October 14, 2021

It might have played in a theater near you but make no mistake: Amazing Grace is a church service.  The documentary chronicles the recording of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 double-platinum gospel album over the course of two nights at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Franklin, accompanied by James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir, belts out beloved hymns including “Amazing Grace,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and “Never Grow Old” for an audience that... Read more

September 16, 2021

In high school, I could not wait for each year’s See You at the Pole. It was on my calendar before the academic year started. Weeks before, I hung up flyers urging fellow Christian classmates to join me early on a Wednesday morning and pray for our peers and teachers.  For four years, I woke up early on a September morning and stood outside my high school, hands interlocked with anywhere from four to twenty classmates, and prayed while our... Read more

September 9, 2021

This weekend commemorates the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. The day changed the focus of the nation and irrevocably altered the mindset of U.S. citizens, both those who endured a tangible loss and those whose sense of security was forever shattered.  Sept. 11 also caused seismic shifts in popular culture. TV shows and films had to figure out how to address the nightmare. Some did it directly, such as Rescue Me or United 93. 24 didn’t directly address... Read more

September 6, 2021

If you were a youth group kid in the 1990s, chances are you wore a WWJD bracelet. These small bits of apparel were everywhere, available for less than a buck at Bible bookstores and corner gas stations. They were part visible reminder for righteous living, part advertisement for Christianity.  I haven’t seen anyone wear a WWJD bracelet in well over a decade. Mine has long been replaced by a Fitbit. While I don’t know it ever amounted to anything more... Read more

July 8, 2021

Two big pop culture controversies during my youth revealed to me the tension between art and faith. The first was the release of Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ. The second? The 1991 Amy Grant pop hit “Baby, Baby.”    I understand the controversy over Last Temptation. I’ve written before about my conflicted relationship with Scorsese’s Jesus movie and its role in shaping my opinions about theological imagination. But to this day, I find it hilarious that... Read more

June 29, 2021

The CCM Canon is an ongoing feature in which I discuss some of the most beloved and popular songs from Christian music history∗. Today, we’re talking about dc Talk’s “Jesus Freak.”  If you were a kid entrenched in youth group culture in the mid-90s, dc Talk was your Nirvana, and “Jesus Freak” was your “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  Like many evangelical kids, I was only allowed to listen to Christian music. Anything with the dreaded label “secular” was believed to... Read more

June 23, 2021

Recently, my podcast co-host Perry forwarded me an email announcing a new product from Renegade Game Studios. The product is a 1,000-piece puzzle that, when assembled, showcases the smiling visage of filmmaker Kevin Smith’s Buddy Christ icon from the movie Dogma.  I immediately had to have it.  As  a follower of Christ, it might seem odd that I love this gag from a crass 1999 movie. And yet, the Buddy Christ always makes me laugh. It’s not just because I’m... Read more

June 18, 2021

I’m thrilled to announce the latest venture of this blog — the brand-new Jesus Junkyard Podcast…which has existed for four years.  Let me explain.  About four years ago, my family and I took a road trip from Michigan to Florida. To occupy our time, I put together a 20-hour playlist that included everything from my kids’ favorite hits to some of the songs my wife and I love. I also included a selection of old Christian songs I’d grown up... Read more

June 17, 2021

Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) has a reputation — and it isn’t always good.  I get it. Some of it feels like a watered-down version of mainstream music, and the writing can often be corny or tone deaf. I understand why Hank Hill told a Christian rocker “you’re not making Jesus cool; you’re making rock and roll worse,” just as I think there’s some validity to South Park’s claim that a Christian song just takes a love song and swaps “Jesus”... Read more

June 14, 2021

With all the attempts Christians have made to gain a foothold in consumer culture, how come there’s never been a successful Christian cereal?  Comedian John Oliver recently lamented that there have been no new developments in cereal in decades (warning: language). And he’s right: Aside from cereals branded for modern movies or TV shows, my kids’ breakfast options are basically what I had growing up. They eat Trix, Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Pebbles (and they don’t even know who Fred... Read more

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