Religion | The Talking Mirror https://thetalkingmirror.com HUMOR, SATIRE, AND CULTURAL CRITICISM FROM A COUPLE OF CONSERVATIVE BADASSES Tue, 05 Jun 2018 12:13:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://thetalkingmirror.com/wp-content/uploads/cropped-ttm-icon-32x32.png Religion | The Talking Mirror https://thetalkingmirror.com 32 32 Gay Marriage and Why Christians Shouldn’t Care https://thetalkingmirror.com/gay-marriage-and-why-christians-shouldnt-care/ https://thetalkingmirror.com/gay-marriage-and-why-christians-shouldnt-care/#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2017 19:00:44 +0000 http://ttm.birkey.com/?p=32 gay-marriage-rings

On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court struck down gay marriage bans all over the country. To most that have observed the turning tide regarding gay marriage, this did not come as a surprise. Still, many Christians all over the country, including many candidates for the Republican nomination for President, insist on acting as if this ruling never happened. They think that SCOTUS has gone off the rails and it is their job to correct the direction of our national moral compass.

I, on the other hand, think Christians shouldn’t really care.

A few introductory notes: I’m a practicing, conservative evangelical Christian, who grew up Southern Baptist and graduated from Wheaton College (Billy Graham’s alma mater), where I minored in Bible and Theology. In other words, I’m very familiar with the Christian arguments against gay marriage, which are more complex than secular observers may realize. Believing that I should submit to the scriptures rather than trying to make the scriptures submit to me, I have struggled with these arguments, unsure of their validity and of their righteousness.

To me, the scriptures are clear: homosexual behavior is sinful. I have read and heard the arguments on both sides from a theological perspective, and I do not believe arguments trying to sanction homosexual behavior through the scriptures hold any water. There are intelligent people that disagree with me, but the majority of Christian scholarship across denominations is united on this subject: homosexual behavior is not permissible within a Christian moral framework.

At the same time, I believe Christians should not fret over the Supreme Court’s ruling because it wasn’t a necessary fight in the first place. Moral beliefs don’t depend on public opinion surveys or even on rulings from our nation’s highest court. Our arguments against gay marriage don’t apply to the government’s definition of marriage, and our focus on the political fight against gay marriage has become and will continue to be a damaging distraction. To explain why, I’ll address the key Christian arguments against gay marriage.

Sanctioning Sin

Let me start with what is probably the most prevalent argument: because homosexuality is sinful, we can’t sanction it by condoning legal gay marriage. To address this argument, we have to break down what “homosexuality” means in this context. Is homosexuality sinful? If the word refers to homosexual behavior, then the answer is yes. If it means the state of being a homosexual – a person who confesses to feel a natural attraction to people of the same gender – then I would say that is not a sin, since we all naturally feel drawn to many sinful things.

Some Christians, of course, still object to the idea that people can be born gay, and insist that sexual orientation is a choice in spite of testimony from gay people that it isn’t. These Christians, I think, may be afraid to concede that people can be born gay because they think that it weakens or even invalidates our position on this issue. To those Christians I would say, first: we must address people on their terms. We cannot get inside their heads, know their memories, or feel their feelings, so how can we tell them what is true about their own experiences? Beyond that, I would assure them that you can believe that sexual orientation is innate without condoning homosexual behavior. We are all born with an attraction to sin. We don’t sin against God by being tempted; we sin by entertaining those desires – by actions over which we have complete control. In other words, even if a man is naturally attracted to other men, that doesn’t mean he is forced to act on that attraction. The sin is the behavior.

And with regard to gay marriage, the behavior in question was already legal. Homosexual couples are engaging in the sins described in the scriptures whether they are married or not. Now that gay marriage is legal, it doesn’t follow that we, as Christians, are condoning such sin or agreeing that it’s acceptable just because we aren’t campaigning to criminalize it. It’s probably true that now that gay marriage has been legalized, homosexual relationships will become more socially acceptable and thus more prevalent. But in many ways I would say that ship has sailed. Turn on any television show, read any book, browse any news site – gay and lesbian Americans are pretty well represented in our culture & media. Homosexuality is, or is quickly becoming, a societal norm.

Damaging Society

That, in itself, is a concern for some Christians. They worry that the growing acceptance of homosexuality is damaging society because it is leading to a growing acceptance of homosexual parenting. In their view this would irreparably degrade the “traditional” nuclear family unit and possibly pave the way for even more forms of experimentation, such as polygamy.

When we present this argument, Christians are essentially insulting homosexuals by saying that every heterosexual degradation of the family unit has been fine with us, but theirs is unacceptable. The more important question for Christians, I think, is whether or not widespread social acceptance of homosexuality, and by extension gay marriage, hinders our mission as believers in some new or uniquely damaging way. There are a lot of sins that are legal, or even accepted by our society. Doesn’t society already condone rampant use of pornography? Sex outside of marriage? Greed? Such phenomena, old or new, haven’t necessarily damaged the Church or been embraced by many believers. And where they have, it has only been because we have allowed it. It was not and is not inevitable.

For example, let’s take a closer look at divorce. A 2011 survey found that Christians who identify as evangelical and regularly attend church have a 38% divorce rate. While that’s lower than the rate of divorce among religiously unaffiliated Americans, it is still surprisingly high. If adultery is the only Biblically permissible criteria for divorce, do you really think that 38% of married Christians who regularly attend church committed adultery? And if 38% of evangelicals who regularly attend church commit adultery that results in divorce, don’t we still have a huge problem? Either we have a church culture of flippant divorce or we have a church culture of marital infidelity, both of which are cancers upon the very heart of what we would consider the traditional family unit. It’s hard to claim the moral high ground when Christians are ceding it faster than you can say “pre-nup.”

