Archive for the Culture Category

Who’s the Grinch Now?

Posted in Culture on December 1, 2008 by Scott

101635_008There will be no Who-ville in Louisville this Christmas.

The city of Louisville is scrapping plans to use Dr. Seuss village and characters as part of its annual Christmas display after receiving a cease and desist letter from Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

The city had planned to use “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as part of its theme for the annual holiday celebration. The display called for an area called “LouWhoVille,” complete with costumed characters from the Dr. Seuss classic such as Cindy Lou Who and the Grinch.

But the cease-and-desist letter from the law firm DLA Piper, which represents Dr. Seuss Enterprises, said the “Who-ville” name and image, as well as the Grinch, are copyrighted and cannot be used without permission.

The letter demanded the city and the Louisville Convention and Visitors’ Bureau halt any use of the characters for the Christmas display and agree not to use the characters in the future without permission. It threatened legal action if the city and tourism bureau did not comply.

Me thinks their hearts are two sizes too small!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Posted in Christianity, Culture, Jesus, Religion on November 14, 2008 by Scott

merrychristmasIt’s that time of the year again when we get together with our families, remember the birth of Jesus, give presents to friends and love ones, but best of all it’s time for Christians to start boycotting.

For many things, such as homelessness, hunger, education, addiction, etc… we often sit idle. But when you start referring to Christmas as the Holiday season that’s were we draw the line.

Christians will boycott Target, K-Mart, Banana Republic, Barnes and Noble, Circuit City, Disney, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Petco and others for not using the word “Christmas” in their advertising this season.

The Alliance Defense Fund, which was founded by 35 ministry leaders and whose prime concern is the “dramatic loss of religious freedom in America’s courts and the resulting challenges to people of faith to live and proclaim the Gospel,” has more than 930 attorneys available nationwide to combat any improper attempts to censor the celebration of Christmas.

We need 930 attorneys so that we can proclaim the gospel by saying Christmas instead of holiday?

Of course, it’s all part of the liberal War on Christmas.  It couldn’t be about attracting the greatest number of people in the marketplace in our free enterprise system (capitalism) in order to maximize profits for shareholders. That would be too simple.

We found a better reason to boycott Christmas over at “The Christmas Resistance.”

You know Christmas marketing is a scam, benefiting manufacturers, stores, and huge corporations, while driving individuals into debt. You know this annual consumer frenzy wreaks havoc on the environment, filling landfills with useless packaging and discarded gifts.

Together, we boycott Christmas Shopping, Christmas decorations, Christmas cards, and every variety of Christmas Crap…We show our love for friends and family by giving our time and care, not by purchasing consumer goods. We maintain the integrity of giving by giving spontaneously and from our hearts, rather than during a specified season.

Now that’s a movement Christians should get behind.

As for the boycotts, how about we get everything else right first, stop thinking that everything is about us,  and then we talk about boycotts?

Who’s Fault Is It?

Posted in Christianity, Church, Culture, Discipleship, Evangelism, Faith, God, Jesus, Missional, Politics, Religion on November 12, 2008 by Scott

blameNo…not the election.

Who’s fault is it that we have become reliant on the government to solve our societal issues?

Christians have become a pawn in the political process and we allowed it to happen.

Meanwhile, our society is full of people who need help – the homeless, young women considering abortion, kids who are starving, families breaking apart, and more.

And where are we?  Canvassing for our favorite politician so that they can cure everything that is “wrong” in our country.

Pastor Greg Matte of Houston’s First Baptist Church puts it this way:

…government policy has stepped into theology. The beginning of life and definition of marriage are theological issues, not political… We redefine family and look to government as the lone savior – and here we sit.

Baby Boomers moved from biblical values to “do your own thing” which included raising their kids to enjoy a lazy Sunday morning instead of church.

We now raise our kids on the sporting fields while shoe polishing our SUVs each weekend with “Go Team! On to the ‘ships!” instead of teaching the difference between eternal rewards and plastic trophies.

All valid points.  So, now what?

