Words of Wisdom From Francis Schaeffer on his Centennial Birthday

It came to my attention that Francis Schaeffer was born exactly 100 years ago today. Here is a very timely quotation from this influential figure in Christianity:

We as Bible-believing evangelical Christians are locked in a battle. This is not a friendly gentleman’s discussion. It is a life and death conflict between the spiritual hosts of wickedness and those who claim the name of Christ. It is a conflict on the level of ideas between two fundamentally opposed views of truth and reality. It is a conflict on the level of actions between a complete moral perversion and chaos and God’s absolutes. But do we really believe that we are in a life and death battle? Do we really believe that the part we play in the battle has consequences for whether or not men and women will spend eternity in hell? Or whether or not in this life people will live with meaning or meaninglessness? Or whether or not those who do live will live in a climate of moral perversion and degradation? Sadly, we must say that very few in the evangelical world have acted as if these things are true. Rather than trumpet our accomplishments and revel in our growing numbers, it would be closer to the truth to admit that our response has been a disaster.

-Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1984), pp. 31-32

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Keep Brian Free In Your Prayers Today

Last week, Brian posted on Assurance’s facebook page that he’d been having some blood pressure problems accompanied by heaviness on the chest. Today he’s going in for some testing and hopes to share results soon. Meanwhile, keep him in your prayers.

[Update: Brian’s most recent status says that his appointment has been rescheduled to tomorrow, but at the moment the doctor seems to think that the heaviness in his chest may not be heart related.]

Pray for Rick Santorum’s Youngest Daughter

Via Denny Burk, I just saw the news that Rick Santorum’s youngest (Bella) has been admitted to the hospital for unspecified health concerns resulting from Trisomy 18. It’s a miracle that she’s still alive today, as the vast majority of babies born with the illness die quickly. (Watch an inspiring video about her story here.) However, she does have many complications. Our prayers go out to the Santorum family. Santorum has canceled his scheduled campaigning events for today but hopes to be back by Tuesday, the first primary election (in Florida).

I plan to vote for Santorum even though he may not have the best winning chances. If I can spare the time, I may give my reasons in a longer post later this coming election month.

The Week in Review #13: Covering Lauren Talley, Grumbling About the Elephant Room, Raving About Wayne Haun, and More…

*Notice the new title for the open thread. This is because I’ve taken to chatting a little about how my week has gone as well as surveying newsy items. “The Week In Review” seems to capture the spirit of things a bit better. Numbering will be unchanged however.

*I’m a little bit excited, because I just downloaded the backup track for Lauren Talley’s “In Christ Alone” yesterday and recorded my own demo of it. That high note is a little bit evil, especially because I can’t just belt it in more or less chest range like she does (and also ‘cuz it’s a nightmare to mix with a mike as sensitive as the one I’ve got), but after a whole afternoon of trial and error, I FINALLY got it. It only took around ten takes or so. Ha. I’m looking forward to sharing it with y’all some time next week if I can get it uploaded to Godtube. Then again, I was a little sharp on at least one note (possibly two), and there were a couple “Sahara desert” phrases (meaning I was kinda dehydrated and it kinda showed)… so I might scrap it all and start over. Can you tell I’m a perfectionist? 😀 But for the first day, it really wasn’t bad at all. I honestly liked it. Which would you rather hear? A more polished cover that took a few days to put together, or the whirlwind first-day take? Seriously, I’m curious.

*Steve Green left a comment on my blog. Did you see it, huh, huh? Sorry. I’m still just a little bit pumped. I bet Buddy Greene sent him the link. If so, thanks Buddy!

*Stay tuned for some exciting news about Poet Voices, coming up sometime in the next few weeks.

*Farewell to the Melody Boys. I say it’s better to retire the name than try to pick singers to keep the name going. Experience has shown that doesn’t always work out too well.

*Newt Gingrich all but comes out and says that if you’re faithful to your spouse you’re, um, weird. Further confirmation of why I just can’t bring myself to vote for the man.

