Amazing! Elderly Christian man boldly proclaims Christ in crowd of mocking Muslims
Posted by International Christian Concern on Saturday, November 14, 2015


There's been quite a reaction to this bit I posted showing male Marine recruits singing an anemic ropey-dopey praise song and contrasting it to regular folks singing a robust praise song. Several people have written in asking about talking to friends and loved ones who are all about the ol' Hillsong scene. How to converse with a brother about worship, maturity, and masculinity without offending him? 'Cause, you know, men are sensitive and tender.

One note specifically mentioned the ol' David-dancing-before-the-Lord defense of acting goofy or going into dance-trances. I am no theologian, dear friends. Je suis un artiste with a waxed mustache. But I'm going to tackle this David thing for you. Gonna dunk on it, really. And then you can go read some more serious people on the topic. Then I'm going to ask that the Hillsongy types reconsider how they view worship in the first place. Then I'm going to drop C. S. Lewis and De La Soul on this party.

King David's Dancing

The undignified dancing like a fool part of David's march in 2 Samuel 6 probably looked a lot different than what we've been trained to imagine. He was, after all, a king. That's not to say he wasn't naked and embarrassing people, but I suspect it was much more masculine looking than the hippy-dippy that we do trippy in our worship services today. A mighty warlord and king, the greatest warrior of his time, whose beard was surely dark and curled and massive, stripped down to a loincloth "leaping and dancing before the Lord". If we read that without post-hippy-music-festival eyes, we are likely to visualize something much more like the folk/traditional dances we are familiar with from NatGeo: war dances, mating dances, celebratory dances. Masculine dances. Not trance flower-power dances.

So often I have heard David's dancing given as a justification for crazed pentecostal pew-jumping, or glossolalic spinning hand-flailing, or even just losing yourself or being undignified in the moment. And while Christians should certainly shed the self-importance that makes us concerned for how others perceive us, behaviors in which we lose ourselves are ultimately a rejection of the Gospel in which we find ourselves.

Michal didn't despise David because he started acting all goofy. She despised him because he took off the robes of his kingly dignity in order to better dance with all his might before the Lord. This was, above all other adjectives, a mighty dance.

(Incidentally, it is not to be blithely assumed that Michal was wrong in her reaction to David's dancing, although I think she was. When it came to his women, David was often the one in the wrong.)

David's dance happened in a very liturgical setting, in which the Levites and mighty men were in a great procession, taking six steps and giving a sacrifice every seventh. David was a part of that liturgy, but he was also a Christ figure inaugurating a new era of worship in Israel's history. He was of the procession but also above it, at its head, making a new thing. In that sense it is like the showbread moment. These moments show that he was a special Christ figure.

In speaking to a Hillsong friend I might emphasize that the most important horizontal aspects of worship are togetherness (everyone doing everything together, no one on their own agenda), and solemnity (in the C. S. Lewis sense), although you might not want to use the word solemnity. And that in the vertical aspects of worship, those same things, communion-togetherness and joy-solemnity, are how God relates to us.

God's people are summoned and they are to worship as a people, together, in unison. That doesn't mean they worship in robotic sameness, but it means that worship designed to carry an individual off to an isolated island of trance or meditation is not meant for corporate worship. The purposeful loss of emotional or intellectual control is not God-honoring, because it abstracts the individual from the people. When we gather, everything is plural, everything is corporate. David was king. Christ is king. We are the people.

Corporate Solemnity, Even In Song

C.S. Lewis, in his Preface to Paradise Lost, talks about the old English word solempne as exemplary of an attitude which we have lost, and need to recover:
“Like solemn it implies the opposite of what is familiar, free and easy, or ordinary. But unlike solemn it does not suggest gloom, oppression, or austerity. The ball in the first act of Romeo and Juliet was a ‘solemnity’. The feast at the beginning of Gawain and the Green Knight is very much a solemnity. A great mass by Mozart or Beethoven is as much a solemnity in its hilarious gloria as in its poignant crucifixus est. Feasts are, in this sense, more solemn than fasts. Easter is solempne, Good Friday is not. The Solempne is the festal which is also the stately and the ceremonial, the proper occasion for a pomp–and the very fact that pompous is now used only in a bad sense measures the degree to which we have lost the old idea of a 'solemnity’. To recover it you must think of a court ball, or a coronation, or a victory march, as these things appear to people to enjoy them; in an age when every one puts on his oldest clothes to be happy in, you must re-awake the simpler state of mind in which people put on gold and scarlet to be happy in. Above all, you must be rid of the hideous idea, fruit of a widespread inferiority complex, that pomp, on the proper occasions, has any connection with vanity or self-conceit. A celebrant approaching the altar, a princess led out by a king to dance a minuet, a general officer on a ceremonial parade, a major-domo preceding the boar’s head at a Christmas feast–all these wear unusual clothes and move with calculated dignity. This does not mean that they are vain, but that they are obedient; they are obeying the hoc age which presides over every solemnity. The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual… . You are to expect pomp. You are to 'assist’, as the French say, at a great festal action.”
"Fruit of a widespread inferiority complex". So much of our contemporary worship spring from the idea that we are not worthy to worship God. That in making something that went beyond feelings into doing and building and thinking and offering our very best, we'd be telling God that our very best was good enough. But this is a deadly false humility. God has told us that we're worthy to offer him things, not because of us, but because of Jesus. And it's real. We ought to offer our poor and sinful most magnificent, because it will be covered over by Jesus' most magnificent. No need for false humility, take hold of being a son of God.

