I love Derek Webb. I first started listening to his music in 1994 when I was in college and when he was in Caedmonâ€™s Call. I will never forget the first time I saw Derek perform live with Caedmonâ€™s (circa 1995). It was at Tulane University in New Orleans, and I and the other hundred or so people were mesmerized for the entire concert. When I heard Derek sing and play â€œBus Driverâ€ that night, he became my favorite of the group. It was one of the best shows Iâ€™d ever been to. Continue Reading →
Can a rock star preach? Apparently those who head up the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. think Bono can. Last week, he spoke at the annual event with President Bush sitting close by (for a transcript click here). I would argue, however, that although there was much to commend in Bonoâ€™s remarks, there was also much to be concerned about.
We can all appreciate and affirm Bonoâ€™s desire to see the Christian church get more involved in addressing poverty and disease in Africa. We welcome the challenge that he gave to Americans to be more generous in their giving to charities that help bring relief to those who are suffering there. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ has the responsibility to care for â€œthe least of these,â€ and Bono has rightly called all our attention to the needy in Africa.
I fear, however, that with Bono and with many others the gospel message gets muddled in the murky waters of religious pluralism. That is, the distinctive Christian gospel too often gets shuffled to the side so as not to offend well-meaning people of other faiths with whom Christians cooperate in acts of mercy. At the breakfast, Bonoâ€™s appeal to Christian Scripture and to the Koran is a case in point of this danger. Yet, Christians derive their impulse for mercy directly from a gospel that teaches God is merciful to us through Jesus Christ crucified (Romans 12:1-2).
Iâ€™m concerned that Bonoâ€™s language can send the wrong message to a listening world. Many will hear Bonoâ€™s call (and those sympathetic with him) and will wrongly conclude that all religions are equal. They will also miss the truth that God is reconciling the world to Himself exclusively through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19).
I donâ€™t think of Bono as an evangelical spokesman, but I do think that he has the ear of many Evangelical Christians. An article in Christianity Today, for example, called Bonoâ€™s remarks â€œprophetic.â€ Even though Bono and others may appeal to the Bible, Evangelicals should listen critically when considering messages such as his. When it comes to extending mercy to the least of these in Africa, letâ€™s all say â€œamenâ€ to Bonoâ€™s call and give until it hurts. Let us cooperate with others in extending this mercy in so far as we can do so without compromising the gospel.
But let us never forget that for Christians the centrality of Jesus Christ crucified is a non-negotiable (1 Corinthians 2:2). We should never compromise this focus in the cause of mercy. Rather, our acts of compassion should bring it into sharper view (Matthew 5:16). Iâ€™m not sure Bono has grasped this yet. Letâ€™s hope and pray that Evangelical Christians do.
The cover story of the most recent issue of Touchstone magazine is about Johnny Cash, and itâ€™s written by Russell Moore. This is an excellent piece, and I highly recommend your reading it.
Scot McKnight, however, does not share my enthusiasm about Mooreâ€™s article and has criticized it here. Moore has responded to McKnightâ€™s response here. Now McKnight has responded to Mooreâ€™s response to McKnightâ€™s response here.
If that all sounds confusing, then let me sum it up for you. McKnight thinks that people like Moore should have been more supportive of Cashâ€™s Christian conversion about twenty or thirty years ago. For McKnight, supporting Cash now is too little too late.
In other words, the Emergent folks donâ€™t seem to be very tolerant of Mooreâ€™s admiration for the sinner Johnny Cash.
How ironic is that?
One of the things that I love most about Russell Moore is his taste in country music. He is not nearly as much a Dixie-Chick-Keith-Urban country music fan as he is a George-Jones-Loretta-Lynn kind of a fan. He likes the old timey stuff.
Thatâ€™s why I enjoyed reading his review of the new movie about Johnny Cash. Moore discusses the movie Walk the Line and generally gives it a good review. He also talks about Cashâ€™s conversion which is not featured explicitly in the movie. The last paragraph of the review sums up Mooreâ€™s admiration for the late Johnny Cash.
My sons know Johnny Cash quite well because they hear his music around them all the time. My infant son’s lullaby each night is a Carter Family song. When they are older, we’ll watch Walk the Line. But we’ll follow it up with a reminder from Scripture that sums up Johnny and June more than celebrity can ever explain: They loved much for they were forgiven much. There was a Man in Black, not because of a marketing gimmick, but because he understood with lifelong pain what it means to descend into a “Ring of Fire” and to find a Deliverer on the other side.
Hip-hop star Kanye West went on a tirade during NBCâ€™s disaster relief fundraiser tonight. West and Michael Myers were paired together during a segment so that they could appeal to a nationwide TV audience to donate money to the Red Cross. After Michael Myers opened with a few remarks, Kanye West began a meandering monologue that was clearly not written on his cue card and was very difficult to understand. However, a few things came through loud and clear.
