31.10.08

Across the Universe - October 31st, 2008

Well hello there! We hope you're enjoying your Halloween. I've never understood the allure of this holiday, positive or negative. I dislike getting dressed up. Stuff Christians Like explores Halloween Hating, which I understand even less than costumes, but Jon covers it pretty well. If you're not a fan of Halloween, you can always celebrate Reformation Day!

In any case, here's your "weekly" rundown of what's happening over the World Wide Web.

- The Halloween Code. This needs to be a nation-wide movement.

- The 20 Best TV Characters of the Past 20 Years (according to Paste). No Al Swearengen? Jimmy McNulty? And how is Ari Gold better than Kramer!?! Still, a fun list...

- Thanks to my old friend Kristy for alerting me to this blog, which has a strong statement on James Dobson's support of Sarah Palin. In other Dobson news, he is not...I repeat NOT...endorsing John McCain.

- Don Miller, tossing pumpkins. I used to stand out on that little railing late at night and watch the fog over Sellwood. Man, I miss home.

- If you're looking for a stunning symbol of how much Christians have come to care about money...wow.

- Out of Ur comments on What Evangelicals Do Well.

- You're welcome, Bryan. Too bad that didn't work out as well as you would've liked.

- Our friend David over at Patrol Mag interviews everyone's favorite contrarian, the legendary Christopher Hitchens. Hitch is likely the only Leftist/Neo-Con/Obama supporter alive.

If you're out trick-or-treating, be safe! From all of us here at the Burnside Blog, have a great weekend.

Sarah Palin Came to Erie

Sarah campaigned in my city yesterday. Several of my coworkers took time off and went to her rally. Here's some shots from the rally. Contrary to rumors, Sarah did not bite the head off a moose at the height of a rock-n-roll frenzy.

Politics aside, the pixs are interesting slice of Americana...

Burnside Endorses: Nerds

Since it's Halloween and all, I thought I'd take a moment to publicly endorse my favorite candy of all-time: Nerds.

When I was little, I dreamed of having the special Nerds cereal bowl. Unfortunately, my parents were cheapskates and wanted to keep me healthy, so I had to live with Grape Nuts (which are like fibery Nerds) and picking the dates out of my bowl of Just Right.

Nerds are tiny. Nerds are packed with flavor. They are crunchy. Nerds come in two flavors, so you can save the best for last. They are tangy and sweet. During the holidays, Nerds come in tiny shot-sized boxes you can down in one gulp.

In recent years, Willy Wonka has spun off a slew of Nerd-based products, and I've tried nearly all of them. Unfortunately, they've all been uniformly awful. Nerds Rope, Giant Chewy Nerds and Nerds Gum are digusting, nearly sacrilegious deviations. The only decent spin-off was Dweebs, which came in a three-compartment box and were pretty decent (though still not as good as Nerds themselves).

But what makes me even more angry is Willy Wonka, through all their experimentation, has refused to give me the Nerd treat I've always dreamed of: a giant, fist-sized Nerd I could gnaw on throughout the day.

To fulfill this dream, I had to improvise. Here's your recipe for Nerds Bars.

1) Buy a box of Nerds.
2) Wait until Summer.
3) Put the box of Nerds on your dashboard in the morning.
4) When the sun goes down, peel away the Nerds box. The Nerds should have melted together into a bar shape.
5) Enjoy!

Let us know your favorite candy in the comments!

30.10.08

Dan Gibson Pop Culture Minute, Vol. IV


How is it possible? It's been two months since the last Dan Gibson Pop Culture Minute! I know that so many of you have been flooding Jordan with cards and letters demanding the return of the DGPCM, and I appreciate every single one. Somehow, like Ringo Starr, I will reply to each and every one of you someday. For some reason, it seems like people have something else on their mind lately other than the world of music, film and television, but as the holiday season approaches, the most exciting time of the year for nerds approaches as well. Every other Thursday, you should be able to expect another vaguely useful recap of what's going on in the world of irrelevancy.


When music fans talk about R&B (rhythm and blues, in case you were wondering, although these days, the term basically means urban music with singing, not rapping), inevitably someone will say that the genre hasn't been the same since the glory days of the 1960's and the early 1970's. Between the Motown sound from Detroit and the southern influence of the Stax label, undoubtedly some of America's best music was made during that era. Unfortunately, living up to the music of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Otis Redding is a standard slightly too high. While the music business has moved on, portions of the white audience find themselves perplexed by the more urban leanings of the Akons and R. Kellys of the R&B world. I personally still find myself excited for every heavily vocodered T-Pain song (Thr33 Ringz, in stores November 11th!), but understandably, that sort of thing might not be for everyone. This year, however, if you choose to ignore contemporary R&B, you're missing out on at least two of the year's best albums.


Erykah Badu barely fits within any genre, including R&B, but where else would you file her music? The producers are ostensibly from the hip-hop world, although mostly staying on the fringes, and while Badu's voice most immediately recalls Billie Holiday, she's distinctively singing soul. I mean, what else would you call it? New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War from earlier this year is nearly as an album is nearly as difficult to decipher as its title, but the struggle to work your way as a listener through Badu's nearly unlimited ambition is worth it, especially considering she, unlike most, actually has something to say. Over the course of the album itself, there's nothing that resembles a single, and occasionally there are moments that barely resemble songs, but someone at her label must have been a convincing beggar, so Badu threw in “Honey” as a bonus track.



Be forewarned: if you're expecting the rest of the album to sound like the above track, you'll be disappointed, but if you want to hear an album – an actual album, more Dark Side of the Moon or OK Computer than a string on tracks only related by their singer -- that reflects the chaos and beauty of our times, you need to get yourself a copy of New Amerykah Part One.


Sometimes, however, it feels good not to have to work so hard listening to music. Part of the appeal of early Motown is that it sounds so effortless, as if these musicians and songwriters were working off the top of the collective heads. Clearly that wasn't the case, but a track like the Temptations' “My Girl” sounds like summertime and America, floating along without a real care, crushing on some girl talking about sunshine and flowers while time passes by. Later, as life and the world became more complicated by the minute, Motown's music changed (for good reason), but the sort of R&B that's instantly enjoyable to listen to without feeling like you might need to take a bath in Purell afterwards has returned with Ne-Yo's third album, Year of the Gentleman.



