I’m Glad You Found Your Faith, But Following Jesus is in Fact a Religion

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So this video is making the rounds on the Internet about how this guy ditched “religion” for Jesus. Well, I hate to break it to you, brother, but as much as you try to separate Jesus from “religion,” it’s impossible. What he actually means is he ditched a false religion that worships the processes and not Jesus Christ, which is in fact a problem. Yes, there are churches our there with congregations filled with people that are dead in their faith. But it is their faith that is dead, not necessarily the religion. So chucking out the sanctuary, the hymn book and the pipe organ and putting in your own definition of what you feel is your way to Jesus isn’t automatically going to fix someone who lost their way. They could just as easily find their way again within the context of the traditional form of religion that this young man criticizes.

I will give him credit for trying, but it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t understand that there are churches out there that follow liturgical processes and have Jesus as their focus. He’s talking about many of the core tenets of the Reformation–that our faith in Christ is what saves us and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross has paid for our sins. It isn’t about what we do, but what Christ did for us. Following that means following a set of beliefs, which is a religion. The fact that I go to a church that you call a “religion” because of the method of worship doesn’t necessarily change that. You can’t really call this anything else actually.

So often, I’ve heard people say that churches that follow a liturgical service are filled with people whose faith is dead and who are just there out of form. How can you know that though? Why cast judgment on how someone worships? If your only concern is the focus of one’s worship, you can be just as faithful to Christ following the rich overtones of an organ and reciting the words of the liturgy as you can singing along to a praise band and listening to a impassioned speech. (I believe one possesses more depth than the other, but that’s another blog post.) Assuming that all churches that resemble a “religion” are dead institutions is offensive to those of us who find the peace that Christ  gives us in the traditional format of the liturgy. It isn’t the format that is the problem, it’s the person’s heart and mind that have been infected by sin. We need to address the problem where it lies.

There are many individual congregations who have done some terrible things over the years, and we all encounter individuals in our own congregations that clearly are struggling with issues of pride. These are people who have been infected with sin and need to address that issue. However, painting all churches as uncaring religious institutions is not the way to do it, and pretending that simply “following Jesus” is anything other than a religion is careless and irresponsible. This young man’s poem should be rewritten to state that he rediscovered his faith in Christ and decided to start following what the Bible says. That’s wonderful, but he’s still following a belief system. It’s still a religion. We all have our stories of the sins of  our youth and growth in our faith. But, that’s not saying we’re no longer in a religion. You can’t separate out the terms. If you believe a certain thing and follow its practices, by definition, that is a religion. There’s nothing else to call it. If you’re going to call out people for worshiping the wrong thing, i.e the process and not Christ, do that. Be aware though that you are calling people to renew and/or refocus their faith. You are not calling them to leave a religion.

Sorry, bro, you’re still religious.



Congressional Chorus Performs “One Land: An American Tapestry” by Rand Snell

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If you were unable to attend the Congressional Chorus concert on November 5th, here is a sample from the concert. It is lengthy at just under 15 minutes, but there are some really great things in the song that I enjoyed performing. I hope you get a chance to listen and see a great performance ( If you’re looking for me, you can sort of find me in the second row on the far right hand side. That’s “stage left” for my fellow theater geeks.) Enjoy!

For my fellow music nerds, here is the description from the composer as listed on his Facebook page:

Here is the November 5 performance by the Congressional Chorus of my “One Land: An American Tapestry”, originally commissioned and performed by the Chorus for their 20th Anniversary, and revised by me for their 25th Anniversary season. It features soprano Rhea Walker, in concert at the National City Christian Church in Washington.This is a very tonal and melodic score comprising musical portraits of American immigrant stories. The perspective shifts throughout; there is a Native American-influenced introduction that leads to a universal chorus, then musical looks at Native American, Spanish, English/Northern European, African-American, Chinese, and Ellis Island experiences. The piece concludes with a rousing gospel portrayal of the United States as an eternally young land, imperfect but striving to be a better place. The musical elements directly emphasize the various cultures , often reflecting recognizable genres such as blues, gospel and klezmer, with hints of Gershwin and Ellington, for me the quintessential American composers.
The great challenge in using so many musical segments, in what is essentially an overture style, is to maintain the musical flow and dramatic narrative within a unified structure. I hope I have succeeded, and that you enjoy this small sample of our rich cultural and musical heritage.

From the 99% to the 1% – In America, This Possibility Makes us Great

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As Dinesh D’Souza put it in his book What’s So Great About America, our country is a place where anyone can become whatever they set their minds to doing. Indeed, America is a place where Oprah, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Warren Buffett, Chris Gardner (The Pursuit of Happyness), Barack Obama, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Jay-Z and countless others can rise from wherever they were in the 99% to becoming members of the 1%. These industrious people have given millions to charity, bailed out corporations from their own money, employed thousands of Americans and are even wealthy enough to offer to pay more in taxes.

  • America is a place where Jennifer Lopez can rise from the depths of poverty in the Bronx to the heights of Hollywood glamor. J. Lo is a member of the 99% that rose to the 1%. And she did it through her own work from her abilities.
  • America is a place where a poor, black girl like Oprah can rise above racism and poverty to become a billionaire media mogul in TV & movies. Oprah frequently has noted that she came from a dirt poor family and was raised in the inner-city of Milwaukee and later Tennessee. She worked hard using her own gifts to become one of the wealthiest African Americans ever. She became an instrumental figure for Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency.
  • America is a place where children of single parents like Barack Obama can rise through the ranks to go to high class education institutions, become law professors, have a best-selling novel and become the first black President of the United States. Regardless of what you think of his policies, America is a place where this kind of story really is possible.
  • America is a place where Matt Damon can go from a middle class life to being wealthy star rich enough to give to charity AND pay more taxes. Matt Damon was the son of ordinary Americans who worked with a friend to provide entertainment from their talent.
  • America is a place where Warren Buffett can use his intelligence to become one of the wealthiest people ever who can bail out corporations using the money from companies that he worked to build. Warren Buffett worked hard with his own mind to become a member of the 1% who gave tons of money to Obama and became a spokesman for his policies.
  • America is a place where Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Jay-Z can rise from the projects of New York to become major media moguls in music, TV, and fashion. Sean Combs and Jay-Z used their talents to get out of the projects and become wealthy.
  • America is place where Chris Gardner can work hard in finance and rise to the ranks of the Wall Street bankers from total poverty. Chris Gardner, a poor, single dad, worked to become a wealthy broker as chronicled in the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith. If a poor, black man like Chris Gardner can push his way through the ranks of the 99% to become the 1%, why can’t others accomplish this?
All of this is to say that America is a place where we have the equality of opportunity as Rep. Paul Ryan recently put it in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. Besides our current economic situation in this country, what is preventing the 99% in the Occupy Wall Street Movement from doing the same as their favorite entertainers, business professionals, and political leaders?  

The Myth of Dana Carvey’s Church Lady

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Contrary to Dana Carvey’s portrayal of “Church Lady,” actual church ladies are wonderful people. Case in point: Yesterday was my first Sunday back with the church choir after a longer than expected hiatus, and no fewer than half a dozen church ladies flocked to me to tell me how glad they were to hear me in the balcony again. It was a wonderful thing that was a much needed boost. Also, yesterday, one of my all-time favorite church ladies, Brenda Shaw, was back at our church for a visit. She bestowed hugs and kisses on those of us she had adopted as her “church kids.” My heart was warmed for the rest of the day. And yes, Mr. Carvey, that is very special indeed.  That being said, as demonstrated in the video below, I still would advise you all against crossing a church lady. 😉 

Congressional Chorus Preview Videos

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In just over a week, the Congressional Chorus will hold its season opener for the 25th Anniversary season. This is my second season with the group and I am really excited for the concert. If you are in the D.C. area next Saturday, November 5th, I hope you can attend. Tickets are available here.  Here are some sneak previews of what we’ve been working on:

“One Land” – This piece was commissioned for the chorus for its 20th anniversary. It tells the story of the major periods of exploration and immigation in America:



“Workin’ For the Dawn of Peace” – A Civil War era song as performed by the men of the Congressional Chorus:



And finally, the best for last. The ever-amazing ladies of the Congressional Chorus! This is a clip from the end of the piece they will be doing, “Ain’t I a Woman,” which is a musical setting of the words of Sojourner Truth.


GoRemy and the Occupiers

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As a follow up to my post about Occupy Wall Street, here is our favorite local artist, GoRemy, and his visit to the Occupy DC. This is yet another high quality production that Remy made with ReasonTV.


Twitter Shenanigans with the Bucket Woman

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For those of you who are familiar with one of my favorite Britcoms, “Keeping Up Appearances” and the nonsensical hilarity of fake Twitter accounts, this will be really funny:

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