Fluff “Bible-inspired” Music Masquerading as Worship is Dangerous

My stepdad just sent me this article and it sent me into a rabbit hole of thoughts. Enjoy?

Thanks to my dad, I grew up on the Golden Age of CCM. He gave me a great foundation with dc Talk, Audio Adrenaline, Petra, Jars of Clay, Carmen, and many others. Once I was exposed to good music, I couldn’t go back.

It taught me to take my faith + its music seriously.

By age 12, I was wrestling through the theological implications of the line “that’s what faith can do” (as opposed to “what God can do” in an otherwise good song by MIKESCHAIR. (Remember this, Carissa?)

Over a decade after I first went to one of their concerts, I still come back to Tenth Avenue North’s discography when I’m wrestling with sin (esp sexual!!) and its consequences. Britt Nicole’s songs still resonate deeply with me as both nostalgic fluff and deep laments.

Matthew West’s Brand New album has some songs that reduced me to tears and gave me new, lasting hope, which I was honestly not expecting.

CCM trained me in my faith. It gave me words to pray, ways to phrase my joys + my sorrows. It taught me how God’s people talk + how they Should talk + act.
Brandon Heath’s Give Me Your Eyes still pushes me outside my comfort zone at Covenant as I’m training to love people practically.


“If you want to know the theology of the laypeople, show me their songs.”

I heard that quote in a class I took this past semester with Dr. Scott Finch called Shepherding Souls Through Music. It would be an understatement to say that the class as a whole changed my life.

The most interesting thing about it was that it wasn’t discouraging. It was genuinely encouraging.
Even though now I’m saddened all the more by how many churches fail to preach the Whole gospel in the music sections of their worship services, seeing Dr. Finch’s life proving that it Can be done drove me to set that as my goal.


I’ve had the privilege to open many different kinds of services + gatherings with music in even just the past 5 years. At Camp Gilead FL, I went from just being on the worship team to running the entire worship music program for the summer.

When I’m home on breaks, my parents have given me the opportunity to lead at Beth Yeshua Messianic Synagogue for our Shabbat Services.

I even got to open the service at Grace Bible one week!

At Covenant, I’ve led Christmas songs and Prayer + Praise hall events and Hymnsings.

Every event requires a different songlist to address background, language, and theology preferences?

Since taking that class, my song choices that become even more intentional. Now it’s not just avoiding fluff or bad/dumb theology, but it’s “hey, have we represented all 3 members of the Trinity here? Am I telling the Full story of God’s redemption? If someone heard only these songs and not the message, would they get a full picture of who God is + who they are?”


With ALL of this in mind, it is really frustrating to see people with seemingly good hearts produce “based on the Bible” songs that could be praising anyone called “God” based on the entire lack of content or context in the song to identify who we’re worshipping or why.

God revealed Himself through His actions. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who brought His people out of the land of Egypt, rescued them time + time again even when the prostituted themselves out to others, and sent His only son to die to redeem us once for all.

It’s not sufficient to sing “You are good” (even tho He is) when the people singing it aren’t aware of why we KNOW He’s good. It isn’t sufficient to sing “I need you” unless we’re confronted with our wretchedness + perversion outside of Him.

What do your songs say about your theology?

An incomplete list of Christians who are creating meaty songs:
– Citizens
– Ghost Ship
– The Eagle and the Child
– Beautiful Eulogy
– The Porter’s Gate
– Urban Doxology
– Kings Kaleidoscope
– Jon Guerra (who was also a student of Dr. Finch!)

(If you want more, I have a BUNCH of very specific playlists! Comment if you want more links?)

Through a Zoom Call Pixelated – Sticky Note Thoughts

{this post spawned from thoughts I scrawled on a couple sticky notes this past summer}

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face;

1 Corinthians 13:12a NASB

This verse inspired the title of one of my favorite albums ever (A Mirror Dimly by Citizens) and is also is one of the most profound hopes I’ve ever tried to wrap my head around. However, since we have pretty great mirrors in this century, the impact of the metaphor never actually hit me until this last year, when a significant amount of my prioritized relationships went through the wringer of video calls.

All the lagging, dropped calls, and “what??” that I’ve had to say has brought me to the place where I can finally grasp the concept of being in significant relationship with someone but eagerly awaiting interacting in person with them due to given the shortcomings of the medium we are currently getting by with. Recent studies have shown that the conversations we’ve had with professors, friends, and family over Meet, Zoom, and even Duo or Snapchat calls are more stressing to our brains than in-person conversations because we have to wait and wade through artificial buffering to interject, laugh, or even see the facial expressions of the ones we love. God programmed us to relate face-to-face, and even our best technology will never (save in an Ex Machina way) be able to truly replicate that in a way that isn’t draining for us.

At the same time, we are wearing masks over our mouths + noses, which strains our brains by taking away vital facial and tonal recognition tools. Our brains then have to work overtime to recognize people and read their body language during conversation, which makes time spent with others sometimes more draining than refreshing. (You may have been an introvert before, but now you have science backing you up!) 

Oh, that I could see your face / How I’m longing for that day

Jon Guerra, Kingdom of God

How does all of this translate to our relationship with God, as we live in this time when we’re also isolated from those He gave us to be in community with? 

Due to this past year of restricted relationships, we can now understand even deeper the coveted beauty of seeing someone you love face to face. Going back to 1 Corinthians, we see God right now as over a video call, complete with low-res video and spotty audio. Someday, however, we’ll see Him not just in HD, not even just in 4K (that our eyes can’t even see/comprehend fully!), but face to face! Right now, it feels like His face has been covered with a mask, where we can’t quite see His face or hear His voice well.

As much as I’ve been isolated in some of my relationships, I know that I’ve always been isolated from God by my sin. To address this broken relationship in the way I know I absolutely need to if I want to survive, I look first at what I’ve done to overcome the obstacles between me and my friends in this microcosm of separation. We set up times to eat outside, send letters, call, and make the most of the means of communication we’ve been given, even though they aren’t perfect. 

Translating that to God, we overcome the distance and separation by meeting Him at His appointed times and creating our own. We commune with Him and His body on Sunday mornings, and we take time out of our days to talk to Him. We ask Him to meet us in our exhaustion when we physically cannot put forth the effort, knowing that grace is not dependent on ourselves. We reread His love letter to us, the Book that tells us who He is, who Love Himself actually is, and what His face truly does look like. We cling to Him, knowing that His Spirit, the Comforter, is living inside us and working to grow us and mold us during this time.

I don’t want to look in a stranger’s eyes
When I come into this place
Let me grow familiar with the lines
The lines upon your face

Tenth Avenue North, I Confess

The greatest danger to a Christian’s life is growing complacent and confident that we can handle life on our own. Living in an era of obvious discomfort helps us keep our eyes on God, and that might not be such a bad thing after all 🙂

“Your friend wants to add you on MeWe!”

WordPress was the only social media I was allowed to have before I turned 18. I joined both Facebook + Instagram soon after turning 18, and Snapchat about a year later. Thankfully, WordPress doesn’t really count as toxic social media in my book. The people I’ve chosen to follow on here I follow for their content, which means I don’t see what I don’t want to see! Anyway, disclaimer over. Enjoy 🙂

I’m not on social media for the political content. I’ll always laugh at the memes, but it’s not my focus.
I value the people that God has put in my life regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.
I value my relationships more than I value my ever-maturing political beliefs.

If I was on social media to share political information, I would be upset that what I believe is the truth is being taken down in favor of what I believe is misinformation meant to manipulate me + those I love. However, if I let my distrust of the Powerful (those with money who know how to use it worry me more than those with a title in our nominal government) affect my actions, then I wouldn’t be on Any social media in the first place!

I might mute you on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat if you post more about politics than about your family or faith, which can and should be an indicator that your politics IS your religion, and you and God need to have a chat about priorities.
But I mute you not because I can’t handle the viewpoint from which you post, but because too much political information takes my faith away from God and puts it in humans who can buy + be bought.

