Last week we examined the Introductory portion of ex-pastor Ryan Bell's year-end recap of his year without God. Here is where I continue it.Read More
I really can think of no term more degrading to a human being and his fundamental incapacity for grasping philosophical, even scientific, concepts than Atheist. Can you imagine any assertion more narcissitic, more arrogant, more absolutely nonsensical than that of the "knowledge" that something doesn't exist? That something has never existed? That something can't exist? Why they haven't blasted all claims of their own existence for their incessant screamings of their own omniscience I will never understand.Read More
..."Nowhere in these weeks have I posted an article about 33 Christians sentenced to death in North Korea and said, "God is good all the time; All the time, God is good." Never have I looked out at a homeless population preparing for another bitter snap of cold with nothing but the clothes they survived the winter with and a donated blanket and said, "God is good all the time; All the time, God is good." Nor have I been diagnosed in an untimely fashion with a disease that will kill me, been spat upon for my beliefs and threatened to have my family murdered, looked into the face of a 12-year old victim of sex trafficking, been broke enough to wonder where this week's food is coming from, or witnessed the rise of a dictator using the name of my God to propagate genocide and stood tall, proclaiming, "God is good all the time; All the time, God is good."Read More
This is long and ashamedly rambly. I was just in quite a rambly mood today, I'm afraid. Please read it all, for I have several times and am not yet dead, but know that I won't be offended if you turn it off halfway. Not everyone can handle the burden of truth being poured onto them.** **That was purposely arrogant and inflammatory. I'm trying to catch your attention by being humorously cocky and reproachable right off the get-go. If that didn't work, here's some wisdom from Doctor Who, which should interest every single one of you:
"Have you ever seen monsters?" "Oh yes." "Are you scared of them?" "No. They're scared of me." - The Eleventh Doctor
Doctor Who and Introduction
It is without shame that I tell you I am veritably enthralled by the long-running BBC Television show Doctor Who. I cannot pretend to be a Who-hipster, for I was not alive when it started, nor can I say that I've been a member of the Whovian society for any long period of time. Quite the opposite, in fact: it has been only a few short months. But in these few short months, I have found myself doing very little besides reading profusely, writing (I figure now, while I have the time, means, and motivation, is when I should write that book), and watching the Doctor save the universe in countless situations infinitely more creative than my feeble mind could contrive, and in the meantime highlight the beauty of humanity and their intense dependence on something bigger than themselves.
In the section quoted above, a little boy caught in the middle of a crisis involving your run-of-the-mill otherworldy Who beasties is talking with the Doctor. He senses the threat and accurately gauges the immediacy of the situation, but asks, in a moment of seeking reassurance, about the Doctor's history of dealing with similar things. The Doctor, famous for having dashed alien hopes of universe-domination, foiled plans of genocide, and saved his numerous companions' lives time and again, responds with confidence and appropriate swagger, then characteristically smirks in the face of evil.
Confidence is praised nowadays; misplaced or inappropriate confidence is arrogance and foolishness. We see both in the lives of athletes, in the style of movie stars, in the words of introverted twenty-somethings on blogs on the internet. We are quick to call it "arrogance" in other people, but just as quick to call it "confidence" in ourselves. We are quick to think ourselves unworthy of either, and quick to overcompensate.
Perhaps it is that our mirrors are rather cloudy and dishonest. Perhaps it is our eyes. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: I see a whole lot of loathing and so little efforts for improvement; I see a whole lot arrogance and so little preparation.
What This Is Not, and What This Is
I am not thinking today about image or self-confidence along those lines, necessarily, though those thoughts do come to mind. It deserves a whole spot of its own and is quite pressing, I'm afraid, though today is not the day for it. This is not about the back-end, or how you look at yourself in light of who you truly are, for that is only the second half of the problem. This is not about vanity or even necessarily physical things
What I am addressing is what I see when I look at the majority of my generation. I see a group of people content to be what the generation before them handed down, who can honestly say that apathy is a virtue. Who socially network rather than figure themselves out. I see a generation with access to more information and knowledge than any that has come before them, yet more ignorant than any about how to use it. I see boys seeing domination as strength and girls seeing beauty as worth. I see people who think doing something worthwhile means doing something worth Instagramming; I see people for whom thoughts are merely Tweets. I see an age of humanity defined by what somebody else has said rather than what they have worked for.
And I see so few confronting it. Too many of us see "comfortable" as a good thing. So many think that because their faith is not shaken, it is sound.
We have lost all concept of self, because we have plenty of things to distract from it... and they are sneaky things, at that: the conception that you are what your Facebook says you are or that who you are is defined by your job. Instead of asking ourselves, "who am I?" we post pictures of ourselves and say, "this is who I am."
There is a discrepancy there, and it is extremely bothersome.
The Swelling Hurricane
I dropped a sentence a second ago as sort of preparation for where this was headed, as a gust to store up some energy in these sails. I'll say it again here: So many think that because their faith is not shaken, it is sound. I spent a good deal of time in the Philosophy and Religion department at UTC (since I studied Philosophy) and noticed a particularly fascinating trend: that the grand majority of people involved in it were vehemently atheistic, both professors and students alike.
What happened is they started asking questions and seeking answers anywhere they could find them. And when they couldn't find them easily or the conventional answers of their small Baptist churches just wouldn't cut it anymore, they conceded defeat to the overwhelming pangs of despair. They looked at one group of people claiming Absolute Truth and saw a completely different group halfway across the world and 8 million people big claiming a completely different Absolute Truth and decided everyone was wrong. Or they succumbed to the problem of evil: If one of two contraries is infinite, the other is destroyed. God is infinite goodness; if there were God, there would be no evil. There is evil; so, therefore, there is no God.
The arguments against God are powerful and persuasive, indeed like monsters in the closet of an 8 year old are when it's dark and he's trying to sleep. But they're embedded everywhere, and we're trained not to fight them. We yell at characters in poorly written horror movies when they decide to go towards the creaking under the stairs or the moaning from the attic. We're embedded with a fear of evil and the desire to run when it's scary.
To keep a consistent theme, though: The Doctor tells us, "Never run when you're scared." (Rule 7)
There is a storm in the air, horesemen afoot, and the battle for belief is raging.
And we who believe are not winning.
The War Without a Winner (or, apparently, a study in alliteration)
Sam Harris wrote in his book Letter to a Christian Nation that it is religion, belief, "god" that has poisoned our world, incited wars, dumbed the people, and placated a mass of people to the point of wasting their lives chasing invisible friends and waiting on some future judgment that will never come. Christopher Hitchens calls belief irrational and destructive. Richard Dawkins calls God an unnecessary invention by people incapable of handling reality.
And more believers are believing them every day. The armies are being stacked in their favor, because believers are being convinced by faulty rhetoric that Christ and Reason cannot exist together. That metaphysics and God are equivalent, and that they have a place in haughty classroom discussion and nowhere else. But the thing is that the opposition is using recycled arguments to attack Faith, and Faith is using recycled arguments to respond. We're stuck in a loop with one side crying, "you're ugly!" and the other sticking their fingers in their ears shouting back, "la la la, I can't hear you!"
We've both become dull and insulting: the attackers of Faith have betrayed their god of Reason and the believers their God of Truth.
Here is the bottom line. Christians have become comfortable with their churches and their ideas that God is a exactly the thing that they imagine, so when something comes along and challenges the toy box they keep in their prayer rooms, they panic.
There is a fallacy in the study of logic called the Straw Man. It's basically as you would imagine: to "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position. Unbelief attacks Christianity based upon the constraints it has put upon it. Based upon what Christians have made it. It attacks tradition rather than Truth, because Truth is contested only by fools.
Jesus said that His purpose on Earth was to bear witness to Truth, which is why the Jesus we have constructed that exists to ease pain and hug people crumbles under attack. Straw men have no backbone, no substance, and burn easily when touched with fire.
But Christians are doing little to counter it. Instead of arming ourselves, learning the things of God rather the things we've constructed of God, and worshipping Jesus as Truth, we trust in the easy thing - which is also the easy thing to attack, and the easy thing to lose faith in. With a faith in the same Straw Man that is easy to attack comes all of the terrible things we write eloquently to fight: we succumb to vanity and pornography and insecurity and fear and addiction the thought that our dirty pasts are insurmountable and we're not rescued by our god because he's warding off crows from crops. Misrepresentations of God are being attacked because misrepresentations of God are being followed.
So what are those of us who wish to counter unbelief to do? We must figure out what we stand for and then stand for it. We cannot be told answers, we must search them out. We can't be handed faith, we must work it out for ourselves with fear and trembling. We can't forget that something obtainable can be taken away, so we must grasp it ever tighter when the threat of its removal comes upon us.
We must stand with the confidence that we lack, because monsters won't shy from uncertainty. Confidence comes through preparation, and somebody who tells you that God will give it to you just because you asked for it is lying to you. God will do His part - He's told you that.
But the ability to fight a war doesn't come from lying in bed. We must take up arms and learn to use them, study the opposition's tactics to be able to counter them, and face the beasties in our closets atop their black horses and say, "I'm not afraid of you because I know you. You can't say something to dissuade me because I know what you will say. You can't take away my God because He gave you the Reason you think refutes Him."
Salvation is not through works - do not think that I'm trying to say anything of the sort. But it is true that the children of God will be known by their fruit. Take a step back and look at yourself. All aspects of it. Look at who you are at school, at home, on the internet, and tell me what is being glorified: you, your Straw Man, or God? It's one of the three, I promise.
Following suit of fellow (far more successful) blogger Ally Spotts (VERY worth reading), I am writing this as an open letter to women from a man's perspective. Have no fear, you cuddly, adorably uptight equal opportunity extremists, I'll write my piece to men too. This has simply been on my mind for a while and recent events have simply pushed them into the realm of "need to be developed." Sitting for 2 and half hours fighting madness in Cultural Anthropology doesn't hurt the desperation for something to ponder. These are simply the words of an admittedly somewhat jaded boy who is tired of what he sees on both sides of the spectrum. So without further ado, you may read my first of two letters here: Dear Ladies, I am going to speak purposefully in a rather extreme, generalizing way about the issues on my mind with a specific rhetorical stance meant only to enforce my points and encourage thought. I will be writing in mass with the inescapable knowledge that I have close female friends who represent everything that is right not just with women but with people in general. I am extraordinarily aware of and embrace the fact that just about every rule has exceptions. The generalizations I am about to say are surely among those things with exceptions.
1. Never let someone tell you that you can't do something just because you're a girl. Not where you thought I would start is it? Of course not. You ladies are the crowning achievement in God's creation. He stopped with you because it simply couldn't get better. You got the beauty. You got the parts to complete your male counterparts. You were not created as subordinate or as superior, but from Adam's rib: his side. Under his arm, like two classmates posing for a picture on the playground. Totally different but completely equally favored. This being said, listen up. I told you there's nothing you can't do, and I completely back that, as long as you understand what I mean by nothing. There are logical limits to that kind of a statement. You can't fly. You can't survive without water. There needs to be a line drawn between can't and shouldn't. I have a lot of readers of this blog who do not subscribe to the same system of beliefs as I do, and so you will find fault with this next part: the Bible (my basis for how we should live) lays out groundwork for the specific things men and women should do. God sets it in motion in Genesis with the differing punishments given to men and women. Paul speaks of them in his letters to Timothy. This is not a post about what your roles are, nor is it a commentary about how fair or unfair I think they are, but it is rather an exhortation to women who are of like mind that there are Scriptural examples of the expectations God has for you. In no way is God limiting the things you CAN do, He simply says, like He says to every person alive "lay down what you think of yourself and instead do what I would have you do."
2. No matter the reason you do this (which I may never understand), leggings are never an acceptable alternative for pants. I don't know the names of all your short little skirt things or those shirts that attempt to shove in our faces the degree to which the fat content of your chests is disproportionate to that of your male counterparts, but I'll let you in on the deep, inner-workings of the male brain: we notice. The more willing you are to show it, the more willing boys are to be slapped for looking at it. The more willing you are to show it, the easier boys think it is to get you out of it. The more you show us, the less we think you are capable of intellectually. Yes, it is vulgar. Yes, it is unfair. Yes, I hate that it is true, and no, I am not exaggerating. I think that if women knew what flit through mens' brains based solely on what you are wearing (NOT on body size or type or preconceived notions or heresay), this country would be dressed differently. You might clean out your closets. If you hold it in front of a hungry animal, you cannot get mad at it for eating. Sure, men are pigs, but you do not have to be the slop they consume.
3. (this is the longest and last point in this letter)Please, for the love of all that is holy, acquire your validation from some source that is not a man. *I speak more about the concept of Identity here, if you want to read* Men are horrid, superficial, two-faced creatures who, if you look for acceptance from them, will give it to you for the right price. I am sick of reading blog posts and articles and bad poetry about how to find the right man for you, because it insinuates a one-track mind. It focuses attention, calls importance to, deems necessary, the almighty relationship. Not like, friendship relationship, you know, the boyfriend/girlfriend, hold hands down the street, whisper sweet nothings and make it official on Facebook and Twitter and Myspace relationship.
