Category: Gospel and Culture

Hope Anthology Volume One – John Mark McMillan

I have often found myself hard-pressed to find Christian music that I like (besides worship music). Even with the explosion of the Christian music industry over the past ten years, it appears that, as the explosion has cleared, there has been more rubble than riches. Having said that, it’s been a while since I’ve dilligently searched Christian music.

At I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across a new musician, John Mark McMillan, whose album, Hope Anthology Volume One, can be streamed for free online: McMillan creates a folk-rock kind of sound, his whiny vocals calling to mind a younger Dylan. Occasionally you’ll hear the kind of loops and mixes that David Gray does so well. The short album has a nice blend of songs, ranging from acoustic rythms to folk funk. On the funkish side of things is “Ominous,” a song about the radical impact Christian love can have on society,”like a six rounds in the hands of a killer, I am dangerous in Your arms.” The slow groove “Who Can See” begins, “Make my chest a place where your heart can rest.” Amen. A worshipful plea indeed. The chorus is essentially James 4.8 (cf. Ps 24.4), “Who can see the Lord? One whose hands are clean and whose heart is pure.” McMillan blends the essential soveriegn work of the Spirit in our hearts with the urgent imperative that we responsibly pursue purity of heart and hand…and reminds us of the great benefit of purity- seeing the soveriegn Lord! Hope you enjoy it…and here’s hoping for Volume Two- soon!

Gaining Fatherhood Isn't Without Loss

As I continue to prepare for fatherhood (Robie is in her 28th week), I have been helped by conversations, books and prayer. Today I met with a dear friend whose wife has the same due date (9/11, redeeming that date one birth at a time) to discuss the challenges, concerns and blessings of pregnancy and impending fatherhood. Although we realize we will never be “ready for fatherhood,” we took great encouragement that we are not alone, that we have a heavenly Father who has wired us for this all-important calling. “See how great a love the Father has given to us that we might be called children of God.” (1 Jn 3.1)

Believe it or not, the challenges set in before the baby is born. Although our wives have the hardest part (morning sickness, weight gain, hormonal changes, fatigue, etc.), their challenges call for husbands to relinquish their time to attend to their needs. My friend and I agree that our wives have been incredibly graceful and faith-full as they enter this unusual 9 month experience. Nevertheless, it takes time to pick up the slack, to clean more, to go to doctor’s appointments, to plan for life change. Losing time now is a foretaste of things to come (add to that sleep and sanity).

However, doing stuff isn’t the essence, though its essential, to parenting. In Becoming A Dad, James and Thomas write: “The priorities of joy-filled fathering must never be about doing more, learning more, or acquiring more skills. Rather, our focus as godly men must remain about discovering a life of authenticity and abundance based in the person of Christ…As fathers, we are called to acknowledge and experience the uniqueness of our children. This can only be done by naming, facing, and embracing our losses- the loss of free time, the loss of couplehood, the loss of money, the loss of privacy, the loss of sleep, the loss of freedom, the loss of quiet, to name only a few.” (and reading books like this one!)

Of course, loss is central to the Christian life, but it isn’t an end in itself. “Whoever wishes to gain his life must lose it.” (Luke 9.24) We lose our life, our lordship, in order to GAIN something, namely incomparable life, life filled with the fragrance of Jesus. So, my hope in parenthood is the same as it is in marriage and all of life, that I would gain Christ in every step, wherever it leads. Another father and friend has summed up the essence of fatherhood well: “In order to be a good father, try to be a good son.”

So, the joy set before us is to revel in our sonship. Sure, that will be really hard at times, but its worth it. Although gaining fatherhood isn’t without loss; its also not without gain!

Bono on the God of the Old Testament

In the recently released, Bono: in conversation with Michka Assayas, French journalist and U2 critic interviews Bono on a host of topics from childhood struggles to adulthood egotism and all kinds of stuff in between. The most authoritative book available on Bono (not U2 per se), this penetrating conversation draws you deep into the dreams and fears, faith and follies of the Irish rock star.

Interestingly, Bono does not back down from the hard questions. Although, at times, he attempts to sidestep them, Michka hunts him down with inquisitive force. As a result, some of Bono’s theology (quite good) is thrust out onto the pages of this exposing 323 page interview.

Michka inquires: “What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so Peace and Love.” (name of a new song on HTDAAB)

Bono answers:

There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey form stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Batman and Philosophy

Film director Christopher Nolan’s (The Following, Memento) Batman Begins, begins tonight, well actually tomorrow, 12:01 for the real Bat-fans. Whereas all previous Batman films have captured the “super” in the hero, apparently Nolan’s film is going to answer the question, “How did the “bat” get into the ‘man’?” Although likely far from Nolan’s existential, The Following, one wonders just how deep Nolan will dig to get to Batman’s beginnings?

It appears that heroes of modernism have been replaced by new heroes, post-modern heroes. Intriguingly, on October 14, 2004 the superhero of modernism, Superman, a.k.a. Christopher Reeve, died the same day as Jacques Derrida, the philosophical hero of postmodernism. Far from burying either modernism or postmodernism as ethical and philosophical frameworks, the deaths of these two individuals are reflected in recent Hollywood heroes. For instance, take the recent Jason Bourne of The Bourne Identity. When compared to the smooth, sexy and confident 007 of the James Bond legacy, Bourne appears conflicted, lost and confused. Bond is a indifferent assassin, whose female relationships are superficial and sundry. Bourne, on the other hand, is a conscientious killer, committed to one woman, a woman whom he loses. Bond appears omniscient, whereas Bourne is ignorant. Suffering from amnesia, Bourne is searching for his identity and is happy to have discovered his name. Bond’s egotism generates an unreal and un-relatable personality; he even goes by a pseudonym, 007.

So where does Batman fall in the superhero shuffle? Plagued by the death of his parents at an early age, Batman is a tortured soul searching for justice and identity. Oscillating between the Bond-like Bruce Wayne and the Bourne Batman, the masked hero simultaneously portrays the images and traits of both modernism and postmodernism. So who is he? Well, Mark Reinhart, author of “The Batman Filmography,” thinks that Batman is who we want him to be. In an interview by Mac Daniel of the Boston Globe, Reinhart contends that Batman is meant to absorb all of our perceptions, that “none of us is more right than anyone else,” making Batman everyone’s hero and no-one at the same time, a classic post-modern conundrum. One thing is for sure, Superman or Batman, Bond or Bourne, only One hero does it for me, one who is the same yesterday, today and forever- Jesus the Christ.