J.S. Park


Posts tagged with "culture"

As For Me: One of the Most Important Throwaway Phrases of Scripture
J.S. Park


Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is a message titled: As For Me: One of the Most Important Throwaway Phrases of Scripture.

I go over a repeated phrase we see in the Old Testament, "As for me."  It’s about becoming a countercultural force for the common good without judging others and without compromising ourselves.

Stream above or download here!

 Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

Apr 7

As For Me: One of the Most Important Throwaway Phrases of Scripture
J.S. Park

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is a message titled: As For Me: One of the Most Important Throwaway Phrases of Scripture.

I go over a repeated phrase we see in the Old Testament, "As for me."  It’s about  becoming a countercultural force for the common good without judging others and without compromising ourselves.

Stream above or download here!


Some things I talk about are: The increasingly halfway lazy sloppiness of cutting corners in our non-committed culture, playing around with the numbers on our tax returns, when it looks like cheaters and troublemakers are more successful than honest upstanding citizens, fighting against the mob mentality of gossip, and the 3% rule of changing the world.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

Apr 2

Cancelling Colbert, Chopped Suey, and Winning At Racism



As a Korean Asian-American who’s always felt the bull’s eye on my back for easy punchlines and Bruce Lee catcalls, I’ve been a huge fan of Stephen Colbert since forever.  Through the whole misunderstanding about that satire/racist tweet he never actually sent, I never for a second thought Colbert is a racist.  And I don’t think Suey Park, who began the whole #cancelcolbert thing, had illegitimate feelings about it either.  However exaggerated those feelings were, she has a right to be an “Angry Asian Woman,” and she chose to pick a fight that has eluded victory for Asians since we were slaves in the 1800s (which no one cares about, ever).

But who really won here? Suey Park was practically disemboweled online by misogynistic death threats, which only exposes the ugliness of the same tweeters who bashed an 11 year old Mexican for singing the national anthem. Colbert’s original target, Dan Snyder’s “Redskins Foundation,” remains completely untouched by the appropriate outrage, to which Colbert rightly says, “I haven’t seen sh_t about that.”

I keep seeing the same headlines and sound bites.  “Colbert’s Brilliant Response.” “Colbert Wins.”  “He would’ve never said that to blacks, gays, or Jews.”  “Five Things Colbert Got Right.”  “Suey Park Fail In Huffpost Interview.” “White liberal privilege.” And so on. 

All the unthoughtful, un-nuanced, tactless, ungracious responses were worse than the supposed debacle that started it all.

Here’s where I grieve the most. There’s a moment in Colbert’s response from his own show (at the 2:30 mark) where Colbert repeats the joke about Asians.  It’s right there that I cringed pretty bad, not at the joke itself, but the way the audience laughed so hard.  Like a reflex.  Because saying “ching chong” with such inflection is easy to laugh at.  It’s satire, yes, but you can pretty much hear the racist undertones in the laughter.  I’m reminded of why Dave Chappelle walked away from a $50 million contract: because while taping a sketch about pixies in blackface, a white person on set laughed just a bit too hard.  It made Chappelle question what he was really doing: and it should probably drive us to the same questions too.

One time a pastor called me at three in the morning because he was really pissed off about something I did.  He proceeded to yell at me for forty-five minutes and used the f-bomb no less than six times.  I stayed silent.  And honestly, I kept thinking, “If I was a black guy or a gay guy or disabled, this wouldn’t be happening right now.” 

It’s such a typical reverse-racist sentiment, yet I’ve seen it play out everyday.  I’m more likely to get yelled at during rush hour traffic because I’m the bad Asian driver who won’t say anything back.  At mostly white social functions, I’m usually relegated to the side and I get everything explained to me really slowly, as if I’m missing some kind of awareness about life.  It sucks to see Asians used casually as props in movies.  I’m not sure if anyone could understand watching my dad listen to racist prank messages on his answering machine, rewinding them over and over, trying to understand what they were saying.  It grieves me to see an internationally known pastor like Rick Warren brush off his casual racism by yelling “Pharisees” at people who supposedly don’t get a joke.  I could keep going.

