We Have Some More Work To Do…

MTV

MTV (Photo credit: Gnal)

I’ll admit I haven’t watched the MTV Video Music Awards since I was in college. To be honest I have never understood why MTV still has the VMAs because they don’t show music videos anymore; instead we have hours of Jersey Shore reruns and different renditions of 16 and Pregnant. (Notice how music is not mentioned… people still miss TRL… come on MTV….). So since MTV is beholden to the bonds of tradition and probably its more than likely one of the best nights for them in the ratings, we are graced to have the VMAs.

Over the years the VMAs (much like the Grammys) has become a “who can act the craziest without losing street cred” award show. Performers will have weird outfits (looking at you Lady Gaga) or do special musical collaborations so they are the ones that people talk about the next day. Brittney Spears made her come back, *NSync reunited for a performance together and new dad Kanye West stole the spot light from Taylor Swift, all on the VMAs. So whether we like award shows or not, they have given us these cultural gems.

Well congrats Miley Cyrus (daughter of Country Star Billy Ray Cyrus) and Robin Thicke (son of Alan Thicke of the 1980s hit Growing Pains) you have won the prize– you are the most talked about act of the night. I can’t escape hearing about you and your weird act. One of the first things I heard on the radio driving to work this morning pertained to you, people in the office were talking about you, Facebook and Twitter were a glow with reaction of your “performance.”

If you were like me and missed the VMAs and more specifically their performance, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version so you don’t have sit through the 6:30 musical mash up (or if you are brave you can watch it here). Miley sings a song and sticks her tongue out a lot; Robin Thicke comes out to sing with Miley. Miley makes a bunch of proactive moves, gestures and gyrations- many of which are with a foam finger. And scene.

Were we only surprised by this type of behavior because it is coming from good hearted, clean cut “Hanna Montana?” Sure Lady Gaga wore a thong and a sea shell bra and others have danced in the same manner and even worn the same style of outfits, but we have grown a custom (for good or for ill) to it.

However, the fact remains we really shouldn’t be shocked by this.

I know this flies in the face of almost everything you more than likely have read on this topic, but hear me out. I am not saying that what Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke did was proper, correct or appropriate; but what do we expect when our society tells us that sexuality or overt sexualization is the way to get noticed and to be popular? Was Miley just falling in line with societal norms? The world bombards us with thousands of images each day and many of them are of perfection and sexuality. And let’s not take Thicke off the hook here either; while he might not have been dancing in the same erratic manner as Cyrus, his latest music video has him singing with many different topless women.

Same problem, different mode of propagating it.

One thing we have to learn from all of this is that Miley Cyrus is not Hanna Montana anymore; she is an entertainer who likes attention and makes money doing it. This, however, does not negate the fact that millions of girls look up to her for her music, her personality and style. I can understand the notion that she wants to be seen as an adult and she wants to break away from her clean cut, Disney Channel image, but there has to be a better way. Miley might be trying to ‘express herself as an artist’ and ‘find her place in this world’ but what message are you sending to those fans? Is this the way that females are supposed to get the attention of males? Is this the way you get noticed? Will boys only like you if you stick your tongue out an exorbitant amount of time and wear a vinyl bikini and parade around with a foam finger? Where’s the empowerment message there Miley? Where’s the individuality that you profess? Is this Miley being Miley or is this Miley fitting into what is cool and flashy? Was it just for the sake of the viewers and for “your fans” that compelled you do show the world that side of you?

In one short act, Thicke and Cyrus made their performance less about the music and all about them, thus continuing the cycle of sexualization as a standard of normality in our society.

A colleague in ministry, Rev. David Hansen, tweeted:

(FYI… ichthyologist is a fancy word for a marine biologist more specifically fishes)

I agree with Rev. David and in a perfect world that would be the case; however whether we like it or not we live in a world where musicians, celebrities, actors and the like are who influence our young people.

So we have some more work to do …

Maybe our disgust will propel others to see that our society is shaping our understanding of sexuality.

Will this change that we are all looking for happen over night? More than likely not… actually we will have probably forgotten about twerk-gate 2013 sometime next week when something more ridiculous is thrusted into the mainstream. We probably wont remember it again until the 2014 VMAs when MTV shows the clip 756 times leading up to the big night.

Until then, we have some more work to do…

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Sermon Series: Disciples 101- Communion

DisciplesUniversity

This past Sunday I began a sermon series about the Disciples of Christ.  (Check out this page for more information)

Here is the first installment.

[audio http://k002.kiwi6.com/hotlink/988pbut4vo/disciples_university_101_communion.mp3|titles=Disciples 101: Communion|loop=no|animation=no]

(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Sermon: “You Will See Great Things”

 

Below is the link to the sermon I preached entitled You Will See Great Things.


