“Sorry no Disabled parking in Hipville…”

Often I meet people for appointments all over town. Sometimes it is food courts in middle class suburbs, sometimes is cool cafes in hip parts of town. Recently I have noticed a trend. I was sitting waiting to meet someone in the food court of a tired, middle class, suburban mall, when I looked up and did a scan of the occupants of the foodcourt, there was an extremely high percentage of people who were disabled. I noticed a number of carers as well, helping and feeding their disabled relatives/friends/spouses. A few days after, I was again waiting for someone for an appointment, this time however I was in a hip, inner city yuppy/bohemian cafe zone. The main street was being used as a kind of open air catwalk by impossibly attractive and painfully cool males and females, who were out to mix haute couture with buying their everyday groceries. As I looked through the forest of legs clad in designer jeans, I struggled to see one disabled person. I guess they were picking up an unwritten message that the hip and non disabled were not – “stay away!”.

I have been on planes coming into my city where visitors are encouraged to visit Melbourne’s faux bohemain precincts, such is our culture’s worship of commerce and cool. I bet they will never encourage overseas visitors to go out and drink in the sights of the mall where the disabled people feel comfortable.

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Pastors without Soul

The Story of American Music can teach Christian leaders a lot about the importance of developing personal depth in a culture obsessed with image.

Modern music was born out of a collision of cultural influences that occurred on the fringes of American society around a century ago. Slaves, many coming via the Caribbean, used a fusion of traditional African rhythms, the call and response pattern, and Christian hymns to create Spirituals, or Black Gospel music. This music became a way of communicating their suffering and hope for deliverance from slavery. Irish migrants who fled famine and poltical strife in their homeland, and who faced widespread racism upon their arrival in the United States, communicated their sense of cultural dislocation through Irish Ballads. Jewish refugees fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe, brought to America Klezmer music, itself a fusion of Yiddish and Roma (Gypsy) musical cultures, a way of two of Europe’s persecuted minorities to through music, express the pain that centuries of marginalization and misunderstanding brought.

These musical styles smashed up against each other in big cities such as New York and mutated together in the deep South to give birth to Blues and Jazz, which in turn gave birth to Rock and Roll and Hip Hop and almost everything great that came after.

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The Political Incorrectness of a Non-Judgemental God

Hell sure ain’t cool these days. The idea of a post-death judgment of our actions here on earth is repugnant to the western 21st century citizen. Suggesting that after we die that we may be held accountable to our actions during this life, will not bring cyber-hugs from your list of facebook friends. The concept that God has set up a system of justice in our universe, and that some people may chose the path of evil and thus renege their place in the coming kingdom, simply does not wash with modern  post-modern post-post-modern sensibilities.

Partly this is because we who live our lives within the Western comfort bubble have become distanced from evil. Sure we see it on TV, we read about it in the newspaper, but on the whole it does not touch our real lives in any palpable way.

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Welcome to Youngistaan!

My neighbourhood is currently seeing an influx of Punjabi migrants from India, most of whom are middle to upper class Sikh people. As a result the bigger churches in my area don’t look as large, when compared to the local Sikh Gurdwara (temple) which now is home to over 1000 worshippers. Of course this has meant that it has become quite normal to see older Sikh men walking around in their traditional turbans and women in their saris. However I have watched with fascination how the younger members of the Sikh community seem to be expressing their culture and faith. Instead of turbans and saris, the Punjabi youthtend to show their commitment to faith by giant car stickers featuring  a strange synthesis of traditional Sikh symbols and hip hop slang such as ‘Punjabi’s on da rize!’.

This mash-up of traditional Indian with western youth culture is symbolic of the emergence of a new kind of young person that is appearing on the Indian sub-continent. Half of India’s one billion people are under twenty five. Whilst many of these youth live in abject poverty, the growing middle class is being spied with envy by youth marketers who are keen to get their hands on their estimated $10.5 billion dollars in disposable income.  

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Superflat Faith pt 2

Bart’s bare Butt

I am looking at a young man’s car parked close to mine. On the dashboard of the car is a plastic figurine, it is Bart Simpson, he is pulling down his pants, and ‘mooning’ the world. Normally I would not stop and think about this, but this time I am shocked. I am not shocked out of a sense of oversensitive Christian piety, I have grown up with the Simpsons, and when it comes to butts I am the owner of one myself which has provided me with great support during my life. I am shocked however because I think of all the passionate, stubborn, activist, wildly revolutionary young people of history, who have fought to change the world, to bring down corrupt governments, overturn oppressive laws and regimes, who have given their lives on battlefields  to improve the world. Sometimes they were right, sometimes they were misguided, but they believed in something. Of all the slogans, of all the messages that this young man could have sent the world, he chose this one. Bart’s nihilistic, plastic moon, exposes more than just are bare butt, it exposes our total lack of cultural depth, and reveals to us just how superflat our culture has become. When it comes to discussing the big issues of life, we have lost our voice.