Despite Stephen Colbert’s strangely smug response and his barely restrained ridicule, I’ll keep watching him.  He handled the overblown situation about as well as he could (maybe too well).  But I do think the pain that Asians feel over racism is NOT merely projection or oversensitivity or political correctness.  Certainly not all of it. 

It’s possible to over-use the race card, but it’s terrible to ignore the centuries that we’ve endured such dehumanizing dismissal.  Unless you’ve been there, I can’t adequately explain just how much it hurts to be abused and neglected simply because I look different than you.  Think of how crazy that is.  So I just can’t laugh at “ching chong” no matter how it’s used.  There’s still so much work to be done for healing all our racial divides, and this small skirmish only proves it.  No one really won here.  If only we could truly get to the bottom of this pain together, and listen, will we ever build bridges toward each other instead of to oblivion. 

— J

The Continually Creating God: A Life of Action Vs. Reaction
J.S. Park

Hello beloved dear friends!

This is the fifth and final part of a sermon series called “The Names of God: Who We Are In Who He Is.”  

This message is titled: The Continually Creating God: A Life of Action Vs. Reaction.

It’s about creating a life free of reactionary backlash, and how God’s creative power works through us.

Stream above or download here!


Some things I talk about are: The preacher-cliché story of my rescue dog Rosco, the back-and-forth craziness of internet comments and message boards, the uniqueness of Christian Creation account versus others, the plague of Room-Vampires who drain the life out of a room, that time I fought a bully  by yelling ‘I love you,’ and Seven Keys to living a Life of Action Vs. Reaction.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

Undercover Racism.

Today I was in a rather innocuous situation with other Anglo-Saxon brothers and sisters, and as it happens sometimes: I felt that ethnic wall of alienation dividing us a mile wide, like I was screaming naked in a glass cage.  It felt like flesh torn in two.

I’m not one to pull the “race card” or to “race-bait” at all.  I’ve never been about that, and I’m not even sure what those terms mean.  But I often feel that some Anglo-Saxons assume I’m missing some kind of basic understanding, as if I don’t “get it” or I’m oblivious to what’s going on, and I’m treated from a detached distance like my life doesn’t really count in the room.  In a predominantly white culture, foreigners are often seen as props instead of people, so people of color are these incomplete subhuman creatures that don’t really belong to any inner-circle.   We’re treated sort of as a non-entity, which reminds me of this clip from everyone’s favorite romantic movie on Tumblr. 

I know how I sound right now,  and I’m not saying anything new.  But I felt it really bad today.  And unless you’re actually a person of color: it’s nearly impossible to understand how utterly helpless it feels to stand in a crowd where no one really includes you into their journey. 

It’s sort of this clinical, preserved, shrink-wrapped stigma of innocence around foreigners that views us as slightly clueless.  And I hate that.  I hate that Anglo-Saxons don’t understand that there isn’t a vacuum-sealed Asian/Latino/Black culture, but that white people have a culture too, and white culture is not just “the way things are.”  I hate that I’m treated as an ethnic trophy of diversity in the “main story” of a white person’s life, and that I’m some kind of a sidekick that doesn’t matter.  I hate the condescending way that people explain things to me, as if my culture is some kind of uptight chokehold of antiquated ideas that is second place in a Westernized world. 

Probably I’m being racist as well.  I suppose I’m defeating my own purpose and I’m guilty of what I’m saying too.  But — it’s just exhausting to throw off this uncomfortable anxiety that I’m an alien here.  I’m not at home anywhere.  I’m an American with Asian blood, which means I belong nowhere.  And I wish you could see me as a fellow human being with the same hopes, dreams, insecurities, and flaws as all of us, and maybe we could quit talking down to each other like we can’t see the same shades of life.  I’m a person first, with thoughts of my own that exist apart from my face, and I hope we can celebrate our unique cultures instead of using it to categorize.  I hope I can understand you too, because maybe you’re really trying, and I don’t want to miss that either.  Maybe we’ll actually get to know each other, and even like each other just because.

