A Church for Men

And now for something completely different. 

Despite having grown up in the church, going overseas on a mission trip and being trained as a bass/baritone, I don’t listen to contemporary Christian music, or CCM as it’s commonly called. 

Why? A number of reasons. 

  1. An almost complete and total lack of soul. Listen to the CCM, and you’ll hear some incredible musicianship, but what you won’t hear is a bass line. At all. I grew up listening to André Crouch , and even in today’s upbeat “Christian dance” music, there’s just no soul. It’s like they’re afraid of people shaking their hips or something. 
  2. A lack of rebellion. From Elvis to Axel, the list of rebels in rock n roll is long and glorious. Rebellion in contemporary Christian music ended when CCM entered the sanctuary, and it’s not on the radio either.
  3. I’m not the audience for it. There are/were some tremendous artists like Phil Keaggy, Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill in CCM before Amy Grant, but their songs didn’t make it into the mainstream, even though Larry Norman inspired Frank Black, who inspired Nirvana, who upset the apple cart of hair metal and brought us grunge.
    I digress. 
    The fact is, the CCM of today is aimed at my wife, not me. I don’t enjoy it because I’m not supposed to enjoy it. 

The problem with the feminization of CCM is that it has led to the feminization of worship services in the church. What gets played on AIR1 is what’s sung in church, and that leaves men on the outside looking in. 

This was brought home to me personally when we moved from Arizona, where we worshipped in a mid-sized megachurch with a light show and rockin’ band, to a small town in Missouri where we worship in a small Baptist church with pews and hymnals. 

We actually use the hymnals. And I’ve enjoyed worshipping in this church more than any “seeker friendly” service I’ve ever attended. There was no fog machine, no light show and the songs included classic hymns like “I’ll Fly Away”, and for the first time in decades, I felt like I was in church, not a concert followed by a motivational speaker. 

Fourteen years ago, the soundtrack for “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” came out, chock full of classic hymns like the afore mentioned “I’ll Fly Away”, and it shot to the top of the charts. People loved listening to the album because even though it was full of music from eighty (or more) years ago, it sounded unlike anything else on either the pop or country charts. 

Let’s bring it all together: Contemporary Christian music is designed to appeal to women, and that what’s driving worship music in the church, leaving men on the outside of the sanctuary looking in. What can change that? Let’s talk about what men want (no, not sex, although that is usually #1 on our list, followed closely by beer, cars and guns). To begin:

  • Men have been the hunters and women the gatherers since at least the Pleistocene Epoch. If we men get together, it’s to bring down a mammoth or some other endeavor we can’t do by ourselves. Church, by it’s very nature, is congregational, and goes against 2.8 million years of programming (or 10,000 years, if you’re a young Earth creationist). 
  • Despite 40 years of Neil Simon plays and Alan Alda, men don’t show weaknesses. We just don’t. The idea of “humbling yourself before God” just goes against our nature, and church is all about letting go and letting God.
  • Men are rebels. It’s men that explore and push the boundaries and do the stupid stuff that might bring them glory and/or death. Church doesn’t handle rebels well, which is silly, because the very nature of church is to rebel against the natural sinful direction of this world. 

So what’s the solution? I’m not sure, because my experience growing up in the church and going on tour choir with a bunch of fellow students from a Christian school may not be anyone else’s solution, but for all their talk about being “seeker friendly”, I’m not so certain that by “seeker”, we mean “women who want a stronger marriage.” Men want a challenge and want a sense of accomplishment when they achieve that challenge. What about today’s church is challenging, and what about today’s church is rebellious? 

This is why an “old-fashioned” church with hymnals and pews was so refreshing: The church wasn’t held hostage to the whims of what’s on the radio, and it was a return to the simple ways of my youth. In a world of constant change to keep up with what’s hot on the radio, choosing to remain rooted in hymnals and pews is itself an authentic act of rebellion that’s appealing to this man. 

Is old-timey hymns the way to get men back into church? Dunno. I do know that the tremendous rush towards Christ that was started by the Promise Keepers appears to have foundered as of late. Men are still interested in God, but we’re not that interested in church, and that has to change.