Encouraging Persecution

Christians also sometimes worry that legal gay marriage will yield to wanton and rampant persecution of the Christian Church in the media and culture and perhaps via litigation, particularly in the context of the most recent public persecutions of businesses that have refused to take part in gay marriages, even hypothetically. They fear that churches and other places of worship that choose not to perform homosexual weddings will be accused of bigotry and perhaps be sued for discrimination. The former scenario seems more likely to me than the latter, but either way, I don’t think this should be our motivating concern. Nowhere in the scriptures does Christ encourage his followers to avoid persecution at all costs. Instead, he says that we should expect persecution; in Matthew 5:10-12 he even calls it a blessing. And while it is true that there’s nothing in the Bible calling us to seek out persecution, observing changes to the government’s marriage laws rather than pushing to establish our morality as secular law is not the same as seeking out persecution.

There are also Christian arguments against gay marriage that have less to do with homosexuality, per se, than with the role of the Church in society. One is that the government has changed the definition of marriage. This one is 100% true. Our secular government has changed the legal definition of marriage. My response to this is: So what? The legal definition of marriage is the only thing the government can change. Legislators and judges and Supreme Court justices can’t reach into our Bibles and change the text to suit society. Now that gay marriage is legal, homosexual behavior is still sinful according to the scriptures, and homosexual marriages are still prohibited in the Church. The government can’t change the Christian definition of marriage.

And let’s be honest, the government has never exactly been bound by the Christian definition of marriage. Christians see marriage as a covenant before God. For the religious, the real marriage ceremony happens in the place of worship and includes many provisions that exceed the government’s standards for commitment. While the religious marriage often coincides with the government’s version of marriage and the government’s version prevails in legal matters, if you’re acting on faith, what the government does is basically paperwork.

Flouting our Heritage

Christians sometimes respond to this by saying that our faith should be treated differently because America was founded as a “Christian nation.” This is simply untrue. Was our nation founded on a generally Judeo-Christian moral structure? Yes, I don’t think that’s a far reach. However, as a “Christian” nation? Many of the founding fathers were not exactly paragons of Christian faith or advocates for theocracy. I am not going to delve into historical evidence, as that isn’t the point of this article.

Let me instead ask this question: even if the founding fathers were all faithful Christians and did not found the United States with freedom of religion as a core principal after fleeing religious persecution in Europe, even if they did intend for this country to be “Christian,” would we want that? A forced faith is no faith at all. A Christian theocracy will not result in a Christian society or a Christian populace. Living morally doesn’t beget salvation in Christianity. Salvation begets moral living.

In Conclusion

Matthew 7 clearly states that we are not called to judge others. Paul later elaborated on judgment when speaking about church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5. He exhorts the Church at Corinth “not to associate with sexually immoral people.” (1 Cor 5 v9, HCSB). The next verses have resonated with me as I’ve reflected on gay marriage: (1 Corinthians 5 V10-13, HCSB, emphasis mine)

10 I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. 11 But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 12 For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? 13 But God judges outsiders.

Why would we be concerned with the morality of the secular world? That is not for us to judge. Let us examine the giant planks in the eye of the American Christian Church and work about removing those instead.

I am not saying that Christians should not be involved in politics or that Christians shouldn’t be concerned with political matters. But I don’t think that the real object of concern in any of these arguments is actually Christ or our faith in Him. I think we are concerned that our comfortable, ichthus-decal culture may be crumbling around us. Homosexual marriage will not change the truth of the Gospel, it will not destroy the Church, and it will not hinder our mission as believers. It will, however, make us very uncomfortable, and I’d say that may be just exactly what we need.

Christ could have ascended to the highest levels of government when He came to Earth, establishing his Kingdom and law over all the land, which is what the Jews expected of a Messiah. Instead He came to Earth, washed the feet of sinners, built loving relationships with the lowliest of lows, and died a wretched, vulgar death to save the lives of all people. His example should be the cornerstone in our approach to those outside the Church.

People will not be converted by a legislated Gospel. They will be converted by seeing the sincerity of your faith in your everyday life. They will feel the radiance of the Holy Spirit as you walk with them through their lives – the good, the bad, and the boring. That is how we will transform our culture and society.

One relationship at a time.

This piece has been read over and edited by many friends, and to them I send many thanks. Particularly to Erica Grieder at Texas Monthly, who spent a lot of time and energy refining this piece with me. Thanks for your help, Erica!

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John Piper on Premarital Sex: More Disturbing than Your Parents https://thetalkingmirror.com/john-piper-on-premarital-sex-more-disturbing-than-your-parents/ https://thetalkingmirror.com/john-piper-on-premarital-sex-more-disturbing-than-your-parents/#respond Sun, 22 Jan 2017 06:29:56 +0000 http://ttm.birkey.com/?p=88 Let me just start out by saying that generally, according to his theology and for his appreciation of Tenacious D, I like John Piper. In this situation, I don’t disagree with the overall message that Piper is conveying. This guy is dropping truth bombs so hard, it’s like the swimming pool at fat camp after a cannonball contest. Water is everywhere. Or something. You get the idea. I don’t disagree with the theology being presented. It’s the method with which he conveys that message that I’m about to lampoon, not the content itself.

