The Talking Mirror HUMOR, SATIRE, AND CULTURAL CRITICISM FROM A COUPLE OF CONSERVATIVE BADASSES Sat, 13 Jan 2018 08:38:47 -0600 en-US hourly 1 The Talking Mirror 32 32 Taco Bell, Planned Parenthood, and the Fungibility of Capital Sat, 28 Jan 2017 20:21:36 +0000 Abortion is one of those political subjects that is always painful to argue about. Some political questions – economics, size of government, foreign policy – can often be engaging to debate with friends from another political party, but not abortion. Usually, someone walks away angry or hurt or both. A lot of those issues are probably rooted in the way we talk about abortion as a society. To start, we often assume and argue against each other’s motivations rather than ideas. Example: “You want to control my body” or “you want to kill babies.” It’s safe to say that most people’s opinions on the subject aren’t accurately summarized by either of those statements and neither statement presents the opportunity for a reasoned exchange of ideas, but nevertheless that is how the conversation tends to go.

Why? Well, honestly we’re carrying on separate conversations. One person is talking about women’s health and autonomy, the other is talking about the value of human life. No one hears the other side. We mostly just yell in each other’s direction and dumb down the opposition into something that is easy to vilify.

Such is the case with Planned Parenthood and our debate here in Texas over the notorious HB2, government funding, and the undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress. Liberals argue that Planned Parenthood clinics provide crucial access to healthcare and birth control for the poor and under-privileged. Growing up in McAllen, I had many friends that benefitted from Planned Parenthood’s non-abortive services, as do many Texan women. Liberals argue that abortions make up a tiny portion of what the non-profit provides and removing funding from Planned Parenthood would damage those at-risk communities even more.

Conservatives argue that their tax dollars should not go to fund abortions, to which they are morally opposed. They don’t want to have any part in it and they shouldn’t be forced by the government to support something with which they disagree – even indirectly. So they want Planned Parenthood to stop receiving federal funding.

When considered thoughtfully and treated with respect (two things that are never done when discussing this subject), both sides make valid points. So what’s the solution?

Terrible, cheap, delicious fast food.

Just hear me out.

I’m one of many Texans who is one half of an interracial marriage. My lovely wife was born in Mexico and came here as a child with her mother and brothers. She’s a tall, beautiful Latina. I’m the gringoest gringo that could ever gringo. We met in the Rio Grande Valley, where we both grew up, and are quickly approaching four happy years of marriage. With one exception: I sometimes like to eat at Taco Bell.

My wife considers that to be a nearly mortal sin, to the point that if I avoid telling her I’ve eaten there, I feel like I’ve cheated on her. So I tell her, every time. “It’s not real Mexican food,” she says sternly. “Exactly.” I always reply. She’s a snob about Mexican food. My palate is driven entirely by value.  It’s an impasse. We’re never going to see eye-to-eye because we’re talking about different things.

It’s kind of like that with Planned Parenthood and the battle between liberals and conservatives. See, if my wife gives me a crisp $20 and tells me to spend it on anything but Taco Bell, I can’t just put that $20 in my wallet next to all of the other crisp $20’s. (More crisp Washingtons than Benjamins TBH) If I do that and I head down to the local dealer to feed my Doritos Locos addiction, there’s no way I can look my wife in the eye and guarantee without a shadow of a doubt that the $20 I used to buy food at Taco Bell (which would be roughly half the menu) was not the one that she gave me. In order to guarantee that I didn’t use what she gave me on that shameful deliciousness, I’d have to physically separate the money, say by putting it in my pocket instead of my wallet.

And that’s the problem of the fungibility of capital in a nutshell, and why so many Texans are fuming on both sides of the aisle.

While proponents of Planned Parenthood consistently claim that tax dollars do not go to fund abortive services, we are still faced with the reality of the fungibility of capital. Once that money goes into the wallet, can you really say without a shadow of a doubt that tax dollars don’t get spent one way or another? The government couldn’t track TARP funds for the same reason; this isn’t a new or unique problem.

I suggest that Planned Parenthood be split into two separate organizations. One organization that provides all of the non-abortive services and another that provides abortions and abortifacient treatments. They may even continue to operate in the same buildings as long as rent and utility expenses are evenly and clearly divided. Separate books, separate staff, separate wallets. This way, we can guarantee that tax dollars only go to non-abortive services which everyone can agree on. The other organization could continue to operate on its own as a non-profit, so if you support the work they do you could freely donate in proportion to your passion.

It’s that simple. Divide and conquer, so to speak. We may not all agree on everything in Texas, but we can agree this is the greatest state in the Union. Let’s lead the other 49 toward a compromise.

]]> 0
Gay Marriage and Why Christians Shouldn’t Care Fri, 27 Jan 2017 19:00:44 +0000 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!

]]> 1
John Piper on Premarital Sex: More Disturbing than Your Parents Sun, 22 Jan 2017 06:29:56 +0000 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.

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.

