Elmer Gantry and National Public Radio

Have you ever heard of Elmer Gantry??? Neither had I before I was asked to participate with several other students in an interview with National Public Radio. Elmer Gantry was the lead character in a novel by the same name written by Sinclair Lewis in the 1920’s. As a charlatan revival preacher, Gantry traveled the country peddling the gospel for personal profit rather than eternal rewards. The novel was turned into a film in the 1960’s that garnered several Academy Awards.

So, why did National Public Radio want to speak with students like me about a fictional character like Gantry? They wanted to hear the perspective of people preparing for ministry on someone who was using the pulpit for personal gain. It was an excellent experience.

You can listen to the audio of the interview here, and read the NPR synopsis here.


Does Country Music Cause Suicide?

Does all that crooning about drinking and divorce in country music contribute to the prevalence of suicide in its listeners? That’s the question Steven Stack and Jim Gundlach seek to answer in a recent study entitled The Effect of Country Music on Suicide. The report concludes that country music, indeed, contributes to suicide rates:

Country music is hypothesized to nurture a suicidal mood through its concerns with problems common in the suicidal population, such as marital discord, alcohol abuse, and alienation from work. The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate. The effect is independent of divorce, southernness, poverty, and gun availability. The existence of a country music subculture is thought to reinforce the link between country music and suicide. Our model explains 51% of the variance in urban white suicide rates.

Music functions as both a window and a mirror. It is a window that provides a glimpse of what is driving the culture. And it is a mirror that reflects the preferences of its listeners. So what does it reveal about us when country music contributes to suicide rates?

Many of the lyrics embedded in country music speak to the trials and tribulations of southern culture. Whether its singing about the loss of momma, the end of a marriage or the sorrow of another night in the local honky tonk, country music is often marked by despair. So, it should come as no surprise that this kind of music sometimes contributes to the greatest example of despair in the world – suicide.

Suicide is the most horrifying form of death there is. Why? Because it is the ultimate act of pride. Though it seems to be an act of humility, suicide is actually the pinnacle of hubris as someone determines that the taking of their life is more important than the abandonment of all those who are connected with them. Moreover, in suicide, they present an anti-gospel by destroying the life that has been created in God’s image.

Whether country music actually causes suicide or whether its lyrics are more volatile than other forms of music are still up for debate. But what is certain is that suicide is evidence of complete despair.

Joel Osteen on Larry King Live

From the day that I skeptically witnessed the grand opening of Lakewood Church in Houston, I have always had an interest in Joel Osteen. There’s nothing like watching a religious service in the same location that you used to watch NBA basketball. Osteen is in the midst of a media blitz as he seeks to promote his new book Become a Better You.

For all those who are interested, Osteen and his wife Victoria will be interviewed tonight by Larry King on CNN’s Larry King Live at 9 PM ET.

Here are some other links related to Osteen’s new book release that may be of interest:

Is There Such a Thing as Being ‘Too Religious’?

The Washington Post writes:

A Pew poll out today draws a fine line: It is important for presidential aspirants to be seen as religious, but most do not get a big bump from being perceived as “very religious.” The new data also show how little the public knows about the religious and social views of the top presidential contenders as the campaigns kick into high-gear.

Is there such a thing as being ‘too religious’? Apparently, when it comes to politics, there is. This perspective of religion flies in the face of the all or nothing nature of the gospel portrayed in Scripture. What does it profit a man (or woman) if they gain the presidency of the United States yet forfeit their soul?

Linebacker, 59, to Become Oldest College Football Player in History

He’s an empty nester. He’s a grandfather. And now, Mike Flynt is set to become the oldest college football player in history at age 59.

Flynt returned to Sul Ross State this month, 37 years after he left and six years before he goes on Medicare. His comeback peaked Wednesday with the coach saying he’s made the Division III team’s roster. He could be in action as soon as Sept. 1.

Flynt is giving new meaning to being a college senior. After all, he’s a grandfather and a card-carrying member of AARP. He’s eight years older than his coach and has two kids older than any of his teammates.

Why did Flynt want to return to the football field again?

Flynt’s life was supposed to be slowing down this fall. With his youngest child starting at the University of Tennessee, he and Eileen, his wife of 35 years, are planning to take advantage of being empty-nesters for the first time.

