Why The Church Needs Art – Part three

Check out the lessons Scott Erickson learned while he was the artist in residence at Ecclesia Church in Houston, Texas. Click HERE

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Kenny Stabler, RIP

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By Steve Beard

Kenny Stabler, RIP. I became a life-long Raiders fan during my childhood because my dad won a Kenny “The Snake” Stabler autographed football at a raffle. It is one of half a dozen items that I deeply regret no longer having in my possession (also Wilt Chamberlain’s and Tommy John’s autographs). He was my childhood hero and his jersey hangs in my closet. Others loved Staubauch, Montana, Marino, and Young. Fair enough. But the shifty and crafty Snake was my man.

I feel sad to have lost a magical maverick from the field. I know that Raiders fans and the Crimson Tide share that loss. There will never be another Kenny Stabler.

“I was head coach of the Raiders the entire time Kenny was there and he led us to a whole bunch of victories including one in Super Bowl XI,” John Madden said. “I’ve often said, If I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny. Snake was a lot cooler than I was. He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider.

“When you think about the Raiders you think about Ken Stabler. Kenny loved life. It is a sad day for all Raiders.”

 

“You look at what Stabler was able to accomplish — an MVP season and a Super Bowl title with the Raiders — and look at his clutch ability — 15 fourth-quarter comebacks and 20 game-winning drives in 10 years with the Raiders — and you can understand why Madden would let his bias take over here,” observed Will Brinson, football analyst.

“Stabler had this innate ability to put himself near historical moments in football history too,” continued Brinson. “You look at the guy, a grizzled, tough, bearded Southerner son of a gun who was all substance and no style, and it’s hard not to agree with Madden. He might’ve been the perfect Raider.”

The entire article at CBS Sports can be found HERE.

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Free Speech Under Fire

By Steve Beard

As a budding young journalist and editor, my thoughts on the First Amendment and free speech — even outrageously offensive speech — were shaped by Nat Hentoff, columnist for the left-wing Village Voice. Hentoff was a prolific contrarian, jazz critic, pro-lifer, and self-proclaimed “member of the Proud and Ancient Order of Stiff-Necked Jewish Atheists.” His book Free Speech for Me — But Not for Thee, a polemic against censorship, has been on my bookshelf for more than 20 years as a reminder of the dangers and virtues of the free marketplace of ideas.

The-Silencing-Powers-CVR-v10-PERS“Consider what would happen,” Hentoff asked, “if … the First Amendment were placed on the ballot in every town, city and state. The choices: affirm, reject, or amend. I would bet there is no place in the United States where the First Amendment would survive intact.” That observation is justifiably haunting — and still true today.

As a USA Today columnist, Fox News analyst, and life-long liberal Democrat, Kirsten Powers has picked up where Hentoff left off. In her new book, The Silencing, Powers launches a noble war on the vindictive shaming and censorship spawned by what she dubs the “illiberal left.” “These are the self-appointed overlords — activists, university administrators, journalists, and politicians — who have determined what views are acceptable to express,” Powers observes.

“Liberals are supposed to believe in diversity, which should include diversity of thought and belief. Instead, an alarming level of intolerance emanates from the left side of the political spectrum toward people who express views that don’t hew to the ‘settled’ liberal worldview,” Powers said.

Although Powers is an outspoken supporter of gay rights and same-sex marriage, she is appalled by what happened to Brendan Eich, co-founder of the Internet company Mozilla. When it was announced last year that he was going to become CEO, gay rights activists bombarded social media with the news that Eich had made a $1,000 personal contribution to the “Yes on 8” initiative to ban same-sex marriage in California in 2008.

“It’s OK to be angry about Eich’s donation,” Powers said. “Screaming for Eich’s head on a pike for his failure to conform to Mozilla’s majority view on same-sex marriage is not. Liberals are supposed to believe in protecting minority views, even when they disapprove of those views.” She reminded readers that this was the “same year that Senator Barack Obama sat in Rick Warren’s church to explain his religious based opposition to same-sex marriage.”

Despite his publicly stated commitment to making sure Mozilla would remain a “place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity,” nearly 70,000 signed a petition calling for Eich to renounce his beliefs or resign as Mozilla’s CEO. One week later, the activists triumphed and Eich stepped down.

“It’s not necessary to support Eich’s donation to recognize something deeply disturbing occurred here,” Powers wrote. “When people’s lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line,” observed writer Andrew Sullivan — who is gay and a same-sex marriage advocate — about the Eich situation. “This is McCarthyism applied by civil actors. This is the definition of intolerance.”

