Monthly Archives: March 2010

Spring Break

We’re off for the Smokeys Smokies of eastern Tennessee for a few days. Blogging to resume mid-next week.

(Matthew Leathers has hot tub time travelled to the future … and met our child. One of us is very pleased; the other now wants to adopt.)

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Friday Recommends: She & Him, Volume Two

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Reviewers have unanimously endorsed She & Him’s Volume Two while qualifying that praise with some variation on the theme, “I am also required to apologize in some way for enthusiastically recommending this.” For example, Zooey Deschanel (“She”) is so “likable” (or quirky or adorable or twee) that she can’t be taken seriously as anything beyond an indie movie star and hipster boy crush. Or, The music is so catchy and instantly hummable (Deschanel dubs it a feel-good album) that it can’t be entirely good for you. This is a lot of fun, the critics feel compelled to say about She & Him, but you should feel a little twinge of guilt as you sing along.

Pshaw!, say we. You need feel no guilt for loving this album, which roars out of the gate with three winners: the lush, straight-outta-Patsy-Cline’s-songbook “Thieves,” the single “In the Sun,” and the album’s best track, “Don’t Look Back.” Though Volume Two loses momentum further down the track list, it ends on a high note: the beautiful, a cappella “If You Can’t Sleep.” The video for “In the Sun” smartly showcases She over Him, but M. Ward gets his moment rocking out in the high school gym while cool kids twirl hula hoops all around him. Whatever’s your thing, man.

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Things To Love About Ohio: Xavier Basketball

Even though Erin’s (grad school) alma mater came up just short tonight against Kansas State in double overtime, there’s no shame in losing a game like that. I don’t expect we’ll see a better game the rest of the tournament.

And if you hadn’t already heard about Jordan Crawford, tonight was a pretty good introduction. (So was this.)

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Lost Forum: “Ab Aeterno”

I’m ready for my close-up.

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Various obligations today will prevent us from digging too deep into last night’s episode until much later on, so we’re posting earlier than usual and opening the floor for discussion. Last week’s guest blogging panel reached a rather unanimous conclusion about “Recon“; this episode will certainly be more polarizing. We swung from one pole to the other during the course of the episode, so allow us to make points for both sides.

CON: Halfway through, we weren’t sure whether we were still watching “Lost” or some strange cross between Treasure Island and Masterpiece Theater. Did Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof wake up one day and decide to film a mid-19th century Merchant Ivory production? We had Richard in period garb; subtitles; the most unsympathetic priest of all time; a looong, uninterrupted backstory of how Richard landed on the island; and the lingering question: How exactly does this all fit in? The fact nothing was foregrounded in on-island events was, to our mind, a huge problem … unless there was going to be a monumental payoff that justified so much time away from, well, “Lost.”

Tad texted us at exactly this point with, “Good ep?” The jury, we told him, was still out.

PRO: By the end, we could say — and believe us, we did not think we’d come around — that despite all the episode’s flaws and peculiarities, it delivered the goods. We’ll call it the best episode of the season.

The heavy dose of island mythology was like the cup of water that Nemesis/Man in Black (played very effectively by Titus Welliver, who Erin described as a “creepy Billy Joel”) offered Ricardo on the Black Rock: thirst-quenching and deeply satisfying. We learned more about Jacob and MIB’s eternal conflict (ab aeterno being “since the beginning of time”), with MIB wanting off the island (he sympathizes with Richard in chains) and Jacob pulling out a corked wine flask to illustrate how the Man in Black must be contained. Nemesis tried to convince Richard he was in Hell — which, interestingly, Jacob didn’t refute. (He told Richard there were different names for it — “malevolence, evil, darkness.”) Both figures offered Richard something — Nemesis/Man in Black suggested he could reunite Richard with his wife, Isabella, while Jacob told Richard he didn’t have the power to give that to him (or absolve his sins). What he did give Richard, in exchange for becoming Jacob’s island representative, is the same thing Richard feels cursed with in the present day: the inability to die and escape a living hell. (Hence, finally, the answer to why Richard Alpert does not age.) This would probably sour us on Jacob too.

