Archives For Derek Webb

Egypt-Christians

1. Religious persecution and the Global South
Given the rise of persecution against Christians amidst the unrest in the Middle East, this is an important perspective for Western Christians from Yale missiologist and historian Lamin Sanneh, published by the Review of Faith & International Affairs in 2010:

As a post-Christian West continues to grapple with radical Islam’s ideology, it must recognize its limited capacity and embrace a long-range perspective. As it seeks the “hearts and minds” of global neighbors, the West should observe Christianity’s positive impact in China, African nations, and elsewhere. Only through avoiding narrow secularism and seeking partnerships can it effectively advocate its core ideas and values. Perhaps the emerging Christian center of gravity, with its base in the southern hemisphere, will inspire the West to reconsider its secularist habits and more sensitively and creatively contribute to positive realignments of the religio-political landscape. It is impossible to predict. The statistical changes in Christian numbers in the Global South since the end of colonial rule demonstrate an important shift of religious identity. The signs give cause for wariness, undoubtedly, but also certainly for hope.

2. Black, white, grey
This bit of news is bizarre and maybe a little bit encouraging. But mostly bizarre. Local leaders from the NAACP and the KKK recently had a meeting in a carefully guarded room at a hotel in Wyoming. As you can imagine, they didn’t see eye to eye on everything. But they had a conversation about all kinds of things, and in the end, the KKK leader paid his membership dues and joined the NAACP. Anyone know what to make of this?

They didn’t think he would come. He was a Ku Klux Klan organizer, after all, and they were local leaders of the NAACP, historic enemies. They spent months negotiating the terms of his visit to Casper. There were ground rules, topics to be discussed and guarantees of a security team. They wait in a small, low-ceiling conference room in the Parkway Plaza hotel. Four NAACP leaders. Ten mints, striped red and white, sit clustered on the table. The pitchers of ice water on the table drip sweat. “Showtime,” a security man says. He’s here.

3. The gospel of irony
In this post reflecting on the merits of the use of irony, Kyle Bennett (@KYLEDBENNETT) draws on Søren Kierkegaard to interpret not just irony’s (annoying) place among Brooklyn hipsters, but its (proper?) place in our worship:

As someone deeply in love with the church, I’ve often wondered how irony translates. What place can and should irony have in the church? I’m not talking about pop culture music or literature or the lifestyle of some Brooklyn hipsters. I mean the formal space and time that we believers carve out to worship God week after week. After being a teaching pastor for a number of years, I’ve wondered if irony can be a form of teaching as well as an instrument in teaching. I don’t know what that looks like, but I wonder. Can irony have a place in liturgy? Can it be a means to preach the gospel to the world or teach the church?

4. A Land Without Sin
The Patheos Book Club has selected a book I really can’t wait to read, Paula Huston’s (@paulahuston) novel A Land Without Sin, as one of its featured books for September:

In 1993 an idealistic American priest disappears in the thick jungles of southern Mexico just as revolutionary forces gather in the region. The church, immersed in trying to negotiate a peaceful solution to the escalating conflict between wealthy landowners and poverty-stricken indigenas, remains strangely silent in the face of his disappearance… From the great pyramids of Tikal to the graceful palaces of Palenque to the shadowy guerrilla camps of the vast Lacandon, A Land Without Sin is a modern-day journey into the heart of darkness. It is a cinematic mystery grappling with the complexity of family history and relationships, faith amidst brutality, and the diversity of human response to illness, death, and evil.

5. I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You
The new album from Derek Webb (@derekwebb) released this week. Here’s the sixth and final video from the album, an acoustic take on the title track.

[Image via copticworld.org]

libreria8

1. On reading and living
Australian theologian Ben Myers (@FaithTheology) dispels the problematic notion that reading books and living life are separate undertakings:

I have often heard of a distinction – though I have never understood it – between reading books and something called real life experience. We are, apparently, supposed to believe that reading and living are two quite different things, as opposed to one another as girls and boys or night and day. There is, we are told, a moral dualism between reading and living. One of these activities is abstract, the other is concrete and practical. One is artificial, the other is true and real. One involves only the mind, the other involves the body. Personally I have never accepted that dualism. Not only because it is a heresy; and not only because it is opposed to the Old Testament, which views reading as the source of living (Psalm 1); but also because my experience has disproved it a thousand times. Ever since I was a boy I have experienced reading books not as the opposite of living but as a particularly grand and intensified form of it.

2. Holy Luck
What’s happening in October? Eugene Peterson has a book of poetry coming out, that’s what. John Wilson (@jwilson1812) discusses it on the most recent Books & Culture podcast, and he reads an excerpt from the introduction as well as two of the poems.

3. Inspiring bookstores
My mom, knowing how much I love books and bookstores, sent me this link to ten great bookstores from around the world – many of them jaw-dropping.

