The Harlem Shake, a thirty-second dancing video, has become an internet sensation. In the past four weeks, at least 40,000 groups have posted their own version of the video. This internet meme has been covered heavily by the media, has resulted in 15 miners losing their jobs for safety violations, and has even launched an FAA investigation for a video shot on a commercial airliner. I wondered how many churches and christian organizations have done Harlem Shake videos, so I did a quick YouTube search.
As you might expect, you can find hundreds of Christian groups doing the Harlem Shake. By my rough estimation, there are somewhere between 600 and a thousand “Christian” versions of the Harlem Shake on YouTube. Even conservative Christian colleges such as Cedarville and Liberty have student groups posting Harlem Shake videos. The vast majority of “Christian” Harlem Shake videos appear to be coming from church youth groups. Here’s Saddleback’s video:
Before I say some not-so-nice things, I will admit that the line between being in the world and being of the world is not always clear and often leaves some room for debate. Furthermore, churches that isolate themselves from their surrounding cultures risk losing opportunities to evangelize and developing pride problems.
That said. Every Christian who has posted a Harlem Shake video should repent, ask God for forgiveness, and delete their post. Every youth pastor who has led their youth group to produce one of these videos should receive a public reprimand at the very least. Any pastor or church member who finds another church member posting one of these videos should initiate the process of church discipline beginning with a private confrontation.
What is wrong with American Christianity that we can’t bring ourselves to call a vulgar dance sinful? Sure, it’s popular and fun. Since when has sin been boring and unappealing?
I’m a big fan of audio books and especially audio Bibles. While an audio Bible will not allow you to easily read a passage over and over to meditate on it, the audio format will allow you to hear the book as a whole and grasp the big picture.
There are two downsides to Amazon’s free version. First, it is dramatized with somewhat annoying electronically generated music in the background. Second, the reading talent isn’t quite on par with what you would expect from professional audiobooks. However, since it’s free, you really can’t beat the price, and if the shortcomings of this version get on your nerves, you can always go out and buy something better.
The University of Münster Institute for New Testament Textual Research hosts one of the best online resources for New Testament scholars. Their Virtual Manuscript Room has an amazing digital image collection of New Testament Manuscripts. Not only are the images well cataloged, they have also been transcribed to facilitate reading/comparison.
While you can find slightly higher resolution scans of several manuscripts elsewhere (e.g. APIS for P46), the VMR is the place to go if you want them all in one place and accessible in a user-friendly format.
Tim Challies recently reviewed three iPhone prayer apps. All three function similarly with users entering prayer requests and the program compiling randomized daily prayer lists. While none of the apps have a feature that enables the user to automatically forward their requests to God via email, the apps do select the users’ prayer requests for the day. Christians should seriously weigh the consequences of automating their prayer life.
Before you accuse me of being some sort of Luddite, I readily admit that there is very little difference between an iPhone prayer app and the printed prayer calendars that many churches distribute. Furthermore, I generally go to prayer after having done my daily Bible reading using Bibleworks on my laptop, and I often have an electronic prayer list open on my computer as I go to prayer. However, I don’t think I’m going to download a prayer app anytime soon.
I constantly have to fight the tendency to coast on autopilot through my prayers, just trying to cover all the things I need to present to God. Remember that Jesus said:
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:7-8).
In order to avoid heaping up empty phrases, I have to take time to think about my requests and yield myself to God’s will before I start praying. The more automated prayer aids (printed or electronic) I have around me, the temptation to rush prayer increases.
I’m not arguing that it is wrong to use your iPhone in prayer. However, as with all lawful things, it must be used lawfully. If you pray with your iPhone, remember it can’t prepare you to pray. At best, it can provide moderate assistance to you during prayer and perhaps make you look cool in the process. At worst, it can rush you to prayer unprepared and turn your prayer time into a fashion statement to be seen by others.