Ep 45: Brooks McDaniel Philosophy and Religion Professor

Brooks McDaniel is a professor of philosophy and religion, now retired from Illinois Central College. He is also an ordained minister in the Presbyterian church (PCUSA) and a writer and poet. Brooks was actually one of my own teachers in college and we sat down to talk about faith, spiritual experiences, and what he would like written in his obituary.

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Ep 44: Natalia and Earl of Yaku

Natalia Villaneuva Linares and Earl Power-Murphy are the founders of Yaku Peoria, an organization intent on restoring the beautiful Hale Memorial Church of Peoria, Illinois and turning it into a center for arts and culture in the city. You can find out more at their website: http://www.yakupeoria.org/ and read their magazine at: http://www.ukayzine.org/ Natalia is herself and artist whose work you can view extensively here:  http://www.nati.work/ Our interview details their ongoing work on the building and where Natalia draws inspiration for her art. Check below for one of their promotional videos.

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Love This Place, Inspiration, Opportunity from Yaku Peoria on Vimeo.


Ep 43: Jimmy Bridgeman of Rock Solid Studios

Jimmy Bridgeman is the owner and operator of Rock Solid Studio, a professional Peoria based recording studio. With his business partner Jeremy Moser, Jimmy offers a space that can take an artist through the whole recording process, from recording, producing, mixing, and mastering. In our talk we cover all our mutual friends and acquaintances as well as our mutual love of the iconic Cornerstone Music Festival. You can find out more or even book some studio time at: https://www.therocksolidstudio.com/studio
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Ep 42: Artist Alec DeJesus

Alec DeJesus is a Peoria, Illinois based artist. His works seem to come from another time while also drawing from pop culture. They are familiar and otherworldly, earthy and sacred, mythical and everyday. In our conversation we covered where he draws inspiration from and how he has developed entrepreneurial skills to become a working artist. You can stream the episode below or subscribe on itunes, Stitcher, or other podcast services. A number of Alec's works are mentioned in the interview, most of which I include in this article. You can follow Alec on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/alecdajesus/

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Let's Talk About the Benedict Option! (and talk and talk and talk and...)

Alternative Title: A working list of articles on the Benedict Option (with some brief thoughts of my own)

Maybe Rod Dreher should have shut up about it. Maybe instead telling everyone about it and sounding off his alarmist church bells he should have gone off and actually lived out The Benedict Option in humble solitude the rest of his life. Then, decades after his death we would be writing about him and how he changed culture and the Church.

But Rod Dreher is a writer and a thinker and so, after a decade of thinking and writing and continually working out his ideas in public, he published them officially in the form of The Benedict Option. It's too bad really, and yet...WOW...as a budding author if I were Dreher I would be basking in the overwhelmingly abundant attention my book would be getting. Maybe I haven't lived long enough, but I cannot remember a book that has stirred up so much thoughtful and critical conversation. Now, I also might be pretty discouraged if I were Dreher because it would seem about 2/3s of all the articles I have read have been either mostly negative or slightly positive but with serious caveats. Here is a typical criticism summed up in one sentence:

"I somewhat agree with Dreher's underlying premise about living in robust Christian community but here is what he gets wrong..." and then the author goes on to list out Dreher's inadequate readings of:
—Medieval, Enlightenment, and Modern history, culture, and philosophy.
—the philosopher Alisdair McIntyre, from whom Dreher draws the very concept of the Benedict Option.

And they then go on to criticize: 
—his alarmist and separatist tendencies that urge for Christians to withdraw from society (even though he doesn't exactly say that)
—the fact that his arguments leave out the experiences of ethnic minorities and immigrants.
—the fact that Dreher was a Methodist, then a Roman Catholic, and now an Eastern Orthodox (in other words, a "church hopper" on an epic level).
—that he's abstracted what it means to be a Benedictine from the monastic life and instead applies it to lay communal living (which a lot of people don't think is a good idea).
—And lots more! There are numerous well thought out arguments by many well-read scholars and thinkers. 

So where do I stand on The Benedict Option? At first I thought I might have something to say about it, wanting to defend it, raise it up, and inform people they're reading Dreher wrong. But after reading some 20 articles on the book I now see Dreher has numerous flaws/weaknesses/inconsistencies in his argument (see especially the Eastern Christian Books article and the "critical review" article from Patheos). Therefore, I don't exactly see any point in defending Dreher anymore, not with all the problems in his foundational arguments. And yet I am incredibly grateful that so many people are being challenged to think about and critically discuss what it means to live in Christian community in our age and time. In other words, the questions remain... I think these questions are vital for those of us who claim Christ (and are claimed by Christ) and who believe the Church is the Body of Christ and are called to live in true Christian community and not merely be a "well, we go to church and that's it" kind of people. Dreher may not have written the be-all-end-all manifesto for the Church in Post-Christian America that we were hoping for, but he sure has stirred up God's people to have an ongoing conversation about it.