We, as a society, are obsessed with it. It sells so well! Even in the most manly of movies, the perfect girl ends up with the rugged hero (I'm sure I'll talk about this sometime later) because that is what is expected of us. What are every one of Taylor Swift's songs about? Why do women worship Nicholas Sparks and Rom-Coms and write to Abby about relationship problems and drown their faces in makeup and assume that innocuous, amicable friendships should become "more" just because somebody is "cute together"? (Not that it is just women who are responsible for these things, but it is generally associated with you. Remember I am speaking in generalities) Because in many ways, we live in a society that assures us that unless we are in a relationship, we aren't doing something right.
Today in the UC I was eating my lunch in peace at a table in the corner and I was listening to a girl giving Biblical advice to another girl. It was wonderful and refreshing to hear Scripture spoken boldly and eloquently, but they soon got on the topic of this boy. She began giving the advice I've heard a thousand times: pray that you can be made into the woman for the right man and pray for that man that he may do the same. As if we expect God to drop a man/woman into our lives because that's what we want. Why are we not praying more that we become who God wants us to be, with single/married not even an issue? We should ask to be conformed to the image of God not to be partnered with somebody else who wants the same, but because we want to be conformed to the image of God. It's that simple. It is a disease even within the church, this addiction to relationships.
I have read articles about cheating and sex outside of marriage and love and entries from Christian blogs about how to find the perfect Christian guy all with the expectation of finding a guy. Ladies, please hear me out: I am not at all slamming Godly relationships - I am merely asking that it not be the priority of your life. It is a sad thing when, even within the church, we stress more about our relationships with boys than we do with our relationships with the Creator of the boys.
This letter is very long and rambley. To be honest, it was very hard to write, because men and women are such fascinating and complex creatures that have such enormous potential that it was hard to synthesize my thoughts about the way they should interact. Here is what my notebook looked like before even editing:
And it went onto the back too.
I just HAD to capture how much you rock, how much potential you have, how much you are treasured, and how specially you fit into God's vision. But I also wanted to highlight some areas that can use improving (and have no fear, the boys are next, because we are far worse off). It is not an extensive list (I figured 1500 words was plenty). I am more than open to discussion, further exploration, etc.
I just wanted to make sure that the jewels of creation realized it, took it to heart, and found it within themselves to pursue a relationship with their Creator before anything else, because He is jealous for your hearts more than a boy ever could be.
Mountains of Love, Hamilton
I swear I can be the most long-winded person ever. I really need to quit being so wordy. Eh. Perhaps next week. If there's anything Americans love, it is handouts.
(Have no fear, I am not about to get political. There will be a point somewhere below this)
There is this very strange psychological condition that goes into the system of consumption that is so engrained in our American culture - that price = quality. I was talking with my friend John about a business venture he's trying to start where he's building custom, incredible quality, fantastic sounding (I've played one) guitar amps to try to get his foot in the door of the boutique guitar gear world. We were talking about how to price them, and we had two thoughts: one, completely drop the bottom off it and sell them as cheap as costs and labor can allow so that whoever wants one can afford one. It could spread with Walmart fervor as soon as people realize how cheaply they are getting a product of immense quality.
The other thought was the complete opposite: load it with all of the premium parts money can buy and shoot the price through the roof to put it in the hands of a select portion of the market while at the same time creating a brand image of finest quality tubes, transistors, body, tone, and therefore the finest quality amplifier. The jacked up price would put it in a price bracket along with BadCat, Matchless, Dr. Z, and a whole slew of long-established, globally-recognized, top-of-the-line guitar amplifiers. All because of the price.
Why was this second option even considered, much less favored? Because as Capitalists we associate price with quality, especially in the guitar world. And the car world. And the breakfast cereal world. In the America world.
(This is not my point either. Stay with me.)
It has been proven in countless case studies that I have read in various advertising and economics classes that brand loyalty and the price = quality association that this is how our brains have been wired in our ingenious Capitalist system. So it is interesting, then, how obsessed with "free" we are. Pulses quicken, hands become hungry and whet with the desire to obtain whatever it is that will be given to us at absolutely no monetary or physical charge, regardless of the quality of the item. Really, regardless of the item. I'm guilty of it too! It is embarrassing how many books I will never read I have taken out of the "free" bin at McKay's until I realize that I have no need for them and reluctantly resist the urge to take what is given to me and eventually place it back in the basket. When something is free, we disregard quality almost immediately and snatch up whatever is being given away, knowing we can at least stash it on a shelf in the basement.
The Information Age So if the above is true, and my experience has told me that it is, what does this say about us who are consumed in the Information Age, more importantly, the Free Information Age? A large group of people bent on acquiring knowledge through whatever means necessary. They'll listen to whichever voice gives it to them at the least cost to them: whoever is funniest (requiring less effort to remain alert), most interesting (requiring less energy to get excited), and most accessible (requiring less energy to search out truth) is the one who gets the audience. They are the tap to the dried sponges of the masses. We are by nature looking for something to believe in and so when the most eloquent and the most captivating come along with a viable option with enthusiasm and incredible intelligence to back it, before you know it you have the Third Reich and an army of passionate robots ready to follow their leader.
Knowledge is the most dangerous word in our language, simply because it has become incredibly unstable. Its roots get all tangled and people get confused about what is real. Pretty soon the point of knowledge is winning arguments or making it look like you deserve those Buddy Holly glasses and ripped jeans and the tattered copy of "On The Road" that you keep in your back pocket. Enough people start flexing what they call knowledge about what they call truth and pretty soon everybody's twisted versions of what truth actually is don't add up. So then they start believing that there is no truth, because everyone's ideas are all floating around in the most vast of wastelands supported by nothing but their assurances of "Trust me: I'm right."
It surrounds us. I did a case study in a class on Propaganda (which was far less conspiracy-theorist than you may think) on the way that news is reported by mass media. I took examples of news stories covered by international corporations and used only the largest names in the industry: Fox, CNN, MSNBC, BBC and Al-Jazeera, and found that it is next to impossible to just get what happened. Everybody decided to spin the story their own subtle way using emotional language, sly omission of details, selective inclusion of interviews, etc. It reflects our culture which is more interested in hearsay than in truth.
