>Oh, Rants.

>Before anybody decides to read half of this and then become irate, I figured I should offer a warning to the majority of the people who read this thing and tell them that if they disagree with what I'm saying, I am more than happy to talk about it. You might even change my mind! Also, everything I say I include myself in. When I say "we" I truly mean myself as well. These statements can be pretty broad and all-inclusive, but they all stem from conversations I've had with real people in real situations (at real Waffle Houses) who use the term "Christian" with similar, negative, broad connotations.

I am completely fed up with "Christian" culture. About a month ago while working the desk, somebody walked up to me and handed me some sort of Christian periodical "Fish Magazine" or something of the sort. It was late, I had forgotten my laptop charger at the house and I was searching for things to occupy my time as I waited for the buzz indicating the end of a wash cycle on a load of towels, so I started reading it. Now, I believe that addressing the content of something like this is a moot point, because as it is an independently published work, it has the right to talk about literally anything that it wants to. So, even though the things the publishers chose to include didn't even catch my attention (which is slightly troubling, considering my beliefs fit right in with the people they are trying to reach), I cannot judge them because of what they think is important. I can say the same things about other reaches of our little Christian bubble, be it radio or music or movies or Godtube, because I firmly believe that they are doing things which could be really great. They are trying to provide a balance to the despicable deluge of just... crap that infiltrates every reach of society, so that when people get sick of being exposed to those things they have a positive alternative.

I just wish that Christian media WAS a positive alternative. As I skimmed the front page of Fish, I immediately felt like I was peer-editing a rough draft of a paper for a fellow student who was writing in a field that was out of his area of expertise. Sentences were poorly constructed, spelling and grammar trampled on the floor, stories delivered with the lackluster and droning tone of Thomas Gradgrind from Dickens' Hard Times... I don't care what they're writing about, all I want is a little bit of passion behind it. Show some professionalism, please, because I can't help but think that anything that slaps the "God" label on it to hide an appalling lack of quality is an insult.
I understand that many of these facets of Christian media (film, television, video broadcasting websites, music, print) operate on extremely low budgets, and that is something I can completely relate to as a college kid who tries to be a musician living in a duplex in Hixson, TN. However, what I just don't understand is how some of these people can be ok with themselves tossing out sub-par material and slapping God's name on it to garner a fanbase. In fact, I find it rather insulting.

Call me crazy, but I feel like we should be the ones pushing the boundaries in all of these areas of creativity, rather than giving in to the cookie-cutter formulas presented before us by both our contemporaries and the world around us. The world should look at what we're accomplishing and begin to question how in the world we can be so inspired, that there might actually be something to this God that many preach but few follow... because right now we are embarrassing. Our television broadcasts are shot with shoddy equipment and antiquated techniques, our writers use third grade devices and cheap hooks with punchlines rather than points, our thinkers are dedicated more to not offending people than to speaking the truth. We recently organized an outreach night at a weeklong secular music festival that took place on... faith and family night. Waiters dread the family that prays before their meal because it generally means they will be tipped 10 percent or a gospel tract after a long meal full of demands and disappointments (and it is so unfortunately true). We are known for rallying against Abortion clinics and Homosexual unions rather than loving the people involved. We'll sooner preach at the pregnant 16 year old about the sin in her life than hold her hand and help her cry through the daunting realization that the rest of her life is changed.

The argument I hear over and over is that we are not to be of the world, and I believe that a lot of Christians have done quite the great job at this, for we are definitely separate from the world. But honestly, if I were an "outsider" looking "in," I would see nothing appealing about the way that we live. In the words of the band Norma Jean, "Mediocrity is the killer." I don't know how God could look at His children and see the mediocrity that we have become and smile. We need to realize that before we are not to be "of the world," we must first be in it.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>Weather-Inspired Theological Ramblings, I suppose

>Ladies and gentlemen of Chattanooga, summer is upon us.