First, West made the outlandish claim that the government had given the troops in New Orleans permission to shoot black people. Second, he accused the media of racist coverage, alleging that reporters are saying that black families are looting while white families are just looking for food. Third, West punctuated his screed with an low-blow against the President: â€œGeorge Bush doesn’t care about black peopleâ€ (the Washington Post has the entire exchange here).
I fear that West has been drinking deeply from the propaganda of the race-baiters who have been trying to exploit this tragedy for their own ends. For instance, consider Al Sharptonâ€™s accusation on Keith Olbermannâ€™s program just last night: â€œAnd the real question is not only those that didnâ€˜t get out. The question is why has it taken the government so long to get in. I feel that, if it was in another area, with another economic strata and racial makeup, that President Bush would have run out of Crawford a lot quicker and FEMA would have found its way in a lot soonerâ€ (source).
Consider also how Jesse Jackson criticized the federal response to the disaster: â€œHow can blacks be locked out of the leadership, and trapped in the suffering? It is that lack of sensitivity and compassion that represents a kind of incompetence. . . There’s a historical indifference to the pain of poor people and black people . . . [the new media has] criminalized the people of New Orleans” by focusing on violence in the city (source).
So you see, Kanye West didnâ€™t say anything that these race-baiters havenâ€™t been saying all week. But Westâ€™s remarks do reveal just how reckless the rhetoric of the Jacksons and the Sharptons can be. What should have been a non-partisan appeal to the better angels of American nature turned into a counter-productive blame game.
Nevermind the fifty-percent of Americans who would take great offense at Westâ€™s parroted accusations. Nevermind the fact that such remarks might disincline some from contributing to the Red Cross disaster-relief fund. Just blame Bush and exploit the tragedy for partisan advantage. That does not sound very compassionate to me.
NBC tried to recover the good will of its viewers with the following statement that was released after the concert:
â€œKanye West departed from the scripted comments that were prepared for him, and his opinions in no way represent the views of the networks. It would be most unfortunate if the efforts of the artists who participated tonight and the generosity of millions of Americans who are helping those in need are overshadowed by one personâ€™s opinionâ€ (source).
I am not saying that the south doesnâ€™t have serious racial issues to confront. Believe me, we do. And I am certain I will have more to write on that topic later. But tonight, I am just troubled by the irresponsible, inflammatory statements made by West.
Nick Cannon and His Mother
Itâ€™s not often that a rap video brings a tear to your eye. But my wife and I watched one tonight that did.
Some of you may know Nick Cannon from the hit movie â€œDrumlineâ€ or perhaps from his new show on MTV, â€œNick Cannon Presents Wild ‘N Out.â€ What you may not know is that he released a music video this summer that is powerfully pro-life.
The lyrics to the song tell the true story of Nick Cannonâ€™s mother. When she became pregnant with Nick, she was an unwed teenager. She made it all the way to the operating table of the abortion clinic when she realized that she was about to do something awful. So she got up and walked away from the clinic and away from the abortion. The rest of the song is a â€œthank youâ€ to his mother for letting him live. The video closes with Nick embracing and thanking his real-life mother.
The music video to the song â€œCan I Liveâ€ is one of the most poignant pro-life messages that I have ever witnessed. Reading the lyrics alone wonâ€™t really convey the emotional wallop that you get from watching the video. So I highly recommend clicking here or here to see it for yourself.
Kathryn Jean Lopez from National Review Online writes:
â€œCannon’s new music video â€˜Can I Live?â€™ tells a tale that’s very different from a gangsta’s paradise of dirty dancing and booty calls that Cannon may be sandwiched in between on MTV or BET. In the song, the hip-hop pop star tells his life story â€” or at least the beginning of it and his mom’s close call with abortion.
â€œCannon, 24, appears in the video as a ghost (or an angel, if you prefer) and sings, â€˜Mommy, I don’t like this clinic. Hopefully you’ll make the right decision, and don’t go through with the knife decision.â€™
â€œA scared teen, his mother was on a gurney â€” that’s how close the call was â€” but got up, and, at least in the video version, ran.
â€œHe points out to his mother something she got on some level, or she wouldn’t have gotten up: â€˜That’s a life inside you, look at your tummy. What is becoming Ma, I am Oprah bound. You can tell he’s a star from the Ultrasound.â€™
â€œThe video images tell a stirring, gripping story regardless of where you fall in the abortion debate.â€
Go watch the video and buy the single. We should support something that is bound to save many lives that might otherwise have been snuffed out.
(R. Albert Mohler talked about the video on his radio show. You can download the mp3 of Mohlerâ€™s program here.)
(HT to Justin Taylor whose blog first brought this video to my attention.)
For you rabid U2 fans, I thought you might be interested in an interview with Bono appearing on the Christianity Today website. The interview appears under the title â€œBono: Grace over Karma.â€ Among other things, Bono is able to articulate a fairly clear profession of faith in Christ.