Watch this video. It’s about 6 minutes long total and the part I’m concerned with begins about 3 minutes and 15 seconds into it, so you can skip ahead if you want. There’s also a transcription below, if you’re lazy. Who am I kidding? I know you’re lazy. Just read the transcription.

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/MediaPlayer/3371/Video/

This is from a segment called “Ask Pastor John,” where he takes questions from people and does his best to answer them. The question in this situation is:

If you were a youth pastor with two minutes to convince a young man not to sleep with his girlfriend, what would you say? Would your comments be different if you were talking to a young lady?

Good question, right? Every Christian that’s ever been in a romantic relationship has had this issue come up. Where’s the line? If I love her, why can’t we? What about if we keep our eyes closed? Or if I have gloves on? And ski pants? We’re going to get married anyway. Piper provides multiple approaches to answer this question which are generally solid, but he ruins it in a big way about 3:15 when he presents his “second approach” to addressing this issue. It’s jaw dropping. Here’s what he says:

Piper: Number two you’d say: You know, don’t you, that Christ died for you sins? All of them, including your future fornication. When you penetrate this woman, you thrust a sword into Jesus’ side. Think about that. Do you want to do that? Every sin you commit is a fresh sword thrust into the side of Jesus. You keep that in your mind, buddy.

Wow, Pastor John. Wow. I just… I just don’t know what to say. Did you really have to do that? Did you really have to go there, with that, like that? I mean, there are a lot of other ways to say that that don’t involve the image of stabbing Jesus with a penis. You really had no other thought in your mind other than a metaphor that is featured in every single romance novel ever? If the tactic you were going for was to disturb people out of premarital sex, you were completely successful. In fact, I’m not sure you didn’t scare married couples out of having sex. He even pauses to say “think about that,” for emphasis. I don’t want to think about that, Pastor John. Not because I disagree with you, but because I now have the image in my mind of a wiener killing Jesus and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same.

"Just picture it, stabbing Jesus with your dong"

“Just picture it, stabbing Jesus with your dong”

Maybe he was put on the spot and it was unintentional, but this is a recording. This was edited. You could have gone back and re-shot that particular segment. Why didn’t you? Did you think that was an effective way to convey your point? Any junior high kid that was actually considering asking this question just frantically turned off their computer and hid under their bed. Sex is already an uncomfortable subject for many young people, especially Christian kids. Who are they going to ask? Their parents? That’s a terrifying prospect for Christian and non-Christian kids alike, because it presupposes that our parents would be speaking from experience with each other and sweet Moses please bleach my mind.

More than that, it’s an important subject; if young people can’t get respectful, engaging, normal information from their church leaders about sexuality and its place within Christian life, they’re going to get it somewhere else, like MTV or Dr. Phil. Have you seen that guy? These kids are sincerely seeking advice, trying to do the right thing. It’s not really helpful to tell them that when they’re considering rounding the bases they’re really thinking about penis-stabbing Jesus.

Just as effective, Pastor John.

Just as effective, Pastor John.

The problem here is that the delivery overwhelms the message. This is a sensitive subject, one where violent, hyperbolic images have no place. This isn’t Iraq, dude. Leave the Shock and Awe for the military.

People will remember your message, sure – but they won’t take it seriously. They’ll be too focused on how you just scarred them for life, and they’re never going to want to ask for your perspective again for fear of the next horrifying image you may conjure up.

Not good this time, John Piper. Not good.

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An Apology from Jennifer Knapp’s Last Boyfriend https://thetalkingmirror.com/an-apology-from-jennifer-knapps-last-boyfriend/ https://thetalkingmirror.com/an-apology-from-jennifer-knapps-last-boyfriend/#comments Sat, 21 Jan 2017 06:23:37 +0000 http://ttm.birkey.com/?p=85 Dear Evangelical Community,

Hello.  My name is Christopher Benson.  You can call me Topher.  Unless you workout at Cardinal Fitness in West Pittsburgh or have a child in K – 5th grade PE at Samuel Adams Elementary, chances are good that we have never met.  Despite the fact that we are strangers, I feel I owe you an apology.  Without even meaning to I have recently impacted your lives, your hearts, and your iPods in a tragic and permanent way.  I have come to humbly beg for forgiveness.

You’re probably wondering, “man, what terrible thing did this guy do?  Did he vote Democrat?  Did he visit San Francisco?”  Sadly, it was much worse than that.  You see, back in the early 2000’s, I was dating this singer/songwriter chick named Jennifer Knapp, and…well…I’ll just say it: I’m pretty sure I turned her gay.

Not that it’s any consolation, but I promise it was an accident.  When I met Jenn she seemed like all the other nice, decently cute (call her a 7.5), heterosexual girls I’ve dated in the past.  We dated for about two years, and, not only did we have an awesome couple name (Jenntopher), I thought we had a really great time together.

We were both into the same things like sports, music, professional wrestling, and my body.  Plus, she always seemed to get a kick out of my jokes about her last name.  Like when I wiped barbeque sauce all over her shirt and called her a “Knappkin.” There was that other time she was in a crappy mood and I said “sounds like Jennifer needs a Knapp!” Yeah bro, I went there. Or the other time when I threw her over my shoulder and walked around Six Flags calling her my “Knapp-sack.”  She wasn’t laughing, but I could tell she got the joke.

