Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jay-Z Meets the Reformation

When I was little, my mom used to wish trick or treaters a Happy Reformation Day. No joke. My parents were pretty big fans of Luther (with the exception of the whole anti-Semitism thing) and I really liked the movie with Joseph Fiennes, so when I had to pick a topic for my Early Modern Europe paper Luther seemed like an easy and interesting enough choice. Weeks and a rather unpleasant all-nighter later, I had heard enough of Luther to last me quite awhile. As much as I love the fact that we are saved through faith alone, no one messes with my Circadian rhythms. However, my choice had been made. There I stood, and I could do no other.

My friend "Brianna" however (who, interestingly enough is an agnostic and does not share my passion for collecting geeky Christian youtube videos) referred me to this lovely clip:

Enjoy, and may you never have to write a paper on Luther. I love the guy, but I'd just as soon have stuck to watching the movie.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

At Least Psalty Wasn't Creepy...

I recently had the privilege/misfortune (you decide which) of coming across this lovely youtube video.

The man who just sang a duet with himself, half normally and half creepy Helium, is Lil' Marky, a Christian children's singer of days gone by. We've all made fun of Psalty and the Music Machine, but they have nothing on this guy. I mean, his voice is creepy enough (think a soprano Donald Duck), but some of the songs are such as I would never inflict on any child of mine. Should you happen to be curious, you can listen to his songs here, but if you're not willing to subject yourself to that, allow me to recap some of the highlights. I should point out, as well, that the average length of a Lil Markie song appears to be about 13 minutes.

Diary of an Unborn Child
In this gem of a song, lil Markie takes on the persona of an unborn baby boy, eagerly anticipating his life on earth and narrating his life in the womb (Day one: today I was created. Mommy and Daddy don't know yet...). Then, rather abruptly, the hitherto upbeat number experiences a change in tone. Day 23: Today my mommy killed me. At which point lil Markie begins to sing, as mournfully as he can with his warbly helium voice. "Why, did you kill meeeeeee, Mommyyyyyy. I would have loved youuuuuuu. I wanted to be your little boyyyyyyyy. I was a gift from Jesus to youuuuuuuu." As much as I am pro-life, this is just creepy, and hardly something I'd want my 5 yeard-old singing around the house.

Story of an Alcoholic Father/Something's Happened to Daddy
The title in this one is rather self-explanatory. It's the story of a little boy who gets saved at a revival meeting, after realizing what a wretched little boy he is, and how much he needs Jesus in his life because he only showers once a month. His father, who is drunk when he hears the news of this conversion, gets angry and beats the mother (who also got saved, did I mention that?) with a baseball bat so severely that she almost dies and has to go to the hospital. At this point the father is grieved and shocked, swears off alcohol, and begins to go to church with them. In the words of Lil Markie: "We thought he had found Jesus, but he was just being a phoney baloney." Anyway, it all hits the fan when the pastor mentions tithing in a sermon, and the father vows never to go to church again. Lil Markie begs, pleads, and cries to no avail. So Lil Markie takes it to God and asks Him to save his father and, guess what, He answers. The next day, Lil Markie wakes up in tremendous pain. So he has to stay home from Christian school and his mother calls a Christian doctor to examine him. The doctor informs him that he will probably die within the next hour, and he has just enough time to witness to his father once more. So Lil Markie pleads with him, asking him not to go to hell, and breathes his last. Then he and Jesus watch with great joy as his father weeps over his dead body and asks God to save him.

Lil Markie Goes to Calvary
This song includes the awkwardest testimony, fake or otherwise. "By the time I was 5 I was doing hard drugs. Marijuana, cocaine, hashish, you wouldn't believe what went up my nostrils." And that's only after kids in his village turn him into a candy thief so he can be their friend. He ends up running away to England and eating a ton of Fish n Chips, and then magically he's in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus' crucifixion. What follows is a horrifically graphic description of the Passion (narrated in a helium voice, of course) that culminates in Lil Markie kneeling in a great big puddle of blood at Jesus' feet and asking Him into his life.

I wish to goodness I was making this up, but all I've found suggests that not only did this really happen, it was genuinely intended as an evangelistic tool. I, for one, intend to stick to Veggietales.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

If the Eyes of Faith Don't Work for You, Try 3-D Glasses

I've been part of the Christian subculture my whole life, and spent the past year working in a store that caters to that subculture, so I don't really expect to be too surprised by much of our merchandise anymore. Today, however, I came across an item that officially ranks as the strangest one I have ever seen, bar none. The cinnamon-scented pocket vial of anointing oil that previously held the title doesn't even come close. Here it is:

The title and cover art look fairly normal. A bit of a Lee Strobel ripoff, maybe, but nothing out of the common way. But check out the the fine print at the bottom: "View the world's first scientific Three-Dimensional Holographic Image of the Face of Christ. 3-Dimensional Glasses Included." That's right folks. And not just a random 3-D Jesus hologram, this apparently the face of the crucified Christ, as He appeared in antiquity. According to the synopsis "This documentary investigates the historical record, draws upon medical knowledge, searches for evidence in the lives of the Apostles, explores ancient Jewish burial customs, and—with new scientific technologies—examines the 2000 year old burial cloth of Christ. For the first time through physics and space-age imaging, scientists are able to view the crucified body of Christ in a three-dimensional, holographic image." This doesn't even need sarcastic commentary, folks. It mocks itself. Unfortunately, the DVD failed to deliver on its promise to strengthen my faith and uplift my heart.