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Where are all the men?

As I travel around speaking about faith and popular culture. I often find myself cornered after my sessions by small groups of frustrated young women in their twenties. The women want me to explain to them why young men seem to be dropping off the church radar. They are very often quite passionate in their belief that there are no ‘eligible’ men around. The women who have managed to snare a partner often struggle to understand or communicate with their male companions.

Firstly a couple of things need to be noted. Male participation in the church in the West is on a massive decline. The second thing to remember is that this opinion from women that men are ‘dropping of the radar’ is not just held by women inside the church. I recently watched an interview with a demographics expert who discovered that this is one of the main questions that women are asking about our culture. It seems that we are in a crisis of masculinity.

For me this is a huge issue to which little time and effort has been given. However some clues can be found in the various models of masculinity that are communicated to young men through the new media environment. Here some of the main models that I have observed of heterosexual masculinity that young men are being exposed to and imitating at the moment. You have heard of metrosexuals; now meet some of the other models of masculinity that young men are being exposed to.

RAGEASEXUALS
Rageasexuals are a group of young males who can be defined by a sense of disconnection and rage that they feel about their place in society. The feel powerless as males and thus find it necessary to participate in activities and interests which communicate a raw sense of rage and discontent. Often these young men can be found in economically marginalized areas. The music industry has recognized the massive audience of retrosexuals and heavily market metal and hardcore rap to this market. Social status and meaning for the Rageasexuals comes from their ability to emphasize to others through their clothes, consumer choices and behavior their role as outsiders.

HYPERSEXUALS
This group has come of age during a hyper proliferation of pornography in our society. From the non stop rotation of ‘booty’ music videos on MTV, to the rise of post-feminist backlash mags like FHM, to the domination of graphic sexual imagery on the internet. For this group life is a sexual supermarket, women are products who offer the consumer hedonistic experiences. The Hypersexual’s hero’s are Hugh Hefner founder of playboy magazine and musicians such as snoop doggy dog, who’s videos are filled with semi-naked girls dancing and drug consumption, despite the fact that in real life Snoop is a tee-totaling little league football coach, happily married with children. For the Hypersexual the hyperreal sex of porn videos is normal, girls who don’t act like pornstars are strange and your social standing is based on your level of sexual conquest. For the Hypersexual, commitment to a partner is no longer a necessary part of human life when sex is available free of responsibility.

RISKASEXUALS
The Riskasexual has abandoned any sense of common sense and maturity to pursue a life of reckless abandon and risky, dangerous behavior. The MTV series Jackass portrays the Riskasexual subculture par excellence. In a youth culture which places huge importance on experience and shock, the Riskasexual seeks activities which combine both, giving the participant an adrenaline rush. Injuries become proud battle scars, and the video camera becomes the method of recording for posterity dangerous stunts. It is interesting that in the MTV promotional advertisement for Jackass that MTV picked the Trent Reznor penned tune ‘Hurt’ performed by Johnny Cash which says ‘I hurt myself today to see if I still feel, I focus on the pain the only thing that’s real’ . In the subjective world of postmodernity where truth is relative, the Riskasexual finds meaning in the primacy of sensation and experience. The dark side of the Riskasexual phenomenon that Jackass and the world of extreme sports does not show is the sheer volume of young men killed by risky behaviors such as driving at high speeds, drug use and suicide.

EMOSEXUALS

The Emosexual is a young man who has come of age in a post-Spice Girl’s age of ‘girl power’ where many girls have learnt to use their sexuality as a form of sexual power and quite often take the role of sexual aggressor. This trend can be observed by Gen Y films ‘Garden State’ and ‘Elizabethtown’ where the plot centers around a depressed, emotionally disconnected male lead character who’s life is transformed by a emotionally strong, spontaneous and life embracing female. Thus the female for the Emosexual is not an object of sexual desire but rather represents a way of recovering from depression and becoming emotionally whole. In contrast to the voracious sexual desire of the Hypersexual the Emosexual is almost asexual. The spiritual grandfather of the Emosexuals is former Smiths lead singer and celibate Morrissey who’s melancholic songs of male shyness and emotional brokenness paved the way for the posturing of many of today’s Indie and Emo frontmen.

TECHNOSEXUALS
The Technosexual is a young man who has a passion for technology (particularly computers) and devotion for various fantasy and sci-fi subcultures. For many young men who find themselves powerless in a changing sexual and social landscape, computers and fantasy worlds become something that is controllable and a form of escapism. It is natural that the Technosexual has arisen as technology has become an all pervasive medium in human sexuality as text message flirting, DVD and internet porn, chat lines and internet dating are become the medium in which many people live out their sexuality.
Sadly many resources for Christians around the issue of masculinity represent a past model of masculinity that has passed. The stereotype of the strong, impassable John Wayne male that many Christian books deal with is a rarity amongst Young men. We need desperately young male leaders to explore what a balanced, redeemed model of masculinity looks like.
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