Thursday, November 12, 2009

Towards a Theology of Cultural Engagement

The church has debated the relationship it should have with the world since the earliest times. Just over a century after the death of the Apostle’s, Tertullian mused, “What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens?” The heart of Tertullian’s question was, what relationship does Christianity have with culture. The church has debated this topic ever since.

In the 1950’s, Richard Niebuhr’s book Christ and Culture set the agenda for all discussions on the topic that would follow. Neibuhr classified five approaches to culture. First, Christ Above Culture. This carries the idea that Christ is so transcendent that he is separate from culture. Culture deals with daily human issues, Christ deals with the weightier issues of the soul. Next, we see Christ and Culture in Paradox. This view pits Christ against culture, not in a hostile way, but more in an indifferent way. Christ is over here, culture there, never the two shall meet. As we approach the more common views we find Christ Against Culture. This view posits that culture (both pop and high) if not done explicitly for the glory of God by Christians is by its very nature hostile to God and Christianity. This is the prevailing view of popular, American evangelicalism. It is what has created the Christian ghetto, sub-genrizing anything it can. Since the turn of the millennium, the view of Christ of Culture has picked up steam. The Anglican revival coupled with the rise of the Emerging church has given new life to this view, previously buried by the other views. This view says that culture flows from Christ. It is often critiqued because of its failure to distinguish carefully from what is God’s Word and what are the mutters of the culture. The final category that Neibuhr presented was Christ Transforming Culture. This view (held mostly by Reformed Christians) carries the idea that Christ is very present in this world and “He is making the Kingdom of this world to be the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (to borrow from Isaiah/Handel).

As Christ kingdom grows in its expression we find the Gospel in seed form in places where Christianity is unknown. There are numerous examples of this, but one in particular comes to mind. In Japan there is a folk-legend called Hanasakajijii. This legend tells the story of two neighbors in dispute over a magical dog. After a bit of intrigue, the dog is murdered and transported to the floating world. As the family mourns, they are comforted by the “man who makes dead trees bloom”. This man restores the land from a drought. This is an extremely poor retelling of the story, but as early missionaries arrived in Japan, this story quickly helped the Christians explain their faith in an intelligible way. It was a cultural point of entry where adherents to Japanese folk religion could be engaged and taught of the gospel.

Here it may be helpful to distinguish between cultural relevance and cultural engagement. Many who find themselves in the Christ against Culture camp still use culture for a number of purposes. Often the idea is simply to illustrate a point or in other cases simply to show that the speaker is not “afraid” of culture. These uses are typically guarded and sparse. The idea here is to garner attention or to prove a point. This differs greatly from cultural engagement. In cultural engagement a speaker/minister/whatever may reference a number of pieces of pop or high culture. The idea is not to garner cool points or even to simply illustrate a point. Here the goal is a bit broader, by incorporating pop culture, the speaker is modeling a lifestyle that engages the world around the hearers and cultivates the beauty from the ashes. It finds the cultural touch points that have been buried in the culture and excavates them, showing where Christ has gone before us. We participate in His redemption of the world by sifting the beauty away from the ashes. We can see the messianic beauty of Children of Men, the redemptive significance of The Matrix, the nature of narrative in Stranger than Fiction. Here the goal is not illustration, but the cultivation of a life that engages the world with our beliefs and seeks to understand how and where Christ is working.

In closing it may be helpful to give the Biblical rationale for this view. When Paul came to Athens, he found a culture inundated with views, opinions, beliefs, and idolatry. When he was invited to speak at the Areopagus, Paul preached (Acts 17) one of his most eloquent sermons. In this sermon he quoted Epimenides of Crete in verse 28. This is the same Epimenides who was responsible for one of the most popular accounts of the origins of the Greek gods. These Theogonies (accounts of the where the gods came from) were often graphic and read more like a soap-opera than a history. Paul however engages Epimenides and shows how he was (inadvertently) speaking the truth. He then quotes the poem Phanomena by Aratus. This poem is a praise song used to worship Zeus. Nevertheless, Paul culls the truth that we have our being in YHWH, not in Zeus. Paul quotes other works in his epistles as well. He even quotes Epimenides a second time in Titus. Paul engaged his culture, and I believe this should be normative for us as well.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Bibliography for the Paper, Wright or Wrong

For those who are interested in the bibliography for my recent paper Wright or Wrong, here it is:

Report of Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology. By Paul Fowler, chairman. Atlanta, GA: General Assembly of the PCA, 2007

Hill, Charles E. “N.T. Wright on Justification.” IIIM Magazine Online Vol. 3, #22 (May 28 – June 3 2001)

McCormack, Bruce, ed. Justification in Perspective. Grand Rapids: William B. Baker Academic, 2006.

