Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Gospel According to Britney Spears?!

I chose this pic of Spears in an attempt
to keep this a family friendly blog.
When Jesus Christ Superstar was released by Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber it was met with both critical acclaim and derision. While the critics thought it a brilliant piece of work, the faithful were not so sure. Now, more then 40 years later, the show is still running and even many of the faithful (myself included) have come to love the show. 

But I am not so sure about this next one. It seems that someone has written an opera about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ using the music of Britney spears. In fact, that is all they use. There is no dialogue. Here is what the press release says about Spears the Musical
Britney Spears has met the Bible. SPEARS is an original musical that chronicles the life of Jesus Christ, telling the story through the hit music of Britney Spears. Creator Patrick Blute, 23, and the SPEARS creative team are holding a funder’s preview on November 7th in Studio A of the Foxwoods Theater. The musical tugs at the heartstrings of America’s lost twenty-somethings, calling on familiar hits such as “Stronger,” “One More Time,” and “Crazy,” to describe the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Not one word is spoken, and not one lyric is changed, technically making the musical an opera. Originally dreamed up by Blute during his undergraduate years, SPEARS debuted in April 2012 at Columbia University’s Glicker-Milstein Theater. Tickets to the first production sold out in less than one minute, and the show received overwhelming support. Charolette Murtishaw of the Columbia Spectator wrote, “Little can be done to deny the star power of SPEARS, which manages to tackle the marriage of Spears and Christ in a way that respects both deities and keeps the audience fully engaged and entertained.”

I suspect many will object to Spears being referred to a "deity." 

No word yet on whether Spear's hit "Oops I did it again" will be used. 

HT: Mark Goodacre 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Does the Church Alienate Intellectuals?

As a biblical scholar I will admit that it can be difficult at times to attend church. What I mean is, on the one hand my world consists of engaging biblical texts and theological topics at a level that many Christians won't. So attending a church service on a Sunday can be a bit like sending an adult to the childrens' Sunday School class. It's not that what is being taught is unimportant, it's just that I have already heard it before and I have different questions. 

On the other hand, I have always tried to remember that not everyone, including the pastor, gets to live in the world I do and that those in the pews around me don't have the same questions that I do. A few years back I was fortunate to have a pastor who was careful to meet the needs of the congregation at large, but demonstrated intellectual rigor in his teaching and preaching. He is also someone who would (and still does after retirement) talk with me about issues which allowed us both to learn from one another.

But not everyone is fortunate enough to have a pastor who is sensitive to the needs of those who we label the "intellectuals" (my readers will know my disdain for labels). Over at the Sojourners blog Stephen Mattson discusses the situation and what he sees as the problem. Here is bit of what he has to say.

In a world where people are craving inspiration, growth, and information, many churches maintain a cyclical pattern based on redundancy, safety, and closed-mindedness.
Unfortunately, many pastors and Christian leaders continue to recycle old spiritual clich├ęs — and sermons — communicating scripture as if it were propaganda instead of life-changing news, and driving away a growing segment of people who find churches ignorant, intolerant, absurd, and irrelevant.
As technology continues to make news and data more accessible, pastors are often failing to realize that they're no longer portrayed as the respected platforms of spiritual authority that they once were.
Instead of embracing dialogue and discussion, many Christian leaders react to this power shift by creating defensive and authoritarian pedestals, where they self-rule and inflict punishment on anyone who disagrees, especially intellectuals.
Intellectuals are defined as people who show a high degree of mental capacity. And while we often tend to associate intellectuals as professors clad in bow ties that attend fancy cocktail parties and publish award-winning books, there are no demographic, cultural, professional, racial, or gender restrictions on who can or can’t be an intellectual. There are no rules on who is and isn’t an intellectual — everyone has the capacity to be one!
Recently, it's been said that smarter people prefer not to go to church or believe in God, but maybe part of the problem is that churches won't let them in — or they’ve already kicked them out! There are many reasons why intellectual believers are often rejected by faith communities, but here are few of the main ones:
Mattson goes on to outline three areas that he views as contributors to the problem. What do you think? Is he correct? Are there other areas? Or is the problem with the intellectuals? 

HT: James McGrath

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A New Commentary Series and a Giveaway

I am privileged to be a contributor to a new commentary series. The Story of God Bible Commentary explains and illuminates each passage of Scripture in light of the Bible’s grand story. The first commentary series to do so, SGBC offers a clear and compelling exposition of biblical texts, guiding everyday readers in how to creatively and faithfully live out the Bible in their own contexts. Its story-centric approach is ideal for pastors, students, Sunday school teachers, and laypeople alike.

I am the author of the volume on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, which is with the editor now and will be available sometime next year. This week the kind folks at Zondervan sent me copies of the first two volumes, the Sermon on the Mount by Scot McKnight and Philippians by Lynn Cohick. In order to celebrate the release of these volumes I am giving away a copy of each. This means that there will be two lucky winners on the giveaway. The giveaway begins today and the winners will be announced on Monday, November 4th. 

It has been a while since I hosted a giveaway, so let me review the rules. Enter your name in the comment section below. On Monday, November 4th I will choose two winners and post their names. You will then need to contact me to get the books and you have five days to do so.

Good luck!

Monday, October 28, 2013

O'Reilly admits he isn't qualified to write a religious book.

In an interview with Fox News Bill O'Reilly admits that he isn't qualified to write a religious book.

But I don't think he knows what kind of a book he did write. At one point in this interview he sounds like an evangelist. I do wonder how this interview, in which he claims to have written a "history" squares up with his claim in the 60 Minutes interview (below) that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write the book.

Sigh, hopefully this will all go away soon. But I suspect there will be a whole new roll out in April in time for Easter. In fact, National Geographic is filming a special based on the book. I hope someone contacts those of us who know something about Jesus first.

See my review here.

Here is the link to the interview