Richard was on his way back to Nemesis, digging up Isabella’s necklace, when Hurley sauntered out of the jungle and proceeded to hold a seance. And this is the scene that got us. Consider just how hokey this could have been in the wrong hands — a character who can speak to the dead interpreting a ghost lover’s message for an ageless man who is caught Job-like between two immortal creatures playing cosmic chess. There’s no way that scene should have worked. And it did. It was surprisingly powerful and emotional. Nestor Carbonell, he of the heavy eyeliner, pulled it off. He made redemption and hope feel tangible.

What “Ab Aeterno” proved for us, not for the first time and probably not the last either, is that the “Lost” creators and writers simply do not have “wrong hands.” Material that would be the kiss of death for other shows works perfectly for the strange, confounding reality of “Lost.” How do they pull this off? It certainly helps to have top-rate actors playing complicated, deeply-sketched characters. Carbonell, Terry O’Quinn, Michael Emerson and Matthew Fox have all hit high points this season. It also helps to have such universal themes — life and death, faith and science, loss, redemption and hope — recast in such a strange, compelling fashion. There’s a lot of Biblical import in the show, and in last night’s episode in particular. But nothing is oversimplified: If Jacob is indeed God, or at least good (and if he can’t absolve sins, that’s a demerit in the God column), he sure doesn’t look like a typical god-figure. Jesus had an edge to him, but we doubt he took Peter down to the shore and threatened to drown him over and over again.

Other pros for the episode: We got an answer for the four-toed statue; an encomium on free will from Jacob (he’s inching back in the “God” direction); and a wink-wink Gerald’s Game reference. Although that was a terrible book.

Questions for discussion:

  • Is it any clearer who is “good” and who is “evil”?
  • Which figure is telling the truth — Jacob or Nemesis/Man in Black? Or is it neither? (Or both?)
  • Has Nestor Carbonell officially atoned for “Suddenly Susan”?
  • Is there more to debate about the most recent season of “Scrubs”? That’s certainly stirred a few people up.

Have at it.

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Happy Birthday, Erin!

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I’m really sorry I thought you were 50. (My bad!)

love,

Ben

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p.s. I almost bought you this cake instead since I’m your “Tom Selleck Pooh Bear.”

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The Pinnacle of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Is Upon Us. We Need Evolve No Further.

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Guest Blogger Lost Forum: “Recon”

The question every “Lost” fan wants answered: How many STDs does this guy have?

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To the uninitiated, all “Lost” fans may look alike: Geeky, giddy fan boys (and girls) who obsess over numbers, mythology, literary references, time travel and parallel universes. Actually, there is a lot of diversity in our ranks. Some see in the show’s make-up overarching spiritual themes of death, redemption and resurrection; others just think it’s a great soap opera. Some see riddle upon riddle meant to stay unresolved; others want answers (or else!).

What we share in common is the belief that if “Lost” isn’t the best thing on television right now, it’s pretty darn close, and when it all ends we’ll be left with a little void inside that network television is unlikely to replace anytime soon, if ever.

In the spirit of bringing many viewpoints to the table, we hereby present four different takes on last night’s episode. These are guest bloggers of the highest caliber, known to Voreblog readers for their witty, astute commentary. They are Tad Smith, a left-handed Doc Jensen; Mike Allen, a wild card in every sense imaginable; Erik Brueggemann, the “Lost” agnostic; and Scott Guldin, devoted father, Bulls fan, and general Zen master of all things pop culture.

We have included their pictures so you can appreciate just how good-looking a guest blogging panel this is.

Enjoy.