*Well, T. D. Jakes is now a Trinitarian. It’s all over. Not the heretic we’re looking for. Move along. Or maybe not?

*Steven Spielberg has a mammoth Exodus epic in the works. No doubt it will be a fine film from every production standpoint, but this is disappointing news in that he promises to make it as graphic as Saving Private Ryan, which will only give obnoxious Christian moviegoers more to snicker and sneer about (you know, the kind who respond to conservatives’ concerns about violence in film by saying, “Well hey if they ever made a movie of the Bible it would be too violent to take your kids, etc., etc., etc.”). Meanwhile, it’s anyone’s guess who Spielberg will cast in the main roles. I thought Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart would be no-brainers, but I must say Dan Phillips’ suggestion of Ed Asner and Barack Obama may take the cake. Then again, he might play it safe and cast Harrison Ford as Moses. Epic action hero, epic action hero, right? Uh… right?

*Speaking of Exodus, I got bogged down around God’s description of building the Ark of the Covenant in my “read the Bible in a year” project and recently had to do some MAJOR catching up. Helpful Mom: “That’s nothing hon, wait’ll you get to Leviticus!”

*My calculus teacher nearly gave me a heart attack yesterday when he said, “You’re all aware that there’s an exam?” I  blurted out, “Today??” He corrected me “Next week.” Not sure how long it took for my pulse to return to normal. A while. It’s next Friday. If the blog sorta, you know, goes dark for a month or so afterwards, you’ll know I didn’t make it. Tell Wes Hampton I had a crush on him… (JUST KIDDING, JUST KIDDING, JUST KIDDING!!!)

*This is pretty dadgum gorgeous stuff…

Errrrhm, Wayne, about that solo album?

It’s an open thread folks!

Should Gospel Singers Preach at People?

This half of the week is going to be very busy for me this semester, so I’ve decided to write something today that will hopefully generate good discussion for a little while. The topic is preaching from the stage. Is it a good thing or not?

Well, certain churches amazingly take the latter view. As most southern gospel fans are aware of by now, Scott Fowler can tell you from personal experience that he’s been forbidden even to speak the name of Jesus from a church platform. On one occasion, the Booth Brothers were told not to sing the song “Under God,” because the unapologetic message of our country’s disregard for the very thing it needs most (God’s providence), might be offensive.

Also, one can observe different philosophies among the Southern Gospel artist community about what approach to take. Some, like Fowler or Booth, or Gerald Wolfe for that matter, are strident and unapologetic about presenting a comprehensive gospel message night after night. Others choose to stick with the gospel in the music in order to be less polarizing. They avoid “preaching.”

By now you may have guessed that I’m a firm believer in “preaching.” I understand the considerations that may lead certain gospel singers to be be less in-depth and specific about the gospel than, say, Michael Booth. At the same time, I find Booth’s approach (and the approach of others like him), to be incredibly appealing, and in fact necessary in today’s culture.

Let me explain why I say this: Either a concert-goer is saved or unsaved. If he is saved, his heart will rejoice to hear the gospel stridently proclaimed. If he is unsaved, he will or will not encounter the gospel at some point in his life. If he does not encounter the gospel in the course of his life, he will die in his sins without knowing the grace of Jesus. If he does encounter the gospel in the course of his life, he will either embrace it or reject it. If he rejects it, he will die in his sins without knowing the grace of Jesus. If he embraces it, he will know the grace of Jesus and live forever with Him.

Following that logic, it becomes apparent that gospel singers have nothing to lose by preaching gospel truth from the stage. In fact, they have everything to gain—souls for Christ. Consider this: The logic behind the “don’t preach” approach is that people will be offended and pushed away from Christianity. I offer this question in response: If they are repulsed by the gospel as preached at a Booth Brothers concert or a Legacy Five concert, but later they find a way to “become Christians” without accepting what they found repulsive there, what exactly have they become? What Jesus have they found? What gospel have they accepted? I tell you now that it is not that same Jesus whom we read of in the pages of Holy Scripture, and it is not that same gospel that was delivered to the apostles and has been passed down through generations of saints. Mankind, through the fall, through his fundamentally sinful human nature, IS offended by the gospel. It is only the very simple or the very young who hear it and accept it immediately with no hint of pride or discomfort.