Things were going good for like a year, but then, completely out of nowhere, she started getting crazy.  And I’m not talking fun, Britney Spears crazy.  I’m talking scary, Rosie O’Donnell crazy.  Looking back, that probably should have been my first clue that Jenn was…different. But what can I say?  I was young.  I was also going through a thirty-rack of Bud Heavy every two days or so.  Certain things were missed.

Jenn was always saying things like, “You’ve never supported me as an artist” which was dumb because she knew full well that I gave away all my copies of her CDs just so my friends could learn to love her music too.  And she would always bring up the fact that I’d never technically “been” to one of her concerts even though I had told her many times that it wasn’t personal. I just get creeped out by chicks playing the guitar.  Always have, always will.

Needless to say, things didn’t work out between us.  She moved to Australia, I moved in with my mom for awhile.  It was no different from any other breakup, and I figured she’d go back to dating boys and I’d go back to dating girls, just like we did before we met.  I swear, I was just as shocked as you when I found out she was a dy…that she was gay.

Of course, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.  (Note: turns out this saying has nothing to do with how good your eyesight is when you’re checking out a chick’s caboose.  That’s another thing Jennifer taught me.)  Looking back on our tumultuous relationship, I can see many things I should have done differently.  I probably shouldn’t have called her a “frumpy version of Rebecca St. James.”  I probably shouldn’t have told her about all the things I wanted to do to Jaci Valasquez.  I probably shouldn’t have shacked up with her sister that one Thanksgiving.

I probably shouldn’t have done a lot of things.  Let me reiterate, I was drinking a lot in those days.  But this letter isn’t about the past.  It’s about the future.  And in the future, Jennifer Knapp is gay and Topher Benson is really sorry about it.

The fact that it was an accident and that it happened nearly a decade ago does not excuse what I’ve done.  I’ve taken something from all of you and I’m not just talking about the CDs you had to destroy by ritual fire.  I’m talking about Jennifer Knapp.  I’m talking about the role model, the spiritual adviser, and the sex symbol who was sensual but still wearing a shirt.  I’ve ruined yet another safe alternative to Katy Perry, and for this and for everything else I am truly, sadly, deeply sorry.

There’s nothing I can do to take away the pain I have caused.  I can only offer my sincere apologies and my solemn promise that I will never again turn a beloved Christian pop singer into a lesbian.  This is all I have to give and I hope it is enough.

Sincerely,

Topher Benson

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The Over-Analysis: Christian Knock-offs https://thetalkingmirror.com/the-over-analysis-christian-knock-offs/ https://thetalkingmirror.com/the-over-analysis-christian-knock-offs/#respond Fri, 20 Jan 2017 07:17:46 +0000 http://ttm.birkey.com/?p=113 Being a member of a youth group at Church will teach you a lot of things. You may (hopefully) learn about the Christian faith. You may learn about friendship, romance, or conflict resolution. Maybe you’ll even witness for the first time that yes, farts can indeed be ignited into flames (and it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen).

What you’ll definitely witness and likely take part in, however, is the time-honored practice of the Christian Knock-Off. You see, we Christians don’t like to be original. We’re rip-off Jews, what are we supposed to do?

We take what the “secular” world produces, and we say “Hey, that’s super rad! But since it’s secular it’s probably going to hell along with everyone at MSNBC and Stephanie Meyer. We should make our own version of it so that we can make sure it goes to heaven too!” From music to movies to t-shirts, if you make it, we’ll take it, throw it in the washer a bunch of times so it shrinks and fades, draw a cross on it with a Sharpie, and sell it at LifeWay.

Remember back in the day when YouTube exploded like Octomom’s v…oracious appetite for childbearing (and life-ruining)? Music videos became relevant for the first time since MTV decided to change its programming strategy from “Music” to “whatever sucks and will destroy happiness and souls,” talentless pubescent zit-bags with webcams all over the world found a way to express their talentless pubescence with ease, and the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America found a whole new way to satisfy their hunger for all things related to lawsuits and making everyone hate them. It was a beautiful thing.

Fresh off of the loss of Jessica Simpson to 98 Degrees, Evangelicals needed us some beauty. Rather than, you know, participating in the normal trend with the rest of the world, we made “GodTube.” It’s like YouTube, but it’s for God. So only God can use it. Or something. Anyway it’s Christian, so tell your pastor.

Go back a few years before that. Remember when boy bands started tearing up our hearts? Anyway, we Christians lamentably had a boy band all of our own. The sonic equivalent of religiously motivated castration, plusOne – whose name signifies absolutely nothing except a possible reference to a wedding invitation – hit the scene in 2000. Their line-up consisted of 5 moderately-attractive-but-fantastically-moral Christian dudes singing songs about Jesus. Which makes a lot of sense, you know, to sing songs about Jesus using a genre that is known for its romantic songs marketed to pre-pubescent girls. Somehow I feel dirty, having just thought about the whole thing.

What about reality TV? You just cringed, didn’t you? You know what’s coming, just like my toilet knows what’s coming after a meal at Chipotle. Get it?! Crap. The joke is that it’s crap. One Christian reality TV show is called “The Uprising.” I said “one” on purpose. There’s more than one, but because I love you and this hurts me more than it hurts you (seriously) I’m only going to talk about this one. The central conflict of this particular show centers around whether or not a few pro skateboarders will decide to be “born again.” I’m fairly sure that will give people more delusions about God than anything Richard Dawkins could write.