Personally, this makes me want to find people on a local level to start a dialogue where we robustly challenge each other about what God is calling us to in our communities. But I also thought I might offer a service here by listing most of the numerous articles I have read. On some level I think they are all worth our time, even if a number of them are caught up in scholarly mudslinging and ad hominem attacks. It's a lot of articles, but my intention is to educate people on the spectrum of arguments about the Benedict Option before you go and start talking about it with your pastor or small group (or writing your own lengthy blog response). 

One final thought: reading all these articles has caused me to want to spend concerted time reading the works of Alisdair Macintyre, Stanley Hauerwas, and Alexander Schmemman. I mean this as no slight to Rod Dreher, but the works of those authors are calling out to me more at this point. I'm grateful The Benedict Option phenomenon conversation has become a catalyst for it all.

One final thanks: the author of one of the articles actually reached out to me and was gracious enough to send me his book on a topic in the same vein of The Benedict Option. So thanks Gerald Schlabach! I hope to get to your book Rethinking Protestantism soon!

Here now is the list of articles. One thing to be aware of is that Dreher himself is still constantly blogging and giving his own responses to people's review of the book (usually with an incredible amount of snark...): http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/





















Related PostConsumer Articles:
How the Liturgy Can Speak to Modern People (If we allow it to)
An Anabaptist Approach to Politics
Derek Webb Isn't Exactly a Christian Anymore....or is he?


Ep 41: Dialogues With Brandon—Dialogues With Brandon—on the FOMO (because YOLO)

In the latest episode of our Dialogues With Brandon series, I chat with Brandon Lulay about all aspects of the fear of missing out or FOMO. There are many layers to this phenomenon from missing out on moments with your friends or missing out on great life experiences. I become a bit manic in the process but Brandon keeps everything on balance and offers us a way out of a tortured life of the FOMO. This episode is notable as being the first dialogue we were able to record in the same room together.
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Previous Dialogues With Brandon:
How Big Is Your Soul?
On Archer and The Walking Dead
What Makes a Great Novel?

Other Podcast Episodes:
Eric Olsen with Why Every President Sucked
Musician Jared Grabb
Fitting the White Album onto 1 Record


The Rich Mullins 20th Anniversary Project is a Big Missed Opportunity

Alternative title: 
Some Thoughts and Concerns on the Rich Mullins 20th Anniversary Project
It has been an amazing past several years for the legacy of musician, writer, teacher, and walking human enigma Rich Mullins. 


Making a Case For Dark Comedy #5: Don Rickles

Comic legend Don Rickles died last week.

The first thought I had was "Uh-oh, I hoped he's recorded his voice work for Toy Story 4! Please! Please oh please!" (For what it's worth, it doesn't appear he had recorded anything for the film.)

The second thought I had was "Aww...he died." And then I became happy thinking of all the great memories I had of him doing comedy on TV when I was a kid, most especially within the realm of the Late Night Talk Show Circuit. One way or another, this short, wrinkled old guy would appear on one of the late night shows, sit down and tear into the host—or anything that caught his attention—for the next seven or so minutes. He seemed absolutely irritated to even be there, completely put out at the prospect of having to go on another one of these stupid shows. But he was also hilarious. He knew the right jabs and how to land them at the exact right moment. And oddly enough, it looked like he was actually having fun out there... How could somebody so angry actually be happy?


Ep40: Coffee Artist Kagan Masters

Kagan Masters is an artist from Central Illinois, specializing in painting with coffee. Her light and dark contrasts are accentuated by the deeply dark reddish brown tones from the coffee paint and her subjects range from whimsical animals drunk on caffeine to pop culture homages. And yes, they all smell good too! You can find her work at: http://redeemedink.com/index.html, or you can visit her workshop at the Sunbeam Building at the Studios on Sheridan in Peoria (http://ciaopeoria.com/studios-on-sheridan/). This Saturday she'll be offering a coffee painting class for those who want to learn her technique (contact her for more info).

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Change of plans...Happy Lent!

Happy Ash Wednesday everyone. Remember your baptism and remember you are but dust...and also that God is making all things new...

I had one more article on liturgy and worship I wanted to get out before Ash Wednesday. But it's not going to happen. It was too much to get my head around in the amount of time I had left. And I don't want to put up a half-baked article on something all-encompassing as an article that attempts to give resources and ideas on practicing the liturgy.

And so...the article I had planned will not get put up until after Lent.

I've decided to really pull back this year during the Lenten season. I'm pausing my Facebook account (they call it deactivating! but that sounds extreme) and I won't be blogging or podcasting either. I will be writing and interviewing behind the scenes as I have time to do so but nothing will be put up on PostConsumer Reports. I will be doing lots of reading during Lent and preparing for an ordination exam, where, if I pass, I could become an Anglican deacon (or a deacon in the Anglican church) some time this summer.

So, if you are looking for more liturgy blog articles...I would actually encourage you to simply go to church. Worship, pray, read Scripture, be in community. Draw back during Lent. Devote time to building relationships. Pour into others, serving them physically and spiritually. Draw close to God and turn away from sin.