God, Drugs, and Rock n Roll: Greg Laurie interviews Alice Cooper

Some Alice Cooper fans might be surprised by this interview with Pastor Greg Laurie from Riverside, California. After all, Alice Cooper is considered to be the original full-scale “Shock Rocker” and has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide. Despite a tongue-in-cheek horror rock show and a over-the-top stage persona, Alice Cooper is a family man, top-notch golfer, and a committed Christian.

The interview is conducted at The Rock (a Teen Center created and started by Alice that I visited a few years ago), Laurie asks about Cooper’s faith and his desire to help at-risk young men in his community.

To watch the interview, click HERE 


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Back Row America

Chris Arnade

Chris Arnade earned a PhD in theoretical physics and spent 20 years on Wall Street making piles of money as a bond trader. In a season of disillusionment with his lucrative career, he began walking around New York City to relieve stress and take photographs of graffiti artists, Schwinn bike clubs, and pigeon keepers. That hobby led him to eventually become an irreplaceable photojournalist and chronicler of the down-and-outers and drug addicted in our ferociously polarized society. 

For three years, he went in search of those who “lived under bridges, in abandoned buildings, in sheds, in pits, in broken-down trucks, on rooftops, or, if they scored enough money, in per-hour motels,” he writes in Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America (Sentinel 2019). Traveling more than 150,000 miles to has-been communities struggling to survive, he photographed and interviewed the poor and strung out in places such as Buffalo, New Haven, Cleveland, Selma, El Paso, and Bakersfield. “In each of these places, people have a sense of being left behind and forgotten – or, worse, mocked and stigmatized by the rest of the world as it moves on and up….” Continue reading

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Has Kanye Lost His Jesus Complex and Found Christ?

If you find it challenging to sort out the spiritual impulses of Kanye West, a recent story by Kate Shellnutt for Christianity Today may be of interest.

Perhaps you have heard about West taking his “Sunday Service,” a religious weekly hangout for celebrity friends and family, to the Coachella music festival on Easter Sunday. Or you may have read the recent Forbes cover profile about West’s creative process and his upstart Yeezy shoe dynasty.

“I’ll be working on home designs and looking at references from three thousand years ago and reading the Old Testament at the same time,” West said in a video interview with Forbes. “It’s like a soundtrack to the visuals and the shapes and ideas and ideals of what we are creating. A lot of my creative friends, I tell them the Bible is better than Pinterest. You can bring something into space and time we exist in, while reflecting thousands of years of truth.” Continue reading

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‘More Fun in the New World’ follows L.A. punks into the ’80s

I devoured Under the Big Black Sun (2016) because X was one of my all-time fave bands as I grew up in Southern California. Compiled by John Doe of X and Tom DeSavia, a writer and record industry veteran, the book goes a long way in helping tell the story of the origins of Los Angeles punk and roots rock.

The new volume from Doe and DeSavia, More Fun in the New World, is just as compelling to midlife retreads like myself who still summon up happy memories of punk rock and rockabilly shows in the 1980s.

“This was never going to be a simple story; and Doe and DeSavia aren’t looking to simplify it,” writes Jay Gabler in The Current. “As the ’70s bled into the ’80s, life for the stars of Penelope Spheeris’s era-defining 1981 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization — bands like X, Black Flag, and Circle Jerks — was a mix of agony and ecstasy. … DeSavia says telling the story that way would be depressing, even if it might be accurate. So instead, Doe and DeSavia corralled the usual suspects — some contributors to the past book, some new ones — to write about what happened to all of them when the MTV era dawned.”

I saw X a few months ago while on their tour with the Violent Femmes.  Their show was fabulous. Their longevity is notable — and appreciated.

“X has weathered many battles, successes, and failures and, to this day, remain a working, touring band — one who celebrated a fortieth anniversary in 2017 by playing over one hundred dates in the U.S.,” writes Doe in More Fun in the New World. “In those forty-some years Exene and I married, divorced, and stayed friends; Billy Zoom beat cancer twice, quit the band, and rejoined ten years later; and somehow DJ Bonebrake continues to be known as ‘the nicest man in rock ‘n’ roll.’ We can’t play casinos or state fairs because we never had a bona fide ‘hit.’ If you ask Joan Jett or Blondie, they may say that can be a double-edged sword. I’ll admit that sometimes we wish we had the bank account or luxury to reach the masses like they have. But at every X show I see some twenty-something or younger in the front row, losing their s–t and getting schooled in original American punk rock. In that way it’s the best job anyone can have.”

To check out Jay Gabler’s review of More Fun in the New World in The Current, click HERE.

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Ken Burn’s Country Epic

“They connected every dot,” said musician Rosanne Cash, “from Appalachia to Bob Wills to Bakersfield to my dad. It was artfully done, and so moving.”

Cash was referring to Ken Burns’ new 16-hour, 8-part documentary on country music that will be begin airing on PBS on September 15. According to Rolling Stone, it will distill 101 interviews, more than 700 hours of archival clips, and 100,000 still photos.

“It’s really important people know country music is a hybrid, a creolization that comes out of African and European cultures mixing,” Rhiannon Giddens told Rolling Stone. Giddens is an award-winning vocalist and musician, as well as an early-American-music scholar. “Also, most importantly, it comes from working-class people mixing,” she continued. “That’s the thing that’s often forgotten, that where people made these interactions musically was in the fields, on the riverboats, or wherever – and that this music is our music, all of us together. It’s very dangerous to subscribe to it as ‘white music,’ or as this monolithic thing, because it’s not. And that’s the beauty of America, I think – all the positive stuff comes out of that aspect of the mix.”

