Owen Strachan on Brett’s New Book “Gray Matters”

The fine folks over at Christianity Today have reviewed Brett McCracken’s new book, Gray Matters:

McCracken’s new Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty is an accessible, readable approach to the issue of “culture.” McCracken gives no hard definition of culture in the text, but he makes his focus clear: “This book is about pursuing God and giving him glory as mature, nuanced consumers of the ‘gray areas’ of culture.” He zeroes in “on four areas of pop culture that we don’t often think about as necessarily theological: food, pop music, movies, and alcohol.” Building off of McCracken’s acclaimed debut, Hipster Christianity, the point of Gray Matters is not to stimulate the making of culture (per the work of Andy Crouch), or to reposition evangelical cultural engagement (as was James Davison Hunter’s task), but to consume culture well.

You can read the rest here.

In addition, Brett offered five book recommendations, all of which influenced his own book.

What Makes Evangelicals Different? – Brett McCracken

It used to be that evangelical Christians were easy to spot. They were the ones boycotting things like Disney and SpongeBob Squarepants. They were the students in high school that wore True Love Waits rings, W.W.J.D. bracelets and prayed around the flagpole. They could be seen standing with bullhorns outside Planned Parenthood, leaving tracts instead of money as “tips” in restaurants, packing out stadiums for Promise Keepers rallies and reading Left Behind at the country club pool.

Evangelicals were a stereotype: they were too political, too capitalistic, too apathetic about the long-term health of the earth and her inhabitants. They believed in Noah’s ark and talking serpents but not global warming. They preached a gospel of grace but rarely acted graceful in their dealings with gay people, welfare recipients or liberals. They mourned the killing of innocent lives from abortion but seemed hardly to notice the millions of lives lost every year due to war, genocide, disease or malnutrition.

I’m not sure I’ve ever met an evangelical who fits the exaggerated stereotype described above.

See the rest here.

Review of Brett McCracken’s ‘Gray Matters’ – The Evangelical Outpost

I reviewed Brett McCracken’s new book. Here’s an excerpt:

If you’ve ever been told you shouldn’t watch a certain movie, or listen to a certain album, or drink a certain (fermented) beverage, just because you are a Christian, this book is for you. There’s really no plainer way to say it. Many of us grew up in homes that were strict on many of these fronts (I remember my first ‘secular’ album, and now I find myself writing about guys like Kanye West). That isn’t to say that we aren’t right to step away from certain things. In fact, this is probably the strongest point in the book: many young evangelicals have opted to land so firmly in the camp of ‘liberty’ that they’ve strayed into a license to do all things. They drink, smoke, watch R-rated movies, and listen to the vilest rap and death-metal music they can find. The temptation is to take “all things permissible” and ignore “but not all things are beneficial.” Gray Matters holds a healthy middle ground: as the subtitle suggests, there is a middle ground here. There are some films we simply ought not watch, and some that perhaps I shouldn’t watch, even if it has no negative (and possibly even a positive) effect on you.

Read the rest of the review here.

Another interview with Brett McCracken

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Brett McCracken about his new book Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and LibertyHis previous book Hipster Christianity dealt with the collision of the church and cool. His latest work examines the complex interaction between Christianity and culture. He was gracious enough to answer some questions about it in the next two posts.

Trevin: You start off the book talking about Lee the Legalist and Lance the Libertine – two types of Christians, one who is indifferent and even hostile to culture, and the other who is licentious and all-embracing of anything. Why do we as evangelicals have a problem swinging between these two extremes?

Brett: I suspect part of it is simply that we evangelicals are zealous and passionate. In general, we equate “the middle ground” with that most distasteful of dispositions: being lukewarm. And so when we see something as problematic, we tend to overcorrect in the opposite direction. In almost everything, Christians have a hard time with nuance and complexity because they see it as a compromise.

You can read the rest of the interview here.

An Interview with Brett McCracken

Culture. It’s quite the buzzword among Christians these days. From Andy Crouch’s Culture Making to a revival in interest in Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture to, well, blogs like this one. Everyone seems to be exploring how Christians should interact with, embrace, create, and redeem culture. But the problem is that many efforts to address the intersection of Christianity and culture are theoretical, rather than practical.

Enter Brett McCracken, a Los Angeles-based writer and journalist who has just written a book entitled, Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty. In it, he practically addresses how Christians can wade through moral gray issues–from alcohol consumption to secular music and films. As I said in the endorsement, the result is “a truly spectacular book that carves a path between an oppressive, rules-based religion and a powerless, free-for-all ‘faith.’” Here we discuss the pitfall of legalism, the potential pitfalls of this generation, and how Christians should navigate the issues that aren’t as black-and-white as they wish.

JM: You say in your book that things like alcohol, edgier films, plays, concerts, and art have “moved from being forbidden to being celebrated by believers.” Isn’t this the role Christians played historically, as culture creators? What role do you think believers have when it comes to setting trends and creating culture?

For Brett’s answer and the following discussions, check it out here.

Questions from The Matrix – The Evangelical Outpost

To round out the week of questions, I decided to spend some time thinking about one of my favorite movies, The Matrix. The film is filled with questions, and there’s a lot to wonder about there.

Morpheus doesn’t ask Neo a question: he presents him two options. It’s a backhanded way of asking a question, though: Neo is forced to ask himself what he will do, and audiences everywhere wanted to know how deep that rabbit hole went. We all know which way Neo went (and if you don’t, I’m terribly sorry, this movie is 14 years old). We wanted to follow the rabbit hole into the deeper reality it offered, regardless of what that actually looked like.

We even think we know that reality.

You can see the rest here.

What Makes a Good Meal? – Scott McClellan

Matt caused quite a few reflections on questions with that book of his:

What makes a good meal?

Wait, let me back up …

Five months ago I joined the staff of my church for the last nine years, Irving Bible Church. I soon found that I’d walked into the middle of a number of ongoing conversations, one of which was about our worship services — specifically, their audience, objective(s), design, and execution.

In the midst of this particular conversation, we heard from someone who framed their worship services as something like “a family meal with guests present.” There’s something to that phrase, certainly, and it’s a helpful frame for the saints-versus-seekers debate. And yet, the metaphor begs the question (at least in my mind): What makes a good meal?

In other words, what does the family need to eat, week in and week out, in order to grow and thrive and all that?

Read the rest here.

How Should Christians Interact with Politics? – The Evangelical Outpost

More from Evangelical Outpost in their question series this week, this time on politics:

There are many Scripture passages one could point to in a discussion on politics and “governing authorities;” these are just two, and they serve to raise the question: how should Christians interact with politics? How does our faith in Christ and His Church interact with political issues and secular authority?

Being a Christian is the most important defining aspect of my life, so it only seems natural that it would influence my political beliefs and activity. The question of how Christians should interact with politics is an important one to consider, which is why I’m taking the opportunity this week, not to try and answer the question, but rather to breach the subject and to consider why the question is an important one with which Christians (like myself) should grapple. I tread forward cautiously.

See the rest here.

Nathaniel Claiborne reviews The End of Our Exploring

Nathaniel Claiborne’s review is one that spends time breaking down the text into chapters–the first I’ve seen that does that. Here’s how he starts, though:

First off, this is an interesting book, and I mean that not in the sense the content itself is interesting, but that the nature of the book is interesting. Usually books are about some particular topic and explore it from different angles. This book is about exploring and specifically about the interface of questioning, confidence, and doubt. It’s almost like reading a book about reading books, but is more about the disposition that lies behind reading itself. Usually, if you read a lot of non-fiction books, you are doing some sort of exploring, and Anderson wants to explore the nature of that exploration.

See the rest here.

Reclaiming Questions in the Age of Skepticism – Derek Rishmawy reviews The End of Our Exploring

Another review for Matt’s book, over at Christ and Pop Culture:

Difficult questions are exactly what we need in our day. It seems that while everybody’s talking about questions, nobody’s really thinking about them. Anderson’s questions invite us to think, to stop and consider what we’re doing when we question. He asks us to consider a life of questioning as exploring–God, the world, and the labyrinthine maze of our own hearts. Questions, when properly asked, are a search, a wondering reaction to an encounter with reality, and a thirst to know the world and the God who has formed it. As such, they fit quite well in the life of the Christian disciple.

See the rest here.