The album is clearly, especially in the case of the single “Miss Independent”, directed towards the ladies, but there's something special about this disc that should appeal to nearly anyone. The music itself is a model of modern production, but in this case, the beats and luscious synths are a frame for the lyrics while move from seduction with style, seduction with longing, and post-seduction heartache. The 70's soul tribute act that plays weekly at a bar here in Phoenix describes their music as being for “the grown and sexy”, and unlike some of his peers who end up being just boring and/or vulgar (I'm looking at you, Chris Brown and Usher), Ne-Yo pulls it off with a Michael Jackson like (I'm thinking Off the Wall or Thriller here, despite how difficult it is to remember those days now) ear for melody. If you or anyone you know has ever expressed an interest in R&B, you should just buy a stack of Ne-Yo discs for Christmas and use them as stocking stuffers. Whether the disc will hold up over time is impossible to say, but for months, it might end up being the only thing you want to hear coming out of your stereo.

In two weeks, a look at the upcoming winter film release schedule, a discussion of the release of Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy as harbinger of the apocalypse and possibly a story about the Jonas Brothers and their flatulent dog.

29.10.08

Closing Arguments

Here is Obama's infomercial from tonight. It's obviously well-produced, but will it change minds?



Disclaimer: I looked for a comparable video from the John McCain campaign. Near as I can tell, though, McCain's closing arguments seem to be that Obama is too risky and that we are all Joe the Plumber. If you know of a recent McCain video that better lays out his positions on the issues, let me know, I'll put it up. Here are two of McCain's latest videos:



Skyfather Down...AGAIN!

I'm not panicking. I'm not. I love Greg Oden, and I hope he's not hurt for his sake, but the Blazers are pretty awesome even without him.

Okay, maybe they weren't last night. But it'll take some time, and the L*kers were tough.


Still, Greg, our prayers go out to you. Hope that foot is okay, buddy, not for the sake of Blazer fans, but for your well-being. That's a lot of injuries.

The Idiot Box: The Pick Up Artist

This man goes by the name "Mystery". Mystery is the figurehead of a new underground movement called the "Seduction Community". Mystery has a reality show on VH1 called "The Pickup Artist." Mystery teaches socially awkward men how to get laid.

Mystery is a pathetic, loathsome toad of a man.

But Mystery is not an idiot.

He's figured out that meeting and sleeping with women isn't as hard as it seems, especially in an age of deadbeat fathers and the daddy issues they create. He's also figured men will do about anything to even talk to women, let alone have sex with them. By breaking down his methods into a never-ending cascade of acronyms and identifiers, Mystery can walk his hapless students through the process.

And watching the poor, goofy saps under his tutelage, I realized Mystery is actually doing men a favor.

It seems to me heterosexual men have to move through three stages to get the point where they are suitable for a mate.

The first stage is one of sensitive, ignorant fear. This stage usually occurs from puberty right up until the early 20's (it was more like mid-20's for me). This is the stage where men are afraid to talk to women from a romantic standpoint. They want women to appreciate them for the sensitive, understanding souls they are. They end up with a lot of girl friends, but no girlfriends.

After a while, these men begin to understand their approach is not working. In my case, it took a friend sitting me down and telling me "women like (jerks)." In any case, a pendulum swing occurs, and men begin to realize women do respond to cockiness and, sometimes, even being treated poorly.

The thing is, being an jerk only works for so long. After a while, any woman worth falling in love with is going to recognize you for what you are and leave.

Because women worth falling in love with don't like jerks. They like genuine confidence and strength. They like men who know who they are.

(Men want the same thing, by the way. But where women are blinded by what they think is confidence, men are blinded by looks.)

That's where the third stage comes in, when a man realizes he can be himself, a mix of confidence and vulnerability.

The reason Mystery and his doltish band of seduction artists are so pitiful rests in their inability to leave that second stage. Mystery teaches his students how to fake confidence, because that's what Mystery does best. Inside, he's a broken, sad shell of a man, but at least he's having fun. Right?

But back to Mystery doing men a favor.

It's clear the show's contestants are mired in that first stage, socially stumbling their way through life and hopelessly lonely. If you get past Mystery's base purpose (getting laid), you realize these men just need to see how easy it is to approach a beautiful woman and start a conversation. If the fake anecdotes and interest the men are taught to convey can become real stories and honest attention, these men could find themselves at that third phase, with a woman who can appreciate who they are. They'll fall in love with a woman who loves them back.

In the meantime, Mystery will go the way of Hugh Hefner, covering up his pain with blonde after vapid blonde, until the day he dies.

26.10.08

Part of the Solution: Dirty Cotton


According to a report from the Environmental Justice Foundation, titled “The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton,” and written in collaboration with the Pesticide Action Network UK:
  • Approximately 1 kilo of pesticide is applied to every hectare of cotton.

  • 99% of the world’s cotton farmers are located in developing countries, where safety precautions when dealing with the application of pesticides, such as access to protective gear, are nearly non-existent.

  • One third of the word’s cotton farmers are found in India, where cotton farmers have been seen wearing only short sleeved t-shirts and sarongs while working barefoot and barehanded when dealing with pesticides.

  • Direct contact with pesticides in cotton production results in at least 1 million hospitalizations each year and the acute pesticide poisoning of between 25 and 77 million agricultural workers worldwide.

  • Children are at severe risk of poisoning due to laboring in the fields or residing in close proximity to them.

  • The world’s cotton consumers demand more cotton today than ever before, with North America responsible for 25% of the world’s cotton consumption, and Europe following at 20%.

  • Consumers can directly impact cotton industry methods, and the social and environmental consequences of such, through their purchases.
Back when Ella and Lenna used to let me dress them, before they cared, I would hit the end of season sales at children’s clothing stores to buy their wardrobes for the next year. On clearance at 70% off, I could purchase an entire collection of coordinating separates in fun colors, prints, and patterns for next to nothing. And I was proud of this. I felt like the Proverbs Woman, dressing my family in scarlet.

But one fall evening, not too terribly long after procuring my oldest daughter’s second grade attire, my husband, Bjoern, and I happened to catch a documentary on our German television subscription channel. This investigative report followed the path of cotton from the fields to the big vats of dye, then to the warehouses and the retail stores that offer their goods for low prices, appealing to the consumers’ wallets and need for more. Wallets and needs like mine.

And I was appalled.

The journalists followed cotton farmers in India, who were so poor that they went into debt to even purchase the pesticides needed to grow their crop. Once in possession of the required chemicals, they proceeded to walk their fields with bare feet and open, overflowing containers of pesticide on their backs as they sprayed. Their family, friends, and neighbors, well, many of them were in the hospital, where they suffered from pesticide poisoning induced neurological disorders and, all too often, died.