4. Work in the time of God’s patience
Gideon Strauss (@gideonstrauss) with some thoughts on a spirituality of work and the “problem” of good:

God’s grace sustains creation; God’s grace constrains evil; God’s grace enables redemption. It is because we live in the time of God’s patience (a phrase that Richard Mouw ascribes to his Mennonite friends) that rain nourishes the crops of both those who follow Jesus and those who don’t, artists can find and make beauty in God’s creation whether they follow Jesus or no, governments can act as God’s ministers by constraining evil whether they acknowledge the rule of God or not, and therapists can bring healing to broken relationships or nurses and doctors to broken bodies whether they acknowledge the healing power of God or not. God’s common grace (as Richard Mouw and others call it) – a grace that makes all human life, all creaturely existence possible – is as effective as God’s special grace, by which God brings people into a recognized and grateful relationship with himself.

5. The Vow
Another acoustic music video from Derek Webb (@derekwebb). If you haven’t pre-ordered his new album yet, which officially releases next Tuesday, you can do so here.

[Image: Alta Acqua bookstore in Venice, Italy via studentessamatta.com]

yarnbomb

1. Phoenix’s disconnected youth
Eugene Scott (@Eugene_Scott), a reporter for the Arizona Republic who participated in our Common Good PHX event back in April, has written an important report on the alarming number of youth in the Phoenix who are out of school and unemployed:

Nationally, one in seven young adults does not work or attend school. In metro Phoenix, it’s one in five. Experts say the reasons Phoenix has a higher disconnection rate vary — from students who come from communities that don’t place a high value on a diploma or lack educational options, to a weak economy where youths and young adults struggle to find work. Disconnected youths and young adults are more likely to lean on the government for services, such as welfare and health care, costing taxpayers. And they can hamper economic development as companies look to locate in areas with skilled workers.

2. Farmer’s markets, block parties… and institutions
On Monday, This Is Our City published an award-winning essay by Brandon Rhodes (@BrandonDRhodes) on how a local church is practicing “a long obedience” in downtown Tacoma, Washington. It’s a great essay, emphasizing the “local, highly ordinary gospel witness of Zoe Livable Church.”  And it sparked some great (dare I say edifying?) conversations from folks in various quarters about the extent to which great things like farmer’s markets, block parties, and yarnbombs can truly transform a city and help it flourish. Most notably, Jamie Smith (@james_ka_smith) says cities need Christians who practice micro acts of creativity, sacrifice, and faithfulness, but macro engagement matters too:

I read stories like Rhodes’ within earshot of the city of Detroit which now stands as a colossal disaster of municipal government. I have no doubt that yarnbombs on Woodward Avenue bring a furtive beauty to bombed out areas of an abandoned city—like the dove bearing fresh olives leaves as a sign and signal that the flood of judgment is receding. But farmer’s markets won’t rescue the city. Good government will. Those of us seeking to follow the Prince of Peace can’t abandon the call to bend governing to look more like it rests upon his shoulders.

3. Beyond eclectic Christianity
A good word from Kevin White on the value of being rooted in a Christian tradition with theological particularity as a basis for engaging with other views:

I mean to say that a robust, positive theology has to stand on something rather than nothing. If theology is to be more than a nerdy pastime, a proxy for power games or cultural dueling, or the basis of endless abstract disputes, then we each need to stand within a particular theology, following the example of particular sub-apostolic teachers, and correctable at first resort by a particular range of teachers in light of Holy Scriptures.

4. Another Self Portrait
NPR Music’s “First Listen” is streaming a full 45 minutes of material from Bob Dylan’s new collection of 53 – yes, 53 – previously unreleased songs from the late 60s and early 70s, the Self Portrait and New Morning era. This probably wasn’t Dylan’s finest moment, but if you’re a devoted fan, you’ll love at least some of these new songs.

5. Everything Will Change
Another music video from Derek Webb’s new record, I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You (which I blogged about the other day).

[Image via tinadhillon.com]

dereksolami

Like many, I was introduced to the music of Derek Webb through Caedmon’s Call, the folk band he was part of for many years. I discovered and fell in love with the band a bit late in the game, nearly a decade in, with a five-record discography already under its belt. The first time I saw them live they were touring in support of Back Home. Those songs (and many from subsequent albums) still hold a special place in my heart, but in my estimation, the band’s heyday was probably in the late ’90s with their quintessential work, 40 Acres.

Nonetheless, as a college kid with a heartfelt affinity for songs like Somewhere North, I was fond of saying that any girl I’d marry would have to meet my all-important ABC criteria – an attractive believer who likes Caedmon’s. (I’m happy to report I found and married such a girl, though the third part of the equation ended up factoring in less than I might have originally thought.)

On one occasion a good buddy and I went to the local Christian bookstore under the vague impression Derek had released a solo album. He hadn’t; we were several months premature. But that fall we drove out to the boonies in eastern Pennsylvania to a solo show he did. That was 2002. The following spring our local Christian radio station did a little contest for a chance to win a lunch and small in-studio concert with him. My buddy and I both won, separately. It’s possible not very many people were aware of who this Derek Webb character was. But to us he was a pretty big deal – so much so that we drove to his show an hour away that night for another dose.