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TAD “I AM SECRETLY DOC JENSEN” SMITH

First of all, I guess I should state that I am now firmly in the camp that does not need every mythological question answered. Admittedly, my stance has changed, as I used to be one who loved speculating on the meaning of a painting in a room or where the food drop came from or who the Degroots where. But now, I’m really just excited about seeing how this story will end, and what will happen to all these characters we have now followed for six years. I think part of this can be attributed to some fantastic acting by the likes of Michael Emerson, Terry O’Quinn and Henry Ian Cusick. I also think the way of storytelling this year, which I’ve found to be quite nostalgic (trips to the polar bear cages, trips to the caves, Adam and Eve skeletons, etc.), has achieved the task of balancing moving the story forward as well as looking back at all the places we’ve been. So last night, for not the first time this season, I found myself enjoying the show once again for the big picture, confusing as that picture may still be……

I gave last night’s episode, “Recon,” a solid B. And instead of rehashing everything that happened last night, I’ll just throw out the random thoughts I had whilst watching one more hour disappear before the series finale.

In no particular order……..and with lots of parentheses……

  • Michael Landon got more screen time than Jin. “Lost” has easter-egged its way throughout 5.5 seasons now, whether it’s quick glances of books (Watership Down last night) or the infamous Hoffs-Drawlar (flash forward) funeral home. That’s why I was struck with how long they stayed focused on Charles Ingalls waxing poetically about life and death last night. It worked as a motivator for James to get up off the couch in the episode, but I wonder if there was anything bigger picture there. Probably not.
  • I found last night to be confusing, but in a good way. Lots of cons, lots of lies, lots of truths.
  • Doc Jensen has touched on the recurring theme of mirrors in the sideways world in this season’s recaps. Character reflection, mirrors to another world, so on and so forth. There have been some pretty obvious occurences (Jack on the plane, Jack at the lighthouse, Locke in his bathroom), but I thought he was stretching on some others (Sayid’s reflection in Nadia’s door, Ben’s reflection in his microwave).  I think I’m on board after seeing Sawyer break the mirror this week, distorting the scowling face staring back at him.
  • Who’s in the dead-bolted room in Charles Widmore’s sub? I’m thinking (as much as Erin may be hoping) that it might be a drugged Desmond Hume.  [Editor's note: And yes how Erin is hoping.]
  • I got a bit nervous when MIB sent Sawyer to the Hydra station to look for other survivors of the Ajira flight. I was praying that we weren’t going to be introduced to more new characters at this point in the show. And with the introduction of Zoe, I flinched a bit more (was she the same woman that Ford was with in the first scene, except without glasses?  I couldn’t tell). Luckily, it appears that Zoe is just part of Widmore’s sub crew, and may not have a bigger role than I at first thought she may.
  • Charlotte is hot. [Editor's note: And how! This came out of nowhere. Nothing she did in season 5 prepared us for last night.]
  • Last night also further confirmed to me that Jacob vs. MIB does not necessarily equal Good vs. Evil. Perhaps it was simply the MIB further manipulating Kate with his quick glimpse into his life (my “mom” was crazy, and I had some “growing pains”), but I think that there are obviously some more complexities to Jacob and MIB’s relationship. I don’t want to necessarily jump on the Cain and Abel bandwagon, but I think they may potentially be brothers or at one point were friends. This leads me to my next question…..
  • Whose side is Widmore on?  Or are there three sides?  Or will Jacob and the MIB join forces to defeat Widmore?
  • Claire is still batshit crazy.
  • I miss Karl.

What’s the one question I still want answered? What are “the whispers”?  I won’t even pretend to have an answer, nor do I know if it even has any bearing on anything. I’ve always thought they were kinda creepy, quite mysterious, and really cool. Maybe Richard Alpert will fill us in this week in what looks to be a promising episode.

If I could write the ending to “Lost”: I’m not even gonna touch this one. Frankly, I’ve never even thought about this. I do think that this show could really end up being something special (as if it isn’t already). Between “Jersey Shore” and “The Jay Leno Show,” there’s hasn’t been a lot of great television on in many years. This show has been groundbreaking in its storytelling devices and character development. I have no doubt in my mind that people are gonna be pissed about how this show will end. I won’t be one of them. In fact, I’m cautiously optimistic that by the time May 23rd rolls around, that we’ll all be thoroughly satisfied and amazed at what this show has accomplished. It truly has the opportunity to be special, something that we look at years from now with the same amount of appreciation that most of us do now.

