No debating The Great Debaters

Preparing for a wedding ceremony last week gave me cause to consider the differing ways people connect with media. The young couple selected a couple of musical pieces from one of my favorite groups, Coldplay. Wanting to understand the connection I spent time listening, reading lyrics and locating any back story on the two songs. These two young people found the lyrics expressive of the way their relationship brought deep and important meaning to their lives.

Undoubtedly when directors and producers select a movie script they often consider the same issues. We went to a later dinner and a movie with the staff of our church for a post-Christmas get together. Nathan suggested we see “The Great Debaters.” Others may be far better critics than I, but I suggest someone(s) ought to win awards for this one. Set in Marshall, Texas, the story of the debate team from Wiley College is nothing short of gripping.

Stories change lives. The intersection of Henry Lowe, Samantha Booke and James Farmer Jr. stirs us to  understand the way in which our relationships shape our very lives. Maybe this is an obvious assertion. But, in a day where we must constantly wrestle with an overconfident individualism, The Great Debaters does more than make us aware of the subtleties of a glance (like a son to a father or a father to a son). Thrown together on a debate team with an activist teacher makes for a window into just how redemptive relationships may be.

I do not want to spoil your trip to the show or your future rental. Instead, I would hope to encourage you to let the interactions of these students move to the deeper issues they unearth. Issues of power and control. Matters of race and religion. Actions of violence and non-violence. See if you are not taken by the closing argument of young James Farmer Jr.

Movies and songs offer little to debate when they beautifully expose the value of the “other.”

Storytelling … An Evening of Music

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A few years ago after watching “Donnie Darko,” I ventured out to find Gary Jules CD with the song, “Mad World.” I finally found it at a local music store which sold used CD’s. A number of songs on that CD reveal quite the story teller. Rob Davis and I re-connected via Facebook and he noted Gary Jules was coming to OKC. The concert would be at the Blue 7.

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Tommie enjoys concerts at small venues. I told her of the upcoming visit to OKC by Gary Jules and she asked if we could go. We worked out some details and found time for a “Daddy-Daughter Date.” We both enjoyed the show. She got her picture taken with both Gary Jules and Jim Bianco. We picked up a couple of CD’s and shared a great time.

Often we hear songs and wonder about their origin. Gary often shared what was going on in his life when he wrote a particular song. He noted a time when he was overcoming an injury and became addicted to painkillers and wrote the song, “Pills.” Later he described waking to a siege going on in the area of Los Angeles where he and his wife were raising their son. These stories evoked more intense images as the songs were sung. We could imagine ourselves being in the same predicament and finding the words penned by this English major to be near exact in expressing some of our own feelings.

Tommie and I shared a love for good music and an appreciation for stories. Our own story enriched by a night out together.

Singing during worship in an iPod world …

Radio"All we will do in heaven is sing praises." And for the tonally challenged you can count on a new voice with "perfect pitch." No Simon Cowell to tell you just how "pitchy" you are. While I am convinced we will be doing much more than singing in heaven, the subject of music tends to occupy quite a bit of time as churches tussle over the old and the new.

A few weeks ago I attended a local Renovare Conference. George Skramstad led us to think about  worship and gave a brief trek through the history of worship. He mentioned a couple of things. He noted how at one time in the church no one would think of allowing Sinatra styled "crooning" in the church. He then played and sang a Steve Green piece that sounded like Sinatra. (For we who are Baptists, my brother reminded me of the Keach brothers who lobbied hard there should be no singing in worship for it was viewed as "frivolity" and "distracting" from the Word.)

One thing still tumbles around in my rock polisher – Skramstad asserted people today sing along rather than aloud. My parents and grandparents would look around at a morning worship gathering and may notice some are singing and some are not. One immediate conclusion takes us to the style of music. However, if Skramstad is correct, the radio, and even more the iPod, compel us to sing along rather than aloud. Too many tell me they cannot carry a tune but love to sing along. If they are thrust in a context requiring them to sing aloud, they will stand or sit idly. Given the opportunity to sing along, under their breath or a place in the room where they feel no one can hear them, they might chime in. When made to feel like the performance of the hymn is dependent on their singing aloud, they remain silent.

How we moderate expectations among those whose connection with music differs seems to take center stage for those trying to strike a balance. It may well be we need to spend a bit more time talking about the kinds of things we will do in the fulfilled Kingdom of God beyond "singing forever." Part of me wants to propose our attempt to wrest all the music from the devil has surely given the devil a place to thwart the formation of the people of God in their fixation over music.

Weird Moby May Well “Get It” …

I found Moby’s Christmas message after Christmas. Certainly worth thinking through. What do you think?

HT: Johnny Baker