Go To Church, Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber famously got his start in the music industry at the age of thirteen after being discovered on YouTube. Several multi-platinum R&B records later, he is now twenty-one, and frequently mocked on Late Night for his bad boy antics, which include: vandalism, an arrest for drag . . . . Continue Reading »

Sporting Transcendence

Recently I got quite caught up in a football game on television. It was a close match right to the very end. And in a dramatic finish the college team I was rooting for pulled off the victory. Watching it was a good way of spending a few hours. I did not experience any self-transcendence, however. . . . . Continue Reading »

China's New Consumerism

On a chilly afternoon last October, as my son and I walked through a bustling shopping district in Xi’an, China, we passed a group of teenage girls who were chattering loudly in Mandarin. Obviously they had been shopping in a nearby mall, as several of them were carrying bags labeled with familiar names, including “Gap.” What struck me especially, though, was that one of the young women wore a t-shirt featuring a picture of Justin Bieber.Earlier that day I had given a lecture to 120 pastors from midwestern and western China, who had been brought together by the Three-Self church leadership for continuing education. In our conversations, several pastors expressed concern about a growing penchant for consumerism in the younger generation, a reality that was confirmed for me by my brief encounter with the teenagers. Continue Reading »

All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Evangelicalism

Sometime in the mid-1990s, sickened by what I perceived as the shallowness of evangelical culture in suburban Wheaton, Illinois, I launched into the post-hippie, proto-hipster nightlife of Chicago. I roamed not yet fully gentrified streets with dropouts and homeless people, under the L-tracks and along the wind-battered shores of the third coast. The counter-culture then radiated from Belmont Avenue, which I imagined to be something like what Haight-Ashbury (since colonized by Ben & Jerry’s) must have been in 1969.Following one such night of seeking suburban Wheaton’s opposite, I experienced a moment of transfixing beauty. I wandered into Lincoln Park Zoo at dawn and had it all to myself—a solitary Adam among the animals. Then, as I watched sea lions frolic in the shallows of their tank I braced myself for a return to Wheaton College where I would reluctantly (and barely) finish my undergraduate degree. In my arrogance, I may have even thought to myself that I was returning to splash in the shallows with evangelicals like the animals before me. Continue Reading »

Tragic Worship

The problem with much Christian worship in the contemporary world, Catholic and Protestant alike, is not that it is too entertaining but that it is not entertaining enough. Worship characterized by upbeat rock music, stand-up comedy, beautiful people taking center stage, and a certain amount of . . . . Continue Reading »

The Nicene Creed, A DVD Documentary

Some of you might have noticed this, but I thought it appropriate to point out on Evangel that First Things has produced its first video, The Creed: What Christians Profess, and Why It Ought to Matter. It is a documentary about the Nicene Creed. I stumbled on this because I was looking for . . . . Continue Reading »

Longing for Lent and Liturgy

The risk is mindless ritualism, but I can’t help but wonder if the benefits are so much  more that the risk worth taking. T’is the season for many blog posts on Lent, but my experience last weekend demands I say something on the topic.Invited to St. George’s Anglican Church in . . . . Continue Reading »

On Hymn and Stories

Many of our hymns have a rich, and sometimes painful, history behind them.  There is Amazing Grace and the Lord’s redemption of John Newton from the most vile of livelihoods — the slave trade.  Then there is Horatio Spafford’s It is Well with My Soul.  The first part . . . . Continue Reading »

The Subtle Narcissism of Church Segmentation

I love Greek myths. You may remember the story of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool, staring at himself and finally dying when he realized that he could not “have” himself. The nymph Echo repeated Narcissus’ words endlessly, until she too was reduced to . . . . Continue Reading »