“This is the history of an art form whose roots are dark and complex and part of our collective unconscious,” says Cash, “rooted in our migration and history and who we became as Americans. It’s all there in this story. All these songs came from Scotland and England and Ireland into Appalachia, and the slave songs and work songs that came from Africa, the melding of that: That’s our history. And it’s important to know your history.”


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The Long and Surprising History of Roller Derby

More than 27,000 fans flocked to Shea Stadium for the 1973 world championships. Michael Evans/The New York Times

By Jennifer Harlan, The New York Times

It sounds like a human freight train: wheels clattering around the turns, bodies thumping against each other, toe stops shrieking against the track. A rainbow of hair and wheels goes by in a blur, shouts and grunts punctuating the din. It’s part endurance race, part wrestling match, combining strategy, athleticism and camp. And it’s all done on roller skates.

At first glance, roller derby seems like a feminist punk fever dream. It is unapologetic and aggressive, a full-contact whirlwind populated by characters with names like Carnage Electra, Miss U.S. Slay and Bleeda Kahlo. But the blood, sweat and mascara that seem so essential to the modern sport have roots stretching back nearly a century. …

Now in the throes of its third renaissance, roller derby is making yet another comeback. Since 2004, the W.F.T.D.A. has grown to include 463 member leagues in 33 countries. There are now roller derby leagues on every continent except Antarctica.

To read the entire article, click HERE.

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Behold, the millennial nuns

By Eve Fairbanks, Huffpost

When I asked Tori what made her stray from this path to become a nun, her whole demeanor changed. Her face got pinker, and she looked almost shy. She asked if she could read the full story to me from her prayer journal. This was too important to discuss extemporaneously.

One afternoon when she was a senior at her all-girls high school, Tori found herself drawn to the chapel. She wasn’t deeply religious growing up, and the chapel was a space she usually avoided: small and dark and silent, with uncomfortable knee-high prayer stools. But on that day, as she sat to pray, a thought occurred to her that was so unbidden and forceful “that I stood up from my seat and physically ran. I mean, I ran out of the chapel. I was so filled with fear.” The thought: What would it be like to wear a nun’s habit?

She didn’t want to be a nun, she explained. But in the ensuing years, she just couldn’t get the vision out of her head. In the goalie box, putting on strapless dresses for dances—she kept seeing herself in a black veil.

And then one day, at a chapel on her college campus, she heard His voice.

“What does it sound like?” I asked her.

“It doesn’t sound like anything. I just knew it was Him,” she said. And His message was clear: “Evangelize.”

Tori put down her prayer journal, looked up and started to laugh. She said she expected this story must sound “crazy” to me. She didn’t seem to mind. Discerning the religious life, she explained, is “a process of falling in love.”

To read the entire essay, click HERE


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Rise of the Titans: Fascism, Christianity, and the Seduction of the Brutal

By Tara Isabella Burton, MereOrthodoxy

EXCERPT: Brutal atavists share with Christians, after all, the conviction that the modern world—particularly, the unenchanted modern world—is fundamentally broken, fundamentally in need of reformulating. Like Christians, these brutal atavists envision a return to an Eden: a place where the Venn diagram of Nature and Civilization is a circle. They envision a wholesale re-boot of humanity.

For Christians, this lure is tempting: it seems a ticket to an enchanted world. It seems a ticket back to Eden.

But of course, such tickets are too good to be true. …

As Christians, after all, we cannot hold to the primordial. Our God—our incarnate, crucified, resurrected, God—does not belong to the cataclysm-before-history, nor solely to the cataclysm-after.

Our God acts in history, in flesh-and-blood, in weakness, in contingency, in particularity. He is to be found not in the chisels of Grecian statuary but in skin and breath and—through the Eucharist—in food. His story is not a valorization of death but of its defeat: a historic resurrection that, in its absurdity, stops the world from spinning. The pagan cycles of birth and death, construction and destruction, are upended. Death is not the beginning, nor is it the end—and so it is not our god.

To read entire essay, click HERE

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In Brooklyn, ‘tradpunk’ Christianity meets millennial counterculture

An Anglo-Catholic service at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Montreal. Photo by Janet Best/Creative Commons

By Tara Isabella Burton, Religion News Service

EXCERPT: Within that paradigm, we are all too often encouraged to focus on our selves, to buy into a never-ending feedback loop of seeking consumption and self-actualization: a capitalist ouroboros masquerading as self-care. We are reminded to put on our own oxygen masks first — a phrase memorably popularized by capitalist-spiritualist guru Oprah Winfrey, to purge toxic people with bad energy from our orbit, to practice self-preservation with Darwinian brutality.

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Meghan Markle and Thomas Merton


The Duchess of Sussex, who was fiercely intellectual at school, fully engaged with the work of American Catholic theologian Thomas Merton. Mr Merton was a monk, ordained as Father Louis, who wrote more than 70 books on spirituality, social justice and pacifism. His most notable work is his autobiography “The Seven Storey Mountain” – originally published in 1948.

His philosophy embraces the idea that the world is not black and white, but an “endless shapeshifting vista of grey, of muted maybes and possibilities,” which appealed to Meghan.

According to the 2018 book ‘Meghan: A Hollywood Princess,’ it was Meghan’s heritage that meant the philosophy struck a chord with her.

Royal biographer Andrew Morton wrote: “Because of the racial duality of her own background, Meghan was attracted and inspired by the work of the American theologian.”

To read full article from Express, click HERE

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