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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Pride of U2


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.”


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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Flannery O’Connor stamp


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reviving the X-Files

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 3.26.59 PMBy Steve Beard

A six-episode revival of the sci-fi hit The X-Files was recently announced that would reunite actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson after 13 years as FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Coming from drastically differing vantage points, the pair attempt to solve bizarre occurrences often dealing with extraterrestrial and paranormal phenomena out of their basement office at the FBI. Mulder was the agent with the “I Want to Believe” UFO poster on his office wall. Scully, on the other hand, placed her faith solely in science and provable data.

There is no telling what the new series will explore, but the conclusion of the TV show in 2002 was one of the more provocative and intriquing endings for a nine year television show. Alien-chasing Fox Mulder is asked by his colleague, Dana Scully, “You’ve always said that you want to believe, but believe in what, Mulder?”

“I want to believe that the dead are not lost to us,” he responds, “that they speak to us as part of something greater than us – greater than any alien force….”

The camera then focuses in on Agent Scully’s cross necklace as Mulder holds it on his fingertip. As the scene and series draws to a close, Mulder makes this fascinating observation, “Maybe there is hope.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Mighty Little Luther

martin-luther-FIGURINEBy Steve Beard

An astounding 34,000 mini Martin Luther action figures were sold out within the first 72 hours of availability. The smiling Reformer toy made by Playmobil was created as a kitchy keepsake for German tourist boards and Bavarian Lutherans to mark the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.

“I’m used to Luther the first modern man, Luther the rebel against overbearing church authority, Luther the anti-Semite, Luther the destroyer of the unity of Western Christendom — but Luther the action figure is a new one,” the Rev. Dr. Sarah Hinlicky Wilson of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France, told Thunderstruck.

“However distorted the image of Luther remains in Euro-American consciousness, the fact is that 500 years later he hasn’t been forgotten and still looms large in the cultural imagination,” said Wilson, editor of Lutheran Forum. “I’m grateful that the Playmobil people made him holding the Bible instead of the 95 Theses.”

Of course, United Methodists have a warm hearted connection to the leader of the Reformation since John Wesley’s own new birth experience occurred at Aldersgate in 1738 while listening to a reading of Martin Luther’s preface of the Epistle to the Romans.

Professor Wilson and her colleagues launched the Luther Reading Challenge ( as a way of encouraging a wider exploration of Luther’s thoughts than simply the history-making and polemical 95 Theses. Writing in First Things, Wilson explains that that the program highlights a fuller portrait of Luther: “the pastor concerned with the care of souls, the exegete, the friend and prolific letter-writer, the husband and father, the hymnist….”

“It was a natural step to merge the desire to improve knowledge of Luther with the desire to give Christian people permission not only to feed others but to nourish their own souls as well,” concludes Professor Wilson. “And that is our invitation: read Luther — not to take sides, and certainly not to justify yourself or your church or the compromised history that all Christians share — but to meet a sinner of ages past who knew and loved and constantly wrote about the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Steve Beard is the founder/creator of Thunderstruck.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Needed to be sedated after meeting Marky Ramone


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Forget Tinder. Pop culture is side-hugging courtship hello.

imrsBy Alissa Wilkinson

Last April, Josiah Duggar — of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting”—announced that he was entering into a “courtship” with Marjorie Jackson. People magazine described what they’re doing as “an older-fashioned way of dating that has couples getting to know each other as a preparation for marriage.”

Duggar was not the first of his siblings to do so, and they are not trendsetters.

That “older-fashioned” practice of Christian courtship became popular some time in the mid-1980s, particularly among very conservative communities, who often practiced homeschooling and met in home churches. The goal is to eschew modern dating practices. Couples gain parental blessing for their relationship, often mediated through the father; spend time together only in the presence of chaperones; and save physical contact (including kissing and hugging) for after the wedding.

The ability to choose your own spouse seems like an inalienable right to many Americans. Technology can help eliminate some of the variables — about 35 percent of spouses now meet online, and a Tinder revolution is in full swing — but at the end of the day, it’s up to grown adults to decide who they’ll marry.

But a close look at pop culture reveals a certain weariness with the self-screening process, an acute awareness that it’s still hard work to find love.