— J

Mar 3

Those Cool Conditional Christians

I read a lot posts that say, “I met this really cool Christian who is pro-marriage-equality, pro-choice, pro-Democrat, and cusses and smokes and drinks and doesn’t believe in that holy wrath of God stuff, so this is proof that not all Christians are a-holes.”

I think this sounds really gracious. I really want to be a cool Christian too. I know plenty of brothers and sisters who fit those things and love Jesus. Personally, I’m a liberally progressive Jesus-follower who’s not a Republican either, so I fit at least half the requirements. It appeals to my hot tingling social-justicey inner-righteousness, and I can revel that I’m not like those “other Christians.”

Yet I sigh. Because it’s really saying, “I will like you — based on certain conditions that you need to meet until you’re cool with me.” This is exactly what a Christian is accused of doing — that we’re conditional when it comes to loving others — yet we’re only “cool” when we meet the relativistic standards of the masses.

I totally know that Christians are not the “victims” here. I just believe that religious or not: it’s dishonest to claim a kind of convenient, Westernized, flatlined tolerance that doesn’t examine itself first. It’s trying to have the best of all worlds and the whole dang cake too. It’s unfair at best and probably prejudiced at worst. It completely cuts off dialogue and reduces every side into a people-pleasing caricature.

The thing is, Christians are called out to be hypocrites because we don’t practice what we preach. But when we practice it, we’re called hateful until we compromise on the preaching. So Christians are pulled in two equally untenable directions and condemned either way for it, and it makes zero logical sense.

Naturally, a Christian will already be offensive without even trying: because when you claim to have a savior who died on a cross for your sins and got up from the dead, you’re probably going to offend some people.

If your idea of a cool Christian must abide to a dogmatic sweep of rigid political prerequisites: then you’re basically waiting for a Christian to screw up any of your demands. Then we’re onto performance-driven legalism, and we’ve become even more religious than the Christians we claim are trolls. Which means, hey, you’re a Pharisee.

The Gospel of Christianity is meant to cut through all these categories. I love you unconditionally because God loves me this way too. It means I can disagree with your choices as you can disagree with mine, and we can still be friends. If you think that’s stupid: the fact is that you do this everyday. You do it to yourself. You disagree with your own actions all the time, but you still go on thinking you are at least better than most other people. And if you’re half-capable of it for yourself, imagine if you believed that God loves you and loves the guy next to you. You’d find yourself loving all kinds of people you never imagined being able to love, without making them pass an internal exam.

I’m not even exactly sure if being a “cool Christian” is very cool anyway. Jesus said the world would hate some of us because it hated him first. It doesn’t mean that a Christian has to go out of his way to be a jerk: but it means that we can’t make everyone happy, no matter what we believe, and that popularity is no sign of being on the right side of anything.

To truly love without conditions is pretty dang hard. But that’s the only kind of love that will open up dialogue and change a hurting world. It’s the only kind that transforms. I hope we persevere with people whether they align with our agendas or not. I hope we stay when the mask falls off. Because love does that.

— J

The Church needs artists because without art we cannot reach the world. The simple fact is that the imagination ‘gets you,’ even when your reason is completely against the idea of God. ‘Imagination communicates,’ as Arthur Danto says, ‘indefinable but inescapable truth.’ Those who read a book or listen to music expose themselves to that inescapable truth. There is a sort of schizophrenia that occurs if you are listening to Bach and you hear the glory of God and yet your mind says there is no God and there is no meaning. You are committed to believing nothing means anything and yet the music comes in and takes you over with your imagination. When you listen to great music, you can’t believe life is meaningless. Your heart knows what your mind is denying. We need Christian artists because we are never going to reach the world without great Christian art to go with great Christian talk.

- Timothy Keller

Action Vs. Reaction: A Bridge To Somewhere

I see that so many blogs and platforms and ministries are built out of reactionary backlash against a previous injury.  “We got hurt this way, so let’s do it the other way.”  Or, “You were taught this wrong, so let me set it straight for you.”

I do think it’s totally right to love on people who got burned by the same thing you did. I think those who’ve been hurt by an oppressive culture need a common ground to vent their grievances and to form an alliance of understanding.

