the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copyI know what you’re thinking: Gosh-dangit, this guy is at it again?! Does he really think we care this much about what he found so interesting this week?! Yes, yes I do think you’re interested in what I found interesting this week. That’s why you’re hear, isn’t it? Admit it, you’re interested. And that’s interesting, isn’t it?

Welcome to the Weekly Town Crier: where I collect links to various things I found interesting this week. You read what interests you and skip what doesn’t and we’ll all be happily interesting together. Separate. On our computers.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

It’s the most wonderful time of year: year-end list time!

  • * = Added to the list this week.
  • Listen as All Songs Considered considers the year in music.
  • Browse American Songwriter’s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse Aquarium Drunkard‘s unranked picks for music of the year. *
  • Browse AV Club‘s picks for “The 15 best albums of 2015.”
  • Browse AV Club‘s picks for their favorite books of the year. *
  • Browse AV Club‘s picks for: “graphic novels, one-shots, and archives of 2015.” *
  • Browse as Christianity Today hands out their annual books awards. *
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of the Year.”
  • Browse The Daily Beast‘s picks for “The Most Overlooked Movies of the Year.” *
  • Browse The Daily Beast‘s picks for music of the year. *
  • Browse David Dye’s (World Café) dspicks for albums of the year. *
  • Browse Design Week’s picks for their favorite album covers.
  • Browse Drowned In Sound‘s favorite albums of 2015. *
  • Browse FACT‘s picks for the best record labels of the year.
  • Browse FACT‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse as First Things considers their year in books. *
  • Browse Flavorwire‘s picks for “The 50 Best Independent Press Books of 2015.”
  • Browse Flavorwire‘s picks for the best nonfiction books of the year. *
  • Browse as Bill Gates picks his favorite books read in 2015. *
  • Browse The Gospel Coalition editors’ picks for books of the year. *
  • Browse iBooks‘s favorite books of 2015. *
  • Browse iTunes‘ favorite music of 2015. *
  • Browse iTunes‘s favorite movies of 2015. *
  • Browse as the KEXP DJ’s make their picks.
  • Browse The New York Times‘s picks for their favorite albums of 2015. *
  • Browse NME‘s albums of the year.
  • Browse as No Depression considers “Great albums at the bottom of the list.” *
  • Browse Noisey‘s picks for songs of the year.
  • Browse Noisey‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse NPR Music’s “50 Favorite Albums Of 2015.”
  • Browse NPR’s picks for the best books of 2015
  • Browse OkayPlayer‘s favorite albums of the year. *
  • Browse as Pandora reveals the top 100 “thumbed up” songs of 2015.
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for the “The 50 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for “The 10 Best Box Sets of 2015.”
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for “The Best Comic Books of 2015.”
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for “The 20 Best New Bands of 2015.” *
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for the best canned beers of 2015. *
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for the best fiction books of the year. *
  • Browse (part one/part two) Phoenix New Times‘s picks for best AZ songs this year. *
  • Browse Piccadilly Records‘s choices.
  • Browse Pitchfork‘s top 50 albums of the year. *
  • Browse as Pop Matters‘s makes their picks for “The 80 Best Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse The Quietus‘s picks.
  • Browse “Relevants” top 10 albums of 2015.
  • Browse Rolling Stone‘s picks.
  • Browse Rough Trade‘s picks for their favorite albums of the year.
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for “The 50 Best Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for the “101 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for their favorite new bands of 2015.
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for their “80 Favorite Songs Of 2015.”
  • Browse Time‘s picks for the top 10 movies of the year. *
  • Browse Time‘s top 100 photographs of the year. *
  • Browse Tiny Mix Tape‘s 50 favorite albums of 2015. *
  • Browse Uncut‘s favorite albums of 2015.
  • Browse Under the Radar‘s 2015 picks. *
  • Browse Vogue‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse the favorite music from Zia Records‘ staff. *

See Banksy remind the world that Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant.

Read Vanity Fair‘s piece: “Frank Sinatra’s Drummer Tells the Story of His Final Concert.”

Browse as Marie Claire recommends: “6 Graphic Novels By Women You Need To Read.”

Browse as the Rumpus recommends books about Bob Dylan.

Browse Baeble‘s list of “The 10 Most Ridiculous Moments In Music In 2015.”

Browse Paste‘s picks for “18 Documentaries about Writers.”

Browse Paste‘s “Complete Guide to Music Snobbery in Noah Baumbach Movies.”

Watch the Oh Hello’s perform a Tiny Desk Concert.

Download a vintage holiday mixtape from Aquarium Drunkard.

