(Un)Fair & (Im)Balanced

Director Steve Taylor (right) with author Donald Miller (left) (Photo by Christian Piatt)

It’s no surprise that some Christians and the organizations they represent are less than enthused about the forthcoming Blue Like Jazz movie. But Steve Taylor, the film’s director, claimed today on Donald Miller’s Blog that certain prominent Christian filmmakers “issued what amounts to a fatwa against Blue Like Jazz.”

One of the concerns involves a movie being released this month called October Baby, which is being distributed by Provident Films. Taylor received word that Provident had ordered exhibitors not to show trailers of the Blue Like Jazz movie at October Baby showings. Taylor also shared this excerpt from an email forwarded to him, which reportedly came from the Vice President of Provident Films (text is verbatim from Taylor’s post):

i think exhibitors are going to try to play the Blue Like Jazz trailer with october baby

this can not happen – the trailer actually has the words “I hate Jesus” in the voiceover along with a number of images that will be very offensive to catholics

it is in the best interest of theaters to not run the trailer because they are going to have a lot of angry patrons if they do

thanks for your help here

Not surprisingly, this upset Taylor for many reasons. Specifically, there is nowhere in the Blue Like Jazz trailer or the film where the words “I hate Jesus” are used.

“I did talk to, and am talking to, the marketing head at Provident Films,” Taylor told me by phone. He says he emailed the woman at Provident and did not hear anything in response for five days. Once he reached her, she said she never received his original email.

Taylor’s contact at Provident assured him they would correct any misinformation coming from Provident about the content of the Blue Like Jazz film.

So where is such pressure coming from? Taylor has connected the dots, which seem to lead him back to Sherwood Baptist Church. Sherwood Baptist is a well-known producer of Christian films, including Fireproof and Facing the Giants (both of which are distributed by Provident), directed by the Kendricks brothers.

No one from Sherwood Baptist has contacted Taylor directly. However, several people have told Taylor personally that they are afraid to go on record, but were ordered to distance themselves from the Blue Like Jazz project for “fear of being blackballed” from working on future Sherwood Baptist movies.

Sherwood Baptist Executive Pastor Jim McBride

Taylor says this order came from Sherwood Baptist’s Executive Pastor, Jim McBride.

“(Jim) hadn’t seen the movie prior to his edict,” says Taylor, “hadn’t read the screenplay or anything. I’m puzzled why he feels so strongly about a film he hadn’t seen. And how do they do this when their distributor, Sony, released The Da Vinci Code?”

The Blue Like Jazz film certainly departs from traditional Christian filmmaking in many ways. For one, there is language, drug use and sexual content that earned it a PG-13 rating. But none of this is handled in a way that glorifies the issues. Rather, there is an attempt by the filmmakers to present a more authentic portrayal of American college life.

“This is not a family-friendly movie,” Taylor told me at a recent screening of the film I attended. “It’s not meant to be.”

And because the movie does not ascribe to what Taylor calls the Christian formula for filmmaking, doesn’t necessarily consider it a “Christian film,” in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s a film that deals head-on with many Christian themes.

Release is scheduled for April 13th, showing on 100 screens in 25 cities the first weekend. It is being distributed by Roadside Attractions, a traditionally “secular” film distributor.

For more about this story, see a recent post on the Christianity Today blog.

I was Donald Miller.

Once upon a time, a lot of us were. Some of us still are.

I, too, grew up in the church. Then it hurt me. So I walked away — injured, disillusioned, and pissed off.

I, too, went away to college and left my faith behind me, with no intention of ever looking back.

I, too, met an beautiful young woman who showed me a different side of what life as a follower of Jesus could be.

And though my journey has been nothing as remarkable as Miller’s, it’s no less improbable.

As the old song goes, I once was lost, but…well, you know.

My journey took an even more unlikely turn this week when I had opportunity to sit down with 40-year-old Miller, whose Blue Like Jazz memoir has sold more than 1.5 million copies (and counting) since its publication in 2003, to talk about the book, his faith journey and the new film of the same name, which is set to hit 100 screens in 25 cities nationwide on April 13.

Joining us in the conversation Monday in Colorado Springs were Steve Taylor — the renowned rock musician and producer/director of the film — and Marshall Allman, the fresh-faced actor who plays “Don” in the film. Allman, 27, has appeared most recently in the HBO series True Blood and in Prison Break on Fox.