Prior to that night, cotton was something I valued for its soft, natural fiber. I liked the way cotton felt against my skin, keeping me cool in the summer and warm in the winter. I found it important to seek out high quality, thick cotton in products that wouldn’t pill or fade, but had never given thought to discovering the origin of this white gold, let alone the methods with which it was grown and the resulting adverse effects on farmers. I hadn’t known to, I just hadn’t known.

Now enlightened, Ella’s new wardrobe was burning a deep hole in my conscious. Were my clothing purchases an act of loving my neighbor as myself? While my expenditures had been an act of loving my family, undoubtedly a noble cause, this new information left me feeling conflicted, and convicted. Yet also commissioned.

See, having already contributed to the demand for inexpensive cotton, I knew I couldn’t reverse my previous purchasing decisions. But maybe, for the future, I could remember the Three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Realistically, I figured it would be impossible to completely remove myself from the world’s system of cotton production– at some point I was going to need to buy new undergarments or socks. (Oh, okay, and the fashionable top here and there. I’m only woman after all.) But if my family and I could make do with fewer articles of clothing, then purchase organic or second-hand items at Goodwill, consignment shops, or Ebay whenever possible, then perhaps I could be one drop in the bucket of relief for the world’s cotton farmers, supporting clean production and lessening demand.

Maybe we could all be that little globule of relief?

They say that knowledge is power, and now I can attest to this fact. Comprehending how I was a part of the problem could also mean that it was possible to be a part of the solution. For it was only when I understood how my habits within the world’s clothing industry system contributed to oppression and injustice that I could intentionally strive towards the opposite end. And that, to me, was, and still is, empowering.

But this experience has me wondering: What else don’t I know?

That’s where you come in.

This column is intended be a place where we can come together and share our knowledge - our facts and our experiences - to empower and encourage one another into action. Let’s learn together how we can be a part of the solution in dismantling our world’s unjust systems of oppression. So, if you’ve got something we ought to know, send your facts and story, in 800 words or less, to reviews@burnsidewriterscollective.com.

(Editors Note: "Part of the Solution" is one of a series of new columns we'll be featuring on BWC 2.0. Click here for more information.)

Jesus Loves...Paris Hilton

(Editor's Note: To give you an idea of what we'll be including on Burnside 2.0, we'll be posting a new series of columns and features which will eventually be available on our new site. One weekly feature will be "Jesus Loves...", a photographic reminder that our Savior died for all of us and loves us each so much. It's a truth I could be reminded of more often.)

25.10.08

Why can't political ads be more like this? Ron Howard acts again.

A friend from college posted this video on his Facebook page, and I like it. Even if I am or not supporting the candidate he, Andy Taylor, and the Fonz are supporting, it's still a good video. Why can't more political ads be like this?

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

24.10.08

The New and Improved Burnside Blog!

We have an announcement.

For the last month or so, we've been raising funds to build a new website. We have currently raised around a third of our overall goal.

The money we've raised so far allowed to set off on Phase 1 of our rebuild. Our webdesigners, the awesome folks at Metaleap, have begun spinning little idea webs in the ether, taking the information we've provided and rendering them in 1s and 0s. It's exciting.

We still have a ways to go before the site is live. We still need your support.

But we wanted to give you a little sample of what our new site will offer. You can find a loose list of our planned changes here. We can't enact most of the changes just yet, but we can enact a few.

One of the new aspects of the site will be a series of columns from some of our frequent and most popular contributors. Over the last month, we gathered ideas and concepts, and we've decided to launch some of the best column ideas on the blog. Starting Sunday, you'll see at least one of these ongoing features each day.

We'll still be posting on the items of the day, of course, but we feel these features will give you, the reader, a better idea of what we're hoping to do with our new website. We hope you'll enjoy.

Thank you for spending some of your day with us.

23.10.08

Beer Reviews - Le Freak

Green Flash is a pretty decent, under-the-radar brewery. They're based in San Diego, and specialize in an excellent IPA, though their Imperial IPA isn't quite as spectacular. They dabble in the 22 ouncer market with a series of Trippels and fancy-pants beers, but, outside of their typical IPAs, they're just mediocre.

So it stunned me to recently find Le Freak, a new 22 ounce bottled beer out of Green Flash. Here's the description:
"Extreme ale converging San Diego-style imperial pale ale and Belgian-style trippel."
I like trippels and I like imperial pale ales. But I've never heard of anyone merging the two. Considering trippels tend to have a sweet, yeasty taste and imperial pale ales rely on hops, my mind was boggled. What would this beer taste like? I wanted to believe it was some kind of breakthrough rather than a gimmicky beer usually put out by the likes of Stone and Dogfish Head.

Here's the good thing that happened when I tasted my first sip of Le Freak: I realized what I liked out of both beers. I like the first taste of trippels...the fruity sweet and vague flavor of wild yeast. I like the back end of imperial pale ales...the rich hops you can almost feel in your lungs.

The bad thing is, Le Freak gets it all wrong. It's bitter and hoppy on the front end with a sickly Belgian aftertaste.

I'm all for innovation, and I applaud Green Flash for pushing the boundaries. But they've come up short with Le Freak. I know "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" teaches us the value of society's outcasts (or not, I'm really not very familiar with the story arc), but sometimes freaks should be kept at the margins.

(Never when it comes to humans of course...just beer.)

It's not that Le Freak is awful...it's just mediocre. And when I pay $7 for a bottle of beer, I expect more than mediocre.

22.10.08

John McCain's Latest Strategy

Gotta love the new strategy out of the McCain camp: insinuating we'll be attacked if Barack Obama is elected President.

Sheesh.

Other horrible things that might happen if Barack Obama is elected:

- Our country may face an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression!

- Osama Bin Laden will probably not be found!

- Everyone will become gay!

- Illegal immigrants will start pouring across our borders!

- Our foreign relations will deteriorate!

Senator McCain also said, during the second debate, that he knows how to find Osama Bin Laden, which begs the question, "Why haven't you told anyone else?" These crazy guarantees remind me of someone else, but I'm they'll be two completely different leaders.

And, you know, Barack Obama probably made a bunch of unrealistic promises today, too, just to stay fair and balanced.

The Mentoring Project

I recently joined the board of the Mentoring Project, an organization that has the goal of having 1000 churches provide 10 mentors to the children of single moms. That's so doable. And when we accomplish this goal we'll have unlocked more of the redemptive potential of Jesus' body on earth. Take a second to look at this brief video that describes the problem of fatherlessness in America and how mentoring will change the trajectory of this crisis.

It's going to happen. 1000 churches. 10,000 mentors.