Read Consequence of Sound‘s report: “Pandora executive says Steve Jobs “eviscerated the music industry”.

  • Read the New York Times‘ report that “Apple Gains Exclusive Streaming Deal With Taylor Swift.”

Read as The Atlantic considers “Why L.L. Bean’s Boots Keep Selling Out.”

Read CNN‘s report that scientists claim that the Mona Lisa is actually hiding another painting.

Browse “Relevant”‘s picks for “The Best Christmas Movies on Netflix.”

Watch/read CNN‘s report: “5 things you didn’t know about satanists”.

Read as The Atlantic considers “Why Americans All Believe They Are ‘Middle Class'”.

Watch as The Atlantic ponders near death experiences.

Read Slate‘s piece about Walmart entering the pay-account business: “After Refusing to Take Apple Pay, Walmart Launches Walmart Pay.”

Read/listen as NPR’s Here and Now considers Kentucky’s “First Woman Master Distiller In Modern Times”.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is Giving You Over 400,000 High-Res Digital Images For Free“.

Read about the North Carolina town who “rejects solar because it’ll suck up sunlight and kill the plants”.

Browse NME‘s list of “100 Lost Albums You Need To Know.”

Read as The Daily Beast wonders “Is This Stone the Clue to Why Jesus Was Killed?”

Read Uncut‘s report: “Iggy Pop, Buzzcocks and The Damned to celebrate punk’s 40th anniversary at Isle of Wight Festival.”

Read as The Atlantic considers why “There’s No Such Thing as Free Shipping”.

Read the Guardian‘s piece: “Rachel Dolezal: ‘I wasn’t identifying as black to upset people. I was being me’.

See what “$1,000 Per Month In Rent Will Get You Around The U.S.”

Read/see Salon‘s piece “Scientists claim this is how Jesus Christ really looked”.

Read as Andrew Jones considers the little-known Christian roots of Yoga.

Read Brain Picking‘s piece: “Bob Dylan on Sacrifice, the Unconscious Mind, and How to Cultivate the Perfect Environment for Creative Work.”

  • Read as the Washington Post considers why Bob Dylan lyrics pop up so much in medical literature.

Read Flavorwire‘s profile of Jukely, the subscription service for concerts.

Read The Daily Beast‘s report that MLB will not reinstate Pete Rose.

Hear Neko Case on NPR’s quiz show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

Read National Geographic‘s profile of Joe Pug.

Read a report that Mark Driscoll has filed incorporation papers for a new church in the Phoenix, AZ area.

Read as Christianity Today considers the infiltration of multi-level marketing into American Evangelical churches.

Browse Turntable Kitchen‘s holiday gift guide for music lovers.

Read Harper Lee‘s 1961 piece My Christmas in New York.

Read Stereogum‘s report: “Amazon Developing Scripted Series About The Grateful Dead.

Browse Vice‘s “Definitive Guide to Hipster Music Genres.”

Read Pitchfork‘s piece: “Lowell Brams Discusses Sufjan Stevens‘ Album About His Life.”

Read GQ‘s profile of Hillsong, NYC, church to, among others, Kevin Durant and Justin Bieber.

See a man’s beer can collection, worth over $1 million.

Read about the Wheaton professor suspended after saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Read as Christianity Today considers the recent surge of hymns in the spotlight.

Read as Merle Haggard discusses his recent health scare.

Try Charles Mingus‘ potent egg nog recipe at your own risk.

Read Flavorwire‘s piece: “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Seals Its Irrelevance With Another Year of Sad Boomer Inductees.”

the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copyYeah, you know that’s right. This is how we do it. and other stuff all you cool kids say on the beat. Wait for the drop. Get your groove on.

Actually, I doubt anyone actually reads this first part so it doesn’t really matter what nonsense I come with, now does it? Let’s be real. There are lots more important things for us to consider. Like, for instance, some of the links I found interesting this week. I hope you find them interesting as well.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

Browse Taste of Cinema‘s picks for “The 15 Most Memorable Songs Used In Wes Anderson Movies.”

  • Read Consequence of Sound‘s report: “Bill Murray signs on for Wes Anderson’s next film.’

It’s the most wonderful time of year: year-end list time!

