Tag Archives: the bible


Why I Started an Internet Radio Station (and How it Could Shape a Better America)

I promise you, this title isn’t just clickbait. I really did start an internet radio station, and I really believe it can help make things better in these (barely) United States of America. But to explain how and why, I need to start at the beginning.



First, for about as long as I could remember listening to music, I wanted to have a career in radio. I have vivid memories of being a kid and huddling up at night with a blanket and a handheld transistor radio, listening to the radio at night. It wasn’t just the music itself — although the music was definitely a huge part of it — but it was also hearing the voices of the DJs as they called out the songs and spoke to callers and whatnot. It was like I felt like by listening in, I was included in their informal gathering, getting invited into a party that I could attend anytime I was feeling lonely or like an outcast. Listening to the radio became an important coping mechanism, and when you’re nine years old and you’ve just moved to a new city, you need as many healthy ways to cope as possible.

As I grew older and moved through middle school and then high school, I continued to appreciate the way that local radio stations helped to define the shared language and culture of my generation. The songs, the stories, the slang, it was all tied to what radio station you listened to. And because I grew up in a city with a smaller black population, the radio helped me learn how to code switch. When I was with my white friends from school, it was all Z100. With my black friends, it was 1480 KBMS. The music and culture gave me a shared experience with which I could, through the awkward fits and starts of adolescence, find ways to fit in.

For a time, this worked really well. But I ran into problems when it came to expressing my faith.


Why I Can’t Educate You Further on Racial Issues

(Editor’s Note #1: My wife and I recently traveled to Quest Church in Seattle to hear a guided conversation with Austin Channing Brown, author of I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. It was an excellent conversation (as is the book, I’ve been listening to it on Audible), and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the author, along with theologians and pastors Brenda Salter-McNeil and Gail Song Bantum, as they discussed the issues. In the Q&A section, Ms. Brown made a statement that is very similar to the one that I’m making here, so out of respect I’m citing her as a source, albeit not a primary one.)
(Editor’s Note #2: If you’re in a hurry and want to skip the first half that explains how and why I felt the need to answer this question in this way, scroll down to the picture labeled “My Response Below.”)

So I there I was, arguing about racial issues on Facebook.


(Those of you who know me well should not at all be surprised by this.)

Okay, actually, arguing is a bit of a misnomer, because I’ve actually resolved to do less of that on Facebook. (I was going to say, “I’ve stopped doing that,” but I work as a pastor now, so the consequences of lying in a blog post are even greater than before.)

What I was doing, though, was having a spirited exchange with a few people (mostly mutual friends, or friends-of-friends) on the topic of racial injustice, which is where I spend a significant portion of my time on Facebook. I also do a lot of normal Facebook type activities, but because this particular online forum is the only place where I can interact with people who are both ideologically or politically opposed and honest enough about their beliefs to articulate them (as opposed to most church communities, where people are either unchallenged in their beliefs or far too polite to ever get into such discussions), I tend to have these kinds of discussions often, and almost exclusively on Facebook. I readily admit that talking about highly-charged political and/or emotional topics online is less than optimal, but in our segregated America, my choices are usually either to talk about it on Facebook or not talk about it at all (which in many cases is how we got into this terrible situation to begin with). So, as in many other situations, Facebook conversations about race seem like the best of several bad choices.


Going Rogue Threatens God’s Mission for Justice

Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is out in theaters, and it dutifully fills all the boxes in the spy thriller checklist. Lifelike masks? Death-defying stunts? Car chases? Gunplay and physical combat? Glamorous locales? Check, check, checkity-pop-zoom-bam-BOOM.

One thing that stuck with me was the title; an interesting development, because action movie titles are often pretty irrelevant. They’re designed to sound intriguing-and-dangerous-but-vague, and too often come across instead as techno-gibberish. (Does anyone remember what “Ghost Protocol” referred to in the fourth M:I installment? Don’t look it up on Wikipedia, that’s cheating.)

On the contrary, a whole nation going rogue? That’s much easier to understand. The phrase picked up steam in the broader consciousness after Sarah Palin entitled her 2009 political memoir Going Rogue, reclaiming a definition of a rogue not simply as “someone who lacks judgment or principle,” but “someone who deviates from the expected norm of behavior.”

(Say what you want about Sarah Palin, but she’s amazing at deviating from expected norms.)

In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the rogues in question take the form of a nefarious collective of foreign agents called The Syndicate, all united in the pursuit of a terrorist agenda.

So with the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) shut down by Congress, super spy Ethan Hunt (Cruise) must rely on his friends, comic relief Simon Pegg as Benji, the steely-eyed Jeremy Renner as chief analyst Brant, Ving Rhames’ muscly perma-smirk as the homie Luther, and Rebecca Ferguson as mysterious femme fatale Ilsa Faust – all working together to defeat The Syndicate, and to a lesser extent, justify the IMF’s existence.mission impossible cast profiles


The Truth Bucket Challenge (Sponsored by Ferguson, Mo.)