So worship ought to be heavy with weight. Solemn with joy. Large with feast. And large and feast require all of all the people, not just some of you. God summons his people to a great feast, to a mighty worship. And he summons you the individual as far as you are a member of his people.

This corporate focus doesn't make you less called by God, by the way. If anything, it reminds you that you're called whether you're feeling it or not. He doesn't call you to some nebulous ecstatic union. What are you, a transcendentalist? He calls to a very real, very spiritual (which is to say, hyper-real), very concrete feast. The people of God are having communion, having conversation, with God. Y'all have things to say. Real things. Not mantras, but real praise and thanksgiving.

Of course, if one wants evidence that contemporary worship is obsessed with the self and the individual's relationship with God apart from the church, one has only to look at lyrics that abound in "being De La". It's just me, myself, and I. Mirror, mirror, on the wall. (If you're too young for this song to mean anything, it's not a praise song, it's just me having fun with the words "me, myself, and I".)

Musically and lyrically isolating the individual from the group, I sing a song of myself. I raise my hands when I feel it. I kneel when I feel it. I sing when I know the songs and am familiar with the band, 'cause every band "performs" the same song in different ways, repeating this or that line over and over again, going back to this or that verse because they feel it, and I've got to follow as best as I can.

I would not, by the way, call for a return to some perfect previously achieved ideal form of worship. There ought to be a great diversity through time and space of how God's people biblically worship him. But we ought to be a part of the stream of time, the great cloud of witnesses, the mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won. And we ought to be thinking corporately, congregationally, as the people of God. Our worship music can't be this thin individual stuff anymore.

Are we going to dance? Are we going to raise our hands? Are we going to embrace? Fabulous. Let's be engaged about it, let's be awake about it. Not "do what you feel", but "all together now", and with as much excellence and solemnity as our sinful people can muster. For God already accepts our works.

And yes, even when they're Hillsong tunes.

Why tell you when I could show you?

Why do I say that contemporary worship music is hostile to men? Watch these two videos. Then look me in the eye and tell me traditional tunes aren't better vehicles for masculine expressions of praise.

Watch as much as you like of this first one. Maybe put a minute in? I mean, it's so anemic. oo-rah. And these guys are Marines. I thought they were the manliest of the services.

Nothing like what men sound like when singing a song that wasn't written for children and porridge-eaters.

On the other hand, we have here a congregation of seated people in a half-empty church, including women and children. Which sounds manlier? 

Why should it matter that men sing manly praises to God? Because all humans ought to praise God as they were made, and men will always be men. In fact, through sanctification, resurrection, and eternal life they will only become more and more the men they are to be.

No more sissy stuff, guys. Come on. And Marines, I know you can do better.

Manu Tuilagi tries to break the line against Gloucester.


Hello beloved Giant readers. You all know I'm a huge rugby fan. After all, I can't help but to show occasional highlights on my Facebook page, or to write posts like Five Things I Learned From Rugby. I grew up playing basketball, I like volleyball and soccer, and I loved watching football. When I discovered rugby, though, it just took over. It had the fluidity of basketball combined with the toughness of football and the tactical sense of soccer. Best of all was the courage, decision-making, and team support that was a natural part of the game. Not only did I become a player, I became a full-time fan. When my two-year-old spots a football game on TV she calls it rugby. It's in the family now.

Like most Americans who love the beautiful game, I came to it late in life (age 27). The U.S. actually has a good number of rugby players compared to other countries. The reason we keep getting our butts handed to us on the world stage is that the world's players grew up playing the game, while our players started in college, or switched over from football one or two or three years ago.

Click on the image to get a perspective
on the worldwide playing population.
Still, over the next many years that should change. Youth rugby numbers are way up, as they pick up some of the kids whose families are part of the mass exodus from youth football we're seeing right now. Soccer is getting most of those boys, but it is rugby that offers the sort of character-building that American parents hope football will give their kids, and more besides.

Whether you're interested in rugby for yourself or for your family, perhaps as an alternative to football for your sons, understanding the game and being able to watch it on TV is an important part of the experience. You know, cheering for favorite teams and players, watching highlights, sharing the tension of a down-to-the-wire finish or expressing amazement together at a particular demonstration of skill is all part of the sports experience these days. That is, you and your kids don't want to just be rugby players, you want to be like Richie McCaw or Israel Folau.

In view of that, and at the request of a cherished Joffre The Giant reader, I here provide you with The American's Guide To Becoming A Rugby Fan. I will quickly mention some rules to help you enjoy watching rugby, then give some tips on where and how to watch, and finally follow that with a summary of the world rugby scene to help you choose what to watch.

All of this, by the way, assumes that you already want to be a rugby fan. 'Cause if you need convincing, drop me a line, and and I'll give you the many reasons why rugby is the very best and your family should love it.

Helpful Rules To Know

Rugby has as many rules as american footballl, but it's even easier for the novitiate to get lost because the game is so much more fluid. These five basic concepts (keepin' it at five to keep the game moving) will help you enjoy the match while you learn what's actually happening and what the rules actually are. Don't forget to pay attention to announcers. Although they won't explain the rules in detail, what they have to say will provide a lot of context clues. As long as they're not American announcers. And a cool thing about televised rugby is that the referee is mic'ed! Refereeing is much more organic and responsive in rugby, so fans want to know what the ref is saying to players in the flow of the game. You'll learn a lot from that as well.

1. "Positive" play is the order of the day. You have to play positively. For example, on defense you can't just knock the ball down, you have to try to catch it. You can't just hit a guy, you have to tackle. You can't just fall on the ball, you have to try to pick it up. You're responsible for the safety of the player you're tackling. Cynical play is penalized more harshly, and yes, that means the referee gets to decide what's cynical and what's not.