(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 

Sermon: “All Encompassing Praise”

Praise The Lord

Praise The Lord (Photo credit: jubileelewis)

Below is the link to the sermon I preached entitled “All Encompassing Praise” based on Psalm 150 and Luke 17:11-19.

[audio http://k002.kiwi6.com/hotlink/0m2721je3j/all_encompassing_praise.mp3|titles=Children of the Light|loop=no|animation=no]
(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 

When Sports and a Personal Relationship with God Don’t Mix

20130810-230054.jpg

When I was in high school in small town East Texas, there was only one  thing to do on a Friday night during the Fall: high school football. Football in Texas is so big they made a television show about it. Texas high school football is akin to what Basketball is in Kentucky and Kansas, everyone is involved with it and if you arent– you fake it until you make it.

Much of the South is enamored with football; sadly in most areas where football is king, the football program is treated like mini royalty. They are lauded with the most funding, the newest equipment and workout facilities. I am not just talking about college here; this is happening on high school campuses around the country. There is a small town in East Texas in the process of completing a nearly 2 million dollar stadium build. Did I mention that this small town’s football team a couple of years ago went winless? This is the power that football has in Texas and much of the South.

In one school in Alabama, football and religion are supposed to mix, but there is a bit of twist. East Memorial Christian Academy is located in Prattville, Alabama- population 34,000. The school is apart of East Memorial Baptist Church. Recently the newly promoted Athletic Director was fired not because of inappropriate actions, allegations or mismanagement, but because he did not attend the “right” church. According to reports, Scott Phillips the former head football AND basketball coach was relieved of duty because he refused to transfer his family’s membership to East Memorial Baptist. Reportedly there was no provision in his contract regarding this matter.

Phillips tried to work it out by attending an early service at the church of his choosing and then attending East Memorial; after some time it became too difficult and he told the school he couldn’t attend East Memorial on Sunday mornings. This didn’t sit we’ll with the school and they let him go.

Most Christian or Religious schools (for good or for ill) have “statements of faith” that all employees must affirm or suffer the consequences. Generally these statements center around an employee adhering to the school’s stated belief system and theology. This statement is thus seen as the foundation of the school and its instruction. East Memorial does have a statement of belief listed on its website but nowhere on the site does it state that teachers, administration or even athletic directors must attend East Memorial Baptist. Actually I can’t find anything on the schools website that even claims they are affiliated, run, staffed or related to East Memorial Baptist.

What good does it do for the athletic director (and I am assuming other administration) to attend a particular church, especially if this requirement is not enforced or even asked of anyone else? I would think that a church that runs a school would be glad that their teachers attend anywhere on Sunday mornings.

What message did the school think it was sending when it fired the coach? The message that most people got from this situation was difference of theological and religious opinion is not tolerated. School is a place to learn and to have our eyes opened to the possibilities of what lies ahead. Where’s the questioning, the growing, the learning, the challenging of old ideas and constructions? This is not simply limited to the realm of academia but to all facets of theology as well as theological education and formation.

The motto of East Memorial Christian Academy is “shaping the hearts and minds for a lifetime of Christian service.” Perhaps this should be amended to read, “shaping the hearts and minds for a lifetime of Christian service as long as you attended the “right” church and/or have the “right” interpretation of the Scriptures, God and the like.

In my opinion this school failed its students and Coach Phillips. The school was intolerant to difference and the action of the school was nothing more than a status and turf war. It was childish and wrong. A person should be free to worship how they want without interference with their employer. The coach (as far was we know) adhered by the school’s theological belief system and his only ‘crime’ was winning a state championship.

One of the founding principles many Americans hold on to is the freedom of religion. People in this country are allowed to express their faith in a way that they find meaningful and comforting. So for me, come Sunday morning I go to the church of my choosing; I have my own theological understanding of God, Christ, salvation, worship etc. This freedom is also extended to high school athletic directors in Alabama.

The coach and his family have a church family where they are loved and accepted. They found God there and wanted to continue to worship and serve God there. How can that be wrong? Why would someone want to uproot a family for the sake of high school athletics? If the coach had gone to East Memorial Baptist and it was found out that he didn’t agree with a pastor’s teaching or didn’t give enough would he be fired for that too? Apparently the administration of East Memorial Christian Academy have a firm grip on what it means to embody the spirit of grace, welcoming, acceptance and love that Christ commands his followers to do.

Surely God is bigger than one church.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


EDIT 1- Formatting (8-11-13 @ 807PM)

Sermon: “Where Are You?”

English: This is the title screen from the ABC...