Christians need to be aware of what is going on in their respective cultures, but that applies to Every country.
How do you think Christians in a monarchy follow God? Do they serve their communities through grassroots fights for justice + peace, or do they plot to overthrow the king? (Bonheffer’s attempt on Hitler’s life will always be something I wrestle with).

We can’t idolize even the good (or less bad) leaders. For every Godly principle they uphold well publicly (think Trump’s stand for unborn life), it’s almost guaranteed that they’re breaking another in a significant way (think his public apathy in speeches towards minorities suffering, which was one of Christ’s main ministries!).

We need to rejoice in the Lord’s provision, and that includes thanking him for the fleas (if you’re familiar with the story of the Ten Boom sisters in a Nazi concentration camp) even before you know why God gave them to you.

I’m registered Libertarian, but I still mentally assign myself as Republican (or at least right-wing) when I say that We lost Congress this election. That worries me.
A) I’m worried that I still identify with a party I’m not willing to stand with in hard times and don’t agree with enough to truly identify with more than generationally (my family has always been conservative)
B) I’m worried that the balance of power is still upset, and that that will lead to more abuses of power, differing from the past 4 years merely in which side it benefits.

I’m sick of Christians neglecting to remember that we should all hold our positions that we think will truly help people the best and that will show them the heart of God towards them.
Those who think a welfare state is desirable (and I respect many who do) think so because they’ve seen studies + communities that support its effectiveness, and that God calls us to give up our Rights in order to provide for those who can’t, for whatever reason, provide for themselves.
Those who think we need to shrink the welfare state and let individuals keep the money they’ve earned so that they can support each other without a governmental middleman (thus fulfilling more holistically Jesus’ heart of serving each other + the least among you) think this is a good solution because they’ve seen studies + communities that support it!

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. There is an incredible amount of nuance that is needed when dealing with a country as large + diverse as ours is, economically + socially + politically + culturally + religiously.

Pilgrim, don’t demonize or moronize those who disagree with you. I was stuck in that trap for too long, and it kept me abrasive + unwilling to hear out those who might have information that could change my mind on the efficacy of the solutions I hold to.

The one solution that will never be proven wrong is the Gospel, which is the power of God to restore + reconcile + heal + break chains of oppression.
(If I’ve learned anything at Covenant so far as a Community Development + Economics major, it’s that!)

-Squid

Death + Life

There’s too much death in the world.

That’s what I find myself thinking as I look at every social media feed I have, every news notification that pops up on my phone, even in church prayer group emails I receive. There’s just too. much. death.

I started writing this because of the recent attention the murder of Ahmaud Arbery is getting. He was killed in February, but people are only caring now. I decided to mull over this disconnect today a bit. In the midst of that, I wondered why I was so relatively numbed to the death all around me. Why it’s hard for me to care about one more person, when people are murdered every day across the globe for a variety of reasons and intersectional conflicts.

Yes, I know that white on black violence is a hot topic in media, but many more black communities are torn apart from the inside. This dynamic was something I got a hard look at in a book I read recently for Community Development 210, a class at Covenant that should be required for all students. The book is called Our America, by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman. I wrote a paper on this book, but first I cried as I read it. It is a plea from the inner city of Chicago, for us to turn, look, and listen to the other America, the one where there isn’t hope. Where the only dream these Americans have is to get out.

This book holds a parallel to the fervor with which the media has grabbed onto Arbery’s death. In 1994, two boys dropped a 5 year old boy, Eric Morse, out of the window of a high-rise in the Ida B. Wells housing project in Chicago. Now, the way the book is laid out, you’re already used to the sickening apathy towards death in the Wells. People were killed, often, by each other. There was mourning, but just a perpetual and almost routine state of it. So when you hear about Eric Morse, you’re sickened that a 10 and 11 year old would do such a thing, but, knowing the culture they’ve been raised in, you’re not exactly surprised. However, it makes national news. Eric Morse’s name is used as the rallying cry to fix the ghetto. For us to do something.

