Feb 6, 2009

Time Is Precious...Why Waste It Reading This Blog?

I'm going to try to write this as calmly as possible...

First, please, if you would, read this:


When I was working at Davanni's, a local pizza joint, the summer after high school, there were two Christians on staff, myself and a friend of mine who got me the job. The main difference between us was that I didn't preach at anyone. He had set such a high precedent that everyone assumed the worse of me when I started there because I was a Christian. They expected someone preaching all law to them, no love or grace.

Throughout the summer I got to know several of the employees quite well, one of them in particular. We had bonded talking about video games. One day while cleaning, he came up to me and started asking me about my faith; at that point I was able to share the gospel message with him. He was so shocked that I believed in such things because I wasn't like the other kid and I knew about and had actually played Diablo, the big taboo game at the time. In fact, he told me, the only reason he talked to me about God at all was because I played video games.

Now, I understand perfectly well Duncan's point about video games and other things being a time waster. I understand it very well in fact, and have cut out entire sections of my life (comic books, for example) that were just huge time and money wasters, and have drastically reduced time spent on other activites (2 hours of video games in about 3 weeks? 1 hour of book reading every two to three days?).

But you know what, Mr. Duncan? I just wasted 5 minutes of eternity bothering to even check the RSS feeder in order to read your blog that supposedly will save me from wasting time.

You give as a conceit in your little bit that these laws you propose can equally apply to other "electronic" mediums. So does that mean that reading a novel is not a waste of time? There are plenty of Christians who argue that reading fiction doesn't uplift, educate, or edify, and therefore should be anathema in a Christian's life.

Now, I like John Piper a lot, and have a lot of respect for the man, but he's still just a man, and can be wrong. Your quoting of him does not in any way 'prove' your argument; replace the word 'television' with the word 'novel', or 'doctrine', or even 'theology', and the statement still applies. I'd even go so far as to say the word 'Bible' fits equally as well, when kept in context, because a life of sitting around reading the Word can be just as dead as not reading it.

Tell me, sir, what is the overall storyline of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? In what order are the Chronicles of Narnia spaced out? Who won the Superbowl this year and last year? What year did Pearl Harbor happen? At what point do all these facts become so much "useless knowledge"?

Time is precious, no one will disagree on that. But too much time "thinking", as suggested, can lead to ridiculous blogs like these, both yours and mine.

At the risk of getting highly theological, it seems you don't understand what it means to be a member of the Kingdom of God. You don't rightly understand what the verse "be in the world but not of the world" truly means. Instead, it's more religious group think that is built on faulty theology.

If the Lord has convicted you to stay away from Final Fantasy (the clear reference in your text) and other video games and to focus more fully on him, good for you. Please don't try to use Scripture to create a new set of laws you believe all believers should follow.

I feel sorry for you, though. By refusing to engage in such "trivial" pursuits, you are stunting your own growth as a witness for Christ, a member of this present world, and have closed off avenues of unimaginable beauty that can lead to worship of God.

All that said...this is an excerpt from a book. I'd be interested in reading the full book. I imagine it provides a broader, more thought out look at these issues. Perhaps this reply to that section of the book was unnecessary. If that is the case, I'm more than willing to step back and reevaluate things.

Feb 5, 2009

My Top 5 Favorite In-Studio U2 Songs

In anticipation of U2's new album, No Line on the Horizon, due out March 1, I've decided to do a list or two, try to nail down exactly which songs are my favorites and maybe a short explanation of why. I realize a blog of this post appeals to very few people who read me, but I feel led to do this.

Starting off this series is my Top 5 Favorite In-Studio U2 Songs. The big thing with U2 is that they go into the studio just to write songs they can play live. At heart, they are a live performance, some (Bono) would say worship, band. Because of this, their live performances are generally ten times better than any studio recording. However, there are the occasional songs that don't translate to a live medium. So two distinctive lists are needed, one for live material, one for in-studio.

These next 5 songs are my favorite in-studio performances, even if the song has been done live, or even if the better performance is live.

I've provided when I can a YouTube link to the song.

Also...this list is constantly changing. There are just too many songs I like...I've attempted to highlight a few, yet for every one I choose, another one is left off. It's painful, really.

1 - Mercy (2005, Unreleased - Atomic Bomb sessions)
This song is an oddity as it has never been officially released, has been talked about by the band, Bono loves it and wants it on every album they do, but no one knows how it was released. Since the band reportedly wrote 60 plus songs recently and are only using 13 or so for the upcoming album, they got the material for a quick album or two, this would be a great song to officially get out there so they can sing it live.

As for why I love it...I don't know, it's U2 being their most U2ish. The lyrics are straight up Biblical and spiritual, the emotion in the song is real, there is a breaking through into God's throne room that happens during the song...the song is pure joy, pure worship, pure Spirit. It's one of those songs I can just sing at the top of my lungs with reckless abandon. "Love is the end of history, the enemy of misery..."


2 - In God's Country (1987, The Joshua Tree)
The Joshua Tree was one of the first U2 albums I was exposed to, and this is still the standout track to me. Edge's chiming guitar really stands out on this one, and Adam's bass provides a fun little counterpiece to play around with. Bono's lyrics are interesting, joyful, and heartfelt; the reference to a "desert rose" is clearly an allusion to Bono's wife Ali, who does look a little Spanish although I'm not sure if she has any in her ancestry. Also, Bono manages to incorporate a little irony intermingled with Biblical imagery in the lines "love, faith, her vanity/but the greatest gift is gold."


3 - Staring at the Sun (1997, Pop)
The band tried to play this live a few times, but they think it only really worked live on acoustic. I disagree. While this song was eventually re-recorded on the Best of 1990-2000 album, the original is by far superior. There is a great mellow vibe to this song, one that compels you to take a ride through the musical landscape. The lyrics are a little nonsensical, but not all music is about the lyrics. Edge's organ guitar is amazing here, an effect I wish he would use more often.


4 - Zooropa (1993, Zooropa)
This song is all about the guitars once again. The opening is trippy...the very first time I heard this album was while working janitorial at Fourth Baptist on a really rainy summer day, and this song just fit perfectly. Edge sounds like he is playing the guitar underwater...great effect. I love the way the sound bites just flow in and out, never quite there to grasp; it's like ZooTV meets a late night drive in the country during the summer with the windows down.

There was also a point in my life where the line "and I've got no religion" was a great comfort, especially after I had left the church but not walked away from God. While Bono isn't saying that HE himself has no religion, rather the character in the song has none (music is a form of acting, didn't you know?), it was still a great concept, the idea that while you have no worldview or boundaries holding you in, as you step outside the whole world just appears bright, clean and new.


5 - Another Time, Another Place (1980, Boy)
From U2's very first album, this song was probably around in one form or another from the beginning, way back in 1977. If anyone made a list of "darker" U2 songs, such as "Exit", this song deserves to be on it. The section with the guitar solo takes a decidedly darker turn, and when the backup guitar comes forward in the mix, you really get the feeling that these boys are rocking. Plus, that brief section right after the guitar solo, when Larry starts drumming really fast and Bono is growling something I've never quite understood...love that.


Songs that didn't make this list include Achtung Baby's "Acrobat", the Passenger's song "Your Blue Room", U2-18's "Window in the Skies", Boy's "Shadows and Tall Trees", Best of 90's new mix of "Discotheque" and "Numb", and Achtung Baby's "Ultraviolet."