If your eternity was based on your iTunes, where would you go?

The music genre labeled “Christian” has traditionally been plagued with fluffy, cliche lyrics and repetitive, acoustic guitar chords.  A lot of it is bad.   But some of it is good.  There are talented “Christian” bands that don’t sing about Jesus in every song (or any).   There are talented “Christian” artists that nearly always sing about Jesus.  For everyone one of these bands or artists, there are probably two or three that I don’t care for.

It’s odd how much Christians can debate on divide on music — not just inside a church on Sunday.  Some Christians refuse to listen to “secular” music.  They think that if there’s a hint of guitar, it’s of the devil.  Others have swung the pendulum to the other end, boycotting anything labeled “Christian.”   They think Bono should become the 13th apostle.

Where am I on this spectrum?  I like Christian music.  I also like “secular” music.  But here’s the thing: there is not one thing on this planet that is secular.  Every song is a worship song.  Every film is a worship film.  Every novel, picture, poem, or anything else we create or do, is a act of worship.  The question is not whether or not you worship, but what is the object of your worship.

Most things are not inherently evil.  Remember that 1 Timothy 4:4 says, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”  We must be discerning about what can be redeemed and what must be rejected.  Some things, like drugs or strip clubs or pornography are evil and cannot be redeemed. However, if a Christian musician doesn’t sing a love song to Jesus should it be rejected? Just because a band like Coldplay isn’t “Christian” should we reject them?  I don’t think so.

My dad markets electrical products.  When he creates brochures, he doesn’t print Jesus’ face on the cover or type “For the Glory of God!” on the back.  Why does music have a different standard?  Whatever you do, do for the glory of God.  And that looks different for every Christian.  By the way, the title of this post is meant to be in jest.  Of course what music you listen to doesn’t determine your eternity — but some people (both Christians and non-Christians) might imply it.

After all this talk about music, I want to know you listen to.  Leave a comment with your top five most played songs, as well as the last five songs you played.  Here’s mine:

Top 5

  1. Hoppípolla- Sigur Rós
  2. The Haunting – Anberlin
  3. Life in Technicolor – Coldplay
  4. Till Kingdom Come – Coldplay
  5. Inevitable – Anberlin

Last 5

  1. The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash
  2. Letters from the Sky – Civil Twilight
  3. 18 Bullet Holes – Waterdeep
  4. Cemeteries Of London – Coldplay
  5. Ancient Man – Burlap to Cashmere

“What Matters More” by Derek Webb

Here’s the controversial song and video by Derek Webb from his new album Stockholm Syndrome. This version was released on his website, not the CD, due to the strong language.

Provocative would be an understatement.  Any thoughts?

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Here are two excerpts from reivews of Webb’s album:

“Unfortunately, the message seems hidden in negative lyrics that often say the opposite of what you would want to get stuck in your head. Lyrics such as “Oh I have been to Heaven and I found no relief” just don’t do much for me. The album is purely negative and I doubt that much of the Christian music world (including myself) will accept Stockholm Syndrome as playable — and that’s before they get to hear the profanity” (Kevin Hoskins,

“Where this album will stand in the history of Christian music remains to be decided by the retrospective analysis of the next few years, and a number of other factors — the future of the church’s overall political lean and how it will consider its current heavyweights in hindsight, the acceptance (however reluctant) of Webb’s daring, and the industry’s artistic response to this experience: its advertising campaign, controversial content, and sonic textures. Even so, a few things can be said outright: Webb has crafted a near-perfect album that rivals anything avid listeners have ever come across, one that deserves comparisons to Ok Computer and Kid A and challenges preconceptions about the depth of art reflecting the Christian experience.  Stockholm Syndrome is a dangerous, volatile, stunning masterwork of prophetic brilliance and insight — one of the most important albums of the last 10 years” (John Wofford, The Christian Manifesto).


Truth is Truth is Truth

From the urban philosopher Lecrae:

Man, see some folks say, “All truth is relative, it just depends on what you believe.” You know, “Hey man, ain’t no way to know for sure who God is or what’s really true.” But that means you believe your own statement: that there’s no way to know what’s really true. You’re saying that that statement is true. You’re killing yourself. If what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me, what if my truth says your’s is a lie? Is it still true? Come on man!

…See, there’s this thing called “Secular Humanism”, it says man is the source of all meaning and all purposing. You know what i’m saying? We’re just the result of a big cosmic explosion. We don’t really have a purpose or meaning, so we just come up with our own purpose. We’re the source of our meaning and our purpose. How can a man, which is the product of chance, a finite being be the source of purpose and meaning? You can’t! You’re created with purpose man!

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Anybody Out There?

If you want to listen to good folk/world rock-influenced music, may I suggest to you the little known album Anybody Out There? by Burlap to Cashmere (1998).  If there’s one album, out of a handful, that I regularly turn to, it’s this one.