“This intolerance is not a passive matter of opinion,” pointed out Powers. “It’s an aggressive, illiberal impulse to silence people. This conduct has become an existential threat to those who hold orthodox religious beliefs. But increasingly I hear from people across the political spectrum who are fearful not only of expressing their views, but also as to where all this heading.”

The Eich debacle is only one example of dozens that Powers grapples with in The Silencing. She is a tireless advocate for everyone having the opportunity to defend their own position in the public square.

Powers startled a lot of political observers by sharing her conversion testimony in the pages of Christianity Today. Although she does not share the political agenda of all conservative Christians, she will be the first to defend the sincerity and authenticity of their perspective.

The Silencing is a jarring trumpet blast to those who treasure the First Amendment, religion, and freedom of speech. All one has to do is read Powers’ Twitter feed to read the vicious way the illiberal left has made her a target — and single-handedly reinforced the point of her book.

Steve Beard is the creator and editor of Thunderstruck Media Syndicate. 

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HOUSTON ROLLER DERBY AT 10: A JAMMIN’ GOOD TIME

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The Brawlers square off against the Psych Ward Sirens during Houston Roller Derby’s most recent bout last month at Bayou Music Center. Photo by Steve Beard

By Sean McManus
Houston Press

Not too long ago, local bad-ass and onetime Houston Press writer John Nova Lomax postulated a very good argument that Houston might very well be America’s Most Miserable Sports City. Surely we have our highs, like the Rockets’ recent so-close-we-can-almost-taste-it run this spring or the Astros playing the improbable role of pace-setters for the AL West all season long. But mostly our sports history is a series of euphoric glimpses of potential mixed with embarrassing crash-and-burn lows. That is, unless you count the Houston Comets.

Formed in 1997, the Comets were one of the WNBA’s original eight teams, and won the first four league championships. Before folding in 2008 when no one would buy them, they were WNBA’s first dynasty. What I’m getting at is, anything our teams do, they did better. Today, gone are Comets stars Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes, who have given way to names like Slayer Moon and Sprint Eastwood.

Leave it up to the ladies of Houston to fill in the gap with some ingenuity and furious action of a much-missed sport. That’s exactly what gave me the courage to drive downtown recently and try to find a parking spot on a weekend – to witness some Houston Roller Derby action. The matches are held at Bayou Music Center, the downtown live-music venue in Bayou Place I’ve been coming to for concerts since it was known as the Aerial Theater. Except here the general-admission, standing-room-only floor has been converted into a flat-track derby arena with ladies flying by on skates. They are preparing for the evening’s doubleheader; tonight is extra-special because it’s homecoming for previous players.

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Nicholas Winton, Rescuer of Children, RIP

By Steve Beard

02wintonobit3-master675For 50 years, Nicholas Winton kept an explosive and dramatic secret from his wife. It was only after she found an old scrapbook in the attic of their home – names, documents, photographs – that he first told her about his secretive work in organizing the escape of more than 650 mostly Jewish children out of Czechoslovakia during World War II.

Many of us have heard the heroic stories of Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg. Like those men, Nicholas Winton courageously risked his life to save young children from the unspeakable horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. He died this week in Maidenhead, England, at the age of 106.

The gripping obituary written by Robert D. McFadden in the New York Times is well worth reading and tells his story at greater length. Read it HERE.

 “It involved dangers, bribes, forgery, secret contacts with the Gestapo, nine railroad trains, an avalanche of paperwork and a lot of money,” reported the Times. “Nazi agents started following him. In his Prague hotel room, he met terrified parents desperate to get their children to safety, although it meant surrendering them to strangers in a foreign land.”

There is a dark – and yet glorious – legacy to his wartime humanitarian work. “Nearly all the saved children were orphans by war’s end, their parents killed at Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen or Theresienstadt.” This era marks such a dark stain on human history. At the same time, the survivors – in their 70s and 80s – still call themselves “Winton’s Children.”

“After finding his long-hidden scrapbook – crammed with names, pictures, letters from families, travel documents and notes crediting his colleagues – his wife asked for an explanation,” reported the Times. “He gave her a general idea, but said he thought the papers had no value and suggested discarding them.”

“You can’t throw those papers away,” she responded. “They are children’s lives.”

His long silent story was eventually told and he was justly honored for his righteous deeds. “One saw the problem there, that a lot of these children were in danger, and you had to get them to what was called a safe haven, and there was no organization to do that,” he once offered for his rationale. “Why did I do it? Why do people do different things? Some people revel in taking risks, and some go through life taking no risks at all.”