  • * = Added to the list this week.
  • Listen as All Songs Considered considers the year in music.
  • Browse American Songwriter’s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse AV Club‘s picks for “The 15 best albums of 2015.” *
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of the Year.”
  • Browse Design Week’s picks for their favorite album covers.
  • Browse FACT‘s picks for the best record labels of the year.
  • Browse FACT‘s picks for albums of the year. *
  • Browse Flavorwire‘s picks for “The 50 Best Independent Press Books of 2015.”
  • Browse as the KEXP DJ’s make their picks.
  • Browse NME‘s albums of the year.
  • Browse Noisey‘s picks for songs of the year.
  • Browse Noisey‘s picks for albums of the year. *
  • Browse NPR Music’s “50 Favorite Albums Of 2015.” *
  • Browse NPR’s picks for the best books of 2015 *
  • Browse as Pandora reveals the top 100 “thumbed up” songs of 2015.
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for the “The 50 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for “The 10 Best Box Sets of 2015.” *
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for “The Best Comic Books of 2015.” *
  • Browse Piccadilly Records‘s choices.
  • Browse as Pop Matters‘s makes their picks for “The 80 Best Albums of 2015.” *
  • Browse The Quietus‘s picks.
  • Browse Rolling Stone‘s picks.
  • Browse Rough Trade‘s picks for their favorite albums of the year.
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for “The 50 Best Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for the “101 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for their favorite new bands of 2015.
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for their “80 Favorite Songs Of 2015.” *
  • Browse Uncut‘s favorite albums of 2015.

Read The Atlantic‘s piece: “Quick Thinkers Seem Charismatic, Even If They’re Not That Smart.”

See A Rare Video For Bob Dylan‘s ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ at NPR.

R.I.P. Robert Loggia.

R.I.P. North Face founder Douglas Tompkins.

Listen To Wilco’s Episode Of Song Exploder.”

Browse Fast Company‘s list of “7 Common Public Speaking Tips You Should Ignore.”

Read Time‘s report: “Samsung to Pay Apple $548 Million in Patent Case.”

  • Read The Verge’s report: “Apple waited too long to get into music streaming,” ending with the line: “If Apple is serious about winning in music streaming, the bar must be raised. The name on the door isn’t enough anymore.’

See “A Stunning Scale Model of Our Solar System, Drawn in the Desert.”

Read/listen to NPR’s piece: “After Mass Shootings, People Turn To Prayer — And Prayer Shaming.”

Read The New Yorker‘s piece: “How Jane Vonnegut Made Kurt Vonnegut A Writer.”

See “What Happens When Millennials Try To Use Their Grandparents’ Technology.”

If you’re in the Phoenix area and looking for a way to help others this Holiday Season, browse Flourish Phoenix‘ list of “11 Ways to Love Our Neighbors this Christmas.”

Read The Atlantic‘s piece: “Why God Will Not Die: Science keeps revealing how much we don’t, perhaps can’t, know. Yet humans seek closure, which should make religious pluralists of us all.”

Read as First Things considers the disappearance of Advent from the regular practice of many churches.

Read Slate‘s report that “Amazon Just Bought Its Own Fleet of Semi-Trucks.”

Read as The New Yorker considers “How Energy-Drink Companies Prey On Male Insecurities.”

Browse NME‘s list of “61 of the Greatest Film Soundtracks Ever.”

Read as The Daily Beast considers: “A new study finds that people who love bulls**t inspirational quotes have lower intelligence and more “conspiratorial ideations.”

Watch as “Colbert Explains Why ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ Matter”.

Read as Russell Moore reminds us “Why Christians must speak out against Donald Trump’s Muslim remarks.”

Read as Pitchfork considers “How Playlists Are Curating The Future of Music.”

Read BBC News‘ report that Jimmy Carter is now cancer-free.

Read as the Smithsonian considers “How Twitching Frog Legs Helped Inspire Frankenstein“.

Read as Scott Weiland’s ex-wife and children share some sobering thoughts about the man behind the songs.

See “Inside Walt Disney’s Immaculately Reconstructed Office.”

Read as Paste considers “How The Internet Killed Late-Night Comedy.”

Read as “Rush’s Neil Peart says he’s retired from music”. Wait, no. Read this report that says Rush are not breaking up after all.

Read Thom Yorke‘s letter to Father Christmas, asking for reading clashes and letting oil companies have it.

Read as Christianity Today wonders: “Do Babies Go to Heaven?”

Read as Gary Clark Jr. considers five songs he wishes he’d written with Rolling Stone.

Read Rolling Stone‘s report that Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, and the Weeknd Lead this year’s Grammy Nominations.

Download Noisetrade‘s 2015 Holiday Mix.

Read Lifeway’s report: “Successful new churches share four factors” at Christianity Today.

Read Pitchfork‘s report that The Replacements biography has been announced, with participation from band members.

Read The Concourse‘s piece: “Happy 20th Birthday To This American Life, Which Is Way Darker Than You Think.”