Um...That Might Be Out of Context...

After 28 years of living in Christian culture, I've slowly and sadly been numbed to the quotation of Scripture.

I realize that's an overreaction...throwing the baby out with the bathwater, if you will. But I'd guess the vast majority of the Bible verses are quoted to support whatever one's opinion happens to be at that time. Even worse, all someone else has to say is, "That's taken out of context!" Whether it was or not, all the sudden we're back where we started. It'd take a lifetime of seminary to figure out the context of every shred of Scripture. And even then, there'd be another seminary somewhere else differing with you at every step.

Take, for instance, a high school football team in East Atlanta that refused to play the New Creation Center Crusaders because they had a female kicker.
“The East Atlanta Mustangs didn’t play us under protest but they were allowed to read a statement on their beliefs about female football players,” Townley said. “They used biblical verses from the book of Romans. I was very stunned by that.”
We had a female kicker on my high school team, and that was over 10 years ago. And doesn't anyone remember "Quarterback Princess", the 1985 film starring Helen Hunt?

Ah, but God reigns over it all, and everyone knows He was very explicit on girls wearing helmets and shoulder pads. Next, the Mustangs will be sending their unclean mothers, sisters and girlfriends out of town during "that time of the month".

21.10.08

Digital Television




Simply doing my public service (of entertainment) for the week:

The CHURCHED Winners!

We have a winner! Well we have two winners, but I received two copies of Matthew Paul Turner's Churched. So I have two copies to give away. First place went to Melody, for this horrible Fundamentalist moment:

Probably my most memorable moment (which is now funny, but at the time was terrifying) was when the church decided to do a month focused on the rapture. The culminating event was a four day movie festival when we showed all of the "Thief in the Night" Videos. If you don't know them, they were made in the 1970s and depict life on earth during "the tribulation" for those who were not raptured. They are Christian movies, but they include scenes of torture, nuclear holocaust and a few beheadings; so they aren't your average church film.

I was about 7 years old and was encouraged to watch them all because, "even children should know the truth." Needless to say I was scared out of my mind and would wake up multiple times during the night to make sure the rest of the family hadn't been raptured with out me.

Almost a month after the videos, I woke up and found no one in my house. I started to get nervous so I looked outside; no one out in the streets. I called for my dog, she didn't come. Obviously the rapture had happened and God thought that even my dog was more christian than I was! I ran to the neighbor's house, knocked on the door and when he opened it I said, "I need help! My family has been taken up by the rapture and I'm all alone. I knew you would be here because my my Sunday School Teacher said people who drink and smoke, are heathens who go to hell." As he stood, bewildered, my Dad came around the block, walking the dog. He did not enjoy the conversation he had to have with the next door neighbor.

Second place went to Chris Hyde, who was the very first to respond ... so early that he got my original post in which I asked to email your ideas to my own email address:

Here's how far fundamentalism can go. Do you remember that the singer Carmen came out with an album in the 80's entitled "The Champion". The title song told the story of a boxing match between Jesus and Satan. Now mind you, this was back in the days of breaking records that were "of the devil". Well, even though Carmen is a Christian, I decided I needed to destroy my Carmen album because the song "The Champion" took liberties in the story of Jesus defeating Satan and the Cross and I didn't want to violate Rev 22:18, "...if anyone adds to (the words of the prophecy), God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book." Pretty scary reason to break a Christian album, huh?!?!

Thanks to everyone else for playing. Next, I'm reviewing "Coffeehouse Theology" by Ed Cyzewsky, and I'll be giving that book away as well. Check back soon!

Putting the Rancor Aside

I have some concerns about the dialogue in this Presidential campaign. The closer this election comes, the more it seems clear Barack Obama will win, the angrier the hardcore Republicans are getting. And when I say 'hardcore Republicans', I mean the morons claiming Barack Obama is a Muslim, terrorist-loving Socialist...not the millions of conservatives who legitimately align more with John McCain than his Democratic opponent. Since when have Muslim countries sponsoring terrorism been prone to Socialism, anyway? I thought theocracy was more their thing.

(Addendum: Of course, it's not like the anger is one-way. These idiots decided to hold up Sarah Palin's motorcade in Grand Junction, Colorado.)

And because I'm worried about that rancor, I thought I'd post these videos of the two candidates at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner.

Before his campaign began, people forget John McCain was a regular guest on The Daily Show. He has a quick comedy mind, and he and Jon Stewart had great rapport. This video reminded me of that...it reminded me both of these men are likable, can deliver a joke, and have decent writing teams.



Are you among the purged?

Since I like to think that our site and blog has a nationwide reach, I thought I would bring this small bit of electoral nuttiness to your attention. According to our friend Bo Lipari, 1.5 million voters in New York state have been purged from their records.

I don't care who you are voting for this year, but if you live or are registered in NY and plan on supporting a candidate or voting on important local issues, you owe it to yourself to call 1.866.868.3692 and make sure that you are on the rolls before November 4th.

20.10.08

Monk's Dream

There's a bit of a discussion at the main site about the state of modern worship. I'll let others debate that and take a second to say how much I enjoy my church's worship culture.

This weekend I say in with the band during the weekend services on piano and keys. The worship leader asked if I'd play a solo. I half-kidding suggested a Theolonious Monk piece entitled "Monk's Dream." The worship leader didn't bat an eye and said yes. So I worked up that post-bop piece and played it during the offering.

I was a bit nervous about playing a secular piece in church (although some jazz provokes sincere worship in me). I asked Brian, the worship boss, if the song needed some set up. Maybe a "all true and beauty is God's truth and beauty" thing. Brian laughed and just told me to play. Brian knew that playing the piece for God in public was all the set up that was needed.

Here's a youtube of the song. I didn't do Chick's arrangement, mostly because I wasn't blessed with twenty fingers. But you'll get the idea...

19.10.08

She's gone and gotten herself pregnant

The Readings: Matthew 1:18-25; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 5:30-32; John 15:4-5

"Every birth is a cause for celebration." I remember hearing the words from the mouth of a 50 something woman when one of her peers shared that her unmarried daughter was pregnant. Yes. This is surely a truth for the ages - life is a blessing!

Yet it's also true that, even in the best of times, carrying new life also requires pain and sacrifice on the part of the life givers. There's that pesky child birth pain, followed by sleep deprivation, hormonal fallout, curtailment of sexual intimacy, stinking diapers, and an exponential increase in the amount of time it takes to go anywhere outside the house.