]]> 0
An Apology from Jennifer Knapp’s Last Boyfriend Sat, 21 Jan 2017 06:23:37 +0000 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.


Topher Benson

]]> 13
The Over-Analysis: Christian Knock-offs Fri, 20 Jan 2017 07:17:46 +0000 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.”

]]> 0
Point/Counterpoint: Stop Speaking the Lyrics Before You Sing Them Sat, 14 Jan 2017 06:14:08 +0000 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?

]]> 0
Seven Crimes to Consider Before Music Piracy Fri, 13 Jan 2017 08:06:19 +0000 TTM Readers: This is an article that I wrote for As our readerbase doesn’t really overlap very well, they allowed me the opportunity to post it on TTM as well. You can see the original article with all its comments here, on Gaper’s Block.

Hey there Chicagoans. Go ahead and pause all your Kazaa, Limewire, and BitTorrent downloads for a second. I want the page to load quickly as this is something you’re going to want to read.

If you haven’t heard yet, it’s “illegal” to download music online without “paying” for it. It’s hard to believe, but being a fan isn’t accepted as legal payment anymore. They call it “piracy,” and the consequences for it can be very, very dire. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of other crimes that I suggest you look into before you decide to download “Sweet Child of Mine” or “Poker Face.”

First, let’s look at the fines in the only two music piracy trials that have taken place to date. The first is the case of Jammie Thomas, a single mother of four from Minnesota. She downloaded 24 songs off of Kazaa. A jury of her peers decided that she owed the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) almost $2 million for her crimes, a ruling which the Obama Administration recently told a federal judge was constitutionally sound. The second is the case of Joel Tenenbaum, a young grad student at Boston University. He downloaded 30 songs and was slapped with a fine of $675,000. If the verdicts stand both will file for bankruptcy.

I know. Yikes. I was hoping to commit a crime today, but $2 million? Damn. Don’t worry, my villainous friends. They may have foiled our evil plans to put Metallica out on the street, but there are plenty of other crimes you can commit here in Illinois that won’t get you a punishment even vaguely that severe. Here is a list of 7 ideas to get you started, but first we should make a few rules. Some of these “crimes” have imprisonment as part of their sentence. That being said, I’m going to equate one year of prison with a $50,233 salary which is the median household income as of 2007. I.e. you would have made $50,233 each year you’re in prison were you not becoming intimately acquainted with Wade, your cell mate.

That, of course, doesn’t factor in the cost of “freedom.” I tried to get into contact with Toby Keith to figure out how much freedom is worth in American dollars, but he was busy writing songs about how terrorists can kiss his ass or something.


One final thing to keep in mind here: Obama promised hope and change, and he certainly brought it in the case of piracy and the RIAA. In between stints of walking on water and saving us from ourselves, Barack has appointed five RIAA lawyers to positions in the “justice” department, in addition to upholding the federal limit of $150,000 per instance of piracy.

Here are the sources I’m using for crimes and their penalties:
The Illinois Criminal Code

Charts of Crimes and Penalties:
First one
Second one

Seven Crimes to Consider Before Music Piracy

1. Steal Music? No! Steal a child, preferably from a recording artist.
That’s right, the fine for regular old, Class 4 Felony child abduction is $25,000. It can also include one to three years in prison. So, if you get spanked as hard as possible after ganking a silly named celebrity child, you’ll be down $175,699.

2. Steal the actual CD.
Damn, that new Black Eyed Peas song is infectious, am I right? That chorus is so genius; “boom boom boom,” who thinks of that? I want to steal it. So instead of Kazaa, I’m going to swipe it from Best Buy. Retail theft of less that $150 (which is like, what, 10 CD’s?) is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty? Up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $2,500. At most you’d be down about $52,500. Definitely manageable. If it exceeds $150 though, you’re in for a Class 3 felony. That bad boy will result in two to five years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine, so you’re risking approximately $275,000. Beats $2 million though, huh?

3. Rob Bryan Adams.
There’s Bryan Adams next door, tooling around on his new John Deere riding lawn mower. That would definitely make mowing the lawn easier huh? Fun, even. Can’t afford one, can you? No problem! Punch him in the face and take it! That’s a Class 2 felony. The penalties come to a meager $376,631, which is a full $298,369 less than even the weakest RIAA judgment.

4. Set Lars Ulrich’s house on fire.
Being a pyro sounds fun. You get to see lots of pretty flames, hear fun explosions, and watch things get destroyed. Plus, doesn’t Metallica have a song about setting shit on fire? They probably do, it’s Metallica. What could go wrong? Not as much as if you decided to pirate music. Arson is another Class 2 felony. ($376,631)

5. Stalk Reba McEntire.
Hang out in her front yard, take pictures of her driving and shopping, send her weirdo letters – you name it, stalking is awesome! And what’s the penalty? It’s just a Class 4 felony! Phew! Just about $175,000 and you’re done.