Read/Listen to NPR’s report that Germany’s Angela Merkel has been named as Time‘s Person of the Year.

Read NPR’s report that Diane Rehm will retire from her long-running broadcast show after the 2016 presidential election.

Read as The Gospel Coalition considers “How Twitter Helped Fred Phelp’s Granddaughter Walk Away From Westboro.”

Meet Kanye West‘s pastor who has his own reality show, “Rich In Faith.”

Browse Food & Wine‘s list of “50 Amazing Nanobreweries in 50 States.”

Read Boing Boing‘s report that Marriott hotels will be “removing desks from its hotel rooms “because Millennials”.

Read “A Christian Case for Ending the War on Drugs The unintended consequences of America’s drug policies” at “Relevant”.

Read Christianity Today‘s report: “Pastors and Pews Vastly Disagree on Discipleship Success.”

Read OkayPlayer‘s report that Wu-Tang Clan has given themselves and/or Bill Murray permission to legally steal their $2 Million album sold to “Pharma Bro”.

Read Christianity Today‘s report that C.S. Lewis was a secret government agent.

ReadNietzsche on the Power of Music”.

the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copyWell, I don’t know what to tell you. Another week has gone by. We’re all a few steps closer to the grave. Perhaps we should have a moment of silence to consider our mortality . . .

Now, what are you going to do with the rest of your days? Sit here and read interesting links on the internets? I sure hope so.

Welcome to the Weekly Town Crier, where I collect said interesting links, you read them and then we discuss. Though most of you do not not discuss, so I end up discussing with myself which isn’t quite as interesting, though we do come to a consensus much quicker.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

It’s the most wonderful time of year: year-end list time!

  • Listen as All Songs Considered considers the year in music.
  • Browse American Songwriter’s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of the Year.”
  • Browse Design Week’s picks for their favorite album covers.
  • Browse FACT‘s picks for the best record labels of the year.
  • Browse Flavorwire‘s picks for “The 50 Best Independent Press Books of 2015.”
  • Browse as the KEXP DJ’s make their picks.
  • Browse NME‘s albums of the year.
  • Browse Noisey‘s picks for songs of the year.
  • Browse as Pandora reveals the top 100 “thumbed up” songs of 2015.
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for the “The 50 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Piccadilly Records‘s choices.
  • Browse Rolling Stone‘s picks.
  • Browse Rough Trade‘s picks for their favorite albums of the year.
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for “The 50 Best Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for the “101 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for their favorite new bands of 2015.
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Uncut‘s favorite albums of 2015.

Browse Brain Pickings list of “The Greatest Books of All Time, As Voted by 125 Famous Authors.”

Browse “15 Reasons Drinking Beer Makes You Live Longer.”

Read Aquarium Drunkard‘s interview with Neko Case.

Browse FashionBeans’ list of “25 Pieces of Timeless Style Advice All Men Should Hear.”

Read as Noisey dissects “Song Exploder”.

Read NPRs report: “Loneliness May Warp Our Genes, And Our Immune Systems.”

Meet the guy whose job it is to let you know if an album has leaked yet.

Read as J.K. Rowling recounts meeting Morrissey.

Browse “A short history of photographic cameras before they went digital.”

Browse Paste‘s picks for “10 EDM Albums For People Who Don’t Like EDM.”

Read/Listen as PRI reflects: “The music of Vince Guaraldi helped make ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas‘ a cultural icon.”

Read as Noisey considers “The Shifting Image Of The Teenage Female Pop Star: How We Got From Britney Spears to Lorde.”

Browse Pitchfork‘s list of “The Muppets‘ Best Musical Moments.”

Choose from “7 Whiskey Drinks That Could Help Cure Your Cold.”

Read “Relevant”‘s report: “Tracy Morgan Says He Had an Encounter with God After His Accident.”

See “A Perfectly Symmetrical Photo of a Kingfisher Diving for Prey, Nearly 6 Years in the Making.”

Read Pitchfork‘s report that Peter Hook is suing the other members of New Order.

Read as Noisey wonders why Black Metal fans are so elitist.

Read AV Club‘s report that Samurai Jack will return to Cartoon Network in 2016.

Read as The Guardian asks why so many writers feel the need to share so much and when is it too much?

Read as Salon considers: “Buy less, do more: 5 reasons why experiences make us happier than things.”

  • Read REI‘s take: “Less stuff, more life.”
  • Read as The Atlantic weighs in: “Buy Experiences, Not Things.”

Take the Poll: Would You Use a Playground for Older People?

Browse Noisey‘s picks for “The Weirdest Records Of All Time.”