“There was a time,” Taylor, 54, says, “when I couldn’t imagine my life without this film getting made, which isn’t a good place to live for a Christian.”

But it was this same consuming passion that drove both him and Miller to persevere when failure seemed certain and the project was all but DOA

In fact, Miller announced as much on his blog when the project fell $250,000 short of their fundraising goal, with less than a month left to secure the needed funds. That’s when an idealistic pair of young men from Nashville approached Taylor and Miller with the idea of creating a Kickstarter campaign to “crowdsource” funding from fans who couldn’t simply let the movie idea die.

The result? More than $300,000 in pledges poured in the weeks following the launch of the Kickstarter campaign. Taylor promised to contact each supporter personally, though he hadn’t anticipated the final list would grow to include more than 3,000 names. 

“It took months,” Taylor says, “but I feel like I’ve made several thousand new friends in the process.”

Each donor also received an Associate Producer title, and is listed in the final credits of the film. “We broke two records, I think,” Taylor says, smiling. “Not only was this the biggest fundraiser for a movie in the history of the Kickstarter website, we also win the award for most associate producers ever credited in a major motion picture.

“Right now I am soaking in unearned grace,” he says about the entire experience seeing the film go from concept to reality, “and I do not take it for granted.”

In our conversation, the four of us talked about unearned grace (of which each of them has much), our collective understanding of the nature of God (of which we all agreed we have very little) and about the insanity of making a Hollywood film on an indie budget.

How do you navigate such a David vs Goliath conundrum?

“You hire Steve Taylor to direct your film and he loses his mind,” Miller says.

Many of the creative forces behind the film, including Miller himself, accepted little or no money to get the movie made. That combined with the miraculous grassroots fundraising and a battalion of volunteer promoters in dozens of major cities, mean that this “little-story-that-could” will reach many thousands — if not millions — of viewers who long to hear that they are not alone in their tumultuous, doubt-riddled, hardly-perfect journey of faith.

Will we ever get it right? It’s of little consequence to Miller.

“There are people who struggle with not being understood; God is not one of them,” he says. “(God) isn’t crying himself to sleep at night, saying, ‘They just don’t get me.’”

“I think I’ve let go of some control,” Miller continues. “I actually find a lot of comfort in the fact that (God) is bigger than anything I could possibly understand or get my mind wrapped around. And that makes me think things are going to be OK.”

So how do you take a book of ruminations, anecdotes and reflections, about a faith based on something that is largely incomprehensible and indescribable? Much like in jazz, you improvise.

“When you adapt a book for film,” Miller explains, “you have to change the structure of the story. You have to consolidate characters, because reality doesn’t play well on film.”

For example, though the characters of Don and Penny remain largely faithful to real life (give or take some biographical details), there are new characters, such as “The Pope,” that don’t appear in the book at all.

Though Reed College does have a tradition of the student body electing one student to be the satirical religious figurehead for the school each year, the Pope in the movie “represents the entirety of the student body for us … all of the characteristics of the average ‘Reedie,’” Miller says.

The ersatz pontiff is one of the many points of friction for Don’s character in Blue Like Jazz. They are catalysts and opponents, propelling him as he strives to discover who he is and what he believes, independent of the religion of his childhood.

There are a few moments in the film where it’s clear the creative aspirations of the filmmakers exceeded their modest budget.

For example, there is an animated travel montage of Don as a rabbit making his cross-country trek to Portland. Toy Story it’s not. But in some sense the contrived imagery adds to the dissonance between reality and fiction — a leitmotif the filmmakers employ from beginning to end.

In total, the story works — and not just because the characters are believable, the music is great, and the message is sincere and relevant.

The story works because it’s a story many of us understand.

I have been Donald Miller. Maybe you have, too. Chances are you’ve loved a Donald Miller, had him break your heart, or seen him wrestle angels (or demons) and perhaps emerge a changed man — different, seasoned, healed.

Or not.

Love or hate it, we can’t honestly argue with someone else’s story. It is his story, his memory and experiences, even when it seems like they could be ours.

We may choose to embrace a it as part of our own or dismiss it as irrelevant. But how we interact with a story neither enhances nor diminishes it.

People feel strongly about Miller and his story, and they will have strong feelings about his movie.

Feel about it how you will. It’s a story that needed to be told.

For my video interview with Donald Miller, Steve Taylor and Marshall Allman, CLICK HERE.