Why bother? Because life is a blessing: a blessing to nurture in the womb, bring into the world, share with serve, suffer with, rejoice with, love. A bother? Sometimes, for certain, but more so a blessing. Pain and priceless asset. Source of grief and gladness.

Of course, we're not just talking about babies. Paul's passion for the church is that Christ would be 'formed in us' and he uses a word picture to describe this that indicates our spiritual formation is like childbirth. Jesus Himself uses the similar imagery when He calls His church the "bride of Christ" and invites us to be fruitful (read, "give birth") by living in union with Him. Allowing Jesus to fill us with His life will no doubt have the effect of disrupting our lives in some very big ways.

There are two important reasons that I won't whine about all this disruption. First, the joys of fruitfulness outweigh the burdens every time. My children, now grown, plaster the walls of wherever it is that I study, write, live, because they are my great joy. And so it is with the fruit that comes about in our lives by virtue of union with Christ. Such union has meant travail, interruption, frustration, conviction, and the loss of my isolated, autonomous self. It's also meant meals, laughter, tears, and prayers, shared with new friends in far flung places around the world. It's meant healing where there was only ugliness and self-pity before. It's mean a whole new set of eyes, helping me to find joy in simple things like a sunrise, candlelight, fresh fish, a good sweater from the thrift store, and merlot with Vivaldi or Cold Play. Best of all, it's meant participating in God's story and seeing lives become more like Jesus in ways large and small. Fruit is disruptive, there's no doubt about it. Intimacy works that way. Union with Christ means the Jesus will challenge my tiny, fearful, indulgent life, asking more of me than I think I'm capable of. And this fruitful life is costly. People die every day because they love Jesus. But even those who die young would never trade a second of life united with Christ for decades of the barren altrernative.

The second, more important reason to enjoy spiritual maternity as the bride of Christ is because Jesus 'broke trial', (if you'll forgive my shift to different metaphor for a moment) by allowing Himself to be disrupted. He's the one who had the most to lose: heaven, status as deity, perfect union with God, freedom from guilt, all were tossed aside because of love, in the pursuit of intimacy with us, precisely so that His bride, the church, could become the bearer of fruit in our desparately barren world. He was disrupted first. Now it's our turn.

Does Christ live in you? How awesome is that! This is, after all, the mystery of the ages. If it's true in your life, congratulations! You're pregnant. Maybe hand out a few cigars. Throw a party. And prepare for the glorious disruption that inevitably comes as Jesus expresses life through you.

Those Meddling Kids


From a Republican campaign office in Broward County, Florida. To his credit, when the county chairman of the Republican Party heard about the sign he called it "ignorant" and said he was "disgusted." He drove to the office himself to take it down. Plus, can I make two requests? If you're going to make hateful signs about a guy, can you at least spell his name right? And, while you're at it, can you please not use the same font as my beloved New York Review of Books?

In other election news, Colin Powell - a foreign policy heavyweight by anyone's measure, and, it should be noted, a Republican - endorsed Barack Obama today on Meet the Press. Powell says in this clip what I wish Obama himself had said months ago. Basically: "Obama is a Christian. But what if he was a Muslim? Would that disqualify him from being president?"

18.10.08

One More Day to win a copy of Churched!

We've got a book contest going on at Burnside. Read the review of Matthew Paul Turner's Churched HERE! Then submit your worst Fundamentalist Horror Memory, and you could win a copy of Churched! Remember: you must leave your email address, or we can't contact you if you win. GO on, check it out! Contest ends Sunday, October 19. 100% guaranteed, not a guarantee, void where prohibited by church law, tax license surcharges and scofflaws octupled after shipping, Dr Phil fans excluded from playing, Jordan Green wears underoos, David Arquette will never appear in our advertising

17.10.08

How do we protect unborn children? And which ones?

As I think about the abortion debate in Christian culture and the political arena I am both heartened and disappointed. First, I am terribly frustrated that politicians use it to grab votes but have yet to do anything substantive to reduce the number of abortions in this country. Second, I have a great deal of respect for people who make it one of their main priorities to stand up for children in the womb, but I am also incredibly disappointed that this advocacy more often than not doesn't exist on either end of the nine months of pregnancy.

Like all acts of love and service, it is often much easier to think about it, have an opinion about it, blog about it, even attend a rally, than it is to support a young mother, build relationships with kids who need mentors, and step outside of the daily list of to-do's long enough to make a real impact in the life of a child.

And that's only the beginning of the discussion. In places like Sierra Leone, one in eight women die during pregnancy or childbirth, compared to a one in 76 average in the rest of the developing world, and one in 4,800 in the United States. This video tells the story of one of these women.

According to UNICEF, high infant and maternal mortality rates in Sierra Leone are caused by an underinvestment in health programs, malnutrition, and harmful cultural practices like female genital mutilation. Although it is one of the poorest countries in the world, Sierra Leone is doing much better than it was even a few years ago. Still, women and children are dying there every day. I believe this is something that we should be treating with the same level of moral indignation as we do the abortion issue in this country. I am certain that people do care about these stories and these families, but they are incredibly complex issues, so it is much more difficult to have an opinion.

But here's the reality: we don't have to know all the answers to be moved to action. There are approximately 3,700 abortions per day in the US, which is incredibly tragic. And demands action. Another tragedy demanding action is this: 30,000 children under the age of five die each day from preventable illness, and the infant mortality rate is approximately fifty times higher in the developing world than in our world. That is an immense injustice that we can hold our politicians accountable to. We don't have a lot of control over the sovereignty of governments, but we do have the ability to hold governments accountable to just policies (both theirs and ours), such as not forcing poor countries to deregulate their markets as a condition for trading agreements or development assistance. Faulty agreements like this have been part of the reason why almost all African countries now have a lower per-capita income than they did in 1980. And poverty kills.

Let's stop caring about, having opinions on, and voting on one issue. Let's care about, have opinions on, and vote for all life. It's more complicated, but it's our moral obligation.

Where's Your Wall Between Church and State?

Were do you stand (or think you stand) on the separation of Church and State? What depth of political involvement do you believe churches should engage in? What kind of political Christian are you, really?

ChristianityToday.com and BuildingChurchLeaders.com have assembled a 2-part survey with analysis by Amy E. Black. You might find some answers here. (Or, like most simple surveys you might find nothing but an oversimplification. I'll leave it up to you to decide.)

16.10.08

"She's gone and gotten herself pregnant..."

The Readings: Matthew 1:18-25; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 5:30-32; John 15:4-5

"Every birth is a cause for celebration." I remember hearing the words from the mouth of a 50 something woman when one of her peers shared that her unmarried daughter was pregnant. Yes. This is surely a truth for the ages - life is a blessing!