Piper, John. The Future of Justification: A response to N.T. Wright. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2007.

Sanders, E.P. Paul and Palestinian Judaism. Philidelphia: Fortress Press, 1977.

Stendahl, Krister. Paul among Jews and Gentiles. Philidelphia: Fortress Press, 1976.

Van Voorst, Robert E. Reading the New Testament Today. Belmont, California: Thompson-Wadsworth,2005.

Venema, Cornelis P. Getting the Gospel Right. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006

Wright, N.T. The Climax of the Covenant. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

___________. Justification. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2009.

___________. What Saint Paul Really Said. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1997.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Response to Worship and Theology, Post 6: Mediocrity is Not Sufficient

Rich has posted the latest in our series on worship and theology over on his blog and here is a response to it:

Ahh, So I see the gloves have come off, eh?

I have some thoughts on your blog:

First, I think you miss read my post regarding U2. I was in no way holding them up as exemplary, especially for church music. Here is how the argument [was intended] to flow: We have lots of professional musicians in Christendom. Their music is extremely popular (I’ll address some thoughts on this in a bit). They are so popular they sound like arguably the most popular band in the world. (At this point I whole heartedly agree with your thoughts on the quality of U2, but that is exactly not the point I am making) As great as these bands seem to be, both commercially and otherwise, they are theologically vacant and therefore failing. Even if Handel recomposed the music to the songs I mention in my post, they would still be vacant. (The dichotomy issue will be addressed, wait for it.)

Second are the issues of popularity and portability. You make a number of statements elevating technically correct music as the ideal. You say people should work to understand worship in the paragraph concerning burgers and filets. There is an element of Christianity that has always been blue collar. The most powerful movements of the Spirit in history have almost always been born out of the marginalized. Christianity is a populist religion, not an elitist religion. (I am, by and by, fully aware of the irony of this statement given the fact that I work in one of the less populist denominations) I guess what I am saying is that if Stan the Roofer doesn’t understand the music being played at his church, have we over aristocri-sized the church? And this problem is exacerbated as we think of Christianity on a global scale. Should we expect excellence in worship (by the standards of your post) in a church plant in Papua New Guinea? We can and should expect theological excellence; after all they have the authoritative guide on worship, the scriptures. That is to say that theological excellence in worship is universally applicable, while musical excellence is, by its necessary cultural moorings, subjective. Musical excellence in aboriginal Africa will look incredibly different than in the West.

I guess this means I am copping out (at best) or perhaps engaging in lazy thinking (at worst)

Lastly, it may perhaps be helpful to revisit the categories of post 3. It seems that you are blurring the lines between services of worship and worshipful services. While our services of worship should be excellent musically, each Sunday does not need to be a Sistine Chapel. Kathy brings up the issue of Scientist and other professionals, which we need to remember fall into categories (at least for our purposes in this series) of worshipful services. When we begin to blur these lines, which may be helpful in terms of vocation, we obscure the issue at hand.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The 20 most imporant CD's

I posted this elsewhere, but it may be interesting.

1. Weezer/The Blue Album – This was the first album I ever really loved. I learned to play every song on the guitar while spending my 8th grade summer at Matt Gilbert’s house.

2. Jimmy Eat World/Clarity – This is an incredible album that I bought my senior year on a whim from a mall CD store. It was this or Texas is the Reason. Boy, did I make the right decision. This is one of the best albums ever written and to top it off the final song is about my favorite novel. I have listened to “Goodbye Sky harbor” on the way to and from every graduation I have been a part of.

3. Juliana Theory/Understand This is a Dream – Wow. Wow. The album is incredible and the show at the State theory was one of the most memorable nights of my life.

4. Blink 182/Enema of the State – I don’t know what is more memorable here, the first time I heard this in high school or singing it at the top of my lungs at the old days of Hope Prevails.

5. 3rd Eye Blind/Self-titled – This was the album that got through my first break-up and the second hardest summer of my life. I can remember laying on the floor of Sean McLawhorn’s house listening to it as he talked to his girlfriend Francis on the phone.

6. Arcade Fire/Neon Bible – This was the album that helped get me through the “Summer that God Hated Me”. You know, the one where I lost my job, blew out 3 tires, my iPod died, I went over my cell phone bill $500 killing my chance for getting an iPhone, and I had to move out of the city I love. O yeah and the album is pure genius.