For my webcast interview with Steve Taylor and Marshall Allman from South by Southwest, CLICK HERE.

I’m telling you, these ultra-conservative spokespeople are gonna ruin my reputation if they keep putting stuff out there I agree with.

First, Pat Robertson and I see eye-to-eye on the decriminalization of marijuana.

Then doomsday prophet Harold Camping concedes that his predictions for the end of the world not only were off the mark, but actually were hubristic and sinful.

Now spotlight-hungry conservative bully Ann Coulter and I agree on the state of the GOP.

You guys keep this up and it’s going to be really hard to blindly stereotype you.

Most of the stuff that comes out of Coulter’s mouth when behind a microphone is hateful, angry and divisive. But her recent insights about the prospects of a GOP brokered convention point out some serious flaws in the political-celebrity machine.

Basically if there is no clear winner when the Republican convention takes place, the delegates previously assigned to those candidates who earned them in state caucuses and primaries are released. And then the horse trading and deal making begin.

At that point, the nomination is more or less up for grabs. Though in theory one of the frontrunners throughout the primaries should prevail, anyone theoretically could come out of the convention with the nomination if it becomes brokered.

Which explains why Sarah Palin keeps talking about the possibility of a brokered convention. This would allow the possibility of a candidate like herself, who hasn’t put in the work of campaigning and hasn’t been vetted by the debates or media scrutiny to use her Alaskan charm and good looks to try and sweep in at the last minute for a play at the GOP nomination.

Coulter is right; the prospect not only is insane, but it also is a glaring sign of something broken in the political process. She rightly points out that such a possible outcome could be disastrous, holding up style over substance and marginalizing the entire process that got the still-standing candidates who got there in earnest. But in addition to this, she notes that such circus-tent politicking is a vehicle in itself to crank out more media celebrities that actually have no intention of doing more than using the system for their own personal gain.

So while the field of candidates is in disarray, someone like Palin uses the opportunity to grab some headlines, get pundits talking about her viability as the head of the party, and she gets tons of free media from it. All the while, her national platform for the brand that is “Sarah Palin Inc.” with the hope of increasing her speaking fees or maybe snagging another talk show or slot on one of the conservative talking head panels.

The process is not set up to propel celebrity to the front of the political pack. It also is not intended to make stars out of the erstwhile losers. Yet some have figured out how to game the system, and in doing so, they bastardize the entire thing.

Ann Coulter may be a venomous ideologue, but in this case, she’s dead-on. How we fix such a broken process is another question entirely. But steps one, as they say, is admitting you have a problem.

Most folks are at least somewhat familiar with the “Kony 2012” phenomenon by now. Millions have become captivated by the story. But by and large, no one knew a thing about Joseph Kony, Invisible Children or Jason Russell a couple of weeks ago.

It’s a new world.

Joseph Kony of the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army

For those still catching their breath in the 24-hour news cycle and viral media reality we’re in, Joseph Kony is a member of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. He’s also a wanted war criminal, accused of having a hand in more than 30,000 children being abducted and forced into fighting for the LRA in the past few decades. He’s a fugitive, and the folks at Invisible Children decided to do something about it.

Earlier this month, the organization released a 30-minute video that not only laid bare the crimes of which Kony and the LRA have been accused; it also employed what is called “an experiment” in the video. The idea was to turn all the ammunition of social media on rooting out this man. The results were amazing.

But not in the way everyone might have hoped, and certainly not how the creators expected.

The video went viral. Celebrities jumped on board, helping spread the word. Hashtags on Twitter like “StopKony” and “Kony2012” trended upward at dizzying rates. After millions of hits, the Invisible Children site crashed under the weight of such unforeseen attention. Jason Russell, the narrator of the video and spokesperson for Invisible Children, became an instant celebrity, invited onto every talk show and news segment his schedule could handle.

I can only imagine what the effects of such literal overnight stardom have on a person. But if Jason Russell is any example, it’s not good.

Jason Russell, spokesperson for Invisible Children

After a breakneck media tour, Russell snapped. He was discovered nearly naked, wandering the streets, babbling incoherently. It was also reported he was pulling his underwear off and masturbating in public. Though the official press release from Invisible Children is that Russell’s theatrics were a result of exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition, speculation is that he was under the influence of controlled substances.

What’s remarkable and exciting is that a small group like Invisible Children with a limited budget and a compelling story can rock the media world on its heels. They can command the public’s attention and focus millions of people on a common goal of calling an injustice out into the light.