As long as Karl comes back.

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MIKE “GET THAT SALAD AWAY FROM ME” ALLEN

Let me just get it out of the way and say that next week looks to be amazing. My bold statement: “Ab Aeterno” will challenge “The Constant” as Best. Episode. Ever. Now on to “Recon.”

I bet I’m with the consensus on this episode, in that I thought it was good but not great. I’ve always been a big Sawyer fan. I felt like this had some really good stuff. The sideways story, especially the beginning, was great (I cannot wait for the Sawyer/Miles buddy cop drama). I think new Locke is a fantastic character especially when he called Claire out for being batshit crazy. I think it was easy to see the whole thing coming with Zoe though. I also just don’t care to ever really see Kate in any scenes ever again. She just annoys me now.

I planned to watch the episode around 10 last night on the ABC website. It turns out they don’t post those until sometime after 1 a.m. I did manage to spend about three hours last night watching bits of old episodes and reading Top 10 Episodes lists. I forgot how much I enjoyed “The Long Con” and “The 23rd Psalm” episode where Mr. Eko was judged. Which made me think back to some smoke monster activity: judging Mr Eko, trying to get Locke down the hole, Locke calling it “beautiful.” It’s interesting how many times we’ve actually seen this guy. I think there’s a lot there, like Locke drawing a picture of him before Richard visits him when he was a kid? That’s just weird.

All in all, a good not great episode. It did really get me thinking (obsessing?) about this stuff again and that’s something that none of the previous episodes this season had done.

[Editor's Note: Mike will be taking the next two days off from work, so do not call him unless you want to discuss NCAA basketball.]

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ERIK “‘LOST’ IS NO ‘BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’” BRUEGGEMANN

I give last night’s episode a B. There has been only one other episode this season that wouldn’t get an F (the Sayid episode which is also a B episode). I never realized how smokin’ Charlotte was. This episode reminded me that I missed Sawyer – and this is the second non-crash alternate story that was believable (or, for that matter, even remotely interesting). Claire is still terrible as ‘Rousseau.’ My theory that no one is doing what you think they are — or on the side you think — was mainly confirmed last night from Sawyer, Sayid, “Locke,” and Widmore. Sawyer as McNulty was outstanding.

What’s the one question I want answered? How about, What the hell is Chip doing with a gun? Didn’t Jennie confront him about his violent tendencies in the episode “The Reporter” from Season 7 after Chip ate Kate and Allie and thereafter Chip began his path of nonviolence, although we can’t forget he did slip in the episode “Jack of Hearts” also from Season 7 when he ate Jennie while turning into Tetsuo.

Although since he was absorbing anything in his path Jennie should have gotten the hell out of the way.

If I could write the ending, there would be no ending. The story they were telling (until this season) has no ending – it would be 100% open ended like the best things about this show are. I’d rather not have them explain things – which is why I’m worried about next week’s episode (Richard is better as an enigma).

[MIKE, feeling baited, proceeds to have a "candid" dialogue with ERIK about the so-called virtues of vegetarianism.]

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SCOTT “NOT TO GET TOO ARISTOTELIAN UP IN HERE” GULDIN

Though “Lost” has an overripe reputation for its mystique and ambiguity, it sure can be ham-handed with its motifs. So far this season we have been reminded that SAYID IS A KILLER, BEN LUSTS FOR POWER, JACK HAS DADDY ISSUES, and KATE SUCKS. Here, once more, we reviewed Sawyer’s raison d’être: to lie, sulk, be alone, show us his formidable mid-section, and seduce the ladies (but broodingly and with an air of resigned inevitability).

Charlotte and Sawyer’s verbal foreplay forever ruined two things for me: Indiana Jones movies and sex. I’m sorry, but C.S. Lewis is a portly older British gentleman who pedantically defends Christian ideology, not a lithe redhead up for hot booty after a 20 minute dinner date. I blame the writers’ too-cute conventions for naming their characters for associating one with the other, burning that detestable image into my brain forever. I vomited when I saw that and have not stopped vomiting since.