With all this being said, I am a firm believer in the Resurrection, and there are scholars and apologeticists out there who can articulate the case for it far more eloquently than I ever could. I highly recommend the work of Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell. It isn't at all my intention to denigrate the Resurrection. It's what gives me hope, and it's the foundation of my faith. But I find it quite unnecessary to grasp at straws for evidence when so much solid stuff is available. And I look forward to the day when I will be able to look at the real, non-holographic Jesus' face. I won't even need 3-D glasses to see Him.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fireworks and Frozen Yogurt

Today was Canada Day which, while not as big a deal to most Canadians as the Fourth of July is to Americans, is nevertheless a national holiday that involves a parade (in my home village, this happens only twice a year, the other time being Christmas). I celebrated by watching Corner Gas, eating frozen yogurt, and taking an accidental 5-hour nap. If I finish planning tomorrow's VBS lesson in time, I may watch the fireworks from my balcony.

This year's Canada Day festivities have triggered two trains of thought for me. The first is that I am very thankful to live in a democratic country, where I have the freedom to believe what I want and share my beliefs with others. I even have the freedom to vote now that I turned 18, although I'm thankful I don't have to exercise that freedom this summer (minority governments = way too many elections). But that being said, as I've been following the news lately, I've been increasingly grieved to see how some people in our country (including Christians, maybe especially Christians) elevate this day's status to that of a quasi-religious holiday. We feel that because Canada was founded on "Christian" principles (such as, for instance, bloody feuding between anglophone Protestants and francophone Catholics, or banishing multitudes of Native American children to residential schools where, along with learning about the love of Jesus, they had to deal with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse). Undoubtedly, there were some strong (although imperfect, like all of us) Christians in our country's history, but I never know whether to be sad or amused when I see other Canadian Christians treating the smallest slight against our country, whether real or imagined, as a slight against God. We had a principal in an elementary school about two hours from where I live make the controversial decision to play the national anthem only during school assemblies, rather than every morning after some parents objected to their children singing it for religious reasons. You would think he had gone on television and burned our flag or something. People around the country responded in outrage, with the general consensus being that this man was now single-handedly responsible for the shed blood of every Canadian soldier who died in battle. The political party with which he was affiliated was immediately branded as being anti-anthem and anti-Canada. Finally, he had to quit his jobs because of death threats. Death threats, for no other reason than choosing to play the national anthem with less frequency. It would be ludicrous if it wasn't so sad.

I have nothing against people who love their country. I love mine, too. I take pride in being a Canuck, and even in the quirks that are so often associated with the title. I may not live in an igloo (although I wouldn't mind trying the ice hotel in Quebec City someday) but I really do end many of my sentences with eh. I use the metric system and I think Corner Gas is comedy at its best. I do, however, have a problem with people who equate love of their country with hatred of its perceived enemies. Canada is not the new Israel. It is not God's new chosen nation. We do not have the right to His unequivocal protection against any enemies that may arise. To borrow from Elisabeth Elliot, "being a Canadian does not make me a better Christian. Rather, being a Christian makes me a better Canadian."

So happy Canada Day to all two of my Canadian readers and happy early Independence Day to any Americans reading this. I hope you have a great day, and that you are thankful for the many blessings that come with living in a democratic country with a better than average human rights record. Just remember these wise words from Pablo Casals: "Love for one's country is all well and good, but why should love stop at the border?"

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Left Behind Books (and why I wish I'd never gotten my little sister hooked)

This may sound slightly (okay, very), sad, but my family's Christmas Eve celebrations last year consisted of a Left Behind Movie Marathon in Quebec. It was, to be fair, an unusual Christmas Eve in several respects. We were driving to visit my grandmother and Christmas Eve happened to be a stopover day in Quebec City, with nothing much to do since the friend who let us stay at her place had to work that day. Nor was the Left Behind Movie Marathon even the most unusual part of our day. The one time all day that we decided to leave the apartment and go for a walk, my sisters and I stopped off at a random convenience store where we were offered free beer (I was 17 at the time, and my sisters were 16 and 11. Apparently, according to the guy behind the counter, the legal drinking age could only be enforced if they sold us the beer. Quebec is weird that way.) However, while the convenience store episode has faded to nothing more than a funny story, the Left Behind Movie Marathon is becoming one of my greatest regrets.