The problem is that, to date, Kony is still at large, and the story has devolved into tabloid fodder over Jason Russell. He is humiliated, the organization risks the loss of all credibility. Children are still at risk of abduction, abuse and murder in Uganda, but we’re more fascinated with a guy making a fool of himself when he withers under the intense glare of an unexpected spotlight.

Ugandan Child Soldiers

How much did we, or do we, care about child soldiers in Uganda? How motivated are we to see Joseph Kony brought to justice? Enough to repost a video or tweet a trending hashtag perhaps. But we’re so easily distracted. There’s so much else scrambling for our attention. so many wrongs in the world that it can be overwhelming. And though we like a quick, sanitary, low-demand way to feel like we’re doing something good, we’d actually much rather be reading about a drugged-up white guy running around town in his underwear.

Yes, Jason Russell Screwed up, and his timing could hardly be worse. But the breakdown itself, though it tells us something about the culture of instant celebrity we live in, tells us more about ourselves if we pay attention.

We want to feel good about ourselves, but more than that, we’re hopeless voyeurs. Given the choice between digging deeper into the problem of child soldiers in Uganda and a clicking on a headline about a schmuck in his underwear, we’ll take the latter.

Some might say the ugly side of this story is what happened to Jason Russell. I say its the fact that we made what happened to him a story at all. Call me a hypocrite or say I’m adding to the problem by talking about it further, but you won’t find links here to stories about Jason Russell. This isn’t about Jason; it never was.

It all reminds me of a now-famous sermon given by Tony Campolo in which he said, “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said ‘shit’ than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

Tony’s right. We don’t really give a shit. And it’s too bad, because 30,000 child soldiers in Uganda wish we did.

READ HERE about the UN’s report on Ugandan child soldiers.

Learn more about Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army HERE.

Each of us is our own worst enemy at one time or another. My eight-year-old son, Mattias, takes himself to the mat more often, and more violently, than most.

My wife and I recently accepted a call to pastor a historic church in downtown Portland. When we told the kids, Mattias – my beloved resident Aspie – would go from unhinged excitement one moment, followed by tearful preemptive mourning the next. Kids like Mattias tend to have more dramatic mood swings than average, and pressure just amplifies the swings.

We took a trip to meet the congregation as an opportunity to show the kids around and sell them on the idea of their new home. The beach is a little more than an hour from Portland, so we took them out to the coast for lunch one afternoon. After searching for sand dollars for half an hour under an unforgiving canopy of clouds, we all agreed that a visit to the arcade on the main drag would be a welcome relief from the cool ocean wind.

Remember the thing I said about Mattias’ swings being accentuated by pressure? That includes positive pressure like, say, the sensory input of an arcade. He started off manic, skitting back and forth giddily between machines, while spending nothing. He finally settled on an old bingo machine, where you try to roll balls along a platform into holes to spell the letters B-I-N-G-O in a straight line. To his credit, especially given his aroused state, he pulled it off, and the machine spat out a voucher good for ninety-nine prize coupons.

In a moment of ecstasy-inspired generosity, he turned to a younger girl watching next to him and handed her the ticket. “Here you go!’ he beamed. The girl offered him a wide, toothy grin in return and dashed off to show her parents.

No sooner had she disappeared into the crowd when the gravity of his actions hit him. His eyes widened and smile fell into a twist of despair. “What have I done?!” He began to wail. “I want it back. Let’s go find her and get it back!”

When we explained that, once given, it’s not exactly cool to request a refund, he melted down. The fit, which included near vomit-inducing screams and crying, lasted about an hour. He simply couldn’t get his mind around the idea that, although he probably made that girl’s week, he had to let go of the idea of whatever it was he could have gotten for himself with the tickets. Based on the array of swag behind the counter, it would have probably included some Chinese finger cuffs, a whoopie cushion or some other crap he would forget about under the car seat by the next day.

But in that moment, whatever it was had become the center of his little universe, and it was gone. Lost forever.

He had a similar freakout the following week back home when we went to a local pizza joint for a family night. Once again there was an arcade. You’d think I’d start recognizing a pattern here, but I’m a slow learner. Anyway, Mattias quickly blew all of his money on a crane game, trying in vain to score a stuffed cow which he hadn’t even realized he wanted so badly before someone put it behind glass and made it nearly impossible to get.

