The McDonald’s Here in Spring Hill, TN, is Going Viral: Nativity Scene Proclaims “His Name is Jesus”

The McDonald's Here in Spring Hill, TN, is Going Viral: Nativity Scene Proclaims "His Name is Jesus"

I had just put my son to bed when I saw the news: The top story in Facebook news was about the McDonald’s just 3.9 miles from my garage door.

Thanks to Amy Basel taking a picture of the nativity scene painted on the front window of the McDonald’s here in Spring Hill, Tennessee (located at 5431 Main Street, right off the main road that runs through the town), the story has gone viral.

I love to dive into the psychology of a viral news story like this…

For example, why is this suddenly such a popular story?

The McDonald's Here in Spring Hill, TN, is Going Viral: Nativity Scene Proclaims "His Name is Jesus"

After all, I have to assume that even non-religious people who celebrate Christmas are at least aware that the official reason Christmas is celebrated is because Christians recognize the birth of Jesus; who lived and died to bring those who believe in Him eternal life and forgiveness of their sins.

I believe the reason people are fascinated by a McDonald’s with the nativity scene painted on the front window is because it’s refreshing to those of us who believe in the Biblical meaning of Christmas.

After all, we’re not talking about a mom-and-pop burger joint here. This is McDonald’s. This is America’s most popular burger restaurant that is allowing their franchisees to host such an explicitly religious scene on their restaurant.

The McDonald's Here in Spring Hill, TN, is Going Viral: Nativity Scene Proclaims "His Name is Jesus"

In such a politically correct version of America we now live in, it’s actually amazing to see “His Name is Jesus” painted on the front of a restaurant chain’s window.

It’s actually kind of… rebellious.

Seriously, it’s like we’re getting away with something here.

The McDonald's Here in Spring Hill, TN, is Going Viral: Nativity Scene Proclaims "His Name is Jesus"

I wonder where this story will go from here? Will the corporate McDonald’s office put an end to this? Or will they (wisely) embrace this movement and take advantage of the attention that such an overtly Christian statement is bringing them?

Please check out my video that I just shot about an hour before I published this story. You’ll be able to see exactly what everyone is talking about…

 

All photos and video footage by Nick Shell of Family Friendly Daddy Blog.

If Jesus in Deed Never Rose from the Dead, Would Christians Be Jewish Instead?

Whether He is Lord, lunatic, or liar, Jesus Christ is still one miraculous (living) legend.

Depending on how you look at it, Christianity is either A) a hokey cult which spun off of Judaism over 2,000 years ago based on a false prophet who was not actually born of a virgin, or B) the continuation of Judaism which is mainly embraced by those who are not actually Jewish, but instead, as the Apostle Paul put it, “grafted in the vine”.

If it weren’t for Jesus raising from the dead three days after His death or at least people believing that He did, then Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern (Orthodox) Christians worldwide would have a completely different religion all together.  Without Jesus actually being the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament, there would simply be no Christ in Christianity.  We would still have the Old Testament, though.  And we would still be waiting for the actual Messiah to show up.

What if Jesus really wasn’t the Messiah?  Even if He was simply a fictional character who either never existed or was simply a liar, Jesus would still be the most miraculous man to ever walk this Earth.  Why? Because today, nearly 2 billion of the world’s 7 billion population identify themselves with some form of Christianity. According to Wikipedia, Christianity is still the most popular religion of the world, and that’s not even counting the millions in “underground churches” in places like China.  In other words, it would be simply miraculous that a man who never actually raised from the dead could influence so many millions of people for more than two millennia.  It would be a deceptive and tragic miracle, but still it would be a miracle.

Imagine what an impressive hoax that Christianity would be if Jesus was in deed not the Messiah, and most relevantly, if He simply died like any other Jewish man and never came back to life.  Imagine what a miracle Jesus performed if He never even was who He said He was.  I would have the say that Christianity, in that case, would be the biggest waste of time and energy in the history of the world.

Least importantly would be the question proposed in the title: If Jesus never in deed rose from the dead, would we Christians be Jewish instead?

What religion would Americans and Europeans have accepted, if not Christianity? In the event that the Messiah truly has not arrived yet, would the same Judeo-Christian God be the God we would have embraced, along with the practices of Judaism? Who would we worship instead?  Or what would we worship instead?