Yet it's also true that, even in the best of times, carrying new life also requires pain and sacrifice on the part of the life givers. There's that pesky child birth pain, followed by sleep deprivation, hormonal fallout, curtailment of sexual intimacy, stinking diapers, and an exponential increase in the amount of time it takes to go anywhere outside the house.

Why bother? Because life is a blessing: a blessing to nurture in the womb, bring into the world, share with serve, suffer with, rejoice with, love. A bother? Sometimes, for certain, but more so a blessing. Pain and priceless asset. Source of grief and gladness.

Of course, we're not just talking about babies. Paul's passion for the church is that Christ would be 'formed in us' and he uses a word picture to describe this that indicates our spiritual formation is like childbirth. Jesus Himself uses the similar imagery when He calls His church the "bride of Christ" and invites us to be fruitful (read, "give birth") by living in union with Him. Allowing Jesus to fill us with His life will no doubt have the effect of disrupting our lives in some very big ways.

There are two important reasons that I won't whine about all this disruption. First, the joys of fruitfulness outweigh the burdens every time. My children, now grown, plaster the walls of wherever it is that I study, write, live, because they are my great joy. And so it is with the fruit that comes about in our lives by virtue of union with Christ. Such union has meant travail, interruption, frustration, conviction, and the loss of my isolated, autonomous self. It's also meant meals, laughter, tears, and prayers, shared with new friends in far flung places around the world. It's meant healing where there was only ugliness and self-pity before. It's mean a whole new set of eyes, helping me to find joy in simple things like a sunrise, candlelight, fresh fish, a good sweater from the thrift store, and merlot with Vivaldi or Cold Play. Best of all, it's meant participating in God's story and seeing lives become more like Jesus in ways large and small. Fruit is disruptive, there's no doubt about it. Intimacy works that way. Union with Christ means the Jesus will challenge my tiny, fearful, indulgent life, asking more of me than I think I'm capable of. And this fruitful life is costly. People die every day because they love Jesus. But even those who die young would never trade a second of life united with Christ for decades of the barren altrernative.

The second, more important reason to enjoy spiritual maternity as the bride of Christ is because Jesus 'broke trial', (if you'll forgive my shift to different metaphor for a moment) by allowing Himself to be disrupted. He's the one who had the most to lose: heaven, status as deity, perfect union with God, freedom from guilt, all were tossed aside because of love, in the pursuit of intimacy with us, precisely so that His bride, the church, could become the bearer of fruit in our desparately barren world. He was disrupted first. Now it's our turn.

Does Christ live in you? How awesome is that! This is, after all, the mystery of the ages. If it's true in your life, congratulations! You're pregnant. Maybe hand out a few cigars. Throw a party. And prepare for the glorious disruption that inevitably comes as Jesus expresses life through you.

Great Not-So Christian Music: The Holy Modal Rounders

Time for a bit of the ol' self-promotion. As some of you may or may not know (or care), I do a fair amount of scribbling in my free hours - those hours that I'm not editing music reviews and articles for Burnside Writers Collective.

Anyway, I had the honor of researching and interviewing a bunch of former and current members and fans of the seminal '60s acid-folk group The Holy Modal Rounders so that I could write a piece for Portland's #1 free weekly, Willamette Week.

The piece is done. It is published. And you can read it here.

Thank you for your kind attention.

The Sticky Nature of Lawmaking

During last night's Presidential debate, the issue of abortion came up toward the end. In my view, Barack Obama was a little weak on the issue, appealing more to pro-choice voters and barely touching on abortion being, at the very least, something we should strive to prevent.

Still, there was this comment by Senator McCain:
"Sen. Obama, as a member of the Illinois State Senate, voted in the Judiciary Committee against a law that would provide immediate medical attention to a child born of a failed abortion. He voted against that."
During my senior year in high school, I was involved in a Youth and Government program. One weekend, schools across Oregon sent "delegates" to Salem, where we drew up, debated and voted on fake bills.

Anyone who's ever paid attention to law-making, or examined a state measure or proposition, understands laws are rarely simple. Lawmakers often have to sift through mounds of information, small-print and also have an understanding of previous legal findings. On the surface a law might look clear and obvious (Clean water in our Public Schools? Who could argue with that!), but underneath there may be myriads of stipulations, qualifiers, financial issues, etc. (The clean water goes only to the four richest schools in the district? Well that doesn't seem right...)

To put it more bluntly and theoretically, maybe a Senator is trying to pass the "Love the Children Bill", which makes it illegal to not love children. But maybe, on page 473 of that bill, there's a little line that says all adults over the age of 65 should be turned into food to feed starving children. SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!

So when voters are asked to look at the voting records of candidates, it behooves them to really examine the bills that were voted on.

My wife Mindy, who is adamantly pro-life and a pediatric resident here in Phoenix, has repeatedly explained the law Senator McCain refers to above. I may be paraphrasing here, and my facts may be a bit off, but here's the gist:

As Barack Obama pointed out, doctors are already required by law to provide medical attention to babies born from failed abortions. The issue is, as Mindy puts it, there are times where children cannot be kept alive (for instance, before 24 weeks in the womb, when they are unviable to life outside). Doctors, therefore, are wary of laws which force them into doing something they already do, especially since those laws could force them to keep premature children alive no matter what. This is one of the reasons, as Obama stated last night, the Illinois Medical Society was against the law. It wasn't because they were soulless baby-killers, it was because the law was unnecessary. Ultimately, it was another strategic move in the abortion debate to gain legal precendent, which has been the main battleground in recent years.

On the other hand, those stipulations and earmarks are often used to bat down proposals lawmakers may disagree with. If they don't like what a bill is proposing, legislators can basically focus on the details, which delays a bill's passage until it's written for broader appeal, or shutdown completely.

The point is, lawmaking is not easy, we need to investigate attacks on candidates voting records, and oversimplified rhetoric only works on a populace of fools.

(Note: I am one of those fools, because who has time to read through all that stuff?)

14.10.08

I Miss You, Oregon.

For our 7th grade project at Binnsmead Middle School in Southeast Portland, we had to create an animal, paint it on a big sheet of butcher paper, and give a speech about our animal in front of the entire school.

My animal was "The RushEagle". It was Rush Limbaugh's head on the body of an eagle. The eagle was painted like the American flag.