Read as The Atlantic considers the Milli Vanilli legacy: “Twenty-five years ago, the lip-syncing models were dethroned—and a class of more sophisticatedly manufactured stars took their place.”

Consider “How Independent Artists and Labels Are Getting Squeezed Out By The ‘Vinyl Revival’.”

Read as Ozy wonders why the US just can’t seem to get on board with high speed rail.

Read as The Washington Post considers “Why today’s college students don’t want to be teachers.”

Meet the app that will “play Nickelback every time you try to contact your ex.”

Read as Fast Company profiles Tesla’s move into the battery business.

Read as The Washington Post considers “Why Americans dress so casually.”

Browse The Phoenix New Times‘s list of “25 Legendary Tempe Music Venues: Then and Now.”

Read The Daily Beast‘s piece: “The Story of Orion: Elvis Presley’s Mysterious, Masked Doppelganger Who Hoodwinked the World.”

Read The Guardian‘s profile of John Fahey: “the guitarist who was too mysterious for the world.”

Read NME‘s report: “Cloud storage backups of personal music collections made illegal in the UK”.

Read as “Relevant” considers “How ‘Peanuts’ Took Faith to Culture”.

R.I.P. Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver.

Have We Finally Reached The Tipping Point For “American Christianity”?

american-flag-cross-1It ought to confuse and convict Christians in America that no one can agree if America is or is not a “Christian nation.” Of course different people mean different things by the term but many argue that if ever a nation has displayed Christian virtue to the world, it is the United States of America. One Nation under God. After all, over 70% of our population claim to be Christians.

The very fact that the debate is debated should throw serious shade on those claiming that we are somehow a nation of Christians. Or even primarily Christians. Jesus said that we would be able to tell who loves Him(John 14:21). We have a Jude0-Christian ethic that was adopted by our founders but they intentionally shied away from establishing a state religion and this includes Christianity. This Judeo-Christian ethic provided the framework for many of our core values as citizens. All men are created equal, etc.. But this is not the same thing as saying that we are a nation of Christians.

In fact, the relationship between the Christian faith and American culture has been tenuous at best and strenuous most of the time, each pushing against the other, each trying to convert the other. Both are highly influential and adaptable. While it might be theoretically possible for both systems to exist side-by-side without changing one other, that’s not how it seems to have worked itself out.

America’s belief system is built on the idea of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps to success. It is intimately intertwined with consumerism, the pursuit of comfort, the right to property and free market tendencies. It is built on the idea of self-reliance and a good dose of morality and sadly sometimes, moral superiority.

Alan Wolfe considers the relationship between Christianity and American culture in his book, The Transformation of American Religion.  “In every aspect of the religious life,” he writes, “American faith has met American culture-and American culture has triumphed.”

That is to say, views certainly shape one another and in Wolfe’s opinion, American culture has won out over Christianity, at least for the majority who claim to be Christian. In fact, the burden of Wolfe’s book is to suggest that, for all the religious rhetoric, professing people of faith, including Christians, are remarkably just like everyone else: “Whether or not the faithful ever were a people apart, they are so no longer,” he says. He goes on to give a bit more insight into his meaning:

More Americans than ever proclaim themselves born again in Christ, but the lord to whom they turn rarely gets angry and frequently strengthens self-esteem.

To people of faith, I say this:  . . . your religion has accommodated itself to modern life in the United States.

How is it then that so many people in America claim some version of Christianity while living just like everyone else? It seems that, after having marinated in American Culture, many people who claim to be Christians have actually drifted away from Christianity altogether, coming up instead with something completely different. Sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton have called this new brand of faith “moralistic therapeutic deism”.

In their 2005 book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton examined the actual, daily-way-we-live faith of teenagers as it has been handed down to them by their parents and their churches. Smith and Denton found that the key distinctives of this strand of faith were as follows:

  • A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  • God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  • The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  • God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.

This set of beliefs is markedly different than Biblical Christianity but fits quite nicely with the predominant American approach to life, giving credence to Wolfe’s assertion that, when pressed, we must admit that, at least for the most part, American culture has transformed the practice of Christianity in America into something else. Something somehow less. Less potent. Less dangerous. Less sacrificial. More commercial. More self-centered.

In fact it seems quite plausible to argue that Moralistic therapeutic deism has become, for many, synonymous with  “Christianity”. The term has been back-loaded with a different meaning and the result is that many people who may mean markedly different things using the term, can all call themselves “Christian” without being questioned. This is so much the case that  “preachers” like Joel Osteen quite intentionally steer away from the Bible’s themes of sin and judgment, instead promising that we can have Our Best Life Now  if we just live right and think happy. This is not Christianity.

