Albums of the Year

My much hipper than I friend in Seattle, Andrew Galore, recently posted his top 10 albums from 2010 and 2011. They are pretty good lists minus the amazing, unbelievable, unexplainable, incomprehensible exclusion of Kanye West from his 2010 list (that is unless he has a secret number one that is too great to mention: Kanye’s album.) As part of the deal of him posting his lists, I told him I would post my best albums from the past year. Mr. Galore’s lists are probably better for helping you discover some hidden gems and music you haven’t heard of, whereas my lists contain things you have heard and the fact that I do listen to some CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). I’m sure I am missing plenty of things I really enjoyed over the past two years but these are the ones that stick out right now (Isn’t that really the fault of digital that I can’t really think of everything I listened to?).

2011

  • Pick of the Year

Fiest, Metals: I just love this album. The lyrics, the music, the depth, and top of that it’s a much different type of style than her previous music. It was kind of a weak year compared to last year but this is just the most complete album of the year.

  • Christian: For Christian music I listened to two artists who released albums in back to back years. Individually the album are pretty good but if they had take the best from each album we would looking at some of the top CCM of the last 5 years.

John Mark McMillian, Economy & The Medicine

Gungor, Ghosts Upon the Earth & Beautiful Things

  • Rap: All in all I spend more time listening to Kanye’s album more than any other rap album. But I found Drake’s album last month and I have really take to it.

Drake, Take Care

  • Indie-ish: I am not really sure what to classify these albums are but I am sure you have heard of most them and seen them on plenty of lists.

Florence + the Machine, Ceremonials

Iron & Wine, Kiss Each Other Clean

The Head the Heart, The Head and the Heart

  • Pomo Crooners: I wanted to list these two together because I think they represent a new genre of music for me. The style, at first, was something I had to adapt my music listening tastes to, but in the end they are both amazing albums. Bon Iver was close to pick of the year but was knocked off by Fiest in December.

James Blake, James Blake

Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Adele, 21

For fun what I would listed for 2010

  1. Kanye West
  2. Sufjan Stevens
  3. Mumford & Sons
  4. The National
  5. Sara Groves
  6. Over the Rhine
  7. The Black Keys
  8. Brooke Fraser, Flags
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“USE WELL THY FREEDOM”

Freedom

I just finished Freedom by Jonathan Franzen this weekend and if you are looking for a good Christmas gift this time of year I would recommend this novel. Although I read a couple of reviews that said by the end you still don’t care for any of the characters I found too much of myself and others in many of characters to dismiss them so easily (although early in the book I felt that exact way). As the book stands quite well as just a reflection on messed up a family can be in the modern world but it also lives well as a essay on its title. One of my favorite scenes is when the mother is visiting her daughter at college and see a big sign that says: “USE WELL THY FREEDOM.” And reflecting on the novel I think that is one the real interesting concepts to both view the book through as well as modern life. Here is quote from Franzen himself on why he choose the title:

And I will say this about the abstract concept of ‘freedom’; it’s possible you are freer if you accept what you are and just get on with being the person you are, than if you maintain this kind of uncommitted I’m free-to-be-this, free-to-be-that, faux freedom.

It was a blast to read and I was kind of sad to goodbye to family as the book came to a close. I do think that these words from Dr. Carter work well as a postscript for the Christian reading the book:

God-with-Us means we are free to be for another, for their good, for their flourishing, for their well-being. In this sense, Christmas is liberation, which is love.

Extra

The Other Journal has also just posted one of the better reviews of Hipster Christianity by James Smith that also talks about what I am discovering on the quest for larger gospel:

They have simply discovered a bigger gospel: they have come to appreciate that the good news is an announcement with implications not only for individual souls but also for the very shape of social institutions and creational flourishing. They have come to appreciate the fact that God is renewing all things and is calling us to ways of life that are conducive to social, economic, and cultural flourishing as pictured in the eschatological glimpses we see in Scripture. They resonate with all of this, not because it’s cool, but because it’s true.

And for good measure here is Smith at his best in talking about Hipster Christianity. Go read the whole thing for all the fun:

In contrast to the Christian bohemian commitment to a good life that reflects the shape of kingdom flourishing, McCracken’s concluding chapters read like a naive, slightly whiny appeal to protect Jesus-in-your-heart evangelical pieties—which, of course, can sit perfectly well with the systemic injustice that characterize “normal” American life. While McCracken is focused on what he takes to be the hipster fixation on appearance (do we really need any more confirmation that McCracken doesn’t get it?), he calls us to remember “what really counts: our inner person” (203). This is the beginning of pages of tired evangelical clichés (“People should look at us and want what we have” [209]) that culminates in his individualist account of “being a Christian” which means “being transformed,” et cetera. So “how can we go on living like we did before once we have become Christians? And how can we possibly live like everyone else in the world when something so radical and transformative has happened in our lives?” (212) Yes, Mr. McCracken, that is indeed the question. And that’s exactly why my Christian bohemian friends refuse to live like all of those American evangelicals who have just appended a domesticated Jesus to the status quo of the so-called American Dream. Whereas it turns out you’re just worried that young Christians might be (gasp!) smoking and drinking a bit too much and have not sufficiently considered injunctions about dress in 1 Peter 3. Well, yes, indeed: those do seem like quite pressing matters for Christian witness in our postsecular world. By all means, let’s get our personal pieties in line. For as McCracken sums it up, “the Christian hipster lifestyle has become far too accommodating and accepting of sin” (200)—and by this, he means a pretty standard litany of evangelical taboos (did I mention sex?). It’s funny: my Christian hipster friends think conservative evangelicals have also become too accommodating and accepting of sin, but they tend to have a different inventory in mind—things like the Christian endorsement of torture and wars of aggression, evangelical energies devoted to policies of fiscal selfishness, and lifestyles of persistent, banal greed.

Why Mark? Why Now?

Placher summarizes why Mark is particularly relevant to our time:

(1) Historical: Of all the sources available to us, Mark get us closest to Jesus own lifetime. (2) Political: The great theologian Karl Barth used to say that theology should be done with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. The newspapers these days are full of stories of war and torture in the Middle East and the church debates about whom to ordain and whom to exclude. Indirectly, Mark turns out to have a lot to say about such topics. (3) Literary: Mark is an odd text-abrupt, sometimes clumsy, written in Greek totally without literary polish, yet astonishing in its complexity, its allusiveness, its anticipation of the techniques of “postmodern” literature. Written by an ill-educated author long ago, it has amazing similarities to the work of some of the most sophisticated storytellers of our time. (4) Theological: One of the most important themes in recent theology has been a rebellion against pictures of God as unchanging, unaffected by the vicissitudes of the world in favor of an idea of God as, in Alfred North Whitehead’s beautiful phrase, “the great companion-the fellow-sufferer who understands.” We encounter such a God not only in twentieth and twenty-first-century theologians, but also-more than anywhere else in the New Testament- in the gospel of Mark.

Of the 4 of these I am most interested in his exploration of the theological. But with the abrupt ending to Mark it is worth noting that Placher’s untimely ending interrupted him from providing his final reflections to a book that appears also lacking in final reflections.

Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible

imageLike most new pastors I have yet to invest in a commentary set. I have been tempted to get the New Interpreter’s set, mainly because it is reliable and affordable, but the more I use it the less it gives me that “thought” for the sermon. It’s a safe choice, but one lacking punch. After that I was tempted to just piece together commentaries by people and sources I like until I have the full Bible, but that is expensive and will take a long time (plus I could never see myself purchasing a commentary on Jude). The two other sets I considered purchasing were the old Interpretation set because I enjoy so many of the commentators and the Brazos Theological Commentary. But I found the old Interpretation set to be dated in its references and occasionally lacking any significant thought. The Brazos set is intriguing, but you never really know what you are going to get. Hauerwas’s got reviews that asked us to pick him or Matthew, Pelican’s was only kindly received, Telford Work’s actually reads like a commentary, whereas Carey’s Jonah is more like a novel (and it is really good). Radner’s Leviticus commentary is awesome, but I hard time imagining preaching on it and Jenson’s Ezekiel commentary was good, but not as good as I expected from him. Needless to say, I will keep close tabs on this series but I am not sure it is a solid main series for a preacher.

However, stepping into the ring out of nowhere is Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible by Westminster John Knox. In a previous life I was the one most often keeping people up to date on recent books, but this one I found out about from a former professor who normally is 3 years behind the curve. Needless to say, I was shocked I hadn’t heard about it sooner especially with first volume coming from famed postliberal, William Placher on the book of Mark. On the webpage they have what looks like a full list of commentators and the Luke volume by Justo L. González is coming out this month.

According to a friend of mine in the publishing business WJK doesn’t view  this volume as a rival to the Brazos Series but more of an update to the Interpretation Series. The introduction to this series begins:

Belief…is a series from Westminster John Knox Press featuring biblical commentaries written by theologians. The writers of this series share Karl Barth’s concern that, insofar as their usefulness to pastors goes, most modern commentaries are “no commentary at all, but merely the first step toward a commentary.” Historical-critical approaches to Scripture rule out some readings and commend others, but such methods only begin to help theological reflection and the preaching of the Word. By themselves, they do not convey the powerful sense of God’s merciful presence that calls Christians to repentance and praise; they do not bring the church fully forward in the life of discipleship. It is to such tasks that theologians are called.

WJK was nice enough to send me a review copy of Placher’s book that I plan on blogging about as I read through it. I am excited for what this series is bringing to the commentary game and am hopeful that I will finally have a series to call my own.

If you are interested you can subscribe to Belief by 12/31/10 and receive 40% off on each volume. Call 1.800.554.4694 for details