 
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August 23rd, 2014 by exurbankevin

How to fix the mess in Ferguson

Think that dealing with a heavily-armed police force is something that’s happened only in a world of M4’s and MRAP’s? 

Think again. 

The English dealt with this same issue almost 200 years ago, and Sir Robert Peel laid out nine rules to help society and an armed law enforcement play nice together. 

  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
  2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
  3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
  4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
  5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
  6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
  7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
  8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
  9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

How many of those rules did the Ferguson Police Department and the St. Louis Sheriff’s Department break in the last 72 hours? Pretty much all of them.

 
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August 14th, 2014 by exurbankevin

Oh Captain! My Captain!

In 1989, I was attending Mesa Community College, pursing a degree in Journalism. I was a photographer on the student newspaper and for the first time in life, part of the cool kids crowd. 

I had spent the last ten years wrapped up in the world of role-playing games, hanging out with geeks into the wee hours of morning talking about, well, nothing, and going nowhere. I had spent the ten years before that as a shy nerd, living the life of the classic underachiever. 

But not in 1989. That year, the caterpillar became a butterfly. All the creativity, all the energy, all the passion that had been bottled up inside of me came out. And there was Robin Williams, the man I knew as Mork, cheering me on. 

This scene, I can say with some authority, changed my life. I had spent literally decades avoiding my emotions, and now the man who helped me laugh my way through the Carter administration was telling me my passions could be harnessed to help enrich my life. 

And now he’s gone, a victim of the same passions that drove him to success. Farewell, Robin, the world is much more beige without you. 

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.
 
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August 11th, 2014 by exurbankevin

Do you think we’ll see more or less of this sort of thing in the coming months?

As some of you know, I’ve moved my family to a small town in Missouri in order to run the marketing for Osage County Guns. Yesterday, we decided to take a break from life in the country and drove into St. Louis to visit the Gateway Arch and check out the Mississippi River. We wandered about the levee, snapped some good photos and my wife and kids  checked out the visitor center while I waited outside.

Why? Because since 9/11, the visitor’s center at the Gateway Arch is a “gun free” zone that bans weapons and has a metal detector set up at the entrance. I had my 9mm Shield with me, along with spare ammo, a knife, (a Boker AK-74) and pepper spray, so there was no way I was getting through that checkpoint. Even though I’ve had 200+ hours of firearms training and am an NRA-Certified Instructor myself, to the National Parks Service, I am just as dangerous as a thug on the street.

I didn’t mind the wait that much: I sat outside and edited photos on my phone while the rest of the family toured the center, then we all returned to our car and drove back home to our sleepily little town in the middle of the state.

Meanwhile, twenty miles away from the Arch, this was going on.

Why I carry.

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A day of anger over a fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in suburban St. Louis turned to mayhem as people looted businesses, vandalized vehicles and confronted police in riot gear who tried to block access to parts of the city.

The tensions erupted after a candlelight vigil Sunday night for 18-year-old Michael Brown, who police said was shot multiple times Saturday after a scuffle involving the officer, Brown and another person in Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb of the city.

Several businesses near the shooting scene were looted, including a convenience store, a check-cashing store, a boutique and a small grocery store. People took items from a sporting goods store and a cellphone retailer, and carted rims away from a tire store.

Carrying a pistol with you everyday is a pain: They’re heavy, hard to conceal and require you to make changes in your wardrobe and lifestyle. And yesterday, every single one of those hardships was worth its weight in gold. If I had of known about the riots, I might have altered what we did yesterday, and because we were driving my wife’s car and not my car, my get-home bag and trunk gun, (a Kel-Tec SU-16C) were not available to me which I would MUCH preferred to have with me in such a situation.

Fortunately, I didn’t need to use any of that gear, much less the stuff I had with me. But knowing now that if, God forbid, the worst happened and we got caught up in a mess like a local riot, knowing we could do more than scream and run away is a very good thing indeed.

 
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August 11th, 2014 by exurbankevin