Nanci Griffith – Ruby’s Torch

Nanci Griffith’s newest CD, Ruby’s Torch, released last Tuesday. It was produced by Peter Collins (Indigo Girls, Sandra McCracken, Jewel, Bon Jovi), engineered by Trina Shoemaker (Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Steven Curtis Chapman), and arranged and orchestrated by Kris Wilkinson and Larry Paxton. It was the first big project I worked on (as copyist and programmer) after moving to town 8 months ago. Peter decided to record it the way things used to be done, with the 13 piece string section and rhythm section recording together with Nanci in the vocal booth. While all the songs are great, some of the highlights, in my opinion, are Bluer than Blue, Grapefruit Moon, If These Walls Could Speak, When I Dream, and Please Call Me, Baby.

Bluer Than Blue was a hit for Michael Johnson in the 70’s, so it was cool to have him as the guitarist for these sessions. And three of the songs Nanci covered are Tom Waits song, with great lyrics such as “We do crazy things when we’re wounded / Everyone’s a bit insane” (Please Call Me, Baby).

Nanci’s interpretations of these songs are growing on me the more I listen to it. I’m sure I’ll be enjoying this CD for a long time to come.

Judging a film

Mark Moring, from christianitytoday.com, recently interviewed director Richard Dutcher about his films, focusing on how his background in the Mormon community affects his work. Dutcher made a comment I found interesting about how the Mormon community judges films (change Mormon to Evangelical and it still holds true):

“I think most Mormon films are expressions of “the Mormon aesthetic,” and have very little to do with anything at the heart of Mormonism. I mean they’re really not about doctrine or history; there’s really no thought put into it. It’s just simply a trifle, a piece of entertainment, something that won’t offend.

The Mormon community, by and large, judges their films based on what’s not in them—if there’s no nudity, no violence, and no harsh language, then it must be a good film. I try to point out the lack of logic to that, where we should be judging film based on what IS in it—good acting, story, craft, some thought, some theme. But I think most of the cinematic expressions coming out of the Mormon community are just, “Let’s not offend. Let’s do something the preacher won’t get mad about,” rather than telling the stories that have to be told, and exploring the territory that has to be explored.”

You can read the full interview here.

The God we would rather have

We are your people and mostly we don’t mind,
except that you do not fit any of our categories.
We keep pushing
and pulling
and twisting
and turning,
trying to make you fit the God we would rather have,
and every time we distort you that way
we end up with an idol more congenial to us.

In our more honest moments of grief and pain
we are very glad that you are who you are,
and that you are toward us in all your freedom
what you have been toward us.

So be your faithful self
and by your very engagement in the suffering of the world,
transform the world even as you are being changed.
We pray in the name of Jesus,
who is the sign of your suffering love. Amen.

In anticipation of reading Jeremiah 4-6 / 2000

Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth – Prayers of Walter Brueggemann

Morality = Holiness?

One of the many books I’m currently working my way through is Walter Brueggemann’s Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile. After blogging recently about Christianity vs. Morality, Brueggemann’s caution against reducing God’s Holiness to mere moral categories caught my attention.

The Holiness of God

Ezekiel’s portrayal of Jerusalem is a tale of God’s holiness. The question I raise is how holiness is a ground for hope. We should not rush to hope, however. Ezekiel is not preoccupied with hope but with holiness. Perhaps hope will follow when holiness is rightly discerned.

The holiness of God, as Ezekiel understands it, may be considered in two dimensions and then in two stages. The two dimensions of holiness are important to distinguish. First, it is possible, and attractive to us, to take God’s holiness as a cognate of righteousness, that is, as a category of ethical concern. This is not remote from Ezekiel, as in chapter 18. God’s holiness requires obedience to the commandments. Where there is disobedience, there will surely be punishment. But if the holiness of God is experienced only in disobedience, it is not a force for hope. Then holiness only permits the newness that is wrought by obedience, and the obedience available in Judah is not an adequate obedience. It is important that God’s holiness yield hope not measured by Judah’s obedience.

More elementally, holiness is not an ethical but a theological category. It concerns not God’s will but God’s person. Or, if one may put it so, it concerns God’s Godness. Under this rubric one is more likely to speak about God’s unutterableness, God’s massiveness, rather than God’s fidelity. We are so preoccupied with God’s relatedness, God being for us, that we do not attend enough to God’s hiddenness, God’s weighty concern for God’s self, God’s own way in heaven and on earth. As pathos is Jeremiah’s critical insight into God, it is holiness which marks the God of Ezekiel. That, of course, is why Ezekiel is less congenial to us, because this God attends only to God’s own way in creation and is not noticeable for us. We must take care not to reduce and translate God’s holiness solely into moral categories, because that draws God too closely into the orbit of good and evil, which in the first instance does not really touch God. [emphasis added]

This passage came to mind again today while reading Kurt W. Peterson’s excellent article at The Christian Century titled American idol: David Barton’s dream of a Christian nation. Toward the end of his article, he addresses this subject of Christianity = Morality.

Examining Barton’s misunderstanding of the relation between Christianity and public life might help us develop a sounder conception of Christian citizenship.

To begin with, Barton reduces Christianity to individual morality. Absent from his historical and theological writings is a full notion of God’s justice. For Barton, a righteous God is primarily concerned with abortion, divorce, public displays of the Ten Commandments and homosexual sex—not with poverty, racial oppression, environmental degradation or global hunger. Any notion of Christian citizenship must have a fuller concept than his of God’s dominion over all things and God’s desire to redeem all of creation.

Read the full article here.

Technology of the Beast

Lore Sjöberg from wired.com just posted an article on the “Technology of the Beast”.

Did anyone else grow up hearing this stuff?

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” — Revelation 13:16-17

One of the fun things about watching technology march by like a parade — one where all the bands get smaller and rounder as time goes on — is seeing new interpretations of the Bible based on the latest advances. Early last century, the Mark of the Beast was your Social Security card, which presumably was encoded into the Computer Punch Card of the Beast and fed into Satan’s Mainframe.

After that, the Mark of the Beast was your credit card, and in the ’70s the UPC symbol was the new Mark, presumably because of the passage in Revelations stating, “And the mark was placed upon the Wonder Bread, both white and the kind they call wheat, even though it’s basically a slightly more tan version of the white stuff.”

Now, of course, the Mark of the Beast is RFID chips. It’s not enough that they might get your purchases tracked or your identity stolen, they might also get you booked into the Hotel Inferno for all eternity. Thanks, Wal-Mart! Totally worth it for discount cotton balls!

This reminds me of when I worked for TBN, hearing Paul Crouch trying to say that the beginning of Zechariah 5 is referring to TBN’s satellites.

Anyway, Sjöberg goes on to demonstrate how you can tie different verses to specific technology, like MySpace, Blogs, and YouTube. Read the rest here.