Derek WebbOver the years I went to more of Derek’s shows than I can count, mostly in churches and cafés all over central and eastern Pennsylvania, with a bar in Nashville thrown in. But I got to know Derek primarily, of course, through the songs themselves. His debut record, She Must and Shall Go Free, was a concept album all about a tormented relationship of love with the church. That was the same year I happened to really start reading theology (a habit I haven’t managed to kick), and the theological underpinnings of those songs resonated deeply.

And so it continued every year or two, whenever Derek recorded and released a new batch of songs. It was as if my listening to his records was a way of checking in on where the journey had led both of us in the meantime, as we both in one way or another came of age.

At times, I felt as if Derek’s new songs were putting to words the very things I’d been wrestling with myself. On more than one occasion, I suspected we’d been reading the same books and spending time with similar kinds of people. Other times, I’d find we were heading in some different directions, exploring different ideas, using different kinds of vocabulary. There was and is both dissonance and harmony, you might say, between Derek and me (Unlike Derek, I have never had a public feud with The Roots’ drummer Questlove).

Early on, Derek was notorious for over-explaining – sermonizing, really – everything. I haven’t exactly timed it with a stopwatch, but if you listen to his live album The House Show, you’ll find he probably talks twice as much as he sings, quoting Calvin and Luther and various other heavyweights. And compared to a lot of the songs he’d later write, those first songs were for the most part quite straightforward. By his second record, I See Things Upside Down, he was writing much more cryptically, and on tour he said next to nothing about the meanings of the songs, preferring to let the art do the talking. To this day he’ll sometimes tweet strange things about the creative process, letting us know out of the blue that he’s “receiving coordinates” for new songs.

derek-webbBut now, in 2013, Derek has, it seems to me, come full circle. He’s back where he started again, as if for the first time. Like that first record, this time around he really wants to be understood.

As part of Derek’s launch team for his new record, I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You, I’ve been listening to it a lot over the past few weeks, soaking it in, singing along, and then, somewhere along the way, starting to plumb its depths. And I think it’s some of his finest stuff yet.

I could dissect the album for you, word by word, line by line, song by song, but that’s not the best way to approach art – or confession, for that matter, not to mention relationship. And this record is each of those things. You get the impression the record and its title might have something to do with one’s relationship with God and with others alike. Indeed, it captures the very posture required to keep relationships in all directions in tact.

Where will Derek go from here? I don’t know. Frankly, I doubt even he knows which coordinates will come his way next. But with I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You, Derek Webb has given us a gift – a confession, an apology, and a vow.

The new album, I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You, officially drops next Tuesday, September 3, but you can preorder it now at derekwebb.com.

cardboardcathedral

1. An end of books
I’m one of those Luddites who has yet to cave and buy an e-reader, as those who helped us move boxes of belongings (in Arizona summer heat, no less) to our new house can readily attest. So any talk about books going the way of the buffalo makes me sad. But I wonder whether Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog) is right here:

Books, those bound paper documents, are part of an ecosystem, one that was perfect, and one that is dying, quickly. Ideas aren’t going away soon, and neither are words. But, as the ecosystem dies, not only will the prevailing corporate systems around the paper book wither, but many of the treasured elements of its consumption will disappear as well.

2. Leave the edges wild
An interview with Karin Bergquist (@KarinBergquist) and Linford Detweiler (@linfordjerome) who together comprise the magical folk/jazz/blues/etc duo Over The Rhine. The songs on their new album take their cues from the Ohio farm where they live:

Karin and I have lived out here at Nowhere Farm now for over eight years. Sometimes when the fog rolls in real close and hushes everything, we would whisper that it felt like we were living on a little farm at the edge of the world. We also realized when we moved out here that we didn’t know the names of much of anything – the birds, the trees, the wildflowers, the weeds. My father loved this place and was always a bit of a birdwatcher. And he knew his trees too, and helped us find names for some of what was surrounding us. When my father passed away, and was no longer around to do the naming for us, we began the work of learning for ourselves. Once we started calling things by name, they began appearing in our songs.

3. Cardboard cathedral
When a devastating earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011, 185 people were killed, and one of the city’s most iconic landmarks – a Gothic cathedral from the 1800s – was destroyed. The much-anticipated Transitional Cathedral, from Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, is now open. It’s made of cardboard tubes, and is designed to be in place for 50 years. Ban hopes for a longer lifespan, though: “Even a building made of cardboard can be permanent if people love it.”

4. Broken stained glass in Egypt
Amidst the recent escalation of violence in Egypt, Coptic Christians have been singled out for attacks by Islamists loyal to deposed president Mohammed Morsi:

Churches, houses, monasteries, orphanages, schools and businesses belonging to Copts were attacked in nine provinces “causing panic, losses and destruction for no reason and no crimes they committed except being Christians,” the Maspero Youth Union, a Coptic activist group, said Thursday. As if sensing trouble, just two days before Wednesday’s violence, Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II called on all Egyptians to prevent bloodshed. “With all compassion I urge everyone to conserve Egyptian blood and ask of every Egyptian to commit to self-restraint and avoid recklessness and assault on any person or property,” Tawadros wrote on his official Twitter account Monday.

5. Heavy

[Image: Transitional Cathedral by Jocelyn Kinghorn via Gizmodo]