MPAA considers exposure to Christian themes more dangerous for children than exposure to gratuitous sex and violence.” (House Majority Whip Roy Blunt). One has to wonder if he is really that ignorant, or if he realizes it’s an election year and thinks his constituents are all stupid. Quick, someone name the last movie that featured “gratuitous sex and violence” that was rated PG.

Another ironic fact is that, of all the Billy Graham films that have received ratings from the MPAA, only two were rated G. The rest were PG or PG-13. Does anybody remember them protesting? Remember, there is no practical difference between G, PG, and PG-13 ratings in that children can buy tickets for all three without parental permission. So what does a PG rating mean? It means exactly what it says, that Parental Guidance is recommend.

IF this film were rated PG for “religious content”, I would completely agree. I wonder what kind of gospel this film presents. One that “calls a man to come and die”, to live a new and transformed life? Or one that helps you win football games? If it’s the latter, then yes, I agree, it should have been rated G.

Profoundly Disturbed on the Fourth of July

I came across this article by Bob Hyatt three years ago, and I like to read it and pass it around again each year around this time. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything he wrote, I do think he makes some great points and encourages us to reconsider how we look at things.

Profoundly Disturbed on the Fourth of July:
God, the Flag and the End of America

Author’s note: This article was first published in the summer of 2003. …In this era of charged political debate, the evangelical church in America seems to have come down on the side of those who say dissent is somehow unpatriotic and that to be a Good Christian also means being a Good American. I again offer this article in the hopes that those now planning a good ol’ patriotic Fourth of July Service (on Sunday this year) will think twice… and perhaps instead of singing the Star Spangled Banner, will spend time praying for victims of war and terrorism alike, for our enemies and for peace in our world.

Our call to worship that 4th of July weekend was This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land. After the Color Guard presented the flag, we stood, said the Pledge of Allegiance and then sang The Star-Spangled Banner. Our worship set included The Battle Hymn of the Republic, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, America the Beautiful and God Bless America. We even finished the service by asking the congregation to sing along with Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA (“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…”).

And through the whole thing I couldn’t help but think how moving it was with flags draped from the ceiling, how well-done the music sounded with the drums beating a military cadence throughout… and how incredibly wrong that we were doing any of it.

Read the rest of the article here.