Sad Bible Songs: I review Harrison Lemke’s “Fertile Crescent Blues”

at First Things: "Christian pop is unrelentingly cheerful.” That was Leah Libresco's conclusion when she analyzed the frequency of positive and negative terms (“grace” vs. “sin,” for example, or “love” vs. “fear”) in Billboard's Christian pop top-50. Grace and love and life and light are all great things. But if your soul needs a smoke break from the endless Christian pep rally, a lay-me-down instead of yet another pick-me-up, Harrison Lemke's beautiful new album Fertile Crescent Blues is what y … [Read more...]

“On Abstaining from Communion”: Poignant, Funny Post from Max Lindemann

on a recurring theme here: ...As the episode with the baffled usher illustrates, some people simply aren’t used to non-communicants. During one early-morning Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Manhattan, I approached the celebrant with my arms crossed. (This was before I had been properly briefed on how barbarous an abuse of the liturgy abuse this constitutes.) The poor priest tried to thrust the Host into my mouth, forcing me to block his hand with the crux of my arms and clamp my mouth s … [Read more...]

“Why Survivor’s ‘Broadway Boyfriends’ Will Keep Singing with Hillsong Church”: Jonathan Merritt

reports: The only thing worse than a false story is a partial one.That was the real lesson behind an article published on a conservative Christian website last week claiming that the Hillsong Church was allowing an “openly homosexual couple” to lead worship. The article, about the New York City campus of the Australia-based super-church where tens of thousands worship weekly, drew from a seven-month-old article about two Survivor contestants and Broadway actors, Josh Canfield and Reed Kelly … [Read more...]

A Survey of “Missionary Kids”–Fascinating Even if You’re NOT a Parent

but maybe especially interesting for parents seeking to raise their kids as disciples. Missionaries' children aren't the only ones facing some of these pressures. Just some really powerful words here about faith and its challenges: You may wonder why I ran this survey. I am an adult MK and, like so many others, “wouldn’t give it up for the world.” In my full-time work, I teach and mentor MKs of all ages and, perhaps most importantly, advocate for them with the missions that send them … [Read more...]

“Indie Music’s Christ-Haunted Women”: I’m at AmCon

with some answers to a question I asked here recently: I listen to a lot of what you could call “Christ-haunted” music. Your Mountain Goats, your Weakerthans. Not music made by believers necessarily (although sometimes, unexpectedly, yes), but music made by people who can’t quite escape the stories of Scripture and the language of Christian faith. Cain, resurrection, David, sorrow for sin; a desperate rosary or a hospital vespers. You could add to this list stuff I don’t personally quite grok, b … [Read more...]

Where Are the Lady Mountain Goats?

A cri de coeur! Where are the women who write weird, metaphor-laden personal songs about their fraught relationship with the Lord? Are there Sufjanes out there? I would really like music by women, in just about any genre, with lots of Christian stuff (they don't have to be actual believers, just people with really intense relationships with God and the Church) and not prettified but raw. Not Avengers-type stuff about anger at the Church, or anyway not only that, but about complex longings in … [Read more...]

“Tom Stoppard Plays With God”: I’m in AmCon

reviewing a new play: “The Hard Problem” is Tom Stoppard’s first work for the stage since 2006′s fantastic “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and like “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” it asks whether there’s such a thing as a soul, or whether a human being is just “a pinball machine which thinks it’s in love.”But where the earlier play offered a clash between Marxist materialism and the pagan ecstasy of rock music, “The Hard Problem” is a more blunt and programmatic conflict between evolutionary biology and a sort of heavily … [Read more...]