Here's why: My little sister decided that Left Behind was the greatest thing she had ever seen (sadly, this is probably in large part a consequence of our sheltered Christian upbringing), and thus began an obsession that is still going strong 6 months later. Consequently, eschatology unfortunately became a prime topic of dinner table conversation for my family. The conversation could get pretty heated, since my sister was (at least at first) completely sold on the dispensationalist position presented in Left Behind, while my dad was hardcore post-trib. Then, to add to the mix, I find debates over eschatology incredibly pointless, but am sympathetic to (although not completely sold on) the preterist position.

Moreover, once a week at least, my sister and I will end up having a conversation that goes something like this: "Christina, do you think that Jesus will rapture us before the tribulation? Because I don't think I could handle living through the tribulation." "Rachelle, I've already told you, I don't know. Jesus hasn't told me anything new since last week. But I promise you that whatever happens, He'll give you the strength to deal with it." "Well, I still hope it's pre-trib." It's not a bad conversation to have with your little sister, as far as those go, but it gets a little tiresome after the tenth time.

Lastly, my little sister (egged on by my other sister) has taken to identifying signs of the coming apocalypse whenever she listens to the news. Her latest candidate for the Beast of Revelation? Barack Obama. Why? Because (and I quote) "Frank McKenna called him a messiah on CTV and my friend Brittany says he makes people bow down to him." Okay then.

It wouldn't be quite as sad if my little sister was the only one who was obsessed with Left Behind and the famed End Times, but it seems to be fairly common among North American Christians in general. Maybe this is because we tend to prefer sensationalism to what is solid. I don't know. At anu rate, I find it sad that we can allow a comparatively minor issue to become so divisive. I recently read a book by Abdu Murray called "Apocalypse Later: Why the Gospel of Peace Must Trump the Politics of Prophecy in the Middle East." I definitely recommend it. It dealt with how Christians are so focused on identifying fulfilled prophecies in the Middle East comflict that we forget the most important thing: Jews and Arabs both need Jesus. Maybe we could all use a return to the gospel, instead instead of spending our money buying rapture-ready air fresheners and spending our time watching Rexella gush over Jack van Impe's prediction that Jesus is coming back in 2012. Maybe, if we actually focused on spreading the gospel, more people would be ready if He did come back then.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Have you ever noticed that, whatever your hobby or designation, there is a devotional for you. At least one. There are about 20 separate books with the title Devotions for Teens, and I can't even count how many Devotions for Mothers there are. But what about less broad designations? If your hobby is taking care of your puppy, is there a devotional book for you? About 10-15 years ago, devotional book publishers realized these untapped niche markets and started publishing books that reached out specifically to God-fearing nurses, or hunters, or softball players. The result can occasionally be amusing. Check out some of these gems.

Links: Devotions for Golfers. I'm not terribly shocked that I found a book called Devotions for Golfers. What was more surprising was that I found a good dozen devotional books catering specifically to golfers. Maybe it's more popular in the States than in Canada, but I can't imagine that the market would be big enough to warrant that many.

Beautiful Threads: Devotions for Quilters by Mary Tatem. Technically I think it's called words of encouragement or encouraging thoughts for quilters. Again, a bit of a niche market, but I guess there are probably more quilters among the Christian community than there are in society in general. There are definitely more cross-stitchers. Come to think of it, I'm sensing a new untapped market...

More Devotions for Dieters. I don't find it that odd that there would be a book of devotions for dieters. Why not involve God in your effort to be healthy? But a sequel seems a bit like overkill. Not to mention that the word diet denotes a temporary change in eating habits, and it strikes me as more Christian to work towards a permanent lifestyle change that glorifies God in the way you take care of your body.

But anyway, what devotionals are missing out there? Devotions for mongoose hunters? Great-grandmothers? Bloggers?

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Most Important Person on Earth

So the Holy Spirit can be pretty confusing sometimes. For the Christian layperson, only one resource is more valuable than a book that concisely explains the Holy Spirit and how He works.

What resource is this, you might ask? Try a book that concisely explains the Holy Spirit and gives you a chance to win a free Bahamas vacation (and, depending on his schedule, lunch with Dr. Myles Munroe himself).

That's right. Today a customer bought Myles Munroe's The Most Important Person on Earth and, affixed prominently to the front was a sticker that announced that Myles Munroe was partnering with the Bahamas ministry of tourism to offer you the chance to win a free Bahamas vacation. Some days I have the hardest time keeping a straight face while ringing in customers (admittedly I had a harder time when an elderly couple couldn't remember the PIN for their chip reader VISA and started thinking out loud about what it might be. "Try 7263. That's the number for our debit card...").

Here's the best part, though. The warehouse sent us the book (with the promotion sticker) about a month ago. However, when I looked it up online, I found that the promotion had expired in July of 2007. So, unless time travel is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you won't be able to take advantage of this offer. Oh well. It was an...interesting thought anyway.