Friday, January 13, 2012

I've moved!

Hi there! I've moved! Please update your bookmarks (cuz you've totally bookmarked my blog, right?) I'm now on Wordpress at
Thanks for visiting, and keep reading!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Rapture

All this talk of the Rapture has turned me into a giddy, culture-obsessed freakazoid. The fanfare on both sides is a barrel of crazypants fun: will you be sporting a Rapture Veteran t-shirt, or will you be signing your pet up for a new owner once you’re whisked away to Heaven? (All pet rescuers are certified atheists!)

Past Judgment Day prophecies may not have been real -- but they have made a very real impact on American history. This interesting Christian Science Monitor article shows how failed Rapture predictions of the past have given way to new religious movements, psychological research and even more Rapture predictions. For example, the Seventh Day Adventist movement grew out of a failed prediction called the “Great Disappointment” of 1844.

End Times prophecies have also impacted social psychology. Dianetics follower named Dorothy Martin convinced a group of followers in 1954 that End Times believers would be rescued by flying saucers. Psychologist Leon Festinger snuck into the group of believers and documented their belief systems as part of his study of what is now known as cognitive dissonance.

Paul Boyer talks more about the Rapture's social and cultural ripples in his interesting essay, "Doomsday: A User's Guide." In his essay, he mentions how even NASA engineers have jumped on the Rapture boat. Edgar Whisenant sold several million copies of a 1988 book detailing 88 reasons the world would end that year.

I’m not clearing my social calendar for the nearing apocalypse, but I am planning a low-key day of eating ice cream with my two rock and roll besties, Blondie and Siouxie!

There’s also this great slideshow of shoot ‘em up, disease-ridden apocalypse movies to pop in your DVD player.

What are you doing for the Rapture? Let me know!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Last Fiesta

Detail, "The Last Fiesta," via Pale Horse Design

Happy Easter!
Although this Last Supper post is about 40 days overdue, I thought Pale Horse Design's work needed a spotlight before Easter ended. (Thanks to Dan for sending me the original link!) "The Last Fiesta" is part of the "Saints and Sinners" exhibit in St. Petersburg, FL. Chris Parks' bold, tattoo-style portrait collections are inspired by Dia de los Muertos and Luchador culture. He also uses images of feudal Japan and other Eastern influences (check out this cool muay thai/Buddha hybrid here.)

I've been crazy-busy with my column lately, and I'm also starting to do some preliminary research on America's Christian hardcore and metal music scenes. I'm swimming in a vast ocean here (a Blood Ocean, even?) Any recommendations of bands, books or specific music scenes to check out?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Islam's All-American authors

There's the one about the guy in love with WWE wrestling and punk music. Then there's the one about the only non-Catholic girl in Catholic school who wished she could be the Virgin Mary in the Christmas play. Then there's the Boulderite who moved to Cairo and found the love(s) of her life.
In the past few months, I've come across three beautiful, hilarious and eye-opening memoirs written by American Muslims. One reason I've been drawn to these stories is sort of selfish: the authors are young, based out of cities I'm familiar with and grew up in with the same kind of pop culture I'm familiar with.
My second reason for seeking out these books is because Islam is a religion that is constantly in the news, but often as a big, nebulous "other." I get the feeling that Islam isn't always viewed as a "real" American religion. Numbers vary, but the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimates 2.5 million of us Americans are Muslim. A big chunk, and a big chunk of stories.
The best part? At least three of them have written really hilarious/personal/great books that you should read!

I loved "The Butterfly Mosque" by G. Willow Wilson. The Boulderite moved to Cairo to teach English, but she had no idea she would fall in love with a religion, a city and a man all at once. She gives an honest, grounded account of her conversion, her marriage to a deeply devout person and her adjustment to a society that sees women, religion and independence in a much different light. Plus, she was just 27 when she wrote this (it was published this year!)

"Impossible Man" by Michael Muhammad Knight was a much different story that was just as page-turning. Knight was barely a teenager when he found Islam in a book about Malcom X. In Knight's book, he spares us no details of his his trailer park youth, his messed-up family life and his initially rigid view of Islam and the West. I can't wait to see his film "Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam."