So I say the response of the gospel singer when they encounter people who have been offended by their presentation of the gospel should be “Good! That means you were listening.” And their reaction to those who express satisfaction that they weren’t preached at should be, “What are we doing wrong?”

Gaither and Clean Comedy

I love comedy. I have a strange sense of humor (thanks Mom and Dad). I go around sampling Christian comedians all the time. Others have their particular favorites, but I always have trouble picking a favorite because I can appreciate each comedian’s unique style. There’s nothing I love better than a truly  hilarious joke told well. Unless… it’s off-color. Those kinds of jokes turn me off. I simply don’t find them funny or appealing. If you’re on a good clean roll, but you stop to drop a dirty joke, it takes a lot of the fun out of it for me.

By and large, the jokes you’ll hear at a Gaither event are family-friendly. Even though Mark Lowry will occasionally come out with something a little crude-sounding (e.g. “He’s little but fertile”), Bill makes a big show of looking embarrassed and disassociating himself from it all, which tends to mitigate any awkward effects and just make it a cute “There goes Mark again” moment.

But just occasionally, something slips in there that makes my eyebrows go up a little. For instance, there’s one joke Bill sometimes tells about himself and Gloria that I’m not so sure about. It’s the one where he says “The other day I asked Gloria, ‘Honey, did you ever in your wildest dreams imagine that we’d be able to go out and work with all this talent and do this for a living?’ ” To which Gloria replies “You were never in my wildest dreams, honey.”

It took a while for that to hit me. Then when it did, I kinda went, “Hm.” Then, “Meh.” Sure, nothing’s stated outright, but what do you suppose Gloria is dreaming wild dreams about in the joke? Playing Boggle with her ideal man? I don’t think so either.

I hesitated about posting this, but I think it’s a conversation worth having. It makes sense to hold people we respect to even higher standards than those to which we’d hold the rest of the world.

Where do you draw the line?

Rare Concert Video: Steve Green and Buddy Greene in Chile, c. 1990

It’s Green and Greene, in Spanish! Ran across this gem a while back and wanted to share it. Buddy was doing the ethno-harmonica thing even way back then! My Spanish is severely limited, but I can make out “Buddy” and “harmonica” in Steve’s intro. 😀

Also, check out this quartet performance of “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms,” featuring Buddy on tenor, Steve on lead,  his brother David on baritone, and a singer I don’t recognize named John G. Elliott on bass. Buddy proves quite dexterous on the guitar in this one.

I recommend browsing around and watching the other parts of the concert. Buddy Greene makes more guest appearances, and I think it’s fun to watch Steve Green perform his smash hits in Spanish. David appears again in a couple duets with Steve. He was a fine singer in his own right, and you can totally hear (and see) the family resemblance.

CD Review: Here We Are Again, by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Has it really been over three years since Signature Sound released a full album of all-new material? It’s hard to believe, but it is a fact. Their last so-called “mainstream” project was Dream On, released in October of 2008. That project opened up some doors for the group, but it received mixed reviews. Some thought it was the weak link in their discography thus far, while others called it their best and most mature project. Although it contained some songs I enjoyed, particularly the touching lullaby “A Good Heart” and the hard-hitting “The Old Landmark,” I knew that Signature Sound would need to come back with something stronger once their “retro” phase had run its course.

And two member shifts and four albums later (five if you count the George Younce tribute), here they are again. I don’t know that I would go so far as to call it their best ever, but I will say that this album is one of their tightest and most solid to date. Some of their past projects have had a “hit and miss” feel, offering more than the ordinary number of songs but feeling a bit unfocused as a result. This one has twelve tracks and knows where it’s going. This does not mean that it’s void of surprises, but it offers a listening experience that flows consistently and well.

Now, let’s put it under the microscope.

1. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot: The first number kicks things off in the style of the Influenced projects. It begins with the sound of a projector being flipped on, then whirring in the background, conjuring up a grainy black and white image of the guys gathered around two microphones in matching suits. I like to give this spiritual the slow, heart-tugging black gospel treatment when I sing it, and that’s still the style that I feel it really “belongs” to, but this up-tempo treatment is certainly a lot of fun. It reminds me of “Someday.” Particularly cute is when they switch to “mouth instruments” partway through, creating their own vocal Dixie band. I have to admit though… the Penny Loafers do it better. 😀

2. Singing In the Midnight Hour: I love this song. It’s got a killer foot-stomping beat. It’s not too far from southern gospel, though it’s definitely what you’d call progressive. Doug tears it up with a slightly gritty, soulful performance, proving once again that he can sing absolutely any style you put in front of him.

3. Here We Are Again: This fills the “soft, worshipful ballad” slot nicely. It doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but it’s a good laid-back number.

4. I Believe: Here’s “Puddin'” in his sweet spot, crooning along in that velvety, theatrical upper register that first caught Ernie’s attention. I’ve never been a huge fan of this song, but I’m such a sucker for velvety basses I’ll go for this arrangement! Now, Ian, about covering “My Mind Forgets a Million Things.” I know, I know, you told me you feel like you’re too young, but the song does say “The day WILL come when I’m so old…”

5. I’ve Been Here Before: They debuted this at NQC last year. Ernie has said that this is Devin’s chance to take a new song and make it his own. Musically speaking, the intro is a little odd and disconnected from the rest of the song, but it soon settles into a nice groove with a generous helping of gospel piano and B-3 Hammond, providing a nice setting for Devin’s bluesy style to do its work. Lyrically, it’s a personal message of reassurance for anyone who’s walking through a trial. Ernie has said it was inspired by his high-school sports days when the coach would find him grunting and complaining during his workouts and slap him upside the head, saying “Shut up and act like you’ve been here before.” Anyone who’s lived for a little while can remember a trial in the past that God brought him through, and that’s a promise to take hold of in whatever new trial faces us.

6. You Are Welcome Here: This is a full feature for Wayne Haun. For those of you who are familiar with Casting Crowns songs like “If We Are the Body” or “Does Anybody Hear Her?” this song is sort of like a response to those songs. It takes the perspective of someone welcoming a repentant, broken sinner into a church.  These days, there’s pressure on the Church to welcome the proudly unrepentant sinners as well,  but the characters in this song—a homeless drug addict and a girl who’s lost her purity—seem to recognize their need for a Savior. It’s that humility and recognition that makes all the difference in the world, and the Church certainly needs to reach out to such people. I wasn’t very struck by the music on this track (the melody isn’t terribly memorable), but it’s a piece with its heart in the right place.

7. Love Carried the Cross: Time for a textbook big ballad. We all know the formula, but it works every time. Signature Sound has been needing a song like this for a while, and it’s just what the doctor ordered. It’s lyrically meaty, it’s got sweep, it’s got impact. It doesn’t knock “Calvary Answers For Me” off its pedestal of greatest original song ever recorded by EHSS, but it’s nothing to sneeze at, to say the least. Vocally, Ernie Haase really comes through in a big way in this one, almost like his old Cathedral days. Nowadays Ernie likes to experiment, and sometimes I think of the different vocal styles he tries as being like the different haircuts he tries: Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. This one works, in a big way. I wish he would sing this style more often, but I know it’s a vocal strain, and he wants to save his voice for “Oh What a Savior.” Of course my dream would be for him to bring back “I Want To See Jesus,” but that probably won’t happen any time soon. Though I have heard that he’s open to reviving “Death Has Died.” We’ll see… meanwhile, I hope this makes some waves at Easterfest this year.

8. Stand By Me: This is something I wouldn’t have predicted—going ALL the way back to the song that first launched EHSS into the southern gospel stratosphere with Tim Duncan and having Ian cover it. I really thought Duncan’s version was untouchable, but Owens just brings a whole new quality to it. He sings it with a little more fruitiness, a little more swagger. If Duncan is like chocolate, Ian is like dark chocolate. That’s not to say Ian is necessarily better (the tradeoff for the extra velvet on top is that he’s got less cut on the bottom), just different in a good way.  I for one am very excited that they’ve opted to revisit this song, because hopefully this means they’ll start staging it again. It’s  like coming full circle for the group. It’s also fun to hear Devin coming in on what used to be Ryan’s moment toward the end. Production-wise, I loved all the little added touches to the arrangement—the electric guitar, the big brass, etc.

9. Everytime: This is Signature Sound in over-over-drive. The production is pretty fun—Ernie and Wayne compared it to a 1960s prom number. Unfortunately, it ultimately winds up as a failed experiment. Ernie said it’s like “Get Away Jordan” on steroids, but I actually had a flash-back to “Happy Birthday, Anniversary Too.” 😮 I get the impression he had a lot of fun with it and plans to stage it often, but I’m concerned about the effect it might have on his vocal cords, since I know that’s a big concern of his as well. Take care of yourself there, buddy!

10. Sometimes I Wonder: Okay Doug, do your thing. Make ’em break out the hankies in one minute flat or you might not get back on the bus tonight. This is probably my favorite track on the album, even though it won’t be the one that generates the most buzz or gets the loudest crowd response. I had thought it was inspired by the death of Ernie’s sister-in-law, but this song actually dates further back to the death of George Younce, when fellow songwriter Joel Lindsey was coincidentally burying his parents at the same time. Their combined grief gave birth to this song, which lyrically recalls “I Can Only Imagine” but is a much better crafted piece of music. Very country-ballad-ish, in the best way. An acoustic guitar carries it along at a mid-tempo pace. The live band could easily do it justice.

11. Thankful: EHSS has actually been singing this one for over a year. Here is a video from December 2010, when Tim Duncan was still with the group. It’s obviously inspired by other (and better) songs like “Jesus We Just Want to Thank You” and “Thank You Lord for Blessing Me,” but it fits comfortably, sweetly and smoothly into the “thankfulness niche,” as it were.

12. Any Other Man: This one is already generating buzz. It will receive by far the lengthiest treatment from me of any song on this project.

I first heard this song when EHSS posted a low quality live video of it on their Facebook page last month. The sound was so muddy I felt like it wasn’t fair for me to make a final judgment based on that performance, so I was looking forward to hearing a better mix. The recording on the project is in fact the song’s live debut, in Bucharest, Romania. The quality is excellent, and it seems plausible that there wasn’t any “tuning up” on the vocals after the fact. However, there’s some extra instrumentation (strings, etc.) that couldn’t have been produced by a live band, indicating either that they were added in post-production or simply that a track was used for the performance.

Lyrically I wasn’t sure how to take it at first, because I couldn’t tell what the thought process behind certain lines had been, like the line about “the ones who love to hate.” I was having deja vu to something like this. But I’m really glad I watched a behind the scenes discussion about this song BEFORE finishing this review, because now I understand better where it sprang from, and I think I can embrace the lyric more completely. [Update: I’ve found further clarification in the fact that the lyric is “the ones who LOVED to hate.”] Ernie was specifically inspired to write it at a time when he was feeling bitter and angry towards people who spread various nasty rumors about himself, the group, Wayne, etc. Having been around the Internet block a little myself, I know exactly what he’s talking about. Ernie said one day he was thinking “I’d like to get on there and tell them what I think of them,” but clearly that would be wrong on so many levels, most importantly because it isn’t what Jesus would do. As he fell into conversation with Wayne, they began thinking about the many things Jesus suffered, and Ernie said, “Man, any other man would have just used his power to say ‘Be gone,’ or ‘Be dead,’ or ‘Get away…’ ” That’s when Wayne said, “Ernie, Jesus wasn’t any other man.” Thus the kernel of the lyric was born.

Musically, this is probably Ernie’s most daring move yet. And I like it. More importantly, many other people seem to like it too. When I first heard it, I had the same thought Ernie and Wayne did when they decided to take the song in this musical direction: Is this going to play well at all to the over-40 crowd? In my mind’s eye, I was visualizing a big response with Michael W. Smith in Australia, but “polite applause” at NQC. Amazingly, Ernie and Wayne say that they’ve gotten the MOST requests for this song from the older demographic. Ernie said something I think is pretty shrewd, which is that he thinks it’s a sort of “controlled rebellion” from the old folks, an “I can still rock” type thing. They told one particularly funny story about a little old Mennonite man in Ohio who was listening with arms folded, sedately nodding for most of the show, but “came alive” when they brought on this song and gave them two thumbs up when it was over.

Now personally, I listen to a wide variety of music besides southern gospel, but my first reaction on hearing this song was that it was a bit heavier than what I normally enjoy. Then I wondered if that was the wrong way to put it. After all, I’m the girl who was dancing to “Trumpet of Jesus” before I could talk, who cranks up Journey on solitary driving excursions, and who was able to get out of bed on the first day of school only because of Huey Lewis & the News. Ernie and Wayne have said that they deliberately wanted the music to have that same classic rock sound (Ernie was first inspired while watching a “best of Bon Jovi” video). Maybe I’m reacting to the shock of hearing a sound that heavy from this group in this genre. (The fact that the lyrics are trying to say something meaningful might have something to do with it too. Others may be different, but I’m the sort who finds it easier to let myself enjoy something that rocks out if I’m not trying too hard to pay attention to the lyrics.) Somebody made the comparison to Third Day, and I actually don’t think that’s too far off, which may be why my first reaction was a bit lukewarm (never could get into Third Day). However, there is a happy difference, which is that the Signature Sound guys are exceptional singers. So they bring a skilled quality to the song that lifts it several notches from what it would have been in different hands. All are capable of handling a contemporary style, and in fact, if you follow them on social media, you’ll see that this is the kind of music they keep in regular rotation on their ipods.  (Speaking of the vocals, check out Doug’s power tag on the end of verse two. That’s like “Happy Rhythm” encore territory.) And of course, Kelly Vaughn shines on electric guitar.

The lyrics are biblical and vivid. Take one snippet from a verse:

Any other man who was sentenced to be killed

Would beg for mercy from the courts that day

Any other man looking at his mother’s grief

Would call the waiting angels to escape

But Jesus wasn’t any other man

No, Jesus wasn’t any other man…

I will say that the decibel level occasionally makes it a bit difficult to hear the words. It took me quite a few listens to even catch that line in that last verse sung by Ernie (again, take it easy on the vocal cords there!) And I could picture sitting in a concert and being a little overwhelmed by the live drums and guitar. I know this sounds a little rad, but I’d be interested to see whether they could adapt this for all-acoustic instruments, a la rootsy/earthy country/blues. Then again, I’m hearing instruments like a dobro, and I don’t know if they’d want to carry extra instruments around.

Final thoughts: To say this project is a bit of an experiment would be an understatement. It’s more overtly pop/rock than any other project EHSS has done. That’s deliberate, because Ernie wants material they can use to appeal to a wider audience. At the same time, they aren’t abandoning their southern gospel roots, as evidenced by numbers like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and the re-worked “Stand By Me,” plus new songs like “Love Carried the Cross” and “Thankful” that are typical genre pieces.

Vocally, all members shine, but I think Ian Owens impresses in particular because songs were picked for him that played to his strengths: hanging out in his upper register and hamming it up. 😀 But ultimately, the voice that continues to hold it all together is Doug Anderson. He never fails to impress, never fails to deliver precisely what any song demands, slow or fast, soulful or smooth, rocking or tear-jerking… and be pleasing to listen to through it all.

Even though I have personally enjoyed other EHSS projects more than this one, I am impressed with its production quality and its spirit of adventure. Several ho-hum tracks keep it from a 5-star rating. But it deserves 4.5. It’s a mature, well-crafted start to this new chapter in Signature Sound’s career.