6. Learn from Michael Vick: Start a Dog Fighting Empire
Dogs are pretty cool, huh? You know what’s cooler than a dog? Dogs killing each other! That will get you a paltry $50,000 fine and one to three years in the pen. What does that amount to? A max of about $200,000! Not too big of a deal when viewed against the dire backdrop of music piracy, huh? Suck it PETA!

7. Murder Someone, Second-Degree style.
Basically all “Second Degree” means is that you were provoked in such a way that it would cause you to have an “intense passion,” i.e. you downloaded a few songs and then you were fined an amount that has more numbers than most of us will ever see in our bank accounts. When that happens, if you sort of go Incredible Hulk and shiv somebody in the kidney, you may be found guilty of Second Degree murder instead of first. Second Degree murder is only a Class 1 felony, rather than a Class X, which stands for X-treme. Class X is like the Mountain Dew of crimes. Anyway, a Class 1 felony can result in a fine of $25,000 and/or 4-15 years in prison. So, according to our numbers, you could POTENTIALLY only lose roughly $225,932. If you have a real bastard of a jury though – kind of like Jammie Thomas did – then you might get the full 15 years, which would amount to $778,495. So that’s worse than Mr. Tenenbaum, but still not even close to Ms. Thomas.

There you have it, my Chicagoan criminal friends. Stick with this list of crimes, and you’ll be able to satiate your devilish desires and still come out hurting less than a music pirate.

]]> 0
Pet Peeves for the Common Man: How the Occupy Movement has Failed Wed, 11 Jan 2017 04:00:55 +0000 How the Occupy Movement has Failed


Surely we have all watched with curiosity as “Occupy” protests have erupted around the globe, even in futile places like my scenic home town of McAllen, TX. This fervent movement spread like wildfire all over the world in a matter of weeks, garnering support and media attention faster than a marital lawsuit against Kim Kardashian. Personally, I hate the government and the rat bastard Wall Streeters that landed people of my age group the envied title of “The Lost Generation,” so I was anxious to join the fist shaking, albeit from the comfort of my own home. After all, as The Secret tells us, all we have to do to get things done is send out positive vibes into the universe, right?

These Occupiers, if I understood correctly, were protesting the fact that much of the wealth in the United States (and the world in general) is concentrated in a small group of people, the “1%,” while the majority of people, the “99%,” are languishing in varying levels of dissatisfaction, if not poverty. I can get on board with that. I’d rather most people be provided for, working, and content than otherwise. Who, honestly, wouldn’t prefer that? I’m not sure even those stone-hearted, baby-tear-drinking, dream-shitting-upon one percenters would disagree with that sentiment down in their heart of hearts.

So, we established that we’re discontented about the state of things and as such, we decided to have us an Occupation. Alright, cool. Go team, I like it. Let’s be the change that Obama left on the campaign trail. But after the initial shock-wave of excited rebellion dissipated, people began to ask a very, very important question: What did they want? We know why they were protesting (I’m pretty sure), but what objective were these Occupiers seeking to accomplish?

And that’s where no amount of ugly glasses, varying forms of unkempt facial hair, or unemployed angst could provide a cogent answer. The Occupy protest turned into a really, really large, angry two year-old. It was mad, its arms were crossed in unyielding defiance, but it could not, to save its life, tell you what would get it in the damn car seat. That is why, to date, I would call this movement a failure.

One might pipe up and say “No, Irishman, they have not failed. They raised awareness about the populace’s dissatisfaction with corporations and rich people, fiscal inequality, and percentages.” Okay, I hear you. The problem I have with that is that a movement of this magnitude had a lot of power. To use it just to raise awareness about something with which most people are quite well acquainted is irresponsible and, I would even say, stupid.

What do we do now, then? How could we make this movement into more than a global temper tantrum? I have a couple ideas in mind that I think both sides of the aisle could get behind.

First: Term limits. Think about it. How do corporations get the power that they have? Why do politicians seem so disinterested in accomplishing anything that could benefit their constituents, despite the political consequences? We have a system where politicians are much more concerned with their careers than they are concerned with service of their constituents. This means doing favors for corporations and lobbyists in order to garner the monetary support of numerous political action committees, both for their campaigns and for personal gain. If you limit their terms, the idea of a “career politician” becomes null and void, forcing our leaders to actually lead rather than obsess over partisan rhetoric and accomplish nothing.

Second: regulation of the derivative market. These obscure financial instruments are largely unregulated and, many would say, (including the critically acclaimed PBS production Frontline) played a large part in the financial meltdown in 2008 and in the recent collapse of MF Global. Obama promised strict regulation of this risky market, but has not succeeded in passing anything, maybe because of the strong financial lobby that manipulates career politicians who can be in power for a lifetime.

These are just a couple valid, realistic goals for the Occupy Movement that would benefit our entire country and make their protests more than just an angry blip in history.

]]> 0
Mark Driscoll’s Man Quiz Sat, 07 Jan 2017 04:48:18 +0000 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.


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.

]]> 0
What’s in a Name? A Lesson in Church-Name Hermeneutics Wed, 04 Jan 2017 06:10:51 +0000 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.


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.


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.

]]> 0