Knowledge is often associated with opinion, which it is not. Knowledge is often associated with emotion, which it is not. Knowledge is often associated with wisdom, which it is not. "Knowledge," writes Foucault, "is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting."
We must not be receivers of it, we must be searchers of it. I don't know how it became acceptable to take something as you hear it and recite it again in the future as if it were fact or to assume credibility. How often have librarians been pounding it in our heads to check our sources and how often have we been too lazy to even FIND sources for what we say? For crying out loud, there is an entire site devoted to people who have taken stories from The Onion and become outraged that PETA is now murdering meat-eaters or whatever.
Finally: The Point Paul tells us to do do this exact same thing in 1 John 4: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." He is talking about matters of Spiritual things (where it is infinitely more crucial to not accept at face value a single thing that you hear), but a more broad application still fits: we must test everything that we hear, read, see, learn, discover.
It is a dark time for belief in anything; one where a lot of people like to believe that there is no such thing as Truth, where it takes less effort to say "I do not believe" than it does to say "I believe" because it means you'd have to think and tremble and spend nights awake in cold sweats. Belief in God comes after knowledge of God, which we will not be ready for as long as we are accepting our hearsay handouts. It is common knowledge that most of the secular world sees Christians as shallow-minded incompetents incapable of thinking for themselves, and in a lot of cases they are right. We fall into the trap of listening to words from books and pulpits and immediately accepting the ethos of the speaker and taking the words as truth.
I am so happy that my pastor constantly tells us "Please do not take my word for it. Take what I say home, check it against Scripture and determine that it is truth that way." He meets with teams of people after preaching to make sure that every little thing he says is accurate. He encourages an environment of searching, for he knows without struggle for the knowledge of important things, you will never retain it and therefore never apply it.
True belief cannot come from blind acceptance just like victory cannot come without struggle. How then can we be content with mediocrity?
It is somewhat traumatic when you arrive at the realization that people, in the most general sense of the term, suck. We have slowly lost our sense of self somewhere in the technological age, in which we can pick and choose what we want people to see with the rest hiding under our metaphorical makeup that we sloppily cake on in the morning to avoid showing who we are. Our phones are extensions of our brains and our cars are extensions of our feet and we begin operating under the assumption that our worth comes from the number of friend requests we get or the number of people who tell us we're talented or how long we can go without having to sit in silence and listen to nothing but ourselves.
Because we are uncomfortable with who we are, we have to find comfort in other people, even if the interactions we have with these other people are shallow. It is absolutely mind blowing that, from my junior year in high school until a month ago, I spent hours daily looking at information and pictures and thoughts from people I cared nothing about and hoped that they were doing the same for me. I cannot believe that I found validation in the fact that I had something like 800 people were my "friends," even though MAYBE 100 I had ever even spoken to and most I would have gone out of my way to avoid.
This "socioholism" is a dangerous mindset to contract, because as soon as we start projecting our sources for self-worth onto other people or onto the amount of group activities we can do or onto the number of parties we attend, we are taking our self-worth away from....ourselves.
Furthermore, we are surprised to learn that people do not act rationally, selflessly, trustworthily, etc. and take it personally when the teeming masses of sinful, horrid creatures around us act in their sinful, horrid ways. Everybody does. I do. You do. We walk as if on a sea of nails so we will not shatter the carefully constructed images we project. We'll say things we don't mean in order to alter some opinion you may be forming of us. We'll fake a smile and promise to hang out just to make the encounter which we forced in the first place appear to be less awkward than we both know it is.
We'll do everything that is a byproduct of a society so wrapped up in image making that our fragile outer shells will eventually crumble because of the hollow cores within them.
Somewhere along the way we learned that if you're not going out at night, you are an outcast. We learned that disconnection is undesirable. We learned that unless you text her every five seconds, she will forget about you or get over you or cheat. We learned that having an off night means you need to organize a slumber party. We learned that every connection you have ever made needs to be maintained.
Now, I speak with slight hyperbole, as usual. I am not saying to sever every one of your connections and confine yourself to your den and a chair and a mound of books written by old dead men. What I am saying is that unless we can, as a society, forsake this gripping necessity to constantly be around people, we are not going to be comfortable with ourselves. Until we are comfortable with ourselves, we will derive our worth that SHOULD come from ourselves from other people. These people will do exactly what it is people do and let you down, which then leaves you feeling empty.
We have to learn to fill up the space inside our shells with something that is far more complex than the social scene. You have the option to be delivered from all of the nonsense that comes from the drama of other people. How can we be comfortable with our Savior when we can't be comfortable being away from the throng of careless people surrounding us?
You have the strength of choice inside of you. Forget the hurtful things that somebody does (whether they mean to or not) - that's getting upset because a hot stove top burned you - it's going to happen. Instead, know that you were given an option the second Salvation came to the world: either stay here and get your worth from the myriads around you that are constantly in flux, or get it from that special place He puts inside of you.
I have such.a.hard.time.dealing.with.stupidity. I contemplated leaving that alone, making those words the only ones you read in the entire post, simply to encourage thought and interpretation the way that modernist poets do with their words. But that drives me crazy too. William Carlos Williams, I don't care how much "depends upon your red wheelbarrow," you made a generation of people who don't know how to write think that they can be poets by splotching words together haphazardly. Ahembobdylanahem.
No, I couldn't leave it at that. The single, condemning statement that would draw attention to my cynicism and lack of faith in humanity as a whole would inevitably incur comments about the hypocrisy of my broken up sentence and would therefore nullify the entire process of thought I intended.
I am tired of unfounded arguments on topics about which one is not nearly as familiar as he claims. The rap guru critiquing musical taste. I am tired of people who don't care to put in the effort to make sure they mean "your" when they say "you're" complaining about not being taken seriously. The bizarre illiteracy of the texting generation. I am tired of people legitimizing in any way they possibly can murder, theft, immorality. The rationalization of evil. I am tired of people pretending like the other side of the argument has no truth whatsoever. That all left-wings are Socialists. That all right-wings are Anarchists. That all those in the middle are unstable. I am tired of arbitrary dismissal because of age or social status. Do not lump all 21 year old college-going males in with frat boys at a kegger. Do not assume that just because I am not paying for rushed decisions I have made like you are that I don't possess the wisdom to avoid them.
I am so tired of the irony of my saying all of those things. Because just as easily could somebody out there be talking about how tired they are of 21 year old bloggers thinking they have things figured out.