The sad irony is that, by virtue of the many friends and allies I have who are white and who understand the racial injustice involved in the whole Ferguson saga, that this article will probably be shared a lot — but probably not by the people who need to read it most.
But I’m writing anyway, in part because I’ve received valuable confirmation, in the form of several friends and allies confiding that my articles on the subject have helped them to initiate conversations with friends and family members who don’t get what all the controversy is about. To these folks — and you know who you are — I say wholeheartedly: thank you. I write with the same conviction that many tent-revival evangelists had back in the day: if it makes a difference, even for just one, then it’ll be worth it.


In the response to the many articles about the travesty that unfolded in Ferguson, I’ve seen certain trends in the comment sections. Particularly in the ones written by and toward evangelicals, like this excellent guest-blog series facilitated by Ed Stetzer on Christianity Today, the sentiments of (presumably white) dissenters usually include one or several of three common responses aimed at African-Americans or other people of color (paraphrased, but only slightly):

  • Regarding the “militarized” police response: with all the rioting and looting, what did they expect would happen?
  • Regarding protest: why don’t they protest the black-on-black violence in Chicago every weekend?
  • Regarding the shooting itself: We shouldn’t pass judgment if we don’t know all the facts.

These ideas are as ubiquitous as they are problematic. And they all stem from three problems that, by and large, are preventing more black and white people from establishing common ground in the wake of this tragedy.


Josh Charles & The Dash

It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.

— Ecclesiastes 7:2 (NIV)

If you’re a fan of CBS hit show The Good Wife and haven’t watched episode 515, entitled “Dramatics, Your Honor,” READ NO FURTHER.


Cross Movement Mandates All Emcees Rhyme in Greek

Not satisfied with being an industry leader in theologically orthodox rap music, John Wells recently made what some may consider a rather unorthodox decision.

Wells, known as The Tonic, but more broadly known as the president of Cross Movement Records, recently enacted a sweeping policy for all of the hip-hop groups under his label. Effective immediately, all emcees rhyming for Cross Movement Records must rap exclusively in Greek.

“In order to be true to the God of the Bible,” explained Wells at a recent press conference, “you have to speak the language of the Bible. So for us, that means speaking koine Greek, the language of the people. Although, I guess if you’re doing old-school hip-hop, then Hebrew would be an acceptable alternative.”

Up and down the roster, CMR artists are taking the news in stride.

“It just seems like the next logical step,” according to William “Duce” Branch, a.k.a. The Ambassador. “The beats will still be bangin’ like they always are, we’ll just be diggin’ deeper into the original language. Same message, same music, different form.

“The Bible says we’re called to be a peculiar people,” continued Branch. “Anybody can rap about God in English.

While all CMR artists are adapting their craft to fit the rule, it’s unclear whether the mew mandate will apply to cameo appearances from other rappers as well.

“My man Shabach wants to get down on another joint with me,” says Brady Goodwin, a.k.a. the Phanatik. “But I don’t know, he might have to change his name to ‘Aineo’ or something.”

Emanuel Lambert (“Da Truth”) was particularly excited when he heard the news, sensing an opportunity to raise the standard for other emcees.

“Some folks act like you gotta have a Bible degree if you want to be a part of our ministry. Obviously, that’s not true. All you really need are the first two semesters.”

The biggest concern for the CMR staff is how their legion of fans will react.

“We know this will be a big adjustment to many of the fans who have supported us faithfully since day one,” admits Wells. “But for those willing to join us on our journey, we’ve made available a CM starter kit.”

Wells is referring to the Official Cross Movement Super Fan Pak, a bundled product designed by their marketing consultants. It consists of an expanded “HIStory” boxed set of greatest hits, a new CM T-shirt emblazoned with “IXOYE” in graffiti typeface, a New American Standard Bible, and a copy of Strong’s Concordance.

“If critics want to say our music isn’t weighty enough, the Fan Pak alone weighs like 15 pounds, fam.”

At this, he received several fist-pounds from members of the appreciative crowd, some of whom were in line to pre-order their own Fan Paks.

“See,” said Wells. “They know the signature.”

Third-coast native Lecrae is cautiously optimistic about the new lyrical focus, though he is asking for patience from his fans.

“Some ask Lecrae, ‘when you gon’ rhyme again?’ and I’m like, ‘hold up gimme time, my man.’ Because I’m still trynna learn my Greek tenses, you know?”

While Cross Movement artists and staff are preparing for a backlash from folks who feel their Greek-only stance is too drastic, they’ve also received criticism that they haven’t gone far enough.

“Greek is for transliterations, ” says Lampmode Recordings emcee Shai Linne. “If you really want to speak the language of the New Testament, you gotta do what I do — rhyme in Aramaic.”

While it’s way too early to gauge the response from consumers, industry experts say that rapping in Greek will polarize their wider fan base of urban Christians and their supportive suburban and rural counterparts.

At many Christian bookstores, however, patrons greeted the news with indifference.

“I don’t think I would notice either way,” said Janice Stephens, avid shopper and figurine enthusiast.

“When it comes to rap, it’s all Greek to me anyhow.”

[I really shouldn’t have to say this, but just so there’s no confusion … this is a joke. It’s called satire. Don’t leave me angry comments about how I’m being disrespectful to the CM. On second thought, please… leave me angry comments. I need the comments.]