I have to admit, I haven't read this one yet, but I met Asma Gull Hasan, author of "Red, White and Muslim," just tonight at a panel discussion. She's a lifelong Coloradoan who often has to explain her religion to people who have never met a Muslim before. Her descriptions of growing up Muslim in a Catholic school, her close-knit relationship with her mom and her trials with online dating had me laughing uncontrollably. Check her work out here.

What are you reading? Got any great religious memoirs (of any religion) to share?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hard Rock Baptisms

Tim Kanelos was baptized at Union Reservoir with the roar of a hardcore band in the background.
During Saturday's Heaven Fest, a Christian music festival in Longmont, almost 40,000 people visited to hear pop, rock, indie hip hop and metal bands on 7 stages.
Kanelos came for the music, too. Then he saw the tent at the edge of the reservoir with one word stenciled on the side: "Baptism."
"I always wanted to get baptized in water. I already got baptized in the spirit, but it didn't affect me the way I wanted," he told me, still dripping from his dunk in the cold water. A line five people deep waited for their turn. "I feel like a more complete Christian, and Jesus was baptized this way."
Northern Hills Christian Church in Brighton, CO, started offering baptisms during the first Heaven Fest three years ago. Last year, baptism organizer Darlene Nelson said 59 people took up the church's offer. By the middle of the day Saturday, just halfway through the festival, 125 people had already taken the plunge.
Participants with piercings, tattoos and band t-shirts waited in line, nodding their heads in revenrence as they stepped into the water. After a pastor murmured a prayer and dunked them, most returned to shore with beaming smiles.
The loud music and huge crowds didn't bother Kanelos, who said the baptism was the important part, not the location.
"I was just trying to focus on the moment," he said.
While Kanelos toweled off, 12-year-old Mike McBridd stood in line for his turn. His mother, Erin McBridd, told me the family had talked about the possibility of him getting baptized, but it was Mike's idea to follow through at Heaven Fest.
"I just thought I'd get it over with, and today was a good day," he shrugged. "It's my first baptism."

The idea of getting baptized in a reservoir during a rock concert might sound weird, but I remember earning extra money as a lifeguard in high school by staying after hours so churches could baptize newly converted members in our community pool. There had to be a lifeguard on duty at all times while the pool was open, so my only job was to sit on the bench with a guard tube and watch the ceremony. It was awkward, but strangely touching.

Any readers out there have unique baptism stories? I'd love to hear it!

Image via Chicaco International Christian Church

My last 6 months? Mountain towns, meditation and Christian rock

I've been pretty busy these past few months! There has been tons to explore in the deeply weird and wonderful cross-sections of religion and pop culture.
In May, I visited Crestone, CO, a remote town in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range known for its ashrams, meditation retreats, convents and new age communities. In June, I tried out mindfulness meditation with some great folks in Boulder's Jewish Renewal community. In July, I even went to the Lady Gaga concert, where I got to see her controversial use of religious imagery firsthand. (More on that in a few.)
This past weekend, I spent time at Heaven Fest, a giant Christian music festival in Longmont, CO. Almost 40,000 people braved the 98 degree heat and rock out with Christian rock, hip hop, hardcore, folk and indie bands. You can see my preview on the festival here.
I'm back to blogging and I have plenty to share from my travels, so stop by again soon! You can always reach me at or follow me on Twitter.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Spreading the faith, not the flu

AP reported that the number of Colorado swine flu cases has gone down this week, but that hasn't stopped congregations worldwide from tweaking their religious rituals to stop the spread of germs. Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail wrote a great story about some techniques.
One idea came from an Italian inventor, who made an electronic holy water dispenser that squirts a little onto worshippers' hands so they don't have to put their fingers in communal bowls swimming in germs. Then there's the church who passed out communion bread on toothpicks. A Rabbi in Montreal gives visitors an elbow bump instead of a handshake and asks them not to touch or kiss the Torah as it is carried through the temple. Some imams ask worshippers to take extra care when carrying out their ritual hand and face cleaning.

Get weirded out when shaking a ton of hands after mass? (I did too-- I was a blossoming germaphobe as a kid in church.) What do your churches, mosques, temples or meditation areas do to keep germs at bay as you pray?