7. Ben Folds Five/Whatever and Ever Amen – A gift from Eddy and Natalie that I wore out my junior year

8. Dashboard Confessional – I will never forget listening to Brandston on a slurpee run my freshman year when John Thornley says, “You gotta check this out”. He was right. I think I memorized every word of the album within a week. It was just so catchy.

9. Get Up Kids/Something to Write Home About – O so good. I love almost any thing Matt Pryor has done. Conner’s first album will be the Terrible Two’s.

10. Derek Webb/She Must and Shall Go Free – This is all about the Abbey at Shawn’s. This album was so provocative in its time and so tied to my spiritual formation.

11. FiveIron Frenzy/Upbeats and Beatdowns – The show at the Cuban Club where everyone got crazy sick (Leila even lost her spleen) and we paid partially in old socks to get in. That night and that album were amazing.

12. Zwan/Mary Star of the Sea – I know it is low level sacrilege to leave the Pumpkins off this list, but this album (essentially Billy’s solo project) still gets much more play than Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness

13. U2/All That You Can’t Leave Behind – This is probably the best album by one of the best bands. EVER.

14. Sufjan Stevens/The Christmas EP’s – From Thanksgiving til New Years Day, this is just about all I listen to.

15. Radiohead – OK Computer – What an album. Everytime I listen to it I find new layers and nuances.

16. Deathcab for Cutie/Transatlanticism – This is another one of those front to back great albums

17. Pedro the Lion/Control – The night this CD came out, Matthew Leahy, Charlie Williams, and I sat and listened to it straight through. Twice. In a Winn Dixie parking lot in Hudson. It was the most memorable night that an album came out for me.

18. Manchester Orchestra/Mean Everything to Nothing – This is a new one, but man is it good. I don’t know if there has been a better album in the past few years.

19. Zao/When Blood and Fire Bring Rest – Though we didn’t sound like them, this always reminds me of my time with Left Shoe Untied. Luke and Kyle played it for me and I was hooked.

20. Anathallo/Sparrows – This is probably the full length album ever created, lyrically speaking, ever created.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Hoodie, Kismet, and "What it can be"

Though the summer is still hot, the calendar is approaching September and approaching the football season. This time of year, everyone is an optimist. Every team has a shot. My team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, got rid of their coach, general manager, and just about every veteran on the team; but hey, there is still hope. Even with my ironclad devotion to the Tampa Bucs, I am also terribly fascinated by another character in the NFL. Bill Belichick. His sense of fashion is classic. He often wears a hoodie that he has cut the sleeves off of as he patrols the New England sidelines. This outfit is so closely tied to his persona that he is often referred to simply as “The Hoodie.” He is the only head coach not to be a part of the NFL Head Coaches Association. The only one. (Incidentally this is why his name doesn’t show up on Madden.) He is also famous for his clandestine demeanor. He has been proven to bend the rules (to say the least) and is often vague with his injury reports (Tom Brady showed up every week of 2007 with a phantom shoulder injury). Bet even more intriguing than all of this is his personal philosophy that works its way out in press conferences. When asked about Tom Brady’s injury, he gave a certain response. When his team won every regular season game, every playoff game and lost the Superbowl, he gave the same response.

It is what it is.

What an interesting phrase. It has become a pop-culture phenomenon. It rears its head in all kinds of places. Sports stars, starlets, and fortune cookies; the phrase has taken on a life of its own and has even been brought to life in Christian circles.

The problem with the phrase, especially as it applies to Christianity, is that it is patently anti-christian. It is fatalism. It is paganism. It shows itself in other religions. In Islam, it is Kismet. In traditional Japanese religion it is Shikata ga na. Douglas McCollam of Slate magazine sites the first western use of the phrase to John Locke in An Essay concerning Human Understanding. [On a tangent regarding John Locke the scarier character when compared to Ben. Conniving as Ben is, he is still haunted by his bad decisions. John is not. What is the difference? For John, “It is what it is”.]

As it relates to Christianity we are determinists, that is to say that we do believe that God has ordained all that has come to pass, but the beauty of the Gospel is that we are not fatalist. We can look in the face of both the concentration camps of the Nazis and the firebombing of Dresden by the allies and see evil. And though God has set those things in order, they are not ok. They are not permissible.

We have bought into a revisionist sovereignty. If it happens, God is ok with it. Just because God allows something, doesn't mean it pleases Him in a moral sense.

Too often we as Christians use “It is what it is” to justify things. It is a way of saying love it or leave it, but you can’t leave it. We use the phrase as a way to say go with the flow. This idea, this philosophy ignores the cross. The way things are are not how they are going to be. We live in a time, after the cross, where we can identify evil and even minor injustice and see Christ change them with the power of the cross. However if we simply allow them to be, they will continue

Instead of focusing on what is, we need to focus on what can be.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Worship & Theology, post 5: This thing is worse than Swine Flu!

So having set the table, its time to dig into the steak.

Our services of worship have gone down hill. If we were to point fingers, and I don't intend to; we could point to Finney and Darby, but I won't. Suffice it to say that what passes as worship music today is failing.

And it is not that it is not good music. In fact the opposite is the case. Never have more people been in the full employment (or support) of the church in the area of music.

There are more professional and professional caliber musicians serving the church with less theological music being written. We have substituted musical excellence for excellent music.

What I mean by that is that we have sacrificed content for style. Our music is good. It is popular. There is little difference between U2 and some of our more popular worship groups. That is no slam on U2, it is a compliment.

The problem is that we have focused so hard on the style and attracting people to worship that we have abandoned that which is just outside our range of vision, God.

A few weeks ago, everyone was scarred that the half of the world's population was going to die of Swine Flu. Surgical masks in hand, people braved mass-transit. Armed with super-mega-antibiotics people took to the streets hoping not to be victimized by this pig-faced killer. But it was a lot of hype and not a lot of fall out. It was more bacon and less epidemic and apocalypse. Am I guilty of the same thing? Am I making a pandemic out of a minor issue? Is this Swine Flu or simply a strain of Flu called H1N1?

Lets take a look. The following are the top songs from the Christian section of iTunes by downloads. The first is "God in Me" by Mary Mary. Here are the lyrics:

- Mary Mary Lyrics

Seriously, I can't make this up. But lets be fair the next song was by famous worship leader David Crowder. It's called How He Loves.

Lyrics | David Crowder Lyrics | How He Loves Lyrics

This is much better, but there is still some significant problems. Did you catch the line about heaven meeting earth like a sloppy wet kiss. I'm sorry, is this the transcendent God of the universe or Brad Pitt in a romantic comedy?

The third most downloaded song is Matthew West's "The Motions":

Lyrics | Matthew West Lyrics | The Motions Lyrics

OK. At this point I need to stop.

I don't want to sound negative and like everything is awful and bad. I am not trying to say that everything that doesn't meet my select standard of theology fails.

What I do want to point out is the extreme lack of any kind of theology whatsoever. It is not as if I object to these songs out of my theological vantage point. They have no theological vantage point.

It is also not that I object to these songs because they sound too much like God is my girlfriend. There is theological justification of that style of worship as made clear in the book of Song of Songs.

Here is the point that I am making, and to be pointed that I am putting to you Rich: The music behind these songs is relatively good. The problem is theological. We have to abandon notions of musical excellence until we can recapture the transcendence and a healthy dose of the immanence of God.

We have sacrificed our theology on the altar of music.

Links to the conversation thus far:

1 2 3 4

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wal-Mart is Killing the Church

Let me start by pointing out that Rich Van Voorst has posted the latest blog in our series on Worship and Theology over at his blog. This post is number 4. We will begin numbering our post so you can follow the flow better.

Ok, to my thoughts:

Wal-Mart killing the church. There, I said it.

Ok, So I don’t mean that Sam Walton is out to destroy Christianity. I am pretty sure he isn’t.

What I mean is the philosophy that drives Wal-Mart is bleeding into our concept of church in ways that are disconcerting.

When you go to Wal-Mart you are confronted with a dizzying array of choices. What kind of orange soda does my mother-in-law want? Shasta? Sunkist? Orange Crush? Fanta? Sam’s Choice? Nehi? Barrilitos? Even worse, what if she wants carbonated orange drink that isn’t soda; the choices increase exponentially.

So there I stand in the aisle dedicated to soda, reeling at my choices.

But I am not that worried. If I pick the wrong one and she wants another, though it will be a pain, all I have to is go back and get the right one.

We can have anything we want custom made. I presided over a weeding a few years ago where the bride and groom had M&M’s made with their names on them. How cool is that!

Unfortunately we have brought this mentality to church. Our commitment only runs as deep as the given churches commitment to make us happy. If anything changes that we don’t like, we quit and go somewhere that fits our needs.