Moralistic therapeutic deism has become the default American version of “Christianity”. This is certainly not to say that there are not people striving to faithfully follow Jesus in America. But they are rarer than we would like to believe. This helps explain why over 70% of Americans profess to be “Christian” and yet Christianity’s influence is so barely seen in our culture. Because Moralistic therapeutic deism has as much to do with Biblical Christianity as “American Cheese” has to do with cheese.

Since Moralist therapeutic deism is not Christianity, we are left with confusion and contradictions between what we as a nation claim to believe and how we actually live. Stephen Colbert has no problem pointing out the inconsistencies:

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

The real issue, of course is that when a good many Americans say they are “Christians”, they really mean “One nation united under moralistic therapeutic deism”. Though we use the word “Christian”, we don’t mean Biblical Christian. We mean good, moral people, who do our best for ourselves (first) and maybe others; we’re generally nice people with God on our side. So to answer Colbert: of course we don’t help the poor because our faith doesn’t require it. Our faith is centered on personal contentment/fulfillment. We may help others when we feel like it but our faith doesn’t necessarily demand lives of sacrificial love. It’s enough, after all, that we attend a worship performance, show our faith by our bumper stickers and thank God for the good parking spot at the mall. This certainly helps explain why some get mad about coffee cups but not social injustice.

This is a critical time for those in America who really do want to follow Jesus. The name “Christian” has been co-opted and commercialized. What are we going to do about it? There are, of course, many people in America who are striving to live everyday life with the intentionality of following Jesus. There are certainly churches helping the poor. There are churches seeking social justice and promoting adoption and foster care. There are, of course, churches welcoming refugees and blessing others with the blessing of Jesus. But sadly, these churches seem to be the minority while countless others have simply confused Therapeutic Moralistic Deism with what it means to follow Jesus.

Jesus said that you will know His people by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20). He also said that you can tell who really loves Him by who keeps His commandments (John 14:21). James said that if we claim to have faith but don’t back it up with our deeds, our “faith” is worthless (James 2:14-26) and John said that if we claim to love God but don’t love others, we’re liars (1 John 4:7-21). Biblical Christianity teaches that, though our works cannot make us right with God, they are the evidence of a life transformed. They are the fruit of the seeds of faith. Being a blessing to others is a fundamental part of what it means to be God’s people (Genesis 12:1-3; Jeremiah 29:1-9; Matthew 5:13-16, etc.) and if our faith isn’t made manifest in sacrificial love to others, we’d better question the real object of our faith. If we as a nation don’t love and serve the “least of these,” we’re not a Christian nation.

We have chances in front of us everyday to help others distinguish between Christianity and Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The sheep and goats will not fully be separated until Judgment but for now, those who love Jesus can help others understand what this truly means by feeding the hungry, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and incarcerated (Matthew 25:31-46), caring for widows and orphans (James 1:27), etc.

Though we should definitely be clear in our preaching and doctrine to distinguish Biblical Christianity from “American Christianity” (Moralistic Therapeutic Deism), we also have the the responsibility to not just declare but demonstrate the difference. Biblical Christianity should look like love in action (1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 4). Biblical Christianity always points to Jesus rather than self. Biblical Christianity not only proclaims redemption but strives to demonstrate it. Following Jesus means loving others, seeking peace and reconciliation while admitting that we can only seek these things when Jesus enables us to do so.

Will we finally admit and demonstrate that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is not Christianity? The world is watching. What will we show them?

 

 

Liberal Compared to Whom And How Did I Get Here?

political-logosUnless you live under a rock off the grid, you’re probably painfully aware that it is presidential election season once again.

As embarrassing, awkward and vitriolic as American politics can be, it can also be a valuable time to (re)consider our political/social convictions. We take for granted that we get to exercise our right to vote but we do not so readily acknowledge that the regular rhythm of the political system presents the critical opportunity to re-visit our opinions and ask why we hold to the positions that we do.

It can be an opportunity to reinforce our preexisting biases and remind ourselves how lucky we are that we’re right. But it can be more than that. The rotation of political seasons can also be an opportunity for self-examination and, if we’re lucky, growth, and possibly, even change. Just as people change over the years, it is only natural that our political views will change over time as well.

I was once the President of the College Republicans at a private Christian university. I once volunteered to put up signs for a Republican presidential campaign. But this year, as presidential politics begin to boil, I have found myself in the curious position of being characterized as liberal. isidewith.com said I side 95% with Bernie Sanders. Several other political quizzes have confirmed these sentiments, one even telling me that I am “solidly liberal.” And of course we can trust online political quizzes, right?