Ever heard of the blog “Stuff White People Like”? It’s pretty funny. An original idea. Wasn’t long before the Christian “me too!” version popped up as “Things Christians Like.” It’s pretty funny, but can we really be proud of a good imitation? Thank God everyone else keeps having original ideas, otherwise we’d be stuck with Carmen and the PowerTeam.

I’m not going to even mention every single ridiculous Christian t-shirts you can still purchase at your local Christian bookstore. Those go without saying. I’ll mention an all-star though:

The product of Christianity's finest minds

The product of Christianity’s finest minds

How are people supposed to trust that our faith is relevant when our art and culture is not? Can we be “not of this world” and the “salt of the earth” without having what amounts to the store-brand version of secular culture? Only Kirk Cameron really knows. Speaking of which, if you’ll please excuse me, I’m going to finish writing a letter to Kirk Cameron about my script for a Christian vampire flick called “Sondown.”

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Point/Counterpoint: Stop Speaking the Lyrics Before You Sing Them https://thetalkingmirror.com/pointcounterpoint-stop-speaking-the-lyrics-before-you-sing-them/ https://thetalkingmirror.com/pointcounterpoint-stop-speaking-the-lyrics-before-you-sing-them/#respond Sat, 14 Jan 2017 06:14:08 +0000 http://ttm.birkey.com/?p=82 Powerpoint Guy:

Do you know what my job is, Jay? It’s not complicated, but it’s noble. I’ll tell you what my job is, Jay. Take a seat. My job is to deliver the correct words of the worship songs to the congregation, usually  spread across a beautiful backdrop. Something like a flowering field, or a Montana sunset. Sometimes in the winter I throw a beach up on the screen just to fight the Seasonal Affective Disorder. I get those words up there, and I do it at the right time, every time. That’s my job.

Why are you trying to do my job, Jay? Have I tried to do your job? Do you see me going up on the stage with my Takamine? Yeah, I’ve got one, what single Christian guy doesn’t? Do you see me going down there, strumming some chords and singing some songs with my eyes involuntarily closed in a worshippy passion? No, you don’t see that. You know why? Because that’s not my job. I was called to operate a useful Microsoft program. Just let me do my job.

It’s time you give me the respect I deserve. How would you survive Sunday mornings without me? A hymnal? Please, we’re not Catholics. You do a lot of things well. Every time you flex that falsetto, it brings the tears. If Coldplay has taught us anything, it’s that tears = tithes. That’s good work, Jay. And I know that sometimes Jesus speaks into your ear monitor and tells you that you need to mix up the arrangement of the song, so you need to let the keyboardist, the harpist, the tuba, and the djembe know where to go musically. On those times where the Spirit is telling you that we need to go over the mountains and the sea just one more time, we all appreciate your leadership.

But most of the time, that’s not it, chief. Most of the time you’re up there, acting like you’re Bon Jovi and you’re going to let the crowd do the next verse of Livin’ on a Prayer. Nobody has their lighters out here, Jay. It’s 9:30am on a Sunday morning. Your job is to be the voice we sing along with, that’s it. You initiate the singing, I show people the lyrics. You do your job, I’ll do mine, and there won’t be any trouble. Keep up the teleprompter act, though, and we’re gonna have a problem. You know who sits right next to me? The sound guy, Jay. You and I both know the kinds of things he can do to make your world filled with hurt. We don’t need to go there, do we? I’d hate for you to get a lot of feedback in your ear monitor. It’d be a shame, Jay. A real shame.

Worship Leader:

Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Wuh-uh-uh-oh!  Where did that come from?  Seriously bro, it’s like I don’t even know you anymore.  You sure this isn’t about something else?  Like maybe how I started dating Sara last week?  Bro, we’ve talked about that.  You guys only dated for like a month.  Plus, you and I weren’t even really friends back then so it doesn’t count.

For now, let’s pretend that you’re actually serious about this whole “speak n’ sing” thing and I’ll try to explain why I do what I do even though you probably won’t get it because you’ve never lead worship anywhere much less been lead worshipper for a trans-denominational meta-church.  No offense, bro.

I take you from the sanctuary, to the rainbow by the lake on the farm.

I take you from the sanctuary, to the rainbow by the lake on the farm.

Question: What good is a slide with words on it if you can’t read?  Answer: Not very good at all.

Are there illiterate people at our church?  Probably not.  Most of the farmers and truck drivers go to Lakeside Baptist across town.  But maybe there are.  And even if there’s only one, I think that justifies my decision to say “the splendor of the King” before I put it to music.  It’s my job to bring people closer to Jesus and that includes all people, not just the ones who paid attention in first grade.

Secondly, where’s this obsession with the slides coming from?  It seems to me – and I could be off-base here, but I’m just calling it like I see it cause you’re my boy and what are boys for if not to be upfront with each other but definitely let me know if there’s something else going on or if I’m missing something here – but it seems like you’re turning the overhead screen into an idol.  We want people looking at the stage which then makes them think about heaven.  Who cares about what’s going on the screen?  No offense, bro.

You know who else had a big screen he wanted everyone to pay attention to?  King Nebuchadnezzar.  That didn’t work out too well for Chad-rack, Three-pack, and Antonio, and I’m not about to let you get this church thrown in a fiery furnace.

I don’t want you to think I don’t appreciate what you do for us, but I just feel like – and again, I could be wrong here but you got me all worked up and I need to speak my mind for a minute or else I won’t be able to sleep tonight – I feel like Christians did fine without Powerpoint for, like, 4,000 years and whenever the world ends and we’re back to living in caves and playing guitar by flashlight, we’ll do fine without Powerpoint again.  Is that what I want?  No.  But we could do it.  That’s all I’m saying.