He came back to the table, shrouded in defeat. Shoulders slumped, face long, he was the picture of pity. Then, of course, an older boy stepped up to the machine and started going for the same stupid stuffed cow. Mattias rushed to his side just in time to watch the bovine treasure get plucked from its stronghold and dropped into the chute.

The older kid, who had watched Mattias from a distance try to win the cow, turned and try to hand the toy to him.

“Oh,” Mattias said with genuine surprise, “thanks, but I can’t.” The boy gestured toward him again, to which Mattias raised his hands in surrender.

“Buddy,” I said, he’s trying to give you the thing you wanted so badly a minute ago. Why don’t you take it?”

“I can’t he said,” looking a little baffled. “It’s his.”

“I think you should take it man.”

“No,” he came back to the table. “It’s not mine.”

And then reality set in. By the time we got out of the parking lot, Mattias was in such a twist that I was flashing back to the coastline, only days before. He sputtered, gagged and screamed about his regret in not receiving the toy cow. Why, oh why, must fate be so cruel? Why must one’s judgment be so clouded in the very moment of decision?

Something like that anyway. The tirade lated all the way home, up to his room and well into an early bedtime, absent of bedtime stories or even teeth-brushing. It was a disaster.

It was remarkable to me, with a little bit of healthy distance, how similar the two situations ended up being. Though in one, the fit was about mourning the loss of some ideal that might have been (but probably not), and the other was regret over the inability to accept something freely offered.

And we wonder why people struggle with the idea of unconditional grace.

It reminds me of the giveaways we’ve done over the years at Milagro, our church in southern Colorado. each month, we’d offer a free car wash and lunch, give away free turkeys at Thanksgiving or hold a garage sale where we accept no money. But despite our insistence, pople would try palming us cash. Some folks at the car washes were so unwilling to accept the free gift that they’d shove money out their window as they drove off.

This may seem like a benign gesture, but it points to a stark deficit in our sense of self worth. In his book, “Blue Like Jazz,” Donald Miller actually says the refusal to accept a freely given gift is rooted in pride. The idea that we can and should earn all that is given to us is a prideful flaw of the human condition. It’s a thorn in our side; one that we seem intent on twisting ever deeper, despite God’s longing for its removal.

There will be other bingo games and stuffed cows. But I hurt for my son when I see him wrestling so fiercely with his own self-confected demons. I have my own, though I’m a little better at faking it after forty years. Sometimes it seems the best I can offer is to struggle alongside him and remember my own moments of lost opportunity when the next fit comes along.

What good is life if we can’t laugh at ourselves a little?

Some Christians reject science, but math too?

There's a fine line between relevance and pandering, and they found it.

Now why is it again that folks think Christians are narrow-minded?

Science, Math, and now English too???

No, no, no, no....

I'm pretty sure I could take that devil. Maybe I'll sleep in Sunday and find out.

Finally, a church with a money-back guarantee!

Church Sign Epic Fails, Part Three

More Church Sign Epic Fails

Church Sign Epic Fails

Author, speaker, pastor and God Complex Radio show host Carol Howard Merritt invited me on her show to talk about my new memoir coming out April 1 called PregMANcy: A Dad, A Little Dude and A Due Date. It’s a highly irreverent, humorous memoir about my wife’s second pregnancy and my efforts both to deal with that new reality and how to manage being a decent father to my remarkably challenging son, Mattias.

In the show, we cover a range of topics, including childbirth, gestational gas, sex, why Christian music mostly sucks, and church-state separation. Curious how that all fits together into one conversation? Guess you’ll have to listen.

My interview with Carol Howard Merritt on God Complex Radio

Atheist activism is hardly news these days. Folks are feeling increasingly convicted about taking their disbelief public, and more specifically, pointing out the damage done my religion in the past.

But it seems the most recent publicity campaign by a group called American Atheists has gone a little too far, even for those not in the religious sphere.

Human rights groups howled when the following billboard appeared in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:

Following a public uproar, the billboard promptly was replaced with one for the local symphony.

There are some more obvious concerns this kind of campaign raises, while others are more subtle. The point of the billboard is well taken, at least for me; the Bible has some messed up stories and rules in it. But cherry-picking isolated quotes like this from scripture is something that most in mainline Christianity consider a no-no. It’s called proof-texting, and it’s seen as tantamount to using the Bible as a weapon to further a personal agenda.

