Provocative Platforms

On Mark Driscoll, Derek Webb, Tullian Tchividjian, and my quest for missing pieces.

I was sixteen years old when a new album came on the scene, quickly labeled “edgy,” if not offensive, in the world of 2003 Contemporary Christian Music. The lyrics were provocative, at least for the time, and my teenage heart was enthralled by them.

I am a whore
I do confess
I put you on just like a wedding dress
And I run down the aisle
—Derek Webb

I listened to the album over and over again, enticed by the call to what felt like a deeper faith, a rawness and authenticity that seemed to be missing in so much of the evangelical culture around me. The music was artistically good, but not overly polished. The lyrics were reverent (enough), but not stripped of human honesty.

I knew my salvation was secure, but I wondered if perhaps the hollowness I’d sometimes felt in the conservative evangelicalism of my childhood could be filled by the fresh air this singing provocateur was breathing. Maybe this was the missing piece.

Keep Reading at Fathom Mag.

‘Sit with Me’: Currents of Grief in “Wind River”

“This isn’t the land of waiting for backup. This is the land of you’re on your own.”

Harsh as those words are, the reality they depict is even harsher. Wind River tells the gritty story of a murder case on an Indian Reservation where a young woman’s body is found in the snow by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife game hunter, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner). Signs of rape and assault that are evident from the beginning are soon confirmed, and FBI Officer Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) and Lambert pair up to investigate.

The audience eventually learns that Lambert’s daughter also died in the cold a few years earlier. The undetermined, suspicious circumstances of her murder leave Lambert tormented and hungry to exact punishment. A few scenes in the film play out like near-fulfillments of revenge fantasies for Lambert, tantalizing him with the aroma of justice, offering a taste, then disappearing. Lambert pursues vengeance on behalf of the newly deceased young woman, Natalie, and her family, indulging the bloodlust that has been percolating beneath his calm exterior as he has mourned his own daughter. The retribution does not satisfy.

Wind River is bleak, even gruesome at moments. The desolation that echoes throughout the snow-covered reservation and the agony of the characters’ stories resound loudly enough for Vox writer Alissa Wilkinson to suggest that the film “risks becoming a caricature of pain.” While I do not overtly disagree with Wilkinson’s critique (I certainly found a few scenes in the film to teeter on, if not fall over, the edge of gratuitous brutality), my overall impression of the film is, perhaps, rooted in different soil.

Keep reading at Christ and Pop Culture.

*Image Credit: IMDB

New Podcast Episode: Peacemaking Fails then Successes

The Shalom Sistas crew has a new group episode for you, friends! Tune in to listen to Jerusalem, Cara, Osheta, and me share our stories of peacemaking fails that turned into successes.

My story involves a total flop of an attempt to participate in Harvey relief. Osheta and I talk about my struggle to realize that, of course, my inability to help doesn’t mean I am a failure or “not enough,” even though that is what I’m tempted to feel. I also share one of my favorite quotes from Osheta’s book on “enough”ness.

In addition to my story about not feeling like enough, Jerusalem, Osheta and Cara talk about additional themes from Osheta’s book–the truths that we are beloved, invited, and determined to see the beauty. We laugh a lot at our own shenanigans and we hope you will too!

Shedding Summer Skin

On one of the few days left lingering between my high school graduation and freshman year of college, Death Cab for Cutie released their fifth studio album, Plans, and I’d like to think the album’s drop was timed just for me. When I hear the hit singles that first tickled my eardrums in August of 2005—”Soul Meets Body,” “Crooked Teeth,” “I Will Follow You into the Dark”—framing the album with the nostalgia, wistfulness, and ache that Death Cab conjures up in the hearts of listeners like no other, I’m transported back to that end of summer and taken on a journey into the months and years that followed.

If you graduated from high school just before Plans released like I did, or if you have a single memory associated with their music, my hunch is that you have the same connection. Death Cab’s songs are the kind that burrow deep inside you. At the time, you thought you were just listening, the music washing over you, and then years later you hear “Someday You Will Be Loved” in a coffee shop and look around to find yourself inside a memory you’d thought was long gone.

The songs hadn’t merely washed over you at all; they had taken root inside, been there with you all this time.

There is no richer example of this for me than “Summer Skin,” song number three on Plans, its drumbeat strong, reminiscent of time marching forward, Ben Gibbard’s voice and the lyrics just inches from uncertainty. This combination evokes the tension that memories seem to so often be made of—is this the same feeling I had in that moment? Do I remember this the way it actually happened? Is the accuracy of the memory what’s important, or is the meaning in the story the memory tells?

Keep reading at Christ and Pop Culture.

*Image Credit: Cameron Morgan