Seriously though, are you sure this isn’t about Sara?

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Mark Driscoll’s Man Quiz https://thetalkingmirror.com/mark-driscolls-man-quiz/ https://thetalkingmirror.com/mark-driscolls-man-quiz/#respond Sat, 07 Jan 2017 04:48:18 +0000 http://ttm.birkey.com/?p=74 So you’re a guy that wants to be a new member of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, the home of Mark “The Muscles” Driscoll? We’ve got a few questions for you before we get to our theological assessment. These questions have been written by our very own Mark “The Monster” Driscoll, so answer carefully or he’ll yell something theological at you.

1. How often do you watch UFC?

A. Always.

B. Always and with beers.

C. All of the above.

D. What’s UFC? I’m gay.

2. How often do you play video games?

A. Only with one of my multitude of children. I’ve lost count of them.

B. All the time. I’m a loser.

C. Sometimes. I’m a half loser.

D. What’s UFC? I’m gay.

3. How often do you fist fight?

A. Sometimes, but now that I’ve found Jesus I’m trying to stop.

B. Never anymore, but I used to fight people all the time. That was my sordidly badass past, which I talk about often in order to witness to others.

C. Only when dudes fail this test. Just kidding… Or am I?

D. I punch like a girl and am gay.

4. What do you think of having a family?

A. I am married and am actively producing offspring.

B. I am unmarried, but look forward to being a father like Mark, and especially look forward to the process of making children which I will talk about frequently in Church because that shouldn’t make you uncomfortable.

C. I am too busy trying not to fist fight to have children, but I will one day because having lots of children is a divine mandate.

D. I do not want children. I play lots of video games and am gay.

5. What are women good for?

A. Bringing me non-light (i.e. non-wimpy) beer as I watch UFC.

B. Incubating children for our large family.

C. I’m not sure.

D. Women are an important part of the Church because they contribute to Church development through theological interpretation and Church leadership. I am a gay heretic.

SCORING (DON’T LOOK HERE UNTIL YOU’RE DONE. GOD IS WATCHING)

A = 5 points.

B = 4 points.

C = 3 points.

D = 0 points.

20-25 points = Welcome to Mars Hill! Head to the information table to find out how to join an Arm Wrestling Small Group!

15-19 = Not our first pick, but welcome to Mars Hill anyway. Brush up on your micro-brews and you should fit in fine.

9-14 = Hmmm. Well. I mean, I guess we’ve got some room. Why don’t you come by the Men’s Automobile Repair and Violence retreat, and we’ll see where it goes from there. Sound fair?

0-9 = You’re either a woman who took this test on accident or you’re gay. Either way, we have a retreat to cure you.

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What’s in a Name? A Lesson in Church-Name Hermeneutics https://thetalkingmirror.com/whats-in-a-name-a-lesson-in-church-name-hermeneutics/ https://thetalkingmirror.com/whats-in-a-name-a-lesson-in-church-name-hermeneutics/#respond Wed, 04 Jan 2017 06:10:51 +0000 http://ttm.birkey.com/?p=79 A Note From the Authors: All of these churches are real.  You can view their websites (most of which are pretty sweet) by clicking the church’s name.  The sole purpose of this article is to mock some recently planted churches who, for whatever reason, have chosen some pretty ridiculous names for themselves.  We know almost nothing about the theology, community, or single women to men ratios of any of these churches, and it is not our intent to comment on their sincerity or effectiveness.  They’re probably really great.  We just think their names are stupid.  That is all.

Elevation Church

This church is all about getting high – on Jesus! Their services don’t officially feature any narcotics usage, but do encourage their congregants to take part in mountain climbing and visiting the top floor of skyscrapers in order to “elevate your walk closer to God.” Elevation Church also features a marriage ministry called “Love in an Elevator,” which teaches married couples how to master the art of Christian Exhibitionism.

Infusion Church

Founded by former Red Cross employees, Infusion Church has taken the issue of transubstantiation very, very seriously. Communion wine is taken intravenously, and Holy Water (blessed by Mark Driscoll personally) is provided to each willing congregant via an I.V. drip during Sunday Morning services.

Paradox Community Church

This church doesn’t make any sense. Blam! Hahaha! Get it?! Really though, members of this church pride themselves on taking on hobbies and titles that seem contradictory to outsiders, such as: their political ministry Christians for Obama, their beer brewing ministry Unashamed Alcoholic Baptists, and their anger management support group Living Like John Piper.

Mystery Church

No one knows anything about this church.

Austin City Life

This church, located in Austin, TX, has grown its congregation by ensnaring visitors to Austin (read: drug addicts) who think they are attending the Austin City Limits music festival.  The people who make those evangelistic tracts that look like $20 bills could probably tell them this is a bad idea.

The Journey

Founded by Steve Perry’s distant cousin, The Journey focuses almost exclusively on discovering God through the musical corpus of the legendary rock band Journey.

The Line

Confusingly, this church incorporates neither Johnny Cash’s famous hit nor cocaine abuse. Rather, it was founded on that explanation of God’s view of time that every youth pastor uses on his students. That’s right, the one where he draws a line on a piece of paper and says “this line is your life, from start to finish.” And then he looks at you real serious-like, and he says, “where is God?” And you get a little confused because you think it might be a trick question or some kind of Where’s Waldo? thing, so you shrug. Then he drops the bomb on you like freakin’ Nagasaki: “God is the paper man. He’s the paper.” Churches are built on wisdom like that, as The Line proves to us.

