Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ryan Adams Inspirational, God is not a White Man, Church Music, Happiness

As much as I am a sucker for everything Ryan Adams releases, this morning I bought his two recent PAX-AM digital singles. Maybe secretly, or not so secretly, I wish I could be as intentionally eccentric and hilarious myself as when he posts:

"Thanks for making Pax Am the number one Ryan Adams merch site online. We would hunt anyone else down though.

Did you have a rad summer? Good. If you said no, never worry, Pax Am is here. We are gonna fill your fall and winter up with vinyl, digital singles, and t shirts you don't need.

Stay tuned for videos, free tracks, and our digi-singles. Subscribers get first dibs on rare vinyl.

Remember, purchasing the buck 49 singles is a way to keep FOGGY TV on the air, but it is not necessary to view the weekly content.This is my label and my internet disco dream.

Make it real you jerks.

Worship me."

Clearly, I don't worship him. It's unlikely that's what the man really intends anyway. However, the word reminded me that most of the time, the music that is most influential to me is not overtly spiritual or released by the people who release for-profit Christian music. Two notable examples though have been stuck on repeat for me these last few months, Michael Gungor's joyous song "White Man" and David Crowder's just-released brilliant album Church Music. "Oh Happiness" from that album, is pure Japanese-fizzy-synth excellence and a really hard song not to hum . Expect it at The Five soon.

Irena Salina's FLOW, For Love of Water part 1

This past summer Bekah and I spent time in Springfield, MO working with missionary kids (if you aren't sure what that is, go here)

As part of orientation for the new mks, we lived out in the wilderness (ok, semi-wilderness) for five days and four nights without access to running water down by the camp. With the nearest drinking water source about a mile up the road, I elected to cut down on our admittedly already large footprint and limit our bottled water and Gatorade in favor of drinking regular water from a hose.

This immediately alarmed some (Is it sanitary to store it in the reusable plastic bin? Is the hose itself clean?) and I had to back away from my original intent (having kids walk a mile plus and carry forty pounds of water back on foot turned out to be too extreme) of recreating the struggle for survival for many people around the world. However, we drank the water, it tasted fine, no one got sick and I guess full disclosure forces me to admit that I had a Brita filter in my King of Mu Kappa camp. It also turned out to be so hot (100 degrees plus 90 percent humidity) that our acclimatized systems couldn't stand it and we had to leave the camp twice for fear of rampant heat exhaustion.

All that to say, I watched Irena Salina's FLOW with my own set of experiences giving me just the slightest taste of what it must be like to live without easy, municipal access to clean water. The film is well-made and insightful, although it suffers from the same problem that nearly every documentary made post-Michael Moore's "Roger and Me", in that it is somewhat one-sided and the filmmaker clearly began with an established agenda rather than setting out intent on discovering a nuanced story.

This doesn't make it any less necessary or VITAL though. The most startling statistic about clean water is that everyone in the world could have access to it for around US $30 billion while $100 billion was spent last year on bottled water alone.

In a world where ONE Billion people live on less than $1 a day and millions live without access to clean water or basic medical services, it is crucial that the voices of those in the margins not be overshadowed by powerful corporations and banks. Films like this one are an important tool in the fight to end extreme poverty because they shine a light on hidden places and expose injustice. It's important though that we work towards solutions, and that we take action. In part two of this post, we'll focus on how each of us could actually be part of the solution to bring clean water to the world.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009, autumn and the feeling, 5:45 am

yesterday felt like fall, today feels more like post-summer. don't ask me for a definitive definition, I just feel it in my bones (arthritic, 29 year old bones?)

Yesterday my whole family, parents, brother and sister, came over to the apartment and we ate tri-tip from the crockpot and watch the Bills and Raiders throw victories away and rejoiced as the Giants were victorious over the Rockies. It was a great time for sure. Bekah led the Eight Bible Study at Northpark which started at 8:00 pm but she was home in time for the 4th and 15 touchdown by the Raiders. Unfortunately she had Tomlinson in her fantasy line up.

Also, yesterday I got up at 5:30 and walked across the parking lot in the rain to attend a Men's group. Consequently, today I am tired. But it was worth it.

OK, so enough sports, how about amateur DJ playlists: here's what I came up with over the weekend. Also, I briefly linked my twitter account not realizing that it would send a message every single time, sorry if you get mobile updates....

Thursday, September 10, 2009


A few months back ONE posted and circulated a petition asking our Senator’s to cosponsor the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009 (S. 624), and help provide 100 million people with first-time, sustainable access to clean water and sanitation by 2015.

Because of the efforts of California ONE members, over 16,000 Californians signed the petition and shortly thereafter the petition was hand delivered to Senator Feinstein’s office in San Francisco. Since then, we’ve had members visit the senator’s staff, call her offices, and write letters around the state.

I am very excited to announce as of 9/8/09 Senator Feinstein has become the newest co-sponsor S.624 Water for the World Act!

Friday, September 4, 2009

David Bazan, When They Really Get to Know Me They Will Run From My Blog

Sitting here on my day off, post-Bob The Builder exhibit at The Met downtown, with two startling realizations.

1. Yesterdays post is likely to make the top 59 Ryan Townsend blog posts ever. AND ...
2. I am only posting entries at a clip of two to three per month, at least one of which consists only of the words "Your Power Animal is The Siberian Chipmunk."