Read the rest of Alissa Wilkinson’s article in the Washington Post HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How the church gave B.B. King the blues


By Daniel Silliman

He was attracted to the Church of God in Christ because of the music. The King family had been Baptist. The Baptists’ musical tastes were more staid, more traditional than the young King liked, however.

“If you were in the Baptist church, they didn’t want you to bring a guitar in,” he said in an interview with the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1999. “So I didn’t really dig the Baptist church too much.”

The pastor of the local Church of God in Christ, on the other hand, played a Sears Roebuck Silvertone guitar. The Rev. Archie Fair led church with his guitar.

The church was a part of a strict sect of pentecostals, who believed true Christians could live free from sin, “sanctified.” In some ways, the Church of God in Christ was more conservative than the Baptists. But not when it came to music. King thrilled to the church’s worship style.

One fateful Sunday, a pentecostal pastor taught King to play three basic chords.

After that, King was converted.

He volunteered to be a janitor at the church so he could spend time with the instruments. Though King worked all week in the cotton fields, he taught Sunday school to children younger than himself. He got the nickname “church boy” and didn’t care.

King soon found more thrilling music outside the walls of church, though. An aunt, only a few years older than King, exposed him to her collection of 78 rpm records. She played him Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson. He started going to the store in Indianola, Miss., on Saturdays to listen to the blues on the radio. A cousin, Booker “Bukka” White, was living in Memphis, making a living playing the blues, and would come back to Mississippi sometimes with a beautiful guitar and sharp new clothes.

Still, the blues seemed shameful to King. They were exciting but felt wrong.

“I was ashamed, man,” King told the BBC in 1972. “The people around us was very religious. I always say they were very religious, very hypocritical. Because, if they wasn’t religious, they seemed to act the part.”

Read Daniel Silliman’s entire Washington Post article HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nun who kissed Elvis raises millions for monastery

Actress turned Benedictine cloistered nun Mother Dolores in the Abbey of Regina Laudis

Actress turned Benedictine cloistered nun Mother Dolores in the Abbey of Regina Laudis

Mother Dolores Hart finds it miraculous that she was able to turn one kiss with Elvis Presley into the spark that helped save an abbey.

The former starlet who walked away from Hollywood in 1963 to become a nun spun her tale into a fundraising campaign for her crumbling monastery in rural Connecticut.

But the pot boiler about Presley’s first on-screen kiss and the girl who turned from the screen to sisterhood has done more than keep open the doors of Abbey of Regina Laudis. It has inspired new interest in its monastic work.

Now she and the other nuns hope to raise up to $9 million to restore the order’s former brass factory for future generations. They have already raised $3 million.

Mother Dolores, now 76, first shared her story with The Associated Press in 2011 as she and about 40 other members of her Benedictine order faced the possibility that their abbey in Bethlehem would close

Fire officials had found numerous fire code and safety issues in what was a ramshackle collection of factory buildings, barns and sheds that were linked together in 1947 after the nuns purchased the old industrial site.

Mother Dolores went on to write an autobiography, embark on a speaking tour, and make TV appearances. In 2012, she returned to Hollywood to attend the Academy Awards when a documentary short about her life, God is the Bigger Elvis, was nominated for an Oscar.

To read the rest of the story, click HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lynch reviews Caitlin Doughty’s book on death


By Thomas Lynch, Christian Century

In the promotional material for Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, we are promised “a peek behind the black curtain,” a revelation of “life’s terrifying secret” by a young woman at work burning dead bodies in California—a high priestess, albeit self-appointed, in the “alternative death” community.

Spoiler alert: we die. There are no alternatives.

Caitlin Doughty belongs to the selfie generation, so she comes by her fascination with her particulars honestly. To be young and female in a crematory enterprise would be special indeed had it not become the norm some time ago. Once a mostly male endeavor, like the Marine Corps and the Rotary Club, funeral work has been feminized. The exception has become the rule.


Her book, if not a must-read, is a really good one; if not an essential text, no less essentially instructive. Doughty has mined a deep vein of reliable witnesses—literary, secular, classic, and collegial—and adds to their best shots at the big questions her own provisional formulations. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment