You and many others in your clean well-lighted place.

As you may have noticed, I finally figured out how to add a bunch of links to my sidebar, over yonder on the right-hand side of your screen. I wanted to make a few comments about the blogs I've listed there.

First of all, I've only included blogs for now. I hope soon to add links to relevant online magazines (but not necessarily Relevant magazine) and essayists (such as the divine Ms. Annie Lamott, who is once again stringing words together for Salon) and bands (like Over the Rhine, from whose lyrics this entry's title was taken) and etcetera. But for now it's just blogs.

Also, I want to be clear that, although I call them "other expats," the authors of these blogs have not agreed to be identified as such. It was simply the easiest way to categorize them. (I'm open to suggestions for other headings for that links section.) These bloggers represent a diversity of approaches to church and theology and life in general. Some of them intentionally attend (or even pastor) churches firmly within the evangelical tradition in America. Some of them were never fundamentalists in the first place. Some of them are gentle in their constructive criticism, some of them are righteously indignant as hell and not gonna take it anymore. But all of them have been helpful to me in my journey as an outside-insider, which is why I included them.

Today's assigned expatriate reading, selected from among these blogs, is the Slacktivist's treatise on the American Family Association and its protest of the language used in ABC's airing of Saving Private Ryan last week. This entry struck me not only because it is representative of the useless moralizing regularly exercised by organizations like the AFA, but also because it reminded me of a hilarious story from the very beginning of my expatriate experience.

My old friend Kyle Minor is a very talented writer, and many moons ago, he wrote for a number of Christian culture magazines. For one of his assignments, he had to conduct a phone interview with the president of the AFA, during which the president held forth on the evils of modern popular culture as demonstrated by the sheer number of profanities and expletives peppering it. He talked about the ubiquitous "f-word" regularly being forced upon "our children" and "our families" whenever they turned on the radio or the television. He kept putting it that way: "the f-word."

Kyle decided he might at least eke a little humor out of this interview. "I'm sorry, sir," Kyle said, "but for journalistic purposes, I'm going to have to make sure I know which f-word you're talking about. Are you referring to the word 'fuck'?"

A long, long pause on the other end of the phone line. Finally: "Yes. That's the word I was referring to."

The interview ended abruptly shortly thereafter, and Kyle became the hero who had cussed out the president of the American Family Association.

And the Slacktivist is proudly continuing that tradtion today.


Love it and never shut up.

My column on the subject at Catapult Magazine, including some discussion about our recent screening of Saved! at Calvin. This article explains in more detail what I mean by "evangelical expatriate" (for instance, I'm not a fundamentalist living in Siberia), and also marks the creation of this blog.

(You can watch the PowerPoint presentation we showed before the film here. I know, PowerPoint, right? Bane of my existence. But it's a good way to get conversations going.)

And by the way, each and every one of you should add Catapult/*culture is not optional to your weekly reads--the people responsible for it are marvelous doers of expatriate deeds.


"Can buying sundries score me points with God?"

The old Ark, the biblical Ark, constructed to save the chosen from the Great Flood, had two of every creature in existence. The new Ark, the cultural Ark, built to save the chosen from the Great Media Flood, also has two of everything I'm learning. You say you're a Pearl Jam fan? Check out Third Day. They sound just like them--same soaring guttural vocals, same driven musicianship, same crappy clothes, just a slightly different message: Repent! You say you like Grisham- and Clancy-style potboilers! Grab a copy of Ted Dekker's Heaven's Wager--same stick-figure characterizations, same preschool prose, just a slightly different moral: Repent! Your kids enjoy Batman, you say? Try Bibleman. Same mask, same cape, just a slightly different...

That's the convincing logic of the Ark: If a person is going to waste his life cranking the stereo, clicking the remote, reading paperback pulp and chasing diet fads, he may as well save his soul while he's at it. Holy living no longer requires self-denial. On the Ark, every mass diversion has been cloned, from Internet news sites to MTV to action movies, and it's possible to live inside the spirit, without unplugging oneself from modern life, twenty-four hours a day.