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A story of redemption from homosexuality; review of the Dennis Jernigan documentary, Sing Over Me

16 Oct

From Professor Amber Stamper:


Here’s a not-so-very-pleasant place to start: I have nine gay friends, and every single one of them has been hurt by the Church.

And by “the Church” — lest we overlook ourselves in the term’s abstraction — I mean they have been hurt by individual Christians.

Having spent the last decade of my life in academia’s liberal and affirming circles, I have, of course, met dozens more than these nine professors, staff, and students — and quite a few of them have shared with me tales of some not-so-First Corinthians 13 encounters with Christians. But those nine are ones I’d call real friends.

“Sing Over Me opens up a safe space for homosexuals who feel — as Jernigan did — in need of rescue.”One — after agonizing for years over coming out to her family — was asked by her grandfather, a pastor, to never set foot in his house again. Another overheard his Christian roommate (half-)joking about him on the phone, saying he needed to “turn or burn.” Another was asked to stop participating in the church choir until he had gotten his sinful nature “under control.” Several others were just slowly “phased out” of their Christian friendships after coming out: texts went unanswered, calls went unreturned, profiles on Facebook were suddenly “limited,” and pretty soon they were being excluded from important life events like marriages and births with no uncertainty as to the reason why.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this really isn’t such a hot track record. And I seriously doubt my friends’ experiences are unique.

What got me thinking about this in the first place was the documentary Sing Over Me, the testimony of popular Christian singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. I’d never heard of Jernigan, but some Google searches revealed that I’ve heard many of his songs. When I saw that his testimony centered on redemption from a life of homosexuality, though, I got nervous. I began anticipating all the possible ways a film like this could be trouble: preachy, judgmental, simplistic, aggressive, presumptuous — there were any number of land mines it could step on. Also, I was concerned about the medium. As a student of media and rhetoric, I know that the trouble with a format like film is that it’s not reciprocal. The audience sits and watches, the final credits roll, and viewers are left to think about what they’ve learned. There’s no conversation or chance for questions or clarification. This is fine for some subjects, but for others, lines of communication need to be open. I feared this was one of those subjects.

 So I was, to be quite honest, really surprised when, ninety minutes after suspiciously clicking “Play,” I found myself sitting calmly and thoughtfully in front of my computer screen feeling simultaneously motivated and meditative, provoked and inspired, challenged and hopeful.

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Will “Debbie” Like It? The Christian radio to Christian church syndrome

20 Aug

From Warren Cole Smith (excerpt):

When I researched this marketing strategy in 2009 for my book A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church, Joe Paulo, the general manager of WRCM in Charlotte, N.C., one of the top Christian radio stations in the country, told me, “We call her ‘Debbie.’ But it’s the same idea.”

Paulo said he knows exactly who “Debbie” (or “Becky”) is: “She’s 35 years old. She has two kids. She drives a minivan and is married, but her marriage is not all she dreamed it would be. She goes to church pretty regularly, but not every Sunday. She’s mostly a stay-at-home mom, but she may work a few hours a week or may work seasonal jobs at different times of the year to bring a few extra dollars into the household. She cares about issues that affect her kids: food, education, health, family, leisure time activities.” Paulo said everything his station puts on the air must past the “Will Debbie care?” test.

There’s nothing wrong with this strategy. In fact, I give Paulo and others like him credit for their marketing savvy and for actually caring about people and wanting to attract them and meet their needs. But what’s played on Christian radio soon ends up being sung in churches.

Here’s how it works: Songs played on the radio generate sales and royalties, and those dollars fund the marketing of songs to church “worship leaders,” who discover that using radio hits in worship generate reactions of recognition and enthusiasm from their congregations and positive affirmation for them personally. Such reactions are easy to mistake for movement of the Holy Spirit—to those who lack discernment. A possibly apocryphal story about the late Christian musician Rich Mullins asserts that he once had a fan come up to him after a concert who said she “felt the Holy Ghost descend” during a particular verse of one of his songs. Mullins reportedly responded, “Perhaps, but I think that was the kick drum, which came in on the third verse.”

Megachurches, in particular, have large appetites for rousing radio hits that will “play to the back row” of large venues. These churches also set the agenda for the rest of evangelicalism for another reason: Churches that don’t use hymnals have to pay licensing fees to Christian Copyright Licensing International so they can legally perform these songs in worship. The bigger the church, the higher the fees. That money fuels the ongoing marketing of the songs that generate more royalties, which encourages more of the same.

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Lennon “imagine[d]” life without Christianity as liberating; so did Tim Lambesis, but…

18 Jul

John Lennon thought life would be much better if the world were filled with only the irreligious.  He wrote in “Imagine”

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

Well, you could say he’s a dreamer, but he’s not the only one (see what I did there?).

Desiring to “live for today,” Tim Lambesis figured his life without Christianity would be better too.  Fraudulently pretending to be a Christian heavy metal singer, Tim Lambesis explains what dropping his faith meant for him (he’s now incarcerated for allegedly hiring a hit-man to murder his ex-wife).

“The first time I cheated on my wife, my interpretation of morality was now convenient for me,” Lambesis explained. “I felt less guilty if I decided, “Well, marriage isn’t a real thing, because Christianity isn’t real. God isn’t real. Therefore, marriage is just a stupid piece of paper with the government.”

I don’t like him, but his logic is compelling.

Oh, he also offered this little inside information for what it’s worth (consider the source, of course).

“We toured with more ‘Christian bands’ who actually aren’t Christians than bands that are,” Lambesis stated. “In 12 years of touring with As I Lay Dying, I would say maybe one in 10 Christian bands we toured with were actually Christian bands.”

The Greatest Story Ever Told, set to rap

11 Dec

Take a hip hop trip through the bible with the very talented and theologically sound Shai Linne.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

14 Oct

What Wondrous Love Is This?

American folk hymn


Jesus I am Resting in the Joy of what Thou Art

3 Sep

Jean S. Pig­ott, 1876, Ireland.

How sweet and awful is the place

5 Aug

“Why was I made to hear thy voice and enter while there’s room?”

Good theology, good music: The Sands of Time

29 Jul

Starting today, on Mondays, I’ll post what I consider good theology (usually classic hymns), set to good music (often contemporary versions).  I find that good faithful biblically rich, Christ-centered hymns are among the best way to permanently learn and recall true life giving doctrine.  I challenged you listen and read, think about, meditate on, the deep truths these great hymnologists have captured lyrically.  Here’s the first (music by Indelible Grace; lyrics by Ann Cousin 1857):

1. The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for –
The fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark had been the midnight
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.


2. The king there in His beauty,
Without a veil is seen:
It were a well-spent journey,
Though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army,
Doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land


3. O Christ, He is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted
More deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.


4. The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land.

5. O I am my Beloved’s
And my Beloved is mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner
Into His house of wine
I stand upon His merit –
I know no other stand,
Not e’en where glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land


When Mercy Found Me

1 Feb

From Rhett Walker Band:


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