â€œI’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity . . . I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbledâ€¦ . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.â€
I donâ€™t know much about Bonoâ€™s religious commitments or how his definition of terms may vary from that of the typical North American Evangelical. But at first blush, this isnâ€™t too shabby.
The interviewer (who is a skeptic, to say the least) goes on to ask: â€œChrist has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?â€ Bono responds:
â€œNo, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: â€˜I’m the Messiah.â€™ I’m saying: â€˜I am God incarnate.â€™ . . . So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He wasâ€”the Messiahâ€”or a complete nutcase . . . The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched . . .â€
Here, Bono sounds as if heâ€™s been reading C. S. Lewisâ€™ â€œLord, Liar, or Lunaticâ€ trilemma. Whatever the case, I have to give Bono credit for giving such a thoughtful answer.
Notwithstanding his apparent misunderstanding of the relationship of the Old Testament to the New, the entire interview was a pleasant surprise.
by Denny Burk
O Jesus, Savior of my life,
My hope, my joy, my sacrifice,
Iâ€™ve searched and found no other one
Who loves me more than you have done. (John 15:13)
So I denounce my lingering sin
Whose power You have broke within (Rom 6:14)
My ever weak and faithless frame. (Rom 7:14)
Its vigorâ€™s crushed in Jesus name.
For your death did at once proclaim,
The Fatherâ€™s glory and my shame. (Rom 3:25-26)
And you did seize my cup of guilt (Luke 22:42)
And drank all that the chalice spilled. (1 Cor 5:21)
No condemnation now I dread
Because you went for me instead
To bear the Fatherâ€™s hell-bent rage,
To pay the debt I would have paid.
Yet your work finished not with death,
Nor with your final murdered breath.
For deathâ€™s blows could not ever quell
The One whose life is in Himself. (John 5:26)
Your passion broke forth full with life
And foiled the adversaryâ€™s wiles
And broke the chains and killed the sting (1 Cor 15:55-57)
In which death had imprisoned me.
O Savior, who died in my stead, (Mark 10:45; Heb 9:28)
You firstborn from among the dead, (Col 1:18)
O Savior, you who saved my life, (Matt 1:21; John 12:47; 1 Cor 1:21)
Will take me whole to paradise. (Rev 22:1-7)
So on this resurrection day
I lift my voice with all the saints
And sing with all my ransomed might (1 Tim 2:6)
Of You, the Savior of my life.
Iâ€™ve just posted a review of the the Critics‘ debut CD on the â€œCD Babyâ€ website (click here). â€œSoul Still Remembersâ€ really is my new favorite album, and the Critics are my new favorite band.
Musically, â€œSoul Still Remembersâ€ deserves a place among the all-time greats. I am a fan of bands like Counting Crows, Vertical Horizon, and Train, and this album surpasses them all. A written review cannot do justice to the Critics by way of description. You simply have to buy this album and listen to it for yourself.
To enjoy the album as it was intended, you really have to buy the CD. The songs are not arranged willy-nilly, but actually appear in an intentional sequence. The CD jacket is printed like a book, complete with chapter divisions and endnotes. Each song comprises a chapter (or â€œcantoâ€) in what is supposed to look like a book of poetry. And the lyrics are indeed poetry.
The lyrics portray the ruminations of an individual who is grappling with the issue of repentance, and each chapter opens up new vistas into the human condition before God. All of this is mixed with a profound understanding of the Word of God and how it describes our plight and salvation. Every time I reread these lyrics, there is a new insight that I hadnâ€™t seen before.
One of my favorite songs of the album is â€œTo Jeremiah,â€ a poem about the prophet and the Biblical book bearing his name. This song illustrates what is true of the rest of the pieces on the album; the lyrics can stand alone by themselves as poetry. Hereâ€™s â€œTo Jeremiahâ€:
Sing to me, Jeremiah,
of pickled skin and cracked bones,
of wrists rusted by chains
and feet cut by the stony road
where lion and bear wait
to kill your view of faulty Zion,
stripped down from her hill.
Tell me, Jeremiah,
about this town with no King,
where you, pressed face-long to the ground,
taste your teeth broken down
for the least of these.
Women eat salty skin
boiled and baked within them,
in their own hands,
and the prophets lie
and see clever fantasies
to calm the captives.
Let me, Jeremiah,
bear the yoke while Iâ€™m young
that I might sit down and shut up
disgraced in my own ashesâ€”
a â€œharlot-townâ€™s sonâ€â€”
so I can better know your hope
because, sir, Iâ€™ve seen your King.
Oh, Jeremiah sing,
for your King, at last, has come.
A new kingdom has come.
Do not delay. Make haste and add this album to your collection.
(When you visit the CD Baby website, listen to the following songs: “A Floor Below,” “Worse Than I Thought,” and “Soul Still Remembers.”)