If they serve Matza bread at communion, we leave for the Church of the Leavened Bread. If they don’t cater to our needs we find someone who will. This is what has created 27,647 distinct IRS recognized church divisions in the United states.

You could go to a different denomination once a day, everyday from the day you were born and would not finish visiting them all until you were 75!

We have got to commit to a church and believe that we are a part of that body. If we believe that the Bible is true, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that people to not join churches at random. They are created to be specific part of a body at a specific time. They are not created to endlessly seek what makes them happy.

It is not always easy, but we are created for a specific church and that church needs us, and we need them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Worship and Theology: Boundaries and Fences; Staffs and Clefs (3)

As we embark on this conversation, it may be helpful to be clear and narrow in our scope. When anyone brings up the topic of worship, hackles go up and some people immediately take a defensive position. Rich and I want this discussion to be specific rather than vague.

Scotty Smith, a Presbyterian pastor from Tennessee, spoke at a workshop at the Gospel Coalition Confrence this past April. He was careful to distinguish between “services of worship” and “worship services”. This was a helpful distinction, but still lacks a bit of clarity. For the purpose of these blogs and this one in particular, let us set the terms Services of Worship and Worshipful services. Services of Worship are the time we spend on Sunday morning gathered together with our local bodies to express our Worship to the Covenant Lord. Worshipful service is any good and profitable thing we do which brings glory to that same Lord. These themes flow from the pages of scripture from start to finish.

While in Eden our forefathers experienced both services of worship (when they walked with God in the cool of the day) and worshipful services as they carried out the commands of the Cultural Mandate (sometimes called the Covenant of Eden or Covenant of works). They were not simply prohibited from eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but they were positively commanded to be fruitful and multiply and push the borders of the garden outwards (Gen 1:28-30).

Later as redemptive history moved on, we find Moses and the people of Israel at the foot of the mountain. Here they are given the Ten Commandments by Charlton Heston. These Ten Commandments deal essentially with services of worship and worshipful service. The first four commands instruct Israel in her behavior towards God (or her services of worship). The next six commands deal with the way the people are to treat one another in everything from sexuality to business. Here God is dealing with their worshipful services.

Later still, Christ meets a Samaritan woman by a well. After a lengthy discussion she tries to bait him into declaring one place of services of worship illegitimate and another approved. Jesus masterfully navigates this complex and culturally loaded issue and declares that a time is coming where worshipers will offer services of worship all over the world and offer them in “Spirit and Truth”.

Paul and the writer of Hebrews pick these themes up as well. Paul speaks of our worshipful services in Romans when he calls us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. The author of Hebrews weaves the tow themes together seamlessly. He speaks of the excellencies of coming to heavenly Jerusalem as opposed to Sinai then urges us to offer acceptable services of worship. (Hebrews 12:18-29) He then launches into a treatment of our worshipful service, tying them together in chapter 13:15-16.

The scriptures even give us a peak into the world that is to come. Revelation continues the dance between services of worship with worship service, giving us pictures of both celestial services of worship and new earthly worshipful service.

So where does that leave us, to be more specific, where does this leave this series of blogs. Rich and I will be focusing on services of worship. We both understand the importance and biblical significance of worshipful services, but are not seeking to address it here. We want to deal with those specific activities that are practiced on Sunday mornings, the world over. The Church has put an emphasis on these since the earliest times. From the Hebrews author urging members not to neglect coming together, to the significance of the mass in the middle ages to the importance the reformers put on the Sunday service to the very models of ministry taught and used today, Sunday morning services of worship are a centerpiece to modern Christianity and we are seeking to address what goes on in them.

(This post is part of an on going series. You can find the previous posts here and here.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Blog Series: Theology and Worship Music (1)

As many of you may know, one of my closest friends is Rich Van Voorst. Rich has been an incredible friend to me since we met nearly 5 years ago. Rich is a Jazz composer and talented Saxophonist. He holds two masters degrees from USF (in Composition and Jazz preformance). On top of this he has an excellent mind for theology. He has often been my sparring partner on a number of theological issues. He reads and thinks through a ton of material.

Rich and I share a passion for our Reformed heritage and a desire to see our churches (both local and global) live out the mantra of the reformation, "Soli Deo Gloria". We both would like to turn our hearts toward improving the quality of worship on our communities.

That being said, we come from different vantage points. Over the next few weeks,we will be corresponding over our blogs. I will be taking the premise, Worship is first theology and second, music. Rich will be taking the position, Worship is equally theology and music.

We understand there is a lot of nuance in worship discussions and we are limiting ourselves to the idea of corporate, Sunday morning worship; specifically music.

