Archives For culture


And of course, by that I mean,

I’ve got to get me one of these!

This is one of the several watches (some are R-rated, consider yourself warned) that offer stylish social commentary via the wrist. You can see the whole collection at normalwatches.com and for those of you in Des Moines, you can pick on up at Raygun in the East Village.

You’re welcome.

Be The Now

Sam Mahlstadt —  May 1, 2010 — 1 Comment

After a series of posts that challenged our perception of who Jesus the radical Rabbi was, and how to best apply his teachings in our culture, I incited some pointed conversations. (To catch up, the posts spanned from April 12 through April 22.) There were some comments here, and many more on Revelife.com, where this blog happens to be syndicated. I also got some push back from friends in private messages.

Let me bear my soul for a quick moment:

It was hard for me to be challenged. I post on this blog daily. Almost everyday more people than I think is appropriate come and read what I have written (largely because I remind you all via Twitter and Facebook status updates). Rarely do I get negative responses; people who think I am wrong letting me know so. And when that happens on rare occasions, readers usually come to my defense. Well…this time, even though there was some great conversation happening, I felt as though I was taking on my readership.

I felt defensive; they aren’t listening to me!

I felt disappointed; they just don’t get it!

I felt like I had failed; none of this is the point!

I second-guessed my motives. Why I had written the posts? Could anything good possibly come out of them. Did I simply facilitate an argumentative snark-fest instead of a conversation? It sure seemed so…at the time.

But then something staggering happened. I received a tweet from a good friend of mine (one who disagreed with me throughout the political series :) ) announcing a new blog called Be The Now. I read The Kick Off post laying out the vision of the blog, and the heart behind the movement. I was blown away.

The entire purpose of the series I wrote was to encourage you to wrestle with your faith, no matter where you are on the journey. If we consider ourselves Christians, I believe we need to take a long, hard look at what that means for today. For now. I could not be more thrilled to announce Nate’s new endeavor, Be The Now, to you creators of culture. Please take a few minutes to click over to BeTheNow.com and look around.

You can also follow the blog on Twitter @BeTheNow. This is is what it is all about!

Go be the now.


I happened across an article on the website for Princeton’s student newspaper, that dealt with creating a conversation culture. The piece is written by a Rhodes Scholar from Princeton, and speaks about how the University should play more of a role in fostering a conversation culture on their campus. You can read the entire article here.

One comment he made stuck with me, and I think it applies to culture at large, and also has huge implications for the church.

…conversation culture is born not in elevators, lecture room seats or basement hallways before precepts — it flourishes in the smoky, sweaty corners of pubs; in cafeteria alcoves; and over beer in common rooms.

Pubs, cafeterias and common rooms. These three things share a commonality, which is that none of them are formal educational spaces. Colleges and Universities place a lot of focus on their formal spaces, but often neglect creating the culture that will foster growth in areas like critical thinking and classroom participation.

I think there is a takeaway for the church here as well. Great (faith) conversations don’t happen in church lobbies, pews or Sunday school classes – but thrive in pubs (or coffeehouses if that makes you more comfortable), cafeterias and common rooms.

Faith conversations rarely happen inside church buildings. Like many post secondary educational facilities, churches often focus on the building in which they gather once a week (formally), and neglect their responsibility to create a culture of conversation – which ultimately boils down to neglecting their responsibility to create disciples.

If the church can continue to move from a monologue to a dialogue, it can be a major player in the culture of conversation both in local communities and on a global scale.

In an interview, Bono once said the church should be the moral force in our society. The church can’t be the moral compass if it isn’t at the table when decisions are debated and executed.

Testing Allegiance

Sam Mahlstadt —  April 21, 2010 — Leave a comment

When Jesus made the statement, “I’ll rebuild this temple in three days” I believe he was calling into question where his disciples placed their allegiance.We read in Mark’s gospel, that the disciples were impressed by the magnitude of the temple, rightfully so.

We tend to get caught up in what’s going on around us, placing our trust and attention on things that seem impressive. The problem with that lies in the fact that Jesus was a suffering savior and not a conqueror of the Roman Empire. He ushered in a new kingdom that is grounded in mercy, peace and generosity.

He looked very different than the Temple, which housed the spirit of God in an impressive way. He was powerful, but in a new way.

Jesus represented an entirely new way of living when he introduced the new covenant. A covenant that had more to do with forgiveness than preservation. More to do with extending grace than carrying on traditions. More to do with the heart than with the law. Or perhaps a realization that it was always about these things, and we need to regain our focus.

The temple that Jesus rebuilt in three days is one that represents a kingdom that provides freedom to the captive and rest for the weary. But, you see, it doesn’t look all that great. The message of Jesus is powerful, but it is meek. There was nothing about the temple in Jerusalem that was meek.

Saying things like, “I’ll rebuild it in three days” were things that would not only incite a crowd, but lead a revolutionary to his death. People hold on to what they know, what they can see, and what has always been their – tightly. Jesus represents a new way, where our allegiance is realigned to the kingdom of God.

It has never been about a political party, and it never will be. You can’t spin a sociopolitical issue enough to create a marketable messiah. A flag will never stand in the place of a cross. Because no matter who wins the election, what reform gets passed or what scandal breaks next – the tomb will still be empty and the cross will still save.

I hope as the Church, we get this. Hope and Mercy, Grace and Peace.

I have decided to write a follow up post to Jesus the Socialist. This post comes in the wake of much chatter (more so through other online outlets than through the blog itself) about my loose, and seemingly flippant use of the sociopolitical system of Socialism.

My point was not to make a case for Jesus being the new face of Socialism. I thought I made this clear when I said:

In Scripture, we get no indication that Jesus was the least bit interested in what the Empire of Rome was up to. When pressed, he encouraged the Jews to pay their Roman taxes to Caesar, and to be faithful with God’s things to God…Jesus’ point when asked about paying taxes was, We don’t belong here. If we define ourselves and our existence by the flag flying overhead, we have lost sight of the Gospel.

and especially when I said:

Now before anyone gets too upset, I don’t claim that we need government to redistribute wealth for us.

By referencing the flag flying overhead, I was speaking about government, any and all kinds of government. It is not the kingdom to which we belong. God’s kingdom is one that can’t be contained inside of a governmental system. Not even in the U S of A. And I think that thought is what gets people riled up.

I also feel some misunderstanding came about by how I ended the post:

Socialism does not fit well with red-blooded democracy, which also doesn’t fit well with the American Dream. Maybe that’s because Jesus, the socialist, didn’t come up with the American dream…

This comment was, again, not my claim that Jesus was a socialist. That statement was made after I opened with this question and conjecture:

I have often wondered how Jesus’ actions would be viewed in our contemporary culture. Imagine with me for a moment that Jesus was traveling around, teaching in Bible studies, raising up a ragtag group of leaders in 21st century America…

I even think if Jesus were to come hang out in our culture, people like (Glenn)  Beck would call him a socialist, and warn us of the danger inherent in his message. He may even encourage us to run away from him as fast as possible.

I believe we need to always be wrestling with our faith. The Gospel is a message that is alive and moving in our culture. Jesus doesn’t need our defense, but rather our effort to tend to his message of hope.

My challenge then, is for us all to lean deeply into Jesus’ message, responding to our culture with grace, mercy, love and generosity. It makes no difference what you believe until you live it in front of others.