While we’re here, can we discuss a practical issue? (Always dangerous with “Lost,” but still.) Sawyer’s gotta be swimming with STDs, right? Can we name the virulent strain of Island syphilis that he carries “LaFleur”? So far he’s done the nasty with: Ana Lucia, Kate, Juliet, and now, C.S. Lewis, not to mention countless others besides, from his days of conning and cuddling. I know he’s pretty and stubbly, but is it worth the risk, ladies? That rash is forever.

I did not read any recaps before writing this, so I don’t know the definitive answer to whether or not I should have recognized the bespectacled brunette on the smaller island. She sure LOOKED familiar, though. And what do I know? I’ve only seen every single episode and read multiple recaps of every show from the third season on. (Oh, “Lost.”)

Good episode. Not great. Solid B. I will leave the deeper matters of the Widmore/Locke and Kate/Claire showdowns to my fellow recappers [Editor's Note: Or commenters!], who I assume will have dug a little deeper than Mr. Ford’s bedroom proclivities.

I don’t have any one question I want answered by season’s end. Unlike the Voreblogs, I have cable and watch TV in real time, instead of cherry picking only good shows on DVD. This approach makes sense and probably saves the Voreblogs a lot of time and money, but it also creates the ridiculous echo chamber that would cause them to pine for the cancellation — years ago — of “The Office,” and to declare that the second season of “Flight of the Conchords” was among the worst fare television had to offer last year. For shame. Only when you waste your life by watching crapfests like “Heroes,” seasons four through eight of “24,” “Celebrity Apprentice,” “Dirty Sexy Money,” “Ugly Betty,” and the latest season of “Scrubs,” can you truly appreciate good television shows like “Lost.” It has definite and widely-discussed weaknesses, to be sure. But I will certainly miss it when it goes dark for good. I only hope it does right by its major characters.

My biggest fear is that the end of “Lost” will rely on some deus ex machina hokum. Rumors to that effect have swirled around the show since the beginning (the Island is purgatory, or the entire show is the dream of Bob Newhart), but the show is actually constructed in a way that makes such an ending eerily possible. For all the discussion of Jacob, The Man in Black, and even Widmore, those three have been afforded less screen time than Leslie Arzt, which is wrong for so many reasons. Not to get too Aristotelian up in here, but for the conflict and resolution to mean anything, we must see them unfold, not just hear repeated vague references to them (even if those references have been sustained for all six seasons). I hope the third-to-last and penultimate episodes establish a feeling of loss and foreboding, and that the final two hours show us Jack and Kate making love on a polar bear, Claire and Charlie watching Aaron play in a ball pit at Mr. Cluck’s, Sun and Jin teaching their children Korenglish, and Sawyer, Locke, Ben, Sayid and Shannon cleaning french bread out of Hitler’s mustache in hell. And one last “Waaaaaalllllt” wouldn’t kill anyone.

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Preview of Lost Forum: “Recon”

Today’s “Lost” recap and analysis will be arriving later on, and will feature not one but FOUR different takes on last night’s episode from fellow “Lost” fans/Voreblog readers. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, a recap from Zap2It and Doc Jensen’s theory on “the third world” of “Lost.” Also, until it posts last night’s recap, here’s a Side-By-Side Comparison of The Blind Side and Ninja Assassin from Videogum.

Also: As you probably suspected, white people like St. Patrick’s Day.

UPDATE: Doc Jesen’s recap is up, as is Videogum’s, titled “Rise N Shine, Applesauce!”

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Bracketology

1. Anyone who argues that the NCAA men’s field should be expanded to 96 teams should be made to watch tonight’s play-in game between the Winthrop Eagles and Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions on an endless loop. The teams combined to shoot 28% in the first half. It was abysmal basketball. The winner should promptly withdraw from the #16 seed out of respect to James Naismith.

2. If Duke is the weakest of the #1 seeds, why did it get a cake bracket? I hate Duke.

3. Number 12 seeds have 34 first-round wins in tournament history; #11 seeds have 31. (We learned this little stat here.)