2. After a tackle, the ball is live. You probably already figured that out. The ball is only dead when it goes into touch (out of bounds) or when there's an infraction.

The tackled player must release the ball, and the tackler must release his victim. At that point, anyone who is on their feet and onside can make a play for the ball. Onside in this case means coming at the ball from your team's side of the tackle and over the body of the tackled player (through the gate). When both teams go after the tackled ball you get a...

3. Ruck, which is the dispute over the ball, usually won by the team possessing it originally. Someone, usually the scrum-half, will grab the ball from the base of the ruck and restart play.

4. Out of bounds, or in touch, goes to the other team. So if I run or kick it out, the other team gets it. Which means that players will often turn down big gains outside to make sure they don't run out. The exception to this rule is on a full penalty. If your team is awarded a penalty, you can kick the ball into touch downfield and get to the line-out (inbounds play) yourself.

5. Onside. Your team must start play on your side of the breakdown (tackle/ruck). If you kick the ball, all your teammates in front of you are offside until you or a teammate who was behind you when you kicked it passes them. Until they're put onside they must retreat from the ball.

The rest, I'll leave up to the reader. As far as I can remember, no one explained onside during a kick to me, which made things difficult for a while. Hopefully these concepts will help, and the reader can figure out points and scrums and lineouts and whatnot.

How To Watch

When it comes to watching rugby in the United States, I have four words for you. Fox Soccer Plus, YouTube.

Fox Soccer Plus is the best way to watch rugby on TV in the U.S. Just be aware that they also occasionally broadcast "rugby league", rugby's poorer and dumber cousin. Even rugby league fans call their form (or code) "league" while calling rugby union plain ol' "rugby". Just be aware that rugby league exists. You'll recognize it by its lack of dispute over the ball, its lack of creativity and three-dimensionality, and the way tackled players wriggle like molested fish after each play. I won't explain why, I'll just let you learn by watching if you choose to. You won't be missing anything.

Anyway, Fox Soccer Plus plays matches from most of the major rugby competitions in the world. You'll just have to put up with their schedule, and pay out to DirectTV.

Your other option is YouTube and other websites where enthusiasts bless those of us who live in countries with little to no rugby coverage. Here is a link to the Facebook page of my favorite guy.

But really, the best way to find games is to search on YouTube, limiting the time the search goes back to a week or a day, and limiting search results to videos lasting over 20 minutes. That should give you mostly full matches. You can search "rugby", but searching team and league names (which I'll give you soon) is more effective.

Given the fact that half of the best rugby matches are being played halfway around the world from Americans, and the other half being played 6-10 hours ahead, you wouldn't be watching much live rugby anyway.

The American fan becomes accustomed to simply waiting a day before watching a match, and becomes expert at avoiding spoilers.

Of course, just watching rugby without any favorite players or teams isn't as fun as being invested in certain clubs and competitions. Maybe your kid will never have a poster of George Ford or Quade Cooper up in his bedroom, but picking sides is a great part of the fun of watching sports. Let me give you a breakdown, tell you who I chose, and maybe help you to pick some sides as well.

Clermont Auvergne fans.

Rugby Competitions & Teams Around The World

Here is a quick overview of the world's major competitions, as well as my favorite teams and maybe even some favorite players. Rugby is like soccer in that several national leagues feature prominently on the world scene, and two leagues are even supra-national.

However, before we get to clubs let's go over international play. This is another area where rugby beats out american football: you get to cheer for countries. Although most USA Eagles fans find another country to support as well.

The world is divided into southern hemisphere teams, who have a reputation for playing a more dynamic brand of "running rugby", and northern hemisphere teams, which are known to play a more bruising conservative game better suited to playing through rainy winters. The top three teams in the world are usually, but certainly not always, New Zealand (the famed All Blacks), Australia, and South Africa. 

Every four years there is a Rugby World Cup, and this year, for the first time ever, the semi-final was played by four southern hemisphere teams, with Argentina throwing its hat in with the three great powers. Needless to say, the northern hemisphere is quite humiliated and all you'll hear from their commentators right now is how their teams need to play more of the freewheeling style of the southerners.

The Rugby Championship

The main international competition in the south takes place yearly. When only New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa competed, it was called the Tri-Nations. Four years ago Argentina was invited to join, and the competition is now arrogantly known as The Rugby Championship. But no one in the north can complain about the name, given the World Cup semi-final situation.

This year the Walllabies of Australia won the competition, although it was an abbreviated version due to preparations for the World Cup. Way more often than not New Zealand wins it, but once every few years South Africa or Australia will sneak a win in. The Springboks and Wallabies are always two of the top teams in the world, so New Zealand's dominance of The Rugby Championship should give you some idea of their dominance on the world scene. They just won their third World Cup, and are the first country to repeat. 

Which is why, even though I love how they play and I love most of their players, I can't cheer for them. They just lose so seldom. So I, like many, like the All Blacks but pull against them. 

Also, every right-minded individual outside of New Zealand hates Richie McCaw and applauds when he gets a yellow card. Which is almost never.

South Africa plays a kick-oriented, hard-hitting brand of rugby. Australia plays with creative flair on offense and speed on defense. Argentina slows the game down, dominates scrums, and looks to set things up with their set piece plays. New Zealand...well...they just do everything faster and harder, and the ball never dies.

South Africa's JP Pietersen scores against Argentina.

Six Nations

The Six Nations competition is fought out yearly in Europe between the "Home Nations", France, and Italy. Besides England, Scotland, and Wales, a united Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland team is and always has been fielded. Ireland's national team is represented by the four historic provinces, disregarding national lines.