Regardless of the merits of any one particular political quiz, I am very interested in the consistency of my results, especially in light of my own past political leanings. It’s made me wonder what has changed. I am fairly culturally conservative on several key social issues such as marriage and abortion and I am certainly considered a theological conservative. So how am I considered liberal and, liberal compared to whom?

The obvious and snarky answer, of course is that I’m liberal compared to those right of me on the political spectrum. But what does that really mean and how did I go from openly identifying as Republican to now being told that I should feel the Bern? How did this happen and in particular, which of my views shifted?

As I’ve considered this, it seems to me that the issues that have pegged me as “liberal” are issues primarily dealing with social justice. I believe the government should offer a “safety net” for those struggling to find their way and that most people who receive government assistance are not freeloaders. I believe we should rely less on military force. I believe the government has a responsibility to care for the environment. I believe that “trickle down economics” only serves to increase the wage gaps and actually harms the people at the bottom of the system rather than giving them a leg up. I believe that the free market economy is equally part of the problem and I believe that healthcare should not be driven by profits. I believe that our school systems should not have to beg for budget overrides every year. I believe that the “war on drugs” is a sham. I oppose the death penalty. I believe that our current model of mass incarceration amounts to social injustice. Not to mention the fact that our prisons should not be run by for profit companies. And I believe that Christians should be more than simply “one issue” voters. This paragraph has already given many of my family and friends conniption fits.

I came to these convictions not necessarily through politics but by faith. As I strive to become more like Jesus, I can’t escape the fact that my faith demands care for the poor (Exodus 23:6Leviticus 25:25; Leviticus 25:35; Leviticus 25:39). My faith demands that we care for refugees (Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 10:19, etc.) I believe our social systems, especially our justice systems should not favor either the poor or the rich (Leviticus 19:15), etc.

The issue, of course, is the question of what the role of government is in all of this. These commands, of course are not meant as government policies for our modern systems but were primarily for the Israelite theocracy. So how, if at all, do these issues relate to the modern Christian and our modern government systems? I believe that though these commands were for Israel, they communicate something deeper: humans should care for one another. Any approach that simply says “every man for himself” will inevitably not only leave some behind but will eventually result in injustice, especially against the less fortunate. I do not believe this can simply be chalked up to saying that some people don’t work as hard as others.

As an extension of humanity, I believe that governments should share in our fundamental human concerns. This, I think is how I’ve come to be labeled as “liberal.” Many of my fellow Christians (and please understand, I am not questioning their faith, simply acknowledging that we have different interpretations. of how our faith should be applied to everyday life and politics) believe that the government should do less, be smaller and have very little to do with actually helping people.

 

As a person of faith in Jesus, I own the fact that these obligations fall first on the Church but I believe that the government is an extension of our humanity, not a replacement for it. The church should take the lead in caring for the poor, in housing refugees, etc. but the government should bear some of this responsibility simply because we are all humans. It would be great if the American church took care of all of these issues but we aren’t and so, we need to look to other avenues to fulfill our duties to one another.

I’m still trying to work through a lot of these issues and don’t claim to have any better understanding than anyone else. All I can say is that, as I’ve begun to wrestle with the clear demands of my faith, I have been considered by others more and more “liberal.” I don’t know what to make of this.

I know that many of you disagree with my thoughts. I can’t wait to hear from you because I believe that opinions (and please remember, that’s what these are) are sharpened through dialogue. I’m simply sharing my own journey, so please be respectful.

the Weekly Town Crier

TownCrierAnd then they lived happily ever after. Except there was this pesky little feeling that they were missing something, they had forgotten something. One night, as sleep evaded them, they whispered to one another: we forgot to check the Weekly Town Crier . . .

This is where I collect links of varying degrees of interest for various reasons.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Paste‘s list of “8 Beer Hacks.”

ViewErnest Hemingway‘s life through his mementos.”

See images from visual artist Eduardo Terrazas‘ first solo exhibition in the UK.

Read as Paste argues: “Anthony Bourdain Is Still the Best Critic We Got”. Thoughts?

See photos of “people devoured by nature”.

Browse a visual list of “The 50 best-selling albums ever”.

Take “a look at Taco Bell’s first alcohol menu”.

Read Salon‘s profile of Memphis’ Lucero in honor of their terrific new album All A Man Should Do.

R.I.P. Phyllis Tickle.

R.I.P. Yogi Berra.

R.I.P. Jackie Collins.

Read as Drowned in Sound considers “the Ineffable Joy of Pop” as they talk with Carly Rae Jepsen.