For all I know, the band is not together anymore and Anybody Out There? was their only full-length release.  They were formed in New York in the mid-90s.  Their name supposedly comes from an episode of The Bob Newhart Show. Their sound is a mix of Greek dance, back-woods folk, radio pop, and piano-driven ballads.

Songs like “Digee Dime,” “Eileen’s Song,” “Good Man,” and “Chop Chop” just make you happy.  “Basic Instructions” makes you want to dance at a big, fat, Greek wedding.  “Treasures in Heaven,” “Ancient Man,” “Skin is Burning,” and the title track work your mind over the railing.  “Divorce” and “Scenes” are rather eerie stories that will show you the darker side of the band.  The final track, “Mansions,” will make you longer for a better world than the one we have now.

Check it out.  Happy listening!


Today is World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day.  Here is a email I received today from Blood:Water Mission, written by Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay.  Let’s pray for the Church to lead AIDS victims to Jesus, the only true hope for their lives, and ours.

I was not really prepared.  As I turned the corner, my eyes took it in, and I felt my lungs fill with air, and let it all go,  as if I had just beheld a great waterfall, or a mountain vista.  It was nothing of the sort.  But it was still breathtaking.  It was around 3:30pm.  I looked at the sky, which had turned a woolen gray, and then back at the paper where I had scribbled the information.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My oldest son draped in a replicated Union army cap and coat, and my youngest bundled up against the short bursts of winter wind, and spray of cold rain, walked with me, the two blocks from our house to a quaint little house and barn that had been preserved as a reminder of a great and bloody battle.

It was the anniversary of the Battle of Franklin, one of the most gruesome battles of the Civil War.  We were the first spectators to arrive.  The busy street had been blocked off for hours, as a small handful of volunteers placed a candle in a white paper bag for each of the nearly ten thousand soldiers that lost their lives during that fateful day of November 30th, 1864.

We walked slowly down the rows and rows of white bags that stretched out of sight, and down the street.  Perhaps it was the combination of gray clouds, misty rain, and the fact that history becomes decidedly more important to me when I am walking along with two little people who represent the future. But I was struck by the magnitude of such a display.  I was sobered by a visual of what “ten thousand” looked like.

I began to consider what it must have felt like to be there.  Both sides fighting, moved onward by a sense of purpose and conviction that was worth overcoming fear and entering even unto death.  Have I ever experienced or even witnessed two passionately opposing forces at the climax of purpose? Have I ever felt the weight of the kind of upholding of a belief that springs from the core of their souls or the urgency to protect something that rests as the very foundation of humanity?  I have never been to war.  I have appreciated it’s brutal power, and have even hovered around the ripple effects of it’s deadly sting, as friends have dealt with the loss of loved ones.  But I was humbled by the view in front, and all around me as I walked, and counted and imagined the faces and stories of each of those soldiers.  It is regretable that the story of American History must hold the Civil War in it’s pages.

Today is another day to remember.  There is another battle that our streets are not lengthy nor wide enough to hold the number of luminaries to represent all that have fallen during the fight.   It is the fight against HIV/AIDS.  And today, I remember the hands of men that I have held while doing my best to comfort them in their dying hours.  I remember the stories of hopelessness, of fear, of despair that blanketed the air of entire communities like the gray clouds of November in Franklin, TN.

But there is so much risk in thinking about too many stories at once.  Without a way to visualize millions of faces, I am reminded that AIDS is a disease that kills one person at a time.  It is a disease that destroys the body, one blood cell at a time.  It destroys families one person at a time.  It creates a void, a deep emptiness where hope and health should be,  one story at a time.  And so today,  I am thinking about how I can help one person.  How I can love and act, and advocate on behalf of one person.  And in the midst of this great and challenging fight, we may one day realize that we have the opportunity to not be able to visualize the millions of stories that have regained their threads of hope, and sustained their health.

Can you think of a person?  Can you put yourself in the place of someone wrestling with HIV/AIDS?  Do you wonder what their fears might be? Do you wonder what their families might be going through?  Do you consider the moment that they have to bring the news of their illness to their family? Is there room in your heart,  in my heart to feel what they feel?

Today is World AIDS Day.  To most of us, it is just another day.  What would it take for us to remember there is no such thing as “Just another day.”  And what would it look like to do our best to ensure that those wrestling on this day under the weight of this disease can make it to the next?

It is in our hands.  It is our ideas, our passion, our willingness to learn, to fail, to search, to love, and to fight that will bring forth the ideas and the designs to beat HIV/AIDS.

It is my hope that we will continue to feel the urgency of this great need.  It is my desire that we will continue to open our hearts to the stories of people all around the world that suffer.

I believe that God has given us this great privilege to be a part this great act of healing.  Please join us in praying, in knowing, in loving, and in serving.

And maybe we can one day celebrate by saying, “Happy World AIDS Day!”

Peace to you,

Dan Haseltine