With this in mind, I am returning to what I love, semi-obscure indie rock artists and critically tolerated general market films masquerading as "indie." The Darjeeling Limited comes to mind.

David Bazan has always been one of my favorite artists. Painful, brutal honesty, and tunefulness rarely mix with fictional stories AND thinly veiled autobiography so well. His new record has mostly gotten attention for the fact that he's reportedly abandoned the Christian faith, but we won't count that against him because Curse Your Branches is full of the vitriol and self-deprecating humor we've grown to love as well as being quite easy to hum along to.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Todd Hunter, Spiritual Practices in Costa Mesa

I came across a very interesting piece via the Christianity Today newsletter, a fine piece of email that typically sidetracks me from my oh-so-important-tasks a couple times a week. This interview with Todd Hunter tracks his journey from Calvary Chapel to head of Vineyard to emerging church guru to head of Alpha USA to Anglican priest and now (incredibly!) Bishop.

I've had a few opportunities to interact with Todd over the years as he was on the board of the church and ministries of Soul Survivor USA when Bekah and I served there 2001-2005. I have always been impressed with his rare combination of humility and intellect, and his comments in this article bear that out. I also appreciate his continuing and unwavering emphasis on evangelism (something that get lost in the search for a Bigger and More Holistic and Truthful Gospel). Here, Hunter argues for a return to spiritual practices as an engine for evangelism. He specifically mentions non-confrontive approach to sexual morality and saying the Apostles Creed in the same breath, which I find both startling and somewhat intiruguing.

Hunter also argues for a renewal of spiritual practices as a Christianity that's actually lived as oppossed to simply believed.

He states, "I have a vision of liturgy as a tool for evangelism and discipleship, a tool that is grounded in Scripture."

Much of what Hunter advocates resonates with me, a late 20's pastor with roots in Pentecostal holiness and a predilection for reading post-Evangelical literature and a promixity to emergent theology. I suppose you could call me, Emergent-adjacent. Also being an Anglican-ophile (four years in the tradition) I will certainly be cheering on Hunter's and (my close friend and former pastor Paul Martin's) Holy Trinity Costa Mesa church plant as it launches on Sept. 27th.

Two key thoughts I had to add after reading:

1. I'm not so sure that emerging church theology and leadership development are as mutually exclusive as Hunter (abeit hesitantly) inferred when he said,

"Second, after 10 or 12 years of the emerging church, you have to ask where anything has been built. Evangelism has been so muted and the normal building of structures and processes hasn't moved forward because there's no positive, godly imagination for doing either evangelism or leadership. Such things are by definition utilitarian, and so they were made especially difficult."

I do think that we need to find a new ways to enact church leadership that bypasses utilitarianism for a more communal, justice-centered approach but I think we have a model for that in Christ and the disciples. My interactions with other young pastors reveals a tendency to be wary of authoritarian structures but not necessarily a desire to deconstruct the notion of leadership altogether. I also believe that volunteer or bivocational leadership is the future of the church and in trying to spend my time and resources accordingly, am uncovering a deep resevoir of diverse leaders. Many of whom may/or may not subscribe to foundationalism or fundamentalism in any formal way but who are nonetheless committed to the forgiveness pf sins by grace, who are determined to make a difference in the world and who follow the teachings of Jesus in an orthodox and literal sense.

In some ways, I think Hunter's criticism of the emerging movement is in some ways deserved, but I believe that we will see a real renewal in the church that will come from the very same people who are still finding their way through the matrix and shaking off the shackles of modernism and American Evangelicalism. All that to say, we in the 16 to 29 demo, are still enroute. This same weakness, is also an opportunity for God to demonstrate his sovereignty and power.

2. I have been giving a lot of thought to the spritual disciplines, to the spiritual practices that accompany Anglicanism and have been so glaringly absent from many of our Protestant, Charismatic churches. In our own community of faith, we have recently been fasting, and personally, I have really been wrestling with how to integrate silence, solitude and liturgy into my own life.

Our admittedly limited experiences and experiments with liturgy in The Five at Northpark lead me to echo Hunter when he stresses that spiritual practices and participatory Christianity are not impediments to evangelism but rather an engine for it. Someone participating in the local church first and believing second can be a beautiful process and I am seeing it happen.

Another reason that I love the spiritual practices is because I believe that if we practice them biblically, they inevitably put us on a crash course with injustice. Separated from political fads and popular, trendy Christianity, spiritual disciplines can and should lead us in the direction of serving the poor. I am convinced and have written in this blog several times that we will never see transformation in our culture or in our nation, as long as we continue to oppress and marginalize entire populations, and turn a blind eye to issues of injustice.

Isaiah 58:6-9 (TNIV)

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness a]">[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

So, practicing spirituality that is traditional and orthodox can naturally lead to evangelism and transformation but even more, those practices should lead us to social/personal action that contextualizes the gospel and reveals this Gospel of Reconciliation to actually be the Good News that we know it to be. Then, when people are exposed to a salvation that resonates loudly (ALL CREATION RETURNING TO RIGHT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD), evangelism should occur almost automatically. There's no secret agenda in sharing that with people. Of course, as I'm reminded all the time, Evangelism does actually require that we actually TELL people the reasons behind our efforts to eliminate extreme poverty and to bring freedom to those in captivity. Otherwise we are just doing good work like everyone else.