Why should the devil have all the good computer games?

When Larry Norman sang Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music in the seventies he was fighting back against a religious world-view that said music could not be ‘Christian’ unless it was played on an organ and written in old English.

Which is not to say there’s not some great music in that genre, but when it came to Christian rock, Larry was proclaiming it was time to hear some music which was ‘good’ in its own right. And the message it carried would be lifted as well:

“I ain’t knockin’ the hymns, just give me a song that has a beat.
I ain’t knockin’ the hymns, just give me a song that moves my feet”

I can still hear Larry’s nasally voice in my mind when I read those words…

Anyway, time has moved on and there is plenty of good Christian music, in fact arguably, contemporary Christian music, musicians, songwriters and singers breath much-needed life into rock, soul, R & B and all kinds of music every day.

We are still waiting to see the same commitment to artistic imagination and excellence in the realm of film and literature but there are plenty of people trying. Which is sometimes the problem.

And now a Sydney Morning Herald blog writer has opened up a whole new area of discussion with the question, “why are Christian games so often so bad?”

Now I’m not really a big fan of computer gaming – mainly on the principle that there are games that you can play for 80 hours a week for the rest of your life and never come to an end… and there are too many people trying to accomplish this.

But Ash Walmsley’s blog tackles the whole arena of faith and culture via reference to gaming (having arena and via in the same sentence is a nice Roman touch I think, they liked their games too…)

He writes:

“Joshua Topolsky, founding editor in chief of The Verge writes for the Washington Post about his recent trip to E3. ‘Finally, one thing I found surprising and more than a little disappointing was the increase in graphic violence in games, as well as developers’ apparent inability to think of anything more than a gun to place in the hands of lead characters,” Topolsky wrote.

“‘There were a handful of games that explored a space outside the run-and-attack mechanics of many titles, but few tried to tell adult stories without gunshots and stabbings.’

“The world has become scared to acknowledge God. Do that, and you have to acknowledge sin and eventual judgement, which is as uncomfortable as the itchy, high-hitched trousers your mum used to make you wear to Sunday School. And yet we have greater acceptance in some areas, such as school chaplains being given the OK by the High Court (although the funding model needs a tweak).

“Could innovative, soul-searching, conscience nudging, mortality-facing games with Christian themes take gaming to another level? I shall be keeping my eyes on the Gamesmen catalogue to find out.”

Bad does get boring and once the rabid R-rated gaming fraternity wears itself out on its newly won ‘bound-freedoms’, perhaps they’ll even come looking for something more…

Read more of Ash Walmsely.

PS I love a line adaptation in Larry’s Youtube clip above: “Why should the devil have anything?”

You Won’t Let Me lyrics tell an eternal story…

Written by Rachael Yamagata and Mike Viola, sung by The Voice Australia winner, Karise Eden, the new single You Won’t Let Me sounds strangely reminiscent of a song drifting down through time from Eden onwards,  from the Creator to the Created…

If you’d only let me
I could show you how to love
Take our time
Let it all go

If you’d only let me
I could show you how to cry
In your darkest hour
I would lead you through the fire

But you won’t let me
You won’t let me
I don’t wanna say goodbye
I just wanna give it one more try

And I’d do anything
Yes, I’d do anything
If you’d only let me

With your hand in mine
I would show you how to laugh
Nothing heavy, nothing serious
Just forget about all that

You’ve been stepping back
I wanna be your friend
Tear down the walls that surround you
And build you back up again

But you won’t let me
No you won’t let me
I don’t wanna say goodbye
I just wanna give it one more try

And I’d do anything
Yes, I’d do anything

So tonight stay with me
I know I can change your mind

But you won’t let me
No you won’t let me
I don’t wanna say goodbye
I just wanna give it one more try

I’d do anything for you
I’d do anything for you
But you won’t let me
No you won’t let me

You won’t let me.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

Armageddon arrives with emotional depth and musical perfection

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Guy Sebastian brought his Armageddon concert to the Hordern Pavilion tonight and showed again why he will continue to be one of Australia’s leading performers.

Not only was the show energetic, fun and original, it was also faultless with Sebastian using his voice like a well tuned, well loved instrument.

His vocal precision was matched by a ‘killer band’ by his own estimation and no one could argue.

Carmen Smith of The Voice fame had a large vocal (and groovin’) role, often stepping up from backing singer to take the lead with Guy.

And while the all-age audience loved his pop and soul favourites, the night belonged to the deeper, more telling music off the yet to be completed Armageddon album.

Perhaps it was the recent birth of his son or a natural progression for this man of talent and faith, but the new songs he performed all have an edge of strength and emotion that will earn Guy Sebastian new fans and recognition.

Big Bad World is a song for his son but is a song for all parents and all children while title song Armageddon is a love song that collides with thoughts of the end of the world, more than a little beyond some of the catchy but light tunes of the past.

It was all class and even the somewhat tired Hordern couldn’t contain the sheer pleasure of the audience.

Armageddon the album is just a few weeks away from completion, Sebastian told his fans tonight. And after two years in the making it will be worth the wait.
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24/7 prayer and night club worship meets the world’s party capital

If you’ve read Pete Greig’s Red Moon Rising you would remember his descriptions of taking 24/7 Prayer Rooms to the clubbing districts of Europe to bring prayer, love and outreach to the thousands of young clubbers.

smh.tv has just released a documentary, God Bless Ibiza, which follows a group of young British Christians as they head to the Spanish clubbing hotspot of Ibiza. One website describes Ibiza as the ‘undisputed party capital of the world.’

The promo for the documentary reads: ‘Young, hip and radical, the team are a far cry from the sandaled missionaries of yester-year. They’re more at home in a club than a church, dance tracks are their hymns and they invoke the Holy Spirit in clubs with quasi-spiritual names like Godskitchen, Eden and Ascension. Whilst they have no problem hanging out with clubbers high on E, the team themselves have all sworn off drugs, alcohol and sex and say they get their kicks instead from supernatural experiences of God.’

If you are used to Christians copping it in the media, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this documentary, not only for the in-depth and positive treatment the 24/7 outreach team is given, but by the groups faith and action. Prayer-walking, creative prayer spaces, worship in night clubs and genuine Christianity without a hint of religiosity.

Check out this nearly 40-minute online documentary and share it around.

Mr Blue Sky brightens Target’s commercials

I’ve seen a few online forums among the younger generation pondering the origins of the song currently backing Target’s Australian television commercials.

After extensive remembering, and despite the doubts of various family members, I have correctly identified the song as none other than the Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr Blue Sky (from Out of the Blue, 1977). Apparently the band’s main songwriter Jeff Lynne had suffered writer’s block while seeking to write tracks for the album in a rainy Switzerland. The sun came out, and so did the song.

I can’t say I was a big ELO fan back in the late 70s (I was sill pursuing Led Zeppelin and smuggling Eagles cassettes home in my sock), but no one could miss their constant stream of hits on the radio and I find the Target ads plunging me into a strangely euphoric recollection of youth. Not that I’m old. Enjoy:

Lady Gaga describes herself as a ‘traditional Catholic’

After urging her young fans to let their voices be heard in support of gay marriage, Lady Gaga described herself as a traditional Catholic, in an interview with Tracey Grimshaw on Nine’s A Current Affair.

In a remarkable display of pluralism, Gaga saw no conflict with her ‘untraditional’ views on marriage and her identification with Catholicism.

Clearly Ms Grimshaw was less able to undertake the mental gymnastics required and began a line of questioning on religion by suggesting Gaga must be a lapsed Catholic.

Gaga laughed, saying she’d never heard the term and went on to explain she was very traditional, praying every day, praying before every concert.

She reminded her audience of her lyric that says “God doesn’t make mistakes” and linked her Catholicism to her Italian heritage, saying her parents had no objections to her music or concerts.

Overall Lady Gaga came across as an intelligent and talented young woman who displayed the prevailing post-modern views on morality, referring often to her song “I was born this way” as affirmation of people as they find themselves.

While agreeing with the positive impact of encouraging self-acceptance and tolerance of others, the logical extension of the view is the abrogation of personal responsibility allowing murderers and paedophiles to equally claim “I was born this way”.

At the same time, she made it clear that she had taken personal responsibility to change from being “hell on wheels” to having nothing to with drugs or to do anything to jeapardise the relationship she has with her fans.

Previous Gaga post

Justin finds his voice for justice

We’ve all had a chuckle or two at the Justin Bieber phenomenon and wondered how long it would last. I even thought of buying my son a Justin Bieber t-shirt as a tongue in cheek  joke.

But listening to the radio today I noticed someone crooning about closing their eyes to pray for a better day on behalf of those doing it tough. When the song credit was for Justin Bieber, I decided to have a closer look:

I just can’t sleep tonight,
Knowing that things ain’t right.
It’s in the papers, it’s on the TV,
It’s everywhere that I go.
Children are crying, soldiers are dying,
Some people don’t have a home.

Pre Chorus:
But I know there’s sunshine behind that rain,
I know there’s good times behind that pain (hey)
Can you tell me how I can make a change?

Chorus:
I close my eyes, and I can see a better day,
I close my eyes and pray.
I close my eyes and I can see a better day,
I close my eyes and pray.

When someone uses their fame to ask people to consider the needs of others, questions their own role in making a difference and encourages us to take time to pray, it deserves acknowledgement.

And to highlight the benefit that flows when popular culture turns its attention to serious issues, consider these comments on the Close My Eyes and Pray page on a popular lyric website:

‘every time i hear this song i cry and it is sooo sad and true im trying to change things too…‘ and
‘i think this song is very helpful to ppl out there because the first time i heard this song i cried…there’s so many ppl out there that don’t even care about the poor.so thank you justin for making this song.WE LOVE U!!!:)’
 
If you still aren’t sure, check out the YouTube clip and you may become a believer. Anyway, for what’s a worth, I’m a (kind of old) fan Biebs. I’ll be praying you don’t lose your way…

www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9tJW9MDs2M

For the complete lyrics, keep reading. Oh, and, find a moment to close your eyes and pray…

Don’t hide the Spirit behind sentiment at Christmas

A mother plays the guitar while her two daught...
Image via Wikipedia

Hundreds of thousands of Australians will sing Christmas carols this month at services and events organised by Christian churches.

It is a great point of connection for churches and the community and many of the carols are deeply spiritual songs that proclaim core Christian truths such as the deity of Jesus.

And while for many Australians it will be the only time in the year that they actually give voice to the faith they hide in their hearts, there is a discussion among church leaders as to what carols are actually appropriate.

The decision not to sing Jingle Bells at a Christmas service may seem fairly obvious; whether to sing  Away in a Manger may not be as clear.

Christianity Today has a discussion going on the use of Christmas carols and some issues have been raised which, frankly, never crossed my mind, and I’ve sung a few carols in my time.Read More »

To find God and yet pursue

Love Liberty Disco
Image via Wikipedia

There are some days in which Love Liberty Disco is just the thing. Not quite sure why, certainly not the white suits on the cover. Perhaps it’s Peter Furler’s falsetto.

Helpful also to find a reference to AW Tozer’s The Pursuit of God in track one, Beautiful Sound: ‘To have found You and still be looking for You, it’s the “soul’s paradox of love”‘.

The original quote reads: ‘To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.’

Just let our hearts burn God, we are nothing but children.

Swans win emphatic, election less so

While the nation pondered its electoral fate last night, 40,000 Sydneysiders were in no doubt who won the Swans verses Bulldogs clash at the SCG.

When the ABC’s Adam Spencer gave a half time election update it was like instant polling as the crowd cheered and booed various results.

And for the record, that’s not me singing in the audio post…

Brush with advertising fame

B.W.A.F # 1: The new Pizza Hut ad where four delivery boys hop out of four identical Pizza Hut Morris Minis and walk into houses – filmed on Young St, Annandale a few blocks from home. Passed them making the ad while taking someone to the airport… No free pizza unfortunately.

B.W.A.F # 2: The Kit Kat ad with a guy impersonating an amp while people try out guitars in a guitar store – filmed in Billy Hyde pretty much next to our church, Eternity. They even ‘hired’ our car park while filming for the day. No free guitars and no free Kit Kats unfortunately.

I haven’t had a brush with Old Spice yet, but I’m working on it…

Utterance has no commercial blog for profit arrangements with these companies but all offers considered….

Even men who think they’re Jesus respond to kindness

Came across this old song that first appeared on the Strawbs self-titled album in 1969 and was released as a single.

It reminds me of a few people I know and what I like most in the lyrics is the simple invitation of hospitality given to someone who is quite delusional. Kindness matters, even to Jesus.

Not sure about the pint of blood reference – maybe a beer too many. Oh, and the song was banned by the BBC… how times have changed.

The Man Who Called Himself Jesus
Dave Cousins

He came into the shop and looked me straight between the eyes
And said ‘You know I’m Jesus’, and I must have looked surprised
Because he said ‘Please don’t be hasty, no-one understands
But I’ve got a way to prove it’ and he lifted up his hands.

He was the man who called himself Jesus.

Read More »

Mother reminds world of Justin’s Christian origins

“No 15-year-old wants to be around his mother 24/7. And no mother wants to be around her 15-year-old 24/7, either.”

Sounds like a pretty down to earth comment really and the interesting thing is that it was made by Pattie Mallette, the mother of 16-year-old pop star, Justin Bieber.

Ms Mallette has been in the news this week for reminding the world of her son’s Christian origins. In a discussion about the star’s commitment to remain a virgin until marriage, his mother said, ‘He’s expressed his desire to stay pure, and honour women, and treat women with respect. So hopefully that stays valid.’

Apart from the slightly obscene aspect of the world discussing a 16-year-old’s virginity, it is an intersting insight into ridiculous fame crashing headlong into real people in real family.

Pattie Mallette was just 18 when she became pregnant with Justin, who was born on March 1, 1994, in Stratford, Ontario. She worked low paying office jobs as she raised Justin as a single mother.

While Justin taught himself  to play the piano, guitar and trumpet by the age of 12, Pattie began posting videos of his performances on YouTube with a clear strategy in mind.

It seems that she had a strong Christian faith and at some point, as many parents do, had in a very real way ‘given’ her son over into God’s hands, seeing him as a possible modern day prophet Samuel.Read More »

Jesus keeps buzzing around

Waiting to cross Parramatta Rd, I innocently checked the posters for upcoming bands at the Annandale Hotel.

Tucked away as support band for The Meanies is the triune named Stumblin Jesus Mosquito.

Last week it was Jesus as a giraffe in a contemporary art exhibition, this week… I’m not quite sure…

And then while trying to work out who the Stumblin Jesus Mosquitoes are (rumour says it’s the Wollongong band, Tumbleweed, incognito) I came across an ad for an album by Brisbane band, Violent Soho. The album title – Jesus Stole My Girlfriend (probably not a bad result).

Deep into underground band territory, it’s comforting to find that Jesus is still omnipresent. Just as well he is unconditional in his love as well. PH