Review copy provided. A positive review was not required.

How I Wish I’d Responded to Jefferson Bethke

Yesterday I wrote a hastily worded response to Jefferson Bethke’s viral video on Jesus and religion. Now I realize that had I taken more time over my thoughts, I probably would have written that response differently.

It might have looked a little bit like this:

“If you want a real discussion of Christianity, don’t look on the Internet. Go read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Or the Summa. The whole thing. In Latin.”

WORD!

LYRICS

Religion is . . .

So misunderstood but what’s the world without some mystery?
People on the internet revising all of history.

By now you’ve heard the claim, “Jesus hates religion,”
Despite his founding one called Christianity. Now listen —

Glad the guy found Jesus, but he should have been more subtle.
Gave us false dichotomies, I give you my rebuttal.

I’m a big believer in the license of a poet:
Alexander Pope’s ironic couplets were heroic.

But still you have to note that when he wrote about Belinda,
He didn’t redefine his words to suit his own agenda.

I say we consult a standard definition
Of this murky word that’s thrown around — I mean “religion.”

Oxford English Dictionary says it with acumen:
“Belief in or acknowledgment of powers superhuman

Which typically is manifest in reverence and worship.”
Not about publicity, not entrepreneurship.

The problem with the Pharisees was not that they’re religious,
But that they were self-righteous: their pride was prodigious.

The thing about the Son of God is that he had a Father
Who gave a Law to Israel. Now let us briefly ponder:

Why would God institute religion for his people —
Observances, rituals — if all of that were evil?

Jesus didn’t come to curse what is external.
He came to heal our eyes when we were blind to what’s eternal.

And part of what’s eternal is our eyes, our bodies.
Let me catch my . . . breath . . . alrighty.

The essence of our nature is to be body and soul.
Inner faith and outer works are never gonna cancel.

Antinomianism is a leech that will bleed ya.
(If you don’t know the meaning, look it up on Wikipedia.)

Jesus didn’t come to take away the Law, or kill it.
He honored the Old Testament, came to fulfill it.

Gnosticism reappears in every generation,
Misreading Paul, and preaching segregation

Between outer works and inward salvation,
Between the God of grace and the Demiurge of creation,

Saying, “Hey, I’m spiritual, but no, I’m not religious.”
Man, without a creed, it’s only superstitious.

Faith without works is perfume on a casket.
Obedience is love, so how could it mask it?

You call the Church a hospital? Then it must have a structure.
Doctors and their medicine, food for our hunger.

We are Christ’s body even though we’re broken,
And saying we’re a body is no metaphoric token.

Bodies have blood, and bodies have a skeleton.
The way these people talk it’s like the Church is only gelatin.

I lost my mind reading Martin Luther,
But John Henry Newman saved me from my stupor.

The Church must be visible; pietism’s risible;
Unity in Christ should never be divisible.

Think for a minute of a faith without religion:
Say goodbye to Christmas, say goodbye to mission,

Sunday morning worship, common prayer and baptism.
Ritual is not a slope that slips into fascism.

Of course, it’s true that going through the motions
Can cover up a heart that lacks true devotion.

But what a non-sequitur to criticize the motions —
The saints have been religious with a love as big as oceans.

God is a lover, he wants to romance you.
Religion is the rhythm that a fervent heart can dance to.

Worldwide communion — how is that monotonous?
Go read St. Augustine on the Donatists.

The Church is corrupted, lots going wrong there,
All of which tells me that, in fact, I belong there.

I’m a sinner, too, I fail to live out
The calling I believe in, the words that I spout.

Who am I to instigate a detrimental schism,
To leave in the worst form of judgmentalism?

No, as for me, I’ll stay where the grace is —
That’s in the Church, and what the Church embraces:

Sacraments and love, charity and missions,
Doctrine and prayer, Scripture and Tradition.

The bottom line is false religion can’t negate the true one:
Relationship with Christ is religious communion.

***

Now THAT’S some good writing. 😀