Roxanne Wieman at Relevant Magazine has some great ideas:

We do not rest our hopes for change on a political party or candidate…. in January when Obama takes office, we get up and we continue our sojourn to follow Jesus. We live our votes for life, for justice, for peace, for equality.

We comfort our friend who tells us she’s considering abortion. Then we gently tell her why we believe life in the womb is precious. We help her find alternative options … and we stick by her side all through the pregnancy and birth and after. She is not a statistic or a faceless evil to us.

We love beyond racial, gender and sexual lines. We reject stereotypes. We embrace individuals. We work for reconciliation.

We do not talk about “that side of town,” we live there and work there and mentor there. We are a part of educational reform, and ESL, and rehabilitation.

We recycle. We reduce our imprint. We consciously make our purchases, recognizing the global implications. We strive to “live simply that others may simply live” (Ghandi).

We personally pray for our soldiers in Iraq, for the citizens of Iraq, for our leaders who are making tough decisions that affect millions of lives. We really do pray, and we believe our prayers matter.

We continue to work hard in the jobs God has given us, saving our money and stewarding our resources. We tithe. We donate. We volunteer.

We continually challenge each other to deepen our understanding of whole life ethics and Jesus’ call to follow Him.

Rather than sitting around and “grieving” the election results like James Dobson, it’s time we stop blaming the government, look in the mirror and heed the words of Jesus:

Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

If you really want to make a difference in the issues that plague our society, that’s where we start. It’s time to stop going to church and time to start being the church.


Professional Worshipers

Posted in Christianity, Church, Culture, Evangelism, Faith, God, Megachurch, Religion on October 14, 2008 by Scott

The Wall Street Journal writes about a former Pastor who is now a professional mystery worshipper

Churches enlist Thomas Harrison, a former pastor from Tulsa, Okla., and a professional mystery worshiper. He poses as a first-time churchgoer and covertly evaluates everything from the cleanliness of the bathrooms to the strength of the sermon.

…mystery worshipers like Mr. Harrison offer insight into how newcomers judge churches — a critical measure at a time when mainline denominations continue to shed members and nearly half of American adults switch religious affiliations. In an increasingly diverse and fluid religious landscape, churches competing for souls are turning to corporate marketing strategies…

Churches eager to adopt cutting-edge business practices have emerged as the latest market willing to pay for blunt advice. The cost can range from around $150 for a one-time visit to between $1,500 and $2,500 for multiple visits and a detailed report.

Church leaders say they’re seeking new ways to assess their services and evaluate everything from the style of music to how comfortable the pews are as they court fickle churchgoers.

Some theologians warn that mystery-worshipper services will drive “spiritual consumerism.” Evaluating churches as if they were restaurants or hotels might encourage people to choose their church not according to its theology, but based on which one has the best lattes or day care, says Paul Metzger, professor of theology at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland, Ore. “There’s a pressure for the church to be something that the church is not.”

“My competition is Cracker Barrel restaurant down the street,” says Pete Wilson, pastor of CrossPoint Church in Nashville, Tenn., who regularly enlists a secret shopper to evaluate his 2,000-person congregation. “If they go in there and are treated more like family than when they come to CrossPoint Church, then it’s lights out for me.”

We’ll make this offer again…if you want to know what’s wrong with your church, just ask us.  No charge.  We like telling people what they are doing wrong.  You could say it’s our gift.

Here’s one for free.  If you hire a consultant to come in and tell what is wrong with your church instead of speaking to the people sitting in the pews, the problem isn’t the people sitting in the pews, its the leadership. 

Second Tip (also for free)…. open up the manual (that’s the Bible for our slower readers) and see if you’re doing things right.  In particular, try Acts 2:42-47.

Stupid Phrases

Posted in Christianity, Church, Culture, God, Jesus, Religion on October 7, 2008 by Scott

One of my biggest pet peeves is stupid phrases that people repeat over-and-over that are….well, stupid.  Like sheep (and not in the biblical sense), we Christians follow the lead and repeat some of these phrases.

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!

We should all be pleased that God, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and others ignored this one.

Just because something isn’t broken doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon. There are millions of Christians and church-goers who never would have walked through the doors if someone didn’t “do church” differently.