Also, I had Rush Limbaugh's Newsweek cover on my binder. I spent an entire year in the public school system of a city George H.W. Bush called "Little Beirut", with the leader of the Right grinning out from my schoolwork. My teachers, quite a few of whom were gay and lesbian, had to put up with my insurrectionist little hand darting up to question their teaching: "Isn't there only one way to completely avoid STDs, Mrs. Miller? And isn't that abstinence?" "Wasn't it Ronald Reagan's defense spending that brought down the Berlin Wall, Mr. Plamondon?" Fortunately, I was a good, well-behaved student, and my questions usually elicited little more than eye-rolling.

I'm as proud of that year as any other time in my life. My dad was the one who taught me to think critically and carve my own path, and my hometown offered me the ideal training ground. I had to know my points or I'd be shredded. At the same time, I couldn't plug my ears, close my eyes and ignore the perspectives around me.

That's one of the reasons I was amazed to see this new study by fivethirtyeight.com sent to me by my atheist friend Drewbles. (I don't believe he's actually atheist...he just says he is. He'll come around eventually.)

It's a fascinating breakdown of the political landscape in Oregon. Apparently, we are both the most liberal state in the Union and the most conservative. Suck on that, Utah and Massachusets!

That division isn't necessarily a good thing. Since cities like Eugene and Portland are dark blue while the rest of the state bleeds Red, the number indicate strong tensions between urban and rural voters. But at the same time, that strange mix of extreme Right and Left has developed a "weird political soup wherein Oregon has decriminalized marijuana but has also passed a gay marriage ban...allows assisted suicide but also has one of the nation's lowest effective tax rates."

I miss home.

Our Placards

They will know we are Christians by...


Via fivethirtyeight.com and brettmarty.com.

13.10.08

Great Christian Music: Steve Taylor

I was about fourteen when I noticed putrid smells coming from certain rooms in The Church: racism, hypocrisy, profiteering evangelists, prosperity gospels, and other such piles of bullshit that I had to step over on my journey of faith. When I brought these subjects up to my Sunday School teachers and youth leaders, I got everything from rationalization to equivocation to outright denial. One day when I was mocking a pre-scandal Jim Bakker, one of my teachers rebuked me, saying, "You shouldn't question an anointed man of God." Something was rotten in the state of Denmark, and I wondered if I was the only one who could smell it.

Until I found Steve Taylor.

When I first discovered Christian rock in the early 80's, I was delighted to find that the devil didn't have all the good music. But after a year or two, it all started to sound the same: the obsession with major keys, the DX-7 synthesizers, and the "Jesus is my boyfriend" lyrics. I had heard of Steve Taylor and I knew that his album Meltdown was popular, but I thought the cover was sort of silly, so I didn't bother to listen (What do you want from me? I was fourteen.)

I was on the cusp of a downward spiral into cynicism that would last until my late 20's. [Shameless self-promotion alert] You can read about it here. But when I finally broke down and bought Meltdown, Steve Taylor held my cynical slide at bay for a couple more years. He showed me that I wasn't alone. Somebody else got it. Someone was stepping into the breach and saying, "Ummm, we have some problems here." And the music was the most original I'd ever heard in "CCM." I mean, his outfit from On the Fritz was bit out of line, even for the 80's, but still . . .

Steve kept showing up at just the right time for the next 20 years. Squint's "The Finish Line" became the soundtrack for my return to passionate faith as an adult. I'm thrilled to death that the guy is bringing his creativity to film, but I'd be willing to lose a pinky if he'd record another album.

Below is the video for "The Finish Line," and it's a piece of art. I still get goose bumps on the last verse...

Burnside Sells Out: Ariele Gentiles

When you work on a site like Burnside, there are very few things more exciting than watching one of your fellow writers get published. We've been fortunate enough to witness a few this year, like Susan Isaacs, and we've been blessed with a number of already-published contributors.

So this is a new column, intended to shed light on Burnsiders who've made the leap into paid writing. We're facetiously calling this column "Burnside Sells Out".

Ariele Gentiles has been with Burnside from the very beginning, when she was still living in Waco, Texas. A couple years ago, she moved to Portland, and she and I worked together with the folks at Relief Journal to put out The Ankeny Briefcase. Ariele is all sorts of talented, and there have been countless times I've envied her creativity and knack for prose.

And Ariele just finished writing a book.

Barack Obama: An American Story was co-written with Bob Carlton and is being published by Zondervan/Youth Specialties. We had some questions for Ariele.
Burnside: How did you get involved in this project?

Ariele Gentiles: A friend of my dad’s, Bob Carlton (with whom I co-wrote the book) knows some people at Youth Specialties, and approached me with the idea of collaborating on the project on a Tuesday evening. By Wednesday morning, I was on a conference call with Bob and Jay Howver, a publisher at YS. We just jumped right in.

BWC: Take us through the process of writing Barack Obama: An American Story.

Ariele: It was a pretty intense process because we had to turn in a manuscript fairly quickly. Because it was a co-writing project, we began with a biographical outline and divided up the chapters. Then we began combing source materials, newspaper articles, anything that could help us find the essence of the man’s story—that was my primary objective and concern while writing. How do we frame this as Story? I would read read read and then sit with it all rattling around in my brain for a while, trying to find the common threads in his life’s tapestry. Because the book is going out through the Youth Specialties division of Zondervan, we had a reading level aim of 10th or 11th grade, so it was really important to distill and synthesize everything in such a way that it remains interesting and readable to high school kids.

BWC: Who came up with that title?

Ariele: Ha, I think it was the Youth Specialties guys. Our original title was The Urgency of Now, in reference to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s passionate call for people to get involved in their communities for positive change in the United States. Obama has echoed King’s words and continues this effort of calling Americans to action.

BWC: The book's publisher, Zondervan, received some flak (we were no exception) for their lightning fast release of Sarah Palin's biography A New Kind of Leader. Was writing this book so quickly a concern for you and Bob?

Ariele: Haha...it was certainly a concern for me. I was skimming through the flak as I was attempting to pull together our book. But as I understand it, our book was commissioned partly in response to the Palin biography, and once behind our Obama bio, YS and Zondervan wanted a release date that would correlate with or hit shelves shortly after Hilley's.

At a certain point, though, it was necessary to push it aside and do the very best work I could in the time allowed. It involved some harrowing 20 hour days...I became just another piece of furniture at my neighborhood coffee house...but I'm happy with how it turned out, and hope that it will allow students and adults to get to know this man running for no small office, challenge some minds, as well as inspire. Ultimately I couldn't allow doubts and concerns about public perception of the publishing house to erode my own confidence and jeopardize such an incredible opportunity to simply tell a story.