4. If you’re going to root for any one player in this year’s tournament, Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds is a good candidate.

5. I know Gonzaga can’t be the mid major Cinderella every year, but it kills me to not pick it for an upset. Because if the Zags did come close but fall just short of knocking off Syracuse, I would feel responsible. I also hate Syracuse.

6. I get as much pleasure out of picking a huge first-round upset (huge being #12 seed or lower) as I do picking the tournament winner. But if picking the tournament winner also meant winning other people’s money, I’d rather do that. (It has never happened. Yet.)

7. This year’s big first-round upsets: Utah State over Texas A&M; Siena over Purdue. Eleven over six isn’t “huge,” but Washington will beat Marquette.

8. And ditto to this: John Calipari — The Sleaziest Coach in a Sleazy Game.

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Why We Go To Crossroads.

Taking umbrage to anything Glenn Beck says is its own cottage industry, and wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads there. We do not intend to take that path, exactly, but it will require more than one jump to get to where we want to go. So bear with us.

Last week Beck urged listeners to be wary of churches with a stated commitment to social justice:

I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes.

Matthew Yglesias, Jim Wallis and Nicole Belle, among others, have all responded intelligently to this. We would add only that the kind of church Glenn Beck would seem to support is also a church that greets you at the door by ripping whole swaths of the Bible out and throwing them in the trash. The Hebrew prophets, the Mosaic law of Jubilee, the Sermon on the Mount, this guy named Jesus — they all kind of relate to social justice. Nor are they written in code. If you pick up, say, the book of Luke and start reading, you’re going to find that social justice is pretty high on Jesus’s priority list.

If you feel, like Glenn Beck, that a church shouldn’t preach about or discuss social justice, then by all means you should go somewhere else that suits you. But the place you’re going to is not, it should be stated, church.

What Beck said that really got us thinking was the (curious) idea of going to a church website to scope out the view. This is really not the ideal way to find a church. If we had done this with our current church, Crossroads, it’s very likely we would’ve never set foot there.

Why? Because on paper, Crossroads is everything we dislike about church. It is huge. It is loud. It is a “megachurch.” We don’t sing hymns, there’s no cross in the sanctuary, and it looks nothing like the churches we grew up in. And yet we love it there.

We never found a church to call home in Nashville until our final year there. It was an Episcopal church, heavy on liturgy, with an immensely talented group of musicians who performed (and this we loved) in the balcony behind the congregation. There was not a whiff of performance to it. It was worship.

Neither of us grew up Episcopalian, and there was no allegiance to its doctrine or mission statement. We loved it there because of the spirit in the place. We felt God’s presence in the people there, so we kept coming back week after week. Like most everything in Nashville, it was sad to say goodbye to.

We loved it at Crossroads even though it was a complete one-eighty. We felt God’s presence in the people there, so we kept coming back week after week. It was a huge congregation (now 12,000+), yet we found a small community in the midst of it, first among friends our age and then with the junior high ministry, where we’ve volunteered for two years. If anything, Crossroads has become more of what we dislike about church since we started attending in 2006. But we still love going there.

Social justice is ingrained in its DNA. Some of our junior high students are planning for Unbound, a student-led movement to fight modern day slavery in all its forms. The church partners with the International Justice Mission to focus specifically on freeing children who are sexual slaves in Mumbai, India. Closer to home, the church also partners with other churches and social services around the city like City Gospel Mission, Whiz Kids and Habitat for Humanity.

Do we go to Crossroads because it’s committed to social justice? No. We go there because we believe God is using that community in amazing ways, and we want to be a part of it.

We’re not trying to recruit anyone. We’re just trying to say, Hey, that place that everyone thinks is either a hockey rink or a cult — yeah, that’s our church. We never thought we’d be there either! That’s part of the fun in being a Christian. You end up doing things you thought you’d never do and going places you thought you’d never go. We find freedom in that.

If anyone ever wants to check it out with us, you have an open invitation. (Even you, Glenn.)

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