I awoke from a relatively decent night's sleep having completely thrown off all semblance covers protecting me from whatever cold might permeate the warm night. My hair had been matted into a clump on top of my head, held in place by a vanishing layer of sweat from my apparent tossing during the course of dreaming, and there were thin strings of sunlight filtering through pollen that had somehow escaped into my room through the open window and onto my arm, making me appear as though I had grown some sort of zebra scales. I could hear a bird close to me and a lawnmower somewhere off in the distance and the ever-present but quiet bickering of my neighbors over the clanking of their pots and pans as I rose to silence the alarm screaming at me to wake up. I was going to reset the little numbers to allow for fifteen or so more minutes of sleep, not because I needed it, but because it felt like the right thing to do, and besides, I had plenty of time to spare. It was not even 7 and I had no obligations until at least 9.
I was going to do this, that is, until without warning my brain snapped directly to attention. It told me to push the shower a little bit, to forgo stopping to get a coffee on the way to work, to leave the phone on the charger for a few more minutes. I stepped on to the back patio with a glass of water and felt the exact same thing I had a summer ago on a drive across open plains and farmland and through the dreadfully boring stretch of 65 that passes into Indiana. There was a breeze on my face and the silhouette of our duplex painted in shadows on the lawn cast by the sun rising on the opposite side of the building; the words of Nietzche rang in my head and brought a bitter taste to my mouth.
Gott ist tot.
I realize that this quote is often used out of context of what Nietzche was trying to say, but even a misquote gets the point of his message across: "God is dead. God remains dead. We have killed Him" (The Madman, section 125). I took a moment and knew that Frederich Nietzche could never possibly have seen what I have seen in the short 20 years I've been around. He could not have sat across the table from a woman and had his world realigned by the crinkling in the corner of her eyes as she laughed. He could not have stayed up all night and felt the oppression of darkness crushing his spirit, only to have it rejuvenated by the simple call of a sparrow and a stray beam of light coming over a hill off in the distance. He could not have looked at the spectacle of human imagination recorded in books and stories and page after page of the writings of people who had truly figured themselves out. He could not have ever been burdened by a load which was entirely his to bear, only to feel it lifted off of his shoulders and released from his carriage as long as he would let it go. He couldn't have felt the bitter cold of winter, killing all life as he claims we have killed God, because if he had, he would see that when the snow receded and sunlight warmed the grass, white lilies and green grass grew back all the more beautiful than when it had gone to sleep. The birds which had escaped south always returned to build their nests anew in the crooks of budding trees in his front yard.
We cannot have killed God, because, simply put, He is life. In the most hopeless and desolate situations, in the deepest and most inescapable holes we dig, there is always life. As long as you breathe there is life, and even after you cease your breathing, there will continue to be life. He gave us a pretty clear set of instructions to attain this life and made it centered around His Son, who died to give it to us.
I would ask Nietzche to his face today to deliver that statement again, but it seems that God is not the one who is dead, for there is a world teeming with life all around me... instead it is Nietzche.
I laughed to myself at the irony and stepped back inside.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>Man vs. Self

>

3.....2.......1.......

Commence breathing.

And at the same time, hold it in suspension - relish that suspension and the impending breath that lingers in your lungs - because what is to come will take it away all over again. It's one of those "this is you now, and this is you for the rest of your life" things I think, and I can classify it neither as good nor bad. 

I classify it like listening to Bon Iver break out into a 5 part harmony round during a break in the clouds in the middle of a downpour in downtown Chicago. The weather is bitterly cold, with the breeze rolling off of Lake Michigan whipping at your dripping wet skin, causing you to curl up a little bit to preserve what blood is left in  your veins and keep it near your heart. Your knees are knocking together with the surge of people around you ebbing and flowing, mixed with the bone-freezing and biting chill engulfing your skin. 

And yet you can't feel anything except for the rising and swelling of your chest when your head is encircled with the sweeping and soaring harmony escaping from the stage 60 feet in front of you. You don't notice how cold you are, you notice that the rain stopped right when they approached their microphones and that a small beam of sunlight seeped through the clouds to illuminate the band members as they exposed fifteen thousand people to the deepest questions of their soul which can be posed only through melody. 

All of that is meant to expose the paradox that I feel like I'm experiencing. I have more questions than I have answers and I have no tool to explore them other than my mind; I cannot work them out like math on paper or like philosophy in conversation, but only through countless nights lying awake in bed and contemplating the ceiling. This is a battle to fight with myself, for no man may intervene and alleviate the struggle. No man COULD intervene and alleviate the struggle. 

The music has become more melancholy as of late. There is a story in the works. There is a conflict of interests at hand. There is a frustration that will not be untangled. And yet, I know there is also an escape... the most beautiful escape of all, for not only will He take these burdens onto Himself, He already has. 

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.