But no one ever does anything helpful. They plant a tree or a statue in his name, sure, but what does that do? Nothing. The community has hope that things will improve, but nothing ever comes of the passionate outsiders proclaiming the need for change. Eventually, the story fades away. And more people are killed. More go to jail. More die in jail. More get out of jail and kill more people or are killed themselves. And this is normal life! It was before Eric Morse and it was still after him.

So why do these stories blow up? These stories are powerful because each one became a symbol. They each gave us someone we could picture and cite and strive to avenge. Today, there is now an investigation into why Arbery’s killers were never prosecuted, and this is good! This is outrage used well!!

But it’s not going to change much at all, ultimately. Systematic violence is systematic. We don’t have a moral compass as a culture. In a post-modern “my truth”-worshipping society, you can’t give anyone good reasons to value life.

Yet, we are saddened. We are upset. We are angry. Because someone was killed and it could be someone we know and love next. We inherently know that life is valuable. This is a good thing to come to terms with!

What are we going to do, what are we going to change in our own lifestyles to reflect that knowledge? That passion? People die everyday. We all are going to die unless Jesus comes back first.

If you haven’t noticed, on a post about death I haven’t even talked about the millions of people who are infected with the newest coronavirus, one frighteningly contagious to everyone and definitely dangerous, even fatal, to those at risk with pre-existing conditions. A lot of people have died from this disease. But a lot of people die from medical malpractice every year. A lot of people die in car crashes. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to be a reason someone dies, period. I try to drive safely, and I try to wash my hands and stay at home.

< But I’m not living in fear. We all will die. I want to be an example on how to live >

The death surrounding us should give us, as people of Hope, that much more stimulus to live! We limit our own freedoms to protect others and even serve them in times of plague.
We are not bound to the chains of fear or of recklessness that our leaders will alternately preach to us from our news feeds.
We take action in our communities to stem the tide of violence where we can. We reach out to children and adults alike in love with the Gospel that breaks every chain.
We fight for justice for the powerless and oppressed.
We love with a fierce and confident joy, knowing that our labor will not be in vain if we follow the example of our Magnanimous Messiah.

In other words, we live out Isaiah 58 (powerfully sung by the Urban Doxology here).

I’m glad the media picked up another symbol of the oppression so many communities face every day. We need to be reminded! But we also need to be reminded that we have power in our communities to advocate for those who can’t. That that’s how we use the blessings (privilege) God has given us. We are wealthy in so much more than just money. This is a spiritual fight. How can we use our wealth to kneel before others and wash their feet, to help them stand?

Pray for your communities. Get involved in them. We’re here for a reason 🙂

Sydney

 

John Crist and the Greater Global Sexual Crisis

Earlier this semester, I wrote an article about Christian comedian John Crist. I’ve been a big fan of Crist for basically his whole career, ever since I saw him opening for Tim Hawkins online and creating rather edgy satire of American Church culture on YouTube and Instagram. I probably can’t even count the times my family and I have said “check your heart” with his inflection, sometimes mockingly, sometimes genuinely.

Apparently, though, he knew how to call people out because he needed to be called out. In November, the truth came out about his numerous sexual sins against women, both physically and online, that he and his team have been covering up for years. I would do your own research — Charisma News has a thorough article — before reading my response, but it’s not necessary.