I don't have things figured out. And what just ripped me up this morning was Proverbs 24: 17-18: "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased and turn away his anger from him." It is not that I necessarily have enemies, per say, but I just take for granted the humanity of every single person on this planet. Here I am with bitterness in my heart against somebody who arbitrarily dismisses me because of my age and their supposition of my inexperience, when what they ACTUALLY are is a person who is probably dealing with the same stuff I am.
The question I have been asking myself: "Who am I?" not in the existential, what-am-I-doing-here way, but the practical "who am I to judge?" By the nature of the words on this site, I am expressing what I believe to be true. If everybody else in the world is doing that too, even if they are empirically, unflinchingly incorrect, who am I to harbor enmity in my heart?
Does this mean that I don't think we can do better? Absolutely not. Max Bemis put it: "You can do better, you can do better, you can be the greatest man in the world." Especially from people who call themselves believers or who attach my Savior's name to their motives or actions should we expect perfection. Which we will never get.
I would love to see a revolution of rational thought sweep the world. People would stop arbitrarily hating each other and fighting each other and they would recognize that there isn't a person on the Earth who isn't as screwed up as they are. Perhaps it should start with me. Or with you.
Maybe what it takes is the recognition of your own faults, which are many, to make you quit the incessant bickering with which you have been accustomed.
If my degradation of others is a product of elevating myself above them even though I am the chief of sinners, just imagine what would happen should I reverse it!
>I think that I'm going to take a break from Facebook for a while, if not permanently.
This is in no way my assessment of Facebook on any intrinsic or moral or ethical set of values, all it is is me coming to this point of realization of what is necessary and what is not. I realize that by typing this on a macbook pro in my bed with a fan and air conditioning (and a very nice guitar still out of its case, the body probably warm from my body heat and my belly full from a meal that I ate not too long ago and 140 people following my twitter and fifty plus steady hits a week on a blog that is nothing but my thoughts) that statement can seem rather snobby, naive, even elitist in light of the definition of "necessary," but I ask you to bare with me for a moment.
I've found myself for the past week or so calling into question all of these things around me and wondering just exactly what I need. I drive a very nice car, when really something with wheels and an engine would do just fine, for example. As my day goes on and I interact with more and more of this stuff that is, at its core, totally made up, little things start to seem superflous.
We have all of these protocols for things like driver's licenses and Bachelor's degrees and line cutting policies at theme parks and what to do if you're seated in an emergency exit row on an airplane and the baffling thing to think about is every one of these things is completely contrived. Were we, as humans, meant to be able to propel a piece of buffed, waxed, curvy machinery using a series of pistons and controlled explosions in order to get from one place to another? Were we meant to be able to store 120 GIGABYTES of music in one location to access at any time?
Then it moves to things like: Is it natural for this world that used to feel like everything that could exist to start to feel somewhat hokey and contrived? Why do I feel like we are missing the point of all of this ridiculous stuff that we have when it literally begins to control us? What in the world could I possibly gain by clicking over on the open Facebook tab I have sitting just to the left of this one out of compulsion to see what other people are up to?
Paul seems to have thought about some of these same things and felt similar feelings towards them (although they clearly were not iPods or cars, etc) and come to the conclusion that we are not of this world when we are found in Christ. I have read that part a million times in my life but when he says, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body...." (Philippians 3:20) I HAVE to believe that he was questioning the legitimacy of his surroundings. He knows, beyond a doubt, that all this stuff that's here is all well and good, but it's not us. Our citizenship is not here, so there's a reason that this should not feel like home, because frankly this place isn't even worthy to think about the dwelling place of the Almighty, even though we do.
It is a strange feeling, indeed, when things appear to you as hollow alloys and plastics and items made by sweatshop labor. I'm not at all even starting to begin a political debate, and absolutely nothing about this is politically charged, because frankly politics makes less and less sense the more I think about it.
So to come full circle (somewhat), I'm kinda done with Facebook. Each time I had access to a computer I was checking it, most of the time several times each session and I'm just a little bit tired of it. Does all of the above mean that I'm going to sell all of my stuff and live as a sherpa wearing animal skins in the woods? Absolutely not. I love my music. I love my guitar and my pedalboard and my computer and air conditioning and fans and sleeping under tons of blankets in the winter. We humans were created with the spark of originality. We can construct computers from metal and electrical signals and I believe that God looks upon the way that these people He created use their God-given minds and smiles because creativity is part of Himself that He put in us, whether we believe in Him or not. This also must literally frustrate the hell out of Him because so many of us humans shake one fist at Him in anger or turn around and state that He does not exist, while we, with the other hand, demonstrate a small spark of Himself that was put into us. That separates us from the beasts.
Does He look at the depravity into which we have dug ourselves with the things we made using His gifts and shake His head and turn His back and whisper "be gone with them?"
He looks at us with His arms spread, just waiting for us to take the hint.
>So quickly we lose sight of things. It takes no time at all to lose everything you have worked for; it takes no time at all to forget the motivation which burned our hearts with passion what seems like years ago though may be mere minutes, hours, days. Goals turn into dreams, dreams turn into reaches, reaches turn into former flames, the ex-girlfriends of ideas (if you will). Passion falls by the wayside for "getting by."
>I tried sleeping, but I couldn't.
>Ladies and gentlemen of Chattanooga, summer is upon us.
I've been finding myself occupied recently with terrifying thoughts. I don't know how to control these thoughts either, because I feel as though they are crucial to our existence as humans living in an imperfect world, occupying the endless time of an eternal and perfect God.
These thoughts that I have been thinking are less long, eloquent diatribes in my mind that is gasping for knowledge and Wisdom and, well, answers, but more glimpses of epiphany that is to come. It is as though my processes pause momentarily and for that instant, everything around me appears totally fabricated and completely unnatural. It is surreal, really, and nearly impossible for me to explain. I see the little cars we drive, the work we attend, the politics we argue until we are red in the face, the accumulation of thin green paper that people kill each other for, and they all appear to me as this visceral realization that we do not belong here. This society that we worship and pursue and accept as truth cannot possibly be truth, for it was created by flawed humans. It is kind of like when you stare at a word for an extended period of time, repeating it over and over and it becomes foreign, almost unrecognizable to your mind. The more I think about all of this... stuff that is on earth, the more it blows my mind that it was put here by us.
