In the latest issue of RELEVANT, which marks our five-year anniversary, we looked back at some of our favorite features we’ve ever run in our cover story, “35 Ideas that Changed the World.” Here are some excerpts from interviews, articles and features that helped shaped the direction of our generation.
Opening Eyes: Bono Awakens the Church to Social Activism Interviewed by Andy Argyrakis (March/April 2004)
“There’s a lot at stake here, obviously lives of people,” Bono said backstage at the Chicagoland date. “I think Judeo-Christian culture is at stake. If the Church doesn’t respond to this, the Church will be made irrelevant. It would [be] like the way you heard stories of people watching the Jews get put on the trains during the Holocaust. We will be that generation who watched our African brothers and sisters get put on the trains.”
Moby: Faith, Salvation and Everything in Between Interviewed by Darren Philip (May/June 2005)
While Moby may be, among other things, the world’s most recognizable DJ, the term “recognizable DJ” is an oxymoron.
“As a Christian, I feel very shut out from a lot of contemporary Christianity,” Moby says. “My understanding in what it means to be a Christian is to, in our own subjective way, recognize Christ as being God, and recognize our shortcomings and our failings, and try and live according to the teachings of Christ as best we can. And what I find so strange is I look at the behavior of so many Christians, and I don’t see any aspect of the teachings of Christ represented there. But [I remember] the quote about taking the log out of your own eye before you can see the speck in someone else’s eye, so I don’t want to get in the position of judging other Christians. I fully admit that a lot of my actions and a lot of things that are still in my life are inconsistent with my beliefs as a Christian. I’m very secular.”
Derek Webb: The Heart, Mind and Politics of the New Church by Tyler Clark (May/June 2006)
The only song from Mockingbird that has received more heat than “A King and a Kingdom” is possibly “Rich Young Ruler,” in which Webb sings about giving things up to follow Jesus. In the second verse, he sings, Come on and follow me / But sell your house, sell your SUV … and give them to the poor.
“‘Rich Young Ruler’ is not about wealth, but it is a paraphrase of the story,” he says, noting that the title of the song should have been a hint. “It’s about idolatry. When you apply the story of the rich young man to the Western Church, the story still works. We as a group are people who have shown a lot of signs of being unwilling to give up our wealth in order to follow Jesus. I think one key symptom of that is the situation in Africa.”
Missing the Point? The Absolute Truth Behind Postmodernism, Emergent and the Emerging Church by Tyler Clark (July/Aug 2006)
According to Tony Jones, there is one principle that ties Emergent together. “What binds people in Emergent is that most everybody would rally under the flag of hope,” he says. “We have hope for the future. We have hope for the Church. We have hope for the kingdom of God to break into the present and transform the present.”
Ben Folds Speaks Out: Dogs, Dogma and Why His Songs Aren’t Political Interviewed by Adam Smith (Jan/Feb 2007)
“Just using the name Jesus these days implies for some weird reason that we are talking about politics. Last I remembered those were 2 separate issues. There’s politics and then there’s religion, and to some extent they have to live in each other’s backyards, but I think everyone agrees that the two are overly linked at this point. They’re uncomfortably linked.
Between Iraq and a Hard Place by Gareth Higgins (May/June 2003)
War has plagued cultures for thousands of years, but only now in the 21st century can you watch bombs blow up entire buildings halfway around the world, then flip the channel to see who’s winning the basketball game. Perhaps we have never needed the wisdom of Christ’s teaching on war as much as we need it now.
Adjusting to Newlywed Sex by Katie Meier (March/April 2003)
A full life under God’s plan is one that recognizes sexuality, but is also able to engage this gift in marriage, when and if people choose. Before marriage however, couples can establish a solid foundation for the physical intimacy that will follow. While dating, couples can establish boundaries for sexuality and intimacy while learning about the fundamental beliefs that influence personal opinions and approaches to sex. While engaged, dialogue about sexual histories and about the wider implications of a sexual relationship can build intellectual intimacy between partners.
And finally, after marriage … well, here let the Song of Solomon be a guide in its poetry, its transformation of two into one and also in its tempting tendency to just lay bare the honest beauty of sex.
Miller Time: Why All of a Sudden, Everyone’s Talking About Don Miller Interviewed by Jamie Tworkowski (March/April 2005)
“Anybody who knows me knows there isn’t a whole lot of difference between me and the guy who delivers the mail or collects shopping carts at the grocery store. So the idea that this has happened to me is somewhat laughable. But I want to have fun with it, because I know it is temporary.”
Fist to the Air: David Crowder and Jimmy Eat World’s Zach Lind Discuss Rock and Faith (Jan/Feb 2004)
[David Crowder:] So, Zach, you like our music, huh?
[Zach Lind:] Uh … yeah.
[DC:] That’s cool.
[ZL:] Okay. You should do more interviews. You’re really probing.
[DC:] I’m just getting warmed up—you know, breaking the ice and all. So Zach, how long have you liked our music?
[ZL:] Would you ask a real question?
[DC:] Okay, tell us about Jimmy Eat World. How do you rock so hard?
Chuck Palahniuk: The Mind Behind Fight Club Interviewed by Andrew O. Thompson (Sept/Oct 2004)
“All my books are about achieving the isolation that our culture tells us should make us happy. Someone has gotten onto an island or into a high-rise condo and is completely cut off from all ‘the jerks’ in the world. That’s supposed to make them happy, but they are more miserable than they ever were. So they create circumstances—whether or not they are aware of it—which force them on a quest to reconnect with people.”
Son of Sam: Con Man or Changed Man: New York City’s Most Notorious Murderer Answers His Skeptics Interviewed by Eric Marrapodi (May/June 2004)
“I see myself fulfilling God’s purpose for my life here in prison,” he said. “You reap what you sow. I have a debt to pay to society. They want to see me punished, and there’s nothing I can do about that. I wish I can erase the past, but I can’t; all the wishing can’t change that. To me, this is a mission field. This is not concrete and steel; this is a mission field.”
A Call to Justice: Gary Haugen and International Justice Mission by Cara Davis (March/April 2007)
To really care for the poor, you need to start with justice, Haugen says. “Just as the world is figuring that out, the body of Christ is also figuring out that missions is not just about evangelism and discipleship or relief and development, but it’s about the work of justice,” he says. “So what has been done here at IJM is actually going to be blown open to a whole new level by the emerging generation of Christians. This is the great work of this generation.”
Secret Worshippers: A Look at the Cost of Following Christ in China by Lesley Miller (May/June 2007)
As Pastor Paul opens his Bible, a shrill ring interrupts him. In this moment, I know. He answers his cell phone, and in one word, we shoot out of our seats, grabbing cameras, purses, Bibles. I remember that morning’s instructions: Don’t hesitate, don’t look back. Jonathan and I tear down the stairs, trying to retrace our steps out into the openness of the night. In the openness I feel even more vulnerable. I tighten in expectation of strong hands grabbing me from behind. As we run, I pray to become invisible. I pray for the innocent faces of all the church members who held back, letting us flee first. I pray the alarm is false, that there are no police in the area. I think it is in panicked moments where I really believe that God makes miracles happen.
In this moment, I don’t think about Pottery Barn or my clothes. I don’t even think about how we are living the risky adventure we longed for as newlyweds. I run. I pray. And I realize, there is nothing in my heavy bags that could have prepared me for now. There is nothing in my bags that can keep me safe. In this moment, the only hope I can count on is that no matter what happens tonight, Christ is there with me. He does not promise I will fall asleep safe in my hotel room. But He does promise that if I find myself in a Chinese prison, He is just as much present there as anywhere else.
Laying It Down: Learning to Live with Less in a Culture of Excess by Jesse Carey (May/June 2007)
Whether it’s a conscious choice to eliminate personal debt, embrace authentic community or rethink the way we give, Tony Campolo says that understanding one key concept is essential to breaking the cycle—we’re called to disengage from a dependence on consumerism and begin to understand what it means to be reliant on God. “To live in a Christlike manner is to reject the lifestyle being prescribed by the media, to reject the affluent lifestyle that has become normative in America and embrace simplicity. There’s the word: simplicity.”
Matisyahu: The Deeply Religious Reggae Rapper Sticks to His Roots by Adam Smith (July/Aug 2007)
Performing onstage in a yarmulke and glasses, he looks like the antithesis of a rock star. Yet his high-energy live shows draw an incredibly diverse group of people, all of whom have latched on to the bizarre idea of a Hassidic Jew who sounds like Bob Marley.
Matisyahu claims the modern Hassidic movement has lost much of the fire and spirit that historically defined it. Instead, he has tried to focus on a personal search for truth, keeping alive the inner zeal and mysticism of Hassidism’s roots. “For me the main focus is that inward kind of spiritual journey,” he says.
Raw Christianity: A Conversation with Anne Lamott Interviewed by Dean Nelson (July/Aug 2007)
After your conversion it seems that your interest in social justice issues became more passionate. Is that true? What does it mean to you to be a believer?
I have a very pathetic and innocent relationship with Jesus. [The things] I’m sure about are the things the kids in church sing: that I’m loved and never alone. I am a complicated and worried person. To know that I can just say “hi” and “I am so lost,” and He says, “Hi, hon. No, you’re not. Let’s breathe. Get a glass of water. Do you want to call a friend?” Simple works for me. I love to read profound, theological, brilliant, stunning stuff that throws the lights on for me, and then I write about it so I can disseminate it. But I don’t have brilliant, theological thoughts. The difference my church makes is that I still get lost, but I find my way back sooner.
Hope in the Suffering: Aid Workers Struggle to Make a Difference in Darfur by Alecia Stephens (Nov 2007)
Still, with all the international attention that is being placed on Darfur, it has made no noticeable difference in the lives of the IDPs and refugees of the civil war or in the lives of the Medair workers. “There is progress at the micro scale, the feeding and sheltering of families on any given day and providing water and health care,” says one aid worker who was stationed in Darfur in 2006 and 2007. “However, on the macro level, the people are generally not any better off than they were last year. International awareness might have helped aid workers get through some of the bureaucratic red tape, but there is very little noticeable progress in terms of moving people out of crisis phase into the sustainability phase of livelihood, employment and returning to their homes.”
“For me it can be summed up that God does not necessarily prevent or stop suffering,” another aid worker says, “but that Jesus is always in the middle of the suffering.”
Rob Bell: Tells It Like It Is by Jesse Carey (Jan/Feb 2008)
The man whom The Chicago-Sun Times called “The Next Billy Graham” has become one of the most influential figures in evangelical Christianity—and since day one, he’s never refrained from addressing traditionally controversial issues.
What do you think the response should be toward international conflicts? What can we do to reach out to communities that have been labeled as “evil”?
First and foremost, in Ephesians 2, Jesus is all about new humanity. What happens when Christ is being incarnated, taking on flesh and blood, is always new humanity, so any person I encounter [is] a fellow human being created in the image of God. I have a bond with them that transcends every other bond. Humans are created in the image of God. Only later do you have geography, family boundaries, ethnic groups and religion. What happened is that we have flipped that upside down, and people begin with all of their differences; they begin with all the ways in which we aren’t alike.
There is an absolutely mind-blowing passage in Isaiah 19 where God calls Egypt His son and Assyria His beloved. Egypt and Assyria were the arch-enemies of Israel. Today, that passage would literally be “Taliban My son, Al-Qaeda My beloved.” There’s also this amazing metaphor where Joshua’s going into battle, and he meets an angel of the Lord. Joshua asks whose side the angel is on, and the angel says, “Neither.” To me that is one of the most helpful passages, because everybody is interested in whose side God is on—and the response in Joshua is “neither.” I love that.