Scotland was recently robbed of a place in the World Cup semifinals, but for the last several years they and Italy have dwelt together at the bottom of the Six Nations. France is New Zealand's bugaboo; they are not consistent but play with such flair and creativity that they can beat anyone at any time. England often underperforms, like their football team, which creates a lot of anxiety. Happily, unlike the football team, they remain relevant, rising as high as number three in the world in recent years. Ireland is the most dynamic of the European countries, defending with their characteristic ball-killing "choke tackles" and attacking with a creativity reminiscent of the All Blacks. But only reminiscent, mind you.

Paul O'Connell blocks an English kick.
Super Rugby and southern hemisphere domestic leagues

In my opinion, and in the opinion of every right-headed rugby fan, this is the premier club competition in the world. In a way, it's a super-club competition, because three countries (five beginning next season) form bigger teams out of three or four of their smaller domestic clubs.

For example, New Zealand is represented in Super Rugby by the Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, and Hurricanes. The Crusaders are fed by the Tasman Sharks and Canterbury, both of which play in New Zealand's domestic league, the ITM Cup. South Africa's Currie Cup and Australia's National Rugby Competition are also fully fledged leagues that feed Super Rugby teams. Beginning next season Argentina and Japan will field Super Rugby sides as well (this past World Cup Japan's national team upset South Africa in pool play).

I love watching other competitions, but Super Rugby stands out as the best for two reasons: the first is that the national characteristics of each country's rugby union express themselves through their clubs. Kiwis play like Kiwis, Aussies like Aussies, South Africans like South Africans. Once you begin to pick up on that, the tactics each team decides to utilize become that much more fascinating, as teams play to or away from their perceived strengths. The second is that Super Rugby is the club-level expression of southern hemisphere rugby. The ball stays in play for longer, play is quicker, and sublime flashes of skill more common.

My favorite team here is the Crusaders of New Zealand. They play as methodically as any Kiwi team ever does. I find the way they control games to be absolutely mesmerizing. But the beauty of this competition is that you can have favorites and villains across three (soon 5) countries.

Fijian-born Nemani Nadolo, the Crusaders' huge and highly skilled wing,
leaves a couple of Cheetahs in the dust.
Top 14

Top 14 is the French competition, and it is to rugby what the English Premiership is to soccer. They use so many high-priced foreigners that the quality of French national rugby is being impacted. The forwards in this league are huge, and hit hard. The scrums are monstrous. The combination of powerful forward play with the usual French backline flair can make for some compelling watching. 

Top 14 teams dominate the Champions Cup, which is rugby's UEFA Champions League, where the top teams from several leagues compete for a European trophy. Their hired guns mean that each French team competing at Champions level is veteran. 

My team in the Top 14 is Clermont Auvergne. They're the Atlanta Braves of rugby. They're always really good, always well managed, and always a joy to watch. But something always stops them from going all the way. Their scrum-half, Morgan Parra, is nicknamed The Little General, and his skill set epitomizes the elegance that Clermont bring to the game.

Toulon are the bad guys, the New York Yankees of rugby. They have a huge payroll, all their players were absolute stars in their native countries, and they've basically become a bruising heavyweight rugby machine. Cheer against them always.

Clermont Auvergne.


The English league is, among the European leagues, the most fun to watch. They play wet-weather ball, which involves ball retention and kicking for position. Which, as a bruising forward myself, I do not at all mind watching. If you watch English rugby you can expect big hits, tactical kicking, and lots of mud.

I pull for Gloucester in this competition, the ol' cherry-and-whites. They're one of those sympathetic teams that usually do okay, that play up to their ability, and they can beat anybody on a good day, but it's not always a good day. One of their centers, the versatile Billy Twelvetrees, was my favorite player in the league for a while, but his form is lost and his star fallen of late.

I also enjoy watching the Northampton Saints, mostly because their number eight was the brutal American Samu Manoa. Manoa's grandfather was a star of Tongan rugby. Sadly, Toulon (remember the New York Yankees of French rugby?) got him for this season, so now he's part of the evil empire's stable.

Gloucester's electric wing Jonny May scores.


This is another cross-country league. Formerly the Celtic League featuring Irish, Welsh, and Scottish teams, it changed to Pro12 when they added two Italian clubs years ago.

Before Toulon's recent big run in European rugby, the Irish clubs did very well in the Champions Cup (then the Heineken Cup). Leinster and Munster have had excellent runs, and won league titles as well, but my heart belongs to Ulster.

I'm an Ulster fan because
1. Ruan Pienaar, the most elegant player I've ever seen play the game,
2. Rory Best, the hardest hooker in Europe,
3. they do so well every year then get jobbed by refs/ill discipline,
4. I love C.S. Lewis so I love northern Ireland,
5. I'm Presbyterian, so I love the Scots-Irish (please don't write to lecture me about Ireland's sectarian history).

Ruan Pienaar of Ulster.
By the way, you might notice that my favorite teams all wear red. I know. Weird, right? Proffer your psychological profiles, I welcome them.

European Rugby Champions Cup

The best of the best in the north. What can I say, it's a blast to watch. Different countries, different clubs, bad guys and good guys. Almost as good as Super Rugby.

By the way, as in soccer, the Champions Cup and its little brother the Challenge Cup are played during long breaks in the league seasons.


