Jul 26 2011
A Few Tipping Points

It's not a secret, and it's not a small deal.  We talked about it on the show, yesterday:  Church folk are rotten tippers.

It's not "church-bashing", it's reality, and it's confirmed by listeners to the show who are churchgoers, themselves, and waiters, and who wind up apologizing to their coworkers for their fellow Christians.  "Oh no...here come the Jesus people..." -- they actually hear this.

It's mind-boggling, and here's why:

1) We're being served, people. 

Jesus, whom we presumably worship and seek to emulate, is s Servant to servants.  And make no mistake, when you go take yourself out to a restaurant, you are hiring servants for yourself.  Previously, in human history, this was something only royalty could dream of, actually HIRING people to find and prepare your food, and bring it to you, responding to your wishes.

If you suspect you are owed this, that this is a right and normal order of things, having other humans wait on you, you haven't quite "gotten" this Kingdom thing yet. 

2) We're supposed to be the generous ones.

And, in fact, church-folk, particularly conservative, Bible-belt people, ARE more generous than others, and not to just to church-related causes.  (See the book Who Really Cares, by Arthur Brooks)  But that generosity, for whatever reason, hasn't extended to the very people in front of them, working for a living.

We're the ones who believe, presumably, our security doesn't come from money, and that we're given money to bless others with it.  So here's a golden opportunity.

3) People somehow still think it's "better" to give wait staff a tract, because "giving them Jesus is so much more valuable than giving money."

Fine, give them a tract, if you feel compelled... next to a hundred-dollar bill.  I'm serious.  A "Jesus" that doesn't demand sacrifice, isn't radically and joyfully loving, and rewards service with propaganda isn't a Jesus many will be attracted to.  Sorry.  Plus, he doesn't actually exist.

4)  It's great practice.

Being radically generous in everyday situations merely breeds more generosity.  I love what Dallas Willard says:  "What you believe isn't what you SAY you believe, it's what you actually do."

5)  A generous heart isn't all about "tithing"

I actually heard this, more than once:  "Why would I give a waitress 15% when I give God 10%?"  Seriously.

Nevermind that you give yourself, apparently, 90%, by this calculation, and that you just took yourself out to dinner, to be served hand-and-foot by, perhaps, a single mom trying to put food on her own table. 

(Funny/sad:  A mom and waitress calls in yesterday, saying she gets the occasional tract-instead-of-a-tip.  "I'm a Christian -- I'm actually hoping for some money for my labor.")

Tithing, in the OT, takes various forms, and adds up to more than 30% of agricultural crops.  In the New Testament, church-folks should know, it's quite clear:  God owns 100% of your money.  Enjoy being radically, freely, cheerfully generous with it. 

See if God lets you go bankrupt.

6)  Wouldn't it be kinda awesome if Jesus-lovers were the crazy-generous tippers, the ones who most rewarded hard work, the ones who were the servants of servants...?

I say we do it.  Perhaps, someday, the servants near the kitchen actually say "Sweet...here come the Jesus people..."


Jul 25 2011
Put Me at the Kids' Table. Thanks.

When I was a kid, I thought adults were boring.  Man, was I right.

I mean it.  At least American adults are, most of us.  And if I bring it up, in adult conversation, the ensuing objections prove me right.

"But I jump out of helicopters onto icy mountain peaks and ski down on my bare hands and..." -- exactly.  No offense, but that's kinda what I mean.  Bored people are boring people, and we're so bored, as a culture, we have only the extreme or expensive to amuse us, get our attention, make us tune in, or feel something. 

Contrast that with a kid, at least of the non-jaded variety:  My wife sits down with a family friend, Keaton, who happens to be three, and shows him a book with a drawing of a pickle-truck. 

"WHOA.  Is that a PICKLE?  Is that a TRUCK?"

"It's a pickle-truck."

"WOW.  I have NEVER saw one of those.  PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT IT!"

"It looks like a pickle, and there are pickles in it."

"WHOA.  It has pickles IN it?  WHY WOULD A TRUCK HAVE PICKLES???"

It's a darn good question.  And when you're a kid, or you're child-like, you're full of good questions, because EVERYTHING is interesting.  And stuff doesn't get old very quickly.  Twirl me once, it's fun!  Twirl me a thousand and twelve more times?  It's STILL fun.  Again.  And again.  And again.  Do it again!

Silly?  I don't think so.  Or, at least, "silly" isn't so bad.  (Maybe interesting:  "Silly", taken from a German word, originally, in old English, meant simply "innocent".)  Twirl me a thousand times.  There must be something beautiful about repetition.  God didn't make one sunflower, He keeps making millions.  Over and over and over.  Again.  And again.  And every time, I suspect He's delighted.

So I get a big kick out of little, dumb stuff, and people say I'm easily amused.  And that sounds great to me.  Kids -- at least kids who aren't jaded -- are "easily amused".  It's the bored ones, acting like bored adults, who need the expensive new toy, or trip, to feel alive.  Adults will quickly tell you of their awesome vacation, or "extreme" experience, or fast vehicle to prove they're not boring. 

And, in our "adult" culture, if you show up on TV with a meat dress, they'll talk about you for a couple days.  Then you better come up with something else.  A fun kid just needs a little ball, and a wall, and the afternoon is set.

I'm with G.K. Chesterton, who delighted in everything.  As accomplished as he was, he would stop, in letters to his wife, and remark about how wonderfully "inky this ink is!"  The mere "inky-ness" was enough to make him happy.  Wonder is to be found in everything.  Is he the weird one?  I think everything is infused with meaning, everything is interesting, because God created it, and loves it.  And yes, I mean everything.  The whole cosmos.

Historian Jacques Barzun says as much in his magisterial From Dawn to Decadence, that we've reached the age of people stumbling from one planned adrenaline-jolt to the next, in search of a heartbeat.  We'll go to a movie, but, shoot, the very word "adult" means it better have some sex or some explosions, and usually, to try to wake us up, both.  That's what boring people need.

If that's adult -- and in this culture, it certainly is -- I'm with Chesterton.  

Sit us both at the kids' table.

Jul 18 2011
The "Rules" of the Show

I meet people often who say, "You know, when I first heard you on the air, I thought you were (insert your own thing here, along the lines of "big sarcastic jerk") but then I started to understand what you're doing, and..."
So I thought I'd write this.  You may still think I'm a big sarcastic jerk, but at least you'll see what I was TRYING to do...
A Guide for New Listeners: The Rules of the Show
1. This show probably isn't what you think.

You'll think you've heard this before, like it's the typical radio show, but it's really not. Honest.
It may take you a bit, too, to realize it. But this show isn't about people trying to be cool, or how awesome I, Brant, am. And we'd sure be in trouble if it were. I'm a nerd.
It's not about a desperate need for attention, or ratings, or trying to be shocking, or crazy, to make a splash. We're not even trying to make you a better Christian, or better American, or a better anything, really.
Shoot, it's not about me. Or even about you. And that's a pretty crazy thing to say, in the radio business. Even crazier: We're doing a "Christian radio" show, and it's not about Christianity.
Ultimately -- and we hope this shines through, in time -- this show is about Jesus. We believe He is alive, and His Kingdom is the good news, particularly for the poor, the outcast, the lonely, the marginalized. We talk about, and try to demonstrate, that Kingdom a lot, even when we're not using the word "kingdom".
2. Brant is a nerdy guy, but he doesn't know everything. Or anything close to it. And he knows it.
Only Jesus is your Teacher. Any Christian "air personality" or star preacher or author or expert or whoever who suggests, however subtly, that he should be your authority? He's ignoring his own brokenness. We are all brothers and sisters. Equals. Let's grow toward Jesus, together. He, alone, is our Leader.
I have strong, and often considered, opinions on many things (like that last point might demonstrate.) But I reserve the right, at all times, to be wrong. I'm learning, too. I'm not humble about Truth, but I'm certainly humble about my ability to always apprehend it.
3. Everyone is welcome.
That means everybody.
Democrat, Republican, Tea Party-people, atheist, agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, young, old, hip, not-hip, married, single, divorced, pro-choice, pro-life, white/black/Hispanic/Pacific Islander/whatever, artists, jocks, loners, depressed, Joel Osteen fans, John Piper fans, tall, short, thin, thick...freaks of all kinds: You are welcome here.
We're freaks, too. We love you.
4. Some stuff will seem completely random and make no sense to you.
This is because some stuff will be completely random and make no sense to anyone.
5. Your views may be challenged.
Honestly: If you're looking for affirmation of everything you already think, you'll probably hate this show.
If you, say, prefer complex religion, or absolutely love the status quo in American church culture, you likely will turn the show off. Vaya con Dios, and may -- truly -- God bless you.
6. The show is not specifically FOR kids, but we do love them.
We're not doing a show for six year-olds. We're not going to talk down to intelligent adults. This said, we love children, and we welcome them. I'm a dad who's vigilant about what my kids hear and see, and I respect parents who are trying to do the same thing.
7. We won't always tie things in a little spiritual bow for you.
Sometimes, we'll let you draw your own conclusions. Make no mistake: This drives some Christian radio listeners crazy.
But it bugged people when Jesus did it, too. He's the best teacher, ever, so I'm going with it.
8. Not every conversation will be Spiritual (TM).
Yes, I'll talk of "shoes, ships, cabbages, and kings." Not just topics for daily devotionals.
This is because this is how we actually talk. I'm an actual human, and I don't want to suddenly turn into Super Spiritual Man when the "on-air" light is on.  I live in the world of TV and Jiffy Lube and dogs and neighbors and work pressure and traffic and macaroni and cheese and sunburns and NFL games and gum on our shoes, just like you do.
What's more, I don't draw a hard line between "sacred" and "secular", or "churchy" and "the real world", or "Godly" and "mundane". I think God owns everything. It's all His, and He wants it all back. If you believe all conversations must be overtly church-centered, by your definition, or they are simply rubbish, we disagree with you. We think God not only has a sense of humor, He delights in it, and the detail of our lives. Our lives aren't mundane, really, they're filled with meaning, and surprising joy, by our Creator.
He loves our uniqueness. He loves our laughter, loves our strangeness, the ups and downs, the whole thing. He loves US.
9. We are honored that you listen. We're honored that anyone listens.
When a single 10 year-old says she listens to me "every day!" -- I'm honored beyond words, and thank God for connecting me to her life. She's as important as any artist we play, any "celebrity" we interview, and certainly as important as I am.
I thank God for every person who listens. To think he allows US to play a role in your life? Amazing.
10. As serious as I can be, I want this show to be joyful.
"Seriously joyful", maybe. Bob Dylan said heaven will sound like "echoes of laughter", and I think he's on to something, there. We know you're busy, we know it's just a radio show, and we know it won't last forever. People move, jobs change, radio stations come and go. Ultimately, we have lasting hope only in Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.
My wife used to have a t-shirt with a message I liked a lot, and I hope it captures the heart of the show.
Life is hard. God is good. Let's dance.