So in a way, the atheist group that did this is guilty of the very transgression for which they would criticize, say, a religious group for using the Bible to discriminate against the LGBTQ community or women. To me, this hollows out an otherwise reasonable point and an opportunity for discussion, and it also serves to discredit the organization that paid for the ad.

I’ve struggled much of my life with things like the treatment of slaves and women in scripture. And though I still see those kinds of rules or stories as patently wrong and dehumanizing, I have benefited from learning some historical and cultural context around the scriptures that helps me understand why they’re there.

The early Rabbinical laws were primarily about creating a sense of order in society. And sometimes, the rules were meant to attenuate chaos or violence that tended to spiral out of control. For example, the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law sounds really harsh, and is still used by some to justify direct retribution. But that law is actually a response to the “avenge sevenfold” tradition of the culture which said, “You kill one of my sheep, I can kill seven of yours.” To stem such escalation, this type of law was meant to mean ONLY eye for eye, tooth for tooth. No more of this avenged sevenfold stuff.

Think of it as a step toward something that Jesus ultimately fulfilled with his Great Commandment to hang all other laws on the principle of loving God and neighbor first. It’s kind of like Clinton’s old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy.” It was less than perfect, and many of us who advocated for unrestricted equality despised it. I don’t even think if you asked Bill Clinton himself, he’d say he loved the bill. But he saw it as a necessary step toward an ultimate goal, which recently was achieved in the American Military.

Now, if you looked back in a hundred years at “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and considered it in isolation, without that context, you could easily argue that Clinton was actually trying to oppress LGBTQ folks, rather than afford them a graduated measure of equality.

The same might be said about something like this “Slaves, obey your masters” rule. I don’t know if the authors of this meant for it to actively oppress other human beings in the name of God. I suppose it’s possible. But given the cultural norms of slavery at the time,. and given the value of greater order – more so than the value of any individual life – it’s reasonable to assume that this rule was an attempt to stop some cycle of disorder and abuse.

Now, to call that a divinely ordained law? I’m with the atheists on that one. That’s messed up.

The problem is in presenting this kind of Biblical reference this way, there’s no opportunity for dialogue. And it appears there’s no desire on part of the atheist group to engage in one. Again, in this way, the group reflects more of the characteristics of the fundamentalist Christians they object to so much by engaging in a one-sided shouting match, rather than actually putting in the work to talk to each other and work for common ground.

Finally, there’s the matter of tokenism, which is really why the human rights groups got so bent about this campaign. Though the underlying implication from the atheist group is that religion does not value all human beings as they should (a valid and historically supportable position), they reduce the symbol of the slave to being a convenient vehicle for their personal agenda. For me, this places them in a similar boat, once again, as those they aim to criticize.

We can all do better than this. Really. Fundamentalism is ugly and dangerous, regardless of it’s religious stripe, or even opposition to it. It places the our collective humanity second chair to ideology. And in this particular case, it de-fangs an otherwise worthwhile position, simply because the atheist group in question ends up looking so curiously like the very thing they claim to hate.

Each month, I like to look back over the past thirty days or so to see what people are most interested in on the blog. Though I wish I could say I understand the trends, I’m still surprised by something, every time.

On the awesome side of the news, traffic on the blog jumped to twenty seven thousand pageviews in the past thirty days. And people say Americans don’t read!

On to the biggest stories of the month…

#5. Things I Hate (But Shouldn’t): A late entry (I wrote it yesterday), this one jumped into the top five, well, because people love to read about what others hate to see if they hate the same things. Do I understand it? No. But I’ll admit I used the format to sneak in some challenges to Christians to be more open and inclusive. Hey. it’s what I do.

#4. Sh*t Emergents Say: My friend, Travis, put this video together to help us laugh a little at ourselves. No matter how new a group seems, they end up behaving in some ways like all other groups. Here’s a great example of the “code” employed by emergents about theology and faith. Funny stuff.

I kick ass for the Lord. Oh, and you suck. Loser.

#3. Church Sign Epic Fails: This is actually a three-part entry. All three of these related posts made it into the top ten, so I grouped them together. The First entry got the most views, probably because it has been up the longest. Not far behind was “More Church Sign Epic Fails” and “Church Sign Epic Fails, Part Three.” Like I said, we gotta laugh at ourselves, if for no other reason than to keep from weeping bitterly in our Cheerios.

