Want a summer movie that doesn’t suck? Shrek. The computer animated flick with Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy. It’s a fairy tale of sorts that doesn’t quite seem like a children’s movie. They always say the best kids movies have stuff the parents can laugh at, too. Shrek seemed to be written more with the parents in mind than the kids. Not that it was lewd, although there were a few off-color jokes, but just seemed like a movie adults would like more than children. So there’s your summer movie pick.

The Epitome of Superficiality

The world can be a scary place to live. Especially when you spend a few hours flipping through teenage fashion magazines. If a horny little 15-year-old guy is looking for some soft porn, there’s no better place to go than women’s magazines: Cosmo, Mademoiselle, Vogue, Seventeen, YM. And we wonder why girls have self esteem problems and develop disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

What’s even better is when one of these magazines runs an article on eating disorders, pretending not to be a cause of low self esteem and the source for insecurity. Today I even saw an article about breasts that started off talking about how all the images in society can cause young women to feel bad about their boobs. The article didn’t say anything about the breasts splashed across the cover or the previous page of that very issue.

The double standard is pretty ridiculous, but it pales in comparison to everything else. You can’t distinguish the ads from the content, and sometime the content is advertising. It’s materialism at its best (and it’s certainly not limited to fashion mags). Sex is simply all over the place, with tons of articles on how to do it, how to do it better, and how to avoid any risk while doing it. It would shock my mother and grandmother, but it’s to be expected. In a world with no values, why not tell a teenager how to give the best oral sex. Especially if it sells magazines.

It’s the epitome of superficiality. It’s rebellious in a conformist sort of way.

What I find truly frightening is that while the world is modeling this kind of thinking and lifestyle for young women, what is the church doing? Not much. And I work for a publication that caters to teens. The best thing I can think of that comes close to even addressing the issue is Brio magazine, which quite honestly, fails. It’s a Focus on the Family magazine for teenage girls, and they don’t do much to tear down the messed up ideals that girls need boyfriends to be something, that beauty is only skin deep and can be improved with the latest product from L’oreal.

The last time I checked God said that the lilies of the field were decked out better than anyone on People Magazine’s Best Dressed List. Superficial beauty doesn’t last. It’s not the shade of your lip-gloss or the color of your eyeliner that makes you beautiful. It’s not your cup size or the curve of your hips that matters worth anything. Every big-boobed, bathing suit babe will one day be wrinkled and old, and every guy that ogled and fantasized about her will be long gone. She’ll be old and alone and her days in the spotlight will be a distant memory, hardly worth holding on to. Some things are more important. Some things are eternal.

We’re losing a society of young women to the god of vanity. They’re powdering their noses while their souls rot. What are we going to do about it?

Church Shopping

My youth pastor gave me one piece of advice before I left for college. He told me to find a church and get involved in it. I still haven’t followed that piece of advice.

I’ve attended over a dozen churches since coming to college. That’s probably normal. But I still haven’t really settled on one. Freshman year I went to an Evangelical Covenant church, which I think means they were non-denominational. The church was 25 minutes north of the cities, and that didn’t last long.

Sophomore year I had to attend a church of another culture for a class assignment, and I ended up attending a Native American church in downtown Minneapolis. It was only ten minutes away, and the service didn’t start until 11:00 a.m. Or 11:15, by the time people actually started showing up. When my class assignment was handed in and graded I kept coming, partially because I liked the church, partially because I didn’t want to hunt for another church, and partially because I liked proving that I wasn’t attending the church just because of a class.

But after many months I began to feel like an outsider in the congregation. The pastor was Native American and seemed to not like me. She didn’t help me with my class project, and only gave me a fake smile and handshake when it came time to give God’s peace. I don’t know why she gave me the cold shoulder. I wasn’t the only white person there, so I don’t think it had anything to do with that. I suspect it was because I came as part of a class requirement. But either way she didn’t like me. I also felt very little spiritual challenge at the church. The church was focused on reaching out to Native Americans, so the service was very spiritual in a general way. It was kind of odd.

At that point I broke down and started going to church with my roommates. They had been attending a Baptist church that was about 15 minutes away. They started going because one of my roommates’ father was the pastor. The pastor actually lead the college group, so everyone went as a way of actually knowing someone at the church. I started coming and it ended up being a college group of our own friends, not exactly a stretching experience.

I went to that church for a few years, eventually teaching Sunday School with my wife. But after a few years I felt very unnoticed at the church. I knew most people by face, but very few by name. As my wife and I moved into our apartment, I also felt the need to attend a church that didn’t require a freeway to get there. A church that had an impact in my own neighborhood.

So here I am, still looking for a church. I’m beginning to wonder what I’m even looking for. I remarked to my wife today that I could really care less about the music or the sermon anymore. I wonder how true that is. I guess I’m looking for a neighborhood church that actually feels vibrant and alive. I walk past three churches every day on the way to and from the bus stop, and I wonder what kind of impact they have on the community.

I guess I also want to attend a church where people know my name. That sounds kind of funny, like I expect everyone to bend over backwards to get to know me. I’m not a very social person. I actually met one of my neighbors the other day. We’ve lived in this apartment for six months and I’ve met very few, if any, of the people living in this building. Yet somehow I expect my church to be involved in the neighborhood?

I also want a diversified church. Racism seems to be a plague across the land today. Most people I know would disagree with that statement. Or if they did agree, they’d say that the racism is somewhere else, but not in their lives. I say they’re wrong. Racism today is much more subtle. It doesn’t manifest it self in burning crosses and dirty words. It manifests itself in the way people look at each other. In the way people avoid one another. In the way a mother squeezes her child’s hand when certain people pass by. In the way people tell off-color jokes and think it’s innocent. It manifests itself in a million subtle ways. One of the worst is Sunday morning. What does it say about Christians if we can’t overcome racism?

And so part of me wants to find a church full of diversity. In Minnesota you’re not exactly going to find a lot of diversity. The state is something like 95% Caucasian. However, in the cities that percentage isn’t quite as high. In the Midway, where I live, it’s probably much smaller. With that kind of a diversified population, I’d expect it to be reflected in the churches. So far I haven’t seen it. Of course that’s judging from one visit to a Sunday morning worship service, which doesn’t exactly say a lot.

So I’m still looking for a church. I don’t exactly know what I’m looking for, and I keep thinking I’ll know when I find it. Sometimes I wonder if I’m what’s wrong with the church today.