Responding to John Crist’s Responding to John Crist’s Sexual Midconduct — THE BAGPIPE (the link takes you to my school newspaper)

I think that whatever the heck you want to call this decade, the twenty-teens?, it was marked by sexual conduct coming into the public eye. I got into politics because I saw and was interested by the controversy of Obama being first elected (my father is staunch right-wing), so I began to observe and study politics just around the turn of the decade. From what I remember, we had, in partial chronology…

  • The legalization of same-sex marriage on a national scale
  • The subsequent bullying of Christian business owners who didn’t feel comfortable supporting this behavior with their services
  • Chick-Fil-A get bullied repeatedly across the decade for giving to “non-LGBTQ-affirming organizations” but them also quietly opening on Sunday to serve the probably mostly gay Pulse shooting survivors.
  • (Also can we just mention Chick-Fil-A thriving in general, despite losing one day a week, 52 days a year, compared to their competitors. Makes ya think about how God still honors His promises to those who keep his Shabbat….)
  • Slut Walks in DC, as freedom to be however sexually loose you want is crowned the highest goal of the American people
  • The #metoo movement as a whole. Sexual abusers in Hollywood get taken to task, despite being rich and powerful (the Leverage team would approve).
  • The anger against VP Mike Pence for his strict rule against meeting with women to protect his integrity and his wife’s integrity. The juxtaposition of this with the #metoo movement was poetic and stunning and sad.
  • The Catholic church sex scandals that are Still coming out!!
  • The #believeallwomen movement, unless the woman is accusing a Democrat. Obviously. (#sorrynotsorry, still bitter about the blanket apathy towards the women who accused Former President Clinton of rape, who had legitimate proof and many witnesses who could attest, even after the circus of the Kavanaugh hearings and accusations.)
  • Planned Parenthood being proven to be selling baby parts by apathetic and even sociopathic doctors. PP aiding child prostitution. And yet, nobody on the Left has changed their tune. Still not fully defunded, tho Trump has tried and made Some progress.
  • The Pro-Life movement has swelled and is spreading across the country! People are having their eyes opened, and Trump has stood for life very openly and strongly.
  • Gosnell and Unplanned, two anti-abortion movies, had incredible opening weekends and held strong turnouts, but were dropped from many theaters absurdly and unprofitably early.
  • Trump’s explicit “grab any woman” comment from his playboy days shocked the public.
  • …as the sexually explicit Shades of Gray books and movies swept the nation. The hypocrisy should be sickening. But nobody cared. Welcome to our decade.
  • Planned Parenthood released sexually explicit sex-ed videos for schools to show in middle school classes, often without parents having any idea it was happening or what the content was. It encouraged sex, usually safe sex, and a few PP employees have gone on record as saying that they’re doing what any company does: creating customers. This has continued throughout the decade.
  • The prevalence of pedophilia (especially in Hollywood and DC) has been coming more to the public’s attention, culminating in Jeffrey Epstein becoming a household name through the meme quote “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” The Lolita Express’s roster is public domain, and the world’s elite’s secrets are coming to light.
  • Trans female (men taking testosterone blockers, to put it almost too simply) athletes are dominating in women’s sports, and guess who’s mad about it? Women. True feminists. Huzzah!
  • Oh, who can forget the bathroom confusion? Also known as, why you should never use Target bathrooms.
  • Drag Queens (esp children) are being paraded as courageous for their authenticity. It’s sickening and I dare you to watch any video of these young boys in drag, dancing for adults, that our country is applauding. It should make your heart cry.
  • Adult drag queens, including registered sex offenders, are now being paid by the government to read to children in libraries across our nation, often explaining sexuality and what it means to live in drag, or even flashing the children. All for the sake of inclusivity and freedom!
  • Even more confusion and pain in regards to those with gender dysphoria, same-sex attraction, and more, due to the arguments around gay conversion therapy, hormone-blockers, what the legal age should be to transition, what parents’ roles should be, etc. Just look at Canada. They’re even deeper than we are.

I’m missing others, I know, and I might have a a few details wrong. But this should give you a good idea of how crucial this decade was to the world’s sexual identity, especially America’s. Do your own research, check out Disrn.com, run by Adam Ford of Babylon Bee fame, and don’t be afraid to be skeptical of what the media on either side says. We have to be aware of what they’re trying to teach us, so that we can protect ourselves and our kids from the utter depravity. I’ve been trying to get better at going back to the Bible and letting God’s truth about sexuality soak into my heart, so that He can become my lens for how I view all these attacks on His normalcy. The book Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcy is also I recommended. I’m only in the first couple chapters so far, but it is SO good. She hits the nail on the head as to the why of the sexual depravity we see around us to clearly.