I hope this has been helpful. Of course, you won't watch all this rugby. You probably won't watch as much rugby as I do. But this will help you settle into a routine. Mine is basically to watch every top southern hemisphere international I can, as well as some northern hemisphere ones, every Ulster match, every Crusaders match, the occasional Gloucester or Premiership match, and some random Super Rugby. In the "off-season" (which in reality is NEVER!!!) I watch what I can of Canterbury in the ITM Cup and South Africa's Western Province in the Currie Cup and I never, ever run out of rugby to watch.

Enjoy being a rugby fan.

Jean DeVilliers of Western Province fields a kick against Natal Sharks.

A world without God is a blue and gray world. If I lived in such a world, for example, Sweden, I'd always have a pipe lit to remind me that the light and heat of the Father was near to my heart. Otherwise I might be tempted to go on welfare and eventually commit suicide. You know, just follow the normal Danish/Swedish life path.

There's an awesome series of long TV episodes/movies from Sweden called Wallander. This is not the BBC's Wallander, set in Sweden with the same character but starring Kenneth Branagh. This is the bona fide Swedish show. And it is so depressing. So perfectly depressing. When I watch Swedish shows I honestly wonder how those people keep going. At least in the U.S. we play really loud music and eat fast foods and drive fast cars with really loud engines to distract us from our loneliness. 

Those dudes just float right in it, like a sense-deprivation chamber for the soul. 

Anyway, this is what I want you, dear pipe smoker, for:

In the latest episode of Wallander, in which he finally comes to terms with his alzheimer's (can you imagine how awkward a detective show with an aging alzheimer's sufferer as lead detective is?), I spotted a little ray of light just past the whiskey bottle. Is it wishful thinking, or did I indeed see light? If you're a pipe smoker, you might be able to help me.

Above is Kurt Wallander looking out on a slate-gray sea as he faces his retirement and considers suicide. Look, there! Between his head and his feet, a pipe stand with a couple of beautiful pipes.

This next pic gives us a little more perspective, and we see a legit little collection of pipes. Perhaps on cold lonesome nights he fondles one and considers filling and lighting it, letting the bit of warmth he'd cradle in his palm travel to his cockles and innards and soul. Note the star above his head.

Y'all. He's sitting in his chair, contemplating suicide (his daughter will be unable to dissuade him from the attempt), having drunk almost the entire bottle of whiskey. But look over at the pipes, below the star and right of the telescope: is that McClelland's Christmas Cheer?

It's hard to tell. My first impression as I watched in passing was that it is Christmas Cheer, but further viewings of the film make it harder to see, as I imagine must happen to referees when they review close plays on repeat.

What do you think? Is that a tin of Christmas Cheer?

I choose to believe it is. That Kurt Wallander is about to die only to rise to a new world, a world of Christmas, a world of Jesus (he attempts suicide but lives, and the show closes with scenes of him content with his grandchild). He will sit under his Christmas star and smoke his Christmas Cheer while dandling his grandson on his knee.

Just not inside his house, because of course that's illegal in Sweden.
As with so many favorite hymns from my youth, I discovered Amazing Grace at a black church we attended in Canada when I moved up there from Brazil at age twelve. The congregation was mostly Canadian and Caribbean blacks, and the pastors were Texans, the the preachers did the sing-songy rambunctious Southern thing while the congregation followed along a little less extravagantly.

In a moment of late-night sentimentalism, I put this together yesterday. It's compiled from a bunch of creative commons videos other people uploaded to YouTube. And it's got a couple of beautiful moments, I think. God is good.

As many of you know, the family and I are on the way to southern Brazil as missionaries with OMI Reformed. We're staying in Chile with family for a while, taking a deep breath before the plunge. At this very moment my wife is painting, my twelve-year-old daughter has started work on her 38th unfinished Great American Novel, and I'm a-blogging. But in Chile.

Travel can cause one to examine one's self in new lights. And as I examine myself, I discover that I'm an American, dangnabbit! A red-blooded American! Never mind that Kimberly (the wife) has said that she's already gotten new insights into me just by being in Latin America. Just generic Latin America, mind you, not even Brazil, where I grew up.

Sure, I'm Latin. I'm Brazilian. I'm Latin-Saxon, as I've taken to saying. But most of all, for better or for worse, I'm American. This is my affirmation of Americanness, written for myself and for you. It is a reminder that this land was made for you and me.

Without further ado, I hereby affirm the following:

1. That the hamburger is the greatest sandwich ever devised.

2. That gun ownership protects the people from tyranny.

3. That dos a cero forever.

4. That the rest of the world is wrong, price tags should not include taxes. People should know what they're being made to pay to the State.

5. That I worked with this guy. And that he loves America too.

5. That Tim Tebow is the most awesome. That I wish he had a mustache.

6. That women like this are real, and that they are lovely.

6. That Tillamook Cheddar is the most delicious and most versatile cheese in the 'verse.

7. That Standard measurements (American/English) are based on human dimensions and are in harmony with Creation. That the metric system is based on water, godless heathenism, and satanic mills. Wide is the gate and broad the road that leads to destruction, y'all.

8. That culture is worship.

8. That apple pie is best as cold leftovers.

9. That Pigs in a Blanket. That root beer. That hot dogs. That maple syrup from AMERICA.

10. That we handled this thing pretty well.

10. That baseball is boring but feels good.

11. That what I actually said was ALL the bacon and eggs.

12. That Firefly and Arrested Development should not have been canceled. And Serenity and Netflix's Arrested season sucked.

13. That beards are cool in the U.S.

14. That Mexican restaurants = the most American.

14. That it's All-You-Can-Eat Wings Night somewhere.

15. That American English is a beautiful thing. The slang! The modes of expression!

13. That ROAD TRIP!

14. That I found this thing at the thrift store, y'all. High fives.

15. That it's not just a hamburger. It's a cheeseburger with bacon and guacamole.

16. That Go Gators!
1. Come Thou Almighty King

Sacred songs that don't wander like Meander through the Büyük Menderes are getting harder and harder to find. People who write "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs seem to think that our God is hard of hearing, or that perhaps he is in the bathroom on Sunday mornings and we have to keep repeating ourselves until he comes out and notices us.

Here is a hymn that is tightly structured, almost as if it were a work of art made as elegant and strong and beautiful as our poor hands were able to make it. Crazy to imagine, I know. Much more honest to just make a sublime song out of airy feeling. But this is Father, Son, Holy Spirit, praise to all three, done.

The most fun part of this hymn is in the second line, where everybody, including the women, starts high, then end up down low. "Help us to praise!" Each verse is introduced gently in two lyrical lines, but then punches its way through five strong and rhythm-driven lines.

Usually there are only four verses, but when there are five, Jesus gets two verses. All the verses have militant lyrics, including words like defence, sword, and power. But the most militant verses are those belonging to the Son, who of course is the conqueror who comes on a white horse.

Jesus our Lord, arise, Scatter our enemies,
And make them fall!
Let thine Almighty aid, Our sure defence be made,
Our souls on thee be stay'd;
Lord hear our call!

Come, thou incarnate word, Gird on thy mighty sword -
Our pray'r attend!
Come! and thy people bless, And give thy word success,
Spirit of holiness
On us descend!

If you are a bass, this song finishes low and strong. Dig it.

2. The Son of God Goes Forth To War

This and the last song are the most warlike on the list. Warlike as in we're the army of the Lord of Hosts and we go to kick ass in his name. For that reason, it's got a lot of martyr action. That is, after all, how we win: we die unto new life. There's the drinking of cups of woe, there are tyrants' brandished steel and lions' gory manes. There's the bearing of crosses. There's dying to self while forgiving one's enemies. There's giving one's self up as Jesus did.

That martyr first, whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave;
Who saw his Master in the sky,
And called on Him to save.
Like Him, with pardon on His tongue,
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong:
Who follows in His train?

This is pretty awesomely war-like, but it ain't even the most war-like song on this list. Just wait until we get to the end.

3. For All The Saints

This song has eleven verses if you want 'em all, and I know you do.

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

You've got to have a healthy ecclesiology to dig on this song to the fullest. It is addressed to Jesus, but also to ourselves as we sing. It reminds us that in the middle of this life's hard fighting, we can take comfort from the victories of the saints who came before us. Jesus was their Captain in their well-fought fight, and he will be ours as well. Just as we do now, future generations will hear our triumph songs and take heart.

4. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

I mean, come on. Of course this one's on the list, not least for it's very Lutheran trash-talking of the devil. It also reminds not to in our own strength confide. Gustavus Adolphus would have his soldiers sing this as they went into battle during the Thirty Years' War.

But you don't have to go to war against all of papist Europe to dig on this song. You could have a gentle poet's soul and enjoy it acoustic cafe style.

5. Ah, Holy Jesus

Men do well to mourn, and here is a lament. It's the sort of sad thing that is so full of joy it makes us ask incredulously, "Will all sad things come untrue?"

6. Rise Again, Ye Lion-Hearted

This is the song I wanted to teach to my rugby team. Well, maybe just the last verse. It never happened, but it sure was a sweet sweet fantasy baby.

This is that song I promised, the one yet more war-like than The Son of God Goes Forth To War. It excels in all that germanic poetry doth excel in, especially alliteration, which with that driving rhythm makes me think that Beowulf himself would have been pleased to have chanted it before going out to meet the dragon. Lo, love’s light is on them, or facing danger dauntlessly, and the roar and rattle, and perhaps best of all, With the helping hand of Heaven, steadfast stand in battle bold!

Lo, love's light is on them, y'all. Be pleased to be part of the most heroic army that ever swept over the earth. We're dying all over the world now. Just 2,000 years ago we were only dying in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. This is a fighting song, a standing song, a dying song. Rock on.

Over at A Holy Experience Nate Pyle has written a piece in support of his book Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood. The blog post is called "dear hurting world: how we need to raise our sons to be man enough". It is written to his son and is full of grace, grace, God's grace, etcetera. It begins with "You have nothing to prove. Christ has deemed you worthy." [emphasis his]

Throughout the piece Pyle repeats to his son that he has nothing to prove. He wants his son to reject the world's demands that he prove himself with sex, violence, and lucracious lucre. Instead, he wants his son to be the man that he is. What man is that, you ask? As I said, that's the man that he is.

Which is, according to his dad, a kind and generous boy who loves Jesus. Seeing that there is no sin or evil or bad in Pyle's post, we presume that Pyle is speaking of the spiritual man in his son, the one who wants to do the will of God, who do not do what he do to do, but do to do that he do not do do. I acknowledge that my cynicism leads me to read it this way, because the post appears to be operating in a universe where boys emerge from their mothers wombs covered in schmutz but spiritually immaculate. Nonetheless I rejoice along with Pyle that his boy knows Jesus. And Pyle tells his son to grow into Christ: "You grow into a man when you grow into yourself in Christ. And when you find yourself in Christ, you’ll be a man."

What does Pyle want from us? To stop teaching our boys to earn their manhood. They are men by grace. In particular, Christians ought to stop teaching boys to earn manhood through "Win the fight. Do it without crying. Earn lots of money. Get physical with a girl."
God gave you a gentle and sensitive heart. Gentleness is a fruit cultivated by the Spirit, but seen as weakness by men.  Our world does not seem to like men who appear weak. Unfortunately, men are often mocked for their weakness by being called women, as if being a woman is less than being a man. You don’t have to be afraid of women, and more than that, you don’t have to be afraid of being seen as weak.  Don’t be afraid of weakness. 
Many men are repulsed by and afraid of weakness. There is no doubt of that, and it is not Christlike. In weakness we are like Jesus. In our weakness the power of God is complete. We are too weak to even pray for ourselves, but the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.

Very well. Nate Pyle reminded us that we have nothing to prove as men, because Jesus paid it all. He then reminded us that as followers of Jesus we must embrace weakness. True, and good, and beautiful. What, then, is his conclusion?

That we must be vulnerable.

Le sigh, y'all. "Vulnerable".

I don't even know what that word means anymore. At least the word "brokenness" was never brought into play; for that small grace I give thanks. If we are weak, which we are, and prone to evil and slothful in good, which we are, and even broken, which we are, then by definition we are vulnerable. Pyle means more here than susceptibility to harm. He means sharing feelings and whatnot, and, as he says, "being honest".

Oh, guys, let's touch and feel each other and talk about mere descriptors like vulnerability while forgetting real Christian virtues such as humility.

Behold, I come with graphs. Since 1950 the rate of occurrence of the word "vulnerable" has quadrupled in its use in books. Meanwhile, since 1840, twenty years after Friedrich's Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog and contemporaneous to that century's stupid germanness and infatuation with people like Matthew Arnold, the use of the words "humble" and "humility" has dropped precipitously. Y'all. Off-a-cliff precipitously.

Do you know what Nate Pyle seems to be most grateful for and proud of in his son? His gentleness and compassion. "God gave you a gentle and sensitive heart. Gentleness is a fruit cultivated by the Spirit, but seen as weakness by men." [again, italics or boldfaces his] It is indeed so. You know what isn't a fruit cultivated by the Spirit? Vulnerability.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Wow. A man who bore the fruit of the Spirit would be quite a man. The sort of man who by the grace and power of Jesus all we sons may be. Pyle, with Paul, wants us to put on the new self. Let us go then to that classic text on the matter from Colossians: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."

This sounds like the sort of compassionate man we were talking about, except not, you know, like, vulnerable. You know? And, like, you know, not vulnerable in the sense that we might get eaten by a dragon, like Jesus was before it spit him out. Not vulnerable like watch out for Satan who roams looking for whom he may devour. Not vulnerable like to the world, the flesh, and the devil, or to the love of money, through which we have pierced ourselves with many pangs. Nope. In that sense we're vulnerable. That's why we have the armor of God. But nowhere in all that compassionate hearts and kindness and meekness were the gifts of vulnerability or over-sharing.

You know what was present in that list? Humility. That is the cardinal virtue men are missing. To be vulnerable in Pyle's sense we must be thinking of ourselves. And sometimes, I confess it, needs must. But there is nothing desirable about it. Being vulnerable in that sense must at most be a step of confession on the road to humility. Vulnerability wallows in sin; vulnerability is self-absorbed; vulnerability is a kind of pride.

There have always been bad men who taught that real men beat people up and make the most money. There have always been bad Christians who taught that too. But as a Church we have recognized that they're bad Christians. We want to be like Jesus. We want to be humble. And by his grace we will be.

According to Pyle, sex and mountain climbing and earning power and fighting don't make you a man. Jesus does. And we Christian men know that God doesn't call us to climb mountains or make lots of money. He doesn't even call all men to have sex. But here's the problem: Jesus does call every man to fight. We fight the good fight. We take hold. We run the race. We put on the armor of God. We fight for others the way he fought for us. Every good man must fight.

And if every good man must fight, we mustn't act vulnerable. We must act humble. "Oh my God I pray thee, in the combat stay me. Grant that I may ever be loyal, staunch, and true to thee."

"Pro-choice" can get a little grumpy sometimes. I guess death'll do that to you.
A Montana bow hunter is recovering after he survived a grizzly bear mauling by remembering a tip from his grandmother and shoving his arm down the animal's throat. 
He was only 3 feet from the bear when he noticed it. He said the grizzly had been sleeping and didn't see him coming, possibly because of the snow, rain and 30 to 40 mph winds. 
Read more.


My lover Kimberly and I live a sexual lifestyle that is exciting, dynamic, and fulfilling. Unfortunately we and others like us have sometimes been faced with contempt and ridicule because of our particular sexual propensities. Our sexual lifestyle is little-understood by today's culture and media, and even less accepted. But in this day and age, I like to think that our little kinks and bents are as valid any other. After all, are we not creating a sex-positive, open-minded, sexually tolerant society?

I want to give you, dear readers, a peek into our lives and our l'il bit freaky sexual choices. And if you're looking for a little adventure, looking to spice things up in your own sex life, maybe our choices can help you validate yours.


The principal thing is that we like to roleplay, beginning with foreplay. Actually, we like to begin from the moment we wake in the morning; we both immediately step into character in spiced-up anticipation of our days and nights together.

I play a "husband". My defining characteristic as a "husband" is that I take care of Kimberly. She makes me provide everything she needs throughout the day, whether they be routine or special favors. Even though she can take care of most of these things herself, the excitement for both of us lies in my playing this role to the hilt. I mean, I commit. I go all the way in.

Kimberly, my lover, plays a "wife". As a "wife" she cares for our children and home all day, which includes foxily homeschooling, steamily gardening, sultrily changing diapers, and bootyliciously producing goods for us to sell online.

You might not be familiar with this whole "husband"-"wife" formulation. Like many other forms of sexual expression and lifestyle, it is dual-role oriented. You have probably noticed, for example, that homosexual relationships tend to imitate and be defined by the male-female duality. Or you might have perceived that the thrill of the dominatrix role comes precisely from flipping male-female strength and power on its head. So it is with "husband" and "wife". Both parties behave as if they were designed in their very natures to interact with each other in particular ways.


Here are some of the freaky-deaky things we like to do to each other:

1. She likes to watch me love myself. That's right. My lover likes to lie there and watch me love on myself (♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ ...when I think about you...). This fits right into the roleplaying. "Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself." (Eph. 5:28) So I love on my lover, and in this way love myself. This arrangement has the tight elegance that roleplayers look for.

2. We like to boss each other around. "The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." (1 Cor. 7:3-4) My lover tells me what to do, and I tell her what to do. "Please" is a formality. This is particularly true of sex, which is what the passage above is about. We get to tell each other when we're having sex, because we have authority over each other's bodies.

3. We only "husband"-"wife" with each other, but we tell other people about how sexually satisfying these roles are with the zeal of vegans or cross-fitters. "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled..." (Hebrews 13:4) Guys, it's the way to go. It may seem a little unorthodox at first, but y'all will get into it.

4. I interact with her as if I were Jesus and she the Bride of Christ. And she submits to me as if she were the Bride of Christ and I were Jesus. (Eph. 5:22-24) The thrilling part about this one is how scary it is. This is where people who get off on danger are going to really love this kind of roleplaying. Is it more frightening for her because she has to jump off the cliff into the arms of someone she knows is not capable of catching her? Or is it more frightening for me because she's jumping off the cliff and I know I'm going to drop her? Danger, y'all. This "husband"-"wife" thing is a sexual adventure.

5. She likes to call me Lord and obey me. She likes to have a gentle and a quiet spirit. Because, you know, it was good enough for Sarah... (1 Peter 3:1-7)

6. She likes to win me over to the gospel by her winsome conduct. "Even if some do not obey the word, they may be won by the conduct of their wives..." (1 Peter 3:1-2)

7. I like to study my wife so that I can pray. If I show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, my prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)

8. Finally, we're super into bondage. "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity." (Col. 3:12-14) Forgiveness and the fruit of the Holy Spirit create a perfect bond. We're chained to each other for life, and it's oh so sexy.


...but it is the best way. Come on, y'all. Do we not see that every sexual sin is a perversion of this? (I am very far from only talking about homosexuality right now.) Male and female he made us, then he told us how to do it. He himself took one wife and he loved her and died for her. The only thing that stands in our way in doing the same is that business about sin and the fall. But Jesus rose unto new life for us, and we have the Holy Spirit. We can do this crazy ridiculous difficult thing. It is what we were made to do.

Get thee home and give a gospel snogg to thy wife.

We've all been there before, right, guys? It's a difficult problem to avoid. There you are, up in this club, just doing the lawnmower and trying to keep it real. Suddenly, some female is all up in your business, working and twerking. You try to move away, because the lawnmower requires space, but she keeps doin' it on purpose windin' and workin' it.

But as you're standing there, wondering what could have driven this female to comport herself in such an undignified manner, your appletinis kick in and you realize that you have not fulfilled the biological imperative to mate in a long while. What is more, the evidence suggests that this female is behaving twerkishly because she herself is in the same sexless boat.

"What to do?", you wonder. "Shall we make love in this very club? Is that what she is signalling?" If you were dogs you would of course know whether to mate with her or not, but you're not dogs. Still, the fact that she is pressing her genitals against yours seems like a pretty solid indication of willingness to mate. That settles it, then. Time to go for it!


No! Sir! No, sir. Twerking does not mean yes. In fact, as you will see from the image to your left, the only yes that means yes is an enthusiastic yes. If it's not yes, it's rape. Even if she's singing Bread's Take Me Now, she's not necessarily saying "take me now".

What are you to do with this ambiguity? You've been through this entire thought process, and you find yourself in a quandary. Well, stroke your chin in impotent thought no longer, young man. While she's down there, still twerking on you, simply take out your phone and download our new application for just $5.

It's called the Sex Enthusiasm Meter & Equivocacy Negator. With SEMEN, you can say goodbye to the ubiquitous problem of uncertainty rapes. The problem has always been precise measurement of the enthusiasm in an "enthusiastic yes". And that's exactly what we've eliminated. How? With science, of course.

Now that you've downloaded the app, if she's still twerking on you, which she probably is, simply tap it and it will automatically begin the measuring process. Our crack team cracked the uncertainty wall when it realized what the fundamental problem with hook-ups is: the male and female simply don't know each other. There is not enough of a relationship between the two for either to make important judgments about the other. Here is our solution: our Butt Recognition System will take the image of the female's butt and match it to pictures of butts across all major social media platforms. It then locates the female's profile, and from there, contacts the person who knows her best in the whole world. That's right! It calls her mom! When you ask the female "Would you like to make love in this club?", her mother will be able to react in real time to the enthusiasm of her yes and pass that information on to you.

In a few cases our process can cause a delay of several months between twerking and mating as the couple prepares for marriage. Please do not use app unless you are prepared for that eventuality.

The app is still in BETA, so download it now to be a part of the select group to participate in this ground-breaking rape prevention measure. When she sees that you have SEMEN at your fingertips, she'll feel respected and safe, and you can rest easy knowing that you won't be raping anyone tonight!

Postscript: before anyone accuses me of not taking rape seriously, please read this article. Then go ahead and accuse me.