Without Jesus actually being the Son of God who conquered death and paid for the sins of mankind by dying on the cross, then raising from the dead, it not only means we are without an eternal hope of salvation- it means a lot of people, for over 2,000 years, have been serving a false, yet still miraculous god.

Jesus and Hollywood: What’s the Difference between Acting and Actually Doing, Especially as a Christian? (Pondering Profanity, Sexuality, and Violence)

 

 

Seems like a strange pair, but we born-again Christians love our movies and TV just as much as everyone else.  But where do we draw the line?

One of my favorite TV shows during 4th and 5th grade was surprisingly The Dick Van Dyke Show as it was featured in syndication on Nick at Nite.  It was while watching that show (I was around 9 or 10) that it occurred to me, “Dick Van Dyke is kissing Mary Tyler Moore, but in real life, they may both be married to someone else who has to watch them kiss another person.”  To me, that would just be too weird… and wrong.  As much I fantasize about being an actor in a flash-sideways version of my life in some alternate path I could have chosen for myself a decade ago, I have to acknowledge that as a born-again Christian, there would be an exhaustive list of limitations for me as a legitimate actor.  (Granted, Kirk Cameron got around the “have to kiss another woman” dilemma when he used his own wife as a stand-in at the end of the movie Fireproof.)

That’s not to say that there aren’t born-again Christians who act in mainstream media.  For example, there’s the often-mistaken-as-a-Jew-but-actually-just-Welsh-American actor Zachary Levi, who is the protagonist of the hit show Chuck.  He has been outspoken about his relationship with Jesus Christ.  Click here to see what he said in one of his interviews with Relevant magazine.  I am fascinated by his Hollywood success and his commitment to his faith.  I would love to ask him about this very topic today; specifically this question, “As a Christian, what won’t you do in a role?”  (Zachary Levi, if you’re reading this, feel free to comment and help me out.  Thanks.)

Where does a Christian draw the line when it comes to acting?  I would say kissing another person on stage is harmless except when either or both of them is married.  And what about “love scenes” (scenes that involve sexual activity, with or without nudity)? What about profanity? Are there any words you just shouldn’t say?  Personally, I could easily curse on camera before I could say, “oh my God”; because to use God’s name in vain is breaking one of the Ten Commandments, while cursing is simply a fading taboo of shifting rules set by the expectations of culture.  To me, there are plenty far more destructive ways that words can be used that go against the Kingdom of God, like gossip, malicious sarcasm, and belittling.

Here’s where it gets really tricky.  If you think it’s wrong to curse in a role or play a character who has premarital sex, how is that so different from playing a character who is a murderer?  At least by playing a killer, you’re truly just pretending to play a character who is obviously in the wrong.  But by being filmed semi-nude under covers in a bed, you’re sending a subconscious message that sex between two consenting adults doesn’t necessarily have any spiritual concerns attached to it.

So in theory, in 1983, as a born-again Christian, if given the opportunity to have Al Pacino’s lead role in Scarface, would I, should I, could I?  For it’s time, the movie Scarface contained more profanity than any other film in history.  It was originally rated NC-17 for its violent content.  But in the end, (sorry if you haven’t seen the movie but you’ve had 28 years to see it so I feel okay about giving away the ending) all of Scarface’s sins find him out.  It’s obvious that his life of violent crime led to his own demise and in the end, it wasn’t worth it. Does that mean that this movie teaches its viewers not to waste their lives in a mob, getting  involved with violence and cocaine?  In theory, yes.  In theory, it has positive, redeeming value because in the end, crime doesn’t pay.

That’s something I’ve observed about Christian culture.  It seems most Christians are okay with a character doing obviously un-Christian things if in the end they repent: Unlike the character of Stacy Hamilton, played by Jewish actress Jennifer Jason Leigh in the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, who decides to have an abortion and seemingly goes on to live a completely normal life, never regretting her decision.  I contrast that to the song “Red Ragtop” by Tim McGraw, whether the 20 year-old protagonist gets his 18 year-old girlfriend pregnant and together they decide to have an abortion.

However, by the end of the song, though it’s not explicitly stated, the melancholy mood and subtle lyrics of the song itself convey the message “we can’t undo what we’ve done or beat ourselves up over it, but we do regret and it’s definitely a sad thing that happened”.  Rightly assuming that Country music fans are mostly Christians (simple demographics), they helped the song rise to the #2 position on the Country charts.

Entertain this thought: Ask yourself privately, as a Christian, whether or not you would play the role of a character in a play, musical, TV show, or movie who would do any of the following things:

-use minor profanity

-use stronger profanity including racial or gender slurs, up to the “f-word”

-use God’s name in vain, whether it’s by saying “oh my God” or “G.D.”

-play a character who has premarital sex and never encounters any real negative consequences

-play a gay character who never actually kisses another actor

-play a gay character who does kiss another person of the same gender

-play a heterosexual character who jokingly kisses a person of the same gender on the lips, which happens quite often on Saturday Night Live

-play a serial killer and rapist, though no explicit violence is ever shown on screen and who never curses or participates in any pre-material sexual relationship

-play a serial killer and rapist, though no explicit violence is ever shown on screen and but does participate in some premarital sex and who does some cursing

-play a serial killer and rapist, though no explicit violence is ever shown on screen and but does participate in some premarital sex and who does some cursing, but at the end accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and from that point on lives a life in accordance to the teachings of Jesus

How is it any more wrong to play a homosexual actor than it is to play heterosexual actor who has premarital sex?  Though both situations are perceived much differently by the general population, when it comes to my understanding of the Bible’s teaching of righteousness, I don’t see how one is any different or worse than the other.  The way I understand it, Jesus died for all sin.  Sin is sin is sin.  No matter what kind it is, it separates us from God and causes every single one of us to need His grace.

Where do you draw the line as a Christian actor? Obviously to be involved in straight-up porno-graphy is out of the question for any sincere Christian.  But there are so many millionths of the scale to get to that extreme.  On the much slighter end of the scale is a man with his shirt off showing off his six-pack while he rides a horse bareback.  Further down the scale is that same man passionately kissing a woman while in a hot tub, both in their swimsuits.  Next is the same man and woman acting out a love scene in bed and though they are actually naked, they aren’t acting having sex underneath the blankets which strategically cover up certain parts of their bodies.

I remind myself that outside the culture of conservative Christianity, in reality the rest of the world behaves its own way regardless of our censorship.  To imagine a real life group of people who in their everyday lives never cursed or had premarital sex (outside of the conservative Christian world) is to me, simply unbelievable.  Taking away the elements of entertainment that are unChristian-like either makes the TV show or movie either A) unrealistic or B) a Christian movie like Facing the Giants.

I also remind myself that the Bible itself is full of violence, premarital sex, rape, and murder. There is homosexuality.  There are concubines.  There are instances were people cursed (like when Peter denied Christ).  The King James Version of the Bible even contains the words “piss” and “ass”.  If the entire Bible were made into an epic movie, could born-again Christians play every role?

But some point, acting is no longer simply just acting.  It’s doing.  So here’s my final thought about all this.  In some technical, annoying way, are we as conservative, born-again Christians actually hypocrites for being spectators of popular entertainment?

Imagine this: Instead of the majority of the cast of Friends and Seinfeld being Jewish, instead they were all born-again Christians.  Because of their faith-based convictions, none of them were willing to use any profanity or be involved in any situations that involved premarital sex.  I know how beloved these two sitcoms are among the majority of Christians I know.  But imagine a world where Ross Geller saying “We were on a break!” meant nothing to us.

Two Questions for You about This Today:

A) As much as we Christians love our sitcoms and movies, would they truly exist if we didn’t support them with our viewership because we ourselves wouldn’t be willing to play those roles the same way?

B) Where would you personally draw the line in regards to what you would or would not do for an acting role, hypothetically speaking, if you were an actor?

I sincerely would love to hear feedback from you, the invisible reader, on either or both of these proposed questions, by leaving a comment below.  You don’t have to leave your name; you can easily remain anonymous if you wish.

If you’re not a conservative, born-again Christian, still free to answer as well… and please know how aware I am that the content of this entire post probably seems a bit… out there.  For all I know, you may find it either laughable or offensive that we believe premarital sex is wrong or that kissing someone’s spouse is both weird and taboo.  But what good is a religion that has no backbone or reasonable standards, despite how counter-culture those limitations may be? Thanks for reading despite the culture shock of it.

The Cultural Identity of Being “Born Again”

I actually come across as pretty normal on the surface.  But recently, I have realized that I’m not simply a religious guy, or even just a Christian… I am one of those evangelical fanatics- basically another version of Kirk Cameron.  So now, I take this opportunity to come out of the closet and accept my social label as an official Born Again Christian.


“Even though I see fundamentalist Christians as wild-eyed maniacs, I respect their verve.  They are probably the only people openly fighting against America’s insipid Oprah Culture- the pervasive belief system that insists everyone’s perspective is valid and that no one can be judged.”

-Chuck Klosterman, in his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

It wasn’t until recently while finishing the final chapter of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs that I finally realized I am part of a subculture of Protestantism which outsiders label as “Born Again”, which from what I gather, was a pretty popular term back in the 1970’s.  This whole time I’ve been calling myself a Christian, but now I fully understand that just doesn’t cut it.  “Christian” has become such a generic term these days.  Jesus is officially a household name now. While Jesus may be Ashton Kutcher’s homeboy, it’s safe to say that the relationship I have with Jesus Christ is much different than someone just using Jesus as a funny pop culture reference on a t-shirt.

By reading about myself from an outsider’s perspective (Klosterman identifies himself as a mix between a “bad Catholic” and an agnostic), I am able to understand my cultural identity in a way I never have before.  I get it now: I am a fanatical Christian.  Every thought pattern in my head eventually comes back to Jesus being the savior of the world and my desire for people to know Him.

I find it extremely important and relevant to quote a paragraph from Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs:  “There are no other subjects, really; nothing else- besides being born again- is even marginally important.  Every moment of your life is a search-and-rescue mission: Everyone you meet needs to be converted… Life would become unspeakably important, and every conversation you’d have for the rest of your life (or until the Rapture- whichever comes first) would really, really, really matter.  If you ask me, that’s pretty glamorous.”  For me, calling myself a Christian doesn’t simply mean that at some point I came to the realization that I belief Jesus is the son of God, which would be the simplest definition of the word Christian.  Instead, I live a seemingly curious and quirky lifestyle as it relates to my relationship with Jesus Christ.

You’ve probably heard of “Catholic guilt” or maybe even “Jewish guilt”, but I need to introduce something called “Born Again guilt”.  Because we truly believe that Jesus literally meant it when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through Me,” we carry this burden of wanting every person we meet to “have a personal relationship with Jesus” like we do.  We sincerely believe that by trusting in Christ as the redemption for our naturally flawed nature and by loving serving others as ourselves, we will be part of the Heavenly Kingdom when Jesus returns as the King.  Sounds pretty sci-fi, yes.  But so does every religion, including atheism.

It’s no secret that I find reasons to insert random facts about the year 1983 or to tell which actors are Jewish or relate the Rubik’s Cube to everyday life.  That’s just me being me.  But I am also constantly looking for ways to write about or at least mention Jesus in ways that are subtle as well.  I realize that if Scenic Route Snapshots was simply me preaching, I wouldn’t be getting between 600 and 1,000 hits each day.  Instead, I write about whatever off-the-wall thing is going through my head that week.  And if it’s possible to show my faith as relevant to the subject as my faith is relevant to my life, I won’t shy away from mentioning it. I would love to sit down with people and discuss my relationship with Jesus on an everyday basis.  But I know that often, that isn’t practical, and therefore not possible.

Kirk Cameron is the official mascot of Born Again Christians. Just ask them about a movie called Fireproof or something called "the love dare"...

Everyone I know, it seems, already understands why Jesus died on the cross. That cultural familiarity with Him, in American, often can be the thing that keeps people from seeking Him in their lives beyond a basic understanding.  It’s hard to tell people what they already know.  So when I write and when I am involved in seemingly surface conversations with people, I try to find ways to point the thought process to my faith somehow- even it’s simply using the word “afterlife”.

How can you tell a Born Again Christian (also referred to as “saved” or “evangelical”) from other deists who use the term “Christian” to describe themselves?  Here are a few red flags to look out for:

They attend a “small group”. In addition to regularly attending their church on Sunday, many Born Again Christians meet once a week (in groups of around 6 to 10 people) at someone’s house for about two hours to study the Bible together and pray.

They strive to study the Bible and pray on a daily basis. In addition to their weekly small group meeting, they also study the Bible and pray privately as well.  Sometimes they refer to this as their “quiet time”.  Many of them can be seen doing this during their lunch breaks at work.

They avoid using profanity. This is often a way they recognize each other.  This means they also refrain from saying “oh my God” as well, as it profanes the name of God to matters that are not holy in any way.

They use the word “blessed” to describe their life. It’s a way of glorifying God in a non-churchy sounding kind of way.  Also, when you leave a message on their cell phone, they end their “sorry I’m not here right now…” spiel with “have a blessed day”.

They truly believe that sex is for only for people who are married to each other. Even if many of them largely contribute to the high viewership of the reality TV show The Bachelor, it’s understood between them all that they collectively do not approve of the “overnight date” episode with the “fantasy suite”.

They politically identify as Republican, or are part of the newer, cooler, independent version called the Libertarian Party. If nothing else, these two political parties typically support the Pro-Life movement whereas the Democratic Party is at best indifferent on the issue.  For Born Again Christians, abortion is not up for discussion or debate.

They take the Bible as literally as possible. Jesus was literally born from a virgin.  Jesus literally multiplied the fish and the bread.  Jesus literally came back to life after these days in the tomb, etc.

They do not believe in Evolution. In particular, the theory that humans evolved from apes. Intelligent Design is instead their theory of choice.  Here’s the 101 on how the dinosaurs fit into Noah’s Ark.

They often refer to Jesus as “Jesus Christ”. It’s almost like “Christ” is Jesus’ last name.  Really though, it’s a Born Again Christian’s subtle way of distinguishing Jesus as the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament, as opposed to just a historical rabbi who happened to be a “good teacher”.

I'm not Mormon, but I feel like I can relate somewhat to their cultural identity and displacement in society.

So if you know someone who contains at least two or three of these attributes, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a Born Again Christian. Like Kirk Cameron, Sarah Palin, and President Jimmy Carter, they are the ultra-conservative Protestants.  They seem to blend in with society at first glance, but once you get to know them, you’ll notice the underlying behaviors that set them apart from standard Christianity- like a Mormon, only without the added teachings to the Bible or the crazy mad dancing skills.  (Derek Hough, Julianne Hough, and Lacey Schwimmer of Dancing with the Stars as well as Heidi Groskreutz and Benji Schwimmer of So You Think You Can Dance are all Mormon.)   For some humorous characteristics of Born Again Christians, check out this blog by Jonathan Acuff, called Stuff Christians Like.

“You gave your life to Jesus Christ… and you were not the same after that.” – “Not the Same” by Ben Folds


dad from day one: We’re Moving to Alabama… Next Weekend!

Week 1 of Jack’s life.

In the Season One finale of dad from day one, I promised an interesting plot twist.  So here in this premier of Season Two, I’m letting everyone know my own meaning of the phrase “Sweet Home Alabama”.

As I explained in due date, a common trait of ‘80’s sitcoms was that a family was introduced to an outsider who suddenly moved in their home, therefore creating a new sense of “normal”.  An exception was Just the Ten of Us, where the Lubbock family moved from the state of New York (the setting of Growing Pains, which it was a spin-off from) to California.  Dad from day one will be combining both of those plot devices: the newcomer and the new setting.  Next Saturday morning, December 4th (on the 4th day of Hanukkah- for any Jewish readers out there) we will pack up our PT Cruiser and Element for the 2 ½ trip (not counting baby delays) from Nashville, TN to the small mountain/valley town of Fort Payne, AL (pop. 14,000 not including illegal immigrants) where I was raised.

Something that makes this really interesting is when I am asked: “So do you have a job lined up?”  Nope.  That’s part of the reason we are so briskly making the Hometown Migration– so I can search full time for a new job during the whole month of December while living off leftover paychecks and savings.  Despite having nearly five years of career experience involving sales, doing trade shows, hiring, and training, I am not naïve to think that a new job will magically appear the week we move to Alabama.

However, I have this belief that as a follower of Jesus Christ, God knows I will make a lot of noise and commotion honoring Him before and after He answers my prayer.  And since I believe that glorifying God in all things is the ultimate meaning of life, I am confident that at the right time, God will provide for me so that I can provide for my family.  As Jesus put it, when a child asks his father for bread or fish to eat, his father doesn’t give him a stone or a serpent instead.  I love that example.

In Fort Payne, we will be living less than three miles from not only my parents but also my sister and her husband.  We know that this quiet town will not only be the right place for Baby Jack to grow up, but also the most practical place for my wife and I to care for him- to be able to watch him grow up slowly, as compared to seeing him only a couple of hours a day in a big city life.  There is no mall in Fort Payne; only a Super Wal-Mart.  There are oddly no Italian restaurants, which will be difficult for Baby Jack, my wife, and myself who all happen to be a quarter Italian and need marinara sauce and garlic bread in order to function properly.  And sadly, for my wife, there is no Starbucks: I think the nearest one is about an hour away.

A lifestyle without malls, Italian restaurants, and Starbucks is precisely what the three of us need.  Because despite leaving all those so-called conveniences behind, we will be able to slow down the pace of life to the speed it needs to be.  My wife and I are extremely happy about the move.  In a sitcom it’s pretty normal for each new season to bring about new characters on the show.  New characters, new city, new plotlines, here we come.


The Common Fascination with Ghosts and My Wonder of Why People are Afraid of Them

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

From Jesus’ disciples thinking that He was a ghost when He walked out on the water to their boat, to the tradition of people gathering around a campfire to hear a ghost story (in which one of the storyteller’s buddies is waiting in the woods to scream at the right cue), ghosts are a classic and preconceived idea.  The thing that gets me about ghosts is this: What are they actually going to do to you?

Yes, ghosts are spooky, creepy, and flat out scary in an old school kind of way.  But I can honestly say that I don’t know anyone in my life that has ever been injured, held hostage, or killed by a ghost.  In every ghost story I’ve ever heard, the worst thing about seeing a ghost is… well, seeing a ghost.  Even if ghosts existed, it’s no more threatening than paying $8 to go to a “spook house” and getting frightened for two seconds because a guy in a hockey mask jumps out at me with a plastic machete.  He can’t touch me, or hurt me.  At best, he’s just there for dramatic effect.

The fact that if ghosts existed they’re harmless is made obvious through the term itself “ghost stories”.  They’re stories.  Fiction.  They often involve a person who suffered a strange death in a house or in a field decades or centuries ago who can still be seen or heard on the right night.  Or like in the bed-and-breakfast where my wife and I stayed at out in Salem, Massachusetts, in which previous guests wrote in the sign-in book that they heard footsteps at night and heard the doorknob being jiggled.  Still though, even if that were true, I’m still here today telling the story.

A natural defensive response to this is someone telling me a “demon story”, which is totally different.  The movie Paranormal Activity is about a demon-possessed girl, not a ghost.  That’s part of the reason it’s so popular and so scary.  There’s a major difference between ghosts and demons, and a lot of people don’t realize that.  A ghost (or apparition) is the appearance of a person who has already lived and died.  A demon is an evil spirit which may inhabit a living person or animal.  (Surely a quick search on YouTube by typing in “actual exorcism” or “demon possessed person in Africa” is at least a little convincing.)

The New Testament is full of situations where people were possessed by a demon, so Jesus or His disciples casted the evil spirit out.  In particular, there was that one time where Jesus cast a multitude of demons out of a man into a herd of pigs, which immediately ran to the ocean and drowned themselves.  But even though I am aware of demonic presences in real life, I fully realize that the greatest concern of the satanic force is hinder me in my spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ and to prevent me from building up the Heavenly Kingdom.  Not to possess me.  Because they can’t- I’m already spoken for.

What truly scares me at night?  Being outside in the woods, knowing there could possibly be a mountain lion or a Copperhead snake that sneaks up on me.  (One of my current favorite TV shows is I Shouldn’t Be Alive, which comes on Wednesday nights on Animal Planet- I’m a little bit obsessed.)

A few times throughout my life I have been stuck in a heavy-feeling dream where I felt like something was oppressing me or weighing me down, where I even heard strange, slow motion voices that I can not distinguish. I tried to wake myself up, telling myself it was just a dream.  I tried to speak, but couldn’t.  Until I said, “Jesus! Save me, Jesus!” I immediately woke up to realize that I physically said those words out loud and that those spirits whispering in my ear or whatever they were doing had disappeared.

I take it I’m not a very well liked guy by the dark side of the invisible spiritual world, because never does a day go by where I don’t somehow publicly acknowledge that God is relevant in my life and that He is responsible for something good.  Instead of letting demonic forces trying to threaten my spiritual life, I do my best to live a lifestyle that hinders their mission. Some people are fascinated the possibility of seeing ghosts; I am fascinated by how through my relationship with Jesus Christ, I pose a threat to the wrong side of spiritual warfare.

“You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that- and shudder.” -James 2:19


The Hipness of Jesus Christ: Why the God of Christianity is Cool in Modern Culture

Jesus is not my “homeboy”, but He is pretty cool.

It seems that while growing up in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, the name of Jesus wasn’t really common (or acceptable) in mainstream entertainment.  Maybe it’s the fact that we as a nation are more aware now of the infiltration of different religions such as Islam in recent years, so we’re becoming more outspoken about Jesus than we used to be.  Because if we still are indeed a “Christian nation”, it’s Jesus we would need to be down with.

I do believe that the name of Jesus will always be offensive in the sense that He is the main factor that separates Christians (Protestants, Catholics, Messianic Jews, etc.) from other religions, including Judaism, as well as distinguishing those who simply “believe in God or a higher power” (theists).  However, I believe we are at a point in history and culture where “Jesus awareness” is at an all time high.

From Carrie Underwood’s 2005 number one hit, “Jesus, Take the Wheel”, to Kanye West’s 2004 hit “Jesus Walks”, which only peaked at #11, but saw great commercial and critical success, to Mel Gibson’s (yes, he has gone crazy since then) 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ, which become the 8th highest grossing movie of all time (at the time), the highest grossing R-rated movie ever, and the highest grossing non-English movie ever, America continues to prove that even in our desired choices of entertainment, Jesus is in demand.

Whether or not the average American truly believes and trusts that Jesus is the Son of God, it’s safe to say that the average American has at least a basic understanding that Jesus was put to death on a cross to redeem the sins of mankind, past and present.  And that He came back to life three days later.  And that during his lifetime, He performed all kinds of miracles, like walking on water, healing blind men, speaking dead people into existence, and feeding thousands of people from just a couple fish and loaves of bread.  Whether or not the average American believes all this to literally be true, they at least are familiar with these basic concepts.

Even if to the average skeptic, Jesus is nothing more than a respectable movie character played by forgettable non-Jewish actors with blue eyes, this black sheep of the Jews ultimately puts us all in a position to whether we have to either recognize Him as the savior of mankind, or dismiss Him as either a good intention or completely irrelevant to life.  Either Jesus is who He said He is (God), or He’s not.  Either we associate Him with the meaning of life and the afterlife, or we don’t.  And especially in modern America, we have so been made aware of who He is at this point; it’s just a matter of what we do with that knowledge.

I’ve thought about it, and honestly, even apart from the fact I truly believe Christianity is the answer to all our “meaning of life questions”, and that out of all the religions, it’s Christianity that is the “right one” for me (because let’s face it, out of all the religions in the world, only one can be right in the end when we die, so it’s important to pick one and stick with it while we’re still alive), apart from all that, even if I wasn’t a Christian, I still would vote Jesus as the “coolest god”.

He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (not a man) and a virgin.  Right off, that’s so scientifically impossible.  So I like it.  He never sinned; which is spiritually impossible.  I like that too.  His first miracle was turning water into wine at a really nice wedding. Cool.  He instantly stopped a really bad storm out at sea by saying, “peace, be still”.  The fact that Jesus went against the rules of nature is a major selling point for me.

Jesus came in the form of a Jewish man, who pretty much was a hippie type, who rebelled against the established religious culture of His day, challenging them to show their love for God to be authentic by taking care of the poor, the widowed, the unloved, and the sinners.

And based on the unproportionally high number of popular American Jewish actors and writers who we make rich in the name of entertainment, and based on the fact that just as many Jews who actually live in Israel who live in America (both Israel and America each contain about 40% of the world’s Jewish population), I’d say we Americans are known for embracing the Jews, whereas so many nations throughout history have rejected (understatement) them instead.

According to Christian belief, Jesus Christ is coming back to Earth to set up His millennial kingdom, in which all of us who believed in Him get to be a part of.  The way I see it, Jesus is not only the real deal; He just happens to be pretty cool too. But at the end of the day (and our lives), we will have made it clear through our words and actions just how relevant Jesus is to us personally.  And no matter how hip or popular (or uncool or unpopular) He may seem, we still choose in this life how important He is to us, for eternity.

“1985 I missed a plane, which then disappeared, never seen again.  You came to me Jesus, stood right in my way. You flew down from Heaven to save me again. Hallelujah, hallelujah.” -excerpt from “Stay with Me, Jesus” by Guster


Unnecessary Bonus…

Classic Books that Americans Love which were Written by Jewish Authors: