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What’s wrong with Christian music?

Posted by Chance on May 29, 2018

I feel that creatively, most of mainstream Christian music lags behind what is considered secular. It’s bothered me for a long time. I have a few theories rolling around in my head. I’m not completely sold on all of them but wanted to share my theories. First of all, I’m just making generalizations here; I’m not saying all Christian music is like this. Also, I don’t know anyone’s heart or artistic motivations. I do feel that something is missing in Christian art and it’s something I’ve been wanting to understand for a while, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

1) Because CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) has a smaller audience, artists can’t afford to take the artistic risks that a mainstream artist can. As a result, they go for the safe approach, resulting in music that is more bland.

2) More focus is placed on the lyrics of the song. As a result, the melody and instrumentation are afterthoughts. I think the mistake that may be made here is that the artist assumes only their words can be used to glorify God, and not the music itself. This reminds me of the Martin Luther quote

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

3) The state of CCM may be a reflection of American Christian Culture and theology in general. I’ve grown up in the American church, so I know that an approach to Christianity that is easy to get trapped in is that of sin avoidance. Instead of focusing on God or doing good things, we focus on avoiding bad things. It could be the same with music. It could be that the focus is avoiding controversial lyrics or even attitudes in the music. So instead of focusing on making a certain type of song there is a focus on not making certain types of songs. Such an approach could be constraining. The artist may feel pressure to make a happy song and not one based on fear or doubt or anger that one may struggle with.

4) As with Christian life, where we get this idea of what a Christian should look or be like, maybe Christian artists feel a pressure to make a song according to what a Christian song should sound like. I feel that it is interesting to note many of my favorite artists out there are ones that happen to be Christian, rather than those that are part of the Christian music industry. U2 (3 out of 4 members are professing Christians), and many other sort of on the line between secular and Christian like Switchfoot, Mat Kearney, MuteMath, and NeedToBreathe come to mind.

Whatever the cause, I hope something changes soon. I feel that music that focuses on God should be the most exciting music out there.

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My biggest issues with mainstream conservative philosophy

Posted by Chance on May 28, 2018

Culturally, I am fairly conservative, in that I believe in the Bible, am Christian, and my sense of morality (hopefully) follows what the Bible says. Concerning social issues I consider myself more moderate, and overall consider myself a libertarian. I agree with conservatives on pro-life issues. However, where I disagree with conservatives primarily concerns police brutality and immigration.

Concerning police brutality, many policemen and policewomen put their life on the lines every day. I have tremendous respect for what they do. At the same time, I believe there is a real problem with excessive and sometimes fatal force used against civilians. When we see somebody shoot an unarmed person that does not pose a real threat, that’s a problem. When someone is choked to death for illegally selling cigarettes, that’s a problem.

The problem is that conservatives place a very high degree of trust in those in authority. Conservatives distrust government when it functions in a way that they view as illegitimate (i.e. welfare state, regulation) but place almost infinite trust in ways that they view as legitimate (i.e. police force, military). Because of this high degree of trust, the benefit of the doubt always goes to the police officer and not “criminal”.

This issue bugs me to because I feel that there is such a divide in America around this issue, with the NFL anthem protests at the forefront. I understand wanting everyone to stand for the anthem, but I feel that too many people don’t even want to consider the issue that is causing the protests in the first place. I feel that there is no listening.

The other issue is immigration. I’ve touched on the refugee situation before. I think the only reason to limit immigration is due to national security concerns but it is not a sufficient reason to stop all immigration. I think those who truly believe in a free market would not want to regulate immigration based on economic concerns; the market figures it out in the same way it figures out wages and the price of goods (although not satisfactorily enough for many liberals). Also, I could be totally wrong on this, I don’t think we should limit immigration to preserve a culture, even one intertwined with Christianity. This seems counterintuitive to me. It seems that as other cultures intermix, Christianity seems to be on the downswing. However, the idea of limiting our contact with other people to preserve our Christianity seems counter to the gospels.

I also feel that there is an important mercy aspect to the immigration issue. Here’s the thing though. I think when a conservative hears things like “mercy” and “justice” it is usually in terms of expanding the welfare state or getting involved in redistributing income or regulating how much maternity leave a company should give. I feel that the immigration issue is different, however. The government doesn’t necessarily have to make a decision in those issues; it HAS to make a decision on whether it allows people into the country or not.

I feel that it is consistent with my pro-life view. How involved the government should get involved in healthcare and welfare and all that are worthwhile conversations to have, but we don’t have to get everything else settled before we decide whether or not abortion should be outlawed or allowed. In the same way, we don’t have to have welfare or housing or all that figured out before we decide if we want to let people into the country.

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My thoughts on “throwing your vote away”

Posted by Chance on July 23, 2016


Many people I know are not crazy about Trump but do not want Hillary to win, so they see no choice but to vote for Trump, and a vote otherwise is a “vote for Hillary.” The frontrunners are Clinton and Trump, so I see the logic in “not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary”, I do. But here is why I’m voting third party anyway.

If a large number of people in a party are unhappy with their candidate, in the long run, it doesn’t do the party any service to vote for them anyway. If we have a system in which the party knows we will vote for whoever they send out there, nothing will ever change. For some people like myself, it is demoralizing to think that we need to vote for our major party’s (or the one closet to our beliefs) candidate no matter what. It is a sense of feeling stuck in a system.

Also, I’m taking a longer view. Mine is not a four year strategy, but a 12 or 16 year strategy. If we really do want an end to the two-party system (and I know not all of us do), that’s probably not going to happen in one election. If you happen to agree with the Libertarian or Green party, your candidate will not win this election, but if they get substantial support, that provides momentum for the next election. If they do well enough in the polls, they can participate in the debates and get their ideas out there.

Another point is that during the nomination process, it seemed that Trump would be one of the lesser popular candidates in a general election, with other Republican nominees appearing more favorable to the general public. However, people chose him because he reflected their beliefs, but by doing so, it gave the GOP a smaller chance to win. So, why is it okay to vote your conscience during the nomination process, but not during the general election?

As far as Supreme Court justices,

No I’m not saying Trump is as bad as Sauron, I’m just posing the rhetorical question of at what point do you note vote for someone you disagree with because of potential Supreme Court nominees?

Finally, if both major party candidates are really that bad, isn’t it actually better that your party loses? I’m closer to the GOP than the Democrats. Long term, I think a disastrous Hillary presidency will be better for the GOP than a disastrous Trump presidency.  However, at this point, I’m rooting more for a third party to come about as a result, or for the current GOP to change drastically.

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I don’t think I agree with the “single greatest cause of atheism” quote

Posted by Chance on June 24, 2016

I don’t think I agree with this quote.

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

I guess it depends on what he means by “their lifestyle”. Here’s the thing; I actually disagree with the idea that Christians who cuss and party are what drive people away from God.  I don’t think nonbelievers want religious people who are goody-two-shoes, they got enough of that from the Pharisees.  In the time of the Gospels, it was actually the religious, “upstanding” folks who drove people away from God.

This saying is well-meaning, and it is pointed at hypocrites, but I think the idea of the quote in itself can make hypocrites. When we believe that our personal holiness is what draws people to God, we don’t desire to be holy, we just desire to appear holy.  Personal holiness is important, but it needs to be driven by a love for God and for other people.

In short, I don’t think it is our personal holiness that draws people to God, at least, what we tend to think of as “holiness”.  I think it is love for God and others.

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Why I think the refugee situation is an apt application of Christian ethics

Posted by Chance on January 14, 2016

Concerning the Syrian refugee situation, people who support refugees have invoked the compassionate side of Christ to support their cause.  Many have done this before in other situations, and in my opinion, have done so incorrectly.  In this case, however, I think it’s the correct approach.

People who support liberal economic policies have tried using Christian ethics of compassion and helping the poor for their cause.  I have disagreed with this, though, because the very nature of compassion and helping the poor has always been one of a voluntary nature in the New Testament.  Furthermore, Jesus’ way of doing things when He was on earth never involved gaining political power or forcing people to do things.  Also, I think the government’s efforts to help people are usually misguided.

However, the issue of letting refugees come is not an issue of the government so much actively doing something, but not actively preventing something.  I don’t think the government should do things to actively promote Christ’s kingdom, but I don’t think it should do things to prevent it either.  When the government prevents people from coming to the country, that is an active thing. I’m not saying government should have no role in protecting/enforcing borders, but I, on the whole, support letting whoever wants to come here, to come here.  I think any regulations and laws concerning immigration should be focused on security, and not out of trying to regulate the economy or preserve a certain culture.

As far as the security issue, Cato has touched on this.

Of the 859,629 refugees admitted from 2001 onwards, only three have been convicted of planning terrorist attacks on targets outside of the United States, and none was successfully carried out.  That is one terrorism-planning conviction for every 286,543 refugees that have been admitted.  To put that in perspective, about 1 in every 22,541 Americans committed murder in 2014.  The terrorist threat from Syrian refugees in the United States is hyperbolically over-exaggerated and we have very little to fear from them because the refugee vetting system is so thorough.

I guess one could argue that we shouldn’t let anyone come here since there is any threat at all, but I think this idea has philosophical ramifications that don’t align well with Christ either.

Now, letting refugees come is not a financially neutral issue.  Some money is involved in letting refugees come and set up camp.  But I feel like this money is incidental to the whole issue at hand.  Refugees, and immigrants on the whole for the matter, are not simply financial sponges; they can get jobs and contribute as much as any of us.  Furthermore, private giving to the cause is always welcome.

So, unfortunately, people have used the name of Christ to expand government dramatically and use simplistic thinking for bad economic ideas, and so the cries of using Christian compassion may fall on deaf ears, especially among conservative circles.  But I think, in this case, Christian compassion is an applicable argument, as it means the government isn’t preventing the application of Christian values.


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Why raising the minimum wage is not a good idea

Posted by Chance on January 14, 2016

Some politicians and members of the general populace think that the minimum wage can be raised without any harmful side effects.  While I don’t want anyone to be poor, the idea of a minimum wage is just bad, philosophically, and raising it will ultimately be ineffective.

I should note that when it comes to economic policy, there always seems to be evidence on both sides.  So, I think it is important to look at human nature as well.  What do we understand about human behavior?

First of all, let’s talk about overall unemployment.  there is the whole law of supply and demand, which basically, among many things, states that when things are more expensive, demand goes down.   Many studies supposedly show that there is no appreciable effect on employment over time, but the problem with these studies is that they are done over time, where other factors go into employment as well.  Cato has done a study that looks at how the minimum wage affects employment by looking at multiple countries over the same time period.  But even without the studies, let’s use common sense.  When things are more expensive, fewer people buy them.  May not for slight increases; if an iPhone model increased by one dollar, it would doubtfully have any effect.  Double it, and it’s a different story. If minimum wage didn’t negatively affect employment, it would go against everything people understand about economics, and it would be the first time in history that something gained significantly in price and the exact same number of people purchased something as before.

But aren’t employees indispensable?  Not completely.  Ever see a self-checkout lane?  Companies need some employees, and machines/computers replace jobs anyway, but my increasing the minimum wage it becomes easier to make the tradeoff between human employee and a machine.

Secondly, a higher minimum wage hurts the poor by reducing their right to negotiate.  When you go to a grocery store, you make decisions on products based on some blend of quality and price.  You may go for the high quality toilet paper, but buy the cheap ketchup. But imagine if there was a law that required a minimum price for certain products?  You are used to paying two dollars for ketchup, but now the minimum price is four dollars.  You now have no reason to buy the lower quality ketchup. An absurd example, sure, but it’s analogous to raising the minimum wage.  People who have less experience and fewer job skills can bring something to the table by offering lower wages.  Intuition shows this to be true, and so do several studies.

Furthermore, a higher minimum wage increases the price of products, pretty much offsetting the effect of any wage increase.  I don’t have much to say about this other than, when operating costs increase, often the product will as well, unless the restaurant or grocery store owner or whoever wants to make less money.  It seems like more expensive products would offset a higher minimum wage.

In addition, raising the minimum wage would hurt workers already making that much.  If someone with some job skills already makes, say $15/hour, and the minimum wage is raised to that much, it automatically devalues what that person already makes.

Another point – if raising the minimum wage have any negative effects, why not raise it more? That is, if raising it to $15/hour is NOT harmful, why not raise it to $30.  Oh, because that would be too much, too expensive?  But $15 isn’t.  And you know this because…

This isn’t the only example of this type of issue that I oppose.  Raising the minimum wage would not directly affect me.  However, I could supposedly benefit from other proposals in the same vein, like mandatory paternity leave.  It’s the same idea – people deserve a certain something from the company they work for.  But what people get should be what two people agree to.  If I get hired by a company and they offer paternity leave as a benefit, great, but if no company is willing to offer that to me, but then maybe I’m not worth that.  Anything I expect beyond what any company is willing to pay me is a sense of entitlement.  Let’s say that I force companies to provide paternity leave via political means.   The thing is, my worth didn’t change.  Companies are not going to pay me the same salary, and then provide paternity leave just the same  (If I already worked for the company I wouldn’t expect a decrease in salary but fewer increases and/or less amount each increase).

Both of these are the same issue.  Things cost what they cost, and people’s labor is worth what it’s worth.  Someone cannot magically change that via political dictate.  When people try to politically get more than what they are worth in the market, something else makes up for it.

Again, there are always going to be studies showing this or that, and I even linked to some of them.  But I believe the way I do based on how I understand human behavior.  We make adjustments based on how much things cost us, and I’m arguing that business owners do the same.



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Why I’m not an Apple Music subscriber

Posted by Chance on January 2, 2016

I normally buy 1 or 2 albums a month, so subscribing to Apple Music would probably make financial sense for me.  But why don’t I?

To explain this, let’s go back to the Napster days.  I could download any song I want for free.  This made music discovery great, but it also made music disposable.  It would be no big deal for me to download a song and only listen to it once.  I had a catalog of songs that really didn’t mean anything to me.

Once I had a full time job, I decided to only get songs that I purchased legitimately.  It trimmed down my catalog, but I only had songs that I thought were worth purchasing.

And that’s the issue with Apple Music.  I can download almost any song I want; getting music is that easy.  It’s great for discovering new music, or avoiding purchases on albums that I just don’t like.  At the same time, however, I have a catalog of songs that don’t mean that may have little worth to me.  Instead of having a smaller catalog of albums or songs that have enough value for me to pay for them; I have a huge catalog of albums that I may never actually take the time to listen to all the way through.

However, I still like the idea of being able to listen to essentially any album I want, or at least test driving an album.  For that, the Spotify streaming option on my PC is sufficient for me.  For albums that I truly enjoy, I’ll make the financial investment.  If I was willing to spend the money, I would probably pay for the Apple Music subscription.  Right now, however, it’s a choice between Apple Music or buying albums, and I’ll pick the latter.

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Why I’m not a moderate

Posted by Chance on August 2, 2015

I think part of me thinks that political moderatism seems like a wise philosophy.  Moderatism would seem to be the safe option, safe from any extremes in ideas.

I think when it comes to social issues, I may be more moderate than many conservatives, but when it comes to economics, I’m pretty far right.  Here are a few reasons why:

1) The government, when it comes to power, doesn’t understand moderation.  The nature of government is to grab more power.  We see this throughout history, as government grows and grows.  Government understands moderation the same way a crack addict does.  And, I guess, it’s not an all-or-nothing thing; it’s not like we choose between anarchy and communism, but it’s just, when it comes to governmental power, and especially in economics, I prefer as little control as possible.  And, with libertarian ideas, it’s easy to give more clearly defined boundaries (i.e. focused on protecting people from others).

2) When it comes to moderation between government control and liberty, and things go wrong, people tend to blame the liberty side.  When it comes to governmental controls that don’t work, people typically push for more funding or more laws to make the original set of laws work.

So, I suppose many of us use moderation in our political philosophy to some degree, but I tend not to use moderation itself as my driving political philosophy.

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The problem with smart people

Posted by Chance on September 15, 2014

In my experience with higher education, I’ve found that really smart people are sometimes terrible teachers.  There were some brilliant mathematicians that couldn’t effectively teach someone how to multiply two matrices.  At the same time, I worked as a math tutor with other undergraduates who were really good at math, but were not so far removed from math classes to forget how a struggling math student thinks.

There’s a similar issue in technology.  There are those who see computers and technology as means to an end, and those who see computers and technology as an end unto themselves.  The latter group include those who like to play around with computers and experiment with them and probably use Linux, and the former simply want to look up something on Pinterest or print a document, probably on Windows or on a Mac.  This divide has taken on a new dimension with smartphones.  Some people just want a phone that works (i.e. Apple).  Other people want to play around with their phone, experimenting with third party keyboards and various home screen replacements (the part of the phone from which you launch the different apps), so they use Android.

Neither group is wrong.  But I find that the “tech as an end to itself” has a hard time understanding the other group.  Those who use Linux don’t understand why the average computer user can’t figure out, or would not even want to, compile their own programs or why they need things to simply just work out of the box.  The Android user may not understand why a smartphone user may not care about changing fonts for their messaging program or be able to monitor their RAM usage.  I think that a problem that tech savvy people have, including myself, is understanding that other people think differently.

I’m sure there are things that the “tech as a means to an end” do as well that are bothersome, but I feel like I’m more familiar with the other group and can evaluate that group from the inside.  I feel that in the workplace and in life, there is an advantage to the tech-savvy understanding the other group.    When I was a tutor, I had to think about math from the perspective of another person.  Now, as a software engineer, I have to think about the software working in a way that makes sense for other people.

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The “marry a virgin” movement in evangelical circles is misguided

Posted by Chance on November 4, 2013

When I was in junior high and high school and listening to church talks about purity, a major theme was the idea that you should try to marry someone who saved himself or herself for you.  Sounds like a great idea.  After all, aren’t you and Jesus worth waiting for?

But here’s the problem.  People who didn’t wait till marriage, what are they supposed to do?  What does this mean for people who aren’t virgins?  Are they supposed to marry the backsliden Christians, for whom purity isn’t important?  The whole idea of the “marry a virgin” movement is that, if you made mistakes in the area of sexuality, you aren’t worth it.

I also feel that this idea gets across the message that the past means everything.  This whole idea is that, once someone sins in this area, they have reached a point of no return.  I don’t believe that’s the case.

Most importantly, I feel that such a message tries to limit God’s plan for our lives.  Who says that God doesn’t have a partner for someone who has sinned in this area?  In the Bible, we seem to see an opposite idea.  We see one of the Israelites marry the former prostitute Rahab.   We see the story of Hosea, who marries an unfaithful woman, yet takes her back, and this story is an illustration of how God takes us back when we are unfaithful to him.

The Bible is full of stories of redemption and second chances.  Yes, we can make choices that have life-long consequences, but the “marry a virgin” idea seems to go against the Biblical theme of redemption and second chances.

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