#2. Mules, Sex and Rick Santorum: I have to say that I think this wins outright for the most intriguing title. I take some pride in creating titles that make you want to read one, but this one, was just plain weird…weirdly awesome! The piece came from Santorum’s claims that birth control went against God’s plan for creation, to which I offered several examples of sex in nature that had no promise of leading to procreation. Though I did include a photo of a pair of fruit flies caught up in a “Barry White” moment, there are no images of mules doing the nasty. That would just be tacky.

#1. Why Young Adults Quit Church: Originally, I had intended for my whole list to be all in one blog post, but by the time I got through the first seven reasons, I was already at a thousand words. So I broke this one up into two parts over a couple of days (See Part Two Here). And as comments from Huffington Post to Red Letter Christians and Sojourners indicate, the list could go on and on. Not meant to be a “naughty” list, it’s meant to help start discussion about the disconnect between religious institutions and Young Adults. Will the institutions ever meet their needs? Maybe, maybe not. But the people inside can, only if they care more about those people than the institutions they’re often so hell-bent on saving first.

I know, Christians, love everyone and everything, right? Mister Bluebird on my shoulder and all that crap.

Well, that ain’t me. Not that I don’t try, but I also don’t try to fake it when I’m not feeling the love.

My wife, Amy, told me that one reason she married me was because she knew she could trust me. It seemed to her that I lacked the capacity to lie. And while this is reassuring on one level, the stark honesty can sometimes be a little jarring, I expect.

What I have found is that naming things out loud is the best way to help you get over them. Some of these might seem like relatively trivial things to you, but trust me – for a quasi-Aspie like me, they are often the bane of my existence.

So without further adieu, here’s a list of things that I can’t seem to shake, they annoy me so incredibly much. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…

Misplaced apostrophes: I see this everywhere, but it’s particularly bad here in Pueblo. Most often, the spare apostrophes pop up in plural words, while remaining curiously absent from contractions and possessives. There’s a restaurant down the street called “Burrito’s Betty,” and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how or why a burrito owns a woman. How is that even legal?

Naked Muffin Tops: If your body has, um “evolved” since you were in high school twelve-plus years ago, best not to try to stuff yourself into the same clothes you wore to algebra class. Cover the muffin or hit the gym. Please.

Ending every sentence as if it’s a question
: People have this strange kind of apologetic habit of raising the tone of the last couple of words in every sentence so it sounds like they’re asking a question? Even though they’re not? Yaknow?

Overuse of the word “crazy”: I’m not talking here about referring to a person, like “He’s so crazy.” I’m talking about how people dismiss their perpetual flakiness by saying “It’s just been a crazy day.” You’ve said that three hundred forty six days in a row. Starts to lose its effect after a couple hundred.

Big heads in front of me: You know who you are. How is it that, no matter what movie or concert I go to, the Elephant Man sits right in front of me?

People who treat me like I’m an idiot when they don’t get my humor
: I tend to be sarcastic sometimes. No, really. And sometimes the ironic quips or sarcasm falls short and the listener takes what I say literally, at which point they roll their eyes as if I’m some kind of doofus. Could be, but might I suggest, “Doofus physician, heal thyself?”

Weather wimps: There is about a three-degree window that seems to make most people happy. Other than that, the majority of the population will find something to complain about. Guess what? IT’S WEATHER. You want control over your environment? Stay inside and stop complaining. Oh, and while we’re at it, please eliminate the following phrase from your vocabulary: If you don’t like the weather in _______, wait five minutes (chuckle, chuckle) ’cause it’ll change.” Gag.

“The Bible Says” arguments: I know what the Bible says. It says a lot of things. Some are amazing, some are practical, and some are just plain nuts. I’ve heard it said that the Bible can be manipulated to make any point someone wants, so let’s not sling scripture at each other. How about trying one of those Biblical verses out and turn that sword into a plowshare? Whatever that is. Something useful anyway, instead of a tool to bludgeon others.

“Small Tent” Christianity: Note here that it’s the theology of narrow-minded, exclusive, country club Christians that I can’t stand, not the people who hold those ideas. Yes, the Christian tent is big enough even for them, though they don’t return the favor to others. As I recall, Jesus didn’t ask people if they were gay, poor, democrat, “right with God” or anything else before caring about them, reaching out to them and welcoming them. If God’s love is big enough for all of creation, how can ours be any different if we’re going to claim that same love.