Nicolas Winton lived as if the risks were worth taking. More than 650 children escaped Nazi torture because of the pivotal decisions he made. Their families mark his passing with great gratitude – as should we.

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He’s Jesus Christ

28KRISTOF1-master675“If you subscribe to the caricature of devout religious believers as mostly sanctimonious hypocrites, the kind who rake in cash and care about human life only when it is unborn, come visit the doctor here,” observed New York Times columnist Nickolas Kristof from the Nuba Mountains of Sudan.

Dr. Tom Catena, 51, a Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, N.Y., is the only doctor at the 435-bed Mother of Mercy Hospital nestled in the Nuba Mountains in the far south of Sudan,” reports Kristoff. “For that matter, he’s the only doctor permanently based in the Nuba Mountains for a population of more than half a million people.

“Just about every day, the Sudanese government drops bombs or shells on civilians in the Nuba Mountains, part of a scorched-earth strategy to defeat an armed rebellion here. The United States and other major powers have averted their eyes, so it is left to “Dr. Tom,” as he is universally known here, to pry out shrapnel from women’s flesh and amputate limbs of children, even as he also delivers babies and removes appendixes.

“He does all this off the electrical grid, without running water, a telephone or so much as an X-ray machine — while under constant threat of bombing, for Sudan has dropped 11 bombs on his hospital grounds. The first time, Dr. Tom sheltered, terrified, in a newly dug pit for an outhouse, but the hospital is now surrounded by foxholes in which patients and the staff crouch when military aircraft approach. “We’re in a place where the government is not trying to help us,” he says. “It’s trying to kill us.”

***

Certainly the Nubans (who include Muslims and Christians alike) seem to revere Dr. Tom. “People in the Nuba Mountains will never forget his name,” said Lt. Col. Aburass Albino Kuku of the rebel military force. “People are praying that he never dies.”

A Muslim paramount chief named Hussein Nalukuri Cuppi offered an even more unusual tribute. “He’s Jesus Christ,” he said.

Er, pardon? The chief explained that Jesus healed the sick, made the blind see and helped the lame walk — and that is what Dr. Tom does every day. You needn’t be a conservative Catholic or evangelical Christian to celebrate that kind of selflessness. Just human.

Read Nicholas Kristof’s entire column HERE

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Patriarch Bartholomew on Pope Francis’ Climate Encyclical

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 30: Pope Francis (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople speak to the faithful after the Divine Liturgy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 30, 2014 in in Istanbul. Pope Francis arrived in Turkey on Friday at a sensitive moment for the Muslim nation as it cares for 1.6 million refugees and weighs up how to deal with the Islamic State group as its fighters grab chunks of Syria and Iraq across Turkey's southern border. (Photo by Gokhan Tan/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL, TURKEY – NOVEMBER 30: Pope Francis (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople speak to the faithful after the Divine Liturgy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 30, 2014 in in Istanbul. Pope Francis arrived in Turkey on Friday at a sensitive moment for the Muslim nation as it cares for 1.6 million refugees and weighs up how to deal with the Islamic State group as its fighters grab chunks of Syria and Iraq across Turkey’s southern border. (Photo by Gokhan Tan/Getty Images)

By Patriarch Bartholomew (270th Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, is spiritual leader to 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world.)

In a series of seminars organized between 1994 and 1998 on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul in Turkey, we drew attention to the close connection between ecology and economy. Both terms share the Greek root oikos, which signifies “home.” It therefore came as no surprise to us that our beloved brother Francis of Rome opens his encyclical, which is being released today in the New Synod Hall of the Vatican, with a reference to God’s creation as “our common home.”

Nor again did it come as a surprise to us that Pope Francis underlined the ecumenical dimension of creation care – the term “ecumenism” also shares the same etymological origin as the words “ecology” and “economy.” The truth is that, above any doctrinal differences that may characterize the various Christian confessions and beyond any religious disagreements that may separate the various faith communities, the earth unites us in a unique and extraordinary manner. All of us ultimately share the earth beneath our feet and breathe the same air of our planet’s atmosphere. Even if we do not do enjoy the world’s resources fairly or justly, nevertheless all of us are responsible for its protection and preservation. This is precisely why today’s papal encyclical speaks of the need for “a new dialogue,” “a process of education,” and “urgent action.”

To read the rest of Patriarch Bartholomew’s article in Time, click HERE.