Underpromise, overdeliver!

This is one of the latest catch phrases in business – and which some churches like to repeat.

How about we deliver what we promise – and then deliver some more? Are we really being successful if we lower the expectations and then exceed them?

Our ultimate example… Jesus delivered exactly what was promised.

God is my co-pilot!

If God is your co-pilot, chances are you’re sitting in the cockpit alone.  God doesn’t take the second chair for anyone. It’s time to give him the controls and realize you’re just a passenger.

Otherwise it’s time to assume the crash position…

Pulpit Poltics: Losing Focus

Posted in Christianity, Church, Culture, Faith, God, Prayer, Religion on October 4, 2008 by Scott

From Randall Faulkner, Senior Pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, OK.

James M Boice, in his book on Christianity and culture, “Two Cities, Two Loves,” wrote that believers have two weapons in our arsenal: persuasion and prayer. When it comes to influencing society, churches should rely on persuasion, not coercion or political power. If believers trust in the sovereignty of God, then they will rely more on the power of prayer and less on the power of favorable legislation.

I attended the National Day of Prayer service at the state Capitol in May. One of those who led in prayer was Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, a Democrat. She led the gathering in a beautiful prayer for our nation’s president, a Republican. She prayed for members of Congress, our governor, and member of the state Senate and Legislature. She mentioned leaders of both political parties in her prayer.

This was a reminder to me that there are people of faith and goodwill in all political parties. In an atmosphere as politically charged as the present, it is good to remember that there are believers who are as devoted to their faith as I who disagree with my political views. I must be careful not to equate commitment to faith with commitment to a particular candidate or party.

We need good people serving in government, and that is why most of us think it is good for people of faith to serve in politics. Our two candidates for president have given public expression to their faith. But believers who serve in politics aren’t chosen on the basis of their religious preferences alone. Nor are they serving in government to seek a favored position for one religion over another. They are called to work for justice for all citizens, whatever their religious beliefs.

Churches should not be perceived as endorsing political candidates. In a recent pastoral letter to my congregation, I wrote that it is possible, even likely, that cars in the church parking lot will carry bumper stickers promoting candidates of both major political parties. I think that would be a good thing, because it would mean that the church’s message is reaching into the culture, bearing witness to all kinds of people, Republicans and Democrats.

The church’s primary loyalty is to the Lord. If the church is perceived as politicizing the pulpit, or aligning itself with particular candidates, it could seriously restrict its ability to influence the culture at large by deflecting attention from the church’s supreme message, which is God’s good news. This is of transcendent importance.

James Boice was right. The church’s main strategies in an election year, or any year, are persuasion and prayer, not political power.

Waiting on the World to Change

Posted in Christianity, Culture, God, Religion on October 2, 2008 by Scott

Heard John Mayer’s Waiting on the World to Change while driving to work this morning.

Had to laugh a little, as this tends to be my conscience most of the time… when will the world finally change?

The song’s theme centers on the singer and his generation’s inaction in regard to current world conditions. However, he attributes this inaction to a lack of power

Now we see everything that’s going wrong
with the world and those who lead it
we just feel like we don’t have the means
to rise above and beat it

Yet we have the means to rise above it and beat it, but we’re (i.e. me) sitting around waiting for the world to change, instead of showing the world the “means to rise above and beat it.”

In searching for Gandhi’s famous quote on being the change you want to see, I found a list of the Top Ten Things to Think About if You Want to Change the World.  You can click on the link to read the entire list, but here are my favorites:

  • Recognize that everything you do, every step you take, every sentence you write, every word you speak-or DON’T speak–counts. Nothing is trivial. The world may be big, but there are no small things. Everything matters.
  • To be the change you want to see in the world, you don’t have to be loud. You don’t have to be eloquent. You don’t have to be elected. You don’t even have to be particularly smart or well educated. You do, however, have to be committed.
  • In order for things to change, YOU have to change. We can’t change others; we can only change ourselves. However, when WE change, it changes everything. And in doing so, we truly can be the change we want to see in the world.