Khristian Kitsch

The puppets are coming!Relevant posted their pictures of unbelievable Christian kitsch from last week’s CBA (a Christian retail convention — it used to stand for Christian Bookseller’s Association, but as you can tell from Relevant’s pics, they’re not peddling just books anymore, so the CBA abbreviation has lost all meaning).

Sadly, their pictures of the Scripture Candy booth don’t include the Bible Bar, a candy bar made with the foods “the Lord calls good” in Deuteronomy 8:8: Wheat, barley, grapes, honey, figs, pomegranates and olive oil. The web site calls it “one of the greatest new products ever introduced to the Christian market.”

4th of July Rant

If you’re at all familiar with this blog, you probably noticed (with some sense of relief) that I didn’t give my usual anti-patriotic rant on the 4th of July. Well, it’s not too late. How ’bout a mini-rant?

Jenell Williams-Paris mentioned that the theme on Sunday at the local mega-church her parents attended was “America: The Country the Bible Built.” She said it was heresy. Her mom said she just likes to be negative.

My church didn’t have anything quite as obvious, but we did sing “America the Beautiful.” I couldn’t sing the song, not because I disagree with its message or think its a bad song. I simply couldn’t understand how it fit into the context of a worship service.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! …

God mend thine every flaw …

May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine! …

Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!

It’s a fine song. Go America! Thanks be to God, keep watching over us, rah, rah, rah. But is it really appropriate in worship? The first verse sounds more like it’s praising America than God. Sure, God gets his mention, but America gets two (with exclamation marks). The song’s relationship to the divine is asking for a blessing, a holy handout. The purpose here doesn’t seem to be simple worship. If you do worship through the song, it seems at least secondary to me.

Maybe I’m just being anal and searching for something to rant about. Is it that bad to sing a patriotic song when the 4th of July falls on Sunday?

I just wonder how good it is. Do Christians in other countries sing patriotic songs on their nations’ holidays in church? I’m uncomfortable with the whole concept. We’re a worldwide Church, bound not by flag but by blood. It seems so incongruous to praise our nation — oh yeah, thanks to you God — in the face of such a wider world.

Maybe I’m representative of a declining nationalism and a rising globalism. Yeah, I love my country. I just love my God that much more and would rather worship God on Sunday morning.

Pecked to Death by Ducks

Jordon Cooper linked to an interesting article, “Rush Hour on the Information Superhighway,” about our information overload:

The cyber age was supposed to jack us into the world’s collective unconscious, creating a Zen-like state of all-encompassing awareness. We were going to be freed from the time-consuming chores of a slow low-tech world, allowing us to become more efficient, work fewer hours, enjoy more free time. Instead, we feel as if we’re getting pecked to death by ducks.

A study by Xerox recently found that people spend 30 percent of their workday just hunting for documents

Content Conquers Spam

A blogger trounced spammers in an international competition to score the top spot on Google’s search results for a specified phrase. Popular blogger Anil Dash posted an entry about the made up phrase “nigritude ultramarine,” and encouraged others to link to his entry.

“A lot of people are trying to increase their page rank unethically,” said Dash. “I think if we show them [that] the best thing you can do is to write really good material, then hopefully, they’ll spend their time doing that [instead of] spending time coming up with ways to graffiti other people’s pages.”

Bloggers Want Press Access

Republicans and Democrats are wondering what to do with bloggers for their upcoming national conventions. Bloggers are applying for press credentials in hopes of covering the events in ways the mainstream media can’t or won’t. The two major parties have yet to decide whether to allow a select few bloggers, all bloggers, or no bloggers.

“This is a real landmark for the legitimacy of the blogger and a testament to their growing influence,” said Jonathan Dube, who blogs about online journalism. “[But] that doesn’t necessarily make them mainstream, simply because not enough people are reading them right now.”

Got any poop?

While researching synonyms for a client looking for another word for news, I discovered that “poop” is slang for current inside information. As in: She gave me all the poop on the company party. This also leads to the phrases “hot poop” and “poop sheet,” which formerly had only bathroom-related associations in my mind.

I guess you learn something new every day. Though I doubt I’ll be recommending that particular synonym.

The Wal-Mart Pickle

Fast Company explores Wal-Mart’s strong-arm tactics, best exemplified in a gallon jar of Vlasic pickles sold for $2.97. Making less than a penny in profit, the uber-jars devalued the premium brand and undersold their other products. And most famililes can’t come close to finishing a gallon of pickles before they get pruny.

Wal-Mart’s enormous size — the world’s largest company, doing more business than Target, Sears, K-Mart, J.C. Penney, Safeway and Kroger combined — enables it to demand whatever it wants. In some cases that power can force bloated companies to trim the fat and streamline operations. But often that power forces overseas outsourcing, plant closures and bankruptcy.

Fear pervades any business’s relationship with Wal-Mart, as a Dial executive interviewed for the article proved: “We are one of Wal-Mart’s biggest suppliers, and they are our biggest customer by far. We have a great relationship. That’s all I can say. Are we done now?”

In the midst of the mostly anti-Wal-Mart article is a glimmer of the company’s honesty: “They are tough people but very honest; they treat you honestly. It was a joke to do business with most of their competitors. A fiasco.”

As the Wal-Mart debate continues it becomes clear there’s a difference between price and cost. As Fast Company noted, “it is we as shoppers who have the power, and who have given that power to Wal-Mart.”