But I also think that making an entire platform on the anti-ground of your hurt will only perpetuate that hurt — because left unchecked, it will eventually breed smug self-righteousness and superiority.

You can see it in the endless reblog wars.  You can see it in public shaming.  You can see it in the Reformation.  The whole parachurch is basically just a middle-finger to the mainstream church.  Reformed Calvinism is a response to the seeker-sensitive movement.  And Contemplative Spirituality is a response to Calvinism.  And so on, it goes.

If you proudly declare, “We don’t do it like those guys” and “I’m not like those other people,” you’re really just powering up through cannibalism.  You’re eating flesh to drive flesh.  And if you do this long enough, the values you instill into your new culture will be overreactions based on bitterness and arrogance.  These are unstable poisonous foundations that will inevitably collapse.

I hope we can start up movements that are not reactions, but initiative actions.  I hope our words are not always talking back, but talking forward.  I hope we can be original instead of derivative.  I hope we are not motivated solely by the pain we feel — because even though it can work for a while, healing cannot come by deconstruction.  It only comes by re-creation, by introducing something new into the world.  And we each have this powerful ability to weaponize our words or to breathe life with them.  Our hands can build bridges towards oblivion or toward each other.

I hope for bridges that bring us closer.

— J

Feb 1

How Do You Do The Blog Thing? A Mega-Post-Testimony on Blogging


Anonymous asked:

- Can you describe your experience with starting up the blog? Why did you make one, how was it, how did it develop? I’ve recently started my own blog and want to remind myself I first and foremost it is for God and me and anyone who stumbles upon it is a blessing, not a goal. If you wanted to take a look yourself and provide any insight I would be extremely star-struck.

- Hello Pastor. :) I just wondered how could you ever find time to update your blog. Like yeah? I bet you’re a person with a busy schedule. But then, have you ever found yourself restless? If so, what do you do to find rest in the Lord? :)


Hey dear friends: This post will probably end up being very pretentious and self-centered, so I apologize upfront for tooting my own horn a bit.  I’m afraid it will not be terribly interesting unless you enjoy writing.  And I’m no expert on blogging either, but I hope even a small part of this testimony can encourage you.

Please allow me to take you way back.

I have always, always, always loved writing.  When I was about eight years old, I got my first notepad and walked around the lake behind my father’s business and wrote these elaborate detective stories about the mystery of the murderous ducks.  There were these flock of ducks out back that were fodder for my ridiculous imagination.  It was the mallards versus the other ducks with the red junk on their face.  The mallards were too pretty so I made sure the ugly ducks won.  When I was ten, I also wrote a fanfic about an amnesiac Mario (from Super Mario) who wakes up in a public bathroom with blood on his hands and framed for murder.  Turns out, the bad guy is Luigi. 

I began blogging in my first few years of college.  This is before we had the term “blog” and when Geocities was still popular.  It was the time of Myspace and Xanga.  My friend gave me a website as a gift, a simple text site that didn’t have a comments section.  Since I wasn’t quite a Christian then, I would rant about the stupidest things.  To my own shame, sometimes I’d call out a person I didn’t like and verbally destroy them.  I always deleted these posts later.  (That website, joonwritings.com, no longer exists).

In 2004, I tried to send out several novels.  One was about a rogue spy who entered North Korea to overthrow the regime, and the other was about a group of Asian kids trying to fit into American culture, so they try out the “hooked up cars” and “white gangsters” and “church culture” until they realize they have no home.  At some point, I even combined both these books into one.  No agency would take me, but I got several handwritten rejection letters that said, "Your story is weird, but you can write."

I kept writing.  A few years later, I began to take my faith much more seriously.  I was still blogging.  I started a Wordpress in 2008 and a Tumblr in July of 2010.  When I wrote this post in 2012 (and on my Wordpress here), both my blogs received a little more exposure. 

So here are many random things I’ve learned over the years. As always, please feel free to skip around.


- I didn’t start off writing about God.  I started off ranting.  But God can change even false motives into something incredible for His Kingdom.


- I’ve been blogging for over ten years and I’ve been writing almost my whole life.  Most bloggers expect that they’ll promote a new blog to their close friends and then it’ll go “viral.”  Unless you’re already famous, I’ve never seen this happen, ever. 


- This is obvious but: If your blog is dependent on how many people are reading, you’ll get exhausted and quit.  Most people quit their blogs because of “low traffic,” and it only reveals the real reason they started.  Half my blogging time was without knowing who read, without a comments or “likes” option, before social media.  Foremost, your blog is a journal for you.  It’s between you and God.  Write just to write.  You’re making a snapshot of your short little life on this earth.  It is beauty wrapped in expression.  Any other motive lacks soul.


- I’ve learned to let go of blog-fame.  I’ve stopped obsessing over site stats (and we all do it).  It was a struggle at the start, but by God’s grace I just thank Him for even having a voice.  If I get a thousand “likes,” praise God.  If I get none, of course it feels stinky, but praise God.  Being “Tumblr famous” is not even an actual tangible thing.  Fame is not real.  People can see right through you if you’re just writing to fill the attention-void in your stomach.


- At the same time, promoting yourself isn’t really wrong.  If you’re writing things that will encourage, relate, and speak truth, then you want to get it out there.  Certainly there’s a trashy type of self-promotion, but anyone who quickly accuses an earnest writer of this is most likely a jealous, misinformed hater. 


- Just so you know, I really don’t have that many “followers.”  I hate even using that term.  I know plenty of bloggers who can (and do) boast about that stuff, but using the term “followers” denotes some kind of dictator mentality that I will never be comfortable with.


- Balancing the time to blog can be tricky.  But for me, writing is rest.  It’s my time to unwind.  It almost never feels like work, and when it does, I take a break from it.  You’ll need to find your own rhythm on that.  I know some bloggers who only write once a week.  I know others who need to slow down and take care of their own stuff first.  For me, I need to write everyday or I go crazy inside.  My brain won’t stop spinning until I get the words on paper.  I also have no less than three notepads where I handwrite my own thoughts, most of which never go public.  Here’s one of them that did and another.  I also have a Facebook fanpage (again, I dislike the word “fan”) that I update every Sunday night to queue posts for the whole week.


- Having a blog with an ask box doesn’t mean you have to be equally accessible to everyone. You’re not obligated to answer every message. You’re allowed to pick and choose and give yourself space. Maybe someone will call you uppity or something: but you never owed them anything in the first place.  Just be gracious about it.

- And to fandoms: If your favorite celebrity has a social media presence, it doesn’t mean you’re their friend or anything else. They don’t have to reply to you. They’re people, with their own friends and schedules and lives and fears and dreams. If they don’t respond, they’re not being uppity. They just don’t know you like that.


- I haven’t gotten much hatemail, but when I do: people online can be savage animals.  I’ve also realized they’re quite normal people like you and me, sitting in their boxers with no expression on their face while listening to the same music you enjoy and letting their fingers fly.  They’re not evil.  In other words: Resist the urge to reply quickly to the criticism.  When someone says, “Well what-about-this and you missed the point and you suck” — no one is really looking for a response, unless you fuel that fire.  Don’t repeat that stuff in your head. 


- Tumblr also saved my life.  Seriously.


- Another time I had a completely angry meltdown online, and no one judged me for it.


- A few “always” and “nevers” for this blog: I will never ask for money.  I will never bash an individual by name or otherwise.  I will always apologize for my mistakes.  I will never intentionally belittle anyone.  I will always bring it around to God.  I will always be honest. I will never send a message that couldn’t also be shown in public.


- Like anything, we can be enslaved to performance-driven paranoia about our blogs.  It’s not healthy.  I know I’m saying this a lot, but I want to prepare you and protect you from the inner-struggle that happens when you suddenly have a platform.  I knew a guy who mapped out the exact time that a blog post would get the most hits.  That was a little much (and yes, I used the info).  You’ll have to purge all these gross urges to get a pat on the head from your writing, and you’ll need to extract yourself by living off the random praises and criticism of other bloggers.  I say this for your health. 


- My friends: Praise God for this whole thing.  Praise God we even get platforms.  Be thankful when even one person is encouraged by what you write.  I get moved to tears when someone writes an encouraging message about how I helped their faith.  It’s like when someone takes notes while I’m preaching: I just can’t believe the privilege and honor that another human being would write down what I’m saying.  It’s really crazy, when you think about it.  I’m still overwhelmed and blown away by this, every day.  Please don’t ever lose the awe of what you get to do.  Don’t miss the God-ness in all of it.

— J.S.

Whenever I see a political scandal or some shady corporate bust, there’s always fluffy ambiguous language that dances around what really happened. A lot of words and no real talk. No one is ever just straight about it.

I just want to hear one person quit dressing up their words and be real. God forbid, if I’m ever in that situation, I’m going to just say everything. In detail. “Yep, I cheated them millions and sold out like a punk. I voted on that solely for my benefit. I knew the stock price would drop. I paid off those people. I stole all the staplers.”

Blogging Is Easy: Living Your Blog Is Not



It really breaks my heart to see bloggers write things that are not true in their own lives.  They write way too far ahead of themselves, or sort of make up nice-sounding theoretical things to get reblogged, but it falls apart when you start thinking about it.

I only know this because I personally know a few of these bloggers, and really, it would be so much more sincere to admit we don’t have it together.  That we’re not there yet.  That we struggle with the stuff that we call out on others.  Is it so hard to admit that? 

It’s okay to say we suck at this right now.  It’s okay to include ourselves in our preachiness. Because without recognizing your failure, you’re leaving a very bad taste in my mouth.  I don’t mean to sound cruel; I seriously take no pleasure in it.  I say that because I love you and I know you could be so much more than your pedestal.


We are not above the things we write.  You cannot ask from others what you’re not attempting yourself first.  We’re all getting by on the grace of God here.

Please don’t say “Confront each other” if you can’t handle rebuke yet.

Please don’t say “Love each other” without acknowledging you’re not good at it either.

Please don’t give “spiritual tips” that aren’t field-tested and life-approved.  It’s cool to say you just don’t know.

This is not to look humble in reverse.  This is to say we’re in the same boat and that I am working on this the same as you are.  A beautiful thing happens when we meet in our brokenness and get to eye-level — a sort of dance that invites others instead of flaunting a desperate perfection.

It’s also not just enough to be honest and stay there.  It doesn’t do any good to tell a man you’re robbing his house tonight.  Change is a process, but that means there is a process.  It means we can start today, where we are, this moment.  But it begins with honesty.

God has grace for us on this, even for the times that we don’t.

— J

Nov 9

A Tumblr Interview

I was interviewed by my friend for a Media Studies class, and this one was specifically for Tumblr.  I am honored and privileged to even be asked.  Here’s my interview.

*I took out some questions for privacy …!


1. Name, gender, Tumblr name?  Joon Park, M, jspark3000

2. What is your occupation? Education Pastor, in charge of children, youth, and college students and young adults. Also, part-time as a martial arts instructor.

3. What is your level of education?  BA in Psychology and Master’s in Divinity.

4. How long have you used Tumblr? Do you consider yourself an early adopter or a late adopter?  I started in August 2010. Since Tumblr began in February 2007, I am sort of a mid-range adopter.

5. How did you first discover Tumblr?  I had been using Wordpress. I stumbled across a few Tumblr blogs popping up on Facebook, and recognized the crowd and atmosphere as much different than Wordpress. The crowd was younger, more interactive, and very sincere. While my Wordpress had a much more “official” tone of articles, I began Tumblr as a personal outlet for venting and honesty.

6. How often do you access the site (multiple times a day, weekly, etc.)? Has your frequency changed over time?  It’s very haphazard. Some days I check it every hour, but I’ll sometimes queue posts and not check them for days.

7. How many people do you follow?  About ____.

8. How many followers do you have?  Almost ____.

9. Do you interact with people on Tumblr? If yes, how? How often? Yes, almost constantly. My main intent with Tumblr is direct interaction with other bloggers. I answer questions at least several times per week.

10. Do you publish original content on Tumblr? If yes, what?  Yes. I run a Q&A for those struggling with their faith and spirituality. I also write about common concerns like the counter-institutional movement that is happening within the mainstream church, as well as self-aware satire on the current state of our spirituality.

11. Do you find a sense of community on Tumblr? Please explain.  Definitely. While there are a number of users who can be abusive and cruel, this is a very small percentage. I am regularly blessed with messages of encouragement, agreement, and affirmation over things I’ve written. Since I also believe in prayer, there is a great exchange of “How can I pray for you” in the community.

12. What is your main reason for using Tumblr?  It really began as a way to vent and talk honestly about the mainstream church. But it soon turned into a communal blog where I answered tough questions about faith. I find immense satisfaction in helping even one person untangle their own obstacles. If just one sentence can help someone find freedom from their addictions, insecurities, and self-condemnation, then I am blessed to be a part of that person’s story. I also aim to help those who are far from faith, whether atheist or agnostic or of another tradition, to find a safe space to ask their questions. It’s always great to receive messages from people of other beliefs who are both surprised and on board with what I’m saying, even if they might not agree on where it’s coming from.

13. Do you find the interactions with others on Tumblr meaningful to you? How so?  Absolutely. I’ve made incredible friendships through Tumblr that feel just as genuine to me as family. They have encouraged me, challenged me, stretched me, and taken me out of my comfort. I can only hope that I’ve done likewise.

14. Have you ever collaborated with any other Tumblr users to produce content?  Yes. Lately I have been doing much less of this. Sometimes I will share a post with another blogger before hitting “publish,” just to see if I missed an angle or could have said it better.

15. Do you see Tumblr as a social networking site? Why or why not?  On one hand, yes. Tumblr is a way to socially connect just as easily as Facebook. But on the other hand, the “anonymity” of Tumblr has created a safe space for those who want to talk openly without the fear of being exposed. This is a huge difference from the goal of social networking, which aims to have direct encounters. Tumblr maintains an element of privacy that is unparalleled in social media. This is also why I can be asked extremely tough questions that no one would dare ask in a mainstream church or the person’s home.

16. Is Tumblr important to you? Has using Tumblr impacted your life in anyway? If yes, how so?  Tumblr has been both a cultural barometer and a communal experience that has rounded me out more than any other form of social media. I’ve learned the nuances of important issues and causes. I’ve learned to be thoughtful in speech, and that being aggressive looks colorful but isn’t helpful. I’ve learned not to take too many things online personally, except for the fragile hearts of hurting people. I’ve learned to be humble by knowing I am not always right, that it’s okay to take back things I’ve said and written, that the internet is capable of changing someone’s mind, and an online apology is not the end of the world. I’ve been challenged over and over, to stretch my thinking outside the ten foot space around me. I’ve learned that everyone struggles, that the most successful people in the world have the same hopes, dreams, anxieties, and hurts as you and me. I’ve learned that Tumblr contains the most broken and most beautiful of us in one place. It’s like a record of the human narrative, told in GIFs and reblogs and fandoms and stories of realized hope.

17. How does Tumblr impact your life online? Do you think it is an accurate portrayal of who you are?  Tumblr is the one place I can be honest online. I am not always pretty on Tumblr, just like I’m not in real life. That’s what Tumblr is. A chance to let yourself out to play.

— J

Nov 4

Why I’m Not Recording My Marriage Proposal

I love our culture of display. I love that we can share our deepest most personal moments in a one-click treasure trove.

Seriously.  I’m not a cranky old dude who hates the new wave of technology. 

But: I don’t want to record my own marriage proposal.

I am not against this at all.  But as for me: I just want to keep it in here, between me and my wonderful lady, and not for the world to see.

There is something about recording an event that feels alarmingly self-conscious.  It’s sort of a heightened hyper-reality, like I’m thinking ahead to how it’ll be seen, like I am not really there but stuck in a superimposed future.

There is something about squeezing a memory into YouTube that feels driven by a performer’s paranoia, like I must get every moment just right to get the maximum views, the most tears, the most thumbs up.

I don’t mean to sound old-fashioned.  Really.

But I’m one of those guys who loves the power of story.  The simplicity of re-telling, with my hands and my eyes and my voice, in a chair right in front of you, looking far off to remember every pulsing moment.  The quiver in my lips.  The smile I can hardly contain.  That final breath after the final word.

It is the sharing of our human experience by human means that allows the seed of imagination to bloom.  Of course videos can do that.  But videos cannot exercise the paintbrush of our spirit.  It does the painting for us.  Sometimes that is good, but it demands nothing.  It is not involved.  A video can occasionally be like walking through a museum.  A story invites you in to participate.  To ride on a journey in that invisible space between your head and your heart. 

When my future wife or I pass away, and if God allows us the grace to be with each other on our last days, then we won’t have a video of the day I proposed.  Maybe it will be a loss.  But we will have our laughter.  We will have our tears.  We will have an ocean of memory running deep in our veins, a rushing river of intimacy that no one can invade.  We can remember together.  It will be our private moment.  It will be the last thought on my deathbed, and so as I go, it will go as well.

The world can’t have that one. 

It belongs to me, to her, and to God.

— J

what are your thoughts on Halloween?


You know, when I see my fellow Christians rally against Halloween: I sort of giggle a little bit. 

Not because I think I’m a cool relevant hipster kind of Christian, but because if we’re going against Halloween, then we also better picket against Christmas and Easter.  Both have countless pagan traditions.  And while we’re hating on pagan-related stuff, better quit drinking Starbucks too, since their logo is a Greek homicidal temptress.


Some things to consider about Halloween:

- There’s a huge difference between the occult/witchcraft/sorcery stuff that sacrifices squealing animals and an American pastime that’s celebrated by kids.  It’s not hard to make the distinction.

- If you’re into Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, or The Walking Dead, this does NOT disqualify you as a Christian

- But if for some reason you’re easily scared, or you get those horror-type images stuck in your head, or you’re recovering from a dangerous situation with the occult, then by all means: please practice caution for yourself.  That’s totally a Romans 14 issue.

- While it’s good to at least address the made-up mythology behind Halloween for younger kids, we don’t need to judge parents who take their kids trick-or-treating. 

- I also think it’s totally okay to have an alternate event for younger children at your church.  We might poke fun at “Hallelujah Night” or the even worse “Harvest Day” (sounds like we’re in the illegal organs business), but I’ve always had fun hosting these for my Sunday School.  After all, it’s probably unwise to scare young kids with putrefied zombies or extremely messed up ghost stories, because there’s really a limit of safety for kids who will get freaked out by anything.

- I’m not okay with the church making Halloween some kind of grand social issue.  There is a long list of other concerns that out-prioritizes this, and God is not patting us on the head for taking a stand against ghosts.  If someone is yelling “blasphemy” at Halloween, then I also hope we’re yelling blasphemy that our churches are not giving aid to the poor, rescuing sex slaves, or caring for the 6000+ people groups who don’t know Jesus. 

I really do love the church, but come on.  In the end, God will not say, “Well done, good and faithful Halloween fighter.”

— J

When we privatize our art to the Christian sector, we see churches feeling the need to be relevant rather than just using their gifts to reflect who God is and what he is like. The problem with trying to be relevant is it makes us copy what culture is already doing. To be relevant, you have to copy what is cool. So we put our mouths on the tailpipe of secular culture in hopes we can recycle some of it and use it for ourselves.

The problem with this is that it automatically puts us ten to fifteen years behind culture because rather than setting the precedent, we are copying their systems. This is where we get a huge section of Christian apparel and coffee mugs that simply copy secular logos.

… We call it redeeming, but it’s actually stealing.

Making bad art is bad in and of itself, but if we are Christians, this takes on a whole other level of weight. Because we are called to mirror and reflect God, everything we do should give people a proper picture of who he is. Our job as Christians is to stick so close to Jesus that when people are around us, they sense him.

- Jefferson Bethke