In the mean time, check our Rich's blog at

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sermon on the Shrewd Manager

Yesterday I had the privileged to preach for the first time since I have served at Surfside Presbyterian Church. We have been studying an excellent small group study called "Modern Parables" and the sermons have been following the same passages. As fate would have it, the passage that fell to me was the most difficult. I was assigned the parable of the Shrewd Manager.

This text is by far the most difficult sermon I have ever preached. The text was extremely difficult to fully wrap my head around and therefore, difficult to communicate. I would like to share a few thoughts before sharing the link to the sermon.

> This text is part of the same encounter with the Pharisees that began in ch. 15.

> This story is tied very closely to the story of the Prodigal Sons

> Though verses 10-13 are related, they are not a part of the parable. Instead they are a complex poem contrasting Mammon and the Kingdom.

> There are as many opinions on what this text means as there are commentators.

> I do disagree with the narrow application of this parable simply to finances.

So there are some of the complexities of this passage. Feel free to comment below.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Idolatry and the Aloft Hotel

This week I have the privilege of being in Chicago for the Gospel Coalition Conference. It has been amazing. Yesterday I heard messages by Tim Keller, John Piper, Phillip Ryken, and Mark Driscoll. Far and away the one that struck me the most was Keller. Keller did a fairly typical "Keller-esque" message on idolatry of the heart. He artfully identified and tore down numerous God's that we as Christians bow down to.

This was an interesting contrast with the hotel we are staying at. The hotel is called "Aloft", but should, perhaps, be called "Aloof". I am grateful for the church providing a hotel near the conference center and grateful that I am staying here. Nevertheless the attention to detail in the hotel is astounding. The entire hotel seems to have been designed, decorated and furnished by Ikea.

Cool lamps

Cool staircases

Cool color schemes that bounce alternately from stark solids to vivid patterns.

Even the music in the elevator music is cool.

In fact the elevator is a great microcosm of the hotel as a whole. The elevator is brush finished stainless steel from top to bottom and from a crown near the ceiling, a soft and beautiful blue lights seeps out. Then from some unscene (sic) speakers, a barrage of hip European sounding techno lurches out.

I walked in the hotel and (at least in my mind) made a motion like a 5th grader. I pumped my fist and elbow by my side and said in a loud whisper, "Yessssssssss". Again, this is all going on in my head. I love cool. A lot. A whole lot.

In fact, I worship cool. I kneel at the altar of pop culture and drink deep of the swill-y Kool-aide.

God help us, because I have a feeling, I am not alone.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Tape Letter #2

After much delay, here is the second Screwtape Letter:

Dearest Wormwood,
Well done young one! You have fanned the flame of fanaticism into a full-blown wild fire! Before you get too pleased with yourself, however, we must now carefully direct this passion. The best course of action at this point is to direct your patient into a strong sense of escapism.
We all know that the Maker created these beings much differently than he created us. We, Wormwood, are celestial beings meant for the heavens. They are not. In fact, they were created for the hideous blue-green ball they call earth. If, using fanaticism and poor end-times theology, we can move the attention from this world to the world to come, we have won no small victory!
Perhaps a bit more specifics here may help you in your quest. I have noticed from your correspondence that your subject continues to paint. By focusing his attention on escaping from this world to another, his painting will take one of two directions. It will either devolve into an over-romanticised myopic of a past that never really existed ( a sort of Rockwell-Redux), or he will abandon the painting entirely. Either one of these is acceptable.
The first option is in vogue in many circles of the enemies followers. They have so trivialized art and aesthetics that they have created mountains of what we demons call, Jesus Junk. It is an incredible sight, they have created stores that are wall to wall with this hackneyed, trite art. We have successfully eradicated true beauty in the church since the 1800’s. It has been a beautiful time. Long ago, when you were still cleaning the smokestacks of hell, we had to fight against imaginations inflamed with the beauty of creation and the stories of scripture and history. The music of the enemy had the potential, along with their architecture, to transport the average churchman to another plain. We, by introducing this eschatology of escapism, have bled the church of this. We invented a phrase, “Polishing the Brass on the Titanic”. It has worked wonders in dissuading followers of the way from creating beauty and art.
Above all, just remember the idea is to pull his focus from this world and keep it on endless study on misinterpretations of the world to come. If you can keep him convinced that the future is a spiritual world, disconnected and disembodied from the physical, we will be just fine. Tell Nefarii I send my regards.

Smirking in anticipation of Demise,
Your Uncle, Newtape