BWC: In researching Barack Obama, did anything surprise you?

Ariele: I had a very basic knowledge of Obama before I began the project. His biracial background, his community organizing experience, the 2004 DNC address, etc, and I of course learned much much more about these things and others, but what I was most taken with were his years in New York City at Columbia. By all accounts, he spent a great deal of time in the library and studying, but he also read Saint Augustine and Nietzsche and Graham Greene (one of my favorite authors), and sometimes wandered alone into churches on restless Sunday mornings.

Knowing these things...immersion in great books of faith and philosophy, self-reflection, soul-searching...sort of made him more real to me. More human. It was something with which I, and I think many others, could fully relate.

BWC: Has your opinion of Barack Obama changed at all?

Ariele: If anything, I think I like him more. I have no illusions about him being the new American Messiah, he is as flawed and human as the rest of us. I also don’t agree with him on every policy and issue, but he seems bright...very bright and methodical and wise about many things. And he genuinely seems to care about people, to understand the importance of individuals and families coming together with the people on their street, the people in their neighborhoods, leading up to the national level. He has written and spoken about the beauty of everyday lives. All the policy, public speeches and legislation seems to stem from that understanding. I like that.

BWC: You know Obama is secretly a Muslim, right?

Ariele: I heard he is really an avatar of Shiva the Destroyer. So...who knows, man.

12.10.08

Battle of the Church Signs

Someone sent me these pictures as if this really happened. Jordan and I wondered if they were just made up on that "Church Sign Generator" site. It's probably a job for snopes.com, but they sure are funny anyway.













11.10.08

Great Christian Music: "Entertaining Angels"

Plenty of folks, including Burnside on occasion, rail against the machinery of Christian music. There's good reason to do so, since the Christian music industry at large has hardly been a catalyst for innovation and creativity.

But most of Burnside's writers have also been deeply impacted by Christian music acts, both mainstream and underground. We're hoping this new feature will shed and unironic light on the songs and bands who've provided everything from prophetic voices to great hooks. Our first entry:

"Entertaining Angels" by Newsboys



Steve Taylor makes films now. He directed "Second Chance" and has been working for a few years now at bringing "Blue Like Jazz" to the big screen. Before all that, though, Steve Taylor was a rock star, and he penned this majestic little pop tune for the Australian Newsboys. "Entertaining Angels" is unmistakably Christian in it's sound and production...like 99% of all Christian bands in the 90's, Newsboys borrowed heavily from U2. But Taylor's melody and chorus deserve that sort of clean recording.

Shortly after this song's release, My friend Steve and I were dragged to a Newsboys show by another buddy. Third Day opened, and we were thoroughly underwhelmed. Newsboys rocked it, though. Somehow, from our way up seats, Steve managed to get the entire crowd clapping in a backbeat. Whether that's a testament to Steve's charisma or an indictment of Christian music fans' sheep-like mentality is up for grabs.

Oops...I said no irony.

Back to the song, though. I thought "Entertaining Angels" was a good way to start out, since it's a song I unabashedly love and can listen to repeatedly ten years later. It's also firmly anchored in the mainstream. We need more songwriters like Steve Taylor.

10.10.08

Across the Universe - October 10th, 2008

Ah, the end of another week. The weekend is rife with possibilities! Here's your weekly breakdown of the blogging world. Please feel free to post your own links in the comments...we'll add them to the sites we peruse weekly.

- Widows and widowers, despite Biblical indication, are the best tithers.

- The Third Way. What are the first two ways?

- How should Christians portray sin in art?

- NPR rehashes The AV Club's concept of Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Seeing them as that cliche certainly removes some of the allure.

- Who is the world's most influential evangelical these days?

- In case you missed it, Bryan Allain's Schnoz Report is still going strong (albeit at PfB).

- Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, depicted like so many movie posters.

- Ben Golliver, who once wrote an NBA draft recap for us, gets somewhere close to describing what the new Trail Blazers mean to their fans. Considering what we went through for years, and how much my city used to love their only team, I'm not sure there's ever been a more excited fan base. I know it's absurd, but I will not be surprised one iota if we win the NBA Championship this year. It's nice to know I'm not the only Christian blogger out there hanging on this team's every game.

- David Sessions doesn't think the films "Religulous" or "An American Carol" helping things at all.

The Green Bible: An Interview with J. Matthew Sleeth

HarperOne just released the Green Bible, which highlights in green those passages dealing with nature and social justice. The Green Bible also includes essays from Bishop Desmond Tutu, N.T. Wright, Brian McLaren, Wendell Berry, Pope John Paul II, and Barbara Brown Taylor. BidForGreen recently interviewed J. Matthew Sleeth, the author of Serve God, Save the Planet (a book I recommend) and editor of the Green Bible.

BidForGreen: Why do we need a green Bible?

Matthew Sleeth: The Green Bible focuses the reader on the vast amount of scripture that deals with God creating, sustaining, and commanding us to maintain the world. The format of verses highlighted in green allows the reader to easily find relevant scripture. What is God's first commandment to mankind? It is now printed in green. We are to placed on earth to protect and care for the garden. This charge, found in Genesis 2:15, has no time limit. It hasn't run out. We live in an era when environmental questions abound. What should we do about water or fuel shortages? How should we help refugees displaced by flood or drought? The answers can be found in the Bible.

Not only is The Green Bible a tool for finding God's operating instructions for earth, it is an example of how everything we do can model stewardship and sustainability. Care has been taken in the manner of printing and binding The Green Bible, which reflects the understanding that there is no "away." Everything we use will eventually return to our closed system of food, water, and air--even our Bibles.

BFG: Its seems as though you see "green" and "socially just" as one and the same. How do they tie together in the Christian faith?

MS: When my family and I make any decision or purchase, we try to ask ourselves two questions: Will this help me love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength? And will this help me love my neighbor? The answers will always lead us to right ("socially just") action that will be pleasing to God.

Stewardship and social justice both require us to replace greed and selfishness with gratitude and service.

A hundred years ago, most people lived on farms. If an area was experiencing a drought, it would be common--and biblical--to pray for rain. There was a direct causal understanding of God's sustaining hand in our lives. With a credit card and a grocery store, God can seem superfluous.

We say a prayer of thanks before eating because we understand that food is God's sustaining hand in our lives, that many around the world do not have enough to eat, and that food is a gift, not an entitlement. Yet how many of us pray when we fill our cars up with gasoline? If we don't, is it because we think everyone has enough, or that gasoline (and access to clean water, unlimited electricity, etc.) is an entitlement?

You can read the whole interview here.