With this frame of thinking, every goal and every motive you possess starts to be tossed into question. Everything here has an expiration date, so the notion of putting my trust in local things starts to be absolutely absurd. I suppose what I am trying to comprehend is the idea that I am not of this world any longer, since I have life in Christ. I know that I am not alone in these far-fetched little musings because poets, intellectuals, thinkers all throughout history have struggled to find their place in the same world that I am seeing. It is a horrifying thought for those without purpose, sort of a fast forward to 80 years from now when literally everything they have known is wrong. I glimpsed the sheer terror of this thought, but it was immediately overcome with a peace that came in the form of a whisper in my ear. It was audible, I swear to you, and what I heard (or felt?) was reassurance that I have nothing to worry about. There is nothing wrong with me having these things, because they are all gifts, but as soon as I start putting stock in them, I know that this moment will revisit me and I will be snapped back to the frame of mind I should be dwelling in.
I know this was really long and disorganized and somewhat of a rambling collection of thoughts, but I am convinced that somebody out there needed to hear it, and needed to be comforted with what are inevitably the same thoughts I am having. If you feel like having a discussion about it, please email me or something just to let me know that you're listening. Or reading. Or disagreeing.
I remember distinctly one night as I was partaking in the joy of bottomless coffee and a texas bacon steak melt from Waffle house spotting a man sitting by himself in a booth and striking up a conversation with him. I don't like it when people are lonely, and this man looked lonely indeed, so I set out to fix that loneliness by giving him somebody to talk to. I told him hey and that I'd seen him there before and introduced myself as Hamilton, to which he replied that he was Steven and he was always at this Waffle House. We began to talk about the graphic novel he was reading on his computer screen and I told him that I hadn't read many graphic novels but that I immensely enjoyed the graphic novel that spawned the movie "Watchmen," which I had read around my freshman year in high school. He shared with me the joy of the art of comic books and graphic novels, which moved to his love of computers and on to his passion for learning.
This was a valid logic, I told him, because I recognized the frustration with things that could not be explained. I asked him what about ghosts, to which he said absolutely not. I chuckled in agreement and asked him what then about aliens, attempting to test his logic. "I see no reason why I should believe in extraterrestrial life, for it does not pertain to me at all," was his response. I pondered a second at this and asked him how, in an infinitely expanding universe where we are but a cell in the skin of the fabric of existence, he could reason himself to believing that no life exists anywhere else. I took no side, but merely questioned the logic with which he arrived at the definitive conclusion, as per his previous stance of only believing in things he could see or reason himself to. He acknowledged this thought with a nod and told me "what you want to believe, I'll be the last to stop you."
I knew exactly where he was headed with this and then asked him "so what about God?" At this, he immediately froze up and physically turned away from me. "I see no reason why I should believe in God," he said. I continued to ask, gently and without probing, another series of logical questions to try to get him to realize that his hypotheses had gaping holes in them, but he would have none of it. I assured him I was not attempting to convert him to a God-fearing citizen or bring him to the side of Christianity, but to merely have a conversation that stretched both my beliefs and his lack of them. He eventually excused himself from the restaurant and, with somewhat of a perplexed tone, told me he didn't think that "you people" (talking about Christians) knew how to think. I smiled and thanked him for the veiled compliment and offered to buy his coffee, but he refused, paid, and walked out the door.
What he said about Christians not thinking made me wonder for a minute just what it is we're called to do. I know that we are to trust and have faith and believe that God will be the guide to our path, but I think that in no way this excludes us from figuring out these things for ourselves. We are called to "test the spirits and see whether they are from God" (1 John 4:1) and we are to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phillipians 2:12). I have seen the same trend that Steven referenced with Christians taking and accepting at face value everything they are fed, whether it be by a Preacher or a thinker that they respect or a friend who seems to have sound logic. I think that doing this completely perverts what we are expected to do, for the more comfortable we get in another's doctrine, the less it becomes our own. Salvation is not a topic that is corporate, it is a personal issue that is only attained through the personal recognition that Jesus is Lord and that He is the only way to God. We know that we are to follow Jesus as the Disciples did, but this means something completely different for everybody, as it first starts with belief. In order to have belief (as elementary as this is), you need to believe, and you cannot believe based on something that somebody told you. It needs to keep you up at night and bring you to tears in the car and force you to shut off all of the music and noise and motion and distraction around you so that you can focus your mind and heart on the God who will do anything but scream at you. Sometimes He will be cryptic and sometimes He will be vague, and other times He will be completely silent... Jacob wrestled with God in the desert all night, and only after that He was blessed. Nothing about this tells me we are to sit back and choke down what we is put in front of us.
>I think that there is a moment in every person's life where the inevitable "click" will occur. It is a subtle moment, more of a whisper than that shoot-out-of-a-dream resolve that wakes you from a nightmare, that leads to the changing of how you operate. You will see the functions of your mind smoothing out, despite the piling of even more lists and rules and expectations and responsibilities, and you will begin to understand how to deal with it. Unfortunately, I don't think that this moment comes from constant drilling and attempts to instill values (unless it is to a dog) but rather an instant of clarity that each individual will force himself to remember when the high wears off.
I believe some call it "growing up." I choose to call it "de-juvenilization."
It is in this moment that you begin to assume your role as the functioning member of society worthy of contributing and having your opinions respected. The opinions of a juvenile in today's society are all but respected (unfortunately, because some of them are extremely valid), and so it takes growing out of this phase to truly assume who you are called to be. I have found my walk with God growing stronger not because I'm looking for fire insurance or attempting to appear more righteous than those around me, but because I have recognized the daunting truth that I literally cannot do things by myself. I have moved past the arrogance of your average mall-walker towards this position of humility not for humility's sake, but because I have begun to understand that I really am not all that, and my way usually isn't right. I have noticed that when I begin thinking about humanity as a whole, I understand that we are all here, suspended in this existence between birth and eternity and everybody is trying all of the most ridiculous things to feel valid... I see that people are people no matter how calloused they seem or how daunting their status and that they probably feel just as I do, which is insignificant sometimes and at other times kings of the world. It helps me respect people for who they are because we're all in the same boat, and perhaps it is my love that will help them to see the love of my Savior.
I realize I'm rambling again, as this blog is less than organized thought-wise, but perhaps the open-endedness will cause you, the faithful reader, to think about whatever application I intended and formulate your own opinions on anything I'm talking about. Hey, maybe somebody will comment on one of these things and start up a discussion.
>It blows my mind how drained I get during the school year. I have lost that spark of creativity, although I can feel it peeking out from around the corner, waiting for the smoke to clear from the decimation of my brain by papers, exams, drama, and stagnancy. I don't believe that it has completely gone away, but rather that it simply can't stand all the nonsense it has to put up with throughout all of the formulaic essays and encroaching deadlines that are (unfortunately) synonymous with life. I can feel my knowledge growing and my wisdom expanding and my general thirst for enlightenment becoming more and more unquenchable each day but I have noticed a simultaneous decline in outlets for it. I funnel all of the erudite energy into four papers due within a week of each other and I find it completely sapped. I understand why Thoreau had to disappear into a cabin that he "built with is own hands" to create his musings at Walden, why Kant found excuse to shut himself in his room for weeks at a time as an excuse for his physical deformities, why Poe resorted to maddening fits of drug-induced hysteria to draft some semblance of a cohesive story or poem or whatever he was writing.
