>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.

>Think About It

>

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.

He hadn't finished college but worked a tiny little dead-end job that paid enough to take care of rent, and seemed to be content with this. Also, despite not finishing college, Steven completely obliterated any thoughts that I considered myself well-read. His bookshelf, he described as his "Sanctuary," was full of everything from Javascript and CSS++ manuals to Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. We started talking about deeper things than heavily inked pages of color and art and I mentioned something about things that are more abstract, something in the far reaches of space and contained in vast nebulae in a distant solar system completely oblivious to our existence. At this point, he told me that he did not believe in things that he could not either see or reason himself to. 

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.

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.

>All-night Nights in All-night Diners

>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.

Let's get in the car and drive to nowhere at all, knowing that we'll not be surprised when we drive up on an epiphany. Let's burn a mixed cd that suits our moody whimsies of the journey and can be enjoyed at full volume as much as simply background music to the words we speak. Let's be comfortable enough that if the other wants to drive for a while there are no questions asked and nothing done begrudgingly, but let the passenger become comfortable with letting somebody other than themselves take the reigns. Let's talk about how this idea relates back to God and have a moment of silence that is filled with the sound of our brains attempting to wrap themselves around the fact that the One that created all of the stars we see above us wants nothing more than who you are at that moment in time, and each successive moment after that that much more. Let's discuss love and hate and destiny and fate and why smiling is so much easier than frowning and if bees have lungs and if they don't have lungs why they don't just fly out into everlasting solitude and silence and peace in the depths of space rather than buzzing around here and getting swatted at.
Let's you and I stay up all night long and long for the next time we can.

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.

>Love and God from the perspective of a coffee-fueled creativity

>I would like to take a moment this morning before I leave for work to discuss something that will probably make some people mad.

We here in middle to upper class America have somehow developed this mentality that our standard for happiness is the correct one, and should be the standard of happiness for everybody worldwide. To these people, I offer these questions:

1) Why would anybody want to be held to the principle that happiness is equated with physical, tangible, burnable things? Why would we place our joy on the shoulders of something that can be ripped away from us as easily as it can make us smile? Why is it when we don't have our computers for a week we feel an emptiness in our lives that cannot be filled until its return? If money is what makes us happy, how can it be good when we have to make up excuses to not give it away? "Oh, that man is clearly going to buy drugs or booze with it." Do not misunderstand me, I'm not saying that it is right to give what you earn to the first person that asks for it (this is a topic for another day), all I'm saying is don't lie to yourself about your reasoning for being stingy.

2) Why would anybody want to be a part of a society where your status is determined by the neighborhood you live in, the college you go to, the grades you make, the computer you use, the restaurants you frequent, the girls you date, etc. I have met more brilliant people in Waffle House at 2 in the morning selling their paintings to get enough money for bus fare than I have listening to the complaints of people who are affluent enough to be able to whine that their steak isn't rare enough. I have heard the ideas of more intelligent thinkers who are addicted to heroin or meth or are working 3 jobs to pay their half of child support while waiting tables at Denny's than I have sitting in a class of people society has deemed "high brow" in an intellectual class at an expensive university. I have learned more about God from watching a child play in a pool than I have from 90% of the people that I meet in churches.

There are more, but I'm going to have to leave soon. I think what I'm trying to say is something that has been stated and overstated for years, and is, at its core a message of love. Something you can hold is something that can be taken away from you, so it is pointless to place your trust or joy in that thing. Find love though, and you will see that nothing can take it away from you for anything in the world. Find God and let me know not when you lose Him, but when He loses you.

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.