Instead, they’ve moved to this remote patch of West Texas so Flynt can mend an old wound and, he hopes, inspire others.

Why did Flynt not finish his football eligibility the first time around?

Flynt was going into his senior year in 1971 when he got into a fight that was far from his first. School officials decided they’d had enough and threw him out of school. He earned his degree from Sul Ross by taking his remaining classes elsewhere.

Of course, Flynt is finishing his glory days in Texas. Whether he makes a significant contribution to the team, there is no question that Flynt is setting a record that will not soon be broken.

God, Allah – What’s in a Name?

Just when you think the pursuit of religious pluralism cannot get any stranger, you read this headline: Bishop Urges Christian to Call God ‘Allah’. According to the article:

Catholic churches in the Netherlands should use the name Allah for God to ease tensions between Muslims and Christians, says a Dutch bishop.

Tiny Muskens, the bishop of Breda, told the Dutch TV program “Network” Monday night he believes God doesn’t mind what he is called, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported.

The Almighty is above such “discussion and bickering,” he insisted.

Should Christians be willing to call God ‘Allah’ for the sake of easing tensions? The answer is a definitive no. Why?

  1. While the Koran presents Allah as a single deity, the Bible presents God as a Trinity – One God in three persons, co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existing as Father, Son, and Spirit. Therefore, Allah is not God.
  2. While the Koran presents Allah as God and Mohammed as his prophet, the Bible declares that true and living God has not just spoken by the true prophets but now also by His son (Heb. 1:3). Therefore, Allah is not God.
  3. While the Koran presents Allah as a transcendent God who is distant from His people, the Bible portrays God both in His transcendence as well as His immanence – He who became flesh to dwell among us (John 1:14). Therefore, Allah is not God.

When you try to use the term ‘Allah’ as a substitute for the biblical portrayal of God the Father, it fails because of the literary and theological  baggage that it carries with it. Allah is not the God of the Bible. And the quest for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims will not be found in the change of a name but in the power of the blood of Christ.

Are You Suffering from Email Stress?

Do you check your gmail account multiple times an hour? Do you drop anything you are doing the moment you here the ‘ding’ indicating a new message in your Outlook inbox? And, is this wearing you out? Well, if you answered yes, then you are not alone.

A research report conducted in the UK discloses that more and more people are suffering on the job from ‘Email stress‘. According to the article:

According to new research increasing numbers of workers say they are swamped with a never-ending tide of messages.

Trying to keep up with a stream of incoming mail interrupts normal work and leaves staff tired, frustrated and unproductive, it concluded.

Employees also feel under pressure to check and respond quickly to emails, with some checking their inbox up to 40 times an hour.

Checking email 40 times an hour? That’s quite hard to believe, but it’s certainly possible. What the research doesn’t account for is the recent surge in pda’s and other wireless devices that allow you to check your email anywhere, anytime. It used to be that a worker could leave their emails behind until they left the office. Now, many people I know refer to their blackberries as ‘crackberries’ or as an ‘electronic leash’ because they are bound to anything that’s urgent, regardless of the time or the place.

Another growing phenomenon the research does not address is the stress associated with following your RSS feeds on your preferred RSS feed reader. Whether you have 18 feeds or 118 feeds to sift through every day, the amount of data can sometimes be overwhelming. There is nothing like coming home from being away from your computer for 3 days to find that you have several thousand unread feed posts.

These trends concern me. Not because they are resulting in reduced worker productivity. Not because it is an added source of stress in the daily work environment. These trends concern me because every piece of new info that we consume commoditizes the rest to the point that the truly important things can easily become lost in the sea of information overload. More importantly, if we are not careful, then these things can also develop into a major distraction to our pursuit of Christ.

How do I deal with information overload?

  • I regularly review my RSS feeds and remove those that are not meeting my expectations or needs.
  • I regularly receive encouragement (and at times constructive criticism) from my wife on the importance of balancing this part of my life
  • I intentionally schedule some of my day with things that prevent me from having the ability to access this info
  • I specifically prioritize my devotional life to ensure that it doesn’t become compromised

‘Email stress’ is a manifestation of the larger danger of information overload. It is a danger that is here to stay, regardless of how it is manifested. Well, gotta go. I would keep writing, but I have to check my inbox.