On the upside, I had a series of conversations over the past week over vats of coffee and abundant shivering in the recently onset cold of Chattanooga that gave me hope for the reinstatement of the drive I had not three months ago for this album in production. I also am in talks with the roommate for creating in the first week or so of Christmas break the perfect work environment for writing the most epic masterpiece of our century, filled with sticky notes and devoid of personal hygiene, regular sleep patterns, and inhibitions of creativity. Perhaps I'll journal through that experience and share it, but for the most part I feel kinda bad about leaving you guys in the dark as of late, but I shall validate it in my mind with the assurance that you are all as busy as I am.
And I am open to suggestions about new formats for this thing, instead of a clump of words. Should I express these things in iambic pentameter to allow for ease of reading and comprehension? Haiku? Sonnet? Should I record audio versions and speak them over a background of soothing harpsichord melodies? Should I take up photography?
Should I become the leader of the Free World?
>I've decided that there are two categories broad and sweeping enough to fit any human, whether they are aware of the reality of their situation or not. Look into the soul of anybody within eyeshot and you begin to understand precisely what I'm talking about when I shed light on the rather obvious dichotomy presented before us every day of our lives...
The two options are, in layman's terms, the Respecter and the Moocher.
The Respecter does not necessarily like everybody, or even anybody, around him. He doesn't have to have a lot of friends to put himself in this category; it doesn't matter how he dresses or what major he is or where he works or what kind of movie makes him cry, but rather how he approaches human interactions. People don't always understand the true blessing of having Respecters in their lives, but this does not stop him from being who he was made to be in the first place. The Respecter understands (superficially) that what you have is yours, and you have the option of doing what you please with it.
He has probably known what it feels like to have to earn things that you accumulate and therefore approaches interactions with friends and strangers alike with a reserved sense of self-awareness. He gets that you have personal space because he might have issues with that himself; he understands that when people yell when they talk it makes even the most docile of person feel a twinge of hostility running down their cool spine, so he controls the volume of his voice; he knows the feeling of being drowned by a deluge of meaningless words being spewn from one's mouth so he knows that there are times when it is appropriate not to speak. When he asks for a favor, he gives the easier task to the volunteer , while bearing the majority of the load himself, because he knows that effort, as well as time, are things that people prize, and are therefore aspects he must respect. None of these things are a chore for him because it only comes natural. He may not be a people pleaser, but he is a people understander and that makes him a tolerable person to be around.
The Moocher, however, is a completely different story. Unlike the Respecter, he has no concept of the people around him because they all seem superfluous compared to himself, the all-important center of the universe. The Moocher is the one that calls you and instead of greeting you and thanking you for being gracious to pick up the phone yells in your ear "I'm bored, let's do something." Be wary of making Moochers your friends, because they assume that with your friendship comes an open invitation to enter your house, wear your clothes, and eat your food with or without your permission. They will probably do something extreme to get your attention for a while, like undergo a drastic change in dress or undertake a new life-consuming hobby or decide to move on a whim, and then assume that while they were doing the other thing they were doing other than being your shadow you missed them greatly *(but were too scared to call or text or ask somebody where they were, even once)* and will promptly begin back at square one.
The Moocher saps not just money but energy, time, effort, and relationships with people that are not them. Also, if they feel like you are catching onto their game, they will go out of their way to try to feel appreciated, perhaps by saying something like "ok well then I guess I just won't see you for a while" or feigning a momentary crossover into the Respecter category by buying you something innocuous but heartfelt or calling and asking how your day was. Beware of the Moocher's cunning tricks, because they do not make the choice to be a Moocher, they are simply either too lazy or self absorbed to do anything about it.
The Moocher will never recognize his/her position as a Moocher, however. It is for this reason that you must be all the more vigilant in spotting their type and not falling prey to their tactics. The best way to avoiding having all of your life overrun by the likes of the Moocher is simply to live your life as normal when they are around and knowing how to say "no." When they insist on you spending your time on them, tell them that you had other plans. When they insist on you spending your money on them, tell them that you don't have the money to spend right now and when they whine about it, know they'll get over it. Don't leave things laying around you don't want them breaking open. They will understand after a while not having an invitation means they are not invited, and if they wish to receive an invitation they will have to change their ways.
Basically, the point of this whole thing is that we have to learn how to deal with each other. If you recognize yourself as one of these two categories, know that it's not too late to become whichever you see as more appealing, and if reading this makes you think of one or two people in particular, you can understand where they're coming from and start learning how to treat them better. Wow, that was a cheesy ending.
>I had a few free moments on this glorious Friday and had an uplifted spirit after the outcome of certain events being in my favor, so I decided during the break in the action I would forgo schoolwork for the moment and blow some time developing the idea for a story I'm writing purely for pleasure and not in any way motivated for school. I had about ten minutes of good, productive development before the inevitable and always ill-timed creative block occurred, so I decided it would be for the best to sit in the midst of the not-yet-busy University Center and kill time updating myself on the happenings of people I know purely for our connection to my church or Lee University or UTC. I noticed on Twitter some buzz that I generally try to ignore about some political hurly-burly (sorry, I've been reading Shakespeare like a CHAMP these past few weeks) pertaining to Obama. I really really am trying to approach him and his Presidency with an open and more sympathetic mind (which is extraordinarily difficult for me), because I have not just an obligation but a mandate to respect those in authority and to "give to caesar that what is ceasar's." But, I noticed something that caught my attention in the Twitter update of somebody whose opinion I admittedly do not value more than that of the nearest bleating, Chris Tomlin-worshipping, "I need to constantly inform the public (who, of course, adores my opinion) about the relief work I do aiding starving children in Africa", "My politcal and religious views are both 'Lee University'" sheep.