Dust

Not a great choice for OCD sufferers or people with allergies, but fans of the movie Gladiator will no doubt find comfort in the quote emblazoned above the alter: “Shadows and dust. – Proximo”.

Vintage Church

This church meets weekly (if they feel like it) in Carol’s Thrift Shop in Shreveport, Louisiana.  Their website lists Camaros made before 1973, collectible lunchboxes, and “doing life together” as a few of the church’s core values.  Attire is casual, but anyone not wearing a Rolling Stone concert tee may feel under dressed.

The Rooted Church

A church for members of the Green Party, The Rooted Church meets in a series of tree houses built out of recycled and reclaimed building materials. Church members have collectively converted their vehicles to run on a special mixture of patchouli oil and human excrement. Men and women alike also take the sacrament of human body hair very seriously.

Coram Deo Church

Founded by a frustrated Scrabble player, Coram Deo Church is founded on the idea that people should know obscure spiritual terms from dead languages.

Seed Church

Like many churches, Seed Church was founded as a memorial. Unlike those other churches, however, this church memorializes victims of an unsung epidemic – the billions of potential lives that have been murdered at the hands of the church’s chronic masturbators.

Matthias’ Lot

Matthias’ Lot has at its core a maxim held dear by mothers the world over: nothing good ever happened in-doors.  Eschewing real estate and roofs, these parishioners hold their Sunday services on an abandoned parcel of land in north Los Angeles.  The church derives its name from the land’s owner, Nicaraguan shoe shine Matthias Lopez, who became a millionaire in 1993 when he leased the same field to Paramount Studios for the filming of the movie “The Sandlot.

Trademark

This body of believers is not to be discussed, parodied, or otherwise reproduced without the express, written consent of God.

Liberti Church

In 2006 the founders of Liberti Church purchased an initial run of 10,000 promotional bumper stickers, book marks, and travel mugs without employing spell check.  Not wanting to let perfectly good travel mugs go to waste (i.e. get donated to The Salvation Army) they decided to just go with it.

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Adventures In Anglicanism https://thetalkingmirror.com/adventures-in-anglicanism/ https://thetalkingmirror.com/adventures-in-anglicanism/#respond Sun, 16 Oct 2016 22:01:21 +0000 http://ttm.birkey.com/?p=504 This upcoming month will mark the fourth anniversary of my tumultuous entrenchment in the ecumenical costume party known as the Anglican Church. Our relationship has been a bit quarrelsome at times, but it seems we have finally settled into a state of amicable acceptance.

I enjoy the thinly veiled Catholicism, the man-dresses, and the free wine tastings. The Church is thankful to have plucked me – a potential papist – away from the Romans. That being said, there are certain aspects of the Anglo’s weekly fellowship that have become rather irksome to me and are threatening to upset the delicate symbiosis we have created. While I don’t pretend to understand all the things that go on in the spaces between The Archbishop’s pointy hat and carpet-like beard, I can’t help but think that a few simple changes will make a world of difference in the Anglican experience and, more importantly, my enjoyment of said experience.

First off, this whole “passing the peace” business. I’ve been doing it for four years and I still don’t understand it. What happened to a simple, All-American, “greetings neighbor, how the hell are ya?” Instead a nearby parishioner will turn to me, shake my hand firmly, and give me a peace of Christ, or something of that nature. So as not to risk excommunication, I always respond in kind, and we both go our separate ways with our separate peaces of Christ without knowing so much as the other person’s name. I’ve been given peaces of Christ by just about everyone in the congregation but I have yet to “meet” a single one of them. This is silly. Henceforth, lets just say “hi” or – if it would make the Brits more comfortable – “cheerio” or whatever it is people in the Motherland say to each other. Lets save the pieces of Christ for Eucharist.

Secondly, why must we bring the squirming, shrieking nymphs of our species into the service before Communion starts?These kids can hardly comprehend that it is their own foot that they are gnawing on, how could they possibly understand that the juice and crackers mommy and daddy are eating are actually the body and blood of the omnipotent Lord of all creation?

I recognize that the Anglican Church believes that the mere presence of the Eucharist – understood or not – can imbue these babies with magical powers; potentially transforming them into benevolent wizards. Unfortunately, the only magic these slobbering little gremlins are capable of is irretrievably distracting me from anything happening at the alter. We have a fantastic nursery. It is staffed with nurturing, non-predatory grown-ups. Let them keep the kids. If I want to watch an infant devour the contents of his mother’s purse or stare daggers into my soul with his huge, innocent eyes, I’ll open a day care. Until then, I’d prefer to see them after the service, not in it.

These are my primary concerns. By no means are they the only ones (don’t even get me started on the “singing” of the Lord’s Prayer), but fixing these two will go a long way in ensuring that our ecclesial union will continue comfortably. The Anglicans got a good thing going. I don’t really want to go to a different church. By all accounts, Henry VIII was a bang up guy, and I’d like to help perpetuate his legacy. I’ve just had all the peace and babies I can handle.