As a Christian, I’m deeply troubled by the blindness of those around me. But it isn’t anything that God didn’t call ahead of time, and I know I can trust Him. As the world around us plunges itself deeper into darkness, we will shine all the brighter by even just little differences we intentionally make. We will be known by our love, Love told us. It’s time to see what that looks like.

Thanks for reading??

Sydney (Squid)

What An Opportunity!

As I approach the end (don’t remind me! I’m loving this season of my life!) of the second-to-last semester of high school, I am very aware of the opportunities and privileges I’ve been given.

  1. I am dual-enrolled in a Stats class at our local state college.
  2. I finally made it to Advanced Band as a (mainly) mallet percussionist.
  3. I help lead worship once in a while at our synagogue and church.
  4. I’ve already been accepted to both of the colleges I applied to, Covenant College and The King’s College.  I pre-qualified for a $18,000 scholarship from TKC, which makes actually going there a realistic possibility.
  5. I am eligible for a full-ride scholarship from both colleges, but I have to write some essays and jump through some other hoops first. But praise God that I had a high enough ACT score to actually qualify!

But that all fades away in light of the world-wide opportunity for ALL Christians that Adam Ford breaks down brilliantly for us in his latest CDRticle.

If you’re not familiar with Mr. Ford’s work, he’s the guy who started the Babylon Bee.  Sometime last year, he sold that lovely website to the other guys who were helping him with it so that he could work full time on his newest project, the Christian Daily Reporter.  He makes podcasts and comics as a part of CDR, and they’re always insightful and hardhitting. socialism-doesn't-work

But if his political commentary is brilliant, his Christian encouragement and admonitions are even better.  His latest CDRticle is called What an Opportunity We Have as Christians Today

I hope it strengthens your resolve as much as it strengthened mine.  For Narnia! 🙂


In today’s exceedingly polarized and angry political climate, what an opportunity we have as Christians.

As warring factions fight in the streetsbombs are planted in mailboxespoisons are mailed to government officialsrocks are chucked through office windowsracist robocalls are circulatedpoliticians and their families are chased from restaurantsand parts of cities fall to manic mobs, what an opportunity we have to season our convictions with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

As social media and click-bait websites intoxicate the masses with fleeting dopamine hits as rewards for “owning” one’s foes, what an opportunity we have to care deeply about policy and social issues not out of resentment or self-importance, but as a outgrowth of our love of neighbor and care for our fellow man’s physical and eternal well-being.

As political camps, drunk on ideology, proceed to hate, curse, and wish ill upon each other, what an opportunity we have to be willing to discuss our beliefs in a civil manner, attempting to persuade using reason, logic, and grace; firmly, yet with broken hearts and love in our eyes.

As politicians and their armies on all sides will increasingly do or say anything — anything — to accrue power, what an opportunity we have to refuse to compromise truthfulness or bear false witness.

As groupthink-fueled tribes and their echo chambers become more deeply entrenched, what an opportunity we have within the body of Christ to exhibit our dedication to each other as paramount by disagreeing with one another on politics with care and affection — not as the world does, but as fellow members of the royal priesthood and siblings in God’s eternal family, in a way that might manifest Christ’s words in front of unbelievers: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As our culture increasingly worships politics, what an opportunity we have to show that our politics are subservient to — and an overflow of — our worship of the One True God and the life He has called us to live in Jesus Christ.

These are unique and furious times, and you and I are not here by accident.

What an opportunity we have.


Squid

The Christian Foundation for the Highest Human Ideals

The doctrine that we are created in the image of God gives a solid foundation for human freedom and moral significance. We do not have to resort to an irrational upper-story leap [from “fact- based science” to “value-based morality/ethics”]. Given the starting point of a personal God, our own personhood is completely explicable…The Christian worldview provides a firm basis for the highest human ideals.

-Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey (p. 111)

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