I am slightly ashamed that it took this to break me of my long blogging hiatus, the cause of which is either that I have a life now or that I don't have time to have a life, which will only be decided based on the the definition and interpretation of "having a life," but I noticed the recent dolling out of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barak Obama. Now, I type this with trembling hands for a few reasons:
1) I am running slightly (and by "slightly" I mean "purely") off of caffeine and a sugar rush that has yet to be calmed by the intake of food into my system because the food court has not been opened
2) Trepidation, for I know that any of the people (whose ethnicity shall not be named) behind me wearing pants that start where most of these girls' shorts end and one of which has an oversized, glittery Tshirt that literally says "Obama for Messiah," could be reading over my honkey shoulder and follow through on the threats I just heard him speak to one of his friends except to me, not Maurice, or whoever he just said, and
3) I'm actually, physically enraged at the topic about which I am about to rant.
It was said by the chairman of the Nobel Prize Committee about Obama's win, "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future." A man whose opinion we greatly respect and whose actions this nation as a whole generally approves of, former President Jimmy Carter said of Obama's win that it is a "bold statement of international support for his vision and commitment."
Now, perhaps if some of Obama's plans had worked out like he said they would, this would not be as big of a deal as it is. He does have some plans for peace (albiet in my personal opnion misguided and poorly thought out) that could have sparked the decision to throw his name in the basket. But it's important to note that the deadline for the Nominations was February 1... a lengthy 12 days after the man was president. I think that an important quality for the Nobelc Prize recipient to have is integrity, as this word can be associated with so many of the past prize winners... Elie Wiesel, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr, etc. and I just can't say that the man who promised to have Americans out of Iraq in 100 days or that the closing of Guantanimo would be at the top of his lengthy Presidential checklist, and then produced absolutely no results but a 5-month search for the dog to buy his kids, a million dollar frisbee golf course and an endeavour to launch unmanned craft to the moon for the sole purpose of smashing into its surface, would be a man who I would label as one with "integrity."
But with this nomination, I also question the validity of said committee. I don't see how the outcome of what used to be a prestigious honor can be determined by what a group of men think a man will do in the future....
Actually, I'm tired of talking about this already. I don't see this prize as being a valid honor anymore because apparently all you have to do is make a documentary based on conjecture rather than fact (Al Gore) or organize enough communities to gain some recognition then say some stuff you don't mean to carry out to get into office and get nominated for a joke of a prize, killing two one-time honors with one stone (Josef Stalin I mean Chavez I mean what?). For those that put up with me this far, I say thank you. I'll see what I can do to update some more in the future, now that I'm starting to get this school schedule locked down.
As for production of the album, it is coming slowly but surely. Expect results in the near future!
>Let's you and I stay up all night long, watch as patterns emerge on the walls and whet our appetites for good conversation over coffee and talks in parking lots. Let's be as comfortable talking about nothing as we are talking about something, and let's be comfortable enough saying nothing to justify thoughtful breaks in the streams of words that are separated by sips from our scalding hot beverages. Let's discuss the incomers and outgoers and speculate as to why they are up at this absurd hour of the day and possibly wonder if they think the same about us. Let's get to know the woman behind the counter who has stopped asking if we want refills and gives them to us anyway, and ask her why she has a sad look in her eyes and ask if there's anything we can pray with her about. Let's be prepared to be slapped in the face and shot down and spat upon and insulted and turned on and let's be ready to back up what we asked and bow our heads or comfort or celebrate or be blessed by her words, because asking somebody such a powerful question can only elicit powerful answers.
>There is something that has been bothering me over the past few weeks, and is something that, for the simple fact that it bothers me, will irk most of the people around me.
I do not pretend to be a great musician, but I believe that I have earned some sort of credibility to kind of know what I'm talking about if I critique or praise or point out details of a certain work of music. I'm not a music snob and I do not worship one genre or one musician more than they deserve, and I try to take my influences from all reaches of the universe of musicality. I don't automatically change the song every time I hear power chords or punk rock riffs, I don't turn down the volume when someone starts screaming, I even sit through, and enjoy, opera. I have playlists on my iTunes ranging from "Oh! So Epic" to "It's Happy Cause It's Poppy," "Techno School, Pt.1," and "Christmas Songs." I don't hate Jack Johnson, I believe that a little bit of Hardcore is good for the soul, I think that the piano is the only instrument that can, at any time, make you feel like you're in love, and I can't wait to learn how to play the banjo. I have learned every major, harmonic, melodic and natural minor scale, conqured the church modes, grasped transposition, studied Bach and Beethoven and Buxtehude, and played Gospel Blues with Jamaicans.
But I can't bring myself to classify Contemporary Christian Music as.... good music. The reason that this bothers me is that it has that label slapped on it, the same label slapped on me and on everyone who strives to be a "little Christ," and it hurts me to know that His name is associated with something that is not solid. Yes, the lyrics of most of today's CCM are bold, Christ-centered lyrics that can be incredibly powerful, but they are backed by a shocking lack of musical demonstration. I do not have a problem listening to songs that consist of only 4 chords (punk rock has a special place in my heart), all I ask is that you do it well and with a twinge of originality and passion. I accidentally turned on J103 the other day and was blown away by how each song ran into each other, with the only separation between the same chord changes being the sound of the DJ's voice. We have mistaken well-produced for well-written, and as the icing on the cake, we have slapped Jesus' name on top of it.
The last time I checked, Jesus never settled for mediocrity. We serve a God that created an entire universe teeming with life and beauty and color and innovation and vast enough to leave nothing but incredulous bewilderment at the onset of attempting to comprehend it all, and the genre we associate with him is filled with nothing but similarity? Somehow, that seems blasphemous.
This is not to say that there aren't exceptions to this rule. Like every rule, there are bound to be exceptions, and I do believe that they are rising up daily. But sometimes, for one reason or another, they have decided that selling out to a cheap style is a worthy use of the gifts they have been given.
I realize that many are going to disagree with everything that I've said, because what I have are mere opinions and there is no way of convincing someone that opinions are fact. I realize that some people enjoy CCM, and to those people I say keep it up! It does good things, and is encouraging to a large number of people, filled with lyrics of hope and inspiration and joy. If this person is you, then keep listening to what you are listening to, but just... don't be afraid to branch out and listen to some other styles of music. For the most solid lyrics and some of the best musicality you can find, check out As Cities Burn or Edison Glass, Emery or Brave Saint Saturn, Mikeschair or House of Heroes... I just said these off the top of my head, and if you would like a list of some easy alternatives, just let me know and I'd be glad to help you out :)
What I'm trying to say is let's not settle for a simple chord progression simply because it's easy to play. Why use just watercolor when oil is available? Why play on gravel when there's a court just over the fence? Ok. Done with stupid analogies. My God is one that doesn't do the mediocre. My God is the one that created the diversity that we have represented all around us, the inspiration for ten thousand songs.