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Kirsten Powers is an antiabortion, antiwar evangelical liberal who works for Fox News. Got a problem with that?

BOP-2015-BJM02631433278990By Krissah Thompson

“I was a Kool-Aid-drinking Democrat,” Kirsten Powers recalls wryly.

That was in her 20s and early 30s, when she was an operator on the rise — first in the Clinton administration, when she handled media strategy for the U.S. trade representative, and later in New York City, where she threw herself into the state’s electoral politics. Her self-identity was built around being a loyal team player, with all the pressures and camaraderie that came with it. She thrived in the game of us vs. them, viewed her ideological opponents as “stupid and evil,” she says, and woke up every morning determined to beat them.

She doesn’t recall knowing a single conservative during those years.

But her career didn’t kick into high gear until she took that identity — the bright-eyed, sharp-tongued, gamely combative liberal activist — to a place where her brand stood out in bold relief. For the past eight years, Powers has made her name by being a prominent liberal pundit on Fox News — albeit one with less-than-orthodox liberal views. She’s on her own team now.

To read the rest of Krissah Thompson’s Washington Post article click HERE

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AN EDGY ECO-ENCYCLICAL- YOU GO POPE FRANCIS!

sarah-pic-about1By Sarah Heath

“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and foster its renewal is our only hope.” ––Wendall Berry

We were listening politely, and to be honest the speaker up until this point had been unremarkable, with a few points that led me to take notes in my ‘oh-so-hipster’ moleskin journal. It was a youth leader conference filled with thousands of the rarest breed of human… the youth worker. The speaker launched into his climatic point, asserting the importance of contextualizing our ministry and understanding the culture in which we minister. I was tracking… I liked his thoughts on this point. Contextualization made sense as the way to develop authentic community.  He then moved to what he seemed to think was his most compelling example: “For instance the green movement – if you live in an area where people are really engaged in environmental issues, then it is important for you to educate yourself on that and even consider participating in the movement; which is fine because we know the Green movement is just a fad. What we as believers know is that when Jesus comes back, he will destroy this earth, so the green movement doesn’t really matter.”

My reaction was similar to what you do when you think you may get in a car accident. I spread my arms out to protect my two volunteers. It was a knee jerk reaction. As we assumed the crash position, I leaned forward and saw the guy to our right looking horrified, while the rest of the crowd hollered and clapped with agreement. Our team quickly befriended our fellow shocked comrade to the right. Following the session, we all sat together and talked about what was so jarring about the speaker’s message. What struck us most was not his words, but the agreement of the rest of the crowd. Did they really believe that the environment doesn’t matter? That God was going to destroy what He had created? We read scripture to suggest that God was asking us to be the stewards of this world, and that a new heaven and a new earth were possible here… there was nothing faddish about that.

To read the rest of Sarah Heath’s blog, click HERE.

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The Pride of U2

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Fantastic article on Grantland from Steven Hyden about the legendary career of U2 – and the army of haters and challenges of being relevant in our modern world.

“I do feel part of a different world where we used to see albums come out, we used to see tracks going to radio and those albums would become more and more popular,” Adam Clayton told Hyden. “This new way, I don’t really understand. We’re [part of] a generation that no longer gets music the way we like to listen. Does that mean that everyone else that’s getting their music in a different way is not getting as intense of an experience? I don’t really know the answer to that.

“I think, sadly, what we’re seeing happen is, albums as collections of music had a cultural significance that told a story and connected people, [and] now have social media filling that role. Music no longer has that social or political place in the community. It’s become a novelty and a soundtrack because I don’t think there’s any real invested loyalty anymore. It’s a different relationship.”

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No band is as loved or as despised, which is its own kind of relevance. The sellouts for the Innocence + Experience tour speak for themselves — consider that U2 can choose to not play stadiums. Meanwhile, the haters have found solace in the echo chamber of social media, where U2 is yet another amorphous, mainstream, and terminally uncool target, the Two and a Half Men of rock bands.

When Songs of Innocence arrived uninvited on everyone’s phones in September, millions of comically exaggerated, quasi-outraged hot takes flooded the Internet. This tweet by the English writer Warren Ellis typifies the tone: “Apple owes me an iPhone, because I had to purify this one with fire after finding a U2 album on it.” Even for people inclined to cut U2 some slack, like Jim James of My Morning Jacket, it was a little much.

“You can’t not hear U2, they fucking put it on your phone,” James said. “I can’t go five minutes without hearing them in the world. When a band’s that giant, it’s easy for indie rock kids to hate U2.”

Read entire article HERE.

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