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A primer for the physically inclined, Biblically obedient Christian https://thetalkingmirror.com/a-primer-for-the-physically-inclined-biblically-obedient-christian/ https://thetalkingmirror.com/a-primer-for-the-physically-inclined-biblically-obedient-christian/#respond Sun, 16 Oct 2016 22:00:27 +0000 http://ttm.birkey.com/?p=502 Since most Christian young people are still Biblically forbidden from having sex, we are often forced to be satisfied by the next best thing, i.e. talking about it incessantly. Endless conversations swirl around titillating issues like: how awesome it will be, how often it will be, and, most importantly, how much can we get away with before we say “I do.” My dear frustrated friends, I cannot help but feel that with these questions, we are getting far ahead of ourselves.

We’ve got to forget about far-off, nebulous times like “when I get married” or “when I get a girlfriend/boyfriend,” I want to know how much I can get away with before I know her name. Fortunately, the evangelical mob has clearly delineated the bounds of appropriate physical intimacy among acquaintances. When a handshake or firm pat on the rear just won’t do, the physically inclined Christian has two options, the always effective side-hug, or the difficult, but popular butt-out hug (a.k.a. The A-Frame). Most youth group members are astute practitioners of these Biblically sanctioned embraces, but for those who need a refresher before navigating the touchless wasteland of the pre-dating world, the following jungle guide should be of service.

The Side-Hug

The beauty of the side-hug is its ability to establish physical contact while ensuring that no intimacy of any kind is accidentally created. The key here is to avoid eye contact at all costs. Although it may not seem like it, your faces are actually quite close, and locking eyes can destroy the comfortable distance you have worked so hard to create.

Other complications can arise if your arm is too short to reach the far shoulder.The best thing to do in this situation is to give two or three firm pats on the back.This serves to further remove any remaining shred of intimacy and, if done correctly, can also remove any perceived weakness associated with your stubby arms.While this is technically no longer a hug, you are touching and that should be enough. Don’t get greedy you perv.

The Butt-out Hug

This tricky little number is most commonly practiced by women, and is especially effective in ensuring that no more than 10% of your bodies actually touch. Girls, during the approach it is important to broadcast which side of his face you are going to put your face. Failure to do so can result in accidental kisses, awkward silences, and broken noses.

A significant problem with the butt-out hug is when it is attempted by a short girl with a taller boy.Inevitably, she will smash her face into his chest or stomach, and that’s just no fun for anyone.Truly, the only way to prevent this is to avoid contact with any man over six feet tall.

So there you have it. There are no other choices. There is no secret option C. If you want more, it’s probably going to cost you dinner and a movie. Otherwise, you’ll have to stick to these kid-tested, mother-approved touches. At least until we get a more favorable translation.

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Congregational cage-fighting: A word on public prayer https://thetalkingmirror.com/congregational-cage-fighting-a-word-on-public-prayer/ https://thetalkingmirror.com/congregational-cage-fighting-a-word-on-public-prayer/#respond Sun, 16 Oct 2016 21:55:53 +0000 http://ttm.birkey.com/?p=492 Since the first century, the institute of communal prayer has been a foundational practice of Christendom. Ecumenical leaders have long relied on public prayer to encourage the body, explicate Biblical truth, and unite the church beneath a common language. Those of us who are not the sole Christian in our village/ethnic group/theater troupe, will – no doubt – be called upon at some point to lead a group of believers in correspondence with the Home Office. This needn’t be cause for trembling or trepidation. Nay, it should be embraced for what it truly is, an opportunity for spiritual showmanship of the highest order.

Like it or not, the Christian community is a cage-fight of religious oneupmanship and it’s no good being pious unless you can be pious in a very public setting. To halfheartedly recite prayer requests in the same conversational language you use to address other humans is to waste an opportunity that may only come along once an eternity. Don’t let this chance for discipleship domination pass you by. Reach out, grab it by the throat, and strangle it into submission!

First, furrow your brow as if you are deep in thought/slightly constipated. Take a moment and exhale loudly, but not too loudly. This conveys to the gathered mortals what a burden it is to be as close to the Almighty as you are. When you speak, your tone should be an octave higher or lower than your normal speaking voice. Go higher if you want to show passionate zeal; go lower if you’re tacking toward earnest sincerity.

The first words out of your mouth should be “Lord,” “Father God,” “Lord Father God Almighty” or some combination of all three. Whatever name you choose, remember it, because you will need to begin each subsequent sentence with that name. Should you become particularly fiery at any point during your speech you will need to say His name two to three times a sentence, sometimes all in a row. Throughout the monologue, your voice inflection should be a bit strained as if to say, “I’m in a lot of pain right now, but, for the Lord, it’s worth it.”

Body language is also important. If you are blessed to be behind a podium, you should grasp it with both hands until your knuckles turn white. If you are standing in the open, try clasping your hands tightly in front of your chest (use this only if you are taking the earnestly sincere route as mentioned above). A second option is to extend them in a V above your head (this is an excellent compliment to the passionately zealous tone).

Your prayer should be no shorter than ninety seconds, but anything longer than ten minutes will begin losing its potency. You must remember to mention “our nation’s leaders,” and – if you know your audience – feel free to subtly combat global warming with a heartfelt thanks to the Lord for the beauties of his creation. For the more seasoned orator, quoted scripture, the Lord’s Prayer, and use of the “Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer” format can bolster an already pulpit-quality prayer. These, however, are advanced techniques and should not be attempted by a novice.

By no means are these the only steps to a sufficiently kick-ass prayer, but they’ll get you started.  Whether  saying grace before dinner, or leading a 10,000 congregant mega-church in the morning prayer, the above steps will catapult you from apostolic also-ran, to spiritual superstar!

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