English: This is the title screen from the ABC series Lost. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below is a link to a sermon I preached entitled “Where Are You?” based on Exodus 17:1-7 and Philippians 2:1-13

http://k002.kiwi6.com/hotlink/a8721p1rkv/where_are_you.mp3
(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Have I Become The Christian I Dislike?

I live in Texas.  To many of its millions of residents it is the greatest state in the union.  We like things big and we like them to be bigger than every other state blessed to be in the Union.  Texans are proud of their state; chalk it up to early indoctrination of Texas history throughout the life cycle of Texas Public Education.

But being in Texas, especially East Texas, means that we are sitting squarely and firmly in the buckle of the Bible Belt.  The Bible Belt is a term used to describe the area where conservative Christianity is the prominent player in the state’s religiosity; generally this term refers to a high level of conservative, evangelical Christians.  This does not mean that you can’t find conservative, evangelical Christians outside of this arbitrary boundary but for some reason they seem to cluster in these areas in high concentrations.

I didn’t grow up in a church that beat people over the head in church or judged people for they way they acted.  I felt loved and welcomed in a place where people were friendly and they loved serving God.  I learned about Christ and God’s love for humanity.  It wasn’t until I was older that I began to hear more Christians speak more and more on the necessity of evangelising to people  or even being “saved correctly.”  I can remember on several occasions a certain church in the town I grew up in going door to door and asking people if they were to die tonight would they go to Heaven.  I can remember thinking that it was an odd tactic to get people to come to church.  It seemed so stand offish and so self righteous that it left a bad taste in my mouth.

As I have grown and matured this “I know more than you” mentality of Christianity has been something that I can not stand, especially when it flies in the face of my theology. Theology is a deeply personal thing. Hopefully, people have grown, honed and crafted their theology over time, adjusting and modifying it as time progresses and as contexts and situations change. I know some people will be turned off by the previous statement; please don’t read it  to say that I believe the message of God and/or Christ changes. The message of God’s love, acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation never changes but how we find and understand it does.  People’s life experiences influence their interpretation but as we grow and hopefully mature in faith we must recognize these changes.  It is when people are unwilling to see another side of the theological coin when Christianity turns into a stalemate. (Don’t believe me?  It is happening in churches all over this country.)

But as I have grown and changed and my level of disdain for pushy, in your face, literalistic, anti homosexual, “turn away from sin you sinning sinners” rhetoric has also grown, I have come to the realization that maybe I am just like those Christians that I dislike. Maybe I believe my way is the highway we should travel, disregarding others along the way.

The denomination that I serve and I am ordained has freedom of belief as main tenet of faith. Maybe this is why I get so upset- many people are being disenfranchised with church or Christianity because they believe or feel that Christianity is whatever is shown on TBN or the 700 Club.  It’s hard not to react when I hear people speaking of the president as the anti Christ (which the word “anti Christ” is never mentioned in the Bible) or how one day we will have to have the mark of the Beast to buy produce at the store or how things were better back in the good ol’ days when “everyone” went to church.

As one of my professors in seminary said just because we have freedom of belief doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as a bad theology. I guess at the core of Christianity we are all called to follow Christ but many Christians claim to be Christ’s followers in name only. Their actions do not match the gospel professed on Sunday mornings.

So maybe I am like those Christians I can’t stand but still I want to foster an environment that welcomes differing thoughts to the table. If in the light of a civil discussion or bible study we can come to a different agreement then that’s ok with me. However, sadly, this is not taking place in many of our churches. We have all been in churches where people of like mindedness get together and espouse the same doctrine and belief structure they have always done.  Why are we going to the Bible to only reinforce what we already know?  (I’m asking myself this questions as well.)

Being aware of my faults I will continue to strive to live out the gospel message as faithfully as possible and along the way I hope to bring others to know the same God of love  and acceptance that I do. I know too many people that have been “burned” by a “well intentioned, God fearing Christian.”  If the church is to survive another 2000 years then we will have to start somewhere.

Let’s come to the table under the banner of Christ in all its many forms. Just as Christ humbled himself so we must put aside anxieties, stereotypes and preconceived notions about others; just as Christ did not think too highly of himself (even though he was divine), neither should we think that we are more than fallible human beings.  We have no secret knowledge, just an understanding that God manifests Godself on this rock to show humanity a new vision– giving and serving  others. Thinking that we have it all figured out or our ticket is punched is a rejection of the grace of God and the teaching of Christ.

In Christ

Rev. Evan


This piece is also published on Sojourners

Sermon: “Children of the Light”

A powerful light shines in the dark.

A powerful light shines in the dark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below is the link to the sermon I preached entitled Children of the Light.


(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


Edit 1: Updated .mp3 link at 8:30pm