Read as Ryan Adams talks about his album of Taylor Swift covers.

See the art of 10 serial killers.

See “Kintsugi, The Japanese Art of Fixing Broken Pottery With Gold.”

Browse as the Huffington Post makes their picks for Fall book releases.

Read Pitchfork‘s report of the posthumous release of “Over 40 Rare Instrumentals” by Dilla.

See the “New Caption That Works for All New Yorker Cartoons.”

Ever wonder why you can’t print without color ink?

Listen to Johann Johannssen‘s score for the film Sicario at Noisey.

Browse Paste‘s list of “7 Hotels for Artists and Art Lovers.”

Read reports that Kenny Rogers will quit touring.

Browse as the Orange County Register picks their favorite surfing books.

Read as the Guardian examines “the history of feuds between pop stars and the press.”

Read as Rolling Stone talks to Kurt Vile about his fantastic new album: ‘B’lieve I’m Goin Down…

Read as Kim Gordon interviews Kurt Vile.

Morrissey has released his debut novel and the reviews are not good: “It is an unpolished turd, the stale excrement of Morrissey’s imagination.”

Read as the Guardian examines John Peel’s lasting musical influence.

Read as Ivan and Alyosha pick their favorite music to listen to while touring.

Read the New York Timesreport that Ta-Nehisi Coates will write a Black Panther comic for Marvel.

Read as Literary Hub considers the convergence of books and music festivals.

Read as the AV Club considers the history of music bootlegging and browse as they make 15 “essential” picks.

The Weekly Town Crier

YeOldeTownCrierWell hello there. I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to connect last week. But, you know how it is. Life with 8 kids and all. Or, maybe you don’t know how it is. Either way, you’ll take what you can get. I’m not beholden to your expectations. Though I do appreciate them. And you.

You can buy my original pieces at my Etsy shop and you can order prints (framed or un) and shower curtains and duvet covers and such sundry items at my Society6 page.

Watch Ryan Adams Visit CBS This Morning”.

Learn about the formula behind most of your your favorite sit-coms.

Read as Consequence of Sound‘s review of Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.

Read Draft Magazine‘s picks for their 25 favorite beers of 2014.

Read The Atlantic‘s piece: “How Facebook Designs the ‘Perfect Empty Vessel’ for Your Mind”.

Browse Paste‘s picks for the best comics covers of 2014.

Read about the beer brewed to help you solve problems.

Read about the road trip where two guys spent a year traveling to breweries in every (lower 48) state in the US. Cuz ‘Murica! And Craft Beer!

Read as Slate considers our obsession with being obsessed over things.

Read about the recent study finding: “Animated children’s movies depict more on-screen deaths than R-rated adult dramas”.

Browse the list of movies being added to Netflix in January.

Read Boston Magazine‘s piece: “Wasted How the craft-beer movement abandoned Jim Koch”.

See some “unfortunate publishing layouts”.

Browse NPR’s “Grammar Hall of Shame”.

Browse a “Beginner’s Guide to Dub”.

Read about Mark Zuckerberg’s book club.

Read about Phoenix selling the historic Barrister Place building downtown to PB Bell.

Browse this list of “12 Hidden Celebrity Cameos in Movies”.

Browse Time’s list of musical artists to watch in 2015.

Overpay For All Your Favorite Classic Rock Records” at Neil Young‘s Pono store.

Read Salon‘s report that Bono may never play guitar again.

Browse Flavorwire‘s “Year In Culture”.

Download a free Erased Tapes compilation featuring Nils Frahm, Kiasmos and Clark.

Read Paste‘s report that Sylvester Stallone has confirmed a fifth Rambo movie.

Read the Phoenix New Times‘ piece explaining why you can’t get certain beers in Arizona.

Read NPR’s piece looking at the name shortage and litigation surplus in the craft beer industry.

See an AZ photo of a family of sasquatches.

Browse Paste‘s “Beginner’s Guide to Craft Beer”.

Read FACT‘s report that there is a “McDonald’s-Themed Black Sabbath Tribute Band” called Mac Sabbath.

Read as Consequence of Sound wonders about the future of the album cycle.

Read Phaidon‘s piece: “How Kandinsky helped create abstract art”.

Download Noisetrade‘s “Best of What’s Next: 2015” playlist.

Browse this list of “7 cultural concepts we don’t have in the U.S.”

Read Pitchfork‘s report that Coachella’s 2015 line-up has been announced.

Read about the 75 year study of what truly makes men happy.

Browse “Relevant”‘s list of movies they’re excited about this year.

Read Paste‘s report that Pixar has released concept art for The Good Dinosaur.